24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Labour .and National Service observed in the press a report that a group of good people in Rockhampton has proposed establishing a place for the purpose of cooking and serving meals to hungry, jobless persons in Rockhampton? Will the Minister for Labour and National Service send one of his senior officers to Rockhampton to discuss the proposal of the good people who are willing to cook and serve meals for the benefit of destitute people? Will he also arrange for one of his officers to consult the Department of Supply to see whether it has any sinks, ovens or stoves, tables, and cooking and dining utensils which will not be used by the Service departments and which could be made available to this group, of good people in Rockhampton for their altruistic purposes?
– I have not noticed this report in the press. I shall bring the question to the notice of the Minister and request that he provide a reply to the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Has any concrete proposal been made to the Army for the transference of Swanbourne army camp in Western Australia? Has the Minister been asked officially to transfer the camp to the Wanneroo Shire Council area? In the event of the camp being shifted, who would be responsible for the cost of establishing a new camp?
– I had some discussions with the Minister for the Army on this matter. He advised me that the Nedlands council had indicated that it would like the camp to be shifted but that no concrete proposal had been put forward.
He said that a firm of estate agents had approached the Nedlands council with a proposal that an alternative site of approximately equal- value be found in the Wanneroo shire, that an exchange of sites be made, and that any necessary financial adjustment be made either to the council or the Army. No concrete proposal has come out of that. The Minister said that should there be an exchange of sites, then, as several millions of pounds of public money had been expended on Swanbourne camp, the new site would have to be satisfactory to the Army, and on that site all the buildings now on the Swanbourne site would have to be rebuilt to the satisfaction of the Army.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that some Commonwealth Government departments intend to rent floor space in the new T. & G. insurance building situated in St. George’s-terrace, Perth, Western Australia? If so, what is the area of floor space that it is intended to rent? What is the rental per square foot per annum that it is intended to pay? Does the intended annual rental amount to something in excess of £58,000? Does the Government own any land in metropolitan Perth upon which a building suitable to house its departments could be erected? If so, will the Government give urgent consideration to the erection of a suitable building? If not, will the Minister state whether the Government intends to continue a policy of renting floor space from private property owners in order to assist them to pay for their buildings?
– The arrangement of accommodation for Commonwealth Government departments is almost always dealt with by the Department of the Interior. I am not aware of any intention on the part of the Government to lease any part of the building referred to by the honorable senator, although I do not contest the view that such action is possible, nor do I know anything about proposed rentals. I think the best course for the honorable senator to adopt could be to place his question on the notice-paper so that the subject may be examined.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Did the Minister see a recent press statement that approximately 131,000 persons in Australia are seeking work? Did he also see a statement that that number represents about 3 per cent, of the work force? Does the Minister believe that the measures taken recently by the Government will have the desired effect of reducing the number of unemployed persons in Australia? Can the Minister assure me that if those measures do not reduce unemployment the Government will immediately introduce further measures to ensure that unemployment is reduced throughout the country? Will the Minister give me his personal assurance that the Government will not allow unemployment to reach the disgraceful figure of 5.6 per cent, of the work force - the figure reached in 1949 under a Labour government?
– The answer to the first part of the question is: Yes, I noticed, as I am sure all honorable senators noticed, that the number of persons registered as seeking employment is about 131,000. I have noticed also statements in the press to the effect that that number represents about 3 per cent., of the work force. Personally, I deprecate speaking in terms of percentages when discussing unemployment, which is something that affects people. In answer to the second part of the honorable senator’s question, I point out that, as the Government has stated, the works programme that has been initiated, and the other economic measures that have been taken, have been designed with the clear objective of correcting the unemployment situation, which is the only serious thing wrong with the economy in Australia at present. Clearly, the Government believes that the programme upon which it has embarked will correct the present unemployment situation.
Finally, my sincere personal belief is that unemployment will not be allowed to reach 5.6 per cent. - a figure which it reached on a previous occasion. On the contrary, the Government does not believe that even 3 per cent, of unemployment, much less 5.6 per cent., can be regarded as full employment, and that is why it has taken steps to bring about a state of full, employment in this country;
– My question is’ directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Kas the Government taken any steps - if so, with what result - in regard to securing wool-selling dates for the 1962-63 wool-selling season at Portland, Victoria? Is it a fact that the Minister for Trade promised a five-man deputation of wool-growers at Warracknabeal, Victoria, on or about 16th November, 1961, that he personally would attempt to arrange a conference between wool-growers, Mr. Gale, as the president of the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers, and other interested bodies in regard to wool sales at Portland? Has the Minister been able to arrange the conference? If he has not, has he informed the deputation of the result of his endeavours?
– I am sorry to say that I am not informed on the matter that Senator Kennelly has raised. I will have to ask him to put his question on the noticepaper.
– The Department of Health is always alive to the threat of smallpox to this country , and demands of every person who sets foot on Australian soil a current international vaccination certificate. It is true to say that modern air travel has increased greatly the threat of smallpox to Australia because, as the honorable senator will know, with the incubation period of fourteen days, when sailing ships and sea travel was the usual mode of conveyance, the disease ‘had time to germinate and appear during the sea voyage. To-day many of our travellers take only a matter of hours to come here. For that reason, the department is very much alive to its responsibilities and, at this point of time, has a splendid record in this field.
Without intending in any way to create panic in the minds of people, I state my belief that all thinking people would say, “ Let us take all the precautions we can to prevent the spread of these infectious diseases “. At the present time the department holds, I think, about 1,000,000 doses of vaccine for use in the event of an outbreak. Then there are additional bulk supplies. To Senator . Dame Annabelle Rankin, speaking from memory I would say that Queensland has an excellent record in smallpox vaccinations. In 1957-58, Queensland vaccinations totalled about 4,000, and in 1960-61, 50,000. Those figures indicate that the people of Queensland are alive to the dangers of infectious diseases.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service fully aware of the seriousness of the situation in Tasmania which has the highest percentage of unemployed people in the Commonwealth? Is the Minister aware that a considerable proportion of that high figure are young people who left school at the end of last year? The latest published figures available showed that in the city of Launceston alone 500 youngsters were out of work. As the announced methods of alleviating unemployment are having very little short-term effect in Tasmania, and we expect that they will have much less effect in the long term and will not affect the sector of school leavers, will the Government or the Department of Labour and National Service give consideration to the introduction of a subsidized apprenticeship scheme similar to the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme which was so successful in absorbing into skilled professions and trades ex-servicemen who found themselves without professions and trades when they came out of the services, and so meet the very great challenge that Australia will face in the future of the number of apprentices being reduced while our youths are wandering the streets looking for work?
– The Government was aware that Tasmania was one of the States in which there was a high incidence of unemployment. When grants were made to the States recently, Tasmania received an extra £500,000 to alleviate the very conditions to which Senator O’Byrne has referred. That additional grant was well received in Tasmania, as 1 know from personal knowledge, having been there when the news was announced. Coupled with what has been done in the private sector of the economy, these grants will have the effect of reducing unemployment in Tasmania and elsewhere. I think the second part of the question should be referred to the Minister himself. I shall see that that is done, so that the Minister can reply to the suggestion put forward by the honorable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Is Australia taking up bonds issued by the United Nations because certain countries are in default with payments due to that body? What countries are in default with payments due to the United Nations? What is the nature of those payments?
– The answer is that Australia is taking up bonds issued by the United Nations for the purpose of making up moneys which the organization has not received from members. Some members are not paying their assessed contributions. The countries in default to the United Nations are, for the most part, the countries of the Communist bloc, including Soviet Russia. I shall have to ask for notice to be given of the question relating to the nature of the payments that have not been made, but I know that one of the payments due is a contribution to the United Nations defence forces in the Congo.
– And the expense of clearing the Suez Canal.
– Also payments in respect of the expense involved in clearing the Suez Canal. Those are two specific matters in respect of which these countries have refused to pay their assessed shares of the cost of ensuring world peace.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. I refer to the discovery this year in Victoria of the sirex wood wasp in sixteen or more locations, some of them many miles apart. Will the Minister state what steps this Government, in co-operation with State governments, is taking to eradicate this pest, which is capable of doing indescribable damage to radiata pine plantations and forests in Australia?
– Senator Laught has taken - very properly, in my view - a lively interest in the threat that the sirex wasp presents to our softwood timber industry, which is valued conservatively *it some £80,000,000. I am very pleased to be able to tell him that the State Premiers, disregarding boundaries, realize that the sirex wasp presents a threat to a valuable industry. The Commonwealth Government has stated that it is prepared to assist in the war against the wasp. With that end in view, the States and the Commonwealth have agreed to establish a fund, with a ceiling limit of £200,000, to be expended on research and on such other work as is considered necessary for the complete eradication of this pest. That decision was arrived at last Friday morning at the Premiers’ Conference. I am happy to be able to tell the honorable senator that the State Ministers have agreed to meet me in conference next Monday to implement plans and form committees. If the honorable senator will ask his question again one day next week, I shall be very happy to give him the latest information on the matter.
– I direct a question without notice to the Leader of the Government. Does he recall that the Prime Minister said he was desperately looking for suggestions which would help him solve some of the problems associated with the European Common Market because his own colleagues were destitute of any ideas?
– Who said that?
– The Prime Minister.
– About whom?
– His colleagues. Does the Minister recall that for five years I have been asking the Government to convene a meeting in Canberra of manufacturers, industrialists, trade union representatives and others vitally involved? Does he recall that he said the proposal that I made was not practical and was most unsuitable, and that he used other superlatives scorning and ridiculing my suggestion?
– It was premature.
– You might smile, but the people want to know something. Now that the Prime Minister has stolen my suggestion and convened conferences to help extricate Australia from its difficulties arising from the mishandling and blundering of the Menzies Government in its economic policy which has resulted in unemployment and part-time employment for 200,000 persons, will the Government convene similar conferences to learn and examine the problems associated with this major problem of the twentieth century, having in mind the disastrous decisions which were the outcome of the Gatt Conference last week and their effect upon the disposal of the Australian wheat crop, in addition to the serious effects of the strait-jacket agricultural policy of the European Economic Community?
– Senator Hendrickson is renowned in the Senate for his flights of imagination, but on this occasion he seems to have surpassed himself. I certainly have no recollection - and I am sure Senator Hendrickson has none - of the Prime Minister complaining that all his colleagues lacked ideas. Regarding the important subject of the Common Market, I should hope that I did not reply to Senator Hendrickson in the terms that he attributes to me, scorning and ridiculing his proposal.
– You did.
– I should hope I did not. Things do go astray sometimes during question time. The fact is that the conferences that Senator Hendrickson has suggested are taking place, and there is now constant consultation between the Department of Trade and the industries that are concerned with the Common Market negotiations.
– It should have been done five years ago, not to-day.
- Senator Hendrickson said that he suggested this five years ago.
– I did.
– I do not know what purpose would have been served by conferring five years ago upon a problem that is only now taking shape. The situation is developing from day to day and from month to month, and I assure the Senate that the problem has not yet presented itself in any concrete terms. It is changing as representations are made from side to side, and a clearer view is being had of all the implications that follow the decision of the Government of the United Kingdom to negotiate and the effect of those negotiations not only upon the six members of the Common Market together but also upon each one individually, which has its own particular problems and interest. If I have said anything that savoured of scorn or ridicule, I withdraw it. 1 do not want to create such an atmosphere, because this is a very great matter in the consideration of which all our wits are needed.
– The electorate is not so favorably disposed to the Minister’s party atthe moment, either. It is very dissatisfied.
– Times have a habit of changing, but I remind the honorable senator that we are still the Government, and that we shall continue to be so for a long time if he continues to be a spokesman for the Opposition. Going back to the original question, I think the honorable senator will find that we have consulted with the relevant people in Australia. It will be necessary for those people to go overseas, to sit outside the conference doors and to help in sorting out the problems as they arise.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether he can state the approximate date on which the committee of inquiry into the wool industry will bring down its report on the investigations which it has been conducting for the past twelve months or so.
– I am informed that the Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry has completed its investigation and has lodged its report with the Minister for Primary Industry. I am further informed that at this point of time the Minister has not had an opportunity to study the report, but I understand that he is particularly anxious to have a look at it and to make its contents known to the interested parties as soon as possible - after, of course, perusal by the Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. In view of the continued dissatisfaction of telephone subscribers with the kind of telephone directories now in use, will the Minister consider the use of larger type in the next issue so that expense and inconvenience may be saved those who have great difficulty in deciphering the small print in the current directories? Is the Minister aware that many persons whose names and addresses occupied only one line in the old books, in which I understand there were two columns, are now being charged an extra £1 a year for an identical entry since it now occupies two lines in the three-column pages? How much revenue has thus accrued to the department? Does not the Minister consider that this additional charge is anomalous, since before it was levied no intimation was given to the subscribers concerned? If it had been they could, perhaps, have amended the entry and thus obviated the additional charge.
– I have, from time to time, brought to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral submissions made by honorable senators. Some have complained of the lay-out of the telephone directory, . contending that it causes confusion when seeking telephone numbers. The burden of Senator Tangney’s complaint, in the main, is the smallness of the type. I have been informed by the PostmasterGeneral that the size of the type used is not dictated wholly by considerations of economy. As far as possible, consideration must be given to the need to make the document one that is of manageable proportions. I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Postmaster-General and obtain an up-to-date comment on it. I have no knowledge of the charge to which the honorable senator has referred, but I shall ask my colleague to give me a written statement about it.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, concerns the twin problems of agriculture and local government. I refer to figures published in the recent edition of “ Muster “ which show that in the decade from 1947 to 1957 local government rates levied on the property owner increased by 313 per cent. In the same period State taxation increased by 291 per cent, and Commonwealth taxation by 185 per cent. Other elements of costs as measured by the wholesale price index increased by 145 per cent. Of course, the Minister need not be asked whether he realizes that these figures, if valid, pose an immediate problem for the agricultural industries and local government authorities; but he would do me a courtesy if ho offered some observations on this problem in his reply. I now ask the Minister whether he will have the figures examined and will present to the Senate the Treasury’s version of them so that we may judge the importance of this problem in the spheres of local government and agriculture.
– I shall ask my colleague, the Treasurer, to have the figures examined by his officers and to make available to the Senate, particularly to Senator Wright, any comment that might be made upon them.
– I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General whether it is a fact that some time ago the Government set up a committee to examine the Bankruptcy Act and to make recommendations as to desirable amendments. If so, has the committee’s report been received? If a report has not been received, when may we expect to receive it and the recommended amendments, particularly amendments to section 84?
– I can answer only one part of the question at this stage. I believe that a committee has indeed been set up. I ask the honorable senator to place the other parts of his question on the notice-paper so I may obtain an answer from the Attorney-General.
– I address to the Minister for Health a question about the sirex wasp which is prompted by one asked by my colleague, Senator Laught. The Minister wm recall that some nine or twelve months ago in this place I asked a question about the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization concentrating its attention upon arresting the expansion of destruction by the wasp in Tasmania. I should like to know from the Minister to what extent the consultations that he referred to as having taken place last week dealt with arresting this problem in Tasmania.
– As I understand the situation, very little research into the sirex wasp problem has been done in any country. Unfortunately, some countries have come to the conclusion that they can live with it because of the activity of natural enemies which, it is claimed, have the effect of more or less keeping the wasp under control.
I ‘ cannot say specifically to Senator Wright that the C.S.I.R.O. has up to this point of time taken any active interest in research into the sirex wasp problem; but, without presupposing the recommendations that the State Ministers in charge of forests will table on Monday, I can assure the honorable senator that the whole of the Commonwealth is alive to the problem in Tasmania and that in the main those concerned agree that it is futile to eliminate the wasp from the mainland while it is in such strength in Tasmania. I have no hesitation in assuring Senator Wright that Tasmania perhaps will be the first area in which very much invigorated research will take place.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, relates to the unfortunate accident to the Viscount aircraft which crashed in Botany Bay in November last while on charter to Ansett-A.N.A. from TransAustralia Airlines. I ask the Minister: Was the aircraft insured? By whom and with whom was it insured? For what sum was ‘it insured? What insurance moneys have been paid? At what value was the aircraft recorded in the accounts of T.A.A. at the time of its destruction?
