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Wednesday, 30 November 1960

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) has delivered a very thoughtful speech. In fact, having listened to his speech and having observed his rather uncomfortable manner, I am of the opinion that he has done nothing but think about this proposal since it was first announced. That is not surprising, because of the many proposals that have aroused the ire of the Australian people, this is the one that takes first prize.

I have no doubt that the honorable member, like most other honorable members who support the Government, is somewhat alarmed at the general trend of opposition and criticism that have come from the Australian people generally following the announcement of this proposal and, more importantly, from the wealthy tycoons who substantially maintain Liberal Party campaign funds. When men like Ricketson, Ian Potter and some of the other tycoons in industry make public statements attacking the Government for this absurd proposal, it is no wonder that we have in this House the kind of speech that we have just been listening to.

The honorable member for Fawkner came somewhere near the point when he said that a great deal of our steel imports was structural steel for the building of the enormous buildings which are rising against the skyline of Melbourne and other capital cities. They are being erected by banks, great emporiums and insurance companies. These buildings are monopolizing the manpower available in the building industry and are taking a large slab of the available materials. This, surely, should convince us that something ought to be done, as was done by the Chifley Government, to reimpose capital issues controls. It seems absolutely absurd, in a time like this, that we allow capital to be used for the building of fabulous hotels, motels, and petrol stations - and now we have tire stations - all over the countryside. Unessential industries are finding almost a surplus of capital for their expansion, but brickyards, cement works and other things absolutely essential to the building industry and to a growing economy are being starved for want of finance. They are being starved because the money now is being channelled either into very profitable unessential industries or into hire-purchase organizations which are able to make tremendous profits from the business that they transact.

In addition to the structural steel that we are importing to meet the demand of these luxury building projects we have, as the honorable member pointed out, an enormous importation of timber, a commodity which is badly needed for the construction of homes and for more essential purposes than the erection of luxury hotels, motels and the like. Petrol imports have increased considerably. This is another reason why our balance of payments position has been deteriorating. Aluminium imports have increased at a considerable rate. Instead of meeting this problem in the only sensible way, namely, by the expansion of output of the Bell Bay works so that we could meet our own requirements of aluminium, this Government has sold the Bell Bay project to some overseas cartel. Now, instead of an expansion beyond the tentative 28,000 tons output that was announced, there is every prospect that eventually the Bell Bay project will be closed down. There is no guarantee in any of the agreements that are being considered that this cannot be done within the next sixteen years. This is how I think the Government has fallen down on its job: When it discovered that aluminium imports were growing at the alarming rate that was mentioned by the honorable member for Fawkner, the Government should have increased the capital investment in the Bell Bay project so that the increased demand for aluminium could have been met from within our own country. But this was not done. The honorable member for Fawkner made the amazing statement that this tax will increase car output in Australia.

Mr Howson - 1 did not say that.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am sorry if I misunderstood the honorable gentleman, but that is a remark that some honorable members on the Government side have made from time to time. They claim that the tax will increase, not reduce, car output. They cannot have it both ways. Either it will increase output or it will reduce output. Let us consider both propositions. If the tax will increase car production, which apparently is a good thing in the eyes of those who claim that that is what the tax will do, why stop at a 40 per cent, tax? Why not make it 50 per cent, or even 60 per cent, because presumably the higher the tax the greater the output? But, if this tax will reduce output, then surely that is a very bad thing in a country that boasts about its growing economy. We heard the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) boasting how this country, under a private enterprise Government, has made great strides. He pointed to the motor car industry as an example of how we have increased our output. The honorable gentleman then stated that the United Kingdom Government had increased sales tax to 50 per cent. Apparently he believes that our 40 per cent, sales tax on cars is too little and that we should follow the example of the United Kingdom Government. Perhaps even the United Kingdom Government was too modest and should have made the tax 60 per cent.

Mr Freeth - At least the United Kingdom increased its exports.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Minister states that the United Kingdom increased its exports; but let me ask him to have a look at some of the other things that the United Kingdom Government did. If this Government were prepared to apply to the Australian economy all the methods that the United Kingdom Government has applied, we probably would be in a much better position than we are now. The United Kingdom Government imposed a capital gains tax and I suggest, with due deference to the Minister, that a capital gains tax in Australia would have done far more to solve the inflationary problem than this increased sales tax on motor cars will do. As every one knows, sales tax is an inflationary tax. It must increase the price of goods. The very purpose of the higher sales tax on motor cars is to so increase the price of cars that fewer people will buy them. Obviously, it is an inflationary measure, and this Government uses an inflationary measure to deal with inflation! However, a capital gains tax is a deflationary measure. It does not increase the price of goods which a company is producing because all that would be achieved by doing so would be to make the tax on capital gains even higher than it was previously.

