23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuilin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I address a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. What amount of loans made to AnsettA.N.A. under Government guarantee is at present outstanding? Is there any truth in the implication contained in a statement made yesterday in another place by a member of the Australian Labour Party that repayment of the loans was in default?
– Far from there being any truth in the statement, or the implication, to which the honorable senator has referred, the fact is that in all cases repayments of the loans which have been made to Ansett-A.N.A. under Government guarantee have been made on the. due dates. Indeed, it is a significant and interesting fact that some of the most recent payments have been made many months before the due date. The total amount of the guarantees which have been made available is approximately £9,000,000. Ansett-A.N.A. has not availed itself of guarantees to the extent of £2,000,000, which were made available by an act of this Parliament for the purchase of Friendship aircraft. The amount outstanding is approximately £3,400,000. Since 1957 - that is, during the last four years - an amount of £4,450,000 has been repaid. It is pertinent to point out, I suggest, that in addition to meeting those commitments, Ansett-A.N.A. has consistently paid a dividend of 10 per cent, to its shareholders.
– How much has Trans-Australia Airlines paid over those years?
– T.A.A. pays 5 per cent.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry the following questions: - Has there been any improvement in the situation of the tobacco, industry, which has been, depressed as a result of the. failure to obtain satisfactory sales of the last crop? Has the Government any plans in. train to co-operate, with industry representatives to alleviate the serious plight of the growers?
– I understand that the committee of review which has been set up to examine the unsold leaf for which no bid was received has been inspecting leaf in Victoria and Western Australia and that its report is either in the hands of the Minister for Primary Industry or is about to be placed in his hands. I understand also that the Government has agreed to make clerical assistance and technical officers available to a committee which has been set up by the industry itself to investigate generally problems that confront the industry. I am sure the State governments, which have a responsibility in this sphere, will be pleased to co-operate. I understand that representatives of the tobacco growing industry will be conferring with the Minister for Primary Industry either today or tomorrow. I hope I shall be able to give Senator McManus more precise information in the very near future as a result of that conference.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate who said last night that there had been a fall in the cost of building group houses in New South Wales under the War Service Homes Act. Has the Minister had an opportunity to check his figures? If so, can he tell us the extent of the fall?
– I did say last night that there had been a fall in the cost of building homes and I’ quoted a certain figure. However, I was not certain whether it was correct. I have had inquiries made and I now have the correct figure. I have not seen the “ Hansard “ report of what I” said last night and I do not: know whether the figure I have before me is the same as that which I quoted. My advice from the department is that the cost of building war service group homes in New South Wales has fallen during the last twelve months or so by no less than £125 per home. Whereas twelve months ago it was very difficult to get, say. four tenders for a particular job, in the present’ circumstances as many as ten, eleven or twelve builders will tender. As I said last night, the latest available figures for Queensland show that there has been a fall in building costs of £300 per home.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, by saying that the Government is to be complimented upon having set up a fourteen-man committee to inquire into the future of university education in Australia. Such action on a national level is most encouraging. My question relates to the membership of the committee which includes many eminent personalities. I now ask: As the pattern of student population has changed in the last decade because of the scholarship scheme instituted by the Labour Government, and as it now includes students whose parents come from all walks of life, would it be possible to add to the committee another member to represent the trade unions of Australia?
– This committee has been selected to perform a specific task, and the qualifications of the members are the best test of their fitness to undertake that task. Whether a trade unionist has been appointed to the committee I could not say.
– One has not been appointed.
– I think it would be wrong to appoint representatives of particular classes of people such as the employers, the farmers and graziers, and the trade union movement. What we want are persons who have the necessary qualifications to do the job, not persons with a certain background, as it were.
– My question to the Leader of the Government relates to the very excellent announcement by the Minister for Repatriation concerning the use of the English language in documents and correspondence of his department. Would our esteemed leader invite the attention of all Ministers to this very worthy decision by the Minister for Repatriation to improve the general standard of English now used in material issuing from
Government departments? Particularly will he invite the Treasurer’s attention to this decision in order to encourage the use of less complicated language and to improve the standard of language in Treasury documents?
– I doubt whether the doctrine of collective Cabinet responsibility would extend that far. I think this is a matter in which individual Ministers should determine the standards which they would like to apply in their respective departments. So far as I am concerned, 1 very often wish that my own personal statements were of as high a standard- as those which come to me from my departmental officers.
– I desire to ask the Leader of the Government a question. In view of the repeated assurance of the Government that in order to protect and strengthen free enterprise it was giving consideration to legislation against developments tending to monopoly and restrictive practices in commerce, will the Minister indicate what progress the Government has made towards taking legislative action in this direction?
– I could not give a detailed description of what has been done. I have discussed this matter from time to time on a personal basis with the Attorney-General. I know that he has given a lot of time and thought to it. He has had discussions with his colleagues, the Attorneys-General of the States. He has had discussions in the Untied States and Great Britain and has sent an officer of his department to the United States to make detailed inquiries. In other words, this is one of those things that is not as simple as it looks. The matter is in very capable hands. It will reach finality in legislation which will be brought before the Parliament. When that will happen I am not prepared to say. The matter is not being delayed; it is being done properly.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise: Has the Minister’s attention been directed to the recent pastoral letter of the Catholic
Bishops of Australia, to the remarks of the Commonwealth Film Censor, and to statements by the Queensland Literature Board, all deploring the present flood of pornographic and morally degenerate literature, and sexy sadistic film stories? In view of the Minister’s courageous stand against the recent pressure moves to welcome Lady Chatterley, and in view of the statements of these three widelydifferent authorities, has the Minister considered strengthening his authority in those areas which lie within his jurisdiction, namely, the customs powers over imported pornography of any kind? In view of the fact that in Melbourne a fortnight ago five imported films and two imported plays dealt substantially with prostitution and moral turpitude, does not the Minister believe that this constitutes a strong argument for healthy and vigorous Australian film and television programmes?
– I read in the press an account of the pastoral letter to which the honorable senator referred. I see no necessity at all to strengthen the act and regulations. At present they give the Commonwealth full power to deal with pornography. My department acts under that legislation with full authority and with promptitude. I noticed a reference to what the letter described as “ some loopholes “. I thought that was a rather general statement. If some specific loophole could be brought to my attention, I would certainly examine it. I also noticed that the letter referred to the publicizing of literature, the importation of which is prohibited. I have no intention of altering the present system under which the decision to prohibit the importation of literature is published in the Commonwealth “ Gazette “. I believe that that is a protection for the Australian people against autocratic censorship and is much preferable to the secret list which prevailed for so many years. I have not the slightest intention of making any alteration to that aspect of the system.
I think the other matters to which the honorable senator referred come within the jurisdiction of the State governments. They alone have the sovereign power to deal with imported and Australian-published literature within their own boundaries. We have no jurisdiction over Australianpublished literature, only over imported litera ture. I note the honorable senator’s continued interest in the development of the Australian film industry. I am sure that all honorable senators would like to see this industry encouraged and developed.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, relates to the European Common Market - a subject in which Ministers and honorable senators opposite have belatedly developed an interest. I desire now, Mr. President, to repeat a question which I asked in April, 1959, and to which the Minister replied that the greater freedom of movement between The Six would not affect migration to Australia. In the light of the facts that Italy is emerging as an industrial nation of the first rank, and that Germany is reported to be seeking skilled tradesmen in Australia, is the Minister prepared to revise his statement that migration would not be affected, and does he not now agree that as Europe prospers the migrant flow will ease, which will save us much embarrassment because in the Melbourne metropolitan area alone some 10,000 Italians and 5,000 Greeks are unemployed due to mismanagement by this Government? Furthermore, in connexion with this important question, will the Minister consult the Minister for Civil Aviation and ascertain whether, in the intervening two and a half years, the latter has been able to heed the warning I then gave that all the aviation companies within the bloc contemplate an amalgamation, which could seriously prejudice Qantas which serves The Six?
– I have noted what the honorable senator has said about West Germany seeking labour. That is caused, to a great extent, by the steps that have been taken on the border between East Germany and West Germany. People were coming from East Germany to live and work in West Germany, but they have now been prohibited from doing that. The freedom which is supposed to exist in East Berlin has now been shown to be only a sham.
Tt is quite correct that Italy has made great strides in its industrial development as a member of the European Common
Market. 1 ask the honorable senator to ensure that when he addresses a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration he says “ Immigration “ in a loud voice and then I will know that he is addressing his question to me and I will listen more closely to it. If the honorable senator wants any further information, I suggest that he put his question on the notice-paper and I will get an answer from the Minister for Immigration.
– I preface a question, which I direct to the Leader of the Government, by stating that in an article which was written in Canberra recently by Mr. Bon Uren and which appeared in the “ West Australian “, it was stated that senators and members were calling the recent Budget the Peter Browne Budget. Will the Minister advise me whether the Budget was written by Mr. Peter Browne, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, or whether it was actually produced by him? If it was not, why is it repeatedly called the Peter Browne Budget?
– Mr. Peter Browne is a very capable member of this Parliament who is destined to go a long way in public life, but he has not yet reached the stage of writing the Budget for the Government. The shaping of the Budget is the responsibility of the Cabinet. I had not heard previously that the recent Budget was called the Peter Browne Budget. I could understand that expression being used as a term of description or endearment. The Budget substantially benefits Western Australia with its railways proposals, its gold subsidy and its iron ore provisions.
Mr. Peter Browne has, of course, a most extraordinary electorate. I hazard a guess that it covers nine-tenths of the total area of Western Australia, that it is larger than any other State in the Commonwealth, and that two States could be fitted within its boundaries. The electors of Kalgoorlie are very fortunate indeed that they have such a capable member as Mr. Peter Browne to look after their interests. Whenever any benefit is given to Western Australia, it almost automatically has an effect within the boundaries of this electorate, which embraces such a large proportion of the total area of the State.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service supply me with particulars of the average duration of periods spent on unemployment relief by claimants in the years 1948-49 and 1960-61 respectively?
– I doubt very much whether those figures are available at present. They would be rather difficult to work out in any year in any way which would mean anything. I think they would have to be worked out occupation by occupation. One would need to know, for instance, how long shearers were unemployed, and likewise meatworkers and itinerant agricultural workers. I suggest that the honorable senator should, if he wishes, put the question on the noticepaper, in which event I shall bring it to the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service; but I do not know whether the Minister will be able to supply the figures required.
– I direct to the Minister for Customs and Excise a question which concerns his department. I refer to two matters in the report of the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board for the period ended 30th June, 1961, which the Minister released recently. First, has the Minister noted in the report repeated references to the portrayal of extreme violence in cinema and television films for use in Australia? Secondly, what steps does the Minister consider can be taken to combat the portrayal of extreme violence in such films? Thirdly, has the Minister any comment to make on the question of the admittance of children to view films classified as suitable for adults only?
– The Commonwealth Film Censorship Board has directed attention in its annual report to the greatly increased amount of extreme violence that is portrayed in the modern film. It has taken steps to eliminate -such scenes from a greater number of films this year than last year, and’. has stated that it will continue to do this wherever possible. The board, while suggesting that the question of the admittance of children to view such films may be within the prerogative of the parents, has directed my attention to the fact that in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and in some European countries children are prohibited by law from entering theatres where films that are classified as unsuitable for children are being shown. At the present time, this matter comes within the jurisdiction of the States. The board has merely pointed out to me that this could be a matter for some future thought. I have not up to this stage given further thought to it.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Treasurer the following questions: Does the Government contemplate bringing down an amending superannuation bill before this parliamentary sessional period concludes in a month or so? Is it correct to say that whilst the basic wage has increased by 400 per cent, since the 1920’s, superannuation pensions for those who retired before December, 1959, have increased by only 75 per cent., and that the majority of the recipients receive much less than the basic wage? Is it also correct to say that the value of the pension they receive has been eroded by inflation, and that the doubtful reward that the majority of recipients receive is disqualification from the benefit of the age pension? Is it correct to say that the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund is in a healthy condition due, in a large degree, to the substantial contributions that were made for more than 30 years by many former public servants who will never be able to receive in return the money they paid in contributions?
– I shall ascertain from the Treasurer the intention in regard to superannuation legislation and let the honorable senator know.
– The Treasurer mentioned the matter in his Budget Speech.
– Yes, he mentioned it, but the honorable senator’s question refers to timing. I shall find out specifically what is intended in this regard and let him know.
– Yesterday, in reply to a question I asked concerning the building of a standard gauge railway in Western Australia and the reconstruction of the railway line between Mount Isa and Townsville, the Leader of the Government stated that the Western Australian railway project falls into two parts - that portion which is part of the overall standardization of main-line railways throughout Australia, and the part which is related to a big developmental project. In view of the Minister’s reply yesterday, I should like to ask him whether Western Australia was a signatory to the rail standardization agreement. Secondly, although the Minister stated that the expenditure on the Western Australian developmental project will be repaid by Western Australia in full, is it not a fact that the Western Australian Government will secure a considerable proportion of this amount through the Commonwealth Grants Commission? If that is so, will the Government reexamine the possibility of subsidizing the cost of the reconstruction of the Townsville to Mount Isa railway, which is so important to this nation?
– I shall do my best to answer Senator Wood’s question and shall refer to the last part of it first. He asked whether the Government would reconsider subsidizing the reconstruction of the Mount Isa to Townsville railway. What the Queensland Government said to us, in effect, was, “We want to spend something of the order of £30,000,000 to build a railway which is going to be a highly profitable railway because freights will be assured “. The railway will be used to deliver the increased output of ore from the Mount Isa mine; and that output will earn additional export income.
This is entirely a State railway proposal. Queensland will derive the benefit from the additional revenue that will be made possible, but because an increase of export income also will arise from the project and because it will assist development generally, the Queensland Government has said, in effect, “Will you give us a helping hand and provide us with some of the finance? “ We have replied, “ Yes “. We made the advance to the Queensland Government on the terms which that Government suggested and which it thought were fair. It is a new concept that, governments having made a deal, an honorable senator from the State concerned should attempt to cash in and to take credit by suggesting a better deal than that which was agreed upon by the government of the State from which he comes. It is very unfair to do that and to seek credit at the expense of his colleagues. It is also very unfair to link the Queensland scheme with the Western Australian railways proposal. The Western Australian proposal was worked out on the same principles as the Queensland proposal, but the difference is that portion of the Western Australian standardization work qualifies for Commonwealth assistance under the provisions relating to the standardization of main railway lines, whereas the Townsville to Mount Isa line does not.
– I address a question on the same subject to the Minister for National Development. . In answering Senator Wood’s question, the Minister stated that the Queensland Government had requested the provision by the Commonwealth of £30,000,000 for the reconditioning of the Townsville to Mount Isa railway and that the Commonwealth Government had, in its alleged generosity, acceded to that request. Was the amount lent to the Queensland Government £30,000,000 or £20,000,000?
– I should have to refer to “ Hansard “ to see exactly what I said. The proposal made by the Queensland Government might be stated in the following way: It said, “The cost of the line will be £30,000,000. We have £10,000,000. Will you lend us £20,000,000?” We said, “ Yes “. We have no regrets about agreeing, because this is a good proposition, primarily for Queensland but also for Australia as a whole.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs seen a press report which states that Russia is about to resume nuclear bomb testing? Can he give the Senate any information on this matter? If the statement is correct, does it mean that the international negotiations that have been taking place between the free world and
Russia regarding the international control and supervision of such tests have broken down and that Russia is not willing to agree to such control or supervision?
