11th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have been advised that the telegraph offices at Mem, Musgrave, and McDonnell, in my constituency, have been closed. I ask the Postmaster-General whether that is cor- rect?
– I shall got the infor mation for the honorable member as soon as possible.
– A regular feature of the Bendigo Easter Fair is the Chinese procession, for which two packages of silk shoes and costumes are being imported from Hong Kong on behalf of the Bendigo Chinese Association. A letter I have received states -
These goods are entirely for use for display purposes in connexion with our annual Easter charity carnival, in which the Chinese Association of Bendigo have regularly, for years, taken a prominent part, more particularly in connexion’ with our procession, when, with their silk dragon, banners and oriental displays, Chinese with various types of national costumes, join in our pageant. These goods being imported ore for the purpose of replenishing their wardrobe, which is kept exclusively for use in these charity carnivals.
As the goods are to be used exclusively in the interests of charity, will the Minister for Trade and Customs agree to the remission of the duty thereon !
– I shall look into the matter and see if anything can be done.
– In the Labour Daily of yesterday, the following statement appeared : -
James Beds Andresen returned to Sydney from New Zealand by the Ulimaroa yesterday morning. He had travelled incog. Now that he is is back on these Shores, it will be intereBting to note whether the Federal AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) will, as he has inferred, command that an inquiry be held into the whole sorry circumstances which resulted in Mr. Jacob Johnson serving four and a half months in gaol…..
Andresen said the whole matter was weighing him down. It was. on his conscience, and lie intended to make a clean breast of everything if given the opportunity. He alleges collusion at every stage of the affair, and will make the definite charge, he says, that “the whole dirty thing was a frame-up.”
Will the Attorney-General recommend the appointment forthwith of a royal commission to probe thoroughly the circumstances of the prosecution and conviction of Jacob Johnson?
– I have received communications on this subject from the Seamen’s Union and the Marine Cooks’ and Stewards’ Union, and in my replies have dealt fully with the suggestion that facts have been disclosed which cast doubts upon the justice of the conviction of Johnson. I said further that if either organization submitted to me any further information or material, I would give full consideration to it. I have received no further communications from them, but if any additional facts are placed before me, they will receive attention. On the facts at present in the possession of the department there is no ground for the inquiry suggested:
– On the 20th February the Attorney-General said in the House that if Andresen returned to Australia he would go further into his allegations. Surely the honorable gentleman does not consider that the statement he has just made is a sufficient compliance with that implied undertaking to probe the matter fully. Seeing that Andresen’s several statements impute wrong-doing on the part of a Commonwealth officer, which possibly led to the wrongful conviction of Johnson and as Andresen undoubtedly was an important witness for the prosecution, does not the Attorney-General think that in the public interest an open inquiry should be held?
– The honorable member’s first question related to not a further investigation of the facts, but the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into Andresen’s allegations. The honorable member’s question is highly argumentative. The facts show that the allegations now made by Andresen are necessarily untrue. He . was not the person who collected the evidence against Johnson ; the evidence existed before he was interviewed. But my reply that I am not at present prepared to recommend the appointment of a royal commission, is not intended to exclude further investigation of the facts of the case.
– Can the Treasurer inform the House of the amount of the accumulated deficit to date?
– No. It is impossible to say what the expenditure has been to a particular date.
– I ask the Prime Minister when the report of the Development and Migration Commission on canned fruits will be available to honorable members ?
– I understand that the report is complete and is now being printed. It should be laid on the table within a few days.
– Can the Minister for Home Affairs state when Mr. Bleakley’s report on the position of the aborigines in North and Central Australia will be printed and made available to honorable members?
– I expect to receive the report any day.
– Has the Tariff Board been asked to report on the operation of the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act ? If so, is there any prospect of the board’s report being available at an early date?
– I cannot say when the report of the board is likely to be received.
Perth Station - Report of Advisory Committee
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether the Government proposes to take over the Perth Broadcasting Station? If so will the wave-length be reduced from 500 to 200 metres?
– The Perth station has been already taken over by the department and consideration is being given to the advisability of altering the wavelength.
-Can the PostmasterGeneral say when the report of the Advisory Report on Wireless Broadcasting will be made available to honorable members ?
– The recommendations of the Advisory Committee have been already placed before the House in reply to a question by an honorable member.
– On the 21st February I asked the Prime Minister what action the Government proposed to take upon the recommendation of the Development and Migration Commission to assist the gold-mining industry. I was informed that the matter was receiving the earnest attention of the Government. As three weeks have elapsed since the assurance was given, I ask the Prime Minister whether Cabinet has completed its consideration of the matter ?
– Owing to the continuous sittings of Parliament, it has been difficult to hold Cabinet meetings, but I hope that this matter will be taken into consideration at the first meeting.
Rural Installations - Cairns Installation
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Deer Park (Victoria), 2nd October, J.927; Vermont (Victoria), 9th December, 1927; Buninyong (Victoria), 10th November,1928
asked the Postmaster General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he take the necessary action to have the question of increased protection for the Australian marble industry referred to the Tariff Board for investigation and report, at the earliest possible date?
– Applications have been received for both increased and reduced duties on marble. The question of reference to the board is now under consideration.
Attitude of American Film Companies
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Inquiries will be made as to the position, but it must be remembered that the Commonwealth has no legal power to control the terms under which motion picture rights are disposed of.
Rating - Manuka Oval - Housing
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The honorable member’s attention is invited to the answer given by me to the honorable member for Melbourne on 14th February, which sets out the position.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he give an assurance that a decision in regard to increasing the Canberra allowance to meet the demands for rates for 1927, 1927 and 1929 will be readied before the House adjourns for Easter; if not, why not?
– The matter is at present under the consideration of the Public Service Board in connexion with representations made by one of the service organizations, but it is not practicable to indicate definitely when a decision will be reached, as the organization in question is to furnish certain additional information which is needed by the board. Immediately this information becomes available, the matter will be further considered and a decision expedited.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the honorable member will be advised as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
(a) £5 14s. 6d. per week; (b)11s.6d. per week; total, £66s. per week, exclusive of rates.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
With reference to the question of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie on the 8th instant regarding the sale of. Cleveland tractors to Concrete Constructions Limited, Sydney, for £85 each, which were originally purchased at £492 each-
Were the tractors advertised for sale; and
If so, in what newspapers, on what date, and what was the text of such advertisement?
– The information is being obtained, and will be conveyed to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Advances to States
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Appointment and Salary of Mr. Broughton Edge
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained as far as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 8th March the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On 13th March the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) asked the following questions: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
The following papers were presented : -
Development and Migration Commission - Tasmania - Investigation into present position - Fifth Interim Report (Internal Transport, with Appendices).
Science and Industry “Research Act - Second Annual Report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, for year ended 30th June, 1928.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Sir Neville Howse) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act relating to the establishment of appeal tribunals to deal with appeals relating to War Pensions.
Bill presented by Sir Neville Howse and read n first time.”
– (By leave) - I move -
That the bill bc now read a second ‘time.
The object of this measure is to give effect to the promise of the Government to provide a means by which appeals may be made against decisions of the Repatriation Commission in connection with entitlement to pensions and the assessment of war disabilities. Seeing that the bill deals entirely with the decisions of the commission, it is desirable that I should outline briefly the policy that is at present adopted in dealing with claims for pensions. It is generally conceded that Australia has provided more liberally than any other country in the world for her ex-soldiers and their dependants. An examination of the repatriation measures of other countries may reveal that, in some respects, they are more liberal than ours; but taken as a whole that is not the case. Our act is administered by a Repatriation Commission of three exsoldiers, one of whom is the nominee of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League of Australia. A board similarly composed operates in each State. Whenever a claim for a pension, or for the variation of a pension is made, all the relevant documents are collated and submitted to the State Repatriation Board. If it refuses the’ application, the applicant may appeal to the Repatriation Commission, which, thereupon,, considers the matter. If a medical question is involved, and that happens in the great majority of appeals that are considered nowadays, the case is submitted to a Medical Advisory Committee, which consists of four of the most eminent medical practitioners in Australia. These gentlemen have also had military experience. Since January, 1925, the soldier has had, in fact, if not in law, a further appeal, for, as Minister in Charge of Repatriation, I have, in collaboration with the Repatriation Commission and the Medical Advisory Committee, examined the files in relation to every case submitted to me. In this way we have been able not only to deal with individual cases, but also to formulate certain general principles to guide the Repatriation Commission in dealing with the appeals submitted to it. These principles in every instance favour the exsoldier.
To illustrate the different point of view which is now taken in connexion with certain cases, I might mention the sequelae of syphilis, mental cases and tuberculosis.
The sequelae of syphilis contracted whilst serving in the Australian Imperial. Forces were not regarded as war disabilities, but it is now recognized that the stress and strain of active service following ‘ syphilis contracted, say, whilst on leave, might be a deciding factor in accelerating their onset, and under those circumstances the ex-soldier’s disability would be accepted as attributable to service.
Another illustration applies to mental cases. Until lately we had some difficulty in dealing’ with these, because it was found that men discharged from mental institutions as fit for light employment frequently were unable to obtain work suitable to their condition. It has now been decided that these men should be eligible for the full pension, although they may be able to do a certain amount of light work. No mental case is settled nowadays until after it has been referred to an alienist.
The last illustration I shall give relates to tubercular cases. Men who were discharged from tubercular sanatoria with their lesion practically healed also found it difficult to obtain suitable employment, and since 1st July, 1925, they also have been granted a full pension for life.
My four years’ association with the Repatriation Commission enables me to say, without hesitation, that any charge that its administration is harsh and unsympathetic is unwarranted. Honorable members can see that for themselves if they examine the figures. For instance, during the four years ended the 30th June, 1928, the number of exsoldier pensioners increased by 439, notwithstanding that during that period 2,866 ex-soldiers unfortunately died, and a number of pensions were cancelled because the pensioners had recovered. An examination of the work of the commission last year, ten years after the cessation of the war, reveals a fact which is peculiar to Aus- tralia - that new pensions were granted to 891 ex-soldiers during the year. The total number of new pensions granted last year, including wives, children and other dependants, was 13,547.
– That is only what we might have expected.
– No. Those 891 cases are classified under 90 different disabilities. That 108 new pensions were granted on account of tuberculosis, shows clearly the anxiety displayed by every one dealing with returned soldiers to grant pensions wherever it can bc shown that the disability is in any way connected with war service, which is the principle that must underlie the repatriation legislation of every country. An unfortunate feature of the commission’s work is the increase in the number of mental cases. Many of the cases dealt with were the sequelae of the disease previously mentioned, in respect of which pensions are now granted. One hundred and thirtytwo new pensions were granted on account of gun shot wounds other than those causing limb amputation and blindness. Asthma, bronchitis, pleurisy and pneumonia accounted for 200 new pensions, war neurosis was responsible for 74’ new pensions, while 29 were granted in respect of rheumatism.
– Is war neurosis shellshock ?
– It might be the sequelae of shell-shock. The complete classification of the disabilities on which new claims for pensions were granted last year is well worthy of examination by honorable members : -
During the last few years the administration of the act has been liberalised in many ways. For the year ended 30th June, 1924, war pensions cost £7,090,815. Four years later it was £7,690,890, an increase of £600,075. That increase occurred despite the death of pensioners, the re-marriage of widows, and the adolescence of dependent children. As honorable members know, soldiers’ children on reaching a certain age are no longer entitled to pensions.
– Has the peak period yet been reached?
– I do not thi nk so.
– Does the increase in the number of pensioners include their dependants 1
– Pensioners and their wives and children are all included.
Generally speaking, the decisions of the Repatriation Commission fall into two categories - decisions as to whether or not a disability is due to, or has been aggravated by, war service, and as to the rate of pension payable in respect of a disability which has been accepted as due to war service. In this bill the Government proposes to constitute two types of tribunal. The first, the Entitlement Tribunal, will deal only with questions of entitlement. It will determine whether the disability from which a returned soldier is suffering was caused by his war service, or has been aggravated by that service. In some countries similar tribunals are known as attributability boards. The bill also establishes a new principle in that it separates entitlement to pensions from the assessment of disability. Canada has an entitlement appeal board, but no assessment appeal board. In New Zealand and Great Britain and most other countries the appeal boards which are in existence deal with both classes of cases. The Entitlement Tribunal will consist of three members. Its chairman will be a barrister or solicitor with the right to practise in the High Court or a Supreme Court of- a State; one member will be selected from nominations submitted by organizations of returned soldiers - practically the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia - and the third will be a Government appointee
– Why not extend the right of appointment to other soldiers’” organizations ?
– That is a matter which can best be dealt with in committee. Provision is made that if any new evidence having a substantial bearing on a claim is submitted to the appeal tribunal, the case will be referred back to the Repatriation Commission, and if rejected by that body, it will later be determined by the Entitlement Tribunal. Moreover, should fresh evidence be submitted within twelve months of the Entitlement Tribunal’s decision, the Repatriation Commission will re-consider the case. Should the claim be rejected by the Repatriation Commission the appellant may again submit an appeal at any time on giving relevant evidence. Information contained in the records will be made available to appellants or their representatives, regard being had to the interest of the appellant and the obligation of the commission to respect information of a confidential nature. A claimant appearing before the tribunal may claim travelling expenses. I draw attention to proposed new section 45x, which reads -
An Appeal Tribunal and an Assessment Appeal Tribunal shall, so far as it is consistent with the interests of the appellant, and with any obligation to respect information given to the commission upon a confidential basis, make available to the appellant or his representative information contained in the records relating to the case.
Provided that information given to the commission on a confidential basis may be disclosed to the appellant or his representative in any case, if the person who has provided the information consents in writing.
Before dealing with the Assessment Tribunal it is necessary to show why the Government proposes a different constitution for this board. It is proposed that the chairman shall be a returned soldier barrister or solicitor selected by the returned soldiers’ organizations according to the practice now adopted, and that he shall be a permanent officer. To assist him it is proposed to appoint two medical practitioners, who, in the opinion of the Minister, have special knowledge of the disabilities from which the appellant is suffering. That will be of great advantage to the soldiers. In cases of special diseases, such as those affecting the eye, the ear or the throat, the chairman will have the assistance of specialists in those diseases. Two members of the Entitlements Tribunal shall form a quorum, but in order to give the fullest protection of the appellant for assessment, the three members of the assessment board must be present to give a decision. No medical man who is an officer of the Repatriation Department or has given a previous decision on the case shall be a member of the Assessment Board in respect of that case. The two medical members of the Assessments Tribunal will be drawn from a selected number of doctors. A list of medical men willing to give their services for a certain number of hours each day will be compiled. They will not be permanent officers, for, apart from any question of pecuniary benefit, it would be impossible to obtain suitable men willing to accept permanent positions.
– Who will prepare the roster ?
– That will be done by the Minister. The list will comprise the names of men of high standing in particular branches of the medical profession in each State. Each tribunal will have the power to summon witnesses and to take evidence upon oath.
It is specifically provided in the bill that the tribunals shall not be bound by any rules of evidence, but shall act in accordance with substantial justice and the merits of the case, and that they shall give to the appellant the benefit of any reasonable doubt. The appellant may appear in. person before the tribunal, or may be represented by any person other than a legal practitioner. An appellant, if he “appears before the’ tribunal, may be paid travelling expenses. This bill has been drawn as a result of experience gained in the administration of the Repatriation Department during the last ten years. Consideration has also been given to the advice received from other countries where appeal courts are in being, and to that tendered, after a long consideration of the matter by the executive of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League. Of the 22 recommendations submitted to the Government by the league, all of them, except a few minor points, have been embodied in this bill, or provision has been made by regulation to put them into effect. Those recommendations were drawn up at the annual congress of the league in Sydney on the 28th November, 1928. Who should bear the onus of proof is a matter which has been frequently discussed, both in this House and outside, and it is one that has to be faced by the Minister, and those administering the act. I have no hesitation in saying that when a pension is being claimed for a disability, the onus of proof must be the responsibility, both of the appellant, and of the Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. In the first place a prima facie case must be made out by the appellant, and it is then the responsibility of the Appeal Tribunal to assist the claimant in every way possible to connect his disability with his service. Where a reasonable doubt exists, provision is made in the bill for the benefit of such doubt to be given to the appellant. The returned soldiers themselves, at their congress in Sydney, recognized clearly that the onus of proof could not he thrown on either party, and they did not make any such request. But they asked that the claimant should be given the benefit. There is nothing restrictive about the bill; it gives every claimant for a pension the greatest latitude in submitting an appeal. It is expressly stated that in cases in which reasonable doubt exists, the appellant shall be given the benefit of that doubt. The contents of departmental files are to be made available to appellants or their representatives to the very fullest extent. If an appeal is rejected, and further relevant evidence is forthcoming at a later date, no matter at what period during a man’s life, provision is made for an appeal tribunal to hear the case again. I commend the hill to the earnest consideration of honorable members. This isnot a party matter, but is equally the responsibility of honorable members on both sides of the House.
– Will there, as a result of this hill, be any consequential changes in the present method of administering repatriation matters ?
– No. The ordinary repatriation work will go on. This is something new.
– Will the same procedure be followed in dealing with repatriation matters and applications for compensation as heretofore?
– Yes, but this bill provides that applicants may appeal to a legally constituted tribunal.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Coleman) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported, and ordered to be taken into consideration in committee forthwith.
In Committee of Supply :
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That there be granted to His Majesty, for or towards defraying the services of the year 1929-30, a sum not exceeding £5,705,573.
Standings Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means founded on resolution of Supply reported and adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Bruce 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.
The object of this bill is to appropriate sufficient revenue for the services of the Commonwealth during the first two months of the next financial year. It is anticipated that Parliament will adjourn shortly, and will not resume until after the beginning of the new financial year. In the meantime it is necessary to make provision for the services of government to be carried on after the 1st July next. The amount which the committee is asked to appropriate is £5,705,573, and includes the following items : -
The items making up these sums are based on the present year’s Estimate, and provision is made to meet the first pay day in September. No new proposal is included. In addition, the usual provision is made for “Refunds of Revenue,” amounting to £300,000, and “ Advance to the Treasurer,” amounting to £1,650,000. The Treasurer’s advance is larger” than usual because it is not intended to submit a loan bill for next year until the Budget has been presented to Parliament. To enable loan work and services in progress on the 30th June, 1929, to be continued, funds will be made available from “ Advance to the Treasurer.” The sum of £1,650,000 which the committee is asked to appropriate for “Advance to the Treasurer “ will be temporarily used for loan purposes as indicated, to carry on work and services provided for during the current year under “ Additions, New Works, &c, payable from revenue”; and to meet miscellaneous and unforeseen expenditure. The sums involved are estimated as follows: -
When the estimates for 1929-30 are brought down, Parliament will be asked to make special appropriations for the services involved.
Immediately Parliament resumes after the adjournment, the usual financial statement will be submitted for consideration. In the meantime, it is fitting that some indication should be given of the results to date of the present financial year. As honorable members are aware, the Revenue Account of the Commonwealth is largely governed by customs and excise receipts. In 1926- 27, the receipts from this source amounted to £43,552,000. In 1927-2S they were £41,446,000, representing a decline of £2,106,000. This decline was almost wholly due to the reduced purchases of luxuries, brought about by the unfavorable seasonal conditions, and the resultant temporary depression. When submitting the Budget for the current year, I estimated that the revenue from customs and excise would be about £43,300,000. In arriving at this estimate, I was influenced by past experience, which showed that after a period of depression there was an immediate and full recovery in the customs and excise revenue. As a result of those experiences, and with the prospect of a good harvest and an increased wool yield, justification was found for the estimated revenue of £43,300,000, which is £252,000 less than the collections of 1926-27, notwithstanding that, in the meantime, additional duties, estimated to yield £500,000, were imposed on motor chassis. For the first three months of the present financial year, which saw a continuance of the depression, collections amounted to £9,503,000, a decline of £1,763,000 as compared with the previous year. Since October last, a marked, improvement has been manifest, and the receipts for the eight months ended 28th February amounted to £27,853,000, which, compared with the pro rata Budget estimate, discloses a shortage of approximately £1,000,000. It is not possible to forecast with any reliability what the receipts will be for the remainder qf the financial year, but the general trading position is now more favorable than it was during the first three months of the financial year, and it is quite possible that a good deal of the leeway will be made up. It is estimated that other transactions, taken as a whole, will produce a result approximately equal to the Budget estimate. The results for the year will, therefore, be almost wholly governed by the customs and excise collections between now and the end of the year. In framing the Budget for the present year, the Government fully appreciated the need for economy and it will continue to exercise a policy of prudent finance.
.- The second-reading debate on this bill affords an opportunity for a general discussion upon either the financial affairs of the Commonwealth, or any other outstanding matter. I propose to deal with some aspects of the tariff. We had discussions yesterday and earlier in the course of this session on the constitution of the Tariff Board, and a fair amount of latitude was allowed. But no particular opportunity has been, nor can now be given, as far as I can see, for a general review of the workings of the tariff in Australia, or of the defects that may be discovered, because it is the obvious intention ‘of the Government not to proceed with any tariff items during these sittings. It has occurred to me that it would be reasonable for this Parliament to provide an opportunity regularly each session for a general discussion of the tariff. If such a provision were incorporated in the Standing Orders, and a certain number of days, allocated to the discussion, there could be each year a general review of the situation. This could, perhaps, be secured by means of some resolution, the obligation to bring down which could rest with the Government.
All honorable members realize how necessary it is to have general discussions on the finances of the Commonwealth and the Standing Orders, the rules governing the procedure of Parliament, and, indeed, the Constitution itself provides an opportunity for such a discussion at least once in each year. Necessities which require frequent appropriation bills furnish other opportunities. Finance is a subject of transcendent importance, and honorable members are rightly given many opportunities to discuss it. The protection of Australian industries by the control of tariffs is also important. Yet a whole year might elapse without Parliament being afforded a chance to discuss the subject, to raise any points relating to the defective nature of the existing tariff, or to call attention to the tragic delays, which, unfortunately, are taking place in connexion with matters remitted to the Tariff Board. I propose this afternoon to take the opportunity to refer to some of those matters, and I hope that other honorable members will support me.