– I shall have to look at the records for most of the detailed information. 1 assure the honorable senator that the aircraft was insured. It was insured in the name of T.A.A. and, if my recollection is correct, the insurance has already been . collected. I shall have to obtain the other detailed information and pass it on to the honorable senator.
– 1 direct to the Minister for Civil Aviation a question with reference to the 1962 diary given by Trans-Australia Airlines to its customers and others as a goodwill gesture, lt seems to me to be a pity that a diary advertising this essentially Australian airline is printed overseas and not in Australia, as we have printers and publishers of renown in Australia. Will the Minister inform me whether any attempt was made to have the diary printed in Australia? Were tenders called by T.A.A. , and, if so, were any Australian tenders received? If Australian tenders were received, was there any compelling reason for not accepting any of them?
– Until my attention was directed to it by the honorable senator, I was not aware that the diary issued by T.A.A. had been printed overseas. I shall take an early opportunity to raise the matter with the chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission and to find out the circumstances surrounding the lodging of this order overseas rather than in Australia.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The constitution of a European political union provides for the unification of foreign, military, cultural and economic policies. Can the Government present to the Parliament a statement which would indicate to the people of Australia whether these far-reaching proposals, if implemented, would in any way affect the sovereignty of Australia having in mind Australia’s association with the United
Kingdom and the fact that, amongst other things, the proposals would make Europe militarily independent within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?
– I do not think it would be practicable to present a statement on this matter to Parliament. The Prime Minister of Australia has expressed his view of the United Kingdom’s affiliation with the European organization, and I think the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom expressed a contrary view. I personally support the view that our Prime Minister has expressed, which is that the United Kingdom’s looking inwards to Europe to a greater extent must change its relations with the other Commonwealth nations. I express that view, but 1 hope that the view of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is correct, and that there will not be any weakening of the present Commonwealth associations. I do not think that the situation could be covered in a statement, because there is room for such divergent views.
– I direct a question to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. What amount of money is being made available to the C.S.I.R.O. as a result of the sale of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission in Western Australia, a proportion of the proceeds of which. was to be devoted to research into fishing? What research is being done into the pelagic fish that abound off the eastern Tasmanian coast and, for that matter, the eastern Australian coast? In view of the unmeasured potential of tuna and salmon fishing off the eastern coast of Tasmania, will the Minister initiate, through the C.S.I.R.O. the establishment of a factfinding committee to go into the whole matter of the development of this industry, which could bring rich rewards to the individuals concerned, the State of Tasmania, and the nation as a whole?
– I do not know the amount of money that is to be made available to the C.S.I.R.O. from the sale of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission. I shall find out and let the honorable senator know. In reply to the second part of the question, I know that in Tasmania’ the C.S.I.R.O. is carrying out fisheries research, mainly concerning the crayfish industry, in order to ascertain facts relating to food supplies, breeding areas and matters of that kind. Knowledge of those matters is necessary for the full employment of the capacity of the industry. The C.S.I.R.O. has also, at Eden on the east coast of Australia, a station engaged in research into the tuna fishing industry. In co-operation with the Royal Australian Navy, it has scientists engaged on oceanographic research which leads to the acquisition of knowledge of ocean currents, water temperatures and the prevalence or otherwise of the food that fish eat. This research should lead to our being able to plot the paths which fish follow around Australia. At the moment these are unplotted with the result that schools are found more by chance than by scientific endeavour. All these things are being done. I am not quite sure what the honorable senator has in mind in asking for the establishment of a fact-finding committee in relation to these matters. The endeavours of the C.S.I.R.O. are directed to finding facts from which conclusions can be drawn and industries developed.
– I direct a question to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. There seems to be, rightly or wrongly, some public concern about the movement of scientists or topranking professional men from Australia to other countries. Can the Minister tell me whether any top-ranking scientists from the C.S.I.R.O. and from the research sections of the Navy have left Australia? If so, how many have gone during the past five years? Are the reasons given lack of remuneration or lack of opportunity? Are any steps being taken to attract some of these men back to Australia or to hold those who are still here?
– This is a fairly extensive question, which I think I could not be expected to answer off-hand. I do not know how many scientists have gone from Australia in the last five years. The question is extremely interesting, and I should like the honorable senator to put it on the notice-paper so that I can get a factual reply.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Treasurer: What salary and allowances will be paid to the former chairman of the Public Service Board in his new position with the British Phosphate Commission? Will his superannuation of nearly £50 a week be reduced in accordance with the terms of the Superannuation Act because of this new assignment? If not, why not?
– I think the question would more correctly be directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories.
– I want to know something in relation to the Superannuation Act.
– I do not know what salary is being paid to this gentleman or what arrangements have been made in respect of the superannuation that he is now receiving. I shall have a look at the matter and let the honorable senator know the result of my inquiries.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Has the Government inquired into reports that tankers carrying fuel oil from Indonesia to Australia are being buzzed or intimidated by aircraft of the Indonesian Air Force? If there is substance in the reports, what action, if any, has the Government taken?
– I do not know of the reports in question and, therefore, I do not know whether any action has been taken so far. I shall make inquiries into the allegations and see whether there is any substance in them.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. It was announced to-day that Senator Paltridge had said that the Commonwealth Government had not taken any action to grant a liquor licence to the Royal Victorian Aero Club at Moorabbin without consulting the State authorities. To-day, Mr. Bolte, Premier of Victoria, denied that Senator Paltridge had consulted the State authorities. Who is telling the truth?
– It is a fact that control over the sale of liquor at Commonwealthowned airports is a Commonwealth responsibility exercised pursuant to the Airports (Business Concessions) Act passed by this Parliament a year or two ago. The act is administered in the closest consultation with the State authorities concerned, as was exemplified in the matter of a licence for the Melbourne air terminal.
– A shocking thing.
– I know that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition does not view kindly the granting of licences for the sale of liquor at airports. Nevertheless, the sale of liquor in these circumstances is a practice accepted by most people in the world, including Australians. I am somewhat at a loss to understand the statement made by the Premier of Victoria. I have been in correspondence with the Victorian Government for more than a couple of months. As soon as the Royal Victorian Aero Club applied for a licence I notified the appropriate Victorian Minister -I think it is the Attorney-General - and, as is my practice, I asked him for his comments. I received a reply from the Victorian Attorney-General in which he raised certain legal and constitutional matters. I replied to his letter, but apparently by the time my letter reached Mr. Rylah’s office he had gone on holiday. I received an acknowledgment of my letter from the Minister relieving Mr. Rylah, in which he asked that the matter be not proceeded with until Mr. Rylah returns from his holidays, which I understand will be next week. I have not replied to that letter, but I took immediate action to see that the relieving Minister was assured that no action would be taken and, in point of fact, no action has been taken. I repeat that, frankly, I am at a loss to understand why this controversy should have arisen. Before a licence is granted it will be necessary to have consultations with the Victorian Government on a number of points, one reason being that the type of licence issued to the aero club will be, as near as possible, the type that might apply under State law. All these things, indicate, quite clearly I hope, that far from taking any action without consulting the Victorian Government, consultation i$ proceeding.
– oan the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether any conditions regarding prices to be charged for services were imposed on the successful tenderer for the restaurant rights at the Melbourne Airport? I understand that the price for a cup of espresso coffee at the former Trans-Australia Airlines terminal was ls., but that now, according to information supplied by some drivers of Commonwealth vehicles, the price is ls. 9d. I would like to know whether the lease contained any reference to prices to be charged by the successful tenderer.
– According to my recollection, the lease contains nothing in the nature of a price-fixing clause. I doubt the correctness of the prices mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The honorable senator may be confusing the price charged upstairs in ihe restaurant, where first-class restaurant accommodation is provided, with the price charged at the buffet downstairs.
– I ask the Minister foi National Development whether it is a fact that many overseas investors are purchasing shares in oil companies in Australia. Is it a fact that oil exists in Australia in commercial quantities? Is it not desirable for the Government to ensure, if possible, that the Australian public shall hold a substantial share in the companies that are likely to find oil in this country?
– I am aware that in respect of one company engaged in oil exploration, shares of which are registered on Australian stock exchanges, some shares have been purchased overseas. I am not aware that this has happened with regard to other companies. I cannot affirm or deny whether it has happened in other cases. I have information about only one company.
We have yet to prove that oil in commercial quantities exists in Australia. However, hopes run high. Everybody would like to see shares in Australian companies held by Australians. Everybody would like to see an Australian company successful in the search for oil. I am not willing at this stage to express an opinion on whether restrictions should be placed on these transactions, even if the Government had the power to do so.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That the days of meeting at the Senate, unless otherwise ordered, be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of each week; and that the hour of meeting, unless otherwise ordered, be 3 o’clock in the afternoon of Tuesday and Wednesday, and 11 o’clock in the forenoon of Thursday.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That on all sitting days of the Senate during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all other business on the notice-paper, except questions and formal motions, and except that general business take precedence of Government business on Thursdays, after 8 p.m.; and that, unless otherwise ordered, general orders of the day take precedence of general notices of motion on alternate Thursdays.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to - That, during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, the sittings of the Senate, or of a committee of the whole Senate, be suspended from 12.45 p.m. until 2.15 p.m., and from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to - That, during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, at 10.30 p.m. on days upon which proceedings of the Senate are not being broadcast, and at 11 p.m. on days when such proceedings are being broadcast, the President shall put the questionThat the Senate do now adjourn - which question shall be open to debate; if the Senate be in committee at that hour, the Chairman shall in like manner put the question - That he do leave the chair and report to the Senate; and upon such report being made the President shall forthwith put the question - That the Senate do now adjourn - which question shall be open to debate; provided that if the Senate or the Committee be in division at the time named, the President or the Chairman shall not put the question referred to until the result of such division has been declared; and if the business under discussion shall not have been disposed of at such adjournment it shall appear on the notice-paper for the next sitting day.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the motion for the second reading of the War Service Homes Bill 1962 being moved before the adoption of the Address-in-Reply.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Ridley be granted leave of absence for two months, on account of ill health.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill has only one purpose and that is to amend the War Service Homes Act to reduce by £750 the minimum deposit required from purchasers where a home is sold to an eligible person under the rent purchase conditions provided in Part IV. of the act and to increase by that amount the maximum advance available to borrowers under Part V. of theact. The reduction in the deposit and increase in the advance proposed in this bill will apply to all types of assistance at present available under the War Service Homes Act. The bill provides for the amendments to come into operation on the day the act receives the Royal Assent. Loans up to the increased maximum amount of £3,500 may therefore be made as and from the day that the act becomes law.
Though there has been a steady and consistent demand for war service homes loans since the end of the 1939-45 War, in recent times there has been a trend towards a reduction in this demand. As a period of some sixteen years has now elapsed since the termination of the 1939-45 War, somefalloff in applications might reasonably be expected in the normal course of events. However, it has become increasingly evident that the decline in new applications was greater than might be expected from a natural fall in demand due to the passage of time and to the satisfaction of a large part of that demand. It is apparent that, to some extent, applications have declined because some ex-servicemeri can no longer bridge the gap between the maximum amount of the war service homes loan and the prevailing costs of acquiring a home. In the Government’s recent review of the national economy this was accepted as a- factor which was preventing many exservicemen from taking advantage of the benefits offered by the war service homes scheme.
Homes built under the war service homes scheme comprise an appreciable percentage of the number of homes built throughout the Commonwealth. They amount to approximately 10 per cent, of the total number of new homes built in Australia each year. The Government’s recent review of the national’ economy showed that an increase in the home building rate was desirable. Naturally, when considering the ways and means of increasing the building rate, the Government took into account the housing needs of ex-servicemen and particularly views placed before it by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia regarding the maximum loan under the war service homes scheme. The increase in the maximum war service homes loan to £3,500 proposed in this bill is designed to offer the best possible proposition to the many ex-servicemen who are eligible but who have not yet applied for a war service home.
Family life is the foundation of a vigorous, progressive and happy community. Homes are essential if the family is to live a dignified and full life. This Government believes in the principle of home ownership and has always accepted the responsibility of encouraging home ownership within its constitutional powers. The increase in the loan to £3,500 will enable the War Service Homes Division to continue making its vitally important contributions to the national welfare by the provision of homes for ex-servicemen and their families in all parts of Australia. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 20th February (vide page 28), on motion by Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan.
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious
Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for tha Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Senator BENN (Queensland) [4.41.-1 wish to assure you, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that members on this side of the Senate greatly appreciate the presence of Viscount De L’Isle in the Commonwealth in his very important post and they earnestly wish that he and Lady De L’Isle will enjoy very much their stay in Australia.
Last night I listened to the mover of the Address-in-Reply, Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan, and Senator Robertson say what they thought of the Governor-General’s Speech. I disagree very strongly with some of the things they said. We look at the economic situation in the Commonwealth at the present time and ask ourselves what thoughts are uppermost in the minds of the people of Australia. Is not the greatest problem confronting the Common-, wealth at present that of unemployment? Is not it a serious thing to have more than 131,000 unemployed persons in Australia? Senator Sir Neil .O’sullivan failed to say anything about that. He took a pleasant cruise to Manus Island and found it deserted. Not even Long John Silver was there. The honorable senator can recall just as well as I can that this Government spent more than £1,000,000 on Manus Island after 1949, thinking that it was going to be one of the bulwarks of the defence strategy of Australia. But what did the Government find? It found exactly what the Australian Labour Party had found prior to 1949, namely, that strategically Manus Island was not worth a snap of the finger, because of the development of nuclear power. So the Government, in the full exercise of its judgment of the strategic worth of Manus Island, deserted it.
Senator Robertson took a flight to the very interesting historic buildings in Perth, but not once did she bother to look down on the 131,000 unemployed people in Australia. Not once did she express any wonderment about the living standards of people who have been unemployed for as long as twelve or eighteen months.
– I do not think she did. We must concern ourselves with three dates when we are discussing the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. The first is 25th November, 1960, when the government saw fit to introduce its economic measures. Perhaps it is not necessary for me to recite those measures to-day, but one of them was the restriction of bank credit. There were others, but they have all passed. The government increased the sales tax on motor vehicles from 30 per cent, to 40 per cent. It required the trustees of certain provident societies to invest a percentage of their profits in Commonwealth loans. Likewise, it required life insurance companies to invest a percentage of their surplus funds in Commonwealth loans. But the Government has forgotten all about those things now.
The next important date is 9th December, 1961, when the Government got the shock of its life. It now holds office in the other place by a majority of one - a member who was returned on the preference votes of Communists in Brisbane. The third date to keep in mind is 20th February, 1962, when the Governor-General addressed the Parliament. When we are considering the Speech of His Excellency, we must take into account the happenings between 25 th November, 1960, and 20th February, 1962.
As I said a while ago, the most important matter is unemployment. This is the greatest problem confronting the people of Australia at the present time. The Government has changed its attitude on this matter. I recall very well that when I asked questions in the Senate about the number of unemployed people in Queensland - naming towns, cities and districts - I was told in a complacent manner by some Ministers that the Government expected the volume of unemployment to rise as. a result of the restriction of bank credit. They said that that was part and parcel of the scheme and that it was necessary to consolidate the economy of the country. That policy was developed, but now, having turned the tap of unemployment on, the Government cannot turn it off. The result is that unemployment is flooding Australia and that the position is far more serious than the official figures indicate.
I say positively that the number of unemployed shown in the official statistics is incorrect. It is not possible for the department responsible for supplying information on this matter to the Parliament and to the public to say with any positiveness that - the number stated is correct. Even the Minister responsible for the department admitted once that the figure is only a guide and that you cannot accurately assess the number of unemployed people in Australia without taking a census. I believe that to be true. I know of my own knowledge that the Commonwealth Government has not the facilities necessary for recording the number of unemployed people in this country. The Government has known that unemployment has been developing since November, 1960. It has known that from departmental records quite apart from the records of the Department of Labour and National Service. It happens to be the function of some departments to know what the position is in various industries.
