Robert Gordon Menzies was born 20 December, 1894 and died 15 May, 1978. He was the Prime Minister of Australia 26 April, 1939 to 26 August, 1941 and again 19 December, 1949 to 26 January, 1966. He was the Leader of the United Australia Party 1939 to 1944 and Leader of the Liberal Party 1944 to 1966. Menzies represented the electorate of Kooyong, Vic 1934 to 1966.
Elections contested1940, 1946, 1949, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1958, 1961, and 1963
I am delighted to have here my comrade, Sir Arthur Fadden, who is retiring after playing a notable part in national stability and development. I thank him for his work, and feel sure that Australia will not desert it.
At repeated elections you have renewed your confidence in us. Tonight I will give some account of our trusteeship. Labor asks you to believe that the country is ruined; that unemployment is rampant; that progress is dead. What is the state of this nation after our period of office?
The population has grown by two millions, half of whom have come here voluntarily from abroad.
Production has grown in a phenomenal way.
I will quote only a few leading commodities which tell the story of our nine years.
Annual production of pig-iron has more than doubled; of ingot steel, almost trebled; of electric power, has more than doubled. Storage capacity for water has been far more than trebled.
The annual production of copper has increased nearly five times. We are, for the first time, producing nearly half of the total Australian consumption of aluminium. Australia produced two million domestic refrigerators, over a million washing machines, over three and a half million radios and radiograms. Over two million new motor vehicles were registered, an estimated 70 per cent. of them made or assembled in Australia!
I don’t need to elaborate. You all know, for you have lived through it, that this has been our greatest period of advancement, and that the true issue in this election is whether it is to be rudely interrupted by wild policies and incompetent management.
The confidence of the outside world in Australia’s stability and progress has been eloquently proved. As trustees, we can point to a great estate, in good repair, amazingly developed, sensibly managed, respected and trusted all round the world.
But we do not want your vote as a vote of thanks; we ask for a vote of confidence.
What Australians want is good and honest government, with administrators who pursue steadfast policies, encourage growth, foster individual enterprise, preserve freedom, and maintain Australia’s place in the world. We have unquenchable pride in Australia and an unlimited faith in its future.
We are determined to help to bring about, in our land, a rapidly growing population of free people, rising production and social wealth, increasing skill and intellectual competence, with emphasis upon the individual and his dignity and independence and, through these priceless elements, the emergence of an Australia powerful and responsible, adequately furnished in material terms but even more richly furnished with those mental and spiritual qualities which have made our race great in the past and will make it greater in the future.
Our slogan is Australia Unlimited, and we pronounce it with confidence.
Progress has been almost incredible. Great discoveries have been made, and developments achieved.
In uranium, bauxite, rich deposits of copper and other minerals, Rum Jungle, Radium Hill, Mary Kathleen, Weipa, Mt. Isa, these have become known and exciting names; they illustrate the truth that we are entering upon a dramatic phase of development, to explore it we will need all the credit we have built up, and a high capacity to attract capital and enterprise.
Perhaps the greatest single contribution which could be made to Australian development and a vital improvement of our balances of payment would be the discovery of oil in Australian territory. We have already done a great deal through our Bureau of Mineral Resources, subsidies to drilling, and the recently announced tax concessions to investors.
By our recently announced tax concessions we will, in effect, be finding nearly half of the moneys invested by Australians in this search. Other means of helping will be investigated.
We will, if returned, set aside £1m. a year, additional to what is now being done, to assist in oil search. The great Snowy Mountains Scheme, legislated for by our predecessors, is being carried out, successfully, by us. It is world famous. It will mean not only enormous supplies of electric power but water which will alter the aspect of the Murray and Murrumbidgee Valleys.
Do you find all this exhilarating? Do you want to hand over these great matters, and the national credit and confidence which they have helped to create, and from which they have in their turn so greatly benefited, to the Labor Party, distrusted and torn by internal strife?
Our housing policy is progressive. We will continue to encourage Building Society activities and home ownership. Under our policy, during the last two years 20 per cent. of total advances to the States was required to be made available to provide assistance to private home builders through building societies and other approved home finance institutions. For 1958-59, 1959-60, and 1960-61, the proportion is to be not less than 30 per cent. The magnitude of this assistance will appear when I say that the amount to be so available in the year ending June 30, 1959, will be nearly £11m! This has been one of the great differences between our policy and that of our Labor predecessors.
Of all the home units now being occupied in Australia, approximately one-quarter have been built during our term of office.
Throughout that term there has been a greatly increasing percentage of houses built for ownership. We are determined to see the normal current demand met every year and a substantial reduction made in the diminishing arrears. This year the Commonwealth alone is finding £80m. for housing.
The War Service Homes Scheme was begun in 1918. Though we have been in office for only a quarter of the time, we have provided 82 per cent. of all the money ever spent on war service homes. We will go on with the good work.
It is fashionable for Labor to say that we have no foreign policy. They mean that we do not conduct public arguments with our friends, or seek to prove our independence by public aggressiveness.
A foreign policy should be sensible; useful, not noisy; calculated to increase our security, not to lose friends.
