9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent tothe following bills reported : -
States Loan Bill.
Defence Equipment Bill.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
– I ask the Prime Minister if he is yet in a position to inform the House as to the nature of the report presented by Sir John Monash upon the cost of building a cruiser in Australia?
– I am not in a position to do so at present. I hope to be able to do so in a few days.
– WhenI was referring, on Friday last, to the dumping duty on cream separators, the Minister for Trade and Customs made certain interjections, and I now ask the honorable gentleman whether the dumping duty on cream separators will be removed ; and, if so, will that be done immediately?
– Since the honorable member spoke on Friday last, I have looked into this matter. I find that the total dumping duty imposed upon German cream separators has amounted to £60 odd. As the total imports of these machines amount in value to about £200,000 a year, I answer the honorable member’s question in the affirmative.
– As Senator Pearce represented the Government at a conference held in South Australia in connexion with the construction of the north-south railway, is the Prime Minister in a position to make a statement of the Government’s intention with regard to the construction of that line?
- Senator Pearce, as Acting Minister for “Works and Railways, proceeded to Adelaide, and conducted negotiations with the South Australian Government; but I am not yet in a position to make any announcement as to what action will be taken.
The following paper was presented: -
Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1924, No. 116.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Whether he will have a return prepared showing
– This is a matter whichcomes under my department. The Minister representing the Postmaster-
General has asked me to reply. The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
Three. 2. (a) Western Australian Airways Ltd., Perth, Western Australia.
Aerial Services Ltd., Longreach, Queensland.
These are the maximum annual payments; deductions are made in respect of trips not flown in accordance with the contracts.
Weekly services in each direction are maintained over the following routes: -
Mails are carried weekly in each direction
Amount Owing by Sir Sidney Kidman.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Report of War Service Homes Adjustments Board
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
United Bank Officers’ Association
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow:-
– I ask for leave to make a statement with regard to the proposal of the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into certain charges relating to land tax assessments.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the Prime Minister have leave to make a statement?
– Unless the Prime Minister proposes to conclude with a motion
– I do not.
– Then we must object.
– Objection having been taken, the statement cannot be made.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill amends the Public Service Act of 1922, which was a consolidating meagure, repealing the act of 1902-18, and introducing many new features, its main purpose being to improve the efficiency of the Commonwealth Public Service. Of these new features the principal ‘was the establishment of a Public Service Board of three commissioners in place of a single commissioner. To this board extensive powers were given. Its main duties are set out in section 17 of the act. The board is directed -
To devise means for effecting economies and promoting efficiency in the management and working of departments.
The - steps which the board is to take to effect economies and promote efficiency are set out in nine sub-paragraphs. Among other duties the board has -
To examine the business of each department, and ascertain whether any inefficiency or lack of economy exists.
To exercise a critical oversight, of the activities, and the methods of conducting the business of each department.
To maintain a comprehensive and continuous system of measuring and checking the economical and efficient working of each department, and to institute standard practice and uniform instructions for carrying out recurring work.
The board is also required, by section 27, to make a complete reclassification of the Public Service. The task of examining the work of each department, of checking the efficiency, not only of the individuals, but also of the systems in operation in each department, and of completely reclassifying the - whole Service, has proved a very heavy one, and much heavier than honorable members, when the bill of 1922 was being considered, thought it would be. Experience has already shown that the board is heavily overloaded. The short bill now introduced is designed to facilitate its work by giving greater elasticity in administration. It also remedies certain defects which have been discovered in the working of the act. It is really a measure for consideration in committee, and does not call for a lengthy debate on the second reading. At this stage, however, I think it proper to outline the principal alterations proposed.
Under the present law the board cannot function unless all three commissioners are present. This causes inconvenience. It is occasionally desirable^ for a member of the board to leave the Seat of Government to investigate the conditions of the Service in another state, and, unless the Governor-General appoints a deputy to act in his absence, the board, not having a quorum, cannot function until the absent member returns. The bill provides that any two members of the board shall constitute a quorum, but that if there is a difference of opinion on any matter between the two members in attendance, it must be held over for decision at a full meeting of the board.
Then, under the act, the board is given power to delegate its powers, but not its functions. One of its functions is to hear appeals against promotions. But if an officer desires to appeal against a provisional promotion, whether it be in Queensland, Western Australia, or in any other state, he must appeal to the board itself, which meets generally at the Seat of Government. This obviously causes inconvenience, not only to the board, but also to public servants concerned in’ appeals. Considerable loss of time and expense must result when all appeals have to be heard in Melbourne. The bill seeks to remove that difficulty by giving the board power to delegate its functions, including the hearing of appeals of the kind I have indicated. In practice, the delegated function will be exercised by the Public Service Inspectors of the states. No real alteration in the method of making an appeal is provided; the change is merely the substitution for the purpose of hearing an appeal of an inspector for the board. But every appeal, after consideration by the inspector, must be referred to the board for final determination. This arrangement will not be confined to ordinary appeals against promotions. Something must be done to permit of appeals against classification being dealt with readily and expeditiously. For instance, at the present time, 1,250 appeals by mail branch, officers await decision. It would be impossible for the whole of the appeals to be heard by the board sitting at the Seat of Government, and, therefore, authority to hear appeals regarding classification will be delegated to the Public Service Inspector in each State. That arrangement will, I think, meet the convenience of the Service as a whole, and will also enable the appeals to be dealt with more expeditiously than is possible at the present moment. The final determination of these matters, however, will rest with the board to which the facts of each appeal will be submitted.
– The men will have the right to appeal to the board ?
– The final decision will be made by the board on the facts submitted by the Public Service Inspector.
Under the 1922 act it is impossible to declare that any officer is excess to his class, unless he is also excess to the department. Although, after investigation, the board might be of opinion that the duties of an individual officer should be classed lower, it has not power to so class them, because those duties must still be performed, and, therefore, the office is not excess to the department. Other difficulties also arise.For example, because the population of a postal town has decreased from 10,000 to 5,000, the board may decide that the office of postmaster there should be reduced to a lower class.
Mr.Foster. - That is done at the present time.
– No. Although the office is excess to the class in which it is placed, it is not excessto the Postmaster-General’s Department, and therefore, the board has no power to alter its classification. Similarly, if a town had enjoyed a great accretion of population, and the board desired to raise the status of the office of its postmaster, it could not declare the office excess in its particular class, and render it vacant so that an appointment to it might be made in a higher class. There must be a postmaster in the town, and, therefore, the office is excess, not to the department, but to one particular class only. The bill proposes to overcome that anomaly by giving to the board power to declare an office excess to a class. That alteration is essential to the satisfactory working of the act, and will, I. think, operate in the interest of the Service.
– Were these difficulties created by the act of 1922?
– That particular difficulty, I understand, was.
Another portion of the bill deals with conflicts between the Abitrator’s award and the board’s reclassification. This matter has been the subject of a great deal of thought, and an amendment moved in another place appears to overcome the difficulties in an equitable manner. It will be impossible for the Public Service Board to carry out a reclassification if, in no circumstances, it may vary an existing award of the Arbitrator. It is obvious that the board must have power to make its classification in accordance with the value it attaches to the duties performed by different classes of public servants. But the Government recognizes that whilst Parliament cannot logically enact that reclassification shall not interfere with an existing award by the Arbitrator, it would be unjust if, when a public servant had, at great trouble and expense, obtained an award from the Arbitrator, the immediate fruits of his labours should be taken from him by a reclassification. To meet such cases the amendment inserted in another place provides that no alteration can be made in the payment to an officer so long as he continues to occupy the position in respect of which he had obtained an award from the Arbitrator. That is a fair way of overcoming what every one considers a difficult situation, bearing in mind that Parliament has provided that the board shall make a complete reclassification of the Public Service.
Before the last act was passed persons who had served in the Public Service of a state, and were not transferred officers, but entered the Commonwealth Service after a competitive examination, entered it on exactly the same footing as other persons, who were not state public servants. But under the act such a state public servant is given credit for his state service in exactly the same way as if he were a transferred officer. That was not the intention of Parliament. It was not intended to reverse the situation which existed until the act of 4922 was passed. Therefore, the bill restores the position which existed prior to 1922. There is no reason why a state public servant, such as a school master, who, of his own volition, to get into the Commonwealth Service, submits to a competitive examination with other persons who are not state public servants, should have preferential treatment. He has voluntarily severed his connexion with the State Public Service, and surrendered the rights attaching to that position, and is, therefore, not entitled to be placed in any better position than any other entrant.
– Is that provision to be retrospective ?
The bill restores certain allowances payable to female officers upon marriage. I remember the discussion of this subject, and I am sure it was not the intention of Parliament that female officers should be deprived of this allowance.
The act of 1922 provides that all transfers and promotions shall be made by the Public Service Board; but it is found in practice that this provision places a tremendous amount of work upon the board, and it is considered desirable that the permanent head of a department shall, as he is most familiar with the work of the individuals concerned, be entitled to make promotions within his department. The right of the public servant is preserved, because he is entitled to appeal to the Board from any decision of the permanent head of a department.
– That will practically prevent the transfer of an officer from one department to another.
– Not necessarily.
– Very largely.
– No, it will be possible for the permanent head to recommend the transfer of an officer, subject to appeal to the board.
Provision is made empowering the permanent head of a department to suspend officers of the second division, who are, of course, under his immediate control. Under the existing act, officers of the first and second divisions can be suspended only by a Minister.
There is a simplification of procedure in regard to attachment orders made by any court of competent jurisdiction against salaries of public servants, but this provision leaves unimpaired the rights of creditors to obtain attachment orders.
The number of discretionary holidays* is increased from three to four. Certain statutory holidays are common to the Public Service throughout the Commonwealth, but discretionary holidays may also be given on occasions of peculiar significance to a particular state, as, for ex ample, the Melbourne Show holiday. It has been found that it would be of convenience to increase the number of these discretionary holidays from three to four. It is provided also that public servants required to work on discretionary holidays shall not be remunerated by additional payment as is the case when they work on statutory holidays, but shall have the days added to the leave to which they are entitled.
There are other minor amendments of the act with which I need not deal now. I commend the bill to the House, and trust that it will have a speedy passage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Anstey) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 22nd August (vide page 3540), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - The Parliament - namely, “ The President, £1,000,” be agreed to.
.- I congratulate the Treasurer upon the able manner in which he submitted his budget. I realize that the preparation of the numerous statements contained in the budget-papers required a great deal of work and involved heavy responsibility upon both him and his officers. It is impossible to present a budget that will satisfy every honorable member, and, although I am not altogether contented with the one now before us, I must admit that I heartily support its broad general principles. Honorable members on both sides of the committee have repeated time after time in this debate that protection, is the setted policy of Australia.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– But there are high protectionists and moderate protectionists. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I hold moderate views. I am convinced that the large majority of our people also belong to the moderate section. In the main, I represent primary producers, and I say unhesitatingly that our present high tariff greatly handicaps; them. Our agriculturists and orchardists and, in fact, all our primary producers, are obliged, on account of our high tariff, to pay excessively high prices for their machinery and other requirements. As 75 per cent, of Australia’s production has to be exported, we must, if we wish to make substantial progress, assist our producers to market their goods at a price which will enable them to compete with producers in other parts of the world. Honorable members - especially who represent Queensland constituencies - are loud and unceasing in their declarations against black labour, and to that I do not object, but I complain that many of them never say or do anything to maintain our White Australia policy by making possible the profitable marketing of our exported commodities. Our people are obliged to compete in the world’s markets with producers who employ black labour, and the least that the Queensland representatives can do is to assist Australian producers.
– We are always speaking on behalf of the sugar farmers and banana growers, and they are primary producers.
– As a matter of fact I am so sick of hearing about the sugar-growers that ‘J have stopped taking sugar in my tea. It is said that the purpose of our high tariff is to protect and encourage our secondary industries, but the undeniable fact faces us that some of these industries are not making progress even with such assistance. The trouble is the high cost of manufacture. The latest report of the Tariff Board states that agricultural implement manufacturers in Australia provide direct employment for 4,000, and indirect employment for an additional 3,000-persons. The 4,000 persons receive annually in wages £800,000, and the 3,000 receive, on an average, £500,000 a year. This money comes from the primary producers. If we continue to penalize them in this way we shall drive them off the land instead of encouraging more people to settle on it. To establish the manufacture of agricultural machinery in Australia the Tariff Board is directly penalizing our 700,000 farmers. Many agricultural implement makers have become very rich men. I do not object to that in itself, but I do object to them amassing wealth with the assistance of excessive tariffs, the high standard of living, and the high Arbitration Court awards. These are all contributory to the high prices which prevail for locally-manufactured argicultural machinery. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) gave an instance the other day of the excessive duty imposed on a reaper and binder. His remarks in that connexion are applicable to all machinery required for agricultural or horticultural pursuits. Spraying material and spraying pumps are subject to a very high tariff. The time has come when we must reconsider our position, for it is being made increasingly difficult for us to compete in the world’s markets on account of our high production costs. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) quoted statistics the other day as evidence that the immigrants who come here are not settling on the land. Although those figures may have been astounding to some honorable members, they were not so to me. The honorable member did not give us a solution for the difficulty. As a matter of fact the reason why so few immigrants, or native-born Australians, can settle on a farm is that to do so they require a capital of at least £600 or £700. In view of the high tariff on agricultural implements, and the present Arbitration Court awards, which usually operate to the advantage of the employee, the Government must assist the primary producers by finding markets for their products, thus inducing men to go on the land. The primary producer is the backbone of this country. The Prime Minister, when in Sydney, stated that it was to the interests of the primary producer that secondary industries should prosper. I do not want to contradict that statement, but merely to .reverse it, because it . is certainly to the interests of secondary industries that the primary producer shall prosper.
– Are not both statements true?
– Yes ; but if the high tariff, the high cost of living, and the high standard of wages are continued, the men on the land will be ruined, and what will then become of our secondary industries? The sooner the Government takes steps to decrease the cost of production, the sooner will Australia be able to compete in the world’s markets. I know that the Government is at its wits’ end to discover a suitable means of helping the primary and secondary industries; in fact, it is now using the Customs revenue to assist our primary producers in exporting goods from Australia. This may be a good policy, but to me it is most unfair, because only a section of the primary producers is being benefited. Growers of some commodities are receiving no assistance at all. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) last week asked for assistance for the growers of doradilla grapes. He had as much right to do so as had the growers of peaches and apricots, and I claim the same right to ask for assistance for the applegrowers. Australia is one of the finest countries in the world for stock-fattening purposes, yet the graziers in the last .two years received a bounty of £264,460 on meat exported from Australia. Part of the fruit industry is also assisted by the Government. There is something absolutely wrong with the bounty system. The wool and wheat industries are today the mainstay of Australia, and without them we should be in a very precarious position. Of all the primary producers, the wool-grower is receiving the greatest -return for his product, yet the machinery required for that industry is admitted into this country free. On the other hand, implements required from abroad by the wheat-grower, who has to compete in the world’s market, are charged duties of 35 per cent., 40 per cent., and even 50 per cent. The sooner the Government rectifies the existing anomalies the better it will be for Australia. Many of the employers of our secondary industries are dismissing hands because there is no- overseas demand for their manufactures. They are producing more than Australia’s needs, and consequently the home .market is glutted and work curtailed. This situation, to an extent, is “ causing unemployment. I notice by the newspapers that there are in Australia 159,000 unemployed persons. Many men who are not quite up to the average physical standard are seeking employment, but, because of the minimum wage fixed under the Arbitration Court awards, they cannot obtain work, and consequently’ are walking the streets and almost starving. This country would greatly benefit if these’ men were allowed to receive a lower wage than that prescribed by the awards. Motor car bodies built in Australia are highly protected, yet in their construction timber imported from Buenos Ayres is used because the high price of Australian timber makes its use for this purpose prohibitive. In the face of these facts, we are told that high tariffs aTe imposed to protect the timber industry.
Imported timber is also used in the manufacture of agricultural machinery. ‘ The Government should recognize these anomalies, and revise the tariff. The following paragraph, appearing in the Tariff Board’s report, supports my argument : -
It is questionable at the present time whether or not the tariff is adequately protecting the primary and secondary industries throughout the Commonwealth, and the matter can be decided only by a systematic and complete investigation. The maintenance of a desirable high standard of living, the continued payment of liberal wages assured to workers by arbitration courts and wages boards, the necessity for providing a fair and reasonable return for capital, and .the maintenance of the mechanical efficiency of production, call for the most thoughtful consideration. On the other hand, increased duties would defeat the object of protection if they merely raised the cost of production, for such a result would not relieve the local industries from the danger of ruin through external competition.
The Government should seriously “ consider the ‘whole subject of the cost of production, with a view to solving the existing difficulties.