One thing, the outstanding importance of which cannot escape the notice of any honorable member, is the unsatisfactory trade position between Australia and the United States of America. Unfortu nately, that situation is growing more difficult, and I think that it should be examined and discussed here. The enormous adverse trade balance against Australia in its trade with the United Sta.tes of America is alarming. To support my argument, I shall quote from a table which has been furnished by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) relating to the movements of trade between the two countries. Taking first the figures for 1921-22, we find that in that year Australia imported from the United States of America goods to the value of £18,823,113, while the value of our exports to that country was £8,314,3S6, including £1,676,000 of gold specie. That discloses an adverse trade balance of £10,508,727 for the year. In 1927-28, our imports from the United States, amounted to £35,005,736, while our exports to that country totalled only £8,954,823, an adverse trade balance of £26,050,913 against Australia. This reveals a very serious situation, and there are no indications of an improvement. The complete figures for the years 1918-19 to 1927-28 are as follows:-
In the year 1927-28, gold specie exported from Australia to the United States of America, amounted to £1,460,000, so that the actual value of ordinary goods shipped from this country to the United States of America totalled only £7,400,000, while the goods we imported from that country amounted to £35,000,000.
– Can the honorable member say what is the principal commodity that we export to the United States of America?
– Details are not given in this list. Our exports to the United States of America cover a very wide range of commodities. Unfortunately, that country has not shown any generosity towards Australia, or a desire to trade with us in a reciprocal manner.
– Theirs is the policy of the closed door.
– The United States of America is operating tariff control to the detriment of Australia.
– They are high tariff.ists
– That is their policy, but it would almost appear that they are discriminating in some cases against Australia. When Australia had an opportunity to ship fruit to the United States of America during the off season, that country enforced its regulations on the grounds of suspicion of the introduction of diseases through Australian fruit, and our product was shut out.
– The United States of America proposes to impose a duty of 20d. a pound on Australian wool.
– That, and other matters, should be carefully examined. Following are some of the goods which we are at present importing from the United States of America, and which could be manufactured in Australia to a very great extent : -
Those ten items represent importations of over £10,000,000. During 1927-28, the total amount of exports from Australia to the United States of America was £7,400,000, exclusive of gold specie.
We already have established in Australia a number of industries which, with proper encouragement, could produce at least a very considerable portion of this £10,000,000 worth of importations from the United States of America. It would still be necessary to import from the United States of America possibly £20,000,000 worth of commodities which cannot, for the present, be produced here, such at motor spirit, oils, tobacco, motor cars, and machinery, which are coming here in enormous quantities.
– A good deal of the machinery which we are now importing from America could be made here.
– Machinery is mentioned in the detailed list I have just given. If some of the industries which have been established in Australia were better protected, they would have a greater chance of capturing some of the trade which now goes to the United States of America, and which brings about such large adverse trade balances. I admit that a country which is trading with all countries of the world cannot hope to have a favorable trade balance with all nations; the very nature of trading makes it necessary to have adverse trade balances with some countries. We already have a favorable balance of trade with Japan and France, but in the case of the United States of America there is an extremely heavy adverse trade balance, which is tending to restrict our opportunities and, I am confident, acting to the detriment of Australian industry. It is to that problem that we need to direct our minds. I realize that it is impossible to change the existing adverse balance of trade with the United States of America into a favorable one, but it is possible to diminish the amount of imports from that country by producing some of these goods for ourselves.
I shall cease now to deal in generalizations, and will give a few concrete examples of the defects of the tariff. The Minister for Trade and Customs was good enough, yesterday, to receive a deputation from the radio manufacturers of Australia, who have a very good case. I shall deal with a few of the salient points to illustrate my argument. A vast quantity of the radio sets and component parts that are used in Australia come from the United States of America, because that country manufactures them by massed production methods. Honorable members will probably be astonished to learn that Australia provides the second best market in the world for the producers of these commodities in the United States of America. This is a new industry throughout the world; it has grown up within the last few years, so that there is no reason why Australia should not begin manufacturing radio necessities and progress with their manufacture on parallel lines with other countries. In this industry the older countries have not the advantages that are associated with long-established enterprises, such as tradition and the employment of staffs whose families have been trained in those trades for generations. Australia should, therefore, make an effort to keep abreast of the world in this new industry. Radio manufacturing has been proceeding in Australia since the industry began. Amalgamated Wireless Limited has in Sydney a splendidly equipped factory, which I had the privilege of inspecting at least five years ago. That company even then was manufacturing very satisfactory radio valves, but has since discontinued doing so because of very keen continental competition. There are a number of other radio manufacturers in Sydney, including the Electricity Meter Manufacturing Company Limited, United Distributors Limited, the James Manufacturing Company, Keogh Radio Supplies, Suttons Proprietary Limited, the Metropolitan Electric Company Limited, and Grose and Daniell. Each of those concerns is engaged in the manufacture of radio sets and component parts, and more than 1,000,000 has been invested in their businesses. When operating at full pressure they gave’ employment to over 3,000 persons, but during the last two years they have been very seriously affected by American competition; so much so that the Electricity Meter Manufacturing Company, which previously employed from 250 to 300 hands on radio work, is now employing only 30. United Distributors, who had a staff of SO persons engaged in that work, now have only six. They have retained the services of their trained technical men in the hope that the trade will recover. A duty was imposed in, I think, 1925; but it was found to be insufficient. Early last year the position had become critical, because Australia was being flooded with cheap sets from the United States of America. An application for an additional duty was then made to the Tariff Board. The board took evidence, and visited different factories, but so far it has not furnished a report to the Minister. The matter lias now reached a highly critical stage. Representatives of the radio manufacturers have waited upon the Minister und asked that some action be taken before Parliament rises next week. If assistance is not given immediately it may not be possible to do anything until Sep- tember next. A five valve so-called genuine Neutrodyne radio set made in the United States of America has a value f.o.b. at American ports of £3 lis. lid. The present tariff is 55 per cent on the f.o.b. price, plus 10 per cent, which on that- value amounts to £2 3s. 5d. The landing charges are about 14s. 5d. Therefore, the total landing cost in stores in Sydney is £6 9s. 9d.
– It is not suggested that that is a dumping price, I suppose?
– No; but it is an abnormally low price because these sets are known as end-of-the-season goods. The’ lowest net selling’ price ito Aus-, tralian stores of a locallymanufactured article of a corresponding type but higher quality is £16 8s. 4d. It is thus readily apparent that there is an enormous difference between the cost of the imported article landed in Sydney and the cost of the Australian-made set of a similar type. The margin in the case of the seven valve and other sets of higher quality is much smaller. The representatives of the local trade do not use the term “ dumping “ ; but they point out that in many cases these cheaper sets that are being landed in Australia represent the surplus of the seasonal production of the factories of the United States of America. There is a definite season in the radio trade and at the end of that season the stocks on hand must be disposed of. Large numbers are, therefore, sent to Australia and sold cheaply. The cost into stores of the imported article bears very little relation to the actual cost to the consumer. That is a most important point which honorable members must keep in mind.
– Surely there is some relationship ?
– There is no reasonable relationship. In some cases the profit is 300 per cent; yet they are able to undersell the Australian article! I know that the Minister (Mr. Gullett) gave a sympathetic hearing to the case which was presented to him by the representatives of the Australian manufacturers, that he still has the matter under consideration, and that he hopes to receive the report of the Tariff Board almost immediately. If he has that report in his possession within the next week, and finds that the Australian industry is being seriously menaced and may become extinct, I urge him to take some action, even though it be only temporary in character, before Parliament rises, in order that a measure of relief may be afforded until the matter can be more fully considered.
I shall now deal with the case of the manufacturers of automotive parts. Numbered among the manufacturers of those parts in New South Wales and Victoria are some of the- most progressive of our Australian manufacturers, men who realize not only the value of the trade that is available in Australia, but also the necessity for ensuring efficiency in business, the employment of up-to-date methods, and the application of science to business management. So far as is practicable, they endeavour to give effect to those ideas. I wish to show the unfairness of the competition with which they have to contend. That competition also comes from the United States of America. There is a large number of motor spring manufacturers in Australia, and about twelve of them have very extensive establishments which represent a big capita] investment. For the year ended the 30th June, 1927, the importations of motor chassis mainly from the United States of America numbered 118,900, part of the equipment of which was 473,000 springs. The steel used in those springs, and in the replacement springs that w7ere shipped as a separate item to this country, amounted to 10,500 tons. If we add the steel required for about 1,250,000 shackle bolts, new bolts and other spring equipment, we find that the amount of special steel represented by these imported springs was 12,500 tons, which at a cost of from £20 to £25 a ton would represent a value of approximately £250,000. Thus, if we made all the springs that are required in Australia our steel manufacturers would have a market for 12,500 tons annually, and involved in its manufacture would be about 40,000 tons of coal, as well as other raw materials. Australia’s spring manufacturers are at present making springs to the extent of absorbing about 2,000 tons of spring steel. Relatively, they have only a small proportion of the trade.
The existing tariff on springs is as follows : -
As the chassis which are imported from England enter Australia free of duty, the springs, which are part of their equipment, are not dutiable. At the present time spring steel has to be imported because there is only one maker of that commodity in Australia - a Victorian firm - and that maker can turn out only a small quantity with electric furnaces. The balance of our requirements is imported mostly from England, and upon it we have to pay a duty of 16 per cent. Although the Australian manufacturer of springs has to pay that duty, the British s spring-maker is not under a similar handicap, because his springs come iu as part of the equipment. That is an anomaly which should be rectified.
– There is a duty of 40 per cent, on replacement springs. Does the honorable member suggest that the chassis come in without springs?
– No; but I say that the treatment of springs ought to be similar to that of shock absorbers, spark plugs and batteries, which are dutiable apart from the chassis.
– That would not have any protective incidence.
– It would have a very direct effect. Surely the honorable member remembers that, at one time, a single duty was placed on the whole car. Then it was found desirable, in the interest of Australian motor-body builders, to treat the body as a separate item. Successively similar action was taken in connexion with bumper bars, shock absorbers, spark plugs, batteries, tires and various other component parts. I ask that similar treatment be accorded to the springs and many other parts. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who is an incorrigible free trader, may regard humorously the suggestion that it is only by dealing with the trade in that way that we can give a fair start to our manufacturers, and ultimately develop into a motor manufacturing country. It cannot be expected that a motor manufacturing industry will become established without years of preparation and development. That development can be assisted by giving protection to the manufacturers of the component parts.
– The crux of the matter is the engine.
– That is a comparatively simple problem. Engines are being manufactured in Australia at the present time. The omnibus companies in Sydney using the White omnibus are obtaining all their replacement engines from an Australian maker, and they are a very satisfactory job. We have a very high reputation for the manufacture of marine internal combustion engines, the elements of which are not different from those of the engine of a motor car. The main difficulty is the making of the chassis frame, because the steel-makers are not rolling the sections that are required. Of course, carburettors, electrical equipment and other indispensable parts of a motor car are not at present being made in Australia, but there is every hope that they will be.
– What is wanted is a new definition of “chassis.”
– Probably that is what is required. The Minister should realize the importance of this matter, because millions of pounds are being taken out of Australia by the United States of America every year in connexion with the purchase of motor vehicles and parts. We could prevent that leakage to a certain extent without any detriment to other Australian industries.
– Local manufacture has had the effect of reducing prices.
– That is a point I was about to make. The honorable member for Swan should be interested to learn that an increase in the tariff on some of these items would not necessarily mean a higher price to the consumer. Only a few years ago the tariff on springs was relatively low. It was increased to 55 per cent., foreign, on replacement springs, and subsequently the price of both the imported and the local spring was reduced. The Australian makers lowered their price from ls. 3d. to 8d. a lb. wholesale, because the volume of trade they obtained enabled them to manufacture more cheaply, despite an 18 per cent, increase in wages, and additional costs as a result of the application of the 44-hour week, and the child endowment and workmen’s compensation schemes in New South Wales. What has been our experience in regard to imported springs? The saving that Australian users of motor cars have made since the 55 per cent, ad valorem duty on springs has been in operation is clearly demonstrated by a comparison of the prices in Australia under a 55 per cent, tariff with the prices in New Zealand under a 20 per cent, tariff. The table is as follows: -
– The circumstances are so unusual that the honorable member can be excused for making the most of them.
– My object in giving these examples is to show that the Australian manufacturers of motor parts have succeeded in bringing prices down. The figures also indicate the success which has followed the giving of greater protection to Australian manufacturers of these parts. Early in 1927, Ford front springs were selling at 12s., but when the Australian manufacturer placed them on the market at 8s._, the importers brought over from America a large shipment of Ford front springs and sold them at 7s. 3d. As a result, the Australian manufacturer had to discontinue making these springs and work off his accumulated stocks as best he could, but the fact remains that he reduced the price from 12s. to 8s., and ultimately forced the importers to reduce their price to 7s. 3d. Credit must, therefore, be given to the
Australian manufacturer. We have the same story in regard to automobile gears, which are manufactured in Sydney, and also, I believe, in Melbourne. One firm in Sydney is making all kinds of gears, but principally those required for automobiles. It was at first urged by the American motor manufacturers that Australian gears could not be trusted to do the work required of them, and one manufacturer, addressing the Sydney Chamber of Manufacturers, said -
Of course you will understand, gentlemen, that whilst we may lit Australian made parts to the outside of our motor vehicles, such as pins, shackle bolts and springs for replacement, it would be expecting too much of us to trust other than our own make of replacement parts in the delicate mechanism of the gear box or back axle units.
But after several years’ experience, the very firm which that gentleman was representing now uses for replacements nothing but crown wheels and pinions’ manufactured by the Sydney firm which I have already mentioned.
– How can the Australian manufacturer compete successfully with importations from other countries when the cost of his raw material, iron and steel, has been enormously increased?
– It is certainly to the disadvantage of the Australian manufacturer if the cost of his raw material is high, but if the manufacture of Australian gears develops and the local manufacturers capture the whole of the home market, the demand for the high class steel used in the manufacture of these gears will be sufficient to justify the Australian steel maker installing the proper electric furnaces and so forth, io supply all the high class carbon steel required by the gear makers. At present 200 tons of this steel a year meets the local demand, but if all the gears fitted to imported cars or used for replacement purposes were manufactured in Australia, at least 4,000 tons of that high class carbon steel would be required. An Australian gear manufacturer was told by a motor vehicle importer, “ If I can make a hundred per cent, profit on your gears, I will stock them.” The gear manufacturer asked, “ What do you make on the imported gears?” The reply he re ceived was “sometimes up to 300 per cent.” The people of this country are charged exorbitant prices for these imported goods - prices which bear no’ relation whatever to those charged in the country of origin. In 1924, when the duty was only 10 per cent., the crown wheels and pinions for a popular type of car cost £7. In 1928 when the duty was 55 per cent., the spare parts merchants’ price was £3 17s. 6d. I call the attention of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), to these figures, showing as they do the effect that an increase in duty has on prices. The spare parts merchants’ cost price of imported crown wheels and pinions, after allowing for duty, freight, insurance, &c. in 1924 was £1 Ils. 3d., yet the price for them to the trade was £8 10s.
These figures also indicate the exploitation that is possible in the absence of a local industry, and prove, beyond doubt, that the local manufacturer affords protection to Australian users.
– I admit that the importers are just as rapacious as the local manufacturers if they have a chance.
– The Australian manufacturer is human just .is the Australian importer is, and I suppose that his prices, as well as those of other people, need to be restricted, but my experience of the Australian manufacturers of automobile parts is that there is a great deal of competition among them. There is keen competition among them to capture the local trade in springs, motor gears, bumper bars, shock absorbers, batteries and sparking plugs, and whilst that competition continues, we need have no fear that the Australian users of motor cars will be exploited by the Australian manufacturer. Australian gear makers are now supplying the whole of the gears required for replacement purposes in 24 makes of imported cars. Their work is, apparently, up to a high standard. At any rate, it has given such satisfaction to the makers of these cars that it has been accepted as standard equipment.
The experience of the Australian manufacturers of shock absorbers has already been given in this chamber a number of times, and I have no desire to go fully into it again, beyond saying that the Australian firms are producing a very high quality line, which is accepted by the motor trade a3 equal to any foreign product. It furnishes standard equipment for Vauxhall cars, Checker cabs, the Master Six Buick, the Standard Buick, and many other cars. That is to say, the chassis of these makes of car come to Australia unequipped with shock absorbers. These are fitted to them in Australia, and are made in Australia. The adoption of this policy has had the effect of reducing the price of shock absorbers. When the duty was 10 per cent, imported Gabriel snubbers sold for £10 10s. When the tariff was increased to 55 per cent, they sold for £S 8s. When the duty was fixed at 55 per cent., Lovejoy hydraulic shock absorbers - an imported article, and probably the best known, at any rate the most widely used on the market - came down in price from £16 16s. to £12 12s. The price of Australian shock absorbers is less than that of the imported article, and wherever the agents for the various lines of cars give reasonable opportunity, Australian shock-absorbers are being fitted. Some agents choose to fit their cars with costly imported absorbers, although they are by no means giving more satisfaction than the Australianmade article. The present duty of 55 per cent, ad valorem does not give the amount of protection Parliament intended. Firms which export chassis from America to Australia do not allow the importing agent a fair or reasonable reduction if the shock absorbers are excluded. If shock absorbers are included, the invoice value set down for them is the nominal amount of, say, £3 a set. The 55 per cent, ad valorem rate on £3 thus becomes a merely nominal duty. Much more effective protection would be afforded by the imposition of a flat rate.
I come now to the manufacture of sewing thread and sewing cotton. There is in Sydney a big factory with very modern equipment controlled by men with English experience in this industry, but they have had a most unfortunate time since they commenced operations here. The competition with the Australian manufacturers of sewing thread and sewing cotton has been in some respects very unfair and the industry has been so adversely affected by it that its position at the present time is very precarious. It has the advantage of a duty, but the competition comes from an overseas combine whose representatives in Australia have been threatening to crush our local industry. This combine is resorting to devices which tend very much to endanger the existence of the Australian mill. One device is to manufacture threads intended for industrial purposes in domestic or short lengths in order to get them into Australia at a reduced tariff rate. Australian-made threads are now being used, in some cases exclusively, and in other cases to the extent of providing their major requirements, by the following industries : - Rubber works, boot and shoe manufacturing, knitting mills, motor body builders, clothing trade, millinery, leather goods, tents and tarpaulins, hat manufacturers, furnishings, tailorings, corset manufacturing and so on. The Australian mill is capable of turning out £200,000 worth of threads a year for use in various trades. In 1925, the tariff was 25 per cent. British, 30 per cent, intermediate, and 35 per cent, general. In spite of that tariff, prices were reduced by the overseas combine, and large stocks which were shipped to Australia in anticipation of a revision of the tariff made it very difficult for the Australian manufacturers to continue operations.
Sitting suspended from 124-5 to 2.30 p.m.
– In February 1927, the sewing thread manufacturers made an application to the Tariff Board for increased protection, and after repeated requests the application was set down for hearing in January, 1928. In July last, the board completed its report, which I understand was favorable to an increase in duty, but it has not been acted on. We ought to have from the Minister some explanation of the Government’s inaction. If the industry were making profits and were able to carry on and extend its operations, the matter would not be so urgent ; but it is threatened with extinction. Yet though the board has reported favorably upon the request for assistance, the Government has neglected to come to its aid. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) urged last night that all reports of the Tariff Board should be tabled soon after they are presented to the Minister. That might not be wise, because if it were known that the board had definitely recommended an increase of duty, too great an opportunity would be given to importers to stock up their warehouses against the possibility of parliamentary action. But certainly, when the board has recommended assistance to ari industry that is known to be in difficulties, the Minister should take prompt action, and his schedule should be accompanied by the board’s report.
– Do the manufacturers of sewing threads use any Australian cotton ?
– No ; the yarns are imported. Australian cotton is not suitable for spinning into sewing thread, but those engaged in the industry declare that certain types of Durango cotton, which can be grown in Australia, might be ultimately used for this purpose.
– “What percentage of Australian labour is put into the locallymade article?
– I cannot say, but the factory in Sydney has a very large personnel, and the finished product must contain a considerable proportion of Australian labour. The imported yarns have to be treated, bleached, dyed and polished, and go through many processes before the highly finished article is placed on the market.
– The price of sewing threads in Australia is already enormous.
– Yes, but since Australian manufacturers commenced operations the overseas competitors have reduced their prices substantially in order to undercut the local product.
– The reduction was due to the fall of the price of foreign cotton.
– That is not so. A representative of the combine who visited Australia, boasted to those in the trade that his principals intended to crush the local industry. The overseas manufacturers altered their former practice, and shipped to this country sewing threads made up in short lengths in order to bring them under an item of the tariff to which a lower duty applied. Yet these short-length threads are used for industrial purposes, and the -intention of Parliament is being defeated. The threads made in Australia are used, not for domestic purposes, but by manufacturers such as motor-body builders, shoe manufacturers, tailors, and milliners.
Without trespassing unduly on the time of the House, I have been endeavouring to give a few concrete examples of the way in which the present tariff is failing to protect. The manufacture of artificial flowers is another promising industry in which large firms in Sydney and Melbourne are engaged. In 1921 flat-rate duties were imposed; but they proved to be insufficient, and in February, 1925, the manufacturers applied to the Tariff Board for higher rates. To the astonishment of the trade the board recommended the termination of the flatrate duties, and the substitution of a ridiculous ad valorem duty equivalent to an increase of about 5 per cent. That change from the flat rate to the ad valorem rate has done the industry untold injury. In 1924-25 the imports under the old flat rates were valued at £109,000 ; but in 1926-27, under the existing ad valorem rates, they increased to over £150,000. The artificial flower industry is suitable to Australia. It gives to a large number of women congenial and interesting employment under hygienic conditions very different from those in which the industry is carried on in other countries. A Sydney manufacturer who recently returned from abroad, where he had studied this industry, wrote to me last month -
In the first place what appealed to me was the limited amount of actual flower manufacture carried out in Great Britain, particularly bearing- in mind that the bulk of our importations are shown as of British origin. I consider some very tightening-up measure should be taken in passing invoices claiming British preferential rates.
On the Continent, specially in Czechoslovakia, I found buyers could.be readily met, if they so desired, to evade the provisions of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act. In some instances that came under my notice it seemed that exporters in certain parts of the Continent were prepared to invoice goods which were far from true to value. Trading under conditions such as these Australian manufacturers are utterly unable to compete. I have no hesitation in saying that it would pay my company far better to import artificial flowers than endeavour to struggle against this class of overseas competition, with the meagre protection the industry is granted in Australia.
