10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m. and read prayers,
Debate resumed from 24th February (vide page 3419) on motion by Mr. Charlton. -
That, in the opinion of this House, theGovernment is deserving of severe censure for its failure to adequately protect Australian industries and to limit migration to the nation’s ability to absorb new arrivals, together with its neglect to formulate proposals to deal with unemployment.
– This motion which relates mainly to the subject of unemployment is worthy of the most serious consideration of the House. The Labour party contends that there are many ways in which Parliament and the Government can assist to prevent or minimize unemployment. The Leader of the Opposition has charged the Government with having failed to protect adequately the secondary industries, and in support of that indictment I cite the fact that last year £164,000,000 worth of goods was imported to supply our population of only 6,000,000. That great volume of imports is sufficient proof of the inefficacy of the tariff. No country can be properly developed if it neglects its secondary industries; even Great Britain years ago protected its manufacturing industries substantially until they were firmly established. By that means end the inventive genius of the British people, which developed steam power., the spinning jenny, and the weaving loom, the United Kingdom became the paramount manufacturing country in Europe. The factory owners were helped also by the absence of legislation restricting hours and conditions of employment. They were able to keep machinery going for the full 24 hours, and child labour was exploited to the maximum extent until Parliament enacted more humane factory legislation. When the British people had attained complete control of the markets for manufactured goods a cry arose for cheap food and cheap raw material for the factories. Out of that agitation developed free trade, under which Great Britain prospered for many years, hot as other countries began to develop their natural resources and to protect their secondary industries, her foreign markets dwindled. With the introduction of the McKinley tariff, Great Britain lost control of the American market. Since that time the United States has gradually raised its tariff wall until it amounts almost to a prohibition of imports, and now by up-to-date methods and mass production the Americans are able to supply their own requirements and export a big surplus to all parts of the world. Using the experience of the past as a lamp to guide us, we realize that no young country can make progress without great secondary industries. We are able to produce the food requirements of our people and to export a large surplus of wool, wheat, and other primary products, but our secondary industries are languishing. Included in the £164,000,000 worth of imports are many goods which left this country in the raw state, and after having undergone factory treatment were brought back by the Australian people. While this is happening the Government is bringing in labour without restriction. Unemployment is the inevitable outcome of such an illogical policy. The Prime Minister has admitted that there are at least 40,000 unemployed in Australia, and one would have expected him to reply to the Leader of the Opposition, “ Yes, I realize that unemployment is acute in every State, irrespective of the political party in office there. I am prepared to meet the State Premiers to discuss with them means for minimizing the evil ‘’. Instead of adopting that ‘attitude the Prime Minister merely quoted statistics from blue books. Empty figures will not satisfy the hunger of men who are out of employment. Those human beings must be fed. Every man and woman has a right to live and that involves a right to work. To refuse men the opportunity to earn a livelihood is to starve them to death. Great Britain is to-day reaping the fruits of its free trade policy; while the country is being flooded with imports the Government is spending millions of pounds weekly to keep a large proportion of its population from starvation. No free trade country can compete against highly protected rivals; Great Britain is finding that only unemployment can result from such an unequal contest. There are still a few honorable members in this House who advocate free trade as the ideal policy for Australia. Experience has taught us that it is not so. When New South Wales was a free trade State and Victoria was protectionist, Victorian manufactures progressed by leaps and bounds.
– There was more poverty in Victoria than in New South Wales.
– My reading, of the history of the period does not bear out that statement.
– Then the honorable member’s reading was wrong.
– Statistics show that when, after federation, a uniform tariff law became operative New South Wales quickly overtook Victoria as a mnufacturing state, and she has since left her far behind, for her resources have enabled her to do so. We have a wonderful country which is endowed with almost every gift that God could give it. We have coal and iron in abundance, and produce no’ small quantity of gold, silver, lead, copper, tin and other minerals. In fact it may be said quite truthfully that we have everything which goes to make a nation great.
I am pleased also that we have among us men of courage and initiative who have established valuable secondary industries here. I have recently inspected a number of factories in my own electorate, and have been delighted with what I have seen. I take off my hat to those Australians who have invested their money in secondary industries here, and have been able, by reason of their organization and ability to do such great things.
The Newcastle Steel Works is a notable example of the success of Australian initiative and enterprise. Visitors from overseas who have inspected the works have been loud in their praise of them. In management, organization and plant they compare more than favorably with the majority of similar establishments overseas. Our mechanics and artisans are equal in ability to those of any other country. But in spite of these facts the Newcastle Steel Works has had seriously to restrict its operations and to dismiss thousands of employees. The reason for that is easy to find.
– What about the price of coal?
– A nearly inexhaustible supply of coal is available almost at the entrance to the works. The reason for the dismissal of employees and the curtailment of operations is that last year iron and steel products to the value of more than £10,000,000 were imported into Australia. Even the resource, enterprise and organization of the Newcastle Steel Works have, not been sufficient to cope with the situation that has been created by these importations. The Government should be doing. something -fto meet the problem; but apparently it has no 1 intention of taking any such step. It stands idly by while the industry drifts from bad to worse. A government which does that is not worthy of the confidence of the people.
Hosiery to the value of £1,165,000 was imported last year, although we have works in Australia, equipped with the latest machinery, which are capable of producing all the requirements of the country. As is the case with the Newcastle Steel Works, the employees in this industry are thoroughly expert, while the premises in which the operations are carried on leave nothing to be desired. We have the necessary wool and cotton in Australia to manufacture these goods, but the Government remains inert while the country is swamped with products from overseas.
Other lines which were heavily imported last year include player-pianos and pianos, valued at £1,082,000, which could have been manufactured here ; foodstuffs, £3,059,000; linoleums and carpets, £2,843,000 ; electrical appliances. £7,461,000; yarn goods, £2,149,000, and cotton and linen piece goods, £10,013,000. Of these I know very well that the electrical appliances could have been made in Australia to a large extent had the industry been ‘given reasonable encouragement, for I have been -through some of the manufacturing establishments that are already operating. It is disastrous to Australia that her own manufacturers are being crowded out of the local market.
We have a heavy duty on motor bodies. I- remember that when the proposal was first made for the imposition of a duty on imported bodies it was said to be ridiculous. We were told that motor bodies could not be made here on a commercial basis. To-day the bodies ou seven out of every eight cars running on our roads were manufactured in Australia. It is high time that a duty was imposed on chassis. Last year chassis to the value of £12,763,000, were imported. Seeing that we are already making motor bodies, spare parts, tires and tubes, shock absorbers, batteries and many other motor accessories, it is time that persons interested in the manufacture of chassis in Australia were given encouragement.
It has been pointed out to us on many occasions within recent months that in the last financial year our adverse trade balance was £20,000,000. If we could ensure that our iron and steel requirements, £10,000,000 worth of which we imported last year, and the motor chassis, for which we paid £12,763,000, were manufactured here, we should at once overtake our adverse balance. It is unfortunate that the Government, instead of encouraging these industries, is taking other steps in order to meet what it recognizes to be an unsatisfactory and an unhealthy situation. The Labour party has suggested time and again that one of the most urgent needs of Australia is a scientific tariff which will really protect our industries ; but the Government appears to be quite satisfied with the revenue tariff which is now operating. Of what use is a duty of 20 per cent, or 30 per cent, on a:i article that can be manufactured in the country where the wages are only half, and in some cases less than half those ruling in Australia?
– The tariff more than pays the wages of Australia.
– It is largely because the Government is not prepared to introduce an effective tariff that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has moved this motion of censure. We submit that we should have a tariff session. In view of the great amount of unemployment that exists this Parliament could surely spare time to reconsider the tariff in order to place it upon a proper basis.
I look upon unemployment as a kind of national sickness. Whenever the breadwinner of a family becomes so ill that he is unable to work the physician is called in and an attempt is made to remedy his trouble so that he may go back to duty and support his family. Seeing that we have so many thousands of men unemployed in Australia the Government should act the part of the physician and try to restore health to our diseased economic body; but instead of doing so it has adopted the policy of neglect. An old adage says - “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” There is serious danger in deferring all effort to alleviate the troubles from which our country is suffering. Men who are unable to get work will not starve. In any case the Government could not allow them to starve. It should do something to relieve the distress and remedy the trouble.
– What is the cause of the trouble?
– It has economic causes which the Government should be endeavouring to remove. In the opinion of the honorable members on this side of the chamber the policy of retrenchment which has been adopted by the Ministry is merely aggravating the position. In an effort to cut down expensed the Government has reduced its estimates of expenditure for this year by £1,375,000. The reduction has been effected by the decision of the Government not to go on with important public works, many of which have been recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
– Many of them are essential and urgent works.
– That is so. In the Federal Capital Territory alone between 700 and 1,000 men have been dismissed. But while on the one hand the Government is following a policy of retrenchment it is, on the other, reducing taxation, on the wealthy classes in the community. By discussions in the Loan Council State Governments have also been persuaded to cut down their expenditure on public works. These socalled economy stunts, which are resulting in the limitation of employment on public works, are of no use whatever to the country. In consequence of the policy adopted by the Commonwealth Government, the State Governments have also restricted borrowing, and that has had a very detrimental effect upon development. The population of this country is too small to enable us to develop it as quickly as we should like to, unless we resort to borrowing. There, has been extravagance in public expenditure; but on the other hand essential public works which should be undertaken have not been proceeded with. There should not’ be any objection to carrying on reproductive public works .with borrowed money, provided we are able to pay interest on the capital. We have always been able to do that, as the Commonwealth or the States have never repudiated their liabilities. There are many public works which should be undertaken by the Commonwealth. For instance, those members of this Parliament who represent Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, have to travel via Goulburn in order to reach Canberra. Some time ago the Public Works Committee was asked to inquire into and report upon the construction of a railway from Yass to Canberra. That is an important national work, which must eventually be undertaken, as it is ridiculous that the Federal Capital should not have more direct railway communication with Victoria.
– A railway from Yass to Canberra would cost £750,000, and would not pay axle grease.
– Although the project was adversely reported on by the Public Works Committee, which recommended the construction of a good road instead, T believe a majority of honorable members would support the building of such a line, and on that work hundreds of men could be employed. When so many men are now out of work, the Government should give this important national undertaking its immediate attention. There are a number of other public works which have been favorably reported upon, including the Port Augusta to Red Hill railway, which are not being proceeded with, and on which thousands of men could be employed. When the Port Augusta to Red Hill railway is completed the time occupied on the journey from Adelaide to Perth will be reduced by some hours. Although the wharfage accommodation at Garden Island is insufficient to accommodate the. two new cruisers now under construction in Great Britain, and the Public Works Committee has recommended an extension of that wharf at a cost of £150,000, the work is not being proceeded with. Professor Mackenzie donated .certain valuable specimens of Australian zoology valued at over £100,000 to the Federal Government on the understanding that a national museum of Australian zoology would be built at Canberra, and although that important work has been recommended by the Public Works Committee, the erection of the museum has not been commenced. These, and other important public works are held in abeyance whilst many deserving men are clamouring for employment. When the labour market is over-supplied, it is an opportune time to commence the unification of the gauge of the main railway routes, which has been recommended by a commission of experts, and which military authorities say is necessary to facilitate the defence of the Commonwealth. Notwithstanding the strong representations made by military and railway experts, that work has not been commenced. I cannot understand the logic of this Government, the members of which say they wish the people to be happy and contented. It has been said that there is a possibility of reducing wages and lowering the general standard of living when the labour market is oversupplied. Surely that is not desired ! Some assert that industry cannot be carried on economically on a 44-hour week. Does any fair-minded man think that eight hours on five days, and four hours on Saturdays, is not a sufficient time for any man to work?
– A farmer works much longer than that.
– Some do not work at all. I do not think the honorable member for Gwydir works 44 hours a week.
– I work longer than that.
– In considering whether a 44-hour week is sufficient we have to remember the wonderful industrial progress in which machinery has played a very important part during the last few years. Under the altered conditions the farmer has at his disposal improved ploughs, harrows, harvesters, &c, which have lightened his burden considerably, whilst the average workman has to work long hours for a comparatively low remuneration. Notwithstanding the reduced number of hours worked in some industries, production has increased. With the aid of modern appliances, a boot operative can make perhaps twenty pairs of boots a day, whereas under the old system he could make only one pair. Is it not right that the workers should share in the additional wealth thus produced? As the population of the civilized world is rapidly increasing working hours must be reduced in order to provide employment for every one.
– It cannot be done otherwise. If the hours worked are too long, the workers’ opportunities are restricted.
– Some do not do anything.
– The honorable member for Franklin should speak for himself. He has done very little since he came here. He is an authority on doing little.
– What will be the position of the wheat-grower if there is an over-production of wheat? The price must drop appreciably. Overproduction necessarily tends to reduce the standard of living, and that must be avoided. The Government’s borrowing has been restricted because it contends that it is necessary to obtain money at a cheaper rate; but it is poor consolation to the workers to be told that public works have been stopped because the Government wishes to borrow money at per cent, lower than the rate at which it is now offering. One way of overcoming the difficulties with which we are now confronted would be to increase the customs duties on certain commodities-
Instead of giving greater encouragement to manufacturers, and in that way helping to relieve the industrial situation, the Prime Minister and his party are encouraging the introduction of migrants. Every ship that arrives at Australian ports brings out people who, in many instances, eventually join the ranks of the unemployed. This is a bad advertisement for the Commonwealth. We may assume that new arrivals from Great Britain have been persuaded by highly paid officials in the employ of the Development and Migration Commission that there is plenty of work available for them, and that the country is in a prosperous condition. So far from that being the case, migrants find on arrival that there is a great army of unemployed in all the States. The Prime Minister last week quoted statistics relating to the introduction of Southern Europeans. When his attention was directed to this influx last year, he intimated that steps had been taken to check it, and that the Government of Italy had determined to restrict emigration. Accordingly the right honorable gentleman led us to believe that the number of Southern European migrants would soon be back to normal. The latest figures quoted by the Prime Minister indicate that the total of arrivals from southern European countries is now double what it was last year. If there was work offering for newcomers, the Labour party would welcome them. As a party we are not opposed to a wellconsidered migration policy. What we are concerned about is the profitable employment of all migrants, because every worker in employment creates wealth, and so helps to build up the nation.
The Government’s policy in cutting down works is not likely to relieve the situation. There has been a severe cut in the estimates of the Postmaster-General. I doubt whether that can be justified in view of the strong demand throughout the country for improved postal facilities. Taking the situation by and large, the Government is to be condemned for its neglect to give effective protection to the manufacturers of Australia, for its encouragement of migration whilst it is unable to provide employment for those already here, and for endeavouring by bringing pressure to bear upon State Governments to restrict their borrowing powers and to curtail their works policy. If the Ministry had any real sympathy with the people who are suffering from the present industrial depression, it would convene a conference of the Premiers of the respective States, and if as the result of that conference the facts were found to be as I have stated, it would call a halt in regard to migration until the labour market had improved.
I intend to support the motion. I trust that the House will consider seriously’ the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition, and that steps will be taken to relieve the present industrial situation.
.- Ministers are treating the censure motion very lightly; they appear not to comprehend the magnitude of the problem to which it directs attention. They do not show any disposition to face this problem; and even if they acknowledge- its existence, they seem not to realize its gravity. The only serious speech from the Government benches was that of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) ia reply to the charges levelled against the Ministry by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). The right honorable gentleman admitted that 31,000 workers were .registered as unemployed last year, but declared that that was the normal condition of labour in Australia. The Leader of the Opposition, he said, was grossly mistaken in assuming that there was such a thing as an acute unemployed situation in. this country. Is it correct to assume that in Australia the industrial situation is not critical, and a matter of no concern ? The Prime Minister told the House that if Australia is faced with an unemployed problem the provision of relief is the business, not of the Commonwealth but of the State governments. Those may not be his precise words but that is the effect of what he said. I propose to ask honorable members to consider whether there is an unemployment problem in Australia, the existence of which the Prime Minister denies, and whether responsibility for it rests upon the Commonwealth Government. The Prime Minister quoted statistics to demonstrate that the average number of persons registered as unemployed in 1927 was little more than the average number unemployed during the two preceding years. A comparison of the figures for the years 1923 to 1927 led him to the conclusion that there is no unemployment problem in Australia worth thinking or bothering about. As a fact the trouble is much more acute than the right honorable gentleman seems to realize. Although the mean unemployment as disclosed by the number of registered unemployed in. 1927 was, as stated by him about 31,000, the actual number of unionists registered as unemployed for the fourth quarter of 1927 was greatly in excess of the average for that year. But it is not the average so much as the actual number of persons unemployed to-day ‘that justifies us in assuming that we have an unemployed problem demanding our earnest consideration. If there were no unemployed at the’ beginning of 1927, and 50,000 at the end of the year, the mean average for that year would not be an accurate test of ‘the acuteness of the problem at the present time. In the fourth quarter of 1927 there were according to the Commonwealth Statistician, 38,641 persons unemployed. This represents S.9 per cent, of the membership of the unions that report the number of their unemployed members by furnishing returns to the Commonwealth Statistician. The official return gives the membership of the unions thus reporting as 430,000, whereas the ‘ : total membership of all unions in Australia is 850,000’. That is, the membership of the unions reporting is little more than one-half the number of unionists in Australia. The wage-earners in Australia total more than 1,150,000. It follows therefore, that if there were the same proportion of unemployed among all wage-earners as is disclosed among the members of the unions reporting, the actual number of unemployed at the end of the last quarter of 1927 was nearly 100,000. But there are other factors to be considered. In- many industries the number of unionists actually unemployed is less than the average number of workers unemployed. This is accounted for by the fact that a considerable number of migrants, although they may be unionists, are not members of Australian unions. Many belong to unions that arc international in character, and subsequent to their arrival secure transfers of membership to Australian unions, but until this is done they do not figure as members of Australian unions. We may assume that the percentage of unemployed among such unionists would be at least as high as amongst members of unions registered in Australia. Certainly Ave may assume with confidence that the number of unemployed at the end of last year was in the vicinity’ of 100,000. That is certainly not an overstatement of the position. Unfortunately the situation has become worse since the beginning of the year.
– The honorable member’s argument as. to the actual number pf unemployed would apply also to the figures quoted^’ hy.the Prime Minister. The proportion would be about the same.
– ‘That is so, but I would point out that the Prime Minister’s figures disclosed 31,000 as unemployed for the year 1927,. whereas the number registered for the last quarter, according to the Statistician’s figures, was 38,600. These figures, however, are only a- guide to the real position. Since the end of the year - and this matter was entirely ignored by the Prime Minister - further unemployment has come about in most of the States. In this Territory also, the Federal Capital Commission has dispensed with the services of upward of 700 men. Interruptions in employment have occurred in nearly all the metropolitan cities, and for one cause or another, to which I shall refer later, unemployment has gradually become more acute, until it can truthfully be said that the situation to-day is worse than it has been for many years past. This fact justifies the attention of Parliament being directed to the matter. But. the Prime Minister tried to discount the figures quoted by the Leader of the Opposition. He did not acknowledge that the trouble was acute, or that it was a matter about which the Commonwealth Parliament should be concerned. The prevalence of unemployment is apparent on every hand, if one is to believe the evidence of one’s own senses. One is constantly reminded by statements in the public press, and, particularly in the large cities of Australia, that a most serious crisis, affecting thousands of families, and almost the stability of our industrial conditions, has arisen. If that is not a matter warranting the attention of the Commonwealth Parliament, what would be?
