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Wednesday, 21 September 1949

Mr TURNBULL (Wimmera) . - First, I shall examine the budget which the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has presented to the Parliament, and, later, I shall reply to some of the statements that have been made in this debate. As a number of honorable members have already spoken on the budget, some repetition is inevitable. If I should touch on points to which other honorable members have referred I shall be brief. The Treasurer said -

Australia has been aided in these years-

The right honorable gentleman was referring to the post-war years - by good seasons, and export prices have been high because of the strong post-war demand for our products abroad.

That statement is perfectly true. The Treasurer proceeded -

But the main key to this post-war financial achievement - -as to many others - has been, I believe, that throughout the whole period full employment of labour has been maintained.

Other honorable members have already referred to that passage in the Treasurer's speech, but I desire to deal with it in a different way. I believe that the right honorable gentleman has taken the wrong view of the real source of our present prosperity. Before I proceed I desire to make it clear that " prosperity " should not be confused with " progress ", because the two words have a different meaning. Australia has been most fortunate during the last ten years. During, and since World War II., this country has been able to produce commodities which other countries that have been racked and wrecked by war have not been able to produce in sufficient quantities to meet their requirements. Every schoolboy is aware of that fact. In addition, the overseas prices for our export commodities have been high, and Australia has had the advantage of them. That, and not the Government's full employment policy - a policy which would not have been possible but for our primary production - is the real reason for our prosperity. As I have stated, the Treasurer has taken the wrong view of the real cause of our prosperity. Of course, this Government is not responsible for the high prices that we have been able to obtain for our primary produce overseas, and for the productive capacity of our primary industries. The foundation of those industries was firmly laid long before the outbreak of World War II. I regret that the source of our prosperity has been neglected recently. The cities have come under government favour and their population has increased while that of rural areas has decreased alarmingly. The foundation of our primary industries was built through the efforts of free enterprise with the encouragement of a nonLabour government before the. war, and it cannot be neglected indefinitely without serious results to this nation.

Referring to migration and development, the Treasurer said that security, higher standards of living and the attainment of a more ample national life depend upon our ability to bring our indisputable wealth of resources into greater productive use. He proceeded-

We should have a population large enough to make the best use of our resources.

That statement is true, but we should make the best use of our existing population to bring those resources into greater production. Does the Treasurer consider that a country should wait until it has a bigger population before it makes the best possible use of its resources? I believe that we must make the best use of the existing population to bring our present resources into production. The Prime Minister considers that we need a larger population before we can bring our indisputable wealth of resources into greater productive use. Let me illustrate the situation by a simple analogy. If a young man decides to wait until he accumulates thousands of pounds before he begins his own business, he may never make a start. Successful businessmen all over the world have given the following advice : - " Make the best use of whatever you have. If you do that, you may become prosperous and progressive ". Obviously, this Government has not been making the best use of our existing population to increase production. Much has been said about the Government's policy of full employment, but members of the Opposition and many people throughout Australia have said very definitely that only a policy of full productive employment will benefit the nation. In that respect, the Government has missed the mark. It has not increased primary production and so has not taken full advantage of the high prices that, as the result of the war, we have been receiving for our export commodities.

Still referring to development, the Treasurer said -

In Western Australia, the Commonwealth is sharing with the State Government the cost of a plan to reticulate water to certain areas in the north-eastern portion of the main mixed wheat and sheep belt.

That is true, but in Western Australia they cannot get the materials needed for installing water reticulation projects. The Government talks about making money available, .but of what use is it to do that if materials cannot be obtained? The Treasurer said that the Government had plans for encouraging and developing the cattle industry in the Northern Territory. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), who has just returned from there, spoke about the progress being made, and the feeling of optimism amongst cattle men, who hoped to supply more beef to the United Kingdom. It is a fallacy to suppose that production is about to be increased. The fact is that graziers cannot obtain the equipment necessary to increase production. Taxation is crippling those who could otherwise assist in the development of the Northern Territory.

Mr Calwell - There is no taxation in the Northern Territory.

Mr TURNBULL - The point I am making is that graziers in the Northern Territory and in North Quensland are being frustrated by their inability to obtain materials, and those materials are not being produced because of high taxation in other parts of Australia. This Government is committed to socialism, and graziers and fat cattle raisers do not consider that conditions justify making improvements even if materials and labour were available. Further on in his budget speech, the Treasurer said that discussions had been held with the Queensland Government on various developmental projects, including the Burdekin River scheme. The trouble is that there has been nothing but talk. No progress has been made. Some time- ago the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said that the Government had a plan to increase production. During question time in the House next day, I asked the Prime Minister what the plan was. He said that there was such a plan, and that he would supply particulars about it later, but nothing has been produced yet. In spite of the claim that the Government has plans to bring the wealth of the country into fruitful economic use, I am convinced that nothing will be done in that direction until there is a change of government.

