12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. NormanMakin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General a copy of a letter sent to him by His Royal Highness the Duke of York to express thanks for the copy sent to him of the roll of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the occasion of the ceremony of inaugurating the sittings of the Parliament at Canberra.
– The newspapers report that the conference between the mine-owners and representatives of the miners which was convened by the Prime Minister has been abandoned. Has the honorable gentleman any information to that effect? If the conference has unfortunately collapsed, what does the Government propose to do ?
– The conference which met in Canberra last Monday resumedits sittings in Sydney on Tuesday and Wednesday, and further proceedings have been adjourned until to-morrow morning.
– The fact has been brought to my notice that many persons have made arrangements with speculative builders to purchase houses when completed through the Commonwealth housing scheme. When proof is forthcoming that a bona fide arrangement of that character has been made, although not expressed in a written agreement, will the Treasurer see that application for an advance under the housing scheme receives favorable consideration?
– I informed the House yesterday that the only action I have taken to curtail the scheme is to draw the attention of the housing authorities to the inability of the Government to provide all the funds that apparently they wore led to expect would be available. The Commonwealth Bank is now advancing money in accordance with arrangements it had made with several of the housing authorities. Particulars of these obligations were set out in a reply I gave to a question by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) earlier this week. The Commonwealth Bank was led to expect that the Government would make available £1,000,000 towards meeting the bank’s advances for housing purposes, but there is no prospect of that money being available before June next.
Dismissal oftemporary Employees.
– Some weeks ago I received a letter from a postal servant in Corrimal stating that he had received notice of dismissal, and asking me to endeavour to have the notice cancelled. Following the advent of the Labour Government, an announcement was made that all notices of dismissal had been cancelled, and I wrote to my correspondent accordingly. To-day I received further advice thathe has been given threedays’ notice of dismissal. He is a married man with a family, and as the Christmas season is approaching, I ask the Postmaster-General to do something to avoid adding him to the already large army of unemployed.
– Probably the postal servant to whom the honorable member has referred is a temporary employee.
– He has had six years service.
– Many temporary employees who, unfortunately, have had to be dismissed, have had much longer than six years’ service. The conditions of appointment of temporary employees are prescribed by the Public Service regulations, and when work is scarce the department has no alternative but to get rid of the temporary employees; the permanent officers have a legal right to be retained in the service. The notices of dismissal which had been issued to temporary employees in the Postmaster-General’s Department before the general election were not cancelled by the present Government; they were suspended pending an inquiry into the circumstances. We find that the dismissals are in accordance with the regulations made by the Public Service Board, but every effort is being made to find employment for the displaced officers, particularly during the Christmas season. In some cases it will be possible to provide other employment; in other cases itwill not be possible. I assure the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) that anything that can possibly be done to assist his correspondent and other dismissed employees will be done.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether in operating the proclamation relating to the embargo on the export of stud sheep he will follow the invariable practice in connexion with embargoes, whether on imports or exports, by exempting sheep which are the subject of a firmcon tract made before the issue of the proclamation ?
– Every proposal to export stud sheep will be considered on its merits. Any person who claims to have effected before to-day sales of stud sheep for export to other countries, must furnish full particulars of the transactions to the Minister, and the whole of the circumstances will be taken into account before a decision is reached.
– Owing to the great importance of the decision of the Government regarding the prohibition of the exportation of stud sheep, which may interfere with existing contracts, will the Prime Minister state whether the responsibility for the Government’s action in placing an embargo on any export will lie with the Minister for Trade and Customs alone, or with the Government as a whole?
– Responsibility for any action taken by any member of the Government in this matter will be shouldered by the Government itself.
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse).
– I suppose, Mr. Speaker, you will see me some time?
– I require the honorable member for Richmond to withdraw that remark.
– I did not know that it was offensive.
– It must be withdrawn.
– If it is offensive, I withdraw it.
– The practice I follow at question time is, when several members rise simultaneously, to give the call first to such of them as have not already asked a question. The honorable member for Richmond has already asked one question this afternoon.
– The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) has asked two.
– I do not remember that the honorable member for Lilley has been called more than once. When each member who has risen has asked a question, I shall call the honorable member for Richmond.
– Will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of making the embargo apply only to the export of sheep to foreign countries, exempting the British Empire?
– The Government does not desire to act in a way that could be regarded as unfriendly to any country, and I remind the honorable member that the greatest danger that the wool interests of Australia have to face will come from a British dominion which has been im porting Australian stud sheep, to enable it to produce fine wools of the type produced in Australia.
– Does the Prime Minister mean South Africa?
– Yes. The colored labour employed in that country is very much cheaper than the labor used in Australia. The advantage of the prohibition would be destroyed if the suggestion of the honorable member were adopted.
– When I was addressing the House last night upon the embargo proposed to be placed on the export of stud sheep, thehonorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) interjected “ Talk about Woolloomooloo,” an interjection which I resent, because it casts a reflection upon a portion of my constituency. I feel the remark the more keenly because I am the father of nine children who were born in Woolloomooloo, and are among the finest samples of manhood and womanhood to be found in Australia. Many persons who were born in that part of Sydney are to-day holding the highest positions in the commercial community, not only in Australia, but also in other parts of the world.
-I desire to explain that my interjection was in the nature of a question put to the honorable member, asking him whether he had obtained his knowledge of the wool industry in Woolloomooloo. I had no intention of disparaging that portion of the electorate of East Sydney, and if I hurt the honorable member’s feelings, I regret it.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received from the British Government a reply to the proposal made to it by him, that the assisted passages clauses of the Migration Agreement should be suspended? If he has received such a reply, will he inform the House of the character of the communication?
– I have not yet received a reply, although I expected one to-day. As soon as I get it, I propose to let this House and the State Governments know its nature.
– What steps does the Prime Minister propose to take with regard to the Coal Commission, in view of the following f facts : -
On Wednesday the 20th November, the Commission asked to hear both owners and miners representatives on the question as to whether the Union were to be allowed to question owners’ witnesses on trading information in possession of the Union. Previously Mr. Miller, the miner’s accountant, had been stopped by the Commission when seeking to cross-examine Mr. Newman, Manager of the Invincible Colliery, on letters actually initialled by the Manager.
– I am afraid that I cannot permit the honorable member to read extensively in the manner in which he is now doing. I desire to assist him, but I think that he will realise that he is going beyond the limits of quotation allowed in explanation of a question.
– In view of the fact that the miners have been refused permission to ascertain the trading profits of the owners, and seeing that this has created the opinion among them that the commission is only a “ frame up,” a farce and a fraud, designed to boost the case for the owners, will the Prime Minister take steps to cancel any proposed further payments to the commission?
– The royal commission inquiring into the conditions of the industry has been in existence for some six months, and has asked for an extension of its appointment; but the Government has decided that its operations must terminate on the 31st December next, and its report be presented by that date.
– Will the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) take steps to ascertain whether the Navy Department made a contract with the Shell Oil Co. in January, 1929, to supply oil fuel to meet fleet requirements, whether that contract expires in December next, and whether oil is not being delivered under it in overseas and foreign ships, with Asiatic and other foreign crews? Further, will he give consideration to ensuring that the products of the Commonwealth
Oil Refineries Limited in which the Commonwealth has a controlling interest, are utilised for defence purposes?
– Inquiries will be made, and the information sought will be obtained.
– It is reported in the press to-day that the rates charged to telephone subscribers have been advanced 10 per cent., and that as an offset against this increase the mileage radius has been increased in the metropolitan area from 10 miles to 15 miles. Is that a fact, and, if so, why has descrimination been made between metropolitan and country subscribers, since the latter are only allowed a 2-mile radius?
– This Government is doing just what the last Government proposed to do, with this difference, that it is collecting a smaller amount of increase. The new telephone rates are not yet in operation, but when they become operative they will provide for an annual collection of £57,000 less than the. amount intended to be collected by the last Government. The increased revenue could not be obtained without increasing the cost of the service to some individuals, but the charges in connexion with local exchanges of from one to 300 lines will not be increased. The subscribers to these exchanges will continue to receive their telephones for a ground rental which is less than it costs the department to make the telephones available. In the cities- there will be an increase of 10 per cent, in the ground rental. In Melbourne and Sydney the radius of the exchanges will be extended to include a comparatively small number of subscribers in addition to those at present served by the central exchanges. The country districts, and particularly the smaller centres, will not be placed at any disadvantage. The additional facilities that have been granted in the cities will be paid for by the increased rental and other charges.
– Do I understand from the Postmaster-General that there will be no increase in trunk line charges in connexion with country services?
– I was dealing with local calls. In the past the smaller country exchanges have paid only Id. each for local calls, as against 1¼d. charged to subscribers connected with other exchanges. That penny rate will not be increased. There will, however, be a readjustment of trunk line charges throughout Australia.
– In view of the fact tl at the Government has decided to abolish compulsory military training, is it proposed to take steps also to abolish preference to unionists and all forms of compulsory unionism ?
– There is no analogy between the subjects.
Withdrawal of Goods from Bond - Working Conditions in Secondary Industries.
-Hai the attention of the Minister for Customs been drawn to a public protest made by the United Licensed Victuallers Association against a certain whisky firm withdrawing a large quantity of whisky from bond on Friday last, the day on which the new tariff schedule was introduced? Has he any idea whether this firm had advance information of the intention to table the schedule?
– I thought that the honorable member for Warringah was sufficiently conversant with what occurs on the introduction of new tariff schedules to realize that some persons and firms are always ready for a gamble. I suppose that in this instance persons in Sydney and elsewhere gambled.
– Seeing that the Prime Minister has announced that if any group of manufacturers attempts to exploit the new tariff the Government will withdraw the protection granted, is he prepared to discountenance any attempt on the part of the workers in our secondary industries further to reduce the hours of work, except, of course, in cases where the health of the workers is in question? Will he also use his influence with a view to breaking down the’ re sistance of the workers of Australia to a properly-controlled system of piece-work wherever practicable?
– This Parliament has no power whatever to deal with industrial matters.
– I should not have been surprised had such a question come from a member who had had no ministerial experience, but I am astonished that it should have been asked by an exMinister. There is no analogy between the cases bracketed by the honorable member. Whenever it is necessary to do so I shall repeat the statement I made yesterday, that if any group of manufacturers attempts to exploit the public by means of the high protective duties that have been granted for the purpose of establishing our industries the protection that has been granted will be withdrawn. In regard to what I might describe as the rhodomontade of the honorable member, all I shall say is that the Commonwealth has no power to regulate industrial matters in the way that he suggests. I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the attempt of the Government with which he was associated to break down the influence of trade unionism in Australia landed him where he is.
– Is it a proper assumption that while the Prime Minister is prepared to police the manufacturers of this country in respect of the tariff, he is not concerned under any circumstances with what the workers may do?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not entitled to make any such assumption.
– Is the Prime Minister yet prepared to announce the policy of the Government with respect to the future of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard? Is it intended to endeavour to absorb additional men there ?
– The proposals of the Government in regard to the dockyard have not yet been determined. I said last week that we were inquiring into the negotiations entered into by the last Government to lease the dockyard. These had reached an advanced stage. , We have obtained a legal opinion on the situation, but have not definitely dealt with it. The Government desires to extend the work of the dockyard. With that end in view, a letter has been sent to the head of each Commonwealth department requesting that a representative be appointed to meet the management of the dockyard with the object of considering how much of the Commonwealth work can be done at Cockatoo Island.
– The Prime Minister has just answered a question on Government policy put to him without notice by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill), yet the other day when I asked such a question in regard to preference to soldiers the Prime Minister replied that it was not the practice to reply to questions relating to Government policy. I ask the honorable gentleman whether the replies are not inconsistent?
– I am not aware of any inconsistency. The question put to me by the honorable member for Warringah related to a matter of administration.
– Last week I asked a question concerning the proposed resumption of diplomatic relations between Great Britain and the Union of Soviet Republics of Russia. One of the main points of the reply related to the mutual undertaking that there would be no propaganda detrimental to either party _to the agreement. I notice by this morning’s press that in the opinion of the British Government this matter has not been satisfactorily settled, and I therefore ask the Prime Minister whether he has been advised of any change, and if so, will he make a further statement to the House on this very important subject?
– We have received no further communication from the British Government on this subject. The British Government, after negotiating with the Soviet Government, announced its readiness to make a treaty or treaties with it on a number of outstanding questions, negotiations in connexion with which will take place after the exchange of ambassadors. The first step to be taken on the exchange of ambassadors will be the mutual pledge concerning propaganda. The last communication that we received on the subject was one asking whether Australia was prepared to join with Great Britain in this pledge so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. This Government replied that it was willing that the British Government should make the pledge on behalf of Australia.
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
What was the total amount of claims paid or incurred in each State during the same period for -
– The following figures represent the position as at 30th June, 1929 : -
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Mr. D. CAMERON (through Mr. Mackay) asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
How many permanent war pensions have been granted to date, and under what medical nomenclature have they been awarded?
– No record was kept until recent years of pensions made permanent. The number of ex-members whose pensions have been made permanent in the past six years is as follows: -
In the early period during which no detailed record was kept, a great many pensions granted fordefinite traumatic injuries, such as those specified in the fourth and fifth schedules to the act, and many for minor injuries, were made permanent.
No separate record of the medical nomenclature has been kept in respect of pensions which have been made permanent.
Mr. D. CAMERON(through Mr. Mackay) asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Will he furnish, for the information of honorable members, a comparativestatement indicating the number of war pensions in force and the annual liability in respect thereof for the period covering the financial years 1918 to 1928?
On Mr. Anstey placing his reply on the table -
– I rise to a point of order. I understand that a Minister, when replying to questions upon notice, must, before stating that the reply will be incorporated in Hansard, seek the permission of the House.
– The permission is assumed to have been given when no objection is taken to the course proposed. If any honorable member objects, the Minister must read his reply; but the objection must be made at the time when the Minister asks for the concession. The Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) asked for permission to incorporate his reply in Hansard, because it was somewhat lengthy. No objection was raised, and following the practice adopted by previous Speakers, the consent of the House was taken by me for granted. I ask honorable members, if they wish to raise any objection to the incorporation of Minister’s replies in Hansard, to do so when the Minister seeks that privilege.
– The Minister for Health and Repatriation did not ask for permission to incorporate his replies in Hansard.
– I am afraid that I was not following the actual words of the Minister for Health and Repatriation. I had in mind the request made by the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney). The Minister for Health and Repatriation will be required to follow the same practice as any other Minister or member.
– The number of pensions in force and the annual liability over the years 1918-1929 is as under : -
If the honorable member desires more detailed information I would recommend to his attention page 183 of the Budget Papers, 1929-30.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
With regard to the following official statement of Brigadier-General Dodds, AdjutantGeneral, as to the new military scheme : - “ Our best experts had gone carefully into the matter, and had come to the conclusion that in certain possible and most likely circumstances, Australia was liable to a large scale invasion “ - will the Minister state what are “the most likely circumstances” in which a large scale invasion may occur.
– It is not considered desirable, in the public interest, to elaborate the statement referred to.
Inefficiency of Western Australian Service
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether his attention has been drawn to complaints regarding the inefficiency of the broadcasting system of the country districts of Western Australia; if so, what action is being taken to supply an efficient service ?
– Complaints have been made from certain country districts that the change in wave-length recently effected of the Perth station 6WF has been disadvantageous, and that reception, particularly during the day time, is less satisfactory at great distances. The department was aware that the change inwavelength must have this effect, but it has been very beneficial from other standpoints, and much greater power is being radiated than hitherto. Western Aus- , tralia suffers the same disabilities as are evident in the other States, and the position can only be improved by the establishment of additional stations. A commencement has been made with the execution of a programme of additional stations throughout the Commonwealth, but unfortunately it will be some considerable time before additional stations can be erected in Western Australia.
Promotion of Postal Clerks
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Reciprocal Arrangements with New Zealand.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether any definite arrangement has yet been arrived at to bring about a reciprocal agreement with the Government of the Dominion of New Zealand in regard to invalid and old-age pensions?
– This matter has been considered on many occasions, but it has been found that the disparity existing between the pensions schemes of the Commonwealth and New Zealand, together with the additional cost involved, prevents the adoption of a scheme of reciprocal payments between the two countries.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to establish an automatic telephone exchange at Victoria Park, Western Australia, as promised recently?
– Yes. Tenders for the equipment will be invited at an early date.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 26th November, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) asked me the following question, upon notice -
Whether he will supply particulars of the amounts of money to be expended, and the nature of the work in the various States under the £34,000,000 agreement between Great Britain and the Commonwealth for land settlement and public works schemes to date?
The information desired by the honorable member is contained in the following statement : -
The table hereunder shows the amounts authorized by the British and Commonwealth Governments for each uncompleted scheme for the various States, along with the amount advanced to date, and the amount still to be expended.
The class of scheme and the nature of the work then follows the table: -
Victoria. 8.Maffra-Sale. - A combined land settlement and public works scheme. The public works comprise the construction of roads, erection of a butter factory, and water conservation. It is proposed to establish about 200 new farms in the area. The main channels have been constructed, houses and subdivisional fences have been erected, and the settlement is well advanced.
New South Wales.
Lachlan River (Wyangala Dam) Scheme. - This is a public works scheme involving -
In addition to the expenditure contemplated under the above-mentioned schemes, advances totalling £3,014,898 have been made to States governments in respect of actually completed schemes under the £34,000,000 agreement.
The following paper was presented: -
Quarantine Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1929, No. 126.
Section within Federal Capital Territory.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of tin Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz.: - Construction of Federal Highway, within the Federal Capital Territory.