Lately the Prime Minister has- been greatly concerned about bringing about more stable conditions than those now obtaining in industry, and better relations between employers and employees. He says that one of the fruitful causes, of trouble is the large number of industrial disputes, which mean much loss . in production and make our trade competition overseas more difficult. He tells us that the Commonwealth must bend its energies to the solution of this problem. He has convened, or is thinking of convening, a round-table conference for the purpose of investigating the subject. No one will deny that the occurrence of industrial disputes is unfortunate; but from the point of view of the workers of the Commonwealth, is it a more serious thing than unemployment ? Unemployment does not seriously affect the employer, or even industry, except indirectly. It does not cost the Commonwealth Government anything, ‘ and therefore Ministers ignore, or deny, its existence. From the workers’ point of view, however, unemployment is a most serious matter, and I say advisedly that even the difficulties occasioned by industrial disputes are less menacing.
– Would it not be wise to look for the cause?
– Yes. I propose to discuss that aspect of the matter. Widespread unemployment, such as now exists, represents an immense loss to the workers. Assuming that 100,000 men lose on an average 50 days work in a year - and that is not an exaggerated estimate - it means a total annual loss to the workers of 5,000,000 days’ work through unemployment. During the worst year in recent times, the largest number of days lost through industrial disputes was 1,300.000, so that unemployment has caused almost five times more loss to the workers than industrial disputes. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I do not advocate that the existence of industrial disputes should be ignored, or that it is not a matter that should be seriously considered by the Commonwealth Parliament. I realize that, so far as possible, such disputes should be prevented. The Government, however, while giving it regard, ignores the problem of unemployment, which is just as acute, and causes more suffering’ to the workers of the community and their families.
The Government affects to believe’ that unemployment is not sufficiently general to warrant attention by this Parliament. That that is the definite and deliberate attitude of the Prime Minister is indicated by his speech. Yet what do we find on perusing the metropolitan newspapers ? Why did the Lord Mayor of Melbourne have to take action to form a .relief committee - this matter was referre’d’ to by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - for the purpose of -ameliorating the suffering due to unemployment^ in that city? Similar action ‘has been taken in Adelaide, showing ‘thai while leading Nationalist politicians ignore the problem, impersonal observers of the industdustrial situation in Australia take a grave view of it. The Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Mr. Lavington Bonython convened a public meeting, “for the purpose of discussing a scheme to provide relief for necessitous cases among the unemployed.” The meeting was held at the banqueting room in the Adelaide Town Hall, and, according to the Adelaide Advertiser of the 21st February, the Lord Mayor, in outlining his reasons for summoning the gathering, said -
They were not met that afternoon to consider the reasons of unemployment or the economic or other conditions that hud resulted in the idleness of so many willing hands. Their task was to consider what could be done to alleviate the suffering consequent on the unpleasant fact. To their,- great regret there were at the present- time many worthy and reputable citizens unable to obtain’ employment, some with wives and families dependent upon them. There could be few’ things more sad than the spectacle of an able-bodied man, willing and anxious to fulfil his obligations as a husband and father, seeking in vain for the opportunity to utilize his skill and ability, so that he might earn a livelihood for himself and those dependent on him. “ It must be a heart-breaking experience for a man to feel that in the day’s business and undertakings he can take no part; that there is no place for him, and that for the time he lias dropped out of the scheme of things,” said Mr. Bonython. “ To a sensitive man such a situation must be well nigh intolerable, and, therefore, it becomes the duty of the statesman and the patriot to set aside differences on minor things and address themselves to the great problem of utilizing the strength and skill of hands that are now idle and impotent.”
There is a wide difference between the attitude of the Lord Mayor of Adelaide, who is in close contact with the suffering that exists in that city to-day, and that of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), who, taking a lofty attitude, endeavours to brush aside a stern reality by denying the existence of unemployment. His is an absurd attitude; but how different, from that which he adopted when wooing the electors in 1925 ! The right honorable gentleman did not then deny that unemployment* was likely to occur in Australia, “or.- that it was a responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to devise measures’! to cope with it. I quote from the’- policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, in which he said -
The Government proposes to introduce legislation for a national scheme of social insurance covering the questions of old .age and invalidity . . . and as soon as the further report on unemployment is received will legislate on. such lines as will enable the worker to be insured against this most deadly cause of his anxiety and unrest.
Was that sheer hypocrisy? Had the right honorable gentleman when he made that statement no intention of considering how to relieve unemployment? Did he then intend to take the stand which he took last week, when he denied the existence of an unemployment problem, and repudiated the responsibility of the Commonwealth in regard to it by asserting that it was purely a responsibility of the States? Iri’ answer to a question which was addressed to him upon notice by the Leader of- the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) on the ‘28th September last, the Prime Minister made the following reply:-
The whole question of the solution of the unemployment problem has been receiving the serious consideration of the Government, and the Development and Migration Commission has been asked to furnish a report to the Government on certain phases of the problem. . . . The Development and Migration Commission will present a report on this matter as early as practicable.
Was there any honesty in that statement ? Did the right honorable gentleman speak truly when he said that the Government had been considering the unemployment problem, and that the Development and Migration Commission had been detailed to investigate it and to submit a report upon certain phases, and that their report would be to hand at an early date? If he then spoke honestly, what did !he mean last week when he denied the existence of unemployment, and repudiated the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government with regard to it ? How does he square two so different attitudes? ‘Surely the right honorable gentleman could have indicated the nature of the report furnished by the Development and Migration Commission, and what had resulted from the consideration which the Ministry had given to the question ! Instead of doing that, he denied that an unemployment problem existed. There is slackness of employment throughout Australia to-day, and it is being brought forcibly to the minds of all kinds and conditions of men. A very interesting ceremony took place in Sydney last week at the launching at Cockatoo Island dockyard of the seaplane carrier Albatross. A significant remark - not from any political angle, but in its bearing upon this controversy - fell from the lips of Mr. Farquhar, the director of the dockyard, in responding to complimentary references with respect to the staff that had been made by a Commonwealth Minister - I believe the Minister for Defence (Senator Glasgow). He said -
He hoped the Minister would announce that two new destroyers would be built at Cockatoo. An unfortunate side to the completion of the Albatross was that unless new work was immediately forthcoming, many technical and skilled workers would be out of employment.
At the dockyard to-day, 1,000 men are employed as against 4,000 some little time ago. Between 4,000 and 5,000 would be employed if the Commonwealth Government had displayed an Australian spirit by having built there the cruisers that are required for Australia’s defence, instead of sending that work overseas. The week before last the Sydney municipal authorities advertised for six unskilled workmen for the Bunnerong power station. The result of that advertisement was described in the Sydney newspapers on the following morning. They stated that 1,000 men had stormed the Lord Mayor’s office and that the municipal authorities had had to obtain the assistance of the police to restrain the crowd until half - a dozen men had been selected. Yet the Prime Minister says that there, is no unemployment in Australia ! Such -an attitude indicates a most callous indifference to one pf the most evident realities in Australia to-day. A
Melbourne newspaper of the 25th February last reported that the following resolution had been discussed by the Melbourne Trades Hall Council: -
That in the present crisis, this council demands, instead of a . round-table conference, that the Prime Minister forthwith terminate the migration agreement and enact a national scheme of ‘unemployment insurance.
It is evident that- wherever a number of persons gather together to consider industrial problems their minds are concerned with the unemployment crisis in Australia, and they demand that action be taken by the Commonwealth Government.
Let me examine for a moment the question of responsibility. I assert that the Commonwealth are not free from responsibility; I do not mean in the sense that they are guilty of many acts which cause unemployment, but that they cannot shirk the responsibility which is theirs to help to solve the problem. The Prime Minister’s attitude the other day was unequivocably opposed to accepting any share of that responsibility. He then said, “ This is a State matter.” Is it a State matter? Under what special provision of the Constitution or any other instrument has this been made solely a State and not a Commonwealth matter, or not jointly the responsibility of the States and the Commonwealth? Humanely unemployment ought to be regarded as the responsibility of every governing authority in Australia, so far as they oan bring to bear upon it methods for mitigating its severity.- It is a responsibility of the whole community. It is one of the gravest ‘evils of modern times, not only in Australia but in every other country. Every country has been compelled to realize that it is a most fruitful cause of evil. Surely, therefore, it is a responsibility of the national government of Australia! Yet it is made to appear that it is almost the sole responsibility of the Governments of the States, because it is to them that unemployed and indigent persons apply for relief, and they control the majority of charitable institutions, in addition to subsidizing, or to some extent encouraging charitable organizations. In that sense the Governments of the States have had to’’ accept ‘a greater share of the responsibility for coping with unemployment and its attendant difficulties than has fallen to the lot of the Commonwealth Government. But surely that is not a fair allocation of responsibility! ‘ Because the Governments of the States have been called upon to provide unemployment relief, as well as food, clothing and shelter, for unemployed persons and their dependents, the
Commonwealth Government is not thereby relieved of responsibility. I- cannot see any justification foi: the Prime Minister repudiating in a most callous fashion the responsibility of the Commonwealth in relation to this matter.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked me to consider the causes of unemployment. It is but proper, in a discussion like this, to consider the causes and the nature of the problem of unemployment. But such consideration does not take anything from what I have said as to the responsibility of the Government for devising means to solve the problem. Unemployment exists in Sydney, Melbourne, and our other metropolitan cities. Many factories and industries are working short time because there is not a sufficiently remunerative market for the absorption of their output. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) could give some of the reasons for that, and, as I gauge his attitude towards the fiscal policy, I am confident that, if given a free hand, -he might suggest some cure for the basic causes of unemployment in conserving some of the remunerative markets for our products. But I believe that he has not a free hand. He may have the soundest opinions about what is necessary to protect our secondary industries and to enable them to expand, but what is the use of that when he is sitting cheek by jowl on the front Ministerial bench with unholy and unregenerate free-traders, who stultify his policy. General slackness of trade is one of the causes of unemployment. The aftermath of last year’s drought is another cause, while seasonal slackness is a third cause . of unemployment. At certain periods of the year the sheep shearing industry is in a state of quiescence, as are also our meat and sugar industries. There is always slackness of ‘ trade and depression at certain times of the year. The dumping of imported goods in Australia is a further cause of unemployment, and there are other economic causes. The Australian export meat trade is now almost non-existent, whereas at one time it employed thousands of men in the various<,meat works. A like condition of affairs exists in our coal industry , and in a number of ‘ other trades.. There are -100,000 men out of work in Australiato-day, capable men, anxious for work, who are seeking it in vain. They areunemployed through no fault of their own, as a consequence of the causes I have mentioned.
– The honorable member has described the symptoms, rather than diagnosed the cause, of the trouble.
– Whether the difficulty of the honorable member to understand me has arisen through an incomplete explanation by me or his own inability to ‘follow my argument, I think that the causes of unemployment which I have enumerated do not require further elaboration. Undeniably they are the prime reasons for the existent unemployment in Australia. I do not con tend that an understanding of the causes of unemployment will immediately present a remedy for the evil. To find the remedy is the principal problem. I shall mention’ what I consider to be a way in which the problem may be dealt with, and. possibly solved. The problem of unemployment is not new to this Parliament; it has not sprung suddenly upon civilization. Unemployment has existed ever since there has been an industrial system. It has been considered by the State and Commonwealth parliaments of Australia, and by the parliaments of other countries, and it is worthy of our further consideration.
– It is necessary to pluck up courage and face the problem.
– That is so. So far, courage has not been displayed by those occupying the Government benches in this chamber. Honorable members opposite have met the motion of want of confidence with a discreet silence.
– But merely talking about a thing does not indicate courage.
– That may be admitted, yet often keeping silent about a thing is evidence of cowardice. If honorable members opposite feel that the Government is not facing the situation adequately they should have the courage to state their own views. Many remedies have been considered by different parliaments with a view to solving the problem of unemployment. Its solution is a responsibilityof this Government, which should try to remove its causes and endeavour to mitigateits evils. More than one honorable member in this chamber, during the course of this debate, has stated that every citizen has a right to expect to find employment in his own country. That idea has been crystallized in a slogan, and found expression in England in a “ right to work “ bill. Every citizen is entitled to the opportunity to earn his livelihood in his own country. If a community is unable to afford such opportunity, it must provide sustenance for its citizens.
– Would that apply to nonunionists ?
– It applies to every citizen. The only persons who would attempt to discriminate in the application of such a basic principle would be honorable members on that side of the House. We on this side admit the right of every citizen to earn his livelihood, and we contend that, if that be denied him, he should be provided with sustenance. That implies an obligation on the part of the authority which acts for the nation, which, in this case, is the Commonwealth Government, and is the justification for the unemployment insurance measures promised by this Government, which,although only advocated in other States, have been applied in the State of Queensland. No man who is willing to work should, if denied work, be allowed to starve. The problem of unemployment must first be faced from that angle. But, in order not to incur heavy annual expenditure merely on unemployment relief, governments should exert every effort to remove the causes of unemployment, and to regularize employment as far as is practicable. The application of labour should be mobile, so that men may be transferred from centres where there is a scarcity to other centres where there is an abundance of employment. That would tend to mitigateone phase of the evil, and in that way would tend to simplify the problem. The Government ought alsoto see that no part of its public policy is causing unemployment. If its tariff policy is seen to have the effect of closing up factories, and causing unemployment, it ought to be changed immediately. Necessary changes should not be delayed by the dilatoriness of departments or of Ministers, so that years pass before action is taken. They ought to be made immediately, to prevent a crisis in an industry, or a locality, or a State. There are other means of coping with the unemployment problem, and one of these is land settlement. This Government seems to think that land settlement is the panacea for all problems. The Development and Migration Commission was set up for the special purpose of discovering means for absorbing millions of people more . than we have in Australia now. That commission has been in existence for two years. It may be doing good work, but so far no tangible results have come from its inquiries. So far as we can judge, the commission has brought no nearer the solution of this problem of unemployment, nor has it increased in any apparent way the population absorption capacity of the country. The only report of the commission touched upon by the Prime Minister was that relating to the Murray River land, and the over production of dried fruit, and the necessity for curtailing production. The report did not deal with the development of the industry, nor discuss a means for increasing its capacity to provide employment. It dealt only with the danger of expansion, and the necessity for curtailing output. Yet the fact remains that in Australia we have millions of acres of cultivatable and irrigable land fit for cultivation, capable of being settled, and awaiting settlement at the present time. The land settlement difficulties are not incapable of solution, but they must be tackled promptly and vigorously; you will not get an adequate solution by shunting responsibility from the Government to a commission, and from the commission to an inquiry board. Such responsibility should be accepted by the Minister to whom it belongs.
– How can we interfere with the States in their land settlement policies ?
– We cannot interfere, but we can co-operate, and the State governments are clamouring for our cooperation. I was Premier of Queensland when that State asked the Federal Government to co-operate and advance money for land settlement. We did not want the Government to tell us where to put the men,norhow to carry out our land settlement scheme; we asked only to be supplied withmoney - easy money, cheap money - and wewould do the rest. Honorable members opposite chuckle rather cynically. I do not know what they find humorous in that statement. The lure of their own’ migration scheme is cheap money. That is its onlyattraction. There is nothing beyond the opportunity to get cheap money to justify the interference of the Commonwealth in the land settlement schemes of the States. The scheme in which we tried to interest the Federal Government was the Burnett Land Settlement Scheme, embracing 3,000,000, acres of land of good quality. That land had been inspected by Ministers, by members of Parliament, and by the then Director of Migration, an expert appointed by the Commonwealth Government because of his special qualifications. That area was visited by him, and though he reported favorably upon the scheme, it was turned down by the Federal Government. The gentleman whomade that recommendation was the present member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who had no personal reason for reporting favorably upon the scheme. Although that scheme could stand on its own merits, the Queensland Government was prevented by a shortage of money from proceeding with it. The Commonwealth Government said to the States: - “ Go ahead, develop your schemes “ ; but it was impossible to do that without money. The appointment of experts, technologists and geophysicists will, in itself, not get you anywhere. The way to make progress is to give the States financial assistance, and to stop meddling with their efforts.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the unwisdom of the Government’s policy in introducing large numbers of migrants into the country when there was so much unemployment, and a. speaker from the Government side of the House, in reply, chided the Labour party for being antagonistic to migration. That was not a fair deduction from the honorable member’s remarks. The attitude of the Labour party is well known. It does not object to migrants coming into this country, and has a special preference for British migrants. Itisnot hostile to the idea of migration.We recognize as much as the members of any other party that Australia must increase its population, to reduce our burden of debt per capita, and to give us greater security; but we say that it is foolhardy to bring in migrants and dump them in our capital cities when there are thousands of unemployed throughout the Commonwealth. Who can deny the soundness of that attitude? What honorable member on the otherside of the House can justify bringing into Sydney thousands of migrants from overseas while unemployment is rife among the people already there? The position is the same in Melbourne, in Adelaide, and in other capital cities.
– Are not the migrants coming in at the invitation of the States ?
– The States have not invited them. Migration is essentially the responsibility of the Federal authorities.
– Ninety per cent. of them are nominated.
– I have here an extract from The West Australian of February 21st last: -
French Liner’s Complement
Views of Mr. R. Linton, M.L.A. “The first thing that greeted me on my arrival at Fremantle this morning was the sight of hundreds of foreigners crowding the rails of the French LinerVille d’ Amiens, which had just arrived from Europe. Every State Government in Australia has been concerned during the past six months with the number of unemployed men caused through seasonal conditions, and all States, with the exception, I think, of Western Australia, have reduced immigration from Great Britain.” Those comments were made yesterday by Mr. Richard Linton, M.L.A., of Melbourne, who passed through Fremantle in the Liner Narkunda. Mr. Linton is the founder of the Big Brother Movement, and is now proceeding to England with his wife and sons.
Those immigrants did not arrive in Australia under a nomination system. It is true that only a few thousand foreign immigrants arrive in Australia each year - the Prime Minister gave us the figures the other day - but when dumped into a labour market which is already in an overstocked condition, they compose a significant and disturbing factor. Five hundred foreigners arriving in Sydney today, and searching for work to-morrow, must aggravate a condition already sufficiently serious. Either those migrants must take their chance, and fruitlessly search for work, thus becoming a bad advertisement for migration to Australia, or preference must be given to them. One of the complaints made is that preference isgiven to new arrivals in order not to create a public outcry against migration and the conditions confronting migrants in Australia. So long as Australian workers are turned away and work is given to migrants, it is unreasonable to expect that there will grow up in Australia a sentiment favorable to migration. A wise migration policy would ensure that no Australian worker would suffer because of it. I strongly urge the Commonwealth Government to consider that aspect of the question. The Labour party would be sorry to see grow up in Australia a sentiment against migration, but if that state of affairs is to be avoided, our migration policy must be carefully administered.
