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Thursday, 16 March 1961

Mr PEARCE (Capricornia) . - I would urge upon the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) that although he is a comparatively new member of this place, before he chides the Government on any action it has taken he should make sure of his facts and of the history of the matter he is discussing. He said that the Government has just - this last week - announced the subsidy for oil search. I remind him that the oil search subsidy has been in existence for at least two years and that, when it came before this Parliament and the Government asked Parliament to support this scheme, which w. s to intensify the search for oil and help in discovering oil, the members of his party opposed it in every form they could in this House. Everywhere along the road they said, " We will not have a bar of this oil search subsidy ". I urge the honorable gentleman, as a new member, to bring himself up to date on this matter and enlighten his party about it. I was refreshed to bear the honorable member talking in this way and only wished he would talk to the socialists around him and convince them that they should have done what he is advocating should be done now.

The other point I wish to make is that we as a government, and Government supporters, are under the fire of a traditional censure motion - a want-of-confidence motion - and yet to-day, throughout the whole of this debate, there have not been at any time more than one dozen Labour members in the House, even when a member of their own party was speaking. There is no enthusiasm among them and no great evangelistic approach to this debate at all. This shows itself, after a few days, to have been a cynical approach, a mere political manoeuvre. It has fizzled out and has failed to gain any support not only from the public but also from members of the Labour Party itself. Nothing could exemplify that fact more than to sit on this side of the House and look across at the empty benches of the Opposition when its own motion is being discussed. The Opposition is broken and dispirited, and its motion has fizzled out. lt was rather interesting to-day to note the number of Queenslanders who participated in the debate. I listened to the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) and found myself very much in accord with what he had to say. I listened to the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton) in his sincere approach to the problem and found myself very much on common ground with him. Although in saying so I rather put the kiss of death on him, I did agree with him. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) also spoke. We all have schemes for the development of the north of Australia, and it is refreshing to see this Parliament devoting some of its attention to these problems.

Mr Chaney - The north of Australia does not consist of Queensland only.

Mr PEARCE - The honorable member for Perth has recently shown some interest in the north and, as I was going to say. the Western Australian Government has perhaps shown the best approach to the problems of north Australia by appointing recently a Minister for the North-west. Great benefit has come to Western Australia as a result. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne), in cooperation with the State Minister for the Northwest, has been able to bring about quite a remarkable change in the approach to the problems of the north-west of Australia. That brings us to the crux of the whole matter. Before this Government can interfere or help a State in any particular way a request has to come from the government of that State. In the past, there have been no such requests in respect of the northern parts - from Western Australia and Queensland.

Western Australia has set a good example to Queensland by appointing a Minister for the North-west; I wish the Queensland Government would appoint a Minister for northern Queensland. In addition to that, what we need for the development of the whole of the northern part of Australia is a co-ordinated approach to sort out the problems. I have my own scheme, which I think could be of great benefit. The honorable member for Herbert has a scheme which is somewhat similar, but in some ways different. Each person who lives up there has a different approach to the problems, but I believe the problems are common throughout Australia. What I would like to see is what I advocated previously in this place and in many other places - the setting up of a northern development commission which would be a full-time commission, comprised of fulltime members. The chairman would be a man who has resided in the northern part of Australia and who comes from any part of it. There would be two members who would be regional commissioners living in Western Australia, one for the northwest and one for the area south to the Gascoyne River. There would1 be one member for the Northern Territory, one for central Queensland and one for northern Queensland.

It would be the task of the members ot this commission to gather all the information they could about the development of their areas, and the commission would meet regularly and bring down, in order of priority and as a matter of great urgency to the State governments and the CommonGovernment, reports which would, of necessity, have to be acted upon to bring about the co-ordinated development of the whole of northern Australia, because 1 cannot see how we can develop it by any other means. While we have governments in Perth, Brisbane and Canberra trying to work out the destiny of the land, the agriculture and the people of the northern part of Australia, we will have schemes starting up here and there, without any proper co-ordinated drive.

In addition, each regional commissioner in the five areas I have set out should have the assistance of a development committee based on community of interest and comprised of trade unionists and business men who would meet with him and bring to his notice schemes which they considered would be of greatest advantage to their districts. Unless we make this unified approach I cannot see that we will ever get on with this task which is so urgent. It must be done in co-ordinated fashion and we must have full-time men on the job. I urge the Commonwealth and the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia to give sympathetic consideration to this question as a matter of great urgency, having full-time men devoted to their tasks in each of the areas I have mentioned - central Queensland, northern Queensland, the Northern Territory, the north-west of Western Australia and the area down to Carnarvon in that State. I believe those people, sitting together under a wise chairman, could bring to the three governments concerned a co-ordinated plan which would pay off handsomely not only for the development of northern Australia but also for the safety and security of the people residing in the southern parts of Australia.

