24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the
Minister for Civil Aviation a question without notice. Has the Minister seen a report in to-day’s Melbourne “ Sun NewsPictorial “ claiming that the Victorian Cabinet has instructed the Premier to write to the Prime Minister protesting about the granting of a liquor licence to the Royal Victorian Aero Club at Moorabbin airport? The report states that the Minister asserted in the Senate last week that he had cooperated closely with Victoria in granting a liquor licence to the club. If the newspaper report that the Minister co-operated with Victoria is correct, how does the Minister reconcile that fact with the protest now being raised by the Victorian Cabinet?
– I do not think I can add anything to the answer that I gave to a question asked by Senator Hendrickson on this subject in the Senate last week, in which I mentioned piece by piece the correspondence that had been exchanged on this matter between myself and the Victorian Government. I await with interest the arrival of the communication from the Premier of Victoria.
– I ask the
Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is the Government aware that recently the oil tanker “ Bridgewater “ broke in two during heavy storms off the west coast of Western Australia? Is the Government aware also that the master and crew of the tug “ Yuna “ showed fine seamanship in completing a long and hazardous tow of the stern section of the crippled vessel, thereby saving valuable cargo? Is the Government aware that the derelict bow section of the “Bridgewater”, which was not salvaged, is becoming an increasing hazard to ships on the Colombo to Fremantle run? As international maritime law forbids anybody but owners or underwriters to sink wrecks, will the Commonwealth Govern- ment contact the owners of the “ Bridgewater” and seek permission to sink the wreck and thus remove what may prove to be a cause of a very serious shipwreck?
– I have no more knowledge of this matter than the accounts I have read in the newspapers. Like most people, I followed this matter with a good deal of interest. All I can say is that I will convey the honorable senator’s suggestion to the Prime Minister in the hope that some course of action may be available to him.
– I wish to ask a question of my good friend, the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I am sure that he will answer it to the best of his ability. After all, he is the Barry Jones of the Government’s quiz team.
– Will you ask your question to the best of your ability?
– Yes. I always do so. I ask the Leader of the Government: Is not the child our best new citizen? Has not child endowment encouraged people to have children and has it not assisted to maintain them? If that is so, why has the Government been so reluctant to maintain the purchasing power of child endowment? In view of the undoubted appeal an improvement in child endowment payments would have to the electorate, can the Minister give us the real reasons for the Government’s failure to increase child endowment and maintain the value of this most beneficial social service?
– I am very glad to have Senator Brown’s assurance that despite all vicissitudes I am still his good friend. His question relates to child endowment. I give him the answer that we cannot look at child endowment as a social* service benefit in isolation. In its wisdom and as a result of policy decisions made from time to time, the Government consistently has increased the standard and level of social services. It has not increased child endowment directly. However, the honorable senator will notice, in the legislation that will come before the Senate to-night, that increases have been made in child allowances for people in receipt of unemployment benefit. Doubtless Senator Brown will recollect, upon consideration, that there have been many increases in child allowances both under the Repatriation Act and under the widow pensions legislation over a period of time.
– Is the Minister for Customs and Excise able to tell me whether any action is proposed to grant increased protection to the growers of blue peas and peas suitable for treatment by the quickfreeze process? Does he regard the present importations of those two commodities as detrimental to the Australian growers?
– I am not aware of any action to increase the protection afforded to growers of these two commodities. The normal method by which an industry seeks to gain increased protection is to apply to the Tariff Board. If the growers of either of these commodities consider that the protection for their industry is insufficient, their normal approach is to the Minister for Trade, seeking a hearing by the Tariff Board of an application for increased protection. I am aware that the tariff on blue peas is only 1 8d. a cental. That has been the tariff for many years. If the growers feel that it is insufficient, the remedy is an approach to the Tariff Board.
Because of seasonal conditions in a great part of Australia in which peas are grown, last year the imports of blue peas and green peas increased greatly. I do not think those imports will affect the position. Most of the frozen green peas have been used. Over the last quarter imports have dwindled to practically nothing. That indicates, I believe, that the large increase in imports was only to fill the gap in supplies to consumers which occurred because of the bad season in Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I preface it by saying that in answer to a question that I asked him a few months ago about the condition of Wydnham airport he advised me that if the Wyndham airport were out of service at any time the Kununurra airport could be used in its place. I now ask the Minister whether he is aware that for the first six weeks of 1962 the Kununurra airport was in service for only two days and the Wyndham airport was out of service for a considerable portion of that period of six weeks. In view of those conditions in the Wyndham area* and the town’s almost complete lack of communication with the outside world, will the Minister advise me whether the intention of the Department of Civil Aviation is to make either of these airports serviceable in all weathers? If it is, when can we expect work to commence on one or both of them?
– The airport at Kununurra was constructed by the State Department of Works and, as far as I know, is owned by that department. It is not a Commonwealth responsibility. The airport was built from funds which were made available for the development of the Ord River project, but it is not a Commonwealthowned airport. I told the honorable senator previously, when he asked a similar question, that the Department of Civil Aviation proposed doing some work during this year at Wyndham. I shall ascertain exactly what progress has been made there.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Health by saying that on 10th October last I asked the then Minister for Health, the Honorable Donald Cameron, a number of questions about the future availability of money to Victoria and Tasmania under the States Grants (Mental Institutions) Act 1957. My question is: Can the present Minister inform the Senate of the progress, if any, that has been made in examining the proposals put forward by the State Treasurers in relation to funds for mental health and for mental institutions?
– At the recent Premiers’ Conference the Premiers of Victoria and Tasmania submitted a case for the grant of additional money to aid them with their mental hospitals, and subsequently the Prime Minister asked me to endeavour to arrange a conference with those two Premiers. I can tell the Senate now that it is my intention to meet both of these gentlemen in Melbourne on Friday, 9th March, to hear their submissions on this matter.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Health, refers to the reported withdrawal from sale of certain drugs, following claims that they are causing infant deaths and infant deformities. Is Dr. Hugh Hunter, the assistant medical secretary of the Australian Medical Association, correct in saying that new drugs are coming on to the market every day and that it is impossible to test them for side-effects beforehand? If so, does not this represent a serious danger to the community? Why is it impossible to hold up the sale of new drugs until they have been adequately tested?
– I took a personal interest in the matter dealt with in the first portion of Senator McManus’s question, and I asked the Director-General of Health to give me some information on it. I ask the honorable senator to put on notice questions dealing with any matters that I leave unanswered, because I think a written reply to the points he has raised is demanded. The drug to which Senator McManus referred is known, I think, as Distaval. It is a proprietary line. Until late November, 1961, it was available in all States, including the Australian Capital Territory but excepting Queensland, for purchase over the counter. In Queensland it was available on doctors’ prescriptions only. Distaval was not a pharmaceutical benefit. It is reported to have harmful effects in early pregnancy. At the end of November, 1961, the manufacturers of Distaval wrote to every chemist in Australia advising that, as a result of unfavorable reports received by their United Kingdom principals, Distaval and certain other drugs were being withdrawn. The manufacturers requested the retail chemists to return all stocks, pending pharmacological and other studies to determine the effects. The wholesalers were also notified. The retail sale of all drugs is a matter for individual State control. I think that last sentence answers, in general terms, the final question that Senator McManus asked, but I may be able to obtain additional information which will help him in his approach to this problem.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation.
Is it a fact that tenders have been called for the construction of new taxi-ways at the Launceston airport and for other work that will have to be done before the proposed new passenger terminal can be commenced? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the progress that is being made with the designing of the new terminal building, and can he forecast when the constructional work will be commenced? Will the Public Works Committee have to examine the plans of the Department of Civil Aviation before money can be voted by the Parliament for expenditure on the building?
– Yes, it is a fact that tenders have been called for the construction of certain taxi-ways at Launceston. It will be necessary for further taxiway and other engineering work to be done before the building of the terminal can be proceeded with. Design work is going ahead steadily, but I am not sure of the precise point which it has reached. It is quite impossible for me to state a probable date of commencement, because, as suggested in the question, it will be necessary for work of this size to be referred to the Public Works Committee for examination and report before construction can begin.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister who represents the Minister for Trade. Did the Minister observe an item in yesterday’s press under the caption “Market Six Review British Bid”? Did the Minister notice that the bid was an Australian request to send an observer to the negotiations relating to special Australian problems which may be discussed at the next ministerial meeting on or about 22nd March? Does the treaty between the six member nations of the European Economic Community permit Australia to be directly represented at the discussions of the Ministers of the Common Market? Should the Ministers agree to the request to permit an Australian observer to be present when they are discussing Australian affairs, will the Minister for Trade or an officer of his department be the observer?
– Naturally, there is a great number of newspaper reports about this matter. I do not remember whether I saw the one to which Senator Benn referred, but I think I can answer the question quite satisfactorily in this way: At present Australia is making representations so that she can be a party to the negotiations and the discussions at times when Australian interests are affected. Australia is, of course, not a member of the present European Common Market organization. Therefore, Australia has no rights. Australia cannot make any demands; she can only make requests. It is a matter that is at present under consideration by The Six. We have not yet had a final answer to our representations.
The honorable senator asked whether the representative would be the Minister for Trade. I hesitate to answer that question, though I think it would be almost impossible for him to be the representative because once the negotiations commence they will be spread over a great number of commodities which will be dealt with one by one. I should imagine that the negotiations will go on for quite a lengthy period and it would be quite impossible for a Minister te be present at the discussions for the whole time.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health and concerns the sirex wood-wasp problem. Last Wednesday when I questioned the Minister he was good enough to state that he expected to meet in conference State Ministers for Forests yesterday to discuss the details of this urgent matter. My questions to-day are - (1) Did a meeting take place yesterday as planned and, if so, what States were represented? (2) Was any basis agreed upon by the States and the Commonwealth for contribution to the fund for fighting the sirex wood-wasp? If so, what basis was agreed upon? (3) Broadly what lines of research and attack are contemplated?
– A conference took place yesterday between the appropriate Commonwealth and State representatives. Unfortunately, the notice that the conference was to be held was so short that all of the State Ministers could not be present. However, those who could not be there sent their deputies. Mr. Lindsay Thompson, the Victorian Minister, and Mr. Ward, who holds the portfolio of Forests and
Housing in Tasmania, were present. Other Ministers were represented by their senior officers. The conference took some time to debate the proposals put before it, but finally unanimous agreement was reached on the proposal that appropriations be made by the States to build their contributions to £100,000. It was agreed that the contributions should be on an acreage basis, having regard to the State government plantings in the various States
I think it is fair to say that the Victorian Minister for Forests accelerated the reaching of that unanimous decision by making a very generous gesture in offering to increase Victoria’s contribution by £5,000, thereby relieving South Australia, which has the biggest acreage, of a similar amount. The conference agreed to appoint a committee of officers to implement a threepronged attack on the wasp by way of survey, eradication and research. When I state the names of the personnel appointed to the committee, I think honorable senators will agree that we have the best-equipped men in the land to undertake this task. Dr. Harrison, who is the director of the Division of Plant Quarantine in the Department of Health, is chairman of the committee. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is represented by Dr. Waterhouse, and Dr. Jacobs, the Director-General of the Forestry and Timber Bureau, is also a member. New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania are making available the services of their senior forestry officers. They will be the remaining members of the committee. The committee met this morning and is Sti in session. I am informed that it is making good progress.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. According to a report in the latest issue of the Sydney “Sunday Telegraph”, Mr. Harold Smith, the chairman of the American Liquid Gas Corporation, which is a subsidiary company of the Union Oil company, one of the American companies drilling for oil at Moonie, Queensland, has said that accounts of the recent 30-day test of oil flow at Moonie were relayed daily to Union Oil in the United States of America. Does the Minister not consider that it is unfair to the shareholders in the Australian
Oil and Gas Corporation Limited, the Australian company in the Moonie project, that they had to wait for the full 30-day test to be completed before they received any information as to the oil flow tests? As this has possibly meant that many Australian shareholders of A.O.G. have sold their shares to Americans at a cheaper price than might have been the case, because of the more up-to-date information that the Americans had; and further, as this particular group of companies - two American and one Australian - has been, and still is, receiving subsidies for oil drilling, which is paid for by the Australian taxpayers, through the Commonwealth Government, will the Minister take up the matter with the Union-Kern organizations and the A.O.G. group and ask that the same information on drilling and testing for oil be given to the Australian shareholders and public as is given to the shareholders and public in the United States?
– I think I should commence my answer by saying that this is a matter upon which I would prefer not to comment. I have adopted the attitude of being restrained in what I have had to say from time to time about oil discoveries because of the obvious effect that any statement would have on the share market. The matter in question is one between the two companies concerned, and we are discussing a newspaper report. Whatever right to comment I may have is lessened in this particular case, because the Moonie No. 2 well is an assessment well. It is not eligible for a subsidy under the Commonwealth subsidy scheme; it is being drilled by the companies entirely without any subsidy from the Commonwealth.
I am deeply conscious of the very good relations which exist between the two American companies and the Australian company in this joint venture. I should be surprised indeed if any information is going to America about this drilling operation which is not being made available concurrently to the Australian company. Therefore, I finish my answer where I started it. This is a matter for the directors of the companies concerned and I do not think I should express views on it. This has been a very successful venture in every way. Without making any further comment, I doubt the accuracy of the newspaper report.
– Is the Leader of the Government in this place aware that Mr. Askin, the Liberal Party leader in New South Wales, has announced that he will introduce starting price betting agents into workshops and factories in that State if his party is elected to office on Saturday next? Mr. Askin made that promise to the electors of New South Wales over the television network on Sunday evening last, and he has repeated it. Does the Minister think that this monstrous proposal, if implemented, would be in the interests of the national economy? Does he not think it would seriously interfere with production in Australia?
– From the tenor of the question I gather that this would be the only proposal which Mr. Askin has put forward that Mr. Heffron has not forthwith adopted and included in his policy. The current New South Wales election campaign is most extraordinary. Every time the Liberal Party makes a statement of policy on a particular matter, the Labour Party includes that item in its policy the following night. The ink is hardly dry upon the Liberal Party’s policy before the Labour Party has adopted it. I listened to Mr. Askin’s television interview on Sunday night and I did not hear him say anything about putting starting price betting agents into workshops.
– Has the Minister for National Development seen a press statement to the effect that a recent oil share flotation was considerably over-subscribed? Does the Minister believe that the Government’s policy in recently amending the income tax legislation to permit 100 per cent, of money paid in response to calls by oil companies to be treated as an allowable tax deduction has had any effect in encouraging the subscription of capital for this purpose? Since the legislation was amended, have any flotations not brought in the amounts required by the companies?
– I believe it to be true to say that the Government’s policy on the search for oil is now being proved sound and successful. We started with surveys to provide basic information. The next step was the subsidizing of operations to increase the tempo of the search. The next step was the altering of the income tax legislation so that people subscribing the capital necessary for oil search could get tax deductions if they so desired. This policy is now proving itself to be successful. The evidence is, first, the actual discovery of oil; secondly, the substantial increase in the volume of drilling and other search transactions; and thirdly, the number of companies now being floated to intensify the search still further.
– I understand that the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs has an answer to a question which I asked on Wednesday last. The question was -
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 am informed that a report appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and that on the following day action was taken to find out whether or not the report was in fact justified. The reporter concerned has refused to reveal the source of the story which was printed, but it appears likely that the story came from a crew member of one of the tankers which had recently returned from Indonesia to Kurnell. In the week preceding the publication of the story, there were in Kurnell only four tankers that had returned from trading with Indonesia. They belonged to Ampol Petroleum Limited and H. C. Sleigh Limited. Both those companies, and Caltex Oil (Australia) Proprietary Limited, have denied having any knowledge whatever of the occurrences reported. No complaint as to such occurrences has been lodged with the Navigation Section of the Department of Shipping and Transport, nor has any master complained that his ship was in fact approached by Indonesian aircraft. There would not appear to be any official or semiofficial justification for the story. Although it is always possible that in the area in question an Indonesian Gannet or other aircraft may have flown near a ship, the story of buzzing or intimidation is not believed to have any basis.
– I ask the Minister for Health a question. I refer to a report in this morning’s press, emanating from Canberra, which states that four films from the British Broadcasting Corporation’s famous “ Lifeline “ series, dealing with hypnosis, have been banned by the Commonwealth Director-General of Health. Is it constitutionally possible for the DirectorGeneral of Health to override a decision of the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board as to what films are suitable for admission into Australia from overseas for use on television? Did the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board sanction the entry into Australia of the films to which I have referred? In view of the widespread misapprehension among the Australian people concerning the already great and rapidly increasing medical benefits to be derived from the specialized use of hypnosis, will the Minister confer with the Prime Minister in order to prevent one department overriding the decisions of another department and imposing a ban that would obstruct the demonstration of the proper use of hypnosis in Australia?
– As Senator Buttfields question refers to action taken by my department, I have armed myself with some information on this matter. I thought that this matter might be of great interest to people generally and to honorable senators in particular. I have been informed by the Director-General of Health that programmes of a medical nature broadcast or televised by the Australian Broadcasting Commission are referred for prior approval to the Commonwealth Director of Health in each State under a delegation of my authority as Minister for Health. In Sydney on 12th January last Dr. Wienholt, Commonwealth Director of Health, viewed four films of the “ Lifeline “ series. Those films were titled “ Judgment and the Unconscious “, “ Reality and the Unconscious “, “ Medicine and the Unconscious “ and “ Hypnosis and the Unconscious ‘. He considered that they were medically unacceptable for transmission. There is no State legislation that prohibits the public performance of hypnosis for entertainment. However, a theatre audience is a captive audience and is under control. This is not so with a television audience. Furthermore, what is regarded by the State authorities as acceptable entertainment is not necessarily suitable material for television audiences. It is considered that no programme should contain matter which, if imitated, could be harmful to the well-being of the individual or of the community. Standards of acceptability require the observance not only of good taste, but also of common sense. In the commercial field the appearance of a patient receiving treatment or under the influence of a drug or hypnosis is not approved for advertising purposes, and last year, when the press code was being revised, advertisements concerning cure by hypnotism were regarded as unacceptable.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the Senate what progress has been made in providing Melbourne with a jet airport? When may we expect that a start will be made on this important project?