– We have no official information to the effect that the Government of Russia has announced that it proposes to resume nuclear bomb testing, but we understand that Reuter’s news agency has reported that the Russian Government has officially announced that it intends to do so. If it does, that will be, I suppose, an indication that the negotiations which have been proceeding for so long have, at any rate temporarily, broken down. It will also indicate, 1 think, the lack of truth in the past protestations of the Soviet Government that it desired a permanent end to nuclear testing. It will throw the light of truth on the fact that all that has prevented, and is preventing the cessation of nuclear testing is the complete refusal of the Soviet Government to accept any proposal which would guarantee to the peoples of the world, by means of a system of inspection and control, not only that it had been agreed to stop such testing but also that the agreement was being kept.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development. Is it true that the £20,000,000 which has been lent to the Queensland Government for the reconditioning of the railway line between Townsville and Mount Isa will have to be repaid to the Commonwealth over a period of 20 years? Is it also true that the rate of interest is a very substantial one, approximating 4 per cent.? Is it correct that Western Australia will repay only £28,000,000 of the sum of £41,000,000 mentioned by the Minister, and that some of the £28,000,000 will be repaid over a period of 50 years? Will the Minister inform me why there should be a difference in the terms of the two loans; that is, why Queensland is required to repay £20,000,000 over a period of 20 years, and Western Australia to repay a substantial portion of the £28,000,000 over a period of 50 years?
– I have tried to make the position plain. It may be a little difficult for Senator Benn to understand it, but I shall try to do so again.
– Many people in Queensland are in doubt.
– And I have no doubt that the honorable senator would be very glad to assist them to continue to misunderstand the position.
– I am sure I would.
– Of course. I point out that a portion of the Western Australian scheme qualifies for Commonwealth assistance under the rail standardization legislation. Under the terms of that legislation, a part of the money advanced by the Commonwealth is repayable by the State concerned over a period of 50 years, lt is only the portion which so qualifies that will be repayable by Western Australia over 50 years. The balance will be repayable over the same period of time as that during which the Queensland Government is obliged to repay the loan made to it.
This situation is explained clearly in a public statement made by the Prime Minister. I invite Senator Benn to give to his constituents who are in doubt about it a copy of that statement because it is sufficiently clear for them to be able to understand it. Under these arrangements, the Commonwealth in the final analysis will bear 35 per cent, of the total outlay in Western Australia, under the rail standardization scheme. The State of Western Australia will bear 65 per cent, of the cost. The only difference between the Western Australian and Queensland arrangements is that portion of the Western Australian scheme qualifies for assistance under the rail standardization legislation, because the line forms part of the main trans-continental railway, whereas the Mount Isa to Townsville line does not so qualify.
– I address to the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question which follows upon Senator Benn’s question about the giving of Commonwealth assistance to Queensland and Western Australia for railway construction. So that the hearts of Senator Benn and his supporters in Queensland may be at rest, can the Minister inform the Senate when the agreement in question will be placed before the Senate and when the legislation providing for assistance to Western Australia will be introduced?
– I hope that the agreement with Western Australia will be completed and that the necessary validating legislation will be introduced before the Parliament rises.
– I address to the Leader of the Government in the Senate this question: In view of the Government’s recently expressed desire to encourage people to buy Australian manufactured goods, will the Government introduce selective import controls in order to make such advice effective and so strengthen Australian industries and improve our overseas trade balances?
– No. The Government’s policy, which is against selective import controls and which has been adopted for a variety of reasons that would take me longer to enumerate than would be fair at question time, has been clearly stated. Selective import controls would mean, in effect, that a particular business which wanted to gain an advantage over other businesses should be regarded as a selected business and should receive priority over those others. What we have done - I think very equitably - has been to set up special machinery with which honorable senators are familiar so that an industry may apply to have a special inquiry made by a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board. If it is found that that industry is being affected by imports, the Tariff Board may make an arrangement. I have quoted figures which indicate that about 25 of such applications have been made. The applications are dealt with within 30 days. The report of the deputy chairman comes before the Parliament, and it is quite competent for any honorable senator to debate the contents of that report and to express his views about the condition of the industry in question.
– I invite the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to my recent question about the extension of television services in South Australia, with particular reference to the south-eastern, northern and Upper Murray areas. I understand that the Minister has a reply to that question.
Senator -WADE. - I asked my colleague, the Postmaster-General, to furnish me with more precise information than I was able to give to the honorable senator. This is the information that he has supplied -
As Senator Wade stated, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and my own department, are at present engaged in the detailed investigations which are necessary in connexion with the further expansion of television to country areas, including those of South Australia. The investigations are well advanced and I expect to receive a report from the board within the next few weeks. The report will be presented to Cabinet for consideration -as soon as practicable.
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate, when replying to my question about the construction of railway lines from Townsville to Mount Isa and in Western Australia, suggested that I was doing things at the expense of my colleagues. As one who is not afraid to take a stand, I ask him this question: Is he aware that the Premier of Queensland, as Leader of that State, has indicated very strongly in regard to the line to Mount Isa that, despite any agreement which has been made, the Commonwealth Government has not treated Queensland as well as it has treated other States in relation to railway construction? In view of the fact that that statement was made by the Premier of Queensland, and as I understand this is a States House, am I not within my rights as a senator in rising to ask a question in support of any suggestion or statement that the Queensland Premier may make? I should like it to be clearly denned whether I, as a senator, have the right to stand up for my State in this chamber. It is a right I have always understood I had, and it is one which I intend to exercise.
– With great respect, Senator Wood confuses the issue. He introduces to his question a suggestion that there may be an impairment of his rights. Senator Wood has his rights under the Standing Orders and in accordance with parliamentary procedure, and I would defend them to the uttermost. I repeat that I would defend to the uttermost whatever his rights are under the Standing Orders and I say to him, “ God bless you. You use them.” But let me say this to the honorable senator: If you attack the Government you have to take it .as well as give it. If you make attacks on the Government, I intend to reply to them. You are elected here to represent a political party, just as I am. If you attack the party that I represent, then I will attack you in reply without having any compunction about it.
Now in relation to this vexed question, Mr. President, I do not know what Mr. Nicklin’s views are. I read in the press this morning a report to the effect that he is coming down to Canberra. I can only say as the responsible Minister that I see no justification whatever for any complaint by Queensland that Western Australia has been treated more generously than has Queensland. I think it is a most unfair criticism for Queenslanders to make.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Customs and Excise, relates to the censorship of films. By way of preface, I mention that I understood the Minister to say in this chamber yesterday that the Commonwealth was conducting a censorship service in relation to films on behalf of four States only. I now ask: Could the Minister inform the Senate which States do not employ this censorship service of the Commonwealth? Why do those States not employ this service? Is there any agreement between the States which now employ the Commonwealth as their censorship agent, and is that agreement available for perusal by honorable senators? Is it not a fact that the States that employ the Commonwealth as their agents take no real action to enforce the decisions of the Commonwealth in relation to the censorship of films? I further ask the Minister: Is it not a fact that the Commonwealth itself cannot enforce these decisions? Finally, in view of the fact that a Gilbertian situation exists in the Commonwealth in regard to censorship, is the Minister prepared to consider advising the States, in view of that unsatisfactory situation, that the Commonwealth will have to consider ceasing to act as agent for any State unless such State is prepared to enforce the Commonwealth’s decisions?
– The Commonwealth classifies films under an agreement with four States. The honorable senator asked me which two States are not included in this agreement. I cannot answer that question at the moment. The remainder of his question deals with matters of policy to which I will have to give some thought. The position is, as the honorable senator said, that the Commonwealth has been classifying these films but no policing has been done by the States in relation to its classifications. I think it is fair to say that the position is a bit Gilbertian, but at least the present system does give parents the opportunity to know about a film and it is then their responsibility to decide whether they will allow their children to see it. The Commonwealth classification system at least gives that advantage. If the honorable senator puts the remainder of his questions on the notice-paper I snail have a statement prepared. His questions cover a multiplicity of subjects, and as I said previously I am not prepared to .answer without notice questions involving policy.
– I have another question to submit to the Leader of the Government on the same subject about which I asked previously: Is it true that work on the standardization of the railway gauge between Albury and Melbourne has been carried out in recent years at the expense of the Commonwealth Government? Is it true that £10,000,000 was spent up to 30th June last on this work? Is it true that a further £4,000,000 will be paid by the Commonwealth Government during this financial year to complete the work? Is it also true that New South Wales and Victoria will each be required to repay only 15 per cent, of the £14,000,000 provided by the Commonwealth Government? Is it true that, for the purpose of loans, standardization of gauge work is in a different category from reconditioning and general reconstruction of railway lines? If there is a difference, will the Minister explain to me why that difference exists, and what government created the two categories of work?
– The last question asked by Senator Benn is the easiest to answer. The legislation that created the machinery for the standardization of railway gauges was a legacy that we inherited :from the party of the honorable senator when it was last in power. Whether it was good legislation or not, it is something that we inherited. Senator Cooke persists in interjecting. Why does he not move the adjournment of the Senate and make a speech about the matter on which he is interjecting.
– May I do so, Sir, with your permission? If the Leader of the Government will agree I will move the adjournment of the Senate.
– The question of the Leader of the Government agreeing is not involved. Senator Cooke has his rights under the procedures of the Senate. This is just the old, old story. The honorable senator attempts to break down a case by interjecting, but he has not the courage to utilize the forms of the Senate to initiate a debate on the matter in the proper manner.
– Order! Senator Cooke will remain silent.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether it is a fact that under the terms of the loan of £78,000,000 from the International Monetary Fund the Government has lost the right and/ or authority to re-impose import licensing.
– Such a suggestion is quite non-sensible. The fact that we have made a drawing on the International Monetary Fund has no relevance to our obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and other international arrangements. The position generally is that the signatory nations to these international agreements have agreed that import licensing shall be used only to correct balance-of-payments deficiencies. The position remains constant; there is no variation of it.
– For the information of honorable senators I lay on the table of the Senate a paper containing a collection of documents concerning Berlin and Germany, and relating to the period from May, 1959, to the present time. The paper also contains a chronology of events since 1944. The collection includes most of the documents of chief significance over this period, though in some cases it has been necessary to rely on cabled texts. Copies of a comprehensive collation of documents prepared for the United States Senate, and covering the period before May, 1959, are available to honorable senators in the library.
Debate resumed from 30th August (vide page 294), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the following papers-
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending 30th June, 1962;
The Budget 1961-62- Papers presented by the Right Honorable Harold Holt in connexion with the Budget of 1961-62;
National Income and Expenditure 1960-61; and
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States- be printed.
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved by way of amendment -
At end of the motion add the following words - “but that the Senate is of opinion that they fail to make adequate provision for Social Service Benefits, especially Child Endowment, and Repatriation Benefits; that they fail to relieve the plight of taxpayers, the family unit, the farming community and other sections of the Australian people and that they make no effective contribution to correcting seriously adverse trends in the Australian economy including unemployment, rising living costs, failure of the public loan market, adverse balance of international payments on current account, high interest rates and inadequate housing “.
– When the Senate adjourned at 11 o’clock last night I was discussing iron ore, the export of it from Australia and how that would help Australia’s overseas trade. I should like to continue on that subject by stating that I believe the greatest iron ore deposits that we have in Australia are in Western Australia. They are spread over the whole State, from the north to the south. Recently, the Western Australian Government threw open new reserves. About fifteen companies applied for and received areas in which to explore for iron ore. Some of those areas are as far north as Wyndham and others were as far south as Norseman. I believe that the Government’s policy of lifting the embargo on the export of iron ore has achieved that result. The companies that have received these areas to explore will find large additional quantities of iron ore. Already the State Government has called for applications for the mining at Tallering Peak of approximately 3,000,000 tons of iron ore, which will be exported from Geraldton, and about 30,000,000 tons at Mount Goldsworthy, which will be exported from, Port Hedland. That is just the beginning.
We know that there is a large demand for iron ore in Japan. The quantities required by Japan will increase as the years go by. Recently I read that at present Japan is producing about 30,000,000 tons of steel a year and hopes to increase that production to 60,000,000 tons a year before 1970. Therefore, it will require large additional tonnages of iron ore from which to manufacture its steel. As far as I can see, in the next few years increasing quantities of iron ore will be required from Australia to satisfy the Japanese market.
Looking at the Australian scene, we find that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Ltd. is now manufacturing about 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 tons of steel a year, and it expects to double its production by 1967. So there will be an increased demand for iron ore in Australia. I congratulate the Government on its recent lifting of the embargo on the export of quantities of iron ore under certain conditions. The mere fact of that embargo being lifted will allow the prospecting companies in Australia to establish large additional quantities of iron ore. In fact, I would say that within the next ten years Australia will probably have the largest proved tonnage of iron ore in the world. I believe that at present we have some of the largest tonnages of high grade iron ore and we have large additional quantities of low grade iron ore. In Australia we have thousands and thousands of millions of tons of low grade iron ore that could be upgraded. In fact, at present a plant is upgrading low grade iron ore in Australia.
In regard to roads and railways, particularly the Western Australian railways, I should like to refer to the question that was asked in the Senate this morning by a Queensland senator on this side of the chamber. Western Australian members of this Parliament and the Western Australian Government have approached the Commonwealth Government with a proposal to construct a standard gauge railway line between Kalgoorlie, Perth and Kwinana, with a link between the iron ore deposits at Koolyanobbing and Coolgardie or Southern Cross. That is a very big project. Prior to approval being granted, the Queensland Government, which is evidently raising objections, met the Commonwealth Government and made an arrangement whereby the reconstruction of the Mount Isa railway line is being financed largely by the Commonwealth Government. On that occasion, we did not notice any member of the Parliament from Western Australia or any other State objecting to the Queensland Government obtaining finance from the Commonwealth Government. Honorable senators from Queensland should remember that under the Budget £1,000,000 will be made available for the development of beef roads in Australia. The documents show that £650,000 of that amount is being made available for a road from Julia Creek to Normanton in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The other £350,000 being provided by the Commonwealth Government is to be spent in the Northern Territory. That was announced three weeks or a month ago. Was any objection raised in this place, by Western Australian or any other honorable senators, to Queensland receiving money for the development of beef roads? There was none. Yet we have the spectacle of an honorable senator, in asking a question this morning, being so parochial in respect of this railway for Western Australia-
– We do not object to Western Australia receiving financial assistance.
– An honorable senator on this side of the chamber was so parochial that he thought Queensland was being left out because the Government announced that it would go ahead with the standardization of the railway line from Kalgoorlie to Kwinana. I think it should be made quite plain to the honorable senator - he is not in the chamber at the moment, so I hope that he will read my speech - that there have been times when Queensland has received large sums of money, such as the £20,000,000 for the Mount Isa railway line, and not one objection has been raised by any Western Australian senator.
– We supported that.