The Commonwealth Government has adopted an attitude towards economic, developmental, and industrial questions which, at first sight, appears to be a sincere attempt to solve these problems in the interests of Australia. But when we examine the outcome of its consideration of those questions, we must doubt either the Government’s bona fides, or its ability to cope with them, for, in no instance, has it reached a satisfactory solution. Now the Prime Minister is arranging for a round-table conference. I have here an extract from a Sydney newspaper setting out the agenda for that conference. The first subject for consideration is -
The present economic position of the primary and secondary industries of Australia, with particular reference in each case to their abilityto compete in overseas markets.
I shall not quote the other subjects for discussion; I ask whether the subject I have mentioned is a proper one to submit to a round-table conference. Is it not rather a question for Parliament to decide? . Surely the economic position of our primary and secondary industries is a matter for consideration primarily by the members of the Cabinet. Were not Ministers sworn to deal with just such a problem as that? The Government is shirking its responsibilities when it suggests a round-table conference to deal with that problem. If matters of this kind are to be dealt with in the manner suggested by the Government, we may well’ ask why the Constitution provides for a Parliament. Not content with appointing about 100 commissions, boards, and committees of inquiry, as well as all sorts of functionaries to deal with innumerable problems with which Ministers themselves ought to deal, the Prime Minister now proposes to import a commission. I have here an extract from a Sydney newspaper of the 6th February, 1927, headed “Four Big Britons for Australian Immigration.” It is worth our consideration if only to indicate the real character and lack of self-confidence of the Ministry itself. The report, which was published two days after the Prime Minister arrived in Sydney from Great Britain, reads -
Four moir must be found who are accustomed to spending millions of pounds, and who can visualize the creation of vast industries in a wilderness, who’ are familiar with economics and railroad building.
If four men with those qualifications are needed, what necessity is there to go beyond the. ranks of the Ministry? One would think that the first name which would suggest itself as that of a .person accustomed to squandering millions is that of the present Treasurer, Df. Earle Page. The report continues -
When they a.re selected they will go to Australia to act in sin advisory capacity and as an executive body.
Apparently on their arrival Ministers will go into retreat. According to the report -
Their work will be to make Australia receive and absorb a gigantic population, and they will collaborate with the existing big four in Australia, namely, the four men .who comprise the Migration Commission, Messrs. H. W. Gepp, Nathan, Fleming, and Gunn. Together, these bodies will,, form Australia’s great eight.
– I am quoting from the Sunday Times of the 6th February, 1927. Does the PostmasterGeneral suggest that the report is not accurate ?
– I do not suggest that.
– The Minister laughed sceptically when I mentioned the Sunday 2’imes.
– He laughed because the whole thing is so ridiculous.
– The suggestion that four men should come to Australia to act in an advisory and executive capacity is indeed ridiculous ; it indicates the puerility and futility of the present Government and its policy.
.- The motion before the House declares that the Government deserves censure for its failure adequately to protect Australian industries, to limit migration to the nation’s ability to absorb new arrivals, and to formulate proposals to deal with unemployment. I have listened very carefully to most of the debate, and hope to be able to answer effectively some of the arguments that have been advanced. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) stressed the problem of unemployment, and; advisedly, I think, touched very lightly upon the other matters mentioned in the motion. The Prime Minister quoted’ certain statistics regarding unemployment, and in spite of all that the honorable member for Dalley has said, they are supported by information I have received regarding the actual registrations of unemployed- in New South Wales. ‘ I read in a Sydney newspaper shortly before Christmas great headlines setting out that 20,000 persons were unemployed in the iron and steel and machinery industries. Subsequently we discovered that the only foundation for that statement was that, rightly or wrongly, the men engaged in some of the big iron and steel works were being paid off for the Christmas holidays, but would be re-engaged in the New Year. I also saw a statement by Mr. Garden a few weeks -.ago that there Were thousands of unemployed in Lithgow alone; but when the police, upon the instruction of the State Government, inquired into this allegation, it was found that the number of unemployed in that centre was limited to between 100 and 200. Wild statements regarding the prevalence of unemployment can easily be made for party purposes; but for the credit of our country we should endeavour to avoid exaggeration in this matter, and keep as near as possible to the truth. In regard to the extravagant statements made by the honorable member for Dalley, I have been advised within the last few minutes <by the Department of Labour and “Industry of New South “Wales that the number of unemployed persons registered in that State was at the end of last :month - metropolitan area, 8,000; country, 6,000; total, 13,000. If unemployment exists in the same ratio throughout the Commonwealth, the Prime Minister’s estimate of about 31,000 persons will be found to be fairly accurate.
– That is too many.
– It is; and this Parliament should endeavour to ascertain the causes of even that extent of unemployment. The honorable member for Dalley, however, has evaded some of the causes, and sought to make political capital by exaggerating others. The Department of Labour and Industry in New South Wales informs me that the number of unemployed in that State to-day is approximately the same as it was last month. Of course, I agree that unemployment, however limited, is undesirable. But even if the present state of affairs be abnormal, as honorable members opposite say it is, causes other than those mentioned in the motion have been operating to bring it about. There is a suggestion that migration is continuing at a rate greater than the absorption power of the Commonwealth; but I hope to be able to show that the real development of Australia is proceeding more rapidly than the increase of its population. In fact, at no time in the history of the Commonwealth was the rate of development greater than it has been during the last four” years. Successful migration depends upon development and the creation of new employments, and. to argue that there is no work and no. opportunity for all the good .citizens who have come into Australia during recent years, is. to declare that something is very wi- ong with the” body politic. The Government has a record of earnest and sincere effort towards the development of Australia - a record that is unparalleled in federal politics, and is sure to meet with the appreciation of the vast majority of the people. I am not always impressed by unemployment statistics. . Many loose statements are made, and from any estimate of the number of unemployed, must be deducted a certain number of unemployable, who, I fear, will always be with us, and demonstrators who find their employment in unemployment. I yield to none in my sympathy with the man who is able and willing to work, but is compulsorily unemployed, and that sympathy extends to his wife and dependants. It has been the aim and object of the Government, by its policy and administration, to increase, the volume of work in Australia, but, unfortunately, other influences have been operating to destroy the good effect of. that policy, and to prevent the full benefit of it from, being realized.
No Government has given more earnest and scientific attention to tariff matters than has that to which I have the honour to belong. In 1925, on behalf of the Government, I introduced into this House a major tariff schedule consisting of 113 items. Of this number 53 showed considerable increases in duties for the deliberate purpose of helping industry, particularly the manufacture of machinery and textiles. Concurrently reductions were made in 47 items which were conceded by Parliament to be unnecessary revenue duties that in no way helped Australian industries. When introducing that schedule, I hazarded the opinion that the new duties would create 25,000 new jobs within two years of their coming into full operation, and all my inquiries tend to show that the changes made in the direction of further protecting Australian industries bid fair to realize that estimate. In 1927 the Government created a new record for any one Australian Ministry by introducing a second major tariff schedule. It consisted of about 80 items, and was mainly designed to assist the iron and steel, hosiery, butter, and timber industries. Forty-nine . increases in protection,, were (given, and. .24 .. further reductions were made in revenue duties. There is no question that the help given for the second time in so short a period to Australian industries will create many thousands of new jobs.
Honorable members opposite have referred to the delays and the red-tape of governmental machinery, and I think that in that criticism they included Ministers: In connexion with the 1925 schedule all applications for increased duties had been dealt with by the Tariff Board, the department, myself, and the Government, up to within a month or two of its being tabled in the House. Similarly in 1927, all further applications for tariff assistance and amendments had been dealt with up to a short time preceding the presentation of the schedule to Parliament. The increases granted in the last two tariff schedules raised the duties dealt with considerably higher than they were ‘ before. Honorable members are aware that the trend of all tariff legislation during the last few years has been in the direction of safeguarding important national industries; and those two schedules, by means of fixed duties, afforded a degree of assistance to essential Australian industries far in excess of anything attempted before. It must not be assumed that the Tariff Board, the department, the Minister, and the Government - which are the avenues through which a tariff reaches Parliament - do not do their part to balance in tariff proposals the interests of the whole of the people. Very many tariff applications have to be combed out. The criticisms one hears on the tariff from time to time suggest that some honorable members are misled by outside influences into the belief that some of the unsuccessful applications were more important than they really were. The rejected applications can often be described as either ludicrous, unnecessary, unreasonable, uneconomic, or a “ try-on.” A life-long protectionist, I shall not set the departmental wheels in motion to give frivolous applications the serious and exhaustive consideration that is due to bona fide requests for tariff revision, particularly when those applications refer, as sometimes they do, to backyard or kitchen, industries. On the other hand, the promising small industries have to ‘ be carefully considered and examined, and no claim from such an industry is lightly . refused. It is surprising how many and how constant are bona fide and other, tariff applications and what activity professional tariff agents exhibit.
In addition, to tariff legislation, the Government, with the acquiescence of Parliament, has given encouragement to
Australian development through bounties. In this way the cotton industry has been helped. “We have endeavored for the first time to place it . on a satisfactory basis to provide raw material for textile development. By means of bounties, also, the Government has assisted the production or manufacture of galvanized iron, fencing wire, wire netting, sulphur, wine and power alcohol. In passing I am pleased to state that a very substantial amount of the bounty paid on the export of wine is going to the grape growers. The Government has also taken care, and I believe very successfully, of the great national sugar industry of Queensland.
Treaties to improve our export markets have not been neglected. Largely owing to the efforts of our Prime Minister, Great Britain has given us increased preference upon dried fruits, sugar, and wine, and we have given Great Britain further substantial privileges in our own markets ; but these privileges do not interfere with the development of Australia. The Government has proposed them and the House has approved of the Government’s suggestions, because we should never forget that Great Britain is our best customer. Attention is being paid to trade with Canada, the Irish Free State, and Papua; and next week I leave for New Zealand in order to attempt, on behalf of the Government, to improve our trade relations with our sister dominion in the southern seas.
In administration the Government, through me, has not given a single concession in duty that is likely to interfere with the progress of Australian industry. Every year, thousands of applications for concessional rates under the various tariff items that Parliament has passed, are received, and many have been granted. Over 1,100 have been gazetted during the. last two years, but not one complaint has been received nor has one objection been raised that the Government has, by administration, done anything to interfere with. the established policy of Australia. It may be interesting to refer to this far-reaching power with which the Government and the .Minister for Trade and Customs have been armed by Parliament. Under concessional items 174, 219, 404, and the new item 415a incorporated in the 1925 tariff, concessions in duty have been granted, amounting to from £1,500,000 to £2,000,000 yearly, and all of them have related to tools of trade, machines not yet made in Australia for further developmental work,- and materials and minor articles for use in the manufacture of goods in the Commonwealth. Of course there are complaints - I hear them both inside and outside the House - that we do not always give enough or do not perhaps give every concession, but all applications are properly and thoroughly investigated, and in each case, a decision is reached according to the will of Parliament, as I interpret it, in passing the items concerned. No concession is given that is likely to interfere with the progress and development of Australian industry.
The new terms of British preference, passed by the House are difficult to administer. .The idea of Parliament was to prevent camouflaged foreign goods entering Australia under the generous and liberal terms of British preference granted by the Commonwealth, and the position has been closely, watched. That it is the desire of the Government, .to carry out the will of Parliament is indicated by the fact that investigations in London having got into arrears, .we are now arranging to send another investigating officer as an addition to. the .staff of the Department of Trade, and Customs there.
In addition to’ all these things the Government has done to help in the development of Australia and- prevent unemployment, there are deferred duties on the statute-book’ on 22 items, including tin plates,- pipes -and tubes, sheet glass, vessels, writing paper, sewing machines and hoop iron. As soon as these industries are established here and can produce a fair proportion of Commonwealth requirements of a satisfactory quality, and at a satisfactory price,- these duties can operate by a decision of the Minister for Trade and Customs after inquiry by the Tariff Board. It is- true that the present Government did not place all these deferred duties on the statute-book, but they find their place in the tariff as an invitation to local or foreign capital to help in the development of Australia.
With the acquiescence of the Government I went abroad recently and preached
Mr. Pratten. the gospel that migration of industries should accompany migration of people. Tt is a gospel which, I believe, has the endorsement of the great majority of honorable members. I have not been able to take any census of what is happening - capitalists do not tell me their private business, once they make up their minds to act - but I have collated from the public press certain figures which, of course, must be incomplete, indicating that in Australia during the first three years of the present Government’s term of office 22 new industries were established, and many existing industries were developed and extended. The new ventures include the manufacture of gramophone records, wire ropes, cotton threads, cotton tweeds, power alcohol, towelling, X-ray apparatus, felt, and even electricity meters and storage batteries. The quick development of the manufacture of electricity meters and storage batteries has been alluded to by honorable members opposite, but it is due to the tariff submitted to this House and passed by Parliament during the tenure of office of the present Government.
The information I have gathered from the public press also shows that within the last ‘eighteen months new capital amounting to £7,’000,000 has been raised or is iri process of being raised for ‘new industries; about half of this amount in Australia and half overseas. Included in this amount is £4,500,000 for the textile industry alone. I expect that directly or indirectly as a result of my trip abroad some further millions of capital will come to Australia. In spite of all that has been said with regard to the remissness of the Government in giving sufficient, protection to the iron and steel industry, I hazard the opinion that before many weeks are over it will be publicly announced that there is to be a bix development in this vital industry in the Commonwealth.
The Government has also given attention to many other matters of moment to Australia. I have seen recently that there is a chance of the establishment of an industry to manufacture nitrogenous manure, and have given consideration to the possibility of -bringing about an increased production- of sulphur. 1 hope that the experiments now being made in Tasmania will prove that we can make news print from our own native hardwoods. Last week I was delighted to give an interview to the representatives of big locomotive works , in New South “Wales and learn that they hoped to commence the manufacture of Mountain locomotives, on which three years ago the Government gave a concessional rate to the South Australian Government because this type of engine was not yet manufactured here. I hope that the manufacture of motor cars is not beyond the realm of possibility in Australia. This is the record of a government which has been criticized for its alleged inactivity with regard to local industry. The Government, and those connected with it, have. by the policy which they have respectively initiated and supported, substantially encouraged the sentiment that Australia is a good country to come to and to help develop.
I wish now to allude to primary production. The Government has’ done a great deal to help the primary producers of Australia. Production of all -kinds is the foundation of work, and the absence of it is the foundation’ of unemployment. The Government has already helped the sugar, cotton, grape, rice, maize, tomato, butter, cheese, potato arid asparagus industries, and has maintained the duties imposed by’ a previous’ parliament on dried and canned fruits. Even peanuts and bananas have not ‘ been forgotten. Scores of farming implements are on the free ‘ list, and T believe sincerely that if local industry could ‘ manufacture the implements which are not now being’ made here, it would be all to the benefit of the farmer.
– We are already making in Australia the best farming implements in the world. “ ‘ ;-‘ “f’!’1
– I “agree with, the honorable member, and the sooner we can make here the implements which are at present being imported the better it will be for us. I remind the farming community that wire netting, fencing wire, cream separators, and phosphates and fertilizers are all on the free list, while galvanized iron carries a British duty of only £1 per ton. But no raw material is -admitted free into the Commonwealth under any- -concessional .item which conflicts with the interests ,of. the farmer.
With a record of work” achievement and success such- . as - this, 1 cannot understand the ratiocination which would censure the Government for inattention to tariff and developmental matters. I certainly cannot, understand by what process of reasoning honorable members opposite conclude that the Government should be condemned because of the inadequency of its legislative protection of secondary industries. I believe that we have given; from every angle the best possible consideration to Australian development^ and I do not hesitate to say that the Government intends to continue that policy. Industrial development is proceeding in Australia with the encouragement of this Government at a greater rate. than our population is increasing.
What has been-said against the Government during this debate .There has been a certain amount of criticism of our tariff policy, and as Minister in charge of tariff matters I wish to reply to the statements- made. The Leader of the. Opposition (Mr. Charlton)., the . honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), and the honorable member for Darling. (Mr. Blakeley), particularly, have, drawn attention to last year’s importation, of iron and steel to the value pf £7,00.0,000. Is it quite realized that large importations of iron and steel must continue for some time to come, for we have ..not the. local plant available to manufacture our requirements. Included in .the £7,000,000. worth “ of importations ‘ ‘was about £5,500,000 worth of. material which could not be made here with our present plant and appliances. We had ‘to’ import £2,250,000 of galvanized iron, for, as , honorable’ ‘ members are aware, the capacity’ of the works at ‘ Newcastle is only 30,000 ; tons per annum. ‘ We have to import 90,000 tons ‘-per annum to provide the balance of our requirements.
– That could be made here if the industry were suitably encouraged
– We. had to im nor £1,000,000 worth of plain iron “and steel sheets, .- more ‘ than £1,250,00.0 of tin plates and hoop iron, and about £750,000 of ‘ girders, channels and bars which could not be rolled in Australia with the ‘present plant. I believe that what the Government has done for this industry has been appreciated by the people concerned. I am quite ready to agree that there is plenty of room for expansion in this industry. My argument at the moment is that out of the £7,000,000 worth of importation that has been complained of, at least £5,500,000 could not at present be made here.
I do not think that any Government worthy of the ‘name would allow itself to be stampeded into making tariff decisions by considerations which are more germane to the industrial, financial, and managing spheres than to that of the tariff.
Reference was made by the honorable member for Darling to our importations of petrol pumps. I- -think I am interpreting the honorable member’s remarks fairly when I say’ that he alleged that a very large number of petrol pumps was being imported, and deplored that this should be so. ‘ ‘He gave as the reason for it insufficient tariff protection. I can only assume that the honorable member has been misinformed. The facts are, that for the seven months ended the 31st January last, only 65 pumps, of a value of less than £2,000, were imported. Fifteen Australian companies are manufacturing petrol pumps, and from the partial statistics which I have been able to obtain, I am reasonably certain that in the same seven months, more than £200,000 worth of petrol pumps was manufactured in Australia. .Petrol pumps were included in . the tariff schedule which was submitted to Parliament in 1925, . and I may therefore reasonably claim for this Government a good deal of .the credit for the successful development of the industry in Australia.
The Government intends to continue its endeavour to develop natural and national industries, which can be built up in Australia from the raw material to the finished article. We are still making inquiries to ascertain what can be done to develop the flax, linseed and linen industries. Considerable attention is also being devoted to the expansion of the electrical appliance manufacturing industry. The first thing to doj of course, is to find out what is, and what is not, being made here commercially. We realize that if we build up industries for which we can supply the raw material we shall do something of permanent value for the country, while on the other hand industries which .have to import their raw material can only be partly Australian.
