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Tuesday, 30 October 1956


Dr EVATT (Barton) (Leader of the Opposition) . -I move -

That this House censures the Government for its failure to establisha national economic plan to halt inflation and to ensure full and continuous employment; for its persistent neglect to bring in measures to prevent profiteering and for its refusal to accept national responsibility by seeking from the respective States, or from the people, adequate constitutional power to regulate prices, interest rates and capital issues: while, at the same time, denying to the States sufficient funds to meet their basic needs, especially in relation to homes, schools, hospitals and transport. Such failures of the Government have resulted in soaring prices and serious reductions of the living standards of the Australian people, particularly wage and salary earners, pensioners andall those dependent on small fixed incomes.


Mr Calwell - I second the motion.


Dr EVATT - The motion, which has been seconded by my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), is aimed at bringing to the attention of the Parliament and the people the existing economic situation, not merely because of the past activities of the Government- its past neglect, some of which is specified in broad terms in the motion, and past activities which, as we shall show, have been injurious to the economy - but also because of the present intention of the Government to exercise all its power and influence to force wage standards in Australia to an even lower level. It is perfectly clear that that is the present intention of the Government, and twice, through meetings with the Premiers of the States, it has attempted to give effect to that intention, although on neither occasion did it wholly succeed. I shall refer to this matter later, but I suggest that that is clearly the policy of the Government, as the statements of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) bear out.

Because of the economic predominance of the Commonwealth, the Government is endeavouring to bring financial pressures to bear on the Governments of the States, so that those State governments which can be affected and which have a basic wage higher than the federal basic wage, will be forced to agree to pass legislation or to take appropriate action so that the State basic wage will be gradually, or immediately, forced down to the level of the federal basic wage which was pegged in September, 1953- more than three years ago. That wage has been the subject of only one change since it was pegged, and that was an increase of 10s. a week in May last. Incidentally, that increase of 10s. given in May, after a break of nearly three years, has already been swallowed by the 6s. increase of the cost of living assessed by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician on the six cities basis, and by the subsequent 9s. re-assessment by him, making an increase of 15s . in the Commonwealth basic wage, if the quarterly adjustments had continued.

For these reasons, I say that the increase of 10s., which was granted after a wait of three long years, has been already swallowed up. I base that statement on the declarations made by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, particularly those of July and September of this year. But for the decision of the Commonwealth court to abandon quarterly adjustments in September of 1953, the present federal basic wage, on the six capitial cities basis, would have been £13 9s. a week, whereas, even taking into account the 10s. increase granted in May last, it remains to-day at only £12 6s. It is, therefore, £1 3s. less than it would have been had not the quarterly adjustments been abandoned. This means, in effect, that from September, 1953, employees working under federal awards, and under many State awards which follow federal awards, have been deprived of a vast amount of money, amounting, in the aggregate, to many millions of pounds. They have been deprived of this money because of the application of a theory that we contest, and which we intend to denounce by means of the motion thatI have proposed. The theory is that propounded by the court when it said that basic wage pegging would play a vital part in halting inflation, or, to use its own words when it made the order, that the prices of commodities, particularly consumer commodities, would at least tend to be stabilized. We know that this has not happened, and, in fact, the reverse has happened, and a standard which, by every accepted principle, was thought fit and proper for the basic wage earner has been reduced. There has been a reduction, not only in the figures that make up the wage, but also in the actual standard of living that has been enjoyed by those working under federal awards.

It was to be expected, of course, as our motion indicates, that definite consequences would follow the abolition of quarterly adjustments, and those consequences can be ascertained. If one looks at what the Acting Commonwealth Statistician calls the " real " wage, which he determines by a consideration of the basic wage and the index that measures the cost of living, one finds that the federal real wage in June, 1955, stood at the figure of 1226, then fell to 1213, and to 1206 in the June quarter of this year, and that, following the latest announcement of the index figure, it has dropped to 1183. These figures provide a measurement not of actual payments made but of what the wage will purchase. In other words, the standard of living of wage earners has been gradually and definitely reduced. It is true to say, therefore, that the wage earner's capacity to purchase commodities is not as great as it was before the wage was pegged.

Of course, the truth is that the cost of commodities has increased, but the Government will not make any attempt to deal with that situation in the normal way, by devising a plan for fixing prices on an Australia-wide basis, not necessarily for all commodities, but perhaps for only selected commodities. The Government will not do this, It allows prices to rise constantly and does nothing to prevent excess profits or to institute a scheme of control of capital issues. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in his last but one budget speech, referred to the enormous expenditure in the private or business sector of the economy and pointed out that that was where the profits were being made and that that was the direction in which all investment was tending - to the prejudice, I say, of all members of the community except the very few people who derive a direct benefit from profiteering.

