11th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Prosecution of Mine Owners
– Has the AttorneyGeneral decided yet to prosecute the coalmine owners in connexion with the present industrial trouble on the coal-fields of New South Wales?
– The matter is under consideration, and a decision will be reached at an early date.
– How soon?
– I have no doubt that a decision will be reached before the House rises, but I cannot give any undertaking to that effect.
– During the course of a speech which I delivered on Thursday night last, I propounded a question for the consideration of the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman was not in the chamber at the time, and I asked the Deputy-Speaker, Mr. Bayley, to have him brought in; but he did not appear. Now that the right honorable gentleman is present, I shall repeat my question. At a luncheon which was tendered to the members of theRotary Club, who were holding a conference in Canberra,he exhorted them to carry out the guiding principle of their organization, which, I understand, is service to the community and the avoidance of selfish actions. Will he observe that principle by reversing his previous decision and allowing the miners to choose their own accountant who shall investigate the books of the colliery-proprietors, thus rendering a service to the community by bringing about a resumption of work in the coal-mining industry?
– The honorable member will realize that nothing but the most urgent public business could have prevented me from being present to listen to his remarks the other evening. I cannot see any connexion between any principles for whichRotary stands, and the question just submitted by him. As I have explained on several occasions, neither the Government of New South Wales nor this Government is prepared to alter its attitude in regard to the appointment of accountants to ascertain the profits of the coal-owners.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that Mr.C. M. McDonald, the Chairman of the Northern Collieries Association, has deliberately broken the agreement into which he entered with the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Bavin, by making a public statement that the coal-owners will not, in any circumstances, allow their books to be examined. If so, what does the right honorable gentleman intend to do about it?
– I have no official information upon the matter mentioned by the honorable member.
– As the Queensland banana-growers have by grading and improved methods shown that they can supply the Australian consumers with good fruit, will the Minister for Trade and Customs give the House an assurance that the present tariff protection and the embargo on imports from Fiji will be continued ?
– The Government is not considering at the present time any alteration of the existing protection given to the Australian banana-growers.
– I draw the attention of the Prime Minister to a cable message published in the Melbourne Herald on the 16th March, stating that Sir Granville Eyrie, the High Commissioner for Australia, when saying farewell to 68 boys who were leaving for Australia by the Orsova, referred to the possible hardships and the temptations they would encounter. He went on to say -
Some parents have a false idea that sending boys to country districts will remove them from the temptation to drink. My experience is that the furthest outback towns are the worst in this respect.
Does the right honorable gentleman think that that is a fitting advertisement of the great outback portions of Australia, primarily for the development of which the present migration policy is said to be necessary? Does he not think that an intimation should be conveyed to the High Commissioner that Australia does not desire a deplorable advertisement of that character?
– My attention was drawn to the paragraph a few minutes ago. I am quite sure that Sir GranvilleRyrie, when addressing migrant boys leaving for Australia, would give them admirable advice. I cannot believe that he made the statement attributed to him, which I agree would be an extremely bad advertisement for Australia.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs had an opportunity to peruse the report of the Tariff Board on the cotton-growing industry which was received by him some weeks ago? If so, when will legislative action be taken to give effect to the board’s recommendations? In view of the conditions existing in the industry and the urgent necessity for definite action being taken, will he have the necessary legislation introduced before the House rises ?
– The report is at present receiving the earnest consideration of the Government.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has stated on several occasions, in reply to questions, that the report of the Tariff Board, in relation to the cotton industry, is being considered. I, therefore, bring to his notice the following telegram that I have received from Mr. J. Beck, Central Queensland representative on the Queensland Cotton Pool Board : -
Please urge Government publish Tariff Board’s report and take necessary action before Parliament rises. Cotton-growers most anxious about the matter.
Will the Minister say whether, before the House rises, the report will be published and made available, and the consideration he is giving to the matter will reach finality, so that definite action of some sort may be taken by the Government?
– I remind the honorable member that it is not the practice, in replying to questions, to indicate the policy of the Government.
– In view of the fact that the Tariff Board’s report on the cotton industry was received by the Minister for Trade and Customs a fortnight ago, and that he has stated in reply to an earlier question to-day that he does not feel obliged to indicate the Government’s policy on this matter, will he, having regard to the urgent representations of the Queensland Cotton Pool Board, and the cotton-growers themselves, take steps to have the Tariff Board’s report published, and made available as early as possible? Will he treat this matter as urgent, with a view to having action taken before the House rises?
– I have nothing to add to my previous reply.
– The newspapers report that the Prime Minister, when addressing the conference of the Country Press Association in Canberra, stated that Australia had no serious problems to face. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether that is the reason why the Government now proposes to close Parliament for some months, although the session commenced only in February.
– I did not make the statement attributed to me; I said that Australia has no serious problems in comparison with those of other countries. That statement has no bearing upon the sittings of this Parliament.
– In February I received a letter asking me to interview the Minister for Home Affairs in furtherance of an application by a Russian, who is a naturalized subject of Palestine, for admission to Australia. The applicant has comfortable means, and several wellknown citizens of Sydney are prepared to act as bondsmen for his future conduct and welfare. He is an electrical engineer and is anxious to join his brothers and sisters in Australia. I communicated with the Minister for Home Affairs and received the following reply: -
In view of the necessity that exists for limiting the number of aliens who may now be admitted to the Commonwealth, it has been found necessary in respect of certain classes, including Palestinians, to confine the issue of landing permits to such cases where application is made by residents of Australia for the admission of very close relatives, such as their respective wives, parents and children, but not including brothers.
I direct attention to an interview with Trotsky, cabled from London and published in this morning’s newspapers. In the course of it he is reported to have said -
The day was not far distant when Britain would be forced to knock at the door of Russia. Britain was in danger of a fatal push from America. Once America made up with Russia Britain’s outlook would be very cloudy. Russia required a foreign market. Whether it is Britain or America was immaterial, but it must be one or the other.
– The honorable member must ask a question, and not debate the matter.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that a male Russian who is a naturalized British subject of Palestine cannot obtain a permit to land in Australia to join members of his family already resident here? As negotiations are taking place to bring about a rapprochement between Great Britain and Russia, is it not unwise to debar Russians from entering Australia?
– I am not fully aware of the circumstances of the particular case to which the honorable member has referred ; but I point out to him that the Department of Home Affairs, in its administration of the law, merely carries out the accepted policy of Australia when it limits the number of persons not of British nationality whom it allows to enter this country.
Circulation of Amending Legislation
– In the future, after the Treasurer has brought to the secondreading stage any legislation imposing new taxation or designed to amend the existing taxation laws, will he allow at least ten days to elapse before he proceeds further with it, so that it may be circulated throughout the various States, and thus provide an opportunity for representations to be made with respect to it?
– Whenever a taxation measure is brought down, the practice is to send copies of it to the various chambers of commerce throughout Australia. They have asked specially that this be done; but any other body can obtain a copy if it applies for it. At times, of course, it has been found impossible to allow that interval of time, but an endeavour is always made to do so.
Employment of Boys at Night.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that recently, in his department, the practice has grown up of employing, as telephone attendants, at night time, boys who are engaged in other employment during the day? If so, is it the intention of the department to continue the practice?
– I remind the honorable member that this is not a recent innovation, but on the contrary has been the practice for some time. It is the only means by which a continuous service can be given at places where there is very little traffic. The number of calls averages only about two a night.
– About three weeks ago, in reply to a question that I asked, the Prime Minister said that he proposed, at an early date, to mate to the House a statement regarding broadcasting services. Is he yet in a position to make that statement? If he is not, does he propose to make a statement before the House rises ?
– I do not recollect having said that I proposed to make a state ment on broadcasting services. The honorable gentleman must have misunderstood the reply I made to him. However, I shall look the matter up.
– On the 6th March last I asked the Prime Minister the following questions -
To which the right honorable gentleman replied -
Will the right honorable gentleman endeavour to have the report tabled as speedily as possible?
– I think that the previous question of the honorable member was framed to suggest that I had declared in the House that I would make a full statement on the matter at an early date. I do not consider that the answer which he has read quite bears out that interpretation. Recently, in my reply to another question in this House, I gave the gist of the report of the Advisory Committee on Wireless Broadcasting, and really epitomized the recommendations made by that committte. The Government has indicated that it proposes to give effect to those recommendations.
Decision of Court of Disputed Returns
– On Friday last I asked the Prime Minister a question in relation to the decision of the Court of Disputed Returns on a petition by two Victorian Senate candidates. Apparently the honorable gentleman did not fully understand my meaning, so I shall re-state the question. He said that the court had given its decision upon an act passed by this Parliament, and that the Government did not intend to interfere with it. He has now had an opportunity to peruse the judgment. In view of the fact that it was based upon the manda- tory terms of the statute, irrespective of the intention of the electors, and that the matter, therefore, comes back to us for consideration, will he take steps immediately to see that the will of the electors is given effect?
– I shall have the judgment of the court perused, and then consider whether it discloses anything which would show that the act passed by this Parliament does not carry out the intention of Parliament. If the Government comes to that conclusion, it will consider whether it is desirable to amend the act.
– The available accommodation on the railway train between Adelaide and Kalgoorlie is quite inadequate to the demands of travellers, and as accommodation may be reserved three weeks in advance, business people who use the line are often put to considerable inconvenience as their arrangements make it impracticable for them to fix a definite date for their travelling very far ahead. At present, a service of only three trains a week is given, a number no greater than that which catered for the passenger traffic on the transcontinental line three or four years ago. As this is Western Australia’s centenary year, and it is anticipated that the passenger traffic to that State will be greatly increased on the occasion of the centenary celebrations, will the Minister consider the advisability of increasing the service to at least four trains a week, and put on even more trains should the traffic warrant it?
– I shall go into the matter with the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways, and see what action can be taken along the lines suggested.
– Will the Minister also consider the advisability of giving effect to the proposal which has been before his department, to run sleeping cars on the broad-gauge line as far as Terowie, so that the accommodation provided on that portion of the route may be improved ?
– I shall see that that matter also receives consideration.
– During my last visit to
Sydney I was waited upon by certain people in regard to the payment of oldage pensions. A Swede, naturalized in New Zealand, lodged an application with the Sydney branch of the Pensions Department for payment of the old-age pension, and was told that he was not eligible. Is it not a fact that once a person has become a naturalized subject in any of His Majesty’s dominions, his naturalization, as the result of a reciprocal arrangement, is recognized by all the other dominions?
– I am not prepared to state off-hand the effect of the naturalization laws of New Zealand; but, until recent years, our own naturalization law operated only within Australia, and did not confer upon a person naturalized in this country, the status of a British subject when he was in another of His Majesty’s dominions. It is likely that the position is as the honorable member has stated; but if he will acquaint me with the full particulars, I shall examine the matter further.
Representation of Primary Industries
– Last week the Prime Minister indicated that he would give consideration to the matter of the representation of Western Australian wool, wheat and fruit interests at the conference concerning overseas shipping freights. Has the right honorable gentleman come to any determination upon the matter; if so, what course does he intend to take?
– I am not in a position to say exactly what representation Western Australia will have in the matter, but I am taking steps to try to bring about the necessary representation. I did not reply to the honorable member’s previous question by promising to arrange for wool, wheat, and fruit interests to be represented; I merely said that, because of its peculiar geographical circumstances, I would consider the matter of some representation of Western Australia.
– The Sun-News Pictorial of Saturday, the 16th March, reports -
NoGrant for South Australia.
Canberra, Friday. - The Leader of the Government (Senator Sir George Pearce) told
Senator O’Halloran (Labour), in the Senate to-day that South Australia could not receive a special grant from the Commonwealth during the present financial year, as no provision had been made to it in the budget.
The matter would be considered when the 1930-1 budget was being prepared, he said. The report of the South Australian Disabilities Commission was not available yet.
Will the Minister inform the House whether South Australia is to wait until the year after next before action is taken by the Government in respect of the disabilities from which that State. is suffering as a result of federation?
– Members of the Government have repeatedly said that this matter will be dealt with when the report is received from the royal commission which is inquiring into it.
– In view of the reply which has been given by the Treasurer to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), that the Government is now awaiting the report of the South Australian Disabilities Commission, will the Prime Minister, seeing that this matter is of vital importance to the State of South Australia, get in touch with the members of the commission at once, and see whether they cannot expedite the preparation of their report?
– As I have already stated, I have made representations on the subject to the members of the royal commission, and I have no doubt that the report will be received almost immediately. It is quite obvious that the reply quoted as having been given by the Leader of the Government in the Senate contains a misprint, or some other mistake has occurred in publishing it, because the Government has made it clear all along that it will consider this matter in relation to the finances of the year 1929-1930, if the report of the royal commission is received in time, and there is no doubt but that the report will be received in time
– Having regard to the inaction on the part of the Attorney-General’s Department concerning the liability of the northern collieryowners to prosecution, will the Attorney-
General say why such very different treatment was meted out to a returned soldier named McDowell for an offence committed by him while he was in the employ of the Federal Capital Commission ? The circumstances surrounding the charges were made known through the press to the public three weeks before the Law Department acted.
– I have no knowledge of the circumstances surrounding Major McDowell’s case other than that, when certain facts were brought before me, I considered them, and decided to prosecute.
– Will the Minister for Works and Railways inform the House when it is expected that the report of the Advisory Committee, which is considering matters in relation to the Hume Weir, will be received ? Years ago it was proposed to construct a dam on the Goulburn River, which dam, if completed, would have submerged the town of Yea. As aresult of that proposal, the town has suffered severe depression from which it has not yet recovered. The question has now been raised whether the Government will complete the Hume reservoir to the full capacity or whether it will stop something short of that. If the dam is raised to its full height, the town of Tallangatta will be submerged. If not, the town will be left as it is. In view of the suspense in which residents of the town are left in the meantime, will the Minister take steps to hasten the presentation of the report of the Advisory Committee ?
– The report of the River Murray Advisory Committee has not yet been received, and I cannot say when it will come to hand.
– Some time ago I asked the Postmaster-General a question relating to telegraph stations in the towns of Mein, Musgrave and McDonnell. Can he inform me when the information will be available?
– Reports on this matter have to be received from the north of Queensland, and it takes some time to collect the information, and have it sent down. I have not yet received the report.
– (By leave.)- I wish to make a statement regarding the voting of honorable members on this side of the House at recent divisions. In yesterday’s edition of the Sydney Sunday Pictorial is a statement dealing with the repatriation issues raised by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). The article is headed “ Election not wanted, “ and proceeds -
A Government defeat on a soldier issue would not necessarily mean an election ; unless, of course, Mr. Green’s threatened action, failing full satisfaction from Sir Neville Howse on the repatriation issue, took the form of an amendment in committee to the Supply Bill of a reduction of the £5,000,000 odd vote, by £1.
This carried would amount to a censure motion which no Government could afford to ignore.
Should it come to that - and it is doubtful if it will - it would probably be found that a sufficient number of Labour members would absent themselves from the division.
Labour is not in the election mood.
When at one period tilings looked bad for the Government during the week on an issue in the Tariff Board Bill several Labour members were “ conveniently “ absent from the vote - a vote that might easily have embarrassed every one.
I have a copy of Hansard before me covering the period mentioned, and containing the relevant division lists. I have also analysed the pair book, and these documents bear out what I am about to say : The Labour party has voted in full strength on all important issues. There were only three divisions taken upon the Tariff Bill. The first was on the 13th March, and is recorded on page 1135 of Mansard. It shows that the Labour party voted in full strength on that occasion. On the same date, another division was taken, recorded on page 1137, and again all Labour members voted. The third division was taken also on the 13th March, and is recorded on page 1159. When we refer to the division list on that occasion, we find that the names of all Labour members are again recorded. If the pressman who is responsible for this article was alluding to the pairs which were arranged on those occasions, it is only necessary to point out that we did pair with some honorable members on the other side in cases of sickness on one side or both. So long as I am whip of my party, I hope that it will be possible to arrange pairs in case of the illness either of members themselves, or of members of their family. The article is grossly misleading.
– It is worse than that.
– I am putting it mildly, because if I used stronger language the Speaker might check me. It appears to me that a journalist who could publish a statement like that, must do so with intent to mislead. I cannot conceive of any occupant of the press gallery being ignorant of what occurs in regard to divisions. To put it mildly, the newspaper statement is distinctly at variance with the truth, and I am confident that that view will be borne out by honorable members on the other side who act as whips. I do not think that any intelligent and alert member of the press gallery would make such an infamous statement as that to which I have directed attention.
Appointment op Mr. Broughton Edge.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1. (o) Mr. Broughton Edge arrived in Australia on 30th April, 1928; (&) he left Australia on 20th November, 1928.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I have never made such a statement as suggested in the question, but I have on various occasions pointed to the obligation on the wine-makers to organize their industry so as to ensure that there would be a market for Australian wine, which would enable the grapegrowers to receive a reasonable price for their grapes. I have also pointed out, on many occasions, that the object of the Government in the payment of a bounty upon wine exported was primarily to assist the grape-growers and not the winemakers, and that the Government would not pay a bounty to the wine-nnakers unless a reasonable price were paid to the growers for their grapes.
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
In view of the opinion of the Public Accounts Committee that the existing freight charges on the Federal Territory railway are unfair and unjustifiable, will the Government take early action to adopt the committee’s recommendation that through freight rates from Sydney to Canberra be charged to Canberra residents, and thus relieve them of the heavy burden which they have now to carry in this connexion?
– The matter is at present the subject of negotiation between the Commonwealth and the New South Wales Railways Commissioners.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and the honorable member will be advised as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Revenue from Rents.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to his reply to the question by the honorable member for Wakefield that Australia House, London, costs £139,988 per annum, will he inform the House - (a) what amount of revenue is derived in the form of rents, &c. ; (b) what are the names of the tenants, and the amount which each pays; and (c) is the best use possible being made of the available space?
– The information is being obtained and a reply will be communicated to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the total amount of war loans
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
Exchange Balances of Trading Banks
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
With reference to the fact that under the Commonwealth Bank Act the trading banks have to settle their exchange balances between each other by cheque on the Commonwealth Bank -
. What is the sum total of the amounts of money which the trading banks have to hold at their credit with the Commonwealth Bank to meet this liability?
Does the Commonwealth Bank allow the trading banks any interest on this amount?
Is this money used by the Commonwealth Bank as part of its cash, or as part of its Australian notes, or as part of its investments in interestbearing securities, or in advances and discounts ?
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– Inquiries will be made, and a reply will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– Arrangements have been made for the quarantine station at Darwin to be utilized as a lazarette. Before the lepers can be transferred from the present lazarette to the existing quarantine station, a new quarantine station must be erected. The preparation of plans for the new quarantine station has been in hand for some time. It is anticipated that the work of construction will be commenced at an early date.
Use of Official Cabs for Private Purposes
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
Under what conditions are Federal Capital Commission employees permitted to use Commission cars for private purposes?
– Officers to whom special duty cars are issued are permitted to use such cars for private purposes for a total distance not exceeding 15 miles per week in return for their special services as drivers and keeping such cars in reasonable order. Officers to whom special duty cars are issued may also use such cars for private purposes in excess of the allowance of 15 miles per week upon payment of 6d. per mile, except that no such cars may be taken outside the Territory without special permission. The use of a Commission car for private purposes in any other circumstances must be with the approval of the Commission.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– I am advised that the vessel in question has not yet been salvaged, but that indentured divers have removed certain ballast from the vessel by permission of the Government Resident at Darwin, who conferred with the secretary of the local union, who agreed with him that the only white diver available at that place was fully employed and that the white labour available was not equipped to perform the work in question.
Transport of School Children
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The figures up to the 31st December, 1927, are as follow: - Sheep, 99,243,316; cattle, 11,608,556. 3.(a) Great Britain - Sheep, 24,607,752; cattle, 7,485,690.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information sought is not available, as no separate record of the importation of oregon timber is kept.
Arrivals and Destination of Migrants
– On the 15th March the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) asked me the following question, upon notice: -
What number of immigrants arrived in each of the States and from what countries did they arrive for the year 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927 and 1928?
I am now in a position to furnish the following information : -
The following paper was presented: -
Child Endowment or Family Allowances - Report of theRoyal Commission.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill presented by Mr. Paterson, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at 11 a.m.
.- I move-
That, in accordance with the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-21, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, for investigation and report, viz.: - Development of the Civil Aerodrome at Mascot, New South Wales.
In 1921 the Commonwealth acquired a site at Mascot, to be used as a civil aerodrome to serve the City of Sydney. Certain works in the nature of levelling, grading and minor drainage, have been effected to permit the area being used for the purpose for which it was acquired. Several inexpensive buildings have also been erected for the housing of aircraft and to facilitate the development of civil aviation. Civil flying activities at Mascot have, within the last few years, developed to a remarkable degree, and it is now essential that the aerodrome be improved in keeping with the increased importance of the establishment. A comprehensive scheme for the development of the aerodrome has, therefore, been worked out in collaboration with the Department of Works. This scheme provides for the extension of the landing area and its improvement by grading and drainage. An area is to be set aside for the erection of buildings by the Commonwealth and by private aviation concerns, and this area is to be developed and provided with properly surfaced areas to facilitatethe operation of aircraft. The scheme provides for the erection of certain essential buildings, as well as for engineering services, such as water supply for fire and domestic purposes, sewerage, roads and footpaths. A portion of the property, suitably located, is to be set aside for use by the public visiting the aerodrome, and this area is to be developed to make it fit for this purpose. The estimated cost of the developments covered by this proposal is £36,000. In accordance with the provisions of the act I now lay the plans and specifications on the table.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from15th March (vide page 1313), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I desire to take advantage of this opportunity to make a few remarks concerning the visit of the Empire Parliamentary Delegation to Canada, towards the end of last year. The impression sometimes exists that these exchange visits of parliamentarians are mere pleasure jaunts, but nothing could be further from the truth. I am strongly of the opinion that the meeting of representatives of the various parliaments of the Empire must have had a beneficial effect, as they were able to obtain a great deal of information which will be of use to the countries from which they came. Opportunity is always given, and freely accepted, to discuss problems affecting the various countries represented, and I feel sure that this exchange of opinions must be followed by good results. It might be of interest to honorable members to know that the delegation consisted of 53 members, of whom 20 came from the United Kingdom, eight from the Union of South Africa, four from New Zealand, four from India, four from the Irish Free State, two from Newfoundland, two from Malta, one from Rhodesia, and eight from the Commonwealth of Australia. Although all shades of political opinion were represented, the greatest goodwill and harmony prevailed among the members of the delegation throughout the tour. The delegation travelled from Southampton by the Empress of France, and landed at Quebec, from which city they travelled through each of the provinces of Canada, until they arrived at Vancouver, in British Columbia. Naturally, the tour was of great interest, and of great educational value to all. The Government of the Dominion of Canada and all the Provincial Parliaments extended the greatest hospitality to the delegation, and great kindness was shown by the members of the Canadian Club and Dominion citizens generally.