– Yes, we actually supported that proposal because we took the broad national view. It horrified me to hear the honorable senator’s question. I was terribly disappointed this morning when 1 heard honorable senators on both sides of the chamber ask questions which showed that they have adopted a parochial attitude to this decision to support the State Government and Western Australian members of this Parliament in their scheme for the standardization of the railway line from Kalgoorlie to Kwinana. When that line is completed, only one link, from Port Pirie in South Australia to Broken Hill in New South Wales, will need to be standardized to complete main-line standardization throughout the Commonwealth. We shall then have a standard-gauge rail link from Kwinana in Perth to all the other capital cities, including Canberra. It will be possible for goods to be transported by rail from Perth to Brisbane without having to be changed several times from train to train, as is the case now. That will be a terrific achievement. It will wake up other forms of transport that wish to compete with the railways. That applies particularly to members of the Waterside Workers Federation who are manning our ports at the present time. If shipping interests wish to compete with the railways, there will have to be a quicker turn-round of ships and cheaper freight rates, otherwise the railways will knock shipping out of the picture.
I believe that the Government in providing money for road development in northern Australia has taken the first and correct step. Under this Budget, an amount of £1,000,000 is being made available comprising £650,000 for a road from Normanton to Julia Creek and £350,000 for roads in the Northern Territory. To show how quickly the Government acted I point out that since the introduction of the Budget only a week ago a further sum of money has been made available for the development of beef roads in Western Australia. An amount of £500,000 will be found by the Commonwealth and a like amount by Western Australia, to provide £1,000,000 for the construction of a road from Nicholson to Wyndham. That will not be the end of the matter. Other moneys will no doubt be made available for this purpose in Queensland and the Northern Territory. While congratulating the Government on its road development policy for the north, I believe that money should be made available every year for this purpose. The Budget provides for the expenditure this year of £1,000,000 on cattle roads. To be fair to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) I point out that he did say -
The provision of £1,000,000 is by no means, however, the limit of the expenditure that we have in view in this field. Subject to agreement being reached with the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia, we are willing, and indeed we intend, to provide additional funds for roads in these two States in the near future.
The Government’s policy is defined on a yearly basis, but I do not believe that economic construction of roads in northern Australia can. be achieved on a yearly basis. It should be carried out, as far as possible, particularly in outback areas, by private contractors. The movement of heavy equipment by private contractors to outback areas, involves considerable expense. The tender price of a contractor for a specific job in a particular area, who does not know whether there will be continuity of work when the contract is completed, will be higher, I believe, than if it is known that other work will be available in the area. Therefore, it is necessary that the Government should formulate a policy to cover road development in northern Australia for a period of three years. Such a policy should cover the whole of the north with an integral pattern extending from the Kimberleys, through the Northern Territory to Queensland.
That policy having been decided upon, the amount to be made available each year should be fixed. I suggest that for rapid development of northern Australia the amount made available by the Commonwealth for roads over three years should be about £10,000,000, to be spent in the ratio of £2 to £1 with moneys subscribed by the States. That would provide about £15,000,000 over three years and would enable Western Australia, the Administrator of the Northern Territory or the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), and Queensland to prepare a plan for an integral road system. They would know exactly what was required and could call tenders for work over a period of three years, instead of working, as at present, only from year to year. I know there is a difficulty for the Treasurer, but I believe that the Cabinet should look at the suggestion carefully in order to provide cheap roads in northern Australia.
I now turn to another subject dealt with in the Budget, namely oil search. In this remarkable document, on which I have already congratulated the Government, we note that the amount to be provided for oil search is to be increased from £2,300,000 to £4,100,000. I understand that within the next week or two legislation will be introduced in the Senate as to the method of spending this additional money. I think every honorable senator will agree that oil search is of vital importance. We are spending annually between £130,000,000 and £140,000,000, including freight, on oil. I believe that this expenditure will increase by 100 per cent., to about £280,000,000 or £300,000,000, within seven years. Therefore, any steps that can be taken by the Government to encourage increased activity in- the search for oil is a vital matter in the interests of Australia’s economy, with particular reference to our overseas balances. In this connexion, we are faced with the same position as applies to roads. A drilling company must wait until the Budget is brought down each year to learn of the amount of subsidy that will be given- during the ensuing year. I know that it is stated quite plainly in the Budget speech that subsidy assistance in the search for oil will be extended for three years, but there is no indication of the amount of money that will be made available for this purpose over the next three years. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) stated in his speech when he tabled the Estimates and Budget Papers -
The Government has decided to extend for three years from 1st July, 1961, the programme of subsidy assistance on an expanded basis, and in 1961-62 the amount of government expenditures on oil search will be considerably increased.
He went on to say that the total expenditure by way of subsidy to the companies engaged on oil search and other exploratory work being carried out by the Department of National Development was estimated to be £4,100,000 in 1961-62, compared with £2,300,000 in 1960-61. I think that the Government should give an assurance concerning the amount of money that will be made available over the next three years. It should say definitely that over the period of the next three years it intends to expend, say, £5,000,000 a year in this way - a total of £15,000,000 - so that the companies engaged in the search for oil will know where they stand. Furthermore, if that were done, the Bureau of Mineral Resources would know where it stood in relation to the search for oil. At this very moment, companies that are interested in the search for oil in Australia are paying their workmen but are still waiting for a drilling subsidy for them to be approved. That state of affairs should not exist in connexion with the vital search for oil in Australia. Such companies will not start their drill holes until they receive advice from the Bureau of Mineral Resources, the Government, or the Minister that a drilling subsidy will be approved. I know of instances of drilling companies operating in Australia starting a drill hole and paying their men in the belief that they would receive a subsidy. I understand that in one case a drilling company started its programme by drilling a hole to a depth of more than 10,000 feet. It then applied for a subsidy, but I understand that because it had started drilling before a subsidy was approved, it never received a subsidy.
– Where was that?
– I am not going to say where it was, but it happened. I believe that that sort of thing could be avoided. That is the reason why that company, at this moment, would rather pay its men - to keep them going - and allow them to sit down while the Government decides whether it is going to pay a drilling subsidy or not.
I think that if the Government were to announce that an amount of £15,000,000 or £12,000,000 would be made available over the next three years, a continuous programme could be carried out. That would be preferable to having to wait for budgetary finance to be made available on a yearly basis as at present.
Before concluding my remarks in relation to oil, I want to make it quite clear that the Government has played a very active part in the search for oil in Australia. I know that when one gets one thing out of the Government he then proceeds to try to get something else out of it. But let us look at what this Government has done to further the search for oil in Australia. Nothing at all was done by the Labour Government in this field except to purchase a drilling rig in 1946 or 1947 and put it into store; subsequently, it had to be sold by this Government in 1951. Admittedly, we got about as much money for it as had been paid for it. When we came to office in 1949, we found that the previous Government had made no effort at all to encourage the search for oil in this country. If one looks at what has been done in this field since this Government came to office, one is amazed by the real progress that has been made. As I have said, an estimated amount of £4,100,000 is being made available by this Budget in connexion with the search for oil in Australia. Some of that money will be expended as drilling subsidies on a £l-for-£l basis and some will be expended on seismographic work and geological surveys, on a similar basis. In addition, the Government allows 100 per cent, of calls paid to a company engaged in the search for oil in Australia as a taxation deduction. As a result of this taxation incentive, a person who is paying income tax at the rate of 10s. in the £1 and who has an interest in the search for oil covering that amount of 10s. in the £1 is, in effect, having a £l-for-£l bet with the Commonwealth Government. If he wins, he gains the lot and the Commonwealth loses, but only to the extent of the taxation deduction allowed. If oil is found in Australia, great gains will accrue to the shareholders of the exploration companies operating in this country and considerable benefit will be derived by the nation as a whole. No doubt this is the reason why the Government is subsidizing drilling by companies engaged on oil search. I do hope that oil will be found in Australia within the next three or four years, and I believe that it will be found.
Before I conclude my speech, Mr. Deputy President, there is one other thing I should like to say. When I commenced my speech last night, I got off on the wrong foot and I am afraid I hurt the feelings of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I accused him of not having put forward anything of a constructive nature. I am sorry that I was not present in the chamber when Senator McKenna started to speak and consequently I did not know that he had specifically stated at the outset that he did not intend to make any constructive suggestions. Having heard most of the honorable senator’s speech, but not the start of it, I did not know that he had said that, and if I hurt him by my remarks I apologize to him.
– You are too tough.
– I think that probably “you are too tough. I like to be fair in debate, and had I known what the Leader of the Opposition had said at the commencement of his speech I certainly would not have said what I did.
– Thank you.
– Having said that, 1 conclude by saying that I cannot accept the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition and I have much pleasure in supporting the motion.
– I was very pleased to hear Senator Scott say that he desired to conduct the debate on fair terms. I think that that is how all the debates in this chamber should be conducted. I was also pleased to hear him refer to the very fine speech Senator McKenna made in this place last night. The honorable senator always makes a good speech, but last night I thought he excelled himself. I say to Senator Scott that I wish that other members of the Senate also were of the opinion that the debates in this chamber should be conducted on fair lines. In this respect, I refer to the attack made by Senator Cole last night on the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), who has no opportunity to defend himself in this chamber. It is regrettable that Senator Cole should have dragged the debate down to the level it reached when he was speaking.
– Did not the man he attacked also attack him when he was not present?
– Apparently my remarks are going home. The chickens are coming home to roost.
– You can give it, but you cannot take it.
– Those in glass houses should not throw stones.
– I know where the glass house is. You cannot take it. That is your trouble.
– Just a minute. When you finish, I shall carry on with my speech. There is no doubt that Senator Cole brought the debate to the lowest level that any debate in this chamber has reached in the five years I have been here.
– It could not be lower than you get.
– I have to get low to get down to the level of you folk.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid).- Order!
– It is unfortunate that I have to get down so low, but I have to come down to the honorable senator’s level. Senator Cole indulged in character assassination of a fine gentleman in another place.
– You will get on all right.
– How did you become a Minister? You got on, probably by the same methods that I am using now. I give the lie direct to the charge that Mr. Duthie was a member of the Communist Party before he went to Tasmania. On behalf of Mr. Duthie and the Australian Labour Party, I deny every accusation that Senator Cole made against him. I tack my denial of that lie to the mast of the Australian Democratic Labour Party.
– Did he tell a lie when he said we had consulted with the Liberals, though we had not?
– I do not know whether or not you consult with the Liberals. That does not concern me, but whether you consult with them or not, I know that you fraternize with them in the dining-room, in the corridors and everywhere else. What you discuss I do not know, and furthermore, I do not want to know. I am not interested in the discussions.
– Do you not speak to them?
– I speak to them, but I do not fraternize with them, as you do.
– Perhaps they will not fraternize with you.
– Well, I shall be happy if they do not. I have never fraternized with the members of the D.L.P. and we shall never see the day when I do.
Senator Cole stated last night in this chamber that Mr. Duthie went to Tasmania for economic reasons. Certainly, I admit that that does not appear in “ Hansard “, but it does appear in the press. I do not want to cast any reflection on “ Hansard “. I feel that it was either missed in the “ Hansard “ report or that Senator Cole, when he was vetting his speech, cut out that part. We all have the opportunity to do that. It is probable that that is what happened.
Mr. Duthie was not transferred to Tasmania for economic reasons. He was transferred there by the Methodist Church. Let us have a look at his record. From the time that he turned 21, which was in 1933, he voted for the Australian Labour Party. He has always done so. He entered the ministry of the Methodist Church in 1934, only one year after he became 21 years of age, so that he was 22 when he went into the ministry. He studied at the Melbourne University from 1934 to 1938.
– Who paid for that?
– I do not know who paid for it. I would not have a clue, but it was probably his people. It is certain that it was not the Liberal Party.
He was a probation minister attached to the King Island-Melbourne circuit from 1938 to 1941. He was ordained and married in March, 1944. Would a minister of religion be ordained and be a Communist at the same time? I venture the opinion that he would not. Mr. Duthie became the minister at Foster, in Victoria, in 1941 and was there until 1944. While he was there he formed an Australian Labour Party branch and carried on organizing activities for the party in the 1943 federal elections. He was transferred to Latrobe, in Tasmania, in 1944 and joined the Tasmanian section of the Australian Labour Party. Later, he was instrumental in forming a branch of the Australian Labour Party at Latrobe, rhe became the president of it.
I remind honorable senators opposite, and also the member of the D.L.P. who is in this chamber, that once a person becomes a member of the Australian Labour Party he cannot become a member of the Communist Party. The rules do not permit him to do so. In 1945, Mr. Duthie attended an A.L.P. conference in Tasmania as a delegate. He was endorsed at that conference as a Labour Party candidate. He later successfully contested the Wilmot electoral division and has held the Wilmot seat ever since on behalf of the Australian Labour Party. In fact, we can give him a lot of credit for taking away from the Government parties a seat which previously had been held by the Liberal Party.
I fail to see why Senator Cole should endeavour to put the tag of communism on a man such as Mr. Duthie. He has never been a member of the Communist Party. He has never even attended a meeting of that party. All honorable senators know that it is possible to attend a meeting of the Communist Party without being a member of that party. I feel that the attack made on Mr. Duthie by Senator Cole was a mean, miserable, callous and underhand one, without any foundation and made under parliamentary privilege. Mr. Duthie has challenged Senator Cole to make outside the Parliament the statement that he made inside it last night. I sincerely hope that Senator Cole does so, because that will give Mr. Duthie an opportunity to clear his name. In fact, Mr. Deputy President, I think that a move should be made in this chamber to have Senator Cole removed from the Parliament.
– Why don’t you start it?
– I shall make my speech in my own way.
– I am helping.
– Are you trying to get a little unity now - another unity ticket? I suggest that Senator Cole should be charged, as was suggested in the New South Wales Parliament only recently when Mr. Beale, of the Liberal Party, accused Mr. Seiffert, a member of the Legislative Assembly, and a member of the other House of this Parliament, of being Communists. A move has been made for Mr. Beale’s expulsion from the New South Wales Parliament. We should do something simillar in relation to Senator Cole. Gross irresponsibility and lying accusations are the grounds upon which Mr. Beale’s expulsion is being sought. Senator Cole, in his attack here last night, made lying accusations and was most irresponsible. I believe that Mr. Duthie is one of the most honorable and honest men in this Parliament.
– He is not a renegade.
– He is one of the most trustworthy members in the Parliament, and he is certainly not a renegade. He is a most respected citizen of Tasmania, and one can say that he is a man of great integrity.
– Be careful, or you will not get any votes in Wilmot.
– 1 expect that we will get many votes in Wilmot - certainly a few more than you will get. However, we will not know the result until the numbers go up, which will be some time between Christmas and the New Year or early in 1962. We will just wait to see how it works out.