The dominant element in our foreign policy is, of course, to maintain friendly relations; to be good neighbours; to have powerful friends. Why powerful friends? Does anybody suppose that we could in our own strength defend ourselves against a major aggressor? The defence of Australia, therefore, though we must do our duty about it, is closely bound up with our foreign relations.
That is why a truly Australian foreign policy requires the cultivation of friendships, and in particular a close alignment with the Commonwealth and the United States of America.
The results, products of our foreign policy, the Colombo Plan, the A.N.Z.U.S. Pact, the S.E.A.T.O.‚ have materially added to our safety.
I am issuing tonight a further statement on important current issues.
Financial and economic policy
If I suddenly produced a brand new financial and economic policy, you would not be impressed.
We have been pursuing a steady policy for years, adapting it to circumstances, but never losing direction.
Thus, in March, 1956, we took strong budgetary action to restrain a threatening inflation. This year, with lower prices for our export commodities, and falling farm incomes, some stimulus was needed, and so we budgeted for a cash deficit of £110m., a course which will involve Central Bank finance and ensure the maintenance of public purchasing power.
The success of our policies is clear.
I need not repeat what I have already briefly said about the rise in national and individual prosperity.
Yet our opponents say that Australia is on the verge of ruin. All I can say is that if it were, the Evatt policy would push it over.
What is our policy?
To restrain inflation, improve public credit, maintain employment and industrial peace, and increase production and population.
To encourage the investment of capital at home and from abroad.
To keep taxation as low as possible.
To use part of it for basic works which will ensure future economic strength, by providing the necessary foundation for production and business expansion.
To co-operate in the opening up of natural resources, research, the creation of power and water supply, and the improvement of transport.
To give maximum financial support to the State Governments.
To protect and develop rural production.
To provide adequate protection for efficient secondary industries.
To maintain adequate balances of trade by the active trade policy I shall later describe.
Last year we offered a general grant to the State of Western Australia for developmental purposes in the far north of that State.
The grant was one of £2.5m. spread over five years; it was to be a net addition to what the State would otherwise spend, and the suggested projects were to be broadly approved by the Commonwealth.
Some important works have been approved. We are convinced of the great possibilities of the North-West. We will, therefore, offer to Western Australia a doubled provision on the same terms, bringing the grant of £2.5m. up to a total of £5m.
If I were speaking only of achievements, there would be a great story, as my colleague Senator Spooner knows, to tell about coal. In 1949 it was scarce, dear, and uncertain. Blackouts were a regular feature. Today it is plentiful and cheaper, with a growing export trade. With mechanisation there has been some displacement of employees. We have already authorised a substantial provision of Commonwealth funds through the Joint Coal Board in the case of Cessnock, and are doing a lot of research work in coal through C.S.I.R.O. Deeply concerned as we are with the problems which modern automation brings, we will assist the expansion of research into the uses of coal. My colleague, the Minister for Labour, who has always, and with such national advantage, maintained intelligent relations with the Trades Union Movement, has devoted much successful effort to securing alternative employment for those displaced by scientific advancement.
What I have already said will remind you of the basic differences which exist between us and the Labor Party. Let me state some of them.
Dr. Evatt recently said that there will be no nationalisation without a vote of the people. You will discount this statement if you remember-
That the Labor Government (of which he was Deputy Leader) in 1947 drove through Parliament a Bank Nationalisation scheme about which nothing was said in Labor’s previous Policy Speech, and on which the Government refused a referendum.
That last year the Federal President of the Labor Party called on members to fight for the socialist objectives, working for ‘policy before seats’.
That Mr. War notoriously refuses to abandon socialism, while Mr. Calwell vigorously advocates it for Broadcasting, Television, and Air-lines.
We, on the other hand, resolutely pursue the encouragement of private enterprise. We think it no part of the business of government to conduct or be involved in ordinary commercial enterprise. It is for this reason that we have advantageously sold government shareholdings in enterprises like the selling of petrol, the making of wireless sets, and the fabrication of steel.
Another basic difference is that Labor concentrates on the handing out of cash benefits. We concentrate on the development of resources, production, and trade, which alone can provide new social benefits.
A third difference (I cannot be exhaustive) lies in public finance. Labor stands for reckless inflation, which is the worst of all taxes upon those with fixed incomes; dislikes overseas capital; and thinks nothing of raising our internal costs of production.
Our policies, as you know, are the opposite.
In foreign affairs, I fear that we are poles apart. The Evatt policy is hostile to ANZUS and SEATO, at the best indifferent to our close Commonwealth and American association, and entertains the unreal belief that to take a matter to the United Nations, without clear ideas and proposals, is in itself a policy Labor is, in fact, much more concerned with installing Communist China on the Security Council alongside the Soviet Union at a time when Communist shells have been falling on Quemoy, than with positive arrangements with our friends. We believe that a rapidly growing population is essential and that a large flow of migration must continue. The Labor Party, though honourably associated with the beginning of the post-war migration movement, has now become critical. Mr. Calwell has an affection for his old love, but the lady gets sour looks from his leader.
