10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 8.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Railways - (1) How many miles of the Oodnadatta to Alice Springs section of the north-south railway have been completed by the contractors? (2) Has any portion of the line been taken over by the Commonwealth; if so, how many miles? (3) If not, when will the Commonwealth take over the line? (4) How many men are employed on the works ?
– The first 21 miles of the line has been completed departmentally, and a further 149 miles will have been completed by the contractors about November next, when the Commonwealth will take over the line as far as Horseshoe Send, a distance of 170 miles from Oodnadatta. At present about 700 men are engaged on the line.
– In view of the fact that towards the end of May last a deputation representing the tobaccogrowers waited upon the Prime Minister and Senator Pearce and urged that assistance be given to their industry, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether that request has yet been considered by Cabinet, as he promised ; if so, will he make a statement on the subject before the end of the session?
– I am not in a position to make a statement on the subject to-day, but I shall endeavour to do so before the close of the Parliament.
– Is the Prime Minister able to give to the House any information in regard to the importation of Californian dried fruits, concerning which I asked a question in the House last week?
– No; but I expect to receive a report on the matter from the Customs officials at any time.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs received any complaints from onion-growers regarding the competition of importations from Japan ? Is the Minister aware that yesterday 1,500 crates of onions from that country were landed in Sydney ? Will he instruct his officials to inquire whether this is ft form of dumping?
– No complaints have been made to me personally, and I was not aware that large quantities of onions from Japan had been landed in Australia, but I shall have the matter investigated.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs furnish the House with information as to the price of superphosphates and sulphur in the United States of America, Great Britain, and Australia?
– If the honorable member will place on the notice-paper a question setting forth what information he requires, I shall endeavour to get it for him.
– I have received from the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) an intimation that he proposes to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The need for action before Parliament is dissolved to give effective protection to Australian industries, with special reference to the manufacturers of cotton yarns so that they will be able to purchase next season’s crop, thus ensuring to the cotton growers a local market for their product.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places.
.- There can he no doubt of the urgent public importance of the subject of this motion, namely, the need for action before Parliament is dissolved to give effective protection to Australian industries, with special reference to the manufacturers of cotton yarn, so that they will be able to purchase next season’s crop, and thus insure to the cotton growers a local market for their product. I claim to represent 75 per cent. of the cotton growers in Australia and I should bo recreant to the trust they repose in me if I did not have this matter discussed in the House before this Parliament terminates. The matter is of vital importance to all sections of the people of Queensland and has been agitating the Cotton Pool Board and kindred bodies interested in primary and secondary production in that State. When the Prime Minister was in Brisbane early last month, a deputation from the Cotton Pool Board waited upon him regarding protection for the cotton industry, and he replied that the matter had been referred to the tariff board, and that he did not propose to dictate to it the order in which it should conduct its inquiries. Evidently the cotton board was not satisfied with that statement, because within the last two weeks the chairman, Mr. D. C. Pryce, speaking with the unanimous approval of his colleagues, said, amongst other things -
Scant consideration has been given to the industry since Mr. Pratten’s death. The policy of the Federal Government is a spike in the wheels of progress and is dragging the industry down.
As Mr. Pryce declared himself a supporter of the Bruce-Page ministry it is evident that that criticism was not inspired by party bias. The cotton growers of Queensland feel that some action should be taken before this Parliament is dissolved. I know that the Prime Minister is a very busy man; besides being head of the Government, he is Minister for External Affairs and
Minister for Trade and Customs. Having personal knowledge of the indefatigable labours of the late Minister for Trade and Customs, I am sure that that portfolio is sufficient to occupy the whole time and attention of any Minister. It would be unreasonable for this Parliament, or the people of Australia, to expect one man to discharge the multifarious duties that devolve upon a busy Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs, as well as those involved in the administration of the Department of Trade and Customs. Probably some of the delay that has occurred in dealing with these questions has been due to the fact that the Department of Trade and Customs has not had the undivided attention of one Minister; but the full responsibility for that delay must be accepted by the Government. The Brisbane Daily Mail, which supports the present Government, has given earnest attention to this matter. In a leading article on the 21st August, 1928, approximately a fortnight after the right honorable the Prime Minister replied to the Queensland Cotton Pool Board in Brisbane, it published the following statement : -
If the tariff board cannot make recommendations for the present Federal Parliament to act upon before its dissolution, Queensland cotton farmers will have an outlook of the gloomiest uncertainty for the 1928-29 season. They will positively be discouraged from developing a primary industry full of opportunity for the closer settlement of Queensland, and from helping to establish an all-Australian cotton textile trade, of vital importance to the Commonwealth as a whole, economically and for defence purposes…… Japanese, American and British yarns are coming into Australia in large quantities, while Australian spinning plants rest idle, and all plans for extending the cotton spinning industry naturally hang fire.
That is the view of one of the leading newspapers in Queensland, which has published the statement, which has not been challenged, that it has the largest circulation of all newspapers in that State. The cotton industry can progress ro Australia’s advantage only when its primary and secondary branches are developed side by side. Briefly, the position of the industry is as follows. The cotton-grower in the 1926-27 season sold the whole of his raw cotton to Australian manufacturers of cotton yarns. Bond and Company purchased 2,038 bales, the Austral Silk and Cotton Mills 1,873 bales, and John Vicars and Company 722 bales. The cotton-grower then believed that he could rely upon the Australian market to absorb the whole of his product.
– When is the picking season?
– April, May, June, or July; it varies according to the nature of the season, and in different districts.
– Then the 1928 crop has been picked?
– That is so. The local manufacturer could use only one-third of what he purchased from the Australian cotton-growers, because he found himself unable to compete with Japan, China, India, Europe, America and England, countries which exported to Australia large quantities of cotton yarns. Consequently the whole of the crop for 1927-28 had to be exported overseas and placed on the market there in competition with cotton grown in China, India, South Africa and other countries, with the resultant uncertainty in marketing operations. Fortunately, the Liverpool market last season was a comparatively good one, although it was subject to rapid fluctuations and is now falling with every indication of falling further. Honorable members must appreciate the fact that a big primary industry like that of cotton growing can never hope to develop and expand if it has to depend upon the Liverpool market, and sell in competition with cotton grown in India, South Africa, China, Japan and South Sea Islands and other cheap labour habour countries. Therefore, the Australian grower must look to the local market for the disposal of his product. To-day that market is being taken from him. The Australian manufacturer of cotton yarns, lacking effective protection, finds that other countries are able to send their yarns here and sell at a price against which he cannot compete. Indeed, the Australian cotton grower is threatened with large importations of raw cotton at a time when he is compelled to send his product to the Liverpool market. I wish to emphasize the point that of the 4,600 bales of cotton which were purchased by the Australian manufacturers in the season 1926-27, only 1,200 bales were used and 3,400 bales are still on hand, because the expectations of the manufacturers were not realized. They were assured by the then Minister for Trade and Customs, and by departmental officials, that the bounty on cotton yarns and the tariff protection would be sufficient to enable them to build up an extensive manufacturing industry in Australia. We were informed that new capital to the extent of £2,000,000 was being introduced for the purpose of developing the cotton spinning industry on a large scale. At about the time that the contracts for the sale of Australian lint to local manufacturers were entered into, a number of companies intimated their intention to set up spinning plants in Australia. Notable among them was the company with which Mr. Amos Nelson was associated. It proposed to instal a large plant at Ballarat. The Aberfoyle Manufacturing Company, of Philadelphia, also intimated its intention to establish at Grafton, New South Wales, a factory estimated to cost £500,000 and to give employment to more than 200 persons. The people of Grafton were highly delighted at the prospect. The propaganda went forth that as a result of the action of the Government additional capital to the extent of millions of pounds was to be brought to Australia to develop the cotton spinning industry- But the spinners quickly discovered that they were unable to sell their yarn in competition with that which was imported from other countries. If, by means of an effective tariff, the Australian manufacturer were placed in a position to supply the requirements of the local market, there would be ample room for expansion in the cotton growing industry. It is important to remember that last year the importations of yarns were valued at £836,000, which is equivalent to more than 20,000 bales of cotton lint. In my opinion the existing basis of protection in relation to the cotton industry is altogether wrong, and is not achieving the object desired by those who introduced it.
– Is the honorable member referring to the bounty ?
– The whole basis is wrong, because it does not protect the genuinely patriotic Australian manufacturer, who wishes to use the raw cotton grown in Australia. There are some manufacturers who want protection against the manufacturers of other countries, but do not want to buy Australian-grown cotton if they can get cheaper cotton from other countries. This subject was referred to the Tariff Board approximately four months ago. Naturally the Queensland cotton industry expected that the investigation would have been completed long ago. The Prime Minister has stated that he is nqt prepared to suggest to the board that it should expedite its inquiry. But surely Parliament is paramount. In any case the Government does not invariably take the advice of the board. It frequently refers matters to it, and subsequently disregards the recommendations that are made. For instance, when the Tariff Board recommended 2d. bounty on seed cotton the Government paid1½d. a lb. Even when tariff schedules are before Parliament it often happens that duties are imposed which the board has never considered. Cases that come to my mind concern motor chassis; bumpers, picture films, furs, and petrol. The Government should take the responsibility of dealing with this subject at once. The Government could have the matter investigated in a week by its own experts if it wanted to. The Prime Minister has promised to give consideration to it in the new year; but an election is to be held in the meantime, and it is quite likely that further delay will occur. In any case tariff schedules are not usually submitted to a new Parliament immediately it meets.
– Previous experience has shown that there is a good deal of delay in getting down to business.
– That is so. I should be optimistic if I expected that this subject would receive the attention of Parliament within the first three months of its re-assembly after the election. In the meantime local users of cotton yarn would import sufficient from Japan, China, India, and other coloured-labour countries to supply their needs for the next twelve months or so. Even if protection were accorded to the industry within the first three months of the new year it would be too late to cover the next season’s crop. Mr. D. C. Pryce, the chairman of the Queensland Cotton Pool Board evidently realizes this, for he said in a recent statement -
It is of vital importance in the interests of both primary and secondary industries that a substantial proportion of the next cotton crop (now being sown) be consumed in Australia. This will be impossible unless the Federal Parliament in its immediately forthcoming session deals with the matter on the basis of a Tariff Board report. It is to this end that the elected representatives of the Queensland people in the Federal Parliament may be called upon by their constituents to deal with this vital issue on the floor of the House at Canberra that we make this our appeal to Queensland citizens.
The existing bounty is inadequate to meet the needs of the case, and the Queensland Cotton Pool Board has suggested that it should be altered. The bounty at present payable ranges from1/3d. per count up to 1s. per count ; but it is insufficient to protect the industry against foreign cotton yarn. The local cotton-growers properly claim that they should have the advantage of the local market; but they do not get it. This is shown by the fact that Australian purchasers have ceased buying Australian-grown cotton, and our cottongrowers have to export their product to the Liverpool market, where it has to compete with cotton grown in coloured-labour countries. I, and I am sure other Queensland members, have received numerous communications from Queensland cottongrowers in which they request that the Government or the Parliament should deal with this matter immediately. This is an important national industry which should be protected. On the 23rd May the Prime Minister intimated that the Tariff Board had been requested to inquire into the following aspects of the subject: -
Duty on raw cotton for purposes other than spinning.
Increased rates of duty on cotton yarn and increased rates of bounty on cotton yarn manufactured in the Commonwealth from Australiangrown cotton.
Payment of bounty on percentage yarns manufactured in Australia.
Duty on cotton linters.
Increased duty on cotton wadding.
Increased duty on edible oils.
That reference was all right so far as it went, but it did not go far enough. I wish the board had been instructed to inquire into the desirableness of imposing an effective duty on kapok with a view to enabling cotton lint to be used as a substitute. It is unreasonable that our cotton-growers should be required to export their cotton to Liverpool while cotton from other countries is being imported. Last year we imported 2,041,000 lb. of raw cotton at a cost of £88,090. The following table shows our cotton imports last year from coloured-labour countries: -
It is regrettable that woollen mills at Adelaide and Ballarat are using Chinese cotton while Australian cotton is being exported. The primary producers of my electorate believe in a general application of our protectionist policy, and they have a right to get it.
– Does the Australian cotton-grower get a better price for his cotton in Liverpool than he could set here?
– He got a fair, but fluctuating price last season. There is no sale whatever for Australian cotton in Australia at present. The Queensland Cotton Pool Board contends that the local growers should have the first call on the Australian market, and rightly so. If the Australian market were reserved for the growers, they would be able to find an outlet for four times as much cotton as was grown in Australia last year. The local market is at least 2d. per lb. more favorable to the grower than is the overseas market if imported yarns and cotton are kept out of the country.
I should have liked the Government to refer to the Tariff Board the matter of a duty on kapok. Cotton lint is a good substitute for kapok, because it is used for practically every purpose for which kapok is employed. Nearly all the kapok we import comes from Java, where the foot and mouth disease in livestock is prevalent. A commission appointed in the Argentine for the purpose of inquiring into the cause of this disease, and the likelihood of its being transferred from one country to another, found that it could be transmitted on tarpaulins, frozen meat and other goods. There is a risk, therefore, of the disease being brought into Australia on imported kapok.
– On almost any article imported.
– Yes. Such diseases as smallpox, berri berri and leprosy are prevalent in India, Japan and the Philippine Islands. The Minister for Health should prohibit the importation of kapok from a country such as Java, from which ninetenths of the kapok used in Australia is obtained. It would be a catastrophe to Australia if the foot and mouth disease were introduced from Java owing to this importation. In 1926-27 Australia imported from Java 6,560,000 lb. of kapok, valued at £387,689. It is rightly claimed by the Queensland Cotton Pool Board that cotton lint is a good substitute for kapok. Is this not a time when we should be looking in Australia for great labour-employing industries that will absorb those who desire to go on the land, but who, up to the present time, have been unable to obtain blocks? During last season 4,000 men were employed picking cotton.
– We should keep our capital in the country, in order to meet the national deficit.
– Undoubtedly. There are large areas awaiting settlement in Queensland in such districts as North Burnett and the Callide, where 75 per cent. of the cotton produced in Australia is grown to-day. This land offers great opportunities for young men to make a living at cotton growing in conjunction with the raising of pigs and the keeping of dairy herds. I am speaking not only in the interests of the pioneers who are now growing three-fourths of the cotton produced in Australia, but also of the Australian manufacturers of cotton yarn, who should be purchasers of the cotton grown here. We shall never be able to absorb the large population that we desire to see settled in Australia if we do not make a determined effort to protect our secondary and primary industries.
– We must make opportunities for those who desire to go on the land.
– Yes. We must develop industries that are yet in their infancy, but have wonderful possibilities. The
Government made a mistake when it decided to give a bounty and to apply it wholly to cotton yarn spun in Australia. There was no mention made of cotton yarn used in spinning with wool. The tariff should also apply to that, and I hope that the Tariff Board will take that matter into consideration, because such a bounty would give us a market for another 25,000 bales of cotton per annum. To show the encouragement given by the Customs Department and the Minister for Trade and Customs to the cotton growers to plant increased acreages, I shall quote from the Queensland Producer, of 16th May, 1928, an extract from the Cotton Board’s statement in which the following passage appeared: -
There may be instanced the statement made by the late Comptroller-General of Customs (Major R. M. Oakley) in the presence of the Acting-Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Crawford to the manager of the Cotton Board, to urge the growers to extend their areas, and he gave an assurance that the Commonwealth Government would take such action as would enable the spinners to buy the whole of the cotton produced.
The result was a greatly increased acreage under crop, but the local market disappeared because the Government did not give the Australian manufacturer sufficient protection against his Japanese competitors. I hope that before Parliament rises the Government will give to the cotton industry the protection desired. I am sure that all honorable members who believe in protection would give the schedule a speedy passage.
