Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 29 November 1960

Mr THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) . - It has been interesting to listen to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and other Country Party speakers. Government supporters have attempted during this debate to justify the Government's action in clamping down on a successful industry. They have gloried in the fact that the increase in sales tax will curtail the manufacture of motor cars. They have said that as a result steel will become available for other uses. Honorable members opposite have spoken about private enterprise. They claim that a Labour government would control industries and stop them from expanding. Yet, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) said that it is good that the measure will prevent these companies from continuing to expand.

Did you hear any Government supporters complain, Mr. Speaker, about the attempt by the Myer Emporium Limited to take over a Sydney store? Did you hear any of them mention that the shares of the Sydney company had increased by between 10 per cent, and 20 per cent, because of the news of the proposed merger? Honorable members opposite sit silent on this matter. They do not say a word about the big manipulators who are making money by trading in shares affected by the mergers of different companies. Yet they criticize the workers for asking for increased margins.

It stirred me right through to hear the honorable member for Richmond complaining about workers' margins. He said that if an increased margin is granted in one industry, other industries and eventually the whole community will be affected. Yet Government supporters do not mention the effect throughout the community of the fluctuation of share prices resulting from mergers. This is an instance of how the Government has failed completely as far as the finances of this country are concerned. The Government is trying to offset its great mistakes, but I think that it will get deeper into the mire.

Honorable members opposite talk about the need to encourage private enterprise. Some years ago, Chrysler in Adelaide had to put off about 1,000 men as the result of action by this Government. Chrysler then set to work to make the Chrysler Royal car with as great an Australian content as possible. How will that company be affected by the Government's measure? After tooling up its factories in order to produce Australian components for its cars instead of importing them, the company finds that orders have been reduced to such an extent that it has had to give notice to a number of its employees. To-day, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) said that about 200 men had been given notice in the automobile industry in Queensland. The number who have been given notice by the Chrysler company alone in Adelaide is about 200. Another 50 men will be retrenched by the Ford company in Adelaide.

The Minister said that it will be possible to place these men in other employment. Perhaps that is so. But how do Government supporters reconcile their claim to stand for the freedom of private enterprise with the fact that the Government's measure is deliberately designed to reduce the output of cars? The honorable member for Richmond mentioned the scrapping of 100,000 motor cars because new ones would take their place. In the United States of America people want the old cars to be scrapped. They want new motor cars. They want prosperity in their country. They take pride in the fact that they do not keep motor cars until they are wrecks. They get the old cars off the road and put new ones in their places. The honorable member for Richmond said that we should not do that.

In every State of Australia the road safety authorities and the police advocate th« examination of old cars which are not fit to be on the road. They call them old bombs. The honorable member for Richmond is not in favour of the scrapping of old cars but the Government's economic measures are resulting in the refusal of hirepurchase companies to finance the purchase of cars which are over five years old. They will have to be scrapped. Obviously honorable members opposite are thinking only of their own interests. lt is argued that nothing should be done that will result in the primary producer having to pay more for his requirements. 1 point om however, that if it were not for the bigger wages that people are receiving to-day the Government would not have sufficient revenue to enable it to pay subsidies on primary production. The primary producers are growling that they cannot get a high enough price for their exports and the Government has to subsidize them. To-day, a Minister stated that the dairy industry subsidy was, in effect, a subsidy of 8d. per lb. to the consumers of butter. I tell members of the Australian Country Party that if that subsidy were not paid far less butter would be sold in Australia. Yet Country Party members continue to growl about the man who is prosperous and about increased wages.

I say to the honorable member for Richmond who claimed that the Australian Labour Party was always complaining about General Motors-Holden's Limited that he has never heard me complain about that company. I have said, at times, that I thought it might be able to sell its cars a bit cheaper than it does. Now, the honorable member has complained about the profit of that company. If the honorable member knows anything about this business he knows that sales tax of 40 per cent, is levied on the price that the firm charges for the car, not on the profit which is made. If the Government were to tell General Motors-Holden's Limited that it had to take £90 off the price of its cars to the dealers to compensate for the 10 per cent, increase in sales tax, which is roughly £90 on a Holden, that would mean that the firm would have to carry the burden of the increase in tax.

If honorable members opposite were expressing regrets at these measures it would be understandable. But instead of expressing regrets they have initially gloried in the Government's action. They claim that there are too many cars going on to the roads. They say that, at the present rate of increase, so many hundreds of thousands of cars will be registered in a few years. It seems to me that Government supporters display a poor, mean spirit in taking that attitude.

