I speak to you tonight as the Leader of the Labor Party in the Commonwealth of Australia. I present the Labor Party’s Policy at this election of the 24th Parliament of the Commonwealth with the firm conviction that it contains practical, down-to-earth, well-considered and feasible proposals which will restore the nation to prosperity and promote its safety. It is important that the issues on which the election will be decided should be clearly stated and clearly understood.
The sad thing about our present economic crisis is that it need never have happened. It is for us, as Australians, a self-inflicted wound or, rather, a wound inflicted on us by the Menzies Government. No external forces, no national disaster, no economic breakdown, forced us into having at least 150,000 unemployed. It was panic legislation based on ignorance and the miscalculation of an inept, tired Government that did it.
There was no valid reason for the credit squeeze which sent prosperous industries sliding down hill, and men and women cascading into the unemployment pool. That was a piece of high-handed economic bungling which only a reckless, power-drunk Government could conceive and carry out; and carry out against the warnings of the people, industry and the press.
It is this sort of thing that the Labor Party is determined to fight, and so I am presenting a vastly different policy to the nation tonight because I believe, and the Labor Party believes, that the Australian people just cannot afford to give the Menzies Government another term of office.
It’s time for a change
It is time for a change. It is time to clean up the stable. It is time to clean out the Menzies Government. Before I give you the Labor Policy I ask you to consider the record of the Government we seek to replace. I exaggerate nothing. I only state the facts. Let me give them to you. For the purpose of emphasis, and because time is not unlimited, let me catalogue the Government’s decline into disaster under these short headings:
- 150,000 unemployed and a similar number working part-time only
- the Credit Squeeze
- the careering toboggan of inflation
- 80,000 people on the books of the State Housing Commissions applying for homes for rental
- thousands wanting advances to build their own homes, but prevented from doing so by the loan policy and the high interest rates forced on the banks by the Government
- the continued stagnation of our undefended North
- two thousand million pounds spent on defence and nothing to show for it
- the indifference to the need for great national undertakings
- the dismal failure to evolve a plan to deal with our potential loss of £100 million of exports with the entry of Britain into the European Common Market
- the rake’s progress of reckless overseas borrowing
- the open-door policy for foreign capital with no Government plan for the protection against take-over bids of Australian-owned enterprises, and of our great national assets
- the failure to prevent cartels and monopolies grabbing the control of almost everything Australian
- the periodical running-down in our overseas balances to a perilously low level, and the consequent dislocation to industry
- the debacles on foreign policy at the United Nations
- the migration muddle because of unemployment and lack of housing
- the slow decay of the goldfields *the airlines scandals
I pause here, not for lack of game, but one grows weary of chasing the sitting hen. You must agree that what I have said is factual and not unduly emphasised or overstated. It is there as the record of the Liberal Country Party Government over the last 12 years; a Government moving to its own defeat, despite the admonitions even of its friends, and mounting to the guillotine of its own creation to its own self-destruction.
In presenting Labor’s policy, let me say this. We will tell you what it will cost. We will play no tricks on you, the Australian people who already have had enough. If there is an unpleasant fact, it will not be hidden.
If there is a difficulty in the situation discussed, it will be revealed and explained during the campaign. Labor’s policy is not an accidental thing wrapped up in the excitement of an election.
Our policy has grown out of slow and patient, careful and analytical consideration. Various Parliamentary and Federal conference and executive committees have been working on it for more than 18 months. We believe it will stand up to the most rigid examination.
It is good for us to have critical examination, even biased examination, because we believe we can come out of it all successfully. And, please remember, that in these things, Australia and its future are what we worry about. The Australian people, and particularly the little people, are our main concern. As Abraham Lincoln once said:
Almighty God must love little people. He made so many of them.
We will put our policy into effect in the lifetime of the Parliament. And what we promise we will do, just that and no more. In other words, we wish to make an electoral contract with you, the electors, and we are certain that we can carry it out.
Our policy is positive and constructive, but we know that that will not save us from a bitter campaign of calumny and misrepresentation, waged against us by our traditional political enemies and the interests they represent.
We feel that the Australian people most certainly need and want a Government that will try sincerely and determinedly to do something about the matters that concern them most, both in international and domestic affairs. All these matters are very important, although all of them are not equally important to everybody.
In National affairs they include Northern development, unemployment, housing, social services and pensions, education, primary production, decentralisation and industrial matters. But there are other questions, too, that cry out for attention, and about which Labor also has very definite views. I will explain our policy, generally, after I have stated our position on world peace and, later, on what we think should be done now that the United Kingdom is about to join the European Common Market.
The Australian Labor Party stands for the maintenance of Australia as an integral part of the Commonwealth of Nations, with complete co-operation with other units of the Commonwealth of Nations, in order to ensure joint action against aggression. We wish to strengthen Australia and the Commonwealth and the United Nations.
