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Thursday, 9 March 1961


Mr CURTIN - Why should 1 have to apologize for the truth?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! the honorable member's remarks are out of order.

Mr CURTIN - Being a teetotaller, 1 think I have the right to criticize.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member's remarks are out of order.

Mr CURTIN - Well, I will say that he could not have been looking down the neck of the whisky bottle that day. In answer to a question by the interviewer as to what he was going to say to President Kennedy, he replied, "We will leave President Kennedy to do all the talking ". I ask again: Why was he called to America? Was it because of the precarious state of our dollar position? Is it a fact that we owe 900,000.000 dollars to America? Why were the import restrictions lifted? Why was America so adamant on the lifting of restrictions on imports from the United States. Japan and Canada? Everybody knows that industry in Japan and Canada is controlled by American financiers. I suggest that our Prime Minister was told to do as he was bid.

We are now approaching a crisis in this country, whether honorable members opposite like it or not, and this crisis is coming because of the actions of our pathetic, unbusinesslike, mismanaged government. What has happened that has resulted in out Prime Minister and our Treasurer holding different views and doing different things?

Mr Turnbull - They have not given different views.

Mr CURTIN - The honorable member for Mallee says they do not hold different views. Did no* the Treasurer tell the Australian Council of Trade Unions' representatives certain things. ?nd did not the Prime Minister throw those statements overboard 24 hours later? Those who remember other crises in the Australian economy will not forget how the interests of overseas bondholders were looked after by foreign ambassadors. Who could forget, for instance, Otto Niemeyer and his actions in the early 1930's? I was one of his victims, and as a result I was ten years out of work and on the dole, getting a weekly dole ticket worth 14s. 2d. - which would be equivalent to the £3 a week that is paid by this Government to the unfortunate unemployed, taking into account the change in the value of the £1.

Mr Turnbull - Did you say you were ten years on the dole?

Mr CURTIN - Yes. For four years out of the ten I was boycotted by the Metal Trades Federation. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) is interjecting. I remind him that Otto Niemeyer said to gentlemen like him, " Australia has to stew in its own juice ". People like the honorable member and the honorable member for Mallee took it on the chin without protest. Then we heard Lord Bruce, Stanley Melbourne Bruce, a fellow conspirator of our present Prime Minister, tell the world that Australia would have to become accustomed to unemployment. That gentleman now sits in the House of Lords, where our present Prime Minister aspires to sit in the very near future, after he has done the bidding of the foreign bondholders.

Mr Costa - The people will kick him out at the end of the year.

Mr CURTIN - Thank you for reminding me of that. We all remember how Bruce was given the boot at the following elections and Scullin became Prime Minister.

Recently our Prime Minister was asked by interviewers to comment on the alarming drift in the finances of the country. He replied in a flippant manner, " I am more interested in how many runs the West Indian cricketers can make". What a Prime Minister! When asked to comment on sackings by General Motors-Holden's Limited and the Ford Motor Company of Australia Limited, he said, " Let us keep our fingers crossed ". I hope those remarks will be remembered by the 30,000 people on the coastal strip in Queensland who are unemployed, from Cairns down to Bundaberg. 7\

Mr Murray - There are fewer unemployed in the electorate of Herbert now than there were three years ago.

Mr CURTIN - Never mind about that. I would ask those 30,000 people in Queensland to bear in mind that the Prime Minister wanted them to keep their fingers crossed and see how things went. When they go hungry to bed they should remember our Prime Minister.

Let us see where the Treasurer stands. I believe, first, that he should be stripped of the title " Right Honorable ". After the humiliation caused him by his Prime Minister he would tender his resignation if he were any sort of a man. How can we expect individuals of that kind to manage the housekeeping of this country? No wonder our economy has got into such a muddle. The Treasurer's aspirations to the Prime Ministership must now, of course, remain a long-cherished dream. He must be written off as an also-ran. He has failed dismally. He had a wonderful opportunity to show his capacity for leadership, but he failed to do so, and his back-benchers are now waiting for the day when they can tell him where he gets off. He has thrown away his opportunities because he bowed the knee to the arrogance, the vanity and the contemptuous attitude of our Prime Minister.

Let us analyse the background1 of this crisis. Our very weak Cabinet just cannot face the situation squarely. Its members have not the stomach to tackle a crisis when it occurs. We see a dangerous and even critical situation. The problems that have arisen must be solved, and they must be solved quickly. The Labour Party has warned this House and the Government itself time and again of the inevitable results of its mismanagement. Unfortunately, the Government's leaders are only too happy to hand over the reins of government to senior officers of the Public Service while they enjoy trips around the world and cocktail parties at home - here we come to the whisky bottle again, Mr. Deputy Speaker - dinner parties, afternoon teas and so on. These are well-known facts, of course, and particularly true is my reference to the whisky.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! I do not think the honorable member is in order in pursuing that line of discussion. He is not to continue in that fashion.

Mr CURTIN - I simply make a comment that whisky has an effect-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! Is the honorable member querying the Chair?

Mr CURTIN - I have illustrated the weak mentality that is typical of top bureaucrats. They can go around Canberra on their merry way and experiment with their pet theories which ultimately end in bankruptcy for the nation. One has only to listen to the bureaucratic nonsense of Sir Douglas Copland, one of the favorites of the daily press, in order to realize the truth of what I say. He can always get plenty of space for articles. Does he believe that the people of Australia forget that he was one of the architects of the 1930 depression when he slavishly followed Sir Otto Niemeyer around Australia, morning, noon and night, preaching the doctrines espoused by the same Sir Otto Niemeyer?

