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
Friday, 23 September 1949

Mr WILLIAMS (Robertson) .- The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who has just resumed his seat, referred to me as one who seldom speaks in the Parliament. In reply to that observation, all I shall say is that if I spoke as badly and as inaccurately as does the honorable member, who is like an old woman, always mumbling incoherently and acting the buffoon, I should speak even less frequently than I do. He speaks often, but he does not say anything worth while. I speak seldom, but I always have something to say.

Unlike the- honorable member for Balaclava, I do not talk twaddle. Although the honorable member has addressed the chamber for three-quarters of an hour, he cannot keep his. tongue still while I make my speech. He wants to speak all the time; He is- known as a constant interjector, and at times the occupant of the chair cannot control him. He has been named and suspended for disorderly conduct. Yet he has the impudence to criticize honorable members on this side of the chamber, because they are not always jumping up in their places, speaking on every possible occasion and acting like buffoons, saying nothing but causing the listeners amusement.

The budget discloses a state of national prosperity undreamed of in the past. It reveals that a mastermind has been guiding this nation through the difficult economic times that have been encountered since the end of the war. The budget is the national balance-sheet,, and the people have complimented the Government on its good business sense and its clever handling of the nation's finances. The people are the shareholders in the nation's prosperity, and they derive great comfort from the realization that responsible authorities and critics of the budget admit that Australia, through careful government, stands in a very sound position economically among the nations of the world. However much honorable members of the Opposition criticize this budget, they can draw little comfort from the realization of the fact, that they will have to wait many years before they will be returned to the treasury bench. They may never have that experience. Honorable members of the Opposition have dressed their election window, and members of the Labour party do not mind that, so long as they have an opportunity to submit their case to the people.

Mr White - I think that all honorable members should hear the honorable gentleman, and, therefore, I direct attention to the state of the committee.

Mr Daly - I rise to order ! I should like to know whether the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) is in order in directing attention to the state of the committee when two-thirds of the Liberal party are attending a holiday camp.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Sheehy - There is no point of order. The bells will be rung. [Quorum formed.]

Mr WILLIAMS - The honorable member for Balaclava cannot bear to listen to my speech without interrupting me. We all know that few members of the Opposition are present this morning.

Mr McLEOD (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Only four of them are present..

Mr Calwell - Who are they?

Mr Turnbull - I rise to order! On Wednesday evening, when I happened to mention that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had' left the chamber, the occupant of the chair called me to order and said that I should not say whether an honorable member was in the chamber or outside it. The honorable member for Robertson has stated' that very few honorable members are present this morning. I submit that he is not in order in doing so.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - There is no point of order.

Mr WILLIAMS - The Labour Government has given to the people benefits that were denied to them for many years by non-Labour- governments. It has assured them freedom- from want and fear, and has given them reasonable social and economic conditions; The Liberal party and the Australian Country party have no record of their treatment of the people of which they can be proud. The workers, the primary producers and the housewives remember the suffering and misery which existed when the Opposition parties occupied the treasury bench. AntiLabour governments in those years were unable or unwilling to alleviate the distress of the people. The position has now changed. With the Labour party in office, the present prosperous condition of the country will continue, and, indeed, will be improved. If the Liberal party and the Australian Country party were returned to the treasury bench, there would be a real danger that prosperity would quickly disappear. Wages would be reduced and working hours would be increased. A few nights ago, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie

Cameron), by way of interjection, admitted that he would do his best to have the 40-hour working week abolished.

Mr Archie CAMERON - Hear, hear! T believe in work, not loafing.

Mr WILLIAMS - The honorable member, who is a big "noise" in the Liberal party, said that he would put that statement in writing if we asked him to do so. The people know that the Liberal party will attempt to abolish a 40-hour week if ever it has an opportunity to do so. If the Liberal party should be returned to office, the primary .producers will again be left to the mercy of the middlemen, who exploited them in the past and who are the real power behind the Opposition. Certain social services benefits would also be lost to the people, whose security would be endangered. If the present scale of social services were reduced, the small business men wouk be the great sufferers, because many of them depend to a large degree on the circulation of the money that people receive from social services. In the course of a year millions of pounds, which this Government distributes as social services payments aTe in circulation, and if that spending were reduced, a recession would follow, and small business men would be the greatest sufferers. The Labour Government has achieved much; and it is achievement, not talk, that counts. No farmers, small business men or working men and women can honestly say that they are not better off to-day than they were in pre-war years. The simple issue which the people will soon have to decide is whether they will place their trust in the Prime Minister or in the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). The records of those two gentlemen speak for themselves. The Leader of the Opposition, knowing that the chief issue at the forthcoming election will be security of employment and the maintenance of national prosperity, is trying desperately to manufacture issues more to the liking of the Opposition. He would prefer the issues of communism and nationalization of banking. However, every school child knows that this Government is the deadly enemy of communism. The Communists hate and detest the Government. They are run ning candidates against the Australian Labour party, and lining up with the Liberals in an effort to defeat the Government.. As a matter of fact, the propaganda of the Liberal party is very much on Communist lines. The Liberals have groups of people going around the country trying to intimidate the people in the manner of stand-over men, which is the method that the Communists employ. What happened during the recent coal strike has convinced every thinking Australian that the Communists are getting no sympathy from the Chifley Government, and are never likely to get any.