– The subject raised by the honorable member is one that I have discussed recently with him and with other honorable members from Queensland. When in that State I received a deputation from the Cotton Board, whose members set forth the case for the growers, and mentioned, I think, all the points to which the honorable member has referred to-day. We should bear in mind the position of cotton growing and cotton’ manufacture in Australia in considering, the matter that has been raised. In presenting his case,’ the honorable member rather suggested that the Government had been recreant to its duty, and he certainly gave no indication of appreciation on behalf of the cotton growers whom he represents of the action that the Government has already taken to assist them. It would have been more generous if he had done so, because, although the growers are pressing now for further assistance they recognize generally, I think, that the Government has treated them with considerable generosity in the past. It has displayed considerable understanding of their industry, has taken steps to assist in establishing them in it, and has helped to provide a certain market for their product for the future. It is desirable to outline briefly the position with respect to the growing and the manufacturing sides of the industry.’ For some time the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government acted together in trying to stimulate the production of cotton in Australia. Payments were made by the Queensland Government, with financial assistance from the Commonwealth Government, in an effort to encourage the growth of cotton in the areas in Queensland considered suitable for its production, and in 1925 it was considered by the Commonwealth Government that the industry could be most satisfactorily assisted by means of a bounty. Representations were made to me on several occasions by deputations that this course should be taken. In May of 1925 a deputation of growers interviewed me, and asked for a bounty of lid. per lb. on cotton. That figure I regarded then, and for a long time afterwards, as being that which the growers were prepared to accept, and which they regarded as a fair and reasonable bounty. In January of the following year the Tariff Board went to Queensland and heard representations from the growers. It was then that the request for 2d. per lb. was first made. The Tariff Board heard the representations of the growers, and afterwards fully investigated the whole position. It made a recommendation that a bounty of 2d. per lb. should be granted for a period of six years, specifying certain grades of cotton, and that for a period of four years after that a bounty should be paid on a diminishing scale, this being lid. for the seventh year, lid. for the eighth, lid. for the ninth, and Id. for the tenth year. That recommendation was considered by the Government, but it was decided that the bounty should be paid for a period of only five years at a rate of 1½d. per lb. over the whole period. I do not think that it is necessary for me to deal with the exact reasons which led to this decision. It was decided to pay a bounty of l£d. per lb. when cotton was bringing 9.9d. per lb., and remembering the fact that 3 lb. of seed cotton go to 1 lb. of lint cotton, it will be seen that the assistance which the Government was affording the industry amounted to 66 per cent, of the value of the commodity. When the Bounty Bill was brought down the Government took the view which was very fully set out by the then Minister for Customs when introducing the bill, that it was not possible to find a satisfactory solution of the cotton marketing problem unless we could in some way link up the cotton growing industry with the manufacture of cotton yarn in Australia. Accordingly, the two questions were considered together in this Parliament, the bounty on seed cotton, and the bounty on cotton yarn. The request for a bounty on cotton yarn had been already considered by the Tariff Board, and a report had been made, but the position of the yarn industry was not dealt with at that time. There was a gap of some months between the two investigations, and the subjects were not linked together in the Tariff Board’s report. I am quite certain, however, that if they had been- considered simultaneously, the board would have recommended the same course as was afterwards adopted by the Government, namely, the linking up of the two industries. The board recommended that a flat rate of 6d. per lb. should be paid a3 a bounty on cotton yarn. When the tariff schedule was being considered by Parliament, that recommendation was varied, and I do not think that either the growers or the manufacturers have really challenged the alteration made, because a flat rate of 6d. a lb. would have led to the most extraordinary anomalies. Cotton yarn is sold according to count, the quality or grade being determined by the number of yards which go to the pound. Thus cotton which goes 840 yards to the pound would be called ~No. 1 grade, and when you arrive at a high count the yarn is the very finest, taking possibly ten times 840 yards to make up 1 lb. We could not pay a flat rate of 6d. a lb. on all these different counts, and for that reason a graduated scale was introduced when the Bounty Bill was before the House. The whole purpose of paying bounties on seed cotton and yarn, and of imposing deferred duties on imported cotton goods, was to give the local manufacturers an opportunity to supply the cotton yarn necessary for local requirements. It was laid down that 50 per cent, of the cotton used in making yarn had to be Australian grown before the bounty could be claimed. I mention these matters merely to show that it was the Government which evolved this plan of linking up the two branches of the cotton industry, so as to. provide a sure market for seed cotton. When the cotton bounty of 1½d. per lb. was introduced, together with a graduated bounty on yarn manufactured in Australia, it was felt that a practical step had been taken towards assisting the industry. That step was taken in August of 1926. At the beginning of the present year, representatives of those interested in the industry approached the Minister for Customs, and stated that there were certain other things which would have to be done if this policy was to become effective. The suggestions made, however, were of such a nature that it was necessary to refer them to the Tariff Board. Under the law there was no possibility of the Government acting in regard to those suggestions, even though it had been in the fullest accord with them, until they had been referred to the Tariff Board. The honorable member who introduced this matter to-day implied that the Government might have acted without reference to the Tariff Board, and he referred to one instance which I recollect when the question was raised as to whether there was legal power for the Government to impose a duty without the recommendation of the Tariff Board. The view of the Government is that when a duty is brought in purely for revenue purposes, such as that imposed on petrol for road building purposes, the Government has the right and power to take action without consulting the Tariff Board. The imposition of such a duty is merely a revenue measure, having no relation to the protectionist policy of Australia, which is the peculiar concern of the Tariff Board. There may be some doubt as to whether duties either for revenue or for any other purpose can be brought down by the Government without reference to the Tariff Board. I do not wish to argue that matter now, but merely to point out that on no occasion, and in no circumstances, has the Government brought down other than a purely revenue duty without first referring the matter to the Tariff Board.
– What about the duties on motor chassis and bumper bars?
– That has nothing to do with the matter under discussion. These requests were made by the Cotton Board to the late Minister for Customs, just prior to his death. He listened to their arguments, andgave an undertaking that he would refer the proposals, with one exception, to the Tariff Board, in the following June. Unfortunately, before he was able to do that, he died, but on the 24th May the proposals were referred to the Tariff Board. Actually, there was no delay; the question was referred to the board rather earlier than the late Minister thought would be possible. After the reference I received various communications asking me to expedite the hearing by the board. I replied that I could not do so. When I was in Queensland recently the request was revived by a deputation. In reply, I pointed out that I had no legal power to insist upon the Tariff Board dealing with the cotton application immediately, and that even if I had such power, I would not be prepared to exercise it. The Tariff Board had informed me that on its agenda paper were a number of references which had priority over the application from the cotton industry, and that it was prepared as soon as they were dealt with, which would be about October, to investigate the conditions of that industry. I was informed by the board that if the inquiry was opened in October, a report might be available early in November. The honorable member for Capricornia assumes that I have power to insist upon the
Tariff Board giving priority to the cotton industry’s application, and he complains that I will not so insist. I have stated quite clearly that I will not do what is asked, and I think the House generally will endorse my attitude. When a Minister yields to pressure from one quarter, the way is open for preferential treatment of other industries, each of which considers that its own requirements are the most urgent.
– The Prime Minister’s time has expired.
– I think the right honorable gentleman should have an extension of time.
– Because of the fact that the debate on a motion of this character may not proceed for more than two hours after the meeting of the House, the time allowed to individual members is also strictly limited, and it is not usual to grant any extension of time to an honorable member except by a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
.- The Prime Minister has sought shelter behind the practice which his Government has adopted in connexion with references to the Tariff Board. Surely when evidence is adduced that a highly critical situation is developing in an industry which is already important and may become much more so, the Government would be warranted in departing from the usual practice. The cotton planting season is about to commence, and if the industry is imperilled by existing economic conditions, the Government should not excuse itself for not taking immediate action by quoting precedents which Ministers themselves have created. There is no legal obstacle to an immediate reference to the Tariff Board, or to obtaining from that body a special report. If the board is congested with prior references, the Government might itself undertake a special inquiry into this matter, and ask Parliament to take the necessary action to protect the industry. For the last seven or eight years, the cotton growing industry has been frequently under the notice of the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments concerned. Both the present Prime Minister and his predecessor recognized the importance of establishing cotton cultivation in Australia. After full inquiry they, at different periods, extended to the industry assistance in one form or other. If now, through unfavorable economic conditions, the industry is in danger, the Government should act promptly, and not be deterred by imaginary difficulties. Every application from an industry for assistance should be considered on its merits. I do not desire to dwell at this juncture on the need for altering the machinery in regard to references to the Tariff Board in order that its inquiries may be facilitated and action arising therefrom expedited. But sooner or later this Parliament will have to consider means by which the Tariff Board machinery may be brought into operation more promptly and smoothly. Cottongrowing, although still in its infancy, is capable of developing into one of the largest agricultural industries in Australia; but it requires effective protection in its early stages. Its prospects are sufficient to justify government assistance, and further support of those secondary industries which will utilize the raw product. A few years ago Australia was visited by a delegation representing the Lancashire manufacturers and the Empire Cotton-Growing Corporation. The delegation came to this country at the invitation of the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments to investigate the possibilities of the development of cotton cultivation in Australia. Its inquiry extended to four States, and the reports to the Australian Governments and to the Empire Cotton-Growing Corporation were entirely favorable. The chairman, Mr. Crompton Wood, expressed the opinion that Australia had 30,000,000 acres of land suitable for cotton production, which was capable of becoming the greatest agricultural industry in the Commonwealth. He emphasized the suitability of both soil and climate.
– Did he say anything about the cost of production?
– Close attention was given to the cost of production, because some of the members of the delegation were financially interested in the industry. In fact, Mr. Crompton Wood was one of the original shareholders in the Australian Cotton-Growing Association. These experts knew that the labour cost of production and picking would be very much higher in Australia than in the United States of America, India, Egypt, and other countries with whose products the Australian article would have to compete in the Lancashire market, and they urged the Commonwealth Government to guarantee a minimum price for raw cotton. Mr. Wood advised the Commonwealth to offer tariff inducements to Lancashire spinners to use Australian cotton. The proposal put before the House by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) is a further development of that idea; namely, that special assistance should be given to manufacturers of yarn spun from Australian raw cotton. There is no excuse for allowing Australian manufacturers to suffer through the competition of imported goods; they were encouraged to establish their industries in Australia and to provide a market for Australian grown cotton, and they should be adequately protected. The position in regard to cotton is anomalous. According to a report prepared by the Cotton Pool Board, over 2,000,000 lb. of raw cotton,’ valued at £88,000, was imported into Australia last year. Of that, a considerable quantity was actually grown in Australia, marrketed in Liverpool, and brought back to this country. Could there be greater economic folly than to grow cotton in Australia, send it to Liverpool for marketing, and then return it to Australia for use by our manufacturers who have to pay the freight both ways.
– Was not the explanation that quotations for the raw cotton could not be obtained in Queensland?
– I do not know what the explanation was. I am merely recording the bald fact that 336,672 lb. of Australian cotton was imported from Liverpool last year. Surely such an anomalous state of affairs warrants immediate action by this Parliament. Many of the anomalies that occur are due to the fact that the machinery relating to references to the Tariff Board, the making of recommendations by it, and the consideration of such recommendations by the Minister and this Parliament, is too cumbersome and slow. The report from which I have already quoted mentioned that 7,549,848 lb. of kapok was imported last year. That commodity is used for many purposes for which raw cotton is suitable. Some manufacturers of pillows, mattresses and quilts assert that kapok is superior to cotton, but people who have used such articles made from Queensland cotton are quite satisfied with them. Many manufacturing establishments in Queensland are using local cotton instead of kapok, and they find no fault with it. But even if there were some disadvantage in cotton, it would still be a sound policy to foster the use of our own raw material. If imported kapok constitutes a menace to public health that is a further reason why we should give distinct preference to the Australian raw material; in fact the Government would be justified in entirely prohibiting the importation of kapok and compelling the manufacturers to use Australian raw cotton. The Cotton Pool Board reports states -
Australian grown cotton is quite suitable in every way for the manufacture of cotton yarn, particularly the medium grades, which are used in counts ranging from 12s. to 40s., for which there is an extensive demand in Australia. There is no necessity to mix an imported cotton lint with Australian-grown cotton except for the purpose of lessening the cost of the raw material. Under existing conditions cotton yarn manufactured from Australian cotton, even blended with imported cotton (to the extent of 50 per cent, of each) cannot be produced and sold at a figure to compete with imported yarn, as owing to the higher cost of producing in Australia compared with Great Britain and foreign countries, the payment of a bounty at the existing rate is insufficient to cover the margin.”
There is no doubt that Australian cotton is suitable for those purposes. The Australian manufacturers of cotton yarn have not made any complaint about the quality of the product they have received. Australia is capable of growing enormous quantities of that product, but the industry cannot expand because in the present circumstances it is unremunerative. Some honorable members who sit opposite have to a certain extent thrown cold water on the efforts of the Queensland Government to promote this industry. The honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott), speaking upon the matter quite recently, indulged in criticism of that government which was altogether unjustified. It was based upon wrong information, and his statements amounted to gross misrepresentation. I quote the following report of a speech of his which appeared in the Bowen Independent of the 30th August last: -
The speaker also dealt with the history of the cotton- industry, referring to the political cotton boom made by the Queensland Labour Government. Every one in the central district went in for cotton, and the boom burst. The Federal Government gave a bounty of 2d. per lb., lid. per lb. to the grower and id. to the manufacturer. The Queensland Government attacked them over it. Now let them see the effect of the help to the secondary industry. Now all cotton yarn is being manufactured in Australia, which previously was imported.
Nearly every statement in that quotation is false. The Queensland Government did not create a political boom or any other kind of boom in the cotton industry. It made continuous and bona fide efforts from the beginning to establish the cotton industry on sound lines. Nor did the Queensland Government attack the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the bounty on cotton. Indeed the two Governments had many friendly conferences on the subject. The Queensland Government made the first move to establish and stimulate this industry, and initiated the practice of granting a guaranteed price for seed cotton. That guarantee first operated in 1920. In the year 1920 the total quantity of seed cotton produced in Australia was 45,000 lb. The whole of it was grown in Queensland. In the following year the quantity increased to 900,000 lb., while for the succeeding years the figures were -
It will thus be seen that steady progress was made ; but it was not so great as was hoped for by the Queensland Government. I am sorry that the industry has not received the encouragement which would have enabled it to develop into a very large agricultural industry.
It can do so if it captures the Australian market. That is an important point. The quantity of raw cotton imported into Australia annually is very large, while the quantity of manufactured yarns imported is still larger and of greater value. These are matters to which we should devote our attention. If it is necessary for drastic action to be taken before the receipt of a report from the Tariff Board, we should not hesitate to take it. The livelihood of many cotton-growers is dependent upon the granting of assistance to the industry. The success of a number of Australian secondary industries also is involved. The Federal Government should not shelter itself behind the plea that there are difficulties in the way of referring the matter to the Tariff Board. I hope that the motion will be agreed to.
– I take strong exception to the suggestion of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) that the Government is trying to shelter itself behind any body. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) made it abundantly clear that in this case the Government is taking the course usually taken in connexion with all matters that are referred to the Tariff Board. That is the only proper course for it to take in the circumstances. Quite apart from that aspect of the matter, however, T point out to the House, and through it to the country, that this question is not so flagrantly urgent as the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) and the honorable member for Dalley suggest. There is ample time to examine it in all its aspects. Quite a number of points must not be overlooked; otherwise we might do a considerable amount of harm to the textile industry, the knitting industry, the spinning industry, the clothing and manufacturing industry, as well as other industries, which are dependent upon this basic proposition. I am given to understand that the whole of the present season’s crop of raw cotton has already been sold or arranged for, and it is universally admitted that a satisfactory price has been received. The next crop will not be available until, at the earliest, April or May, 1929.
– But unless a duty is imposed immediately, the importers will flood the market with their product.
– The honorable member for Capricornia has laid considerable stress upon the importation of cotton yarn, but his statements are not supported by the official figures, which show that the total importations in 1926-27 were valued at £836,000, while in 1927-28 the value dropped by £164,000 to £672,000. There is no justification for suggesting that the Commonwealth Government has not given this industry the fullest and most favorable consideration. Five or six years ago, it gave practical evidence of its sympathy by agreeing to bear a certain proportion of the loss that would be incurred in connexion with the guarantees given to the growers by the Queensland Government. Under that arrangement, it made payments” of £46,000, £75,000, and £48,000 in 1923, 1924 and 1925 respectively. Having jointly with the Queensland Government helped to establish the industry, it has now accepted the whole of the responsibility in connexion with it. Last year we paid by way of bounty the sum of £80,000.
– The bounty has failed to produce results.
– I would not say that. The proposal of the late Minister for Trade and Customs, which was to combine the development of the cottongrowing industry with that of the textile industry, has been recognized as statesmanlike. I have admissions by Mr. Pryce, Mr. “Webster, and other persons associated with the cotton industry, to that effect. There is no justification for the statement that this Government has not, at all times been willing to extend to this industry the most favorable and sympathetic consideration. The only way in which we can be sure that it will receive the most satisfactory treatment is to refrain from dealing hurriedly with the question of how to place it upon a proper basis. The problem is one that must be solved by the most highly technical and skilled brains. We must act as we did in connexion with the previous application. On that occassion, as a result of the experience, the vision and the hard work of the then Minister for Trade and Customs we were able to evolve a very much better system than that which was suggested by either the Tariff Board or the cotton growers or spinners.
– There is no justification for a delay of six months.
– The point I wish to stress is that this year’s crop has already been dealt with, and that there will be ample time in the new Parliament to deal with the question of the next crop.
.- The Treasurer has resented the suggestion that the Government is shelving itself behind the Tariff Board; yet that is the very fact which his explanation has made plain. He has said that the Government is following the usual course, which, when dealing with tariff matters,is to await the report of the Tariff Board and then to adopt a very leisurly attitude towards any application for additional protection. The trouble in the last three or four years has been that six months’, nine months’, and sometimes even twelve months’ notice of an intention to bring down new tariff duties has been given to the importers, who have thus been enabled to rush stocks into Australia. The object of our tariff policy has thus been defeated. There is no excuse for delay. The Treasurer has argued that last year’s crop has been picked and disposed of, and that there will be ample time to deal with next year’s crop because it will not be picked until April or May, 1929. He entirely ignored the fact that planting is now in progress. Would any honorable member be prepared to engage in planting operations without being assured of a market, and to rely upon the overseas market as the grower had to do last season? That is not the proper foundation upon to which to build a new primary industry.
– The Liverpool market is now falling.
