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Wednesday, 15 March 1961

Mr HAWORTH (Isaacs) .- 1 do not propose to answer all the points raised during the course of this debate, but I do hope to answer some of those raised by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart). Before doing so, I wish to refer to the want-of-confidence motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mt. Calwell). That motion is notable not for what it says, but for what it does not say. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition left me with one thought. It was that he. the great crusader of socialism who has often extolled the virtues of that philosophy, had decided not to air his views on that subject on this occasion. Similarly, most of his supporters who are socialists are not prepared to do that either on this occasion because it is not the right time. I dare say we will not hear anything about socialism during the whole of this year. I want to remind the House of the wording of this want-of-confidence motion. It begins, as we all remember, but let me emphasize, with the words -

That because the Government's rapidly changing plans have failed to protect and develop the Australian economy . . .

The Leader of the Opposition commenced his speech by saying that he would tell the story properly and he must start at the beginning. I am not sure what story he wanted to tell us, but I presume it was the story of Australia's economy during the past ten years. He did not say how good things were during the past ten years and he did not tell us anything of the advantages that had been gained by the community during that period. He wanted, of course, to tell us the faults and the mistakes that, in his opinion, may have been made. He was very anxious to tell us exactly what took place in the period prior to this Government coming into office.

In the time that I have at my disposal, I want to make the point that under a freeenterprise system, with the help of good Australian workmen and Government guidance of the economy, Australia has become one of the most prosperous nations in the world and its standard of living is one of the best in the world. According to statistics, our standard of living is at least 1 5 per cent, better than that of any other nation. Unemployment figures to-day are amongst the lowest, if not the lowest, in the free world. I have before me the " International Labour Review " which publishes the figures on unemployment. Despite the fact that we have had some additional unemployment during the past two months, our figures are still lower than those of most other countries. I would say that working conditions in this country to-day are first class. Few, if any, countries enjoy more leisure time than we do. Australia is still to-day and will remain one of the most favoured countries in which to live.

I have made a number of very positive statements and I hope to have the pleasure of giving some of the facts to support those statements. I said that working conditions are first class and few, if any, countries enjoy leisure time to the extent that we enjoy it while still maintaining full employment. It is on that point that Australia is challenged to-day. Wherever I have been abroad, I have been repeatedly asked how it is that we can enjoy such short working hours and still remain a prosperous country.

Mr Haylen - Because you have a Labour philosophy.

Mr HAWORTH - I will explain to you in the course of my remarks exactly how it has happened. I remind honorable members of a report on the 42nd Session of the International Labour Conference. One item on the agenda related to hours of work. The International Labour Organization published a report which included details of the yearly hours of work and of the number of hours not worked but paid during a year. The report says that the data on which the calculations are made are valid for wage-earners excluding office employees and apply to industry in general. Egypt heads the list of countries because of its 54-hour week. Indonesia is at the bottom of the list because, like Australia, it has a 40-hour week and two weeks' annual paid holidays, but it has an extra paid public holiday. There are, of course, many reasons why the conditions of this country are infinitely better than those of Indonesia.

This matter is so important that I propose to enumerate the countries. Honorable members will agree that it is vital to the economy of this country that we increase our exports, and it is just as well to know the hours of work in other countries. The list supplied by the International Labour Organization includes 40 countries. It starts with Egypt where the average working man works the greatest number of hours in a year. It then goes on to Chile, Greece, Mexico, Switzerland, Portugal. Uruguay, Peru, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Luxembourg, Turkey, Brazil, Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, the Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, Italy, Denmark, Norway, the Union of South Africa, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Colombia, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Poland, Belgium, Sweden, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Cuba, the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand, France, Australia and Indonesia.

I mention these countries particularly because it will be seen that all the important socialist countries work much longer hours in a year than we do. Further, the greatest exporting countries and some of our greatest competitors work much longer hours than we do. We fortunately have one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the world and we have extra leisure time that is not enjoyed by the countries that I have mentioned.

