The dissolution of the 24th Parliament of the Commonwealth was brought about one year ahead of time for reasons other than the false and spurious ones stated by the Prime Minister.
There was no pressing national need for the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to precipitate this election and throw the House of Representatives and the Senate out of electoral alignment; and there can be no justification for the waste o£ £500,000 in having two elections where one alone next year would suffice.
But now that elections for the House of Representatives only are to be held, let me state the position of the Labor Party in respect of the issues that we will raise, the issues that will decide the result of the elections, in order that they may be clearly understood and appreciated.
In other words, let me separate the Labor Party’s grain from the Liberal and Country Parties’ chaff. We welcome the chance to do so. Even more we congratulate the Australian people on the chance which is theirs to destroy the Menzies Government. It is time for a change. It is more than time for a change; it is time to give Australia a chance.
The most purblind government supporter cannot deny that there is a widepread discontent and distrust and boredom with this Government in every section of the community, and perhaps Sir Robert Menzies has become aware of it and has been influenced by it.
Where, for instance, is the direction and the drive in government circles needed to expand our industries and to develop our empty north? They just don’t exist. The Nation does not surge forward with confidence as it should be doing if we are to survive; it moves along at a jog trot; held back by a government which swings wildly between deep complacency and violent panic.
This Government suffers from the unsettling complaint called remoteness. Ministers are far too remote from the people and the Prime Minister is even too remote from his Ministerial colleagues. I think he does know who they all are, and, I think, he does nod to each of them occasionally.
But what is now needed is a government that looks like a government, that acts like a government and that listens to what the people want; a government that trusts the people and is trusted by them in return.
Such a government must be a Labor Government, because only a Labor Government can act as an Australian, a truly Australian Government should act.
The main issues on which we ask the electorate to vote are the need to promote the economic growth of the nation; its defence and foreign affairs; education and science; housing; health; the development of the North; social services (including child endowment and pensions); full employment; hospital benefits; repatriation; restrictive practices; trade; and the unsatisfactory state of rural industries.
Broadly, we will fight on all home-front issues of great national importance and deep personal concern to the electorate.
Our policy on rural matters will be stated on Friday evening at Grafton, N.S.W., in the electorate of Cowper, by my colleague Mr. R. T. Pollard, the distinguished Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government.
Our policy on defence is sound, realistic and inspired by the spirit of Australian nationalism. Consequently, it will appeal to all Australians who love their country and want to see its security guaranteed.
This is where we stand on each of the issues I have named. There are other questions that I will also touch on tonight, and elaborate upon, as the campaign proceeds to its inevitable victorious close.
On the question of economic growth we must remember two things.
We are a young nation, not only in terms of our history but in terms of the age of our present population. Half of our present popnlation is under the age of thirty and one-third of it is in the age group between five and twenty-four.
In this dramatic and significant trend in our population lies, at one and the same time, our greatest challenge and our greatest chance. If we meet the challenge now, we can make the youthfulness of our population our springboard to future greatness. If we neglect it we will cause almost irremediable harm.
We have it within out power to become the most talented and progressive nation in the world—a nation whose skill and ability can make up, to some extent, our lack of numbers. It is easy enough to talk of the opportunities before us. It is another thing entirely to face squarely the problems posed by these population trends.
Firstly, we must plan for rapid growth to absorb a workforce which is growing at the rate of two per cent every year. The numbers needing education will rise rapidly. And the growing numbers in the marriageable age group means that more and more houses must be built to give a decent start to those seeking to marry and found families.
These are the basic facts of Australian life today, and in those facts lies the hard core of Labor’s economic policy—a policy which stands for spectacular economic growth, a revolution in education, and a vigorous housing drive. These are the first things on which we set our sights. We are setting our sights on a great tomorrow.
Labor stands firmly on its policy of full employment—full employment without qualifications. That means that every Australian willing and able to work must have the opportunity to work. We will never permit a repetition of the waste and hardship of the past three years.
On the most conservative estimates, thirty million working days were lost to the nation as a direct result of the credit squeeze imposed in November 1960. Not less than £500 million in goods and services were lost to the community forever through the folly and blind complacency of the Menzies Government. The Government deliberately decided to abandon the policy of full employment in an effort to cure economic troubles which were of their own creation. Cost stability was more important to them than full employment and the avoidance of the preventable misery and distress that followed unemployment and many business failures.
The Australian people were burdened as a consequence for three years. The effects have not yet been entirely obliterated. The remedial measures which the Labor Party advocated, and for which we were so savagely derided, were ultimately, but all too tardily, all too reluctantly, applied in principle, if not in all important details.
Yet, at the very moment that unemployment has fallen below the intolerable figure of from eighty thousand to one hundred thousand, around which it had stood for over two years, the Government seeks a renewal of its mandate. Relying on the hope that the public memory is short, the leader-in-waiting of the Liberal Party, the Treasurer, has urged this course upon Sir Robert Menzies. May I repeat the question of Sir Winston Churchill, and ask:
What kind of a people do they think we are?
Now, just as the economy emerges from the worst effects of the worst slump since the thirties, there is already speculation about the timing of the next credit squeeze, if this Government should remain in office. There is a simple reason for this—the credit squeeze is the one economic weapon this Government knows how to wield, and they have wielded it three times in a decade, with disastrous results on each occasion.