The Leader of the Opposition would be very happy, indeed, to have nationalization of banking made an issue at the forthcoming election. The honorable member for Balaclava, like the Leader of the Opposition the other night, made considerable play on this question. He quoted the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) as having said that the banks would yet be nationalized. He placed his own interpretation, a false one, on what the Minister said. All those who were present when the Minister for Transport spoke heard him express his personal opinion that although the Privy Council had pronounced against bank nationalization, that was not the end of the matter; that in the years to come a Labour government would eventually get the necessary power, and the banks would be nationalized'. That is a fair interpretation of what the Minister said. We know, as does the Opposition, that bank nationalization is as dead as the dodo, and that it would be just as hard to revive. The Privy Council has agreed with the High Court that the Government of Australia has no constitutional power to nationalize banking. Since the Government has no power to do so, of what use is it to tell the people that if this Government is returned' at the next election the banks will be nationalized? Members of the Opposition are talking what is, in fact, sheer humbug. They are not prepared to tell the people the truth. They are trying to mislead the people, who understand well enough that since the Privy Council has decided against the Government on the constitutional issue as it affects the nationalization of banking, that is an end of the matter. The only way in which it could become an issue again would be for this or some succeeding government to hold a referendum in an endeavour to obtain from the people power to nationalize banking. Then it would be up to the electors themselves to grant or refuse that power. In the meantime, no good purpose is served by talking twaddle to the effect that if the Labour party is returned at the next election the banks will be nationalized. Of course, the Leader of the Opposition knows the great power of the banks, and he wants that power behind him. He wants all the bank clerks in country towns to work for his party in the election campaign. Members of the Opposition realize that if they were to tell the truth, and say that nationalization is no longer a danger, the banks would probably not put so much money into the Liberal party campaign, and bank clerks would not be so enthusiastic in giving their help to the Opposition parties. Therefore, the Opposition wants to keep the banking issue alive, but at the election the issue will be neither the nationalization ofbanking nor communism. The people know that the Labour Government fought and defeated the Communists, and that 53 trade unions in Australia, including some of the most powerful ones, lined up behind the Government to defeat what was a criminal conspiracy to discredit and destroy the Government. For the way it handled the strike the Government has earned the congratulations of all right-thinking persons in Australia. Was the Government to stand idle, and let the Communists take charge? We have a suspicion that some of the leading Communists are conspiring with certain persons connected with the Opposition, and that they will use their joint endeavours to defeat the Government in the election. Some people like the honorable member for Balaclava, who has now gone out of the chamber, have the impudence to tell the people that this is a Communist government, or that it will be influenced by the Communists. The people of Australia know that they have a sane, sensible Government, which led them through the war and into the peace, and has now given them economic security. They know that solongasa Labour government is in power they will have good social services, full employment and a high standard of living, and that there will never be any need to fear communism. They know that communism thrives on misery and despair such as afflicted the people when anti-Labour governments were in power. We can forget all about bank nationalization for the time being.

Mr White -I rise to a point of order. T understand that the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) mentioned my absence from the chamber. I was called out in order to check some figures for the Hansard record of my speech.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Sheehy - Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. There is a standing order . which says that when the occupant of the chair is on his feet speaking the other honorable members must remain silent. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) had no right to interrupt the honorable member for Robertson on a point of order such as he raised. He can make a personal explanation later. I do not recollect having heard the honorable member for Robertson refer to the honorable member for Balaclava.

Mr WILLIAMS - Every honorable member on this side of the chamber hopes that the Privy Council's decisions, when they are published, will show no reason why the Banking Act of 1945 should not stand unimpaired. No government can govern properly unless it has power to control the credit of the nation.