The proposed work comprises the construction of the Federal Highway from the Canberra City area near the junction of MacArthur-avenue and Northbourneavenue, then in a north-easterly direction a distance of five miles 3,439 feet to the Federal Capital Territory boundary. The proposal forms part of a scheme for the construction of a road to give direct connexion between Canberra and Goulburn via Geary’s Gap and Collector. This road will provide a shorter route of some 60 miles as against the present route via Queanbeyan, Bungendore and Tarago - 68 miles. It would be costly and difficult to improve the latter route owing to the severe grades and the inferior location of the road. Funds have been provided for the construction or reconditioning and strengthening of the
Toad from Canberra to Goulburn, partly from the special grant by the Commonwealth Government of £250,000, partly from Federal Aid Roads funds and partly from State funds. Construction is being arranged by the Main Roads Board of New South Wales, in respect of the portion of the road in New South Wales, and by the Federal Capital Commission for the portion inside the Federal Capital Territory. The work is to be of a uniform charactor throughout; that is, with a pavement 20 feet wide, formation 28 and 30 feet wide, necessary bridges and culverts 20 feet between kerbs, steepest gradient one in twenty, and all curves super-elevated in accordance with modern practice. The work is being carried out generally in stage construction, thus ensuring consolidation before any paving; and permitting investigations to be made with a view to using any local materials available. It will be finally surfaced with bitumen. The proposed work will cost approximately £50,000.
– Is not this road at present under construction?
– Yes; some contracts have already been let. One contract has been let to John Fowler & Co., for formation, earthwork, and culverts, &c., in respect of the whole length of road, the contract price being £17,980 7s. 7d. Minor contracts have also been let for fencing, &c., involving an expenditure of approximately £500. An amount of £2,500 has been advanced to the Federal Capital Commission to date to meet progress payments in respect of the contracts referred to. The previous Government did not feel called upon to submit this proposal to the Public Works Committee because it formed part of the whole scheme for road construction between Goulburn and Canberra. The major scheme was submitted to Parliament and approved by it. The point has now been raised, however, that it would be advisable to refer this particular portion of the work to the Public Works Committee, and there is no reason why it should not be done.
– Who raised the matter now?
– The Secretary to the Public Works Committee. I lay on the table plans, &c., in connexion with the proposed work.
Mr.R. GREEN (Richmond) [3.15].- I understand that, in reply to a question asked some time ago, it was stated that this road from Canberra to
Goulburn would be opened early in the new year. Will the Minister inform honorable members whether the completion of the entire work is likely to be delayed by referring this matter to the Public Works Committee?
– I should like the Minister to state when the whole road from Canberra to Goulburn will be completed and open for traffic. When the arrangement for its construction was made with New South Wales it was stated that the work would be completed within eighteen months. I should like the Minister to state when we may expect the completion, not only of that section of the road which we are now considering, but of the entire length of road between here and Goulburn. The completion of this road is of great importance to honorable members and others desiring to visit Canberra.
– I am not in a position to say just when the road will be completed; but I will obtain the information. In reply to the point raised by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), I can say that he need not be afraid that the work will be delayed by referring this proposal to the Public Works Committee for consideration and report. Some of the work is being carried out now, and will be continued during the course of the investigation. No delay will be occasioned as a result of the inquiry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That I have leave to bring in a bill for an Act to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act, 1911-1927.
The bill deals with the proposal to take power, which would be exercised through the Commonwealth Bank, to control the gold reserves of the Commonwealth, and the exportation of gold from Australia.
– I do not wish to delay proceedings, but I should like the Treasurer to give the House some indication as to how far he proposes to go with the measure to-day, and an assurance that we shall have reasonable time to consider the measure.
– We propose to take it to the second-reading stage.
.- While I offer no opposition to the course proposed by the Treasurer, I agree with the Leader of the Country Party (Dr. Earle Page) that the proposal is of such importance to the banking and financial interests of this country, that when the honorable gentleman has made his second-reading speech he might consent to allow the further consideration of the measure to be deferred until Parliament meets in the new year.
– It would be inadvisable to defer the further consideration of the bill. With the concurrence of the House, I propose to deliver my second-reading speech today, and then to adjourn the debate until to-morrow or Tuesday. Honorable members may be labouring under a misapprehension regarding the provisions of the bill, but that, I hope, may be removed by my speech. The bill is a perfectly simple measure; but, as I shall explain later, it is necessary to enact.it before Christmas.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill brought up by Mr. Theodore, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill relates only to the control of gold reserves within Australia. Briefly, its object is to provide for the concentration of the gold reserves of the Commonwealth under the control of the Commonwealth Bank, the idea being to make them more mobile. It proposes to give authority to the Commonwealth Bank to require returns to be made by individuals or institutions that may hold gold, and to requisition either the whole or any portion of the gold so held for the purpose of strengthening the gold reserves of the Commonwealth. Control is to be exercised over the export of gold from Australia. Acting upon the advice of the Commonwealth Bank, the Treasurer may withhold authority to export gold. There will be an exception in the case of persons who may desire to take a few sovereigns when travelling from Australia. Although the proposal is of great importance, I do not think that any sound objections will be urged against it when the necessity for mobilizing our gold reserves is realized by those who are interested in the matter. Similar action has been taken in many other countries. Quite recently the Parliament of the United Kingdom conferred upon the Bank of England power similar to that which we propose, by means of this legislation, to confer upon the Commonwealth Bank. In consequence of recent developments in the trade situation between England and the countries to which she exports her products, the exchange position has been against Australia, and there has been a tendency to drain this country of its gold. While that tendency exists anxiety is naturally caused to our bankers, but especially to the authorities of the Commonwealth Bank, because they are obliged to hold certain gold reserves to back up the Australian note issue. The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank, Sir Robert Gibson, had an interview with the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and subsequently with me’ ; and there have also been conversations between the Prime Minister and the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank upon this subject. The views of those authorities are concisely stated in a letter in which they have made a definite recommendation to the Government. I quote the following extracts from it:-
For some very considerable time past the board has viewed with much disquietude the general financial position, more especially its aspect as regards the situation respecting the availability of Australian credits in London. It does not come within the ambit of the board to enter upon any views as to London borrowing, but it does fall within the obligations of the board to point out to the Government of the day such positions as they may arise, which affect the whole financial position of Australia. As you are aware, the requirements of Australia in London have been met from two sources of supply, viz.: - through realization of exports from Australia, and from public borrowing by Australia on the London market. The funds so made available have been, used to pay for imports and discharge interest and debt obligations accruing in London. A stable exchange position as between London and Australia can only be maintained by keeping the financial balance as between Australia and London on an even keel. Owing to various causes, which may be covered by the following, viz.: - unfavorable borrowing conditions in London; reduced values in respect of exports from Australia, due to unfavorable seasons, and a large reduction in wool values, a steady adverse drift has been operating against accumulation of funds in London. So far as has been practicable, this has been met from time to time by adjusting exchange rates as between ‘London and Australia, so as to operate adversely against imports and in favour of exports. The nominal rate of. telegraphic transfer exchange on London as of to-day is 35s. per cent., but owing to the scarcity df London credits, the banks generally are unable to meet requirements, even in spite of the fact that higher rates are being asked for, so as to deter importations. At this stage it should be pointed out that the nominal rate of 35s. per cent, is what is known as above “ gold point “, that is to say, that it would be cheaper to export gold from Australia to London rather than pay 35s. per cent, exchange. When this point has been reached, it becomes necessary for those in charge of gold reserves to see that the position does not get out of hand, and this immediately affects the position of the Commonwealth Bank.
In view of the situation which I have just outlined, a position arises where those who require London credits, and are unable to obtain them through the usual banking channels, may present notes at the Commonwealth Bank, obtain gold against same, and ship it overseas to obtain outside credit. The position which I am now outlining to you is not merely a possibility, but the actual state of affairs referred to has now arrived, and the board, after exhausting every possible expedient to meet the situation, now -finds itself definitely faced with proposals which must have the effect of depleting the reserve of gold, and further taking the control of the situation out of the board’s hands. It has therefore become necessary to lay the matter before your Government for. such action as you may deem it wise to take, and at the same time offer your Government such advice as seems to the board wise.
My board is of the opinion that the last resource which should be adopted would be any course which meant even temporary departure from the operation of the’ gold standard on the part of Australia; such measure would reflect most adversely against Australia in respect of oversea credit, and incidentally have a most serious effect upon our abilities to raise loans abroad. As a measure which would very materially help the position in the meantime, and in addition, having regard to precedent, would in the opinion of the board be a sound measure of permanent legislation, my board definitely recommends your Government to consider immediately the bringing in of legislation on similar lines to that which now exists and is operating in England. I do not propose to traverse the effect of such legislation, as perusal of the acts referred to will fully acqua’int you with the position, but I might briefly say that such legislation would place the Commonwealth Bank in immediate control of all gold in Australia by whomsoever held.
Whilst this legislation in itself would not prevent exportation of gold from Australia, it would place the gold in Australia definitely in the control of the bank. Once placed in this position there would only be one authority in control of the gold in Australia. No doubt, in view of the representations now made, your Government will give the matter your grave consideration, and, needless to say, any desire on your part to discuss these matters with myself or my board can be arranged for at any time mutually convenient, and any assistance from the executive of the bank which may be desired at any time will be arranged for.
Honorable members will observe that the board recommends strongly the action proposed in the bill. This matter is urgent. Because of the exchange position the gold reserves of the Commonwealth Bank are undoubtedly being attacked; I do not mean that the attack is sinister, but because of the necessities that have arisen claims are being made which are draining the gold away. Commercial firms which have funds accumulating in Australia and payments due in London, finding that it costs 85s. per cent, or more to arrange telegraphic transfers, consider it more profitable to ship gold. Naturally, the ordinary banks decline to sell their gold, and send their clients to the Commonwealth Bank, which at present has no power to refuse to pay gold for notes presented. Those in control of the Commonwealth Bank are apprehensive of what may happen if these demands continue on a large scale. The chairman of the board mentioned to the Prime Minister and me that one large importing firm had indicated that it might want £2,000,000 worth of gold to meet its own requirements. Little imagination is needed to realize that if operations on that scale extended to many of the large houses the gold reserves of the Commonwealth Bank would soon be depleted.
– The Treasurer is beginning to realize the value of the export trade.
– I have always realized that the export trade is very important, and, indeed, essential. The private banks, recognizing the position, are exercising a certain amount of control over the importing interests by making it increasingly difficult for them to get credits in. London, but that control cannot be exercised to the extent of preventing commercial houses which have funds accumulating in Australia from making demands upon the Commonwealth Bank for gold. It would be useless merely to mobilize the gold reserves - to requisition them from the private banks and other institutions and concentrate them in the Commonwealth Bank - unless there were also some control of the export of gold. Therefore, the bill empowers the bank to ascertain the quantity of gold in the hands of individuals and corporations, to requisition such gold in order to strengthen its own reserves and concentrate it under one authority, and finally to control the export of gold.
– Are these provisions to be applicable to. a visitor entering Australia with gold in his possession?
– I am not aware that many strangers bring gold into Australia; but I do not think that this bill will involve interference with them. Certainly there will be no interference with the ordinary steamship passengers who wish to take 25 sovereigns with them, and if new arrivals bring gold with them and want to take it away when they depart, that, no doubt, can be arranged. The export of even large quantities of gold will be controlled only at the request of the Commonwealth Bank.
– Is there any provision in the bill for maintaining the convertibility of Commonwealth notes into gold?
– No; but there is nothing in the bill to interfere with the present statutory provisions regarding the convertibility of notes.
– There is no pro-, vision to prevent a person from getting gold for notes?
– Any individual will still have the right to present notes to any value at the head office of the bank and get gold in exchange for them. If the honorable member is thinking of the possibility of that right defeating the object of the bill, I remind him that there would be no advantage in presenting £1,000,000 worth of notes and de- manding gold for them, because that gold could be immediately requisitioned again by the Commonwealth Bank. So long as gold reserves are controlled by the bank, and export cannot take place without permission, there will be no gain to any individual or corporation in converting large sums of paper money into gold.
– Will gold be available for the settlement of exchanges?
– Yes, but after the bill is passed it cannot be shipped abroad without permission.
– Will the Treasurer act only on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Bank?
– The Treasurer will act only on the advice of the bank, but when he receives such advice he will act on his own discretion. Although no official intimation was given of the Government’s intention to introduce this legislation, it seems to have been fully known by the newspapers.
– Was that not because of the statements made in Adelaide by Mr. Speaker?
– So far as I am aware Mr. Speaker made no announcement in Adelaide regarding the control of gold. I call the attention of the House to some of the newspaper comments on this proposal. A cablegram from London, which was published in all the leading daily newspapers in- Australia on the 23rd November, included this passage -
The announcement of the Australian Government’s policy upon gold reserves has aroused considerable interest in financial circles. It is the general opinion that such control, if properly exercised, will be beneficial to the Australian community.
In the Melbourne Herald of the 25th November the following comments appeared :- -
The Federal Government’s bill for the control of gold reserves in the Commonwealth, and for other purposes which appear to be implied in that proposal may have an appreciable beneficial effect on the banking position as a whole. There is room for some further elasticity in its operations, as was pointed out first by Sir Ernest Harvey, and later by the British Economic Mission. The country now needs the utmost that banking credit can do for it on reasonably safe lines. . . . If it enables a further use to be made of Australian gold reserves than is now made of them, and overcomes the resistance to any change in that direction which has been maintained by two or three of -the trading banks, it will do some good and involve no great risk.
The Sydney Morning Herald in the course of a leading article published on the 26th November, said: -
The control of the export of gold is practicable, but the power is one which any wise government would use sparingly.
The leading daily newspapers of the 27th November published a cablegram from London containing some comments by the Morning Post, including the following : -
The proposed Australian Bill placing the gold reserves under central control, as is the case in England, has created a favorable impression among London financiers.
I quote the following passage from a special article published in the Argus on the 21st November : -
It is assumed that the bill will relate to the gold reserves held by the banks, as these are the only institutions which have extensive gold stocks. The last quarterly returns of the ordinary trading banks of the Commonwealth show that at September 30 the total gold reserves were £23,701,160. The Commonwealth Bank’s Note Issue Department on October 28 held £22,451,497 in gold, which represents 52.36 per cent, of the note issue. Apart from the Note Issue the Commonwealth Bank held gold to the value of £1,410,145. Since the end of September some gold has been exported by the trading banks, .and the known gold reserves in Australia to-day would probably amount to about £44,000,000.
The amount of gold held in Australia by private banks and other institutions is not definitely known, but I think the Argus is correct in saying that the amount is approximately £44,000,000. If that sum can be mobilized it will enormously strengthen the position of the Commonwealth Bank, and provide increased facility for dealing with the exchange position. That it should have that facility no one will deny. The bill is simple, and I again stress the need for its early passage, because although this is not emergency legislation it is urgent. The Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board has emphasized the need for the passage of the bill at once, in order that the board may control the position that has arisen in Australian banking circles to-day.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Earle Page) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 22nd November (vide page 194) on motion by Mr. Brennan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of the bill is to amend the Arbitration (Public Service) Act so that the present arbitrator may retain office for another year. The Commonwealth Public Service consists of 28,00C officers, and harmony within it is of the greatest importance to all sections of the community. It exists for the one purpose of serving the public. This House has always been anxious that the conditions under which the officers of the Public Service are required to serve the public shall be fair and equitable as between them and the Government on the one hand, and as between the various officers themselves on the other hand. We have evolved a remarkable and complex system of control, which can be explained only by historical conditions. Certainly nobody starting de novo to devise a system of control would dream of introducing one such as that which is in existence to-day. The Service is governed by four or five distinct authorities. In the first place, the Public Service Act contains a complete system of control by the Public Service Board and departmental heads. The Public Service Act itself contains, not only sections providing for this control to be exercised, but also sections which themselves deal with conditions of employment, pay, salaries, discipline, and the like. So there is direct control by the act itself, in accordance with the will of Parliament. Secondly, regulations may be made under the act. They are made by the Public Service Board, and they must be approved by the Governor-General. They are laid on the table of both Houses, and either House may disallow them. These I regulations deal with infinitely various matters, such as pay, salary, allowances, conditions of employment, discipline and the description of duties and functions. That is the second source to . which we have to go in order to ascertain the conditions obtaining in the Service. Then, thirdly, under another statute, the Arbitration Public Service Act, a Public Service Arbitrator has been appointed. He is empowered to entertain claims made by organizations of public servants. Those claims, though made only by organizations, may relate either to the conditions of employment - to use a general phrase - of a class of members of the Service, or to the conditions of employment of a single member of the’ Service. The Arbitrator has power to overrule the Public Service Act itself. He can also overrule the regulations made under that act; so that the Arbitrator is in a position to set aside a deliberate enactment of both Houses, and also a regulation that applies as the result of the judgment .of the Public Service Board and the Government of the day, _ if either House fails to take any action in the direction of disallowance of the regulations. That is a remarkable power to vest in one man, and, of course, it must be safeguarded in some way. Ever since 1911, when a system of arbitration was applied to the Public Service, an award made by the Public Service Arbitrator that is inconsistent with a provision of the Public Service Act, or of a regulation under that act, must be reported to this House, and the Attorney-General may give an opinion stating whether or not he considers that there is this inconsistency. Then it is within the power of this House, or of the other branch of Parliament, to disallow that award. So, at that stage, Parliament comes in as another element of control of the conditions of employment in the Public Service.
– Does that depend on there being an inconsistency in the opinion of the Attorney-General?
– In his opinion or in that of the Arbitrator. But, further, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, as distinct from the Public Service Arbitrator, is also able to entertain claims made on behalf of members of the Public Service, where they are members of organizations registered under the Arbitration Act. For example, many members of the Australian Workers Union are engaged by the Commonwealth as temporary employees, and their conditions are governed by general awards made by the Arbitration Court. So there are awards made by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court which govern the conditions of employees of the Commonwealth. I have stated that we have these instrumentalities for controlling the public service, and determining the terms and conditions upon which officers are to perform their duties : the Public Service Act, the ‘regulations made thereunder, the awards of the Public Service Arbitrator, with possible disallowances of those awards, by the Commonwealth Parliament, and, finally, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
In addition to all these agencies, there are, of course, the permanent heads of the departments, with their officers arranged in due order of subordination under them, and they give administrative directions for the performance of the duties of the public servants under their control. These administrative directions have determined, to the most considerable extent, in the past, the work that a particular individual actually does. Honorable members will, I am sure, agree that it is necessary to leave these administrative functions in the hands of the permanent heads of the departments. I direct particular attention to that point, on account of difficulties that have arisen because of certain awards that have been made. I suggest that it is a sound principle that the giving of directions as to the duties which particular officers must carry out shall be left to the permanent heads. Honorable members recognize that these officers, and not Ministers, give these directions. The Public Service is beyond political interference or control, by reason of the provisions of the act. A Minister is unable to make an appointment to the Public Service. We have heard this afternoon the answer given by the Postmaster-General to inquiries made with respect to the employment of persons who desire their positions in the Public Service, permanent or temporary, as the case may be, to be continued. The procedure in regard to all these matters is laid down in the Public Service Act, and I am glad to say that it does not rest with a Minister to make a particular appointment, although, of course, it rests with the Government of the day to furnish the money that alone makes it possible to provide the employment. It will be seen that this is a very intricate and complex system, and experience has shown that it requires overhauling.