I have, one regret about this incidentIt has to do with the point of order that was raised by Senator O’Byrne. I am not querying the ruling of the Chair, but I regret that Senator O’Byrne did not quote Standing Order 418. When he raised his point of order, Senator O’Byrne made a bald statement to the effect that one honorable senator could not attack another, but he did not pin-point the relevant standing order. The result was that the President himself did not - in my opinion, he could not have been expected to - pin-point the standing order but did the only thing that was possible. 1 do not know how Senator Cole can stack up his accusation that Mr. Duthie was a Communist prior to his going to Tasmania against the fact that Mr. Duthie is. and has been all his life, a man of religion. We know that communism is not based on religion; rather is it based on atheism. How could Senator Cole hope to ally those two ideologies when he tried to convince the people of Australia that Mr. Duthie was a Communist? I said that he tried to convince the people of Australia. I said that because Senator Cole knew quite well that the proceedings were being broadcast and that he would have a big listening audience. The fact that the press gallery filled just prior to Senator Cole’s attack on Mr. Duthie was quite noticeable. Who tipped off the press? I suggest that the Democratic Labour Party tipped off the press that an attack was to be made on Mr. Duthie. I heard a rumour to that effect before I went to dinner last night. That rumour spread through Parliament House. In fact, it was well known that Senator Cole intended to attack Mr. Duthie. All 1 can say is that it was a deliberate attack which sadly misfired. I believe Senator Cole and the members of his party in Tasmania will find at the next federal election that the charge which he levelled against Mr. Duthie will backfire in their faces.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension for lunch I was about to say that Senator Scott, in his contribution to this debate, had mentioned that New South Wales ports were to be developed for the export of coal. I agree with the honorable senator that our ports should be developed to enable us to export our products. The only point on which I disagree with Senator Scott to some small extent is that whilst he was referring to coal that is hewn from the ground, I think it would be better if we could export Cole as well as coal. Coal that goes from New South Wales to Japan remains there permanently. It would therefore be very pleasing if Cole could accompany it.
– What about exporting Senator Scott?
– I would not like to see Senator Scott exported because he does afford us a little bit of humour on occasions.
– I will give you a little bit of humour later.
– That would be a good thing. Mention has been made of an alliance between the Australian Democratic Labour Party and the present Government. Personally I do not know whether there is such an alliance, but there are indications of it. I have known for some time that Government supporters and members of the Democratic Labour Party do get together when travelling by car and by aeroplane.
– Do you expect one lot to be inside and the other to be on the outside?
– No. I have noticed members of the Democratic Labour Party and members of Government parties sitting in aircraft and enjoying drinks together. Whether that constitutes an alliance, I do not know, but at least they do that.
– What about you and the Communists on the waterfront?
– I expected that one. I have never before accused Senator Cole of association with the Communist Party. I can truthfully say that I have never made a statement to that effect, but in view of the fact that Senator Cole has accused Mr. Duthie of at one time being a member of the Communist Party, I shall say now that il has been brought to my notice that on at least four occasions in Devonport, Senator Cole - certainly before he was a member of the Australian Democratic Labour Party - attended meetings of the Communist Party. That has been told to me on a number of occasions. I would not have mentioned it had Senator Cole not accused Mr. Duthie of having at one time been a member of the Communist Party. If it is good enough for Senator Cole to raise a point such as that without any proof-
– You must have been present.
– I was not. If it is good enough for Senator Cole to say that Mr. Duthie was a member of the Communist Party, it is just as good for mc to say that it has been brought to my notice that on at least four occasions Senator Cole attended meetings of the Communist Party.
– I will have to challenge you to say that outside.
– That is a thought too. I am sorry that Senator Cole was not in the chamber this morning when I issued the challenge that he should make his statement about Mr. Duthie outside the chamber. I am pleased Senator Cole is present now. I again throw out the challenge to him to make his accusation about Mr. Duthie outside the Parliament. That would give Mr. Duthie a better opportunity to clear his name than he has at present.
– Would you be prepared to say outside the Parliament that I had attended Communist Party meetings?
– I did not say that you had. I said that it had come to my hearing that you had attended four meetings of the Communist Party; but I did not accuse you of having done so.
Probably the reason for the attack on Mr. Duthie is that Senator Cole was expelled from the Labour Party.
– I have not been expelled.
– The honorable senator says he has not been expelled. I suggest to him that if it were possible - I know it is not - for him to obtain the records of the Tasmanian section of the Australian Labour Party and refer to the minutes of a meeting held on 15th August, 1955, they would shew that he was expelled from the Labour Party on that date.
– Have another look and see whether I was not suspended.
– I shall take that one up with you, too. You say you were suspended. I direct your mind to the meeting of 27th June, 1955, when you were suspended and you were given a certain time to show cause why you should not be expelled. You did not show cause and you were eventually expelled on 15th August, 1955, for a disloyal act in that you failed to attend the 1955 conference in Hobart. You failed to exercise your right as an accredited delegate at that conference. Furthermore, you are not eligible at any time to rejoin the Labour Party; there is a life sentence on you. If Senator Cole could obtain the records of the Labour Party that is . the position that would be disclosed. I repeat what I said a few moments ago. I issue a challenge to Senator Cole to make outside this Senate the statement that he made in the Senate last night.
I pass now to a subject which is more relevant to this debate than the one with which I have been dealing, and which I would not have raised had not Senator Cole said what he did last night. When anybody attacks a workmate of mine - I do not care who he is or where he is - I am prepared to stand up for my workmate.
– It is a pity you did not do that in the Timber Workers Union at Devonport.
– A lot you would know about the Timber Workers Union! You would not know even how to cut a bit of wood.
– Why did you not do something for the man whom I had to help in Devonport?
– I would suggest that you do not try to introduce matters connected with the Timber Workers Union. You know absolutely nothing about it. You were never a member of the union, and you never handled anything that I could not handle.
– Have a look at your records and see if there is anything about Clements and Marshall.
– I know all about that and how you stuck your nose into something that did not concern you.
– You allowed a man to be driven from his job.
– I did not.
– And he lost his superannuation.
– The man lost his job as a result of a particular clause in the award.
– He had twelve months to go and you crawled around to the boss and said, “ Let him go “.
-I never crawled to the boss-. I have never crawled to any one amd I will not crawl to you.
– This is a highly intellectual debate.
– Interjections such as that help to put the debate on a high intellectual plane.
I want to say something about the unemployment position. The present unemployment position is. a disgrace to any government; and it has been created, in the main, deliberately. We know that when Sir Garfield Barwick, was interviewed on television in Brisbane recently he, in effect, admitted that the Government had created the present unemployment but that the situation had got out. of hand. He said that the. number of persons unemployed was greater than was expected by the Government. Honorable senators will recall that when the Government announced its economic measures last November, it said that those measures were designed in the main to take men from non-essential industries and place them in essential industries. Unfortunately, the Government did not foresee the repercussions that would flow from the implementation of its proposals. It did not foresee, for example, that taking men from the motor car industry would have an adverse effect on the production of steel, tires, batteries and accessories that are used in the manufacture of a motor car. A considerable number of employees in industries ancillary to the motor car industry were dismissed as a result of the Govern- . ment’s measures. All of us know that the production of motor cars declined sharply and that a considerable number of persons in the industry were thrown out of work.
To-day, approximately 113,500 persons are registered as unemployed. In addition, many persons who are out of work donot register for employment. I know of many such people in Hobart who have not registered for employment. I know that many people living in country districts who are out of work do not bother to register for employment. Many people are disqualified on technical grounds from registering for employment. Many people to-day are working part-time. Unfortunately we cannot obtain the statistics in relation to part-time workers. Part-time employment could mean that a man works, one day, two days or four days a week. We do not know the figures, in this, regard because if a maro works only one day a week he is disqualified: from receiving unemployment benefit. The legislation provides that if” he earns more than £2 a week he cannot qualify for the benefit. Obviously, nobody to-day works for less than £2. a day.
Taking into account the 113,500 personswho are registered as unemployed as well as those who are working short-time and those who do not or cannot register for unemployment benefit; and taking into account the fact that in most industries overtime has been reduced drastically or discontinued,, it would be safe to say that at least £3,000,000 a week is being, raked out of the economy as a result of existing unemployment. I base that estimate on the fact that the average weekly wage of workers, in 1959-60’ was £2.0. Later figures are not available to me. The unemployment situation has resulted in the purchasing power of the work force being reduced by about £3,000,000 a week. Unfortunately, the unemployment problem does not end with the 113,500 persons who are registered for employment. The present situation affects many other people. It affects the wives and families of the unemployed workers. If we multiplied the number of unemployed persons by two and one-half we would probably still fall short of the total number of people affected by unemployment.
The unemployment situation has resulted from the Government’s economic measures and. from its failure to impose selective import restrictions. Let us take a look at the textile industry. The textile industry has been particularly hard hit by imports from Japan. As at 5th July, 1961, in Victoria 1,364 persons in the textile industry had been dismissed, and 3,635 persons were working, part-time; in New South Wales, 1,550 persons had been dismissed from the industry and 4,500 were working part-time, and in Tasmania a great many employees in the textile industry were working part-time. Since then a number of employees have been dismissed from the industry in Tasmania and many more have gone on to part-time employment. The textile industry is one industry to which the Government could have given some measure of protection by imposing selective import restrictions. Recently, the Premier of Tasmania made a forthright statement on the employment situation. He pointed out how the situation had deteriorated in that State. He expressed disappointment at the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had declined to accede to a request to convene a meeting of Premiers to discuss unemployment.
It is significant that the Budget makes no provision for capital works in Tasmania, although it provides for some capital works to be undertaken in every other State. I am pleased that the Government has adopted some policy for developmental works throughout the Commonwealth. 1 congratulate those States that are to receive assistance in this regard, but I deprecate the fact that the Budget makes no provision for assisting Tasmania’s economy by providing for developmental works to be undertaken.. Why should not Tasmania receive a grant for developmental works in the same way as grants have been made to the other States? This sounds like race discrimination.
The unemployment position in Tasmania is very acute at the present time. Official figures show that 3,800 people in Tasmania are registered for employment. The Tasmanian work force, apart from rural and female domestic workers, is approximately 94,000. If the number of rural and domestic workers is added to that figure, Tasmania has in. the vicinity of 100,000 employees.. Yet almost 4,000 of those people are registered as out of work. About 4,000 people in a work force of about 100,000 people represents quite a big percentage. To my way of thinking, that rs a percentage of unemployment greater than the official figures disclose. Everybody knows, that the Labour Party has, and always has had, full employment as a plank of its platform. We hope that following the elections, which we expect to be held in December of this year, that policy can be put into effect. There is every prospect that the Labour Party will form the Government following the next election.
Going a little further into the unemployment situation, the picture that is revealed is not. good. On 18th August, twenty employees in the coal industry in the Fingal valley were told that they would lose their jobs within a few weeks. Certain work has been put into operation in that area by the State Government and it is hoped that quite a number of the men who have been dismissed from the coal industry in the Fingal valley will be absorbed by the State Government in other jobs - for instance, forestry. The reduction in the demand for coal has been brought about, to a great extent, by the near closure of the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited undertaking at Burnie.
That undertaking has reduced its demand for coal because it has had to reduce its output. The immediate prospects are that that industry will not get buck on to a reasonable footing for some considerable time, because it has considerable stocks. Even if orders came through fairly well in the near future, it would be a long time before the stocks which are held by Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited at Burnie were reduced to a level that would require a number of employees to be re-employed in order to put the undertaking back into full production.
Let us look at the position at Burnie for a moment and see how it affects the economy, not only of Burnie, but also of the whole of the north-west coast of Tasmania. A considerable number of the workers in the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited factory at Burnie travel as far as from Devonport to Burnie and from farther away than Wynyard in the other direction. On 10th August, 1,050 employees were working less than 40 hours a week. In fact, the average number of hours being worked by the employees in that factory was 32. Also on 10th August, 52 employees had been dismissed. Certainly, some of them were over the age of 65 years and therefore qualified for the age pension; but quite a number of them did not qualify for the age pension. Also, quite a number of employees had resigned from the industry and had not been replaced.
The number of man hours per week lost by the 1,050 employees working short time was 8,400. The number lost by the resignation of employees who had not been replaced was 2,960. The number lost by the elimination of regular overtime was 640. The total number of man-hours lost per week at that Burnie factory was 12,000. Taking the wages of the employees to be 10s. per hour, which is approximately the average wage in that industry, the loss of wages by those employees amounted to £6,000 a week. That amount was being lost to the economy of that part of Tasmania. That part of Tasmania has not as large a population as the bigger centres on the mainland, and the £6,000 per week that has been taken out of the economy of the north-west coast of Tasmania, calculated as a percentage of the population, amounts to a considerable figure. So I could go on. The unemployment situation has developed as time has gone on. The closure of the Burnie mill was referred to by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Tasmanian Parliament, Mr. Lyons, on 2nd August. He pointed out the catastrophic results which could flow from the closure of that mill.
Let me come to times a little more recent than those about which I have been speaking. Let me bring the matter up to last week, when City Motors Proprietary Limited in Hobart dismissed fifteen of its employees. Certainly it is only a small undertaking. However, I have been pretty reliably informed that Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. have both reduced their staffs by 10 per cent. On Monday of this week I noticed in the press a statement that a number of employees had been retrenched from the Tasman Bridge project in Hobart. That is a new project and it will take a considerable time to finish, yet carpenters are being dismissed from that job.
Considerably fewer persons are employed in the Tasmanian building industry to-day than for a considerable number of years. The demand for timber has declined considerably over a period of time. At present approximately £4,500,000 worth of unsold timber is being held at grass by the sawmillers in Tasmania. This all comes back to what I said a few moments ago: If this Government would make money available to the Tasmanian Government for developmental works in that State, there is a distinct possibility that a considerable number of employees could be employed in any building undertaking that might be decided upon, a considerable amount of timber which is now held at grass could be used and the unemployment situation in Tasmania could be greatly relieved.
I have spoken mainly about the unemployment position in Tasmania. One speaks more of the conditions in the State that one represents in this Parliament than of the overall position. However, let me say that wherever, unemployment raises its ugly head - be it in Tasmania, Queensland or any other State of the Commonwealth - 1 have a lot of sympathy for the people who are unemployed, and so has the Labour Party. The latest unemployment figures released by the Minister on 14th August, 1951, show that the number of unemployed in Queensland fell by 3,051, while in every other State there was an increase. We might ask ourselves why unemployment fell so much in Queensland in comparison with other States. The reason given by the Department of Labour and National Service was the increased seasonal employment in the sugar industry in Queensland, but how long does the sugar season last? We know that it does not last for many months. What will be the situation at the end of this year’s sugar harvest? I venture the opinion that unemployment in Queensland will rise just as sharply as it fell in July.
In most other Queensland industries, including meat processing, whale processing, chemical fertilizers, heavy engineering, ship repairing, printing, cardboard carton manufacturing, and clothing, textile and knitting, there was reduced employment in the period under review. Only increased activity in the sugar industry lifted employment figures in Queensland. As the sugar industry is only a seasonal industry, this improvement has no relation to the unemployment position throughout the Commonwealth. The Government should at least make more money available to relieve the situation.
In the short time remaining at my disposal, I should like to touch upon social services, in respect of which the situation is not very good. It is true, as Senator McKenna said yesterday, that there has not been any increase in child endowment since 1948. The basic wage for the six capital cities, which was £6 9s. in November, 1948, rose in August, 1961, to £14 8s. It does not require very much imagination for any member of the Parliament or any person outside it to appreciate the loss in value of child endowment over that period. Child endowment has not been increased by this Government since it came into office. I was expecting to be challenged on that statement by an interjection to the effect that the Government had provided 5s. child endowment for the first child. As I have said before, that was not an increase in child endowment but merely an extension of the child endowment provisions which were introduced by the Labour Government. That extension was made only ‘for election purposes to persuade a few more electors to vote for the Government.
– Why did your party oppose it?
– He does not know.