The Chifley Labor Government helped to set up the United Nations, and Labor gives it, as always, unwavering support. We believe in extending and widening the agencies of the United Nations Organisation, such as U.N.E.S.C.O., so as to provide more assistance for the peoples of the under-privileged countries of Asia and Africa, where hundreds of millions of human beings go hungry every day, and where disease and misery still abound, in spite of all man’s vaunted progress and the increased scientific knowledge at man’s command. We will extend the Colombo Plan. We believe that all nations should be members of the United Nations.
World War II ended in 1945, but peace still eludes us. Since then mankind has lived under the threat of another and more terrible war. Mankind yearns for peace, and the Labor Party shares this hope. It believes that every effort must be made to resolve all the problems that divide peoples and nations through the United Nations Organisation by negotiation, and in accordance with principle.
The free world must be ever ready to negotiate but can never surrender to threats or blackmail. My colleagues and I have expressed our abhorrence at Russia’s action in conducting the recent series of nuclear tests with a callous disregard of the effects of fallout in the atmosphere, and with a contempt for world opinion on the dangers to world peace that such as course might create. The condemnations of Mr. Nehru, Tenku Adbul Rahman, Marshal Tito and the leaders of neutralist powers at the Belgrade Conference of these wanton acts had our strong support.
The Labor Party believes in summit meetings of the leaders of the most powerful nations to help in the solution of the immediate and compelling problems of disarmament and the banning of nuclear tests. The future of Germany and Berlin are bound up and related to these questions, but, important as they are, they are not as important as universal disarmament. We are all in favor of disarmament and the ending of all nuclear tests.
The three years ahead will be years of anxiety and concern for all Australians and for all mankind. The danger of war may be lessened in that time, and this is our prayerful hope. The possibility of mutual destruction is now so great that this in itself should be sufficient to prevent war. It does, at least, strengthen us in our belief that another world war will be averted.
If, however, war should be forced upon the free world, Australia, whether we wish it or not, will be involved. In those circumstances we who belong to the free world will stand with the free world and will give wholehearted support to its cause. There could be no other course for those who cherish freedom and believe in democracy. We of the Labor Party have always been found on the side of liberty because we hate tyranny and abhor oppression.
It is our proud boast that we have always stood for freedom for all mankind, and have always opposed every form of totalitarianism. When Nazism plunged the world into war in 1939 it was a Labor Government that led Australia to victory. If Communism should plunge the world into war in 1962 or any later year, it will be necessary to have an Australian Labor Government in office to again save this country from invasion and defeat. An anti-Labor Government would fall to pieces in a future war as the Menzies and Fadden Governments did in 1941. I propose to deal more fully with other aspects of our foreign policy later this evening, and during the campaign.
European Common Market
The early entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community, known as the Common Market, is generally accepted. That it may have great and significant consequences is also conceded, but, as yet, the precise nature of those consequences are not clear. Most Australian primary producers can be gravely affected, but nothing seems to have been done to find new markets for the following products:
- Wheat, butter, cheese, eggs, dried milk, dried and canned fruits, apples and pears, and wine.
Wool could be affected because if the Common Market countries bid, as one buyer, at auction sales in future years, prices will fall lower than they are today, and they are already lower than they should be.
The present Government has failed Australia and its primary producers because, although it has known for the past four years that the United Kingdom would be obliged to seek membership of the Common Market, it has done nothing to find new markets or to discuss the matter openly with the United Kingdom or the countries of the European Economic Community. The Government has ignored the Parliament on this vital question, but the people are greatly concerned and want to know what is to be done.
They, know, for instance, that for years Australia has faced increasing difficulties in its external trade and that the development of the European Common Market will accentuate these difficulties. However, despite these apparent and growing difficulties, the Menzies Government has relied upon foreign investment to maintain overseas funds, and has allowed our external trade to come more and more under the control of foreign commercial, shipping, financial and insurance companies. These companies exercise monopolistic controls of freights, premiums, credit and interest, and operate only through traditional channels in Europe and Asia.
Expansion of Australian external trade demands a departure from this old pattern. It demands an Australian initiative. Immediately upon election, the new Labor Government will ensure that our well-established export commodity boards, such as wheat and meat, will enter into the active sale of these primary products in all countries. In some cases this will involve new and extended credit facilities. Labor will establish an Export Credit Bank as part of the Commonwealth banking structure to supply these needs. Similarly, the provision of insurance facilities outside the private monopoly ring is an urgent need. A Labor Government will establish a Commonwealth Insurance Corporation to operate in the field of external trade.
It is well known that there are no Australian ships to carry Australian goods overseas. Labor will do everything possible to lower shipping freights. We will charter ships and use the National Shipping Line in overseas trade, where possible and necessary.
Australia needs a larger trade promotion section in the Department of Trade, and Labor will provide it. We will authorise the establishment of warehouses overseas to help our trade, not just talk about it.
This country should shed a worn-out Government composed of weary leaders with their failures thick upon them, and a mangled and mismanaged Australian economy as the only credential they can offer of their supposed competence to discuss Australian export problems with the leaders of the countries of the highly successful European Economic Community.
