Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 8 March 1961

Mr COURTNAY (Darebin) .- The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) in the course of his address to-night said that he would not indulge in controversial discussions. He then proceeded to outline to us certain proposals which he suggested might solve our adverse balance of payments problem. I recall that during the last Budget debate several Ministers said that if we were to achieve a safe position with our balance of payments we would have to stimulate the economy so that we would be able to obtain an additional £250,000,000 from our exports. The assumption now is that the proposals submitted by the Acting Prime Minister and those contained in the Administrator's Speech provide the answer to our problem.

There is nothing novel in the proposals submitted to-night by the Acting Prime

Minister. They do not suggest anything that the Government could not have done in the years that have passed. As a matter of fact, these proposals could well have been put into effect before without upsetting our economy. To-day, we still have before us the target that was set when the last Budget was introduced. The Acting Prime Minister assures us that our target is still to increase our exports by £250,000,000 a year. But that will not be done in a short time, even assuming that the measures now proposed will achieve the objective at all. At best, these are long-term proposals. 1 was very interested in many of the suggestions contained in the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Administrator. I found one suggestion of particular interest and it is contained in the section of the Speech dealing with the economic measures recently introduced by the Government. His Excellency said -

My advisers believe that those measures are having their intended effect.

One effect that it was said that these measures were intended to produce was a reduction of the production of the automobile industry. The Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce has suggested thai the reduction achieved is 42 per cent, in the automobile industry. In home building in Victoria the suggested reduction is 80 per cent. Apart from the reduction in the number of homes being built throughout Australia, we find that the economic measures of the Government has resulted in increased repayments on loans obtained by home builders. Interest rates have been increased and this has placed a further burden on the worker who must now pay an additional £15 to £20 a year. The measures, we are told, are having their intended effect. Is this one of the intended effects?

Unemployment has increased considerably as a result of these economic measures. The measures, we are told, are having their intended effect. It is all very well for honorable members to take solace from the little shot in the arm that the Acting Prime Minister has given them, but those people who must now pay an additional £15 to £20 a year, or roughly £450 on the amount that they have borrowed, cannot take much solace from the kind of slush that is dished out here. This is real money to them and it is a hardship to find it. Those who are unemployed cannot take a great deal of solace from the statement that the measures are having their intended effect.

The word " intended " means " deliberate". The deliberate intention of these measures, therefore, was to create unemployment, to depress the motor car industry and the building industry and to increase the repayments of workers on their homes. Let us not mention, of course, the deliberate effect of the increase of 10 per cent. - from 30 per cent, to 40 per cent. - in sales tax on motor cars. I presume that that measure had its deliberate effect quite early. Its deliberate effect was achieved much earlier than were the other effects. Much has been said about that, and I do not propose to say a great deal more about it.

The popular theme of Government supporters can be seen in the speech made by the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp), who moved the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Administrator's Speech. The honorable member said that the economy is soundly based and that the future of this country is assured so long as it is under proper management. I have no doubt about that, but such management would not be the kind that we have at present.

Mr Curtin - I would not care to put a fish-and-chips shop under management like that.

Mr COURTNAY - No. Haliburton Investments (Australia) Limited is not sold on the Australian Labour Party and never was. At page 12 of the printed copy of the address given by the chairman of that company to the annual general meeting of shareholders on 20th February, 1961, we find a significant statement under the heading, " Further Decline Expected ". Was this further decline another of the expected results of the Government's economic measures? The chairman of the company had just mentioned the disastrous fall in our overseas reserves, and he continued -

The foregoing figures are of the greatest significance because they indicate that Australia remains incapable of financing the maintenance of economic activity from her own resources . . .

This Government has been at the helm in Australia for the past eleven years. The company whose chairman made this state ment is not an irresponsible firm. He continued -

.   . and that, as in other recent years, we ore still dependent on the continued inflow of overseas investment capital. Fortunately for us all, this has been sustained at a high level.

The Commercial Bank of Australia Limited, in the issue of its " Economic Review " for February of this year, stated -

The general decline in activity was a result of the economic measures brought down in February, 1960, which included the freeing of imports causing a very significant drop in International Reserves and the "little Budget" will hurry the final adjustment.

