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Thursday, 19 February 1959

Mr JOSKE (Balaclava) . - I desire to express my best personal wishes to the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, to thank them for their thoughtful speeches, and to wish them great success in this Parliament. I should also like to express the great personal pleasure that I am sure we all feel at the fact that Her Royal Highness the Princess Alexandra of Kent will be visiting the Commonwealth this year.

The Governor-General's Speech deals with the policy which will be adopted by the Government. Of course, the Government has to act both administratively and legislatively, and therefore the GovernorGeneral's Speech, to a great extent, deals with matters of administration. It is important to remember that it is a Speech which follows upon the successful election of the Menzies Government to the treasury bench for the fifth time. It is a remarkable record that a Ministry should be elected again and again, but what is still more remarkable is that the Government should come back once more with a record majority. That is indicative of the fact that the people of Australia believe that the Menzies Government has produced sound government policy, and that the people of Australia are right behind the Menzies Government and want it to be the Ministry which will govern Australia during the next three years. Consequently, it is quite idle for people to interject that the Menzies Government has not the confidence of the people of Australia. Of course, it has. The Government produced a policy at the elections and amongst the matters referred to was an undertaking that the banking bills would be introduced again. Yet yesterday the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) said that it was strange that the Menzies Government was re-introducing the banking bills and that it was doing so only at the wish of the private banks.

Mr Curtin - Hear, hear! That is very true.

Mr JOSKE - A moment ago the gentleman who just interjected said that the banking bills were the only things in the Government's policy. The banking bills were in the forefront of the Government's policy and obviously would be the first matters to be introduced. Those bills having been in the forefront of the Government's policy, the people of Australia have given a definite mandate to the Menzies Government to bring in that legislation and to see that it is passed. The bills will be brought in, not at the behest of any of the private banks. They will be brought in and passed on the basis of a mandate which has been given to the Government and which the Government is bound to carry out. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to notice the words that I use. The Government is bound to carry out that mandate. If we did not do so, we would be guilty of deceit. We have not followed the example of the Government of New Zealand which, during its election campaign, made all sorts of promises and then made no attempt to carry them out. That is the kind of political deceit for which the Menzies Government would not stand for one moment. That is the kind of political deceit which did so much harm to the Australian Labour party at the last elections.

What is the sound type of government for which the Menzies Government has been applauded by the people of Australia? It is a government based initially upon the view that there should be a limited general disarmament but that in the meantime the defence of Australia should be properly looked after. It is a government based upon further great production and tremendous industrial expansion. So great has been the success of the Government along those lines that, although there was a great fall in the overseas prices of primary products and the like, nevertheless there was hardly a ripple on the surface of the Australian economy, because it had become so well founded that the Government was able to carry on with probably the lowest amount of unemployment of any country in the free world.

The people of Australia realized these things. They realized that the great immigration policy must be continued. They realized that a tremendous amount had been done in the way of housing and they wanted more done for housing. The Government, in the policy speech that it delivered, said that a record amount of money would be spent on housing. In all sorts of other directions the Government is providing for investigations so that expansion may continue. Honorable members have mentioned an investigation into the dairying industry. There are also to be investigations with a view to helping trade and commerce, and investigations into taxation laws, bills of exchange laws, and the question of a decimal currency. I take particular pride in the lastmentioned item, because I had some part in introducing a deputation on that matter to the Prime Minister. In addition, the great Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization research work will be continued.

In other words, even the expansion that has taken place in the last few years will be nothing like the tremendous expansion which will take place in the next few years.

The Constitution Review Committee will be formed again to consider revision of the Constitution. The financial relationship between the States and the Commonwealth is to be discussed at a conference of the Premiers with the Commonwealth.

Another great problem, that of finance for roads, will also be discussed. Commonwealth and State financial relationships and the problem of finance for roads are matters which require very earnest attention, and I believe they are to be given very earnest attention.

I point out to honorable members that the Constitution Review Committee, which has been probably the most successful interparty committee this Parliament has ever known, dealt, in its report, with the question of Commonwealth and State financial relations. That committee spent a tremendous amount of time in trying to solve this knotty problem. The committee sought to discover a formula which could be placed in the Constitution and which would last for many years as a solution to this problem. The truth is that there is no formula discoverable which is likely to last over a long period of years. The changing circumstances of the Commonwealth and the States, and the fact that no one knows what the future holds make it impossible to deal with matters such as those by laying down some rigid rule that cannot be altered. The founders of the Constitution themselves realized that, and provided only what should be done during the first ten years of the Constitution. Since then, there have had to be constant discussions between the Commonwealth and the States to meet the problems of the moment.