Further, it is now admitted by the Government - in fact, it was the cause of the recent Premiers conference - that the expectation that the pegging of the federal basic wage would tend to stabilize the prices of commodities, particularly consumer commodities, has not been realized. Let me give a striking illustration of what has happened. The Liberal party-Australian Country party Government of South Australia welcomed the freezing of the federal basic wage with great enthusiasm and applied that principle to wages paid under State awards. What happened? Taking the period of three years from the June quarter of 1953 to the June quarter of 1956, I find that the increase in the C series index figure in Adelaide, where there had been strict wage pegging, was no less than 10 per cent., but in Brisbane and Sydney, where there had been no wage pegging by the State governments, the increases were only 9 per cent, and 8 per cent, respectively.

At the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, those facts were stated by the Labour Premiers. It was added that the New South Wales Cabinet had come to the conclusion, upon the report of an expert committee, that the system of automatic adjustments of the basic wage was really intended - we all know this to be the position - to compensate the workers for price increases which had already occurred. It was intended that adjustments should be made periodically to compensate the workers for higher prices which they had been paying, perhaps for as long as four months before some adjustments. A quarterly adjustment of the basic wage is not a gift to the workers. It is an attempt to assess what the workers have lost as a result of higher costs of commodities in the preceding quarter. As I have pointed out, the federal basic wage has been pegged or frozen by the federal authority, subject only to the one adjustment that I have mentioned.

Although the New South Wales Government adopted a federal recommendation to accept the basic wage decision of 1953. it was not unnatural that the' people ot New South Wales became restless, as the Premier of the State pointed out, when the cost of living there increased at a rate not less than, and sometimes higher than, the increase in States where there had been no freezing of the State basic wage.

We support the view expressed by the Labour Premiers at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers that this Government should give up the attempt in which it is engaged to impose the burden of inflation, not upon the shoulders of those who should bear it - I refer to the people who are making excess profits - by setting up systematically an Australia-wide pricefixing system, but upon the shoulders of the wage and salary earners of Australia, who, with one exception, are least able to bear it. There is a group of people which is even less able to bear the burden than the wage and salary earners. It is the group consisting of people dependent upon small pensions, small superannuation payments and small fixed incomes. The workers can, at least, try to improve their position through their trade unions. Those groups are the most vulnerable groups in the community, but they are the groups upon which the Government, so far as it can, is imposing the burden, instead of facing up to the fact that inflation is the great enemy of the people of Australia.

In our view, this Government has never really tackled the problem of inflation of prices and costs. There is no need for me to read out the pledges made by the Government parties, not merely to maintain prices at the level they had reached then, but to reduce prices and so increase the value of the Australian £1.

Those who have been subjected to attack in that way include not only basic wage earners, but also workers who receive margins for their skills or special aptitudes, which have always been recognized by the federal industrial tribunal by additions to the basic wage. In our industrialized economy it is vital that workers with a margin of skill should be adequately remunerated for the exercise of their skill and aptitudes. But what do we find? It is not a question of the sole responsibility of the court, because on all these occasions the court was influenced by either the direct assistance and persuasion of the Commonwealth Government by intervention of some kind in proceedings before it, or the Government's failure to intervene and put the case it should have argued. All through the period during which the court's main decisions have been given these interventions and failures to intervene have been of great importance, and it is not true to say that the Commonwealth Government does not bear responsibility for what has happened. Indeed, to take one illustration, when the basic wage was pegged in 1953 the first person to acclaim the decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was the present Treasurer, who said that if the court's decision was that the basic wage should be pegged it was the correct decision, and it would have an enormous influence in reducing costs in this country.

I want to give several illustrations in relation to margins. From the time of the second Mooney award in 1947 until the full bench of the court gave its judgment on margins in November, 1954, margins under federal awards remained absolutely pegged. People talk more frequently about the basic wage than they do about margins, which are really just as important because they are the portion of the wage added to the base rate as a remuneration for the exercise of skills or special aptitudes. Throughout the seven-year period of steadily rising prices between 1947 and 1954 margins remained unaltered. In December, 1954. the court, in its judgment in a test case, awarded to metal trades fitters 23s. a week in addition to the 52s. a week margin already paid, making the new margin 75s. a week. That is the only occasion on which a change has been made since 1947. But the court refused to lift the margins of workers whose margins had been pegged at 23s. a week or less for seven years. in effect, their margins remained pegged notwithstanding the acceptance of a general principle of increasing margins to two and a half times the 1937 margin which was applied to fitters and others who received increases.