This Government has a remarkable record of achievement in the spheres of social services and general political economy, but it will probably be remembered best in the years to come because of the beginning that it has made with works designed to develop the physical face of Australia. To those of us who love our country there is nothing more interesting or desirable than the planning and carrying out of great national development schemes. This Government, and the State Governments of New South Wales and Queensland, are determined to make good use of this land and to develop and improve it as far as they are capable of doing so. Many great works have already been initiated. There are the

Snowy Mountains project and the River Murray water conservation scheme. The Government of New South Wales has undertaken great works on the Mumimbidgee River. Remedial measures designed to strengthen and improve the Burrinjuck Dam. are continuing. An amount of £350,000 has been allocated for work on a water storage project on the Lachlan River. which is almost complete. The first of 35 weirs along the. Darling River has been completed. The estimated total cost of those undertakings is £450,000. A storage, to cost between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000, is to be constructed at Lake Menindie. On the Macquarie River, work is proceeding on the Burrendong Dam, the cost of which is expected to exceed £4,000,000. Construction of the Keepit Dam on the Namoi River is well advanced. The estimated cost of that work is over £4,000,000. Great developmental undertakings have been planned for the Hunter River Valley, in the electorate that I represent, an area in which I have always had the greatest possible interest. Expenditure on the Glenbawn Dam this year is expected to be £42,000. The total cost of that undertaking will exceed £3,000,000. Investigations at other dam sites in the Hunter Valley are well in hand. The general plan for the valley provides for both flood control and water conservation projects. It will be a great day for Australia when the works planned and undertaken in the Hunter Valley by the Government of New South Wales, aided by the Australian Government, are completed. The Maitland district has just suffered a disastrous flood that would not have occurred had the dams that are now planned been complete. One sympathizes with the people in that area who lost so much of their property in the flood, and especially with the citizens of Kempsey. I take this opportunity to refer to the activities of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who must be praised for his efforts to alleviate the sufferings of the people of Kempsey. However, the right honorable gentleman, having accepted the praise to which he is entitled, now talks loudly and long about the necessity for water conservation and flood control measures, particularly along the Macleay River. We are entitled to ask, as the people of Kempsey to whom I have spoken ask, " What did the right honorable gentleman do to promote those works, which he now exhorts the Government to undertake, during the many years in which he was a powerful figure in this country?" Why is he now attempting to make political propaganda against this Government and the Labour Government in New South Wales on the ground that they have failed to erect dams? The plain fact is that he did nothing when he had the opportunity to assist in this sphere of work. He fell down, on his job. He had a glorious opportunity to go ahead with the works that he now urges this Government to undertake, because he was in power during the depression.

The successive governments of which he was a member had full control of both houses of this Parliament and, had he and his colleagues been sufficiently farsighted and wise, the projects that he now talks about could have been completed then. Employment could have been provided for thousands of men. Money could have been made to work for us instead of being allowed to become our master. But the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues did not take advantage of the great opportunity that was available to them. They just said, " We have no money with which to carry out these great national works ", although people were walking the streets of our cities in thousand's or working at useless jobs, such as shifting sand, for the sake of a miserable pittance with which to keep body and soul together. That is how the anti-Labour parties governed the country. I have a great fear that, should they ever return to power again, they would reduce taxes so drastically, in order to satisfy the wealthy people of Australia, that they would have scarcely any money in the nation's coffers. The result would be that the great development schemes planned and commenced by this Government would have to be discontinued. Then they would merely say to the people, " It is too bad, but we cannot afford to do the work".

That is why I am so concerned about the validity of the Banking Act of 1945. If that act had not been challenged, this Government would not have even attempted to nationalize the banks. All that the Government wanted to do was to protect itself and the credit of the nation. It wanted to have power over the national credit so that it could use the country's wealth to develop the country. It will be a major tragedy if the Banking Act of 1945 should ever be declared to be invalid. I. am very pleased that reference has been made in the budget to the great d velopmental works that the Government has initiated. Honorable members opposite, in criticizing the budget, have made no reference to the Government's policies in relation to immigration and development. The two go hand in hand - the development of the country and the introduction of new citizens. Under our good and wise Minister for Immigration (Mr.Calwell) thousands of people are being brought to Australia. They are being well cared for and will make good Australians. He should be complimented on the great job he is doing. Indeed, he has been complimented in high places, both in Australia and in other parts of the world. In his budget speech, the Treasurer dealt with the fields of power development, water supply, aviation, land transport, and research for minerals, which, as he said, are prerequisites for progress under the new techniques of our age. He said -

TheSnowy Mountains power scheme, for which legislation has been passed this year, will be the greatest single project so far undertaken in Australia.

The Labour Government can be proud that it has initiated the greatest single project so far undertaken in Australia. Development is to take place not only in New South Wales and Victoria, but also in Queensland. In his speech, the Treasurer said -

Discussions have been held with the Queensland Government on three other major projects. One envisagesthe use of the waters of the Burdekin River for irrigation and the generation of electricity. Under a second scheme the Barron and Walsh Rivers would be used for irrigation purposes. A third project would provide railway facilities for the Callide opencut coal-mine, and make additional supplies of coal available for all States, particularly the southern States.

It is pleasing to those well acquainted with central and northern Queensland that the Government is- to give the Queensland Government a hand in de veloping the great resources of central and northern Queensland, because, unless we develop this country with all the means we have, the millions living to the north of Australia will have cause for just complaint that we are not developing our country.

I ask leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted ; progress reported-.

Suggest corrections