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Tuesday, 26 March 1957

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) (Minister for Labour and National Service) . - The Opposition has launched, in effect, a motion of censure. A motion of censure - and that is what the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) amounts to - is the heaviest weapon that Her Majesty's Opposition can employ against a government in office. Traditionally, it conveys that the Opposition invites the Parliament to dismiss the Government and replace it with a government drawn from the ranks of the Opposition.

The Opposition attack, on this occasion, has been directed to this Government for its record on housing. The Parliament will. I am confident, reject the motion for two completely compelling reasons. The first is that this Government, as has been made evident during the debate, has an incomparable record t l relation to Australian home building, lt is a record that thi: Government is determined to sustain. In fact, a great deal of the time of the MenziesFadden Administration, since it took office in 1949, has been devoted to the housing problem. We have, as everybody knows, only a limited power to deal with this matter, since housing primarily remains the responsibility of the States. The Government has for a long time past, quite voluntarily undertaken to help the States, year by year, by allocating large amounts to the States out of our annual loan programme. These annual loan moneys have, during our term of office, been heavily supported by funds out of the Commonwealth budget, including large sums from taxation provided by the people. In the result, the Commonwealth Government has been finding practically all the money that the States spend on housing. It has been providing roughly one-third of the total amount spent on homes throughout the length and breadth of Australia.

When we last had a general election campaign, in the November-December period of 1955, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) dealt specifically with housing in his policy speech, a speech which, apparently from their votes, the people of this country approved, because they gave us a record majority in this place. The Prime Minister pointed out that in the five postwar years of the federal Labour government, 202,000 houses and flats were completed in Australia. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), has just conceded these figures. The Prime Minister said freely that this was a good record, since it was at least equal to anything done in the best years before the war. But he went on 1o point out that in our first five years of office, after 1949, 388,000 houses and flats were completed. That is almost double the number completed during the previous five years when the present Opposition was in government. This was a record unsurpassed anywhere in the world, when considered on the basis of population numbers.

Let me take two other countries, by way of example, in which there has been a great concentration of effort in house building. I shall refer to the United States of America and the United Kingdom, highly developed and highly industrialized countries. In the last completed financial year, 1955-56, the United Kingdom built 6.4 homes per thousand of population. The United States of America built eight homes per thousand of population. Australia exceeded the United States record by building 8.4 thousand. I question whether any country, except, perhaps, New Zealand, which also has the benefit of a Liberal government, has constructed more homes proportionately to the number of its people, or has fewer persons per occupied dwelling, than has Australia, ls that a record which invites censure and displacement of the Government? I should have thought that it was a record of which we. as a people, would have been justly proud.

This does not mean that either we, as a government or as a people, should rest upon our past achievements. Not only will it take a few more years before the accumulated arrears, largely caused by the war, have been cleared up, but thereafter, as our population grows - and I hope that it will grow at a rapid rate - and as living standards rise, as I am confident they will under this Government, there will be a constant and high demand for houses. A person in one home will, perhaps, want a better and a bigger one, and it will be part of our responsibility to assist him in his very desirable objective. This is as it should be. As the Prime Minister said in the Parliament only the other evening, the foundation of our society is the home, and if all are to have homes, then we need more houses. Without labouring the point which has been dealt with effectively by other speakers on our side of the Parliament, I say this with the full authority of the Government: Assuming the maintenance of satisfactory levels of employment generally, and in the building industry in particular, the central bank's policy will continue to aim at ensuring that a reasonable proportion of increased savings in Australia becomes available for investment in housing and is employed in housing loans. The Government will form the best judgment that it can. not only from the best official advice it can secure, but also from the best expert advice that it can secure from any quarter, as to the level of home building activity that our economy can reasonably sustain. I can give an assurance on the part of the Government that if at any time it seems to us that there are resources available for home building which have not been taken up, we shall give speedy consideration to any further central bank action necessary to take up that slack.

In short, housing will continue to be regarded by us as the greatest human problem with which we have to deal. That is the first compelling reason why this amendment should be rejected. But the second is, perhaps, of even more consequence to the people of Australia at the present time. I said a little earlier that the purpose of a censure motion is to invite the Parliament to dismiss the Government and replace it with one drawn from the Opposition ranks. It is unthinkable that a people who have been able to assess, over recent years, developments within the Australian Labour party and the capacity of the Opposition to form an alternative government, would entrust the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) and those who sit with him with the reins of office in Australia. Never, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, in the long history of parliamentary government has there ever been a political party in worse plight to claim the right to govern a free, democratic people than the Australian Labour party has shown itself to be over recent years. It has become split, as is common knowledge, into many pieces. The largest fragment continues as the Australian Labour party, which is recognized as the official Opposition in this chamber.

Mr Edmonds - Can the Minister not make a speech without reading it?

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - But there are at least two other distinct and not inconsiderable groups.

Mr Pollard - Who wrote the speech for the Minister?