Turning now to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, I find that its expenditure last year was over £9,000,000. It is highly important that we should provide the necessary facilities to enable people in outback districts to keep in touch with our larger centres of population. I am surprised at the position that is disclosed in the Estimates for 1924-5. Many post offices in my division are in a very bad state of repair, and although certain expenditure was recommended, not a shilling of the amount appears on the Estimates. The Port Cygnet office is a very small structure, not nearly large enough for the business that is transacted there. As the office is built right on the footpath alignment, sooner or later it will have to be pulled down, or the front portion of the building removed. There is to be no expenditure on that office. Another post office about which I am concerned is that at Triabunna. That building was condemned some time ago by the health authorities, but at my request it was allowed to remain pending the erection of a new office. It is not fit to keep a dog in. Not long ago I persuaded the local municipal council to make a block of land available for the proposed new office, and also to provide, free of charge to the Government,, the stone for the foundations and the chimneys. It has taken twelve months to effect the transfer of the land from the municipal council to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and now I find that expenditure for the proposed new office has been cut out of the Estimates. As complaints are fairly general about the condition of country post offices, I suggest that the Treasurer should bring down supplementary estimates to the amount of about £100,000 for expenditure in the several states, and earmarked for improvements to existing or for the erection of new post offices in country districts. These buildings, if they are to meet the demands made upon them, should bo kept up to date. I should like also to mention the extraordinary position of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Tasmania. He is a. man who has grown up in the Service, and although he now occupies a very responsible position, he is only allowed to spend up to £5 without authority from the central office. That sum is equivalent to only about what £1 was worth a few years ago. To instance the absurdity of the regulation, I may state that not long ago a departmental motor car collided with a verandah post at Hobart, and damage to an amount exceeding £5 was done. Because he had no authority to incur expenditure above that amount, the Deputy Postmaster-General in Hobart had to communicate with the Works Department in that city, and the Works Department in turn wrote to Melbourne office, which sent back the necessary authority to have the verandah post re-erected. The Deputy Postmaster-General in Tasmania should have authority to spend at least £50 without reference to central office.
Arrangements for the marketing of fruit are of vital importance to our prim n ry producers. For this purpose the Government is placing on the Estimates £500,000. Unless we are prepared to spend a certain amount of money in the improvement of our marketing facilities, our fruit-growers will not secure and maintain a foothold in the British market. In my opinion the subsidizing of steamer freights will do more for our primary producers than the payment of bounties on export, because comparatively few reap any benefit from the bounties system, whereas the subsidizing of steamer freights will afford general relief. If, in addition to subsidizing steamer freights, the responsible authorities reduced port charges and light dues the position would be still further improved. The Treasurer has stated that the difficulties in connexion with the canned fruit trade have been solved, and we have been informed by the press that Australian canners have beaten their Californian rivals and captured the British market. In my opinion, the difficulties of the canned fruit export trade will never be solved under existing Australian conditions. Recently, the Minister for Trade and Customs, in reply to a question which I addressed to him, stated that the highest price realized for canned fruit in England was 18s. per doz., and the average price 8s. The highest price quoted referred only to a few hundred cases of canned pears, which are more saleable than any other class of canned fruit in Great Britain. They represented only about one-sixth of the total consignment. Expenses total 3s. 6d. per doz., so that the net return for the pears would be only 14s. 6d. If, however, we take the average price, which after all, is the most reliable guide, the net price to the exporter was 4s. Gd. per doz. If the difficulties of the fruit industry are solved when we receive only 4s. 6d. net per dozen tins for our canned fruits, and they cost 8s. 6d. per dozen at the factories in Australia, then I have something still to learn. The newspaper from which I have quoted advises the fruit-grower to clear more land aud plant more fruit trees, so that he may produce more fruit, but I should advise him to be careful. It is no light matter for a man to clear land, plant it with trees, and wait four or five years for them to come into bearing, and then find that were it not for the bounty paid by the Government not a single can of fruit could be sent out of Australia by the growers. The Government has no right to say that the problem of the canned-fruit industry has been solved when the growers receive 4s. 6d. per dozen tins less than the actual cost at the factories in Australia. I quite realize the difficulty of the position in which the Government i3 placed. The cost of production is an aspect of the matter which should be looked into by the Government very seriously. If in this respect things are allowed to go on as at present it will be compelled to provide subsidies for every industry in Australia. I notice that the Treasurer in his statement said that fresh fruit brought from 12s. to 20s. per case. It is true that some late shipments brought up to 20s. per case, but the price received for a great many of the early shipments did not pay the freight on them. Much of the fruit sold for as low as from 6s. to 7s. per case, and when I tell honorable members that the cost of freight and other expenses is 9s. per case, they will see the difficult position in which the apple-grower is placed if he is obliged to send his fruit to the Old Country. The Prime Minister said in a speech delivered in Sydney that the Government is prepared to help any organized body of producers who are prepared to help themselves. When our present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) was running about in knickerbockers, the apple-growers in Tasmania helped themselves. They found markets in Great Britain, and found ships to carry their fruit to those markets. They did this without the . assistance of one shilling from any government. It is the fanciful legislation which is being passed that is doing all the harm. The introduction of fancy legislation, such as the Navigation Act, has prevented steamers coming to Tasmania to take fruit to England. Many fruit-growers lost thousands of pounds in opening up a market for their products in England. Under conditions existing to-day they are unable to secure the steamers necessary for the transport of their products overseas, unless they can make contracts for large consignments.
I wish now to say a few words to supplement the remarks of the honorable members for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) and Bass (Mr. Jackson) on the subject of the Tasmanian grant. When the Premier of Tasmania came to Victoria the Federal Treasurer told him that if he would go back to his state and put his house in order the Government would be prepared to assist Tasmania to some extent. I offer no thanks to the Government for what it has done for Tasmania in connexion with this matter. The Treasurer is proposing to give to Tasmania £111,000 a year, to which, in my opinion, he was never entitled, because the money is drawn from what the Commonwealth Parliament has decided is an illegal institution. Tattersail’s has been proclaimed an. illegal institution, and the Government refuses to carry any letters addressed to it or its agents. But the Postmaster-General’s Department raises no objection to the delivery of a letter from Tattersalls to the Federal Treasurer containing a cheque for £111,000. The proposal places Tasmania in the position of depending practicallyupon one taxpayer to keep its financial affairs going. That is a very difficult position in which to. place any state. If this illegal institution were to be removed from Tasmania the state treasurer would lose £300,000 in revenue, which is . now obtained, from that one source. We have been informed that the federal grant to Tasmania of £85,000 is to be reduced by £17,000 per annum. If the grant were continued in full for another 20 years it would not repay what Tasmania has lost as a result of federation. There is not the slightest doubt that Tasmania has suffered more than any other of the states as a result of federation. We have had our shipping taken from the southern part of the island, and we have lost all our trade with New Zealand. A state cannot lose trade without losing revenue, and cannot expect to prosper if its trade is taken from it. I ask the Treasurer to be fair to Tasmania and permit the grant of £85,000 to be paid in full for at least five years before any reduction in the payment is made.
.- I cannot conceive it possible to be required to listen to a more painful speech than that’ which has just been delivered by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook). He appears to suffer from the political codlin moth disease in a very severe form. His politics appear to me to be those of a political blackfellow. I have been obliged to listen on several occasions to the illogical observations he makes, and “ to his expression of views which are contrary to those held by the great majority of the people of Australia, and in particular those held by primary producers. The honorable member makes it plain that he is a member of what is known as the Foreign Country party, because his views are entirely anti-Australian. He has little or no conception of what is required of a member of a Legislature such as this, charged with the protection of Australian industries. Honorable members on the other side, and particularly those in the
Country party corner, profess a great desire to advance the interests of the primary producer, but I am unable to reconcile the attitude they adopt with any such desire. They suggest that it is the high wages which have to be paid and the duties imposed with a view to protecting Australian industries that are oppressing the primary producer and preventing him from obtaining the full reward of his labour. The honorable member and those who express similar views overlook the fact that the improved conditions of those engaged in industries in Australia enable the primary producers to secure better prices for their products in their home market. I complain that more of our primary products are not disposed of in our home market. It would add to the income of our primary producers if better means were devised for the sale of their products in Australia. The fact is that under existing conditions they are squeezed by the middleman. He is the person who trespasses upon the rights of fruitgrowers
– And dairy farmers.
– Yes, and other primary producers. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has shown himself most solicitous that the dairy farmer shall get the full reward of his labour. There are dairy farmers in my electorate also, and I thoroughly appreciate the attitude of the honorable member. It is more worthy and more consistent than that adopted by the honorable member for Franklin. I know which of these honorable members is the better Australian when it comes to dealing with matters of this character. I have said that it is the middleman who is preventing the fruitgrower, the dairy farmer, and other producers from obtaining an adequate return for their labour.
Some time ago, when I paid a visit to a friend, a returned soldier, in one of the Murray settlements, I was able to purchase first-grade dried fruit, peaches and apricots, for 9d. per lb. That was the ordinary price charged there. I obtained no concession as a friend. In Adelaide, when I was anxious to make a similar purchase, I was charged 1s. 6d. per lb. for an inferior grade of dried fruits. What is the reason for this great difference in price? It is not due to freight or packing charges. It is entirely due to the profit demanded by middlemen. Therefore, it is very desirable to have better marketing arrangements in Australia than now exist.
– Six pounds of green fruit are required to make 1 lb. of dried fruit, so that the price the honorable member paid was actually only l1/2d. per lb . for the fruit.
– I am not disputing the correctness of what the honorable member says, but the fact is, that what I was able to secure at 9d. per lb. in the Murray settlements cost me1s. 6d. per lb. in Adelaide.
– Probably the honorable member’s friend and his family picked the fruit, whereas others have to pay enormous rates to men to pick it.
– I did not purchase from my friend. He was with me at the time, but I obtained no concession on that account, and the person from whom I bought the fruit employed labour. I hope the honorable member will try to be fair, and that he will recognize that high and exorbitant charges are being made by middlemen.
– I do not admit it.
– If the honorable member is not prepared to face the facts, I leave him to his constituents, and when I meet some of them I shall remind them of his attitude.
– I shall see them in a week, and I shall tell some of the honorable member’s unionist friends what he is saying here.
– I shall be pleased to debate the matter with the honorable member in his own constituency. I do not fear the result of my presentation of the case.
– My time is too precious to waste in that direction.
– It is quite evident that the honorable member is not prepared to face me on this subject in the Murray settlements. I am not unfamiliar with the people in that district. Perhaps I spend more time among them than does the honorable member himself. He can teach me very little about the trying conditions of the fruit-growers even in his own constituency. However, my challenge is an open one that he can take up whenever he chooses. I leave it’ to him to fix the time and the place. I shall be pleased to accommodate him at any dme with the necessary debate on this particular subject. Honorable members who sit in the corner are always desirous of securing protective duties on products in which they are directly interested - they want the highest rates of duty on onions, maize, and anything else they produce- yet they claim that articles which are the product of secondary industries should come into Australia free of duty. As a matter of fact, they would, if they could, get the cheapest of articles from eastern countries, where people live under economic conditions quite out of keeping with our standard of civilization. I regard it as the duty of honorable members to be loyal to their own country by affording sufficient protection to its secondary industries to enable its own workers to supply the whole of Australia’s requirements. The attitude of those who sit in the corner - I regard them as the foreign country party - is out of keeping with the ideal of good Australians, and upon analysis cannot be sustained. They want everything for themselves, and would give nothing to others. Their house is built upon a foundation of inconsistency.. Their vision is limited, they are incapable of conceiving their proper duty towards a growing democracy, and, having no desire to serve the general welfare of the people, they are not in a position to legislate for the benefit of the great Commonwealth of Australia.
I rose mainly to place before the Government the case of taxation officers transferred from the Commonwealth to the states, especially those who were in Commonwealth employment in South Australia. Shortly we shall be considering a reclassification of the Commonwealth Public Service, but I desire at this moment to call attention to the serious grievances of transferred and loaned . officers. Serious dissatisfaction exists among Commonwealth employees who-, have been transferred to state services by reason of the passing of the Income Tax Collection Act. That act was designed to effect economy and to avoid duplication in the collection of taxation. It provided for compensation to officers compulsorily retired, and for the ratification of agreements made between (he Commonwealth and state Treasurers in regard to staff matters. The texts of the various agreements differ considerably; there is no uniformity in the staff clauses. The status of Commonwealth officers and their conditions of employment were determined in the light of the bargaining powers of the various state Treasurers who concluded the agreements with the Commonwealth Treasurer. The general complaint of former. Commonwealth officers is that the amalgamation system has generally meant serious reductions in total remuneration for them. The amount of the reduction has differed in the various states and for various reasons, each state having its peculiar problems by reason of the terms of its agreement with the Commonwealth Treasurer, and of its system of Public Service administration. . Although the transferred officers are now theoretically under the control of state Public Service Commissioners, they are inhabiting what might be termed a twilight land. They are under full sovereignty of neither the federal authority nor a state authority, but they are, as it were, governed by the two combined. The Income Tax Collection Act provides for the possible retrenchment of the transferred officers in the event of economies being effected, or for their re-transfer to the Commonwealth Service. In actual fact, these officers retain a contingent right to status as Commonwealth officers, but they are removed from the control of the Commonwealth Public Service* Board for a period which may be either temporary or permanent. The position of the transferred officers is a matter of serious moment to the Commonwealth Public Service, as well as to the state services to which they have been transferred. The Income Tax Collection Act appears to be deficient in the requisite machinery for the transfer of officers. No provision was made for the actual transfer of individual officers, and no authority, state or Commonwealth, ap- plied itself to the task of determining the precise conditions under which the men should be transferred.” Agreements were made -with the Commonwealth Treasurer, and. the general principle was enunciated that officers should preserve their status, and maintain their existing and accruing rights ; but unfortunately “status” and “existing and accruing rights “ are difficult of interpretation in ordinary circumstances, and have proved mora difficult in the case of taxation officers, because of the unsettled conditions which have existed in the Taxation Department ever since its establishment. The Commonwealth Treasurer, the Commonwealth Treasury, the Commonwealth Taxation branch, and the Commonwealth Public Service Board have all washed their hands of the problems that have arisen through the transfer of taxation officers. The Commonwealth Public Service Board has announced that it has no statutory authority to determine the status of the transferred officers once the date of the formal transfer has been announced. The Treasury Department asserts that the status of transferred officers does not come within its jurisdiction, and the Federal Taxation Commissioner maintains that it is no concern of his, in view of the fact that such officers are now under the control of the State Commissioners of Taxation. The State Commissioners have had a sudden and unprecedented addition to their staffs. They find themselves confronted with conditions of employment with which they were formerly unfamiliar. They have had to decide claims relating to the seniority, salary, and allowances of transferred officers, and conflict has arisen between such officers themselves, and also between them and state officers. It is obvious that provision should be made for the appointment in each state of an independent Appeal Board to which the transferred officers might submit for final settlement their claims regarding seniority, salary, and allowances. Such a board should be representative of the- Commonwealth Taxation Office, the State Taxation Office, and the transferred officers. As an indication of the general nature of the grievances of transferred Commonwealth taxation officers. 1 shall make special mention of the conditions in South Australia. Increments for fifth class officers of the third division, and all officers of the fourth division, are automatic in the Commonwealth Public Service. Notwithstanding the provision for the retention of existing and accruing rights, the South Australian authorities have refused to pay such increments which have become due to the transferred officers subsequent to 1st January, 1924, the notified date of transfer. Although officers are assumed to have been transferred on that date, many of them merely received verbal notice to take up their duties in the State Taxation Office one month or six weeks later. Under the system operating in the Commonwealth Service, fourth division officers receive the maximum adult salary on attaining the age of 21. The South Australian authority refused to pay such rates to officers who have reached their maturity since their transfer, and that is a distinct hardship and a breach of faith. A number of the officers became entitled to discretionary increments on 1st January, 1924, and subsequent dates, and provision was made by the Commonwealth Parliament for the appropriation of funds for the payment of such increments, but the State Taxation Department is refusing to pay the increments to which the officers are entitled, morally, if not legally.
– They should be legally entitled to them.
– I agree that they appear to be legally entitled to the increments, for which provision was made when they were members of the Commonwealth Public Service. In South Australia, in common with all other states, some of the fourth class officers are being transferred to positions which make them junior to fifth class officers and state officers with less service, and yet they have no means of appeal or redress of their grievances. These happenings clearly demonstrate the need for an impartial tribunal to consider the claims of these officers. I shall submit to the committee the particulars of a few typical cases, but I trust honorable members will note that personal representations have not been made to me by the officers whose names T shall mention. Organizations and other officers have cited these instances as illustrating the general unfairness of the conditions under which the transfers have been made.
– A number of the transferred officers in Queensland found their work in the state department so uncongenial that they had to leave it.
– And I suppose they had no right to claim compensation or retiring allowance.
– That is so.
– The first illustration I shall give is the case of R. H. P. Nicolle clerk of the fourth class, Federal Taxation Department, Adelaide, who was transferred on loan to the State Taxation Department on 15th January, 1924, having been instructed verbally by the
Acting Deputy Commissioner of Federal Taxation, Mr. M. D. Meares, to report to that department. His remuneration on that date was - Salary, £272; child endowment, one child, £13; assessor’s award - Partnership and Trust Assessor, vide Arbitrator’s Award, No. 6 of 1923 - £60; total, £345. Prior to the payment of the assessor’s award as from the 1st July, 1923, he had been in receipt of a fourth class allowance since October, 1921. In May,, 1922, he was recommended for promotion to the fourth class. He successfully resisted an appeal, but, owing to the amalgamation of the federal and state departments, five of the seven vacant positions were not filled, two senior officers receiving two positions, and a junior officer, A. W. Bailey, being appointed to a consequential vacancy. When Mr. Templeton, Federal Assistant Commissioner of Taxation, was in Adelaide in November, Nicolle unsuccessfully sought an interview with him. Mr. Templeton was at that time conferring with the State Commissioner regarding staff and other matters connected with the agreement between the Commonwealth and State Government, and he told Mr. Chambers, another officer who had been transferred on loan, that he would receive his present remuneration, and that he could tell other officers similarly situated that they would receive the same remuneration on their transfer “ on loan “ to the state. Up to that time the officers were entirely in ignorance of their position, and that assurance from the Assistant Commissioner, who was the representative of the Federal Government, was accepted in good faith. A few weeks later the State Commissioner of Taxation, Mr. R. W. Smith, summoned Nicolle to his office, and offered him a permanent position in the state office for five years at a salary of £345, but, on account of the lack of details of such employment, and because of what the Assistant Commissioner, Mr. Templeton, had said, Nicolle asked the State Commissioner what his remuneration would be as a federal officer on loan for approximately nine months. He was told that it would be £345 per annum. He had been assured of the same amount by Mr. Templeton, and he therefore decided to transfer to the state department “ on loan “ at that salary. Now the Federal Assistant Commissioner is attempting to reduce his salary by eliminating the £60 awarded by the assessor. A letter received by Nicolle from the Acting Deputy Federal Commissioner of Taxation, Mr. Meares, reads as follows : - 10th March, 1924.
