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Tuesday, 21 March 1961

Mr KEARNEY (Cunningham) .- At the outset, I extend my congratulations to the new honorable members of this House, the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp) and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. England) upon their maiden speeches, which were nicely delivered to overcome the first hurdle of their careers in this House. They both handled rather well the sticky and difficult task of finding some real grounds upon which to support the policies and intentions of the Government, both expressed and hidden in the Administrator's Speech, with which we are dealing. In short, they made the best of the poor record enjoyed by this Government in the past and at the moment, just as they made the best of the feeble measures it proposes to take in the future. While wishing both well personally, I trust that my expectations prove soundly based - that both will enjoy short terms as supporters of the Government and its policies.

The honorable member for Higinbotham represents the last of the old brigade of crusted liberalism in this House. The new member for Calare is a cuckoo in the Liberal nest. Sent here, unfortunately, to represent many farmers and men on the land in his area, he has quickly tossed aside the mask or false face of the Country Party and, with gusto, is ready to do the bidding of raw liberalism in this House and to pursue policies which, in the main, are freezing to the marrow the desire of the Australian people to keep their country ever prosperous for all sections and to pursue the paths of planned, balanced progress for the common good.

My personal best wishes go to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) who, under stress of illness, resigned his office as Chairman of Committees. He did a grand and tolerant job while in that office. We wish him a speedy recovery to good health. T also congratulate the new Chairman of Committees upon his election. I trust, however, that at the end of this year some member of the Labour Party will take over that position.

We were all saddened by the death of the Governor-General, Viscount Dunrossil. On behalf of the people of the important electorate of Cunningham, I express sorrow at the passing of this talented man who, in the briefest period, established unique popularity. Now that the Government is faced with the need to appoint a new GovernorGeneral, I do not hesitate to express the view of the majority of the Australian people that the Government should - that in fact it has an obligation imposed upon it to do so - appoint to this high office an Australian. There exists no sound reason why an Australian should not be appointed GovernorGeneral. There is every reason why an Australian should be appointed. There is certainly plenty of scope for the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to explain why it is not his intention to select a distinguished Australian for this office.

Mr Anthony - Whom would you suggest?

Mr KEARNEY - There are many whom I could suggest. This country has many talented Australians in varied walks of life. I certainly would not suggest any of the current members of the Liberal Party. The important point I wish to deal with is the statement by the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) in which he twitted the Labour Party for being shy, as it were, in respect of support for democratic socialism. That claim, of course, is an absurdity. We support democratic socialism. In a short and a very definite way, I say that if the tenets of that policy were applied to this country to-day, they would revolutionize the stagnation that this Government has created in all walks and shades of life. Democratic socialism, properly applied, would never permit the take-overs that we have seen in industry of recent times. It would never permit the conditions that exist in New South Wales at the moment, where a team of financial experts, in no way associated with the milk industry of New South Wales, in no way producing one pint of milk, is seeking to take over the New South Wales Dairy Farmers Co-operative, a £20,000,000 industry owned by the milk producers of southern New South Wales. I have yet to hear one member of the vaunted Country Party in this Parliament criticize this action. The members of the Country Party are gui tv of support for this sort of take-over. Hut democratic socialism would not permit it to happen. It would not permit the present position in which hundreds of thousands of people in this country suffer agony through having no homes, a position in which hundreds of thousands of people have been driven into a condition of social decay because there are no homes for them. If would not permit such a thing as a 74-year-old pensioner in the Cunningham electorate living in a tent at Stewart Park. These things could not happen under a policy of democratic socialism. I repeat that all these conditions would be eliminated under the policy which the Labour Party espouses and supports - the distribution of the wealth of this nation in such a way that no person shall be denied his just share of it.

This Government's social welfare programme is a blight upon this young and wealthy nation. Under its programme, aged people are asked to exist on a miserable 5 a week. Under this Government's policy, the number of unemployed has jumped to nearly 100,000, and these unfortunate people, if married, are being required to live on the base rate of £3 5s. a week. While all this misery is around us, this Government sits in stony silence permitting to continue a situation in which people are hungry, suffering mental torture and physical breakdown, or dying before their ;me because they have not got £1 in their sockets with which to 'buy the simple necessaries of life and medical supplies.