We stand for industrial peace, and have been succeeding. Our term has been quite remarkable for industrial peace‚ possibly the greatest in 20 years. Is this evidence of injustice or misery?
We perfected the Secret Ballot for the election of union officials, in order to permit non-Communist unionists to vote without fear or favour. The law was successful. Then, promoted by Labor, the practice arose of having A.L.P.-Communist ‘Unity Tickets’ for union elections, and rejected communists began to come back into key union positions. Now there is a bogus dispute about whether Unity Tickets accord with Labor policy!
Evatt Labor is pledged to repeal the secret ballot and to destroy the influence of unionists who are opposed to Communism.
It is a matter of grievance that court-controlled elections may cost the union concerned more than a normal ballot. The Government will meet this additional cost.
Our defence policy is based upon two major considerations.
One is that we have secured treaty arrangements such as the ANZUS Pact and SEATO, with mutual obligations to resist Communist attack.
The other is that, as a world nuclear war would be decided in the centres of power, we should prepare to deal with limited wars. This view is based upon the best available technical military advice.
There are some who say that we have wasted your money. The answer is that Australia has forces and equipment on a scale never previously contemplated in time of peace.
It is a cheap thing to say that we have nothing to show for our money. Even Dr. Evatt, who thinks defence can be got on the cheap, and who has repeatedly said that he will substantially reduce the defence vote, says so. The truth is that we have developed a necessarily small but entirely modern navy, specifically designed for its tasks of convoy and anti-submarine action; a regular army of 21,000 troops, with 120,000 basically trained reserve troops, better equipped than ever before; an Air Force provided with first-class Canberra bombers and Sabre fighters and the most modern transport planes.
We have greatly improved pay and allowances; recruiting has improved; and morale is high.
I will publish the details separately. We will maintain adequate defence, will constantly improve training and equipment, and will continue to improve administrative efficiency and economy. On Defence Research and Development we have already spent £70m. Woomera and Maralinga are world famous. Australia is, in partnership with Great Britain, playing and will play a great part in the development of guided missiles and specialised aircraft, and thus making a notable scientific and practical contribution to the defence of the free world.
Production and trade
The increasing of export earnings must take a prominent place in economic policy. Our export earnings determine our imports, 75 or 80 per cent. of which are used in Australian production, and also our balance of payments, the strength of which affects Australian internal credit, investment, and expansion. The volume of our export earnings also, of course, affects full employment, migration and living standards.
These considerations lead us to placing special emphasis upon trade. We give primary importance to the development of Australian resources, to increase our export earnings and to save unnecessary imports. It would not be unfair to say that we are concerning ourselves about enabling Australia to earn more so that the more can be then distributed. Labor, looking for ‘seats before policy’, concerns itself with distributing more hoping that the amount will thereafter be somehow earned.
On the first aspect, we will assist the development of our mineral, agricultural and pastoral resources. We are, with the generous co-operation of manufacturers, pursuing increased export earnings from manufactured goods. A wide charter will be given to the Council of Manufacturing Industries. As manufacturers cannot export except upon the foundation of adequate protection domestically, our policy is to provide such protection. We have strengthened the Tariff Board and will continue to afford it the necessary assistance to secure adequate analysis and judgment.
Our new Department of Trade and its dynamic approach represent our belief that the problems of distribution are today much nearer solution than those of creating new wealth to be distributed.
That Australia has prospered greatly in these recent years cannot be reasonably denied. This is not the result of blind and unguided fortune, for there have been many sharp problems, but has been quite materially related to our policies and actions.
Let me put it in this way. Our domestic prosperity has, as it always will, created demands for imports which cannot be satisfied without a great export trade and the fullest development of local production. Our concept of Australia Unlimited is not negative; it is positive and progressive.
The Department, under the able leadership of Mr. McEwen, is on the move. It has already, by trade negotiations, obtained greater security for our international trade; assured markets, sales on better terms; new opportunities. Our Export Payments Insurance Corporation is warmly welcomed by enterprising manufacturers, and will grow.
Our protective policy’s success is clear. In the last nine years the number of Australian factories has increased by 35 per cent. Production has increased astonishingly.
We will continue and intensify our Trade Commissioner services and our sponsoring and organising of Trade Missions. We are indebted to the producing and business community and the Australian Press, for their co-operation in an intense campaign for greater overseas earnings; to which we will devote increasing effort as time goes on.
We are now forwarding a campaign, in which Australia is taking a leading part, for international commodity agreements to achieve greater stability in world prices. I acknowledge the unceasing labours of our colleague, the Minister for Trade, at the Montreal Conference. These labours must continue and be intensified.
We have already achieved valuable international agreements on wheat, sugar and tin, and a fifteen-year meat agreement with Great Britain. With the co-operation of eminent business men, we have set up an Export Development Council.
Our policy is to encourage the inflow of private and public capital from overseas. We have done this, by establishing credit-worthiness abroad, double-tax agreements, and a liberal exchange control; while our policy of national development provides a great attraction for investors overseas; they have confidence in our future and in our political administration.
