10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the extension of the wine bounty will be dealt with before the risingof Parliament?
Visit of Dr. Argyle to United States of America.
– Has the Prime Minister beenconsulted officially by the Victorian Minister, Dr. Argyle, concerning his journey to America to beg assistance for the Victorian University from rich American organizations?
– I have not been consulted, and have no official knowledge of any mission in which Dr. Argyle may be engaged.
– I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the House is today properly constituted, since under the sessional orders, I understand that it meets only on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, unless otherwise ordered ?
– On the 25th day of June. 1926, a sessional order was passed, authorizing the House to meet on Tues days. It is meeting to-day under that order, as ‘it did last week. The order fixed the hour of meeting on Tuesday at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
Opening of Parliament House - Dame Nellie Melba
– In connexion with the celebrations associated with the opening of Parliament House at Canberra, I ask the Prime Minister whether a special invitation was extended to Dame Nellie Melba to sing thereat. If so, why was not a similar invitation extended to other eminent Australian singers who were available, including Mr. Alfred O’Shea, who is recognized as one of Australia’s best singers?
– Dame Nellie Melba communicated with the Government, and offered, if it was so desired, to sing on the occasion of the opening of the Parliament House at Canberra by His Royal Highness the Duke of York. The matter was referred to the committee controlling the arrangements for the ceremony, and it very cordially accepted the offer. I am sure that it is a matter of great satisfaction to all Australians that Dame Nellie Melba, whose reputation is world-wide, will sing on that occasion. There have been representations with regard to other singers, and in particular the honorable member has himself made representations in regard to Mr. O’Shea. These were considered some time ago by the special committee appointed to make the arrangements, but, unfortunately, it has not been found possible to find a place for them.
Mr.WEST. - Paragraphs have appeared in the press referring to the visit to Australia of Sir Ernest Harvey, of the Bank of England. I was asked in Sydney if he came out at the request of the Government or of the Commonwealth Bank. I see from the newspapers that he was holding some kind of conference with the directors of the Commonwealth Bank during the whole of last week. For the information of people interested in the Commonwealth Bank I should like to know the reason for Sir Ernest Harvey’s visit.
– Ever since the original Commonwealth Bank Act was passed, it has been the desire of this Parliament that the bank should be a central bank, and a bank of issue, discount, and exchange. Unfortunately, that desire was not realized in the early years of the bank’s history. Some three years ago the Commonwealth Bank Act was amended to enable the bank to assume the functions in the community which we all desire to see it carrying out. We have, however, hut little experience of a central bank, or central banking methods, and the -directors of the Commonwealth Bank thought that it was desirable to secure the assistance of a senior officer of the Bank of England to advise them generally with regard to the whole subject of central banking, to enable the Commonwealth Bank to perform the functions which it is essential that it should perform. Sir Ernest Harvey is here at the invitation of the directors of the Commonwealth Bank, and they have been in close consultation with him. When they have considered any advice he may tender them, they may submit proposals to the Government, and these will be puf before Parliament if their adoption would involve an amendment of the law.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral given any consideration to complaints made in this House, and to himself personally, about the demands made by the International Copyright Association upon various public bodies controlling halls! If so, does he consider it possible for the Government to take action to protect the interests of such public bodies?
– Consideration has been given to the complaints made on behalf of the owners and controllers of various halls in different parts of Australia. An explanation has been made to the effectthat the Copyright Act is an international instrument, and that any alteration of it by Australia would expose Australian authors to very serious disabilities in foreign countries. The subject is one of great difficulty and complexity. I may add that, in the representations that have been made to me, no information has been given as to any recent demands which have actually been made, although I have received many copies of a circular which suggests that demands are being made. Inquiries are being made to ascertain exactly what demanas have been made by the association on bodies controlling halls. If it is found that the demands are not reasonable, the Government will do what it can to meet the representations of the parties concerned.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence to be informed whether schoolmasters received payment for recruiting schoolboys for the Navy. I waa promised information on this subject, but have not yet received it.
– I supplied the House with the information asked for, on the day following that on which the honorable member asked his question.
– I asked for information concerning the whole of Australia, and not Victoria alone.
Appointment of Woman Delegate
-Have representations been made to the Government asking that Mrs. J. C. McDonald be appointed the Australian woman delegate to the next meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations? Will the Government take into consideration the claims of South Australia in the appointment of the woman representative of Australia on this occasion.
– Representations have been made urging the Government to appoint the several persons named in the communications as the woman representative of Australia at the next meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations. All the claims made will be given consideration when the Government is deciding the matter.
– At the present time, railways, police, and education services in the Federal Capital Territory are administered by the State of New South Wales. Will the Prime Minister say whether it is the intention of the Government to transfer those services under the control of the Commonwealth?
– The whole subject of administration in the Federal Capital Territory after the transfer of thisParliament to Canberra is now receiving the consideration of the Government.I can make no statement on the matter at this stage.
– Has the Department for Works and Railways received representations from the Australian Board of Missions in reference to the care of aborigines in connexion with theex tension of the railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs?
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Inquiries are beiug made.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to tha honorable member’s questions are -
The fact that Australia’s annual exports and imports to and from theEast ure valued at approximately £19,000,000 and £20,000,000 respectively, is evidence that it is possible for much Australian produce to be sold there without direct steamship commun ication with certain ports. 4,5, and6. The Commonwealth Board of Trade during the past few years has made exhaustive inquiries into the matter of the establishment of a monthly direct service on each of the following routes: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Reciprocal Preferential Duties
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Having reference to the speech on the Imperial Conference delivered by the Right Honorable the Prime Minister, on 3rd March, in which he stated “ certain preferences which have been of very great value were granted to Australia” by Great Britain(Hansard, page 75) - What is the extent to which the preferences granted by Australia to great Britain, and by Great Britain to Australia, have operated for each year since 1923?
– The amount of preference granted under the Australian Customs Tariff on goods of United Kingdom origin imported into the Commonwealth during the year 1924-25 was £7,975,703. Particulars in respect of the year 1925-26 are being compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician, and will be available in about seven days. The amount of the preference granted under the Tariff of the United Kingdom on Australian produce imported into that country during the year 1924 was £425,792. Particulars in respect of the year 1925 are being compiled by the Trade and Customs Department, and will be available on 17th March, 1927.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Customs Collections - Payments by Commonwealth - Interstate Trade.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
– On the 11th March. 1927, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) asked the following question : -
Has the increased duty on petrol imposed by the last tariff increased the retail selling price ruling at the time of the passing of that tariff?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
On the 30th January, 1926, the principal importing companies increased their price from1s. 9d. to1s.10½d. for first grade spirit in bulk. The price of Commonwealth Oil Refineries remained at1s. 9d. On the 9th October, 1926, the principal importing companies increased their price1½d. a gallon, stating that this was to cover the additional 2d. per gallon duty on petrol, less½d. per gallon to correspond to a reduction in the American market. This brought their price up to 2s. a gallon for first grade spirit, in bulk. Commonwealth Oil Refineries first grade still remained at1s. 9d. On the 29th November, 1926, they decreased their price1d. per gallon, making their price for first grade spirit1s.11d., while Commonwealth Oil Refineries first grade still remained at1s. 9d. Before the duty was imposed the price of imported petrol from kerbside pumps to the consumer was 2s. 2d. per gallon. Since the 29th November, 1926, the price has been 2s. 2d. per gallon. There is, therefore, no increase to the consumer by reason of the extra duty of 2d. per gallon.
– On the 11th March, the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
This substantial and much to be desired reduction in the importation of yarn, which is the base of the woollen industry, has taken place notwithstanding the great increase in the local production of woollen piece goods.
Allegations Against Officials
– On the 14th March, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) addressed the following questions to the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that it has been ascertained from the Federal Capital Commission that there has been no suggestion of graft in connexion with the purchase of motor ears, petrol, or other incidental items for the Commission.
Operations in Western Australia.
– I desire to supplement my reply to the questions asked by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) on the 2nd March, and by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Cameron) on the 4th March. On the 29th October, 1926, I approved of the execution by day labour of a number of developmental roads, for which £149,500 had been allotted. This was done for the purpose of maintaining the continuity of employment of the men who werethen engaged on the construction,&c., of roads which were being carried out under the Main Roads Development Act, and also to give the State Department time to make surveys and prepare plans and specifications for the invitation of public tenders. Approximately 40 per cent. of this work was petty contract and 60 per cent. day labour. Up to the present the total number of roads included in the Federal Aid Roads scheme in Western Australia is 293; the number approved by me for execution by day labour, 66 (number completed or nearing completion by day labour, 49) ; the number completed by contract, 42; the number on which work has been commenced by day labour without my approval, 30 ; balance yet to be undertaken, 155 . In regard to the 30 roads which are being executed by day labour without my approval, I learned, through the press and by telegraphic communications from Federal members, that the State Government had sent about 690 men to certain electorates immediately prior to the last day for application for enrolment in connexion with the election for the House of Assembly. I immediately made inquiries through my officers, including Mr. Hill (chief engineer), who was then in Western Australia, and communicated by telegram, on the 7th February, with the State Minister for Works and Labour as follows: - “ It is reported to me by Federal members that you are putting in hand by day labour Federal Aid roads without first obtaining my approval, as required under act, and that bodies of men are being engaged on sections of roads coming within Federal Aid Roads Scheme, in anticipation that my approval would ‘be given to these works being carried out by day labour. The only approval to proposals submitted by you given by me was dated twenty-third October last, and was specially given to enable continuity employment be preserved and to give you time prepare plans and specifications with a view calling for tenders for works generally. Glad receive unqualified denial from you to statement in press and that von are carrying out day labour work that has not been approved by me. Must insist on strict adherence provisions clause9 sub-section 4 of agreement.”
On the 9th February, the following telegram was received from the Minister for Works and Labour: - “ Reply your wire seventh Main Roads Board who operate under special Act and free from political control advises that statements made here regarding road construction are absolutely untrue. Practically all developmental roads being done by contract. Fifty-three roads approved by you October twenty-third being done day labour. Wherever day labour is being carried out over 50 per cent. of work is done under piece work orpetty contract, our Main Roads Board considers this most economical. Exceptional cases being submitted for approval.”
Later, I received a communication, dated 22nd February, from Mr. McCallum, submitting a list of roads for which my approval was sought for execution in part by day labour, involving an expenditure of £304,000, as follows, and at the same time expressing regret that the submission had not been made prior to some of the work being put in hand: -
I am advised that approximately 2,500 men are being employed on roads which are being carried out by day labour without my approval. It was suggested that the action of the State Department was taken for election purposes. The Government has taken a serious view of the position which has arisen, and after very careful consideration has arrived at the following conclusions, viz. : -
These conclusions have been conveyed by letter to the Minister for Works and Labour.
– Referring to two of the answers to deferred questions, I suggest to Ministers that when they desire to make a statement that is much longer than the customary answer to a question, it would be better to ask the permission of the House to make a statement on the matter.
The following papers were presented : -
Federal Health Council of Australia - First Session, held at Melbourne from 25th to 28th January, 1927- Report.
International Pacific Health Conference, held at Melbourne from 15th to 22nd December, 1926- Report.
Ordered to be printed.
– I lay on the table of the House the report of the Australian Delegation to the Seventh Assembly of the League of Nations, and I move -
That the paper be printed.
In submitting the motion I take advantage of the opportunity to refer to some of the work of the Seventh Assembly of the League of Nations. Although the details of that work are contained in the formal report they may, with benefit, be further explained orally to honorable members. It will be seen that the report takes the form, first, of a covering letter to the Prime Minister, and, secondly, of a formal report upon the work of the Assembly and the committees of the Assembly. The covering letter is somewhat longer than similar letters written on previous occasions, because, having regard to the particularly detailed discussion that took place in this chamber immediately before the delegation left Australia, it appeared to me proper to tell honorable members exactly what was done with respect to certain matters to which particular attention was devoted by the representatives who, on behalf of Australia, attended the Assembly at Geneva. The material embodied in the covering letter is obtainable bv inspection of the verbatim report of the meetings of the Assembly, and of the committees, but it is difficult to obtain. Accordingly, in the covering letter special reference is made to the admission of Germany, the composition of the Council, disarmament, the proposed International Economic Conference, mandates, and the scope of the League. Its object is to show more particularly the action taken by the representatives of Australia.
The Australian delegation consisted of, in addition to myself, the High Commissioner for Australia (Sir Joseph Cook), the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), and, as substitute delegates, Sir Arthur Rickard, of Sydney, and- Miss Freda Bage, of Brisbane. I wish to repeat here the acknowledgment I have made in the report of the hard work done, and the valuable services rendered by all who were associated with me at Geneva. On this occasion, as on previous occasions, the work was very strenuous. The actual meeting of the Assembly lasted for three weeks, from the 6th to the 25th September. That time was not sufficient, in my opinion, to enable all the work of the Assembly to be done thoroughly, and during the last week there was, great rush and hurry. I felt that some of the subjects dealt with towards the close of the proceedings did not receive the consideration that their importance deserved. The Assembly, in so far as the 48 nations which attended it were concerned, was genuinely representative, and no fewer than seventeen nations had their foreign ministers at Geneva during the sittings. That fact shows the importance attached by the nations to the meetings of the League. There were seventeen meetings of the plenary Assembly, and a large number of meetings of the sectional committees, at which a large part of the detailed work was done. The representatives of Australia on the committees were: - On the 2nd and 5th, the honorable member for Macquarie ; on the 4th and 6th, Sir Joseph Cook; on the 1st and 3rd, myself. Sir Arthur Rickard acted as substitute on committees 4 and 6, and Miss Freda Bage on committees 2 and 5.
When the Assembly met there was manifest a general feeling of apprehension ns to the relations between the Council and the Assembly. Some of the members entertained a feeling of annoyance, not to say resentment, because of the proceedings associated with the March session of the Assembly. It was feared that there might be some difficulty in arriving at a working arrangement. It will probably be remembered by honorable members that the coming into force of the Locarno agreements depended on the admission of Germany as a member of the League, and giving that country a permanent seat in the Council. To obtain a permanent seat it was necessary that the Council should bs unanimous, and that the Assembly should approve of the unanimous decision of the Council. At that time. the representatives of Spain and Brazil on the Council were not prepared to give a large Power a permanent seat in the Council unless their claims to a permanent representative there were also recognized, and their attitude led to a deadlock. The Council appointed a committee to consider the position and to make recommendations. The first question that arose was whether the proposals made by that committee should be adopted as providing a solution of the problem. Those proposals are set out at length in the report. They were that Germany should be given a permanent seat, that the number of non-permanent members of the Council should be increased from six to nine, that three should retire every year in order to provide for rotation, and that there should be power to declare any retiring State re-eligible for a further period, provided that such a declaration should be made by a twothirds vote of the Assembly. It was hoped that the provision for re-eligibility and the introduction of what were described as semi-permanent seats would meet the . aspirations of Spain and Brazil. Unfortunately, that expectation was not realized, and both countries have given the two years’ notice required by the Covenant of their intention to retire from the League. The proposals did, however, satisfy the desires of Poland and her friends, and were adopted by the Assembly ; but before their adoption an addition of a useful character was made which provided that by a twothirds vote the Assembly might, at any time, proceed to the re-election of all the non-permanent members of the Council. This provision strengthens the control of the Council by the Assembly, and in extreme circumstances might be found useful for the purpose of preventing a deadlock if the non-permanent members attempted to impose a veto upon some action which the majority of the Assembly considered it desirable to take. It increases the flexibility of the constitution of the League, and also has the desirable feature that it emphasises the responsibility of the Council to the Assembly by which it is elected. These new rules were also recommended because there were strong claims from Asia and South
America for further representation on the Council, to which it was difficult 1.0 give effect while the non-permanent representation was limited to six seats, lt is worth observing at this point that Sir George Foster, senior delegate tor Canada, speaking on behalf of that Dominion, said in the Assembly that it was not with unqualified pleasure that the representatives of the Dominions regarded these proposals For the allocation of seats upon the understanding that certain areas were always to be represented on the Council ; and he desired it to be placed upon record that the Dominions of the British Empire considered that they had the same right as any other members of the League to seats upon the Council if they should think fit to submit their names for election. That right was emphatically declared, and it is entirely a matter for each dominion itself to determine whether it would be wise, on any particular occasion, to submit itself as a candidate for election to the Council. I am not aware that there has been any objection upon principle to that declaration.
