11th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at11 a.m., and read prayers.
Exclusionof Messrs. Hughes and Mann
– Will the Prime Minister state for public information whether the newspaper statement is true that two representatives of the people, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), are to be debarred from certain rooms in this building; will the right honorable member state the reasons for the exclusion of these honorable members, and also whether it is to be for any fixed period?
– I am not aware that any honorable member has been prevented from entering any room in this building; in any case questions regarding such an occurrence should be addressed to you, Mr, Speaker. If the honorable member for East Sydney is inquiring whether it is true that the two honorable members he mentioned will not in future be invited to attend meetings of Government supporters, I answer him in the affirmative. It is for Government supporters to decide who shall attend their meetings, in the same way as honorable members of the Opposition may use their discretion as to what honorable members shall be allowed to attend their party meetings.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that by excluding the right honorable member for North Sydney and the honorable member for Perth, the Nationalist party has blown out its brains?
– That may be a matter of opinion. My own view is that the honorable member’s suggestion is completely unwarranted.
– I desire to address a question to you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to avoid tarnishing the escutcheon of your high office by associating you with party brawls; but the matter is of great public importance and affects the rights and privileges of honorable members. Some time ago the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), who had been a member of the joint Ministerial party, withdrew his allegiance, formed a separate party of which he is the sole member, and was accommodated with a private room. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), although he has not yet received notice to quit the Ministerial party, occupiesa room in the basement.
– I ask the honorable member to put his question. His preliminary explanation is becoming unduly discursive.
-I have nearly exhausted the list of secessions to date. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) also has withdrawn from the Ministerial party, and he too, had to be accommodated with a room. Now we are informed that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has been turned out of his own house and has formed a separate party. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, what provision you propose to make for the accommodation of other segments that may become detached from this fast disintegrating party?
– Let Opposition members go into the Opposition room.
– I have previously explained to the House that a room is set aside for honorable members who declare themselves independent of the recognized political parties.
– I am informed by telephone that the Age this morning published the following statement under the heading, in black type, “ Discrepancy of £100,000 “ : -
What must be regarded an a very serious discrepancy in one of the Federal Budget publications is contained in pages378 and 387 of the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1930. Incidentally, one of the “smart” devices noticeable as an innovation this year in the Estimates is that of deducting sums, mere amounts, as unlikely expenditure of £36,000, £13,980 and £41,500 here and there. But the error in addition referred to occurs in the abstract of the Departmental Estimates of expenditure for works out of Loan Fund. The figures shown as the total works expenditure for 1929-30 are printed as £4,100,645, whereas the addition makes the total £4,200,645.This discrepancy of £100,000 must also affect “the aggregate estimated expenditure “ from the Loan Fund quoted in the Treasurer’s speech; the amount of £5,085,645 obviously should read £5,186,645. There may be some explanation of this error on the part of federal Treasury officials, but as an example of careless accountancy, the discrepancy calls for immediate inquiry.
Will the Treasurer explain this extraordinary statement?
– The statement quoted by the honorable member war brought under my notice this morning. The Age is in error in saying that there is a budget discrepancy of £100,000, or indeed any careless accountancy on the part of the Treasury officials. The only mistake that has been made is that of the newspaper in its reading of the particulars of the Estimates. Had the Age studied the details it would have found that an item of £50,000 which it added to the expenditure is a credit. The alleged discrepancy of £100,000 is a mare’s nest, the result of careless perusal of the printed details.
-In view of the obviously failing mentality of the Age will the Treasurer favorably consider the granting of an old-age pension to that journal ?
– Frivolous questions are not in order.
Visit of Dame Janet Campbell
– Dame Janet Campbell, is at present on a visit to Australia to investigate thesubject of child welfare. I ask the Minister for Health whether arrangements have been made for her to visit all States, and, because of the variation of conditions in different parts of the Commonwealth, will she visit also the industrial centres and important inland towns? Have adequate arrangements been made for her to meet men and women eminent in the medical profession who have devoted a great part of their lives to the study of this vital problem? Will an opportunity be afforded to organizations interested to confer with Dame Janet Campbell?
– Dame Janet Campbell will visit every State of the Commonwealth and will have an opportunity to meet and address people interested in the importantproblem which she has come here to study. She will visit not only the cities, but also many of the country centres, and will be afforded every opportunity to investigate the conditions that affect infant and child mortality in Australia.
– The Western Australian Centenary Committee is very anxious to know at theearliest possible date whether a delegation from this Parliament will visit that State to participate in the celebrations. Does the Prime Minister recognize the importance of making an early decision so that the committee may make the necessary arrangements in Western Australia?
– In reply to questions by the honorable members f or Kalgoorlie and Perth I stated yesterday that the matter was under the consideration of the Government and that I hoped to make an early announcement.
– In view of impending legislationfor the repeal of the Commonwealth Arbitration Act I ask the Prime Minister what the Government proposes to do in relation to the positions of Judges Lukin, Beeby, and DrakeBrockman, having regard to the fact that under the Constitution appointments to the Arbitration Court are made for life? To what jurisdiction will those judges be transferred if the Arbitration Court is abolished ?
– I ask the honorable member to await my speech on the second reading of the bill for the repeal of the Arbitration Act.
– The Treasurer stated in his budget speech yesterday that South Australia is to receive a grant of £300,000 for the year 1928-29.
– No. 1929-30.
– An additional £60,000 is provided for a railway from Port Augusta to Salisbury. Does that mean that this railway will be completed and that South Australia will receive a grant of £300,000 spread over a number of years?
– Honorable members are not in order in asking questions referring to a debate of the current section, nor may they discuss in anticipation an order of the day. That is the broad principle governing our practice. If the honorable member desires information on a particular subject, he may so frame his question as not to relate it to a debate then pending.
– The position is as outlined in the Budget yesterday. The sum of £1,000,000 will be paid to South Australia over a period of three years. The first portion of the amount, £360,000, is payable this year and for the two subsequent years the payment will be £320,000 each year. As to the £360,000 it is proposed to pay £300,000 in cash and £60,000 will represent the interest and sinking fund charges on the money borrowed and expended on the building of the existing railway between Red Hill and Salisbury, which the Commonwealth proposes to take over.
– Have any negotiations taken place between the Commonwealth and the South Australian Governments in respect of this matter, and if so has the State Government approved of the proposal that the Commonwealth shall take over the section of railway mentioned by the Treasurer?
– The proposal has been communicated to the South Australian Government.
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The following are the main points of the Government’s proposals regarding the importation of pedigree stock from Great Britain and Ireland: -
One-third by the Empire Marketing Board.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
Will the Minister ascertain whether -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
REGULATIONS GOVERNING COMPENSATION TO INJURED MEMBERS OF
MILITARY AND AIR FORCES (Statutory Rule No. 211 of 1926).
Part VII. - Compensation for Injuries Received or Disease Contracted on Duty. 161a. All amounts payable under this part shall be calculated in accordance with the regulations therein, but no amount shall be paid in respect of any member who is a contributor to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund in excess of the maximum amount payable in respect of that member under the provisions of the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act 1012, if that act applied; provided that receipt of pay exceeding £500 a year shall not operate to disentitle a member from receiving anycompensation under this part.
Permanent Forces. 162. (a) Compensation may be recommended by a Medical Board appointed to inquire into the case of any member of the Permanent Forces, who is retired or discharged on account of wounds or injuries received, or disease contracted while in the performance of military duty, provided the wound, injury, or disease was not due to the member’s default.
The maximum amount shall only be awarded in case of total disability to earn a livelihood. In case of partial disability the compensation shall be less than the maximum amount, and shall be payable on a basisof from 10 to 100 per cent. of the maximum amount, so that the amount awarded shall be proportionate to the degree of disability of the member to earn a livelihood. 164. (a) Compensation may be recommended by a Medical Board appointed to inquire into the case, to the widow and family of any member of the Permanent Forces who is killed when on duty, or dies of any disease contracted while in the performance of military duty, if the death or disease were not due to the member’s default. The amount of compensation awarded shall not exceed three years’ pay at the rate the member received at the date of his death.
No claim for compensation shall, be considered unless it be made within twelve months after the death of the member.
REGULATIONS GOVERNING COMPENSATION TO INJURED MEMBERS OF THE AUSTRALIAN NAVAL FORCES.
(Statutory Rule 198 of 1926 as amended by Statutory Rule 102 of 1927).
(1). The Naval Board may authorize payment of compensation to a member of the Permanent Naval Forces, who is retired or discharged on account of -
The compensation payable under this regulation, which the Naval Board may authorize, shall be according to the following scale: -
For the purpose of assessing compensation in the case of persons on sea-going rates of pay, the following payments and allowanccs only shall be considered as pay: -
The allowances under paragraph (d) shall be included only for members actually entitled under regulations to receive such allowances by reason of qualifications held. Victualling allowance under paragraph (e) shall represent the daily allowance for rations, fixed from time to time, to be allowed under the general messing system.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Information is being obtained.
Withdrawal of Prosecution - Re-opening of Mines.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the action of the Government in not continuing the prosecution against John Brown on the charge of “ locking-out “ the Northern miners, will he take steps to refund the £1,000 fine imposed upon the Waterside Workers organization for an alleged breach of an award?
– The whole of the amount of the fine has not yet been paid, but I have arranged that payment of further instalments shall be suspended pending a decision by Parliament whether the statute under which the penalty was inflicted should be repealed.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice. -
In view of the fact that a majority in this House accepted the Prime Minister’s explanation that his motive in withdrawing the prosecution against John Brown was to assist the possibility of opening the mines, and in view of the fact that such mines are still closed, and that the miners and their families are still suffering, will the Prime Minister indicate what further action, if any, he proposed in order to get the mines opened again?
– In view of the inquiry at present being made by the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry it is not proposed to take any immediate action in the matter.
Railway Freight Charges
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
Whether, with a view of obtaining comparative costs of freight charges in regard to primary products and requirements on the railways of various countries, he will give instructions that informative statistics be obtained and presented to Parliament, showing the average freight charges on the railways of the United States of America, Canada, and Australia, for distances of 100, 200, 300, and 400 miles, on wheat, flour, wool, live stock, machinery and fencing wire, and any further statistical information the Minister may consider desirable in order to obtain a fair comparison of costs of transport on railways ?
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
Whether threepenny aerial mail stamps, when affixed to letters for despatch from the Eastern States, to the North-West of Western Australia, frank the correspondence over the Western Australian Airways from Adelaide to Perth and from Perth by Airways northwards ?
– The fee at the rate of 3d. per half ounce covers transmission over both services, but ordinary postage has to be paid in addition. Prior to June last a separate fee was payable for each aerial service over which the letter was conveyed.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he can advise for public information, if the threepenny aerial mail stamp, when affixed on ordinary correspondence, is accepted by his Department in paymentfor postage ?
– No;the air mail stamp is not a postage stamp in the usually accepted sense. It is inscribed “Air Mail Service” and the fee is in payment for a special service rendered. Each article sent by air mail must bear the requisite value of postage stamps independent of the air mail service fee.
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the large number of requests that have been made by honorable members for copies of the Tariff Board’s report on the
Cotton Industry, will he indicate to the House when the report in question will be made available to the House?