A further study by the International Labour Organization on current labour costs in the major European countries shows that West Germany's total labour cost per hour is equivalent to 8s. 3d., calculated in Australian currency. That is the average amount paid to the working man. In the United Kingdom it is 7s. 9d., in France 7s. and in Italy 5s. lOd. It is impossible to give comparable hourly labour costs for Australia, as the figures are not available to make such a computation, but the evidence suggests that labour costs for employee hours worked in Australia are at least 10s. I am very glad to say that we are paying more per hour for our labour than are the great exporting countries and some of our great competitors. But the true test of the value of wages to the employee is how much they will buy. In one of the socialist countries I visited some months ago, a pound of butter cost the equivalent of four days' pay for an unskilled worker and a pair of boots cost the equivalent of a month's pay. In the other socialist countries I visited, conditions were very much the same.

Not only are Australian employees much better off according to the International Labour Organization's figures than are the wage-earners in other countries, but they are much better off to-day than they were ten years ago. That is something that the Leader of the Opposition was not prepared to tell us in his address to the House when moving the motion of want of confidence in this Government. He was not prepared to tell us that the conditions existing to-day are infinitely better than those that existed in what we call the Chifley era. According to the statistics that I have been able to obtain, we are to-day 15 per cent, better off than we were ten years ago.

In that unfortunate era, which is referred to so often as the Chifley era, there were signs of very great unrest and discontent. There were bitterness and a great suspicion between management and men. Industrial stoppages and calamities, such as national strikes, were widespread. The situation to-day has improved to the extent that there is considerable goodwill between management and men. Now, we no longer have to import coal as we had to do during the term of the Chifley Government. Only to-day, I read in the press that we propose to export from Queensland this year £1,000,000 worth of coal. This will mean an additional £1,000,000 of export income to help our balance of payments.

The first important thing about the figures that I have cited is that all this transformation in this country during the last ten years has come about under the administration of a government which is considered by the Leader of the Opposition, as he stated when proposing his wantofconfidence motion, to have failed to carry out its duty. The second important thing, Sir, is that all this has come about within the framework of a free-enterprise system which has been adapted to modern needs. That is a most important point.

We should not forget that this wantofconfidence motion, which constitutes a vote of censure on the Government, has been submitted by the leader of a party that is committed to socialism. You will remember, Sir, that when I read a list of countries where the hours of work are much longer than are those in Australia, I mentioned Soviet Russia, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Yugoslavia. In Soviet Russia, the normal hours of work are 2,248 a year. Russia's satellites have somewhat similar working hours. This is in sharp contrast to conditions in Australia, where the workers' normal hours of work are something like 1,888 a year. I mention this again because the four countries which I have just named, like the Australian Labour Party, advocate and support socialism. When the countries which are satellites of Russia first embraced socialism, they adopted a short working week. But conditions in those countries are very much different to-day.

Not only are the hours of work much longer than are the hours worked in Australia, but also workers in those countries have to work more than one shift. They have to work two shifts in order to live. They do not work two shifts, as do some of Australia's workers, in order to obtain additional money with which to buy a motor car or perhaps a television set or some other appliance or amenity. The workers in these socialist countries work additional shifts in order to enable themselves to live. What we have to remember about the wantofconfidence motion submitted by the Australian Labour Party is that if it is carried the next government will be a socialist one.

Mr Haylen - Hear, hear!

Mr HAWORTH - 1 remind the honorable member that the example that the Labour Party wants to follow is that of the socialist countries in Europe where to-day conditions are very much worse than are those under which we in Australia live.

I want to emphasize, Sir, that attempts to improve the standard of living for any section of the community at a rate faster than that which the development of the nation's resources can sustain - by that, 1 mean at a rate faster than that at which national productivity is increasing - will eventually run the economy into a short series of stresses and strains. This is what has happened in every other country which has a free economy. Only to-day, I read a report of a remark made by Mr. E. J. Kaplan, who is the leader of the trade mission from the United States of America which is now visiting this country. He said that Australia's credit squeeze is a kind of growing pam which is inevitable for a nation progressing so dramatically as is this country at the present time.