The Treasurer further said that a great programme of works had been undertaken in the Postal Department, and in connexion with civil aviation. The revenue of the Postal Department, he said, was expected to increase by about £5,000,000 because of increased postal telegraph and telephone charges, which are really methods of increasing taxation. In connexion with civil aviation it should be noted that departmental expenses for civil aviation alone have increased over the last four years by no less than £4,000,000. Thus, any improved service to the people increases taxation out of all proportion. Progress is not to be achieved m that way. In a publication known as the Digest of Decisions and Announcements, there is published a report of the speech delivered by the Prime Minister on the 12th June, 1949, in which he said -

I make this challenge here this morning. No government in the history of Australia has ever given to private industry so much assistance and advice and help as has been given by the Commonwealth Labour Government. Whether it is a matter of increased steel production at Port Kembla or Broken Hill or Newcastle, or whether it is in any other industry, no matter how small is the man or how large is the company.

A little further on in the same speech he declared -

One of the things that has held us up is our inability to produce basic materials in this country. Again I get back to bricks, coal, steel and all things necessary, not only for increased manufacture, but for housing which is so badly needed.

Thus, all the advice and assistance of the Government did not result in the production of the requisite quantity of basic materials. He issued a challenge, and then admitted his defeat in the same speech. The Government has not been able to produce the materials needed.

Indeed, production has been steadily declining, as the following figures show : -


The figures I have cited are those for the period before the coal strike. The lack of incentive, and the feeling among the workers that they are being paid in what might be termed counterfeit money wages that never catch up with the cost of living, contribute largely to the decline of production. Only by offering the workers a proper incentive can we hope to obtain greater production. In the speech from which I have quoted, the Prime Minister made a further reference to the " Golden Age ". I was under the impression that he had used the expression only once, and had realized . later that it was an unfortunate expression, and had refrained from employing it again. I now find, however, that he has used the phrase more than once. For instance, only last June, he said -

In Australia to-day you have what I have probably said before - the Golden Age.

I looked at a dictionary to see what " the Golden Age " really means. The definition that I found was -

A prehistoric era of innocence and happiness.

That is very true because, if the people of Australia are happy to-day with what they see about them, they must be innocent indeed. Apparently the Prime Minister is something of a humorist ! Not content with the first definition, I visited the Parliamentary Library and looked at another dictionary. Its definition of " the Golden Age " was -

The first and the best age of the world in which, according to the Greek and Roman poets, mankind lived in a state of ideal prosperity and happiness free from all trouble and crime.

After hearing those definitions, surely the Prime Minister and his supporters must realize how ridiculous was his statement. People all over Australia knew that it waa inaccurate, and it is time that the Prime Minister withdrew it.

I refer to the increasing cost of administration revealed in the budget. Earlier this evening, national broadcasting stations announced that the Prime Minister of Great Britain was making a drive to decrease administrative costs. He has said that he wants them to be reduced by at least 5 per cent, within the next three months, and that they must keep on falling. What is the situation in Australia? In 1945-46, the cost of Commonwealth Government administration in this country was £8,520,025. By 1948-49, the last complete financial year, it had risen to £27,920,937. The estimate for the current year is more than that. The Government continually urges the people to " save for security ", but its own administrative costs soar year after year. Something must be done about that. Unless the Government economizes, as it urges the people to do, the taxpayers will have to bear an increasing burden of costs. Discussing the social services contribution, the Prime Minister said, in his budget speech -

In March last, substantial reductions were made in the rates at which income tax and social services contribution aTe payable by individuals for this financial year.

The budget shows that that statement is not correct. The social services contribution is slowly, but surely, mounting. In 1947-48, the annual rate of contribution per head was £9 7s. 0¼d. In 1948-49, it was £11 Ils. 5-&d. This year the estimated rate is £12 5s. 2-Jd. The Prime Minister says that the rate is being decreased, but it is being increased continually. A great deal has also been said about " substantial " reductions of direct and indirect taxes. I have examined the figures, and I find that direct taxes have been reduced by less than 3d. per week per head of the population. Indirect taxes have been reduced by less than 7d. per week, or Id. per day, per head of the population. That is not much to sing about in a budget, but the Prime Minister has frequently referred to it and his supporters often boast about it. There is really nothing to boast about.

It is estimated that the Government's attempt to nationalize our banking system will cost the country an amount of more than £200,000 in legal expenses.

Mr Calwell - Who told the honorable member that?

Mr TURNBULL - That is the estimate. I believe that the Labour party should pay those costs. The point is that the policy of nationalization is the Labour party's policy. When the High Court of Australia found that the plan was not legal, the Labour party insisted that theGovernment appeal to the Privy Council, which has not yet announced its full finding. Therefore, the costs of the legalproceedings should be borne by the party. The referendum on prices and rent control cost the country a little less than £150,000. Would it not have been cheaper to put the question of bank nationalization to the people by referendum at a cost of less than £150,000 than to proceed at law at a cost of over £200,000? But,, of course, the Government would not do that! The impatience of Ministers and their supporters whenever we suggest that contentious matters be submitted to the people for decision is very noticeable. Their attitude is, " Why should the people- have a chance to express their opinion? ". The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has said -

No man will argue that there should be any greater power than the will of the people, and, if the Government is returned pledged to the nationalism of banking, why should not the Government nationalize the banks?