If I were merely to state that the Government was aware that unemployment was developing and that it would be impossible to check it - that is the position - my statement might be denied, so I intend to submit documentary evidence on this matter. I have a document in my hand which shows something of which the Government was aware prior to the end of June, 1961. At that time the Government should have foreseen the position that has developed in Australia. I wish to refer to one of the principal industries of Queensland, which happens also to be one of the major industries of Australia. I refer to the timber industry. The Government has permitted timber to be imported into Australia, although we are a timberproducing country. For the benefit of honorable senators, I shall give the imports of sawn timber into Australia in millions of super, feet. In July, 1960, 37,000,000 super, feet of sawn timber was imported into Australia. In August, the imports amounted to 63,000,000 super, feet; in September, to 45,000,000 super, feet; in October, to 44,000,000 super, feet; in November, to 37,000,000 super, feet; and in December, to 27,000,000 super, feet. We had unemployment in the industry then, and one would have imagined that a government, exercising common sense, would have immediately curtailed the importation of timber into Australia.
– The value of imports has fallen from £14,000,000 to £5,000,000 in the last six months.
– I shall put it this way: In the past twelve months about £23,000,000 worth of timber was imported into the Commonwealth. In January, 1961, 29,000,000 super, feet of sawn, timber was imported into the Commonwealth; in February, 27,000,000; in March, 25,000,000; in April, 17,000,000; in May, 24,000,000; and in June, 17,000,000. Large consignments of sawn timber are still coming into the Commonwealth. In stating the employment position in the timber industry I am not giving information that I have compiled myself; I cite figures that have been compiled by one of the Government departments. Its report states -
The figure of 32,311, which was the average number of persons employed in sawmills during 1959/60 does not include an estimated 28,000 employed in logging and in the management, silviculture and protection of forests. The total normal employment in the forestry and timber industry is thus about 60,000.
The survey showed that conditions in the sawmilling industry has caused operations to be cut back and had resulted in an estimated 12 per cent, fall in employment between May, 1960, and May, 1961. The extent of the fall varied between States, from more than 20 per cent, in Queensland, to only a small variation in ‘Western Australia.
That gives honorable senators a picture of conditions in the industry. The Government was aware of what was developing in the timber industry at that stage; it had all this information before it. The manufacture of plywood is an important industry in the Commonwealth, but it also is faced with similar difficulties. In the three months ended 31st March, 1961, Queensland produced about 19,000,000 square feet of plywood. The department’s report from which I have previously read has this to say about the plywood industry: -
Imports of plywood (including plywood veneered and plywood door panels) for the eleven months ended May, -961, amounted to 30,000,000 sq. ft., valued at £1,045,000. Figures for the same period in the previous year were 27,000,000 sq. ft. valued at £985,000.
This is what the report says about employment in the industry: -
Almost 50 per cent, of the total Australian employment in this industry is in Queensland, and normally about half of the Queensland employment is in North Queensland. The recent history of the. industry shows a 30 per cent, decline in employment for Australia between September, 1960, and May, 1961. In Queensland the fall has been severe, and it has been severer still in North Queensland, where employment was considerably more than halved. The average reduction in employment in commercial plywood mills surveyed in other States (except Victoria) was 14 per cent. However, there was a 12 per cent, employment increase in those mills producing specialized materials. It is known that further dismissals are pending in New South Wales, but the down-turn is likely to be substantially less than that in Queensland. It is apparent from the more rapid deterioration in the North Queensland employment position that merchants have increased home-State purchases to the detriment of Queensland mills.
– What is the document from which the honorable senator is reading?
– That is a good question. I shall make it available to the honorable senator the minute I am finished with it. It is a Government production; it was produced by the Department of Trade, and it is quite authentic.
– I do not suggest that it is not; I merely wanted the information.
– You have it now - not that 1 am obliged to supply it. I shall now relate what is happening in some of the other basic industries in the Commonwealth. Though the steel industry is one of Australia’s biggest industries, steel is being imported into this country. In the ten months from 1st July, 1959, to 30th April, 1960, 21,843 long tons of flat rolled steel products, excluding tinplate, were imported into Australia. In the ten months from 1st July, 1960, to 30th April, 1961, 339,525 tons were imported. The document to which I have previously referred has this to say about employment in the steel industry -
The survey showed that large foundries in May, 1961, were employing nearly five per cent fewer workers than during May, 1960. Dismissals in medium-sized and small foundries were proportionately less than in large foundries, and throughout the industry employment fell by only 2i per cent. At the time of the survey in- May, 1961, manufacturers expected that employment would fall by a further 2i per cent by September, 1961.
These are matters of which the Government has been aware, and the steel industry is one of this country’s major industries in which the Government expected to find employment for immigrants. In 1952, Australia produced 19,623 long tons of copper. In 1960, copper production had increased to 70,652 long tons and copper-mining had become a big industry. This report concerns itself with employment in that industry, in these words -
The information supplied by the firms interviewed in this survey indicated that the employment situation differed in the various sectors of the non-ferrous metals, field. The primary metal producers in the smelting and refining section maintained a fairly steady level from May, 1960, through September, 1960, to May, 1961, and they indicated that this would be continuing to September, 1961. On the other hand, secondary nonferrous metal producers showed an overall fall in employment of three per cent in September, 1960, as compared with May, 1960, and a fall of 24 per cent in May, 1961, as compared with May, 1960. A further fall of four per’ cent from the May, 1961, level is expected by September, 1961.
The whole report follows that pattern. It deals also with imports, prices, and employment in the wool tops industry and says -
Employment in topmaking at the end of May, 1961, was 13 per cent lower than a year previously. Hours of work had also been reduced considerably. Regular overtime had been eliminated and some specialist topmakers had changed from a full three-shift basis to two-shift or oneshift operation.
The report states the number of firms and employees engaged in the manufacture of pulp, paper and paper board, and says this about employment in that industry -
At the time of the survey, the industry’s em ployment, including some construction workers, was about 9,700, a fall of nearly 10 per cent from the level of September, 1960, and nearly nine per cent compared with employment in May, 1960. Not all of those employed in May, 1961, however, were fully occupied.
It was found that something would have to be done to protect the industry. At the time that this report was made Australia was importing shiploads of products similar to those manufactured by our pulp, paper and paper board mills. In December last, shares in Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited were quoted on the Stock Exchange at 25s. When it was learned that the Government would have to afford protection to the paper industry, which would mean that Australia would be cut off from supplies of paper products from overseas, the shares of the company rose, and at the present time they are quoted at 30s., or an increase of £25 per 100 shares.
There are many ways in which employment could be created. There are several protected industries in the Commonwealth. Immediately the degree of protection is relaxed there is an inflow of the goods which those industries manufacture. That has happened in more than one instance. The Government has referred to an unemployment figure of 131,000. Its task is to find employment for those people. How that may be done is a matter for the Government to devise.
– We will find a way to do it.
– The honorable senator’s idea, I suppose, would be to put some of them to chasing donkeys in the north-west of Western Australia. I notice that the Government proposes to afford the secondary industries of the- Commonwealth a greater measure of protection. Such action is long overdue. It should have been taken more than twelve months ago. Much will have to be done before the secondary industries are on a solid basis.
The Governor-General has stated in his Speech that our trade balances overseas have improved, and that our reserves are now satisfactory. That is quite understandable, of course, because trading generally has diminished in volume. We are not now buying as much overseas as we did last year so, necessarily, our trade balances have, improved. His Excellency also stated that the internal price level had been stabilized. We learned to-day that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission had decided not to increase the basic wage, although 1 know that in one State there was an increase in the consumer price index only recently. The basic wage bears no relation to living costs at the present time. The Governor-General also stated that the loan market was now more buoyant. Of course it is, because there is not now the field for investment that there was twelve months or eighteen months ago. People are now prepared to invest their money in Commonwealth loans. His Excellency went on to say -
The banks have a high degree of liquidity . . .
Nobody denies that that is so. The fact is that the banks are not lending their funds to clients as they were twelve months or eighteen months ago, so naturally their liquidity is in a more satisfactory condition.
I wish now to deal with the measures that the Government proposes to take to improve the manufacturing operations of companies. The Governor-General stated -
Means must be devised to assist efficiency and to reduce unit costs.
Just how the Government proposes to do that, I do not know. In Australia, there are approximately 650 companies in which capital from the United States of America is invested in some form or other. Some of those companies are subsidiaries of principal companies in the United States. In some instances, the companies are operating in Australia under licence from companies in the United States, while in other instances royalties have to be paid by the Australian companies to manufacture goods that are similar in character to those manufactured in the United States. The same is true of companies that operate with the aid of capital from the United Kingdom. The Government proposes to amend the Tariff Board Act to provide for the appointment of a chief adviser with a view to facilitating action to increase tariffs on certain goods that are imported. Whether or not that procedure will be satisfactory, I do not know. We recall that last year the importation of poultry was permitted under the tariff provisions of the Commonwealth. One might think that poultry would be one of the last commodities to be admitted. During the year which ended in June, 1960, about £32,000 worth of poultry, game, and so on, was imported into Australia. I contend that its importation was quite unnecessary.
From 1st December, 1960, until a few months ago, poultry to the value of approximately £2,000,000 had been imported. The importation of commodities such as poultry imperils the prosperity of our own primary industries. Only recently, I learned with surprise that Australia manufactures only 50 per cent, of the handkerchiefs that are used by the Australian people. A deputy chairman of the Tariff Board stated in a report that the industry consisted of importing handkerchief cloth in the roll and cutting and hemstitching handkerchiefs in Australia. Although imports of finished handkerchiefs had increased steadily over the last few years, imports of handkerchief cloth for local processing also had increased. lt was stated that the local industry’s share of the market appeared to have declined since early 1960, but was still about 50 per cent. Industrially, therefore, we are reaching a hopeless position. The fact that we can manufacture only 50 per cent, of the handkerchiefs we use certainly requires explanation. This is an industry which could give employment to young people leaving school. This “ white work “, as it is called, is something in which they could engage.
– If it is profitable to manufacture 50 per cent, of the handkerchiefs we require, why cannot we also manufacture the other 50 per cent.?
– That is the riddle. I want to know the answer, too. Protection was not afforded to that industry. An inquiry was conducted to find out whether the industry was entitled to protection, and after the inquiry was concluded the investigator recommended that no increase in the duty be made. That does not make common sense. I have no doubt that the recommendation was made conscientiously. Nevertheless, the report of the Tariff Board comes before the Parliament, and it is the duty of members of the Parliament to do something about this matter. We are faced with the problem of finding employment for the 131,000 people who are out of work, and I suggest that it would be a good idea to afford a little protection to this industry, and also to many other industries. ‘
– I wish to congratulate Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan on the fine speech that he made in moving the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. It was the best speech I have heard him make, and one that would do credit to any member of the SenateSenator Robertson, who seconded the motion, also made an excellent contribution to the debate. Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan and Senator Robertson will retire at the end of June. Therefore, it is all the more pleasing to us all to have been privileged to listen to two such fine speeches.
One of the first matters touched on in the Governor-General’s Speech to which we were privileged to listen yesterday was defence. It was made quite clear in the Speech that the policy of the Government is one of friendly association with those nations that are best equipped to be able to defend free peace. It is well for us to remember that there is a difference between free peace and forced peace. It is all very well to live in peace with the chap alongside you when he knows that if he does not agree with you you will punch him on thenose and he is not in a position to retaliate.
That is not the sort of peace we want. The kind of peace we want is that which is brought about by common understanding and a preparedness on the part of those concerned to see that a fair deal is given to all. 1 do not think reference has been made to the fact that the target of 30,000 men for our Commonwealth military forces will be reached in June next. Some of us have our own ideas about the training of our volunteer forces, but we must remember that eighteen months or two years ago it
WdS decided that our role in the defence of Australia should be geared to the efforts of the nations with which we are particularly associated.
I turn now to the Australian economy. We all have passed through very critical times. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that we have been passing through a period in which great criticism has been levelled against the measures that were adopted by this Government in its attempt to bring stability to the economy and to prevent the spread of what one might describe as the condition of wild-cat inflation which was prevalent at the time. The Government had no illusions when it adopted those measures. We on this side of the chamber agreed that those measures had to be introduced and were fully aware that if they were to be effective they must be unpopular with a very large section of the community. There has been ample evidence that our beliefs were fully justified. Most of us believed at the time that no government worthy of the name would hesitate to adopt such measures to restore the economy to a healthy state even though they would be unpopular. As I said at the time, if we had not been prepared to adopt those measures we v/ere not worthy of office.
Fortunately, there were many sane people in the community who realized that the measures adopted by the Government were in the best interests of Australia. On the other hand, quite a large number of people believed those measures were not in their interests and consequently they voted against the Government at the last general election. I repeat that there were sufficient intelligent and reasonably minded people who realized that what the Government had done was in the country’s best interests.
Consequently, the Government is still Ml office - a remarkable feat. The fact that the Government was re-elected must clearly show that whatever the Opposition had to offer as an alternative was not acceptable to the people.
When he spoke a little while ago, Senator Benn seemed to me to speak in rather derogatory terms about the improve-“ ment in our balance of trade. There is no question about the fact that our trade balance has improved immeasurably, even though many newspaper critics said, when the Government adopted the economic measures of 1960, that we would not be able to correct our overseas, balances. As has happened so often in the past, those critics were proved to be wrong. Like an enraged snake, they turned to bite themselves and everybody else in the vicinity. They did not care who would be hurt in their efforts to damage the Government. Although the newspapers concerned have every right to criticize the Government, I censure them very strongly when, in their efforts to hurt the Government, they hurt Australia as a whole. Such efforts are to be deplored. No reputable newspaper concern would hold with them for one moment.
– Have you stopped delivery of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “?
– It is the Labour daily now; it is not the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. The internal price level has been stabilized. If any honorable senator doubts that statement, let him ask the people who to-day buy washing machines, television sets, refrigerators and many other household items. People are able to buy those items for £30, £40 or £50 less than they were able to purchase them when the inflationary boom was at its height. In spite of that, we are told by our critics that the period of financial stringency did not benefit any one.
Reference has been made to the loan market. The fact that it is more buoyant is obvious to all. It is obvious also that the trading banks have far more liquid funds at their disposal. We have noted, too, the reaction that has been apparent, even within the last few weeks, at the Sydney stock exchange. I have not followed the position at the other stock exchanges, but I have no doubt that the present state of affairs is reflected there, too. It is quite evident that the investors who operate on the stock exchanges are convinced that the recent economic measures that have been adopted by the Government will bring about the desired results.
I turn now to the subject of rural finance. During the last few weeks some primary producers have been critical of many of the new measures - admittedly many of them are of a short-term nature - that have been adopted by the Government and have been asking, “What is the Government doing for us?” Let me, tell those people that this Government came to the very brink of defeat because of the measures it adopted earlier to prevent galloping inflation, mainly to help primary producers and people who were in receipt of fixed incomes. Unfortunately, we have too many short-sighted people in the category I have just mentioned who cannot see that what the Government did earlier was to a very large degree beneficial to them. Now these people are looking for something that will be of short-term benefit to them.
One of the criticisms that have been voiced very strongly is that during the last eighteen months or so the trading banks in particular have embarked on a policy which is different from that which prevailed for very many years. Overdrafts - which admittedly were on call but were, in fact, available for very long terms indeed - have been replaced by short-term loans. I think one reason for this is that, rightly or wrongly - in my thinking, wrongly - the trading banks have been told that they can lend money only for comparatively short terms. No financial institution can borrow for short terms and lend for long terms. That would be only courting disaster. This is a matter that needs looking into, particularly when we recall that one of the main objects for which the Development Bank has been established is the provision of long-term finance. If the Development Bank can lend money for Jong terms - admittedly, its funds are not adequate for this purpose, although it has been doing a very good job - it is only fair that the trading banks should be in a position to do the same.
The trend seems to be for our banking institutions to lean towards the American system of lending for sixty days, ninety days and so on. That may be all right for America, but I say without any equivocation that it is unsatisfactory and unworkable for the primary producers of Australia. We have too many factors to consider. There are the vagaries of the markets on which we sell our products, and there are the vagaries of the weather, which play such a very large part in the growing of our products. While it might be all right to enter into arrangements with a banking institution for a shortterm loan, the factors that I have mentioned could easily go against a borrower and leave him in the position that he was unable to meet the payments due on a short-term basis. It is essential for primary producers that they have long-term finance. This applies also to certain manufacturing industries.
