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Thursday, 16 March 1961

Mr GALVIN (Kingston) .- I rise to support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). Those of us in this chamber who have come to know the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) very well have great confidence in him as a medical practitioner. I would say that if we had some bodily ill that required good medical attention, the Minister for Health would be the man to whom we could go for the best advice. But when it comes to giving advice for remedying the ills of the economy, all I can say is that the sooner the Minister decides to confine his activities to medical matters the better it will be for Australia. The Minister for Health took the Opposition to task, complaining that we had offered no plan, and that we had merely criticized the Government's actions. Then he went on to criticize the Labour Party's plan. What does he mean? First, he says that we offer no alternative and then he promptly speaks about how futile and useless is the plan put forward by the Labour Party. He spoke about symptoms and causes, and one might have been pardoned for feeling that he was speaking about matters relating to the medical side of his activities.

The Opposition has submitted a protest by way of this no-confidence motion. By that motion, we are protesting at the way in which the Australian people have been forced to suffer, and we are speaking not only of those who are suffering the hardship of unemployment. I remind honorable members that the Minister failed to mention that in Australia to-day there are nearly 100,000 people who are unable to find work.

Mr Chresby - That is not true.

Mr GALVIN - It is estimated at nearly 100,000, and the economist whom honorable members on the Government side are always praising - Professor Copland - estimates that before the effects of this Government's brutal policy are felt to the full there will be 200,000 people looking for work in this country.

Mr Buchanan - Why not promise them something?

Mr GALVIN - Never mind what we should promise. Our job is to point out where the Government has gone wrong. If it had taken notice of us during the last few years it would not be in the position in which it is to-day. But it is the Government's responsibility to keep the economy in shape; it is the Government's responsibility to care for the people of this country, and it gets no marks for saying to us, " What did you do when you were in office?" It has the job to do and every Minister and every back-bencher who supports this Government will be judged on the job that has been done.

No wonder Government supporters are feeling uneasy; no wonder they are ready to jump and squeal and complain about the position! They know full well that they are just living in hope. They have no idea what will happen. They proved that they did not understand the Government's policy when they voted to increase the sales tax on motor vehicles, otherwise they would not have done so. When the fruits of that policy showed clearly that unemployment was developing in the motor industry the Government panicked and over-night reduced the tax. There was clear proof that it never should have been imposed.

Then the Government hit upon this idea of trying to control imports by credit restrictions. Every one knows that our basic problem to-day is our diminishing overseas balances due to the everincreasing flow of imports into this country. Some time ago the Government eased the import restrictions, but it was not content with that. It closed the book and disbanded the organization that had taken years to build up. It had no further use for the special officers who after many years of experience had reached the stage of being able to handle the business. The Government knows now that eventually it will have to re-impose import licensing, but it is hoping and praying that something will turn up to get it out of its present difficulties.

Mr Chresby - Another prophet!

Mr GALVIN - It is not a matter of prophecy, it is a matter of the position that exists to-day - something that we shall have to face up to in the future. We have been pretty right in the past when we have criticized the Government. It would not believe us when we said what would happen in the motor industry. It waited until men and women had to walk the streets looking for work before it was prepared to think about doing something; and by then it had waited too long. Apart from the sales tax, the Government's restrictive financial policy is crippling enough to slow down not only the motor industry but also all industry.

The Government talks about the need to fight inflation. It has only just discovered that inflation is with us. Who is responsible for the inflation? Who has been in charge of this nation's economic affairs? The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), other Ministers and Government supporters have just realized how stupidly they have managed the affairs of this country. They now are confronted with the crisis that their actions have brought about.

The Government tried to restrict imports by adopting this policy of credit restriction. It decided not to advance money any longer for the importation of goods. On the surface, that policy looks as though it will work. When it was announced, Myer's of Melbourne made a very generous gesture by stating that it would voluntarily cut its imports by 9 per cent, or something of that order. Probably it was quite sincere when it made that offer, but Myer's, like every other business undertaking, lives by profits. Pounds, shillings and pence are what count, and if a buyer in London or anywhere else reports that there is a product that will be a good profit-maker in Australia, that product will be imported. Can you blame Myer's for doing that?

Mr Opperman - Who buys those imported goods?

Mr GALVIN - Never mind who buys them. The Government has forced the workers and those in the lower income group to buy the cheapest goods that are available, not because they want them but because the Government's policy is crushing them. Has the Government not some responsibility? Does it always have to ask, " Who buys the imported goods? " Has the Government not some control over what comes into this country? No member of the Government is game to answer the charge that has been made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and others about the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund loan of £1,000,000 to David Jones Limited. I wonder if there is a Minister in this House who will say that the board was not directed to make the loan? Why did David Jones Limited need the £1,000,000? Was it to buy imports? Will any Minister deny that this huge amount was passed over to David Jones Limited to enable that company to bring goods into this country? The small legitimate importer who has been depending upon a bank overdraft is finished. As soon as the Government's credit restrictions became effective he could not operate because he could not borrow on overdraft. But the Government goes out of its way, as it has in the past, to give its great friend a loan of £1,000,000. Unless we are told the exact reason why David Jones Limited wanted this sum, we are entitled to assume that it was to bring imports into this country.

Mr L R Johnson - What rate of interest does the loan carry?

Mr GALVIN - Eight per cent.

Mr L R Johnson - That will be passed on.