Remuneration whilst “ on loan “ to State Taxation Department.
With reference to your memorandum of 2nd January, 1924, I have to inform you that advice has been received from the Assistant’ Secretary to the Public Service Board that the board is unaware of the conditions which have been arranged between the Commonwealth and the state in respect of officers who have been temporarily transferred to the state service, and is, therefore, unable to furnish advice in your case. So far as your case is concerned, the main point is in respect of the salary you are to receive whilst on loan to the state service, and, in this connexion, reference is made to the following ruling received from the Acting Commissioner of Taxation as to allowances under the assessors’ award paid in this office. In the case of all officers on loan to the state service, the assessors’ allowances should cease : -
In the case of officers loaned to the state service, and continuing to perform similar duties to those for which they were receiving the allowance in the federal service, the allowance should be continued,and to cease as in (a) and (b).”
Honorable members will see that these officers are deprived of the remuneration that was promised to them by Mr. Templeton when he went to Adelaide to negotiate on behalf of the Commonweath Government regarding their transfer. Officers lent to the state service, and continuing to perform duties similar to those for which they received an allowance from the federal service, should continue to receive that allowance, and they should have the right to press their claim before a court of appeal. This is not the case, and officers transferred in consequence of the rearrangement of the work of the Taxation Department have been most unfairly treated. Nicolle is employed as a senior assessor in B division of the State Taxation Department, and is engaged in compiling the assessments of pastoralists, farmers, and those engaged in ordinary businesses. The first two come under the assessors partnership and trust award. It is held that the assistant commissioner and the state commissioner entered into a contract, though it was certainly only a verbal one, when they informed this officer what his salary would be. By reason of the action taken, Nicolle is to be -deprived of £60 a year, which he fully expected to receive when he was transferred. He is not regarded as a public servant of the Commonwealth, and the State authorities do not consider him an officer permanently in their employ. He has no court’ to which he can appeal.
– From which Government does he draw his salary?
– At. present from the State Government, and the State will, I presume, be reimbursed by the Commonwealth. The cases of transferred officers which I am presenting, are, I hope, of sufficient merit to necessitate the Treasurer seeing that justice is done. An officer named Lindsay, in receipt of £232 per annum, and another named Turner, receiving £345 per annum, both junior to Nicolle. are employed as partnership assessors, and have been transferred for the tenure of the agreement. Mr. Daniel, employed as a senior assessor in T division, at a salary of £332 per annum, who is junior to Nicolle, was also transferred. Mr. A. W. Bayly, a fourth class officer, in receipt of £307 per annum, who was permanently transferred, was, and is still, I understand, willing to exchange positions with Mr. Nicolle. and take his place on loan. Had information been given to officers in the early stages this could have been accomplished with a minimum of trouble. Mr. Bayly is employed as a senior assessor in M division, and is losing monetarily in his present position. Mr. Nicolle who is a returned soldier, has been in the department for nearly five years, and now finds that officers junior to him will receive more than he is being paid if the assistant commissioner carries out his present intention, although the work they are performing is not of equal importance. No one was officially consulted regarding positions, and a good deal of uncertainty’ prevailed. As the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), in answer to a question asked by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey), assured the House that, so far as possible, the remuneration and status of transferred officers would be secured, the obligation is upon the Government to see that a court of appeal to which these public servants can submit their case is established. These men, who have rendered long and faithful service to the Government, believed that their future was assured, but in consequence of the adoption of a new system, now find that they have either been compulsorily retired or transferred to a situation in which their position is very insecure.
I desire to direct the attention of the Government to another matter of urgent public importance. Those conversant with road construction under modern conditions admit that motor transport imposes increased financial responsibility on local governing bodies. As an alderman of the corporation of Thebarton, in South Australia. I am able to judge of the extent to which the responsibilities of local governing bodies are increased in consequence of the development of this form of transport. To some extent the Commonwealth Government have recognized their obligations in connexion with the construction and maintenance of main roads by making a grant to the states for this purpose, but the Government should not dictate the manner in which the money so granted is expended. The Commonwealth Government do not pay to the states or to local governing bodies rates or taxes on the properties they own. The Commonwealth Government own post offices, telephone exchange buildings, store depots, and other similar buildings on which no rates are paid. The vehicles employed by the Postmaster-General’s Department use roadways when collecting and delivering mail matter, and these vehicles, in common with others of a similar type, are assisting to bring main roads and thoroughfares generally into a state of disrepair. I understand that the Commonwealth authorities do not even pay a motor licence for the vehicles under their control, which deprives the state authorities of a very substantial sum which, in ordinary circumstances, would be of indirect benefit in meeting the cost of road construction and maintenance. Some time ago I requested the Government to consider the claims of municipal councils for monetary assistance for the maintenance of roadways. The state authorities realize that they have an obligation to meet, and annually contribute towards the cost of this work, and these contributions are of assistance to the local authorities. Although the Commonwealth Government should pay to local governing bodies an amount at least equal to that which private landholders would contribute in rates and taxes, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) said it was impracticable to recognize any such obligation, because to do so would commit the Government to the payment of a substantial amount. The Government should seriously consider whether it is not just to pay the local, governing bodies for the conveniences they provide. I submit an alternative proposal, which, I trust, the Government will study. Certain members of a municipal council, known to me, recently considered the floating of a loan over a period of fifteen years to place the corporation roads in proper repair, but, after calculating the interest charges, they found that by the time the loan had matured the council would have had to pay almost as much in interest as it had received in the form of financial accommodation.’ It would be unreasonable to undertake business on such terms, and as the Government have a substantial surplus I trust the Treasurer will consider the question of advancing the money necessary to enable local bodies to place their roadways in a proper state of repair. I trust that when any road reconstruction is entered upon, it will be of a permanent character, and that bituminous concrete, ordinary concrete, or some similar material, and not macadam, will be used for arterial roadways in particular; tarred macadam would, no doubt, suffice for the less used thoroughfares. In short, my proposal to the Government is that it shall make available to the various municipal corporations, free of interest, the money they need for this work. The municipal authorities should be responsible for the repayment of the capital, but should be relieved of interest charges. There can be no question but that the present situation cannot continue for very long.
– The present Commonwealth grant is a gift to the local governing bodies, which benefit by it.
– That is so;’ and I would be quite agreeable to an extension of the prevailing practice to meet the needs of our municipal bodies, but the Government has intimated that it cannot agree to such a proposal. The present grant is only available to district councils in country areas for the construction of roadways which are not used in competition with the railways.
– Municipalities are unable to obtain any of the money that has been granted so far.
– That is so. I appreciate what the Government is doing for country districts, and I have no desire to see the municipalities benefit at the expense of the country districts, but I trust that careful consideration will be given to the reasonable proposal that I have just made. It must be remembered that the roads in our towns and cities aTe used not only by the local residents, but by visiting country people also. It seems to me, therefore, to be quite fair that the Government should contribute towards their upkeep when it contributes towards the upkeep of country roads.
– A Government grant is’ the only thing that will enable some municipalities to reconstruct their roads.
– I agree with the honorable member. The rates levied by quite a number of municipalities in South Australia are as high as can be imposed with any justice or fairness, and even if they could be increased to an appreciable extent, would not meet their needs. I sincerely hope that the Commonwealth Government will do something worthy of it to assist those who are so public spirited as to accept the responsibilities, and face the increasing difficulties of local government.
– I congratulate the Treasurer upon having introduced the budget during the early weeks of the financial year. That he has been able to do so reflects the greatest credit upon the officers of the departments in general, and the Treasury officials in particular. An example has been set which is well worthy of emulation by all future Treasurers. Several outstanding features of the budget have won more or less general commendation, and I wish briefly to refer to them.
A budget which provides for a lowering of taxation is always satisfactory to the great majority. The raising of the statutory exemption from £200 to £300 is, of course, gratifying, but I trust that next year the Treasurer will consider another method of’ reducing taxation. An increase in respect of allowances for children might probably result in greater justice from ‘an economic point of view. Pending the time when the Commonwealth Government can evacuate the field of direct taxation altogether, I do not think that further raising of the statutory exemption will afford the most equitable relief. An increased child allowance already referred to, and a return to the old method of an allowance to married taxpayers and single taxpayers with dependants, could well be considered.
Our repatriation activities still involve a heavy expenditure. The Treasurer pointed out that medical treatment is becoming more and more the outstanding feature of repatriation work. The number of men under attention is increasing owing to age, progress of disease and war disabilities, complicated with diseases of civil life. The Government is to be congratulated upon having appointed a royal commission of distinguished members of the medical profession to investigate the existing method of deciding the origin of disabilities and the degree of their aggravation by war service. Whether an ex-soldier’s disability is due to, or aggravated by war service is a most important question, and it is equally important to ensure that the best method is adopted to determine it.
Over £43,000,000 has been spent on war pensions up to date. Our annual pension liability is nearly £7,000,000. Undoubtedly the Commonwealth Government’s scale of pensions and allowances is very liberal. No nation has done more than Australia for its soldiers and their dependants. There appears to me to be now only one serious criticism of our war pension scheme, and it concerns the pension payable to an exsoldier who suffers >an aggravation by war service of a pre-enlistment disability. Certain pensions have been reduced or refused on the grounds of non-material aggravation by service. The Repatriation Act was amended in 1921 to provide for such cases, but apparently the text of the amendment was not quite definite enough to cover every case of aggravation by service of a pre-enlistment disability. Section 23 was amended by the addition of subsection 2, paragraph a, of which reads -
The conditions of his war service contributed to any material degree to the death or incapacity of the member.
That .paragraph should, in my opinion, be amended by deleting the word “ material,” or, as an alternative, an amendment should be introduced’ to provide for adequate pensions, for ex-soldiers who served in an actual theatre of war, provided aggravation of a pre-enlistment disability occurred. I have been interested in this phase of Avar pensions for a considerable time, and have made inquiries as to the Canadian Government’s practice. The” chairman of the Canadian Board of Pension Commissioners has .advised me very fully on the subject, and I quote the following passage from his letter dated Ottawa, the 26th June, 1923: -
Canada grants a pension in respect to any aggravation on service of a pre-enlistment disability. The Pension Act recognizes two classes for this purpose, namely, those who reached a theatre of actual war and those who merely served in Canada or England.
The following cases will illustrate the above remarks: -
I might say that with regard to diseases, unless the disability on discharge is practically negligible, the Board in its practice, always admits that there must have been some aggravation or progression of such disease on service, provided the man reached a theatre of actual war.
With regard to the second class, namely, those members of the forces who did not reach a theatre of actual war, but served in Canada and England only, the Board only pensions for aggravation of a pre-existing disability. For example, a man has a 20 per cent. disability in respect of his heart when he enlisted; he docs not reach a theatre of actual war, and on discharge he is 25 per cent. disabled, he is pensioned at 5 per cent., and in the event of his disability increasing, the pension is (except in special cases where circumstances indicate contrary action), increased in the ratio that twenty bears to five, namely, in the proportion that the original disability bears to the aggravation on service. 4.With regard to pensions to dependants, the practice of the Board is as follows: -
No pension is granted for disability arising from misconduct on service. The Board, however, recognizes that there are a number of those in whom there exists a latent disability in respect of misconduct of years before enlistment where such disability has been quiescent for years, and is lightened up by service in France, but not in Canada or England. The Board considers that the strain of service in a theatre of actual war causes the lightening up of such a condition, and on discharge a man is pensioned to the extent of his disability at that time, but he is not granted any subsequent increase in his pension, although his disability may increase to 100 per cent. The Board has discretion in this respect, and it exercises such discretion as herein indicated.
In June last, I wrote to the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), enclosing a copy of that letter, and the Minister sent it on for the comments of the Repatriation Commission. The chairman of the commission, writing on the 2nd July last, expressed the opinion that in view of the provisions of the 1921 Act re material aggravation, a further amendment would be necessary to provide exactly what I am advocating. He then added -
Seeing, however, that the Australian provisions are really more liberal than the Canadian, and also seeing that so far as the commission can say with reasonable certainty, every Australian soldier who served in an actual theatre of war, and had a prior to enlistment disability which became aggravated, is accepted as a case of material aggravation, the commission considers than an amendment of the act is not required.
Unfortunately in some instances, such cases are not accepted. That has certainly been my experience, and the experience of other honorable members. In my opinion it is difficult for a doctor to assess the degree of aggravation by active service of a pre-enlistment disease, provided of course a man had a good service record. In most cases there must be doubt whether the disability has been aggravated to a “material degree,” for who can define that term? The department has laid down a definition of the term, but it appears to me, and to many members of the medical profession with whom I have discussed this subject, that as the men were subjected to medical examination before proceeding to the front line, any disability then existing in them must have been of a negligible nature. Even if it is proved that a man went into the front line with a pre-enlistment disease, the strain of service must have caused aggravation of that disease in 99 cases but of 100.
In any case, there are many ex-soldiers to-day suffering from pre-war disabilities, the degree of which would not have been so great had they not enlisted. I refer to men in whom there existed a latent disability on enlistment, which was aggravated by service, who, if they are pensioned at all, are pensioned inadequately. I hope that the royal commission which is to meet early next month will examine the various methods adopted by the Governments of Britain, Canada, and New Zealand to deal with this particular and important phase of repatriation. The chairman of the Repatriation Commission recently stated that there were more sick and disabled soldiers now under treatment at institutions than at any earlier date. He also said -
This goes to show that the effects of war strain on former members of the Australian forces are greater than was expected. In other modern wars of shorter duration than the Great War, the strain upon the belligerents was not so far reaching.
The Eight Honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), -when announcing tho appointment of a royal commission, said that the Government were anxious to give honorable members the fullest opportunity of ascertaining the exact circumstances surrounding any case that may be submitted to them. He also announced that the Government proposed to make available the services of another Minister in order to discuss these questions with honorable gentlemen who from time to time had cases which they desired to bring under notice. I hope that the Government will not delay too long in making this appointment. Nearly two months have passed since the Prime Minister’s announcement.
I agree .with honorable members opposite who have stated that the Health Department should be under the administration of a separate Minister, but I think that repatriation could well come under the same Minister. There has already been considerable delay in the appointment of the royal commission . to inquire into the general questions of public health within the Commonwealth, lt is to be hoped that the states will recognize tho urgent necessity for uniformity and coordination in the administration of the laws relating to health. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) stated during the course of this debate that, at the. Premiers’ Conference held last year, a discussion on public health administration generally occurred, and that the Commonwealth representatives suggested the appointment of a commission to inquire into the best method of harmonizing the activities of the various states. That proposal met with almost unanimous opposition from the states. The Government’s desire, as I understand it, is to make the Commonwealth Health Department of the greatest possible service to the state administrations. The proposed commission will not. inquire into the health of the community generally.
I should like to refer briefly to the Spahlinger treatment of tuberculosis. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), when, speaking on this subject, conveyed to me the impression that he did not place very much value upon the ‘ report of the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), because Sir Neville did not claim to be a bacteriologist or a. lung specialist. But the British health authori ties and the officials of the British Bed Cross assisted Sir Neville Howse in every possible way. All the files and reports in connexion with the Spahlinger treatment were readily made available for his perusal. At our hotel in. Geneva, that honorable gentleman sat up in his rooms, night after night, until 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning, studying reports relating to the Spahlinger treatment and other health matters. Any suggestion that his investigation was perfunctory could not be entertained, and I do not think it would be made by any honorable member. We must also remember that Sir Neville Howse, whether he claims to be a bacteriologist or lung specialist or not, had for twenty years one of the leading medical practices in New South Wales. As a layman, I was greatly interested in all I saw at Mr. Spahlingers laboratory. Sir Neville Howse, speaking in this House on the 25th July last, described this laboratory as magnificently equipped. The nature of . the work carried out has necessitated great expense in the duplication of light and water supply, and in a most elaborate system of automatic indication in case the light or water supply should fail in any of the many rooms in the laboratory. I was equally interested in Mr. Spahlinger’s explanation of his discoveries. He impressed me as a sincere man, honest in his conviction that he had found a cure for tuberculosis. It would be quite improper for me to pass an opinion, which could have no value, respecting the efficacy of that treatment, but I give the impression left on my mind.
Having always listened carefully to debates on defence,, and particularly to the criticism levelled by honorable members opposite against the Government’s defence proposals, I confess to some better understanding of Omar Khayyam’s lines -
Myself, when young, did eagerly frequent Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
About it and about; but evermore
Came out by the same door where in I went.