– A definite date cannot be given at present.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am unable at present to see what action, if any, it is competent and desirable for the Commonwealth Government to take in the matter, but I shall look into the question.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are: -
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he has yet received the report of the Tariff Board on supplies and prices of fertilizers; if not, will he endeavour to expedite the report and present it to the House?
– No. The board will be asked to expedite the report.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he can supply any information regarding the prospects of obtaining increased supplies of phosphatic rock from Nauru in the immediate future; if so, to what extent?
– It is anticipated that the erection of cantilever loading cranes at Nauru will be completed within the next few months, and that this will enable an output of approximately 600,000 tons per annum from Nauru and Ocean Island to be maintained under ordinary conditions. A further increase of output capacity is contingent upon the completion of new drying machinery and storage bins, arrangements for which are in hand, and the erection of which will be proceeded with as rapidly as practicable during the next few years. papers.
The following papers were presented -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Mandurama, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Papua Act - Infirm and Destitute Natives Account - Statement of Transactions of Trustees, 1928-29.
Public Service Act - Appointment of S. J. Griffith, Department of Trade and Customs.
Engineebing Branch, Clerical Sections
– Yesterday the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked me the following question, upon notice -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the question of the organization of the clerical sections of the engineering branch of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in all States is at present receiving the attention of the Public Service Board. Reports in the matter have been received by the board, and they are now under consideration. I am advised by the board that it is not possible to state when finality will be reached.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a measure to give effect to the policy of the Government which already has been announced, to withdraw from the field of industrial regulation save in respect of the maritime and waterside industries, which will continue to be controlled by the Commonwealth, not under its arbitration powers, but. under the trade and commerce powers of the Constitution. The bill provides for the repeal of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the Industrial Peace Act. It provides that the awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court shall continue to operate for a period sufficiently long to enable the States to take full control in those fields of industrial regulation which will now come wholly under their jurisdiction. There are also provisions for the regulation of the maritime and waterside industries, which are to be retained under the scheme by which the Commonwealth proposes in future to exercise that control. The measure is of paramount importance. It imposes upon the National Parliament the responsibility of carrying out the great trust committed to it by the people.
The Government believes that the existing financial and economic position of Australia renders necessary the introduction of a measure of this kind, and that the bill is a real contribution towards the solution of the economic problems confronting us. The passing of this legislation will free industry from many of the . embarrassments from which it has suffered in the past, and enable real progress to be made in the development of our primary and secondary industries. The Government’s proposals, should be considered as they affect the welfare of the people as a whole, and the progress and prosperity of this portion of the Empire. Therefore, I appeal to honorable members to approach the consideration of the bill in no party spirit, but with a sincere desire to do the best for the nation.
– If these ceaseless interjections continue, 1 shall have to take action against the offenders. I ask honorable members to give the Prime Minister a fair opportunity of presenting his case.
– Every thinking citizen must be concerned with the position now confronting Australia. The state of public finance, Commonwealth and State, is causing considerable embarrassment. The difficulty of raising the loan money necessary for the development of our great heritage is increasing. With regard to private finance also the position is extremely difficult* because of the growing feeling of uncertainty as to the trend of affairs. Not only is there considerable unemployment, but an examination of the condition of our primary and secondary industries reveals features which must give rise to alarm. Whether in agreement with these proposals or not, every thinking person must recognize that the time has come for definite action. Our difficulties can be overcome. By determined effort on the part of the parliaments and the .people of Australia along sound economic lines, the measure of prosperity which this country has enjoyed hitherto can be restored. In the past this country has experienced times of financial stress and economic embarrassment by reason of unfavorable seasons; but, unfortunately, we cannot hope that favorable seasons alone will bring about the return of prosperity. The reasons for our present unsatisfactory economic position are too deep-seated for that.
The Government has carried out an investigation in order to ascertain, the causes of our troubles and to find a remedy for them. In reviewing the position I ask honorable members to consider first the revenue of the Commonwealth. The financial year 1927-28 ended with a deficit of £2,628,743, which the transactions of the following year increased to £4,987.718, and yesterday the Treasurer, in presenting the Government’s financial proposals for the year, stated that, in order to balance our ledger, it would be necessary to impose additional taxation. But the drastic steps proposed to be taken to improve the position are not expected to better our finances by the end of the present financial year by more than £1,500,000. The financial position of the States is similarly unsatisfactory. New South Wales in 1927-28 had a deficit of £1,094,996, Victoria a deficit of £163,353, Queensland n . surplus of £10,506, South Australia a deficit of £274,931, Western Australia a surplus of £323,534, and Tasmania a surplus of £95,082. For the Australian Governments as a whole, the aggregate net deficit in respect of the year which ended on the 30th June, 1928, amounted to £3,734,395. Moreover, had it not been for the special assistance given by the Commonwealth to two of the States and for the increased payments to the States under the financial agreement recently entered into, not one Australian Government would have ended that financial year with a surplus.
The figures for the financial year 1928-29 reveal a somewhat similar position. This financial drift cannot continue without undermining Australia’s credit and increasing the amount that we shall have to pay for the loan moneys we shall need for the further development of this country. Therefore, however drastic the action necessary to balance the ledgers of the Commonwealth and the States, that action must be taken. In two ways only can those ledgers be balanced: by the reduction of expenditure and by the increasing of revenue. The Government when it considered the first alternative - the reduction of expenditure - found that notwithstanding drastic retrenchment the ledger could not be balanced by that method alone, unless services which the public has enjoyed in the past, such as the postal and telegraphic services, were diminished, or social benefits, such as old-age pensions, taken away or reduced. Therefore, we have decided to impose additional taxation. While I cannot speak with authority regarding the finances of the States, the position there is obviously much the same. The States could not reduce their expenditure sufficiently to balance their ledgers without lessening the enjoyment of services such as that of the railways or curtailing their assistance to hospitals and institutions of a similar nature. There, again, some means must be found of increasing the revenue. In order that the burden on industry may not be increased, the additional revenue for which we are now providing will be derived from the taxation of amusements and luxuries - a field that is necessarily limited. The Government has endeavoured to avoid imposing burdens which, will affect industry by increasing the cost of production. It is difficult to see how the States can similarly meet the situation confronting them without placing further burdens upon industry. How undesirable it is to impose further burdens on industry can be seen from the following figures. In 1913, the year before the commencement of the Great War, Australia’s production was valued at £221,000,000. Taxation that year amounted to £23,000,000 or 10.4 per cent, of the value of production. In 1927-28 the value of production had increased to £450,000,000, but taxation had increased to £88,000,000 or 19.6 per cent, of the value of production. The figures for intervening years are given in the following table.
Now, as the ledger cannot be balanced without the imposition of more taxation, which will increase the cost of production, and thus further hamper the development of our great industries, we must endeavour by increasing our national prosperity and stimulating industry to enlarge the field over which our taxation is spread. How to do that is the problem we have to face to-day. Excluding wool, wheat and certain metals, there is practically no primary product which Australia can now export and sell at a profit in the markets of the world. This position cannot continue indefinitely. Furthermore, in regard to both wool and wheat, our two great staple commodities, there has been recently a heavy decline in prices. It is true that the price of wheat has recovered, which is very fortunate for us, but the recovery has been due to seasonal circumstances in other parts of the world, arid we cannot look forward to the present price being main- tained. Again, our secondary industries are being subjected to an increasing competition from overseas. Probably there is not one honorable member present, who could not mention some secondary industry on whose behalf he has been approached for an increased measure of assistance under the Tariff. This is the more startling because we have progressively advanced the protection of our secondary industries, to secure to them the home market. In the 1908 tariff there were only eight items on which an ad valorem duty of over 40 per cent, was imposed, but to-day there are 259 tariff items bearing an ad valorem duty of over 40 per cent., and 40 items bearing duties of over 60 per cent. Everybody who has read the book which was issued recently by Mr. Dyason and his four colleagues must realize that there is a limit beyond which we cannot go in increasing tariff protection, if our industries are to progress and the general economic situation is not to be undermined. Not only has external competition increased, despite increasing tariff protection to our industries, but it has increased during a period when conditions abroad should have strengthened our position. Since the war, in practically every country, wages have increased and conditions of labour have improved, and there has been a general shortening of the hours of employment. This should have strengthened Australia’s competitive position, yet unfortunately to-day the competition which our industries have to face in their home market is greater than ever before. Therefore, some other action must be taken to alter the present position.
The obvious answer to our problems is to reduce our costs of production, and I propose to show that, if we go about this thing in the right way, we can reduce the costs of production and yet maintain our high standard of living; and far from doing anything to the detriment of the worker, we shall confer on him the greatest benefit by providing more employment and increasing the purchasing power of his wages. It is, however, absurd to imagine that this can be done merely by passing acts of Parliament. What is needed is co-operation between the parties to industry. A very important contributing fact in the troubles of industry to-day is the duplication of control in regard to industrial regulation, which prevents that co-operation. Trouble has also been caused by the over-riding authority of the Commonwealth, which has led us to enter more and more into the field of industry. Our authority can be exercised in regard to disputes only - and interstate disputes at that - and then only by the method of arbitration and conciliation. It is this that has imposed the limitations and created the legal atmosphere which, to a great extent, are responsible for keeping the parties to industry apart and preventing that co-operation without which there can be no solution of our industrial, economic and financial problems.
The Government, in deciding to evacuate the field of arbitration, is not taking action to abolish industrial control; what we are doing is to remove duplication, and the application of two forms of industrial regulation in the same field. It is generally recognized in Australia that industrial regulation is desirable; but those who have given consideration to the subject must agree that it should be exercised by one authority, which should have full powers to deal with industrial problems for the settlement of disputes by means of arbitration, round-table conferences, conciliation boards, wages boards, shop committees, and other methods suited to the infinite complexities of industry at the present time. There can be little difference of opinion about the advisability of having only one authority with full power operating in the industrial field; the real difference of opinion is as to whether the authority should be Commonwealth or State.
Any one of three alternatives could be adopted to provide for one authority with full power. First of all, the people could be appealed to by referendum to increase the powers of the Commonwealth, so that it might have the sole right to regulate industry. The second alternative is the transference of the necessary powers from the States to the Commonwealth. The third alternative is that the Commonwealth should vacate that part of the field of industrial regulation in which the Commonwealth has not the powers necessary to handle industrial regulation with the means that modern industry requires. I shall deal in turn with each of those alternatives.
Four referendums on this subject have been taken, by governments of different political colours - by Labour governments and by Nationalist governments - yet on every occasion the people have refused to increase the industrial powers of the Commonwealth. The last referendum was in 1926 ; when the people voted overwhelmingly against the proposal submitted to them. That referendum was taken under most favorable circumstances. The measure providing for the referendum was passed through this Parliament practically unanimously, the Labour party, the Nationalist party, and the Country party supporting it.
– Not every honorable member supported it.
– Three heroes in this House refused to vote for the bill; but that in no way discounts my statement. The referendum was submitted to the people; but support to that which had been accorded unanimously by the Labour party to the enabling bill when it was before Parliament, was not then forthcoming from the industrial section of the Labour party, with the result that the referendum was defeated, like previous referendums.We have, therefore, to consider the prospects of carrying another referendum on this subject. I suggest that the attitude of the great organizations of labour, such as the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Workers Union, and the Australian Railways Union, since the proposals were submitted to the people in 1926, gives little encouragement to the idea that it would be possible to get their support to such a referendum at the present time. Since the Government’s proposal has been announced there has been a remarkable change of front on the part of the various labour organizations ; but, while I wish to refrain from wandering into the fields of political controversy, let me say that it must be recognized that that change has been dictated, to a considerable extent, by political motives, and too much importance must not, therefore, be attached to it.