Apart from public loans there has been an investment of overseas private capital, during our term, of approximately £700m., of which between £400m. and £500m. have come from Great Britain. We have just had the most dramatic proof of how Australia’s credit stands overseas. Our £15m. loan in London a few days ago was doubly subscribed in London in five minutes!
We will, as in the past, reduce taxation when we can, but we must continue to resist inflation. That we have no rigid or theoretical views on such matters is proved by this year’s Budget. True, we made no material reductions in taxation; with a great cash deficit caused by a sharp fall in farm incomes and by the falling due, this year and next year, of a great mass of war debt, it would have been quite dishonest to do so.
Confronted by a cash deficit of £110m. have taken the financially radical course of budgeting for that deficit and financing it by Treasury Bills. We did this to counteract the fall in export income, to avoid unemployment, and to support essential public works, from power and roads to schools and housing.
Meanwhile, taxation is increasingly complex. We will set up a competent and independent public investigation of the taxation laws.
There are, naturally, complaints about Uniform Tax. The sound general principle is that each Government should raise its own taxes. This principle cannot be strictly applied in Australia If, for example, Western Australia could spend only what was raised in Western Australia, the development of that State would be impaired. We are all Australians, after all.
Nevertheless, we remain willing to enter into arrangements with the States for the resumption by them of taxing powers on terms just to taxpayers. My Government will, at the earliest practicable date, be prepared to convene a special Premiers’ Conference to discuss this, and indeed the whole tangled problem of Commonwealth-States financial relations.
There has been a spectacular rise in rural production during our period of office. Wool production has increased almost 50 per cent., meat by over 25 per cent., sugar by 35 per cent.
Our policy is to encourage production by the improvement of plant, water supply, subdivision, pastures, and methods of cultivation, by scientific research, by bounties and subsidies in proper cases, by financing extension services, by taxation concessions by way of special depreciation allowances, and permissible deductions.
We have subsidised butter and cheese, and have recently announced our policy of guaranteeing reasonably calculated payments to growers by the Dairy Products Equalisation Committee. This will ensure a payment of 40d. this season. It is a decision which we believe will give satisfaction in the industry. We pay bounties on cotton, flax, and sulphuric acid.
Rural credit is of great importance. We will establish a Development Bank, designed to repair a gap in the Banking structure. Some quite significant farm development, or some new but promising industrial enterprise, may be held up for want of bank accommodation under normal rules. The new Bank’s main consideration will be the addition to future output which could be produced by an investment.
We will, in collaboration we hope with the State Governments, set up an impartial committee of investigation into complex and urgent problems of the dairy industry, which affects many thousands of families and many related industries, and obtain recommendations for its future.
Towards the end of the war, post-war education and reconstruction training began, and under them the State Universities accepted thousands of new students and were paid great sums by the Commonwealth. We provide many thousands of scholarships. But normal payment of fees is not sufficient to meet the costs. Indeed, the Universities became poorer because every new student meant a new loss.
Thus it is that we will, as I have already announced, provide much money for the Universities; our new charter for them is a landmark in Australian educational history. At the same time, under our policies, adopted for the first time, we have found half of the moneys used by the States for works programmes, which means, among other things, half the cost of State schools. In addition, we will continue and when possible improve our completely new tax concessions to parents in respect of school fees and equipment.
Health and social services
It has not been our practice to seek to win elections by making lush promises about social services. We have, let me remind you, always performed much more than we have promised. Since the 1955 Election, we have:
substantially increased the rate of pensions, unemployment and sickness benefits, and rehabilitation allowances;
liberalised the property and income means tests;
made a reciprocal agreement on Social Security with the United Kingdom;
doubled the rate of our contribution under the Aged Persons Homes Act;
provided supplementary pensions to dependent pensioners paying rent.
It is said that we have never created a new Social Service. Well, during my own Prime Ministership we,
- brought in Child Endowment;
- extended it to the first child;
- created the pensioner medical and free medicines service;
- made free provision of life-saving drugs;
- introduced a comprehensive medical benefit scheme and are now arranging for its extension to cases of age and chronic and pre-existing illness;
- provided free milk for school children;
- devised the Aged Persons Homes Assistance scheme;
- financed an attack on T.B. and provided special allowances. The death-rate has fallen from 24.8 per 100,000 to 6 per 100,000; and
- provided capital grants for mental hospitals.
The story of the success of the Salk vaccine against poliomyelitis is well known. We produce the vaccine, and make it available, free, to the State authorities. This is a record of creative and humane achievement which the Labor Party cannot approach. The interesting fact is that of those nine new social benefits, only one was promised at an election, three were very vaguely foreshadowed, and no less than five were introduced during the life of Parliament without having been promised at all!
We have shown and maintain our intention to modify the means test whenever an opportunity occurs. We have raised the expenditure on Social Services from £92m. when we came in to £274m. in 1958-59!
I think I can reasonably ask you for authority to continue and, as opportunities offer, improve upon a Social Services policy which has proved so advantageous.
I should also warn you that Dr. Evatt’s Health Policy would destroy the present Medical Health Scheme, and lead to Socialised Medicine.
We have each year made improvements in Repatriation benefits. We will continue our regular consultations between representatives of the ex-service organisations and a special ex-servicemen’s sub-committee of Cabinet and the Government parties. These have proved most valuable.