Let us take the case of process workers under the same award. In 1937 they received a margin of 8s. a week. Under the second Mooney award made in 1947 their margin was increased to 22s. a week, but they did not receive one penny extra under the December, 1954, judgment of the full bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The employers actually argued in favour of a reduction of the margins paid to workers of lesser skill. They did not achieve that objective directly, but the combined freezing of the basic wage and margins for skill has reduced the status of process workers under federal awards and under many State awards which conform to federal principles, as measured in terms of pay, to that of a basic wage-earner who receives no margin. Yet in 1947, nearly ten years earlier, the second Mooney award had fixed a margin of 22s. a week, which would, then have been worth' two or even more times as much as it is worth to-day in view of the lower cost of living in 1947.

I submit, Mr. Speaker, that in. the whole of our industrial jurisprudence, of which Australia is rightly proud, there has been no case of wage injustice so glaringly bad. The vested rights and hopes of promotion and increased status of skilled workers whose skill was not equal to that of a fully qualified tradesman have been sacrificed. That is what has happened to the position: of those who did not receive the increase of 23s., and upwards, or who did not get the benefit of an adjustment which was limited to that group of workers. That, of course, has meant that the standard of every worker has been affected, because the pegging of the basic wage means the pegging of wages higher than the basic wage, whose level formerly varied along with the basic wage. The result is harshness and hurt to the worker, which cannot be measured by individual distress or resentment. The enormous number of process workers in Australia feel the effect of the blow, which is not only injuring their status as workers, but also deleteriously affecting the standard of living of themselves and their families. As the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) said recently, the same position applies to the postal officers who were awarded a margin of £1 a week, which vanished in increased living costs so that, in effect, they received no margin at all. This was a direct result of the pegging of the basic wage. After having ostensibly been awarded a wage margin of £1 a week these men have been swept down to the bare basic wage group from which they were supposed to have been promoted when they were given the margin.

There is the position briefly. As I said before, had quarterly adjustments of the basic wage continued, that wage would be now £13 9s. It is, in fact, £12 6s. . or 23s. less. So the workers are 23s. worse off. The process workers, who have received no marginal increase since 1947, in addition to that loss, therefore suffer the loss of 23s.. in common with other workers. There you have one case which I have selected, as. I could; select many others, where the standard of the worker has been directly attacked. With: the fulL support and connivance of the Federal Government, the standard- of living has been altered - and that at a time when- profits have reached record heights- in the whole history of this, country. It is plain that- the gravest possible mischief has been: done- by the proceedings of the Federal Government in its relations with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court as affecting the federal basic wage and margins for skill. Since this Government, gave a pledge to make a full-scale attack on inflation we find that, with the clear approval of the Government, the court has really - I speak with the greatest respect for the justices - completely failed to face up to the fact that in Australia we cannot achieve an economic basis of justice unless the Commonwealth Parliament sees that wages are only one aspect of a. bigger problem. The burden has been put on those who should not be singled out as this Government has singled them out in connexion with bearing the effects of inflationary pressures in this country. The attitude of the Government and the court means that wage-earners and salary-earners are being penalized. I say that these authorities are still engaged in an attempt to keep wages down. They see in New South Wales, and elsewhere, provision being made to mitigate to some degree the injustice done under federal awards. They want to alter these provisions. They say that they do not want to reduce wages, but want to have uniformity. But what kind of uniformity do they want? They want a uniformity which will bring the level of wages under State awards down to the level of the federal basic wage. In other words, they are not satisfied with what has been done in the federal sphere but, under the guise crf asking for uniformity, are really attempting to push down further the standard of living of salary-earners and wage-earners under awards. That is a most serious position, and it is very important that the attention of the country should be drawn to exactly what is happening to-day. Of course, the Minister for Labour and National Service keeps repeating that the basic wage has to be fixed on what industry can afford to pay, and that therefore needs should not be taken into account. 1 know that there are some dicta of the court to that effect; but that is not the intention of the section in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act defining the basic wage. I do not propose to read it all now, but that section was deliberately drafted so that in fixing the basic wage the court would look at the worker and would not look at the industry in which he was employed. The court was to look upon him as a citizen of Australia, entitled, so far as the law could ensure it, to a standard which would put him outside the ebb and flow of the market. Those are the principles which have been applied to the basic wage earner, male and female.

