12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 11 o’clock a.m. to-morrow.
– Subsequent to the coal conference held recently at Canberra, the Prime Minister expressed appreciation of the co-operation of Mr. Bavin,
Premier of New South Wales. Has the honorable gentleman any comment to make on the statement attributed to the Assistant Minister for Industry (Mr. Beasley) in an authorized and censored report published in the Labour Daily yesterday, that at that conference Mr. Bavin deliberately set out to break down the prospects of a settlement?
– I have not seen any published statement by the Assistant Minister that Mr. Bavin set out to break down the coal conference at Canberra.
– As the Prime Minister advised the miners to accept reduced rates of pay agreed upon at the recent conference called by him, has the Assistant Minister, who has represented the Government during the negotiations, similarly advocated acceptance of such a reduction?
– I am not aware that the Prime Minister gave to the miners the advice stated by the honorable member.
Dean and Son’s Contract
– At the request of workers in my electorate I brought to the notice of the Minister in charge of war service homes, the claim of H. Dean and Sons, against the War Service Homes Commission, in regard to which I moved in a previous parliament for the appointment of a select committee. As the verdict of judge and jury in the lower court was favorable to the appellants, will the Minister ask the Public Accounts Committee to investigate the case with a view to deciding whether the appellants have not at least a moral claim to compensation ?
– As a result of the frequent representations made by the honorable member I have decided to ask the Public Accounts Committee to investigate this case.
– During my term of office as Agent-General for South Australia in London, a few small test consignments of juice grapes in a frozen state were sent from that State to the United Kingdom. Two of the consignments were successful, and arrived at a season when good prices could have been secured. Will the Minister for Transport have full inquiries made regarding the prospects of developing an export trade in this commodity?
– I shall have the matter thoroughly investigated i n the near future.
– Oan the Minister for Repatriation inform me -where the appeal tribunals are at the present time, and when they are likely to visit Tasmania ?
– The Entitlement Tribunal has been sitting in Victoria and will, I understand, leave for Tasmania today. The Assessment Tribunal is in Western Australia, and Tasmania will be the next State visited by it.
– Mr. J. G. McMaster, a prominent pastoralist, gave to the last Prime Minister’ £20,000 towards research work for the improvement of Australia’s flocks and herds. The matter was referred to Sir George Julius, Chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and he has taken a wrong course.
-Order ! A brief explanation of a question is permissible, but the honorable member is hot in order in making comments or statements when asking a question.
– I am trying to convey the facts to the Prime Minister, but if you, Mr. Speaker, will not permit me to ask a question-
– I shall not permit the honorable member to reflect on my ruling. He must ask his question without making comment.
– Will the Prime Minister consider the desirability of utilising Mr’. McMaster’s gift as a contribution towards a national laboratory at Canberra, instead of for the erection of buildings in the Sydney University grounds, which are unsuitable and situated in a congested suburban area? Furthermore, the establishment of such a laboratory within the city will be a contravention of the municipal by-laws.
– This matter was discussed with Sir George Julius and other members of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research a few days ago. No decision was reached, and the discussions will be resumed at an early date.
– Will the Prime Minister explain why the Government has abandoned the proposal of its predecessor to impose a tax of 12J per cent, on the one million pounds, which is sent out of Australia annually for the purchase of American films, having regard to the fact that this Government not only adopted-_
-Order J The purpose of a question is to elicit information, not to give it.
– Will the Prime Minister explain why the present Government has neglected to impose such a tax, although it has increased the taxes on tobacco, spirits, and the incomes of Australian- citizens?
– The question ib in the nature of a criticism of the budget, and I do not propose to reply to it at this stage.
– Will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs endeavour to visit Rutherglen at the earliest possible date to discuss with those interested the critical condition of the viticultural industry?
– I have been much impressed by the honorable member’s repeated representations on behalf of viti.culturists, and I shall at the earliest opportunity visit Rutherglen in company with him to investigate the difficulties of those engaged iri the industry.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Railways when the Commonwealth Buildings in Adelaide are likely to be completed, thua relieving the existing congestion of the Postal Department, and permitting the removal of a most unsightly structure from one of the main thoroughfares of the city?
– I shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say when the report of the Broadcasting Board on the allocation of sites for B Class stations will be available?
– This matter is receiving very close attention, and as soon as possible I shall make a statement on the subject.
– Under the new tariff schedule the duty on box shooks has been increased, but a rebate is allowed in respects of boxes used in the export trade. A request has been made that the shooks should be admitted without payment of duty, subject to a guarantee that they will ultimately be exported as boxes.
– Order ! The honorable member is going beyond the limits of a question.
– I am sure the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs understands the question I was about to ask.
– On Saturday last the honorable members for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), Angas (Mr. Gabb), andWakefield (Mr. Hawker.) introduced to the Prime Minister and me, a deputation representing those interested in the importation of shooks. Their representations are receiving consideration, and a reply will be given as soon as possible.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs to indicate if his department will permit the importation of shooks under guarantee, that is, under similar conditions to those applying in other cases of the kind.
– I have nothing to add to the reply I have just given to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). An answer will be given as soon as possible.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In the Evening News of the 9th December, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) is credited with having said in the course of an address delivered by him to a meeting of Nationalists in Sydney that the Gwydir election had been won by the promise, published in a pamphlet, of 6s. 6d. a bushel for wheat. I wish to say that at no time during the period of the election or since has the promise been made by me that the farmers would be paid 6s. 6d. a bushel for wheat. I do not know where the honorable member secured his information, because to my knowledge no pamphlet containing a promise of that character was ever issued under the auspices of any organization with which I was associated during the election. The Labour party’s policy is to give to the farmer the cost of production, plus a reasonable profit, and. honorable gentlemen opposite have never been prepared to assist us in securing it.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a statement in the Sydney Sun of yesterday’s date containing some remarks by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) to the effect that during the recent election he did not say that he would see that the wheatgrowers received 6s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat, and that what he did say was that he would use his best endeavours to induce the Government to give that extent of assistance to the wheat-growers; also that since his election he had been using his best endeavours to persuade the Government to carry out that policy. Will the Prime Minister say whether his Government has given consideration to the honorable member’s proposal?
– I have not seen the statement in the press referred to by the honorable member. My policy speech prior to the last election, and other policy speeches made on behalf of the Labour party, offered no guarantee of 6s. 6d. a bushel for wheat. If the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) is so concerned about a guarantee being given why did he not urge it upon the last Government which he supported?
– I ask the Prime Minister if the reply of the British Government in regard to the suspension of assisted migration to Australia was dealt with at the Premiers’ Conference on Monday last? If so, what was the reply, and what was the attitude of the conference to the Commonwealth Government’s proposals?
– The reply from the British Government was not put before the Premiers’ Conference because I had not then received permission to release it. The Leader of the Opposition has a question on the notice paper dealing with this matter which I shall answer later.
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The information is not readily available, but steps will be taken to obtain it.
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The difficulties experienced by listeners in country towns and areas are appreciated by the department, and it was with this knowledge in mind that steps were taken with a view to establishing subsidiary relaying stations. The conditions in Bendigo have been specially examined, and there are no means of giving real improvement until one or more of the subsidiary stations are in operation. The construction programme for these stations has been tentatively arranged involving very heavy expenditure, and some time must necessarily elapse before the stations are in operation.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether financial assistance is available to promote the development of mining for minerals, other than coal or gold, which might lead to alleviation of unemployment, and if so, under what conditions would he consider an application for assistance in the Moonta and Kadina copper fields?
– Funds are provided under the Precious Metals Prospecting Act for prospecting for gold, silver, platinum and osmiridium. It is not the practice to make advances to individual prospectors, but only- to State Governments to supplement expenditure regularly incurred by them in providing aid to prospectors. The question of providing assistance in the Moonta and Kadina copper fields is a matter for the consideration of the State Government. Copper is not included as a precious metal under the Commonwealth Precious Metals Prospecting Act.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the amount collected in customs duty on chassis in each of the States for the financial years ending 30th June, 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1929?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Information on these points will be furnished when the tariff schedule is being discussed.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is he now in a position to make available to the House the communications between the Commonwealth Government and the British Government with reference to the migration agreements ?
– I received a cablegram from the British Government yesterday agreeing to publication of its communication, but suggesting that this be done simultaneously in Great Britain and Australia, and asking for three days’ notice of the proposed date of publication here. In reply, I have intimated that I propose to announce the text of the communication in Parliament on Friday next. A statement setting out the terms of the cablegram sent by me to the British Government last month was tabled in this House on the 22nd November.
– On the 22nd November, 1929, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) addressed to me the following questions: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
– On the 4th December, 1929, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) addressed to me the following question : -
I am now in a position to furnish the particulars asked for in part (2) of the question, namely: -
New South Wales -
New Lambton, Yanco, Nambucca Heads, West Kempsey, Alstonville, Ulmarra, Tabulam, Broadwater, Copmanhurst.
In South Australia -
Elliston, Melrose, BoolerooCentre, Wirrabara, Carrieton, Caltowie, Yongala, Hallett, Port Broughton, Red Hill, Auburn, Blyth, Brinkworth, Bute, Edithburgh, Port Victoria, Curramulka, Ardrossan, Paskeville, Owen, Spalding, Gawler Rail, Salisbury, Angaston, Tanunda, Barmera, Gumeracha, Lyndoch, Woodside, Nairne, Goolwa, Port Elliot, Willunga, Wolseley, Milang, Robe, Brighton, Magill, Henley Beach, Payneham, Mitcham, Stirling West.
.- I move-
That Standing Order 70 be suspended until the end of this month.
The purpose of suspending this standing order is to permit of new business if necessary being taken after 11 p.m., in order to facilitate business and clear the notice-paper.
.- I have no objection to this motion, because one recognizes that it is necessary at the end of a session; but I shall be pleased if the Prime Minister can see his way during the course of the day to inform the honorable members if any new business is likely to be taken after 11 p.m. It might be done immediately before the dinner adjournment. I hope it will not be necessary to take new business after 11 p.m. We are meeting at 11 a.m. and we ought to get through our business without all night or long sittings. In saying that I am speaking on behalf of all honorable members - although we shall not have that long opportunity for the discussion of the Estimates which has been so ardently advocated by so many whom I see facing me now.
– I have no objection to offer to the procedure proposed; but I think that it is fair for the Prime Minister in reply to state whether any new controversial business will be introduced during the remainder of the session, what is the nature of the business he intends to get through, and whether any all night sittings are contemplated. He will recognize that during the few weeks we have been meeting, the parties on the Opposition side of the Chamber have done their best to facilitate the passage of Government business. There has been no obstruction in any respect. The debate on the Address-in-Reply was not prolonged, and on the measures which have been submitted honorable members have spoken as briefly as possible.
.- In view of the fact that some gentlemen in another place have assumed an attitude of fight and-
– On a point of order I ask whether it is in order for an honorable member to refer to current debates in another place.
– It is quite irregular for an honorable member to comment on debates in another place, and I ask the honorable member for East Sydney not to reflect upon the other chamber.
– That deprives me of the opportunity of putting the question I wished to submit to the Prime Minister. The fate of certain legislation in another place may have a considerable effect upon the suspension of this standing order.
– I do not contemplate that any new business will be taken after 11 o’clock at night, but lest the necessity should arise this standing order must be suspended. In any case it is quite a usual practice for this motion to be carried to enable business to be cleared up at the end of a session. The Government is hoping to be able to get through its business without all-night sittings, but if that is not possible, late sittings are inevitable. Nonew bills will be brought up. There are certain notices of motion on the business sheet which must be disposed of. The Loan Bill, which of course is an annual bill, the Iron and Steel
Products Bounty Bill, which is urgent, must be passed, the Budget debate must be concluded and the Estimates agreed to, and the income tax rates bill and a short Seat of Government Administration Bill must go through. I hope that we can manage to bring our business to a conclusion without all-night sittings. To-day’s progress will give us a fair indication of the way things “will go.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
The object of this motion is to enable the Government to dispose of its business promptly, so that it may be sent on to another place as soon as possible; but, when Government business has been disposed of, an opportunity will be given for the consideration of notices, of motion standing in the names of private members.
– I draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the f acf that I have a notice of motion on the business-paper relating to an investigation of the position of the tobacco industry. A similar motion was carried in the last Parliament on the voices. A select committee was actually appointed, and it held a couple of meetings, but, owing to the dissolution, the work of the committee had to be abandoned. I suggest that it is important, in the interests of this industry, that we should not allow another three or four months to elapse before that investigation, is resumed, and I trust that the Prime Minister will make a special effort to allow the motion to be considered before the House rises for the recess. I have no intention to make a further speech when the motion is called on. I spoke at length on the subject last session, when we had a two hours’ debate. I think that the motion would be disposed of very quickly. Only this week the .Victorian tobacco-growers desired to visit Canberra for the special purpose of waiting on the Prime Minister as a deputation, and urging the Government to reappoint the committee immediately. In conjunction with the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) I persuaded those growers not to proceed with their deputation.
– I strongly support the remarks of the honorable member for New England on this matter. The tobacco-growers are most anxious that the committee should be reappointed. The tobacco-growers were persuaded not to form a deputation to the Prime Minister, because of the probability of the reappointment of the committee. I hope that this course will be adopted before the House rises.
. - I rise merely to place on record my disapproval of the denial, during the whole of the session, of an opportunity to considered notices of motion given by private members, which relate to matter which they claim to be of the greatest importance. I do not intend to vote against the motion.
.- The only notice of motion on the businesspaper providing for the appointment of a select committee is. that standing in the name of the honorable member for New England, and if it could be disposed of by general agreement, in view of the fact that a similar motion was agreed to in the last Parliament, the Prime Minister could possibly give special facilities to enable it to be discussed by leave.
.- I do not object to the course being pursued by the Government, because I feel that the motion is necessary. I have a notice of motion for to-morrow, which I was hoping would be ‘considered. It refers to tubercular returned soldiers, who have been unable to prove that their complaint is due to war service. If the motion is not dealt with before we rise, at least three months must elapse before the matter can be discussed. I think that honorable members on all sides will support my motion. These unfortunate men gave the best of their lives, in the bloom of manhood, and the granting of war pensions to them would not cost the Commonwealth too much. It would be a declining responsibility, financially, and the Commonwealth could be expected to display the degree of human sympathy that the motion involves. I suggest that the Prime Minister, as a matter of Government policy, might recognize the claims of these men, so that they might be paid in accordance with the War Pensions Act.
.- While recognizing the circumstances in which the Government is placed, the postponement of private members’ business, particularly in the last Parliament, when it was continually treated in this way, made private members’ day practically a farce. I hope that the Prime Minister will recognize that private members now have too few opportunities of putting forward particular projects that they believe to be of great importance. I hope that, in future, the privileges of these members will be safeguarded, so far as possible. Regarding the point raised by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), I am quite prepared to allow notice of motion No. 1, which is in my name, to stand aside, so that precedence may be given to the notice of motion of the honorable member for New England.
.- In my opinion the Prime Minister would be wise to adhere to his motion. It is apparent that each honorable member, who has a private notice of motion regards the matter dealt with by him as being of the utmost importance, and therefore, the Government should not give precedence to one over another. The position of the tobacco industry might well be investigated by the Tariff Board. If already it has been inquired into by that body, the board’s report should be regarded as final, and there is no justification for the further expense that the appointment of a select committee would entail.
– I have always felt that private members have rights in this House, and it is with great reluctance that I have submitted a motion to give precedence to Government business on a private members’ day ; but it should be remembered that this is an exceptional session. Usually, when a new Government has been appointed, there is merely a formal meeting of Parliament, and an adjournment for some two months or so to enable Ministers to prepare their policy; but we were forced to have this session owing to the financial arrange ments that had to be made. Therefore, we must suspend private members business until Government business has been disposed of. I have explained the reason why this precedence should be observed; measures now under consideration in this chamber will be awaited in another place. If the present motion is carried, Government business will take precedence to-morrow over private notices of motion, which will be placed under the heading of general business, and when we have disposed of the Government business, private members’ motions will be called on. Special consideration will be given to notice of motion No. 2 relating to the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the tobacco industry. A committee was appointed by the last Parliament to carry out the investigation, and its re-appointment by this Parliament will be more or less a formality. I have assured the honorable members for New England and Indi that an opportunity will be given for the consideration of this motion before the House rises, so that the committee may resume its inquiries during the recess.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– 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: - Maylands, Western Australia - Establishment of Automatic Telephone Exchange.
It is proposed to erect a building on a site at the corner of Carrington-street and Central-avenue, Maylands, and to install therein an automatic telephone switching system having an initial equipment for 1,100 subscribers’ lines. The ultimate capacity will be approximately 2,300 lines, which will provide for requirements for the next 20 years. The exchange is necessary in order to meet the rapid development that is taking place. The area to be served comprises the eastern portion of the existing Perth exchange area, and includes the suburbs of Mr Lawley, Maylands and Bayswater.
The estimated immediate cost of the work is £41,290. On the opening of the exchange, an annual revenue of £9,340 is expected, increasing to £11,600 by the fifth year. I lay on the table plans, &c, in connexion with the proposed work.
.Although I raise no objection to the motion, I have noticed that a number of proposals for the erection of automatic telephone exchanges in the capital cities have recently been referred to the Public Works Committee. It is now some considerable time since the Postal Department, with a great flourish of trumpets, announced that it had perfected a system by which automatic exchanges could be adapted to the needs of country districts. This experiment was being made in two localities in Victoria, as well as, possibly, in some other districts. The latest reports that I saw stated that the trials had proved so satisfactory that it was likely that the system would be generally installed at no very distant date. I shall be glad, therefore, if the PostmasterGeneral can indicate whether the use of automatic telephones in country districts is still in the experimental stage, or whether the trials which we were given to understand were being made, have proved successful. I presume that all these automatic telephone exchanges will be provided for out of loan moneys, and in view of the present financial position it might be advisable to delay certain of these city undertakings until we know definitely whether automatic telephones for country districts can be placed upon a proper basis. We were led to believe that this new system would revolutionize telephonic communication in country areas, and we are all anxious to know just what is the position.
.- I do not intend to oppose the motion, but with the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) I take this opportunity to remind the Postmaster-General that there are other places in the Commonwealth beside the capital cities, and that many important centres are in urgent need of improved telephonic facilities. The city which I represent has a population of 130,000 people, but up to the present there has been no proposal to install an automatic telephone exchange there. It is time that the people in these large provincial centres, as well as those living in our rural areas, received more consideration. An automatic telephone exchange in Newcastle would return ten times the revenue that is likely to be received from a number of proposals for metropolitan areas that have been put in hand.
.- I entirely agree with those honorable members who have preceded me as to the need for improved telephonic facilities in country districts. Some time ago I was informed by the ex-Postmaster-General that certain trials had been carried out with automatic telephones for country subscribers, and that the department intended to purchase about 100 of these telephones for further trials, with the object of ascertaining whether it would be possible to obviate an increase in the hours during which country manual exchanges remain open. Unfortunately a decision on this important matter has been deferred from time to time. On several occasions I have urged that the service should be available to country subscribers until at least 8 o’clo’ck. Since the Postmaster-General is himself a representative of a country district, I hope he will not be guided entirely by the advice which he receives from the permanent head of his department, for I am afraid that the heads of many of our departments are not conversant with all the disabilities suffered by people who live in the country. I am sure that the Minister is anxious to improve the present rural telephonic facilities, and I hope that he will ascertain, with the least possible delay, whether the automatic telephone for country subscribers is or is not a success. If it is not successful then it will be necessary for the department to arrange for an extension of the hours during which country exchanges are kept open, so as to meet the convenience of their subscribers. If the automatic telephone designed for use in country districts proves to be successful, its installation should remove what has hitherto been a serious grievance among country subscribers for a long time.