The honorable member for Richmond who, presumably, speaks with the authority of the Country Party, last night had this to say when referring to the proposed sales tax -

It is not imposed simply for the purpose of raising additional revenue. Tt is imposed for the purpose of correcting an imbalance in our national growth, and also for the purpose of safeguarding our overseas funds.

According to the honorable member for Richmond, the sole purpose of this tax is to safeguard our overseas funds. I can think of a much better way to do that.

Mr Anderson - Why do you not read what he said?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I have just read what he said.

Mr Anderson - He did not say that the sole purpose of this tax is to safeguard overseas funds.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I shall repeat exactly what he said as reported in "Hansard". He stated-

It is not imposed simply for the purpose of raising additional revenue.

I can think of a much more effective way to safeguard our overseas funds than by this indirect method of increasing sales tax on motor cars and making every working man and, as the honorable member for Richmond seems to have forgotten, every primary producer pay more for the motor car that he needs. The way to do this is to reimpose import restrictions so that we can prevent luxury items from coming into this country.

Mr Freeth - Is steel plate included in that category?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No. Steel plate is not a luxury item, but this Government, which talks about being concerned with the problem of safeguarding our overseas balances, allows a wide variety of luxury goods to come into this country in unlimited quantities. They can be seen in any of the big emporiums in Melbourne. The honorable member for Fawkner, who owns an emporium in Melbourne, will know that what I am saying is true. These goods include frogs' legs in aspic, canned pheasants, cods' eyes, sturgeons' eggs, muscatels in champagne, edible snails, canned caterpillars, red ants in sugar, honey, stuffed prawns, all kinds of fabulous furs, most of them from the Soviet Union. Paris model frocks and hats, glass shoes, artificial eyelashes, jewel-studded dog collars, mechanical fighting cocks and poodle perfume. I ask honorable members to dwell on the magnificent way in which this Government is safeguarding our overseas balances!

Mr Freeth - Do you suggest seriously that those items are coming into Australia in unlimited quantities?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - They are coming in in unlimited quantities.

Mr Freeth - To what extent?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - To the extent that purchasers can be found for them, and more and more purchasers are being found from people in Australia who are in the higher income brackets. People who have shares in the great monopolies in Australia are able to gorge themselves on cods' eyes, sturgeons' eggs and stuffed prawns, and the women are able to buy more of the fabulous furs that are available. Some women walk around the streets with jewel-studded dog collars attached to their poodles and with the poodles smelling as though they too have had a fairly good douching in poodle perfume. But these women are not the wives of primary producers; they are not the wives of the workers in Richards, Holden's or Chryslers; they are the wives of the men who wax fat on the ineptitude of the Government. I can understand why the Minister shakes his head, because it must be most embarrassing for him to be reminded of the way in which this Government has, if we can use the term, governed Australia over the last eleven years.

The honorable member for Richmond also stated -

As a result of the Government's efforts over the last ten years, a very large automobile industry has been established in Australia.

The plain truth is that the very large automobile industry in Australia was established by the Chifley Government in 1947 when Mr. Chifley arranged for the Commonwealth Bank to lend General MotorsHolden's £2,300,000 with which to commence the manufacture of an Australian car. Not one penny of American money has been invested in the project since then. All of the present capital of the industry has been built up by charging the Australian public excessive prices for the articles it has to sell. The industry has become established and it has prospered, but it is not true to say that its prosperity has resulted from the efforts of this Government.

Having proudly announced that the motor vehicle industry has expanded as the result of this Government's efforts, the honorable member for Richmond went on to say that this measure is necessary to arrest the abnormal growth of the industry. Apparently, according to the honorable member, the industry has made too much progress. He said also that the legislation is designed to curb inflation. I decided to find out what was said about these aspects of the matter in debate in this Parliament, and I came across the following passage in " Hansard ":-

I regret that this proposal was contained in the measures referred to by the Treasurer. I object to it because it imposes the same penalty on the person to whom a motor car is a necessity as on the person who is in a far better financial position to purchase a motor car.

This gentleman, speaking in another place, went on to say-

I think of primary producers, many of whom live in remote areas far from centres of business. They must travel to those centres over rough roads, with consequent wear and tear on their vehicles. The primary producer is the man to whom we look to increase our exports. We are told that we must increase our exports because we have built up an edifice of costs which our present rate of exports cannot offset. It is unthinkable that these people should be slugged an extra 10 per cent, if they wish to purchase a motor car, which to them is an absolute essential. Without a motor car they would be compelled to live in isolation. They would not be able to take their families away from the farm. A motor car is absolutely essential to them if they are to take part in the social life of the community . . . I regret very much that the Government has seen fit to increase the sales tax on motor cars as a means of remedying the ills that beset the Commonwealth.

This gentleman concluded his speech by repeating -

I very much regret the intention to charge 40 per cent, sales tax on the vehicle of a man upon whom we must rely to boost our export income, which Mr. McEwen says must be increased by £50,000.000 a year.