I was very pleased indeed to note that £5,000,000 will be provided in addition to the amount of capital previously made available to the Development Bank. The bank is doing a very good job indeed. I have been following its operations quite closely, and I speak with some experience of it. We must remember that when it was established there was a great shortage of skilled staff. Men cannot be trained for this work in three or six months. If skilled men are not available from other sources, other men must be trained. The position at this stage, as I understand it, is that the shortage that was so pronounced has been largely overcome and the bank is now in a better position to carry out the functions for which it was established.
Now we come to employment, or rather unemployment. This Government, of course, has been heckled for many months about the numbers of unemployed in our midst. Nobody regrets more than I do that men, particularly those with families, want employment and cannot get it. But we must remember that many of the persons registered as unemployed are married women. Do not let us forget also that to-day we have very large numbers of married women in employment. I am not saying that they should not be in employment, but if they were not so employed we would probably have far fewer people listed as unemployed. There is no question that, by and large, the workers in industry, with the exception of those who have been unfortunate enough to be out of work for some months, have been enjoying better conditions over the last twelve months or so. The very reason why short-terra measures have just been introduced is to try to correct, as we all feel confident they will correct, the unemployment position. We must remember that for years unemployment has been with the people of such a great country as America, but the people, even the unemployed, are prosperous.
– That is no excuse for an Australian government.
– Perhaps there is no excuse, but we must remember that Australia is a young country. We must have migrants, who bring with them problems in this connexion. There must be a tendency towards inflation with migrants coming into the country. There must be periods when there is difficulty in providing employment for them and for our own people, and there must be difficulty in providing houses.- The Government has looked at these matters and in the last few weeks it has provided extra money for houses. That, of course, will be of great value in the job of putting more people back in work.
If it were not so tragic, it would be amusing that some newspapers which set themselves up as great national newspapers say that much of our economic trouble has been due to lack of confidence but lay emphasis, in every issue, on the doleful side of our economy. Instead of trying to engender a spirit of confidence, these newspapers have been doing the opposite. We do not want them to present a false picture, but when a newspaper tries to destroy confidence it is striking a very damaging blow, not only at the Govern.mentwhich, after all, does not matter so much - but also at the economy of the nation. That is unforgivable.
We all recognize that primary production cannot absorb many of the unemployed. Therefore, we must turn to the factories. That is why assistance has been granted to secondary industries over the past twelve or eighteen months. We must look to the factories to provide employment; that is why assistance has been given to them. Alterations of the Tariff Board structure have been projected. These are most important and have been advocated by quite a number of us for a very long time. A special advisory authority, with power to introduce quantitative controls, is being established. This does not mean a return. to the old import restrictions. lt would be impossible to re-intro duce them, because the staff to administer them is no longer available. The new authority has been established quite apart from the Tariff Board. Any industry that is in difficulties will be able to present its case. The intention is that the industry must approach the authority; the authority will not approach the industry. Having heard the case, the authority will make a recommendation.
I have referred to primary producers. We must remember that the 20 per cent, depreciation allowance which has applied to primary producers for so long has been extended for a further five years. This has been of very great value indeed. People ask from time to time what we are going to do to assist the wool industry. This afternoon at question time I asked when we were to get the recommendations of the Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry. I was told that the committee has completed its task, its report is in the hands of the Minister, and we shall soon know the result. Until that report was examined, no government worthy of its salt would be in a position to make any recommendation to the wool growers. The inquiry was instituted at the request of the wool-growers, and when it is completed any recommendations made will be examined. We will then be able to see what can be done. Despite what has been said to the contrary, wool continues to be our main export product. One of the. troubles with wool growing, as with so many other primary industries, is costs. I was pleased to see this factor recognized and referred to in the discussions held only a few weeks ago.
– The price of wool is rising.
– Yes, wool prices are rising, and let us hope that those high prices continue.
I have examined pay-roll tax for a long time, and I believe that much would be done to reduce costs if pay-roll tax were reduced. The European Common Market was referred to last night by Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan. The entry of Britain into the Common Market will affect not only primary producers, but all Australians and it is gratifying to see the Government and its representatives taking such a strong stand in this matter. It is to be hoped that
Australia will be represented in the discussions that are taking place.
Trade promotion is to be intensified and further assistance is to be given to stimulate export trade. Wheat and sugar agreements are soon to be re-negotiated. All of us know that monopolies and restrictive trade practices have been the subject of discussion among the Attorneys-General of the States and it is to be hoped that some plan to deal with these matters will soon be formulated.
Development of the Northern Territory has been discussed on many occasions, not only in this chamber but also elsewhere, during the last few years. It is good to know that an extra 1,000 miles of road are to be built in Queensland. Oil strikes at places like Moonie, in Queensland, are encouraging. I do not think it will be long before we have a series of similar strikes resulting in the discovery of oil in Australia in payable quantities. I am pleased to know that a water resources council is to be set up. Such a body is most important to Australia because this is such a dry country. In my view it is essential for us to retain the nucleus of the Snowy Mountains Authority. That organization has done a magnificent job for Australia and, in view of the need for great developmental works to be undertaken in this country before very long, it would be tragic to see it disbanded. Despite criticism of the authority, by 1968 revenue from the authority will exceed the amount that is being expended on it now. In 70 years’ time the water that will be made available for irrigation under the Snowy Mountains scheme will cost this country nothing. The scheme was a tremendous experiment, and it has proved successful.
To the disgrace of the State that I represent, one important aspect of the scheme has not been put into effect. I refer to the Blowering dam project. That project would have provided employment for many people, but the New South Wales Government has gone back on the agreement that it entered into with the Commonwealth. Now, facing an election, the New South Wales Government has stated that it will do something if the Commonwealth does something else.
Sitting suspended from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
– Before the dinner suspension I was referring to water conservation and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. In that connexion I made some remarks about the non-completion of an undertaking given by the New South Wales Government to finish the Blowering dam. I said that, being a resident of New South Wales, I was ashamed to find that the Government of that State had not even started that important work in accordance with the agreement that it made some years ago. Now that an election is approaching it is talking about making a start on that work, provided the Federal Government gives it some assistance.
Turning to defence, some extraordinary statements have been made recently by the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Calwell) about New Guinea. He has made some most irresponsible statements. But when we look at the past we find that it is not unusual for the Labour Party to indulge in making extraordinary statements on defence. Let us look at what the then leader of the Australian Labour Party, Dr. Evatt, said on 22nd February, 1949, as reported in “Hansard” at page 520. Speaking about Manus Island, which was dealt with very effectively by Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan last night, Dr. Evatt said -
Manus will be established as Australia’s most forward base.
What happened to Manus Island? In a very short time it was abandoned to weeds and tropical growth. There was one opportunity for us to have a very powerful base in that area, but now it has just gone by the board. That is in keeping with the extraordinary ideas that the Labour Party has on defence.
Now let us have a look at what Mr. Ward said, as reported at page 368 of “Hansard” of 17th September, 1936.
– 1936, that is right. However, I will not bother honorable senators with that statement because I have not the time. I prefer to refer to one that he made on 5th November, 1936, as reported at page 1571 of “Hansard “. Mr. Ward said -
I should not be prepared to take up arms against the workers of any country whether they be German or of any other nationality. As a natter of fact, because I am not prepared to do that, I am not prepared to tell others to do so.
Mr. Ward, an exMinister, said that on 5th November, 1936. These statements are just in keeping with the extraordinary ideas on defence that the Australian Labour Party seems to concoct.
Mr. Calwell has been to New Guinea. He knows the position just as well as any one of us here knows it. Until just recently he adopted a very sensible view. He has had a high reputation in New Guinea, which I think has been well deserved; but what his reputation is now I shudder to think. What does he want us to do? First of all, to tell the Dutch, “ You have to stop in New Guinea “. Are we going to fight the Dutch because they want to get out; and then, having fought them because they want to get out, are we going to fight the Indonesians because they want to get in? I have never heard such rubbish. Some very irresponsible statements have been made by some of the socalled reputable Labour men in Australia, damaging to Australia’s prestige overseas, because they want to have a crack at this Government. Mr. President, I support the Address-in-Reply.
– Mr. President, on behalf of the Opposition I support the terms of the motion for the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech affirming, as it does, loyalty to the Queen and thanking the Governor-General for delivering the Speech to which we listened yesterday. I should like to refer to the speeches that were made by Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan and Senator Robertson. I believe the Government did a nice thing in asking two honorable senators who are duc to retire on 30th June to move and second the motion for the Address-in-Reply. Those two honorable senators have played a prominent part and they will leave the Senate after having made two very virile and very interesting speeches in this debate. I am certain that everybody listened to them with interest last night. I certainly did, although I confess that I could not give them 100 per cent, approval. However, it was good to see the two of them in such very good form.
In regard to Senator McKellar, who has just concluded his speech, obviously the tactics of the Government are to lay any trail in the hope that the Government will pursue it. He went so far that he got- on to what somebody said way back in 1936. It seems to be necessary to direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that in dealing with the Governor-General’s Speech we are dealing with the acute national problems of 1962; and we are not to be diverted from them.
Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan, in his opening remarks, referred to the fact that an election was held on 9th December last. He said very little’ more than that about it, and for a very obvious reason having regard to the result. I want to devote some time to that. As we know, the election was held on 9th December. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his policy speech, justified all the policies that his Government had been pursuing in the period preceding that date. He forecast no particular policies for the future and, relying upon his record, asked for the same blank cheque that the people of Australia were unwise enough to give him in 1958 at the preceding federal election.
I thought perhaps the best comment on that policy speech was made by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ in its editorial the next day. Obviously, even in the view of the Government until recently when that newspaper changed its outlook on the Government, it is the premier journal of Australia. I thought the editorial summed up the policy speech beautifully when it described the speech as a policy speech without a policy and said that in effect Mr. Menzies said, “ Trust me. I know best what is best for you, and what that is you will find out in due course.” Undoubtedly that was the approach that the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government, made to the people of Australia. In the course of the campaign he poured scorn upon the Australian Labour Party’s dynamic policy. He said it was impracticable and inflationary, and he put an enormous, fantastic value on the cost of the proposals that our leader put before the people. But the fact is that in unmistakable terms the people rejected the approach that Mr. Menzies made and in J the clearest terms, as evidenced by the Government’s behaviour now, approved the Labour policy.
What was the. result? The Government’s majority of 32 in the House of Representatives was cut to only two, and to an effective majority of one after the Speaker was appointed. In the Senate, although we are assembled here to-night as .we were before the election, the scene will change very directly and dramatically as from 1st July when the senators-elect come into the Parliament. Then the Government, which enjoys a majority of four over all other parties in the Senate, will lose that majority. Under its own, power it will not be in a position even to suspend Standing Orders. So, here is the end result of the election: The Government has a majority of one instead of 32 in the House of Representatives and it has completely lost control of the Senate. At least that was a very stinging rebuke to the Menzies Government.
I say that it was a deep and deliberate humiliation by the people for a complacent, arrogant and inefficient government. It was certainly humiliating for a national government which went to the people in such force of numbers to have to wait until ten days after the election before it knew that it could continue as the national government. It was humiliating in the extreme that the last result to be known - the one that decided the issue - went in favour of the Government because of Communist Party preference votes. It was not surprising that that was so. By its ineptitude, by pursuing policies which disrupted the economy of the nation and caused unemployment, and by destroying business confidence the Government was, quite unwittingly, doing the work of the Communists. It is in those conditions, and in those conditions only, that communism breeds and flourishes. It breeds and flourishes in times of unemployment, distress and loss of business confidence. That is its great opportunity. It did not surprise the Australian Labour Party to find that Communist preferences were directed, not to its candidates, but to those of the Government, which - quite unwittingly, I admit - was doing, by its t incompetence, the work that the Commun ists wanted done. lt must certainly have been humiliating for the Government to lose three Minis- ter’s and to have so many more scraping back into the Parliament with the smallest! of majorities and by the greatest of good-, luck. It must certainly have been humiliating for the -Prime Minister, who claimed that he had more practical experience of-, economic affairs than all the economists . and theorists in Australia who were criti;cizing him, to have to be told by the people - themselves what he had to do. It was humiliating - and it is humiliating to-day in this Parliament - that this Government, bankrupt of ideas of its own, should have to adopt large slabs of the Australian Labour Party’s policy: That policy was hammered out down the past three years, starting with the rank and file of Labour and moving through all its organizations up to the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party itself. Accordingly, it was a policy of the people and for the people of this country.
We of the Australian Labour Party had the great satisfaction, not only of retaining every sitting member, but also of making great gains. We gained fifteen members tn the House of Representatives and two in the Senate, making our number here 28. But we have a greater satisfaction than that. We have the great satisfaction of seeing that much of our thinking and of our policy is now in process of being adopted. We know, from the deep study that we gave to great economic problems down three long and heavy years, that, because of its merits, the whole of our policy will have to be implemented in due course - whether by the hands of this Government or by our own hands, if the people so decree - if there is to be stability and progress in this country. We regard that as the greatest triumph of the party, because, although we consider it important who governs the nation, we think how it is governed is far more important. The latter is the really important thing. In promoting its policies, and in seeing them adopted in so many particulars, the Australian Labour Party is playing a role that has become its traditional role throughout the whole of federal politics. It has forced the thinking-
– In opposition.
– In opposition, k has been very effective. ^ Senator O’Byrne. - And in government.^
– In government we acted, and in opposition we invariably forced the thinking. The policies we present are repudiated at first, but invariably they are adopted by our opponents before very long. We feel that what is happening now is merely a matter of history repeating itself. I say again that we take the greatest of delight in seeing our thinking a’dopted by a government which has made a complete change of face in its approach to its problems.
I wish to refer to one other aspect of the election. The Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, and the Treasurer, Mr. Harold Holt, stooped to applying the Communist smear to the Australian Labour Parly during the course of the campaign. They ought to remember for the future - I hope they will - that in doing that they insult at least half the population of Australia. That is something they certainly should remember. They should ponder on how their personal majorities fell at the election. They should compare what happened in their electorates with what happened in the electorate of the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. McEwen, who, at Orange, towards the end of the campaign, after his two coleaders had spoken, said that it was wrong to attempt to instill fear and hate of the Australian Labour Party and seek to destroy the unity of the Australian people. I hope that eventually the Government will realize that the people do not appreciate smearing. They want objective discussion of great national issues in this Parliament and outside of it, and they are entitled to that.
The election showed very plainly that the people will not tolerate damage or danger to established Australian industries, and also that they will not tolerate unemployment in their midst. Perhaps I should refer at this stage to the truly pathetic spectacle after the election when the Government called into conference various bodies in Australia - the bankers, the people represented by the Chambers of Commerce and the Chambers of Manufactures, and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The Government called them into conference to do what? It called them into conference to ask them what they thought should be done in the emergency that confronted the Government. What are the facts? Every one of those bodies had been telling the Government what it ought to do over the past two years. The Prime Minister called into conference bodies with conflicting views about the economy. The people represented by the Chambers of Manufactures said, “ Let us have import restrictions and controls”. Those represented by the Chambers of Commerce said, “ At all costs abolish controls”. What did these bodies tell the Prime Minister that he did not already know? What were these conferences other than devices of a bewildered government, sparring for time to make up its mind. It knew in advance the views of all these bodies, and had known those views for two years. In the meantime unemployment mounted to the height at which it stands to-day. I think that was one of the worst features. It was one of the most dismaying features to me, because it showed that the Government did not really know what to do and had set about postponing the crisis of making a decision, as we have seen happen so often in this Parliament. Perhaps the greatest humiliation of the Government is that after so emphatically confirming and defending the principles on which it had proceeded, it has now, by its actions, acknowledged to the nation that it was wrong. That, perhaps, is the crowning humiliation.
We of the Opposition have no confidence that the Government’s mind goes with the proposals it is now making. They are in complete opposition to all that the Government affirmed and pursued in the months and years that immediately preceded the election. The Government is handling a policy that has been forced upon it by the people of Australia and by the Labour Opposition. In fact, as one wit described the position, the Government has run away with some of our clothes but it certainly is not well dressed. It has not absorbed the spirit of devotion to the nation through the people that animates the Australian Labour Party. What the Government put before us in the Governor-General’s Speech was a policy for the next four months. It mentioned some long-term proposals; but what this nation needs if it is to have confidence is a four-year or a five-year plan, with the economic objectives plainly indicated so that the nation and its business people can know that they can function in a clearly defined climate for a definite period. That is what is most urgently wanted.