We should not be justified in again asking the people to give the Commonwealth Parliament powers that on four occasions - the most recent three years ago - they have refused to give. But there are other considerations which make such a reference extremely undesirable. The first is the delay that inevitably would be involved. Legislation would have to be submitted to this Parliament for its approval, and the time; thus occupied would probably be six months. After a vote of the people had been taken the measures necessary to enable the Commonwealth to assume wholly the control of industrial regulation would have to be passed, and probably effective action to alter the existing position could not be taken for eighteen months or two years. The problem is so serious that its solution cannot be delayed for that length of time; definite action must be taken immediately. It must also be borne in mind that the direct cost of taking a referendum would be £100,000 and the indirect cost very much more.
– Who has suggested a referendum ?
– I have been discussing the three alternatives that present themselves. There is a fourth, and that is that the existing position should be left undisturbed, but I cannot conceive of any person seriously contemplating that. It is so unthinkable that it did not occur to me to refer to it before, and I am confident that it would not receive any support in Australia. Thus we are forced to exclude it from our consideration and to confine ourselves to the other three. As there are no grounds for believing that a further appeal to the people would be successful, we should not be justified, in the present financial position, in incurring the expense involved. The people are entitled to say to this Parliament, “ The problem is urgent and important, and it is your duty to solve it “. Our parliamentary system would be brought into contempt if we were to retort, “ We cannot solve it ; we ask you to accept that responsibility”. The Government is not prepared to adopt such a course.
The second alternative is that the Parliaments of the States should, by way of surrender, grant to the Commonwealth the necessary powers. At the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, I told the State Premiers that the Commonwealth would be prepared to accept full powers if the States would surrender them. They unanimously declined even to contemplate such an action ; and no Premier was more emphatic in his refusal than Mr. Collier, the Labour Premier of Western Australia. It is clear, therefore, that we cannot expect to secure in that way one authority with the necessary powers. Convinced of the futility and inexpediency of another referendum, and confronted with the uncompromising hostility of the States to the proposal that they should surrender to the Commonwealth the necessary powers, the Government has come to the conclusion that the correct course to follow is to vacate that portion of the industrial field where it does not possess the necessary full authority.
The fertile brains of those who are opposed to the Government have evolved many objections to this proposal. One is that it is inconsistent with the appeal to the people in 1926. I remind those who pin their faith to that objection that the basis upon which the Government approached the people in 1926 was the necessity of getting rid of duplication and of having one authority clothed with the necessary powers functioning in the field of industrial regulation. That is the principle that underlies our present proposal. In 1926 we asked that the necessary powers be granted to the Commonwealth, and were repulsed. Realizing the impossibility of our obtaining them, we propose now to vacate the field and leave it to the States. There has been no inconsistency in our actions. After the 1926 referendum we were faced with two alternatives ; one, that we should repeal the Arbitration Act and leave the industrial field to the States ; and the other, that we should endeavour, by an amendment of the arbitration law, to make- the system work effectively, even with dual control. The principle of the. compulsory settlement of industrial disputes, and the provision of penalties for strikes and lockouts, has been accepted by the people of this country since 1904, when the first arbitration bill was brought down. Prom time to time defects had been discovered in the law. It had become clear that awards were not being obeyed and that the law was not being maintained. But we; nevertheless, felt that there was upon us an obligation to see that the principle underlying the law was given a fair opportunity to prove its merits. Accordingly we brought down an amending measure, which had four outstanding features, one of which was the avoidance of the overlapping of Commonwealth and State awards. We inserted provisions which, from the point of view of a constitutional lawyer, met the position, but in practice they proved inadequate. It is disastrous to industry if the award of one court overrules that of another. Inevitably discontent and unrest are caused in the ranks of the workers who, by the decision of one court, are deprived of what they have gained from another. But an even more serious objection is the conflict that has arisen between the power of the court and the powers of State Parliaments. An outstanding example of that is the legislation passed by the Parliament of New South Wales, making provision for a 44-hour week. Such a state of things is intolerable, and must lead to unrest in industry. It has become manifest that our amendments of the act have not removed the difficulties which arise out of the overlapping of awards.
Much has been said with respect to the conciliation power of the Commonwealth. An earnest effort was made in the amending measure to which I have referred to provide for the greater utilization of that power. It was at the request of the trade union movement that provisions to that end were incorporated in the bill ; but they have not operated. The inherent characteristics of human nature make it impossible for them to operate so long as existing conditions continue. The basis of conciliation is compromise. What prospect is there of conciliation while there is a chance that either side may have its demands fully conceded by the Arbitration Court? When conciliation has operated side by side with arbitration, and a matter in dispute has been referred to a conciliation committee, that matter has ultimately had to be referred to the Arbitration Court. It is not the slightest use our thinking that we can make conciliation effective while the two systems operate together.
A third principle to which we endeavoured to give effect was that of ensuring to the general body of trade unionists control over their own organizations. The desired result has not been brought about. An outstanding example of the failure of that effort was the destruction of ballot-papers issued in connexion with the timber-workers strike, which, unhappily, is still in progress in one State. Because of the limitations imposed upon it, the Commonwealth was impotent to interfere and prevent that occurrence, and to insure that the timber-workers should have a fair opportunity to express then opinions.
Other provisions aimed at securing obedience to awards by both sides. They were designed to: give effect to the intention of the people when arbitration first became law. I .remind the House thai from the commencement, strikes and lockouts have been illegal, and penalties for engaging in them have been provided. In the intervening period, Labour governments have at times been in power and have not departed from that principle. We endeavoured to make it operative, and proceeded to enforce the law. Experience has, however, shown the impossibility of enforcing the law when organizations representing tens of thousands of men refuse to obey it, and that goodwill and co-operation must be established before obedience can be obtained. Clearly the principle embodied in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1904-1928 is not now acceptable, and it is futile to attempt to carry out the provisions of that act. The measure now under consideration contains no provisions for the outlawry of strikes or lockouts, or for the infliction of penalties upon those responsible for them. But the Commonwealth Government can exercise other powers - the effectiveness of which has been demonstrated iri connexion with the Transport Workers Act - to ensure the continuance of industry on a basis of conciliation and arbitration.
Objection has been taken to the contemplated action of the Government, it being claimed that this constitutes an abrogation of the principle of industrial regulation. It is nothing, of the sort. I believe that everybody in Australia thinks industrial regulation essential, not merely for the protection of the individual worker against exploitation by the employer, but for the protection of the decent employer against an unscrupulous rival. It is as necessary for the protection of the employer as for that of the employee. But every State in the Commonwealth has powers of industrial regulation, and has exercised them. We seek merely to prevent the duplication of industrial regulation, in order to overcome difficulties that have manifested themselves as a result of the operation of the two authorities in the same field.
The next objection of honorable members opposite and their supporters is that the proposed legislation will destroy the uniformity which has allegedly been brought about by the operation of the Commonwealth in the field of industrial regulation. There is, in fact, no such uniformity. In March of this year 141 awards of the Federal Arbitration Court were operating, distributed amongst the States in this manner: -
That list shows how pronounced is the lack of uniformity. It is interesting to find that only 26 Federal awards were operating in Queensland, and to note that the Australian Workers Union, which claims uniformity as one of the virtues of the Federal system, has failed to apply the principle. There is no uniformity in the shearing industry, the employees of which are members of the Australian Workers Union, as the Federal award does not apply to that industry in the State of Queensland. In like fashion, the Federal award does not operate in a number of other Queensland industries in which the Australian Workers Union is interested. “When an inquiry is made as to the reason for that one is informed that members of the Australian “Workers Union in Queensland are able to obtain greater advantages from the State awards, and jettison the principle of uniformity for the sake of personal gain. Perhaps they are not to, be blamed for doing so, but this action destroys the effect of their advocacy of the high virtue of uniformity.
Nor can the contention be maintained that the Commonwealth Government is striking a blow at equality in interstate competition. Here, also, honorable members and their supporters will find themselves completely out of court. Has any more fatal blow been struck at equality in interstate competition than the 44- hour week and child endowment legislation of the last Labour Government of New South Wales?
Reverting to the matter of uniformity, I suggest that it is quite possible to secure an agreement between the parties concerned on the basis of that conciliation of which we have heard so much recently. The two sides now, by agreement, can bring about uniformity of industrial conditions throughout Australia. Already machinery exists in four of the States to register such agreements, and the same facilities, I am confident, will be provided later in Victoria and Tasmania. That will bring about a uniformity greater than could be effected by any Federal award, because whatever is registered could be made a common rule, which is impossible under the limited powers vested in the Commonwealth. Uniformity is a matter that rests entirely in the hands of industry.
The argument has been advanced that arbitration would have worked admirably and no trouble would have occurred had it not been for the legislation of this Government. I ask honorable members whether the waterside upheaval, the timber workers, engineers or cooks strikes were due to any Commonwealth legislation? The waterside workers strike turned upon the matters of overtime and picking-up places; the timber workers strike concerned a 44-hour week; the engineers strike, piece-work; and the cooks strike, the number of cooks to be carried on steamers. The Commonwealth has not legislated on any of those matters. It was awards of the court that were challenged, and there will be awards under any system.
The remaining objection to which I wish to reply is that the Commonwealth should not withdraw from the field of industrial regulation. It is admitted that federal arbitration has not operated well, but we are urged to substitute for it a sound business-like system, free from legal entanglements. Nobody has suggested how that is to be done, though it has been stated that it should be effected on the lines of the Industrial Peace Act. An examination of the position will reveal that effect cannot be given to such a proposal under the existing legislative powers of the Commonwealth. The objections which apply to the Federal Arbitration Court, with its limited power to deal with interstate disputes and its limited methods of conciliation and arbitration, apply also to tribunals under the Industrial Peace Act. It is impossible, with the present limitation of Commonwealth powers, to bring about that sound business-like system and freedom from legal technicalities and entanglements of which there is so much talk. That could be achieved only by increasing the powers of the Commonwealth.
The charge has been made that the Government has no mandate for its present action. The implication is that a government should not do anything unless it has put a specific question to the people, or has gone to an election upon its proposals. “When the original proposals to amend the Arbitration Act were before this House, both the Attorney-General and I made it plain that arbitration could not continue unless both sides were prepared to obey awards. The AttorneyGeneral made a statement, on the subject which is absolutely clear and definite, and which nobody could challenge. This is what the honorable gentleman said - . . there is one condition upon which the continuance of the arbitration system depends, and that is the general principle that those who appeal to the arbitrator must observe his awards, that those who seek the benefits conferred by the court must be prepared to work under its awards. They, must not take arbitration when it suits them and resort to direct action when that seems more likely to give them what they want. The result of allowing such action would be to engender disrespect for the law, and that would have very evil effects upon the community as ti whole If it is found that organized industry on either side is not ready to recognize this obligation, the Government will have to reconsider whether if is desirable to maintain the system. It is hoped, therefore, that all parties will recognize that their real interests lie in the stability and security which obedience to the law. creates.
