12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 11 a.m. and read prayers.
– The newspapers report that the Government has received a reply to the communication sent to the British Government regarding the suggested suspension of the Migration Agreement and that the Prime Minister intends to place it before the State Premiers on Monday next. ‘ Will not the honorable gentleman first communicate that reply to this House?
– The Leader of: the Opposition is aware that correspondence between Governments can be released ‘ only with the consent of the sender. I have sent a cablegram to the’ British Government asking if I may release its reply. If I receive that consent in time to make an announcement to this House to-day I shall be glad to do so.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Railways to ascertain who is in possession of the gold pass for the honorable member for Eden -Monaro and when will it be handed over to him. When it is handed over will it bear a Special inscription to commemorate my victory, or have the Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times convinced the officials of the Commonwealth Railways Department that I am not yet the member for that constituency?
– I shall endeavour to get a reply for the honorable member.
– In view of the newspaper announcement that a large number of miners at a special meeting yesterday rejected the terms of the proposed settler ment of the trouble in the coal industry, will the Prime Minister take steps for the holding of a secret ballot of the miners in order to ascertain their views?
– At this stage I shall make no comment that might prejudice the prospect of a settlement.
– Will the honorable the Prime Minister promise that before the Australian Government is committed to any agreement on financial, naval or international matters which may be made at the instigation of the United States, between the Government of that country and the Government of Great Britain, an opportunity will be- given to members of this Parliament to discuss at a secret sitting any such proposals in order that Australia may avoid being committed to any agreement of the ruthless nature of The War Debts Agreement which the United States clinched with Great Britain, the insistence upon .which has meant untold hardship to the Empire?
– I deprecate the asking of a question couched in such terms on the eve of an international conference on the subject of disarmament. In any case, I am not in favour of secret sittings of this Parliament.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs noticed that according to an answer which he furnished yesterday the balance of trade between Great Britain and Australia for the year ended the 30th June last was £2,207,091 in favour of Great Britain?
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in basing a question upon the answer to another question, or in conveying information in the form of an interrogation. The purpose of questions is to elicit information.
– Will the Minister while in London take an early opportunity to put Australia’s position before .the people of Great Britain, and endeavour to persuade more British manufacturers to set up branches of their industries in the Commonwealth ?
– I am aware that the trade balance is in favour of Great Britain, and it is the policy of the Government to urge British manufacturers generally to establish manufacturing enterprises in Australia as some British manufacturers have done. Those who do so will be protected against ‘ competition from abroad.
– Is the Prime Minister still without a communication from the British Government protesting against the severity of the new tariff schedule as it affects British manufacturers?
– I am still without such communication. The Commonwealth Government would not think of interfering with the domestic policy of the United Kingdom, nor is the British Government likely to interfere in that of Australia.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any truth in the statement published in this morning’s Canberra Times that the Government proposes to introduce a further tariff schedule next week?
– Newspapers may indulge in guessing competitions, but an exMinister of Trade and Customs should know better than to ask if such speculations are true.
– Manufacturers of jam and processors of fruit when purchasing sugar are allowed a concession on orders of 12 tons and over. As this gives an advantage to the big manufacturer over his small competitors, will the Minister for Trade and Customs inquire whether the concession can be applied to smaller quantities ?
– I shall make inquiries and if practicable the action which the honorable member has suggested will be taken.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) will leave Canberra to-day to prepare for his visit to Great Britain. In his absence the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) will be Acting-Minister for Trade and Customs.
– Can the Minister for Defence state definitely whether the volunteers now enlisting will receive uniforms before the end of the financial year?
– No decision has been reached regarding the proposal to adopt a new military uniform. I shall inquire regarding the prospect of uniforms being issued before the end of the financial year, and let the honorable member have a reply later.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is he in a position to ascertain from the Commonwealth Bank and associated banks what amount of money was remitted during the financial year ended 30th June, 1929, to Southern European countries by natives of such countries resident in Australia?
-.The Commonwealth Bank has been asked to furnish information on the lines desired. The reply will be furnished to the honorable member.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Is he in a position to state what amount of money was remitted through the post office during the financial year 1928-29 to Southern European countries by natives of such countries resident in Australia?
– The total amounts remitted from Australia to Italy and Malta by money order during the financial year, 1928-29, were £107,221 and £16,151, respectively, but no differentiating records have been kept to distinguish the sums which were sent by natives of those countries. Particulars of the remittances to other southern European countries are not readily available, but the amounts are believed to be comparatively small.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of international claims now being made for territorial rights in Antarctica, he will see that Australian claims are adequately represented, and maintained, in the proper quarters?
– This matter is engaging the close attention of the Government.
Enlistment of National Regiments
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Does he propose in the new defence enlistment scheme to permit the enrolment of nonAustralian battalions, called “National regiments “ ?
– I hope to be in a position to make an announcement on this subject at a later date.
Dismissals of Returned Soldiers
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will lie stop further dismissals of married’ returned soldiers at the General Post Office, Sydney, who at the moment are being replaced by officers from Queensland.
– In reply to the honorable member, I can only re-affirm what has already been said in reply to previous questions on this subject. Every effort is being made to retain all the temporary staff now employed in the post office.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries will be made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1. (a) one; (b) none.
Method of Payment
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will direct that pension payments to old-age and invalid pensioners which are to be paid by post should be sent in plain envelopes?
– This matter is now under consideration in conjunction with the proposed alteration in the method of payment of pensions.
Mr.CUSACK asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What was the cost involved in connecting Brindabella with a telephone exchange?
What are the prospects of such service being a payable one?
– The information desired by the honorable member is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
In view of the serious financial position of the various State railways, due to the inroads of road and water competition, is it intended to co-ordinate the rail, road and aerial services on a Commonwealth basis?
– The question of co-ordinating rail, road and aerial services is under consideration by the Ministerial Transport Council, and information is now being sought with a view to determining the basis uponwhich such co-ordination could best be achieved.
The following papers were presented : -
Geneva Convention and Convention for treatment of Prisoners of War - Report of the Australian Delegates at the Diplomatic Conference for the Revision of the Geneva Convention and the elaboration of an International Convention for the treatment of Prisoners of War, held at Geneva, July, 1929; together with copy of the Final Act, the revised Geneva Convention, and the Convention for the treatment of Prisoners of War.
International Exhibitions- Report of the Australian Representative at the Conference, held at Paris, November, 1928; together with copy of Convention,Protocol, and Protocol of signature.
Passenger Ships’ Certificates and Emigrant Ship Regulations - Exchange of Notes between His Majesty’s Governments in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Australia and the Government of India and the Italian Government, concerning the Reciprocal Recognition of Passenger Ships’ Certificates and Emigrant Ship Regulations, January, 1929.
Postal Union - Report of the Australian Representative at the Congress of the Universal Postal Union, held at London, May-June, 1929; together with copy of Convention.
Safety of Life at Sea - International Conference, held at London, April-May, 1929 - Reports of Commonwealth Government’s Representatives, together with copy of Convention signed at London, 31st May, 1929.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) on the ground of ill health.
. - I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the 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: - The construction of public baths in Canberra. .
The Governmenthas made available the sum of £5,000 for the construction of public baths in Canberra. The original estimate for this work was £15,000; but as a doubt exists regarding whether the sum might or might not be exceeded, I propose to refer the matter to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report.
M.r. Latham : Will the Minister say where it is proposed to erect the baths?
.- I should like the Minister to state whether it is proposed that the water from the Molonglo shall be used, or .whether concrete baths are to be constructed and filled from the supply of water received from the Cotter River. From my experience of swimming in the Molonglo water I can say that it is far from pleasant, and possibly unhealthy.
– A site for the baths lias been tentatively chosen on the rising ground opposite the Acton buildings and approaching the Commonwealth Offices. There has been a good deal of comment regarding it, and that furnishes another reason for an investigation by the Public Works Committee. The water to be used will be’ that which conies from the Cotter River. It will be kept clean and pure by a process of chlorination.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply:
Debate resumed from 5th December, vide page 820), on motion by Mr. Theodore -
That the first item of the Estimates under Division 1 - the Parliament, namely, “ The President, £1,300,” bo agreed to.
Upon which Mr. Latham had moved by way of amendment -
That the item be reduced by fi.
.- Yesterday both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the Leader of the Country Party (Dr. Earle Page) gave the committee a dissertation on what I may term the interim budget of the present Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) in a manner which suggested that they themselves had never been associated with the conduct of the financial affairs of the Commonwealth. They endeavoured to convince the committee that the present situation, and the remedies proposed for it, are entirely attributable to the incapacity of the present administration, and that the accumulated ills of Australia ought, event at this early stage of the Government’s career, to have been, not merely prescribed for, but cured. The case made out by the Leader of the Opposition as a justification for his amendment to reduce the item by fi could more properly have been stated during a discussion on the Estimates for the Defence Department. If that course had been followed,’ honorable members could have devoted themselves on this item to a consideration of the economic position of this country. The honorable gentleman has endeavoured to make the suspension of compulsory military training a major issue on this item, and therefore the committee is obliged to discuss the policy of the Government in relation to a specific department rather than the position of Australia as a whole.
– The suspension of compulsory military training is a subject that concerns the country.
– Discussion upon ii ought to have been postponed until the Defence Department was before the committee. If we were to discuss upon the first item questions involved in the activities of all the departments, the debate would’ drag on interminably; each honorable member would discuss his own pet subject, and there would be no coherence in the debate.
– I point out to the honorable member that it is the practice of the committee to have a general debate on the first item of the Estimates.