The next credit squeeze
The credit squeeze is the weapon of people who think of the economy in terms of finance and profits, and not in terms of the employment of men and women, the production of goods and services for human use and benefit, and the progress and development of the Nation.
The Labor Party holds as a basic principle that the ultimate credit policy of the nation should rest in the hands of its elected representatives and not be subject to the wishes and whims of financiers or speculators.
To secure the proper use of the credit resources of Australia, the Labor Party will use the existing banking powers to control hire purchase and to ensure that credit is given for all legitimate business purposes.
We will plan Australia’s way out of the disastrous cycle of stop and go. Without genuine and sound planning, the economy will suffer further creeping stagnation, periodic booms and busts, and recurring balance of payments crises. Economic planning is the essential condition for Australia’s continued progress.
It is only a speculative boom which can get out of hand. The Labor Party will ensure that there is no speculative boom. We will ensure that land prices do not again rocket out of the reach of the great majority of home-builders, as they did in 1960 under the influence of misguided credit and financial policies.
Labor in office will aim at a rate of national growth—that is, in the increase of all the goods and services produced—of at least five and a half per cent annually. The Governor of the Reserve Bank pointed out this year that this rate can be achieved without placing undue strain on our resources, and without producing inflation.
The rate of growth of five and a half per cent annually could be achieved by a suitable working partnership between the Commonwealth and private enterprise, but the Commonwealth Government will have to play the leading part. A growth rate of five and a half per cent is at least one-third faster than the rate of growth achieved by the Menzies Government. In the slump years inflicted by this Government, there was, in fact, a fall of the rate of growth.
We will ensure that total expenditure on public works is sustained at a level sufficient to stimulate general economic growth. Public investment in the development of power and fuel, water and irrigation, transport and communication, education and research, and housing actually provides the framework in which the private sector develops. The Commonwealth is therefore in the position to take the initiative in determining the rate of growth.
To achieve the best results we will:
Institute a national planning scheme to co-ordinate private and public development, to determine from time to time the amount of Commonwealth expenditure required and, generally, to ensure the best use of our resources.
Establish a Works Planning Council to plan public works in co-operation with the States over at least a five year period.
Establish regional development authorities to provide service and co-ordinate development within their own regions.
Through sound planning, countries like France and Japan have achieved spectacular growth since the War. By setting targets, by ending the confusion caused by contradictory Government policies and by taking industry into confidence and letting it know exactly what is expected of it, we will achieve similar results.
Education is one of the neglected tasks facing the governments of Australia today. It has been said, and truly said, that education is the most important activity of civilised nations. Labor puts education at the centre of its current thinking. An educated democracy is a powerful democracy, and for a nation as small as Australia, education is the key to our survival.
We unhesitatingly accept the fact that the Commonwealth has a responsibility in regard to education. We will not, as the Menzies Government has done, seek to evade or avoid that responsibility. We propose, therefore, to establish a Commonwealth Ministry for Education and Science to act as the instrument of our national policy. We further propose to make an emergency grant of £10 million to the States to overcome the immediate crisis caused by teacher and accommodation shortages.
We will enlarge the Commonwealth Scholarships Scheme so that students of ability are not debarred because of their parents’ financial position. The scheme will also be extended to encourage more students to take degrees at honors standards, and to encourage post-graduate studies by graduates.
We will increase the number of Commonwealth Scholarships from 5,000 to 10,000 at an estimated annual charge, or rather investment, of £5 million.
We will, however, not be content to deal with education at the top of the pyramid alone, as the Menzies Government has done.
We propose, therefore, to establish a system of scholarships, on lines similar to the University scholarships for students at technical colleges, teachers colleges and at secondary schools.
When fully implemented, the secondary schools scholarships system will be limited in number only by the ability of the pupils to meet the qualifying standards applicable in his or her State. The scholarships, subject to a means test, will be tenable at the schools of the parents’ choice and will be open to students from Government and non-Government schools.
Such a scheme obviously represents a large and increasing cnarge to the Commonwealth. For instance, to grant scholarships of £20 a year is estimated to cost about £10 million. But the Labor Party believes that the wastage of talent—a loss that can never be recovered—which results from the inability of thousands of parents to keep their children at school, is costing the community many, many times more than that. We are such a small nation in point of numbers that we must never allow any talents or abilities of our children to be wasted, for lack of opportunity.
We further propose to set up an inquiry into all aspects of education in Australia.
Similar in its aims, and equal in its importance to the Murray Commission of Inquiry into Universities, this inquiry will invite evidence from all groups and competent persons interested in all aspects of education, State and private alike, in primary, secondary, technical and teacher training schools. A Labor Government will expect that inquiry to provide a blueprint for education in Australia for the next decade. We will act on the report when we receive it.
In short, Labor will plan education as a major task facing the nation.
The question is not just how much we can afford to spend; Australia just cannot afford the waste of not investing heavily in education now.
As I have said, Labor is determined that there shall be a revolution in Australia’s approach to education. We are equally determined that Australia shall play its full part in the revolution that is going on in the world around us—the revolution in science, technology and automation. We propose to harness these great forces of change and progress to the development and prosperity of Australia.
At present we spend—Governments, industry and the universities combined—about point three per cent of our national income on research—less than Switzerland spends in chemical research alone.