A definite defence policy, extending over five years, has been laid down. It has been truly maintained .that a defence policy for one year inevitably leads to much waste of money. I have no wish to pose as an authority, and much less to assume the position of mentor. But I submit that it is the duty of this Parliament to treat the defence’ of this country seriously, and to try to make clear the principles upon which defence should be based. Honorable members opposite continually assert that there is no danger of Australia being attacked. Yet such a possibility is at the root of all we are doing, and if there is really no danger, then obviously public funds should not be expended needlessly. But on what grounds is the assertion made? Do honorable members claim to be cognizant of the minds and intentions of foreign peoples? Or have they by some learned process developed that much-sought power of penetrating the future? I submit that they are merely making predictions, wholly unbased on knowledge. I confess at once that I do not know if now, or in the future, Australia is liable to attack by neighbouring or distant’ powers. I doubt if any one else knows. But by those whose duty it is to study such matters, I believe the opinion is held that it is within the power and capacity of certain nations to take aggressive action menacing the safety of Australia, and that, as between the British Empire and such nations, it is possible for a conflict of opinion to arise which would make recourse to arms at least a possibility. In view of such possibilities, and on a reasoned basis, until such time as the international safeguards against war are more perfected, there is imposed upon us the duty of making provision for the protection of Australia. The nature of that provision, and its scale, is a matter upon which unanimity is necessarily difficult of attainment. In the present state of our development our policy cannot embrace all that may be necessary, but it can, and should, include such essentials as are within our means. It is gratifying to learn that upon such a basis the Government is aiming at a policy, and is seeking to give it fixity over a limited period. That is a wise step, for I venture the criticism that if any reason exists for the abuse by honorable members opposite, of the Government for its defence expenditure, that expenditure “has been caused by their action in keeping the services alive, and no more, with an annual policy, insecurely based on some minor financial consideration. While I cannot pretend to remove by faith or speech the mountains of misunderstanding surrounding the discussion of the nature and scale of our defence, I beg to be allowed to make the assertion that neither in the air nor by means of coast defences alone can Australia be protected. It . may, I think, be asserted as a.n axiom, so clear is the teaching of history, that Australia will not be subjected to attack until such time as the British Fleet is neutralized or defeated. She may be subjected to raids by minor forces, and so may be, and almost surely will be, her seaborne trade. What is the obvious deduction from this? I venture to think the answer is clear to the humblest mind. We should do what we can to strengthen the British Fleet, and we should certainly have some means of protecting our seaborne .trade. These requirements are best met by modern cruisers and by modern submarines, and it is therefore gratifying to learn that the Government’s programme, extending over a number of years, aims at creating a definite, if small, fleet unit of such composition. It has been interesting to listen to the views expressed on the subject of coast defences. Certain coast defences are necessary either as deterrents, or as actual defensive measures. They lack, however, that quality of mobility which, for some reason I cannot explain, is a vital factor in successful war action. I hope that the Government will not hastily formulate any policy of coast, defence. I admit the need of protection at certain places, and also the power of an adequate coast defence gun in certain circumstances. But, as I have previously said, Australia cannot be attacked, but only raided, until the British Navy is neutralized or defeated. If the last unhappy fate should befall, then in its subsequent action against Australia an enemy will operate where guns are not; and we cannot, if we would, place them in every position in which they might be needed. If the Navy is, as I suggest, our strong right arm, the Army is, of course, the other arm of defence4 But the eyes and the ears of the Navy and Army are the Air Force, and it is, I think properly, next receiving .the attention of the Government. I could wish that the Minister for Defence had made clearer the air defence policy and its progress during the next five years. Certain misconceptions are abroad regarding the use of an air force. Into them and their technicalities I do not intend to delve, but this much I can safely assert. Whatever may in the future be in store for the Air Force in the way of independent action, it will tax Australia to the utmost to make such auxiliary air provision as is required to make the Navy and the Army efficient. It cannot be easy to determine the order of our progress. Only this is certain, that side by side with our Army provision there must be equal advance in making available those units and other facilities necessary to make our small fleet unit effective and efficient. I assume from the speech of the Minister for Defence that, in respect of the Army, our principles remain as follow, and in this order of importance: - (1) organization; (2) provision of staff and leaders ; (3) munitions supply. I cannot help thinking it a matter of regret that it has not been found possible to keep in operation the admirable training sections of the Defence Act. Apart from preparation for a possible war, as one keen that Australia should rear up youths worthy of her and the Empire, I see great merit in our universal training scheme. I accept, however, the present position, realizing that -the Government in the allocation of such funds as can be made available is concentrating on essentials - the essentials only, it may be said, of a limited and modest policy. The House might, however, quite reasonably ask the Minister if he can. give information under the headings I have mentioned. For example, under the heading, “ Organization,” we might ask - Have we laid down a war organization, and have war establishments been approved ? Some knowledge of the defence structure which it is proposed to raise in case the need should unfortunately arise, should be in the possession of the Australian people who take an intelligent interest in such matters. As regards the staff, what progress, I would ask, axe we making in the training of staff and leaders? I know, of course, the limited size of our Permanent Forces. That is part of an established policy. What it is desired to know is, if in the Citizen Forces the present nucleus scheme is giving the opportunity and producing the results that might reasonably be expected. I submit, for the serious consideration of honorable members, the fact that time is passing, and that if, unhappily, we have again to take our place in war - I am not one of those who maintain that we are likely soon again to be precipitated into war - it may be that those whom we now regard as veterans will have passed the age of service. A number of them certainly will. The skill and the fame that they attained during the last wax was due, in the main, to their previous patriotic services in the Citizen Forces of Australia. It may reasonably be asked if the same desirable conditions are being maintained in our present restricted army training.’ The army programme of development has concentrated on the third essential - an adequate munition supply. It is, I think, unfortunate, although apparently it is inevitable, that so small a sum has beer apportioned for the purpose. Whilst it is gratifying to know that we are steadily progressing on a fixed plan in the direction of manufacturing at least some of our requirements in Australia, it is due to the country that it should be known that, meanwhile, we are in a parlous condition. We ali hope for a prolonged peace, and those of us who are not so optimistic as others, hope at least for peace in the immediate future. If that hope is realized, even at our present slow rate of progress we shall have an opportunity to repair our deficiencies, which are, in certain respects, alarming, and must continue to be alarming for some time. We are still lacking an adequate number of heavy guns; we are still without any anti-aircraft defence, and quite inadequately equipped to deal with, or in, bombs or gas. Furthermore, I understand that the gun ammunition which over a period of years and until we are self-contained it will be necessary to import, will only give a very limited number of rounds per gun for the number of guns included in our organization. I realize to the full the difficulties of the problem. To import large quantities of ammunition, which may never be used in warfare, and which cannot be used for practice, may seem like waste. I suggest, however, that the difficulties must . be faced with resolution and a full sense of responsibility.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), speaking last week,- expressed disappointment regarding the progress of the League of Nations. The honorable gentleman admitted that progress had been ‘ made in respect of international co-operation. Ha instanced the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war, and the relief of hundreds of thousands of refugees, but concerning the most important objective of the League, the achieving of international security, he expressed disappointment that so little had been done. The League labours under many difficulties. An atmosphere of security and mutual confidence is required in Europe. There’ is more hope now, I think, than at any .other period. There is certainly more hope now than there was when you, Sir Neville Howse, and I attended the fourth meeting of the Assembly at Geneva. Limitation of armaments will be a consequence of such confidence. There will not be much hope of limitation of armaments until confidence ‘ has been re-established amongst the various European nations, some of which, we cannot forget, have not been at peace for three generations, whilst others have not known war for as long a period. It is very difficult for nations in such circumstances to see eye to eye with regard to the requirements of the future. I agree with the honorable member for Perth that it is unfortunate that our delegation should go to Geneva without a full discussion in this House of the important questions that are likely to come up for consideration. I realize that this is difficult. I . question whether on the last occasion the Government had received the agenda-paper before its .delegates left Australia; but if it could be arranged, discussion in this House on the questions likely to be dealt with at the conference would be of the greatest help to the Australian representatives.
I congratulate the Treasurer upon the introduction of the budget, which has, I think, given encouragement to the majority of the people. I sincerely trust that the expressed intention of the Government to do everything possible to find markets for our primary products will be given effect without delay.
.- T listened with the greatest interest to the speech of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron). I was also interested in the remarks made by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) in connexion with the dried fruits industry. Although I do not represent fruit-growing areas, yet, like most Australians, I am very keenly interested in the progress of our primary and secondary industries. In the discussion of proposals for the development of the dried fruits industry, too much attention has, I think, been given to overseas markets; I emphasize the fact that our producers have not yet captured the Australian market. Some months ago I went to quite a number of retail fruit shops and stores in Sydney in an endeavour to purchase different kinds of Australian dried, fruits. At nearly every shop I was able to buy Spanish or Californian dried fruits, but, with one or two exceptions, no Australian dried fruits. I suggest, therefore, that we should first concentrate on the home market. In the year 1923-4 Australia imported £167,507 worth .of dried fruits. It is ludicrous that in a country like ours, where so much fruit is produced, there should be competition from overseas. Bringing fruit to Australia is like bringing coals to Newcastle. The Government should place an embargo on importation. This was done a few years ago for the protection of the Queensland banana industry, with rather disastrous results to our Fiji trade. I hold in my hand an American carton specially prepared for the Australian market with the retail price “ 3d.” marked upon it. If it had been intended for the American market the retail price would have been indicated in American currency. Action should certainly be taken by the Government to protect the Australian growers. According to reports, the Government proposes to set aside £179,000 for the ‘ assistance of the industry in Australia, and I have already shown that we import- £167,000 worth of dried fruits from Spain, Greece, and California. An embargo or a more effective duty on imports would be in keeping with the policy of the Government towards our secondary industries.
– We have imposed a duty of 3d. per lb. on dried fruits.
– Evidently it is inadequate to protect the local industry, since Californian dried fruits are obtainable in almost every shop in Sydney.
– What is the reputed weight of the cartons?
– I do not know, but in every respect it is the same as the Austraiian cartons.
– It is about an ounce, I suppose, and the duty on that would be about one- third of a penny.
– And the fruit is not so good as the Australian dried fruit.
– I agree with the Minister. It is not so good.
– The Government should protect the Australian producer of dried fruits in the same way as the Queensland banana-grower has been protected.
– I endorse the honorable member’s view. The dried fruit industry is just as important in the economic development of Australia as the banana industry is, and we should see to it that the local market is fully supplied from Australian sources. Every attention should be given to the manner in which our products are marketed. The attractive form in which the “Moray” products, the output of one of the South Australian dried fruits organizations, are marketed compares favorably with the packing of products from any part of the world. This organization has placed its products on the Sydney market within the last few weeks.
– Cartons such as the honorable member has exhibited have been on sale throughout Victoria for some time.
– I am aware of that, and I think the Railways Commissioner of this state is to be commended for his action in boosting Australian production. I may add that the, Victorian railways administration compares most favorably with the administration of railways in any of the other states, including New South “Wales, where, as the outcome of an anti-Australian policy, Australian engineering and other business firms have not the same opportunity to supply requirements for the railways. It is true that a certain quantity of Australian dried fruits is now finding its way on to the Sydney market. A few months ago, except at one or two stores, it was practically impossible to purchase the local article.
– Importations ought to be stopped.
– As I have already said, there ought to be absolute prohibition. Honorable members opposite frequently charge the Labour party with inconsistency. As a matter of fact, we are absolutely consistent. We are prepared to extend the fullest assistance to every Australian primary as well as secondary industry. But a section of honorable members in the opposite corner want all the protection they can get for the industries in which they are themselves concerned, and are prepared to sacrifice the secondary industries.
– It is obvious that an exporting industry cannot benefit from protection.
– I have no desire to enter into an academic discussion with the honorable member. There are so many other matters to which I now wish to refer, that I am not prepared at this stage to discuss the relative merits of protection and free trade.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Sir Neville Howse). - I suggest to the honorable member that he should take no notice of irregular interjections.
– I have been rather pleased to hear them, because they denote a certain amount of interest in what I am saying. This debate has languished somewhat, and I am gratified that honorable members are evidently prepared to hear my views.
Passing from dried fruits to a matter in which I am more immediately concerned, because it affects a large number of my constituents, I wish to referto the Government proposal to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the methods of the Repatriation Department in assessing war disabilities. I consider the scope of the proposed commission’s inquiry so limited as to be quite unsatisfactory. It is too restricted to be of any real value to those who complain of the present methods of the Repatriation Department. According to a statement made by the Prime Minister on the 3rd July last, the commission is to consider and report on the following reference: -
Is the present method of determining whether an ex-soldier’s disability is due to or aggravated by war service adequate to decide the origin or the degree to which it is aggravated, and what portion of his present incapacity can be regarded as having resulted from his war service?
What is proposed is obviously a purely medical inquiry, and upon one question.
We are not even advised whether the proposed commision is -to investigate individual cases, or to deal only with general principles. If it is to deal only with general principles it is quite unnecessary. In the matter of medical research, the causes of war disabilities, functional nervous disorders, and other complaints arising from war service, the Commonwealth Government has at its command the whole of the research work done in Canada, Great Britain, and other countries. Both these countries have spent enormous sums in investigation and research work generally. They have supplied medical examiners for soldiers’ pensions with a very voluminous book dealing with the treatment and causes of war disabilities. The fact that the proposed royal commission is to be composed entirely of medical men has already given rise to a great deal of complaint amongst exsoldiers’ organizations and the general public. In the determination of disability arising from war service there is the strictly medical point of view, and the moral responsibility to be assumed by the general public to be taken into account. The desire of the community is to give disabled soldiers the full benefit of any doubt, and to extend to them the utmost consideration and liberality. I’ would not question the moral honesty of a commission composed entirely of doctors. No doubt they would examine the matter according to the high ethics of their profession, but they might pronounce a judgment which would re-act harshly upon ex-soldiers and their dependants. If laymen also were appointed to the commission the opinion of the medical members of it would be balanced by the views held by members of the general public, and the results would be more satisfactory. The fact that returned soldiers have complained that the ‘commission is to be restricted to medical men should induce the Government, with a view to allaying adverse criticism, to add laymen to the commission and to extend the scope of its inquiries. Quite a number of grievances concerning the aggravation of disability by war service and the treatment of those dependent on returned soldiers, have not been treated as fairly as they might have been. Various phases of the question might be inquired into by the commission, and many reforms in the methods adopted might be suggested. Governments in different countries have adopted different methods in dealing with war pensions. The Commonwealth scale of war pensions is more liberal in many respects than that of any other country in the world, but in the assessment of war disabilities some of the other Governments differ very materially from us in the methods adopted. In one respect they are more liberal, and, perhaps, in another respect less liberal than we are. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) pointed out that the Canadian authorities differentiate between service in the field and service abroad in camp, but not at the front. In this country we make no such discrimination; that is a matter which has been decided and disposed of. The Canadian Government, however, has taken the honest view which every insurance company has to take that accepts liability for the insurance of any individual. The Commonwealth Government accepted every one of the men who went from this country to the war as fit for service, but it refuses to accept responsibility for their present’ condition. It has been said that the doctors were, perhaps, not as careful as they might have been in their examination of recruits, but that reflects, not upon the soldiers, but upon the doctors who examined them.
Mr.Fenton. - And it does not relieve the Government of responsibility.