– Still, the amendment would have been more appropriately moved at a later stage. I do not propose to discuss any of the administrative acts of the Government; they can be dealt with when we are considering the items with which they are- particularly concerned. In regard to compulsory military training I shall merely say that if, ten years after the signing of the Armistice, and having before us the considered opinion of those who are presumed to know something “about the manner in which the next great war will be fought-
– Who are they?
– They are the gentlemen who, doubtless, express opinions upon military strategy and the future safety of different countries.
– The Government did not consult them.
– I do not propose to be drawn aside by the honorable member, except to say that the- greatest military genius in this country is not associated actively with the administration of the Defence Department, and that the responsibility for that rests with honorable members who sit opposite. The man who led the Australian armies in the greatest war in history could not be found a satisfactory position by the Government of the day when he returned to this country.
– He is a member of the Council of Defence.
– One important part of the defence of this country surely is that which is associated with aviation; yet a son of Australia, who is one of the greatest aviators in the world, and who single handed performed the most remarkable flight in the history of the world, could not be found by the last Government a niche into which, he could be fitted in our aerial defence system. Therefore honorable members who sit opposite ought to cease prating about their whole-souled regard for the effective defence of this country, and the proper utilisation of men who are qualified to give advice upon that subject. Their policy was to train boys at Woolloomooloo and Collingwood, and at the same time to shut down ordinance factories. There were only twelve military training centres in the Commonwealth when the last Minister for Defence ceased to be responsible for the administration of the department.
– There were 52,000 troops.
– A perusal of the report of the Inspector-General of the Military Forces has acquainted me with the fact that the governments which have been in charge of the affairs of this country since 1916, when the Labour party went out office, took the very action that honorable members opposite are now attacking this Government for having taken; they shut down on all military training. I do not believe in compulsory military training, and make no apology for holding that view.
– Does the honorable member believe in compulsory unionism ?
– I do not. Neither do I believe in compulsory voting. I consider that it is an affront to the intelligence of the electors of certain constituencies that they should be asked to choose between two candidates of the same political persuasion.
– Does the honorable member believe in compulsory education
– I do; and from the tenor of the honorable member’s interjections it certainly seems necessary.
Yesterday the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) stressed strongly what he alleged were weaknesses in the present budget. If his strictures were deserved there would be a major case to answer. The right honorable gentleman, however, omitted to state that the present budget is largely based upon the principles of that which he himself introduced. It is true that certain increases, of taxation are proposed ; but they are due entirely, as the present Treasurer has explained, to the disclosure that the previous Estimates of revenue and expenditure would not have been realised. While I was listening to the right honorable gentleman yesterday I felt that he should have answered the specific accusation in this budget statement that the possible revenue was underestimated, and that the expenditure to which this country was committed by the policy of his Government will be greater than his estimate.
– It certainly will be under the new Treasurer’s administration.
– That definite charge has been made, and it is the justification for this new budget; yet, although the right honorable gentleman spoke ably and at great length upon a variety of subjects, it is remarkable that this was one upon which he made no comment. This is the justification for the large expenditure that differentiates the budget of the present Treasurer from that of the right honorable member for Cowper.
If it be true that under the last budget making provision for the activities of the departments we should at the end of the year have been faced with another deficit on the year’s finances, the right honorable member would have repeated in this financial year his performance of last year, and the year before that. For three consecutive years he would have had an expenditure in excess of his estimate, and I think that he would have had a revenue less than he had expected. All the talk about the credit of Australia and the stability of its finances and resources would have ‘ counted for nought in face of the outstanding fact that for three consecutive years the Commonwealth had been unable to keep its expenditure within the revenue for which provision had been made in the budget. What would weaken the financial stability of Australia more than three consecutive deficits ? If credit overseas is important, surely the* need of the Treasurer to live within his resources is imperative. The reason given by the present Treasurer why he had to ask for more revenue than his predecessor intended to provide, and why the expenditure is greater than the previous Treasurer said it would be, was a challenge which yesterday the right honorable gentleman lamentably failed to answer. He made the accusation against this Government that, because it had found the need for expenditure to be greater than was previously provided for, that was proof of its financial incapacity. That is to say, the only way in which the present Government could prove that it was capable of administering the finances of this country wisely was by allowing the departments to incur commitments for which no financial provision had been made. At the end of the year we should have then had a financial deficit, and the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) would have based his indictment, after the event, upon other grounds entirely. If the present Government allowed a deficit to recur such as we had at the end of last year, the parrot cry that the change of Ministers had resulted in no financial reform would have seemed to have an ostensible justification.
The Treasurer took ari early opportunity of saying that whatever Obligations had been deliberately assumed it was his duty to provide for the revenue necessary to discharge them; indeed, it would be mischievous if any other course were pursued.
It is true that the present budget provides for an increase in expenditure to the extent of £1,700,000, but, if that be a wrong, on how many occasions has the right honorable member been guilty of the same offence? Take the Estimates of expenditure that he has on more than one occasion submitted to Parliament, and compare them with the actual expenditure incurred. We find that he has increased his annual expenditure by infinitely greater sums than £1,700,000. The right honorable member went on to say that the increase in customs revenue was further evidence of this Government’s incapacity. He said that to increase that revenue by the amount proposed in the present budget would be to demoralize industry and increase unemployment. In 1922-23, when he was Treasurer, customs revenue amounted to £32,000,000, and last year it was £41,000,000, while his own estimate for the present year provides for a revenue in excess of that of last year. So his accusations of yesterday are unsound. That is clearly shown by reference to the Estimates that he himself has previously presented. It is easy to assert that increases in governmental taxation are bad. We know that, to the extent that a government can reduce taxation, it will increase the wealthproducing resources of the country.
When I heard the charge made yesterday that the real burdens of Australia are due to union bosses and industrial extremists, I desired to know why the whole burden of the cost of government was not taken into account? One of the main reasons for our economic difficulties is the terrific burden imposed on the people by the cost of government, both State and Federal, which has to be borne by a comparatively few people. The State and Commonwealth governments are engaged in many economic activities which for the most part have been established on the basis that they should be selfsupporting. Many of them, such as railways, are of distinct assistance to the industrial services of the country, and are operated by private enterprise. We must recognize that one of the first duties of public men, in both the State and Federal spheres, is to reduce the economic burden that the present system of government places on the people. I make that statement without committing myself to the manner in which the political ‘ government of Australia could be most soundly accomplished. More and more in every country governments are becoming centres of economic authority. The old idea that the State was concerned purely with political affairs no longer obtains. Governments throughout the world have come to the assistance of the capitalistic system, which, of itself, will not operate efficiently. No matter whether they are ship-owners, coal barons, iron and steel merchants, manufacturers, or primary producers, in one way or another capitalists are leaning on the authority of the State for support in dealing with their economic and industrial problems. We are told that the workers run to the law for the protection of their wages; but we know that legislation is being invoked day by day, and even in this Parliament, in order to affect prices; I might instance the measures on the statutebook relating to butter and dried fruits. It is well known that the increase of production in Germany was largely stimulated with the assistance of the State. The relation of its central bank to the great industries of that country was one of the reasons why it was so well prepared economically for the late war. More and more, governments are exercising economic authority. That is why the organization known as the National Union has been the recipient of large benefactions from great moneyed interests. I have said that a definite relation between political power and economic authority has developed in every country in the world, and I have given certain instances of it. The Miners Federation is related to the economic life of the country. Although there is not an item on the Estimates for the granting of assistance to the coal industry, we know very well that one of the. possibilities of the present economic situation is that the industry may have to beassisted by the Government. Provision has been made in the past for the payment of bounties to assist certain industries, and Parliament may be asked to provide a bounty for this industry. If money is to be ex- pended in this way the Miners Federation will, of necessity, try to ensure that its views shall be considered in this House. The only way in which it can obtain the satisfactory representation of its opinions is to take part in the political game.
– What has it got out of it!
– The position in which it finds itself to-day is the definite and inevitable outcome of the policy adopted over a long series of years by the Coal Vend. The exactions of the Vend, and its control of the coal resources of this country, enabled it, so long as there was no substitute source of power, to bleed Australia white, economically speaking. There is not an’ industry in Melbourne or Adelaide, and possibly not a manufacturer in Sydney, who has not had to pay to the coalowners
– And the coal-miners.
– Well, I will say the coal industry, a price for coal which was unjust to the consumers of the product manufactured. I direct the attention of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) to the Isaacs’ report of 1908, following upon an inquiry into the operations of the Coal Vend. Sir Isaac Isaacs made the statement at that time that unless the combination between the coal-owners on the northern fields of New South Wales, through their association, and the interstate shipping monopoly could be terminated, toll would continue to be taken from the public to an extent that would be unjust and injurious.”
– That is noi necessarily Sir Isaac Isaacs’ opinion today.
– With all due respect to the honorable member, I suggest that His Honour’s opinion, after hearing the evidence submitted to him, was more valuable than is that of the honorable member for Warringah. The . economic, development of Australia has ever since depended, to a large extent, upon the situation described by Sir Isaac Isaacs at that time. There has been no fundamental change in the organic control pf the coal industry since then. The difficulties from which the industry is suffering to-day have been caused by the development of a substitute power. As 8 matter of fact, in consequence of these developments, and notwithstanding the cessation of the production of coal on the northern coal-fields, the coal supply of Australia is approximately in accordance with the demand. It may be true that some industries are finding it difficult to continue their operations, but at least they are carrying on.