– Is the time now opportune for that overhaul?
– I can assure the honorable member that I do not propose to go into the subject exhaustively this afternoon. There are numerous cases of unnecessary conflict and overlapping, owing to the existence of many authorities within the same sphere. It is found, by experience, that the act, the regulations, the Public Service Board, awards and departmental heads, all deal sometimes with the same matters. It has been found that the Public Service Arbitrator has entered the field of administration. He has exercised his judgment in accordance with his powers - I am not complaining of that-but he has exercised it in such a way as to define the duties of particular classes of officers, and definitions of those duties have been given that have been at variance with those which represented the best judgment of the department concerned and the skilled heads of the departments. In a considerable number of cases those duties have been defined by arbitration. I am raising these few points at the present stage for the purpose of inviting the Government, when it reconsiders the matter of Public Service arbitration, to pay special attention to them, because I consider that a very large number of honorable members will agree with me in thinking that they at least require consideration. I shall not give a list of illustrations to support what I have said, but I suggest that the matter of definition of duties is not a proper subject for arbitration ; it is much more a matter for general administration under the Public Service Board. In any public service there must be education and efficiency tests, and those should be prescribed by the responsible heads of the Service; they ought not to be matters for arbitration. I suggest that, in such a matter, the question to be asked is, “Whose mind do we desire to be exercised upon these points?” I think that they are more suitable, for determination , by the , heads of departments than by any_ arbitrator, however capable.
There is another subject to which I shall refer, and it may be of sufficient importance to warrant legislation even in advance of any general measure on the subject. It is provided that awards are to be laid on the table of the House, and, in the case of inconsistency with acts or regulations, the House may disallow them. It has been shown, however, that very serious and important alterations in effect may be brought about by a process of interpretation of existing awards. The interpretations are not submitted to the House, and, therefore, they are not awards that can be disallowed by it. A variation of an award is itself an award, and must be brought before Parliament; but an interpretation of an award is, on its face, merely a declaration of what the award means.
– Has the Arbitrator jurisdiction to interpret his awards?
– Yes, and he is doing it to-day. It has always been assumed that he has that jurisdiction, and it has been frequently exercised. Only recently the effect of one interpretation was to add a charge of £52,000 retrospectively to the department of the post office. That is a very important matter, and it was quite beyond the power of either House to do anything with respect to the interpretation, which related, if I remember rightly, to waiting time, and was quite unexpected by the large majority of those who had been working under the award for a considerable number of years.
– Would consideration of the question, whether or not an award should be disallowed, involve an interpretation of it by the House?
– The matter is not free from difficulties that I can see are in the honorable member’s mind, and I am suggesting that some endeavour should be made to overcome them. The particular point I am dealing with is that an award may be made, and brought before the House, but not disallowed upon the view that a particular meaning attaches to the award. Some time afterwards, an interpretion may be given to the award by the Arbitrator which completely changes the generally understood meaning of _ * it, and’ yet the House has no”” opportunity of exercising its mind as to the interpretation. I suggest that it would be proper to provide that interpretations, as well as awards, should be subject to the disallowance of Parliament. One small example of what I am referring to, with which honorable members may be familiar, affected a branch of the Customs Department. An award was made which provided for overtime at the rate of 4s. 6d. for any hour or part of an hour; a common form of making provision for overtime. After the award had been in operation for some time the interpretation was given that if a portion of an hour were worked before 9 a.m. and a portion worked after 4.45 p.m., or the usual office hours, the two portions worked must be treated separately and counted as two hours, although the total period worked might be less than one hour. I do not think that any honorable member would support such an interpretation.
– Is an interpretation by the Arbitrator an award?
– It has been treated, not as an award, but as a rule for the guidance of the departments, because it has been taken to express the real meaning of the award. If action were taken to enforce an award the significance that would be attached to it would depend on the interpretation.
One other matter which calls for some attention is that of procedure. Hitherto proceedings before the Arbitrator have been substantially the same as those before a law court, that is, viva voce evidence and admissions. Insofar as admissions were not made, the facts had to be proved. The whole burden of this falls upon, the shoulders of one arbitrator, who is, consequently, obliged to do a large amount of work. Serious results have followed this practice at times. Recently the Arbitrator made an error in a particular award, but was not able to re-hear the case for twelve mouths. During that period £S0,000 was paid in certain camping allowances, although the award in that respect was admittedly wrong. The only justification for the payment of this money was the bare legal fact that the award provided for it. It is serious that the public should, in such circumstances, be obliged to pay £80,000 more than was intended. The present procedure is expensive, and I trust that the Government will later take some steps to simplify it. I shall refer to a few cases with the object of calling attention to the number of witnesses called and the volume of evidence recorded. In one claim by the Federated Assistants Association, 70 witnesses were examined and 401 foolscap pages of evidence transcribed. In a certain claim by the Clerical Association, 62 officers were examined and 1,751 pages of evidence taken. In another claim by the same association 100 officers were called and 1,282 pages of evidence transcribed. Another claim by that association involved visits to every capital city in the Commonwealth except Canberra, the examination of 250 witnesses and the transcription of 2,935 foolscap pages of evidence.
– What was the nature of that inquiry?
– It was a claim by the third division officers of the State branches of the Trade and Customs Department. The claim of the Federated Assistants Association in relation to the salaries of assistants of the fourth division of the Service, typists and machinists, involved the examination of 658 witnesses and the transcription of 2,993 foolscap pages of evidence. In the hearing of a claim by the Postal Electricians Union in 1926, 147 witnesses were examined and 1,215 pages of notes taken.
The cost of this system is extraordinarily heavy. There is not only the expense of the tribunal itself, but the witnesses have to obtain leave to absent themselves from their work, and provision has to be made for the performance of their duties while they are absent. Surely no one would seriously suggest that it was necessary to examine 658 witnesses to determine the claim of the Fourth Division officers to whom I have referred. The last Government introduced certain proposals in another place to prevent this waste, and to save money for the public and the Public Service, and also to improve the efficiency of the Service, and deal justly by the public and the Service. Unfortunately those proposals were misunderstood and misrepresented. It was alleged that the Government intended to reduce ordinary wages and salaries in the Public Service.
– It was an attempt to clear the decks to make it possible to do that.
– That is not so. It could not have been the case, for the budget proposals for the current year had already been tabled in Parliament, and they did not make a single reduction in the wages or salaries in the Service. Under the proposals of the last Government, Public Service wages and salaries would have been dealt with by arbitration committees, but all matters affecting the functions of officers and the definition of conditions would have been dealt with by the Public Service Board by regulations approved by the Government and subject to disallowance by Parliament. I was glad to learn during the election campaign from many public servants individually that they approved of these proposals. They realized that the new system was better than the old one, and accordingly supported the Government.
I trust that the present Government will examine all the facts in relation to the existing system. If it does so, it will find that the position generally is unsatisfactory, and cannot be defended in respect of many of the matters to which I have referred. No doubt there will be differences of opinion among honorable members on this subject, but I believe that if a free vote of the House were taken honorable members would indicate their belief that it was not in the best interests of the Service or of the public that the existing system should be continued. The Government will be able to ascertain from the annual reports of the Public Service Board and other sources that experience of the complexity,’ intricacy and waste of the present system has led to general dissatisfaction. Parliament desires to deal fairly with every member of the Public Service, but honorable members on both sides of this House must realize that experience has disclosed that the existing machinery for the fixing of wages, salaries, and conditions in the Service is unnecessarily complex and cumbersome, and is due for a complete overhaul.
It would be unreasonable to expect the Government to introduce at this juncture a complete scheme of reorganization. The bill before us is admittedly a temporary measure. Under it the position of Public Service Arbitrator will be continued for another year. I trust that in the meantime a thorough examination of the position will be made, so that at a later date we may be given an opportunity to substitute for the present system one which will give satisfaction to the public and efficiency to the Service. I shall support the bill.
– I have always regarded the position of Mr. Atlee Hunt as Public Service Arbitrator as anomalous. Formerly he was a departmental head. When he was appointed Public Service Arbitrator there were many protests. However, his decisions have proved to be acceptable to the Service, which is now anxious to retain him. Possibly if another person were appointed in his stead his decisions would not prove acceptable, and there might be a general demand for his removal’. In my opinion it would be much better for the wages and general conditions of the Service to be determined by an arbitration tribunal comparable with the Public Service Boards of the States. Such tribunals consist of a representative of the Government, a representative of the Service, and an independent chairman. The last Government proposed to set up a tribunal under what is known as the panel system, with the object of enabling departmental heads to bring to bear upon the problems of the Service the experience that they had gained during a long period of years. That system has its good points, but I do not think that any tribunal will give ultimate satisfaction unless the Service has complete freedom to select its own representative. The Leader of the Opposition has shown the necessity of defining the functions of the Arbitrator as distinguished from the duties of heads of departments, and he tried to draw a line of demarkation between the two offices. Perhaps a more important definition than that should be made when the Government deals with this question. It might define precisely the tribunal, whatever its nature may be, to which members of the
Service will be entitled to apply. At present they are, when members of an organization, entitled to go before the Arbitrator. It is claimed that by refraining; from joining an organization they may appear as individuals before the Commonwealth Court of Arbitration. If that is so, it means that the members of the Service have the right to select the tribunal which, in their opinion, offers the best prospect of success. The right of selection of any tribunal is opposed to the principle of justice. When private individuals wish to refer their disputes to a court, they have no right to select the court or the judge, who is to try their case.
– I am afraid that that is not quite correct in everycase.
– I think that it is substantially correct in every case, although there is some selection in respect of supreme and local courts. The ordinary individual has no right of selecting the court, or the judge, who is to try his case. The private individual has simply to appear before the judge who may undertake the hearing of it. That principle should be universally applied. The right of selection is a sort of doubleheaded right, and one which, I think, should not be associated with the administration of justice. Those are two objections to the present system of Public Service Arbitration. The bill purposes to continue the principle of the appointment of a single arbitrator by the Government of the day; but that principle is unsound. I hope that the Government will treat this as a purely temporary measure, and that as soon as opportunity offers it will bring forward legislation for the establishment of a tribunal something on the lines that I have suggested.
.- The Attorney-General, when introducing the bill, explained that it was intended to extend the term of the office of the present arbitrator until September of next year. I am sure that honorable members recognize the necessity for doing something of that sort. Mr. Atlee Hunt’s term of office expired on the 6th November last, and as the Government is new to office, I realize that it has had little tune to investigate that position.
– The Arbitrator’s term of office expired before the House actually met.
– Apparently there was a period during which the office was vacant. I trust that the Government will make every effort to examine the working of the Public Service Arbitration system, so that some improvement may be made in it. I think that all honorable members agree that some remodelling of the system is necessary. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) went to some trouble to explain the overlapping that exists under the present system, and the great expense that is incurred in the hearing of cases. Honorable members on this side of the House are certainly justified in drawing attention to the position that existed under the Bruce-Page Government, which made an honest and sincere attempt to improve the conditions of the Service. It was made abundantly clear when the Arbitration Public Service Bill was introduced in another place, that there was considerable unnecessary expense connected with the Public Service system of arbitration. It has been shown that the Arbitrator, his staff, and all the parties interested, have travelled extensively and unnecessarily to every State of the Commonwealth. In seven cases no less than 1,359 witnesses were examined and nearly 12,000 pages of evidence were collected. The capital city in each of the States was visited. That is surely wilful extravagance. Probably under the regulations, the Arbitrator had no alternative but to incur the expense, but it should certainly be curtailed, if not entirely avoided. While attending the court, those witnesses were allowed time off, for which they were paid their full salary. That meant that other officers had to carry on the work of the department. That practice should not continue. According to the Public Accounts Committee, which investigated temporary employment in the Public Service, there are, in the Government departments, 28,536 permanent officers, 4,469 temporary officers, and 13,725 exempt officers; making a total of 46,730. That shows the extraordinary extent to which the Service has grown. The Public Accounts Committee explained, in its report, that exempt employment was exempt from the provisions of the Public Service Act relating to permanent and temporary employment. It is estimated that 65 per cent, of the exempt employment consists of services rendered in a semi-official capacity, as at allowance and receiving post offices.
The extraordinary growth of the Public Service is an evidence that some improvement of the present system is very necessary. During the recent election much misrepresentation took place respecting the Government’s intentions under the bill introduced in another place. It was said that it involved a direct attack upon the wages and conditions of the Service. Of course honorable members kr-ow perfectly well that nothing of that sort was intended. It was said on one occasion that the proposed reform, if given effect would mean a saving of £140,000. It was expected that the amount would be saved out of £500,000 expended in the way of working costs apart from salaries altogether. That, of course, puts a different complexion upon the action of the late Government, and it is a pity that so many of the public servants of Australia were stampeded into believing that the bill involved an attack upon their wages and conditions.
– The bill was in circulation and the public servants had full opportunity to judge it upon its merits.
– I am afraid few. public servants bothered themselves to examine the provisions of the bill; they were influenced more by Labour propaganda. I have with me two statements that were circularized. One appears under the name of. “E. G. Theodore, Director of the Labour Campaign, Trades Hall, Sydney.” It states that Labour stands four-square to the policy of arbitration for the settlement of questions relating to wages and general conditions of employment. There is little difference of opinion about that. No one will say that the conditions of the Public Service, as it exists to-day, are anything that any Government need be ashamed of. The late Government at all times endeavoured to improve the working conditions, not only ,of public servants, but also of the people generally. Another statement is- J sued from the Trades Hall, Sydney, over the signature of J. B. Dwyer, is headed, “ Sweeping Attack on Federal Public Service Arbitration System; Drastic Proposals of Bruce-Page Government.” That circular contains many misstatements and half-truths, designed to lead the public servants of the Commonmonwealth to believe that underlying the legislation introduced in another place was a desire to injure their interests. One can quite understand that when an individual believes that his wages are likely to be decreased, his thoughts naturally turn to his wife and children, and he endeavours to play safe by voting for the party that leads him to suppose that it promises to protect his interests. It is rather a pity that such mis-statements are swallowed by the electors, because frequently they live to regret the way in which they have cast their vote.
– Surely the public servants, with the facts before them, are able to make up their minds which way to vote.
– I certainly believe that a large proportion of the public servants saw the hoax sought to be practised on them, and were not in any way influenced by it. There is no desire on the part of the Opposition to obstruct this temporary measure. The Government has found it necessary to make some provision for temporarily continuing the present system of arbitration in the Public Service, and we recognize that this legislation is necessary. I trust that during the next few months the Government will thoroughly examine the conditions under which the system of Public Service arbitration operates, and if that is done, I believe that the Attorney-General (Mk. Brennan) will realize the great necessity of effecting some reform in regard to it.
.- I cannot understand why any special tribunal should be established for one class of the community. We have the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which fixes the wages and conditions of persons employed in outside industries, and its jurisdiction should certainly extend to the Commonwealth Public Service. What is the need for a special tribunal?
– It was asked for because of the delays occurring in the Arbitration Court.
– There should be no undue delays in the Arbitration Court. It is costly enough to be regarded as dispensing justice almost at “ urgent “ rates. The people of Australia are paying enough for arbitration to* justify their demanding attention from the court. It functions practically as a half-time court, but is paid for at full-time rates. It is time the Government ensured that the taxpayers receive an adequate return for their money. The previous speaker stated that it was not the intention of the last Government to reduce wages. If it was not why did that Government go to the trouble of introducing a bill in another place for the purpose of setting up a tribunal which would leave the “ big stick “ in the hands of the employers, in this case the Government? It was stated that a saving of £146,000 would be effected by an alteration in the hours of labour.
– That was a misrepresentation.
– The honorable member may claim that it was a misrepresentation, but so far. as the postal officials were concerned it was a fact, especially in the case of attendants in country telephone exchanges. Telephone services in country areas have suffered during the last seven years as the result of the economies introduced by the last Government. Country districts have not the same voting power as the more thickly populated areas, and for that reason they are selected as places in which to practise economy. At Charters Towers, a town of 6,000 or 8,000 people, and with a big back country, boys are employed in the telephone exchange on what are called sleeping shifts. A boy starts at 9 o’clock in the morning and works until 5.30 in the afternoon. He is then brought on again at 9 o’clock the same evening, and goes right through until 6 o’clock next morning. If that is not slavery and the sweating of child labour I do not know what the terms mean. The members of the Federal Public Service did not need to be told by any set of politicians that they were getting a bad- deal from the last Government.
– Their conditions were fixed by the Public Service Arbitrator, not by the Government.
– That merely shows the danger of setting up special tribunals for fixing wages and conditions for any set of workers. Such tribunals are too much subject to influence by the Government in power.
– Does the honorable member make that charge against the Public Service Arbitrator?