– I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell). It is highly desirable that we should have improved telephonic facilities in our country districts in the interest, not only of country subscribers, but also of city exchanges. Hitherto more attention has been given to the convenience of operators in country telephone exchanges than to the subscribers themselves. Doubtless it is too much to expect telephone operators to remain on duty for an unreasonable number of hours, but the present arrangement is wholly unsatisfactory to people living in farming districts. Frequently a farmer is obliged to cease work for the purpose of telephoning or receiving telephone messages. I hope, therefore, that the Postmaster-General will do all in his power to overcome the existing disabilities which country subscribers experience, and that shortly it will be possible to give the people of Australia the full benefit of this time-saving device.
.- I have every sympathy with the views of those honorable members who are asking for improved telephonic facilities in country districts. Perth affords the most definite example of the success of the automatic telephone exchange, and we are now anxious to have the system extended to the suburban area. I hope also that it will be possible in the near future to extend this convenience to large cities like Newcastle and many other of the larger provincial centres throughout the Commonwealth, As regards this proposal, I trust it will not be held up because of complaints from honorable members representing country districts. The three suburbs to be served by the proposed new exchange have a population of many thousands. The proposal is in the nature of an extension of the Perth automatic telephone exchange system, and I have no doubt that it will prove remunerative.
.- I did not intend to speak to the debate on this motion and should not have done so but for the criticism of certain honorable members opposite. For many years I urged the ex-Postmaster-General to consider the installation of rural automatic, telephones, and I received from him, as well as from the present PostmasterGeneral, an assurance that that system was still in the experimental stage. I understand that the equipment is being made in Australia, so I am hoping that it will be possible shortly to install these automatic telephones in many of our country districts. But what I really rose to say was that it is singular that honorable members who are now sitting in Opposition should to-day be voicing complaints about the country telephone facilities, in view of the fact that the PostmasterGeneral has been in office for only a few weeks.
– Complaints were made frequently by honorable members on this side about the need for improved telephone facilities in country districts.
– During the last Parliament’ we considered several proposals, I suggest that honorable members opposite are now indulging in carping criticism of this Government’s proposals. These works concern chiefly metropolitan divisions, for the reason that exchanges in our capital cities have become so congested of late years that unless we provided automatic equipment it would be necessary to erect additional buildings and install further equipment to maintain them as manual exchanges. Undoubtedly the proper course for a progressive department is to install automatic exchanges. I can assure honorable members that if the motion is agreed to, the inquiry will be expedited. They will, therefore, be well advised to allow the motion to pass so that the proposal may be referred to the Public Works Committee.
– I should not have risen to take part in the debate but for the deliberate misstatement made by the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey).
– I ask for the withdrawal of that statement, which is most offensive to me.
– The right honorable member for Cowper has said that the honorable member for Grey made a deliberate mis-statement. That remark is offensive to the honorable member, so it must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the word “deliberate,” and will content myself with saying that the honorable member for Grey was guilty of a mis-statement of facts. When I was speaking to a previous motion submitted by the Prime
Minister, I said that honorable members on this side of the House were doing what they could to facilitate the Government in the transaction of its business. The debate would not have been continued except for the remarks of the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey). The previous Government during its term of office spent £23,000,000 in extending the telephonic services in Australia. This was more than the total sum expended under this heading previously in the history of the Commonwealth. Wot only did the previous Government develop our telephonic facilities to this extent, but it sent an officer abroad to investigate the possibility of providing rural automatic exchanges on a large scale. Upon the officer’s return experiments were conducted and these, proved to be successful. Following upon that, the previous PostmasterGeneral submitted a programme of rural automatic installations to this House for its approval and in his programme £100,000 was set aside for that purpose. I understand that the present Postmaster-General has adopted that programme. In these circumstances it ill becomes the representative of a rural constituency to criticize the administration of the previous PostmasterGeneral which has transformed country districts. Such carping criticism provokes unnecessary debate. I am sure that the present Postmaster-General will do his best to continue, as rapidly as possible, the installation of rural automatic exchanges. Such ungenerous statements as those made by the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) are to be deprecated.
.- I also think that the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) was most unfair and ungenerous in his remarks. The strongest objection to this motion has come from the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). Honorable members on this side of the chamber are not opposing the motion, but are simply urging that the policy of installing rural automatic exchanges should be carried out as speedily as possible. We have been under the impression for some time that it would be possible to provide our country people at an early date with a continuous service by means of the automatic system. We have every reason to believe that the new system is efficient and economical. In these circumstances I trust that the PostmasterGeneral will press on with as many installations as possible.
.- The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) has not been a Government supporter long enough to realize the wisdom of refraining from making provocative speeches like the one he has just delivered. The new Postmaster-General has not been in office long enough to be able to push ahead with the installation of rural automatic exchanges, but I feel certain that he will carry out the programme of his predecessor. It is of the greatest importance to our country people that they should be granted a continuous telephonic service without avoidable delay. I brought this subject under the notice of the Bruce-Page Government four years ago, and have done my best since then to urge the merits of the service. We have reason to believe that the department is enthusiastic on the subject. The success that has been achieved in Victoria has encouraged us to look for rural automatic installations in many country centres throughout the Commonwealth. The system is not only convenient, but economical, and I trust that the PostmasterGeneral will take full advantage of the excellent ground-work done by his predecessor.
– I protest against the Government proposing to install three automatic exchanges in city centres without giving any indication that it proposes to provide rural automatic exchanges in country districts. It has been rightly stated that the previous Government gave a lead to the world in connexion with rural automatic exchanges. In view of the fact that the previous Postmaster-General had made provision for the manufacture in Australia of a considerable quantity of equipment for rural automatic exchanges, we anticipated that early this year a number of installations would have been put in hand. But now we find that attention is to be given to three city exchanges before anything further is done for the country.
The people in the cities are already provided with a continuous service, whereas the people in many country centres have to be satisfied with a service which is discontinued at 6 p.m. daily. Such a service causes great inconvenience to the business and domestic life of country people. It is urgent that automatic exchanges should be installed in as many country centres as possible without delay. The existing manual systems in the cities are providing a continuous service, and I cannot see why they should not be retained until the principal country centres have been provided with an automatic service.
.- The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) was inaccurate and ungrateful in the comments that he made a few moments ago, and I was astounded to observe that the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) encouraged him to make such remarks. The Minister owes his continued presence in this Chamber to the fact that many of his constituents really believe that he alone was instrumental in improving the telephonic facilities which they enjoy. Of course the members of this House know the facts. The Minister most artfully applied the progressive policy of the last Government in this respect to his own advantage, and it is regrettable that he should have encouraged the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) to show such ingratitude. The last Government treated the country districts generously in regard to telephone facilities, and it is to be hoped that the present Government will continue that policy.
– Naturally I have every sympathy with honorable members who, like myself, represent country constituencies, and so long as I occupy my present position I shall do everything that I can to increase the telephonic and other facilities of the people who live outside of the cities. It is evidently the settled policy of the Commonwealth to treat the Postmaster-General’s Department as a business concern. Consequently any work that will be immediately reproductive is given preference over work that may not be so profitable from the revenue point of view. Many of the existing manual exchanges in the cities have reached saturation point. They are unable to cope with the business offering without extensive and costly additions to the existing system or the installation of a comprehensive automatic service on sound business lines. The motion proposes an inquiry into the case of one exchange, and this has led to an objection not only by representatives of rural areas but also by representatives of important provincial cities, such as Newcastle. The policy of the department is to retain the existing manual exchanges so long as they can cope with the business offering and the financial position remains as it is.
Certain experiments have been conducted in connexion with rural automatic exchanges. These are being continued, but such a measure of success has already been achieved that the department is justified in undertaking the installation of rural automatics whenever and wherever it is possible to do so. The only limitation imposed upon our work in this connexion is that caused by the existing financial stringency. We can only install rural automatic exchanges as fast as the financial position will allow it to be done.
I do not desire to make any provocative remarks, but I am afraid that my predecessor in office created an impression that rural automatic exchanges would be installed at a much faster rate than it is possible for us to install them.
– The previous PostmasterGeneral was very careful in his statements in that regard.
– It has been shown quite clearly to-day that honorable members opposite are under the impression that it is possible for us to go ahead immediately with the installation of these exchanges in many centres, and I know that that impression exists in the country. I do not blame my predecessor for it. I have no doubt whatever that he made his statements in good faith.
– He said that experiments had been conducted.
– He went a great deal further than that. I have no doubt that he was hopeful that the financial position would improve and that it would be possible for the Government to install many rural automatic exchanges within the next few months; but unfortunately for him, the Government with which he was associated was gradually getting into deeper and deeper financial difficulty.
– But now that a new Government has come into office the installation of these exchanges will be accelerated.
– Unhappily it will be some time before we shall be able to overcome the financial difficulties created by the previous Government. “We cannot in a few days or weeks repair the damage that has been done to our financial structure.
Honorable members interjecting-
– I ask the honorable member for “Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) to cease interjecting.
-What about the Minister for Markets and Transport?
– If the honorable member does not obey the Chair and cease interjecting, I shall name him.
– I shall not obey the Chair if the Minister for Markets and Transport is not called to order.
– I name the honorable member forWide Bay and call upon the Prime Minister to take the necessary action.
– Before taking the action required of me under the Standing Orders in these circumstances, I appeal to the honorable member forWide Bay to express regret for having disobeyed the Chair. I have no doubt that he became a little heated during the debate and will express his regret for what has occurred.
Mr. Bernard Corser. - I was only asking that the privilege which you, Mr. Speaker, extended to the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) should also be extended to me. The Minister has been interjecting again and again.
– Order ! I allowed the honorable member forWide Bay considerable latitude in the making of interjections. Possibly I should have called him to order before I did, but when I did require him to obey the Chair, he presisted in interjecting, whereupon I warned him that if he did not cease doing so I would name him. He then immediately defied the Chair, and no other course was open to me than to name him. If the honorable member is not prepared to apologize to the Chair, only one course remains.
– I am prepared at all times to respect the Chair; but I suggest that the Chair should earn that respect. I felt that I was acting within my rights when I suggested that if I was to be called to order, the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) should be similarly treated, because he provoked my interjections. I wish to comply with the desire of the Prime Minister and, therefore, I withdraw the remark, which is regarded as offensive.
– The honorable member must also apologize to the Chair.
– I do so, Mr. Speaker.
– I only want to make clear that, so far as finances will permit, the Government will extend country telephone services. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) suggested that the country exchanges should be kept open for a longer period each day. If that were done, further expenditure would be incurred. Under existing conditions it does not seem possible to do more than is being done, or has been done during recent years. If the late Government could not extend the services, when it had a surplus, the present Government cannot be expectedto do so, seeing that it has had to seek further revenue by means of taxation in order to balance the ledger.
– The Minister said that the accounts of the Postmaster-General’s Department were separate from those of other departments. In that case, could not money for these facilities be provided without reference to the general revenue?
– No. Although the accounts are kept separate, any losses in the Postmaster-General’s Department would have to be taken into consideration by the Treasurer. The amount available to the Treasurer for other departments would be reduced if telephone facilities were increased to any considerable extent.
-Why not take something from the cities and give it to the country?
– The department is giving nothing to the cities that circumstances do not compel it to do. In providing automatic telephone exchanges it is following the course adopted by the late Government. Only when existing manual exchanges have reached their capacity are automatic exchanges installed. Before there can be any increase in the number of hours during which country exchanges are kept open further loan money must be made available to the PostmasterGeneral.
The Chairman of the Public Works Committee (Mr. Lacey) has replied to the question of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) as to how soon this matter will be taken up. I have brought the matter forward at this stage to enable the Public Works Committee to deal with it during the forthcoming recess, so there will be no unnecessary loss of time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-21, the following proposed work be referred to- the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report : - Hawthorn, Victoria* - Establishment of automatic telephone exchange.
The proposal is to erect a building on a site, which is Commonwealth property, situated in Burwood-road, Hawthorn, and to install therein an automatic telephone switching system having an initial equipment for 6,900 subscribers’ lines. The ultimate capacity will be 11,000 lines, which will provide for requirements for twenty years from the date of opening. The exchange is necessary as the existing common battery manual equipment will reach the limit of its capacity during 1932, and further extensions to provide for development will not be possible in the present building. The estimated immediate cost of the work is £173,020. On the opening of the exchange an annual revenue of £69,790 is expected, increasing to £86,400 by the fifth year. I lay on the table plans, &c, in connexion with the proposed work.
– I rise because of certain statements which have been made to-day regarding the finances of the Postmaster-General’s Department. That department is treated as a business undertaking, in the making up of accounts, and its operations are incorporated in the Estimates under a separate heading. During the last five years there have been three surpluses and one deficit in the department, and it is anticipated that this year there will be a profit of £829,000. Those figures completely dispose of any suggestion that the financial position of the Commonwealth generally is responsible for any alleged unsatisfactory administration of the’ Postmaster-General’s Department during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government. That Government made no attempt to make the Postal department a taxing machine. The department has shown small surpluses, but they have been used to cheapen facilities. Postal charges have been reduced from 2d. to lid., and telephone charges have been calculated on a radial basis instead of the basis of the actual length of line. The late Government on two occasions provided £100,000 on the Estimates for rural automatic exchanges, but- that money was not expended, because the expert officers of the PostmasterGeneral’sDepartment anticipated further important improvements, and in the circumstances it was considered wise to’ defer the work. I understand that the Loan Estimates of the present Government will be identical with those of the late Government, in which case £100,000 will again be provided for rural automatic telephone exchanges. I deprecate the suggestion that any delay in connexion with these’ services was due to faulty administration of the country’s finances by the late Government. I think that the present Postmaster-General does not really believe that the present financial position, as regards ability to borrow on the English market is due to the financing, of the late Government any more than that the recent trouble on the New York Stock Exchange was the result of any action of the late Commonwealth Government. The difficulties in connexion with borrowing, in these markets at the present time are due to causes over which, no Government has any control. I do not suggest that the present Treasurer is responsible for the difficulty he is experiencing in borrowing money in London.
– Order ! I remind the right honorable gentleman that the House is now discussing whether a proposal to construct an automatic telephone exchange at Hawthorn shall be referred to the Public Works Committee. When a previous notice of motion was before the House I allowed honorable members considerable latitude - probably more than was strictly permissible under the Standing Orders. That latitude cannot be allowed to develop. I did not check honorable members earlier because opinions had been expressed which I felt called for a reply. In a desire to conduct the proceedings of the House impartially I gave honorable members on both sides the opportunity to express themselves freely on the subject of telephone exchanges generally, but I cannot permit honorable members to take advantage of latitude given them in special circumstances.
– As I have no desire to be kept here after 11 o’clock tonight, I shall say no more. I rose because of certain views which had been expressed.
.- I hope that in future the Minister will not take advantage of the fact that he is closing the debate, to introduce general observations relating to the financial transactions of the late Government.
– I want no advice from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) as to the course of conduct I ought to pursue in this House. Honorable members will find that I always play the game.
– To-day has been the exception.
– It has not. When the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) found that it was too late for him to speak to a certain motion, I said that there was another motion to come before the House. By that remark
I meant to convey to the right honorable gentleman that he and other honorable members would still have an opportunity to reply to my observations.
– And now .we are prevented from doing so.
– I resent the imputation of the Leader of the Opposition. I was prepared to hear what other honorable members had to say. Had I thought that they would not have an opportunity to reply to me I should not have raised the points I did. In any case, I feel that I have a right to reply to any criticism of the department under my control, and to remarks which suggest that the present administration is not prepared to do so much for the country districts as the late Government did for them.
– There was no such suggestion in my remarks. .
– I realize that. I think the right honorable gentleman will admit that I have endeavoured to play the game.
– Generally, the Minister does; but at the time he spoke, the financial issue had not been raised.
– It was raised by certain honorable members during the debate. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) said that the financial position of Australia did not affect the finances of the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– I said that the action of the late Government had nothing to do with the matter.
– The right honorable gentleman pointed out that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department had made certain profits. He did so to show that the general revenue of the Commonwealth was not affected by the finances of the department.
– I said that Part 2 was separate from other departmental expenditure.
– Although there was a surplus in the department there was a deficit in the whole of the Treasury transactions and naturally that imposed a limitation upon the extension of telephonic facilities. I wish it to be clearly understood that the late Treasurer gave the people cause to hope for the provision of more automatic telephone exchanges than could possibly be provided. The late Government must take the responsibility for our present financial position. I am not speaking of the loan position in London or Australia.
– All postal works are constructed out of loan money.
– Yes, but the loan position is influenced by our financial position. It would be easier for us to raise loans if the Commonwealth were in a strong financial position. Another point raised by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) was that the late Government had not used the Postmaster-General’s Department as a taxing instrument. That may have been the case in past years, but it is very apparent that when the right honorable member for Cowper was Treasurer that department was being used for that purpose.
– I cannot permit the Minister to proceed further on that subject.
Mr-. LYONS. - I am sorry if I have transgressed the rules of the House, but the point having been raised I thought that I was entitled to reply to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– 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: - North Sydney, New South Wales. - Establishment of automatic telephone exchange.
The proposal is to erect a building on a site in West-street, North Sydney, and to install therein an automatic telephone switching system having an initial equipment for 5,800 subscribers’ lines. The ultimate capacity will be approximately 10,000 lines, which will provide for requirements for the next 20 years. The existing common battery manual equipment will reach the limit of its capacity in about 1930, and further extensions to provide for development are not possible in the existing building. The estimated immediate cost of the work is £179,500. On the opening of the exchange a revenue of £59,060 is expected, increasing to £77,230 by the fifth year.
– That is the gross revenue ?
– Yes. I lay on the table plans, &c, in connexion with the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– 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, viz., the erection of cottages in Canberra.
As the Government has decided to transfer at least two departments to Canberra it will be necessary to provide additional housing- accommodation for the officials of those departments.
– How many officers are to be transferred ?
– About 20 officers of the Auditor-General’s Department, and 68 of the Patents and Copyrights Department. Some of the lower paid officers .who, through the scarcity of houses at Canberra, were compelled to occupy the more expensive houses, will be given an opportunity to move into these less expensive cottages so soon as they are completed. It is proposed to’ build 36 semi-detached and four detached cottages at a cost of £36,000, and ten houses of a better type at a cost of about £20,000.
.- I quite agree that this House should faithfully apply the provision in the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act requiring that works anticipated to cost more than £25,000 shall be referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. It does occur to me, however, that there is room for doubt as to the desirability of referring the proposal to build 36 cottages in Canberra to that committee. This proposal arises out of an act of policy in transferring certain of the public departments to Canberra. The committee is not asked to advise upon that act of policy, and therefore the determination which brought about the desirability of doing this work, is not within the scope of the committee’s activities. As a result of that determination of policy, it is necessary to build in Canberra 36 cottages at a cost of over £25,000. I suggest to the Minister that in some circumstances - for instance, if we were starting anew at Canberra - there would be some justification for placing this motion before Parliament. I doubt very much whether it is necessary to refer to the Public Works Committee, not the question of building these 36 houses at all, but the plans of each one of them. It has already been determined that 36 cottages are. to be built. What, then, can the committee do?
– It can investigate the types and designs of the houses, and also the nature of the material to be used in construction.