– I agree with the honorable member. In my view the Government should take a broad view in dealing with the many cases in connexion with which dissatisfaction has arisen. I refer in the main to tubercular cases and to disabilities due to nervous functional disorders. More cases of apparent injustice have arisen in connexion with these two groups of cases than in connexion with any other. There is a difference of opinion amongst medical men in regard to tuberculosis. The methods adopted in connexion with certain cases of tuberculosis that have come within the jurisdiction of the Repatriation Department are, to my mind, most unjust. I do not wish to weary the House with particulars of individual cases, because I think they should be referred to the Minister, and should not be dealt with in this chamber. But I have a case in mind which I quote to illustrate the general principle. It is that of a man named Pownall who left Australia physically fit and well. Whilst on active service abroad he received a shrapnel wound in the eye. He lost the sight of his eye, and it was discharging for a considerable time. He returned to Australia with a marked cough, he had wasted considerably, and was in a debilitated condition. After a time .he contracted tuberculosis and died. All that his widow could obtain from our generous Repatriation Department was a pension of 9s. per week, based upon his disability due to the loss of his eye. This is a damning indictment of the Repatriation Department. No man with a generous outlook would say that this returned soldier, in view of the loss of his eye, exposure, and consequent debilitating effects, was not entitled to the utmost liberality. I had brought under my notice recently, the case of a man who, according to the doctors was suffering from functional nervous disorder. When a “ digger” goes to a doctor, his complaint, though it may not be serious, is given a’ Greek or Latin name, and he imagines that he has contracted some mysterious disease. The man to whom I now refer was working on the railways, and lost his voice. He waa discharged because it was believed that the loss of his voice might lead to accident. The doctor whom he saw called his loss of voice aphonia, and he had the man scratching his head and wondering what new disease he had contracted. In a very neurasthenic condition the man went before the Repatriation doctors. I know him personally; he is a married man with a family, and has led a very moral life. So far as I remember, he was examined by four medical men in order to discover whether his condition was due to war disability. Two considered that his condition was due to syphilis, because he re-acted very weakly to the Wassermann test. A third said that he was very doubtful on the subject, and the fourth held that the evidence of syphilitic infection was not conclusive as a cause of the disability, and he recommended a 15 per cent, pension. I was given to understand that the opinion of the last doctor would be preferred, and that he would be given a pension. When his case was submitted to the Repatriation Commission, however; he was turned down. I am afraid that no matter how many royal commissions are appointed to inquire into the matter of soldiers’ pensions we shall not obtain satisfaction if boards examine written documents to decide whether a man should be given a pension or not, and base their decisions on the reports of the doctors who originally examined the case. I stress the point that there should, be an Appeal Board. In Great Britain it is recognized that the only way to deal with pension cases is to have an Appeal Board, and to allow the soldier to go before that board in person or to be represented by a medical or legal advocate to argue his case if he so desires. I admit that the scale of pensions payable in Great Britain is not so liberal as ours, but the British system of dealing with cases in this respect is more calculated, to give satisfaction than the Australian. In 1919 the Government of the Dominion ‘of New Zealand also also found it . necessary to create an appeal board, and to give the soldiers the opportunity to appear before it. It is only right that the claims of ex-soldiers should be discussed in the light of day, and that each claimant should be put in possession of all the facts that have guided the medical men in arriving at their determination- in his case. Lately the attitude assumed by the Repatriation Commission has been more liberal, but in the past soldiers have experienced great difficulty in securing permission to examine their files. On’ many occasions they have been simply told that their applications had been turned down, and although medical men may have declared that an applicant was suffering from venereal disease, he was not so informed. Such a pernicious system is opposed to British justice. An appeal board, as appointed in Great Britain and New Zealand, should work satisfactorily, and should certainly obviate the necessity for worrying Ministers with individual cases’ or for bringing them up in the House. It has been suggested - I am not one who makes the suggestion - that influence has played a part in determining many claims brought under the notice of the Repatriation Commission. If that is the case, it is most unfair, but the best way to prevent it is to create the appeal board I have suggested. Such a board should consist of a representative of the Government and a representative of the ex-soldiers, with an independent chairman, preferably a man of broad knowledge and having some legal training. Thus each case could be examined from the stand-point of the medical disability, from the view-point of the civilian representative, and from the legal aspect. I am sure no one could object to such a system. While obviating considerable trouble, it should greatly reduce the cost of the administration of the Repatriation Commission. First, there would be the medical examination, then the determination by the commission, and then the appeal to the board, whose decision would be the absolute end of the matter, so that there would be no occasion to bring it up again in the House. There would be fewer complaints and less abuse of the Administration. Governments have adopted varying methods of dealing with the assessment of disabilities. In certain cases the British Government have recognized alcoholism as a pensionable disability. It is a fair attitude to take up. If men who were not addicted to alcohol before the war are now suffering from alcoholism, it may, perhaps, be accounted for to a degree by the strain and stress of war. At any rate, the British Government say that it may be, and the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) will no doubt agree with me, if not wholly, at any rate, to an extent. In the matter of venereal disease, I should like to say that thousands of young men who went to the war at eighteen or nineteen years of age were subjected to temptations to which they would not have been exposed had they continued to live normal lives in Australia. If the figures are analyzed, I think it will be found that a large percentage of young fellows succumbed to temptation in this way. Vet the Repatriation Department refuses to accept responsibility for them if their health has broken down and their dieability can be attributed to venereal disease. Discretionary power should bc given to the commission to decide such cases upon their merits. There is no room for prudery or hypocrisy in such matters. Those who went overseas saw the brutal materialism and gross disregard for all the higher ethics of civilization that prevailed dur-: ing the war. Although the military authorities virtually recognized’ irregular houses, they did not take adequate steps to protect the soldiers from the possibility of incurring venereal disease. I think they should recognize their responsibility in this regard.
On several occasions, I have urged that the Departments of Health and Repatriation should be amalgamated under one Minister. It is beyond the limit of human capacity for one person to do what the Treasurer is attempting to do, namely, to control the finances of the Commonwealth, and at the same time handle repatriation matters. . Six weeks ago the Prime Minister suggested that the Government might appoint a Minister for Health and Repatriation, and I think it would be satisfactory to honorable members and to the public gener-ally if such an appointment were made. The Treasurer certainly deals with cases brought under his notice by referring them to the Repatriation Commission, but he cannot give them that personal attention which very often they warrant. I regret that the wellknown qualifications of the honorable member for Calare are not utilized by the Government in this direction. By amalgamating the Health and Repatriation Departments, the Government could have carried on better research work. They have done very little in this direction in regard to tuberculosis, functional nervous diseases, and other diseases that have arisen out of war service, but if the two departments I have mentioned had been amalgamated, a great deal more progress could have been made in the treatment of these diseases, to the great advantage of Australia. Some weeks ago, I asked the Treasurer how many ex-soldiers had been treated for tuberculosis; how many had been refused treatment; how many had been cured; and how many had died. I must express my protest at the unsatisfactory reply given to me. In answer to the first question, I was told that no statistics were available. In answer to the second question, I was told that no definite statistics were available. . It is a reflection, not only upon the Repatriation Department, but also upon the Government, that no proper steps have been taken to analyse the treatment of the thousands of cases of tubercular disease that have occurred among ex-soldiers, or to classify the effects of sanitorium treatment generally. However, some statistics were given. I was told that, of a block of 862 patients, 199 were working, 187 were unemployed, 191 had died in their own homes or elsewhere, 28 had died in the sanatorium, 116 were still in the institution, and 141 could not be traced. The inability to trace 141 out of 862 cases is a serious reflection upon the department. No doubt, statistics regarding the whole of the soldiers suffering from tuberculosis would reveal even more astounding facts. These figures indicate the failure of the present Government to safeguard the lives of exsoldiers and the health of the community generally. I do not believe in the segregation of these tubercular cases. No man should be segregated unless his disease is incurable and contagious; but the Repatriation Department should be able to trace every case, with a view to assisting those sufferers, many of whom are unable to assist themselves. Many men who have contracted this disease lose heart and disappear; they get no more treatment, and the result is disastrous to themselves and to the community. I hope that, in future, steps will be taken to ensure the careful supervision of tubercular cases, both in and out of the sanatoriums. Those patients who have left these institutions should be called up periodically for examination, and every effort should be made to trace those with whom the department has lost contact. The Government has not displayed a marked degree of interest in public health matters, which, in my opinion, overshadow all others, including defence. The subject has been treated by the Government as of little consequence. It is given a subordinate position in the allotment of ministerial duties and, while medical research services are being starved, millions of pounds of expenditure is proposed for material things, such as cruisers, which will merely serve the purposes of destruction, whereas health research would reduce the mortality caused by disease and lack of hygiene. It may be said that the Commonwealth’s powers in regard to health are limited, but it is the duty of the Government to endeavour to get the control of public health and industrial hygiene transferred to the federal authority. Disease knows no’ state boundaries; its prevention and cure are matters of national importance, and, therefore, the whole responsibility for the health administration should be accepted by the Commonwealth. I believe that the states would readily relieve themselves of the heavy financial responsibility that health administration entails. To-day the jurisdictions of Commonwealth and state’s overlap, and sometimes conflict. Recently the Chief Secretary in New SouthWales, Mr. Oakes, attacked the Commonwealth Government in respect of the conflict of state and Commonwealth jurisdiction and the lack of understanding between the two authorities. The time is ripe for unification of these important services.
As to the administration of the Repatriation Department, I again direct the attention of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) to the fact that the royal commission is too limited in its scope. It is dealing with only one complaint - admittedly a most important one–
– It is the basis of them all.
– There are certain other phases which have to be considered. The Repatriation Department in New South Wales is not liberally interpreting that section of the Repatriation Act which defines dependants in this way -
Dependant means - . . . .
such other members of the family of that person as were wholly or in part dependent upon his earnings at any time within twelve months prior to his enlistment or appointment;
There are instances of apprentices, and telephone messengers, and others who enlisted at seventeen years of age, when their earning power was infinitesimal, and whose parents were not then depending upon them, but who, had they lived, would now have been of great assistance to their parents. In consequence of the view taken in such cases by the Repatriation Department, many parents and other dependants have been denied any consideration whatever. I urge the Treasurer to look into the matter, because I feel, in many respects, at any rate, he is sympathetically disposed towards the dependants of ex-soldiers. If he were to make investigations he would find that many cases of hardship exist owing to the strict technical interpretation of this section by the department, but no investigation is to be held by the Royal Commission into such cases. I also wish to refer to’ the attitude of the Repatriation Department in the cases of deserted wives of soldiers. The Treasurer may consider that this is a matter which really belongs to the jurisdiction of the state; but, in my opinion, it is a Commonwealth governmental responsibility. I refer to the pathetic plight of the wives of soldiers’ who have been denser ted by their husbands since the war. It . may be argued , that in any ease these men might have deserted their wives, but, as mentioned by the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), very few soldiers returned from the war in a normal state. If that is the considered opinion of an eminent medical man the Repatriation Department and the Government should recognize that if these men had not gone to the war they would to-day in all probability have been faithful to their marital obligations. A case has recently been brought under my notice in which it is said that the Repatriation Department knows the exsoldier’s address, and is paying him a pension, but denies his wife the information that would lead to his apprehension. I urge the Treasurer to look into the matter, and to do something on behalf of these poor women and children. Another phase of the activities of the Repatriation Department is that in which it has given assistance to various ex-soldiers and their dependants, and has then sold them up. Considerable public criticism has occurred in this regard. I can quote from memory a case from Guildford. A war widow, whose husband fell after a record of gallant service on Gallipoli, obtained assistance from the Repatriation Department, and established a circulating library. She contracted . influenza, and was unable to carry on the business and meet her payments to the Repatriation Department. Part of the money invested in her business was ‘her own, and the remainder she obtained from the department. When she was unable to meet her payments the Repatriation Department promptly sold up her business at a ridiculous price, including the books which she had purchased with her own money.
– How long is it since that happened?
– If my memory serves me rightly, “about six months ago. That was disgraceful, but it is typical of the treatment that the Repatriation Department has meted out in many cases. There is no need for me to refer to cases which have been published in the press, particularly in Smith’s Weekly and the Daily Guardian, which indicate that motor cars and various other purchases made by soldiers with money advanced by the department have been sold for ridiculously small sums by the department, because payments have not been made on the due dates. The amount owing to the department over and above the sale receipts has been debited against the soldiers concerned. These matters deserve* close investigation.
Last year I called the attention of the Government to the manner in which various Australian patriotic funds were locked up. I ascertained that at least £500,000 of the amounts subscribed by the general public for the purpose of assisting soldiers was unexpended and remained under the control of trustees, . who, notwithstanding the unemployment, poverty, and hunger amongst ex-soldiers and their dependants, were refusing to disgorge these moneys. Countless patriotic funds in various country and suburban districts are also locked up in the same way, and no official record of them is in the possession of the Government. It would seem that about £1,000,000 must be so controlled by unsympathetic trustees who will not use it for the purposes for which it was subscribed. The Government should confer with the various State Governments to ascertain whether something can be done to ensure a proper administration of these funds. Possibly uniform legislation could be introduced to ensure that the money shall be used for the objects for which it was donated by the public during the years of the war.
The unsatisfactory administration of the war gratuities to Australians who served in the Imperial Army, is also a matter which should receive consideration from the Government. The Minister for Defence was given considerable discretionary power in the payment of these gratuities. Thousands of applicants have been refused the gratuity. the reason, in numerous cases, being that although they are eligible in every other respect, they did not apply for it until a short while after the expiration of the limit prescribed by the regulations. The Government should take steps to deal justly by ‘ the men who are morally entitled to the gratuity.
Some months ago I moved the adjournment of the House in order to discuss the failure of the Government to take steps to secure the ratification of the white-lead convention and 40 other conventions and recommendations that have emanated from the International Labour Office. Each year we send delegates to the International Labour Conference, we subscribe large sums of money towards its expenses, and in return we receive copies of its conventions and recommendations, which, until recently, were merely thrown into a dusty pigeon-hole and forgotten. In similar fashion, the conventions and treaties made by the Assembly of the League of Nations have been put aside as of no consequence. Last year we listened to very interesting reports by our delegates to the Assembly, the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) and the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), but the House has never been afforded an opportunity of discussing their recommendations and proposals. The International Labour Conference is doing a great work in the interests of humanity ; it is helping to raise the low-wage countries to the economic and hygienic standards of Australia, and its recommendations should be treated with the utmost respect. The AttorneyGeneral (Sir Littleton Groom) said, on the occasion of my motion for the adjournment of the House, that most of the conventions and recommendations of the International Labour Conference related to matters of state concern only, but certain of them concern the Federal Parliament very closely, and the Government has done nothing to give effect to them. I am opposed to sending delegations abroad on mere picnic tours. If results and action are not to follow our representation at the conferences in Europe, the sending of delegates is a waste of public money. The International Labour Conference should be recognized as an important component part of the organization of the League of Nations.
– Is it not a fact that some of the recommendations of the In ternational Labour Conference related to reforms that were already in operation in Australia ?
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the adjournment the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) asked by interjection whether it was necessary to legislate with a view to giving effect to the conventions and recommendations of the International Labour Conference. The inference to be drawn from the Minister’s question is that he assumes that our economic standards are already equal to those provided for in these conventions. Even if that be true’, the international labour organization expects us to treat the conventions and recommendations with respect, if it be only so much as to formally ratify them. According to the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), who is president of the Victorian League of Nations Union, and who spoke when I moved the adjournment of the House to discuss this subject some months ago, friends of his at Geneva have asked why Australia, which professes to be an advanced democracy, is conspicuous amongst the nations of the world in not paying any attention whatever to the recommendations and conventions of the International Labour Conference. On the occasion to which I have referred, the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Littleton Groom) pointed out that, being a federal state, we are not able to legislate on all these subjects, but under the Treaty of Versailles provision is made whereby federal states shall refer the conventions and recommendations to the legislative authority that has power to carry them into effect - in this case, the State Governments. That had not been done until I raised the subject in this House on the 21st May on a motion for the adjournment of the House. Action is now being taken by the various organizations to induce the State Governments to legislate in regard to these matters. I understand that a motion for the adjournment is to be moved in the New South “Wales Legislature to-night or to-morrow to bring under the notice of the State Government its failure to do anything in this regard. I recognize that the state is the legal authority in the case’ of most of these conventions, but until recently the Commonwealth Government had not done anything to influence the states or to refer these conventions to the State Governments. A conference between the various federal and state health officers was held in Melbourne last week, at which these conventions and recommendations were discussed. The conference brought up a report which was tabled here some days ago, but it is not yet available to honorable members. It is now incumbent upon the states to legislate on at least twenty of these subjects. There are five conventions which, according to the Attorney-General, necessitate joint federal and state’ action, but nothing has yet been done to bring about such action. I agree. with the Minister for Trade and Customs that we are already above the economic standards prescribed by these conventions.
– Many of the recommendations cannot reasonably be applied to the Commonwealth - we are in advance of them.
– But there are some, such as that relating to the use of white lead, which is a very live question in. the industrial life of the Commonwealth, in regard to which we should take action. The representatives of the painters’ organization, and of the coachmakers’ organization, and other similar bodies, many of the members of which suffer from plumbism, or lead poisoning, have been very persistent in their agitation to have the use of white lead regulated or restricted. The question of the white lead convention is not only of international importance, but of great local importance. In the interests of international co-operation and with a view to levelling up the economic standards of the world, I trust that theCommonwealth Government and the State Governments will give the utmost consideration to the various conventions and recommendations made by this important organization. The International Labour Conference represents a departure of the utmost importance in international relationships, because not only are the workers represented on it by a delegate from their industrial organizations in each member state - even from Japan - but also the employers and the governments concerned. This system provides a real form of co-operation, which will bring the nations of the world into closer relationships and understanding, and achieve more relatively than the League of Nations itself. The right of employees’ organizations to be represented at the International Labour Conference is safeguarded by . the Treaty of Versailles which sets out that no government shall appoint a delegate on behalf of the worker. At the conference China, Japan, and other countries are represented, and it is a reflection upon Australia that the Chinese delegate complained recently concerning the failure of the Commonwealth to take official cognizance of the conventions and recommendations. I stress what I said some months ago, that, although we enjoy a higher economic standard, it is to our interests to see that China, Japan, and other such countries where the labour conditions are inferior to our own, are at least brought up to a reasonable balance, so that in any trade competition we shall at least be able to meet them on fair terms.
– We have outstripped many of the recommendations.
– Yes, I have already admitted that; but if we do not treat the conventions and recommendations with the utmost respect we shall encourage other countries which are by no means comparable with our own to do likewise. We should set an example to the world, so that the League of Nations organization, of which the international labour organization forms a component and very important part, will be able to function in the interests of the nations of the world. Our contribution to ‘ the expenses of the League of Nations Secretariat is £25,000 a year, and if it is worth while to be affiliated and to send delegates, we should treat the conventions and recommendations with the fullest respect.
I wish now to refer to the attitude adopted by the Public Service Board towards public servants in their relation to members of this Parliament. This affects the privileges and prestige of every member of this Parliament. On the 4th September last year, I received a request from a letter carrier named F. McDonall for some information. The matter was quite impersonal, for the letter was forwarded in the first instance to the honorable member for Wentworth (.Mr. Marks) then it was .referred to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr), ‘and larter it -came on to me because the public servant was in my constituency. All that Mr. McDonall wished -to know was when ‘the Letter Carriers’ Award would come into force. He made no request for preferment, or the exercise of undue influence whatsoever. I sent the letter to the Public -Service Boa>rd and asked it to furnish me with -the information. I received the following reply .from the assistant .secretary under date the 13th September : -
DEAR Sir, - With reference to your letter of 4:9.23, forwarding for consideration by the board communication addressed to Mr. ‘W. Marks, M.P., .by Mr. F. .H. ©. McDonall “ .Gowan Brae,” Belmore-avenue Belmore, .1 am directed to inform you that it has apparently not been recognized by Mr. McDonall that under Public Service Regulation “No. -36 officers are (prohibited from seeking .the :in<fluence of ‘.’:y person in .order to .obtain promotion, transfer,, or other advantage. The attention of the “Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney, is ‘being called to the breach df regulation by Mr. McDonall, with a .request that he be informed that .any representations .concerning his position in the Service should in future ‘be made through the proper official channel.