– I make no charge against the Arbitrator, but I say that the system is dangerous. Why set up a special tribunal to deal with federal public servants unless there is some string tied to it? Why this differential treatment of public servants as compared with other workers? The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) referred to the propaganda issued over the name of” E. G. Theodore, Campaign Director for New South Wales “ during the last election campaign. Why did he not quote some of the propaganda used by the postal workers’ organizations of Queensland ? This matter was very detrimental to his party, and very critical of the treatment received by public servants at the hands of the Government which he supported. Not only did the previous Government permit the deterioration of public servants’ conditions, but there was a reduction of all kinds of postal facilities. I have a photograph of a post house in Mount Isa, a town with a population of 2,500 people, and if a selector sought to use such buildings as accommodation for his workers he would be prosecuted under the Queensland Hut Accommodation Act. Yet this Government sought to compel its workers to carry on under conditions such as that. The post office at Mareeba is collapsing around the employees. Nevertheless, honorable members opposite have stated that there was no intention, by the creation of this tribunal, to bring about a reduction of wages or working conditions. Evidently they think that employees in the Federal Public Service are mentally deficient. These workers are quite capable or realizing for themselves, without any instruction from a political party, when an attack is being made on their conditions. Whether it was as the result of instructions received by the Public Service Arbitrator from the Government or not, there has been a gradual worsening of working conditions in the Service. Benefits have been filched here and there, and the workers subjected to all kinds of pin-pricks, until the Federal Public Service has become probably the most discontented in the whole Empire. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) smiles. He claims to represent a country constituency. I ask him is it not a fact that the economies practised by his government were made at the expense of the country people whom he claims to represent.
– That is an absolute misstatement of fact.
– The right honorable member says that it is an absolute misstatement of fact, but is it not true that mail services have been cut down in country districts, and new ones refused in the face of repeated applications ? I have a letter here written by the former member for Kennedy stating that he regretted that a mail service had been cut out, but that it was rendered necessary by the fact that the policy of the Queensland Labour Government was ruining the. State. What a stupid excuse to make! It was an attempt to place the responsibility for the shortcomings of his own government on the shoulders of the Queensland Labour administration, whose record over the last fourteen years compares more than favorably with that of the Bruce-Page Government during its seven years of office. I hope that at the expiration of the term of the Public Service Arbitrator, Commonwealth public servants will be allowed to approach the Arbitration Court, and have their wages and conditions fixed there in the same way as any other set of workers in the Commonwealth have a right to do. I hope that the country will obtain relief from the burden of this special tribunal, and of. the other commissions and boards set up by the BrucePage Government, which are costing so many thousands of pounds a year. One of the promises made to the supporters of the Labour party during the recent election campaign was that a Labour government would accept the responsibility of governing the country, and not allow commissions and boards to do what members of Parliament are sent here to do.
.- If any argument were needed against the continuance of the present system of fixing wages and conditions for public servants, it has been supplied by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, and I am surprised that the Government proposes to continue the system for a single day. I congratulate the Government upon its intention to keep the present system in operation for a brief period only. I am convinced that Ministers will very shortly come to the conclusion, to which the last government also came, that the present system is most unsatisfactory to the civil servants, to the administration and to the community generally. There is now dual control and conflict of administration in the fixing of conditions, salaries, and allowances, which make it practically impossible for a government to know how it stands financially. Take, for instance, the experience of the last five years. In 1923 a Public Service Board was appointed, and it immediately set to work to reclassify the whole of the Federal Public Service of the Commonwealth. It took a considerable time over the work, but as each reclassification was completed every increase in salary was made retrospective to a certain date- I think the 30th June, 1924. The result was that for the years 1926, 1927 and 1928 there was a certain unspecified expenditure which had to be provided for in the budget, but which could not possibly be estimated beforehand. Some of the reclassifications are, I think, just about finished now, six years after the work was begun. At the same time that this was being done, there was also taking place a re-examination of the whole position by the Public Service Arbitrator. He, in many cases, was also making retrospective awards, not to such an extent as was the Public Service Board, but enough to add to the difficulties of the Treasurer, because two sets of expenditure had to be provided for each year in the budget, although there was little or no indication what the amounts required would be. In one year reclassifications in the Post Office were responsible for an unanticipated increase of £300,000 in actual expenditure. When the Public Service Arbitrator was appointed he should have been given power to deal, not with individual cases for which provision is made by way of appeal, but with grades. He would then have never been far behind the classification made by the Public Service Board, and the uncertainty which existed would not have arisen. One thing which impressed the members of the British Economic Mission, which had an opportunity of inquiring very carefully into the operation of our Public Service, was this dual control of arbitration within the Service. In their report they stated -
We consider iti a serious anomaly that there should be a conflict of authorities governing the Service and the conditions of employ-, ment of officers, namely, the Public Service Commissioners and the Arbitration Court. More than one body deals with the same questions, and a court cannot possibly have that intimate knowledge of the affairs of the Service which is available to the Public Service Commissioners. The Australian Services are zealous and loyal, but the system is not well calculated to promote those qualities which, above all, should characterize a Service entrusted with the administration of government business.
It was clear to these outside investigators, who possessed special facilities for studying the problem, that the time was ripe for reform. One thing which has given rise to numerous anomalies is the fact that there has been little or no coordination between the work of the Public Service Arbitrator and the Public Service Board. Awards have been issued which place junior officers, in some cases, on higher salaries than senior officers in the same department. In the Department of Trade and Customs the position became so intolerable that a number of senior officers, who were being paid a lower salary than others who were their juniors, applied to have their offices declared vacant. The last Government discussed the matter fully with the Public Service Board, and also with a number of officers. The result of its consideration was to make a proposal that would have enabled co-ordination to be established between the Public Service Board and the Public Service Arbitrator. That proposal was to appoint an arbitration tribunal consisting of a judge of the Arbitration Court as chairman, a member of the Public Service Board representing the board and the Government, and a representative of each of the nineteen unions in the Public Service, to deal with all questions relating to salaries and hours of work. The proposed tribunal would have been practically identical with the wages boards that deal with industrial matters in Victoria. Its members would have had an intimate knowledge of the whole of the facts, and there would have been no necessity to take voluminous evidence. We believed that by that means we should obtain a much more satisfactory and rapid solution of any difficulties that arose in the various grades of the Public Service. Every public servant to whom I showed a copy of the bill said, “ That is a very much more satisfactory system than the one under which we are working to-day.” As an illustration of the unsatisfactory nature of the existing procedure let me quote the case of linemen employed in the Postmaster-General’s Department. The Public Service Board fixed the range of their salaries from £236 to £312. The Public Service Arbitrator, after an inquiry which occupied many months, made the range from £233 to £300. That decision was appealed against and subsequently was altered. Under the classification of the Public Service Board, the men would have received a little more in the first three, and a little less in the last two years, but over the whole period of five years, they actually received only £1 more from the Arbitrator. The examination of witnesses covered 1,200 pages of typewritten matter, and the men had to pay a considerable sum through their organization to achieve a result that was practically worthless to them. The organization of the Public Service was being threatened, because men who, in the ordinary course, would have been engaged on their official duties, had to leave their work to appear before the Arbitrator to give evidence in support of their claims. I urge the Government to keep an open mind on this matter, and in collaboration with the Public Service Board and the various associations, to , examine the whole of its merits with the utmost care.
Everybody in Australia must agree that it is necessary to have a satisfied, contented, and efficient Public Service. Political considerations no longer intrude. At the beginning of 1926 a classification and efficiency board, whose constitution is practically identical with that of the tribunal which the late Government proposed to set up, was established in South Australia. The chairman is the Public Service Commissioner, and upon it are representatives of the Government and the Public Service associations. I understand that in the three years which have since elapsed, that board has worked satisfactorily to both the Government and the Service generally. Therefore this Government need not fear that it will lose any prestige or kudos if it follows the lines laid down by the late Government. In Great Britain there are two tribunals before which the Civil Service can appear; they are the Whitley Councils or Joint Industrial Councils, and the Industrial Court for Arbitration on Civil Service questions. From my seven years’ experience of this matter I can assure the House that the present position is unsatisfactory to the Public Service. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has said that the conditions of public servants are “ rotten.” The fault, I contend, is to be found in the present system, because all decisions respecting wages and conditions have been made independently of the Government. I feel sure that every other honorable member will repudiate the suggestion that Mr. Atlee Hunt has been dominated by an outside influence. I urge the Government to consider the whole of the facts elicited by the last Government, and to call into their councils representatives of not merely the Federal Public Service, but also the State services; in which there are peace, harmony and contentment as a result of the operation of bodies similar to that which the last Government proposed to establish.
.- The suggestion of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), in regard to the dual control that is ..exercised over the Public Service and the conflict. that results therefrom, might well be considered by the Government. The right honorable gentleman did not make an attack upon the bill, but merely gave the Government the benefit of advice based upon his experience of the conditions that exist in the Public Service.
There appears to me to be a pernicious practice in the Public Service, under which officers are persecuted. On one occasion I was asked to take up the case of a young man who had passed the examination for entrance to the Public Service but could not receive an appointment because no vacancies then existed. He was placed in the dead end occupation of delivering postal matter. Very little skill or knowledge is required to enable any one to become a postman. The Public Service Act contains a special provision, which was inserted for the benefit of returned soldiers. It provides that after a returned soldier has given satisfactory service for two years he can apply to be made a permanent officer without being called upon to pass the prescribed examination. This young fellow could not be said to have given unsatisfactory service because, during the two years that he occupied the position, hi3 salary was increased. At the end of two years he sought to avail himself of the privilege conferred upon him and other returned soldiers by the act; but he was immediately taken off his run and given the “ onerous “ task of sweeping out the mail room in the Adelaide Post Office. It was decided that he was not suitable for that, so he was transferred to the goods department on “West Terrace, where he had to handle telegraph poles and do the work of a general labourer. He admitted that, because of an injury that he had sustained at the war, he could not lift heavy weights, which he could do before he suffered that injury. Subsequently he was dismissed, and approached me with his case. In response to an appeal that he made to the Postmaster-General of the day, Mr. Gibson, he received a letter suggesting that he should make application for the invalid pension. He was married and had one child, and his age would be not more than 35 years. Although I advo-cated his cause oh the floor of this House and elsewhere, he was not reinstated. Strangely enough, this young fellow, who was considered by the Postal Department to be incapable of delivering letters, subsequently joined a. .firm of insurance agents and is now an insurance inspector. There is ground for complaint, if not against the Arbitrator or the Public Service Board, at any rate against the last Postmaster-General, that he did not honestly observe the provisions of the Public Service Act, and was unfair to a returned soldier. I have mentioned this matter because the case may not be the last of its kind. Similar disabilities have been placed on other men, who are entitled by law to preference in Public Service employment, but who have been the victims of the vagaries of the Minister. I object also to the system of fining officers for petty delinquencies. If a kiddie delivers a letter in the wrong box, he is asked to explain his mistake, and if the explanation is not satisfactory, the Deputy Director of Post and Telegraphs may fine him up to £2. Fines to that amount have been imposed for the most trivial offences, and there is no right of appeal against them. It is ridiculous that a delinquent junior officer should bc robbed of his wages in this way. When I was earning a livelihood in a factory and warehouse, I made many a mistake, and probably caused much damage or loss through carelessness or f forgetfulness ; but the boss, recognizing that my offence was inadvertent and not intentional, merely warned me to be more careful in future. If I had been subject to fines for all the damage I caused, there were times when I would have had no money for myself. In private employment, the system of imposing fines does not obtain. I do not say that the Deputy Director often imposes a fine of £2; but all that is necessary for a first or second offence is to admonish the person responsible, and if the fault is repeated many times, the offender should be dismissed. The system of fining is a pernicious disciplinary practice, and I hope that the Government, when considering amendments to Public Service legislation, will inquire into it. The Commonwealth Public Service will compare favorably with any other private or public service; but irritating fines do not make for contentment or efficiency. I know of instances in which the fine has operated harshly because of the absence of a right to appeal. In my opinion, this system is comparable with applying the lash to a slave, and it should be abolished.
.- The Government is making a mistake in proposing to extend the tenure of the Public Service Arbitrator for twelve months, and in committee I shall move that the period be reduced to six months, subject to the right of the Government to extend it by proclamation, if it so desires. I cannot agree with the contention of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) that the public servants, instead of having a special tribunal to fix their salaries and conditions, should be subject to the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Past experience has demonstrated the advisability of, and even the necessity for, giving to the public servants a special tribunal, and I* ask the Government to peruse carefully the proposal of the last Government, that the Arbitrator should be replaced by a tribunal consisting of a judge, probably of the Arbitration Court, a member of the Public Service Board, who was a member of the Service and thoroughly conversant with its workings, and a representative of the men immediately concerned in each case. Thus the personnel of the tribunal would vary from time to time, two of its members being more or less permanent, and the third representing the officers whose claims were being considered. I think such a system would give satisfaction to the Service and the public, and would facilitate the harmonious and efficient working of the departments. Conditions obtain in the Public Service that should be remedied, and their continuance for another twelve months will involve a waste of time and a large sum of money which should be saved for the taxpayers.
.- I cannot support .the proposal of the honorable member for Oxley. The Labour party is pledged to introduce an amendment of the Arbitration Act, and all of its pledges are honored.
– Does that include the pledges of the campaign directors?
– I do not understand the honorable member’s question, and I doubt if he does. When the appointment of a Public Service Arbitrator was first proposed, I urged that the employees of the Government should be subject to the Arbitration Court like all other workers, and I still hold that opinion. There is no reason why the public servants should be provided with a special tribunal. If they were subject to the Arbitration Court their conditions would not be worse than they are; the Government should be a model employer, and it would set a good example if it made its employees subject to the same tribunal as other workers. There is justification for the proposal to extend the Arbitrator’s tenure for another twelve months, because the passage of the amending arbitration legislation may be delayed by the obstinacy and cantankerousness of the opposition in another place.
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in reflecting upon another place. I ask him to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I hope that the Government will realize the abvisability of abolishing the Public Service Board, which is almost as expensive as the High Commissioner’s Office in London. There are three Commissioners, and when appointments have to be made to this body an opportunity is presented to the Government of the day to find a comfortable job for some person whom it cannot otherwise place. A former Chairman of the Board was more often out of his office than in it. The Board should be reconstructed. I recollect one award of the Arbitrator being upset by the Public Service Board with the assistance of the last Government. The government of the day was opposed to the non-observance of arbitration awards outside the Service; but within the Service it did not enforce them. There should be no opposition to this bill. If possible, we should have only one arbitration court for all employees, including public servants.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section six of the Principal Act is amended by adding, after sub-section (5.), the following sub-section : - “ (6.) Nothwithstanding anything contained in this section, the term of office as Public Service Arbitrator of the person holding . that office on the sixth day of November One thousand nine hundred and twenty-nine is hereby extended until the thirtieth day of September One thousand nine hundred and thirty.”
– I do not wish to criticize the Government proposal; but I should like to know why it is intended to extend the term of the Public Service Arbitrator’s appointment until the 30th September, 1930. I realize that the Government needs time to formulate its arbitration policy; but why is nine months required ? In certain quarters this undue extension of the Arbitrator’s term of appointment has been the subject of much criticism.
– The extension cannot be regarded as a very long one. This measure will not operate beyond the 30th September next. In the meantime, the Government, I have.no doubt, will have the assistance of suggestions from the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), and will be free to proceed with a new and comprehensive bill dealing with the whole subject. There should be no difficulty in bringing down the new measure at any time when it is ready for presentation. Generally speaking, there was satisfaction with the present act prior to the consideration of the measure introduced by the late Government. At any rate, the act had given a great deal more satisfaction throughout the Service than was likely to be given by the measure brought down by that Government. It is only fair to say, at this stage, that the suggestion that the Public Service was misled regarding the proposals of the late Government, and that it was persuaded to believe that the policy of that Government was entirely different from what it really was, is a reflection upon the Service as a whole. We sometimes hear of members of the general public being carried off their feet by propaganda ; but, in this matter, the members of the Public Service had the advantage of having before them the bill introduced by the late Administration, and of being able to read the speech delivered on the subject by the gentleman who presented the measure in the other branch of the legislature. It is true, no doubt, that persons cannot always choose the tribunal to which they would like to submit their claims; but it is equally true that any scheme of arbitration that does not command the respect of the great majority of the public servants is doomed to fail. In specific answer to the question raised by the honorable member for Reid, I suggest that no harm could possibly come to the Public Service by continuing the present system a little longer. A number of matters are still pending before the Public Service Arbitrator. The Government will proceed with the new measure so soon as it has equipped itself with all the information that it can obtain on the subject. It is unlikely that the present Arbitrator will do more than complete the matters at present before him. The new scheme may be inaugurated before the completion of his term of office.
.- I am interested to hear the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Brennan) speak as though the only matter to be considered was the satisfaction of the Public Service, and the view its members hold on the subject of arbitration. I would have liked to hear something about the interests of the public, as well as those of the Public Service. In my view those interests are not irreconcilable, and it was the object of the late Government to reconcile them. The Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) has spoken throughout of the view of a certain measure taken by the Public Service organizations and certain members of the Public Service. I hope that, when the Government brings down the bill dealing generally with arbitration in the Service, it will recognize that it holds its position as trustee for the public in this respect as in others; and that this is so particularly where votes are involved, and it is easy to forget the more general interests to which I have referred. All the matters that I mentioned in my secondreading speech might very properly be dealt with, without in any way prejudicing the rights or position of any members of the Public Service to-day. I hope that the Government will regard these as matters that ought to be considered.
.- The Attorney-General said that he did not think it improbable that the Government would bring down the main bill before the date mentioned in the clause. If that is the case, I shall be content; but I should like to know whether the country would not be put to the expense of compensating the Arbitrator if that bill were passed prior to the date mentioned?
– I think that I can assure the honorable member that the question of compensation is not likely to arise.
– Am I to understand that, in all probability, the main bill will be brought down prior to the 30th September next?
– I think so.
– Then I move the following amendment -
That the words “ thirtieth day of September “, proposed new sub-section 0, be omitted, with a view to insert in Heu thereof the words “ thirty-first day of May “, and that the following proviso be added - “Provided that the Governor-General may, by proclamation, further extend such term of office until the thirtieth day of September, 1930.”
My object is to save the country needless expense. . Many conditions that should not be permitted to continue obtain in the Public Service, and the sooner the new bill is brought down the better. It may not be possible for the Government to introduce it by the 30th May next, but my amendment will enable the period of the Arbitrator’s appointment to be extended, by proclamation, to the date mentioned in the clause.