– Only last week I answered a similar question addressed to me by another honorable senator. I said then that I had nothing to add to the statement on this subject that I made last year to a deputation headed by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne. I told the deputation that it would not be possible for the Government to consider the proposed new airport for Melbourne until late in 1962. I indicated that a factor having an important bearing on the decision was the type of aircraft that would be acquired by the domestic airlines, and that although the domestic airlines were examining certain types of aircraft that were available to them, they would not be placing orders for such aircraft before 30th June, 1962.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, refers to a statement by Mr. Robert Kennedy concerning the present unfortunate quarrel between Indonesia and the Netherlands over West New Guinea. Mr. Robert Kennedy is reported to have said that if hostilities broke out between the two countries, provoked by Indonesia, the United States of America would have to consider her position. Does the Minister interpret that statement to mean that in such circumstances the United States would intervene in the armed conflict on the side of the Netherlands?
– I do not think I am in a position to interpret the statement to which Senator Vincent has referred because it is, after all, not a statement in an official communication that I have received but rather a newspaper report of something that Mr. Robert Kennedy is alleged to have said. I do not think I should interpret any statement made on this subject and certainly not one of the kind referred to by the honorable senator.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Last week, I asked a question relating to reductions in superannuation payments, if any, which would be made because a new position had been found for the former chairman of the Public Service Board. I now ask a similar question concerning a former secretary of the Department of External Affairs who, having resigned from the department, is alleged to have been given a position with the Australian National University. Will his superannuation be reduced because of his new assignment?
– As I indicated in reply to a similar question asked recently by the honorable senator, I do not know. I will have inquiries made and see whether any information can be made available to the honorable senator about this matter also.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question which is related to the question asked by Senator Ormonde about the New South Wales election. Is the Minister aware that the New South Wales Labour Government proposes to build a £14,000,000 tell road to nowhere and that if it persists with this action New South Wales will be denied, as a consequence, funds desperately needed for housing, education and health purposes?
– I must confess that at times I derive a good deal of satisfaction from the election campaign in New South Wales. We have the spectacle of Mr. Landa, my opposite number in the New South Wales Government, crying to high heaven that he cannot get sufficient money for housing from the Commonwealth and, at the same time, his Government proposing to build this expensive toll road. I do not think the cost of the road will be £14,000,000. My recollection is, although I am not certain on this point, that the figure mentioned was £85,000,000. Perhaps some honorable senator from New South Wales knows the correct figure. At all events, the New South Wales Government proposes to spend a large sum of money on a road that private enterprise is prepared to build. If the building of this road were left to private enterprise motorists would still be able to choose between the new road and the existing Governmentowned road. But despite its extravagance, the New South Wales Government continues to complain about the inadequacy of funds provided by the Commonwealth.
Lecture by Professor Bok.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question. In view of the marvellous events that are now taking place in the outer atmosphere, will the Minister invite Professor Bok, of the Mount Stromlo Observatory, to deliver a lecture or series of lectures in Parliament House so that honorable senators and other persons may, if they wish, inform themselves of the many ramifications associated with man’s conquest of outer space and the benefits to be derived therefrom?
– This is a matter more for the presiding officers than for me, so I will refer the honorable senator’s request to the President.
– I direct the attention of honorable senators to the fact that Professor Bok will be speaking in the Senate Opposition Party Room at 7 o’clock this evening. He will be accompanied by Professor Huxley.
– No Minister could give a quicker answer or better service than that.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answers: -
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Reid be granted leave of absence for one month, on account of ill health.
Debate resumed from 22nd February (vide page 137), 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: -
May It Please Your Excellency:
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 the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– Before the Senate adjourned last Thursday night, Mr. President, 1 was paying tribute to Colonel Glenn for the magnificent job he did in circumnavigating the world. He must be a man of outstanding courage, in view of the number of postponements for various reasons and the amount of time that he spent in the capsule prior to his successful orbit. One important factor is that the failures and finally the success were made known to the whole world. We know that Russia had beaten the Western world to the gun in this respect, but we do not know how many unsuccessful attempts Russia made. We still do not know whether the first man to orbit the earth was the first man to attempt to do so; whether the Russians had made unsuccessful attempts; and whether there were any deaths. It is interesting to us Australians that, of all the countries of the Western world, Australia was chosen to play an important part in the success of this venture. I give full marks to this very courageous gentleman.
The Governor-General, in his Speech, referred to what I believe were the results of the 1960 Government measures. On page 2 he said that the Australian economy had been significantly strengthened in at least four ways. He then said -
The trade balances have been greatly improved; the run-down of Australia’s overseas reserves has been arrested, and those reserves have in fact increased in a most satisfactory way.
The internal price level has been brought to a point of stability - a fact of great value and significance to the public and to industry.
That statement is particularly applicable to our agricultural industries which cannot pass on increased costs of production. The Governor-General continued -
The loan market is more buoyant than was anticipated in the 1961-62 Budget. This will reduce the drain upon revenue to support the States’ works programme.
The banks have a high degree of liquidity, and there is a strong improvement in the availability of finance for business and individual purposes.
In support of those four items in the Governor-General’s Speech, I refer to Treasury Information Bulletin, No. 25, which was released last month. At the end of December, 1961, Australia’s international reserves totalled £602,000,000. The reserves increased by £23,000,000 in the September quarter and by £28,000,000 in the December quarter. That was a reversal of what was happening prior to the introduction of the 1960 Government measures. The balance of payments on current account improved from deficits of £246,000,000 and £123,000,000 in the first and second halves of 1960-61 respectively to a surplus of £6,000,000 in the first half of 1961-62. In other words, those substantial deficits were corrected. Australia’s exports increased from £418,000,000 in the first half of 1960-61 to £532,000,000 in the first half of 1961-62. A fact which is just as important is that our imports decreased from £560,000,000 to £421,000,000 between those two periods. The measures that the Government introduced arrested the run-down of Australia’s overseas reserves and reversed the balance between our imports and exports. The improvement from deficits of £246,000,000 and £123,000,000 in the first and second halves of 1960-61- a total deficit of £369,000,000- to a surplus of £6,000,000 in the first half of 1961-62 supports what the Governor-General said briefly about Australia’s trade balances.
Exports, of course, are our life-blood. Between the first half of 1960-61 and the first half of 1961-62, the value of exports of wool and sheep skins increased by £33,000,000; exports of wheat, flour and other grains increased by £41,000,000; exports of meats increased by £10,000,000; and exports of dairy products increased by £5,000,000. Except for dairy products, the average prices of these commodities were somewhat higher in the more recent period, but the increased value of exports mainly reflects larger quantities shipped. The value of exports of iron and steel was £11,000,000 greater in the first half of 1961-62 - not in a full year - than in the first half of 1960-61. This did not happen just by good luck. It was brought about by good management and by the Government having the foresight to see that the position had to be corrected. I shall deal with that later. I know that my friends on the Opposition side will say that the Government’s measures had other effects. I concede that they did, and I shall deal with that aspect. The volume of our imports had to be reduced if we were to correct our overseas credits position. I shall not weary the Senate by referring to all of the numerous items involved. I shall refer only to those items of our imports in respect of which the largest decreases occurred and I shall compare the figures for the first half of 1960-61 with those for the first half of 1961-62. When Senator Benn was discussing timber imports I said, by way of interjection, that it was interesting to note that in the first half of this financial year the value of timber imports dropped from £14,000,000 to £5,000,000. That was a substantial reduction in one item.
– What periods are you dealing with?
– The first half of 1960-61 and the first half of 1961-62. The value of imports of metals and metal manufactures dropped from £120,000,000 to £55,000,000. In that period there was a reduction of £65,000,000 in respect of that item. The value of imports of rubber dropped from £10,000,000 to £6,000,000, a drop of £4,000,000. In the case of pulp, paper and board the value of imports fell from £28,000,000 to £18,000,000 a drop of £10,000,000. The value of imports of yarns, textiles and apparel went down from £71,000,000 to £47,000,000, a reduction of £24,000,000. The only group in respect of which there was an increase in that period was books, magazines and music, which showed an increase from £6,000,000 to £7,000,000. Imports of all other articles were substantially reduced.
Between August and November, 1961, the Wholesale Price (Basic Materials and Foodstuffs) Index fell by 3.8 per cent., following a fall of 3.9 per cent, between November, 1960, and August. The Government’s measures were introduced in November. The greatest falls in the more recent period occurred in the foodstuffs and tobacco and the rubber and hides groups. Although there was much crying and unhappiness about the measures that were introduced, they did, to a great extent, achieve the results that the Government hoped they would achieve.
I should like to touch upon one other item, which I do not think has received enough attention. Honorable senators will remember that the Government gave taxation incentives to exporters. Last Wednesday, Sir John Allison, the chairman of the Export Development Council, had some thing to say on that subject. The newspaper report of his statements reads -
Australian industry had already greatly benefited from the export-incentive legislation introduced last year by the Government. … In the first six months of the operation of the payrolltaxation rebate scheme, £300,000 have been paid to 59 Australian firms.
Many more claims for rebates were at present being processed by the Taxation Department, and the amounts paid out would probably be greatly increased in the next few months.
Sir John Allison was reported also as having said -
In addition, many firms were taking advantage of the new overseas market development allowance provisions.
Australian trade commissioners overseas had reported that the number of Australian businessmen making first-hand visits to overseas markets had increased by nearly one-third since the inception of the legislation.
Australian firms are finding new and profitable export markets as a result of the scheme. . . . It is doing a great deal towards stimulating export action in the Australian business community.
That is something that we have not heard very much about. In view of discussions that I have had with some businessmen, I am sure that they are not fully aware of their rights and privileges under the legislation that was passed.
– One would think that the department would publish a pamphlet.
– I do not think that would do any harm. Quite a number of businessmen expressed surprise when I told them that concessions were available to them under certain conditions.
Those were the positive results of the 1960 measures. The negative result was a most unhappy one. I refer to unemployment. The other day, by way of interjection, Senator Cant asked Senator Maher what he considered was a right figure for unemployment. This is a very contentious subject. I do not think that any one can say definitely that a certain level of employment represents full employment. There is a lot of confusion about this * matter. A highly respected man - Mr. Albert Monk - said in the Albert Hall in Canberra in 1961 that Australia should not panic over a minor percentage of unemployment. Please let me say immediately that I do not agree that the present rate of unemployment is desirable.
– Nor does Mr. Monk.
– I agree with that. He docs not think it is. Speaking in Canberra in 1961, he said -
In America to-day, there are about 5,000,000 unemployed, or about 6 per cent, of the total work force.
In Canada, the present unemployment figure is 8 per cent, and it will go up to about 10 per cent, by the end of March, 1961.
We have been very fortunate. When I tell people overseas that our unemployment figure is about 1.8 per cent., or less than 2 per cent.-
As it was then - they say, “ That is not a problem at all “. They are used to having economic problems with a ratio of unemployment to the work force of about 4 or 5 per cent.
He went on to say -
In 1939, when the war broke out, we had about 10 per cent, unemployment in this country, and we were used to dealing with it on a 10 per cent, basis.
But the ordinary person in Australia now gets awfully frightened if we get up to 2 per cent, unemployment.
– So would you, if you were one of them.
– I could not agree with you more. I am not canvassing this statement. I am merely telling the Senate what Mr. Monk said in the Albert Hall, at the Citizenship Convention in 1961. He 6aid -
But the ordinary person in Australia now gets awfully frightened if we get up to 2 per cent, unemployment, whereas in actual fact, because of our seasonal occupations in Australia, it is necessary to have about l.S per cent, floating work force to deal with seasonal and major construction works.
That was a thoughtful statement by a very thoughtful man. I agree with him entirely. In an agricultural country such as ours, with seasonal work moving from north to south, we must have a floating group of people to perform the seasonal jobs. That was what Mr. Monk stated at the Citizenship Convention.
– The Government has added 2 per cent, to that figure.
– I am not canvassing the statement made by Mr. Monk. I have said that the measures introduced by the Government in 1960 achieved largely what the Government set out to achieve, although one of the offshoots of those measures was unemployment. One of the sicknesses of Australia was a running down of overseas reserves, with a great flow of imports and a reduction of exports. We had at that stage a state of almost overfull employment in some of the important trades. Medicine was prescribed for this ailment. One of the side effects of the cure was unemployment. As soon as the Government was returned to office at the recent election it set about to correct these matters,
– What has it done?
– You sidetrack me, and I do not wish to be side-tracked at the moment. I said that no one can really define full employment and unemployment.
– Only the workers.
– Because I have got the bait I shall proceed. Mr. Monk, who is a very well respected man not only in Labour circles but generally throughout Australia as a trade union leader, said 1.5 per cent. However, on 15th May, 1945, Mr. Haylen disagreed with that entirely; his figure was 5 per cent.
– What did Professor Hytten say?
– I am not worried about that. You can present your case when you speak. I am just telling the Senate what two Labour leaders said. Mr. Monk said 1.5 per cent., but Mr. Haylen said: -
It is an empty gesture to tell men who have fought for us that we shall give them preference in employment unless we also say that we shall create, as far as possible, total employment. I realize that there cannot be total employment, but if we can get down to 5 per cent, of unemployment, for all practical purposes that can be regarded as total employment.
I do not wish to continue with what Mr. Haylen said, but I repeat that he said 5 per cent, and Mr. Monk said 1.5 per cent., so there is no unanimity in respect of what is a desirable and an undesirable figure. I think any unemployment is undesirable, but I cannot tell you at this stage, and I would not profess to know, what in Australia is considered to be full employment. Mr. Monk puts the figure at 1.5 per cent, and I am inclined to agree with him.
Having accepted the fact that this was a side effect from the medicine with which we tried to correct the ailments of this country in 1960, what have we done? We see in the Governor-General’s Speech just some of the corrective measures that the Government has suggested. First, £25,000,000, part of which was a grant, has been made available to the States for various works programmes. Second, there is to be an increase in benefits for those unfortunate people who are unemployed - and they have my complete sympathy. Third, there is to be a 5 per cent, rebate on income tax; fourth, a 7± per cent, reduction of sales tax on motor vehicles; fifth, an increase of £750 for war service homes; sixth, an increase in the capital of the Commonwealth Development Bank; and seventh, a 20 per cent, investment allowance on the cost of plant and equipment for use in manufacturing. This seventh measure is important because manufacturers are one of the biggest employers of labour in this country, as opposed to the position many, many years ago when agriculture employed so many men in the development stages of the farms throughout Australia. It is interesting to note that though this country’s agricultural production increases annually, the number of men employed in agriculture decreases. The answer is completely simple: Development has now achieved a certain stage, and with modern machinery fewer men are required. Therefore, when we consider employment in this country we must look to manufacturing industries, and this is why I, in my humble way, place importance on the 20 per cent, investment allowance. It applies to many industries. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said in his statement on 14th February, 1962 -
It will apply to plant used in processes such as timber milling, butter and cheese manufacturing, bacon, ham and fish curing, canning of meat, fruit and vegetables, as well as processing by deep freezing and packaging of primary products. But it will not apply to plant which is already subject to the special annual depreciation rale of 20 per cent, that is wholly and exclusively used for the purposes of agricultural or pastoral pursuits or fishing operations.
They already enjoy a 20 per cent, depreciation rate. The Treasurer’s statement continued -
Plant used in the manufacture of bread, cake, biscuits, &c. as well as in the distilling of spirits, the brewing of beer, and wine making will be eligible for the allowance; but not plant used in hotels, restaurants, shops, &c. for the preparation of meals or drinks.
Repairing and servicing plant installed in manufacturing premises solely for the purpose of maintaining the factory machinery in running order will attract the allowance; but other repair and servicing plant will not be eligible.
There are special provisions, of course, for the mining industry, of which all honorable senators are probably aware. The Governor-General referred in his Speech to the fact that the Government still intended to permit the special allowance to primary producers. He said -
My Ministers re-affirm their policy of encouraging and supporting the financial stabilization of the primary industries. They propose the continuation for a further five years of the special 20 per cent, per annum depreciation allowance to primary producers in respect of items such as plant and machinery, certain buildings, including houses for farm employees, and fences.
I submit to the Senate that the seven corrective measures I have mentioned, plus the 20 per cent, special allowance to primary producers that will be continued, are designed to get people back to work. It is unfortunate that as we grow and develop as a nation and as time goes on there will always be difficulties, irrespective of what governments are in power, in having steady employment for the unskilled person. We live in a highly technical world, and it is becoming more so with the advent of the things that have happened in the past twenty years. It will be frightfully difficult to find jobs for unskilled labourers.
– But a big percentage of the unemployed now are skilled men.
– I shall convass that, because I submit that the majority of them are unskilled people. In the depression years, as Senator Cooke well knows and as I remember, a government which wanted to employ a lot of men would decide to build a drain here or an irrigation channel there, and the men used picks and shovels, and had a horse-drawn dray. However, if that sort of work is to be done to-day one man is employed with a modern channel digger, and he does the work of 50 or probably 100 men. That is a real problem and every government is conscious of it. We are just as conscious of it as honorable senators opposite.
– What are you doing about it?
– I have told you specifically of seven things that are being done now, and I venture to say that you do not disagree with those measures.
– Too little, too late.
– I do not think you disagree with them; I believe that you think that they are correct to alleviate the unfortunate position of those people who are unemployed. Let me develop the point that we have to look at the problem in the future on the basis that we do not have so many unskilled people coming on to the labour market. It is not the fault of governments that the children of fourteen and fifteen who are leaving school to-day and coming on to the labour market and have not gone on with higher education have not a lot offering to them. If these children have not the necessary standard of knowledge and training in trades they can only go into the wood-and-water-joey jobs.
– Dead-end jobs.
– That is quite true. They are the unfortunate people who find great difficulty in obtaining employment, should there be a recession of any kind, when they are about 40 or 50 years of age. That is so not only in Australia but in other countries as well. I have already referred to the figures that Mr. Albert Monk gave in relation to the United States of America and Canada. This is a worldwide problem, in a highly technical society.
I mentioned some time ago in the Senate that perhaps we should direct our attention to the apprenticeship of young people to the various trades. Apprenticeship should be made more attractive. At this point of time, a boy leaving school at the age of fifteen may obtain a labourer’s job for a wage of £12 or £14 a week. If he takes on work in a trade, such as that of a metal worker, or in one of the highlyskilled trades in the technical field, he must accept a much lower rate. That is not very attractive to the young man. He sees his friends able to spend money widely, and he prefers to accept the higher wage, not realizing in his immaturity that when he is older he will still be receiving the same wage.