– But at what cost? The Broken Hill Proprietary Company could employ 1,000 more men if it could get coal at a reasonable price.
– I know that many Australian workers arc out of employment. But this was so before the coal crisis developed. Early this year, while the previous Government was in office, Australia had a record number of unemployed, but there was no coal crisis at that time. The unemployed position was so serious in 1927 that the last Government directed the Development and Migration Commission to make an .investigation into the position. In these circumstances it is absurd to suggest that the coal crisis is chiefly responsible for the unemployment, that exists. “Western Australia imports hardly any coal from Newcastle, and yet has a considerable number of unemployed. The United States of America is certainly not dependent upon Newcastle coal, but in the last fortnight thousands of factories and plants have ceased operations there. Most people realize that one hundred and one causes are contributing to the present industrial depression. Professor Copland presented to the Development and Migration Commission a most elaborate treatise on unemployment, which the Commission considered to be so valuable that itf incorporated it in its report. In the course of his statement Professor Copland said that “ the major cause of unemployment is to be found in the banking and credit policies.” That is not my statement; it is the opinion of such an eminent authority as Professor Copland and was quoted by the Development and Migration Commission which the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) loves so much.
– I do not love it; and I have not denied the statement of Professor Copland.
– I quote the following remarks from an article iia the Economic Record for May, 1929, entitled “Unemployment : Some Recent Suggestions “ : -
It is in banking and credit policies that Professor Copland finds the most important influences. It would appear that a decline in the proportion of advances to deposits, or a rise in the proportion of reserves to deposits, is accompanied by a rise in unemployment, and the reaction of credit conditions upon business conditions is undoubted. Credit policy is, therefore, of very considerable importance, and it is, as suggested, desirable that bankers should have more explicit knowledge of fluctuations available in determining their credit policy. A conclusion of equally great importance is that the balance of payments abroad constitutes a prime cause of credit fluctuations in Australia…… Based upon this analysis, Professor Copland proposes a number of constructive measures of control. Those within the power of public authorities which he recommends are long-range planning of public works, the establishment of a research organization, and the concentration by Australian banking authorities upon the maintenance of exchange parity with London through the medium of a modification of the gold exchange standard. The latter he regards as “ the most important single measure than can be taken to control business fluctuations in Australia.”
The Professor’s position is diametrically opposed to the opinion promulgated from the Opposition benches this week in regard to banking and credit.
In considering this budget the people of Australia would do well- to accept three propositions. The first is that taxation cannot be reduced by the Commonwealth or the State Governments while their present obligations remain as they are. With the present dual control of the Commonwealth and the States, the performance of the services which the people are enjoying cannot, be cheapened to a great extent. There must necessarily be a readjustment on a large scale before the cost of these services can bc brought down to a more reasonable figure. My view - and I have already put it, once this week - is that it would be wrong for the Government to contemplate unifying the railway gauges of Australia unless the entire responsibility for our railway services devolved upon this Parliament. My reason for saying that is that the railways that pass through important and settled districts are of no more consequence to the real requirements of Australia than those which pass; through our sparsely populated areas. The latter railways are just as1 necessary to the effective defence of this country as those which go through thickly populated territories. It would be wrong if the people in the thickly populated areas were not called upon to make a definite contribution towards the’ cost of our railway services as a whole. These will be incapable of being efficiently and economically administered until they are regarded as one economic entity. That applies generally to railway maintenance, ‘ and more importantly to railway construction. I regard railway works of. every description as being an integral part of the’ defence’ of Australia. It seems to me to be more important at this, juncture,, having, regard, to our present resources,, that we should build railways in certain territories of the Commonwealth than that we should pay attention to more popular forms of military defence..
The second’ proposition to which the people- would- do well to agree is that there will never be a time- when t-he relations between employers and’ employees will be. as- perfect, as’ those that will: prevail in Paradise. To- expect such1 a state of affairs is to- expect the impossible. The rivalry of interests,, each party striving, for the larger share of the loaf, is bound to Beget competition,, if not’ antagonism. There will come in this as iu other civilized countries a time when this competition will be purified of its grosser and more horrible aspects. With the object of eliminating these factors,, the Commonwealth has devised a system of industrial arbitration. The States also have some kind of machinery for maintaining harmony in industry. But the State laws must always be imperfect, because it is impossible to confine an industry within the boundaries of a State.Industry always overflows’ political” frontiers and S’tate boundaries. This is common knowledge to those who are attempting to deal with our industrial situati’on. but it should not be overlooked’. The coal-fields’ of New South Wales must) sell’ their coal in other’ places than New South Wales if the industry is to- prosper. The coal problem is peculiar to New South Wales- only in regard’ to production ; otherwise it is- a Commonwealth problem. It is true that the coal mines are situated in New South Wales territory, but the coal would, to a large extent, be. valueless to New South Wales unless it could, be sold somewhere else. The same things are true wherever there is mass production. What, then, is th4 first step to be taken to secure a more effective method of industrial control? In my opinion,, any attempt to make a comprehensive change in the Constitution of the Commonwealth at the present time would fail, because the people are not ready* to repose in this Parliament the sovereign legislative functions necessary foi! the development of am effective and common industrial policy. This Parliament will not be able,- at least for the next, ten years, to legislate effec-tively for the great variety of conditions that exist in. Australia, and there should be: a recognition; by the Commonwealth and by the States of the. particular, legislative: functions which each- can most efficiently discharge. ,1 make this contribution to the discussion on the. practicability of; solving the problem, of constitutionalchange in- Australia. We should seek-,, not so: much to- take power, from the States awd confer it upon- the Commonwealth,, as. to come to some> definite arrangement under which the Commonwealth and the States shail-1 be regarded not as different entities in- the- government of’ Australia, but as’ associates- andi related partners in the discharge of> a common, obligation.
– Thatis not a very valuable contribution to the discussion in view of our past experience of federation.
– I am dealing with the practical difficulties in the way of securing; an amendment of the Constitution. The powers of the Commonwealth Parliament are altogether too restricted, but it. is not enough for us merely to recognize that. We have also, to.- recognize- that most of the proposals to change the Constitution have been rejected,, and that while every party that occupies the Government benches is. immediately in favour- of constitutional amendment,, when, it again becomes the opposition; it is less* enthusiastic about the necessity for such a change.
-. - Does the honorablemember think that the two factions will ever become reconciled?
– Not while we make a party issue of constitutional amendment. This should not be an issue as between political parties in this Parliament. It is not a question of getting the particular constitution that best suits the government in power for the time being, because, if that were so, we would never have an amendment of the Constitution. The Opposition would line up against the Government and ‘the residue of fear which remains in the States would be sufficient to give a majority for the Opposition proposals. That is the history of almost every attempt to change the Constitution. No party in this Parliament should attempt to push through constitutional amendments that are opposed by the other political parties. In any case the parties in this Parliament are incapable of making constitutional amendments; all they can do is to draft such amendments, with the full knowledge that the public will probably not accept them. This Government should summon a convention at which the States as States and the Commonwealth would hold a deliberate session for the purpose of drafting a constitution not only for the Commonwealth but for the States as well. There should be drawn up a statement of the functions of the States as well as of those of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth functions should be denned, what remained devolving on the States. I say reluctantly that if the State functions were specified, and what remained were left to the Commonwealth, there would still exist a great deal of uncertainty, overlapping and confusion, and the High Court would, in the future as in the past, set aside the laws made by one or other of the legislatures.
– That is what happened in Canada.
– That is so. The .Commonwealth’s functions should be in the national field, which alone it can enter. Trade and commerce is most certainly a subject which ‘.comes within the ambit of Commonwealth powers. There is related to the ; problem of .defence, the great problem .of international association. In 1924 I went, as a representative of this country, to ‘one of the conventions of the League of Nations, and I concluded that the representation of Australia internationally is about the only contribution that we can effectively make towards a cementing of the antagonisms of the old world. We must participate in this movement because it is part of the process of civilization. We should not remain outside it. A knowledge of international difficulties and of what is being proposed internationally to deal with them, is essential to the people of Australia and more essential to those who have a definite responsibility imposed upon them. Whether it be the League of Nations, the Disarmament Conference, the Imperial Conference, or any other Conference, I feel that we should have associated with our delegation three or four representative men in the sole capacity of research workers, whose duty on their return to Australia would be to engage in effective educational work in accordance with what has been done at the Conference. It may be said that that would add to the cost of Government.
– Is it worth while?
– Yes. In 1924, at the Conference of the International Labor Associations, there were attached to the Japanese delegation fifteen officials whose sole duty was to study and report on the proceedings ; in fact, to act as intelligence officers for Japan. A number of young attaches, associated with the Japanese consular service in various countries of Europe, were detailed to proceed to Geneva to watch the .deliberations there. In that way Japan is training for itself an .efficient international corps. It is able, without very much difficulty, to understand the problems of’ other countries, because its officials -are specially trained in foreign movements and relations. Australia .cannot afford to leave this work to the .enthusiasm of one or two university professors, .or to (those whose circumstances make it possible for them lout .of their own resources to devote their time to it. There should -be associated with the Prime Minister’s Department .some . officer who would he responsible for the organization of, .say, 8 dozen university .students, or men and women trained at the workers’ colleges, or associated with the trade unions. Such persons who are interested in international politics should be given facilities to study them, so that the public of Australia may be brought to realize the importance of this work. The next great war to end war will, one fears, almost end civilization. Its economic effects will be terrific, and its inhuman ghastliness will, beggar description. We are incapable of imagining the devastation which the next war will cause. The last war will be only a circumstance to it, having regard to the dreadfulness and extent of the destructive agencies of the future.
