12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. NormanMakin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In May last the Premier of South Australia (Mr. Butler) made a statement to the effect that the agreement between the Governments of the Commonwealth and that State, known as the Bruce-Gunn agreement, in relation to the building of theRed Hill to Port
Augusta railway, was null and void, because a previous South Australian Government had not taken certain legislative action in regard to it. The State Premier, according to a report which appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser on the 16th May last, said -
Although 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, that the State desired that the work should be begun, otherwise the agreement became null and void. No such notice was given.
He added -
The act definitely prescribed that that part of the agreement should become null and void if notice was not given. The Commonwealth could not proceed with the work unless the State introduced amending legislation giving the necessary consent.
Can the Minister for Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) inform me whether the agreement is null and void as alleged? Has he been able to fortify himself with any legal opinion concerning its validity?
– From inquiries I have made I am able to inform the honorable member that the Crown Law authorities are of the opinion that the agreement is valid.
– Has the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) had any communications with the British Government respecting the Singapore Base; if so, is he in a position to make available the substance of them?
– I have received a number of cablegrams from the British Government respecting the Singapore Base. As the honorable member knows, many communications on such subjects pass between the Imperial and Dominion Governments the contents of which cannot, for obvious reasons, be made public. On this occasion, however, I am able to give the honorable member a definite answer to his question. I have been informed, in a number of communications, of the intentions of the British Government with respect to the operations in connexion with the Singapore Base, and have been assured that no drastic change of policy will be instituted without consultation with the Dominions. A pro posal has been made, the effect of which will be to slow down certain constructional work at Singapore. As honorable members know, a five-power naval conference is to be held in January of next year. The result of this may affect the nature of the work that will be necessary at Singapore. It is to be hoped that it may enable certain expenditure to be avoided. However, a detailed discussion of the subject would not be proper at this stage.
– Is the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) able to make a statement respecting the reported issue in London of Commonwealth treasury-bills?
– Anticipating that a question on this subject might be asked, I am able to inform honorable members that Commonwealth treasury-bills to the amount of £5,000,000 were issued yesterday in London by the Commonwealth Bank in accordance with instructions given by the Commonwealth Government, with the approval of the Australian Loan Council. The bills will mature on the 30th June, 1930. They have been discounted at an average rate of £5 7s. 6d. per cent., the effective rate of interest being £511s. per cent. It will be remembered that on the 1st September last, twelve months treasury-bills to the value of £5,000,000 were issued in London by the previous Government. These were discounted at an average rate of £6 3s. per cent., the effective rate of interest being £611s. per cent.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to make available the text of the proposals submitted to the Imperial Government in regard to the suspension of assisted migration ?
– I shall make available to-morrow the text of the cablegram sent to the British Government on this subject.
– There are more than 200 unemployed men in Canberra and Queanbeyan. Is the Minister for Home
Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) able to provide any work to employ them at least for the few weeks before Christmas?
– Since assuming office, Ministers have given a good deal of consideration to ways and means of providing work for the local unemployed. I hope to-morrow to be able to announce the absorption of at least some of the men now out of work.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the cotton industry? A number of us have been concerned about this industry for some time. Will the Minister also inform me whether he will make a statement before the House rises of the intention of the Government in regard to the industry?
– The Government is giving very serious consideration to every aspect of this industry.
– Does the Government propose to take any proceedings against Mr. John Brown, who is alleged to have caused a lockout at his coal mine in the Newcastle district?
– I remind the honorable member of the reply given by the previous Attorney-General to questions of this nature, and ask him to accept it as a reply to this; that if the Government intends to prosecute any person, that intention will not be announced before the prosecution is launched.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to make any announcement to the House in reference to the policy of the British Government towards Egypt and India? He will know that recently there have been suggestions of a radical change in the British policy towards those countries.
– I am not at present in a position to make an announcement upon that subject, but Imay be able to do so at an early date.
– Regarding the announcement which the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) has just made, that £5,000,000 is being borrowed by the issue of treasurybills of a year’s currency and discounted at the rate of £5 7s. 6d. per cent., does that mean that the present borrowings of the Commonwealth are to be £10,000,000 in Australia and £5,000,000 in Great Britain ?
– The issue of treasurybills in London, maturing on the 30th June next, with a currency of about seven months, is intended to tide over a temporary stringency on the London market pending the raising of a further loan in Great Britain.
Interests of Primary Producers
– In view of the statement circulated throughout my electorate over the name of Mr. E. G. Theodore, the present Treasurer, that the primary producers of Australia are now in the hands of the shippers, who, because of the sale of the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Line have caused them to suffer unduly in respect of freights and fares, will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Government intends to establish a Commonwealth Shipping Line, and if so, how does he intend to finance the venture ?
– It is not the practice of Ministers to announce their policy in reply to questions. I assure the honorable member that the Government is closely watching the interests of the primary producers in the direction indicated .
– For the information of honorable members, would you, Mr. Speaker, explain what has become of the Mace, which used to be placed on the table of the House? Has it been taken away to be refurbished ; has it been stolen; or has it, like many other things, been abolished since this Government took office?
– There is nothing in the Standing Orders requiring the Maco to be on the table of the House except during the initial proceedings of a new parliament after the election of the Speaker. By my instruction, the Mace will not appear upon the table during my occupancy of the Chair. I have had the meagre records available searched to discover, if possible, the origin of the use of the Mace in Parliament, and I have not found any good reason for its appearance on the table. The Mase is a relic of barbarism. J t is a symbol of power, which comes to us from a time when turbulence was met. with brute force; it is associated with methods and manners that should have no place in our public or private life. Its ceremonial employment in Parliament has no significance as evidencing our loyalty to the Crown, or as testifying or expressing in any way our association with the King and Empire. The Mace is merely, as 1 have said, a symbol of power - in this case a symbol of the power of the Speaker of this House. But, although it, symbolizes, its use in no way increases, i lie authority of the Chair, and I consider that I am quite capable of asserting that authority without it.
– I wish to refer to a subject which I am sure must have caused considerable concern to a large number of honorable members, if not to all. I wish to know whether there is any foundation for the report that a member of i he Government has suggested to representatives of the coa-l-miners that a threat should be made to create an interstate strike? If so, what is the object of that suggestion ?
– My attention was drawn to such a statement published, in a. section of the press yesterday, and I immediately made a reply which has been published in the newspapers to-day. That reply, which I repeat ‘now, is that I have not heard the slightest hint of such a suggestion emanating from any member of the Government. The Treasurer, who it has been said made the statement, has emphatically denied it, and I accept his denial, because I cannot imagine that he or any other member of a responsible government would give such instructions or make such a statement. As the head of this Government I have taken the responsibility of inviting the head of the Government of the State of New South Wales to confer with me in the hope of bringing about a conference to find some means to open the mines in the northern fields of New South Wales. 1 deprecate any utterances or written statements that might interfere with such a conference in trying to bring about fi desirable end to this trouble.
– In view of the fact that Mr. Hibble, the chairman of the compulsory coal conference called by the present Government, has made a declaration that if the dispute were interstate, the remarks that he was about to make would constitute his judgment, and that all previous declarations made by him were accepted by the industry, will the Government take steps to find out, by means of a secret ballot, whether the coal-miners associated with the industry would accept his declaration ?
– I suggest to the honorable member that the concluding part of my reply to the last question might have been taken more to heart by him. I am making a very earnest effort to settle this trouble, and I suggest to honorable members that they might allow the Premier of New South Wales and myself, in conference with the representatives of the coal-mine owners and the miners, to try to settle the dispute, before saying anything more on the subject.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the statement of Lord Arnold, in the House of Commons, that the British Government is opposed to preferential trade within the Empire, and I ask him whether he will make representation to the British Government not to vary the present preference until it has heard the views of the dominions.
– I realize the importance of the question, but any representations on the wide subject of preference, to be effective, should I think be made at the Economic Conference. I have had no intimation of any change in the existing policy of the British Government in respect of preference. If any sudden change seems to be contemplated before the holding of that conference, I shall immediately communicate with the British Government, and make representations to it.
– Is it a fact that the term of the present Governor-General is about to terminate, and if so, will the Prime Minister see that his camping-out allowance of £2,000 a year is not added to the salary of his successor, but voted instead for the relief of the unemployed?
– The allowance of the Governor-General will receive the consideration of the Government when the Estimates for the next financial year are under review.
– Has the Minister for Health been requested by the growers of citrus fruits to prohibit the importation of foreign-grown citrus fruits because of the prevalence, particularly in the United States of America, of diseases such as yellow scale, citrus thrips, citrus white fly, Fuller’s rose beetle, and chaff scale, and will he take early action to give effect to the prohibition of citrus importations from that country? I should like to inform him that, before a steamer from Australia-
– The honorable member would not be in order in imparting information, the purpose of questions being to elicit information. While it may be necessary to preface a question with certain remarks by way of explanation, I cannot permit any honorable member to so phrase a. question as to thereby impart information.
– Then I say, by way of explanation, that before a steamer from Australia is allowed to berth at a wharf in California, all the Australiangrown fruit she may be carrying must be thrown overboard. In view of that fact, will the Minister take early action to prohibit the importation of citrus fruits from the United States of America ?
-Iam, of course, acquainted with all matters that relate to the department that I am called upon to administer, and at an early date I shall give to the honorable member an answer to his question that will be as pleasing to him as it will be satisfactory to me.
– Can the Prime Minister give the House any information concerning the future working of the Cockatoo Island dockyard?
– I propose to make to the House very shortly a statement covering the whole position. Negotiations were in progress between the late Government and certain persons for the leasing of the dock to them; but, from an investigation of the matter, and from legal opinion that has been obtained from the Attorney-General’s Department, I have learned that that Government proposed to sign a lease which it had no legal power to make. Consequently the whole matter must be reviewed. The ability of those with whom it was suggested that an agreement should be made to carry out the terms of the agreement is now being investigated. When finality on the matter has been reached I shall make a further statement to the House.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the suggestion made by this Government to the Government of Great Britain in relation to the Migration Agreement involves the suspension of the whole of the agreement or only of that portion of it which relates to migration ?
– In reply to a question asked by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), I stated that I proposed to make available to-morrow the. full text of the cablegram that has been sent to the British Government. That cablegram suggested that, in view of the industrial and economic position of Australia, the portion of the Migration Agreement which relates to assisted passages might be suspended. I also informed the British Government that, when I had received its reply, I would immediately communicate withthe governments of the States and discuss the matter with them.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether any decision has been arrived at regarding the methods by which rebates shall be made to launch proprietors, farmers, and other petrol users who purchase petrol which is not used for the propulsion of road vehicles?
– The matter is under consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is he in possession of any late reports dealing with the question of increased supplies of phosphatic rock from Nauru and Ocean Island ; if so, will he lay them on the table of the House?
– There has been no recent report on the subject. I have, however, ascertained that the new cantilever loading cranes at Nauru and the new jetty at Ocean Island, now in course of erection, are expected to be ready for use about April, 1930. The completion of the cranes will enable the output from Nauru and Ocean Island to be increased to approximately 600,000 tons per annum, whilst other developmental work will further increase the output capacity during the next few years.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries will be made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Tender for Ratchet Braces
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. An order was placed with McPherson’s Proprietary Limited, Sydney, by the Naval authorities at Garden Island for, inter alia, one Carpenter’s brace, 10 inches, under a New South Wales State Government contract, which provides for the supply of Mathieson’s braces manufactured in the United Kingdom.
The brace supplied by McPherson’s was of German manufacture. It was returned to the firm and a credit was obtained to the extent of the value of the article supplied.
Tariff Board Report
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Has he received the report of the Tariff Board on the question submitted to it relating to cheap and ample supplies of superphosphates and fertilizers generally; if so,. will he lay it on the Table of the House without delay?
– The report has not been received.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Tariff Board Report
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether the Government has yet given consideration to the report of the Tariff Board on the proposal to assist the flax and linen industry, which was presented to his predecessor in September or October of last year; if not, will the Minister facilitate early consideration of this important matter in order to more firmly establish the industry in Australia?
– The report is. now under consideration.
Training of Personnel
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What number of officers, warrant officers, petty officers and men, showing each clues separately, who received pay in the Australian Navy on 1st November, 1929 -
– The information is being obtained, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is it a fact that tennis racquets and parts thereof are being brought into the Commonwealth in such quantities that tennis racquet factories in Australia are being forced to reduce their production and to dispense with the services of many of their employees, thus adding to the already huge number of unemployed; if so, will he investigate the matter with a view to necessary steps being taken to obtain further protection for our ownAustralian industries?
– The department has no knowledge of the position, but inquiries will be made to ascertain the facts.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he take action to refer to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works the establishment of an automatic Telephone Exchange at Hurstville, New South Wales?
– It is intended to take steps with a view to the early reference of this proposal to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Aerodrome at Western Junction.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In order to assist in the alleviation of the unemployed problem, will he expedite the commencement and carrying out of the clearing and constructional work to be done at the Commonwealth Aerodrome at Western Junction?
– I will expedite this matter as much as possible, and will inform the honorable member as to the position later.
Profits and Investments
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the fact that the Wine Export Bounty Act expires on 30th August next, and its effect on grape prices of the approaching vintage, on announcement willbe made within the next three weeks concerning -
Continuation of a wine export bounty,
Increase on present bounty to make it fully effective;
Duration of period of such bounty for the next five years, for the stabilization of oversea markets; and
Fixation of prices paid for grapes, to protect the growers?
– It is expected that an announcement will be made at an early date.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The only alteration so far made by this Government is to admit a publication entitled The Labour Monthly, which is published in the United Kingdom and freely circulated therein.
The following papers were presented : -
River Murray Waters Act - River Murray Commission - Report for the year 1928-29; together with statements showing gaug- ings made at gauging stations on, and quantities of water diverted from, the River Murray and tributaries.
Ordered to be printed.
Coal Industry - Interim Report of Royal Commission, on question asked in letter dated 19th June, 1929, addressed to the Commission by the Honorable the ActingPremier of New South Wales.
Constitution - Report, with Appendices, of the Royal Commission on the Constitution.
Reparations - Protocol approved at the Hague Conference, 31st August, 1929.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c., for 1929-
No. 20 - Australian Postal Electricians Union.
No. 21 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia.
No. 22 - Postal Overseers Union of Australia.
No. 23 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia.
No. 24 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia.
No. 25 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia.
No. 26 - Australian Workers Union and Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia.
No. 27 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia.
No. 28 - Fourth Division Postmasters, Postal Clerks and Telegraphists Union and Federated Public Service Assistants Association of Australia.
No. 29 - Federated Public Service Assistants Association of Australia.
No. 30 - Commonwealth Postmasters Association.
No. 31 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers Federation of Australia.
Nos. 32 and 33 - Fourth Division Officers Association of Trade and Customs Department and Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 34 - Line Inspectors Association, Commonwealth of Australia.
No. 35 - Australian Workers Union and Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia.
Nos. 36 and 37 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia.
No. 38 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association and others.
Nos. 39 and 40 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia.
No. 41 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia.
No. 42 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia and Fourth Division Postmasters, Postal Clerks and Telegraphists Union.
Audit Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1929, No. 104.
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act - Report by the Auditor-General upon the Accounts of the Trustees of the Fund for the year 1928-29.
Beer Excise Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1929, No. 119.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Treasurer’s Statement of combined accounts of the Bank and Savings Bank at 30th June, 1929; together with a certificate of the AuditorGeneral.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1929, Nos. 121, 123.
High Court Procedure Act and Judiciary Act - Rule of Court - Dated6th November, 1929.
Immigration Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1929, No. 108.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act - Statement for 1928-29.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Collingwood, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Rocklea, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1929 -
No. 13 - Mineral Oil and. Coal.
No. 14- Supply (No. 2) 1929-30.
No. 15 - Contracts.
No. 16- Supply (No. 3) 1929-30.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinances of 1929 -
No. 4 - Rawson Hall.
No.6 - Interpretation.
No. 7 - Companies.
Northern Australia Act -
Central Australia -
Crown Lands Ordinance - Regulations amended.
North Australia -
Crown Lands Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Northern Territory Representation Act and Electoral Act- Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1929, No. 109.
Papua Act - Ordinances of 1929 -
No. 1- Supply 1929-30.
No. 2 - Bounties.
No. 3 - Supplementary Appropriation 1928-29; together with Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for 1928-29.
No. 4 - Bills of Exchange.
No. 5 - Stamp Duties.
No. 7 - Building.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1929, Nos. 94, 103.
Public Service Act -
Appointments - Departments of -
Markets and Transport - Kurrle, R. W. Trade and Customs - Boulton, R. A., Laycock,G. J.
Treasury - Lipscomb, F. N.
Works- Powell, E. G., and Baxter, R. M.
Quarantine Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules . 1929, Nos. 95, 115, 116, 117.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government Administration Act - Ordinance of 1929, No. 18 - Administration and Probate.
Shipping Act - Commonwealth Shipping Board -
Profit and Loss Account for the year 1st April, 1928, to 31st March, 1929.
Balance-sheet as at 31st March, 1929; together with Auditor - General’s Report.
Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers -
Profit and Loss Account for the year 1st April, 1928, to 31st March, 1929.
Balance-sheet as at 3lst March, 1929.
Cockatoo Island -
Profit and Loss Account for the year 1st April, 1928, to 31st March, 1929.
Balance-sheet as at 31st March, 1929.
Trade Marks Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1929, No. 89.
Treaty of Peace (Germany) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1929, No. 1 11.
Motion (by Mr. A. Green) agreed to -
That the following paper laid on the table of the House on the loth August last be printed: - “Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act, 9th annual report by the trustees, 1st July, 1928, to 30th June, 1929 (including the Sir Samuel McCaughey bequest for the technical education of soldiers’ children).”
.- (By leave) . - I move -
That, unless otherwise ordered, this House shall meet for the despatch of business at 3 o’clock on each Tuesday afternoon, at halfpast 2 o’clock on each Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, and at 11 o’clock on each Friday morning.
– Can the Prime Minister give honorable members any idea when the House will rise for the Christmas recess? It is desirable that honorable members who live some distance away should, if possible, obtain this information, to enable them to make necessary arrangements.