We have made great progress with the development of our textile- and woollen industry, which now requires no less than 200,000 bales of our wool clip. Some trouble which has recently occurred in respect to the importation of textiles has been brought under my notice by several honorable members. Only this morning I received a letter in regard to i.t. I am investigating the matter from the point of view of the Australian Industries Preservation Act and the British preferential provisions of the tariff, for- I think that honorable members will agree with me that the laws enacted by this Parliament should be enforced. A. greatnational enterprise such as the textile industry should not be allowed to be crushed by foreign competition.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), the honorable member .for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) - I am not sure about the ‘honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) - and the Premier of Queensland (Mr. McCormack) have at various times publicly stated that excessive and extravagant governmental borrowing abroad only leads, - in the long run, to increased importation. Bankers and economists have also stressed the view that undue oversea borrowing has a serious effect Upon our economic position, and necessarily adds to our importations. I have said the same thing. The position is that credits as between one nation and another are adjusted by gold, securities, goods, or services. The extravagant borrowing of the Labour Premiers of New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia particularly has had a great deal to do with our recent heavy importations. It is true that the Commonwealth has also borrowed abroad during the, last five years the sum of £28,000,000. That was done deliberately to leave the local market to the States, and to enable them to raise an equivalent sum in Australia. Had the Commonwealth Government not borrowed abroad the States would probably have had to raise an equivalent or perhaps a larger sum abroad, which would have intensified overseas borrowing and an adverse exchange. The Commonwealth loans were largely for material which is not yet made in Australia, and which was required in connexion with naval construction and telephonic and telegraphic development. In the same period the Commonwealth paid off £25,000,000 of its indebtedness here, which became an additional credit available in Australia. Unprecedented borrowing abroad has been undertaken by New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia under Labour rule.
– Yes. The real foes of Australian development and production are those who prate protection but borrow excessively abroad, because that directly results in the importation of more goods. The Government has to consider the interests of the Commonwealth from Cape York to Cape Leeuwin. Even frequent amendments of the tariff could not follow the vagaries of separate State Labour legislation, which harasses industrial development. Mr. Hogan, the Labour Premier of Victoria, truly said, “ What is the use of asserting the inadequacy of the tariff when many people will not even take the trouble togive preference to Australian goods.” Concurrently with protection, there should be a policy of national sentiment - a preference shown to the goods made by our own people - and a full appreciation of the economic position. Australia displayed its greatest patriotism during the war. International commerce somewhat resembles international war, and it is true patriotism to purchase
Australian and British goods in. preference to foreign productions. In Australia we need to realize fully that for every £1 spent on Australian goods we have both the £1 and the goods, but if the £1 is sent abroad we get only the goods and the overseas trader receives the money. In commenting upon this very interesting subject my only desire is to assist development, which must result in a diminution of unemployment. Timepayment, too, has some effect upon trade. Personally, I believe,that under the time-payment system our credit is being pledged too rapidly. Individuals as well as governments are responsible, and the pledging of public and private credit is being done to too great an extent. When in the United States of America recently I heard that timepayment has expanded in such a way that a large portion of the population has pledged its surplus credit for some years to come. There is a marked tendency on the part of our people to live beyond their means, which is one reason why there are excessive imports of motor cars, pianos, gramophones, wireless equipments, and foreign textiles. “ Temptation Row “ is well named if the credit can be obtained to make purchases, but I am glad to say that our imports are commencing to diminish, and our exports to increase. Customs revenue is contracting, and public and private extravagance will by force majeure be reduced. This will give the Government’s protective policy an opportunity to prove itself. Reference has been made during this debate to Australia’s economic position and our overseas trade balance. Kindly references have been made to two speeches I delivered nearly four years ago. Of course, many things have to be taken into consideration.
– The honorable member is now a member of the Cabinet.
– Honorable members will find that I am not going back on the principles I then enunciated. Many factors have to be taken into consideration to. determine accurately a trade balance - visible and invisible points have to be studied.. In making an effort to get somewhere nearer to the position than we have so far reached, the first factor to study is the excess of importsover exports, or of exports over imports. In considering- the debits we must take into account tourist expenditure abroad, migrant remittances, the interest on Federal, State and municipal loans abroad, as well as the profits and royalties earned in Australia and payable abroad. Insurances, ocean freights and other charges paid by the people of the Commonwealth to overseas interests, the gold imported and exported, and deposits and changes in overseas bank balances must also be considered. To Australia must be credited the foreign capital coming here, tourists’ expenditure in Australia, returns on investments and remittances from abroad, money spent in Australia! by overseas interests, favorable foreign ‘balances, as well as that portion of our ‘imports for developmental purposes which can be assessed as capital, particularly in’ the1 matter of machinery and other appliances, which permanently, add to our productive power. Consideration of a debit and credit table of this nature would help to give a. glimmer of what our real economic position is in regard to overseas’ trade, investments and borrowing.’- ‘Wages, continuity of .’work, and. conditions of living are dependent, upon prosperity,, the basis of Which ‘is production. ‘-In two speeches delivered this afternoon; I heard of what America is doing by developing her production and shipping her surplus abroad. In one speech it was suggested that we- should limit production to such an extent that we ha’d “no surplus available for shipment overseas. Such a statement indicates that there are some who think that we should produce only for our own requirements; that we should have a good time and “ then the deluge,” and that sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Such persons believe that wages should be higher and production reduced. Mr. Hogan, the Premier of Victoria, said the solution of our unemployment problem was closely associated with the development of our secondary industries, and with the individual. We find in the newspapers, and even in Hansard, that there are columns of print concerning the distribution of wealth,, but only brief sentences concerning its production. Labours inhumanity to labour is worth consider-‘ ing, as also is the reason why such a large quantity of foreign imports are Mr. Pratten. coming here from countries in which high wages are paid. The Industrial Peace Conference convened by the Prime Minister is a real effort to get at the root of the economic troubles which beset the Commonwealth. The Government does not wish any man to be unemployed, but several illustrations show that wiser action on the part of some men would have resulted in less unemployment in New South. Wales than there is at present. I do not think anything will retard Australia progressing if we build and work together, and in our dealings with one another display a spirit of sweet reasonableness. Australia is a continent with wonderful opportunities. I believe that, if we guide it aright, it will be the greatest country in the’ world, containing very many millions of happy, contented and prosperous citizens, the New Britain under the Southern Cross.
.- It is useless for the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) to deny the seriousness of the unemployed problem in Australia. The statistics which have .been quoted by honorable members on this side cannot.be. refuted.., The, ‘Minister s.et out to defend the fiscal policy of his Government. I challenge him to deny that there is. urgent need for the introduction of a new .tariff schedule to give more effective protection .to Australian industries, particularly those not already dealt with. During the last few weeks I have brought under his notice requests from many industries which are clamouring for protection. Unless they” receive this assistance some are confronted with bankruptcy. The most serious indictment of the Ministry upon its tariff schedule comes not from members on this side of the House, but from the manufacturers’ organizations throughout Australia. Something has been said about public and private, extravagance as being contributing factors ‘:to the present industrial’ depression. No government during the last five years has been more extravagant than the present Ministry ; and no’ government has had so many millions of surplus revenue for expenditure- on the development of Australia on sound lines. The Ministry- has been in the enjoyment of an overflowing’ customs revenue, resulting from an- ineffective tariff which, as we have seen, has not protected Australian industries. It is idle for the Minister to ignore the realities of the situation. In his speech he made reference to the adverse trade balance of Australia, and endeavoured to explain away some of the arguments which he employed in this House on this subject a few years before he joined the Ministry. He dealt mainly in generalizations and vague platitudes. He spoke of what the future had in store for the people of Australia as a result of the establishment in this country of new industries which he claimed would be the fruits of the Government’s tariff policy. His references to these potential industries were reminiscent of the story of Brewster’s Millions. I have evidence that innumerable industries are suffering from the inaction of this Government in refusing to comply with their demands for effective protection against foreign importations.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) in the course of his speech last week also indulged in a series of generalizations, ignoring as did his ministerial colleague who has just resumed his seat, the concrete realities, and the seriousness of the industrial situation. With his customary arrogance the right honorable gentleman asked honorable members on this side of the House to suggest some solution of the problem of unemployment, although in his observations under this head he gave honorable members the impression that, in his opinion, there was no problem requiring solution. Like the Minister for Trade and Customs, he made light of the existing industrial depression. The only illuminating remark in the speech of the right honorable gentleman, the only hope held out by the Prime Minister to the hungry unemployed and starving women and children in Australia, was to be found in his observation that “ the country had recently been blessedwith wonderful rains and that there wasevery indication that the existing depression would soon come to an end.” That was the only solution for our present difficulties proffered by the Prime Minister who, with characteristic subtlety quoted only those statistics in regard to unemployment which favoured his own case. The position has been elaborated by my colleagues, who have produced unanswerable proof establishing the seriousness of the unemployment problem in Australia. It is obvious to everyone who examines the situation in the light of the statistics for the last 28 years, that acute distress prevails throughout Australia. Indeed, it is not too much to say that, from the stand-point of unemployment, the position has rarely been worse at this period of the year than it is to-day. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) suggested, as a conservative estimate, that at the end of last year there were 100,000 unemployed persons in the Commonwealth. I say in all seriousness, and after a careful study of the position, that the number of unemployed at the end of last year was in the neighborhood of 140,000. The position has not been so critical since the census of 1921, when the unemployed workers numbered 11.2 per cent. of the population, and when the actual number of workers unemployed according to the census was 159,000. As the percentage has dropped from 11.2 to 8.9, a mathematical calculation will indicate that there are about . 139,000 persons unemployed in Australia to-day.
– The percentage of unemployed workers at the end of last year represented the average - not the present number of unemployed.
– Exactly. The position has become appreciably worse since the end of last year. I prophesy that, if the present industrial depression continues the. unemployment figures for the March quarter of this year will be higher than for any period during the last 28 years. I base this statement upon the result of inquiries which I made from officials of various unions. The statistics quoted by the Minister for Trade and Customs with regard to labour bureaux registrations are absolutely illusory, since thousands of workers refrain from registering at labour bureaux, particularly in Sydney, because of the hopeless prospect of securing employment through that channel.
The Prime Minister was also specious and misleading when he attempted to show that the percentage of customs duties collected on the value of merchandise was higher in Australia than in the
United States of America. The basis of comparison which he adopted was quite illogical, and. in any case it would not convince struggling manufacturers, who are complaining of the ineffectiveness of the tariff protection accorded to them. The right honorable gentleman set out to show that in 1925 the percentage of duty in the United States of America was 13 per cent., compared with 17 per cent. paid in New Zealand in 1926, 16 per cent. paid in Canada, and 19 per cent. paid in Australia. He said it was absurd for Labour members perpetually to regard the United States of America as a model for Australia to copy, in as much as Australia’s tariff collection was 5 per cent. greater than that of the United States of America. The only way to compare the tariffs fairly is to contrast the incidence of duties. The Government has not attempted to do this. Our customs revenue is convincing evidence that our tariff is ineffective in that it is not keeping out foreign importations, whereas America, which the Prime Minister quoted with so much approval, excludes all commodities of a competitive character by the imposition of prohibitive duties which are relaxed only in respect of non-competitive articles and raw products. In Australia the position is entirely different. Under our tariff, commodities of a competitive character continue to enter our markets to the detriment of Australian industries, with the result that our unemployment problem has now become very acute. In spite of the assurance given by the Minister for Trade and Customs, there has been no appreciable diminution in the volume of imports within the last few months in spite of his recent tariff schedules. The buoyant customs revenue indicates that foreign goods are still flowing in, with the result that the situation, from the fiscal standpoint, is almost as serious to-day as it was twelve months ago. The Prime Minister also contrasted the position in New Zealand with that of Australia. He pointed out that New Zealand paid 17 per cent. on imports as against 19 per cent. in Australia. We should not forget, however, that New Zealand is essentially a primary producing country, so the comparison was not a fair one. It is indisputable that our customs duties do not adequately protect Australian industries against foreign competition.
The Prime Minister also had something to say about the efficiency of Australian manufacturers. His speech might properly be described as the utterance of a freetrade advocate. He expressed horror of our advocacy of a tariff policy to prohibit imports that compete with Australian industries, and he endeavoured to lay the flattering unction to his soul that the fiscal policy of his Government has been satisfactory in every respect. He spoke of a scientific tariff. If by that he means the ability of the Minister for Trade and Customs to bring about a compromise between the fiscal divergencies of government supporters, then the tariff may be regarded as a scientific instrument. I challenge the Minister, however, to prove that it has given effective protection to Australian industries. We do not suggest that the Government has not afforded a certain measure of protection to a number of industrial concerns, though we do say that any such protection has been given only as the result of pressure from honorable members on this side of the House and from public opinion outside. The Government was obliged to look to honorable members on this side to pass the last tariff schedule, because a considerable section of Ministerial supporters was in open rebellion against its tariff proposals. If, therefore, Australian industries benefited from this tariff, credit should be given not so much to the Government as to the honorable members on this side of the House. For the edification of the Minister and my constituents I should like to quote the following statement which appeared in the Australasian Manufacturer on the 25th inst. This journal, I may add, is the official organ of the Chamber of Manufacturers : -
Speaking at the annual dinner of the Goulburn Chamber of Commercelast week, Mr. Prell, the chairman of directors of theGoulburn Woollen Mills Company, made some startling; revelations, that call for prompt and drastic action by the Customs’ Department. Despite the alleged high duties, the Germans are dumping woollen cloth into Australia at a tremendous rate, one foreign firm alone landing in two months no less than 1,200,000 yards of woollen cloth, whilst another had imported 2,000 pieces.
We have been told repeatedly that protection is the “ settled policy “ of Australia,, but the advent of 1,200,000 yards of German cloth in two months is conclusive evidence that the “ settled policy “ of Australia is not being enforced.
Compared with that of other countries where adequate protection is the settled policy of the nation, our tariff is a mere- bagatelle, a makeshift, and a fraud. We guarantee adequate protection, and induce people to. invest hundreds of thousands of pounds sterling in land, buildings, plant, and machinery, to inaugurate new industries, and then it is invariably found that there is some flaw in the wording of our Customs Act, or some duty is not what it was supposed to be, and that the department is powerless to prevent the influx of enormous quantities of foreign, even German-made goods.
In the light of the revelations made by Mr. Prell, which are backed up by statistics, our duties on woollen cloth are simply useless, and do not deter importations. Despite the efforts of the administrators of the tariff imports of woollen cloth are increasing, having jumped from £1,048,697 for the six months ended December, 1926, to £1,168,71(1 for the same period in 1027. During that second period the tariff was supposed to have been invulnerable, but - as usual, there is a loophole, and that loop-hole is the undoing of our Australian industry.
What is wrong with our customs tariff?
Is protection the settled policy of our nation ?
If it is, why does not the Government enforce it?
All it is doing at the present time is to fire a blunderbus, and miss every time.
The time has come for the manufacturers of Australia .to have their own party in the Commonwealth Parliament. Until they have, the “ loop-holes “ will always be available.
So much, for the statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs that he has the support of the manufacturers of Australia. What I have read is typical of scores of complaints regarding the delays in hearings by the Tariff Board, and delays in giving effect to its recommendations. The decentralization of the manufacture of woollen cloth would be of great value to the primary producers, and the fact that a country organization lias made the revelations to which the ‘ quotation referred should arouse the resentment of even the honorable member for Riverina. I may again repeat- that one great difficulty in the way of giving effect to our fiscal policy is the inability of the Minister to reconcile the conflicting elements that support him. Since Christmas I have introduced to the Minister a number of deputations. I have even received a deputation myself from certain manufacturers, who waited upon me on the 31st January last, representing the Pioneer Spring Company Limited, Charles Hope Limited, J. A. White Limited, James Scott, and Henderson’s Federal Spring. Works, and soliciting my support and advocacy of a specific duty on motor springs, which, at the present time, come in as part of the motor chassis. This indicates the distrust felt outside owing to the failure of the present Government to meet fiscal contingencies as they arise. As the honorable member for Dalley suggested, the tariff should be made more flexible. Manufacturers should be enabled to combat the unfair tactics of their competitors and not have to wait indefinitely. No hesitancy should be shown in bringing down amendments of the tariff as they are required. No political consideration should prevent a government from dealing with tariff problems without delay. This Parliament contains an overwhelming majority of effective protectionists. High protection is the settled policy of the Australian people, and manufacturers should not have to depend on the caprice of party politicians and the failure of Ministers to grapple promptly with fiscal problems.
Every part of a motor car which forms portion of the chassis should, if it can be made in Australia, carry a heavy specific duty. The Minister spoke , with alarm of the increasing quantity of the. luxuries imported; but from a defence point of view the production in this country of petrol-burning engines is of vital importance to Australia. A request was made some time ago for bounties upon the manufacture of engines, and, so far as I am aware, there was no appreciable result. The tariff schedule relating to motor chassis themselves should not be increased until we are in a position to manufacture them in Australia-; but everything should be done to encourage their manufacture. Consequently the schedule should be scientifically graduated to prescribe a lower duty on chassis that are assembled here with Australian-made parts when procurable than on chassis assembled with other than Australianmade parts. The duty should be almost prohibitive on chassis imported ready for the road. Both British and American companies trading in this country can be indicted for refusing to use Australian parts when they are procurable. Some are doing so on a minor scale, and the only way to ensure full use of locallymade parts is to -have a graduated schedule. The Prime Minister remarked that “ some industries are essential to Australia from the point of view of defence,” and I ask the Government whether it does not consider that the manufacture of motor engines falls within that category?
Another industry capable of absorbing thousands of operatives clamours for assistance, and hundreds of workers in it have recently been dismissed owing to lack of orders: I refer to hat manufacture. A prominent manufacturer introduced by me told the Minister that he could not stand against the flood of imports of hats from Czecho-Slovakia and other European countries. It is all very well for the Minister to talk about sentiment. Undoubtedly, a prejudice exists on the part of many retailers against Australianmade goods. These traders push foreignmade goods to the detriment of the Australian article, and the only way to meet such a situation is to place a prohibitive duty on importations from foreign countries. I inspected a hat factory recently and found half the machines lying idle. The plant was worth £70,000 or £80,000. Employees, both men and girls, had been dismissed owing to lack of orders. I am given to understand that certain manufacturers will, be forced into liquidation unless something drastic is done by the Government to check the foreign imports. It is not merely a matter of imposing very high duties. The trouble is that certain retailers encourage the sale of hats of foreign manufacture, for which they can, obtain. ..a high price and make a large profit, although the quality of the goods is often inferior to that of the Australian-made article. No duty can cope with traitorous conduct of that kind. The only remedy is to prohibit foreign importation, on the lines adopted by the United States of America.
– In that country manufactures are now firmly established, and the population numbers well over 100,000,000. But in the initial stages of the development of its secondary industries, when its conditions were comparable with those now obtaining in Australia, propaganda and sentiment were not permitted to intrude to the detriment of industries that were being developed and duties were relied on. The value of our importations of fur felt hats increased from £73,000 in 1919 to £385,000 in 1927. So much for the Government’s protection of Australian industries. Take wool felt hats, which are chiefly used for ladies’ millinery, and are imported particularly from what were recently enemy countries, and are the product of sweated labour. Their value increased from £5,274 in 1921, to £163,635 in 1927. These figures were supplied to the Tariff Board, and I presume they are correct. Is this industry to be allowed to die through Government inaction? What is the Minister going to do about it ? I regret that he did not postpone his remarks upon the’ tariff until a later stage of the debate, so that he could reply to these cases I am citing. The manufacturers are prepared to guarantee that there will be no increase in the prices if adequate protection is afforded. But there are many persons in Australia who insist on buying Stetson, Borsalino, and Woodrow hats, and will continue to do so unless their importation is virtually prohibited. .