Many conferences were held in the provinces, at each of which it was asked that there should be a candid expression of opinion by the speakers. For instance, on one occasion we discussed the subject of migration as it affected Canada, Australia and South Africa, and I feel sure that as a result, the British delegates understood more clearly the problems of the various dominions than they had previously. They now realize the impossibility of transferring large numbers of people from Great Britain without first making adequate arrangements for their reception.
Another subject discussed was that of Empire marketing. “We were fortunate in having as a member of the delegation, Mr. Tom Johnson, a Labour member of the House of Commons, from whom we received first-hand information concerning the past operations of the board and what was being attempted in the future.
– Is the honorable member referring to the Empire Marketing Board ?
– Yes. At Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, I had an opportunity of discussing trade relations between Canada and Australia. Before leaving Canberra, I obtained from the Department of Trade and Customs particulars of our exports to Canada, and of importations from Canada to the Commonwealth. These figures are surprising, and show that, roughly, for every £4 worth of goods we buy from Canada, that Dominion buys only 20s. worth from us. The statement from which I intend quoting covers the years 1922-23 to 1926-27 inclusive. I do not propose to weary honorable members by’ giving the figures in detail, but I wish to direct their attention to the fact that in the year 1926-27, Canada bought from Australia goods valued at £1,171,687 and we purchased from Canada goods to the value of £4,324,421. In the preceding year the trade balance was adverse to an even greater extent.
– What were the principal items in our imports from Canada in 1926-27?
– Metal and metal manufactures, other than machinery, totalled £2,075,000; stationery and paper manufactures £790,000; and foodstuffs «f animal origin, £492,000. Our princi pal exports to Canada included sugar, the produce of cane, £869,717; dried fruits, £76,000; and hides and skins £39,000. While we were at Victoria, I made a careful investigation of the trade position as disclosed in the Canadian Year-Booh, and found that Canada was purchasing from foreign countries a considerable range of commodities which could be obtained from Australia. For instance, the Dominion imports skins and hides from Belgium, meat from the Argentine and dried fruits from Spain and Greece. In my interviews with prominent Canadian commercial men I directed their attention to the possibility of obtaining a larger proportion of their needs in the commodities mentioned from Australia so that we could improve Australia’s trade with the Dominion.
In the course of our tour we visited theToronto Jubilee Exhibition, which was stated to be the largest trade display of its kind in the world. The exhibition covered an area of 360 acres, and it is estimated that 2,250,000 people paid for admission during the fortnight that it was open. I was astounded at the poor display made there by Australia. Australians were, of course, interested in the Commonwealth exhibit, and I am sure that those who saw it must have been sadly disappointed by the inadequate representation of our products, comprising samples of wool, a few dozen bottles of tomatosauce, a few tins of preserved fruits and a limited assortment of other products. Not only was the Australian exhibit a small one, but the labels on the tins and bottles were faded. Altogether, it was an exceedingly poor advertisement for the Commonwealth. I made myself known to the officer in charge, and asked for an explanation, but he was unable to give mc any information. He confessed that he had never been in Australia, and knew nothing about this country, in addition to which he was not even supplied with literature, that might have been of some assistance to casual callers at the pavilion. The exhibit would not have done justice to the poorest of our country shows, and it placed Australia in a most humiliating position in the eyes of all visitors to the exhibition. It was in marked contrast to the splendid displays of New Zealand and South
Africa. Those countries were represented by some attractive exhibits and the attendants in charge had ample supplies of well-printed literature concerning the products of our sister dominions. Altogether their exhibits were a credit to them. I have no doubt that the Australian display cost the Government several thousands of pounds, and I hope that precautions will be taken to insure that, if this country is represented at future dominion exhibitions, it will stage an exhibit that will do justice to the Commonwealth.
Canada, as all honorable members know, has been generously blessed by nature. It has great rivers and lakes, and as the result of the efficient development of water and land transportation systems the markets of the world are brought almost to the producers’ door. Canada has wonderful mineral resources, extensive forests of merchantable timber, and millions of acres of fertile land. According to the Canadian Year-Booh, the wheat production of the dominion in 1900 was 47,868,000 bushels, and in 1926 it had increased to 409,811,000 bushels - the product of 22,987,000 acres. There are 4,400 grain elevators with a storage capacity of 281,746,000 bushels, and it is claimed that the dominion is the world’s largest exporter of grain. I am sure it is the desire of all Australians that Canada, endowed as it is with this rich legacy, will continue as a dominion in the British Empire, though there is no doubt that the United States of America is pursuing a policy of peaceful penetration which may eventually weaken the bonds between Canada and the Mother Country and the sister dominions.
Canada is covered with a blanket of snow for three or four months of the year, but despite this climatic handicap, its primary and secondary industries are developing with astonishing rapidity. The extent to which it is utilizing its almost limitless resources in water-power, is attracting world-wide attention. It is stated that £120,000,000 is invested in electric water-power plants and transmission lines. This wonderful supply of cheap electricity is making possible the expansion of great industrial enterprises to their fullest extent. By paying, special attention to quality in production, Canadian producers and manufacturers are establishing greater confidence in the markets of the United States of America and also in Great Britain. Canadian grain, wool, meat, butter and fruits are commanding higher prices as a result of the improvement of methods of production, transportation and refrigeration.
The special attention given to the tourist traffic is worthy of attention in this country. Providing for the tourist traffic is recognized as one of the great businesses of Canada. The two railway companies, the Canadian National and the Canadian Pacific, have established wonderful hotels for the accommodation of tourists, and have expended large sums of money in developing what are regarded as the best scenic resorts in the world. One can never forget a visit to such places as Jasper Park, that jewel Lake Louise, and beautiful Banff. The provinces are expending ever-increasing appropriations in building specially constructed roads for motor traffic. In 1926 the income from tourist traffic amounted to about £70,000,000. Of course Canada is fortunate in having a population of 120,000,000 people just across its border in the United States of America. On the day that I visited Niagara Falls, the local newspaper reported that no fewer than 80,000 cars had crossed the border during the 24 hours. From what the Australian members of the Parliamentary Delegation to Canada saw and heard whilst they were in the dominion, the Commonwealth Government is to be congratulated upon having appointed an Australian representative in Canada. There is no doubt that he can do very good work there, not only in sending to the Government first-hand information which will be official, but also in making suggestions for the development of Australian industries. “We are all anxious to develop our natural resources, and we can do it far better and help to make our industries the last word in efficiency if we take advantage of the lessons we learn from other countries. We are unfortunate in having in our midst persons who attempt to decry certain of our industries, and in this connexion I wish to make some references to the sugar industry of Queensland.
The renewal of the embargo upon the importation of sugar has received the general approval of the people of Queensland, where the vital interests at stake arc more fully realized than in the southern parts of Australia. The embargo may be defended, not only on the narrow ground of State interests, but also on the wider issue, the maintenance of a grout primary and, at the same time, secondary industry in which every State in the Commonwealth is interested. Some critics refuse to recognize that the sugar industry is responsible for the maintenance of a large white population in the tropical belt of the north-east of Australia. Speaking at Cairns a few months ago, the Prime Minister, who has travelled a great deal through Queensland, and has made an extremely close and critical investigation into this industry, said -
Much of thu adverse criticism had arisen from a complete misunderstanding of the position and a lack of knowledge as to the value of the industry to Australia as a whole, lt was a unique industry and any action taken hy the Commonwealth Government in connexion with it had no relation whatever to any fiscal policy of the Government, or which might bc pursued at tiny given moment. The embargo had not been granted to prevent outside sugar from entering the country in accordance with any defined fiscal requirements, but had been placed upon overseas sugar solely in order to maintain and ensure the future safety of the White Australia policy, to which every Australian was pledged.
These are weighty reasons amply justifying the Government in the action which it has taken.
– How is it that Australia can export sugar to Canada?
– During the last four or five years there has been an overproduction of sugar in Queensland. It amounted to 208,000 tons last year. This was sold at a loss so far as the industry was concerned, but was responsible for bringing £5,000,000 into Australia.
– Then it did not pay for the cost of production?
– No; and the loss fell solely on the sugar grower ; the taxpayers of Australia not being asked to contribute one penny towards it. The value of Australian sugar sold overseas during the last four years has been £7,000,000 ; that is all so much new money for Australia. Critics of the sugar industry should read the 27th annual report of the Director of the Bureau of Sugar Experimental
Stations, because it supplies convincing evidence that the industry is carrying out its obligation to maintain itself at the highest point of efficiency. In the ten years from 1899 to 1908, the average annual yield of cane per acre was 14.7C tons, from which was extracted 1.60 tons of sugar. For the second period of ten years from 1909 to 1918 the average annual yield of cane per acre increased to 17.37 tons, from which was extracted 1.99 tons of sugar. In the eight years from 1919 to 1926, the average annual yield of cane per acre, owing to dry seasons, fell to 16.54 tons, but the yield of sugar per acre improved, being 2.14 tons. It will be seen that during this third period one ton of sugar was extracted from 7.72 tons of cane. These figures compare very favorably with the sugar production in any other part of the world and this excellent result, so far as Queensland is concerned, has been due to the use of improved methods of processing ami the judicious planting of richer varieties of cane.
The progress flint has been made in the sugar industry is remarkable. It is an achievement that other industries, both primary and secondary, might’ reasonably be expected to emulate. The sugar industry provides employment for a great army of men. Critics occasionally refer to the sugargrowers of Australia as sugar-barons, but the growers claim that only 9 per centare liable to pay income tax, and it is a fact that 95 per cent, of them are working farmers. We are sometimes told that the industry has been taken over by Italians. As a matter of fact, not more than 15 per cent, of the growers are Italians; but these people are permitted to come into Australia, and the fact that they are growing sugar cane is no reason for criticizing the industry adversely. On one occasion, when I was in the north, I made inquiries from stationmasters, policemen and business men, and I was told that the Italian was honest, that he paid his way, and that he was law abiding and a hard worker. In fact, an official of the Australian Workers Union told me that his organization admitted these Italians as members of the union. He said that the only fault he could find with them was that they worked too hard.
– Who told the honorable member that?
– It was not an honorable member who sits in this chamber.
– Does the honorable member refer to the State president of the Australian Workers Union?
– No. The value of the sugar produced in Australia is said to be £11,289,000. Of the total area of 888,872 acres under sugar cane in Australia 269,509 acres, or 93 per cent., is in Queensland. There are 28,000 men employed in sugar mills and refineries and in the cane-fields. Surely this is one of Australia’s greatest industries. Its wages bill amounts to £6,000,000 a year. These facts, I should think, are ample evidence of the importance of the industry to the Commonwealth, and surely no one would thoughtlessly and without making full inquiries do anything that might tend to destroy it.
– Is any one likely to make an attack on the industry?
– I do not expect any
One in this chamber to make an attack on it, because there are so many opportunities to make the facts known to honorable members. But the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) knows that a few weeks ago a very influential journal in Sydney made a most determined attack on the industry, and the only way in which the people of Queensland can disarm criticism is by forestalling it.
From figures supplied by the Department of Trade and Customs, it appears that, with the exception of meat, the price of sugar has shown a smaller increase than that of any other commodity usually taken into account in reckoning the cost of living. The comparative figures from 1914 are -
Those figures prove conclusively that the increased price of sugar has not been an important factor in raising the cost of living. The fact must be remembered also that the sugar industry has been subject to the same laws as have been responsible for the higher costs of production in other industries; it, like others, has had to meet variations of the Arbitration Court’s awards, which generally have shown an upward tendency.
It is appropriate to mention that important subsidiary industries are developing out of the production of sugar. Many honorable members are probably acquainted with the distillery in the Mackay district, which is producing and marketing power alcohol. By this means, use is being made of millions of gallons of molasses for which, formerly, there was little or no use. This development will also allow of the growth of crops on poorer lands unsuited for the production of cane for sugar purposes.
Another new industry is the (manufacture of a building board known as “ Celotex,” from the megass or fibre of the sugar cane. These two industries will provide increased employment and further assist in the settlement of our tropical areas.
From 1911 to 1921, the year in which the last census was taken, the population of North Queensland increased from 134,412 to 179,S01, equivalent to nearly 39 per cent., whilst the increase for the whole of Australia was only 22 per cent. There are two towns each with a population of over 20,000, and three others each with over 6,000 residents. North Queensland is the only tropical country in the world in which the field work is done by white labour. Last week, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) spoke of the possibility of developing North and Central Australia by white labour, and said that he had reared a large family in the north, all of whom are strong and healthy. That statement corroborates the testimony of Dr. J. S. C. Elkington, Director of Tropical Hygiene of the Commonwealth Department of Health, who, reporting on life in the Queensland tropics, said -
The population of the north is increasing faster, proportionately, than that of any other part of Australia, and the prosperity of the north is undeniable. Careful observations show that the northern families neither die out nor degenerate, nor do they show any evidence of decadence up to the third (the present) generation. The tropic-born woman is quite as healthy as the woman born elsewhere. Her children at school age are taller and heavier than, and at least as mentally able as, children born elsewhere in Australia. Life Insurance records show that their chances of longevity are rather greater than elsewhere in Australia. Industrial records show that they can outwork any non-British race in the sugar fields under the ordinary present conditions.
T am sure the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) can confirm that statement. I again congratulate the Government on the renewal of the sugar embargo. The industry invites the closest investigation, feeling sure that the results will justify honorable members in approving of the action of the Government.
Banana growing is another important Queensland industry which during the last few months has been subjected to an unprecedented tirade of abuse, probably for propaganda purposes. Newspaper paragraphs have challenged the quality of the fruit, and many threats to injure the industry have been made. There are no grounds for this wholesale condemnation, which is suspected of being engineered by certain interests. For some years past the selling agents in the southern States have been receiving about £100,000 per annum in commission and other expenses. Recently, as a result of the travels abroad of Mr. W. Ranger, general manager of the growers’ organization, suggestions to improve the method of marketing have been investigated, and to this fact the adverse propaganda is attributed. I made inquiries from the growers’ organization regarding the quality of the fruit, and asked to be informed of the quality supplied to the Melbourne markets during the first eleven months of last year. The reply from Mr. Ranger stated -
During the period in question 345,088 cases of bananas were sent to Melbourne, and out of these 860 only were condemned.
It was at our request, through the Minister for Agriculture, that the Victorian Government imposed the minimum grade standard. Both New South Wales and South Australia were also asked to gazette similar regulations, but did not accede to our request. The Victorian department charges Id. per case inspection fee for bananas entering that State.
– The bananas produced in northern New South “Wales are smaller than those grown in Queensland.
– Unfortunately bunchy-top ruined the plantations in northern New South Wales, but I understand that replanting is proceeding, and that in the early future considerable production from that part may be expected. The Queensland growers are making every effort to justify the continuance of the existing customs duty. The State Government has already established one and contemplates establishing a second, experimental farm for the purpose of testing out new varieties. The growers’ organization has secured the active assistance of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in investigating pests and diseases, and the Queensland University is conducting experiments in improved methods of ripening the fruit. For this purpose four rooms have been erected, and experiments are being carried on under the supervision of Professor Bagster. This industry is now worth at least £1,000,000 per annum to Queensland. About 18,000 acres are planted with bananas in small areas, mostly of about 5 acres, and rarely of more than 7 or 8 acres. This is entirely a small man’s industry, and as the bananas are usually planted on the slopes of hills, land is being put to profitable use which otherwise might be entirely unproductive. I feel sure that the Minister, being aware of what is now being done to establish the industry on sound lines so that it may be able to supply a high-grade fruit at a reasonable price, will discourage the attempts that are being made to misrepresent and injure it.
.- I desire to direct the attention of the House and of the people of the Commonwealth to the important subject of fuel for internal combustion engines. Petrol and oil are playing an increasingly important part in the opening up of Australia, particularly in relation to transportation and the development of power in mines, factories and workshops. These power fuels are being used more extensively every year in primary production. Transport problems are being solved by the use of the internal combustion engine, and the growing competition of motor transport is giving railway exports cause for anxiety. Whether we like it or not, “motor transport has come to stay, and T am not one who would delay its progress. It is economical, and we should welcome it, instead of trying to stave it off, as some governments have done. The use of motor vehicles in Australia is increasing at a remarkable rate, and in this respect our country now stands fifth amongst all countries. The United States of America leads with 23,253,882 motor vehicles, and is followed by Great Britain with 1,219,477; France. 960,000; Canada 939,479; Australia^ 464,225; and Germany, 422,300. Australia displaced Germany from the fifth position in 1925, but is still far from what may be termed the saturation point. Approximately there is one motor car to every twelve persons in Australia, and it is obvious that this convenience is not confined to the wealthy; it is being used for every day purposes by artisans and other ownerdrivers. The Commonwealth is already a very large consumer of oil and petrol. Iri 1927-28, 74,416,815 gallons of crude petroleum, valued at £791,766, were imported into Australia, whilst the imports of refined petroleum shale spirit, benzine, benzoline, gasoline, pentane and naphtha, amounted to 177,870,753 gallons, worth £6,087,217. The value of the crude petroleum was £791,000. These figures show that the oil and motor businesses are becoming a big factor of Australian industry. When one considers that the addition of Id. a gallon to the price of imported spirit means that the consumers pay an extra £750,000, and that the addition of 2d. involves, thom in an extra £1,500,000, the conclusion is inescapable that if the oil combine is allowed to continue its policy of gross robbery, this must ultimately have an adverse effect upon this country. For quite a long while I have displayed a keen interest in the exploitation of Australia by the oil companies of the world. A little while ago a blatant attempt was made to increase the price of petrol by 4d. per gallon, but publicity was given to the matter by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), there were widespread protests, and the attempt was resisted by the Government of the day. Had the companies been allowed to have their way they would have drawn from the people of Australia an additional £3,000,000, and the whole community would have been adversely affected, because the use of motor power is now universal in this country.
I have been following up the question of petrol supplies. At one time I hoped that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, in which the Commonwealth Government holds a majority of the shares, would be a competitor and an opponent of the oil combination; but if one can accept the available information, they are now a member of that combination and are taking part in the exploitation of the Australian people. Although the Commonwealth holds a majority of the shares, it has not a majority of the directors upon the board, and the policy of the board is dictated by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. The Government of the day foolishly allowed that company to determine the conditions under which they should participate in the establishment of great oil refineries in Australia. It may be said that, but for the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, we should now be completely at the mercy of the oil combination. In reply to that I say again that apparently there is an understanding between the British Imperial Oil Company and other powerful organizations, and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. I am informed that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited have been supplying their refined products to various oil companies. On the 28th February last, I asked the Prime Minister the following questions : -
Whether he will supply a return showing -
Whether quantities of petrol, benzine, kerosene, naphtha, and any other product or goods produced at the Commonwealth Oil Refineries or imported by that company, which have at any time been sold or delivered to any other firm or corporation, and in particular (a) the British Imperial Oil Company; (6) The Tydol Company; (c) The Golden Fleece Company; and [d) The Vacuum Oil Company?
The labels and descriptions under which such products of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries sold to other firms have been re-issued?
The values of such supplies and deliveries made at (o) the price charged by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries, and (6) current selling prices?
The amount of customs duty which would have been payable on such goods if same had been imported?
According to my information, certain companies bought petrol from the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and re-issued it under the name of “ Shell”, “ Plume “, and “ Tydol “, and also under other names.
– Where do we get the crude oil?
– The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited imports the crude petroleum, duty free, from Persia, the suppliers being the AngloPersian Oil Company. The replies which I received from the Prime Minister are altogether unsatisfactory, and I cannot accept them. They are as follow : - 1 to3. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is a trading corporation, and, except where the public interest seems to require it, it is not expedient that Ministers should be the medium for asking for information about details of the company’s business. It is not considered to bo in the public interest that the information asked for in those questions should be given.
Honorable members will see that those answers evade the point, and do not give the information that was asked for. If there is one matter which can be said to affect the public interest, it is the refining and distribution of oil in Australia, and the exploitation of our people by these companies.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Colonial Oil Refineries Limited have been a party to the evasion by other companies of the payment of duty?
– I asked to be supplied with the amount of customs duty which would have been payable if these goods had been imported. There is a duty of 3d. a gallon on all spirit imported from the United States of America and one of 2½d. a gallon on that imported through the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. I wanted t he Prime Minister to inform me whether the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited sold their refined products to the combination companies, and, if they did so, what amount of duty would have been payable if those companies had imported the refined spirit. I was told that the refined product of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is made in Australia from crude oil which is imported duty free. We all know that. I ask honorable members if they consider I have received proper replies to my questions? If the petrol which was made from the crude petroleum was liable to a duty of 3d. a gallon, the right honorable gentleman should most certainly have ascertained the quantity of refined spirit sold. As a matter of fact, about two years prior to the time when these transactions are alleged to have taken place the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited imported refined oil into Australia. If it is a fact that the combination companies are obtaining from the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, spirit made from crude oil that has been imported duty free, they have benefited to the extent of 2½. or 3d. a gallon, and the people of Australia have been losers to that extent. The question which this House has to determine is, whether such transactions by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited are in the public interest or opposed to it. Honorable members will have an opportunity, at a later stage, to indicate whether they consider it is in the public interest that these questions should be answered by the Prime Minister.
