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Wednesday, 15 March 1961

Mr BANDIDT (Wide Bay) .- Mr. Deputy Speaker,when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) spoke to this motion, he uttered these remarkable words -

We have more controls operating to-day in Australia than we had at any period during the war.

Mr Curtin - Hear, hear!

Mr BANDIDT - For the benefit of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith, who apparently agrees with the statement made by his leader, I should like to point out that during the Second World War the only activity in Australia that was not controlled was the movement of people from State to State. The right to move from one State to another was at first denied to our citizens, but the High Court of Australia heard the case and decided that a citizen could not be prevented from going from one State to another without permission. Every other activity was completely controlled by the government of the time. It is not for me to say whether those controls were right or wrong. The fact is that they existed. We were engaged in a very fierce war, and therefore it was essential that every possible step be taken to ensure that we fought the war to the utmost limits of our powers. But to say that the situation that existed then was comparable with that which exists to-day is just to talk plain humbug.

Let me remind honorable members that during the war the National Security Regulations relating to every aspect of our life filled a number of books. Furthermore, we had to hand over coupons if we wanted to buy clothing, tea, butter or petrol. Not only that, but the Labour Government considered that these and other controls should continue after the war. In 1948, I almost had to stand on my head to get a new motor car when I wanted one. although the war had finished three years before. Some years after the war, one man of my acquaintance decided to demonstrate the ridiculousness of the butter coupon system. He deliberately bought butter without coupons and then made his action known publicly. Although this was done some years after the war, at a time when Australia was exporting thousands of tons of butter a year, he was prosecuted by the Labour Government.

Mr Curtin - I suppose that the honorable member was the man's solicitor and that that is why he lost the case.

Mr BANDIDT - I am indebted to the honorable member for his interest. I told my client that, contrary to what the Labour Government of the day appeared to think, the war had been over for some time, and I advised him to plead not guilty on the ground that the war had been over for some time. The Labour Government then withdrew the prosecution before the case went to court.

T should like to remind Opposition members, whose memories are so bad, also about the power failures that occurred and about Sir Arthur Fadden's promise, before the 1949 general election, to do away with petrol rationing if the Labour Government were turned out and the anti-Labour parties were elected to office. Labour supporters said that he could not do it, but the people wisely chose to turn the Labour Government out, and petrol rationing was immediately ended, with complete satisfaction to all concerned and no shortage at any subsequent time. Therefore, Mr. Deputy .Speaker, I say that the Leader of the Opposition was guilty of talking humbug when he said -

We have more controls operating to-day in Australia than we had at any period during the war.

The honorable gentleman's motion states -

.   . the Government's rapidly changing plans have failed to protect and develop the Australian economy . . .

I thought I would examine some figures in order to see what had happened to the economy. I found that since November last, bank deposits, both interest-bearing and non-interest-bearing, have increased by a net total of £22,000.000. Savings bank deposits in the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the private savings banks were £1,391,000,000 at 30th June, 1959; £1,461,000,000 at 31st December of that year; £1,523,000,000 at 30th June, 1960; and had risen to £1,567,000,000 at 31st December, 1960. I was interested in the suggestion by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) that prices have gone up and up. The overall level of wholesale prices dropped by nearly 1 per cent, in January - the fifth successive month in which wholesale prices in this country fell.

I commend the Government on the measures it has adopted and the courage it has shown in bringing the boom under control. We know that America had eight booms and eight depressions in 100 years. We have had booms in Australia, and on every occasion a boom has been followed by a depression. So h is the responsibility of a government to see that a boom does not get out of control.

The steps that the Government has taken to bring the boom under control have been clearly stated in this House. I shall refer, briefly, to the fact that the land boom has been well and truly brought under control. I also refer to the very definite fact that by the end of December last year inflation was much less than it would have been if the Government had not taken steps to control it. Indeed, it was considerably less than half of the inflation that took place some years earlier at the time of the Korean war.

Now let us look at Australia's internal position. According to official figures issued by the Government, the Consolidated Revenue Fund as at 28th February this year showed receipts for eight months up to that date as £841,800,000, to the nearest £100,000. Receipts for the same eight months period a year earlier were £734,800,000- a difference of £107,000,000. Expenditure for the eight months to 28th February, 1961 was £928,000,000 compared with expenditure for the eight months to 28th February, 1960 of £874,000,000 - a difference of about £55,000,000. I am giving these amounts in round figures. Those figures represent a gain for that eight months period which ended on 28th February last of £52,000,000 in Australia's internal financial position.

We have been told - and this has been demonstrated clearly in this House - that the Government's aim is chiefly two-fold. That aim is to check inflation and to expand exports. I have mentioned that the Government has already succeeded in some degree in checking inflation. It is certainly taking all the steps possible to expand exports. We have been given a further interesting fact which shows the difficult conditions under which the Government is working. It is that, if we were receiving to-day the price per unit that we received for our exports in 1953 we would have more than £400,000,000 extra in overseas funds with which to pay our imports bill.