How the court has reached this other conclusion, tentative as it is, it is difficult to see. I say that the needs of the worker must be taken into account. Mr. Justice Higgins pointed out that the word " basic " was meaningless except in relation to something higher. He, with Mr. Justice Heydon, pointed out that the living wage, or the basic wage as they regarded it, was based not on the value of the work done, but of the requirements of a man, living in a civilized community. Therefore, " needs " must be taken into account. What is the good of saying, " That is irrelevant ", when a man has a wife and family to support and his children must have their proper food?

Now the theory is going about that certain elements in the recognized index, such as potatoes, are not necessities. Let them say that to the mothers! No medical man in Australia would support such an absurd and ridiculous proposition. The truth is that the definition in the act is based on the fundamental principle of " needs ". Despite that fact, the principle has been honoured more in the breach than in the observance. But it is implicitly there, and it ought to dispose forever of the tragic argument that, in a period of soaring inflation, the needs of the wage and salary earner are irrelevant in the fixing, not of the whole wage or salary, but of that part of the wage which is called the basic wage, because on it the foundation of the wage is laid. The question of individuals' needs is not only relevant, but, in many cases, it is decisive.

What is the Government's position? The Government cannot deny what I have said. 1 have referred to the decline in the value of real wages, according to the Statistician's figures. A similar position exists in relation to the nutrients consumed in this country, based on an average consumption per head of the people. Taking the figures in the official publication of the Commonwealth Statistician, one finds that there has been a decline in consumption per head of population of every important nutrient from years such as 1949, 1950, or 1948. That is the direct result, not merely of the fall in wages, but of the fact that the goods cannot be obtained. Therefore, the standard of living of the father, the mother and the children cannot be maintained. This has happened at a time at which the claim - and it is apparently true - has been made that there is a period of abounding prosperity. Prosperity for whom? Prosperity for those who make their enormous profits. I. say that the Government stands condemned because its policy in relation to wages is not interwoven with a policy of price fixation - of profit restriction on charges and investments. Those are vital matters in tackling inflation.

No attempt has been made to tackle inflation except in the miserable way that I have tried to describe in which the standards of all salary and wage earners and pensioners and all on fixed incomes have gone down and down. It is possible to fix prices on a just basis throughout Australia and to limit profits. Why does not the Government seek the power to lake that action? The States have offered to give the Government power, but there has been no readiness to accept the responsibility. It is a heavy responsibility, but it is useless for the Treasurer to say, as he said at the conference with the Premiers, that selective prices control might be effective, but the States must undertake it themselves. In Australia, where goods move freely from State to State, the operation of price fixation by a number of States cannot succeed. The only way in which it can succeed is under the system in vogue in war-time, when prices were fixed under Commonwealth authority, and were applicable throughout Australia, subject to any necessary local adjustments.

The Government's policy is a hopeless and helpless policy of endorsing and supporting uncontrolled profits. This has resulted in profiteering which, in turn, is the primary factor in the skyrocketing of prices. That has reduced the standards of the groups to whom i have referred and who comprise 90 per cent, of the people of this country. The position of the pensioner is even worse than that of employees throughout Australia. It is perfectly clear that the Government is making no real attempt to put forward a policy. As each quarter passes, and prices become higher, its first thought is whether wages can be fixed at an even lower level. The people of Australia, if given an opportunity to voice their opinion, would protest strongly. 1 have referred to the systematic reduction of wages, because such it is. It has happened to both the basic wage and the margins and virtually every one working under a federal award - the majority of Australia's workers are in this category - is affected. Only the tradesman's margin has improved, and even he suffers from the deterioration in the basic wage position.

The reasoning of the Arbitration Court judges is affected by government policy. One can see that from the frequent quotations in judgments of statements made, in a ministerial capacity, by members of the present Government. It is not necessary to elaborate that and I mention it simply to point out that the responsibility is the Government's. Who can deny it? The Treasurer acclaimed the court's decision when the basic wage was pegged in 1953. The Government has frequently intervened in the test cases.

I want now to elaborate my earlier point about profits. I shall deal with a few companies only, for it is impossible to deal with them all. These are all recent figures. David Jones Limited, the Sydney departmental store, which made a profit of £812.000 in 1954-55, made £939,000 in 1955-56.


Mr Hulme - What about the companies that David Jones Limited has taken over?