Our objective is clear: in human terms, we want wider opportunities for Australia to develop and exercise technical and scientific skills. On the economic side, we want to improve the efficiency of Australian industry.
We therefore propose:
To establish a National Science Foundation to expand, organise and co-ordinate scientific education and research.
Encourage, by tax concessions, Australian industry to undertake research.
Arrange for and finance at least 1,000 young men and women to be sent overseas each year for technical training.
Encourage, both by tax concession and subsidy, Australian industry to expand its training facilities for technicians and scientific workers.
We aim at spending at least £10 million annually, in the early stages of our program, in this way. What a small price this is to pay to acquire the skill and knowledge we must have to grow and prosper. We already pay £90 million a year in profit to overseas companies, and the Government justifies this on the ground that these companies bring us new techniques and know-how. We pay £15 million a year in royalties for foreign patents and copyrights. We thus lean too heavily on overseas countries for these advantages.
Unless we take urgent steps now to place Australia in the forefront of the scientific revolution, we are doomed to be a nation of borrowers and imitators, living precariously on the fruits of foreign research. This is completely contrary to our national traditions.
None of the failures of the Menzies Government have been greater than its failure to provide a housing plan for the nation. There are 75,000 applications outstanding on the books of the various State Housing Commissions, At the last census, 170,000 Australian families were classed as living in “sheds, huts and shared houses.” Over 100,000 dwellings in Australia are classified as sub-standard. There will be a particularly heavy demand for houses for the rest of this year and next year when the large numbers of young people born immediately after the war will be seeking to marry.
But nowhere in the Government can we find any sense of urgency about these problems, or even any awareness that such problems exist.
The Labor Party is particularly concerned with the difficulties confronting those young people who wish to build either privately or through State Housing Commissions. Thousands of our young couples cannot obtain a loan large enough to bridge the so-called deposit gap. The average cost of a modest home in most cities is £5,000 to £6,000. But the maximum loan from most savings banks is £3,500. In the United States, home owners have to find only about 10 per cent of the cost of a house as a deposit. In Australia the figure is between thirty and forty per cent.
At the same time, housing interest rates are much higher in Australia than in other countries. The average Australian home-owner has to pay about twenty-five per cent of his earnings in mortgage repayments. In the United States, the figure is about fourteen per cent. Seventy five per cent of Australian housing loans carry interest rates of more than five and a quarter per cent, and sixty per cent are about six percent.
Those are the dry figures, but for thousands of Australians they add up to a life-time burden of debt, and for thousands more they represent a handicap to marriage itself.
We plan, quite simply, that Australia will be the best housed nation in the world.
To that end we will:
Establish a Homes Finance Commission to provide finance for home construction and to guarantee loans from those willing to lend at low interest rates, and on low deposits amounting to no more than from five to ten percent of the capital cost.
Provide money to the States at three and three-quarter per cent to enable them to reduce rentals and repayment on Housing Commission homes.
Increase grants to the States of £20 million for public housing, with emphasis on slum clearance and re-development projects.
Ensure a steady and adequate flow of private finance for home building.
Hold an inquiry into Australia’s housing needs, as requested by the State Ministers for Housing. It is twenty years since the last inquiry was held, and that was set up by the Chifley Government.
Labor does not regard the provision of complete health services as a cost to the community; it is sickness that is costly to the individual and to society. We believe that the prevention and treatment of illness is fundamentally a public, rather than an individual responsibility.
Australia has a national health scheme today because the Chifley Government, in the face of bitter opposition from the Liberal and Country Parties, persuaded the Australian people to accept the social service amendment to the Constitution in 1946. But Australia still remains one of the few advanced countries in the world without a comprehensive system of health and medical services. And yet, because of maladministration, we pay much more for much less than countries like Britain.
Labor will accept the responsibility of providing a free public medical service based on our public hospitals.
We will establish a complete national health service to provide general practioner, specialist, pharmaceutical, hospital, mental health, dental and optical and hearing appliance services, as was originally intended by the Chifley Government.
We will repeal the requirement that patients must join a registered society to obtain additional Commonwealth benefits, but voluntary insurance will be encouraged.
A Labor Government has no intention of hindering private medical practice, or of limiting the freedom of choice of the patient in seeking medical attention. Suggestions that we seek to socialise medicine are so much propaganda. We have no such plans and, in any case, the Constitution would not allow it.
Perhaps the most important development in modern medicine is the increase in specialisation. As a result, costs of the best available specialist treatment are rising beyond the reach of the average person.
To provide, by special grants, a salaried specialist service at public hospitals. Particular attention will be given to the provision of surgeons.
To encourage, with adequate subsidies, group arrangements with general practioners for medical services to groups on either a salaried or per capita basis.
We will provide a salaried medical service in sparsely populated areas, including Aboriginal reserves.
We will subsidise country medical and nursing services.
In co-operation with the Universities and Royal Colleges of Medicine, we will review medical education and training.
We will abolish the 5/- charge for prescriptions and extend the free list of drugs. We will restore the life saving drugs recently removed by Ministerial order. However, the present Government has admitted its concern over the exploitation through drug charges by the big international drug companies. We therefore intend to hold an inquiry into the cost of drugs and its effect on the level of pharmaceutical benefits with a view to ending waste, inefficiency and exploitation.
