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Wednesday, 15 March 1961

Mr THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) . - Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) did not say whether he was supporting or opposing the motion before the Chair. In view of his remarks, I think he would find it almost impossible to assert that he was opposing the motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). The speech of the honorable member for Wide Bay has, in effect, given support to the statements of the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) concerning the economic and financial policies of the Government.

The honorable member for Wide Bay spoke about our export industries. He told us about the man who bought extra cattle country which he wanted to improve. If he could have obtained money from the bank, he would have employed two men to improve the property and so would have provided more beef for export. The Opposition is complaining about the part of the Government's policy which has caused this state of affairs.

Then, relating his remarks to the saving of imports, the honorable member spoke about certain tobacco-growers who required additional finance for the improvement of their property. We have heard the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and other Government supporters say that the Government does not believe in controls. They have been condemning what the Leader of the Opposition said about this Government and its controls. The honorable member for Wide Bay said that he hoped the Government would take notice of his proposal to release all the finance necessary to make advances to primary producers. Why are the banks not making advances? Last week I said to a bank manager, " How are you getting on? " He said, " I am still saying ' No ' to everybody ". That was his expression. I was speaking to the same gentleman a few weeks earlier and he said the bank had had instructions that people with an overdraft must not exceed it. He said that a small businessman with an overdraft of £600 had exceeded it by £160. He told the manager he thought that was all right. The bank manager replied: " If I went into your shop and took goods worth £160, you would not think it was all right. You have no more right to increase your overdraft and pay out cheques on the bank to that extent than I have to go into your shop and take your goods without paying." He was acting under instructions.

Mr Turnbull - That is fair enough.

Mr THOMPSON - The honorable member for Mallee thinks that is fair enough. I suggest that he read the newspapers and what the banks have had to say about deposits. The honorable member for Wide Bay said there had been an increase in deposits. I read a complaint by the banks that they have £15,000,000 they want to lend but they cannot lend it because of instructions from the Government through the Commonwealth Bank. They said their difficulty was that they were paying higher rates of interest to the depositors for fixed deposits and yet they were not able to make advances on that money. If the honorable member believes that the economic position is sound in those circumstances, he has another think coming.

I made a note of the speech made by the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr.

Jess) who has just returned to the chamber. He has not been a member of this Parliament for very long. He began his speech by describing the Opposition as a lot of parrots. All 1 can say to him is that the little he said about things that counted was a repetition of statements that have been made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and other Government supporters. I have never seen a better exhibition of parrot-like repetition of statements than that given by the honorable member for La Trobe. He said the Labour Party did not know this and that. He said members of the Opposition had not referred to the strikes in Melbourne or Fremantle. He chided the Labour Party with not knowing where it was going or what policy the Labour leader was putting forward. He said further that the Leader of the Opposition did not know what to suggest.

I would ask the honorable member for La Trobe how many real Labour votes went his way at the by-election about a year ago because they were misdirected by a splinter group that has broken away from the Labour Party. He said we did not know which party we were following. If I were sitting in his place, I would hardly know what party I was representing because he did not gain election on the policy of this Government or the policy of the Labour Party. He won his seat with the help of disgruntled persons who formerly belonged to the Labour Party but turned it down because they could not get their own way.

The honorable member for La Trobe quoted from the " Sun " newspaper. I read a press report to the effect that the Menzies Government can now sit back feeling fairly comfortable because the rift between the Australian Labour Party and the Australian Democratic Labour Party has grown wider. The newspaper suggested that the Government could feel pretty safe about its prospects at the forthcoming general election. That was not a Labour statement but a report in the sort of newspaper that the honorable member reads. He implies that the Labour Parry's policy is at fault. The fact is that the Government and its supporters hope that there will be continued strife between the sections of Labour and that they will be returned as a consequence.