– Despite that, the Labour party has decided to abolish compulsory military training.
– I believe in defence, but I believe that the defence of the future will be human understanding, designed to remove the causes of international conflict. The great commercial profit-mongers are more menacing to the peace of the world that any number of soldiers who are being trained in its various countries. What Australia needs to do is to study the causes of war, and to assist the influences that make for peace. My honorable friend may take the view that to bring about peace we must have a compulsory military training scheme, but I hold that it is more important that we should have a positive policy for peace. We should spend as much money in promoting the cause of peace as we do in preparing for defence.
– Let us first have peace in industry.
– Peace in industry and peace as between nations differ in that the conflicts in industry do not involve anything like the inhumanity that war between countries involves.
– We want both peace in industry and peace as between countries.
– Does the honorable member believe in the League of Nations ?
– Then let us be as ready to spend money in furthering the policy of the League of Nations as we are to spend money on any other policy, because the cause of peace in this generation is more important than it will be in the next. If the policy of peace is accepted by the peoples of the earth within the next decade, there will be no need in the next generation for a policy for resisting war. The British, and the1’ great powers of Europe need not worry about the possibilities of war for the next ten, fifteen, or twenty years, because the whole history of warfare teaches, us that it takes a nation a generation to recover from a great world war. It will take even longer than a generation to recover from the last war, because of its enormously destructive character. The bankers will not permit the countries of the world to fight each other again until they have been paid for the last war. I look forward to the time when the mental outlook of men and women will make war impossible. There should certainly be a more regular and definite contribution by this Parliament to the cause of peace, and the elimination of international conflict.
.- In his budget statement the Treasurer told a very old tale in a very old way about an empty treasury and the misleading estimates of his predecessors. Its outstanding features are the provision for a sensational increase of expenditure and heavy and discriminating additions to taxation; but as its details have been effectively criticized by my leader and the Leader of the Country party, I propose to address myself to some of the administrative and legislative acts of the new Ministers.
The Government is fresh from the people; it has a big majority in this House, and it was the wish of all the members of the Opposition in the early months of its career to adopt a tolerant and even helpful attitude towards both its administration and its proposals. I regret, therefore, that the Government has commenced in a way so extraordinary, so startling, and so discreditable to itself and Australia at home and abroad, that there is little opportunity for generosity or assistance from this side of the House. In brief, the actions of the Ministry up to the present have been almost without exception made notorious by frantic haste, bitter discrimination between sections of the people, juvenile folly, and an unseemly and unprecedented dishonouring of election pledges. In six weeks this has done more to injure the credit of Australia in the eyes of the world than was done by any other government in as many years.
By an act of positive insanity the Government has destroyed a system of defence which was the result of 20 years of effort. No government in any other country at any time has ever in this abrupt and unthinking manner demolished its system of national defence. In conjunction with this must be considered the decision of the Ministry to postpone, and, as I believe, abandon, the project for the erection of a national memorial in Canberra. Again, it is the only government in any country on’ the allied side which has pleaded poverty as a reason for not erecting a national memorial to those who fell when fighting for their country. The next act of the Ministry was to suspend migration. When it assumed office migration was a mere trickle; in fact, the new arrivals were fewer than the people leaving Australia. But in its folly and in its desire to pander to certain sections, the Government advertised to all the world that Australia’s economic plight was so great that it could not absorb a few people each year from the United Kingdom. That action showed crass folly and absolute ignorance of the task in hand. Equally foolish, but of less magnitude, was the extraordinary embargo on the export of stud sheep. I doubt if any previous embargo imposed in Australia failed to honour existing obligations. The prohibition of the export of sheep was not only an unparalleled breach of a firm contract, but had another feature which is exciting a good deal of comment. On one day the Ministry allowed 5,000 stud sheep to be shipped to Russia, and on the following day prevented the export of 500 sheep to our co-dominionists in South Africa. I do not say a deliberate discrimination was exercised in favour of Russia, but for a couple of weeks before this occurrence the newspapers had contained full accounts of the proposed shipment of sheep to that country. The Minister and the Government knew of it, but the proclamation of the embargo was made five minutes after the shipment for Russia had cleared territorial waters and about five minutes before the next flock of 500 was ready to be embarked for South Africa. I do not charge Ministers with deliberately giving preference to their Russian friends, but their actions demonstrated in a most unfortunate way a lack of business foresight and capacity. Having, with their eyes wide open, allowed 5,000 sheep to leave for Russia, they were guilty of extraordinary harshness and folly in not honouring the firm contract in favour of South Africa.
– What was the sex of those 5,000 sheep?
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro is out of order.
– I am not out of order.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN The honorable member is not in order in contradicting the Chair. I ask him to withdraw his statement.
– I asked a civil question, because I represent a big sheep-producing district.
– Did the honorable member say he represented sheep?
– I again ask the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to withdraw his remark.
– If my remark has given offence to the Chair I withdraw it, but I draw attention to the statement of a member of the Opposition that my electors are sheep.
– I ask that that remark be withdrawn.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I did not hear any remark to which the honorable member can take exception.
– The honorable member for Warringah said that I represented goats.
– Is the honorable member for EdenMonaro able to show that he does not represent goats ?
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Cusack) is the choice of his electors, and, you, sir, have asked him if he can show that he does not represent goats. His electors are at least as intelligent as those who returned you.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.If the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) made the remark complained of, he must withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– The decision of the Government to abolish compulsory train ing and to suspend all military camps must be associated with the indefinite postponement or abandonment of the erection of a national war memorial. The interest on the war gratuity, the payments for repatriation, war pensions, and soldiers’ homes, and other post-war expenditure, absorb upwards of £30,000,000 annually, and, in addition, about £5,000,000 is voted each year for defence, making a total equal to more than half the annual revenue of the Commonwealth. For many years a feature of the debates on this subject in each session was that they were carried on almost entirely by returned soldiers, who obviously had a better knowledge of their subject than other honorable members. I expected from this Government nothing better than it has proposed in regard to defence and the War Memorial. As the honorable member for Balaclava has pointed out, this Ministry, elected by the vote of the Labour party, does not contain one member who was on active service. In saying that I am not reflecting, in any way on any individual Minister. The point I am making is that the ministerial party when electing its leaders chose only those who had not served at the war. Yet the party contains many returned soldiers, including the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley), the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones), the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath). All these gentlemen were eligible and available for appointment to the new cabinet, and some of them are at least equal in capacity to members who occupy the front bench to-day. Everybody knows that in connexion with the election there was a distribution of tickets, wire-pulling, and canvassing, with the remarkable result that every one of those returned soldiers was excluded from the new Cabinet. Would anybody suggest that that was an accident? I think that it was the result of a policy of the party opposite that is responsible for the swift and total annihilation of the Defence Forces, and the amazing decision not to proceed with the National War Memorial.
– That is an utterly unworthy remark.
– The Minister does not believe what he says. He is a hypocrite. I was not in any way reflecting upon Ministers personally. My service in the late war was so slight that I have not boasted of it, or even talked of it.
– How much of a soldier were you, you dirty scab?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Minister must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it with much pleasure, now that I have made it.
– I made no change against any Minister; I merely gave my own explanation why the new Government had deliberately and wantonly destroyed the defence system of this country.
– That is a lie!
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Minister must withdraw that expression.
– I do that with pleasure, after having said it.
– The statement by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that this Government has deliberately and wantonly destroyed the defence system of Australia is obnoxious, and I ask for its withdrawal.
– It is offensive to me.
– I submit that it is legitimate political criticism.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must withdraw the remark, because it is regarded as offensive.
– Since it is said to be offensive, I withdraw it. I propose to refer briefly to the system that has been destroyed by this Government.
– That is another lie, but we shall let that pass.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Minister must withdraw the words, “ that is another lie,” and I ask him to do so without qualification.
– Then I withdraw them, but they were prompted by the offensive interjections from the other side.
– The system of compulsory training, which the Government has destroyed, had been in force for twenty years. It was introduced for definite reasons that had to do with the safety of the Commonwealth. Adequate steps had to be taken for the defence of Australia, because of the isolation of this country, and the length of its coastline. More than half of our people live in exposed cities and towns on the seaboard. No other country is so open as Australia to effective raiding. Then we have our White Australia policy, with all the ideals which it implies, to which I, in common with every other honorable member, completely subscribe; but it is the most provocative policy in an international sense, that could be adopted by any country. I do not believe that any good purpose would be served, when discussing defence, by shutting our eyes to international realities. After years of study of this subject, and a good deal of travelling in countries round about the Pacific, I sincerely believe that, if it were not for the might of the British Navy, and its readiness to come to our aid at all times, our White Australia policy would be challenged effectively within a period of one or two years. I do not say that we should be invaded by any great power, but conversations on that policy would be opened compulsorily, despite any protest we might make. The present Government has thought fit, without having the grace to consult this Parliament, to do away with our system of compulsory military training. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) touched on one great virtue of this training which no voluntary system, even if it were relatively successful, contains, and that is that it gives to any country that has it a strong and constant reserve of young men of a fighting age.