The board feels sure that you will recognize the necessity for strict observance of regulations, and that you are not desirous of an officer being prejudiced in his official career by the adoption of unauthorized procedure. Representations by officers .through tile usual departmental ‘Channel will always receive .the board’s full and careful consideration.
I emphatically protest .against the adoption of such an (attitude .by the board when >a ‘simple request is made to it dmr -information. If any blame was :attacha’ble to any one in connexion -with the -matter, it was to me, and not to the public servant involved. The board’s action in censuring ‘this officer was entirely unjustifiable, as he had not committed a breach of the regulation referred to. It does not seem to understand the limits of its jurisdiction. I subsequently interviewed a member of the board, and lie admitted that no breach of the regulations was involved in Mr. McDonall’s request for information, but nevertheless the board had reprimanded him. That case illustrates .the .administrative methods of the Public Service Board ever since its :appointment, and in the (circumstances it is quite understandable >tha)t the Service as seriously discontented. A board ‘that could authorize the waiting of such a tactless, impetuous, and unwarranted letter .deserves condemnation. I , hope ‘.that the , Government will explain to it-he board -that the members of .this Parliament are .entitled at any time to -ask for legitimate information on behalf of ..their -.constituents, regardless of whether .they are public servan ts .or private citizens. Every member of this Parliament should be indignant at tyrannical treatment of ‘this kind. The general administrative methods of the board are objectionable. Some time ago I asked it to -give -consideration to the claims to permanent appointment of a number of ex-soldier employees who are engaged as night watchmen and cleaners at the ‘General Post ‘Office, ‘Sydney, and other offices throughout Australia. This may be a somewhat trivial matter -to bring under the notice of honorable members, but an important principle is involved. I received the following reply to my request from the secretary to the board : -
I am to say in reply that at one time positions of male office cleaner were on the permanent staff. ‘Under that system the difficulty was experienced in obtaining an efficient cleaning, staff df permanent officers, as experience has proved that when such work is carried out by officers classified on the permanent staff, constant change in personnel is inevitable. In many cases (he officers concerned found the duties uncongenial, and sought transfer or promotion to other positions where greater possibilities of future advancement offered. It was, therefore, after mature consideration, decided -that the duties of male office cleaners should be carried out by persons temporarily employed under exemption from the provisions of the Public ‘Service Act.
The board .’practically says, “ W.e will not make -these men permanent ‘officers .because they are ambitious, and wish to secure better -positions, and we. shall have to get others to take their place.” That is an .extraordinary .attitude to adopt. I must also refer briefly to the dissatisfaction .caused throughout the Public Service by the recent reclassification. I hope the Prime Minister will realize thu seriousness of the position .that has been created by <the unwarranted interference of the Public Service Board with the arbitration .’awards ‘of the -.Commonwealth Public .Service Arbitrator, and will take steps to remove any possibility of .a man being obliged to accept a reduced salary either now or -in the .future in respect .to any .reclassification that the board has mads. Wo doubt we shall have jam opportunity of discussing this matter fully during the debate on the second reading of the Public . Service Bill. It is highly desirable that we should have a contented Public Service, and that everything possible should be done to allay discontent.
A most disquieting position has arisen in some of our secondary industries, particularly the engineering and textile trades, which is viewed with grave alarm by the whole of organized trade unionism throughout Australia. I, in common with other honorable members of this chamber, received a circular letter to-day from the combined Iron Trades’ Committee, of which Mr. Gilbert Sinclair is secretary, protesting against the failure of the Government to provide adequate tariff protection for these industries. I quote the following excerpts from it: -
This meeting consisted of representatives from the blacksmiths, boilermakers, engineers, electricians, ironworkers’ assistants, moulders, plumbers, ship painters, sheet metal workers, and shipwrights, and represented over 40,000 iron trade skilled artisans. After some consideration it was decided we should appeal, requesting you to use your best endeavours, not only in the interests of our unemployed members, but in the interests of Australia generally, by trying to get the Federal Government to place such a tariff on all imported articles that can be manufactured here, so as to make it too unprofitable for such work to be manufactured abroad. Quite recently we had_ the spectacle of the Sydney Ferry Company” importing a new vehicle steamer to ply between Fort Denison and Milson Point. This company, it might be mentioned, derives all its revenue from the people of this state. . . . We also have the North Coast Steamship Company importing a new steamer which could easily have been built here, and this company, like the Sydney Ferry Company, derives all its revenue from the people of this state, and charges the highest possible rates for both fares and freights.
The writer of that letter condemns these two companies, and others, for their unpatriotic attitude towards the Australian shipbuilding industry. The whole of the organized trade unionism of Australia is behind the protective policy, and is determined that it shall be made effective. Even the so-called extreme wing of the Labour movement, the left wing, advocates adequate protection for Australian industries, and that section of Labour shows a far more practical patriotism than do many of the Government supporters, who are prepared to sacrifice our secondary industries. In this respect alone the communist section is on a far higher plane than are the anti-Australians who advocate the scrapping of arbitration, the abolition of the tariff, and the importation of black labour.
– Does the honorable member support communism ?
– I certainly prefer that form of political opinion to the reactionary element which is prepared to destroy our secondary industries, and other institutions for which the Labour party stands. The people who advocate the scrapping of protection and arbitration are doing more immediate harm to Australia than those who advocate a society ultimately based upon communism. The iron and steel industry is in a very serious condition. According to the Commonwealth Year-Book, in the June quarter of 1923, the importations of metals and machinery amounted to £1,005,555, and for the June, quarter of 1924, £1,050,178. This represents an increase of approximately. £45,000. The imports of textiles and attire for the June quarter of 1923 were £1,099,129, and for the June quarter of 1924, £1,112,684. In both instances there is a marked increase of imports. This has caused, to a great extent, the unemployment which is now rampant in both these secondary industries. I urge the Minister for Trade and Customs to recognize the seriousness of the position, and to take action to make the tariff more effective, so that unemployment may be lessened. According to the Iron and Coal Trades Review, the imports of iron and steel into the United Kingdom from Europe in 1922 were 240,436 tons; in 1923, 488,895 tons; and in the four months ending April, 1924,, 264,189 tons. These figures indicate that Britain is dumping into Australia, steel products largely of cheap continental manufacture. This, no doubt, accounts for the disparity between the landed cost here of so-called British steel products and the cost of the articles manufactured here. The Minister for Trade and Customs is at least striving to make the tariff more effective, and I commend him for boldly opposing the policy of various state governments, municipal bodies, and other semigovernmental institutions, in importing goods that can be manufactured in Australia. I trust that a list .of the names of the different governmental bodies that are asking for exemption from tariff imposts, to enable them to import goods into Australia, will be tabled in this Parliament, so that the people may know which of their various representative bodies are proving recreant to the trust imposed in them. Those who are prepared to decry Australian ability to manufacture, and who continue to place orders abroad rather than in Australia, are the worst disloyalists that we have in our midst. A great many German goods are being imported. This is borne out by the marked increase in imported goods from Czecho-Slovakia. A large percentage of the goods from that country are of German origin. According to the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, . Oversea Trade Bulletin No. 20, in 1919-20, the total imports of manufactures from Czechoslovakia amounted to £2,978; in 1920-21, £110,047; in 1921-2, £216,192; and in 1922-3, £458,782. It is clearly evident that widespread dumping is taking place, and this calls for immediate action. I have very little faith in the methods adopted by those well-meaning enthusiasts, the members of the Australianmade Preference League, who are endeavouring, by propaganda, to induce Australians to support their own industries. The cheapness of an article appeals to a potential buyer,, and in Australia there is a marked hostility on the part of many retailers to goods of local manufacture. It would only be effective if we could persuade local retailers to push Australian-made goods. The Government, however, should provide adequate protection for the steel and textile industries. This Parliament, after all, consists of a large majority of Protectionists, an insignificant minority being Free Traders. The bulk of the people of Australia are behind us in our advocacy of protection, and I urge the Government to take early action to further the interests of local industries.
.- During the last few days there has been considerable discussion in this chamber concerning the taxation of leaseholds, and it was very gratifying to me to notice that yesterday one of the Melbourne newspapers, which is not altogether sympathetic towards the Government, in an article exonerated the Ministry to the fullest extent. I suggest to honorable members opposite that they should read that report very carefully.
– What is the name of the newspaper?
– The Herald. It gave fairly full details of the position, and I feel sure that the investigations of the royal commission that is to be appointed will vindicate the Government even to a greater extent than has the article to which I have referred. The Government proposals, as outlined in the budget, are distinctly encouraging to the people of Australia. The war debt to be paidout of revenue is £9,041,670, made up as follows: - From surplus revenue, £4,900,000; and from sinking fund and ordinary revenue, £4,141,000. In addition, there is the proposed remission of taxes amounting to £2,000,000, and the following remissions that have previously been made - Income tax, £2,100,000; land tax, £400,000; entertainments tax, £100,000; postage, £1,000,000; remission of duty on sulphur, £430,000. The total of £6,030,000, added to the amount of £9,041,670, to which I have just referred, makes a grand total of £15,071,670. This is a very gratifying achievement, and I trust that the Government will be long spared to continue its good work as outlined in the budget. As one who has the greatest sympathy for the struggling taxpayer, it is gratifying to me to know that the Government proposes to increase the exemptions under the Income Tax Act from £200 to £300. This proposal will benefit all persons receiving incomes up to £1,200 a year, representing 96 per cent. of the taxpayers. It is a step in the right direction. Large numbers of taxpayers pay more in fees to lawyers for the preparation of returns than to the department in taxation. To many the making of a return is a harassing business, and the Treasurer has admitted that the cost of collecting is very considerable, so the loss in revenue through the raising of the exemption will to some extent be offset by savings in the cost of collection. Relief is to be afforded also to the goldmining industry by exempting it from income taxation until the whole of the working capital invested in the industry has been returned to the owners. Hitherto hundreds of small and struggling mining companies have been taxed heavily. . I am one of those unfortunate persons who have lost considerable sums of money in mining ventures, and I am confident that the relief now proposed will stimulate the industry. The other proposal, that live stock on hand at the beginning of each year shall be brought into, account at market values, will also; considerably benefit primary producers; and indirectly the entire community.
– Is the honorable member a supporter of the pact?
Mr.COOK. - I am not a believer in the bolsheviks. Another industry of which I have had some experience is the cultivation of broom millet. This branch off production has been unprofitable for some considerable time. Recently a friend of mine informed me that he had been offered £10 per ton for his crop of firsts-class broom millet.He was disposed to accept it, because, at the time, he was in financial difficulties, and the banks as we all know, have not a great deal of money available for loan at the present time, unless on firstclass security. Knowing that the price offered was very much below market values, I advised him to refuse the offer. The buyer immediately advanced the price to £25 per ton. In my opinion, the Governmeat should do something for the protection of this industry. The Tariff Board has had the matter under consideration: for some time, But up to the present nothing has been done. There are several growers interested in the industry. The cost of production is over £30 per ton, and as a large quantity of the millet has. been sold at below this figure, the position of the industry is very unsatisfactory. There is an imports duty of £9 per ton, but it is not nearly enough to protect the home grower against Italian competition. The; manufacturers, who. axe lauded to the skies by honorable members opposite, are charging just about as much for their brooms now as; they charged when they had to; pay £70 per ton for millet. In addition, the Italian rate of exchange in favour of the importer is in the ratio of about four to: one.. In other words, an importer can purchase for £1 as much, and probably more, Italian broom thanhe can purchase in: Australia for £4. I hope that the Minister will do something without delay to assist the industry. I may add that the corn, borer, one of the pests most dreaded by agriculturists, has been discovered in. the imported millet . To give honorable members some idea of the seriousness of this pest. I may state that the; state entomologists of Ontario, in March of this year,considered, the Canadian position so serious that they gave an undertaking to make available immediately upon the completion of certain investigations then being made, such information as would assist in checking the pest. Reports showed that in the area between St. Thomas and PortStanley fields in which the borers had made their appearance had been almost entirely destroyed. Another entomologist, Mr. R.H. Petit, of the Michigan Agricultural College, writing concerning this pest, states -
As near as one can judge at this time, the most serious pest that has ever threatened the agriculture of America, is the European corn borer. The corn crop is a very important one with us, and the establishment of this new enemy in the great corn belt will undoubtedly cause great losses, and greatly increase the. cost of producing abushel of corn, and therefore, affect all other agricultural operations.
The Board of Health has investigated the matter, and has ordered all imported broom millet to be subjected to the steaming process, but experts to whom I have spoken on this subject declare that steaming is not an effective preventive, and, since the. menace is so serious, I contend that, this House should insist upon an absolute embargo upon. the. introduction of Italian millet. The fact that the pest has been discovered, in imported millet: should be sufficient tojustify such action. We know from experience what the introduction of foreign pests, including the Mediterranean fruit fly, means to Australia. I trust therefore, that, the Minister will, use whatever power he may possess to prevent the introduction of foreign broom millet. I am aware, of course, that there may be treaty relations between the Imperial Government and Italy, or statutory laws, to prevent the prohibition of such imports, but in view of the seriousness of the position, theGovernment should take definite action without delay.
Turning now to arbitration: matters, I understand that some time ago, at a conference of Premiers, it was agreed to appoint a commission to inquire into and report upon the respective spheres of the Commonwealth and state arbitration laws.I believe such tribunals are necessary to adjust differences: in,industrial affairs: I do not want tobe mistaken. I admit that arbitration courts and wages boards have done a great deal to ensure industrial peace. As. a. member of a wages board for many yeans, I know that. many strikes have been averted. Unfortunately thereis a great deal of overlapping in jurisdiction-. We should define the respective spheres of the federal and state arbitration courts. Either the federal court should have complete jurisdiction, or, if the balance of opinion is against that course, its position should be defined.We should know exactly what is the function of the federal arbitration court, and what properly comes under the jurisdiction of the state courts: To give honorable members some idea of what this overlapping means, let me refer to a claim filed by the Australian Workers’ Union on the 5th May, 1920. Concerning that claim Mr. Justice Higgins said -
There is no co-ordination; no interdependence between the courts; and the disputants: are only too apt to treat the courts as rival shops. This decision involves great danger to, industrial peace, and to the continuity of operations in industries. But I cannot see how the position can be avoided without a change of the Constitution.
The court was created for the ventilation of grievances and the peaceful settlement of disputes. Unfortunately, it has not always been successful. In many instances the parties coming before the: court are arrayed like enemies, and the court, instead of being an instrument for the peaceful adjustment of disputes,, is. made the battle-ground of opposing forces. Parliament should take action to, remedy the present position at the earliest possible moment. This overlapping is very serious. I have had considerable; experience as a member of a municipal wages board. We have met our employees at. round-table conferences andhave been able to arrive at a satisfactory settement of many difficulties. In this way wehave saved the country hundreds of thousandsof pounds. On. this subject, let me read, for the benefit of honorable1 members, an extract from the Shire and Municipal Record published in Sydney and dated the31st May; 1924-
In. the reportlast year reference was made to the fact that a federal body, with headquarters in Melbourne; was enrolling all the municipal: officers (‘town and’ shire clerics; engineers, inspectors clerical staff) in one union, and the Federal Court had made awards for some of the states, and attention was being paid to New South Wales. The case was conducted by Mr. Bluett on behalf of this and the. Local Government Association and Councillor O’Brien. Alderman Cole and representatives oft the: clerks, health inspectors, and general labourers unions also went to Melbourne to oppose the claim. Sir John Quick threw the parties into conference, and it was arranged that a claim was to be submitted to the Con? ciliation Committee for settlement. Since then there hasbeen a great deal of correspondence: concerning the matter; and a claim has finally been submitted, but at the time of preparing this report has not been finalized. In this connexion it is desired to point out that the conduct of this case; which entailed’ a great deal’ of court work, including the preparation, of over 208 affidavits. The unfortunate feature of this federal case is that the whole industrial machinery which has been built up in this state is in danger of being wrecked by an association which comprises, less than 200 members out of a total of 6,000 council employees. It is a striking instance of the evil of federal arbitration overlapping. During the year, agreements were renewed with the engineers, engine-drivers and general labourers.In each case there were only slight alterations made.
I have been engaged in the settlement of a great many disputes, and they have been settled with benefit to the employees, the community, and: the taxpayers generally.
– They are men who have registered their organizations in the Arbitration Court.
Mr. E. Riley.In one state ?
– Yes;. If. the award of a state arbitration court is higher than that of the federal court, the employees will depend on the award of the state court, and ifthey think they cannot get as high an awardf rom a state court they will go, to at federal court. I trust that the Prime Minister will take this matter into serious consideration, and give honorable members an opportunity to discuss it further. This is not a party question. I am sure that honorable members opposite will agree with me: that the overlapping of awardsin connexion with great federal and state instrumentalities is a crying shame.
– We have not the constitutional. power to deal effectively with the matter.
– We have the necessary constitutional power, or we can obtain it. According to many legal men, it is possible for us to very considerably improve: our arbitration law, and all I ask is that, this, House should be given an opportunity to doso.