– It is entirely a matter of material and design, and perhaps location. We have in Canberra to-day, cottages that were built by the Public Works Department, the Federal Capital Commission and outside contractors. There are hundreds of plans lying in the archives of government departments and the Commission offices. The fullest information as to material is available, and there are large stores of material in Canberra. Is the Public Works Committee to decide what materials are to be used and whether the houses are to be built of wood, brick, concrete or stone? It cannot do that unless it examines the details relating to each particular cottage. This House would gain nothing by a general report on methods of building and design. The Commission architects have years of experience behind them in respect of cottage construction at Canberra. There are plenty of plans available and I ask the Minister whether there is anything to be gained by referring this proposal tothe Public Works Committee. This is not a party matter and I suggest that it is fairly open for general discussion. These inquiries cost money and I presume that honorable members on the Government side are just as anxious as honorable members on this side to curtail unnecessary expenditure. I know that it is unusual to question any reference to the Public Works Committee, but in view of the circumstances I ask honorable members to consider this proposal apart altogether from party considerations.
.- The Minister is to be congratulated on having moved that the proposal to build additional cottages at Canberra be referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. It is not correct to say that the committee is to inquire only into the design of the building.
– I did not say that.
– An inquiry into the present method of construction at Canberra is long overdue. It is time that we adopted new methods. An investigation by the Public Works Committee will result in better and more ornamental homes, and I feel confident that the saving on each house will be at least £300. Some excellent homes are to-day being built in Melbourne and they will be available for inspection by the committee. The material used in their construction is Lionite, and it is giving marvellous results. It is only by inquiry that we shall be able to ascertain whether that material is suitable for Canberra. I trust that the House will carry the motion so as to enable the Public Works Committee to make full inquiry respecting the materials to be used in the construction of cottages at Canberra.
– I remind the House that the Standing Orders will not permit of the suspension of the sitting at 12.45 p.m. as is the custom when the House sits on Friday mornings if notices of motion are still under discussion. The time allowed for the discussion of notices of motion is two hours from the meeting of the House and if this debate is not concluded by 1 o’clock, it must stand over until orders of the day have been disposed of.
. -For a number of years it was my privilege to be a member of the Public Works Committee, and I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to its members for the useful work that has been accomplished.
I agree that the Minister is doing the right thing in proposing to refer this matter to the Public
Works Committee. The erection of homes by the Federal Capital Commission has not been as satisfactory as we all desired. Unfortunately, most of these homes were built on too lavish a scale, with the result that many of our public servants find it difficult to meet their rentals, notwithstanding the allowance that is made to them. I believe that the Government should consider whether it is not in the best interests of all concerned to write down the capital cost of those homes by 20 per cent.
– The cottages that were constructed in the early days of Canberra might have been excessive in cost, but those now being constructed are within 10 or 12 per cent, of Sydney or Melbourne prices.
– I am glad to hear that. The Minister will realize that the public servants who occupy the early cottages labour under a big disadvantage, and it would be better to adjust the matter now rather than perpetuate that disability. Owing largely to the forced growth of Canberra the cost of living here is out of all proportion to the cost in the State capitals. We are* all aware that, when Parliament was sitting in Melbourne, it was considered desirable that we should move to the Federal Capital at the earliest possible moment. That hastened the progress of m construction in Canberra, and inflated building costs.
The Public Works Committee should take advantage of the experience gained by the War Service Homes Commission. While a member of the committee it was my privilege to inspect a number of war service homes, and I was amazed at their excellent design and low cost of construction. They are quite as suitable for our public servants as are any Commission homes in Canberra, while their cost is infinitely less. The average cost of construction for . war service homes for the year 1928-9 was £838 in New South Wales, £752 in Victoria, £715 in Queensland, £762 in South Australia, and £825 in Western. Australia. The limit of the advance under that plan is £800, plus £150 for extras. I believe that the War Service Homes Act has conferred a substantial benefit upon returned soldiers, and I am sure that many public servants in Canberra would be glad to live in houses similar to those constructed by the department. We are proud of the type of public servant that we have in the Commonwealth Service and it is the duty of the Government and Parliament to make their conditions as congenial as possible. I urge the Government to have an investigation made into housing conditions in the Federal Capital, with a view to determining whether it is possible to reduce substantially the capital value of many of the houses erected by the Federal Capital Commission
– I partly agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) in this matter. I understand that the subject has already been investigated by the Public Accounts Committee. I ask the Minister in what locality the new houses are to be built? Are they to be concentrated, or spread over various areas as was previously the case?
– Thirty-six houses will be concentrated in one locality.
– I am glad to learn that. I see no reason why the construction of these houses should not begin immediately. The Public Works Committee is already inundated with many references in connexion with automatic telephone exchanges and other matters, and several months would elapse in the new year before Parliament could meet and consider their report in connexion with these homes. The Department of Public Works has an excellent staff of efficient architects and artisans, and they could go ahead and supervise the construction of these houses. It is unnecessary to refer the proposal to the Public Works Committee.
– The trouble is that there is to be some departure from the Griffin scheme.
– There are hundreds of plans of cottages to choose from. Surely honorable members have sufficient confidence in the new’ Commissioners, Messrs. Christie and Murdoch, to allow them to proceed with this work.
– All sorts of blunders were made in ‘the past in building all over the country.
– No fresh lands will be opened up for these houses.
– I am anxious to see these buildings begun immediately. There are many carpenters and workmen out of employment in the Territory, and they would be assisted if this work were begun. I ask the Minister to reconsider his decisiou to refer the proposal to the Public Works Committee.
– I consider that this matter should be referred to the Public Works Committee, as that would probably effect a material saving in the cost of the houses, and would result in greater efficiency generally. I hope that the Minister does not propose to introduce the tenement system into Canberra by the erection of slum area houses.
– They will be semidetached houses.
– I trust that the Public Works Committee will closely investigate the desirability of permitting such structures to be erected in Canberra. We have a garden city, but we cannot continue to have one if we import the tenement system into the Territory.
– The cost of timber and other materials is so high that it is difficult to avoid it.
– I am prepared to discuss the subject of timbers when we deal with the tariff schedule. I trust that the Minister is not, by any altered policy, endeavouring to introduce the slum system into the Federal Capital.
.- The House can rest assured that the Government will not countenance the introduction of any system of slum building in the Federal Capital. Already semi-detached houses have been constructed in Canberra, and they fill a long-felt want, as they cater for the man on the basic wage. Five-roomed cottages so constructed are let at 33s. a week, the lowest rent achieved in Canberra to date. These semi-detached houses cost approximately £1,750.
– Twice as much as they should.
– That is not so, as the price covers the double building. It is within a reasonable distance of Sydney and Melbourne prices.
– What is the margin between the different cities?
– These cottages cost not more than 12 per cent. more than similar cottages would cost in Sydney or Melbourne, which is excellent.
– Are they to be built of wood?
– No, of brick. The reason why the Government is referring this work to the Public Works Committee is that, although an investigation has already been conducted by the Committee of Public Accounts, the cost of building, and also the designs, have since altered materially. As an instance, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) mentioned a material of which I have no knowledge. Its possibilities could be investigated by the Public Works Committee. The building position has changed within the past twelve months, enabling the Commission to effect considerable savings. We hope that further savings will be effected as a result of this reference to the Public Works Committee, and that a considerable reduction in rent will be passed on to the public servants who occupy the new buildings.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 1 p.m. to 2.30 p.m.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) : [Quorum formed.]
Motion (by Mr. Theodore) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill to authorize the raising and expending of certain sums of money.
Standing orders suspended and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Theodore and Mr. Lyons do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Theodore, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Theodore) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
– The bill provides the necessary authority for the appropriation of money to give effect to the proposals contained in the budget speech which I delivered some days ago. The Government’s loan proposals for this financial year differ only slightly from those submitted by the late Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page). One or two slight -alterations have been made, to which I shall direct attention later. This limitation of our loan expenditure is the outcome of decisions reached at several meetings of the Loan Council, at which the loan programme for the Commonwealth and State Governments for the present financial year was considered. The loan expenditure announced in my speech was £5,520,345. This amount is made up of Commonwealth works totalling £5,085,845, £384,500 for the Federal Capital Commission, and £50,000 for the North Australia Commission. The sum of £5,520,345, agreed to at the last meeting of the Loan Council, was arrived at by reducing the previous loan proposals of the Commonwealth by 20 per cent. In 1928-29 the actual expenditure of the Commonwealth from ‘ loan funds was £8,231,147. This year’s programme is less by £2,710,802. If I direct attention to the principal works and services covered by this year’s programme, and compare the proposals relating to them with the actual expenditure of last year, honorable members will see where alterations have been effected. In connexion with war and repatriation services, chiefly war service homes, the actual expenditure last year was £1,660,479 and the estimate for this year is £1,035,000. Telegraphs, telephones, buildings, and other works for the department of the Postmaster-General cost last year £3,003,870, and the estimate for this year is £2,800,000. The actual expenditure in connexion with the Commonwealth railways last year was £878,691, and the estimate for this year £288,500. The actual expenditure on the Grafton to South Brisbane railway last year was £675,000, and the amount estimated for this year is £616,000. On defence works - the balance of a subsidy towards construction of floating dock, naval bases, aviation buildings, plant and machinery for the manufacture of munitions and other works - the amount expended was £203,196, and the estimate foi- this year £246,500. On advances for the purchase of wire netting, £230,838 was expended last year, and £100,000 is being provided this year. On the river Murray waters scheme, £250,000 was spent last year and £225,000 is provided this year. For advances of passage moneys in connexion with migration, £132,S15 was spent last year and £100,000 is proposed to be spent this year. Last year the expenditure on Parliament House, Canberra, was £638,500 and £5,500 is proposed to be spent this year. That was a charge against last year’s expenditure, and is merely a transfer of liability, the Federal Capital Commission being recouped the expenditure it incurred in connexion with this building. Last year the expenditure on sundry works of various departments was £48,742, and the proposed expenditure this year is £80,345. Last year £555,000 was expended by the Federal Capital Commission, and the estimate for this year is £384,500. Last year the North Australia. Commission spent £40,800, and the estimate for this year is £50,000. Allowance was made for the credit received in connexion with the sale of Commonwealth ships last year to the amount of £86,784, and this year £165,000 will be received. In this year’s Estimates the general saving to be expected is about £246,000. The actual expenditure for 1928-29 totalled £8,231,147, and the estimated expenditure for this year is £5,520,345. The total of the amounts included in the bill - £6,045,795 - exceeds the estimated expenditure for this year, which is £5,520,345. The difference between thu sums is made up in this way: Certain savings are to be effected, the precise nature of which cannot be indicated at present, because they will depend upon the progress made throughout the year, and the amounts which can be saved from the various votes. The total saving expected to be made is £287,500. The net expenditure will be kept down. Repayment will be made to the Loan Fund of £165,000 for sale of ships. Certain advances to the North Australia Commission outstanding at the 30th June, 1929, and totalling £72,100, are included in the present bill. Money advanced and expended last year was not covered by last year’s loan raisings. There is also a small item of £850 for the redemption of loans raised by the South Australian Government for the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta.
The expenditure will be carefully watched to see that we do not exceed the amount provided in the loan estimates. The Government is under a definite obligation, not onlyto this committee, but also to the Loan Council, not to exceed the loan programme approved of from time to time by the Loan Council. Compared with the loan estimates of the previous Government, the only adjustments made in regard to the votes themselves are as follows: We have alloted an additional £50,000 for war service homes.
– Does that mean that further construction of war service homes can be proceeded with?
– It will not give the War Service Homes Commission the right to proceed at a greater rate than at the present ; it will assist the Commission to carry out its definite obligations. These operations have been very seriously curtailed in consequence of the necessity of limiting the commission to an expenditure of £1,000,000 for this year. Provision is made for an additional £25,000 in connexion with the River Murray Waters scheme, but we shall not know whether that amount willl be required until we have ascertained whether the contracting States will be able to provide their quota.
– Has this matter been discussed by the contracting States?
– There was some preliminary discussion at a meeting of the Loan Council in Melbourne three weeks ago, and the matter is now the subject of correspondence between the various Governments concerned. If the contract ing States can provide their quota, this £25,000 will be required as the Commonwealth’s share towards the total amount required. We have provided £200,000 more than was previously proposed in response to the urgent representations made by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons), who said that if the money could not be made available certain public works which, if finished, would be reproductive, would have to be stopped in an incomplete state. There have been decreases in certain directions. For instance, the votes of the Defence Department have been reduced by £50,000, and the vote for the Grafton to South Brisbane railway by £15,000. That sum represents money that will not be required this financial year; there have been no instructions to the constructing authorities to reduce the rate of progress.
– Has the reduction any bearing on the Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Bill recently passed by this chamber ?
– No. That measure gavethe constructing authority power to go beyond the £4,000,000 limit. The reduction of the vote cannot be regarded as a restriction upon progress, but is an indication to the constructing authorities of the actual amount of money available. The indications are that the amount of £15,000 will not be required during the present financial year.
– Are we to understand that there will be no cut in the vote for the construction of this work?
– There will be no cut, nor will the rate of progress be interfered with; but the whole of the amount will not be required this year, and we shall be able to set off this £15,000 against certain increases in other directions.
Clause 2 empowers the Treasurer to borrow £6,300,000 which is in excess of the total amount shown in the schedule of works. The additional amount is necessary to cover the cost of flotation, and any shortage resulting from issuing the loan at a discount.
– How is it proposed to save the sum of £246,000?
– It is impossible to say just how much will be taken off each item; but all expenditure is being carefully watched to keep the total down to the required figure. For instance, the Estimates show an item of £20,000 for new Commonwealth offices at Brisbane. That work is a necessity, and will have to be put in hand. It has been strongly recommended by the Works Committee, and the Works Department is anxious to proceed with it. There is no likelihood, however, of its being started this year, because of the need for keeping down expenditure to the total provided for on the Estimates.
– Why then was the amount put on the Estimates?
– A sum of £20,000 was on the late Estimates for this work. It was impossible to revise every item, but it was found that there was an actual and imperative necessity for providing money for the War Service Homes Commission. An additional £50,000 had to be found for this purpose. We also yielded to the needs of the case, and provided £200,000 for post office works. Having done that, we were required to save money elsewhere on our works programme, but had no time to go through every item again. That is why it is stated that there will be a saving of so much; and this will be effected by keeping a careful watch upon all expenditure. Although there is need for the new Commonwealth offices in Brisbane, it is not absolutely necessary to start them this year. I regret that the work has been delayed, and the Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes), who was also, I think, a member of the Works Committee which recommended it, also regrets that it cannot be gone on with this year. There is no prospect of its being commenced before July, but it is hoped that provision will be made for it in the next financial year.
I do not think that I can deal in any greater detail with the Loan Estimates. Perhaps as discussion proceeds in committee I shall be able to answer such questions as are raised. The Loan Council has very carefully considered the loan position from time to time. I have no doubt that it did the same under the regime of the last Government. Successive meetings were held, and several loan programmes were revised drastically in a downward direction. There have been two meetings since the present Government has been in office, and we see no prospect of allowing State or Federal programmes to be increased. The main consideration is the impracticability of raising the necessary funds by loan, either on the Australian or the oversea market. The council sees the greatest difficulty in raising the money for the existing programme, restricted as it is. The monetary situation in London is not very encouraging for the immediate raising of loans. It may improve by February next, but there appears to be no possibility of the Commonwealth obtaining loans on reasonable terms within the course of the next few weeks.
– What are Australian 5 per cent, stocks selling for in London now?
– They are down to 91, and have been lower. State 5 per cent, stocks have gone as low as 89. There is a great disparity between the demand for Australian stocks in London, and that for New Zealand and South African stocks. There is no reason for such a disparity, but it exists.
– Are our stocks much lower in price?
– Very much lower - at least six or seven points. There has always been an advantage in favour of New Zealand and South Africa to the extent of a point or two, but the disparity has been very great during the whole of this year. Australian stocks have been quoted at five points, and sometimes more, below those of New Zealand and South Africa.
– Can the honorable gentleman suggest a reason for that?
– Various reasons have been assigned. My own opinion is that there has been harmful propaganda in London - I do not say it is party propaganda - the effect of which has been to diminish the value of Australian securities. I am not suggesting that it has political purposes; in fact, I know that it has not.
– It is brokers’ propaganda.
– Sometimes, but there are often over-candid and unreliable references as to the economic position of Australia, and the prevailing seasonal conditions. Questions are raised as to whether our financial policy is not imperilling the credit of Australia. In my opinion, much of the matter published in England on this head is not justified, and has had a most harmful effect.
– Has the financial game anything to do with it?
– I do. not suppose that there would be any reason for playing the financial game to the detriment of Australia as compared with New Zealand and South Africa. It must be remembered, of course, that South Africa is in a favorable position in that there are in London big financial houses with large interests in South Africa. For that reason there is probably a better understanding in London of the potential wealth of South Africa, and the opportunities which that country provides for investment. Those in London who have personal knowledge of Australia and its resources have not the least apprehension regarding the soundness of investments in Australian securities. It is the uninformed mind in Great Britain which constitutes the danger, and that mind has been fed by pernicious propaganda appearing in various financial papers Sometimes the objectionable matter has originated in Australia in the form of press messages. It has probably not been sent with the idea of hurting Australia, but that has been its effect. It is necessary to understand the nature of this mischievous activity in order to combat it. If all parties here would co-operate, especially the newspapers, much could be done to help Australia. The newspapers should be very careful as to what they transmit- in the way of news for publication in England. In this way we might hope to create a better understanding of Australia, and improve the market for our loans.
– Is it not a fact that New Zealand and South Africa have borrowed much less than Australia?
– New Zealand has borrowed less than Australia, because it is smaller, but I do not know that it has borrowed less in proportion to population.
– Its borrowing per head is not less.
– New Zealand’s appearances on the London money market; are less frequent than Australia’s, but it has to be remembered that Australian borrowing has to satisfy the needs of all the States. I do not know what the per capita borrowings of South Africa have been as compared with those of Australia, but South Africa has borrowed in London a great deal of money for private enterprise. Including that, I think it is true that she has raised as much money in proportion to her white population as Australia has.
– Has any systematic effort been made by our representatives in London to correct the false impressions of which the honorable member has spoken?
– Yes, and good results have followed. Mr. Collins, one time Secretary to the Commonwealth Treasury, was appointed financial adviser to the High Commissioner in London, primarily so that- he might correct the wrong impressions which existed in Great Britain regarding Australian investments. He has achieved a certain measure of success, but the disturbing events since the beginning of this year have rendered his work nugatory to a considerable extent. The work will not be discontinued, however, as it is imperative that the Australian stock market in London should be improved.
– Will any part of this £6,000,000 be included in the £10,000,000 now being raised?
– The present loan is being raised under the auspices of the Loan Council for allocation among the States and the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth will receive a portion of it, and this portion will ultimately be used for these purposes.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) -
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act 1922-1927.
This measure is’ of considerable import,ance because, when it becomes law, its operation will have the effect of making possible the provision of a great deal of additional employment at a time when unemployment is very acute. It gives expression to the policy of the Labour party to increase employment by providing for an increase in the bounty on galvanized iron sheets from £3 12s. to £4 10s. a ton, and is in accordance with the following recommendation of the Tariff Board made on the 16th July, 1926: -
That the schedule of Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act No. 29 of 1922 bc amended by increasing the rate of bounty provided for galvanized sheets from £2 12s. to £4 10s. a ton.
The Tariff Board further recommended that item Wo. 145 of the Customs Tariff be amended so as to -provide for the following deferred duty: - 110s. British preferential; 135s. intermediate tariff, and 150s. general tariff. The government of the day increased the bounty to £3 12s. a ton from the 1st January, 1928 ; but action was not taken to increase the duty, which still stands at 20s. a ton British preferential and £3 a ton foreign. In 1920 the firm of John Lysaghts Limited decided to engage in the manufacture of galvanized iron at Newcastle. Since 1923-24 the industry has been assisted by way of a bounty, and up to the 4th December last the total expenditure was £404,816.
