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Tuesday, 23 August 1960

Mr HAMILTON (Canning) .- The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) began by answering the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who had twitted the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) with not using his full time. The honorable member for East Sydney said that the members of the Opposition had not had time to go through the Budget like the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) had been able to do. First, let me put the record straight. The Government made an offer to the Opposition, through the Leader of the Opposition and I assume, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), to give the Leader of the Opposition unlimited time to go through the Budget. The Leader of the Opposition foundered on the way. He had not trained for a full-length bout and faded out in the tenth round.

The honorable member for East Sydney mounted his hobby horse. Some of us can remember the days when his late leader, Mr. Chifley, and the majority of the Labour Party decided to support the Bretton Woods Agreement. The honorable member for East Sydney did not support that agreement, which provided for the introduction of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank, but he did not have the courage to vote against it. He walked out of the House and left the rest of his party to support the legislation. The honorable member has been out of tune with his party on the subject of overseas funds ever since. He was so much out of tune with his party at one time that he opposed the immigration policy which was introduced by the Labour Government of which he was a member. He said that no immigrants should be brought to Australia until the housing position was adjusted. The Australian Labour Party was in office in this Parliament at that time and it had the support of Labour governments in most of the States of the Commonwealth. Ever since it has been in opposition it has criticized housing, national development and other legislation time and time again. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who is getting very excited, should not say too much, because he is one of those who have said some very strange things in this Parliament, and I remember all of them.

I want to turn my attention now to the record of General Motors-Holden's Limited. The honorable member for East Sydney and some of his colleagues in the Labour Party have criticized that company, and I admit quite frankly that I do not agree completely with the profit it is making. I believe that the company could reduce the price of its vehicles somewhat. It may have to reduce the price soon in view of competition from another vehicle that is coming on to the market. To use the honorable member's own words, the company has ploughed back £50,000,000 of its profits. Surely he realizes that by ploughing back that money into the industry, the company has provided work and wealth for the workers of Australia. The painters, the bricklayers and people in almost every section of industry have had some advantage from the profits that General Motors-Holden's Limited has ploughed back. If honorable members study the White Paper on national income and expenditure, they will see that purchases of motor cars and motor cycles in the past twelve months have increased by about £36,000,000. Who bought most of the Holden cars? They were bought by white collar workers, electricians, carpenters and all those working people whom the Opposition claims to represent. We know that Opposition members have misrepresented the workers ever since they have been in this Parliament.

The honorable member for East Sydney went on to talk about hire purchase. It has been said many times - and nobody knows this better than the honorable member for East Sydney - that the Commonwealth Government, irrespective of political colour, has doubtful constitutional powers in respect of hire purchase. Some years ago, the Prime Minis :er (Mr. Menzies) and the previous Treasurer suggested to the States that they should refer some of their powers to this Government for a limited period so that it might keep some sort of a curb on hire purchase. What did the States do? The Labour Premier of New South Wales, having refused to do anything about referring powers to the Commonwealth, returned to Sydney to make hire purchase easier than it was before. Now, every time we have a debate on finance in this Parliament, members of the Labour Party mount the hobby horse of hire purchase. Why do not they try to persuade the State Governments to refer their powers to this Parliament? The States would not have to refer those powers for all time. They should try to get the States to act in unison and put a curb on hire purchase, but the honorable member for East Sydney knows as well as the rest of us that the Opposition does not want to do that because it might become unpopular. Any government that is afraid to do unpopular things usually turns out to be a Labour government.

The honorable member for East Sydney referred to prices control. He accused this Government of being the real instigator of inflation. He concluded by almost blaming us for the fall in wool prices. In this day and age, the Opposition would say anything. I remind the honorable member for East Sydney that when a referendum on prices control was introduced by Mr. Chifley, his late leader, in 1948, the Queensland Labour Government led by Mr. Hanlon was diametrically opposed to the referendum.

Mr Ward - That is not true.

Mr HAMILTON - Look at the record, and see also what they said in Western Australia. The honorable member spoke of curbing inflation. It has been said that the rate of inflation in the Labour government's day was something like 9 per cent. What have the honorable member for Sydney and his colleagues done when this Government has made a move to curb or hold inflation in check? Recently, when import restrictions were reviewed, there was a hullabaloo from the Labour Party about it. The Opposition does not believe in allowing the working people to get plenty of goods as cheaply as they can. That is what the lifting of import restrictions would tend to do. The Labour Party opposed the Japanese Trade Agreement, not realizing for one moment how much the Japanese would buy from us, thus creating overseas funds for us, and how it would help our industries to get moving. In its narrow short-sighted way, the Labour Party opposed that agreement.

