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
Wednesday, 20 May 1970

Mr BRYANT (Wills) - There is always a certain mystical quality about the speeches of the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate). One is never quite sure what he means by it all. He is opposed to this Bill. He is not opposed to it to the point where, if it came to the crunch and it meant the defeat of the Government, he would vote against it. His principles would not carry him that far; that is obvious. But there are a few things to which he is dedicated. He is dedicated to the principle of private enterprise and freedom, lt is a pity he does not extend that to the 20-year-olds who are being called up under the National Service Act. It is a pity he does not extend that principle to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which nationalises for his benefit, and the benefit of people like him, the industrial workers of Australia. Apparently the only things he is prepared to nationalise are 20-year-olds and industrial workers. Of course he did say - I suppose this is to his credit - that honourable members opposite are cabin's, cribb'd and confin'd inside the party room. As the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) said today, they are not allowed to discuss anything.

The honourable member for Macarthur seems to labour under a few misconceptions. He mentioned left wing governments. Presumably he was referred to governments that have a faintly democratic Socialist flavour - what we might call Labor governments. They all appear to be running backwards as far as he is concerned. Has he ever been to Sweden? Is not Sweden a model of what a progressive rational Socialist government can achieve over a period of 30 or 40 years? Its standard of living is rising rapidly, far beyond the reach of this country. Our standards are subsiding.

Has he ever given thought to Israel, beleaguered as it is in the Middle East, with its very small population and with a Labour government holding off all its enemies and developing the country as well? Has he thought of West Germany which, I suppose, is enshrined in his mind as a booming country? It now has a Socialist leader. Has he thought of Norway and Denmark which, over the last few years, have progressed under Labour governments. Has he looked at Singapore, where the Peoples Action Party is a Socialist party - a Labour party? Has he had a look at what is happening in Britain where a Labour government has managed, over the last 5 or 6 years, to drag that country out of the doldrums into which a political party to which he would adhere had dumped it in previous years? Of course, this is part of the theory of those members opposite whe rise and talk about these subjects and express a lot of airy fairy nonsense, as indeed the honourable member for Macarthur did. He said that there would bc no development at all if people such as wc on this side of the House were handling the affairs of this nation. Where was his Party when the Snowy Mountains scheme was inaugurated in 1949? Members of his Party boycotted it.

Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes (CHISHOLM, VICTORIA) - I was there.

Mr BRYANT - I understand that the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) was present, as was the honourable member for Chisholm who was then, 1 think, the Deputy Premier or the Minister for Transport in Victoria. He was probably taking somebody for a ride during the course of it. But members of that magnificent institution, the Liberal Party as it is called, and members of its Country Party satellite all stayed away. But now, of course, the Snowy Mountains scheme is a wonderful scheme and they are deeply proud of it. 1 mention also the trans-continental railway. We can run through the whole gamut of Australian achievement and find that many of them have been Government initiated, most of them initiated by Labor governments. So much nonsense is uttered by members opposite. My colleague, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), I think satisfactorily demolished the economic arguments advanced by honourable members opposite.

Before 1 examine what the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) had to say, I feel I ought to answer some of the remarks of the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie). I think he regards himself as some sort of economic mastermind. He called upon my colleagues, the honourable members for Oxley (Mr Hayden) and Kingston (Dr Gun) to participate in this debate. They are quite happy to participate in the debate but, by agreement, we have agreed to end the debate soon. However, the honourable member for Cook denounced the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) for having made what might be called a fairly shallow, uninformed kind of speech. Then he launched into what might be called very deep philosophical considerations of the situation by making such earth shattering comments as: 'Rising employment and higher wages means growth in consumer spending'. What a devastating discovery! How many economic degrees does one need to realise that? How many long years does a person have to work in a private banking system to be able to discover that when people have more money and spend more of it they actually purchase more goods with it? Then he made another discovery. I understood that it was floating around; in fact, the Minister for Trade and Industry seems to sleep with it under his pillow, not that he does anything about it. Even dogs are barking it. He discovered that the cost of servicing foreign investment is steadily growing. What a remarkable achievement by him! He had the brass to stand and criticise the Leader of the Labor Party for having made what might be described as a non-professional speech. If his contribution was professionalism, it is time the economic faculties of our Australian universities had a good look at their teaching.