The actual occasion of the admission of Germany to the League was not only interesting, but most impressive. No doubt honorable gentlemen read the reports of the event in the press at the time, and it would be wrong for me to delay the- business of the House in order that 1 might describe it in my own language. The speech of Dr. Stresemann was most impressive. He appealed to the members of the Assembly not to cast their eyes upon the past, but to look to the future - a future of co-operation, in accordance with the ideas and ideals of the League. M. Briand’. reply was awaited with breathless interest. Every one wished to hear how the leader of French foreign policy would receive the declaration. He made a most eloquent speech, which was very moving, when, turning to Dr. Stresemann, he said, “Our nations have had and have enough of martial glory, and of military fame and renown. Let us now join together as brothers in the task of peace. You can rest assured that in me you will find a collaborator.-‘ When he added, “ The war itself is ended ; the suffering and outpouring of blood is now past. Let us all work together for the well-being of mankind in the future,” one realized the significance of such a declaration from the official spokesman of the French people, and it was impossible to avoid being genuinely impressed by the importance of the occasion. I have with me the report of the speeches that were delivered, and I am sure that any honorable member who :ares to read it will be most- interested, particularly when he realizes that the two chief spokesmen, to whom I have referred, took risks in saying what they did. It was impossible for them to speak mere idle words, having regard to the feelings which the war had left behind in their respective countries.
The admission of .Germany to the League was followed shortly afterwards by a meeting between M. Briand and Dr. Stresemann, at the little French village of Thoiry, where they had a discussion of all the outstanding subjects between France and Germany. Since then there have been modifications in the system of military control exercised by the Allies over Germany, in the direction of placing the power of investigation of the observance by Germany of the disarmament clauses of the Peace Treaty in the hands of the League of Nations, instead of leaving it to the representatives of the Allies. I believe I am right in saying that, throughout the world, this alteration has been regarded as a marked return to peace mentality as distinct from war mentality, which is one of the things which Europe and tho world so greatly needs at present.
The Locarno agreements were perfected and lodged with the League of Nations a few days after the admission of Germany to the League.
It may be interesting for honorable members who are not already aware of it to learn that no fewer than 81 international treaties providing for the settlement of international disputes by conciliation or arbitration, have been filed with the League of Nations since its establishment. This is a great, step forward in conciliation and arbitration, which must go far to diminish the chances of war. I am aware that it is often said that a treaty is but a scrap of paper, and is readily torn up when grave’ international emergencies arise. But history does not bear out that sweeping statement. The description of a treaty as “ a scrap of paper “ had a great deal to do with the entry of many nations into the last war, and an examination of the facts by highly competent historians has shown, so I am informed, that only on six occasions during the last 200 years can it be said that a war has occurred which has been a definite breach of a definite treaty. The making of treaties is one of the most valuable means of preventing war that is available to the people to-day, and these 81 new treaties, to a considerable number of which Germany is a party, mark a distinct advance in the pacific settlement of international disputes.
The subject of disarmament came before the Assembly, and was also before the Third Committee. The Preparatory Commission on Disarmament had been working since the end of 1925 ; but many people feared that the complexity of tho question might prevent anything from being done. I admit that I went to Geneva rather expecting to find the representatives of the various nations seeking excuses for postponing the conference on disarmament, for which the preparatory commission had been endeavouring to lay the foundation. On the contrary, I found, so far as one was able to form an opinion on this subject, that there is a genuine and earnest desire for disarmament on the part of a large number of the nations. Many of the nations which are heavily armed today are feeling the economic pressure. This cannot go on indefinitely, and they are realizing in an increasing degree that, in order to conduct their own affairs on a social basis, satisfactory to their own peoples, and to give them the conditions to which men, women and children in a modern civilization are entitled, it will be necessary to reconsider the expenditure on armaments. This economic presure is very real, and it is reinforced by the growing desire of democracies in all countries to obtain protection against the risks of war which arise from unduly inflated armaments. The preparatory commission made a distinct advance, in considering this subject, by stating definitely that it was not practicable to place any limit upon the ultimate war strength of a country. Some countries have approached the matter from this point of view. But how can we deal with each country concerned in such a way as to limit the effective armaments that it will be able to put into the field in the case of a long war ? Tho mere statement of that question almost demonstrates the insolubility of the problem, because it is impossible to reduce man power, factory power, and other similar elements to a common denominator. Accordingly the definite recommendation was that the problem should be approached from the point of view of what has been described as the “ A “ period, that is, the first stage - the number of men and the quantity of warlike equipment which could be made readily available at the outset of an international dispute. Some nations have in the past maintained strongly that there should be no disarmament, unless all the resources of a nation which were capable of being used for warlike purposes were taken into account end subjected to limitation. Certain of the nations have now changed their view, and are prepared to deal with the subject on the basis of “ visible “ armaments - those which would be maintained in peace time and be readily available for service in the event of an international dispute. M. Paul Boncour, speaking for France, definitely stated in the Assembly that that country was prepared to approach the problem upon the basis of the actual and visible, as distinct from the potential, belligerent power of a country. That statement was, in itself, a marked contribution towards a practical solution.
The problems of .disarmament, as honorable members are aware, are very difficult indeed. The recent British memorandum which honorable members will find in an issue of the London Times about the 18th January last, indicates the difficulty arising from an attempt to reduce to a common factor the warlike power or force, of a battalion, an air squadron, or a cruiser or battleship. Some countries are more concerned with navies than with armies ; others are more concerned with armies than with navies. The inter-relation of the air force with both the army and the navy raises problems of the greatest difficulty, ls it possible to arrive at a standard of armaments which will provide for one country more naval power than another country, and for the latter a larger amount of military power to compensate for the increased naval power of the other? The problem can only be solved if there is a determination that it shall be solved, and if it is approached in a spirit of honesty and goodwill. I saw at Geneya many signs that that spirit exists in large measure. As I have said, 1 rather expected to find on arrival there a tendency to postpone indefinitely the consideration of the subject of disarmament. I found, however, exactly the contrary, and the resolution which was passed by the Third Committee dealing with this subject, asked for the summoning of the’ conference before the next Assembly unless material difficulties rendered this impossible. It was recognized that it was impossible for the committee to say absolutely that the conference should be held before September of this year; but the committee desired to express in the strongest possible manner the urgent wish that it should be held at the earliest possible date. That was done, and the work of the preparatory committee is now being expedited in order that there may be material available for the conference. Accordingly, it is possible that a disarmament conference may take place before September next.
It may be that the proposals of the President of the United States of America, which have been welcomed in every part of the British Empire, at least, may go far in laying the foundations for work at the disarmament conference, or may, if everything goes with good fortune, result in an actual agreement for disarmament between the leading nations of the world which would produce most valuable results.
Honorable members will recognize that this problem in Europe is greatly complicated by the fact that Russia has refused to join in a disarmament conference. That country was invited to attend this conference ; but it refused, alleging as th’i ground for refusal that it was to be held on Swiss soil, and Russia would not send a representative there on account of a dispute which she had with Switzerland. It is unnecessary to go into the particular matter out of which that objection arose; but it is very unfortunate that Russia is not attending the conference, because the line of states from Finland to Roumania on the north and west of Russia have certain anxieties of their own not entirely unconnected with the proximity of the armaments of Russia.
– Why cannot the venue of the conference be altered?
– It would be impossible for the League of Nations to accept dictation from any country as to the venue of a conference held under the auspices of the League. Geneva is the seat of the League, and if any nation were once to object successfully to attending a conference there, and to require it to be held elsewhere, it would result almost in the breaking up of the League, possibly, on account of very trifling circumstances which happened to affect the national pride of particular nations. The League is, and must remain, an essentially international body.
– The assassination of the emissaries of a nation is a pretty good reason for not sending representatives to the country where it occurred.
– There has been much dispute regarding the murder which took place in Geneva. In relation to the disarmament conference, however, safe conduct’ and protection were offered . to -.ill representatives Bent from Russia ‘from the time they crossed the Swiss frontier until they left Switzerland again. Nothing more could reasonably be demanded.
The International Economic Conference is a subject to which much attention was devoted in this House in July last. I was interested to find when I arrived at Geneva that the substance of the discussion here was very well known tq those who were interested in the work of the League. I found in most cases an inability to apprehend the nature of the objections which had been raised. As honorable members may remember, the particular points raised in criticism, so far as there was criticism of the proposal here, were that it was unwise for the League to engage in inquiries which affected matters of domestic policy, and particularly unwise, in the interests of the League itself, to undertake an inquiry into such vexed questions as tariffs and migration. I made it my duty to interview a large number of persons interested in this matter, and to endeavour to explain to them the Australian point of view. I found that, in the judgment of a large majority of the representatives, there were very real European reasons for the holding of the Economic Conference. It would not be fitting for me to discuss the Tightness or wrongness of the policies of European countries in relation to such matters as commercial prohibitions, restrictions and licences. But I may point out that the pressing facts, which indicated the strong desire for an International Conference upon economic matters,, arose very largely from the circumstance that whilst Europe, west of Russia, comprises an area just about the size of Australia, it contains no fewer than 26 separate countries, which have not only Customs tariffs as we understand them, but also a very intricate system of prohibitions, restrictions, and licences. It is thought by very many that this system has gone too far, that it is strangling the trade of Europe, and that an agreement should be arrived at whereby modifications might be made which would be acceptable to all the countries concerned. A sort of economic war is going on, which is of a special post-war character, and it is largely accountable for the anxiety to hold the Economic Conference. There are also questions affecting the distribution of raw materials which very greatly exercise the minds of the people of some European countries.
I found that the question of migration is one in which very many were actively interested. It was very interesting to me, if I may be pardoned a personal reference, to read in newspapers at Geneva a report of a gathering of parliamentary delegates in Sydney which contained some remarks made on the subject of migration. A couple of evenings before, I had very gladly taken advantage of an opportunity to address an international audience upon Australia and Australian policy. I spoke for an hour, or thereabouts, and was then questioned for almost an equal time ; and we had a very interesting evening. In my speech I particularly dealt, in a manner which I think offended nobody, with our migration policy, with what lay behind our national ideal of a White Australia, and with the difficulty and importance in the general opinion of Australians of maintaining our standard of living in a white democracy unless that policy were kept in operation. I particularly emphasized the significance of the standard of living in Australia to the social, mental, moral and spiritual advancement of the people. T dealt also with other aspects of Australian policy, and. as I have said, was questioned at very great length on the subjects to which I had referred. A couple of days later I was shown by many people a report of the conference held in Sydney, and it contained the statement - by some one whose name I have forgotten for the moment - that Australia did not want migrants, and would try to keep them out. Of course, every member of every parliament is absolutely entitled to his own opinion on these subjects, and what was shown me may have been a mis-report.
– I think it must have been.
– Such a statement was never made in my hearing.
– I do not ask that honorable members should believe everything they see iu the press ; but, with al] respect to the opinions held by honorable members, it is rather unfortunate that these reports which lead to misunderstandings should be published.
– Was the report referred to published in a Swiss or an English newspaper ?
– I saw it in a Swiss newspaper, and also in an English newspaper.
– It would not be the first lie that has been cabled.
– Some of these cables, unfortunately, produce a much greater effect abroad than is produced in Australia by the actual incidents to which they refer.
– Was the statement to which the honorable gentleman refers made by an Australian or a visiting politician ?
– It was attributed to an Australian politician. Having on more than one occasion been engaged on work on behalf of Australia abroad, I should like to say that a little incident here, a report of which appears in an edition of a newspaper among many other items of current news, assumes an altogether different aspect when sent abroad as the item of news from Australia for the day.
The subject of the International Economic Conference was one of the important subjects with which the Assembly itself and the Second Committee dealt. In so far as I was able to influence the result, I directed my efforts to securing two things. First, that the conference should not be a conference of representatives of governments with power to bind those governments, but that it should be a conference of persons chosen for personal qualifications, who might be able to make valuable contributions for the solution of the economic difficulties troubling the world. Secondly, one of the points to which I particularly directed attention was the determination of the agenda for the conference. Honorable members may remember that a long list of economic subjects was placed before this House by the Prime Minister as subjects upon which the officers of the League were obtaining information and preparing memoranda and documents of one kind and another. The ultimate decision was in accordance with what was advocated by the Australian representatives, namely, that the conference should not be a conference of representatives of governments with power to bind them, but of persons who would be free to speak as they thought proper and without any power to bind their governments. The statement was made that in general the work of the conference should be restricted to matters having an international aspect. The agenda of the conference was determined by the Council in December, and, though wide enough, was not so wide as the list of subjects upon which documents were being prepared. The matter it contains is of sufficient importance to justify me in referring to some extent to the separate items. As I understand that honorable members generally have not been supplied with a copy of the agenda. I ask the permission of the House to have it recorded in Hansard Tor their information.
-I take it that the House gives leave for the honorable member to do so.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– The following is the agenda of subjects to be considered by the International Economic Conference, which meets on the 4th of May next: -
AGENDA OF THE CONFERENCE.
The World Economic Position.
Principal features and problems as seen from the point of view of different countries.
Analysis of economic causes of the present disturbed equilibrium in commerce and industry.
Economic tendencies capable of affecting the peace of the world.
Second Part. 1.- Commerce.
Liberty of trading :
Import and export prohibitions and restrictions.
Limitation, regulation or monopolization of trade.
Economic and fiscal treatment of nationals and companies of one country admitted to settle in the territory of another.
Customs tariffs and commercial treaties. Obstacles to international trade arising from :
Form, level and instability of import and export tariffs.
Customs nomenclature and classification.
Indirect methods of protecting national commerce and shipping :
Subsidies, direct or indirect.
Dumping and anti-dumping legislation.
Discrimination arising from the conditions of transport.
Fiscal measures discriminating against foreign imported goods.
Repercussion upon international commerce of reduced purchasing power.
Situation of principal industries (productive capacity, output, consumption and employment).
Nature of present difficulties in industry; their industrial, commercial and monetary causes.
Possibilities of action :
Organization of production, including, in particular, international industrial agreements, considered from the point of view of production of the consumer and of labour; their legal position ; their connexion with Customs problems.
Importance of connexion and prompt exchange of statistical information with regard to industrial production.
The present position of agriculture compared with pre-war conditions, in respect of production, consumption, stocks, prices and free circulation of agricultural products.
Causes of present difficulties.
Possibilities of international action :
Development of, and international collaboration between, producers’ and consumers’ organizations, including the different systems of co-operative organization.
Continuous exchange of all relevant information concerning agricultural conditions, scientific and technical research, agricultural credit, &c.
Development of the purchasing power of agricultural producers.
It will be seen that the agenda is divided into four parts : (1) The world economic position, (2) Commerce, (3) Industry, and (4) Agriculture. I may mention that the subject of movements of population which was in thepreliminary list of subjects upon which documentation was being obtained does not appear in the agenda.
– Is that final?
– Yes, except in so far as it may be suggested that it has a bearing upon subjects that are included. Honorable members will see that under the first part of the agenda dealing with the world’s economic position, the subjects to be considered are principal features and problems from the point of view of different countries, and an analysis of economic causes of the present disturbed equilibrium in commerce and industry, and generally, economic tendencies capable of affecting the peace of the world. Under the heading of Commerce, the subjects to be dealt with include under the heading of Liberty of Trading, import and export prohibitions and restrictions. That subject does not refer to tariffs generally, but to the European system which I have mentioned, of prohibitions, restrictions, and licences, which are the weapons used m carrying on a trade war in western Europe.
– Would it include the importation of sugar 1
– I should think so; but it would certainly be included under another heading dealing with the general tariff proposition. Other subjects for consideration under this heading are the limitation, regulation, or monopolization of trade, and the economic and fiscal treatment of nationals and companies of one country admitted to settle in the territory of another. We, in Australia, have in this last matter very little or no discrimination. Under the second heading of the second part the agenda includes Customs tariff and commercial treaties, and obstacles to international trade arising from certain sources which are mentioned in the agenda. The third heading includes indirect methods of protecting national commerce, and shipping, such as subsidies - direct or indirect- which will include shipping subsidies, and, I should think, bounties also. This heading further includes dumping and antidumping legislation and discrimination arising from the conditions of transport - for example, where a country, such as Australia, makes discrimination against foreign vessels engaging in its coasting trade. There is further included, fiscal measures discriminating against foreign imported goods, and 1 should not be at all surprised to find that under this head something will be heard of preferential tariffs, in which distinctions are drawn between goods according to their country of origin. Under the heading of Industry certain general subjects are indicated, and amongst those to be discussed are the possibilities of action regarding organization of production, including, in particular, international industrial agreements considered from the point of view of production, of the consumer and of labour; their legal position, and their connexion with Customs problems. That refers to the international cartels or trusts, which are now being established in Europe upon a scale of great magnitude in connexion with the steel, chemical, leather, and various other industries, for the organization of production in the interests of the producer, and, it is said, also for the purpose of reducing prices to the consumer. Organizations of this character upon a powerful international and sometimes political basis, call for consideration by parliaments and governments. As an example of the arguments which are put forward in justification of such cartels, it is interesting to study the French view of British difficulties. M. Loucheur, of France, who was the great advocate of the International Economic Conference, speaking in 1925, before the big coal strike in England, said that one object was to harmonize consumption and production. He proceeded -
The coal crisis, for example, which had hit Great Britain so severely was, according to his investigations, due to an over-production in Europe by only about fifteen million tens out of a’ total of 70(1 million^. Was there no way of adjusting that? Again, in France it was the cost of the ten million quintals of imported grain that kept up the selling price of the 80 million quintals of home-grown.