Social Services touch the lives of most of our people very closely, and particularly those who are elderly, or sick, or are mothers of young families. The Labor Party, whether in or out of office, has been the driving force behind all the major improvements to our social services system since Federation.
Our desire has always been to do justice to 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 insecurity and inequalities of a system which regards greed as the fundamental human motive.
Under the Menzies Government, the real value of many welfare benefits has been eroded by a decade of inflation. Our object is to restore all social services, without exception, at least to the purchasing power they possessed under the Chifley Government.
We intend to make child endowment of real value to the mothers of Australia. There has been no change in the level of child endowment since 1950, thirteen years ago, although the basic wage was then £6/18/ compared with £14/8/- now. We propose to increase child endowment by paying the following new rates:
- For the first child 11/- per week.
- For the second child 19/- per week.
- For the third and subsequent children 22/- per week.
We propose also to extend the endowment to children up to the age of 18 pursuing full-time studies at Universities.
For the same purpose—that of helping the parents of Australia—Labor will double the maternity allowance to £30 for the first child, rising to £35 for the fourth and subsequent children.
Nor will Labor ignore the plight of our elderly citizens. We will provide an additional 10/- a week for married pensioners, ending the extraordinary discrimination against marriage established by the Menzies Government in its last budget. Labor stands for a high basic minimum rate of pension related to the basic wage for all pensioners, married and single alike, with additional special allowances for those with special needs.
We further propose to help the newcomer to our shores, and to encourage naturalisation, by granting entitlement to all social services to all citizens, upon naturalisation.
We propose to increase the funeral payment made to the person who has paid or is liable to pay the cost of a funeral of an age or invalid pensioner from £10 to £50.
We will abolish the means test progressively, and as opportunity offers.
On September 11 last, the Menzies Government gagged debate on five Labor amendments to the Repatriation Act, designed to give ex-servicemen a better deal. Every member of the Liberal and Country Parties voted against these amendments, some of which had been submitted by the Returned Servicemen’s League. A Labor Government will implement these proposals early next year. We will:
Establish a joint Parliamentary committee to review the Repatriation Act and its administration.
Provide that cancer shall be treated as a war caused disease.
Interpret the onus-of-proof clause to give ex-servicemen the benefit of the doubt where medical opinion differs as to the origin of their disabilities.
Provide treatment at Repatriation Hospitals for all World War I returned men whether their illnesses or disabilities were war-caused or not.
Grant medical benefits to the wives of T.P.I. pensioners.
The position of the Australian Aboriginal community causes all socially-minded citizens deep concern.
The whole question is clouded by the inability of the Commonwealth to accept full responsibility for Aborigines as it does for other citizens, and their legal status varies from State to State and Territory to Territory.
This produces a chain reaction of social and other disabilities, and these can only be effectively removed by amendments to Sections 51 and 127 of the Constitution. This we will try to do.
A Labor Government would therefore take early steps to submit these proposals to the Australian people. It is, however, not a political or Constitutional question, but a national duty which concerns us all.
To achieve our admittedly high aims in social welfare demands the maintenance of high standards of living throughout the entire community.
Australia’s future prosperity depends upon our ability to expand our trade in existing markets and to find and develop new ones. After a temporary flurry generated by Britain’s abortive attempt to enter the European Common Market last year, the Menzies Government has quickly returned to its customary lethargy. A short-sighted dependence on overseas capital has obscured the fact that Australia is simply not paying her way.
A Labor Government will embark on a bold programme of trade expansion. We believe that the improvement of our external trade depends upon a vigorous assertion of Australia’s national interests by Australia’s national government. It requires an Australian Labor Government to do that.
Australia must be bolder and more enterprising in promoting trade. Our trading interests will be better served by Australians than by foreign shippers, middle-men and merchants who tie us to declining European markets.
Under Labor, Australia will be prepared to trade anywhere in the world.
An Australian Shipping Commission to operate overseas and coastal ships to the greatest extent possible, consistent with available financial resources. We will discuss with the New Zealand Government the possibility of establishing a joint Shipping Line.
A Commonwealth Export Bank to provide credit facilities for exporters of both primary and secondary goods.
An Overseas Trade Commission whose functions will include the investigation into franchise or licensing agreements which prevent or restrict the export of any commodity from Australia, and to take or recommend action necessary for their removal, and to pursue the promotion of Australian trade generally.
According to the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, lack of specialised knowledge among Australian businessmen and the lack of a long-term credit policy are losing Australia millions of pounds each year in export income.
Under the Menzies Government, the country has been faced with recurring balance of payments crises. In the past fifteen years deficits on current account—the difference between imports and exports—have totalled £1,500 million. Our balance of payments has been propped up only by dangerous and increasing reliance on capital inflow from abroad. This is what the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. McEwen, has called ‘selling a bit of the farm year by year’ to pay our way. Australia cannot, without peril, without risk of losing her economic and part of her national independence, continue indefinitely this rake’s progress of overseas borrowing. That is a major reason why we must use every weapon at our disposal in the battle to increase our trade.
I make it absolutely clear that the Labor Party welcomes overseas investment when it brings new industries, employment opportunities and new techniques. We do not welcome speculative capital, or capital which merely replaces foreign for Australian ownership of an established industry.