I do not need to deal at any length with the fall in our overseas reserves, but I do say that it is significant that an authority such as the Commercial Bank of Australia Limited, if I may so describe it, suggests that the general decline in activity was a result of the economic measures taken by this Government in February, 1960. So there we see another of the intended effects.

Further reference to this matter has been made by the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce in a letter over the signature of Mr. L. A. Armstrong, its general secretary, which I have received. I am sure that all Government supporters in this House received similar letters. The letter states -

Unfortunately our assessment is that conditions in the industry will become even more depressed in the next few months and we believe that this position should be made known to you.

So, we do not have to go to the Australian Labour Party and its supporters, or to those people who always cry calamity, in order to get this kind of story. We get it from what supporters of this Government would describe as reputable commercial institutions. I suggest that the Government and its supporters have some responsibility in what has happened. Only this afternoon, I heard the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) ask a question in which he intimated that 45 timber mills in his electorate were being closed down. Is this another intended effect of the Government's economic measures? If it is. all that I have to say to the right honorable member is that he should be the last to complain about it, because he supported the Government's measures up to the hilt and voted solidly in favour of them.

The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) suggested this afternoon that because of the intended effects of the Government's measures on Queensland in its particular circumstances, credit restrictions should be eased in certain circumstances in that State. If the credit restrictions are hitting the honorable member's constituents, all that I have to say to him is that he ought to tell them that he voted solidly for the Government's measures in every division that took place while they were being considered. He supported the very measures which he now claims should be relaxed - but only for Queensland, mark you! If he could get it even closer to home, perhaps he would want the relaxation to apply only to the constituents of Wide Bay; I do not know. But he has a responsibility in the matter.

Mr Curtin - He has been a bandit all his life.

Mr COURTNAY - I do not know about that. I am merely stating what he seems to want.

Mr Turnbull - The honorable member is quite modest.

Mr COURTNAY - Yes. I now come to a publication by the name of " Muster ", which is a graziers' journal, published by some of those who are friends of the honorable member for Mallee. The Government assured us that home-building would not be affected by its credit restrictions, but "Muster", in its editorial in the issue of Wednesday, 15th February, 1961, stated -

When a. young, man with five children, able to put. down £2,000 as a deposit, can't get finance to enable him to purchase a £6,000 house, things must be very wrong indeed. This, however, is one case on the home-buyer front for which we can vouch.

So far as primary producers are concerned, the evidence that all is far from well is mounting at an accelerating pace; signs of the gathering storm are all too evident in the story we carry on this page.

Let me tell the. House something of the story that is carried on the same page.

Mr Lindsay - The intending purchaser chose the £6,000 house, of course.

Mr COURTNAY - The honorable member for Flinders is not affected by any credit restrictions; so he is all right. I may come to him a little later, too. The report in " Muster " refers to a statement made to this journal by Mr. R. B. Prowse, research director of the Australian Bankers Association. He is not a Communist. The report of the statement by Mr. Prowse is in these terms -

While the banks are circumscribed by conditions such as those in which they must at present work . . it is virtually impossible for them to do more than they are doing at present.

The article in " Muster " continues -

In his report on conditions as he had found them at first hand, " Muster's " Stock Correspondent said: " The clamp-down on credit is restricting pasture development and re-stocking to the seasonal limit ..."

Is that another of the intended effects of the Government's economic measures? Is that how we shall so develop export trade as to pay for the unlimited flow of imports that the Government is allowing into this country to-day? The report of the observations of the stock correspondent contains this further passage -

A grazier who found his cheque for shearers' wages, £500, would not be met by his bank received the advance promptly from his wool firm..

Stock dealers are gradually ceasing their activities and the movement of stock from dry areas to handy markets for re-stockers able to buy small lots is depriving drought-stricken stockowners of full values.

