11th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Treasurer able to give a complete answer to the question I asked yesterday regarding the amount of money advanced by the Commonwealth Savings Bank under the Housing
Scheme, the number of houses that have been built, and also whether any request has been made by a State Government for the amendment of the Commonwealth legislation ?
– This information was supplied in reply to a question asked in the Senate this week. The New South Wales Government Savings Bank has received applications involving more than £400,000 of funds of the Commonwealth Savings Bank for the erection of homes, of which 226 have been approved, and237 others have been applied for South Australia is now ready to make an immediate start on its building programme. The position in Western Australia, unfortunately, is complicated by a drafting error in the State legislation. The legislature intended to copy the Commonwealth Housing Act, but, inadvertently, half of one clause was attached to another to which it did not properly relate. Until the Western Australian Parliament corrects the mistake, that State cannot take advantage of the Commonwealth Housing Scheme. Mr. MACKAY.- Can the Treasurer explain why some of the States have not taken advantage of the generous provisions of the Commonwealth Housing Act? Have any of the States requested that we should further amend our act, in order that they may avail themselves of its provisions ?
– Requests have been received from various bodies for amendments to the act, but such representations should be made through a State Government.
Appointment of Commissioner
– I ask the Prime Minister if it is a fact that Mr. G. A. Gahan has been appointed Commissioner ofthe Commonwealth Railways ? If so, does not the right honorable gentleman think that tie Government would be acting more courteously towards honorable members if such important announcements were announced in the House instead of through the press?
– The term of office of the present Commissioner of Railways (Mr. Bell) will expire at the end of November, but, as he is entitled to six months’ leave before retiring, he will cease administrative duties in May. He will continue to be nominally Commissioner of Railways for six months after that date. Mr. Gahan is to be appointed acting commissioner for the balance of Mr. Bell’s term, and, upon the final retirement of Mr. Bell, will be appointed permanently to the position. I agree with the honorable member, that it is desirable, whenever possible, to make important announcements to the House rather than through the press, but the present parliamentary procedure does not afford much opportunity for so doing. Unless a Minister invites a question upon a particular subject, the only methods available are statements by leave or on the motion for the adjournment of the House As the adjournment takes place late at night, important announcements made at that hour are inconvenient to the newspapers.
– Tractor users’ organizations and other bodies use petrol for agricultural and other purposes other than for motors intended to be exempt from the petrol tax. “Will the Minister for Trade and CU*tons make a clear statement of when and how agriculturalists and others will obtain a remission of the tax in accordance with the intentions of Parliament?
– When I assumed my present office I was concerned to find that the rebato allowed by statute for petrol used for non-road purposes had not been and was not being paid. I have been actively investigating the problem, and I hope that at an early date an arrangement may be made with the oil companies which will allow the rebate to be made. Inasmuch as the oil companies in the first place pay the tax, any rebate must be paid to them; therefore, their co-operation is essential. Hitherto, they have refused to co-operate, but, as a result of recent negotiations, they have changed their attitude, and I hope that a system of rebates may be in operation at an early date.
– Will the rebates be retrospective ?
– I shall consider that point, but I remind the honorable member that retrospective payments would present extraordinary difficulties.
– The following paragraph appeared in the Canberra Times of this morning: -
CO Ali OWNERS. No PROSECUTION Work for Mines, says Officer.
Sydney, Thursday. It was stated that the federal law officers, after investigating the state of affairs on the coalfields, have decided that there can be no prosecution of the coal owners -who have given the employees 14 days’ notice.
It is reported that the officers found that there was work available for those who wanted it.
If that statement is correct, will the Attorney-General afford the House an opportunity to discuss the decision ? Will he lay on the table the report submitted by the officers of his department, particularly as to the terms under which work is available? Is such work available only on condition that the workers submit to a cut in their wages equivalent to one shilling per ton.
– I have already directed that inquiries be made as to whether the statement published in this morning’s Canberra Times was made by an officer of my department. No federal investigation officer has authority to decide whether proceedings shall or shall not be taken. I have also issued an instruction that no federal investigation officer shall make any statements in the press without the authority of a higher officer. If the statement referred to was made by an officer of my department, it was made without authority.
– Will the Prim.: Minister say whether the report of the Development and Migration Commission on the canned .fruits industry has been received by him? If it has, when will it be available?
– I regret that I neglected to inquire into this matter as I promised yesterday, but I shall ascertain this morning whether the report has been received.
Decision of Court of Disputed Returns
– In view of the fact that the Court of Disputed Returns, sitting in Melbourne, has decided, on apparently technical grounds, against the petitioning Senate candidates, by virtue of which the will of the people has obviously been defeated, will the Prime Minister introduce legislation without delay to prevent a similar injustice from occurring in future; or, preferably, will he introduce legislation forthwith to make effective the choice of the people at the recent general election?
– The Court of Disputed Returns has given its decision in accordance with a statute of this Parliament, and the Government does not intend to interfere.
Administrative Duties of Ministers
– Having regard to the Government’s policy of delegating wide powers to boards and commissions, thereby reducing the administrative duties of members of the Ministry, does the Prime Minister intend to consider the advisability of reducing the number of Cabinet Ministers?
– I do not agree with the honorable member’s statement that the duties of Ministers have been reduced. If he should, in the distant future, be a member of a Government he will learn that the duties of Ministers are increasing from year to year, and almost from day to day. I do not intend to reduce the number of Cabinet Ministers. In any case, the matter is entirely in my discretion, and I do not propose to discuss it with the honorable member.
Accommodation at Canberra.
– A statement appears in a section of the press that certain members of this Parliament have suggested that free board and lodging should be provided for honorable members while in Canberra. I repudiate such a proposal, and I think that most honorable members on both sides of the House would also repudiate it. I ask the Prime Minister whether such a suggestion has been made to the Government, and, if so, what attitude it has adopted towards it?
– No such suggestion has been made to me, and I have no knowledge of any one who would entertain the proposal if it were made. The Government certainly could not entertain it for a second.
– I understand that the Prime Minister met the representatives of the overseas shipping companies in Canberra a day or so ago, and discussed with them the proposed increases in shipping freights to and from Australia. Is he prepared to make a statement on the subject, or to intimate the stage which the negotiations have reached ?
– Representatives of the overseas shipping companies are visiting Australia, and passed through Canberra on Wednesday. I had an opportunity of meeting them, but no decisions were made; indeed, the subject of freights was hardly mentioned at the meeting. A conference is being convened between these representatives and representatives of the exporting and importing interests of Australia, with the object of making a recommendation either to the industries concerned or to the Government to improve transport facilities generally to and from Australia.
– In view of the sworn and, so far, uncontradicted statements of Mr. James Bede Andresen concerning Federal Police Officer Longmore’s conduct in relation to the prosecution of Jacob Johnson, does the Attorney-General consider that the public will regard with any confidence the result of the inquiries on the coal-fields made by this officer?
– The honorable member has not asked a question; he has merely directed an insult to a Commonwealth officer, and I do not propose to make any reply.
– I rise to a point of order. My question did not contain an insult. I was merely exercising my privilege of asking a question of the Minister on a matter of urgent public importance. I ask, Sir, whether the Attorney-General’s observation respecting my inquiry was in order ?
– If a question seems to the Minister to whom it is addressed to reflect on a public officer, he would be almost failing in his duty if he did not object to it. I remind the honorable member that the object of questions to Ministers is to elicit information. Questions should not contain any expression of personal opinion. If honorable members would observe the Standing Orders governing the asking of questions, and frame their questions courteously, they would receive courteous answers.
– I draw the attention of the Prime Minister to a report which appears in the Canberra Times to the effect that the Federal Country party has defined its attitude to the tariff. The resolution reads -
This party is convinced that only by a reduction in the costs of production and the cost of living can om- present unsatisfactory economic and industrial conditions bo improved. The warnings of the Tariff Board in recent reports as to the effect of the ever increasing tariff and consequent increased awards by the Arbitration Courts, and also the report of the Economic Commission encouraged the Country party to re-affirm its claim for -
A scientific re-adjustment of the tariff so that production costs may be reduced.
The encouragement, by friendly conferences, of co-operation between employers and workers in order to bring about more harmonious relations and a system of payment by results.
– The honorable member is entitled to make brief references only to newspaper reports, but his inquiry must relate to the public administration of the Commonwealth, or the business before the House, of which the Prime Minister is in charge.