Under a voluntary system, those who are enthusiastic enough to take up military service, remain in the forces until they are of middle age, so that the actual strength that can be mobilized is the handful of men that happens to be available at a particular time. We are asked to return to the voluntary system, which was abandoned because it had failed, and was excessively expensive in comparison with results. Everything points to the conclusion that the return to that sysem will be a total failure, because there will be a much smaller force available in an emergency, and the cost will be greater than under the compulsory system. Under the latter system we had 49,000 young men in training, and the Government now proposes to raise a voluntary force of 35,000. Sir Harry Chauvel, InspectorGeneral of the Military Forces, is easily the first authority in Australia upon the system of warfare that is suitable for the defence of this country. He led throughout the Palestine campaign the greatest body of cavalry that has been assembled, and there was not only fighting such as that in France, but also a great deal of open warfare. He said in his last report, dated the 31st May, that a force of 49,000 is “ the minimum possible for the approved organization, and, therefore, for security.” Members of the Government have said in this debate that the late Government had already reduced the defence forces to the point of impotence. Let me read what Sir Harry Chauvel wrote on that point in his report: -
To summarize my report so far, I may say that much lias been accomplished since the introduction in 1022-23, and improvement has been made in every direction. The spirit of the forces has been revived. The nucleus has been increased. The training has been extended. Some essential technical and nondivisional units have been formed. A munitions developmental programme has been initiated. A commencement has been made in mechanised training.
That shows that the forces had been brought to a highly efficient state.
Sitting suspended from 18.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
– Apart from the fact that this action has been taken without proper consideration or investigation, I object to the institution of the voluntary system because it throws on a small number of patriotic and public-spirited citizens of all ages the responsibility of training themselves for the defence of their country. It singles out the few persons who are prepared to take up this solemn and imperative duty, and the relatively small number of patriotic employers who will consent to their employees taking time for military service. On those grounds, apart altogether from the deadly blow which the Government’s action has struck at the defence of Australia, I deplore this change. The one duty which any government, irrespective of party, should perform despite all political considerations, is that of providing for defence, and this Government has been guilty of a grave dereliction of duty in not doing so. I resent it exceedingly that, owing to the clamour and pressure from a small though influential, and, as I see it, sinister section of the Government party, we have lost our compulsory system of military training.
I come now to a subject closely allied to defence - the National War Memorial at Canberra. This has already been discussed at considerable length, and I shall only add that I cannot discover any acceptable reason for the Government’s decision to delay the building of this memorial. I can attribute it only to the unseen and evil influence which has led to the destruction of our defence system. There are in Australia to-day, we are told, nearly 200,000 persons unemployed. The Government, we know, is exceedingly anxious, as we all are, to find employment for them. There is a considerable number of unemployed in the Federal Capital Territory. The Government pleads that it has no money to provide work for the unemployed here, yet at the same time it is finding money for public works, and, if repeated reports are to be credited, it proposes to find £1,000,000 for expenditure through the States on public works for the relief of unemployment. Apparently the Government is prepared to hand over its money to the States, without controlling its expenditure or knowing how it is expended ; while here at hand there is an important work to be done, and one which the Government is under a solemn obligation to do. I can find no satisfactory explanation for what the Government calls the postponement, but what I strongly suspect to he a total abandonment, of this work.
I wish to touch briefly on migration, and particularly upon the communication from the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth to the Prime Minister of Great Britain, in which he strongly urged the suspension of that part of the Migration agreement which makes it obligatory upon the Commonwealth to accept a certain number of assisted migrants for every million pounds of loan money contributed by Great Britain. The Government’s action was a combina- tion of folly and ignorance. The policy of the last Government, acting in cooperation with the States, together with the lack of employment offering here, had resulted in reducing the migration stream from Great Britain to a mere trickle. It is a fact that more people left Australia during the first six months of this year than entered it, and for the first nine months of the year, the net gain in population from migration was only a few thousands. The great majority of those were women and children, nominees of migrants already in the country. Being for the most part, women and children, their presence here must have had the effect of increasing the volume of work to be done by others, since they did not become competitors for what employment is offering, If we could get another half million women and children to come to Australia immediately, it would be the best thing that could happen for industry. In this matter, the Government has acted rashly and hastily, as it has so frequently done in the recent past. As one who has given much time and thought to migration, I strongly deprecate the action of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) in sending that communication to Great Britain, and having it published throughout the world. It was, first of all, an extraordinarily bad advertisement for this country, and there was no need to send it at all. Such migrants as were coming to Australia were helping rather than hindering us, and the announcement must have a bad effect on the migration movement as a whole. It takes years of propaganda to develop a strong and steady stream of immigration, and it is very easy to dry up that stream by hasty or ill-considered pronouncements. The message of the Prime Minister is calculated to shake the confidence of the British people in Australia as a field of migration. I subscribe to the slowing down of migration ; I have always opposed having migration during times of acute unemployment, but seeing that the influx of migrants has been already reduced to practically nothing, it was unfortunate that the very definite announcement should have been made to the people .of Great Britain that we could take no more migrants other than the close relatives of those already here. This exception covers the only migrants who arc actually coming here. The Government has been guilty of a piece of calamitous folly which will undoubtedly do a great deal of harm to Australia. 1 come now to a subject in which I am naturally particularly interested, the new tariff schedule. The Prime Minister within the last day or two called this the most scientific tariff schedule ever tabled. 1 cannot believe that he was speaking seriously when he said that. This schedule, conceived and prepared in a hurry, has been given no intelligent consideration at all. It has been built up on a formula, and might have been constructed by any schoolboy of ten or twelve who had been provided with the percentages to be added. As a protectionist who spent the best part of a year in the construction of a schedule along what I consider business-like lines, I take strong exception to the Government using its big majority to force a tariff of this kind upon the country. I object to the manner in which the Tariff Board, which was set up by Parliament, has been ignored by the Government. Not one half of the items in the schedule have been before the Tariff Board at all. Others, such as the duties on prunes and rice, arc still before the board, but the Minister has brought down his schedule without waiting for the board’s report. The board has been treated with contempt, and if the Prime Minister did the honest and logical thing he would forthwith abolish it, and save the country a good deal of money. Moreover, in regard to many of the items on the schedule, and many of the industries protected by it, no application was made to the Government for the increased duties. Industries have had this increased protection heaped on them without their making any request for it. I referred the other day to the increased whisky duty. No application had been made from the whisky makers of Australia for this increased protection while I was connected with the department, and that was only six or seven weeks ago, yet the Government has practically doubled the measure of protection given to the whisky manufacturers. It has departed from the old principle enunciated again and again in this Parliament that, in carrying out our policy of protection, we should not aim to give Australian manufacturers an absolute monopoly of the Australian market. We should not, by legislation, prohibit the importation of goods. Our policy has always been that we should put the Australian manufacturer, with the assistance of the Tariff Board, on a generous competitive basis, with the odds in his favour, and so enable him to pay a wage which would preserve industrial conditions and a standard of living conforming with Australian ideals. This Govern ment however, has imposed a tariff which amounts to prohibition, and which creates an absolute monopoly for many large interests. lt is singularly interesting to me to observe that the extraordinary degree of protection provided by this Government in the new schedule will largely benefit powerful millionaire firms already possessing practically a monopoly of our trade. These firms are paying huge dividends, and are exceeding prosperous, yet the Government is giving them the extra shelter of tariff increases of from 25 per cent, to even 100 per cent. If this is what the Prime Minister calls “ scientific protection,” all I can say is that on this subject he is beyond hope.
A great deal of nonsense has been talked about controlling the selling prices of commodities. In reply to questions by myself and other honorable members on this side of the chamber, the Prime Minister has said that if the manufacturers attempt to exploit the consumers by increasing the prices of their commodities he will lift the tariff from them. But he has cleared the way for such exploitation, and he cannot expect anything else than that prices will increase. His solemn threat is so much humbug and bluff. When I asked the honorable gentleman whether he proposed to make a gesture against the trade unionists of this country who exploit the tariff, he brushed the question aside as one of no moment. But it is a matter that should not be overlooked. Any attempt that a government, possessed only of the powers with which this Government is clothed, may make to control prices is foredoomed to failure. The great monopolies that will be created by the protection granted in the new schedule will undoubtedly prosper, but the people will pay for it. There is no way by which increases in the price of commodities can be prevented. To ask manufacturers not to increase their prices when it is made easy for them to do so is equivalent to -asking a bookmaker with whom one has made an indifferent bet to return one’s money after the horse has lost.
The Government has not attempted to put the Australian manufacturers on a competitive basis of any kind, but has in many cases given them an absolute monopoly. That is not tariff-making. Although the new duties may make more work, I have no hesitation in saying that the introduction of this tariff is the greatest calamity that the economic progress of Australia has suffered since federation.
In conclusion I wish, in the interests of political morality and of the dignity and decency of Australian politics, to criticize the quality of the propaganda of the Labour party during the last election campaign. I am compelled to do this, because the class of propaganda that was scattered throughout the country was entirely new in Australian politics. The outstanding feature of the printed matter that was circulated was the constructive and deliberate lies that it contained. Millions of pamphlets were distributed also in which deliberately false promises were made to the people. This constructive and deliberate lying and false promising had a great deal to do with the result of the election. I am not squealing because the last Government was defeated, but I am convinced that unless the other political parties can show the people quite clearly that they have been deceived and misled, they might as well go out of political life, for no party can live in such a political atmosphere. Honorable members opposite may not like our constant reference to this subject, but it is essential that we shall drive it home to the people that statement after statement placed before them during the last election, above the names of prominent members of the Labour party consisted of downright, constructive lies. This was something new and alien in our political life.
– The only thing about it was that on this occasion you found yourselves up against bigger liars than yourselves. You were beaten at your own game.
