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Thursday, 16 March 1961

Mr UREN (Reid) .- The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) has made a splendid plea for the development of northern Australia, but he cannot get away from the fact that he is a supporter of a Government which, in its eleven and a half years of office, has done little or nothing to encourage the development of northern Australia. I suggest, therefore, that it is time he took some action against his Government for its neglect of the north. Any development that has taken place there has been achieved with the aid of overseas capital. In other words, the great assets of the Australian people are gradually being sold to overseas interests. The honorable member for Herbert is guilty of hypocrisy, for he knows that in the last eleven and a half years his Government has done nothing at all to develop the north. But his was only one of the many hypocritical speeches that we have heard from honorable members on the Government side.

The only government that will develop Australia in the best interests of the Australian people is a Labour government. If the Austraiian Labour Party were in office, it would develop and use the great wealth of Australia in the best interests of our own people. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has emphasized this in the many speeches he has made in which he has amply demonstrated his great love for Australia and his earnest desire to see it developed fully in the interests of the Australian people. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) and the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) have also amply demonstrated their love for Australia and their keen desire for its development.

Let us examine the opportunities for developing northern Australia which this hypocritical Menzies Government has had during its eleven and a half years of office. It was elected in 1949 on its empty promises to put value back into the £1 and to remove restrictions. Instead of removing restrictions, this Government has been imposing them from the day it came into office. It has imposed restrictions upon the great masses of Australia, the working people of this country, whose wages were frozen in 1953, and who have had little or no wage justice since.

This has been a dishonest Government, because it has created inflationary conditions. Whereas, under the Chifley Government, the greater part of revenue was raised by direct means, this Government has resorted to the dishonest, indirect system which automatically sets off an inflationary trend, and the workers of Australia have been required to bear the full burden of that inflation. By its first horror Budget, this Government extracted another £100,000,000 from the people by the dishonest method of increasing indirect taxation. Then, by its little horror budget, it increased indirect taxation still further. In February of last year, it sought to cure inflation by opening the gate to a flood of imports, with disastrous effects upon our balance of payments. Never in the history of Australia has our balance of payments been so low as it is now. Since this Government came to office, Australia's balance of payments has deteriorated by £1,800,000,000. In 1949, our overseas balances in London stood at £650,000,000. To-day, they stand at something less than £300,000,000. Again, in November, 1949, the average basic wage for the six capital cities of Australia was £6 9s. a week. In November of last year, it was £13 16s. a week, which gives some indication of the deterioration in the value of money since this Government attained office. Had the Australian £1 retained the value it had in 1949, instead of being £650,000,000, our overseas reserves would have been worth £1,300,000,000 to-day.

The Government has sought to meet the deficit of £1,800,000,000 in our international trade balances by borrowing capital from overseas. This has increased our foreign debt by £174,000,000. Further, our internal public debt has increased by £1,050,000,000 during this Government's term of office. As against this Government's record, I point out that the Chifley Government, at a time when it was fighting a war, was able to reduce not only our internal national debt, but also our overseas indebtedness. That is the record of the Chifley Administration as compared with this Government's record. This is a government of inflation.

The Government has advanced six proposals which it hopes will solve the problems that confront us. First, there is the credit squeeze; but the only people who are being squeezed are the small businessmen and those who want to build homes of their own. The same position applied in 1951 and 1956. Once again the Government has set the basis for a recession. The pool of unemployment has become larger and to-day something like 80,000 people are registered for employment, The Menzies Government, by its actions, is creating unemployment, but it does not concern itself with the section of the community which is struggling for its very existence.

The Government increased the overdraft interest rate by 1 per cent. Is not that an indirect tax? Do the companies that have to pay this additional 1 per cent, not add it to the cost structure and pass it on to the consumers who, once again, have to pay? This indirect tax will add its weight to the burden of inflation.

Then we come to the wage freeze. When the Australian Council of Trade Unions approached the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission seeking an increase in wages and three weeks' annual leave the Government, as it did in the margins case last year, sent its advocates to the court to oppose the application. Although the advocates said that they did not oppose it and merely wanted to give evidence for the information of the court, they did, in fact, oppose the application. The judges were instructed not to give wage justice to the workers of Australia. Then, as a handout to certain judges, the Government passed legislation at the end of the last sessional period providing for an increase of up to £40 a week in the salaries of the judiciary. That is an example of the way in which the Menzies Government works. It refused wage justice to one section of the community and increased the wealth of the privileged classes.

Sales tax on motor cars was increased last year from 30 to 40 per cent. Under the Chifley Administration sales tax on motor vehicles was only 8 per cent, but this Government has increased it, during its term of office, to 40 per cent. In the last year of the Chifley Administration sales tax amounted to £39,000,000, but the estimated revenue from this source this year is £180,000,000. That is the way hi which this Government works. It imposes indirect taxes so that the great mass of the workers will have to pay them. Sales tax is a dishonest tax and this Government is a dishonest government. But it will be brought to its knees at the end, of this year because the people of Australia have had it. It is a fourflusher. No matter how much it squirms and twists and turns, it cannot extricate itself from its difficult position. We know that when we return to the treasury bench we shall have great difficulty in solving the problems that will confront us. We are not screaming calamity but we know the real problems that exist. The Menzies Government has put this country in pawn.

We shall have to face up to the issue of priorities on which this Government has turned its back. I remind the honorable member for Herbert that nothing has been done to develop the north. Instead, there has been great speculation by certain monopolistic interests. The people should be told about the existence of these monopolistic interests within our country and of the manner in which our wealth is controlled and distributed. Costs are passed on to the workers. The report of the Commissioner of Taxation, which was tabled in the House this week by the

Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), discloses that 39,572 companies made a profit. Of those companies 94.99 per cent. - near enough to 95 per cent. - made only 24.09 per cent, of the total profit. So the top 5 per cent, of companies received 75 per cent, of the £670,000,000 profit which was made by all companies last year. If we go still further, the top one-fifth per cent, of all companies - 79 in all - made 33 per cent, of that £670,000,000. It is quite evident that monopoly capitalism increasingly is taking over this country, but the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) in his hypocritical way says, " 1 have to consult with my State Attorneys-General ".

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