While the honorable member for Leichhardt was speaking, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) interjected and said. "What about new States?". I thought the honorable member for Leichhardt side-stepped that one rather well. It is a long time since 'I first got myself wrapped up in the New State Movement, and I firmly believe that the development of Australia depends, not only upon the creation of new States in the northern part of Australia, but also upon the creation of many more new States throughout the Commonwealth. I find myself completely in accord with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in his desire for numerous new States.

In addition to the development commission, I believe that, for the time being, people who reside in a particular district should have some control over the money spent for the development of that area. If we cannot have new States, I believe we should have advisory councils such as the Commonwealth Government has set up in Darwin and Port Moresby to look after our territories. A State government could then say to the advisory council of central Queensland or north Queensland: " Here is your allocation for the year. Spend it or advise us how to spend it." lt is an elementary fact of government that the nearer the government comes to the people, the better it is; the further away it is, the worse it becomes. That is what is wrong with the northern part of Australia. We have no government there, and the people in that area have no chance of a real say in the government of the area.

So I urge on all governments - not only the Commonwealth Government, but also those of Queensland and Western Australia - that they pay particular attention to the suggestion that we have regional commissioners under a northern regional commission. In that way, we would have a system of development committees operating throughout the north of Australia and in addition, in the field of straight finance, we would have advisory councils set up in particular areas similar to the advisory councils that have already been set up in the Northern Territory and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.

Mr Murray - Many development committees already exist.

Mr PEARCE - That is so; but the difficulty with development committees is that there is no central point where they can direct results. If you have a central point, you must have some authority there that can say with the authority of the government concerned, " This is a matter of urgency, and we believe that these development schemes should be carried out in this particular way ". It is useless talking in grandiose terms about the great north and about spending millions of pounds there, because Australia is not likely to have all the money that is needed to do all that is necessary for twenty years, and there must be a system of priorities. The first priority should be given to the north of Australia. Money having been allotted for this task, the decision on its expenditure should be made by those who know the area and who live there. They should suggest the priorities for the expenditure of the money on particular schemes for development.

I wish to turn now to the motion of want of confidence in the Government, and the Labour Party's attitude towards it. We have heard many speeches from the Opposition, and many were couched in terms of condemnation of the Government's policy. The Opposition wants import restrictions re-imposed, although over the years honorable members opposite have complained about import licensing being in operation at all. While we have had from the Opposition these warnings, this calamity howling and this knocking of Australia, we have not yet heard from supporters of the Labour Party any constructive suggestions for the future of Australia, lt is frankly admitted that not only Australia, but also all the other countries in the free world are facing times of crisis. We move from one crisis to another, and the devoted attention of men in all the parliaments of the world is needed to get all the people who are free out of their troubles from time to time.

As I have said, the Labour Party has not brought forward any positive plan. Of course, the reason is quite obvious. Labour's approach to all problems of government is the socialist approach. Honorable members opposite know what their answer is to the various problems facing us, and we know their answer, too. The Labour Party has shown us the socialist approach to the problems of finance. Of course, honorable members opposite have been soft-peddling this aspect of their policy. The Leader of the Opposition was interviewed on television in Brisbane, and he came out with a statement about what the Labour Party would do to solve the nation's financial problems. The honorable gentleman made no bones about it when he spoke on television, though he has not repeated his suggestion since. In Brisbane, he supported firmly a capital gains tax. I listened to him very attentively as I watched television. The capital gains tax he had in mind was not merely a matter of putting a tax on business; it meant also a tax on a man if he bought a property, held it for a while, and sold it at a profit.

Mr Killen - Even his own home.

Mr PEARCE - That is so. If he owned any property at all and it increased in value, he could be taxed under a capital gains tax and deprived of the increment that would normally come his way. So we have one plank of the Labour platform plainly enunciated to us outside the Parliament but not spoken of here. The reason is that you do not get votes by talking that way in the Parliament. Labour's policy is to keep socialism away from the eyes of the people, because in 1949 and at every election since, the people showed that they did not like socialism.

So, first of all, we have the capital gains tax in the Labour Party's platform. Then we come to the fringe financial institutions. Honorable members opposite have shown us that in their proposals for capital issues control they have the typical socialist approach to that branch of finance. The Labour Party still believes in those controls. There is not the slightest doubt that Labour's method of solving the problem of fringe banking institutions would be to control capital issues, and that would be the end of it. Honorable members opposite may protest, but Mr. Stout and Mr. Chamberlain would say to them, " If you become the government, bring down a capital issues control bill " and they would do it. It does not matter what name you would give to your legislation - it would still be capital issues control, and you would stifle industry just as you did during the Second World War and after the war. The whole country was stifled by the capital issues control policy introduced by the Labour Government.