– Whose fault is that?
– I am not going to accept the blame for it, any more than I intend to blame you for it. After all, the party which honorable senators opposite support has been in government. I am pointing to what I think is a world-wide problem. It is, perhaps, one which confronts other nations a little more forcefully than it does us.
– We should have been discussing this before 9th December last.
– A thoughtful contribution to the debate is appropriate at any time, and I note that Senator Tangney agrees with me.
– Do you not think that technical education has been sadly neglected in favour of professional education?
– Yes. We could do a lot more to encourage technical education. We must look at the apprenticeship position.
I come now to a statement in the Governor-General’s Speech which I regard as one of the most important in it. It refers to Great Britain’s application to join the European Common Market.
– This is your territory, Senator Hendrickson.
– I heard that interjection, and it is correct. I have listened with interest to Senator Hendrickson speaking on this matter. Because of its- ramifications, I regard the European Common Market as one of the most important factors in the world to-day, not only in trade but also in the realm of politics. On 3rd August, 1961, when Prime Minister Macmillan was speaking in the House of Commons, he said, in reference to the changing pattern of Commonwealth trade which affects all of us -
I ask myself the question: How can we best serve the Commonwealth? By standing aside from the movement for European unity or by playing our full part in its development? By retaining our influence in the new world, or by allowing it to decline by a relative shrinking of our own political and economic power compared with the massive groupings of the modern world? Britain in isolation would be of little value to our Commonwealth partners and I think that the Commonwealth understands this. It would therefore be wrong in my view to regard our Commonwealth and our European interests as conflicting.
Basically they must be complementary. If it is vital not to destroy the influence of the Commonwealth in the political field and I say in its broader sense it is equally vital to do nothing that would damage it economically.
That is what the Prime Minister of Great Britain thought.
Let us consider what has happened to the countries of Europe that are members of the Common Market since they formed a Common Market to cover most items of trade. Let us take the position of Italy, one of the poorer countries of Europe and one in which standards of living are terribly low in many areas. Tremendous progress has been made in that country. In the last ten years, industrial production has doubled, and in the last three years, during which time the Common Market has been operating, the volume of Italian exports has risen by more than 50 per cent. In West Germany, standards of living are far higher than ever before in German history. They are said to be from 60 to 70 per cent, above what they were ten years ago, in 1952, and are claimed in Germany to be comparable with British standards. The standards of living of France also have taken a dramatic upturn. The French claim that their living standards are now only 10 per cent, below the British standards and they seem confident that the gap that now exists will soon be bridged. Under De Gaulle and the new economic policy, and of course with the Common Market, the French economy has simply bounded ahead over the last three years. The volume of exports has jumped by 40 per cent. Those figures indicate the progress that has been made in only three of the European Common Market countries.
Now let us see what has happened to Great Britain. In that country there has been an industrial production increase of 38 per cent, during the ten-year period between 1950 and 1960. Germany showed an increase of 150 per cent, in those ten years, while the increase in France was 100 per cent. Let us have a look at the growth rate, not only of population but also of living standards, factory development, and so on. The growth rate covers a wide field. We find that in West Germany during that period the growth rate has averaged 6 per cent, per annum. In France, the average has been 4 per cent., and in Britain, less than 3 per cent. The external payments position of both France and Germany is far stronger than that of Britain to-day.
The increase in the volume of exports in the 1958 to 1960 period of the Common Market arrangements has been as follows: - Germany, 25 per cent.; Denmark, 13 per cent.; France, 39 per cent.; West Germany, 31 per cent.; Italy, 50 per cent.; Holland, 31 per cent.; Sweden, 24 per cent.; Switzerland, 22 per cent.; Great Britain, 9 per cent. The west European average increase in exports during those three years was 27 per cent., compared with 9 per cent, in Great Britain. Those figures should indicate to the Senate the reason why Great Britain is of the opinion that she just cannot afford to be out of the European Common Market.
I said earlier in my speech that I considered the European Common Market to be one of the most important factors in the free world to-day. Its importance has been likened by some very learned people to that of the repeal of the Corn Laws 116 years ago, to the decision to abandon free trade and adopt protection in 1933, which again was of paramount importance, and even to the very great decisions that were made in 1914 and 1939 to resist the attempts of a certain nation to overrun Europe and, perhaps, the world. So, it is rated very highly in the judgment of many people. If the European Common Market is so important - I accept that it is important, and I think that every honorable senator does so, too - why did Great Britain not become a member of it when it was first formed? I think it was in July 1955 that Ministers of the six countries which were members of the European Coal and Steel Community suggested that they should widen the scope of that organization to include common market arrangements to cover the trade that existed between them. Those six met in Brussels and the British went to the discussions. When the discussions commenced the chairman rightly asked the British representatives, “ Are you here as participants or as observers? “ The British representatives had to say, “ We are here as observers “. So they were quite nicely and politely asked to remove themselves from the deliberations, and they did so.
Why did Britain do that if it has since become of world importance for Britain to apply for membership of the Common
Market? Why did not the British have the foresight to recognize the importance of it then? There are two very good reasons. First, I believe they thought it would not work. Secondly, this was not long after one of the most terrific wars in history, and for centuries Britain had taken the stand of being the balance of power in Europe. It must be remembered that Britain fought Philip of Spain in the sixteenth century, Louis XIV. in the eighteenth century, Napoleon in the nineteenth century and the Kaiser and Hitler in the twentieth century. The tradition of keeping aloof from Europe except to maintain the balance of power probably induced Britain to remain out of the deliberations which preceded the establishment of the European Common Market.
It is distressing to think that her judgment was astray, because she has traditionally been opposed to the formation of a strong power in western Europe. Her judgment was astray in that the threat to her safety to-day is not in western Europe but on the other side of the iron curtain. I believe her thinking to-day is that it is far more important to be a member of the European Common Market, not only from the commercial viewpoint but also from the political viewpoint.
– She felt also that she had the backing of the remainder of the Commonwealth.
– That is true. The lapse of time from 1955 to 1962 is not great when we are considering events as important as these. Why should Britain suddenly change her mind? That question can probably be answered more ably by M. Jean Monnet, who was the president of the European Coal and Steel Community in the early ‘fifties. He said it was unlikely that Britain would come in at first. That was in 1950. It probably still applies to-day.
– Did you say in 1950?
– Yes. In the early ‘fifties, when he was still head of the European Coal and Steel Community he 6aid it was unlikely that Britain would come in at first because - there is one thing you British will never grasp: and that is an idea; and there is one thing you are extremely good at grasping: a hard fact.
He went on to say -
Therefore we will have to make Europe without you and then, when you have grasped the fact that Europe is uniting, you will have to come in - but on our terms.
– They have not consulted Mr. Menzies.
– I am not canvassing that. I am just saying that the question I posed was answered by M. Jean Monnet. The change in the British attitude was due to the fact that it was suddenly realized that not only was the Common Market functioning but that it was a very dynamic organization and that the exclusion of Britain from the organization would be extremely dangerous to British interests. Britain’s change of mind flows from a combination of the economic facts to which I referred earlier and political expediency. On the economic side, if Britain joins the Common Market she will immediately have access to a market of some 250,000,000 people, including those in Italy, Germany and France, whose standards of living are growing daily. Her admission to the Common Market will be equally as important if not more important politically, because in alining herself with these other countries she will become part of a third powerful world force the strength of which will be more important than that of Russia or the United States of America. When I said earlier that I placed great importance on this phase of the Governor-General’s Speech, I had in mind the thought that the world’s salvation could well depend on a united western Europe. I hope I am right in saying that. I believe that the odds are in favour of Britain joining the European Common Market.
This afternoon an honorable senator opposite asked a question about Australia’s participation in the talks that are at present being conducted. On Thursday last, 22nd February, The Six were to consider whether they would permit Australia to be represented at the talks when her commodities were affected. Unfortunately, the matter was not discussed but was deferred, as I think Senator Hendrickson said to-day, to 22nd March. The Six will have a lot of problems in admitting Australia if part of her trade is affected, because Canada’s trade or New Zealand’s trade in the selfsame items may be affected. I foresee very great difficulty being experienced by Britain in obtaining what Australia, as an exporter, wants. That is in the lap of the gods and some very capable men who are endeavouring on our behalf to see that we have a say when our export commodities are being discussed. I venture to say that Britain will join the Common Market; I think she must. I should say that negotiations will be almost completed by May or June next and that the details will be sorted out by the end of the year. I would not be the slightest bit surprised to see Britain become a member of the European Common Market by January or February next.
In his speech, the Governor-General referred also to television. I have had plenty to say in this chamber about television. I am still not convinced that the Government is right in not putting in at least a small, inexpensive translator as an experiment. All I have asked for is that one be installed as an experiment. I suggest that the perfect site at which to experiment would be York in Western Australia. Probably there are plenty of suitable sites in the other States, but that is the one which I, as a Western Australian, suggest. The figures I have obtained show that the landed cost at Fremantle would be quite reasonable. A small unit would cost approximately £4,000 and a big unit approximately £10,000. Even if the translator did not work satisfactorily, it would not have involved the expenditure of a terrific amount of money in the interests of those country people in Western Australia who have not got television and who will not have it until 1966. By expending this small amount of money, let us put in one of these stations and see how it goes. Three years ago, two hundred of them were working throughout the world, the majority being in America. Again on behalf of country people, I ask the Government and the Minister to consider trying one of these translators in Western Australia in order to provide a service for country people.
The Governor-General stated -
My Government has taken up with the State Premiers and with the Territorial authorities a proposition to establish a Water Resources
Council so that the greatest possible amount of basic information on Australian water resources can be scientifically secured and made available.
I am sure that every honorable senator will agree with that action. If Australia, which is probably the most arid continent in the world, is to sustain its growth - apart from manufacturing industries - and to expand its agricultural production, water is of paramount importance. I shall not weary the Senate by repeating some of the comments I have made on water resources. We must face the fact that ultimately we shall have to find some inexpensive method of desalting water, whether it be the brackish water that is found on some stations or sea water. We may finally have to turn to sea water, as other countries have had to do. There are 23 or 24 proved methods of desalting water. The only matter requiring consideration is the cost. I hope that the Water Resources Council will take this matter into consideration in relation to certain potentially rich areas. I cite the area between Adelaide and Perth, across what is known as the Nullarbor Plain. Going through that area after rain and seeing what it grows, one realizes that there is no limit to what can be produced there. I hope that that will be one facet to be inquired into by the council.
Because of Australia’s geographical position, we tend to become introspective and to look upon ourselves as being very important. It is not our fault that Australia is so situated geographically. We are far away from troubles which are possibly devastating to the countries concerned, and by the time they reach us they are like a tidal wave that has almost expended itself and has become only a ripple. I have had experience of that, for instance, in respect of communism. Any one who becomes very vocal in this place about communism is regarded as a crank or as trying to pull some political stunt. I know that some of my friends on both sides of the chamber have been to Taiwan. As I did, they probably even went across to Quemoy, from which one can see Communist guns 1,700 yards away. On occasions like that, one becomes appreciative of the problems of other countries. We are not isolated in relation to Asia, but we are isolated in relation to the Western world. We have an insular and sometimes a parochial outlook as a nation, lt has not the ingredients of a greater Australia. An attitude of insularity may, because of our geographical position, be more dangerous to us than it would be to others. Our position should make us doubly determined to avoid a narrow outlook on our own affairs and the limited perspective which that sort of outlook produces. That is why I have discussed the European Common Market, which is of such importance to the world, and especially to the Western world.
Because of our considerable national resources and the basic human material that is here, Australia has terrific potentialities for expansion and development and for playing a part in world affairs. We must not, because of our isolation, lose sight of this fact. We must positively cultivate a breadth of outlook extending beyond the very wide boundaries within which we live. It is my earnest hope that, despite the politics that creep into these matters-
– It is a shame that politics do creep into the debates, but we live in a world in which there are politics. It is my sincere hope that the measures that have been introduced to restore employment and to keep the country on the even keel established by the earlier measures, with our overseas reserves now in a much healthier position, will achieve their objective as quickly as possible. I support the motion.
– I, too, wish to pay my respects to the Governor-General and to endorse the remarks of my leader in regard to our loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen. We on this side of the chamber wholeheartedly subscribe to those sentiments. However, we know that the Governor-General is not responsible for the contents of the Speech that he makes to the Parliament. Therefore, in the time allotted to me, I intend to make some observations on some of the statements made in the Speech.
Senator Branson painted a very glowing picture of Australia’s economic affairs. He can make such a statement here and get away with it, but if he were to make it in many places in the State from which I come he would encounter quite a lot of contradiction, because industry is not as buoyant as it should be. I shall refer later to unemployment, but I want first to comment upon a statement attributed by Senator Branson to a Labour member of another place. Mr. Haylen did make the remark quoted by Senator Branson, but he was comparing the position in the 1940’s with the position in the 1930’s. He said that, considering that Labour had to rehabilitate and re-organize the whole of industry in Australia, 5 per cent, was a reasonable percentage - although it had to be grappled with - in comparison with the 18 per cent, unemployed that prevailed during the depression years under an anti-Labour government.
– And 27 per cent, under a Labour government.
– That was the position referred to by Mr. Haylen. Senator Branson said that we must have unemployment.
– I did not say that.
– Senator Branson said that he agreed with Mr. Monk, who stated that we must have li per cent, of unemployment. Senator Branson said that we must have unemployment amongst seasonal workers and because of the movement of labour from one industry to another.
– That is an entirely different proposition from the suggestion that I believe in unemployment.
– During the course of Senator Branson’s speech Senator Robertson interjected and said that there must be dead-end jobs. Senator Branson agreed with her.
– I want to know what you call a dead-end job.
– One in which there is no opportunity for promotion.
– 1 do not think there is a greater dead-end job than being a member of the Parliament during the last twelve years, because in that time the Parliament has done very little towards the development, success and progress of the Commonwealth. Those young lads who leave school and are employed in what Senator Robertson classes as a dead-end job make a great contribution towards the development of this country. Some of the soldiers who were decorated during the First World War and the Second World War came from industries which Senator Robertson and Senator Branson describe as dead-end industries. If you are a labourer, if you are working in the mines or on the railways, if you are building roads or engaged in obtaining the water about which Senator Branson cries so often, you are considered to be in a dead-end job.
– A dead-end job is one in which there is no chance of promotion.
– Promotion is all that Senator Branson thinks of. I should like honorable senators opposite to tell me what they mean by a dead-end job. Can they explain the term to me? The man who does work of the kind to which I have referred makes a contribution to the development of Australia as large as that made by any professional or technical worker. Australia could not be developed without the work of the men to whom I have referred. Some provision should be made by the Government to assist people who are forced to travel from one State to another seeking employment.
We know that mechanization in industry has led to unemployment all over the world. Senator Branson referred to the position in the United States of America. But for the arms race and the phony cold war, 20,000,000 people in the United States would be out of work because of mechanization. In my youth I was taught by my parents to believe that one day machines would do much of the hard work then being done by workers. I was taught that those machines would be a blessing to workers in Australia and elsewhere. But to-day machines are a curse in industry. This Government cannot find employment for the people who have been displaced by machines. To Senator Branson and Senator Robertson I say that there is no dead-end job. If a labourer is forced to retire a little sooner than he expected, he should receive the same treatment as has been meted out to the former chairman of the Public Service Board to whom I referred earlier to-day during question time. The worker who is forced to retire prematurely should be given economic and social security provided he has worked for as long as his health permitted. There should be no dead-end job. I remind the Senate that not all of us can be lawyers, doctors, technicians or professional men. There must be some workers. Honorable senators opposite do not think there should be any workers. They think that everybody should be a technician.
– I said that facilities should be provided for people to learn trades.
– The day of learning a trade is fast passing because with mechanization of production has come the chain system. If Senator Branson had ever delved into industry he would know what the chain system means. The chain system has brought about the displacement of technical men and tradesmen of all classes, not only in Australia but all over the world. The technician is becoming less and less in demand. Young lads leave school, take up a labourer’s job and become part of the chain. Technical men are not wanted. Over the years the Labour Party has striven to point out to the people who control the finances of the world that if they want to stave off communism and encourage a decent Christian way of life in the western world and elsewhere they must give some consideration to the problem of dealing with unemployment created by the advent of machinery.
In his speech Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan said that he believed in wisdom and not in numbers. This is one occasion when I may go part of the way towards agreeing with him. For the last twelve years we on this side of the chamber have had the wisdom and honorable senators opposite have had the numbers. To-day Australia faces financial ruin. Nobody can deny that for the past decade and longer all the wisdom has been on this side of the chamber. Before I conclude my remarks I will prove the truth of that statement to the satisfaction of even my wooden-headed friend, Senator Scott, who is interjecting. Honorable senators opposite have had the numbers. Even Senator Branson admits that prior to the recent election Australia was bankrupt. It was bankrupt also prior to 1939 when an anti-Labour government was in office. What was the attitude of this Government prior to the general election? How we on this side of the chamber were scorned! We were called pessimists. We were alleged to be looking for unemployment. We were told in this chamber on many occasions that there would not be any unemployment. But what is the position to-day? This Government is in office, not as a result of the democratic vote of the people, but because of connivance on unity tickets with the Communist Party and the Australian Democratic Labour Party. It misled the people. It sneaked in by the back door, using a key that somebody else had given to it. Mr. Calwell should be the Prime Minister to-day. If the people who were elected to this Parliament on the preferences of Communist candidates and who have been so opposed to the Communist Party in the past were to do the right thing, they would refuse to take their seats in the Parliament. In November last, Mr. Calwell delivered his policy speech. That speech was not prepared in Collinsstreet, Melbourne, or in Downing-street, London; it was prepared by Mr. Calwell and endorsed by the rank and file of the great Australian Labour Party. Mr. Menzies was forced to listen to it because he was in the dark as a consequence of the lights having failed in the hall in which he was to speak. He has been in the dark ever since. On the Friday following the delivery of Mr. Calwell’s policy speech a statement appeared in the Melbourne press claiming that if Mr. Calwell’s policy were given effect it would cost the people £300,000,000. On the following Monday, after Mr. Menzies had had time to think about the matter and to make calculations, he announced that to give effect to Mr. Calwell’s policy would cost the people of Australia £500,000,000. Over the weekend the estimate had increased by £200,000,000! The Prime Minister’s lieutenant, Mr. McEwen, held a different view. He said that to implement Mr. Calwell’s policy would cost the country in the vicinity of £300,000,000. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) - another great economist - said that the cost would be £270,000,000. Then the Minister who should have been able to estimate the cost calculated that it would be £240,000,000.
