25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question which is directed to either the Minister for Civil Aviation or the Minister representing the Prime Minister concerns headline announcements in this morning’s newspapers of correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Premier of South Australia regarding the control of air transport in Australia. I ask the Minister whether, in view of the fact that the Prime Minister admits to the forwarding of the correspondence but does not feel free to make public the terms of his proposal, the correspondence was forwarded by Sir Robert Menzies as a private individual to Sir Thomas Playford as a private individual or whether it was from the Prime Minister who is responsible to this Parliament to the Premier of South Australia who is responsible to the South Australian Parliament. In either event, does not the method of announcing the nature of this correspondence present a murky image of parliamentary democracy in Australia?
– I have no comment to make on this matter at the moment. The Prime Minister has announced that he has written to the State Premiers. He has now sent telegrams to them seeking their permission to publish the terms of his letter. Until permission is given, I have no further comment to make.
Railways and Beef Roads
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. By way of preface I refer to two matters raised by the Premier of South Australia in relation to transport in that State which apparently have been the subject matter of communications on a Prime Minister-Premier level. Last night in a television appearance in South Australia, the Premier, Sir Thomas Playford, claimed that the Commonwealth Government had encouraged him to believe that it would accept responsibility for building a standard gauge railway between Port Augusta and
Whyalla and that, in addition, it was interested in an active study being made of standardising the gauge between Adelaide and the Port Pirie-Broken Hill standard gauge railway. Will the Minister please advise the Senate of the details of the Commonwealth Government’s interest in such matters? On 13 th August, in answer to a question in the South Australian House of Assembly, Sir Thomas Playford is reported to have said to the member for Frome who represents the far north of South Australia: “ I have heard on the grapevine, although such information is not always correct, that the Commonwealth Government finance would be granted for beef roads in the far north of South Australia.” In continuing to emphasise the urgent need for these beef roads, I ask the Minister whether he will give details of any such arrangements for Commonwealth finance to be made available for beef roads in the far north of South Australia.
– Dealing first with the question in respect of railways, I inform the honorable senator that earlier this month the Premier of South Australia was advised by the Prime Minister, in reply to earlier representations, that standardisation of the railway to Whyalla could not be undertaken at the moment because the density of traffic, from all the studies made and all the information available, would not justify it at this time. However, it was conceded that traffic could, and probably would, increase, and that for that reason the development of the line would be kept under close review. The Commonwealth Government considered a proposition that the line be constructed and operated by the Commonwealth Railways and accepted that once the traffic justified it there might well be merit in that proposition. The Prime Minister advised Sir Thomas Playford that at the appropriate time - that is, when the traffic justified it - the Commonwealth would consider the construction and operation of the line by the Commonwealth Government. To that end, the Minister for Shipping and Transport was asked to keep the matter under review and to prepare a comprehensive report by not later than June 1966. In the meantime, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner had indicated that he could provide, a regular and efficient road service between Whyalla and Port Augusta in co-ordination with existing railway services through Port Augusta, and it was suggested that this matter might, in the interim, be considered by the South Australian Premier. With regard to a study of the other railway standardisation proposal in South Australia, I understand that that study is being undertaken in conjunction with officers of the Commonwealth Railways.
The other part of the question referred to Sir Thomas Playford’s statement about beef roads, and about something he is alleged to have heard on the grapevine. I do not know precisely what that means. Maybe Sir Thomas has his own particular grapevine. There is nothing very secret or confidential about the fact that the Commonwealth has undertaken a review and a reassessment of the programme for beef roads across the north of Australia. In this review, the roads in the north of South Australia which are or could be associated with the proposals now under review will also be reviewed.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Since the pay rises granted in June last how many enlisted personnel have re-engaged for a further term? How many have not re-engaged? What were the figures for the corresponding period last year? How many resignations of officers have been withdrawn since June last? How many members of the armed Services are not subscribing for their full pension entitlements?
– I do not have the details asked for by the honorable senator at my finger tips. I am led to believe that an improvement has been shown in the general position in the Army since the latest new deal, if we may call it that, was introduced, but I have no knowledge of the actual details. If the honorable senator will put his question on the notice paper I will obtain the information for him.
– Can the Minister for Customs and Excise state the quantity of processed potatoes that were imported into Australia during the last twelve months? If importations took place, will he state whether the potatoes were in the form of flour or chips? What is the rare of duty imposed upon such importations?
– The question asked by Senator Lillico necessitates the obtaining of information from my Department. I therefore ask him to place the question on the notice paper. My understanding is that no limitation is placed on the importation of processed potato in the form of flour. There is, of course, the normal quarantine supervision as with any quantity of food that comes into the country. If the honorable senator places the question on the notice paper I will get a complete answer for him.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of the fact that election expenses incurred by all candidates - whether successful or unsuccessful - in State and Federal elections are, within limits, allowable as taxation deductions, will the Treasurer consider granting similar concessions to candidates for election to local government bodies, particularly as such positions involve the giving of public service often without fee or reward?
– I shall submit the question to the Treasurer. Speaking as one who has served on a council for a number of years, I think it would be found that the majority of people holding local government positions would not appreciate the granting of such a concession to them. I think they would prefer to give their services freely to their city or municipality without any thought of recompense.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Will he inquire from the Postmaster-General whether the Australian Broadcasting Control Board permits either a free enterprise television company or a group of local citizens to construct a television translator station to provide an adequate television service in isolated areas, such as the west coast of Tasmania which, it appears, will not be given national television service for several years? If permission were given, would technicians on the staff of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board be made available to investigate and determine the most suitable site for a television translator station to serve the important and growing west coast region of Tasmania?
– The PostmasterGeneral is doing a great deal of work on the extension of television services to isolated areas throughout Australia. I think I heard him say the other day that when phase four has been completed, 92 per cent, or 93 per cent, of the population will be adequately serviced with television. I realise, and so does the Postmaster-General, that there are in Australia people who still require a television service. They are entitled to it and, if it is humanly possible, it will be provided. With that end in view, I shall bring the points raised by the honorable senator to the notice of the Postmaster-General and ask him to furnish a reply in writing.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. Did the Currie Commission on Higher Education in Papua and New Guinea recommend the establishment of an Institute of Higher Technical Education as a matter of high priority? Did the Commission further recommend the early establishment of a full and autonomous university at Port Moresby? Does the Government accept the view of the Commission that these steps are necessary to meet the very real needs of the people of Papua and New Guinea? Does the Government propose to implement the recommendations of the Commission? When may we expect an announcement of the Government’s intentions?
– The Commission mentioned by the honourable senator made the recommendations to which he has referred. I understand that shortly there will be an announcement by the Minister for Territories and the Government generally on the implementation of, or the approach to, the recommendations made in the report.
– The honorable senator was good enough to inform me that he intended to ask this question. I have been told that the statement in the Japanese journal can be interpreted in a number of ways. The correct interpretation is that it appears that in 1964-65 the Japanese electrical system at last will be able to withstand droughts and accidental breakdowns in the system without creating blackouts. It is not possible to compare demand and supply in Australia, where there are a number of separate generating and supply systems, with the demand and supply situation in Japan. A very good idea of the position can be obtained, however, by looking at our largest electrical system - that of New South Wales. It is more meaningful to make this comparison in terms of power measured in kilowatts rather than in terms of energy measured in kilowatt hours, which was done in the Japanese article.
On 7th July 1964 maximum demand on the New South Wales system was 2,630,006 kilowatts and the total installed generating capacity, including the New South Wales proportion of the Snowy Mountains scheme, available to meet this demand was 3,100,000 kilowatts. Assuming all generating plant was fully serviceable, the reserve capacity was 470,000 kilowatts, or 18 per cent, of demand. This is not excessive, particularly when it is realised that Victoria has no reserve capacity and for all practical purposes is borrowing power from New South Wales. The commissioning of the large Hazelwood power station in Victoria and completion of the Vales Point power station in New South Wales should progressively improve the reserve capacity position.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Following the increase in telephone rentals many inquiries have been made to members of the Parliament by disturbed citizens in relation to telephone charges and rentals in other countries. Will the Minister make available to the Senate a statement setting out charges and rentals paid by users in the United States of America, Britain, Canada, France and New Zealand?
– I have in my possession a summary of the charges and rentals that are levied in Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Canada and the United States of America. It is a most revealing document. With the concurrence of honorable senators, I incorporate in “Hansard” the following information set out in the document -
It will be noted that in Australia local calls cost 4d. and that rental charges vary from £20 a year down to £8. In New Zealand rentals vary from £43 lis. 6d. down to £15 lis. 3d.
– Is that in sterling or or Australian currency?
– That is in Australian currency. In New Zealand subscribers are able to make an unlimited number of local calls. Trunk calls for a distance of up to 25 miles cost ls. 6d. for a day call and ls. for a night call in Australia. In New Zealand both day and night calls cost ls. 3d. In the United States of America the charge is 3s. for day calls and night calls. In Canada a local call costs 5.23d. for all calls in excess of 90 free local calls monthly. Rentals in that country range from £88 Ils. 2d. down to £31 12s. 2d. I hope that I have not given the impression that I have picked out isolated figures to make comparisons that are rather stark. I have asked for the incorporation in “ Hansard “ of the whole document so that honorable senators will be able to make their own assessments.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport give an undertaking that any proposal to construct a standard gauge railway connecting the main trans-continental line to Whyalla, in South Australia, be first referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report to Parliament?
– I shall certainly refer the matter raised by the honorable
senator to my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport. My understanding is that, following the usual process, the cost of this work obviously being in excess of the amount laid down by statute, it will indeed be so referred, if it is conducted by the Commonwealth. I believe that my friend, Senator Maher, is thinking of other railway projects which have not found their way to the Public Works Committee, but I remind him that those projects are works carried out by the States with financial assistance afforded by the Commonwealth. They are in fact State works.
– Was the
Minister for Defence correctly reported in the Sydney Press on 25th May last as saying that in the interests of national security restrictions would be placed on the releasing of information regarding Australian military movements? If so, does this indicate that the Government believes it has a mandate to make military commitments without reference to the Australian Parliament or without prior notice to the Australian people?
– The statement referred to had relation to the movement of Australian troops to Borneo, a matter which was of public report and, as I remember it, well known to members of both Houses of this Parliament. The only restriction which was placed on the news was the normal military restriction covering the actual movement of troops. I hear with some astonishment that Senator McClelland should find, apparently, some objection to what is a normal precaution taken to cover the movement of troops at any time.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. In view of the continuing importance of informing the young people of Australia of the dangers of smoking, can the Minister inform the Senate whether the educational campaign to be carried out by his Department in conjunction with State Departments of Health has been formulated? If it has, what progress has been made in implementing it?
– I have previously announced that we are willing to join the State Governments in a general plan designed to educate the young people of Australia on the hazards of smoking, and I understand that State Governments are making efforts in that direction themselves. My Department, too, is working on a scheme designed to educate in this regard, but to be effective it must be well planned and well thought out To that end, we are doing a good deal of work in several fields, with particular emphasis on the suitability of television films. As soon as our plans are completed, I shall not hesitate to announce our proposals in this regard.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Health a question. Will he advise the Senate what policy or procedure it is necessary for hospitals, in which crippled children are cared for and given the best of medical attention, to adopt in order to become approved hospitals and receive full Government assistance? I ask the Minister to give this matter his most sympathetic consideration, because I believe there are three similar hospitals for crippled children in Sydney, where a small outlay of Commonwealth finance would greatly benefit the hospitals and assist the parents who work so hard to assist these children. My question is asked on behalf of parents who have crippled children at hospitals similar to the Margaret Reid Orthopaedic Hospital in Sydney.
– The honorable senator well knows that the Commonwealth Government’s policy in the hospital field is confined solely to making benefits available to assist people to pay their hospital charges. That is our general policy. The honorable senator has asked me to inform him what hospitals serving crippled children must do to be recognised and obtain hospital benefits. There are no hard and fast criteria that one can nominate in that field. Basically, the requirements needed for approval for a hospital to attract benefits are that the type of service being provided must be comparable with that in generally recognised hospitals such as base hospitals and public hospitals. There are some other facets of the requirements with regard to the trained personnel providing the service. There are’ requirements in our policy that demand a certain standard of building and a certain standard of equipment. Last, but by no means least, we must have regard to whether the service given to the patients is comparable with the service being rendered in recognised hospitals. If it is only a nursing service that is required, then that hospital does not attract the recognition that recognised hospitals have. It attracts the recognition given to a nursing home and our daily contribution, as a Commonwealth, is just the same in relation to a nursing home as to a recognised hospital, the difference, of course, being that nursing home patients do not attract payments from the benefit funds. If the honorable senator has in mind any particular hospital at which he would like us to have a further look, we will be happy to do so.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. I refer him to his statement last week that a three months’ course in youth leadership training was to be initiated. Could he inform the Senate whether the building which has been made available for this course by the Government of New South Wales is available on a temporary basis or a more or less permanent basis? Could he also tell us what will be the cost to a trainee of the tuition and also the cost of living in during that three months’ period?
– I am sorry that I have not with me the information required by the honorable senator, but I will be happy to get it for her. Having said that, I think I should say that we -recognise the courtesy of the New South Wales Department of Education in making premises available to the National Fitness Council for this course at our request. Had it not been for the courtesy of the Government of New South Wales we would not have been able to make the plans we have made in this regard. I repeat that I will obtain the details for which the honorable senator asks and let her have them in writing.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen a Press statement by Mr. R. M. Ansett of Ansett-A.N.A. refuting allegations made in another place concerning the reasons for civil airlines being granted permission to increase air fares? It was implied that the increased air fares were granted to help finance the Ansett owned television station, Channel 0 in Melbourne. Does the Minister intend to accede to Mr. Ansett’s request that the Minister table in the Senate the correspondence between the airlines and his Department in respect of the permitted increases in air fares by Australian civil airlines?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable senator refers. I will consider the request. When domestic airlines believe that, owing to costs, there is a need to increase fares, they apply to the Department of Civil Aviation seeking the approval of the Department. This is normal procedure. I cannot see that any good purpose would be served by acceding to the request at the moment, but I will consider it.
– I also address a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. The other day, when he was giving information to the Senate, I thought he suggested that the increase in air fares by the various companies was as a result of a policy agreed by them in conference. Is it not a fact that Trans-Australia Airlines held out against this increase in the first instance and finally agreed to it only after much agitation and many conferences, being the last to agree?
– I received correspondence from both airlines, presenting cases for an increase in air fares. All the letters were received within an hour. I would not be sure which company’s letter arrived first, but both companies applied to me for approval of the increases.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Further to the answer he was good enough to give me earlier today showing the Commonwealth’s real interest in beef roads in the far north of South Australia, I ask whether he will invite the Minister for National Development to arrange an early date for an examination by the recently appointed Committee of Investigation into Transportation Costs in Northern Australia of the South Australian northern roads problem. I saw this excellent Committee at work last month in Derby in the north west of Western Australia and I understand it is shortly going to visit Queensland.