I have already said that, apparently, the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited have joined the combination. Last year, in reply to a question, I had furnished to me a return showing the net prices per imperial gallon charged by the oil companies to re-sellers, for oil delivered in bulk by road-tanker. The figures are as follow: -
Another phase upon which I could dilate is the great disparity between the tanker price on the coast of the United States of America and in the various Australian capitals. In January, 1927, the tanker price on the coast of the United States of America was 11 cents, or 5½d. ; in January. 1928, it was 9.5 cents, or 4¾d; and in July, 1928, it was 10.5 cents., or 5id. As against that the price at Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane was ls. S-Jd., or ls. 3£d. a gallon more. The handling profits are too great. Those prices were in existence prior to the inception of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries, and as the major portion of the share capital of that company was provided by the people of Australia, it was thought that its operations would protect its shareholders. That has not been so. The profit as between the tanker and the re-seller is 34d a gallon, which I hold to be too great. Not only should the Commonwealth Government thoroughly investigate the matter; it should also take charge of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries, and see that that company is run in the interests of the people who supply the greater amount of its capital, and not used as a pup of the oil combine. The information which I have placed before the House warrants a reply from the Prime Minister as to whether the Commonwealth Oil Refineries has joined the combine; whether there has been an evasion of duty, to the profit of the private companies; and whether it is not incumbent upon the Government to make an investigation to discover if the people of Australia are being exploited by the oil refineries in respect of the price charged for motor fuels.
.- That this debate upon the financial proposals should have developed largely into a tariff discussion is not without some public significance. It indicates two things. First the recognition that at bottom our financial system rests upon and develops out of our fiscal policy. Secondly, since Parliament reflects public feeling, it is an indication that the consideration of the tariff policy of the country is emerging from the position of secondary importance to which it has been relegated for a long time. There is no doubt that tariff matters have not received sufficient consideration, and have not been brought properly before the public, because of the traditional convention that they are to be regarded as non-party matters. The consequence has been that tariff matters have never, iu the history of our federal politics, been properly examined or voted upon by the people as a major subject; they have always been obscured by other issues. To-day people are beginning to demand a further consideration of the position, and until tariff matters are made a major subject and becomes a vital issue in party politics, upon which governments may be made or unmade, they will not take their proper place in our deliberations. I believe that that development has to come, and that we can no longer push aside these matters as having no party significance, and therefore as not likely to be voted upon by the public.
Another thing has emerged from the situation. It has been rather amusing to witness the political courtship, which is of quite an interesting and enterprising character, that has been proceeding for some time. The object of that courtship has been to gain the favour of that coy, but certainly not disingenuous lady, the Australian manufacturing industry. She, like most ladies, endeavours to keep all her courtiers on the string, and grants favours, here and there, at intervals, being unwilling to enter into any permanent combination with any of them until she can be quite sure which will be to her greatest advantage. During this debate we have witnessed an open bidding for her favour from both sides of the House. It is an open secret that at the last general election the manufacturing interests of Australia supported by financial aid the efforts of the Labour party to gain a majority in this House, and it has been edifying and very amusing to see the worthy way in which the members of the Labour party have fulfilled their side of the contract and, at all events during this debate, have tried to “ produce the goods.” It would appear that their wholehearted advocacy of a high and even a prohibitive tariff system has been given more or less with the tongue in the cheek; for honorable members of the Labour party know very well that many of the advantages which they claim are not realized either in this country or in that other country which has been quoted as a worthy example of the system. We have heard much about the glorious paradise, wealthy and prosperous, into which the United States of America has evolved through the use of high tariffs. Now, the following passage has been taken from the Labour Daily of the 2nd of this month, and I presume that honorable members opposite are not prepared to disown the authority of such a valuable organ. It reads -
If high tariffs alone were capable of solving the economic causes of unemployment, and to lead to the emancipation of labour, the United States of America should bc a veritable workers’ paradise, for, coupled with a tariff wall against outsiders, that country has the largest and wealthiest home market of any country on earth, and also has an army of unemployed fluctuating between 3,000,000 and :’i,000,000, with millions more on part time mid casual employment.
That is strikingly borne out by a recent statement which emanated from New York itself, as reported in the Canberra Times of the 5th September, 1928. It is -
A Springfield (Illinois) message states that the secretary of the American Federation of Labour, Mr. Frank Morrison, told a Labour Day demonstration : “We should not boast of <mr country as a land of prosperity and opportunity, with unemployment at its present stage.” Using the estimates of the United States of America Labour Department, Mr. Morrison places unemployment at present at :*,000,000 persons. This means that 15,000,000 persons, or approximately an eighth of the population aro - not continually assured of food and shelter. Such conditions offer a fertile field of discontent based on despair. lt will be seen that the claim of the Labour party for higher and still higher duties is not based on any settled conviction in the minds of members of that party that such a system will usher in the millennium, which they claim has been brought about in the United States of America, because they know that the millenium does not exist there. Their efforts seem to be merely by way of return for favours received, and evidence a lively sense of favours to come.
The other courtier has had to look to his laurels. It would never do to let his rival get in in such a serious fashion as this. And so we find that, early in his ministerial career, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) visited Sydney and had an interview with the manufacturers, in order to assure them in the most earnest fashion that he was by no means weakening in his allegiance to them, or averse from paying that price which their courtship demanded.
– That is only a passing flirtation.
– I hope that it is. The honorable gentleman, when introducing a recent bill, made a most impassioned address, intended to dispel any suspicion of want of fidelity on his part to this coy lady. He asserted in the most vigorous terms that this Government had piled one duty on the top of another to satisfy her exorbitant demands, and proceeded to claim that the increases of protection imposed by this Government were greater than those introduced by any previous Commonwealth Government. While being amused at this competition for the lady’s favour one cannot avoid feeling that it is, perhaps, a little scandalous.
What is the attitude of the third party in this House? When the Minister for Trade and Customs was indulging in his fervid declaration of undying fidelity to the cause of high protection, I could not help regretting that his colleague, the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) was not in the chamber, for I could picture him, had be been here, sitting upon the Treasury bench with tears of quiet happiness rolling down his cheeks as he listened to his colleague’s declaration of the fidelity with which he had fulfilled the pledges which brought him to place and power. A day or two ago the Prime Minister addressed the Provincial Pres: in Canberra, and is reported to have said that-
He had endeavoured to find someone who would toll him what was the economic effect of protection.
I cannot quite understand the hesitation and doubt expressed by the Prime Minister. What about his colleague, the Treasurer, that alter ego, that political Siamese twin of his? Has he nothing to tell the Prime Minister on this subject. It is not very long ago since the Treasurer, speaking at Perth, had a great deal to say about this matter, and many very definite opinions to offer. Has he not passed them on to the Prime Minister? Has he never anything to say on these matters in Cabinet? He told the primary producers in Perth that they were prisoners in a dungeon, shut in by the tariff and the Arbitration Court. He pictured them as the victims of some horrible political Black Hole of Calcutta, shut off from air and life itself. He forgot to tell them one thing, however, that he was himself the Siráj-ud-Daulá, who had helped them to put them in that political black hole. While professing a great desire to relieve them in their difficulties, he omitted to tell them that he was the co-adjutor of the Government which increased the tariff until it stood higher than ever before, as his colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, has proudly boasted. What need, then, for the Prime Minister to say that he had nobody who could tell him of the effects of the tariff? It all seems very strange to me.
The Country party came into this Parliament with the earnest, or at least the expressed desire to reduce the tariff burdens of the country. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) has asked me what thirteen members could do in the House. If the Country party had remained on the corner benches, and had exerted its influence from there, it could have done much to fulfil the pledges it gave to the people. From that position it could have exercised its power, and made its influence felt in spite of the smallness of its numbers. But after all, we should not be too hard on them; they are only mortal men, and like the rest of us, find it hard to put service before self. When we look at the position to-day, what do we find? Out of thirteen members of the Country party, no, fewer than eight occupy positions of emolument in this Parliament. Indeed, there was one other, the late Minister for Works, but he, of course, retired of his own volition, and at his own request. Possibly that was to make room for some one else who thought that he ought to have a share in the spoils. It is true that the Country party goes on carrying resolutions about the tariff behind its party doors - strong, vigorous resolutions - and that it issues ultimatums at intervals to the Government. Although those resolutions find their way into the newspapers, we do not hear much about them on the floor of the House. They have a reply to criticizm on this point, but it is a feeble one, which will not bear examination. They say “ We cannot alter or reduce the burden which the rest of the community has put on the farmers, so we shall try to equalize things by putting an additional burden on the whole community for the sake of the farmers.” They try to salve their own consciences by putting taxation on foodstuffs, and by increasing the cost of living to the people as a whole. That is their way of honouring their pledges. I am reminded of the couplet from the Biglow Papers which says -
A marciful Providunce fashioned us holler,
O’ purpose thet we might our principles swaller.
No party in Australia has done more to drain the lifeblood of this country for its own aggrandizement than has this one. Its members go on the hustings and pose as the opponents of a high tariff; yet when elected to Parliament, help to impose one. They take part in a kind of political blood transfusion; the rest of the community is bled for the sake of the Country party. We have heard a great deal from the Treasurer about the wisdom of the Country party in declining to go out on its own, and fight its battles in the corner, as it ought to do. If it had done this, it could have gathered to itself other members of the House who would be glad to help it realize its ideals. We have heard from the Treasurer how desirable it is that the Country party should continue in alliance with the Government. He has laid emphasis upon the point that the existence ofhis party is necessary for the maintenance of sound government. The phrase is aptly chosen, and the public are realizing more and more that so far as his policy is concerned, there is more sound than substance. We have had speeches and more speeches, platitudes and promises, but we have had no performance. Compare the speeches made outside with the performances within the House, and we shall see how irreconcilable are the two. It would be fitting to apply to the Country party the epitaph which was composed for the late King Charles II., of blessed memory -
Here lies our sovereign lord the King.
Whose word no man relies on;
He never says a foolish thing,
Nor ever does a wise one.
One of the greatest statesmen of England. Lord Beaconsfield, expressed a great truth when he said - “ The British people do not like coalitions.” We all know from experience that mixed strains in animals, men or parties are not likely to run true.
– This coalition is like crossing a leghorn with an emu.
– Yes, and in that case, also, the running qualities one might think would be stronger than the fighting ones. In America, during the war, a word was coined which aptly describes this sort of government; they called it “hyphenated.” I think it would be right ro say that this is a hyphenated government.
The fiscal question is of vital importance to the people of Australia, and on this issue the hyphen in the Government appears to be undergoing a good deal of internal strain. The Country party has been accused over and over again of not fulfilling its pledges, and of not adhering to its principles in this House. In support of my statement that mixed strains rarely run true, I propose to quote from the Countryman, the official organ of the Farmers’ Union in Victoria, the union to which the Minister for Markets, the Postmaster-General, and the ex-Minister for Works and Railways all belong. Presumably they agree with what this article contains, if they are not prepared to get up and disown it. The article is illuminating as an indication of the Country party’s intentions towards the party with which it is associated in the present Government. The article is headed “Mr. Maxwell’s Wail,” and is as follows: -
While there arc those in the country who denounce the Federal Country party as occupying a position in Parliament which renders it incapable of accomplishment, there are a great many more in the city continuously bemoaning the fact that the party is becoming a too dominating factor in Federal politics, and that its wings must be clipped. Both contentions cannot be correct.
Mr. Maxwell, M.P., who at least is generally regarded as a man of considerable ability and discernment, speaking on the subject says - “ I, and those who agree with me, are very loyal to Mr. Bruce, because we regard him as undoubtedly the leader of the Nationalist party. I think, however, that Nationalism is being robbed of its significance by the Country and Labour parties. Members of the former contend they are the only ones fit to represent country interests, while the latter declares it alone is competent to represent the working class. Nationalists, whose policy is designed to maintain the interests of all sections, are being robbed of their life blood. The Nationalists should come to some definite understanding with the Country party.” “ He believed the Federal Treasurer, Dr. Page, was working to make the Country party the dominant one in the Commonwealth.”
In the face of that, there can be no further scepticism by any true countryman concerning the aim of the Federal Country party leader and his party - or of the influence which they possess.
The glaringly obvious fact - patent to every man of average intelligence - that the Nationalist party policy has not equally maintained the interests of all sections for which Mr. Maxwell declares it was designed, is entirely responsible, not only for the creation of the Country party, but for the stern necessity of that political dominance with the intended consummation of which Dr. Page is charged - and which is essential to the stabilized progress of the metropolis as well as the country.
Mr. Maxwell should welcome, not bewail, the writing on the wall.
When we realize the terms and conditions upon which the Country party came into politics; when we remember upon what they relied to secure the votes of the people, and when we look at their record since they came into the House, more especially since they joined the composite Government, we can come to no other conclusion than that mixed strains do not run true. In fact, this party cannot be called anything but a political cuckoo, which has forced its way into the nest rightly belonging to another, where it is only waiting until it becomes sufficiently strong to thrust the rightful occupant into outer darkness, and occupy the whole nest itself.
.- The bill has given members opportunities ro discuss matters of importance affecting their constituencies; but it has largely developed into a debate on the tariff. I do not intend to pursue that discussion. The measure provides for the granting of supply for some months. Evidently the Government intends to close this Parliament, and, therefore, honorable members will not be able to bring before the House matters that closely affect the people. The Opposition has declared on many occasions that it would be prepared to continue the present session for months in an effort to solve some of the serious problems that ought to be faced. During the last six weeks, no attempt has been made to deal with one of the most momentous problems that has ever, confronted Australia. Speaking on Saturday, at a dinner given in connexion with the Provincial Press Conference, the Prime Minister stated that Australia had no problems ; but surely he will admit that unemployment falls within the category of problems. It is estimated that the unemployed in this country number about 200,000 - good Australian citizens who have been out of work for months. In South Australia, numbers of single men have been unemployed for as long a period as two years, and men with families have been idle for months, owing to the railway retrenchment .scheme in that State. It is criminal to leave those men and their families to starve when a good deal could be done by this Parliament to alleviate the distress. The only opportunities, apart from the present debate, that honorable members have had to consider the problem in this Parliament have been, provided by the tabling of special adjournment motions to discuss works that could be put into operation to relieve unemployment. The South Australian Government has been forced by public opinion, and the demands of the Opposition, to summon a special session of the State Parliament shortly to deal with this vital subject. We shall soon be faced with the necessity of paying unemployment doles; but I suggest that that course could be obviated by putting public works into operation in order that the men might be profitably employed. The money that the Commonwealth and State Governments would have to pay by way of doles would be sufficient, at least, to provide interest on the capital necessary to carry out a programme of public works sufficient to absorb the unemployed. It is unfortunate that we should be forced to tell the world that this country, with a population of a little over 6,000,000, has an army of unemployed numbering 200,000. The last thing that I should like to do would be to decry Australia; but the facts have to be made known, because of the large number of immigrants constantly arriving. Every migrant takes the place of a worker already in Australia.
Some time ago, I moved the adjournment of the House to enable me to direct attention to the urgent necessity for the construction of the railway from Red Hill to Port Augusta, and, but for an unfortunate circumstance, a direction would have been given to the Government to proceed with that undertaking immediately. The work, it was esti- mated, would show a profit of £7,000 per annum, above interest and working expenses, and would give employment to a large number of men. The Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Paterson) stated that the work had not been proceeded with because the unification of gauges was being considered by the various railway commissioners of Australia. That is a very feeble excuse. It has been recommended that this railway be built on the standard gauge, and, if the whole of the work were carried out immediately, as recommended by the Public Works Committee, and if it were subsequently decided to unify the gauges throughout the Commonwealth, it would be necessary only to remove the existing line, which would have to be done at some future time. Consequently, no extra expense would be incurred if the work of building the new line were proceeded with forthwith.
Many works of a reproductive nature could have been put into operation by Parliament, thus avoiding the economicwaste due to the unemployment of a vast army of men. I advise the workers of this country to watch closely the steps of the present Government. During the last two years, many persons who were opponents of compulsory arbitration have become advocates of that system. We know that the awards of the court in key industries have proved so provocative that they have caused industrial turmoil. The coal miners are shut out from their usual employment because the coalowners will not abide by the award of the Hibble tribunal, and that adds to the ranks of the unemployed. Since this Government does nothing to alleviate the position, one is forced to the conclusion that its sole object is to bring about as much unemployment in Australia as possible, in order that effect may be given to a doctrine preached by Sir Henry Barwell, who said: “Wages must come down. The conditions of the workers are too good, and if they will not accept a reduction they must be forced to do so.” The workers have been placed in a cleft stick with regard to the awards of the court, and if the Government decides to do nothing to relieve unemployment, honorable members on this side will be justified in their suspicion as to the motive for the Government’s indifference to the problem, while its migration policy is vigorously pursued. The Prime Minister has promised to give consideration to the question that I asked him, whether the Government would subsidize the collections made in my electorate on behalf of the unemployed there. While I hope that the reply will be sympathetic, I point out that the workless do not readily ask for assistance of that kind. They have been forced to request it because the Government has not put public works into operation whereby the men could be profitably employed.
During the few weeks this House has been sitting recently, I have directed questions to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) in connexion with the petrol tax, and other honorable members have addressed questions to him on the same subject. They have asked whether persons using stationary engines, tractors, motor-boats, and even aeroplanes, and, in fact, all persons - such as dry-cleaners - who use petrol other than for road transportation purposes, might be granted a rebate on the tax collected from other than road users When the bill was under consideration, honorable members were under the impression that the tax would be imposed only upon petrol used in transport vehicles and that petrol used in farm tractors, stationary engines, and, say, fishermen’s motor boats, would be exempt. In these circumstances it can be said that money has been collected from many persons under false pretences. I trust that the Minister will give favorable consideration to the requests that have been brought before him, and that he will grant a rebate retrospective to the date when the act came into operation. It would also be of advantage to frame the regulations in such a way that petrol users will understand in what circumstances they will be liable to pay the petrol tax. I understand that in some cases a rebate has been granted to owners of aeroplanes without any effort being made to ascertain whether the fuel on which the rebate has been granted has been used solely in the aeroplanes. Some time ago the South Australian Government imposed a State petrol tax, but the Commonwealth Government contested the State Government’s power to impose such a tax and the act was declared ultra vires. The regulations under the South Australian Act were framed in such a way that the tax could readily be collected from road users, whilst the owners of tractors and stationary engines were exempt. Under the present system the owners of motor car3 who also use petrol in tractors and stationary engines are paying an unnecessarily high tax and are unable to obtain a rebate. During the last election campaign prominence was given to the Government’s road policy and notices calling for tenders for the construction of roads under the Commonwealth scheme, were prominently displayed at district council offices and post offices. Doubtless, this was done with the intention of impressing upon the electors what the Government was doing for the people; but, in effect, a good deal of the money being spent upon road construction is being contributed by the petrol users. In South Australia in the year 1926-27, £154,722 and in 1927-2S, £256,658, or a total of £411,380 was expended under the federal roads scheme. The petrol users in South Australia paid in the form of tax on petrol during 1926-27, £131,967; and in 1927-28, £181,202 in addition to a chassis tax of £27,967. It will, therefore, be seen that of the £411,380 expended by the Federal Government, the sum of £346,136 was contributed in the form of a petrol tax, some of which was paid on petrol used, in farm tractors and stationary engines. When the act under which a petrol tax in South Australia was declared ultra vires, the Butler Government imposed a power-weight tax, which is determined by taking the units of horse-power and adding the hundredweights of the vehicle. At present, motor vehicle owners in South Australia, have to pay a petrol tax imposed by the Commonwealth Government and also a powerweight tax imposed by the State. The owner of a service car, with a powerweight of, say, 47, would not be taxed any more than the owner of a similar car who used it merely for pleasure. Tha power-weight tax is most inequitable, and the road users in South Australia hope that it will be abolished and only a petrol tax imposed. I am glad to learn that the Tasmanian Government intends to impose a petrol tax; but the Federal Government will again, I suppose, test its legality. Even the Premier of South Australia (Mr. Butler) who was responsible for the imposition of a power-weight tux, told some of the people in the country, that the present system is unjust. Although it has also been said that the authority that raises revenue should bc responsible for its expenditure, that practice has already been departed from. I trust that the Prime Minister, or the Minister for Trade and Customs will, at the forthcoming conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, be able to agree upon the introduction of a uniform system throughout the States, and that the Commonwealth will repay the amounts that have been overpaid by persons who have used petrol in other than motor vehicles. The taxation on motor cars in South Australia is perhaps heavier than in any other State.
– And on everything else.
– Yes. Since the advent of the Butler Government, taxation has increased by leaps and bounds.
– The taxation per head in South Australia, is higher than in any other State.
– Yes. Dnder a scheme such as I suggest, the Government would obtain the same amount of revenue and some persons would be relieved of an unjust imposition. Under the system in operation in South Australia, the owner of a standard Buick car has to pay £9 10s. as a power-weight tax, plus 10s. for a driver’s licence, and a 3d. petrol tax, 2d. of which is placed to a fund to be used for road construction and maintenance. Based on a mileage of 8,000 a year - which is not excessive, except for service cars - the owner of such a car would be paying a total tax of £15 a year, which is excessive. The facts I have given should receive the consideration of the Minister at the earliest possible date. In the South Australian Advertiser, of the 12th January, the following paragraph appears: -
Dealing with the petrol tax, Mr. Butler said lie was confident of getting the Commonwealth and the States to agree to the tax in lieu of the present form of taxation on the powerweight system which was in many cases most inequitable.
I hope that this matter will be considered at the forthcoming conference between the Prime Minister and the Premiers of the several States.
– How would the proposed tax be collected ?
– The purchaser could pay it when receiving petrol from the bowzers, and suppliers in charge of bowzers would be responsible to the Government. Under this system users could apply for a refund in respect of the tax on petrol used for other than road purposes. This proposal was mentioned in the debate on the petrol tax in Melbourne some years ago. At present motor car-owners in South Australia are suffering an unjust burden, which is affecting detrimentally those who live in country districts, and the tax is imposed very unfairly on owners of “tractors and users of petrol for other than road purposes.
