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Tuesday, 23 September 1958

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) (Minister for Labour and National Service) . - I do not want to detain the House for very long. However, there has been a statement of the official Labour attitude by a senior member of the Australian Labour party, in the person of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), which should be either confirmed or disowned. If it is confirmed, it would make clear the current expression of the official policy of the Australian Labour party, and that related directly to the subject before the Chair. It would also give assurances to many members of the public, which they would wish to have, as to the methods that a Labour government, if it came to office in future years, would adopt in relation to matters set out in the federal platform of the Labour party. This is entirely linked with the subject before the Chair, because it is quite clear from the speeches of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) and others who preceded him on the Opposition side that they do not approve of the health scheme propounded by this Government. To the extent that we can discover what is the official Labour policy on matters of health, it is to be found in the federal platform and objective of the Australian Labour party. Under the methods which are to be used to give effect to the objectives of the Labour party, we find the nationalization of public health.

Mr Duthie - What about the principles of action?

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - If time permitted, I would be prepared to read a good deal of this. I can assure honorable gentlemen opposite that I am not endeavouring to misrepresent the position. I have in my hand the statement of the federal platform and objective. It is not the latest statement; unfortunately, I have not been able to get that from the library because it is in the possession of the honorable member for Wilmot. However, this statement is as recent as the report of the proceedings held at Hobart on 15th March, 1955.

Mr Curtin - Like you, it is out of date.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member will be out somewhere else in a minute.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - If the honorable member for Wilmot would enlighten me on the latest manifestations of the platform, it would be helpful, but, as far as I can ascertain, this is only out of date because a certain sugar coating has been given to the objective by bringing in the expression " democratic " before the word /'socialization". The federal platform and objective stated as recently as the Hobart conference of March, 1955, substantially represents what after all has been the continuing objective of the Labour party since it adopted socialization in 1921. It is -

The Socialization of Industry, Production, Distribution and Exchange. . . .

There have been a number of interpretations of the objective in order to give some gloss to it and to soften its severity, and in recent years these words have been added -

.   . to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other anti-social features in those fields - in accordance with the Principles of Action, Methods and Progressive Reforms set out in this Platform.

Under the heading " Principles of Action " occurs one of the passages to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh turns to justify his claim that the Labour party would not and, indeed, could not nationalize any industry without first having obtained the approval of the people by referendum. Under " Principles of Action " appears the following passage: -

(a)   Constitutional action through Commonwealth and State Parliaments, Municipal and other Statutory Authorities.

I hope that I have not misquoted the honorable gentleman. I do not think that there is any occasion to read out the remaining principles of action. They do not bear directly on this argument. I come then to the methods by which this objective, followed by the principle of action that I have read out, is to be applied. The relevant item under " Methods " is -

4.   Nationalization of -

(a)   Banking, Credit and Insurance.

(b)   Monopolies.

(c)   Shipping.

(d)   Public Health.

(e)   Radio Services.

(f)   Sugar Refining.

Presumably radio services include television services. Indeed, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has made it clear that the nationalization of television is amongst the methods by which the objective is to be attained.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - How can you do that without a referendum?

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - This brings me directly to the point, and this is the only point with which I want to deal to-night. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has confirmed his statement by his interjection. He asks, " How can you deal with that except by way of referendum? " I suggest to him that there are various ways, as I am sure my colleague from Parramatta (Sir Garfield Barwick) would confirm, by which a socialist-minded government, determined to carry out a socialist policy, could achieve socialist objectives without recourse to referendum at all - that is, by direct executive act. Indeed, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has gone on record as saying, " If we can get nine years of Labour government in the Federal Parliament, we can change the whole face of Australia ". He did not qualify that by saying Labour would do it by way of referendum. If he is now agreeing with the honorable member for Hindmarsh that no industry would be nationalized without a referendum first indicating the approval of the people, I regard that as a major declaration of method by the Australian Labour party.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The High Court made that clear.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - No, the High Court has not made that clear, with great respect. The High Court has not said that these things cannot be accomplished by executive act. For example, in order to nationalize the steel industry, Labour could adopt taxation and prices policies which would put the steel industry out of business. It could force the banks out of business by so using the Commonwealth Bank and its interest rates and so forth as to make it quite impossible for any private bank to carry on. We on this side of the House know something about this matter because I re-stated quite frankly for the benefit of honorable gentlemen opposite that we included in our policy statement in 1949 a declaration that we would endeavour to put through a constitutional reform which would make it necessary for a referendum of the people first to approve the nationalization of any industry.

Mr Barnard - What has this to do with the National Health Bill?

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - It has got this to do with the National Health Bill: Your party has declared its opposition to the health scheme. Your party's policy on health is declared in its federal platform, which declares for the nationalization of public health services.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - How can you do that by executive act?

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - The honorable member for Hindmarsh keeps returning to his refrain; but I have not heard much concurrence in it from honorable gentlemen opposite. That is what I am trying to get at because, I repeat, this is a major statement of Australian Labour party method. Will the Labour party now go on public record with an assurance that no industry in this country will be nationalized either by executive act or in any other manner unless there has first been a. referendum of the people in which they give their approval to that process of nationalization? That is what I invite honorable gentlemen opposite to tell us. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh is accurately stating the attitude of the Australian Labour party, I invite the federal leader and the federal deputy leader of the Australian Labour party to say that that is a correct interpretation of the methods which the Australian Labour party would apply to carry out itsfederal platform and objective.

I just add this: Each honorable member opposite has given his sworn pledge to the Australian Labour party. The pledgetakes a slightly different form, I understand, in different States. As I have only the Victorian form of the pledge in front of me, I shall quote that. According to this, " The Official Constitution and Platform of the Australian Labour Party, State of Victoria ", the federal candidate's pledge is as follows: -

I hereby pledge myself not to oppose the candidate selected by the recognized political labour organization, and if elected -

This is the pregnant passage - to do my utmost to carry out the principles embodied in the Australian Labour Party's platform, and on .all questions affecting the platform- to vote as a majority of the Parliamentary Party may decide at a duly constituted Caucus meeting.

That, 1 understand, is an accurate statement of the substance, anyhow, of the pledge adopted by all honorable gentlemen opposite. If we turn from that pledge to the platform, we find in the platform a statement about the nationalization of public health services, putting aside for a moment the other fields in which there is to be nationalization under Labour. Therefore, it becomes a matter of first-rate importance to the Australian people to know whether nationalization by Labour will be preceded always by a referendum in which honorable gentlemen opposite receive a clear mandate on a specific issue - that is, a referendum in which the proposal to nationalize a particular industry or activity has been submitted to the people. I would welcome a clear declaration on this matter from the honorable gentlemen opposite, as would many hundreds of thousands of people throughout Australia who are prepared to look fairly at all the possibilities that the alternative government can offer, but who are certainly not going to entrust the destinies of this country to a party pledged to socialize vital industries and services without its first being authorized to do so as a result of gaining the specific approval of the people.

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