Finally, the honorable gentleman from East Sydney said that this Government has been hoaxing the people in regard to living standards, and that the people are suffering from an illusion. I think that I know the Australian people very well. Unfortunately, some of them do not know the honorable members in this House. If the people have been suffering from an illusion, it is a wonder to me that during the last eleven years when they have had ample opportunities to turf this Government out neck and crop, they have not done so. Instead, they have repeatedly rejected the Labour Party until to-day in this House it is in a minority by 30 members.

Mr Peters - It will not be for long now.

Mr HAMILTON - Let us see what happens in 1961. I am still prepared to have a little wager with the honorable member if that is what he thinks. The Labour Party has been talking along these lines since 1949. The present leader of the party, supported by the honorable member for East Sydney and others, has said how the party would fight on the street corners and get the people to refuse to work for this Government and so on. What do we find to-day? The people have washing machines, motor cars, refrigerators, radios, television sets and every amenity that is available. More houses are being built than ever before and, to cap the lot, despite what the honorable member for East Sydney has said, the latest figures indicate that savings bank deposits amount to £1,490,000,000.

Mr Daly - How much per head it that?

Mr HAMILTON - I shall not work it out for you, but there are 8,640,000 accounts. It is no good any member of the Labour Party saying that only the wealthy -have bank accounts because for our population of 10,000,000 there are 8,640,000 accounts.

The Leader of the Opposition referred to the Curtin Government taxing high incomes at the rate of 18s. 6d. in the £1. That is quite true. There was a war on at the time and the people accepted that rate of taxation because a job had to be done. But what was the position immediately after the war from, say, 1945 to 1949? High taxes still were being imposed. What goods were available to the people? Was there any black-marketing? Where was the petrol? Where were the cigarettes? Where were the houses? What was the employment position? How many man-hours were lost? In the three years to 1948 5,000,000 man-days were lost through strikes, but in the three years to 1959 only about 1,500,000 mandays were lost.

The people have not returned the Labour Party to office in the last long eleven years because they know that if they did we would revert to the conditions which operated when Labour was previously in power. According to the Leader of the Opposition, he would see that all loans were filled and he would do this and that. How would the Labour Party carry out its programme if it were returned to office? It would introduce capital issues control and channel all money into one avenue. Then where would the country's development be and how many jobs would be available for the people that the Labour Party so often claims to represent, but obviously does not? I wish the Labour Party would think a little about this matter. If it kills the goose that lays the golden eggs the working people will suffer. It is only by this Government's policy of abolishing controls and giving the people the opportunity to invest their money where they wish that we have seen an increase in the number of factories that have been built, an increase in employment, an increase in the development of our natural resources and the provision of the goods that the people want.

In relation to overseas borrowing, I remind the Opposition that some of its supporters played a part in the Government's policy because the Australian Loan Council authorizes both internal and external borrowing. Why has money been borrowed over seas? To bring capital goods to this country, and to help the States to carry out their developmental programmes which, in turn, have created jobs for the masses and allowed us to absorb the 1,000,000 migrants who have been added to our population over the last ten years.

The Leader of the Opposition in a recent " Daily Telegraph " article referred to the fall in rural production. I remind him - he can check this statement with the Division of Agricultural Economics or with the Bureau of Census and Statistics - that rural production has increased by about 37 per cent, over the last few years with a labour force which is not as great as it was in 1939. I remind honorable members, too, that the population has increased over the last eleven years by 27 per cent. We have been able to absorb that increase in our industries. We have introduced budgets a lot worse than the one which is now being considered, and the people have accepted them knowing full well that the Government's vision and policies could be trusted and that its actions were directed to their ultimate good. Despite what the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) may say, this Government's policies have been so wise that employment has increased by 20 per cent. To-day we are employing 500,000 additional men in jobs and the value of factory production has increased by 72 per cent, as compared with the position when the Labour Party was in office.

If you want to increase production, you must have more men to do the job. In ten years the number of factories has increased by 37 per cent. But we want more homes and amenities for the people so, to our great credit, steel production over the last ten years has increased from 1,000,000 tons to 3,000,000 tons. This is not a bad effort. The same applies to cement production, which has risen by 1,500,000 tons a year.