– The vagaries of that market are well known. It was only by a stroke of good fortune that the growers last year experienced favorable conditionson that market. When the Treasurer said that bounty to the extent of £80,000 was paid last year, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) interjected that it failed to produce results. I dispute that contention. I admit, however, that it is useless for this Parliament to approve of the appropriation of moneys for the payment of bounties unless steps are taken to provide a market for those who produce goods in consequence of those bountiesAt the present time, we pay a bounty to men to increase their acreage under cotton, and yet allow importers to flood the local market with goods from Japan, India, China, the United States of America, Great Britain and other countries. There is no sense in such a policy. So far as I have been able to learn, practically every bale of cotton produced in Queensland last year was exported, while the importations of cotton yarn were equivalent to over 20,000 bales of cotton lint. That is an anomalous position. Six months have elapsed since representations in this matter were made along these lines, and more than four months since it was referred to the Tariff Board. A representative of a Queensland electorate has asked the Treasurer to give an undertaking that there will be effective tariff protection next April. What sort of a position will we get into if a Minister can give an undertaking six months ahead that new tariff duties are to be imposed? The trouble in the past has been that the Government has played into the hands of the importers by giving lengthy notice of its intention to revise the tariff. Until recent years it was the practice for tariff schedules to be laid upon the table of this House before it was expected that they were to be brought down. The object was to prevent the revenues from being defrauded and the importers from filling the local warehouses with goods from overseas. The motion takes into account more than the cotton industry. A number of urgent tariff matters require attention. Manufactured goods are still flooding into this country from abroad, our industries are still languishing, and thousands of our people are still out of employment. The breaches in our tariff wall should be stopped at once. The Government should give attention to this vital subject. A delay of a few weeks in the holding of the election becomes unimportant when it is compared with the danger in which our industries are being subjected by foreign importations. I take the responsibility of saying forthe Labour party that if the
Government will bring down a tariff schedule to meet the most urgent needs of our industries, we will give every assistance in getting it through. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) quoted from a speech made by the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott), in which almost every word that was said about cotton was false. The honorable member for Herbert made a statement about my attitude towards the sugar industry which was equally inaccurate. He repeated statements by anti-Labour people in Queensland which were as false as anything could be. The old story which he repeated never had the slightest foundation in fact. I do not want to offend against the Standing Orders, but I wish to refer to a question which I have put on the notice-paper. It refers to red woods. The insertion of one word is necessary in a certain measure to give effect to the will of Parliament; but apparently the Prime Minister is not prepared to allow Parliament to be paramount in these matters. He has stated that this Parliament is subject to the Tariff Board, one of its creatures. I refuse to accept that dictum. This Parliament should remain supreme. If the Tariff Board for any reason fails to deal promptly with an urgent matter submitted to it, Parliament should deal with it. It has become a fetish with this Government that nothing can be done unless it has first been referred to a commission or board, but the Labour party believes that the elected representatives of the people should be supreme. Parliament should not be subservient to any authority which it constitutes. It is shameful that the cotton industry should be allowed to languish while we are importing such a huge quantity of cotton. Recently I visited the cotton-growing districts of Queensland, and saw, among other things, good cotton ginneries standing idle. I gained the impression that the inaction of the Government in protecting the industry was causing a number of enthusiastic growers to become discouraged. That is regrettable, for this is one of the industries which we should take every possible step to develop. With the exception of wool and wheat, there is no considerable oversea market for our primary industries; consequently we should endeavour to develop industries to supply local requirements. A big demand for cotton goods exists in Australia, and this industry would be able to provide employment and a profitable living for many thousands of people if we gave it sufficient protection. We have encouraged certain people to invest in the industry and should not force them to export their product to the oversea market, where it must meet world competition, when there is a good market available for it in Australia if we would grant it a reasonable degree of protection. The honorable member for Capricornia is to be commended for having introduced this discussion. While I believe that the time is ripe for a general review of our tariff schedule, I am convinced that action in respect to a few items of it should receive immediate attention. I repeat that if the Government will introduce an amendment to the schedule to deal with these particular items the Labour party will assist to give the measure a speedy passage.
.- I appreciate what the Government has already done for the Australian cotton industry, but I regret that the Tariff Board has not submitted to Parliament the report for which so many of us have been impatiently waiting. The Australian cotton industry has had a long and chequered career. It is a record of high hopes alternating with many disappointments. It was begun in Australia 70 years ago, and during the American Civil War we had approximately 14,000 acres growing cotton. At the close of that war the cotton-growers of the United States of America regained the European market, and our industry failed. In 1920 it was revived, and the growers were guaranteed a price for their product. An era of partial prosperity followed, but in 1926 the . Queensland Government intimated that it was not prepared to continue any longer the degree of assistance which it had been according the industry. The cotton-growers thereupon appealed to the Federal Government for assistance, and the Tariff Board, after inquiry, recommended that a bounty of 2d. per lb. be paid on locally-grown cotton. The late Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), who did so much to assist this industry, formed the opinion that aid could be granted in a better way by treating cotton-growing and cotton-yarn manufacturing as component parts of a single industry, and he submitted to Parliament a proposal that the bounty should be reduced to l£d. per lb., and that a bounty should be paid also to Australian manufacturers who used at least 50 per cent, of Australian cotton in goods which they manufactured here. He had high hopes that this would give the industry substantial assistance, and inaugurate a new period of permanent prosperity. Many of us shared in those hopes. Unfortunately, the proposal was not quite complete enough, for it did not stop the importation of raw cotton and cotton yarns. Last year we imported more than 2,000,000 lb. of cotton, valued at £88,000, and cotton yarn and mercerized colton to the value of £836,487 was also brought into the country. The Queensland Cotton Pool Board in these circumstances requested the Government to give consideration to the question of further protecting the industry. The Government referred the whole matter to the Tariff Board. . As has been pointed out by the Prime Minister, matters of this description must be referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report before Parliament can take any action. I have, in conjunction with other Queensland members, made strenuous efforts to have the consideration of the matters referred to the board expedited. We are now awaiting the report of the board. I have had many communications from persons interested in the Queensland cotton industry. One of the latest to reach me came from the manager of the Queensland Cotton Pool Board, Mr. Webster. He urged that an undertaking should be given that the report of the board would be made available in sufficient time to enable any legislation which might arise from its recommendations to become effective in time for next season’s crop. I made a promise to representatives of the Queensland cotton industry that I would make representations to the Prime Minister upon this matter on my arrival in Canberra. Immediately on my arrival a deputation of Queensland members of this Parliament waited upon the right honorable gentleman, and the same day I received from him the following letter: -
With regard to the representations that were made to me to-day by yourself, Senator Reid, Senator Foll, and- Mr. Hunter, the present position concerning cotton is that matters which the industry desires considered by the Tariff Board have been referred to the board, and will be dealt with by them as soon as the matters which have precedence have been disposed of.
As 1 indicated to the deputation which saw me in Queensland, I am not prepared to endeavour to influence the Tariff Board to give priority to this question over the other matters which had been previously submitted to them.
The Government’s policy with regard to cotton has been to endeavour to ensure its establishment in Australia on a sound economic basis, and, in order to endeavour to bring this about, a policy of linking the primary with the secondary industry was adopted, and a measure was put through Parliament to this end. The Government is still of opinion that this policy is the best one, and will, after it has received the report of the Tariff Board, give the most sympathetic consideration to the facts elicited as a result of the board’s inquiries.
In considering this report, the Government’s desire will be to take any action which is sound and justifiable, and which will enable its original intention and policy to be given effect to.
As the information supplied by the Tariff Board indicates that their report should be in the hands of the Government before the end of the present year, it will be possible to take any action that may be decided upon early in the new year.
That, I submit, is a definite assurance in reply to a definite request. Consequently, I can see no reason for supporting the motion of the honorable member for Capricornia.
– That shows how little regard the honorable member has for the welfare of the Queensland cotton-growers.
– My regard for the Queensland cotton-growers is shown by a communication which I have received from the Queensland cotton interests in which they express their appreciation of the work that I have done for them.
– The question of greatest importance to the Queensland cottongrowers to-day is a determination of the basis upon which future assistance is to be granted.
– I have already intimated that the manager of the Queensland Cotton Pool Board made a definite request to the Government, and that the
Government has given a definite assurance in reply to it. That should satisfy everybody. I am sure it is the assurance the growers asked for and what they are glad to have obtained. The communication which I have received from the Queensland cotton interests, and which, I submit, shows that I have always been concerned in the welfare of the industry, reads-
I should never have read this telegram if it were not for the unfair interjections of the honorable member for Capricornia. It is a complete answer to his interjections. The industry can count on my consistent support in the future as in the past. I have assisted in the past by making representations to the Government as desired of me. I have pointed out that a large quantity of cotton is coming into Australia from other countries, and I have drawn attention to the difficulties under which the Cotton Board is labouring. I regret that the Tariff Board has not yet presented its report.
– Why not take action immediately, instead of waiting for the board’s report?
– The Tariff Act requires that before a duty can be altered the matter must be submitted to the board, which must make a recommendation.
– But Parliament is supreme.
– Before Parliament can alter a duty without a recommendation from the board it must repeal or amend the Tariff Board Act.
– Other duties have been altered without recommendations from the board.
– That is not so. The Prime Minister himself has also said that that has not been done. The cotton industry has always had my support, and always will have it. I believe that, ultimately, it will be one of the largest agricultural industries in Australia. At the present time Australia imports cotton goods to the value of £15,000,000, and I hope that in the course of time that quantity will be supplied by Australian manufacturers using Australian-grown cotton, and that my efforts in the interests of the cotton industry will continue to justify appreciation similar to that expressed in the communication that I have had to read. I urge that the Government should deal with this matter immediately Parliament re-assembles next year.
– Why should not Parliament give protection to the industry now?
– I am not here to defend those who brought down the Tariff Act of 1921; I have explained to the honorable member its provisions, and Parliament is bound by the provisions of that act until it is repealed or amended. Iurge the Government to give attention to the request of the growers immediately the report of the Tariff Board has been presented.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and I hope to be in a position to reply to the honorable member’s questions at an early date.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What was the cost of erection of the branch post office at Haymarket in George-street, Sydney ?
– The cost was £23,962 16s. 9d. Only a small portion of the building is utilized for the purposes of a branch post office.
Temporary Employees - Tenders
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will supply a return showing the decreases in the temporary staff of the engineering works of his department, which have taken place from month to month in each State during the period from 1st January, 1927, to 1st August, 1928.
– The desired particulars are being obtained, and will be supplied to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Whether he will communicate with the High Commissioner in London asking him to make investigations, in the interests of Australia, as to whether M. Spahlinger has made a number of successful tests, under the supervision of the Prime Minister of the State of Geneva, of the preventive vaccination of cattle against tuberculosis ?
– The information desired by the honorable member is being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the International Conference of . 1927 for the abolition of import and export prohibitions and restrictions -
What were the reasons why the Australian delegate refrained from signing the convention drafted by the conference?
Why were those reasons not stated in the report of the conference recently presented to Parliament?
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The following papers were presented : -
Tariff Board Act - Tariff Board - Annual Report for 1927-28 - together with Schedule of Recommendations.
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Second annual report of the Canned Fruits Control Board for year ended 30th June, 1928, together with a statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Third annual report of the Dairy Produce Control Board, for year ended 30th June, 1928, together with a statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Fourth annual report of the Dried Fruits Control Board, for year ended 30th June, 1928, together with a statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Ordered to be printed.
Canned Fruit Bounty Act - Return for 1927-28.
Cotton Bounty Act- Return for 1927-28. Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act - Return for 1927-28.
Papua and New Guinea Bounties Act - Return for 1927-28.
Power Alcohol Bounty Act - Return for 1927-28.
Shale Oil Bounty Act - Return for 1927-28.
Sulphur Bounty Act - Return for 1927-28.
Wine Export Bounty Act - Return for 1927-28.
– I lay on the table of the House the annual report of the Tariff Board for the year 1927-28. The schedules containing the board’s specific recommendations are complete with the exception of a few which have not yet been considered by the Government. When these have been dealt with they will be laid on the table. Many of the board’s reports referred to in the papers accompanying the annual report have been already laid on the table of this House and printed, and formed the basis of action taken on the tariff schedule lately before the House. In respect of the board’s recommendations in connexion with the by-law items of the tariff, and other matter apart from tariff revision, the action taken is set out in the schedules to the repor.t in respect of each recommendation, and all such bylaws made have been duly published in the Government Gazette. Under these circumstances, it is not proposed to print the papers annexed to the report. It is proposed, therefore, to print only the report.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act 1922-1927, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend sections 13, 44 (l), and 49 of the Land Tax Assessment Act 1910-1927.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Estate Duty Assessment Act 1914-1922, and for other purposes.
Message recommending appropriation reported and ordered to be taken into consideration in committee forthwith.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That it is expedient that on appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend sections 4, 31, 45, and 47 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908- 1926.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Sir Neville Howse do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill has a twofold object. In the first place it is proposed to extend a concession to incapacitated soldiers who are in receipt of war pensions by providing that in future such war pensions will not constitute income in connexion with claims for old-age pensions by an incapacitated soldier or his wife. In the second place, it is proposed to increase the amount of pension payable to pensioner inmates of benevolent asylums and hospitals from 4s. to 5s. 6d. a week. Originally, all war pensions constituted income under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. In 1917, the act was amended to provide thatwar pensions payable to dependants of deceased or incapacitated soldiers should be exempted from computation of income in dealing with claims for invalid or old-age pensions. This concession was, however, not extended to incapacitated soldiers themselves who were in receipt of war pensions, and up to the present war pensions to ex-members of the forces have been maintained as income. Hitherto this limitation has not affected the soldiers to any appreciable extent, because very few of them have yet attained the qualifying age for old-age pensions. The time is approaching, however, when old-age pensions claims will be received from incapacitated soldiers, and it has, therefore, been considered desirable to remove the present apparent anomaly. The effect of this amendment will be to exempt a soldier’s war pension from calculation of income in any case in which a soldier or a soldier’s wife applies for an old-age pension.
– But not many of them have yet reached the age of 65 years.
– Not many, it is true, but some are approaching that age. Some men were over 45 years of age when they enlisted. We hope that very many of the ex-soldiers will reach the age of 65 and more.
Mr.Forde. - What will be the actual cost of this alteration?
– That cannot yet be determined ; only a few of the men have yet reached the required age. It is not proposed to extend this liberalization to claims for invalid pensions. If a soldier is in receipt of a war pension, he is already being compensated for his war injuries, and no exception can, I think, be taken to the principle that the Government should not pay two pensions for the same incapacity.
I come now to that portion of the bill relating to the increase of pensions to inmates of charitable institutions. When old-age pensions were first instituted certain benefits were already being given by the States, which also maintained charitable institutions for the aged and indigent. It was felt that those persons who were already provided for in State institutions should not receive further consideration, but subsequently the State Governments pressed for a payment from the Commonwealth in respect of such inmates. As an act of grace the Commonwealth in 1912 agreed to pay 7s. 6d. to the States in respect of each pensioner in an institution. A little later in the same year that amount was increased to 8s. in 1912, and to 10s. 6d. in 1916. At first no pension was paid to the inmate, but in 1916 the law was amended to provide for a payment of 2s. per week to the inmate irrespective of the payment to the State or institution. No provision, however, was made for payment to pensioners in hospitals. In 1923 the payment to the inmates of institutions was increased to 3s., and the pension was made available to inmates of hospitals. In 1925 the pension was again increased to 4s. per week. In the meantime the original pension of 10s. per week had been increased to £1, whereas the total payment in respect of inmates of institutions amounted to only 14s. 6d. Although the States tax the same people as the Commonwealth, and are primarily responsible for the institutions and their inmates, they pressed for further payment to institutions either wholly or partially supported by them. Non-State institutions also made a similar claim. As a result of discussions extending over twelve months the Commonwealth finally agreed to pay a full pension in respect of each pensioner inmate, of which 5s. 6d. would be paid to the pensioner and 14s. 6d. to the institution.
– At present a pensioner is allowed no money for the first four weeks after entering an institution. Is that anomaly to be removed?
– It is not an anomaly. The money is held for the pensioner so that on leaving the hospital he will not be penniless.
– That means that a smoker who enters an institution must go without tobacco for four weeks.
– I shall give consideration to that aspect of the matter.
– How much is involved in this alteration in respect of inmates of institutions?
– £56,000 a year.
.- For many years I have urged in the House some re-adjustment of the payments in respect of inmates of institutions, and during the budget debates in previous years I suggested that the difference m between the full pension and the total amount then paid to the institution and the inmate should be given to the latter or divided between him and the institution. However, I am glad that the Government has at last taken action to remove what was an undoubted anomaly, although I consider that a much better policy would be to pay the full amount to the pensioner, and allow him to make arrangements with the institution for his maintenance. One fault of the present system is that the inmate of an institution is robbed of all sense of independence, inasmuch as the money for his maintenance is paid, not by himself, but by the Commonwealth. Recently the accommodation and treatment given to inmates of State institutions have provoked a good deal of criticism. Many persons are compelled to enter institutions or suffer the cancellation of their pensions, and I think it would be preferable to give the full pension as a right to every person qualified to receive it. I am disappointed also that the Government has not further investigated the many harassing restrictions in connexion with the payment of pensions. Time will not permit me to deal with them this afternoon, but I have stated them in the House and made suggestions for their rectification on many occasions. Clause 5 of the bill deals with pensioners in hospitals. Many of those who enter hospitals have others partly dependent upon them, and the loss of their pension while in an hospital is a severe hardship, especially if the illness is protracted. As a rule hospital treatment is given free to any indigent person, and I think that pensioners who are obliged to enter hospitals should continue to receive the full pension. I hope the other anomalies remaining in the existing law will be rectified at a future date. In the meantime, I express my appreciation of the action of the Government in meeting what I believe to be the unanimous wish of the House in regard to pensioners who are inmates of institutions.