– I refer particularly to a green pamphlet printed with the special object of appealing to the disabled returned soldiers of Australia. Apparently nothing was sacred to the honorable gentleman opposite, who desired to exploit the votes of the people by this iniquitous method. The particularly serious lie contained in this pamphlet was that if the Labour party were returned to power it would absorb in the Public Service of the country every disabled returned soldier who desired to be so absorbed. The Prime Minster has since said that no government would be foolish enough to make such a promise. Therefore, we are now asked to regard the promise as a joke or a mere votecatcher. Another equally notorious and contemptible pamphlet was that issued to the 10,000 or 11,000 coalminers who are on strike. These men were informed that if the Labour party were returned to power the mines would be re-opened within fourteen days without a reduction of wages. It was also said definitely that the Government had power to open the mines. That is deliberate and conscious lying, designed to catch votes. It was outrageous that the Labour party should have exploited these people, who at the moment are the most unfortunate of the workers in Australia..
Nothing was too low nor too mean for these propagandists, and I repeat that if we cannot discredit those responsible for it to such an extent that in the future neither their spoken nor written word will be believed, we might as well disappear from public life. The unfortunate thing is that the lies told were believed.
– They will not be believed next time.
– They will, unless we can bring home to the people the fact that they have been deceived, and quote chapter and verse to them in each case. I know that the amendment will not be carried, but it gives me great satisfaction to support it.
– I wish to deal briefly with the defence policy of the Government. The honorable member for
Balaclava (Mr. White) spoke in scathing terni3 last night of the system which the Government is endeavouring to put into operation, although it is, to all intents and purposes, the system already in force. As the honorable member is an officer of the Citizen Forces, and is, I understand, prepared to accept a similar position under the voluntary system, it is highly regrettable that he should have been the first person to speak widely against the new system.
– I am also a member of Parliament, and I spoke in that capacity.
– Although the honorable member may have rendered good service to Australia during the war, he has to a large extent, nullified the effect of it by declaring in this chamber that it will be impossible to defend Australia by the voluntary system. The honorable member has rendered another great disservice to the Commonwealth to-day by saying that only 10 per cent, of the available men can be secured for training under the voluntary system. No sooner had the Government announced its intention to substitute voluntary for compulsory military training - and nothing else could have been expected from a Labour Government, for this is part of its platform - than the honorable member rattled his sabre and entered upon a fierce denunciation of the system. The Labour party’s policy in this connexion is clear.
I do not wish to be misunderstood. Every honorable member and every citizen has a perfect right to discuss the merits or demerits of voluntary military training; but I object to the manner in which the honorable member for Balaclava has done it. The honorable member for Balaclava has broadcast the statement that only 10 per cent, of the present trainees would volunteer. Let me remind him of the illustrations that, have appeared in the press showing these young trainees, even in his own electorate, volunteering in their hundreds. The following enlistment figures of the various -a a its appeared in the Melbourne Herald on 28th November last -
Infantry - 37th (Dandenong) 75, 52nd (Dandenong) 100, 57th (Preston) 80, 58th (Moonee Ponds) 20, 32nd (Footscray) 74, 14th (Prahran) 120, 22nd (Richmond) 70, 24th (Surrey Hills) 191, 59th (Brunswick) 20, (Kith (Westgarth) 50 and 29th (East Melbourne) 113
In addition there were enlistments in the technical units. In most units there was a good response for senior cadets, and in several, places more cadets enrolled than could be absorbed. Australians played their part during the war under the voluntary system, and they can play their part in peace time under the same system. Voluntary training went with a swing right from its inception, and the honorable member for Balaclava, in criticizing that scheme, has done a regrettable thing and a disservice to his country. As a matter of fact if he were a regular officer of any other country, even Great Britain, he would be court-martialled for decrying its defence system.
– The honorable member has tried to convey the impression that he has a great knowledge of defence matters, but his record does not bear that out. If the honorable member wishes to make this a personal question and to reflect upon my personal honour, he must expect a Roland for his Oliver, and he will get it if he continues in that strain.
– I would like the Minister to explain his reference to my record.
– The honorable member may make a personal explanation afterthe Minister for Defence has concluded, his remarks.
– My experience has taught me that the returned soldiers who. have the least to say accomplished most at the war. That can be taken as an invariable rule.
– And vice versa.
– Yes. The honorable member for Balaclava said that under voluntary training we would have 30,000 trainees as against 50,000 previously. The proposal is that we shall enlist 35,000 trainees as against 47,000. The number of units has remained unaltered, therefore it may he said that this Government is contemplating no reduction in personnel. Yet if there was ever a time when the Commonwealth Government might consider a reduction in defence expenditure, it is to-day. The honorable member knows little of the secret information possessed by the Defence Department, and it is not for me to disclose it.
– The Minister evidently knows everything.
– When one hits a emit squeals.
– The Minister will have an opportunity to say that outside.
– I ask the Minister to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, but I want the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) to understand clearly that although Minister for Defence in a Labour administration, I am not without fighting quality. He has asked whether any military officer of the Defence Department suggested the abolition of compulsory military training. Would any officer ask for the abolition of his job? If a departmental head were asked if his department were over-staffed, he would probably reply in the negative, because it would be natural for him to magnify the importance of its functions. The fact remains that the whole of the officers of the Defence Department are working with enthusiasm to make the voluntary system a success. Sir Harry Chauvel and Brigadier-General Dodds are energetically canvassing the country for volunteers, and it remains for men like the honorable member to misrepresent the action of the Government in abolishing compulsory military training. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) pointed out that the compulsory system had become practically useless, and his statement is borne out by the records of the department. No other British dominion except New Zealand, has compulsory military training. That system was a blot upon Australia, and I am proud to be the Minister responsible for its abolition. It is true that many years ago the Labour party advocated the adoption in Australia of the Swiss system of compulsory training, so that every man capable of bearing arms would play his part in the defence scheme. Even the socialistic democrats of the Old Country at that time believed in compulsory military training. It was adopted as a plank of our platform until it was found that it could be used to restrict the freedom of civilians. Neither
Canada nor South Africa has a system of compulsory military training.
– South Africa at one time had a form of compulsory training.
– It is not in existence to-day. By introducing the voluntary system in Australia we shall save £150,000 on camps for the year, and I undertake to say that Australia will not be one whit worse off without those camps for this year. Later on, if found necessary, they will be restored. When I first took office I was of the opinion that a complete scheme of training should be arranged before any change was made, but after studying the financial position of Australia, we decided, in the interests of economy, to make a straight-out announcement of our defence policy. One honorable member has stated that, by taking this action, we have left Australia naked. The members of the Opposition belong to a party that, in 1921, abolished military training altogether.
– The training was suspended, and renewed later.
– I ask the honorable member to allow me to continue my speech without interruption. Under this scheme we are saving £150,000. We could save thousands of pounds more if we dismissed a large portion of the staff of the Defence Department, but our policy is not to dismiss any official. As men retire from or leave the department there will be a gradual decrease in the departmental expenditure.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) questioned the political morality of the Government’s action in view of the fact that, among the members of the Cabinet there was not one returned soldier. He inferred that there had been a sinister influence directing the action of the Government. In fact, that Russia overshadowed everything so far as the Labour party was concerned. Let me say that this Government will carry out its policy in respect of returned soldiers. Practically nine-tenths of those who enlisted during the war were supporters of the Labour party. Our party will be conducted on democratic lines; no man will be kept out of the Cabinet merely because he is a returned soldier, but any returned soldier may become a member if the majority of the party so decide. What was the attitude of the Simon Pure parties opposite towards returned soldiers? Was the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) included in the last Ministry? His military experience and general knowledge are as great as those of any other honorable member in the last Parliament, and he is held in very high esteem by honorable members of both sides. But he was passed over. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was not offered a portfolio, despite the special knowledge of military matters he thinks he has.. Than he, no man would have better adorned the position of Minister for Defence - in his own opinion. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was overlooked. So were the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell), for whom I have a very high regard, the former member for Bendigo (Mr. Hurry), and the former member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes). The then honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) held a portfolio for a time, but was -displaced at the earliest opportunity, to make room for somebody else. So much for the suggestion of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) that, for sinister reasons, the Labour party excluded returned soldiers from the Cabinet:
I turn now to the attitude of the country towards the policy of voluntary enlistment. I have received hundreds of letters from all parts of Australia, commending the Government for the change it has brought about. The Labour party is pledged to the effective defence of Australia, but the Government will not continue the great waste /that is being incurred in connexion with all arms of the defence service. In hundreds of ways the department can be, and will be, cleaned up. Thousands of pounds will be saved without inflicting undue, hardship upon anybody, and the defence of the country will not be a whit less effective because of these economies. When is Australia to be considered safe for democracy? Since I have assumed office, I have been assured that there is little likelihood of a major war within the next seven years. Good God, are we to spend millions of pounds annually to guard against something which cannot happen in the next decade? Unfortunately, an. anti-Australian spirit has been transplanted in ‘Australia from abroad - aspirit that is not in accord with the grand ideals of world peace. Some of those whoare animated by that spirit realize their - highest ideal when they are marching a few boys along a road on a Saturday afternoon, and lording it over them. Many who are engaged in this form of military exercise conceive that they are discharging a sacred duty; but others do it for no other reason than that they believe it raises them socially. It is the intention of the Government to inculcate into the minds of the young men of Australia, that one volunteer is worth ten pressed men. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has stated that I am without military knowledge or experience. I did my turn as a volunteer when I was a boy. Every Saturday afternoon I travelled 37 miles to drill with my company at Prahran, despite the fact that I was tired af ter a week of hard work. But I was glad to do it. We in the company were few, but we took our training seriously, and we believed that we were doing something useful for the country. I have no desire to decry unduly the compulsory ‘system that we have just discarded, but of the hundreds of boys that I have consulted, not more than 50 per cent, cared for it: the others considered themselves conscripts. While such feelings were entertained how could we expect to have an efficient force? I make bold to say that if we enlist anything like the number’ we are seeking - I am determined to do my part, and I ask the honorable member for Balaclava to help me-
– I am doing so.