I have referred to the same subject in numerous speeches which I made in different parts of the country. In July of last year in Perth, I made the definite pronouncement that unless the system of arbitration could be made to operate ‘so as to bind both sides, the Government would take steps to alter it; that it would not allow such an inadequate system to continue. I made it perfectly clear in my policy speech that one of the principal questions upon which the Government was appealing to the people was the obtaining of peace in industry - a better understanding between the parties concerned. I stated that the Government would take any steps that were necessary to bring that about. There can be no question as to the mandate of the Government, and there is not the slightest justification for the suggestion of honorable members opposite that we have no mandate.
The problems which I have indicated are those of industry, and it is for industry to take action to overcome the trouble which now faces the industrial and economic life of Australia. This is a great opportunity for industry. With the removal of the federal authority it will be possible to achieve the bringing together of the parties concerned with a view to making them more responsible for the regulation of their own affairs. How much can be accomplish^’ depends upon industry itself.
Let .me give a few examples of what could be done if the two sections of industry could be brought together to consider the great issues which are facing us in Australia. One of the major problems that we have to solve if we are to win substantial prosperity is how to secure an adequate return for the wages that are paid. This involves consideration of the piece-work system and payment, by results. The great majority of our working people - in fact all except the few extremists - would welcome the introduction of piece-work in order that they might earn as much as possible for the maintenance of their families, provided that the system was safeguarded so that they could not be exploited. One recognizes the difficulty of getting men to accept any system which might be thrust upon them in an award given by a judge who might know very little about the details and ramifications of the industry concerned. But if the two sides could meet around a table and evolve a properly safeguarded system I am sure that it would be welcomed by the great majority of our workers. A few persons in the community desire to enforce a principle which would result in keeping everybody down on the same dead level and so be disastrous to all concerned. They know that they can only keep their positions in their organizations by advocating the adoption of this pernicious policy, and so they resist every effort that is made to introduce an improved system.
Another question- which the two sides in industry could face with advantage at a round table conference is whether the return obtained by capital from industry is fair or otherwise. It is probable that no single issue is causing so much unrest in the mind of the average working man to-day, as the suspicion that capital is getting more than an adequate return for the money invested in particular industries. A closer personal touch between employers and employees would make possible the disclosure of authentic information on these matters, and this would remove one of the principal grounds for the suspicion that exists. Such disclosures could be made at a round-table conference without detrimentally affecting the interests of either party. In certain industries it would be possible to disclose every detail of a business.
Given this desirable closer touch between capital and labour, I have no doubt whatever that a better understanding would quickly be reached and maintained. The workers’ representatives, under such conditions, could be authoritatively informed of the difficulties which face industries, such as the effect of outside competition, overhead costs, interest on capital, and so on. This would lead to the adoption of a different attitude on the part of many working people towards the employers, for they would find that if some of their claims for shorter hours, improved conditions, and increased wages were granted, a number of establishments might have to close down, and the amount of unemployment in our midst would then be increased. A full knowledge of the facts would inevitably lead to a better understanding between the parties.
The spirit in which honorable members opposite are treating these questions indicates clearly the reason why they do not carry more influence than they do with the people of this country. At present Australian industries are passing through a serious economic crisis. Tens of thousands of our workmen are unemployed. It is essential, therefore, that we should all recognize the urgency of improving the relations between employers and employees. Yet whenever one refers to the desirableness of doing something to achieve this end, honorable members opposite sit in their places and jeer. By doing this, I suggest, they are making it quite clear to the people of Australia that they are not fit to be trusted with the high responsibilities and obligations which they desire to carry. They talk a good deal about their hard, practical sense, and their knowledge of industrial affairs, but I am prepared to say that they do not realize the extent of the industrial revolution that is going on in other countries of the world.
The industries of the United States of America are perhaps more efficiently organized than those of any other country. This efficiency has been achieved by the two sides in industry coming to a true realization and understanding of the problems which each has to face. One of the great principles adopted in that country and recognized as having had a good deal to do with the bringing of the parties in industry into closer contact, and to a better understanding, is that industry itself must attack the problems which face it. The task should be left to industry and not forced upon governments. The mistake made by honorable members opposite is that they think that Governments and Parliaments can interfere in these problems and bring harmony into the relations of the parties concerned. I assert that they cannot do so. On this aspect of the subject I invite the attention of honorable members to a report issued recently by the Bureau of Economics at “Washing ton. A summary of it appeared in the columns of the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday last. This report shows clearly that, through the leaders of the trade union movement and the employers in industry coming into closer contact, a better understanding of the problems of management and a greater measure of cooperation have been achieved than ever before. It also shows that the managers of industry are beginning to realize the necessity for paying higher wages if industry is to be permanently prosperous, for only in that way can the purchasing power of the people be maintained. Industry, after all, is dependent for its success upon the purchasing power of the people.
One of the main considerations which prompted the Government to introduce this bill is the necessity for having in Australia one authority with full power to deal with industrial problems. Unless some such paramount and final authority can be set up, it will continue to be impossible to bring about the closer touch between the parties that is essential to the solution of our industrial problems. The manner in which the Government proposes to evacuate those spheres of industry over which it has not complete control is set out in the bill. The first part of the measure provides for the repeal of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Part II. deals with the transitional period between the passing of the measure and the assumption of control by the States. It is provided that all existing Commonwealth awards shall remain in force until the 30th June, 1930, unless superseded in the -meantime by the awards of State tribunals. It will, of course, be open to any State authority to order that an existing Federal award shall continue in force after the 30th June next; but awards which have not been extended or superseded shall cease to operate as from. that date. Complete jurisdiction over all industries, except those exempted by this measure, will revert to the States on the 30th June next.
It is proposed that the maritime industry shall be controlled exclusively by the Commonwealth, but the method of its regulation will be completely changed. It will be regulated by committees representative of the industry. The scheme is flexible; for either one or several committees may be set up to deal with the industry. There may be a general committee with subordinate sectional committees. One such sectional committee may deal with the seamen’s section and another with the waterside section. The main feature is that these committees will be representative of both sides. Each will have as its chairman either a judge or an industrial registrar. The members of the committees, who are to hold office for three years, are to be selected from names submitted by organizations representing the interested parties. Recommendations are to be made through the chief judge of the court, and the appointments are to be made by the Government. These committees will be empowered to deal with the regulation of industry in every aspect; but the bill provides for two things which are a distinct departure from our arbitration system. Instead of evidence being tendered to a court, the committees, representing the two parties, will conduct their investigations in camera, without calling evidence. There will not be that publicity which has been a feature of our arbitration system in the past.
– Why does not the measure apply to all industries?
– We can apply this system under our trade and commerce powers, but not under our arbitration and conciliation powers. The only industries which we can deal with in this way are those which come under our trade and commerce powers, which concern interstate trade and trade with other countries. Where there is a division between ordinary interstate and intra-state trade, our powers are not sufficiently defined.
– Another appeal to the people would have resulted in the Government being given the necessary power.
– If the honorable member had followed my earlier remarks, he would not express that opinion. The committees to be appointed will be similar to wages boards. But it is possible that committees representing the two sides to a dispute in a sheltered industry might provide for conditions which paid no consideration to the interests of the genera] public, who, in such circumstances, might be heavily penalized. It is, therefore, provided that these committees must take into consideration the economic effect of any determination which they may reach.
– It is about time they did.
Opposition members interjecting—-
– Honorable members opposite appear to overlook the fact that the general public should be considered in connexion with these determinations, and to ignore the economic effect of decisions reached by such tribunals. When, however, the workers realize that they are the persons who have to pay whenever those in a particular industry obtain an unreasonable concession, the objection to the recognition of the economic effect of such determinations will disappear.
Further protection of the public is provided in the form of a board of review to consider the determinations of the committees. Although the present Arbitration Court judges will not continue in their present capacity, other opportunities are being provided for their useful employment. The bill provides that any determination made by a committee presided over by a person other than a judge, shall automatically come before a judicial board of review, which will consider it from the view-point of the general public interest and in relation to its economic effect upon industry. In cases where a committee is presided over by a judge, the determination need not be submitted to the Board of Review, but it may be so submitted if the judge acting us chairman thinks fit. The Board of Review shall consist of such judges of the court as the Chief Judge determines. In cases in which the Board of Review disagrees with a determination it shall refer the determination to the committee with such recommendation as it thinks fit to make. The Board of Review may either disallow or vary a determination, and opportunity is provided for the board to discuss the matter with the committee before a decision is reached. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court is to be abolished, but the present arbitration judges are to become judges of a Maritime Industries Court. The functions of the court are limited to the enforcement of breaches of determinations of the committees, and to the hearing of appeals from any judgment given in the case of a breach of an award. The court has also power to compel the production of necessary books and documents.
– Is that power confined to the judge, or will the members of the committees have authority to compel the production of documents?
– Any one can make application to the court for the production of books and documents, and if the court so determines, it can order the production of necessary books and documents. The point raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) can be fully discussed in committee.
Provision is also made whereby any industry, apart from the maritime industries, may obtain the services of a judge or a conciliation commissioner to assist the parties to that industry in reaching an agreement upon any industrial matter.
The main object of the bill is to dispense with dual control of industry in this country, and to ensure that whatever authority is functioning it shall have the necessary powers. It also provides for the future regulation of the maritime industry, for the placing of the control of the industry in its own hands, and for the protection of the public against exploitation by industries.
In commending the measure to the House, I again appeal to honorable members to approach its consideration with a full sense of responsibility, and with a realization of its importance to Australia. There is no question of more outstanding importance to the citizens of Australia than the solution of our industrial problems. For years we have been trying to find a solution, and after what has occurred in recent years, I am convinced that we shall inevitably fail unless we are able to bring the contending parties closer together, and obtain that co-operation which is essential. That objective cannot be achieved whilst the dual system of control continues. The measure provides for the abolition of that system, and I believe it will be the means of settling many of the economic and financial troubles confronting us to-day. It will bring the parties in industry closer together, and in that way ensure thatbetter understanding between those engaged in industry, which is vital to the prosperity and happiness of the Australian people.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Theodore) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.55 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 22nd March, 1929 (vide page 1758) on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the paper be printed.
.- When the debate on this matter was adjourned early this year, I had not had an opportunity of replying to the criticism directed by the Attorney-General against the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in his capacity as the Australian workers’ representative at Geneva in 1926. In the following year I had the honour to be present in Geneva in a similar capacity. When the AttorneyGeneral was discussing this matter on a previous occasion he endeavoured to injure the honorable member for West Sydney in the eyes of the members of this House, and of the people of Australia as a whole. The Attorney-General criticized the honorable member for his statements regarding the attitude of Britain and other participating countries towards the conventions carried at the conference, and he also found fault with Mr. Beasley’s behaviour on the subject of the credentials of the Fascists representatives. In my opinion Mr. Beasley, in regard to both of those matters, acted quite properly. In 1927 every workers’ delegate from the 46 or 47 countries represented at the conference opposed the acceptance of the Fascist representatives’ credentials, as also did some of the employers and Government representatives. The Attorney-General implied that Mr. Beasley had been guilty of insulting the representatives of a nation with which Australia was on friendly terms, but there is absolutely no justification for any such implication. I have been interested in the International Labour Organization ever since it was instituted.