– It is the desire of the Government to meet the convenience of honorable members, and to have the House adjourn in sufficient time to enable them to reach their homes before Christmas. A good deal will depend upon the progress made in the discharge of business. The Government has a short but very important programme to get through, and we must get through it even if we sit right on. I can assure honorable members, however, that their convenience with regard to the Christmas vacation will be met so far as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. HOLLOW AY, for the committee appointed to prepare an AddressinReply to his Excellency the GovernorGeneral’s Speech (vide page 6), presented the proposed address, which was read by the clerk.
.- I move -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s speech be agreed to: -
May it please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
In addressing myself to this motion I wish first to congratulate the Government upon the sweeping victory which it achieved at the recent election. There were one or twofeatures associated with the elections which can appropriately be touched upon during the course of the Address-in-Reply debate, and I propose therefore to refer to them. This Government can claim, perhaps to a greater extent than any other, to have obtained in its favour a clear expression of the people’s will on issues placed before them. It may be gratifying to some of the candidates defeated at the polls to know that they were defeated on issues, and not on personal grounds, and it must be more gratifying to the Government to know that it was upon such political issues that it gained such an overwhelming victory. I have been somewhat of a student of political matters for the last 20 or 25 years, and can recall no previous occasion when the will of the “ people was made so clear. No honorable member can. possibly remain in doubt as to what the wishes of the people are. Indeed, so clear has been that expression of opinion, that I venture to suggest chat even those members of the Senate chamber, who had not to face the electors on this occasion, must, if they wish to give effect to the desires of the electors, take some notice of the results of the election. In my opinion, the Government’s great victory was due largely to the fact that upon this occasion, for the first time during the last fifteen years, the people of Australia were able to discuss and vote upon political issues in a sane atmosphere. As one who contested a rather conservative electorate I ought to be able to express an opinion, and I say that on this occasion the people concentrated their attention, as they had not done for the last. 25 years or so, on purely political issues. No sidetracking or extraordinary political stunts were indulged in to confuse them. In a calm and logical manner, the electors generally concentrated their attention upon the particular issues which this Parliament referred to them. Because of that fact, it ought to be pleasing to the whole of the members of this Parliament to be in the position of knowing exactly what the people .desire us to do. I say that, not as a member of any party, but as a member of this Parliament, because I suppose that all of us desire to give effect to the people’s will, and there can be no doubt as to what the will of the people really is on the issues placed before them.
The result of the election also proved, t think, that Australians are democratic at heart. The great mass of them are naturally democrats, and they resented any suggestion that the democratic feature of our Constitution should bc ignored by any party, any government, or any member of a government. As they always do, they resented anything in the nature of autocracy and even bureaucracy. The people of Australia will never agree to a dictatorship from either the highest or the lowest rung of our social ladder. This election, more than any other, brought that democratic spirit to r.he front. Surely those of us who are good citizens, whether natives of this country or not, have been and still arc proud that the national political constitution of Australia, at any rate, is looked upon by people outside this country as the nearest approach to the ideal democratic constitution, and the fundamental principle of it is that a properly determined majority of the electors must decide when new legislation shall be enacted and when old legislation shall be repealed. Because the exercise of that democratic principle underlying our Constitution had not been allowed, a complete political turn-over took place at the last election. It seems to me that that was the particular reason for the turn that events have taken.
I cannot remember any occasion, since the inception of federation, when a new Parliament ha3 met at a period when our political and industrial machinery was so much in need of overhauling as ir is at the present time. For 27 years some of us have been associated with the machinery of conciliation and arbitration, and the industrial legislation of this country generally, and for the whole of that period many of us have tried, from time to time, to have it amended and brought up to date; but we have never yet succeeded in obtaining assistance from any government to make the industrial machinery harmonize with the changes that are always occurring in the methods of doing the work of the world. The late Government, after many consultations and conferences with representatives of the industrial movement, promised to make the industrial machinery which had the backing of the Commonwealth Parliament a little more useful and up-to-date than heretofore: but, after many efforts, it saw fit only to amend it by making ir, more compulsory, more coercive r d more repressive than before, by attaching to it penal indemnities, and by trying to get better results from the Australian people by intimidation and the fear of punishment rather than by appealing to their spirit of co-operation. Surely, if we understand our people as we should, we must know that threats of repression or suggestions of the lash will never secure the best results from the average Australian citizen. T hope that our people will never be brought into line or made to do things in a better way than in the past, only because of fear of penal indemnities. Compulsion lias in the past and must in the future continue to fail and a good job too.
I would say also that a parliament has never previously been opened amid such mixed feelings of hope and fear - fear and lack of confidence, because of the economic industrial and financial conditions which were allowed to continue until some members of the past Government said repeatedly that we are almost on the verge of industrial economic and financial bankruptcy. Many of our people have entertained such a fear because they believe there is more than a little truth in the statement. The atmosphere of apprehension has been brought about partially by the lack of confidence caused by various pessimistic utterances made by some of the leading members of the late Government. During the last two or three years its followers have been consistently decrying the Australian people and sabotaging the credit of their own country. Many statements have been made belittling the technical, physical and moral characteristics of Australians generally, and because of that the people have temporarily lost faith, inevitably, in themselves and in their own country. The captains of industry from other countries recently warned the industrial leaders of Australia, both employers and employees, that such statements made by leading Ministers of the Crown in Australia produced an absolutely false impression in Europe as to the general morale and status of our people and the economic stability of this country. Sir Hugo Hirst and Sir Arthur Duckham repeatedly pointed out in my presence, that whether made for political purposes or not, such assertions did an immense amount of harm. As a citizen of Australia, I protest against the belittling of my country and my countrymen. I am sure, however, that this loss of confidence will not be permanent. I have sufficient faith in the technical ability and initiative of our people, and the potentialities of our country, to believe that the existing pessimism will quickly disappear, a.nd I suggest that the Government should take immediate additional steps to remove the harmful impression that has been already created in the minds of the people inside and outside Australia. Before I entered this Parlia ment I marvelled that the leaders of the late Government could be so arrogant as to state repeatedly that our people were lacking in ambition and desire for the advancement of the country, and were selfish and going slow on their jobs. Having regard to the quantity and quality of the work of the Bruce-Page Government, I am astounded that the late Ministers should have had the courage to suggest that the great majority of the workers of Australia were slackers. The record of this Parliament during the last three or four years shows that those who have been defaming the workers have been the greatest shirkers of all. Let us examine this record and see the result. During the last four years the sittings of this House have averaged only one .day in six, during the last two years only one day in seven, and during the la3t twelve months less than one day in nine. With such a bad example set by the social and political leaders of the nation, some of the less intelligent members of the community may be forgiven if they did, as is alleged, go slow on occasions. I resent the suggestion that the people of Australia are slackers. Having, as a representative of Australia at international conferences, studied the industrial and economic problems of other countries, and viewed their peoples at work, I am convinced, should the comparison be made, that the Australian people are intellectually, physically, morally and technically equal to the best in the world.
I have never been able to understand why Parliament should not be able to conduct the business of the people in the same way as a modern private business is conducted by its directors. Modern business methods are as necessary in dealing with the political and industrial affairs of the people, through the directors appointed to this Parliament, as in any private enterprise, and I hope that this Government will introduce the reforms that are long overdue. This House should sit for regular hours on certain days in each week and for a regular number of weeks or months in each year. Not only would that arrangement be more convenient to honorable members representing distant electorates, but it would also better fit them to concentrate their minds upon the problems confronting them. It is absurd and unfair to the people of Australia that their business should be conducted by this Parliament under unnatural conditions which prevent Legislators from giving of their best. You, Mr. Speaker, have already set a good example by discontinuing the wearing of the wig and gown that are traditionally associated with your high office, and I hope that we shall proceed to abolish all other relics of the dark ages, and concentrate upon doing the work of the people in a modern and business-like manner.
The first subject mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech is the mandate given by the people to the Government to adapt the Commonwealth arbitration and conciliation legislation to the requirements of the present day. I am very pleased to know that the Government is determined immediately to tackle that problem. For 27 years the people who use the arbitration machinery have been trying to bring it up to date. I, with others, have approached in turn the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) when he was. Prime Minister, the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), who was Attorney-General in the last Government, and scores of other Ministers and asked for the introduction of the common rule. Through the absence of this provision I have been compelled on occasions to hold up business operations. After exploiting every other means to put two similar manufacturing enterprises, possibly in the same street, on an equal footing, and get the same minimum rates of pay and conditions for those employed, so that they could compete under identical conditions, it has been necessary to bring about a cessation of the operations of one of them, until uniform conditions were agreed to. Surely there should be no necessity for resorting to such unscientific methods; yet, notwithstanding 27 years of agitation, there is still no provision for a common rule. This defect in our industrial legislation has cost Australia millions of pounds and has been one of the principal causes of unrest, and our legislators should have been big enough and wise enough to remove it. If all parties in Parliament asked the people to alter the Constitution they would do so.
I hope that this Government will, after seeking the expert advice of employers and employees, introduce amendments to make the act more simple and flexible, and less cumbersome and expensive. If it succeeds in doing that, at least half of the economic waste and misery that are now caused by strikes and other stoppages of work will be obviated.
I am glad that the Government is still endeavouring to settle the dispute in the coal-mining industry. Coal is a basic commodity and is essential to the majority of ‘our industries. As a result of the long-drawn out trouble in the coal-mining industry, between 50 and 60 ships are already tied up in the various ports. Many industries in Victoria and other States have reduced hands because they fear that their coal supplies will become exhausted. Indeed, the coal-mining industry is so fundamentally a part of our industrial system, that the present stoppage almost warrants the Commonwealth Government in declaring the existence of a state of national emergency and acting accordingly.
During the last few years the influx of immigrants from, overseas has caused a great deal of heartburning amongst the Australian people. The policy of bringing to Australia shiploads of people to look for work with an already overstocked labour market, is a crime not only against the unemployed in our midst, but also against the people who are enticed to come here under such conditions. I have personal knowledge of scores of families who within six weeks of their arrival in Australia have had to obtain succour from benevolent societies. There could be no greater paradox than occurs when overseas ships arrive here with their holds filled with manufactured goods which help to diminish production, and employment in our own factories, and the cabins of the same ships are crammed with immigrants seeking employment. I am glad that the Government intends to deal- with this problem without delay, and thus prevent the continuance of the greatest political paradox of modern times.
It is pleasing to me, also, that an attempt is to be made to combine the operations of some of the expensive establishments set up by the previous Government. Personally, I think a government is wise in spending money in research and in securing the best scientific and industrial knowledge that is available. “We should scour the world to ascertain the most efficient methods of carrying on our various industries. But a proper sense of proportion must be observed in these matters. A period of financial and seasonal difficulties is not one for lavish expenditure. At such a time we should attempt to abolish temporarily some of the expensive posts previously set up, with the object of applying the money so saved to reproductive works which would do something to stabilize our economic position and find work for some of our unemployed. This is not the time for establishing new boards and commissions.
It is gratifying to know that the Government does not intend, at this time, when so many serious problems are facing the country, to allow any long adjournments of Parliament.
Other important subjects to which close attention is to be given are unimproved land values taxation and income taxation. While the latter subject is . being investigated, I trust that an attempt will be made to evolve a thoroughly scientific scheme of taxation. It is also to be hoped that the 10 per cent, tax on unimproved land values which was so quietly abolished by the previous Government will be reimposed. While the Government is giving attention to what may be called ordinary income taxation problems, I trust that it will also investigate the incidence of probate duties with the object of making available to the public a little more of the large fortunes which certain people from time to time inherit without having done anything whatever to make them, and thus bring back to the people some of this money for public works.
One of the outstanding political crimes of the previous administration was its continual tinkering with the protective principle of our fiscal policy. It is .pleasing to know that we are to have a general review of the tariff. It can be said truthfully that between 80 per cent. and. 90 per cent, of our citizens are definitely protectionist. Although it is true that we have a few honest freetraders in our midst, it cannot be denied that during the last fifteen or twenty years the vast majority of our people have swung de finitely behind the standard of protection. Between the straight-out, honest freetraders, in whose favour something can be said, and the large army of definite protectionists, the previous Government placed a kind of hybrid system of protection as a desperate means of raising revenue to meet the cost of many of the unproductive enterprises which it established. Its policy appeared to be to raise our duties to as high a point as possible without actually preventing the influx of goods manufactured abroad. The previous Government claimed to be protectionist, but it allowed such huge quantities of manufactured goods to come into Australia that many old-established enterprises were paralysed and many new ones stifled. The dumping in Australia of goods manufactured overseas should he stopped. That policy cannot be commended, even as a means for raising revenue, for the amount of money received thereby is far less than the amount that would be received if our own manufacturing enterprises were encouraged. The Bruce-Page Government was guilty of an extraordinary political paradox, through increasing the Customs duties year by year for revenue purposes, and at the same time, permitting shiploads of manufactured goods to be dumped here.
We are confronted with a difficult economic situation through the falling off iu the price of wool, and the reduction in our agricultural returns. The wool industry is vital to the progress of Australia, and everything possible should be done to simulate it; but I agree that this is a seasonal incident and will be overcome. Australia, in the past, has made remarkable recoveries from local and general droughts. This has been particularly noticeable since the war. At times it has appeared as though the financial resources of the country had been ruined, and yet within two or three years a magnificent recovery has been made. I trust that we shall see a similar recovery in the near future.
In my opinion, the leaders of various Commonwealth and State Governments have, from time to time, taken a most onesided view of our economic position. They have continually stressed the necessity for reducing the cost of production with the object of making it possible for us to compete successfully iu the markets of the world; but they have said very little about the extreme importance of trying to develop our home markets. The Amount of attention devoted to the home markets has, I suggest, been altogether out of proportion to the amount given to the building up of overseas markets. Our hope of economic salvation does not by any means depend altogether upon our being able to compete successfully with the primary and secondary manufacturers in other parts of the world. We can do a great deal to stabilize our industries by concentrating attention upon our home markets. A casual glance at the present economic policies of various countries will reveal that those nations which arc making substantial progress are building tariff walls round themselves, in order that their own home markets may be protected. The policy of the United States of America in this regard during the last seven or eight years has been, most successful. I submit that we are rather presumptuous in suggesting to our people that the real way to rehabilitate and stabilize our industries is to make it possible to sell our products in the world’s markets. We should be wiser were we to devote more attention to the creation and maintenance of home markets.
Many people would be surprised if they were to examine the extent and present value of our home market, and I think that they would realize the wisdom of stopping up the cracks in our protectionist policy, so that this market could be made even more valuable. A substantial home market means more general prosperity and results from the permanent employment for our people. This means a better spending power, which, in its turn, causes a more consistent demand for the goods that are produced here. At least 80 per cent, of our population consists of persons employed on wages or salaries. These are unquestionably our most important consuming unit. If we can increase their spending power by prodding them with more permanent employment, the result must be advantageous to the country, for they will be able to purchase much more of the goods produced here. Already 80.25 per cent, of our dairy and farmyard products, 95.39 per cent, of our manufactured goods, and 83.75 per cent, of the products of our forests and fisheries are consumed locally. It would probably surprise many people to learn that 62 per cent, of the total quantity of butter produced in Australia is consumed here. In addition 97.5 per cent of the bacon and ham produced by us, 87 per cent, of all potatoes and onions grown here, and 96 per cent, of our jams are consumed in Australia. Only by making more permanent the consuming power of this SO per cent, of our people by keeping them permanently employed, will our home market become more and more valuable not only to the secondary but also to the primary industries of Australia. This great 80 per cent, of our people cannot consume the goods we produce or utilize the services we provide unless they can buy, and they cannot buy unless they have work.
I notice, with great pleasure, the decision of the Government to abolish compulsory military training. I do not think that any section of the community will resent the action of the Government ; in fact. I feel sure that the great mass of the people welcome the change. It has been suggested on many occasions that the absence from our Defence Act of a provision to meet the case of conscientious objectors, is a blot upon our democratic and liberty-loving institutions. Surely it has been a blot upon our democratic institutions that parents have been fined and youths imprisoned in our military fortresses simply because they would not violate their conscientious objection to military drill. That anomaly in the act should have been remedied long ago. There should be no necessity for compulsion, particularly in view of the voluntary efforts which have already been made by the people of this country. They refuse to respond to compulsion, but when approached in a proper manner they quickly respond to any legitimate call. I hope that the time is not distant when the Government will be given permission by the people to abolish militarism altogether. I am proud to belong to a political party which has always placed before the people, when asking for their support, a printed programme of its policy, and which, when returned to power, has never exceeded that policy. The present Government has a mandate from the people to abolish compulsory training, but it lias no mandate to attempt to abolish militarism altogether. I am hopeful, however, that some future Government will get such a mandate. I hope that the efforts of some of the greatest statesmen in the world to-day, with which, I am pleased to 110te this Government is to join early next year, will bring about some real disarmament scheme, under which t he nations of the world may enter into an international peace pact, and thus enable us to abolish militarism, in Australia.
I am glad that the Government is determined to make a great effort to solve the problems of unemployment and industrial unrest which, unfortunately, are becoming a permanent institution in this country. I believe that the ex-Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) quite unconsciously amended the industrial legislation in an entirely wrong way. He and his colleagues certainly misjudged the characteristics of the Aus- “ tralian people when they believed that by adding penal provisions to the Arbitration Act, it would be possible to make it. work more smoothly. It was a wrong thing to do, and it brought about the downfall of the Composite Government. I hope that this Government will immediately abolish those penal provisions. I have had considerable experience in industrial matters, both interstate and intra-state, and I know that the workers of this country will quickly respond to any effort to bring about industrial peace. They desire, more than anybody else, because they suffer most when industries are disrupted, to have continuity of employment. The only way that we shall he able to get the best results in industry is to give some guarantee of permanency of occupation both to tho employer and the employee. We must work to live. It is only by producing commodities that any of us can live. The employer must recognize that the worker can no longer be regarded as a mere commodity, as a piece of raw material, as if he were so much iron, steel, oil or sugar. We must recognize that the employee is a human being, and should be a partner in industry. Both sides to industry should put their cards on the table, trust each other, and play the game. By that means we shall develop in this country an understanding which will make possible peace in industry. Without that we shall never get adequate results from industry, and never be able to have the economic security to which we are entitled, in view of the wonderful potentialities of Australia.