Just as in the days of the Curtin and Chifley Governments, the Labor Party has men who will prove more capable than the Liberal and Country Parties’ Ministers they will replace. And this is true, despite the sedulously fostered slanders of our political and press opponents to the contrary.
It is almost axiomatic to say that unless we develop this country we will lose it. Over the past 12 years, with the exception of the last few months, with an election approaching, the present Government has done comparatively nothing for the Northern half of Australia. Our six capital cities continue to grow disproportionately and now hold 55 per cent. of our total population.
The Labor Party, which developed Rum Jungle and Mt. Isa, and made the first grants to help the North-West of Western Australia, believes that roads and railways and airports and seaports must be built, and rivers dammed in the top half of Western Australia and the Northernb Territory and Queensland, where 40 per cent. of our country is occupied by only 4 per cent. of our people. This is a top priority undertaking, because time is short and tomorrow might be too late.
We will appoint a special Minister for the Northern Territory and for Northern Australia, and a special Conservation Authority on the lines of the Snowy Mountains Authority to do the job.
We will plan boldly and spend wisely in co-operation with the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia in a determined effort to guarantee our national survival. The expenditure of a few million pounds a few months before an election on beef roads and the like, or a coal port here, or on something else there, means very little in the light of the challenge facing us. And it is almost the only expenditure of this sort the Government has made in 12 years. For one thing, we will ease the taxation burden on those who reside in our empty North.
We will ease both company and personal income tax, and we will create more zones, too, for taxation purposes. We will include Geraldton in Zone “B”.
Because we believe in decentralisation we will encourage it.
It is a shocking indictment of the Menzies Government that there is large-scale unemployment in Australia, and that, accordmg to one survey taken over 31,000 homes in Sydney in September, 9 per cent. of the workers were unemployed and another 9 per cent. were working part-time.
The indictment is more shocking when it is realised that all this could have been avoided, and that the Government itself deliberately decided to abandon full employment and create unemployment in the interest of price stability. Human suffering, loss of wages, loss of production, dislocation of industry, these are all the consequences of the disastrous blow struck by the Menzies Government at Australia and Australian prosperity since February, 1960.
Labor will restore full employment within 12 months, and will introduce a supplementary Budget in February for a deficit of £100 million, if necessary, to achieve this.
Labor will reimpose selective import controls and afford adequate tariff protection to established industries. The Curtin Government first established full employment; the incoming Labor Government will restore it and maintain it. The tragedy of unemployment has darkened too many Australian doors already, even though some people, unaffected by it, shrug it off as insignificant. Next year’s story, with 160,000 school children joining the work-force, will be worse than that of today unless there is a change of Government and a change of policy.
Next to unemployment the most pressing social problem is that of housing. The construction of new houses has been drastically cut by the credit squeeze, and is still falling. It costs more than three times as much to build or buy a house today than it did 16 years ago.
Something between 80,000 to 90,000 houses per annum are probably necessary at present to provide for newly married couples, for migrants, and for slum clearance. Because the problem of slum clearance has only been dabbled with, the target figure for the next five years might well be much higher.
Eighty-thousand to 90,000 houses should continue to be built yearly; after that five-year period irrespective of short-term economic circumstances, and whether those circumstances be balance of payments crises or internal booms or depressions. Housing activity has little direct effect on the balance of payments, and it is most desirable that stability should be preserved in this industry which cannot readily be turned on or off. Neither the skilled tradesmen nor the materials can easiiy be adapted to other industries.
The total amount of finance to be provided for housing is the amount necessary to ensure that the industry is maintained at a reasonable level of activity. There is no inflationary implication in increasing housing finance if the increase is merely designed to keep the industry at a stable level of activity.
There is also little purpose in increasing the funds available for housing finance if the rate of interest is so high that there is no demand for finance. In fact, the great bulk of housing finance is made available at what might be called concessional rates; that is, at rates which are lower than the home builder would be required to pay if he stood on his own credit rating. At the present time, hire-purchase companies, guaranteed by trading banks, are borrowing on first mortgage at 8 per cent., while great industrial concerns are borrowing at 8 per cent. and 8½ per cent. What hope has the ordinary home-builder of borrowing at lower rates than these?
In fact, War Service Homes money is lent at 3¾ per cent., housing authorities finance the purchase of existing homes at rates as low as 4½ per cent., and the maximum rate on money provided through Governmental sources to co-operative building societies is 5⅞ per cent.
These concessional rates are operating when the Commonwealth is paying 5⅜ per cent. plus a substantial tax concession, the great semi-governmental authorities 5¾ per cent., and the smaller 5⅞ per cent. And much of the funds they obtain come from sources which are restrained from lending in other directions, such as trustees restricted to ‘trustee securities’.
It has been recognised for decades that ordinary money-lending rates, whether of banks or insurance companies, are too high for home-builders to be able to afford, and some form of subsidy, be it overt or covert, has operated.
Once the principle has been recognised that housing should not bear the full impact of every day-to-day fluctuation in interest rates, it then becomes necessary to fix interest rates at the level appropriate to the long-term growth of the economy.