– I am asking my question of the Prime Minister, and it deals with our fiscal policy. The report alao states -
The Australian Country Party urges full independent inquiry to determine what constitutes the natural essential industries of the
Country party believes that such an examination would reveal the possibility of a reduction of duties on the imports of other goods, which would tend to lower the general cost of production and enable us to compete successfully with other countries.
The report concludes -
We commend the Government for its intention to appoint an Economic Research Council for the purpose (among other matters) of inquiring into the economic effect of the tariff upon industries not directly the subject of duties imposed or proposed.
Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the declaration of the Country party is in accord with the general policy of the Government ?
Mr. BRUCE. It is not customary to deal with Government policy in reply to questions. The newspaper report which the honorable member has read contains a motion apparently passed at a meeting of one of the parties in this Parliament, and I fail to see that it can be a basis for a question as to the general policy of the Government.
– Will the Prime Minister undertake to represent to the Premier of New South Wales that additional safeguards should be provided to protect men who are engaged in carrying out their lawful avocation, and that more severe penalties should be enforced against members of gangs of miscreants who attack defenceless men?
– That is a matter for the consideration of the New South Wales Government. Although one may have a considerable amount of sympathy with the object of the honorable member in asking the question, it would hardly be proper for one sovereign government to address another sovereign government as to the legislation it should introduce.
– Seeing that fourteen orders of the day still appear on the notice-paper, will the Prime Minister intimate whether the Government intends that the whole of these shall be dealt with before the House rises, or, if not, which will be given precedence?
– It is not proposed to complete consideration of all the orders of the day that appear on the paper. I shall endeavour to make an early statement to honorable members as to the business we desire to complete before Parliament adjourns.
– Some time ago the Government intimated that it intended to explore the possibilities of levying additional taxation upon residents who receive a large income from abroad. Has that exploration been undertaken, or has the Government abandoned its intention to make it?
– Only last week I indicated, in answer to an inquiry, that the Government was still carrying out this investigation.
– In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Government has apparently no power to enforce compliance with its industrial laws, will the Attorney-General, as chief law-adviser to the Commonwealth, give an assurance that Parliament will no longer be asked to make such laws? Alternatively, will he make an arrangement with the States to police Commonwealth industrial laws, and thus prevent them from being brought into contempt?
– I cannot agree that the laws of the Commonwealth are not being enforced. They have been enforced recently on a number of occasions well known to honorable members. When a breach of the law takes the form of an ordinary assault, the laws of the State are quite competent to deal with it. The matters to which the honorable members refer come entirely within the sphere of the police protection afforded by the State, and offenders should be dealt with underthe Police Offences Acts of the States in which the offences occur. It is impossible for the Commonwealth Government, which has not a police force spread throughout the Commonwealth, to afford the protection which it is the duty of the State police to give.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral, in view of the tiresome delays experienced in securing final replies to requests for extension of telephone and mail services, will he investigate the matter and if necessary increase the staff to permit of replies to such requests being supplied within reasonable time? Only recently I received a reply to a request made over three months ago for the removal of a small party line switch board from a railway station to the gate-house, and there are illustrations of applications for ten-mile extensions of telephone lines taking over two months to finally answer, and many other such cases?
– If the honorable member will furnish me with details of specific cases, I shall have them investigated, and learn why delays have occurred.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether it is intended to cut out Private Members’ Day next Thursday? Will he provide an opportunity for debating three private members’ motions of national importance, namely, the motion for the appointment of a select committee on the fruit and hops industry, a motion relating to the tobacco industry, and another relating to the aborigines ?
– It will depend on the state of public business whether it is possible to allow next Thursday to be devoted to private members’ business.
asked the Minister for
Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable (member’s questions are as follow : -
Arrivals and Destination of Migrants
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What number of immigrants arrived in each of the States and from what countries did they arrive, for the years 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927 and 1928?
– A statement containing the desired information is being prepared and will be made available as soon as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– I hope to be in a position to reply to the honorable member’s questions early next week.
Appointment of Mr. S. M. Kelly
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is it a fact that Mr. S. M. Kelly, of South Australia, has already been appointed a member of the Tariff Board, as reported in the Adelaide Advertiser, of the 11th instant; if so, when was this appointment made?
– No new appointments to the Tariff Board have yet been made.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he state the amounts and the rates of interest of loans, including those raised in Australia, falling due during the years 1020, 1930, and 1931?
– Particulars of the Commonwealth loans maturing in the years mentioned are as follows: -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 12th March, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) asked me -
I am now in a position to advise him as follows : - 1 and 2. There are two men engaged in connexion with the steam boilers who do not possess the usual certificates. The work performed by these men occupies portion only of their time. The Commission is satisfied that both men are competent to carry out the work they are performing, and the men are prepared to sit for the next qualifying examination which, it is understood, will be held shortly.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked me the following questions : -
With reference to the question of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie on the 8th inst.. 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?
I am now ina position to advise as follows : -
Sale of Plant -Federal Capital Commission.
Offers are invited for the purchase of a quantity of secondhandmachinery and plant, including Barber-Greene ditcher and loader, Sentinel wagon, Cletrac tractors, five tipping trucks, and other plant suitable for sewer construction.
Schedules are available at the office of the Sydney agent, 40 Young-street, Sydney; the Director-General of Works, Commonwealth Offices, Melbourne.
Inspection may be made at the Storeyard, Canberra.
Offers to be in situ and to reach the Controller of Stores, Canberra, in suitably endorsed envelopes, not later than noon on Wednesday, the 9th May, 1928. No offer necessarily accepted.
– On the 8th March the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Collins) asked the following questions : -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: - 1 and 2. In 1915 the then Government ordered 34 locomotives, of which fourteen were in excess of requirements, and of this latter number eight still remain available for service when required.
– On the 7th March the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, the following question : -
Whether he will lay on the table of the House all communications and offers from the Now South Wales Golf Club for the leasing of 108 acres of Defenceland at La Perouse, Sydney, and in addition the consolidated agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the New South Wales Golf Club?
I now inform the honorable member that the departmental file of papers in regard to the matter referred to has been laid on the table of the Library for his perusal.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That during the unavoidable absence of Mr. Deputy Speaker, Mr. Speaker be authorized to call upon any of the Temporary Chairmen of Committees to temporarily relieve him in the chair.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjournuntil Monday next, at 3 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr. Paterson, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Mr. Paterson. and read a first time.
Bill presented by Mr. Paterson, and read a first time.
The following papers were presented : -
Norfolk Island Act - Brands and Marks Law and Brands Ordinance - Regulations.
Ordinances of 1929 -
No. 1. - Motor Car, together with Regulations.
No. 2. - Amendments Incorporation.
No. 3. - Creditors’ Remedies.
High Court Procedure Act - Rules of Court -Dated 5th March, 1929.
SUPPLY BILL (No. 1) 1929-30. Second Reading.
Debate resumed from 14th March (vide page 1264), on motion by Dr. EARLE Page -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Before the House adjourned last night I was dealing with the confusion which at present exists over matters of policy in the Repatriation Department. The Minister who introduced the original act in 1920 left the matter in doubt. In his second-reading speech he said that the Repatriation Commission was to have the sole determination of policy, but when the bill was at the committee stage he said that the Minister was to have control. The result is that when the commission is assailed on any point, it puts the responsibility on to the Minister, and when the Minister is approached he declares the matter to bc within the jurisdiction of the commission. Let me give a recent case. It will be remembered that the Government the year before last brought in a scheme for the payment of £10 a month for recreational purposes to certain ex-soldiers who were either double amputees, or confined to a wheel chair or cot. At that time I pointed out that the wording of the act would prevent certain men from obtaining this payment who would otherwise be entitled to it, because I know that the Repatriation Department, if it has the slightest loophole, will unhesitatingly penalize these men. What was the result? Immediately that legislation was passed, certain ex-soldiers whose legs had been amputated at the thighs, but had made some attempt to walk, were refused this recreational payment althought it was granted to their comrades who had made no attempt to get about by themselves. I took one of these men to the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in Sydney. We travelled to his office by motor car. The ex-soldier was able to leave die car and to cross the pavement without assistance, and because of that, the Deputy Commissioner stated that this man was not confined to a wheel chair or cot, and, therefore, his application could not be considered. Had that man not made any attempt to cross the pavement, I do not doubt that his application would have been granted. This case was brought under the notice of the Minister, and the ex-soldier was subsequently given the recreational payment. I am blaming, not the Minister, but those who are carrying out the administration of his department. Surely the Minister must know that there is something radically wrong with the department. Let me give another case which has become somewhat famous to those who are in touch with incapacitated returned soldiers. It is known as the “ Graythwaite:’ An appeal was made to the Minister on behalf of thirteen totally incapacitated men who were not receiving, at the hands of the department, the consideration to which they were entitled. All the cases were referred to the Minister who sent out thirteen replies, and although each case was different the thirteen replies were all exactly the same, except that the names differed. The Minister subsequently took some action on their behalf. It is difficult to fix the responsibility for the callousness and parsimony of the department. The commission under the Minister is responsible for its administration, but I should like to know who lays down the definite policy of the Repatriation Department. I have already given an example of the Government’s policy on the question of recreational payment. Even in that instance, the department did its best to get behind that policy in order to continue its usual method of administration, which is to prevent as much as possible the use of public moneys in the interests of incapacitated men, irrespective altogether of the bona fides of the applications for relief. When an application is made, it is first sent to the Deputy Commissioner, who in turn, sends it to the State board. The board used to consist of three members, one a representative of the returned soldiers, and two other gentlemen. Recently the personnel of the State board was altered. An appeal from the Deputy Commissioner has to be made to the State board, which now consists of one representative of the returned soldiers and two departmental officers who are junior to the Deputy Commissioner. That is an extraordinary position.