Dr EVATT - The figures include, for the first time, those of Finney Isles Company Limited. The consolidated net profit of the two companies for 1954-55 would have been £899,000. As is pointed out, from the point of view of the company, the result is satisfactory, and was made possible by increased turnover. I draw attention to the enormous area of these profits. Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited had an increased consolidated profit ot £126,000, and earned 24.8 per cent, on a capital of £630,000. The Myer Emporium (South Australia) Limited's profit rose by a further 13 per cent, to the record figure of £441,000 - a rise for the thirteenth successive year. Honorable members will notice that, though there is pegging of wages, profits can go as high as "the traffic will permit ". That was the phrase used the other day in connexion with the enormous profits of the overseas shipping combine which were revealed by the report on stevedoring.

The consolidated profit of Concrete Industries (Australia) Limited was 34 per cen Ampol Petroleum Limited plans a bonusissue in the ratio of 1 to 5 and, on that subject, the financial editor of the " Sydney Morning Herald " had this to say -

This is a remarkable bonus issue, coming afta the March petrol tax, company lux, and other special slugs on motoring - and only a yea after Ampol Petroleum's previous bonus capitalization of share premiums, lt will have the effect of raising the company's capital above £7,000,000, while the remaining reserves will apparently be less than £1,500,000. In five years, while Ampol's capital has trebled, its scale of annual profits has more than trebled and thiearning rate has been more than held.

Honorable members speak of General Motors-Holden's Limited as if the profits of that company were an isolated instance, but the example can be multiplied. The details have been supplied to me by my colleagues, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), who have been making a very close study of thi-, subject.

The consolidated net profit of Gilbert Lodge (Holdings) Limited for the year ended 30th June, 1956, rose to £65,000 Although the chairman said that trading conditions during the . year were " by no means easy " profit is equal to an earning rate of 28.6 per cent, on capital. Illustration after illustration of this sort of thing could be provided. The net profit for the year foi Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was £4.519,000. Its capital is now £28,000.000, and since the war this haN increased by more than £14.000.000. bringing in more than £7,000,000 in premium* as well. It is not now simply a monopoly but a group, whose combined capital ha- been increased from £29,000,000 to £105,000,000. This remarkable growth in group assets has been financed not from direct subscriptions but from undistributed profits.

The truth is that big business has found inflation to be very profitable. At the end of the year these businesses have found that the value of their stock in trade has increased and that, therefore, their profits can be shown at a higher figure without calling on the shareholders - indeed, without giving the shareholders an opportunity to say whether or not the profits will be distributed. That has been the pattern throughout. The profits of Custom Credit Corporation Limited, in which I think one bank holds 40 per cent, of the share capital, have increased from £441,000 to £632,000. Gordon and Gotch (Australasia) Limited has made the same sort of enormous profit. General Motors-Holden's Limited is, of course, a well-known illustration. One could go through the list of companies for practically every industry. One would think that big business would be hit very hard by import restrictions, but that is not true.

The position in regard to profits is this: Most of the benefit of increased production in recent years, especially in the year since wages were pegged, has gone in increased profits. The Commonwealth Bank's figures show a rise from 8.7 per cent, on shareholders' funds in 1951-52 to 10.7 per cent, in 1954-55. There is no doubt that the figures for 1955-56 will be even higher. But that is not the proper measure of the increase in profits. The bank figures show that funds invested in 1951-52 are still earning 8.7 per cent., while new funds are earning nearly 20 per cent., and more than 30 per cent, before provision is made for taxation. To put it another way, if we allow the new funds to earn 6 per cent., the 1951-52 funds were earning over 12 per cent, in 1954 and. more last year. That is an increase of 50 per cent, in profits without any increase in capital employed.

That is only part of the story. The figures I have given are the profits revealed by the companies after deductions for all sorts of secret reserves. Because of inflation, the whole tenor is to build up the capital structure of a company, not in the normal way by asking shareholders to subscribe, but by using the accretion of funds. In that way, working capital is increased. The White

Paper shows a comparatively modest increase in company profits of about 5 per cent, in 1955-56. But that figure can only be a guess, and past figures have nearly always been revised upwards. The increase in total national income looks small. It is only 7 per cent., despite rises of 8 per cent, in farm production, 3 per cent, in employment and 5 per cent, to 6 per cent, in prices. But even the figures published in the White Paper show that company profits at £550,000,000 are nearly 50 per cent, above 1951-52 and 15 per cent, above 1953-54.