The fact that 65 petrol pumps came into this country during the last, twelve months is nothing for the Minister to crow about. The manufacture of these pumps is being efficiently carried out in Australia by sixteen factories, arid th’ere is no reason why importation ‘should be allowed! The oil corporations- arc already taking millions of pounds’ out of ‘Australia, and the Minister should look ahead. Another company, the Atlantic Union Oil Corporation, is commencing operations here, and it will be requiring hundreds of pumps. I reply to the Minister by quoting a letter from an Australian manufacturer of petrol pumps, hundreds of which have been made by him within the last year or two. My cor- respondent sets out the situation as it is to-day, and not as it was in January last. He states -
I have just been informed that a big consignment of American petrol pumps has been landed in Australia which means that you will have a further batch of unemployed to worry you. How about trying to keep the work here? It’s a most damnable thing that any old foreigner can dump his goods here, and the “ Aussies “ can walk round hungry and inspect the goods made by cheap foreign labour.
I have also had the ball-bearing industry under consideration. A company has been formed in this country capable of meeting the requirements of Australia, which amount in value to £180,000. This industry has lodged an application for assistance. I have received the following letter from the company interested -
Ball bearings to-day are duty free British, and 10 per cent. foreign. We think they should be removed from the general tariff, and a duty of at least60 per cent. put on. Since 1915 we have been manufacturing these articles, and in 1916 and 1917 we had a turn-over of £20,000 worth of ball and roller bearings, while to-day our output is very low owing to the lowpriced ball and roller bearings coming in mostly from foreign countries.
The Minister referred to the manufacture of cotton thread. Only a week ago I went with the honorable member for Dalley through a factory in Sydney in which capital to the extent of nearly a quarter of a million sterling had been invested. We saw hundreds of machines lying idle because of the company’s inability to compete against the English profiteering monopoly known as J. and P. Coats. Cotton and silk threads are flooding this country; but a company financed with Australian capital, and giving employment to recent immigrants because of their special knowledge of cotton manufacture, is on the verge of serious difficulties because of the Government’s inaction.
– The competition amounts to dumping.
– That is so. If the Minister is prepared to face the facts, he will realize that the most urgent problem of Australia at the moment is its languishing industries, and the serious amount of unemployment which is the inevitable result.
Now I come to the Government’s most unpatriotic policy of placing orders abroad for its own requirements. I shall not refer to the subject of cruisers, because the Ministry’s action in that regard stands for all time an indictment against it. I recently received an urgent telegram protesting against the action of the Commonwealth Bank Board in placing an order for a lift with an overseas firm. Not only manufacturers, but also workmen have complained about this matter. In providing a lift for the new Commonwealth Bank building in Brisbane, the board ordered an American lift. What a noble, patriotic policy! Such an act was absolutely monstrous, and it calls for Government interference. I believe that this type of lift was chosen because of its automatic controls. The Government may seek to shelter behind the fact that a statutory independence has been given to the Commonwealth Bank Board; but that is not sufficient. Action should be taken by the Government to justify its advocacy of Australian industries. I understand that Standard Waygood Limited, a British firm, submitted the lowest tender; but I amnot in a position to say definitely that that was so. As the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) interjects, if was a scandalous affair. I received the following telegram from Standard Waygood Limited: -
The Governor of Commonwealth Bank states in writing to Secretary, Chamber of Manufacturers, Sydney, that he has adopted a particular make of American lift, on account of its automatic control. Can you ascertain why this particular type was specified when Australian types have been found satisfactory for Commercial Bank and Bank of New South Wales both in Sydney and. Brisbane; also why they would not adopt the offer of an Australian manufacturer to import American apparatus of the particular type specified and copy same: also what were the relative prices.
I understand that the Minister for Works and Railways. (Mr.Hill) and the Government as a body, have had this matter before them. I interviewed the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) upon it, but was unable to secure the intervention of the Government. I believe that the directorate of the bank has taken refuge behind the fallacious argument that a big percentage of the cost of installing this lift will remain in Australia. The answer to that is furnished by another telegram that I have received from Standard Waygood Limited, which reads -
Referring Brisbane Commonwealth Banks lifts we suggest that the essence of the position from stand-point of Australian industry is not what proportion of contract goes in customs duty or cost of erection or selling expenses, or- profit but whether lift machines and their motors and the electric controlling mechanism and the motor generators and the safety gear are to be wholly made in Australia or imported.
That is the issue. It is proposed to import this material from America. I ask the Minister for Works and Railways to explain why he has not taken steps to .alter a policy which is clearly injurious to Aus-, tralia and discreditable to the Government. The establishment of the Standard Waygood Engineering Shop is a matter of considerable importance. I quote again the words of the Prime Minister -
There are . . . certain essential industries which must be established and maintained . . . industries necessary for our own defence, industries which every selfrespecting nation requires.
I remind the Prime Minister that tinmaintenance of this industry is in effect essential to the defence of Australia. It is a well-equipped plant capable of producing a wide range of things, not only for civil purposes, but in the event of war. Yet toleration is displayed towards the unpatriotic policy, which has repeatedly been condemned in this House ‘ by the Minister for Trade and Customs, of a government instrumentality purchasing its requirements from America.
We cannot escape the conclusion that the Tariff Board has been responsible for postponing the day of reckoning. We do not know how many of its recommendations are at present before the Minister. I have reason to believe that he has had submitted to him by the board a number “ of matters of urgent importance to Australia. In J’ any case, dozens of industries are obliged to wait months to obtain a hearing before the board. “ I have no desire to launch an attack upon that body. It has endeavoured to do its best in the face of extreme difficulty. But I disagree with the principle of having one board to deal with the whole gamut of industry in Australia. Delay is fatal to the economic future of Australian industry. There should be a more expeditious method than that which now exists of giving effect to the protective policy of Australia. Some manufacturers claim that the number of boards ought to be increased, and that experts who have the knowledge necessary to assess the efficiency of their plants should be engaged. I am sick and tired of the vague accusations that are made against our manufacturing operations. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) himself has implied that our manufacturers are not as efficient as they might be.
– It was a direct statement, not an implication.
– These tactics ought to be exposed to the manufacturers who v in the past have supported the Government. I intend to circulate, free of charge, to a number of people who up to the present have imagined that this Government is out to help Australian industries, the speeches upon this subject that have been delivered by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade and Customs. The latter gentleman dealt in his speech with luxury importations, and, inter alia referred to wireless importations, and made a few philosophical observations upon the cash-order system. But what has he done to check the importation of luxuries? I have received from a leading radio manufacturer in Sydney a letter which proves that the honorable gentleman failed to recognize what should be done to restrict the flood of these imports. I agree that we should endeavour to check the importation of luxuries, the value of which in the last financial year was approximately £28,000,000. The duties on wireless sets are totally inadequate. The letter to which I have referred reads -
The other matter which might with advantage he advanced during debate is the grossly inadequate protection afforded by the existing tariff to the Australian radio receiver manufacturing industry. A little over . twelve months ago this ‘ was a nourishing -industry, but when Farmers- reduced their wave-length, this . allowed cheap, and often inefficient, American sets to flood the market, thus proving that the protection of the Australian industry in its early stages’ was the double wavelength, for which the American sets were imsuited, and not the tariff, which was, and still is, utterly inadequate.
The situation to-day is that several important radio receiver manufacturers, such as Mingay’s Wireless and the G. & R.
Electrical have been forced to shut down owing to the cut-throat competition of American receivers. When it is calculated that the average Australian five-valve set, which sells at £24 14s., has to meet competition from American sets such as the “ Robins,” at £5 17s.6d. retail, the “Chapin” at £8 retail, it will be seen that the radio trade in this country is virtually threatened with extinction. It is true that the American sets are not so well suited to the Australian market, nor are they in general so efficient as the Australian sets; but the disparity in price is so great that the public is tempted to buy cheap American sets.
– A rubbishy set has been installed in the smoking lounge in this building.
– That is an illustration of the attitude which is adopted by the Government towards this matter. When they purchased a wireless set they went, not to Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, in which they have a controlling interest, but to a firm with head-quarters in the United States of America. The letter continues -
The situation in the radio receiver manufacturing industry to-day is that a claim for a tariff of £2 10s. per valve socket has been lodged with Mr. Pratten. Radio traders have indicated through the press and otherwise that their industry is completely threatened with extinction unless prompt action is taken. Such action would need to be taken by April, in order to be effective for this season’s trade, which is just now on the point of beginning. Unless such action is taken, the traders themselves have expressed the opinion that the bulk of them will be forced to shut down their factories and discharge their workmen. What the radio industry desires to know, at the latest by April, is whether they are to prepare plans for a considerable increase in business, or whether they are to shut down the hulk of their factories. It has been estimated that, with the protection desired, approximately 50,000 sets can be manufactured and sold in Australia, which would mean a total production of approximately £500,000 per annum, at least 80 per cent. of which would go to labour, i.e., £400,000. This would mean full timeemploymentfor 2,000 menor, approximately sustenance for10,000men, women and children.
The existing tariff is 55per cent., which is utterly inadequate, the new flat rate tariff demanded being £2 10s, per valve socket. Since radio is essential and vital for national defence and public safety, apart from its significance in trade and commerce and social life, then the radio receiver industry should at least have as much protection as that afforded to the motor-car body industry, which, you are aware, is protected to the complete exclusion of foreign motor bodies.
That is my answer to the philosophical dissertation of the Minister upon the flood of imports.
– The honorable member has arrayed facts against the Minister’s flights of fancy.
– I thank the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) for so aptly describing the position. In our criticism we have endeavoured to show that the tariff schedule is a thing of shreds and patches. The argument which the Minister used in regard to galvanized iron does not call for any answer. He sought to explain away the fact that £7,000,000 worth of iron and steel had been imported. He then told us that a very big proportion comes in as galvanized iron, a commodity of which is manufactured in Australia, and could be turned out in sufficient quantities to meet our requirements if a more sympathetic Government were charged with the duty of bringing down a tariff that was adequately protective. I congratulate the Minister if it is his intention to give protection to the manufacture in Australia of the Mountain type of locomotive, because possibly a million pounds’ worth of work will be ordered in this country within the next few months, and at least one factory in my electorate, which employs hundreds, if not thousands of hands, will be able to provide additional employment.
The Prime Minister attempted to show that our adverse trade balance was not so serious as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) had alleged. He failed miserably in the attempt. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) disclosed the fact that, compared with Australia’sposition, the adverse trade balances of the United States of America were infinitesimal. I charge the Prime Minister with having quoted misleading figures with respect to the United States of America. I should like him to tell me where he obtained them. I have in my hand the Memorandum of Balances of Payments and Foreign Trade Balances, compiled for the League of Nations, which shows that the figures quoted by the
Prime Minister are absolutely wrong. The right honorable gentleman said -
One would imagine, from the great wealth of the United States of America and the prosperity which they are said to be enjoying, that that country would have a tremendously favorable trade balance. It has not. Tt has an adverse trade balance. The American adverse trade balances for the years 1921 to 1920 respectively, were as follows: -
The figures compiled for the League of Nations, which are complete in every particular, and take account of both visible and invisible movements of imports and exports, show the position to be as follows : -
I have not the figures for 1926, but the economic balance covers debits and credits in regard to practically every factor referred to by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade and Customs in their remarks upon visible and invisible trade balances. … … -,.
Sitting suspended from 6.15to 8 p.m.
– Before the dinner adjournment I was challenging the accuracy of certain figures quoted’ by the Prime Minister, which related to the trade balances of the United States’ of America. The right honorable” gentleman stated that since 1921, for every year until 1926, the United States of America had sustained adverse trade balances. I give that an emphatic denial, and I base my denial on the Memorandum on Balance of Payments and Foreign Trade Balances 1911-25, a publication which was compiled by the League of Nations, and which, I assume, is perfectly’ authoritative. I should like to know the source of the Prime Minister’s figures. If asked whom I believe, the League of Nations or the Prime Minister, I must confess, with all due respect to the right honorable gentleman, that I prefer to believe the League of Nations, and I think every one else will do likewise.
The inaccuracies which have been expressed during this debate are typical of those which we generally hear from honorable members opposite, but they become more voluminous just prior to and during elections. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) made the very pertinent remark that “Figures cannot lie, but sometimes liars can figure.” I refute the statements of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade and Customs as to the economic movements of trade imports and exports, and I am glad to have the opportunity to challenge their remarks. The Minister for Trade and Customs was obviously in a quandary when attempting to reconcile his present attitude in supporting the policy of the Government, particularly in regard to its tariff, with certain^ important and statesmanlike speeches which he made some years ago. “We have heard a great deal of visible and invisible imports and exports. I should like to know why this Government does not draw up an economic balance-sheet. It. is a fair request that it should do so.. Other important nations have already done so. I suggest that it should be a statement that the Government itself, as well as others, can understand. It would be interesting to know the- actual ‘economic position of Australia. The statement appearing in the report of the League of Nations, which covers the trade position of .every nation of the; world, does little credit to Australia owing to the lack of information supplied by this Commonwealth, which makes our report comparable with those submitted by backward nations such as Abyssinia and ‘ Siam.’” I suggest, with all seriousness, that an attempt should be made to draw up an economic balance-sheet showing precisely the position of this country. I venture to suggest that the position would be much worse if the invisible imports and exports were fully stated. Great Britain, the United States -of America, Prance, and other nations have given very comprehensive statements covering every detail of the subject.
Having dealt with the tariff policy of this Government, I desire to turn my attention to the problem of unemployment, which is partially the result of the inaction of this Government - its failure to .meet the needs of certain industries, but is also the direct outcome of the general policy of this Government. The panic-stricken and illconceived campaign of economy which was embarked upon by the present Treasurer a few months ago, and to which honorable members on this side intend to make further reference, has deliberately aggravated the already serious problem of unemployment in Australia. That problem not only affects the heart-broken toiler looking for a job, and his starving wife and children, but has depressed trade in every capital city and in other parts of Australia. It has caused shopkeepers to suffer, and complaint is universal as to the existing depression. It is all very well for a wellfed Prime Minister, suffering from egregious vanity, and his Government to belittle the seriousness of the unemployment problem; but if they do not wake up and take practical action very soon they and their party will receive a very rude shock when the next elections take place. There is a growing reaction against this Government, due principally, as stated by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore)’ to its lack of executive initiative. It has cultivated the habit of shelving important problems by referring them to commissions, and its actions generally are indicative of political instability. Daily it is destroying any public confidence that might previously have been reposed in it.
The problem of unemployed is a much more urgent social problem than is the peopling of empty spaces. It is no doubt desirable to populate Australia, but the immediate problem is that of providing employment. The present attitude of this Government towards migration is ill-judged, and its activities in this direction could well be temporarily- suspended. It is palpably absurd to suggest that such a course of action would provoke, resentment in other nations. If Australia endeavoured to restrict immigration when economically able to absorb more people there might be justification for international criticism; but if this Government made a well-considered statement indicating that our economic position prevented the absorption of further citizens, and we restricted their entry into Australia,’ other nations would respect the operation of our policy. We have the statement of the Commonwealth Statistician, made a year or two ago, that there is a limit to our ability to absorb migrants, even granted the most favorable circumstances. Whilst the present migration policy of this Government is an improvement upon that which existed a few years ago, it is still formulated upon an unscientific basis. Artisans and labourers are brought here indiscriminately, and no attempt is made to graduate the flow of migrants according to the requirements of our industries. Our policy should be to encourage farmers- with a little capital - farmers preferably of the Nordic strain, as we could more easily absorb them; but in no circumstances should we bring people here only to be disillusioned by the existing economic position.
The Prime Minister wilfully misrepresented the attitude of the Labour party towards migration by saying that at no time and in no circumstances did this party approve of migration. That is an absolute libel on the attitude of this party. I contend that the broad principles of the Labour party towards migration are those advocated generally by the people of Australia, and I take the opportunity of outlining that policy, and of challenging honorable members opposite to criticize it. lt is -
Immigration to be regulated and linked with land settlement, and the expansion of secondary industries. (Note. - An influx of immigrants in circumstances that would imperil Australian industrial conditions, by over-competition for the work available would not be approved.. The Labour party’s policy is designed to create further employment for the people already here, and opportunities for newcomers, by the breaking up of large estates and the expansion of primary and secondary industries. To protect Australian workers,, immigration schemes must be carefully controlled, and unemployment insurance provided.) ‘
The soundness of that policy is unchallengeable, and I am convinced that the public opinion of Australia is behind it. Our policy in regard to migration is based on common sense. We desire to check land monopoly, to stabilize land prices, cheapen distribution, encourage co-operative effort amongst primary producers and others, and to form pools. All of those objects- are based upon sound economic principles, and are0 iii. conformity with . the protectionist policy advocated by the Labour party. ‘
It is futile for honorable members opposite to call this party a sectional one, and to criticize its attitude in insisting on protection to secondary, industries. Our attitude is also favorable to the fullest measure of protection for the primary industries, and we are perfectly consistent. ‘ “We do not adapt our policy to the exigencies of the political situation, as do honorable members opposite. I make no apology for the protectionist policy of this party, and I shall promulgate it for the edification of my constituents. “We stand for the new protection, which embodies the effective protection of Australian industries, prevention of profiteering, and the protection of workers in such industries. We also believe in import embargoes for the effective protection of Australian industries, subject to the control of prices and industrial conditions in the industries benefited. I make no apology for saying emphatically that I favour the prohibition of many imports which now come into Australia, particularly those nonessentials which are already being manufactured here. Foodstuffs and luxuries already manufactured here should not be allowed into Australia except under almost prohibitive conditions.
This party has been twitted during this debate with having condemned the Government a few months ago for its extravagance. We certainly condemned its extravagant waste of public money on royal commissions, jaunts abroad, with undue frequency, by Cabinet Ministers, and the wasteful expenditure on residences for the Governor-General and the Prime Minister, as well as in other directions in this capital city - expenditure that Senator Elliott stated in another place savoured of corruption. That .criticism has not yet been investigated. This Government treats such accusations lightly, having become callous by reason of its long occupancy of the Treasury bench.
– ‘Was that statement made publicly?
- Senator Elliott stated in another place that the expenditure of £70,000 on the residence of the Governor-General savoured of corruption, and so far nothing has been done to investigate the charge. As an excellent, illustration of the extravagance of this Government, I mention that it was stated in the press, and the statement remained uncorrected, that £8 was spent on building a dog kennel for the Prime Minister - or rather, I should say, for the Prime Minister’s dog.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the motion before the Chair.
– The Prime Minister .has suggested that the course of his policy has been influenced by our criticism. Had that money, so wilfully squandered, been expended on productive public works, there would at present be less unemployment in Australia. Such extravagance as I have outlined, coupled with the indifference manifested by the Government to. the demand of this party that it should endeavour to relieve unemployment, does more to create Bolshevism in Australia than anything else. That is particularly, the case when side by side with such extravagance we have the failure of the Government to house its workmen decently. The provision of suitable accommodation for our workmen here would give additional employment. Instead, those workmen are housed in tin shanties, which are a disgrace to any civilized community.