I quote that passage, not with the idea of plunging into the sea of economic difficulties that surrounds the subject, but in order to indicate to honorable members the trend of thought of some leaders of European industry.
The third heading of the agenda for the forthcoming Economic Conference is “ Agriculture.” Amongst several general questions to be discussed under that heading are “ the present position of agriculture compared with pre-war conditions, in respect of production, consumption, stocks, and prices, and free circulation of agricultural products.” Honorable members will realize that a discussion of the “ free circulation of agricultural products “ might easily lead to a consideration of the principles underlying some of the legislation recently passed by this Parliament. The conference will also be asked to consider the possibilities of international action in connexion with the “ development of, and international collaboration between, producers’ and consumers’ organizations, including the different systems of cooperative organizations.” That is a very big subject, and is of particular interest to certain European countries, which consider that they are not being fairly treated in connexion with the distribution of raw material. This opens up a very wide field, and it might be suggested that if objection is to be raised to the principle of primary producers obtaining the best possible prices in the markets of the world, the conference will have to decide what constitutes raw materials, and whether manufactured materials should be exempted from the operation of any benevolent system which may be proposed to supply the needs of different countries. To many who have given thought to this subject it is clear that any attempt to control and distribute supplies on an international basis will require a form of world socialism so farreaching as to offer no prospect of success. Honorable members will recollect that during the war, under stress of the most urgent circumstances, a system of pooling certain essential materials was operated by the Allies, but it appears to me that any attempt to apply such a scheme universally in relation to agricultural or manufactured products must fail. In my opinion the conference must conclude that the world control of prices is impracticable, and it would be preferable for the League to devote its energies to some field of activity in which there is more probability of achieving success.
– To how many delegates is Australia entitled, and by whom will it be represented ?
– The Prime Minister has already announced that the principal delegate will be Sir David Gordon. Australia is entitled to send five delegates ; probably only three will be sent, but assistance will be available from the High Commissioner’s staff, and this should enable the Commonwealth to be represented effectively upon those committees into which the conference will undoubtedly divide, lt is almost certain that, following the procedure adopted at Geneva, a great deal of the work will be done by committees and not at plenary sessions of the conference. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) asked me a question regarding the system of voting at the conference, lt is proposed that the procedure shall be similar to that adopted at the Brussels Financial Conference, at which a report was presented by a committee and the names of the countries supporting it were mentioned. The form of presenting the reports will be after this style - “ The following countries support the undermentioned recommendations.” No attempt will be made to have reports adopted by a majority vote of the conference. It is recognized that at a gathering of representatives of sovereign States it is difficult to get anything decided by a majority vote.
– But a recommendation will be adopted only if supported by a majority of the delegates ?
– Almost certainly that will be so.
– After a report has been adopted, what will happen ?
– It will be available for the consideration of the governments interested, and their freedom of action will not be impaired by the adoption of a report, either unanimously or by a majority vote, even though the majority, voters include the delegates of such governments.
– Was any consideration given to the question whether a Customs tariff is a matter of domestic concern ?
– I discussed it to a slight extent in an address I delivered to the Assembly, and also before the Second Committee, but there was no general discussion of it. Frankly. T did not consider it advisable to invite discussion, because a tariff is so obviously concerned with the importation of goods from other countries that it appears impossible to declare that it is not in some degree a subject of international concern. I said, however, that, in its own interests, it was inadvisable for the League to engage in the discussion of matters which are the subject of acute domestic controversy, and I instanced the difference of opinion between freetraders and protectionists. It is not for me to say to what extent my views were accepted by the Assembly; but, particularly as a result of the discussion of a memorandum by Viscount Cecil, the tendency seems to be towards a more careful consideration of whether or not a matter falls within the scope of the League or is of purely domestic concern; or, even though technically falling within the purview of the League, can be bettor dealt with by individual countries.
– What will become of the resolutions of the Economic Conference ‘i
– The conference will report to the Council of the League, and the Council will undoubtedly distribute the reports to all States that are members of the League.
– The reports will come up for subsequent discussion.
– Almost certainly. The memorandum by Viscount Cecil has been incorporated in my report, because, although lengthy, it is a document of great importance, having regard to the various activities in which the League is engaging at the present time.
I turn now to a brief review of the work done by the League -in the last year. It has to its credit a remarkable record of valuable work for the amelioration of the conditions of humanity and the uplift of the world generally. The Assembly was advised that the finances of Austria and Hungary had been rehabilitated under the auspices and control of the League. The significance of that statement is that it is once again possible for the people of those countries to live as human beings should, and the League’s support of the financial measures adopted has been the deciding factor in the economic regeneration of two important nations. This work presented many difficulties, and has from time to time made the League unpopular; but the success achieved has been greater than was anticipated. The currency of Austria and Hungary is now stable, and their citizens are able to live and trade on a definite economic basis. The creditor countries have agreed to the postponement of the payment of reparation debts, and have actually guaranteed the restoration loans.
– Did the League take any part in the stabilization of the currency ‘i
– The work was done by Commissioners appointed by the League to take charge of the finances of Austria and Hungary, and the League arranged for the flotation of loans required to assist in the financial stabilization, and to carry on certain works which were essential to enable the people to live. In these two countries there is genuine gratitude to the League of Nations. Honorable members doubtless realize how unjust is the suggestion occasionally made that the League of Nations is a league of the former Allies. Some of the best work accomplished by the League has been in the assistance of the former enemies of the Allies, and it was undertaken prior to the admission of Germany.
In regard to Greece, the League has done wonderful work. In 1922, when the Turks captured Smyrna, no fewer than 1,400,000 famine-stricken and sick refugees crowded into Greece. This country had a population of 4,700,000, and nearly 1,500,000 starving refugees were thrust upon it. It was impossible for Greece to handle the problem. The League appointed a commission to deal with it, and backed a loan of £10,000,000. It is now asking for another £5,000,000 in order to complete the work of settling in Greece these refugees who have been driven from homes which they and their forefathers inhabited for many years. The problem was a serious one. Already the officers of the League have finally settled 750,000 refugees, and the others are being dealt with. Without going into all the details of this wonderful piece of work - the absorption of J, 500,000 persons at one time in a population of less than 5,000,000 - let me quote what was said by the Greek representative at the Assembly in September last when I was there. He said -
Greek Macedonia, as a result of the work nf the League, had been entirely transformed. Virgin land was now covered with rich harvests in every direction. Smiling villages were everywhere to be found in a population of happy workers. New industries had been found and were developing.
This alone is sufficient to commend the work of the League, because these people a few years ago were starving refugees.
Bulgaria Las also a refugee problem. In that country there are some 220,000 poor people, who have been wandering about the face of the earth practically without homes almost since the Balkan wars. They constitute an acute social and economic problem, and to some extent a political problem, because some of them are members of bands that cause trouble on the frontiers between Bulgariaand other countries. The League is proposing to undertake the rehabilitation of these people by means of an impartial League Commission, and a loan of £2,250,000. These loans, which the League guarantees, have, up to the present, been wonderfully supported by the financial interests of the world. They have been subscribed sometimes in the first quarter of an hour after their issue many times over.I suggest that that shows a genuine coniidence in the work of the League, and that there are at least some people in the world in control of considerable financial resources who are keen supporters of the League in the work that it is doing for humanity. The Bank of England, at a critical juncture recently, came forward with £400,000 for refugee work. That institution depended entirely upon the credit of the League for the reimbursement of its advances, and that action was fully justified.
M r. Coleman. - Where did the refugees come from?
– Many of the refugees in Bulgaria came from Servia, now Jugo-Slavia, and Turkey. That problem is distinct from theRussianArmenian problem, concerning which honorable members will find information in the report.
– What about the mandates question?
– I intend to deal with that. I have already omitted much, and I hope that honorable members have not been dip-pleased with the selection of subjects that I have made from so many.
I should like to say a few words on the Slavery Convention which I took the responsibility of signing on behalf of Australia. I do not think that any members of this House or of another place would object to an Australian representative signing any convention which was designed to reduce slavery in the world. The evil does not exist here in any form, but it still exists to a generally unrecognized extent in Africa and insome parts of Asia. It is a real evil, under which many thousands of human beings are suffering acutely to-day. After much controversy and discussion a Convention on Slavery lias been arranged. It has already been signed by a large number of the States members of the League. Honorable members willfind it reprinted at the end of the report, together with this definition of slavery - the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised. It was a very useful thing to arrive at a definition of slavery. Then there is also the prohibition of forced labour except for public purposes. An agreement was arrived at subject to certain transitory provisions. Of course forced labour in some parts of the world cannot be abandoned at once, but it was agreed that there should be adequate remuneration for it. Forced labour is a large subject in itself, and it is very difficult to draw distinctions between a perfectly reasonable requirement when a certain amount of work is being performed in the public interest, and a requirement which really involves a form of slavery. There can be nothing objectionable in requiring a man to sweep the gutter in front of his own shop or house. It may be necessary that he should make a road in front of his property, or keep down the blackberries on an adjoining road. The danger is that these provisions might merge into requirements amounting almost to slavery, especially when they are administered by persons who are not over-considerate and require a maximum of work at a minimum of remuneration. Accordingly, a great deal of difficulty was experienced in arriving at an agreement on forced labour, with respect especially to the transition stage. As far as Australia is concerned this question can arise only in the Mandated Territories. Article 3 of the Mandate provides that Australia as the mandatory power shall not permit forced labour, except for essential works and services, and then only for adequate remuneration. As Australia is already fulfilling every requirement of the Slavery Convention, I had no hesitation at all in signing it on our behalf, in fact I was proud to have the opportunity to do so.
– Is there a definition of adequate remuneration ?
– The honorable member must realize that it is impossible to give a definition of adequate remuneration, especially in such countries as Central Africa, Arabia, Burma, and other parts of the world. [Extension of time grunted.]
I now come to the subject of mandates. I wish to preface what I have to say about it with this general remark, that I found no evidence of dissatisfaction respecting the Australian reports or the administration of our mandated territories. ,Our reports are full and complete. Australia has never refused any information that has been asked for, and, speaking on behalf of the Government, I say that no information that is asked for will be refused so far as it affects the mandate.
– What about the questionnaire?
– -The list of questions which has been submitted to the mandatory powers is defended on the ground that it was compiled for their guidance in drawing up their annual reports. At the Council, all of the representatives of the Mandatory Powers, except Australia, whose representative was unable to attend, objected to the questionnaire. In order that honorable members may have an opportunity of considering this matter for themselves, .1 mention that they will find in a convenient form in the Appendices to the Summary of Proceedings of the Imperial Conference, 1926, from page 222 onwards, documents relating to the questionnaire, together with a reprint of the questionnaire itself. It comprises 118 questions, and many of them are divided into two, three, four, and five subquestions. It was thought and said by some representatives that they were undly inquisitorial. Certainly, some of the questions had been based upon a misapprehension of the position. For example, the same set of questions is asked in relation t(. 1 1. th B and C mandates. Ours is a C mandate. The distinction between these mandates is that C mandatory powers are not bound to afford in a Mandated Territory equal opportunities for the trade and commerce of all other nations members of the League ; but B mandatories are so bound. The terms of the covenant require that the B mandate should contain such a provision. Among the list of questions is the following:–
There are no stipulations respecting the principle of economic equality in C mandates, and it was not intended that there should be. There are certain questions in the questionnaire that were inserted under a misapprehension, and 1 have little doubt that the representations that have been made concerning them will receive consideration and that effect will be given to them.
– Was there any explanation given why the same questionnaire was drawn up for both mandates?
– No. As a matter ot fact, I think that it was an oversight. I have personally conversed with members of the Mandates Commission on some of the points, because I thought that it was better to do that than to make a public speech on the subject. I have no doubt that some of the matters will be effectively attended to. There are other questions that appear to be rather beyond the scope of the Mandates Commission ; for example, an inquiry as to what arrangements have been made for the defence of the Territory. Honorable members will recognize that that information could not be given fully to anybody. That is the responsibility of those who are entrusted with the defence of their own country. No Commonwealth Government would state fully, even in this House, what it proposed to do for the defence of this country. That cannot be done, having regard to the responsibility of having to defend the country. Therefore, .the Mandates Commissior, made an error in inquiring about the provision made for defence.
– Is a mandatory power permitted to make fortifications for the defence of a territory ?
– A mandatory power may not make fortifications or naval or military bases, but may have a defence force merely for the defence of the territory. There are various other questions which are not applicable to all the territories. Whatever the issue of this slight controversy may be, there is no complaint about Australia.
We have given the fullest possible information, and I made a point of attending the Sixth Committee and saying that we were prepared to give full details of our administration in all matters with which the commission could properly be concerned.
Whether the Mandates Commission should hear petitioners in person was a subject of discussion. It was proposed that, facilities should be afforded in special cases for hearing petitioners in person ; but that was objected to by the mandatory powers on the ground that it would invite grievances and place a mandatory power in an almost impossible position. It is possible to reply to a written statement, but it is very difficult for a mandatory State, many thousands of miles away, to be represented effectively on the occasion of the oral presentation of a petition, especially if the State has had no full information in advance of what the petitioners intend to say. It would be impossible to obtain full information in advance. It was considered by all the mandatory powers that great discretion should be exercised in dealing with petitions, because it is very easy, especially if there is acute feeling, to arrange a petition. To allow one side to a dispute to make oral statements about matters which may gravely affect international relations demanded, it was widely thought, more consideration than it was believed the Mandates Commission had given to it. Further, there was no evidence, so far as I am aware, that any difficulty had arisen owing to not hearing in person those who had allegations or complaints to make against a mandatory power.
Those are the particular matters to which I desire to invite the attention of honorable members, and I conclude by quoting Sir Austen Chamberlain, as reported in this morning’s newspapers -
Nobody now can doubt that the League of Nations is moving slowly, as it should move, but is gathering strength.
I am more satisfied than ever, after having seen the League in action, that, although it is subject, as all human institutions are, to certain impediments, it represents a great contribution to the peace of the world. It renders possible personal contact between representatives of the nations, and that alone is a most valuable work. Certain difficulties are inevitable, and international jealousies will never disappear, but joining iu the work of the League is in no way inconsistent with true nationhood. The Locarno agreements, which have been promoted in every possible way by the League, are the most promising development since the war, and have brought about a greater feeling of security than has existed for many years. It is recognized by all who have studied the subject that disarmament is bound up with security, and that general disarmament depends upon tho extent to which the world generally feels itself secure. Disarmament in a particular area depends upon the regional security of that area. The Locarno agreements have greatly increased the regional security iu a large area of Europe, and have made a great contribution to the general feeling of security throughout the world. There are many problems remaining to be solved,, and many of them are as old as humanity. It is unreasonable to expect the League, in a few years, to solve them all, or even to begin to solve them all. It must be remembered that the League consists of sovereign powers, and it is impossible, in some matters, to force the pace; but there is developing a greater sense of confidence in the principles upon which the League is founded, a more general appreciation of the value of its work, and a firm belief that the description of it as “ the hope of humanity “ is justified by its actions. There is a growing belief by the nations that in the development of the League along wise lines is to be found the solution of the problems, and the only available means of diminishing the risk of war.
.- In view of the comprehensive and intensely interesting speech just delivered by the honorable the Attorney-General, I feel sure that it is not the wish of the House - and it is certainly not my desire - to speak at length on matters that have already been well covered. The honorable gentleman dealt with the subject in a characteristic way, with a thoroughness that leaves but little room for original contributions to the debate by those who have been associated with him in the work he has had in hand. Most honorable members take an intelligent interest in the work of the League, but when I attended meetings of the Assembly and of committees in connexion with it, I found that 1 had previously had very little idea of the value of the work, or of the directions in which the League was operating. When the honorable gentleman was speaking of the refugee work carried out by the League, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) asked him whether the League was associated with the refugee work. Like the honorable member for Yarra, I did not know whether that was so; but to find that my ignorance is shared by such a keen student of political affairs somewhat restored my self-respect.
– The honorable member misunderstood me ; 1 asked whether- the League stabilized the currency.