In the view of the A.L.P., this is 3⅛ per cent. to 3¼ per cent.—the rate of interest on which the war was financed and on which the prewar debt was refinanced in the postwar period. This was also the rate in the United Kingdom through her great period of development—the nineteenth century when 3 per cent. consols stood very close to par.
This was the rate considered appropriate in the long-term in Australia before the bond market was destroyed by persistent inflation. Without a restoration to this rate, inflation will continue because if people can get 8 per cent. with perfect safety just for lending money, profits and prices must go even higher if any business activity is to continue.
With money at 3⅛ per cent. or 3¼ per cent., the real control over the level of housing construction will be the level of genuine demand, and the number of people who can put up sound propositions. No undue fluctuation in the level of activity would occur merely because finance was more or less readily available, and the level of finance would be adapted naturally to the level of building activity and demand.
There is no fear of excessive demand because the economic rent with interest at 3⅛ per cent. is something approaching £6 per week on a £4,000 house. The bulk of the Australian people can hardly make excess housing demands at this cost, but there will be no artificial interest rate bar to a proper level of housing standards under a Labor Government.
A Federal Labor Government will:
- Make larger housing grants to the States to ensure:
- the availability of houses for rental by people with the greatest family and financial needs
- home purchase by people whose family and financial needs most entitle them to reduced deposits
- the replacement of sub-standard houses to resuscitate the inner areas of State capitals
Ensure a steady flow of funds for housing at reduced or even preferential interest rates.
Require the savings banks to invest a certain proportion of their deposits in housing loans, to individuals and building societies.
Ensure, through agreement or legislation, that life assurance companies invest in both Commonwealth bonds and buildng societies on their former scale
Increase grants to the War Service Homes Division to remove the various devices by which ex-servicemen have been denied justice in recent years.
Help bereaved or injured people to pay rent or instalments where the breadwinner is no longer able to do so.
A Labor Government will reverse the high interest rate policy followed by the Menzies Government. In consultation with the Reserve Bank it will initiate moves to secure a reduction of interest rates, including the increases in overdraft rates made by the Menzies Government.
The most important questions facing industry today are those of mechanisation and automation. Overseas manufacturers are able by the use of increasing mechanisation and automation, to so reduce costs that Australian manufacturers cannot successfully compete against them, even with tariff protection, unless they adopt similar methods of production.
Labor will try to solve the two problems involved, firstly, by helping manufacturers to re-equip their plants with the latest machinery to bring Australian production times up to date with overseas development and, secondly, by establishing an organisation within the Department of Labor and National Service to deal with the effects of automation and mechanisation, and to plan the necessary measures with all the authorities concerned that must be taken to retrain labor and overcome the social problems involved.
These social problems are very serious, because between September, 1960, and September, 1961, the number of males and females in private employment, according to the Commonwealth Statistician, fell by over 62,000. According to the Chamber of Manufactures, 12.7 per cent. of those engaged in manufacturing industries are at present unemployed. Next year, 160,000 young, Australian boys and girls will be looking for employment, and most of them won’t find it, while in the following year there will be an all-time record of young Australians leaving school and looking for jobs.
The prevailing trend towards increased mechanisation and automation and, therefore, improved methods of production, will aggravate the unemployment problem unless our secondary industries are developed to the highest possible level, and that will not be done under present methods nor while the present Government lasts.
We believe that women should be paid equal pay with men for work of equal value. The Labor Government will support the adoption of this principle before relevant Federal tribunals, and also put it into effect in the Commonwealth Public Service and Commonwealth Government instrumentalities. The Australian Labor Party will honor Australia’s international obligations by ratifying the I.L.O. Convention on this question.
Labor will repeal those sections of the Crimes Act and the Arbitration Act that relate to political or industrial offences. Labor will conduct a representative Commonwealth inquiry into the cost of living under present-day conditions.
We shall intervene before the Industrial Commission to support the A.C.T.U. and the A.W.U. for an immediate restoration of automatic quarterly adjustments of the cost of living.
The Labor Party is a national party. It is a people’s party. It seeks to represent all wealth producers, and that includes primary producers, and those engaged in secondary and tertiary industries. It represents self-employed people.
The great majority of breadwinners, men and women alike, are wage or salary earners. Eight hundred thousand of them belong to unions affiliated with the A.C.T.U. and another 180,000 to the A.W.U. The Labor Party has the closest links with the Trade Union Movement, from which many of its greatest leaders have come and will continue to come. We will keep in close touch with these bodies and the representatives of white-collar workers at all times.
Labor recognises the importance of apprenticeship in the frame-work of a rapidly developing Australia, and will do everything possible to support an improvement of apprenticeship conditions designed to raise the present high level of qualified artisans now being trained in Australian industry.
We will review the provisions of the Furlough Act and the Superannuation Act as they affect employees of the Commonwealth Public Service and Commonwealth instrumentalities.