– What did it cost to furnish the Prime Minister’s official residence?
– Were tenders publicly called?
– No. That were another instance of extravagance. A lady, the wife of a public servant here,.,, was. given the job .of furnishing the “residences of the GovernorGeneral and the Prime Minister. No tenders were invited, and - she was given a free hand to spend £15,000 on. the Governor-General’s residence, and £8,000 on the Prime Minister’s. Afterwards she received the sum of £1,54C for the work of designing the furniture for these houses. These things should be investigated. 3i These are forms of wasteful expenditure that we condemn.
We do not advocate the restriction of expenditure on productive public works. If there was evidence of a more humanitarian outlook on the part of Government supporters, a recognition of the bitter position facing thousands of people m Australia to-day, there would be less industrial unrest in the country. There are scores of directions in which the Government might have attempted to economize. It has not attempted to reduce the burden of our war debt to Britain. I do not wish to elaborate the point just now, but during the last seven years we have paid on account of this debt £37,000,000, £30,000,000 by way of interest, and £7,000,000 towards repayment of the debt. If a proper funding arrangement had been arrived at we could have saved £7,000,000, which would have provided more work for our own people. In my opinion it is false economy, which after all is the worst form of extravagance, to restrict expenditure on postal facilities as the Government- has’ “done, because by that’ means it is limiting the earning capacity, and the power ‘for usefulness, of a great public utility. I have been told in Sydney that the Postal Department has canvassed for telephone subscribers, and in one country district got the names of 60 new subscribers. The department told the people that if they promised to subscribe, an automatic service would be provided. Then the Treasurer cut down the postal vote, and the promise given to prospective subscribers was dishonored. I am. told that before long we shall be back to war time conditions, when the affairs of the department were absolutely chaotic. They are now working with skeleton staffs, and the incomplete services which result from the Government’s short-sighted policy, are a standing reflection upon the administration. ‘ “’” _ ‘ ‘ ‘
Much has been said about the number of men thrown out of employment as the result of this policy. Here is a letter from the Secretary of the Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union, which says - .,r
Approximately 1,000 men have been put off to date. The result of the foregoing action is that many important works have stopped, and. unless funds are provided for the continuance of such work, chaos will be created in the ‘telephone and telegraph sections. Considerable delay in the erection of lines to new subscribers must also ensue, as the present staff will be only able to cope with, the maintenance of existing lines.
What have Government supporters to say to that? A year or two ago we were told that the Government was out to make postal facilities as cheap as possible ; now, in a fit of panic, it cuts down expenditure and limits the facilities available to the people.
There is- a still more bitter indictment of the Government in regard to the promises made to returned soldiers in connexion with war service homes. It is only necessary to read the resolutions carried by meetings of returned soldiers condemning the Government for cutting down the vote for war service homes in order to realize how keenly this action is resented. I should like to obtain, an authoritative statement on this matter, which I regard as one of supreme importance. The Government committed itself to a housing scheme for these men. Only a few. months ago the report of the War Service Homes Commission stated -
Every effort has been made to advertise widely, by means of radio lectures, newspaper publicity, pamphlets, &c., the facilities for home building afforded to returned soldiers through this organization, and, as a result, hundreds of applications have been received from returned men who were ignorant of the opportunities which were available to them.
Now these hundreds of applications are being held up. Many of them, which were lodged months ago, are not to be attended to until the end of the present financial year. While the Government on the one hand talks glibly of spending £20,000,000 on housing, it is not prepared to carry out the housing scheme for returned soldiers for which it has accepted responsibility. The returned soldiers can wait while it gives £20,000,000 to the various State Governments. That leads me to ask what has become , of that £20,000,000? The act was passed months ago, and nothing has been done yet.
– It will be useful for the next election.
– Exactly ; and that is what it is being reserved for. These are just so many promises put forward for the purpose of deceiving the people.
There is one other thing whichhas to do with the attitude of the Government in restricting opportunities for employment. The Merchant Service Guild has complained to me of the interference by the Minister for Trade and Customs with the Navigation Act, which has closed one avenue of employment for certificated masters and qualified seamen in the Northern Territory service. A report published in Friday’s newspapers states -
By an order published to-day in the Commonwealth Gazette, the Governor-General (Lord Stonehaven) directs that provided a vessel under 50 tons gross registered tonnage registered in Australia and engaged in the transport of passengers and cargo between the port of Darwin and other places within the limits of North Australia is in charge of a competent seaman having experience in the navigation of the coast and is adequately manned by capable deck hands, she shall not be required to carry a certificated master or mate or seaman of the specified ratings required by sections 14 and 43 of the Navigation Act.
This action is taken under provisions of the Navigation Act, empowering the GovernorGeneral to direct that certain regulations need not be complied with where he is satisfied that circumstances exist that make compliance undesirable in the public interest.
In this quotation which I propose to read from a letter written by Captain W. G. Lawrence, secretary of the Merchant Service Guild, he protests emphatically against these exemptions. The letter states -
Navigation on the coast of Australia around about Port Darwin is notoriously risky, inasmuch as the whole district is inadequately surveyed and charted. The waters are full of dangers to navigation. There is a tidal rise and fall of about 40 feet, very swift currents are experienced, and no vessel could be possibly sent to sea in a seaworthy condition unless it was in charge of a properly qualified man, and crewed with experienced men. The action of the Minister or Governor-General, or whoever may be responsible for this exemption, has caused the greatest consternation and astonishment among members of the guild, and I have been directed to cause the matter to be brought before the Federal Parliament in the strongest possible terms. The guild desires to warn the House that if a vessel of this description is lost with all hands, then such a disaster will rest upon the heads of those who have disregarded every reasonable precaution for ensuring that a vessel will go to sea in charge of a person competent to navigate her in a reasonably proper manner.
The charge has been, made that these exemptions have been improperly and illegally granted. It applies to two vessels trading in the Northern Territory waters, The Pat and The Maskee. The Merchant Service Guild claims that it is a breach of the Navigation Act of Australia, and that there is no power under the act which would permit the Minister, without the advice of the Marine Council, to tamper deliberately with the number and the qualification of seamen to be carried by any particular vessel. Captain Lawrence goes on to say -
Section 424 of the Commonwealth Navigation Act provides for the appointment of a Marine Council, in which the Minister shall refer for advice on proposed regulations with respect to the scale of officers, crews, &c, see section 424 (2). I am a member of thin Marine Council, and no notice has been received by me of any meeting of the Marine Council called to deal with this matter, nor has the matter been raised at any meeting of the council which I have attended. Among the questions which I suggest you should put to the Minister are the following: -
What is the power upon which the Minister relies for ordering that any vessel in the Australian coastal trade shall not carry a duly certificated master?
Is the competent seamen who is to take the place of the master to be deemed to be the master of the vessel, and, if so, is he to be paid wages in accordance with the rates ruling for masters in the Australian coastal trade?
Are the capable deck hands which the vessel is to carry in place of qualified able seamen within the meaning of the act, to be persons with sea experience, and, if so, what experience ?
– They will be “ abos.”
– No doubt. The letter continues -
I submit that this is a serious matter, and it is in keeping with the general attitude of the Government on the other matters to which I have referred during this debate.
The concluding words of both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade and Customs contained a suggestion that we need a better understanding in industry. How can the workers of Australia be expected to believe in the platitudes uttered with such unction by members of the Government when they observe such callous indifference on the part of the Government to the growing unemployment in the country, and see them introducing legislation which deliberately- makes for industrial war? What notice can we take of these overtures for peace when measures like the Arbitration Bill, which would do credit to Mussolini at his best, or his worst, are on the notice-paper? The Prime Minister proposes a conference to discuss economic questions. But there is no direction from the Government: it will not take the initiative, but merely suggests certain lines of inquiry- methods of distribution, the economic position of Australia, and so on. Notwithstanding its big majority in this House, the Government gives no lead in the direction of solving the difficulties which confront Australia. The futility of the Prime Minister’s attempts at a solution can only be compared with the futility of shooting arrows at the moon. How can he expect the Labour movement to trust him or his Government when its members call to mind the industrial legislation the Government has introduced?
The Prime Minister has suggested that the conference should consider such questions as “ the control and management of industry and the question of giving the employees a share therein.” What arrant political hypocrisy! We well remember the Government’s attitude towards its own servants when they asked for ,a .share, in’ the management of an in- dustry in which they were engaged. When the Shipping Bill was before Parliament a few years ago the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) moved that the employees be represented on the Board. Had his suggestion been adopted there would probably have been greater peace and harmony in the shipping industry than has been the case. But the Government, instead . of accepting ‘ his suggestion, sneered at it. Now, however, with complete unction and that complacency which characterizes the head of the Government, the Prime Minister suggests that the share which employees should take in industry is a suitable subject for discussion at this conference. It is also suggested that the conference should consider the problem of the distribution of the products of industry. This is certainly a matter which calls for examination, yet the Government has done nothing to assist co-operative marketing or to eliminate the parasitical middlemen. It has adopted a policy of laisser faire. We cannot expect a Government which consists largely of middlemen and their representatives, and depends on them largely for support, to deal with such a matter.
A few days ago I read in the Melbourne Herald an attack on the Government because of its inaction in regard to the wasteful methods of certain life assurance companies. Last week the Melbourne Herald in criticizing the unbusinesslike methods of the Commonwealth Life (Amalgamated) Assurances, pointed out that Senator McLachlan, who is actively associated with the company, is a member of the Commonwealth Ministry which has promised to regulate life insurance, but has failed to do so. Every year hundreds of thousands of pounds which should be diverted to avenues more economically sound are wasted in connexion with life insurance. The Government does not deal with this problem because its interests -are so interrelated with the interests of its wealthy supporters that is can do nothing.
What has become of the promises contained in the Prmie Minister’s policy speech before the last election? The promised child endowment scheme has been relegated to a procrastinating royal commission. What has become of the scheme by which homes would be provided for the people? Where is the national insurance bill? It is well to recall some of the high-sounding sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister before the last election, and- contrast them with his attitude during this debate. Before the last . election he said -
One of the main causes of industrial unrest is the ever-present dread which haunts the worker of the privation and suffering which will be brought upon his dependents in , the event of sickness, unemployment and old age It has to be recognized that even under the conditions existing in Australia, the wages of our workers are not sufficient to enable them to safeguard themselves against these evils.
To-day the right honorable gentleman’s attitude towards unemployment is one of indifference. Why does he not admit that the object of the Arbitration Bill is to undermine the wage standards, which are based on economic conditions in Australia, and not attempt to evade the question by referring it to a conference ? The attitude of the Prime Minister towards many problems which call for immediate attention is like that of Nero fiddling while Rome was burning. Apparently the Government’s policy is to drift like a waterlogged derelict, and we are to take consolation from the fact that rains have fallen, that the grass will spring up, and that the present depression is merely temporary, notwithstanding that hundreds of thousands in our capital cities are on the verge of starvation. I heartily support the motion of censure moved by my leader -
That in the opinion of this House the Government is deserving of severe censure for its failure to adequately protect Australian industries and to limit migration to the nation’s ability to absorb new arrivals, together with its neglect to formulate proposals to deal with unemployment.
.- The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) charged the Government with not having carried out the whole of the promises made before the last election; but, if he had waited a week or two longer he would have found that the whole programme promised in the Prime Minister’s policy speech would- be given effect to. No government has been more faithful in carrying out its preelection promises than has the BrucePage Government. The motion of censure before the House is ill-timed, because, with the next election probably nearly twelve months off, it will be useless as election propaganda. -By that time the electors will have had an opportunity to consider the weakness of the arguments advanced in its support, and have come to the conclusion that the Government which they returned to office at the last election is worthy of their support for a further term.
No government or section of the com.munity would be so foolish as to attempt to deny .that a great deal of unemployment exists in Australia at the present time. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) this afternoon questioned the Prime Minister’s sincerity in attempting to solve this problem. Anyone who has followed the Prime Minister’s career as head of the Government for the last five years must admit that he is a man with a heart, who is anxious to do all that is humanly possible for every section of the community. There is no ground for the charge of the honorable member for Dalley that the Prime Minister loftily brushed aside the important matter of unemployment. Every member of this House regrets that there are thousands of Australian citizens seeking work, but unable to obtain it. Honorable members opposite have blamed the Government for the existing state of affairs; but, with a few exceptions, they have failed to make any suggestion to remedy it. Unfortunately, Australia has frequently been confronted with the problem of unemployment; but, although the matter has been debated in both State and Federal spheres for many years, a. solution seems as far off as ever. Members of the Labour party contend that unemployment is . a product of the capitalistic system, and that the remedy is the nationalization of industry. Against that theory we have the fact that the most prosperous country to-day is the United States of America, where the capitalistic system largely prevails, whereas in Russia the nationalization of industry has brought about its ruin. .
The honorable member for Dalley, in stating this afternoon that the Commonwealth Parliament had the chief responsibility in the matter of unemployment, carefully evaded the issue. A cleverly written article in. the Sydney Morning , Herald recently’ gave,, the writer’s opinion- as to the. causes of unemployment. .Under heading a,, he blamed political inefficiency. Honorable members opposite will probably say that that term is applicable to the present Government, but the reception which the Prime Minister has received in every part of Australia is evidence that the people as a whole have confidence in him - the first business man to have charge of the affairs of the nation - so that that charge cannot be laid against his Government. Under heading b the writer blames industrial inefficiency. I am not one of those who at every opportunity decry Australian industries and Australian workmen. As our soldiers proved themselves on the field of battle, so have our workmen proved themselves in the factory. Later I shall say more in regard to industrial inefficiency. Next, under c, the writer blames financial difficulties. In portions of the Commonwealth severe droughts have Seriously interfered with the cattle and sheep-raising industries, and we have also suffered a decrease of 50,000,000 bushels in our wheat crop, with the result that unemployment has increased. Under heading d the writer next blames wrong relationships between . capital and labour. In my opinion that is one of the main causes of our present difficulties. The preaching of class hatred . and the fostering of discontent in the community by professional agitators are largely responsible for retarding the development of industry. Many men with from £5,000 to £10,000, who in the ordinary course of events would invest their money in industry, and so provide increased work, have been so harassed by strikes and arbitration awards that they prefer to put their capital in Commonwealth loans and other securities which will give them immunity from these troubles. The article which I have quoted states very precisely the real causes of unemployment. But, whatever the causes may be, such a motion as this, directed at any government, Federal or State, Labour or Nationalist, will not overcome the difficulty:
The first charge made by the Leader of the Opposition was that the Government has failed to protect adequately1 Australian industry. Every honorable member is familiar” with what the Government, has done to give increased customs protection to our manufacturers, and the Prime Minister was able to make the proud boast that no previous government has done nearly as much for the benefit of Australian industry. He mentioned, also, the fact that during the last five years no less than four -tariff’, schedules have been presented to Parliament. The
Minister for Trade and Customs gave details of the Government’s achievements in, this way during the last five years. Yet honorable members opposite brush aside those facts and reiterate idle assertions that will not bear investigation. Their arguments are remarkable for their inconsistency. When it suits the opponents of the Government, they quote the indirect taxation through the Customs Department as proof that the Nationalist party always taxes the people more heavily than would the Labour party.
– Hear, hear!
– That statement was made recently by a prominent Labour man during an election campaign in Queensland, but it is contradicted by the terms of this motion, and by the policy enunciated by the honorable member for Dalley, who, about eighteen months ago, advocated, in Sydney, customs protection up to 100 per cent. Apparently the Labour party would give to local industries unlimited and unconditional protection. In my opinion, much of the present unemployment is traceable to the heavy taxation imposed by Labour Governments in almost all the States as well as to embarrassing awards by the Arbitration Courts.
The basis of scientific protection adopted in Australia a quarter of a century ago was -
That the amount of import duty imposed for protective purposes on any article should be based on the difference between the cost of production of such an article in the country of its cheapest production and the estimated cost of production in the Australian Commonwealth, having particular regard to the difference of wages paid, hours worked, and social conditions in each case, but in every case the duty shall be such as to favour the domestic production against the foreign.
Surely this basis was intended to ensure that both employers and artisans should co-operate in an endeavour to manufacture an article that would compare favorably, in respect of quality and cost, with that imported from overseas! Surely it was never intended that Parliament should continue to pile up ever-increasing customs duties without any regard to the possibility of our manufacturers competing in the markets of the world ! It is reasonable to demand that they should respond to this customs protection by endeavouring to operate machinery that is thoroughly up to date and efficient.
I admire the candour of the Tariff Board in its outspoken references to this phase of our fiscal system. I quoted the board’s remarks on this subject during the debate on the last tariff schedule, but further criticism .that should not be ignored by the workers in industry is to be found oh page 18 of the board’s annual report. Under the heading, “ The conditions of industry” the report stated -
The Tariff Board ventured to sound a warning note in its last annual report as to the danger of the tariff being used to bolster up an ever increasing cost of, production, irrespective of any consideration being given to the ever widening gaps between the standards maintained within the Commonwealth on the one hand, and the United Kingdom and the continent of Europe on the other.
I do not read that statement with any pleasure. But even if our object were to manufacture only for the home market, I cannot see that we can afford to give the workers engaged in secondary industries a higher standard of living than is possible to those engaged in the primary industries or to the workers generally. If one section is pampered at the expense of the other dissatisfaction is created and the cost of living is needlessly increased. There is a real danger that the position is not realized by the leaders of the industrial unions. Upon the subject of “ The abuse of protection,” the Tariff Board made some remarks of which every honorable member should take heed. We might well ask ourselves whether something cannot he done to reduce the cost of production so that our industries may expand on sound lines.
– The honorable member desires to lower the standards of living.
– I do not, but when 33s. will buy only what £1 would buy a few years ago, high wages are a delusion and a snare. If the low wage bought the same amount of comfort as the high wage of to-day can purchase, the worker is no better off because he has a greater spending power and our industries are less able to compete in the markets of the world. I shall quote the Tariff Board’s remarks on the abuse of protection. ,
– Who are the members of the Tariff Board?
– If the honorable member does hot know the personnel of the Tariff Board, I shall enlighten his ignorance. The members of the board are - Mr. Ernest Hall, chairman; and Messrs. Herbert Brookes, Walter Leitch and David Masterton.
– Not one is a representative of the workers.
– I assume that those gentleman occupy their present positions, because they have given satisfaction to the Government and the people of Australia. However, the constitution of the board does not vitiate the facts set out in its last annual report. Unfortunately, we know only too well that there is not that co-operation between capital and labour that would tend to the lasting progress of our industries. The quotation I desire to make is found on page 21 of the report. It is as follows :-
The board regrets being compelled to place on record its conclusions, arrived at after the most intimate touch with all phases of industry within the Commonwealth, that there is a provailing tendency -which is calculated to abuse the protective system and by forcing the pace under disadvantageous conditions to actually endanger the efficacy of the system. This tendency is not confined to one section alone, but is common to the industrial unions, the secondary producers and the primary producers of the Commonwealth. It is proposed to deal later with each group separately and to justify this far-reaching assertion.