I believed that through its activities something substantial would be done in the way of relieving the burdens of the workers in various parts of the world. Unfortunately, my hopes have not been fulfilled. The honorable member for West Sydney was not the only representative who attended this conference to take umbrage at the futility of the International Labour Organization. The conventions which have been carried from time to time, including the eight-hours convention at the Washington Conference, have not been given effect to even in Britain, although they were approved by the British delegation. The Government of the Commonwealth is no better, in my opinion, than any of the othergovernments which have failed to give effect to these conventions. The eight-hours issue has in the past been an import ant one to Australia, and is still an important and pressing matter in most countries in Europe, as well as in other parts of the world. The workers’ representatives who attended at Geneva from Japan, China and India looked to that conference for some measure of relief in the hard conditions under which their fellow workers were living. We in Australia are also interested in this matter, because we have learned how hard it is for us to compete commercially against other countries where men and women work from twelve to fourteen hours a dayfor very low wages. Despite the fact that this convention was carried with the approval of representatives from Britain, no move was made to give effect to it by the British Government. When I discovered that the British and other European Governments had no intentions of being guided by the findings of the Conference, I said things to which the British press took exception. It was stated in the press that Australian delegates had come to Geneva simply for the purpose of criticizing the British Government. My view of the matter was that it was useless for the British or any other government to take part in the Conference if they were not prepared to take some notice of the decisions arrived at. I was criticized even in the Australian press for having the temerity to say what I thought. I remember that the workers’ representative from Belgium, who had been attending these conferences since 1919, bitterly resented the fact that nothing had been done to give effect to the conventions which were passed from time to time. He said that if nothing was done to put these conventions into operation, the sooner the International Labour Office was disbanded the better. I deeply resent the action of the Attorney-General in criticizing the honorable member for .West Sydney for simply doing his duty at the Geneva Conference. What Mr. Beasley did on that occasion has been done by almost every workers’ representative who has attended the conferences since they were instituted.
.- As a supporter of the League of Nations and a member of the League, of Nations Union, I protest against the perfunctory and contemptuous manner in which this important subject has been brought before Parliament.’ The report which we are now discussing was tabled in February last, and six months later, on the eve of the Tenth Assembly at Geneva, we are invited to renew the discussion on something which has in the meantime become quite stale, and in which public interest has declined. I remember that some years ago when the Attorney-General was a private member of this House, he joined in a protest at the manner in which the Government dealt with such reports as these. I am now surprised that he, as a member of the Cabinet, and as one who has always taken a keen interest in international affairs, should be a party to the handling of this matter in so casual a manner.
I do not propose to discuss the report itself, because, now that we are on the eve of another conference, the time is not opportune. I wish, however, to say a word about the way in which this Government selects the delegation to attend the conferences at Geneva. It has come to be regarded by the public and by members of this Parliament that the trip to Geneva is awarded each year as a special concession to different Ministers. At the present time the Assistant Minister, Mr. Marr, is abroad and is to represent Australia at the Tenth Assembly. Mr. Marr is a very estimable member, one who is liked generally bv other honorable members, and I do not want to make a personal attack on him; but I feel it my duty to point out that’ on no occasion in this House has he displayed any deepseated knowledge or abiding interest in international politics. His appointment to this position has been criticized in set terms by the Nationalist press of Australia. The Sydney Sun, in a leading article, was very condemnatory regarding his appointment. If the Government is anxious to contribute towards the success of the League of Nations activities, it should make the Australian delegation as representative in character as possible. From time to time the Government has urged the House to discuss our . international commitments in a non-party spirit ; but on only one occasion during the past seven years has it seen fit to invite the Leader of the Opposition to be a member of the delegation to Geneva. Even if it will not go so far as to make the delegation representative of Parliament, it should at least try to justify the selections that are made.
The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Culley) referred to the conventions and recommendations made from time te time by the International Labour Organization. In 1923 I took a course which at the time raised a mild chorus of protest, because to many the matter to which T directed attention seemed comparatively unimportant. I moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the failure of the Commonwealth and State Governments to give effect to one convention of the League of Nations, namely, that dealing with white-lead in paint. I did so ‘to direct attention to the general inaction. The Commonwealth is under a moral obligation to carry out. these conventions; but, so far as I am aware- and I await with interest any information that might - be given in this connexion - no steps have since been taken ‘to carry out those conventions which concern the legislative powers of the Commonwealth; and, apart from Queensland, in no instance has a State Parliament carried out its obligations in this matter.
– The subject was raised at the recent Premiers’ Conference and was pressed upon the attention of th* State Premiers.
– I concede that point, which I had already noted; but it has taken many years to bring the matter before the States. The Commonwealth still has a duty to carry out in respect of certain conventions of a federal nature. While, perhaps, not affecting economic standards of industry, the ratification of those conventions would be a moral gesture of some importance to future international co-operation.
I do not want to labour this point, but I hope that in future, discussions on the League of Nations will take place within a reasonable time of the submission of the report. I have spoken to several honorable members who would have liked to discuss the report while the subject with which it dealt was a live one and of public interest. To ask us now to discuss something that took place last year, and the report concerning which was presented to this Parliament six months ago, is to indicate that the Government wishes merely to fill in time and is not really desirous of discussing the matter seriously.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, etc.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 22nd August (vide page 273).
Proposed vote £71,884.
– I desire to refer to the present condition of the Royal Air Force in Australia. In my opinion, Australia is neglecting its opportunities in the development of aviation. A considerable sum of money has been expended upon the Royal Air Force, and in connexion with civil aviation; yet the results have been anything but successful. I do not desire to reflect in any sense upon the personnel of the Royal Air Force, or those who are administering civil aviation. Indeed, every one recognizes that Australians are peculiarly adapted to the making of excellent and enterprising aviators. That fact, together with other circumstances, encourages us to believe that Australia ought to be abreast of other countries in aviation matters. This country has the human material, as it undoubtedly also has the need, for a properly organized system of aviation, both military and civil. But the Commonwealth Government has failed to grasp its opportunities. The Royal Air Force consists of a number of highly-trained technical men and competent aviators; but its activities are confined to the training of pilots and the use in air manoeuvres of machines almost all of which have been imported. Particularly in this arm of defence we ought to do more than we are doing to provide our own equipment for a thoroughly efficient air force. If we are to make adequate provision for the defence of Australia we cannot ignore aerial defence, for that form of defence is peculiarly suited to this country. I do not want to develop that side of the argument beyond directing the attention of the committee to’ the apparent inadequacy of the provision that has been made for the equipment of an efficient air force.
When it became necessary recently for the Commonwealth to take part in a search for missing aviators, the Royal Air Force was able to play only a very minor part indeed. During those tragic days the fact that something was lacking in our Air Force was brought home clearly to an interested public. Nor is Australia living up to its opportunities, or its needs, in connexion with civil aviation. In a country like Australia air transportation facilities may be of tremendous importance; yet the Commonwealth appears to be content to lag behind most other countries.
– Does the honorable member really think that Australia lags behind other countries in this matter ?
– I shall show that Australia is lamentably behind other countries. Very little enterprise in regard to aerial matters is shown, either by governments or private enterprise. The comparatively little interest in aviation shown by private enterprise is largely due to the lack of initiative by the Commonwealth Government.
One phase of the work of the Royal Air Force is to carry out experiments in connexion with aircraft design and construction. At Randwick, where, during the past five years, experimental work has been carried out under the direction of
Wing-Commander Wackett, the Commonwealth has had the nucleus of a very valuable staff of experts. During that period about 70 men have been trained there in various branches of aircraft design, manufacture, and repair. Men who have had mechanical and technical training in other industries, or possessed special knowledge and skill, have been trained in specialized work. Recently it was announced in the public press that the Commonwealth had decided to close that experimental station. I understand that the staff was given only about one week’s notice of the Government’s intention. It is true that, in the past, there has been criticism of the station; but most of it was not well informed. I have discussed this matter with men interested in aviation, who are in no way connected with the experimental station, and they have expressed the opinion that the closing of the station is a tragic blunder. They complain of the lack of intelligent interest shown by the Government in the work that has been done there. That that criticism is justified, an incident that happened, recently, shows. An engineering firm in Sydney has for some time been engaged in designing and producing light aeroplane engines of the “ Cirrus “ type. After many months of experiment they produced the Harkness light aeroplane engine; but, when they applied to have the machine in which it was installed tested, in order to obtain the certificate of airworthiness required by the Commonwealth, they encountered the most extraordinary difficulties. The application was first made to the civil aviation department. After some weeks of delay, during which they were referred to one officer after another, the department informed them that it could not conduct the test, and referred them to the Royal Air Force. On application being made there for a test, they were informed that the matter was outside the province of the Royal Air Force. For five months they were humbugged in this way, until, following representations made by members of Parliament, they were informed that tests would be made at Randwick, where, I believe, they are now taking place. Apparently there is only one station in Australia and one set of officers capable of carrying out tests of aeroplane engines produced in this country, and that is the station which it is now proposed to close. This is most unsatisfactory. The Commonwealth has formulated requirements and regulations which must be complied with but does not provide facilities by which tests may be made. Thus a gross hardship is imposed upon those who are engaged in the production of aviation requirements. I have heard from air pilots in Sydney who are not in government employment but who know what is happening, that if Wing-Commander Wackett had not been available at the Randwick station, no adequate test could have been made in Australia of the Harkness engine. I am informed also by persons interested in that engine that the Commonwealth will shortly call for tenders for a certain number of engines for new planes and the conditions of the tenders will exclude all possibility of an Australian firm competing. If we desire aviation to develop we should give every encouragement to private enterprise to engage in the business of producing aeroplanes and their parts. If necessary, they should be assisted financially, and by the provision of the most modern equipment for testing, and the most expert staff obtainable in Australia or elsewhere to offer advice and help. Since 1921-22, the Commonwealth Government has expended about £3,000,000 upon aviation including the upkeep of the Royal Air Force and grants to civil aviation. But what have we to show for it ? We have a Royal Air Force which apparently is believed to be a “lame duck “ and in its present condition utterly useless as a fighting force. To avoid misunderstanding, I repeat that I do not reflect on the personnel of the Air Force : it consists of highly competent, adaptable, energetic and enterprising men. Canada is much more alive to the possibilities of aviation. Flight recently published a resume of the progress of civil aviation in the Dominion in 1928, in the course of which it stated -
According to the department of National Defence, a grand total of 51,868 Canadians flew last year as passengers over the various air routes through the Dominion, and the total distance flown was about 4,000,000 miles. . . . At the end of 1928 there were three times the number of planes in operation than there were at its beginning, while air harbours had practically doubled and there were nearly five times as many licensed pilots. The prophecy is made that by 1930 Canada will have 1,000 planes and 1,000 pilots to fly them, which will mean no more than a continuance of the progress made in the last couple of years.
– Does that refer to civil or government aviation?
– Both, I think.
– Practically all of it is civil.
– How many aeroplanes have we in Australia to-day capable of taking the air? Probably not one-fifth of the number in Canada. As further evidence of the improving position of Canadian aviation, I quote further from Flight -
Nothing so definitely foreshadows the great future awaiting aviation in Canada as the manner in which provision is being made for the consumption in years to come. A feature of aeronautical development recently, has been the establishment and extension of the air craft manufacturing industry. As a result of the recent amalgamation of the United States of America and Canadian air craft interests, the Curtiss-Reid aircraft company is erecting a large new factory to cost approximately 153,000 dollars, on the outskirts of Montreal, which is expected to be ready by June of this year. At the same time, the Fairchild Aviation Corporation have definitely decided to establish a manufacturing plant in the Province of Quebec, probably at Montreal, to produce its planes for Canadian consumption. Indications have quite recently been given that the Canadian manufacturing industry will find a profitable outlet for its product in other countries of the British Empire as well as elsewhere.