The Chifley Labor Government left Australia a social services system which was the admiration of the world, but the value of these social service benefits has been steadily whittled away by the present Government’s failure to control inflation. The nominal value of many benefits has not even been changed since 1949; the real value of all benefits has been substantially reduced. Labor’s immediate task is to restore the purchasing power of social service payments.
The foundations of Labor’s social services objective is to provide justice for all, both young and old; to secure the welfare of all Australians; and to provide the basis for the fullest development of the individual freed from the shackles, insecurity, shallowness and absurdities of a system which ignores need and regards greed as the fundamental human motive.
Child endowment rates have not been changed since the Menzies Government came to power, although the first child has been endowed since 1950. In that time prices have risen by more than 100 per cent.
Labor will immediately legislate for these rates—for the first child 10/- per week; for the second 17/6, and for each additional child £1 per week. Labor’s policy proposes that child endowment be adjusted in accordance with living costs.
Labor proposes to increase all age, invalid and widow’s pensions immediately by 5/- to £5/10/- a week. This does no more than restore the pensions to their value under the Chifley Government. The means test will be reviewed with a view to its gradual abolition.
Maternity allowances were established by the Fisher Labor Government in 1912. The existing rate of £15 was made by the Curtin Government in 1943 (where there were no other children under 14 years), £16 (where there was one or two other children under 14), and £17/10/- (where there were three or more children under 14). Labor will provide a payment of £30 for the first child, rising to £35 for the fourth and subsequent children.
Funeral benefits were introduced by the Curtin Government in l943. A sum of £10 was fixed as payable to the person who paid or was liable to pay the cost of the funeral of an aged or invalid pensioner. The amount which has been left untouched by the Menzies Government will be increased to £30.
Supplementary assistance is available to single pensioners and to married couples where only one is a pensioner and no wife’s allowance is paid. It is payable only to persons who pay rent and who are considered to depend entirely on their pensions. The rate is 10/- a week. Labor proposes to increase this up to 30/- a week, and to examine the question of making payment for special needs.
Australia has reciprocal agreements with the United Kingdom and New Zealand on social services and aged pensions. For purposes of the agreement, residence in one country counts as residence in the other country for entitlement to benefit in which a residential qualification applies. This, however, leaves a large number of new citizens, mostly from Europe, whose normal working life ends at 65 years, leaving work at a time when they would be short of the existing 20 years’ Australian residential qualification. Labor will reduce this residential qualification to 10 years.
The Aged Persons Homes Act, introduced in 1954, provides that grants may be made to eligible organisations towards the capital cost of erecting or purchasing approved homes for aged people. Organisations now considered eligible are church and charitable organisations, organisations of former members of the Defence Forces and others that may be approved by the Governor-General. Grants may be made to an approved home provided such grants do not exceed two-thirds of the capital cost as determined by the Director-General; or twice the amount, excluding moneys derived from borrowing, or received from a Government or Government authority, raised by the organisation towards the capital cost; whichever is the less. Labor will broaden this Act to enable local government authorities and trade unions to also qualify for eligibility.
Labor will establish a Social Service Appeals Tribunal to hear appeals by any unsuccessful applicant for a Social Service benefit. The need for such a tribunal is shown where an applicant for an invalid pension desires to challenge certain medical testimony or where an aged pension applicant desires to challenge the valuation set on his property. The existing restrictive provisions of the Commonwealth Compensation Act will be examined with a view to removing prevailing injustices and costly legal challenges.
One of the greatest phenomena of the twentieth century has been the spread of knowledge and the rise in educational standards throughout the world. The process is continuing at an ever-increasing rate with the countries that do most securing the greatest benefits. In comparison with most countries, Australia’s expenditure on education is miserably small, and will remain that way while conservative thinking determines educational policy. The percentage expenditure of national income among the nations on education is as follows:
- Japan - 5.8
- West Germany - 4;5
- U.S.A. - 4.3
- New Zealand - 3.7
- the United Kingdom - 3.6
- Australia - 2.2.
Labor believes that an educated democracy is a powerful democracy, and that every child must be given the fullest opportunity to develop its talents to the extent of its capabilities. No child must lose the chance of a university or a secondary education today because its parents cannot afford the cost. Cost is now only a secondary consideration, because our nation just cannot afford to neglect to develop any youthful talent. As a people our numbers are all too few. We will establish a Ministry of Education and Science. In every State children are being taught in emergency accommodation, some of which has to be seen to be believed. We of the Labor Party are aware of the financial difficulties facing the States. Special Federal grants will be made to the States to eliminate all such temporary accommodation and provide adequate [unreadable] accommodation, to develop physical, health and technical [unreadable] kindergarten teacher training, and to provide science equipment [unreadable] will establish a system of secondary school scholarships, similar to Commonwealth University Scholarships on a qualification basis, [unreadable] payable to students, and tenable at any college, State or non-State.
Labor will also provide an increasing number of scholarships, again on a qualifying basis, for university education, and adequate university buildings. Most importantly, Labor will appoint a commission to inquire into secondary, technical and primary education on the lines of the Murray Commission, which inquired into our universities.