The Administrator's Speech, prepared by the Government, represents solely the intentions of the Government in respect of future activities. Much of the central theme of that Speech deals with measures intended by the Government to find a way out of the quagmire of economic difficulties into which it has driven the nation in the sphere of international finance because of the disastrous balance of payments position. The Prime Minister has stated that all the troubles arose from the fact that Australia has been living beyond its means internationally. If this is so, where does the responsibility rest at governmental levels other than at the door of the present Government which has been controlling the affairs of this nation for the past eleven years?

Mr Duthie - That is too long.

Mr KEARNEY - Of course it is too long. Surely if there is responsibility anywhere at governmental or executive level it is with this Government because it has had unfettered control of the Commonwealth Parliament for eleven years. In seven out of the last eight trading years, excluding the present year, we had a trade deficit. In the ten years from 1949-50 to 1959-60, during which Australia was controlled by this Government, our trading was on the wrong side to the extent of £1,100,000,000. That is where we have been going steadily and definitely year after year under this Government. This year, for the eight months ending in February, we are down £182,200,000. Over twelve successive months, there has been a trade deficit, without taking into account the invisible items - that is, insurance, freight, interest on loans sent overseas, dividends paid to foreign investors and so on. In 1959-60, these invisibles reached the very high total of £233,000,000. This is an increase of £33,000,000 on the previous year. This year invisibles will cost us £250,000,000. Added to a trading deficit of £330,000,000, the total deficit during this year will be in the vicinity of £550,000,000.

That, briefly, is the history, the record and the accounting of Australia's affairs under this Government. The Government hopes to get around this position by further foreign investments, including undistributed profits of the major foreign companies established in this country. Any claim that we will get more than £250,000,000 from such sources and investments in government loans from overseas would be extravagant. This £250,000,000 will represent a further Australian debt. This debt and all the debts that have gone before will have to be paid and are being paid. Australians will be plunged further into debt bondage by this action, just as the wage-earners, the home-builders, the farmers and the young families are daily being forced by circumstances into debt bondage.

There is not one young Australian about to be married who does not go into heavy debt before he sets up a home. There is not one farmer in New South Wales or any other State who is not in debt up to his ears because of the maladministration of the financial affairs of the nation. The farmer does not own a bale of wool or a bag of wheat. He is in debt before he starts and this

Government, aided by its unholy coalition segment, the Australian Country Party, is allowing the country to fall into this economic decay. It has failed to attack the problem at the core. If the Country Party representatives were worth their salt, they would not stand up in this House and give lip service in a humbugging way but they would vote the Government out of office or take action which would result in this being done.

On the figures I have given, we will still be short of some £300,000,000. This will have to come from our financial reserves which at present stand at £299,000,000. At this moment, Australia is insolvent internationally and during the current financial year faces international liquidation. As a nation we must face that position and should not side-step it. Much humbug has been spoken by members in high positions in the Government. They suggest that we can borrow money overseas to overcome our difficulties. But every penny we borrow overseas places us further into the mire of debt, and we must realize this. It goes further than that. We could easily reach the stage that was reached in 1929 and in some later years when overseas financial interests dictated the policies of Australian governments, in both the Federal and States spheres. That situation is again becoming evident.

Once investors find that they cannot get their money, that we are not able to pay back what we owe, they will put an official receiver into this country. The elected government would then not be worth a crack of the fingers. History proved that in New South Wales and it proved it in this Parliament in the 1930's. The Federal Labour government of the depression years could not get the then Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Sir Robert Gibson, to agree that the bank should make available a miserable £18,000,000 to help the 300,000 Australians who were on the dole. Any one who went through that period will never forget those days and will understand that the factors now present in Australia are identical in their effect with those that existed on the eve of the great depression. We are already well along the depression road and as sure as night follows day in three months our unemployment situation will shock the conscience of even the most thick-skinned people in this country who are inclined to think that because a man is out of work it is his fault. Nothing could be further from the truth than such a view concerning those forced into unemployment and obliged to depend on the dole, which is the unemployment benefit.

The Acting Prime Minister has stated that we can borrow from the International Monetary Fund. This is an international organization set up some years ago under the Bretton Woods Agreement. We have a stake of £50,000,000 in the fund but we are hundreds of millions of pounds down in our trading. That seems to be the position. We have no rights to borrow except on the terms and conditions imposed by the international authorities - foreign people - who control these funds. They can demand that the living conditions of the Australian people be lowered, that our social services be reduced and that our method of government be altered to comply with the framework of their economic requirements. This can happen. It has happened before and there is no power on this earth to prevent a repetition if we pursue the road that the Government has been following and appears certain to continue to follow.