– We all realize that the most important work of the League is the maintenance of the peace of the world, and, following closely in the wake of that, the limitation of armaments. The world to-day is suffering from the financial results of the great war. Australia and the other belligerent countries have a heavy burden of debt, and taxation which it would have been thought before the war was impossible, is being levied. We must strive to avoid by every means in our power a repetition of that awful catastrophe. By seeing that the decisions relating to the reduction of armaments are carried out, the burden upon the peoples of the world can be somewhat lightened. The honorable the Attorney-General has already outlined what has been done in connexion with the disarmament conference. I, also, hope that that conference will meet in the near future and have a satisfactory result; but the history of international conferences conclusively shows that the success or otherwise of their work directly depends on the preparatory work done for them. Unless the preparatory work for this conference is completed in a way that will ensure its success, 1. should prefer to see the conference deferred for another year. That would be much better than risking the failure of it. The honorable the AttorneyGeneral spoke of several other works that are being carried out, such as the financial stabilization of Hungary and of Austria, and the work done for refugees. We- mav safely class those as the minor activities of the League. The committees to ‘winch I was attached dealt with those questions, and after .a close attention to them I can honestly say that if the League has achieved nothing else it has justified its existence. The first work that was done in connexion with the financial stabilization of Hungary’ was on the 7th Ma), 1924, and the final and 25th report furnished by the Commissioner appointed by the League to carry out its decisions on its behalf, was submitted on the 16th of last July. Long before that date, however, the wonderful work had been carried to a successful termination. It was thought when the work was commenced that a large amount of money would be required. An official report submitted to representatives at the Assembly of the League, but not embodied in the report before honorable members, stated -
The causes which made it necessary for Hungary to ask the League of Nations for assistance in 1923 have been admirably stated in the preface to the documents relating to the re-construction plan, which were issued by the League of Nations in April, 1924. Briefly summarized, they are as follows : -
Disorganization caused by the war and consequent loss of territory, political difficulties internal and external, which followed the Armistice, the undetermined liability for reparations, and the difficulty of re-organizing a political and commercial establishment designed for a much larger country presented obstacles which could not be overcome. The budget became unbalanced, current expense was met from note inflation, which produced a continually increasing depreciation of the currency, and the only means of arresting it became a foreign loan to meet the budget deficit during the period necessary for financial re-organization. The League entrusted the preparation of a suitable plan to its financial committee. The entire success of this experiment depended upon the preparation of the plan, and too much praise cannot he given to the financial committee of the League for the ability shown in this task. The committee had the wisdom and courage to prepare a plan based upon sound financial principles which had been tested under normal conditions. Many people doubted the efficacy of such a plan under the abnormalconditions which prevailed at that time in Hungary, but the committee rejected many of the theories which were then being put forward as necessary to correct abnormal conditions, and preferred to rely upon principles which had stood the test of time. The result has vindicated the judgment of the committee.
The amount that was considered at the time to be sufficient for this work was 253,000,000 gold francs, and the reconstruction loan which was guaranteed by the League, was for that sum. The financial statement which was submitted to the Council of the League, showed that on the 30th June, 1924, 70,000,000 francs was required to balance accounts. It was originally thought that the whole of the 253,000,000 francs loan would be required during the following years, but the revenue of the country was much larger than the conservative estimate, and none of the money was required to balance the budgets for the financial years ending 30th June, 1925 and 1926. The League of Nations guaranteed this loan, but when it comes to the final analysis, the guarantee is not worth a snap of the fingers, for the League has no constituency upon which it could make a demand. It says a great deal, in my opinion, that notwithstanding this lack of security, the financiers of the world are willing to lend money to the League. The reason why they do so is undoubtedly that the League and its financial advisors have exercised sound judgment in the various proposals which they have enunciated. Before any scheme which involves the flotation of a loan is endorsed, it is most carefully considered, and the taxable resources of the country concerned are keenly estimated. It is on this account, I believe, that the measures adopted for the stabilization of Austrian and Hungarian finances, and for the settlement of Bulgarian and Greek refugees, have been successful. For reasons which it considered adequate, the League was unable to guarantee loans for the purpose of settling Russian and Armenian refugees.
At its meeting iu June, the Council, on ascertaining that the national stability of Austria was assured, decided that the functions of the Commissioner-General should be brought to an end from the 30th June. In many respects, the work in Austria was extremely difficult. The currency there was in a deplorable condition. I know personally that one tourist who was travelling in Austria, went to a bank to convert £15 into Austrian currency. He received such huge piles of notes that he had to take them to his hotel in a taxicab. His intention was to go shopping that day, but he found it impossible to handle the money. In such circumstances as these, it would seem that the League undertook an impossible task; but its financial advisors formulated a basis of operations and held to it. The currency was stabilized on the basis of 12,500 crowns to one. In other words, the person who held security to the value of 12,500 crowns had it reduced immediately to the value of one franc. Things must have been in a deplorable condition for the people to accept such conditions. The State railways were being operated at a huge annual loss, and the Civil Service was seriously over-staffed and under-paid. Drastic alterations were made in both these utilities. The number of railway employees was reduced by 25 per cent., and the number of .civil servants by 30 per cent. This did not mean an economy in outlay, for the reduced staff received more wages than the larger staff; but greater efficiency was achieved by means of the plans which the financial advisors of the League introduced.
In Hungary, similar remarkable sucsuccess attended the operations of the League, and it was decided that the functions of the Commissioner-General there also should cease on the 30th of June, 1926, and Hungarians are now once more able to live as decent, civilized human beings have a right to expect to live.
The settlement of Greek refugees by the officers of the League was little short of marvellous, and even now I find myself wondering how 1,400,000 people could be absorbed, without dislocation or protest, in a country with a population of only 4,700,000. It is true that 50 per cent, of the persons settled had a certain amount of capital, and were able to look after themselves to some extent; but the remainder were absolutely destitute. The settlement was effected bv an expenditure of £100 per family - £50 representing housing, and £50 plant. As a member of the Fifth Committee I had the privilege of hearing Mr. Howland, an American, who was its chairman, describe how this work was done. Incidentally he referred to the interesting parallel in history which occurred when thousands of Huguenots flocked to England and entered into competition with English workers. The only protest made at that time came from a section of workers in London, who were able to secure the introduction into the House of .Commons of a bill designed to prevent this competition. It was most interesting ‘to the members of the committee to hear Mr. Rowland say that this bill was defeated owing to the energy and influence of the Cecil of that day. This remark, indeed, was received with enthusiasm, for no delegate to Assemblies of the League of Nations is more respected than the present Viscount Cecil. There still remain 120,000 Greek refugees to be settled, and to accomplish this work another loan of £5,000,000 is required.
The settlement of Bulgarian refugees was attended with much difficulty. There was so much likelihood of trouble occurring during certain stages in the repatriation of these people that it was provided that no refugees should be located within 30 miles of the frontiers of the country. A total of 300,000 of these refugees had to be settled.
Dr. Nansen, the rapporteur in regard to the Russian refugee work, pointed out that those responsible for this branch of the League’s activities, had great obstacles to overcome in consequence of the League not being in a position to guarantee a loan for the work. For three years after the Russian revolution a large number of Russians was unable, for political reasons, to return to Russia; and the evacuation of Southern Russia by the armies of Dennikin and Wrangel added 200.000 to their- number. It was estimated that in 1921 there were 785,000 Russian refugees in Europe, in addition to the large numbers in the Far East. Many of these people were in a destitute condition in the states adjoining Russia, the Balkans, and Constantinople. It was ascertained by the League that in 1925 the governments of Bulgaria, Esthonia, Finland, Greece, Latvia, Poland, Switzerland, Czecho-Slovakia, and elsewhere were spending 20,000,000 gold crowns a year in maintenance of Russian refugees, the repatriation of whom was hampered through lack of funds. The British Government granted a sum to assist such refugees as it considered itself responsible for, and an additional fund of £30,000 was raised, half of which was contributed by the American Red Cross, and half by the League of Nations, to form a revolving fund which has been used to settle many thousand destitute Russians in 26 different countries. In Constantinople, out of 40,000 Russian refugees all but 4,000 were found employment in different countries.
The League found the Armenian refugees just as great a problem as the Russian, but it is hoped that sufficient money will be forthcoming to enable their repatriation to proceed satisfactorily. It is proposed to raise a fund with which to establish water conservation and irrigation works, plantations, and other labor-employing activities which will absorb 25,000 more of these unfortunate people. Unfortunately, the League is not in a position to guarantee a loan for this purpose, but it undertakes that if the money required for the initial outlay is forthcoming privately, it will, if requested by the parties interested, appoint a person to supervize the expenditure.
We should all remember that if these minor activities of the League had not been attended to many festering sores would have remained on the body politic of Europe, which at any time might have caused an outbreak that would lead to hostilities. The successful settlement of those problems is, in my opinion, another feather in the cap of the Council of the League. So far as it is humanly possible to gauge the situation, the peace of Europe is now more firmly established than it has been at any time since the war, and I venture to say that that condition of affairs is largely due to the splendid work of the League. The Attorney-General has already alluded to the value of personal contact between international representatives. The meeting-ground at Geneva is neutral. Tt would have been impossible for Dr. Stresemann to go to Paris, and equally impossible for M. Briand to go to Berlin. They met at Geneva without loss of dignity, and . had a heart-to-heart conversation, which is likely to have the most desirable effect of promoting peace in Europe. I was convinced that, not only by his conduct at Geneva, but also by his subsequent remarks, Dr. Stresemann is absolutely sincere in his desire to preserve the peace of the world. Undoubtedly, the outstanding event at the last Assembly was the admission of Germany. The scene when Dr. Stresemann spoke and M. Briand replied was one of the most impressive that I have ever witnessed. The public does not fully appreciate the fact that, of the 54 States which comprised the League before Germany entered it, quite a number were not our allies when the war occurred, and from those States which were our enemies during the war representatives have been sent who have materially assisted in the good work of the League. If Spain and Brazil carry out. their intention to withdraw at ihe termination of two years, their action will be deeply regretted ; but the admission of Germany has strengthened the League to a much greater extent than the withdrawal of Brazil and Spain would weaken it. The moral effect of the League is great. One of the conditions contained in article 16 of the Covenant imposes on all countries associated with the League an important obligation. It states inter aiia -
Should any member of tho League resort to war, in disregard of its covenants under articles 12, 13, or 15, it shall, ipso facto, be deemed to have committed an act of war against all other members of the League, which hereby undertake immediately to subject it to the severance of all trade or financial relations, the prohibition of all intercourse between their nationals and the nationals of the covenantbreaking State, and the prevention of all financial, commercial, or personal intercourse between the nationals of the covenant-breaking State and the nationals of any other State, whether a member of the League or not.
It shall be the duty of the council in such case to recommend to the several Governments concerned what effective military, naval, or air force the members of the League shall severally contribute to the armed forces to be used to protect the covenants of the League.
I am convinced that the longer the League has an opportunity to carry out its good work, the more likely we are to have world peace.
The constitution of the Council of the League, which was dealt with by the AttorneyGeneral, has been the subject of considerable comment. An interjection regarding one of the states of -South America was made while the AttorneyGeneral was addressing the House. It certainly seems anomalous that the British Empire, representing one-fourth of the population of the world, and occupying about one-fourth of the globe, should have only one representative on the Council, while small though important States have equal representation. But the safety of the Empire is assured by the fact that in every vital decision of the League there must be a unanimous vote. At, I think, the fifth Assembly, when Canada proposed an amendment of article 16 of the Covenant in respect of the paragraph that I have read, it aimed at making it optional for any member of the League to supply armed assistance in the event of force being required to combat aggressive action on the part of a member of the League. Persia was the only country that objected to the proposal, and the result was that the Covenant was not altered in that direction. In such an unhappy event as a warlike act by a member of the League, I think probably the Council would be guided by the expression of opinion given by all members except Persia. I have heard it said that it is rather extraordinary that China should be represented on the League. Under the allocation which has been alluded to by the Attorney-General, it was necessary to give one of the nonpermanent seats on the Council to Asia; and a choice had to be made between Persia and China, India being a portion of the British Empire. The action of the representative of Persia in defeating tho motion by the representative of Canada, to which I have just referred, in my opinion, materially influenced the decision to give the seat to China.
The Attorney-General has referred to the International Economic Conference, and the work of the preparatory committee for that conference. We had a most interesting debate in the committee on that subject. Some of the members were inclined to think that the conference should be composed of representatives who were in a position to bind their respective countries to its decisions. Others, like the Attorney-General and the other Australian representatives, considered that it should be a conference of experts. An international financial conference was held at Brussels in September, 1924, and the proceedings, which were published in booklet form, were quoted by delegates in order to substantiate their argument that the conference should be composed of representatives clothed with particular powers. At some trouble, I obtained a translation from the French of the proceedings at the Brussels conference, which shows that it was composed of delegates nominated by the States invited to send representatives. Each State could not have more than three delegates. These could be accompanied by advisors, whose titles were to be notified to the secretariat of the conference. In the President’s opening speech he said that delegates had been selected on account of their special technical knowledge, and because they were perfectly well informed of the conditions in their own countries. The President proceeded to point out that they were not authorized to commit their countries in any way, but would cast their votes in a personal capacity. In the small book to which I have referred, it was stated -
The members of the conference, SO in number, while Appointed by their several Governments, attended as experts and not as spokesmen nf official policy. They were drawn from those with hoch private and official experience, ami the conditions of their appointment permitted thom to give the conference the full benefit of their knowledge, and to express their personal opinion with freedom. ‘1 he members so attending represented the following 39 countries: -
Clearly the conference held at Brussels was composed of men who might have been government officials; in many cases they -were. They did not attend as representatives of those States, but as financial experts. That, I take it, is the kind’ of representative we desire to see at the forthcoming international conference. If it were so constituted, it might produce some very desirable reforms, particularly in countries living under conditions such as those described by the AttorneyGeneral. When we remember that the Danube crosses six frontiers in Europe, we realize the complexity of the problems which have arisen there. Regarding the position of Australia in connexion with the League of Nations it is absolutely essential in our interests that at every annual Assembly of the League of Nations we should have a sufficient delegation to enable us to keep in touch with the whole of the work being carried out by the various committees. There are three committees sitting at the same time, and while a great deal of the work carried out by them does not immediately concern Australia, we never know when something may crop up which makes it vital that a representative of this country should be present to watch its interests. In connexion with Armenian Refugees, Dr. Breitscheid, one of the German representatives, in bringing up the report of the committee, used a sentence, which I shall quote in a moment. I may say that in dealing with the subject of International Refugees, the International Labour Bureau at Geneva acted with the League of Nations and did very good work. The International Labour Bureau desires that it should be in the position of an official adviser to the League of Nations in the matter of general unemployment and migration, which is inseparably bound up with general unemployment. At two previous conferences this matter was put before the Assembly, but in each case it was turned down. At this conference no direct effort to bring this about was made, but Dr. Breitscheid, in submitting the report of the committee, made use of the following words : -
Finally too much importance cannot be attached to the existence of a permenant nucleus organization to which recourse may be had at any time by members of the League, for the solution of emergency unemployment problems.
There can be no doubt, as the discussion clearly showed, that that statement was deliberately made with the intention that it should be the thin end of the wedge to give the International Labour Bureau an official standing in the matter of unemployment. Strong exception was taken to the suggestions. I took up the position that it was not business submitted to the committee, and consequently could not be reported on by the committee, which can only report upon business actually submitted to it. In the course of the discussion Dr. Breitscheid said that the matter was of vital importance -to Germany, and that since she had 2,000,000 of unemployed she naturally took a very keen interest in it. I think it was an eyeopener to most representatives to be informed that there were 2,000,000 unemployed in Germany. It has been said that Germany won the Peace, if she lost the War, and that everything in that country since the war has been prosperous. It was a strange admission by one of her delegates that at the time he spoke there were 2,000,000 unemployed in that country.
– It may have been so at the time.
- Dr. Breitscheid’s proposal was turned down by the Assembly. I may say that I was greatly impressed by the remarks of representatives of many of the different countries on that committee, when it was shown that this business was not properly before the committee, and therefore could not be reported upon. It was very satisfactory to find that the justice of the contention was admitted by representatives of countries whose views in the matter did not coincide with our own. That showed the spirit in which debates at the Assembly are carried on, and the incident is one which I shall always remember with pleasure when looking back upon my experience of the League of Nations. Dr. Breitscheid offered to withdraw the proposal, and submitted afterwards a separate resolution. He was allowed to move a separate resolution, but the opposition to it was so strong that he withdrew that. The matter is one which shows the necessity of. having representation at Geneva sufficient to watch the work done by all the committees. Honorable members will readily understand that a very great deal of the work is clone in the committees, and except in the case of a very controversial matter, it seemed to me that the Assembly met to confirm decisions already arrived at by the committee.
– On how many of the committees was Australia not represented ?
– Australia was represented on every one of the committees ; but I mention the matter as showing how essential it is that we should continue that full representation to enable the interests of Australia to be properly safeguarded. Another matter which needs watching is that we should see that there is a strict observance of mlc 4 of the Procedure of the Assembly. It applies to the business on the agenda-paper. It is laid down that States may submit business which must appear on the agendapaper, and that document is to be issued as nearly as possible four months before the holding of a conference. For good reason members of the League can submit business within a month of the meeting of the conference, which the Council of the League can include in the supplementary business paper. There is another provision under which, by a twothirds vote of the Assembly, any business brought up at an Assembly can be referred to the committee. That, in my opinion, is a very dangerous provision. I say so, because of the language difficulty, more than two languages being used in some of the conferences, and because the acoustic properties of the hall in which the last two conferences were held, and in which possibly the next will also be held, are the worst in my experience. It is consequently very difficult to follow the resolutions brought up. They were often translated and put to the meeting before possibly 30 per cent, of the delegates had realized what the business was. If it were possible to alter the rules of procedure they should provide that no matter should be referred to the committees by a vote of the Assembly, unless the proposal had been circulated at least one day before with the papers which, honorable members who have been privileged to attend meetings of the League are aware, are sent to the different representatives the morning following their presentation to the Assembly. For the reasons I have given I regard this as a matter of vital importance.