The honorable member complained that we had not said much about the economic position. 1 have replied to the honorable member for Wide Bay but I did not consider it necessary to produce a lot of figures to support the Opposition's motion. I believe there are two or three matters which are of paramount interest to the people. One is the position of our overseas balances. Another is inflation, and I link that with employment. About twelve months ago, this Government virtually abolished import licensing. Honorable members on the Government side glory in that action. T was attending a Labour meeting that night. Other speakers referred to what they thought was in the mind of the Government. I said 1 had a slightly different opinion. I told the meeting I thought the Government was lifting import restrictions to force more competition on the manufacturers because it wanted to reduce costs. I said the Government wanted the importation from overseas of large quantities of goods which were already being manufactured in Australia. That is the only way to reduce costs, in the opinion of the Government.

If the Government wants to reduce costs, it will not achieve its objectives at the expense of the workers. I say without hesitation I am on the side of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia and not on the side of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia. This Government's main interest is in the big importers. It is not interested in the manufacturing industries.

Mr Turnbull - What about the primary producers?

Mr THOMPSON - You are only concerned with cheaper prices for the goods you are buying.

Mr Mackinnon - Hear, hear!

Mr THOMPSON - That is all you are after - cheaper costs.

What 1 put to that meeting has received endorsement here to-night. The Minister for Labour and National Service has told us that the Government has not been able to manage a policy of full employment. He said that with full employment men have not valued their jobs, that if they do not like a particular job they can say, "You can stick it, and I will go and take another job ". He did not use those words, but that is what he implied. Of course that is correct, and many men have done just that. The Minister said that we have now reached a position in which the economy is becoming healthier. Let me say that we have reached the position that I suggested, at that meeting twelve months ago, we would finally reach. The manufacturers say, " Ali these goods are being imported, and the storekeepers are selling them because they can make bigger profits on them ". Take the position in the electrical industry to-day. We have known for the last three or four years, from the time when the trade agreement with Japan was negotiated, what would happen in the electrical industry. I am not attacking that agreement.

Mr Turnbull - But you have done so in the past, or other members of the Labour Party have done so.

Mr THOMPSON - I am not talking about what somebody else said, or what the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) may have said. I am speaking about what I said. We know that since Japanese goods have been allowed to flow into this country the electrical industry has faced difficulties. You can go to people running electrical goods stores in Sydney, and they will tell you, " We can sell the imported article for less than we can buy the Australian-made article ". We know that this is so, and the position has got to be rectified.

According to the Minister for Labour and National Service, a man should not be able to leave his job if he does not like it. The Minister says that a man must value his job. When you have had experience of what happened in the time of the great depression, you cannot help remembering the fears of the workers in those times. There were 100 or 150 men working at the establishment where I was employed. On a particular Friday six men would be given notice, and the management would say, " If things do not improve a few more will go off next Friday". Men were afraid of losing their jobs because they knew there were no others to go to, and they would try to show the boss what good men they were. They were motivated only by the fear of unemployment. What the Minister said to-night demonstrated, whether he wanted to do so or not, that the Government intends to bring about that state of affairs again.

Mr Jess - Rubbish!

Mr THOMPSON - "Rubbish", the honorable member says. Evidently he did not listen to the Minister. The Minister said that nien did not value the jobs they were in. He said that the turnover of employment was at the rate of 72 per cent., and he further said, at least by implication, "We want to stop this. We want to tell the men that they must keep their jobs, and the only way we can ensure that they will keep them is by seeing that no other jobs will be available for them."

Does the Government consider for one moment the position in which a man is placed when he loses his job? The other day I read in the newspaper that the Department of Labour and National Service had said that at Mildura and nearby centres there was an ample supply of pickers for the fruit harvest.

Mr Turnbull - There were 72 in gaol at the week-end.

Mr THOMPSON - The honorable member for Mallee says that there were 72 in gaol at the week-end. That is a very nice niece of information to come from the honorable member. He says that all these people went to Mildura to pick the fruit, and that 72 ended up in gaol. What a reflection on the workers! The Minister has claimed that although the Labour Party contends that it stands for the interests and the welfare of the workers, it is really the Government parties that have the workers' interests most at heart. Yet the honorable member for Mallee said that although they sent all these men to the Mildura area, 72 were put in gaol.

Mr Turnbull - That is true.