As the honorable member for Lalor said to-day, there is very little extra employment in country districts nowadays. The farmer, with his great machines can now do as much on his own as could be done by two oi three men working with horses 30 years ago. The farmer uses his head and does not have to put up with great hardships. He does not have to rise at 5 a.m. as I did a few years ago to feed and comb eight horses, work all day and then cut chaff in the gloaming. To-day, the farmer has everything mechanized. Country Party members complain about the man in industry getting the benefit of mechanization, but the primary producers get the benefit of it on their farms. If it were not for mechanization they would not be able to produce economically enough to sell their produce overseas. So Country Party members should not try to make out that the worker is not entitled to what he gets.

We have heard growls about the effect of marginal increases, but the benefit of those increases is felt throughout the community. Honorable members opposite should not think that the only loss will be the profit on cars which are not sold as a result of the Government's measures. Remember the men in the industry! The honorable member for Richmond spoke about the amounts being received by those who were working overtime. The General Motors-Holden's Limited establishment in my own district is only half a mile away from my home and I know what goes on in that organization. I have many relatives working there and I know what they are doing. An employee, after twelve months' service, receives each week an extra day's pay. I believe, although I am not sure, that right from the commencement of employment a man receives a little over the award rate. The employees are encouraged in that way to give of their best and a wonderful industry has been worked up.

It might be said that the extra 10 per cent, sales tax will help the Commonwealth Government, but look at the position of the State. After all, the States make up the federation. In South Australia the Liberal Government - I am not taking credit for a Labour government - established the town of Elizabeth. Thousands of acres of open farm land, containing a few farms were acquired, and to-day thousands of homes are erected on it. There are also big industrial areas. General MotorsHolden's Limited recently opened another section, employing a couple of thousand men. Altogether there are about 7,000 or 8,000 employees in the Adelaide division of this organization. Yet honorable members opposite say, " We can chop into these people. They are too prosperous ". Let me say again that General Motors-Holden's Limited has been able to do so much because a big proportion of its profits has been ploughed back into the industry. We want it to do that. We want it to build up a great Australian industry. I say without any qualms at all that the motor industry has been responsible for the prosperity of South Australia. Yet Government supporters say that we are going ahead too fast. What is General Motors-Holden's Limited going to do, if the Government says that it has to cut down? The honorable member for Richmond said that as a result of the increase in sales tax by onethird there will be a one-third reduction in production of motor vehicles. Does he think that General Motors-Holden's Limited will cut down its production by one-third? That will not be the result at all. The extra 10 per cent, sales tax will be paid by any number of people who want a new car.

T was amazed at the statement of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) that revenue was not involved in the sales tax proposal. If it is not revenue, I should like to know what it is. The Government will reap an additional £90 on each of the tremendous number of Holden cars turned out. General Motors-Holden's will not pay that amount. The honorable member for Richmond said that some firms were carrying the increase. We have heard that the retailers of one make of car, which does not sell in great numbers, will carry the increase of sales tax and will sell their cars at the old price. I have not heard it said that the Ford organization or General Motors-Holden's Limited will carry the increase. The firm making the great bulk of the motor cars being sold here will pass on the increase and the general purchaser will have to pay an extra £90 or more for them.

Let me return to what I was saying about extra pay and to the statement by the honorable member for Richmond about overtime. Let us remember that overtime payments attract a very high rate of income tax. If the producers of motor vehicles cut down production and cut down overtime, the result will be a reduction of revenue- from income tax. I do not intend to develop that argument to-night: I mention it only to show that this measure has far-reaching effects. The honorable member for Richmond asked what the Labour Party would do in the present circumstances. He spoke about extra customs duties. I am not asking for the imposition of higher customs duties. I say that this Government has made the same mistake three times. First, in about 1950, when Sir Arthur Fadden was Treasurer, import licensing was abolished. We objected to that course. I produced cases to show the effect it had upon manufacturers in my own district. Then, eighteen months or two years later, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) introduced more severe import licensing than the Labour Party had ever enforced. When it was introduced, one manufacturer came to me and said. " lt is all right again now. I have a market for the things I am making. Similar articles cannot now be brought in from overseas. I lost that market when the Government did away with import licensing." Subsequently, as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said, there was, fortuitously, a great rise in the price of wool, which brought into the country a tremendous income. Then the Government sard, " We shall cut out import licensing again ". It did so, and what happened? The country began to get into the red again. Now we have come to that point again, only a few months after import licensing was cut out.

