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Tuesday, 30 October 1956

Mr MENZIES (Kooyong) (Prime Minister) . - The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) rather gave the whole show away, I fear, in the last three minutes of his speech, because he found himself driven by considerations of logic - which had not troubled him to that time, into a position in which he realized that to do the things that he said ought to be done we should have to return to the good old days of the war and have controls all round. In fact, he spoke with a certain degree of nostalgia about those controls. But to adopt his own test, I wonder whether the people of Australia, in time of peace, would be so anxious to go back to the controls of war.

Opposition members interjecting,

Mr MENZIES - I am very grateful to honorable members opposite, because obviously they are listening to me, and 1 am the first person to whom they have listened for 45 minutes. So, sir, encouraged by their interjections, I proceed. The right honorable gentleman spoke about the controls of war. Does he recollect, and does his audience recollect, that the controls of war did not involve, in the case of the wage earner, the fixing of a minimum wage, but the fixing of a maximum wage? Do his listeners realize, or remember, that the controls of war involved the allocation of employees to the jobs in which they were allowed to work? Do they remember that everything was controlled - and rightly so - in time of war? Do the people want to go back to those controls? Do they want to return to the whole issue? There is nothing more foolish than to think that we can deal with a few things and speak whimsically about others if we are to have a controlled community and a controlled economy. Let them say quite plainly that they want the lot, ranging from prices control at one end, to the murkiest of black-markets at the other. Honorable members opposite say that we ought to ask for constitutional power to do these things. All I can say is, " Not while we are here ". I thought that the right honorable gentleman would have had some recollection of having asked the people of Australia to authorize the Commonwealth to perpetuate these controls after the war, with no success.

Let me make one other preliminary rema'rk. When I read the terms of this motion, embracing as it does - if that is the right word- sixteen different matters, each of them no doubt calculated to appeal to somebody, I thought, in a most deplorable Way, "as I how admit, that they were propaganda directed to the State Premiers; but it turned out that I was wrong. They were obviously much-needed propaganda directed to the right honorable gentleman's supporters, because it will not have escaped the notice of the House that, from first to last, he did not address this side of the House or the Country party section of the House. Indeed, 1 thought that he was making rather a point of addressing my friend, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I should be sorry to find that the honorable member for Lalor had become rather broad in his views, and that he had to be persuaded to toe the line. But, whether directed to the Premiers or to wavering supporters, they were still propaganda, and, like a great deal of propaganda, they relied very heavily upon misrepresentations of very material facts. I shall take just one or two examples from the right honorable gentleman's own speech. He attacked the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for its decision on quarterly adjustments, and dismissed in ah airy way the idea that the court should ever have adopted a rule that the minimum basic wage was to be calculated not on the basis of family needs, as in the old days, but on the basis of what industry can pay. No one knows better than the right honorable gentleman that the old rule which was laid down first by Mr. Justice Higgins when he spoke of a civilized person living in a civilized community, and with family needs, and which operated for many years, was abandoned years ago by the court, and was so abandoned in the interests of the basic wage earner. That is the point that is so easy to forget. The moment that the court said, " W« -adopt as our test what industry can pay ", the effect was to increase the real wages earned by the basic wage earner.

Mr Cairns - That is not so.

Mr MENZIES - I am not convinced that the honorable member knows much about it, but if he will give a little study to this problem he will find that what I am saying is completely correct.

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