Do I sense amongst all the people opposite a feeling of disquiet at the increasing control of Australian industry by overseas investors? For years it has been part of the mystique; for years it has been the legend; for years the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) has been saying how wonderful it is to have all this money pouring in. Even in the cloud of words which he used as a speech, we could determine that somewhere there was some disquiet and that Australians should look at the situation.

Let us examine the speech of the Minister for Trade and Industry - his rather rhapsodic exercise. He said that the Corporation will be the most wonderful thing that has happened to Australian industry; that the Corporation will operate expressly to assist Australian industry to expand its capacity and scope and to increase its efficiency and competitiveness. I wonder whether we can expect that. He said that it is going to assist in marshalling financial resources, particularly from overseas. By waving some magic wand the money that comes from overseas instead of filching away the national ownership of Australia is going to confer upon us some intimate blessing. I am blessed if I can see how it is going to do it. It is going to help where the ordinary banking system and other financial systems cannot meet the financial needs of Australian interests and Australian industry, so the Minister says. Why is this? Of course, the Government has allowed the Australian banking system to pour its money into all sorts of ventures. The banks are now developers of land in the cities of Australia. They are now one of the greatest investors in hire purchase. This Government has allowed the Australian banking system to abdicate its real responsibility to the people of Australia and become money lenders pure and simple. Then the Minister said that we are to have capital in a non-equity form. I wonder what advantage this will confer upon the lucky borrowers. Are there not any lessons to be learned from Australian history in this regard? Nearly all those things that have been built with borrowed capital - the railway systems of Australia are the principal victims - will have to carry a load of debt down to the end of time. They can never stagger out of it.

The honourable member for Macarthur - I do not regard him as the deepest political thinker in this nation - did mention interest rates. The Minister for Trade and Industry gave his blessing to higher interest rates. Now in Australia they have risen to the point where I claim that they are not interest rates any longer but straight out usury. We have interest rates of 8% and 8£% in the banking system and 9% and 10% outside. On some sorts of mortgages the interest rate is 12%. If we borrow money at 9% and 10% and have to pay the servicing charges, as the honourable member for Macarthur pointed out, how are wc to pay dividends? If this is the kind of company we are to help, why is it so short of chips that we have to supply money out of taxpayers' funds? Of course I must say that I am not a great believer in the institution that is being established. It may lay the foundations for a future Labor government to do something about it, but I am quite certain that we will do it much belter than the Government, lt will lend to projects and take an equity in them. As has been pointed out, its capital will be paid up to $25m initially, lt can get S25m each year for 4 or 5 years provided it gives a year's notice. What a staggering sum for the ninth or tenth wealthiest country in the world. About 2.5 Fills every year to be invested in Australian industry and it will shake the foundations of private enterprise if we get hold of it, according to the honourable member for Cook and other honourable members opposite. It will straighten up the whole staggering system of capitalism in Australia, according to its advocates on the other side of the House. I do not believe it. In his second reading speech the Minister for Trade and Industry said:

We will set up a Corporation of significant stature and image as a borrower. lt will be able to borrow up to 5 times its limit. How far does that get us with some of the significant industries in Australia? How far would it get us in developing the deposits of bauxite at Gove, which should not be developed by foreign investors and in fact, in the interests of the Aboriginal people there, should not at this stage be developed al all in my opinion. Listening to the right honourable gentleman deliver his speech we heard one of the new examples of jargon. I had not run across this one before but I noticed that the honourable member for Cook employed it tonight also. He said: We will have the equity sweetener'. 1 wonder what that is? He even gave his blessing to higher interest rates. But he said, and this is the rub: 'lt will become entirely a part of the private enterprise scene'. How can something that is publicly owned, and publicly controlled, with the directors appointed by a public authority - in this case the Government - be anything but a public institution? Just what kind of nonesense are we coming at? ls it not a fact that it will be a government institution using public funds for private purposes? ls it not a fact that that is part of the way in which over the centuries the ordinary members of the public have been exploited for the advantage of private enterprise and private profits? I believe that this is an aspect to which we should turn the deepest possible attention. The Corporalion's role will differ from the customary role of a statutory corporation or even from a government owned company or business concern. 1 do -not know how much of this is just words. I do not know how much of it is wool pulled over the eyes of honourable members opposite so that the Minister for Trade and Industry may get his operation launched. He said that it will not become the dominant element in the ownership of an industry. It is supposed to disposses itself once the enterprise becomes profitable. This is the way in which honourable members opposite use the Australian governmental system as an instrument of private enterprise - as a way in which they can bolster private enterprise. Then the simple shareholder who happens to be the citizen of Australia opts out. 1 believe that this is a quite conscienceless abuse of public power. If we go into it we should own it. I see nothing wrong with the Australian Government putting money into a concern and owning part of it. Why should we not go into partnership? It has been successful in Sweden and in some parts of Australian industry. I understand that the British Government owns a fair slice of the shares in British Petroleum. The Minister said that the Corporation will play a passing role. On one occasion when discussing the political philosophies of honourable members opposite the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) said - at least the remark has been attributed to him - that what they want to do is capitalise their gains and socialise their losses. This Corporation guarantees them against losses and it will be used to gel their hands on the gains. I do noi think this is such a miraculous piece of legislation. The Corporation may be the McEwen Bank. I think it is more likely to be the McEwen mirage.