I understand that there are three aeroplane manufacturing establishments in Canada, which are encouraged by the Dominion Government and are supported by all aviation interests; they are now successfully producing aeroplanes and their parts on a commercial scale.
– What is the present population of Canada?
– About 10,000,000 people. Australia has greater need to pay attention to aviation and greater possibilities in that field, because the country is more suited for flying. But we are lagging behind, not because money has not been available, but because it has been expended foolishly. Wing-Commander Wackett has designed and built aeroplanes at the Randwick experimental station, and has trained men in designing and building; he has shown enterprise and positive genius in this department of engineering, but I have heard from air pilots and others connected with aviation that he has received scant encouragement. The closing up of the station proves that its value is not officially appreciated. Wing-Commander Wackett was offered and apparently is about to accept a position as a designer for an aeroplane factory in the United States of America -
– The Curtiss-Reid Aircraft Company.
– Apparently that company appreciated his worth, and the fact that Australia is likely to lose his services indicates a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. We have in our community trained engineers who have spent many years in the designing and construction of aeroplanes, and they should be encouraged. I do not say that the Commonwealth should establish a government enterprise to build aeroplanes, but if there is no other way of founding the industry, that course would be justified. I believe, however, that if encouragement were given by the Government and organization arranged, the construction of aeroplanes would be undertaken by private companies. Air Marshal Salmond, who visited Australia last year, made a comprehensive and most condemnatory report of the Royal Air Force. Incidentally, he referred to the Randwick experimental station, and recommended that, under the circumstances then existing, it should be closed. But those circumstances could have been altered, and the station made a useful factor in aviation development. Hostile criticism of projects for aircraft construction in Australia has been expressed by visitors and others, but most of the critics were persons who are naturally biassed against the establishment of such a business in the Commonwealth. We should be able to determine for ourselves whether or not it is wise to establish aircraft construction in Australia, without consulting any authority in England, however high, because opinion in England is bound to be prejudiced against such an enterprise. There is nothing mysterious or occult in the building of aeroplanes.
Our people can build them, perhaps not as cheaply as they are built in England, and they should be built here so that we shall be independent of other countries if the need should arise. If we establish the industry on reasonable lines and with sufficient encouragement, we shall probably be able to manufacture aeroplanes locally as cheaply as we can import them.
– The experience of the United States of America in that regard during the war was not very good.
– Perhaps so; but the position of aviation in the United States of America to-day furnishes an object lesson to Australia. The American people have grasped their opportunities with amazing success. Scores of companies are engaged in the construction of aircraft and their parts, and generally the United States of America is leading the w orld in respect of aeroplane design and construction, and the extension of air services. It must be remembered that in this regard Australia is not at the same disadvantage as in undertaking the establishment of new industries in opposition to those in other countries where production has been in progress from generation to generation. There is no long tradition behind aircraft construction ; the industry is new in all parts of the world, and Australia is able to compete on equal terms with any other country. We shall, however, soon be at a disadvantage if we allow other countries to go ahead, build up a prestige, and get a start which we shall find it difficult to overtake. Therefore, I urge the Government to recognize that this matter is highly important, that it ought not to be niggardly but should do more than it has been doing. I recognize the existing financial stringency and the difficulty of the Commonwealth Treasurer, but it would be a foolish policy, and not necessarily an economical one, to starve a service of this kind. Millions of pounds are being expended in other directions. Let us spend a few thousand pounds if necessary, to establish firmly in Australia an efficient and well equipped Royal Air Force, extend civil aviation, and encourage aircraft manufacturing enterprises which are indispensable to the proper development of aviation.
. I am glad that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) has raised the question of developing the air service. The position in Australia was well summed up in Sir J ohn Salmond’s report, from which it appears that neither the Royal Air Force nor the civil aviation services are in a satisfactory state. Briefly, the report was to the effect that we are really not equipped to fight in the air. I think that the Government admits that. Of course the difficulty is the present financial stringency. The reduction in expenditure on the naval and air side of defence should not continue too long. It will not matter so much, say, for twelve months, but should it extend beyond that, the position will become serious. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) mentioned Canada. When I had the privilege of visiting Canada, I spoke to Mr. McKenzie King on the air and naval questions. He was quite clear that Canada, because of certain p’olitical difficulties, could not expend, and it is not expending, more than from ls. 6d. to 2s. a head on its navy, leaving the burden, so far as the other dominions are concerned, on the Commonwealth of Australia. But he realized Canada’s responsibilities in respect of an air force, and that dominion is devoting more and more attention to air defence. In the year to which I refer the Canadian Parliament had appropriated about £2,750,000 for the air service alone. Much of this was intended to meet requirements in the shape of forest fire patrols. Machines were patrolling Canada’s great fir forests, keeping watch for fires, assisting in their extinction, or giving directions by wireless as to their location. In time of war these planes would be used for defence purposes. I think that we are all glad to know that Canada is spending so much money on the air. The honorable member for Dalley was quite right in praising the Australian airmen and, more especially the members of the aero clubs. Australia should be proud of the New South Wales Aero Club. Captain Geoffrey Hughes, who holds the Air Force Cross and fought at the war, is its president, and he has built it up to the first position among the aero clubs of the world. Honorable members will be glad to know thai the aerodrome is being removed from Mascot, which is an impossible place in its present condition, to a huge area of land near the Warwick Farm racecourse. An amount of £70,000 is to be expended in erecting a huge aerodrome and a countryside club for- the purpose of encouraging our young men to get into the air with their own machines. I ask the Prime Minister to try to keep up the grants to the aero clubs, because it is a cheap way of getting a good air defence. At present it is difficult for planes to land at Mascot and they cannot take o’ff in wet weather. It would not need a large amount of money to place it in order. It would be a splendid thing if the Government could, in some way, join with the Aero Club of New South Wales - there is a legal way of doing this - to enable it to build hangars and a landing place, and make it one great centralized institution. I put that suggestion to Captain Geoffrey Hughes the other day, but he was not in favour of it. He said that, with commercial and Government planes taking off and coming down, newly-fledged young civil airmen would be likely to lose their nerve, and serious accidents might result. Captain Hughes has just returned from an extensive flying tour in America, and I asked him whether he had made a report to the Government. He said that he had supplied a full -report to the Prime Minister.
– Has the report been laid on the table of the House ?
– No. It is a private report which has been supplied to the Prime Minister. I ask the right honorable gentleman to read every word of it, because it contains many valuable suggestions. Captain Hughes is confident that Mascot could be converted into a perfect aerodrome if it were drained in the same way as many flying fields in America have been drained. He showed me photographs of celebrated fields in America which at one time were swamps, but by means of adequate draining had been transformed into some of the finest flying fields in the world. He said that similar work could be done at Mascot without great expense.
– Why should not the Public Works Committee investigate that question.
– I certainly favour that. The Civic Commissioners of Sydney have been approached in reference to the scheme, but whether they will give it any assistance I do not know. The position is that New South Wales has no suitable air port. This is well illustrated by the trouble that the “ Southern Cross” experienced in taking ofl. It. had to be transported to Richmond before it could commence its flight to England. Reverting to the training of our young civilian airmen, I may say that I brought under the notice of the Prime Minister, by means of a question in this House the other day, the fact that the charge for the use of hangars for their machines hnd been increased in the last fortnight by exactly 100 per cent. The charge per week for certain types of planes is now 15s. That is a lot of money for these young fellows to pay. We want, not to handicap, but to encourage them. Those who desire to bring under the notice of the Defence Department new types of aeroplane engines which they wish to have tested should also be assisted. Recently a man who had designed a certain type of engine asked me to place it before the Government. I did so, and the Prime Minister has promised to have the matter looked into. We should assist and not penalize such men. Last session the question of providing in Australia mooring masts for airships was raised, and the reply was that the Government was. awaiting information as to what was being done in other countries. Recently a wonderful trip from Berlin to Tokio was made by the Graf Zeppelin in 62 hours. It was an epochmaking flight, and it seems to me that it will not be long before airships will come here. The British Government is on the verge of completing two mammoth airships, which have been under construction for three years. What are we doing about the erection of mooring masts here ? I should like the Prime Minister to brush the cobwebs off the file on that subject and ascertain the position. The honorable member for Dalley went to some trouble to explain the position of a firm that was interested in the Harkness aeroplane engine and. had experienced a lot of trouble with the department. I think that there was a long report in the Daily Guardian on the subject a week ago. 1 do not know the facts, so I shall not discuss the matter, but I think there must be some truth in the report, in view of the trouble that I had a couple of years ago when trying to get an engine tested here. But for the assistance I received from Senator Sir George Pearce I am afraid nothing at all would have been done. In the end the person concerned had to go to England to obtain a test. This looks like a similar case. There seems to be a little side-stepping on the part of certain departments. There would appear to be a lack of interest in private individuals who desire to submit air engines to the department concerned. “We should do everything to encourage these men and to improve the means of flying. For that reason, among others, the grant to aero clubs should be increased, and not cut down. The present position is due to lack of finance. “We may stagger along for the next twelve months, but after that some drastic action must be taken. I understand that about 300 Air Force men are to be dismissed. That is a tragedy. The same unsatisfactory position applies to the naval side. “We may go on for twelve months, as we were forced to do during the regime of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) in 1922. We then made a cut in the naval vote ; but we had to make up for lost ground later. “When we establish these specialized professions, we cannot drop them and pick them up later without suffering a tremendous loss in efficiency. It is not my intention to put a bludgeon on the head of the Prime Minister, because it has been admitted in the budget speech that the Government is trying to keep the Air Force efficient without in any way crippling it; but, reading between the lines, it is evident that the Government, in reducing the vote, is doing something which it does not relish. I congratulate the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) for bringing this subject before the committee. These services must not be penalized for want of sufficient money. We should keep them to their present efficiency, and, when money is available, build them up to the stage at which we all desire our defence services to be maintained.
– I shall not delay the committee very long in discussing, at this stage, the general position in regard to both defence and civil aviation, because it will be possible to make a full statement when the Defence Department’s Estimates are under consideration. Various phases of this subject have been opened up, such as the expenditure upon the Air Force, civil aviation in Australia, the manufacture of aeroplanes here, and the progress which has been made in aviation generally. The honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Marks) also raised the question of the provision to be made for the mooring of lighter-than-air craft now that the two big British airships are approaching completion. With regard to the aviation, arm of defence, great progress has been made during the last five years as part of a general defence programme embracing the Navy, the Army, munitions, and air services. The main part of that programme related to the Navy, and the greatest expenditure during that period has been on the naval side. In that respect we have reached the point that we set out to attain. We have now two modern first-class 10,000-ton cruisers, two ocean-going submarines, a sea-plane carrier, and certain oil storage, and this, I think, must be taken as the maximum contribution that, at the moment, we can make to the Navy. “We had hoped, on the completion of that programme, to give effect to the three-years’ developmental programme for the Air Force laid down by Sir John Salmond ; but the finances of the country at the moment will not permit of the further expansion of defence, and we have to be content with the maintenance of that which we have achieved as a result of the completion of the five-years’ scheme. Our intention in regard to the Air Force was to build up gradually the necessary ground work for co-operation with the Army and Navy, and to re-equip the Air Force with modern machines. Great progress has been made in both those directions. Our expenditure on aviation during the last three years has increased considerably. The actual expenditure on defence aviation for 1927-28 was £437,902; for 1928-29, £558,147; and for the present year the estimate is £614,179. In addition, supplementary amounts have been made available. In 1927-28 the amount was £85,813, and in 1928-29, £106,000. Those amounts were provided from the special Defence provision made for the five years’ programme. Substantial results have followed from that expenditure and to a certain extent the ground work has been completed. In 1924 all that we had was a small training station at Point Cook, Victoria, and the experimental section in Kew South Wales. During the five years that have since elapsed, the aircraft depot at Laverton has been established and has provided for the housing of all aircraft and stores not issued to units, and a workshop for the repair of aircraft, aero engines, motor transport, wireless, photographic, gunnery and other material.