Let us look at another venture which was commenced by this Government in the face of the most vehement and hostile criticism of the Opposition - the introduction of large-scale oil refining. Honorable members will recall the storm that broke when we decided to sell British Petroleum Limited, at a handsome profit, our shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited so that British Petroleum could erect a £40,000,000 refinery in Western Australia. At that time, C.O.R. could not produce one pint of petrol that could be used in a service vehicle because the company's equipment was outmoded. The Labour Party apparently believed that we should run service stations all over the country and have hosts of fellows running around with dip sticks in their hands finding out how much petrol was in the tanks. The Labour Party criticized us and fought the legislation tooth and nail. What is the position to-day? The value of the plant, buildings and equipment in the oil refineries has increased from £3,000,000 to £105,000,000.

Mr Peters - And none of it owned by Australians.

Mr HAMILTON - Is that so? If you look at the facts and figures, you will find the true position. The Government's action in selling C.O.R. has created plenty of work for Australians and saved the expenditure of our overseas funds in buying refined petrol. Now we can import the petroleum and refine it ourselves. 1 have already mentioned motor vehicles. I wonder how many members of the Opposition realize that to-day, despite what they say about General Motors-Holden's Limited or any other company in the motor industry, 241,000 motor vehicles are being turned out each year. Surely that creates work for our work force and for the boys and girls who are now leaving school. They must be accommodated in employment. We have 1,000,000 television sets in Australia and we have had television for only three years. We have the know-how, the technicians and everything that is necessary to do the job. I wonder how many television licences have been taken out. If you walk around any of the capital cities you will find that most of the antennae are attached to homes in what you might call the middle-class areas - the homes of the working men. Good luck to them. They are in such a happy position because this Government's policy has been to see that every section of our population gets a fair turn of the wheel and a fair share of our prosperity, and they will continue to benefit if they put their trust in the policies of this Government.

We can take another aspect of development - road construction. We all admit frankly that we should like to see a much greater rate of road construction. Nevertheless, this Government has not made a> bad effort over the. last few years. In the last year of the Labour Government's term, only £8,000,000 was provided for road construction and maintenance, and last financial year this Government provided £42,000,000. The amount is increasing every year. Under the. formula that is to operate for the next five years, the details of which escape me for the moment, the allocation of funds for roads will continue to increase.

Then there is home-building. Year in. and year out, the Australian Labour Party has criticized this Government's housing programme. The Government has not provided all the money for housing. As well, as the funds provided under the war service homes scheme and the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, moneys have been provided by banks, insurance companies and other bodies. As a result of the policies of this Government, we are constructing 31,500 homes a year more than were built in any year by the Labour Government.

Mr Duthie - There is no credit in that.

Mr HAMILTON - There is a lot of credit in it, because 31,500 homes a yeal represents more than £94,000,000 a year, if each is reckoned at £3,000. Goodness knows how many people are housed by the additional 31,500 homes a year. That effort is more than the Australian Labour Party could ever achieve. If we can continue it - and I am sure we can - the sooner the people will be properly housed and the more contented they will be. Opposition members may in the future repeat the words of a gentleman who was a member of this place some years ago. They do not care about housing the people as comfortably as possible, but we do. I suggest to members of the Australian Labour Party that they study these things instead of trying to jump on the band-wagon and criticize what has been done by the Government over the last ten years.

What has brought about a good deal of these achievements? A few moments ago. I mentioned the peace in industry that has characterized the administration of this Government. Any government that can achieve the record of peace in industry attained by this Government over the last eleven years has a creditable performance behind it. Members of the Australian Labour Party say that only Labour can keep the workers contented, but 5,000,000 mandays were lost during the last three years of the Labour Government's term of office. What did that mean to the people and to the development of this country? One can measure this Government's performance by any yardstick one likes to choose and by reference to any industry anywhere in the country. We have had peace in industry since this Administration has been in office. As a result, we have been able to do much of the work that has been necessary. One may take any three-year period one likes, but over the last three years only 1,500,000 man-days have been lost in industry. Yet the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for East Sydney - I dare say a host of others will come forward - criticize the policies of this Government.

But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. There is our record. We have produced the goods. And the Government will continue to do that. Despite the illusions of the honorable member for East Sydney, I am prepared to say here and now that in 1961 this Government will be returned to office as strong as or even stronger than it is to-day, because its policies will spread prosperity throughout the country and give all Australians the fair deal to which they are entitled.

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