– The local manufacturers are turning out a wonderful article; but they cannot possibly compete against the imported product.
– Not under the conditions under which goods are invoiced and landed in Australia. The local manufacturers have a wide range of designs, exceeding in one factory 1,000. The business is efficiently managed and, if given adequate protection, would be a success.
I call the Minister’s attention to the weakness in the law relating to dumping. If a local manufacturer alleges that dumping is taking place, the onus of proof is upon him. In most cases proof is very difficult. If the onus were shared by the importer, the department would be able to check this evil more readily.
I have much more material which I could place before the House, if time permitted, but I have quoted sufficient concrete examples to show that the tariff is not as effective in many items as was intended by Parliament. When the legislature imposes an ad valorem duty of 55 per cent., the inference is that it desires the local industry to be protected effectively. The duty i.3 imposed, not to aid revenue, but to protect Australian enterprises, and if after the duty has operated for a reasonable time there is clear evidence that the industry is not protected and that manufacturers abroad and importers are employing devious methods to defeat the tariff, action should be taken by the Minister to make the policy of Parliament effective.
I would like the Minister to give attention to the lopsided operation of the preferential policy between Australia and the United Kingdom. We all are in favour of giving preference in trade to Great Britain over foreign countries, but we do not desire in so doing to injure our own industries. If it can be shown that the preferential policy is imperilling Australian industries, we must revise the duties.
– Britain does not expect our industries to suffer.
– I think that is true of most British statesmen. Moreover, there must be a fair element of reciprocity in this policy. If we give sub stantial preference to the United Kingdom we have- a right to expect a fair degree of reciprocity.
– The honorable member will admit that the very idea of preference contemplates a certain amount of competition.
– I do not admit that. We might impose a preferential duty that would give to Great Britain the exclusive trade in a particular article, without competition from Australia. In some cases that is the effect of our preferential policy. Other preferential duties give to Great Britain the lion’s share of our trade from overseas. The intention of the preference is to induce Australian consumers to purchase British goods in preference to foreign goods, but not necessarily in preference to Australian goods. The late Minister for Trade and Customs, Mr. H. E. Pratten, quoted in this House on the 24th November, 1927, certain statistics showing the advantages of the preferential policy to Great Britain and Australia respectively. The following figures show the value of the preference granted to the Old Country for the years 1921-22 to 1925-26:-
I believe that the total for the next year was still higher. On the other hand, the value of the preference given by Great Britain to Australia in 1925-26 was only £571,441, and covered the following items : -
I realize that we cannot make a bargain involving reciprocity and preferential tariffs which will yield absolutely equal benefit to the parties to it. There must be a spirit of mutuality in these matters. The Government should rectify the matters I have outlined. But in taking steps to ensure that we shall be granted a reasonable preference it must not bargain away the right of industries already established here. That would be a foolish thing to do. We must take all care that the prosperity of our existing industries is not diminished. I have spoken at considerably greater length than I intended, but I felt that this was an appropriate opportunity to submit these matters for the careful consideration of the recently appointed Minister.
– I appreciate the endeavour of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) to point out what he conceives to be the path, in which I should walk as Minister for Trade and Customs. I also appreciate his constructive criticism, and congratulate him upon the moderate tone in which he has reflected upon what he regards as the failings of the Government. At the same time, I must confess to some disappointment at the lack of a sense of proportion which the honorable member’s speech revealed. He has apparently spoken as the mouthpiece of the Opposition upon this subject, and for that reason I regret that he did not show greater discrimination. For many years I have been a careful observer of the making of tariffs, whereas the honorable member has only lately entered this Parliament brand-new from State politics. Although the honorable member was enthusiastic in his advocacy of protection for a sound and promising industry such as the manufacture of motor car parts - and I point out that it has been, and still is, the policy of the Government to encourage the extraordinary enterprise which these manufacturers have displayed - he was just as ardent in advocating that a 300 per cent, duty should be imposed upon certain wireless equipment which we import from America. This is an illustration of what I have referred to as the absence of a proper sense of relativity in the honorable member’s speech.
I shall deal first with the references that have been made to our trade with the United States of America. The object of the honorable member in discussing this subject was obviously to point out to the Government its failure to take steps to curtail severely our imports from the United States of America. The honorable gentleman referred to our adverse trade balance with America. I think that he observed that in a recent year our imports from the United States of America were valued at £35,000,000, while our exports to that country were only about £9,000,000, leaving an adverse balance of £26,000,000. One gathered the impression from the honorable member’s remarks that a similar position existed in relation to all countries.
– I pointed out that it did not. I said that we had a favorable balance with Japan.
– I think the honorable member will agree that our trade deficiencies in one quarter must be considered in relation to our advantages in another. Although we had such a big balance against us with America in 1926-2i7 the balance in our favour with France was £12,800,000 ; with Japan, £5,000,000, with Belgium, £7,000,000; and with Germany, £5,600,000. The favorable balance with these four countries therefore more than offset the unfavorable balance with America. If it be argued that our adverse balance with America is evidence of the failure of the Government adequately to protect Australia’s industries it may be just as reasonably argued that our favorable balance with the other countries that I have mentioned is overwhelming evidence that we have protected our own industries. As a matter of fact, the argument would not be sound in either case, for the position must be looked at as a whole. The unfavorable balance with America should not be regarded as the result of slackness on the part of the Government. Our chief imports from America, as everybody knows, are motor chassis and various kinds of oil. The honorable member referred to what he called the selfish policy of the Government of the United States of America in building a tariff wall which was an effective barrier against the importation of Australian primary produce into that country. Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. The policy of the Government of the United States of America in this respect is “the policy of practically every . country in Europe and of our o» country. It is an almost universal practice for a country to protect its primary industries against competition from those of other countries. We do not allow the agricultural products of America to flow uninterruptedly into Australia any more than the Americans allow our primary products freely to enter their country. The following is a list of some of the embargoes and prohibitive duties which we impose upon the introduction of certain commodities into Australia -
Sugar £9 (is. 8cl. per ton - an embargo.
Potatoes 2s. Oil. per cwt. - an embargo.
Butter, Cd. and 7d. per lb. - almost equivalent to an embargo.
Broom millet 8s. per cental - an embargo.
Maize 2s. (id. and 3s. Gd. per cental.
Hops 6d., 9d. and ls. per lb. - imports regulated.
Peanuts 4(1. per lb.
Onions (is. per cwt.
Bananas lcl. per lb. - practically a prohibition.
Prunes, 4(<d. per lb.
Like other countries in the world, we grant practically complete protection to our primary producers in certain lines, and that is what the Government of the United States of America does.
I have seen recently in the press reports of the inquiries and evidence given before the Committee of Ways and Means of the American Congress which seemed to suggest that there may be an intention on the part of that country to depart from what has hitherto been considered a fair and reasonable reciprocal trading arrangement between it and Australia. As the responsible Minister of this Government, I wish to say that should America depart to any material extent from this hitherto acceptable reciprocal trading basis I shall x/bt hesitate to advise the Government seriously to consider the situation. To speak of retaliation is odious. At present- I do not intend to say any more on the subject than I have said.
– How does the United States of America propose to depart from the present arrangement ?
– I have already said that my information on the subject is confined to certain press reports which have been brought under my notice frequently in recent weeks. So far nothing definite has been done, and personally I think that the possibility of any action of the Government of the United States of America along these lines i3 somewhatremote.
I wish now to refer to a number of particular Australian industries which were brought under review by the honorable member for Dalley and discussed by him in a most temperate and reasonable way. My main disappointment in his speech in this regard is that he did not show an adequate sense of proportion, but seemed to suggest that all industries set up in Australia should be granted the maximum amount of protection, irrespective of the effect of this policy upon the general community, or - and this is the vital point to my mind - the effect of it upon many other deserving manufacturing industries.
The honorable member spoke at considerable length upon the subject of the manufacture of motor car accessories. I wish to pay a tribute to the manufacturers of this country who, with the aid of considerable assistance from the Government, have undertaken and achieved remarkable success in the manufacture of automotive parts here. As a matter of fact, their achievement is one of the brightest spots in the manufacturing history of Australia in recent years. I am glad to say that the Government for some time prior to my elevation to the Ministry did excellent work in encouraging these manufacturers, and it proposes to continue that policy. Its object is first of all to establish on a firm footing the replacement trade. We intend to do all that we can do to ensure that replacements required for motor cars running on our “ roads shall be manufactured here. A considerable measure of success has already been achieved in that direction. The next step is. to encourage the equipment trade. We are now moving towards ensuring that the motor cars imported into this country shall not carry on them any equipment “which can under reasonable commercial conditions be manufactured here. That is the definite policy of this Government. There is a certain amount of preference given to British manufactures; but, in regard to the importation of cars from America, that is a policy which this Government has set itself to follow. We are at present making in Australia motor bodies, tires, buffers and other important accessories. Presently we hope to be able to make springs and other equipment parts. It is our ambition that Australian industry shall thu3 develop progressively until we have arrived at the time when we can turn out an all-Australian car on a commercial basis, without unduly adding to the cost of motoring. This is an important matter, and I am sure that honorable members will agree with me that, in considering the manufacture of motor cars and lorries which to-day transport at some stage not only the primary produce in its raw state, but also in its semi and completely manufactured condition, we should be exceedingly careful that we do not take any premature action likely to impose a crippling tax on industry as a whole. While I am sympathetic with the proposals designed to bring about the manufacture of complete cars in Australia, I frankly believe that, if we attempted to hurry the process, we might for some years do more harm than good. We should endeavour first to develop the manufacture of automotive parts, and, later, the manufacture of the complete chassis. But it must be remembered that, apart from commercial trucks, this is largely a luxury and vanity trade. We shall never induce the Australian people to be satisfied with a selection from only two or three types of cars ; they will insist on a wider range. If we imposed a very heavy duty to-morrow on foreign cars, they would still be imported in large numbers, if we were turning out only a few makes of our own.
I have touched on most of the points raised by the honorable member. We need say nothing more about motor bodies or tires, and little about batteries. I have been using an Australian battery for the last three or four years, and have found it to be excellent. The honorable member referred to shock absorbers; but his complaint should not have been directed against the Government. Honorable members will recall that, when the last tariff schedule was before the House, the manufacturers of shock absorbers made representations for an ad valorem duty, and they were given what they asked for. Having gone into the matter recently, I agree that the ad valorem duty has not proved effective ; that it has been side-stepped by the American manufacturers. The blame for this, however, cannot’ be placed at the door of the Customs Department or of the Government. Only recently I was in touch with the principal manufacturer of these parts, the head of the firm which was chiefly responsible for securing the imposition of this duty, and he, did not ask that it be varied. He himself suggested that, before making an application for a higher or different duty, he should go to America to interview the motor car manufacturers there, and see what could be done.
– It might help if the Minister would indicate that, in the case of the American manufacturers proving obdurate, the Government would give further consideration to the matter.
– I do not think that the right honorable gentleman can expect me to give a definite pledge on that point ; but it was the intention of the Government and of Parliament, when the duty was first imposed, that this particular branch of the automotive industry should be effectively protected. It has happened in respect of other parts that we, upon request, have changed ad valorem duties to fixed duties which have proved effective without increasing the cost of the parts to the public. For the information of honorable members, I might explain briefly how the American manufacturers evade the ad valorem duties, and why fixed duties become necessary. It is done in a very simple way. Very few, if any, of the motor car manufacturers in the United States of America whose names appear upon the finished car, manufacture the whole vehicle themselves. They buy different parts from the firms which specialize in the manufacture, and assemble them in the car. There are two prices for these parts, one to the original manufacturer of the car, who uses the part in equipment, and another, and a much higher price, for parts used for replacement. The manufacturers of parts try to get their parts used in the original equipment of cars because having got them there, they ensure themselves a big business in the same parts for replacement. Therefore, the manufacturers are able to assemble their cars at a minimum cost. They may get equipment parts, such as shock absorbers, at less than cost price. The honorable member for Dalley, in dealing with this phase, made one slight mistake. At the present time, even under the ad valorem duties, we do not accept equipment parts which can be manufactured here at the cost price to the firm which assembles the cars. We endeavour to arrive at their real value for duty purposes, but the trouble is that the assembling firm get them sometimes as low as half price. It may not be correct to say that they are dumped in this country, but they are landed here at what is not a fair competitive price. Without prejudice to thecase of shock absorbers, I can say that in some instances the only remedy has been found to be the imposition of a fixed duty.
In listening to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore), I was amazed that he should have picked out certain radio apparatus to illustrate the indifference of the Government towards the protection of Australian industry. He spoke of an American radio set which could he landed to-day in this country ata cost of £6 9s. 9d. Wireless apparatus as a whole, is being dealt with by the Tariff Board. The honorable gentleman gave this as the price of a five-valve set landed at the wholesale store in this country. The price for a corresponding set of Australian manufacture, he said, was £16 8s. 4d. He mentioned this, apparently, as a reason for imposing an adequate protective duty on the imported radio set. I do not wish to anticipate in any way the Tariff Board’s report on. this item; that report is now being written, and I have not the faintest idea of what it is to contain. I am prepared to say, however, that if this is an example of the protection we are supposed to afford, this Government does not stand for it, and this country will never stand for it. Wireless is a modern invention which probably means more to the world than any other invention of the last 100 years. It is coming within the same category as postages, telephones and telegraphs, and the aim of all modern, enlightened democracies is to cheapen thesethings to the people, and bring them within the reach of every one. Wireless is a thing which we should definitely strive to make cheap for the people of Australia, and for the working man especially. Lonely settlers in the outer places should, by means of their wireless sets, be kept in touch with the doings of the world. The honorable member for Dalley poses as a leader of the political party professing to concern itself with the interests of the workers of Australia, and he charges us with negligence towards Australian industry because we do not absolutely prohibit the importation of these radio sets, or at least, impose on them a duty of 300 per cent !
– The sets I quoted cost £6 9s. 9d. to land in Australia, but some of them are being sold here for £14.
– If that is so, at what price would the Australian sets be sold? The honorable member said that it is a common thing for retailers to multiply the cost price by three when selling to the public, and they are just as likely to multiply the Australian price of £168s. 4d. by three. Does he think that the retailers will sell the Australian product just to serve Australian sentiment, and to help Australian manufacturers? They will not.
In this matter I am not pleading as between the manufacturers and the consumers. I am pleading for sanity and reasonableness as between one manufacturer and another. If we make a bad error in imposing a wrong or foolish duty, the chief victims are other manufacturers.
– Following the same line of reasoning, there should be no duty on shock absorbers.
– Apparently the honorable member is still prepared to champion the selling of radio sets in this country at three times the price at which they can be made available, duty paid, from other countries, and he ostensibly does that in the interests of Australian industry. I say that he does not do it in the interests of anything Australian.
– What is the selling price in America of the radio set which is landed here at £6 9s. 9d. ?
– They pay a duty of £3 on the set, and it is landed here, duty paid, at £6 9s. 9d. The Australian price for the same set is £16 8s. 4d.
The honorable member for Dalley raised another issue when he said that injury was being done to a company known as the British Thread Mills of Australasia. He spent some little time in urging the claim of this company, which he described as a manufacturing company, to an increased duty. I have no quarrel with the company, but I want the House to understand clearly where the Government stands, and the reason why no action has been taken. The matter was dealt with before I became associated with the administration of the department. In the first place, the company is not a manufacturer of cotton threads. Actually it imports cotton thread in the grey, which is admitted free of duty under a by-law. In some cases the thread is merely wound into balls and sold in that form; in others, it is bleached, dyed and wound. In neither case does the value to the Australian worker represent 25 per cent. of the factory cost. The honorable member, therefore, would appear not to have made a very happy choice when he selected this company as an example. At the outset of his speech I marvelled at the extraordinary manner in which he mixed up good, bad, and indifferent cases. Apparently, in his keen desire to obtain the goodwill of manufacturers, he is prepared to undertake cheerfully the task of appealing for a duty whenever one is sought. This company does not spin yarn in Australia, it does not use a pound of Australiangrown cotton, nor, so far as we can tell, is it a potential user of the Australian product.
– Did not the Tariff Board support its application?
– In 1924, the company requested the Tariff Board to recommend a deferred duty of 25 per cent. British and 35 per cent. foreign on sewing threads and sewing cotton. In August, 1925, the board made a recommendation in those terms; yet we are now told that the company is unable to carry on!
– There was a subsequent application.
– I am aware of that. From the evidence and the facts that we have before us, it appears certain that if we acceded to therequest of the com pany we should inflict an economic hurt upon the people of this country, especially the working people, rather than confer a benefit on any little group of workers.
– Did not the Tariff Board recommend an additional duty?
– I am not acquainted with the recommendation of the Tariff Board; I have never seen it. But apparently the Government refused to proceed further in the matter.
I have had the opportunity to review the whole position in regard to protection, and it is my belief that if there is anything wrong with Australian industry, it is due not to the ineffectiveness of the existing tariff so much as to the shortcomings and extremism of the various factions that are represented by honorable members opposite.
.- I have listened attentively to the lecturette that has been delivered by the Minister to those who, in their political lifetime, have been associated with a score or more of tariffs. Dictation from him so early in his administrative career comes with rather a bad grace.
My object in rising, however, is to give honorable members an illustration of the manner in which discipline is enforced in the Royal Australian Navy by officers who have been imported into it from overseas in recent years. I do not say that they are all harsh in their disciplinary methods, but if we wish to induce Australian boys to join our navy, we must see that they are treated as humans and notin accordance with the harsh laws that governed the discipline of the ratings in the British navy some years ago. Perhaps I can best illustrate my meaning by relating what happened to one of our young naval men during a recent trip to Honolulu in H.M.A.S. Brisbane, and subsequently upon the return of the vessel to Sydney, not as the result of a decision of a court martial or a civil court, but at the instigation of the commander. His wages and the allowance to his wife were stopped, he was lodged in Long Bay gaol, and dismissed from the navy because he had indulged in a prank. I have a statement that has been made by the young man, and it calls for a searching inquiry. It reads as follows : -
The officers and men of H.M.A.S. Adelaide commissioned H.M.A.S.Brisbane on28th June, 1928, taking the cruiser over from the dockyard, where she had lain for twenty months undergoing a refit and alterations to the boilersata cost of £100,000.
On taking over it was found that most of the auxiliary machinery and oil fuel system, &c, was ina terrible state, and far from serviceable for an extended sea trip.
The engine-room department worked nobly, both day and night, to bring order and efficiency to machinery that was in such a state as can only be described as deplorable, and a monument to public money criminally wasted.
To make their work more difficult, they were forced to work under EngineerCommander C. J. Colthurst. an imported officer and an efficient engineer, per book.
As a practical engineer he was a hindrance to men who knew their work, and his knowledge of handling men was confined to abuse and sneering remarks.
In spite of the handicap, the Brisbane was patched up sufficiently for her to put to sea on 9th July for a full power trial, which resulted in several breakdowns, and the attainment of 24 knots per hour as against the possible 27 knots recorded before her refit.
Again, the work was rushed in an effort to make the ship seaworthy before commencing the cruise to Honolulu, and at the same time the paymaster saw fit to enforce misplaced economy by reducing the already inferior food supplies.
Reduced rations, bad food and overwork, naturally lead to discontent and murmuring against those responsible for such conditions, and these conditions were aggravated by Engineer-Commander Colthurst making a public threat to break the hearts of every man under him.
At Brisbane, the common feeling was shown in a poem which appeared on the lower deck notice-board. The poem, which was greeted by the lower deck rating as expressing their v iews, but by the officers as a display of bolshcvism and threatening mutiny, is as follows : -
To Whom it may Concern. “Oh Mr.- ? think you well,
Before you sweat the men below:
And make their lives a living Hell, Advice for you is take it slow.
Britannia rules the Seven Seas, And Britons won’t be slaves;
And Aussies come from British stock, And live in modern days.
The press-gang’s dead and out of date, The flagellator’s done;
And officers can’t bully men, As did the brutal Hun.
So take this good advice from me, And rule with lighter hand,
Before you raise the ireand wrath Of the black-faced “Dust-hole” band.
They work like Hell in Hell beneath, To drive this cursed ship;
You try to break the hearts of men, Who will not stand the whip.
Three rings you have, be satisfied: And lead an easy life;
Be tolerant to your working hand, And save a lot of strife.
For all of them are easy led, But drive them you may not;
For furnace doors are easily swung, And fires are mighty hot.
On obtaining a copy of the poem, Captain G. C. Harrison mustered all the ship’s officers on the quarter deck and read it out to them, following it up by a soul-searing and withering speech on the bullying tactics used towards their men, by several officers whom he pointed out.
Efforts were now made to find the perpetrator of the offending poem, and it being known that I had published poetry in the Naval Depot Journal, I at once became a suspect.
En route to Suva, when at work in the engineer’s office, the master-at-arms, accompanied by the senior engineer, entered and demanded to search me and my belongingsfor a copy of the poem.
Their search was unrewarded, but next day I was taken before the commander for investigation, but no charge was laid against me.
Efforts to find the author were now redoubled, andthe senior engineer, Lieutenant B. Rowlands, interviewed a number of stokers privately, and used every inducement to make one come forward as a witness against me.
The stokers are not “ Officers and Gentlemen,” and, therefore, have a sense of honour which prevented them giving way to what almost amounted to bribery.
At 6 a.m. on the 21st August I was in the engineer’s office waiting’ for the coal tallies, and killed time by typing several poems, including the one in question.
Chief Stoker Delang entered the office, and seeing what I was typing merely smiled and . went away.
Two hours later I was ‘charged before the officer of the watch with “ Inciting mutiny and printing seditious literature,” and he placed me under sentry’s charge.
Two days later I was formally charged before the commander, who remanded me to appear before Captain Harrison.
Captain Harrison, after a very brief hearing, remanded me under close arrest, as there seemed some difficulty in deciding the charge against me.
This difficulty appears to have been considerable, for the next seven days I lay in an evil-smelling cell-flat, in the bows of the ship and underneath the latrines,, suffering all the discomforts possible, in a confined space with the temperature well over 100 degrees.