Mr THOMPSON - The honorable member seems pleased to be able to assure us that this is a fact. However, this does not affect my point. In Mildura, Renmark. Berri and such districts at the present time, and during the last couple of months, people have been needed to pick apricots and to slice them preparatory to preserving them. In another three months there will be no fruit to pick and none left to preserve. All the people who were put off in the motor industry and who went to pick the fruit will then be out of employment again. 1 am told that the employees who were dismissed from General Motors-Holden's Limited in Adelaide all crowded around the employment office looking for jobs, and that about 150 of them were there at half -past eight in t>e morning. A Labour member told me that he saw a long queue of them. The employment office was able to send them to Mildura to fruit-picking jobs, but what jobs will they have when the fruit season is finished?

I tell the Government that it has the sole responsibility, because of its credit restriction policy, for having men thrown out of employment unnecessarily. Consider the fluctuations of sales tax on motor vehicles between 30 per cent, and 40 per cent. The Treasurer tells us that this is not a stopandgo government. About a fortnight ago I visited the premises of one of the biggest distributors of Holdens in my district in order to get some petrol. I am well acquainted with the man in charge of that establishment. He came out and spoke to me, and he said, "Why don't they give us businessmen a chance? We do not know where we are with these stop-and-go tactics, putting on the tax and taking it off." A few days before that I spoke to the manager of the firm, and I said to him, " It is not the tax that is restricting sales. An extra £70 or £80 in sales tax on a car will not prevent a man from buying it if he can get the necessary credit. He would not worry about the extra tax." This man replied, " A purchaser does not have to pay the extra £70 or £80 ". He told me that if a man put his car in as deposit on a new one, the firm would give him an extra £50 on the trade-in because the new cars had increased in price, so that all the purchaser was required to find was an extra £30. The person who stood to lose was the one who bought the secondhand car.

If you know anything about the carselling business, you will realize that car dealing follows a staircase pattern. The man at the top is the one who keeps his car for twelve or eighteen months and then replaces it with a new one. There are many people who keep a car for only this length of time and then trade it in, paying perhaps £300 for the new car. The man who buys that second-hand car is usually a person who trades in a slightly older one, also paying an extra £200 or £300. Finally we come down to the " bitzer " at the bottom. The " bitzer " buyer is the chap who does not have much money and who has to borrow practically all of the purchase price, perhaps £400, from a hirepurchase company. It has now been announced that if a car is over five years old the hire-purchase companies will not advance money for it.

Mr Bandidt - That is not correct to-day.

Mr THOMPSON - I say that the position to-day is that the chap at the bottom cannot get the credit to buy a car, and the repercussions are felt right up the scale. The man who can obtain credit cannot get a buyer for the car he has to dispose of.

I now want to deal with import restrictions. As I have said, the intention of this Government was to introduce into our business world competition from overseas, is order to force prices down. In order to meet this competition the Australian manufacturer would have to do one of two things. He would either have to take less profit on what he was selling, or he would have to induce his employees to produce the goods more cheaply. He might use a combination of these two measures in order to meet the competition. I was rather amused by a statement made by the Treasurer some weeks ago when it was suggested that local sales would be interfered with. Somebody asked about the importation of Japanese cars. Well, there is nothing to stop Japanese cars from coming in. You can just imagine what chance we would have of competing with them having regard to the standard of living that we enjoy in this country.

Mr Mackinnon - Holdens could be sold in Japan.

Mr THOMPSON - Perhaps they could be sold to certain people, but I am prepared to say that sales of Holdens would not amount to more than one-tenth per cent, of the total car sales in Japan.

The Government has stated that it is necessary to increase our exports and the Treasurer, or a person in a similar high position, is reported to have asked General Motors-Holden's why more Holdens were not being exported. On the following day 1 read in the press that although a number of Holdens had been exported to South Africa last year they could not now be sent to that country because it had placed a restriction o;i its imports. We could be faced with the same position in other countries. I do not know how the Government expects to do anything along those lines. 1 live a quarter of a mile from the General Motors-Holden's factory in the Woodville district and a lot of my friends and relatives work there. I kr.ow that the company is expending an immense amount of capital. It has a huge capital investment and so a huge overhead bill. How can the Government expect the company to reduce its output by 20 per cent, and carry on as before. The Government's economic and financial policy just does not work.

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