Labor is vitally concerned lest the control of key assets and industries falls completely into non-Australian hands, with the result that basic control of the economy is removed from Australia to the financial centres of New York, London and Paris and certain Asian capitals as well.
After careful inquiry, we propose to introduce legislation designed to give Australians a certain percentage in the ownership of foreign controlled companies and to discourage the takeover of established Australian industries. Canada, which has lost control of key sectors of her economy because of her dependence on foreign investment, resulting in an unemployment rate of eleven per cent, is now experimenting with legislation along these lines, and we will study carefully her experience.
Australian manufacturing industries
We will seek to protect existing Australian Manufacturing industries now threatened by foreign take-overs and unfair foreign competition by adopting the following measures.
We will strengthen and streamline the Tariff Board to prevent delays in tariff decisions that could ruin an industry.
We will ensure that if there is a doubt on whether an industry needs protection, the industry will always be given the benefit of the doubt.
We will not hesitate to impose import controls for protective purposes if other protective devices fail.
As thirty years have passed since a Committee was set up by the Bruce-Page Government to review Australia’s tariff policy, it seems appropriate that the report of that body should be reviewed by a Committee in 1964 in the light of experience. Accordingly, it will be done.
Restrictive trade practices
Legislation to protect the public against exploitation by monopolies and combines was promised by Sir Robert Menzies as long ago as 1949, and the promise has been repeated again and again since then; but volumes of words have never been translated into action. The Prime Minister has apparently assured the great vested interests behind his Party that no action will be taken to implement the proposals put forward by the Attorney-General, Sir Garfield Barwick.
Labor will legislate to prevent exploitation and wasteful restrictive trade practices by monopoly interests, but it will protect small businesses, particularly small shopkeepers and retailers and not seek to harm them as Sir Garfield Barwick proposes to do. We will seek from the people the powers recommended by the Joint Committee of Constitutional Review on this question.
A Labor Government will honor Australia’s international obligations by ratifying the I.L.O. Convention on the question of equal pay for work of equal value. We will support the adoption of this principle before the relevant Federal tribunals. Labor will put this principle into effect in the Commonwealth Public Service and Commonwealth Government instrumentalities.
Labor is opposed to the policy of penal provision for contempt in industrial legislation.
Early action will be taken to amend the pertinent penal provisions of Sections 109 and 111 of the Commonwealth Arbitration Act. Labor will establish a productivity index and will also establish a representative Committee of Review to prepare recommendations in an advisory capacity to the Commonwealth Statistician. We shall intervene before the Arbitration 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.
Labor, recognising the importance of apprenticeship in the framework of a rapidly developing Australia, will do everything possible to train more apprentices to satisfy the needs of Australian industry.
Labor will review the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act with a view to removing existing injustices, and providing satisfactory machinery for the hearing of claims.
We will give sympathetic attention to other industrial problems of Commonwealth Public Servants.
White collar workers
That important section of the Australian work force, sometimes referred to as white collar workers have, to an increasing degree, joined with other industrial organisations represented by the A.C.T.U. before the Arbitration Commission to seek better remuneration and conditions of employment.
The Menzies Government, however, in a deliberate attempt to depress the salaries of that section, has tried to separate them from those represented by the A.C.T.U., and to deny them wage and salary justice.
The incoming Labor Government will reverse that attitude and will not, as the Menzies Government has done, profess neutrality before the commission but then make submissions specifically directed against any improvement whatsoever for any section of those concerned in the judgment.
The rapid development of our empty, undefended North is an article of faith with the Labor Movement.
It is apparent, from their words, and lack of action, that our conservative opponents, quite simply, do not believe in the development of the North, except as a rich quarry to be exploited at the behest and convenience of foreign mining cartels.
Labor will develop the North, to save the North and all Australia, for Australians.
We will, therefore, create a special Ministry for the Northern Territory and Northern Australia to collaborate with the State Governments of Western Australia and Queensland in order to achieve the rapid economic development of the whole vast area north of the 26th parallel of latitude—the top half of Australia.
We will establish a Conservation Authority along the lines of the Snowy Mountains Authority to do this work. The skill, expertise, team work and dedication built up by the Authority since the Chifley Government inaugurated that great project must not be lost to the nation, as the Snowy scheme nears completion.
What we would like to see are consortiums formed by the Commonwealth and the State Governments concerned and private enterprise to assist development. It would be much better establishing Australian based and controlled industries of this sort, and particularly if they are started up in North Australia, rather than allow iron ore and coal and bauxite deposits to be shipped overseas for use in the manufacture of goods and materials for very profitable re-export by the foreign countries that are permitted to exploit our national resources.
The North-South Commonwealth Railway lines from Maree to Alice Springs and from Darwin to Birdum are overdue for renewal. A Labor Government will immediately move to convert these lines to the efficient standard gauge. The transport needs north of Alice Springs will be dealt with as a matter of urgency by way of extending the standard gauge line to Tennant Creek and beyond to connect with the new standard gauge line proposed to run south and east from Darwin.
The importance we attach to the beef cattle industry provides a firm reason for the rapid development of a transport all-weather facility for the Northern Territory and North Queensland cattle country.