Before concluding I should like to say that I went to Geneva with an absolutely open mind. I hoped that I would find the League of Nations doing good work, likely to maintain the peace of the world. In common, perhaps, with every other member of this House, I was by no means sure that it was doing such work. I came away from Geneva absolutely convinced that the work the League is doing is entirely worth while. Regarding the work which it had done already, I knew before I went to Geneva of several instances in which the peace of the world had been maintained through the intervention of the League. Some small, and some more serious outbreaks had occurred, which would inevitably have led to war had not the League of Nations been able to nip them in the bud. It would be absurd to contend that we can sit down and say that the peace of the world is assured because we have the League of Nations; but while we must continue to carry on in our own sane way, let us give every assistance we can to the League, and let us hope to find as we found in the last few years that when international complications arise, which under the old regime would inevitably have led to war, the League will be able to deal with them. We know that a war between small States may spread until an international conflagration of the greatest magnitude is brought about. Let us therefore give all the support we can to the League, and realize what Dr. Stresemann, speaking of Germany, said when he told a political gathering at
Berlin, after he had attended the League of Nations: -
We must all realize that the old foreign policy of deceiving everybody and believing nobody has not been exactly a success.
That is a wonderful admission from a representative of Germany. Countries are drawn into wars which might be avoided if the real reasons for their actions could be known and considered.I again urge that we should give every assistance we can to the League of Nations, trusting that it will be able to bring about the results which we all so much desire.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
Message received from the Senate, transmitting the following resolutions -
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Ordered - That the message be referred to the Committee of Supply forthwith.
In Committee of Supply.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1927-28, a sum not exceeding £5,851,495.
Standing orders suspended; resolution adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the service of the year 1927-28, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £5,851,495.
The purpose of the motion is to appropriate sufficient revenue to carry on the ordinary services of the Commonwealth during the first three months of the next financial year. It is usual for a Supply Bill to be brought forward for that purpose , at the close of one, or the commencement of the ensuing, financial year. On the present occasion, however, there are extraordinary circumstances. The removal of the Federal Parliament from Melbourne to its permanent home at Canberra renders it impossible to follow the usual procedure. Honorable members are aware that the Commonwealth Parliament is to meet at Canberra on the 9th May next; but it is anticipated that only formal business will be transacted at that meeting. Honorable members areaware also that there will be great disorganization during the transfer of the various departments, and that will place a difficulty in the way of the Parliament sitting continuously at Canberra in May. It is necessary to make provision to tide us over that time of turmoil. The Government is unable to say at present when the departments will be in a position to function properly, or when the usual conveniences will be available to honorable members to permit them to transact business in comfort. It will not be possible to adopt the usual practice of preparing and bringing down the Estimates at. the beginning of the year; but I can assure honorable members that as soon as the Parliament meets to do business at Canberra, a financial statement will be submitted for their consideration.
The amount which the committee is asked to appropriate is £5,851,495, made up of £2,212,460 for departments and services other than business undertakings and territories of the Commonwealth; £2,566,735 for business undertakings, which include the Commonwealth Railways and the Postmaster-General’s Department; and £72,300 for the territories of the Commonwealth. In addition, the usual provision is being made for refunds of revenue, amounting to £250,000, and an advance to the Treasurer of £750,000. The fact that three months of the new year will have elapsed before we shall be able to deal with financial problems, will necessitate the passage of a loan bill also, to enable public works to be proceeded with in the interim; but the amount involved will be comparatively small. The items in this measure are based on the present year’s estimates, and are slightly less than one quarter of the amount which was appropriated for the financial vear. No new proposal is included. So far as one can judge, the estimates of expenditure that were submitted last year will not be exceeded. The revenue will be somewhat in excess of the estimate, owing to increased receipts from Customs and excise duty, due to heavy importations of motor vehicles and slightly increased importations of apparel and textiles.
.- It is a most unusual procedure for a Treasurer to ask for three months’ supply when he has appropriations that will carry him to the end of June; but, as the honorable gentleman has pointed out, special circumstances operate on this occasion, inasmuch as the Parliament has to be transferred to the Federal Capital at Canberra. That appears to be a good reason ; but I very much doubt whether it would not have been better for the transfer to take place immediately, so that we might have proceeded in the usual way at the expiration of the financial year. It must be clear to every honorable member that Parliament was called together on this occasion for, at most, two purposes - to pass the States Grants Bill to deprive the States of the right to receive 25s. per head of population; and to obtain supply to tide us over a certain period. Parliament adjourned in August last ; and, at the conclusion of this sitting, which is to occupy only three or four weeks, a further adjournment will be made until September or October next. Thus, at the latter date we shall have sat for only three or four weeks in a period of thirteen or fourteen months. We have not tackled the big national questions that the Government at the last elections led the people to believe were to be dealt with by the incoming Parliament. It may be urged that the holding of the Imperial Conference justified the Parliament going into recess last year. Although I agree with the wisdom of holding Imperial Conferences from time to time, I do not think that they are a justification for the closing down of this Parliament. When a government that has a very large majority at its back is unable to permit the work of the country to be carried on because of the absence of the Prime Minister, we must conclude that there is very little confidence in the ability of any other Minister to undertake the duties ordinarily performed by that honorable gentleman. We shall lay ourselves open to very strong criticism by the people unless we increase the volume of work that is done by this Parliament. At the recent appeal to the people it was generally thought that prompt action was to be taken to deal with the burning questions that were then raised. Honorable members opposite cannot point to anything having been accomplished since the elections were held sixteen or eighteen months ago. Now it is proposed that Parliament shall close until September or October next. We must not forget the promise of the Government that a constitutional session will be held at Canberra. If that takes place immediately Parliament assembles there, no other business will be transacted before Christmas. A constitutional session involves long and continuous work. Thus about one year will remain in which to do the work for which this Parliament was elected. I protest against this delay in putting through legislation which is necessary for the development of Australia.
I am not satisfied with the condition of affairs at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. It will be remembered that an act was passed sanctioning the creation of a board to control the affairs of that bank. To that board were appointed men who are directly interested in other financial institutions.
– Sir John Garvin, for one.
– Yes. Since the appointment of that board I have not seen any evidence of an extension of the activities . of the bank. When it was established it was intended that it should be a bank of deposit, issue, exchange, and reserve ; and that it should enter into active competition with existing banking institutions. With the exception of the opening of a branch here and there in large centres, its operations have not been extended for years, nor has there been active competition with other institutions.
It appears that there is a thorough system of co-operation between the private bank? and the Commonwealth Bank. That may be a good thing in some directions, but not if the Commonwealth Bank is to be used to buttress private institutions. Evidently we are drifting into that position. In Australia to-day is Sir Ernest Harvey, who is supposed to be an expert in connexion with central banking, and who represents the Bank of England. It is difficult to understand why this gentleman was invited, as the Prime Minister stated to-day in reply to a question, by the directors of the Commonwealth Bank to come to Australia to give them the benefit of his knowledge, and inquire into the methods that are best suited to a bank of reserve for the Commonwealth. I believe that in Australia we have men who arc capable of managing the Commonwealth Bank from within its walls, and that our financial men have as great a capacity for dealing with the problems of a reserve bank as is possessed by any gentleman that we may bring here from overseas.
– When we have a big financial institution that is transacting business all over the world, is it not wise to seek the best expert advise that is obtainable?
– I suspect that there is a move afoot to make the Commonwealth Bank a bank of reserve only, and to withdraw the competitive element. Everything points in that direction.
– The advances of the bank are greater to-day than they were a year or two years ago.
– In certain directions they are. But if the bank is to function properly, its ramifications must embrace the whole of the Commonwealth, and it must accept business wherever it is offering. I do not think that there is a branch in Maitland, which is the centre of a very big and progressive agricultural district. There was not until recently, at any rate. Endeavours have been made to secure the establishment of branches in different centres, but without success.
Although section 51 of the Constitution definitely vests in the Commonwealth Parliament power to legislate in regard to banking, that power has remained, in abeyance for 27 years, and there is no Commonwealth legislation to protect people who deposit their money in banks. Honorable members are aware of the panic that attended the financial crisis in 1893, when the banks closed their doors and impounded millions of pounds worth of deposits. Many of the depositors were people of limited means. The Dibbs Government in New South Wales, piloted through Parliament emergency legislation to provide that the amounts lying on deposit should remain with the banks. Some of the money was converted into inscribed stock bearing a prescribed rate of interest. I am indebted to the Hon. J. Ryan, M.L.C., of New South Wales, for some facts contrasting the manner in which different banks have treated their depositors. Speaking in the Legislative Council on the 10th February last, Mr. Ryan said -
I want now to deal specifically with the case of the Australian Bank of Commerce, which recently set a very excellent example to some other institutions, which I propose to criticize during the course of my remarks Owing to the operation of a redemption fund, the inscribed deposit stock of the Australian Bank of Commerce was reduced steadily up to the 31st December, 1913, when it amounted to £1,673,000. By the 30th June, 1924. the process of redemption had proceeded so far that the outstanding inscribed stock was only about £1,250,000. A little over two years ago the bank gave inscribed stockholders the opportunity to become shareholders, on favorable terms.
Obviously that bank endeavoured to deal fairly with the depositors; but contrast with its policy that of the English, Scottish, and Australian Bank. Mr. Ryan said -
I wish I could say the same of certain other banks, but unfortunately I cannot. Take the case of the English, Scottish, and Australian Bank. When in 1S93 this bank reconstructed it held, in fixed deposits and current accounts, in amounts over £50, a total of about £4,000,000. All this money was, of course, temporarily impounded. The bank agreed to and did actually repay about £1,000,000, being a quarter of the total, over a series of years, with 44 per cent, interest. Another onefourth was converted into 4 per cent, debentures, and the remaining £2,000,000 into 44 per cent, inscribed stock. None of this £3,000,000 was repayable except in the event of the bank’s liquidation. 1 may say that between 1893 and 1896 there was a substantial fall in the rates of interest for deposits. On the plea that the rates were then too high, the bank, in’ 1806, secured a special act of the British Parliament, as a result of which there was a further redaction of interest on inscribed stock, from 4* per cent, to 3 per cent., with a conditional li per cent, on half the amount. This amended scheme left three classes of inscribed stock - in round numbers, £1,000,000 of each. On £1,000,000, 4-i per cent, has been paid for many years. In regard to this particular stock, the original capital sum has now been practically redeemed by instalments, provision to that effect having been made in the articles of association under the second scheme of reconstruction. Of the 4 per cent, debenture stock there was unredeemed, on the 30th June last, £983,547; while of the 3 per cent, preferred inscribed stock, the amount outstanding on the same date was £889,419; altogether £1,872,900, at an average interest rate of about Si per cent. The net profit for the year ended 30th June, 1920, amounted to no less than £542,30S Cs. 4d. The dividend, at the rate of 12J per cent, paid to shareholders absorbed £281,250. A sum of £100,000 was placed to reserve fund, making that fund £2,000,000. The paid-up capital at the same date was £2,250,000. From the current issue of the Sydney Stock and Share List, I find that tho leading figures dealing with tho English, Scottish, and Australian Bank are as follows: - Between the 30th June, 1922, and the 30th June, 1920, the paid-up capital of the bank was increased from £1,319,838 to £2,250,000. Tho annual profit was increased from £345,475 to £542,308. The dividend expanded from 10 per cent, to I2i per cent. The surplus earnings went up from £213,48b” to £201,058, and the reserves were increased from £1,557,094 to £2,280,722. Gentlemen who are much more conversant with banking figures than I am will agree that those figures indicate remarkable expansion during the four years covered. Yet, this very opulent bank, on the evidence of its own balance-sheet, still retains nearly £2,000,000 of those old deposits on which it pays an average rate of Si per cent.
This Parliament has taken no steps to control the private banks ; they have a free hand. They are even able to have legislation enacted in Great Britain, which enables them to deal as they choose with the people of Australia. Whilst tho English, Scottish, and Australian Bank has made fabulous profits it still retains nearly £2,000,000 worth of deposits upon which it pays only 3^ per cent, interest, and until it goes into liquidation the depositors cannot get their money.
– A wad of mine is locked up there.
– I am afraid the honorable member will experience difficulty in getting it. The Argus of the 1st March announced that the English, Scottish, and Australian Bank has prospered to such an extent that it is able to absorb the Royal Bank. The Argus report reads -
The English, Scottish, and Australian Bank Limited has agreed to pay £750,000 cash, plus 125,000 shares of £5 each, paid up to £5 each. Settlement will take place as soon as Royal Bank shareholders assent to the arrangement. The £750,000 cash consideration will bear interest from 1st April at the rate of 5 per cent, per annum, and the English Scottish, and Australian Bank shares will rank for dividend also from 1st April, lt is the intention of the Royal Bank directors to declare a dividend at the rate of 10 per cent, per annum for the half-year ending 31st March.
As the paid-up capital of the Royal Bank of Australia is £750,000, consisting of 270,000 shares paid up to £1 each and 120,000 shares paid up to £4 each, the money contributed by them will be fully returned to shareholders by the cash to be handed over by the English, Scottish, and Australian Bank. As a further consideration, the Royal Bank is to receive 125,000 shares in the purchasing institution of £5 each, paid to £3 each. The approximate value of these shares in the market is £8 33. each, and they will be divisible proportionately among Royal Bank shareholders. . . . The agreement with the English, Scottish, and Australian Bank provides that the staff of the Royal Bank shall be taken over by the English, Scottish, and Australian Bank, except Mr. Laing, who on 31st March will cease to have any connexion with the affairs of the institution, save that he may be its liquidator.
The English, Scottish, and Australian Bank, with the money represented by the inscribed stock for which it is paying only 3^ per cent., is probably earning from 7 to 9 per cent., and has become so powerful that it is able to buy out completely another wealthy institution. It is very evident that the Commonwealth Bank, instead of being a bank of deposit, issue, exchange, and reserve, and competing against the private institutions, is co-operating with them and buttressing them in a way that was never intended by its founders.
– This Parliament has had power to deal with banking for the last 27 years, and has done nothing.
– That is my complaint. Up to 1893 anybody could hang out a shingle and set up in business as a banker. There is still no federal legislative power to control private banks, with the result that the unfortunate depositors who were compelled to accept in 1903 a course that appeared to offer the only prospect of saving their money are unable to get justice. There is no legal claim against the English, Scottish, and Australian Bank, but undoubtedly there is a moral one, and it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to inquire into this matter and bring forward whatever legislation is necessary to put banking on a more equitable basis.
Gold mining is developing rapidly in New Guinea, where good discoveries have been made and many leases have been taken up; but, as often happens on new mining fields, there is a good deal of dissatisfaction among those interested in the industry. So far as I know, there is not in the Government service in New Guinea a man with a sound practical knowledge of mining and mining laws. We ought to have a practical mining man in control of the area, and in order to avoid the dissatisfaction that now exists we should see that our mining laws meet with the approval of those who are engaged in mining operations. I am not going into the complaints that have been made, but I contend that we should .be able to draw up a proper and satisfactory code of regulations to control mining in our own territory. Each State has an excellent mining code. Queensland, for instance, which is nearest to New Guinea, has very good mining laws, that could easily be made applicable to the territory.
I wish also to bring under the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories the conditions under which some of the workmen in the Federal Territory are compelled to live.
I have received from the President and secretary of the Canberra branch of the Australian Workers Union the following letter : -
I presume you are not aware of the fact that our members have ‘been living under most trying conditions in Canberra for the last five years - 8-ft. by fl-ft. tents have predominated. We have been asking for better conditions in the various camps for two years, and at last have succeeded in getting the Federal Capital Commission to build cubicles: however, they are not general yet. But instead of building decent huts, the Commission have built cubicles
II ft. by 9 ft. by 5 ft. 6 in., not lined or ceiled, out of 4-in. second grade baltic pine, to accommodate two men each, and are charging 4s. per week rental for sa.me, the capital cost of erection being £30, which works out at anproximately 37 per cent, per annum. This charge we think is exorbitant, considering that officers of the Commission, living in comfortable houses, are only paying from 10 to 124 per cent, rent on the’ capital cost of their resi- dences. We have interviewed Mr. Butters on two occasions wilh a request that the rent should be reduced to 2s. >per week, but without result. He has also refused to give us the basis on which the rent is calculated. Under our award, we are. entitled to ground rent, firewood, water, and sanitary conveniences free. The persons running the messes at the camps are being charged rent for’ the dining rooms, &c, at the rate of ls. per man. Therefore, the cost of those buildings cannot be added to the huts.