– The many grave crises that have arisen in the industrial life of this country within the last few months, notably in the timber and coal mining industries, have obscured to some extent the issues involved in the dispute on the waterfront in the closing months, of last year. I propose in the course of my remarks this afternoon to direct the attention of honorable members to certain aspects of that dispute, and the present conditions that prevail. At the outset I should state that no port in Australia has been more seriously affected by the waterside workers’ dispute than Port Adelaide, and I regret to have to state tha; throughout the negotiations for the settlement of that trouble, the ship-owners have vindictively discarded all attempts to bring about industrial peace. With the object of smoothing out the difficulties, I communicated with the Attorney-General in the early part of this year, and placed before him a number of recommendations which, I suggested, would do much to restore peace on the water front. I can assure the Government and also the employers that they are due for a rude awakening if they believe that the present situation is satisfactory. Those who are in a position to judge believe that a volcanic upheaval is imminent. The business people of Port Adelaide view the situation with considerable alarm, because the great majority of employees who depend for their livelihood upon work on the wharfs are about at the end of their financial resources, and are becoming desperate. As I have said, with Senator Hoare and the Honorable F. Condon, M.L.C., I entered into negotiations with the Attorney-General with a view to effecting a more satisfactory distribution of the work and the removal of the cause of the friction, but the reply which I received from the Minister was most unsatisfactory. I decline to believe, however, that the views expressed in his communication to me represent the last word to be said upon this serious matter. I decline to believe that all constitutional action to right the wrongs of the waterside workers has been exhausted.
I may be pardoned if, at this stage, I review briefly the history of the industrial crisis and remove from the shoulders of the waterside workers of Port Adelaide the blame which has been unfairly placed upon them. Actually, the Port Adelaide waterside workers were the first to make a move to bring about the settlement of the trouble. Shortly after it began, they approached the Mayor of Port Adelaide,
Mr. F. J. Brown, asking him to open up negotiations with ship-owners on their behalf, and they submitted the following as a basis for the settlement of the dispute : -
These terms, I suggest, were exceedingly generous. The mayor of Port Adelaide, in compliance with their wishes, approached Mr. Butler, the Premier of South Australia, and asked his cooperation in the proposed negotiations. The Premier, however, intimated that there could be no settlement, and accordingly took no action to bring the contending parties together.
– He displayed a very vicious spirit.
– He did. The mayor of Port Adelaide then got into communication with Mr. Hill, the Leader of the Labour Opposition in the South Australian Parliament, on the afternoon of the 28th September. Mr. Hill immediately got into touch with Mr. Morphett, the secretary of the Adelaide Steamship Company, and at that time chairman of the State ship-owners’ committee. Mr. Morphett agreed to meet a deputation the following day to receive from them the suggested terms of settlement, which he agreed later to place before the shipping committee. I gathered, from what Mr. Morphett told Mr. Brown and Mr. Hill, that the shipowners committee decided that the terms were acceptable. The deputation then drew attention to the fact that there were certain difficulties with regard to the application of the Transport Workers Act and regulations made thereunder. Accordingly, it was suggested that a conference should be held with the idea of overcoming any difficulties that might present themselves, and both Mr. Brown and Mr. Hill are very decided in their belief that this was agreed to by the ship-owners’ representatives. Members of the Waterside Workers Federation were definitely under the impression that a conference would be held, and that work would be resumed under the terms of the suspended Beeby award. Surely no body of men could have gone further in a sincere attempt to effect a peaceful settlement of the disupte. At the meeting of the executive of the federation on the following Sunday it was unanimously agreed to recommend members at their meeting on Monday morning to register for work and to start work on Tuesday morning. This was how the matter stood up to 9 o’clock on Monday night, at which time Mr. Morphett informed Mr. Hill by telephone that as the result of a communication which he had received from the central executive of the ship-owners in Melbourne, the conference would not take place. Up to that point the arrangements for a settlement of the dispute had been entirely satisfactory. Naturally, the men felt that they had been “ double-crossed “ by the ship-owners, When Messrs. Hill and Brown waited on the State committee of the shipowners in South Australia, they found that the committee was so much in agreement with the request put forward by the Waterside Workers Federation that it offered to send a telegram to the shipowners’ executive in Melbourne recommending that a conference be granted. This was the telegram that was sent - lt is strongly recommended that the Federal Committee allow iiss to meet representatives of the Port Adelaide Branch of the Waterside Workers Federation in conference to discuss the Transport Workers Act and the regulations issued under it. The men have decided to work unconditionally under the Beeby award.
Mr. Hill and Mr. Brown remained at the offices of the ship-owners’ committee until 3 o’clock in the morning to await a reply from Melbourne so that the men could be advised first thing whether a conference had been granted, upon which they could return to work It was not until some hours after they left that they were informed that the Melbourne executive had stated definitely that no conference could be held in Port Adelaide, that the employers wanted further time to consider the request and that they were about to apply to London for further instructions. In a letter I have received from the Attorney-General the following passage occurs : -
On the one hand it was stated by the deputation which waited on me on 17th January - of which deputation you were a member - that a promise was made by Mr. T. E. Morphett, Chairman of the Shipowners Committee, at a conference held in Adelaide, that first preference in employment on the waterside would be given to volunteer workers who had registered before the members of the union themselves registered, and that second preference would be given to the mem- bers of the union who registered on or about 4th October, 192S. Some confirmation is given to this statement by the extracts from the Adelaide Advertiser of 1st and 5th October, forwarded by you. In the first of these, the secretary of the Adelaide Steamship Company is reported as having stated that preference should be given to the men who had worked the boats during the strike period. As to those matters, the employers point out that any declaration made before 2nd October was conditional on the waterside workers returning to work at 8 a.m. on 2nd October - which, as you are aware, they did not do.
If any one was responsible for the men’s failure to return to work on the 2nd October, it surely was the ship-owners’ central executive in Melbourne. It was not willing to agree to a conference, and asked for more time so that it could get further instructions from the London principals of the various shipping companies. That section of the letter received from the Attorney-General which indicates the excuse of the ship-owners for departing from the original agreement is not according to fact, and, therefore, not justified. It is unjust to penalize the men for the further hold-up. A complete settlement could have been effected if the ship-owners had been prepared to meet the very reasonable request of the men for a conference upon the details of work under the regulations issued under the Transport Workers Act. There were not more than half a dozen copies of the regulations available in South Australia at the time, and very few people knew what would be the effect of applying the regulations. It was a perfectly reasonable request the Waterside Workers Federation made, that a conference should be held with the shipowners’ committee in South Australia, so that there might be a mutual agreement 4ga regard to the application of these regulations.
When ultimately the men resumed work on the 5th October, they did so feeling that, although they had not succeeded in getting a conference, they would at least get second preference in employment. They realized that first preference would be given to those who had worked the vessels during the dispute, but they thought that when all that labour was fully engaged, members of the Waterside Workers Federation would receive consideration. The Attorney-General, in his letter to me, covers that point in the following way: -
Tlie employers, on the other hand, contend that no promise was made as to the first preference being limited to those volunteers, who, on 4th October, had already been employed on ships. They state further, that the second paragraph of the announcement which appeared in the Advertiser of 5th October, did not form part of the announcement made by the State committee, and in proof of that statement they refer to the Adelaide Register of the same date, which contains the first paragraph only of the announcement appearing in the Advertiser.
The announcement in the Advertiser was in very black type and was as follows : -
The State committee of the employers of waterfront labour issued the following statement last night: -
As the waterside workers have intimated to the ship-owners’ representatives that they are prepared to offer for employment on the waterfront under the Beeby award and the Transport Workers Act, arrangements have been made to work all ships forthwith.
The volunteers who have already been employed on ships will be given preference, and they will be picked up at Messrs. Lewis & Reid’s timber yard. Any additional labour required will be drawn from members of the Waterside Workers Federation who will be picked up at their union rooms.
The ship-owners say now that they did not subscribe to the last part of the notice in the Advertiser referring to the share of preference that was to be extended to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, and in confirmation of their claim that the Advertiser had not accurately stated the position, they refer to a statement which appeared in the Register, whilst the Attorney-General in his letter to me says -
They state that they noticed the discrepancy between the two announcements at the time, but as the waterside workers were returning to work they did not consider it necessary to contradict the report in the Advertiser.
The statement in the Advertiser was given as an official intimation from the State committee of ship-owners, and it was unfair to the men for the ship-owners to allow it to remain uncontradicted, and later on to repudiate it. Their action demonstrated their lack of any code of honour. In the absence of any contradiction at the time, I think they should have been prepared to abide by it, instead of putting the members of the Waterside
Workers Federation in a false position. The men returned to work on the understanding that the ship-owners were in honour bound not to use their power or the regulations under the Transport Workers Workers Act in any spirit of vindictiveness against them; and on their part they acknowledged that first preference should be given to the men who had remained on the vessels during the dispute, they themselves getting second preference. If it is the intention of the ship-owners to crush unionism by destroying the Waterside Workers Federation, they are only piling up trouble for themselves later on, because the time will surely come when the power they can wield to-day will depart from them. They are not cultivating in the hearts of the men a proper regard for conciliation as a means of settling disputes. I have been among the Workers at Port Adelaide. I have seen the way in which they are treated. I have seen southern Europeans, many of them unable to speak English, enjoying preference in employment over Australians who have wives and families dependent on them. Good, dutiful, worthy citizens of Australia have been deprived of the right to earn a livelihood. If ever I am in a position to exercise power, I shall see that the shipowners are made to realize the unreasonableness of their demands, and of the impositions they have placed on these men. The callous indifference with which they view the sufferings of the men and women and children of Port Adelaide to-day, I have no hesitation in meeting with strong denunciation and condemnation. The treatment they are meting out to the men to-day, I would apply with equal severity to them unless in the meanwhile they are prepared to make some display of the spirit of honour by living up to the terms of the agreement under which the workers felt that they were returning to work. Anything less than that is a base betrayal of the men and a breach of the terms of the agreement under which the men were prepared to work, and which they expected the ship-owners to abide by loyally. The men have even offered to give the volunteers all the day work available. If there should be any difficulty about reconciling the division between first and second preference, or if there should be any fear that there would be any molesting of the men who were engaged by the ship-owners during the period of the dispute, the unionists have offered to do all the night-shift work and allow the day work to be done by volunteer labour. I want honorable members to realize what reasonable minds are prompting this offer so to distribute the work as to give a fair allotment of it to citizens of Port Adelaide, who have wives and families dependent upon them.
Owing to the vicious manner in which the regulations under the Transport Workers Actare being applied, preference to volunteer labour is not confined to those who were employed during the dispute. It has been givena widespread application to men who were licensed subsequent to the return to work of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. The stevedoring company would engage members of the federation more freely and distribute the work more equitably if it were able, but the ship-owners have instructed it not to engage members of the federation until all other labour has been exhausted. Furthermore, the manner in which at times union labour is picked up is open to serious question. Instead of the shipowners going to the union rooms when they require union labour, it has been reported on numerous occasions that they have picked it up indiscriminately in the streets and at the companies’ offices without paying any regard to the obligation to pick it up at the union rooms as provided in the award and as emphasized in the Attorney-General’s letter. I ask the Minister not to regard the letter he has sent to me as his last word on the subject, and to take up the matter again with the ship-owners with a view to some equitable distribution of the work available so that the members of the Waterside Workers Federation may get a reasonable share of it.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 8 p.m.
– This bill affords an opportunity for the discussion of matters of vital importance to the people, and the debate upon it has ranged over many subjects. From both the Opposition and Ministerial sides a note of warning that things economic are not well with Australia has been sounded. The matter of tariff reform has obtruded prominently. Advocates of high protection on both sides of the chamber, have, with fanatical zeal, vehemently insisted that the cure for Australia’s economic and industrial ills is higher and still higher duties. Let me briefly analyse that policy. I was a member of this House in 1920, when the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Massy Greene) introduced a tariff schedule which marked a new departure, definitely laying down a policy of high protection.
– Except for some industries. I fought hard for others and got nothing.
– We all are familiar with the honorable member’s fiscal views. In my judgment, consistency is their only virtue. Well do I remember Mr. Massy Greene concluding a very able speech, from a protectionist point of view, with this peroration : -
I present this schedule to the House, confident that, if passed, it will usher in an era of prosperity, the like of which this country has never seen.
The schedule was passed with only minor alterations which had the effect of making it even more highly protective than its sponsor and the Government had intended.
– Were not the duties on agricultural machinery lowered?
– They were.
– They were not, but substantially increased protection was given to locksmiths. The House was definitely assured that high protection was the gateway to prosperity. Since the 1920 schedule was passed, this Parliament has sanctioned ten or eleven additional schedules, each of which raised the tariff wall still higher.
– We must make progress.
– Let us consider what progress we have made. Looking about Australia to-day, do we see any indications of that prosperity which was painted so vividly by Mr. Massy Greene and applauded so enthusiastically by honorable members on both sides of the House? What are the cold facts? After seven or eight years of the highest protection this country has ever known-
– That the world has ever known.
– After years of higher protection than the world has ever known, unemployment is worse than it was in 1920.
– Owing to State legislation.
– The honorable mem- ber is already fleeing across the border of Queensland to try to escape responsibility for the results of the impossible policy of which he is a supporter. The secondary industries are clamouring for more and more protection. Unemployment and distress are rife, especially in the industrial suburbs of the capital cities; in fact the distress is greater than has been known in Australia for many years. The Melbourne Herald of the 2nd February, published this article -
ChildrenWillStarve on Doorsteps.
Charity Workers Flee in Distress.
If something is not done things will soon beas bad in this country as in Great Britain. We shall be finding children starving on our doorsteps.
That statement was made by Mrs. Baker, Secretary of the Hawthorn Ladies’ Benevolent Society. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has on several occasions recently, brought to the notice of the House the distressful conditions of the poor in Adelaide and its suburbs. To a greater or less extent, similar conditions exist in every capital city. Mrs. Baker continued -
The comfortably-housed and fed, I know, are inclined to think that the distressed have brought these conditions on themselves. Among all the people on my books, I guarantee I cannot find half a dozen who do not deserve help.
– I quote from the Argus -
Financial Crisis Reached
Appalling Distress in Suburbs.
The Lord Mayor (Councillor Luxton) who presided at a meeting of the combined Benevolent Societies yesterday, said that never before in the history of unemployment had acute distress been so widespread as it was now; although it was a general rule that distress was much greater in the winter than in any other seasons. The societies did not dare to face the coming winter with the difficulties they were already experiencing as a result of widespread unemployment.
The Argus proceeded to quote individual cases of hardship that were pathetic in the extreme. Honorable members may ask what all this has to do with the protectionist policy. I invite them to suppose that this Parliament in 1920, instead of raising the tariff wall, had lowered it. If those of us who have persistently fought against the policy of high protection had had sufficient influence to persuade the Government of the day to reduce the duties by 50 per cent., and to introduce subsequent schedules reducing them still further, would not the apostles of high protection have declared at once that the distressful conditions existing today were the result of the low tariff, and that the remedy was to rebuild at once the wall we had partially demolished? That assuredly would have been their contention. Are not we, who disbelieve in the extreme protectionist policy, justified in saying that it is at least partly responsible for the distress that exists to-day, and that a policy of tariff reduction should at least be given a trial? Is it not extraordinary that as the tariff wall has been raised, unemployment has increased? Some honorable members subscribe to the weird philosophy that as increased unemployment has followed the raising of duties, the remedy is to increase the tariff still further. As the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) said this afternoon, there is competition from both sides of the chamber for the distinction of being the true-blue high protectionist party. Members of the Opposition say that they are the real protectionists, but the Minister for Trade and Customs, speaking in behalf of the Government, indignantly resented the charge that the ministerialists favored lower duties than the Opposition, and declared with passionate vehemence that no previous government had been more true to the principles of high protection.
– He did. The Government has consistently advocated and supported high protection. I do not chide my Nationalist friends on that account; rather do I congratulate them on their consistency. They were elected on a policy of high protection, and they adhered loyally to it. Of honorable members of the Opposition, also, I say that be their policy right or wrong, at least they have been true to it. They hoisted the flag of high protection on the hustings, and rightly they preach the same gospel inside the House as they did on the public platform. But the members of the Country party, who, pledged to a low tariff policy-
– No, we are not.
– They are divided even on that point. They are unanimous in regard to nothing. I say to members of the ‘ Opposition and members of the Nationalist party, “ Do I not preach to-day the same gospel that I preached in 1920?” Honorable members of the Country party, from public platforms, have called me a traitor to that party. I invite any of them to point to one plank in the platform of that party that I have ever violated. Not one dare make that charge.
The primary producers are confronted by the fact that this Government will grant protection to manufacturers, but will not carry the policy to its logical conclusion and give protection all round. It has appointed the Development and Migration Commission, which investigates the conditions of languishing primary industries; but instead of saying that the real cause of their troubles is that they are compelled to produce under high tariff conditions and sell their produce in open competition in the markets of the world, that body tells these industries that their troubles are of their own making. It says to the dried-fruits growers, “You ought to eliminate your surplus packing sheds,” and to the men who grow fruits for canning, “ You ought to produce a better article, and do away with your surplus canneries.”
– In the case of the driedfruits industry, it went further and said, “ Stop growing the vines “.
– That is so. It said, “ This industry cannot develop any further; you must not plant any more vines.” It also advised the canned-fruits growers not to extend the area already planted. In the sugar industry, too, the gospel of a restricted output is being preached.
The wheat-growing industry is one of the most important in Australia; but, in common with the others to which I have referred, it is in a serious condition. I speak feelingly on this matter. Our wheat belt has always been furthest outback, where the rail freights have been highest, and the rainfall the lowest. It is an economical impossibility, with the high cost of fencing wire, wire netting, timber, and other necessaries, to bring virgin land under cultivation. Today, from one end of Australia to the other, wheat-growers are producing wheat for a return at which it is impossible for them to make a profit, and inevitably the result must be a decrease in the area under wheat. In desperation the wheat-growers are asking to have applied to them the policy that was applied to the sugar industry. They say that the price for that portion of the product which is consumed in Australia should not be ‘based on London parity, but should be definitely fixed at a price commensurate with production under Australian conditions. There is consistency in that claim. But let us consider, for a ‘moment, where such a policy would lead us. The local consumption of wheat totals approximately 32,000,000 bushels. The net return to the grower this season is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 3s. 9d. a bushel. There is a duty of 2s. per cental, which is approximately ls. 2d. a bushel on wheat. Freights and landing charges, on wheat imported into this country would total about lOd. a bushel. If the policy of protection was applied to the wheat-growing industry the result would be an increase of 2a. a bushel in the price charged for local consumption, which, on a total of 32,000,000 bushels, would amount to over £3,000,000. At existing world’s prices outside Australia, the price of sugar in this country is, in round figures, £20 a ton more than that at which it can be imported. I understand that the annual consumption in Australia is 300,000 tons. If we adopt the figure of £20 a ton, we find that our consumers are paying an additional £6,000,000 per annum.
– That is an understatement.
– I believe that it is; but I am purposely endeavoring to avoid exaggeration. Our butter is costing local consumers 4d. a lb. more than world’s parity. Therefore, in round figures we are paying £4,000,000 extra upon that commodity. It will thus be seen that an additional £10,000,000 is being paid on two articles of every day use on the tables of the working men of this country, and if we bring wheat into the charmed circle, which a consistent protectionist policy must do, a further £3,000,000 will be added, making the total £13,000,000.
Let us consider for a moment where this policy will land us, and where it has already led us. We have the extraordinary spectacle of workmen in other countries, whose products are competing with those of the workmen in this country, being fed with Australian primary products at a lower rate than our own people. In the streets of London to-day a pound of Australian butter can be purchased for1s.10d. The price in Australia is approximately 2s. 2d. In the streets of London two pounds of dried fruits can be purchased for less than one pound in Mildura, where they are produced. This Parliament has passed anti-dumping laws. What is the basis of those laws? It is that no goods shall be sold within our borders at a price lower than that which is charged for them in the country of origin. Yet we are deliberately adopting that policy, which we condemn in others ! The ultimate effect must be a higher price for bread, butter, sugar and the other essential commodities of life; and wages must necessarily be increased. The cost of production, particularly primary production, will be raised to such an extent that it will be impossible for us to compete with outside countries, and all our industries will be obliged to follow the advice given by the Development and Migration Commission to the dried and canned fruits industries.
I shall carry this analysis a step further. Even the most fanatical protectionist in this House will not suggest that we can absolutely cut off all imports. There are many commodites, such as tea, petrol, kerosene, and others that it is not necessary to enumerate, which must be imported in considerable quantities. Those imports must be paid for by exports. We have to find from £25,000,000 to £28,000,000 per annum to meet our interest bill overseas. A remarkable feature of the policy that has been adopted in Australia, is that, although we are too proud to trade, we are not too proud to borrow. We boast about our high standard of living. We sneer at Great Britain for being a freetrade country. We talk of her poverty and distress. We impose duties on her goods. We are too proud to take her goods, but we reach out with both hands to take her money.
– It is American money, not British money.
– As the honorable member says, we take American money; and that is worse. When our present policy leads us into an economic bog, and the till is empty, our friend the Treasurer and others go overseas to borrow from countries that they allege have a lower standard of living, so that we may bolster up our high standard.
– We really borrow goods.
– The honorable member is quite right. In effect, we borrow goods; and with extraordinary logic we place upon those very goods duties which average between 15 and 20 per cent ! Are we not justified in asking where this policy will lead us? Advocates of high protection have a case to answer, for the manufacturing industries of this country do not take their share of the burden imposed by our customs imposts and overseas loans.
What is the policy of those industries which we protect so securely behind our sheltering tariff walls? Merely to develop their industries to the extent of the local market, and no further ; their factories are centred in the capital cities of Australia and they do what the Queensland sugar-growers are doing - exploit the local market and stop at that. Yet, 95 per cent. of our exports are primary products! Do honorable members consider it fair that the primary producers should carry on their backs the secondary industries of Australia, and at the same time pay its indebtedness overseas ? Surely matters should be on a more equitable basis. Let the secondary industries shoulder 50per cent. of the burden incurred by our overseas loans, and the primary producers take over the other 50 per cent. That, surely, is fair enough. But will the suggestion be accepted? Honorable members on both sides know that it will not. Let them examine the position of our wool industry, in which Australia produces the finest raw material in the world, and in superabundance. Wool is available to our local manufacturers without any impost of overseas freights. But instead of being able to hold the local market and to export rugs, blankets and other woollen goods; instead of establishing factories in our rural towns from which to export the manufactured article to the markets of the world, our secondary industries fail even to hold their own in the local markets, without the aidof prohibitive duties. Their competitors buy Australian wool, freight it across the oceans of the world, scour it, spin it and weave it, and then pay return freight on it to Australia. And, notwithstanding that great advantage Australian manufacturers of wool products cannot hold their own without the further assistance of excessive duties. That is a most extraordinary position.