Labor will provide this main artery in transport development by extending the Darwin-Birdum standard gauge line to Newcastle Waters and Camooweal. In addition, a Labor Government will co-operate financially and in every other way with Queensland in extending the standard gauge railway from Camooweal into Queensland so as to connect with the rail services to Townsville and Rockhampton.
This efficient railway extension will serve the cattle breeding and fattening areas of the Northern Territory and North-Western Queensland. Queensland’s hunger for store cattle will be appeased, the meat treating season at Townsville and Rockhampton will be lengthened, thus permitting the marketing of more economically younger and better quality beef.
It was a Labor Government that planned and legislated for the East-West standard gauge line from Port Pirie to Kalgoorlie. The 1,100 miles concerned was constructed in five years. A Labor Government will at once proceed to link the North and South by a standard gauge line within the next five years. To achieve this program an immediate start will be made to set up the new industry essential to railway construction at Darwin, thus establishing the vital need to settle more people for development in our empty North.
Beef road construction in conjunction with the rail extension planned will be treated as an urgent national requirement. In four years, and after the expenditure of £9,000,000, only 72 miles of new road have been built in Queensland; this is not good enough. Labor will move, in co-operation with Queensland and Western Australia, to extend road and rail construction in the North in a planned way, and will undertake it in conjunction with the proposed new rail extension through the Northern Territory.
Many people, including State Ministers, have talked decentralisation for many, many years. Something has been attempted and something done, but we still have the awful tragedy that anything up to 60 per cent of the people in each of our States are living in the capital cities of those States. City populations are growing and the countryside is languishing. This should be changed. In fact, only sweeping changes in the Constitution can do that. But as a step in the direction of decentralisation the next Labor Government will promote decentralisation by establishing a uniform price for petrol, diesel oil, power kerosene and lubricating oil, based on existing city prices. We will do this by an arrangement with oil companies to pay Government subsidies to country user to enable them to bring their prices into line with those obtained in city areas.
It will remit to the States the full proceeds of the petrol and diesel oil fuel taxes.
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 two 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.
We place such great importance on national, particularly Northern, development not only because we are determined to build a greater Australia, but because we regard the development of the North as essential if we are to hold this country for our children, and our children’s children.
The defence policies of the Menzies Government have been marked by waste, confusion, indecision, inactivity and procrastination; and in the dying hours of the 24th Parliament, even this shabby record was eclipsed by an act of political cynicism that has few equals.
In 1952-53 Australia spent 4.8 per cent of the Gross National Product on defence. In 1962-63 we spent 2.7 per cent on defence. Were we to restore the defence spending to the scale of ten years ago, we would now be spending about £350 million a year, or £100 million more than we are doing. The much-vaunted ‘new, revised and expanded programme’ announced by the Prime Minister last May is little more than an adjustment on paper of present expenditure to keep pace with rising national income.
As a result of its inability to make up its mind, the Government has a defence force in which the Army is below strength, the once proud Australian Navy, also established by the Fisher Labor Government, is largely a memory, and to be recollected chiefly by the sight of its rusting ruins in Sydney Harbour, while the Air Force is outmoded and completely unbalanced.
The bomber muddle
For the past eight years, the Royal Australian Air Force has recognised that its most urgent need is a replacement for the obsolete Canberra bomber. We are to be equipped with modern fighter aircraft, but their use will be limited, and, indeed, one of their main purposes is to protect bomber bases. An Air Force with fighters, but no bombers, is entirely out of balance.
Yet, until the eve of the announcement of the election, the Government did nothing. Then Australia witnessed a scramble disgraceful to democracy and insulting to the intelligence of the people. After eight years delay, a deal was made, in a matter of days, for a new bomber, a bomber still in the development stage, one in which the engineering difficulties posed by its design have not yet been overcome, a bomber the purchase of which means virtually a revolution in our strategy. The deal was made, the decision was taken, in less time than the average family needs to decide on the purchase of a new car.
I make it quite clear that I am not judging, nor am I competent to judge, on the respective merits of the various aircraft available to the R.A.A.F. But the Australian people are entitled to ask themselves if they can trust a government which makes vital decisions affecting the security and destiny of this nation in the cavalier and cynical manner in which this one was made. So great was the haste that the Prime Minister could not acquaint himself with the full facts in time for the Parliamentary debate on the issue, and he has certainly not told the people any more than he told Parliament anything like the full story. Many of his statements, which purported to be facts, were challenged immediately they were made, both in the United Kingdom and in Australia. On this question the Prime Minister did not bother himself or his hearers with the niceties of exact fact. Responsible British leaders had been led to believe an order would be placed for the British bomber.
And let this be noted, because it throws further light on the Government’s approach to this election. The decision to purchase a bomber which will not be available until the end of this decade is presumably based on an assessment of the international situation that no emergency requiring a bomber is likely, before that time. And yet have we not been told, has not this election been justified officially, on the grounds that the emergency is upon us, here and now?
To put it in blunt vernacular, either the emergency the Government talks about is phony, or the decision to buy a bomber not yet off the drawing board, is dangerous and unsound. Either way, the Prime Minister and his Government stand condemned as irresponsible.
I wish to pass from this squalid episode, something the Prime Minister would now like to forget, and which is such an inglorious end to his long and not undistinguished career, to state Labor’s policy in regard to each of the defence services.
Subject to the advice of our defence experts, we will arrange for the purchase or lease of a modern aircraft carrier.