– I hoped that the Attorney-General would accept the amendment. It merely provides that the Arbitrator shall hold office until the 30th May, and it gives power to the Governor-General to extend the term until the 30th September, if that course becomes necessary. As the clause now stands if the Government were before the 30th September to bring down a bill acceptable to Parliament no question of loss of office could arise; but, under the clause before us, if the new measure were brought down prior to that date, and were passed into law, the question of compensation would inevitably arise, unless the introduction of any change in the system of arbitration were postponed until the 30th September. The amendment would leave the Government free to determine the time of making the change.
– If the Arbitrator were entitled to four months’ leave, would that not obviate the necessity for compensation?
– If entitled to that leave, he would receive salary during the period of it ; but he would still be holding the office of Arbitrator, and would be entitled by statute to hold it under this amending bill until the end of the period therein mentioned. The amendment would not in any way compromise the Government, and at the same time it would prevent the possibility of difficulty arising.
– The intention of the Government is merely to operate the present machinery of arbitration for a reasonable period, so that having regard to the Christmas recess, and the time required to enable the Government to formulate its general policy, it will be possible to devise a more satisfactory system of arbitration. The question has been raised of the position of the Arbitrator in the event of the introduction of a bill to abolish his court before the termination of the period prescribed in this measure. I interjected that no question of compensation was likely to arise. I made that remark from the knowledge that I have obtained from conversations between myself and the arbitrator, who, as everybody knows, is a trusted officer who has reached an age when it is not considered desirable in the public interests, nor is it considered desirable by himself, that he should be retained in harness longer than is Arbitrator, who, as everybody knows, is therefore anticipated with regard to his retirement whenever the Government may wish him to retire. I have no objection to the amendment in these circumstances.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report, by leave, adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
Message recommending appropriation reported and ordered to be taken into consideration in committee forthwith.
In committee - (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message.)
Motion (by Mr. Theodore) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue he made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for the purposes of financial assistance to the State of Tasmania.
Resolution reported, and, by leave, adopted.
That Mr. Theodore and Mr. Lyons do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Theodore and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The necessity has arisen to consider once again the granting of special assistance to Tasmania. The arguments in support of the bill are those which have been used on previous occasions when this House has been asked to make grants-in-aid to Tasmania. The chief reason why the State seeks this special assistance is that she has suffered adversely through federation. Tasmania occupies an insular position which has certainly proved to be detrimental to her. She has not been able to take advantage of the mainland markets as freely as the other States, because of the difficulties of transportation, and for the same reason has been unable hitherto to carry on any extensive secondary industries. Early in the history of federation it was shown, beyond question, that Tasmania was suffering serious disabilities in consequence of her insular position, and various Commonwealth Governments have made special grants to her in consequence of this. In 1912 and 1913 grants totalling £900,000 were made payable over a period of ten years at the rate of £90,000 per annum. A royal commission had previously investigated the position of the State, and its recommendations were embodied in the acts that were passed. In 1922 an act was passed under which Tasmania was granted £85,000 for the year 1922-23 and in the subsequent year a similar grant was approved. During these two years Tasmania applied for additional assistance from the Commonwealth on the ground that the grant was insufficient to enable her to overcome her disabilities and named a total sum of about £200,000 per annum as her requirements. In 1924 the Commonwealth surrendered to Tasmania the revenue drawn from a certain lottery conducted in the State. This concession assisted the State to the extent of between £110,000 and £112,000 per annum. The special grant of £85,000 was continued for a further period, but it was provided that it should diminish annually by £17,000. In 1926 Tasmania asked for a grant of £545,000 per annum for a period of ten years. The chief grounds for the request were : -
The Government of the day appointed Sir Nicholas Lockyer to investigate the claim. He made certain recommendations of a financial nature, the majority of which involved a certain supervision by the Commonwealth of the administration and financial affairs of Tasmania. The Government decided that the position had been overstated and that the claim of Tasmania had been based upon an exaggerated view of the difficulties of the situation. It recognized, however, that Tasmania had serious difficulties to face. These included a heavy loss on her railways, amounting to about £250,000 a year; a large expenditure on roads and bridges out of loans amounting to £5,700,000; initial losses on her hydro-electric works, the capital cost of which was £3,300,000; and a declining production and population. A grant was made at that time of £378,000 per annum for the two years. 1926-27 and 1927-28, and it was agreed that the position should be reviewed at the end of the period. The Government also made available to the State the services of the Development and Migration Commission and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, with the object of investigating the special problems of the people and making recommendations for their solution. As the result of Commonwealth assistance, Tasmania was able to reduce her taxation by about £140,000 per annum. With this reduction, the remaining taxation, excluding lottery taxes, reduced the per capita taxation of the people of Tasmania to £3 12s. 3d. or 13s. 4d. below the average per capita taxation for Australia. In 1927-28 Tasmania further reduced her taxation by £85,000 as the result of the relief gained under the financial agreement, by applying accumulated sinking funds to the extinction of debts. With the aid that the Commonwealth has extended from time to time to Tasmania, that State’s financial position shows considerable improvement. In 1923-24 Tasmania had a deficit of £211,000. In 1924- 25 it had a surplus of £86,000; in 1925- 26 a surplus of £28,000; in 1926-27 a surplus of £185,000; in 1927-28 a surplus of £95,000, and in 1928-29 a deficit of £90,000. For the current financial year Tasmania is budgeting for a small surplus. I think that almost coincident with the years of successful financing, the years of budget surpluses, there was a Labour administration in charge of Tasmania, and, indeed, without desiring to enter into any of the local political controversies of Tasmania, one can reasonably offer a tribute to the present Postmaster-General, who for some years was Premier of Tasmania, for his successful efforts in rectifying the finances of that State. There is no doubt that he was faced with a difficult situation.
– He received considerable assistance from the Commonwealth.
– That is so. The then Premier of Tasmania put his case to the Commonwealth Government, and no doubt his own persuasiveness was responsible for the generous treatment that Tasmania received at its hands.
– A good deal of the credit for that is due to the representatives of Tasmania in this House.
– I have no doubt that they all aided in bringing to the recognition of this House the peculiar difficulties of Tasmania. The two-year period covered by the grant of £378,000, expired on the 30th June, 1928. The position was again examined by the late Government and it concluded that the main cause of the difficulties of Tasmania were connected with internal transport. The construction and maintenance of railways and roads resulted in an annual burden of £500,000 on State revenue. With the consent of the Tasmanian Government, a committee was appointed by the Development and Migration Commission to investigate internal transport, and, pending the result of that investigation, the Commonwealth provided a grant of £220,000 for the year 1928-29. That grant was arrived at by taking into account the following items: -
The recommendations of the Transport Committee included the following: -
In March last, Mr. McPhee, the Premier, Mr. Lyons, then Leader of the Opposition in Tasmania, now PostmasterGeneral of the Commonwealth, and Mr. Shields, visited Canberra, to make personal representations in connexion with the grant. They* asked for £300,000 a year for five years. It was agreed that they should submit a memorandum incorporating definite reasons for increasing the grant. In the meantime Tasmania suffered loss from flood. On the 30th May last, Tasmania made a request for an annual grant of £460,000 for ten years, made up as follows: -
Of this amount it was desired that £390,000 be regarded as a fixed grant for ten years, and the balance of £70,000 to be subject to annual adjustments. In addition Tasmania asked for further assistance over a like period for flood relief, commencing at approximately £110,000 a year. This request was definitely refused by the Commonwealth. The grounds for refusal were contained in a letter from the Prime Minister to the Premier of Tasmania, dated 20th July, 1929. The present Government has adopted the proposal that was agreed to by the late Government to grant to Tasmania £250,000 a year for five years. We are not attaching any special conditions to the grant. I believe that the attempt of the previous Government, as disclosed in that letter to dictate part of the internal domestic policy of Tasmania was unwarranted and wrong. A portion of that letter reads -
Might I remind you that my Government indicated to the then Premier that, before we could agree to the principle of a fixed grant for a period of years to your State, the whole question of internal transport, and the associated questions of ports and harbours should be reviewed by a committee. The grant at that time given was accordingly limited to one year, and the committee was appointed for the express purpose of examining the transport difficulties of your States. Their report was made at the joint requests, of the Commonwealth and State Governments, and for their information, and in relation to negotiations between the Governments, with regard to the amount of financial assistance to be rendered by the Commonwealth Government to the State of Tasmania. While the Commonwealth Government has no desire to force upon your State the whole of the recommendations of that committee, some of the recommendations appear to be so vital to the future financial position of the State as to call for serious consideration on the part of my Government.
It has been brought under my notice that proposals are to be submitted to your Parliament, which in principle depart seriously from the outstanding recommendation of the committee, viz.: - “The appointment of a Transport Board, free as far as possible from political control.” Any departure from this proposal by the appointing of an advisory committee only will seriously reduce the efficiency of the necessary reform.
My Government would be glad of an assurance that a transport board - along the lines suggested by that committee - will be given effect, rather than the creation of a merely advisory body.
Such a departure from the report of the Transport Committee in a matter of such vital importance to Tasmania cannot but be viewed by my Government as a step likely to lead to further doubtful expenditure, and must have some influence in determining the amount and the period of a special grant to your State.
My attention has been drawn to a conference held on the 14th June, between certain public bodies in Launceston, which you personally attended, and at which you made a promise that your Government would assist in financing the erection of an emergency jetty at Rosevears.
Might I point out that such a step is not in conformity with the recommendation made in this connexion by the Transport Committee, which was appointed by agreement. This body, which fully examined the situation, expressed the definite opinion that the transportation and mail services between Tasmania and the mainland would be best served by the provision of a wharf at Windermere, and a railway connexion with Launceston. In addition, they pointed out that adequate road transport arrangements could not be provided at Rosevears, and that railway connexion with the wharf was essential. This latter provision, according to the committee, would be extremely costly from Rosevears, whilst they point out that Windermere can be connected with Launceston both by road and rail at a reasonable cost, and that the resultant saving to the Railway Department by such a rail service would more than provide interest and sinking fund upon the whole outlay involved.
My Government is not . therefore satisfied that the action proposed will enable the best transport service for mails and passengers to be provided.
Ponding some assurance from you, the Commonwealth Government will probably not only refrain from fixing a definite period throughout which the grant will operate, but will have to consider carefully the amount which, under the circumstances, should be made available for the present year.
That letter certainly discloses an unwarranted attempt on the part of the late Government to interfere with the internal management of Tasmania. There may be a good deal to be said in favour of carrying out the recommendations of the Transport Committee, but it should be within the competency of the Tasmanian Parliament and Government to decide that. 1 consider that the Commonwealth Government should have confined itself to urging upon the Tasmanian Government the need to carry out the recommendations of the committee.
– In consequence of further correspondence, the Commonwealth Government did not insist upon the demands set out in the letter of the 20th July last. I am merely calling attention to that letter to show that there were times when the Commonwealth Government attempted to assert pressure upon States, regarding matters which ought to be solely within the jurisdiction of those States. I do not know of my own knowledge, anything regarding the relative merits of the Rosevears and Windermere propositions, but I know that they were the subject of controversy in
Tasmania, and constituted an acute local issue. Nevertheless, that matter should be decided by Tasmania itself, without outside dictation.
– It is being decided by Tasmania. Let the Treasurer read the Prime Minister’s final letter.
– I admit that the Prime Minister subsequently mitigated the demand made in his letter of the 20th July. I have the notes of an interview in Canberra on the 8th October, at which, were present the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, Sir George Pearce, and Mr. Gibson. There was also present the Premier of Tasmania, together with Sir Walter Lee and Mr. Grant. I have no doubt that at that conference the matter was fully discussed, but I do not know whether anything was decided in regard to the disposal of the grant of £250,000. I understand that the last Government did not at that conference any longer insist upon the conditions laid down in the letter of the 20th July, but intimated its .willingness to make a straight out grant of £250,000 for five years. The present Government is. prepared to make a similar grant of £250,000 for five years, and over and about- that the present Prime Minister has promised to remit to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts of this Parliament for investigation and report the subject of Tasmania’s disabilities. It seems to me that £250,000 is a reasonable grant for the present year, and if the finances of Tasmania are properly managed, it ought to tide the State over its present troubles, unless some particular difficulty arises, or unless the damage caused by the recent floods warrants a re-consideration of the matter. In the budget speech delivered by the Tasmanian Treasurer relating to the current financial year he said -
While we appreciate the financial difficulties confronting the Commonwealth Government we regret a more adequate sum to meet the State’s requirements has not been made available.
While Tasmania has, in common with the other States of Australia, been passing through a period of depression, we believe that the general outlook throughout the State at the present time, and the prospective developments in primary production and secondary industries, are such as to inspire a sound confidence in our future progress.
That is a hopeful note, and I hope it is justified. I trust that this grant will be found sufficient to meet the needs of Tasmania arising from the difficulties under which she labours as a result of federation, but if further special consideration is desired she will be able to place her case before the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, and will no doubt receive as sympathetic treatment as the Commonwealth is able to grant in the circumstances.
.- The Treasurer has covered fairly completely the payments made by the Commonwealth Government to Tasmania since federation was consummated, and especially those made since 1912, and I should not refer to them now, had it not been for certain statements of the Postmaster-General during the recent election campaign. He then complained bitterly of what he described as the niggardly treatment meted out by the Bruce-Page Government to Tasmania, and referred to Tasmania representatives in the Federal Parliament, both senators and members of the House of Representatives, as “mugs,” who had done nothing to help Tasmania obtain her rights. I wish to point out how unwarranted that statement was, and, to say that the Postmaster-General was the last person who should have made it, in view of the assistance given to him when his Government was in difficulties. During the ten years following 1912 £900,000 was paid in special grants to Tasmania. That takes us up to 1922. During the next six years, when the Bruce-Page Government was in office, there was granted to Tasmania no less than £2,194,252, which is two and a half times as much as she received during the previous ten years. That money was given largely as a result of continuous representation on the floor of this House by representatives of Tasmania, both Labour and non-Labour. Independently of party they united to urge Tasmanian claims. The present Premier of Tasmania joined with the present Commonwealth PostmasterGeneral in making representations to the Federal Government. It ill became a member who at that time had behind him this united support to cast reflections upon the men who represented
Tasmania, even though the statement was made for election purposes. In 1923-24 a Commonwealth grant of £85,000 was made to Tasmania, and in the same year the Commonwealth surrendered its taxation of Tasmanian lotteries, from which it had received £111,000 a year. It also wrote off losses in connexion with the hop pool, and gave a subsidy to industry which brought in £240,000. During 1925-26 benefits of all kinds granted to Tasmania were equal to £247,000. In 1926-27 a total of £598,180 was given. In 1927-28 this grew to £602,560, whilst for the year 192S-29 benefits amounted to £420,000, making a total of £2,198,000. That, however, was not all Tasmania asked for. The Treasurer has stated that Tasmania once asked for a grant of £544,000 for ten years. The Commonwealth Government examined the position and found that this request was excessive. Eventually a grant of £378,000 was made, or approximately £170,000 less than was asked for. In that year Tasmania remitted taxation amounting to £144,000, or 13s. 4d. a head, and finished the year with a credit balance of £185,000. Yet some honorable members will try to make political capital out of the situation by stating, in spite of the generous treatment meted out to Tasmania, that the Commonwealth Government has dealt in a niggardly fashion with that State. It is the meanest and most despicable thing I have ever known to happen. Members from the larger States have always been ready to support the just claims of Tasmania for special treatment, but statements of the kind I have referred to will not tend to win their sympathy. During 1927-28, when a grant of £378,000 was made, together with a special road grant of £100,000 and a remission of lottery taxation, the Tasmanian Government remitted a further £80,000 of taxation, which brought the total remissions to £224,000, or approximately £1 per head of population. That year there was a surplus of £7 5,000. The Tasmanian Treasurer that year said that taxation in his State was 13s. 4d. a head below the Australian average. “When introducing the present measure the Treasurer said that the Commonwealth was granting the same amount to Tasmania as the previous Government had done, namely, £250,000; but added that it was making the grant without conditions, whereas the last Government had sought to impose conditions. The last Government, when considering a grant, discussed the position with Tasmanian members, and with the Tasmanian Government. We tried to find some means whereby Tasmania’s difficulties might be permanently overcome. When a grant “of £378,000 was made in 1926-27 we said that we would give this sum for two years and try, in the meantime, to find some way of permanently solving Tasmania’s troubles. As the result of a free and amicable discussion with Tasmanian representatives, it was agreed that the Development and Migration Commission should appoint a special committee to investigate Tasmanian transport, as it was obvious that transport problems were at the root of many of her difficulties. The appointment of that committee was, to a large extent, a matter between the Tasmanian Government and the Development and Migration Commission, the Commonwealth Government not coming into the picture very much. A special committee of this kind having been set up to investigate Tasmanian problems every effort should, we believed, be made to give effect to its recommendations. Any Government which did not do that would fail in its duty to the taxpayers. It is not the function of a Commonwealth Government to grant everything that is asked for. A government is the trustee of the taxpayers. It is responsible for raising taxation, and is also responsible for the manner in which the people’s money is spent. This special committee, which had upon it representatives of the Tasmanian Public Service, made certain recommendations in regard to the internal management of Tasmania’s affairs, and recommended the alteration of an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the States. This agreement could not be altered without the consent of all the contracting parties. Those recommendations having been made, I believe that we should have failed in our duty if we had not endeavoured to give effect to them. That was a reasonable attitude, and I have yet to learn that Tasmania had any cause to object to it. There was no question of dictation; what took place was merely free consultation in an effort to find a solution of Tasmania’s difficulties, and to safeguard the interests of the taxpayers both in Tasmania and throughout the Commonwealth. I do not see that there is any virtue in taking up the attitude that this Parliament has no responsibility as to how the money we grant is spent.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– In 1924-25 Commonwealth assistance amounted to £240,000, and the surplus to £86,000. The respective figures for subsequent years were £247,000 and £28,000 in 1925- 26; £598,000 and £185,000 in 1926- 27; and a similar amount of Commonwealth assistance, with a surplus of £95,000, in 1927-28. The assistance which the Commonwealth gave was responsible for much more than the surplus, because an examination of the figures will show that over the whole period the expenditure of the State was expanding. Therefore, the attitude adopted by the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons) during the election campaign was all the more deplorable, He said that shameful treatment had been meted out to Tasmania by the Commonwealth, which had not played the game when it cut down the grant to £250,000 for .five years, and that it was impossible on that grant for the Government of Tasmania to be carried on effectively. The “ shameful treatment “ to which he referred is precisely the treatment that the present Government proposes to mete out to Tasmania.