Australia has a co-ordinated health scheme today because the Chifley Government, in spite of determined opposition by the Country Party and the Liberal Party, persuaded the Australian people to accept the Social SerVice Amendment to the Constitution in 1946. The Health Scheme that was introduced by the Chifley Government following the referendum has been altered by the present Government to the detriment of the people. This is what the next Labor Government will do:-
We will re-establish the system of free public hospitals, initiated by the Chifley Labor Government, by special grants to the States.
We will establish a complete National Health Service to provide general practitioner, specialist, hospital, mental health, dental, optical and hearing appliances, pharmaceutical and maternity services, as was originally proposed by the Chifley Government. We will repeal the requirement that patients must join a registered society to obtain additional commonwealth benefits.
Voluntary insurance will be encouraged.
We will provide salaried medical services for sparsely settled areas, and will subsidise country medical and nursing services. We will recognise the right of doctors to the right of private practice, and the right of patients to choose their own doctors.
We will include a National Hospital Service including hospitalisation, without charge and without means test in public wards. We will help the States to build new mental hospitals.
The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories will not be sold and the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories will be expanded.
We will include free dental and eye services for children under 16. Deaf aids will be provided from Government factories, and artificial limbs will be supplied free to the needy.
[unreadable] sympathetically consider granting assistance to needy [unreadable] ulcerative colitis by providing the cost of equipment and appliances.
We will also abolish the 5/- charge for prescriptions; provide free pre-natal and maternity care; extend the home help scheme; expand the free drugs list.
Local government plays a significant and important role in our community life. Unlike Federal and State Governments it has no guaranteed Constitutional rights and, therefore, no protection against the effects of economic blizzards. Labor will do three things in regard to local government:-
It will call a conference of Federal and State Governments and representatives of local government immediately to find ways of guaranteeing local government loans and revenues.
It will amend the law to exempt all local government and semi-government activities, other than trading activities, from the payment of pay-roll tax;
It will remit to the States the full proceeds of the petrol and diesel oil fuel taxes.
A Labor Government will implement the report of the Parliamentary Committee on voting rights of Australian aborigines. The committee was established on the initiative and insistence of the Labor Party.
Labor will make grants to assist the technical and agricultural education of aboriginal people.
The Labor Party believes that the Constitution should be amended to enable the Commonwealth to pass laws in regard to aborigines. Leaders of our aboriginal people favor this idea.
My colleague, Mr. Pollard, will deliver our rural policy over the National A.B.C. network tomorrow night at 8 o'clock. I only wish to say three things. Firstly, Mr. Pollard is the distinguished Minister for Commerce and Agriculture who gave the wheatgrowers their guaranteed price and the dairy farmers their butter subsidy. Secondly, Labor will restore the subsidy of £3 a ton on superphosphate, for which he was responsible, and which the Menzies Government abolished. Thirdly, although costs have doubled, the incomes of primary producers are still the same in total as in 1949-50. They have nothing, therefore, to thank the Liberal and Country Parties for.
Financing the Labor programme
Since 1949 the cost of living has doubled, but taxation revenue has been trebled. Half the increase of tax revenue from £504 million in 1949-50 to £1466 million in 1961-62 is due, therefore, to inflation. The extra £500 million is due in part to increased production due to population growth over the past 12 years.
And the 1961-62 figure is a depressed one, reflecting the currently low state of business activity, wages, employment and profits.
As the Government has proceeded at a jog-trot for more than a decade it has always been able to find the money it required to finance its policies. The Labor Party can finance its policies from the same sources, without increasing the total amount of taxation now being collected annually. We say that tax revenues will be more justly used. The increased cost annually of our Social Services programme is doing justice to mothers and the various classes of pensioners is £93 million, and that of extending health and medical benefits £30 million. The payment of a subsidy on superphosphates would be around £10 million but much of it would come back in freight and taxation through increased production. Remitting payroll tax on local government undertakings would amount to £1½ million and paying the full proceeds of the petrol tax to the States another £13 million a year. In all, the cost of everything we promise would be around £150 million to £160 million a year. As against this debt there is the credit item which full employment will produce.
Labor will introduce a supplementary Budget immediately on election to provide for a deficit of £100 million, if necessary, to restore full employment within twelve months.
By the simple process of giving work to all the registered unemployed and those not registered because of ineligibility and other reasons, a sum of £125 million a year in wages and salaries which has been withdrawn from circulation would be immediately restored. The annual production loss of double this figure would also be restored. At least £14 million a year is being paid in unemployment benefits at present and most of this would be saved.
The result would be an annual saving of £14 million on unemployment benefits; and an increase of tax revenue from the re-employed of £10 million to £15 million apart from additional tax paid by them in sales tax, excise and so on. Other sections of the community supplying goods and services would increase their personal incomes and thus tax revenues would be further increased by something like £40 million a year.