We will continue to do everything that we can, within the limits of our legal and financial capacity, to improve transport. We are greatly improving the Commonwealth Shipping Line. We will continue to support Australian shipbuilding, by subsidy and otherwise.
Tasmania merits special attention. Sea transport is vital to it. Over the next period three revolutionary advances will be made. We will put into operation a special vehicular and passenger ferry, a ‘drive-on, drive-off’ cargo vessel, and a bulk wheat carrier. Each of these will have been specially built in Australia. They will make a fine contribution to efficiency and a quicker turn-round in ports.
In the railways field, we have already completed or initiated several standard gauge works‚ including the new line from Stirling North to Marree, and the current Albury-Melbourne project. We will learn a good deal about the economic effects of standardisation when the standard gauge operates‚ Melbourne, Albury, Sydney, Brisbane.
Where in future it can be shown that a gauge conversion would result in tangible benefits commensurate with the cost, we will give sympathetic consideration to specially assisting the State concerned to carry out the work. Such consideration will, of course, take into account priorities among works of a developmental nature.
Meanwhile, so that preliminary investigation of the Broken Hill-Port Pine proposal may be put in hand, I have notified the Premier of South Australia that we will accede to his request for a provision of £50,000 towards the costs of survey. Future action will be dependent upon the policy I have just stated.
In the air, Qantas is, of course, world famous. T.A.A. is firmly established. The great private airline, Ansett-A.N.A., has also received help from us for re-equipment, which is increasingly costly.
Our policy is to have two major airlines on the internal services, operating in fair competition and on the highest standards of service and safety. We will continue our policy of making available increasing sums of money for the construction and maintenance of roads. Since we came back into office, we have raised the yearly Commonwealth aid for roads from £7.6m. to £37.25m. This figure will go on increasing. The solution of the roads problem, however, requires more than increasing payments by the Commonwealth. We propose to convene at an early date a widely representative conference on roads. We have already promised the States that we will confer with them before June about the distribution of Commonwealth aid. We now propose a much broader conference.
An all-party Committee has recently made an interesting report on the Constitution. We will closely study the report. As any decision will be subject to public approval at a referendum, we need not discuss the matter during this election.
We will once more introduce Banking Legislation designed to-
- separate the Central Bank from competitive trading bank activities;
- ensure fair competition between the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the other Trading Banks; and
- create a Development Bank.
I want to make a special point of the vote for the Senate.
For the past three years, the Government has had no majority in the Senate, although at the 1955 election you gave the Government a record majority in the Lower House!
This year you have your chance to give us, the Government parties, a majority in both Houses.
We will introduce marriage and divorce legislation, allowing adequate time for study and debate on a matter which is not of a party kind.
We accept the principle of decimal coinage We will set up an independent Committee to advise how and when and on what terms to effect this reform.
Great progress has been made in the Territories. In the Northern Territory the accent is on the development of mineral resources and the improvement of roads, housing and education.
In Papua and New Guinea our policy is to help agriculture, timber, transport, schools, missions, hospitals, public health, housing, and orderly administration.
Expenditure in the Territories has risen from £5.6 to £26m.
Exports from Papua and New Guinea have risen. Our future task is to strengthen economic foundations by attention to land, labour and external trade.
In the case of the Northern Territory, we have had the advantage of discussion with members of the Legislative Council, as a result of which we are making a comprehensive examination of the future of government and administration in that part of Australia.
We propose to carry out a further road development programme, to improve port facilities at Darwin, and to adopt further measures for the development of agriculture, water supply, and the search for minerals.
Already there has been a trebling of the value of production and a doubling of the non-aboriginal population.
The alternative policy
Tonight I am primarily stating the Government’s Policy. Yet Dr. Evatt’s promises do serve to point up our different approach.
A few people outside Parliament have urged me to meet Dr. Evatt’s promises by making a few large and juicy ones myself; not, presumably, because I feel I could honestly make them, but because they might gain or save some votes. I will therefore make some things quite unmistakable.
It must be obvious to anybody that a government with our unrivalled record of creating and extending social services would be delighted to increase the rates of, say, child endowment, which it, not Labor, created and extended, if it thought that, under present circumstances, it could, with advantage to the people.
But we know that today with wool and metal prices down, and farm incomes reduced by a third, with a marked drop in our export income, with taxation revenues down, it would be simply dishonest for us to make large new promises of cash in hand. You have had honest policy and administration from us for nine years; actions of ours bitterly unpopular when performed, have proved right and acceptable; a remarkable degree of prosperity and growth with steadiness has been attained.
We believe that our recent Budget was imaginative and liberal; that material concessions were impossible; that to make or offer further large payments would have been a policy of inflation, against which we have fought for a long time, and in the last three years successfully.
Our Budget was widely accepted as necessary and beneficial. Does anybody seriously think that we are now going to abandon it, before it has operated for more than a few weeks? Would you have any respect for me or my government if we did so, because there was an election?