– Has the whole of that amount been paid to Lysaghts?
– My information is that it has all been paid to Lysaghts, and that they are the only manufacturers of galvanized iron in Australia. The following figures in relation to production and the amount of bounty paid have been prepared by the department : -
Up to the 31st December, 1927, the rate of bounty was 52s. a ton. It was then increased to £3 12s. a tori. In 1928-29 the production was 28,515 tons, and the bounty paid amounted to £102,650. During this financial year, up to the 4th
December last, 9,654 tons had been produced and £34,785 had been paid by way of bounty.
– Are they using Austratralian material exclusively?
– How many men are they employing ?
– They are now employing about 600 men, but by the end of next year it is anticipated that the number will have been increased to nearly 1,000. The increase in the rate of bounty will involve an additional expenditure this year of £9,000. This company has never made big profits. It has had to cope with severe competition from abroad, and has paid only one 5 per cent, dividend on its ordinary shares since it commenced operations. The amount of bounty which would give adequate protection to the industry could not be determined in 1920 on account of post-war inflation of prices and the fact that in England the price of galvanized iron was between £35 and £40 a ton, which provided an ample’ margin of profit for the locallymanufactured article. It was obvious that these high prices could not be maintained and that eventually the company would need some government assistance. According to Mr. H. R. Lysaght, managing director of John Lysaght (Australia) Limited, at different times his company received the assurance of Mr. Massy Greene and the late Mr. Pratten, as Minister for Trade and Customs, and of the late Major Oakley, ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, that if it enlarged its works sufficiently to supply the bulk of Australia’s requirements a duty would be imposed that would enable it to carry on successfully. Since then the prices of English and foreign galvanized iron have dropped continuously, until now all good brands of 26o corrugated iron are quoted for the Australian market at rates free on board, which are equal to £21 10s. landed at any of the chief Australian ports. That is actually lower than the price at which this company can land its Newcastle iron in Sydney or at any other Australian port, allowing for the bounty it receives from the Commonwealth Government. It has been endeavouring for some time to secure a greater measure of protection. The delay that has occurred in the consideration of the needs of this and many other industries has caused thousands of men to be dismissed from factories in Australia; and this Government was left by the last Government a legacy of 180,000 unemployed. Unless action is taken before Parliament goes into recess, many more men will be dismissed by this company before Christmas. As a matter of fact they say they will have to dismiss practically the whole staff. My principal reason for urging the speedy passage of this measure is that it will assist the industry to employ additional labour and make less acute the unemployment problem. When the company has enlarged its plant and is supplying a greater proportion of Australia’s requirements, we can consider the question of increasing the duty and withdrawing the bounty.
– What proportion of the Australian market does this company now supply?
– Approximately a quarter; but it is hoped that this assistance and the investment of further capital in the extension of the plant will enable it to increase its ratio to over 50 per cent, by August or September next. The present duty on galvanized iron, together with the proposed bounty of £4 10s. a ton, makes the total assistance to the industry £5 10s. a ton. If the proposed increase of 18s. operates from the 1st January to the 30th June next, the additional expenditure in this financial year will be £9,000. That is a modest sum when we consider that it will be the means of giving employment to a large number of workers. Already the company has spent over £500,000 at Newcastle. Plans are now being prepared for the extension of the mill to a capacity of 60,000 tons per annum by August or September next. That production will” enable the company to supply approximately half of Australia’s requirements, and give employment to over 900 men. A further programme of extension is contemplated, involving an additional expenditure by the company of approximately £250,000. When that programme has been completed the company will have spent nearly £1,000,000 in order to produce between 75 per cent, and 80 per cent, of Australia’s requirements from both the Australian and British factories.
– Did I understand the Minister to say that a promise was made to the firm that if it extended its works sufficiently, protection to cover it would be given whatever the cost might be?
– The managing director of the firm says that both Mr. Massy Greene and the late Mr. Pratten, when Minister for Trade and Customs, promised that if it extended its works and placed itself in a position to supply a larger proportion of Australia’s requirements, adequate protection would be given to it. If this bounty operates for another year, the company will be in a position to supply well over 50 per cent, of Australia’s requirements. I understand, also, that another company proposes to engage in the manufacture of galvanized iron. When that position arises the question of withdrawing the bounty and giving adequate protection can be considered.
– Is the Minister able to refer the committee to the promise’s he says were made?
– I do not know that there is any evidence that a promise was made in writing; but the company states that this assurance was given to a deputation, and it was probably given verbally.
– Has the company indicated the occasion, and can the honorable gentleman place before us some report upon it?
– The company has by letter referred the Minister to it. Since the bounty began to operate, production has amounted to 139,628 tons. If the duty were increased to £5 10s. a ton and the bounty were discontinued Australian consumers would have to pay a duty amounting to over £330,000 on the proportion of Australia’s requirements that must be imported to keep going an industry which by the end of next year will be able to supply half of Australia’s requirements from its own factory here. In the circumstances, the Government considered it more advisable to give this additional assistance by way of an increased bounty, and to consider, at a later date, the question of the imposition of a protective duty. If the duty were increased the rate of the present bounty would have to be reduced by the amount of such increase in accordance with section 3 of the Iron and Steel Products Acts of 1922- 1927. I understand that the company will be satisfied with the payment of an increased bounty in lieu of effective protection. The acting managing director of John Lysaghts Ltd., in a letter written on the 29th November, said : - “ We realize that for reasons of policy it may suit you better to grant us extra protection in the form of bounties.” There is nothing to prevent the Government from reconsidering the matter within twelve months in the light of the extension that has taken place, or is in prospect, and increasing the tariff protection in lieu of continuing the bounty. It is estimated that when the further programme of extensions has been completed an additional 400 or 500 men will be employed, apart from the extra employment that will be found in the supply of plant, the bulk of which will be made in Australia. An extra 35,000 tons of Australian steel, and an extra 5,000 tons of Australian zinc will-be required annually; whilst an additional 200,000 tons of Australian coal will be used in the manufacture of the raw products into the finished material. Hundreds of thousands of Australianmade bricks will be required, as well as large quantities of sulphuric acid, and there will be an increased consumption of electrical power. The use of this extra material must mean the provision of more employment. The value of the bounty is to be estimated, not alone by the number of persons who will be directly employed in the production of galvanized iron, but also by the increased employment that will be provided in subsidiary industries. The Government hopes that when local manufacture has increased sufficiently, a duty may be imposed in lieu of the bounty. In the meantime the passage of this bill is expedient because the increase of the bounty will keep in employment the large number of men who otherwise will be dismissed, and enable an extension of the manufacture of galvanized iron at a time when more employment is urgently needed.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed, vide page 969).
On motion by Mr. Theodore -
That the first item of the Estimates under Division 1 - The Parliament, namely, “The President, £1,300,” be agreed to. upon which Mr. Latham had moved by way of amendment -
That the item be reduced bv £1.
– I propose to deal first with the decision of the Government to advance to the States immediately £1,000,000 from the unexpended balance in the Federal Aid Roads Trust Fund. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) told us yesterday that the money is to be used by the States in accordance with the terms of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, which, however, is to be very sympathetically interpreted by the Minister for Works. Although the honorable gentleman did not say that the safeguards contained in the agreement will not continue to operate, he left little doubt in our minds that the sympathetic interpretation of it by his colleague will make easy the substitution of day labour .for the contract system. At the end of June last the trust fund was in credit, approximately, £1,750,000. The Commonwealth grants to the States £2,000,000 per annum, so that the accumulation in the fund represents less than one year’s contribution. That money already belongs to the States, and has been earmarked to cover programmes that are already approved. One reason why the States got into arrears in the expenditure of the money provided by the Commonwealth for the construction of roads was that until the last Government guaranteed to them a grant of £2,000,000 per annum for ten years, contractors had no inducement to acquire modern road-making plant. The predilection of several States for undertaking construction work themselves by day labour also militated against heavy expenditure by the contractors in the purchase of equipment. The insistence by the last Government that, in accordance with the terms of the agreement, preference should be given to the contract system, other things being equal, did much to re-establish the confidence of contractors, with the result that to-.day the States are able not only to expend their quotas for the current year, but to overtake arrears. In fact last year they expended £26,000 in excess of the £2,000,000 quota, and there is nothing to prevent them, in the current financial year and next year, from expending £3,000,000.
– There is nothing to prevent them, but it is clear from the programmes in hand that they will not overtake arrears for a long time.
– The Government is gambling on the chance that the States will not overtake arrears for at least seven years, but it is possible that they may do so within a couple of years. If that happens the Government will have to recoup the trust fund from either taxation or loan funds. The £1,000,000 to be advanced to the States is earmarked for programmes that have been approved, but we are told that the money is to be expended outside those programmes, and that the trust fund will be recouped at the end of seven years. The paramount condition imposed by the Commonwealth Government is. that the money must be expended quickly; to that end the agreement is to be interpreted or mis-interpreted so sympathetically that the safeguards in regard to the efficient use of the money will be set at naught.
– All the safeguards will be preserved.
– No obstacles will be raised by the Minister for Works to dispensing with tenders and the substitution instead of the day-labour system. The main object of the Government is to disburse the money as quickly as possible. Therefore, the Government’s proposal has the appearance of an expediency raid on a trust fund regardless of established safeguards, agreed to after much consideration by this Parliament. The safeguards are to be set aside, not by an amendment of the agreement, with the consent of this House, but by the simpler method of sympathetic interpretation. The Sydney Morning Herald report of the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers on Monday last stated - “The only conditions attaching to the grant are that the money must be spent without delay, and that it must be spent on road works.”
– And within the terms of the roads agreement.
– There are means of circumventing even that condition requiring the money to be spent on roads. For example, the New South Wales quota will be £276,000, but not one additional penny will be expended on roads in New South Wales.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– Because Mr. Bavin has frankly admitted it, and because the Commonwealth Government has agreed to conditions which permit the £276,000 to take the place of an equivalent sum of State money already voted for the construction of roads. In other words, £276,000 of State money will be set free for other purposes. In effect, there is no distinguishable difference between the arrangement the Government has made and the utilization of this trust fund for purposes other than roads. Although the money is to be handed over to the New South Wales Government, not one additional mile of road will be constructed in that State during the next twelve months. No amount of Ministerial casuistry can get away from that fact. Again, where this money is spent on roads, the safeguards ensuring wise expenditure will be removed. The Treasurer, by interjection, gave an assurance that they would remain. It is true that they will remain, but they will be absolutely inoperative, because the Government has indicated its anxiety to interpret the conditions of the agreement so sympathetically that the safeguards will be practically non-existent. Therefore, I consider this arrangement is a gross breach of faith with the road users, who have been promised in return for the petrol tax that they will have full value in better roads. Money expended with the primary object of relieving unemployment is rarely used to the best advantage, for the simple reason that, for the sake of humanity, we put up for the time being with glaring inefficiency. If inefficiency in the expenditure of money on roads to relieve unemployment is inescapable, then such money should be provided by the general community, and not by one section, which is entitled to the fulfilment of the promise that it will receive full value for the special taxation imposed for improved roads. If it is necessary that the Commonwealth should provide this £1,000,000 - and I am in full accord with the Government’s desire to relieve unemployment - it should take the straightforward course of obtaining that sum either by taxation or by loan, instead of by the mischievous subterfuge of raiding a trust fund established for another and very definite purpose.
The items in the former Government’s Estimates which have been altered by the new Government are few in number, but the changes are strikingly for the worse and include most significant alterations in the incidence of taxation. For example, there is reduced taxation on beer and increased taxation on petrol. In the opinion of the present Government, cheap beer is much more necessary than cheap transport. The Government proposes to take the tax off beer to the extent of £600,000 per annum, and in its place, apparently, it will put on a petrol tax to the extent of £800,000 per annum. The former government imposed a petrol tax for the express purpose of improving the roads, and it used not only the whole of the proceeds of the tax for that purpose, but an additional sum out of revenue. But this Government puts a tax on petrol, and, incidentally, on transport, for revenue purposes. Those interested in race meetings and picture theatres will pay, by way of taxation, £640,000 less than was proposed by the previous Government, while twice that amount is to be extracted, by means of additional income taxation, from business enterprises and individual income tax payers. There is to be a 20 per cent, super tax on companies, business enterprises which provide a great deal of employment, and an additional £600,000 is to be taken from individuals by means of the 10 per cent., 15 per cent., and 20 per cent, super tax on incomes. A large part of that sum would doubtless have been used in further reproductive enterprise, and in further employment.
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) said that the new Government intended, and was elected, to find remedies for Australia’s parlous economic position. The honorable member is not without some sense of humour, and I regret that he is not in the chamber at the moment. It seems to me that he could obtain full play for his sense of humour by realizing the methods to be employed by the Government in its endeavour to lift Australia out of its present “ parlours economic position.” A tax is to be imposed on transport to avoid the necessity for a tax on beer. There is to be a tax on work, on reproductive enterprise, in order to spare the “ movies “ and the “ponies.”’ He also said a good deal about certain industries having reached saturation point. The beer drinker, too,under the regime of this Government, will be able to reach saturation point more easily than before. The economic outlook of the present Government can be very briefly summed up in this way : “ Movies,” races and beer are far more important in bringing about our economic salvation, and lifting us out of our parlous economic position, than hard’ work as typified by reproductive enterprise. Not only will the taxation imposed by this Government be much _greater than that proposed to bo levied by the late Government, but it will be put on where it will do the greatest possible harm. The late Government not only imposed lighter taxation, but it levied it where it would do the least possible injury to reproductive enterprise and employment. The Government has brought down amended figures in its Estimates for greater departmental expenditure than was proposed by the late Government. Despite the fact that that Government would have imposed less taxation, it proposed to wipe out a substantial portion of the existing deficit, but this Government apparently intends to leave the deficit where it is.
It has received some £1,200,000 in interest in connexion with expropriated German properties. This sum came into its hands as an outcome of the war, and it should be used either to reduce the war debt, or the deficit due to it ; it makes little difference to which column it is applied. But to spend that money in any other way than in the reduction of our debt would be an absolute scandal. I join with the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Country party in demanding to know what the Treasurer proposes to do with that £1,200,000. It is well known to honorable members that we have to meet annually a liability arising out of the war of about £30,000,000, of which about £21,000,000 represents interest and sinking fund payments in connexion with our war debt, and the remainder soldiers’ pensions, medical services and so forth. If this £1,200,000 were applied, as the previous Treasurer proposed to apply it, to the reduction of the deficit, it could be said just as truly that it had been used to reduce the war debt, for the simple reason that this immense annual liability of £30,000,000 per annum was one of the causes of the late Government’s deficit.
I shall refer to one item in the Estimates that has not been touched upon, so far as I am aware, by any previous speaker on the other side of the chamber - the vote of £100,000 for migration. This is the same amount as was proposed by the late Government, and it is not difficult to realize that, if honorable members opposite had been on the Opposition side, and that sum had appeared in the Estimates put forward by the late Treasurer as a vote for migration, there would have been a massed attack, in which practically every one of them would have joined.
– The honorable member knows that a good deal of that sum has already been expended. How much we can save of the balance is problematical.
– It appears to me that, while some of it has been expended, the fact that the item remains in the Estimates as originally inserted shows that honorable members opposite are compelled to take a rather more sane view of things now than they did when in opposition. This money is required to provide assisted passages, and it is considerably less than was provided in the previous year. The late Government proposed to cut down the vote, realizing that the depressed economic conditions would cause a natural reduction in our migration figures. This item is definitely linked up with the £34,000,000 tripartite agreement between the British, Commonwealth and State Governments. An endeavour was made by the present Government to suspend the assisted passages clauses of the agreement, without consulting the States. What has been the result of that we do not know. It is extraordinary that, although a conference was held on Monday between Ministers representing the Commonwealth and the States, nothing was said, apparently, on that subject, judging by the reply given to-day to a question directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that he received a cablegram from the British Government as far back as last Thursday, it is strange that he could not obtain the sanction of Great Britain to broach the matter on the following Monday to the States which were so vitally concerned.
We were told in the Governor-General’s Speech that, after dealing with Great Britain, the Government would consult the States in this matter. I submit that that was putting the cart before the horse, because the States, and not the Commonwealth, are responsible for the absorption of assisted new-comers, having regard to the possibilities of employment within their respective borders. The Commonwealth does not initiate the bringing here of a single assisted migrant. Assisted migrants come here through two channels only - by requisition and by nomination. The States requisition, perhaps, a certain number of domestic servants or farm labourers each month, and have it in their power to reduce that number, or cut out migration altogether, if they think that the circumstances warrant it. The same principle applies to nominated migrants, because they can be brought here only with the concurrence of the States. The States have absolute power to reduce migration to the merest trickle, or suspend it altogether, without the intervention of the Commonwealth. The State Governments are even more deeply involved in regard to employment than is the Commonwealth Government. For this reason, if for no other, the Prime Minister should have approached the States before communicating with the British Government. He should not have ignored them and treated them with such high-handed discourtesy. The inference from such conduct is that the States cannot be trusted to exercise a proper discretion. The Bruce-Page Government always went to the greatest pains to secure the closest possible co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. This is shown by the formation of the Federal Loan Council, and by the setting up more recently of the Federal Transport Council. In every possible way the last Government sought the cooperation of the States. In fact, it could be said that a new era of co-operation was being established. It is regrettable, therefore, that this Government should have imperilled the success of the work done by the last Government. The Prime Minister has told us that he intended to consult the States after he had heard from the British Government. Surely such a policy is the last word in discourtesy. The honorable gentleman could have asked the States to scrutinize closely the requisitions for, and nominations of, migrants. Had he done that no one would have offered any objections to his action, in view of our economic position and the volume of unemployment that exists. But, unfortunately, he did not take that course. It seems to me that this action was one of the worst that the Government could have taken at this juncture, for it might have jeopardized the success of the agreement which has, so far, been of tremendous value to Australia.
It is not generally known by honorable members that the £34,000,000 agreement has been liberalized in many respects in the last year or two. The money may be obtained at an average rate of £3,400,000 per annum for ten years. For every £1,000,000 that we borrow under this agreement Great Britain hands to us a capital sum of £200,000. Formerly it was £130,000 for every £750,000 that we borrowed. In other words, to-day we receive a gift of 20 per cent, with every £1,000,000 that Ave borrow for the purposes of the agreement. That 20 per cent, is really the capitalized equivalent of one-half of the interest due by Australia on such borrowings for the first five years, and one-third of the interest on such borrowings for the second five years of the agreement. Not only does the Commonwealth get this tremendous interest concession from Great Britain, but the States also enjoy additional concessions from the Commonwealth. In the first five years of the agreement they receive a concession from the Commonwealth which is equivalent to one-third of the ruling interest rate. The British Government pays half of the interest; the Commonwealth one-third of it, and the States only one-sixth of it in the first five years of the agreement. In other words, if the money is . raised at 6 per cent, the States will pay only 1 per cent. If the money is raised at 5 per cent, they will pay only five-sixths of 1 per cent. These are extraordinarily good terms for the States. In the second five years of the agreement the British Government, the Commonwealth Government, and the State Governments each provide one-third of the interest rate. If the money is raised at 5£ per cent, each State will pay for its portion If per cent. It needs no stretch of the imagination to realize the tremendous advantage these easy terms afford to young and rapidly developing States like Western Australia, or Queensland. Under the agreement such States will be able to obtain cheap money for ten years for developmental projects which they desire to put in hand. For the first five years they will be able to get the money at 1 per cent., and for the second five years at about If per cent. We could continue the enjoyment of these favorable conditions if we were willing to absorb even the comparatively small number of migrants which has come to Australia in the last year or two. Seeing that the money may be used for the purpose of constructing developmental roads and railways other than main lines, for the establishment of irrigation farms and the clearing of land for dry farms, for the provision of water conservation schemes, and for the erection of sugar mills, butter factories, and so on, there is every reason why we should do our best to obtain as much of it as possible. As a matter of fact, a dragnet clause at the end of the agreement makes it possible for us to do almost any developmental work with this money provided that it enables us to carry a greater population than at present. To my mind, the agreement is one of the finest ever made between the British and Commonwealth Governments.