– At the moment I am not putting forward any policy on behalf of the Labour Party in relation to child endowment. I do not put forward our policy on any branch of social services. But let me say that when the Labour Party does form a government - we hope that it will be in December this year - social service benefits will be increased in line with the increase in the basic wage since we went out of office. That would mean a considerable increase in every type of social service benefit.
– Also in taxation.
– There might be some increase in taxation on incomes in the higher brackets, where an increase should rightly fall, but there would be very little, if any, increase in the tax paid by lowerwage earners. The position in regard to the funeral benefit is a crying shame. This Government has done absolutely nothing about it. When the funeral benefit was introduced by the Curtin Government in 1943, it was fixed at £10, and it remains at £10 to-day.
– We do not want people to die. We encourage them to live.
– I agree that we do not want people to die, but unfortunately they do die and they then need a funeral. More adequate provision ought to be made for the burial of poor people who die without leaving anything. The relatives of many of these people have to bury them as paupers. Is it not a disgrace that a person who has contributed for many years to the national income, by way of his earnings, should be buried as a pauper?
Many other social service benefits need overhauling. The maternity allowance is completely inadequate. I fail to see how many young people make ends meet. It is a natural sequence of life for young people to marry and have families.- The Government said that it would help them by reducing sales tax on furniture. That is commendable, but unfortunately the measure has backfired. Manufacturers are stating that the basic wage increase will be absorbed by the furniture industry and there will be very little reduction in furniture prices. They say that the basic wage increase will account for any extra profits that they might obtain as a result of reduced sales tax. This means that a young couple will get very little benefit from the sales tax reductions.
Young couples can be assisted by way of an increased maternity allowance more than by most other measures. Possibly maternity allowances and child endowment could be coupled because they are the two aspects of social service benefits that usually assist young married people. Maternity allowances were first introduced by the Fisher Government in 1912. At that time, the amount of the allowance was £5. Between 1912 and 1947 the amount of the allowance fluctuated. In 1943, the Curtin Government increased it to £15, and in 1947 the Chifley Government, in addition to increasing the amount of the allowance, provided that a prospective mother could obtain an advance of £5 against the allowance. In 1956, the Menzies Government doubled the amount of the advance that a prospective mother could get against the amount of the allowance ultimately payable. Nothing more has been done in relation to the maternity allowance by this Government, except in 1959 to extend the allowance to aborigines other than nomadic or primitive aborigines. As I have said, this Government has doubled the amount of advance that a prospective mother can get but it has not increased the allowance. A prospective mother may obtain this advance a month before her child is expected. It is clear that the Government has fallen down badly on this aspect of social services.
I should now like to deal with the qualifications of a widow - or rather, I am concerned more with the case of a deserted wife - for a pension. On a number of occasions, I have experienced great difficulty in convincing the Department of Social Services that a woman who had been deserted by her husband was eligible under the provisions of the act to receive a widow’s pension. This difficulty has not been occasioned by any action on the part of the employees of the department in Hobart. I do not mean to give the impression that those officers do not do all they can do under the act. I have found them to be most co-operative, and they are prepared even to stretch the provisions of the Social Services Consolidation Act. It is difficult to establish the eligibility of a deserted wife to receive a widow’s pension in accordance with the provisions of the act unless she has taken action to obtain a maintenance order against her husband. At times, for economic reasons, a deserted wife is unable to institute proceedings for maintenance, and many other factors enter into the matter. A deserted wife may not know where her husband is, and conse quently she cannot take such action against him. I urge the Government to have a look at the relevant section of the act to see whether a more lenient provision can be made.
I think I have said sufficient to prove my contention that the recipients of social service benefits are not being given reasonable amounts and that the various social service benefits should be increased in proportion to the amount by which the basic wage has been increased during the period this Government has been in office.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I should like to make a personal explanation.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Senator Poke, who has just resumed his seat, has made a few rather rude remarks about me which I should like to correct. It seems that quite a furore has been caused because I said a certain member of another place was once a member of the Communist Party. I cannot understand why the furore should occur. The Communist Party is a legal party in Australia and just because somebody says, “ You are a Communist “, there is no need to worry about it at all.
– If you are going to make a personal explanation, make it - don’t tackle us.
– Senator Poke was rude enough to say that I should be shifted on a coal ship. The Australian Democratic Labour Party has taken quite enough from Mr. Du,hie and Senator Poke; and we do not intend to take any more. They can get up and slander us and call us by various names. We do not mind. That is all right. But when we hit back, we do not expect them to squeal.
– Order! I remind Senator Cole that the relevant standing order provides that an honorable senator may make a personal explanation about a matter on which he claims he has been misrepresented. It is not permissible for him in a personal explanation to introduce fresh material.
– I do not wish to introduce fresh material, Mr. President, but I want to clear up this point: I have been accused of calling Mr. Duthie a Communist; Senator Poke has said that I told malicious lies about that honorable gentleman. Mr. Duthie made a deliberate statement in the House of Representatives. This is what he said -
You had a secret meeting, I understand, with the parliamentary leaders of the D.LJ. last week in Canberra to discuss, no doubt, the attitude they would adopt regarding preferences at .the next election.
You see, Mr. President, that was a deliberate lie; and the person who made that statement knew that it was a deliberate lie. Now, when I bring up certain other matters, he objects. Senator Poke said, “ Well, you have no proof of that sort of thing “. I should like to give the proof of the matter as a basis for my personal explanation to the Senate.
– He challenged you to repeat your remarks outside the chamber.
– That does not matter; I am dealing with what Senator Poke said a few minutes ago. He said I had no basis for my remarks; I shall give the basis for them.
Honorable senators will remember the Morrow incident. Ex-Senator Morrow was expelled from the Labour Party, or perhaps I should say he failed to be re-nominated, because of Communist leanings. I am not quite sure of the date of the federal election when that happened, but Senator O’Byrne ought to know when that trouble occurred because he was supporting ex-Senator Morrow. At that time there was trouble in the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Labour Party. The subject was broached at a meeting in Burnie. The Darwin divisional council was called in, and a stormy evening ensued. At the meeting, there was a person by the name of Dr. Pearson, whose political views are pretty well known on the north-west coast of Tasmania. Like Senator O’Byrne, he was a very strong supporter of ex-Senator Morrow at the time. After the fight had gone on and he had been accused, in written statements, of being a member of the Communist Party, or a Communist, he came to me and said: “ All right. You are doing this to Bill Morrow because he is a Communist, Why don’t you deal with your member for Wilmot? “ I said, “ Why? “ He said, “ Well, because he was a member of the Communist Party in Foster, in Victoria “. That was said before witnesses. If anybody should know whether a person was a member of the Communist Party, the man to whom I have referred should.
Mr. Duthie has made certain allegations against the party of which I am a member, and against me in particular. We are not a big party and clearly he was referring to me. In fact, he said, “The leader”. When he makes such allegations, he must expect recriminations. I have had this information about Mr. Duthie for quite a long time, but I have not bothered about it. However as I have already said, we of the Democratic Labour Party are sick and tired of this continual harassing. During the Victorian elections, an entire A.L.P. hour on station 3KZ, Melbourne, was devoted to calling us Catholic Liberals and clerical fascists. “We do not mind-
– This is all new. It is not in reply.
– It all comes within the one .subject. Senator Poke has come to light and said, “ I will get one in now, too, because I am sure the newspapers will . print it. You, Senator Cole, attended certain meetings of the Communist Party in Devonport.” He thinks that it is a good idea to say that, because the newspapers will report his statement. Of course, it is a stupid statement, and he knows it.
– No more stupid than your statements. You have given no proof. You have only made a statement, just as I did.
– You have challenged me to go outside and say what I have said in this .place. Would you like to make your statement in Devonport?
– Yes, I would do that.
– That is good. We will both do it.
– Order! I should prefer Senator Cole to address his remarks to me and not to engage in a discussion on the side.
– Very well. As I have said, Mr. President, the statement made by Senator Poke was rather a stupid one. I do not think that he really meant it, because I was responsible for bringing him into this Parliament.
– Oh? I fought to get you here.
– Senator Poke does not believe that, but, as it happens, at the time he was selected I had quite an influence on the selection committee. That was just after the break. On that selection committee there were three or four votes in which I had something to say.
– You were not on the executive.
– I know I was not, but some of my friends were. There were three or four of them, and you needed only nine to support you. Senator McKenna was standing, and of course you could not knock him over as No. 1 candidate. I was putting up somebody for the Democratic Labour Party-
– Order! The honorable senator must come back to his personal explanation. I cannot allow him to continue on those lines.
– But this is very personal.
– Order! It might be a personal statement, but it is not a personal explanation under the Standing Orders.
– I am trying to explain, Mr. President, that I thought Senator Poke would be No. 3. I did not want to take votes away from our party, so I said, “ Choose the biggest drongo you have “. And that is why Senator Poke is here.
I repeat, Mr. President, that if members of the Democratic Labour Party are attacked in this Parliament or anywhere else they will hit back. Of course, the whole matter is concerned with preferences and all that sort of thing. Any one who wishes to attack us is free to do so, but he should not squeal if we hit back. We shall not squeal when we are attacked. Our attackers may say what they like. All we ask is that they do not squeal as they are squealing at present when they in turn are attacked.
– I end this somewhat lengthy interruption of the Budget debate by saying that I congratulate the Government on presenting such a budget at this time. Naturally, I repudiate and strongly oppose the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition. If we cast our minds back to the time, about twelve months ago, when we were discussing last year’s Budget, we shall recall that the economic circumstances then were very different from those which we face to-day. At that time, despite the denials of the Opposition, we were faced by boom conditions. Practically every one was saying, “ Something has to be done “. I think that many honorable senators opposite also were of the opinion that corrective action was necessary.
The Government took certain measures, and in many instances those measures had the results that the Government expected of them. The boom conditions have been corrected and the economy is on a much sounder basis. Nevertheless, we have been castigated and criticized up hill and down dale, particularly by the representatives of industries that were hardest hit by the economic measures. Of course, that was to be expected. It was explained, when the measures were introduced, that such criticism probably would occur. Now, we find that those people are endeavouring to whip up support for the claim that their hardships, as they call them, though I would not agree that that is the correct description, are too burdensome. They are trying to have them alleviated.
There is one bright spot now, Mr. President, that did not exist at this time last year. I refer to the fact that the wool sales have opened on a much brighter note than was the case last year. Prices this year are 15 per cent., or perhaps even more than that, higher than they were twelve months ago. If the wool prices that are now current had obtained during the whole of last year, our economy would have been very much better off and the need for some df the measures that were taken would not have arisen. Do we want to return to the boom conditions of over-full employment - and even the Opposition will recognize that that existed - and of extremely high prices for commodities that were needed in the community, with many commodities being most difficult to obtain? Steel was in short supply. That added to the difficulties associated with our overseas balances at that time. But that situation has been corrected. Do we want to return to that state of affairs? Do we want to return to the state of affairs in which high prices were being paid for blocks of land, homes and the like? I do not think we do. It is because that state of affairs has been corrected that I congratulate the Government upon having introduced this Budget.
It has been said over and over again that that correction could not be achieved immediately. Honorable senators will recall that some months transpired before the full effect of the measures taken late last year was felt. Likewise, it will take quite some time for the encouragement that has been given to industry to take full effect. If we realize that, I think we will have a much better idea of the situation with which we are confronted.
I mentioned our overseas funds. It will be remembered that at this time last year and for a little while afterwards our overseas funds were running down at what could only be described as an alarming rate. All our critics could say was that in that respect we were going to the dogs very quickly and that, no matter what action was taken, there was no way out of the difficulty. But once again our critics were confounded, just as they have been confounded ever since this Government assumed office. In the week ended on 23rd August our overseas funds stood at £491,800,000. That gives the lie direct to those people who said that no matter what we did our overseas balances would continue to dwindle. It is another vital example of the forecasts made by the Government having proved to be correct.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), other members of the Cabinet and the leaders of industry have advised people not to button up their purses but to spend wisely. That has been very good advice, indeed. Somebody has said that if you have not got money you cannot spend it. That is quite true. On the other hand, many of the people who have not money have only themselves to blame. Over the last five, six or ten years many people have seen fit to spend every shilling they have earned and to pledge amounts they are likely to get in the future on hire-purchase transactions and the like. The result has been that when a weeks’ unemployment has hit them they have found themselves financially embarrassed. As I look around the chamber, I wonder whether many honorable senators would be where they are to-day if they had been spendthrifts in their youth. I did not quite catch a remark that Senator Kendall has just passed, but judging by the smile on his face I should say that he appreciates the point.
One of the problems with which this country has been faced, and which I am afraid will confront it for some time yet, is that of rising costs. There is no doubt that the measures which have been adopted by the Government will have some effect on rising costs, but for some time it will be very difficult to stop the rate of increase in costs. We may not be able to stop the rise in costs, but at least by giving quite a deal of attention to the problem we should be able to ensure that the rate of increase does not rise. The rise in costs is one of the problems that concern primary producers and people on fixed incomes. Many of us feel that, if we want to tackle this problem effectively, we will have to examine our tariff machinery. I am not suggesting for one moment that the Tariff Board is doing something which it should not be doing. But, although all interested bodies have an opportunity to appear before the Tariff Board to state a case on behalf of the industries they represent, whether they be secondary or primary industries, unless the matter in question is of primary importance the industry concerned has to wait a long time for any decision. I believe that if there were attached to the Tariff Board an advisory panel which could set out the full economic effects of any increase or decrease that may be decided upon, the economy would be helped quite considerably.
I have referred to primary production. There is one thing that is a sore point with primary producers. Although primary producers have cut costs and increased their production, they often find that the representatives of the employees of industries with which they are associated are able to establish a case for higher wages. The result is that costs rise. On several occasions in the past the view has been taken that production has increased and therefore the industry in question can afford to pay higher wages. That is most unfair and most uneconomic. It hurts not only the primary producer but every one of us.
A little while ago Senator Poke referred to some employees in Tasmania being dismissed. I did not add up the number of persons to whom he referred, but the total seemed to me to be quite small. I do not suggest that because not many were put off we should not take notice of the situation. Let us consider what has happened during the past fortnight or so. The Ford company has re-instated 60 men and General Motors-Holden’s Limited is now working its employees full-time. Honorable senators will recall that a little while ago a lot of the employees of General MotorsHolden’s Limited were working part-time. It was stated in the press last week that their staff is now working full-time.
– That is incorrect.
– You say it is not true? I obtained my information from the press. I do not hold any brief for General Motors-Holden’s Limited. I think that company is to be condemned most strongly for the attitude it has adopted to its employees in the past four or five months. A lot of that company’s problems were brought about by over-production. But, although it made a huge profit last year, it used the measures adopted by the Government as an excuse to give a lot of its employees one week’s notice of dismissal and then to dismiss them. That was a dastardly act. I sincerely hope, as I have mentioned before, that when people go to buy new cars they will remember that action taken by General Motors-Holden’s Limited.