If wool and metal prices recover, if our balances of payments improve, if farm incomes rise; in other words, if the circumstances which produced this year’s Budget change, our actions in pursuance of our policy can and will change also. I am optimistic. The American recession, which has had a great effect, appears to be lifting.
Our own trade and development policies will, we believe, assist recovery.
But to make huge cash promises at the very time when deficit policies are being resorted to in order to meet and overcome financial difficulties would be wrong; and we will have none of it.
You may be interested to know that official calculations of the annual costs of Dr. Evatt’s more specific handouts is £65m. a year! This is a net increase, for not one of the promises has any relation to increasing production!
But this is not all. He has other proposals the cost of which is not easy to calculate, including one most spectacular offer of a five-year plan for roads, under which
the Commonwealth will assist financially to complete a four-lane arterial highway between the capitals of the five mainland States and between Hobart and Launceston!
Our experts tell us that the cost of this venture, apparently to be spread over five years, will be from £200m. to £400m.!
Do you see the absurdity of such a financial policy?
If it was carried out there would be an inflation immeasurably more severe than we have known before. It would more than cancel out the value of the concessions and new benefits; it would, like all inflations, hit people on low and middle incomes.
Dr. Evatt has tried this kind of thing before. You have in the past refused to be bought; we are sure you are not changing this time.
The Opposition asks you to remember the past nine years as a period of failure. They are asking you to dismiss us for incompetence. So I have reminded you of the facts, of our national advance, of our good estate and repute.
A Government of long standing is in a position different from that of its Opposition. If it suddenly produced a novel set of principles you might well ask why it had taken so long to think of them. A Government which has been entrusted with cultivating the national garden might reasonably say, ‘Judge us by the fruits of our labours!’ and there would be good common sense in the remark!
But let me say at once that, proud as we are of the state of the nation and of the high spirit of our people, grateful as we are for having been your servants in so developing a period in Australian history, we do not just stand, flat-footed, on the record, or refuse to learn from experience. On the contrary, we, like Australia, are on the move. Policy and performance march together. We do not change our political principles at election time. But we apply them, I hope I may say, with zeal and judgment, to the changing circumstances of every month and every year.
We have all learned much. It is just because we can look back with the judgment of experience that we can look forward to new tasks with confidence and determination. We are inspired by our conception of a great and unlimited destiny for a great land. I have tried to put before you something of what we see to be the future tasks and the ways in which we should set about them.
The battle for progress with security, for social justice with the encouragement and rewarding of enterprise, for peace with a readiness to defend it, for the reaching of a state of life in which material well-being is seen as the foundation for mental and spiritual advancement, is not yet won. But the successes so far achieved are such as to give us high hopes and renewed determination.
So regarded, a national election campaign is not a conflict of self-interest, with the prize going to the highest bidder. It is an occasion for a re-statement of faith, a renewal of zeal, and a clear vision of the future.
We do not ‘recognise’ Communist China, or support its claim to membership of the United Nations or of the Security Council. Those who want us to change fail, in our judgment, to recognise three things.
One is that Communist China has been for some time engaging in acts of armed aggression against Quemoy and the off-shore islands, and thus seeking to enforce a territorial claim Her leaders have specifically stated that this claim extends to Formosa also. Such conduct provides further evidence that the Communist regime in China is unwilling to discharge the primary international obligations which the government of a member State of the United Nations is required to discharge. Within the past four weeks a strong majority of the members of the United Nations again rightly refused to consider Peking’s claims to represent China in the United Nations.
The second is that there is clear reason to know that recognition which did not acknowledge Communist China’s claim to Formosa would not compose her differences with the free world, but would quite possibly exacerbate them. I fear that some of the advocates of recognition are prepared to place Formosa and her people under Communist rule. This our Government is certainly not prepared to support.
The third is that recognition, even by a small nation like Australia, which nevertheless has an import-ant role in ANZUS and SEATO, would be regarded by South-East Asian Nations and groups which are now resisting Communist aggression as a victory for Communism; would create avoidable differences with the United States of America; and would therefore represent a significant success for the Communists in the cold war.
As for Quemoy and the off-shore islands themselves, we join in condemning the use of aggressive force. We hope that if a genuine cease-fire can be secured, opportunity will be taken to have an independent examination made of the future of those islands so that they may be no longer a continuing subject of military dispute. The object must be peace, without the known dangers of mere appeasement.
Similarly, we do not recognise or concede the claim of Indonesia, with which in other respects we are, and intend to be, on good neighbourly terms, to West New Guinea. If that claim is based upon some alleged legal right, it should be settled by the International Court. If it meditates armed aggression, the United Nations should be expected to resist it. For our part, we are extending our peaceful co-operation with the Dutch in the island. This co-operation relates to our common desire to improve the lives of the native population and develop its capacity for ultimate self-government.
Socialism and communism
Nobody in Australia would tolerate McCarthyism. But we must be careful to see that we do not go to the other extreme, and regard Communism as unimportant Other countries have done this before, and have suffered grievously. The Communists are clever; they have no allegiance to their own country; they cultivate people of influence; they go after key trades union positions.
They have already succeeded in persuading some of their dupes that to mention the fact that they have consciously or unconsciously been encouraged by Labor under its present leadership is to engage in a ‘smear’ campaign.
