Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Tuesday, 10 November 1953

Mr BROWN (McMillan) - I congratulate the honorable member 'for Lang '(Mr. Stewart) upon his maiden speech to-night "However, I .want to HenT -with -some of 'his statements, .as

Kindly as possible and"! am reinforced in my desire to do 'so 'because ^the "honorable member 'for Kingston (Mr. -Galvin1) trotted out t -he same -statements in 'his speech. The honorable member -'for "Kingston made some interesting comments 'and, -at 'the -end of Ms -speech, 'he spoke of the need 'for honest government. T suggest that the honorable gentleman examine the record of -some-of 'the Labour Ministers of New 'South -Wales 'before he speaks again of Australia's need 'for honest government The people -of "New South Wales "had no hesitation in showling the State Government just what they thought -of the antics -o'f 'some of its Ministers when they 'bad an .-opportunity Mo express their -views at a "recent ,,election

Mr Curtin - Tell the "House about the Libera"! Minister who was sentenced to death.

Mr BROWN - I suppose that, 'for the life df "this Parliament, we shall have 'to listen 'to the animal noises that the honorable member for Watson '(Mr. 'Curtin) utters. The honorable gentleman, who seems to be a licensed interjector, talks more nonsense '.than .anybody else this House has produced. 'We have suffered him for three or four years now. I suppose that we .must put .up with .him.

The honorable member .for .Lang referred at some .length to immigration, which is .a subject in which ,1 have ,a particular interest. The honorable gentleman .suggested .that. some failure .on the part .of this Government .had necessitated ;i decrease .of Australia's ."intake of immigrants. That is .a very interesting statement, to hear from ,a member of the Labour Although .the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the 'former -Minister for ".Immigration, lias, steadfastly supported ..the immigration programme that he initiated ;and that this Government continued, there has been bitter opposition to immigration from many Other members o'f the Labour party. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), for example, has never 'failed to ask questions in this House in an effort to embarrass .the immigration authorities. T.he ^present .governments .of Victoria and New South "Wales have displayed no difficulty in expressing their definite opposition to any policy of immigration. ^Recently, "Mr. Cain, the Premier of "Victoria, said to Dutch .citizens who were present at & function which I attended, '"Go home and tell your people there .are no chances foi1 anybody in .Australia. We do -not want thom.". ,'He .made that statement to ,a group of Dutch journalists who had come to Australia to examine io.ur immigration -scheme.

The subject -of 'housing is .extremely interesting, and it is -a subject that occupied my close 'attention 'at >a subcommittee -meeting 'this 'morning. "Before World War EL, we built '30,000 houses -a year in Australia. "That number was considered to 'be sufficient to enable us >to overtake the lag -an'd the day-to-day demand for 'houses -by young -couples ann cithers coming freshly on i[he -housing market. After this 'Government came into power, the rate of construction was increased to 56,000 a year in 1950-51 and to 79,000 a year in 1951-52 and 1952-53. The present rate of construction, according to the best information available, will enable ns to meet the new demand for houses and at the same time overtake, rather slowly I admit, the backlog. This Government has made available for the current year under the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement a total of £35,000,000. The attack on the war service homes programme by the honorable member for Kingston is interesting when one realizes that, since this Government came to office in 1949, the "War Service Homes Division has been responsible for the construction of nearly as many houses as were built under the war service homes scheme from 1919 to 1949. Previously, the amount provided for war service homes annually was between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000. Now £28,000,000 a year is made available for war service homes.

Several very interesting facts came to my knowledge only this morning in relation to the use that is being made of the facilities provided by cooperative building societies; which are strongly established only in Victoria and New South Wales. Limited use is made of such organizations in Queensland and South Australia and an even more limited use in Western Australia, where legislation does not provide for a government guarantee of the loans that the societies make available. The chief lender under these schemes at present is the Commonwealth Savings Bank. An interesting feature of the operations of co-operative building societies is the use that is made of their services by new Australians. Our population is now about 9,000,000. Since 1946, about 800,000 immigrants, representing approximately 9 per cent, of the present population, have entered the country. About 15 per cent, of the total number of people who pay deposits to co-operative building societies consists of persons who have come to Australia from European countries. British immigrants must be excluded from this survey because their names do not distinguish them from Australian-born citizens. The proportion that I have mentioned is made up of persons whose foreign names indicate that they are new Australians. If we add to that proportion, say, an additional 5 per cent, to represent British immigrants, who are accustomed to co-operative building societies in Great Britain, where such bodies operate freely, we reach the conclusion that immigrants, in approximately twice the proportion represented by their total number in Australia's population, are saving money and building houses for themselves.