I am glad and proud to have had the opportunity of moving the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I regret that the programme of the Government is so small and incomplete and does not deal more with fundamental principles, but I recognize that the Government, during the time at its disposal, has done remarkably well in covering the ground that it has covered. The promptness with which it .tackled our immediate problems and formulated its policy is an evidence of its earnest intention to govern this country well and properly. While I feel certain that the Government will save small sums of money in various directions, and find more employment for some of our people by adjusting the tariff, I consider that a serious attempt will have to be made in the near future to solve the greatest problem confronting this and every other country of the world to-day - tlie problem of unemployment. It is a menace to every government of the world, and we must tackle it more decisively than is proposed in the AddressinReply. We shall have to introduce something altogether new to keep pace with the wonderful improvement in the methods of production and distribution brought about by the growth of technical knowledge generally, and the inventive genius of mankind. We cannot progress under our old methods. The only way to put this country on its feet is to begin some altogether new works.
I suggest that by way of establishing a scientific defence scheme in this country, the Government should unify the conflicting railway gauges. I have heard the opinions of many of the railway experts who have come to this country. Some of them contended that, from a military point of view, we are like the Babes in the Wood, and that it would be impossible to concentrate at short notice all our rolling-stock or man-power in one particular section of the country. Other experts have said that before we can reduce the cost of production we must unify the railway gauges and thus lessen the cost of transporting iron, steel, and coal. The transport of our basic commodities, which are necessary for the carrying on of our industries, is to-day hampered and made more expensive by second handling and the breaks of our transport systems. The beginning of the work of unifying our railway gauges should be be put in hand immediately. It would be new work, and would enable us to solve to some extent the unemployment problem. The consequent increase in the spending power of the community from the wages of those engaged upon this work would help the Government to deal further with the problem.
I suggest that the Commonwealth Bank, which is the people’s bank, should be allowed to earn some of the profits which the private banks earn, quite legitimately, in this country, and provide the money used to assist us in tackling this fundamental problem. If the bank ‘ by that means cannot earn sufficient money, it must in some other way, provide the necessary flow of credit, so as to bring about a revival of trade, which will enable this, or some other government, to restore the economic position of Australia to something like what it was when Andrew Fisher was at’ the head of affairs in this country. I thank honorable members for having listened to me so patiently. I hope that the Government will have the assistance of all sections of the House, at least in dealing with those questions that have been so definitely pronounced upon by the people of Australia. I shall support and vote for principles and measures irrespective of party considerations. If the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), or any other honorable member of any party, can suggest measures that I consider are economically sound and that will improve the economic security of the people of Australia, or confer the greatest good upon the greatest number of our people, I shall support and vote for those measures.
– I second the motion that has- been so ably moved by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway), and associate myself with his congratulations to the Government on the fine victory that it won at the recent elections. In that victory I perceive evidences of a changing world; it was an event full of significance.
May I be permitted to apologize to this House for ,my belated arrival here? T assure honorable members that that has not been due to any fault on my part. I fancy that hitherto my constituents have regarded Parliament as a rather dismal place, and have thought too much of me to send me here earlier, but that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is not the impression which prevails regarding your exalted office.
The honorable member for Flinders has covered a good deal of ground, and it is not my intention to add greatly to what he has said. For the purpose of my speech I have selected two questions with which he dealt - the intimidation practised by the late administration, and the policy of belittling our country and its people.
I have not noticed any criticism of a remarkable change that was instituted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), when he allocated the portfolios in the present administration. Honorable members will recall that one of the principal portfolios in the last administration was the dual one of Attorney-General and Minister for Industry. That .combination was characteristic of the political policy of the party then in power. May I be permitted to state the reasons for the alteration that has been made by the Prime Minister? The Department of the Attorney-General stands for the upholding of the law; but, unfortunately, the law as administered by the last Government meant force and coercion. The combining of those two departments, in my judgment, was most objectionable. Industry does not need to have methods of intimidation applied to it; yet, unquestionably, intimidation has been practised to such an extent that for years
Australia has been in a state of ferment. The Prime Minister is to be congratulated upon having severed those two departments. The only force which intelligent people are entitled to respect is the force of knowledge. That is the reason for the separation of those departments.
The Prime Minister has also - for the present, at all events - allotted to himself the new department founded by the last administration with which is associated the name of “ science.” There was a misuse of the term “ science “ in the formation of the council.
In much of what has been said with regard to peace in industry, there has been an ignoring of the fact that peace in industry is impossible while there is a continuance of conditions that provoke anarchy in industry. In season and out of season our opponents have invited the public to believe that in every industrial dispute there are only two parties, the employer and the employee, and that what is needed to ensure more employment and prosperity is a higher degree of efficiency in and greater production by the workers. That is not a true statement of the facts. If the’ downfall of the last administration was due to one cause more than another it was due to its failure to apprehend the realities of life, particularly in their application to industry. In all disputes there are at least three parties, the third being the machine; and until that fact and all that it signifies is realized, we shall never have peace in industry. In the modern world the machine, although only in its infancy, has yet reached a stage at which it threatens the entire human family. To-day it is not a question of greater efficiency or more production. That person is ill-informed who does not know that in the industrial world to-day the problem is to decide what to do with the enormous production that is coming from the machine. There is excessive production; the affairs of every country in ‘the world bear testimony to that astounding fact. Not long ago the Secretary of State for the United States, of America publicly stated that if the industrial mechanical equipment of that country was worked to its full productive capacity for 300 days in one year it would produce goods so staggering in volume that they could not be ab sorbed by the whole of the countries of the world. Consequently that country, with its matchless industrial equipment, and the inventive genius and industry of its people, has been forced to adopt the policy of the systematic restriction of production. For months at a time huge equipments have to be laid idle. The problem to-day is, not to bring about greater production, but to determine by what means we shall dispose of that which is produced in overwhelming abundance. The problem is to find markets; and it is in the search for markets that you have the seed of all wars and all international hatreds and jealousies. Those people who ignore this fact and yet talk about disarmament are merely deluding themselves. Conferences in Geneva and other places count for nothing so long as the causes of war remain untouched. I am confident that the present administration will give some attention to that particular aspect of the matter. Not only- is political dynamite broadcast in every quarter of the globe, but there is also the growing menace of unemployment, which is a disgrace to a society that calls itself civilized. Let us ask ourselves, as intelligent men, why should a country like Australia, which is one of the youngest, and in the possession of natural resources one of the richest countries in the world - why should a community like ours, in constant and urgent need of the commodities of life, allow large numbers of our citizens to become unemployed and to remain unemployed indefinitely and suffer all the ills, the degradation, and the destitution that flow from such a condition? There is only one answer. We refuse to recognize the causes of those ills, and permit the continuance of conditions which make us socially disorganized. Until we realize what are the real causes of our troubles we shall have a perpetuation of those troubles, and they will afflict us with increasing severity. Consider what the record of the world is to-day with regard to unemployment. I understand that the latest figures show that there are something like 20,000,000 men and women unemployed in the world to-day. By many persons who profess to be Christians, we who represent the Labour party are dubbed firebrands and atheists, but at any rate we try to look after the poor. To our Christian accusers I say-
How many Calvaries,O Life’s compeers, And Sons of Man, rejected and destroyed,
When twenty centuries of Christian years
Judas Earth’s twenty million unemployed.
Behind, and contributing to, this mass of unemployment there exists a shocking condition of false values. The man in the commercial or business world who possesses the greatest ability to speed up the human displacing, human destroying operations of the machine is looked upon as brilliant among his fellows. He is regarded as possessing desirable qualities, and is richly rewarded. Any infraction of the doctrine of the brotherhood of mankind is a crime, and when men exercise their talents in opposition . to that doctrine their action is criminal, whether they be rewarded at the rate of thousands a year, or receive the highest title they can buy or manoeuvre to obtain.
Let me briefly refer to what has been going on in this country in the direction of belittling Australians. I claim that the last Commonwealth administration committed many acts of treachery against the Australian people. During the past six or seven years there have been in supreme power in this country men who have over and over again proved themselves traitors to Australia. In betraying Australia, an outpost of the British Empire, they betrayed the Empire itself to which they have always been so ready to pay lip-loyalty. The British Empire was not built up by financiers and bankers, but by the useful citizens of the community, those men and women whom we are trying to serve. What I am about to propose represents my own individual opinion, but I am confident that it will be heartily endorsed by the members of my party. I believe the time has come to show that we are proud of our country, and not ashamed of it, that we are proud of our sons and daughters. We have a right to be proud of Australian citizenship. We shall shortly have appointed to Australia another Governor-General, and I maintain that we should nominate for this office an Australian citizen.
– Not nominate; select!
– Unfortunately the procedure is, I understand, that the Imperial Government makes such appointments. If that is so, the most we can do is to nominate some one for the position, and we should insist that he be an Australian citizen.
– We should do that on the grounds of economy.
– Never mind about economy; we should do it on the ground of Australian sentiment and of what is due to Australia. Moreover, in making its nomination or selection, the Government should not make sex discrimination. ‘ I represent a wonderful electorate, the division of Martin, which has recently reversed its traditional policy by electing a Labour member to this House. In that electorate the women voters exceed the male voters by nearly 4,000. In Australia, I think, we men are very often apt to overlook the fact that half the voters of the country are women, and that they are entitled to better consideration than they have hitherto received. The time has arrived when this Parliament, in making appointments or in drafting legislation, should refrain, in every instance, from any form of sex discrimination. The present is an opportunity to make history, and we should avail ourselves of it. As the son of an Australian mother, and the father of Australian children, I maintain that we should adopt an all-Australian policy. I believe that the next Governor-General of Australia should be an Australian citizen, and in putting forward that proposal I do not urge the claims of the Australianborn only. I believe that our party is big enough to recognize the wider claims of Australian citizenship.
I am anxious that we, as a Parliament, should emphasize our belief in science. The fact that science has not been applied to state-craft, legislation and administration is one of the most astounding anomalies of the present century. The trouble is that we live in an age dominated by Mammon, and our culture bears his imprint also. Everything is measured in terms of money, and we have allowed science and all its wonders to be treated merely as means to the making of money.
We of this party object to that principle. We claim that every science arises out of the needs of society, and should be regarded as the foundation of arts intended to bring blessings, and not curses, upon humanity. I claim that the reformation of society is a practical proposition, as practical as the surveying of a field, the designing of a building, or the building of a bridge. Statesmanship should be regarded from the natural history point of view. I hope the day will soon arrive when the duties of statesmanship will be approached in the same manner as that employed by the surveyor, the architect and the engineer in applying to the promotion of human happiness principles based on a knowledge of the. laws of nature.
I agree with the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) that we might reasonably have looked for a good deal more in that way in the document we are now considering, but we must not forget the unusual circumstances attending its “ preparation. For my part I trust that the Prime Minister will realize that in taking over the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, he is not necessarily taking over a scientific concern. I have carefully noted the work of that organization, and one of the last reports produced by it shows that certain sums of money have been paid to persons who had conducted so-called scientific work. The council’s entire accomplishment for one year consisted of researches into methods for reclaiming by-products from minerals, while one gentleman received a prize for discovering something relating to marsupial development during the past centuries. That sort of thing was going on while there were thousands of men and women out of employment. As a matter of fact, this council has been functioning merely as a little scientific executive for the country’s business interests. I trust that we shall not allow this to continue. Both in regard to that body, and some of our commissions, I hope there will be a complete change of those who constitute them. It is social science that is wanted to-day more than commercial science. If our country is to find guidance and a compass to steer a safe course through the years to come its legislators and administrators must make an organized study and careful survey not only of the ideals and aspirations from which the human mind draws its inspiration but of the concrete facts to which they must be applied and from which our hopes are to be realized. I trust that’ in future the policy followed by the Government of this country will have for its object the achievement of the ideals which I have put forward, that the old method of intimidation will come to an end, and that the happiness and dignity of Australia’s citizens will be placed before everything else.
.- In the first place, I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and his Ministers upon their accession to office. The Prime Minister enjoys the respect of all sections of the House, and I am sure that he will continue to do so. I hope and believe that the pleasant personal relations that have hitherto prevailed between members sitting on opposite sides will continue during the present Administration. I also congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. It is evident that they have thought long upon the problems to which they addressed themselves, and that they have very definite views as to the methods that should be adopted in endeavouring to solve them. They will now have an opportunity to submit those views, with any proposals that may be founded upon them, to the judgment of the House and the people.
It would not be becoming of me to speak on this occasion without expressing regret that I am taking the place, as leader of the, Nationalist party, of the ex-Prime Minister, the right honorable gentleman who recently represented Flinders. Mr. Bruce was a great parliamentarian, an able man, and, in my opinion, a statesman. He enjoyed the respect and esteem, I think, of every honorable member of the past Parliament. For many years he was in control of the business of the House, and all honorable members during his tenure of office recognized alike his ability and courtesy, and the House will miss him sorely. I hope that, in this Parliament, friendly relations and co-operation between the Nationalist and Country parties will continue. There is every reason why they should, and no reason why they should not.
We meet after an election in -which the issue was clear. It concerned the division of industrial powers between the Commonwealth and the States. It was said by our opponents that the issue was whether there should be a reduction of wages and the abolition of industrial regulation; but that was not the issue. No Nationalist candidate advocated a reduction of wages, directly or indirectly, and none advocated the abolition of industrial regulation. No one can point to any statement contrary to what I have said. The object of the proposals made by the late Government was to increase opportunities for industrial co-operation by removing what were regarded as causes of friction, and to improve the system of industrial regulation by providing that parliaments with full - not with limited -powers should deal with every industrial subject. That was the issue of the election - the manner in which industrial powers should be distributed between the Commonwealth and tho States.
The Labour party, in addition to the discussion of that subject, alleging, quite inaccurately, that the parties now on this side of the House were in favour of reduced wages, made many promises at the election. I can only believe that it never expected to win the election. I cannot imagine that any man who expected to have to try to perform what is involved in some of the promises would have made them seriously. It is interesting to observe the procedure followed by Labour since the election. Ever since the appeal Jo the people, my friends on the other side of the House have been engaged, and, I think, wisely engaged, in preparing their supporters for disappointment. They have said, “ We made no lavish promises. We are merely going to give honest, earnest administration.” Let us have a few months of what is called earnest and honest administration without any fulfilment of the promises made, and we shall see what the result will be, so far as the supporters of the present Government are concerned. I am going to refer to the promises made, and not content myself with generalities. I mention some of the promises made authoritatively during the election. In doing so I shall sometimes use the precise words authoritatively uttered, and sometimes I shall refer to general phrases that produced an impression upon the electors,, and thereby affected the result of the election.
In the first place, there was certainly a widespread idea that the Labour party promised a cure for unemployment. Much was said on that matter. It is interesting to observe that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech contains no remedy for unemployment, and no suggestion of such a remedy. I sat on the other side of the House for the last seven years, and almost every week the Labour party twitted the Government on the subject of unemployment. I had believed in my innocence that somewhere or other concealed in the brains of that party was a remedy for unemployment, and I was not at all surprised when I saw a Labour placard promising “Work for all.” When T examined this precise promise, however, I found that it was something very different from what one might reasonably expect. Take the words of the Treasurer, the Deputy Leader of the Government, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore), in a speech made by him at Balmain, which was very fully reported. After referring to the seriousness of unemployment, a problem which weighs upon every honorable member quite as much as upon the honorable member for Dalley, he said -
The problem, therefore, was not a temporary one. The Labour party believed that with suitable measures it was capable of solution.
Then one expects to hear about suitable measures. One of the complaints against the last government was that, instead of dealing with problems itself, it remitted them to councils or other bodies. But what does the honorable member for Dalley promise on behalf of the Labour party? What are the suitable measures to be introduced? He said -
There was scope for an authoritative body that would constantly study the problem, and formulate a policy to cope with the great question of unemployment. A Labour Government would constitute such a body - an employment council.
That, so far as I am aware, is the policy of the Government on unemployment - to constitute an authoritative body that will study the problem. I venture to say that many thousands of Labour voters expected something more substantial than that.
A second promise was one of unemployment insurance, and that was made, I remind the House, with full knowledge of the difficulty of the present industrial, financial and economic position of of the Commonwealth, and also other disabilities under which Australia is suffering. It will be interesting to see if that promise is fulfilled during the life of the present Parliament. A third promise, I understand, was one of child endowment. It will be observed that I use the words “I understand.” Certainly, hundreds of thousands of the supporters of the Government believe that they were promised child endowment. It will be interesting to see whether they get it or not. It will be interesting, too, to know whether the Government regards itself as having undertaken to provide child endowment for the people.
– The honorable member’s curiosity will be satisfied.
– I venture to doubt it. Some things regarding the policy of the Governmentare clear, and one is a promise that there is to be no tax on amusements. I am proud to say that in my constituency of about 68,000 electors, notwithstanding all the propaganda indulged in, only fifteen or twenty people wrote to me on that subject. But does the Government propose to abolish the entertainments tax? The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore), speaking at Balmain, said that “ Labour will abolish the amusement tax.” That must mean the existing tax. That statement could not refer to a tax proposed to be levied in the future. The amusement tax was described by the honorable member in his speech as “ a paltry and inglorious attempt to extract money from the children’s entertainment.”
Then there is a promise to abolish the increased excise duties imposed on liquor and tobacco, and I await with very great interest the fulfilment of that promise. There is no ambiguity about that. It is said plainly that the higher duties recently imposed are to be taken off. Further in the same speech I find these words -
Labour will not impose higher excise duties on liquor or tobacco.
A Voice. - We want it reduced. (Prolonged applause. )
I suppose we all do, and the Treasurer reacted immediately to the popular applause. The report continues -
When Mr. Theodore was able to proceed, after this popular interjection, he said - “ Nor will a Labour Government impose Customs duties for the sole purpose of raising revenue.”
I ask whether that is a principle of finance for which the Government stands. I suggest that it will have a good deal of difficulty in raising the revenue required for public services and for meeting liabilities with respect to the national debt if all the revenue duties now imposed are removed. I do not expect these undertakings to be carried out; but each of them secured some votes. In the same speech, the honorable member, showing his intimate acquaintance with finance and the taxation system of the Commonwealth, said that instead of putting on revenue duties we should increase land and income taxes. He added -
A man with £10,000 a year in dividends from a business may pay £1,500 or £2,000 of that in taxation without in any way hampering or checking the success of his enterprise.
Apparently the honorable gentleman was unaware that a higher rate of taxation than that he promised is already paid by persons in receipt of£10,000 a year.