The Government has postponed a decision on the future of the Fleet Air Arm until 1967.
We will establish a naval base in Western Australia. This will include a dry-dock.
We propose to increase the ‘front-line’ strength of the Australian Regular Army by a total of 14,000 men. We will establish three mobile groupings of 6,000 men each, one to be armoured, two to be mechanised; one will be established in Central Queensland, one in Western Australia and one in South Australia.
We further propose to establish an additional brigade of 2,000 men, headquartered in Northern New South Wales. These forces will be available for our own defence and to meet any commitments we might have to the United Nations and to fulfil any other treaty obligations now existing or to be negotiated in future.
We will raise the strength of the Pacific Island Regiment in Papua-New Guinea from 700 to an ultimate 6,000 and re-establish the Torres Strait Regiment as part of the Papuan Battle Group.
We will restore the C.M.F. to its proper role in Australia’s defences.
These additional commitments will obviously pose a recruitment problem. We propose, therefore, to review all service pay rates, to review retirement age limits and superannuation benefits for the permanent army, to make C.M.F. allowances tax-free, and provide a housing scheme for married personnel in the services.
Australia can have genuinely strong and reliable defence’s only if we are strong industrially. Industry provides the real sinews of war in modern times. Yet the Menzies Government has allowed the shipbuilding and aircraft industries of Australia to run down, preferring to purchase its equipment abroad while Australian industries languish for want of orders. We will restore and expand both these great industries.
We undertake to secure the best available replacement for the Canberra bomber, and the best available temporary replacement.
We will provide the radar control and reporting units promised by the Prime Minister in 1957, but still not available in Western Australia. We will station part of the proposed new bomber force in Western Australia as well as fighter, bomber and reconnaisance aircraft in that State.
North West Cape
Labor’s attitude on the North West Cape has been made so clear that I need not repeat it at length. We support the base and we have stated our attitude to certain features of the treaty covering it. This attitude, we are told in a Gallup Poll, is shared by 71 per cent of the Australian people, who want, like us, an Australian say in the use of the base. We want joint control, not military control, at Government levels. We are confident that we will be able to re-negotiate the agreement covering the station to the mutual satisfaction of Australia and the United States. We are not prepared to concede that a treaty, to run the life-time of eight Parliaments of the Commonwealth and the terms of six American Presidents cannot be re-negotiated by any Government of Australia, Labor or non-Labor, that holds office in the next quarter of a century.
Let me say this finally. The North West Cape Naval Communications centre will, in the final analysis, be built by Australian workmen with Australian materials. Australian Labor, through its industrial wing, has brought the negotiations for the work of construction to a successful conclusion. Let this fact not be overlooked when people judge between the Government’s words and Labor’s deeds.
In the policy speech of two years ago, I used these words:
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.
I repeat those words tonight with added emphasis. They are as true now as then. Their truth can never be in doubt.
Nuclear free zone
Labor’s proposal for a conference of the nuclear powers, the signatories of the Antarctic Treaty, the countries of the Southern Hemisphere and our neighbours in Asia, including China, to discuss the possibility of declaring the Southern Hemisphere a nuclear free zone, originated from a letter sent to forty-three nations by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant. U Thant asked the nations what steps they were willing to take to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. The Menzies Government, in typical negative fashion, made no reply beyond saying that its present intention was not to acquire nuclear weapons.
We propose that Australia should take the initiative to achieve what President Kennedy has declared to be the first step towards general disarmament—the prevention of the spread of nuclear weapons.
We envisage that such competence would discuss the conditions, safeguards and methods of verification the signatories to a treaty would require in return for an undertaking not to make, test or stockpile nuclear weapons.
Australia and humanity have nothing to lose by such a conference; Australia and humanity would have everything to gain from its success. The least we owe to Australia and humanity is to make the attempt. If we fail because one or more powers refuse to co-operate, we still have done something to help to stir the conscience of mankind against the awful consequences of a nuclear war.
The sound defence policy that Labor will apply is a necessary step towards a sound foreign policy. Our foreign policy will be based firmly on four pillars:
- membership of the Commonwealth of Nations
- firm adherence to the Australian-American alliance established by the Curtin Labor Government
- unswerving loyalty to the United Nations
- insistence that the voice of Australia shall be fully heard in the councils of our allies
- that our national rights and sovereignty will always be maintained.
Despite the best endeavours of ourselves and our allies, another war is still a possibility, though the prospect seems to have grown less likely with the negotiation of the nuclear ban treaty. We shall do our utmost to promote peace and avert war. If war ever comes we will honour our treaty obligations. We make it clear that we shall always be found on the side of liberty and democracy.
We believe that the logic of international politics requires that Australia should follow the British practice and accord diplomatic recognition to Mainland China with proper protection for the rights of the inhabitants of Formosa. This is precisely the attitude Britain adopts to this question. The Menzies Government extends credit to China, but not credentials. We believe that this hypocrisy is neither dignified nor helpful to the cause of world peace.
Events over the past two years in our near north have brought to the Australian people a new awareness of the dangerous and unstable area in which we are fated to work out our destiny.