The 30th August I was again taken before the captain, the charge being altered to one of: - “For, that he being a person subject to Naval Discipline Act, did type poetry, the subject-matter of which is subversive to naval discipline.”
Little or no evidence was offered, but I was remanded for punishment and returned to the cell-flat to await 4 o’clock, when my warrant was to be read out.
At 2 o’clock that afternoon I was hurriedly sent for to appear before the captain again, when I was surprised to learn that the charge was now altered to two definite charges, viz.: -
“Did wilfully conceal and otherwise retain literature, the subject-matter of which was to the prejudice of good order and naval discipline.”
” Did type verses the subject-matter of which is subversive tonaval discipline.”
Nothing more, beyond the reading of the charges, took place, and I was again returned to the cell-flat.
The warrant was not read that night, but the following afternoon, learning that the warrant was to be read out that night, under the altered charge, I sent for Lieutenant E. Good, who had been detailed to act on my behalf as prisoner’s friend, and told him to inform the captain that I demanded a court martial, as I considered I was being subjected to sharp practice. The reply came back that I was not entitled to a court martial, as this privilege was only granted to chief and petty officers, but that the captain would re-open the case next day.
Next day thecase opened with Captain Harrison acting both as prosecuting officer and judge, but the first charge fell through owing to the contradictory nature of Chief Stoker Delangs’ evidence.
The second charge was a farce, for when I asked Captain Harrison for a definition of “ Subversive to naval discipline,’’ he was unable to give me one, as were the other officer’s whomhe consulted. To hide his evident ignorance, he took a high stand and informed me that “ I do not consider it my place to enlighten your ignorance.”
After several other questions, he asked me one that I consider a trap question, and I objected on those grounds, only to be told that “I do not care a damn what you object to, for it is my intention to break down your evidence, and I want you to get that into your bloody, thick head.”
The hearing ended at this point, but at 4 p.m. that evening my warrant was read out to the ship’s company, sentencing meto 90 days’ hard labour in Long Bay Penitentiary, but before the warrant was completed I gave notice of appeal and demanded to see a superior officer.
I was then taken below and confined in a locked cell under sentry’s charge.
I was now given 24 hours to reconsider my appeal, and’ informed that I could call on any officer on the ship to assist me. Already an officer, Lieutenant Good, had been detailed off to act on my behalf, but I very soon received proof that he was betraying my confidence.
I therefore decided to select an officer who was also a gentleman with some sense of honour, and at the same time carry the war into my prosecutor’s camp, by selecting Mr. Owen, the captain’s secretary, whom I knew to possess considerable knowledge of King’s Rules and Regulations and Admiralty Instructions. On the 5th September I again saw the captain to state my grounds for appeal, but could make very little headway owing to his blustering, bullying manner, the time being spent in threats to Mr. Owen as to what would happen to him if I persisted in my appeal.
Captain Harrison disallowed my appeal, but said it would be forwarded to Navy Office for their consideration when we reached Newcastle on the 13th September. On the 15th September I was transferred to Long Bay Penitentiary, where I received the same treatment as other prisoners. Time after time I wrote to theBrisbane and to the Navy Office to ask about the appeal, but it was not until half my sentence was completed that I received word through the governor that Navy Office could not consider any appeal.
So for three months I suffered all that a prisoner can suffer, with the added knowledge that my allotment to my wife was stopped, and she was left to shift for herself. On 28th November, 1928, I was discharged from Long Bay and from the Navy, without being paid the £40 deferred pay due to me.
I wrote to the Naval Secretary twice before being informed that having been discharged from the Service, “ Services no longer required,” I was not entitled to payment.
Shortly after my release I went aboard the Brisbane, in order to obtain a copy of the Summary of Evidence, but the Commander refused to see me,but said that Navy Office would not allow me a copy.
Finally, I was ordered off the ship, and since then I. believe a notice has been posted on Garden Island to the effect that I am to be refused entry to the island or to any of H.M. Ships.
Ex Stoker, H.M.A.S. Brisbane. 25th January, 1929.
Copy of Appeal.
I, Walter Francis Molineux, stoker, official number 18154, hereby give notice of appeal against the sentence of 90 days’ imprisonment in Long Bay Penitentiary, with hard labour, awarded me on board H.M.A.S. Brisbane, by Warrant No. 10, dated 31st August, 1928.
The following are my grounds for appeal: -
This alleged charge does not come under Article 43 of the Naval Discipline Act. vide Manual of Naval Law and Court Martial Procedure, page173 (Stevens, Clifford and Smith, 4th edition) : vide also section 43, note (p), page 77 of Admiralty Memorandum on Naval Court Martial Procedure.
I definitely stated I did not understand, a definition of the said charge being refused meby Captain Harrison.
– What is the age of this man?
– He is a young married man, with a wife and one child.
– For what period was he imprisoned at Long Bay?
– Ninety days.
– Does the honorable member say that his pay was stopped, and that his wife received no money?
– Yes ; all the time she had to shift for herself. The food supplied to the men was had, the repair work was in progress, and, as everybody with seafaring knowledge is aware, men occasionally indulge in little “screeds” such as I have read.
– Men have been appointed poet laureate for worse.
– For writing that poem this young man was sent to Long Bay gaol for 90 days, without a court martial, and without a civil trial, because it was said that he tried to cause a mutiny.
– Was that done by an imperial captain?
– Yes. Treatment such as that is not likely to encourage young Australians to join the Navy. Of course, there must be discipline on all ships. I realize that there cannot he more than one captain; but, in modern times, if we are to have vessels manned by young Australians, we must not adopt a form of discipline that was in vogue centuries ago in controlling far less en lightened men than the young men of to-day. That sort of discipline was characteristic of the press gang days, when men were exiled to this country. The young man to whom I have referred was employed in the stokehold where the atmosphere is very hot, particularly in tropical zones. Simply because the men complained of their food, and this young fellow broke out into verse about it, he received the drastic punishment that I have mentioned ; but was given no trial whatever. He was driven out of the Navy, his name is discredited, and his wife was left to starve while he was serving in gaol, although a month before that his verses had been gladly accepted for publication in the Naval Gazette. It is scandalous, and a disgraceful episode in the history of the Australian Navy. The sooner the Minister has a thorough inquiry instituted into the trip of that vessel the better it will be. Those who were responsible for the immense cost said to have been incurred in putting the ship in order, and also for the bad food that the members of the Navy were asked to eat, should be dealt with. The fact that Australian naval men put the machinery in order after the cruiser left the dock-yard in Australian waters, irrespective of the action of the British officer in brow-beating them, and saying that he would break the hearts of the men in the engine-room, stands to their credit. We do not require discipline of that sort in the Navy. We are well aware, as the young man pointed out in the verses that I have read, that Australians can be led, and under a capable commander would go through hell in order to accomplish a good purpose; but they will not suffer what this boy has been forced to submit to, whether on land or sea. What right have we to expect the men on an Australian naval ship to eat rotten food? Honorable members know of the conditions in the stokehold of a warship, particularly when it is travelling at high speed in tropical waters; in order to drive the vessel along at 27 knots, the men, stripped to the buff, steaming with perspiration, feed at feverish pace the ravenous furnaces. They must have good food to maintain their strength and remain fit. Because the men on the Brisbane were being given bad food, this sailor broke into poetry which was in the nature of an appeal to the upper deck, and contained nothing seditious. But for that action, he was imprisoned under the latrines, in the nose of the vessel, for many days, and on the return of the ship to Sydney, was sent to Long Bay Penitentiary to serve for 90 days with the worst criminals in the community.
– How did the lines come into the possession of the authorities ?
– A lieutenant entered the cabin while the lad was typing them. The captain, who tried him, was both prosecutor and judge, and threatened the men in language too foul to be repeated, that he would break the hearts of every one of them. If the Minister ascertains that this officer acted as I have . described, he should take immediate steps to remove him fromthe Australian Navy. I referred this matter to the Department of the Navy many months ago, and received the usual reply ; even I was almost frightened by their description of this young fellow as an evil-doer, who was seeking to cause mutiny on the ship. Now I have the offender’s own version of what occurred, and if only half of his statement is true, the Government should take action at once to restore him to his former position, and compensate him for the injustice that has been done to him. The Minister should have enough concern for the credit of the Australian Navy to ensure that the boys who join it are not subjected to this kind of thing. Discipline is essential, but there is a difference between discipline and brutality. Any common sense commander would have regarded the man’s poetical effusion as a joke, or, at worst, a minor offence calling for a mild reprimand. Instead of that, the man was sent to prison, and his wife and children might have starved. I have read of nothing worse in the history of the British Navy, and the Minister should not allow 24 hours to pass without instituting a searching inquiry into the incident. I feel sure that the Minister will realize that a thorough investigation is required.
– The charges which the honorable member for Newcastle has brought to the notice of the House are of so urgent and serious a character that immediate inquiry into them is necessary. The statement he quoted contains specific allegations regarding the treatment of the men on the Brisbane, the quality of the food, the uncleanliness of the ship, and the disrepair of the machinery. Charges of this nature cannot be allowed to remain without being sifted. I can hardly believe that a young sailor was sentenced to 90 days in prison for merely writing some verses, but I am not conversant with the facts. I shall certainly bring the honorable member’s statement under the notice of the Minister for Defence immediately, and urge upon him the advisability of a prompt inquiry into the matter. When the Minister is in possession of the full facts, I shall make a further statement in his behalf to the House.
– I was one of the first to express doubts of the fiscal faith of the present Minister for Trade and Customs. I did so when returning thanks to the electors of Maribyrnong at the declaration of the poll after the recent general elections. I was afraid that the Minister might prove to be, as some other honorable members in this chamber have been, a fiscal atheist, but I was not sure. Having heard his statement to-day, I say unhesitatingly that he is not a friend of Australian industry. Unfortunately the Minister seems to be obsessed by the idea that only industries established in a large way are worth protecting. If he practises that policy many Australian industries will be murdered in their infancy. Honorable members know very well that some of our most important manufacturing concerns began under very inauspicious circumstances. The inventor of the Sunshine harvester for instance, began his work in his father’s backyard. Had the present Minister for Trade and Customs been in office at the time that man would probably not have been encouraged when he needed help. Patents are being taken out every day for new inventions, and some of these may lead to most beneficial results for our people. They may bring about a saving of money and effort and notable advances in industry. I sincerely regret that the Minister seems to hold the opinion that only large concerns are worthy of his consideration.
The introduction of this bill gave the Treasurer an appropriate opportunity to give us some information about our financial position, but he neglected to accept it. Parliament will go into recess next week, and as the Government is asking for two months’ supply, it seems that honorable members may not be called together again until the second week in September. That is all the more reason why the Treasurer should have said something about the financial outlook. I have taken pains to obtain certain figures with the object of ascertaining, as well as a private member may do, the general financial situation, and I find that it is not at all satisfactory. I asked a question on this subject to-day, and was disappointed that the Treasurer did not intimate that he would deal with it at some length when introducing this bill. He informed us, however, that in 1926-27 our revenue from customs and excise totalled £43,554,000, and that in 1927-28 it totalled only £41,446,000, a fall of more than £2,000,000. The estimated customs and excise revenue for this year is £43,300,000, or an increase of £1,854,000 over the previous year. But it is most unlikely that this expectation will be realized, for we are already more than £1,000,000 in arrears. It seems that we may be faced on the 30th June with a deficit in customs and excise revenue alone of more than £5,000,000. I hope that this forecast may prove to be inaccurate, but there is a likelihood of it. Seeing that we had big surpluses in so many successive years, the observation made some time ago by the present Minister for’ Trade and Customs, that Australia is afflicted with the most tragic Treasurer it ever had, appears justified. I regret that the Minister for Trade and Customs is, himself, turning out to be a tragic failure. His association with the Treasurer in the Cabinet is not only a double tragedy, but a national tragedy. I sincerely hope that the financial position will show considerable improvement in the next three and a half months; but even then we shall be faced with a serious financial position.
Some time ago the Minister for Trade and Customs said, at a function in Sydney, that he was a great believer in mergers and combines. I do not desire to make any personal remarks, but I am of the opinion that the honorable gentleman owes his position in the Ministry to the influence of certain big business interests behind him. I am rather sorry that the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) is not present, so that he might tell us something of the negotiations going on at present for a merger of certain big commercial interests. A good deal has been said today about the United States of America. I do not by any means approve of everything that the Government of the United States of America does; but we could with advantage follow its example in certain respects. While I am opposed, speaking generally, to the setting up of boards and commissions, which in this country have been mainly useless and expensive, I feel that we should be well advised to follow the example of the Government of the United States of America and establish a board with power to act iu the event of big business interests merging to the detriment of the general public. The Hogan Government of Victoria, which held office for an altogether’ too limited period, showed what could be done in that regard. Certain complaints were made that a combine was being established in restraint of trade. The Government immediately directed a qualified officer to inquire into the subject. The result was that the projected move was abandoned. Later, another complaint of the same character was made, and the Government directed the same officer to inquire into the matter. He did so, and his report was submitted to Parliament, which was able to protect the interests of the people. I believe that the constitutional power of this Parliament should be extended to enable it to deal effectively with trusts and combines, but we could do a great deal more than we are doing under the existing power. While the late Mr. T. J. Ryan was a member of this House, during the regime of the Hughes Government, he informed the Prime Minister that if permission were granted to him to draft a bill to protect the people against trusts and combines, and Parliament would pass it,he would be prepared, as a legal practitioner, to defend itin all the law courts of this country, and even in the Privy Council. He had not the slightest doubt that if Parliament had legislated upon a specific subject, that legislation would have been upheld. Judging from recent decisions of the High Court, we have far more power than we thought. I believe that the rubber merger is one upon which the Minister for Trade and Customs has pronounced his blessing. He said that there was a great merger in course of being effected, and that it had his approval. They may, of course, be merging to save overhead expenses, but the matter should be inquired into. Recently we had a visit from Sir Eric Geddes, whom I consider to be a far more brainy business man than any of the “ BigFour “ who were recently in this country. He held a high position in the British Cabinet during the war, and is now associated with very large business interests. It may or may not be a coincidence that the merger between the Dunlop, Barnet Glass and Perdriau rubber companies is being brought about just following his visit. There ought to be some means of investigating such combinations, and if they are injurious to the people as a whole, they should be stopped.
The matter which I am now about to introduce will, I know, render me taboo to many of the great journals of Australia, but that cannot be helped; I refer to the great newspaper combination now in course of formation in Australia. Indeed, it has been partly formed already. The originators of this combine were the proprietors of the Herald and Weekly Times newspapers of Melbourne. Recently they purchased a number of other newspapers, paying, in some cases, immense sums for them. I understand that purchases have been made in Brisbane, and prior to that the company purchased several papers in Melbourne, thus destroying competition. In the past the two Adelaide newspapers, the Register and the Advertiser were in two opposite political camps in South Australia. The Register practically supported a policy of freetrade; at any rate it was the Tory organ of South Australia. The Advertiser was regarded as a protectionist- paper, and leaned towards what we may call liberal thought. These newspapers have now been acquired by the interests associated with the Herald and Weekly Times Company. I have it upon very reliable authority that the proprietors of the Advertiser were paid or received interests to the amount of £1,250,000. I have no doubt that the proprietors of the Register also received large compensation. The Mercury in Hobart, and newspapers inWestern Australia and in Sydney are also in association with this group.
– The Mercury is not in the combine.
– The negotiations may, perhaps, have fallen through, but I know there was some nibbling done. Those who control this great combination will have an immense influence in this country for good or ill. I know of one instance in which it is pushing into the political life of Australia, with the approval of some honorable members in this House, representatives who are the curled darlings of the interests concerned.
– This combination is analogous with the One Big Union.
– There is no analogy, but I may inform the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) that such combinations, whether of newspaper interests or not, will bring the trade unionists of Australia into one big camp. Nothing could be better calculated to infuse vitality into the trade union movement of Australia. There are some important newspapers in Australia which are not concerned in this combination. These are newspapers which were established in the past by great families which bear an honoured name throughout Australia; newspapers which have long and honorable traditions behind them. The Melbourne Age is not in the combine. It was established by the late Mr. David Syme many years ago, and has a long record of service to the community. The Sydney Morning Herald will not, I believe, join any such combine. . It was established by the Fairfax family, and has built up a great reputation. The Melbourne Argus, established by the Mackinnon family, is not in the combine. I am under no compulsion to pay any meed of praise to these papers, because I know quite well that at election time they will use all their influence against the Labour party. Notwithstanding that, however, I hope, for the good of journalism in Australia, that they will never be swallowed up by this newspaper combine. Such combines have been formed in America and England, and they have not been in the interests of the people as a whole. It may be asked why I should object to a combination of this kind. I fear it, because I know something of the commercial history of those who control it, or are associated with it. This is known as the Baillieu-Fink group. It has business ramifications extending over a wide sphere. In fact, it is difficult to trace its operations, so wide flung are they, and so interwoven are they with other concerns. This statement may be denied, but I believe that there is a senator going to take his place in Parliament who is really the protege of this combine. He was assisted in securing his selection, and helped in his campaign by no less a person that the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) himself. I refer to Senator Elliott.
Much attention was given a short while ago to the proposed merger of wireless and cable interests. The matter was considered at a conference in England, and Australia was represented at that conference by two delegates. I asked the Prime Minister why one of those delegates was not Australia’s High Commissioner, or some one from Australia House, and I was told that as it was a big financial transaction we should be represented by business men. Our delegates were the Chief Director of Postal Services, Mr. Brown, and Mr. Olive Baillieu. I believe that I am on sound ground when I say that the name of Mr. Clive Baillieu, or of some members of his family, would be found, upon investigation, on the share registers of some of the companies interested in the proposed merger. If that should be so, it was nothing less than criminal to allow him to represent Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald said that if the merger were allowed to take place, and to operate unchecked, it would levy heavy toll on the people of the world. The Government should inform us whether Mr. Baillieu had actually any financial interest in any of these companies. I know ‘that it is unfair to make anything in the nature of an attack on a public servant, who cannot defend himself on the floor of this House, but it is a remarkable thing that when Mr. Brown returned from that conference he immediately asked for, and obtained, a large increase in salary. I understand that he was offered very considerable emoluments by certain companies. Was that the pistol which Mr. Brown was. able to hold at the head of the Government when asking for an increase of salary? From what companies did Mr. Brown receive his offer? Were they interested in the merger? It would be interesting to know. Delegates who represent Australia on such matters as this should he quite disinterested. I am not now referring to the Postal Director, but I have a strong suspicion that Mr. Clive Baillieu or members of his family had a direct interest in bringing about the merger then in contemplation.
There is also a suspicion that the business interests to which I have been referring are associated with the moneylending houses of Australia and other countries. The Baillieu interests are now associated with Robinson interests, and both are combined with the house of Nivison. I believe, therefore, that instead of there being competition in the money market when our loans are being subscribed, it will be found that these houses are in combination with the house of Morgan in America, and that the rate of interest will be dictated from abroad. At present we have to pay £52,000,000 a year in interest on loans, or £1,000,000 a week. During the war we raised £400,000,000 within Australia, and I am not one of those who hold that the raising of money here was entirely disadvantageous. It should be our policy to raise within our own borders the whole of the money we need, so that we may retain for local uses the large amount that is now sent abroad to pay our interest bill.
I have drawn attention to a few of many happenings that urgently demand investigation by some responsible person authorized by the Commonwealth. I have shown what has been done by a State Government. What it can do,”the Federal Government should be able to do. It is time that the Ministry became alive to the fact that combinations are being formed in Australia that may have a detrimental effect upon our people. A feeling of disgust has been engendered because of the manner in which the Government has dallied with the wireless question. The number of listener-in is rapidly decreasing, particularly in Victoria, because they know that the bulk of the money which they pay into the public Treasury finds its way into the pockets of private individuals. On a former occasion, I showed that the broadcasting station 3LO in Melbourne, with a capital of only £6,000, received, in eighteen months, a revenue of £110,000. The Government has now purchased the A-class stations, after vested interests have .been created. Although the PostmasterGeneral has shown a willingness to furnish the House with some information, he has not stated what amount is being paid for those stations. Later, it is any intention to ask him to supply details of the exact terms upon which they were purchased, so that we may ascertain how much greater has been the cost than it would have been if they had been established originally by the Commonwealth Government. It appears to me that ever since the present Government has been in office, it has been playing up to “ big business,” “ greasing the fat pig,” and doing what will ultimately prove detrimental to the people of Australia.
.- I take advantage of this opportunity to relate the difficulty that I have experienced in my endeavour to obtain ordinary postal facilities for country districts. On more than one occasion, I have stated in this House that in regard to requirements of this character, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department appears to take into consideration the political colour of the applicant. That statement has been challenged, but I still adhere to it, and I shall refer to incidents that have occurred to demonstrate that at least there is some reason for my belief.
If there is one thing more than another that I have worked hard to secure, it is a new post office for the district of Bur- rowa. When Mr. Webster was PostmasterGeneral, the matter was investigated, and had he remained in charge of the department, this very necessary facility would have been provided. He realized even at that time that the post office was in a very dilapidated state, and promised that a new building would be erected. Preliminary action towards that end was taken, but he went out of office and the matter has since been in abeyance. I wish to show the methods that are adopted by certain Nationalist candidates to try to wrest a seat from an opponent. At the last election, I was opposed by a Mr. Ogilvie, and in the course of his campaign he went to Burrowa. In conversation with two or three persons whom he considered were opponents of mine, but who, unfortunately for him, were my strong supporters, he said, “ You have not much of a post office here. What is your federal member doing? I suppose that, being in opposition, he has not much chance of getting you a new one. If I win the seat, I shall be on the Government side, and I shall get you a new post office.” That statement indicates that he believed that political patronage would be given to those who supported the Government. Now let us consider the statement of a far more important person, the Prime Minister himself. During the election campaign, the. right honorable gentleman realized that the then honorable member for Macquarie, Mr. Manning, had an exceedingly strong opponent and would have considerable difficulty in retaining the seat. He therefore visited the electorate and, among other towns, spoke at Lithgow. When he had exhausted all his political arguments without effect, he said to his audience, “ You had better put Mr. Manning back, because it is better to, he represented by a man on the Government benches, than by one on the Opposition side of the House.” What inference can be drawn from such a statement than that political patronage would be given to electorates that were represented by Government supporters? The right honorable gentleman could not have made it more clear if he had stated specifically that that was the practice.