My heart fell as I sat here yesterday listening to the Speech of the GovernorGeneral. Hoping for better things, hoping for a dynamic approach, I listened to the list of the items of legislation that the Government proposed. I actually wrote them down as the Governor-General announced them. Every one was in accordance with Labour’s policy, and if I may I shall take the Senate through them presently. Upon hearing them I came to a realization that here was a government not settling down to serve this nation but planning to save itself. This was a plan to save the Government rather than to serve this nation. It is perfectly understandable. The Senate may recall that recently, on 30th August last, from this place I addressed myself for an hour to all the great economic problems as the Labour Party saw them. I laid them out, and I put before the Senate what we considered were the solutions. Our mind was known then,, long before the election. Most of the policy was announced in May or June; it was not concealed. I dealt with it at length from this place, and again, of course, it was dealt with even more fully and decidedly by our leader when he put the policy speech prior to the elections on 9th December last. Therefore, what we see to be wrong and the solutions that we propose are public knowledge and it is not necessary for me to go through them now.
Let me come to the Governor-General’s Speech and show why I felt disheartened.. I considered that it was a mere scissors and paste job to steer the Government through the next few months, snipping bits here and there from the Labour Party policy speech, pasting them up and making the speech to which we listened. What does it comprise? Bigger grants to the States - a direct matter of Labour policy; higher unemployment benefits - taken directly out of the Labour Party’s policy; reduced sales tax - also taken directly out of Labour’s policy. Let me come now to the legislation on war service homes that is mooted. As recently as 24th August last when the Senate was dealing with a bill on this matter the Opposition moved that the amount- of the loan available under the War Service Homes Act should be increased from £2,750 to £3,500. What happened? The appropriate Minister, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, stood up here and gave reason after reason why that could not be done. When we moved an amendment to achieve that result, every member on the Government side voted against it.
– Quite right.
– An honorable senator now says, “ Quite right “; and yesterday we heard in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that blithely it is to be done - another matter of Labour Party policy in His Excellency’s Speech. There is to be more capital for the Development Bank under the aegis of the Commonwealth Bank. That is the very burden of what we put to the Senate when the appropriate bill was last dealt with - that the amount of the capital was inadequate. Therefore, that is another point out of Labour Party policy.
We argued for quantitative controls of imports for the protection of our great industries that provide employment for the bulk of our people. We were told that quantitative controls were gone for ever and that it would be a retrograde step ever to go back to any form of import control. We were told also that great progress had been made by breaking through the barrier and breaking down eight years of import controls. What do we read in the Governor-General’s Speech? There are to be quantitative controls of imports and there is to be a special adviser with power to act rapidly, and he is in some way to be” worked into the machinery of the Tariff Board. We are awaiting all these proposals with interest. This is another piece, of prominent Labour Party policy, and one that is in direct conflict with every word that the Government uttered up until the election day. Is not that a purloining of our policy? Is it not a plain admission that, the .Government had been pursuing wrong policies?
– They should be convicted of piracy.
– Plagiarism is the nicer word. In the middle of last year the Labour Party announced that it was in favour of reducing from twenty years to ten years the residential qualifying period for the age pension, in order to meet the plight of many of the elderly immigrants who had come among us. The proposal was rejected by the Government, but it is now taken straight out of our policy, which was announced not merely during the election campaign but six months before the election. Another matter mentioned by the Governor-General is votes for aborigines. There is not one of those proposals that the Labour Party can oppose, and I say deliberately that this pattern of legislation has been chosen primarily to avoid any conflict wilh the Opposition in this Parliament and to evade a head-on collision with it. It is obvious that the Government, retracing its own steps and going in directly opposite directions, has attempted to find matters on which the Opposition is pledged to support it.
I wish to refer again to the policy speech that I made in August last in the Budget debate, because I was immediately followed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and I want to read an extract from the early part, of the Minister’s speech. Referring to me, he said -
He reiterated over and over again that the Government had to do more to relieve unemployment, and that it had to reduce sales tax, make more money available to the States, and increase the volume of social services. All of these things had to be done, he said, yet almost in the same breath he declared that the Government should do something to reduce inflationary pressures throughout Australia. There were two contradictory arguments advanced in one speech. It must be a great and glorious thing to be in opposition, and to be able to say these things in such an irresponsible way.
What do we find happening to-day? All the items that he mentioned are being introduced, including relief for unemployment, reduced sales tax, more money for the States, increased social services and, with an idea of getting costs down, increasing production and halting inflation, incentive depreciation allowances of 20 per cent, in addition to ordinary depreciation allowances. The Minister may make his choice. Either he did not believe what he said on that occasion, or the Government is now doing something that he thinks is completely irresponsible. This is one of the reasons why, as I intimated earlier, I have no confidence in what the Government is doing and do not believe that it is sincere in taking this action. It focuses my mind on what I have stated twice already - :it is more concerned to save itself than to serve the country.
– Do you say that the proposals are wrong?
– I have already indicated that the Government has taken the most extreme pains to see that its measures fit in with the Labour outlook. That is good for the country, but the point is that a connected, coherent policy is not obtained by taking little bits of that policy. The Government should take the lot of it, so that the measures will run together as a coherent approach. The economy of this country is not a simple thing. It is complex. You cannot just fiddle with bits of it in the way that the Government is doing and expect good results right throughout the country. The matter must be looked at in a different way from that in which the Government is considering it. The Government’s measures should form part of a continuous pattern of development instead of being, as they are, mere expedients covering the next few months so that the Government can get into baulk without serious opposition in the Parliament.
I do not rest the case that I put to the Senate merely on the Governor-General’s Speech and the relatively paltry pieces of legislation envisaged in the programme that is put before us. I want to take the Senate to some of the great national problems that confront us, and to see how far we have gone in solving them. In our view, we have an outmoded Constitution. The Government itself obviously thought the Constitution was outmoded because back in 1956 it appointed a Constitutional Review Committee of six members from each side of the Parliament to bring in recommendations to alter the Constitution and put it right. In November, 1958, or more than three years ago, the committee submitted its recommendations. There were some 22 of them, sixteen of which were unanimous. That is to say, all twelve members, representing both sides of the Parliament, were unanimous on them. On each of the other six recommendations there was only one dissentient, so that there was an almost unanimous vote by members of both sides of the Parliament that our Constitution should be reformed. Of course. anyone who understands the position knows that if a constitution is outmoded it is a brake on the progress of the nation and of the people in it. How can we face the modern world of totalitarian countries when our national Parliament, in relation to so many matters, and particularly on the economic front, is in the condition of a man with his hands tied behind his back?
What has happened down the three years since that report was made? The Government has been asked repeatedly: “ What are you doing about it? When are we to have a decision? “ For three long years the Government has been considering what ought to be done, but it has not announced a decision. It could at least have decided to do nothing, but apparently it has not even reached that decision. It is still considering the matter after three years, although the matter is one that I regard as fundamental to the future of this nation. My party agrees wilh me in that view.
Let us consider restrictive trade practices. We heard something about that subject in the Governor-General’s Speech. In fact, we have heard about it in the last three speeches by the Governor-General. To show the ineptitude of the Government, and its lack of capacity for action, let me read exactly what was said in the Speech delivered by the Governor-General on 8th March, 1960. On behalf of the Government the GovernorGeneral said -
The development of tendencies to monopoly and restrictive trade practices in commerce and industry has engaged the attention of the Government which will give consideration to legislation to protect and strengthen free enterprise against such a development.
Nothing happened in 1960. We come to the Speech of 1961 when, in referring to the same subject-matter, the GovernorGeneral said on behalf of the Government -
The Attorney-General has so far progressed in his investigation in this matter and the Government has developed its thinking to the stage that consultation wilh the States will now be advantageous. Accordingly, the Government has commenced discussions with the Governments of the States and will continue these discussions in an endeavour to evolve suitable legislation to operate over the whole area of trade and commerce in Australia.
Those were the references in two Speeches by the Governor-General. We come to the third reference to this matter which is of such vital importance to the economy. This is what His Excellency said in the Speech that he delivered yesterday -
Discussions between Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General in relation to monopoly and restrictive practices in business are continuing.’ So soon as” these discussions have ended my Attorney-General will make a statement to tho Parliament -
Not legislation this time - on the problem, with the purpose of obtaining constructive discussion of this admittedly most complex problem from the various sections of the’ community who may be affected.
The Government has been talking about this matter for three years. It has recognized that a problem exists, and it has been promising legislation to deal with the matter. Now, in the third year, it intends to start talking to everybody interested in this field to find out what they want. Honorable senators laugh when I say that, but this is really a tragic matter for the country. The Government’s attitude in this instance is most illuminating. As I said before, its great capacity for inaction is a very regrettable thing.
I come to the question of our balance of payments and our balance of trade, which is a fundamental problem in our economy. Trade is running severely against us, on anaverage of £165,000,000 down the last ten or eleven years, or a total of £1,650,000,000. That adverse trend was masked and concealed by two factors, namely, heavy borrowing overseas by this Government to pay for annual imports to the extent of some £450,000,000, and a sporadic, unpredictable inflow of private capital.
– Showing confidence in the country.
– Showing, in many cases, a desire to exploit the country.
– Would you stop it?
– I would regulate it.
– Would you stop it?
– On current trends, there will not be any need to stop it because it is drying up so quickly.
Let us imagine the position of a country that is faced with vast unemployment problems if wc cannot import the necessary commodities for our manufacturing industries on which our rate of development and our standard of living depend, and which relies upon a huge inflow of private capital that cannot be guaranteed from one year to the next. Let me show how unpredictable that inflow is. Last year, there was the most extraordinary capital inflow of £326,000,000i while the year before it amounted to £190,000,000. What happened in the six months up to December last? The inflow in the September quarter was £34,000,000, while in the December quarter there was an outgoing of capital. We have progressed by £26,000,000 in the first six months of the current year. As I have said, last year the total inflow was £326,000,000.
How can you run the economy of a country. Sir, when you have to depend upon an element as unpredictable and as uncertain as that? Our balance of payments position is in grave danger. Without this inflow of capital we would have beer internationally bankrupt. We probably would have had to depreciate our currency. We would have faced unemployment problems. I have shown how unpredictable that inflow is, how it fluctuates and how, at the moment, it has dried up.
A good deal of the vast capital inflow last year represented credits that came here to finance the flood of imports. Exporters overseas were financing the purchase of their own commodities and, of course, that money is on the way back. There is no future in this form of finance, particularly in the borrowing field, because if you borrow to finance your ordinary annual imports you obtain the imports all right and you build up your international overseas sterling reserves, but you make the position for every future year worse as you go on repaying the principal, while all the lime you are paying the interest.
So we are dependent for real international solvency to-day upon two elements, one of which carries the disability that it makes the position for the future worse. I refer to borrowing. The Government has been a heavy borrower. The other element is a dependence upon the inflow of private capital which we cannot influence or control. We can stimulate it generally, but we can never count upon it. It may take flight at very short notice if it suits the owners of that capital to withdraw it. We Arc in a precarious position there. What did we bear about that great problem in the Governor-General’s speech? As an Opposition we are concerned about it, and we have said so.
We as a nation have to get either private enterprise or the Government into the overseas shipping business. We have not one truly Australian overseas ship. We are completely at the mercy of the overseas shipping and insurance combines in our import-export trade. We should be in the business to get freights down.
– Do you suggest that an Australian overseas shipping service would get freights down? You would double the overseas freight rates.
– Even if the cost of running Australian ships was greater than that of running foreign owned and manned ships, the greatest contribution we could make to getting the freight costs of the other lines down would be to subsidize the cost of running some of our own ships. We are being kicked from pillar to post.
– Do not talk rot.
– The honorable senator will find that policy announced in writing by the Australian Labour Party through its leader.
– We cannot compete with overseas ships now with our Australian National Line.
– If the honorable senator had been listening to me, he would have heard me say that if necessary the cost of running our own ships would have to be subsidized to force the overseas lines into order. It is necessary that they be faced with some competition. Now they have not any. The entry of some Commonwealth ships into the overseas trade would be the greatest factor in levelling out overseas freights, which are a terrific burden on the ‘ Australian community to-day. What is this Government doing about the matter in thistime of emergency? Judging by the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, it does not even seem to be recognizing the problem.
We believe that instead of exporting so much of our metals and so many elements of our primary production we should fab- ricate those commodities here and send them out in processed form and in that way create employment opportunities for our own people. The only, way in which we will get into the world’s markets with a basis of stability will be to do so with processed goods. As I said, in the meantime we will be finding employment for our own people.
– And developing our own national resources.
– In addition, as my colleague suggests, we will be developing our own national resources.
I wish to refer also to the great problem that is associated with the loan market. We have been down by £200,000.000 a year for the whole twelve years that this Government has been in office, the deficiency being made up by the taxpayers in the form of revenue paid to the Government. In this connexion, this year the Government has budgeted for a deficit of £251,000,000. Where has there been any real approach to this problem? The loan market is improving., thank goodness. An extra £30.000,000 was raised earlier in the year and the current loan looks like being well filled. I hope it will be. But what will be achieved, even if there is an improvement this year? There will still be a deficit of some £200,000,000 in loan raisings for the year. Where is there any proposal on the part of the Government to rectify that situation?
The theme I am developing is that the great problems remain with us, that this Government’s approach to the situation is one of expediency at the moment, and that the nation needs to be told what is happening in regard to matters of this significance. I do not have to say a lot about the subject of unemployment, because we have said so much about it over so many years. We have spoken about it ever since 1956 when the Government introduced its little Budget, lifted the tax on motor vehicles and spare parts to prohibitive heights and started the trouble of which our present problems are only the culmination. When we spoke about unemployment we were told by honorable senators opposite that we were calamity howlers and that we were wishing unemployment on the country. To illustrate the Government’s outlook on this matter, I should like to refer to what the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) had to say on 8th March, 1961. The Minister referred to the speeches that had been delivered - I think I was one of the offenders in his eyes - and, speaking about the man in the street, said -
He knows as well as we do that when unhealthy conditions arise, when there is over-full employment and men are moving from job to job, the bubble will burst.
asked by way of interjection -
All 73,000 of them?
At that time when Senator Spooner was telling us about over-full employment 73,000 persons were unemployed. To the accompaniment of loud laughter from all Government senators, the Minister said -
The Opposition relies on destructive criticism, but I give it this advice: Lay off this theme song of unemployment. In the Army we had a song entitled “His Comrades Don’t Believe Him”. That is happening to the Australian Labour Party to-day. The Australian public does not believe it.
There was loud laughter and applause for that sentiment from every Government senator. We can commend that song to the Government in another context altogether. On the subject of unemployment let me say to the Leader of the Government in this chamber that it is quite plain that his comrades do not believe him.
– That comment of mine was made when there was a very much lower level of unemployment.
– The statement was made when the level of unemployment was about half as high as it is now. But in the opinion of the Australian Labour Party the level then was very serious and something should have been done about it. The result we predicted has come to pass. The situation has gone from bad to worse. That indicates the complacency with which the Government regarded that great human problem, which to-day affects some 131,500 persons who are registered as unemployed. That figure does not take account of people who are employed part-time and the dependants of both the categories I have mentioned which if added would bring the total number of people in this country who are in trouble through unemployment to approximately 250,000. It is a desperate human problem* which is affecting the future of many children in relation to not only their health but also their careers. Only recently has the Government had a change of heart in respect of this human problem.
The Government is certainly doing something now in an effort to improve the position; but we believe that it has not done enough, that it has not pursued the right policies and that it will not get the result at which it is aiming unless it adopts a far more dynamic approach to the problem.
I turn now to the subject of farm income which has been brought acutely to the notice of the Government not merely by the Opposition but also by Senator Wright and’ other Government senators. What is the approach of the Government to this great fundamental problem? Farm incomes have not improved since 1949, as I showed in the speech I made on the Budget last year. What did the Prime Minister, in announcing the economic measures, say on that7 He said -
In the case of the rural industries, so vulnerable to cost, further encouragement of productivity, already notably increasing, is essential. We are investigating such problems with all speed.
What a magnificent, dynamic national approach after ten years of government! He said also -
We are investigating such problems wilh all speed.