– I hope the honorable member will help. But I shall not be grateful to him if he delivers any more speeches like that to which we listened yesterday afternoon. If we can recruit the numbers we are seeking, we shall have an effective defence force at much less cost than was incurred under the compulsory system. I have been criticized on account of the amount to bo expended on uniforms. The pattern of the uniform* may be changed, and they may be a little* more costly than those at present in use, but that is not determined yet. Honorable members can rest assured that the additional cost will not add much to the financial burden of the Commonwealth.
Australia is a continent two-thirds the size of Europe, and it has a population of only 6,000,000. Our great task is not to teach men to right about turn and form fours, but to develop the country, and our most urgent requirement is capital. We cannot afford to continue spending money on superfluities. If ever there was a time when it was necessary to economize in defence expenditure that time is now. We are sending a Minister abroad to confer with the representatives of other nations regarding policies that will promote international peace, and at such a time the bellicose utterances of honorable members opposite are ill-advised and inopportune. The abolition of compulsory military training will have a repercussion for good all over the civilized world. That is Australia’s friendly gesture in support of the peace movement which is foremost in the minds of all thoughtful men.
In the year 1928, under the last chaotic Government, £29,000,000 or 92s. per head of the population was expended as a result of old wars, and 17 s. 8d. per head in preparation for new wars ; 52s. 6d. per head was left to finance other Governmental services. In other words, only onethird of the Consolidated Revenue was left for the further development of the country. The balance was absorbed by the ignoble fetish of preparedness for war, the greatest blot on our civilization. Mere disarmament will not alter that condition of affairs, and I agree with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) that if we devote ourselves to extending the right hand of fellowship to other nations, we shall do something more effective for the peace of this country than the expenditure of immense sums of money on militarism. When two men armed with sticks are saying to each other “ If you hit me I will hit you “ peace is not so assured as when one says “I have laid down my club, will you lay down yours ? “ The rotten system of militarism puts a strangle-hold on the country and its industries and absorbs a great proportion of the wages of the workers.
I have already referred to the manner in which the last Government whittled down the defence system. That is proved by these statistics regarding the number of training centres in the various states -
– That was under the last Government.
– I have here a map showing the number of training centres still in use and those that have been abandoned. If enemy forces had. landed in the north and gradually swept over the land they could not have pushed back our troops more effectively than the Nationalist Government did. We want no more of the humbug we have heard from the honorable members of the Opposition. We have been told that the number of trainees was 47,000. The average number of these poor devils who turned up on Saturday afternoons was 7,000; the other 40,000 were at football or cricket. The voluntary system , will have at least this merit, that only those will join who are keen enough to attend the drills. Under the compulsory system only comparatively few were standing up to their jobs, and that was to be expected, for no Australian will be compelled to do what he does not want’ to do.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) is not the final authority as to the best method of defending this country. As Minister for Defence I have had to consult representatives of different arms. I have been told by military experts that Australia can be saved only by a big military force ; the Navy Department is satisfied that the navy is the only strong arm, whilst the Royal Australian Air Force is equally positive that the invader must be beaten off in the air. The opinion of experts in the department is that no nation could prepare to invadeAustralia in less than six months. In the meantime what would our intelligence officers be doing?
Australia does not require, as Minister for Defence, one who has served with the “ foot-sloggers “ in actual warfare. Up to the time of the late war, I suppose that one of the most successful Ministers for Defence was a man who had never been to a war, and took care that he would never get there; I refer to Senator Sir George Pearce. The holder of this position needs to be ,a man of ordinary intelligence, who is prepared to listen to the claims of each arm of the forces and judge between them. I am satisfied that the Labour party’s administration will be at least as good as that of any previous government.
– During the course of his speech, the Minister for Defence made certain references to me. One of them was that my war record would not stand inspection. He threatened to read out my record, and I now invite him to do so.
– I did not say that the honorable member’s war record would not stand inspection.
.- At the last election the Labour party made many promises to the people, but, now it is in power, it seems to have difficulty in fulfilling them. The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) and the Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons) have sounded a note of alarm which they hope will influence the people, just as did their election promises. When they got into power they said that they found not a penny in the Treasury. According to statements in the press, the PostmasterGeneral stated in Hobart that Australia would be shocked when it discovered that the Treasury was empty. But we can find no such statement to the contrary in the budget of the late Government. During the last campaign I heard two Labour members talking. One of them said that he thought there were two outstanding statesmen in Australia - Mr. Bruce and Mr. Collier. Another man remarked, “ I don’t care a d- who knows it, I am supporting the BrucePage Government.” I ask whether the late Government tried to make the people believe that there was plenty of money in the treasury. In May last Mr. Bruce met the State Premiers in conference in Canberra, and, in a state ment on the finances of this country, he said -
On an occasion such as the present, when the representatives of the Governments of Australia, both Commonwealth and State, are gathered together, it is desirable that we should fully review the whole financial, industrial, and commercial position of Australia. In essaying this task, there is, to my mind, an obligation on the shoulders of every one of us to state our views with the utmost frankness, forgetful of all political considerations, and mindful only of the duty we owe to the people of Australia who have, for the time being, entrusted us with the responsibilities of leadership. The situation that confronts us to-day cannot fail to cause anxiety to every thinking citizen. Australia has in the past experienced periods of temporary depression, which have been due in the main to adverse seasonal influences.
In the Address-in-Reply, the advisers of the Governor-General pointed out that Australia is passing through a bad season. That is another excuse offered to the public by the Labour party for not carrying out its election promises. It feels confident that, during its occupancy of the treasury bench, Providence will smile on Australia, and give it good seasons. Mr. Bruce went on to say -
Generally speaking, we have been fortunate in that they have been of short duration, and that the disabilities which they have occasioned, such as unemployment and stringency in public finance, have rapidly disappeared with the return of normal seasons. Our present position is, however, due, I suggest, to causes that are more deeply seated, and good seasons alone will not restore prosperity. The prices of our staple commodities - wool and wheat - have recently declined. The sale of the surplus products of most of our other primary industries has become unprofitable, and the position of our secondary industries is becoming more and more difficult owing to ever-increasing competition from overseas. The cumulative effect of all these things is discernible in the growth of unemployment throughout Australia, and in the increasing complexity of the problems with which we have to contend in relation to our finance, commerce, industry, and production generally.
At this point in the late Prime Minister’s speech, the Labour Premier of Western Australia interpolated that the Commonwealth was the biggest culprit in bringing about that condition of affairs, and he instanced the heavy customs duties that the people have to pay. Speaking on the Address-in-Reply in the Western Australian Parliament, Mr. Collier remarked - ‘
The position in Australia to-day was serious. The Commonwealth was literally living on its primary industries - wheat and wool. The consternation caused about a month ago when a fall in wheat occurred indicated the results that would follow any serious fall in the price of those two commodities. With the competition of artificial wool, a further reduction in the price of the real material threatened next year.
There was no doubt that any falling-off in the volume of production of wool or wheat, quite apart from any fall in price, would create a serious situation for the people of Australia. The cost of production in Australia was too high. Australia had to compete in the world’s markets. The producer of wool aud wheat had no say in fixing the price of the commodity he produced, lt was determined by external influences over which he had no control. If Australians were to compote with other countries they would have seriously to consider the question of lowering the cost of production.
Has the tariff lowered the cost of production in Australia? Five of our best authorities on economics in Australia have pointed out that £36,000,000 belonging to the people has been given to certain industries, in order that they may be bolstered up, and that this means a burden of 9 per cent, upon our export industries. Is that not an extremely high handicap for those industries to carry? Is it surprising that our primary industries are declining? According to Mr. Bruce, Mr. Collier and the leading economists of Australia, those are most important industries, because they bring new money into the country, and make living here possible. This fact is clearly shown by the report of the “Big Four,” which states -
But all measures designed for the increase of Australia’s wealth production and power of absorbing new population tend to be defeated if there are strong forces within her which operate so to raise her costs of production that she cannot sell her products in the markets of the world, and is restricted within the limitations of her own home market. Here we approach the most vexed, and the most important of all Australian questions, that of the combined effects of the protective customs tariff and of the legislative enactments, both of thu Commonwealth and of the States, for the fixing of wages and conditions of labour, which we will call, for brevity, the arbitration acts.