– Plus an investigation.
– I wish to place on record the fact that during the last six and a half years, while the honorable gentleman was Premier of the State of Tasmania, he was assisted by the Commonwealth on every occasion that he made application to it. He also had the assistance of Tasmanian members and the Leader of the Opposition in the State House in his representations to the Commonwealth Government. Yet he suggested that Tasmanian members were “mugs,” and that the Commonwealth Parliament had not been of any assistance to Tasmania! During the last six years Tasmanian members have persistently pressed Tasmania’s claims.
They have not only advocated them in this House, but have also availed themselves of every other opportunity to secure from Ministers what they regarded as reasonable treatment. That they received such treatment is shown by the fact that the Government of Tasmania was able to reduce taxation and show surpluses. The present Government proposes that, in addition to the grant, an investigation of the conditions that exist in Tasmania will be made by the Public Accounts Committee. Whether that will be an investigation of the accounts or of the general conditions in Tasmania has not been stated. Such an investigation cannot be of any great value to the State. An investigation of the accounts could be carried out as readily, and probably more satisfactorily, by the Treasury officials of the Commonwealth and the State. The Public Accounts Committee has already investigated the specific question of communication with the mainland, and has presented to Parliament a report dealing with that matter. Experts who were chosen jointly by the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments were appointed to inquire into the transport system as well as into questions of development and all other matters that it is possible for this committee to investigate. Excellent though the members of this Parliament are, no person can suggest that they have the time, the energy or the expert knowledge, to go thoroughly into all the questions that affect Tasmania’s well-being. If we are to have any further investigation, let it be made by men who have more time at their disposal than the members of this House can possibly have. This proposal of the Government is merely camouflage. Nothing more can come of it than has already been brought to light. A definite result would be more likely from an investigation along the lines that have been followed up to the present. This Government, therefore, is merely doing what the late Government promised it would do. In March last both Labour and non-Labour representatives of Tasmania approached the Commonwealth Government in a non-partisan spirit, and put forward certain proposals ; but when matters were fully explained to them they agreed that a grant of £250,000 a year for five years was reasonable. Since that time the difficulties connected with Commonwealth financing have been accentuated.
– Does the right honorable gentleman say that the delegation of which I was a member accepted the grant of £250,000?
– The delegation asked for £300,000; but when it was stated that £250,000 would probably be the limit of Commonwealth assistance because of the difficult financial position in which the Commonwealth found itself, the members of the delegation admitted that that was a reasonable offer.
– I contradict the right honorable member; his statement is entirely incorrect.
– It is absolutely true.
– Why did the right honorable member allow us to go back to Tasmania to complete the preparation of our case?
– The honorable member and his colleagues said that they wished to return with a view to presenting a full statement of the case.
– Yes, for the £300,000.
– Subsequent to their return they presented an entirely different document. Three years . previously it was claimed that £545,000 was needed to enable Tasmania’s finances to be stabilized. In the year in which the Commonwealth made available the sum of £378,000 taxation was remitted in the State to the extent of £140,000, and yet a surplus of £185,000 was returned. I deprecate the attempt to make party political capital out of this matter. During the last six and a half years it has been discussed on. a non-partisan basis with the one object of assisting Tasmania. The Postmaster-General must admit that that is so. Although he belongs to a different party, the late Government always met him sympathetically, and endeavoured to deal with him in the fairest possible way.
– So long as the right honorable gentleman’s Government did that I acknowledged it, but when it did not I condemned it.
– Yet the present Government cannot do anything better! The Postmaster-General not only said that similar treatment by the last Government was niggardly, but that the men who had assisted him in the past were not worthy to represent Tasmania - that they were “mugs.”
– I ask that the right honorable member be made to withdraw that absolutely incorrect statement that I have referred to any Tasmanian representative as a “ mug.”
– I ask the right honorable member to withdraw the statement.
– If the statement is offensive to the Postmaster-General, I withdraw it. He is reported in the newspapers as having made it. If that is not a correct report, I regret having attributed the statement to him. Dospite what has been said in Tasmania respecting the action of both Labour and non-Labour members from Tasmania, I repeat that they have always done their best in the interests of that State.
.- I appreciate the position in which the Government finds itself. It has been in office for only a limited period, and has not had an opportunity to look into the financial position of Tasmania. Therefore, it is prudent for it to adopt, for the first year, at any rate, the proposal of its predecessors, and to offer to have a further investigation carried out by the Public Accounts Committee. This question is undoubtedly of vital concern to Tasmania. During the election campaign I contended that the grant which the Commonwealth Government proposed to make to Tasmania was inadequate to place that State on a proper economic footing. I now repeat that assertion in this chamber. The progress or retrogression of Tasmania is governed largely by the attitude adopted towards it by the Commonwealth Government and Parliament. In 1926, because of representations made by the then State Government to the BrucePage Government, Sir Nicholas Lockyer was sent to Tasmania to inquire into and report upon the financial position of Tasmania as it was affected by federa tion. That gentleman went very thoroughly into the question, and reported in the following terms.- -
It appears to be certain that Tasmania has suffered more than any other State by the direct and indirect influence of Federal policy. The State not only has been unable to share in the remarkable prosperity which has been so marked a feature in regard to Australia generally during the period covered by federation, but to an increasing extent each year she lags behind her more fortunate sister States. The most convincing evidence of this is the very regrettable serious annual loss of population.
He also stated -
It may be noted that Tasmania is the only State which has not received indirect benefits by Commonwealth expenditure within its borders, for the purposes of purely national policy, such as federal railways, sugar bounty, shipbuilding, the Murray waters irrigation scheme, defence, factories, &e., in respect of all of which Tasmania bears a proportion of the cost.
A further paragraph in his report reads -
There can be no doubt whatever that the financial position of Tasmania is one of serious moment, and calls for immediate attention. Without substantial assistance from the Commonwealth for relief of its present position, and for developmental purposes, it will bc quite impossible, in my opinion, to stem the exodus of population, which has reached alarming proportions, and if permitted to continue will surely lead to the bankruptcy of .the State, a possible contingency of vital importance to the whole of the Commonwealth.
Those are not the words of the Tasmanian Government, the Tasmanian Premier, or myself, but of the Commonwealth Government’s own commissioner. That gentleman recommended to the Commonwealth Government grants totalling £395,000 a year for a period of ten years; a gift of £500,000 for hydroelectric purposes; and a loan of £1,000,000, free of interest, for ten years, for developmental purposes generally. It is true that certain conditions were attached to those recommendations; but when the State Government objected to them they were withdrawn. Did the Commonwealth Government accept the recommendations? It did not. Tasmania was given the paltry sum of £378,000 a year for two years, and when those two years had expired the grant was reduced by £158,000. As a result of that reduction there has been a deficit for the first time for many years. The present Tasmanian National Government has finished the year’s operations with a deficit of something approaching ?100,000. Sir Nicholas Lockyer recommended a gift of ?500,000 for hydro-electric purposes. In his very interesting report he quotes the opinion of the chief engineer and general manager of the hydro-electric department, in the following terms: -
At the outbreak of the war, the zinc industry was in the hands of Germany, to which country .Australian ore was exported. The then Prime Minister of Australia set out to break Mw domination of Germany in this industry, mid establish the same in Australia for the Empire for all time. To do this Tasmania had to supply thu power at considerably below cost, and it is a burden which she is carrying for Australia and the Empire, and for which consideration should bo given. Tasmania, with her small population, has had the courage to tackle this work, and it is falling unduly hard on her people.
Sir Nicholas Lockyer recommended that ;
A sum of ?500,000 be provided to relieve Tasmania of part of the capital cost of the hydro-electric scheme in consideration of the assistance afforded by the State in the establishment of thu electrolytic zinc industry in Australia, and in consideration of import duties paid by the State (amounting to about ?220,000) on machinery and material not manufactured in the Commonwealth. I think it highly probably when the then Prime Minister (the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes) was striving to break, mid ultimately succeeded in breaking, the metal monopoly - at the time under enemy control - if Tasmania had refused to bear the hurden necessary in order that our vast resources of zinc ores might bo’ treated mid refined in Australia, the Commonwealth would have shared the cost rather than risk mi industry of so grave importance being lost to Australia and to the Empire. As already explained, owing to inflated prices, immediately after the termination of the war, the cost of the State hydro-electric scheme greatly exceeded thu original estimates.
Later, the Development and Migration Commission investigated the financial position of Tasmania, and in a report dated the 27th June, 1928, said- it is submitted that the financial assistance to Tasmania must be considered under two main heads - (1) general financial assistance necessary to enable the Tasmanian Government to maintain its taxation at a figure Unit will not seriously hamper industry;
Does the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) consider that the Tasmanian Government should increase its taxation to a figure that will hamper industry? When he, as Federal
Treasurer, was first asked to give financial assistance to Tasmania, he told the representatives of the State to return and put their own house in order.
– He definitely told us that our taxation must be increased. That is how our house was to be put in order.
– That is so, and when the Commonwealth grant was received, Tasmanian taxation was reduced to approximately the average per head for the Commonwealth. The Development and Migration Commission continued -
The commission recommended that certain steps should be taken by the Tasmanian Government in order to rehabilitate the industries and finances of the State. They included the extension of the new agricultural department and the establishment of a demonstration farm, assistance to the fat-lamb industry, forestry development, testing of low-grade mineral ores, and stimulation of the tourist traffic. But no money was provided by the Commonwealth to assist the State to carry out those recommendations; indeed the attitude of the Commonwealth Government to the State was that of a person offering a hungry man salt without meat. The Development and Migration Coinmission definitely recommended that Commonwealth assistance Avas necessary to enable the State Government to give effect to the commission’s recommendations. Why should the citizens of that State be obliged to bear a heavier burden of taxation than those of other States? The people of the Commonwealth are one, and there should be some approach to uniformity in their taxation burdens. Those burdens must be measured, not by the average tax per head of population or the relative rates of taxation, but by the proportion of taxation to income, or what experts call the taxable capacity. Statistics prove that the taxable capacity of the people in the different States varies, and Sir Nicholas Lockyer reported that of Tasmania, in respect of all direct taxation, was equal to 60 per cent, of the Australian average.
The Leader of the Country party referred to the Tasmanian railways. They constitute one of the greatest problems with which the State Government has to cope. At the inception of the railway system no provision was made for depreciation or replacement, and when the Lyons Government proposed to provide for replacements, the then Federal Government took exception to the cost being included in Tasmania’s claim for federal assistance. The railways represent a capital cost of approximately £7,000,000, but to-day are not worth £2,000,000. Therefore, the taxpayers of the State are paying interest on £5,000,000, which is not represented by assets. Obsolete equipment is being replaced by further capital expenditure, because of the absence of a depreciation fund; consequently, the capitalization of the system is increasing continuously. The Development and Migration Commission was convinced that annual provision for replacement should be made, and recommended accordingly.
Amongst the many other disabilities of the State is the depression in several of its industries, due to the competition of imports. In regard to the timber industry, I quote from the evidence given before the Tariff Board by the Conservator of Forests, Mr. Irby-
The position, as regards Tasmania, of the timber industry and its bearing on the whole forestry problem, is very, very grave. At the present time, I should say that somewhere about half of the saw-mills of Tasmania are closed. I have not the exact figures; and more are closing practically daily….. There is nothing that knocks the timber industry back as local importations of foreign timber, and makes it harder for us to get a grip of these forests at all.
Mr. Irby informed the board, that of the 192 timber mills in Tasmania, 94 were closed because of the importations of foreign timber, and 92 were working whole or part time. In normal circumstances, the industry employed 2,219 persons, but because of the closing down of nearly half the mills, 905 timber workers were idle.
– When was that evidence given?
– In May. 1925. Much of the imported timber comes from Sweden, where the average wage is approximately ls. per hour, or £2 8s. per week of 48 hours. But Borneo, Japan and the
Philippines also are large exporters of timber to Australia, and there Asiatic or black labour is almost universally employed. Under Japanese control, Manchurian coolies are producing timber which seriously competes with the furniture timber of Tasmania, and they work twelve hours per clay, on seven days weekly, for a daily wage of 3s. 6d. It is against those conditions that the Australian worker is expected to compete. More timber is being imported to-day than twelve months ago. The imports for the six months ended the 31st July, 1928, totalled 171,781,614 super, feet, valued at at £1,695,659, whilst the imports for the six months ended the 31st July, 1929, totalled 211,559,160 super, feet, valued at £2,029,899, representing an increase of nearly 40,000,000 super, feet, worth £334,000. These facts prove that there is justification for further protective duties. The carbide industry of Tasmania could produce the whole of Australia’s requirements. Yet, 1,400 tons is imported annually, while the Tasmanian industry, which is working part time, supplies the balance of Australia’s requirements, 3,600 tons. The quality of the Tasmanian article compares more than favorably with that of the imported. This industry also is entitled to further protection. In the hop-growing industry, the value of the production is estimated at £140 per acre, the greater proportion of which is expended in wages, but owing to the competition of imports that industry is threatened with extinction.
Another great disability which is retarding the progress of the island State is the inadequate means of communication with the mainland. It is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament to maintain communication between the various States, but Tasmania, owing to its isolation, has not benefited by Federal expenditure on railways and other means of interstate transport. If Tasmania is to develop and progress, an up-to-date and efficient shipping service between it and the mainland is absolutely essential.
– Did not the Tasmanian people turn down the proposal for a Commonwealth line of steamers?
– What is the tax on personal incomes in Tasmania?
– I can supply the honorable member with that information.
– It is very low.
– No; it is higher than in any other State, having regard to the taxable capacity of the people. The present shipping services connecting that State with the . mainland are inadequate. The Oonah is 41 years old, and the running of that unsuitable vessel seriously handicaps the development of - the northern and north-western districts. There are also grave disabilities in connexion with the Launceston to Melbourne service. When the Commonwealth provides its own steamers between Tasmania and the mainland, I hope that this disability will be overcome.
– Why not develop a port at Launceston?
– We propose to do that, but not in accordance with the recommendation of the Transport Committee of the Development and Migration Commission.
Another matter that needs attention is the expedition of the delivery of mails. I have presented a scheme to the PostmasterGeneral which I think is feasible, and, if it can be put into operation, it will mean that 90 per cent, of the people of Tasmania will receive their mails on the same day as they are delivered in Launceston. The advantages of such a scheme are obvious. The improved service will be more than commensurate with the extra cost involved.
The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked, by way of interjection, what tax was levied on personal incomes in my State. Again I point out that the relative rate of the tax should be fixed in accordance with the taxable capacity of the people. I have a table before me showing the position of the citizens of Tasmania as compared with that of those in other parts of the Commonwealth. Taking the figures 1,000 as representing the average taxable capacity of the people of Australia, one finds that, in 1914-15, the Tasmanian position was represented by the figure 577; in- 1915-16, by 730; in 1916-17, by 451; in 1917-18, by 402; in 1918-19, by 606; in 1919-20, by 619; in 1920-21, by 692; in 1921-22, by 452; in 1922-23, by * 696; and in 1923-24, by 722. The average for the ten years was only 596. There are a very few people in Tasmania who have large incomes; only 33 have a net income of over £2,000 a year.
Referring to the proposal for the development of the port of Launceston, the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) apparently believes that the report of the Transport Committee of th, Development and Migration Commission, regarding the establishment of a port at Windermere, should be adopted. Despite the cries heard for economy, the exTreasurer wants us to waste £120,000 in the construction of a railway and jetty at Windermere, although such a railway would not return sufficient to pay for axle grease. Windermere is 12 miles down the Tamar from’ Launceston, and the establishment of a port there would result in serious duplication, because it would involve the employment of two sets of officials such as Marine Board, shipping and railway officers. The present handling facilities would have to be duplicated, to say nothing of the extra fares and freights that would have, to be paid. Such a scheme should not be entertained merely to suit the whim of certain persons who are interested in land “jobbing” at Windermere. It would deal a severe blow to the tourist traffic of the island. It is true that the Transport Committee recommended that the boat train should be eliminated. That train leaves the Launceston wharf immediately after the arrival of the vessel from Melbourne, and makes practically a non-stop run to Hobart. If the boat gets in by 8 a.m., the passengers reach Hobart by about 1.30 p.m. or 2 p.m. the same day. The suggestion of the Transport Committee that the saving that would be made by cutting out the boat train would pay interest and working expenses in connexion with a railway to Windermere shows ignorance of local conditions.
– It would double the tourist trade.
– The honorable member is entitled to his .opinion; but the public men in Launceston, and throughout Tasmania, declare that such a scheme would ruin the tourist trade. The Launceston City Council should know something about its own position, and it has definitely declared, with only one dissentient voice, that it is opposed to any downriver port, because of the damage that it would do to the tourist traffic. I have before me a communication, over the signature of the Tasmanian Railways Commissioner, showing that the earnings of the boat express amount to lis. 6d. per train mile, and it costs about 8s. per train mile to run. This makes it the best paying train in the State. The ordinary express, which the Transport Committee thought would meet the situation, earns 7s. lOd. per train mile, while the evening train returns only 3s. 3£d. per train mile. The average earnings of all main line passenger trains amount to 6s. Sd. per train mile. It would be foolish to discontinue the running of the boat train, because tourists and business people would not travel to Tasmania if they were obliged to journey across that State in what is practically a mixed train that necessarily stops at all stations.
– Is the necessary dredging plant available for the improvement of the Tamar River?