Reference has already been made to the promise of the Government to reestablish the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Line. I hope that that sink for public money will not be reconstituted. As a bait to Tasmanian voters, the Government promised also to establish a line of steamers to trade between the island and the mainland. Such a service would cost a large amount of money, and I doubt whether any honorable member in this House can suggest how any Government could sucessfully operate it. For a mere increase of the service to the north of Tasmania - not a Commonwealth line of steamers - a subsidy of £96,000 a year was demanded of the last Government, and the House will do well to beware of any proposal to establish a government-controlled shipping service between Tasmania and the. mainland.
Many people voted for Labour candidates in the belief that a Labour Government would introduce a 44-hour week. They were not disillusioned by the candidates, but the fact is that neither the Government nor this Parliament can take any steps towards bringing about that change. Therefore, those people who believed that they would enjoy a working week of 44 hours if the Labour party were successful at the polls, will be acutely disappointed.
Appropriately, the Governor-General’s speech deals first with the industrial situation. In behalf of the Opposition 1 declare frankly that we recognize that the people have decided in favour of the retention of the Commonwealth Arbitra- tion Court. Candidates representing the Nationalist and Country parties explained to the electors the complications and difficulties inherent in a duplicated system which involves both the Commonwealth and the States handling matters relating to the one industry. Since the election, further evidence of the defects of the existing system has been furnished. In a Western Australian timber case, the court decided that a section of a union may secede from the main body and by that means remove itself from the jurisdiction of the court.
– That is the whole State.
– So far as the principle of the judgment is concerned, it is immaterial whether the whole State or a portion of a State was involved. The decision did not depend upon the union affected being a Western Australian body or a provincial union in that State; it clearly showed that a section of a union may by its own action escape the operation of an award of the court. An Adelaide case, involving the American Dry Cleaning Company, has decided that a federal arbitration award cannot be applied to an employer who employs only non-unionists. I cordially agree with the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) regarding the necessity for a common rule. For the whole of the period during which I had responsibility in connexion with Commonwealth industrial legislation, I advocated such changes in the Constitution as would make it possible for this Parliament to legislate to bring about a common rule.
On many occasions I have pointed out that the absence of power to do this is one of the greatest obstacles to the effective exercise of industrial authority by this Parliament. The defect is not a fault of the legislation of this Parliament; it is the result of the limitations of the Constitution. Some of the existing defects can be overcome only by an amendment of the Constitution, or, as the last Government proposed, by restricting the exercise of Commonwealth powers to a field in which it is possible to enforce a common rule. These defects were explained to the people, who, however, were not prepared to agree to the farreaching alterations which the last Government proposed. Honorable members who now sit in opposition still believe that legislative power in relation to any industry should be vested in one authority, either the Commonwealth or the State, butnot in both. We do not know whether the Government believes that the Commonwealth should have full and exclusive power, or that the present dual system should be maintained. Members of the Opposition contend that there should be only one authority for the regulation of each particular industry, and we believe that,. ultimately the people will agree to a redistribution of industrial powers between the Commonwealth and the States. Neither side in politics is satisfied with the position which now obtains. In 1911, 1913, 1919 and 1926 the people were asked by referendum to enlarge the existing industrial powers of the Commonwealth, and during the present year the last Government invited the Premiers of the States to confer full industrial powers on the Commonwealth by appropriate parliamentary action. Thus, on five occasions, efforts have been made to increase the industrial powers of the Commonwealth, and all have failed. The recent verdict of the people is clearly in favour of retention of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. We on this side of the House are prepared to accept that verdict, and to give the system an exhaustive trial. The practical test of the success of any scheme of industrial regulation is whether it promotes peace in industry, and whether the people asa whole approve of it. The verdict of the people at the last election is very relevant, and I say on behalf of. the Opposition that we shall assist the Government in any endeavour to improve the present system. Our object will be to promote industrial peace, and that can best he secured by increased co-operation between employer and employee. “We shall await the proposals of the Government with great interest. The party now in power has the fullest opportunity ever vouchsafed to any party of dealing effectively with this problem, and I promise the sympathy and assistance of the Opposition in any proposal to arrive at a solution of a very difficult problem.
– In both Houses?
– I can only speak officially of the attitude of the Opposition in this House, and on its behalf I promise that there will be no unreasonable obstruction of any measures introduced by the Government to deal with industrial matters. I hope that the Government will endeavour to promote the use of the existing conciliation machinery, which was devised with the assistance of the representatives of the trade unions, although for political reasons they were not prepared to use it. I refer to the machinery in the act for the establishment of conciliation committees. Unfortunately, the office of Conciliation Commissioner is vacant through the death of Mr. A. M. Stewart. That gentleman rendered great service to the community, and the Government will experience difficulty in filling his position with a man having the requisite knowledge, tact and sympathy, but I hope that it will do so as soon as a suitable person is found.
One would have thought that, the Government would have had its industrial policy ready for submission to the House at the very earliest opportunity. I do not suggest that the problem is not complex and difficult, but having for so many years suffered the rather superior admonitions of the gentlemen who now occupy the Government benches and who claimed, when in opposition, complete knowledge and readiness to deal with the subject, I am surprised to find them following the lead of the last Government by inviting employers and employees to confer and submit proposals for the consideration of the Ministry. That procedure when pro- posed by the last government was, in the opinion of Labour members, quite wrong ; to-day, when they propose it, it is quite right. I am not blaming them; rather am I glad to know that a desire to be consistent has not prevented Ministers from taking the obviously sensible course.
I observe one conspicuous omission from the Governor-General’s speech. There is no mention of a proposal to repeal the Transport Workers Act. That statute has been a great and conspicuous success. For the first time since 1917 there has been uninterrupted industrial peace on the waterside for a period of twelve months, and a large number of trade unionists believe strongly in the Transport Workers Act, because it protects them in their employment, and assures work to them under award rates and conditions. At every port in Australia, particularly those in Queensland, work has been proceeding without interruption, and I am not surprised that the Government is not prepared to precipitate trouble on the waterfront before Christmas by repealing the act. It is true that the issue of licences has been discontinued, but that is immaterial. Unfortunately, before thu introduction of the licensing system, as well as since, there was a large surplus of labour on the waterfront. It is a reflection upon the industry itself that it has not been able to deal in some way with the problem of the decasualization of waterside labour.
The Governor-General’s Speech refers to “ the long drawn out dispute in the coal-mining industry of the northern fields of New South Wales.” The last Government endeavoured to deal with this situation. It tried to find some means of keeping the mines working pending a full inquiry into the conditions of the industry. To achieve this end it invited the representatives of the mine-owners and miners to confer with the object of discussing the whole position. After its efforts to reach a settlement in this way had failed it instituted a prosecution against Mr. John Brown. As I have already stated in this chamber, there were difficulties in dealing with this prosecution, but in spite of them the Government undertook it. Subsequently a proposal was made for another conference, which the Government was informed by the representatives of the miners union had a great chance of success. At very great political risk to itself the Government withdrew the prosecution against Mr. John Brown to enable that conference to take place. What did the members of the present Government say when that was done? They not only suggested, but definitely stated, that the Government had withdrawn the prosecution in a spirit of discrimination between rich and poor. They said that the prosecution was withdrawn because Mr. John Brown - whom none of us knew - was a rich man. They said “ Enforce the law. There is a law on the statute-book; there is the lockout on the coal field. A lockout is an offence. Prosecute; prosecute; prosecute”. But what are these honorable members doing now that they are in office? Before the election they made a promise that if the Labour party were returned to power the mines would be re-opened at once without any reduction of wages. The first statement on the subject was made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) at Balmain on the 24th September, in these words -
One of the first actions of a Labour Government will be to re-open the coal mines. The John Browns of Australia must not be permitted to hold up the country to ransom. The coal-owners must open the mines or the Labour Government will open them in the name of the people.
That statement is unambiguous. A few days later the people of Australia were informed that if Labour were returned to power the mines would be re-opened in fourteen days without a reduction in wages. Assuming that the promise was honestly made, the only excuse that can be offered for making it is ignorance. Ignorance is the only alternative to deceit. The Commonwealth Government has no power to re-open the mines, nor can it get power to do so by introducing legislation into this Parliament. That surely should have been known to honorable members opposite before they stated that the mines would be re-opened. Unfortunately the miners and their wives and families honestly believed that they only had to return the Labour party to power to ensure that the mines would be reopened at once. After the election the Attorney-General(Mr. Brennan) said that he was “ exploring the legal position, which appeared to be uncertain.” What uncertainty was there about it? Had not the legal position been explored before the promise to open the mines was made? Does any one suggest that the Commonwealth Parliament has any power to reopen the mines? I pause for a reply; and I get none.
– Is the Leader of the Opposition striving to frustrate our efforts to settle the trouble?
– Not by any means.
– It sounds very much like it.
– Let me remind the House of the attitude adopted by honorable members opposite when the previous Government was trying to settle this trouble by conference. The mines have not been re-opened, and it must be conceded now that the Commonwealth Government cannot re-open them unless it can successfully use its power of persuasion upon the parties concerned. That is exactly what the previous Government endeavoured to do. When the present Government found that its powers of persuasion were ineffective it decided to convene a compulsory conference under the terms of the Industrial Peace Act. Once again the miners and their families, who are living in misery, were told that the matter would be dealt with effectively. It should have been known by the members of the Government that no conference under the Industrial Peace Act could deal with the trouble, because it is not an interstate dispute. The slightest examination of the legal position would have shown that this conference had no legal powers. Again we saw the Government seeking to bring the force of persuasion upon those concerned. The effort failed. The chairman of that conference, Mr. Hibble, said that if the parties to the conference could not reach an agreement he would decide the matter. He gave a decision, but it had no legal force or effect. It bound nobody, and, under the Industrial Peace Act, it could not bind anybody. The whole procedure was a pretence.
Another conference is to be held on Saturday, and I sincerely wish it well.
It is the only step which the Commonwealth Government can take to settle this trouble, except one which 1 shall mention in a moment. It is a step along the path of persuasion, and that is the path which the previous Government trod. The legal uncertainty as to whether there are any existing awards in the coal-mining industry is one of the difficulties in the way of settling the trouble. I do not know whether the Attorney-General is certain in his own mind whether there are any awards in effective legal operation in the coal industry or not. In my opinion, there is grave doubt about it. If the legislation proposed by the previous Government had been carried there would have been no doubt upon the subject.
One other course can be taken to bring about a ‘settlement of the trouble. The Prime Minister was asked to-day whether the Government intended to prosecute Mr. John Brown or any other colliery-owner for causing a lockout. I agree entirely with the reply he gave to the question. I have given a similar reply to it on many occasions. He said that it was not proposed to announce in advance whether it was intended to prosecute any person. On this point I propose to quote from an electioneering pamphlet, “ authorized by E. G. Theodore, Campaign Director, Australian Labour Party, Trades Hall, Sydney.” First let me remind honorable members that the coalowners are not being prosecuted. A conference is to take place on Saturday. I do not know whether the abstention from prosecuting any of the coal-owners is to enable the conference to take place. If it is, we have a case exactly parallel with the action taken by the previous Government. The writer of this pamphlet had no doubt whatever of the legal position, although I admit that I had some doubt. I said so in the House when the prosecution of Mr. John Brown was under discussion. My first quotation from the pamphlet is as follows: -
The coal-owners are immune from prosecution, because of the political influence they are able to wield.
Upon whom are they wielding it to-day? The article proceeds -
They are able to commit most flagrant breaches of the law, and still go unpunished. ‘
If that was true a month ago, it is true to-day. The writer went on to say -
They are able to inflict untold suffering, degradation and starvation upon their employees and families of their employees, as they have done in the Newcastle district, without fear of the consequences.
If that was true a month ago, it is true to-day. But what is being done about it? A conference has been summoned. I agree with the summoning of it. But in the light of all the facts, it is quite apparent that the criticism of the previous government .in relation to the withdrawal of the prosecution of Mi1. John Brown was nothing but a shameful pretence.
I conclude what I have to say upon this subject by observing that it is of the greatest importance to the industry of Australia that our coal-mines should be set working again. ‘ We have been struggling along for some time with limited supplies of coal, but the position is very serious. I sincerely trust that Saturday’s conference will have a good result. I am afraid that the legal entanglements will make it very difficult to arrive at a conclusion. The Government may be forced to ask Parliament to define the position in relation to certain awards which the miners still believe to be in force in the industry. If the matter were taken to the High Court it might be held that the awards were still in force. The men certainly believe that this is so. Personally, I am doubtful about it. I doubt also whether it will be possible to arrive at a satisfactory adjustment of the differences between the parties in this industry until the legal position has been ‘ clearly defined.
– Will the Leader of the Opposition tell us whether he had any doubt about the validity of these awards when he instituted the prosecution against Mi1. John Brown?
– I certainly had a doubt about it.
– Yet the prosecution was instituted?
– Yes. It was arguable whether the awards were enforceable, but the Government took the risk. If the honorable member will read the speeches that I delivered on the subject at the time, he will see that I dealt specifically and fully with that aspect of the subject.
The Governor-General’s Speech refers to the subject of migration. There is already a history of the new Government’s actions in this regard. First, it was announced that assisted migration had been suspended ; now we learn from the Governor-General’s Speech that it is still taking place.
– No official announcement on the subject was made on behalf of the Government previous to the delivery of the Governor-General’s Speech.
– I accept the word of the Prime Minister, but a statement appeared in the press to the effect that assisted migration had been suspended.
– I made an announcement that the Government intended to suspend it; but we are still in communication with the British Government on the subject.
-I am glad to have the position clearly defined. The Government does not consider itself to be in a position to suspend assisted migration without a consultation with the other parties to the migration agreement.
– We have an agreement until the 31st March next with the British Government with respect to assisted passages.
– -The position then, is t hat assisted migration has not been suspended. It is going on as in the immediate past. Unfortunately there is very little migration at present because conditions in Australia are not attractive. Let. me give to the House comparative figures for identical periods in recent years to show that this is the case. I am dealing only with migrants from Great Britain, who alone receive any form of assistance. For the first seven months of 1927 the excess of British arrivals over departures was 16,898; for the corresponding period of 1928 it was 9,309; and for 1929 it was only 18. Unfortunately, there is to-day no excess of immigration from Great Britain, and therefore no need to take action to suspend the migration agreement. I suggest to the Government that in this, matter it should proceed with great care. The
States have become parties to agreements with the Commonwealth and under the migration agreement they are spending on developmental works certain monies, part of the interest on which is contributed from other sources. The British Government is a contributor. Under the agreement the States are expending money and paying only 1 per cent. interest for the first five years and one-third of the effective rate of interest for the next five years. If one party to the agreement suspends a vital clause the other party cannot be expected to regard itself as bound by it, and if this agreement is suspended in relation to assisted migration, its provisions will be deemed to be vitally broken, thereby jeopardizing the position of the States which have spent this money made available to them at low rates of interest.
– The States are already committed to a large expenditure in that direction.
– As the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) says, the States are committed to a large expenditure of this cheap money upon various developmental schemes.
– Some of them have not kept their obligations to the migrants they have brought to Australia.
– It will be a serious thing indeed to do anything which amounts to a repudiation of a vital term of the agreement.
– I understand that the British Government has the right reserved to end the agreement at any time.
– I suggest that the Government should consider the position carefully before it attempts to interfere with the migration agreement.
-We have repudiated no agreement, nor do we intend to repudiate anything.
– It is stated in the policy speech that the Government intends to restrict further the admission of foreign migrants to the Commonwealth. The House would certainly appreciate some information as to the particular restrictions which are to be imposed, and I have no doubt that the Minister will be able to supply that information.
Reference is made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to a proposed coordination of the functions of the Development and Migration Commission and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Apparently the Development and Migration Commission is to be abolished in name, but its work is to be continued. That seems to be the true significance of that statement. Before migrants can be received into Australia there must be a reasonable certainty that they can be absorbed, that work can be found for them. That is the principle upon, which the late government acted and the Development and Migration Commission was set up largely to bring about a proper co-relation between development and migration. Development should precede and not follow migration. I hope that that principle will still be adhered to. This proposal to co-ordinate the functions of the Development and Migration Commission and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research appears to me to betray a complete lack of knowledge of the respective functions of the two bodies. The business of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is scientific investigation and research. .It is work for scientists. The work of the Development and. Migration Commission consists mainly in examining and reporting on the economic aspects of developmental proposals and the possibilities of expanding Australian industries. We did not appoint a scientist to the Commission, although the assistance of such a man might be required in determining whether a particular industry could be profitably established here or whether a proposed developmental scheme would be likely to be successful. The functions of the two bodies are entirely different and it will he a profound mistake to apply scientists to work associated with the Development and Migration Commission because such work is quite foreign to the duties for which they have been trained. I doubt very much whether any responsible member of either body has recommended or approved of this proposed co-ordination. It has been said and repeated thousands of times until many people believe it, that the past government transferred its administrative duties to commissions and thereby rid itself of responsibility. The case most commonly quoted is that of the Development and Migration Commission. That body has no administrative or executive functions whatever. It only investigates, reports, and recommends. Other commissions which have been set up are also not administrative in character. The Governor-General’s speech says that this work now to be brought under the direct control of the department of the Prime Minister. There is a suggestion that a change is to be made. As we all know, the work is under the control of Senator Daly subject to the Prime Minister, just as in the past it was in the hands of Senator Sir George Pearce subject to the last. Prime Minister. Therefore, no change has yet been made. I suggest to the Government that it will run a grave danger if it makes the Development and Migration Commission an ordinary government department. Its functions are not administrative. It has been a great success, and has rendered great service to Australia in many directions. By showing that the carrying out of many proposed developmental schemes would be unwise, it has prevented unnecessary expenditure. It has saved over and over again every penny that has been expended upon it. The Development and Migration Commission has been a success in dealing with the States largely because it is free from ordinary Ministerial control. The technical departments of the various States will not tolerate the rule being run over them by a Commonwealth department, but the Development and Migration Commission has acquired such prestige because of the capacity of its members, that it has been able to pass judgment upon the proposals of the States for developmental works after discussing them with the responsible State authorities. It would be very difficult for an ordinary Commonwealth department to carry out its functions.