– What would it have cost?
– We told you, my friend, that if you had had suf ficient sense you would have listened to and accepted Labour’s policy. It would have cost in the vicinity of £180,000,000. We would have budgeted for a deficit, as the Government has to do now, to meet the urgent problem that had arisen. I will tell the Senate how it had arisen as I continue my speech. The promises that Mr. Calwell made to the people of Australia will be kept as soon as we come into control of the Treasury bench. That will not be in the far distant future.
– In September?
– It may be before that. Mr. Calwell’s policy is to give benefit to all the people of Australia, not just to sectional interests. The policy of the great Australian Labour Party is made by the men and women from all walks of life. They contribute to the making of the policy that we present to the people. Mr. Calwell is the mouthpiece. On the other hand we find that three of the most senior ministers from the Liberal Party differ by about £200,000,000 in their estimates. To-day, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner), when answering a question asked by a Government Senator, said in effect: “ You mentioned a figure of £15,000,000; it may be £85,000,000, 1 do not know.” What is in a few million pounds? That is what members of the Liberal Party think about it. There is a lot that Senator Spooner does not know about unemployment, too.
– How many elections .has the great Australian Labour Party lost in the last twelve years with its marvellous policy?
– The great Australian Labour Party is a party that is formed by the people of Australia to take away from the few who have the most and try to distribute to the many who have the least, and we have to put up with the filthy and insidious propaganda that has been used against our party since the turn of this century. I say to my friend who is laughing, Senator Vincent: Let him scorn and laugh at the performance of the Fisher Administration during the First World War and the Curtin and Chifley Administrations during the Second World
War. After the First World War an antiLabour administration ruined the economy of this country, and similar administrations have done the same thing after the Second World War.
– Ask them how many governments the Liberal Party has formed on its own.
– The Liberal Party has never won an election on its own; it has used everything at its disposal to form governments.
The Governor-General, in his Speech, mentioned the United Nations. The policy of the Australian Labour Party is that we support the United Nations 100 per cent. We had the pleasure of having our Minister for External Affairs as one of the first chairmen of the United Nations.
– He was the chap who sold out Manus Island, was he not?
– I will talk to the interjector about Manus Island if he wishes me to. Let me remind him that this Government has been in office for thirteen years and I was ashamed recently when I heard Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan say what we had on Manus Island. Had the Labour Party been in power, that island would have been in a different condition to-day.
– That was its condition at the time when we took it over.
– You told us what was on Manus Island to-day.
– No, I told you what happened in 1949.
– The Labour Party’s policy is 100 per cent, support of the United Nations. I say to the Senate that we have to look to our laurels at the United Nations. We do not want to send to that organization people who put up subversive propositions so that all of the delegates, with the exception of four or five, walk out of the General Assembly. Our party might be called upon to hold a very responsible position in this Parliament again. We will hold further responsible positions after 1st July next. We might be asked for the Prime Minister to be given a pair to enable him to go overseas. My attitude will be this: If he goes overseas and is silent, yes; if he is going to do as he did on the Suez question, at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference in London and at the United Nations, no, he does not get a pair.
We wholeheartedly support the United Nations. I hope and trust that it will be successful. The people who are against the admission of mainland China to the United Nations to-day are making a very sad error. Russia has vetoed many of the proposals put forward at the United Nations, and mainland China probably would do the same; but I venture to say that the day will come when it will be a matter not of the people of mainland China asking for admission to the United Nations, but of the United Nations asking mainland China to join it. Therefore, our delegate, Mr. Plimsoll, when he goes to the United Nations, should be instructed to vote the same way as the representative of the United Kingdom has voted, namely, for mainland China to be admitted to the United Nations.
– What would you do with Formosa?
– Asking that question is just like asking, “ What will the elephant do to the ant? “ That is just what it amounts to. There are about 2,000,000 Chinese and 8,000,000 nationals on Formosa, compared with about 670,000,000 persons on the mainland of China. Are you going to lose all those people and accept the 2,Q00,000 people who are kept on Formosa by certain interests that I do not want to mention at the moment?
– You are not going to hand over the Formosans, a freedom-loving people, are you?
– I know how free they are and how free the slaves of China were under Chiang Kai-shek. Do not tell me anything about him.
– What do you know about slaves?
– I know more than you do. I do not get my information from where you get yours. When I hear my Fascist friend, Senator-
– I object to the word “ Fascist “, Mr. Acting Deputy President.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McKellar). - Order! Senator
Hannan has objected to your using the word “ Fascist “, Senator Hendrickson. I ask you to withdraw it.
– If he says that he objects, I will withdraw it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. -
Order! I call on you to withdraw it.
– Yes, that is right.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT.-
Order! I call on you to withdraw it.
Senator HENDRICKSON__ I said, “ Yes,
I will “. I thought he was a Fascist; but if he says that he is not, he is not.
– Mr. Acting Deputy President, that is not a proper withdrawal. The expression is still offensive to me. I ask that the honorable senator withdraw it because I know that really he does not mean it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT.-
Order! Senator Hendrickson, you will withdraw unreservedly.
– With all due respect to you, Mr. Acting Deputy President, and my Com. baiter, Senator Hannan, I withdraw the remark.
I also listened to Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan when he mentioned Mr. Calwell’s alleged statement on the West New Guinea problem.
– “ Alleged statement “? Cut the “ alleged “ out.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. -
– Honorable senators opposite interject, but I have to withdraw. I suggest that members of the Government parties should get together and prepare a constitution, so that they would have one, as we have. The policy of the Australian Labour Party on West New Guinea is as follows: -
The Labour Party asserts that the only people who have the right to determine the future of the island of New Guinea are its indigenous people. The United Nations holds that the inhabitants of the Trust Territory of New Guinea are not yet ready to govern themselves. The Labour Party believes this to be true of the inhabitants of the rest of the island. The Labour Party . . . will support and co-operate in the efforts of the United Nations to resolve the present dispute over West New Guinea so as to avoid armed conflict.
What better and clearer statement could be made?
– Now read your policy on socialism.
– You would not know what socialism meant.
– We never hear much about it from you.
– If Senator Vincent made a little study of the true principles of socialism, he might then be over on this side of the chamber, because I remind him that socialism is real Christianity.
Senator Sir Neil Osullivan said that Mr. Calwell said that the Menzies Government had completely neglected the defences of Australia and had wasted almost £2,600,000,000. No words of mine can indicate how precarious is Australia’s position because of the wanton waste.
As far as New Guinea is concerned, Mr. Calwell accused the Government of failing to take any diplomatic initiative to rally support amongst the nations who subscribed to the United Nations Charter, and he accused the Government also of complete ineptitude in seeking the support of Great Britain or the United States. To accuse Mr. Calwell of being a warmonger is plain stupidity. Nobody in his right senses would be silly enough to place that one in Mr. Calwell’s basket. If any one has ever preached against direct action in the form of war, it has been our worthy leader, Arthur Calwell. As he rightly says, the only war in which he is interested is a war against the no-hope Menzies Government for its mishandling of both the foreign and domestic affairs of the Australian nation. That is the only war about which he is concerned.
Some of our friends will agree with the statement of the Governor-General that there is a great danger from aggressive communism in South-East Asia. We all realize that. If there is any body opposed to communism in Australia, it is the great Australian Labour Party. We are the only people who ever fight communism. Later on I will say what I think the Australian Government should do at the United Nations and within the European Common
Market to see that communism does not infiltrate any further the places into which it is going now.
– That is a unity ticket situation.
– The honorable senator mentions a unity ticket. Let me tell him that the person who won the fifth place for Victoria in the last Senate election will come into this Senate as a result of receiving Communist preference votes. There was a unity ticket between the Liberals and the Communists. The same thing happened in Moreton in Queensland. Mr. Killen is here because of Communist preference votes. Yet honorable senators opposite talk about unity tickets! Members of my party have never been elected to the Parliament on Communist preference votes. On the other hand, Senator McCallum came here as a result of receiving 85 per cent. of the preference votes of those who supported the late Jim Healy. We know that there is a unity of purpose between the Liberal Party, the Country Party, the Communist Party and the Democratic Labour Party. Each has the same aim - the destruction of the working class.
The Governor-General spoke about our economy. He is a stranger to Australia, and in making his Speech in this chamber he read something that had been prepared for him by officers of the Government. He does not realize - nor, apparently, do honorable senators opposite - that to-day we are faced with financial ruin after thirteen years of rule by anti-Labour Governments. During that time we have had the best seasons and the best prices that this country has ever known, but what is the position to-day? We have borrowed money from every country from which Harold Holt could get it, yet we have finished up with 200,000 people unemployed or working short-time. What must we have before we can have prosperity?
– The Menzies Government.
- Senator, I told you that the Menzies Government had been in office for thirteen years and that during that time we had enjoyed the best possible seasons and the best possible prices for our products, but we are broke. We now have 200,000 people either unemployed or working short time. The Government has borrowed from every part of the world. If you mentioned to Harold Holt a place where he could get acleaner to-morrow, he would be on a plane and on his way there very quickly.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator is not in order in referring to the Treasurer as Harold Holt.
– What will I call him?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - The honorable senator knows very well the manner in which he should refer to the Treasurer.
– Well, I shall refer to him as the member for Higgins. When Labour went out of office in 1949, it left Australia with a decent economy. This country then had one of the best economics of the Western world.
– With ration tickets!
– No butter, no sugar!
– No petrol!
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order!
– I do not mind, Sir. I was a warder in a lunatic asylum for six months. I am used to this. I can control them, even if it is a matter of putting them in handcuffs.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! Will you please continue with your speech and stop uttering provocative remarks?
- Mr. Acting Deputy President, I am amazed. I said that the Labour Government left this country with an economy which was second to none in the Western world. That was brought about only because the Labour Government had a plan. No government and no business organization can carry on successfully without a plan.
– Have you had a plan over the last twelve years?
– Why do you not name Senator Scott for interjecting, Mr. Acting Deputy President? I cannot make my speech. You tell me that I am making provocative statements.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! Senator Hendrickson, you are entitled to protection, which you will receive, but you are not entitled to compare the proceedings in the Senate with what goes on in a lunatic asylum, as you did a little while ago. Those were the remarks which I referred to as being provocative. I ask honorable senators to give Senator Hendrickson the hearing to which he is entitled.
– As I was saying, a government must have a plan. No government can carry on without one. I remember quite well the late John Curtin saying in 1941 or early in 1942 that we were faced with one of the greatest crises the world has ever known. He was referring to the Second World War. He said -
The Treasury is empty. The soldiers are unarmed. We have to organize 100 per cent, for the prosecution of the war, but as sure as night follows day peace must follow the war. We have to organize for the peacetime era.
The Labour Government did that. The rehabilitation of our soldiers after the Second World War was the result of a great effort by the Chifley-Curtin Administration - an effort which will always be remembered by the people of Australia. The Labour Government was able to do what it did because it had a plan.
This Government, however, has had no plan. The Lord has been good. He has sent good seasons and we have been able to obtain good prices for our products, yet to-day we are faced with financial ruin. That is because of the maladministration of this Government. It does one thing today and the opposite to-morrow. There are businessmen in the State from which I come who invested their hard-earned money in industries. They made plans to develop their industries, but overnight, by imposing restrictions, the Government caused them to close down. Then, twelve months after imposing the restrictions, the Government lifted them and somebody else went ahead. I remember, when I was in America in 19S9, that I met a businessman from Melbourne. He had bought some goods, the entry of which into Australia was restricted at that time because of import controls. He said to me, “You are a member of Parliament. When these goods get to Australia, it is probable that the import controls will have been lifted.” They were lifted within three months. What was the result? This businessman had a factory in Melbourne which had been working three shifts a day but he had to revert to two shifts a day, working only four days a week. The Government’s policy has been to apply controls to-day and take them off to-morrow. No business can operate successfuly under those conditions.
With the lifting of import controls, there has been a flood of imports. I refer to articles such as canned fruits, canned chicken, chocolates, biscuits and frogs’ legs. All these things have been coming into this country at a time when we are striving to build up our exports for the sake of our existence. I say that the position is wrong and that the Government has a responsibility to rectify it. The Government had no right to let it happen. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has now appointed Sir Frank Meere to rectify our trade balances and control the imports and exports of this country. I have known Frank Meere for more than twenty years. He is a very, very capable officer. He did a magnificent job, first in the Division of Import Procurement, and later as ComptrollerGeneral of Customs.
– Is he as good as Johnny Meere?
– Yes, but he is no Argus the boy wonder. He is no extraordinary man; he is no man to pit his ability against the incapabilities of the members of the present Cabinet. I say that Sir Frank Meere has no right to be called upon to say what is to come into this country and what is to go out, who is to progress in business and who is to go under. The country to-day, from a secondary industries point of view, is at a very low ebb. It is in a bad position and the Government should be doing something to rectify this position. Now I want to refer to the European Common Market.
– Not again!
– She thinks it is a racehorse! Well, it is not a racehorse; it is something in which we should be very vitally interested, senator, and I wish you would take some interest in it, because you will have to do so as time goes on.
– What price is it?
– From you, sir, that is a provocative interjection. The European Common Market is very important, as Senator Branson has said, but the Government has not shown much concern about it over the past five or six years. I asked questions about it here five years ago. When I received my information I did not know whether it was correct. The only place I can go to in Australia to see whether my information is correct is this Parliament. When I addressed questions on the subject to Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan, who was the Leader of the Government in the Senate at that time, he said, “ If you want any information on the European Common Market, go and look it up in the Library “. That was easy for the honorable senator to say. Then, when I asked questions of the present Leader of the Government (Senator Spooner), he said that the matter was not serious and the Government did not intend to do anything about it at the moment. All those questions and answers are recorded in “ Hansard “, yet the Governor-General, the Leader of the Government, Senator Branson, and all other honorable senators on the Government side are now most interested in the European Common Market. Senator Branson spoke on it for a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes but he did not mention anything about Australia’s position in relation to it. We know that it is beneficial to those six countries that joined the Economic Community, but Senator Branson said nothing at all about Australia. He did say that England did not want to join the Common Market in 1957 when she had an opportunity to do so. England did not want to join because at that time she thought she might be able to survive the economic pressure that was on her at the time. There are many people who have forgotten the gallantry of the soldiers of England in the wars of both 1914-18 and 1939-45. They have been let down by many people, and when they are wanted again they probably will not be there and those people who are now prepared to accept some other way of life will be very sorry.
Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan said that the European Common Market would cost Australia in the vicinity of £150,000,000 or £170,000,000. He said, “That is a small price to pay for peace “. What I want to know is, first, who told the honorable senator that it would cost us £150,000,000 or £170,000,000 and, secondly, who told him that it would give us an assured peace.
– I went to the Library.
– If that is in the Library, I accept your statement as being correct.
– You will find it there.
– You arc the only person whom I have heard say it. 1 have heard many people, including Senator Branson, say that it will be decided whether Australia will be allowed to join the Common Market. Because of our geographic position it is impossible for Australia to be a member.
– I did not say a member.
– Let me put it this way. England to-day is forced, economically and politically, to go into the European Economic Community. Any one, either on the treasury bench or elsewhere, who believes that England can protect our future when she goes into the Common Market has got another thought coming. No person who is forced to go into an organization can call the tune of the organization. Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan then said that if England goes in she will be the leader of the United States of Europe. Did you ever hear such a ridiculous and stupid remark?
– There is a section of thought in England that take the opposite view.
– Yes, that section which welcomed with open arms the German army when it walked into England. The position is that under the European economic agreement there will eventually be no tariffs on the exchange of goods between the six or seven countries that will belong to the European Common Community. Also, there will be an exchange of labour between those countries and they will have almost similar standards of living. I hope that the standard in those countries goes up to the English standard of living. What I want to know, and what I have been asking members of the Government for many years, is what are they doing to try to help England?
– Why not use the term United Kingdom instead of England?
– What is the Government doing to help the United Kingdom bring about the success of the European Common Market? It has done nothing. I have been told that it is too early to interfere.
– What can we do, anyhow?
– There you are! He is answering for the Government. You are doing nothing because you have not got the will. To-day, we are receiving preferences from the United Kingdom in the sale of our wheat, dairy products, dried fruits, canned fruits and sugar. When this market is operating, as it will be soon, to 100 per cent, capacity, what will become of this country’s primary products?
– We all want to know that.
– What has your Government been doing to find markets for our primary products?
– It is doing some pretty constructive work.
– No, honorable senators opposite do not mention that, though I want to come to it shortly. During the election campaign I was in Sale, in Gippsland, on a Tuesday night when the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) was given a civic reception. Sir Herbert Hyland, the Leader of the Country Party in Victoria, was present and said -
I am glad to be in Gippsland tonight because the Deputy Prime Minister is here and he is going to tell the electors of Gippsland the policy of his Government on the European Common Market.
I thought, “ I have been asking questions about this matter; I shall go to the meeting to hear the answers “. But all that the Deputy Prime Minister said, in effect, was this: “ I must refer now to the matter of the European Common Market. You know, we have a policy on the European Common Market, but the policy is one of business. We are in business and you do not let your enemy in business know what you are doing in business; therefore, that is all I am going to say about the European Common Market.” That report appears in the Sale newspaper. Do honorable senators on the Government side realize that for thirteen years we have been warning them of this situation?
– You were in government thirteen years ago.
– Don’t be silly! Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. We have been warning the Government since 1949 that a day of reckoning would come, and now it has come. I want to know the attitude of the Government to the disposal of our primary products that are out-priced on world markets. To-day, the basic wage for farm workers is about £15 a week, but high wages are no good unless they buy more goods than could be bought with wages in previous times. The £15 a week to-day will not buy as much as £5 a week did under the Chifley Administration, before the general election in 1949.