– I have some knowledge of this because of my personal interest in the activities of the Committee referred to by Senator Laught. I know that my colleague, Mr. Freeth, took the opportunity at a recent meeting with the South Australian Minister of Roads, Mr. Jude, to suggest to Mr. Jude that any representations South Australia might want to make in connection with its northern roads proposal might well and appropriately be presented to the Committee. In other words, my colleague took the initiative in suggesting this to the South Australian Minister. I assume that the South Australian Minister would have followed the advice tendered.
– I should like to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question. Did he see, in this morning’s issue of the “ Australian “, an article under the caption “ Ten Lost Years “? If he saw it, did he read it? If he did not read it, will he read it and will he see to it that all the Ministers read it? On Tuesday will he be good enough to give us his considered judgment of that splendid article?
– I did not see the article referred to by the honorable senator. I will have some inquiries made as to its contents and as to whether it is worth examining. Whether my colleagues will read it is a matter for their own decision and not for my direction.
– By way of explanation of my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation may I say that two years ago when 1 was a member of the Public Works Committee, the Australian Federation of Air Pilots in giving evidence before the Committee asked that the runway extension at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) airport be constructed to a certain width. I am not technically informed on this matter but the general idea was to give the big planes plenty of safety margin to turn around and come back on the tarmac. It was explained to me and to the Committee at that time that because of Treasury pressure we could not accede to the pilots’ request to have the wide runway constructed out into Botany Bay. Can the Minister explain to me why, if that request of the pilots in relation to Kingsford-Smith airport could not be granted, a similar request has been granted in respect of Tullamarine airport where a full width runway is planned? If it is good enough for Tullamarine airport, why is it not good enough for Kingsford-Smith airport?
– I am no better informed on the technicalities, as the honorable senator calls them, than he is. I can only give him the assurance that the Department of Civil Aviation would not be a party to the construction of a runway at any Australian airport if it were not considered to be perfectly safe for any aircraft at present flying to or around Australia to land upon and turn around.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General: 1. Has the Government yet given consideration to the report of the Senate Select Committee on the encouragement of Australian films and programmes suitable for television, which was presented last October? 2. In view of the fact that the Government is in the current Budget increasing licence fees payable by television stations, when may we expect some indication that the Government intends to implement some of the recommendations of the Select Committee?
– I can assure the honorable senator that the Postmaster-General is giving very serious and earnest consideration to the report tabled by the Committee. There is no need for me to remind the honorable senator, as he was a member of the Committee, that over 70 recommenda tions were made. Such matters in themselves involve a great deal of work and research. On a previous occasion I indicated to the Senate that as soon as the PostmasterGeneral had concluded his study of the report I would be most anxious to make a statement on his findings to the Senate. In extension of that statement I would like to say that it seems to me that the Senate and the Postmaster-General’s Department would demand of me as the Minister representing the Postmaster-General a constructive, considered and forthright statement. It is not my desire merely to rise and use words. We want to be constructive and positive as a result of the work that has been done by the Select Committee.
(Question No. 169.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows -
On 16th April the Minister for Health advised the Senate that the Government accepted in principle that portion of the Senate Select Committee’s report on road safety which relates to the use of seat belts.
(Question No. 174.)
asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
Eradication was achieved in some areas but in others was unsuccessful, and by 1959 it became evident that total eradication, in our present state of knowledge, could not be achieved. Hence general eradication measures were suspended and a committee of inquiry into the whole subject was appointed conjointly by New South Wales and the Commonwealth.
After considering the report of the committee of inquiry, the New South Wales Government, with Commonwealth financial assistance, set up a cattle tick research station near Lismore, New South Wales, to study the problem, and it was determined that no further efforts to effect general eradication should be made until the results of research work demonstrated that such a campaign would have good prospects of success. This research station is now in full operation.
In short, attempts at general eradication in New South Wales have failed, but there are prospects of research work making eradication possible at some future time.
The cattle tick is also present in certain parts of Queensland, the Northern Territory and the northern part of Western Australia. In these areas control is exercised but eradication is not attempted. 2. (a) As previously stated, the policy of attempted eradication of cattle tick in New South Wales was suspended in 1959, and eradication has not been attempted in other areas of Australia.
Expenditure on control/eradication in the tick quarantine area of New South Wales over the last seven years was as follows -
Apart from the research undertaken by the New South Wales Government, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization engages in research on cattle tick and tick fever. Over the last seven years I understand that expenditure by the C.S.I.R.O. on such research has been approximately -
I understand that, in addition to the above amounts, the C.S.I.R.O. spent on this research £14,100 in 1962-63 and £18,000 in 1963-64, these sums having been subscribed by other bodies, principally the Australian Cattle and Beef Research Committee.
In addition to the above, the Department of Primary Industry contributed £48,150 to New South Wales on a £1 for £1 basis in 1962-63 towards the cost of changing dipping fluids in the cattle dips to comply with United States of America health requirements in respect of meat exported to U.S.A.
The honorable senator’s attention is also drawn to the details of C.S.I.R.O. expenditure given in reply to 2 ( b) above.
(Question No. 182.)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The Minister for Air has supplied the following answers -
(Question No. 188.)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answers -
United States of America and Australia within the past twelve months were most unusual and were due to emergency conditions arising from the partial wheat crop failure in the U.S.S.R.
Preliminary crop reports indicate a much more favorable harvest this year, which will automatically be reflected in their wheat export-import programme for 1964-65. The most that the goodwill engendered by the recent Australian Wheat Board mission can be expected to achieve this coming year is reasonable participation in any wheat imports Russia may make outside possible existing contractual commitments. The Australian Wheat Board, like other active participants in the overall export trade drive, is fully alive to the necessity for going out after all possible markets in a highly competitive world trade.
(Question No. 210.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answers -
(Question No. 141.)
Senator BISHOP (through Senator
Cavanagh) asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Is theGovernment spending £500,000 annually on the rental of private offices in Canberra and £400,000 annually in rent to various private interests in South Australia for the accommodation of. Commonwealth administrative personnel? 2.Has the Department of the Interior yet completed its survey of office accommodation requirements in the State capitals, as referred to by the Minister in his reply to a question on 15th October 1963; if so, have any policy decisions on accommodation for Commonwealth departments yet been taken in the light of the information gained by the survey? 3.Will the Government continue to give consideration to the construction of a Commonwealth central building in Adelaide and the construction of Commonwealth premises in other capitals where economics justify this action?
– The Minister for the Interior has furnished the following replies -
(Question No. 207.)
asked the Minis ter for Health, upon notice -
– The following answer is now supplied - 1 to 7. I note that the honorable senator’s questions are virtually the same as a series of questions directed to me by him without notice on Tuesday, 11th August 1964. This being so, I refer him to the answers which I gave him on that occasion and which are recorded at pages 12 and 13 of “Hansard” for 11th August 1964.
The honorable senator may take some umbrage from the fact that I have made no reference to the question he asked concerning hospitalisation costs in New South Wales. I remind him again that I have a very rigid policy of refraining from discussing State matters in this regard as often as I possibly can. This matter is within their jurisdiction and there it should remain.
Debate resumed from 19th August (vide page 141), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the following papers -
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States 1964-65;
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure, for year 1964-65;
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure forthe Ordinary Annual Services of the Government, for year 1964-65;
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure other than the Ordinary Annual Services of the Government, for year 1964-65;
Government Securities on Issue as at 30th June 1964;
Income Tax Statistics;
National Income and Expenditure 1963-64 - be printed.
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved by way of amendment -
At the end of the motion add the following words - “ but the Senate is of opinion that the Budget does not adequately grapple with the problems of striking a realistic and fitting balance between the claims on national resources arising from defence, development and social welfare”.
– This chamber listened last night to a highly critical speech delivered against the Budget by Senator McKenna. We have heard such speeches ever since this Government took office. It is possible to become intemperate in criticism.I think that Senator McKenna was intemperate. He said that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) had come down on the side of stability. No honorable senator would quarrel with that contention at all because we all want stability. This Government has achieved a reasonable degree of stability. He went on to say that stability, in the vocabulary of the Treasurer, meant stagnation. Let us consider what has been accomplished by this Government of the past 14 years.
The Government’s record was dealt with by Senator Paltridge last night, but I think it is well worth repeating because it is so important. There has been expansion and development of the Commonwealth. We know of the success that has attended the immigration policy of the Commonwealth, resulting in an increase in population of, I think, approximately 2 million people during the past 14 years. The whole complexion of the population of the Commonwealth has been drastically altered. Only about 20 years ago demographers in Australia forecast that, if the trends then in operation continued, we would never exceed a population of 7 million and that after that figure had been reached a decline would set in, the number of older people in the community would increase and the number of people in the earning phase of their lives would become fewer. Because of the success of our immigration policy and the fact that this Government has created the climate that is so necessary for expansion and development, Australia now has a higher percentage of young people than have most other countries. These are facts. With all the development that must take place in this continent if we are to continue as a free and independent Commonwealth, it is necessary for us to have a virile, go ahead population in which there is a high percentage of young people with all the enthusiasm that we expect in young people. We have witnessed a most remarkable achievement - one that could not have been attained by a Government that was bent on doing all those things which, according to the Opposition, mitigate against such advances.
It has been estimated that approximately 750,000 of the people in this country who are under the age of 21 years came here with migrant parents. In addition, about three-quarters of the people under the age of 21 years have been born of migrant parents. In spite of the fact that a greatly increased number of people must be provided for and found employment our level of unemployment at the moment is less than 1 per cent. Surely that is one of the best records of achievement in the world.
– We still have a shortage of skilled tradesmen.
– That is so. One of the dangerous features of our economy - it has been so for some time - is the shortage of skilled tradesmen. We have developed, our population has increased and our industries have expanded so quickly that the supply of skilled tradesmen has not kept pace. As we look back over the achievements of the past few years, surely it cannot rightly be said that this Government has followed a policy of stagnation and has produced year after year Budgets which have been calculated to retard the development of the Commonwealth.
I was very interested in Senator McKenna’s comments when he compared the results for the last financial year with the estimates for that year. It was such an easy exercise to take last year’s estimates, place them against the results that were achieved, and say, “He was wrong here, there was a bigger margin of error there, and he was wrong somewhere else “, just like a schoolmaster correcting examination books. I know that Senator McKenna said that the pay-roll tax estimate was reasonably accurate, but he had some very trenchant criticism to offer about collections of income tax on individuals. It may not be all the story, but it fairly leaps to the eye that the income of individuals waxes and wanes like the moon.
– It was on the right side,, too.
– It is sometimes on the wrong side. One can never estimate accurately just what the income earnings of a population will be. This is more especially true of primary producers. Look at what happened in regard to wool. Only last year there was a phenomenal increase in price. Look at the expanding market for beef and the additional sales of wheat that were made. The butter fat position was not nearly so bad as some people expected. Surely it cannot be held against the people responsible for making these estimates that their estimate of collections from income tax on individuals was very far astray. It fairly leaps to the eye that this is due to the phenomenal increase in the income of some people. Not the least of the factors is that so many of the unemployed have been put back to work that only approximately 1 per cent, of the work force is now unemployed.
Ever since I have been here we have heard hammered and hammered again this Government’s propensity for levying as much indirect taxation as possible. Honorable senators opposite say that it is not fair, that it does not take into consideration the ability of the taxpayer to pay, that it is a flat rate, spread over the community irrespective of earnings. Senator McKenna was very trenchant in this connection. He said that he wanted to direct attention to the tremendous emphasis that this Budget placed on indirect taxation. He went on to enlarge on that. Senator Paltridge dealt with this aspect most effectively when he said that during the last year of the Chifley regime direct taxation accounted for 55.3 per cent, and indirect taxation accounted for 44.7 per cent, of total tax collections, while this year direct- taxation amounts to 61.1 per cent, and indirect taxation has fallen to as low as 39.9 per cent.-, which is probably the lowest figure for many, many years.
Surely it is fallacious to keep on reiterating the contention that we have heard so often that this Government has a penchant for raising as much revenue as possible by indirect taxation. It is very common for many people who do not think very deeply to say that it is reasonable to make the man who can afford to do so pay the bulk of the taxes that are levied. That is a contention that we have heard in this place many, many times, but some people lose sight of the fact that the amount of revenue that can be collected from the few people who are in the higher income brackets is limited. If you set out to exclude as far as possible the people in the middle and lower income groups, who comprise the great percentage of taxpayers, and if you impose as heavy a burden as you possibly can on companies and on people in the higher income groups, a stage is. reached at which there must be a retarding and stagnating effect upon the economy as a whole, and investment and incentive are crippled. This produces stagnation, which will perhaps react most violently against those people whom the Opposition sets out so strenuously to support. There must be a balance in these things. It is of no use to say that because one section can better afford to pay taxes, the great bulk of the burden should be put upon it. The figures indicate clearly that the present Treasurer has provided a fair and reasonable balance in relation to the incidence of income tax. I do not think there is any doubt about it.
I was amazed to learn that Mr. Calwell decried this Budget as deflationary. The cry was repeated in this .chamber last night by Senator McKenna. Mr. Calwell said that the Budget was deflationary, and he went on to say that the Government was horrified that any real progress should be made. If this Budget could be rightly designated as inflationary, many thinking people in this country Would evince the greatest concern. In introducing the Budget in this chamber, Senator Henty said -
Hence, our problem is very much one of keeping things in line.
Employment and production, we can be sure, will continue to grow at, a quite high rate.
So they will. That has been the experience over 14 years.
– It has been the experience over 14i years.
– That is so. We have to ensure that demand does not rise excessively and, surely to goodness, that is commonsense. Should it do so there could soon be over-strong competition for goods, labour and -materials; costs and prices would be driven up, speculation could break out again and imports could rise excessively and lead to a greater run-down of our overseas reserves than we would care to see. That would be the end of the stability which has meant so much to Australia’s economy and its people over the past several years. Let me say this: Any Government with a reasonable degree of responsibility towards the economic welfare of this country would keep a very close watch on just those factors which I have mentioned. That has been the experience the world over and Australia is not alone in this. This is an economic principle.
Japan, Great Britain and New Zealand - to name only three other countries - have, in recent years, had to exercise the very greatest caution in respect of these things and to guard, as far as they could, against the inflationary spiral. Surely there is nothing wrong with that. We have all those elements present in the economy. 1 repeat that we have reduced the number of people on the unemployment register to less than 1 per cent, of the work force - .5 per cent, less than Mr. Monk said was the necessary figure. We have exceeded Mr. Monk’s quota in regard to employment and have gone below the unemployment figure which he said should exist in this Commonwealth. I have noticed on other occasions that honorable senators opposite do not like Mr. Monk’s statement repeated, but that is what he said. We have gone below what he said was a safe margin of unemployment, so surely it behoves the present Government to watch the position as closely as it can. If you look at what Dr. Coombs said, as quoted in today’s Press, you’ will find that he buttresses the caution which is evidenced in this Budget by saying that high spending could present a challenge to the economy. I believe that this is a cautious budget. I believe it is a good budget.