The board is profoundly convinced that if safeguarded, it is absolutely essential that the Australian industry is to be maintained and leaders of industrial unions should recognize this serious menace of rising costs of production which the board has indicated. The board wishes it to be understood that it is not desirous of taking any side in the industrial disputes within the Commonwealth, but it cannot be blind to the fact that simultaneously with the board being asked to consider large increases in duties on such important industries as timber, engineering, iron and steel, brushware, copper (bonus), butter arid cheese, glassware, clothing, textiles, with the object of enabling such industries to exist, applications had been lodged and Arbitration CourtsFederal and State - had been and were being asked to grant not only increased wages but further improved conditions and shorter hours, and State Governments were introducing legislation at the time which further added to the already high cost of production.
It must be borne in mind that evidence at the public inquiries revealed the fact that all these and other .industries were in jeopardy, that some of those engaged as proprietors were threatened with ruin, and that unemployment was serious. lt is the profound desire of the hoard that this aspect of Australian industry should Ou considered without imparting into the matter political consideration and charging the board with any particular bias. The situation is too critical to waste time on such trumped-up charges and calls for the serious consideration of all parties, classes, and individuals in the Commonwealth, otherwise as the board has previously said, it can see nothing but disaster ahead.
I think that members will agree that the board’s criticism goes absolutely to the root of the economic trouble in Australia and honorable members opposite, instead of moving a motion of censure upon the Go,vernment, could be more helpfully employed in persuading the industrial unions to send representatives to the conference suggested by the Prime Minister for the purpose of endeavouring to obtain better co-operation in industrial affairs. The members of the Tariff Board may reasonably be regarded as experts whose duty it is to “warn Parliament and the people when they find that “ protection is failing to protect.”
It appears to me that the conference suggested by the Prime Minister is well worthy of a trial. The workers will lose nothing, even if they fail to derive any advantage from its deliberations. It seems to me that it is a dog-in-the-manger spirit which leads some to say that they will have nothing to do with the conference because the Government has an Arbitration. Bill on the business sheet of Parliament. That bill should not be a stumbling-block in a matter of so much importance; if some lasting good comes out of the conference, the probability is that the bill, which the Prime Minister has already agreed to postpone, will not come before the House for debate. If honorable members opposite had the courage which the position they occupy in this Parliament warrants, to lead instead of to follow; if they were prepared to tell the unions that they believe the Prime Minister to be absolutely sincere in his endeavour to bring about this conference for the purpose Of improving not only the conditions of the workers, but also those of other sections of the community, their advice would carry a good deal of weight with the average trade unionist of Australia.
– But that advice would not be honest.
– Then I am afraid some of the opinions we have heard from the other side of the House cannot be honest. Men cannot be honest if they are not prepared to grapple with the real difficulties which confront Australian industry, and lead to that unemployment which undoubtedly exists.
– Does the honorable member say that the Prime Minister wants to get more out of the employer than out of the worker ?
– I do not think that conclusion can be drawn from any of my remarks.
– We cannot face both ways.
– I have no more desire to face both ways than has the1 honorable member. My statement was perfectly definite. I advocate the holding of a conference between representatives of the unions and employers and of the community generally, to see if it is not possible to bury the hatchet and work in co-operation for the benefit of all classes of the community. Those who know the Prime Minister will give him credit for the belief that his only object is the welfare, happiness, and prosperity of the whole of the people of Australia.
Another subject in the motion of censure is that of migration. The representatives of the Labour party declare that they are opposed to any scheme of migration while there are unemployed in Australia. But if that policy were adopted it would mean that we should have an empty Australia for all time, it would be tantamount to an admission that Ave were at the end of our developmental resources. Seeing that of our 2,000,000,000 acres of land less than 1 per cent, is under cultivation, and barely 10 per cent, is settled, such an admission would be a humiliation to us. As a matter of fact Australia has room for all the people we can induce to come here, and unemployment such as now exists would disappear if honorable members opposite put in practice more of that spirit of brotherhood which some of them preach.
In the criticism that has been offered against the Government no constructive suggestions have been put forward. It has been urged frequently that an expenditure of loan money would overcome some of our troubles. For instance, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) spent a good deal of his time enumerating works that could have been proceeded with out of loan money. It seems to me, however, that to adopt a policy of that description would he merely to postpone the evil day. Already Australia has mortgaged the inheritance of succeeding generations. It is true that we have valuable assets to show for a great deal of our expenditure, but undoubtedly the only honest way of getting out of our difficulty is to produce more wealth. To suggest that the Bruce-Page Government has been even remotely responsible for the present regrettable wave of unemployment is absurd. Until quite recently six of the States were controlled by Labour Governments. The Queensland Labour .Government has been iu office for the last twelve years. Years ago one of its members said, “You have only to return a Labour Government to power and in three months there will be no unemployment.” It is regrettable that there are many unemployed in Queensland to-day. According to one of the official reports, last year there were 48,980 applicants for sustenance allowance under the Unemployed Workers’ Assurance Act, and the amount of sustenance paid was £341,000.
– Yet the Prime Minister says that there is no unemployment.
– With the cross-firing between the Prime Minister and the members of the Opposition, the position in regard to the number of unemployed has been regrettably misunderstood, because these 48,980 men in Queensland were not idle for the whole twelve months. Some were idle for a week, others for a few weeks, and some for 26 weeks; hut the details do not indicate that more than a very few were continuously idle.
Until we can reduce the cost of production to enable our secondary industries to compete in the markets of the world, we must expect this periodical unemployment. While we all .regret, and are anxious to find some method >oi avoiding unemployment, it is useless for honorable members of the Opposition or honorable members on the Government side to try to make political capital out of a problem that calls for our deepest consideration,- and should be approached with a desire to help in solving it. We shall not get over our difficulty by prohibiting anybody from coming to Australia. As- pointed out by the Prime Minister, we are not bringing people to Australia indiscriminately. Out of 31,260 migrants who landed here last year, 23,162 were nominated by friends and relatives, who undertook not only to find them work, but also to support them if they were unable to find work. As has also been pointed out, the Government does not bring one person to Australia without the consent of a State Government. Therefore, it ill becomes honorable members of the Opposition to abuse the Government because of the number of people who are coming to Australia.
– But the Government is allowing foreigners to come in without any embargo.
– The honorable member knows as well as I do that we do not give encouragement to foreigners to come to Australia. They pay their own passages, and all we can do is to enforce strict health supervision. It is idle for any honorable member opposite to say that the Government should prohibit what he calls “ foreigners “ from coming to Australia.
– What about the dictation test?
– We are only one nation among the nations of the world. We should be looking for trouble if we attempted to interfere with the migration of foreigners in the way suggested. In any case, according to the latest statistics, Australia is 98 per cent. British. There is therefore, no danger to our White Australia policy. I could quote appropriate references to Italians by honorable members opposite, but I have no desire to introduce into this debate anything that might call for reprisals. The subject we are discussing is big enough to bo debated on its merits without bringing in a lot of unnecessary side issues. I do not think that any one -would suggest that the number of foreigners now coming into Australia are a serious menace to our workers, or have a serious effect on unemployment. If there is anything we can do by consultation with the nations that are interested I feel sure the Government will be willing and ready to do it. In fact, that has already been done. If the honorable members on the other side are alluding to the migration of Italians, I may say that, according to the press, the people of Italy are now being induced to remain in their own country. I suggest that this debate should be concluded as early as possible so that we may get on with the urgent business of the country.
– After my twelve months’ absence from these interesting surroundings, I was hoping against hope that the Government would, even by accident, have done something for which one Could praise it. But I am sorry to say that it has gone gradually from bad toworse. There does not seem to be any sign of that improvement in it that one would be only too delighted to discover, even by the aid of a microscope. The speeches to which I have listened to-day, from that delivered by a responsible Minister to that just concluded by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), offer no hope of redress of those wrongs that are apparent on all sides. The Prime Minister waived aside any suggestion that there was anything wrong in Australia, and this afternoon the Minister for Trade and Customs also brushed unemployment aside as if it only existed in the fertile imaginations of those who were speaking about it. Yet the honorable member for Lilley has just spoken about it as an awful thing. He could not do otherwise. That which the Prime Minister would have us think is something fantastic - something having no existence - the honorable member deplored as awful, and urged that every one should set to work to banish it from the land. Evidently there is disagreement in the ranks of those opposite as to the existence of unemployment in our midst, and it is well that the Prime Minister should be shown by one of his own followers that after all it is real and not imaginary. The speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs was a sorry exhibition. He simply said that unemployment did not exist in Australia to an extent to be noticeable, and he sought to answer all the arguments put forward by the Opposition, by waving his hands over his head, scraping at the table, and indulging in many other contortions of the kind, as if to act ostrich-like and bury one’s head in the sand was quite sufficient to answer any arguments put forward. He said he could not see evidence of unemployment as suggested. Of course the Prime Minister could not see unemployment in those delightful places which he frequents. He would not be likely to see a great number of unemployed men on the golf links or at the Millions Club.
– Or the Melbourne Club.
– Or Frankston Heights.
– Those are hardly the places that unemployed men frequent. Possibly the right honorable gentleman travels too fast in his motor car to see the unemployed. The only reply that he has made to our statement that there are numerous unemployed in Australia is that he has not seen them. I point out that that does not prove anything. It merely shows that he has not looked for them in the right place. In a recent five weeks’ tour of my electorate I saw more men walking the roads looking for work than I have seen in any similar period during the last twenty years, and mine is a typical country electorate.
The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) attempted this afternoon to answer the charges that we have made with respect to building up our industries. He had obvious conditions to face, and I feel sure that most honorable members sympathized with him in the position in which he found himself. He said that the Government was doing everything that it could to lessen unemployment, and to build up our secondary industries; but hewas notable to get away from the fact that in the last financial year we imported £160,000,000 of goods, the bulk of which could and should have been made here to provide employment for our people.Our adverse trade balance in the last three months was £13,000,000, and we have gone back, month by month, to the extent of £60,000,000 since this Government assumed office.
Mr.Fenton. - We had a substantial balance on the right side when this Government assumed control.
Mr.PARKER MOLONEY.- The difficulty in which the Minister for Trade and Customs found himself was that he had to keep in mind the point of view of so many different fiscal factions among the supporters of the Government. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), for instance, hold very different views from those of some other honorable members who are seated on the Government side of the House. I feel sure that if the Minister had been left to follow his own inclinations he would have made a much better speech, and might have been able to suggest a practicable scheme for stabilizing our industries ; but the trouble is that he is not able to please himself.
Mr.Scullin. - He has to speak the composite mind.
Mr.PARKER MOLONEY.- That is so, and I should think it would be very difficult to do so. Such gentlemen as the honorable member for Forrest and the honorable member for Swan would not voluntarily go even half the way that this Government has gone in fiscal matters, while a few honorable members opposite would willingly go considerably farther. I suppose that the Minister could not forget that in 1925 the Leader of the Government in another place, Senator Pearce, secured his election, as a senator for Western Australia, and possibly assured the return of some other Government candidates in that State by entering into a pact with certain freetrade interests there that if this Government were returned there would be a reduction in the tariff. In my opinion that is the most discreditable agreement that has ever been entered into by a political leader in this or any other country. The Minister had this afternoon to speak in such a way as not to antagonize the free traders in Western Australia, and yet give some encouragement to the high-protectionist Government supporters in Victoria and New South Wales. I am not quite sure where South Australia stands in the matter. The
Minister also had to bear in mind that another election campaign looms only a few months ahead of us, and that unless he exercised much care he might lose votes in Western Australia. In these circumstances, it is not difficult to account for the signs of discomfort that he manifested while speaking. It was not to be expected that he would do justice to the situation. It is true that he performed many bodily contortions, but theygot neither him nor the country anywhere.
What we want at present is not words but actions. We want to see the industries of this country built up ; but the sorry exhibition which the Minister gave this afternoon is not likely to help us. I remember reading of what happened in this chamber a few months ago when a division was taken in respect of a proposal* to increase certain timber duties. The Minister and his Ministerial colleagues found themselves alone in voting against the motion. Possibly the recollection of that incident also assisted to spoil the speech of the Minister.
It should only be necessary to quote in support of this motion extracts from numerous speeches which were delivered by Government supporters in this chamber during the budget debate last year to ensure that it would be carried. I had not the opportunity of being present at the sittings of the House during that period, but I read the report of the proceedings. I cannot recall an occasion during my political life in which a Government was more severely censured by its own followers than this Government was on that occasion. The speeches that were then made were, in themselves, a sufficient justification for the launching of this censure motion. The honorable member for Forrest is usually a loyal supporter of the Government. He stands behind it through thick and thin, and I doubtwhether, in any circumstances, he could be induced to vote against it. But during that debate he is reported to have said that “ Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) was another who severely criticized the Government for its maladministration. In a most dramatic way one evening he stated that Dr. Earle Page was the most tragic Treasurer Australia had ever had, and that he could follow him no further.
– -He said that he could follow one half of the Government but not the other.
– That is so, but something happened to the honorable member overnight.
– Order! Does the honorable member intend to connect these remarks with the motion ?
– Yes, Mr. Speaker. My object in making these statements is to show that even honorable members opposite have condemned the Government in no uncertain terms. They have, in fact, done what I myself am now attempting to do. I complain not that the speeches that honorable members made during that debate were objectionable, but that the votes recorded were not in accord with the speeches delivered. When we charge the Government, as we do, with neglecting the industries of Australia - and I take it that that covers primary as well as secondary industries - we have the right to expect that honorable members opposite who just before Christmas severely criticized the Government, will now, by their votes support their criticism. Although the honorable member for Henty, in the course of the speech to which I have referred, condemned the Treasurer so unsparingly, something happened before the vote was taken next day to cause him to change his mind.
– Perhaps it was the thought of his pre-selection for the next election ?
– It may have been so, but for some reason the honorable member’s vote was certainly contradictory to his speech. His strictures were well merited, and, like those of other members opposite, were doubtless based upon letters received from business people in his constituency, in which complaints were made about loss of business, trade depression, and so on.
– His speech was made in response to public opinion.
– Is that conjecture?
– The honorable member for Kennedy possibly seldom visits his constituency; otherwise he would know that there is widespread dissatisfaction there, and indeed in Australia generally, because of the loss of business from which the commercial community is suffering. Complaints are also general respecting the tightness in the money market, the slump in the value of property, and so on.
It was pointed out during the budget .debate last year that one of the inescapable consequences of these things was unemployment. We were shown quite clearly that our huge import’s, which amounted in value to £20,000,000 more than our exports, must necessarily result in unemployment and the loss of business. Where there is loss of business there are, necessarily, men out of work. Our adverse trade balance is undoubtedly largely responsible for the unemployment that is causing so much distress to-day. It is regrettable that the Minister for Trade and Customs was not able, or else not free, this afternoon to suggest any solution of the problems which are confronting the country. Had he been left unfettered, he might have been able to propose some means of coping with the situation. The Prime Minister stated that an adverse trade balance was not of great consequence and that our position was not worse than that of some other countries. I wonder if in conducting the business with which he is associated in Flinders-lane the right honorable gentleman would be satisfied if it also were showing an adverse balance. If he found that business had gone to the bad to the extent of £10,000 or £12,000 during the past twelve months, and for the previous year to a similar extent I feel sure that he would not inform his co-directors that all was well, and that although the balance was on the wrong side of the ledger, they had nothing to fear.
– Would he say that everything was all right because other firms were in a similar position ?
– I do not think he would. As a successful business man, as the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) says the Prime Minister is-
I suppose he would dispense with the services of the manager or reduce his staff in order to balance the ledger.
– Or appoint a royal commission.
– Yes, and so increase the number already in existence. If the right honorable gentleman is logical he should not permit in government matters what he would not countenance in private business. It is bad business, and such a policy if proceeded with must have a disastrous effect on the country. The huge importations are crippling our secondary industries, and the natural corollary is that the evil extends to primary industries. It is rather late in the day to say that the local market is the best market for our primary products. If our secondary industries are languishing and unemployment is prevalent the primary producers’ best market is not as extensive as it should be. When our secondary industries are languishing the primary producer has not the same home market for the commodities he produces, and consequently has to depend to a greater extent upon foreign markets.
This Government is composed of so many different elements that it cannot deal effectively with problems of this kind. It is impossible for the Minister for Trade and Customs to do his job effectively. The same can be said of the other Ministers. It has been said that coalition governments have never been able to do their jobs properly. This is one of the worst forms of such governments we have had. After five years of such government, we have these dire consequences resulting from its administration. The Prime Minister and his lieutenant, the Treasurer, the other day entered into one of the most disgraceful arrangements ever made by responsible leaders of a Government.
– What is the effect of the agreement?
– I think honorable members know.
– It has the effect of only one anti-Labour candidate contesting the Hume electorate.
– The honorable member does not know anything about it.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the motion before the Chair.
– I was replying to an interjection. When interrupted I was pointing out the evil consequences that have followed the arrangement entered into by government party leaders, which have necessitated the introduction of this motion of censure. The present position is largely due to the composition of the Government, and I was proceeding to show-
– The grounds upon which the motion of censure is based are clearly set out in the motion, and the honorable member must confine his remarks to its terms.
– I was showing that the present political arrangement between the Nationalist party and Country party is largely responsible for the evils which surround us. The Minister for Trade and Customs endeavoured to point out how effectively the Government has built up our secondary industries, but the pact has prevented anything of the kind being done. It has been described- as an S.O.S. - save our seats - pact. I have never known a Prime Minister of a country with so many problems confronting it to step down to do the work of a political organizer. That is what the right honorable gentleman is doing. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) entered also into this sordid arrangement which is all very well for those of his followers within the chamber, but I venture to say that his supporters outside resent the action taken.
-The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the terms of the pact under this motion.
– I arn condeming the arrangement entered into by this Government which, I think, i3 responsible for much of the failure of this Government to deal with existing evils. I am showing that the pact is not wanted outside by followers of the Treasurer, and has only been persisted in, because those who are already members arcgetting the advantage.
– What is the attitude of the honorable member for Riverina on this question ?
– We shall soon see?
– He believes in a duty on rice.
– After hearing the views of the members of the Country party I should say that the policy of the honorable member for Riverina is eat, drink and be merry, for to-morrow we die. Apparently it does not matter what the outside supporters of the Country party have to say. The executive of the Farmers and Settlers’ Association, of which I believe the honorable member for Riverina is a member, condemned the pact at a recent meeting of the executive. I do not know if the honorable member for Riverina in speaking to this motion intends to adopt the attitude which he did at the conference of the Farmers and Settlers’ Association. His speech at that gathering was very interesting. I hope he will repeat here his utterances in which he condemned the pact in much the same way as I am doing.
– Order ! I again remind the honorable member that he is notin order in discussing the pact.
– I was merely showing that the honorable member for Riverina said what I am now saying in condemnation of the pact, and his utterances on the occasion to which I have referred could be used in support of the censure motion.
– To what speech is the honorable member referring?
– To a speech delivered before the executive of the Farmers and Settlers’ Association and reported in the Land newspaper on the 17th February.
– Order ! The honorable member is discussing matters which are not mentioned in the motion.
– In the motion carried at the meeting of the Farmers and Settlers’ Association the pact was described as “ the worst form of machine politics.”