Under the advantageous terms laid down we are able to obtain £1,500 - this figure was formerly £1,000 - for the provision of each farm for the settlement of a family of four persons, and it is worth remembering in this connexion that every alternate farm so secured may be used for the settlement of an Australian family. To put this in another way, we can get £375 of cheap money for every person that we receive under this part of the scheme, and the new-comers need not necessarily be wage-earners. For the purposes of the agreement a child in arms counts the same as a farmer or an artisan or a domestic servant. Surely it cannot be argued seriously that we are unable under these conditions to find a niche in Australia for a few more people.
In my opinion it would be a good thing if the obligation to absorb settlers under the terms of this agreement could be pooled, so to speak, over the whole of Australia. At present State boundaries are a consideration. It might be possible for States like Western Australia, which are capable of developing farm schemes on a comprehensive basis, to receive people of that kind who could not be received in other States, whereas persons who are fitted only for secondary industries could be taken in other States, though not in Western Australia.
– The Government of which the honorable member was a member did not seek such an amendment of the agreement.
– We have been receiving comparatively few migrants under the agreement lately. In 1926 we received 31,000 persons into Australia from Great Britain. This is the highest figure reached since the war. Since then, however, our economic depression has affected migration. Depressed economic conditions always have an influence upon migration. It is probable that during this year we shall receive into Australia from the United Kingdom not more than 10,000 settlers. Seeing that more people have been leaving Australia than have been arriving here of late, this trickle of migration could have been continued with advantage, for it would have made it possible for us to continue using the cheap money that Great Britain is prepared to make available to us under the agreement. Even if we could not have continued to receive quite so many people, the Government could have suggested to the States that extreme vigilance should be exercized in connexion with requisitions and nominations. Instead of taking this course it ignored the States and rushed forward to give Australia probably the worst advertisement she has received in the Old World for a generation. What will the people overseas think of us? They know that Australia has an area comparable with that of the United States of America, and that the United States of America successfully carries a population of 120,000,000 people. The Prime Minister has blatantly advertised that Australia is incapable of maintaining a population of any more than onetwentieth of the number comfortably supported by the United States of America. This must most adversely affect our credit overseas. The end which the Government desiresto achieve could have been attained quietly by the method that I have proposed, of suggesting to the States that nominations and requisitions should be more carefully scrutinized. But the Prime Minister has seen fit to noise it abroad that we cannot support a larger population than we haveat present.
– All the noise has come from the Opposition.
– It is essential that assisted passages should be provided for our own kith and kin who desire to come here because of the very heavy fares charged in the ordinary way. It should be clearly understood that there is no assisted migration from Southern Europe or the other countries of the world. The people of those nations who wish to come here must pay their own fares. Only British people are provided with assisted passages. When I came to Australia 21 years ago it was possible to secure a comfortable White Star outside cabin with a porthole for £23. To-day, similar accommodation costs between £60 and £70, and the price of third class accommodation, which is what assisted migrants have, is £37. If prospective migrants were faced with the necessity of providing £37 in passage money it would prove an impassable bar to them. The shipping companies are not paid £37 for each assisted migrant who comes here, but only £33. But that it too much for the ordinary British worker to find for passage money, particularly if he is a family man. Under the agreement a single man has to pay only half the fare of £33. The British Government and the Commonwealth Government pay the other half between them. Then in the case of families, say a father and a mother and at least one child under nineteen years, they get here for one-third of the full amount. Such migrants pay £11, the Commonwealth £11, and the British Government a similar amount,while children under twelve years are brought in free, as are also domestics. The distance from Great Britain to Canada is shorter* than that from Great Britain to Australia, and naturally the fares to Canada are much lower, and unless we do something to assist those who would come here rather’ than- go to Canada, we shall find ourselves practically isolated. In addition, we shall have greater difficulty than we have to-day in maintaining the standard of 98 per cent. British stock, because it is, perhaps, easier, on account of the shorter distance, for the Southern European migrant to come here than it is for the Britisher. We therefore encourage the Britisher to come here by assisting his passage, thus ensuring the retention of our high’ percentage of British stock. We in Australia are proud of that percentage. As a matter of fact, we can boast of more pure British blood in Australia than can even Great Britain itself, because in proportion to our population we have less alien blood in the community. While it would be decidely unwise at present to encourage the flow of people here, because of the economic circumstances in which we find ourselves, I think that it was very unwise for the Prime Minister to try to cut ofl the flow altogether. The proper course would have been to consult the States with the object of getting them, to exercise a closer supervision of immigration. I believe that, when we recover from our present economic depression, this country will, if properly developed, be capable of sustaining a population even greater than that of the- United Kingdom. We should not, at any rate, advertise our incapacity to do it throughout the world. We should keep quiet about temporary difficulties, rather than expose them to exaggeration as the Prime Minister did the other day. Many people seem to think that every person who comes to this country takes a job rather than gives a job. Our secondary industries are to-day manufacturing solely for a population of 6,000,000, and, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), they are incapable of selling their wares overseas. They have to confine themselves to the sheltered local market and to limit their manufacture to the requirements of Australia. Had we a population of 12,000,000 instead of 6,000,000, the secondary industries would naturally enlarge their capacity to exactly double what it is to-day, and therefore it should be conceded by those who oppose migration under all circumstances, that there is a good side to it, that the man who comes here provides a job because he needs clothes, boots, and a home. It is said by some honorable members that the immigration agreement has failed for the reason that, during the last few years, the number of migrants arriving here has been disappointingly small. The agreement has failed not because of anyinherent weaknesses in it, but because of economic factors quite apart from and outside of the agreement altogether.
When we discuss immigration, the subject of unemployment is usually linked with it, and it has been said that migration aggravates unemployment. I believe that what would bring about increased employment more than anything else is the settlement of the coal dispute. Quite apart from the welfare of the miners, and the fact that they and their families have been living on short commons for a long time, it would mean the stimulation of industries quite outside of the. coal industry. A drop in the price of coal would provide a stimulus to industries dependent upon coal, and I favour the proposal that has been put forward, that the New South Wales Government should provide the equivalent of 2s. a ton in the way of reductions in rail freights and other charges, that ls. 3d. a ton should be conceded by the coal-owners, and 9d. a ton conceded by the coal-miners, making a total reduction of 4s. a ton in the price of coal. It is, perhaps, not realized by every one that a reduction of 4s. a ton in the price of coal would immediately mean a reduction of 12s. a ton in the price of steel, because it takes 3 tons of coal to produce 1 ton of steel. Imagine what effect that reduction would have in stimulating industries dependent upon coal as their base. In view of the possibility of the settlement of the coal dispute on those lines, and I sincerely hope that it will be settled, we should review the question of whether an additional bounty of 18s. a ton on galvanized iron is necessary.
– A reduction in the price of coal would assist the galvanized iron industry.
– I am referring to that industry. I realize that it is not competent for me, at this stage, to discuss the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Bill which has been introduced into “this House, but it has been proposed by the Government to increase the bounty on galvanized iron by 18s. a ton. There should be first taken into consideration the possibility of re-opening the mines, with a consequent reduction in the price of -coal of 4s. a ton, and the corresponding fall in the cost of production of iron. I know that honorable members supporting the Government regard awards, even if they are impossible from an economic point of view, as sacrosanct; but it is better than an impossible award should go rather than that an industry and a man’s livelihood should go. Had sound advice been given earlier by the leaders of labour there would have been a resumption of work on the coal-fields a long while ago. “We had the spectacle, during the election campaign, of the campaign director of the Labour party employing what can be best described as a confidence trick on credulous men. While their money was taken from them for campaign purposes they were told in return that if a Labour Government assumed office it would re-open the mines within a fortnight. That was one of the most gigantic pieces of brazen bluff ever practised upon the people in the history of political contests. It is not surprising that some of the men are embittered today, when now the Prime Minister offers them wiser counsels and recommends them to accept the advice of their leaders. A precedent was created by Parliament some few years ago for just such an arrangement as is now proposed in connexion, with the coal industry. In 1922, the meat exporting industry was in a parlous condition, and it was impossible for it to carry on the’ export trade in view of the high cost of treatment, the high freights, and the high slaughtering rates paid to the slaughtermen of Queensland. The Commonwealth Government at that time offered the beef industry an export bounty of id. a lb. on condition that, first of all, there should be a reduction of id. per lb. in freight on the part of the shipping companies, a reduction of -Jd. in the treatment costs at the meat works, and a reduction of 12s. a week in the wages, of the slaughtermen. The slaughtermen at that time realized that economic facts were stronger than impossible awards, and they decided to accept a reduction in wages so that they could keep their jobs. I looked up, the other day, what the former Leader of the Labour Opposition, Mr. Charlton, said on this subject. He found no fault with this arrangement and had no word to say against a reasonable reduction in wages, in view of the stern economic- factors existing at that time. Those engaged in the coal industry could easily take a leaf out of the book of the slaughtermen and, by getting back to work, help to increase employment in other industries. It is much better to create employment first for those who are here, and, secondly, for those who would come here, than to try to dam back by artificial means the little trickle of immigration which is still flowing.
I do not propose to deal with the tariff proposals of the Government at this stage; but, in passing, I wish to allude to one item which, I think, is worthy of. special notice. The item concerns woven hoods of various qualities, not produced in Australia, not produced anywhere in the British Empire, from which are made in this country the hats of the agricultural labourer, the schoolgirl, the woman of small means and the well-dressed woman of fashion. The new flat-rate duty on the cheapest quality hoods amounts to 2,000 per cent.
This flat-rate duty will raise the cost of the- hats of the well-dressed woman of fashion by ls. or perhaps not at all. On the other hand, it will raise the price of the hats of the agricultural labourer, the schoolgirl, and the working woman absolutely beyond their reach, and if that is not discrimination in favour of the rich as against the poor I do not Enow what it is. I am much concerned, in view of the tariff changes, about the possibility of retaliation on the part of Great Britain in connexion with the preferences that we enjoy to-day. There seems to have been shown, in the framing of the tariff schedule, an utter disregard of the possibility of retaliation on the part of Great Britain. I agree with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) that if the preference which we are to-day enjoying on dried fruits were taken away the industry would probably face ruin. When the former Prime Minister went to the Economic Conference in 1923 he put up a great fight for the acceptance by Great Britain of the principle that the overseas dominions should, in a fiscal sense, be given some preference over foreign countries. Largely as a result of his endeavours the Economic Committee, which sat to inquire into this subject, recommended that Great Britain should give a preference of £10 a ton on dried fruits, sultanas, currants, and lexias. Shortly after that recommendation was made, the Ramsay MacDonald Government got into power for a brief period, and the preference was unobtainable. But had the Australian Labour Party of that day bestirred itself to the slightest extent, we should have been able almost at once to enjoy a considerable amount of the preference proposed. At that time there was a duty on dried fruits entering Great Britain from all sources’, of £7 on sultanas and lexias, and £2 a ton on currants. Preference to Australian dried fruits was hanging in the balance in Great Britain, and was finally turned down by a majority of only four votes in a house of nearly 700 members. We on the Government side tried to induce the Australian Labour Party to get into touch with their confreres in Great Britain, feeling that the least touch at that time would have turned the scale in our favour. The Labour party here failed us on that occasion, and the preference extended to us was one-sixth of the total duty. That is to say, on sultanas and lexias, which bore a duty of £7 a ton, we received a rebate of £1 3s. 4d. We actually paid a duty of £5 16s. 8d. On currants we received a preference of onesixth also, receiving as a rebate 6s. 8d. per ton. That system operated until the Baldwin Government again assumed power, and it immediately gave us the full amount of preference. It was able to do that without going back on its pledge to the people of Great Britain that it would not, during the lifetime of that Parliament, impose any additional duties upon foodstuffs, regardless of origin. It was able to do this simply by withdrawing the duty on dried fruits imported from any part of the British Empire, and allowing that on foreign products to stand. In that way the Government avoided breaking its pledges, but it helped Aus: tralia. The retention of this preference, comparatively small though it is, is of vital importance to the dried fruits industry of Australia. We enjoy a more generous preference of £14 a ton on dried fruits entering Canada, and Australia is trying to take full advantage of this by selling as much as she possibly can in the market where we have the greatest preference. There is a limit, however, to the absorptive capacity of Canada, and for a long time to come we shall have to sell the greater part of our surplus in Great Britain. It may be interesting to honorable members to know the extraordinary extent to which we have to depend on Great Britain for a market for our dried fruits. The dried fruits industry has expanded enormously within the last ten years. In 1919, immediately after the war, we produced about 14,000 tons of sultanas, currants and lexias. Of that quantity we consumed 12,000 tons, and exported 2,000. This year we have produced about 72,000 tons. We are still consuming approximately 12,000 a year, and we have, therefore, to export 60,000 tons, as compared with 2,000 ten years ago. That indicates the serious problem with which we are confronted in marketing our dried fruits, and illustrates how essential it is that we should retain the preferences we already enjoy. I hope that the Government will do everything possible to secure the retention of those preferences, without which I feel that the soldier settlers atRed Cliffs, Mildura and other places will have to pull up their vines.
On the matter of compulsory military training the Labour party of to-day has shown its decadence as compared with the party of fifteen or twenty years ago. I, for one, shall certainly support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I believe that compulsory military training is more efficient than voluntary training, and that it is essential for the’ defence of Australia.
The Government’s financial proposals provide for an increase, instead of a curtailment, of departmental expenditure, and the extra revenue required is to be raised by taxes of the worst kind. While the last Government proposed to obtain whatever it requred to balance the ledger from taxation on amusements and luxuries, and by other taxes such as would interfere least with productive enterprise, this Government proposes to tax such enterprises to the utmost, notwithstanding the fact that they are the sources of national income, and the providers of employment. The Government regards cheap beer as much more important than cheap transport, and moving pictures and pony racing as of greater value for the rehabilitation of Australia than productive enterprise.
– Why indulge in repetition ?
– Because one cannot say a good thing too often, and because the honorable member, and others on that side, do not appear to grasp the facts. Outstanding in the Government’s budget are three amounts, each of £1,200,000. The Government proposes to extract £1,200,000 more than the last Government by direct taxation, half of it from companies and half from individuals. It will raise at least £1,200,000 more by means of a tariff, £800,000 of which will be a tax on transport - a most essential thing for the development of Australia. The other £400,000 will be partly provided by a tax upon the clothes of the workers. The third sum of £1,200,000 is interest on expropriated properties. The last Government proposed to employ this legacy from the war to reduce our deficit, but this Government refuses to say what it is going to do with the money derived from this source. If this budget is a fair sample of Labour finance, the sooner honorable gentlemen opposite return to the Opposition benches the better it will be for Australia.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat expressed surprise at the small number of migrants coming to Australia during recent years.. One need not look far for the reason. It is because the Commonwealth has not treated fairly those who have come. We employ recruiting agents in England and Scotland, who tell prospective migrants to come to Australia, where there is an abundance of work at anything from £5 to £7 a week, while millions of acres of land are waiting for human hands to till. The unfortunate migrants have been deceived. All over Australia are hundreds of these unfortunate people, brought to this country under false pretences, now walking the roads with their swags on their backs begging for work and food. Yet the honorable member for Gippsland expressed surprise that migrants were not coming here in their thousands.
– I did not express surprise.
– I understood the honorable member to say that he was disappointed.
– I said that the inflow of migrants adapted itself to the prevailing economic depression.
– Such Australian employers as road and quarry contractors have extended preference to aliens as against British-Australians in the matter of employment, and in no part of Australia has that been more marked than in the electorate represented by- the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson).
– Aliens do not come under the agreement relating to assisted passages.
– We have not treated the migrants fairly. We have . deceived them, and work promised them was not available when they arrived. The millions of acres which were to be waiting for them are not available either. Those acres are not here for our own people. I support the action of the Government in suspending migration activities until such time as conditions improve in Australia, and we can provide employment, not only for new arrivals, but for the hundreds of thousands of persons who are out of work here to-day. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), when speaking last evening, expressed the hope that Australia would institute a vigorous policy of land settlement, and thus increase the volume of our exports. He made that statement when attacking the tariff submitted by the Government. I heartily agree with the honorable member for Wimmera, and I believe that every honorable member of the Committee agrees with him. Unfortunately for him, however, and for Australia, the land is not available here on which to settle more people. Furthermore, during the war and since, land values have been inflated very much. It is almost impossible now for a man of moderate means to go on the land, except in Western Australia. In that State large areas of cheap land are still to be had, and to the credit of the Government there, be it said, a progressive policy of land settlement and water conservation has been undertaken. But in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, the land is locked up, and the Governments of those States are taking no steps to resume large holdings so that the landless may be placed on the land. The wealth of a nation is derived from its lands, and if its citizens are denied the right to occupy those lands, there #can be nothing but stagnation. Wheatgrowing cannot be made profitable at the prices at which wheat lands are being purchased to-day, especially in Victoria. In the top end of the- Wimmera district the ruling price for wheat land is as high as £28 and £29 an acre. No person can make wheat-growing pay if his land has cost him £25 or £26 per acre. The cost of wages is infinitesimal in comparison with the COSt of the land. Whilst we realize that it is not yet possible, and will not be for many years, to carry out a vigorous policy of land settlement in the older States of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, we should at least strive to adopt scientific methods in our primary industries. Those who are occupying land to-day could double or treble their production of wheat, wool and butter if they used top dressing. Last week I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he would approach the Nauru and Ocean Island Commission with a view to securing a reduction of the price of the phosphatic rock that is imported by this country for the manufacture of superphosphate, and the honorable gentleman replied that he would use his best efforts in that direction. , Those of us who understand the tillage and cultivation of land know that in . Victoria, Tasmania and the southeastern part of South Australia, there are districts containing hundreds of thousands of acres of land in which there is a bountiful rainfall and a very fine soakage. Some of the land certainly is poor; but poor land gives the best results when it is top dressed. It should be our aim to secure a reduction of railway freights, and of the landed cost of phosphatic rock to the extent of at least £3 per ton. If we can thus assist our landholders, particularly the poor man who has not the ready cash to top dress his land every year, the benefit will be tenfold.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has stated that the dried fruits industry is in a parlous condition. That is very true. Every man who is engaged to-day in the growing of fruit in Australia is in a bad way. But what was done by the previous Government to assist those men except to give the industry the benefit of a bounty? It is generally admitted that the home market is the best: It should, therefore, be our aim to develop that market equally with markets abroad. I hope that early in the new year the Government will proceed with the marketing scheme that it proposes to submit to the producers of Australia. It should be made Commonwealth-wide, and be linked up with a similar scheme that the Labour Government in Great Britain proposes to put into operation. There is no reason why marketing schemes throughout the Empire should not, to some extent, be uniform. If we can do that we shall have gone some distance towards bridging the gap that exists to-day between the producer and the consumer. It is deplorable that the man who produces apples and oranges receives only about a farthing each for his product, while the consumer has to pay 3d. and 4d. apiece for oranges, and generally not less than 2d. a piece for apples. I say, deliberately, that the producer is being robbed because of the lack of a proper scheme of marketing within Australia. It is the duty of this Government to evolve such a scheme. Seven or eight years ago the Labour Government in Queensland brought into operation a marketing scheme for that State, and the results have been fairly satisfactory. It should be a good basis for a scheme embracing the whole of Australia. We must see that the consumers obtain their requirements at a reasonable price. There is no product that is morn monopolized than fruit. Last year I was in Mildura during the grape-picking season, and saw large consignments of grapes being sent away by rail. I asked the growers what price they expected to obtain, and was told that they would be satisfied if they were returned Id. per lb. Out of that return they have to pay for boxes, branding, cultivation, labour, and water rates. Yet in Melbourne the price charged to the consumer was 3d. and 4d. per lb. It is time that we put our house in order and propounded a scheme under which the producers would secure better results than they have had in the past.