In addition to the Laverton depot, Nos. 1 and 3 composite squadrons, at Point Cook and Richmond respectively, have been established, as well as flight No. 101, a fleet co-operation flight in Queensland, which has been co-operating in the work that has been carried out recently along the Barrier Reef. That flight will now pass to the Albatross. At the present time only seven of the old aeroplanes are still in use, and the whole of the force is gradually being re-equipped. After the war- Australia received a number of gift aeroplanes from the British Government.
– They were no good.
– They were perfectly good and sufficient for our purposes at that time. But tremendous developments have taken place in regard to types of machines and that development is likely to be progressive. Machines which, today, are completely up to date, whether for fighting purposes or reconnaisance work, will in the course of a year or two be out of date, and probably we shall have to re-equip further in the future. Seventeen de Haviland “ Moths “ are being constructed in Australia for training purposes, whilst eleven Westland “Wapitis” for general purposes, and eight British “ Bull-dog “ single-seater fighters are due to arrive in Australia during the present year. The squadron on the Albatross will be re-equipped as soon as a determination is reached as to what is the most suitable type of seaplane for the purpose.
I remind honorable members that Australia benefits from the experimental work that is carried out at tremendous cost by the British Government. In Great Britain a machine is produced, sent into the air and tested. It may give satisfaction for a time, but eventually prove not altogether suitable and further experiments have to be made. The experiments to decide the most suitable type of aeroplane have not yet been completed. When the British Government has decided upon the most suitable type and made a final selection we shall probably adopt it. The planes that we now have were selected after the fullest examination and in the light of the experimental work and experience of the British Air Force. There is no justification for the statement that the existing force is useless, or that it is not a very efficient fighting force judged by modern standards. We shall be re-equipped with modern planes before the British Air Force is so equipped. The size of our force, of course, is limited by the expenditure that it is possible to incur upon this arm of defence. While there may be differences of opinion regarding what is our primary fine of defence, the Government takes the view that the sea is our first line, and consequently its policy has been to incur the maximum expenditure in that direction.
A good deal of criticism has been levelled against the Air Force in connexion with the unfortunate loss of the “ Southern Cross.” It has been suggested that because none of our planes could be sent to take part in the search, the Force is hopelessly incompetent, and that there is no justification for the expenditure that has been incurred upon it. In fairness to the Air Force, I ask honorable members to consider the facts. The “ Southern Cross “ was lost in the extreme north-west corner of Western Australia. There are no aeroplanes in that particular locality, which is probably the most remote portion of the Commonwealth. The problem which had to be solved was to get a plane there. The distance which had to be flown between the points at which a plane could land and refuel was beyond the capacity of the Air Force machines. I remind the House that the defence machines are for reconnaisance and fighting purposes. A plane would need to carry a tremendous quantity of petrol to be able, without refuelling, to fly from Sydney to the area where the “ Southern Cross “ was lost. It is easy to imagine what would be the plight of a plane which had that enormous petrol carrying capacity when it was being used for purposes of war. Obviously it would be shot down by the first fighting plane it met, without having an opportunity to defend itself. The planes with which the Air Force is at present equipped are not suitable for a flight over a tremendous distance such as that involved in the search for the “Southern Cross.” Notwithstanding that fact, they were responsible for some remarkable performances in the search for the “ Kookaburra.”
It has been suggested that it was a mistake to close down the experimental station at Randwick. I claim that it was wise for the reason that the station was of very little use on the basis on which it was being conducted. Wing-Commander Wackett has endeavoured to carry out experimental work in this very restricted area. Unless we are willing to incur, as Sir John Salmond pointed out, a tremendous recurring expenditure on the expansion of that experimental station, there is no scope for its existence. A man of WingCommander Wackett’s capacity would probably be of much more value when engaged in experimental work, the expenditure upon which was sufficient to give him full scope for his talents. If the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) sought to make the point that it was desirable to establish a splendid experimental station in Australia, and that Australia should stand side by side with the United States of America, Great Britain and other countries in the development of this means of communication and defence, I entirely agree with him; but the point is that our finances at the present time will not permit us to even contemplate the expenditure that would be involved in experimental work that would produce results of real value to the development of aviation in Australia. There is not the slightest use in engaging in that work on a small scale. That is the advice which was given by Sir John Salmond.
I concur in the view that it should be possible to make tests of aero engine in Australia, particularly as we stipulate the conditions that must be fulfilled before any engine can be used for the purposes of flying. Arrangements are now being made to enable tests to be carried out. That work will be continued in the future, and the necessary facilities will be provided.
The honorable member for Dalley also stated that the planes used by our Air Force are manufactured abroad, and suggested that we should manufacture those that we require. I suggest to the honorable member that we have not yet reached the stage at which we could contemplate doing that. “We must have the best equipment it is possible to obtain for our Air Force, so that if it is to be used for war purposes our men will not be handicapped in any way. Millions of pounds are being spent by all the great nations in the development of aviation. It is impossible for us to keep abreast - let alone ahead, as we ought to be - of those developments. We benefit from the expenditure that Great Britain incurs, and the time has not yet arrived for us to contemplate putting our men into the air in machines that have been produced in Australia. We have not yet even reached the stage at which we can produce an engine for a motor car. Therefore, we should be going a little too fast if we contemplated entering the more complicated field of the manufacture of an aeroplane engine, particularly in view of the experience of a great country like the United States of America, which during the war set out to provide all the fighting planes her force needed but could not do so. We must walk before we run. We cannot contemplate the manufacture of aeroplane engines until we have solved the problem of manufacturing motor car engines on a commercial basis.
– The main thing in the manufacture of motor-car engines is mass production.
– Production cannot be carried on successfully unless there is a market that offers a wide scope for it. To be progressive you must have a large market in which to sell your product. The market for aeroplane engines in Australia at the present time is very restricted, and it would not enable us to produce 2 successfully and efficiently in competition with the rest of the world. I cannot concur with the honorable member when he suggests that Australia at the present stage of its development can move into the field for the manufacture of aeroplane engines.
The honorable member also addressed himself to the question of civil aviation, and drew a comparison which was not altogether flattering to Australia, with regard to the development of civil aviation in this country and in Canada. I suggest that the comparison should be in favour of Australia, because this country has done extraordinarily well in the matter of civil aviation and its development for commercial purposes. . For the three years ending with 1929-30 the Government will have expended the following sums for the assistance of civil aviation in Australia:-
At the Imperial Conference in 1926, statements were made by the representatives of different parts of the British Empire as to the progress of aviation, both defence and civil, in their respective countries. The results disclosed should have been very gratifying to the people of Australia. They indicated that the achievements of Canada in this respect were not comparable with those of Australia. I remind honorable members that for many years what is admitted to be one of the most successful commercial air services .in the world has been operating between Perth and Derby in Western Australia. It has certainly been one of the great pioneering commercial services of the world. An air service has now been established between Adelaide and Perth, and there is also one between Adelaide and Melbourne, which runs into the Riverina. A gap exists between Melbourne and Brisbane, due to the admirable facilities of communication already available between Melbourne and Sydney and Sydney and Brisbane, and to the fact that there is a limit to the provision of alternative means of communication. A service now links up with the very successful venture conducted by Q.A.iV.T.A.S., which has operated in
Queensland for many years, and provides an air link between Brisbane, Charleville, and Camooweal and into the Northern Territory. A gap exists from the middle of the Northern Territory across to Wyndham, the point to which the PerthDerby service will be extended, and when that gap is filled we shall have a complete encirclement of the’ Commonwealth by subsidized commercial air services. In recent years there has been a wonderful development in civil aviation in Australia, and there is no reason to feel ashamed of what has been done in this regard. For the information of honorable members, I quote a few statistics relating to civil aviation in Australia : -
On the other hand the latest available figures disclose that the number of paying passengers carried in Canada by civil aviation companies was 51,868 for the year. Having regard to the respective populations of the two dominions, the comparison is undoubtedly in favour of Australia. Although 4,000,000 miles were flown in that year by civil aviators in Canada, it must be remembered that the Canadian Government utilizes aircraft extensively for the purpose of patrolling its forests as a protection against fire. Clearly a fair percentage of that mileage must be attributed to such services. The Australian figures relate only to actual flights made by passenger-carrying planes on the regular routes throughout this continent. It must also be recollected that Australia, unlike Canada, is incurring heavy expense in developing other arms of defence, notably her sea defences. It must, therefore, be very satisfactory to honorable members to learn that Australia has so well kept pace with Canada. I believe that the position is one for gratification. We recognize, however, that, aviation is a great and progressive science, and that we are not entitled to rest on our laurels and be content with what has been achieved. The Government proposes to continue its policy of fostering the development of civil aviation in Australia to its maximum capacity. That is shown by the fact that notwithstanding the financial stringency - necessitating economies in every direction - with which the country is at present faced, it is pro- posed to spend £250,165 on civil aviation during the coming year as against an expenditure of £139,612 last year. There could be no better earnest of the fact that this Government realizes that aviation is a vital and important factor in the development of Australia.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) raised the subject of lighterthanair craft, and referred to the approaching completion of the airships R-100 and R-101, after years of laborious work. He suggested that the Commonwealth Government should clear the cobwebs from the official file relating to the provision to be made for the visit of such craft to Australia. There is no need for the honorable member to be perturbed; there are no cobwebs to remove from the file. These two airships are of an experimental character, and it is proposed to test them on shorter routes before they attempt a long-distance flight such as that between Great Britain and Australia. Some two years ago a British flying officer came to Australia to discuss with this Government the subjects of meteorological observations in connexion with flights to Australia - meteorological conditions vitally affect the operations of airships - and the erection of aerial masts in the Commonwealth. From the evidence then available it was patent that the earliest date at which we could contemplate a British airship flying from Great Britain to Australia was 1931. It was evident that the first flight would be an experimental one, and would have no immediate influence upon the establishment of an air service between the two countries. Before that eventuated there would necessarily be a number of experimental flights from Great Britain to such parts of the Empire as South Africa and Canada. Therefore, ample time was available in which to erect a mast for the accommodation of such an airship when it arrived. The honorable member for Wentworth may rest happy in the knowledge that if these experimental flights prove successful and justify the erection of masts, thai will be done. Before any mast is erected a suitable site must be determined upon, and the necessary land acquired. A suitable site has already been selected and we will be ready to push on with the work as soon as the circumstances justify it. The Commonwealth Government is making the necessary meteorological observations, and the honorable member can rest assured that we shall be prepared to cooperate with the British Government when the flight of one of these airships to Australia is contemplated. We are very hopeful that something practical will result. The building of these two airships’ demonstrates strikingly how variable is human opinion. When I went to Great Britain in 1923 the Burney airship had just been completed, and the British Government had agreed to subsidize a flight to Egypt. As it was suggested that Australia would be asked to participate in the subsidy, I thoroughly investigated the whole matter. At that time I was unable to find in the Air Ministry any one who had a good word for lighterthanair craft. All contended that the future of aviation rested with the heavierthanair craft. When I was in Great Britain in 1926, however, a great change had come over the scene. The British air authorities had launched the project of building the R-100 and’ R-101, and I then found it just as difficult to discover anybody who did not affirm his belief id lighter-than-air craft as it was in 1923 to find any one who did. Personally, 3 believe that there is every possibility that the lighter-than-air ships will prove successful, and will greatly improve the existing means of communication between Australia and other parts of the world.