These authorities, who have no political prejudices, all agree that a vicious circle is created which increases the cost of production and living in Australia, so that it is extremely hard for us to compete in the world’s markets. This Go- vernment proposes to add to the burden on the community. It has disregarded the economic advisers of the Commonwealth, including the Tariff Board. It proposes to increase direct taxation by £1,285,000, and to raise an additional £1,200,000 by means of the tariff, making a total increase in taxation of £2,485,000. This is being done during what is admitted in the Governor-General’s Speech to be a bad season. Any government with the interests of the people at heart should consider, before enlarging on undertakings that will increase expenditure, on whose shoulders the burden will fall. All these party promises have, eventually, been fulfilled by the taxpayers. To my way of thinking, the best test of a good government is the manner in which it taxes the people and spends the money it gets. A good government will raise money in the manner least harmful to industry, and use it’ to increase production and national wealth. This additional impost of £2,485,000 is being added by the Government to the existing burdens of the people in such a way as to retard national progress. It constitutes a further tax on industry. The Government seems to avoid taxing luxury and amusements, which surely ought to be taxed if extra revenue is required. I am a smoker, but I should not think it unfair if a heavy duty were placed on tobacco. If I could not pay it I could reduce my smoking. The same applies to whisky and moving picture shows. If I could not afford to use as much whisky, after the duty had been increased, as formerly, 1 could get along quite well on less. A man who objects to paying the amusement tax could attend fewer shows, and so get over the difficulty. The present increases, however, are laid on the food and clothing of the people. The increase in the tariff on cotton falls particularly on the poorer classes of the community. The cost of children’s hats will be quadrupled by the duties that have been imposed on them. The people were not told that the Government was going to do these things. It is evident that what is most needed in Australia to-day is to reduce the cost of production, aud to produce more for competitive export. The budget now before us, with its direct and indirect taxation proposals, must increase the cost of living and production, and reduce the purchasing power of wages. It will not tend to increase production and development, but will retard them.
A problem of enormous importance to this country is how to effectually occupy our continent. This cannot be done by adding to the existing burden of taxation. It is all very well to have a high standard of living if it can be earned, and it _is also very nice to have a white population, but we must show the world that we can possess these things while running the country on competitive lines.
– Who said that?
– I said it. In this connexion, I wish to read the remarks made by Mr. Phil. Collier, the Premier of Western Australia, when speaking at r,he centenary celebrations at Collie on the 3rd November.
– A good man too.
– He is a good man for that State and for Australia. This is what he said -
We all hope that the next 100 years will see Australia free from war. There is nothing to prevent the land for which our mcn fought becoming one of the greatest nations of the world. Wc have everything hero to make us as great as that great and wealthy nation, America, except perhaps oil, and with our natural resources there seems to be no reason why we should not do the same as America has done. I am one of those who believe it to be essential to tlie safety and security of Australia to populate the country and develop the resources. With an area so large and being the last portion of the world left for the white races to settle under conditions suitable to their natural demand, it is essential that Western Australia should develop. In America, in 1021, tlie Government decided against the immigration of Europeans and fixed a quota for each country of the world. Consequently, that door has been closed to those countries, particularly in southern Europe. For some time past they have been looking round for another outlet for their surplus population. Australia has been discovered in this regard, and I do not think that we will be permitted to hold Australia in any dog-in-the-manger fashion and, unless wc establish our right to the land by developing its resources and populating the country, we shall be forced to give way to those who will. We must not delay. If the country’s resources are developed we will find that population will follow. We have such variety to offer that we will be able to attract all the best classes of people from the over-populated old world.
The Government is inconsistent in its attitude in regard to immigration and defence. Without consulting Parliament it decided to abolish the compulsory system of training and to introduce a voluntary system. It may or may not be right in doing that. Personally, I believe that the original Labour policy was right, and that every able-bodied citizen should be called upon to play his pari in the defence of his country if needed. The Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) said, I think, that 47,000 youths were in training before the compulsory system was abolished, and it is suggested that under the voluntary system there might be 36,000 trainees. It is evident, therefore, that 10,000 citizens with the ability and health to undergo training for the defence of Australia are to be allowed to shirk their duty. Every person who enjoys the benefits of citizenship should be ready to defend his country if the need arises. I do not want war any more than any one else does. Members of the Government party seem to think that everything can be settled by peaceful negotiations. They wish to do away with war altogether, and so does everybody else. The Minister has said that it is better to say to one’s enemies : “ Lay down your club, and I shall lay down mine.” That is all very well if the other fellow is prepared to do it. It is also suggested that we might appeal to the League of Nations. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) advocated that course.
– What is wrong with that suggestion?
– An appeal to the League of Nations must be made in an assembly in which there are representatives of Belgium, France, Holland, Germany and Italy, all of which have a population of from 100 to 4’00 persons to the square mile of their territory. Japan and China are in a similar position. Seeing that Australia has only a fraction over two persons to the square mile of her territory she cannot expect these other nations to regard sympathetically a request that migration to this country should be suspended. Mr. Collier was quite right. We must show the world that we are ready to welcome all the white people who desire to come here, and that we arc willing to allow our people to work on a competitive basis with the people’ of other countries of the world.
– Does the honorable member want more unemployment in Australia ?
– If the honorable member for Werriwa had examined the situation carefully he would have discovered that the introduction of every tariff schedule that has imposed higher duties has been followed by an increase in the number of unemployed in our midst. Our primary producers are the people who are creating the wealth of Australia, yet it is proposed to tax them to the extent of an additional £2,800,000. The Australian Economic Commission has reported to the effect that our primary producers are already carrying a burden of 9 per cent, because of our customs impositions, and this Government is seeking to add to that load. The Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech refers to the importance of primary production to Australia, and expresses the hope that the country may be blessed with good seasons. Yet the Government is placing heavier taxation upon the primary producers with the object of assisting a few tiddly-winking secondary industries which will never bring a new shilling into Australia. This country owes, approximately, £1,100,000,000, and thinking men cannot look forward with much pleasure to having to meet these obligations. Our only hope of improving our position is by encouraging our primary industries. We cannot pass this huge burden on to coming generations if we expect them to hold our memory in reverence. Is it to be expected that bootmaking, matchmaking, or machinery-making will ever do anything to increase the wealth of the country, or help us to pay our national debt? I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Business for Next Week - Duty on Sparking Plugs - Customs Tariff - Returned Soldier Employees ok War Service Homes Commission - Extra Remuneration for Returning Officers.
.- I move
That the House do now adjourn.
Our business for next week will include further consideration of the budget and Estimates, and consideration of the Income Tax Rates Bill, the Seat of Government Bill, and the Loan Bill. We hope to be able to finish the business by next Friday, but if we have not concluded it by that time we shall continue sitting until that has been done.
– Has the Prime Minister come to any decision in regard to private members’ business?
.- I wish to draw the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) to a paragraph in the Australian Motorist of the 2nd December, which makes an astounding statement in connexion with the manufacture of sparking plugs. It reads -
The new duty on sparking plugs, for example, will cost Australians using mechanical transport and farm tractors an additional £83,000 per annum. The duty now being collected is greater than the c.i.’f. price of plugs of oversea manufacture. If all the sparking plugs used in the Commonwealth were produced locally, less than £4,000 in wages would be distributed, and in an endeavour to create this employment, Australians are to contribute £83,000 annually; the raw material would have to be imported.
I hope that the Minister will be able to give me an assurance that the report of the Tariff Board in connexion with this matter will be placed in our hands in ample time for us to consider it properly before we are called upon to deal with this item. I should also like to ask that all the reports of the Tariff Board which affect items in the new schedule shall be made available to us as early as possible.
– I think that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) will realize that the newspaper from which he has. quoted is, to a large extent, a medium for advertising motor cars and motor accessories. If he has read the leading articles that appear in this publication from time to time, he will know that the journal has strong free trade tendencies. Consequently, it is not remarkable that the paragraph that he has quoted should have appeared in it.
We shall not be dealing with the new tariff schedule before the Christmas adjournment. All the information that the Government can make available to honorable members in connexion with the tariff will be released as early as possible.
-Could not some of the information be made available to us at once?
– The Ministerwho will be in charge of the department during my absence will, I have no doubt, give honorable members all the information that he can. It will be obvious to honorable members that reports of the Tariff Board which have not been considered by the Government cannot be made available to them; but I can see no reason why the reports which have been considered should not be laid upon the table of the House, or made available in other ways. I am sure that the Minister who will represent me in the department during my absence will supply honorable members, by post or otherwise, with all the information that is available.
.- For some years the returned soldiers employed by the War Service Homes Commission have desired to form a sub-branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League. They were debarred from so doing by the previous administration. I should like to know whether the Minister now in charge of the department will grant permission for a sub-branch of the League to be formed by these men.
– Representations have been made to me during the last few weeks by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) in support of the request of these men.I understand that this subject was discussed at the Federal Conference of the league which was held recently in Perth. For some reason previous Ministers in charge of the department have refused the men permission to form a sub-branch of the league.
– For very good reasons.
– I have examined the departmental file on this subject and have not been able to find any substantial reason why permission has been refused. If there is any reason for it, the file does not disclose it. I have considered the matter very carefully, and have granted the request of the men. So far as I can see, no possible injury can be done to the department if such a sub-branch of the league is formed. In any case I am quite prepared to take full responsibility for my decision.
– With a view to avoiding a sitting of the House on Saturday next, I respectfully suggest to the Prime Minister that he should arrange for the sittings to commence at 11 a.m. from Wednesday next.
. -In connexion with the last election, returning officers and other officials were required to work very long hours. Some of them had to work on Saturdays and Sundays and at other inconvenient and unusual times. The Labour party has always advocated that these men should he given some consideration for this extra work. I ask the Prime Minister to recognize in some way before Christmas the excellent services that these men have rendered.
– In answer to the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), let me say that I am considering the question of asking honorable members to meet for some mornings of next week. However, we shall meet at 3 p.m. next Tuesday, and I shall then advise honorable members of the Government’s decision. I wish to inform the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) that the subject raised by him has been listed for consideration by the Cabinet
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 December 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19291206_reps_12_122/>.