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Thursday, 27 October 1949

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lazzarini) - Order ! There is nothing about cricket in the bill.

Mr WHITE - The Prime Minister is not playing cricket. That is shown by the fact that he allows his pique, when things go against him, to override the country's good. When he lost the action in the High Court which was brought by the Melbourne City Council--

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member must come back to the bill or I shall ask him to resume his seat.

Mr WHITE - Last night these matters were discussed in association with petrol and I claim the same right as has been granted to other honorable members.

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order ! The bill has nothing to do with decisions by the High Court.

Mr WHITE - I am showing how the Prime Minister has acted on other occasions. When the prices referendum was taken, the people were not asked to vote on rationing. The Government lost the referendum in every State. Instead of taking the defeat as a sportsman, the Prime Minister-

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member admits that nothing was decided about rationing at the referendum. The honorable member may not canvass the whole political field in debating this bill. He must deal with whether it is right to ration petrol or not.

Mr WHITE - I am referring to a matter that affects Australia's development. Last week, when the Parliament voted £8,000,000 to the States to recompense them for their losses during the coal strike, I asked the Prime Minister why he did not build up a stockpile of coal. He will not do so, because he is afraid to antagonize some people outside who are largely his masters. Not only are people faced with a scarcity of petrol, but they will have to pay more for such petrol as they can get. The State Ministers controlling prices will be forced to increase the price of petrol. That is partly because of the devaluation of the currency. Money now buys less than it did before. The shortage can be overcome by tariff action. The Government should not be so rapacious as it is. The Prime Minister is rapacious. He has a monopoly taxing machine and grinds 550 per cent, more out of the people than was taken from them in taxes before the war, but national income has risen by only a little more than 100 per cent. One does not need a deep knowledge of economics to know that that sort of thing cannot continue. The commodities that this country produces are wanted by a hungry world, but the Prime Minister is too obtuse to realize the possibilities. He takes reprisals on the people when things go against him. He took reprisals against the people after the defeat of the prices referendum by withdrawing subsidies. He took reprisals against the doctors-

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member must abide by the ruling that the Chair has already given.

Mr WHITE - That is a very great factor. When a country is led by a man who is so psychologically satisfied with himself that he believes that everything that he does is right and when he considers that he has no obligation to ensure that the people obtain their needs, all sorts of things may happen. There is a way out of this petrol difficulty. Has the Government considered the effects of a continuance of the present petrol shortage? The States have been put in a position in which they have to pass some legislation to ensure an equitable distribution of petrol. That has been necessary only because the Prime Minister has cut off the source of supply. Does the Government realize that 30 per cent, of the operational costs of airlines in Australia is represented by expenditure on aviation fuel, on which there is a duty of lid. a gallon? Every increase of Id. in the price of petrol will cost Trans- Australia Airlines another £35,000 a year. Ever since its foundation that airline has been losing money and the losses have to be provided by the Australian taxpayers. In spite of the percentage figures cited by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) from time to time, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, a .private enterprise, carries more passengers and freight than does the Government's airline. An increase of 3 1/2d. a gallon in the price of petrol would cost that company £45,000 a year. Increased petrol prices would result in diminished airline services to the people in the outback whose sole communication with the rest of the Commonwealth is often the flying doctor services. The Government may look at the affairs of some small aviation company that is servicing an outback area and decide to reduce its subsidy and the company would have to reduce its services.

I have some figures that show how indifferent the Government is to the progress that Australia has already made. We are endeavouring to develop our population by natural increase and by immigration, because we are only a white outpost on the edge of Asia, a continent that has half the world's population and where there are people who have their eyes on this country. "We have to rely on the rest of the Empire and on the United States. There has undoubtedly been some creditable development in Australia in a century and a half. Statistics on the importation of petrol show the progress of motor transport, which has played and is now playing a most important part in our development. In the last year before the war we imported 333,000,000 gallons. In 1947, after years of petrol rationing, we imported 397,000,000 gallons, and in 1948 we imported 407,000,000 gallons. Now, at the end of 1949, the Government lays down that we shall only be permitted to import 440,000,000 gallons, and damn the consequences ! It does not matter to the Government who suffers. There is no reason why private motorists should not have the petrol they require. What about the requirements of medical men and of commercial motor transport? If honorable members on the Government side of the House think that commercial motor transport does not matter, let me remind them that the number of commercial motor vehicles in Australia increased by over 200,000 between 1938 and this year, compared with an increase of only 100,000 in the number of private motor vehicles. The people who operate commercial motor vehicles will find their industry and employment placed in jeopardy by the Government's proposals. As honorable members know, many service stations refuse to supply petrol to travellers so that men driving transport waggons on the roads run the risk of finding their vehicles immobilized in transit.