According to the policy speech it is not proposed to proceed with the establishment of a Bureau of Economic Research and the appointment of a Director of that institution. The object of that proposal was to provide for economic inquiry, and to ascertain facts. It is the view of those on this “side of the House that the money would be well spent if it provided the governments and people of Australia with accurate views of economic facts. We certainly need, in all directions, to have such facts more carefully ascertained and better arranged, and proper conclusions drawn from them. The Government says that by curtailing expenditure of this kind more money will be available for developmental work. What would the operations of the Director of Economic Research cost? I suppose that his salary would be about £1,500 a year, and another £1,000 would be needed for clerical assistance and office accommodation. Let us take it that the expenditure would total £3,000. This Parliament in carrying out its work must be guided by economic considerations, and I consider that this money would he well spent in providing honorable members and the public of Australia generally with the best information arranged by the best minds trained in the consideration of economic facts. I deplore the proposal of the Government not to make this appointment. Its statement that £3,000 or £4,000 will thus be saved for developmental work is mere pretence.
Let me deal shortly with the remainder of the policy speech. Before the elections some people understood that under a Labour Government a reduction in expenditure would entail a reduction in Commonwealth taxation. They now know thatthey were entirely wrong in entertaining any such view. Of course there will be no amusement tax. That at least is certain, because value is to be given for services rendered.
– That is the kind of statement that we might expect from the Leader of the Opposition.
– Any one who saw the picture hoardings in Victoria devoted to the display of Labour placards knows exactly what I mean. At the last election the Labour party derived great assistance from the picture interests, and I do not think that it is denied that that was given because the Labour party promised not to increase the amusement tax. That was quite a natural thing for the Labour party to do, but I regard it as low and sordid politics.
– The honorable member’s present reference is low and sordid.
– According to the policy speech, a bill to make better provision for the control of gold reserves in the Commonwealth is to be submitted to Parliament. No information is given about that, and it will be interesting to learn what the proposals of the Government are. Up to the present we have had only one or two financial suggestions from the supporters of the Government. One suggestion, which no one would father, was that the Government should at once make the Commonwealth Bank reduce the overdraft rate. I was very glad that the Treasurer immediately dissociated himself from any such suggestion, and I hope that it will not be repeated. You, Mr. Speaker, were stated by the press to be responsible for another interesting suggestion. “ The people were poor, they wanted more money; give them more. Print seven million pounds or eight million pounds worth of notes.” That suggestion was reported in the Adelaide press; and again it gives me pleasure to state that it was repudiated by the Government. I doubt, sir, whether you really made it.
The Governor-General’s Speech contains the following interesting paragraph: -
Owing to reduction in the price of wool the prospects of an unfavorable wheat harvest, and other causes, the Commonwealth is faced with a difficult period. These causes, important as they are in our economic life, are. however, seasonal in character.
I am glad to be able to say that the reduction in the price of wool is not normally seasonal in character. The paragraph continues -
There is no reason to believe that a continuance of these conditions is likely, and there should be a return to normal prosperity in the coming year. In the meantime, the public revenues of the Commonwealth are being adversely affected.
When the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) as Treasurer in the last government, expressed the hope that there would he a return to normal prosperity in the coming year, and budgeted accordingly, he was criticized and abused in this chamber as though he had been guilty of a criminal offence ; yet now we find a similar hope expressed by his detractors. I interested myself in the election campaign in some rural constituencies in New South Wales, including Gwydir and Calare. The price of wool and wheat was dealt with fully by the Labour party during that campaign. I quote the following from a letter which appeared in the Quirindi Advocate : -
When the labor organizer came around with a definite promise of Us. 6d. a bushel for wheat if the Scullin-Theodore party were given power, Sir Neville Howse’s defeat was certain.
Many farmers and graziers in New South Wales voted for the Labour party in the belief that they would obtain 15d. or thereabouts for their wool and 6s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat. The gentleman who now represents Calare in this Parliament (Mr. Gibbons) distributed a circular, of which I now hold a copy, in which he said -
As labour candidate for Calare, I stand for: -
An immediate guarantee of 6s. 6d. for the 1930-31 wheat crop. . . To stabilize wool values. The immediate institution of a system similar to B.A.W.R.A. and that proposed by Sir John Higgins. It is reasonable to say after reviewing the present position that the institution suggested could make an advance equal to the price now being paid for the wool, and as the wool is placed on the market further payments will bc made.
Many speakers in the Labour interest, when challenged respecting the possibility of giving effect to this promise, went out of their way to state, “We have the authority of Mr. Theodore for saying that it can be done, and that there is no obstacle in the way of doing it.” Such action would involve the expenditure of millions of pounds, as every honorable member knows. Have these people got 6s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat, or market price and further payments for their wool? No. All that has been given to them is a paragraph in the GovernorGeneral’s speech which says that “ there should be a return to normal prosperity in the coming. year “.
There is little more that I desire to say. An opportunity will be afforded later to discuss the proposal of the Government to abolish compulsory military training. I do not imagine that the Government intends to run the risk of seeking- the authority of Parliament for that tremendous and far-reaching change in our defence policy; but fortunately I shall be able to deal with the matter when the budget and Estimates are being debated. The action of the Government has been described in the Governor-General’s speech as a “ statement of policy enunciated to the people at the recent elections.” It is quite true that at Richmond the Prime Minister enumerated the planks of the Labour platform; but does any person suggest that the election was fought on that issue, and that the minds of the people adverted to it? None can make such a suggestion.
– I stated it from every platform.
– The honorable member did not speak from every platform in Australia. The leaders of the Labour party, again and again, stated “ There is one issue only in this election “ ; and they put that issue in this misleading form.: “Are you in favour of a reduction of wages?” They knew when they said it, that that was not the issue. The system of compulsory military training was endorsed by the Parliament of Australia in 1909 and 1910. It was given legislative effect by the Labour party, and was something of which that party, which included the present Prime Minister, was very proud. Yet now, without any parliamentary action, the Government proposes to abolish it ! No person is aware of the real grounds for the proposal. No one really believes that there will be any saving. The Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) said that no changes would be made without careful investigation and full consideration. On the following day, however, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) said, in effect, “ None of that nonsense; this has to stop before Christmas “ ; and within a day or’ two the Government decided in favour of the honorable member for Ballarat and against its own Minister for Defence. An appreciable saving could be effected only by dismissing men, and it was announced that there would be no dismissals. The officers are to be continued in their positions, although at present there is no work for them to do and no system has yet been devised for them to administer. Everybody knows that the provision of an attractive uniform and payment at ordinary rates for attendance at camps under a voluntary system would be much more expensive than the system which has been suspended, if the defence force is to be as large in numbers in the future as it has been in the past. Of course, if the number is to be reduced by about nine-tenths a saving may be effected. His Excellency’s speech informs us that “ The Council of Defence unanimously agreed to the maintenance of the same army organization as has existed hitherto as a nucleus.” There is to be the frame- work; with what is it proposed to fill it? I deplore the irresponsible action of the Government in abolishing one system before providing another. I could have understood the Government if it had said, “ We do not believe in the existing system, and we shall make provision for a different one.” I could have understood it if a scheme had been worked out, and a transition period fixed. But to scrap the existing system without having a new one ready, and lacking knowledge regarding the manner in which any new scheme would work, is an act which is both irresponsible and dangerous. If a voluntary system should supersede that which has so far existed it will be the duty of all, whatever their views may be with respect to the character of the new system, to endeavour to make it a success. I trust that, if this item of the Government’s policy is carried through the Government will earnestly and honestly endeavour to make the voluntary system a success.
There is in the Governor-General’s Speech a most enigmatic reference to the Air Force. It says -
The question of maintaining a separate organization for the Air Force, having been brought under the notice of my Ministers by officers of the Defence Department, the Defence Committee was instructed to investigate and report to the Council of Defence.
The existing organization for the Air Force, on a basis distinct from that of the Army and the Navy, was the result of very careful thought, directed towards attaining both efficiency and economy. I need not traverse all the arguments which, in Great Britain as in Australia, led to that conclusion; but I should like to know what officers of the Defence Department brought the matter under the notice of Ministers.
– I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that the matter was brought under the notice of the Minister for Defence by the responsible officers of the department. It was not initiated by either that Minister or any other member of the Government.
– I am not suggesting that it was.
– May I say, further, that it is not usual to give information regarding what occurs in a Council of Defence until the matter has been finally considered. I can assure the honorable member that I have documentary proof of the correctness of what I have told him.
– What I am interested to learn is whether any officer in the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force, made the suggestion.
– Officers in both the Army and the Navy made the suggestion, from which officers of the Air Force dissented. The matter has not been discussed by the Council of Defence; but it will be before any action is taken.
– From my knowledge of the facts, I did not expect that, at this stage, any officer of any of the fighting services would have made the suggestion, and I am surprised to hear that such is the case. I heartily commend, and entirely support, the pronouncement of the Government on the subject of disarmament. I sincerely hope that the policy of the late Government, which was to assist every step that was taken towards disarmament, will be pursued by the present Government. The paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech which relates to that matter gives every promise that such will be the case.
I also welcome the reference in the Governor-General’s Speech to” the next Imperial Conference.
I hope that the present Ministry will seek to co-operate with His Majesty’s Government in Great Britain in all matters of interest to the Empire as a whole.
The Governor-General’s Speech must be disappointing to the supporters of the Ministry, but then they have been prepared for disappointment. Every Minister has been endeavouring to get them to expect less than they were promised, and maybe they have not been surprised by what is occurring. So far as the Opposition is concerned we are certainly not surprised. We never expected that the promises made by the leaders of the Labour party would be carried out.
I conclude by promising that there will be nothing merely obstructive in the attitude of the Opposition to the proposals of the Government. We shall consider each proposal on its merits, and shall be prepared to facilitate the passage into law of any proposals which we regard as being truly in the interests of Australia as a whole.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway), and the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) on their maiden speeches in this chamber. They have both displayed much knowledge of industrial matters; knowledge gained, apparently, from long experience. The substantial majority which the Government enjoys as a result of the people’s verdict at the polls, has been given to it on its definite promise that the dual system of Federal and State control of arbitration will be used to bring about industrial peace. That system has failed hitherto to bring about peace, largely because of the lack of assistance received from the Labour party. The Bruce-Page Government attempted on a number of occasions to simplify the arbitration system. In 1926 it brought down referendum proposals designed to give the Commonwealth Parliament complete control of industry, and to bring to an end the confusion then existing. When, owing to the opposition of a large section of the Industrial Labour Party, the Government failed to get those proposals endorsed by the people, it was forced to seek other means to bring about the result it desired. Consequently, it made the proposal which was before the people at the last election, namely, that the federal system of arbitration should be replaced by that of the States. The verdict of the people was that the present system should be given a further trial and afforded a further opportunity of bringing about industrial peace. We on this side feel that the economic condition of Australia is such that party considerations should be put aside, and a united effort made to bring about industrial peace, and to ensure increased production. Only in that way can the present temporary period of depression be overcome, and the prosperity of the country restored. Our attitude will be this: We shall support all efforts to bring about industrial peace by any remodelled arbitration system that is soundly prepared, and giving a prospect of achieving the desired object. We shall offer only constructive criticism in this regard, and our attitude will bein sharp contradiction to that of those who were recently in Opposition when similar proposals were under discussion.
But though we feel that the Government has a definite mandate from the people in regard to the federal arbitration system, we are strongly of the opinion that it has no mandate to carry out other items of its expressed policy. All attempts to put those proposals into effect we shall resist to the full extent of our powers, because they were not, we believe, endorsed by the people. Take, for example, the abolition of compulsory military training. It is absurd to suggest that there has been a revulsion of popular feeling against compulsory training when, in 1925, the Bruce-Page Government, which supported that system, was returned by an even greater majority than that now enjoyed by the present Government. Even as recently as 1928 the people returned to power a government which stood for the maintenance of compulsory military training in Australia. Military training was not one of the issues prominently before the people at the last election. The system of compulsory military training has been in operation in Australia for the last eighteen years, and was instituted at the unanimous wish of Parliament. The Liberal and Labour parties vied with each for the honour of putting it into operation. This system, which enabled us to pass through the trial of the Great War with such credit, and such addition to our prestige, should not be lightly jettisoned. It is an insult to Parliament that so important a change should have been made without any preliminary declaration in this. House, and without giving the representatives of the people an opportunity to express their views upon it. This matter has been treated in altogether too casual a way. One day the Minister for Defence said that nothing would be done in regard to it for months, and then only after the very fullest consideration, while the very next day the present Chairman of Committees (Mr. McGrath) said that it was no use talking like that, because the system would be abolished before Christmas. The Parliament of the Commonwealth having passed an act requiring every fit man to register for military service, and to be trained for the defence of his country, that provision for training them for this purpose should not be set aside in this off-hand manner. If this sort of thing is to be indulged in, the policy of the Government will become one of meddling and muddling throughout the whole of its administration.
The same casual disregard of settled policy has been shown by this Government, not only in regard to military training, but in regard to immigration also. Members of the Government party are always talking about the need for increasing the home market so as to absorb our own products, yet one of the first acts of the Government was to take steps to prevent the increase of our population. The security of Australia depends just as much upon the rapid increase of population as upon our defence system, and no government should tamper with either our defence or immigration policies without affording an opportunity for having the matter discussed in Parliament.
Many honorable members opposite were elected to this House, not on the issue of arbitration, but as a result of having made specious promises regarding matters affecting their own electorates, and the attitude of the Government toward those promises must prove embarrassing either to itself or to the country. If the things promised are for the national good, and can be done, we shall do our utmost to ensure that the Government fulfils its promises. If. the promises cannot be fulfilled, we shall endeavour to force a confession from the Government to that effect. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons), who has come into Parliament as a result of the defeat of Sir Neville Howse, in the course of a circular letter sent to every voter on the roll of his constituency, declared that the Labour party stood firmly for the stabilization of the wheat and wool markets. This letter, dated the 25th September, 1929, reads as follows: -
Our industry is in a bad condition. The wheat crop will be very limited, while wool values are extremely low. Credit must be developed to permit every man on the land to continue to work his farm to the greatest possible advantage. The means of recovery rests in increasing the area under cultivation on every farm. With that end in view, as Labour candidate for Calare, I stand for -
An immediate gua’rantee of 6s. 6d. for the 1030-31 wheat crop.
The honorable member stated that he ‘ favoured an immediate guarantee for this year’s wheat crop, yet there is no mention of any such guarantee in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. The letter continued -
There is no suggestion of any such action in the proposals put forward by the Government. - Other things favoured by the honorable member are -
Those statements were made to the farmers of the electorate of Calare, and we on this side wish to know whether the Government proposes to do anything about them, or whether the honorable member is to be regarded as having made them entirely on his own responsibility. One of the members of the present Ministry, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), promised the electors that, if the Labour Government were returned, Mr. Justice Lukin would be removed from the Arbitration Bench. There is. no mention of that, however, among the Government’s proposals, and I am pre pared to await the development of the Government’s arbitration policy in order to see what it intends to do regarding it. The Government, I think, will find it very difficult to honour that promise, and at the same time to maintain in the eyes of the people any reputation for impartiality. Again, it was stated by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge), and blazoned in the columns of the Labour Daily, that he favoured the provision of free radio broadcasting in Australia. It was a scandal, he said, that listeners-in should have to pay 24s. a year for licences. I eagerly await the presentation of the budget to see whether this proposal is to be given effect.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I have pointed out that it is almost unthinkable that Australia’s policy of defence, one of the primary reasons for federation, should be announced by the Government in a casual way instead of in this Parliament. I have shown that the legislation foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s speech is almost negligible, despite the lavish promises made by the Labor Party at the election. I have stated that the Opposition would endeavour to enforce fulfilment of the promises made by the Government and its supporters, or else secure a confession from the Government that it could not carry out those promises, and therefore repudiate them. I have spoken of the inaction of the Government with respect to wool and wheat, and the dismissal of Judge Lukin. I now wish to refer to the statement made by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) who at one meeting said that one of the first actions of a Labour Government would be to send notices of dismissal to the directors of the Commonwealth Bank. I contend that that intention should have been intimated in the Governor-General’s Speech alongside the suggestion that action was being taken to deal more satisfactorily with the gold reserve. If we are to maintain, the credit of Australia, it will be necessary to deal with the holding of the whole of the gold reserve by the Commonwealth Bank in a manner that will give confidence to the financial institutions of this country. It it were thought that the Government intended to displace the directors of that bank at the earliest opportunity, despite the fact that during the last five years they have given valuable service to the community and enjoy its confidence, I venture to say that all the Government’s proposals on the subject of the transfer of gold to the Commonwealth Bank would be examined with greater caution than if the matter were being dealt, with by the present directors. I urge the Government to exercise the utmost care, to take counsel of the leaders of finance generally because, if it proposes to act in an indiscriminate and reckless fashion, it may easily make credit even tighter than it now is, and bring about an increase in unemployment and an accentuation of the present trade depression. Therefore the Government should make certain of every step it intends to take before dispensing with the services of the Commonwealth Bank directors.
– But the people would not take the advice of the party opposite.
– At two out of the three elections held since the transformation of the Commonwealth Bank by the late Government, that Government was returned by an overwhelming majority. Therefore the people have already spoken on that issue. They have expressed themselves as completely satisfied with what was done, and a feeling of confidence in the Commonwealth Bank has been engendered by the conduct of its directors. Its operations as a central bank have been extended, and the proposal mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech suggests that its functions will be further increased.
It is useless for honorable members opposite to say that the promises to which I and the honorable member for Kooyong have referred were made by irresponsible persons and not backed by the Government. Those promises were made generally throughout the election for the purpose of obtaining votes, and they ought to be kept. If they are not honoured they ought to be publicly repudiated. But they are all of a piece with the dishonest cry made at the election that the object of the late Government was to bring about a reduction in wages. That is the false claim upon, which many honorable members have been returned. The literature distributed by the Labour party in that connexion caused most scandalous misrepresentation. A pamphlet was published in New South Wales called “ Criss-Cross Words. The Latest Puzzle.” In this it was suggested that Mr. Bruce and the honorable member for- Kooyong (Mr. Latham) had made certain statements, and these were placed alongside statements by them in Hansard, but words were put into their mouths that were never used. One. statement was that, according to Ilansard, Mr. Bruce used certain words on the 30th May, 1926, and opposite that statement were the words -
– I find I am not big enough to surmount the difficulties. Therefore arbitration must go. (1029)
Honorable members know that the latter words were never used. It was never suggested by the ex-Prime Minister that arbitration should go; all that was suggested was that duplication should be eliminated. Eight separate quotations were given, and each of them ended with the words, “Arbitration must go.” That was a wilful misrepresentation of the facts. The publication was authorized by the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), as the campaign director of the Australian Labour party in New South Wales. The statements made are absolutely untrue, and I give them the lie direct to-night. They have already been denied by Mr. Bruce and the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), and I regard them as constituting one of the most scandalous election misrepresentations ever practised in Australia.