Realizing all these things, the Constitution Review Committee has recommended that the only way in which this problem can be worked out satisfactorily in these days is to have conferences between the persons who are vitally interested - the Premiers of the States and representatives of the Commonwealth Government. The committee felt that such persons should be able to work out, when they meet round the table, some method by which, for a period of years at least, financial relationships can be adjusted.

In addition, the Commonwealth proposes to implement the Murray Report on universities and to set up a University Grants

Committee. In England, there is a universities grants commission, a most impartial tribunal, which has worked very satisfactorily indeed; and it is confidently expected that, by setting up a committee, we shall be able to get fair and just treatment in meeting the needs of our universities.

Bankruptcy and copyright laws are also to be dealt with. The Commonwealth has been dealing with the whole of the law of industrial property and bankruptcy over the years, and these matters are to be further considered during this session.

A matter of tremendous importance in the Governor-General's Speech is mention of the fact that at last, after many years of struggle, after a great fight, after a certain amount of disappointment, we are to have uniform laws on marriage and divorce. To me, that is as manna in the wilderness.

The social services are also to be attended to. No doubt honorable members have read recently with interest the statements by Professor Downing of the University of Melbourne. It is interesting to note that Professor Downing considers that, generally, the present social service payments are reasonable, having regard to world standards; but he does emphasize that the special payment required by the single person is on the low side. As I recall it, that special payment is now £4 17s. 6d. a week. Professor Downing suggests it should be £5 10s. a week. No doubt that matter will be considered by the Minister when he is dealing with social service legislation.

Another matter which Professor Downing emphasizes is that the property means test should be abolished. He suggests that where a person possesses property of a value above that which we now regard as the maximum permissible under the means test, that property should be dealt with from the point of view of what income the capital value of thai property could produce. For instance, suppose the pensioner applicant owns p. house property which is returning him £2 a week. If that house were sold and the capital value invested in. for example, an annuity, or something of that kind, it might very well produce £4 10s. a week. It is on that basis that he suggests it should be dealt with when considering the income of the pensioner applicant.

As matters stand at present, a property such as that returning £2 a week, if it is not the home of the pensioner applicant, would prevent his receiving any pension al all, but if it is considered on the basis that he could invest the capital value and obtain a return of £4 10s. a week, he would be looked upon as being eligible for a pension of £3 7s. 6d. a week and thus would be enabled to live at a reasonable standard. I emphasize that this Government has supported the ownership of property, as Professor Downing has pointed out, but at present, the man or woman who prefers to keep property, who receives only £2 a week from that property and who, because of that £2 a week, is debarred from receiving the pension, finds life exceedingly penurious indeed. This matter does call for the most earnest and serious consideration by both the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and the Government. Undoubtedly, the property means test should be abolished. It is only a matter of time before it must be abolished and this Government will undoubtedly win distinction if it is courageous enough to abolish it.

I should like now to refer to another matter which has been raised during this debate. I speak of the joint statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and Dr. Subandrio. It does seem to me that both inside and outside this House there has been a complete misunderstanding of what that statement means. Here, I refer honorable members to the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, and in particular to article 73 which is binding on members of the United Nations which are charged with the responsibility of looking after trusteeship territory. We have at least one such territory of our own to look after and, therefore, are bound by article 73 of the Charter of the United Nations. This Charter provides for the self-government of peoples when they emerge from their primitive state and are well enough able to govern themselves. That is the type of government which we hope eventually to be able to bring about in New Guinea. I say this, I trust, with some authority, because I was a member of the Trusteeship Committee, representing Australia, in the United Nations. That was certainly the view of and instruction which I got from the department, and I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that it is the general international principle, a principle which is accepted throughout the world, and rightly and properly so. It is certainly accepted by the members of the United Nations and, as I say, it is binding upon Australia.

That being so, what is wrong with our Minister insisting that all agreements relating to the future of western New Guinea must accord with internationally accepted principles? That means nothing more and nothing less than that the primitive people of western New Guinea must have a government which will aim to bring them out of their primitive state, raising them to a position in which they are able to govern themselves. I certainly would not be prepared to support the Government - which T do support - if I had the slightest doubt that it meant anything else but that. But so far from this binding Australia in a way that is against Australia's interests, in fact it has done the very opposite.

Here is a joint statement made by Dr. Subandrio and the Australian Minister for External Affairs. Dr. Subandrio is part and parcel of the statement. He has accepted it. It means only that he and his country on whose behalf he acted can accept an agreement with Holland only if it provides for all those things which were emphasized by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) yesterday. Those are the provisions which are contained in the United Nations Charter. I do not regard this agreement and the statement that has been made by the representatives of the two countries as a retrogressive step but as a step forward. Certainly, it has elucidated the position and has let Indonesia know just where it and we stand. The Indonesians have accepted it through their Minister being a party to it.

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