– Are the departmental officers returned soldiers?
– The State boards are an absolute farce.
– I agree with the honorable member. The State Board in New South “Wales, as it is now constituted, is a sort of half-way house between the Deputy Commissioner and the Commissioner. The two junior officers can at any time over-ride the decision of the other gentleman on the board. There is, therefore, no real appeal from the Deputy Commissioner.
– It would be interesting to know the percentage of cases in which the State Board has varied the decisions of the Deputy Commissioner.
– That would be interesting information. The appeal then goes before the Commission, and if it is a medical case, that body obtains the opinion of eminent medical men outside. Nearly all applications for pensions require medical opinion, and as these gentlemen do not. interview the applicants, they have to rely on the records of the department. In justice to the applicants, the records should be complete. We all know that they are not. In 1916, I was admitted to hospital. There is no record on the files to that effect. I examined the files in Sydney in December last, and I found that two major operations and also a minor operation which necessitated 28 stitches, were not recorded on the files. When I examined the files recently I found that a little type-written slip had been inserted. It must have been a recent insertion, because the colour of the type was different from that of the rest of the papers. This slip related to the case of “ Raymond “ Green, which of course is not my name, but it happened to refer to me. Had the file, as I originally saw it, been sent to the outside board, and a question concerning any of those three operations had arisen, the medical men would have known nothing about it, and their decision would in all probability have been against the applicant. I am giving these illustrations to prove the bona fides of my charges against the department. Its files are incomplete, and its decisions are based upon incomplete evidence. The applicant is not permitted in any way to further his claim. When a claim for an old-age or invalid pension is refused, the Pensions department always gives a reason for its decision. The Repatriation Commission refuses to give any reason. This is one of its replies: - “I have now to advise that the Commission has forwarded their decision per telegram, and that they have rejected the claim.” No reason is given. Why was the claim rejected? In what way did this applicant fail to establish his case? How could he possibly know on what grounds the decision of the Commission was based? All he received was a curt announcement that his claim had been rejected. That is not fair. That letter was sent on the 17th July last, so this is a recent case.
– Was it a decision on an appeal?
– The Minister usually gives reasons for any action that he takes.
– That is admitted. I have a letter written over the signature of the Deputy Commissioner of New South Wales, and it contains the curt announcement that the appeal is disallowed. No reason at all is given. In effect, the Repatriation Commission says, “ We have reached this decision and it must stand.” That is a wrong attitude absolutely.
– It is not usual.
– Then my experience is contrary to that of the honorable member. I have many similar letters from the department. The Minister, when he is replying to my charges, will probably quote the number of men who, he will allege, are satisfied with what has been done for them. Yesterday, when introducing a measure, he pointed out that last year 891 new pensions had been granted. It is possible that some of those were new claims and had never before been submitted to the department, but I am positive that quite a number of the new pensioners have been making applications over a long period. The act has not been amended since 1922, and, unless they have produced new evidence, their claims should have been granted when they first applied for the pension. I brought up a “ T.B. “ case, and the man received some hundreds of pounds in back pay. A fortnight after the pension had been granted, this man died, but, of course, his widow and children benefited. I fought that case for a long period, and the Soldiers League also took it up. No new evidence of any description was advanced at any period. The only evidence that could have been given was that the man was progressively worse. If he was deserving of a pension just before he died, he must have been entitled to it years before, when he first applied for it. I have no doubt, in my own mind, that his physical disability was aggravated, and his end was hastened, by the heartless treatment that he received from the department, which forced him to fight his case until he became discouraged. Innumerable cases of that nature could be quoted.
– In the case that the honorable member has mentioned, the application was granted only because of his persistence. Thousands of other exsoldiers are in a similar position, but have nobody to fight for them.
– That is so. I have been fighting the department since July last over the sura of £5 14s., but what about the unfortunate1 ex-soldiers who have neither time nor opportunity, and perhaps have no spirit left to fight the department? The suffering has not been confined to the ex-soldiers themselves, but their wives and children have shared it. Under the act, if a man is in receipt of a pension, his wife and children receive a proportion of it, and if the pension is withheld from him, although he is entitled to it, the members of his family suffer. I know the sad case of a man who committed suicide, because he knew that it was hopeless to expect fair treatment from the department. His end was not only hastened, but was actually caused by the treatment that he received. “When men are broken in health and ill, it is regrettable that the department should take advantage of their physical condition. Mental ease is of great assistance to convalescence, but when the department adds mental strain to all the troubles of the man who is sick, convalescence is retarded, if not entirely prevented. The members of the Australian Imperial Force, like the young Australian of to-day, were independent in spirit, and when they found that the de partment had turned down their requests, many of them decided to let the matter drop. Others have appealed, and know that they are entitled to the pension, but they have . too much self-respect to appeal further to an unsympathetic body. The chairman of the Repatriation Commission was reared in the departmental atmosphere of the first Minister for Repatriation, and I have already quoted what that Minister said in reply to a deputation. The cases that I have mentioned prove that Mr. Semmens is incompetent, and not fit to be head of the department. I have proved that he is unsympathetic. Crocodile tears are of no benefit to the ex-soldiers. We must judge the department by its actions. Protestations of sympathy are of little avail, unless a sympathetic spirit is shown. The Minister and the House can arrive at no other opinion than that Mr. Semmens is incompetent and unsympathetic, and has not the necessary ability to enable him to administer the department in an efficient way. I gave examples last night of maladministration, and instances of gross maladministration. Section 15 of the act states that the Minister may suspend a commissioner or an acting commissioner from office, for inability, inefficiency, or misbehaviour, or neglect or failure to carry out any of the provisions of the act or the regulations. I ask the Minister to take action under that section. The deputy commissioner in Sydney was at one time a commissioner; but he now holds a junior position. I hope that the Minister will reply to the charges that I have made. If not, I propose to adopt a certain course in committee, which I hope I shall not be forced to take.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs said, in effect, that he believed in the policy of allowing cheap goods to come into this country, irrespective of the effect it might have on Australian industry. The idea that seems to operate in his mind is that cheap goods should be available to the people, irrespective of their quality. A good case can be made out in support of the claim of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) concerning the value of cheap wireless sets. It was said that, while the sets were being landed in this country at £6 10s. each, they were not being sold to the public at that price. As a matter of fact, the price charged is double, and, in many instances, thrice that sum. I intend to refer to Electrolux vacuum cleaners, which have been landed in Australia at about £6 each and sold at from £15 15s. to £18 18s. each. It is difficult for the public to judge the value of wireless sets and other lines of a novelty character by their appearance, and the people should be protected against being supplied with goods that are incapable of rendering satisfactory service. It is frequently found that these cheap sets break down. A similar remark applies to electrical goods. From time to time, large quantities of them are brought into Australia, because the manufacturers have been unable to find a market for them abroad. They appear to be all that is claimed for them; but electrically they are inefficient, because after two or three weeks they cease to be of service. What makes the matter worse is that the firms who import them are merely agents of the manufacturers, and the purchasers have no redress against the sellers, because after they dispose of the shipment nothing further is heard of them. Often they are unable to obtain spare parts, and the goods are thrown upon, the scrap heap. Apart from the need to foster local industries that are affected by the influx of cheap foreign goods, the Government should realize that it has also a duty to protect the public in regard to goods that are sure to fail in a very short time to give the service intended.