The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) yesterday voiced strong opposition to the voluntary system of military training. He expressed the opinion that this Government made a mistake, and had endangered our defence force when it suspended compulsory training. Shortly after the Government announced its intention we read many expressions of opinion from persons, both in Australia and abroad, who arc qualified to speak on the subject. Sir Ian Hamilton stated that in his judgment the voluntary system is the best for Australia; and I heartily agree with him. In my boyhood days there was nothing except voluntary training, and we underwent it because we liked it. I venture to say that we did three times as much drill as is done to-day under the compulsory system, and reached a stage of efficiency not inferior to that of the products of compulsory training. But it is of very little use to talk of maintaining a land force in Australia unless we are prepared to tackle the big work of unifying our railway gauges. If we were attacked to-morrow and desired to mobilize our land forces in the northern part of this continent .at least two months would be occupied in the transport of 30,000 troops from Victoria to Queensland, because of the breaks of gauge at Albury and Wallangarra. There are breaks of gauge also in the other States. If we intend to rely largely upon a land force as a means of defence we must make uniform with the New South Wales gauge those that differ from it in Queensland, Victoria, and South Australia, no matter what the cost may be. I believe, however, that this country will never be invaded. The ideals and aspirations of the people of other nations to-day are in the direction of peace, not of war. If we hasten the day when the nations of the world will disarm and their leaders will strive for the policy of peace, as opposed to that of war, we shall be in the vanguard of progress. Some military leaders have stated that future wars will be fought in the air. We have read recently of military manoeuvres in Great Britain, France and elsewhere, involving the use of poison gases from aeroplanes. God help humanity if these destructive agencies are liberated in another conflict of the nations. The League of Nations and the representatives of the five great powers that are to confer in England in J January next should do everything in their power to educate all nations to the ideal of universal disarmament and world peace. It is Australia’s bounden duty to support enthusiastically any efforts to that end.
Much criticism has been directed against the Government for not having already given effect to many of the planks in the Labour party’s platform. Some of those critics sat behind the last Government for nearly seven years, during which not one important promise to the electors was honored. In 1925 the last Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) announced in his policy speech that his Government would introduce unemployment insurance and national insurance and would provide £20,000,000 for home building. Not one of those promises has been honored.
– All the houses could not be built at once.
– Not one brick has yet been laid under the Commonwealth housing scheme, and we are still without schemes for unemployment and national insurance, notwithstanding that a royal commission was engaged for two years, at great expense to the taxpayers, in inquiring into and reporting upon these proposals. Yet honorable members opposite have the audacity to attack a Labour Government that has been in office for only two months. The fact must be borne in mind that when the BrucePage Government assumed office the Treasury had an accumulated surplus of £7,4*00,000, and the subsequent five years were the most bountiful in the history of Australia, owing to the high prices ruling for stock, wool, and wheat. Notwithstanding those advantages the last Government, after selling the Commonwealth Woollen Mills and the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers, went out of office, leaving a deficit of £5,000,000 and an army of 300,000 unemployed throughout Australia. The Labour Government is asked why it has not found work for the unemployed men and women and why it has introduced new taxation which allows the picture proprietors to escape. The Government was obliged to raise more revenue, and the picture theatre proprietors will be caught by the income tax. Had the tax on gross receipts proposed by the last Government been imposed it would have been passed on to the patrons of picture shows; in the last resort it would have been paid by the women and children, but through the income tax the wealthy interests in the picture industry will make their contribu tion to the revenue, in such a way that they cannot pass it on.
Some members of the Opposition are despondent because of the new tariff schedule. They regard it as extreme and hurtful to their friends. It is intended to hurt somebody, and the people against whom it is principally directed are those who are importing extensively from foreign countries. The large warehouses are filled, not with British or Australian goods, but with the products of cheap labour in foreign countries. The new tariff schedule is designed to check the operations of the importers who are exploiting our markets and to give adequate protection to those who have invested millions of pounds in Australian factories and machinery. We are proud of our conditions of labour and the wares that are produced by our people, and this Government has the courage to do its duty to the manufacturers regardless of the criticism that may emanate from the Free Traders who sit in Opposition. The Australian people have repeatedly declared in favour of a policy of protection, and Labour has never neglected an opportunity to give effect to it. We are more than ever determined that those who are building up our secondary industries and are producing under Australian conditions of hours and wages shall be protected against the competition of foreign sweaters. The critics of the new tariff are concerned not so much for our cousins in Great Britain as for the manufacturers of Japan and also of Germany, from which reparation payments are being received. At one time the Nationalists declared that never again would Australia trade with Germany, but we are now doing so on a large scale. The policy of the Government is Australian in character, and will be continued so long as the Labour party remains in power. Those who say that the Government is neglectful of the interests of the Australian people speak with their tongues in their cheeks. I am glad that it has definitely declared in favour of protecting both the manufacturers and the man on the land. Whatever can be done to further the interests of Australian men, women and children will be done by a Labour Ministry..
– I move-
That, the Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1921-1928 as proposed to be amended by the Resolution proposed by the Minister for Trade and Customs on the twenty-first day of November, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-nine, be further amended as hereunder set out, and that on and after the twelfth day of December, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-nine, at nine o'clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to standard time in the Territory for the Seat of Government, Duties of Customs be collected in pursuance of the Customs Tariff as so amended. That, excepting by mutual agreement or until after six months' notice has been given to the Qovernment of the Dominion of New Zealand, nothing in this Resolution shall affect, any goods the produce or manufacture of the Dominion of New Zealand entering the Commonwealth of Australia from the Dominion of New Zealand.
In submitting this motion, it is not my intention to discuss the details of the schedule or to make a long speech on the merits or demerits of either protection or freetrade. A copy of the schedule and also a memorandum showing the difference between the old and the new rates will be distributed among honorable members. This schedule and that laid on the table a few weeks ago, will, together, comprise over 300 items.
– Does this schedule alter any other item’s, or is it entirely new ?
– It corrects some anomalies that occur in other items, and contains a number of new items; there will be an opportunity, later, to discuss the details. As the Minister responsible for the duty of laying the tariff proposals of the Government on the cable, I deem it my privilege to deal with the general principles that have guided the Ministry in giving the additional meas’ure of protection that the manufacturers of this country will be afforded as a. result of the Government’s action since it has assumed office. So far as trade is concerned, the tariff has two objects, one direct, and the other indirect. The direct aim of this schedule, as well as that tabled some weeks ago, is to protect Australian industries and provide employment for the Australian people. This is particularly necessary at a time when we find, even on the admission of the late Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett), according to a speech delivered by him in Queensland a few months ago, that we have a greater amount of unemployment in Australia than we experienced at any period since 1893. These proposals are submitted in accordance with a definite promise made by the Leader of the Government during the last election campaign. He stated in bis policy-speech that -
Breaches in the tariff wall will be repaired at once. Labour stands for the fullest possible protection to all industries, primary and secondary. The cotton bounty will be supplemented by effectively protecting the cotton yarn and piece goods that can be made from Australian-grown cotton.
Of course, the Prime Minister made that promise in accordance with the platform of the Federal Labour party, which stands for the effective protection of Australian industries. Planks 4 and 5 of that platform state -
Owing to the limitations imposed by the Commonwealth Constitution it is impossible, at present, to give full effect to the Federal Labour party’s platform; but this Government is doing its utmost to build up Australian industries. As the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade and Customs said a few weeks ago, the hand that gives can take away. If any manufacturer is found to be exploiting the people, because of the protection resulting from these higher duties, the Government thai has given him that protection can also deprive him of it.
– I think that special attention should be paid to that.
– It is most necessary. Since this Government has been in power’ only about six weeks, it has not been possible for it to deal with all the requests that have been placed before the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin). There are about 1,100 requests in the department, and I desire to pay a special tribute of praise to the departmental officers for their indefatigable work in investigating them. In many cases, they are working long hours to assist the Government in giving effect to the mandate that it received from the people at the recent election. I wish particularly to give credit to the Acting Comptroller of Customs, Mr. Abbott, for the way in which he has worked. Unfortunately, the Tariff Board has been exceedingly busy, and it has not been advisable for the Government to wait until it could reconsider some of the items that appear on the schedule.
It was necessary, because of the exigencies of the industrial situation throughout Australia, for the Government to take immediate action to save certain industries that were threatened with extinction. We had to do something to prevent certain manufacturers from putting off large numbers of men. We know, from investigation, that some of them, in the last few months, when the late Government was in office, were dismissing 40 or 50 employees every weekend. Owing to the efforts of the present Government, however, those dismissals have ceased, and, on the admission of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures, the schedule that was recently tabled has meant the provision of 30,000 extra jobs, and it is estimated that, as a result of the present schedule, and the foregoing one combined 50,000 positions will be made available immediately, while well over 100,000 jobs will be provided when certain extra plant and equipment have been installed. To have referred all these matters to the Tariff Board, and to have awaited for its reports, would have meant more than twelve months delay, in many cases. I think that honorable members from Queensland will agree with me when I say that we have had an example in the case of the cotton industry of the disaster due to delay.
– There is nothing in this schedule about cotton.
– If the honorable member had studied the last tariff schedule, he would have found that the cottongrowers had received everything for which they had asked in the way of protection.
– What about increased bounties ?
– We do not deal with bounties in tariff schedule; but in any case the Tariff Board turned down the request. The honorable member will see that this Government has provided protection in the schedule just placed on table against the importation of cotton seed oil in order to give the necessary impetus to the manufacture in Australia of that valuable byproduct of the cotton industry. This will play an important part in enabling the growers, co-operatively, to take over the whole of the industry in Queensland. The industry waited for seven years for the late Government to do what the present Government has done within a month of assumingoffice. It has given the growers all that they asked for and all that was recommended by the Tariff Board, and, on further investigation, we gave them something that the board did not recommend, but which was found to be absolutely necessary. Those growers are deeply grateful for the assistance that they have received, and they will not thank the honorable member who is interjecting for the party political bias that forces him to take up his doginthemanger attitude. The matter of protection for the cotton industry was referred to the Tariff Board on the 21st May, 1928. The board did not take evidence for four months, and nine months elapsed before its report came to hand. The late Government held up the report for eight months before taking any action; but the present Government, within a month of its return to office, gave the industry all the protection for which it had asked.
– Is that a recommendation?
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) may well feel uncomfortable. Within a month the Labour party gave those primary producers what the late Government had failed to give them. It will be found that the schedule protects primary as well as secondary industries. The honorable member will find something in it of bene fit to the onion growers, which was refused by the late Government. The schedule provides for increased duties on the following cotton products -
Item 105(a) (1) (b) and (c) - Piece goods.
Item 105 (aa) - Piece goods (knitted).
Item 110(a) (3)- Blouses.
Item 110(a) (4)- Coats.
Item 110(a) (5) and (b) ( 3 ) -Costumes, dresses or robes.
Item 110(b) (l) - Knitted apparel.
Item 115(a) - Socks.
Item 115(b) - Stockings.
Item 120(c)- Towels.
Item 123(a) - Wadding and cotton-wool.
Item 392(a) - Cotton yarn.
Item 432 - Raw cotton (including linters).
Item 229(h) (1)- Edible oils.
The inclusion of edible oils will give the necessary protection to the cotton-seed oil mills.
– I have advocated all that.
– But the honorable member had no influence with the late Government. Talk is cheap ; it is action that isneeded. Within a month of its accession to office the Government has done these things. Look. at the assistance that the now schedule will give to manufacturers.
For the year 1928-29, Australia imported 361,174 gallons of cotton-seed oil to the value of £59,344. This came from the United Kingdom, China, France, Japan and the United States of America. Our imports from Japan alone totalled 66,306 gallons, at a cost of £12,632.
This protection was asked for by the Queensland Cotton Pool Board and by Senator Massy Greene, as Chairman of the British-Australian Cotton Associa- tion. The late Government held the matter up for over two years, and did nothing, although the Tariff Board’s report was in its hands for over eight months, notwithstanding the fact that it had definitely pledged itself during the 1928 election campaign that, immediately after the election, prompt action would be taken.
– Does the Acting Minister anticipate that these increased duties will raise the cost of living?
– No ; I shall quote figures to prove that increased protection does not necessarily mean an increase in the price of commodities.
One of the items in the schedule which may be criticized by honorable members opposite is that which provides a duty of 9d. per lb. and an ad valorem duty of 20 per cent., British preferential for wool tops. If there is one industry in Australia that should be protected through all its stages it is the wool industry. We produce the finest wool in the world ; but for too long have sent practically the whole of every clip to the other side of the world to be manufactured. This has obliged us to import the finished articles. Last year Australia’s wool clip totalled 950,000,000 lb. of wool, and was valued at £69,572,000. During that year we exported 810,540,500 lb. of wool to other countries, which was valued at £61,612,995, and we imported 1,102,957 lb. of wool tops, valued at £233,241. Those wool tops should have been manufactured here. As most honorable members know, the manufacture of wool tops is the first process through which the raw wool passes. The wool is first scoured, then combed into tops, then spun into yarn, and then woven or knitted into cloth. We should be doing most of this work in Australia. We have some wool-top manufacturers operating at present. Last year our wool top export figures were as follows : -
Seeing that our manufacturers are willing to install additional machinery for the manufacture of wool tops, and that this would provide employment for hundreds of additional men, there is every justification for the introduction of this schedule. We have a mandate from the country to protect our great primary and secondary industries. Last year our imports of manufactured and partiallymanufactured woollen goods were valued at £2,364,035. There is no justification for that in a wool-producing country. We should set about making our own requirements. We have been tinkering with the question long enough.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) asked by interjection a moment ago whether the introduction of this tariff would increase the cost of living. It does not necessarily follow that an increase in duty means an increase in the price- of goods. That is indicated by the following figures, which show the price of certain commodities before and after the introduction of new duties : -
Et will be remembered that following upon the imposition of increased duties on electricity meters, the Australian manufacturers were able to secure practically the whole of the local market, and thus reduce the price of meters from 36s. to 18s. each. The following figures in relation to the price of farming implements indicate clearly that the introduction of an effective tariff reduces prices: -
Furthermore tariff protection increases employment. Some honorable members opposite would like to get their goods from black-labour factories elsewhere without considering the welfare of the workers of Australia.
– On a point of order, I ask whether the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs is in order in reading his’ speech?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).The Minister is perfectly in order in referring to notes.
– I know that it hurts some honorable members opposite to hear the truth.
– The Minister’s remarks are offensive and untruthful.
– The honorable member for Swan may not like to hear the truth ; but he need not become insolent when honorable members on this side of the chamber set out to protect the interests of Australia. In view of the figures I have quoted regarding the implements manufactured by the Sunshine Harvester “Works, I am justified in asserting that, so far from ruining Australia, our protectionist policy has been of great assistance to the country. Certain honorable members opposite might have been inclined, when their party was in power, to give a larger measure of protection to some of our industries, but they were prevented from doing so by members of the socalled Country party.
– I rise to a point of order. A day or so ago Mr. Speaker ruled that if any remark made by an honorable member was considered offensive, individually or collectively, it must be withdrawn. The Acting Minister has used the word “ alleged “ in connexion with the Country party. That is offensive to me and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I know nothing of the ruling to which the honorable member has referred. As Chairman of the Committee I rule that the remark to which the honorable member has objected is not unparliamentary.
– Certain honorable members who occupy seats on the corner benches represent the freetrade importing interests of Australia, although they profess to represent the farmers. The. honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) have all, at different times, advocated that the tariff should be reduced or abolished and that our Arbitration Court should be abandoned. t
– On a point of order, the statement that the Acting Minister has just made is absolutely and wholly incorrect, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The Minister’s remarks were not out of order, though the observation of the honorable member for Swan might well have been objected to by the Acting Minister.
– If .the honorable member for Swan denies that he has advocated the abolition of the tariff, I am prepared to accept his statement; but I have frequently quoted, in this chamber, extracts from the Ilansard report of a speech made by the honorable member for Echuca in 1924 to the effect that the sugar embargo should be discontinued and the tariff and Arbitration Court abolished.
– Hear, hear !
– I am interested to hear that interjection. How can the honorable member and others of ‘ his party expect us to believe that they represent the primary producers? The recent history of the cigar-making industry in Australia shows the need for additional protection. Five years ago, we had 1,456 operatives employed in this industry, but at present we have only 600 working in it from three to three and a half days per week. The motor cars imported completely assembled last year would have given employment to 1,000 additional men. The additional protection now being granted to motor car spring makers will mean increased employment in Australia, and the expenditure of an additional £400,000 annually in iron and steel alone. Hundreds of men will also be employed in erecting new buildings and assembling additional plant to make these springs. It is anticipated that the total number of additional men that will be required in this industry will be about 5,000. We now have 80,000 persons engaged in the clothing and textile industry in Australia. As a result of the additional protection which will now be accorded to the textile industry, it is expected that almost immediately the number will be increased to 100,000, and that ultimately, it will reach 145,000. It is time that steps were taken to interrupt the flirting that has been going on between freetraders in Australia and foreign traders, many of whom carry on their operations in black labour countries.
The extra protection that will be given to the timber industry in relation to ply wood and veneers, will, it is expected, make possible the employment of 1,000 more workmen. Our leather bag and trunk factories will be able to provide additional employment for 12,000 men.It is anticipated that our paint and varnish works will require 150 hands immediately, and that our glassware and earthenware industries will be able to absorb another 900 persons.
This additional work must do a great deal to relieve unemployment. I believe that Australia will welcome the additional protection that this Government has given to our industries. The introduction of this schedule cannot be interpreted as an unfriendly gesture to any other country, for every Government is charged with the duty of conserving the welfare of its own citizens. This Government is placing the interests of the Australian workmen first, and surely that is a laudable attitude to adopt.
.- I do not propose, at this stage, to discuss the items in the schedule that has just been tabled; I shall have a later opportunity to do that. I wish to draw the, attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that last week an announcement appeared in a section of the press that another tariff ‘schedule would be tabled this week. When the Prime Minister was asked whether that statement was right or wrong, he declined, in accordance with the usual practice, to give any information on the subject. I have no complaint to make in that regard. But evidently it was known in some quarters that another schedule would be tabled, for, after the Prime Minister had refused to make any statement on the subject, the press repeated its assertion in more detail that another schedule would be introduced. An extensive schedule had just been tabled and it is difficult to see how any one could guess or anticipate that another schedule would be introduced almost immediately. It is most important from the point of view of the public and of the revenue that there should be no leakage of information in regard to the introduction of tariff schedules. We should all be very uneasy if we felt that interested persons had obtained information in advance in relation to tariff subjects.
– Surely the honorable member does not suggest that the information came from a Minister?