The Minister for Health (Senator Wade) laughed at me when I asked a question some time ago about the price of wheat land. He said I was making a foolish statement when I said that wheat land sold for £100 an acre.
– I was right, too.
– You were wrong. Wheat land at Tarrawingee sold for £100 an acre. Senator Wade is a Country Party Minister who is supposed to know something about the land. As we know, Mr. President, land is worth only its productive capacity in normal times. Near Leongatha, in Gippsland, during the recent general election campaign I saw a cheque for £1,1 00-odd which a primary producer had received for the yield from 130 acres of land. That kind of thing is wrong. Dairying land is to-day bringing as much as £150 and £160 an acre. What are we to do with our dairy products when the United Kingdom and other countries are able to buy dairy products from Denmark, a country which is just across the river, so to speak, and which has a basic wage of about £4 a week?
I want the Government to tell the Parliament what it intends to do. A great many primary producers are waiting to hear what the Government proposes. They are fearful of the possibilities. What are we to do with our wheat? The Government should remember that we shall not always have China as a backstop. China unfortunately has experienced droughts, but when normal seasons return in that country she will not want Australian wheat, any more than Russia wants it. Who will stabilize the price of our wheat then? The same question may be asked about our dried fruits. Do honorable senators opposite realize that dried fruits, for which we at present enjoy preference in the United Kingdom, will be supplied from the Mediterranean areas at half the price? What is going to become of our dried fruit industry, and what will become of our fruit canning industry? The United States of America will supply canned fruit at cheaper rates because she will subsidize the production of that commodity from her armaments profits, thus making possible sales to the United Kingdom at lower rates.
– Have you a solution?
– I have a solution. The days ahead look very dark for the people of Australia, but we are not pessimists. The one hope for this country is to change the Government and place a Labour government on the treasury bench. If that is done, we of the Labour Party will restore the economy and repair the damage that has been done since Labour was foolishly removed from office in 1949.
I have listened to the Leader of the Government in the Senate say that the matter is not serious. In 1957, when I was a delegate to a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference, I met the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Macmillan Government, Mr. HeathcoatAmory. I was looking for information and I said to him, “Can you tell me what England’s attitude to the future European Common Market arrangements is going to be? “ He said - and for confirmation of this I refer honorable senators to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) - “ Senator, whichever party is in government in England in the future will be forced to join the European Common Market “. That was in 1957. The following night I went to see Mr. Gaitskell, the leader of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, and I said to him, “If you are elected to office at the 1959 elections, what is going to be England’s attitude to the European Common Market? “ He said, “ Whoever is in government in England at that time. Senator, will be forced to join the European Common Market “.
I came back to Australia, which will be vitally affected by the Common Market, to be told that it was of no consequence. No heed at all of its importance was taken. I agree with Senator Branson that the Common Market will probably be the means of preserving the peace of the world in the future, but what is the good of peace if people starve to death before it is achieved? What is the good of our getting down to the standards of living that exist in many countries overseas to-day? We hear people say that such countries are democratic. There is no democracy in them. This Government should have done as I asked it to do five years ago. It should have convened a conference of manufacturers, primary producers, importers, exporters and representatives of the trade union movement to devise ways and means to assist England, our Mother Country, when she was forced into the European Common Market. What was I told then? I was told by Senator Spooner, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, that it was not practicable, that it could not be done. To-day, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has been forced to do that. He has convened conferences with representatives of the interests to which I have referred. If we had had a Labour government, those conferences would have been called much earlier and we would not be in the trouble that we find ourselves in to-day because of the advent of arrangements overseas which, I think, will provide peace and security in our lifetime and that of our children.
I wish to touch lightly on the references in the Governor-General’s Speech to immigration. The immigration policy that is now being followed by this Government was initiated by the Chifley Labour Government. The first Minister for Immigration was the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). We set out on a planned migration programme, but although the present Government has continued the programme so far as numbers are concerned, it has not carried out the plan to provide productive work, proper accommodation and economic security for the migrants. Two or three months ago, I was asked to go to Bonegilla Migrant Camp, where there had been a riot. At the camp there were Yugoslavs, Germans, Italians and people of other nationalities. They had rioted against the authorities. I want to say that I do not think two more sympathetic men towards migrants could be found in the whole of Australia than the man in charge of labour there and the man in charge of the migrant camp. They have done everything possible to assist the migrants. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill gives effect, first, to an undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the joint policy speech on 15th November, 1961, to reduce the period of residence in Australia required to qualify for an age pension and, secondly, to a statement made by the Prime Minister, on 6th February last, that the rates of unemployment benefit for adults and married beneficiaries and their dependants would be increased. The bill also reduces the residence requirements for invalid pensions where the invalidity occurred outside Australia except during temporary absence, bringing them into line with the new age pension provisions, and it introduces a new and simple formula for dealing with cases where continuity of residence is broken by absences. Further, it raises the rates of sickness benefit to the new increased rates for unemployment benefit.
Under the existing legislation, a person is residentially qualified for an age pension if he is residing in Australia on the date on which he lodges his claim for a pension and has been continuously so resident for a period of not less than twenty years. This twenty-year period need not necessarily occur immediately prior to the date on which he lodges his claim. Certain periods of absence count as residence in Australia. Those are: Absences due to war; absences during which the claimant was treated as a resident of Australia for income tax purposes; and absences during which the claimant’s home remained in Australia and the claimant continued to maintain a family. The bill will reduce the required period of continuous residence in Australia for age pensioners from twenty to ten years and will leave as at present the provisions relating to absences of the kind I have just mentioned.
There is, however, another involved provision under which certain claimants who have not resided in Australia for twenty years continuously, but who first arrived in Australia more than twenty years before claiming pension, may qualify for an age pension. Their eligibility is determined by a formula under which, if the total of the periods of their residence exceeds eighteen years, a period of “ notional “ residence is calculated, equal to the sum of a period of two years and a period equal to one-half of the period by which the total of the periods of residence exceeds eighteen years. The claimant is then deemed to have been resident in Australia during any period or periods of absence not exceeding, in all, that period of “ notional “ residence. Where the periods of absence are sufficiently bridged by this means and the periods of actual and “ notional “ residence together form a continuous period of twenty years, he is deemed to satisfy the residence qualification.
In addition to reducing by one-half the qualifying period of residence for age pension, the bill removes this complicated formula for calculating “ notional “ residence which I have just outlined. A more liberal and easily understood provision is substituted in its stead. The proposal is that as a person’s total residence in Australia, including absences treated as residence, rises above ten years, so the period of continuous residence required is reduced below ten years by a period equal to the excess of residence above ten years, subject to a minimum period of five years’ continuous residence. In this way a person with eleven years’ actual residence would qualify if he had nine years’ continuous residence and a person with twelve years’ actual residence would qualify if he had eight years’ continuous residence. This progression continues until the stage is reached where a person with fifteen years’ residence would require only five years’ continuous residence to qualify for age pension.
As honorable senators know, an invalid pension is now payable in general after five years* residence in Australia if the applicant became permanently incapacitated for work or permanently blind in Australia or during a temporary absence, and it is not proposed to alter that position. It is intended, however, to relax the conditions under which a person who became permanently incapacitated for work or permanently blind outside Australia, other than during a temporary absence, is required to have a total of twenty years’ residence in Australia in order to be treated as having become permanently incapacitated for work or permanently blind in Australia.
Following the pattern adopted for age pensions, the Government decided to reduce to ten years’ continuous residence the condition enabling a claimant to be treated as having become permanently incapacitated for work or permanently blind in Australia if his incapacity occurred outside Australia. The period of continuous residence required will be reduced by the period of total residence in Australia in excess of ten years until the position is reached that a person with fifteen years’ actual residence will be deemed to have become permanently incapacitated for work or permanently blind while in Australia if he has resided here continuously for five years. This is the minimum period of continuous residence that will enable a person to qualify. lt is conceivable, though highly improbable, that a person could satisfy the existing residence requirements while failing to meet the conditions in the bill. Should this unlikely position arise, a claimant who satisfied these existing conditions immediately before the commence ment of the new provisions will, if and when he qualifies in all other respects, be granted an act-of-grace payment at the rate of pension otherwise payable, until he satisfies the new requirements.
I now come to the second important feature of the bill, namely, the increase in benefit rates for adults and married minors and their dependants. For an adult or married minor, the rate of unemployment or sickness benefit will be increased by 7s. 6d. to £4 2s. 6d. a week; the additional benefit for a dependent spouse or unpaid housekeeper will be raised by 7s. 6d. to £3 a week; and the additional benefit for the first child will be increased by 2s. 6d. to 15s. a week.
In addition, an important new principle is introduced. This is the proposal to pay additional benefit, at 15s. a week, for each child of a beneficiary other than the first. An additional payment is already being made for the first child and, as I have mentioned, it will be increased to 15s. a week. So this amount of additional benefit will, in future, be paid for each child. This is an advance in the social service field, and it will greatly improve the circumstances of the unemployed or temporarily incapacitated members of the work force who have family responsibilities. Let us take, for example, the case of a married man with three children. The benefit payable to him will be raised under the bill by £2 7s. 6d. to £9 7s. 6d. a week. The benefit available to a married man with five children will in future be £10 17s. 6d. a week, representing an increase of £3 17s. 6d. a week. Child endowment will, of course, remain payable. So a man, wife and three children will receive £10 12s. 6d. a week by way of benefit and endowment and a married man with five children will receive £13 2s. 6d. a week.
For obvious reasons it has been necessary to provide that a reduction in the rate of additional benefit may be made where some other Commonwealth pension or benefit, other than child endowment, is being paid in respect of a child. The circumstances in which such a reduction will occur are detailed in clause 6 of the bill. What I have said- concerning unemployment and sickness benefits will apply also to special benefits payable to persons not eligible for other social service benefits and who. because of special circumstances, are unable to earn a sufficient livelihood for themselves or their dependants.
Mr. President, the bill before the Senate illustrates the continuity of the Government’s policy of improving the whole of the social services system as and when financial considerations allow. In this instance we have on the one hand an amendment to a legislative provision which has operated for some SO years, and on the other hand we find improvements to legislation approved by this Senate not six months past. The bill will benefit many classes of persons, both native-born Australians and those who have come to us as migrants. It could be said, in fact, that the alteration in pension qualifications will in general benefit migrants more than it will natural-born Australians, who would generally be in a better position to satisfy the existing residence conditions.
It is intended that the new provisions regarding residence shall come into operation immediately the act receives the Royal Assent. Since unemployment and sickness benefits are paid in respect of weekly periods, the bill has been worded so that all eligible persons will be entitled to a full week’s benefit, according to their particular benefit period, on and from 1st March. In other words, the higher rates of benefit will begin to accrue from seven days prior to 1st March but the extra payment for the relevant period will be made on or after that date.
It is difficult to give to the Senate precise estimates of the additional cost of the proposals in the bill. It is estimated, however, that if all those qualifying by residence for pensions under the new provisions were qualified in all other respects the additional cost for 1962-63 would be some £3,000,000 rising to some £10,000,000 in 1969-70. However, some of those qualified by residence will not be qualified in such other respects as means or nationality. The actual additional expenditure should, on the estimates for 1962-63, be somewhat less than that mentioned and may approximate £2,250,000. For the rest of the current financial year the cost will probably not be less than £700,000.
Similarly, a precise figure cannot be put on the additional cost of the increased unemployment and sickness benefits. On present indications, however, the additional cost for the remainder of 1961-62 will also approximate £700,000.
Our total expenditure on social services is now approaching £1,000,000 a day . The Government will, however, continue the policy it has followed throughout its term of office and again review the whole field of social services during consideration of the 1962-63 Budget proposals. I shall circulate an explanatory note on this somewhat complicated provision relating to qualification by residence.
I commend the bill to the Senate.
Sitting suspended from 5.53 to 8 p.m.
.- The bill before the Senate contains two main provisions. It provides for a reduction in the general residence qualification for age pensions from twenty years continuous residence to ten years continuous residence. In addition the bill deals with the residential qualifications of persons who become permanently incapacitated or blind while outside Australia. In their case the period of residence in Australia will be reduced to ten years. The bill also will increase unemployment and sickness benefits.
The bill varies the method by which a person’s period of residence in Australia may be calculated. The second-reading speech delivered by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) was couched in somewhat legal terms. In simple language that a layman may understand, if a person resides in Australia intermittently for, say, twelve years, he qualifies for an age pension if during that time he resides continuously in Australia for eight years. If he is here intermittently for thirteen years but resides continuously for a period of at least seven years, he qualifies for an age pension. If he resides here intermittently for fourteen years, I presume that he would qualify for a pension as long as he had one period of continuous residence of six years. If a person resides here intermittently for fifteen years he must have one period of continuous residence of at least five years in order to qualify for the pension. Certain periods of absence from Australia count as residence. These include absence due to war service and absence of a seaman outside Australia but who is regarded as a resident for purposes of taxation and who maintains his wife and family here. The same provisions will apply to a widow who may be outside Australia provided she is maintaining her children here or, if she has no children, provided she is regarded as a resident for income tax purposes.
One may say that this bill is a big step forward insofar as it affects newcomers to this country. Immigrants began to arrive here in large numbers in 1947 and many newcomers to this country will have attained or soon will attain the necessary ten years residential qualification. This bill will be of tremendous assistance to many migrants who came to Australia in the heyday of the migration scheme instituted by a Labour government and continued by the current Administration, although not at present with the success that attended the scheme in former years. Perhaps blame should not be attached to anybody in particular for the scheme not being as successful to-day as it was in the past. Probably the European Common Market is providing jobs for people in Europe who otherwise may have desired to come to Australia. The Common Market negotiations also may be influencing people from Great Britain not to come here. If I may digress for a moment, in my opinion one of the main causes of trouble with the migration scheme to-day is the fact that homes have not been built for newcomers to this country. However, that is not a matter pertinent to the bill.
The provisions outlined in the bill are rather amazing. I remember Senator Cooke - I hope he will pardon me for referring to his remarks - on 26th September, 1961, moving -
That . . . the House of Representatives be requested to amend section 21 of the principal act by omitting from paragraph (b) of sub-section (1) the words “ twenty years “ and inserting in their stead the words “ ten years “.
As regards persons who have reached the age of 65 years and who have resided for ten years in this country, Senator Cooke’s proposal would have achieved as much as
this bill will achieve. It is interesting to recall Senator Spooner’s remarkable reply to Senator Cooke’s proposal. He said -
The Government is not prepared to adopt the procedure of referring this matter to the Committee of the Whole. A major matter of policy is involved. No provision is made for it in the Government’s programme for social services this year and, therefore, we are not prepared to facilitate the procedure suggested.
That was on 26th September last year - only a few short months before 9th December, a date so fateful to many Government supporters. Suddenly, down comes the bill. It is true that this proposal was mentioned in the Prime Minister’s policy speech; but surely if a proposal is good in February, 1962, it could not have been so bad as to cause all of the Government senators, without exception, to vote against it in September, 1961.
One wonders, of course, what prompted this legislation. One expects to hear the Government say that it was prompted because the Prime Minister told the people of Australia that if the Government was returned it would implement this proposal. While that may be one reason, I believe that the events that happened on or about 9th December last prompted this legislation. I am amazed to think that a proposal was so wrong in September that in division all the Government senators voted against it, and now it has great virtue just because the Prime Minister puts it in his policy speech or, for that matter, because the Leader of the Opposition does so, as he did. Does it mean that the position to-day is that you cannot help the people although you believe the proposal is right? From what one hears, it had been discussed in certain Government circles even before 9th December. The Government did not see that it was a good measure at that juncture. Why? Am I right in saying that it was because the proposal was made by a Labour senator? It could not have been so wrong in September if it is so good now. That is one of the remarkable features of this part of the bill. I am glad that it has come at last. I am certain that we would have been happier and the people who could have claimed under it would have been better pleased had they been able to claim under it in September; but seemingly that was not to be done.
Another portion of the bill deals with the increase in unemployment and sickness benefit. One wonders what prompts this increase. Are the consciences of members of the Government starting to hurt because the measures they introduced in February, 1960, in November, 1960, and in the famous credit squeeze that was imposed in April or May last year caused such a tremendous increase in the number of unemployed people in Australia? Or does it not matter what they said last year or what they did not do last year, because their main purpose at present is to remain on the right of the Speaker, and to that end they will do anything at all; they will take any facet of Labour policy if that gives them an extra breather? I believe that I am fortified in those remarks by what the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) said last Wednesday night.
– Tell us a bit about the Labour Party in New South Wales.
– I made a remark to you last year when you asked that famous question about the donkey. I would like you to keep in that class, but do not keep braying at the present time. What-
– Wh - , wh - , wh - , what-
- Mr. President, I take strong exception to that. I think it is the lowest thing that has ever been done in the Parliament in my 22 years in politics.
– What you said or what I said?
– I hope that, whatever we may differ about and whatever may happen, we will not see that sort of thing again. You are filthy, and I say it to you.
– And you are filthy, and I say it to you.
– Order! I call Senator Kennelly.
– I ask myself whether this portion of the measure has been introduced because on 8th August last, in dealing with the economic and un employment position in Australia, the Prime Minister is reported as saying -
Basically, the trouble is that calamity howlers are always trying to persuade the people that the worst is yet to come. The Government’s economic policy has worked.
Even at that time 110,000 people were out of work. It seems to me that the only way that members of the Government can hope to retain their present positions is to take certain portions of the Labour Party’s policy in the hope that that will take them over the troubled times until they can breathe freely again. I am speaking of them as a government, not personally. One wonders whether we are coming to a stage in the political life of this nation where men, in order to retain their political places and power, will adopt any policy. In view of what the Government is doing at the moment and what it has done in the past, one can only say that it is a long time since we have seen such legislative somersaults as we are seeing and hearing at the present time; that is, if we ever have seen them before.
– What about Labour’s promise not to nationalize anything for three years?
– I answered that question the other night. You should know - I believe you do - that Labour cannot do that without the support of the people at a referendum. In the years immediately ahead Labour wants the amendments to the Constitution that were agreed upon, unanimously in the vast majority of cases, by the Constitutional Review Committee that was set up by this Government. If we get that, we will be perfectly happy for the period that we have made a contract with the people of this nation. One has no need to be worried about an interjection like that.