Misleading comparisons were made as Labour propaganda by the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) during the election of the basic wages in various parts of Australia. One such comparison was made between the Federal basic wage of £4 14s. 6d. and the New South Wales rate of £4 5s.; but, in every comparison the fact was skilfully concealed that the New South Wales rate is accompanied by a child endowment of 5s. If it corresponded to the Federal basic wage for a man with a wife and three children, it would amount to about 5s. more than the Federal wage. Honorable members behind the Government may laugh; but it is disgraceful that, in a matter affecting the welfare and mental comfort of the working people, there should have been such misrepresentation on a vital issue.
Other promises were made by leading members of the Labour party. They said that if returned to power they would prosecute the coal barons. We heard that if the Labour party were victorious the mines would be opened within a fortnight.
– Who said that?
– The Treasurer. Already it is realized by the Government that the mere prosecution of any of the coal-owners would not bring about the opening of the mines, and consequently nothing has been done, although, during the last eight or ten months, repeated statements have been made in the public press that if that course were adopted the deadlock would be ended. This matter should be viewed apart altogether from party politics. The Labour party has too long subordinated economic facts to political advantage. The business of this Parliament is to end the dispute at the earliest possible opportunity. Even if the coal-owners were prosecuted and were forced to open the mines, these would not remain open, because they could not compete at present prices with the coal brought from other parts of the world. The Government having won the election - by what means I need not discuss at the present time - should now give a. lead to the coal-mining industry, and say frankly that the mere nationalization of the mines would not solve the problem that has to be faced. The Government should admit that it has no constitutional power to nationalize them, because, even if it secured possession of them, according to the judgment of the High Court in the Cockatoo Island Dockyard case, it could sell coal to itself only, and would thus have a very limited market. Even if the Government could buy a number of mines and open them, it could not alter the economic conditions that are preventing coal from being won in Australia at a profit. First of all there is the fact that the industry is suffering acutely through the competition of power derived from other sources, such as oil and water. The mere nationalization of the industry would not stop the widespread decreasing consumption of coal, nor would it alter the price of coal or restrict the amount of coal produced in other countries; it would merely introduce a further element of confusion. For many years it has been evident in Australia that the only way to put the industry on a proper basis is to reduce the cost of the output. Judge Campbell stated in 1919 -
There is no doubt that if the output is to reach a standard commensurate with the magnitude of the State resources, the State’s need for production and trade, there will have to be a cheapening of the product, an increase of production and a considerable development of the domestic market. That can only be accomplished by a much improved organization and a sustained and serious effort on the part of the human agents to discard policies and methods that have been in the past an ever recurring cause of strife, which has reacted disastrously on the industry in all its phases.
That was the position in 1919, and it is the position to-day. Mr. Hibble, the chairman of the compulsory conference recently called to consider the coal position, stated definitely that the only possible way to put the industry on a decent footing was to adopt the scheme proposed by the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Bavin, in December, 1927, under which the price of coal was to be reduced by 4s. a ton by the New South Wales Government, the mineowners and the miners sharing the reduction. I urge the Government to face the facts and to tell everybody in Australia that the only way out of the difficulty is to follow the advice tendered by Mr. Hibble, who is an impartial and independent authority. The Government should not allow the existing disturbance and distress to prevail in this industry over another Christmas season; but the price of coal must be reduced in order to put the industry on a sound basis.
When the Prime Minister was asked a question this afternoon regarding the holding of a secret ballot of the miners to ascertain whether they are prepared to accept the proposed reduction, he said that such a suggestion should not be made, because it might interfere with the success of the conference to be held in Canberra on Saturday next. How could the ascertaining of the opinions of the individual miners have anything but a good effect upon’ the conference? It would be to the advantage of all of us to know that the miners, who have been hoodwinked foi so long, are sick to death of the continuous turmoil in their industry, and are anxious to recommence producing on terms that will help, not only their own, but every other industry in the country. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) said that he believed in democratic government. But, when we ask that the democratic principle of the secret ballot should be put into operation, in order to ascertain the views of the majority of the miners, we are told that such a suggestion might prejudice the impending conference! Every time the last Government conferred with the mine-owners, Ministers were subjected to a continual bombardment of questions and motions of censure by members of the then Opposition, who did not hesitate to impute to them base motives and collusion with the coal-owners. However, we persisted in our efforts to terminate the dispute, and, if those efforts had been seconded by the members of the then Opposition, the trouble in the coal-mining industry would have ended six or seven months ago. To-day the Leader of the Opposition asked whether there was any truth in the rumour that a member of the Government had proposed that the coal dispute in New South Wales should be extended to other States in order to permit of federal intervention. I do not believe that a responsible government would be a party to such tactics ; but we need more than a mere denial by the Prime Minister; we want the Government to take active steps to warn the workers of the danger of a general strike, not only to the industries in which they are employed, but to the whole economic and industrial structure of Australia.
Because of the poor prices offering for wool and wheat, and through other causes, the Commonwealth is at present in a trough of depression which will be intensified if the great primary industry of coal-mining is not placed on a satisfactory basis as early as possible. The Government should not.be content with a negative statement on this subject of a general strike; but should inform the workers in unambiguous terms that a general industrial upheaval would be a calamity, and that the Government will not approve of any action to that end, but will oppose it with the whole strength of the Government. The honorable gentlemen who now occupy the ministerial bench are, for the time being, the leaders of the Australian people, and, if they will take strong action to bring about a rational settlement of the coal-mining dispute, they will have the support of every member of the Country party., I cannot imagine a policy more disastrous than one which, for the sake of permitting federal intervention in the coalmining trouble, would bring about a state of civil disturbance not far short of civil war. The declaration by the Commonwealth of the existence of a state of national emergency might give the federal authority power under the Crimes Act to invade the trade and commerce jurisdiction of the States, and to exercise a degree of industrial control, the exercise of which, except in time of war, was never contemplated by the founders of the Constitution. Such action would put back, for a generation, all chance of harmonious co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. The Government should indicate in no uncertain terms that if the various unions adopt this extreme and reckless policy it will take steps to protect the community as a whole. For the last seven years the late Government has been endeavouring to bring about more co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States ‘in regard to the great problems of development, finance, and government. The character of our federal union makes the conduct of administration difficult for both the Commonwealth and the States. We have tried, by various means, to reduce the points of friction. One of those means was the Financial Agreement, which has completely eliminated the friction that used to arise between the various governments in connexion with the raising of loans.
In order to accelerate development and permit of greater co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States, the late Government brought into existence the Development and Migration Commission, which examines all proposals for the expenditure of the £34,000,000 made available to the States on cheap terms through the Commonwealth and Imperial Governments. By vetoing economically unsound projects which would have been forced through State parliaments by local influence, this body has already saved to the people of Australia more money than it would cost in 50 years*. I do not think that any State Minister would endorse the suggestion of the Government that this commission, which has established a close liaison between the Commonwealth and the States in connexion with developmental projects, should be destroyed. The Government says that the functions of the commission will be carried on under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department and that they will be coordinated with the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Ae a matter of fact, the commission has been under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department for the last three years. I realize that honorable gentlemen opposite are in a difficult position. For years they have been decrying the commission as a useless and expensive excrescence. Only a few days ago the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Daly) said that he’ had been surprised to discover the benefits which the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was conferring upon the people of Australia, and that the late Government was to be commended for having brought this body into existence and supplying it with adequate funds. He added that the activities of the council should receive greater advertisement. That was a very belated recognition of the value of this body. There is yet time for a similar recognition of the value of the Development and Migration Commission. If the commission is abolished, irreparable harm will be done to the principle of co-operation of the Commonwealth and the States. I am certain that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research cannot do the developmental work which the commission has been doing, and that if the members of the council were consulted they would ask that they be not burdened with a task very different from the work which they are specially qualified to do. I ask the Government to proceed slowly with the proposal to end the commission. Their policy will not save money, it will do serious harm to the relations of the Commonwealth and States, and will deprive the Government of the valuable services of men whom it may be impossible to replace.
I notice also that for reasons of economy the Government does not propose to appoint a Director of Economic Research. In this regard it is appropriate to refer to the finding of the Child Endowment Commission of which the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) was a member -
The time litis arrived when a Bureau of Social and Economic Research should be set up in Australia, and we would recommend that this be done.
Even one trained economist with an adequate clerical staff attached to the Statistician’s office or to the Council “for Scientific Research could render valuable service, though the establishment of an independent bureau would be better.
Such a bureau would co-ordinate and evaluate not only information obtained through the Census and other official returns, but also data obtainable through social workers whether Government officials or otherwise.
Wider economic questions too, such as the relation of economic policy to national prosperity, to amount and distribution of income, to cost of living) to unemployment and so on would be material for research by such a bureau. The advice of a body such as this would be invaluable in helping the Government to decide in what way to amend or enlarge any preliminary scheme, of family allowances after it had been in operation some time.
After many months of investigation and the hearing of evidence in all parts of Australia, the honorable member for Fremantle appended his name to that finding. At no time in the history of a country is the scientific examination of economic problems more necessary than when the country is experiencing depression. When the country is suffering industrial and economic ills, the need for an economic doctor to overhaul the system and diagnose the cause of trouble is most urgent. Therefore, it is false economy, at the present time to defer the appointment of a Director of Economic Research. I urge the Government to take its courage in its hands and proceed with this appointment. The honorable member for Fremantle would surely support such an action, and- I believe that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), also would express his cordial approval. The Government should not be misled into taking a false step, because of statements which honorable members opposite may have made when they were in opposition, and before they had had an opportunity to examine thoroughly the proposal.
We are told in the Governor-General’s Speech that the Government proposes to ask the Imperial Government to agree to the suspension of that portion of the Migration Agreement, which relates ‘ to assisted passages for migrants from Great Britain. The statement already made by the Prime Minister and broadcast throughout the world, that this country is unable to absorb even the small number of migrants now arriving from Great Britain under this agreement, must do incalculable harm to the credit of Australia. So also will the talking film in which the Prime Minister spoke of teeming unemployment in the Commonwealth. That is a nice advertisement to send all over the world ! The present extent of unemployment is a temporary phase. If we have difficulties let us keep them to ourselves and endeavour to rectify them, instead of broadcasting them to the world.
The proposal to ask for the suspension of assisted passages is almost incredibly mean. The Commonwealth entered into an agreement with the Imperial Government by means of which it receives interest concessions totalling £7,000,000 over ten years. The last Government drove what was considered in the Imperial Parliament to be a very hard bargain with the Imperial Government, and only after great difficulty was it able to get the concession that for every £1,000 of this cheap money expended in the settlement of migrants, another £1,000 could be expended on the settlement of the people already in Australia. Subsequently the amount was extended to £1,500, and a migrant was defined as any person who had arrived in the Commonwealth within three years of our receiving the proposed assistance. The Imperial Government also agreed that this money might be applied to all manner of developmental projects, not only the opening up of new land, and the provision of roads did water supplies, but also the encouragement of secondary industries. Having got so much, on the first occasion m which we find ourselves in difficulties we a?k the Imperial Government, while giving us the advantages of cheap money, to waive its right to have British, migrants settled in the Commonwealth. Such meanness is not in keeping with either the present industrial situation or the future credit and status of the Commonwealth. By its method of dealing with this matter the Government has been putting the cart before the horse. The manner in which the matter’ should have been dealt with was by consultation between the Commonwealth and State Governments with the object of ascertaining the exact needs of the States and whether money could be found otherwise for developmental works which had been put in hand or whether all migrants could be assisted. In New South “Wales, for instance, the Wyangla dam is being built with migration money, and’ has commitments extending over several years. It will take several years to complete. Western Australia has embarked on a £3,000,000 farm scheme, South Australia and Victoria are building certain railways, and Queensland has some developmental projects in hand which are all dependent on migration money. The States should have been consulted to see whether they would be able to manage without this cheap money. It must be remembered that these works will take years to complete.
Ari examination of the migration figures is enlightening. The number of arrivals in Australia in excess of departures in the first nine months of this year was 4,159. In the nine months of last year it was 19,476, or a decrease for this year of 15,317. Three years ago about 40,000 migrants came to this country in one year, but this year the number will be only a little over 4,000. The economic condition of Australia has brought about this state of affairs. It was not necessary to defame the prestige and credit of the nation abroad by seeking relief from one of the conditions of the Migration Agreement. It is absurd to suggest that a country with such wonderful resources as Australia can- not absorb a few thousand people every year. Under the agreement only persons who are proceeding to some land settlement or development project under the Empire settlement scheme, or who are assured of employment and arc otherwise acceptable to the Commonwealth, can be brought here under the conditions set out in the Migration Agreement, and that should have been a sufficient safeguard. The Government was ill advised to make this move, for it must necessarily have a bad effect on Australia. Within two or three days after the announcement had been made by the Government that assisted migration would be discontinued, a British newspaper stated that the British Government intended to slow down with the construction of the Singapore base, and it suggested that that was done as a reply to the action of this Government in proposing to discontinue assisted migration. If we do not perform our duties under the Migration Agreement we cannot be surprised if the other party to it takes some action that, will not be in our best interests. The policy of the Government in this regard is without vision. One of the greatest needs of Australia is a rapid increase in population. I believe that if we bring more people here there will be an increase and not a decrease of employment, because many of our industries will.be able to expand on account of there being a greater demand for goods produced.
Honorable members opposite are always talking about the need for improving our home market. The way to do it is to increase our population. One of the main bars to an increase of production is our sparse population. In Queensland in 1913-14 the amount charged against the revenue to cover the loss on services which should have been reproductive was £309,000; last year it had grown to more than £2,200,000. In other words, it was necessary last year to take nearly 17 per cent, of the total revenue to cover the losses on these works, while in 1913-14 it was necessary to take only 5 per cent, of it. A similar situation exists in nearly every State. The’ British Economic Mission which was recently in Australia pointed out in its report that since 1921 about £4,000,000 bad been added to the debt service charge made on our revenue to cover the losses incurred on services which should have been reproductive. Why are these services not reproductive? It is because we have not sufficient people in the country to use them. We have railway systems, buildings, and public works capable of supplying services for millions more people than are present in Australia. If the cost of these services was shared by a larger number of people, the losses could be reduced and in time totally eliminated. The best way for us to increase our population is to bring to Australia our kith and kin from other parts of the Empire. They would then be able to help us to do the work of the country.
– The way the honorable member’s Government tried to assist the country was by abolishing arbitration.
– We did nothing of the kind. If our policy Had been approved, there would still have been State Arbitration Courts. That lie was good enough before the election, but it will not pass here.
– Order !
– I withdraw the word “lie” and substitute “incorrect statement.” We shall probably be here for about three years. In that time we ought to face economic facts. If we are prepared to stand four square to the actual position, we may be able to solve some of our problems. We all recognize that this is only one cold douche that the Labour party will throw upon migration. The Government, as everybody knows, is opposed to migration, but if it suspends assisted migration it will strike a vital blow at the country’s development and progress.
The alteration which has been made in our defence policy will also have a serious effect upon Australia. We have been told that the Government desires to reduce the huge amount of money which’ is being spent on defence. When honorable members opposite were on this side of the chamber they endeavoured on every possible occasion to reduce the defence vote. I remember that in one year they endeavoured to cut off £2,800.000 from the Estimates for defence. There are only two ways in which we can make this country secure from foreign aggression. One. is by developing an adequate defence system, and the other is by increasing our population as rapidly as possible. If we do not do one or both of these things, we shall leave Australia open to attack by any foreign foe who care3 to assail us. I believe that we should adopt both measures to ensure the safety of our country. We should encourage people to come here and we should have an adequate defence system. The previous government realized the urgency of maintaining our defence force in a proper condition, and when it left office the various arms of the defence organization were in a better condition than ever before. The Citizen Force establishment numbered more than 50,000, whereas in 1908, before universal training was established, it numbered only 29,000. There are now 10,000 officers and non-commissioned officers in the service, whereas in 190S the number was only 1,696. We now have the nucleus of a defence organization which is essential to the country’s safety, aud it is most regrettable that the present Government should do anything to impair it. Our fleet has been reinforced by two modern first-class cruisers and a supersubmarine. We have u seaplane carrier which will enable us to use the air arm of our defence force effectively and the air service is now in a better condition that ever before. Aeroplanes are arriving at present which will bring the force quite up to date. During the last five years £1,000,000 a year, in addition to tho ordinary vote, has been spent with the special object of making the defence force effective in every respect^ and making a definite step forward in our defence system.
After all this good work has been done, the present Government, without consulting the Council for Defence, which is composed of eminent civilian officers who fought in the naval, military, or air forces during the during the, last war, and of high defence officials, has removed one of the main pillars on which the service rests. Our system of compulsory military training was introduced eighteen years ago by the Fisher Labour Governnent. The present Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) moved the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the
Governor-General’s Speech in which this was referred to in the following terms: -
The Government views with satisfaction the fact that compulsory military training has been inaugurated with complete satisfaction to the people of Australia.
The present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), speaking in 1910 in support of that motion said that the Government was to be congratulated upon having had the courage to provide a system of universal training with a minimum of inconvenience to the parties concerned. If the Government of eighteen years ago was to be congratulated on its courage upon introducing this system the present Government is to be condemned for its cowardice in abandoning it. I do not think any honorable member opposite will dare to say that the Council for Defence advised the Government to take this step. It is interesting to note that although the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) said that the change over would not be made for several months, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) said that it would be made before Christmas. It has been made. The Prime Minister indicated quite clearly that voluntary training has been substituted for compulsory training by the deliberate act of the Government, and not upon the advice of the Council for Defence. He did not try to delude the public.