I would have liked to follow the remarks of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) regarding the relation of protection to the primary industries. It would be interesting to refer to some of the utterances of the late Minister for Trade and Customs on that matter -
Numerous illustrations have been supplied in the past proving that primary producers are not being penalized by the present duty on agricultural implements. Several such instances are quoted in the report of the Tariff Board, which conducted an exhaustive inquiry into the industry. In spite of these facts, however, foreign and anti-Australian interests continue their propaganda against the local manufacturer, ostensibly in the interests of the primary producer.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) sought to ridicule honorable members who have advocated the effective protection of Australian industries claiming that we are always throwing dust in the eyes of the farmers. When he rises to speak he claims that he is not concerned about speaking to the House but “to the country,” meaning, of course, the farmers, who, however, are unable to reconcile his speeches with his vote. Unfortunately, the parliamentary records do not show clearly the honorable member’s inconsistency. They do not reveal that when the acid test of a division is applied to his speeches, he leaves the chamber and refrains from voting. His criticism of the Government is suggestive of tickling an elephant with a feather.
– At one time the farmer could buy a reaper and binder for £38.
– I answer that objection by quoting the following comparative prices : -
Those prices prove that the primary producers enjoy a distinct advantage from the operation of the protection policy, which provides the farmers with a local market for their produce, because it employs thousands of workers in secondary production, and at the same time makes the implements of tillage available at cheaper prices.
– Implements are made in Australia that are not obtainable in any other part of the world.
– That is true. My father had a farm in Victoria, and I know that through the invention of the Australianmade disc plough he was able to till stony ground that previously had been useless. The old imported plough when it struck stones or boulders, jumped out of the ground or buckled and as a consequence was out of action for several days. The locally-made disc ploughs are designed to meet Australian conditions, particularly stony country, with the result that a large area of country which formerly was not tilled is now under cultivation. The progress of invention in the manufacture of farming implements is due entirely to the policy of protection, and no honorable members can, in the face of the facts, successfully argue that protection has not been of benefit to the primary producer. The comparative prices I have quoted show clearly that, even if the Australian primary producer prefers the imported implement, he is not paying the full amonut of the duty, whilst in two instances the duty-paid price in Australia is lower than the price in the Argentine. It will be noted too, that with one exception the Australian manufacturer’s price in Australia is lower than the American manufacturer’s price in the Argentine, and in all instances considerably below the Australian price of the imported article. This proves quite conclusively that the Australian manufacturer is not taking advantage of the tariff, and the steadying effect of local manufacture on imported prices is apparent. A further illustration may be quoted in regard to the export of tractors from the United States of America during the first six months of 1927. The use of tractors is almost universal. In the fruit-growing areas particularly, these machines are employed extensively for ploughing the land and loosening the soil between the trees. Tractors sent to Australia included 1,558 two ploughwheel tractors valued at $801,301; also 6S4 three plough- wheel tractors, valued at $647,590. If we divide the price by the number of tractors in each case and convert the dollars into sterling at $4.86 to the pound, we find that the price of the tractors in America was £105 16s., whereas they were sold in Australia at £395, or an advance of 272 per cent. The larger size, costing £194 16s. in America, was sold in Australia at £595, or an advance of 205 per cent. The duty on the tractors was only 10 per cent.
– From what is the honorable member quoting?
– These are .statistics issued by the Chamber of Manufactures.
– They are Hume Cook’s figures and have been exposed over and over again.
– The late Minister for Trade and Customs used them in this chamber and said that they were authentic.
– I have gone through them and they are absolutely correct.
– I say they are absolutely incorrect.
– A responsible organization like the Chamber of Manufactures would not be likely to publish information of this character, unless it could be substantiated. If it published untrue information, it would weaken its own arguments and lose public support. I am certain that the information I am putting before the House is true in every particular. I shall quote further particulars in illustration of how the tariff has reduced prices. When a tariff of 55 per . cent, was imposed on motor car gears for replacement purposes, an Australian manufacturer issued a price list halving imported prices. Almost immediately, the price of imported gears was reduced to 10 per cent, below the Australian rates. Because that industry received sufficient protection to enable it to develop, it was able to reduce the imported price and prevent the further exploitation of the public by the importers. I strongly object to taking money from the Australian people and handing it over to international capitalists in America. If, under, the present social system, there is need for one section to take money from another, let the transaction take place between ourselves, and so keep the money in the country. Australian manufacturers of steel split pulleys marketed their product in Sydney and not in Melbourne. Prices fell in Sydney, whilst they remained stationary in Melbourne. Ultimately, the price of a 24-inch by 6-inch pulley was 86 per cent, higher in Melbourne than in Sydney. I remember the commencement of that industry at Lidcombe. I was responsible for testing its electrical installation, and I am glad to know that the assistance rendered it by the tariff has enabled it to progress and save the public from foreign exploitation. The price of imported ammonia chloride was £47 10s. per ton. After local manufacture began, and in spite of the 15 per cent, duty, successive reductions lowered the price to £41 15s. In New Zealand, where no duty is charged and where consequently no local industry operates, the price is £45 per ton. The prices at different main ports are - Australia, £17 10s. per ton ; New Zealand, £20 15s.; India, £19; Singapore, £20 10s. The farmers have a particular interest in cheap fencing wire. No. 8 imported black fencing wire was sold at from £46 to £50 per ton. After local manufacture commenced, the price gradually decreased to £22 10s. Galvanized wire remained at its original high price until local manufacture commenced under tariff protection, when it dropped similarly. Electricity meters, imported duty free, were sold in 1921-22 at £2 5s.; in 1924, after paying a 45 per cent, duty, they were sold for £1 7s., thanks to Australian competition. The manufacture of these meters in Australia has meant a very great deal to local bodies supplying electricity. Take the case, also, of 400 K.V.A. transformers. These were quoted at from £1,010 and £1,308 each in December, 1920, when they had to be imported ; but in consequence of Australian competition the price has been reduced from time to time, until in February, 1924, it was only £300. Transformers, as honorable members know, are used to step up or step down electric voltage, and they are used extensively by electricity undertakings throughout Australia. The Australian manufacturers of them, and also the Australian manufacturers of electricity meters, are giving employment to hundreds of men. This has been made possible only by our policy of protection. I remind the honorable members opposite who oppose this policy that not only has this employment been provided, but, as I have shown, the price of these articles has been enormously reduced.
Caustic soda provides another illustration, though in a more limited way, of the value of our protective policy. Caustic soda of Australian manufacture is sold only in Melbourne because of the limited output of the manufacturers. The result of the Australian competition is that the price is £2 to £3 per ton cheaper in Melbourne than at other Australian ports. Would it not be worth while for the Government to consider assisting the Australian manufacturers to extend their operations to other Australian centres so that similar reductions in price might be effected there?
The primary producer must realize that it is in his best interest Australian manufacturing industries should be established, for these will support a large population which will require the foodstuffs which he grows. The woolgrower, for instance, surely understands that the more people we have in the country working under good conditions, the greater must be the demand for woollen goods. That applies also to the fruitgrower. Unfortunately to-day fruit h regarded as a luxury in the homes of many workers. It should not be so; but the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the workers to-day make it so. When the proposed reduction in the basic wage was being freely discussed in New South Wales recently, the fruit-growers at Leeton were very much disturbed. They realized that a reduction of wages would mean necessarily a reduction in the consumption of fruit. The 10s. or 12s. a week which it was proposed to cut off the workers’ wages would have made all the difference in the world to the ability to buy fruit of those who were in a position to do so. The possibility of a reduction in the basic wage still exists, but I hope that wise counsels will prevail, or some means found to prevent it. and that nothing will be done in that direction.