.- The proposed improvements of the law, so far as they go, will meet with no opposition. The liberalization of the act in regard to returned soldiers will affect very few in the immediate future, because a soldier to be 65 to-day would have had to enlist at 51, and as the maximum age for enlistment was 45 years, such a man could have gained acceptance for active service only by taking six years off his age. Although the Treasurer said that the Commonwealth cannot pay two pensions for the same incapacity, the reasons advanced by him for excluding a soldier’s war pension from calculation as income could be applied to an invalid pension equally as well as to an old-age pension. However, the extension of the principle would cost the Commonwealth a lot of money and probably that influenced the Treasurer against it. I have heard of strange anomalies in regard to soldiers suffering permanent disability. Such men have been refused a war pension on the ground that their disability was not due to military service, and when they have applied for an invalid pension they have been told that they were not eligible because their disability had been contracted outside Australia. Thus one department tells the soldier that his disability was not caused by the war, and another department tells him that it was. In some cases, but not all, these anomalies have been adjusted. Again, a permanently incapacitated soldier may be receiving a small war pension in respect of only part of his incapacitation, the other part being due to other than war causes. The determination of whether his permanent incapacity occurred in Australia or out of it, raises a very fine point. This bill does not propose any amendments to meet defects of this character in the act. The rectification of the anomaly in regard to inmates of institutions is long overdue. The Treasurer was not right in suggesting that this anomaly merely grew out of the gradual increase of the .pension; it was always recognized by honorable members on this side of the House, and repeated attempts were made by us to have it rectified. Yet time after time Ministers have denied the existence of an anomaly and said that the non-payment of a full pension in respect of inmates in institutions was justified. It is a remarkable fact that time and again, after the Labour party has advocated a reform for years, it is belatedly introduced by our opponents, who take to themselves all the kudos. I propose briefly to draw the Treasurer’s attention to several other anomalies that should have received attention in this bill. Probably the greatest injustice in connexion with the administration of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act is the deduction made from the pension in respect of property other than the house in which the pensioner lives. According to an interpretation of the law given by the Attorney-General’s Department some years ago, the Commissioner of Pensions has to take into account not only the rental received from such property but also its capital value. A pensioner who is obliged to reside with a son or daughter vacates his little cottage and lets it for a small rental. Not only is the amount of the rental deducted from the pension, but for every £10 of capital value over £50 a further £1 is taken off the pension. The result often is that the whole amount of the pension is wiped out. I am convinced that the officials who administer the act are not in sympathy with this double deduction. Probably an even greater hardship is imposed on a person who is totally, but not permanently, incapacitated. Admittedly it is not easy to draw the line determining where the granting of pensions shall stop; there is a danger that a person suffering a temporary illness may claim a pension on the ground of total incapacity. But if the incapacitation is prolonged, the sufferer should be entitled to a pension even though there is a prospect of ultimate recovery. I am pleased to know that often this provision is not too rigorously administered. A doctor may say that the patient will not recover for three or four years.
-I do not wish to unduly restrict the debate but I remind the honorable member that this bill is not for a general amendment of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act; it is to amend only specified scetions of it, and debate must be relevant to the bill.
– I am not attempting a general discussion of the Old-age Pensions Act, and with all due deference to you, sir, I submit that my remarks are relevant to this bill. The Treasurer said that this measure is for the purpose of rectifying anomalies in the act, and I submit that I am quite in order in drawing attention to anomalies and defects that have been overlooked. However, I do not wish to proceed further with the matter at this stage. The only criticism that can be directed against the provisions of the bill is that they are long overdue.
– I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this bill. Honorable members of all parties are agreed as to the need for doing everything we can to make easier the lot of the poor and indigent. We have been told that the amendments contained in the bill have been advocated for years past by the Labour party; at the same time I find satisfaction in the fact that the original act was introduced by the Deakin Government, and that every subsequent increase in the pensions has been proposed by a Liberal or National Government.
– The act was first introduced by the Deakin Government as a condition of the Labour party’s support.
– Similar claim might be made in respect of any other measure. The anomaly in regard to inmates of institutions should have been rectified some time ago, but I do not agree with the honorable member for Reid that the full pension should be paid to old-age pensioners who enter a hospital. I know of many persons who, when indisposed, but not actually ill, enter an institution for a period of rest. It appears to me to impose unfairly on the revenue for the full pension to be paid while they are, so to speak, resting in these homes. In the case of actual illness, the position may be different.
There is one amendment that I regret the Treasurer has not seen fit to introduce. Where a son or daughter is maintaining his or her parents, an amount equal to the old-age pension should br> allowable as a deduction for income-tax purposes. That would not involve a very considerable loss of revenue. I am inclined to think that the New South Wales Government will introduce such a provision in the amending income tax bill that it proposes to place before the Parliament of that State. In my opinion, it is a reasonable deduction.
By the introduction of this measure the Government has given further evidence of its sympathy for the workers of Australia. The bill will constitute a further claim to the support of the great middle class and working class of this country which for so long has supported this Government.
, - The time has arrived when, apart from the payments that are made to them, our old-age pensioners should receive more humane treatment. Frequently soldiers and other persons suffering from invalidity or illness cannot attend at the places appointed for the collection of their pensions. Complaints having been made to me in my electorate regarding the manner in which pension payments were made, on one hot summer’s day I visited the place of payment in Footscray. The suffering, hardship and inconvenience caused to not only the pensioners themselves, but also others who had been delegated to collect the pension, were indescribably cruel. Superannuation and some other payments are made by means of cheques or certificates, which are posted to the persons concerned. Why should not such a system be extended to include the payment of old-age and invalid pensions? I have seen granddaughters and daughters of old-age pensioners, in charge of infants in perambulators, waiting outside the place of payment on a hot summer’s day. The revenue would not suffer if arrangements were made to send pension payments through the post office. A certificate could be accepted as readily as a Treasury note. It would be a great convenience to the pensioners, and possibly a lot of time and money would be saved. I hope that the Treasurer will take steps to save these fine old pioneers from the exposure to which they are at present subjected. The officials concerned certainly adopt a kindly manner, but, even so, the procedure is not the correct one. The names are called in turn, and the pensioners are caused embarrassment when they have to make their way to the table and receive the payment in the presence of a large number of other persons.
– I do not intend to disregard the ruling of Mr. Speaker that honorable members may not discuss generally the Old-age Pensions Act; but a certain amount of latitude appears to have been allowed to those who have preceded me, and I therefore propose to refer to one or two matters that I consider should be brought to the notice of the Treasurer. We do not often have the opportunity to ventilate old-age pensions grievances.
I wish to refer first to the great difficulty that confronts an honorable member when he endeavours to approach head-quarters with a complaint that cannot be dealt with by the Deputy Commissioner of Old-Age Pensions. In a number of instances that have been brought to my notice Deputy Commissioners have made recommendations that have been turned down by the Commissioner in Melbourne, and those honorable members who were interesting themselves in the matter were not supplied with reasons for the action taken. Our dealings are principally with the Deputy Commissioners. The Commissioner is not so conveniently accessible, especially to those of us who do not live in Melbourne. The procedure could be simplified so as to give the Deputy Commissioners a little more discretionary power to deal with matters without reference to the Commissioner.
I wish to bring under the notice of the Treasurer the case of persons who become inmates of benevolent institutions. It sometimes happens that a person who is receiving a pension is convicted of an offence against the law. Frequently it is a paltry offence, such as drunkenness or disorderly conduct; but occasionally it may be a criminal offence. In some cases the offender is given the benefit of the provisions of the First Offenders’ Act, while in other cases a fine is imposed by the court of petty sessions. The result of such a conviction, however, is that the pensioner is deprived of his pension, and it is almost impossible for an honorable member to get it restored to him.
– Order! When the honorable member began I thought that he intended to make only a passing reference to the matter with which he is now dealing; but’ he has gone into considerable detail. I point out that he and other honorable members will have ample opportunity in the budget debate to raise questions such as that which he is now raising. I ask honorable members to confine their remarks to the amendments proposed by the bill. The honorable member will see that the specific amendment under cover of which he has been discussing the case of inmates of benevolent institutions proposes only to increase the amount of the pension from 4s. to 5s. 6d. a week.
– Unless we can discuss practically any question relating to old-age pensions we are only wasting time by continuing the debate. Am I to understand, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you do not wish me to refer to matters that are not dealt with by the amendments before the House.
– That is so.
– In that case I have nothing further to say.
– On a point of order: Is it not possible to criticize the bill on the ground of its inadequacy, and to argue that certain other matters ought to be covered by it?
– If the honorable member will turn to the title of the bill he will see that it is “ a bill for an act to amend sections 4, 39, 45, and 47 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Acts 1908-1926.” The discussion must, therefore, of necessity, be confined to those sections.
– Would it not be correct for an honorable member to argue that it is wrong to restrict the amendments to sections 4, 39, 45, and 47?
– No; that would not be within the scope of the bill.
.- It . gives me very great pleasure to support this measure, because it introduces certain reforms that I have advocated for years. The Treasurer is well aware that I have always contended that the payment of 4s. to inmates of charitable institutions was not sufficient. The Rockhampton Benevolent Society, a body of philanthropic women who devote their leisure hours to attendance upon the sick and needy, waited upon the Treasurer in my presence early in July, and urged that a greater sum should be paid for the maintenance of the aged and infirm people who are so very well looked after in that institution. I strongly supported their request and am pleased that something is being done to meet their wishes. This subject has no direct personal interest to us; but any liberalization of our pensions legislation must have the effect of benefiting thousands of needy persons in the community who all their working lives have received only the basic wage, or a little more than it, and have found it impossible to provide for their later years. Many of them would be dependent upon cold charity but for the pension. Consequently, I believe that whenever we are engaged in improving our pensions legislation, we are doing useful work. I regret that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) claimed that a Liberal government had introduced or only they had. improved our pensions legislation. His statements were not in accord with facts, for I find that on the 19th March, 1908, Mr. Andrew Fisher, who was then the member for Wide Bay, moved a motion on supply respecting old-age pensions - Hansard, page 9300 - to the following effect : -
That all the words after the word “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “Whereas the electors have thrice returned a large majority of members of the Commonwealth Parliament pledged to provide a Federal system of old-age pensions, and whereas the State Parliaments of Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania have made no provision for the payment of old-age pensions, this House is of opinion that the passing of a measure to give effect to the expressed will of the people is an urgent public duty.
On the 3rd June of that year Senator Mulcahy made these observations in the Senate -
I am prepared to give the Labour party every credit in the matter, and I assert that if a scheme for the establishment of old-age pensions is approved in this session the whole credit for it will be due to the Labour party, and not to the Government.
Senator Mulcahy was a Liberal, and not a Labour representative. As a matter of fact, everybody knows that one of the conditions upon which the Labour party supported the Deakin Government in those days was that it would introduce an old-age and invalid pensions bill. Had the Government not done so, it would not have received the support of Labour. I approve of the amendments proposed to be made in the principal act by this bill. I am wholly in favour of returned soldiers being granted the full pension, irrespective of their income as pensioners under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. Many returned soldiers still suffer from war disabilities, and are obliged to spend considerable amounts weekly upon medical attention. Some of them being invalids are even more needy than ordinary soldier citizens who reach the age of 65 who still retain, in a large degree, their physical and mental vigour. I trust that other amendments will be inserted in the bill in committee to give the pension to invalid soldiers, irrespective of their war pension. A comprehensive measure to amend the principal act should have been introduced to remove many of the anomalies which at present exist. We cannot blame the officers of the Pensions Department for the existence of these anomalies, for they are, generally, painstaking, courteous and efficient, and do their best for the pensioners. I should like to see a provision inserted in the principal act that persons entering institutions should be made some allowance during the first 28 days of their residence therein. At present they get nothing during that period.
– The Treasurer has promised to make an alteration in that regard.
– I am .glad of it, for if these deserving persons had a few shillings available during that period they would be able to obtain some small delicacies which otherwise they must do without. There should be a provision in the act to meet more adequately the case of persons suffering from miner’s phthisis. They should receive the full pension irrespective of the allowance which they receive as sufferers from phthisis, for they have to buy brandy and other medicines or nourishing mixtures necessary for their complaint.
– The honorable member is not entitled under this bill to enter upon a general discussion of our pensions legislation.
– I shall not pursue the subject further than to say that I sincerely hope that the Government will remedy some of the defects to which I have referred, and others to which I am not permited to refer at this stage. I trust that before long we shall have submitted for our consideration a bill to provide necessary comprehensive amendments in the pensions law.
.- I. listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), and particularly to what he had to say about the political aspect of the subject. Some time ago I made a careful study of this matter, the result of which was to convince me that the efforts of the Labour party to provide a satisfactory pensions scheme were limited to words, whereas the efforts of honorable members on this side of the chamber had resulted in actions.
-The honorable member is not in order in discussing that phase of the subject.
– If I am not permitted to say that this side in politics was responsible for introducing the first Pensions Act, perhaps I may be allowed to observe that we have always done our best to assist the deserving poor. The proposed amendments to the principal act which we are now considering are all commendable, and I am glad that the Treasurer has found it practicable to propose them. I am glad to note the adjustment in regard to those receiving pensions as dependants of deceased soldiers, the extension in regard to ex-soldiers, and also in regard to pensioners in hospitals. Clause 6 of the bill provides for the granting of an increased personal payment to pensioners in government institutions. Hitherto such pensioners have been in an invidious position. I have met some in my constituency who, as inmates of a Salvation Army home, received the full pension and were able to make arrangements with the institution to pay 14s. 6d., and themselves retain 5s. 6d. of the total amount available. I am glad that the Treasurer has increased the total payment on account of inmates in government institutions to fi - 14s. 6d. to go to the institution and 5s. 6d. to the inmates. On Saturday week I addressed the pensioners at the Magill Old Folks’ Home in my constituency, and informed them that there would be some adjustment in that direction. During the last election campaign this subject was brought under my notice, and I promised that if I were returned I would do my utmost to secure this reform, which I did, and I am glad that the alteration has been made. The superintendent and the old folk in the home expressed their , thanks to me by telegram for what has been done. I do not claim all the credit for the introduction of the bill; but I have persistently pursued the Treasurer in trying to obtain this reform. On every occasion when I have approached him, I have found him considering the matter sympathetically. The alteration would have been made some time ago if the State Governments had been in agreement upon it. On behalf of the inmates of the Magill Home I thank the Treasurer for this measure of justice, which is greatly appreciated by the old people. It is a further effort to show appreciation of the services they have rendered to their country, and the Treasurer will enjoy the satisfaction of having done an act of justice to a highly deserving section of the community.
.- I also express my appreciation of the action of the Government, and of the Treasurer in particular, in bringing down this amending bill to the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act 1908-1926, under which the inmates of benevolent asylums will receive 5s. 6d. a week, and 14s. 6d. a week will be paid to the institution instead of 4s. and 10s. 6d. as at present. The measure rectifies an anomaly due to the increases that the Government has made from time to time in the invalid and old-age pensions, without at the same time increasing amounts paid to pensioners in institutions. The record of the present Ministry in this respect is commendable. When it assumed office the pension was 10s. a week. That was increased first to 12s. 6d., and then to 15s., and eventually it was raised to 17s. 6d. and later to £1 a week; but corresponding increases were not made in the allowance paid to pensioners in institutions. This anomaly was rectified to some extent some few years ago by their allowance being increased from 2s. to 4s. a week, and now it is to be further increased to 5s. 6d. This action is in keeping with the general practice of the present Government. It has already increased from 25s. to 30s. a week, the income that a pensioner may earn and the value of the property that a pensioner may own has been raised from £300 to £410. A member of the Opposition has stated that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act was introduced by the Deakin Administration under pressure from the Labour party.
– The honorable member for Warringah made certain statements, and I allowed the honorable member for Capricornia to reply to them; but I cannot permit the debate to continue along general lines.
– May I not reply to statements made by the honorable member for Capricornia?
– The hon.orable member will not be in order in going beyond the scope of the bill.
– I appreciate the action of .the Government in giving a further measure of assistance to returned soldiers by exempting from the computations of income the amount of the war pensions paid to them under the Repatriation Act in determining the amount of old-age pensions payable- to them. The bill assists two most worthy sections of the community, and it has my most hearty support.
.- Certain honorable members seem to be under the impression that the bill provides for an increase in the invalid and old-age pension, but it does nothing of the. kind. The New South Wales Government pointed out to the Treasurer that 13s. 6d. a week was allowed for each pensioner who was maintained in an institution, and as the pensioner himself received only 4s. a week, he was being deprived of 2s. 6d. a week, which the Commonwealth Government put back into the Treasury. In my opinion every honorable member was under the impression that every old-age pensioner received fi a week, but he did not. The allocation of pensions will never be satisfactory until every man and woman, on reaching a certain age, can obtain the full pension if he or she requires it. If that were the law, a considerable reduction in the staff required for the administration of this department could be made. A man and his wife may have quarrelled and lived apart for twenty years.
– The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the bill.
– Some men regularly put by £1 a week until they reach the age of 65 years, and then find that they cannot obtain the pension. About the year 1881 I submitted a motion in the Sydney Trades and Labour Council, affirming that a man should not be penalized by being deprived of the old-age pension if he had been thrifty, and I know that my view was supported by the late Sir George Reid.
– I must request the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.