I have put the case as I see it, as it is my duty to put it, and as I believe the majority of the primary producers of Australia see it. I give honorable members on both sides who believe in high tariffs credit for believing that their views are right, but I do not concur with them. Honorable members have a right to preach what they believe, and I have no right to abuse or condemn them for doing so.
– One has a right to believe in a policy of all-round protection.
– But where will such a policy land this country I shall refer now to our financial position. Last year we had a deficit of £2,600,000. Did our cheerful friend, the Treasurer, decide to increase taxation? No. Did he evolve some other method by which the debit could be wiped out? He did not. An election was pending, so the honorable gentleman said airily that he would put it into a suspense account and wait,
Micawber-like, for something to turn up. He said, in effect, that he had hopes that the customs receipts would increase. The honorable gentleman blamed the decreased customs revenue for putting him into the position of having a deficit; according to him he was entitled to feel aggrieved because the customs receipts had let him down. Honorable members will recollect that, before he took office, there was no more zealous advocate of direct taxation than he; no one who more sternly condemned indirect taxation. Well do I remember, in the days when I was a member of the honorable gentleman’s party, how we used, with youthful enthusiasm, to cheer him on. in his attacks upon his present colleagues. I remember, too, his impassioned declamation of the iniquity of those very customs duties. The right honorable gentleman even went so far, on one occasion, to quote Pitt, to the effect that that gentleman said that by means of indirect taxation you could tax a man’s shirt off his back without his being conscious of it. He held up his hands in horror at the administration of the Treasurer of that day ; went before the primary producers and called upon high heaven to witness the iniquity of a Government collecting £27,000,000 in customs and excise in one year. And the producers cheered him. We all cheered him. What is the position to-day? Leaving out excise, and dealing with only customs revenue, I quote the following figures from the Official Year-Book of the Commonwealth of Australia. I shall deal only in round millions, and omit hundreds of thousands, for what are a few hundred thousands to this Treasurer? Neither here nor there. The statistics disclose the following collections of customs revenue for the years enumerated : -
And still the honorable gentleman optimistically goes his way.
– Tell us about the debts of the States.
– I hear the faithful clansmen coming to the rescue of their lender. Why does not one of their number, instead of making suggestions and cross-examining me, stand up in an endeavour to justify their actions. In the old days the present Treasurer, before he took office, gave us lectures upon the virtue of economy. Obviously, he failed to foretell the present position. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) also condemned indirect taxation. Yet to-day we have the remarkable spectacle of the Minister for Trade and Customs, who disbelieved in indirect taxation collecting nearly two-thirds of the total taxation of the Commonwealth and handing it over to the Treasurer, who also disbelieved in indirect taxation, to spend.
The one hope of the Treasurer to balance his ledger is his colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs, who was on one occasion unkind enough to call the honorable gentleman, and with some truth, the most tragic Treasurer that this country has ever known. They are now cheek by jowl, colleagues supporting one another. Yet they have the audacity to talk to me and to others about inconsistency.
This bill affords honorable members the last opportunity of the present sitting to discuss0 the financial position. Provided that the Government, survives until the end of the week, the Treasurer will have produced his seventh budget by the time that we meet again. Knowing the honorable gentleman as I do, and that is exceedingly well, I have no doubt that he will say that, of all the speeches that have been made in condemnation of extravagance, not one has contained a suggestion as to how to get him out of his difficulty. I reply, first, .that he got into the difficulty himself. The honorable gentleman is in a tight corner. I am not worried about that, but I am concerned about the country being in a tight corner. There are two ways in which the honorable gentleman can balance his ledger; by cutting down expenditure, or by increasing taxation. It is my opinion that the honorable gentleman will have to do a little of each. He may, with every justification, ask for suggestions, and in all seriousness, I suggest that, in this Federal Capital, all unnecessary expendi ture should be cut out. I cite a specific item. It is rumoured that the Government contemplates an expenditure of £100,000 upon the construction of a School of Anatomy. That is an item that can wait. I believe that a very valuable collection has been given to the Government, which feels under an obligation to house it. Surely a method could be conceived whereby that could be accomplished temporarily, without the expenditure of such a large sum of money. The Government, with the approval of the majority of the returned soldiers in Australia, and I consider rightly, decided to postpone the erection of the war memorial. Much as we should all like to see that work proceeded with, I believe that the Government should adhere to that decision for a little while.
I come now to a more contentious subject, that of roads. During the last election, the Treasurer, in frequent visits to my constituency, very unfairly misconstrued my attitude on the subject of road construction. I recognize that I am treading on rather dangerous ground in what I am about to say, but I consider that our roads scheme is too ambitious.
– The petrol users are paying the greater part . of the cost of our roads scheme; it is costing this Government practically nothing.
– I opposed the scheme, because it is really a petrol tax. Our roads policy involves the States in an obligation to find three-fourths of the amount expended by the Commonwealth Government on main roads, and the burden is pressing very heavily on the States. But that is not the only factor adverse to the State finances. As these main roads are constructed, they afford facilities for motor transport, so rendering it easier for motor trucks to compete with the State railways. Consequently, the more money that the State Governments spend upon roads - and I refer to main roads running parallel with the railways - the better it is for the motor competition, and the more the State assets, their railways depreciate, with a resultant deficit upon State-owned lines. I believe that it would be a good thing to concentrate on the feeder roads, particularly in new country, leading to the railways. That policy ought to be pursued to an even greater extent than is being done now. I deprecate, however, the present policy of spending the huge sum of £35,000,000 in ten years, mostly on the construction of main roads running parallel with railways. As a financial Jubilee Plunger, the present Federal Treasurer has never had an equal in this country. I must also include the Prime Minister in my condemnation, because I am sure that lie will take his full share of responsibility for the Government’s policy.
The Government proposes to spend £85,000,000 on roads and £20,000,000 on a housing scheme, besides introducing a national insurance scheme, which will involve many millions more. The real reason for these enormously expensive schemes is the present party system, which sets one party bidding against another for the votes of the people. This has induced the Government to embark on extravagant schemes which the country is unable to afford. As one means of economy, the Government should put a stop to the appointment of expensive commissions with high-salaried officers in charge. If it is necessary to increase the revenue - and I object to taxation as much as anybody else to-day, but it is evidently a necessary evil - the money might be raised by increasing the income tax, particularly on the higher incomes. Also, the land tax on large properties, and particularly on city properties, if it is possible to discriminate, is a further source of revenue that could be tapped.
After all, however, the main hope for this country is in increased production, and a greater volume of exports. More trade, and not less, should be the slogan of Australia. I confess that I think it is impossible, in the present condition of industry in Australia, for our secondary manufacturers to compete with those of other countries. I suggest that the Government should do everything possible to assist those primary industries which are able to produce economically, and to compete in the markets of the world. I refer particularly to the wool and wheat industries. The Government should foster, by every means in its power, the development of the wheat-growing industry. We can produce the finest wheat in the world, and we have in this country the best wheatgrowers in the world. I speak as one who has worked in the wheat-growing areas of the United States of America and Canada, and I know something of the calibre of the men who are engaged in the industry there. In Australia, we have the most efficient dry farmers in the world. There are millions of acres of land in Australia, on which at present little or nothing is being produced. This land could, if the industry were encouraged, be turned into profitable wheatproducing areas. To do that, it is necessary to lift from the industry the burdens which are at present oppressing it. The Government should make it possible for the farmers to get cheaper fencing wire, and other materials which they need to carry on their work.
From time to time we read in the press effusions about the accomplishments of the present Government. What, after all, has the Government done? I suggest that the test of good government is the happiness and prosperity of the people. This Government has been in power for six years, which is the longest uninterrupted period of office enjoyed by any Commonwealth Government. Its power during that time has not been imaginary, but very real, because of the overwhelming majority it has enjoyed, not only in this House, but in the other House as well. The Government has always been in a position at any time to put its policy into effect, yet what is the position of the country to-day? I have in mind now, particularly, the members of the Country party. As the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) pointed out, the members of that party six years ago deplored the drift of population to the cities, but there are fewer people on the land now than there were then, while there is a greater aggregation of people in the capital cities than ever. There is more unemployment than there was six years ago, and more industrial strife, fostered largely by provocative class legislation for which this Government is responsible. The financial position is worse than it was six years ago. Judged by results,, this Government has. not the best record,. as is claimed, but the worst, of any government which has yet been in power. My friends of the Country party criticize me, but I challenge them to justify their assertion that I, and not they, have departed from the principles upon which we were returned to this House. My policy is that if the country interests are worth anything at all, they are worth representation by a separate party standing on its own feet, and working out its own destiny, unassociated with any other party.
– The honorable member did not always believe that.
– I did.
– Then why did he join the composite Government.
– The honorable member knows very well that if I cared to sink to the level of some other honorable members, and bring into the light of day all that happened at party meetings, I could tell some very interesting stories.
– The honorable member could not tell anything to our discredit.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member applauds, but he is only a new member of this Parliament, and knows nothing of the events to which I refer.
– The honorable member’s policy is apparenty to wreck the Government.
– With the record of this Government before me, is it any wonder that I should try to wreck it? My N attitude is endorsed by a majority of the organized farmers.
– Of the honorable member’s own electorate.
– Of my own electorate, and of others, too. At Kyabram, which is in the electorate of Echuca, represented by the ex-Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill), a meeting of delegates of both sections of the organized farmers was held the other day. There were representatives of the party to which I belong, the Country Progressive party of Victoria, and also of the Country party. It was called on the initiative of the party to which the honorable member for Echuca belongs, and to which also belong the Minister for Markets (Mr. Paterson), and the Postmaster-General (Mr.
Gibson). The meeting discussed the question of an amalgamation, and a resolution in favour of amalgamation was carried by that meeting of 30 delegates with only one dissentient vote. Here is the text of the resolution -
That this conference of Kyabram District V.C.P. and C.P.P. delegates is of the opinion that tlie two parties should re-amalgamate on the basis of no more composite governments or election pacts, and that we should stand as an Independent Country Party.
The resolution was moved by the chairman of the meeting, who is a member of the Country party. That speaks for itself. I do not suggest that all the members of the Country party are enthusiastic over the policy of the Government. I believe that many of them are not. I urge them to get back to the old ideals, and I shall join with them to fight just as persistently for country interests as I have done during the time that I have been the lone supporter of the principles for which we were elected to this Parliament.
.- The latitude allowed in the discussion of a Supply bill furnishes a very strong temptation to speechifying. I am going to resist the temptation, but I should like to address myself to one or two points which have been suggested during the course of the debate. I do not propose to say anything further about the Country party. I have been quoted, but all I have to say is that my attitude towards the Country party, and the principle involved in the composite character of the Government, is the same now as it has always been. I have never made any secret of my views. What I have said on the subject I have said, and there it is.
The subject which has assumed the greatest importance during this discussion is the tariff. I have as little sympathy with extreme freetraders as I have with extreme protectionists, by whom I mean those persons who believe in prohibition. I think that what the Canberra Times would call the “ muddle” course is the proper one. I make a plea now for a careful revision of the tariff. I am not going to discuss the relative merits of freetrade or protection as a fiscal policy, but I believe that if honorable members of this House approach the matter reasonably, they will admit that our tariff, such as it is, requires revision. One of the planks of the Government’s policy is the encouragement of primary production. I believe that every honorable member of this House sympathizes with that policy. Every honorable member, I believe, is of opinion that primary production is the very foundation of our national prosperity, and that it ought to be encouraged in every possible way. I remind the Government that one of the functions of a Tariff Board is to consider and inquire into any matter which in any way affects, of is related to, the encouragement of our primary and secondary industries, in so far as those matters are related to the tariff. Although I was elected member for Fawkner, I claim to be the representative of a very large body lit’ primary producers, because I am sunt by the constituents of Fawkner, not to represent that electorate alone, but the Commonwealth as a whole. As a member of the Nationalist party, whose policy includes the well-balanced development of the whole of the Commonwealth, I am an enthusiast in everything that tends to encourage primary industry.
I am going to give the details of a typical case which has lately come under my notice, and which speaks trumpet-tongued in favour of a revision of the tariff in the interests of primary production. There is a large tract of country in the north of Victoria known as the North West Mallee, which has been lying practically undeveloped through lack of water. A good deal has been said lately about the necessity for boring for water in that country. Mr. Winston, a citizen of Victoria, is a practical engineer, who was a manufacturer for some time of boring machinery. From time to time he did work for the new South Wales Government, for whom he manufactured fifteen boring machines. Therefore, he has a thoroughly practical knowledge of such work. He formed a small proprietary company, with the object of taking contracts for boring for water in the North West Mallee. He is not only a practical engineer, but has also had experience of boring of various kinds in all parts of the world. The syndicate put about £2,000 into the little proprietary company, and the first thing required was a suitable boring machine. The character of the country in which the boring had to be done is peculiar. I understand that from the South Australian border there is a shelving limestone formation, which slopes away to the north-west, and superimposed upon it is a large body of salt sand, which makes boring exceedingly difficult. The sand “ boils up “ - to use a technical expression - into the casing of the boring machinery. Mr. Winston, as a practical man, knew that the only machine capable of doing this particular class of work was a patented one, manufactured in America. He ascertained that he could land one of these machines in Melbourne, ex-duty, for £600. Two of these machines were required, and he found that the duty he would be required to pay on each was £396, or 66 per cent., making the total cost of each machine £996. With his practical knowledge he knew that there was no machine in the Commonwealth capable of doing this work, so he applied to the Custom* Department for a remission of the duty. I think that the matter came before the late Minister for Trade and Customs, Mr. H. E. Pratten, shortly before his death. Mr. Winston received a reply to the effect that the Minister had considered his application, but could not see his way to grant it. Then the matter was placed in my hands. It seemed to me, on the facts as detailed by Mr. Winston, that it was a most reasonable request, and one that should be granted, particularly in view of the fact that one of the planks of the party in power was encouragement of primary production. Here was a chance to give the primary producer a lift. It goes without saying that, if the duty’ was insisted upon, it would be passed on to the unfortunate men struggling in the mallee. I approached the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) upon the matter; he was acting-Minister for Trade and Customs at the time. I informed him that I approached him in his capacity as Prime Minister. I remarked that I understood he had great influence with the Minister for Trade and Customs, and had his ear. I asked him to use all the influence he could bring to bear upon that Minister in an effort to induce him to remit the duty. The Prime Minister was exceedingly busy at the time, and the matter passed off; but I heard again from the department that it could not see its way clear to grant the request. I wrote pointing out that T presumed that the basis of the refusal to remit the duty was that a machine capable of doing the work efficiently could be purchased in the Commonwealth. I had a very generous reply from the department, intimating that that was exactly the reason for its refusal. I asked that the department should point out the name and location of the firm who could supply the machine, and a letter was sent back announcing that the Southern Cross Windmill Company, of New South Wales, could furnish just the machine that was needed. Mr. Winston, when this reply was put before him, said, “I know that machine. It is an excellent one, but utterly incapable of doing this particular kind of work. If I had to depend on that machine, I should have to throw up the enterprise. I could not undertake the contract with it.” He pointed out the technical objections to that boring plant for the particular work in question. However, he wrote to the Southern Cross Windmill Company, asking for specifications and prices. He received a reply to the effect that the company could supply a machine capable of doing the work required, and could land it in Melbourne for £1,5001 That is where the matter stands to-day. Mr. Winston says, “ Ever if I could afford to pay that sum for that machine, it would not do the work. If the Customs Department insists on my paying the heavy duty on the imported machine, then a duty of £396 on each of the two £600 machines must be paid.” Just imagine the situation that presents itself to us! Here is a government in office that declares that it desires to do everything possible to help the man on the land. But when it is asked to remit a duty on the only machine that could be procured for a particular type of work on the land, it says, “ No, because the work can be done by another machine.” Even if the price of £996, including duty, is paid for the imported plant, it will be hundreds of pounds less than the price asked for the local machine. If the Government insists on the duty being paid, the expense, in the long run, will have to be borne by the struggling man on the land. Thus, the Government is imposing a heavy burden upon him. The absurdity of the position is that, from a protectionist point of view, the Government does not help the New South Wales manufacturer one iota. If honorable members on the other side say, “ The Australian manufacturer is making boring machines anyhow. We must shut out the American machines, and insist on effective protection of this particular industry,” it means that such a high duty will have to be imposed on the £600 machine as to bring the total landed cost in Australia to at least £1,500. Is anybody insane enough to make such a suggestion as that? Is there any honorable member who would not at once reply, “ Whether protection is right or not, here is a case in which without doing anything to the detriment of the New South Wales manufacturer, we can easily assist, the man on the land by remitting the duty, and letting him have his machine for £600”? The small company has a capital of only £2,000, and it cannot afford to pay the tremendous duty involved.
– Did the honorable member say that the New South Wales machine would not do the job?
– I did. Mr. Winston informed me that it is an excellent machine for a certain class of work, but not for the particular boring to be done in the North-west Mallee. The “ Star “ machine from America is the only type that he knows that is capable of doing it. I simply state the case, because, as I have said, it speaks trumpet-tongued of the necessity for a revision of the tariff in the interests of primary production.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) has brought a number of very serious charges against the Repatriation Commissioners. He began by saying that they had been guilty of maladministration ; indeed, of gross maladministration. The ordinary construction to be put upon a charge of that nature, in connexion with a public department, is that its administration is vicious and dishonest. But when one analyses the rest of the honorable member’s speech, and the grounds on which he made the charges, one sees clearly that he does not mean to imply malicious or dishonest action on the part of the Repatriation Commissioners. One of the accusations in support of his charges was that communications addressed to the New South “Wales Repatriation Office had not been answered. I admit that that is a very unwise course for any department to adopt; it is an inexcusable fault. In any department over which I have had control, I have laid down definitely that any communication received by the department must be answered the same day. A definite answer cannot always be given to inquiries, but it is possible to follow the usual business practice, and acknowledge the receipt of letters. The honorable member, continuing his charges, referred to the commissioners as being harsh and unsympathetic in their administration, and callous in their treatment of applications for the pension. He referred to a number of communications from ex-soldiers, whose names, he stated he would submit to me in order that I might inquire into the cases.
– I quoted them merely ns definite examples of the matters on which the charges were based.
– I assure the honorable member that I shall examine every one of these cases, if he will submit them to me. All honorable members who were in the House at the time will remember that in moving the second reading of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Bill last week, I stated that the measure would remove any cause of complaint in connexion with the alleged callousness of the department in the matter of applications for pensions which have been going on for years. I have no doubt that the honorable member, in all good faith, believes that the men for whom he is appealing are entitled to pensions. In illustrating what he termed the callousness of the Repatriation Commission, he quoted an instance of an unfortunate man who had, over a period of years, applied for a pension, but was not granted one until a fortnight before his death. He spoke of the pain and suffering which this man must have undergone. The honorable member, who himself has passed quite recently through a most painful illness, will himself recognize that in the administration of a great department there are many difficulties to contend with. In connection with a number of claims which I have carefully examined, I have found it impossible to connect the disability from which the exsoldier was suffering with his war service ; yet subsequently the claimant, or his dependants, in the event of his death, have been able to produce additional evidence which has convinced me that it would be advisable to again submit the claim to the Repatriation Commission. In some cases pensions which I had been desirous of getting for men have had to be refused because I could not honestly again refer them to the commission with a request that they be reconsidered. In his speech the honorable member for Richmond gave me a good deal of credit for what I have done, but I should like to remind honorable members that in not one case could 1 have done what I have during the last 2 or 3 years but for the assistance of the Repatriation Commission. Honorable members will realize that whatever may be the provisions of an act, its success or otherwise must depend largely upon its administration. When the honorable member for Richmond spoke of “gross maladministration” I was afraid he was going to make some accusation against those responsible for his care during his illness. I am pleased to say that he did nothing of the kind, and I do not hesitate to say that such a charge would be absolutely inexcusable. During the whole time that I have been administering the department I have not heard one complaint in regard to the medical treatment of serious cases. I remind the honorable member for Richmond that the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Bill, the second reading of which’ I moved last week, and concerning which he has conferred with me, deals with practically every claim that could be made. More than that, I would remind him that it covers, I believe, at- least 70 per cent, of his complaints against the Repatriation Commission. I am satisfied that the honorable member firmly believes that the Repatriation Commission has not acted fairly to ex-soldiers, but, after my association of four years with the department, I cannot support that view. I admit that errors have been made even by myself, and I have no doubt that under the measure now before the House, liberal though it is, errors will still occur. These can be remedied only by attention being directed to them by honorable members in an effort to improve the bill itself and the system of administration.
– Does the Minister propose to make any alteration in the administration ?
– We propose to rectify so far as possible defects to which the honorable member has referred, and I believe that the cause of fully 75 per cent. of the charges made by the honorable member will be removed under the measure now awaiting the attention of the House.
– Will the Minister deal with the grave charge of incompetency and unsympathetic treatment made against the Chief Commissioner?
– I have already done so.
– I do not think so.
– As I said last week, after four years’ association with the Repatriation Commission, I do not think such a charge can be sustained. As a result of the work of the commission 891 new pensions were granted last year, affecting probably from 3,000 to 4,000 dependants. Does that suggest any lack of sympathy.
– I am not challenging the administration.
– No. I thought I had clearly answered the charge.
– Not with the grave charge that has been made against the Chief Commissioner.
– What is the charge ?
– I have already shown that as a result of last years’ work - ten years after the war - 891 new pensions were granted. I have been associated with the Chief Commissioner during the last four years, and am clearly of opinion that he is not incompetent.
– When I was administering the department, I always found him a most conscientious man.
– That is my experience. I believe that an overwhelming majority of honorable members if consulted, would admit that the appeals made to the Repatriation Commission have been dealt with in a sympathetic manner. They have not all been granted it is true, but honorable members must recognize that the underlying principle of the act is that the disability or an aggravation of the disability from which the soldier is suffering must be due to war service. I repeat that the honorable member for Richmond will find that 70 or 80 per cent. of the cases he has mentioned are covered by the bill which I brought in last week, and which we hope to pass before the House rises.