The second amendment of the act proposed by this legislation is an increase of unemployment and sickness benefits. The benefit received by an adult or a married minor is to be increased from £3 15s. to £4 2s. 6d. a week. A wife who is in the unfortunate position of being the breadwinner of her family will receive a similar increase. The benefit paid in respect of a first child will rise from 12s. 6d. to 15s. a week, and 15s. a week will be paid also in respect of each additional dependent child. The Labour Party welcomes increases of these benefits. The history of these matters since the early days of federation is that the Labour Party, when in office, has carried out its policy of increasing benefits and, when in opposition, by constant agitation has secured increases for beneficiaries from Liberal governments in positions similar to that in which the present Government finds itself to-day.
The Government will do anything to retain office. It hopes that despite the stopandstart policy it has followed in recent years, an improvement of the economic position, plus, one could say, the effects of a redistribution of electoral boundaries and seats in another place, will give it an opportunity to take its courage in its hands and see whether it can do any better in the future than it did up to the last election. However, whenever the Government says “Go”, the Labour Party is prepared to let the people have a further say.
Apparently the Government thinks that an age and invalid pensioner should receive £5 5s. a week. The Opposition believes that the Government should be prepared to pay at least a similar amount of benefit to an adult or a married minor who is out of work. It takes much more to keep a young person in food and clothing than it does to keep an age or invalid pensioner. An unemployed person has to pay fares in travelling round, trying to find work, just as he has to pay fares when he obtains work. The Government decided to amend the social services legislation, and it should have done the job properly by helping unemployed persons more than is proposed in this bill.
I admit that the administration of the department is not easy. I have read that an unemployed person with five children - I hope the Minister will correct me if I am wrong - can receive up to £11 a week, taking child endowment into consideration.
– A person with four children.
– With four children, is it? It is right that unemployed persons should desire to obtain jobs, and I have no reason to think that they do not. Only one case has been brought under my notice of the Department of Labour and National Service striking the name of a person off the books at a labour exchange because it was alleged that the person was not doing his best to find a job. I hope that widespread unemployment will be shortlived, and I hope also that during the period when we have widespread unemployment those who administer the department will not place upon an unemployed person the onus of showing that he has tried to find a job for himself. He has an obligation to look for a job, but I do not think his name should be struck off the list of those receiving benefits if he cannot give satisfactory answers to questions about where he has looked. What is a satisfactory answer? I live in an industrial suburb, and to-day I passed some of the factories in that suburb - I do not say all of them. Previously there were signs on the fronts of many factories stating that so many men were wanted, but to-day those signs are not there. I do not think the department would desire employers or their secretaries or foremen to issue an applicant for a job with a certificate to the effect that he had applied, but I do not know of any other satisfactory manner of proving that a person has applied for a job. I hope that during these troublesome times the department will at least administer the act sympathetically. I believe that a man should do his best to find work. If work is available in his calling within a reasonable distance of his home, it is his responsibility to accept that work. In the main, I think we are dealing with unskilled labour now, although it is true that a large number of building workers are out of work at present.
I believe that, as a result of the millions of pounds that the Government intends to throw around, it will get some people back into work, but the number who will find employment is something that only the future will tell. The most important thing for the Government to do in the present economic crisis is to create the atmosphere of confidence that existed in this country twelve or eighteen months ago. If the Government is prepared to spend enough money, jobs will become available. I do not believe that any decent person, whether he be a newcomer or a person who has resided here all his life, would not rather have a job than accept the unemployment benefit, whether it be paid at the rate prescribed in this bill or at the present rate.
The Opposition is pleased that the Government has at last agreed to what the Opposition suggested in September and seeks to reduce the residence qualification for the age pension from twenty to ten years, and to make it easier for those people who unfortunately were totally incapacitated or blinded outside this nation toreceive the invalid pension. The Opposition is pleased, too, that the Government has increased unemployment and sickness benefits. However, my colleagues and I believe that the Government should go further in increasing these latter benefits. There is no valid reason why the Government cannot increase the unemployment and sickness benefits for adults and married minors to the same amount as the age pension. For this reason, on behalf of the Opposition, I shall move an amendment.
– Can the honorable senator give us any idea how much this amendment would cost? It is rather nebulous.
– I suppose I could give nearly as good a guess as the Government has been able to make with regard to the cost of its proposals. The Opposition’s suggestion is that the benefits for adults and married minors be increased by £1 2s. 6d., from £4 2s. 6d. to £5 5s. No doubt the ‘Government has figures of those who are out of work.
– I mean the total cost.
– The Government has made an estimate of £700,000 for the remainder of this financial year, but I am afraid that I cannot give figures of the cost of my amendment. However, I believe that it is worth while. We want to help these people. The Government is just as entitled to take this action as it was to give each and every taxpayer a flat 5 per cent, reduction in income tax. The Government is in fact more entitled to increase the allowance of those in need to £5 5s. than it is to give a reduction of about £554 to a person with a taxable income of £20,000. I say to Senator Robertson, who I understand has played a great part in the social work of her own State, that she should not always query the few pounds that it will cost to relieve the plight of people who are out of work. I want as as little spent on this social service as pos- sible as I am sure the Leader of the Government (Senator Spooner) does. I am certain that the Government’s desire is to get the unemployed back to work. That is the desire of every one. But until the Government fulfils the responsibility of making possible the employment of the people it should at least be decent in its treatment of them. It has helped; it has gone a little way along the road. Why not go a little further and give them another £1 2s. 6d. a week? Every one knows that all the money paid out in unemployment and sickness benefits will immediately hit the shops. I understand that this argument was put forward by a great journal, the Flindersstreet press, when it published full-page advertisements with the caption, “Spend, spend, spend “. No doubt that is wise. If we all button up there will not be much prosperity.
The proposal of the Government to reduce personal income tax by 5 per cent, will not help one iota. It will help the Government politically, but it will not help the nation as much as if the same amount of money were spent on unemployment and sickness benefits, because the moneys thus received would be spent much sooner and would help to do what we all wish to achieve. Therefore, Mr. President, I move -
Leave out all words after “ That “, insert “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to include provision for the rate of unemployment and sickness benefit for an adult and for a married minor to be increased to the rate of the age and invalid pension, and that the Government present the redrafted bill to the Senate this day “.
– I give my sincere and full support to the Government’s measure now before the Senate, and I wish to deal only briefly with the amendment moved by Senator Kennelly, who led for the Opposition. I say to Senator Kennelly and to the Opposition that every member of that party knows that the economy of this country cannot afford the suggested amendment. What is more - and the people of Australia are well aware of this fact, even if the Labour Party is not keen to acknowledge it - in thirteen years of opposition and in some years of government prior to 1949, this suggestion that unemployment and sickness benefits should equal the age and invalid pension was never a part of the Labour Party’s express policy.
That party has never previously attempted to put that policy into operation; to-night in the Senate is the first time it has been put forward.
Why is it put forward? Because the Opposition is trying to make the unemployed and sick people a political football. It is trying to win votes, trying to howl calamity. The Opposition members have no responsibility for the expenditure of Commonwealth funds, and. it is very easy for them to say: “ Pay more to this, pay more to that. Take less from this, take less from that.” In answer to an interjection from Senator Robertson, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly), one of the brains trust of the Australian Labour Party, had to admit that when he foreshadowed his amendment he had no idea how much it would cost the Commonwealth. What a form of statesmanship that is, when a man is about to move an amendment in this Senate and has to admit that he knows not .what it would cost the Commonwealth!. What treatment that is of the Australian taxpayer! Senator Kennelly would have us believe that if we increased these benefits as he has suggested on behalf of his party, the money would come from somewhere - perhaps from a tree growing in Albert Park or on the bank of the Yarra. What he forgets is that this money which we pay out has to come from the taxpayer. In the next breath, the honorable senator criticized the Government for allowing every taxpayer in Australia a reduction of 5 per cent, in income tax. How are we, then, to follow Labour’s thinking?
That is all I want to say about the amendment, because I do not think it is sincere. 1 believe it is entirely wrong, and ] hope it will receive a thrashing when the division bells ring, as I trust they will, later to-night. When notice of this bill was given in the Senate, I thought, “There will not be a long debate “. I remind Senator Kennelly that the leader of his party in another place had a glorious opportunity to read the joint policy’ speech of Mr. Menzies and Mr. McEwen before he made his own policy speech. It may be coincidence that Mr. Calwell’s speech contained a similar provision, or it may be that he said to himself: “That is not a bad one. We will take a bit of Bob Menzies’s policy and put it into ours”. Honorable senators opposite should not say, therefore, that the Liberal-Country Party Government is giving effect to Labour Party policy. They know, and it is the fact, that we had these proposals, in - some respects, thought out quite a long time ago.
Senator Kennelly stated, quite rightly and fairly as usual, that one of the objectives of this bill is to render migrants who have been here for ten years eligible for age and invalid pensions. Until now, they had to be here for twenty years before they became eligible. He said that this is a big step forward. This is the first bill to give legislative effect to the promises made by the Prime Minister at election time. So, there can be no argument on that score. Both sides are agreed. The honorable senator referred to an amendment moved in the Senate by Senator Cooke last year. Do not let us be children. Let us be grown-up and experienced members of the Senate. Let us realize that it is easy for an Opposition senator, be he a leader or a front-bencher like Senator Cooke, to get up and move an amendment that will cost the Government many thousands of pounds in revenue.
– How much money would it have cost? . You do not know.
– Just a moment. I. said that it is easy for the Opposition to move an amendment which, if carried, would cost the Government many thousands of pounds. But the mover of the amendment does not consider any of the other responsibilities of a Commonwealth Government and the nature of its fiscal policy. I believe with great sincerity that this Government has taken all the factors into consideration when it has announced its fiscal policy, and that it has adjusted its policy and implemented it according to the economic climate existing at the time. I have nothing more to say on this aspect of the bill, except to congratulate the Government for reducing the number of years from twenty to ten, so that migrants will be eligible for age and invalid pensions after ten years’ residence in this country.
We come to the proposal to increase the unemployment benefit, an aspect -of the bill that is likely to be more controversial. Senator Kennelly was good enough to say that the Opposition welcomed the proposal, but then he said something to the effect that the Government was only doing this because it would do anything to stay in power. The use of the word “ anything “ implies that the Government would even stoop to political dishonesty to stay in office. I do not say that Senator Kennelly implied that, but the readers of “ Hansard “ and those who have been listening to the debate to-night, might take his remarks to mean that the Government would even stoop to political dishonesty in order to stay on the Treasury bench. I say to Senator Kennelly and the other members of the Opposition that the Government will do anything for the good of Australia to stay on the Treasury bench, because it is confident - and since 1949 the people have agreed with this - that it is better for Australia that we stay in office.
By means of this legislation we propose to do something that is needed. Nevertheless, we are criticized and it is implied that we are giving way to pressure. Surely, in a democracy the Government has every right to listen to the people of Australia, to try to understand their views, to weigh them, to look at the economic situation and then to say “ Yes “ or “ No “ to the general public opinion. I do not think it is a disgrace for the Government to have introduced the measure that is before the Senate to-night. A government that takes heed of public opinion is worthy of its salt and of being termed a democratic government.
Senator Kennelly, by means of his amendment, seeks to have sickness and unemployment benefits increased so as to equal the age pension of £5 5s. a week. There are very few, if any, age pensioners who have dependent children, who are buying a house, or who have the responsibilities of those who can work or would work if employment were available to them. Yet, under this legislation, this great step forward in social service legislation, a married man with a dependent wife and three children will, from 1st March, receive not £5 5s. a week but £10 12s. 6d., which is not a bad contribution from funds that have to be raised from other people within the Commonwealth. The bill has two objectives. The first, to which I have referred, relates to the residence qualification of migrants, on which we all appear to be agreed, although there was some criticism to the effect that we did not introduce it in September. I do not know why the measure was not introduced in September, but in September it was common knowledge that there would be a general election in December. I am proud of the MenziesMcEwen Government, and of the MenziesFadden Government before it. I am proud to have been a supporter of it in this place for nine years. If there is one claim to fame that this Government may make it is that it has never used social services or repatriation benefits as election bait. Never in a policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister has there been a promise about what the Government would do in relation to social service or repatriation benefits if it was re-elected. All action taken by the Government to widen the scope of these benefits has been taken during the life of successive parliaments. This Government has not used the unfortunate circumstances of people to try to buy votes. The people of Australia have rallied to our side because they realize that we do not deal in political expediency and do not try to bribe those members of the community who are unfortunately placed. I see no harm in this Government saying, so soon after the last election, “We propose to widen the scope of social service benefits “.
Senator Kennelly has stated quite accurately the new benefits that will be available when this legislation becomes law. However, he did not emphasize - I do not blame him for not doing so - an important point which displays the Government’s sincerity in relation to social service benefits. He did not emphasize that for the first time in the history of this Commonwealth a sura of 15s. a week will be paid to all children after the first belonging to a recipient of sickness or unemployment benefit. Under the existing legislation an allowance of 12s. 6d. a week is paid in respect of the first child. Irrespective of how many more children there are in the family, no additional allowance is available. The proposed provision of 15s. a week for every child in the family of a man who is sick or unemployed will mean that, including child endowment, a married couple with three children will draw £10 12s. 6d. a week.
The bill is designed to assist migrants who have been here or will have been here for more than ten years. Having paid taxes and social service contributions for that period, these people will, if eligible otherwise, be entitled to unemployment and sickness benefits without having to wait for twenty years. That represents a great step forward in giving assistance to our migrants, of whom we are so proud. We need more of them every year to develop the latent resources of this nation.
An important aspect of the bill is that very plainly it is designed to help the family man. That is something for which the Government should be given full credit. The more we can help the Australian family man, particularly in times of distress and misfortune, the better we will be as a government. If we all support this legislation wholeheartedly, the better the Parliament will prove to be. The Australian way of life will ever flourish if we encourage the family man and help him, his wife and children in times of misfortune.
As this is a social service measure, it is quite fair for us on this side of the chamber to proclaim - and to do so without fear of contradiction - that the Government has a splendid record in the now very wide field of social service benefits. Before this Government assumed office thirteen years ago, a sum of £81,000,000 a year was spent on all forms of social service benefits. It is apparent that this year our expenditure from the national income for this purpose will be £365,000,000. In other words, we will have paid £1,000,000 a day back to the taxpayers of Australia to make life easier and better for them in their adversity. That is being done in a country which has a population of a little over 10,000,000 people. It is interesting to note that, because of the widened scope of our social service legislation, 4,500,000 Australian men, women and children, or nearly half the population, receive some form of social service benefit. As a supporter of the Government, I have been pleased to note that every year - I repeat, without electoral promises - not only have social service payments been increased but that the scope of payments has been widened and that more people needing assistance from the national funds have been brought -within the ambit of our social service legislation.
In my view, the Parliament should take note of three matters when considering sickness and unemployment benefits: First, there is the legislation which authorizes the Department of Social Services to pay certain amounts of money in certain circumstances to various people. That, of course, is what we are doing to-night. Secondly, not only the Commonwealth and State governments but also the private enterprise sector of the community should look at the state of the economy and ensure that all that is possible is done to restore the economy to the point where we have full employment. It is fair to say that not only conditions in Australia, which are governed by the parliaments of the Commonwealth and the States, but also conditions throughout the world have a bearing on the development of our economic climate and our employment situation. Thirdly, I am proud of the fact that this Government has accepted the responsibility of organizing a section within the Department of Social Services to deal with the rehabilitation of persons who because of accident or for any other reason are handicapped and cannot undertake employment in their normal choice of occupation. In Tasmania I have had quite a lot to do with the rehabilitation section of the Department of Social Services. The way it helps to train handicapped people for jobs is amazing. Not only does it train them for occupations, but also it works very zealously and efficiently to find occupations for them, so that they may stick their chins out in the good old Australian manner, accept jobs and carry on a useful life.
Again, I can refer only to the Tasmanian section of the Department of Labour and National Services, a most important department. We should be proud of the work that it does in registering the. unemployed and finding work for them. Its staff are dedicated men and women, who act as though it were their bounden duty to find jobs for people seeking employment. They treat the unemployed very well. They help to raise their morale and they place them in jobs wherever possible. They have earned the confidence of individual employers and of employers’ organizations. Tasmanian employers know that if they request a certain type of employee for a certain job, and the department nominates an unemployed man or woman, that person is worthy of employment. The confidence built up by’ this department with employers is of great assistance to the unemployed.
In addition, throughout the year the department is striving hard with preparations to help school leavers at the end of the year to be absorbed into suitable employment. Officers of the department go round to schools, discussing the careers available in various places of employment for children about to leave school. Ultimately, upon leaving school, children are placed in jobs providing opportunities for them to follow careers in which they are interested. The department then does not just wipe them off. After two or three months officers go not only to the employers but also to the young employees, to find whether or not they are happily placed and whether they feel sure they will have the future that they want. If the young employees are satisfied, they are left in that employment, but if employer or employee expresses the thought that the boy or girl would be better off following another career, the department gets busy and looks for a vacancy. Many thousands of children throughout Australia owe their start in life to the painstaking, efficient, dedicated work of the Department of Labour and National Service, of which we should all be proud.
There is not one member of the Commonwealth Parliament or, I believe, of any State Parliament who does not wish to see full employment in Australia. We had it for a number of years, but we must admit that we have not got it now. Differ though we may on political principles, we are all agreed that we do not want to see out of work any Australian who is able and willing to work. We wish that no money had to be expended on unemployment benefits. This is not the sole responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament. The Commonwealth Government, as the propounder of the fiscal policy of the nation, has a great responsibility, but it is time there was much more apparent loyalty to Australians in Australia. My friend and colleague, Senator Laught, asked last week why TransAustralia Airlines, distributing largesse out of public funds in the form of diaries to its friends-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - .Order! I suggest that the honorable senator is getting very wide of the bill.
– I am getting on to the unemployment situation. I shall shortly come to the matter of buying things made in Australia. This airline has its diaries printed in Great Britain. Can any honorable senator tell me why it should not order diaries made from Australian paper, printed by Australians, and bound by Australians, instead of importing them?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. -
Order! The honorable senator may not continue on that line.