– The Government is really making no concession to the oldage pensioner under this bill. Parliament has passed a law that he should receive £1 a week, and ‘ the Government now proposes that 5s. 6d. a week should be paid to the pensioner confined to an institution, so that he may provide himself with comforts. The elections are approaching, and the Government has adopted the ruse of suggesting that this 5s. 6d. represents an increase in the pension. Every old-age pensioner who was an inmate of a benevolent asylum was formerly robbed of 2s. 6d. a week.
.- Despite the remarks of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, the bill will cost the Commonwealth some £56,000 a year. I welcome the alterations made by it, because the Government ought not to reap an a’dvantage when a pensioner is compelled to go into an institution. The asylum pension has been steadily increasing. It was originally 2s. It was subsequently raised to 2s. 6d. a week, but later to 4s. Representations were made that it was not in consonance with the dignity of the Commonwealth Government that it should be saving money from the distress of these aged people, who, if they were not confined to institutions, would be entitled to the full pension. The difficulty has been that it has been impossible to bring the State governments into line on the matter. The New South Wales Government claimed the whole of the difference between the 4s. and the £1, and declared that it cost more than 16s. a week to maintain a pensioner in an institution.
– That was a Labour Government, was it not?
– Yes, it was a Labour Government. The States have now all come into line as a result of the last. Premiers’ conference, and have agreed to accept 14s. 6d. a week as payment for the keep of pensioners while they are in these institutions. Therefore, I think that it is only fair to give the pensioners as the Government now proposes to do, the remainder of the £1 a week. The net result will be that the inmates of such institutions will have more pocket money than any of the old-age pensioners outside. Those in the institutions are kept and clothed, while pensioners outside have to keep and clothe themselves. Nevertheless, I regard the amendment as a fair one, and I welcome its introduction. The other amendment proposed to remedy what was really an injustice. It will give the returned soldier pensioner a larger pension, and that is something of which we approve. I hope that on some future occasion the Treasurer will consider a suggestion that returned soldiers be allowed to qualify for the old-age pension at the age. of 60. It should be remembered that many of these men will have their lives shortened as a result of their war experiences, and the period during which they can find profitable employment will also be curtailed.
– Notwithstanding the fact that the amount being paid in pensions is constantly increasing, I congratulate the Government on bringing down this measure. This year we shall pay away over £10,000,000 in war, invalid and oldage pensions, but we must not adopt a cheese-paring policy, even though that amount seems large. Under the present arrangement, when an oldage pensioner goes into a benevolent institution, he receives no part of his pension for the first four weeks. I hope that the Treasurer will accede to the wishes of these people, and allow them at least half the amount to which they are entitled. If the pensioner dies within four weeks, this money is retained by the Treasury, and the pensioner’s next of kin receives none of it. I think that it would be a good idea to post the 5s. 6d. a week to pensioners in hospital, instead of their having to parade in order to collect the money. It would also be an advantage if the act could be amended so that instead of old people having to go to the post office to collect their pension, a postal note for the amount could be sent to them.
– A pensioner may authorize somebody else to collect his pension for him.
– Yes, but the course which I suggest would, I think, be better. It is degrading for old people to have to gather in a queue at a post office to receive their pensions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Those pensioners who go into benevolent homes for permanent residence immediately receive the asylum pension which will now be 5s. 6d. a week. It is only those who go into hospitals and other such institutions for a limited time who have their pension money retained so that they may not be penniless when they leave.
– Can the necessary alteration be made by regulation?
– Weshall see what can be done.
– Can it be arranged so that the Treasury will send a postal note for 5s. 6d. to pensioners in these institutions instead of their having to go and collect it?
– We shall inquire into that also.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Message recommending appropriation reported, and ordered to be taken into consideration in committee forthwith.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys he made for the purposes of a bill fur an act to authorize the raising and expending of certain sums of money.
Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Gibson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first and second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
War and Repatriation Services.
Proposed vote, £1,538,745.
– In June last, Loan Act No. 1 was passed to meet expenditure on works and other services chargeable to Loan Fund during the first quarter of the current financial year. At the time Loan Act No. 1 was being considered, I promised that the full programme for 1928-29 would be submitted for approval of the House when we resumed after the adjournment. The total of the programme for loan works and services submitted with the budget for 1928-29 is £9,024,375. Last year the programme of Commonwealth works submitted with the budget was £9,000,000, and the actual expenditure was £7,780,157. The amount of £7,780,157 just quoted represents the actual expenditure last year, before deducting a repayment of £163,216 on account of the sale of ships. The net loan expenditure for last year was, therefore, £7,616,941. The estimated expenditure for 1928-29 compares with the actual expenditure last year as follows: -
There is an increase of £1,047,417 in expenditure on war service homes, which is mainly due to the altered practice referred to in the budget speech. To recoup the Federal Capital Commission for expenditure incurred by it in connexion with the construction of Parliament House, £638,500 is provided. The loans to be raised for the Commission will be reduced accordingly. No provision is made in the bill for loans to be raised for the States for development and migration under the migration agreement, as authority has already been given by Parliament under another act for this service. The total amount included in this Loan Bill is £10,422,025.
This amount is arrived at as follows : -
The amount of £3,000,000 provided for loans to the Federal Capital Commission is mainly to-cover advances made to the Commission pending the raising of a loan. These advances amounted to £2,942,060 at the 30th June. The provision for loans to the North Australia Commission is required to meet an estimated expenditure of’ £100,000 for the current year, and advances previously made. Clause 2 of the bill gives authority to the Treasurer to borrow moneys not exceeding, in the whole, the amount of £10,700,000. This amount is arrived at by adding to the amount provided in the bill, namely, £10,422,025, the sum of £277,975, which represents the estimated cost of raising loan moneys to cover the amount of expenditure authorized by the bill.
. The schedule of the bill shows that the Government intends to spend on migration this year more money than was spent last year. Two honorable members on the Ministerial side have expressed themselves very plainly to their constituents on this subject recently. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) is reported to have said that the Government should not continue to bring out migrants while so many of our own people are unemployed. A few days ago the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Hurry) gave expression to similar sentiments at a public function. I shall watch with interest the attitude of these honorable members towards the Government’s migration policy. It behoves us to be very careful in regard to this subject. Many visitors to Australia from overseas have observed recently the gravity of our unemployment problem, and they have mentioned the danger of our bringing people to these shores from the old country who, on arrival, will find themselves stranded, and by their letters to their relatives and friends abroad, damage the credit of Australia, Such correspondence from disappointed new arrivals to friends in the United Kingdom can do to us almost irreparable injury. We have from time to time read of letters having been sent by migrants in which they said, in effect - “ Inspired by the glowing pictures painted in the Old Country, we landed in this so-called land of sunshine, expecting to find it flowing with milk and honey; instead, we find ourselves stranded and thousands of other people also seeking in vain for employment.” The two greatest fears that haunt the mind of mankind are war and unemployment, and I believe that if we can prevent the former we shall eliminate the latter to a great extent. From a careful analysis of the figures available I have come to the conclusion that approximately 100,000 of our own people are out of work, and the consequent reduction of the wages fund during the last twelve months may be conservatively estimated at £3,600,000. It is our responsibility to solve the problem of developing this country and giving employment to the native-born Australians and those others who have come here to make this their permanent home. Unfortunately the figures relating to emigration from Australia show that the greater proportion of those who have left this country are of our own kith and kin; they outnumber the foreigners, although we know that the latter are only sojourners amongst us, working in the Commonwealth for only a few years so that they may accumulate a competence to take back with them to their own country. The disturbing fact is that our own kith and kin are finding it difficult to make a home for themselves in this part of the King’s dominions; therefore, we must be careful not to adopt a policy which will increase the number of disappointed migrants. Some months ago the Prime Minister quoted statistics showing that in certain years when the tide of immigration reached its highest point the percentage of unemployment was the lowest.
– Hear, hear.
– Is the honorable member aware that that occurred in 1911, when the Fisher Government was in office? There was then good government, proper management of the finances, and a co-ordinated public works policy. That is why people landing in Australia found positions awaiting them. Theunemployment problem can be solved only by a full appreciation of its seriousness. Unfortunately the attitude of the Prime Minister is very like that of Gallio of old; his attention is drawn to unemployment and other urgent matters that require attention, but “he cared for none of those things.” Unemployment, he says, is the concern not of the Commonwealth, but of the States. I say that it is the concern of everybody and every authority from the Federal Parliament down to the humblest institution in our society. There should be work for every man and woman in Australia, and until we not only recognize the right of all to live but provide the opportunity to live, we shall not be governing this country wisely. Australia is not to be compared with other countries in which the greater part of the work of development is already done. We are only now laying the foundations of Australia’s greatness; we have a continent of 3,000,000 square miles, with vast resources, and it should be possible not only to find employment for all who are already here, but to extend an invitation to others abroad to join us and enjoy a standard of living higher than they have yet known.
Until that time arrives we should adopt the principle that charity begins at home. Many Italians, Spaniards, Frenchmen, and Germans who have come to Australia have made admirable citizens. I do not wish to be thought offensive; but if I were called upon to make a choice of the men and women who should be allowed to land in Australia, I should prefer members of the stock from which the majority of our citizens have sprung. It was members of the British race who discovered and colonized this country, and they have brought it to its present state of development. It is that race that will prove most valuable to Australia in the future. We find that meetings of the foreign element are being held in the different State capitals, but particularly in Perth, Western Australia, with the object of finding employment or obtaining relief for those of their countrymen who have been put out of work. This is not the time to expend upon migration a sum £50,000 greater than was expended last year. Many of our own people are out of work and enduring hardships the like of which they have never endured previously. But, despite the existence of unemployment, the Commonwealth Government is flooding this country not only with foreign goods, but also with foreign migrants in numbers greater than were brought out by any previous Government. It is time we took a firm stand against such a policy. In the coming conflict, in my addresses to the people, I intend to give a prominent place to a criticism of the methods adopted by this Government in relation to migration, and particularly in relation to the foreign element. It possesses the power to deal with situations such as that which has existed in Australia during the last twelve or eighteen months; but it has not had the courage to use it, and thus keep foreigners out of Australia until employment has been found for our own people.
I again protest against the proposal of the Government to spend considerable sums upon items relating to defence. My complaint on this occasion has more point than it had last year, because many items have been transferred from Revenue Account to the Loan Fund. The Labour party takes second place to no one in
Australia, in either the political or any other sphere, in its desire to make provision for the manufacture of munitions, with a view to making Australia independent of other countries in the event of its being called upon to defend its territory. But every honorable member who is concerned about the financial status of the Commonwealth should deplore tha tendency to defray so much defence expenditure out of the Loan Fund instead of from revenue. I find that three items that formerly appeared in the Revenue Account have been transferred to the Loan Fund. They are - “ Machinery and plant for manufacture of munitions not now produced in Australia - towards cost £43,000 “ Acquisition of Small Arms Ammunition Factory, Footscray - instalments, £19,153”, and “Towards cost of construction of buildings and works generally in connexion with new munitions production at Maribyrnong, Footscray, Lithgow and Wakefield, £42,847 “.. I admit that we regard defence expenditure as something in the nature of an insurance premium; but nevertheless every honorable member must agree that as far as practicable it should be defrayed out of revenue. During the last great war, expenditure had to be incurred in large amounts, and it was necessary to raise loans for the purpose; but in times of peace the expenditure upon defence should not be debited to the Loan Fund. The substantial interest bill that has to be paid annually is keeping the Commonwealth with its nose to the grindstone. It now amounts to over £1,000,000 a week, and is increasing annually. The policy of making the Loan Fund liable for expenditure on defence items will add still further to that indebtedness. The total amount provided by this schedule for defence is £273,100. I object to that amount being debited to the Loan Fund. It ought to be possible to confine the expenditure “of loan money to reproductive works, and to defray out of revenue the cost of works that will not be reproductive.
Sitting suspended from 6.1b to 8 p.m.
– If there is one thing that I can commend the Government upon it is the proposal to put in hand the construction of public offices in Brisbane and Sydney. Those works are long overdue, and their completion will supply a longfelt want. When the buildings are in occupation the Public Service will be more comfortable and efficient, and the Commonwealth will save a large amount that it is at present spending in rent. I believe that it would be economical for us to build public offices in all the States. At present we are spending nearly £100,000 per annum in rent. I was doubtful whether the Government would make money available for the proposed offices in Brisbane and Sydney, but as the Public Works Committee had reported in favour of their construction there seemed to be no reason for delay. The site for the Sydney office has been purchased and the work should be put in hand at once.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Proposed vote, £250,000.
.- We intend to call for a division on this item as a protest against the provision of £300,000 out of loan for the payment of passage money in respect of migrants coming to Australia. The first point that should be stressed in thisconnexion is that the Government cut down its public works vote last year by £1,200,000 on the plea that no money was available; yet it is now proposing to bring more people here to swell the ranks of the unemployed. We have more unemployment in Australia today probably than ever before in our history. The second point is that it is unsound finance to provide passage money for migrants out of loan. Such a policy cannot be justified. The Treasurer has on numerous occasions attempted to justify it, but has always signally failed. According to the latest statistical returns there were 180,000 unemployed in Australia in the second quarter of this year. That is unprecedented. We strongly protest against increasing the number by assisting migrants to come here.
-The mere fact that unemployment exists in Australia is not an argument against migration, and in using it as such the Leader of the Opposition discloses a lack of appreciation of the causes of unemployment. He would be the first to admit that we cannot profitably market overseas the products of many of our secondary industries. The competition of cheap labour countries abroad makes it impossible. We have been able hitherto profitably to market overseas our wheat and wool and, in diminishing quantities, our meat ; but the Argentine is now beating us badly in the meat market. It must be apparent, therefore, that the only market available to us is the home market.
– Therefore the honorable member would import consumers.
– It is better for us to have a market inside the Commonwealth than not to have one at all.
– Then the honorable member admits that his solution to our difficulty is to import consumers.
– The introduction of more people to the Commonwealth would mean more and not less work. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is mixing issues which are not closely related. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton) pointed out before the dinner adjournment that during Australia’s peakperiod of migration there was less unemployment here than at any other time.
– That was not due to migration.
– If the honorable member will refer to the statistical returns of Canada and the United States of America, he will find that when migration has been at its highest point unemployment has been at its lowest. The reason is that when more people are entering the country there is more work. Naturally the people who come here need feeding, clothing and housing. This must mean more activity in Australian industry. Our best market is our home market and we should develop it. The problem of unemployment is in no way associated with the number of people in a country. The United States of America has a tremendous amount of unemployment despite its enormous population; the United Kingdom is in the same unfortunate position; and so are New Zealand and Australia. If we were suddenly to bring 1,000,000 people here we should certainly have difficulty in absorbing them; but the Government does not propose to do that. Only such migrants as are requisitioned by the States or are nominated by friends in Australia arc being introduced. If we increase our population in this fashion we shall naturally increase our home markets. A good deal has been said of late about timber duties. Our timber mills are not operating extensively to-day, because there is no outlet for their products. If we had more people in Australia we should need more homes, and there would be more work for the mills.
– We imported 400,000,000 feet of timber last year, most of which was used instead of Australian timber.
– Oregon is more easily worked than our hardwood and does not replace it. More people spells more work, and therefore less unemployment. It has not been suggested that the Commonwealth Government has done anything to increase unemployment.
– Every man who comes here gets work.
– Why is it that our own people cannot secure employment?
– The relationship between migration and unemployment is exactly as the honorable member for Maribyrnong put it, although he tried to explain it by saying that there was a Labour Government in power at the time to which he referred.
– There was a Labour Government in power which had a well organized public works policy, and which paid for its public works out of revenue.
– The Labour party is in an unfortunate position; it stands for extremely high tariffs and, in some cases, total prohibition.
– That is so.
– In that case it is manifest that we cannot export our commodities and must provide a home market for them. Our standards of living, short hours and high wages, make it essential that we must build up our markets behind our tariff barriers. I am not dealing at the moment with fiscal matters; I am merely pointing out that, if the Opposition is right in its policy we need a greater market inside the tariff wall than outside it. How can we have a big local market unless we have a constant stream of new settlers coming to this country ? The contention that migration increases unemployment unduly cannot be justified.
I direct the attention of the committee to the causes of unemployment, and ask the Government to take notice of reports recently furnished. One of the causes of unemployment is the want of markets inside Australia, and there are other causes that are not generally recognized. At certain seasons of the year, as the Development and Migration Commission has pointed out, ample work is obtainable iu the rural districts in connexion with seeding and harvesting operations; but in between those seasons large numbers of men find themselves out of employment. Until there is co-operation between the local governing authorities and private individuals at such times, we shall continue to have large numbers of men suddenly thrown out of work. The Commission drew attention to the fact that, when times are prosperous and private expenditure is maintained at a high rate, public expenditure usually goes on at a similar rate, but when there is economic depression and private expenditure falls off, public expenditure generally shrinks, too. If, in times of prosperity, public expenditure were reduced, and if at other times it were increased, the quantum of employment would be maintained at a level that would, to a large extent, counter the causes of large numbers of men being suddenly thrown on the labour market. The Commission has also remarked that there is no co-ordination between any of the States, or even between the Commonwealth and any one of the States, for the purpose of obtaining accurate data regarding unemployment. This cooperation is essential to success in dealing with the problem. The Federal Government should make it clear that the State authorities will be called into consultation with a view to obtaining reliable information and making a determined effort to counter some of the chief causes of unemployment. National insurance, after all, only alleviates the trouble. Like the medicine that is administered by a doctor to his patient, it does not dispose of the causes of the malady. It is about time the Government took notice of the recommendations of the Development and Migration Commission, which has entered upon an elaborate investigation and has demonstrated fairly clearly by means of graphs the truth of its conclusion that high wages, on the one hand, and immigration on the other, are not important causes of unemployment, but contribute in practically a negligible way to it. The Commission has shown that economic and seasonal fluctuations, some purely internal and others due to outside causes, are the factors that contribute mostly to the acuteness of the problem. I hope that all honorable members will read the Commission’s report, and that the Government, as soon as possible, will call the State authorities into consul* ation in an attempt to co-ordinate public and private expenditure. Most of our troubles are due to lack of scientific organization. I concede every credit to the Government for delegating to expert bodies investigations such as those to which I have referred; but it is useless to have expensive research made, and elaborate reports prepared, if the recommendations are to be ignored. It will be difficult to show that there is any close relationship between unemployment and migration.