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - Dr. John Burton did not, but he is writing the Opposition's policy for it. There are two other not inconsiderable groups. There is the Anti-Communist Labour party, which is already represented in the Senate and is likely to be more strongly represented just as soon as our friends opposite give them the chance to face the people again. There is also the Democratic Labour party, which is also a not inconsiderable group and which has shown already the capacity to attract a not insignificant number of votes from people who in the past have regularly supported the Australian Labour party. The rather farcical position has been reached in Australia in which each of these three elements, the Australian Labour party, the Anti-Communist Labour party and the Democratic Labour party, claims to be the true voice of the Labour movement in Australia.

Mr Bruce - What has that to do with housing?

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - It has a lot to do, not only with an effective housing policy, but also with the effective government of this country and with the progress and prosperity of our people. The industrial movement also reflects these divisions. Left wing militants, industrial groupers, right wing Labour men and Communists are all to be found striving for supremacy, one against the other, inside what is ironically described these days as the Labour movement. There is certainly plenty of movement in what is called the Labour movement, but it is the movement of the atom splitting its particles in a number of quite undiscernible directions.

Labour's divisions do not stop at its own borders. The battle rages inside as well. We have recently been treated to some bitter exchanges between the Australian Workers Union, the largest numerically in the Commonwealth, and the Australian Council of Trades Unions. Perhaps Mr. Dougherty is a sympton of the division inside the Labour party. These men to whom I refer are all inside the officially recognized Australian Labour party. We find Mr. Dougherty, the president of this, the largest union, at one time attacking Mr. Cahill and his Government and calling them a lot of no-hopers. The next time we find him attacking Mr. Monk, the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. In the next breath we find him attacking Mr. Campbell, the New South Wales president of the Australian Labour party, and then finally, apparently in his latest outburst he is attacking Mr. Chamberlain, the federal president of the party. That is symptomatic of what is going on inside the movement.

Already, in the State of Victoria, some twenty parliamentarians from the Labour party, formerly welcome members of the movement, including former Cabinet Ministers and Federal and State members - seven of them from this place - have received their political execution, or are marked for the axe as soon as it can be effectively brought into use. But Victoria is not the only State where these divisions have gone so deep. One has only to look at the predicament of Mr. Gair, the Labour Premier of Queensland, and of Mr. Cahill, the Labour Premier of New South Wales, to realize how uneasy are the associations inside the official Australian Labour party.

The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) is pressing for an inquiry into the way in which the party conducts itself in New South Wales. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and a stalwart of the Australian Labour party, in order to hold his place in the team has had to surrender one of the most cherished and prized policy undertakings of his political lifetime - his attitude to immigration. I am saddened to think that a man who has given so much of his life and his effort to that subject should have surrendered so speedily to the pressures inside his party on what should have been for him a vital matter of policy.

Opposition members interjecting,

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - Apparently honorable members opposite all want a turn, and it is hard to think of some one on the other side about whom I could hot say something. I do not know all that goes on inside the party, but one wonders what thoughts the honorable members for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), Dalley (Mr. O'Connor) and Lang (Mr. Stewart) brought out of the caucus room discussions after listening to what has been put up as the new look of the Labour party in this country. This is a rabble, Mr. Speaker, split not only info the three defined groups I have mentioned, but also, inside the Australian Labour party, split with these deep and bitter divisions that force themselves into the press of this country almost every day. This is. the rabble which invites the country to displace a government which has given Australia the seven most prosperous and progressive years of its history in order to make way for a government drawn from that side of the House.

Now, sir, 1 want to spend a few moments on the light that has grown brighter at Brisbane, and if honorable members opposite cannot take it, perhaps they will concede me a lule more time in which to deal with what I am putting. The light of socialism has grown brighter in recent weeks. Brisbane is a city which has been made the more famous, or infamous, by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who once imposed upon it the dubious notoriety of being the venue of a mythical Brisbane line. I want to spend the ten minutes remaining to me in referring to a new Brisbane line. There is nothing mythical, nothing hypothetical about it. The new Brisbane line is the new look of the Labour party. It is the new look of a party which, having purged its right wing moderate elements, having pointed the finger at the moderate Labour leaders in office in the various States of this Commonwealth, has declared itself clearly, frankly and unequivocally as the socialist party of Australia. Why it did not go to the logical conclusion of its policies and of its deliberations and abandon the name of Labour and come out, as I gather some of the delegates wanted it to come out. with the title " Socialist party of Australia ". 1 shall be interested to learn from honorable gentlemen opposite.

The socialists have reaffirmed their socialism and have dedicated themselves afresh to its fulfilment. I do not join with observers who say that the conference meant very little and that it merely put a sugar coating around the socialist objective. 1 say in all earnestness that the Brisbane conference of the Australian Labour party was the most significant political development of this decade - in my judgment, at any rate. Here are some points that I suggest should be noted. I repeat what I said a little earlier: Opposite us sits the alternative government of the Australian people, and what honorable gentlemen opposite proclaim as their policy should be analysed with great care by the people as a whole.