The first idea of the Government in making this alteration seemed to be to save money. Unfortunately, it will not have that effect. In my opinion, the voluntary system will prove not only less efficient but more costly than the compulsory system. Under a voluntary system the inducements will have to be sufficient to make the service attractive. In the days of the old voluntary system the trainees were paid 8s. per day to attract recruits. Under the existing compulsory system they are paid only 3s. or 4s. a day. At present every employer must give his employees leave for compulsory drill. Under the new voluntary system the trainees will be unpopular with employers, because employers will have to allow them leave from their work to attend parades, and they may discriminate against recruits or penalize their business. Eighteen years ago the members of the Labour party voted for compulsory military training because it was democratic. What has made it undemocratic? One of the first measures passed by the Commonwealth Parliament after federation made every adult male between the age of eighteen years and sixty years liable for the defence of the country. A logical sequence is that defence training should be compulsory. We know very well that in the United States of America the democratic policy of compulsory service was adopted immediately the country went to war. The only way in which the voluntary system can be made effective is by retaining the camps; but we have been told that all camps are to be abandoned for the next seven months. It seems to me, therefore, that there will be no efficient training under the new service. Last year the camps cost £81,156 and the training of non-commissioned officers abroad cost £15,734, making a total of £96,884 in all. Other contingencies cost £43,000, of which £18,000 was for clothing. We are now told that in order to induce men to enlist under the voluntary system, tailor-made suits trimmed with brass braid will be provided. I understood that honorable members opposite were opposed to military show of any kind, but apparently their prejudices can be conveniently discarded when it is necessary to bolster up any scheme that they have in hand. If the same period of training is to be undergone under the voluntary system as the men have to put in under the compulsory system the cost will be very much greater. My experience of voluntary training in the old days is that it is costly and unsatisfactory. The four years of compulsory training that our men had done before the war proved to be of very great value to the troops. We have the interesting sight to-day of honorable members opposite sitting cheek by jowl with a gentleman who formerly belonged to another party, but who went to all possible lengths to claim credit for the introduction of compulsory training. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch), when a Liberal party supporter, used to state on the hustings and in Parliament that the Liberal party introduced compulsory training. Labour members used to claim that they were the great heroes who devised the scheme; yet these men who introduced it and vied with one another in claiming kudos for it now join in killing this infant which they themselves brought into being. We must insure this country by having an adequate defence. It is not pleasant to pay fire insurance, but it is. a safe and wise policy to do so. Our defence force is the insurance of this country. As a self-respecting nation we must have some means of maintaining our security. I look forward, as many others do, to the day when disarmament will be brought about. It will be a wonderful blessing when it is no longer necessary for the nations of the world to provide themselves with arms. I do not believe that the world is yet ripe for that. I believe that national interests, national jealousies, and the difficulty of settling people in some of the overcrowded countries must engender war. It is true that the League of Nations may be an impeding factor in the production of wars and that by arbitration we may lessen the number of wars, but, if they are to cease altogether, human nature must be completely transformed. Every proposal brought forward at the Disarmament Conference should be closely scrutinized by the Australian representative. If there is one thing more important than another to maintain the peace of the world it is the continuance of the British Fleet, and by that I mean the fleets of all parts of the Empire on the seven seas which unite and at the same time divide this great Empire. That fleet must be maintained if we are to maintain the integrity of the British Empire. During the last 100 years there has been no greater factor in keeping the peace of the world than the existence and supremacy of the British Fleet. For that reason alone I ask the Australian representative at the Disarmament Conference to scrutinize closely all proposals for disarmament, and to examine thoroughly the doctrine of the freedom of the seas which America is continually talking about. That doctrine may prove to be defective having regard to the safety not only of Australia, but also of Great Britain herself in time of war. Had the Declaration of London, which was endorsed by a Liberal Government in Great Britain in the first decade of this century, been in operation during the late war we should have had a much more difficult task in preventing munitions from being shipped into Germany. We should make certain that at the Disarmament Conference the interests of Australia are preserved, and I urge the Government to submit any decision that the Australian representative may make, to this Parliament for approval.
– That was not done in respect of the Washington agreement.
– I am not responsible for what was done in respect of the Washington agreement. To ensure our safety it is essential that this Parliament should ratify any decision made by its Australian representative at the Disarmament Conference.
In the opinion of many people in Aus- “ tralia, the continuation of the work at the Singapore Base is essential for the safety of Australia, and I urge that it should be proceeded with in accordance with the plan originally laid down in 1924, when the agreement was arrived at with the British Government for Australia to build two cruisers. At that time there was a definite undertaking that, in exchange for assistance given by Australia to imperial defence in the matter of cruisers, &c, the work at the Singapore Base should continue. In addition, New Zealand has made certain certain monetary contributions on the understanding that the Singapore Base will be constructed on the lines originally suggested.
I am glad that Australia is to be represented at the Imperial Economic Conference, and I urge the Government toinsist on the maintenance of the present preferences in respect of the great exports of Australia. We have certain industries, such as the dried fruit industry, which, if it were not for preference, would be in a parlous position. This is not a party question. Whatever the domestic policy of Great Britain may be, every member of this House should do his utmost to continue the present preferences. One of the best methods of ensuring the economic independence of the British Empire is to develop our far-flung areas, and this can only be done by the continuation of the preferential arrangement, which, in the past, has given us entrance to the British markets.
– It may be possible to devise some better scheme.
– If some better scheme can be devised, well and good; but till then we must keep present preference in respect of the sale of our exports. We are now in the middle of the export season. During the last few months our difficulties in respect of trade and commerce have been greatly accentuated by our lack of credit and money abroad, and if anything happens to interfere with the shipment of our exports during the next four or five months, it may be very injurious to Australian commerce and employment. I suggest to the Government that, whatever plans it might have in mind, it should not interfere with the conditions on the waterfront until at least the completion of the export season. During the last fifteen months, much lias been done to bring about industrial peace on the waterfront. There has been a greater period of quiet, more continuous work and more efficient work than before as the result of the operation of the Transport Workers Act.
As I stated at the beginning of my speech, my party will give every assistance to the Government in bringing about industrial peace. It will offer constructive criticism, but it will not place any obstacle in the way of the Government simply for the purpose of holding up business. It desires, during the next three years, to do what it can to enable- Australia to get out of the depression into which it has fallen, because of the low prices ruling for our great exported products. The members of the Country party in this House are fully prepared to assist, the Government to end the present condition of distress and unemployment so that Australia may be put on the high road to prosperity, to stay there, if possible, without interruption.
.- It seems strange that no member on the Government side has seen fit to support the Governor-General’s Speech, but evidently they can find no words of commendation for it; they realize how barron is the policy of the new Government. f desire, Mr. Speaker, to congratulate you on your elevation to the Chair, but at the same time I regret that you have seen fit to do away with certain trappings which previously were associated with your office. It has been reported in the press, and I sincerely hope it is untrue, that you propose to dispense with the wig.
– Mr. Speaker looks better without it.
– The honorable member himself could certainly do with a wig. Of course you, Mr. Speaker, by dispensing with the wig may be actuated by the Government’s desire to practise economy in every direction. But in this case the Government is not concerned as it is well known that you have to purchase the wig yourself. Whatever may be the reason for the absence of your wig, Mr. Speaker, I sincerely hope that you will order one immediately so that you may properly adorn your office in accord with past traditions. It is the practice of judges when presiding over courts to wear their wigs and to insist upon those appearing before them being correctly garbed. I regret, also, that the mace has disappeared from this chamber, because it added, to some extent, to the ornamentation of the House. I urge you, Mr. Speaker, to take the necessary steps to restore it to its customary place.
It has been reported that it is not the intention of the Prime Minister to occupy the Prime Minister’s lodge at Canberra. That lodge was not built for any particular person. It was built to be the official residence of the chief citizen of the Commonwealth. If it is proposed to lease the lodge I suggest to the Government that it should exercise care as to the term of the lease. Sooner, perhaps, than many of us realize, another gentleman may become Prime Minister; and he may desire to avail himself of the privilege of occupying an official residence that is in keeping with the dignity of his office. I, therefore, urge the Prime Minister to reconsider the decision to which he has come. He should be the last person to belittle the high position to which he has attained. It is a cheap, nasty gesture, which would ill become any gentleman who had been chosen as the Prime Minister of Australia.
The barren document that was read yesterday by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, contains one or two rather striking paragraphs. It says that next year we shall have submitted to us a measure designed to improve the working of the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The mover of the motion that we are now discussing (Mr. Holloway) stated this afternoon that he considered that that act would be vastly improved if it conferred upon the court the power to make a common rule in industry. That question was dealt with also by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). Any person who has made a study of industrial affairs knows that action along the lines suggested cannot be taken until there has been an amendment of the Constitution. I should like to know, therefore, whether the Government proposes to take a referendum of the people to determine whether the court shall have the . power that it does not now possess. The administration of the act cannot be materially improved without an amendment of the Constitution. In 1926, members on both sides of the chamber who had had experience of the working of the act pointed out that the only way in which the court could be made a more efficient instrument for the regulation of industry was by bringing about an alteration of the Constitution. In the last four years there have been three general elections and one referendum; therefore another referendum might not be out of place.
– If there were another election the result would be a further depletion of the ranks of honorable members who sit opposite.
– There will be an election soon enough. Some honorable members opposite should be the last to talk about holding one in the near future. The people have had an opportunity to recover from the hysteria from which they temporarily suffered and, having found that many promises made by Government candidates have not been fulfilled, would very likely reverse their verdict. The outstanding promise was that a fortnight after the elections, if the Labour party were returned to power, the coal mines would be opened. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has been keeping very quiet lately concerning the position on the northern coalfields of- New South Wales.
– Appropriate action will be taken in due course.
– The elections were held on the 12th October last. More than a month has since elapsed, yet the wonderful schemes of the party opposite for the settlement of the coal and other industrial disputes have not borne fruit. All that it can do is convene another conference in the hope that some scheme may be evolved to bring about peace and goodwill in industry. I suggest that it would be a good plan to attempt to prevail on the miners’ leaders to exhibit a spirit of sweet reasonableness. I feel certain that if. the suggestion of the Leader of the Country party (Dr Earle Page), to hold a secret ballot of the miners, were adopted, many of the men would vote to return to the work from which they have been absent for so many months.
– Will the honorable member go among the miners and conduct the ballot? They are free agents.
– I have other work that fully occupies my attention. Does the honorable member suggest that such a mission would be a dangerous one? Previous speakers have drawn attention to other promises that have not been carried into effect; and apparently there is little likelihood that they will be. The primary producers were promised 6s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat. Certain farmers have not the opportunity that is given to those who live in the cities to keep themselves abreast of the news of the day, and they may believe that any promise of a candidate is likely to bear fruit. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) promised that, immediately he was returned, he would see that 6s. 6d. a bushel was paid for the wheat garnered in the coming harvest. The harvest is now commencing; yet he has not made any move to induce the Government to pay the 6s. 6d. a bushel which he promised would be paid. I cannot conceive in what way the difference between world’s parity and 6s. 6d. a bushel would be made up; but I am confident that the honorable member for Calare will find it difficult to explain to his electors why he did not keep his promise. I have heard Labour candidates on different occasions, in various places, make all sorts of promises; and unfortunately, notwithstanding the high educational standard, of our people, there are still many who swallow that kind of dope.
– What about the promise of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) to bring in a housing scheme and a system of child endowment ?
-The housing scheme is now in operation. Legislation to give effect to it was passed despite the opposition of many honorable members who now occupy seats on the Government benches.
The Government proposes to abolish the system of compulsory military training; but no effective scheme has yet been suggested to take its place. It appears to me that there are very peculiar circumstances surrounding the action of the Government. Australia has been shorn of practically the whole of its defensive organization. That, to me, is a very serious matter. I do not suggest that there is anything sinister in the action of the Government, but I do contend that it has acted precipitately. As a rule, when hostilities are contemplated, a nation does not give lengthy notice of its intentions. We all remember the suddenness with which the last war began in August, 1914. If there should be another outbreak it would come with equal suddenness. In a previous speech that I delivered in this Parliament, I pointed out that, on every occasion when a particular nation had gone to war, it had struck immediately the declaration had been made. If there should be another upheaval, we might not have sufficient time to mobilize our forces. Such an outbreak might occur in the interregnum between the abolition of one system of defence and the inauguration of another. These considerations impel me to criticize the Government for having rushed hurriedly into the abolition of compulsory military training and thus left Australia practically defenceless.
– What about the sacrifice of the seven auxiliary cruisers?
– I am not going into ancient history now, I am dealing with up-to-date matters.
– That was only a year or two back.
– The people of Australia are very keenly interested in the suspension by the Government of the compulsory clauses of the Defence Act, and they are waiting to learn what is to be substituted for them. Something should be done at once, because it is not desirable that this country should be left unprepared. Other countries have been unprepared in the past, and have paid the penalty. I assume that honorable members behind the Government are as anxious as we are that Australia should be properly defended, and I therefore rely upon them to see that an adequate defence system is put into operation as soon as possible. If a system better than the compulsory one is brought forward, I shall most likely support it, because my chief desire is to ensure the security of Australia, whether through a system of compulsory military training, a militia system, or voluntary training.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) to-day asked two or three very pertinent questions of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), and we are still awaiting his answers to them. Not only have we in this House a right to know the answers to those questions, but the people of Australia have also the right to be informed. The Prime Minister was asked what the Government proposed to do in regard to the restriction of alien immigration, but no reply whatever was given to the question. This matter is intimately related to that of national defence. In dealing with foreign immigration it is necessary for governments to tread warily, as it is possible to give serious offence to other nations, in the manner as was given by the United States of America to Japan some years ago.
In view of the fact that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech contains so little in the way of a legislative programme, I am not surprised that no one on. the Government side has risen in its defence. Not even the Prime Minister himself has come to the rescue of this child of his brain, nor has he made any effort to justify its contents.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I shall ascertain when it will be convenient for His Excellency the Governor-General to receive the Address-in-Reply, and honorable members will ‘be- informed accordingly.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House will, at a later hour this day, resolve itself into a committee to consider the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House will, at a later hour this day, resolve itself into a committee to consider the ways and means for raising the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
Messages reported transmitting estimates of revenue and expenditure and estimates of expenditure for additions, new works, buildings, &c, for the year ending 30th June, 1930, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be printed and referred to Committee of Supply forthwith.
– Since the new Government assumed office there has not been sufficient time to call for fresh estimates in detail’ from all departments and construct an entirely new budget based upon the policy of the new administration. Therefore, the major portion of the Estimates of the late Government has been adopted.
It was the duty, however, of the new Government to examine the Estimates and revise and amend them so far as was necessary to disclose the true position -of the Commonwealth finances. This examination revealed that in some important instances the late Government had greatly understated the expenditure requirements and over-estimated the probable revenue. The late Treasurer has grossly miscalculated both the cost of the definite commitments of the departments and services for the year, and also the probable revenue.
It is now apparent that if the actual requirements of the year had been provided for in connexion with war pensions, repatriation, other war services, old-age pensions, iron and steel products bounty, prospecting for oil and sundry other items, for all of which definite commitments had been entered into, the estimates of expenditure should have been increased by approximately £500,000.
It is also apparent that the customs and excise revenue, land tax and income tax, and other receipts, would have fallen short of the estimate by at least £1,050,000. The late Treasurer would, therefore, have finished the year with a deficit of about £1,200,000, instead of a surplus of £360,000, as promised by him in his budget speech.
In addition to the inescapable commitments for which inadequate provision had been made in the budget, the late Government proposed to effect a saving of £60,000 at the expense of the maternity allowances by amending the act and altering the basis of qualification, and £140.000 at the expense of officers of the Public Service. The saving in the latter case was to be accomplished by abolishing the Public Service Arbitrator and amending the Public Service Regulations to provide for reduced allowances in respect of overtime, Sunday pay, higher duties, travelling, and other services.
There were also certain arbitrary reductions made in respect of the ordinary votes of departments, the anticipated savings in connexion with which would not have been realized during the year.
The Commonwealth general elections, of course, were not foreseen when the budget was being prepared, but the responsibility for the expenditure involved rests with the late Government. The cost of these elections was £105,000, for which provision is now made in the new Estimates.
Moreover, I have found that if Mr. Justice Pike’s recommendations relating to soldier land settlement loans are accepted by the Commonwealth and the States, the Commonwealth will be involved in a liability of £284,135 for interest overpaid by the States during the period 1st July, 1927, to 30th June, 1929. No provision for this liability was made in the late Treasurer’s budget although his Government was prepared to accept the recommendation. The present Government is of opinion that whilst there may be objections to the whole of the liability being charged against the accounts of the present year, provision should be made in this financial year to meet some proportion of the liability which falls upon the Commonwealth, and £100,000 is being set down for that purpose, and is included in the item “ Other war services “.
The increased expenditure provided for in the new Estimates in respect of Departments and Services (Part I.), for which either no provision or inadequate provision was made in the late Treasurer’s budget, can be summarized as follows: -
The Government proposes to reduce the Defence Department expenditure by £150,000 for the year. The net increase in expenditure, therefore, to be provided for in the new Estimates is £657,340.
The revised estimates of expenditure in respect of Part I. may be set out as follows : -
For the year 1928-29 the corresponding expenditure was £51,899,077.
The amended Estimates disclose an increased expenditure over the previous year of £744,424. As I have already shown, this increase is almost entirely the result of the financing of the late Administration.
It is the intention of the present Administration as soon as time and opportunity permit to make an exhaustive examination of the entire Governmental and semi-Governmental organizations of the Commonwealth with a view to putting an end to extravagance and terminating the employment of highly-paid but unnecessary office-bearers and functionaries.
In recent years the Commonwealth expenditure has been burdened with the cost of a number of more or less ornate Boards and Commissions whose work obviously has not justified the cost of their upkeep and maintenance.
Moreover the consolidated expenditure carries heavy charges for certain departments and branches of Government, some of which have become obsolete and others that have grown beyond all reasonable requirements, and also for services that are not, in all cases, a proper obligation for the Commonwealth to carry.
It will be recognized that a reorganization cannot be effected by a stroke of the pen, but must come gradually to be effective. The best way of arriving at economy in the Departments and throughout the Service generally, without sacrificing efficiency, is by making progress gradually in accordance with a wellconsidered plan. In this way the Government hopes to put a check upon the annual growth of expenditure.
Part II. - Business Undertakings.
The budget estimates of the late Government were: -
The estimated receipts included a sum of £300,000 to be derived from an adjustment of charges for telephone and parcels post services. The Government proposes to amend the charges for these services, but the estimated revenue will fall short of the original estimate by £30,000.