Mr GALVIN - Without doubt, especially as the company finances its own hirepurchase transactions. The effect of unrestricted imports was brought home to me very clearly recently. During the warm weather in Adelaide a sponsored television programme was boosting air coolers which have become the rage. All one afternoon we saw and heard advertisements boosting these air coolers which were obtainable at Myer's and other stores. The weather was warm and people wanted air coolers. Naturally, if one brand is £1 cheaper than another and if they look as though they both do the same job, people will buy the cheaper one. You cannot blame them for that, because that is the way one has to live these days. But the point about it is that the imported article was cheaper than the locally manufactured one. The Government should have had some foresight and should not have allowed these air coolers to be imported and to undersell others of equal or better quality manufactured by Australians and just becoming established on the market.

Mr Buchanan - Does the local article cost more than the imported one?

Mr GALVIN - Yes. The honorable member for McMillan would prefer to see imported articles selling at a cheaper rate than locally manufactured ones and to see our men and women walk the streets without work. That is what is happening. The Australian manufacturers of air coolers naturally cannot continue to operate and to compete against the article that the Government has allowed to be imported.

Mr Forbes - What about the tariff?

Mr GALVIN - The Minister for Health said that it is quite easy to approach the Tariff Board. The olive oil industry has been trying to get before the board for twelve months or more, but it has been unsuccessful. The Government is allowing that industry to die because the big men are not associated with it. Imported olive oil is available in large quantities. The people engaged in the local industry are neglecting the trees that they have nurtured for years because they can compete no longer with the imported product. The Government is not concerned about them, so honorable members opposite should not talk to me about a tariff. The Government's latest policy is forcing Australian manufacturers out of business and Australian men and women out of employment. That is a most serious matter.

Recently the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) chided Labour members and said how gleeful we are when there is unemployment. He need not talk like that, because if anybody knows all about unemployment it is the men on this side of the chamber. We are entitled to be concerned about it, because most of us have suffered unemployment. Very few men on the Government side of the House have had that experience. Certainly the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) has not had such an experience. He need not criticize us, because we will always be concerned, no matter what the number of the unemployed may be. We do not want to see even one man in this country forced out of work let alone 200,000. We will always be concerned about unemployment, and I would sooner we remained in opposition for ever than that we should get into office as a result of men and women being out of work in this country. We do not want to trade on the misery of the people; but the Government's actions have forced us back to the grim days of the depression.

It is all very well to be a member of Parliament and sit back and smile as honorable members opposite do when unemployment is mentioned. But if they had been dismissed from General Motors-Holden's, the rubber mills in South Australia, or the timber mills that have been mentioned, and had to pay rent and keep their families while out of employment they would not merely be saying " Oh " or be comforted by the Minister for Labour and Natrona! Service (Mr. McMahon) when he says that industries will open up and that jobs will oe provided for the unemployed. For us, unemployment is a serious matter, and we are deeply concerned about it. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby) will not be saved by the D.L.P. or the Q.L.P. at the next election. He can take little comfort from that. The honorable member will certainly be unemployed after the next election, whenever that may be.

Reverting to the £1,000,000 loan to David Jones Limited by the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, if that fund can loan that sum to a merchant firm, I wonder why £1,000,000 cannot be made available to Commonwealth public servants, who in every State are struggling to obtain loans to enable them to build homes. In South Australia - I suppose it is the same in the other States - one can borrow direct from the State superannuation fund to build a home, but Commonwealth public servants, who are often transferred interstate, cannot borrow from their superannuation fund. That £1,000,000, which was probably lent to David Jones Limited under Government direction, could have been made available to public servants for home building. The Government could have taken the initiative and seen to it that the money was made available for loans in the housing field, even if it was made available only to Commonwealth public servants. As they would then be assisted by funds which they themselves contribute there could be no complaint about that procedure, and the Commonwealth Government would then be doing with its superannuation fund what the State governments do with their superannuation funds.

The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) has repeatedly pointed out to this

Parliament the struggles of the textile industry. He, more than anybody else in this Parliament, has pointed out what was going to happen in this country. During his address in this debate he stated that the Government will have to re-impose import controls, whatever it says at the present time. We know that just as the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) practically stole the idea of the present merged test from the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), the Government is hoping that some one will now put up a proposition that will help it out of its difficulties.

The Government's policy is resulting in unemployment and an ultimate total of 200,000 unemployed has been prophesied. Yet the Government is boasting that its policy is having the effects it anticipated. The effects of its policy are unemployment, fewer homes for the workers, inadequate hospitalization and the threat of bankruptcy to businesses because, despite what the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said to me yesterday, the trading banks have told manufacturers and traders that they must be in credit at the end of March. I know for a fact that that instruction has been given to many people in business in South Australia. Maybe the Government will say that bank managers do not understand the Government's directive, but they will tell you they have had that instruction and that this Government is to blame in that respect.

The Government is making the little people suffer. Its supporters jeer and sneer at the Opposition, but they are hopelessly incapable of dealing with the problems of the present time. This want-of-confidence motion will be defeated because all Country Party and Liberal Party members will vote against it. On that score they must take their share of blame for the present position. But if we could bring into this House the thousands of small businessmen and others who are suffering to-day and facing bankruptcy and unemployment, the Government would be hopelessly outvoted, as it will be outvoted - there is nothing surer - as soon as it cares to bring on an election and seek the decision of the people. As I said earlier, the D.L.P. will not save the Government on this occasion. It will be judged on its economic policy, which is completely ruining this country. The Government has brought bankruptcy, misery and hardship to the people of Australia and will pay the penalty for it. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) pointed out that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had failed abroad. We can say he has failed at home and abroad. The honorable member mentioned Suez, and the Prime Minister's appearance at the United Nations where he left his reputation tattered and torn on the floor of the General Assembly after Pandit Nehru, the Prime Minister of India, had dealt with him. He has failed again at the current Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers as he has failed continuously in handling the affairs of this nation. At the next election the people of Australia will support this motion of want of confidence in this Government.

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