– I am dealing with the unemployment benefit. This Government wants the total amount paid to be reduced1, not for the sake of saving the money but for the sake of getting men and women back into employment. It is time that our big department stores, government departments and buyers of retail goods were loyal to Australia and bought only Australianmade articles, when these are good enough for Australians. If this were done, unemployment would fall very quickly and we would gradually, with the operation of our expanding economy and the use of our latent resources, have full employment. Hoping that that will come to pass, that there will be some loyalty in Australia to Australians, I support the legislation. I think that the amendment is not sincere and is not worthy of being passed by this Senate.
J - To-night we are seeing a change that must be welcome to the people of Australia. It is a change on the part of the Government from sheer indifference to and callous disregard for the social conditions and unemployment that exist. The Government is now attempting to recover its position by implementing a policy which it condemned and criticized not more than three months ago. I remind Senator Marriott that his State has the highest unemployment figure of any State in the Commonwealth. His hypocritical attitude has become well known in this Senate. The fact that Mr. Menzies delivered his policy speech last year some days before Mr. Calwell delivered Labour’s policy speech has led Senator Marriott to claim that the Opposition obtained the idea of reducing the residential qualification from twenty years to ten years from the Liberal Party policy. That is sheer hypocrisy. The facts are on record in “ Hansard”. If honorable senators opposite wish to lie about any matter let them choose a subject about which there is some doubt. Our policy of reducing, the residential qualification from twenty years to ten years is clearly set out in “Hansard” of 14th September, 1961, at page 591, where I gave notice that on the next day of sitting I would move -
That it be an instruction to the Committee of the Whole on the Social Services Bill 1961 to consider the following amendment to section 21 of the Principal Act: - “2a. Section 21 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) the words ‘ twenty years’ and inserting in their stead the words ten years ‘ “.
I said - >
We think that it is necessary to amend the act in that way. We in this country are pleased to accept migrants and to call them new Australians. We wish them to become citizens of this country. Twenty years is a long time. Many of the migrants who come here are aged persons who have contributed to the cost of social services in the countries from which they have come. I sincerely hope that the Senate will consider that amendment to be a just a reasonable one, and that we shall be successful in having it written into the act,
The Opposition’s proposed amendment was not sprung on the Government without notice. This has been our policy for some time. It is not easy to move an amendment to a bill in this Senate. Without the co-operation of the Government it is impossible. On 26th September, 1961, I sought and obtained leave of the Senate to move -
That it be an instruction to the committee of the whole on the bill to consider the following request for an amendment to section 21 of the principal Act, viz.: - That the House of Representatives be requested to amend section 21 of the principal Act by omitting from paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) the words “twenty years” and inserting in their stead the words “ ten years “.
On that occasion I said -
This section of the Social Services Act 1947- 1959 has stood since the introduction of the legislation. It is felt that it imposes a real hardship on many people who come to this country by invitation of our Government and become citizens. Some British and other immigrants come to this country from the places of their birth or previous domicile which have social service benefits that are equivalent to ours or are at least fairly generous. After five years they may become citizens of this country. If they become invalids after five years they qualify for an invalid pension. Yet many of our new citizens who work here for a good proportion of their working lives and pay taxes, including social services contributions, have to wait twenty years before qualifying, for an age pension. The Senate should treat as urgent the making of a request to the House of Representatives in this matter.
During that speech I pointed out that a man who came, to Australia when he was 49 years of age would not be eligible for a pension until he attained the age of 69 years. While waiting to qualify for a pension he may suffer many disabilities. Is that the way to encourage immigrants? I said also -
It must be as clear to the Government as it is to us that this matter should be given urgent consideration.
It was sheer hypocrisy for Senator Marriott to claim that the reduction of the’ residential qualification was not part of Labour’s policy and that the Government had given honest consideration to’ the needs of these people. Bearing in mind what Senator Marriott has said, it will be interesting to recall what the Leader of the Government in the Senate said about my proposal. Speaking in reply to my motion Senator Spooner said -
The’ Government is not prepared to adopt the procedure of referring this matter to the Committee of the Whole. A major matter of policy is involved. No provision is made for it in the Government’s programme for social services this year and, therefore, we are not prepared to facilitate the procedure suggested.
It ill behoves honorable senators opposite to accuse the Opposition of attempting to make a political football of this matter. Before the Government was almost defeated at the election it had every opportunity to amend this legislation. If the provisions of this bill are so laudable and necessary, they should have been incorporated in the legislation prior to the election. When Senator Spooner replied to me last year he showed himself to be callous and indifferent to the plight of the people whose votes the Government is now trying to coax. Last year Senator Spooner stated clearly that the reform which I advocated was not in accordance with the Government’s policy and that he was not prepared to adopt the procedure that I suggested. It would have been easy prior to the election to incorporate the provisions of this bill in the parent legislation. Honorable senators opposite have no answer to these charges. They cannot honestly claim that the Government has introduced this legislation without pressure and without any thought of political benefit.
Now let me turn to an aspect of the bill which leads one to the belief that the Government, acting under pressure, has decided to do something to alleviate the suffering of the unemployed lest it lose the handful of Communist and Australian Democratic Labour Party preferences that put it into office. Make no mistake: The great mass of the Australian people last year voted solidly against the Government. Not six months ago the Leader of the Government in the Senate, in answer to a charge that large numbers of people were unemployed, treated the matter lightly and parodied the old army hut song, “ Your Comrades Don’t Believe You”. Honorable senators know the song to which I am referring. The Minister was dealing lightly with the misery of people who were out of work. He would not admit that they were a charge on the Government. Government supporters were claiming that we had never had it better. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) said that we were suffering from over-full employment and therefore that we must act. Now members of the Government are concerned because they did not act at all and the public has judged them very severely for not acting. The Government is hurrying to correct the position; but the Opposition says that the Government is doing too little too late.
Both the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) and the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), who put up such a poor case having regard to the record unemployment figure in his State of Tasmania, have attacked the policy of the Australian Labour Party prior to the introduction of this legislation. We are completely justified in moving amendments in an attempt to obtain the result that we advocated and that the vast majority of Australians supported. When all is said and done, the Australian Labour Party, as one consolidated party, gained the majority of the votes cast by the Australian electors. The Government, as a coalition of two parties, retained office on the preferences of two splinter parties - the Australian Democratic Labour Party and the Communist Party. That is the position of strength from which we speak.
The policy of the Australian Labour Party, as submitted by our leader, Mr. Calwell, was to increase unemployment and sickness benefit to the following figures: -
For an adult or married minor, £5 10s. a week; for an unmarried minor sixteen to seventeen years of age, £2 a week; for an unmarried minor eighteen to twenty-one years of age, £2 12s. 6d. a week; and for a dependent wife resident in Australia, £2 7s. 6d.
– Is that in Mr. Calwell’s policy speech?
– I have quoted that passage from the Australian Labour Party’s policy as printed and distributed.
– When was that policy speech delivered?
– That is the approved policy.
– In what speech?
– You do not know because you do not follow politics closely enough. You are indifferent in these matters; otherwise you would know. I am quoting those figures as official. If you want to check and find out whether they are official, you do so. I am not here to vindicate myself. I am telling you this and in your ignorance you should at least find out about it.
– I am asking you one question.
– Well, you will not get an answer. I am asking you to do a little research into the unemployment figures. You say that we are now putting forward a policy that is different from that which we advocated before the election. That was our policy before the election, and if you like to do some research you will find that it was distributed.
Let me come to the point of whether this matter has received the sincere attention of the Government. Unemployment is challenging. The amendment is thoroughly necessary.
– The Opposition has suggested an improvement in the bill, and in its amendment states that a re-drafted measure should be brought down this day. The Government is pleading that it is introducing this legislation out of concern for the family men of Australia. I sincerely regret that the Senate is not considering a complete re-casting of the Social Services Act under which Australian family men would receive the social justice out of which they have been cheated by this Government for twelve years. The Government has neglected them.
Mr. Justice Ligertwood, in the report of the committee on taxation, points out the hypocrisy of the Government in collecting social service contributions under an act when the Government has no desire to apply the money to the purposes for which it is collected. In effect, he says that the Government has increased taxation, ostensibly for the purpose of giving social service benefits to the people, but has paid the money into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Government has resorted to the old political stunt of taking from the Consolidated Revenue Fund just the amount that its indifference will allow it to distribute among the Australian people.
– And that is a very large amount indeed.
– It is not the amount that would have been distributed had the benefit been provided under a national welfare scheme and increased in accordance with the rising costs and inflation that have occurred during this Government’s term of office. 1 come now to something current about which honorable senators opposite forget altogether. The Government says that the cost of reducing the period of the residence qualification from twenty to ten years for age and invalid pensions will be £700,000 this year. If the applications are made quickly, this might be the peak year. Many people will qualify immediately, instead of over a period of time, and the expenditure will increase gradually each year. However, that is conjectural. The Government says that this provision will cost £700,000 this year, but the figure is by no means definite. The estimate is as nebulous as any other estimate that has been put before the Senate. We have heard of engineers’ tolerances when they are building storm water drains, for instance. Before the election we heard supporters of the Government asking, “Where will you get the money?” They cannot forget that old parrot cry. They asked the Opposition for estimates of the cost of its electoral promises. Now we note the manner in which they submit their own estimates, with the support of the Treasury and the whole of the Public Service. After all the research, having been forced into the position where he has to say something, the Minister in charge of the bill said -
It is difficult to give to the Senate precise estimates of the additional cost of the proposals in the bill. It is estimated, however, that if all of those qualifying by residence for pensions under the new provisions were qualified in all other respects, the additional cost for 1962-63 would be some £3,000,000 rising to some £10,000,000 in 1969-70. However, some of those qualified by residence will not be qualified in such other respects as means or nationality. The actual additional expenditure should, on the estimates for 1962-63 be somewhat less than that mentioned and may approximate £2,250,000. For the rest of the current financial year the cost will probably be not less than £700,000.
I have never heard anything more nebulous. The Minister does not know how many people will qualify; he has no basis for his statistics. The best that he can do is make a guess and then say that the cost will probably be such-and-such.
– He thought of a number and then doubled it.
– That is right. That ls a statement made by a Minister with the Treasury, the Commonwealth Statistician and everybody else in the Public Service behind him.
– You have not much behind you, only Senator Sandford.
– Well, I have in front of me something that looks pretty puerile. The Minister has also said that the additional cost of the increased unemployment and sickness benefits cannot be estimated precisely on the present indications. The present indications are pretty tough. Unemployment is the worst we have had in Australia since the great depression. There is 5 per cent, in Queensland and 4 per cent, in Tasmania. On the Government’s own figures now - not prior to the election - 1.5 per cent, should be the maximum amount of unemployment if, in speaking of full employment, we allow for seasonal unemployment. Unemployment is up to 5 per cent. now.
– In one State.
– Yes, but that State has a great potential, great production, great people and a great record of contribution to the welfare of Australia. Before the election that State did not matter to the
Government, and because of that attitude it lost eight seats. That woke the Government up.
The additional cost of the increased rates of unemployment and sickness benefits this year is approximately £700,000. Then there are the measures that were taken earlier by administrative action. At the election the Government narrowly escaped defeat. It was saved by small majorities. Then the Prime Minister decided to grant a rebate of £25,000,000 on income tax, but he is still indifferent to the family man. Let us look at how the, rebates will apply. A single person earning £15 a week - which is approximately the basic wage - will receive a rebate of 3s. 9d. Of course, a single man could earn as much as £40 a week, and in that case he would receive a rebate of 21s. A man with a wife and one child, and who is on the basic wage, will receive a rebate of ls. 9d. a week, or half the amount in the case of a single man with no responsibilities. Of course, a married man with a wife and one child receiving a higher salary will qualify for a higher rebate, although his difficulties are not so great as those of the man on the basic wage, but he will still receive a much lower rebate than a single man receives.
Wc then come to the case of a man on the basic wage, with a wife and two children. This family group constitutes the statistical economic factor upon which the basic wage is calculated. Whereas a single man on the basic wage will receive a rebate of 3s. 9d. a week, a man with a wife and two children will receive a rebate of only Is. 3d. a week, or one-third of the rebate enjoyed by his single counterpart, who has no family responsibilities. Of course, a man with family responsibilities may be able to claim deductions in respect of insurance premiums and medical expenses, which may well eliminate him from the taxation field altogether, and in that case the rebate would be of no benefit to him at all. The married man has been shabbily treated in this way.
I support the amendment that has been moved, and I hope that it will be carried because it represents a real attempt to put the unemployed person in a position no less favorable than that of the age pensioner. The unemployed person has to look for work, and prove to the Department of Labour and National Service that he has submitted himself to an employer at least three times within a week and has been refused. He has to meet the expense involved in seeking work - something which a pensioner does not have to do. Heaven knows, the pensioner is in a low enough economic stratum in the community. The Opposition is making a plea for the unemployed to be given, not generous treatment, but just treatment.
The Opposition has pleaded, and still pleads, the case for the family men and the less affluent people in the community who rely on social service benefits or on fixed incomes for their standards of living. As a result of the experience we have gained in Australia and while visiting overseas, we should make an honest and sincere effort to bring about social justice in this country. Indeed, we must do that if we wish to maintain our position as a Western democracy. The present rate of social service payments raises a serious national problem. We hear the same clap-trap time after time from this Government, which amends social service legislation only under pressure. The Government has never apologized for the low rates it has paid in the past, and it still attempts to keep the rates paid to unemployed persons to a bare minimum. The Opposition issues a serious challenge to the Government on these matters.
Leading articles in the “ West Australian “ and in other newspapers have agreed that Labour’s social service programme is desirable; that this country should be able to pay higher rates of child endowment, because child endowment is now accepted as an essential component of the family income or of the basic wage; and that all benefits have lost value consistent with the fall in value of Australian money. That position is accepted, yet when the Opposition suggests an increase in social service payments, the cry of Government supporters is, “ Where is the money to come from? “ The Government has expended money in many other fields. It has drawn money from Consolidated Revenue for many purposes, but it has not been prepared to pay social service payments on a scale consistent with the amount of money that has been taken from the people since income tax and social service contributions were merged.
An examination of the 1961-62 Budget reveals that the amount of revenue to be collected by taxation this year will be £1,466,510,000- nearly £1,000,000,000 more than was collected in the year ending in June, 1949. Although there has been an immense increase in the amount of money raised by way of taxation during the period this Government has been in office, it has not given social justice to the family man, who contributes to the financing of social services through the taxes that he pays. Direct taxation for the year ending in June, 1962, will amount to £952,365,000, an increase of £646,556,990 over the amount raised for the year ending in June, 1949. These figures reveal that the Government’s revenue has kept pace with the rate of inflation and that the Government has collected sufficient extra revenue each financial year to enable it to adjust social service payments upwards in order to compensate for the fall in the value of Australian currency - the £1 into which the Government was going to put value, but which has never been lower in value. The revenue collected by the Government has trebled, in proportion with the fall in the value of money, but the Government has done nothing to adjust the value of social service payments.
The Opposition is pressing also for maternity allowance to be increased. It has not been altered since 1943. The present rate of child endowment was fixed by the Chifley Government in 1948, and the present funeral allowance was fixed in 1943. The Government has trebled its taxation revenue and boasts of its social service programme, but it ought to be ashamed of itself.
– You do not really believe that.
– My friend, you are not capable of knowing what I believe. I love to hear the clown in the circus every now and again.
To-night we have received a bill from a chastised government. It has been brought down under pressure from the Opposition, which has forced the Government to adopt other than an indifferent attitude towards the unemployed.
I hope the Government will stop using that horrible phrase which has been used in the Senate to-day - overfull employ ment. Every man in this country who is willing and able to work should be permitted to work. The Opposition does not contend that all men who apply for work are equal in skill and efficiency, but it is economically wrong for a man who is capable of being employed to be on the dole and not producing anything, rather than being employed producing something. An argument has been used by the Government from time to time that the pressure of a pool of unemployed is a necessary thing to discipline workers in employment.
– Who said that?
– That is completely wrong.
– That has never been the argument of the Opposition.
– And it has never been the argument of the Government.
– I am glad to hear you deny it. I shall accept your denial, but I hope you will convince other members of your party that it should abandon the contempt that it has shown for submissions that have been made more than one hundred times in the House of Representatives and here about the economic loss, the misery, and the suffering that were caused by unemployment. Until the election our pleadings were disregarded by the Government and its attitude towards the unfortunate unemployed of this country was one of sheer, callous neglect. If’ it did not want people to be unemployed the remedy was in its hands. What a horrible record the Government has! Conjointly with the credit squeeze it placed on the motor industry a tax that caused the dismissal of thousands of men. The increase in tax was supported by only some of the Government members in the Senate. Two rebels crossed the floor. They were ostracized by your party.
– Who said so?
– That is not true.
– On their statements, they were. You ask Senator Ian Wood.
– He is one of my principal pals.
– He might be, but he said that nobody would speak to him in the lobbies after he voted according to the dictates of his conscience on the bill to increase the sales tax on motor vehicles which, with the credit squeeze, inflicted great damage on employment and industry in this country. Though the Government proposes to reduce the sales tax on motor vehicles, this will not solve the unemployment problem in the industry. I believe there will be considerable re-employment in the motor trade as the result of the Government’s reversal of form since the nation’s condemnation of its callousness in respect of unemployment. However, this re-employment will not restore the economic balance that was disturbed by- the reduction in output of motor cars.
The cost of steel imports was one of the reasons for the drain on our overseas funds. Australian industry was crying out for more steel and it had to be imported, though the Government said that these importations’ were embarrassing its overseas credits position. We have in this country everything necessary to manufacture steel cheaper’ and better in quality than any other nation, but the Government was held on the leash of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, whose productions would not. meet the requirements of the nation. The puerile little senator from Tasmania sought to arrest the drain on our overseas funds by objecting to the printing of some diaries in London! They probably cost Sid. each and the effect on our overseas balances of their importation would be infinitesimal. I agree that it would be better if they were printed in Australia, but in advancing this argument Senator Marriott turned a blind eye to the problem of steel importations. He supports a government that allows steel to be imported into this country, thereby affecting its overseas credits position to the tune of millions of pounds, though Australia has a great combine that can sell iron and steel competitively with the best combines in the world.