He has only just, it would seem, discovered the problem of the plight of the farming community in this country. Investigating with all speed! If he goes at the same speed that he has applied to the urgent question of constitutional reform, if he handles it as fast as restrictive trade practices are being handled, I can only say, “ Heaven help the farming community in this country “. That is one more piece of evidence of the incapacity for action that has characterized this Government.
Many other things betray its incapacity for action. To-day I asked a question of Senator Gorton, the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. He is not only the Minister representing that Minister in this chamber; he is also the Minister appointed to assist him in the portfolio. I asked whether there was any substance in reports that fuel tankers carrying oil from Indonesia to Australia had been buzzed and intimidated by members of the Indonesian Air Force. It had been so reported in the press - I have one newspaper before me - with letters an inch-and-a-half high on the front page. I asked the Minister whether there was any substance in those reports, and, if so, what action had been taken. The reports appeared a weekandahalf ago. The Minister assisting the Minister for External Affairs said that he had not seen the reports; he did not know anything about them, and he would inquire. He is also the Minister for the Navy, to which Australia looks to keep our sea lanes open. He has a dual responsibility in the matter. What is wrong with the conduct of our external affairs when a matter as significant as that has certainly not come to the notice of the Minister who is assisting officially the Minister for External Affairs?
One could go on dealing with all these vast problems, showing a lack of clear thinking and a lack of long-term planning on the part of the Government. We must have clear thinking and long-term planning, but I am afraid that the nation cannot expect it from a government which even’ now makes the sorry showing that I have sought to depict to-night. I regret to conclude, as I began, by saying that the Government seems to be more concerned with saving itself than with serving this nation.
– I commence what I have to say by subscribing to the expression of loyalty contained in the message to the Crown, in the same way as all senators will do, and by saying also that with all of us such an expression of loyalty is not merely a matter of lip-service. Loyalty to the Crown is something in which we all believe very deeply, not only upon patriotic or national grounds, but also because we realize that the Crown is more than a symbol and is a practical link which holds the Commonwealth of Nations together. I support what other speakers said earlier in expressing their very good wishes to our new GovernorGeneral, hoping that his term with us will be a happy one for him and his family personally and a useful one for Australia generally.
Now, Sir, we come to rather a different plane. I have taken notes of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I have listed the various points that he has made. I do not think there is much profit in canvassing what happened at
The last election. I do not think there is much to be gained in doing that, because the real point is: What is going to happen in the future? We on this side are still the Government of Australia, with good policies behind us and with good policies ahead of us. The Leader of the Opposition has said that this is a government of inaction, a government that has disrupted the economy of Australia, a government that is bankrupt of ideas, a government whose principles are wrong, and a government that lacks a dynamic approach. Those are a few of the headlines, as the newspaper people would say. In addition, I have listed in detail the points that he made and, given the time, I believe that I could make a very effective reply to each one of his points of criticism.
But let us have a look at this in the broad, before we come down to a detailed examination. Let us have a look at what has happened in Australia under these conditions. The position is quite the reverse of that which the Leader of the Opposition seeks to establish. I believe it to be factually accurate to say that at no time in the history of Australia has there been .more dynamic progress and development than during the period of office of the Menzies Government, and that at no time in the history of Australia have there been greater increases in the standards of living of the Australian people. Let us have a look at a few facts.
In truth, what is the best way of measuring the progress and development of a country? 1 think it is correct to say that the best way to measure it is by the growth of population. Let us have a look at the figures in that connexion. In the last eight-and-threequarter years there has been an increase of our population by 1,800,000 people. There has been a 21 per cent, increase of our population in less than nine years. Now, what country could be other than proud of progress like that? What is wrong with a country when its population increases by 21 per cent, in less than nine years? People from other countries want to come and live here, lt is all very well for the Leader of the Opposition to say that our policies have been moulded having regard to the electoral consequences and to avoid having a clash with the Opposition. The boot is a bit on the other foot. Here you have a situation in which the Government has done a truly remarkable job in the development and progress of Australia and has had the bad luck to miss in one direction on its policy, and the Opposition is attempting to come in at the kill. Dp not worry about our not being prepared to face the electoral consequences. We shall do that as the circumstances warrant.
I have made two points in reply to this criticism that Australia is not going ahead. The first is the tremendous growth in population. The second is the very considerable increase in the standard of living. Senator McKenna spoke in decrying terms of our attitude to manufactures and the development of manufacturing industry in Australia. If we talk in terms of people engaged in manufactures in Australia, we can say that in 1933 22 per cent, of our work force was employed by manufacturing industries and that in 1959, when our total work force was 4,000,000 people, the proportion had increased to 30. per cent. So, on each of his three points the Leader of the Opposition was factually incorrect. This is a period of great progress in Australia. It is a period of great improvement in living standards. It is a period of tremendous development not only in manufacturing industries but also in primary industries. Our mining industries are developing rapidly. The north of Australia is developing. Progress may be seen in every direction. Look at the .tremendous increase in water storage in Australiafrom 5,000,000 acre feet in 1950 to 16,000,000 acre feet in 1961. If we include the Snowy Mountains scheme the figure is 20,000,000 acre feet. There has - been a fourfold increase in water storage in Australia in a decade.
– Thanks to Labour.
– I do not know what the Labour Party has had to do with the last decade. It has been in the wilderness during that time. The progress of the last decade has occurred under the Menzies Government, under a system of free enterprise. That progress has taken place during the reign of a Liberal government and not during the reign of a socialist government. The progress that has taken place has been the result of this Government’s work. The development that has taken place in the mining industry has never been equalled. The story of Mount
Isa, Mary Kathleen, Rum Jungle, Weipa and beach sands is a dramatic one. It is a story of which every Australian should be proud.
– This Government is not responsible for all that.
– No? One of the things this Government did when elected in 1949 was to establish the Department of National Development. The Minister for National Development was charged with the responsibility of carrying out research into natural resources. The people engaged in the mining industry would be the first to acknowledge the value of the ground work done by officers of that department.
– You must have good planners on your staff.
– We have some common sense in the Government also. -That is the story of the last decade. I suggest that it is a story that is only commencing to be told. The foundations that have been laid will result in increasingly high dividends in the future. It is difficult to foretell what will be the progress of manufacturing industries. Who can tell what the future holds for the mining industry in the north of Australia? Who can tell what benefits the man on the land will derive from water conservation schemes put into effect by the Menzies Government during the years that it has been in office?
I think I may be pardoned for getting a bit hot under the collar when the.. Leader of the Opposition attempts to create a picture - the fashionable word to-day is image - of an inactive government, a government that has not been progressive. So far I have given only part of the background to this country’s development under the Menzies Government. To get this matter in its true perspective 1 think it is fair to put a point of view that I have put previously in the Senate. This Government has always pursued a policy of rapid national development. It has pursued’ a policy of maintaining the immigration programme. It has pursued a policy of full employment and a policy of maintaining a stable economy. If honorable senators opposite had any desire to do me justice mid to be fair they would concede that on many occasions in this Senate I have said that the most difficult task of countries in the democratic world is to reconcile a policy of maintaining a great rate of national development and providing full employment with the retention of a stable economy. I have said that over and over again.
A great deal has been said about unemployment. If we look at the registration figures it will be seen that only in recent months did the situation get away from us. For twelve years we have succeeded in maintaining in this country a level of employment that was the envy of other democratic countries. 1 hear some honorable senators opposite disputing that statement. Let me quote some of the figures of registrations for employment. It must be remembered that the work force in Australia approximates 4,000,000.
– That is not so. That is an inflated work force.
– We must stick to the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures. The work force in Australia is approximately 4,000,000. There must always be some registrations for employment. Some people will always be seeking employment. What that figure may be is a matter for argument.
I remind the Senate that Mr. Monk said that having regard to seasonal work and shifting conditions the number of unemployed in Australia would never represent less than about H per cent, of the work force. I do not argue whether the estimate is right, but using it as a basis for discussion, and bearing in mind that the work force numbers 4,000,000 people, the irreducible minimum number of persons unemployed is 60,000. All of those figures are matters for discussion. Looking at the statistics we find that in 1960 at different periods we had 54,000 and 47,000 persons registered for employment. In September, 1960, we had 35,000 persons so registered. In January, 1961, we had 71,000 persons registered. Not until May, June and July did the figure exceed 100,000. I repeat that the Government was still of the opinion that the measures that it had taken would prove effective and that the number of persons seeking employment would be reduced. I do not think it is right to become personal in matters such as this. I personally deeply resent any suggestion that the Government was not using all the skill, experience and knowledge at its command to keep the position under control. The important task now is to correct the error and to go ahead with the task of development. Do not let us argue about the past, but let us put our shoulders to the wheel and get out of our present difficulties. I do not think that any one could suggest that it need not be a massive programme in order to be effective. Let us also remember that this problem will remain with us always in Australia if we are to progress and develop.
– It is an inherent weakness of the capitalist system.
– When Senator O’Byrne says that it is one of the inherent weaknesses of the capitalistic system, let him reflect on what has happened in Australia in the last decade under the Menzies Government and under this capitalistic system. It has been our great era of progress. Let those who listen to Senator O’Byrne reflect on what might have been the position with the Labour Party in power, pledged to its socialistic approach to such things as prices control, capital issues control, import controls and all the other controls which would frighten capital away, and hamper and hinder the development of Australia, as they have in the past.
– And the direction of employment.
– Yes, the direction of employment. Let us get this matter in perspective. In the development of Australia we in the Government parties stand by our principles; we stand by our guns. We believe in national development and we believe in full employment. We believe in them under a system of free enterprise, and we go to the polls on that basis. Members of the Australian Labour Party have accused us and attacked our bona fides. We have never gone to an election in the same way as they went to the last election, denying the principles of the party for which they stand and the platform of. their party.
– We have never denied the platform of our party.
– You say that you have never denied the platform of your party. Let me read from the platform of the Australian Labour Party.
– Where did you get that copy?
– I got it from the library after dinner to-night. One page 3 it says -
Nationalisation of -
Banking, Credit and Insurance.
Radio Services and Television.
That is a plank in your party’s platform with which you are all familiar. Let me read a paragraph from your party’s policy speech. If ever the cock crowed thrice it was when this was said -
In the face of that, let no members of the Labour Party accuse the Liberal Party of attempting to steal its policy. That statement was a denial of principle. The most contemptible thing that any political party can do is to run up false colours on the mast and attempt to get into power by denying its own principles. After those few pleasantries, let us get back-
– We will get back to them all right.
– You do not deny it, do you?
– Yes, I do.
– You do not deny it. You stand for nationalization except when it is unpopular. You are all for the unemployed when there are a few votes in being that way.
Let me take a few more points from Senator McKenna’s remarks. He said that the Government’s policy had disrupted the economy and created unemployment. That is not true. The level of employment has never been higher than during our term of office, except for the last few months, and nobody can deny that the steps we have taken are at least sincerely and genuinely aimed at relieving the present position. Let us wait and see what the next few months will bring. The Leader of the Opposition also said that the Government has made many changes of policy. That is not so. We have stood fast to our principles. We have stood fast to our policy. We have delivered the goods under that policy to an extent that has not been achieved previously in Australia’s history of progress.
Senator McKenna made great play on our conferring with the representatives of industry. The task that was ahead of us was to get a good co-operative effort throughout the whole of the Australian community. We did not confer only with leaders of industry and commerce. We conferred with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, too. We wanted to get the benefit of their ideas, and also to give them a complete knowledge and understanding of what we had done and what we intended to do. I believe that we have laid the foundation of a good co-operative effort throughout the whole community. As one who sat in on the various interviews, I say that almost without exception every one of the groups that we interviewed said: *’ Yes, things have gone too far. This unemployment has gone too far, but you must be careful. We must not get back to the situation that existed in September and October, 1960, when as builders we could not get materials, as manufacturers we could not get plant, and the demand had reached the stage where the resources of the community were not available to satisfy it.” That is the present problem; that is the problem with which we have always had to contend; and that is the problem with which I hope every Australian government will have to contend because it is a problem inherent in the growth and development of a nation at a fast rate. When the time comes that members of the Opposition are on this side of the chamber, they will have the same problem.
– That time is not far away.
– It is not nearly as close as you think it is. Do not make any mistake about that. When that time comes, you will have this problem in the same way as we have had it. i doubt very much whether with your hidebound socialistic ideas you will have sufficient vitality and sufficient inventiveness, if that is the correct word, to introduce quickly the correcting influences, as we hope we have done on this occasion.
Mr. President, I think it would be appropriate if I finished on this note: I believe that to any impartial listener I have established that we have really had a period of great progress and development in Australia during the lifetime of the Menzies Government. I believe that to be beyond the field of argument. I have said this before in the Senate: We are always confronted with the very difficult task, which comes with every democracy, of maintaining full employment, national development and price stability. They are three conflicting issues creating different stresses and strains in the economy. The Government has, according to its principles, advanced a policy for the development of Australia under a system of free enterprise, without prices control, capital issues control, import controls - as soon as they could be done away with - or any of the other things that I think are inhibiting influences on progress in a young country like Australia. The Government has done that successfully, except for this error of judgment to the extent that unemployment has occurred.
I have no doubt at all, Mr. President, that the leeway will be made up by the programme outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, and also by what the Government has done already. I have not outlined them, but the measures which we have, brought down have corrected our overseas credits position, reduced our costs and increased our loan raisings.
– Reduced our costs?
– Yes. If Senator Kennelly does not know them, I really should quote the figures for his education, if I can find them. All cost indices in Australia, wholesale and retail price indices, have come down. The Government has reduced costs and that has been a tremendous boon to the man on an average income in Australia. It has corrected the balance of payments position, and has enhanced loan raisings. Those things, along with the measures the Government has now introduced, provide a very sound foundation for a repetition of the development that has occurred in Australia during the time the Government has been in office.
. I join with other honorable senators in supporting the expression of loyalty that is contained in the motion we are now discussing. We have listened to a speech by the Leader of the Government (Senator Spooner). Almost his first remark was that this Government has good policies behind it and good policies ahead of it. One cannot judge what is ahead, but I do not think many people in this country will agree that the policies the Government has pursued in the past have been good. One can assume only that the problems that beset this nation at the moment are a result of the supposedly good policies that the Leader of the Government said that his Government had pursued*.
He then told us of the progress made by this nation since 1949. Would not the nation have been in a frightful position if it had not progressed at all? A nation can stagnate and die or it can make progress. This country certainly has made progress, but we claim that the progress has been made largely as the result of the efforts of the people who have come into the country. They came here because they found here much better living conditions than those that existed in other parts of the world prior to World War II.
The Leader of the Government complained very bitterly, in his own way, because, as he said, Labour had run away from the policy it had laid down in the past. He knows as well as I know, and as well as every member of this Parliament knows, that unless the Constitution of this Commonwealth is altered, Labour cannot introduce many of the policies laid down in its platform. Our party said that during the next three years no attempt would be made to put certain policies into operation. We realized that in order to carry out those policies an alteration would have to be made to the Constitution. The only alterations we desire to seek at present are the alterations agreed to unanimously by the Constitutional Review Committee. We know how difficult it is to change the Constitution of this nation. It requires an affirmative vote by a majority of the people in a majority of the States of the Commonwealth. The Australian Labour Party decided, if it were elected, not to attempt to put some of its policies into operation during the three years immediately following the election. We would be delighted, however, if the Government were to introduce into this chamber, or into another place, a bill for a referendum on the matters that were unanimously agreed upon by the Constitutional Review Committee.
I think that a great many of our problems to-day have occurred because we are attempting, in an atomic age, to govern Australia with a horse and buggy Constitution. The sooner representatives on both sides of the Parliament, in an atmosphere of total agreement, attempt to alter the Constitution, the better it will be for the development of this nation. For the reasons I have stated, the Australian Labour Party told the people of Australia that for three years - until the people themselves had had an opportunity to consider what was to be done - no request would be made for an alteration of the Constitution in order to permit measures to be introduced in accordance with the policies of the Labour Party.
– That is not so.
– All that you have to be concerned about, my friend, is beating your pet drum of Comms, and then you might have a chance of getting back here in three years time.
– You will have to do better than that.