After the disclosures of the Royal Commission into the Petrov Case, and the strange figure cut by their leader in the famous report of three Judges, one can understand Labor’s sensitiveness. But the leader of Communism, Mr. Khrushchev, said in writing this year, in answer to questions put by the respected Editor-in-Chief of the Melbourne Herald:
As for the role and place of the non-Communist parties, one must emphasise first of all that in the present situation collaboration between the Communist Parties and other parties is not only possible but even necessary for the socialist transformation of society. Today socialism is a world system. It is winning more and more supporters in all countries, and mind you, not only among the working class.
Hence the tangible prospect of forming broad alliances between the working class, and its van, the Communist Party, on the one hand, and other social strata and, consequently, other parties, on the other, in the struggle for socialism.
Of course, this can imply only affiance with parties who aim not in words, but in deeds, to build socialist society, or, as you put it, are devoted to the ideal of socialism.
In alliance with such parties, the Communist Parties will be able to unite the forces of the working class and then by combined efforts to get the allies of the working class, the toiling peasantry, the artisans and the intelligentsia, to rally around it. This union is essential for the working class to win power and establish a socialist order, by the peaceful parliamentary way, too.
Those of you who have been watching the recent equivocations of Australian Labor leaders on the socialist and unity-ticket issues will, I hope, ponder these words.
It seems that the Socialist objective is to be played down in this election; some Labor leaders have realised that there are many thousands of new Australians who got away from socialism in Europe and have no desire to submit to it again.
To the British Commonwealth Strategic Reserve in Malaya we are contributing two modern destroyers or frigates, periodical visits by an aircraft carrier, an infantry battalion group of regular troops, a Canberra bomber squadron, and two squadrons of Australian Sabres, reckoned to be at least the equal of any fighter aircraft in this quarter of the world. Our aircraft construction squadron also built the airfield at Butterworth. In and around Australia, we have in commission an aircraft carrier, 4 destroyers, 5 frigates, 2 ocean mine-sweepers, and a mass of auxiliary craft. We have a reserve fleet of an aircraft carrier, a cruiser, a destroyer, 13 frigates, 12 ocean mine-sweepers, and auxiliary craft. We have spent many millions on building, modernising, and maintaining our Navy. Its efficiency is high. It trains in the closest collaboration with our allies. Numerically, the actual active strength of the Navy is 11,000, with citizen and reserve forces of another 12,000.
On the Army side, we have a well-equipped and highly trained regular Infantry Brigade group, and in addition the regular Army Staffs needed for Citizen Military Force and National Service training purposes. We have 21,000 regular soldiers, with a further total, of basically trained troops, of 120,000 in reserve.
In the Air Force, there is a regular strength of 15,000,with citizen and reserve forces of 26,000.
These are, for Australia in time of peace, very big figures. We have had nothing like them before.
On the equipment side, we are aiming successfully at modernising our forces and making them more mobile. Our munitions capacity has been expanded; new weapons and techniques have been adopted. We propose to develop wherever desirable the use of weapons compatible with those of the United States of America, with whom the present Government has been able to establish a close and growing understanding.
The re-equipment of the Air Force will be actively continued. Our procurement of the great C.130 aircraft will revolutionise military transport. We are maintaining a valuable aircraft construction industry, and already have significant bomber and fighter squadrons, and maritime reconnaissance squadrons.
I cannot go into further detail. But I think that you will find the picture a good one. Certainly, criticism cannot come from the Australian Labor Party, which stands pledged to reduce the defence vote.
Trade with communist countries
So far as Communist China is concerned, our policy has been a steady one, in close harmony with that of our allies. We do not sell goods of clear strategic significance; we impose no restrictions on goods which are clearly of no strategic significance; in between, there is a ‘controlled list’, in respect of which applications for export are dealt with on the merits by the Minister for External Affairs. We have made no change in this policy for a long time, and have none in contemplation.
On the question of international bulk commodity arrangements, I should add a reference to Communist countries.
We propose that Communist countries which export bulk commodities should be eligible to join in any international stabilising agreements.
This is not entirely novel, for Soviet Russia and several of the European Communist countries are already full members of the International Sugar Agreement, an outstanding success. If, of course, Communist countries were unwilling to join in seeking the objective of price stability for bulk commodities, and preferred to conduct a sort of economic ‘cold war’ to wreck the markets of the rest of us, then all of us would need to equip ourselves with appropriate anti-dumping legislation in the proper defence of our own interests as free peoples.
In addition to what I have said on this matter in the Policy Speech, we will continue to give large and growing support to C.S.I.R.O., whose magnificent work has expanded enormously of recent years. In particular, experiments will be vigorously pursued into rain-making, on which a good deal of valuable scientific information has already been evolved. Of similar significance is the Organisation’s successful work in the reduction of evaporation from water storage. Of great importance to the improvement of pastures will be the phytotron which we have recently authorised, and in which plants can be grown experimentally under controlled conditions of temperature, moisture and light. Other departments, such as that of Primary Industry, will increasingly forward research into particular industries, and the extension of the results to the man on the land.