Another statement that was made by the honorable member for Lang is repeated continually by other members of the Labour party who urge that large land holdings be broken up into small units. Apparently they think that \vc should then charge frantically about the world to try to find buyers for the products of this enormously expensive experiment. I do not know why members of the Opposition, most of whom represent city electorates and have very little knowledge of country life, insist on explaining what they would do to promote rural development. The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) during the last session of this Parliament explained with the most impassioned eloquence the need for us to be able to buy eggs for ls. 6d. a dozen and showed thereby that he had not the remotest idea of the costs of primary production at present. I shall also refer to the Opposition's ignorance of costs when I discuss later the remarks of the honorable member for Kingston on the subject of the cost of living. Honorable members opposite cling to a pathetic sort of fallacy when they insist that productive land should be split up into small holdings, on the assumption that it will become more productive as a result and that we shall be able to sell the extra products without difficulty. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many properties in Victoria which have been divided into small blocks for the settlement of ex-servicemen and for closer settlement generally are producing much less to-day than they produced as single, large units. Nobody could be more enthusiastic than I am in. support of the development of reasonably high rainfall country anywhere in Australia.. However, I believe that, before this fantastic proposal for some kind of social adjustment by taking successful farmers off big areas in order to provide small farms for new settlers is adopted, we should survey the large areas of land that are not being farmed in any way. We should establish new settlers in those undeveloped areas and increase production in that way. The honorable member for Lang followed a fashionable line of argument when he said that people overseas need the product of Australia's soil. Many of our products must be processed before they can be shipped overseas. I have in mind such commodities as jams, canned small fruits from Tasmania, canned fruits from the mainland and canned meat, for which we want to find markets. But we cannot, find markets for them at the prices we must obtain to cover costs. The high prices that we must charge are due, not to the returns to the primary producers, which have very little to do with the final price, but to the very, high cost of processing. During the regime of the lust Labour Government, we developed, most enthusiastically, a number of small industries, such as the vegetable canning industry. During the war, capital was provided for such industries and people were told that they could go ahead with them. Now there are about £2,000,000 worth of canned vegetables in the stores of vegetable canners in this country, for which it is absolutely impossible to' find a market at, suitable prices. As T have already said, the high prices that we have to charge are due, not to the cost of producing the vegetables, but to the high cost of processing them, owing to the very low output per man hour and the limited number of working hours of the men in our processing factories. Without a large subsidy, it is impossible, to sell our canned vegetables overseas at the present time. We should knock on the head once and for all the fantastic idea that if we split up large estates and produce something, the rest of the world will bc waiting with open arms to take it from a 40-hour week and a high-wage country at prices that will cover the costs of production. That idea is too silly for words. "I. agree sincerely with the statement of the honorable member for Kingston that we must have some regard for the comfort of Her Majesty when she makes her very welcome tour of Australia next year. She will make two visits to my electorate. I shall warn the shire councillors in the McMillan electorate that nothing is more exhausting than a continual shaking of hands, and I shall suggest that all the people who meet Her Majesty how to her from some distance away. I do not know how many honorable members are old enough to remember the visit that the Prince of Wales, now the Duke of Windsor, made to Australia in 1920. He left the country with his arm in a sling as a result of excessive hand-shaking. His hand was, so to speak, shaken into a sling. I hope that we shall be kind to Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh in that regard when they come here next year.

The Labour party, being afraid of what will happen at the next general election, is whistling to keep its spirits up. In attacking the Government, it frequently attacks the Government's health scheme. I suppose honorable members opposite have a. dreadful inferiority complex on that matter, because a Labour government produced, not a real health scheme, but a lot of " hi-falutin " nonsense that benefited nobody. No Australian got anything out of the McKenna health scheme, and I suppose the Labour party is rather sensitive about the success of the health scheme of this Government. The honorable member for Kingston wanted to know when the scheme outlined in the bill shortly to he introduced would be put into operation. It has been in operation since the 1st July. It was brought into operation in three stages. The first stage was the introduction of free pharmaceutical benefits. The next stage was the payment of valuable hospital benefits that enabled all the major hospitals in Australia to pay their way, and enabled some of them to show a surplus. The third stage was the provision of assistance to people to pay medical expenses.

The honorable member for Kingston repeated the suggestion that this Government, in defiance of the will of the people expressed at the referendum held in 1948, should impose prices control. He accused the Government of sabotaging prices control. Apparently, his view is that if the. Labour party is unsuccessful, in convincing, the1 people that it is the repository of all' knowledge and the people reject, its" proposals, a government that, does something, not in accordance with those proposal's is sabotaging the country. The people do not Avant Commonwealth prices control". They expressed, that opinion very definitely at a referendum. It is beyond the p of this Parliament, to" impose Commonwealth prices control!. The- honorable member suggested' that if the- trade unions do not get what they want from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court they will cease to deal with it. Letus remember that the trade unions won the case that was heard recently bythe court. The basic wage was not reduced', as the employ Hrs requested. Hours of work were noi; increased, as the. employers- requested. But quarterly adjustments- of the basic wage in accordance with rises or1 falls of the- cost of living- were discontinued. The honorable member suggested that', because of that decision, the unions will have to cease to deal with the1 court. He gave the im pres.sion to me' that-if the court dares to rejectany part: of a case1 put- forward by thetrade: unions the unions will disregard1 the court and' act outside- it. I do not 'believe that: is: the: official view of the Labour party. I suggest that thai was a stupid' and* irresponsible statement by the honorable! member- for. Kingston. During' the last' quarter, the cost of living in Victoria rose by 2s-; a week-. Thar increase wasdue; almost entirely to the fantastic price of potatoes;, which occupy w very important place in the regimen on. which- the C series index is based: If the price of potatoes increases to £100 a ton, the-, basic- wage. must be increased substantially, under' the., quarterly adjustment: system.. It! is: a, curious anomaly that although- the ordinary citizen cannot, afford to buy potatoes, at ls-. 3d. per lb;, and. goes; without them, they still carry the same weight in the C series index-.