– All the troubles could be overcome if a spirit of sweet reasonableness were adopted. In other parts of the world tidal services are provided. Some ports in England are situated on tidal rivers, and the boats arc run to suit the tides. There is no reason why the same course should not be followed in Tasmania. In this matter I am fortified by fin expert opinion. No one has a more intimate knowledge of the Tamar, and the facilities that it offers for navigation, than Captain K. Livingstone, who was for many years master of the Loongana. He never had any difficulty with his ship, and he was prepared to pit his experience against those of any other shipmaster trading to Launceston. Captain Livingstone recently stated -
Thu Tamar is one of the finest rivers in the Southern Hemisphere, being exceptionally well lighted and marked. As regards the passenger service and the fuss that is made about it, let them work the river on two tides - day and night - and there will be no trouble. I. have done it and it can be done without any of the fuss and trouble raised now.
Captain Livingstone had no difficulty in berthing his boat at the wharf in Launceston in time to connect with the trains for Hobart. I understand that the Marine Board contemplates dealing with the upper reaches of the Tamar, so that there will always be at least 14 feet of water, irrespective of the condition of the tide. If that is done, vessels of the type of the Nairana, and perhaps ships of a slightly deeper draft than that of the Loongana. could then reach Launceston at almost any time. Therefore, there is no necessity to waste £120,000 on a down-river port.
I am pleased that the Government has seen fit to grant £250,000 to Tasmania this year. When the promised reinvestigation is made, I am satisfied that all the points that I have mentioned, and many more, will be established, and that the report of the committee will be favorable to my State.
Mr. BELL (Darwin) [9.44J.- The amount provided for in this bill is exactly the same as that proposed in the measure brought down by the late Treasurer when his budget was presented to the last Parliament. The period of the grant is still five years. I do not think that any great disappointment will be felt in Tasmania owing to the fact that the grant has not been increased this year.
The Tasmanian Government felt a little, anxiety, because it was not sure whether the Labour party, if returned to power, would make the State as large a grant as the Bruce-Page Government had’ promised. It is true that during the election campaign liberal promises were made to Tasmania by the Labour candidates, but some allowances, no doubt, were made for candidates who were seeking the suffrages of the people.
In introducing this bill the Treasurer extolled the present Postmaster-General for his work as Premier of Tasmania, and particularly for being able to show a surplus. I have no desire to depreciate the honorable gentleman’s work, nor that of any other Tasmanian Minister, in the difficult days through which the State has passed and is still passing. I appreciate all that has been done for Tasmania in the State Parliament, and in this Parliament as well. The Treasurer was asked by interjection from this side of the chamber, whether he did not think that the Commonwealth Government of the time was entitled to credit for the surplus shown by Mr. Lyons. His reply was that it was due to the persuasive eloquence of Mr. Lyons that Tasmania had received such liberal treatment from the previous administration. Mr. Lyons certainly put his case to the last Government very well indeed, and was successful in obtaining from the Bruce-Page Government a greater measure of financial assistance to Tasmania than has ever been provided by other governments. For that reason, one might have expected him to be even more successful in dealing with a Labour administration, of which he, personally, is a member. Still, I am not disap-pointed
I am puzzled, though, about the future policy of this Government in regard to assistance to Tasmania. The Treasurer stated that the Government intended to cause another inquiry to be made into Tasmania’s affairs. Seeing that this bill makes provision for the next five years, it would seem that another inquiry was unnecessary. The Public Accounts Committee is to visit Tasmania early in the new year to investigate the peculiar circumstances of the State, and report as to whether, according to the Treasurer’s estimate, the present grant is adequate to meet the situation. It will also report upon losses sustained by the State through the floods of last year. I have no serious objection to the Committee inquiring into the subject of flood damage, but I protest against the making of another investigation into the general condition of Tasmania. The people of the island State are heartily sick of these continual inquiries. Numerous reports have already been made upon Tasmania’s affairs, but they have not been acted upon. The first report was made in 1911. In 1926 Sir Nicholas Lockyer made what I regard as the most valuable and. comprehensive report ever presented to this Parliament on Tasmania. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) quoted at length from this document. Seeing that the Development and Migration Commission and the Transport Committee have also inquired into Tasmania’s affairs, there is a wealth of information available to the Government. I suggest that some members of the Public Accounts Committee, especially Senator J. B. Hayes, who was a Minister in the Tasmanian Parliament for many years, and was Premier of that State, and who is well equipped to-day to advise the Go vernment concerning the claims of Tasmania for financial assistance, could supply the desired information. The Government also has at its disposal the services of the Postmaster-General, who is also an ex-Premier of Tasmania, and the honorable member for Bass, who is an ex-Mini ster, to say nothing of myself - although I claim to be as able as any of the honorable gentlemen I have mentioned to submit a case for Tasmania - and the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Culley) it therefore appears to me to be absolutely unnecessary to put the Commonwealth and the State to the expense of an inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee. It is hardly necessary to make a special inquiry into the losses incurred through the floods, for authentic information is available respecting the cost of rehabilitating the railways and roads and relieving the distress of the people. The Tasmanian people, as I have already said, are sick to death of these continual inquiries. Year after year the Government and private citizens have been put to the expense of preparing a case for submission to these commissions of inquiry, and just as regularly the recommendations that have been made, which have invariably been favorable to the granting of more assistance, have been put on one side. I must say in passing that Tasmania is grateful to the Bruce-Page Government, which did 100 per cent. 11]01’( to assist the State than any previous administration. That statement can be proved by reference to the figures.
I should like to dwell for a few moments upon the report of Sir Nicholas Lockyer, which was quoted at length by the honorable member for Bass. That honorable member, like some of his colleagues on that side of the House, blamed the Commonwealth Government for notadopting the recommendations made by Sir Nicholas Lockyer ; but I must remind him that the Tasmanian Government of the day made it almost impossible for either the Commonwealth Government or the Tasmanian representatives in this Parliament to urge the adoption of those recommendations. I should have asked for nothing better than to have it as my case for the State, but the Tasmanian Government, of which the present
Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons) was Premier, condemned it because some of its recommendations were subject to certain conditions. It was said that those stipulations were unfair and improper. Sir Nicholas Lockyer recommended that Tasmania should be granted a loan of £1,000,000 free of interest for a period of ten years. There was nothing wrong with that. He also recommended that a special grant of £300,000- not £395,000 as stated by the honorable member for Bass - should be made for ten years, subject to the condition that Tasmania should reduce her taxation by approximately £100,000 per annum. I do not think that that was an unfair condition, but the Tasmanian Government would not accept it. The honorable member for Bass said that the report was withdrawn, but that was not so; it was simply placed on one side. Negotiations were subsequently entered into between the two Governments, the result of which was that a grant of £378,000 was made annually for two years. The grant was made unconditionally, but it was understood that it was being made to enable the State to reduce its taxation to something like the level of the other States. As a matter of fact the taxation was reduced by £140,000 per annum. I do not subscribe to the view that it would be proper for this Parliament to enforce general conditions upon Tasmania in connexion with these special grants, but it was poor tactics for the Tasmanian Government to reject the opportunity to secure adequate financial assistance because it would not accept such a condition as I have described.
– Surely the honorable member is not so simple that he believes that the Commonwealth Government would have adopted the report?
– I say that it was regretable that the Tasmanian representatives in this Parliament were prevented from using the report as a battleground. They could not do so, because the Tasmanian Government would not accept it.
– Nor would the Commonwealth Government accept it.
– The honorable member is hardly in a position to make that statement. Had they been left free to ‘ do so the Tasmanian representatives in this
Parliament could have brought such influence to bear upon the Government of the day to oblige it to accept the report of its own commission. I should not have referred to this matter but for the remarks of the honorable member for Bass. In addition to the other recommendations that I have mentioned Sir Nicholas Lockyer suggested that £500,000 should be voted to Tasmania to recoup her partially for her expenditure upon the hydroelectric scheme. This also was conditional upon the State appointing a board of experts to inquire into the scheme before any additional extensive expenditure was incurred. The personnel of the board was to be submitted to the Commonwealth Governmenet for approval. That would not have been a difficulty. The State could easily have taken advantage of that recommendation, for the Commonwealth Government would not have offered any objection to the appointment of experts recommended by the State.
I have every sympathy with the Government of Tasmania at all times, and have always withheld criticism of it, because I have realized that it has its difficulties in administering the affairs of the State. I have tried to cooperate with it, and I trust that I shall be able to co-operate Avith my colleagues from Tasmania on the Government benches Avith the object of doing the best Ave can for our State. But when the Tasmanian representatives in this House are condemned, because they did not get adequate assistance for Tasmania, it is only fair for me to say that Ave had no opportunity of influencing the Commonwealth Government to adopt the’ recommendations contained in Sir Nicholas Lockyer’s report. I think that the Lyons Government in Tasmania made a great error when it refused the recommendation of Sir Nicholas Lockyer, because, had it been given, effect, Tasmania would have solved many of it? problems.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) took up much time in explaining to the House that an excellent port could be established at Launceston. The subject of shipping is not now under discussion, and therefore I do not intend to enter into a controversy respecting the merits of the various ports of Tasmania. It is generally admitted that one of the greatest disabilities suffered by that State is the inadequacy of its shipping service. It is because of the difference of opinion in. respect of the proposal to provide a down the river port in the Tamar River that the improved service outlined by the late Prime Minister has been held up for so long. Over and over again, I have protested that it is unfair to Tasmania to delay improving the shipping service, just because of a difference of opinion regarding a port in the river Tamar. The honorable member for Bass has said that a service could be provided that would ensure quick delivery of mails to 95 per cent, of the Tasmanian people. I know that such a service could be provided by improving the shipping facilities to Burnie. That the service to Burnie should be the first to be improved was the considered opinion of the Public Accounts Committee, which, two years ago, inquired into the shipping services of Tasmania. That service is utterly inadequate. The Oonah, which runs between Melbourne and Burnie, is 41 years old, and is quite inadequate for requirements. Burnie is a deep water port, capable of providing accommodation for the largest vessels that come to Australia. Shipping is never held up at that port. When the Postmaster-General is considering the mail service, he should make provision for a service that will reach the whole of the people of Tasmania expeditiously. That can best to done via the port of Burnie. The west coast, with its big mining fields, is an important part of Tasmania, but it is impossible for mails to reach the westcoast and be delivered on the day of arrival, except via the port of Burnie, or, at any rate, another port on the northwest coast.
– The mail scheme that I outlined is quite different.
– I am not going to dispute on that subject with the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy), because I am sure that we shall be able to co-operate in ensuring for Tasmania an adequate shipping service. The shipping facilities of Tasmania have for a long time been in adequate, and I hope that the present Government will take early action to remedy that defect. Whether that is done by the establishment of a Commonwealth line or by subsidizing private shipping companies, I care not, so long as the service is improved. But if we have to wait until a Commonwealth line of steamers is established, we shall wait for a considerable time. I do not wish to labour this subject, because the case for Tasmania has repeatedly been put before this Parliament. There is nothing new to be said. I have referred to the inquiries that have taken place, and the various reports are still available. I regret that it is now proposed to institute another inquiry into the causes of Tasmania’s financial difficulties. Why the delay and why the inquiry? I recognize that the Government has not been long in office, and I wish to be fair to them and reasonable in my demands. I should like to know definitely what is in the mind of the Treasurer in stating that the case for Tasmania is to be re-opened and another inquiry held. Is it proposed to review the grant next year ? If so, I am rather surprised that the bill provides for payments over five years.
– The bill at least provides a minimum amount for five years.
– I am pleased to hear that, because it, at least, suggests that after the inquiry has been held there is n possibility of Tasmania obtaining further assistance. I am concerned with the condition of the people of Tasmania, and the disadvantages under which they are suffering. The case for Tasmania has rested largely upon the fact that Commonwealth legislation, although it may be in the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole, has a detrimental effect upon that State. It is considered that the operation of the Navigation Act is responsible for the curtailment of the shipping service to Tasmania. The late Government proposed to repeal the coastal provisions of that Act, but this Government proposes to make no alteration. Then again, the arbitration awards have been a great factor in preventing Tasmanian industries from being able to compete with industries on the mainland. The high tariff also militates against Tasmania generally, and I urge that as the policy of the present Government is not likely to free Tasmania of its difficulties, the State surely has a special case for further assistance. The people of Tasmania rely upon this Parliament for -justice, and I am sure that no honorable member in this House would deny it to them. I give the present Government credit for wishing to act fairly t,o Tasmania, and if T. can be of any assistance to it my services are always available. I urge the Treasurer to reconsider his decision to hold another elaborate inquiry, because there will lie loud protests from the Tasmanian people when they realize that after all the promises that were made to thom by the Labour party on the hustings, the only assistance they are to get is simply another inquiry.
.- On more than one occasion in this House I have spoken on the subject of Tasmania and its disabilities. I have visited that State several times; on the last occasion with the Advancement of Science Association. I went there to find out what was the matter with Tasmania, and I have come to the conclusion that its people arc without energy or enthusiasm. There is no spirit in them. For a number of years Tasmania has had what is known as the Hare system of voting.
– I would remind the honorable member for East Sydney that we are dealing with the proposed grant to Tasmania, and I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to that subject.
– I wish to show that Improper management and the exercise of intelligence the Tasmanian people could bring about many economies. Under the system of voting in vogue there, the Parliament of Tasmania was for many years dominated by one man, who held the balance of power. He was the greatest crank that ever lived in Tasmania, and no one knew how he would vote. He was a member of this Parliament for a short time, and caused more fun and ridicule than has any other member of this House. Tasmania, with all its disabilities, still maintains a State Governor, and the people refuse to do without him.
An effort was made to abolish the second parliamentary chamber, but unfortunately for Tasmania it failed. That State has an Agent-General in London, and what he does goodness only knows. Why should the Commonwealth Government be called upon to give relief to Tasmania when it flatly refuses to curtail its own expenditure? It is surely reasonable to ask Tasmania to make some attempt; to reduce her expenditure. When I last visited Tasmania I tried to impress upon the people that they ought to do something more than they were doing. Why, for half the year Tasmania is practically shut up. If one goes there during one portion of the year one finds that parts of the hotels are closed, and remain closed until the busy season begins again. Being in the building trade myself, I was interested in the buildings, particularly those of Launceston and Hobart, and it was my impression that in half of them the sashes and frames hud been made by the convicts who came out to Port Arthur, while most of the buildings needed painting to make them habitable.
Then there is the matter of transport between Tasmania and the mainland. When I was in Tasmania I advocated that the Government should establish a State-owned line of steamers, and I promised to do -what I could to assist them in putting the proposal into effect. During the slack season those steamers which were not required could be laid up. The Government, however, would not have anything to do with the matter, because they had the idea that it savoured too much of socialism. I maintain that I have as much right to book my passage from Sydney to Hobart, and travel all the way by Government-owned transport, as I have to travel on Government-owned railways from Sydney to Perth.
Some good, perhaps, may come of the proposal to send the Joint Committee of Public Accounts to Tasmania to inquire into Tasmanian disabilities. I have no doubt that the committee will report that the present facilities for communication between Tasmania and the mainland are inadequate. One of the troubles from which Tasmania suffers is that all the intelligent young men leave the island, so that women predominate. How can any place make progress when the majority of the population are women ?
– I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the bill.
– The amount of money granted at various times to Tasmania would more than buy the place. I have always said, that no progress will ever be made in Tasmania unless we introduce a system of unification, abolishing the Tasmanian Parliament altogether, or unless Victoria takes over the administration of the island. The experience of Tasmania furnishes one of the best arguments available for unifica-tion in Australia. The constant demands of some of the States are becoming burdensome, and it does not seem right that New South Wales and Victoria should, continually have to make contributions to them. Of course, if they can prove that they have suffered any loss as a result of federation, the more prosperous States will be quite prepared to bear with Christian fortitude the burden of helping them, but when, as is the case in Tasmania, the State Government makes no attempt to reduce expenditure, the representatives of other States are entitled to call a halt. This continual drain on the Commonwealth purse cannot continue. The making of this grant is on a par with the policy of giving assistance to South Australia and writing off the indebtedness of Victoria in respect of soldier settlements. In a recent report it was stated that nearly £12,000,000 had been lost over the settlement of returned” soldiers in Victoria, and that there was no possibility of ever recovering it. It is not right that the Commonwealth should make grants to- the States without having any knowledge of what is to be done with the money. Up to the present we have been making the grants and praying to God that they would be wisely spent. It is not only in South Australia and Tasmania that the railways are losing money. In New South Wales we” have thirteen railways that do not pay the cost of axle grease. They were developmental railways built for the purpose of helping the men on the land, and the people in the cities- have to pay for them.”……
– The other States did not get a -Federal Capital out of federation, as New South Wales did.
– The money devoted to the establishment of the Federal Capital was wisely spent. Those who follow the honorable member will thank God that there were men with brains enough to place the capital here.
– The honorable member must address the Chair.
– I admit that I .should not have taken any notice of the interjection, but my generous spirit could not resist doing so. Reference has been made during the course of. this debate to the hydro-electric undertakings in Tasmania. They are certainly very wonderful, and I was surprised at their magnitude. The trouble is, however, that the whole scheme is too big. There is enough water stored to provide a shower bath for every Australian three times a day without producing any visible effect upon the supply. It is certainly a splendid piece of engineering, but the question is, will it pay? Non-paying railways are notpeculiar to Tasmania. The railways of every State are facing very severe motor competition, and not only that, but the time has arrived when heavy expenditure has to be undertaken for the replacement of rolling-stock. There are still running in Australia many of the engines built 50 years ago, but they are now wearing out, and, in any case, are two small for the loads which are to be drawn. Personally, my sympathy goes out to the Tasmanians in their difficulties, but I cannot help thinking that a good many of their troubles are due to themselves. The impression which I gained from my visit to Tasmania was that the people there, are too slow. Whether that impression was. due to my own lively and active spirit, and to my New South Wales ideas of business, I do not know, but it seemed to me that they were the slowest people. I had ever come across. The. Commonwealth cannot be continually making doles .to Tasmania. We must discover what is the cause of her trouble. . Until w.e locate the cause of the trouble we cannot take steps to cure it. It is not just that the Commonwealth should bear this” financial strain and yet have no say as to the- manner in which the money is expended.