I agree with the first part of Senator McKenna’s speech, where he said that the Treasurer has come down on the side of stability. I hope that stability will continue. We have gone on for some time now with a stable position existing in regard to our costs and that is something entirely necessary to the economic welfare of the Commonwealth. I support the Budget. I can see very little wrong with it. It is always policy for the Opposition to say that the provision for this or that social service is not enough. It is always policy to get up and decry the incidence of taxation and say: “The big bloke should be paying; not me “. Never theless I believe that in this Budget (he Government has struck a fair and equitable balance and I sincerely hope that it will bring about the conditions which it will undoubtedly encourage.
– I was very interested in Senator Lillico’s speech. He repeated the normal tale of (he record of stability of this Government and its policy to stop the inflationary trend. He said there is always a danger of inflation in our affluent society. When we look at this question we must ask ourselves whether it is sufficient to ensure that demand does not rise excessively or whether it would be a better proposition to meet the demand that may be created and perhaps to stimulate it. Surely if we arc meeting the demand and are increasing it we are showing greater prosperity in the country! The honorable senator was very proud of what we have done in migration in Australia and its contribution to our success and achievements. But he neglected to mention that the migration programme was initiated by the Labour Government. Surely honorable senators opposite do not doubt that.
– No. We give you credit for it.
– The present Government’s migration policy is just a continuation of the Labour Government’s policy with no greater success at the. present stage than was attained in the early stages of its initiation. We acknowledge the important part that migration has played in the development of Australia, but we say that we must be granted some recognition of the fact that Labour initiated the migration policy and the fact that, with the foundation that Labour laid for migration, the. present Government’s achievement is not so great, and it must share the praise for any success that has arisen from Labour’s policy. The other position that the honorable senator ‘ mentioned - the buoyancy of the economy due to the successful years we have had with high wool prices and the sale of wheat - is something for which the Government cannot take full credit, because we have had bountiful seasons. In all, we can say that the Government has for 15 years basked in the glory of the increased productivity which has occurred in most countries of the world since the last World
War. The increased standards that have come about in various countries have meant that we, as suppliers of raw material, have benefited from the higher standards achieved by enlightened people since the last World War. We must therefore ask how much of the buoyancy and the high standards we have achieved can be attributed to the Government. We do not know.
We do not want to take from the Government any kudos which is due to it, but we say that, from time to time, in considering the stability and buoyancy of the economy, we should look closely at the question of who is making this contribution to our welfare. This was dealt with by the honorable senator as a matter of some importance. He said: “ You cannot over-tax the wealthy class and remit taxation to the underprivileged “. It is not intended that there should be no contribution made by the lower income workers to the cost of the administration or development of this country,, but surely a disproportion exists when a pensioner, whose physical condition does allow him to earn some wages but whose income; together with his pension, exceeds £494 per annum, is taxed. He is not only taxed, but his taxes are to be increased by 5 per cent, under this Budget. Mr. Monk’s opinion on unemployment is frequently quoted by the Government, but his opinions on a fair and just wage, on methods of stimulating the economy - he puts forward proposals on this each year - and on what the Budget should include and how its effects should be felt by various sections of the community are also worth noting.
I was surprised at the figures quoted by Senator Paltridge in respect of direct and indirect taxation. It could well be that there should be a complete review of the whole taxation field at present to determine where the contributions for the costs of the Commonwealth should come from and whether, in proportion to what we get, we are contributing equally to those costs. Whilst it may be true that more emphasis is placed on direct taxation - on income tax - at present, we have introduced a number of income tax deductions which, although on the surface they may be beneficial to a deserving section of the community, are in fact more beneficial to one section of the community than to another. It may be recalled that during the debate on the last Budget I dealt with the questions of income tax deductions and how they affected various income earners. As an example, it stands to reason that when the allowance for a wife is £143, the value of that allowance to a man who is paying 10s. in the £1 taxation is twice what it is to a man who is paying 5s. in the £1. This obtains with all deductions. I notice that the Leader of the Opposition in the other place suggested that there should be more emphasis on income tax and that deductions should be eliminated as income increases.
Looking at the Budget as a whole, we see that the prosperity of the country is as good as Mr. Calwell, the Leader of the Opposition in the other place, prophesied it would be during the last elections. He claimed then that he could pay for the increased social services he was offering to the people from the increased prosperity that would result from increased activities by Commonwealth departments. Senator McKenna quoted some of the Treasurer’s figures as justification for Mr. Cai well’s utterances. It is obvious from the way in which the Government adopts Labour’s policy from time to time that Labour comes near to supplying all the financial brains of the Commonwealth. The method of deficit financing suggested by the Labour Party in the 1961 election campaign, and described by the Government as ruinous if implemented, was adopted by the Government immediately on its return to power. In 1963, when Labour offered certain social service benefits, the public was told: “ You can have these benefits, but the electors must pay; there will be increased taxation “. However, the response of the electors to Labour’s proposals was such that during the election the Menzies Administration or the Liberal Party countered Labour’s offer with offers of alternative benefits. The Government’s promised benefits increased as Labour’s offers became recognised and generally accepted. In 1963 the Government said the prosperity of the country was such that it could afford to provide the benefits it was promising - benefits such as home subsidies, education grants and State aid for denomination schools - yet it claimed that if Labour’s policy were put into operation increased taxation would result. I believe that the fear of increased taxation caused Labour’s defeat at the election. We now find that these increased services and increased gifts to sections of the community must be paid for by the taxpayers. This was the very situation that caused Labour’s defeat.
To try to justify the increased charges, and not acknowledging the real reason for the increases, defence is mentioned. As has been pointed out by other speakers, an examination of the defence expenditure shows that the increased costs of defence outlined in this Budget will not greatly improve Australia’s defences. The “Australian”, in its leading article of 13th August, predicted that of the £36,300,000 increase in defence expenditure, £20 million would be needed for additional homes and increased pay to attract men to the Services. We must recognise that defence is based not merely on arms, although they play an important part. We must ask ourselves what defence we have got, despite the present expenditure. We cannot depend on arms alone, and we will find that there is no provision in this Budget for other necessary elements that contribute to defence, such as roads, transport and a big build up in population.
Whilst we may be proud of our Services, there has been a reluctance to join them and it has been necessary to increase wages to enable the Services to compete with outside industry for recruits. It would appear that some men want to get out of the Services. I refer to the recent appeal to the High Court of Australia on the question of the ability of officers to resign from the Services. This appeal was disallowed by the High Court. The matter was referred to in the Adelaide “News” of 13th August last, and I believe the reference has been repeated in most Australian papers. This case indicates the extent of the discontent that must exist at officer level in the Army and Navy. The article stated -
In what were test cases, the Court yesterday upheld both the Army and Navy in refusing to accept resignations from two of its officers.
We note that the resignations related to both the Army and the Navy. The article continued -
The decision vitally affects at least 100 officers who have submitted their resignations or would have done so had the Court ruled the other way.
I recall that earlier this week in the Senate a question was asked on this matter. Discontent is great among officers. Referring to
Captain Marks, the officer who appealed to the High Court, the article stated -
His attempted resignation - and the interest pf another 100 officers - was taken as one of the major signs of discontent afflicting the Army. It was said that if so many wanted to quit, there had to be something inordinately wrong somewhere in the Army. The case was so important that legal fees for Captain Marks were paid out of a trust fund set up by officers’ from all branches of the Services.
At the same time as we are increasing expenditure on defence we must ask the very pertinent question: Are we gelling value for the money thai is being expended? We have the machinery, the apparatus, but the successful operation of machinery depends greatly upon the contentment, ability and willingness of members of the Services. Machines do not work by themselves; they have to be worked by the members of our forces.
We have not been told the full facts about discontent existing in the Services today or why the Services are failing to attract recruits. The recruiting campaign has not been successful and there is a desire to reintroduce compulsory military training to compensate for the failure of the volunteer system. Even those men who have reached officer status and. should be making a career in one of the Services are trying to get out.
– Do you believe in compulsory unionism?
– No, I do not believe in compulsory unionism, my friend. I am one of the greatest opponents of compulsion of any description, unless it is entirely necessary. I do not think compulsory unionism is necessary or that it would be beneficial to the trade union movement. You will find that on no occasion have I been a believer in compulsory unionism.
– But it has been mooted in your own party.
– It has been mooted, possibly by officers who have been unable to succeed in organising. My party believes in preference for unionists as an effective system.
– That virtually is the same in nearly all callings.
– There is no comparison possible between preference for unionists and compulsory unionism.
There may be some economic compulsion today, but I think you are trying to divert me from the question of a man who has voluntarily joined an organisation, to better his condition, who has some responsibility and who accepts what has been achieved by unionism, as distinct from a man who enters one of the armed forces where experience shows that proper administration acts as an attraction to enlistment and makes compulsion unnecessary. If we are to go into a comparison of the merits of conscripts and volunteers we will find that the subject has a long history.
It is obvious first that the increased expenditure planned in the Budget is not to be spent wholly on defence; secondly, that we are not getting value for our money and the Services need a complete overhaul. It is very unfortunate that we are discussing justification for increased taxation to finance defence measures without having the benefit of the findings of the inquiry into the “ Voyager “ disaster. The contents of the report have not been communicated to members of this chamber.
– They will be in due time.
– But after we have debated the Budget. We may have been enlightened as to the position of the Navy, which could have been discussed in relation to the planned increased expenditure in the Budget. We may have been able to discover whether it is simply a waste of money. At least some of the findings of the inquiry should be made available to honorable senators for the purpose of enabling a discussion of them in the context of the Budget. We could examine the whole question of whether there is a necessity for a complete inquiry into the Australian Services. After reading Press reports and the transcript of the inquiry I was much concerned with the attitude of the Department of the Navy, which engaged eminent counsel to represent it at the inquiry. I presume that counsel were acting under instructions from the Department. On every occasion they opposed or challenged the right of counsel assisting the inquiry judge to ask questions that may have elicited the facts of conditions in the Navy. I believe that there will be revelations in the report of the inquiry but at this time we can only speculate. It may be that the report will show the necessity for a complete overhaul of the Department of the Navy and an inquiry into the administration of the particular Departments and the control of a Minister who for a number of years allowed the position to deteriorate to the stage where it was possible for two vessels equipped with the best radar equipment to collide and cause the loss of 82 lives.
I repeat that Labour has never opposed proper defence expenditure. We claim that it should be considered side by side with expenditure on the development of Australia. It should be part of that expenditure. A recent publication of the People the North Committee, which I believe has the backing of two reponsible State Governments, states that a military threat to Australia, if we are not careful, could come not necessarily from an atomic bomb but from an Asian woman with a starving baby in her arms. Unless we plan our defence and development side by side we may have serious headaches in the future.
There is no provision in this Budget for extended planning other than on what the Parliament has decided in the past. Attention is directed to planning and developmental work that has been decided upon. In his Budget Speech the Treasurer stated -
As to special developmental projects in the States, the general position is that we now have a large programme of them in hand, some still in the initial stages but others reaching the stage of rapid progress and heavy expenditure. For the projects to which we are already committed in various States, an amount of £23,730,000 is provided in the current Budget, this being an increase of £6,431,000 over expenditure last year; and I might mention that, beyond 1964-65, we have an estimated further commitment in respect of these projects exceeding £70,000,000. Plainly, it would be a mistake at this stage, especially in view of the labour situation, to enlarge further the present big volume of works activity. Indeed, it would well be self defeating if competition for labour already scarce were to delay progress and force up costs not only for new projects but for those already under way.
As I have said, the statement shows that we are directing our attention to projects that have already been proposed. We have set up a northern development tribunal to examine developmental works in the north but we are not initiating plans for steady progress in the development of Australia. This is brought about because of the demand by private enterprise for labour. Therefore, the proposals for the development of Australia must at all times give way to the demand by private enterprise on our labour force.
– Is not private enterprise developing Australia by providing employment opportunities?
– You have a peculiar idea of the development of Australia. I do not know that the provision of work for the labour force constitutes development of Australia.
Much of Australia is uninhabited today. We could not populate those areas because of the high costs of the development works that would be necessary for that purpose.
I come now to the migration proposals for which we claim credit although Senator Lillico eulogises them as being the achievement of his Government. If migration is to continue to be a boon to the growth of Australia, we must get beyond the present situation where we are bringing migrants into this country and settling them around the southern or eastern coastline. Our migration programme can provide the increased population which I have said could be necessary for the defence of this country. There are large areas of Australia which have not yet been opened up. They must be opened up. The importance of opening them up is so great that a year should not pass without some new developmental programme being introduced. This can only be done if private enterprise is doing its job and if we have a thorough examination and complete knowledge of the particular activities in which private enterprise is engaged. Private enterprise on many occasions could do the job of development. But we have also in private enterprise duplication which results sometimes in bankruptcy and possibly in wasteful costs of manufacture. This matter needs, consideration if we are not to have a system of controls in private enterprise. By the same token, governmental development should not be secondary to the development of private industry.
I now wish to say something about what was said by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) on who is paying for the Budget proposals. Senator Lillico stressed in his speech that Senator McKenna’s remarks were incorrect. At the time of the last war we were told that, if victory was ours, we would have a new social order in Australia. The new order, we were told, would provide for a greater return for a person’s contribution to the development of the country and the welfare of his fellow men. With the cessation of hostilities in that war in which we were successful, the Labour Government planned the development of Australia by various schemes which included migration, post-war reconstruction and development, and the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. An important scheme for the future development of Australia that the Labour Government introduced was the Snowy Mountains project. The promises of the Government were reflected in its plans. At that time, the arbitration tribunals of Australia introduced the 40 hour working week for this country’s workers, extended annual leave and increased margins. We also had the benefit of basic wage increases. The Harvester judgment of 1907 fixed the basis for a minimum wage ‘that would be necessary to maintain a husband, wife and two children.
– Was that for two children or three children?
– It may have been for three. It was for a family unit, and it covered only the bare essentials of life. This was the basis of wage fixation that was followed for years and years. The promise of a new order was reflected in the Government’s action in introducing high taxation on those with the ability to pay. It was aimed at the redistribution of income in Australia. With the defeat of the Labour Government there followed a policy of soaking the poor which has continued to the present time. The transfer of the incidence of taxation from one section of the community to another alarmed the Arbitration Court so much that it changed its method of wage fixation. Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was trying to develop the theme of what I termed the letting down of the working force of Australia by this Government. The working force had been promised something in the new order following the Second World War. This -promise was to be implemented through the planning and development proposals of the Chifley Government and through the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission. The
Commission fell into line and granted large wage increases to the workers. The years immediately following the war period were years of increased prosperity for the working people of Australia.
