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Wednesday, 18 February 1959

Mr MAKIN (Bonython) .- First, I congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your election to your high office. To the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General I offer my congratulations upon the moderation and objective nature of their speeches. The House will earnestly look forward to' further contributions from those honorable members. I trust that their example will be followed more closely by other honorable members opposite, so that we may be spared the tirades to which we have become accustomed over the years, when honorable members opposite have sought to justify their positions by denouncing honorable members on this side of the House and making comparisons that are odious to those concerned.

I am deeply concerned at any change in Australia's traditional attitude towards New Guinea. I am referring not only to the part of New Guinea that is administered by the Commonwealth, but to western New Guinea also, which is administered by the Netherlands. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) should be warmly commended for the statement that he made this afternoon with regard to the visit to this country recently of the Indonesian Minister, Dr. Subandrio. Great concern is felt throughout Australia at the manner in which the Australian Government is facing its responsibilities with regard to New Guinea. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that two important principles must be considered when dealing with the problem. The first is the right of the native peoples of those territories to self-determination in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Charter when that is possible. The second principle to be borne in mind deals with the security of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the close proximity of part of New Guinea to the Australian mainland. I believe that the actual distance is approximately 130 miles. Anybody who had any experience of administering this country's affairs during the last war will be conscious of the importance of New Guinea to Australia's security. Urgent thought should be given to those aspects which are so important in the affairs of this country for our own servicemen were engaged in keeping the enemy from the shores of Australia and protecting the territories which I have mentioned. Many of our servicemen were casualties as they fought to repulse the aggressor. We should recognize the importance of this matter.

The Australian Labour party views with some perturbation any suggestion of change in the government of these areas unless it be confirmed by a clear mandate from the native peoples and is in keeping with the United Nations Charter. Furthermore, Australia should be consulted in any deliberations that might take place on this matter. The organizations in this country representing ex-servicemen rightly register misgivings about any change of administrative authority in these areas. The Australian Labour party makes its attitude clear. Its members desire to maintain friendly relations with our near neighbours as well as peoples of other lands; but Australia will not allow itself to be compromised in a matter so vital to its interests. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) expressed the view and the determination of the people of this great nation. One should register in the most emphatic terms and at the earliest possible moment one's feelings on this important aspect of public policy and let it be known that the interests of this country must be protected in respect of any agreements that may be made. Furthermore, those people for whose protection and welfare we are responsible should have the right to determine who shall govern them, or alternatively, the right of self-determination in these matters. That attitude represents overwhelmingly the view of the Australian nation, and I hope that honorable members will not be unaware of the responsibilities we owe to the electorate in this matter.

The Address-in-Reply debate is a traditional procedure. It is well known that the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral is, in reality, a document declaring Government policy. On this occasion, the speech was of considerable length, but it over-emphasized many matters which are formal and relatively secondary in importance whilst it completely failed to deal with urgent and important issues. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) raised one of these issues, the growing unemployment in Australia. It appears that the Government is unwilling to show any appreciation of the problems which confront thousands of citizens who are earnestly desirous of following a useful occupation and providing a home and comforts for their families in accordance with our standards of living. But up to this moment the Government has been absolutely indifferent. To-day, 81,000 persons are unemployed. But a much larger number have to suffer the discomforts, uncertainty and privations consequent upon the unemployment of those 81,000 workers. In a young country which is bringing in new citizens and which is so anxious to develop its resources and to cultivate in the minds of its people the thought that it has a great destiny, we find that 81,000 people cannot find useful occupations.

Mr Haylen - Disgraceful!

Mr MAKIN - It is a disgraceful state of affairs, as my friend the honorable member for Parkes indicates. It calls for some action by the Government, and this Parliament will be required to stimulate the Government's thinking on the situation. Members of the Opposition will certainly see that the Government is kept fully aware and constantly reminded of the fact that it owes a responsibility to our citizens to provide for developmental works essential to our national life and so open the way for employment for those at present out of work. If we can afford to bring increasing numbers of people to this land to share its wealth, then we have an equal responsibility to provide for those already here.

The principal item in the GovernorGeneral's Speech was the proposal to reintroduce, in the current period of this session, the Government's banking legislation. This is given precedence over all other matters irrespective of how urgent and essential they may be to the wellbeing of the people of this country. The private banks must be given first consideration. This action of the Government in treating its banking legislation as urgent clearly indicates who are its masters. The private banks can so dictate the policy to be followed in this country that they can put pressure upon the Government to rush forward the legislation which they so much desire. They do not desire to have legislation that will restrict their activities. They want to challenge the supremacy of the bank of the Australian nation - the Commonwealth Bank. They seek to destroy its effectiveness by dividing it into a number of sections, which will be controlled by the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Board. The Government has been extremely considerate of the interests of the private banking institutions and it has given licences to trading banks to engage in savings bank activities. The result has been that the funds of government savings banks have been depleted but the funds of the private trading banks have been greatly enhanced. In the future, they will feel immune and will fail to recognize that they are subordinate to the life of the nation and not the masters of it.

The latest proposal is rather remarkable. The legislation will provide for the establishment of a Commonwealth Development Bank as part of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. But the private trading banks are to be the agents of the Development Bank and will get their rake-off from the business undertaken by this new bank. The private banks will become so assertive that ultimately they will want to control the policy of this branch of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. Honorable members must not be surprised if in the future the private banking institutions use the Development Bank as a stepping stone to make inroads into the financial structure of the Commonwealth and to exert even more influence than they have up to the present.

Recently, a suggestion was made in the newspapers, presumably not without some authority, that a former Minister, Sir Arthur Fadden, will be chairman of the new Commonwealth Banking Corporation Board. I hope that the Government will give some indication as to whether that is so. If it is so, then the Government has not been as candid with the Australian people as it should have been. There was at least a belief that this gentleman, who was formerly the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, was retiring entirely from public affairs. If he is appointed to the position of chairman of the board, the administration of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation will inevitably be held as political in character and strongly partisan.

No reference was made in the GovernorGeneral's Speech to the unfortunate circumstances of those who must live on the allowances made to them through our social services legislation. Many of these people are subjected to very grave privation, and the Government has failed in its obligation to see that they receive adequate sustenance. The Government has failed to appreciate the impact of increased costs on our community life in all its aspects. Pensioners are being denied the opportunity to live the fuller life that they deserve. Not even a single mention has been made of their future prospects.

The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) is, of course, the Simon Pure of politics. One would never feel that any fault could be found with his ideas. He seems always to try to build a speech on the affairs of a party that is opposed to him and on what he thinks about Opposition members. To-night, he mentioned the wool industry. It is remarkable that he supports a government that allows cotton to be imported into this country to be used by our textile mills in the manufacture of blankets. These blankets consist entirely of cotton material, with not one ounce of wool in them.

Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order!The honorable member's time has expired.

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