We are a great exporting country, Sir. The prosperity of our economy naturally rises and falls with movements in prices on the world's markets. When prices are high, we can live high. When prices fall, our export income falls, and we perhaps have to buy a little more frugally and adjust our mode of living. That is only natural, and that is the kind of thing that happens in a free-enterprise system. The socialist system which the Australian Labour Party would substitute if it replaced this Government to-morrow would produce conditions similar to those which exist in the countries of Europe to which I have directed the attention of the House, where socialism has reigned during the last 20 or 30 years. In a socialist system, the value of the currency can comparatively easily be altered accord ing to changes in world prices. It can be changed over-night in response to changes in world prices, for the simple reason that in a socialist system no one owns anything. The government acquires everything and there is no free enterprise. Therefore, a socialist government finds it easy to alter the value of the currency over-night because no one in the country is affected except when he goes outside its borders.

The difficulties caused by attempts to improve standards of living at a rate faster than that which can be sustained by the development of the nation's resources, or at a rate faster than that at which productivity is increasing, are particularly evident to-day in the unequal distribution of labour, quite apart from our balance-ot-payments problem. A few weeks ago, employment figures for our luxury industries indicated over-full employment and an extremely tight labour market in which employers were competing with one another for the available labour. In some important industries, labour was impossible to get. Consequently there was a great deal of unbalanced productivity. House building was progressing with great rapidity, and the rate at which essential works like street construction and the provision of water services were being undertaken was slipping further and further behind the rate of house construction. This applied to both maintenance and new works. All of us can remember the situation that existed in the fringe suburbs of the large cities, particularly in some of the eastern States, during the winter months of last year. Houses were being built, but streets were not being laid out and normal services for the provision of water, electric power and the like were unavailable in many housing areas. Daily, particularly in the Victorian newspapers, one could see pictures of houses in unmade streets. The rate at which street works were undertaken did not keep pace with the high rate of house construction.

The motor car industry has been booming, but the steel industry, on the other hand, has been unable to obtain sufficient labour to enable it to produce all the steel that we need. This, of course, is one of the weaknesses of a free-enterprise system. The alternative in a socialist system is direction of labour. The socialist countries have no difficulty in ensuring that a proper distribution of labour is made in all industries. Every working man or woman is directed to the job at which he or she is to work. The workers go where they are compelled to go. The whole thing is just as easy as that. If a worker is not prepared to take the job that is offered to him, he cannot get employment anywhere else. He has no alternative to taking the job to which he is directed.

During World War II., we termed this method of directing labour the direction of man-power. This is the socialist method, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Proper socialism cannot exist without such a system for the direction of labour. If the Australian Labour Party took office to-day, it would direct man-power to-morrow in order to make the socialist system work. Mr. Chifley himself realized that this sort of thing had to happen under socialism. He realized that if the Labour Government were to continue to administer a socialist system it would have to control man-power and direct labour. In fact, he gave that indication. I remember, and most honorable members will remember, the statement that he made in 1948 when he said that no guarantee could be given that workers could stay put in a particular industry. He said that the worker had to realize that there would have to be a transfer. He did not say that there might be a transfer, but said that there would have to be a transfer of workers, a transfer of whole communities to other forms of work. He said that everybody would not be able to stay at home because there would have to be a transfer of labour if there were to be expansion. He said he was not going to fool anybody in that regard and that it might even involve a plan for moving towns. Mr. Chifley was a realist and he knew that in order to have a socialistic system you have to have direction of labour, and he was then telling the trade unions at that very important meeting of union members in the Sydney Town Hall what to expect if his government was returned to power. Very fortunately, the people of this country believed then, as I think they believe to-day, that a system of free enterprise is the only progressive system and the only system which is going to make this country great. I believe that the average Australian would prefer the economic restrictions applied by this Government in order to bring the economy back into balance to the direction of labour that is advocated by the Leader of the Opposition. He has so very often indicated in this House that he is an uncompromising socialist, and if he ever becomes the leader of a government we will know that we are going to have to live under a socialistic system in this country under which there wall be direction of man-power such as exists in every other socialistic country in the world. One thing is very clear to-day, particularly when we look at the hours of work and the wages that apply in other countries - that as a free people we have to meet the challenge. We have to show that our free economy and our democracy work better than the controlled economy - the economic dictatorship - that is applied under socialism.

We must increase our exports of primary and secondary products at prices that will favorably compare with the export goods of the socialistic countries. If we can do that I believe we will continue to enjoy the amenities of one of the most prosperous countries in the world and continue to be one of the most favoured countries in the world.

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