Then there was a change of government and a shifting of the responsibility for financing the administration and development of Australia away from the class which was enjoying the greatest benefits from Australia’s development, moving the responsibility back to the working force. The change was so marked that in 1954 the Arbitration Commission, realising that the promise made to the working force of Australia was not being carried out, changed its basis of wage calculation. It decided no longer to follow the formula of fixing a wage necessary for the needs of a man, his wife and family, but decided that the worker was entitled to a share in the development and productivity of the country. In accordance with this decision, it fixed a minimum wage based upon the ability of the economy to pay. That system of wage fixation has continued since then, except for the deletion of quarterly cost of living adjustments. Quite apart from the quarterly adjustments, the wage fixed was based, not on the needs of the family unit, but on what would give the work force a fair share of the increased prosperity of the country. The trade union movement and the Labour Party have never claimed that the working force has received a just return, but that was the system of wage determination which was decided upon by the experts at the time.
That procedure has been followed and, after the last basic wage hearing, an increase of fi a week was granted. Immediately, however, there was an increase in prices throughout Australia. Although the Arbitration Commission came to the decision that the economy could afford this increase, and that it would be a just return to the workers, immediately we saw an increase in prices which destroyed the value of the Commission’s decision. Wilh the increase in purchasing power and the operation of the law of supply and demand, prices increased although the economy would have been able to bear the increased wages without the necessity for an increase in prices. As a result of price increases we hear the cry: “ What is the use of asking for an increase in wages?”
We see in this Budget another example of the shifting of responsibility that I have mentioned. The working man has to make his contribution by indirect taxation. Everyone who buys a packet of cigarettes has to pay the higher price, no matter what his income may be. I venture to suggest that it was because of the attitude of the present Government that the Arbitration Commission tried to make up the purchasing power of the workers. We have the position today that two authorities - the Government and the Arbitration Commission - are at cross purposes. The commission is trying to give a just reward to the section of the community which contributes greatly to the prosperity of Australia, whereas the Government is trying to take that reward away. Not only will the increased purchasing power increase demand and thereby increase prices, but many items in the Budget will also increase prices. The increased telephone rentals will not be paid by businessmen; they will be passed on to the community. The increase in the sala tax on a motor vehicle purchased by a business man will also be passed on to the consuming public.
When the Arbitration Commission decided to use the basis of the ability of industry to pay, its decision was based on prices and profits current at the time of the investigation. The increase in wages never at any time justified an increase in prices. The price increase was initiated, in fact, by the Treasurer, who made the statement that the increase in wages would bring about an increase in prices. Many firms regarded that statement as a justification for increasing the prices of their commodities, at a time when their profit margin was sufficient to enable them to carry the increase in wages. This process of increasing prices has reached the point where there is no possibility of working out fair contributions by the various classes to the cost of administration and development of the country. That cannot be done until we have authorities that will decide the rates, wages, prices and profits. The Federal Government must be given the power to fix prices. It is useless to talk about increasing the basic wage when there is no authority to control prices.
Last night Senator McKenna accused the Government of not introducing legislation based on the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee. He accused the Government of laziness. Whether the Government is lazy or not, the fact is that it has made no attempt to hold a referendum on the question of prices control. It may be that it is lazy or it may be that it has no desire to do so; I do not know. There has been no suggestion of a conference with the Premiers to consider granting the Commonwealth power to control prices or to introduce uniform legislation in the States for the purpose of controlling prices and the profits of industry in order to ensure that there is a just return to those who contribute to the prosperity of the country. This may be because the Government believes in the sanctity of money values but not in the sanctity of labour values. I point out to honorable senators opposite that all of Australia’s mineral and agricultural resources and manufacturing industries are of value only because of the labour component that is involved. Those who contribute most to the increased prosperity of the country are, in my submission, not getting their just return. This is reflected in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech. Their position will be far worse as a result of the impositions contained in this Budget.
I repeat that this state of affairs has been brought about by a conflict between the activities of the Arbitration Commission and the Federal Government. This has been recognised by the Arbitration Commission, which has said - despite the fact of its decision that the minimum wage is based on the ability of the economy to pay - that there shall be review of the basic wage from time to time in the light of the prices of commodities. It is possible, under the latest judgment of the Commission, to refer the basic wage back to the Commission to show that there should be a further increase to restore the value of the wage to what it was when the investigation showed what the economy was able to pay.
There is this direct conflict between the Government and the Arbitration Commission. But while the Workers can be assured of some review of their position from time to time, such a review is not available to pensioners and others on fixed incomes. There may be some redress available to workers as a result of applications to the Commission by the trade union movement from time to time, but what is the position of the pensioners, who have no tribunal to approach in an effort to obtain a just con tribution to keep them in their old age? There was a report in the Press this morningapparently it was a leak from a Liberal Party meeting - of what was said about the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s criticism of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who it was alleged looks like a Fascist.
– Are they your words?
– No. They are words published in the newspapers this morning.. Mr. Killen said that was how the A.B.C. had made the Minister appear. Perhaps the Minister was not able to look his best in the circumstances because he was embarrassed by the niggardly pension increases in the Budget.
After the Budget proposals have been given effect, pensioners will be worse off than they were before, despite the fact that they have been granted 5s. a week increase. As Senator McKenna pointed out, there are pensioners who find it necessary to have a telephone. Although they are to receive an additional 5s. a week, increased telephone charges will cost them 2s. a week. It has been said that such things as telephones, cigarettes and television sets are luxuries.. I know of a woman who is 73 years of age and who lives by herself. She suffers from arthritis and possibly from blood pressure. If her health were to break down she would need to contact her children in order to obtain assistance in the home. She needs a telephone, and there arc many such cases in which a telephone is essential.
The Minister for Social Services said on the air recently that it was possible for a married couple who are pensioners to earn up to £18 a week, but I suggest that that is the exception and not the rule. There are many thousands of pensioners who are incapable of working and earning money to supplement their pension. The Government, in acknowledgment of their dire position, has granted them 5s. a week increase in pensions,’ but it has immediately taken the increase from them because other charges have been increased. To speak of a telephone as a luxury is, in many instances, to shut one’s eyes to the facts. Who will say in this enlightened age that television is a luxury? Will any Minister stand in his place and say that pensioners who have contributed to the development of Australia should not enjoy television in their homes?
I point out that a pensioner may have few friends and may live apart from his relatives. He may be alone in his home at night. Television would be company for him, but he must now pay an additional £1 for a television licence. Surely we are not going to tell an aged male pensioner that he should give up the bad habit of smoking cigarettes because we propose to charge an additional 3d. or 4d. a packet. If a pensioner were to give up smoking it might be detrimental to his health, particularly his mental health.
No one can say that the overall effect of the Budget proposals will be to increase age and invalid pensions. There is much more that I could say on this matter, but I shall leave it for the moment because there arc one or two other matters I wish to raise. I have taken them up during the year and have pursued them as far as possible. The Budget debate provides an opportunity for me to discuss them.
I say that the Government has ignored the representations of the Returned Soldiers League, to the effect that the rates of pension, should be restored to the value they possessed in 1951-52. The Menzies Government had not long been in office at that time. The League points out that there has been an increase in the cost of living and in the average earnings of the Australian worker. It also points out that in order to restore the 1951-52 value to the service pension, it would be necessary to increase it to £6 10s. a week. The Government proposes to increase the pension to £6 a week. The allowance for the wife should be increased to £3 a week. It is to be only £2 0s. 6d. The war widows’ pension should be £6 10s. a week, but it is to be only £6.
We have had representations from the Australian Soap and Allied Products Manufacturers on the pertinent question of the need to continue sales tax on soap and soap products at a time when sales tax has been removed from many other commodities, such as foodstuffs, which are used every day. Soap and soap products are essential to cleanliness. Health authorities recommend the frequent use of soap for the purpose of cleanliness, but the Government continues to impose sales tax on soap and soap products, with the result that their use is not as extensive as it might otherwise be. It is a mystery why sales tax remains on soft drinks, chocolates, confectionery and crystallised fruits. Why is it necessary to impose sales tax on these items, some of which are beneficial to children and are enjoyed by them?
I wish to bring to the notice of the Government a matter concerning the application of the provisions of the Social Services Act. Senator Turnbull has from time to time raised in this chamber the unfairness of the Government in refusing to pay social service benefits and medical and hospital benefits to inmates of mental institutions. It will be agreed that parents who have a child in an institution are committed to certain expenses. In South Australia there is a system whereby children who suffer a nervous breakdown may, during the period of their recovery, leave the mental institution of Friday and return to it on Monday. During the period they are at home their parents assume full control over them and must meet the cost of fares and food, and, of course, they must provide clothing throughout the whole period.
I put to the Minister the case of a girl aged 18 years. She is the child of a widow who has to work to maintain the other members of the family. The girl suffered an unfortunate breakdown, and it was recommended that she receive medical treatment in a mental hospital. It was stated that the home environment was essential to her recovery. She goes home on Friday and returns to the hospital on Monday. The widow, from her wages, must pay for the child’s fares, for her food whilst she is at home, and for her clothing, but she receives no reimbursement in the way of social service benefits because it is said that the girl is an inmate of a mental home. The peculiar situation arises that if the child was not hospitalised in a mental home she would qualify to receive social service benefits. The Act does not contain a definition of “inmate”. I challenged the interpretation given by the Department; I wrote to the Minister for Social Services. On 5th March he replied in the following terms -
In confirming that … is not at present qualified for any form of assistance from my Department I must point out that she is an inmate of Northfield Hospital within the meaning of the Social Services Act. This is clear from the terms of a legal opinion obtained by the Department to the effect that a person becomes an inmate of an institution upon being formally admitted, and remains an inmate until formally discharged with no obligation to return.
That reply is based upon a legal definition. Legal opinions can be wrong; otherwise there would be no need for court actions to be instituted. According to this ruling, a person may be sent home for a month, but she is not entitled to any social service benefits even though she cannot work. According to this ruling, if she is under an obligation to return she will get nothing.
Surely that was not the intention of the legislature. If ambiguity arises, we must look at the intention of the legislature to see what meaning should ‘be attributed to a particular word or words. Surely if the Act means anything, it means that it was intended to make provision for people who through sickness are destitute and are unable to contribute to the family income or to provide for themselves. Even though the ruling given by the Minister might be the correct interpretation of section 133, there is an over-riding provision in section 124 to the effect that, notwithstanding a person’s ineligibility for sickness benefits, the Director-General of Social Services may grant a pension. I asked the Minister to make a concession and to giant a pension to this person under the terms of section 124. In his reply he stated -
Section 133 of the Social Services Act applies equally to special benefits granted under section 124 as to unemployment and sickness benefits.
In the circumstances I have no alternative but to confirm that the operation of section 133 of the Social Services Act precludes . . . from entitlement for unemployment, sickness or special benefit.
Whilst section 124 confers certain discretionary powers, the Minister has stated that section 133 applies to benefits granted under section 124. Perhaps his interpretation could be challenged in the courts, but such a challenge would be beyond the financial capacity of the person concerned. If the Minister’s interpretation is correct, there is need for the Act to be amended. The social services legislation, which is supposed to provide benefits for the underprivileged, the sick and the aged, is not worth retaining if it does not achieve what it ought to achieve.
I am interested also in the case of a widow who, after desertion by her husband and acceptance of employment by her youngest child, is no longer eligible for a widow’s pension. It was thought that she should receive special consideration because of the fact that, upon the death of a sister, she adopted the child of that sister. The definition of “ child “ excludes a child who is adopted after divorce or desertion. This woman is suffering hardship because, even though she has accepted responsibility for an orphan child by legally adopting it, she is deprived of social service benefits or any other form of assistance. If the child had been her own or if it had been adopted before she was deserted, she would have been entitled to assistance. In the existing circumstances, she is not so entitled.
I wish to bring another case to the notice of the Senate. In South Australia we have a blind man who is 25 years of age and who has overcome his difficulties to the extent that this year he will graduate from the University of Adelaide in arts and law. He applied for a position in the Commonwealth Public Service and he asked me to approach the Public Service Board to see whether he could receive an appointment in Adelaide. He relies upon a guide dog when he moves about, and he thought that the dog would find other areas strange. However, the Public Service insists that a prospective appointee must have usable vision which it is thought will last until he reaches 65 years of age so that he will not become a drain on the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund or any other funds! The Commonwealth has been very good in assisting in the provision of sheltered workshops for disabled persons, but in a case like this it will not lend its aid. This man does not want to share in the benefits of the Superannuation Fund or the Provident Fund. All he wants is the right of employment, even though only as a temporary employee, and thus some guarantee of security. If the provisions of the relevant legislation prevent such a person being employed, I ask that consideration be given to amending it.
I conclude by saying that the organisations in South Australia with which I am connected are quite concerned about employers in industry, mostly those engaged in activity of a casual nature, who fail to give taxation certificates to employees for some considerable time after the end of the taxation year. I request that the taxation laws be policed, with insistence that stamps or group certificates be in the hands of employees at the end of thi taxation year.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McKellar). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- As a new member of the Federal Parliament, 1 have listened with probably rather unusual interest to the contributions which have been made in the Budget debate, not only in this chamber but also in another place. Indeed, ‘ I listened throughout the speech that was made in the other place by the Leader of the Australian Labour Party, Mr. Calwell, and I am bound to say that having heard speeches on some 20 Budgets over the past 20 years I have never been so shocked and so amazed at the intemperance of a speech from a leader of a party as I was on Tuesday night. I cannot see, however generously one may have listened to the speech, how even those of his own political beliefs and persuasions can feel other than as I do. His speech was full of gross abuse. He made some very grave charges. These were interspersed with inaccuracies and irresponsibilities. Indeed, I was reminded of a comment that was once made in my. hearing, fortunately not about me, to the effect that a speech reminded the listener of sideshow alley, because the speaker did nothing but put up Aunt Sallys just so that he could have the pleasure of knocking them down, without any recognition of the truth or otherwise of what be was saying.
Apart from that, there was (he old party cry of too little spending and too many taxes. This has always been the character of such speeches for the past 1 4 years in the Federal Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition in the other place reminds me of a man who tries to take two gallons out of a one gallon bucket and, to crown it, puts only half a gallon in the one gallon bucket anyway. That was the whole temper of the speech, as I heard it.
I listened to the speech in this chamber by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and I must confess that it was on quite a different plane. It was critical, but it was most interesting to listen to. All the speeches by the Leader of the Opposition that I have heard have been of the same quality, but unfortunately he had a pretty hard task. He moved an amendment similar to that which was moved by his colleague in another place, but spent most’ of his time in showing by figures that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) had made some mistakes in Budget estimating. Mr. Acting Deputy President, is this a great sin?
Is it not the experience of all of us that budgeting - whether it is government budgeting, business budgeting or even domestic budgeting - is not an easy problem, especially when one is anticipating what may happen in the months ahead. I suppose no budgets have ever been brought down in which the estimation of the expenditure has proved in all cases to be exact in every detail or even relatively close. That would apply surely much more forcibly in a field such as this, where there is such an astronomical expenditure, than it would in smaller situations.