– In concluding this debate, which has covered practically every other sphere of political activity, I think it fitting to make a few observations concerning the financial situation. Several honorable members have asked for a fuller statement of the financial position of the Commonwealth, butI point out, as I did very briefly, in moving the second reading of the bill, that the Government’s financial programme for next year cannot be supplied during the currency of the present financial year. That cannot be done until we have received the complete returns for the current financial year, and are able to visualize the prospects of the next. The revenue position is largely determined by the customs and excise revenue. It is difficult even at this stage to accurately forecast what will be the customs and excise revenue, and, consequently, what will be the total revenue of the Commonwealth. To show how unreliable would be an estimate made at this time of the year, I have taken out for the purpose of comparison quarterly figures of customs and excise revenue over a period of years. I would point out that in the first quarter of the present financial year we were in the very trough of a depression. We had temporary financial stringency, shipping difficulties, and drought in certain portions of the Commonwealth and a very low customs revenue, yet in the second quarter the aggregate receipts for the Commonwealth constituted a record. If I compare the position over three years honorable members will see how difficult it is to accurately estimate at one period of the year the total receipts for the whole year. The customs and excise receipts for the first quarter of this year were £9,503,000, as compared with £11,266,000 for the first quarter of 1927-28, and £10,881,000 for the first quarter of 1926-27. The second quarter of the current financial year gave us a customs and excise revenue of £11,449,000 as compared with £10,983,000 for the corresponding period in 1927-28, and £11,234,000 in 1926-27, which was the peak quarter of the peak year in the matter of revenue from this source. The yield in the second quarter of this year was higher than that of any other quarter in the history of the Commonwealth. Honorable members will see from these facts how difficult it is at this period, when barely nine months of the year have elapsed, to accurately forecast the position. Under normal circumstances, I have no doubt that the estimate of customs revenue for the year would have been realized, but the strikes in the timber industry and on the waterfront, and the trouble on the coal-fields, must seriously diminish the purchasing power of the nation. In the meantime, the Government is using every effort to keep down expenditure and to keep the finances in a satisfactory condition. It is exercising the utmost caution in dealing with expenditure in all branches. The expenditure is under continuous supervision and review by a series of economy committees, and additional items of departmental expenditure asked for are submitted also to Ministerial as well as to Treasury scrutiny. It must, however, be realized that the departmental expenditure of the Commonwealth Government covers only a small portion of the field of total expenditure, and no matter what economy is exercised, it is impossible to bring about a saving which would offset any great deficiency in the receipts from direct or indirect taxation. Reference to the bill under consideration will show that the total expenditure under part 1 for two months is estimated at £1,621,180, £800,000 of which is for defence expenditure, which is very little above what it was in pre-war days. It is obvious that there is not much room for such great economies in departmental expenditure as will enable us to offset any huge diminution in customs and excise revenue during the year. A comparison of the various items of estimated expenditure in the Commonwealth budget shows at a glance that the ordinary votes of the departments for the presentyear was £3,114,488. For war and repatriation services interest and sinking fundis set down at £20,990,000; war pensions, £7,610,000; repatriation and other war services interest and sinking fund is £29,821,710 in respect of war and repatriation services alone. The estimated expenditure on defence is £4,666,000, which added to the estimate of war services and repatriation makes a total of £34,487,710. In addition, invalid and old-age pensions are estimated to cost £10,000,000; works interest, and sinking fund, £1,784,850; maternity allowance, £680,000; other special appropriations, £981,690; miscellaneous services, £376,944; and additions, new works and buildings, £244,035, which with the £34.487,710 previously mentioned, makes a total expenditure under Part I. of £51,669,717. In addition there is the payment of £11,000,000 to the States, which makes a total of approximately £63,000,000. It is evident that if we are to produce any large reductions in expenditure there must be a reversal or modification of the policy of the Commonwealth. Most of the items which comprise this list, however, have been deliberately included in accordance with a policy approved by the people, and which apparently the people still desire to have carried out.
– It is a matter of Government policy.
– Exactly. And it has been before the people on two occasions, and has received their cordial endorsement. Take, for instance, the question of Commonwealth financial assistance to the States. There is a fixed charge as regards payments to the sinking funds and contributions of interest. It is set out in the financial agreement which has now been ratified by this Parliament, and cannot be. altered unless with the concurrence of all the States and the Com- monwealth. As for the Federal aid roads agreement, the money spent is raised by a special tax on the road users of - the Commonwealth, and so satisfied are they with the results that have been obtained that many are asking for further taxation for the purpose of getting better roads. Another considerable item of Commonwealth expenditure is that on old-age pensions. In every debate I have listened to in this House, honorable members have insisted that the Government shall deal even more generously with our old-age pensioners. War pension payments represent an annual liability of £7,600,000. No honorable member suggests that that amount should be curtailed. On the contrary, only the other day the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) urged the Government to deal more generously with war pensioners, and there is no doubt that the consensus of opinion is that the Commonwealth should be as liberal as possible towards all applicants for war pensions. But we cannot do what is desired of us in these directions without spending a large sum of money. If it is desired to reduce this expenditure, it will first be necessary to modify or reverse the hitherto generally accepted policy with regard to war pensioners. Another big item of expenditure is represented in the payment of interest on our war debt. The Government, by moans of the financial agreement, by sinking fund arrangements, and by its establishment of the Loan Council is constantly endeavouring to secure the best terms possible for all conversion loans so as to lighten the interest burden. But while we are endeavouring to keep expenditure down to the minimum, I wish to emphasize that it is not possible to make huge cuts in Commonwealth expenditure unless honorable members are prepared to submit to a modification of Commonwealth policy as regards the statutory obligations that I have mentioned.
I turn now to the debate on this bill. We hare had criticism from that section of the House which we may regard as the regular Opposition, whose duty it is to oppose all Government measures, and whose members manfully do their duty in that regard; and we have also had criticism from another section which may be regarded as the irregular opposition, whose main purpose seems to be to hamstring and defeat the Government. During the last few days we have had the spectacle of three men coming into the chamber - a kind of shadow cabinet - to criticize the Government and afterwards congratulating one another on their efforts. It is obvious that their intention is to do all they possible can to disrupt the alliance between the Nationalist and the Country parties. They affect to believe that the fusion between these two parties is an unholy alliance. I suggest that the association of the heterogeneous elements represented by the three honorable members referred to is a much more unholy alliance than that of the Nationalist and Country parties. One of the three members to whom I refer is the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), who attacked the Government upon its tariff policy. He is an avowed freetrader, and, I think, a single taxer as well. In his company, we find the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) who is what I would call a Free Trade-Protectionist. He professes complete abhorrence of the principle of protection generally, but is a sound protectionist in regard to duties on dried fruits, and when a duty affects his own electorate, he is prepared to compromise. We have this Free Trader and this halfandhalfer joining forces with the wholehog Protectionist representing North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) to bring about improvement in the tariff. These honorable members would have the people believe that a working agreement between the Nationalist and Country parties to ensure stable government, is a shocking arrangement. That the legislative results of this combination of parties have received the endorsement of the people on two occasions is a sufficient answer to the criticism that has been directed against the Government by the three honorable members referred to. What sort of mongrel-breed of legislation would be produced from the combination of the three honorable gentlemen referred to, whose one object, as I have said, appears to be to bring about the defeat of this Government? They pose as stalwarts, guarding the interests of the country people. Let them be judged by their record. The honorable member for
Wimmerahas poured scorn upon every member of the party which he has deserted, because in association with the Nationalist party they dared to sink some of their individual views to ensure stable Government. He declares that he would never do anything of the sort himself. Let us examine his record. When he was a member of the Government, and it was necessary for the Government to adopt a policy of protection in regard to certain industries by preferential treatment under customs duties, he, like every oneelse in the same position, had to look at the proposal from the point of view of practical politics.
– What duties?
– I propose to tell the House. When the honorable member was Minister for Works and Railways, Cabinet was called upon to consider the purchase of certain machinery.
– Is the Treasurer about to give away Cabinet secrets?
– I propose to state the position of the honorable member for Wimmera, who pretends now to be horrified at the tariff policy of the Government. A man who in this House does what the honorable member for Wimmera did in this debate - and tries to shirk his collective responsibility for an executive act - is an absolute coward.
– What about the Oodnadatta locomotives?
– That is the very subject which I was about to mention. When the honorable member was Minister for Works and Railways, the Government was called upon to consider a tender for fourteen locomotives for the Oodnadatta railway. The amount of the Australian tender was, I think, £140,000. There was a British tender for £87,000. It was represented to the Government that although the Australian tender was considerably in advance of the British price, the Australian contractor would be in a position to tender for future locomotives at much lower price if this tender were accepted.
– What action did I take on that matter?
– As a member of the Government, the honorable member agreed to the Australian tenderer getting the contract in March, 1924.
-Four or five months later, late in August, the honorable member resigned from Cabinet, not on the question of policy, or on anything connected with the locomotives, so he said, but because he objected to the manner in which the Government desired to conduct the next election.
– The honorable member for Wimmera could not have resigned from the Government on a question of policy, because the Government had none.
– On the contrary, the Government had a very definite policy which, I again remind the honorable member for Yarra, is to-day much appreciated by the people. The honorable member for Wimmera resigned four months after the Oodnadatta locomotives contract was determined, and now he tries to give members of my party the impression that the left the Government on a question of policy connected with them.
– If the Prime Minister does not deny what the Treasurer is saying, I will tell the whole story.
– I listened in complete silence to the honorable member for Wimmera, and I suggest that I should have the same opportunity to state my case. There is no justification for the insinuation of the honorable member that any member in this party or Government has anything to hide. The honorable member wishes the House to believe that he would never compromise with his principles in any way, but when he held an executive position he remained in the Government when it adopted a policy which it believed was in the best interests of the country. When he left that position he said he had done something totally against his own principles. He did not resign on that issue, however, but on a quite different issue, and months after the incident. He has not as much claim to purity of action as those whom he criticizes.
I turn now to the remarks of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). He saw fit, during my absence from the chamber last Friday, in order to discuss a,n important question with the Premier of Tasmania, to make an attack upon myself and the party which I have the honour to lead, I should not have deemed it necessary to reply to his comments but for the fact that he is an ex-Prime Minister, and has the faculty of employing amusing imagery to make a fine “ speech. If, however, one analyses the speech which the right honorable gentleman made, one is compelled to conclude either that his intellect is beginning to totter or that, filled with an impish spirit of mischief, his purpose is to disrupt the alliance between the Nationalist and Country parties. The right honorable gentleman has never recovered from the effect of that alliance, oven though he was in favour of its formation and assisted to bring it about. But whatever reason has actuated the right honorablegentleman, I do not propose to reply to him in detail, because my reply would be distorted by interested persons into an attack on the Nationalists and their achievements, which I have no idea of making. In the face of the industrial disturbance and the financial difficulties and other problems of Australia at the present time, it is imperative to have a strong government supported by both parties, National and Country and I will not endanger the good relationship existing between them. I will say one thing, however: I described an earlier outburst by the ex-Prime Minister, as the bursting of an old abscess full of venom and spite. That abscess is evidently still a running sore, it is still ejecting as much poisonous matter as ever. If the right honorable gentleman were honest in his beliefs and statements regarding this Government, surely the time for attacking the policy and achievements of the Government was during and before the elections, when he might have guided the people into giving a verdict in regard to himself, by letting them know exactly where he stood. There is an ugly name given to soldiers who enlist in one camp, yet poison the wells of their own forces and give ammunition, even though it be dud ammunition, to the enemy. The right honorable gentleman, who has lost the leadership of two other parties, said that he now aspired to the leadership of the Country party and offered himself as a banner-bearer and a new leader. The political treachery of his attacks of the last two months against the Government he was elected to support is sufficient to disqualify him permanently from the leadership of any party.
The Opposition to the Government in this chamber is grotesque. We find the regular Opposition in this chamber saying that under the financial agreement with the States the Commonwealth is paying too much money to the States, and the irregular Opposition saying that the Commonwealth is paying too little. We find the honorable the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Theodore) claiming that by reducing the tariff the Government is destroying industry, and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) saying that the Government, by its ever increasing tariff, is piling up the burdens on the man on the land. We have one section saying that the Country party is dominating the Ministry and another saying that the Nationalist section of the Ministry is dominating the Country party section. The situation is grotesque, but the result of it has apparently been to expedite business. Although an attempt has been made to show that nothing is being done by the Government, five major features of its policy on which it went to the country, have been, or are just about to be, placed on the statute-book within two months of the assembling of Parliament. The Transport Workers Bill, the Financial Agreement Validation Bill and the Tariff Board Bill have already passed both Houses. The bill dealing with war pensions appeals, and the Economic Research Bill will be passed this week. Thus five cardinal measures of the Government’s policy will be on the statutebook within two months after the meeting of Parliament. When it is suggested that the Government has done nothing, the answer is not only the record of what has actually been done in this Parliament, but also the undoubted endorse-“ ment of the Government’s policy by the people on two successive occasions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Part 1. - Departments and Services, other than Business Undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth.
Proposed vote, £1,621,180.
Mr. PARKER MOLONEY (Hume) 9.52]. - To-night, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has spoken about the serious position of the wheat industry. I have waited for this opportunity to say what I have to say on the subject, because I feel that it is useless to talk unless we can come to some definite decision. I, therefore, move -
That the proposed vote (Part 1 - Departments and Services other than Business Undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth, £1,021,180) bc reduced by £1 - as a direction to the Government to devise an Australian-wide wheat-marketing scheme, with the object of obtaining for the farmer a price for hi3 wheat that will ensure him an adequate return for his labour. Every honorable member who, like, myself, represents a rural constituency will agree that the wheat farmer today is in a parlous position, and if we are agreed upon that we may be able to persuade the Government that some action should be taken to save the wheat-growing industry from the disastrous situation that otherwise will be ahead of it. Almost every day I receive communications from struggling farmers, complaining of their difficulties. On Saturday last a typical letter came to hand from a farmer at Binya, in the Riverina electorate, and I propose to read portions of it to show honorable members that the position of the wheat-farmer is far from enviable. Among other things this farmer says -
There is n movement taking shape here to induce the Government to give a guaranteed price for wheat at country sidings. Every one here is of the opinion that the wheatgrower cannot continue under present conditions. . . . Do you consider the question of the Federal Government paying an export bounty on wheat, say over a period of fi v.years, a. practical suggestion?
Others have made the same suggestion. My object in quoting this letter is to show that there is something wrong with the industry. It continues -
Is it reasonable or possible? Suppose they paid a bounty sufficient to bring the local prices at country sidings up to, say 5s. per bushel for a fta led period and took the risks of losses in some seasons and, perhaps, profits to themselves (the Federal Government) in other years. Over a period of years, perhaps, they would not be heavy losers. Such an arrangement, if possible, would appear to me a great help to stabilize the wheat industry.
Then it goes on to say -
The wheat-growers are getting deeper into the grip of the Jews every year, and there can be only one result unless some drastic remedy is applied. . . _ I understand that the Federal Government paid a bonus on the export of wine for some years. Surely wheat is a much more important industry.
– There are many obvious causes. High rates of interest, high rent, high shipping freights, and a want of a proper organised method of marketing are some of the factors militating against the wheat-farmers to-day. A questionnaire was sent through the Riverina, district a little while ago and from the answers supplied, it is ascertained that the general opinion is that the cost of wheat production to-day is in the vicinity of 5s. a bushel.
– What is the current price ?
– The average price realized last year was 4s. 7d. per bushel. This year the price has been about 4s., and as the farmer cannot produce wheat under a cost of approximately 5s. a bushel, he is operating at a dead loss. There is a widespread feeling amongst the wheat-growers that some immediate action must be taken. The seriousness of the position is revealed by the number of people who are abandoning agriculture. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) recently quoted figures from the Year-Book showing that during the six years in which the present Government has been in office, 53,000 primary producers have been forced to abandon agricultural and pastoral pursuits. The majority of them were wheat-growers. The total number of primary producers decreased in that period ‘from 478,000 to 425,000 notwithstanding that the population of the Commonwealth increased by 600,000, and that since the war millions of pounds have been spent on the settlement of returned soldiers. In other words, in each year that this Government has been in office, on the average 9,000 people have left the land. This drift is recognized by others than the members of the Opposition. Mr. Fleming, the Country party candidate for Hume, said during the recent election campaign -
Of fifteen shire councils in Riverina, nine of them have been losing population constantly during recent years.
By a coincidencehe mentioned the period of office of the present Government. I knew that the majority of the shires were losing population, but I was not aware of the statistics. Mr. Fleming also said -
I am in agreement with those who say that wheat cannot be produced under 5s.6d.a bushel, and the farmer receives at most 4s.1d.
Senator Duncan, a Nationalist who travelled extensively throughout New South Wales in support of the pact candidates said -
In the past five years, although the Country partyhas had a big share in this Government, 3,000 people have been driven off the land.
I presume Senator Duncan was speaking only of New South Wales, and that the figures referred to the drift from the land each year. The Labour party believes in giving a fair deal to the primary producer equally with the man engaged in secondary production. We advocate a basic wage for the man in the factory and the man on the land. We believe in an Australian price for primary products - a price sufficiently remunerative to cover the cost of production and leave a reasonable margin of profit for the producer. Primary and secondary production are interdependent. The man in the factory relies upon the man on the land for supplies of food and the raw material of manufacture; the man on the land depends upon the secon- dary producer to provide a home market for his goods. Australia grows better wool than any other country, and if our economic system were efficient, we would not be exporting wool to be manufactured overseas and then buying it back again; we would do the manufacturing in our own country and give employment to our own people. It would be of advantage to the wool-grower if large establishments in Australia were engaged in converting his wool into cloth. In advocating a basic wage and good living conditions for those engaged in the textile trades, we are promoting equally the prosperity of the pastoralist. The wheat grower is dependent on the flour millers and their hundreds of thousands of employees. The millers and mill-workers in turn rely upon the wheat producer for the raw- m aterial of their industry.
– Can the honorable member explain why extensive woollen factories have not been established in Aus- tralia?
– We have many woollen mills in Australia.
– They do not absorb onefifth of the production of wool; what is the reason?
– Sufficient encouragement is not given to our secondary industries. We have very fine mills, such as that at Albury. The Governmentowned mill at Geelong paid profits until it was disposed of by this Government.
– It is doing better now than it was then.
– We stand for decent living conditions for those who are engaged in the textile trade, and because they are dependent upon the persons who grow the wool, we believe that they also should have decent living conditions. That, too, is our attitude towards those who are engaged in the flour mills and other industries which are subsidiary to the growing of wheat. Therefore, we say that the wheat-growers should get a fair price for their commodity.
– Out of what fund does the honorable member propose to pay the difference between the Australian price and the export price for wheat?
– The honorable gentleman should remember what has been done in regard to butter, canned fruits, dried fruits, and wine. The Government stepped in and stabilized those industries by making provision for the marketing of their products. I am merely asking that similar steps be taken with a view to assisting the greatest industry we have. If action of that sort is necessary to place some industries on a sound basis, it is more essential in connexion with our great stable industry of wheat-growing. I make the following quotation from the policy speech which was delivered by the Leader of the
Opposition (Mr. Scullin) prior to the last election, to show that I am advocating what he then proposed. He said -
Labour stands for the fullest possible protection for all industries, primary and secondary. Whore we can, by agreements or undertakings, safeguard consumers as to price, quality and the ability of the industry to supply requirements, complete protection will be given in guaranteeing the Australian market to Australian industry.
He went on to say–
Primary producers are experiencing great difficulty in obtaining profitable markets for wheat, butter, eggs, canned and dried fruits, citrus, wine grapes, rice, cotton and other primary products. It is not the living wage of the industrial worker that places the burden on the farmers’ shoulders. That heavy burden is imposed by monopolists and middlemen in the selling of farm produce and buying farm requisites. Kings operate against the producers. High rates of interest, heavy shipping charges, agents’ commissions - these are some of the exactions that prevent the man on the land from receiving a fair return for his labour……. The primary producers’ organization in Queensland, created by the Labour Government of that State, is doing good work for the agricultural and allied industries. Local producers associations, with a central authority - the Council of Agriculture - have brought about improvements in marketing conditions. The establishment of an Australian-wide system would make this work more effective, and would extend the benefits to farmers in other States.
He then made the following promise: -
We will invite the growers to a conference for that purpose, and will pass the necessary legislation to facilitate and co-ordinate the activities of State governments for the assistance of those engaged in rural pursuits.
That is a clear and definite statement, and it follows the lines that I have laid down this evening. While I have no wish to detract from the importance of the industries that the Government has already assisted, there can be nothing wrong with the application of a similar system to what is perhaps our greatest industry. Why is the wheat-grower left to the mercy of the wolves? Honorable members will recollect that at one time we had a comprehensive scheme for the pooling of our wheat. The wheat industry was not previously, and it has not been since, in a better position than it occupied during that period. On the contrary, it has certainly declined since the withdrawal of the scheme, under which wheat-growers were largely able to overcome the shipping problem. They had one chartering and one handling agency, and in that way were able to cut down the different high charges which are operating against them to-day. Under a proper marketing scheme the Government ought to be able to arrange for one chartering agency. That, in itself, would do a great deal to obviate the existing cutthroat competition and minimize the exceedingly high freights that are militating against the success of those who are engaged in this important industry. A little while ago, the States of New South Wales and Victoria, recalling the great advantage which was derived from the pooling system, endeavoured to secure another compulsory wheat pool. I cannot remember such insidious propaganda as that which was spread throughout the country to stampede the wheat-grower and make “him nervous of the proposal. The exploiters of the wheat-grower are well known.
– Wheat brokers, speculators and millers.
– They have never grown a grain of wheat in their lives. I read daily the letters which appeared in the press, beseeching the wheat farmer to keep his business in his own hands and preserve his liberty.
– The liberty that his forefathers fought and died for !
– Yes. Many men who did not know the origin of the propaganda began to think that there was a great deal to said in favour of keeping the business in their own hands; but when the proposal was defeated, they found that they were easy victims for the sharks which surrounded them on all sides. The wheat that they were to keep in their own hands was no longer in the hands of the farmers, who fell easy victims to the people who have been trading on them for years, in other words the people who farm the farmers and who are not their friends.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has. brought this matter forward in such a form that it cannot be taken other than as a vote of censure upon the Government. In dealing with the wheat industry the honorable member alluded to the drift to the cities, and his remarks might be taken to suggest that Australia is the only country in which that is taking place. We all deplore that drift, which is most regrettable. But Australia is not by any means singular in that respect; in every other highlycivilized country the population of the cities is gaining at the- expense of that of the country. It appears that the more highly complex society becomes, the greater is the proportion of those engaged in the secondary industries and the smaller the proportion engaged in the primary industries.