The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) was with me at aLabour' meeting in my district at the. time- impart licensing was removed on the last occasion. It was said that the result would be a reduction in costs and prices. I said: " In my opinion, this action will result in a reduction in the demand for the things that we produce. It will be a means of bringing down wages in this country and cutting out labour." I say that the Government should immediately review its policy.

When Mr. Chifley was Prime Minister and Treasurer, I went to him and said: " I have in my district a firm manufacturing tools. It has had a good deal of success and wants to bring in more plant and expand. It would like to know whether it will be safe in installing that plant and what the position will be." Mr. Chifley said, " We are prepared to give the firm fair protection, but not unlimited protection, against other people ". 1 spoke to him about import licensing. He said: " My idea of import licensing is that if we send away from this country £200,000,000 worth of goods, we can afford to import £200,000,000 worth of other goods in their place. But if people want to import £400,000,000 worth of goods and we have overseas only £200,000,000 worth of credits, I contend that we should bring in only absolute necessaries and not luxury articles."

That was how import licensing was administered by Mr. Chifley and the Labour Government. We brought in the Taw materials that we required and the machinery and plant for our industries, and a limit was placed on the importation of frills and luxury goods. For instance, there was a limit to the amount of fancy carpeting that could be imported. Honorable members know the position. We see the advertisements inviting us to inspect British-made carpets at so much a yard. One goes into a shop and says: " I have a nice big drawing room or lounge that I would like to carpet. What is the price? " The salesman says, " That will run you into £195 ". One pays the amount without knowing that there are Australian-made carpets that will do the job. The purchaser is told that the quality of the Australian carpets are not up to that of the English carpets, or that our carpets have not the tonings of those made overseas. The purchaser pays a big price for the imported carpet. I suppose that I, too, am a sucker, because I buy an imported carpet. Why does this happen? It is because this Government says to traders, "Although we have not enough money to pay for current imports, you can bring in these flash carpets and the people will buy them ". The Government talks about chopping, chopping, chopping. If the Government keeps chopping, it will chop its head off.

I know that Government supporters are a bit wary to-day. Some of them are a little concerned because there may be a rapprochement in the Labour movement. They are frightened that certain others will come in. I do not know what will be done and I do not make any prophecies, but Government supporters are afraid for their political lives. They are afraid of what will happen to them if the Labour parties come together. A rather interesting statement has been made by the two Democratic Labour Party men in another place. They are right in the limelight. They went into Calare and said to their supporters, " Give your second preferences to the Country Party ". The Democratic Labour Party gave its preferences to the Australian Country Party, which then puffs out its chest, so to speak, and prides itself on having beaten the Liberal Party and having had its own man elected to this House. I welcome the successful candidate to this place. I am just pointing out to the Country Party what the Democratic Labour Party does. It stumps each State. It canvassed my own State, South Australia, and instructed its candidates, " Give your preferences to the Liberal Party ".

Mr Lucock - The Democratic Labour Party preferences did not make an difference.

Mr THOMPSON - We had a byelection in South Australia which was won by the Labour Party candidate by only eleven votes. The Democratic Labour Party did everything it could to help the Liberal candidate. Yet the same party, last week, said, in effect, "We know that the Menzies Government is no good to Australia. We believe that it is not doing the right thing." It regards the policy which the bill that we are discussing this evening is intended to implement as a wrong policy and says that it objects to that policy. The Democratic Labour Party is putting that view about now. Yet, only a few weeks ago, and even in the last few days in respect of a by-election in Victoria, that party has instructed its candidates to give their preferences to the Government parties and not to the Australian Labour Party. Now it has come to the conclusion that it made a huge mistake. There is no doubt about that. It has allowed its feelings to play on its judgment.

That is the kind of thing that has kept this Government in office. It has not been kept in office by the enactment of good legislation. At election after election, this Government has played on the people's feelings. I can remember that when I was a young fellow we used to hear a great deal about the Industrial Workers of the World- the I.W.W., or " I won't work ", as that organization was sometimes termed. It was really a Labour party. Then the parties opposed to Labour talked about the Russian people and gradually came to talk of communism, and in this way always played on the people's feelings and prejudices rather than rely on policies for the winning of elections. Only a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister, in a speech made to a gathering al the Olympic Pool in Melbourne, to which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has referred, attacked the Australian Labour party and questioned what it intended to do about communism and the Russians. Government supporters know very well that we hate communism just as much as they do.