I listened, again with more than ordinary interest, to the speech by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge). Bearing in mind that this was the first major speech that he had made as Leader of the Government here. I felt that it was a most brilliant speech. Never before, I think, have I heard the arguments presented by one’s predecessor so completely and damningly pulled to pieces as was done by our leader immediately after the speech of Senator McKenna. I would like to congratulate him not only on the brilliance of the speech but also on becoming Leader of the Government in the Senate.
At this point I should like to return for a few moments to the speech by the Leader of the Opposition in the other place. I said that he was intemperate, that he was grossly inaccurate and that he made grave charges. Am I being intemperate in the language which I use?. Let us consider some of his statements. First of all, he said that we are to have imposed upon us the greatest tax increases in history. I do not believe that there is anybody here who would accept that statement. I think that he knows himself that it is not true. Therefore, it is quite fair to say that it was a most intemperate and quite inaccurate statement. He went on to speak about the TFX bomber. I was shocked by the words that he used. He said -
Is not the absence of any allocation this year proof of the Government’s belief - or rather, the Government’s absolute knowledge - that the bomber will not be delivered even by 1968, but rather by 1970, if then?
Had that comment been made from a complete lack of knowledge, there might have been some excuse, but it was spoken within a few hours of statements made in the other place and here by senior and responsible
Ministers, which were completely contrary to the statement of the Leader of the Opposition. This troubles me. I think that it is the responsibility of all of us to be as accurate as we possibly can when we are addressing ourselves to a matter such as this. Had he stopped at that point, I might not have made the comments that I am making now, but, speaking on the allocation of money for the TFX bomber, he went on to say -
Or better still, will somebody in the Government at last come clean on this bomber scandal - a scandal which deprives Australia of possession of a worthwhile modern bomber force for another six years at the very best?
I maintain that to charge a government in those intemperate- terms is beyond the right of any member of any parliament, unless he has reason to believe that what he is saying is true. I think we can satisfy ourselves, by inference, that he did not believe the things he was saying were true. In other words, I think we have in our hands proof that he did not believe the statement that he made because, during his speech, he moved an amendment identical with that moved by the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber. The amendment stated -
But the Senate is of the opinion that the Budget does not adequately grapple with the problems of striking a realistic and fitting balance between the claims on national resources arising from defence, development and social welfare.
If this Government could fairly be charged in the terms that were used by the Leader of the Opposition in the other place, then is he not failing in his duty as Leader of the Opposition in not including in his motion the proof that he should have had before making such a charge, as the basis upon which he moved what was virtually a vote of no confidence in the Government? I maintain that no leader is a responsible leader when he makes charges of that nature and moves an amendment to a substantive motion such as this in such innocuous terms; that I believe they can scarcely be understood by quite a number of people. I was further distressed on the following day to find, spread over the front pages of nearly every one of the principal newspapers of this country, in great, big startling letters these charges which had been so irresponsibly made against the Government.
I think it is a most serious thing when defamatory and irresponsible statements, without one grain of truth in them, can ‘be made and can gain such startling headlines. Unfortunately, today, people are headline readers and there will be many people who will take those words at their face value and be misled - deliberately misled- by a man who is hoping and for a long time has hoped to become Prime Minister of this country. Heaven help us if we should have that type of approach in the top echelon of our Government. I will leave that subject, although there is a lot more I could say in relation to it. I move on now to another point which has struck me most forcibly during the few months I have been here. We frequently hear from members of the Opposition the complaint that the Government -has acted, somehow reprehensibly - how I do not know - in implementing some proposals which have been made by Labour speakers. What is wrong with that? Is not this the very basis of our Parliamentary Government? Is it not the basis of Parliamentary Government that men of all kinds of political thought can meet together, discuss problems and advance their own suggestions for the solution of those problems?
Let me say frankly that I have made it a practice to have all speeches made by the Opposition as well as by my own colleagues in this particular type of forum, studied so that I and my own administration could apply, from among the suggestions made, those things that were good. I would hate to sec the time come when a party which did not adopt that attitude become the government of this country, because if a government will not take suggestions, ideas and proposals from members of the Opposition, it is wasting*- its time, just as members of the Opposition would be wasting their time. I am amazed to hear the constant cry that the Government has, in fact, implemented something suggested by some member of the Opposition, however senior he may be.
I want to make one other point before I proceed with my comments on the Budget: I interjected during Senator Cavanagh’s speech, in relation to compulsory unionism. He said he disagreed with compulsory unionism but did agree with preference to unionists. I am not, at this moment, quarrelling with his idea, but I said then - and I say now - that in fact there is very little difference between the two. Having had some experience in this field in Queensland 1 know that where compulsory unionism, did not operate, but preference to unionists did, it was always necessary for a person not being a member of a union and commencing work in a particular industry, to become a member of a union within a matter of three weeks. This pertains to almost every industry and, indeed, in some industries very strong efforts are made to prevent non-unionists from entering -them. So, in. fact, whilst a person might be able to get a job while he is not a unionist, he is not permitted to retain that job if he does not become a unionist. To my mind, this constitutes compulsory unionism almost to the same degree as if it were compulsory to become a member of a union prior to operating in a particular industry. That is why I interjected during the honorable senator’s speech.
I believe that a Budget debate presents an opportunity of measuring progress by comparison, if it is a State Budget, with the Budget of other States, or, it is a Federal Budget, by a comparison with those of other countries. It is, indeed, a type of national self-analysis. That is the way in which 1 have approached the Budget on this occasion and I have divided what I want to say into four categories. First, I want to compare - in some slight measure only - the Australian economy with the economies of other countries. I want also to compare our present economy with that which operated in certain years past. 1 want, next, to look for a moment at the national reactions to the present Budget. I want, then, to finalise my remarks by bringing forward a few constructive comments which I hope may be of at least some interest to one or two honorable senators. I want, first, to make a comparison between our economy and those of other countries. During the debate on the Address-in-Reply I quoted very briefly, during my speech, from the London “ Financial Times “ in regard to the Oscar award winners for 1963. On that occasion, I felt that it was not desirable for me to enlarge too much on this and I then said I would do so on some future occasion. I now propose to do so.
First, it is within the knowledge of all of us that the London “ Financial Times “ is a most reputable newspaper and one which is relied upon thoroughly by a wide range of people. Business institutions use it extensively. Whenever one looks for an authoritative statement on matters of finance and things like that one frequently refers lo the London “ Financial Times “ as the final authority. Each year a well known member of its organisation, Lombard, who is known as an authority throughout the English speaking world, gives what are called “ Oscars “ to various countries and various people for outstanding work. There are prizes - I like that word better than “ Oscars “, but that is only a matter of personal preference - for the star currency of the year in relation to nations, for the best all round economic performance, for the most outstanding British banker and for the foremost foreign banker. Then there are another half dozen awards. I was deeply interested and delighted to see that for 1963 this authority gave to Australia probably the most coveted award of the lot. 1 intend to read what was said. It was as follows -
Best all-round economic performance. This much coveted award has been won by Australia. She earned it by managing to resume economic expansion at a fast rate while maintaining the balance of payments in robust condition and preserving a close approach to economic equilibrium in the internal field. The committee recognised that Australia had been greatly helped by the heavy inflow of overseas capital but came to the conclusion that, allowing for the fact that this itself was partly explained by the efforts she had made to make such investment welcome, she was still entitled to the premier award.
The statement goes on to say that the next best in this particular classification was West Germany. This is one aspect of the attitude of people overseas to Australia’s economy. I think we should be very proud of the fact that Australia has been chosen by the authority for that particular award. However, that is only one example of the way overseas people look at us. They also look at us in relation to the level of our taxation, the level of the economy, the level of taxation rates and, finally, the level of the standard of living. Wilh great assistance from the Parliamentary Library I have extracts from Downing’s book “Taxation in Australia, 1964 “. 1 have another authoritative document from Great Britain and another from Canada. I also have the “ National Institute’s Economic Review” issued in March 1961. It is the latest which is available and it comes from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research in London. I would remind honorable senators that this is regarded as one of the greatest authorities that one can appeal to in matters such as the one to which 1 am referring. I. find that here is summarised more or less the whole of the material in the other reports on taxation. On page 55 of this document is an article entitled “The Burden of Taxation: An International Comparison “. The brief explanation is as follows -
The simplest measure of the burden of taxation (direct and ‘indirect taxes and social security contributions) is the proportion of the country’s income which goes in tax.
Or, of course, the proportion which is paid in tax. On page 55 is Chart 1. From this we find that the percentage of national income which is paid in taxes in West Germany is 34, in Austria 33, Finland 32, Norway 32, France 32, Sweden 31, Luxemborg 30, Britain 29, Netherlands 28, Italy 28, U.S.A. 26, Denmark 24, Canada 23, Ireland 23, Belgium 23 and Australia 22. There are only four countries which are lower than Australia, and they are Japan, Greece, Portugal and Spain. Therefore on these figures Australians as a whole pay less in taxation than do the people of most of the other countries I have mentioned. This is all-round taxation. This is a most interesting article. I have quoted only short extracts from it. However, having referred to that source of authority, I went further and obtained more assistance. I now propose. to refer to figures that in certain cases are a little more current. The source of my Australian figures is the White Paper on National Income and Expendiutre; the figures for the United Kingdom come from the Blue Book of 1963 from the Monthly Digest of Statistics, April 1964; for the U.S.A. from the “Survey of Current Business “, July 1963; and for Canada from the Budget Papers of 1964. Having quoted those authorities, you will see that they ape more current than the one I just quoted. With the concurrence of honorable’ senators I incorporate the figures in “ Hansard “ -
Having incorporated these figures I do not propose to go into great detail, but let me just say that in relation to taxation as a percentage of gross national product - Australia is maintaining the position that she occupied in the other figures I recently quoted. This is terribly important. Our taxation, direct and indirect, is lower than that in almost every other major country or country of any importance. I think . we should be mighty proud that we have been able to maintain such a level of economic development and security and that we should have gained an award for it against all other countries when our taxation rate is lower than that of almost every other country.
I am indebted to my friend, Senator Brown, who this morning asked a question about the cost of telephones in other countries. I have not yet seen the reply, but I am looking forward to seeing it, because the figures quoted to us by the Minister for Health (Senator Wade), representing the Postmaster-General, give substantially the same result, in that telephones are cheaper here than they are in the countries that were quoted by the Minister, I believe that all of these things show that we are moving along a sound and satisfactory course so far as the nation is concerned. We are thought highly of overseas, as has been proved by the extract I read.
Our people have a very high standard of living. They pay less taxes than the people of almost every other country. I believe this to be the final result of sound and sane administration over the past 14 years. If further support for this argument is needed it can be obtained in the figures released by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) on 17th August. These figures show that the number of people registered for employment in Australia - I presume they are people who are not working - represent 1 per cent, of the community. But even those figures do not tell the full story.
For a long time I have argued that it is necessary to examine two classifications of unemployed persons. First there are those people who are registered for employment; that is, they have registered in order to get a job. However, within that figure I know that there is a second category. There are those people who say that they are not employed at the present time when in fact they arc employed. I have always argued that the figure representing those persons registered for employment gives a somewhat inflated picture of the unemployment position. Taking it further, I have argued that the correct standard by which we should measure our unemployment figure is the number of persons who are drawing the unemployment benefit, because they have to prove that they are unemployed. By using this standard we would find that even the wonderfully satisfactory figure of 1 per cent, would be reduced to about .4 per cent. One could add to that a small amount for safety - although I believe this to be unnecessary - and then correctly say that our employment position in Australia is so healthy and so satisfactory that only about 5 per cent, of our people who want to work do not have work.
Frequently the numbers of unemployed persons do not reflect the state of the economy because there are more jobs waiting to be filled then there are people drawing the unemployment benefit or are registered for employment. Some people cannot obtain jobs because for some years the pattern has been that those people who are genuinely unemployed are in the unskilled category. I am very sorry for the unskilled workers in the community and I always have been.’ I deplored in the early post-war days the fact that so many deadend jobs were taken by young fellows who would become in a few years unemployed unskilled workers.
I have searched for an answer and undoubtedly it is the answer I found in 1957. At that lime, as Minister for Labour, and Industry in Queensland, I called a conference of representatives of employer and employee bodies. I put.it squarely to them: “Here is the problem. The only unemployed persons we have are those who are unable to fill vacancies which need to be filled, for the sake of the economy, because they are unskilled.” I proposed to the conference that -we should start a supplementary training scheme so that those who were unskilled, and unemployed could attend it and become skilled workers. They could then fill the job vacancies. I was supported by all the employer organisations and three very strong Queensland unions. Numerically I had the support of the preponderance of unionists for a supplementary training scheme, but I am sorry to say that it was impossible to proceed, then or since, because of the implacable opposition of some Qf the craft unions, which opposed the scheme not because of any concern for their more unfortunate fellows but because they were trying to keep a closed shop for themselves and to exclude other people from the opportunity to benefit from the more lucrative employment that would follow training under the proposed scheme.
To mc it is one of the greatest tragedies of Australia that we have well paid jobs remaining empty and unskilled men who are unable .to take a job because of their lack of training. Yet their fellow workers will not give them the opportunity to participate in a supplementary training scheme. That this should be so in these enlightened times staggers me. I believe that the Australian people would overwhelmingly support such a scheme if an’ opportunity was created. There never will be a stronger supporter of such a training scheme than I am. However, I still have not abandoned hope that a training scheme will eventuate. I believe that the common sense and the pressure of our people among the unskilled workers will eventually triumph and there will be agreement on an adult training scheme. The great pity is that it has. not yet been introduced and implemented.
Returning to the Budget, I imagine that I am no different from all my colleagues in that when the Budget details were released I examined the Press reports to discover the reaction of the community. I wanted to find out whether the community’s ideas were similar to mine. We have to be realistic and recognise that there has been very little public or individual opposition -to this Budget. There is widespread recognition of the need for continued wisdom in the councils of our country. It has been said that the imposition of the extra taxes will bear very heavily on certain people.
I have heard a number of people say that the future of the motor car industry will be gravely jeopardised. I have not had a chance to talk to representatives of the industry but I have here a Press report which appeared a few days ago, after the Budget was brought down. The heading of the article is-
Not worried,’ say car firms.
The article reads -
The secretary of the Queensland Chamber of Automotive Industries (Mr. Clem L. Fox) said the tax lift would not have a very serious effect on sales.
There could be a small initial reaction, but the average rise of £20 to £25 for a £1,200 car should not be serious.
Most car dealers at the Exhibition agreed.
The article continues to deal with the reaction of motor car dealers to the sales tax increase. Indeed, there are certain car distributors who are carrying the whole of the extra cost. I think this is symptomatic of the reaction in all fields throughout Australia. There is a realisation that we have been extremely fortunate over the years in having sound finance from our national Government. There is a recognition that this is continuing.