I know that it has been the practice in Australia to put governments out rather than to worry about the government that is being put in; but if people are going to put governments out, in this day and age they have a responsibility to decide for themselves what it is they are putting in. What 1 say to-night is not said to attack the sincerity of honorable gentlemen opposite, or the propriety of their putting what they have put. I believe that, for once in its life, the Labour party has acted completely honestly by declaring its colours at the Brisbane conference. Instead of the shillyshallying that has gone on over the last twenty years, when some of the members of the Labour party have sought to cloak the full significance of this socialist objective, at Brisbane they decided that they were going to declare the policy and give it full implementation.

There was some sugar-coating of the objective, but the significant thing is that the methods, as set out in the printed platform of the party - and after all, they are the significant elements in it - by which that objective was to be given effect have not been changed by one comma, or by the crossing of one " t ".

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Why should they be changed?

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - Of course they should not. That is your policy and I respect you for it, as I respect any man who is prepared to declare openly and publicly what he stands for, and to tv tested on it. Labour's policies include first, as they did before the legislation of 1947. nationalization of banking, nationalization of insurance, nationalization of shipping, nationalization of public health.

Opposition members. - Hear, hear!

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - I welcome the endorsement which honorable members opposite give. The policies include also nationalization of wireless transmission, including broadcasting, and presumably, including television as well.

Opposition members. - Hear, hear!

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - Nationalization of sugar refining also is included. Those are old things to most of us, but the more significant things were not changed one iota. The important thing to know is what was discussed.

Dr Evatt - He is making heavy weather of it. is he not!

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - Well, it is not an easy subject, as the right honorable gentleman should know. If he will give me an hour to analyse it T shall do it with much more comfort. 1 direct the attention of the House not only to what was adopted, and that was important enough, but also to an analysis of the resolution which came forward from the Victorian delegation. Let it be realized that this was not some outer branch of the State organization of the Labour party. This was the Victorian delegation, in attendance at the most important policy-making conference that the Labour party can hold. And this is what that delegation included in its proposals: The achievement of socialism by industrial action; the growth of nationalized industries by boards, upon which the workers and the community shall have representation; the establishment of an elective supreme economic council by all nationalized industries; that all parliamentary representatives be required to function as active propagandists of the objective and methods of he movement and the nationalization of banking and all principal industries.

Victoria went even further in another motion which said that " capitalism could be abolished only by the workers uniting in one class-conscious economic organization ".

There were other proposals which, if time permitted, I should like to mention, and I hope that at a later stage in the life of this Parliament I shall be able to elaborate on the developments which occurred at that conference in the foreign policy field and in the economic field. In the meantime, I invite all section of the House, and of the people, to make a careful study of the publicists for the Labour party in these days. The Victorian resolutions were symptomatic of what is going on. The publications of Dr. John Burton are significant in relation to what is going on. Honorable members opposite will not laugh him off. No honorable member in this House will laugh him off, because it was honorable members opposite who made Dr. John Burton permanent head of the vital Department of External Affairs. It was the Labour party which endorsed him as one of its candidates in a federal election. I say that what he has published in his very interesting and informative pamphlets is the most honest and most clearly expressed statement of Labour policy and planning ever put forward in this country. Let us also examine what Professor Arndt wrote in his Chifley Memorial Lecture, which he was invited to give by a branch of the Labour party in Victoria. If all these things do not hang together in a programme, a highly significant programme, which should be carefully studied by all the people of this country, then these people have no right to enjoy the standards which they would hope to possess under free, democratic, parliamentary government in Australia. 1 shall have time to give only one or two short quotations from Dr. Burton. That gentleman pointed out in his latest book, " The Labour Party in Transition ", that the Labour party's objective of democratic socialism clearly implied fundamental changes in the economy and in our social life. I do not know how many people want fundamental changes in our economy and our social life but, so far as he is concerned, the Labour party will give them to the people.

Time is running against me and there is much that I would like to 'tell the House of these policies which have been so clearly and cogently put before us by the Labour party's most articulate spokesman. Here we have in this latest publication, "Labour in Transition ", the statement thai we are to have democratic socialism - not the socialism of Mr. Cahill, Mr. Gair, or Mr. Cosgrove. They are middle-of-the-roaders who are being swept into the ditch. Those other gentlemen have taken their position firmly on the left. " The Light Grows Brighter " is another Burton pamphlet on socialism. It is not the green light for safety that symbolizes liberal progress in this country, lt is not even the amber light for caution which governs the faltering steps of Cahill, Gair and Cosgrove, (t is the red light, the traditional colour of socialism, the established colour of communism, the universally recognized colour for danger. That is what honorable gentlemen mean by democratic socialism and " new look " Labour.

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