Seeing that the establishment-ot secondary industries is essential to the welfare of the primary producers, I cannot understand the view of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), who claims to represent the farmers. It seems to me that he represents the people who farm the farmers. To my mind there is a natural affinity between the working farmer and the industrialist. The man who tills the soil is, to a large extent, dependent upon the nian who works in the factory. We all know how beneficial our implement-making industry has been to the agriculturist. The workers who are engaged in- transportation by land and sea, and in the ordinary manufacturing industries of our cities, are doing a very great deal to assist the farmers ; in fact, it would not be possible for them to carry on without them. For a very long time representative Labour leaders have been endeavoring to bring the working farmers and the industrialists together, so that they might come to regard matters from each other’s point of view; but almost every effort that has been made in this direction has been frustrated by press propaganda and by those who farm the farmers. It is essential in the interests of the true development of Australia, that the working farmer and the industrialist, who are after all the vital units in the welfare of the country, shall be brought together. Some time ago the Lang Government convened a conference of representatives of the primary producers, the trade unions and other important industrial organizations at Bathurst. The result was that these sections realized that they had a very great deal in common. They also came to understand that the metropolitan and provincial press was engaged in propaganda designed to antagonize them. The newspapers, as a matter of fact, are saturated with this poisonous propaganda. The conference formulated certain proposals for advancing the interests of the sections of the community which it represented, and later I, with others, discussed with certain Sussex-street interests, the practicability of giving effect to the decisions of the conference. The Sussex-street representatives would do nothing to help us to eliminate overlapping in the distribution of commodities, or to reduce the price of commodities to the consumer. These are the people who farm the farmers, and they may be relied upon always to resist vigorously every effort that is made to harmonize the interests of the producers with those of the consumers.
I know a good deal about life in our country districts. I was born and reared in a dairying district. I know that the dairyman and his family in many cases, live under a form of slavery which I would not have forced upon the trade unionist. They work from daylight till dark, day in and day out, and when they send their cream to the city to be sold they have no means whatever of ascertaining whether they have been fairly treated by the people with whom they deal. Under existing conditions they are in a hopeless and a helpless position; for the big city interests, acting in collusion, can do as they like. In these circumstances one can blame only the press propaganda for the failure of the working farmers to realize that their interests are practically identical with those of the working man in the city, because we are always pointing out how these middlemen are exploiting these people. While I lived in the country I believed a great many of the reports that were published in the press about the city industrialists, but after my removal to the city and my consequent contact with them, I came to realize that all this propaganda was deliberately misleading. I also came to realize that a real affinity existed between the working farmer and the city worker. This was proved at the Bathurst conference. But when we endeavoured to give effect to the recommendations of that conference, the usual arguments that other States would not fall in with the proposals, that New Zealand would not subscribe to them, or that other reasons made them impossible of acceptance, were advanced by the Sussex-street traders; all intended for the purpose of simply side-stepping any result which might bring these two sections together. We must break down the barriers that have been built up by the middlemen.
My experience of life in our country districts, and pf the conditions of our industrialists, led me to make up my mind that if it were at all possible, I would obtain a seat in this Parliament, so that I could make those facts public; and I intend to use every opportunity that is presented to me to show the falsity of the press propaganda which is designed to keep apart the very interests in the community which should come together. I urge the Government to disregard the opinion advanced by the honorable member for Swan, and other of his ilk. It is high time for us to realize that the interests of the industrialists and the primary producers are really the same, and that the sections of the community which endeavour to set these classes at variance should be totally disregarded.
– A number of honorable members have expressed the opinion that most, if not all of the ills from which we suffer, are due to the present tariff. It seems, therefore, most desirable that Ave should consider bow far the existing tariff policy tends to promote or prejudice the general welfare of the community. The other day I said that one of the provisions of the Tariff Board Bill suggested a sinister purpose, and was, in fact, designed to hamstring tariff protection. Subsequently the Minister made it clear that the Government had no such ideas, that its single object was the promotion of the welfare of the country by making the tariff more effective. Ministers have lately come from an appeal to the people, and we ought to be able to deduce from their public declarations during the election campaign just what the policy of the Government is. Unhappily this Government is composed of two sections, which, on the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth, are at opposite poles. The attitude of the Government towards the tariff is like that of a great ocean liner in the narrow waters of the Yarra. The pilot, having but small space in which to manoeuvre, gives orders to go ahead with the starboard and astern with the port screw, and with the helm hard over, the vessel turns until its stern points towards the open sea. This Government, however, never finishes turning. It never gets on to a course, and steams full speed ahead, but revolves continuously, facing now east, now west, now north and now south. There is a sharp division of opinion in this House between those who’ hold that the welfare of this country can best be promoted by the encouragement of primary industry, and those who hold that Parliament should concentrate upon the encouragement of secondary industries. A third section, among whom I include myself, believe that encouragement ought to be given with even hand to both. Unhappily this broadminded view does not obtain general recognition. To hear the representatives of one section talking, it would be imagined that the secondary industries deserve no consideration at all; while according to the other, the primary industries are negli gible factors in promoting the welfare of the country. But both primary and secondary industries are essential to the prosperity of the community.
Let us consider the arguments of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann). They tell us that the ills from which we are suffering are due in the main to the adoption of that policy which finds expression in the tariff. They believe very strongly that we ought to wipe out all these artificial restrictions, and allow the country to develop on natural lines - meaning those lines which they themselves lay down. Upon the merits or logic of their argument, I propose at this stage to say nothing. What I am concerned with here is the policy and record of the Government. When the political alliance between the two parties which compose the Government took place six years ago, it was undeniably a union of parties, having mutually irreconcilable views upon fiscal issues. It was an alliance between the party which stood for what has been very properly called the National policy of Australia - the encouragement of Australian industry - and the party which professed to stand for the welfare of the man on the land. Six years have passed since then, and at any moment during that period it was open to the party which believed in the encouragement of the primary industries to impose its will on the Government, or, alternatively, for its members to resign from it. What is the position of the man on the land to-day? I am assuming, for the sake of argument, that we are faced with this hard alternative, that we must either protect and promote the welfare of those on the land, or, neglecting them, assist the welfare of those engaged in secondary industries. As I have said, I do not subscribe to that idea. I say that a policy compatible with the welfare of both can, and ought to be, devised. Anyway, after six years administration by a government, one half of whose members, at all events, were never tired of declaring that their purpose and object was to reduce the tariff and to encourage land . settlement, what do we find? In 1922 there were 478,000 persons engaged in agricultural and pastoral pursuits in Australia. Six years later the number so engaged was 425,000. The party” which had it within its power every moment of the last six years to put an end to a state of affairs which, they declared, retarded land settlement, has yet permitted it to continue, so that there are now 53,000 people fewer on the land than in 1922. During that time the population of Australia has increased by 600,000 persons, who have been absorbed into the industrial army. Where have these persons found employment? Not in the primary industries, because there are fewer engaged there now than there were six years ago. The figures which I have quoted justify the most scathing and crushing condemnation of that section of the Government which stood for the promotion of land settlement. The position of the man on the land to-day is incomparably worse than it was six years ago. Nothing has been done for him. The Country party came into Parliament to reduce customs duties; it has helped to increase them. There is a higher tariff now than ever existed before. Whose fault is that? Upon whom rests the responsibility. Clearly upon those who stood for and had it in their power to compel a reduction of duties, and the introduction of a policy that would encourage the man on the land; but they did not raise a hand to do so. Their real objective has been reached. They have waxed fat in Capua. Not’ for them doubtful adventures, nor the cold shades of adversity and opposition. The man on the land is fast disappearing, and in another quarter of a century will be as extinct as the Dodo.
– The composite Ministry will not last so long as that, surely !
– I am now discussing this subject in relation to one section of this Government only. It is useless to rail against the Government qua government, and to say that it does not stand for the protection of the manufacturing industries, or for the man on the land. We cannot deduce its intentions from its utterances. What is the policy of this Government on the tariff? I have compared it with a great liner manoevring in a narrow waterway, but, unlike the ship that turns only to get on its course, it never stops turning, but goes round and round. It is always going to do something, and is always facing in a new direction. To complete my review of the position as afforded by statistics, I shall give figures showing the number of persons employed in manufacturing industries and the number of those employed in agricultural and pastoral industries. Statistics show that the number of men on the land has declined by 53,000, while the population has increased by 600,000. But the number of persons employed in manufacturing industries in the same time has increased by 54,800. So then it is clear that, if this country has progressed at all during the last six years, it has done so despite honorable gentlemen in the corner. They stand for immigration; for the settlement of land; for the reduction of the tariff. The number of migrants has fallen and not one migrant has found foothold on the land of Australia during their regime, 53,000 fewer persons are on the land, customs duties are higher than at any time in our history. That is the record of the Country party. Daily it sends out statements for the acceptance of the credulous man on the land ; but it never does anything for him. I have a paper here, dated the 9th March, which says, inter aiia -
More of the dreams, ideals, and aspirations of the founders of Australia have been crystallized into actual accomplishment than in the previous history of federation.