My members feel keenly that we should be singled out for such unjust treatment, and at a meeting of the local branch of the A.W.U., held last week, it was decided to ask you to place the grievance before Parliament, with the full weight of the party behind 3’ou, so that a reduction may be secured. Already the huts have cracks of fully i inch between many of the boards. You can therefore imagine what our members will have to put up with during the trying winter weather. Members of Parliament are provided with a magnificent brick building here, containing - over 2,000 steam radiators, which will keep each enclosed room at a uniform temperature of 52 degrees; still, wo understand the Government consider the climate too severe to hold winter sessions here. Visualize, then, our men living in huts, with the wind whistling through the cracks, from April to September. In the event of the Commission putting in heating stoves and electric light, a further charge of ls. per week is to be made, bringing the rent up to 5s. per week.
If the statements in that letter are true, in justice is being done to several thousand workmen in the Territory. Men should not be asked to pay 4s. a week as rent for a cubicle that costs £30. I want the Minister to send this complaint to the Federal Capital Commission and ask for a full inquiry, so that the workers in the Territory may be provided with decent conditions at a reasonable cost..
I wish now to refer to the production of rice in Australia. It is a new line of production. Three years ago a small area of land on the Leeton irrigation area, in New South Wales, was devoted to rice, and the cultivators, most of them returned soldiers, succeeded in proving that this article of food could be grown on the area. The following year the area under rice was increased to 2,000 acres, and the producers were able to dispose of their crop to the merchants at a price which about covered their expenses. Last winter the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), visited the district, and was told by a deputation that, although there was an abundance of land suitable for growing rice, unless some assistance was granted to the growers they could not compete with the black-grown riceof other countries. The Minister pointed out that his sympathies were entirely with the rice-growers of Australia - there are, I think, 125 of them - and he said that if they could show that they could produce half the quantity of rice required for Australian consumption they could depend upon receiving assistance from him. On the strength of that assurance, this year they planted 5,100 acres, and within the next fortnight they anticipate harvesting a very good crop, but they do not know whether they will be able to dispose of it at a price which will give them a profitable return. The rice consumption of Australia amounts to 15,000 or 16,000 tons, and the Leeton growers claim that this year’s crop will yield 9,000 tons, which is more than half of the total requirement of Australia. They go further, and say that in the course of a few years they can supply the whole of the local demand and, if necessary, can export. They say that the land is very suitable for the crop and that there is a considerable area of it. But they are asking that something should be done so that they may know where they stand. They cannot come to an agreement with the buyers, because the latter can enter into contracts for supplies from other countries where the rice is grown with black labour. The growers would like to know if they can get assistance from the Commonwealth Government; and, in view of the statement made by the Minister last winter, I should imagine he will be sympathetic with them. We are being constantly reminded of the need to develop our country and promote, not only secondary industries, but also primary industries, so that the two may go hand in hand, providing each a market for the increased production of the other. In that way we hope to increase our population. Rice has not hitherto been grown in Australia, but the men at Leeton have shown that we can produce all we require. However, they assure me that if they cannot get protection to enable them to secure a fair return for their labour, they will lose all that they have put into their operations; their position is, therefore, serious.
– Can the honorable member give us some idea of the cost of production of locally-grown rice and that of imported rice ?
– Unfortunately,I was not able to obtain those particulars from the growers, who had to get away from Melbourne rather hurriedly; but last year they received £9 9s. a ton, and just about made ends meet. This year the buyers cannot give them the same price, because they can procure their requirements at a lower price from other countries. If the Leeton men cannot get a reasonable price, they will not get a return for their labour. They are nearly all holders of small blocks.
– What is the average size of the holdings?
– The average holding is from 40 to 50 acres.
– I think that the largest holding is about 250 acres, but the majority of the blocks are much smaller. I urge the Minister to give this matter careful consideration, and do something before the House rises. If we go into recess before something is done, these men will have to get in their crops, and will not be able to make arrangements with the buyers until they know exactly the assistance they are to get. If the growing of rice succeeds in Australia, it will mean more men on the land, and greater employment in other avenues of work. I urge the Minister to make a statement in regard to the position before the House rises.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
.What the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has said about this Parliament not being able to meet again until September next is in accord with the feelings of every honorable member. It is most regrettable that we have to lose so much valuable time ; but the delay is practically unavoidable, unless it is found, as I trust it will be found, that the transfer of the various departments to Canberra does not take so long as is anticipated. Although under this bill supply will be granted until September, I take it that we shall meet before then, if it is possible to do so.
– Parliament will meet as soon as possible.
-I should like to see the standing orders altered to make it unnecessary for any Commonwealth Treasurer to come to this House asking for supply before the lapse of three months after the end of the financial year. This practice is an absolute farce. Seldom are the Estimates put through Parliament until three months after the expiration of the financial year. The example of the New South Wales Parliament might well be followed. In that State any Government has the right to carry on for three months in the next financial year at the rate of expenditure for the corresponding period of the previous year. We might well dispense with this waste of time by following the example of New South Wales. Supply is always granted, almost as a matter of form. Regarding what the Leader of the Opposition has said about Parliament not meeting until September, I do not think that any Parliament meets continuously. Had it not been for the fact that Parliament is moving to Canberra, we should now have a lone and useful session in front of us. I know that some honorable members resent the removal to Canberra, but I am not one of them. It is inevitable that a certain amount of time must be given to enable the departments to be transferred in order to carry cn the work of Parliament there. Last year we had a long session, and the House adjourned to enable the Prime Minister to attend the Imperial Conference. While in London he did most valuable work for the people of this country.
– That is questionable.
– There is no question about it at all. It is generally admitted that he did most valuable work, not only for this country, but also for the Empire. I trust that Imperial Conferences will continue to be held triennially because, to my mind, the most important work of all is transacted there. Respecting the granting of supply, I advise the Treasurer to follow the example of New South Wales, and, I believe, of Queensland.
– In Queensland the Government includes two months’ supply for the new financial year in the Appropriation Bill.
– I hope that the Government will dispense with the farce of obtaining Supply to enable it to carry on the work of the country.
.- I hope that Ministers will not accept the advice proffered to them by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), and abolish the ancient safeguard of the people’s rights. It is a procedure of which I think every householder in this country knows something. Whenever a man is asked for money, he wishes to know why the request is made, and every woman knows that when she asks her husband for money he ventilates every household grievance that he can conceive.
I rise to direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence - who, we are all very glad to see, has returned safely to this country - to a matter that I brought before this Parliament last year, the case of ex-Trooper Needham. I then said that his was a typical case, and because it is so I venture again to take up the time of the committee in discussing it. Undeniably very many of the men who went to the war have reason to complain bitterly of the treatment that they have received since they returned. Wherever there is doubt as to the justice of their claims, it is resolved against them. 1 know that it is extremely difficult to decide whether a disability from which a man is now suffering is due to war service, because some years have elapsed since the war; but we know, from our own experience in civil life, that in an action for damages under -the Workmen’s Compensation Act. medical men are always ready to testify to the danger of soma callings, and the risks attendant upon certain vocations. If in the course of his employment a man was compelled for six months to sleep in the open without adequate covering, that would be taken into account, even though some years had elapsed. Our soldiers, day after day, and night after night, were exposed to the inclemency of the weather, and suffered the fearful strain that war imposes. No one is able to put into words, nor conceive the effect upon the nerves of night, bombing, though some idea of it may be gained from the effect of the Zeppelin raids on the civilian population of London and other cities. I can testify myself to what that meant. Ex-trooper Needham served I think, for four years, and was discharged with an honorable record. It is not denied that he served his country faithfully and well. During the war he suffered from amoebic dysentery. He was invalided home, and his papers were marked to the effect that he had suffered from that disease. He intended to resume his civil vocation ; but some four months afterwards he was taken suddenly ill, and became delirious. His wife, a young woman, unversed in the treatment of disease, knew nothing save that her husband, who was the world to her, had suddenly been stricken down. A medical man was sent for, and he recommended the patient’s immediate removal to hospital. He lay in the hospital at Randwick for some three weeks; and during this period was delirious. Dr. Booth, the medical man summoned by his wife, was unable to diagnose the disease, and ultimately the sufferer was examined by Dr. Jarvie Hood, who considered that i»n immediate operation was necessary. This was successfully performed by Sir Alexander MacCormick. The patient recovered, and in due course a bill for £222 was presented. The ex-soldier sought to obtain a refund from the department, but failed to obtain it. It was not denied by the department that his illness had been due to a recrudescence of the disease from which he had suffered during the war; but the department declined to pay the charges which this recrudescence of a war disability had entailed. The matter was placed in my hands, and I wrote the department. I refer the Minister to page 5191 of Hansard, volume 114, for the departmental reply to roy letter -
His claim was carefully considered, but payment of the full amount claimed could not bc approved, in view of the fact that treatment was available at an adjacent military hospital, which fact was well known to the ex-member, and probably to those acting on his behalf, at the time of his illness. In this connexion it is pointed out that Colonel Sir Alexander McCormick, who performed the operation, and Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel Sir A. Jarvie Hood and Captain F. Stanley Booth, the other medical officers engaged on the case, were ill the. time on the staff of No. 4 A.G.H. (Bandwick) Military Hospital.
This man was a soldier, one of the gallant men who won the war. At the time when, according to the letter, he ought to have gone to the military hospital, he was delirious, unconscious. His wife did not know that he was suffering from amoebic dysentery, and certainly she was not in a condition of mind to know anything about military hospitals or anything pertaining to the departmental regulations. Dr. Booth had him removed to a hospital in the neighbourhood, and even he did not know that he was suffering from amoebic dysentery until three weeks afterwards; but when Dr. Jarvie Hood diagnosed the case and advised an immediate operation, which took place in a few hours, it was too late to remove him. The departmental reply to me went on to say that, although the department could not pay him £220, and had paid him £20 before, it was prepared to meet his claim by offering him £2 16s. 7d. I said before that this was an act of ineffable meanness, unparalleled in the history of this or, J hope, any other country. This man is still, after six years, asking the department to do him justice, and asking in vain. He has been buffeted about from one department to another. The Repatriation Department disclaimed responsibility, and the Defence Department followed its example, and said, “ We have washed our hands entirely of this matter.” Whether the Department of Defence or the Department of Repatriation is responsible is immaterial. There is an obligation on the Government to pay this money. When I was speaking before it was suggested that the doctors had charged exorbitant fees, but this in an unfair reflection on these honorable men, who gave their services to the State iu a time of great crisis. When Sir Alexander MacCormick was content to receive the pay of a colonel in the army, he made a voluntary donation of tens of thousands of pounds to this country; and that he should now be charged with harsh treatment and avarice in this case is intolerable. The same observation applies to Dr. Jarvie Hood and Dr. Stanley Booth. These men’s names are proof against slander and villainous charges such as these. Every man has a right to practise his profession and to receive the fees that are lawful and recognized in that profession. The Treasurer would be the last man on earth to say that the doctors charged exorbitant fees. Having regard to who they are, I do not think that the fee was exorbitant for saving a man’s life, for there is no doubt that his life was in dire peril. To save a man’s life is surely a service worth something. The Commonwealth ought to have accepted the responsibility without question, but it has notdone so. When I spoke previously I was asked to look at the departmental papers. I have looked at them, I have seen the officer who was at that time in charge of the Repatriation Department, and I have como to the conclusion that the Government has not a leg to stand on in an action for recovery of this money. I ask tha Government, which, collectively and individually, is guiltless of any wish to treat this man harshly, to pay the money and be done with it, irrespective of whether it is regarded as an act of grace or an act of justice.
– How long is it since the operation?
– It was performed on 19th July, 1919. I think Needham was discharged in May.
– Have the doctors been paid ?
– Needham’s father paid their fees; Needham was not able to pay. I have already said that he was not in the gutter, he had friends who stood by him ; but that does not relieve the Commonwealth of its responsibility. The Minister invited me to look at the papers and to see him. I saw the papers, but I could not see him before he sailed for England. I do not wish to reflect on him in any way. I am perfectly certain that, so far as the individual responsibility of the Minister is concerned, it must be brushed aside. I am speaking of the responsibility of the Commonwealth, qua Commonwealth, and undoubtedly it has a responsibility. This is a debt of honour, and it ought to be discharged without delay. I ask the Minister to give the case his earnest and early attention.
I wish to bring under notice another case of a constituent of mine named Ernest Illingworth. It is a most amazing case. He is now an inmate of Graythwaite Hospital, to which place of refuge he was taken from the Old Men’s Home at Liverpool. He was twelve years in the British Regular Army. He was engaged in 1911 by the Commonwealth, and was attached to Duntroon and employed there as an instructor for some years. When the war broke out he volunteered for service, and served for 4£ years at the front. He served in the Boer War, in the British Regular Force, in the Australian Regular Force, and in the Australian Imperial Force. He was 30 years a soldier, of which he spent twelve years in the British Forces and five in the Australian Imperial Force. He received a half pension on discharge, which was paid to him for twelve months. He worked for two years for Grace Bros. ; and then breaking down in health and being penniless, went to Liverpool. Ha was rescued by the good offices of the Red Cross Society from that place of desolation and despair, the Old Men’s Home, and placed in the Graythwaite Hospital. I invite the Minister to go to Graythwaite and see the man. He struck me as the very pattern of a soldier; his record speaks for itself. No man can serve for nearly 30 years as a soldier without one bad mark unless he has the makings of a man in him. I shall say no more about that, for the facts speak for themselves. The man is now disabled on one side, and if he was standing at the bar of this House, his appearance would enlist the sympathies of honorable members. Whatever may be said - for something has been said - as to why more has not been done for him, the fact remains that Dr. Storie Dixon, who has attended him for six years, and is known to the Treasurer as a doctor whose reputation stands beyond the power of any man to cavil at, has testified to his bona fides. The department has its own reasons for doing what seems to ordinary persons an inexcusable thing.
– Why should he not receive the gratuity ?
– I do not know. I can only say that I have seen him, and he seems to me to be what he professes to be. For five years he was under Dr. Storie Dixon, who knows the facts of his case, as does also Dr. Benjafield. I ask the Assistant Minister to give this case his personal attention. If Mr. Illinhworth’s statement, that not one original Anzac in that hospital receives a penny by way of pension, be true, it discloses an amazing state of affairs. I had half a dozen other cases which I intended to mention, but I shall not give the details of them now. In order to clear the Defence Department or the Repatriation Department, whichever is responsible, from the stigma which rests upon it, I ask the Treasurer to issue the instruction that in all cases in which there is a doubt that doubt must be resolved in favour of the man.
– That is what we all ask.
– What man is able to say that any disease is not due to a war disability ? Many men in our midst are suffering from tuberculosis. Their cases are most pathetic; to interview them is a heart-breaking experience. Yet the department has taken the stand that, because tuberculosis did not break out earlier, the disease has been contracted since the return of the men to civil occupations, overlooking the obvious fact that the seeds of disease were sown in them during those tragic and dreadful years of war. It ill becomes the Government, with its flowing treasury, to treat those men in that manner. The Government has plenty of money; it is not in a state of pauperism, and cannot plead poverty. It has money to promise to the many deputations which wait upon it; millions can be found for roads; yet some of these unfortunate men are turned out to die. That is not keeping our promise made to them when we sent them to the war. When, after an Australian soldier has served his country faithfully and well, a disease that may fairly, or possibly, be attributed to the dreadful strain of war, develops in him, we should tip the scales in his favour. That is only justice to the men who fought for this country and made it possible for us to be here to-night to conduct the affairs of the Commonwealth. 1 do not know whether the demand of the limbless soldiers for motor cars has been brought before the notice of the Minister: in any case, I heartily support their claim. They ask for very little. It is useless to give a man a motor-cycle and not, at the same time, to provide for its upkeep. Unless the limbless soldier is placed in a position akin to that of his fellows, he is not being treated fairly. A motor cycle is not suitable to a limbless man. I have been a passenger in an aeroplane, and I would be one again; but I shall not again ride a motor cycle. I have driven motor cars, and have not yet been summoned for exceeding the speed limit. Perhaps that is because the guardians of the law have been kind to me. But a motor cycle is not a vehicle for a limbless man ; he needs a motor car. I hope that the Government will accede to the request of these limbless men.
– I desire to refer to a matter to which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has already drawn attention, namely, the production of rice in Australia. This industry has already passed the experimental stage, for at Leeton, in New South Wales, where the climate, soil, and water are admirably suited to its production, rice has for some time been produced by Australians under Australian conditions. I have seencome of the rioe produced there, and I know that its quality is better than that of six samples of imported rice which I compared with it. Not only from the economic standpoint, but also hygienically, it will pay Australians to consume Australian rice. We should be grateful that, at last, vegetables and cereals, including rice, grown by white labour in Australia, can be obtained, and that no longer are we dependent on the products of Asiatic countries. Australian rice is grown chiefly by small farmers who, provided that they get sufficient protection, will soon be able to supply Australia’s requirements in this respect. Before Parliament rises for the recess, adequate protection should be afforded to this industry, so that those engaged in it may be enabled to obtain a fair return for their labour and capital outlay. Ninety per cent. of the people of Australia agree with the policy of protecting Australian industries. That protection has been extended not only to our manufacturing industries, but also to those engaged in primary production. In Queensland the sugar industry has reached considerable dimensions, employing largo numbers of happy and contented settlers. The condition of that industry is the direct outcome of our policy of protection. Similarly, the heavy duty imposed on imported bananas has tended to develop the banana-growing industry in Australia. Those industries are not more important to Australia than is the rice industry.