My experience in this Parliament has proved to me that it is of very little use to ask for anything from the PostmasterGeneral’s department, whether it is a necessary work or not. I have many times written to the department, and the Municipal Council of Burrowa has also communicated with, it, requesting that a name be placed on the building, so that the people would know what it was. Mr. Kitto replied that the words “Post and Telegraph Office” were printed on the window. He has not been to Burrowa, or he would not make such a stupid statement. If those words are there, they cannot be discerned at a distance of only a few feet. Mr. Kitto also stated that the name would be placed on the building when repairs were effected to it. If the department spends either Id. or £1,000 in renovating that post office, it will bc stupid, wanton waste. It might as well throw the money away, because the building is in such a had condition that it is impossible to do anything with it. Three years ago the doors were falling out of the portion which is occupied as a residence. The foundations have gone, and altogether it is an antiquated structure that is useless for modern conditions. It is a disgrace that any person should be asked to work in the telegraph office. I should like to see either Mr. Kitto or any other responsible officer carry on his work in it for any length of time.
I have been making strong endeavours to have a direct trunk telephone line laid between Burrowa and Rye Park. Representations in this direction have been made also by responsible organizations. The present practice is to “ cut in “ on the trunk line from Yass to Young. There is no hospital in the place, and only one policeman, who has a wide area to cover. In the event of sickness or a serious accident, there is a delay of an hour or more before a doctor can be summoned. The department merely declared that it realized the drawbacks under which the residents suffered, and hoped that in the near future the conditions would alter so as to make it possible to provide the line. As a matter of fact, the posts are already in position, and all that is necessary is to erect the wires. Although a cheeseparing policy is shown in country districts, the department is prodigal in the expenditure incurred in cities and large towns. The Postmaster-General is a prominent member of a ucarty that declares that its policy is to bring the advantages of civilization to rural districts; but at Rugby, a small township in my electorate, the people have been unable to obtain money orders from the local post office, and are dependent upon the favours of the mailman, who recently told me that he had carried as much as £15 or £20, with which to obtain money orders for residents from a neighbouring post office.
– What is the postal inspector doing?
– The Progress Association in the town has been endeavouring to have the anomaly rectified, and I have been trying for many years to bring about an improvement, but the facilities provided there to-day are the same as they were when, I first became a member of this House. At the township of Clifton, on the South Coast, of New South Wales, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has closed up the local post office, but I defy him to show that there has been any falling off in the population and progress of the district. If the population warranted the provision of a post office when the property was bought, it justifies it to a greater extent to-day, because settlement has increased. Between Helensburgh and Wollongong the number of electors on the roll has increased by 4,090. Many protests have been made against the action of the department in closing the official post office at Clifton, selling the property, and transferring the office to a private establishment. In 10 or 15 years the department may be paying four or five times as much for a new site for an official post office as they paid for the property that has just been sold. The department was asked that the postal, telegraphic and telephonic facilities be increased, and it was pointed out that by closing the official post office and establishing a semi-official office the facilities had been reduced.
I have also endeavoured to get the department to erect telephones for use on the railway construction work that is proceeding along the Moss Vale to Port Kembla railway. I was told by the department that a telephone was available at Eurunderee. The men are working in mountainous country, and many serious accidents have occurred. If it were necessary to send to Wollongong for an ambulance, men should not be required to walk three or four miles over rough mountainous country to obtain a telephone. The whole of the services between Stanwell Park and Balgownie are scandalously inadequate. The men employed along the South Coast are engaged in the dangerous work of mining, and in other industrial occupations, and they should not be expected to he content with the primitive facilities that have been provided. For instance, in one case a telegram was left lying in a post office for two days. It contained a message announcing the death of the father of the person to whom it was addressed, and the addressee did not receive it until after his father’s funeral. The telegram was left lying at the post office because it was nobody’s business to deliver it.
Another matter to which I direct the attention of the Postmaster-General is the unfair treatment received by a line workman named Cox at Mittagong. He was a temporary employee, and was put off because of a shortage of work, although he had been engaged by the department for. six years. He, surely, had the right to be re-employed before men who had been engaged for only a short period. Members on this side of the House have not boasted about their policy of preference to returned soldiers so much as honorable members opposite have done, but I point out that this man is a returned soldier. He had a disagreement with his foreman, and re-employment, when work was available, was refused him. The Returned Soldiers Association has taken up his case, and it demands an inquiry, but the department is not prepared to grant the request. The PostmasterGeneral is familiar with the case, and I wish him to understand that this man, who has a family dependent upon him, has been unjustly treated. The department has made no attempt to investigate or answer the case made out by the organization, and I am convinced that it is not proposed to face an inquiry. I know that it is futile to speak further on the subject; my experience of the Minister convinces me that no satisfaction can be got from him, and I hope that the Prime Minister will re-construct his cabinet soon and appoint a new PostmasterGeneral.
.- The reply ofthe Minister for Trade and Customs to the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley this afternoon surprised and disappointed me. The airy manner in which he dismissed the subject of the adverse trade balance with the United States of America, calls for strong criticism. He evaded the indictment of the honorable member and merely quoted the favorable trade balances with Japan and certain other countries without giving any indication that the Government intends to deal with a situation which is becoming increasingly serious. It is generally conceded that the growing adverse trade balance between Australia and the United States of America is not only damaging the interests of the Empire, but is also retarding the economic development of Australia. The problem certainly calls for immediate action. The Government has paid a good deal of attention to the development of trade within the Empire, and has expended enormous sums on visiting delegations with that object in view, but no action has been taken to improve our trade relations with America, which have been the subject of continuous criticisms in the newspapers and considerable discussion amongst Australian manufacturers.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– I thank the honorable member for Angas for providing an audience. No doubt the honorable members who were absent from the chamber were endeavouring to recover from the distressing effects of the honorable member’s last speech.
The Minister should indicate to the House in the near future how the Government proposes to correct our adverse trade balance with America. There are many means by which the present position could be improved. The problem has assumed such alarming proportions that private business men have been visiting America to try to effect an alteration of the selfish policy of the American exporters. Mr. John Storey, Chairman of the automobile section of the Chamber of Manufacturers, is now visiting the United States of America for that purpose. The concern of private business men emphasizes the need for government action.
If the Americans continue their present policy, the Government should take the responsibility of asking Parliament to impose discriminatory duties. There is still opportunity, however, to negotiate with the Government of the United States of America with a view to arriving at some reciprocal arrangement. Other dominions are already endeavouring to pursue that principle, and there is no reason why Australia should not follow their example
The honorable member for Dalley referred to specific industries to illustrate the reluctance of the Government to carry out the recommendations of the Tariff Board. The remarks of the honorable member regarding the failure of the Government to give effect to the Tariff Board’s recommendation of increased duties to assist the sewing-thread industry, were contemptuously brushed aside by the Minister, who made no attempt to inform the House of the reasons which had actuated the Cabinet. The previous Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Bruce) on no occasion took Parliament into his confidence in. this regard. The case in favour of the board’s recommendation that additional duties should be imposed on imported cottons and threads .is overwhelmingly conclusive. The board’s report was presented to Parliament on the 13th September of last year, and had been preceded by such exhaustive inquiries that the Government- should have hesitated to ignore it. But having ignored it, the Minister should satisfy Parliament that the Government had substantial reasons for so doing. In the course of its report the board said -
Very considerable capital (£165,000) has been invested in equipping an Australian factory to produce sewing cotton and threads……
With the product now partially manufactured in Australia, they can supply one-third of the total consumption - but their plant is stated to be capable of supplying virtually the whole requirements of Australia.
The Government at the time, presumably with the knowledge of the exotic nature of the industry, but no doubt with the hope that its importance would increase, even to the possible extent of using Australian-grown cotton, encouraged the industry by granting it the protection then sought.
The Government, by imposing additional duties, had deliberately encouraged the investments of Australian and British capital in this industry. The board’s report continued -
There is no doubt that the industry is threatened with failure, and the question now arises as to whether the Government should come to its aid with further protection through the tariff. Failing such further protection, there is little doubt that it will be hard pressed to survive.
This industry is threatened with bankruptcy. The capital subscribed to establish it on the strength of assurances given by a Nationalist Government is likely to be lost unless prompt action is taken in conformity with the recommendations of the board. The report continued -
The output of the local industry in cotton threads represents a material proportion of the Australian consumption (approximately one-third) and if given the further protection asked for, it appears to have a reasonable chance, with the lessons learned in the past, of at least doubling its output, of extending its processes, at first to doubling and later to spinning, when it may employ quite a large number of hands. Increased output will, it is hoped, materially reduce the now heavy overhead costs. It is suggested, however, that the directorate should endeavour to effect material reductions in the actual overhead expenditure.
The Tariff Board, considering the earlier encouragement given and the present position, is of opinion that it is worth while trying to save the situation and accordingly recommends that the rates of duty on cotton sewing threads for manufacturing purposes bc increased to 45 per cent. British preferential tariff, 55 per cent, intermediate tariff and 60 per cent, general tariff.
The board had examined every phase of the industry and given the fullest possible consideration °to the nature of its manufacturing processes. It had heard, also, the evidence of the British manufacturers of sewing cottons and threads. Yet its report has been contemptuously ignored and no explanation has been given to the House. It is not surprising that manufacturers are beginning to doubt the fiscal bona fides of this Government. Their doubts will be increased by the speech delivered by the Minister to-day. The disregarding of the board’s report is morally indefensible. The Government is playing a confidence trick on the people who invested their capital in the industry, believing that they would receive substantial Government support. The rates of duty sought by the manufacturers are by no means excessive when compared with the rates prescribed in other parts of the tariff schedule. Consequently I hope that the Minister will elaborate the reasons which prompted the Government to reject this recommendation. It is not sufficient for him contemptuously to disregard the case submitted by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore).
I direct the attention of the Minister to the delay which occurs in dealing with the recommendations of the board. The recommendation to which I have just referred was made in September last. I know of at least twenty other recommendations which have been in the hands of the Minister for extensive periods, ranging up to probably twelve months. Dealing with this subject the Australasian Manufacturer, the official organ of the AssociatedChambers of Manufactures, stated in a recent issue -
If Mr. Gullett would “ ginger “ up the processes of tariff reform, whether concerning his department or the methods of Parliament, he has plenty of work at hand, some of which has waited so long that men are sick of the delay.
Two applications for increased protection, favorably reported on by the Tariff Board, are telephone apparatus and sewing threads. Neither of the reports have been acted upon by the Government, although an exhaustive inquiry was made in each case by the board. The reasons which decided the Minister or Cabinet against the board’s recommendations should be made known.
It is only fair to the shareholders in the various companies interested in the recommendations of the board, and also to the people of Australia, to ask that the reason for the delay should be stated. The same report contains the following sentence : -
Surely the Tariff Board is the more competent to know whether or not further assistance is necessary for the welfare of the industry.
Among the industries which are suffering from this delay are the following : -
Copper products and alloys.
Metal bedsteads and fittings.
Synthetic menthol and thymol.
Ironclad switchgear and circuit breakers.
Tool handles of wood.
High-grade carbon steels.
Wireless sets and . parts.
Anti-corrosive and anti-fouling paints.
Not only is there delay in dealing with the recommendations of the board, but there is also a serious delay in the hearing of applications for increased duties. I hold in my hand a list of 40 or 50 applications which are awaiting attention. I plead with the Minister to do everything in his power to expedite the hearing of these applications, and the carrying into effect of the recommendations that the board may make from time to time. A delay of nine or twelve months in giving effect to a recommendation is a most serious matter to an industry which is struggling for its life. It is also a serious matter to the people of Australia, for it adversely influences the employment market.
Extensive reference has been made during this debate to the motor car industry. I have repeatedly urged in this Parliament that a more sympathetic policy should be adopted towards the manufacturers of automotive parts. I made a number of appeals on this subject to the predecessor of the present Minister. The establishment of the motor car industry in Australia is vital to our defence. It cannot be denied that high-grade motor cars are in the nature of a luxury.
– When the Labour party first advocated the imposition of a duty upon component parts of motor cars, the previous Minister for Trade and Customs said that he would not be a party to the disintegration of the chassis.
– That is so, but since then I have had the pleasure of seeing a specific duty placed upon batteries, shock absorbers, bumper bars and some other chassis parts.
– As the result of advocacy from this side of the chamber, the chassis has been almost stripped.
– It is some satisfaction to us to know that our representations on this subject have forced the Government to alter its policy. But the position is still far from satisfactory. During the first six months of the present financial year the only marked increase in imports over the corresponding six months of the preceding year, was in motor car bodies and parts, chassis and spare parts, and other metals and manufactures. The imports under these headings in the first six months of this financial year were valued at £6,640,000. The figures for bodies and parts for the two periods I have mentioned were £540,000 and £695,000. This increase has occurred in spite of our highly developed bodymanufacturing industry. The importation of motor bodies should be prohibited. A person who wants a Fisher body or some other imported body on his motor car is like a man who wants a Stetson hat. There is an element of snobbery in the choice. The Government is entitled to place the maximum duty upon importations of this kind to increase the revenue as well as the protection of local industry. The increase in the importation of chassis and parts in the periods I am comparing, was from £3,862,000 to £4,408,000; and of other motor parts, from £996,000 to £1,258,000. These are practically the only increases that occurred in our importation of lines falling under the heading of metals and metal manufactures. In these circumstances I submit that the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley on this point were thoroughly justified. A superficial examination of the statistics shows that these importations are increasing, while in practically every other line they are decreasing. The encouragement of the manufacture of motor cars and motor car parts in Australia is essential, not only for defence and economic reasons, but also for cultural reasons. We need to develop our engineering industries, so that we may not he helpless in the event of our becoming isolated by war or any other calamity.
The honorable member for Dalley also rightly advocated that a greater measure of protection should be granted to Australian radio manufacturers in order that they may be able to withstand unfair competition from abroad. In my opinion, the Minister made a misleading comparison in dealing with this subject. He quoted -the landed cost of a certain fivevalve radio set as £6 9s?
– The honorable member for Dalley first quoted that figure. I merely repeated it.
– The Minister made some unfair deductions from the data submitted by the honorable member for Dalley. Every one knows that before the manufacture of radio sets was undertaken in Australia the price of imported sets was prohibitive. I suppose that in the absence of local competition the radio set under notice, which may be landed here for £6 9s., would be unobtainable retail for less than £25 or £30.
– At present it is on sale for £14.
– This single illustration shows how essential it is that we should protect our local industries. The honorable member for Dalley also referred to springs for ford motor cars, and pointed out that, whereas the American price of them is 4s. 2d. retail, the price in Australia, until they were manufactured here, was 15s. In consequence of Australian competition the price has now been reduced to 7s. 3d.
– If the Minister’s predecessor had taken up the same attitude, no duty would have been imposed on motor springs, on the ground that it would have required one of 300 per cent. to be effective.
– That is so. The Minister puts forward the traditional free-trade argument usually advanced by honorable members who sit in the corner. The price of Ford car seven-leaf springs in America is 4s. 2d. Before there was competition from Australian manufacturers, those springs were sold in Australia for 15s. That is an instance in which an article was sold here for three times its value. Under the influence of Australian competition the price was reduced in Australia to 7s. 3d. Surely there is an analogy between that and the case submitted by the honorable member for Dalley in regard to radio sets. It is generally admitted that wireless sets are being dumped into this country. America is over-producing, and she is dumping her cheaper radio sets into Australia.
– The honorable member for Dalley said that the radio sets were of the same quality as the Australian article.
– No; the Australian sets are vastly superior. I said that the types correspond with each other.
– The Australian sets are produced in conformity with Australian conditions. The Electricity Meter Manufacturing Company which possesses a very large capital, since it has been in operation has reduced very considerably the price of radio parts. The same thing would happen, I am sure, in regard to complete sets if Australian manufacturers were given a fair measure of protection, enabling them to secure a reasonable share of the Australian market.
– There could be a 100 per cent, increase in duty without bringing about any increase” in the price of Australian goods.
– The honorable member for Dalley has rendered a great public service in dealing at length with this subject and the manufacture of motor parts. I was amused at the attitude adopted by the Minister for Trade and Customs, who made rather a cheap gibe at the honorable member for Dalley, when he alluded to him as having been constantly in association with the manufacturers of New South Wales, because both the Minister and the Prime Minister have flirted outrageously with the manufacturers. Just before the last Federal election the Prime Minister, speaking to the members of the Chamber of Manufactures at a dinner in Sydney - at which the honorable member for Dalley was present to speak on behalf of the Labour party - was exceedingly careful to assure his hosts that they had nothing to fear from the Government.
– And the honorable member for Dalley promised them duties of 100 per cent. He made a most shameless bid for their votes.
– Whatever he promised them, they at least had the assurance that the promise would be fulfilled. That was the difference between the honorable member for Dalley and the Prime Minister. We would be prepared to give as much as 100 per cent, protection on industries of great economic value if we thought it was required. Many Australian industries to-day are in a state of decay because of the anaemic and hesitant protective policy which this Government has followed.
.- It has been interesting to listen to the exposition of their respective tariff policies by representatives of both parties during this debate. The motive in both cases has been to secure the support of the manufacturers of Australia. It is interesting, and amusing also, to note how desirous the honorable members of this Parliament are to take money out of the pockets of one section of the people, to give it to another section. It is in this way, I presume that we are to build up a great, virile community, able to fight its battles with the other great nations of the world! If we erected a fiscal ring fence, a sort of Great Wall of China, around the country, it might be all right for a short period; but the result would be disastrous. I was pleased to have the honorable member for Dalley speak of me as an- incorrigible freetrader, because it gives me an opportunity of referring to a report which appeared recently in the press, dealing with my attitude at a meeting of my own party. I am not blaming the press for this report, because I believe it was given to them for the purpose of injuring me. The report was to the effect that I had advocated a policy of absolute freetrade. That report was absolutely and wholly false. I do not think that any person, with any concern for the welfare of Australia, would advocate a great or sudden change in our fiscal policy. It would be good neither for our party, nor for the country as a whole. Who would desire to see anything drastic in the direction of freetrade introduced at this stage? The result would be disastrous. Manufacturers who had been induced to start factories would be ruined, and thousands of persons would be turned out of employment. I think that I am sane in my political views, and never for a single moment have I advocated anything in the nature of a sudden and complete return to freetrade. But if there is anything that would make a freetrader of me it is the corruption which follows from a policy of protection. The first Federal Parliament contained a majority of protectionists and they initiated a moderate protectionist policy for the Commonwealth. Opinions differed on the wisdom of that policy, but no very great objection was raised to it. Up to 1914, and even later, there was nothing oppressive in the protectionist legislation passed. It was not until 1920 that Parliament went mad on protection. Mr. Massy Greene brought in a tariff schedule in which the duties were increased enormously on innumerable articles. Every demand for an increase was granted, without consideration or inquiry.
– Was the honorable member in the House at that time?
– I was.
– Thenwhat did he do about it?
– I considered it one of the most foolish policies in God’s creation, and I fought against it as hard as I could. Not only were high duties imposed, hut the atrocious Anti-Dumping Act was passed. This act gave the Minister the most extraordinary powers, enabling him to impose duties, or increase them, on any goods coming into the country if he considered the landed price to be less than that fixed by the Australian manufacturers. Even that did not suffice and since the formation of the composite Government we have had three drastic increases in the duties imposed in 1920. The Minister for Trade and Customs, at a dinner given by the Chamber of Manufactures in Sydney, pointed out how good this Government had been to the manufacturers. This Government is supposed to be keenly desirous of protecting the interests of the primary producers. They have tocompete in the markets of the world, and create the wealth which enables us to give favorable living conditions to the people as a whole. If the primary industries were destroyed, there would follow a bad time for the people of Australia. I am not “ croaking, “ but every one must realize that there is danger ahead. We are getting wonderful prices for wool now, yet the profit on wool is less than it was in 1914, in some instances owing to high costs, and farmers are ceasing to grow wheat, and going in for sheep, because wheat does not pay. The man who grows wheat is justified in charging interest on the capital value of his land, and, over and above his expenses, he should be able to secure a profit on his outlay. It is our duty to see that evenhanded justice is meted out to every section of the community; but if there are to be concessions they should be given first to the man on the land.
I wish to revert to the subject of the tariff, and to show how good this Government has been to Australian manufacturers. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) at a meeting which he attended recently in Sydney, pointed out how generous the Government had been since 1921 in regard to the tariff. He stated that the number of items upon which a duty of 30 per cent. was imposed had increased from 325 to 359; those upon which a duty of 40 per cent was imposed, from 198 to 229 items ; those upon which” a duty of 50 per cent. was imposed, from 34 to 70 items, and those upon which a duty of 60 per cent. was imposed, from two to six items.
The Tariff Board itself has a word to say on this subject. I quote the following paragraph from its report : -
Again and again applications are made for tariff assistance commensurate with the difference in costs of production in Australia and abroad. Many applications have succeeded, and the tariff wall is markedly rising. In the Customs Tariff 1008, there were only eight items which provided ad valorem duties of 40 per cent. or over. Of these six wore10 per cent. and the remaining two 45 percent. In the existing Customs Tariff there are 259 items or sub-items which provide ad valorem rates of 40 percent.. or over as set out hereunder: - 93 providing 4.0 per cent. 72 providing 45 per cent. 35 providing 50 per cent. 19 providing 55 per cent. 38 providing60 per cent. 2 providing65 per cent. (For the purpose of the above comparison the rates under the General Tariff only have been used.)
The disparity, comparing 1908 with 1928 in duties framed on specific lines, i.e., per ton, per gallon, per pound, and the like, is probably equally as great as the disparity existing in the ad valorem rates.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) has argued that it is necessary to build up new industries. I ask him and other protectionists how secondary industries can be built up if the cost of the raw material they require is so increased that they cannot compete in Australia with those of outside countries, unless extraordinarily high duties are placed upon imported articles, such as they manufacture. Iron, steel and copper are basic materials for other industries. The building up of an iron and steel industry is a national work, and if it is done successfully, the whole country will benefit. That being so, every person in the community should be compelled to contribute towards any assistance given to the industry. Such, however, is not now the case. The industry should be assisted byway of a bounty which would enable it to compete with other countries. If competition is eliminated the best asset of a nation is destroyed; and by inducing the manufacturer to believe that he has merely to make representations and he will obtain dumping duties and additional tariff restrictions, we destroy the competition which is absolutely essential to success.