We have welcomed the creation of Malaysia in the hope that a stable, viable state will be created from the four former British colonies which form Malaysia. Because of the new situation brought about by the emergence of Malaysia, the Labor Government will seek to negotiate a clear and public treaty to cover the continued presence of Australian troops there, setting out the rights and obligations of both parties. Pending the conclusion of such a treaty, any act of aggression against Malaysia will be treated as a breach of the United Nations Charter, and will be resisted accordingly. We will help to defend Malaysia, but we are not without hope that the present strained relations between Malaysia and certain of her neighbours will soon disappear.
I want all Australians to reflect carefully on the behaviour of the Government on the matter of Malaysia for it has very serious implications, so that we may see clearly what sort of men Ministers are. The Prime Minister has stated that he wants the election to be fought on the question of Malaysia. In other words, he wants to force the nation to divide on a question on which it is not fundamentally divided; he wants to have bandied around the hustings, in the hot and heady atmosphere of an election campaign, delicate questions affecting the security of nations. This, indeed, is irresponsibility of an Olympian order.
Four years ago the Joint Committee of Constitutional Review produced a plan for the reform of our outdated Constitution, and the Labor Party guaranteed its support for every proposal. I hope, for the sake of his reputation, that posterity will make no heavier charge against Sir Robert Menzies than that he failed to take any action to secure the modernisation of our Constitution which he, in his heart, and by his professions of belief, knows to be vitally necessary.
We propose to submit all the recommendations of the Committee to the people.
Among the recommendations is one for an amendment of the New States chapter of the Constitution. We shall certainly submit this and other recommended changes and support them all. Part of America’s greatness lies in the fact that it has forty-eight mainland States; forty-eight areas of regional autonomy and possessing extensive powers of self-government.
It is not proposed, in the life-time of the 25th Parliament, to present a referendum to the people for the nationalisation of any existing industry. Without such a referendum, there can of course be no nationalisation. I made a similar promise on the occasion of the last elections. The position has not changed.
Financing Labor’s program
The policy I have outlined will unquestionabiy be met by our opponents with the defeatist cry of Where’s the money coming from? But every one of our proposals is constructive and well thought out. Each of them is an investment, rather than a cost. It is not a question of whether we can afford them; we just cannot afford not to invest now, if ours is to be the path of progress.
But the first thing to do is to get the economy moving forward quickly and smoothly. Even under the ‘stop-go’ policies of the Menzies Government with all the needless waste of productive effort revenue has risen by nearly £700 million in a decade. The rapid increase in economic growth which we will achieve means that revenue will rise automatically, without any rise in the general level of taxation.
Our proposal in child endowment is estimated to cost £75 million in a full year. This, our largest increase in the field of social welfare, is concentrated where we think the immediate need is greatest. But this, too, like our proposals on education, health, housing, northern development, must be regarded as an investment, not a cost—it is an investment in our richest asset—the children of Australia.
All I wish to do at this stage is to repeat what I said in the 1961 policy speech.
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 fashion 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.
It is always our proud boast that we are members of the Australian Labor Party. Each word has for us its own special, splendid significance.
We are certain that we can best serve Australia and give effect to our belief in the dignity of man and in his right to work and to maintain his family in reasonable comfort and to enjoy security for the future when the Australian Labor Party is vindicated politically.
We strive for a new and better order of society, founded on human brotherhood, and not on human greed.
We seek what is best in all that we know and have in our present social order so that we can incorporate those things in that better society that is evolving, a society that, by combining personal freedom with social responsibility, guarantees human progress.
But the world in which we live is a troubled world and we are but eleven million people living in a comparatively empty continent.
Our history is a short one. Our yesterdays had their terrible failures, but also their glorious moments. They bequeathed us our cherished memories. It is our tomorrows, however, that matter most to our children, and our children’s children. What we do, or fail to do, today, will help to make or mar their future.
And so we who have served the Australian Labor Party over many years and have gone down in defeat time and time again, have still never ceased, figuratively speaking, to reach for the stars. We have made mistakes, and disaster has often seemed to overwhelm us, but we nave never lost our faith in the validity of our cause, nor our belief that only the Australian Labor Party can, and will, give Australia the leadership and the policy it needs at all times.
At moments of gravest crisis, Australia has turned to us, instinctively and unerringly, and with a confidence that has been rewarded by success.
Australia will give its trust to us again on November 30, because we, and we alone, have the policy, the will, the spirit, the unity and the courage that will enable us to give the people what they want today. And what do they want? They want a happy, free, rapidly developing Australia, which is adequately prepared for its own defence and for the fulfilment of all its external obligations and, at the same time, is ready and anxious to strive for universal peace and disarmament, and to create within its own borders a new order where living standards will continue to rise, where none will suffer deprivation because of age or sickness or infirmity, and where even-handed justice will be the entitlement and the right and the experience of all its citizens.
No man can place barriers to the future greatness of Australia, nor limits to the achievements of its people. Its destiny should be both great and glorious. The young people about whom I have spoken will be the artificers of that destiny. So let us all go forward in that great crusade to set our country aloft in the blaze of the sun.
This is the time for decision, the time to make one decision and one decision alone, the decision to defeat the Menzies Government.
Australia is ours for taking and the making. Let us take it. Let us make it such that all future generations will be grateful and let us make it greater than any man has ever yet dared to dream about. May Almighty God bless Australia, this land of the dawning, this lovely morning land, and keep her free always from all harm.