With stable government and stable economic progress we can expect our production to rise, at least 5 per cent. per annum, half from population growth and half from increased productivity. With good national leadership the productivity increase itself might be as much as 5 per cent., whereas under the Menzies Government a 2 per cent. or 3 per cent. increase has only been achieved in alternative years when repressive economic measures were not being taken.
The increase of 5 per cent., amounting to £350 million a year in fixed prices in the real product of Australia provides the fund from which our development and improvement will come. The Menzies Government takes 20 per cent. for government purposes. 20 per cent. of the growth, as it would be under Labor, would, in three years, provide us with £200 million a year, at the worst, and £400 million a year on a ‘belief in Australia’ basis for improving the well-being of our people through improved community services.
Our opponents seem to think it rather wonderful that our real output is growing at about the same pace as the population. But in Japan, in each and every year, everyone is at least 2 or 3 per cent. better off; the Japanese themselves claim 4 or 5 per cent. In Germany and France much the same is happening. And these were the countries devastated by war. Italy, too, is able to claim, and rightly so, that her economy which once had 2 million unemployed, now has a standard of living which is rising at the same fast rate as that of Germany, France and Japan. And, what is more, Italy, which used not to be able to afford imports of coal and steel to put her people to work, now has gold and dollar reserves of about the same size of those of the sterling area.
These are the countries which have mastered their economies. These are the countries which have put the well-being of their population first.
The essential difference between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party in Australia is that we believe that every man and woman has the right to a job and we believe that if an economy cannot raise the standard of living by at least 2 per cent. per annum for its poorest members, then there is something seriously wrong with that economy and with the Government that is controlling it.
A Labor Government will redistribute the burden of taxation.
We believe that indirect taxation and injustices within the present deduction and rate structure of income tax bear heavily on the family man. These injustices must be remedied. Sales tax will be reduced and abolished on food items and household goods. Verifiable fares or reasonable transport costs incurred by employees to and from their place of employment will be accepted as allowable taxation deductions. A separate examination of company taxation shows that one thousand get two-thirds of all profits, while half of these get over half the profit. Eighty of them, the real ‘blue chips’, take nearly one-third of the profits. These top few are the ones able to determine their own prices in quite arbitrary fashions and it is they that are the main generators of inflationary pressures. Our taxation laws badly need revising so as to ease the load carried by small and middle range income earners.
The Labor Party, which launched our great immigration policy, as it launched everything else worthwhile in our national life, including the Commonwealth Bank, the Snowy Mountains Scheme and Trans-Australia. Airlines, will resume large scale immigration when it restores full employment. Full employment and adequate housing are the pre-requisites to any successful humane scheme of immigration. Pending the re-employment of all now unemployed we will do everything possible to reunite migrant families, we will make remittances to wives and children overseas allowable tax deductions and, as I have said already, we will reduce the time of eligibility for an age pension from twenty years to ten.
Elaborating on what I said early in this speech, the Labor Party wishes to see the replanning of S.E.A.T.O. on a cultural, educational, medical and technical assistance basis and not on a military basis, and believes that it should include all the peoples of South East Asia.
Now that Malaya has said that the Singapore base is no longer welcome because of Britain’s commitment to S.E.A.T.O. Australian troops should be withdrawn from Malaya. We are opposed to the conscription of Australian youth to serve under Asian Commanders in a new Pacific Ocean Treaty Organisation. We assert in regard to West New Guinea that the only people who have the right to determine the future of the island, the whole island of New Guinea, are its indigenous people. We believe that the dispute over Dutch New Guinea should be resolved by the United Nations.
This is the age of self-determination and Australia’s duty towards Papua-New Guinea as Labor sees it is to prepare the races of those territories as part of the whole island for self-government at the earliest possible time. As a people we have every reason to be proud of what we have done so far, but much more remains to be done. The cost will be beyond us and our programme can be carried out only with United Nations support. We must continue with our policies of public health and education and strive for a university at Port Moresby so that native graduates can contribute to the future leadership and greatness of their country.
Trade unionism must be encouraged. It must be free, indigenous and independent, for without such unions democracy cannot exist. In the dying hours of the twenty-third Parliament the Government announced the abandonment of the whole system of courts of justice built up over the last seventy years by many able and dedicated administration officials. We hold ourselves free to review this action because we want to extend the Courts of Native Matters to include Native Magistrates and the District Courts to include civilian European, Chinese and Native justices as well as the present official European Judges thereby extending responsibility for the maintenance of law and order to men for whom the whole community would have respect. The other immediately important matter is the need for a common roll for the electorate. This we approve.
The Labor Party believes in an effective defence force. We are not pacifists and neither do we support aggression. We have never voted against the provision of any funds this Government has ever asked for in the name of defence, though we have criticised it for its inability to decide what fighter aircraft it wanted, what sort of Navy it wanted and why it wasted the sum of £200 million it appropriated each year. As a Government we will still appropriate this sum for defence annually but we will have something to show for it; we will have a stronger Navy, Army and Air Force. We would use such of our forces as are needed from time to time as a peace unit of the United Nations.