.- I do not know whether to congratulate or condemn the honorable member who preceded me. He led me to believe that if I gave him precedence he would assist materially to obtain a further grant for Tasmania. He deceived me. Instead of giving Tasmania the assistance we desire, he has seen fit to criticize that State and its conditions, despite the fact that while he was there I did my best to make his stay a pleasant one. Evidently this particular question is a hardy annual with Tasmania’s representatives. It is unfortunate that every year we are obliged to discuss Tasmania’s financial relations with the Commonwealth. I have the greatest respect for the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) and his opinion; but I do not think that either he or any other honorable member can accuse me of having made accusations against him or any other candidate who contested the elections in Tasmania.
– I have never suggested that the honorable member did so.
– Although we are in opposite camps, I believe that in this instance we are all aiming for the one goal. Our desire as Tasmanian representatives is to do the best we can in the interests of the State that we have the honour to represent. But evidently, in our efforts to reach that goal, we a-re taking different paths. This matter has been discussed in Tasmania over an extended period, and for many years a large body of influential persons in that State have interested themselves in it. Some honorable members are better acquainted with Tasmania’s financial relations with the Commonwealth than I am, because they have been in this Parliament practically since the inception of federation and have taken part in the earlier debates. From 1913 until about 1923 Tasmania received from the Commonwealth a special grant of £90,000 a year, and when that amount was reduced the State Government immediately found itself in financial difficulties. While it was receiving the grant of £90,000 a year it evidently took no steps to provide for the future, possibly believing that the grant would continue for all time. But when it was cut down, the financial position became so bad that quite a number of members decided to scuttle the party ship and hand over control to the gentleman who is now Postmaster-General in this Government. From the time that he took office a serious attempt was made to stem the tide of financial depression. .The Great War unfortunately affected adversely the finances of every State, but I do not think that any State suffered as greatly as Tasmania. During the war quite a number of patriots traversed the Commonwealth waving the flag and giving lip service. I suppose that what happened in Tasmania was repeated in every other State. These patriots, who made such loud professions of their loyalty, told our young men that if they would save this country for them they would see that they never wanted; yet they were the first to take advantage of the returned men, because they compelled governments to pay exorbitant prices for land upon which to place soldier settlers. It cost Tasmania over £2,000,000 to carry out that work. That liability should have been shouldered from its inception by the Commonwealth Government. Possibly that factor has been operating against Tasmania, and has assisted to place her in the unfortunate position in which she finds herself to-day. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) would have this House to believe that the late Government, of which he was a member, acted generously towards Tasmania. On one occasion, it made a grant of £378,000 a year to that State; but when the Tasmanian Government, in an endeavour to prove that it was not wasting the money, economized in every direction and showed a surplus, the Commonwealth Government immediately reduced the amount of the grant by £15S,000. That was a very serious action, and I believe that Tasmanian members took exception to it. The effect upon Tasmania was to turn its surplus into a deficit. .A number of influential bodies in Tasmania have been assisting the State Government to present a true case to the Commonwealth. A great deal of expense has been incurred in the past upon committees and commissions that have made recommendations upon which no action has been taken, but I have every reason to believe that effect will be given to the recommendations that will be made as the result of the inquiry that is shortly to take place. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) and other honorable members will agree that there is something radically wrong when Tasmania has to come year after year to the Commonwealth, pleading for a few more pounds’ to enable it to carry on. If the inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee will define exactly once and for all the financial relations of Tasmania and the Commonwealth, it will have been well “worth while.
– Does the honorable member consider that a further inquiry is necessary ?
– If the honorable member represented a Tasmanian constituency, and was acquainted with the manner in which influential bodies in every part of that State are backing up their Government in its efforts to prove that the State has not had a fair deal, Le would come to the conclusion that a further inquiry is necessary to decide the matter once and for all. I do not know exactly where we stand. Many influential bodies are working in conjunction with the State Government on the preparation of a case. They include the Hobart Chamber of Commerce, which plays an important part in the affairs of the State, the Hobart Development League; an institution in Launceston called the Fifty Thousand League; the Northern Chamber of Manufactures; the connexions of the Hobart Mercury, the Launceston Examiner, and merchants in different parts of the State. All those persons and bodies believe that an injustice is being done to Tasmania. Until a comprehensive inquiry is held throughout the State its people will continue to believe that they are suffering an injustice.
– Did not the Hobart Mercury say that little was to be expected from the inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee 1
– I have not read that journal since the Government’s intention to refer this matter to the Public Ac counts Committee was announced, but I remind the ex-Treasurer that there was no greater critic of the previous Government in respect of its attitude towards Tasmania than the Mercury.
– It seems to be a free critic of the present Government.
– It -may commence to criticize the present Government if it proves as unsympathetic as its predecessor. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) spoke of the promises made to the people of Tasmania by Labour candidates during the recent election. I have every reason to believe that the promises made by the Prime Minister in that State, and repeated by other candidates, will be honoured at the appropriate time. But I do not think the Tasmanian people expect the Government to give immediate effect to the undertaking to establish a Commonwealth Line of steamers between “the island and the mainland. An immediate inquiry into the disabilities of Tasmania was promised, and I understand that the Public Accounts Committee will commence an investigation early in the new year. I do not agree with some of my friends, who declare that some of the disabilities of Tasmania are due to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. That State labours under no special disadvantage in that regard. The court has fixed a basic wage for a man with a wife and three children, and the amount is automatically varied in accordance with the rise and. fall of the cost of living. The inadequate tariff protection of Australian industries is said to be another cause of Tasmania’s present plight, and one which I hope will be investigated by the Public Accounts Committee. The people of the Island undoubtedly are handicapped by the inadequate shipping communication with the Mainland, and I believe that the promise of the Prime Minister to establish a Commonwealth owned line of steamers will be kept. Improved communication with the Mainland will increase the tourist traffic, which during the summer months is worth a great deal to that State. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) said that Tasmania is not worth the money’ that it is costing the Commonwealth. That is a libel on my State, which is one of the richest in thefederation, having great natural resources, including metals, coal and forests. Why it is languishing at the present time I am unable to say. I do not admit that the Navigation Act is a substantial cause, but I believe that Tasmania is suffering seriously as a result of federation. Some of its people go so far as to advocate secession from the union. I do not go to that extreme, because I believe that if Tasmania were to drop out of the federation it would be even more isolated, and in other respects worse off than it is today. . I regret that, owing to the state of the Commonwealth finances, the Government is not able to offer a larger grant than £250,000, but I trust that as a result of the inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee Tasmania will get more generous treatment in the next financial year.
.- Honorable members must have noted with surprise the silence of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Lyons) regarding this matter which so vitally affects the State of which he is the principal representative. . During the recent election campaign Labour candidates in Tasmania had much to say of the parsimony of the Bruce-Page Government and the benefits that might be expected by the people of that State if the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) should be. placed in power. On this subject the Hobart Mercury of the 25th November said -
We have a particularly lively recollection of the scornful remarks made by Mr. Lyons about the miserable inadequacy of the proposed grant of £250,000 for five years. When we ventured to suggest that perhaps Mr. Lyons was a little optimistic in his prophecy that a Labour Government would be more generous, the reply was that such criticism was unfair and even unpatriotic. Now, after our long experience of Mr. Lyons as a public man, arid more particularly as Premier of Tasmania, we could not without deliberate unfairness suppose that he made statements or promises in which he did not believe. Nor did we ever suggest such a thing. As it happens, our prognostication is confirmed by facts. The new federal budget provides for the same special grant to Tasmania of £250,000 a year for five years, which, when proposed by the late Government, was so fiercely denounced by Mr. Lyons as insufficient. On the. whole, considering the unwholesome condition of federal finance, we might be inclined to say that nothing much better was to be expected, had it not been for the promises made during the election campaign.
No honorable member acquainted with the circumstances of the election campaign in Tasmania will dispute that such statements were made, and that the PostmasterGeneral was particularly vigorous in denouncing the inadequacy of the proposed grant of £250,000 for five years. Yet the Ministry of which he is a member is proposing a grant of exactly that amount. I can understand that the PostmasterGeneral has not been able to impress his views on his colleagues in the Ministry. When he is required to face the financial position of the Commonwealth, he is unable to give effect to the proposal which formerly he so freely supported. It is unfortunate that lavish promises are so irresponsibly made by gentlemen who have occupied responsible positions.
– The Government is carrying out the promise that the Prime Minister and I made to investigate the case for Tasmania. That is what I promised, and that is what I am getting.
– One expects the Postmaster-General, instead of speaking by interjection, to rise in his place and state why he supports this bill for what he called a “miserably inadequate “ and “ parsimonious “ grant to Tasmania. Also, it would not be out of place for him to offer some observations on a subject on which, no doubt, he has often waxed eloquent - the allegedly vicious habit of referring matters to commissions and committees for investigation and report. It makes no difference, in principle, whether an investigation is made by the Public Accounts Committee or the Development and Migration Commission. Year after year one has heard from honorable members opposite objections to such inquiries, and it has been said that the Ministers ought to makeup their own mindson these matters. Surely, as honorable members have said, there have been enough inquiries in Tasmania to satisfy the most ardent advocates ofinvestigation. I have heard various honorablemembers saythat the past Government’s own commissioner made a particular recommendation. I think thatthe honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) was particularly vigorous in making that point; but I hope that this House will never accept the proposition that a government is bound to adopt the recommendation of a commissioner appointed by it. To lay down such a principle is to abandon the duty of government. These committees, whether composed of members of this House or not, are formed for investigation only, and their appointment does not bind the Government that appoints them.
– Then it is a waste of money to refer matters to them for inquiry.
– There are some honorable members who do not appear to be able to conceive that there may be virtue in an inquiry, and that, after it has been made, there may still be room for the exercize of independent judgment upon the results of that inquiry. Obviously that is the case, and it would be an utterly unsound contention to say that the Government or the House must be bound by a decision of a committee of inquiry. Take, for example, the investigation that was made into the operation of the Navigation Act. The royal commission that inquired into that subject split into three sections in presenting its report, and there was no majority recommendation. That illustrates the impossibility of laying down any rule that the recommendations of such a body should necessarily be adopted. Suppose there is a majority report and also a minority report. Does anybody seriously suggest that the members should abandon their rights in this House if one side happens to obtain a majority on such a body? Even if a report were unanimous, we should be none the less free, and it would be the duty of members to exercise their judgment upon the results obtained from the inquiry. It is this misapprehension about the functions of these bodies that has’ led to much of the criticism of them. There are some who apparently think that the fact that a government appoints a body to report and make recommendations upon a certain matter absolves it from responsibility in that matter ; but the responsibility still rests with the Government to determine its policy and to act. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) said that the late Government ignored the report of its own commissioner, as if there were an obligation to accept it. Then he pointed out that the commission made certain recommendations accompanied by certain conditions; but he showed the absurdity of his attitude by saying that the Government should be bound by the main recommendation without conditions. I rose particularly for the purpose of affording the Postmaster-Gene ral an opportunity to explain why he is now regarding as apparently sufficient and proper for Tasmania a sum which he previously condemned as insufficient and parsimonious. If he obtained votes on the promise that better things would be given to Tasmania, should a Labour government be returned, why are not those better things now forthcoming?
.- I did not intend to take part in this discussion, but I shall reply shortly to the observations of the Leader of the Opposition. I desire to see the bill passed promptly, so that the Premier of Tasmania, no matter to which party he belongs, will be in a position to deal properly with the finances of his State as soon as possible. The Leader of the Opposition said thai during the recent election campaign I condemned the late Government for its parsimonious attitude to Tasmania, and that I am now supporting a bill to grant the same amount of assistance to Tasmania as that proposed by his Government. First of all, let me say that I have always gone out of my way .to give full credit to my political opponents for anything that they have done to assist my State. I have accorded such credit, on more than one occasion, to the previous Government, and to my political opponents in Tasmania. When I criticized the late Government, as I did during the recent political campaign, it was at a time when it had cut down the financial assistance to Tasmania to such an extent that it was impossible for the Treasurer of that State to carry on its affairs in a proper manner. Even in the present year, the State Treasurer will not he able to make ends meet. Just as Tasmania was beginning, to forge ahead, it received a setback from which it will not recover for quite a long time, because the late Government substantially reduced the amount of assistance that had been accorded to the State. Never at any time has it received the sum recommended as adequate by the inquiry agents. The last grant was an amount that even the present State Treasurer will admit will prevent Tasmania from making progress. One of the charges that I made against the late Government was that it carried out its investigation through the Developmental and Migration Commission to find out how the finances of the State could be rehabilitated, and that body recommended the re-organization of the Agricultural Department, and the continuation of the work that I had begun in the organization of the primary producers by introducing more scientific methods of production than had previously been adopted. That recommendation was accepted by the Commonwealth Government, and the then Prime Minister assured me that, when the subject of financial assistance to Tasmania was next being considered, the expenditure incurred in that direction would be regarded as justified. The extension of that department involved an increased outlay of about £30,000 and, despite the undertaking given by its Prime Minister, thelate Government reduced Tasmania’s grant by a substantial sum. That is the sort of action that I deprecated on the election platform recently, and that it is what I condemn now.
– But Tasmania finished up with a surplus that year, notwithstanding the extra money expended on the Agricultural Bureau.
– After we had spent the extra money in that direction the grant was reduced in such a way that the State had a deficit of £90,000. If I were not satisfied that Tasmania could make out an unanswerable case for greater assistance than £250,000,I should not be supporting this bill. But the ex-Prime Minister gave an assurance that further investigation would be made, and another opportunity afforded to Tasmania to explain, its position in detail, showing its disabilities by reason of the fact that it is an island, and also that it suffers because of its small population. Were it not for these facts the whole of its circumstances would be altered. Therefore I support the bill as a temporary provision to enable the State to carry on for the present financial year. I feel sure that the result of the investigation to be made will satisfy honorable members from all States that increased assistance is imperative. I gave my personal assurance to the people of Tasmania that, if elected, I would advocate a re-investigation of the case, and the late Prime Minister promised me, and I, in turn, assured the people of that State, that he would stand up to his undertaking.
– Does the Minister advocate a re-investigation of Tasmania’s case?
– I do, emphatically.
– I should have thought there was no necessity for that.
– If the recommendations that were made had been adopted a reinvestigation would be unnecessary, though, of course, as the Leader of the Opposition has suggested, no Government could say to an investigator, “ Go out and make your recommendations, and whatever they are we will give effect to them.”
– Does the PostmasterGeneral suggest that new facts may be discovered if another investigation is conducted ?
– I do. The Tasmanian Parliament has, by resolution, asked for. a re-investigation of its claim for additional assistance. It felt that the last investigation conducted by Mr. Shields, the Premier, and myself was not as comprehensive as it might have been. I am sure that another investigation will give results which will justify honorable members of this chamber who represent the other States in granting the increased financial assistance that Tasmania desires.
The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that I have not been able to convince the Cabinet that additional assist ance is necessary. I have not attempted to do so. The Prime Minister gave his assurance that another investigation would be made, and that was all I desired. In the short time in which the Government has been in office it has been impossible to do more for Tasmania than has been done.
The statement was made to-night by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) that I had referred to honorable members who represented Tasmania in the last Parliament as “mugs.” I deny that I did so. I have too much respect for my colleagues to do anything of the kind. The former honorable member forWilmot (Mr. Atkinson) and I have been personal friends for about twenty years, and I have too much regard for him to refer to him in disrespectful terms. No campaign between political opponents was ever conducted in a fairer or more friendly manner than that waged in Wilmot a couple of months ago. What the right honorable member for Cowper had in mind was this. A newspaper suggested that there was danger in sending brainy representatives into the Commonwealth Parliament, for they might not submit readily to party discipline. The writer of the article went on to suggest that it would therefore be safer to send “ mugs “ here. I do not know whether “ mugs “ was the exact word used, but that was what was meant. If I am here because that argument was advanced by the newspaper I am grateful to it for its assistance. I have never at any time referred to my political opponents in such disrespectful terms, and I intend never to do so. All I did during the election campaign was to quote the remarks of the newspaper.
Immediately after the election, the Premier of Tasmania (Mr. McPhee) telephoned asking me to urge the Prime Minister to give a guarantee that he would without delay introduce a bill to make a grant to Tasmania similar to that proposed by the last Government. I communicated with Mr. Scullin, and he told me that I could assure Mr. McPhee that the billwould be introduced at the earliest possible moment. This was necessary to enable the Premier to make his financial arrangements.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and, by leave, passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Jervis Bay Naval College - Pay of airforceartisans.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to make two requests to the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green). I am informed that neither the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), nor the ex-Minister for Defence (Senator Sir William Glasgow) have ever seen the Naval College at Jervis Bay. This was a poor compliment to the college and little encouragement to the naval and civil staffs and to the parents who, like myself, have given their boys to the service of the country. I urge the Minister for Defence to visit the college at an early date. If he could do so before the 12th December, when the current term ends, it would be gratifying to all concerned. I beg the Minister to do his best to accede to this request.
In November, 1927, I directed the attention of Sir Neville Howse, the Minister then representing the Minister for Defence in this chamber, to certain discrepancies in the pay of artisans in the Australian Air Force and artisans in ordinary outside service. I quote the following instances : -
There are similar variations in other callings. It is desirable that we should secure the services of first-class tradesmen for the Air Force, but it is hardly likely that we shall do so under the existing conditions. I ask the Minister for Defence to investigate this matter, with the object of paying the standard rates in the Air Force.
.- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) asked me, some little time ago, to pay an early visit to the Jervis Bay College. I had partly made arrangements to do so before the 12th December, but I am afraid now that it will be impossible for me to carry them out. Next week-endI have to go to Sydney to transact business in relation to the disposal of the military barracks at Paddington, and the following week-end I have other duties, which will make it impossible for me to visit Jervis Bay. I am not in a position to makea definite promise, but I assure the honorable member that, if it is at all possible, I shall pay a visit to the college before the 12th December. If I cannot visit the college before that date, I shall certainly take the opportunity of doing so early in the new year.
I shall obtain a report on the other subject mentioned by the honorable member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 November 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19291128_reps_12_122/>.