The estimated expenditure of £13,060,839 was arrived at after making a cut of £123,000 in the departmental estimates arising out of the proposed reductions in allowances to officers to which reference has already been made. After reviewing the position, the Estimates have been increased by £50,000 and the revised amount of £13,110,839 will, it is anticipated, be sufficient to carry on the services satisfactorily and at the same time enable the present rate of allowances to officers to be continued.
The revised estimates are: -
No alteration has been made in the estimates of expenditure of the Commonwealth railways.
The departmental estimate of revenue for the Trans-Australian railway was increased by the late Government’ by £10,000 to £376,000 in anticipation of further increase of traffic in connexion with theWestern Australian Centenary celebrations. It is not now expected that this increase will be realized and the estimate has been amended accordingly.
The revised Estimates of the Commonwealth Railways are: -
The estimated deficiency is £10,000 more than was estimated in the Budget.
Part III. - Territories.
With regard to territories, examination shows that a saving of £10,000 can be made in the services for North Australia and Central Australia and the revised Estimates have been amended accordingly.
Under Federal Capital Territory provision has been made to recoup New South Wales payments made to residents of the Territory under the Child Welfare Act of that State. The amount involved is £550 and a corresponding saving has been made from another item.
Practically the whole of the expenditure of territories is a loss that has to be borne by the general revenue. Under the revised Estimates the loss will be £617,630.
Part IV. - Payments to or for the States.
Included in the budget Estimates of my predecessor there were two amounts relating to South Australia, viz.: -
This is the first year in which a proposal is put forward to give assistance to South Australia by means of a special grant. The proposal arises from a claim by South Australia which was investigated by a royal commission. The royal commission recommended a grant of £1,000,000 to be spread over two years. In his budget speech the late Treasurer announced that his Government proposed to give assistance of that sum to South Australia, but it was to be spread over three years instead of two years as recommended. The amount of assistance was to be £360,000 for the current year and £320,000 a year for each of the two succeeding years.
The amount of £60,000 for relief in connexion with the Port AugustaSalisbury railway represented the annual liability for interest and sinking fund in respect of that railway and the relief was to be conditional on South Australia transferring to the Commonwealth the control of the railway. It was claimed by the late Government that this proposal represented permanent assistance of £60,000 to the revenue of South Australia.
The Premier of South Australia has indicated that his Parliament would not agree to this railway being handed over to the Commonwealth. The present Government, after considering the matter, proposes to make a special payment of £360,000 for the current year. This is equal to the total assistance contemplated by the late Government but without any condition as to the railway mentioned. It is also proposed that a payment of £320,000 shall be made in each of the next two years to complete the payment of the total grant of £1,000,000 recommended by the royal commission.
With regard to Tasmania the late Government proposed to make a special grant of £250,000 a year for five years. The present Government has adopted that proposal and has made provision accordingly in the Estimates now submitted.
The revised Estimates of expenditure for payments to the States in the current financial year, omitting that portion of the interest on State debts which is recoverable from the States, are as follows : -
Owing to the continuation of adverse monetary conditions in Australia and abroad, the Australian Loan Council has found it necessary to curtail drastically the public works programmes of the Commonwealth and State Governments for the present year. Each of the governmental authorities affected has a large amount of urgent developmental work of a thoroughly sound character already planned and ready to be put in hand, and in every State there is a large number of unemployed workers eagerly seeking employment.
So far as the market in Australia is concerned, the decline in the prices of our principal primary products, combined with diminished production owing to adverse seasonal conditions in certain parts of Australia, has resulted in a considerable reduction of the national income with its inevitable effects on the amount of money available for investment in Government loans. The high rates of interest obtainable in investment markets abroad has also had the effect of drawing funds from Australia, and in that manner further depleting our diminished resources.
It is unfortunate that coincident with adverse seasonal conditions and business depression in Australia, financial conditions overseas should be so stringent. With easier conditions abroad the Loan Council would have been justified in raising external loans in order to meet the pressing requirements of the States and the Commonwealth, and, by the increased activity, contribute to the reduction in unemployment.
One of the factors making for instability of employment is irregularity of public expenditure by central and local governing bodies. The most variable element in this is loan expenditure, which tends to grow in times of prosperity and to diminish in times of depression. The direct effect of this is to increase the fluctuations in unemployment, not only through the restriction of employment by public authorities but also by its reactions upon business activity in general.
Activity on public works should be reduced to a minimum when other employment is abundant, and should be accelerated to its greatest capacity when the general industrial situation is stagnant.
The present Government will endeavour to work in accordance with this plan and will seek the co-operation of the State governments to the same end.
The last loan for new money in the London market was in January of the present year when £8,000,000 was raised at 5 per cent., the price issue being £98. Since then there has been acute financial stringency. The Bank of England rate reached 6-J per cent., interest rates generally increased, and the market prices of all government stocks declined. As a means of temporary finance, twelve months’ treasury-bills to the amount of £5,000,000 were discounted in London in September, the average rate of discount being £6 3s. per cent, and the effective rate of interest £6 lis. per cent.
The last Australian Loan in New York was raised in May, 1928. Adverse conditions in that market have been in evidence for many months and the raising of a further loan has been quite impracticable.
In the Australian- market the last loan to be floated for new money was in February of this year when £7,600,000 was raised at 5^ per cent., the price of issue being par. The market conditions con- tinued to be satisfactory for some months, but in the last three months there has been a decided drop in the prices of government stocks, due partly to the adverse local conditions to which I have already referred, and partly to the reflection here of the stringent money position overseas.
When the Government assumed office it was faced with a depleted treasury and the necessity of raising an immediate loan for the needs of the Commonwealth and the States. The earliest opportunity was taken by the Government to meet the chief officers of the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks, when a profitable discussion took place on the general financial position. As a direct outcome of the discussion, the Treasury immediately issued in Australia a loan of £10,000,000 bearing 51/4 per cent, interest with an issue price of £98, and a currency of five years, the yield to the investor being £5 14s. 4d. per cent. The banks unanimously agreed to underwrite the loan.
Further temporary finance has been arranged for in London by the issue on 20th November of treasury-bills for £5,000,000. The bills will mature on 30th June, 1930. They are being discounted at an average rate of £5 7s. 6d. per cent., the effective rate of interest, being £511s.
The Bank of England rate has recently been reduced from 61/2 per cent, to 6 per cent., and it is hoped that we may experience better financial conditions generally in the near future.
The loan programme announced in the budget proposals was as follows: -
The amount of £5,520,345 was the figure arrived at in accordance with the decision of the Loan Council in August that there should be a further all-round cut of 20 per cent, on the respective Commonwealth and States’ programmes submitted to and approved by the Loan Council earlier in the year.
The proposals now submitted do not exceed the total of this programme, but certain adjustments have been made within the total allotment.
These adjustments are as follow: -
These alterations provide for a net increase of £210,000, but it is proposed to keep within the total’ programme by making general savings. The expenditure will be closely watched to see that the total allotment is not exceeded.
The £25,000 increase for River Murray works will be required in the event of the three States concerned being able to provide additional funds for these works without increasing the total of their loan programmes.
The estimated expenditure on the various works and services is as follows : -
In his budget speech the late Treasurer, in dealing with the debt position, stated that the gross debt of the Commonwealth at 30th June, 1929, stood at £377,621,573.
I find on examination that this figure does not include a sum of £5,000,000 which the late Commonwealth Government agreed to write off the indebtedness due by the States in respect of Soldier Land Settlement loans. Separate agreements were entered into between the Commonwealth and respective State governments subject to ratification by the respective Parliaments. Four States passed ratifying acts, but before the other two States could do so the whole subject was re-opened at a conference between the Commonwealth and the- States in 1927. The ratification of the agreement was accordingly deferred, but the Commonwealth agreed, without prejudice to its rights, to defer collection of interest from the States.
Under the recommendations of Mr. Justice Pike, which were accepted by the late Government, a further sum of approximately £2,600,000 will have to be written off as from 1st July, 1927, subject to agreement by the State governments and ratification by all parliaments.
If both these sums are allowed for, the debt of the Commonwealth as at 30th June, 1929, will stand at £7,600,000 more than the sum quoted in the budget speech.
The writing off of the further sum of £2,600,000 would result in an annual loss to the Commonwealth of interest amounting to £162,000, and would necessitate the refund to the States of £284,135 of interest paid during the last two years. The late Treasurer allowed for a loss of £152,000 in the present year, but, as I have already stated, made no provision to meet the liability of £284,135.
The Government is convinced that the present system of credit control in Australia has many defects which militate against the best use being made of the credit resources of the nation. These defects mostly arise from the fact that the private trading banks have in recent years almost exclusively arrogated to themselves the power to determine the bank, discount and exchange rates, and the extent to which credit shall be expanded or restricted; and, equally important, the classes of business or industry to which credit facilities shall be extended.
The organization of credit and its use should more and more be regarded as one of the great services of the nation to be controlled by national institutions.
With that object in mind the Government , will shortly give consideration to the question of remodelling the Commonwealth Bank and increasing its scope and functions.
The late Treasurer’s budget proposals provided for the following estimates of revenue under Part I. : -
The estimate of £43,750,000 for customs and excise included £41,000,000 on the basis of the old tariff and £2,750,000 to be received from the new duties which were imposed on 22nd August. The Customs Department, after careful review, now estimates that on the basis of the present tariff the new duties will produce £250,000 more than was originally anticipated and the old duties £750,000 less. The revised estimate by the department is, therefore, £43,250,000, or £500,000 less than the budget estimate.
In view of a recent adverse decision of the High Court on the matter of crown leaseholds, there will be a loss on land tax of £200,000 compared with the budget estimate of £2,800,000.
The revised estimate of income tax by the Commissioner of Taxation is £9,700,000 or £300,000 less than the budget estimate. This reduction is due in part to inability to pass legislation tightening up taxation laws in time to obtain any appreciable benefits in the assessments of the current year.
The estimate of £1,000,000 for amusement tax included £360,000 from the entertainments tax at present in force, £600,000 from a proposed tax of 5 per cent, on gross receipts from charges of admission to entertainments, and £40,000 which was not explained in the budget, but which was probably intended to represent further entertainments tax consequent upon a re-adjustment of charges of admission. The present Government, does not intend to levy the proposed 5 per cent, tax on gross receipts. The estimated receipts from entertainments oan, therefore, be set down at £360,000 or a reduction of £640,000.
Coinage revenue was estimated to produce £76,500. The revised estimate will fall short of the original estimate by £44,000. There will also be £10,000 shortage of receipts on the item “Interest on loans to States for soldier, land settlement”.
The shortage of revenue on the foregoing items totals £1,694,000 made up as follows : -
After deducting this shortage there would remain a total revenue of £62,504,000 towards meeting the revised estimates of expenditure.
It is convenient at- this stage to summarize the revised estimates of expenditure which must be provided for. They total £64,574,442 made up as follows: -
There is thus a gap of £2,070,442 which has to be bridged before the budget can be balanced on the basis of the revised estimates.
To cover this gap additional revenues of £1,200,000 will be obtained this year from an adjustment of the Customs and Excise Tariff, and it is also proposed to raise a further £885,000 by an increase in the rates of income tax.
The revised estimate of customs and excise revenue is £44,450,000, or an increase of £700,000 over the budget estimate. I have already stated that according to a recent estimate by the Customs Department the collections to be realized if the present tariff remained in operation would fall short of the budget estimate by £500,000. The amendments of the tariff which it is now intended to impose are thus expected to yield this year a net increase of £1,200,000 above the present tariff.
In the Customs Schedule which it is proposed to lay on the table of the House at a later hour, the items which were embodied in the resolution tabled in this House on the 22nd August last have been retained, but with variations in the rates of duty proposed at that time. In certain cases increases will be proposed, but in regard to the excise duty on beer thu increase of 3d. per gallon will be reduced to Id. per gallon. No further increase in duty on excise spirits delivered from customs control in bottles is contemplated, but increases on excise spirits other than rum delivered for home consumption in bulk will be proposed. The schedule which will be introduced covers 221 items and sub-items of the customs tariff, and 18 items in the excise tariff.
In the amended duties, special attention has been paid to agricultural products and groceries, textiles, including such lines as woollen piece goods, apparel, hats and caps, socks and stockings, metals and manufactures thereof, including wireless appliances.
An increase of Id. per gallon is proposed on petrol. This action is being taken to maintain the margin of protec-tion for petrol distilled in Australia from enriched crude petroleum.
Amended duties on dressed timber, manufactures of wood and furniture will be provided.
Increased duties will be imposed also on leather and rubber manufactures. The motor car industry, especially the manufacture of the enclosed type of bodies, has had further attention, and the fixed rate of duties on this class of body will be increased. Attention has been devoted to parts of chassis, such as springs and gears. The intermediate and general tariff rates on assembled chassis will be further increased.
Cotton-growers, together with the spinners of both cotton and woollen yarns, will receive increased assistance by way of duties under the proposed schedule in order to help the absorption of our own raw products, cotton and wool.
Under the Excise Tariff the rate of duty of 2s. per gallon on beer imposed by the schedule tabled on the 22nd August last, will be reduced from the 21st December next, that is, the day after the schedule referred to expires, to ls. lOd. per gallon.
An endeavour is being made to assist the cigar-making industry by admitting cigar leaf - which it is admitted is not being grown in Australia - at the rates of duty prevailing before the 23rd August last. The import duty on cigars will be increased, in order to give the local cigar manufacturer a larger margin of protection against the imported cigars. In addition, it is proposed to reduce the excise duty on hand-made cigars to 3d. per pound, and on machine-made cigars to ls. 3d. per pound - rates which were recommended by the Tariff Board.
The Government has felt that with the vast number of workers who are unemployed, every avenue should be explored whereby the production of goods necessary for the domestic markets of Australia should be conserved to Australian industries, and that consumers who insist upon having imported goods must pay for that privilege.
Although the tariff proposals will result in increased customs receipts which will benefit thi3 year’s revenue, they are being imposed with the primary and definite object of protecting Australian industry. The Government recognizes the need to be on guard against attempts to make use of an inflated customs revenue as a pretext for relaxing protective vigilance.
A more comprehensive statement of the nature of the proposals and their anticipated effect, and a plain intimation of what is expected of the persons interested in and controlling the protected industries, will be given to the committee by the Prime Minister and Minister for Customs at a later stage.
Income Tax. “With regard to income tax the late Government announced its intention to impose a super tax of 10 per cent, in the rate of tax on individual taxpayers whose taxable incomes exceed £2,000. The amount to be realized from this super tax was not stated in the budget speech, but I have since ascertained that it was £400,000, and this amount has been included in the revised estimate of £9,700,000 furnished by the Commissioner of Taxation.
The present Government proposes to raise £10,585,000 this financial year from income tax. The existing rates of tax will be increased by the imposition of a super tax as follows: -
The new super tax will not affect a’ny person whose net income, that is, whose total income less allowable deductions, is £450 or less in the case of a single person, £500 or less in the case of a married taxpayer with one child, £550 or less in the case of a married taxpayer with two children, or £600 or less in the case of a married taxpayer with three children.
The super tax is estimated to produce this year £1,285,000. Of that amount, £400,000 was included in the budget estimate of the late Treasurer. The additional taxation proposed by the present Government is, therefore, designed to produce £885,000 more than the amount proposed to be collected by the late Government. Although the super tax is expected to yield £1,285,000 in the present year, the total yield from income taxes for the year will be only £743,000 more than the actual receipts of last year.
I think it can be asserted that taxation of every description falls ultimately upon the wages and incomes of all who labour by hand or brain; or upon rent, interest, and profits derived from land and property. Where the taxes are imposed in the first instance upon commodities they are ultimately a charge upon the income of the consumers, who pay in increased prices for such commodities.
To comprehend clearly the relative burden of taxation and the real incidence of its varying forms, it is necessary to treat all taxes as being deductions from income, as indeed they always are in the last resort. By this means our interest can be sharply focussed upon the crucial issue; namely, what incomes have and what have not an “ ability to pay.”
The Government has kept this doctrine clearly in mind in formulating the super tax upon incomes which I have just outlined. The taxes which can be applied most equitably to the varying capacities of the individual taxpayers are unquestionably direct taxes.
The administration of the present income tax law in the last few years has brought to light many anomalies and defects. In order to cure these and to simplify the law as far as practicable it is intended to submit to Parliament early next year ‘ an amending Income Tax Assessment Bill.
Revised Estimates ofRevenue.
Under the proposals now set forth, the revised estimates of revenue for the present financial year will be -
The summarized estimates of revenue and expenditure, as revised and explained, are therefore -
At the 30th June, 1929, the accumulated deficit stood at £4,987,718. Towards the liquidation of this deficit the late Government proposed to apply the sum of £1,200,000, representing the accumulated income arising from liquidations ofex-enemy properties, in addition to such surplus on the year’s transactions as they had hoped to achieve.
I have already shown that, on the basis of the late Treasurer’s budget, there would have been no surplus at the end of the year to apply to this purpose ; but, on the contrary., there would have been a further heavy deficit.
The present Government sees no prospect, in the present financial year, of paying off the deficit bequeathed to us by our predecessors, nor, indeed, of making any substantial contribution towards its reduction. As to whether the deficit will be liquidated from Consolidated Revenue in the near future, or whether provision will be made to fund it, will be considered and determined at a later date.
The purpose for which the accumulated funds accruing from the liquidation of ex-enemy properties will be applied has not yet been determined.
I think it will be generally realized that the new Government has assumed control at a period of extreme difficulty. We inherited an empty treasury, and an impaired credit at home and abroad. However, we do not view the future with alarm or pessimism. Australia has wonderful recuperative powers, and a stout-hearted and industrious community. If we are blessed with good seasons, our troubles will soon disappear, andwe shall commence a new era of progress and prosperity.
I regret that printed copies of the Estimates are not available for circulation. I was called upon to make my speech somewhat earlier than I anticipated. I hope that copies will be available for distribution to-morrow.
I move -
That the first item of the Estimates, under Division I. - The Parliament, namely, “ The President, £1,300,” be agreed to.
That the consideration of the General Estimates be postponed until after the consideration of Estimates for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c.
The following paper was presented : -
The Budget (No. 2) 1929-30.- Papers presented by the Honorable E. G. Theodore, M.P., for the information of honorable members, on the occasion of opening the Budget (No. 2) of 1929-30.
Ordered to be printed.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 November 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19291121_reps_12_122/>.