– That charge cannot be laid against the steel industry.
– The honorable member for Newcastle knows perfectly well that when that industry was established, its founders said that they did not want any assistance from the Government, and that they were prepared to compete with the world ; yet absurd legislation and the decisions of different tribunals so altered the position that they were compelled to ask for protection. The price of coal was then about l1s. a ton; now it is about 25s. a ton. The operation of the Navigation Act made it more expensive to bring iron ore from Iron Knob. I believe that the effective wage of the miner was higher in those days than it is to-day. I should not be fit to sit in this chamber if I did not take into account the interests of the working man, and I say that when the cost of living is increased wages also must be raised. That, however, is a factor in the high cost of production.
– The honorable member is wasting his time.
– I am speaking, not so much to honorable members here, as to the people in the country. I shall try to make them see that honorable members opposite, as well as many of those who sit on this side, are playing a confidence trick upon them by making them believe that they are considering their interests, when the truth is that their actions are designed to benefit either one political party or the other.
– The honorable member is not in order in suggesting that other honorable members are playing confidence tricks, and I call upon him to withdraw the expression.
– I withdraw it. I was pointing out that if we increase the cost of the raw material that the manu facturer requires he must come to this Parliament continually for additional protection. During the last eight or ten years we have brought about a vicious circle, which as time goes on will have a more and more baneful influence. I ask honorable members to cast their minds back to 1921, when the big tariff was introduced by Mr. Massy Greene, who prophesied a wonderful future and the elimination of unemployment as a result of its operation. Since that timewe have had good harvests throughout Australia practically every year, and the highest prices that have ever been obtained for primary products. Loan money totalling over £200,000,000 has been expended, and the tariff has been raised considerably on three occasions; yet the unemployment is greater to-day than it has ever been before in the history of Australia !
– Our imports have been considerably larger.
– What is the reason ? Is it because Australian manufacturers charge too much, or that they are incompetent? Is it due to a slowing down on the part of the workers? Our workers are the equal of any in the world. There is no other community in which the general body of the public is so well educated as in Australia. Why, then, should we need all this protection ? Many of our members appear to possess a machine-like mentality. I cannot imagine why they permit themselves to be gulled as they are, for all these restrictions reduce the real value of wages and operate against the worker. There is not the slightest doubt that a small, but nevertheless a powerful and selfish minority, has dictated our economic policy. Perhaps I may he permitted to refer to a request that was made to the Tariff Board for the removal of the duty on pyrites. South Australia and New South Wales are fairly well served in that they have the zinc slimes from which they can obtain sulphuric acid. We in Western Australia, however, depend wholly on the importations of brimstone or raw sulphur from the United States of America. During the war the price of sulphur increased to as much as £19 a ton, and Sicilian suppliers entered into an agreement with American suppliers, who were the only persons sending sulphur to Australia. Sulphur is required in the manufacture, of sulphuric acid, which is used in the production of superphosphates. A request was made by the Rio Tinto Company, in Spain, that the duty on pyrites should be removed, so that they might be imported into Australia. That company did not desire a market for that commodity in Australia other than in Western Australia. Imported pyrites would mean a slight reduction in the cost of manufacturing superphosphates. Among those who supported the removal of that duty were the Cresco Fertilizers Limited, Adelaide, Sulphide Corporation Limited, New South Wales, and the general manager of the Ammonia Company of Australia, which also carries on business in New South Wales. The only opposition came from the National Mining Corporation of Great Britain, the company interested in the mine at Lake George, New South Wales, where it was said that it would be possible to produce pyrites. .Probably that company will be able to supply that commodity to the New South Wales market, but surely it could sell it at a lower price than that of the pyrites brought all the way from Spain to Sydney, with the advantage, also, °of a bounty on the acid produced. The Co-operative Company, Victoria, with S,000 shareholders, protested against the duty being removed, under the impression that they would be compelled to use the imported article, but there was no justification for that idea. In the report of the Tariff Board a most extraordinary statement occurs, showing where the influence is coming from. It is as follows : -
The only advantage that might accrue’, by the removal of the duty is that the price of sulphur would bo prevented from rising above a certain figure. On this aspect it is evident that it is the world competition between pyrites and sulphur, and not the competition between the two in Australia that governs the price of sulphur. Confidential information obtained by the board in the course of the inquiry, relative to the comparative costs of production of sulphuric acid from imported brimstone sulphur and from Australian pyrites, convinces the hon rd that if the price of imported brimstone sulphur should rise materially above its present level, there would then bo a sufficient inducement to mine and roast Australian pyrites with sulphur recovery as the main objectives.
We could not have the duties taken off sulphur until we gave the rich mining companies a bounty on all sulphur they took from the sulphide slimes or pyrites that they might produce in their mines. If these companies manufactured sulphuric acid from their pyritic ore, bounty would also be payable on that acid. The report goes on to say -
On the other hand, if a large and influential overseas company were given a foothold in the Australian superphosphates business, it might easily lead to its control operating against existing interests without advantaging the user of superphosphate.
It is an extraordinary statement to say. that if they imported pyrites into Australia they would try to make superphosphate. The board is supposed to be watching the interests of the producers in Australia, whether primary or secondary, yet it brings forward a hardly plausible excuse of this sort for the purposes of retaining the duty on pyrites. Not more than 10 per cent of the people of Australia benefit from a high protective duty. I cannot understand how the workers of Australia permit themselves to be gulled by being told that a high tariff tends to bring prosperity to them. Yet, hundreds of thousands of intelligent citizens labour under that delusion.
– It is not more remarkable than the fact that thousands of farmers have been gulled by the Country party.
– They are hobbled.
– Honorable members opposite should urge them to follow the example of the Labour party in Great Britain, which does not support the policy of high protection.
When Australia was recognized by the League of Nations as an independent nation, we were proud, indeed, of the fact, and it was considered that it would be a statesmanlike policy, if we could persuade the various islands adjoining Australia to be friendly with us, and have closer trade relations with us. Fiji’s trade with the Commonwealth amounted to about £250,000 a year, and the goods that we were sending to Fiji were valued at about £750,000; but we destroyed that trade, and also lost the friendship of that country. We are threatened with a similar experience with New Zealand. We impose a special duty upon New Zealand butter, and we are bound to lose the valuable trade that we have enjoyed with the Dominion - a trade that was much in favour of Australia. By imposing duties on goods coming in from Java - duties which were passed in this chamber but, fortunately, were altered in the other branch of the Legislature - an attempt was made to restrict trade with that country. If we place restrictions on neighbouring countries, they are bound to retaliate. The Netherlands allowed Australian butter to be exported to Java on the same basis as its own. Although it could have imposed restrictions on our butter, it did not do so; but we imposed a special duty on coffee from Java as against Indian coffee. The Economic Committee of the League of Nations has pointed out -
No machinery for the settlement of international disputes can be relied upon to maintain peace, if the economic policies of the world so develop as to create, not only deep divergencies of economic interest between the different masses of the world’s population, but a sense of intolerable injury and injustice.
We should urge workers and employers to come together, and try to bring about a better feeling than now exists between them. Our citizens are as intelligent and energetic as those of other countries, and, with reasonable tariff restrictions, we should be able to compete with them. I do not wish to undermine thewhole tariff wall, but I am afraid of the corruption that results from a policy of high protection. If we are not careful we shall kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. We should foster and encourage the primary industries that have helped to build up our wonderful prosperity of the past. We have an enormous number of unemployed in our midst, but from what source can the Government obtain the money that is required to carry on important national work, if wealth is not produced in this country? We should leave the worker and the manufacturer to come together of their own accord. If we do that, they will bring about a far better result than can be obtained by continuing the present fiscal policy. I have no desire to cast reflections upon any section. Honorable members opposite think that, if the Government passed certain legislation, and had certain control, the interests of the workers would he best served, but, up to the present time, all our industrial legislation has miserably failed. In view of the huge expenditure of public money that has been incurred, the good seasons that we have enjoyed and the high prices that have been obtained for our products, there must be something radically wrong when acute and widespread unemployment exists in a country like ours, which should carry a population of 20,000,000. While on a trip through the southwestern portion of Western Australia’s agricultural districts recently, I saw small areas cultivated, and very large areas undeveloped, because of lack of capital; but I realized the wonderful opportunities of that country for production. Organizations such as the Australian Mutual Provident Society proudly advance their millions when Commonwealth loans are, floated; but it would be far better if that money remained with such companies, and was used in building up industries. In private hands the money would be expended with greater wisdom and care than are exercised when it is handled by the Government.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– A long discussion took place in the House yesterday in regard to the need for cheap fertilizers. There was also a debate on the constitution of the Tariff Board, and I urgedstrongly that the chairman should notbe an official of the Customs Department. I have always feared the possibility of political influence being exercised on the board, and I have thought that the Government should seek to place on it strong independent men, who could devote themselves to tariff questions without being influenced by the political convictions of any Minister or party. In dealing with the application for the removal of the duty on pyrites, which would have given our people protection against the American sulphur exporters, and would have slightly reduced the cost of superphosphates, the Tariff Board used this argument -
On the other hand, if a large and influential overseas company were given a foothold in the Australian superphosphates business, it might easily lead to its control, operating against existing interests without advantaging the user of the superphosphate.
Nothing in this statement is meant to impute to the applicant company the intention of taking any improper advantage of the situation, but its action in its own interests might’ be prejudicial to other and important Australian interests.
That is a most extraordinary statement. The board is afraid that if a British company entered into a contract for the supply of pyrites, it might obtain a foothold in Australia. In other words it might invest its capital in establishing works here and so interfere with the profits of those already engaged in the production of superphosphates. “We should encourage people to invest their capital in the Commonwealth, and especially when they are prepared to produce a cheap fertilizer which will help the development of primary production. I remind the House of what happened in connexion with the endeavour to import diammon phos. During the war the Germans were unable to import nitrates from abroad and their scientists developed a .scheme for extracting nitrates from the atmosphere. After the war, it was found that these nitrates could be used as a fertilizer, and in a few years’ time, areas that had been starved of fertilizer for some time were brought back to the old stage of productivity. The makers of this fertilizer, which was given the name of di-ammon. phos then sought the co-operation of British capitalists in introducing and marketing it in different countries until such time as local works for its production could be established. Enormous power is necessary to extract the nitrate from the air, and Tasmania offers such opportunities for the cheap generation of hydroelectric power that I believe works for the manufacture of these nitrates could be successfully established in that State. When, however, a consignment of diammon phos was imported, the Department of Trade and Customs refused to allow it to be admitted as a fertilizer. The importers had to pay exceedingly heavy duty at the rates prescribed for chemicals. That action was unwise. If these nitrates had been admitted as a fertilizer, and had been proved to have been of value in the treatment of Australian soils, a factory for the production of nitrate from the air would have been established in Tasmania before long. Thus a valuable new industry would have been created, which might have played an important part in increasing the production of wealth from the soil.
– What is the cost per ton?
– I cannot say, but when duty was paid at the rate applicable to chemicals I think the landed cost was between £20 and £24 per ton. This incident is another proof that the primary producer does not receive the consideration to which he is entitled.
Many honorable members regard me as an uncompromising freetrader who is determined to destroy the protective policy, but I ask them to compare my remarks from time to time with the following criticism of the tariff policy of the present Government, published in The Countryman-, the official organ of the farmers of Victoria -
Conceived in malice, born of plunder and revenge, engineered by knaves, and nurtured by fools, it constitutes the personification of Satanic cunning and ghoulish greed. Its unfettered operation with that of its notorious offspring - the Arbitration and Navigation Acts - has reached such an extreme degree of sectional tax extortion as to render the sacred term “ protection “ - under which it masquerades - a vile stench in the nostrils of the people. It has been, and still is, deliberately utilised as an indirect means to legalise sectional robbery and piratic plunder, and to fool the community.
Let the farmers, young and old, justify their manhood by girding on their armour of offence and defence in a spirit of uncompromising determination to right the wrongs under which they have so long and so grievously suffered. If they will not do this for their own sake, let them do it for that of their children - and of Australia - or let them admit their inability to rise ‘ from the serfdom in which cunning greed da the part of others has placed them.
I have never advocated freetrade. I believe that the introduction of that policy at the present time would cause an enormous amount of misery, trouble and loss. Whatever reform is to be effected in that direction must be brought about gradually. But I do say that many of the tariff duties are absurdly and improperly high. Those on iron and steel and clothing range up to 250 per cent, and 300 per cent., and when honorable members ask for them to be further increased they imply either the incompetence of our manufacturers or slowing down on the part of our workers. There is no justification for such a demand. When on top of high tariff duties, which destroy competition, one of the best assets of the nation, we superimpose arbitration laws which have made the relations between employee and employer more bitter than in any other country, and a Navigation Act which makes it almost impossible for a manufacturer to send his goods from one State to another - Mr. Justice Powers said recently that it costs almost as much to send goods from Melbourne to Adelaide as from Melbourne to London - it is impossible for primary production to prosper. This country has great possibilities, and for God’s sake do not let us destroy those staple industries which gave us prosperity in the past and upon which we have to rely in future.
The continued borrowing by governments, has, in conjunction with the high tariff duties, created a fictitious prosperity. It is idle to talk about relieving unemployment by higher duties and more expenditure on public works. Although we have expended over £200,000,000 of borrowed money in the last six years and have enjoyed the most bountiful seasons and the highest prices for our products in the history of Australia, unemployment is acute throughout the Commonwealth. The only solution offered by honorable members opposite is to increase the tariff duties, the inevitableeffect of which would be to make the cost of living still higher. I cannot understand the machine-made mentality of Labour members who are seeking all the time to increase the cost of everything that goes into the worker’s home.
– Why not turn this Government out if things are as bad as the honorable member says?
– Bad as this Government is, a Labour Government would be worse. In 1914, the debts of the States amounted to £317,000,000, and by 1927 they had increased to £679,000,000. Will any honorable member point to increased production - in volume, not in values, for prices have increased - to offset that increase of £352,000,000 in the debt of the States alone? In 1914, the average rate of interest paid by the States on their public debts was £3 13s. l1d. per cent.; last year it was £4 18s. 2d. per cent., an increase of £1 4s. 3d. It is fair to say that one of the smaller States, Western Australia, pays only £4 l1s. 6d. per cent. as compared with the average of £4 18s. 2d. That shows that the investers in the United Kingdom have great faith in the future of this country, and will help us if the Government does not destroy our industries by its insane legislation. Some people are accustomed, when reminded of the public debt, to point confidently to the “wonderful assets” that it has created, including the railways. The year 1914 was the last in which the railways of Australia, as a whole, showed any profit. Since then, although the rates have increased 60 per cent., they have sustained a loss of over £30,000,000. A fine asset indeed ! Commonwealth and State taxation last year amounted to £87,000,000, and municipal taxation to £14,000,000. It is time that both Commonwealth and State Parliaments began to ask themselves whether 6,000,000 people can afford to continue providing £101,000,000 of taxation annually for governmental purposes only. The report of the Auditor-General states that last year we had a deficit of more than £4,000,000. The deficit of Western Australia was £26,000; of New South Wales, £1,094,000, of South Australia, £274,000, and of Victoria, £163,000. The only States with a surplus were Queensland, £10,000, and Tasmania, £95,000. This is a most unsatisfactory position. Notwithstanding the tremendous increase in taxation, we are not able to balance our ledger. Yet some honorable members still urge that public works should be put in hand, which have not the slightest prospect of paying interest on the cost of construction. We should put our house in order. Our first act should be to lift from the shoulders of the primary producers some of the crushing burdens which they are carrying. I am not opposed to the payment of high wages, but we should obtain value for our money. We should only increase wages when we are satisfied that we shall receive an adequate return for our expenditure. I appeal to honorable with the object of finding some way out of our difficulties. We must have capital members opposite to try to get the representatives of capital and labour together to develop the country; and if it is not given opportunities of reasonable investment here it will be taken to some other country. It is essential, in the interests of all sections of the community, that the body politic shall be contented, but contentment is impossible unless all parties co-operate.
Honorable members know my views of our arbitration legislation. When this method of dealing with industrial disputes was first adopted in Australia, all parties hoped that it would be successful; but unfortunately that has not been the result. It seems that in these days the judge, without having any personal knowledge of the conditions of an industry, gives his verdict to the side which can swear the hardest. This has caused more antagonism and bitterness than we ever had previously in our industrial relations. I believe that there is a worse feeling between the employers and employees of Australia than between those of any other country. Of what use ave our arbitration laws, seeing that we cannot enforce them? Honorable members opposite practically urge their constituents to defy the laws passed by this Parliament. But in spite of all that has happened, I hope that something will be done to reduce the high cost of production and the high cost of living and to relieve the primary producer of the strain he is at present bearing. We cannot blink the fact that wool production is our only paying industry. Yet, in spite of the high prices ruling for wool today, we are informed by those most closely interested in the business, that it is less profitable now than it was in 1911. The wheat and mining industries are in an unhealthy condition. Quite a number of farmers are leaving their farms, while many mines that should he in operation have closed down. I suppose that 5,000 working miners could support a population, of 40,000 persons. Honorable members will realize, ‘therefore, how essential it is to our well-being that we should do everything possible to stimulate these industries. We must reduce the cost of production, and the cost of living, and make it possible for our primary producers to sell their products in the world’s markets. A policy of that description would bring new prosperity to the nation.
– If ever the Government desires to find a company of real optimists it should go straight to North and Central Australia. For the last 50 years the settlers in that remote country have hoped against hope that something would be done for them. They have faced the perils and disappointments of their pioneering life with great fortitude. These wonderful people have settled hundred of miles from the centres of civilization, and have reared their families under conditions which, in many cases, have been heartbreaking. Many of their children have never seen a tramway or a railway. But I regret to say that the inactivity of this Government is at last breaking down even their magnificent faith in their country. They hoped that the appointment of a North Australia Commission was a definite step forward. They said to themselves - ‘‘When this commission sends in its report something will be done for us.” Their disappointment can be imagined, therefore, when they found that the Government was making no effort to give effect to the recommendations of the Commission. North and Central Australia have been subjected to a great deal of adverse criticism. Some people have said that the country is not worth developing. But I am firmly convinced that, given reasonable transport facilities, it would soon become one of the most progressive and prosperous parts of Australia. The North Australia Commission, which is composed of men of matured judgment, who have travelled extensively through this neglected portion of the continent, have submitted to the Government a report which more than justifies all that I and those who think as I do have ever said in favour of North and Central Australia. The following is an extract from its initial report: -
It will be appreciated that, with the availability of lands in other parts of Australia nearer the centres of civilization - with transport, access to markets, and utilities towards ordinary comfort, far in advance of those in North Australia - there is little inducement unless a.t least additional transportation and communication facilities are provided, for people to invest money in North Australia.
The reason that North Australia is not more developed than it is to-day is, however, certainly not attributable to a lack of natural resources. As a matter of fact, portions of the other States of the Commonwealth, which are now thriving centres, had not, as a foundation, country of as good a class as that which exists in North Australia.
It is regrettable that people, many of whom are not competent to express an opinion, and whose acquaintance with the country - limited, generally speaking, to a short visit to the town of Darwin or merely to hearsay - should decry the heritage possessed in North Australia.
This is the considered judgment of men thoroughly qualified by experience and investigation to make a declaration upon the subject. But how can we expect progress when some of the settlers have to pay up to £60 per ton to send their products to market? I have been astounded as I have passed through some of - this country recently after three years of drought. It compares more than favorably with the best land in Australia, aud yet is left entirely to the natives, while the pioneers who are trying to hold this heritage for Australia are neglected. The report goes on to say -
It needs to be stressed that, even if North Australia was comprised of inferior pastoral lauds, it is encumbent that they be settled and developed, if the opportunity is not to he allowed to remain for some other nation to establish itself in Australia.
On the contrary, however, the lands, as a whole in North Australia, have every claim to being classed as good average country, well endowed by nature, and capable of producing a wide range of products. It is essential that, instead of such a heritage being- allowed to remain idle, the asset possessed should be put to its greatest practicable use.
That is rather a courageous statement to come from a commission which is the creature of this Government. If we remember in what circumstances wo became the proprietors of Australia the need for taking action to develop the empty Worth should be impressed upon us. “We took Australia from the natives because they refused to use it properly. If we were fair and honest in doing that, it would be equally fair and honest for any other nation to do the same thing towards us, should these vast areas in northern Australia be allowed to remain untenanted. The teeming hordes of the East are turning their eyes on these empty lands. If they once obtain possession of them, we can say good-bye to our White Australia policy, and the cherished ideals of the Australian people.
In 1911 the Commonwealth Government, realizing that South Australia did not possess the financial resources necessary for the development of this territory, made an agreement with that State under which the Commonwealth assumed re- sponsibility for the development of an area comprising 500,000 square miles. One of the conditions of the agreement was that the Commonwealth Government should undertake the construction of a north-south railway. One would assume that the inclusion of that condition in an agreement might be taken to imply that no undue delay would occur in proceeding with the work. But years have rolled on, and the railway is not yet completed. It is true that the war intervened, and tremendous and unprecedented demands were made upon the country’s finances. It is also true that we have made a start with the railway, a section of 300 miles being completed out of the 1,100 miles which has to be constructed. But many years have elapsed since the war, and the rate of progress should have been more rapid. The statement has recently appeared in the press that it is proposed to start a combined motor and railway service over this route. It is obvious,’ therefore, that the Government does not intend to build any’ more railways for some time. Although a considerable section of the line has already been built, nothing has been done in the direction of encouraging settlement to ensure that the line, when completed, will have sufficient freight to make it pay. We were told when the proposal was first made for the appointment of the North Australia Commission, that all our troubles in the north would be remedied when once that commission got on the job. It was to be the panacea for all our ills. Experience, however, has confirmed the impression that the commission was appointed merely to gain time, and to relieve the Government of responsibility. The report of the commission is logical and sensible, but there is nothing fresh in it. It contains nothing which has not been told to the Blouse over and over again for years past. Now that the statements which we from the north have made in the past have been” proved to be true, what is the Government going to do about it? Road transportation is destined to play an important and ever-increasing part, together with our great trunk railways, in the development of the outback areas. Some time ago tenders were called for the construction of roads in the Northern Territory, and the sum of £100 was provided for the construction of 200 miles of road !