– As you will be No. 3 in the field next term, I would rather have my chance of getting back here than yours. I have outlined the main points that were made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) in reply to the excellent speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna).
Let us consider why the Government has changed its policy. The Leader of the Government outlined the allegedly good policies upon which the Government had acted in recent years. If they were so good why have they been changed dramatically so often? Honorable senators will recall that on 8th August last , the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said: -
Anybody who looks at the economy with reasonable detachment will say the economy of our country has never been in a sounder position.
I am an unlimited, optimist about the future.
Not long afterwards, on 7th February last, he said: -
We find ourselves confronted by two problems, which are, we believe, closely associated. They are:
The existence of a level of unemployment which represents a serious human problem for thousands of people and a material economic waste through the existence of unused resources of men, materials and installed industrial capacity;
A weakness of confidence, an uncertainty about the future which is limiting buying and production.
Though, in August, he spoke of the soundness of the economy, a few months later he had to tell the people of this nation that however sound he believed the economy to be in August it just has not worked out that way. Therefore, one marvels when the Leader of the Government attempts to bring credit upon the Government for its past good policies. One would be pardoned for thinking that he was alluding to the immediate past. The ‘ Government started to introduce these economic policies in February, 1960. It changed its policy in November of the same year, and now it proposes to alter it again.
One is prompted to ask: Why tha dramatic change? If, prior to 9th December last, the Government was content to rely on the policy that had been announced to the people, why does it now propose such dramatic alterations? Does it fear that its hold on office is weak, or does it believe that the policies that it contended were right in December have proved to be extremely wrong, as I am sure all Government supporters will agree? One wonders just what the Government will do to ensure that it will remain in office. One wonders also whether it actually believes in the policies that it is pursuing at the moment, or whether they are designed to tide it over for a period, to correct the economic wrongs that it has committed in recent years, so that it may have time to exploit those policies in the hope that if it is forced to face the. people within a year or -so the- position will have changed and its hold en the Government benches will be firmer’, than it is now.
One fact has made a vital difference to the thinking that seems to permeate Government supporters. I do not think any one can deny that prior to the elections the Government treated the electors with contempt. It had been in office from 1949 to at least 1955 because in every election campaign it cried the Communist wolf. Since 1956 it has remained in office as a result of the votes of people who do not agree with its policy and openly say so. Because there has been a difference of opinion in the Labour Party, these people have gone off and formed a rump. Rather than vote for the policies that they themselves have enunciated, they see fit to give their second preferences to Liberal candidates. It is interesting to count the aggregate votes to the various parties. It has been a long time since the Liberal Party has received the first-preference votes of a majority of the electors. I suppose the Government will remain in office as long as it can continue to win certain seats on preferences, and as long as it can win perhaps the deciding seat on the second preferences of those who vote primarily for the Communist Party. To my mind that is nothing more than a stupid vote, unless those people desire to bring about an economic state in which unemployment will grow. Members of the Labour Party know that the only hope that the Communist Party has of gaining any ground politically in this country is for a large body of the work force to be unemployed.
The change that has occurred in the thinking of the supporters of the Government since the last general election is most remarkable. To be quite honest, I do not believe there has been a change of belief on their part at all. I do not think that the Government could have enunciated its December policy with such force without giving it the thought that it deserved. I do not believe for one moment that if the Government had been returned to office with a majority of six, eight, or even more seats, we would have seen the complete volte face of policy that we are witnessing to-day, nor do I think that the supporters of the Government agree in their own minds with the policy changes that are being made, however welcome they- may be to the States, for whom additional money has been provided, and to those who cannot find work, who are to be paid increased unemployment benefit. Surely the change of policies is due to the vote of the electorate and the fear of the Government that it might have to face another election within a short time, and certain defeat. I cannot conceive that the Government could believe soundly in one set of principles in December and in a different set of principles two or three months later. It seems to me that all these measures are being taken to protect the positions that the supporters of the Government already hold.
I say with great feeling “that I am delighted that events have forced the Government to adopt the policies that it is now bringing forward, because I believe that by so doing it affords an opportunity for people who are now unfortunately unemployed to obtain jobs. If I thought that the Government believed in the measures that it is now adopting instead of those that it took only two of three months ago, I would give it great credit, but, as I have said, I think that these measures are only being taken so that the Government will be able to stay where it is at the moment. I have nothing but contempt for people who somersault on their political principles and policies, not because they have changed their views but merely because they want to hang on to the fruits of office. I am afraid that that is why we have the alterations of policy that have been made so dramatically, other policies having been enunciated not only in December of last year but also in the months that preceded December.
If the Government really believes in the principles that it is now adopting,, why did it not give some heed to them when we on this side of the Senate asked it to consider other ways of dealing with the economy and bringing about full employment, which the Government said it desired to achieve? When we look at the Government’s economic policy over the last couple of years, what do we find? Two years ago the Government announced its programme to combat rising prices and to head off an increase in the basic wage. The Government’s economic measures can be placed in four, categories. First, it removed import controls. Secondly, it said that it would oppose wage increases. In that respect, one can only say how willing the Government always is to oppose the claims of the workers for better conditions. Thirdly, the Government wished to restrict bank credit, a proposal to which the banks did nor respond at the time. Fourthly, the Government proposed to avoid deficit budgeting.
We know the results of those measures. There was a vast inflow of imports, accompanied by a grave fall in our overseas balances. We saw the Government’s attempts in November, 1960, to deal with the mess that had been created by its February remedies. In November of that year it brought forth a further plan. It proposed enforcement of restrictions on bank lending, together with general control over loans. A revision of income tax provisions was designed to discourage companies interested in financing consumer spending. The Government said that it would compel insurance companies to allocate 30 per cent, of their funds to Commonwealth loans. It increased bank interest rates, although it knew what that would mean to the primary producer, and of course there was the famous increase of sales tax on motor cars to 40 per cent. What did we say would be the result of those measures? The Government was told at the time that there would be a rapid growth of unemployment. But then, of course, the Government was not concerned about people’s votes. Honorable senators opposite were bad judges. They thought the Government might lose some seats but not many and that it could then snap its fingers at the people. With the rapid growth of unemployment and the credit squeeze came a great fall in the standard of living. The credit squeeze crippled the textile, clothing and building industries.
Following upon the measures it adopted in the second month of 1960 and those which it introduced in November of that year, the Government this year has adopted further measures which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced after the last general election. The government has proposed a flat reduction of 5 per cent, in income tax. Who will receive the benefit of that reduction? A married man with a wife and two children who is in receipt of a taxable income of £800 a year will receive the remarkable reduction of £1. 7s. a year, or 6d. a week. There are more taxpayers in that income bracket than in any other group. A man with a wife and two children who has a taxable income of £20,000 a year will obtain a reduction of £544 5s. a year. Just how long will it take the man who receives a reduction of £1 7s. a year to spend that sum? What will the person who enjoys the benefit of an extra £544 a year do with his money? He will not spend it, because I should say that he already would have all the things he needs.
– As a matter of interest, what is the amount of tax he would pay?
– I cannot say; I have not the information before me. I suppose that man would pay tax at the rate of 13s. 4d. in the £1. I would not have reduced income tax at all. I should have preferred to see an equivalent amount of money paid out in the form of extra child endowment. If child endowment had been increased, the money would have flowed through the community much more quickly. I cannot understand why the Government has decided to reduce income tax. I believe it is pandering to people so that their criticisms of its actions in the past will be less severe in the immediate future. The great mass of the people will obtain very little benefit from the proposed flat reduction of 5 per cent, in income tax.
– How many taxpayers earn £20,000 a year?
– I have taken out the figures on what I thought would be a reasonable basis. The weekly wage of a man having a taxable income of £800 would be £23 or £24. That man’s income would be above the average. I often wonder how the Commonwealth Statistician arrives at his figures, but according to him the average wage is approximately £20 a week. I do not say that the Statistician publishes wrong figures, but he must take a rather wide coverage in arriving at the average incomes as those he regards as employees. A man with a wife and two children who has a taxable income of £1,000 a year will receive a reduction of £2 14s. in his tax. Senator Wright, in his interjection, implied that a man with a taxable income of £20,000 a year would pay a huge amount of tax. I point out that a single man with a taxable income of that size will receive a reduction of £554, or approximately £10 more than that received by a married man with a wife and two children.
One wonders why the Government has decided to reduce income tax. 1 repeat that that is not the best way in which to stimulate the economy, but that it would have been much better to give the money to the mothers of this nation in the form of extra child endowment. In order to create an impression upon the minds of the wage-earners, the Government has stated that from March till June tax deductions will be such that at the end of the financial year people will be in the same position as if they had been receiving the 5 per cent, reduction for the full year. I again say that a false impression will be created. From March till June, a worker receiving £19 a week will take home £17 6s. After June, he will take home £17 2s., because, so far as we know at present, this reduction will be in operation only until the end of the financial year.
One can only be gratified at the proposal to increase unemployment benefit. Labour welcomes it. But I hope the Government realizes that unemployed persons are concerned not so much about getting extra benefit as about getting employment. What they really want is work. One wonders again why the Government proposes a flat rate reduction of tax. I hope that if it continues with these proposals after June it will see the wisdom of restoring the tax and giving the yield to the people who are in greatest need.
The Government has taken another remarkable step. Some time ago it increased the sales tax on motor vehicles to 40 per cent. That rate was in operation, I think, for three months, after which there was a reduction to 30 per cent. Now the Government proposes a reduction of the sales tax by 7i per cent. I do not think that I have exceeded my time.
– Yes, by ten minutes.
– I have another ten minutes.
– We have discussed that before and we shall discuss it again, if you desire. It will be very surprising indeed if this latest measure will stimulate the motor industry. I believe that the only method by which the industry can be stimulated - I am not saying that this is the wisest thing to do - is to permit the payment of a small deposit and to allow plenty of money to be used for hire purchase, so that prospective buyers can be accommodated. I am not advocating this. I am saying that it is the only way by which this industry can get back to the position in which it was. 1 have very strong personal objections to people putting themselves head over heels in debt for any commodity, particularly for a luxury such as a motor vehicle. I do not think that the reduction of 7i per cent, in sales tax will achieve the objective. It will give £50 or £60 to a person buying an average-size car for cash, but I very much doubt whether the great mass of people who buy on hire purchase will benefit from this reduction to the extent that the Government expects.
– You did not speak like this when we raised sales tax by 10 per cent.
– I was opposed to the increase, because I thought 30 per cent, was high enough. I thought it was outrageous to increase the tax to 40 per cent, and I spoke accordingly at that time. One has to be careful about the effect that extra money going into the economy will have upon prices and currency inflation. I admit that the problem is not easy of solution. The Government is not giving anything at all to one section of the people. It is considering what it will do for the primary producers. I thought that the Government would have taken another slab out of Labour’s policy and given a £3-a-ton subsidy on superphosphate. The primary producers are entitled to get something, because no one can really say what might happen in the immediate future in regard to butter, wheat, dried fruits and other commodities, which we are finding trouble in selling at a fair price. I am alluding, of course, to what could happen in regard to the European Common Market.
The problems are not easy to solve, but the Government has itself brought about the present position. When it first came to office in 1949, it was handed an economy that was second only to Canada’s in the British Commonwealth or in the Western world. The only hope in those days was to retain controls, but the Government shunned them. The prime reason why price control was abandoned in Australia was the opposition by supporters of this Government to the referendum in 1948. Farmers to-day are troubled by the high cost of production. Apart from the subsidies on butter and the guaranteed price for wheat, farmers in the main are at the mercy of world prices. Pegging of land prices was removed. What is the position to-day? It is practically an impossibility for any young man to get on the land. Senator Scott shakes his head. I ask him, with his knowledge of farming, to tell the Senate how much it would cost to establish a man in wheat, wool, or dairy farming to-day. How much would it cost to give him a reasonable chance of success? Whether the Government likes it or not, it must do something about controlling prices. It cannot continue to allow people who are big enough to do so to fix their own prices. If that trend continues, very soon the primary industries will not be able to export any of their products without subsidies from the Government. Even wool may be affected because unless something is done to protect the wool-grower from the operation of pies, the industry will suffer.
I hope that the measures adopted by the Government will help to get people back to work. The Opposition will be only too happy to assist in this connexion. It is shocking to say that the Opposition wants to see unemployment for the sake of obtaining a few votes. Nobody can truthfully charge the Opposition with wanting to see unemployment. I know what it is like to be unemployed. Nothing is worse for a man than to be unable to find work. People who claim that the Opposition wants to see a certain amount of unemployment indulge in political fantasy. I hope that soon we will see people back at work. I doubt whether we will obtain the measure of full employment that existed in years gone by. The Government, in an attempt to steady the economy of the country, has paid a compliment to us by adopting large slabs of the policy enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell).
– I join with honorable senators on both sides of the chamber who have expressed their loyalty to the Crown. I am sure that all of us appreciated the presence of His Excellency, the Governor-General, at the very colorful opening ceremony of this National Parliament.
I congratulate Senator McKenna on his re-election as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. I could also add my congratu- lations on his re-election as a senator representing Tasmania. The longer I live the more I am convinced that for the great majority of Tasmanians absence makes the heart grow fonder. I listened to Senator McKenna’s speech with a great deal of interest. I wish to comment on a few matters that he raised. He used the word *’ humiliation “ quite a lot. I can understand his use of that word. By now he must be an expert on humiliation because for twelve years at several election com.paigns he has proposed policies that have been rejected by the people of Australia. The last election, which resulted in what might be termed a near-miss for the Labour Party, must have been very humiliating and frustrating for the Leader of the Opposition. Once again he is in opposition, but he suggests that he may not be there for very long. That is wishful thinking on his part. Listening to-night to the speeches made by Senator McKenna and his deputy I gained the impression that they were apprehensive that the policies now being adopted by the Government will do something about it. Labour Party may have had of gaining office in the next three years.
I was interested in the references made by honorable senators opposite to the fact that the Government was returned to office with a majority of two and that one of those seats was won by the Government on the preferences of a Communist Party candidate. What is overlooked, however, is the fact that the successful candidate in Moreton gained so many other votes that he needed only slight support from the Communist candidate in order to win the seat.
– Why did the Communist Party give him any preferences?
– In all 508 votes were registered for the Communist Party candidate in Moreton and of his preferences the Labour Party candidate received 413.
– That was a donkey vote.
– Only 95 preferences of a total of 508 went to the Liberal Party candidate. What is overlooked is the fact that the Liberal Party candidate secured so many other votes that he needed only a small percentage of the Communist candidate’s preferences in order to give him the seat. But the 413 Communist preferences that went to the Labour Party candidate were not sufficient to give him the seat.
It is quite reasonable and understandable for a government that has been in office for twelve years to go to the people as uncommitted as possible, particularly in view of the fact that history has shown that any undertakings at election time must be given in a most guarded manner. Only two or three years after this Government came to power the Korean War broke out. The fantastic prices that ruled for our wool, minerals and other products because of that war brought about a condition of inflation that lasted for years. They also undid a great deal of the effort and work that this Government had put in up to that time. It was achieving results, and then that work was completely wrecked by the unforeseen Korean War and the inflationary values that ruled for our wool and metals.
Having seen that, and having seen the events that lie ahead, such as the proposed entry of Great Britain into the European Economic Community, and not being able to assess the real outcome, which nobody could then or can yet assess, I believe it was a pretty lucid and sound proposition for the Government to go to the country and come back into government as uncommitted as it could, free to take the steps that it felt it should take as the economy developed. That is what has happened.
I want to add that I disagree with both the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and his deputy (Senator Kennelly) when they say that none of the Government’s proposals would have been put forward had not the election gone the way it did. Some of the proposed steps would have been taken, whatever majority we had, when the unemployment position showed up as it has shown up in recent months, because this Government is pledged, as one of its ideals, to maintain full employment.
I strenuously deny the accusations made by the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy.
This month the Government was faced with certain unemployment figures and with a lethargic economy. We have admitted quite clearly that the economy has not responded as fast as we believed it would, and wished it would. We are taking these steps, which we would have taken no matter what our majority was, because we went to the country quite uncommitted, and we have come back into government uncommitted and free to take the steps that we believe must be taken now to provide the economy with the shot in the arm that is necessary as we see the position at this stage.
– Why did you not tell the people that?