We have heard a lot about what have been described as the evils of the measures adopted by the Government during the past eight or nine months. Not all that the Government has done has produced a bad effect. In fact, many consumers have received very great benefits as a result of what the Government has done. In many instances prices have dropped considerably. I can speak from personal knowledge of what has happened in Sydney. We have had the spectacle there of the price of television sets having dropped by £50 and the price of washing machines and refrigerators having fallen by £30 or more. Although in many cases a reduction of price has not been advertised, people have been able to take along almost any article at all and trade it in. I was told of one case in which a firm accepted for trade-in purposes clothes pegs on which a fictitious value had been placed. I heard of a prospective purchaser of a refrigerator being allowed £70 for a kerosene refrigerator that he wished to trade in and which was situated up in the country. When the person concerned asked how it would be got down to the city he was told not to bother about it but to leave it there and to use it if it was of any value to him. That is the way in which prices have been reduced. So the effects of the Government’s economic measures have not been just one-sided. One speaker in this debate - I think it may have been Senator McKenna - mentioned huge stocks of retail goods. In the press last week we were told that retail stocks have now dropped by £13,000,000.
I pass now to the subject of building. We all realize that building costs had virtually got out of hand and that the people mainly benefiting from those high prices were those engaged in speculative building. Those who were suffering the worst were unfortunate young people who, for the first time in their lives, were setting out to get a home. They were asked to pay exorbitant prices, first of all for a block of land, and then for the home they wished to build on it.
To-day Senator Spooner gave us some instances of the drop in building prices. I think he mentioned that the cost of war service homes had dropped in Queensland by approximately £300 per building, and in Sydney by something like £120. That again is evidence that the credit squeeze has not brought only disadvantages as some of our opponents would have the public believe. We see now a resurgence in building activity and we welcome it. Obviously some speculators have burned their fingers badly and others have gone out of existence, but there is a resurgence in Sydney. A building of 24 stories has either commenced, or will commence in the next few days. As honorable senators know a large amount of extra money has been made available for building. It will take some time, of course, for the full benefit to be derived from this extra money.
Only last week the retiring president of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce advised people not to be led astray by sources that are likely to gain from immediate public discomfort or misery. That was excellent advice. There has been far too much talk about growing depression by people who should know better. We have heard certain honorable senators in this chamber make the extraordinary statement that the country has never been in a worse position. That statement does not stand up to examination. People who make such statements have been living like Rip Van Winkle for the past 40 years, or else they have buried their heads in the sand and have refused to face facts. Their statements are too ridiculous even to answer.
Reference has been made to comments on the economy by various business people. Only last week Dr. Harold Bell, an economist attached to the Australian Mutual Provident Society - one of the largest life insurance companies in Australia - said in the course of a fairly long statement -
Thegeneral climate for international investment is brighter than it has been for a long time.
Later he said -
Australian credit standing with official lending organisations such as the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation and the Commonwealth Development Finance Company is excellent.
Would our credit be excellent, as is suggested by Dr. Bell, if people overseas had not been convinced that the country was being wisely governed and that the measures taken would ensure the future economic stability of the country?
It is claimed in some quarters that this Budget has not given enough incentive. I have not the time - there are other speakers to come after me - nor the desire to mention in detail all the measures that have been taken, but I shall mention a few of them. One measure of importance that comes to mind, because it will affect our export trade, is the money that is being made available to Queensland - the State about which we have heard so much to-day. One million pounds is being made available for cattle roads in Queensland, with a promise of more to come. Cabinet has not said in effect, “Here is your £1,000,000, you will not get any more”. We must remember one thing in connexion with the money that is made available by the Commonwealth. It is not sufficient for the Government to say: “ Here is the money. Go to it.” The Government must make sure that the grants can be utilized to the best possible extent. In my opinion that is one factor that had to be taken into consideration in Queensland. Queensland is different from areas close to the big cities where earth- moving equipment and all types of road making machinery are in abundance. Conditions are quite the reverse in the far north hundreds of miles from anywhere. That aspect has to be considered.
I think that the Commonwealth Government deserves the greatest possible commendation for the broad view it has taken of the development of the north. We are all agreed that development must take place in our north and west. I shall have something to say about the west later. It is particularly gratifying to realize that the Cabinet is alive to the fact that the north must be developed and is making money available with, as I say, a promise of more to come.
Iamoneofthosepeoplewhohavebeen castigated by Sydney newspapers for having the temerity to travel around Australia and look at this country of ours. I have seen quite a bit of Australia. While I was in the Army I walked over a large portion of it. I take the view that those of us who are entrusted with the task of governing this country would be failing in our duty if we did not go out and get a good look at the country and so be in the position to talk about it with some first-hand knowledge. I make no apology for the two trips I did. First I travelled through the Channel country and then visited Mount lsa, Darwin and Alice Springs. At the first opportunity I intend to travel again, because, although I have seen much of Australia, I am not satisfied that I know enough about it yet.
– What about Western Australia?
– I have been there. I walked over most of the blessed place when I was in the Army. If I had my way every member of the Australian Parliament would be made to go out on these trips to see for himself, not only the condition of the country but the conditions under which outback people are living. As a primary producer I had to live under some pretty hard conditions - at least I thought they were pretty hard - for 40 or 50 years. I have visited some of the outback places. Windorah is one which comes to my mind. Fortunately, I was not there during the hot season. Some people castigate us for not going to these places during the hot season. On the other hand, if we do go during the heat they say, “ Why do you not come here in the winter when conditions are better?”. You just cannot win. I have seen the conditions under which these people are living. The temperature during the summer reaches 110 or 115 degrees. There are sandhills all around the place, and with the slightest wind the fine sand blows everywhere. Sandstorms occur in temperatures I have mentioned before. In spite of all this the people out there are fairly contented with their lot and are prepared to stay there so long as they have some assurance that they will be able to continue to make a reasonable living. Not only have we sufficient men with the fortitude to live in these places but, thank God, we have women who have the fortitude to go and stick by their men. When I see these people I feel proud that the pioneering spirit that built this country is certainly not dead. These people must be given some incentive to stay in these places and develop the country. They are doing a very fine job indeed. We should give them tax concessions. I do not care how much money they make. They could not make too much in my opinion. They deserve everything they can get. They are developing this country, often under the harshest of conditions. For example, one case that came to my notice was that of a man who had 4,000 woolly wethers at a time when they were worth £4 or £5 a head. He was running them in the Channel country but they were drowned when the streams flooded and six inches of rain fell on the same night. That man lost about £16,000 worth of stock in one night. That loss was borne not by a company but by a private individual. Another case that came to my notice was that of a man who had struggled all his life, living under canvas and under trees. Gradually he got together a few head of cattle. Over the years, through self-denial - he hardly ever left his property, and he did not waste his money on hire purchase - he built up his herd to 7,000 head To-day the herd is down to 500 head. Ho was able to sell a comparatively small number of his herd. That is all he has to show for his life’s work.
Those are isolated instances only. But what is the plight of people who live in cities such as Canberra? If the garbage man does not empty the garbage tin on the appointed day the people are up in arms. If the water supply is not as good as it should be they write letters to the local newspaper. We must look at these matters in their correct perspective and give the people of the outback areas some incentive to stay there. In the wet season the people in the outback must traverse fifteen miles of water in a boat. I admit that conditions have changed somewhat in recent years. Whereas formerly they used rowing boats, they now have boats powered by outboard motors. They now enjoy the great boon of being able to communicate with the outside world by using the services provided by Trans-Australia Airlines. 1 take this opportunity to give fullest praise to the work that Trans-Australia Airlines is doing in the outback areas of Australia Services are provided in some cases two or three times a week and in other cases two or three times a fortnight. But for those services 1 do not know how the people in those areas, which are hundreds of miles from the nearest town, would obtain supplies. One drawback to the continuation of those services is the fact that insufficient use is being made of them, I cannot understand why that is so. I make a plea that before the next Budget is brought down some incentive be given to the people who are prepared to develop Australia; they are now developing this country with very little help from us.
The Budget provides also for an increase of £5,000,000 in the capital of the Commonwealth Development Bank. I was amazed to see that proposal criticized by people who should and do know better. They said that the Development Bank was in competition with the trading banks. Nothing of the sort. The Development Bank provides finance only when the applicants cannot obtain finance from the trading banks or elsewhere. It is pure rot to say that the Development Bank is in competition with the trading banks. I was pleased to see that the £5,000,000 referred to will not necessarily be the total amount that will be provided to the bank. As we will have an opportunity to discuss this matter very shortly I do not propose to enlarge on it further at this stage except to say that the Development Bank, in spite of the very good work that it has done - it has provided some £10,000,000 that would not have been available from other sources - is not, in the opinion of many of us, fulfilling the function for which it was originally designed. Emphasis has been placed on the fact that projects for which financial assistance is sought from the bank must be of a developmental nature. I have no quarrel with that provision, but over the past six or nine months - fortunately the situation is a little easier to-day - the sons of farmers and share-farmers, who have all the qualifications necessary, cannot obtain finance to purchase properties unless they can show that those properties have developmental possibilities. Those persons had no chance of obtaining finance from the trading banks. Unless they could obtain finance from the vendor - all other sources of finance had dried up - they were not able to go on to the properties and thereby help our export drive by increasing production. I hope that in the very near future this matter will be fully investigated. If finance continues to be tight - I do not think it will - and if these people cannot obtain accommodation from the Development Bank, the bank should be enabled to assist them.
A lot of criticism has been levelled at the trading banks. I have conducted a good deal of investigation into the financial position of primary producers. I say without hesitation that on the whole the trading banks have done a very good job. They have certainly provided carry-on finance to the primary producers. I have heard it said that many people have not been given sufficient carry-on finance and that their properties would have to be sold. I have not yet been able to find anybody who was placed in that position. In every case that came to my notice carry-on finance was made available. The Opposition contends that the trading banks have been stifled. An examination of their trading figures and profits does- not substantiate that contention. The trading banks have not done too badly, but at the same time they have done a good job for the primary producers.
A little while ago I said that tax concessions should be granted to people who are living and working in outback areas under harsh conditions. Another type of industry should receive tax concessions. I was glad to see certain suggestions made yesterday in regard to this matter by a friend of mine in another place. Industries that are prepared to go into country areas and put up with fewer of the facilities that are available in the cities deserve some incentive. I was in Lismore a few months ago. There, an industry has been established employing about 100 people. It distributes its product throughout Australia. That industry has not put off any employees. Although the industry was feeling the effects of economic conditions, it was doing reasonably well. I spoke to the manager, who said that at times he felt his company was foolish to be operating in Lismore where it had certain worries that it would not have if it were established in one of the larger cities. I do not think sufficient incentive is given to companies such as that. I hope that greater incentives will be given to industries that are doing a valuable job of decentralization by getting away from our overcrowded cities.
I was pleased to see in the Budget that the amount of the grant for Papua and New Guinea is to be increased. I believe that we will be faced with some very difficult situations in that area in the very near future. It is very disturbing that, in spite of the excellent job that the Government is doing - having been there, I have had my own eyes to convince me of that fact - we are still being criticized unfairly overseas by countries which have not the faintest idea of what is being done in the Territory. Provided the people are not stirred up by some red-raggers who go across from Australia occasionally, if they are left alone and given a fair deal, they are quite happy with their new set-up. They are a good type of people and there is no doubt that they are being well looked after. Education and medical facilities are being extended from time to time, just as fast as the extra facilities can be provided. Those facilities are appreciated. I am very glad indeed that provision has been made for an increase in the allocation for this Territory.
The pioneering spirit is not dead. I found it in the Territory, too. Young planters with their wives are prepared to go fifteen or twenty miles out into the jungle. That seems a short distance, compared with the hundreds of miles about which I was speaking a little while ago; but these ‘people have ;gone out into the jungle with natives .all around them, some <of -whom are mot .exactly friendly. The patrol officers .told me that , in .some areas if you .move .too Jar off the .trail, ;the natives might not .eat you but ;,you might .lose your . head. J suppose that . if ;you lose ;your head tit .does not matter .much -whether or not :they eat you. These young women -are ^prepared to .go out into these .areas with their men. It ,-giyes us a feeling of pride to .think that our Australian people still -have the hardihood and the pioneering spirit .that built .this .country.
In the mad df repatriation, no matter what the Government gave the applicants it would never ‘be giving enough, according to them. I suppose that is understandable. Their spokesmen are out to. get the greatest possible benefits for the people they represent. . It was very pleasing indeed to ee-that about 384:000 people will benefit from the increases provided by -the ‘Budget. *is not ,’that something .that ,the .Budget has done .for the people? We hear no .mention -of that, from the -Opposition, .but. I think >it should be considered.
In the short .period ‘for which ‘I ‘have been in this .chamber,, ‘I ‘have stressed from time to time that one df ‘the ‘ways in ‘which -we can *:ut our costs is by reducing payroll tax. ‘Since starting out with that ‘idea, I have not seen or heard anything to make me change my mind, although I realize that ‘the -tax cannot be reduced overnight. It is a tax ‘that the -Government receives over monthly periods. The -Government could very well reduce the pay-roll tax because such a reduction ^eventually would >cut costs. That is a matter that should !be faced up to. I shall now deal with sales tax. Here ‘again, no mention has been made %y the ‘Opposition of the reductions :in ‘sales tax, which will amount to about £11;u00;000, ‘I understand, in a Ml year. That is also a reduction >of costs. The Opposition makes no mention of that very valuable concession %wh’ich is conferred upon the Australian community by the Budget.
Now let us look at -some of the con.cessions that primary producers receive - although, according to some of their spokesmen, they do not receive any. They have received quite a number of concessions over the past few years. I am not suggesting for one moment that they should not have -.received them; .nor am I suggesting for -one moment that they .should .not have : received more concessions. .However, I believe we -should be fair .about these matters .and recognize concessions when they are granted First, when the directive on credit was issued to the banks, explicit instructions -were given .that .credit was to be -given to primary (producers. Secondly, the instructions were that primary producers -were not to -suffer an increase in interest »rates. -In -addition, import .restrictions were lifted, and I am sure that that action has -had .an effect .on our costs. Probably .that effect is not recognizable ‘in many cases, but it lis there. “Nor “has it been recognized that in this Budget the Government had to find £3.,000,’000 for the ‘home-consumption portion of the ‘last wheat crop and that this year provision ‘is ‘being made for a further £10,000,000. .1 want to emphasize this point because many people do not ‘know, or will not recognize, that over the past eight or nine years, until this money has been made available, the Wheat-growers ‘have contributed dose to £200,000,000 to the wheat consumers ‘of Australia. It was quite obvious that when the stabilization fund, to which the wheat-growers had con.tributed -over ‘the years, ran out and people found that the ‘Commonwealth -would have to -come to the party and provide funds, straightaway there would foe the cry, “ You are subsidizing wheat “. In my view, the Government will mot ‘start to (subsidize -the wheat growers until the .growers have received back the :£200,000;000 ‘with which they have subsidized *be (consumers over the past ten -or twelve yeans. This year subsidies ‘on -dairy products will cost (the ^Governmnent about :£13.,50O,00O. Here again very considerable amounts have been set aside to help the primary producers. Ihe pity of all (this is that so many primary producers will not accept this ;as very tangible evidence of assistance.
Of course., many protests have been made by manufacturers against the lifting of import controls. “Naturally, those who have been the hardest hit have been crying out the loudest That was only to be expected, but honorable senators will remember that It is mot so long since the Government introduced the emergency tariff legislation which has proved very elective. I for one - ^1 mink I am only one of many - believe that the emergency tariff has been quite lenient in many cases. Sometimes it has been a bit too lenient for some of us. The figures given ‘by Senator Spooner only last week, I think it was, show that the number of applications for emergency tariff that had been made up to the time of his giving the figures was 24; fifteen of those applications had been granted; only six had been refused; and three were pending. So those matters were not gone into hurriedly or with the idea, “ Here Us a set of ‘Circumstances ia which relief cannot be granted”. One of the very great benefits under the emergency tariff legislation, of course, is that action can be taken quickly. Most honorable senators know that had hearings been confined to the full Tariff Board they would have extended over ;a period of months.