The Opposition talks about reducing interest rates. It is easy for a socialist government to reduce interest rates. It compels the people, by restrictive acts of Parliament, to put their money into Commonwealth loans at low rates of interest. The Opposition if it were in government would not let the people put their money into anything else. That is how the Labour Government induced people to put their money into Commonwealth loans after the Second World War. There was no other course open to the people.

The Labour socialist approach to the economy is quite plain for all to see. First, it would not have people making investments and owning their own homes. It would ensure that if they sold out, they could not make a profit. A socialist government would take the profit away in taxes. Then a socialist government would impose an excess profits tax and deprive people of the incentive to develop their businesses. The Labour Party would introduce capital issues controls if it were elected to office. Then it would reduce interest rates, and compel people to put their money into Government loans. I respect members of the Labour Party who stick to their socialist principles, but I have no time for those Labour supporters who pledge themselves to support socialist principles and then mount the stump and deny their pledge.

The problem of the motor industry is exciting us as a nation at present. This is the industry that boomed. The Labour Government had no problem with the motor industry in the years after the Second World War when the people wanted to buy motor cars, and the pressure was on. The Labour Party socialists did not want the people to own motor cars and it retained petrol rationing. No doubt the answer that the Labour Party would give to the people, if ever it came into power again, would be to re-introduce petrol rationing. It is as simple as that. If people were allowed only six gallons of petrol a month, as they were in 1949, there would be no trouble about the sale of too many motor cars or about the importation of spare parts and so on. That is the typical control attitude of the socialists and it is the simple socialist answer to our present problems.

I hope that the people will remember that the reason why Labour has not put forward any concrete proposals in this debate is that it wants to hide its intentions. There is no doubt that Labour's intention is to re-introduce controls because that has been Labour's action in the past.

Mr Curtin - I can see the look of doom on your face.

Mr PEARCE - I cannot have a cheery expression looking at you.

We have become accustomed in this place to hearing the term, " Re-deployment of labour " bandied around. The Labour Party if in office would have no problem about the transfer of labour from one industry to another. A strong socialist plank, to which the Labour Party subscribes, is the conscription of labour. Every one remembers that Mr. Chifley made it quite clear, in unmistakable terms, that this was so. He said, " We may have to move whole communities ". He also said, " We will not develop this country if every man thinks he will be able to hold his wife's hand every night, walk down the street and look at the town clock ". Of course, it is Labour's policy of conscription of labour to take a man away from his wife and from his home town. The solution of the problems is relatively simple in Labour's eyes, because it adopts this socialist approach.

The problems arising from the construction of homes also disappear with Labour's approach. All that is needed is again to introduce building controls and make people queue up for a permit to build a house. It is as simple as that. That is the socialist approach. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) told us that there is a socialist answer to any unsatisfactory press. All that is needed is an Australian press commission and the press can be gagged. Labour would take over the newspapers and the newspapers would then say what Labour wanted them to say.

Labour's answer to economic difficulties is to introduce a capital gains tax, an excess profits tax, and capital issues control; to reduce interest rates; to re-introduce petrol rationing; to conscript labour; to reintroduce building controls; and to stifle the press by setting up an Australian press commission as the honorable member for Yarra said. The whole country would then be wrapped up tightly in the hands of the socialists once more. If Opposition members would only come out and say these things instead of trying to cloak their socialist ideas from the people, we would have a great deal more respect for them. The reason why their heart is not in this debate, the reason why there is never more than a dozen of them' present in the House at any time, whoever may be speaking, and the reason for their lack of interest and their apathy towards their own motion is that they are all muzzled. In this election year they are not able to stand up and say, " We are socialists. We believe in the socialist principles and we will introduce socialism when we have the chance." Sir, it will be a sorry day for Australia if ever the socialists get back into power here.

We have come a long way and developed this country a great deal since Labour was last in office. But Labour will find it a great deal harder to conscript the labour force of a nation of 10,000,000 people than it did to conscript the labour force of 7,000,000 people. It will find it hard to bring in a capital gains tax to rob the worker of any profit that he may have when he sells his home, because the worker is already awake to what socialism means and what the controls mean. Labour will find it hard to smash the motor industry with petrol rationing. It will find it hard to bring in building controls and to stifle the press, even though it may set up its own Australian press commission.

There is no room in the advancing, progressive Australia we have to-day for the stifling, miserable policies of socialism. The people will not have it, and Australia will not have it. I urge Opposition members to throw off the leaders that they have outside the Parliament and to act as parliamentarians. They should look to the development of the country and not to what Mr. Stout and Mr. Chamberlain may say. After all, we are members of Parliament. We are supposed to be free and unfettered, and it is within the power of honorable gentlemen opposite to kick off the chains that their executive has placed around their legs and to be parliamentarians instead of party hacks.

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