– The protection afforded to those industries has greatly increased the price of farming land.
– That has been done to prevent the products of sweated or black labour from being imported. For the reason that farmers at Leeton are laying the foundation of what will ultimately be a great
Australian industry, I urge their claim for protection and assistance until such time as they are able to supply the home market with rice. This matter should receive -attention before Parliament again goes into recess. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) regretted that from the end of next week Parliament would be in recess until September. The honorable the Treasurer spoke in a similar strain. I feel certain that the manufacturers of Australia regret that Parliament has not been longer in session. Notwithstanding that manufacturing establishments are languishing for need of assistance, that industries which could he established have not started, that machinery which could be usefully employed is idle, and that workers who should be employed are workless, the doors of Parliament have remained closed while the Government has prayed that the worst would not happen. The country cannot be developed while the doors of Parliament are shut. Notwithstanding the protestations of Government supporters on the platform prior to the last election, or the reams of newspaper propaganda issued on its behalf, the Government has done nothing to assist Australian industries.
In Sydney, recently, over 500 workers employed in the knitting industry were discharged. The position of that industry in Victoria is probably the same as in New South Wales. The discharge of those workers was due to their employers being no longer able, profitably, to employ them, because of the importation into this country of articles of clothing which should be made here. Last year, in dealing with this subject, I. exhibited in this chamber some articles of clothing made of artificial silk, and also some other garments. The material had a beautiful texture, and has undoubtedly been approved by the ladies of Australia. Ten or fifteen years ago our women and girls showed a very limited expanse of hosiery, but times, have changed. Dresses have become shorter and shorter, and the ladies have been compelled to look for something more becoming than the drab stocking of former days. In order to meet their demands a new industry has sprung up, which gives employment to hundreds of people in manufacturing silk, and artificial silk stockings. Those engaged in the industry in Australia work 44 hours a week. Unfortunately, artificial silk tubular knitted goods of the class that I have been describing are now being imported from Japan. Does any honorable member suggest that it is fitting that Australian women should be obliged to purchase Japanese goods, made under deplorable labour conditions, instead of Australian goods made under decent conditions? I trust that the Minister will give careful attention to this matter.
On numerous occasions I have referred in this chamber to the incandescent gas mantle industry, and when I brought it under the notice of the. Minister for Trade and Customs last year it was in a languishing condition. 1 hoped, in consequence of the representations that were made then, that the Government would do something to place it on a better footing. Unfortunately, my hopes have not been realized, and the manufacturers are being obliged to dismiss employees. I trust that the Government will immediately indicate that it intends to do something to assist the industry. There is enough depression in Australia at present in a general way, to prevent us from standing idly by while particular industries dismiss their employees and so increase the army of unemployed.
I have a number of complaints to. lay before the Minister for Repatriation in respect of the inadequate pensions that are being paid to returned soldiers. I was interested to hear the splendid appeal that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) made to-day for the two returned men to whom he referred. The right honorable gentleman has always been noted for the effectiveness of his pleading. But the Government of which he was the head, must be blamed for allowing one unfortunate ex-soldier, to whom I wish to refer, to suffer injustice for the last eleven years. It is regrettable that after the lapse of all the years that have passed since the signing of the armistice we should still have to appeal to the Government for fair treatment for returned men. I suppose every honorable member in this chamber could mention five or six, or perhaps a dozen returned men who have appealed to them to try to influence the
Repatriation Commission, the Deputy
Commissioners of Repatriation, or the Appeal Board, to grant them a larger pension. Mr. Thomas Collins, of Girilambone, New South “Wales, to whom I have referred, has been a pensioner for eleven years. During the whole of that period he has had to appear before the Medical Board of the Repatriation- Department every six months. Some of the cases that honorable members bring before the Minister for attention are known to them only by correspondence; but this is a case of which I have personal knowledge. I have known this man personally for ten years, and have seen him at least once every six months of that period. He has been under treatment by doctors for the whole of the time, and his condition is gradually becoming worse. Pie has been receiving a 75 per cent, pension, and in spite of all his efforts, he has been unable to obtain any increase in it. Seeing that his condition is becoming worse his case should be reviewed. It might be that he has unwittingly antagonized either the Medical Board or the Commission: but even if that is so, his . wrongs should be remedied. It is unfortunate that, even when an ex-soldier appeals against the decision of the board, he does not personally appear before the body that deals with his appeal. In my opinion, that is wrong. I do not make any charges against the medical gentlemen who have had this case in hand, but I certainly submit that it is time that they gave this man a little better treatment. He should have been in receipt of the full pension years ago. The Government should adopt a more liberal policy in pension cases of this character. It is impossible for medical men to assert definitely that cases of nervous breakdown among returned soldiers are not due to war service. We have seen our colleagues iu this chamber suffering from nervous breakdown, and we have known very well that their condition is due to their strenuous public life; but it would be very difficult to prove it. In my opinion, no medical practitioner can definitely assert that the derangement of a man’s nervous system is not due to war service. Not even the marvellous advances of modern medical science enables him to say that. The same may he said of tubercular returned men. It is impossible - and I say this with all due respect to the Treasurer, and to medical practitioners generally - for any doctor to prove that the tuberculosis from which some returned men are now suffering was not due to war service. If ten men claim a revision of their pension allowances on the ground of increased incapacity, it would be better that nine of them should be granted their claims on insufficient grounds than that one should be wrongly denied his claim. I know that some returned men have strange ways of submitting their claim for reconsideration. They may become abusive or insulting, and so antagonize the officers who are called upon to deal with them; but, even so they should be justly dealt with. I plead with the Treasurer to liberalize the conditions governing the review and medical investigation of pension cases, in order that no man may be able to say that he has been unfairly treated.
.- Like the right honorable (member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley ) I wish to bring the cases of several returned soldiers under the notice of the Government. I have in my mind the case of a man named George Priest, who served for two and a half years at the front, and was then invalided to Australia suffering from shell-shock. Practically ever since his return he has been either an in-patient or an out-patient of the Repatriation Hospital at Hobart. He is a married nian with four young children, and has been very ill for a number of years. Realizing that he was unfit for work, the Department gave him a pension, and continued its payment for fourteen months. The doctors in Hobart were not satisfied that the trouble was due to war service, and therefore sent him to the Caulfield Hospital for examination. He was kept under surveillance for a long time, and the disease was diagnosed as a tumor on the brain. It was stated that the trouble, which was incurable, was not due to war service. The right honorable member for North Sydney has emphasized the difficulty of any medical man proving that a soldier’s disabilities have not resulted from active service, and I submit .that it was a wrong act to withdraw the pension from an ex-soldier in such circumstances. He cannot take employment, because Melbourne doctors have declared that it is impossible for him to do any work, and his wife is unable to go out to -work because she cannot leave her children. The only thing left for this unfortunate man to do is to obtain aid for his wife and family from the State. He served his country well during the war and obtained a clean discharge. Had his condition not been due to war service the medical. mcn in Tasmania would not have recommended him for a pension in the first place, nor would they have sent him to Caulfield for re-examination. I contend that the pension should be restored to him.
A number of soldier settlers have recently complained to me of the charges they have to meet with respect to their properties. On© returned man - an Anzac - who served for four and a half years, lias, taken up an orchard for which the Government had to pay £2,800, complete with buildings. The soldier paid down £800 of his own money, leaving n balance of £2,000 on which he is required to pay interest. After he had held the property for five years, the Department ordered him to pay an extra £26 a year, to cover the cost of the building.
– Does the honorable member refer to the Tasmanian Department ?
– Yes, the Closer Settlement Board. The buildings were valued at £570, although the original cost of £2,S00 included the cost of the buildings, and consequently the soldier has been charged twice for them.. The Tasmanian Government appointed a royal commission to inquire into the subject of soldier settlement, and the commissioner, Judge Nicholls, of Hobart, stated in his report, in effect, that what had been done was illegal and could not be supported in any court of law. The Government has promised to stand by the soldier; but in the case to which I . have referred an absolute wrong has been done.
– If his agreement does not provide for the additional payment, he can fight the matter.
– It may possibly provide for it, but many of the soldiers do not read the conditions of their agreements as perhaps they should. A number of such cases have come under my notice, find I consider it my duty to direct attention to them.
As all honorable members are aware, Tasmania produces more apples than any other State of the Commonwealth, and it has a large quantity of the fruit which, although of good quality, cannot be disposed of in any market. For dealing with this surplus there are thirteen evaporating .factories in my State, and they are able to supply the whole of the Australian requirements of dried apples. New regulations regarding apple export have now been brought in by the Minister for Markets and Migration (Mr. Paterson), and orchardists generally are quite in accord with them. The conditions under which apples are exported to Great Britain are much stricter now than they formerly were. While that is as it should be, the result of the new regulations is that the quantity of apples available for local consumption has increased. The owners of the factories ask for a bounty of 2d. per lb. on evaporated apples, so that they may be able to exploit the English market. It is recognized that the Tasmanian dried apples are equal in quality to any that the world produces; but it is impossible, under present conditions, to place them on the English market at a payable price. The factories give the growers ls. 6d. for 50 lb. of apples. This quantity produces only 8 lb. of dried apples, and therefore the factory price is a fair one. American dried .apples are placed on the English market for 5d. and 5jM. per lb. A bounty of 2d. per lb. would be required to enable the Tasmanian growers to compete in that market. A very large sum would not be required to enable the desired bounty to be paid, and the Government ought to be prepared to assist the Tasmanian factories to test the overseas market. Most of the industries of Australia have received help, but the apple export trade has never had any Government assistance. The canned and dried fruit industry, the meat industry, and many others, have all been assisted by means of bounties. These good apples should not be allowed to waste. When evaporated, they are quite suitable for cooking purposes. I hope that the Minister for Markets and Migration and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) will collaborate with a view to establishing the industry on a satisfactory basis. Between 14,000,000 and 15,000,000 bushels of dried apples are exported from the United States of America to the British market every year, and Tasmania wishes to participate in that trade. I hope that Ministers will give consideration to this matter. If they can help the industry to which I have referred, they will be doing a great thing for Australia, and will also hedoing something that will benefit the people of England.
.- I wish to address a few words to the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories concerning the treatment of public servants who are to be transferred to Canberra. Some complaints have been made regarding the arrangements for guests at the opening ceremony, and the accommodation to be provided for members of Parliament, but I want now to refer to the grievances of those who will have to do the real work at Canberra. Some of the public servants are to be transferred next month, and some even earlier, and yet I learn from reliable sources the astounding fact that many of them do not know where they are to be housed, how they are to be housed, or what their houses will cost them. Surely at this staged they should be supplied with that information.
– It has all been published.
– The information has not been published. Many of the officers do not know whether the houses which they will be called upon to occupy are of brick, or of concrete^ nor do they know the type of those houses, or what they will cost. Some statements have been made to me concerning the rates they are to be charged. Bates have been quoted to me which I cannot credit, and I therefore hesitate to repeat the rumours I have heard on the subject. The Minister should say what rates are to be charged. A statement was recently issued to the public servants that fairly staggered them. They were told that those who failed to make application for houses before the 31st July last will be forced to accept any type of house the Federal Capital Commission selects for them. In paying for the houses they will enter upon a contract which will extend over it may be 35 years. Their families will have to live in the houses selected for them, and yet they are to he given no say as to the type of house they are to occupy, because they -were too late in making their applications. I am aware of one case in which the notice given was only ten days late, and yet the public servant concerned is to be refused an opportunity to select the type of house which he and his family are to occupy. In April of last year a request was made to the department that officers should be given an opportunity to select the type of houses they required, but that businesslike proposition was turned down. I should like the Minister to inform the committee why the request was refused. Various types of houses have been built for members of the public service, and while some are very good, I have seen others which I would not care to live in. Those who are going to purchase these homes, in which they will probably have to pass the rest of their lives, should be given some say as to the type of house into which they must bring their families. Most of the officers who will be transferred during the next month or two have not the slightest idea of the houses that will be selected for them. I am, speaking generally for the lower paid men, and I am informed that the probable cost of the houses which they will have to occupy will work out at something like £3 per week. Compared with the houses in which these officers are living in Melbourne, those to be provided at Canberra are not so good, whilst the cost will be about £1 a week more. According to the announcement of the extra allowances to be made to the public servants, that to be provided for the lower-paid men is £54 a year, so that it will provide only for the increased cost of housing them at Canberra, and will make no provision for the increased cost of living there. I venture to say that these people who are going to pioneer the Capital city of Australia are entitled to more generous treatment than they are receiving, if the facts are as they have been stated to me. I have no wish to labour the matter, but I do protest against the paltry treatment which is being meted out to those who will have to do the hard work at the Federal capital, because the lower-paid men are usually called upon to do the hardest work A regulation has been issued regarding the transport of these men and their families to Canberra. It is provided that those in receipt of salaries below £336 a year are to be transferred on second class fares, and those in receipt of salaries over that amount are to be given first class transfer. That is a miserable distinction for a government department to make. The lower-paid officers are to be obliged to take their wives and families on a train which will travel all Through the night. They are not to he provided with sleepingberths, and will have to sit up all night long. This is a regulation covering one trip transferring public servants to the Federal Capital of Australia. Such a distinction as is made by the regulation is mean and paltry.
– Who made the distinction 1
– I understand that it is a Public Service regulation. In the transfer of public servants to Canberra at the expense of the country there should be no class distinctions. If a sleeping berth is provided for the wife of one officer, it should also be provided for the wife of another. From all I can learn it would appear that at the Federal Capital there is going to be created and perpetuated the worst kind of snobbery we have in Australia.
– We shall put an end to it very quickly when we get there.
– I have no doubt we shall do our best in that direction. From what I can learn areas have been mapped out at the Federal Capital for occupation by public servants according to the salaries they receive. Such things should not be tolerated in a country like Australia. It will be a poor beginning for the Federal Capital if it is started on those lines.
– Who is responsible for what the honorable member complains of?
– I do not know; but the arrangement is one against which wo should protest in this Parliament. Those who will have to go to Canberra will be mainly public servants, who must remain there permanently. They will not be able to leave the place as members of the Parliament will be able to do at the close of a parliamentary session. They will be the pioneers of the new capital, and Australia should be a little generous, and not parsimonious, in its treatment of them. It will make for the smooth working of government in the Federal Capital if we have a contented Public Service there, and the Government should see to that.
.- Following upon the remarks of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), I wish to bring under notice the case of a returned sailor named Enway. When he went to the war he was a very fine specimen of manhood. His father and mother are both fine specimens of humanity. This young fellow when he went to the war had no sign of the trouble from which he is now suffering. On his return he was appointed to a position on the Tingira. The only accommodation that could be provided for him was without ventilation, and, after a time, his health became so bad that he had to be sent away. It was so bad that if he lifted his arms to his head he was compelled to lie down for five or six hours to stop the haemorrhage caused by the lifting of his arm. Since his return he has not been going to a stadium to be punched by anybody, but has lived the life of an ordinary citizen, and there is no doubt in the world that his present condition is due to his war service.
Some time ago the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) directed the attention of the Minister foi Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) to the fact that women in Australia have to wear materials made in Japan, and I should like now to remind the Minister that our menfolk are obliged to do the same thing. One has only to walk down the street to see men wearing shoes and fancy socks. If one gets into a tram he will see men pull their trouser legs up to show the socks they are wearing, and I understand these socks are imported from Japan.
A few days ago I put a question on the business paper regarding the classification of the federal public servants. I Cried to elicit from the Prime Minister when the classification would take place. I find that a similar question was asked by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green). He asked the Prime Minister -
The Prime Minister replied -
The Public Service Board of Commissioners has reported -
It is anticipated that the classification of the Public Service will be completed by the close of the present year, 1926.
The first instalment of classification of Clerical Assistants and Postal Assistants will be gazetted next week. The balance will follow at short intervals. 1 asked similar questions four or five days ago and received the reply that the classification would be completed possibly by June of this year. It is a standing disgrace that the public servants should be treated in this way. The Board of Commissioners was appointed two years ago, but it has not carried out the trust reposed in it, in connexion with the classification of the service. Some public servants died before the departments in which they were employed were classified, and it is very pos.sible that many more will be in some cemetery before the classification is completed. Possibly because I represent a constituency in which a great many public servants reside I receive more complaints on the subject than most other honorable members. I understand that the Prime Minister has intimated to the Board that he does not concur in their treatment of the public servants, and has reminded the Board that it is the intention of the Parliament of this country to make the Federal Public Service a model for the world. The classification of the service has not yet been completed, and it is evident that some one is responsible for the quite unnecessary delay in the matter. When the chairman of the board was appointed, I objected to his being given a salary of £3,000 a year. Sir Brudenell White has had a soldier’s training, and should have been the last person to be placed over those who are performing civil duties. A soldier cannot help adopting a domineering style, and endeavouring to make all other persons subservient to his will. I hope that action will be taken to alter the existing conditions. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) said that with a discontented Public Service progress cannot be made. I am acquainted with many of our public servants, and have a great admiration _ for them.. They worthily fill the positions which they occupy, and always endeavour to serve the public. How can that spirit be maintained if we continue to treat them in the present fashion? The bottom-dog always receives the kicks. The Public Service should have the right to approach the Arbitration Court, and should not be under the control of another officer of the Crown. If the practice of withholding promotion from those who are entitled .to it by reason of long and faithful service is continued, we shall lose some of our brilliant young men. It is not the wish of the people of Australia that public servants should be made to suffer. I have performed the duty which has been entrusted to me of ventilating their grievances, and if they are not remedied it will not be my fault.