– I do not for a moment make that suggestion. My object in speaking at this stage is to ask the Prime Minister, as head of the Government, and not as Leader of the Labour party, to use every means in his power to discover how this information was obtained. I do not speak as the representative of a party in this connexion, but in a wider sense as a representative of the people. I urge the Prime Minister. to use every means at his disposal to ascertain who wrote these paragraphs, and from whom the information was obtained. It must be obvious that information of this description is of immense pecuniary value to certain individuals of the community.
Apart altogether from any question of party, I ask the Prime Minister to have an inquiry made in the interests of the community as a whole.
– I quite agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that it is most important that, in the interests of the country, there should be no leakage in regard to any proposed tariff amendments. When the honorable member rose to speak, I wondered whether he was about to suggest that any information had come from a member of the Government.
– I do not suggest that for one moment.
– I am glad to have that assurance. Every precaution has been taken to prevent any leakage. The head of the department and myself have made every inquiry to ascertain the source of that information, but we are unable to find it. We do not know whether there was good guessing or leakage of information. I suggest that there was guesswork. In the rush of business it was necessary for the officers of the department to consult with the Minister and myself at Parliament House, in my room. The pressmen are keen and they can make guesses. I suggest that that was the basis of that information. This is not the first time that there has been a leakage of information. I have never known a tariff schedule to be tabled without some speculation in the press beforehand, and some withdrawals from bond in anticipation of the new duties. Take the last schedule tabled by the late Government.
– The anticipations were all wrong.
– Some were wrong, but many other’s were right.
– It was doubtful guesswork.
– There was clear evidence of guesswork or leakage, because there were enormous withdrawals from bond and a consequent loss of revenue to the Commonwealth. The definite statement was published in a section of the press that there was to be an increased excise duty on spirits. So definite was the information, that withdrawals were being made from bond weeks before Parliament was called together, and before any tariff schedule could be laid upon the table. That is well known to honorable members. It must not be forgotten that less notice has been given of the intentions of this Government in respect to proposed tariff amendments than ‘ was the case previously.
– What about the recent whisky withdrawals from bond?
– There is always anticipation of increased tariffs; but the whisky withdrawals from bond prior to the tabling of the last schedule, by the late Government, were ten times as much as they were just recently. It is true that those who made these withdrawals anticipated that the increase of excise would be larger than it actually was, and probably, had they known the facts, their withdrawals would have been much less. But they knew or guessed something. Every precaution has been taken, both by the department and by the Government, to prevent leakages of information, and we can do nothing more to ascertain the source of that information. If the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) can suggest in what way further inquiries may be made, I shall be glad to have his assistance. I might ask him what methods were adopted by the late Government to remedy the many leakages that took place during its term of office. I do not know whether there was any leakage in this case. A definite statement was published that a new tariff schedule was to be introduced, but as no one was able to guess what it contained, I venture to say that the anticipations were nothing but guesswork. ‘
– I should be pleased to make a suggestion privately to the Prime Minister.
– I shall be glad to have it, and if we find that there is any leakage in any part of Australia, we will run it to earth. I am inclined to think that it was good guessing. One item, at least, of the tariff schedule was certainly anticipated.
.- It has been suggested that there were definite leakages in connexion with the tariff schedule introduced by the late Government. It will be remembered that although there may have been good guessing on this occasion, there was bad guessing on the previous occasion, because some £300,000 in duty was paid on petrol, although there was no subsequent increase in the tariff on that commodity. When the previous tariff was imposed it would have paid the liquor interests over and over again to have retained in bond most of the whisky they withdrew, instead of withdrawing it and going to the extra expense of storing it outside. There is no basis for the suggestion that there waa any leakage connected with the last tariff tabled by the late Government. There may have been guesswork, but it was bad guesswork, which, indeed, reacted upon those who groundlessly anticipated heavy increases in tariff - this time the guesswork seems remarkably good.
Progress reported. .
In Committee of Supply: (Consideration resumed from page 1058.)
.- The debate upon the budget usually takes the form of a general survey of the economic position of Australia and it is only right that that should be so, particularly on this occasion, in view of the present financial depression which is causing dismay to a large number of the people, and intense worry to the Government. I sympathize with the Government. I do not wish to be unduly critical of its actions, because it has not been long in office and, naturally, has not been able to bring down the whole of its programme, or to give full consideration to the proposals that it has placed before honorable members. It is rather strange that the Treasurer has had sufficient time to examine thoroughly the estimates of the late Treasurer, and to accuse him of gross inaccuracies in respect of his estimates of revenue and expenditure for this financial year. I presume that both the late Treasurer and the present Treasurer, when framing their estimates, relied upon the advice of the departmental officers. It is, therefore, difficult for me to believe that the late Treasurer was widely astray in his estimates of revenue and expenditure. It appears to me that the present Treasurer has purposely underestimated the revenue anticipated by the late Treasurer, whose previous estimates, we must admit, were invariably more or less accurate. I have sufficient confidence in him to believe that his estimates for this year will not fall very .short of the mark. It is difficult for any Treasurer to estimate the revenue to be derived from customs, because so much depends upon the purchasing power of the community. I am not greatly concerned when cus toms revenue is overestimated, because, in many cases-, a decrease is evidence that the people are keeping in their pockets money which would otherwise have been spent for the benefit of foreign nations. I have criticized in the past the practice of understating customs revenue, so as to justify additional income taxation, and by that means accumulate at the expense of the people a huge surplus at the end of the financial year. I am concerned about the welfare of the people generally, and we should not take from them, by way of taxation, more than ia necessary to enable the Government to meet the liabilities of the Commonwealth. The late Government proposed to increase the tax on luxuries, and especially on amusements. That would have been a wise step, because such a tax would have lessened the burden upon industry and the people generally. The present Treasurer proposes to impose a super tax on the taxable income of individuals and companies. I do not intend to discuss the proposed increase of the tax upon individuals, although I contend that it would have been wiser and fairer to tax amusements. I have always opposed any proposal to tax companies’ profits. It is fairer, and in the best interests of the community generally, to tax individuals. By taxing the profits of a company, the individual is taxed twice. My great objection to company taxation is that it deters people from investing money in companies which alone, in many instances, can develop Australia. The individual cannot afford the amount of money necessary for certain developmental industries, whereas the community, by investing its savings in companies, can exploit mining, agriculture and secondary industries without running the risk of great loss. But people will not invest their savings in enterprises if the profits are to be heavily taxed as soon as there are any profits. I am concerned with the development of Australia, and in finding the capital necessary to develop it. Persons willing to put capital into enterprise for the development of our primary and secondary industries should be encouraged, and the imposition of this super tax is not in the interests of the development of Australia, nor is it just to individuals.
On the subject of Australia’s economic position one notices that the opinions expressed in this House are to a large extent biased by the interests which honorable members represent. Some say that the tariff will be detrimental to primary industries, and that the burden of it will have to be borne by the workers. To a certain extent that is true, but not to the extent suggested by some of my Country party friends. “With some of their views I disagree entirely. Others say that our disabilities are due to high wages, and that we must reduce the cost of production. Of course we must; but no one who has thought seriously on the subject believes that the reduction of wages will adequately reduce the cost of production. We should encourage the individual to work harder and produce more, to spend less on luxuries and amusements. We must look the facts in the face ; mere palliatives are of no use. I do not wish to discuss the question of the fixation of wages by arbitration systems or other means, but it is obvious that the tribunals set up for that purpose have not been successful in regulating wages on an equitable basis as between different sets of workers. One example is outstanding - that supplied by the present coal trouble. It concerns every .person in Australia, and practically every industry is affected. We must look deeply into the causes responsible for the present trouble before we can suggest remedies. We know that the coal-miners have been paid very well for the work done, compared with what workers in other industries receive, even those in other mining industries. I do not suggest that the fault is all on one side. A royal commission is inquiring into this matter, and I wish that its report would be available earlier. I think that there is grave wrong on both sides, but the leaders of the unfortunate miners have not advised them well. It is a notable fact that it is those engaged in the best paid industries in Australia, such as the coal-miner? and waterside workers, who have been responsible for most of our industrial disputes. They are well organized, and have felt their strength. Because of their great power they have been encouraged by the so-called Labour leaders of this country to press for conditions to which they think they are entitled, to the detriment of other sections of workers. Compare the wages paid to miners and waterside workers with those received by workers in the forests and on the farms, the men who really do our most important work. Such men receive only 10s. to 12s. a day compared with about £10 a week received by the coal-miners who have revolted because they were asked to accept a small reduction. Compare the wages of the coal-miners with those of the workers in the silver, tin and copper mines. I agree with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) that it is the duty of members on both sides of the House to co-operate in an attempt to find a settlement of our existing industrial troubles. Somebody has said that there are 300,000 unemployed in Australia today. Somebody else has said that there are 200,000. I do not know the figures, but if there are only 100,000 unemployed it is too many.
– The honorable member would be quite safe in saying 150,000.
– Well, let us say 150,000. The greatest problem with which Australia is confronted to-day is how to find work for the workless, if they are willing to work. It is absurd, however, to suggest that men who have been earning up to £10 a week should be kept by the dole when there is work for them to do, and they will not do it, and while there are thousands of men prepared to work for a quarter of that wage if they were allowed.
– The miners do not average £3 a week.
– They do not average anything when they are not working. No industry can succeed if there are 10,000 men hanging round .for the jobs that 5,000 men can do. That has been the position for years past on the coal-fields. I was a member of this House when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), then Prime Minister, brought in a bill known as the Industrial Peace Bill, because a judge of the High Court would not give the coalminers what they demanded. The late Mr. Justice Higgins would not be dictated to by the Government of the day. The right honorable member for North Sydney said that the coal industry was too important to be held up. He had an act passed, under which a tribunal was appointed to fix wages and conditions on the coal-fields. That tribunal granted everything that the coal-miners asked, and the owners promptly put up the price of coal. There has been trouble in the coal industry from that day until now. The industry has lost its export trade, and as a result of the increased cost of coal, other industries in Australia have not been able ‘to compete with -manufacturers overseas. Every other source for the development of power has been exploited to take the place of coal, and all because the coal industry was considered to be too important to be held up.
– What were the miners given by the tribunal ?
– I do not know.
– They were given an eighthour day.
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) knows more about the industry than I do, but I can recall many debates in this Parliament on the coal industry. It was stated by the predecessor of the honorable member - Mr. Charlton - on one occasion that it was not right to say that the miners were earning big money, because some were working only two days a week. At that time there were more men on the fields than were needed to work the mines, but while hundreds were idle there was plenty of work to be had elsewhere in Australia. There was little or no unemployment then, but the miners who could earn enough in two days to keep themselves and families for a week hung round the mines instead of engaging in other work. That was the beginning of the trouble in the coal-mining industry.
Increased customs duties will not solve the problem of unemployment, though if the promises of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Penton) and his assistant (Mr. Forde) that the new tariff will have the effect of reducing the price of commodities, and at the same time provide increased revenue to the extent of £700,000 are fulfilled, I for one shall no longer be critical of the Government.
The Postmaster-General has introduced proposals which differ somewhat, but not very much, from those of his predecessor.
The effect will be to increase the rates for postal and telephone services. I am not criticizing that for the moment. If they are necessary, the increases will have to be paid. The department is supposed to be a business department. I hope it is, and I believe that in the main it is run on business lines. The Postmaster-General, in replying during a short debate this morning, when he introduced a motion submitting certain proposed works to the Public Works Committee, appeared to resent what some honorable members on this side of the House had said about his department. So far as I could judge, nothing that was said was meant to be critical of the present Postmaster-General; at any rate, nothing I have said can be so construed. The PostmasterGeneral has said that the increased charges for telephone services would not apply to subscribers to country telephone exchanges. There would be no increase in rates, he said, for calls within a five-miles radius of the exchange. I remind the honorable gentleman, however, that telephone subscribers in the country can do very little business without using a trunk line. In the State of which I am one of the representatives, country subscribers are very often 10 to 15 miles from a town, but it is in that town that they have to do their business. The country resident does not use the telephone to bid his neighbour the time of day, but to transact his business, which is done with the town. Therefore he must use the trunk line; consequently the increase of the trunk line rates affects him severely. The late Postmaster-General increased the trunk line rate by Id. a call. Probably he thought that it would pass unnoticed. I do not think that many people did notice it; but I saw what a difference it made when I received my half-yearly account. The increase applied whether the call was over a distance of fifteen miles or 400 miles. It was grossly unfair to the country telephone subscriber.
– The latest increase does not apply up to 60 miles.
– I am pleased to be given that assurance. Although it is generally admitted that the late Postmaster-General rendered valuable service in connexion with the extension of the telephone system in country districts, we who represent those districts are satisfied that a great deal more remains to be done. It would be wrong in principle to withhold further extensions because country services are not paying, or to lay down the rule that those who are connected to city exchanges are entitled to greater facilities because of the larger volume of business transacted by those exchanges. The commercial man benefits equally with the man outback from extensions to country districts. The cities could not exist if the country did not develop. That is an aspect of the matter which demands consideration.
I have frequently contended that it is unfair to ask subscribers in country districts to be responsible for the additional cost involved in an alteration of the closing hour from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Many of those who are in charge of the facilities in country districts voluntarily provide the service to the later hour. Country subscribers can transact their business most conveniently between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., and if that facility were afforded generally the increase in the business transacted during those hours would be much greater than the department estimates. I hope that the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons) will inquire very carefully into all of these matters, and not be guided wholly by the heads of the department, who not only are unacquainted with all the circumstances, but are not always sympathetic. We believe that the Minister is sympathetic, and that he will agree to any practicable suggestion.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has moved “‘that the item be reduced by fi,’ as an indication of the opinion of this committee that the Government has acted wrongly in abolishing compulsory citizen military training without Parliamentary authority, and without having organized any alternative system of national defence “. I support that amendment, because I believe that it was wrong for the administration to abolish a system of training, provision for which is made by an act of this Parliament. Compulsory training is good for the youth of this country. I think it will be admitted by an overwhelming majority of honorable members that it is the first duty of any Government to provide an adequate system of defence and to give security to our people.
– Compulsory military training does not do so; that is the trouble.
– The honorable member, for Corio (Mr. Lewis) has previously stated that he is not in favour of any system of defence. But a more astonishing statement was made by him, when, in reply to the inquiry, “Where would you have b,een if we had lost the war?” he said, “ We would have been better off.” I believe in compulsory military training, because it is democratic. Why should a few persons bear the whole burden, and give their time to preparation for the day - if, unhappily, it should arrive - when our people may be called on to defend their homes. I have been a volunteer for over 35 years, and if I had any bias it would be towards the voluntary system; but I realize that the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) cannot, as he suggests, obtain a system of voluntary defence equal to that provided by compulsory military training and at a less cost. If he succeeds in inducing 50,000 volunteers to take the places of trainees, the expenditure will be as great as it is now. He proposes to offer them 4s. a day. He will not get 50,000 persons to give their services for that sum. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) and I, gave our services for nothing and found our own uniforms and equipment. There are not many persons who will do that to-day.
– And we were as well trained.
– Probably we were a little better trained, because we were enthusiasts. The greatest objection to the voluntary system is that it does not provide a reserve force. The honorable member for Wannon and I served for many years. The strength of the force was kept up; but there was no regular reserve force. When men train for three or four years and then pass out, their places are taken by others. Associated with our system of compulsory training we should have a complete organization that would enable us to call upon all men to serve for the work for which they were most fitted. When men pass out we should know precisely where they are to be found, and what service they are best able to give. I trust that we shall neveragain be called upon to defend our country, but it is absurd for any person to say that there is no possibility of another war taking place within the next ten years, or for the Minister to claim that we should be given six months’ notice. An invader is always ready to strike, but a defender has to make preparation to repel an invasion. We should never be given six months’ notice in which to train our men. Although we sent to Gallipoli perhaps the best trained and the best equipped men who ever went into battle, they still had a lot to learn. It is the first duty of any government to make provision for the adequate defence of the country.
– That is what everybody says.
– The honorable member says that he does not believe in any form of training. The only point on which there is a difference of opinion between us is as to the best and most economical system to adopt. I regret that when the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) was replying to a previous debate he spoke as he did respecting the service of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). Colonel White’s service either in peace or war will bear a searching examination. Everyone who knows the honorable member and is acquainted with what he did will regret that, in a spirit of peevishness, the Minister cast reflections upon him.
– The Minister withdrew his remarks and said that he did not mean them.
– Another remark which the Minister made during that debate was that he did not consult his advisers, because they were interested parties, and their jobs depended upon the continuance of compulsory training. Can it be imagined that men like Sir Henry Chauvel, Generals Dodds and Brand would not give honest advice even though their jobs depended on compulsory training? The Minister evidently realized that he was in a difficult position. In the first place, he said that it was a matter of policy. Then, possibly fearing that there would be an uproar in the community, he compromised and said that we would have a voluntary system instead of a compulsory one. I hope that the voluntary system will be successful. I. shall use whatever influence I possess to encourage young men to volunteer. I fear, however, that such a system will not prove profitable to Australia. I do not believe that young men of the right age will devote themselves to training on half a day a week for a remuneration of 4s. a day. If success should not attend the voluntary system, I trust that the Government will be able to provide an adequate substitute for compulsory training.
I support the amendment, because the Government has ignored a law which it was sworn to administer, and has abolished a system of training that Parliament intended we should have. I shall welcome any system that will provide an adequate defence force which would be able, at reasonably short notice, to defend the women and children of this country. Only those who have seen war can appreciate what it really means. I do not think that the Defence Act should limit to this country, service in time of war. We should be placed at a strategical disadvantage if our men had to remain in their own country because of the limitations of a defence act which prohibited us from compelling our young men to fight an enemy in another country in defence of this.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
.- I indignantly repudiate the utterance attributed to me by the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell). His statement showed the depths of depravity to which some persons will descend to injure a political opponent. I waswarned that I would encounter unscrupulousness during my political career, but I did not expect to have personal experience of it so soon. The chief mission of the Opposition appears to be to bait and badger their political opponents in the hope of provoking them to some indiscreet utterance that may be used subsequently to the disadvantage of honorable members on this side. I believe in direct and plain speech; I am not accustomed to dissemble my thoughts, and I speak regardless of whether I provide political ammunition for my opponents or not. I entered this House on the crest of a wave of popular resentment of the legislative and administrative misdeeds of the last Government. My success at the ballot box was’ quite unanticipated. In the meantime, regardless of the consequences to myself, I shall speak as I think and feel. I am entirely unfamiliar with the forms and procedure of this chamber, and if, during the course of my remarks I should unwittingly transgress, I hope that you, Mr. Chairman, will not visit your displeasure on me too severely.
The Leader of the Opposition said earlier in the session that the Labour party had been returned to power as the result of a series of mis-statements which he dubbed untruths. One of those untruths, he said, was that the Bruce-Page Government had designedly embarked on a campaign for the reduction of wages, and he challenged any honorable member to repeat that assertion. Not only did I make the statement, from the public platform during the electoral campaign, but I have the temerity to repeat it now. “Whatever may have been the motives and intentions of the last Government, the fact remains that, if effect had been given to its proposals, a reduction of wages must have resulted. If the Leader of the Opposition does not realize that, he has but a meagre knowledge of industrial affairs and the way in which the proposal for the abolition of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would have operated. I speak not only with a theoretical knowledge of industrial matters, but also from practical experience of the operation of both the Federal and State systems of wage regulation. Nearly every organization under the Federal Arbitration Court awards was, at some period, subject to a wages board determination, and because of dissatisfaction with the limited scope and powers of the boards, chose deliberately to seek from the Federal Arbitration Court improved conditions that were impossible of attainment under the State system. That was so with the organization with which I have been closely associated for the last 22 years.