Never before has there been compressed into a few lines so many distortions and misstatements of facts. What is the ideal of this country? Is it that men shall be driven off the land? Is it the ideal of this country that a party pledged to reduce duties should increase them? And having done this, they tell the man on the land that the reason he finds it difficult to make both ends meet is because of high duties! What has the Country party done to reduce duties ? It could reduce them to-morrow. It could have reduced them any time during the last six years. It could render this Government hopelessly impotent; it could impose its will upon the Government, but it is content to cling to office and do nothing. As to the merits of the two policies, I say nothing.
I shall not discuss with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) the question whether freetrade is better than protection. I am a supporter of the National policy of Australia - the encouragement of Australian industries - I believe in it. Experience has shown that wo are right,” and that the members of the Country party are wrong. At any rate, experience has shown that throughout the world most progress has been made by countries that have adopted this policy. The whole world may be wrong, but certainly those countries which have adopted this policy most wholeheartedly have made the most striking progress. The country whose example we are being everlastingly counselled to follow - America - has adopted that policy; has followed it consistently, and has elected to control, those who believe in its efficiency. But I am not concerned now with the merits of the case. I am dealing with the position of the Government, and in particular of the members of the Government who belong to the Country party. The figures that I have quoted show that it could not be more unsatisfactory. It is unsatisfactory to the honorable member for Swan, the honorable member for Perth, and to all honorable members who think as they do, as well as to those others who disagree with their views. Yesterday, or the day before, the Minister for Trade and Customs made a very stirring speech in favour of tariff protection. He, of course, is not an extremist; I hope that none of us are. Yet nothing has been done in this world by people who have been only moderately in earnest. Those who have achieved things are men who have been stigmatized by their opponents as fanatics. The Minister spoke of radio sets, and pictured the position, pathetic and almost desperate, of a man on the land of this country - one of the few left there under the policy of this Government - compelled to spend his last few pence on an Australian-made radio set, or alternatively be cut off, perhaps in his early prime, or in his declining years, from communication with the outside world. The Minister was almost moved to tears, and so were we, because nothing is more pathetic than isolation. He sympathized with the man on the land for being compelled to buy an Australian-made radio set rather than an American instrument. But he did not say a word “about the Paterson butter scheme. We have heard much from the honorable member for Swan about the burden placed upon the man on the land by the tariff. Yet he did not tell us that the greatest single burden imposed upon the people of this country, the greatest factor in the high cost of living, is the 4d. a lb. impost placed on butter. We can live without radio sets but not without butter. But butter is not the only primary product upon which we are compelled to pay a high tax. There is sugar, too, and there are duties on rice, raisins, dried fruits, and wine - in fact, some 69 such tariff items - which materially affect the cost of living. These have not come under his ban. Upon them he was silent. He did not say a word about butter. Possibly he thinks that it would be useful to apply to the American radio set to make its wheels move more smoothly. We arc adjured to increase and multiply. What is a working man’s family of five or six going to live on? Is there one single article of their food, with the exception of, perhaps, meat which is not taxed for the benefit, not of the manufacturer, but of the man on the land.
– It is a vicious circle.
– It is the policy of protection applied to primary enterprise. It is perfectly proper to apply it to the man on the land; but it is also right to apply it in other directions. Where should we be but for our policy of encouraging our own industries ? Protection has amply justified itself. It provides employment and in very many cases does not increase prices. The figures quoted by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) this morning relating to the automotive industry show that industries when they are effectively protected reduce prices. That is only to be expected. The Minister smiles. He does not deny that it is true.
– Might not that be true of butter?
– It might be, but unhappily it is not. I think that the Paterson butter scheme is a very ingenious way of encouraging the dairy farmer, and perhaps the most effective way. I am certainly not condemning it, but I cannot understand how any one who supports such a scheme can denounce the tariff as a whole. Of course, such conduct is entirely consistent with the conduct of the members of the Country party, but it is entirely inconsistent with their utterances. They talk about reducing the tariff, but for six years they have done nothing to reduce duties. It was said the other day, in an inspired article issued from the corner, and under its authority, that the Country party had taken off a lot of duties. So it has; but for every one it has taken off, it has put on two. Their little finger is thicker than their father’s loins. Yet in the face of all the facts it says that “ during the six year3 of the composite Government more dreams” - it surely means nightmares - “ ideals, and aspirations of the founders of Australia, have been crystallized into actual accomplishment than during the whole of the history of federation.”
I leave that subject. The facts speak for themselves. On every single article produced in this country by the man on the land, on which it is possible to impose a duty, a duty has been imposed. Our kinsmen in New Zealand produce butter, but they are not allowed to send it here. Why? Is it because we are afraid of bringing cheap butter into this country? Cheap radio sets are good when made in America, but when New Zealand tries to send us butter the Country party says retro Satanas.
I merely rose to point once more to the record of that section of the Government, supported by the gentlemen iri the corner. I believe in encouraging the man on the land, and I have done at least as much as any other member here to encourage him. I may remind honorable members in the corner of what I did to help the man on the land during the war. After all, what they are now doing in the way of pools - which they denounced vehemently and furiously when introduced by me - they have copied from me. They are carrying out my policy on sugar, although the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), along with his leader, vehemently denounced it. They have given it another label, but it is the same policy. It was their one ambition to wipe off this foul blot on the statute-book, but they have been in office for six years and here it is, and they dare not touch it.
– Still, they would like to, if they had the courage.
– Yes; no doubt they would. There are many things I would like to do, but I cannot. They came in to advance the interests of the man ou the land. I have always stood for hisinterests; I have been waiting long - - and in vain - to follow them, in the almost forlorn hope that something might be done for a fast vanishing race. It is my fortune to represent a constituency where agriculture cannot be said to flourish, but what that party needs is new Banner bearer, and I offer it my services. I have said very little, by comparison with them, about new States, but if I had been for six years where they have been, I would have had States sprinkled as thickly over this great continent as potatoes in a paddock, or I would have disembowelled the Ministry. This, I say in order to commend myself to their favour when in their more sober moments they turn over the offer that I have made.
Let me remind them, and the people of this country, of one or two things. This Government came into power to bring about industrial peace, to reduce tariff duties, to promote land settlement, and to ensure prosperity and employment to the great mass of the people. They have been in office for six years, and in place of industrial peace, we find industrial turmoil. In all my long experience T have never before seen so many unemployed men. I have never seen the industrial heavens so dark with menace. There is not a glimmer of light - not a ray of hope for that industrial peace of which we have heard so much. Conferences have met. There has been talk of the need for industrial pace, but nobody has done any definite thing to promote a better understanding between the two great parties that are engaged in production in this country. There is organized labour, anil there is organized capital. It may be possible to build a bridge over which both may travel; it may be possible to bring them together. It may be possible, at all events, to promote a happier state of affairs than now exists. But organized labour wants something more than words. If it is to take the advice of the Government and of the party behind it, it must have some assurance of warm human sympathy, and evidence of an understanding of the wrongs under which it labours. No such assurance has been given by the Government of the day. I know how often the men are in the wrong; but, as I see it, with this Government the men are always in the wrong. This is contrary to what we know must be the truth; the men cannot be always in the wrong. The Government came into power to reduce duties, and as I have said, duties are higher than ever. They came in to promote land settlement, and as the result qf six years of their strenuous efforts, there are fewer people on the land than ever before.
– But we have the Development and Migration Commission.