It pains me greatly to say that the Commonwealth Bank is not to-day carrying t ut the functions that were expected of it bv those who, like myself, were responsible for its establishment. The board which was appointed by the present Government is not imbued with a spirit of service to the people. The idea of those who assisted in establishing the bank was that the agricultural, industrial, commercial, and every other section of the community would be served by it. When they planted the acorn, they looked forward to the time when the fully-grown tree would spread its branches protectingly over all those who sought its assistance. What is happening to-day? An amalgamation is proposed, the object of which is to give private banking institutions a monopoly which will enable them to squeeze the people and compel compliance with their demands. If the Commonwealth Government controlled the whole of the banking in Australia, it would not be necessary for it to borrow abroad. Loans are falling due, and it has been stated that the Treasurer proposes to go on the London market in June to secure a renewal. The financial position is becoming so acute that it demands the attention of honorable members. In 1924, loans amounting to £66,000,000 were converted at_ a price of £98 10s., and carrying an interest rate of 6 per cent. Last December, the Treasurer converted, at an interest rate of per cent., loans carrying rates of 4-J and 5 per cent., which did not fall due until December, 1927. Life assurance companies, banking institutions, and commercial houses, hold that particular stock. There was no necessity for the honorable gentleman to convert until the end of this year. The board of directors of the bank are looking after the interests of their friends rather than the welfare of the nation. We have been told that the Government could not make any arrangement with the Commonwealth Bank to provide a sum sufficient to make a commencement with the proposed Commonwealth housing scheme. Had the loan to which I have referred not been converted last year, the amount of interest saved would have enabled the Government to inaugurate the scheme, and subsequently the redemption payments would have ensured its continuance. In Sydney and suburbs to-day houses can be obtained only upon extortionate terms. A few days ago a young fellow told me that he was purchasing a house in Paddington for £1,050. He had paid a deposit of £100, and had borrowed £600 on first mortgage at 7 per cent, and £350 on second mortgage at 10 per cent. I told him that he was foolish to enter into such a contract, but he answered, “ What else can I do ? I have a wife and two children, and I cannot get a house on better terms.” In that district houses which were designed to accommodate only one family have been converted to hold two or three families. All the rooms are used for sleeping purposes, and in one house half a room is occupied by the father and mother, and, separated only by a temporary partition, is the sleeping accommodation of the married son. Recently my daughter showed to me in Petersham two jerry-built cottages which had been erected on a small block having a frontage to two streets. Those dwellings had been sold on deposits of £100, with interest at 7 and 10 per cent, for first and second mortgages respectively. These instances are typical of the conditions under which houses are being purchased at the present time, and it is the duty of the Government to take such action as will afford relief to the people.
This Parliament has complete power to legislate in regard to banking and the amalgamation of the two big banks mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is a matter of direct concern to the people. I well remember the bank smash in 1893, for I assisted Sir George Dibbs, who was then Premier of New South Wales, in allaying the panic. Many of the unfortunate depositors were induced to convert their money into inscribed stock carrying interest at 3£ per cent. Nearly £2,000,000 of this stock is still unredeemed by the> English, Scottish and Australian Bank, which, following a reconstruction, is able to pay dividends of 12^ per cent, to the shareholders and to buy up wealthy rivals. Legislation by this Parliament is required to control that sort of thing. An important consideration to those of us who advocated federation was the prospect of haying a uniform banking law throughout Australia. When the Labour Government established the Commonwealth Bank in 1910 it was subjected te* a great deal of criticism for having given control of the institution to one man, but the first Governor, Sir Denison Miller, was a financial genius, and during the war saved this country millions of pounds. As soon as the fusion Government came into power, however, it transferred the control of the bank to a board of socalled business men, some of whom are interested in private financial institutions. Under their control the bank hasbeen almost at a standstill, and, apparently even the Government has no confidence in them, for it has imported » banker from Great Britain to advise in regard to the establishment of a bank of reserve. The object of this appointment must be to help the private banks to make more money; I am certain that it is not intended as a means of protecting the people’s interests. If that were the only desire, there are plenty of men in Australia with sufficient ability, experience and integrity to place the bank in the position it should occupy.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I heartily endorse the remarks of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) in regard to the treatment of our soldiers. Admittedly the Repatriation Department has been generous, but much more remains to be> done before these men can be said to have received justice. It is very difficult for any doctor to declare positively that any disability from which an ex-soldier is suffering is of pre-war origin, and for that reason I should like more considerate treatment extended to a large number of returned men in my constituency. A young fellow who interviewed me to-day had served for three years at the front. He appeared to be in the best of health, but he was physically unfit to work. He could get no pension from the Repatriation Department because his illness was said to be of pre-war origin. Many disabilities cannot be definitely traced to war service, but it is impossible to say that they were not caused by the long-sustained strain and hardships of active service. I shall not say more on this subject now, because I am confident that the Minister for Repatriation will give the fullest consideration to the statements that have been made to-night, and will do all in his power to secure fair treatment for the men who have done so much for this country.
I propose to say a few words about soldier settlements and their relation to migration. The Commonwealth, in partnership with the British Government and the Governments of the States, is embarking upon a scheme of development and migration involving an expenditure of £34,000,000. Tor the settling of returned soldiers on the land the Commonwealth has advanced to the States £36,000,000. In addition, it has made a gift of £5,000,000 to the soldier settlers, has contributed towards the reduction of interest £4,740,690, and has paid by way of sustenance during the period in which the holdings were unproductive £501,500. These supplementary amounts total £10,242,251. That seems a fairly generous provision, but the Victorian Government alone has spent £14,000,000 on the settlement of soldiers, and has advanced £7,000,000 for improvements, and the soldiers’ repayments are £4,000,000 in arrears. I believe the record of Victoria compares more than favorably with that of any other State except Queensland, where soldier settlement is not extensive. We are all expected to co-operate in making a success of migration, but it is impossible for me, a practical farmer, to advocate land settlement, as I should like to do, when there are so many discontented soldier settlers who, if not further assisted, will certainly abandon their holdings. There are misfits in every walk of life. Some of the soldier settlers would never do well on the land, but the majority of them are honest triers. If the States are to lose heavily in connexion with these settlement schemes, the Commonwealth must assist them. I predict that of the £4,000,000 worth of arrears in Victoria, at least £2,000,000 will have to be written off. Boards have been appointed to report upon the proposal to wipe off irrecoverable arrears of principle and interest, and to assist the settlers in other ways.
This clean-up will cost the Commonwealth millions of pounds, but unless it is undertaken our ‘-migration policy ia doomed to failure. Quite a number of men have taken up land on estates which have been purchased at a reasonable price, but when an estate has been purchased at £S an acre and subdivided and improved by the erection of houses, and the provision of fences, and when it is stocked with a few . cows, the cost per acre is double, what was originally paid. We can imagine the hardships suffered by the man who is compelled to pay interest and sinking fund on such a capital outlay. I should find it hard to do so, and I know that it is quite impossible for a number of our soldier settlers to meet their annual payments. The nature of the assistance to be afforded to them is a matter for Cabinet consideration, and in view of the amount that has been advanced by the Commonwealth to the States, I think there ought to be a conference between the Commonwealth and State Treasurers to review the whole situation. We are as much interested in the success of the soldier settlers as are the States, and in that respect it is our duty to co-operate with the States to ensure success for our migration settlement scheme, or at any rate, so that we may place it on a sounder basis than might otherwise be possible.
It is well known that our dairy produce industry is not in a flourishing condition. The industry is maintained almost entirely by family labour. If dairymen had to pay the ruling rate of wage granted by arbitration’ courts to workers in secondary industries, butter could not be sold at under 4s. or 5s. a lb. It is true that the Federal Government has done a considerable amount of good to the industry by providing for the appointment of a dairy produce export control board. on which, the producers have representation, and by; means of which the export of inferior butter such as was shipped to London years ago has been prevented. There is also a voluntary scheme known as the Paterson scheme which has proved of some little assistance to the dairymen, but has not been altogether a success, because quite recently a large consignment of New Zealand butter was landed in the Commonwealth, and other large consignments from the Dominion are to follow. Protection is the accepted policy of Australia, and, as a farmer, I am quite prepared to afford our secondary industries reasonable protection, and give theindustrial labourers all that they are justly entitled to get. I think I am indicating the views of the Country party in that respect; but, at the same time, we claim that we in turn should have a quid pro quo in the direction of protection for primary industries that are interfered with by importations. The import duty on butter is now 2d. per lb., but we feel that a duty of 6d. per lb. would be little enough to give us a chance to compete in the conditions that have been brought about as the result of arbitration awards and other matters that are the law of the land.
There are large areas in different parts of the Commonwealth which experts declare can grow rice equal to that grown elsewhere, but we still continue to import large quantities of rice grown by coloured labour under conditions which do not prevail in Australia. The Government, therefore, will be asked to give protection to the rice grower. If it is right to afford protection to secondary industries it is equally right to give our primary producers as much protection as possible. At present primary production represents somethinglike 96 per cent. of the total export trade of Australia.
– It represents more than that.
– With all due respect to the secondary industries, the primary industries are the most important in Australia. But we want the two groups of industries to work hand in hand, neither having an undue advantage at the expense of the other.
I am sorry that there has been so much delay in coming to a decision regarding the bounty on wine. Already the Government has done yeoman service to the wine-growing industry, and the high est credit is due to the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) for his persistent efforts to obtain preference in Great Britain for Australian wines. In 1924-25 Great Britain imported 17,868,818 gallons of wine. Of this quantity 8,522,893 gallons represented sweet wine, which practically all came from Portugal and Spain. It was of an inferior quality, 30 per cent. underproof, a fact which seriously interfered with Australia’s chance of getting any control of the trade; but when Great Britain granted a preference of 2s. a gallon on our sweet wines, and the Commonwealth Government paid a bounty of 4s. a gallon, we were enabled to secure a very substantial hold of the British trade. Up to two years ago we had practically no footing in the British market, but last year Great Britain took 1,054,460 gallons of our wines, an increase of 100 per cent. on our previous export. This was largely due to the preference given by Great Britain, and the bountypaid by the Commonwealth. Certain trade treaties between Great Britain and Portugal are to be reconsidered next year. One of the conditions of the treaties is that Portugal has the sole right to import into Great Britain a certain standard of port wine, and this has mitigated considerably against our sales there. I trust that we shall obtain some relief at the forthcoming conference. The wine bounty has been of great assistance to a large number of soldier settlers, to the growers generally, and incidentally to ourselves. The winemakers have on the whole treated the growers fairly well, and I give the Minister the credit for keeping a strict eye on them. It is imperative that in connexion with any bounty that is granted there should be a distinct understanding that the growers are to obtain their fair share of it. Fortunately there have been in the past few complaints of unfair treatment. The wine industry should grow enormously. We have some of the finest wine lands in the world. During the last two years our exports of wine have steadily increased, and we have had the encouraging report that our port wine is equal to that produced elsewhere. The growers are anxious that this vexed question of the bounty on wine should be settled by the Tariff Board at the earliest possible moment.
I trust that the Minister will soon he able to announce that the Governmentintends to continue the bounty. The wine industry is well on the road to success, but it still needs assistance. It has been said that the wine bounty is a drain on the taxpayers. I contend that in view of the excise on our wines the growers by receiving a bounty are only getting back a portion of their own money. The pre-war excise on fortified spirit was 6d. a gallon, and to-day it i3 something like 6s. a gallon. I trust that the bounty will be continued for a number of years, and so give heart to those who are helping to develop this country.
Respecting the tobacco industry, I very much regret that the Tariff Board report has been too long delayed. I realize that this has been partly due to the lamentable death of the chairman of the board, and the consequent loss of his expert knowledge of the industry. Our tobacco imports, which are principally from America, amount to about £3,000,000. I venture to say that with proper technical advice and supervision we could within a few years grow our own tobacco requirements. We have some of the most beautiful tobacco lands in the world ; but scientific methods must be adopted if we are to place the industry on a sound footing. It is regrettable that we should be expending £3,000,000 a year on tobacco and at the same time making no real systematic attempt to place our own people on the tobacco-growing lands. The industry is not in its infancy. We have for years past produced a large quantity of very fine tobacco leaf, but the unfortunate grower is told that it is either too dark, too light, too heavy, or too sweated. I have contended from time to time that the duty of 2s. 6d. on imported leaf should be 5s., and that the excise duty of 2s. 6d. should be abolished. That would provide a fairly large margin to work upon in assisting the grower, and if, in addition, the Government would give a substantial bounty, particularly for export, the industry would soon flourish. The growers in my district want to know what Parliament is doing for them and when the report of the Tariff Board will be available. It must bo admitted that they have grounds for complaint. Given proper assistance, this industry would soon be almost on a par with the dairying, wine, and other important primary industries of this country.
.- The honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) spoke of the powers of the Commonwealth with regard to hanking, and quoted section 51 of the Constitution to show that this Parliament had certain powers in that matter. He then proceeded to draw attention to the English, Scottish, and Australian Bank, and made certain definite statements about what was happening to the depositors of that bank. He suggested that, under the powers conferred by the Constitution, this Parliament could deal with that bank. It is an English bank, constituted under an English Act. In 1893, after the banking crisis, the bank was reconstructed. The reconstruction was effected by agreements between the parties concerned, the creditors, the depositors, and the shareholders, and by the enactment of legislation by the British Parliament adopting these agreements,
– lt was under duress that they signed the agreements, because they were compelled to make the best terms possible in the crisis.
– If the agreements were not being observed there would be a legal remedy for the breach of them. But depositors claim that the agreements and statutes are unfair in two directions - first, as to the rate of interest; and, secondly, as to the irredeemability of stock in liquidation. Those are, however, the terms of agreements and statutes, and, in view of the English act, which deals with this bank and its depositors, wherever they are located, it is regarded as certain that legislation under the powers conferred upon the Commonwealth, would not be effective.
– I think it would be in respect of Australia.
– It is held that we cannot deal with this matter in view of the agreements made under English law, and that, whatever may be its merits, legislation by us would not meet the case. The Government has had under consideration legislation for the regulation of banking iu Australia, but it would not remove those two grievances. The bank, on its side, has pointed out that, although probably an injury was done to depositors in the past, the debentures at present are held in many cases by persons who bought at depreciated prices. There is no doubt that the action of the Australian Bank of Commerce, which the honorable member cited, in wiping out such past transactions on an equitable basis, should commend itself to every one.
The position of the Commonwealth Bank is not as indicated by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) and other members of the Opposition. What is the test df the value of a hank to the community? What is the recognized sign of its growth? Is it riot the volume of its business? If one considers what has happened since 1924, when the board of directors was appointed, one finds that the advances, which are probably the best test, increased hy £2,903,000, and that the profit for the last six months, for which period the balance sheet was laid on the table of this House the other day, was about twice the amount of profit earned in the last half of the year 1984. The figures in both those directions are a fair indication of whether the bank is progressing. To me they indicate that, under the management of the board, it is progressing. I understand that eleven or twelve new branches of the bank have been opened since the board took control. The most important function of the bank - that of a central bank - ‘began to be performed by the bank properly when the board was appointed and amending legislation was passed in 1924. The success of the bank as a central bank cannot he gauged only by banking figures; its real success lies in its power to control finance, which can be gauged by the absence of crises rather than by the way in which the bank handles any crisis which may arise. Every one must recognize that that is an important function of a central bank, and, for the performance of that highly delicate and specialized function, it is essential to have a full knowledge of what is being done by other countries. The system of central banking, practised by the Bank of England, is admired and copied hy all other countries, and so, to ensure that we would have the most expert advice made available to the Commonwealth Bank, which every one desires to see prosper, the board invited the Bank of England to send out one of its most . expert men. It was accordingly arranged that the second man in command of the Bank of England, Sir Ernest Harvey should visit Australia, and he has, at considerable personal inconvenience, come here, and has been in consultation with local bankers during the last three or four weeks. He intends to remain here for another month. Every one must realize that his visit will be of great value to the Commonwealth Bank and Australia generally.
Bill received from .the Senate and (on motion by Dr. Earle Page) read a first time.
Bill received from ‘the Senate and ‘(‘W motion by Dr. Earle Page) read a first time.
House adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 March 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1927/19270315_reps_10_115/>.