Mr Haworth - What about telling us something about the sales tax on motor cars!

Mr THOMPSON - I know that the honorable member does not like these home truths. Had the Government confined its measures to the increased sales tax on motor cars, I should have been quite happy about its proposals. This morning, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) saw fit to make some joke about a marriage between the Australian Labour Party and the Australian Democratic Labour Party.

Mr McMahon - Surely the honorable member was able to laugh at that.

Mr THOMPSON - It is all very well to laugh at those things, but when an Opposition member starts rubbing into the Government criticism about the things it is doing, its supporters say, "What about observing the Standing Orders and getting back to the subject dealt with by the bill! "

Mr Howson - Well, what about getting back to the bill!

Mr THOMPSON - I know that what 1 am saying will make no difference to the Government and its supporters. I am speaking for the benefit of the people all over Australia who are listening to this debate - not only the working men, but also the other people in the community who are very much concerned at the Government's attitude to the economy and the country's finances. Those people are anxious to know the things that I am pointing out to them. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that members of the Australian Country Party in this chamber have descended to a very low ebb this evening by abusing the Australian Labour Party as they have done and suggesting that the Labour Party is interested only in high wages and is content to let the country go hang. We who belong to the Labour Party know as well as does the Minister for Labour and National Service, whom I see nodding his head, or any other honorable member, that the first people affected by a policy detrimental to the country's interests are not the big businessmen and professional men but the workers on wages. The people at the bottom get it in the neck first when wrong policies are adopted. If I thought that this evening I was doing anything to hinder a correct policy that would prevent the workers from being hit, I should not say these things.

This Government is not game to face the issues that confront it as governments in other countries have faced the issues with which they have been confronted. The Government may suggest that it is following the example set by the United Kingdom some time ago when it increased the purchase tax on domestic purchases of motor cars in order to encourage the export of more vehicles and thereby improve the balance of trade and build up overseas balances. But T say that this Government is on the wrong track and that it should return to the former Labour policy of ensuring that only the things which we needed in this country were imported and that imports of goods which were not essential or which we could satisfactorily produce here were banned. I make no bones about where I stand on this matter, Mr. Speaker. If I were a member of a government and had the power, I would say straight out, " Unnecessary goods will not be imported when we have not sufficient overseas balances out of which to pay for them ".

We have been told about the wool industry and what it has done for our export trade. I give credit to that industry for what it has done. But if much foreign capital had not been invested in this country during the last five or six years, and if we had not been able to raise loans in the United States of America, Switzerland and England, this Government would have been faced with a crisis or would have been bankrupt long ago. Honorable members know that we do not now depend on the proceeds of goods that we sell overseas - that we depend on raising overseas moneys which we shall have to pay back later. The policy of the Labour Government - members of the Australian Labour Party still hold 'to it almost to the same degree - was that no overseas borrowings should be made except to pay for essential goods. In fact, after the war, the Labour Government cut out overseas borrowing altogether. This indicates the difference between the policies of Labour and of the present Government.

This Government stands for private enterprise and allows business people to -import anything that they like and to do anything else that they like. We stand for a system under which every one in this ;country will have a reasonable job, work reasonable hours, enjoy a reasonable standard of living and have reasonable recreation. We do not believe in employees working like fun while the boss plays golf all the afternoon. That sort of thing happens, and then the Government and its supporters wonder why a worker .goes easy. We do not believe in an employee having to work hard all the year and being told that he may not have three weeks' leave but may have only two, while the boss can go overseas for three months every now and again. This sort of thing happens and yet people wonder why employees are sometimes inclined to go a little easy. The workers say, " If it is good enough for the boss to have a little -extra out of life, it is good enough for us ". I assure the Government that we on this side of the House stand for the interests of the workers and will fight at all times for these rights which I have mentioned.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the little latitude which you have perhaps allowed me. I suggest that sometimes Opposition members need such latitude. We have heard a tale of misery from the Government, and we want the people to understand that the country is not really in so bad a condition. We do not want to kneel on the country's neck and prevent it from being prosperous. The Prime Minister once said that this is the most prosperous country in the world. We want it to go ahead and prosper instead of slipping back and losing everything that is worth while. Labour stands for a high ideal. We think that in this bill the Government puts forward a low ideal. We hope that the present policy will be quickly changed and that a return to sound economic policies will enable us to maintain a prosperous economy.

Debate (on motion by 'Mr. Howson) adjourned.

Suggest corrections