The hard core of our economic troubles has been the absolute ineptitude and failure over eleven long years of this Government to control inflation. It was originally elected on what has proved to be a deceitful cry. The slogan was, "Elect the LiberalCountry Party coalition and we will put value back into the £1 ". What is the £1 worth to-day? It is not worth 20s.; it is worth only 7s. or 6s. 8d. Ask the average family man how far his money goes and whether he is able to get 20s. worth of goods and services for every £1 he spends. Obviously, he cannot! This Government has permitted the inflationary trend to continue. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) is reported as having said that creeping inflation is not in itself harmful. He said that an increase of 3 per cent, per annum in price levels is not unreal. But ask the person on a fixed income whether it is unreal; ask the person who has invested money in government bonds whether it is unreal! They will say that the gradual whittling down of their investments or the superannuation for which they paid many years ago has resulted in them receiving only one-half or one-third in value of what they received years ago. Let us put the simple economic equation to them. We do not need an egg-head economist to provide the answer. This is a question that the housewife can answer without trouble. Yet the exalted Treasurer of this Parliament gives a fictitious and false presentation of the facts in the hope that it will be accepted as sound reasoning.

The principal ingredient in inflation, as every one knows, is the failure of the Government to control profits, capital issues, monopolies, land racketeers and the like. From time to time, in this Parliament and elsewhere, much emphasis is placed on expressions of opinion by counsel representing this Government in the courts on the argument that the high wages being paid are responsible for the deterioration of the value of money in Australia. That is the greatest fallacy and untruth that has ever been uttered by the lips of man. The simple truth is that an analysis of the costs of any commodity, or of any item such as a home, if one analyses the situation fairly and accurately, will reveal that the profits taken out by the various people who have taken part in the production of the commodity or the construction of the home and land costs are the real reason for the unbridled inflation that we have.

This Government has failed utterly and completely to deal with those who seem to regard their divine purpose in life as the reaping of profits, and it has no intention of dealing with them. Democratic socialism is the answer to this situation. Under democratic socialism, we would interfere and prevent this sort of thing from occurring. We see this unreasonable grasping after profits in all kinds of activities in the business world. We see it on the part of the L. J. Hooker organization and Genera] Motors-Holden's Limited, and wherever else we like to look in the business world. There is no need for me to waste time reciting chapter and verse in these matters. Honorable members in this place, as citizens of the Commonwealth, are intelligent enough to know that what I am saying is completely true.

The Government proposes to correct the adverse trading development, which, as 1 have proved, has been allowed to go unchecked for the past eleven years, by insti tuting what it terms an export drive, hi addition, it proposes to grant tax concessions of up to 16s. in the £1 in respect of additional export trade. Is this sort of thing to apply to, say, the steel industry, which is selling Australian steel overseas and thereby forcing us to import steel at prices much higher than those of the Australian-produced article which is sold overseas? Is this kind of concession to apply to the sale of copper concentrates to Japan, as a result of which we have to buy back the finished pre-fabricated article at a much higher price than that at which it could be produced and sold in Australia? We should be smelting the concentrates and fabricating the metal in our own factories which already exist and could do the job. This is the sort of consideration that is wrapped up in these issues, and we should understand clearly what it involves. The Bureau of Census and Statistics has revealed that, in the seven months ended January, 1960, we imported £9,724,000 worth of steel and exported £19,544,000 worth. Steel exports could be increased, but in the main only at the cost of having to import steel at prices higher than those of the local product. And the overseas product would probably be inferior to Australian steel, at that.

What is the position of the primary industries? There we see the grand absurdity of a situation in which, the more we produce, the less we earn. That is the situation in which the primary producers now find themselves, regardless of whether they produce wool, wheat or almost any other agricultural product. This is what we have been told by two important members of the Australian Country Party who are subserviently followed by the other members of the party. The Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade said last year that in the previous four years the primary producers had increased production by 11 per cent, but their incomes had decreased by 11 per cent, in the same period. During this debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Administrator's Speech, and during the debate on the want-of-confidence motion, I have not heard from any Country Party representative in this Parliament any expression of critical opinion on this matter. A few weeks ago, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) said that last year the primary producers had produced 5 per cent, more and earned 5 per cent, less. Country Party leaders generally are traitors to the interests of the primary producers.

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