– Difficulty will be experienced in absorbing large numbers of migrants, because unemployment is greater in Australia now than ever before.
– In order to increase the market in Australia for Australian goods, and ensure the safety of the people, I want to see a constant and growing stream of immigrants; but the influx must be well controlled if the newcomers are to be properly absorbed, so that we may build up a vigorous population.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has made a most frank declaration from the Government side, and I am wondering to what extent the Prime Minister and the Cabinet agree with him in his arm-chair migration economy. He states that the greater the number of people we bring here the less unemployment we shall have, and the more happiness there will be among the people. The honorable member is no doubt aware that 180,000 persons in Australia are unemployed to-day.
– What is the source of those figures?
– The only available source - the quarterly statistics.
– They are unemployed because there is not enough work for them to do.
– But the honorable member would increase the stream of migrants. From the way he spoke it would be quite a modest estimate of his requirements to say that he desires to bring 100,000 migrants into Australia during the ensuing year. How much employment for the 180,000 now unemployed would be created by the introduction of a further 100,000 people ? If that would solve our problems it would only be necessary to increase the influx of immigrants until unemployment disappeared. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) in the past has advocated that type of economy. The arguments advanced by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) in this chamber and before carefully selected audiences are not convincing to the unfortunate 180,000 who are vainly endeavouring to find work. The solution offered by the Government and the honorable member is that, although we have a lot of unemployment in this country, the more immigrants we bring in to compete for the jobs that are becoming fewer every day the less acute will be the problem. The honorable member discussed the causes of the trouble, but his economic reasoning seems to have gone astray. Until a couple of years ago, when the seasonal occupations in the pastoral industry were not providing much employment there were other industries to which nomadic workers could turn ; but during the last two years unemployment has been gradually increasing. In the last six months the number of unemployed has gone up by about 80,000, and in twelve months the total has almost doubled. If the only solution that the Government can offer is to continue the flood of immigrants, it is a bad outlook for the unfortunate men who are trying to get work. The honorable member discussed fiscal matters and its bearing on unemployment. When responsibility is to be placed upon the shoulders of governments, institutions, or persons the Commonwealth Government and its supporters, irrespective of whether they are free traders or anaemic protectionists, or just ordinary protectionists, which aptly describes the protectionists on the Government side–
– Or prohibitionists?
– There are none on the Government benches. From a Government which is composed partly of avowed free traders, partly of those who are directly interested in the importation of goods from overseas, and of others whose opinions are dictated by considerations of political expediency, it is difficult to secure a policy which will make for the establishment and support of new industries in Australia. During the last fiscal year over £10,000,000 worth of foodstuffs of animal and vegetable origin were imported into Australia. Of that quantity £3,000,000 worth could have been manufactured here. Seven million pounds worth of textiles and apparel were imported during the same period. We are manufacturing many different kinds of textiles and apparel in Australia, but owing to the lack of assistance from this Government, the knitting industry is now practically moribund. Ministers may see that for themselves by visiting the knitting factories in their respective States. There they will see hundreds of machines lying idle with canvas covers over them, while the skilled operative are at home waiting for a change of government so that their industry may receive the protection which it needs. Last year £6,000,000 worth of yarns and manufactured fibres were imported, and of that amount we could produce locally at least £1,000,000 worth. Of metals and metal manufactures we imported £34,000,000 worth, and we should have been able to produce at least £20,000,000 worth of that ourselves. Rubber manufactures were imported to the value of over £5,000,000. Honorable members know of the recent progress made in the manufacture of rubber goods in Australia. The Barnet Glass and Dunlop Companies have been in operation for some time, Rapson’s have started in Tasmania, and the Goodyear Rubber Company has established works inNew South Wales. We are able to manufacture all the rubber goods of the kind imported last year. Importations to a total value of £164,000,000 were brought in during 1926-27, and the manufacturers of the different classes of goods assure us that they are capable of supplying an amount equivalent to 50 per cent. of the quantity imported. The Government has done nothing during the last five years to assist in the establishment of secondary industries. During the period of the Bruce-Page administration from 1922-23 to 1926-27, there has been an extraordinary increase in importations, and this increase seems to be regarded with complacency rather than alarm by members of the Government. Following the death of the late Minister for Trade and Customs, the Prime Minister immediately appointed himself to the position in an attempt, apparently, to placate the freetrade section of his followers. His action in this House this afternoon in refusing point blank to do anything to assist the cotton industry seems to indicate that he was doing the job that he set out to do, namely, to check the operation of Australia’s protectionist policy. This country has really no fiscal policy at the present time, and we cannot expect a satisfactory one from the present Government. The following table shows what enormous increases have taken place in importations during recent years: -
– Is the honorable member quoting values or quantities?
– I am quoting values.
– Prices have increased within recent years.
– That is for the honorable member to prove.
– Where is the evidence of prices having increased since 1924?
– During the period under review rubber importations have increased from £2,000,000 worth to £5,000,000 worth. These importations consisted of articles which are actually being manufactured in Australia. Notwithstanding the protestations of members of the Government when addressing meetings of manufacturers the position has become infinitely worse under the present fiscal policy than it ever was before. The Government has a responsibility to provide employment for the huge army of migrants which it has encouraged to come here from overseas. In spite of this, its policy for the last twelve months has been to increase the volume of unemployment. In the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in Sydney, over 600 men have been discharged, and a large number have also been discharged in Melbourne. In South Australia they are getting ready to put off many more. All this has been done in the telephone section alone. In Western Australia where telephonic development is very necessary, the policy of retrenchment has also been put into operation. In one of the postal districts in my electorate, where there were 50 men employed in March of last year, there were only fifteen in March of this year. The others were discharged, not because there was no work for them to do, but because the edict had gone forth from this Government that economies were to be carried out, and where possible, officials should economize by the dismissal of men. Further, juniors were to be substituted for seniors wherever it could be done. Throughout the whole of the Commonwealth Service that mad system of economizing was carried out.
– The staff committees are working in all the States now.
– As the honorable member for Capricornia points out, the staff committees are working overtime everywhere in an attempt to reduce staffs still further. Not only to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, but to others as well, instructions have been issued that as much money as possible must be saved this year. In Canberra, during the past twelve months, the Bruce-Page Government has been responsible for discharging over 2,000 men.
– Adopting the honorable member’s argument, this is the wisest and most economical Government we have ever had.
– If wise government consists of the indiscriminate sacking of employees, it would be possible to get an efficient Cabinet out of any lunatic asylum in the country. If it is possible to govern a country merely by discharging public servants, government becomes ridiculously easy; but I maintain that the first duty of any Government is to promote the well being of its citizens, and to afford them opportunities for securing employment. The Government has failed miserably, not only in regard to its general fiscal policy, but also in regard to the details of its domestic administration. Twelve months ago there were over 3,000 men employed on construction works in the Federal Capital Territory; but because the Treasurer had counted wrongly, or, as someone has suggested, too much taxation relief had been given to persons who could well afford to pay, a policy of retrenchment was decided upon, and thousands of unfortunate workers were thrown out of employment. The Government has failed in its duty to 95 per cent, of the people. It has not failed the wealthy land owners, the squatters, the shareholders of the associated banks, the importers or the sweaters; but it has certainly failed the people as a whole. Not only has the Government been chiefly responsible for flooding the country with immigrants who have helped to break down awards and economic conditions because they have been compelled to work for any wage, offered, but by its refusal to do anything to help the secondary industries it has shown itself unworthy to hold office. I hope that on the 17th November next the 180,000 unfortunate unemployed, plus those who, with good cause, fear that the disease of retrenchment will spread throughout the country, will by their votes help to remove the Government which is responsible for it.
– The Leader of the Opposition stated that he proposed *to divide the committee . on the item of £300,000 for the passage money of migrants, in order to record his party’s dissent from the action of the Government in assisting the migration of British citizens to Australia to make a permanent home in our midst.
– The second count is the use of borrowed money for that purpose.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has wandered rather widely of those two points and discussed unemployment, the tariff, and various other matters of public policy. This is not a suitable opportunity for a general debate on unemployment and the fiscal policy, but I propose to deal with the statement made by the honorable member for Darling that, since the present Government has been in power, the secondary industries have languished andare now in a deplorable state. The honorable member cannot substantiate that assertion; indeed, the facts show the reverse to be the case. In 1922-23 the value of the output of the manufacturing industry was £326,000,000, and in the year 1925-26 it was £400,000,000, an increase of over £84,000,000, or approximately -25 per cent. during portion of the five-year period on which the honorable member based his argument.
– Those figures show merely an increase in value, and values are governed by prices.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition ignored any such consideration as increase in prices; he made the broad general statement that there had been a decrease in production during the period he mentioned.
– I admitted an increase in prices.
– If we are to discuss this matter it must be gone into more thoroughly than is possible on a mere item for the bringing of British migrants to Australia. But, making due allowance for an increase in prices, the figures I have quoted show that the statement that the secondary industries have languished is quite inaccurate. The Leader of the Opposition contended that people should not be brought into Australia while there is unemployment here, and he has charged the Commonwealth Government with actually doing that.
– I said that I shall vote against the expenditure of £300,000 of loan money to pay for the passages of migrants while we have in Australia a bigger army of unemployed than at any previous time in our history.
– I accept that statement of the honorable member’s position. It amounts to a charge that the Commonwealth Government is bringing migrants to this country, and that while unemployment continues such a policy is unwise. On other occasions I have discussed the effect of migration upon unemployment, and quoted statistics showing that in the peak years of migration the percentage of unemployment was lowest. But, whether the bringing of migrants to Australia is wise or unwise, the Commonwealth Government is not the responsible authority and has not, in fact, offended in that way. Several times before the recent adjournment of Parliament I explained to honorable members the processess by which migrants reach these shores, but within a few days honorable members opposite repeated the allegation that the Commonwealth Government is engaged in bringing in population to swell an already congested labour market. Recently I was invited to meet the State Premiers at a conference in Sydney to discuss migration. Sitting round a conference table reckless statements are impossible; one has to deal with the facts. And so the State Premiers opened the proceedings by saying that they did not wish to discuss British migration because all of them, including three Labour Premiers, recognized that that activity was controlled by the States, which could deal with it as they wished. The only matter they wished to discuss was foreign migration, for which the Commonwealth Government has always assumed complete responsibility. The item in this schedule for passage money relates only to British migrants, and they can be granted assisted passages only if they are requisitioned by the States or are nominated by persons already resident in Australia. In the former case, the Commonwealth acts as recruiting and shipping agent for the States, and bears jointly with the British Government a proportion of the passage costs. Nominations are sent to the State authority and until they are endorsed by it assisted passages cannot be given to the persons concerned. When the nominations have been endorsed by the States, the Commonwealth merely acts as shipping agent and shares with the British Government the cost of the passages. Beyond that, the Commonwealth Government has no responsibility in regard to the bringing of those persons to Australia.
In the light of those facts, the. charges of the Leader of the Opposition fall to the ground. I do not wish to leave the impression that the Commonwealth Government subscribes to the view that British migrants should not be brought into the country. It believes in migration, recognizing that the flow will diminish in periods of commercial, financial and industrial depression, but will swell again when normal conditions are restored. However, that matter does not arise on this item for the provision of the money necessary to carry out the contract which the Commonwealth and British Governments have made with the States to assist in the provision of passages for migrants who are either requisitioned by them or nominated by Australian residents with the concurrence of the States. A fact to be borne in mind is that this passage money is not a voluntary gift to the migrant. Those who accept assisted passages are responsible for part of the passage money except in certain cases. The following table sets out the terms of assistance granted in respect of passage money under the agreement between the British, Commonwealth, and State Governments : -
Such was the demand by requisition from the States for domestic servants that the agreement was amended last year to the extent of granting to them free passages. But even under those conditions the requisitions from the States for this class of migrant have never been fully satisfied. From year to year, the proportions of the passage money for which the migrants or the nominators are responsible are repaid into a circulating fund. The balance of the money for passages is provided by the British and Commonwealth Governments.
The second objection of the Leader of the Opposition was to the charging of this expenditure to loan account. That practice is fully justified, because the money is being expended in the creation of a capital asset. No asset could be more valuable than the human one, and the new population will, in turn, increase the country’s productive power and augment the national wealth.
– By whom are those amounts repaid ?
– Take the case of the ordinary migrant who does not come within any special class. The passage money is £33, of which £16 10s. is advanced and the balance is paid by the migrant himself. In the case of nominated migrants the responsibility for the payment is accepted by the nominator, but there is a repayment by the individual concerned. I offer no apologies on behalf of the Government for the placing of this amount upon the loan estimates. Probably no expenditure out of loan funds will give a greater return to Australia in the future than that which is incurred in this direction, because the effect will be to increase our human asset and make available a larger number of persons to assist in developing thi3 country, thus adding to its national wealth.
.- Mr. Bayley -
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).Although, in committee, an honorable member may speak twice, the honorable member has already spoken once, and it is the practice of the committee, if an honorable member who has not already spoken desires to do so he must be given the preference. If the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) wishes to give way to the Leader of the Opposition he may do so.
– Under the Standing Orders every member of the committee has the right to speak twice upon any item, and it ia the practice to call upon an honorable member alternately from each side; therefore, I have a right to speak according to both the practice of the committee and the rules which govern our debates.
– Would you, sir, take a similar exception to the Prime Minister if he wished to speak on a second occasion in like circumstances?
– The practice of the committee is that no honorable member shall speak for the second time upon any item if a member who has not already spoken desires to address himself to it.
– That is you own practice, not the practice of this committee.
– Order! The honorable member must not speak in that tone.
– The Prime Minister concluded his remarks with the statement that he offered no apology for the appearance of this item upon the Estimates; yet three-quarters of his speech consisted of nothing but an apology. Let us consider the nature of his defence. He said that migrants are brought here by the States and that the Commonwealth Government has no responsibility in regard to them. I endeavoured to confine the right honorable gentleman to an answer to my indictment; but he wandered away from it. It is this: that the Commonwealth Government is borrowing £300,000 to defray the passages of migrants at a time when it is placing thousands of Australian workers on the unemployed market by closing down public works on the plea that money is not available to continue them. Is that the responsibility of any State Government ? Have the governments of the States turned Commonwealth public servants out of employment to hunger on the roadside? Those honorable members who argue, in a light and airy fashion, that migration increases employment ought to undergo the ordeal of facing the unemployed in the industrial electorates, as members of the Labour party have to do day after day. Many of them have been out of employment for months, and some of them will not enter your house because the light will reveal the state of their clothing, of which they are ashamed. They are decent, honorable citizens, the majority of whom were horn in this country. Yet, notwithstanding these facts, honorable members opposite lecture us on economy, and argue that the larger the number of shiploads of people dumped in Australia, the greater the relief afforded to the unemployed. Such a contention is absurd. The charge we make against the Government is that it proposes to spend a large sum in bringing thousands of workers to Australia at a time when the army of unemployed here is larger than it has ever been in our history. An honorable member opposite has asked where I obtained the information that 180,000 persons are unemployed. The Commonwealth Statistician has calculated that the number of unemployed persons is 11 per cent. I asked him if that could fairly be regarded as the correct percentage on the basis of the total number of wageearners, and he replied “Approximately that will be right.” Eleven per cent. of 1,900,000 is 200,000. I have reduced the number by 20,000 to avoid the charge of exaggeration; but even then the figures are appalling. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) said that unemployment exists wherever there are large populations, and that it is no more acute in Australia than in any other country. On his own admission, therefore, a large population is not the solution of the problem of unemployment. It is perfectly true that migrants increase the opportunities for employment if they are themselves placed in employment upon arrival. But if, on the other hand, they are merely dumped here, and are not given work, they do not provide a market for anybody, but merely accentuate the unemployment problem. Among those who are out of work in Australia are many persons who were induced to come here from across the seas. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) said they are guaranteed employment. New settlers leagues are established all over the country for that purpose, but what is the result? A shipload of migrants arrives, and they are sent to work in the country for a period of 3, 4, 5 or 6 weeks, when they are turned adrift. When the next shipload arrives they are treated similarly. No responsibility is taken for placing any immigrant in a second position. Once he has been found work he is regarded as an Australian, and has to seek employment for himself. I have never seen the position worse than it is at the present time. The Government is dismissing men from works like those on the River Murray, that have already cost this country £6,000,000, and upon which the interest amounts to £300,000 a year. Until the water is turned on we can get no return from that expenditure. Some of the works have been completely stopped, and others are being curtailed, because the Government is short of money ; yet it can afford to spend £300,000 a year in paying the passage money of persons who are unemployed in other countries! The Prime Minister has accepted responsibility for foreign migration. It- is a wonder that he is prepared to go even so far as that. We cannot ask other countries to stop their migrants from coming to Australia on account of the acuteness of the unemployed problem here, while we are spending £300,000 a year in bringing migrants from Great Britain. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley) has pointed out that practically every department of the Commonwealth is dismissing men. I have in my possession a letter from the Postmaster-General replying to statements that I made in this Parliament to the effect that men who had been engaged in the erection of telephone lines for a period of four or five years had been dismissed on the ground that preference must be given to returned soldiers. I have no objection to returned soldiers being given work; but I am not acquainted with one genuine returned man who would wish to replace a man who had been in a job for four or five years. On a previous occasion I mentioned the case of a man who was too young to go to the war. He had a widowed mother to keep, his ‘father having been killed in the war. He was dismissed to make room for a returned soldier. Why is it necessary to dismiss men to make room for returned soldiers if we have room for thousands of migrants from other parts of the world? The Postmaster-General’s Department is letting contracts at the present time for the cutting of tracks for main telephone lines. They are being given, not to returned soldiers who are out of work, but to Italians and to’ other Southern Europeans, because their tenders are lower than those of the Australians. They are doing the hard work of cutting scrub for about 70 per cent, of the price that Australians are getting. This Government cannot shelter itself behind any State Government. Its responsibility lies in the fact that it is making money available for the payment of passages. No State Government or other authority could bring migrants to Australia if the money was not made available by the Federal Government. During the period that the present Government has been in office it has spent £1,600,000 in assisting to pay the passages of migrants to Australia. The number thus brought in has been about 156,000. In the same period 30,000 foreign migrants were permitted to land in Australia. The honorable member for Barton has claimed that the figures quoted by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) support his attitude. I feel sure that the first man to repudiate that will be the honorable member for Maribyrnong himself. It is true that in the years 1911, 1912, and 1913 the number of migrants who arrived in Australia exceeded those of other years. And during that period the unemployment was much less. The honorable member for Barton has mixed cause and effect. It will always be found that the arrivals from other countries are larger in times of prosperity. That is a vindication of our argument that if the conditions are made attractive, and work is provided for our own people, others will be induced to come to Australia. That is precisely what happened in the years to which the honorable member for Maribyrnong referred. The Fisher Government was then in office. It imposed a Federal land tax which in. the very first year had the effect of breaking up large estates to the value of £30,000,000. There was great activity in land settlement, and comparatively few persons who were willing to work were out of a job. The cost of Commonwealth works was defrayed out of revenue, not from the Loan Fund. Migrants came in, and were immediately absorbed. No exception can be taken to migration in circumstances such as those. No honorable member who sits on this side has argued that we should close our doors against desirable persons who are likely to make good citizens. But when thousands of those who were born in Australia, and others who have travelled thousands of miles to come here, are tramping our countryside looking’ for work, it is criminal to spend large sums of money in bringing other persons to Australia and turning adrift those who are at present in employment because there are not sufficient funds to proceed with public works.
