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Thursday, 4 October 1956

Mr BOWDEN (Gippsland) .- T wish to address to the committee a few remarks concerning the proposed vote for the Department of Labour and National Service and, in the necessarily brief time at my disposal, to try to examine just how far our external problems, which have been discussed so much during the debate on the Estimates, are aggravated or increased by deliberately created internal difficulties. Having listened very carefully and with great interest to the general debate on the budget, and also to the debate that has taken place so far on the Estimates, I think tha! c. reasonable summing-up would be that neither side had got very far, because the budget and the Estimates remain unaltered, for reasons which I shall try to indicate.

First, let us accept the fact that the troubles - or perhaps I should say " imaginary troubles " - from which we suffer have been created deliberately by the actions of our own people. Every section of the community, without exception, has been trying to exact the maximum from prosperity while it is with us. In other words, every section of the community has said, '' Give us all the bright lights to-day, even though that will bring about a blackout to-morrow ". Yet, when the day of reckoning arrives, as it inevitably must arrive, we absolve ourselves from all responsibility and blame everything on the Government. The criticism on this occasion, particularly from Opposition supporters, has not altered one iota from that of all the previous years. Such criticism is made entirely without regard to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We hear the same generalities, the same cliches, and the same platitudes from honorable members opposite who seek to deal with effects while completely ignoring causes. I admit that to give too much consideration to causes might occasion a good deal of embarrassment to certain honorable members in this place, but until we, as a Parliament, forget politics and recognize the basic facts which contribute to our national embarrassment we shall continue to contribute to the problems which are inimical to out national well-being. In short, Mr. Chairman, until we can get something like value for the money that we expend, we shall always have rising costs, and we shall have no prospect of resuming our place in the markets of the world on a reasonably competitive basis. The possibility of our doing so will become more and more remote. As I say, the solution of that problem lies in getting value for the money that we spend.

I invite the attention of the committee to a matter that is studiously avoided by honorable members opposite, although it is one of the principal factors in the economic troubles that we are experiencing to-day. 1 refer to the industrial unrest in Queensland. There, we have evidence of people abusing power so ruthlessly that, by comparison. Colonel Nasser appears a lilywhite amateur. But at least it can be said for Colonel Nasser that what he has done he has considered to be in the interests of his country. What the people to whom I refer are doing is not in the interests of their country, and they know it. Until this Parliament, and all parliaments, get down to a consideration of these internal factors, we shall never solve the problem of rising costs, or overcome our marketing difficulties in other parts of the world. Unless this abuse of power is successfully challenged - and I believe that there is some attempt to challenge it at the present time - it can end only in the attainment of the Communist objective, which is to strangle completely the economy of this country and that of every other democratic country which stands in the way of communism. The fight in Queensland to-day is between ordered society and mob rule. If mob rule is allowed to prevail, then government in Australia will become a farce.

It is our duty as a federal Parliament to do everything we can to ensure that, in the future, law will continue to be the basis of our society. The fight is no longer a fight between the Australian Workers Union and the Queensland Industrial Court. The repercussions of the initial union action have developed into a very serious threat to our whole national well-being. Shipping costs, for instance, must go up, and those costs will be reflected in freights. We shall then hear the same old argument from those who choose to ignore the cause of the rising costs and who prefer to deal only with effects. We shall hear the Government being criticized for failing to prevent shipping freights from rising, although those who make the criticism support the very action which causes freights to rise. I am certain that this state of affairs is not desired by at least 99' per cent, of the members of the Australian Workers Union. I believe that all they want is to be allowed to work peacefully under the awards of the court and to rear their families in peace and security.

The Government, in order to preserve a semblance of balance in our overseas trade, has adopted such measures as import restrictions and very severe sales tax imposts to discourage people from buying things, but while those measures are being taken we have within our borders groups of people who are using usurped authority to prevent the export of goods that would automatically ensure a balance between our exports and imports. But we allow that sort of thing to continue. It is national sabotage, and I do not know of any other country that would allow it to continue as we do. We can talk about democracy, but we can also let democracy run mad. Freedom in a democracy exists only until the exercise of that freedom interferes with the freedom of somebody else, and then the law steps in.

The fact that very many honorable members opposite are supporting the reactionary forces does not improve the position. They are afraid to say anything against those forces. They might not like what is happening, but their political life might depend upon their giving such support. As long as political advantage can accrue from industrial turmoil, we shall have certain members of the Opposition supporting the sort of thing that is going on in Queensland to-day. What an absurdity! The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) is associated with the railways, but the log that was submitted recently by the railways employees' organization sought a wage of £30 for a week of 30 hours, with every second day a holiday.


Mr BOWDEN - Possibly it is Mr. J. Brown's contribution - his thanks offering for being returned to the plush floors of office. Certain honorable members support that kind of thing when freights are already so high that it is cheaper to import timber from Indonesia than from the forests of northern New South Wales. I remember an occasion when a federal Labour government was challenged very seriously in a way similar to that in which the Queensland Labour Government is being challenged today. But it did not lie down and take it; it simply took prompt and ruthless action and settled the matter. Once the law asserts itself, these people must come to heel.


Mr BOWDEN - The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who has just interjected, is very prominent in the Australian Workers Union. It has always been said that that union was never associated with communism until the introduction of compulsory unionism. Communists still cannot hold office in the union, but who is game to say that the dispute in Queensland is not in the hands of the Communists? They are the people who are fostering it, and they are doing so in order to destroy the economy of this country. It is time that the unions did a little bit of stocktaking. I believe that they are very necessary, and I have always supported them; but I believe also that they have achieved the objective for which they were established. Instead of setting out to hold that position, they feel, like Alexander the Great, that they have no other worlds to conquer and therefore they decide to go to extremes. Extremes have brought down every dictator in the world's history, and they will bring down every potential dictator. If unions continue in the way in which this group in Queensland is continuing, unionism will destroy itself from within and not from without.

I wish to give to the committee another illustration of the union's attitude, and I relate my remarks to the Estimates for the Department of National Development. Every year we hear a howl about not enough money being provided for houses and not sufficient houses being built, yet the people who offer that criticism support a policy that seeks to place a limit on output. For example, in this country bricklayers lay 300 bricks a day as against 800 to 1,000 bricks a day laid by bricklayers in other countries. If employees were allowed to do a fair day's work for a fair day's pay, we would be able to build three houses with the money that is now spent on the building of two. I guarantee that, if they were allowed to do so, bricklayers could lay by morning tea time the number of bricks that they are now permitted to lay in a day. In addition, there is a darg or a limitation of output in the manufacture of bricks. The fact that the whole nation is crying out for bricks and for building materials leaves honorable members opposite cold. They have the temerity and the hide to talk about Australia's economic position when the very policy that they support is largely contributing to it.

I am trying to emphasize that the troubles around us have been caused internally and not externally. We do nothing to stop the cause of these troubles; indeed, half of the members of the committee support it. I repeat that there should be a spring-cleaning and that, in a friendly way, we should endeavour to persuade the unions to look at their own country instead of contributing to the troubles of other countries, and to try to get their own country out of a national emergency or crisis. After we have caught up with everything is the time to talk about placing a limit on output. I do not doubt that honorable members opposite mean well.

In many industries, loafing has become a science; it is no longer a haphazard affair. Until we can overcome it, honorable members should not talk about bringing down costs. They should not expect Australia to be able to compete favorably with other countries while costs continue to rise. Judging by the look in your eyes, Mr. Chairman, 1 think I must have nearly exhausted my allotted time. I should very much like to have had another half-hour in which to tell honorable members the truth. I had to hurry in order to mention a few points that had not already been mentioned.

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