I apologize for having so long occupied the time of the committee on this subject, but the matter, as raised this afternoon, involved the policy of the Government. The Government fully appreciates the importance of air services, both for defence purposes and also for the development of means of communication, and as soon as the financial circumstances of the country warrant we shall be prepared still further to foster and advance the progress and development of aviation iD Australia.
– I lay upon the table the report of the, Committee of Experts on Reparations, presented to the British Parliament. I referred to this report last night, but did not include it in the documents which were tabled because it would be fairly expensive to print it and I doubted whether there would be a sufficient demand for it to warrant the taking of that course. However, it will now be available to honorable members.
– I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
As honorable members are aware, the centenary of Western Australia is being celebrated this year. I am sure that every honorable member desires to pay to Western Australia every possible compliment on this historic occasion. It is gratifying to know that in this memorable year the State is passing through a period of great prosperity and faces with very great hopes the wonderful future which we feel is before it. Any compliment that the National Parliament can pay to the State on this occasion should be paid to it. It has been suggested that an adjournment of Parliament should be made to enable honorable members to visit the State during October, but it is hardly practicable to adopt that course. Following upon a discussion of the matter with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Theodore) it has been decided to send to Western Australia a delegation of nine members, six from this House and three from the Senate, to represent the National Parliament at the principal celebrations.
– Is it intended that the delegation shall include any Western Australian members?
– No; it will be representative of the other States.
– Will it include any Ministers ?
– No; it is hoped that one or perhaps two Ministers will be able to visit Western Australia at the same time as the delegation. The proposal is that the party shall leave for Perth on Friday, the 27th September, arrive there on the 2nd October, and leave for home on the 10th October. That would involve an absence of two weeks from the Parliament. Arrangements will be made between the parties for pairs. I have agreed to discuss with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition the business that will be dealt with during that fortnight, with the object of avoiding any of the larger issues which those who are included in the delegation may wish to debate. Arrangements for determining the personnel of the delegation are now being discussed by the various parties.
.- Naturally I am delighted to hear the statement of the Prime Minister that a delegation from the National Parliament will participate in the centenary celebrations in Western Australia. I wish, however, to refer to the manner in which this arrangement has been made. As honorable members well know, I have been very interested in trying to insure that this Parliament should be adequately represented at these notable gatherings. As long ago as last session I addressed certain questions on this subject to honorable Ministers. Yesterday I had a question upon the notice-paper in regard to it which, I feel, received very scant consideration from the Prime Minister. In his reply he referred me to the answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green). I point out, however, that part of my question dealt with a visit of the fleet to Western Australia. This was not mentioned in the question of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, and the Prime Minister made no replyto it. Of course, it may have been an oversight.
To-day a meeting was held in the Prime Minister’s room, primarily between the Prime Minister and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, to discuss what arrangements could be made for the representation of this Parliament at these centenary celebrations. Certain private members were also present at the consultation. I know of at least one honorable member who was specially sent for by a member of the Prime Minister’s staff. I understand that the two Western Australian members who sit on the Labour side of the House, and also the two country party members, were also present. But the only Nationalist member of this chamber returned by a Western Australian constituency - I refer to myself - was excluded from the meeting. Considering the interest that I have taken in this subject, the fact that I represent the metropolitan seat in Western Australia and that, regardless of any incident that may have occurred recently, I am still the Nationalist member for Perth, I consider that I should have been given the opportunity to be present at the consultation. I am loth indeed, to believe that there is any connexion between this happening and certain incidents reported in this morning’s press; but I wish to enter my protest against the treatment I have received, for it is not in accordance with the ordinarily accepted tenets of political courtesy. Even though honorable members in this chamber may differ from one another politically, such differences should not be allowed to interfere with other relationships. I regard this occurrence not merely as a discourtesy to myself, but also as a slight upon my constituents.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister certain matters in relation to the construction of the Red Hill to Port Augusta railway. On the 15th May last the Premier of South Australia (Mr. R.
Jj. Butler) made statements in the State Parliament which are disquieting, and which appear to me to require some reply by the Prime Minister, in view of the fact that an amount of £60,000 appears on our Estimates to- provide for the taking-over of the Salisbury to Red Hill railway. That section of railway would be of little use to the Commonwealth unless the agreement made between the Prime Minister and a former Premier of South Australia, Mr. Gunn, to connect Port Augusta with Adelaide by a standard gauge railway is honoured. The present Premier of South Australia, Mr. Butler, has intimated that he is opposed to the construction of this railway, and it seems as though there may be difficulties in proceeding with the work. In reply to a question asked him by the Leader of the Opposition in the State House of Assembly, on the date I have mentioned, the Premier said -
I think I made myself very clear on that question to the Leader of the Opposition and his deputation when they waited upon me a week ago. I then pointed out that, although the legislation and the agreement provided for the construction of the railway, it was subject to notice being given by the then Premier within a year of the ratification of the agreement.
I was a member of the deputation mentioned by Mr. Butler, and he made the statement to which he referred. Continuing his reply to the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Butler said -
In fact, when the previous Premier, Mr. Gunn, did not give notice to the Prime Minister the agreement did become null and void.
A little later in his reply Mr. Butler said -
The act definitely prescribed that, unless notice is given, that part of the agreement becomes null and void. The crown law officers of the State and Commonwealth have gone into this question and they all definitely agree that the Commonwealth cannot proceed with the Red Hill to Port Augusta railway unless wc have amending legislation in this House giving them consent to proceed with the work.
Later, Mr. Butler said - and I direct particular attention to this observation - lt has been referred to Sir Robert Garran, of the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, and the crown law officers of this State. The Commonwealth Government found that they could not proceed with the construction of the line owing to the fact that a previous Premier of this State, Mr. Gunn - I do not say intentionally - omitted to give notice. They could not construct the line without the amendment we introduced into this House last year.
I am not prepared to accept that statement of the case. As a matter of fact the Prime Minister himself has told a deputation that the agreement is not null and void, although the Premier of South Australia says that it is. I should like to know whether any advice has been received from Sir Robert Garran on this point, whether the provision of £60,000 on our Estimates will enable the scheme to be proceeded with, and also whether the Prime Minister can give me any other information in regard to the - proposed construction of the line.
– I cannot at this juncture enter upon a general discussion of the Salisbury to Port Augusta railway, as the Government’s proposals in connexion with it are embodied in the financial statement submitted yesterday, and will be discussed when the budget is under consideration; but I shall briefly outline the position for the information of the honorable member for Grey (Mr, Lacey). The proposal in the budget is that the Commonwealth shall make available to South Australia a special grant of £1,000,000, to be expended over a period of three years. There will be a payment of £300,000 in cash in the first year, and the obligations of the South Australian Government in connexion with the railway between Bed Hill and Salisbury, estimated at £60,000 per annum will be taken over by the Commonwealth. The payment of the £60,000 is based upon the Commonwealth Government taking over the line between those two points and becoming responsible for interest and sinking fund. In the subsequent two years the payment of £60,000 will be continued; butthe cash payment will be reduced, so as to make the total payment for the threeyear period exactly £1,000,000. The Commonwealth Government has made that proposal to South Australia.
-There will be £180,000 that South Australia will not get in cash.
– That is so; but if that arrangement is accepted, the South Australian Government will get - the equivalent of cash by the revenues of the State being relieved to the extent of £60,000 in respect to interest and sinking fund payments on this particular debt. ‘ The basis of’ the proposal is that the agreement to which the honorable member referred was entered into, and it was contemplated that the Commonwealth Government would get running rights over the railway from Fort Augusta to Adelaide, so as to prevent the transcontinental railway coming to a dead end, as at present, at Fort Augusta. That proposal involved - laying down a third rail from Red Hill to Salisbury, and incurring certain other expenditure in providing Commonwealth railway facilities from Salisbury to Adelaide, which would mean an expenditure of oyer £300,000. The Commonwealth considers that it is not justified in imposing upon the people such a burden, and we therefore propose to take over the railway and convert it to a 4 ft. 8-J in. gauge line. Another objection is that there would be no advantage in the Commonwealth taking over a section of railway in South Australia that was not connected with the Commonwealth railway system. Behind the whole scheme must be provision for the construction of a railway from Red Hill to Fort Augusta, hut the construction of such a line is governed by the financial resources of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth will build the line as soon as the financial position justifies the undertaking of the work. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) referred to the agreement entered into with an ex-Premier of South Australia (Mr. Gunn), It has been suggested before that that agreement has lapsed; hut, speaking from memory, I believe that the Commonwealth has until November of next year in which to exercise its option. We intend to go into the legal aspect of the matter. My answer to the honorable member is that if the South Australian Government claims that we have no right or power, and will not give us the right to construct a line from Red Hill to Fort Augusta, the offer to take over the line between Red Hill and Salisbury must also lapse.
– And South Australia would lose £180,000.
– I trust that the South Australian people will have sufficient wisdom and discretion to consider favorably the proposals put forward, as they are in the interests of the whole Commonwealth.
I regret if I appear to have been discourteous to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) and offer him my apologies; but I completely forgot to communicate with him when I arranged to discuss after the luncheon adjournment the matter to which he has referred. I invited the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Theodore) to discuss it with the intention of coming to an arrangement to send a delegation to Western Australia in connexion with: the centenary celebrations, and to ascertain whether the Opposition was agreeable to melee the necessary arrangements for pairs. It then occurred to- me that I should ask the members representing Western Australia to attend, and I sent for the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), whom I had not seen on the matter. I must admit that I completely overlooked the fact that the honorable member had not been invited.
– I am quite prepared to accept the right honorable gentleman’s apology.
– I assure the honorable member that the communication which he received, and which was referred to in this morning’s press, or any incident of that character, would not influence me in the slightest way concerning any matter of interest to the State which he represents. In regard to the latter portion of the question which the honorable member submitted yesterday, in relation to a unit of the Australian Navy being able to visit Western Australia in connexion with the celebration, I am pleased to say that an arrangement which I trust will be satisfactory has been made. I think one suggestion was that the fleet should proceed to Western Australia; but that iB quite impracticable. In recognition of the importance of the occasion, arrangements have been made for one of the 10,000-ton cruisers - H.M.A.S. Canberra, I think - to visit Western Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 August 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19290823_reps_11_121/>.