I congratulate the honorable member for Lang on his maiden speech. I con:gratulate also, the honorable member for Angas on his speech, which I commend, to honorable members.

Mr.BRYSON (Wills) 1:10.34'].- The speech, of the honorable, member: for McMillan (Mr.. Brown), summed up1 in

a.   few words;, amounts: to a confession! of. the failure, of. this Government, to carry out the promises it. made to the. electors.The honorable member, told us that, the' Government had been unable, to. do this-, that. and. the- other: thing, He! said that: certain sections- of primary; producers' could not export their products* owing: to> high labour, costs in this-, country. I remind the honorable- member, that labour costs are at the present high level because of the failure' of this Government to car.r,y out the- promises it made, to the- electors' during the- l'ast two general: election campaigns. If those- promises had been, honoured, labour costs- to-day would' beat; least SO per cent, lower.- than they are:

Sir Philip McBride - What nonsense !

Mi--. BRYSON- When. this. Govern, ment took office at the end of 19-49,, labour, costs were more than. 50. per cent, lower than they are now. If the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride") can prove' that, that statement! is- nonsense, I. shallwithdraw, and apologize: Since- the end.o£ 1949 labour, costs have risen by- about 80' per cent., due to the ineptitude- andinefficiency of this- Government..

The Speech delivered by the- GovernorGeneral this afternoon was" unique' in my experience as a member of the Parliament:. I Have always- believed that the Speech delivered by the- Governor-General at. the' opening of a' session of the Parliament, should contain a statement of the intentions of the Government. Theprinted copy of tlie Speech delivered this afternoon' covers-' five and' a half foolscap pages, four and a half of which contain statements' about what' Has occurred in the past Apparently the Government' is relying' upon what' has- happened' in the past1, and intends to do very little in the remaining; few -months of its' life. It has done very little since it caine into office, but it holds-out no-hope to the Australian people that it will' do anything of a positive kind' during the few months' that1 remain to it.

F agree entirely with the sentiments expressed in the first paragraph of the' Governor-General's Speech. His Excellency said -

Th'e- devotion of Australians to the. Throne is froth deep and' warm R has' been' shown by word and deed iti both peace and war. It is not the special prerogative of any political party, or of any creed, or of any section of the Australian people.

I believe those sentiments will be echoed by all members of this House and by the great majority of the people of Australia. They are the sentiments, not of only one political party, but of the people of Australia as a whole. I believe such matters should be kept completely outside the realm of party politics. [Quorum formed.'] I know that certain honorable members on the Government side are unable to stand up to criticism. I recognize that the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) realize full well that this Government has failed abjectly, during tlie past three and a half years, to govern the country as it should be governed. However, those honorable gentlemen do not like to be reminded of that fact because their fortunes are bound up with that of the Government and in a short time they will have to explain to the electors why the Government has not carried out the promises that it gave to them during two general election campaigns. So far honorable members on the Government side of the House have not made any reasonable explanation of the shortcomings of the Government and in the time between now and the next general election it is extremely unlikely that any adequate explanation will be forthcoming. The speech of the Governor-General has not assisted the Government in any way at all. For example, a story has been told about the Korean armistice having been signed, but this House discussed the Korean armistice during its last sittings. There is nothing new about that. In fact it is old news. The Governor-General should have told the Parliament something about the failure to obtain a peace settlement in Korea. It is stated in the Speech that during the last twelve months, up to the 30th June this year, Australia's international financial reserves have been strengthened. The Government informed the people to that effect some months ago but did not explain them, nor has it explained since, why it was so necessary to build up those reserves. In fact the reserves are still less than they were when this Government assumed office although the value of money has fallen considerably. Therefore, it must be clearly realized that our overseas balances are of much less value to day than they were in 1949 when this Government assumed office.

Mr Gullett - I draw your attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the state of the House. There are only eleven honorable members on the opposite side of the House listening to the speech of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson). Consequently, it must be as depressing to his colleagues as it is to us on this side of the House.

Suggest corrections