– Was that £100 a mile?
– No; £100 is all that “was provided. It was worth more than that to travel over the route in a car. As a matter of fact, the money was wasted, inasmuch as the man who got the contract merely drove over the route in a truck and pelted a few shovelsful of earth behind him.
– The honorable member cannot accuse the Government of extravagance, at any rate.
– I accuse it of extravagance in that it has been farming out the functions of government to bodies which it has created. If the Government sacked all the boards and commissions it has set up, and spent the money they cost on road construction in the north, it would do some good. The North Australia Commission has brought down its report, but apparently no notice is to be taken of it. At any rate, in the Supply Bill, which has just come before the House, there is no provision for work of a developmental nature in northern Australia. There is reason for assuming, therefore, that the Government proposes to sit back, and wait for another annual report from its North Australia Com.mission before beginning to do anything. Dealing with the subject of transport facilities, the report states -
The provision of reasonable transport facilities must precede the closer settlement and further development of North Australia.
The extent of this country, in comparison with its existing railway and other methods of transportation, has only to be visualized to realize the justification for the preceding statement.
It will be observed that, even when the one railway which now exists is extended to Daly Waters (300 miles from Darwin), large areas of North Australia will still be far outside the economic distance of transportation.
Many thousands of miles of road are urgently needed for the development of this great country. It has been proved that the land can produce wool as well as any other part of Australia. If it were developed, it would establish the supremacy of Australia among the woolproducing countries of the world. Without transport facilities, however, it can never be developed, no matter how fertile it maybe. The commission says quite frankly that, unless its recommendations are carried out, it can do nothing to assist the development of the Territory. It recommends the construction of railways from different points, particularly from Queensland to the western part of the Territory, together with the provision of adequate water supplies.
– Does the commission say anything about the suitability of the Territory for white settlement, or does it take that for granted?
– The commission, in its report, lays stress upon the fact that there is nothing in the climate detrimental to the rearing of families of white stock. I myself can speak on the subject from experience. I have reared a family in the far north, ‘ and know that the children reared there are strong and healthy. Some of the finest specimens of manhood I have seen in any part of Australia have been born and reared in the north. That cannot be disputed. Experience has proved that it is not true to say that white men cannot live in these places. The commission has recommended that the existing 3 ft. 6 in. gauge railways should be converted to the standard 4 ft. 8i in. gauge, and that that standard gauge should be adopted for all the railways that are constructed in North Australia. We are well aware, of the. complexities that are caused by breaks of gauge in our railway systems. Although we have been advocating in this Parliament the unification of our gauges, we are constructing a line with a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge to link up with the 4 ft. 8i in. gauge line at Port Augusta. One is at a loss to know why, in the light of our experience, such things should be permitted. It would be different if we were experimenting. We have set out with. the definite object of transporting wool, minerals and beef over a long distance; yet, before they reach Adelaide, two changes will have to be made on account of the difference in gauges. The commission rightly considers that it will be better to cut the loss now, when there is only a small section of 300 or 400 miles to be converted to the standard gauge, than to wait until about 1,100 miles have to be converted. There are hundreds of unemployed in the North. They were decoyed there in. the belief that they would obtain work. They relied upon the Government to go ahead with the construction of railways. This is a national work, and it should be undertaken. The commission has recommended that it be put in hand immediately. The Government, in effect, says to the unemployed, “ We will pay for your passage out of the Territory to any part of Australia.” That offer may sound very generous, but upon analysis it will be found that this Government is attempting to shirk its responsibility to the unemployed, and to place it on the shoulders of some State. Some of the unemployed have been gaoled. They asked that they should be given the equivalent of rations so that they might engage in prospecting work, and thus perform a useful service to the country; but because they remained on the verandahs of the Government offices they were prosecuted for being there without authority. These men are willing and anxious to do any class of work, and their capacity is greater than that of Southern Europeans. That fact was amply demonstrated when the system of piece-work operated in connexion with railway construction. The Australian and British teams were able to make twice asmuch as the Southern Europeans, although they were paid at the same rate. It is the responsibility of this Government to see that they immediately get work to do, not only to save them from starvation, but also to accelerate the development of North Australia. I believe that the object of the Government in appointing the commission was to put back the clock.
Mr.Killen.-What portions of the Northern Territory does the honorable member consider to be worth developing?
– The honorable member for Riverina made a flying trip through Central Australia, and condemned it from one end to, theother.
– Not all of it.
– If I remember aright, he stated that it would not carry a rat to a square mile.
Mr.Killen. - I said that a large portion was not worth developing.
– The honorable member travelled along a stock route, over which cattle has been driven for 40 or 50 years, and because the country had been eaten out for a mile or so on each side he condemned the whole of the Territory. He made a deviation east and west, and upon his return said that millions of sheep could be carried on the BarklyTableland. I think he put the figures as high as 12,000,000.
– I said 7,000,000 or 8,000,000.
– The Barkly Tableland is only one corner of the Territory. If the honorable member had traversed the southern portion as he did the northern, he would have been thoroughly convinced that there are greater possibilities of raising sheep in Central Australia than on the Barkly Tableland.
– With a rainfall of 4 inches or 5 inches a year?
– No; eight to ten. Three years ago a young returned soldier for whom I obtained assistance through the Repatriation Department purchased 300 head of sheep. To-day he has 1,100, and they are in the pink of condition, although there have been four years of drought. Is there any other part of Australia in which a man can increase hisflock to such an extent in four years under drought conditions ?
– What area has he?
– Three hundred square miles. No one knows better than the honorable member that the carrying capacity of land is dependent upon the water that is on it. Only a couple of monthsago I saw as many as 4,000 head of big stock on one bore on the Barkly Tableland. Stock will not travel more than, at the most, 10 miles a day under drought conditions. Therefore, that 4,000 head of big stock must be running on 10 square miles of country.
– It must have been a very good season.
– The honorable member knows that it has been not a good season, but the worst that has ever been experienced in the north. He must agree that carrying capacity is conditioned by the amount of water that is available for stock. Because a man has 200 or 300 square miles of country, it does not follow that he is running his stock over the whole area.
– If there is no feed, they cannot live on water.
– In the case to which I have referred they have multiplied out of all proportion to the average rate at which sheep increase in number, proving that the land is exceeding fertile and that the animals are getting good feed. Men who are prepared to venture out under these conditions are entitled to the consideration of the Government. I am pleased that the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Abbott) intends to visit that country shortly, and I am confident that when he sees the conditions under which those people are labouring he will admit that in no other part of Australia is there such a fine band of pioneers.
– What is the nature of the water supply?
– It is mostly well . water in the southern portions. There is a good deal of surface water in the western part of the Territory, and it is sub-artesian on the Barkly Tableland.
The report of the commission to which I have already referred was presented to the Government over six months ago, yet nothing has been done, and there is greater stagnation to-day than existed when the Territory was taken over from South Australia. Not an additional foot of telegraph wire has been erected by this Government, and with the exception of a short length of railway construction it has done nothing in the direction of developing the Territory.
I notice that the sum of £16,810 is to be appropriated by the bill for North Australia. It is safe to assume that 90 per cent, of that amount will be expended in supervision. The people who produce the wealth will get very little, if any, of it. There have been numerous applications for assistance, but the reply of the Government has always been- that there is no money available. Every phase of administration in the north of Australia is in a deplorable condition.
The Minister will admit that I have persistently urged that the services of a doctor should be made available for the Catherine River district. It is true that an effort is being made at the present time to establish a hospital at that centre. The Minister should realize that the health of a community must be the first consideration of any government.
It has been the practice of the administration in the north to commercialize the health of the settlers. I use that term advisedly, because, when I made application for medical assistance, at the unanimous request of many settlers, the reply received was that if 400 of them would guarantee to pay £2 per annum, the authorities would then supply a doctor. That is a strange way to assist in the development of an area such as North Australia. If the residents would subscribe £800, the Government would pay’ £600, leaving the Government a profit of £200. To reach, the main hospital to which patients have to be taken, many of them have to travel 600 or 700 miles over tortuous roads. For many years, the charge for hospital accommodation has been 5s. a day; but recently, after deputations had insisted on medical assistance being supplied in the back country, the charge was increased to 10s. a day, or £3 10s. a week. Still, the Government claims that it is trying to encourage settlement there. If it appointed three or four doctors for various inland areas, it would not be doing too much for the health of the people who are braving the wilds for the purpose of developing that country.
I have had many applications made to me for agricultural blocks. The report of the North Australia Commission shows how the land in the north has been tied up by means of our infamous land laws tl] at have made the country a big man’s paradise. Dealing with pastoral leases, the report shows that there are 126,409 square miles of pastoral leases, and 31,768 square miles held under grazing licences, while other leases bring the total area of Crown leases and licences to 161,538 square miles. The report continues -
The commission deems it necessary to point out that, of the 160,860 square miles of country held under pastoral lease and licence, 70,627 square miles - practically half - is held by only six lessees.
A number of men have made a comfortable living out of agricultural production, such as the growing of peanuts. Some of them have earned up to £600 and £700 a year. When application was made for land- for agricultural purposes, it was stated that ample provision had been made, because it was only necessary for the person who intended to take up agriculture to make application to the Government, and it would resume the land required for that purpose. That is true; but two years’ notice has to be given before resumption can take place. The result is that a number of men, who had earned a few hundred pounds and were anxious to go on land of that nature, found that it was held by big land monopolists like Vestey Brothers and others, and they were not inclined to wait two years for it to be resumed. Thus, potential settlers have been lost to the territory. The land ordinance’s should be immediately amended to permit of reasonable areas being taken from big holdings for agricultural purposes. It has been shown conclusively that more wealth can be won from acres that are devoted to agriculture than from square miles of country that is used for cattle raising under the present conditions.
The Government should also pay attention to the mining industry. It has an eminent mining authority ‘on the
North Australia Commission in the chairman, Mr. Horsburgh, but for some inexplicable reason, mining is not one of the matters that come under the control of that body. The Government Resident is an admirable officer in many ways, but he has had no experience in mining. It would be a simple procedure for the chairman of the commission to report to the Government regarding the possibilities of mining in the Territory. A valuable metal, known as tantalite, was recently discovered in the North, and it is known to occur in fair quantities. When inquiries were made by individual prospectors, who could ill afford to pay for the necessary cables, they found that hundreds of pounds per ton more than the figure quoted by the Mines Department could be obtained for that metal. Why should not the Government take up the marketing of this rare product, and advance to the miners some portion of the value of their output, in order to prevent the exploitation of the prospectors that is being practised to-day? I suggest to the Minister that, when he visits the Territory shortly, he should make personal investigations among the men engaged in that industry.
The pearling industry promises to be of some magnitude in the Northern Territory in the near future. I have perused the ordinances that have been passed by the Commonwealth in connexion with pearling and fisheries, and I think that the Minister will agree that they make the most hopeless documents ever printed in relation to the control of any industry. They compare most unfavorably with the Western Australian and Queensland acts, which have been passed in the interests both of those States and of the persons engaged in those industries. The Government might well have adopted the legislation of either of those States. The Fisheries Ordinance contains no reference to the pearling industry, although £40,000 worth of pearl shell was collected last year. Vessels are now rushing there from various other ports on the north coast, and it is estimated that in the coming year the pearl shell output will be worthabout £100,000. In theWestern Australian Fisheries Actare provisions for licences covering eight or ten sections of the pearling industry. It has been reported to me that pearlers from Western Australia are proceeding with the utmost speed to North Australia for the purpose of engaging in the industry, there, because they say that they could do as they liked under the existing ordinances. If the industry will be worth £100,000 in the coming year, it ought to be placed on a proper basis, and I hope that the Minister will not delay in bringing down an ordinance on the lines of the Western Australian and Queensland measures.
In North Australia there are many Australian-born Chinese, among whom are well educated lads who could deport themselves well in any company. They are good law-abiding citizens, and in many cases they are very prosperous. Under existing conditions, if they leave Australia, they have to submit themselves to the dictation test on their return. They say that, when they leave this country, they should have the same right as any other Australian-born citizen, and I fail to see why the Government should make such invidious distinctions in cases where there is no doubt as to identity. I recently sent the following telegram to the Minister -
Australian-born Chinese desirous of visiting China. - The Minister has decided that instead of any such person being required in future to obtain a certificate of exemption from dictation test on each occasion to ensure his re-admission to the Commonwealth, he may present his’ birth certificate to the Subcollector of Customs for an endorsement authorizing him to land at Darwin at any time, on production of this document, subject to satisfactory identification. The subcollector will require to see each applicant personally, and to be thoroughly satisfied as to his bona fides before endorsing the birth certificate.
– Do they not receive passports like other intending voyagers?
– Yes, but they also must obtain references from Europeans, and they are subjected to all sorts of humiliation in their efforts to be exempted from the dictation test. Every honor- able member who goes abroad could be kept out of Australia, ifthe dictation test were strictly applied to him, because, under it, 50 words in any languarge may be submitted to him, and I venture to suggest that the authorities would soon find a language, dead or otherwise, that would puzzle even the cleverest linguist in this House. It is wrong to discriminate between Australians; indeed, I believe it to be unconstitutional. The Minister may be suspicious of certain individuals; but that does not justify the issue of an order that is applicable to a whole community. I trust that this iniquitous procedure will be discontinued, and that that Minister will direct that the Australianborn Chinese of the north shall be allowed the full benefits of their Australian citizenship. I hope that the Minister will personally investigate matters affecting the development of North Australia. There are people who are willing and anxious to develop the country, and, if given sympathetic assistance, they will in. a few years demonstrate’ to the world that North Australia is a very valuable part of the Commonwealth.
.- The application of the Treasurer for supply for the period of two months beyond the present financial year affords the House and the country an opportunity to examine the financial position of the Commonwealth, and particularly the Treasurer’s administration during the last twelve months. I had hoped that the debate on this bill would have been concentrated upon the finances; but it took a fiscal turn, and the finances have received very little consideration.
– One is very much dependent upon the other.
– Yes, in so far as the Treasurer bases his year’s expenditure upon a customs revenue of £43,000,000. In making a request for a further grant of £5,700,000, in anticipation of the revenue for next year, the Treasurer should have made at least a pre-budget statement. He should have dealt with the deficitof £2,600,000 at the end of the last financial year, and the additional deficit of £1,000,000 on the operations of the present financial year to date ; which made a total shortage of £3,600,000. The honorable gentleman has given no indication of proposals for the reduction of expenditure, nor has he forecast any fresh taxation. He cannot expect this House to vote £5,700,000 on a “go-as-you-please” policy. That is not national finance. In the phrases with which the Treasurer made this chamber ring years ago, it is not “ restoration of responsible government “ ; it is not “ balancing the ledger “ ; it is not “playing square with the taxpayer “ ; in short, it is not facing foursquare the financial position. The Treasurer should have indicated how he proposes to balance the national ledger. But after a most _ generous grant of £77,000,000 for the year 1928-29- made up of general expenditure £51,000,000, Postal Department £12,900,000, Railways £1,100,000, Territories £600,000, and States £11,000,000 - he now, without a word of explanation, asks for a further £5,700,000 of next year’s income, which will relieve him for five months of any obligation to state his financial policy. That is not the way to face the responsibility of Australia’s present position. The Commonwealth is in arrears, and so are all but two of the States, whilst South Australia is asking from the Commonwealth a grant-in-aid of £750,000. Federal revenue to date is £1,000,000 below the Treasurer’s estimate, and he is working on a previous overdraft of £2,600,000. The Commonwealth has come to be recognized as the rich uncle of the States. It has deliberately accepted the responsibility of making grants to them from revenue, which this year will fall short of Federal requirements. In the circumstances a much more frank statement of the financial position was due to this House. The Treasurer merely told us that he wants £5,700,000, so that the Government may retire into recess for a few months, and he may be free to do as he pleases until he needs a further vote in September. The House and the country should be taken fully into the confidence of the honorable gentleman. If he looks about the
Commonwealth and notes the state of the country he will not see a roseate picture. Many of the areas of greatest potentiality have experienced, or are experiencing, the ravages of a great and prolonged drought. Notwithstanding that fine rains have fallen on the Queensland coast, the western portion of the State has been experiencing drought for years. A great part of New South Wales has suffered similarly, and South Australia and, to a lesser extent, Western Australia also have had dry seasons. In the wheat areas the farmers have had two lean years in succession. The pastoralists of Northern and Western Riverina and even the north-west of Victoria are not experiencing a good year, whilst the wheat-growers are facing disaster. It will be necessary for the State Governments to carry many of the unfortunate settlers in the Mallee by advances for seed wheat, fertilizers, horse feed, and even sustenance. In such circumstances, the Treasurer should have sounded a note of warning. As he has failed to do so, I tell him frankly that the financial health of the Commonwealth is far from satisfactory. In marked contrast to the management of public finance is that of the great financial institutions, which have the responsibility of managing the affairs of private citizens, are the bailees of their money, and the custodians of their securities. Unlike the Commonwealth and State Treasurers, they have put their houses in order. Perhaps never in the history of Australia were the affairs of these big financial undertakings so well handled, nor were they in a better position to withstand a siege. From their books the Treasurer might well borrow a chapter. The Commonwealth, on the other hand, has gone on recklessly from year to year, intoxicated with forced and artificial surpluses. It is no longer able to sustain the self-appointed role of rich uncle to the States. The Treasurer’s estimates have not been realized, and it was fortunate for him that towards the end of last year, when the country appeared to be in such dire straits that nothing could save it, a downpour of rain came at the eleventh hour which saved him of the possibility of a shortage of millions of pounds. Throughout Australia there is great unemployment and trade depression, and there has been a shortage in the harvest. In the circumstances, the purchasing power of the people in the next twelve months will he greatly diminished, and the Treasurer cannot expect an abundant revenue from customs. Already receipts from that source are £1,000,000 below his estimate, but the other departments seem to be yielding up to expectations. Whilst we have boasted of having adopted a policy of effective protection, we must admit that no protective tariff is effective that yields the rich harvest of £43,000,000 in customs revenue. I do not propose to discuss the ethics of the protective policy beyond saying that a tariff which produces that amount of revenue is questionable as an instrument of protection. If the claims made in this House by some honorable members for higher or more effective duties are acceded to, the customs revenue must further diminish. Considering all the circumstances, the « Treasurer has the choice of two courses; he has either to take his courage in his hands and use the pruning knife where possible to cut back expenditure to the level of revenue, in other words to make ends meet, or he must declare frankly and honestly, that he is forced to impose additional taxation. He may be obliged to have recourse to both policies. At any rate it is not honest or fair to the House for him, having an overdraft of £2,600,000 from last year and a deficit of £1,000,000 on the operations of the eight months of the present year, to reach forward merrily into the next year for £5,700,000 without one word of explanation as to bow he expects to balance the ledger. No manager of a private concern would dare to meet the shareholders in it with such a balance-sheet without having definite proposals for meeting the deficiency. I sympathize with the Government in the situation in which it finds itself; it pronounced a policy of financial magnificence such as this country had never known. Its housing scheme involves an expenditure of £20.000,000. its federal aid roads scheme involves a similar amount; and its migration scheme involves an expenditure of £34,000,000, to say nothing of a number of other minor projects. But it has made the mistake of not looking far enough ahead. We have come upon lean years. We have had two bad seasons in succession in some parts of Australia, and four in some other parts; and the Government has found that the well from which it has been drawing its money is not inexhaustible. In 1914 the Commonwealth Government owed no money, although, an amount of £19,000,000 was in question respecting certain transferred properties. The States at that time’ owed, between them, £320,000,000, which they had borrowed at an average interest rate of £3 12s. 6d. But in the last fourteen years the Commonwealth and the States have borrowed and spent £800,000,000. in addition, to the vast revenues which have flowed into their treasuries during the most prosperous period the country has ever known. To-day we find ourselves owing £1,100,000,000, and having to meet an interest bill of £53,000,000 annually. The interest bill alone just about absorbs our wool clip, while our pensions bill is nearly half as great as the value of our wheat harvest. This year our wheat yield is low, and prices are 20 per cent, lower than they have been, while our wool clip is down from 15 per cent, to 20 per cent.
– What a gloomy outlook!
– I am only trying to get the Treasurer to face the facts. I made statements similar to these at every meeting I addressed during the election campaign. I told the people that the financial clutch was slipping, and that it was essential that something should be done to remedy the trouble. I do not desire to cause the Treasurer mental pain. I believe that he honestly feels that the Government has undertaken a worthy policy of national development. But there is no gainsaying the fact tha! he is in a tight corner. He has been taking the country along at too great a pace. I hope that in his reply he will make a frank statement of how he proposes to square the ledger, restore responsible government, and bring financial security to the country.
.- I do not propose at this stage to say very much about the financial outlook; but I am obsessed by the idea that if we could abolish State Parliaments and a great deal of the duplication that exists in the Public Service in consequence of the States and the Commonwealth having separate staffs to do similar work, we should be in a better position financially than Ave are in at present. It is ridiculous that Ave should have seven parliaments, with upper Houses, making thirteen Houses iu all, to govern a population of a bare 6,000,000 people. When I Avas a boy I attended a few political meetings, at which federation Avas discussed. I was not a “ goody-goody “ boy, but a real Colonial, and I attended the meetings, I am afraid, Avith the object of basting the unpopular politician. The people who are older than I am would tell me who were popular and who were unpopular, and I would use vegetables and other missiles accordingly. I well remember attending one meeting, which Avas addressed by a popular speaker, who said, “If the people consent to federation, the State Parliaments and State Governors will be abolished.” That Avas about 30 yearS ago, and Ave still have the same outfit; but neither the members on this side of the House, nor those on the other, have so far done anything effective to abolish the State Parliaments.. I hope on another occasion to invite honorable members to agree to consult the people of Australia by referendum to ascertain whether they favour the abolition of State Parliaments or ‘not. If we had only one Parliament, Ave should save a large sum now paid iu salaries to politicians - though I realize that some of the State politicians Will fight hard to retain their petty jobs. It is a plank in Labour’s platform. There is also a large sum paid in salaries to public ser vants. If this is done Ave shall be able to run the Public Service much more efficiently and economically than at present. Our big State public departments could be managed by one controlling body if
Ave had only one parliament. However, I shall return to this subject at a later date.