We have no control over the amount that we receive for our exports, but we have control over the costs of production of those exports as well as of goods produced for home consumption. The Government's aim - and it is succeeding in it - is to check the increase in costs. Labour's remedy would have the entirely opposite effect, as has been shown over the years. Labour's remedy is massive import licensing. Many speakers in this debate have spoken as though we have no import controls at all, whereas about one-tenth of our imports are under control. Labour's policy is to impose heavy import licensing, and it is obvious that in a protected domestic market this creates an inflationary position. That is exactly what has happened over the years as a result of severe import control. So the Government is to be commended for its attempt to solve the present problem of our overseas balances without resorting to further import licensing.

There is one further factor to which I wish to direct the attention of honorable members. During those eight years when the price per unit of our exports has gone down on the average, and the costs of production have gone up, the primary producer has been the chief sufferer. The question is: Is it fair to the people who produce fourfifths of our export income that we should allow the position continually to develop in which their costs go up and their return per unit goes down? So, T repeat, the Government must be commended on taking whatever steps are possible to control that situation. lt is not only the primary producer who suffers in this way. In Queensland, for example, about 60 per cent, of the population live in provincial areas. Obviously, if the primary producers do not flourish all the people in the towns and cities in the country areas also cannot flourish, because their prosperity is dependent on the prosperity of the primary producers. I suggest that if primary producers received a further £50,000,000 a year for their exports that increase would be reflected in the prosperity of everybody whose livelihood depended on the prosperity of the primary producers, lt would also be reflected in the Treasury's receipts because of the resultant gain in income tax collections.

There are two suggestions that I should like to make to the Government, both of which deal with Queensland's special position. Queensland had a very serious drought last year, and a less serious drought in the previous year. The result was that this State, which depends heavily on primary production, suffered a great drop in its earning power. Mention has been made in this House of finance. I shall cite two instances relating to primary producers in order to show what happens when conditions are tough. The first case relates to a grazing family which is expert in the raising of beef cattle and has a very good property of its own. Recently, that family owed nothing on its property, and in fact had money saved. Because one of the sons was approaching marriageable age it was decided to buy a second property especially for him. An amount of £10,000, roughly half the purchase price of the property to be bought, was borrowed so that the family could pay cash. Now we see what happens because of financial stringency. It was necessary for the borrowers to agree to repay £5,000 in October this year and the balance of £5,000 of the loan in two equal amounts over two years. Here we have a case of an absolutely first-class grazing family having to find about £10,000 in three years. That family would have no difficulty whatsoever in finding £10.000 within six months. But in order to find that money grazing operations would have to be disorganized. For one thing, too many cattle would have to be sold. That would upset breeding arrangements and taxation arrangements. Therefore, it would be desirable in such a case, in normal times, instead of repaying the money in three years, to repay it over six, seven or ten years.

There we have a case in which financial stringency has prevented the best operation of a proved grazing property. The important result will be this: In order to raise the necessary money according to good husbandry, the family will not employ two workers who would normally be fully employed to develop the new property that has been bought. That is a case relating to an export earner. Now I shall quote a case relating to an import saver.

This case concerns a firm of very reliable men whose business assets are worth about £160,000. Last year, in order to develop their tobacco venture, which is an import saver, they decided to spend £4,000 on barns and certain other necessary improvements. Because there was a drought, they were obliged to spend another £2,000 on irrigation. They approached a bank, which agreed to lend them the £2,000. That sum was to be paid some time this year. In spite of the fact that they had outlaid £6,000 on this one venture, they would have had no difficulty in paying back this extra £2,000 that the bank was to lend them. But when the financial stringency occurred in November, they found that they could not get the additional £2,000 but had to reduce the existing liability on their other property by £2,000 by the middle of February.

There we have a case in which financial stringency has affected our capacity to save imports. Do not say that these people could not grow tobacco because in spite of the drought they have 12 tons of tobacco leaf in their barns which is worth over £11,000. Of course, when they sell it they will be able to pay back some money, but they have other expenses, too.

Taking the figures for the Commonwealth Trading Bank and private trading bank advances, we find that, so far as grazing, agriculture and dairying are concerned, 24 per cent, of loans advanced by the banks was outstanding in 1958 but only 22.5 per cent, in June, 1960.

My time will not permit me to discuss other aspects of the position in Queensland, where, mainly because of the drought, unemployment is quite a serious matter. I suggest, therefore, that the Government should give consideration to these two suggestions: First, finance should be released to the banks with a view to advancing money to primary producers and for housing. The release of such money would, of course, help the situation in Queensland very considerably because it is basically a primary producing State. It would also help primary producers elsewhere, especially those in northern and north-western New South Wales who have suffered from drought. 1 also suggest that the Government should investigate whether it would be possible for it to pay one-quarter of the cost of all authorized improvements by primary producers. The reason for that proposal is that the primary producer who is not making a good income does not get a worthwhile tax rebate in respect of moneys spent on improvements. A straight-out payment of onequarter of the cost would help him. I suggest that these two proposals are worthy of consideration and would boost our export industries. They would take up the unfortunate slack that exists in Queensland, mainly because of drought conditions last year, and would I am sure be of great benefit to Australia generally.

Fortunately, Queensland has enjoyed good rains in many areas recently, but it does not rain money. Therefore, it will be some time before the slack can be taken up in the normal way. I am sure, therefore, that the Government, which is always mindful of the citizens' interest, will give consideration to ensuring, as far as possible, that the least possible harm is suffered by those people who are unable to do anything to help themselves.

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