I said that the last aspect I proposed to discuss today was from the point of view of constructive suggestions. I have some suggestions to make. I hope they will be regarded as constructive, but that remains to be seen. The first matter upon which I would like to speak is the formula for financial allocation to the States. As we all know, under the Financial Agreement there is a formula whereby taxation reimbursements are made to the various States in certain proportions. I have never believed those proportions to be satisfactory, because I do not think sufficient attention has been paid to the urgent needs of some States which are less developed than others and which have greater difficulties in development than others. We all know that the one State which suffers most in relation to this problem is Western Australia. I have necessarily no brief for Western Australia, but I have a great brief for fairness. I do not think the present formula is fair to the larger and the less developed States. This is one of the most urgent problems that aire facing the Government today. 1 said something of this nature when I was speaking about the allocation of finance for roads. That was important in my view, but this is more important. The sooner we can have a new look at this financial distribution and allocation, the sooner we shall bring to Australia a greater uniform fairness in the granting of finance for the work which has to be done.
Let me give one example. Last year, £130,000 was allocated and spent on roads in a particular shire. Having heard of the extra money which would be available, I hoped that there would be more money available to that shire this year. I find that there will be little difference in the amount. This shire is as big as the State of Victoria. In the name of fortune, how are we to develop Australia if the problem Ls looked at this way? It is all very well to say that we must have development in the areas where most people live. That is all right up to a point, but only up to a point. Unless we can get away from that type of thinking there will not be any development in areas where no money is being spent. This problem troubles me perhaps more than anything else.
I look forward to the discussion, which will take place shortly, on the detailed Estimates. The Department in which I will be most interested is the Department of National Development. If I may, I will make just a few general comments on national development this afternoon. First of all, I would like to congratulate Senator Sir William Spooner on the great work he did for so many years in this field while he was Minister for National Development. I want to add my few words to the praise which he has received already. The fact that the words are few does not take away from the strength of my feelings in this regard. I also want to say that the appointment of the new Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) has given me a great deal of pleasure. I have already discovered that he is a man with sound knowledge and a desire to achieve great development within Australia. That is possibly the greatest characteristic that can be sought in the man Who holds the portfolio of National Development. I express great satisfaction - I probably have done so before, but I do it again - at the institution of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development. More particularly, I want to commend the Government upon its choice of Dr. Patterson, a young man, to be the head of this Division. With a staff of some 17 employees, the division is only a small section of the Department of National Development, but we must remember that it is a new division.
Dr. Patterson was previously with the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. He had a hand in the preparation of two important documents. One is entitled “ The Economics of Road Transport Of Beef Cattle, Northern Territory and Queensland Channel Country”, issued in 1959. The other is “Development Of Water Transport For Beef Cattle, Gulf Of Carpentaria And Cape York Peninsula”, issued in 1961. Anybody who wishes to know the beef cattle population of any part of Australia or who wishes to know anything about the transportation of beef cattle anywhere in Australia should read these documents. I know of no other documents which contain so much information and which are such a wonderful help. Dr. Patterson had a great deal to do with the preparation of these two documents. Perhaps I would be wrong in saying that they are entirely his work, but at least he did a great deal of the work. In addition he visited probably every property in the whole of the northern area which falls within the ambit of the new Northern Division of the Department of National Development.
That fact leads me to this point: I have not seen anywhere a delineation of the area which is regarded as coming within the ambit of the new Northern Division, so I asked the Minister for National Development for information on the matter. I have received a letter from him from which I shall quote the relevant paragraph. It is as follows -
The boundary of the Northern Division at present delineates ns I have said.
That was when he was speaking to me. The letter continues -
Namely, it follows the Tropic of Capricorn 23-1° south from Rockhampton to the Northern Territory boundary. It then goes south to the 26* Latitude and proceeds across to the Western Australian Coast. Everything above this area is regarded as the Northern Division.
In other words, the boundary of the Northern Division commences on the eastern coast of Queensland and follows the Tropic of Capricorn from which it runs south to the southern boundary of th» Northern Territory; thence it runs west along the 26° Latitude to the Western Australian coast. This is information I have been seeking for quite a while. I wanted to know the area delineated as coming within the ambit of the responsibilities of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development. Many other people will be pleased to have the information. Of course, this does not means that the work of the Northern
Division will stop the moment it reaches that line. That would be ridiculous. Very often, it will be necessary for work to carry over into areas further south, but that, in the main, is the area which will come within the ambit of this Division.
Returning to the Department of National Development as a whole; I noticed that there are nine sub-headings under which expenditure is allocated, but I am most disappointed to see that there is no sub-heading for the Northern Division of the Department of National Development. Neither you nor I nor any of us can find out from the Budget itself the amounts that have been allocated for this work. I think, that that is a pity. I am not seriously distressed about the matter because I know that this is a very new division. Possibly in the course of a few months we will find that the position will be rectified. We may find that next year a separate heading will be incorporated so that we can distinguish the work that is being done and the amount of money that is being spent. I am sorry that the information is not available at present.
There are some who think that very little is being done or has been done for the north, b.ut that is quite wrong. As Senator McKellar said yesterday, the committee working on the cost of transport in the north is very active. It could not be a stronger committee. This wonderful committee is working very hard and I believe it will bring in findings which will prove to be very good for these disadvantaged areas. Money is being spent on many projects. This again is a matter which should be dealt with when the estimates of the individual departments are being considered, but I can say now that during the past few years - I think five years - £400 million has been spent in the northern part of Australia that I have delineated. I shall deal with this aspect more particularly a little later on.
About two weeks ago a public meeting was held in Cairns, attended by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn), The Minister was told that to transport some material from a place in central Queensland to a place in north-western Queensland cost £28. The people concerned decided they would find out whether there was some better method of transporting this material. They discovered that while it cost £2S to transport the material from central Queensland to north-west Queensland, they could ship the material from Queensland to England and back again and have it delivered in the north for £7. That is an example of the ridiculous anomalies that exist. These anomalies are being ironed out by the division very quickly.
There are two other matters to which I wish to refer briefly before I conclude. The first is the development cf the wet coast of Queensland. This kas been a baby of mine and of my colleagues since 1960. There are hundreds of thousands of acres on the wet coast of Queensland, many of which are not being used at all at present or are being reserved for what I may call book purposes. If they were used correctly, they could produce enough cattle to keep our meat works operating for twelve months in the year instead of seven or eight months. This matter is being looked at by the Northern Division of the Department of National Development. This is perhaps why I am so happy at the appointment of Dr. Patterson as head of the Division and why I am so happy about the operations of the Division.
– This land is under reserve by the Queensland Government at the moment, is it not?
– Yes, a great dea) of it is. I shall explain the position a little further. A great deal of this land has been reserved for forestry purposes, but there are differences of opinion about the matter. I believe that hundreds of thousands of acres which have been reserved for forestry purposes will never be used for those purposes. 1 Must not say too much about this now because it is something in which I have been involved and I am apt to get a little bit hot under the collar about it, because I believe the subject to be so important.
Finally, although I believe that the Northern Division of the Department of National Development will work very well in an advisory and helpful capacity to the Department as a whole, there is something further which I should like to see the Division doing. One of the greatest problems in the north is the personal problem of finance, lt affects a number of people whose costs are inevitably higher than the costs of those living in closer settled areas. Everything in these northern areas costs more. All the work that has to be done on’ the pro perties costs more. Basically the problem is one of personal finance. Since I have been in the north a large number of people have told me about this problem, which they have not been able to solve. Let me say quite frankly that I know of many cases where the Development Bank has helped people out, but the Development Bank does not meet the situation completely. These people are not able to go running down to the bank every day to discuss their problems. They have their properties to look after and in some cases it would take them a week or fortnight to pay a visit to the bank. These people just simply cannot get personal finance, and by personal finance I mean the money necessary to enable them to run their properties. lt is very hard to see what the answer to the problem is. lt might be possible, perhaps, for the Department of National Development to have a financial allocation of its own to assist these people, but that would present many problems. I do not think that eventually that would provide the answer. I think that the answer lies somewhere between that suggestion and the facilities that exist today. As I have thought about the problem I have moved further to the belief that the real answer lies in some arrangement being made whereby the Northern Division of (he Department could give confidential reports on the possibilities of the : operations of properties in the northern areas. It could report on a project, the type of person involved, the possibility of success and other relevant matters. The Division should bc asked to prepare such reports. Do not forget that the people in the Division know this area. Dr. Patterson and his officers know the area as well as many . honorable senators know Sydney and Melbourne, and they could make better reports than any other person in Australia. I should like the Division to be used as an authority to make unbiased, balanced reports on applications by persons in these northern areas. If it is thought that a project is valuable to the’ national economy and that the applicant requires some assistance, the division should report accordingly. I shall elaborate on this subject on some future occasion, because I see that time will not permit me to do so now.
– After listening to speakers on the Government side, particularly Senator
Morris, one might get the impression that we on this side of the chamber are not entitled to criticise the Budget, and also that we are crying poor mouth. We do not say that Australia is not a great and prosperous country. It is a great and prosperous country today, and will be an even greater country. Whatever government is in control, Australia will bc a great country. We are not going to say that there is not an clement of truth in the statement that we have never had it better. That statement, of course, has done the rounds of the Western world. To an extent it is true of Europe, and to an extent it is true of Australia. Possibly, if the statement was not true there would be a Labour Government in office today because outside there is great public apathy which goes with prosperity and with having the good things of life, as we have them in abundance today. I think that comment applies generally to most people in Australia today.
But things are not always what they seem. The other day I had occasion to think about the associates of my son who is 21 years of age. I was a little concerned about the company he was keeping. I thought that his associates seemed to be in and out of jobs too frequently and did not look too stable. I began talking to them and found that three of four of the boys, all of whom had matriculated - one had gone to the King’s School and another to Scots College, two of the best schools - were working as builders’ labourers. I was very interested to know why they were working as builders’ labourers.- 1 found that they were interested iri the money. They said it was better to work as builders labourers because, as the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ publishes about 11 columns of advertisements for builders^ labourers every Saturday, they could work for a fortnight and have a fortnight off when they could become surfboard riders on the northern beaches in Sydney. I thought it was an alarming situation to have educated boys, who had been to the best schools, earning their living as builders’ labourers. Possibly they would not have been interested in becoming trained mechanics, and most certainly they would not have been interested in taking an apprenticeship, which covers the point raised by Senator Morris. He said he was worried about who should and who should not be apprenticed, and how we could induce boys to take on apprenticeships.
The last thing that these boys were interested in was politics. They have never known anything but prosperity. Not one of them is living at home. They are boarding at King’s Cross and other places. They were not interested in this Budget. They are not interested in Parliament. They are earning good money. But is that enough? Surely a Government cannot bc happy about this problem of youth of which I speak. What is the Government doing about it?
Government supporters take credit for the prosperity. Labour wins elections in New South Wales just as this Government wins Federal elections, for the same reason that people want to leave things as they are. They attach some significance to the government in office for the conditions they enjoy, but that is not necessarily sound reasoning for a government to adopt.
The first point I want to make is that in this prosperity which we arc enjoying at the present time there are great dangers. Do not for one moment think that there are not a lot of people suffering. There are many people suffering today who are not covered by this Government’s social legislation. I do not know whether it would be possible to produce legislation that would cover their circumstances, but their circumstances become all the more sorrowful as those of other people improve. A fortnight ago I visited two pensioners living in a little mining town. They were receiving the full pension and were living in comfort. They were both 83 years of age. They had a nice little home, and they would not change places with anybody. They could even vote for this Government because they are happy in their present situation. They own their house, they are receiving two pensions, they have an old car, they save money and they are comfortable. On the other hand, people call to see me in Sydney who are afraid to face each morning. They are living in single rooms and receive’ one pension. On the television programme “ Four Corners “ about a fortnight ago several pensioners were interviewed. They were living g by themselves. Some were being treated by doctors. They were getting medicine and paying for it themselves. I know they can get it for nothing if they do certain things. One pensioner said: “I feel like taking my own life, but what can I do? “ The Reverend Alan Walker, a Methodist minister in Sydney,’ has introduced a service known as “ Lifeline “. He receives hundreds of calls a week from desperate people who do not receive enough benefits under this Government’s welfare legislation. For some reason or other they are outside the scope of the legislation. Honorable senators opposite have met this type of pensioner, as I have. When Mr. E. J. Ward, who was the former member for East Sydney, died, I took over his electorate and looked after it for approximately six weeks until his successor was elected. The people who came to see me made me sad. They were hopeless cases, but they were all human beings. Mr. Ward had been trying to help them for years. They were people who were really destitute. They were ill. I daresay that many government supporters and members of the community would consider they were hopeless and that they were dregs, but they were human beings. I confess I was glad when the six weeks ended and I was able to leave the areas of Paddington East Sydney and Woolloomooloo and have a look at people who were doing reasonably well in the community. I compliment Mr. Ward. He was a friend of the poor, and the poor really flocked around him in his Paddington home and at the Paddington Town Hall.
It would be a wonderful thing if this Government, or any government, could set up some type of organisation that would ileal with these extreme cases so that they could be treated sympathetically. I know that some social workers help these people to an extent, but there is a need for social workers or almoners to go out and attend to them and do what is possible to give t:.em some sort of security. It seems to me that this problem is passed over by governments. In this great prosperity that we enjoy I would like to see something done along these lines, even if we go to the extent of financing the indolent and those who some people say should do something for themselves or be supported by their families.
There are thousands of people in this situation in the country. If one were to talk to the Reverend Alan Walker one would see the people with whom he deals. One could also talk to the people who conduct the Sydney County Council’s “ Meals on Wheels “ service.
On the “ Four Corners “ television programme, to which I have referred, one woman said: “ I am doing all right. The Meals on Wheels people come to me every day. I pay 2s. for the meal. I am able to get by on that because I cut the meal in half and I have one half at 12 o’clock and the other half at 6 o’clock.” Another man was in much the same position. The four or five people who were interviewed were living by themselves and attending to their own medical wants. They were lonely people, and that is probably worse than anything else.
I should like the Government and the Department of Social Services to see what could be done to establish an organisation to look after these people. I have heard it said that there ought to be contact areas to which people could go to have their troubles ironed out. The Government has established legal aid departments for the benefit of people who have reached the bottom of the barrel financially and who cannot afford to pay for legal assistance. It should do likewise for people who are suffering hardship and who arc being attended to by various church organisations, including the St. Vincent dc Paul Society, which I know very well. If the Government were to expand its activities and to co-operate with the various church and charitable organisations all over the country, it would clean up a lot of the misery in the community and give some hope to the people to whom I am referring. The Government might then be able to say truthfully and wholeheartedly that it had done something really worthwhile for the pensioner class in the community. That class is growing in size.