Why have not the people been told the reason for the Government's failure? I challenge denial of the statement that we are bankrupt, especially in the dollar area. We are down and we cannot get up. We must do the bidding of the overseas bondholders. I challenge the Treasurer to tell me how many dollars we owe to the United States of America. Are we paying 6 per cent, on the dollars that we owe? Are we paying 6 per cent, on the 6 per cent, that we must pay for the dollars? This is like a dog chasing its tail. If the present trends continue our economy must inevitably end at the bottom of the drain. Have we asked for time to pay? Will the Treasurer tell me that? Have we agreed to lift all import restrictions in consequence? Have we asked the pawnbroker to be lenient? Have we said that we will make it up in some way - that we will lift all import restrictions? Why is the Treasurer so stubborn on this point? Is it because he is contemplating the negotiation of further lone-term loans for development, so to stall off the da\ of reckoning? Surely the Treasurer must note with dismay the ever-increasing quantity of imports coming into Australia, particularly from the dollar area.

I should like to emphasize this pointStatistics show that the United States of

America and Japan supply the major part of Australian purchases. In the first seven months of 1959-60, Australian exports to the United States, according to the Commonwealth Statistician, amounted to £49,200,000. Imports from the United States amounted to £77,300,000. In the first seven months of this financial year exports from Australia to the United States of America have fallen to £37,200,000, a drop of £12,000,000 and our imports have risen to £131,100,000! This has left a trade deficit for seven months of the year 1960-61 of £98,400,000.

I challenge the Treasurer to deny these figures. Does the Treasurer not realize that this is awfully bad housekeeping? What housewife in the country could go out with £10 to spend and buy goods worth £25? How would she stand at the end of a week? You do not have to go to Oxford, Harvard or any top university to know the answer to that. An honorable member opposite has interjected that the housewife could use hire purchase. That shows his mentality. If you cannot pay, borrow! That has been the attitude of the Government over the years.

Let us consider Japan. Australian purchases from the Japanese in 1959-60 amounted to £22,700,000. Lo and behold, in 1960-61 our imports from these, our enemies in the last war, rose to £45,100,000, a jump in twelve months of £22,400,000! This is the penalty of the Menzies blight. Now let us go across to Canada. The Government has helped a Canadian enterprise to establish a plywood mill at Bulolo in New Guinea. That enterprise really represented American big business. In seven months of 1959-60, goods worth £10,800,000 were exported to Canada. But we bought back from Canada, which is in the dollar area, imports to the value of £28,000,000, resulting in a deficit of £17,000,000 in respect of Canada which is only a small country.

Why is the Government always bending the knee to the United States of America? Has the almighty dollar some sort of influence on the Cabinet? Has it got the Government in? Can we not find on the Government benches one good Australian with the stomach and the national spirit to stiffen the backs of the weak Government and do something to save our country before it is too late? Let us be real. There is no national spirit on the Government benches. We are rushing to national extinction and if the people of Australia do not awaken it will be too late. One gets sick and tired of reading in the columns of the daily press endless references to America. Can we find in such references, any solace?

The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) said that the state of affairs mentioned by the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) was an illusion. Is it an illusion that in New South Wales, 33 north coast timber mills have closed down? The honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who is interjecting, but who knows what I am saying to be true, was a very weak member of the Government. From the timber mills that I have mentioned, 500 men have been laid idle. The Victa mower factory at Milperra, New South Wales, has dismissed 200 men. Courtaulds at Raymond Terrace, New South Wales, have dismissed 35 workers. One hundred employees of the Burlington mills at Rutherford have been dismissed. All these dismissals have been caused by the Government's policy of lifting import restrictions, according to Mr. R. H. Erskine, M.L.C., secretary of the Textile Workers' Union. He said, further, according to this morning's paper, that 60,000 members of his union faced the danger of heavy retrenchments or of having only four days work a week. The Federal secretary of the same union, Mr. Loft, said in Melbourne -

Two thousand textile employees throughout Australia have lost their jobs this year through the Government squeeze.

As a result, he said, the industry was losing skilled and semi-skilled employees who could not easily be replaced if stability returned to the industry.

Because of the Government's economic measures, retail stores will not purchase local manufactures. Why? The reason is that they are getting cheap imports from all parts of Asia, and especially the countries of South-East Asia, and from cheaplabour countries elsewhere throughout the world. The Australian Country Party subscribes to free trade in all six States in Australia. I should like to remind the Treasurer that each of these workers who has become unemployed is a member of a family. Some are brothers, some are fathers and some of them doubtless are mothers of families. Many families have lost the income provided by the breadwinner. I notice that some Government supporters laugh, but this is not a laughing matter. I realize that members of the Country Party and the Liberal Party of Australia like to laugh at the misery that this Government has caused, because they have no realization of the far-reaching effects of unemployment. They do not know how the tide of unemployment rolls on and on. I have experienced it, and I know only too well.

Recently, the president of the Trades and Labour Council in Brisbane announced that there were 30,000 unemployed in Queensland along the coastal strip alone. Let Government supporters go back to their electorates and try to remedy the situation. These figures make one shudder at the damage being done to so many good Australian homes. It is something that we can never forget. This is the tragic result of the Government's actions. We see here the results of the blight on the people of Australia that this Government constitutes. This is the tragedy of Liberalism, led by the Prime Minister, in association with the Country Party, which was formerly led by the right honorable member for Cowper and is now led by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen).

What do members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party intend to do in their own electorates to repair this damage, especially in Queensland? We hear from them not one word of protest. However, their time is running out.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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