The honorable member for Hume dealt particularly with the wheat industry. I should like, briefly, to traverse what has already been accomplished, and to outline the attempts which have been made to accomplish still more in connexion with the better organization of the industry. For some time voluntary wheat pools have been in existence, the most important of which at present are the Victorian Wheat-growers’ Corporation, and Westralian Farmers Limited. Those are the two about which I happen to be best informed. Several attempts have also been made by some farmers, more particularly by those in Victoria and New South Wales, to obtain compulsory pools, while it has been the endeavour of others to secure a somewhat similar form of export organization for the wheat industry as is possessed by the butter, dried fruits and canned fruits industries. I refer to the principle of the Export Control Boards. I shall deal briefly with those three types of organization. I remind honorable members that the voluntary pools which exist to-day have been tremendously helped by the action of this Government in making available finance, which is now easily obtained by them on the security of their wheat, before it is marketed. The rural credits department of the Commonwealth Bank has been largely drawn upon by such organizations, particularly, to my knowledge, by the Victorian Wheat-growers’ Corporation. I know that in one season alone overdrafts running into millions of pounds have been obtained from the rural credits department on the security of the wheat. It is only a few years ago, and within the recollection of many honorable members, that wheat pool organizations had to go cap in hand to the Government of the day seeking a guarantee to the banks against an advance, which could not be obtained even on such an excellent security as the wheat crop, which does not deteriorate, unless the advance were guaranteed by the Government. Nothing of the sort is necessary now, as the pools are able to obtain the amount required through the rural credits department of the Commonwealth Bank.
– It is an absolute fact, and I can give the honorable member figures on the subject. Only the other day, the manager of the Victorian organization to which I have referred, assured me that the Rural Credits Department did everything possible to facilitate the operation of his organization.
– That assistance is extended only on wheat intended to be exported.
– The honorable member has been sufficiently long in this chamber to realize that, in marketing matters, the Commonwealth Government is limited in this field under the Constitution. It has absolutely no jurisdiction with regard to marketing within the States, which is a matter solely for the State Governments concerned.
I shall enumerate one or two recent attempts by various organizations in different States to secure compulsory pools. Some little time ago the State of New South Wales legislated to make it possible in certain circumstances, after a poll had been taken and a two-third? majority obtained in favour of the pool, to establish a pool in certain rural industries. These industries were then brought under the operation of the Marketing Act, and, in effect, a compulsory pool existed to handle the commodity. A ballot was taken in New South Wales under the aegis of that legislation, and, instead of obtaining the requisite twothirds majority, it was impossible even to obtain a bare majority. A similar attempt to obtain a compulsory pool was made in Victoria last year. An extraordinarily strong combination of those who believed that the pool would be of benefit to the farmer, banded themselves together in an effort to con vince farmers throughout Victoria that they should vote in favour of it. The Victorian Wheat-growers’ Corporation, the big co-operative companies, the Chamber of Agriculture and representatives of the Country party and of the Country Progressive party all worked in unison, particularly in the Mallee, in an endeavour to convince the Victorian farmers that the time was ripe for a compulsory pool. The result is well known. Even they did riot succeed in obtaining a simple majority vote in favour of a compulsory pool in Victoria. Now, what is the position of the Commonwealth Government ? It is true that the attempts made in New South Wales and Victoria referred merely to compulsory pools within the States, if the Marketing Act in New South Wales might be said to provide for a compulsory pool, and it practically amounted to that. The Commonwealth Government has not the power to bring down a measure for the compulsory pooling of wheat for both the local market and for export. Before such legislation could be effective it would be essential to obtain something like unanimity between the various State Governments in the States concerned. The Commonwealth has, however, certain powers which might be utilized by the wheat industry, just as they are being utilized to-day by the dairying, dried fruits, and canned fruits industries. Some time ago the Commonwealth Government made it clear that it is prepared to do for the wheat-growers of Australia what it has already done for those engaged in the industries I have mentioned. About two years ago a deputation came to me from the Victorian Chamber of Agriculture, and placed before me a proposition that the Commonwealth Government should give to the wheat-growers an export board to deal with the exportable surplus of the yield from the States. They suggested that the board should be clothed with similar statutory powers to those enjoyed by similar boards in other industries. I told the deputation that the Federal’ Government would sympathetically consider any proposals of that kind put forward by the wheat industry as a whole, but that obviously it would be impossible for it to bring down legislation setting up an export control board unless it had first of all received satisfactory evidence that there was a general desire for such a board throughout Australia. I pointed out that the members of the deputation represented only one section of one State, and that it would be necessary for them to get some backing from the other wheatproducing States before the Government could be expected to take action. They realized the reasonableness of that view, and I believe that they did get into touch with some of the other States. Apparently, the result of their negotiations was not such as to encourage them to proceed further with the project. The Commonwealth Government is still prepared to do for the wheat industry what it has done for other industries. It is prepared to go as far as it can within the limits of the Constitution, as it has done for other industries. The position, however, is that until those engaged in the wheat industry make up their minds as to what they want in the way of export control, the Commonwealth Government can do very little. I have no doubt that when they do make up their minds, they will achieve practical results. 1 suggest that the willingness of the Government to assist export industries generally by means of improved organization deserves a better reward than that an honorable member should move a vote of censure on the Government.
.- The Minister has endeavoured to raise opposition to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) by describing it as a censure motion, but he can easily avoid any suggestion of censure by saying that he is prepared to accept the amendment, and to adopt the policy which it suggests. The honorable member for Hume has no other means of getting such a resolution before the House than to couch it in the form of a motion for the reduction of an item in tile Supply Bill. This is not a censure motion, and the Minister described it as such only for the purpose of whipping up the supporters of the Government. The honorable member for Hume has drawn attention to one of the most serious problems of Australia. We have heard much recently about the financial position of Australia, and of the serious deficit in her budget. There is only one way in which Australia can get out of her financial difficulties, and that is by an extension of the great primary and secondary industries. One of Australia’s most important industries is wheatgrowing. In the main, we look to wheat and wool for the exports necessary to balance Australia’s ledger. If the farmers who are growing wheat find themselves in the position that they are losing money by production, they will get out of the business, and go into something else that is not so good for the country. We must face the position as it is. There is no use in talking about the limits of the Constitution, because whenever this Parliament has really wished to do something, the Constitution has gone by the board, particularly when the States were in agreement with us. If there is no power in the Commonwealth Government to control the wheat industry, neither was there power to control the sugar industry, but it was done, because the Government of the State concerned co-operated with the Commonwealth. Control was established and the sugar industry was stabilized. Nothing is gained by talking about artificial restrictions. It is essential that we maintain our industries, both primary and secondary, and we should be prepared to pay the price. We built up the boot industry in this country, for example, by erecting a tariff wall. We paid a higher price, no doubt, than that for which we could import goods made by cheap labour in other countries, but the people were prepared to pay that price. What is true of manufactured articles is true also of primary products. We are prepared to pay an Australian price to the men on the land for the work they are doing. The Minister said that votes were taken among the farmers on the question of establishing compulsory pools. It is true that polls were taken in some of the States, but the Minister talked about the wonderful effort made by the Country party to secure the carrying of the issue before the farmers. I observed the campaign very closely in Victoria, and I do not know of one member of the Country party in this Parliament who went out and said a word in favour of the compulsory pool. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) supported it, but then he is not a member of the Country party. I am open to correction, but my impression is that no representative of the Country party offered any advice to the farmers as to where their interests lay. They should have said openly whether they were for the proposal or against it. However, those who were the paid representatives of the great wheat-brokers were very active, and their propaganda was constant and insidious. This Government has made no attempt to encourage the introduction of a wheat pool among the farmers. Arrangements have been made for taking a poll of the grape-growers on the marketing of wine, but nothing of the kind is being done for the wheat-farmers. We do not suggest that the Commonwealth Government, by itself, has power to handle this matter, but it could do it in cooperation with the States, as it has done in the fruit and the sugar industries. I do not intend to delay the committee at this stage, but I suggest that the Minister has talked all round the subject, and has not come to the point. As to the talk of a vote of censure, if the Government is prepared to say that it will take a grip of this important industry, and assist in its organization, as it has done with regard to other industries-
– I have already said that.
– No; The Minister has not given that undertaking. He has said that when those engaged in the industry are prepared to make up their minds what they want, the Government will do something for them ; but, in other cases, he has invited the producers to accept assistance by passing legislation and conducting ballots under it. Is the Government prepared to adopt that attitude to the wheat industry? It will be a sad day for this country if we cannot get this industry stabilized and put on a sound basis. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) asked from what fund the money was to be found to pay a guaranteed price. The answer is that it will be found from the same fund as that from which the money to stabilize other industries is provided. We cannot guarantee the farmer a price on the wheat that he exports that will ensure to him a return for his labour. But, by organization of the industry, we could have his product placed on the market at a lower cost than he now pays, and give a guarantee in respect of that portion of the crop that is sold in Australia. We should see that he receives for that wheat a price that is based on the cost of production and will provide him with a reasonable return.
.- The motion is of great importance to a very large and worthy section of the people. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has been accused by the Minister of moving what is tantamount to a direct vote of want of confidence in the Government. If that was his real objective, he lacked his usual definiteness in framing his amendment. Had he moved that the vote be reduced by £1 as an instruction to the Government to introduce a compulsory wheat pool, or to guarantee the payment of 5s. per bushel to the growers for a number of years, his object might have been interpreted as a direct motion of no-confidence; but he has merely submitted the motion as an instruction to the Government to do something to assist the industry. The Minister states that the Government has not the necessary power to do what would perhaps be necessary to put into effect a concrete Australian policy. That is perfectly true. But the Government has not shown any haste to endeavour to seek the powers necessary to bring about effective control of, not only this, but also other primary industries. Alterations of the Constitution to give the Government control, internally and externally, in regard to primary industries, are long overdue. The Minister says that, when those engaged in the wheatgrowing industry decide what they want; the Government will be prepared to take a poll, and if the result of the poll shows that the industry desires it, a bill will be brought in to provide for export control.
– The legislation is always brought down before the poll is taken.
– That is so, but the effect is the same and the Government is prepared to bring in legislation to give effect to the wishes of the growers. The Minister pointed to the canned fruits, dried fruits and dairying industries, as specific examples of industries that had decided to secure this control. I remind the Minister that there is a fundamental difference between the conditions in those industries and those in the wheat-growing industry. It is much more difficult to secure unanimity amongst the wheatgrowers than amongst those engaged in the production of dried and canned fruits and butter. When the wheat-grower’s commodity leaves his hands it is a marketable product, but, in the case of dried fruits, the commodity is sent to the packing shed, in the case of canned fruits, to the cannery, and, in the case of cream, to the butter factory.
– And, in the case of grapes, to the winery.
– Exactly. Some time ago, I put a request from the Murrayville district council of the Country Progressive party before the Prime Minister for a bounty of ls. a bushel on the export of wheat, and the reply that I received, dated 12th March, was as follows: -
I desire to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 1st March, enclosing a communication from the honorable secretary of the Murrayville district council, in regard to the question of a bonus on wheat. This question has been given careful consideration, but the Government regrets that it is unable to see its way to accede to the request of the Murrayville district council of the Country Progressive party, that a bonus be paid.
Honorable members who are not in touch with wheat-growing districts, probably do not realize the serious position that confronts the farmers, not. only in Victoria, but in the back country of New South Wales, in the electorate of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), and in South Australia. In those three States, but particularly in Victoria, the wheat-growers would have been driven off the land, not in hundreds, but in thousands, if the State Governments had not come to their assistance. In Victoria, last season, the State Government advanced £1,000,000 to the farmers in the Mallee for seed wheat and fodder for their stock, and even sustenance for themselves. This year, the present Government of Victoria, although representing a different party from that of the previous administration, has, unfortunately, had to come to the assistance of the same growers, owing to two very adverse seasons.
– New South Wales is doing the same.
– And so is South Australia.
– Honorable members representing New South Wales and South Australia admit that assistance is being rendered to farmers by the Governments of those States. High production costs are a factor; but the adverse season is also responsible to some extent. As this industry provides employment to a large section of the community and those engaged in it are the customers of such important secondary industries as those manufacturing agricultural machinery and fertilizers, the Government should give immediate attention to its pressing needs. I suggest, in all seriousness, that the Government should not treat this important matter from a party standpoint and regard the amendment as a motion of want of confidence. It is the duty of the Government to convene a conference of representatives of the wheat-producing States of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, to ascertain if, by co-operation between the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments, something cannot be done to assist this great industry. If the Prime Minister visited some of the back country in Victoria and New South Wales in a season such as the present and saw the conditions under which the people, particularly the womenfolk, are struggling, he would feel ashamed. I urge the Government not to dismiss this amendment by cracking the party whip; but to make a serious effort to assist those who have done, and are still doing, so much to develop this great continent. The men on whose behalf I am speaking have for years past been plundered by those who have the audacity to style themselves their friends. For years the superphosphate manufacturers have been deliberately conspiring to exploit the wheatgrowers of this country. In common with others, I have persuaded the farmers to organize in their own interests.
I have told them that all those who handle their products are organized, whilst they remain unorganized. The wheat-grower sells his wheat to the organized wheat merchant. It is taken delivery of by organized agents, handled by organized lumpers, carried to the seaboard by organized railway men, and taken overseas in vessels manned by organized seamen. In connexion with wheat used for local consumption the position is the same,, as the wheat is purchased by the organized flour millers’ associations, handled by organized master bakers, and delivered to the consumers’ door by organized carters and drivers. Immediately the wheat passes out of the control of the farmer the price is fixed. The price of flour is also fixed by the flour millers’ associations. Although there has been a substantial reduction this year in the price of wheat, there has been no corresponding reduction in the price of bread. Who is getting the advantage? The price of bread to-day in the district in which I live is the same as it was twelve months ago. Following are the average prices for wheat at the seaboard as supplied by the Government statistician : - 1925, 6s. O 7/8d. a bushel; 1926, 6s. 2£d.; 1927, 5s. 4Jd., and 1928, 5s. lid The price for this year may average 4s. 7d. a bushel, although of course it may be less. Another regrettable feature, and one which the Government should not ignore, is that co-existent with the drop in the price of wheat, we have had an adverse season, and consequently a decreased yield. The whole situation in wheat-growing areas is most depressing, and I appeal to the Government to do something to assist the industry. I feel sure that if the Prime Minister will give the committee some assurance that an effort will be made to help men who are in a desperate position, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) will withdraw his amendment.
– I am afraid honorable members opposite who are supporting the amendment, are not altogether consistent. Only an hour ago the Government was condemned by honorable members opposite for bringing about a position under which the dairy farmers have received £4,000,000 more than they would in ordinary circumstances have received. Notwithstanding this, they now ask why those engaged in the wheat industry cannot receive the same form of assistance. Honorable members know that any section of rural producers can have the assistance of an export control board, should they seek it. Our agricultural industries should be organized.
– The honorable member should say who condemned the Government, for introducing a scheme under which the dairy farmers have received the sum he mentioned.
– The honorable member for ‘Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) referred to the increased price of butter on the local market involving a total of £4,000,000.
– I referred to it, but I did not condemn the Government because it had been received.
– The honorable member criticized the Government for its action, and is now asking it to assist the wheat farmer.
– I only discussed the subject.
– Honorable members should realize that before assistance can be given to the wheat farmers in the direction they suggest, an amendment of the Constitution would be necessary because of the disabilities that exist, owing to State boundaries. I have previously advocated assistance under an amended Constitution, which I believe is the only solution of the wheat-growers’ and producers’ marketing problems. If effect were given to such a proposal for a constitutional alteration, we could give to the primary producers control of their business and an opportunity to secure for themselves a price at least equal to the cost of production. It is rather peculiar that this industry, which is now made the subject of what may be regarded as a motion of censure, has not been mentioned during the debates on this and other measures. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore), who is heartily supporting this amendment, when Premier of Queensland denied the primary producers of that State similar assistance when he was able to help them. In 1923, when he introduced the Industrial Arbitration Bill in the Queensland Parliament, the members of the Opposition urged that its provisions should not apply to primary producers until they secured at least the basic wage, but the honorable member for Dalley opposed the suggestion and voted against it. He and other honorable members opposite if they were returned to power would not bring about this concession. They could not do so unless they repudiated their principles and policy. The carrying of this amendment would mean the defeat of the Government and the dissolution of Parliament. Because it is virtually a vote of censure, and without an atom of business in it, I intend to vote against it.
.- I wish to correct a false impression which might be caused by the speech by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Corser). He declared that the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) was contrary to the principles of the Labour party. As a matter of fact, the Queensland Labour Government, many years ago, gave effect to the principles embodied in the amendment. The Ministry, of which I was a member, and which the honorable member for Wide Bay opposed for so many years, introduced and passed just such a scheme as is now proposed by the honorable member for Hume. There has been a compulsory wheat pool in Queensland since 1920, and there have also been agricultural marketing schemes applying to sugar, wheat, maize, cotton and bananas, as well as a number of other agricultural commodities, totalling, in all, twelve or fourteen. These marketing proposals, I may add, were passed through Parliament by a Labour Government which I had the honour to lead. For the first two years, the Government granted financial assistance to the farmers to enable them to organize their marketing facilities. The honorable member for Wide Bay was, I think, Deputy Leader of the Country party in the Queensland Parliament at that time, and strongly resisted the Government’s proposals. It was even suggested by the Opposition that the marketing schemes were the first instalment of sovietism.
– That is not correct.
– If the honorable member would like a more direct reference, I invite him to read the speech made by Mr. G. P. Barnes, the honorable member for Warwick in the Queensland Parliament. Mr. Barnes declared that the . Government’s marketing policy was something in the nature of toned-down sovietism, and that it would bring ruin to the Queensland farmers. But, of course, it did not do that. On the contrary, it enabled them to organize and emancipate themselves. It delivered them from the exploitation of the middlemen, speculators, brokers, agents, and millers, and all those people who come between the primary producer and the consumer. What is wrong with this proposal that the Commonwealth Government should assist our farmers to secure hotter marketing facilities, whether that assistance takes the form of financial aid or proposals to bring about co-operation with an Australian marketing board? The Minister suggested that the farmers should unite and come forward with some unanimous proposal. How is it possible to get unity among our primary producers when there are so many other people whose interests lie in the direction of keeping the farmers disunited? I remember what happened in New South Wales last year, when an attempt was made to bring the farmers in that State under a marketing scheme, and to create a compulsory wheat pool. Vested interests represented by millers, financiers, wheat speculators, dealers and agents must have spent thousands of pounds in defeating the proposal. We had the same experience in Queensland. The act provided that before a. compulsory pool could be established, there must be a certain percentage majority in favour of it, and members of the Country party in Queensland as well as flour millers, dealers and speculators endeavoured to persuade the farmers to vote against the proposal. They told the primary producers that if they voted for the scheme, they would be surrendering their liberty. Notwithstanding the strength of the opposition, the required majority of farmers voted for the scheme. We had . the same trouble over the organization of Queensland fruitgrowers. The Committee of Direction in Fruit Marketing did a vast amount of preparatory work for the better marketing of Queensland fruit, but the agents and dealers in Romastreet got together and formed what they called a “ law and order association “ the purpose of which was to induce the producers to vote against the scheme. Not one member of the Country party went out to warn the farmers against the machinations of the agents, dealers, middle men and exploiters, and there are apparently some honorable members in this Parliament who are as just as regardless of their duty to the men on the land, fruit-growers and others, as are their fellow members in the Queensland Parliament.
.- No fault can be found with the amendment if we regard it as an expression of goodwill to the farmers, but it contains no specific proposal to which this committee could give its assent. It is in broad general terms merely an expression of hope that something will be done for the wheat-farmer. I am a member of the council of the Chamber of Agriculture of Victoria which is meeting in conference at Warragul to-morrow, and on the agenda paper of the conference are proposals relating to the wheat industry. Unfortunately, I cannot be at Warragul, but I avail myself of the opportunity the amendment presents to speak on the subject to-night.
– Let us carry this expression of goodwill.
– What was adopted in Queensland may have been beneficial to the wheat-farmers of that State, but the ‘Queensland wheat-growers have merely a local or domestic market. The average Australian wheat crop is about 150 million bushels, whereas 6 bushels per head will provide Australian requirements for foodstuffs and seed wheat. The balance becomes the world’s wheat. Whatever we intend to do, it must be clearly understood that marketing control and price fixing can only operate within
Australia and only in regard to home consumption requirements. When Australian wheat goes on the waters it becomes a factor in the fixing of the world’s price, and one of the dominating factors of this is the visible available supply of wheat at any moment. It is a mistaken belief that price fixing will help the Australian farmer in regard to the Australian consumption, but the economic position is so woven round the Australian wheat-grower that unless he can get some definite relief in another direction he. must enter the vicious circle which is created when a price is fixed for the home consumption of any commodity. If the farmer organizes his own wheat pool in Australia, he must charge a price for the wheat consumed in Australia which will increase the cost of living here. But, as the cost of living is raised against him in all other respects affecting his cost of production, he must either enter this vicious circle or cease growing wheat. His cost of production is such that on the price he is now getting, there is no clear money for him. As the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has said tonight, we have had twounfortunate seasons. The average yield in Australia is about thirteen bushels an acre. If we multiply that yield by the price paid on the farm and not at the seaboard, there is no basic wage in wheat growing to-day. I have always told the Government that I do not favour control boards for the export of primary products, but I am ir. favour of an industry organizing itself. I have never been favorable to the idea of handing to any outside body the power to prohibit the export of butter, fruit, wine or any of those commodities which this House has freely placed under the control of boards. But I am afraid we shall soon be faced with the political demand for controlling the export of two of Australia’s greatest primary products - wool and wheat. At the Warragul conference, proposals are being put forward which may result in an appeal to the Commonwealth Government for a wheat control board, and if the Government lends its ear to those proposals, there will be a poll of the Australian wheat-growers. There have already been many polls of the farmers, but I do not propose to refer to them in detail. I have always been an opponent of compulsory wheat pools. The honorable member for Wimmera and I have differed on that point. We fought it out on the occasion of the last poll and I won.