If the people I have been talking about are feeling the pinch, then other groups which are feeling the pinch and in which I think the Liberal Party especially should be interested - we all, including the Government, should be interes’ted in them - are superannuated persons, and people in old people’s homes. Some of these people used to be affluent; they used to enjoy life and their possessions. But all that has gone and there, remain only their clothes and a few personal belongings. The plight of these people and of the pensioners generally is a human problem, but it is escaping the notice of the Public Service and of governments. The Australian Labour Party has not been the only body to criticise the Budget on this score. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ - in fact, all the newspapers - have pointed out that the Budget does not provide for these people. As far as governments are concerned, the total pensioner problem seems to be insoluble.
Pensioners’ incomes do not keep up with (he basic wage. As the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ said just recently, the increase of £1 in the basic wage has had an adverse effect on the pensioners. Senator Cole has advanced the proposition that the pension ought to rise and fall in keeping with the basic wage. I do not know whether that is feasible. Other people, including members of the Labour Party, have suggested that the pension rate should be equal to one half of the basic wage. Such propositions are being advanced by various people because they feel for the pensioners. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ has quoted figures to show that any advantage which the pensioner may have received has been dissipated already because of higher costs following the increase of £1 in the basic wage. The pensioners constitute a very special class and are entitled to very special consideration and the benefit of very special legislation. If we did not keep talking about this problem, nobody else would.
Many thousands of wives in Australia go to work. That creates a fictitious prosperity in that group. The fact that they are receiving a higher income makes them oblivious, or at any rate semi-oblivious, to the needs of the poorer sections of the community. We on this side of the Senate make no apologies for saying that something ought to be done to help those who are in dire circumstances, and I know that most supporters of the Government agree with us. Every year representatives of the pensioners come to Canberra* but they come 12 months too late. They come here to agitate for pension increases after the
Budget papers have been printed and after the Government’s policies have been formulated. I have often asked them why they did not come in the middle of the year and then talk to Ministers, members of the Australian Labour Party and supporters of the Government. I believe that supporters of the Government treat them with courtesy, as they should, and listen to their case. But I repeat that the pensioners come here at the wrong time of the year. I do not know why they come here in Budget week. Ona feels sorry for them when one sees them in Canberra on a cold day, shivering and frozen to the bone after having travelled a long distance in buses. I know that members of the Parliament generally are kind to them and take them to afternoon tea and so forth, but their coming here at that time of the year seems to be a waste of time because the Government has already formulated its policy and it cannot be undone at that stage.
Senator Morris spoke about the apprenticeship problem and blamed the trade unions for having a closed shop. The term “ closed shop “ is much misused. The honorable senator, and I think other honorable senators, blame Labour and the trr.de unions for not co-operating with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) in implementing his socalled policy on apprentices. The trade union movement and the Labour Party do not run away from their responsibility to help in developing a scheme to increase the supply of apprentices. Honorable senators opposite know as well as I do that today many young people are not interested in becoming apprentices but are interested in earning big money in labouring jobs, at least until they want to settle down. The responsibility lies really with the employers. I have before me a short letter from an employer in the building industry in which he speaks about the problem of apprentices. The building industry offers the biggest field for the employment of apprentices. This employer pointed out that the small builder was incapable of competing with the larger employer who lets his work out to sub-contractors and who is not interested in training apprentices. The result is that not sufficient apprentices are being trained. The bigger employers are more interested in profits than in training men. The system of sub-contracting has crept through the whole of the building industry and has destroyed or dried up the normal flow of apprentices.
The Labour Party and the trade union movement are quite concerned about the shortage of apprentices. The retention of skills is vital to the unions and the Labour Party, and probably to the Government. To keep the wage structure right it is necessary to have skilled and unskilled employees. You cannot have everybody skilled; you must have some unskilled employees. I think that is accepted as being common sense. The trade union movement is meeting in Melbourne today to discuss tin’s very problem. It is wrong to say that members of the trade union movement have a closed mind on this question. They realise that they have problems, that the scene is changing, and that what sufficed for an argument six months ago is no longer valid. Full employment has its blessings but it also has its problems, and one of these problems is the shortage of apprentices. That is, I think, a very pertinent and important matter to discuss in a Budget debate. Unless we have a skilled force of workers, we cannot have a prosperity Budget and Ministers will not be able to talk about all the good things that have happened financially.
Senator Morris spoke about the accounts and the money flowing in. Another Government supporter criticised Labour speakers for saying that Mr. Harold Holt had not been able to forecast within £100 million what the Budget situation was to be in a given year. It was said that we had no right to say these things. Let me take the minds of honorable senators back to 1945, when the Chifley Government altered the banking legislation, and to the earlier period when it was absolute sacrilege to talk of. turning on the printing presses and using central bank credit as we use it today. I. do not want to go back to the depression years, when the talk about an £18 million fiduciary issue wrecked Labour everywhere. It was said that we dared not do such a thing. New thinkers who wanted to put paper money to use had those thoughts.
Although this Government opposed the bank nationalisation measures of the Labour Government, it never said anything about proposing banking legislation to give the Government power over the private banks. That is all that we ever asked for. Because the Government has power over the private banks which it did not formerly have, it is able to develop public works and defence programmes. In a modern world nobody ever asks: “ Where are you going to get the money from? “ You just turn it on. Today the Budget amounts to over £2,000 million. One night during the 1949 election campaign I was returning with Mr. Chifley from a meeting in the Randwick Town Hall. The present Prime Minister had promised that if he were returned child endowment would be extended to cover the first child. I said to “ Honest Ben “: “ What are you talking about? Here is the custodian of capitalism going to increase child endowment but you, the Socialist, are not prepared to do it.” Do you know what he said? He said: “Because it would be dishonest. It would start us on the road to inflation.” Those were the words of the Labour Prime Minister, and he really believed that. But he was not up to d::te, was he? That was the Labour policy then, and it. was strictly honest but out of date.
I am getting into deep water. I might almost be saying that I wished the basic wage was what it had been. I could be accused of that. It suits mc as if is. The world was changing and the Labour Government did not realise that it was going to change, that money values were going to alter and ‘ that money was to be the servant of government, as it is today. Now we see Dr. Coombs, our socialist planner of fond memory, in charge of the banking system of this country and doing a good job. This helps honorable senators opposite to talk about the prosperity we are enjoying under the Menzies Government. I would be foolish to suggest that it is not taking place. I only say that the Menzies Government is not responsible for it. The Menzies Government has tuned in to this prosperity, and it is entitled to do so, of course. The problems on which we used to fight have been to a large extent solved. If the unfortunate people about whom I was speaking earlier could be looked after,’ we would be living in a fairly happy world.
Most people are reasonably satisfied with their conditions, but some people are suffering another burden which this Government ought to have a look at. Recently I was campaign director for the Labour Party in the Parramatta by-election where we managed a swing of about 4 per cent, from the Liberal Party. In 18 months we raised our vote from 38 per cent, to 42 per cent, of the total. There is nothing like an honest confession; it is always good for the soul. I was concerned that all the workers were not voting Labour as they used to do. Other types of people are voting Labour today. Honorable senators opposite would be surprised at some of the people who they think vote for the Government but who in fact vote Labour today. On the other hand there are people who we think should vote Labour but do not.
I was talking like this at a function one night. A man stood up and said: “I can explain that to you, senator”. I had been talking about Housing Commission houses. He said, “ My job is to sell hire purchase to all those home dwellers you are talking about”. I had naturally thought that anybody who lived - in a Housing Commission house got up at halfpast six in the morning, caught a slow train to work; and voted Labour. This man referred to the woman who had moved into a new Housing Commission house and bad a hire purchase debt of £1,000 on her shoulders. He said: “My job is to let her know when her television set is running down so that I can trade it in on another one, allowing £100 for the old machine and providing a new one for £100”. These people are permanently in debt and they will never get out of debt.
Have a look at West Sydney and other areas that are solid, where the population does not move and where the people think it is incongruous to put flash furniture in the front room. Hire purchase salesmen cannot get a living there. Those people are solidly Labour and we hold the regular Labour vote. The deviations take place among those people who are enjoying the fictitious prosperity that is given to them by the hire purchase companies. Some government, some day, must take hold of the hire purchase- companies and say: “ Enough, you cannot exploit these people any longer “.
Eventually we must get back on to a solid basis. We have prosperity but it is not sound. When you have a look at it, you see that it is fictitious. I think the hire purchase debt is about £400 million.
– It is £450 million.
– I am told it is £450 million. Most of the people who owe that debt are working class people. The motor cars in the street account for much of it. Generally speaking, these people are living on hire purchase and it is not a real prosperity which they enjoy. It is very good for the Government to be able to make use of the situation - I was going to say “ to exploit it “, but that would be uncharitable - and to claim credit for it. That is the situation as I see it.
The Government has really failed in matters of public health. I know that the Minister does his best to explain things away to us and that he does it very well, but the facts are that today it costs more money to die, or to go to hospital, or to be sick, than ever before in history.
– I know of a man who got a bill for £120 for an operation on his wife.
– A person came to me the other day and complained about a medical bill for £230 for two operations on his wife. She had first class treatment of course, but of that sum the benefit fund returned him £43. He had to get the best possible medical attention and advice for his wife. After all, she was ill and he could not shop around for the cheapest price, with his wife in danger of death, so she had the operations.
– Was he insured with a State Government insurance office?
– No, with the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd. It is different in New South Wales. I repeat that this man got back £45 of his £230 and if that is not expensive medicine, I do not’ know what is. No Minister should talk about this being the cheapest health scheme on earth when that sort of thing goes on. -As a matter of fact, it costs nearly twice as much per head of population as the socialised British scheme costs. So we are missing out somewhere. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) was so concerned about the position relating to public health that six or seven months ago he announced that he was going to have an inquiry held into the profits of the drug houses because I raised this question in the Senate. My brother senators did so, also. We were able to show that foreign capital had taken hold of the Australian drug industry, that there was a duplication of drugs at every turn and that the high cost of drugs is bankrupting the pharmaceutical benefit funds.
The Prime Minister was having a look at the matter and I know that Senator Wade has said in the Senate: “ We are handling this. We have had a couple of these companies in and they have agreed to cut down their profits.” But we have heard no more about it and I do not think they have cut down their profits. In the past, the Government has paid in pharmaceutical benefits about £3,500,000 a year. I do not say that the money should not have been paid and I atn glad that it was but the figure is now about £45 million. It is because of all this expense that the Government is unable to liberalise the payments it makes for operations. I have here a list of operations and the Government contributions in respect of them. It deals with the previous Government contributions to the hospital fund.
– Are you talking about the position prior to the last legislation or the new amounts payable?
– I will give both figures. Before that legislation the Government’s contribution for a confinement was £4 10s. Where could you get a confinement for that sum?
– You could not get a confinement for your cat from a vet for that sum.
– That is right. Under the new legislation the amount paid is £7 10s. After all, if the Public Service does not understand what is going on and has not a down-to-earth understanding and knowledge of what it costs to have a baby, how does the Government know, because the advice it is receiving must be wrong? If a woman decides to go to a Macquarie Street specialist she gets about £4 4s. from the fund. Yet a woman concerning whom I received a letter a few weeks ago made 14 visits to the gynaecologist at £2 2s. a time. Silly, isn’t it? Yet this is supposed to be a free scheme supported by the Government. That support might as well not exist at all.
– It was never suggested that it was a free scheme. You are stretching it a bit.
– It has been said that it is the best scheme in the world. For a caesarian operation the Government’s donation is £12 10s. Where would you get a caesarian operation for less than 100 guineas? The payment for the removal of an appendix is £10, for a gall bladder £15, for a tumour £2 10s., for a blood count £1, and so on.
– Are those the Commonwealth contributions?
– Yes. For an operation for squint - that should suit some people - the Commonwealth’s contribution is £10. Here is something very serious - the removal of adenoids. Almost every mother with a family has to have the children’s tonsils or adenoids removed. The Government’s contribution for an adenoid operation is £2. It is utterly ridiculous. You cannot escape the position that, in relation to the conditions which affect all the people most of the time, the Government’s contribution is almost nil, although it makes a bigger contribution for big operations. For a heart operation and other new fashionable operations it makes big contributions. But for things which affect the ordinary man and woman in the street and the mothers and fathers with young families, who are struggling for a living - as well off as the community is - and who, even with the inflated wages being paid today in many instances are still battling, these people receive comparatively little. In my view, they are the people who should be attended to. This health scheme should be directed towards their succour, if I may use that term. I do not think anybody - even members of the Government - is happy about public health.
– I would like to interrupt you here. If people can get into a public ward whatever is done is done by the honoraries.
– That is absolutely true but whereas, at one time, in New South Wales, half of a public hospital usually consisted of public wards, today, under the influence of this Government’s legislation, one would be lucky to find an average of 10 per cent, of the area of public hospitals consisting of public wards. There is just no room and you have either to go into an intermediate ward or a private ward. There must be a weakness in legislation which allows hospitals to make changes such as that. I know that Labour senators have spoken of this matter before in regard to the private hospital system. Doctors usually have an investment in private hospitals. But, under the Government scheme, instead of a person being put into the public ward in a public hospital he is guided to a private hospital. If the person concerned is a pensioner, the hospital gets the pension plus the Government’s allowance of £7 a week plus whatever small amount may be contributed by the pensioner’s family.
I think that in many instances private hospitalisation is degenerating into a racket. I speak with knowledge of what is happening in many parts of Sydney in relation to this aspect of the health scheme. Before concluding, I want to touch on a statement made by Senator Paltridge. Similar statements used to be made by Senator Sir William Spooner, also. They have said that there have been great developments in the coal industry. This is pertinent to the Budget debate, because the coal industry is the most vital industry in Australia, yet . under this Government’s leadership it is degenerating. I speak without any rancour at all, without any feelings of class. At the present moment a combined deputation of mine workers and coal proprietors is waiting on the Minister for National Development, trying to get from the Government some protection for coal against oil.
– Is that going on now?
– Yes, at this very moment. The coal owners, led by Sir Edward Warren, and the miners, led by Mr. Parkinson, who is and has been President of their union for years, have combined in asking for protection for the coal industry.
– Is this the New South Wales coa] industry or the Australian coal industry?
– The New South Wales coal industry. Since 1949, the employers, the Commonwealth Government and the State Government - but principally the employers - have invested £100 million to bring the coal industry up to such a peak of prodution and efficiency as to enable it to compete with its competitors. However, it has not been able to compete with the oil industry, because the oil industry receives great privileges from this Government. The oil industry is allowed, despite advice from the Tariff Board, to bring into this country the cheapest form of oil, from the Middle East. This is oil which produces about 60 per cent, petrol, and the residue is used as furnace oil. Of course, oil could be brought in from Indonesia. That oil is purer and its residual quantity would be about 10 per cent. It ought to be clear to honorable senators that that kind of oil would represent a lesser threat to our coal industry than the cheaper oil, about 30 per cent, of the bulk of which is put on the New South Wales market as furnace oil, which is really the waste material of oil from which petrol is produced.