The Opposition claims that the Government should have done more to provide full employment. What does it want? In Sydney last week a decision was made to fill up, or practically fill up, a hole which the Department of Railways had been digging for many months. At any rate, work on it has ceased. I do not know the amount that had been spent on this work, but the hole is now being covered over and work is ceasing. That is almost in the heart of the city. The area is fenced in. How long it will remain in that condition, I do not know, and I do not think the State Government knows either. If we got 2,000 or 3,000 men to dig a great big hole and then another 2,000 or 3,000 men to fill in the same hole, that would provide employment; but would it do the country any good? That is what we have to consider. We have to see that the work that is provided will be of lasting benefit to the country at large.
– And that the job will be finished.
– Exactly. There are airy-fairy schemes to make a lot of money available to local councils. I am not suggesting that local councils should not receive money to assist them to solve their unemployment problems, but the idea of just going ahead and forking out huge sums of money to the councils to enable them to provide employment simply will not hold water.
– What about sewerage?
– Sewerage could be examined. I said to a sewerage construction official about eighteen months ago, “ If you had 50 per cent, more finance than you have now, could you use it? “ He said, “ No, we could not “. Whether or not the position has changed I do not know, but we must foe guided by considerations such as whether machinery is available to put into use the money that may be applied. The Government, very wisely, has looked at these things.
It will be remembered that when action was taken against the motor industry last year, the shortage of steel was one of our bugbears. The position in that regard has altered very materially, as a consequence of the action taken last year as well as of other conditions that have developed since. The timber industry has been a headache. To be fair, we must acknowledge that, particularly in cities, the amount of timber used in houses to-day is very small indeed. In many instances, not even the doors, window-sills, or rafters are made of wood. In some home units, even the floors are not made of wood. These developments have had a cumulative effect on the timber industry. I am told that in Brisbane - I cannot vouch for this, but Brisbaneites would know far better than I - it costs less to build a home of brick than of wood. The position is improving, fortunately, but the timber industry is not yet in the state in which we would like to see it.
Over the past ten days or so the recommendations of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation have caused a lot of comment. Newspapers have gone to town with large headlines, drawing their own conclusions, which are erroneous in many cases. We saw headlines to the effect that taxation concessions to trustee companies and partnership companies had been costing the community about £14,000,000 a year. The Treasurer was accused of giving concessions and immediately taking them away. The real position is that partnerships and trusts existing at the date of the tabling of the taxation committee’s recommendations will not be affected by impending legislation. It was therefore wrong to suggest that an amount of £14,000,000 a year would be recovered. What the taxation committee stated was that the provision being legally availed of had been costing the community £14,000,000 a year but that that loophole was being closed. As from the date of tabling of the report, partnership and trust agreements cannot be executed for the purpose of evading tax. Let us keep that matter in the right perspective.
We know that the Budget has been a disappointment to vested interests. Thar was to be expected. It is the case with any budget. If a particular industry does not get the provisions that it would like, it is disappointed. We cannot please everybody. As with the man with the pig and the boy with the donkey, if you try to please everybody, you do not please any one.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition in another place made the extraordinary statement that the curtailment of hire purchase would cost the community a lot of money. I do not know how he came to that conclusion. Mr. J. H. Partridge, managing director of Alliance Holdings Limited, said last week -
Hire-purchase funds are available, always have been available, and always will be available for financing motor cars, household goods and other consumer goods. There is a feeling abroad that because of the economic situation, hire-purchase funds are not available. There is no truth in this, and I want to emphasize that, for the sincere buyer, who can make the necessary deposit prescribed by law, and has sound prospects of paying the balance over a convenient period, hirepurchase funds are available.
In the course of his fairly long statement, he also said -
I urge those people who are in a position to buy the goods they need to do so now, because by doing so now they will be rendering a service to their country.
That was a statement, not by the Prime Minister or a Cabinet Minister, but by a businessman. Surely that gives the answer to some of the assertions that have been made without any backing at all.
The increase in expenditure under the Budget will be about £128,000,000. Let us have a look at the reason for the expenditure. The Treasurer’s Summary of Budget Prospects reads -
The main reasons for the estimated increase of £128,329,000 in total cash requirements in 1961- 62 are: -
Expenditure on war and repatriation services, and on payments from the National Welfare Fund, is estimated to increase by £31,955,000 in 1961-62 of which £11,442,000 is attributable to the additional benefits now proposed.
Payments from revenue to the State Governments are estimated to increase in 1961-62 by £31,921,000, of which £23,668,000 is attributable to estimated increases in financial assistance and special grants.
The approved Loan Council programme for State works and Housing in 1961- 62 is £10,000,000 greater than in 1960- 61.
That is the answer to the allegation that the Government is not giving the States much assistance. The Summary of Budget Prospects continues -
Addition of all of those amounts produces a total, in round figures, of £92,000,000. That accounts for most of the increase in total cash requirements. I was one of those who had criticized the Government for going ahead with extremely large buildings. Two that come to mind are in Sydney; they will cost over £7,000,000. I am now faced with the position that if work stopped on these buildings unemployment would increase. I therefore choose the lesser of two evils and suggest that we go on with them.
Let us have a look at the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. It reads - the Senate is of opinion that they fail to make adequate provision for Social Service Benefits, especially Child Endowment, and Repatriation Benefits; that they fail to relieve the plight of taxpayers, the family unit, the farming community and other sections of the Australian people and that they make no effective contribution to correcting seriously adverse trends in the Australian economy . . .
I think I have given some very good reasons indeed why the Senate should throw out that amendment. There is very little truth in it. No Opposition senator has given concrete evidence of a shortcoming in this Budget. All that the Opposition seems to want to do is to preach calamity and gloom.
– And woe.
– Yes, woe as well. I do not know where that is going to get the Australian people. We have noticed with considerable interest that honorable senators opposite have consistently fled from the suggestion that they should delineate the policy of the Opposition for the next election. I suppose Mr. Chamberlain has not yet finished writing it. But no doubt it will come out. We have seen and heard enough during the last two or three months to enable us to gauge the thoughts of honorable senators opposite with relation to the policy they will propound at the forthcoming general election.
Time and time again, the critics of this Government have said that the track we have been on has been the wrong one, that the measures taken will prove to be unsound, and that the economy is going to suffer. Time and again those criticisms have been proved to be wrong; and I have no doubt they will be proved wrong in the future. I congratulate the Government on the Budget, and support it.
– Senator McKellar has demonstrated quite clearly to the Senate that he has a steadfast objection to recognizing anything except the gold and the blue; he refuses to acknowledge the existence of any sombre colours. That might be considered to be an admirable outlook, but certainly it is not a realistic one. He has shown that he has his head in the clouds and that his head is accompanied by his feet. As I develop my speech, I shall deal with some of his extraordinary statements which apparently he expects the Senate to accept. It might be said in truth that when we discuss a budget that is brought down by a government, it is a matter of logic that the supporters of the government will speak of it in most eulogistic terms and that those who sit in opposition will find something in it to criticize. That is a reasonable proposition. The matter determines itself as the debate proceeds. The Government tries to get support for its point of view from sections of the Australian community who are prepared to say that the Budget is a good one and that it will assist to overcome Australia’s problems. By the same token, if honorable senators on this side of the chamber cannot find among sections of the Australian public some support for their contention that the Budget lacks many essential features, they say it demonstrates an inability on the part of the Government to grapple with the problems of the day, and to some extent the Opposition’s criticism loses its validity.
However, in order to put the record straight, before I go out into the main stream of my argument in relation to the Budget I want to prove to the Senate that the Opposition is not the only section of the Australian community which is highly critical of the actions of this Government, as evidenced by its Budget. The first example I shall give is taken from an article in the last issue of the bulletin of the Taxpayers Association of New South Wales -
The Taxpayers Association of New South Wales deplores the fact that no worth-while efforts are made to provide incentives for expansion in the private sector to cope with the tragic problems of unemployment or to encourage greater export activity. . . . There seems to be a complete and utter disregard in Canberra for private enterprise.
I do not think that anybody by any stretch of the imagination would suggest that the people who occupy the leading positions in the Taxpayers Association of New South Wales would have any political sympathy or any political accord with the party to which I belong. Then we come to the Australian Automobile Association, which had this to say -
The Commonwealth Government’s failure to increase road grants generally and its retention of the high rates of sales tax on all classes of motor vehicles except buses have caused great disappointment.
The Automobile Association is not in any way impressed with the Government’s Budget and it joins with the Opposition in saying that it has failed to grapple with the problems that are confronting this country.
I come now to the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, an organization which, until recently at least, has been very favorably disposed towards the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Country Party. I do not think that any honorable senator on the Government side would challenge that assertion. The chamber, in its journal, after giving a somewhat bitter summary of its idea of the Federal Government’s Budget, stated -
All in all, we find that although the Federal Government may have set out to control or curb a few sections of the economy, its actions have resulted in deterioration of a much wider range of industries than it intended, and for a much longer period.
Short of imposition of selective import controls and a considerable easing of the credit restrictionsimposed last November, any other measures merely prolong the period of recovery from the deep decline in a widespread area of manufacturing industry.
Again, I say that responsible people throughout Australia who are engaged in the economic life of this nation have joined with the Labour Party in saying that the Budget is an unimaginative and a hopeless document that does not deal in any way with the problems that are confronting Australia at the present time.
I turn now to the stock market. It is generally stated, 1 think with justification, that the stock market reacts very quickly to beneficial legislation, just as it reacts very quickly to legislation which is designed to undermine the economic structure of this country. Immediately the Budget was introduced in another place by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), an article appeared in a newspaper, headed “ Wet-Blanket Budget for Stock Market”. The newspapers of the capital cities, which have usually been loud in their praise of the Government and have adopted a partisan attitude towards the Liberal and Country Parties, have since been continually referring to the serious decline on the stock market that has occurred as a result of the Budget. This fact cannot be disputed. . There was, of course, a statement made by a Sydney newspaper which has been almost frantic in its attempts to justify some of the stupid actions of the present Government. In order to try to blanket the situation that really existed, that newspaper published an article by its financial editor under a big headline indicating there was increased activity on the stock market as a result of the Budget. When I endeavoured to find out what this increased activity consisted of, I discovered that every one was selling his stock. Admittedly, there was a considerable amount of activity but that activity was on the downgrade; it certainly was not on the upgrade.
I come now to a term that has been used quite frequently, not only during the Budget discussions but before the Budget was introduced. It is the term “ calamity howlers”. When people point to some of the serious things that are happening to undermine the economic structure of Australia, they are called calamity howlers. I think it was the Prime Minister who originally used the expression. He did so when it became embarrassing for him to reply to questions about the employment, situation, that were being levelled at him.’ by members, of the Opposition. He apparently thought that the use of the expression might be a good means of silencing, critics.
By calling them calamity howlers and seeking to undermine their legitimate protests about unemployment and the examples they presented of unfortunate happenings in industry, they might be effectively silenced, as, of course, they might be. It may be said, Sir, with some degree of justification, that if a belief that the country was going to the dogs gained sufficient currency throughout the continent, that could have an effect on the economy - I do not attempt to retreat from that proposition - and influence economic activities. But by the same token, it is certainly not right for any political organization, group of people or, for that matter individual, to be silenced in that way. If conditions in this country are not as they should be, it is the duty of those in high places and those who occupy leading positions to speak up.
I find that I am in distinguished company in the field of calamity howling. The Bank of New South Wales is a very responsible and august body. It is one with which, of course, the Government has had considerable contact over the years. I should think that the relationship between the Government and the bank would be of the most cordial kind. I find that the chairman of the Bank of New South Wales does not agree with the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner), that there is an upturn in the Australian economy. I have before me yesterday’s edition of one of the leading Australian daily newspapers in which it is reported that, in the opinion of the chairman of the Bank of New South Wales and his colleagues in the banking world, there is no upturn in the Australian economy. The newspaper article states -
Since last year’s Budget was introduced in an atmosphere of high internal boom, which had to be curbed, the economy has plunged into a recession deeper and probably more persistent than others of the past decade. The Bank of New South Wales states this in its latest quarterly -economic review. The new financial year has opened on a mixed note of caution and defiant confidence-
If the word “ stupid “ were to be added, that would be a fitting description of the attitude of this Government. The article continues - but the hopeful general turn is “not entirely logical “. Although the rate of business decline has slackened, .positive evidence of improvement is as yet, not obvious, the review says. In the circumstances of the boom and the subsequent recession, monetary policy as administered has proved a “ blunt and insensitive “ instrument.
As I have said, Mr. Deputy President, I am in distinguished company when I join the ranks of the calamity howlers and seek to pinpoint some of the weaknesses of this Government.
According to the newspaper, the economist of the Bank of New South Wales, a gentleman by the name of Mr. R. F. Holder, has criticized government leaders who have urged that we should spend ourselves out of the recession. The article states - “ Many of our leaders and politicians are -whistling to keep every one else’s courage up”, he said. “ This has gone too far.”
It would be perfectly in order for honorable senators opposite to say that my attitude to the Budget is a biased one. In fact, it would be true to say that of the attitude to the Budget of all members of the Opposition. It may be possible for supporters of the Government who are not so much concerned with the important questions of the day to laugh off some of the matters that have been pointed to by the Opposition, but I suggest they will find it difficult to laugh off the statements to which I have just referred because they have been made by people who have no political axe to grind. They have been made by people whose concern for the economic welfare of this country is such that they are prepared to subjugate their obvious political sympathy with the present Government and to say that everything in the garden is not lovely, as the Government and its supporters contend.
Having made that point, I wish to make one or two passing references to the Budget speech of the Treasurer. It is not possible, of course, in the time that we have at our disposal to deal with every phase and .aspect of the Treasurer’s speech. At the outset, he made the bald statement that -
To-day the Australian economy is, I believe, basically stronger than it has ever been.
We dispute that. The chairman of the Bank of New South Wales also disputes it. The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures refuses to accept it, and the Taxpayers Association of New South Wales agrees with us that the statement is wrong. I do not know whether the Treasurer is prepared to listen to those points of view. Perhaps his bald statement has been accepted with the greatest of reservations even by his own colleagues, but in any event it is not accepted by the people of Australia. He went on to say -
Other industries have experienced, at the most, a flattening out of activity” at, or not much below, the high levels reached last year.
Let me give honorable senators an illustration of what happens to an industry when it is flattened out. 1 have before me a letter from the federal president of the Australian Textile Workers Union, dated 5th July, 1961. The letter states -
Dear Sir, The Federal Council of the Australian Textile Workers Union has directed its Federal Officers to again draw your attention to the very serious drift in the employment existing in the Australian textile industry, following our circular letter of May 4th 1961.
In that document, we stated the following position as at March 28th 1961: Victoria- 1,364 dismissed, 3,635 working part-time; New South Wales - 1,550 dismissed, 4,500 working part-time; Tasmania and South Australia - extensive parttime working.