– The speculator was with the honorable member.
– I have been a wheatgrower longer than the honorable member for Wimmera.
– But the honorable member for Wannon has been closely associated with the other mob.
– No more than the honorable member for Ballarat has. As a matter of fact, I have had no association in any shape or form with wheat buyers or speculators.
– The honorable member has been a good barracker for them.
– No ; but I have beeu a stout opponent of compulsion as applied to other people’s property. I regard private ownership of property and freedom of contract as the life blood of national existence. I have always acted on that principle, not only in regard to wheat but also in regard to other commodities. The amendment is merely a general expression of goodwill, and no one can vote intelligently for it except as such. The farmers have not put up to the Commonwealth Government any definite proposal. On a previous occasion, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) put forward a definite proposition for the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool; but he is pretty astute, he has had his ear to the ground, because since his other proposition was put forward, two polls have been taken, one in Victoria and the other in New South Wales, and in each case the wheatgrowers have turned down proposals for a compulsory wheat pool. Before we commit ourselves, let us await definite proposals from the farmers themselves. In the meantime, it is useless to pass a pious resolution on the subject. I believe that the time has arrived when the wheatfarmers should unite to secure a definite organization, Australian wide, and the first step towards that end is to establish a national storage scheme. One man with wide experience in the wheat trade, when asked what was the right time to sell, said that the man who thought he always knew the right time to sell wheat would die of failure of hope, but’ he had found that it was wise to split the parcel, selling one-third, shipping one-third, and storing onethird. I say to the farmers that the first step in the organization of wheat marketing is to create a continent-wide storage scheme, so that the farmers may permanently control their own product until sold. They do not want government interference in any way. The farmer can manage his own business of production, and if he desires to have a selling organization, he can have that as an addition to the storage scheme. But having regard to the results of ballots of the farmers I cannot understand honorable members desiring to force the majority, or even a considerable minority, into a compulsory pool. The land belongs to the farmers ; the implements, the horses and the crop are theirs. They are able to exercise their own judgment in the purchase of the land, and the tilling, stocking and harvesting of it. Yet they are not thought fit to take charge of their own product and sell it to their own advantage. I believe that the farmers will find a way out of their troubles, and that when it is found it will involve the complete elimination of State control.
– I commend the honorable member for Hume for having submitted so timely an amendment. At no time in the history of Australia, at any rate not since the war, have the agriculturists been in so bad a position as they occupy today. The honorable member for Wannon has declared that the amendment is just a message of goodwill to the farmers, and that it does not achieve anything. I fail to see how any man whose interests are interlocked with those of the farmer, as the interests of the honorable member for Wannon are, can fail to vote for the amendment, which is to reduce the vote by £1 “ as a direction to the Government to devise an Australian-wide wheat marketing scheme, with the object of obtaining for the farmer a price for his wheat that will ensure him an adequate return for his labour.” Some honorable members have said that it is tantamount to a motion of censure on the Government. I do not read it in that way. The Minister for Markets stated that the drift from the country to the towns is not peculiar to Australia. Even if that be so, Ave are not relieved of our obligation to settle the problem. We cannot deal with the drift of population in America or elsewhere, but we can, I hope, deal with it as a problem in the economic life of Australia. On this point I quote an authority who, I think, will be readily accepted by every honorable member on the ministerial side. The present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) said in November, 1927 -
Ten years ago in Victoria and New South Wales - which are the most important primary producing States in Australia - there were 115,000 males engaged in cultivation. Last year the number was 87,000, a decrease of 28,000. The number of males engaged in cultivation decreased from 115,000 to 87,000 in ten years. In addition, during that time no fewer than 25,000 soldier settlers were placed on the land, at a total cost of £50,000,000, and they, or others equalling thein in number, have gone. Furthermore, there were in those two States upwards of 25,000 migrants sent to the country to work on the land. They, too, or a like number of others, have gone.
I do not doubt those figures; they show that the position is serious. It is true that in other countries also population has drifted from the country to the cities. Senator A. Kapper, of Kansas, succeeded in getting a commission appointed by the United States Senate three or four years ago to investigate the agricultural industries. For five years prior to the appointment of the commission, 1,000,000 farmers had left the States of the middle west. But the position there was different from that which obtains in Australia. Early during the war, when wheat was selling to the allies at two and a half dollars a bushel, the fanners in the middle west were doing very well, and land values increased to £50 and £100 an acre. Later, when the price of wheat fell, land values dropped to a normal price, with the result that many of the banks crashed, and the farmers found themselves in a bad position. In Australia, except in the mallee district and the other dry agricultural lands where the scantiness of the rainfall is a serious drawback, the greatest handicap that the farmer experiences is the over capitalization of the land. How that evil is to be dealt with I do not pretend to say, but we may learn a lesson from the experience of the United States of America. So far as I know, there has been ia Canada no drift from the country to tbe cities. Australia has only 6,000,000 people; the vast interior, and even a great extent of the possible wheat areas is not yet developed. . Even between Melbourne and Canberra the traveller sees hundreds of thousands of acres utilized only to depasture a few sheep and cattle. The one valuable recommendation in the report of the British Economic Mission was that, instead of spending millions of pounds on the development of new areas only we should also seek to intensify development on land in close proximity to railways already built. I try to grow wheat for a living, but I keep a farm; it does not keep me. With wheat at 4s. 2½d. per bushel in Western Australia, wheatgrowing cannot be a commercial success. Under the circumstances we have to resort to measures which are not open to other countries. Our farmers can carry on mixed farming. The American and Cana- dian lands are not suitable to the same extent for sheep grazing. There are large areas in Australia, but more particularly in my State, on which it is doubtful whether there is a sufficient water supply to keep sheep. On the newer lands, but chiefly in the sand plain country that is being opened up, there is no guarantee at present that we can do anything except grow wheat, because there is yet no proved permanent water supply to water sheep. It is very difficult to get a site for a dam, and it is questionable whether there is any sub-artesian water. Where sheep-grazing is not possible, there is no hope for the farmer. The proposal of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) is a good one. The Minister (Mr. Paterson) has said that the majority of the farmers in New South Wales and Victoria are not in favour of a compulsory pool and that, therefore, the Government should wait until they all become of the same mind. I disagree with him. When it is necessary to have co-operative marketing, the matter must be handled federally. The initiative cannot be taken by individual farmers. Australian-wide organization is a tremendous task; it is too big for an association of farmers, let alone individuals. The Government last year paid out £800,000 by way of bounty to different industries, and thus has affirmed the principle that primary industries must be assisted by that means just as secondary industries are protected by the tariff. The amendment is not a vote of censure on the Government. Those who vote against it will stultify themselves, because they will be playing the party game rather than doing justice to the farmers.
.- Many members have waxed eloquent on this subject, in particular two from the Opposition benches. It is, to me, peculiar that since I have had the privilege of sitting in this chamber, they are the only two Opposition members who have taken up the cudgels on behalf of the farming community of Australia. If I were an older member I should immediately say that they were playing to the gallery; but being a new member, I feel diffident about making that allegation. I represent what is probably one of the largest farming communities in Australia, and I have not received a communication from one farmer suggesting that anything of this kind should be done.
– What area has the honorable member under crop ?
– I have had as many thousands of acres as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
– Has the honorable member any now ?
– No; but I look after the interests of those who have. When the farmer needs anything of this sort he will not be at all backward in going first to the State Government - to whom he should go in the first instance - and then, if it should turn him down, he will ask this Government to assist him. No honorable member has given the real reason for the present frightful circumstances in which the farmer finds himself. It is that we have had one of the worst droughts that we have experienced for many years. If the high tariff was taken off the articles the farmer uses, he would be very greatly assisted, and it would not be necessary for him to ask for a bounty. I do not believe that 1 per cent, of the farmers of Australia have thought of approaching any government for a bounty. One honorable member made a great song about the number of persons who were leaving farms and going to the cities, but he did not explain the reason, which is plain for any one to see. I read in the Melbourne Herald the other day, a statement by Mrs. Walsh, io the effect that, throughout the year, the timber workers, including boy labour, averaged £7 18s. a week. Young men and women are leaving our farms to-day because of the inducements that are held out to them to go to the cities, and the facilities they, enjoy when they get there. Honorable members ought to. go to my electorate and see some farmers who are practically starving. Not one of those men said to me during the election campaign, “If we put you into Parliament, will you get us a bounty ? “ They have too much manhood, and will fight until the good seasons return.
– Did not the wine-makers have to get a bounty?
– No comparison can be drawn between wine and wheat. In the first place, a large revenue is derived from the excise on wine. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) drew a picture of the bad conditions that exist in his State. During last year, the population of South Australia increased by only 3,178. That convinces me that hundreds of our farmers went to Western Australia because of the magnificent conditions that exist there. The Western Australian farmers are not likely to appeal either to this or to the State Government for assistance.
– Will 4s. a bushel pay them ?
– I am not prepared to debate that point. Every honorable member must agree that the State Governments have done everything possible for the farmers who have been hard hit by the recent drought. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) gave three instances which strongly support that contention. It is not my intention to support the amendment.
– The honorable member said that the South Australian farmers are leaving their f arms and running off to Western Australia, yet he proposes to perpetuate that condition of affairs.
– I said that merely in refutation of the statement made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) who declared that conditions were so bad in Western Australia that farmers would have to ask for a bounty in the near future.
– I said nothing of the sort.
.- I am one who believes in a workman getting fair wages, also in the wheat-farmer receiving a fair price for his wheat. Something has been said about the drift from the country to the city. I shall deal, very briefly, with the drift in the wheat industry, which is plainly indicated by the following, showing in bushels the quantity of wheat produced in the various States for the years enumerated : - *
New South Wales -
Western Austral ia -
South Australia -
The area under wheat in Australia in 1916-17 was 11,532,828 acres, while in 1926-27 it was still only 11,687,919 acres. It will be gathered from these figures that the only two States which increased their wheat production during the period, namely, Western Australia and Queensland, had Labour Governments. I consider that the amendment of the honorable member for Hume is more than there a mere expression of goodwill. It is something substantial. In 1924, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) in reply to a question by the then honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), stated that there were two conditions which the Commonwealth considered were vital and essential for the wheat industry, the first being the establishment of one marketing authority for the whole of the Australian wheat, and the second a chartering authority to control freights. I think that every honorable member would be satisfied if that belief were given effect to. The Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Paterson) stated that the marketing of wheat was a matter for the States. If that is so, why are special facilities given by the Commonwealth to the canned fruits, drier fruits, butter and wine industries? I suggest that a poll could be held to inaugurate a wheat marketing board similar to that which controls the overseas marketing of wine. I hope that the Government will seriously consider the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hume, and give effect to the opinions expressed by the Prime Minister in 1924.
– I am loth to intrude on a matter which essentially concerns primary producers, but the debate has developed into a condemnation of the Government’s administration for the last six years, during which time it has certainly failed to develop and carry on the country in a proper manner. I intended, during the second-reading stage, to indicate where an alteration could bc made for the benefit of the Commonwealth, but the suggestion would not be appropriate at this juncture. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Collins), a representative of the primary producers, made a short, contentious speech, and I challenge him to substantiate his statements. What are the indications of an existing serious drought in South Australia?
– If the honorable member went amongst the farmers in my district, he would soon discover what they were.
– I heard the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) say that the best evidence of sound government was the prosperity of the people. When considering the achievements of this Government, it is necessary to take into account the number of workers who are unemployed, and the attitude of the coal-owners, who are trying to squeeze the worker in order to make more profits. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) pointed out that it would be an excellent thing to tax the passengers on the overloaded boats which are carrying trippers from Australia to Great Britain and the Continent. I think his suggestion has some merit. We have plenty of wealth in Australia and satisfactory production. It is merely a matter of proper adminis tration and distribution. One honorable member referred to starving settlers-
– Does the honorable member say that there are no such settlers in South Australia?
– Wakefield has not suffered to the same extent as other districts. The honorable member for Wakefield will admit that he represents one of the richest areas in the wheat belt of South Australia.
– And some of the poorest also.
– The acreage under wheat in South Australia has grown from 2,500,000 in 1922 to 3,175,000 for last year. For the last harvest 38,000,000 bushels of wheat were grown in South Australia as against 24,000,000 bushels in 1922.
– What is the yield for this year?
– Those figures are for the last harvest.
– Has the honorable member the figures for this year?
– This year’s crop is not yet harvested. Over the whole of Australia, the average wheat yield was 9 bushels an acre. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) said that it was impossible to carry on wheat-farming properly unless sheep were also run. In 1922 there were 6,325,000 sheep in South Australia, and by 1927, that number had increased by 1,000,000. Some honorable members opposite are fond of pulling a long mouth over what they describe as Australia’s declining production. I doubt whether there is a richer country in the world than this as regards original wealth produced per head. It is not greater production but better management which is needed to get Australia out of the vicious circle of which the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) speaks so glibly.
– Why does not the honorable gentleman put forward a policy?
– We are not in office and, therefore, cannot lay down a policy; we can only suggest one to the Government, but there is no prospect of the Government ever taking our advice. This is a big man’s Government; a financier’s Government, which will do nothing but hound the working man. The friends of the Government were never more opulent than now. Yet even in South Australia, with a Liberal Government that was going to reduce taxation, and do great things for the State, the Premier has to admit that unless the Prime Minister acts quickly on the royal commission’s report which he is holding in the back-ground until he can balance his own budget, the State will become bankrupt. 1 hope that the amendment of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) will be carried.
Question - That the amount proposed to be reduced be so reduced (Mr. Parker Moloney’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Tuesday, 19 March 1929
Part 2. - Business Undertakings
Proposed vote, £2,089,873.
– I am not at all satisfied with the reply received to-day from the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) to my question asking why certain post and telegraph offices in my electorate had been closed. He said that he could not answer the question until he had received certain information from North Queensland. Either the Deputy Postmaster-General in Queensland, or the Minister himself, would be responsible for the closing of those offices, and I do not think that the Deputy Postmaster-General would take such action unless he were fully aware of the position with regard to them. A short time ago, when I interviewed the Postmaster-General, and the Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Brown, I was informed that, before definite action was taken, further inquiries would be made, and I should be informed of the result. Yet I heard nothing more on the matter from that time until I received a letter from my electorate, stating that offices in the Mein district had been closed. The letter had been sent over a considerable distance, first my horse mail, then by boat and finally by rail. I am not prepared to accept treatment such as has been meted out to me by the Minister. I believe that, if a telegram had been sent by the Minister to the Deputy Postmaster-General in Queensland, the information asked for could have been obtained. Since the Minister had promised me that, before definite action was taken, further inquiries would be made into the matter, I was, at least, entitled to be informed whether that course had been adopted. I believe that the Postmaster-General must have been seized of the fact that the Director of Posts and Telegraphs (Mr. Brown) for reasons best known to himself, intended to close those offices. I have been told that it costs many thousands of pounds a year to conduct them, and, for that reason, it is considered advisable not to continue them. I point out, however, that, although the offices do not serve a large population, they provide essential facilities for settlers spread over an area of 40,000 square miles, and this Government boasts that it favours the provision of postal facilities in outlying districts. Before the offices were closed, the settlers should, at least, have been advised that, if they remained in the district, they would do so at their own risk. In some instances, settlers have to travel 70 miles to get in touch with civilization. A distance of 70 miles has to be covered on horseback to% despatch a telegram from Coen. Certain representations were made to the Postal Department before I was a sv member of this House, and the PostmasterGeneral admitted the necessity of a continuous service between Walkerston and Mackay. The request has been refused, possibly because Walkerston is a strong Labour centre, whilst a continuous service is available through a store at Pleystowe sugar mill to Mackay. Apparently the request of the Walkerston people has been refused because most of the people in that locality do not support this Government. There are a number of settlers at other places, who, for trivial reasons, have been denied a continuous service. It is not because the population in some of these places floes not warrant it, as there are places four miles out from Townsville, which, because of the expense, or the absence of suitable buildings, or the difficulty in obtaining the equipment, are not provided with a continuous service. I believe that the action of which I have complained, should not have been taken by the PostmasterGeneral until he had carried out his promise to me, that I should be further advised before anything definite was done. Certain actions of this department will not bear investigation. In answer to a question the other day, I was informed by the Postmaster-General that the annual rent paid for the South Johnstone Post Office is £91, which, over a number of yea’rs, more than represents the cost of the building. The same thing can be said concerning the Tully Post Office. I do not wish to enter into a general discussion on postal administration, but it seems that the department is assisting those who support this Government, whilst those in districts supposed to be hostile to the present administration, cannot get anything. I have seen correspondence from the Deputy Postmaster-General showing that tele phonic facilities have been provided for certain sections, whilst they have been denied to others. We have heard a good deal concerning the action taken by the waterside workers at Bowen in connexion with a consignment of tomatoes shipped by a particular steamer.
– The honorable member will not be in order in dealing with that subject under Part II.
– I understood we were dealing with the whole schedule. I believe that the political prejudices of the Postmaster-General are responsible for a. good deal of the delay and dissatisfaction which exists in certain areas of the electorate which I represent, particularly where the residents may be regarded as being opposed to the present administration. I do not know if the Minister has seen the South Johnstone Post Office for which an annual rent of £91 is paid, but that office is a disgrace to the department. A promise was made many years ago, that a new post office would be built, and I was informed by the PostmasterGeneral the other day, that arrangements were being made for the erection of a new 0mee. Already the rent paid over a number of years has been sufficient to pay for a new building. Similar unsatisfactory conditions exist at Tully, where there is insufficient room for the staff. Tully is not like a mining town, but is in one of the richest districts in the sugar belt. The post office is a miserable building where there is not sufficient room for more than two persons to work at the same time. Apart from the unsatisfactory nature of the building, the service provided is altogether inadequate for people living in isolated centres. It appears to me that the requirements of these people are considered only from a political viewpoint.
Mr. BOWDEN (Parramatta) (12.20 a.m.], - I direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to a request made by the Parramatta Council nine months ago that the department should pay half the cost of relaying the footpath in front of the local post office. I take the view that the Government should pay municipal rates in respect of such properties, or at all events, should make to the municipal council concerned a grant equal to the amount of rates involved. This Government will not do that, but it has’ adopted the practice of paying once for one half the cost of formation of the footpath in front of its buildings. So far as we can ascertain, neither the Commonwealth Government nor the State Government has contributed towards the formation of. the footpath in front of the Parramatta post office, but some years ago when the footpath was out of repair the Government contributed £5 or £6 towards the cost of repairing some holes. At present, there is a splendid ironite footpath for the whole block with the exception of this eyesore in front of the post office, where the asphalt has been absolutely worn into holes. It is dangerous to the traffic and a disgrace to the city. Last October I asked the Postmaster-General if he would look into this matter personally, and he promised to do so. It appears that because of an expenditure of £5 or £6 seven or eight years ago, this matter has been held up.
– Why do not the municipal authorities do the work?
– The municipality is prepared to pay one half the cost ; though it gets no rates from the property. I remind the honorable gentleman that on another occasion he urged that the Government should not be niggardly in the expenditure on such works as the one to which I am now directing attention. This is a particularly glaring case, and is a disgrace to the Government. I hope that the Postmaster-General will comply with the request of the Parramatta Council and reconsider the matter.
– I regret very much that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) should have stated that the Government is showing favoritism to the people in certain districts in Queensland. There is no foundation whatever for the allegation. The honorable member is new in the representation of his division. I remind him that favours were not shown to his predecessor, who was not of the same political parly. He states that continuous telephonic service is being given to certain towns and not to others. The departmental rule is that ‘where the revenue of a particular office reaches £250 a year it is entitled to an all-night service; if the revenue is £150 a year it is entitled to a service up to 8 p.m. It is true that in certain offices where the revenue is small, an all-night service is provided; but this is by arrangement with the person in charge. It has nothing whatever to do with the department. I shall inquire into the several matters referred to by him and ascertain what is the position. 1 shall also inquire into the complaint made by the honorable member for Parramatta and see what can be done.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral state if any arrangement has been come to in connexion with the mail services between Tasmania and the mainland?
– That matter is still under consideration. Nothing further has been done yet.
– I had intended to invite the attention of the Postmaster-General to a number of matters in his department, but as the hour is late I shall not detain honorable members unduly. I should, however, like an explanation concerning the mail services between Tasmania and the mainland, and I think this is an opportune time to ask for it. When speaking to the debate on the motion moved by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) last week, I said that there appeared to be some misunderstanding between the PostmasterGeneral or his department and the shipping company which had submitted a tender for the improved service, because it appeared that the subsidy demanded by the company was in respect of an improved service to the port of Tamar, although the Postmaster-General told the House definitely that the department was not demanding a faster steamship service for Launceston. I asked the Minister to clear the matter up, because it was obvious to every one who has any knowledge of the position that it is the service from Melbourne to Burnie and Devonport that calls for immediate improvement. This also is borne out by the report of the Public Accounts Committee. I now ask the PostmasterGeneral if he will invite fresh tenders for the improved service to these ports, and, if not, will he ask the shipping company concerned if it will give a price for an improved service to Burnie and Devonport, as distinct from the service to Launceston, in accordance with the undertaking of the Prime Minister on the 13th December, 1927.
– When I spoke to the motion moved by the honorable member for ‘Franklin recently, I said that practically the only difficulty was in respect of the north-west coast ports, which were entitled to a better service. I said that a slightly faster steamer, was required for Launceston, and an extra vessel a week for the north-west coast run, but it seemed to me that an increase in the subsidy from £36,000 to £96,000 was too much. However, I shall probably be able to tell the honorable member more about this matter at a later date. I shall see what improvement can be made in the north-west coast service.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed Votes - Territories of the Commonwealth, £44,520; Refunds of Revenue, £300,000 ; Advance to Treasurer, £1,650,000, agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Transport Workers Bill.
Financial Agreement Validation Bill.
Tariff Board Bill.
– I move-
That the House do now adjourn,
Honorable members representing -South Australian constituencies have asked numerous questions in regard to the Royal Commission on South Australian Disabilities. I am pleased to be able to inform them that at the beginning of the sitting I received the report of the commission from His Excellency the Governor-General.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.32 a.m. (Tuesday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 March 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19290318_reps_11_120/>.