.- I regret that the general debate on the loan estimates concluded so . suddenly, for I desired to make a contribution to it. It is strange to me’ that honorable members opposite should spend so much time in discussing effects without touching causes. We all regret that there is. a good deal of unemployment in Australia at present; but nobody seems inclined fearlessly to discuss the causes of it. Australia’s most vital need is increased population. Many people appear to think that the League of Nations may be trusted to protect this country, but I submit that the only way to maintain it under our present White Australia policy is to populate it. We have fewer people in the northern parts of Australia to-day than 30 years ago; yet it is vital to our welfare that we should do everything possible to stimulate settlement there. It would be wise for us to allow our northern settlers freedom to buy and sell in the cheapest market for say, 25 years, if by that means we could encourage them to undertake real developmental work. We have some most valuable mineral deposits in the Kimberly country in the north-west of Australia, but it is impossible to do anything to develop them under present conditions. I view with grave alarm these huge empty areas. They are a menace to the nation. The Development and Migration Commission has recently submitted a long report on gold mining. But many of the proposals that it recommends have been under the consideration of the Ministers for Mines in the various States for the last twenty years. In a graph which appears in the report, it is shown that whereas the price of gold remained practically stationary from 1911 to 1927, the cost of living and the rate of wages increased enormously. Many manufacturers are urging that wages should be reduced; but that cannot be considered while the cost of living keeps increasing. There are mines in Australia such as those of Mount Morgan, Broken Hill and elsewhere, which could be worked profitably even in the United States of America, where wages are higher than in Australia, but cannot be worked profitably here. We should’ take steps to remove the cause of this. Two thousand men were put out of employment directly when the Mount Morgan closed, and that indirectly affected the employment of another 10,000. It is generally admitted that every man engaged in primary production in Australia carries five others on his back. Whenever we do anything that adversely affects primary industry, we strike a serious blow at the general prosperity of the community. We cannot provide employment unless those who are employed are creating wealth. Many people are out of employment in the farming districts of Western Australia, because the cost of production is too high to make it profitable. I gave some figures to the press recently which indicated clearly that while the price of wheat had increased by 50.5 per cent, in the last four years, as compared with the- four pre-war years 1911-1914, the cost of production had increased by 78 per cent. To put the farmer on the same cash basis as before the war, it would be necessary to increase the price of wheat by ls. per bushel. The Government should try to do something to reduce the cost of living. Unfortunately, its present policy of increasing duties is driving people to the big centres of population. Some time ago, I quoted statistics which showed that if the population of Melbourne continued for 22 years to increase at the same rate as between 1921-26, it would double itself, though it would take the rest of, Victoria, including Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and other large cities, 300 years to double its population. This shows clearly that there is something seriously wrong with our economic policy. Commonwealth and State taxation amounted last year to £87,000,000 and increased by £10,000.000 in the one year.
– That was largely because of the good prices received for wheat and wool.
– I have frequently asserted that Australia is being carried on the sheep’s backs. Something has been said during this debate about the developments which are occurring along the Murray Valley; but no one would think of settling additional people there, because there is no market for the product now obtained. Our stupid policy of wage regulation and high customs tariff is most adversely affecting the country. Every one knows of the serious plight of the Mallee farmers in consequence of the failure of their crops in the last two years. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley) has. told us that we must keep increasing our duties in order to maintain our standard of living. To me it is alarming that we should have received £43,000,000 in revenue from the Customs Department last year. The people have to pay this indirect taxation, and it is bad for industry that such a huge amount should be collected from them in this way. I am sorry that the efforts of the Prime Minister to bring the employers and employees together to discuss our economic situation have not been successful. I trust that before very long the worker will be given some interest in his employer’s business, and that we shall be able to discontinue some of the crushing duties which are at present being imposed. I say unhesitatingly that our economic position is perilous. By taking so much money out of the pockets of the people we are causing unemployment. Surely everybody will admit that if the commercial community were allowed to retain a large proportion of this money they would use it to provide additional employment. The Australian people had to pay £14 5s. per head in taxation last year.
– How much did the people of freetrade England have to pay?
– I do not know; but the honorable member must admit that England is carrying tremendous burdens in consequence of her enormous war expenditure.
– The honorable member is departing from the subject before the Chair.
– I again express my regret, sir, that the general discussion on the loan policy of the Government was allowed to conclude so abruptly. However, I submit that it is absurd for us to think of unnecessarily limiting migration when our country is capable of carrying at least 20,000,000 more people. “We have wonderful resources, and we should be doing our best to develop them. Only in that way can our people become happy, prosperous, and self-reliant. I should have preferred to see a considerably reduced loan programme this year. I wished to speak on the general loan policy of the Government, and not entirely on the immigration vote. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) expressed the belief that it was necessary to bring in large numbers of migrants in order to make customers for secondary industries, but I disagree with him entirely. From 1901 to 1914 Australia made wonderful progress, not only in wheat and wool growing, but in all primary production. Our butter and fruit industries were flourishing, and the success of all our primary industries helped to build up our secondary industries. Before we can expect great progress by our manufacturers, we must have a large and virile population on the land.
– On previous occasions the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) told us that the Government was spending no money upon migration, and we took his word for that; but now we are asked to approve of a loan expenditure of £300,000 in this direction. If the responsibility for immigration rests entirely with the States, as the Prime Minister assures us it does, what is the need to place £300,000 on these Estimates? If the States desire to assist migrants to come to Australia, let them bear the whole of the expenditure. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that we have no right to encourage migrants unless we can find employment for them. The Labour party wishes to assist in the development of the resources of Australia: but it does not approve of immigration on a large scale, while 180,000 Australians are out of employment. I should like to hear the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) trying to persuade an audience in his electorate that the unemployment problem would be solved by bringing in more migrants to compete with Australians who are now looking for work. There is much unemployment in the coal-mining industry, but it would not assist in the solution of the problem to bring more coal-miners to this country.
– If we had more consumers of coal it would relieve the situation in that industry.
– The present tendency is to use oil instead of coal. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) tells us that the man on the land has to pay too heavily for his machinery, and that we must bring down the cost of production. I remind honorable members that although some 40,000 fewer persons are employed on the land to-day, Australia produces more than it did ten years ago. That is largely because manual labour has been displaced by machinery. One would expect cheaper production on that account; but the tendency is to charge high prices for wool and wheat. At the back of the minds of those who clamour for a reduced cost of production is the desire for a reduction in wages.
– Not a reduction in real wages, but in nominal wages.
– In my opinion, that would be a poor policy for any country to adopt. Countries where labour is cheap are not prosperous. Once we lower wages we reduce the purchasing power of the people, and the whole country suffers. The honorable member for Barton spoke of the need for local markets. I agree that they are desirable, but indiscriminate immigration would not assist those markets. The honorable member would not like to see a shipload of lawyers brought into Australia from overseas, and it is undesirable to bring in large numbers of unskilled workers to compete with those already in search of employment. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, many migrants are provided with work for a few weeks and then sent adrift.
– Many of them are glad they have come to Australia, and I am one of them.
– It is pleasing to know that the honorable member has done well in this country; but I shall use every effort to convince the electors that, while we have 180,000 persons out of employment, the Commonwealth should not spend money in bringing more people here. It is most undesirable that we should devote loan money to that object. The policy of my party is to encourage newcomers only when we can find profitable employment for them. This problem is above party considerations, and I have no desire to make political capital out of it. It is a lopsided policy to allow goods to the value of £160,000,000 to be imported into Australia when such goods could be largely made here. We hear a good deal about the need to reduce wages, but nothing has been said about bringing down the cost of money. The banks now demand 3 per cent. more interest than they did in the war period. They now charge7½ per cent. for accommodation, and they are calling in all overdrafts. The cost of money is one of the main causes of unemployment, and the Government should introduce a bill to regulate its price. The interest rate should be reduced to about 3½ per cent.
– Is the honorable member willing to lend money at that rate?
– Instead of looking for high rates of interest, I put my spare money into war loans at 4 per cent. Business people would employ more labour than they do now if money were cheap. Nevertheless we do not hear Government supporters condemning that. They say that unemployment is due to high wages and the high cost of living. As a matter of fact, there are many causes of unemployment. There is f reetrade in England, and they have unemployment there. America follows a policy of protection, and they have unemployment there also.
– But does not the honorable member think that workers’ compensation acts and child endowment has a good deal to do with it?
– This Government proposes to bring in a system of national insurance in order to relieve the unemployment difficulty. If it took the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) into the Ministry, he would solve the problem by bringing more people here to be consumers for what we produce. I maintain that it is ridiculous in the extreme to say that the problem of unemployment can be solved by bringing in thousands of people who will themselves be in search of employment. I do not think that the electors of Barton will agree with that part of their representative’s programme.
.- I donot wish to give a silent vote on this item, and I intend to vote for the amendment which, I understand, has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition, that the item be reduced by £1.
– No motion to that effect has been submitted.
– I indicated that we would divide against the proposed vote.
– I listened very carefully to the speech made by the Prime Minister, in which he defended the action of the Government in putting this item upon the Loan Estimates. In my opinion, the right honorable gentleman made out a very unconvincing case, and he laboured more than he usually does. The burden of his defence was that there existed an arrangement between the British Government, the Commonwealth Government, and the States Governments to contribute towards the passage money of immigrants, and that the Commonwealth Government was under an obligation to provide a certain quota according to a scale which he read out. He endeavoured to make myself and other honorable members believe that the Commonwealth Government was absolutely helpless in the matter, implying that the State Governments merely had to commit themselves to a certain amount of expenditure, and the Commonwealth Government would, in turn, become liable for its share. That was a most extraordinary thing to say. The right honorable , gentleman knows very well that if he liked he could - and in my opinion he should - say to the British Government that owing to the serious amount of unemployment in this country there must be a cessation of immigration for the time being, at least. I believe that the State Governments and the British Government would agree with any such proposal which might be made. I assume that there is an agreement in existence providing that the Commonwealth Government shall contribute so much towards the passages of assisted migrants, but, in spite of that I am convinced that if representations were made to the British Government to the effect that it would be not only against the interests of Australia, but of the immigrants themselves to continue an active immigration policy in view of the prevailing depression, the British Government would recognize the force of the argument. The State Governments, I am sure, would be equally reasonable. It seems fundamentally wrong to bring unfortunate immigrants to this country at such a period as the present. I was in Adelaide the week-end before last, and while I was going up the main street on Sunday morning, I was astonished to see a large queue of men waiting to be fed by charity at a soup kitchen. In every capital city in Australia the same thing is going on. In Melbourne the other day a demonstration of unemployed had to be dispersed by the police. They made the threat that they would march through the streets and smash every window as they passed. This sort of thing cannot be ignored, and the situation seems to be getting worse. It is all very well for some honorable members to talk in an academic way about the. problem of unemployment; but their feeling towards the matter would be entirely different if they had to tramp through the country searching for work, as I have done, and as other honorable members in this House have done. I know of nothing more pathetic than for a man to go out day after day in a hopeless search for work, and to return to an anxious wife with the disappointing news that no work has been found. Imagine the feelings of this man when he looks through the newspaper and reads that the credit of this country is being pledged to bring more immigrants to Australia. It is an absolute scandal, and I cannot understand honorable members on the Government side of the House weakly acquiescing in it. This is going to be an issue at the coming elections, and it is going to take a great deal to convince the people that the policy being followed by the Government is not funda- mentally wrong. I bold strong views on the causes of unemployment; but that is a matter which we should leave out of this debate. The fact is that we have thousands of our own kith and kin out of work, and unable to obtain it. Another fact is that we are borrowing money to bring more people here. It would not be so bad if this money were to be spent out of revenue. While money is being borrowed for this, work has been stopped on the Murray waters scheme, and we read in the newspapers that there is now so little water in the Murray River that the wool barges cannot be floated, and the wool is being transported by rail. The proposal of the Government is a most extraordinary one, and I intend to vote against the item.
.- If the position in regard to this item were as stated by the last speaker, I, too, should vote against it; but I place more reliance on the straightforward statement of the Prime Minister than on the remarks made by the honorable member for Wimmera. Much of this money will eventually be paid back. On a previous occasion, out of £800,000 advanced, £638,000 was refunded to the Government. The Premiers’ conference in Sydney refused to pass a resolution urging the restriction or prohibition of immigration, and this notwithstanding that there were three Labour Premiers at the conference.
– Have we no responsibility in the matter when we vote this money ?
– We lend the money.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the present immigration policy ?
– I am in favour of lending the money.
– That means that the honorable member is in favour of immigration.
– There are hundreds of nominated men coming out to jobs in this country. I know of scores of men who have made good, and some of them, far from looking for work, are themselves employing labour. If is midsummer lunacy to think that we can hold thi-, great continent with the paltry population we now have here. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) dealt with the causes of unemployment. It seems an extraordinary thing to. me that a country like this is unable to export any of its secondary manufactures.
– We cannot supply our own market.
– And we cannot export because of the cost of manufacture.
– Order ! I have tried, during this debate, to prevent honorable members from going into the causes of unemployment. These do not come within the limits of the subject under discussion.
– Thousands of those who are out of work now could be profitably employed if there were a little less friction and a little more co-operation in industry. The figures compiled by the Government Statistician show that in 1927 there were 441 strikes in Australia, and they cost the country £1,676,000. Right through the period from 1914 up to 1926 the figures tell the same sorry tale. I am not going to say that these strikes have been entirely the fault of the workers; they have been largely due to the want of a better industrial understanding.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I have already warned the honorable member that his remarks are wide of the item.
– The Prime Minister has explained the item to the satisfaction of the committee. The money will be expended in the provision of passages for migrants in accordance with the requisitions of the States and the nominations by persons already resident in Australia. We were told that of a previous amount of £800,000 expended in this way, £638,000 had been already repaid and instalments were still coming to hand. I assume that this expenditure will be on an equally sound basis, and I am prepared to allow the State Governments to decide the number and character of the migrants to be introduced. In regard to the influx of Italians, the Prime Minister has stated repeatedly, that an arrangement has been made for the limitation of these arrivals, and that he is keeping them well within the quota.
Mr.Fenton. - He is not.
– I am prepared to accept the word of the Prime Minister against that of the honorable member.
– The item deals only with assisted migration.
– That is so, and I support it wholeheartedly.
– Whilst I, too, deplore the extent of unemployment in Australia, I do not accept the computation by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the workless total 180,000.
– Can the honorable member disprove the . figures?