Since that time, the employment position has considerably worsened. At the end of May 1961, in New South Wales, the number of dismissals had increased to 1,802, and .those working only part-time increased to 8,500. Victorian figures show a total of 2,511 dismissals, comprising 1,176 males and 1,335 females. Those working only part-time increased to 9,641 . . . Tasmania, 180 dismissals, 820 on part-time. South Australia 40 -dismissals, and 415 on part-time.
I point out that that did not mean there had been an improvement in the position in South Australia. It only meant that the clothing industry in that State was not so highly developed as it was in the eastern States.
The letter continued -
The figures show how really serious the employment situation in our industry is. In the period March to May 1961, the total number of our members affected by reduced employment has doubled. 11,505 was the figure at the end of March, but at the end of May this had increased to 23,909. The figures deal with textile operatives only, and our normal membership is 42,000. Therefore, it means that more than half of our members are adversely affected. Quite recently we extended an agreement with employers in our industry to permit the working of a four-day week. This was entered into only for the purpose of avoiding further wholesale dismissals. It did not solve any problems.
The letter proceeds to state that a deputation approached the Treasurer but that so far nothing has eventuated. I suppose this is an example of what the Treasurer means when he refers to a flattening out of activity in industry. Here is an industry which, as a result of the activities of this Government, has been sent to the wall. At a time when we are confronted with the almost inevitable entry of Britain to the Common Market the clothing industry of Australia is dealt a savage blow, possibly a death blow, by a hopelessly inefficient and stupid Government.
Now I come to what I regard as being a very important part of the Treasurer’s Budget speech. Referring to housing, the Treasurer said -
We have arranged with the Commonwealth Banking Corporation that a further special allocation of funds will be provided for housing purposes by the Commonwealth Savings Bank over and above its normal provision of such finance.
I am particularly interested in the subject of housing. Honorable senators may recall that when I spoke during the debate on the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement in an earlier session I referred to the amount of money that young people in South Australia had to find before they could purchase a home. I recall that the Leader of the Government in this place (Senator Spooner) took me up when I claimed that most young people in South Australia who wanted to buy a threebedroom brick home would be required to find at least £1,000 for a deposit if they were to avoid being left to the mercy of people who deal in the second mortgage field of finance with its high rates of interest. It may be unjust to say that the Minister deliberately saw fit to misunderstand me. But I cannot follow the line of thought he pursued when he said that his information disclosed that in South Australia a new home could be obtained on a deposit of from £350 to £500. If the Minister had in mind that one could get a home on such a deposit if he entered into a second mortgage, I would agree with him. But if he meant that a young couple could go into a home without becoming burdened by an interest rate that was well nigh insupportable, I very much disagree with him.
I repeat what I said on the earlier occasion to which I have referred. If young married couples or any other persons in South Australia - doubtless the same applies in most of the other States - want to purchase a three-bedroom brick home but wish to avoid the millstone of second mortgage interest rates, they must find between £1,000 and £1,250 as a deposit. It is not of much use to tell those people that the Commonwealth Government, through the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, intends to make further finance available. If that finance is not made available without intending home-purchasers being fleeced by having to pay high rates of interest, they will have been let down, and no action taken by the Government can disguise that fact.
The maximum loan that can be obtained in South Australia at the present time through the various banking instrumentalities for the purchase of a new home is £3,000. If some encouragement is to be given to young people to establish a home of their own, there will have to be a conference between the Commonwealth and the States and a decision made to extend the maximum, loan to perhaps £3,500 or £3,750. If the maximum loan was increased, the possibility of people being left to the mercy of those who operate in the field of high interest rates would be reduced. If the Government did something along those lines, it would be taking a practical step towards alleviating one of the greatest burdens that are placed upon the young people of to-day.
A lot has been said about taxation, but I intend to deal with that in part later in my speech. At this stage I should like to touch upon the subject of immigration, to which reference has been made in the Treasurer’s Budget speech. The Treasurer said that the Government intends to curtail the immigration programme because of the employment situation and to wait until there is some improvement in the general economy before returning to the full-scale programme that was in operation some twelve months ago.
It may be interesting for us to cast our minds back to ascertain the reaction of supporters of the Government when we on this side of the Senate advocated, perhaps as far back as four or five years ago, that the immigration programme ought to be geared to the employment situation in Australia. We said that it was unjust, and indeed inhumane, to bring people to the shores of this country if, after having been informed of all the opportunities that existed here and the great benefits that would flow from their becoming Australian citizens, they were to be kept almost as prisoners in holding camps for periods up to twelve months. Let there be no doubt about the fact that that did happen and that it is still happening. But when we directed attention to these happenings, it was said that we wanted to damage the immigration programme and to lower the prestige of Australia in the eyes of the rest of the world. It cannot be said with any degree of justification that the Australian Labour Party has adopted other than a practical and humane approach to the subject of immigration. Such a charge cannot be levelled against us, especially when it is remembered that the Labour Government inaugurated large-scale immigration from European countries.
However, there is one aspect of the matter upon which we have never agreed, and never will agree, with honorable senators opposite. While we have Australian workmen tramping the streets of our capital cities in large numbers unable to find work, we should not add to their misery and inflict misery upon migrants who come from Europe in unrestricted numbers. I am not criticizing the Government for curtailing its immigration programme. All I am saying is that we are now in the situation where we can repeat the old and rather stupid saying that when things are different they are not the same. When we on this side of the chamber advocated a curtailment of the immigration programme because of unemployment in this country, we were howled down by the Government. Now the Government is being forced to acknowledge the logic in the attitude that the Australian Labour Party has adopted on occasions during the last four or five years.
I hope that the unemployment situation will be rectified and that we will be able to continue to take large numbers of people from overseas to populate the empty parts of this country. But let us do so on the basis of decency and justice. Let us ensure that when we bring people here they will get what they have been promised - a place in the sun. Let us ensure that they do not become, because of the unemployment situation, a threat to Australian workmen and an embarrassment to themselves.
I wish to mention one other aspect of our immigration programme to which the
Government hic, had ite attention directed from time to time. I do not want it to be assumed that I believe for one moment that the Government is not as aware of the problem as are I and my colleagues on this side of the chamber.
I do hope that in determining immigration quotas in the years to come the Government will give the most urgent and earnest consideration to reaching a better balance of migrants. By that I mean, bringing in a sufficient number of young, unmarried women to meet the situation in which we find ourselves, and have found ourselves, for the past six or seven years. The present position is wrong and should not be permitted to continue. Without in any way implying that the Government has not these things in mind I merely make my plea, along with that of other people who have some degree of humanity in their minds, that the Government will consider this aspect of immigration during the next twelve months. I do not think it needs me to stress how important this matter is to the young migrants who are here. I think it will be readily accepted that this has to be done.
Before I pass on to the field of social services, I want to touch briefly on some points raised by honorable senators on the Government side who have preceded me in this debate. Senator Scott stressed the necessity to use all our resources to find oil in this country. He said that the Labour Party, when it was in office, did nothing to assist in the search for oil. It is easy to say such a thing but, of course, it is not so easy to substantiate it. Senator Scott, not intending to substantiate what he said, just made the bald statement. The fact is that Labour has been in office in the federal parliament only on two occasions.
– Hear, hear!
– Senator Laught says “ Hear, hear! “, and so did the Australian people when the party to which he belongs found that it was incapable of governing this country in the early days of World War II. and vacated the Treasury bench. The honorable senator may well say “ Hear, hear”. That was one of the occasions when Labour was in office.
I think it is completely illogical for any person to suggest that, at the time when we were fighting a total war and when the whole attention of the government had to be concentrated on keeping the people of the country solid and united, we had any opportunity to look for oil. It might be said with the same degree of logic that a government which had on its hands the immediate problems of post-war rehabilitation would regard the search for oil as something of a secondary consideration, at least until pressing commitments were met. However, as Senator Scott said, the Labour Party, during its last months of office, purchased an oil rig. Had Labour continued in office, it no doubt would have utilized that oil rig to search for oil in Australia.
It must be remembered, too - I do not say this with any desire to hurt the oil interests, or with any feeling of hatred - that there was a belief in the early years that some oil interests were not anxious for oil to be found in Australia. What a Labour government would have done with that oil rig, history cannot record because the Labour Party was defeated in 1949, and when the present Government came into office it promptly sold the rig. I think, perhaps, this Government was embarrassed by the thought that if it searched for oil, it might find oil and this might create all sorts of problems. The Government got rid of the rig as if it was red hot. It sold it for a song.
– Can you tell us how much the Government got for it?
– Somewhere in the vicinity of £300,000. Senator Scott said that he was highly pleased with the Government’s activities in the field of oil search. He put up a good story about the work that has been done and how much the Government has contributed. What he did not tell the Senate - this was pinpointed by Senator McKenna - was that Australia’s attempts to discover oil during the last four or five years have been pathetic compared with the efforts of even smaller countries. He did not tell the Senate that the number of holes drilled in Australia does not compare favorably with the number drilled in a relatively small country such as Pakistan. It is quite easy to say that the Labour Party has done nothing and that the Government has done everything; but Government supporters should demonstrate to the Australian people that the Government really wants to find oil. They could do this if the Government were to step up its activities in the field of oil search at least to the level reached in Pakistan, a country of much less influence and size than Australia. 1 turn now to the field of social services. I think I should say immediately that the 5s. increase in age, invalid and widows’ pensions is a step in the right direction; but it is not enough when we consider the increase in the cost of living since the last pension increase was granted. It will do no more than, perhaps, meet the lag that has taken place. I am concerned about that, but I am more concerned about some of the things the Government has not done. I think it would be remiss’ of me if I failed to make some reference to some things the Government has not done. First, it has failed to increase the allowance paid to wives of invalid pensioners. I do not think there is any more difficult situation than that of a woman in her late fifties who is the wife of an invalid husband receiving £5 5s. a week pension. She is supposed to exist on the meagre amount of 35s. a week at present. I had hopes - in fact I was almost certain - that on this occasion the Government would grant a substantial increase in the allowance paid to these wives. They are in a much worse position than the wives of age pensioners. A couple of pensionable age, even though they have no assets at all, receive between them a pension of £11 a week.
Yet the Government expects a woman in her late fifties - assuming that she is 57 or 59 and is not eligible for an age pension - to live with her invalid husband on a total payment - pension and allowance - of £7 a week. I should like some honorable senator on the Government side to tell me how a husband and wife in this category are able to live. This is something to which we should all turn our thoughts. Surely, even at this stage it is not too late for the Government to make some extra provision in this field.
If we wish to take a dispassionate view of the situation, and leave out the humanitarian considerations, it might be said that in theory the woman can go to work. However, those of us who know what is happening in the employment field’ at present will readily agree that it is most difficult for a women in her late fifties to get a job. Whilst in theory she has the opportunity to go out and earn, in fact she has no such opportunity at all. Even if jobs were available for those women - jobs are not available unless the women are highly skilled in some way or have particular qualifications - they would still have the problem of looking after their husbands, who require constant attention.
Another matter to which some consideration should be given by the Government is the amount of income that may be earned by a pensioner without affecting his entitlement to pensioner medical benefits. At present the maximum amount that a single pensioner may earn in those circumstances is £2 a week and the maximum amount for a married pensioner couple is £4 a week. If the pensioner or the married pensioner couple receives income in excess of £2 or £4 respectively, pensioner medical benefits cease to be available. I cannot understand why any income limit at all is fixed in this regard. I do not think there has been any liberalization of the income means test at least for three or four years. If the Government cannot see its way clear to remove the income means test, it should increase the amount of permissible income by at least £100 in the case of single pensioners and £200 in the case of married pensioner couples. I can see no justification for placing a limitation such as this on these people who are in a very poor plight to begin with. I hope that my appeal will not fall on deaf ears. These people, comprise one of the most deserving sections of our community.
Another matter that goes deep into the field of human problems is the provision that requires immigrants not covered by the reciprocal agreements between this country and the United Kingdom on the one hand and New Zealand on the other hand to reside here for twenty years before they qualify for certain social service benefits. It may be said that people who come here from Europe are not bound to bring their aged parents with them. We may say that before they came here we warned them that their parents would not be able to qualify for age pensions until they had been here twenty years. But no matter what we say, we cannot dismiss the human problem that is associated with this matter. We cannot push into the background the fact that the most natural thing in the world is for immigrants from European countries to want to bring their parents with them to Australia. Those immigrants will be prepared to face any eventuality that may arise here as long as they can secure their immediate objective. It is unnecessary to retain the twenty-year qualification period. Even if the period is not eliminated altogether it should at least be reduced to ten years. I have not gone into the economics of the situation. I do not know what my suggestions would cost to implement, but I assume that the increased cost involved in putting them into effect would be infinitesimal having regard to our total national expenditure. That is a matter that should be given urgent consideration.
While on the subject of limitation of time I think that Australia should pay particular attention to the practicability of obtaining migrants from what used to be our sister dominion of South Africa. At any time South Africa, owing to the dangerous trend of events there, could go up in flames. I think that we would welcome South Africans as immigrants. After all, we have a common bond of friendship with them. I think that some provision should be made in our social services legislation enabling South Africans, who do not have the benefit of a reciprocal agreement, as. do people from the United Kingdom and New Zealand, to come to this country and qualify for social service benefits without spending many years here first. These are matters that are not raised daily but they are nevertheless real, human and important - as much so as other matters referred to in the Budget involving millions of pounds.
I wish to refer to another social service matter that needs rectification. First, I commend the Government for the action that it took last year to liberalize the means test, particularly in relation to assets held by certain people when they reached pensionable age. I think the Government took a substantial step in the right direction on that occasion but in doing so it created, quite unintentionally, an anomaly that must be rectified if justice is to prevail. That anomaly exists in the case of persons in receipt of superannuation. At present under the social services legislation a married couple, each of whom is of pensionable age, may have £9,000 between them in the bank. Provided they have no other income from personal exertion they are entitled to receive a part pension. I do not quarrel with that. I think, however, that we should direct our thoughts and our activities to the eventual abolition altogether of the means test.
– The pension cuts out when the assets reach £9,000.
– The pension cuts out when the assets are something more than £9,000. I am simply making the point that we look at that situation at one end of the scale. Then we consider the person who is not worried about accumulating a bank balance over the years but who has seen fit to provide for his old age by buying units of superannuation. In some instances people bought heavily into superannuation schemes and as a consequence they reduced their standard of living by the amounts that they had to pay over the years. The person who put his money in the bank has come off best under present circumstances, because in the case of a married couple, if the husband is entitled to £8 a week superannuation and although he may hot have any other money, his pension is immediately affected. If we accept, as we do, the logic that the liberalization of the means test as it applies to assets was right, I think it goes without saying that we have created an anomaly that should be corrected. We should increase the amount of permissible income as far as superannuation is concerned. If we, as members of Parliament, thought that the present social services laws would remain unchanged, we would be forced to advise people that it was no longer wise to take out units of superannuation, thereby lowering their standard of living, but that a far better proposition for them would be to put their money in the bank. Then, when they reached pensionable age, they could retire and receive the interest on their investments as well as a full pension, provided their assets did not exceed £4,000. I hope that the Government will give some consideration to that point. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The fololwing Question on Notice was answered: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answers: -
Senate adjourned at 4.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 31 August 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1961/19610831_senate_23_s20/>.