I come now to the position of allowance postal officials. The. honorable: member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) brought under our notice a number of cases of very low payments made to persons in charge of allowance post offices. I made it my business to ask the Deputy Postmaster-General of Victoria what is the real position in connexion with these offices. I find that the payments made to those in charge of them range from £25 to £600 a year. Where the allowance is only £25 a year, or under a living wage, those who undertake to take charge of the post offices must give the postal authorities an assurance that they have other sources of income. I have personally investigated quite a number of complaints of inadequate payment for the conduct of allowance post offices, and I have found that there have been two or three persons in the vicinity of the offices willing and anxious to take charge of them for the allowance paid.
– That is where they are rival shopkeepers.
– I am not speaking of shopkeepers. I have sufficient experience of the matter to know that the lot of many persons in charge of allowance offices should be improved, and might be improved without any unreasonable demand on the taxpayers.
– Does the honorable member not think that, instead of reducing postal charges, we should give these people a fair living?
– The honorable member overlooks the fact that they are not tied to the business, and can leave it any time if it does not suit them. Honorable members of this House some time ago were not satisfied with a salary of £600 a year. But the people did not compel them to enter this House, and if they did not consider £600 a year a sufficient salary it was open to them to graciously retire. In the same way, those who are not satisfied with the allowance given them for taking charge of post offices can, if they please, give up the positions which they now hold. I know that hundreds of persons are rendering the Commonwealth very valuable service in these positions, and I should like consideration to be given them. If we can induce the Government to consider the matter, we may induce it to go a little further. So far as mail services are concerned, it is a shame that hundreds of people in outback districts receive only one or two mails a week. These people are the salt of the earth. They are pioneers, and earn merely a bare existence, though they have given up all the conveniences and comforts which people enjoy in our cities. They are asked to contribute a certain amount to secure an extra mail, and if it is shown that a loss is involved, the extra mail is discontinued. I say that even if in such cases the loss involved is substantial, we might impose a little extra taxation to meet it. I stand all the time for giving the pioneers outback every possible facility.
– That is why honorable members on this side would not have reduced the postage rate.
– I give the Government every credit for the substantial reduction made in postal, rates last year. It has netted the country with telephone lines, and has done yeoman work which I appreciate. Although the remission of postage amounted to about £1,000,000, we have better services provided, and telephones have been supplied where many of us least expected them. New mail services are being asked for every year, and where possible they should be provided.
On the subject of the defence of Australia, I feel that the proposals submitted by the Government are absolutely imperative. 1 hope that .greater expenditure than is proposed will not be required, but if it is it must be incurred. We are living in a fools’ paradise. I believe that every honorable member will agree that were it not for the British Navy Australia would be at the mercy of an enemy. No one is more in favour of disarmament than I am, but when we see the other fellow preparing for war we are not justified in advocating a peace at any price policy. I submitted .figures recently to show what the Prime Minister of Great Britain is prepared to do in the matter of defence. He has proposed an enormous increase in naval and military expenditure. What is this for ? Is it merely for fun ? We know that it is the result of mature consideration. England has a population of 701 persons to the square mile; Wales, 296; Scotland, 160; Ireland, 134; Victoria, 17; South Africa, 10; Tasmania, 8; New South Wales, 7; Canada, 2 ; Queensland, 1 ; South Australia, 1; and Western Australia less than one. When we take into consideration how sparse and scattered our population is, we must be convinced that in the future we shall have to depend on the British Navy as we have had to do in the past. I appreciate the instalment of defence expenditure proposed by the
Government, and would willingly vote for double the amount. There are 78,000,000 people in Japan; 437.000,000 in China, and 251,000,000 in India. Many of these people art* within comparatively a few miles of our shores. We trust they will always be our friends, but the day may come when they will cease to be friendly, and if we have then made no preparation for our defence, some of our friends on the opposite side will wish that their policy of defence had been based on wiser counsels. The defence of the country is wrapped up with land settlement. We have been talking too long of a bold and progressive policy of land settlement. We have had some experience of soldier settlement. I asked the Treasurer recently a question on the subject of the assistance given to returned soldiers in this connexion, and I received some astounding figures in reply. I was informed that no less than £35,063,000 has been advanced. to the states for soldier settlement. That settlement is not as satisfactory as it might be in any of the states. It may be said that this is a state matter, but I maintain that it is an Australian matter. We in this Parliament are as much interested in the soldier settlers as are the State Governments. We have advanced money to the states for the purpose of settling soldiers, and we should get interest on that money. The soldier settlers are about £3,000,000 behind in their payments to the State Government of Victoria, and the same thing applies in all the other states, lt is contended that too high a price has had to be paid by the returned soldiers for their land.
– Hear, hear !
– I am a land valuer, and I say, “ No, no.” Perhaps I should give way to so experienced a land valuer and successful a farmer as the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley). Estates have been purchased at £10 an acre, and they were worth it. I venture to say that 99 per cent, of the land I have valued for closer settlement purposes would fetch at auction the price at which I valued it, and some of it would realize £2 or £3 more, but to the £10 has to be added at least £5 to cover valuation fees, survey fees, cost of fencing, subdividing, house construction, and yards. What was a reasonable value in the first place has, by reason of the additions, become a burden.
– The honorable member is referring to land purchased in Victoria.
– My remarks apply to purchases throughout Australia. If laud was purchased at £4 per acre, it has been loaded in the method I have described by another 50 per cent, of its value. Many of the soldiers settled in this way have done well, others have not; but the point I wish to make is that having launched out on this scheme of land settlement, I cannot understand why we as a Commonwealth do not take it up in earnest. It is as important to settle Australians who have done so much for the country as it is to engage wholeheartedly in a scheme for settling “new chums,” who probably know very little about the land. When men who have rendered so much service to Australia are facing hard times it is a matter for the earnest consideration of the State and Federal Governments. I have received letters of congratulation because of a reply I elicited from the Treasurer, that he was prepared to co-operate with the states in this regard. The successful settlement of our returned soldiers should be our first consideration. Land settlement is linked up with defence, and in this connexion I congratulate the Government on having provided a further instalment of £500,000, small as it is - I am sorry that the amount is not £2,000,000 - for the construction of main roads which will serve to aid land settlement. Those who say that the construction of roads is a matter for the states are state lunatics. The Commonwealth makes use of roads for the conveyance of mails, for defence traffic, and for many other purposes. It is, therefore, our bounden duty to contribute towards the cost of their construction. I trust that the substantial assistance already given will be continued, and that the amount will be increased.
Associated with the construction of roads to assist in the settlement of the land is the necessity for providing markets for what is grown on the land. Tho honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) did not seem too pleased with what the Government had done for the canned fruit industry, but I compliment the Government on the bounty they have given. It is an instalment of assistance which has already proved very beneficial to many returned soldiers and .other struggling .settlers, ;and I was pleased tha, we had the whole-hear,ted support of the Opposition in this regard. Not long since there was considerable talk of the necessity for grubbing out fruit trees because of over-production, .but by means <of the -.bounty a reasonable market for our canned fruit has now been established, and I hope that what has been -done in the immediate -past will be augmented in the future. The assistance given is really in .the nature of protection for >the growers. I have no objection to giving protection Ito manufacturers, but the :growers meed ;a little protection in return. The wine industry is particularly an .need of k. .1 .’commend lull splendid case put up :f or the wine-growers by the .honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), but I am sorry the honorable member should have inferred that, on this subject, ‘honorable members on he Government .side were too quiet. As -one who has jihad -some droving experience, I .realize .the benefit of having a good dog. It is not unusual for :some dogs to be barking all the time, and running about among the stock doing really anare .harm khan .good. It is better to have ;a (silent “ heeler,” one who does not look for upraise, but, nevertheless, does very (effective work. Therefore, although I have no objection to ‘the honorable .member for Angas, or any other (honorable member of the Opposition, talking to his heart’s .content, I prefer to pursue the’ course I have been following for the last twelve months. The ex-Minister for Tirade and Customs (Sir Austin Chapman,), and the present Minister (Mr.. Pratten) will .bear .me .out when I say that no .one in this .House. - perhaps excluding the honorable .member for Angas, who has done good work in this direction - has done more ‘than I have for ‘the wine .grower. ‘The ‘wine growing industry is worth annually £2, 1000,000, upon which it is ‘taxed to the extent of £250,”000. I ‘have ‘been endeavouring ito ‘get a reduction -of the excise duty on proof spirit used in ‘fortifying wine. ‘The duty was fid. n. gallon ‘before the war.; to-day it lis ;6s. ta gallon. Along with .a section -of the ..growers, I was anxious to .have it reduced ‘to ‘3s. la-gallon, but as .another -section .was equally anxious to secure sa -bounty ion wine, the matter remained <in the balance. That the matter has .’remained in abeyance for so long is not the fault of the .Minister for Trade and Customs., or the Tariff Board, mr Parliament, but of the .’growers them.selves .However, the .growers, have -finally .agreed to accept .a bounty (and 1 am pleased to .learn that the Government intend -to introduce .a bill to ‘give :a -bounty >of -4s. ra gallon ion sweet wines, -and to reduce ‘the excise duty on fortifying spirit made from doradilla grapes by ls. a gallon. This is another instalment -of protection for the growers. It is quite -possible that some of the newspapers will cry. out in .opposition to the payment of this bounty, and -say that it is .another instance of the primary producers waiting ion the doorstep of the -Government for assistance, but I regard it as but a first instalment of the amount of protection for Which I ‘propose -to ask. I ‘did not .attempt to .dictate -to the growers what they should take but I advised them to make up their minds one way or the Other, ;as .-otherwise they would stand a -very good chance of losing the lot. I think that, .without straining the finances, the Government could give a bonus of 2s. ;a .gallon ‘on light wines, for which a magnificent market could be opened up. Dha Government *-aase to be (congratulated for what they have done, -but, after ‘all, they do no’t deserve a great -deal of credit for it. ‘They ‘are -simply depriving the Consolidated Revenue ‘of about £125,000 out of the £250,’00O which they -now [raise ‘by ‘taxing ‘the industry. The industry is -practically paying for its own “bounty, just as ‘the honorable member for -Gippsland proposes to stabilize the butter industry, by taking money out of the one “hand and putting it into the -other. I -want the ‘Government to see that the growers - get ‘their full share of the benefit of ‘the “is. bounty, lt will certainly “benefit ‘the sellers and manufacturers of wine, ‘but I trust that provision will ‘be made so that the small growers, whose interests we -should conserve, will receive that instalment of just-ice to which ‘they -are entitled.
We have ‘heard complaints from honorable members opposite- about the cost of living. T have -recently heard evidence -given on oath that althoug”h ‘bricklayers, ten years ago, laid 700 bricks a day, for 7ls. a week, hey mow lay not -more *han ‘350 a day., for l-40s. .a week. ‘The same conditions apply in many other branches of the building trade. I do not wish it to be understood that I regard present rates as too high, but honorable members opposite cannot have their loaf and eat it too. They cannot expect house rents to be as cheap to-day as they were tern years ago. In the face of the added cost of building, it is absolutely imperative that rents should be somewhat higher today than they were some time ago. I have figures relating to the increase in the price of meat. If £13 7s. 6d. is paid for a fat bullock, the retail price of the beast is £20 12s. 7d., or an increase of 45 per cent. Those who are not acquainted with the facts will at once exclaim, “What rogues the retailers must be to charge such prices ! What enormous profits they must make!” But I can supply to any honorable member privately the details of all the costs that govern the retail selling price. Only yesterday I loaded a truck of prime bullocks for the market, and I do not think I shall realize 3½d per lb. for them on the hoof. Yet choice joints from them will be retailed at ls. 3d. per lb. How is the increase accounted for? The Victorian railways charge from 10s. to £1 per head, according to distance, to rail the stock to market, and in some other states the railage is as high as £4 or £5. At Newmarket the drovers take the stock in hand ; they are paid *£5 per week, and the Drovers Union restricts the number of sheep or cattle in each mob. The hosts of salesmen and clerks all make a profitable living by handling the stock. From Newmarket the beasts are driven to the abattoirs. The slaughtermen receive £6 a week, and kill about 64 sheep’ or a small number of cattle a day - much less than the number they could kill. They usually cease work between 3 and 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The meat is then delivered to the markets, whence it is again carted to the retail shops. The retailers find that they have to charge up to 45 per cent, above the wholesale price in order to cover the cost of cutting a carcass into small orders, and to provide for bad debts, and selling expenses. I admit that the cost of living has reached a cruel height; I can hardly understand how poor people in the city manage to live on £4 or £5 per week ; but if honorable members will study the details of the costs between the farm and the consumer, they will understand the reason for the high prices. Honorable members may say that the prices must be reduced, but that is not easily done. They have about as much chance of arbitrarily reducing prices as an extreme freetrader has of abolishing the tariff, which is a law of the land.
– What does the honorable member propose to do about itf
– That is a very pointed question, and one of which I do not require notice. The remedy is co-operation, and if members of the Opposition would devote to addressing meetings in favour of co-operation half the time they spend in inciting industrial unrest, and if the workers would put into co-operative effort the money that they lose each year instrikes, the cost of living could be substantially reduced.- For the last seven years the workers have lost in wages onaccount of strikes about £1,000,000 per annum. A sum of £7,000,000 would establish the bakeries and flour mills that Mrs. Glen cross advocates, and would establish a number of other co-operative concerns. I know intimately the lot of the worker. I am not ashamed to say that I worked for 15s. per week, and did! as- much labour before breakfast as some honorable members opposite did in a whole day. I understand the point of view of the worker, and I have proved by experience that co-operation is the solution of the problem of high prices. A few years* ago the civil servants established in Melbourne a magnificent co-operative store, with an up-to-date bakery equipped with a very fine plant. I think that Mr. T. M. Burke managed the store, and it made £10,000 in one year; then something went wrong - I have a shrewd idea of the cause of the trouble - and the company went into liquidation. The Civil Service Store in Sydney was managed remarkably well some years ago, and I am sorry to hear that it is now going backward. It is quite competent for the workers to establish a co-operative bakery, and the farmers will readily supply wheat direct to their mills, thus eliminating the army of middlemen of whom honorable members opposite have so much to say. Cooperative flour mills and bakeries are quite within the region of possibility. Consider what co-operative factories have done for the butter industry, and what benefits the application of the same principle has meant to other industries ! Honorable members opposite are continually condemning the Government for having sold the’
Geelong Woollen Mills. Why do they not take their courage in both hands and join the returned soldiers in operating their co-operative mill at Geelong? If woollen mills were such a profitable enterprise for the Government as those honorable members say, should they not be an equally good investment for their own money? I believe in the principle of co-operation in connexion with the supply of nearly all the community’s requirements. Self-help is what we need. It is not necessary to ask the Government for anything. What the Labour party asks for, however, is co-operation backed by government funds; that means the establishment of another government department, hampered by the usual red-tape methods. I would not touch such an enterprise with a 40-f t. pole. I am prepared to do everything possible to give the toilers a cheap meal through the medium of cooperative organization independent of government management. By the other system he will get only dear food. There is a Producers’ Wholesale Co-operative Federation in England, in which some Australian producers are associated with others in South Africa and New Zealand, in the marketing of produce in London. The Government advanced to the society £75,000, and an endeavour is being made by proprietary companies and middlemen to convince Parliament that the Government was wrong in so doing. I maintain that that advance has been abundantly justified. The conditions governing it were approved by the AuditorGeneral, and it has been pf immense! assistance .in the marketing of the dairy products of Australia. I hope that the Government, instead of withdrawing the advance, will double it, and thus give that great selling organization a chance to market, not only dairy products, but also wheat, wool, and fruit. Certain misleading statements concerning it have appeared in the newspapers, and I take this opportunity of refuting them. I quote the following information supplied by the Australian secretary: -
The Australian Producers’ Wholesale Co-operative Federation.
This company was registered under the Victorian Companies Act in May, 1920, and its registered office is at the Rialto, 497 Collinsstreet, Melbourne. The total membership is comprised of the ten following co-operative* companies: -
The Victorian Producers’ Co-operative Company Limited, Melbourne.
The Gippsland and Northern Co-operative Company Limited, Melbourne.
The Victorian Butter Factories Cooperative Company Limited, Melbourne.
The Coastal Farmers Co-operative Society Limited, Sydney.
The Farmers and Graziers Co-operative Grain Insurance and Agency Company Limited, Sydney.
The Berrima District Farm and Dairy Company Limited, Sydney.
The South .Australian Farmers Cooperative Union Limited, Adelaide.
The Farmers’ Co-operative Distributing Company of Queensland Limited, Brisbane.
The Westralian Farmers Limited, Perth.
The Tasmanian Orchardists’ and Producers Co-operative Association Limited, Hobart.
Under its articles each company is entitled to have one representative on the board of directors, and the present directors are: -
Mr. P. H. H. Ibbott, chairman.
Mr. A. W. Wilson.
Mr. C. E. D. Meares.
The Hon. A. K. Trethowan, M.L.C.
Mr. W. E. Hindmarsh.
Mr. E. A. Badcock.
Mr. R. McWhinney.
Mr. B. L. Murray.
Mr. C. H. Cane.