I consider that it is well to have a quantity of petrol earmarked for defence, but the Government's refusal to consider making available a part of the 50,000,000 gallons that it has stored away for defence purposes conflicts, with the statements of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) that there will not be a war for many years and with exaggerated statements about our readiness for defence. Last night the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) said that Australia was in a great state of unreadiness in 1941, and he also mentioned the shortage of petrol. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is to be commended for his stand on this issue of petrol, and last night he answered the Government's statements completely when he said that a government formed by the present Opposition parties sent petrol to Great Britain in 1941 to help that country in its dire need. The Leader of the Australian Country party has said that petrol can be obtained, and I think that nobody doubts that fact now; but for a long time the Prime Minister attacked him and tried to put him in the wrong. I know that in 1941 there was never any shortage of petrol for the Air Force training that we carried out in cooperation with other Empire countries. The Prime Minister from time to time has blamed Great Britain's troubles for our present petrol position, but he knows that there are ways out of the present position. He knows that it is possible to buy petrol from the sterling areas. He also knows that an increase in the price of petrol will create hardship for Aus,tralians. He would sooner do that than make a tax concession.

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about this petrol issue. Many people believe that either the Government of ' Victoria or the Government of New South Wales is in some measure to blame for the present position. That is not so. The ultimate basic reason for that position is the cutting off of imports by the Prime Minister. I do not know on whose calculations he worked, or whether they were the calculations of a bureaucrat or a member of the Labour party caucus, but he has taken the responsibility of bringing this trouble upon us. He has attempted to create the impression that the States are responsible for the shortage so that his Government can take action to release petrol immediately before the general election and enable Ministers to issue .propaganda to the effect that the Labour party in its federal sphere was able to make petrol available to the people.

Mr Calwell - Hear, hear!

Mr WHITE - I have seen the latest publication of the Minister for Information, who has just interjected. I do not know whether it is printed at public expense or not, but the Minister should be ashamed of some of the misleading statements that appear in- it. In that publication, the Minister confirms the fact that the Government intends to say that the Labour party enabled the .people to get petrol. In fact, however, it is only the Australian Government and no other government which controls the importation of petrol, because it has sole control of customs matters under the Constitution. The Prime Minister has decided, perhaps aided and abetted by some of the minor despots around him, that Australia shall receive only a certain quantity of petrol. Just as he cut out subsidies after the defeat of the prices referendum and so caused prices to increase, so he also said on this occasion, in effect, "We shall cut off petrol and put State governments in difficulties. Many people will blame the State governments and when we make petrol available nt the last minute we shall get the credit ". There is an old saying that " You can fool some of the people all oi the time and all of the people some of the time, but that you cannot fool all of the people all of the time ". The Prime Minister has been adopting such tactics for some years. It is clever work to take up .a piqued attitude and act the despot, find put the blame for difficulties on somebody else, but I think that on this present occasion, because petrol is a commodity so important to the life of the community, the people will see through the Prime Minister's scheme. The people are tired of the policy of the socialists who are doctrinaire politicians. The socialist policy is socialism of the means of production, distribution and exchange. That policy refers among other things to the distribution of petrol. The Government intends to own and control all that it can own and control, but I think that this time the people will think that the socialists, with their policy of meddle and muddle have misruled us for too long. In a few hours the Eighteenth Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia will end and the various political parties will go to the hustings. All kinds of distortions about this Government's alleged achievement have already been issued. Every Minister has published some sort of blurb extolling his department's activities. The booklet issued by the Minister for Labour and National

Service (Mr. Holloway) contains many statistics that are open to challenge. The facts relating to this subject may be very seriously misconstrued by many people because of the propaganda which the Government sends out at the expense of the public and- not, as it should' be, at the expense of the Australian Labour party. The people are very long-suffering and tolerant, and, above all, are sportsmanlike in their attitude. They will decide that this Labour Government, which does not really represent the people, because its members are mere delegates of outside bodies instead of being true representatives of the people, as we are, has occupied the treasury bench for much too long a time.

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member must deal with the bill.

Mr WHITE - The petrol issue will be one of the many that will bring about the downfall of this Government. The people who will soon be given an opportunity to express their views will sweep these muddlers and meddlers from the treasury bench.

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