Let us examine some of the previous shadow sparring we have indulged in. As an historical exercise I thought it was worth while turning back the pages to see what we have done in the past. 1 have here a number of pieces of earlier legislation. Some of them were fought out with great vigour in this place since I came here. Let me refer first of all to the Australian Industries Preservation Act of 1906. lt would restrain monopolies, so we were told. Section 7 of the. Act reads: (1.) Any person who monopolises or attempts to monopolise, or combines or conspires wilh any other person to monopolise, any pan of the trade or commerce with other countries or among t lie States, is guilty of an indictable offence.

That section was hardly ever used. The Act was hardly looked at from 1911 to 1963 or 1964. Then we had the Interstate Commission of happy memory. It was to be a remarkable achievement. Introducing the Interstate Commission Bill in 1912 the Right Honourable William Morris Hughes, as he later became, said:

It has to be noted that the Interstate Commission will not be merely a Commission of inquiry. It will possess, as I have already pointed out, powers of administration and adjudication.

He had a lot to say about what this remarkable instrument would achieve. He said:

We have, therefore, given the Commission power to investigate, on its own initiation, a wide range of subjects. . . .

The Commission may, for instance, investigate matters affecting the production of and trade in commodities, the encouragement, improvement and extension of Australian industries and manufacture, bounties paid by foreign companies to encourage foreign snipping, and so on - page after page, but nothing ever happened. Then we come to one of the brighter creations of our former colleague, the Right Honourable Sir Robert Gordon Menzies. This was the Motor Vehicles Agreement Bill of 1940. Introducing the Bill - this is interesting in view of later philosophies which he developed - the right honourable gentleman said:

If we establish a motor car manufacturing industry in Australia we shall reduce the demand that this country has for dollars . . .

As I recall, in 196S when we launched our unhappy commitment in Vietnam it was to try to get dollars. The right honourable gentleman also said in 1940:

If we are to produce in Australia from our own resources tanks, armoured cars and motor transport to carry our armies over large distances, - that point has a great significance for us in Australia - we must set about the business of making internal combustion engines.

Well, not one motor car was produced under that legislation. Then there is another distinguished piece of legislation - the International Labour Organisation Act. It has been on the statute book since 1947. We send delegations of great tonnage overseas at great expense and they consider at some length matters before the International Labour Organisation. It is a very useful exercise for honourable members to turn up the pages of Hansard. As recently as 7th May this year the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) asked what we had done about International Labour Organisation Conventions Nos 2, 23, 32, 52, 58, 62, 81, 84, 92, 98, JOI, 202, 109, 112, 118, 123 and 128. The answer from this fine procrastinating set opposite is: Nothing. So I am not one of those who places great store in the fact that something placed on the statute book might have enshrined in its deep Socialist principles.

Then there is that wonderful creation of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) - the Trade Practices Act. This legislation was fought out vigorously throughout the land. From one end of the continent to the other people were shivering in their shoes. We were bombarded with letters and telegrams telling us what this legislation would do to us. Introducing the legislation the Minister, who was then Attorney-General, said:

The purpose of this Bill is to preserve competition in Australian trade and commerce to the extent required by the public interest. Competition is an essential ingredient of any free enterprise economy.