– They stood for a policy of (migration, but what is their record? I shall say nothing about it; the figures speak for themselves. Admittedly we have reached a pass in this country when migration cannot be openly advocated by the Government of the day. The streets and roads are black with the workless. I have never before seen so many unemployed on the roads. To talk about migration under such circumstances, is farcical. Here, too, the Government has failed. Ministers were going to settle migrants on the land; but the Minister for Trade and Customs knows very well that they have not done that. In proof of that, i commend the Minister to his own very pregnant utterances. They have failed in migration; they have failed to promote land settlement; they have failed to reduce duties ; and they have failed to bring about industrial peace. Instead of that prosperity which we were assured would inevitably follow from a stable government, we have a brooding sense of unrest, a lack of confidence, and a feeling that there is something even worse than we have experienced not far from us. That is their record, and it is most unsatisfactory to every section of this House. If they believe in freetrade or lower duties, in God’s name let them introduce them. If they believe that protection is the best thing for this country, let them stand boldly out and say so. But their present position is that of the weather vane. They are “ f freetectionists “. They set their sails to catch every passing breeze. They put out tentacles, in the shape of commissions, in every direction. They inquire into everything, and do nothing.
.- I propose to deal mainly with the iron and steel industry, and the possibilities of its development in Australia for the purpose of absorbing a large number of the unemployed. The Tariff- Board, in its report on the industry in 1926-27, dealt with it up to a certain point, and pointed out the effect of the condition of the industry on the problem of unemployment. The first blast furnace was erected at Mittagong, New South “Wales, in 1848, and was used for the smelting of ores in that locality and for the production of pig iron. It was found by successive iron masters that it was impossible to compete with overseas products, and the works were closed down in 1886. In 1875 the first blast furnace was erected at Lithgow for the production of pig iron, and this industry struggled for its existence until 1882, when the production of pig iron was discontinued. But the industry was kept alive by Mr. Sandford, by the production of merchant-bar iron. In 1900, he erected the first steel furnace in Australia, and it had a capacity of 4 tons per cast. A better and larger furnace was erected in 1907. The rest of the plant had become antiquated owing to the rapid development that had taken place in the economic production of iron and steel. Honorable members have pointed out at considerable length, and still maintain, that the protection of Australian industries is far from being the first consideration of the present Government. The New South Wales Government endeavoured to assist Mr. Sandford by ensuring contracts for him for a given number of years, but he was compelled to abandon the works, which were taken over by Messrs. C- and G. Hoskins, with the assurance of the backing of the New South Wales Government, which guaranteed the firm contracts up to December, 1916.
Hoskins Bros, decided at once to abandon the production of wrought iron bars and concentrated on the production of steel. Consequently they demolished the small steel furnace that had been built, and proceeded in 1908 to erect a much larger steel furnace and rolling mills.
At a later date they added another blast furnace with a capacity of 2,000 tons of iron per week, three modern steel furnaces, a 28-inch rail and billet mill, and a modern 10-inch bar mill. At the same time, in addition to possessing a coal mine on their property at Lithgow, they purchased coal mines, iron ore mines, and limestone deposits, in other parts of the State. They also erected batteries of coke ovens.
That was 1926, ‘ and I want the House to notice the encouragement that this key industry, important not only to Australia, but also to the British Empire, has received since. In 1913 the United States of America produced 30,653,000 tons of pig- iron and in 1926, 39,373,000 tons. Australia, in 1913, produced 47,000 tons, and in 1926, 450,000 tons. Of steel ingots and castings, the United States of America produced in 1913, 31,301,000 tons, and in 1926, 4S,294,000 tons as compared with Australia’s production, in 1924, 306,000 tons, and in 1926, 360,000 tons. Over a number of years £52,000,000 worth of iron and steel products was dumped into Australia, and that included pipes and tubes of the value of £1,663,000. Yet we have in Australia everything essential for this industry - unlimited supplies of ore, blast furnaces, rolling mills, the men, and the intelligence. All we lack is the will. “Why cannot Australia produce as much iron and steel as it now imports from other countries? Our own establishments are capable of producing, if working at full capacity, £5,000,000 worth of iron and steel, annually. Their equipment was installed for a specific purpose, but that purpose having been served, the industry is being allowed to languish. This alone is responsible for a large part of the army of unemployed. I ask honorable members to take a broad national view of this problem. If this country is to become successful, it must have a well-fed and contented people. The neglect of the iron and steel industry ought to cause every right-thinking person to pause and consider the future of Australia. I am referring, particularly, to this industry, because, until recently, I was employed in it, and I speak with a practical knowledge of the suitability of the Australian raw material for nearly all the processes of manufacture. I have been engaged as a boilermaker in rolling plates of Australian manufacture. The plates were rolled without a fracture or flaw of any sort. On the other hand, I have repeatedly rolled plates of German and American manufacture which have shown fractures. The superiority of the local article has been proved on many occasions, and, therefore, there is no need for us to import iron and steel goods, and send, annually, millions of pounds out of the country. In addition, we are allowing Australia to be overrun with migrants, under a scheme which is to involve an expenditure of £34,000,000 over a number of years. That money could be better employed in developing and utilizing our natural products. I am not so foolish as to claim Australia for the Australians ; but I do unhesitatingly say that Australia should be preserved and developed for the white people. I am not opposed to migration; but I am against the bringing of people into this country while our own industries are being allowed to die and Australian citizens are being recruited te the ranks of the already great army of unemployed. Much depends on the success or failure of the iron and steel industry. Galvanized corrugated iron to the value of £1,750,000 was imported last year. This article is being produced in Australia; but, owing to the policy of this Government, the rolling mills engaged in its manufacture are only partially employed. It is useless to encourage migration and to attempt development if the secondary industries are so poorly protected that they cannot withstand competition from overseas. “Why does the Government persist in the fatuous policy of endeavouring to develop the country from without instead of from within. The potentialities of Australia are unlimited; so is the will to develop and progress, but our people must be given a reasonable opportunity. This Parliament should do everything possible to encourage the men engaged in secondary production. Because of low wages and long hours of labour, France Germany, and Belgium can send iron and steel to Australia at a very low cost.
Although much of this material is invoiced as from Great Britain, we know that the British manufacturers utilize European material, apply further processes of manufacture to it, and then export it as a British product in order to take a mean advantage of the preferential tariff granted by this country to the United Kingdom. That is not playing the game; it is not patriotic. If the Government desires to foster feelings of loyalty and patriotism in the hearts of the Australian people, it must assure to them conditions which will make them proud of their country and the Empire of which it is a part. There is no need to question the loyalty of the Australian people to the British Empire. The Prime Minister has sent an “ S.O.S.” message throughout Australia to all parties in industry to come together. I applaud his sentiments; but I ask him to show some earnest of his sincerity and bona fides. The Government must show an honest desire to foster Australian industry and protect the destiny of the Commonwealth. Let us come together by all means; but upon an equitable basis. The Prime Minister’s invitation sounds all right; but it must be considered in conjunction with the Government’s record in recent years, particularly its failure to protect adequately the key industry of iron and steel manufacture, and its indifference to the economic effect upon our people of the huge volume of imports. How can he expect the workers to respond to his invitation when they are asked to give everything and receive nothing? The Australian worker is not a vicious or unreasonable person, nor do I say that the members of the present Ministry are wholly bad ; but there is too much party bitterness, and the Government is being misled. If Ministers would try to understand the conditions of the people represented by honorable members of the Opposition, instead of villifying them at every opportunity, and branding them as extremists and disloyalists - if the Government would seek to create confidence in the minds of the workers - it would be doing a great national service. The Government cannot expect us to remain silent while it vilifies us.
The iron and steel industry is suffering to-day because of heavy importations.
The value of our importations of manufactured and partly manufactured iron and steel and of raw material used in the industry was £7,375,000 in 1924-25; £6,171,000 in 1925-26, and £8,739,000 in 1926-27. Seeing that we have wellequipped works in Australia capable of manufacturing nearly all the requirements of the country, we should do something to stem the tide of importations. What we need is not the so-called scientific economic investigation of the industry, but the application of a little practical common sense to it. The report of the Tariff Board on the industry states -
It is well known that the iron and steel products produced at Newcastle are at least equal in quality to those that have been imported. The methods adopted are thoroughly up to date, and follow the most modern practice in the manufacture of iron and steel.
Our iron and steel founders pay higher wages than those of other countries. Some honorable members opposite who claim to represent country constituencies allege that this accounts for the languishing state of the industry, but I cannot see that there is any justification for that view. My friends, opposite must realize that as our workers are earning a living wage they are able to spend more than they could if they were getting only a mere pittance. It seems to me that the more we encourage this industry, seeing that there is a demand for its output, the better it must be for the primary producers and the community generally. Dealing with the wages being paid in the iron and steel industry iu various countries the Tariff Board states -
The board has not been able to obtain the average weekly earnings in the iron and steel trade in the several competitive countries on the continent of Europe, but obtained in evidence figures on unimpeachable authority covering certain skilled and unskilled workers with which a comparison can be made.