Who do you thing made those comments? It was not a member of the Labour Party, although the intelligence of the remarks would lead one to believe that it was the speech of a member of the Labour Party. It was none other than a Liberal Party senator, Senator Lillico. Let me say to the Government that if it believes it can sit back smugly and think this legislation is going to be passed, it has a rude awakening coming to it. Already Senator Wood has announced in the press that he is going to vote against the bill. Already Senator Wright has indicated that he is going to vote against the bill. Already Senator Lillico has shown by the speech of which the extracts I have read formed part that he is completely opposed to the bill. Since members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party are not bound by caucus decisions, as we of the Labour Party are so often told we are bound and chided for being bound, it is reasonable to assume that these three gentlemen will, having declared that they consider this measure to be completely wrong, have the courage of their convictions and vote against it when the vote is taken in the Senate. I could not imagine that any one of these three would prove so craven, when the pressure is put on them by the Government, as to shift his position and vote in favour of a measure which he had publicly declared to be entirely wrong and indefensible.

Having heard what Senator Lillico had to say, let us return to the Country Party speaker in this House. Let us hear some more of what the honorable member for Richmond had to say about the 40 per cent, sales tax on motor cars. He said -

This Government has considered the primary producers greatly. It has not increased the sales tax on utilities, panel vans, trucks and other types of commercial vehicles used by primary producers.

Evidently he is delighted with the Government because it has contented itself with merely taxing primary producers at the rate of 40 per cent, for their motor cars. There is no doubt, as many honorable members have said, that if we are to correct the imbalance of trade that is now causing us so much difficulty, we must find some way of increasing our exports. In fact, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has announced that unless we increase our exports by £250,000,000 over the next five years we will not be able to maintain our present standards. That is a very serious, and, I would say, a doleful forecast for him to have to make. That statement was made nearly a year ago.

Mr Duthie - It is a terrific target.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Yes, it is. Instead of us increasing our exports by £50,000,000 a year, which is the average that we will have to maintain to meet the target set by the Minister, our exports have been decreasing. At the same time the value of our imports has skyrocketed. What is happening is this: The prices of wool, of wheat, of meat, of fruit and of all the other things on which we depend for export income have been steadily falling. Even though in some instances production has increased, the fact is that by the time we receive the cheque for the proceeds of the full production for the year, the amount of it is less than it was in the previous year.

Besides the falling returns for our exported commodities we must consider the increase that is taking place in invisibles. What has this Government done to meet that situation? Nothing at all! Freight charges imposed by the conference shipping lines have steadily increased year by year, and this Government has done absolutely nothing about the matter. My honorable friend from Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has asked a series of pertinent questions on this matter. He has asked the Minister for Trade the following questions, which appear on the notice-paper: -

Is he (the Minister) able to say whether the Conference Shipping Lines advised local travel agents some time ago that they must not book passengers on the Greek-Australian Line ship " Patris " ?

Are these agents unable to advertise sailings of the "Patris" . . .?

Are these restrictions being rigidly enforced by the Shipping Conference Combine . . .? "

Then he asked what the Australian Government was going to do about the matter. He has not received an answer as yet. If he ever gets one, the answer will be, of course, that the Government will do exactly the same about this matter as it has done about similar matters during the last eleven years, which is nothing. The Government's policy is to let the shipping companies charge what they like, and to do nothing about it. The honorable member for Grayndler then asked the Minister for Trade another significant question. This question again appears on the notice-paper, and it is in these terms: -

Can he say whether an order was recently placed by an Athens car dealer for Holden cars, and were arrangements made for them to be shipped on the Greek-Australian Line ship " Patris " ?

Of course they were. I can give the honorable gentleman the answer now. If he had come to me, I could have given him the answer immediately. Then he asked -

Were these cars subsequently taken off the manifest and shipped to Piraeus aboard a ship of the British Cargo Conference?

I can tell the honorable gentleman, who is, as usual, in his place in the chamber, that the answer is " Yes ". They were taken off the manifest and transferred to another ship of the British Cargo Conference. The honorable member then asked -

Was this action taken on instructions from the British Shipping Conference?

Again the answer is " Yes ". The honorable member continued -

Does this body dictate the basis and the ship on which the goods must be transported?

If restrictive practices are used, what action does he intend to take to eliminate them?

The answer again is, " Absolutely nothing ". The Government does not intend to do a thing. The honorable member should not have been so naive as to think that it was going to do anything about the matter. I congratulate him on having discovered this example of manipulation by the British conference lines. We should be encouraging other Greek lines to come into the Australian trade to compete with the conference lines. What is wrong with our using our own Australian National Line for the purpose?

Mr Anderson - We would' not have a chance to compete.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - We have not tried to compete.

Mr Lucock - I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. While it might be permissible for an honorable member to refer to certain matters in making a point, is the honorable member for Hindmarsh correct and in order in devoting about 90 per cent, of his speech to matters that have no relation to the bill before the House?

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