That is, unless the competition happens to be developed by the Commonwealth Bank or Trans-Australia Airlines. We do not want that sort of competition. Those were fine words by the Minister. What has happened under this legislation? I understand that we have a Commissioner. I understand that one of the breweries has been told that it should not do what it has been doing, but it has not taken much notice. After 5 years we have got just about nowhere with that legislation. The political party opposite has a tine record of bringing down legislation, having a great deal to say about it, causing a great furore and then producing nothing. Having listened to the debate so far I am moved to ask: Why do so many people opposite, who claim to be Liberals and Australians, demonstrate such a terror of public ownership? What is so terrible about 12 million shareholders owning something? What is so terrible about the operations of a concern being the responsibility of this Parliament?

I believe that those people who continually attack public enterprise are recording a vote of no confidence in themselves. It is a vote of no confidence in their Party, in their Parliament and in the people, for do they never look at the record? Is not

Qantas, Australia's own airline, a totally publicly owned company? Is it not one of the world's great airlines? Has it not established one of the finest records for safety, service and economy? Is it not one of the few airlines in the world which operate without government subsidy? I have only one grudge with Qantas. At the present moment it does not seem to have the nerve to land in Israel although it lands in Arab countries. But that is a side issue here. What about Trans-Australia Airlines? Honourable members opposite believe in competition. How long would Sir Reginald Ansett and his fleet last if Trans-Australia Airlines was really turned loose? How long would they have lasted without the protection of Government Acts and Government sponsored departments? What is wrong with the State Dockyard at Newcastle? I understand it is one of the most efficient dockyards to be found anywhere. What is wrong with the State Electricity Commission or the State Savings Bank in Victoria which is about the largest bank in Victoria, but is shackled because the Government does not want it competing? There is the Commonwealth Bank itself. When is the Government going to allow it to compete?

These are some of the issues that are before us today. We seem to be suffering from a national inferiority complex. We seem to be begging around the world for somebody to come in and own various of our assets. Why is it that Switzerland, with about one-third of our population and 12,000 miles away, has the funds, the expertise and the know-how to come here and develop some of our bauxite deposits. We in this place allow people to say 'We have not the funds to do it'. Why is it that Sweden is in such a dominating position in the world in so many specialised fields of industry? How is it that Britain, a tiny dot of land, for 3 centuries has been able to overcome these difficulties? I want to know where our national spirit is.

As I see it, the real principle that we are being asked to espouse here today - we on this side of the House give it what might bc called a qualified blessing - is the use of governmental power for private profiteering. This is the negation of the private enterprise principles that are continually espoused by honourable members opposite.

Why is it that they come in to protect the private banks against the free flowing exercise of the power of competition by the Commonwealth Bank? Why is it that the private airlines have to be protected against the public enterprise airlines? Why is it that we have to give subsidies to the petroleum companies? Why is it that we have to give subsidies to the shipping companies? Why is it that when we give a subsidy of one-third of the cost to a shipping company that spends $5m or $6m on a ship we do not own one-third of it? Why is it that we have to subsidise some of the tycoons of the world? Why is it that if honourable members opposite are so confident that private enterprise and free competition are so good that we constantly have to dicker with the system and have tariffs to protect industries from private enterprise in other parts of the world? We happen to be a protection Party but the facts are that there is no such thing as private enterprise; there is no such thing as free enterprise of this sort: and there is no such thing as a free moving enterprise system in which governments do not intervene on behalf of some industries.

Most of the large industries of Australia are protected in one way or another. The industries producing superphosphate, motor cars, or anything else are protected by Government action and, therefore, it is a false doctrine that is being espoused by honourable members opposite. The people of Australia should wake up to it. 1 hope that the House will start to examine the possibilities of really developing this Corporation in the way in which the Italians have developed theirs and in the way in which 1 understand the Swedes have been able to develop large areas of Swedish enterprise. I hope before very long the people of Australia will realise that we cannot have a national spirit and that we cannot be anything else but a colony if we permit decisions about the destiny of large areas of the economy of the country to be made in the board rooms of Detroit, London, West Germany and Zurich. Therefore if this Bill is a demonstration that there is a slowly growing national spirit on the other side of the House I welcome it. But I do not regard it as any great movement towards a solution of these problems. It is just what one might term another McEwen mirage.

Suggest corrections