-No, but at Nowra a few nights ago I heard the New South Wales Minister for Labour and Industry state that there had been a big reduction of unemployment in his State during the last few months. In proof of that he mentioned that when 2,000 men who were listed as unemployed were called up for certain relief work less than 200 responded. Evidently the others had found work elsewhere or did not want it. The situation in New South Waleshas improved considerably, but at its worst it could never have provided that State quota of the 180,000 workless men estimated by the honorable member for Darling. The honorable member for Maribyrnong was much more modest; he placed the figure at 100,000. But whether the total be 180,000, or 100,000, or only 8,000, unemployment is regrettable. At the same time it is idle for honorable members opposite to endeavour to place the responsibility on the Commonwealth Government and its migration policy. The item of £300,000 for the passage money of assisted migrants is not new expenditure; it is a continuation of similar appropriations in the past, and the Government of the Commonwealth is bound under its agreement with the British Government and the State Governments to provide the money. The whole amount may not he absorbed; if unemployment becomes worse, probably a large proportion of it will not be required. The Labour Government in Queensland will not requisition the Commonwealth for migrants if employment is not available; but if it thinks that additional migrants are needed, and that work is available for them in that State, it is entitled to requisition them without consulting the Government of New South Wales, Victoria, or any other State. And if the Queensland Government does requisition for certain assisted migrants, it will be the duty of the Commonwealth to fulfil its contract.
– There has been no requisition from any State Labour Government during the last twelve months.
– If the Nationalist Government of New South Wales desires the Commonwealth to give assisted passages to certain classes of migrants, that has nothing to do with the Governments of Queensland or Western Australia. It is as incumbent upon the Commonwealth Government to keep faith with the Government of New South Wales as with the Labour Government of any other State. The new arrivals will not necessarily be workers; some of them will be children in arms, in respect of whom no passage money will be paid; others will be children of tender years, half of whose passage money will be paid by the Commonwealth and British Governments ; and yet others will be domestic servants, the whole of whose passage money will be paid by the Commonwealth and British Governments. Even if the full £300,000 is expended on passages, it will not mean a very big influx of workers. I doubt the sincerity of honorable members opposite in regard to this matter. I cannot remember any Labour politicians ever advocating migration; they have always cried “ Stinking fish,” and honorable members opposite are to-night merely repeating the objections that have been raised by their party in the past. Australia with a population of 6,000,000 people is a far better country in which to live than it was when it had only 3,000,000 people; and yet even at that time the Labour party was opposed to migration. If the drought predicted by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) occurs, news of it will soon spread to the United Kingdom and other States, and the money provided in this schedule will not be used. If, on the other hand, a good season is experienced, the State governments will rightly requisition the Commonwealth for more migrants of the types than can be most readily absorbed. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to try to lay the blame for unemployment on the Commonwealth Government. In New South Wales the 44- hour week was introduced by a Labour Government, which claimed that it would reduce unemployment; and when the scheme was brought into operation its supporters said that it increased not only employment in . factories, but also the number of factories. Honorable members cannot have it both ways; there cannot be increased employment and at the same time more unemployment.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must be careful; he is wandering rather far afield.
– Other factors to be taken into account are the State workmen’s compensation law, and childhood endowment.
– Why does not the Nationalist Government repeal those measures ?
– I am merely asking whether these innovations have increased unemployment? If they have, the Labour party is to blame. In regard to the tariff, the Prime Minister’s reply to the DeputyLeader of the Opposition was so convincing that I expected the honorable member to apologize for his mis-statement of the position. Compared with the fiscal systems of other, countries, our tariff is very high.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I cannot permit the honorable member to continue in that strain.
– A previous speaker made the tariff the principal feature of his speech.
– Other honorable members tried to trespass, but were prevented from doing so.
– The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) let the cat out of the bag when he stated thai migration and unemployment would be one of the principal issues during the forthcoming election campaign. I am prepared to debate that issue on the hustings, if honorable members opposite so desire. I shall support the item, because I consider it necessary to increase our population by migration, and also because the Government should carry out the contract it has entered into with the British and State Governments.
– The Coates Government in New Zealand appointed a royal commission to inquire into economic and industrial matters, and after a full investigation, that body reported that migration was undesirable during a period of industrial depression. The Government, acting on the commission’s advice, practically closed the doors of the Dominion against migrants. That was the action of a so-called Conservative Government. This Parliament inserted in its Immigration Act a provision enabling the Government in times of industrial depression to protect our own people by preventing foreigners from coming here to compete with them for work, but under the present administration that act has been practically a .dead letter. A Conservative Government in New Zealand recognized and did its duty, but the Commonwealth composite Government, supported by meek and lowly followers, who will swallow anything that their leaders offer them, refuses to take a stand in the interests of the Australian people, and is throwing the country open to foreigners, who are putting our own kith and kin out of their jobs.
– For many years I have held the view, of the correctness of which- 1 feel more certain every day, that a larger population is one of the greatest needs of this country, and must be obtained if it is to survive. We cannot continue to hold such a mighty continent with a sparse population while the over-crowded nations of the world are seeking an outlet for their surplus numbers. The policy of the Labour party, so far as I have been able to lear-n it, is that not a migrant should enter this country so long as one person in it is out of work. Under those circumstances there will never be any migration to Australia. It is the duty of this Parliament, and of every man who has any love for his country, to see that it is populated in such a way that no hardship will be imposed upon the people who already live here. The policy that is being pursued at the prosent time does not impose any hardship upon our citizens, but on the contrary is a statesmanlike attempt to increase our population by the introduction of om kith and kin from Great Britain. That is not being done by the Federal Government or by this Parliament directly. This Government says to the governments of the States - “ You are principally concerned with the question of employment ; you have the lands in your charge ; you are responsible for unlocking those lands; you are in control of practically all public works, and the disposal of employment in connexion with them; therefore you know what migrants you can absorb.” Every assisted migrant who comes to Australia to-day must first be authorized by, and receive the permission of a State Government. That system has been in operation for a number of years. At the present time there are in Australia three or four Labour Governments which give their sanction to the nomination of migrants. Surely they are as good Labour men as my friends opposite? If it is wrong for the Federal Government to pay the passage money of migrants, it is equally wrong for any Labour Government to bring migrants to Australia. No assisted migrant can come from Great Britain to Victoria without the consent of the Hogan Government, to Queensland without the consent of the McCormack Government, or to Western Australia without the consent of the Collier Government. Similar conditions applied in the case of the Lang Government; yet during its tenure of office thousands of nominations were authorized. I go further and say that a contributory factor in the distress that exists in the Newcastle district is the number of miners who were permitted by the Lang Government to go there.
– That is not true.
– My statement can be verified by a reference to the records.
– The ex Minister for Mines told me that an embargo was placed upon miners coming in.
– I have not the slightest doubt that he would say so, because to-day he is being blamed for the distress that exists. The records will prove that he was responsible. I am in favour of migrants being brought here from Great Britain. I agree with the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) that every such migrant who is given employment upon arrival increases our national wealth and enlarges the avenues of employment for those who are already here. If that system is sedulously and consistently adhered to by the governments of the States, if they see that only those who have a job to “go to are permitted to come here, no harm can be done to the workers of Australia; but, on the contrary,’ a great deal of good will result by the provision of additional employment.
– Does the Federal Government provide employment for the foreigners who come here?
– There is no assisted foreign migration; each foreigner who comes here pays for his own passage. The item we are discussing deals with assisted British migration, which is justified in every way. I should like the vote to be much higher, so that a larger number of British migrants could be sent to Australia under the rigid safeguards that are in operation to-day. It is wise that when there is general unemployment all over the world, such as that which ‘exists today, migration to Australia should be regulated by the Commonwealth Government in conjunction with the States; but it is regrettable that it should be limited to its present extent. The future prosperity and safety of this country are indissolubly bound up with a large increase in its population. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley) has advocated the Labour policy. It is news to me to hear that we should make the workers more prosperous by piling additional burdens upon their backs, by grinding the faces of the poor, and by making it harder and harder for them to live. If that is the method by which honorable members opposite propose to solve the problem of unemployment, I am opposed to it. It is not a solution that will commend itself to the working-class people in the industrial constituencies. I shall be satisfied if honorable members will advocate that platform, then there will be one question upon which any honorable member of this House can go into a Labour constituency and get a hearing. But this panacea for improving the happiness of the people by increasing the cost of living by means of Labour extravagance and arbitration laws is quite a new one.
– I should not have risen had it not been for the extreme heat displayed by the honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), whose speech was remarkable for its lack of logic. In the first place, the honorable member said that as long as he has been able to study the Labour policy, Labour has been entirely against allowing one man to enter Australia whilst there is a man in Australia out of work. He then proceeded to show that Labour Governments in Australia have been responsible for the introduction of more immigrants than any other Governments. Thus the honorable member contraverted his own arguments. The honorable member’s policy, he states, is to permit men to come into Australia so Jong as their arrival does not inflict hardship on any individual already here. The policy of the Labour party is plain. We recognize, as sensible men, that Australia must have a large population ultimately to enable it to develop into a great country, but we also say, that at a time like this when there are about 180,000 people unemployed in Australia, it does not require much logic or a deep knowledge of economics to realize that it is not a wise policy to bring in a large number of immigrants, no matter where they come from. If the honorable member for Warringah were to travel about Australia as many of us have to do, he would see in every State a large number of men seeking employment, not only Australian-born, which in itself is bad, but also men whom the Commonwealth Government has brought from overseas. He will find them not only in the cities,’ but also in the small country towns. It is commonly said that men can easily obtain work if they will leave the cities and go into the rural districts, but to-day in all the rural districts of Australia parties of men, Australian-born and Britishers imported under the migration policy, are to be seen looking for work. I have seen parties 15, 20 and 25 strong, in small back townships, seeking the arduous work of clearing. That work is done under contract, it is hard work, and is more poorly remunerated than any other class of work. These men, many of them in the heyday of youth, cannot obtain employment, under the deplorable condition of affairs we have in Australia to-day, with 180,000 unemployed. I. suppose that if we were to discuss the cause of unemployment, we could find many causes for it. I do not believe that the policy of immigration is immediately responsible for any of it, but at the same time when there is considerable unemployment in the country, whether it is caused by the financial institutions withdrawing their credits, or in any other way, it is not a statesmanlike policy to pursue to bring further people into this country. If, by continuing the policy of misrepresenting to the workers of the Old Country, the opportunities awaiting them in Australia, we get 40,000 or 50,000 British migrants to come to Australia per annum, and if at the same time we permit practically unrestricted importation of southern European labour, neither the Australian-born nor the imported Britisher will secure employment from a large section of employers, because these southern Europeans are prepared to offer their services at a cheaper rate than that at which Australians or Britishers are prepared to work. . If I did not know many honorable members opposite, I would really believe that they are pursuing this migration policy in order to bring down wages, because that is -the effect now produced. A- few years ago the men engaged in the timber industry in Western Australia were all Australian or British born. Of the 4,000 men now employed in the Western Australian timber industry, over 50 per cent, are southern Europeans, and those who are interested in industrial matters have indisputable documentary evidence that some of these men “ are, under the lap, accepting’ work for less than the standard wage. In some instances foremen have been good enough to make* sworn declarations that they have been offered money to give employment to southern Europeans; and the probability is that for every man who is willing to disclose that condition of affairs there is another not so high principled, who is prepared to accept money to give employment to these people. According to the sworn declaration of Mr. William Watson, of Holyoake,
Western Australia, southern Europeans offered to work for a month for their keep, and then for 10s. a week over their keep. This declaration was forwarded to the Prime Minister, who requested the Premier of Western Australia to have the matter investigated. The report of the Criminal Investigation Department’s officer more than substantiated the charge made in the sworn declaration, and a copy of that report was forwarded to the Prime Minister. If we propose to continue our present migration policy, side by side with it and intimately wrapped up with it must be some quota system, such as that adopted in the United States, for application to southern Europeans. The success or failure of our migration policy depends upon the adoption of some such system. It is not for me to raise the question of racial distinctions, more particularly on a discussion of this kind ; but when we are considering migration to Australia, no matter how the Commonwealth Government may disclaim responsibility for it and throw it back on the State Governments, I claim that it is essentially a federal matter. Seeing that we have many thousands of men out of employment in Australia, I submit that the Government should convene a conference of State Premiers to consider asking the Government of Great Britain and any other overseas Governments concerned to agree to a temporary cessation of migration to Australia at the present time.
.- Honorable members opposite appear to have little real knowledge of the subject of migration. We have been told that there is a great deal of unemployment in Australia and, unfortunately, that is true. The Sydney Labour Bureau has many hundreds of names on its books. During the last few weeks I have had many unemployed men call at my home to see whether I could do anything to secure work for them, and I regret sincerely that I have had to tell them that I could do nothing to help them. The Government should face this situation and do something to relieve the position. We all know that the use of mechanical appliances has tremendously decreased the number of men required in the building and other trades. I suppose that one man is able to do twice as much to-day as a worker of twenty years ago could do. I am sorry that there is a growing tendency on the part of large commercial concerns to dismiss old employees and engage boys or girls in their stead. One of the largest emporiums in Sydney recently passed into the hands of a public company, and almost immediately some of the men who had been employed there for 20 to 30 years were dismissed, and young men and girls engaged to take their place. The dismissed men were unfitted physically and otherwise to undertake labouring work, and have been reduced to dire straits. An advertisement for twenty labourers in almost any town in the Commonwealth invariably results in hundreds applying for the work. In these circumstances, it is regrettable that the Government should even think of allowing migration to continue on the present scale. The Labour party is not opposed to people from other countries coming here in the usual way, but it contends that no large migration policy should be carried into effect until provision has been made to absorb the migrants. A young fellow who was hanged in South Australia recently for committing a capital offence, only arrived here in January, and if reports be true he committed the crime of which he was found guilty because he was utterly depressed by his inability to obtain the wherewithal to live. The Trade Union Congress at present sitting in England, has endorsed the proposal for the setting aside of 2,000,000 acres of land on which to settle some of Great Britain’s unemployed. Why cannot the Commonwealth Government make land available for unemployed persons who are prepared to develop it? Every man that we can place in productive employment here is an asset to the country. Is it any wonder that we have bolsheviks or so-called communists, in our midst, when deserving men are compelled to walk the streets vainly in search of employment ? The unemployment problem is accentuated by the presence of a large number of persons who have been influenced to come to Australia under the impression that they will readily find employment. I do not agree with the statements made by some that there are many men in Australia who do not wish to work, as I think that every man in Australia will readily accept employment when it is available. I find it difficult to understand the reason actuating the Government in declining to accept the valuable suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members on this side of the chamber. There have been periods, of course, when every migrant arriving in Australia could easily be placed in employment ; but at present, when the financial position of the Commonwealth and the States is unsatisfactory, and the seasonal prospects are not bright, it is unreasonable to spend large sums of money in attracting settlers from overseas. When the unemployment problem is very acute there are many men who, by sheer force of circumstances, are compelled to commit unlawful acts. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) may have been expressing the views of the committee of which he is the secretary; but I am sure he was not voicing the opinions of a majority of the electors of Warringah. We have been told that increased population leads to additional employment; and if that is the case one would expect that in such densely populated countries as India, China, and Japan there would be no workless, and that poverty would be unknown. We know, however, that conditions in portions of these countries are deplorable, and thathundreds and thousands of human beings are fighting for a bare existence. If some of those gentlemen with whom I was associated in the early days of the Labour party wore alive today they would be astounded to find that in this enlightened age a government supposed to consist of business men is spending loan moneys for bringing migrants to Australia. I think we are safe in assuming that the business men in Great Britain are in some way associated with the expenditure of £300,000, because they realize that new settlers will naturally purchase British goods, which will be of benefit to British manufacturers.I cannot understand the Prime Minister advocating a policy under which loan money is spent for immigration purposes. The principle is unsound, and its adoption is detrimental to the best interest of the Australian people.
Some people say that a change of Government is necessary before the problem can be solved. I have a further suggestion to offer. We have a Commonwealth Bank, and a note issue with a gold backing. It is considered that a bank note changes hands during the year 40 times. If we issued bank notes to the value of £12,000,000, and that amount were capitalized, there would be £184,000,000 at credit, and that would keep the country going for years. One of those with whom I have been in consultation on this matter, took an active part with the late Sir Denison Miller in establishing the Commonwealth Bank. One of the greatest losses Australia has had to bear was the death of the bank’s first governor. On one occasion he assured me that if the bank could finance Australia during the late war, it could also finance it during peace. I hope that the Government will cease proclaiming to the world that we have not sufficient money to finance this country and keep our own people employed, because such statements have a bad effect in London, New York, and other financial centres. Every journal that I take up expresses the opinion that steps will have to be taken immediately to remedy the present position. Machinery is supplanting labour on every hand. Can we stand idly by and see thousands of men tramping the country for work in order to get enough money to buy bread? Why is the Government callously indifferent? If we claim to be Britishers, we cannot allow this evil to continue. By bringing our intelligence to bear upon the problem we should be able to arrive at some solution. The Government certainly offers no assistance. It is mainly troubled about the coming elections. What does it care about the Treasurer showing a deficit on the year’s transactions of over £2,000,000 ! The members of the Ministry still claim that they are statesmen, and that the destiny of the country is in their hands. Every week-end a dozen or more men call at my house and ask for assistance in obtaining employment. I find it impossible to get work for them, and it is heartbreaking to have to turn them away.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
House adjourned at 11.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 September 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280905_reps_10_119/>.