– Oh! The best combines?
– Well, the most proficient; and it can produce the best steel, too. Senator Marriott, having objected to the purchase of little advertising diaries printed in London as if the stopping of that business would correct the economic situation, said that he did not want to see a childish attitude taken to the economy of Australia. Honorable senators on the Government side have indulged in that kind of thinking throughout a period when Australia’s economy has run down to a regrettable state, though in that period the Lord was good, seasons were excellent, production was high, and prices paid for our products on the world markets were good. Yet we are in a bad state. We have borrowed heavily overseas. The figure of unemployment is unprecedented since the last depression. I am glad that the Government has at last adopted some approach other than indifference to the people of this country who are able and willing to work but who,, through the Government’s inefficiency or ineffectiveness, have not been permitted to work.
I support the amendment and hope that it will be the forerunner to a better arrangement of social services to the family man, who is such an important factor in making our nation strong, and that we will be in a position to force the Government to grant further social justice.
– I support the bill, which is designed by the Government to reduce from twenty to ten years the period that an immigrant has to be in this country before he or she can enjoy the age or invalid pension, to increase from £3 15s. to £4 2s. 6d. the sickness and unemployment benefits, and to give additional benefits for children. The Opposition has said, “This is Labour’s policy “. The Labour Party, as an organization which I have studied, brought in the unemployment benefit in 1945, I understand.
– Your homework was bad. It was 1944.
– I cannot correct what I have said; I have no other figure. I stand by what I have said and you can correct me if you like. In 1949 the unemployment benefit was £1 5s. a week for an unemployed married man.
– What about his wife?
– There was a payment of £1 a week for his spouse. At that time the basic wage was £6 8s. a week.
– That is right.
– I am wrong. It was £6 9s. a week. It is now £14 18s. a week. The unemployment benefit has increased from a maximum under Labour of £2 10s. a week for a man and his wife and one child, to £13 2s. 6d. for a man with a wife and five children. If we take as an example the case of a man with a wife and five children, it will be seen that the Labour Party, which is always crying out about its social service programme, was giving the poor unemployed persons of that time no more than £2 10s. a week, or approximately one-third of the basic wage. Under this generous Liberal Government, we find that in 1962, when the basic wage is £14 18s. a week, a person who is unemployed may receive in social service benefits an amount of £13 2s. 6d. a week. I believe that that is most generous treatment.
When honorable senators opposite move an amendment which decries the amount by which we propose to increase the benefit, they place themselves in a ridiculous position, because when the Labour Government was in office it was not prepared to hand out social service benefits that were equitable in relation to the basic wage. When Labour is in Opposition, of course, it is prepared to give the world away in an endeavour to gain the treasury bench. Senator Kennelly said to-night that the Opposition deplored the degree of unemployment. He was generous enough to say that he believed the Government was anxious to reduce the level of unemployment in Australia. No doubt everybody in the National Parliament would like to see such a reduction. Then we heard Senator Cooke say that he hoped he would never again hear the expression “ over-full employment “. It has become the responsibility of governments, particularly in the national sphere, to endeavour to maintain full employment. If 3 or 4 per cent of the work force is unemployed, corrective measures have to be taken. We are taking them at the moment and we believe they will have the desired result in reducing the level of unemployment from about 3 per cent, to a more realistic figure.
– It is 5 per cent, iri Queensland.
– Yes, and a little over 1 per cent, in Western Australia. The rate averages out at about 3 per cent., I think. It is 4 per cent, in Tasmania:
If it is the responsibility of the Government to maintain full employment, to see that there is not too much unemployment, and in certain circumstances to take corrective measures to reduce the level of unemployment to a more realistic level, then it is surely also the responsibility of the Government, when there is a condition of over-full employment, to take steps to correct that condition too. That is just what we have to do as a government. When steps are taken to prevent over-full employment they are, of course, not popular. But when there are six jobs vacant for every person available, as happened in the building industry in Victoria, there is keen competition for labour on the part of builders and inflation follows if that condition is allowed to continue unchecked. We could not allow that to continue, and neither could Labour, had it been in office. It would have had to take measures similar to the unpopular ones that we have taken. We knew they would be unpopular, but we have to put Australia first in these matters. We have done that, and we stand by it.
– You went too far.
– When a government has the responsibility of introducing measures to correct the economy, can anybody say with certainty how those measures will affect the country? All such measures are based on calculations that have been made, and they can never be entirely accurate. All that we can hope for is that they go somewhere near the mark. There is no doubt that in the past the results have not been as good as we anticipated they would be. If the measures that are taken are not the correct ones, then it is necessary for other steps to be taken. Such steps are being taken to-day.
I remind honorable senators opposite that our funds overseas had been running down and had reached the dangerous level of about £300,000,000. The motor car industry was requiring for its maintenance additional finance of about £50,000,000 a year. That was the industry which, we believed, was creating problems for Australia, and we took the necessary steps to stop people from purchasing motor cars. I challenge the supporters of the Labour Party to show that the relationship which the unemployment benefit bore to the basic wage in 1949 was in any way comparable with that of 1962, taking into account differences in the basic wage and in the rate of benefit.
Under the Labour Party policy in 1949, an amount of 5s. a week was payable in respect of the first child of an unemployed person, but the second child and other children did not receive a penny. Under the legislation before the Senate, a married unemployed person will be entitled to 15s. a week for each child. The payment will not be restricted to one child, as it was in 1949.
– As it was in 1961, too.
– Yes, that is right. I am merely comparing our social service benefits, so far as the unemployment benefit is concerned, with the benefits paid under the Labour Party. To do so, 1 have to go back to the dim, distant days of 1949. If the Labour Parly had been in office in 1961, I would have compared our figures of 1962 with the Labour figures of 1961.
– As of now, only the first child is entitled to the benefit.
– As from 1st March, under this legislation the second child will receive a benefit of 15s. a week. Do you contradict that?
– You are talking, about something that may not happen.
– I am trying to talk about the legislation that was introduced here to-day, and the Labour Party’s amendment. lt is only right that in fair debate we should compare the amount of unemployment benefit that was granted by Labour during its last year of office, however long ago that was, and the benefit we propose to pay under this legislation. We propose to pay to a man, his wife and five children an unemployment benefit which will be equivalent to four-fifths of the basic wage, but in 1949 the Labour Party did not pay more than one-third of the basic wage.
– What is the size of the average family in Australia? Is it a man, a wife and. five children? ., ,..
– No. The average number of children is between two and three.
– The average number of children is between one and two.
– I think it is between two and three. Anyway, why argue about that? The unemployment benefit that we propose to pay pursuant to this legislation will be quite generous. Any Australian government, irrespective of its political colour, has a responsibility to ensure that the lowest possible number of persons is unemployed.
– That is not what you said last year. Last year you reckoned that an unemployment level of 113,000 was normal.
– Who said that?
– The Government’s Ministers. I think it was Senator Spooner who said that.
– You are wrong.
– He did.
– No, he did not. At least, I do not think he did. What he and others on this side of the chamber have said1 - other people in prominent places in Australia have accepted the view - is that if you can get the number of registered unemployed down to 50,000 or 60,000, they being seasonal workers or people who could be moving from one job to another, that would to all intents and purposes in Australia be full employment. I do not think you could get the level of unemployment much lower than that. At the present time, approximately 3 per cent, of our work force is unemployed.
– How many people does that represent?
– I understand the number is 131,000. Is that right? Are you conducting an I.Q. test?
– We like it to be stated in figures rather than percentages.
– The number is 131,000. If we could get that number down to 60,000, I think it would satisfy all responsible members of the Parliament, especially when we consider that we always have a certain number of seasonal workers in Australia who change from job. to job. as they wait for the next season’s work to commence. That being so, we will never have a situation in which 100 per cent, of the work force will be fully employed. I should like to hear the views of the Opposition on that matter. Do honorable senators opposite think that the level of unemployment should come down to minus 1 per cent.? No member of the Opposition has yet made a statement on that matter. At the moment the Government is spending approximately £1,000,000 a day on social services. That is no mean feat.
– How much of that is the result of new legislation introduced since 1949?
– The new legislation will result in that sum being increased to a small degree. I understand that the cost of the altered residential qualification for age and invalid pensions for migrants will be approximately £700,000 between now and June, and that in a full year it will be approximately £2,500,000. The increase in expenditure on unemployment benefit during this financial year will be approximately £700,000. That is not a big amount, but to the unemployed man who has a family an increase of £2 or £3 a week in the unemployment benefit will be a big thing. I am sorry, as we all are, for the person who is bringing up five or six children and who is temporarily unemployed. It is proposed that he shall receive 15s. a week for each of his children as from 1st March, whereas under the existing legislation he is entitled to only 12s. 6d. for the first child. The Government has been very generous. I am sorry that the Labour Party is trying to beat the band or to regain popularity by moving an amendment. The Opposition suggests, in the terms of the amendment, that the unemployment benefit for a man and his wife should be the same as the age and invalid pensions.
– Should they not be the same?
– I do not believe they should be. What the Government has decided to do is satisfactory.
– Tell us why they should not be the same?
– You cannot go on and on and on. We heard Senator Cooke, or
Senator Kennelly, say that by reducing income tax by 5 per cent, we will be giving to a person who has a taxable income of £20,000 a reduction of £500 a year.
– There are only 50 in that group.
– That is so. Let us not forget that when we raise income tax by 5 per cent, the gentleman with a taxable’ income of £20,000 a year has to pay an additional £500. You cannot have it both ways.
– Is not that an indication that the flat rate of income tax adjustment is wrong?
– There is no such thing as a flat rate of income tax. Income tax is based on a sliding scale. It starts at 3d. in the £1 on a taxable income of £300 or £400 and rises to 13s. 4d. in the £1 on taxable incomes of £16,000 and over.
– I am talking about those rises and falls being on a flat basis. Is not that wrong?
– I do not think so. I do not think you can have it any other way. If you levied income tax on every individual at a flat rate, it would not be fair on those in the lower income group. Most of us have agreed that income tax should be levied on a sliding scale, so that the more a person receives the more income tax he has to pay.
– The adjustments the Government makes are on a flat basis. You raise the tax by § per cent, and you lower it by 5 per cent.
– That is right.
– Should it not be on a sliding scale?
– I do not think so.
– Why not?
– Actually it is effective on a sliding scale. It is not a flat reduction; it is a percentage reduction. It does not affect each person equally. It affects each person according to the amount of income tax that person is committed to pay.
– It is equitable but not equal.
– That is right. That has disposed of that argument. I am opposed to the amendment. I believe it was moved by the Opposition without due regard to the cost of implementing it. When he was questioned by honorable senators on this side of the chamber, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who moved the amendment, had no idea of what it would cost to implement. Therefore, as Senator Marriott has said, it must be regarded by responsible senators as being an irresponsible amendment. That being so, I cannot support it. I have much pleasure iri supporting the bill.
.- We on this side of’ the chamber believe that in order for this matter to be put into its proper perspective, the bill should be withdrawn and redrafted. It was a great shock to Government supporters to find that the policy enunciated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to the electors was given a very serious rebuff. As a consequence, there has been a complete change of face on the part of Government supporters towards many propositions to which we directed attention over the past twelve years.
The bill proposes the amendment of the Social Services Act to provide for a reduction to ten years in the period of residence in Australia qualifying for social service benefits. It also proposes an increase in unemployment and sickness benefits. These provisions, however, do not get to the root of the difficulties that face this country today. The amendment proposed by the Opposition seeks further consideration in an effort to make these payments more fitted to conditions existing at the present time. No one on this side of the chamber who has advocated a reduction in the qualifying period of residence can quibble at the measure, but we stress the perfidy and hypocrisy of Government supporters. The Government’s purpose in bringing a measure of relief to new settlers who have reached the age of 65 years and need some means of livelihood is not humanitarian, as Government supporters would give us to understand. The’ provision was introduced because it was accepted by an overwhelming majority of the Australian electors. Three hundred thousand more people voted for Labour’s policy than for the LiberalCountry Party policy. The Government, either as a sop to its conscience or in order to rehabilitate itself, is introducing this provision at the earliest possible opportunity.
It is our duty to point out . to the people that this is a government of expediency. If it can gain some political advantage from a move, regardless of how or when the move is made, the Government will make that move. Our contention is that the objective of social services is to provide justice for the people. This is belated justice to many people who have entered this country during the past sixteen years since the immigration policy has been in force. Many of them were in the prime of life, from 45 to 55 years cif age, and were skilled tradesmen. They have filled empty places in the ranks of skilled personnel and, with their wives and families, have made a tremendous contribution to the development of our nation. They should not have had to comply with a twenty-year residence qualification before receiving social services benefits. This is a long overdue provision. Only six months ago the Opposition proposed this very amendment. Not only is our stand completely vindicated, but also there is thrown into very sharp relief the inconsistency of Government supporters who, through sheer expediency, condemned the proposal merely because it was made by the Opposition. They appeared to be sincere in their views. Now, after the short period of six months, through sheer expediency they have turned completely around to support the opposite point of view.
This is indicative of the shallowness and perfidy of the Government, in telling the people anything and pulling the wool over their eyes in order to save its political skin. This attitude is permeating business life throughout the community. The Government’s policy is to have no continuity in planning. People in business are following the Government’s example and living from hand1 to mouth. We- see the reaction to this type of policy in the community. In business, everybody is trying to extend credit to the maximum. People are living from hand to mouth because no long-term leadership is given by the Government. This measure is a glaring example of how quickly the Government will change its mind and change its face. It is a two-faced Government. It acts with apparent sincerity, but as soon as circumstances change, it will rapport a case with the same strength as that with which it previously opposed the case.
The Government has made great play of its professed wish to stimulate the economy. None of the measures announced since the election has made any contribution towards stimulating industry in a way that will lead to the absorption of the huge number of unemployed that we have to-day. It must be a matter of grave concern, weighing heavily upon the consciences of Government supporters, that unemployment figures to-day are the worst since the depression years. We believe that we are living in an enlightened community, yet we have this grave social evil that cannot be overestimated. There is a waste of useful manpower, imagination, enterprise, ability and dexterity that are available to be tapped. These resources are wasting away as a result of unemployment, and the result is great national waste. But the greatest danger in the Government permitting the present high rate of unemployment to continue lies in the psychological effect on people who are in the unfortunate position of having to receive the dole. This legislation provides for a dole - a hand-out - as a counter to the sheer inefficiency of the Government, which has been unable to provide a policy that would mean full employment and an expansion of employment opportunities for the 100,000 and more people who are willing and able to work if work can be found for them.
The Government has admitted that a large number of people cannot find work. As to the number of persons who are unemployed, we are forced to rely on figures supplied by the Department of Labour and National Service - figures the correctness of which I challenge. Often in this chamber we have heard Ministers and Government supporters say that those figures merely indicate trends. So many obstacles are placed in the way of people receiving the unemployment benefit that the figures issued by the department do not give a true picture of the situation. In addition to the persons who are registered for employment and who are in receipt of the unemployment benefit we must have regard to the vast army of people ineligible to receive benefits. We must also have regard to their dependants.
The benefits provided by this Government will do little to bring some assistance to the lives of unemployed persons. In view of the high cost of living to-day the unemployment benefit provides a mere subsistence. How is a single man to live on £2 12s. a week? Out of that amount he could not possibly afford to pay board. He must either exist on the charity of relatives or friends or take up his swag and hit the road. What future is in store for a young man just leaving school? He has been led to believe that this is a land of great opportunities, a land of expansion and free people. Yet when he reaches the threshold of his manhood he finds that there is no place for him in this country where he can raise his eyes to a more distant horizon arid say, “ This is my own, my native land “.
To-day the future for many young men is bleak. They find that there is a- blank wall in front of them and that there is very little likelihood of the position improving in the near future. If the Government were sincere in its approach to this important problem it would have asked how it could best prime the pump in order to get the economy going again. There is no better way to make sure that money starts flowing into the community than by giving it to the people who will spend it on food, clothing and shelter.
The Government has provided certain tax concessions but the people whose need is greatest and who would spend any money they received will be given the smallest concessions. A married man receiving £1,000 a year will save much less in taxes than a man in receipt of £4,000 or £5,000 a year. The basic needs of the man on £4,000 or £5,000 a year are easily satisfied. His standard of living has not been greatly affected by unemployment or the recession. His savings of income tax will enable him to have a better play on the stock exchange, to buy better equipment for his speed boat or to build a swimming pool. But the people who would spend their savings on food and clothing, thereby stimulating production and helping to turn the wheels of industry, which produce a greater measure of prosperity for all, will receive the least This legislation provided the Government with a splendid opportunity to demonstrate its good faith by making maximum payments to unemployed persons.
– What do you call a maximum benefit?
– A maximum benefit is a payment - an apology - by the Government to a person who is unable to attend his regular work and earn his £14 or £18 a week in order to provide for his wife and family. These people are out of work due to the inefficiency and neglect of the Government in failing to provide opportunities for employment and in failing to stimulate the economy sufficiently to maintain full employment. Unemployed persons should be used as the vehicles for pouring more money into the community because, when the people are not spending, the depression becomes more serious.
– How much do you say should be paid to unemployed persons?
– I believe that they should get the basic wage as long as the economy is depressed, as it is to-day.
– Is that your party’s policy?
SenatorO’BYRNE. - My party’s policy is that these people should get at least the equivalent of the age or invalid pension. God knows, they are getting a mere subsistence allowance now! Anybody who knows the circumstances of age and invalid pensioners is fully aware that they are on a miserable subsistence.
– Do you suggest that these people should get something more than is suggested by your party’s policy?
– Labour’s policy is to provide every man with a job so that he can earn at least the basic wage and support his family.
– I agree with my colleague. That is our policy. We know from experience that the age pension is not sufficient even to keep a person properly clothed, fed and sheltered. We all know how high rentals are. We know what a loaf of bread costs. We know what meat and vegetables cost. Yet people who have been accustomed to constant work and a reasonable standard of living are forced, because of the inadequacy of the unemployment benefit, to reduce considerably the amount of food they eat and to cut down on amenities. The Government could immediately stimulate the economy by giving these people a reasonable amount on which to live. A man, his wife and family cannot live on the amount proposed by this legislation.
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 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 February 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19620227_senate_24_s21/>.