Senator Spooner and others, referring to the oil industry, have spoken about oil search and all the money invested in it, but the oil companies have not invested in New South Wales one-tenth of what the coal industry has invested. The Government has subsidised oil search, but I am referring to the actual production. An interesting point is that when a load of oil comes into Sydney Harbour and is taken in a barge to the Shell cracking plant, not a hand touches it. The oil flows out of a pipe into the barge and is pumped from the barge into the cracking plant. I was present at a refinery one day, and only four people handled the oil. Before it went into the oil trucks, a chemist came along with a spoon and put a spoonful of additive into the oil in one truck and a bit of colour into the oil in another. Hardly any labour is involved in the actual production of petrol. That is not true of the coal industry. I think it is about time that this Government did something about this matter. I know that Senator Spooner was very unhappy about the situation. I think that behind the scenes he has probably been struggling for a long time to get this Government to do something to discipline the oil industry.
In his speech on the Budget last night Senator Paltridge said that we have established loading plants for the export of coal. He claimed that as a matter for great praise of the Commonwealth. Actually it is not. The worst market for coal is the export market - not for the country but for the industry - because it is uncertain. The coal industry does export coal, but only because it is losing the local market to oil. The coal industry is gradually being pushed out of the local market. It is keeping up its general production rate of 20 million tons a year with 13,000 men, but it has to export coal to save itself. I think that is unfair. lt is certainly nothing to claim credit for. In any case, this Government did not build the coal loading plants. This Government has a habit of taking credit for things that other governments do. It takes a lot of credit for things that the New South Wales Government has done, particularly regarding these loading plants. It was the New South Wales Labour Government - I use the word “ Labour “ advisedly because we have had only Labour. governments in New South Wales for 24 years - that established these loading plants, with the coal owners. They cannot be excluded. The Commonwealth Government did not establish them.
– The Commonwealth Government financed them, did it not?
– It helped, but it is wrong for the Government to claim all the credit. I suppose it is ethical to claim some credit, but the facts are that other people were interested in the development of these loading plants, including the coal owners. I hope that the deputation to the Government this afternoon is successful, because great sacrifices have been made by the men in the industry to reach the situation that exists in the coal industry today. Ten years ago it took about 23,000 men to produce 19,000 tons of coal, but today considerably fewer men are producing the same quantity, without any commensurate benefits for themselves. Let me remind honorable senators that the oil companies are pretty hungry in their fight with the coal industry. In the early post-war years the coal owners went to the Coal Industry Tribunal and said that if the men agreed to the introduction of mechanisation to the coal industry the men would get more benefits. They are not getting those benefits. Naturally, they were entitled to think that with mechanisation they would get shorter hours. They are going to have longer hours. The south coast industry has been to the Coal Industry Tribunal and obtained a restoration of what is called afternoon shift work. In Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” reference is made to workers sharing the one bedroom.
– One in, one out.
– Yes. That situation has developed. The afternoon shift has been restored in the mines on the south coast on the ground that, because of its high cost, machinery has to be used all the time if there are to be still further reductions in the price of coal. The demands that are made on the workers in the industry are never ending. Their numbers have been cut in half. This Government has not placed in employment any of the men who were displaced, except by aiding the development of the steel industry. The men who worked in the mines in the north and lost their jobs when the mines were closed because coal could not compete with oil had to take jobs that were very unsuitable in many instances. They had to travel 40 to 50 miles to work, whereas once they were living virtually on their jobs. All those privations have been endured by the people who obtain their living in the industry without causing this Government or any other government one little bit of bother. There has not been any industrial dislocation in the coal industry since 1949. I think every honorable senator opposite will agree with that statement. Government supporters claim credit for that position and say that they have kept peace in industry.
– You cannot ignore it.
– That is right. But while all these inroads have been made on their conditions the men have worked most regularly. When mechanisation commenced in the industry New South Wales was short of coal, as was Melbourne. South Australia and the shipping industry were also short of coal. The men knuckled down and did the job. Their reward is to be asked to accept longer hours, because when you work around the clock that is the result. About 40 years ago the coal miners struck for 10 months over the abolition of what they called the afternoon shift. They did not win one pound of coal for 10 months in their fight for one shift in the industry. Now the afternoon shift has returned and it is one of the results of mechanisation in the coal industry.
In his speech last night Senator Cole attempted to create the impression that the Labour Party had sold out the pensioners because on three or four occasions it did not support him in his moves to secure the appointment of a committee to examine the pensioners’ position and to have rises and falls in the basic wage reflected in pensions. I interjected that I did not think he was serious. I think that if there was any possibility of us joining Senator Cole in a move like that and any possibility of the numbers being enough to defeat the Government he would not have wanted us to join him. It seems to me that the Australian Democratic Labour Party and Senator Cole were playing politics.
– I said that, and ] say it again. 1 turn now to discuss South East Asia. Generally speaking the Labour Party is appreciative of the influence of the United States of America in that area. We do not agree with all that it does. The Labour Party has a written policy on international affairs which is open to the public. Our attitude towards a solution of South East Asian problems does not always coincide with the American idea of a solution but it is worth remembering that the problems in South East Asia generally arise from the granting of home rule and freedom to the South East Asian nations.
We of the Labour Party have always believed in granting independence but probably India has been the only country that has been ready to receive its independence. The Dutch had to get out of Indonesia, just as other imperialist nations were forced to get out. Now largely the Americans have taken over the responsibility of policing the South East Asian area and of restoring stability while the South East Asian people are moving, we hope, towards responsible government. I think I speak for the Labour Party when I say that we appreciate that situation and what the United States is doing. However, that does not mean that we should not criticise the United States or the defence or military policies of any country.
No matter who wins the struggle in South Vietnam it will not make much difference to the illiterate and starving people of either North Vietnam or South Vietnam. They will still be starving. They will still be working in the paddy fields. That is how I see the result, unless something can be done to give them economic salvation as well as what some people call military salvation. Senator Cole would have us at war at the drop of a hat. He and the people for whom he speaks have no solution but war for any South East Asian problems.
– He is another Goldwater.
– That is so. He and his supporters have no other answer to the problem. When they talk about defence they mean offence. They are dedicated people and the world has to be protected from dedicated people. They arc not always the best persons to propound or operate policies. I can remember when there were two Democratic Labour Party senators who were saying at that time that we had to go to war with Indonesia. They said that Sukarno was a Communist. Everybody talked at that time about Sukarno being a Communist and about the hordes sweeping down on Australia.
I have a little story to tell. A few months ago I was at a meeting of a defence committee where we were interviewing one of the authorities in the Department of Defence in relation to a choice of bomber aircraft.
– Are you referring to a Labour Party defence committee?
– Yes. Officers were present and we were talking about bombers.
I asked: “ Would it not be necessary to know who was the enemy before we decided on what type of plane we should choose, either a fighter bomber or a long distance bomber? “. That seemed to me to be common sense. An officer agreed with mc. 1 said: “ Indonesia, for instance. How do you consider Indonesia in the general concept?” He said: “Oh, we look upon Indonesia as an ally “. The Democratic Labour Party’s representatives did not say so. They said the Indonesians were our enemies. Yet our major defence policy is based on the proposition that Indonesia will be a friend. I want to warn the Senate and the people of Australia about the dedicated John Birchers who would have us at war at any tick of the clock just because they are dedicated to a fight against Communism, even if it is not Communism. That is the point - even if it is not Communism. Anybody who says that the Communist Party is in control in Indonesia does not know what he is talking about and does not understand the Indonesian way of life. I think that is true. I have been to Indonesian functions here where they have opened with a prayer. If ever I have mixed with people who believe in God it is they.
– It is the first plank in their platform.
– Don’t you think that the Communists would do that if it suited them? They would not stop at that.
– I do not think so, Senator. All I am saying is that there are certain people in the community - they are called John Birchers now in America and they are called the D.L.P. in Australia - who would have us at war tomorrow because they are dedicated, to the exclusion of everything else, to fighting Communism. I am issuing a warning against them because of Senator Cole’s attack upon us. When he talks about the defence of Australia he means attack, and that means an attack where the Communists are.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMulIin). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN. (Queensland) [4.43]. - Mr. President, I rise to support the Budget and to speak on a few matters which I believe are important not only to the Senate but also to Australia as a nation. We have listened to a speech from Senator Ormonde which has covered a variety of subjects. In speaking on such a variety of subjects I think Senator Ormonde has, perhaps without meaning to do so, paid this Government a’ great tribute. He has, through the many points of his speech, shown that we are living in a prosperous period of vast development. In rising to speak to the Budget, I would like for a moment to draw attention to the fact that this is the first’ Budget which has come into this House under the new leadership of Senator Paltridge. I congratulate him upon his new appointment and wish him well. This is the first Budget, which Senator Henty in his new role of Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, and representa.tive of the Treasurer, has presented to this chamber. Also, we have a new Minister in Senator Anderson. I wish them the best, of good fortune in their particular and special fields.
This is the Budget which, I believe, portrays the growing development of this expanding country. It presents a picture of people accepting the responsibility of nationhood. It also portrays our responsibilities to the nations in the larger realm of international affairs and, indeed, in the field of defence. The year 1963-64 has been, as the Treasurer says,. “ a year of notable economic achievement for Australia.” This statement must be of tremendous importance to each and every one of us. The figures which he gives concerning employment are of great importance for, at various times throughout our history, Australians have been greatly disturbed over this matter. In this regard, the Treasurer mentioned that civilian employment has increased in the twelve months to the end of May by 142,000 or 4.3 per cent. Unemployment fell by 33.,000. At the end of June, the total number of registered applicants for jobs was a little above 1 per cent, of the work force.- Surely this figure must be one of the lowest in the world. This fact is of great importance to Australia and its people. I was interested to read in a Brisbane newspaper that Queensland’s* unemployment drop in July was Australia’s largest. This is all part of the story of development of which we in this chamber are conscious as we go through this Budget.
I would also like to draw the attention of the Senate to two paragraphs on the first page of the Treasurer’s Speech which are of importance to us. He said -
I believe every Australian should be aware of these figures. The Treasurer went on to say -
Exports reached £1,374,000,000 which was £309,000,000 above the high total of the previous year . . . our overseas reserves increased by £228,000,000 to a total of £854,000,000 . . . that is the largest amount of overseas reserves we have ever held at the end of a financial year.
As one goes through this Budget Speech, one must be impressed by the whole pattern and vision of the great development programme. No-one can journey over the vast areas of Australia - and I particularly bring to mind my State of Queensland which I know so well - without being impressed and indeed excited by the pattern of development which is being unfolded in area after area. This Government has a proud record of achievement. I remind the Senate of the work it has done in the field of beef roads, the development of the brigalow land, the flood mitigation works which have been initiated, and the water conservation schemes at Chowilla and Blowering. 1 also direct the attention of the Senate to. the special work which has been done and is being done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in relation to pasture improvement, which is of tremendous importance to the whole future production of our primary industries; also the work done by the Government in connection with harbour facilities, and the tremendous expansion which has been made possible in the distant areas of all Australian States, particularly Queensland, by the building of more and more all-weather air strips. Distances become lessened in a most remarkable way. As honorable senators would know, these all-weather air strips are of tremendous importance where there are severe wet seasons. These works to which I have referred all form part of the story of a growing and developing nation.
This is a nation in which there is continuing employment and, indeed, more and more opportunity for the young people growing up in it. That brings me to another important point in this Budget. Speaking of employment figures, the Treasurer commented that a very large number of young people coming forward for employment during the year were speedily and satisfactorily absorbed. This statement is of paramount importance. The story of development and growth in the Budget must add up, of course, to more opportunities for Australians in this country. It is an interesting thing to remind ourselves of the fact that the percentage of young people in this country is rapidly increasing; so, we want more opportunities for them. For this reason, we are happy to see this great developmental programme. There is a large programme of special developmental projects in the States, some of which are in the early stages and some at the stage of rapid progress. Going through the Budget, we find that it provides £23,730,000, ot an increase of £6,431,000 over last year’s expenditure, for projects already committed in various States. Beyond 1964-65, there is an estimated further commitment in respect of these projects, exceeding £70 million. This I believe is of tremendous importance to the future of this country. But whatever we look at concerning Australia, we must remember that nations consist of people, and it is people who make up the character of this nation of ours. So, it is important to see how anything we do affects the people. One of the interesting points in this regard is the success of our migration schemes.
I was very interested last night to hear the Leader of the Government in the Senate give some figures concerning permanent settlers in Australia. The Minister told us. that Australia in the years 1959 to 1963 had received 501,000 permanent settlers whereas Canada, which had appeared for such a period as so much more attractive, had received 451.000 permanent settlers. I think that this is a real success story. In all parts of our continent we see new and old Australians working together for the development of this country. Where you have people coming to live in a country and where you have a large developmental programme, you must have, of course, more homes. An expanding and busy building industry is essential. That has been so true of this past period. Other industries are vitally affected by an expanding building industry, because it means the production of more and more consumer goods. So we see greater increase in our factory production. Goods which were available perhaps in only one State or a part of a particular State can now be procured in a variety of places throughout the Commonwealth. Our goods are being exported all over the world. This trend is reflected in the figures which appear in the Budget.
I would also like to speak on another section of the Budget in which mention is made of special work in connection with water. In this vast and sunburnt country, as the poet has described it, water must always be of major importance. Anyone who has livedin the country, as I have, and has grown up in areas which are very dry, has been taught from childhood the necessity of saving water. We have learned to look upon it as a veritable lifestream. As I go through the Treasurer’s Budget Speech I am very pleased to see the assistance that is to be given to Western Australia for the extension of its Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme, and further, that the Government will assist the States in an accelerated programme of investigation of underground water resources. I believe that in this way large areas of this country can be made much more productive than at this moment we can even imagine.
Senator Ormonde spoke at considerable length on social services. I am always very pleased to have an opportunity to speak on this subject. I am glad to see in any Budget increased social service benefits. I am sure that all of us would say that we would like to see even greater increases. Let us look at the record of the Government in this field. No Government has done more than has the present Government. This Government has liberalised the means test on a number of occasions, brought in the merged means test and increased pensions, and, as a result, more people have qualified for higher pensions.
We are all well aware of the problem which faces the single pensioner living alone in a room. His or her case is a sad one. Honorable senators will recall that last year the Government gave to single pensioners special assistance which I believe has been of great benefit to them. Let us remember, too, that this is the Government which brought in legislation so that our senior citizens could live in security and be cared for. The Government works in association with Church and charitable associations to provide homes for the aged. First of all the subsidy was paid on the basis of £1 for £1, but it has now been increased to £2 for £1. Today, whether in your nearest suburb or as far away as Alice Springs, men and women in the twilight of their years live in security and friendship, being cared for by dedicated people. This state of affairs exists because the Government is conscious of the needs of this age group, particularly of their need for special housing and special care. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the following resolution in connection with the Foreign Affairs Committee -
Senate adjourned at 5.0 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 August 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1964/19640820_senate_25_s26/>.