I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister in Charge of Repatriation (Sir Neville Howse) the case of a widow of an imperial ex-service man, who lives in Weston, in my electorate. I understand that the Imperial War Service Pensions Act made it necessary for ex-service men to apply for a pension within seven years after the cessation of hostilities. Unfortunately, the husband of this widow did not do so, and to-day she finds herself in the position of having to support her child without any assistance whatever from the Imperial Government. She is a cripple, but has not been in New South Wales long enough to be eligible for the invalid pension, nor in Australia long enough to be entitled to a State widow’s pension. I have requested the Repatriation Department to make representations on her behalf to the Imperial authorities; but they have refused to do so. I appeal to the Minister to give his personal consideration to this case to see whether something cannot be done for this unfortunate woman
Another case is that of a returned soldier, who. however, has not appealed to the Repatriation Department but to the Invalid Pensions Department. The daughter of this man, who lives at Kurri Kurri, is an invalid suffering from infantile paralysis and she applied for a pension just before she turned sixteen years of age. She was informed that she could not get a pension until she Avas sixteen. When she reached that age, and again applied for the pension, she Avas told that her father’s earnings were taken into consideration, and the pension was denied her because her father earned a little over the basic wage. There is no law which compels a father to support his daughter after she reaches the age of eighteen. Soldiers who are receiving pensions under the repatriation scheme, cannot claim in respect of children over sixteen years of age. Such children are expected to be able to earn for themselves. The girl to whom I have referred, is now eighteen years of age and is not yet receiving a pension. A burden is thrown on the the father to support this girl, and he should receive some assistance from the pensions department. There are also numerous anomalies in the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act. For instance, a person who is thrifty, and saves a competence for himself, does not participate in the pension scheme at all; on the contrary he is penalized for his thrift. It sometimes happens that old people become crochety, and cannot get on with one another. If, in such a case, a couple separates, the person in whose name the property is generally stays at home, while the other goes to live elsewhere. When the dispossessed person makes application for a pension, he or she finds that the property, which is in the name of the other party, is deemed to belong to both, and if it is worth more than £800, the division being £400 each, no pension will be paid. That is one anomaly which should be removed.
I propose now to speak about the coal situation, and I desire that there shall be a few more Ministers in the chamber to listen to me. I ask you, therefore, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to ring the bells.
– There is a quorum present.
– I have a responsibility to my constituents. I am here because the coal-miners have confidence in me, and if I did not advocate their cause on every occasion that presented itself particularly in this present crisis, I should not feel myself worthy to represent them. There has been much side-stepping of the issues on the part of the Government over the coal situation. The Prime Minister is filling the role of the Emperor Nero, who fiddled while Rome was burning. He and the Attorney-General are fiddling over the coal situation while two-thirds of my constituents are being forced by the coal-barons to starve unless they will ac cept a reduction in their standard of living. The miners are abiding by an award made by the Coal Board, which was created by this Parliament. The miners have not broken the award, but the proprietors have. They have locked the men out for the purpose of reducing their wages. What would happen if the miners had broken the award? Would the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General stand by, fiddling? No. Their action would be short, sharp and vicious, as it was in the case of the timber dispute. The eyes of the people of Australia are turned upon the Government to see whether it will make any move to prosecute the coalowners. The people feel that the owners have robbed the community long enough. The workers are poor because they are robbed, and they will continue to be robbed so long as they are poor. The present situation is one which affects the whole trade union movement, and concerns also all the industries of Australia. Coal production is a primary industry. The miners believe that they would not get a fair deal under the Government’s proposal to have the coal problem investigated by one of three or one of six accountants selected by the president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. They are afraid that the Nationalist views which may be held by these nominees would prejudice the case of the miners. Apart from this, the miners feel that no one nominated in this way would understand the intricacies of the industry, or the inter-locking interests of the coal-owners, the private railway-owners, and the shipping companies. The miners have chosen one to investigate this problem who understands it from A to Z, one who will not allow the owners to deceive him by loading their balance-sheets with fictitious expenses. That is particularly important when we take into consideration the enormous sums allowed by the Coalowners Association and shipping companies to the Nationalist party funds.
– That is not true.
– The honorable member was at one time secretary of the Nationalist organization, and he should know that it is correct. I saw the honorable member come into the chamber just now, and I made the statement because I knew that he would “ bite,” and swallow hook and sinker. However, he cannot deny that they contribute.
– I always contradict a statement when it is so flagrantly untrue.
– Wo one can deny the fairness of the miners’ claim to select their own representative. They are prepared to allow a representative to be chosen for the public, and to allow the owners to choose their representative; but they wish to choose a representative of their own as well. If they were allowed to do that, it would overcome the present difficulty. Because the miners claim this right, Mr. McDonald, the president of the Coal-owners Association, who is a confidant of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), made this statement -
So far as I am concerned, I am not prepared to consider anybody going through the books of the owners.
So-called union leaders have dilly-dallied too long, and have done nothing to assist the industry.
I am finished with them, and will have nothing more to do with them. They can appoint a dozen accountants if they like.
Our next appeal will not be to the so-called leaders, but to the men themselves. 1 can definitely state that the owners are determined that the industry must be restabilized. We will not tolerate any outside interference.
Does he propose to go on the fields and search for “scabs” among the miners? It would be as easy for him to secure them as it is for the Nationalist party to discipline the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) or to induce the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) to discontinue the practice of wearing effeminate nightrobes The Government has been asked to take action, and the eyes of the whole of the peopleof Australia are upon it, waiting to see what it intends to do. I noticed in the press to-day the statement that representatives of the Commonwealth Government had interviewed the secretary of the lodge in which I worked as a miner until I was elected to this Par liament on the 17 th November last, the object being to obtain evidence upon which a decision could be made as to whether or not a prosecution should be launched against the coal-owners. I do not know whether I am difficult to understand, but I believe that I have , already placed before this House a sufficient volume of evidence to render it unnecessary to send representatives to the coalfields for a joy-ride to obtain it, I have charged the coal-owners with having broken the award which governs the industry, and with having flouted the pet act of this Government - the Crimes Act. Section 30j of that act reads -
If, at any time, the Governor-General is of the opinion that there exists in Australia a serious industrial disturbance prejudicing or threatening trade or commerce with other countries or among the States, he may make a proclamation to that effect, which proclamation shall be and remain in operation for the purposes of this section until it is revoked.
The power under which the Government could take action is contained in the definition of “lockout” in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which reads - “ Lockout “ includes the closing of a place or part of a place of employment, and the total or partial refusal of employers, acting’ in combination, to give work, if the refusal is unreasonable, or the total or partial suspension of work by an employer, with a view to compel his employees, or to aid another employer in compelling his employees to accept any term or condition of employment.
If the Attorney-General were sincere, or if he were half as viciously disposed towards the coal-owners as he has shown himself to be towards the workers, particularly in the timber industry, he would have taken action long ago against the coal-owners. It would appear that there is one administration of the law for the rich and. another for the poor.
– It is the same law.
– It is the same law, but administered differently.
– A good deal of publicity has been given to the trouble in the coal-mining industry, and I realize that the Government is anxious to get into recess so that we may not have the oppotunity to keep the matter fresh in the minds of the public. One of the owners - John Brown - has refused to submit any statement to the Premier of New South “Wales. If the Attorney-General wishes to have a test case, let him pick a good one, and not pick some of the owners who, because of the overdevelopment of their mines, will bo able to show in their balancesheets overhead charges with respect to mines that have been closed down. It is necessary to keep a certain staff employed for ventilation purposes and to ensure the safety of those mines by preventing explosions and flooding fires. From the point of view of the owners that is a “dead staff,” because it does not produce anything. But the cost thus incurred is set against the returns from the mines that are working. John Brown has two mines closed down, and I suggest, under the circumstances, that his should be taken as a test case. At the time of the lockout his collieries were working better, on an average, than they had ever worked before, and the reason for their being closed down should be divulged. The people of Australia desire to know what action the Government proposes to take against these rapacious coal-owners, who, I understand, make large contributions to the funds of the Nationalist party. As the people of Australia pay the piper, they are entitled to call the tune and to demand that they be told what profits are being made by the owners. . According to press reports, the Prime Minister delivered to the Rotarians a speech in which he exhorted them to carry out the principles of their organization by rendering service to the community and disregarding selfish interests. I understand that the right honorable gentleman has been made a member of the Rotary Society. I therefore ask him to practise what he preaches and to render a service to the community by renouncing his previous decision to select a panel of accountants for the miners to choose from and letting them select their own accountants, thus paving the way for re-openin’g the coal-mines.
The selfish interests of the coal-owners seem to be the first consideration with the Government, whereas they should be the last. What I said the other night about the conditions on the coal-fields was perfectly correct. I could have quoted many instances of children being under-nourished, prior to the present crisis. On returning to their homes from school, they have told their mothers that certain of their companions had no lunch and they had shared theirs with them. What a tragedy! Do honorable members imagine that I am inventing a cockandbull story? There is starvation on the coal-fields, and the position is becoming worse every day. Do- we want to see the same deplorable conditions in this sunny land of Australia as shocked the Prince of Wales, in his recent visit to the coalfields in England ? I have been an attentive listener to the debates in this chamber, since my election, and I have heard honorable members opposite declare that they have no desire to crush the workers. If they are sincere in that statement, let them, in their party rooms, compel the Prime Minister to act in accordance with his own legislation and with legislation that was passed before he became leader of the Government. Will honorable members allow the starvation, poverty and degradation existing on the coal-fields, to continue.
.- I intend to give the House some facts concerning the Repatriation Department, and draw the attention of the Minister to certain matters that may not he within his knowledge. I shall be somewhat scathing in my remarks concerning the maladministration of that department, in the fervent hope that a distinct improvement will be brought about, because the past administration has caused a stench that has reached to heaven. I hope that my remarks will result in the completion of the Herculean task of cleaning up this Augean stable. Every honorable member, at one period or another, has had dealings with that department, and will be able to judge for himself whether my remarks are applicable to his own experience. To-day the Minister for Repatriation introduced a bill that was not considered when the Repatriation Act was passed. It was thought that the act would he administered in a sympathetic spirit, but it is now being administered in a way that is absolutely foreign to the spirit in which it was conceived. At the time, the key-note was to be sympathy, help, .and alleviation of trouble, but the ]) resent administration is characterized by harshness and callousness. From my own experience, over a number of years, I can say that the motive that prompted Parliament in passing the measure has been forgotten.
– That is contrary to my experience.
– I hope to be able to prove my statement to be justified in every particular. “When a person writes to a government department on any subject, he expects, at least, that the receipt of his letter will be acknowledged. I had occasion, recently, to draw the Minister’s attention, after nine weeks, to non-reply to letters. I made a verbal request on the 15th December, and, as it was notcomplied with, I wrote to the department on the 17th January, but the receipt of the letter was not even acknowledged.
– Was it sent to a State department?
– Yes, it was addressed to the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation, Sydney. I waited for a considerable time, and, on the 4th February, I notified the department that I had not received a reply to my letter of the 17th January. As no reply had reached me by the 14th February, I referred to the matter in this House. That was nine weeks afterwards. The Minister promised to look into the subject, and, by a peculiar coincidence, I received a letter, dated the 14th February, in answer to my previous request, informing me that the department would not supply the information that I desired. Thanks to the Minister, that information was made available to me in this House, but that was due to the Minister’s personal kindness, and not to any act of courtesy on the part of his department. If that were an isolated case, I would not take much notice of it, but looking through my files, I find that I have had occasion to write to the department on several dates, asking for answers toletters. For example, on the 22nd October, I drew its attention to the fact that a letter sent on the 17th September had not been answered. I have had occasion to pass on to the Minister another letter from an ex-soldier in the country,, who asked why he could not obtain an answer to a previous communication. Apparently the departmental opinion is set out in the reply given to a request by me that the department should answer a letter from a certain local medical officer of its own. The letter states -
In the absence of any acknowledgment, it would seem not unreasonable for the local repatriation medical officer to surmise that his correspondence had miscarried, when doubtless a further letter to the department would solve the matter.
The department excuses itself, for its delay in answering letters, by suggesting the possibility of correspondence having gone astray. I could overlook one case of this description, but there are many of them, and I have no doubt that other honorable members have had similar experiences. Numbers of ex-soldiers have asked me to take up their cases, because they cannot obtain official replies to their letters.
– Are these officers returned soldiers ?
– That is what we get from “ Diggers “, when they are put into “the36 jobs.
– A “civil” servant could reasonably be expected to extend to the general public the courtesy to which it is entitled, and, irrespective of whether the person concerned is a member of this House or not, when he writes to a Government department, he should be furnished with an acknowledgment of the receipt of his letter.
Let me give another example of maladministration of a different kind, to show that the department is lax in its methods of dealing with cases brought before it. Honorable members will, I hope, excuse me for quoting a personal case. On the 10th November, 1921, 1 was a resident of Tamworth, New South Wales, and a letter from the Repatriation Department in Sydney was sent to Dr. Snow, the local medical officer. The department had supplied me with a warrant to go to Sydney, and five days after I had been admitted as an inpatient at Randwick Hospital, the doctor at Tamworth received from the department a letter asking for information as to my whereabouts. As I said, at the time I was actually in a repatriation hospital and had been sent there by the department’s headquarters in Sydney. That shows laxity of administration, such as should not occur in a government department. I can quote other instances which prove that the department is being administered in a way that would not be tolerated in a private business. The honorable member for Fawkner questioned my general statement that the repatriation administration has been harsh and callous. Let me justify that charge. Some time ago, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) succeeded in getting for a soldier back pension amounting to £700. The honorable member deserves credit for having induced the department to do justice in that case, and perhaps the Minister, also, was justified in claiming a certain amount of praise for having been able to upset the previous decisions of the department. But consider the matter from the point of view of the applicant. He was a sick man, and knew that his end was coming. He knew, also, that the disability from which he suffered was due to, or aggravated by, war ‘ service, and year after year he was fighting for justice from a government department. Finally the matter was decided in his favour, and the fact that he was allowed arrears of pension amounting to £700 proved that he had been denied his right for years. The ultimate admission that his disability was due to, or aggravated by, war service should have been made when he first applied for a pension. The departmental officials ought to be ashamed of themselves for their maltreatment of this unfortunate sufferer.
I have in mind another case. I took up the claim of a tubercular soldier, and finally the department admitted that his disease was due to war service, and he received back pension amounting to hundreds of pounds. A fortnight after the pension was granted he died. For years the .mental strain of resisting departmental injustice had been added to the physical strain caused by his illness, and the cumulative effect had been to undermine his constitution and shorten his days. Incidents like that justify me in saying that the department is callous, for obviously the pension that was granted eventually was the due of the soldier when he first applied for it. A department that withheld from a sick soldier for years a pension to which he knew, in his own heart, that he was entitled, is devoid of sympathy and without sense of decency. The chairman of the Repatriation Board (Colonel Semmens) was chairman of the original Repatriation Branch established under the administration of the late Senator E. D. Millen. That gentleman is credited with having done good work in the administration of repatriation. There is a Latin saying, De mortuis nil nisi bonum; but I remember attending a deputation to Senator Millen, from the Limbless Soldiers’ Association, of which I was then vice-president, and he declared of two men who had lost both legs at the thigh, and, had lost one arm at the shoulder, that neither was totally incapacitated. Colonel Semmens served his apprenticeship as chairman !of the Repatriation Board under that Minister, and the harshness that was apparent in his reply to the Limbless Soldiers Association has always characterized the repatriation administration. The department resorts to vail sorts of casuistry, and will take any little point to defeat the soldier.
I have in mind the circumstances of a soldier who was wounded at Gallipoli on the 28th June, 1915, and still has a bullet in his neck. On occasions, the bullet which is close to the spine, causes trouble, and recently on account of a jar he received through the stumbling of his horse he consulted the local District Government Medical Officer, who recommended that he should go to Sydney to he examined under X-ray. He was X-rayed in Sydney, and he applied to the department for an increase of pension, and this is the callous reply that I received -
I am in receipt of your communication dated 22nd October, 1928, concerning the above-named ex-soldier, and in reply desire to advise you that Mr. Williams reported at this branch on. the 2nd April last with a certificate from Dr. Gibson, of Mullumbimby in which it was suggested that ho be X-rayed, as the bullet lodged in hia neck, and for which ho was receiving a pension, was giving him trouble. He was. examined by a medical officer here, who noted that Mr. Williams was suffering from a stiff neck, which it was stated was due to a recent accident. However, in view of Dr. Gibson’s certificate, he was admitted as an out-patient to the Prince of Wales, Repatriation General Hospital, Randwick, and a report was later received to the effect that although there was a foreign body present in the neck, the visiting surgeon was of the opinion that this had no relation to the symptoms of which Mr. Williams was then complaining. In view of this, treatment for his condition could not be granted by this department, and his application was accordingly refused, and an increase of pension could not be recommended
Can any honorable member imagine a man getting a stiff neck through his horse stumbling? The department took the fine point that, because the stiffness was due to a recent accident - which was technically true - it could not treat him. My view, however, is that the real cause of the stiffness was the bullet in his neck; if it had not been there he would never have sustained a stiff neck through the mere stumble of a horse. How can the Minister justify such lying and hairsplitting by his department? The fact that that letter was written as recently as the 23rd October last, shows that the callousness of which I have spoken still persists. Honorable members will be interested to learn of my own recent experience of the Repatriation Department. Last year, I was admitted to the Randwick Hospital suffering from acute delirium with fever. My local medical officer at Manly was called in on a Saturday night, and the following Tuesday I was removed in a delirious .condition, but later became normal. “While I was at Manly, my local doctor called in an eminent surgeon from Macquarie-street, Sydney, to help him in his diagnosis, and I was treated for severe neuralgic pains in my amputated stump. At the Randwick Hospital I was given hot-air treatment on the stump. Diathermy was also suggested. I had had this treatment previously, but in both instances no good resulted. I was, therefore, given hot-air treatment. At the end of five weeks, I mentioned casually to the surgeon that I had a little trouble with my face which I thought might as well be treated while I was at Randwick. It was then ascertained that I had nasal sinusitis. When I applied for a refund of the moneys that I had paid to my medical officer and to the surgeon who had been called in for consultation, the department replied that, as I had been admitted to Randwick Hospital suffering from nasal sinusitis, which was not due to war service, no refund could be made. I have carried on a correspondence with “the department, and I shall read to the House some of its views. I want to show how the department shelves questions, and persistently refuses to come to the point, and how it will, if possible, work a point as it did in the case of the ex-soldier who had a bullet in his neck. I wrote to the department as follows:-
On what grounds is it stated that my nasal sinusitis is not due to war service, seeing that I reported same to a departmental officer in 1919, that is, before my discharge from the Australian Imperial Forces.
The department replied -
The commission’s considered opinion based on medical opinion, and the full history of your case was against the claim.
Dr. Francis, an ear, nose and throat specialist, reported on my case to the effect that he could not say that nasal sinusitis was not present in 1919. The fact that I had reported my trouble in 1919 was ignored despite the fact that I had made what was equivalent to a statutory declaration. Every claim made for a pension is described under the pensions regulations as being equivalent to a statutory declaration. I then asked the department what treatment had I undergone at Randwick. Although prior to the diagnosis df nasal sinusitis, I had had five weeks’ treatment for my stump, the department replied that I had been given symptomatic treatment. In effect, it said that I was suffering not from any trouble with my amputated stump, but from a cold in the nose. I should be glad to know from the department whether hot-air treatment is usual for nasal sinusitis.
– How many ex-soldiers are suffering in a like manner, and yet have no opportunity of ventilating their cases in this House?
– I am positive that theremust be an enormous number of them. The Repatriation Department is not only maladministered, but is being administered against the whole spirit of the act. The intention of Parliament when the act was passed was that the exsoldier should get afair and square deal. Unfortunately, he is not getting it. We want not sympathy but justice; instead we are getting callous and harsh treatment in spite of statements to the contrary. What has happened in one case must have happened in many others. The department must have been aware that I would seize the first opportunity to ventilate this matter in the House. Upon examining the department’s files, I find that since July, 1921, when I had to undergo a rather serious operation, eight departmental officers have reported on my case. Some of the reports are -
September, 1921. -Re-admitted to Randwick for violet-ray and massage for stump.
October, 1921. - Stump painful.
November, 1921 - Pain in stump; scar tender to touch.
January, 1922. - Still a good deal of pain in stump.
August, 1922. - Stump giving trouble.
April, 1923. - No improvement during past six months.
February, 1927. - Severe pain in stump of left thigh.
March, 1927. - Admitted Caulfield, diathermy.
April, 1928. - Recommend out-patient treatment for amputated left thigh.
May, 1928. - Admitted Randwick.
In addition, I have medical certificates from eight other doctors, all of which are to the same effect. I have sent extracts from these reports to the department. Since 1921 I have been examined by nineteen doctors ; eight were departmental officers and eleven were not. I was treated while I was on Norfolk Island and also by the ship’s doctor when I was coming from Singapore on the Gascoigne. But in spite of all this, Dr. Kenneth Smith, the senior medical officer of the department in New South Wales, said, “You have no trouble in your stump; all that you have is a cold in the nose.” The amount involved in this claim is only £5 14s. but I am fighting to maintain a principle, and I tell the Minister, frankly, that the department has put its head in the noose. Section 7 of the Repatriation Act of 1920, reads -
For the purposes of this act there shall be a repatriation commission which shall be subject to the control of the Minister charged with the general administration of this act.
The bill for that act was introduced by Mr. Poynton, who, during his secondreading speech, was asked by Sir Robert Best, “ Will the Commission have the power of determining policy or will that be a matter for the Government?” Mr. Poynton replied, “ The Commission will have the determination of policy. “ Later, at the committee stage, Mr.F. H. Francis, then the honorable member for Henty, said, “I hope that in matters of policy nothing can bo done without the sanction of the Minister.” Mr. Poynton replied, “ The commission cannot do anything in the matter of policy without the sanction of the Minister.” You, Mr. Speaker, interjected at that point, “ The commission has nothing but an advisory power in the matter of framing regulations.” It will be seen that, right from its inception, there has been a “difference of opinion as to the authority of the commission. I give the Minister now in charge of repatriation credit for trying to alter the policy of the commission, but he cannot escape responsibility for its maladministration. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 March 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19290314_reps_11_120/>.