This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Royal Australian Navy and of the Royal Military College at Duntroon. The Fisher Labor Government established both against the usual frenzied opposition of its tory enemies. This is the answer to those who challenge our intentions on defence.
While conscious of the defence interests of Australia, Labor will not forget the needs of those who have defended Australia in the past. We propose to regard cancer in ex-servicemen as a war-caused disease and will make it pensionable. All men who served in World War I will be admitted to Repatriation Hospitals for treatment as if their diseases were war-caused. We will readjust Repatriation benefits as part of our plan for payment of increased benefits for all entitled to receive them under Repatriation or Social Services legislation.
Not everything can be dealt with in a policy speech and so some matters that I would have liked to have mentioned will have to be dealt with during the campaign by myself and my Deputy Leader (Mr. Whitlam) and my other colleagues of the Parliamentary Party Executive, all of them true and trusted colleagues. Senator McKenna, our leader in the Senate and his Deputy, Senator Kennelly, and Mr. Ward, Mr. Pollard, Mr. Haylen, Mr. Allan Fraser, Mr. Harrison, Mr. Crean, Mr. Cameron, Mr. Barnard, Dr. Cairns and Senator Courtice, will deal with the various subjects not touched upon. I want to finish on two points. Just as the Woomera Rocket Range, established by the Chifley Labor Government, is under our joint control with Britain, so any bases established by our allies with the consent of Australia must also be under our joint control. We will cede no territory nor surrender any of our authority to any other power at any time in matters of defence.
It has been a great privilege and honor for me to present the policy of the Labor Party in this election. It is a policy designed by Australians for the benefit of Australia.
We say that the Australian economic system exists to serve the Australian people and not to be their master. Its only function is to ensure that production of the things we all want increases as fast as possible through the full use of all our human resources and all our technical and scientific skills, and that this rapid expansion of production is distributed fairly over the whole community.
But we must keep on top of the system or else, as has happened under the Menzies Government, it will take charge and fail in its primary purpose.
We are completely and irrevocably opposed to Communism on ideological and philosophical grounds. Communism to us is an alien creed based on tyranny and sustained by terror. We have always declared, and we say it again, that between the Labor Party and the Communist Party there exists an unbridgeable gulf and that is why we always give the Communist candidate our last preference vote.
We are greatly concerned about the future of Australia which is not helped, but is being greatly harmed, by the Government’s fiscal policies. Overseas investment in Australian enterprises (as a junior partner) can be helpful, but with one hundred per cent. ownership of share capital domiciled overseas it can be, and is, a menace, just as it has been in the case of Canada.
Overseas borrowing at interest to import non-essential goods merely increases Australia’s overseas indebtedness. We borrow money to import unemployment while our own workless walk the streets and our factories remain half idle. Only by overseas borrowing and overseas investment can the Menzies Government stave off an immediate economic collapse in Australia, even though what it does in this regard makes such a collapse more or less inevitable ultimately.
We are living in a troubled world. It is obvious from day to day happenings that fundamental weaknesses exist in the economic systems of the major Western powers. The rise of monopolies, chronic unemployment, the threat to security of trained craftsmen by automatic production processes, the lack of a national purpose in most Western countries, are targets of propaganda by a dedicated and ruthless Communist system.
Labor is aware of the limited time available to all who prize the right to guide their own destinies, to plan for a form of society in which the Australian spirit can thrive and expand and prosper. The aim and purpose of Labor is to make this a country which incorporates all that is best from the old order, and adapts it to the new challenge that is really present to us all right now.
With this end in view, Labor re-affirms its belief in the essential dignity of man, his right to provide for his family; his right to work; his right to leisure; his security for the future; and his right to strive for peace.
Let me say this, too, despite all that has been said and will be said to the contrary, Labor has no plans to nationalise the banks or to socialise medicine or to do anything other than what is stated in this policy speech. For one thing, we have no power to nationalise without first referring the matter to you by way of referendum. We promise not to raise the question of nationalisation during the lifetime of the twenty-fourth Parliament.
Our traducers in and out of politics and in high and low places are campaigning actively against us, but we will meet their false charges and their jibes and their smears with bold defiance, conscious that our cause is just, and that our policy, based on truth and designed to help every Australian citizen, both old and new, will bring enormous, benefits to the Australian people once it is implemented.
I finish as I began. Deeply conscious of the grave challenge of the future, Labor presents its well considered programme. We bear the same shield as did Scullin, Curtin and Chifley. We walk in their tradition. We are men of one allegiance only. We have never changed our name. We represent the Australian Labor Party, which is Australian because it is Labor, and Labor because it is Australian. Our flag is the Australian flag which we have never sullied and which we have never raised in an unworthy cause.
We have a proud history of struggle and achievement and we ask all our fellow Australians to march forward with us because whatever our difficulties might be, and however strong our enemies might seem, we never surrender, we never give up. Seventy years of proud memories inspire us to even greater endeavours, and though our sword has been broken in many a fight, we have never, never, lowered the hilt. I ask you, my fellow Australians, to vote Labor on December the 9th.