The first part of his statement was correct. Nobody will argue that there should be any greater power than the will of the people. But the Government will not give the people a chance to express their will. When the Government and its supporters last went before the people at a general election, they did not say anything in their speeches about nationalization of banking. However, the people will know at the next election and, if they return to power a party that is pledged to the nationalization of banking, they will deserve to have the banks nationalized. Their eyes are open now. They had not been opened at the last election. As the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) pointed out earlier in this debate, almost every member of the Labour party tries to camouflage the socialization plank in the party's platform. Labour candidates do not come out openly at political meetings and say, "" We stand for the implementation of a policy, to which we are pledged, for the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange ". That policy, to which all Labour party members are committed, cannot resound too loudly throughout Australia. Every Labour party candidate has signed a pledge to implement the socialization plan, but he does not tell that to the voters.

Mr Calwell - Yes, he does.

Mr TURNBULL - No. I believe that, when Labour party candidates go before the people at the next election, they will find that plenty of electors are ready to ask whether they have signed that pledge.

Mr Calwell - Bank managers, for instance.

Mr TURNBULL - -If they deny that they have signed the pledge, then they cannot be Labour party candidates. If they admit it, the people will know what to expect and, if they return the party to power, they must want socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has suggested that questions may be asked by bank managers. The Minister for Transport has pointed out that certain banking organizations have set up campaign committees in order to try to put the Labour party out of office. He said -

They are doing that because the banks know that the result of the next general election is of vital importance to them.

I wrote down what he said as he said it.

Mr Calwell - The honorable member's shorthand is not good.

Mr TURNBULL - If the Minister for Transport says that banks know that the next general election is of vital importance to them, why is it of vital importance? The Minister knows why! He is the only Labour man who has come out in the open. It is of vital importance to them, because if the Government is returned, it will eliminate the private trading banks of Australia.

Mr Daly - Let us hope so.

Mr TURNBULL - The honorable member for Martin says, " Let us hope so ". He, too, openly admits that the private trading banks will be eliminated if the Government is returned to power. Other Ministers and Government sup-: porters keep private their intention to eliminate the private trading banks so that the people shall not know of it before the general election. They do not say anything about their intention, preferring to keep it hidden from the electors. I know what happens at general elections. I have attended election meetings held by Labour supporters and listened to the speeches of Labour candidates, and none has said that he is pledged to do this or that. They have kept their purposes secret and thereby tried to deceive the people.

Mr Calwell - The honorable member listened to me at a meeting recently.

Mr TURNBULL - Yes. I will tell honorable members about that shortly. The Prime Minister has said that he has given any amount of advice to people in industry; but let us see how the Prime Minister reacts when some one gives him advice. I quote the following extract from a newspaper article: -

The President of the World Bank (Eugene Black) warns dollar-debtor countries - which include ourselves, of course - that we must reduce government spending if we are to produce goods at a cost which will enable us to sell abroad.

What did the Prime Minister say about that? He merely asked whether the Opposition would say that it would withdraw any of the social services benefits that the Government was giving to the people. He has been advised to cut costs, but he cannot take advice from a man who knows more about world condition than he does. 'Social services are like the wheat strewn within the noose to catch the rooster. When the people reach out too far for social services, they will find themselves caught in the noose of socialism. The Prime Minister has been very free with advice. At the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers last year he advised the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Hollway, to raise freights and fares. That was his reply to a request for satisfactory reimbursement of the States under uniform taxation. Instead of getting more money, all that Mr. Hollway got was advice to raise freights and fares.

The Government of Victoria held out for twelve months. Then another conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers occurred and another unsuccessful attempt was made to obtain satisfactory reimbursements. So, of course, freights and fares have now risen in Victoria. The Prime Minister gave that advice, and freights and fares rose. The people of Victoria, especially those in the country districts, are very disturbed in consequence. I do not know whether we should blame the Prime Minister for having given that advice or the Premier of Victoria for having accepted it. At any rate, wherever the blame lies, the people of Victoria are alarmed at the set back that the rise of freights and fares will give to production and decentralization in the State. While the Treasurer is spending money on building up departments, against the advice of men who know, the States cannot get enough money to keep going. So he hands out a dole and advises that the States raise fares and freights. Although railways are instrumental in developing the country and bringing about decentralization and greater production, all that must be retarded by increases of freights and fares, for it is the country man who has to pay. The recent increase of telephone charges was another blow struck at the people in country districts. City men can conduct their telephonic business at 2d. a call, but country men have to make most of their calls over the trunk-line service. The city 2d. rate remained unchanged when trunkline rates were sharply increased recently. I do not want the city 2d. rate to be increased, but the increased trunk-line rates have forced up the costs of men in country districts. Men in places like Bairnsdale and Mildura are hit all the time.

Mr Calwell - The honorable member voted for the bill.

Mr TURNBULL - I was opposed to the increase, as the Minister knows.

Mr Calwell - The honorable member voted for it.

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