This comparison shows that skilled fitters were paid in London on the 1st January, 1925, 62s. 2d. per week; in Berlin, on the loth October, 1924, 43s.; in Brussels, on the 1st January, 1925, 30s. 7d. ; in Paris, on the 1st January, 1925, 38s. 5d.; and in Newcastle, New South Wales, on the 1st May, 1925, 106s. 6d. Similar figures in respect of unskilled labourers were: - London, 44s. 2d.; Berlin, 23s. 5d. ; Brussels, 23s. 2d.; Paris, 27s. 6d., and Newcastle, 93s. On the same point the following paragraph is interesting: -
It will be seen that a comparison of the. particular groups of wage earners shown in the foregoing table of comparative wages, taking the mean of the rates specified for skilled fitters and unskilled labourers as representing the average weekly wage, give the following position : -
If we are desirous of encouraging the Australian iron and steel industry we must grant adequate protection to it. I know that every country in the world is suffering from severe economic pressure at present, for the international financiers are demanding their pound of flesh. We are finding great difficulty in meeting our interest bill. May I say in passing that so long as we retain our present system of banking we shall be in difficulty. We shall certainly never be able to liquidate the national debt.
Our iron and steel products are equal in quality to those of any other country in the world. I have been an employee of the New South Wales Government in the Everleigh workshop, and having had at different times to handle iron and steel manufactures from all parts of the world, I say without any hesitation that the Australian workmanship is of the first quality. But in’ spite of this a continual effort is being made to reduce wages here. The workers naturally resent these attempts to lower their standard of living. It took the Federated Society of Boilermakers and Iron Shipbuilders, of which I am a member, fifteen months to obtain an award from the Arbitration Court. Those engaged in our industry, in common with those engaged in other industries, found that the increased cost of living was inflicting too heavy a burden upon them; but fifteen months’ effort yielded us an increase of only 3s.’ 6d. a week. During the same period the cost of living increased far more than that, and the rent of the house I was occupying was advanced by 7s. 6d. a week. There is no justification whatever for attempting to reduce wages in the iron and steel industry, particularly as our workmanship is first class. I remind honorable members that when the cruiser Brisbane, which was constructed at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, was at Malta on a voyage from Sydney to London, the dockyard authorities there expressed the highest admiration of its workmanship. Moreover, the vessel was finished at a price which compared very favorably with that for which a similar cruiser could have been built overseas. During the war, our iron and steel industry was utilized to the fullest extent, but the Government is now allowing it to be neglected. Some time ago, two British engineers, who were brought out to investigate the working of the New South railways, stated that locomotives could be manufactured in New South Wales, from the stage of raw material to the finished article, at a cost of £217 an engine less than those brought from overseas. Why have not these industries received the encouragement they deserve? All kinds of work, such as bridge and railway construction, are going on all over the country, but there is no insistence by the Government that Australian iron and steel shall be used. The Government says, in effect, to those engaged in this industry, “ You are not capable of doing anything more than assembling the articles after the parts have been manufactured overseas.” A large percentage of the members of the Boilermakers Association are walking about idle at the present time, and the members of the Iron Workers Association and engineers of all kinds are not much better off. The many industries which are subsidiary to the iron and steel industry are either going bankrupt, or have already gone out of existence. I appeal to honorable members to take a broad national view of this matter. The workers, I am sure, are actuated by the best motives. If they were looked upon as citizens, rather than as a commodity to be bought and sold, mere cogs in the wheels of production ; if they were allowed to assert their manhood, and show their patriotism in a practical way, they would demonstrate how Australian industry might be developed, and the Government which encouraged them in this direction would have nothing to regret. Few honorable members on the Government side really understand the conditions under which the people work and live. A conference on the fiscal issue between members of all parties in this House would go a long way towards solving our industrial problems. Australia as a nation is greater than any individual or any party. We should never lose sight of the fact that the interests of the people as a whole are more important than those of any section of them. I appeal to the Government to consider whether it is not a tragedy that we should be spending £34,000,000 on migration over a number of years - on bringing people to this country from overseas - when there are 180,000 unemployed here at the present time. In my electorate alone there are 50,000 persons on the electoral roll, and a large percentage of them are unemployed. People come to my home at all times of the day and night, asking me to do something for them. “What can I do? Men with as many as six children have been out of work for six months past, while the mother, perhaps, earns a little by office cleaning. The Humane Society, which is doing a very wonderful work, is trying to cope with the situation, but cannot hope to do so. I saw one of their balancesheets recently, and they are spending three times as much as they ordinarily receive in revenue. It is shameful to think that the Government should have spent £34,000,000-
– It has not spent £34,000,000. The British Government is making that sum available on certain conditions.
– It has not all been made available yet; the arrangement extends over a number of years.
– At any rate, £34,000,000 has been set aside to promote migration. I ask honorable members opposite, what is the use of setting that money aside for the purpose of bringing more people into Australia, when we have here an unemployed army of such huge dimensions? We cannot develop Australia with an unemployed population. The Prime Minister appealed to both sides in industry to come together. Well, let us come together on this issue. If we could find employment for those now out of work, they would create needs which, in turn, would provide work for people from over- seas. I admit that we have a great territory here, and not many people in it, but, for the time being, when charitable organizations are unable to cope with the distress arising out of unemployment, no useful object can be served by bringing more migrants into the country. Some suggest that we should settle the migrants on the land. I know of returned soldiers who have been settled on the land, and they have been “ settled “ most effectively. They are men of no financial standing. I ask honorable members representing rural constituencies to remember that although most of us on this side represent industrial areas, we understand something of the rural industries. I spent my early years on a farm, and consequently I know something about farming. The present policy of trying to settle unemployed persons on the land is an absolute farce and a waste of time and money. I had the doubtful pleasure of leading an unemployed deputation in Sydney, only a few weeks ago, and the suggestion was put to the. men that they should pay for rabbit-trapping gear and go into the country to catch rabbits. There are no rabbits to be seen in the country, yet the Government of New South Wales wants the unemployed to pay £8 for an outfit with which to catch something that is not there.
– And probably the unemployed know nothing about rabbittrapping.
– We should face the situation. A partial solution to the unemployment problem would be the effective protection of a key industry like the iron and steel industry of Australia. The Tariff Board, in one of its reports, says that if that industry were properly protected and established, within twelve months 40,000 additional employees would be required for the mining, transportation, and treatment of ores, and their manufacture into the finished article. Those additional employees would have to be fed and clothed. Subsidiary industries would be established, with the result that within two years additional employment would be found for ‘ from 200,000 to 300,000 people. Honorable members in the corner have said that a high tariff is detrimental to the rural industry. I need only repeat what I have already said. If the spending capacity ofthe individual is restricted, how canwe find a market for our rural products? If the earning capacity of the individual is properly and systematically utilized, he becomes a producingunit, and consequently a spending unit. The rural worker has nothing to fear. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has shown clearly how the progress of our industries under a policy of protection must benefit the man on the land; but we must first restrict the operations of the middleman, the man who “farms” the farmer; because it is that section of the community that is reducing the earning capacity and the spending capacity of people as a whole. We must develop our industries, having due regard to our financial resources. Our aims should be, not Australia for Australians, but Australia for the white people of the British race. We should stand together. The Government should invite honorable members on this side to assist it in its deliberations. It should not take up the attitude that the Government knows, and no one else knows. This great National Parliament should be a truly deliberate assembly. We should do everything in our power, not only to prevent the importation into Australia of overseas materials that can and should be manufactured here, but also to break down the prejudice that exists in Australia against Australian manufactured articles.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mackay) adjourned.
Business of the Session.
. -I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
Honorable members will he interested to know what measures the Government proposes to deal with before the House rises. They arc the Supply Bill, which we have been discussing to-dav; the Wine
Grapes Charges Bill, which is not a very long measure; the Economic Research Bill ; the Income Tax Assessment Bill; the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill; and the War Service Homes Bill, for which leave to introduce has been given. That is a short measure. The Government would, of course, like to put through the whole of its programme, but it is not insisting upon that. It will be necessary, before the House rises, to put through the measures that I have mentioned. If that is not possible, then the House will meet again for a short session after Easter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 March 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19290315_reps_11_120/>.