That is the story from the country centres, and it is published by the Graziers Association of New South. Wales. The Government still says that it proposes to allow the unlimited importation of goods into this country. The actual position now is that we are importing more than we are exporting and the Government says the answer to the problem is to expand our exports by £250,000,000 a year. It will take a long time to do that and we of the Opposition say that if we want to retain any overseas reserves at all it will be necessary to reimpose import restrictions. Only last week it was announced officially that the adverse balance for the week was £3,000,000. How long can we continue in this way? The flow of imports is not steadying; it is increasing. We concede - we must concede this - that the price of wool has dropped and the Government has no control whatsoever over that, but I also point out that we have little or no control whatsoever over the prices we will get for our export commodities, anyhow. The only way by which we can hope to balance our position is to take steps at our. end. The only way by which we can balance our position is by controlling imports into the country. I leave it at that.

The balance of the Administrator's Speech contains very little. It makes no approach whatever to the real problems of the community and certainly it is not likely to set the lake afire when it is constructed here. The Administrator's Speech continues -

My Government will continue to try to promote steps towards universal disarmament . . .

I suppose it will try by sooling the security police on to those people who want to attend the peace conferences. The Administrator said, in effect, that the Government is going to promote friendship and understanding of the Africans and the Asians. How much friendship and understanding did it promote with the Africans and Asians to whom it looks as potential buyers of our goods when the Prime Minister went to a meeting of the United Nations in New York and tangled with the Afro-Asian bloc to such an extent that there were hard words between him and Nehru and between him and the African leader? How much did the Government promote friendship with the Africans when, in effect, the Prime Minister supported Dr. Verwoerd, the South African Prime Minister, in his apartheid policy?

Mr Wight - That is not true.

Mr COURTNAY - I say it is true, but when speaking to the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) I make allowances for the heat of the Queensland summer. The Administrator also said that he was pleased to note that his advisers have the state of the economy continuously under review. The honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp), in moving the AddressinReply, said that he was satisfied that the people of Australia realized that it was completely necessary to make changes in economic policy every now and again to meet the requirements of the changing situation. I am not sure that the people of Australia are satisfied that there should be so many changes. I know perfectly well that the back-benchers on the Government side are not satisfied that there should be so many changes. If they were, there would not be so many questions like that asked by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) directed to Ministers. They are not at all satisfied, and they are seeking some solid approach to the problem. I say to those who are not satisfied that they are responsible for this unsatisfactory position because they voted for the Government's proposals.

After all, the Administrator's Speech is an indication of what the Government intends to do between now and the end of the year, and I am bitterly disappointed that the Government has given no indication of any intention to solve the problem of the abuse of the onus-of-proof provision in repatriation cases. Those honorable members on the Government side who are dissatisfied will have every opportunity of criticizing or affirming the Government's attitude when the motions of which notice has been given are being discussed. They will also have ample opportunity to speak about social services. I remind them that they have neither done anything nor made any suggestions relating to primary and secondary education. Here let me say to those 3,200 delegates who, in the Leichhardt stadium on 21st March last, carried a resolution asking the Government to appoint a commission of inquiry into the education system, that they have no possible hope of seeing the appointment of such a commission while this Government remains in office. Nothing was offered to them, and I tell them now that even if they make further representations nothing will be done about the matter while this Government is in office. I remind them that, at page 2623 of "Hansard" of 12th November, 1959, the Prime Minister is reported as having said in answer to the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) - 1 am . . . very satisfied indeed with the arrangements that had been made for them and the funds that they were to receive from the Commonwealth. That is the position, and 100 speeches really will not make any difference.

The Prime Minister said in effect there that he would not give any assurance at all and that Australian children will have to suffer because not enough money is provided by the Government for their education. I repeat that he said that 100 speeches really will not make any difference, and those who are interested in education may obtain copies of the Administrator's Speech and assure themselves that it contains nothing directed towards further financial assistance for education. It contains nothing calculated to relieve those who labour under the burden of increased interest on loans on the homes they are buying. To those who are complaining about the effect of the credit squeeze, I can only quote the following from the Administrator's Speech: -

My advisers believe that these measures are having their intended effect.

If one is out of work, if one has to pay more for one's home, if one is in real trouble as the result of these measures, then these measures are having their intended effect.

Mr. SPEAKER Hon.John McLeay).Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Turnbull) adjourned.

Suggest corrections