– I ask the honorable member to obey the direction of the chair.
– The speech of the honorable member for Riverina wenton to show that the Government is unable to do its work properly, because it has entered into a coalition or pact which ties its hands. If you, say, sir, that my remarks are not relevant
– The honorable member is not entitled to discuss the details of the pact on this motion.
– The pact has an important bearing on unemployment.
– Yes. The Government is unable to relieve unemployment and remedy other evils, because of the differing elements of which it is constituted. I trust the honorable member for Riverina will take the opportunity which is available to him to condemn the Government in the same terms that he condemned it at the conference on the 17th February.
– I did not condemn the Government. The honorable member is quite wrong.
– The honorable member condemned the pact which he said would prevent his party from expanding. He should read his own speech.
I have stated also that owing to the mal-administration of this Government the primary industries are affected to as great an extent as are the secondary industries. This is clearly demonstrated by the amazing drift of people engaged in agricultural pursuits from the country to the cities. I find that during the last ten years in New South Wales and Victoria the number of males engaged in agriculture dwindled from 115;000 to 87,000, or a decrease of 28,000. If the Government had looked after the interests of the primary producers the working farmers as they have looked after the interests of the wealthy section of the community such a thing would not have happened. Looking over the records of this Government for the last five years one can understand why this drift has taken place. Farmers’ sons who to-day are leaving the country for the cities, are not doing so because they wish to live in the cities. They are leaving the country because for practically every block of land made available there, are from 300 to 800 applicants. For this deplorable position I blame the Commonwealth Government. We all know what was done by the Ministry in the way of remissions in taxation to very wealthy land-owners with influence, some of whom had not furnished land taxation returns for seven years, whilst farmers without influence - the men who are producing and doing a useful service to this country - have been harassed in every possible way by the Taxation Department. In that interesting weekly letter which is issued by the so-called Country party, the farmers are told of the advantages they enjoy under the bene.ficient rule of this Government, and particularly in the matter of reduced taxation, for which this Ministry takes credit. They have been told, for instance, that last year there was a further reduction of 10 per cent, in land tax. I question, however, if it would be possible to find a working farmer who has in any way benefited from the act of government policy. When the Labour Government passed the Federal Land Tax Act it fixed the exemption at £5,000 unimproved value. That meant that before any land-owner would be required to pay federal land taxation, the improved value of his property would be in the vicinity of £10,000. Therefore, it cannot be said that the remissions in land taxation for which this Government claims credit has benefited the working farmers of this country.
– More than 60 per cent, of the land taxation is collected in the cities.
– That is so. Of course those who will benefit from this remission in taxation will be expected to contribute some portion of their savings to the party election funds, for the purpose of paying organizers to travel up and down the country persuading working farmers that they have benefited under the regime of this Government.
– I wish to emphasize the point that if the Government had had the interests of the working farmers at heart, and had not been so much concerned about the welfare of the very wealthy, there would not have been this amazing drift of people from the country districts to our cities. In many other directions the Government has studiously ignored the burdens and iniquities under which the man on the land has been labouring for so many years. It has never held out a helping hand to that section of the community. The position of the wheat-grower has never been worse than, it is to-day. In New South Wales a voluntary pool has been established for the marketing of his product. In Victoria the wheat pool is controlled by a corporation which is largely in the hands of Collins-street shareholders, who have never grown a bag of wheat in their lives. These men control the operations of the wheat pool, and have in their hands, amongst others, the welfare of many returned soldier f farmers who are not financially strong enough to become shareholders in the corporation and consequently have no voice in the election of its directors who have control of their wheat.
The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) has urged that honorable members, on this side of the House should offer suggestions as to the manner in which the Government may in this crisis help the people, and particularly the” working farmers of this country. We have directed attention to the critical situation that has developed as the result of government maladministration, and we charge the Ministry with being so indifferent that it has not taken any steps to ameliorate the position. The natural outcome of this government indifference is a steady drift of rural population to our cities. In a young country like Australia this trend of population is little short of a calamity.
– We are now told that the Government intends to bring out the “ big four “ from Great Britain to make suggestions to solve these problems.
– There are many things which the Government could do to rectify the present position. For example it could arrange for the establishment of a compulsory Federal wheat pool, so as to eliminate the influence of speculators in certain of the State wheat pools, many of whom, as I have pointed out, have never grown a bag of wheat in their lives. The present arrangement for the disposal of wheat operates to the detriment of the genuine wheatfarmer.
The honorable member for Lilley also urged that honorable members on this side should use their influence with the unions to persuade them to take part in the precious peace conference which has been convened by the Prime Minister. Naturally, government supporters would feel relieved if we adopted that course. But do we not realize that the proposed peace conference is merely an attempt to camouflage the real causes which have been responsible for this industrial depression? No one knows better than the honorable member for Lilley that it will not achieve any good purpose. Certainly it will not get us out of our present difficulties.
– Can the honorable member tell the House what are the evils ?
– If the honorable member for Franklin had been wide awake when members on his own side were contributing to the debate, and if he had paid attention to the budget debate last year, he would have heard condemnation of the Government from members of all three parties in this House. I believe that the honorable member himself joined in the general tirade of abuse of the Government, no doubt with the object of putting himself right with his constituents. But the trouble with the honorable member is that, whilst at times’ he adversely criticizes the Government, lie is not prepared to take effective action when the division bells begin to ring. He is not prepared to vote in accordance with his convictions. He knows that the proposed peace conference will not lead to a solution of. the unemployment problem. The Prime Minister is starting at .the wrong end. He is summoning a conference to consider not the cause, but the effect of the present industrial crisis. The Ministry is confronted with the results of its policy, but, owing to the peculiar composition of its supporters, it is impotent to deal with the causes. For example, when the Prime Minister is speaking about the effect of the tariff on Australian industries, be has to bear in mind what government supporters from Western Australia are thinking. Again, when attempting to placate Victorian supporters, who on the fiscal issue do not see eye to eye with ministerial supporters representing Western Australia, he must be extremely careful, because he knows that whatever stand he takes he will receive condemnation from one section or the other. Tn the circumstances the right honorable gentleman is attempting to throw dust in the eyes .of the people by calling a conference, the purpose of which is to camouflage the whole position, and draw the people’s minds away from the sins of the Government.
Something could be done to improve the position if the Ministry were sympathetic, and if an .honest attempt were made to give effect to the promises made by the Prime Minister during the last election campaign. What has become of all those projected legislative measures by means of which the Government probably picked up many thousands of votes - I say in the most dishonest fashion imaginable? The Government promised a housing scheme, child -endow: ment, national insurance and many other measures.’ The National Insurance Royal Commission, one of many such bodies appointed by this Government, submitted its report eighteen months ago. It recommended the adoption of a system of unemployed insurance ; but, so f.’ir, the Government has not seen fit to introduce legislation to give effect to it. It is bad enough for the country to be put to the expense of paying for all the boards and commissions that were appointed by this Government; but the position is infinitely worse when the Government ignores their findings. The commission has made a recommendation which, if adopted, would go a considerable way towards counterbalancing the evil effects of the unemployment that has resulted from the maladministration of the present Government. I refer to unemployment insurance. But what has become of it? I suppose that it is being kept back to provide further shopwindowdressing for the next election. It served the Government in such good stead at the last election that Ministers probably consider it good enough, to dangle before the people on the next occasion. But the electors have a habit of judging governments on their performances; and I venture to say that, when the time comes for them to weigh this Ministry in the balance, there will be no doubt as to their decision. Similar promises will not deceive the people again. If ever an election was won under false pretences, the last was. We have been told this evening, as We have heard since the debate began, that strikes are the cause of the trouble in the country to-day. The Government and it’s supporters fought the last election on a strike of seamen, although the Labour party had no more to do with it than had the man in the moon. Honorable gentlemen opposite knew that perfectly well; but that strike was quite good enough to use as a means of throwing dust in the eyes of the people.
– The people knew well enough who were responsible for it.
– The honorable member for Franklin was one of those who spoke about this matter. He boasted, of what the Government would do with the two men who were said to be responsible for the strike; but nothing was done. If the same dishonest practice is resorted to at the next election, the supporters of the Government will not be able to “ get away with it “ so well as they formerly did. A new ruse will be required.
The promise of a .housing scheme secured many votes for the Government at. the last election ; but not one brick has yet been laid. The honorable member for Franklin asked for suggestions as to what should be done. My advice is that the programme enunciated by the Government at the last election should be put into effect. When does it propose to fulfil the promises made to the people on that occasion? Are the same promises to serve for the next election? Surely honorable members opposite do not believe in winning elections by any method at all, no matter how questionable! What has happened to the two men who were to be deported? One honorable gentleman said that they should be taken outside Sydney Heads and lost. Then, after the election, we had the spectacle of the Government compensating them practically for what had been said about them. The men are still with us, and the honorable member for Franklin no doubtchuckles at the success of the electioneering dodge. He rejoices in practices such as that; but the electors realize that they have been deceived, and honorable members opposite will not be able to so sidetrack the people again.
I have only to say, in conclusion, that if the Government seriously desires to rectify the wrongs that are causing discontent to-day, it should, apart from putting its election programme into effect, endeavour to hold the scales of justice evenly between all sections of the community. It should eliminate the class legislation that has characterized this Ministry more than any other since the establishment of federation. My charge against it is that it is the most typical wealthy man’s government that this country has ever had. I need only point to its last legislative acts. The reduction of- income tax last year did not apply to the men on the basic wage, or to the struggling farmer. Only those whose taxable income amounted to £5,000 and upwards benefited by it. A person with a taxable income of £5,000 received a Christmas box of £54, and if it amounted to £50,000, he received a present of a tax reduction of about £1,400. The worker on the basic wage and the average wheat-grower, who is at present overburdened with the load that this Government has placed on him, as well as on the general community, received no reduction of income tax.
– On the other hand, their tax was increased.
– Yes ; the increase amounted to nearly 12s. per head of the population. Similar legislation was passed with regard to the land tax. No person with property worth less than £10,000 received benefit; but those whose land was valued at £100,000 or £200,000, received tidy Christmas boxes. If the honorable member for Franklin desires suggestions as to how to cure the evils from which the people suffer, let him urge his Government to abolish the class legislation by which it heaps up the burdens of one section of the community and removes them from the shoulders of the wealthy class. I repeat that the Government stands to-day as the most typical wealthy man’s Ministry that Australia has ever -seen.
.Honorable members on both sides of the chamber rejoice at the return’ of the honor able member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney). “While we are glad to see him back, after his indisposition, I feel sure that we all realize that he is suffering from nightmare regarding the forthcoming election. His whole speech showed signs of apprehension as to the result of the contest throughout Australia. I have risen,. however, not to deal with the remarks of the honorable member, but to support the Government by opposing the censure motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition in these terms -
That in the opinion of this House the Government is deserving of severe censure for its failure to adequately protect Australian industries and to limit migration to the nation’s ability to absorb new arrivals, together with its neglect to formulate proposals to deal with unemployment.
With that motion I entirely disagree. If I had any doubt as to how to vote upon it, it has been entirely removed by the arguments adduced by members of the Opposition. It is remarkable that when the Prime Minister, submitted the motion asking for an adjournment of the House, according to the usual parliamentary procedure following a motion of censure there arose from the Opposition an interjection to the effect that Parliament should not be asked to adjourn again since it had sat only about three weeks in three years. As is customary with interjections that are made by honorable members of the Opposition, this one was incorrect. It, however, indicated to me that at least one honorable member opposite is in agreement with the general public, and with those who sit on this side, in recognizing that because of his resurrection of this political pie’ the Leader of the Opposition can hardly escape the charge of having wasted the valuable time of this House. Therefore, I shall not speak at any great length. The Leader of the Opposition launched his motion with very little enthusiasm, and in an unconvincing manner. His deputy (Mr. Scullin) characterized his speech as “ a stinging indictment “ of the Government. It was the first time in my three years’ association with that honorable member in this House that I had seen him in the role of a comedian. There was nothing “ stinging “ about the indictment. The Leader of the Opposition himself felt that he was supporting and buttressing a cause that had grown wearisome to honorable members. His speech consisted of a redundant reiteration of statements that have been made time and again in this chamber. I might have been impressed had he displayed some of that quality of courage which we know he does not lack, and, taking honorable members into his confidence, had given them the benefit of his experience. Had he taken his courage in both hands, and revealed his inner feelings in regard to employment, migration, and the tariff, he would have conferred a signal benefit upon the country at; large.
– The honorable member cannot charge the Leader of the Opposition with insincerity.
– I am not doing so; I know him too well to formulate such a charge against him. Any one who reviews the actions of the Commonwealth and the States in relation to migration and the development of our secondary industries cannot feel dissatisfied with the achievements of this Government.
The question of migration has cropped up in numerous discussions in this House. I have not projected myself into previous debates on the subject, because it appeared to me that by the very magnitude of its ramifications, it was deserving of elevation above the level of a general discussion. During this debate various charges have been made against the Government in connexion with its migration policy, and columns of figures have been quoted with the object of establishing arguments that I shall endeavour to rebut. I am no* making an original statement when I sa, that this great heritage of ours - prt. bably the greatest in the world - which i& 12,000 miles distant from the protection afforded by the might of the British Navy, is held by only 6,000,000 people. It is an established fact that this country, with its great potentialities, is the object of the covetous glances of every other country in the world, but more particularly of those to which we are contiguous. “We are in close proximity to the teeming millions of the East, whose envious glances may at any moment be replaced by an insistent knocking at our doors. “We subscribe - and I hope that we always shall - to the policy of a White Australia. But by that very subscription we assume a lofty superiority towards the Oriental races, and imply that our social and industrial codes have not their replica anywhere else in the world. I believe that honorable members opposite who subscribe to that policy, not only wish to exclude Orientals, but also adopt a lofty superiority towards other white countries.
The Leader of the Opposition has said that the peopling of Australia is a matter of purely domestic politics. That point will be conceded by the nations only so long as Ave populate our country in a way which merits the approval of other white countries. Whilst our very existence is dependent upon the goodwill of the white nations of the world, it is impossible for us to propound^ any scheme which provides for the entire exclusion of the nationals of’ those countries. I shall quote a f ew figures relating to migration. The number of migrants who entered Australia in 1926 was 40,000. Italian migrants represented 10 per cent., and other foreign migrants 5 per cent, of that number. During, that year the population of Australia increased by 105,000. In other words, the excess of births over deaths was 65,000. Summing up the position we find that out of very 245 people who were added to the population, only fifteen were foreigners. It will thus be seen that on such a proportionate basis migration will in no way have the effect of lowering our racial purity. We should have the courage of our convictions and recognize that a national annual increase of 105,000 is wholly inadequate properly to populate Australia and to fill up the vast spaces that are so frequently referred to in the press and from the platform.
If we cannot, by our natural increase, populate and hold this great white heritage, we must look to migrants from other countries. First. we should, turn towards our own kith and kin, whose privilege and prerogative it should be to assist us to populate Australia. I have discussed the subject with gentlemen representing various nationalities, and on no occasion have I heard an objection offered to the granting of preference to our kith and kin. I agree with honorable members that we should not flood the country with migrants without making adequate provision for their absorption. But we have entered into an agreement with Great Britain by which Australia is to obtain a very considerable sum of money at a negligible rate of interest. That money is to be used in developing our continent, and the Commonwealth Government has set up the Development and Migration Commission to examine every aspect of the problem in the endeavour to effect its solution. Schemes have been formulated in every State in the endeavour to absorb British migrants, but every scheme has failed lamentably, mainly owing to the political hostility that has been directed towards it. This Government, recognizing that the absorption of migrants depends upon the coequal development of- the country, has established the commission to which I have referred, which has been the target of cheap sarcastic sneers from honorable members opposite. I remember that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) once intimated that he would have been delighted to accept a position as a member of a commission that was suggested on similar lines to deal with the Northern Territory. To-day he adopted a dismal tone, apparently’ because the Development and Migration Commission turned down the Burnett Valley developmental ..scheme. That scheme was ill-conceived, and created merely to meet the exigencies of the Queensland political situation. It was based upon leasehold and offered few attractions. Its failure, therefore, does not come as a surprise. If we are unable to obtain an adequate population by a natural increase or from British migrants, we must turn to other countries which are capable of helping us. It must be remembered that migration is still in the realm of domestic politics, although an effort was made at the Geneva Conference to lift it into the sphere of international politics. Mr. McTiernan, while Attorney-General of New South Wales, represented that State at the World’s Labour Conference in London, and heriocally held the fort for hours in the endeavour to have adjourned a motion that was hostile to the “ White Australia” policy. Had that conference been aware that, in addition to prohibiting the entry of those with pigmented skins, it was the aim of Australia also to keep out all foreign migrants, the position would have been a difficult one.
I have in my electorate probably more foreign migrants than has any other honorable member. I have never taken objection to an Italian or other European merely because of his nationality, but have placed each practically in the same category as a Scotsman or an Englishman. The nationality of a person is, after all, little more than an accident of birth. I always deprecate the application of the term “ Dago “ to Southern Europeans. They are referred to by some as if they did not belong to a white race. If we examine history we cannot fail to realize that the Italian has very generously contributed to the advancement of the world. Cheap sneers are entirely misapplied when so directed towards the Italian race, whom we were so proud to claim as brothers-in-arms during the Great War. So long as the Italian in Australia makes no endeavour to segregate his race into a close settlement which is inimical to Australian characteristics and sentiment, so long as he conforms to the moral and social obligations of Australia, I see no reason why serious objection should be raised to his admission to this country. I would like thosehonorable members who so glibly criticize these foreigners to proceed to North Queensland and there make first-hand inquiries. If they did they could not fail to ascertain what excellent work the Italian is doing in assisting to settle that portion of Australia. I ask leave to continue my remarks on a later occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.’
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c, No. 2 of 1928 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association and others.
British Phosphate Commission - Report and Accounts for year ended 30th June, 1927 (7th year).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Wyong, New South Wales -For Postal purposes.
Land Tax Assessment Act- Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1928, No.16.
New Guinea Act-
Ordinances of 1927 - No. 40 - Mining (No. 2).
Ordinances of 1928 -
No. 1 - Matrimonial Causes Jurisdiction.
No. 2- Motor Traffic.
No. 3 - Public Service.
Northern Australia Act - Central Australia - Encouragement of Primary Production Ordinance - Regulations Amended.
Public Service Act -
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1928, No. 11.
Regulation ( Parliamentary ) - Statutory Rules 1928, No. 12.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
I desire to inform honorable members that I have received a telegram this evening from Mr. Hinkler in the following terms: -
Your telegram received. I highly appreciate the expressions conveyed therein. Propose leaving Bundaberg 6th, arrive Brisbane 6th; leave Brisbane 10th, arrive Sydney 10th; leave Sydney 14th, arrive Canberra 14th, then rest. Leave Canberra 17th, arrive Melbourne 17th. Please acknowledge itinerary.
I have informed Mr. Hinkler, in reply, that the itinerary which he proposes is quite acceptable to the Commonwealth Government, and that we shall look forward to welcoming him at Canberra on the 14th of next month.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 February 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280229_reps_10_117/>.