Some people might approve of that position. Very often it indicates successful business management, but we have a simple problem. We have a problem of inflation and of increased costs affecting all sections of the community. The question is: How can those costs be stabilized? They can be stabilized only by a system of prices fixation on a just basis throughout Australia. The problem of wage adjustments will then solve itself. If prices are fixed for necessary commodities, it follows inevitably that the quarterly basic wage adjustments will be unnecessary. But that proposition assumes that the Government means business and will endeavour to obtain from the States - or if the States will not co-operate, from the people - power to take over these controls. It is of prime importance that no further time be lost. It is of no use the Commonwealth going to the States, which are trying to protect their workers, and saying, " Well, we think that there should be uniformity in wages, so will you either give the power that you have to the courts to do what they think fit, or repeal the act of Parliament which guarantees to the basic wage-earner his quarterly adjustments? " That is the demand that is being made, and it is no wonder that the States have been stubborn and have said, in effect, to the Commonwealth that there can be no stability unless it is based on justice all round. The problem of wages is only one section of a great problem.

The Treasurer, of course, indicated the whole point when he told the August conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, " We have no confidence in the efficacy of direct control of prices and profits ". He has not sufficient courage to control prices and profits, and that will not be done by this Government unless there is a change of policy. I think that the States would be willing to give to the Common.wealth power to control prices, That being so, why will not the. Commonwealth accept such power? Why should it not do so? The only reason that we can see for its refusal is that inflation suits the profiteers of this country, and the profiteers depend on this Government for the continuance of their profits and for the continuance of inflation. The Minister for Labour and National Service denied that he and the Treasurer had gone to the Premiers conference with a "wage freezing proposi-tion ". Literally, no doubt, that is true, but the Minister did not say that what he really wanted was uniformity on the basis of the federal system and the federal declaration.

If my point has been understood, the view of the Labour party is that there must be one national plan, including price-fixing, restriction of excessive profits, control of capital investment, and control of interest rates. I claim that it is this Government's objective, even at this moment, to get the States to do what it wants them to do. lt has been defeated twice in that attempt, with the exception that it has been successful with Mr. Bolte, the Premier of Victoria. But Mr. Bolte did not tell the people of Victoria at the last election that if he won the election he intended to do away with quarterly adjustments of the basic wage. If he had put that question to the people of Victoria he would have been overwhelmingly defeated, and every one in Victoria knows that that is so. I say that it is simply tricking the people of Victoria for him to come along at this stage of the life of the Parliament and alter the law, as he did recently, to the prejudice of 500,000 Victorian wage-earners. I say that it is scandalous that he should be able to do that without the clear approval of the people expressed specifically at a referendum or a general election. However, Mr. Speaker, I say that he has had only a temporary success and that he and his party will have to pay for that action at the next election.

With New South Wales, the Commonwealth has had two failures. After two innings, a batsman generally has had enough for the one match, but in respect of New South Wales, this Government is proceeding to a third innings. It wants to persuade the Labour Government of that State to accept uniformity - the alias for reduction of the basic wage. Surely, it must be understood by the Government that the proper plan is not to bring the wage level downwards from the State to the federal standard, but to apply openly to the federal court, to admit that a mistake has been made, that the wage-earners pf Australia have had a raw deal through the Pegging of the basic wage and margins, and to see whether better" conditions cannot be obtained. But that is not the final objective, because it is quite clear that under this present system of profit inflation, the primary cause pf inflation pf costs is profits. The re-investment of profits in similar avenues adds further to inflation by once more increasing profits. That being the position, there must be a plan in order that wages may be fixed throughout Aus.tralia on a just and reasonable basis.

Part of our proposal is that the House should censure the Government for ils failure to establish a national economic plan to halt inflation and to ensure full and continuous employment. The Government has not held inflation, which has become worse and worse. I have referred to employment, although that matter will be dealt with by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb), particularly in relation to Western Australia. In my opinion, the truth is that in this democratic community, unfortunately, there must be a degree of either unemployment or inflation unless there are the necessary regulations and control of the economy such as the Labour party exercised during the war, when prices here were the lowest, comparatively, in the British Commonwealth. The job of price control can be done, as mentioned in the motion. It should be done. It needs only the will to do it. We shall co-operate with the present Federal Government if it is prepared to do that, in an effort to tackle inflation in that way, instead of hitting only at the workers and also at the defenceless sections of the community, who depend on a mere pittance, and whose condition is becoming so much worse from day to day that leading members of the churches have pointed out their tragic and desperate position.







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