The company was formed primarily, for the pool-purchasing of primary producers’ requisites, and for the selling of their products abroad. A delegation consisting of two directors visited London in 1921, and arrangements were made with the Farmers’ Co-operative Wholesale Federation (N.Z.) Limited of New Zealand and the Federated Farmers’ Co-operative Association of South Africa Limited, South Africa, who were already established in London, to link up with them both for buying and selling under one management, but with separate financial responsibility. This tentative arrangement continued till the 30th June, 1922, when it was decided to form the London establishment into a limited company under the name of the Overseas Farmers Co-operative Federations Limited, the three federations being the only shareholders. This company acts as commission agent only for the three federations, each making its own financial arrangements. In connexion with the Australian federation’s finance, the Commonwealth Government guaranteed an overdraft of £75,000 to the E.S. and A. Bank, under which the bank negotiated drafts for Australian dairy produce only, for- shipment to the United Kingdom, such drafts being drawn on the Australian Producers’ Federation, London. Terms of the agreement are such that this finance cannot be used for any other purpose than financing Australian dairy produce, and it has never been used to finance South Africa and New Zealand. The Commonwealth guarantee has been very useful in enabling butter to be held on a low market, which would otherwise have had to be immediately realized, and has resulted in much higher prices being obtained for the producers of Australia. Attached hereto is a memorandum showing the monthly balances of the overdraft account from the commencement to date. From this can be seen that at no time has the guarantee been exceeded, and at times the account was in credit. The overdraft at present is small, the 1023-24 season being at an end, but there are ample stocks of dairy produce on hand to cover the amount owing. The ten co-operative companies comprising the Australian Producers’ Federation have a combined turnover of approximately £37,000,000 per annum, and they represent 120,000 producers. The total turnover of the Overseas Farmers’ Co-operative Federations, London, on Australian account for the three years of its existence was over£ 6,000,000 sterling. The main products handled were dairy produce from Australia. Other primary products sold were eggs, green, canned, and dried fruits, and fruit pulp.
Notwithstanding what the federation has done for the assistance of the producers, the middlemen are endeavouring to get the Government to withdraw its financial support. The. turnover of £6,000,000 could be doubled, and I feel sure that any proposal by the Government to give further financial assistance to this cooperative enterprise will receive the unanimous support of honorable members. Those conducting its operations are drawing only allowances, and are undoubtedly acting in the best interests of Australian producers. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and a member of another place perused the balance-sheets and figures of the federation, and were amazed at the work accomplished.
– The honorable member said that he did not favour Government assistance in a co-operative concern, but the Government are backing that agency.
– Yes, but they are not controlling it. I am advocating additional assistance to the federation, but I do not suggest* that it should be under Government control. It is being very ably managed by experienced men who know their business, and I do not suggest that any such organization should be under the control of any Government, whether it be comprised of members of the Country party, the National party, or the Labour party. Different industries should have separate organizations, as it would be impossible for one body to successfully administer all.
– What profits have been made?
– The business is conducted with the object of marketing the produce of the shareholders and not with the intention of making profits.
– Does it market fruit?
– It deals primarily in dairy produce, and to a small extent in canned and dried fruits. Frequent reference has been made to the possibility of the Government losing the amount of the guarantee, and as it is likely that misleading information may be circulated, I quote for the information of honorable members the following figures: -
The Australian Producers’ Wholesale Co-op. Federation Limited.
Guarantee of £75,000 by Commonwealth.
The monthly balances of the overdraft account since the agreement came into force on 18th November, 1921, have been as follows: - 31st December, 1921, £55,1211s. 2d., overdraft. 30th January, 1922, £44,943 8s. 10d., overdraft. 28th February, 1922, £13,98011s.5d., overdraft. 31st March, 1922, £18 18s. 2d., credit balance. 30th April, 1922, £21,418 2s. 10d., overdraft. 31st May, 1922, £64,377 16s. 7d., overdraft. 30th June, 1922, £23,059 19s.1d., overdraft. 31st July, 1922, £51,084 18s.1d., overdraft. 31st August, 1922, £6,865 15s. 10d., overdraft. 23rd September, 1922, £8,978 16s. 10d., overdraft. 31st October, 1922, £6,957 7s. 7d., overdraft. 30th November, 1922, £44,369 16s. 4d., overdraft. 31st December, 1922, £50,36511s. 5d., overdraft. 31st January, 1923, £35,863 7s. 8d., overdraft. 28th February, 1923, £41,9751s. 3d., overdraft. 31st March, 1923, £70,778 2s. 6d., overdraft. 30th April, 1923, £57,144 7s. 2d., overdraft.. 31st May, 1923, £54,909 8s. 2d., overdraft. 30th June, 1923, £39,861 10s. 2d., overdraft. 31st July, 1923, £52,551 4s. 2d., overdraft. 31st August, 1923, £1,363 3s. 2d., overdraft. 30th September, 1923, £366 5s. 6d., overdraft. 31st October, 1923,£l201s. 2d., credit balance. 30th November, 1923, £53 10s. 5d., credit balance. 31st December, 1923, £221 10s. 4d., credit balance. 31st January, 1924, £98 0s. 6d., credit balance. 29th February, 1924, £48,271 18s. 6d., overdraft. 31st March, 1924, £59,997 14s. 2d., overdraft. 30th April, 1924, £42,8901s. 7d., overdraft. 31st May, 1924, £55,295 2s. 10d., overdraft. 17th June, 1924, £32,265, overdraft. 14th July, 1924, £16,250, overdraft. 31st July, 1924 (forecast only), £5,000, overdraft.
In view of those figures, the federation is justified in receiving a substantial increase in the grant, as it would be money well spent. The federation when properly organized would be capable of dealing with almost any product.
– Is it a grant or a guarantee ?
– It is a guarantee of repayment to the English, Scottish, and Australian Bank. During the wharf labourers’ strike there was a substantial fall in the price of butter, but as a result of this guarantee the federation was able to hold its butter for a time, and the producers were thus saved a loss of several thousands of. pounds. In reply to the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) I have given what I consider a remedy for the high cost of living, and I trust my remarks in this connexion will be carefully studied by honorable members. Frequent reference is made to the detrimental effect of commercial combines, but if honorable members opposite wish to assist in preventing the inconvenience and hardship which arise in consequence of the operations of such organizations, they should become partners in a real co-operative combine operating in the interests of the people. It has been clearly demonstrated from time to time that governments are incapable of conducting commercial undertakings, and for the information of honorable members I quote the following losses incurred by Commonwealth Governments up to 30th June, 1923 : -
The accumulated net losses on state enterprises in New South Wales to 30th June, 1923, were £356,981. To this sum has to be added £415,730, the net loss on
Walsh Island, making the total £772,711. Details of losses are -
The position in Queensland at 30th June, 1923, was:-
The net losses to 30th June, 1923, totalled £1,010,104. Income tax unpaid totalled £164,925, and interest unpaid £97,435. The capital tied up in State enterprises at 30th June, 1923, amounted to £3,455,000.
– I call attentionto the state of the committee. [Quorum formed.]
– The accumulated losses at 30th June, 1923, on state enterprises in Western Australia amounted to £457,914, and in Tasmania, on the same date, £68,246. In Victoria and South Australia there are practically no state industries. I have placed this information before the committee because the subject deserves ‘the serious and unbiased attention of every honorable member. The position of the producer and that of the consumer would be made more satisfactory than at present if business were conducted on the lines I have indicated. I trust that the Government will go forward with a view to opening up and exploiting the markets of the world. I feel convinced that there are in China, and even Japan, opportunities to dispose of our meat and other products. I do not intend to deal at length with the dairying industry, as that has been very comprehensively and ably discussed by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr.Paterson). Notwithstanding the fact that we have been in the butter export business for years, and that our product is equal to the best Danish butter, Australian butter, owing largely to the absence of proper organization, is selling at 4d. per lb. less than the Danish product, which on our output of £20,000,000 has involved a loss of, approximately, £3,160,000 a year. There is no doubt that we can make butter equal to that made in any part of the world. Our need is to get our produce into the hands of the consumers in as direct a way as possible, and to keep the business out of the hands of the multiplicity of speculators who have participated in it in the past. It is the bounden duty of this or any other Government to assist our primary producers to get their commodities to the world’s markets. What can be done in other countries can surely be done in this, God’s own country of Australia.
.- I regret that it is necessary for me to begin my speech at this late hour. At the outset I wish to refer to the remarks made by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook), who has just resumed his seat. He attempted, by giving instances of the losses incurred by government enterprises in various states, to prove that government control of industries is disastrous to the country, and that private enterprise is everything that can be desired. The honorable member would have been fairer had he quoted not only those government industries in which a loss has occurred, but also those which are profitable. To be logical, he must advocate the abolition of government control of our railways. Is that part of his policy t
– I said that there were certain industries which we could not do’ other than allow the state to control.
– The honorable member desires the state to conduct the industries which are usually unprofitable, and to permit private enterprise to manage those in which immense profits may be made. He ought to know that even industries which are universally considered in Australia to be best conducted under government control are controlled by private enterprise in some other countries. Government control even of them is considered to be in the nature of socialism, and so is tabooed. For instance, government ownership of the railways in the United States of America is an unthinkable proposition to either of the great political parties of that country. But I do not think that even the reactionary member for Indi would seriously propose that the railways in this country should be handed over to private enterprise.
– The Treasurer proposed it. He wanted to sell our railways., to private enterprise.
– I doubt whether even he advanced that proposition seriously. I have had some experience of the private ownership of the railwaysin the United States of America, for I resided in that country for several years. Taking into consideration the mileage covered and the density of the population through which the railways pass, passenger and freight rates in the United States of America are much higher than in Australia. In the middle states, where the country naturally is much richer than our own, I am sorry to say, nine out of every ten farms are mortgaged, principally on account of the excessive charges imposed upon the farmers by the private railway corporations, and the farmers axe in a wretched position. I have seen peaches on sale in California at 1 cent - which is a halfpenny a lb. - but, in consequence of the high freight charges, similar peaches could not be obtained in Chicago for less than 20 cents, or 10d., a lb. Many a fruit-grower in California has become bankrupt in trying to raise peaches which sell at 1 cent a lb. Private enterprise, for which the honorable member stands, bleeds these producers white. He instanced certain state enterprises in Queensland and Western Australia which he said were unprofitable. I call his attention to the experience of the Western Australian people of government control of the meat works at Wyndham, which is 17 degrees south of the line, remote from all centres of population, and almost in the torrid zone. The Government meat works there are operated during the killing season year after year. I admit that very little is contributed from the revenue of the undertaking to provide for interest and sinking fund charges, but working costs are covered, and the people consider that it pays better to keep the works open than to shut them up, and put a caretaker in charge of them. Let the honorable member compare the Wyndham experience with that of Vestey Brothers, just over the border, in the Northern Territory. That company has there meat works which are not as up-to-date as the Wyndham (establishment, in spite of the large amountof money that is invested in them, and it will not operate them because the returns are not satisfactory. The Government meat works are operated at Wyndham with advantage to the pastoralists there, and supplies the meat consumers in the south-western part of Western Australia.
– But what is the loss on them?
– I have already said that they pay working expenses, and the people of Western Australia consider it f ar bettertokeepthem open than to shut them down. The peopleof the Northern Territory, however, have no say in what shall be done with Vestey’s works. The honorable member brings forward a great co-operative scheme as a cure for the ills of which he complains. But co-operators have come cap in hand to the Western Australian Government, and have asked for money just as private enterprise has done. I refer particularly to the cooperators atFremantle, who havebeen unable to carry on except at a considerable loss. These gentlemen with all their borrowed money and co-operation have suffered severe losses. The honorable member for Indi dealt with some of the Western Australian state enterprises. When the brickworks were established there, I was in the happy position of being able to obtain the services of an excellent manager for those works. The price of bricks in that state is 10s. or 15s. per 1,000 below what is paid to private enterprise inVictoria and the other states. That is a big factor in house building. This establishment acts as a check not only upon the price of bricks, but also upon other enterprises whose prices, but for its existence, would be considerably higher. I am not a whole-hogger “ for the state taking over all enterprises. I know the weakness of such a policy. This is sometimes evident in the control of state railways, which, when under unsympathetic management, offer no incentive to the employees to do their best. I would be blind if I did not acknowledge that fact. We are up against an industrial problem, and any practical solution of it, apart from the nebulous scheme ofco-operation as outlined by the honorable member for Indi, willbe very welcome. The proper control of state enterprise rests in the employee having a voice in the management. Honorable members will no doubt see something veryrevolutionary in. that statement, and suspect thatit comes from the communistic section of the Labour movement. That I strongly deny. Many leading university professors of Great Britain and elsewhere believe that the only solution of our industrial chaos is state control, with the workers having a voice in the management, and that the taking over of industries that are badly managed by private enterprise will prevent a monopoly of food supplies and the’ consequent increase in price to the consumer. Under that system we would have real co-operation, and not the cooperation that the honorable member for Indi stands for - l5s. out of every £1 for the boss and 5s. for the man working in the industry.
Mr.Fenton. - Are there not state implement works in Western Australia?
– “Yes, and they are doing great work. There we have an industry giving employment to hundreds of men who would not otherwise exist in Western Australia atall. During the war most governments in the world said, “ So far as privateenterprise isconcerned, this is no time for making pro; fits,” and they took over private enterprises and ran them in the best interests of their countries to meet war conditions. The honorable member for Indi mentioned that a certain number of sheep were slaughtered in a day.
– He said that slaughtermen now killed only about 60 sheep a day.
– I do not know the capacity of slaughtermen to-day, but ever since my boyhood I have been sick and tired of hearing older men say that the fellows of to-day are nothing like what they were years ago. The honorable member for Indi mentioned an oftrepeated gibe about bricklayers. He said that bricklayers several years ago received 71s. a week, for which they laid 750 bricks a day, but to-day they lay 350 bricks a day, and receive 140s. a week. That statement was based on a nebulous idea of the character of the work.
– It was given to me on oath.
– It must , have been given on the oath of a co-operator. Bricklaying is my trade, and I claim to know more about it than the honorable member does. His statement was entirely incorrect. It is true that in the different trades some men are more proficient than others, but there are different classes of work in all trades. In rough work, for instance, the building of a wall 18 inches thick, it would be possible for a man to lay J, 500 bricks a day, but on other classes of work, to lay 400 bricks a day would require far more skill and a far more efficient tradesman than the man who lays 1,500 bricks a day in a rough wall. It depends entirely upon the class of work. Years ago I worked with my brother at the bricklaying trade. He- is still in the trade, and I have often asked him if there is any truth in the statement that men are going slow. He says that it is absolute rubbish. I have heard people foolishly say, “ Do not the rules of the ‘ union provide that if a man toys over 350 bricks a day, he gets expelled from the union f” To-day bricklayers are “ all out “ for the same reason that the honorable member is a co-operator - -because it pays them. As nearly all bricklaying is done on piece-work, a bricklayer wants to make as much, money as he can. I have watched men very carefully in recent years, and’ I know when- a man is working and when he is not. The average, well-trained bricklayer - and that remark applies to every other trade - is just as smart as ever he was in the history of Australia. Throughout the world no bricklayer can beat- the Australian at his trade.
– The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who has just returned from the United States of America, gives the lie direct to the statement that the Australian bricklayer is slower than the American.
– I admit that America is a land of hustle. While I was there I worked harder at my trade than over I have done in Australia. The rush there is greater, but the quality of the work is sacrificed to- the pace. One reason why bricklayers work their “ soul oases “ out in America is that it is almost impossible to get them in a solid union.
At all events, that was the position when I was in America. I believe they have learned some sense since my time. I worked once on a job where sixteen men were employed. They were all of different nationalities, and each was suspicious that the other .was trying to do him out of his job. They could hardly speak the same language. T should be very sorry to see Australia get into the same industrial condition as the United States of America, where, as described by Foster Fraser in his America at Work, men are too old at 40. No doubt honorable members will recollect the story. Foster Eraser, when on a visit to an iron foundry at Pittsburg, remarked, to the foreman who was showing him- over the works; that all the men he had seen were young men, and he wished to know where the old men were. The foreman evaded the question, hut when pressed for an explanation, replied, “Say, let us take a car to the cemetery.” We do not want that condition of affairs in Australia. We do not wish our workmen, when they get on in years, to be worn out .and become a burden on the state We believe that by education, and by making it possible for our people to enjoy the best that this land can offer, our tradesmen will continue to be .the best in the world. I strongly resent any reflection upon the people of my country. I do not wish to appear to be a jingo, but if there is one country in the world for which I would willingly die it is the country in which I was born. H there is- one lesson which we in Australia should learn it is to inculcate in our people an Australian spirit and a devotion to their country. We do not want these “ stinking fishermen,” as the Bulletin describes them, to malign our Australian workmen. I am sure that the honorable member for Indi would not willingly say anything which he did not believe to be true. No doubt he believes the statement, which it is popular nowadays in some quarters to make, that the cost of living in Australia is high because our bricklayers lay only 350 bricks a day, and our carpenters are not doing so much as they used to do, and so forth. All those people who complain about the high cost of building overlook the fact that Australia is in the grip of the pernicious combine system which, unfortunately, we have borrowed from America. The honorable member for Indi this evening slandered our Australian workmen. He failed to state that there are other influences at work to make building bo costly in Australia. He omitted to mention, for instance, that within the last day or two evidence given at an inquiry in Sydney disclosed that a man engaged in the manufacture of tiles was paid £3,500 a year by competing firms to close his works. By this means tiles, which represent a substantial proportion of building costs, have gone up in price, anything from £10 per 1,000 to £19 per 1,000. . I do not wish to delay the committee longer to-night. I did not intend to deal with this matter at all, but I was so incensed at the statements made by the honorable member for Indi that I felt impelled to say something in defence of the Australian workmen. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 August 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240826_reps_9_108/>.