The post office
The Post Office is the biggest business in Australia. It employs nearly 98,000 people, who perform services for every man and woman in Australia. Its expansion during recent years has been phenomenal. It is our policy to press on with the modernisation of postal, telephonic and telegraphic services, for which we will continue to make adequate budget provision. I will give one example of what I mean. The Department has been investigating the introduction of ‘subscriber trunk dialling’, the object of which is to enable a subscriber to dial another anywhere in Australia under a completely automatic system. The move, which will naturally take a long time to complete, will commence next year. It will make much headway during the life of the new Parliament.
Great progress has been made in television under our policy of gradual introduction. Commercial licences are being issued in and for Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart.
We are firmly persuaded that, as in broadcasting, the coexistence of government and commercial stations is helpful to efficiency and avoids the evils of monopoly. Our policy is one of competition in all the media which provide news and influence public opinion.
We will continue the development of television, directing our particular attention to the extension of television to country areas. In this field, we will of course recognise the place of private enterprise, which it is our aim to encourage.
Marriage and divorce
In the last Parliament, Mr. Joske introduced a Private Member’s Bill for a Uniform Divorce Law. After it had passed its Second reading without a division, we examined the measure and decided that, with amendments and with suitable provisions for marriage guidance and other means of preserving marriages and safeguarding the interests of children, we could adopt it. For various reasons, important discussions with State Governments will have to occur, while in a matter which is of such social importance and on which there are sharp divisions of opinion, not on party lines, it is important that ample time should be given for the critical examination of the measure, in detail, by interested bodies. We therefore propose to introduce marriage and divorce legislation early in the new Parliament, and to afford adequate time for study and debate.
Speaking of our great Medical Benefits Scheme, which we are at present extending, Dr. Evatt promises that Labor will repeal the Menzies Government’s requirement that the patient must be a member of an approved registered organisation. It would be clear to anybody that this promise, if honoured, will be the end of the voluntary organisations, including Friendly Societies, which today have a membership of 21 million, covering over 6 million family beneficiaries.
They will be concerned to know that they are to be wound up and their employees dismissed. Yet, having made it clear that, under his Government, there will be no advantage in membership, Dr. Evatt goes on to say, believe it or not, that ‘at the same time we shall encourage voluntary insurance!’
Last year the various funds paid to contributors £16½m. If the requirement of insurance to qualify for medical benefits is removed, and the organisations disappear, Dr. Evatt will either have to reduce the rate of benefit or find the £16½m. himself!
Our policy and the family
The family is the foundation of the nation, and those who have and bring up families are the nation’s greatest contributing citizens. We have at all times recognised this We have proved our approach, not by glittering promises, but by solid performance.
Take child endowment, which is a kind of family supplement to wages and salaries. My own first Government created it in 1941, not without Labor criticism. In 1950, we extended it to the first child; the Labor Government had refused for 8 years of office to make this extension.
We were the first Government to provide an income tax deduction (which now stands at £100 a year) for school fees and allied expenditure.
We have greatly increased income tax deductions for dependants.
We have substantially reduced rates of income tax upon a taxpayer with a family. Thus a taxpayer with a dependent wife and two children in 1949 paid, on an income of £600, £26.5 tax. Today it is £8. A similar taxpayer with £1000 in 1949 paid £96.5. Today it is £53.18. All rates of tax are lower than in either the United Kingdom or New Zealand.
We have increased the deduction for family medical expenses (including dental expenses) from £50 to £150. The amount allowed for life assurance and similar payments we have raised from £150 to £300. We made contributions to medical and hospital benefit funds allowable without limit of amount.
To make allowances for the education of a child more ample, we raised the maximum age of a student child from 19 to 21 years. We provided a partial allowance where a taxpayer partially maintains a parent.
We abolished Federal Entertainment Tax. On top of all these benefits, we have provided free milk for school children, and have, knowing what a heavy impact illness frequently makes on the family finances, introduced and constantly improved the great medical health scheme, improved hospital benefits, provided free life-saving drugs, provided Salk vaccine against poliomyelitis, to which I have made some reference in the main part of my speech.
We have not made large election promises, but we have made the interests of the family our special care, and will continue to do so. As in the past, we will seize every opportunity in future to continue and expand these and other beneficial measures.
Dr. Evatt’s Specific Promises
So that electors will know how the amount of £165m. p.a. is made up, I will state the items:
- Deduction of fares on transport costs to and from work 24m. (This assumes, of course, that such deductions will be available to all people who go to work, and not just some.)
- Sales Tax Exemptions 14.85m.
- Payroll Tax Exemption for local Authorities 1.7m
- Social Services 82.7m.
- Health Proposals 15m. (This is under the mark, for the reasons I have stated elsewhere.)
- Repatriation Proposals 6.68m.
- Allocation of full proceeds of fuel taxes 20m.
We must add to these the suggested extension of Repatriation Hospital treatment, the reduction of waiting time for War Service Homes, the four-lane Highway proposal, and others of an indefinite kind.
The true total cannot be less than £250m. a year. And this at a time when we are already in deficit to the tune of £110m.