– I have been talking for ten minutes, and the honorable gentleman has not understood one word that 1 have said. I just said that I find it quite a lucid proposition for the Government to go to the people uncommitted so that we could take whatever steps we felt were necessary. If at this stage we had found the economy developing and unemployment falling we would not have taken the action now proposed, .because we were not committed to anything.
I also strenuously oppose the suggestion that at this stage we are adopting Labour policy. I want to show the difference between what we are doing and what the Australian Labour Party proposed as election bait before 9th December. The Labour policy, on its own assessment, which was a very low one, proposed an increase of f 123,000,000 in the expenditure on health and social services alone. I believe that to be a gross underestimate of what the cost would be. That £123,000,000 was to be applied to such things as increases in child endowment, which has been mentioned tonight, and in age pensions and supplementary assistance to age pensioners. Those would be permanent commitments. No Australian Government would ever go to the people with a promise to reduce pensions. So, what the Labour Party proposed was a permanent commitment to add some hundreds of millions of pounds to our cost structure.
– We were not kidding, anyway.
– -You were only kidding yourselves. That is what you were doing. The measures proposed by the Government at present are temporary measures for a period of four months, designed to give the economy a shot in the arm. They are designed to assist the greatest employer of people - namely, private enterprise. The Labour Party intended to place upon private enterprise the cost of permanent increases in social services which must be paid out of the profits of private enterprise, and must, therefore, in this country be reflected in its cost structure, about which Senator Kennelly has just been talking. I believe that Labour’s proposals would have wrecked the profitability of private enterprise and caused far greater hardship and unemployment in the long run than the temporary measures that the Go,vernment took to meet a particular situation. That is the point that should be appreciated by Australians. At this stage we propose short-term measures, temporary measures, to galvanize the economy.
In 1959, we reduced income tax by 5 per cent. Then, when the economy was reaching a boom we took away the 5 per cent, rebate. A government can do that with such a benefit, but the social benefits that the Labour Party proposed would be an incubus on industry for ever and a day. We have adopted the procedure of considering the economy as it is when the time comes to take action and using the measures that we think are best in that situation. Labour would have followed the road of no return.
We are faced with the possible entry of Great Britain into the European Economic Community, which is following a policy of reducing tariffs. Already tariffs have been reduced by 40 per cent, and the aim is to remove the other 60 per cent, within the next six to eight years so that the whole of that community will be tariff free. Who can say what the prices will be in the countries to which we shall have to export? Senator Kennelly was quite right when he asked the question: How will our primary industries be able to exist and export? Their difficulties would certainly be increased if they were further enfeebled by the cost of almost trebling social services, which the Labour Party proposed as an election bait in order to gain office. It is not only what is in the Governor-General’s Speech but also what is not in the Speech that will save this country. The proposals of the Labour Party are not in the Governor-General’s Speech.
I should like briefly to remind the Senate of the steps which are to be taken as shortterm measures. The Leader of the Opposition understands quite well that these are short-term measures. I believe they will be of great assistance. The unemployment benefit is to be increased from £3 15s. to £4 2s. 6d. a week. The wife’s allowance is to be increased from £2 12s. 6d. to £3 a week, the allowance for the first child is to be increased to 15s and for subsequent children - who have never been provided for before - the allowance is to be 15s. also. I agree entirely that that is merely a palliative, but it is a very useful one. It will be a great help to those out of work. Make no mistake about it; they will welcome the measure. But the Government’s task is to use every endeavour to get as many people as possible back to work as quickly as possible.
I do not agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) that the flat 5 per cent, income tax reduction is not a fair and equitable proposition. Senator Kennelly believes that it is fair and equitable to increase taxes at a flat rate. When they are increased at a flat rate, he has no complaint at all, but when they are reduced he wants another system to be applied. The effect of the reduction will be to add, in the next four months, £30,000,000 of disposable income to the economy. That money will be spent and will be of great assistance to the economy.
– Do you think it will all be spent?
– Yes, I believe it will be. I differ from Senator Kennelly. I have always found that those who earn big money are the best spenders. I agree that the ordinary wage earner spends all he has got, but in certain types of industry which can do with a boost those on big incomes will spend their money.
I am pleased to see a reduction of the sales tax on motor cars. I do not believe that, because of this reduction alone, the production of motor cars will return to the 1960 level, when the rate of production was about 300,000 cars a year. Nor do I believe that it should. The production of motor cars at that rate imposes tremendous difficulties on the dealer trade throughout Australia, which has just as much money invested in the motor car industry as have the great factories - something that is often overlooked. It is all very well for a factory to set out to increase its production and to say to one of its dealers, “ You have a dealer’s licence from us. You are on a quota. If you do not step up your quota, we will give the franchise to somebody else.” That sort of thing forces the dealers to take improper nad uneconomic steps. They encourage sales on no deposit, they offer more for second-hand cars, and they sell old bombs to boys of eighteen or nineteen years of age, who cannot afford to run them. Steps of that kind are taken to try to keep up with the manufacturing rate. I hope we will not see a rush to increase production to the level of 1960. I hope the industry will move forward steadily, increasing production as the population increases, so that it will be on a sound basis. If the motor car industry feels that, in order to be thoroughly economic, it must get back to the previous rate of production, let it enter the export trade. Let it export cars so that it can pay for the materials it wants - petrol, rubber, steel and components. In 1960, the motor car industry was asking for almost a quarter o”. Australia’s total export income. It was asking for that amount to be put aside for its purposes, and the other industries were expected to exist on the other threequarters. No country can afford to give one-quarter of its export income to one industry only. I hope that this reduction of sales tax will help the industry, but I hope also that consideration will be given to the dealers and that the uneconomic measures that they were forced to adopt before will not be required again. I do not think the use of such measures would be a healthy development in this country.
I am very glad that extra money is to be given to the building industry. Some people think that we are not building houses at a great rate to-day. We may not be building at the rate of 100,000 a year, which was the case in the boom year, but we are building at the rate of about 80,000 a year, according to the latest figures I have.
– Houses and flats.
– Produce the figures for the last twelve months.
– That is the approximate’ rate.
– It is not.
– I should like to see the rate maintained at about 80,000 or 90,000 a year. I think that an increase of activity in the building industry, particularly in the building of war service homes, would help a great many subsidiary industries. We can look for a great deal of added employment from that source.
It is planned to make money available immediately to local government authorities. I believe that that is a sound first step. Local government authorities are spread throughout the nation. In all districts small local government bodies are to be found. They all have jobs that can be done immediately. If men were employed on those small jobs straight away, the effect on employment would be felt throughout Australia. Let us make no mistake about it. It is not of the slightest help to people who are unemployed in outlying areas if a motor car industry at Geelong suddenly becomes prosperous. That does not help those who are out of work in the outback areas of Queensland, Western Australia or any other State. I am glad that this assistance is to be given to local government. I hope that local government bodies will grasp this opportunity to give instant relief to unemployed people in their areas. While that is being done, the £10,000,000 grant to the States will enable the States to get on with the design work or the initial work that they have to do, so that they, in turn can get on with the job when taking up of unemployment by the local government bodies has slowed down. I think those are two good measures, which we must concede will give help and assistance quickly.
Flowing from that is the assistance to private enterprise, the greatest employer of our people. I am pleased to see the proposal for a 20 per cent, investment allowance. I believe that it will be of infinite benefit because it will enable factories to install modern machinery. In these days, if we are to enter the export trade, we must have the latest machinery in our factories to enable us to reduce our costs.
One of the greatest difficulties confronting Australia’s secondary industry is that in comparison with other countries it has a small home market. In these days of modern machinery and mass production it is essential for a large part of the production of a factory to be sold on its home market. Other countries have been through this period and have survived. I believe that Australia’s secondary industry also will survive. The action that the Government proposes to take will be of much assistance to all factories, large and small. They will have a good incentive to replace their machinery with the most modern equipment available. Australia is in a position to buy this modern machinery because of the efforts of its primary industries which have been the backbone of this country for generations. Thanks to increases in production and exports, which have steadily improved Australia’s export income and brought its overseas balances to their present level, Australia is now able to effect the greatest possible efficiencies in its secondary industries. Therefore, I like the proposal to assist private enterprise in this way. I like also the proposed assistance to home builders, particularly those who benefit under the War Service Homes Act.
Another form of assistance that has not been mentioned to-night is brought to my mind because T am, and have been for many years, a member of the board of a mutual savings bank. Seventy per cent, of the funds of savings banks must be invested in Commonwealth bonds or similar securities. One of the great bastions of the savings banks of Australia has been the demand that 70 per cent, of their funds should always be kept liquid. A savings bank must have liquid funds, but I believe that the 70 per cent, could be reduced to 60 per cent, without in any way risking the liquidity of the banks concerned, and that they could be allowed to invest that 10 per cent, of their funds in housing loans. A great deal of the housing loans in this country have come from the savings banks, and this reduction of 10 per cent, would mean that the savings bank with which I am concerned would be able to make available an additional £1,800,000 for housing in its small area. That is why I like the statement of the Prime Minister that steps are being taken to permit further increased lending for housing by the Commonwealth Savings Bank and other financial institutions. If that proposal is extended to the type of banks of which I have spoken, particularly in Tasmania, it will be of much help.
I contest strongly any suggestion that the measures which are being adopted will become an incubus upon the cost structure of secondary industry. They are quite unlike the proposals of the Opposition, which would permanently put upon this country’s cost structure an enormous burden because of the additional social services which the Labour Party promised to the people to try to get back into office. Senator Ormonde referred to the Labour Party’s proposals for paying for these extra social services, and I wish to refer to the policy speech delivered by the Leader of the Labour Party, the Honorable A. A. Calwell, during the last election campaign. What he said about taxation is rather interesting when one studies his remarks in the light of the reaction to them of some of the business sections of this country. They must have overlooked this paragraph headed “Taxation “-
A Labor Government will redistribute the burden of taxation. We believe that indirect taxation and injustices within the present deduction and rate structure of income tax bear heavily on the family man. These injustices must be remedied . . . A separate examination of company taxation shows that one thousand companies get two-thirds of all profits, while half of these get over half the profit. Eighty of them, the real “ blue chips “, take nearly one-third of the profits. These top few are the ones able to determine their own prices in quite arbitrary fashions and it is they that are the main generators of inflationary pressures.
This, then, is where the taxation was to come from; this is how the Labour Party would finance these great additional services - from the successful companies that are the largest employers in this country. When we come to contest the position again, and some heads that were perhaps quite justifiably a little hot have become a little cooler and have examined what Labour policy would have meant to them, a different judgment will be made of the policies of the two parties. I support the motion.
.- We on this side of the Senate associate ourselves with the motion, which incorporates expressions of loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen. Also, we appreciate the manner in which the Speech was made by His Excellency the Governor-General. We associate ourselves with the good wishes that have been extended to him since he came to live in our country and we wish him and his family happiness and health during his occupancy of the high office of GovernorGeneral of the Commonwealth of Australia. It was quite an experience to hear His Excellency outlining the Government’s policy, especially when one had in mind the facts. As a newcomer to the country he would, of course, take the word of the Government; but I point out that the Government has over the years said one thing while meaning another. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) did not mention the first remark in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that had any substance. His Excellency said: -
The Parliament meets at a time when there are still great tensions in international relations. My advisers believe that the security of Australia depends upon reliance on three central principles of international policy.
To-night honorable senators heard an harangue by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) in reply to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). The Leader of the Government avoided the important issues facing this country; he avoided the great responsibilities that Australia has as an island continent in the middle of Asian seas; he avoided, also, the implications of the current negotiations by the United Kingdom with the European Economic Community that could vitally affect the industries that have traditionally been the mainstay of this country’s economy. He avoided the tremendous repercussions that will inevitably follow the re-adjustment that will oblige nearly all our primary industries to find new markets in the near future.
We have heard leading members of the Government parties putting their views before the people, at a time when the eyes of the country are on them and when the people are hoping that the Government will give effect to the newly-found ideals it has adopted since the lesson it was given at the ballot-box on 9th December. The people expected a lead to be given them, but what did they get? They got miserable, parish pump politics and statements that were completely unworthy of leading figures in this country. We have heard shibboleths and catch-cries being voiced ad nauseam to-night. I remind Senator Henty and other supporters of the Government that it is of no use trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the Australian people. They are aware of the short-comings of the policies that have been pursued during the last twelve years.
The Government has had all the assistance that it required. Yet, it has failed the people of Australia. By the mere chance of donkey votes and fluke transfers of votes it is holding office against the wishes of a majority of the people. The voting figures show that it should not be in office. The electors, when they were given the great democratic opportunity to express their opinion, showed their disapproval of this Government and their desire for its removal, but by the tricks and the twists that go on, the Government has managed tenuously to cling to office at all costs. It is trying to justify its past actions by promises of action to be taken in the future.
What has the Government promised that is new? What has it promised that will give a sense of purpose to the people, or something for them to work for? What hope does the Government hold out that the energies and the initiative of the people can be directed in such a way that their standard of living will be maintained and their savings protected as well as their assets? What has the Government offered to the ordinary people of Australia to assure them that their human dignity will be maintained? What hope has been held out to the ordinary Australian that he may go home to his wife and family and say to them “We can plan for the future. We can improve our standard of living in our home. We can pay our debts.” In this ccuntry to-day, a quarter of a million people or more are living in the shadow of insecurity and threatened poverty. That is a disgrace to the government of a country in which opportunities for better prospects for the people have existed and should still exist.
During the last ten or twelve years, we have seen unfolding in this country the orthodox pattern of a laisser-faire economy. The Menzies Government, aided by its supporters, has been following the path of expediency. It has never taken a longrange view. Its policy has been described as one of fits and starts, of stop and go. During that period, we have seen three recessions. We have also seen our overseas trade balances being held by all kinds of dubious expedients. Senator McKenna pointed out earlier to-night that we have been balancing our overseas trading accounts by the importation of capital. What is happening in that respect? All along the line we are finding that our assets gradually are being sold out to foreign companies. The importation of capital in this way is a very short-term project for the simple reason that each £1 that comes into this country comes here only because it can produce a better rate of interest than it can elsewhere.
We see advertisements in the newspapers offering 9 per cent. and 10 per cent. on relatively short-term investments, indicating that foreign investment is coming here on a much better wicket. The figures show that foreign investments in this country are producing rates of interest of 15, 20 or 25 per cent. as an ordinary business proposition, and that, with a bit of a risk, 100 per cent. may be obtained. What are we actually doing in adopting this policy of balancing our trade by importing foreign capital? We are selling this country. We are selling our birthright so that the supporters of the Government may be able to say, for the time being, “ Look at our trade balances. How healthy they are! “
Now let us consider our bauxite deposits, one of the great assets with which this country has been endowed by nature, an asset which we should be able to sell to the world. We find that overseas investors, in the form of one of the greatest monopolies in the world, have moved in on those rich deposits. Much of our copper, lead and zinc resources also are controlled by overseas interests. Despite the great story that Senator Spooner told about oil production in Australia, we find that the only money that is being made from oil is being made by the racketeers on the stock exchange, the bulls and bears, in racketeering that is in effect sponsored by this Government. Every oil company that cares to float a new issue to-day may virtually rob the public, because such companies are not producing oil. Even in Queensland, where the people were given such great hope that oil would be produced in commercial quantities, what are we getting? Nothing much more than talk in the newspapers.
– Should we stop exploring?
– We should stop exploiting and get on with the exploring. To-day, however, the activities in the oil industry and the subsidies that are being paid are being used to confuse and fool gullible members of the public. The main interest seems to be how to get rich quickly instead of in the need to tackle the basic problems.
– Did you get your fingers burnt?
– I have no investment in any oil company and I do not expect to have any. The Planet oil company which has just been floated is another racket. All the shares have been taken up by the Colonial Sugar Refinery because it knows they can be put on the market at a premium in the near future and that thousands, and perhaps millions, of pounds can he made out of it. Do honorable senators’ opposite say that the Government is doing the right thing by the public of Australia in tolerating such a position?
The Governor-General said, in all good faith, in his Speech -
The remarks of honorable senators opposite who spoke to-night contradicted what His Excellency said. According to them, we have never had it better and the state of the economy is excellent.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question - ,
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 February 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19620221_senate_24_s21/>.