After six years experience of the operation of the Victorian “Wages Board system, my union sought the protection of the Federal Arbitration Court; its award, governing the conditions of our industry, is limited entirely to the members of my organization employed by respondent employers, and nothing would induce its members deliberately to forsake the court and return to the jurisdiction of a wages board. Amongst our objections to the latter are the system of administration, the pro rata payments, and the almost entire absence of provision for weekly hiring. Many of the conditions’ prescribed in the federal award are impossible of attainment under the wages board system, which lays down no guiding principle for the determination of conditions and rates of pay. The Federal Court, on the other hand, has laid down a definite formula for determining the minimum rates of pay for an adult employee. The Victorian wages board system leaves that entirely to the chairman of the board.
– And in practice that is so with the present Arbitration Court.
– It is not so. Ever since the famous declaration by Mr. Justice Higgins in the Harvester case, the court has followed a definite procedure in fixing the minimum wage in an industry. Under the wages board system, it is possible for adults to be employed at considerably less than an adult should receive, and I quote from official statistics published on the 1st October last, some typical determinations. Persons engaged in “ Shops, miscellaneous boards,” may be employed for a period of 48 hours at the following rates: -
– If those employees were dissatisfied they could go to the .Federal Court for an award.
– In some callings the merest shadow of organization exists, and in a calling federal in character it is impossible without creating -an interstate dispute for the employees to reach the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– If that is so the proposals of the last Government did not affect those employees.
– For males engaged in confectionery, pastrycook, fruit, and vegetable shops, the Wages Board fixed the following rates: - 21 years, 60s.; 22 years, 703.; 23 years, 81s. 6d.; females, 45s. For persons employed exclusively in booksellers’ and newsagents’ shops and engaged in the sale and distribution of newspapers, the rates are : -
Persons engaged in performing other classes of work receive the following wages : -
There are no guiding principles to determine the rates that may be awarded under the wages board system in Victoria.
– Those awards cover thousands of employees.
– If not thousands at least hundreds. I shall probably be met by the Leader of the Opposition with the statement that the State Governments would have amended their industrial laws so as to bring them into consonance with modern ideas about the regulations of employment in industry, but such a suggestion will not bear investigation. How could he forecast what would have been done by the Victorian Parliament? We have a Tory Legislative Council which controls the social and industrial legislation of Victoria. We realize from past experience that it is impossible to get any legislation passed by that body in keeping with progressive ideas. Therefore, we have to accept the facts as we find them, and, in the circumstances, I have no hesitation in repeating the declaration that I made from the public platform, that the proposal of the late Government would have meant a reduction of wages. What is true in regard to Victoria may also be said of South Australia and Tasmania.
– And New South Wales.
– I did not think that New South Wales came within the same category of inferior industrial conditions as the States that I have mentioned.
– It does under the present administration.
– So there is every justification for the fears entertained as to the effect of the proposal of the BrucePage Government. Fortunately, for the people of Australia, that Government was wrecked at the last election, and the Nationalist party was practically annihilated. During the recent campaign, I repeated a story that had been told by Mr. King O’Malley, about a farmer who had purchased a valuable stud bull. The farmer expected to derive considerable profit from the animal, but he experienced much difficulty in keeping it within bounds. The bull used to stray into adjoining paddocks and try conclusions with the bulls belonging to the farmer’s neighbours, and it was usually victorious. Owing to the complaints made to him on this score, the farmer determined to remove the bull to another paddock where he thought it would cease to give trouble; but, unfortunately, he placed the animal in a paddock in the vicinity of a railway line. One day, the bull, in search of fresh conquests, stood in the middle of the railway track, and seeing a train coming, decided to test its strength against the approaching locomotive, with the result that it was killed by the collision. When the farmer found the remains of his valuable animal scattered along the railway track, he remarked, “ Well, I admire your pluck, but damn your judgment.” I can imagine the remnant of the following of Mr. Bruce addressing a similar remark to him at a party meeting at the conclusion of the last election.
Earlier in the proceedings, I had the temerity to interject while the late Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) was addressing this committee on financial subjects He evidently regarded it as a piece of impertinence that a political novice should dare to challenge his conclusions. He reminded me that I was a child in matters of finance.
If I everessay the task of quoting statistics, I hope that I shall never emulate the example of the late Treasurer, who poured forth a torrent of figures in a most incoherent manner, leavhis audience completely bewildered. The only way in which I can describe him is as “ the indecipherable Page.” In the course of his remarks, he made reference to the career of the present Treasurer, and to his record as Treasurer of Queensland. I shall leave to the Treasurer the task of dealing with the strictures of the right honorable member, regarding his control of the finances of Queensland. The value of the work of any administration cannot be judged merely by reference to figures with respect to increased taxation. The true test of the economic and industrial stability of a community is the extent to which its happiness and prosperity have been increased. If additional taxation produces beneficial results, it is justified. One inescapable fact regarding Queensland is that, after fourteen years of Labour rule there, it is still the cheapest State in which to live.
– And the best State from the point of view of hours and conditions of labour.
– It is also true that Queensland has a lower percentage of unemployed thanany other State. Despite its difficulties, owing to a drought period extending, I understand, over the last seven years, during which cattle have died by the thousand and sheep by the million, that State has gone ahead, in the industrial and economic sense, by leaps and bounds, although it recognizes a shorter working week than any other State. By these standards I am prepared to determine the value of Labour rule in Queensland. I quote as my authority Mr. Larcombe, who was Minister for Railways for many years in that State. In one of his pamphlets, he showed that, under Labour rule, Queensland was the only State that had not increased its income tax rates since 1920. He went further, and demonstrated that the Commonwealth Government was levying heavier taxes upon the people of Queensland than were being imposed by the State Government for the purpose of carrying on the public services. If that is true, the burden of taxation that the people of that State have to bear to-day is not due to Labour administration. If I had the pamphlet before me now, I could furnish a record of Labour rule in that State, which is at once the pride and envy of the Labour movement in other parts of the Commonwealth. Queensland’s housing legislation is the most liberal to be found in any country. The social and economic prosperity of the masses of the people is of greater importance than whether the amount of income tax paid by the wealthier section of the community is greater than that imposed in other States. In the past financial year, the only three States that were able to show a surplus of revenue over expenditure were those under Labour rule - Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania. Labour was in office in Victoria in 1927-28, and that was the only period when the growth of public expenditure was arrested, although the Labour Government there was compelled to face additional expenditure to relieve unemployment and to meet the needs of hospitals’ and charitable institutions. It also provided an amount for educational purposes far in excess of that devoted to this object by its predecessors in office. It was able by the exercise of rigid economy in other public departments to reduce expenditure to £25,000 less than the amount expended in the preceding year. Its predecessors in office had a deficit of £616,000, for the immediately preceding financial year, but the Labour Government concluded the year with a deficit of only £165,000. Apparently, it is characteristic of the Nationalist maladministration of the public affairs and finances of this country to pile up deficit after deficit for the Labour party to reduce and liquidate.
– The opposite was the case in Queensland.
– I shall leave the Treasurer to deal with the honorable member. Our opponents have been urging this Government to tread warily and proceed slowly. Such admonitions are entirely unwarranted and unnecessary; but, unfortunately, the Government has shown a disposition to heed them. I trust that it will move a little faster than it has done hitherto. I do not believe that the exigencies of the present situation require that we should keep on the beaten track, and employ only such methods of finance and administration as meet with the approbation of our opponents. If the circumstances warrant and demand the adoption of unorthodox methods we should adopt them. In the past Labour governments have been too ready to stick to the beaten track; but I trust that this Government will explore and exploit the credit of Australia to the fullest possible extent. I hope that it will take its courage in both hands, and use our credit through the Commonwealth Bank to develop our resources in every direction. We may be told that if we depart from the orthodox methods of previous parliaments and governments we shall injure the credit of the country. I disagree with that view. When the Labour Government of 1910-13 introduced the Commonwealth Bank Bill and the note issue a great deal was said about men with hob-nailed boots, who came from mine, field, factory, and workshop, daring to interfere with the delicate intricacies of public finance. Perhaps the feet of the members of the Labour party of that day were heavily shod with hobnailed boots, but at least they had cool heads and clear brains. They discarded the criticizm of their opponents, and proceeded to build a financial structure for this Commonwealth which no Government since has dared to destroy. It was said that the Commonwealth note issue would be useless and worthless. The notes were contemptuously referred to as “ Fisher’s flimsies.” It was said that they would be discounted at 5s. and even 10s. in the £1, and that the tradespeople would refuse to accept them in payment for goods. All the dismal forebodings of our traducers were falsified by the march of events. The Commonwealth Bank has also rendered immensely valuable service to Australia. It kept the interest rates down during the war, and for 5s. per cent, performed services for the performance of which the associated banks wanted 38s. per cent. It saved the Commonwealth hundreds of thousands of pounds in loan flotation. The note issue was raised to within the vicinity of £60,000,000. I believe it has now been deflated to about £44,000,000. Why should we always go cap in hand to the great financiers overseas for money to develop the resources of Australia? We should use the credit of the country to a greater extent that previous governments have used it. I trust that the Government will utilize our credit and our resources to make us independent of the money markets of the old world.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) referred somewhat gloatingly to the fact that by means of the Transport Workers Act peace had been secured in the maritime industry of Australia. The ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) in an election address at Hamilton made a similar claim. It is true that peace has been observed on the waterfront during the past twelve months, but oh God, at what a price ! Apparently the Transport Workers Act was designed to destroy the organizations of the workers. Since the licensing system has been in operation on the waterfront it has been well-nigh impossible for members of the old Waterside Workers Federation to obtain employment in the industry. These unfortunate men have been pursued with a malignance which is almost unbelievable. Peace may have been secured for the time being, but the Labour movement can never be crushed by these methods. The Waterside Workers Federation will be resuscitated. Let me make a prophecy for the benefit of the Leader of the Opposition. What has happened in recent days on the waterfront of Australia had a parallel in the United States of America in the old days of the slave trade. The Americn Congress at one time passed an act known as the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which extended the slave-holding area. At the time of the passing of that act, guns boomed, bells rang, and sirens shrieked in celebration of the victory of the sponsors of that act. As the opponents of the measure walked down the steps of Congress after it was passed, Senator Seward, addressing one of his comrades, said - “ They may celebrate the present victory, but the echoes that will be wakened will never rest until slavery itself shall die.” The Leader of the Opposition may have succeeded in crushing the Waterside Workers Federation for the time being; but he is only driving trade union organization underground. If Le is not careful he will create a force that will eventually bring the whole capitalistic system to utter destruction. What was truly said in relation to the slave traffic in America years ago may be said with equal truth to-day of those who have been temporarily defeated in their fight for economic and social freedom. Are we to be mere pawns in the hands of our opponents to be used for the production of profits and the creation of wealth for them ? There was a time when Labour was inarticulate, but to-day we enjoy the advantages of education, and are able to express our aspirations and ideals. Our oppressors of other days thought that by educating us they could make us more effective instruments of wealth production, but they forgot that simultaneously with increasing our economic efficiency they were enlarging our mental outlook. We came to understand that we were not mere animals. We had a vision of a distant horizon, and we realized that we were intended to enjoy some of the advantages of human progress and civilization. To-day there is being borne in the air a sound as gentle as a zephyr. Soon it will become a murmur, before long that murmur will grow into a roar. It is impossible to stem the tide of human progress. Any attempt to do so must end in failure, and those who are responsible for it will be overtaken by a relentless flood which will bring ruin and desolation to all who try to resist it. I shall allow nobody to curb my aspirations or to prevent me from enjoying the benefits of civilization and progress, and I speak for the class from which I had sprung. I went into the recent election campaign resolved to fight with all my strength for the preservation of the legal means of protection which the workers of Australia had been granted by this Parliament. I believed that the preservation of this means of protection was vital and essential to the well-being of the class to which. I belong. My fight succeeded beyond my wildest dreams and hopes; but if someone else takes my place at a later stage that will not prevent the domination, in the course of time, of the political party to which I belong. Ultimately Labour will rule, not in Australia only, but throughout the length and breadth of the world.
I wish to deal briefly with the subject of compulsory military training. I made it known during the election campaign in unmistakable terms that I was opposed to boy conscription. I said that on the public platform, and my statement wen over the air. I believe that, by an accident. I had the unique distinction of being the only member of the rank and file of political candidates to have his political speech broadcast. Therefore, it is well known what my views and opinions are upon that subject. Like the rest of my party, I am pledged to provide adequate home defence for this country, but I shall use my best endeavours within the party to alter that plank of its platform. I have been the minute secretary of the Melbourne section of the World Disarmament movement. My ideal is the complete disarmament of all the nations of the world, and I am prepared to show my sincerity by advocating the complete disarming of this country. I shall do my best to get. my party to adopt and follow that course with regard to what we call the defence of Australia. What is moving -the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) ? Time and time again he has challenged the members of this side in regard to what they did during the Great War. I presume that that honorable member followed the dictates of his conscience, that he did his duty according to what he thought was right. Likewise I followed the dictates of my conscience. I did not go to the war, and if another war breaks out in the near future I shall still refuse to fight. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has stated that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), in the course of his speech, claimed that wars were brought about by the profitmongers of the nations of the world. To refute that statement the honorable member for Forrest said that certain economists “had made an examination of the causes of the war, and had reached the conclusion that the protectionist policy of the various nations was largely responsible for international wars. If that be true, then the wars in which Australia has engaged were trade wars. Are we to sacrifice the lives of our people upon the altar of war merely for trade purposes? We are not justified in sacrificing a single life in the interests of the commercial and financial magnates of any country. I refuse to be a party to trying to create an atmosphere of militarism in this country or in the minds of our people. I shall do my best from every platform, whenever I get an opportunity, to instil into their hearts and minds a hatred of war in all its forms. The last war I regard with unspeakable horror, as an act of unpardonable human folly. I did not attempt to induce any one to go to the last war, nor will I attempt to induce any one to go to any subsequent war. We arc told that to prevent war we must arm find build up a defence system, so that we iti ay overawe our neighbours and make them afraid to attack us. Europe in 1914’ was an armed camp, and yet all the preparations for war did not prevent the outbreak of the great conflagration. We have been told that this and that country caused the last war. But years after its termination Mr. Lloyd George, a man who had a unique opportunity of acquainting himself fully with the causes which led to that disastrous conflict, declared that none of the nations engaged in the war desired it; that they simply drifted into it. If I wanted evidence of the unfitness of “ military men to determine whether a country should engage in war or remain at peace, I have the finest example in the bellicose attitude of the honorable member for Balaclava, who is constantly challenging other honorable members as to what they did during the great war.
– Had the honorable member read Hansard he would know that that is not so.
– I have read not only Hansard, but also the daily press. I have been closely following the honorable member’s career. I may be a newcomer in this Parliament, but I am not unacquainted with the political questions that have been agitating this country for some time. The views of nearly every public man in this country are known to me.
– Why did the honorable member say last night that Australia would have been better off had we lost the war?
– I have already indignantly repudiated that accusation against me.
– Unfortunately,’ the honorable member made that statement.
– I did not, and I ask, Mr. Chairman, that that accusation be withdrawn.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I ask the honorable member for Balaclava to withdraw his remarks.
– I made reference to what was undoubtedly said in this chamber last night.
– The honorable member must accept the word of the honorable member for Corio.
– In that case I have no option but to accept it.
– I thank the honorable member for Balaclava. Preparation for war has never yet prevented war nor will it do so in the future. This country is armed, and that is a justification for any other country to arm, too. It is only by the accident of birth that the honorable member for Balaclava and myself were not born in some other country. We cannot choose either our parents or the place of our birth.
– It is a pity that the honorable member was no’t born elsewhere.
– That is immaterial to me. If I were a native of another country I should, to the best of my ability, take up the attitude that I am taking now. My sentiments are briefly expressed in the following passage from a pamphlet entitled National Security and International - Peace -
No nation can be got to imagine that the others are just like itself, neither better nor worse. Yet it is probably safe to say that, saint for saint, hero for hero, blackguard for blackguard, barbarian for barbarian, and so on, through ‘ all the intermediate grades, the make-up of all the nations big or little, is the same, in proportion to the population.
Had the honorable member for Balaclava been born in Germany instead of in the British Empire, he would probably be taking up the attitude that the Prussian junkers adopted before the war. His prototypes exist in every country of the world, and they are continually issuing warnings about the possibility of armed conflict. They say that other peoples are going to attack them. Cannot the honorable member conceive that the people of other countries may be disposed to be peaceful just as he is, that they have no desire to kill him, and that their only reason for arming themselves is that they fear that men like him are going to kill them ? If this country, as an evidence of its sincerity and earnestness with regard to the abolition of war, were prepared to set an example by throwing down its” arms, other countries would do likewise. It requires more moral courage to throw oneself upon the justice and goodwill of other people with regard to the maintenance of peace, than to arm oneself to the teeth. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) has said that the guns at Queenscliff Fort are entirely obsolete for defence purposes, and that the armaments of a hostile fleet, standing miles off our coast, far beyond the range of those guns, could blow that fort to smithereens. Our men might just as well be armed with pop-guns so far as our defence is concerned. On the frontiers of America and Canada there is not a single armed soldier or fort, yet peace has been preserved between those nations notwithstanding the absence of arms. Denmark is taking steps to disarm, and I undertake to say that that nation will be freer from invasion when it has disarmed, than armed Belgium was at the beginning of the Great War.
– Would the honorable member be prepared to apply that principle to industrial warfare?
– Yes. I do not believe in the employment of force or violence in connexion with industrial disputes.- I believe in moral and peaceful suasion in all walks of life, and in the maintenance of peaceful human relations.
– The honorable member is consistent.
– In this chamber we have taken away the last semblance of authority from the Speaker, that relic of barbarism called the mace. How are we kept in order ? There are no armed forces in this chamber to prevent us from getting into conflict with each other.
– There is the Sergeantat.Arms
– He does not attempt to kill us. He simply takes a refractory member out of the chamber, who, when he has expiated his offence, is permitted to return. This chamber is ruled by moral and not by physical force. What is true in relation to this chamber should be true in regard to the relations of nations. I am opposed to boy conscription. I am opposed also to militarism, because it is an abnegation of civil liberties. We are taking children of eleven and a half years from the control of their parents, and placing them under the authority of the military caste. That should not be permitted.
– Since when have the military authorities conscripted boys of eleven and a half years?
– Boys of eleven and a half years must, under our defence system, register themselves, and when they are twelve years they must begin training; and since the training begins in the year in which the boys reach twelve years, many of them are under the control of the military caste at eleven and a half years of age.
– That is quite wrong.
– My authority is a book entitled, Conscription under Camouflage, It was written by John Percy Fletcher and John Francis Hills. It contains an account of compulsory military training in Australasia, down to the outbreak of the Great War. These men. made a close study of the matter, and know a great deal about it. Quite irrespective of whether the age is eleven and a half or not, the fact remains that children attending our State schools are subject to military control under a system which compels the teacher to act in place of the parent and impress the children for purposes of military training. When it was found that some of the teachers were refusing to allow themselves to be used for- this purpose, military officers were allowed to act in loco parentis. Boys have been incarcerated in cells because they refused to allow themselves to be enrolled under the” military banner. They have been subjected to solitary confinement, and there have been thousands of prosecutions. The whole system was becoming a farce, and was rapidly breaking down. So great was the number of defaulters that the Defence Department refused to issue particulars of prosecutions. I am not prepared to allow a military caste to dominate this country, and crush the civil liberties of the Australian people. Our Australian conscripts, like those of every other nation, are not allowed to ventilate their grievances in public, or to write to the press. I know of one case in which a lad wrote to the press a story about a boxing bout between two boys in camp. Because of that he was hauled over the coals by the military authorities, and reprimanded.
– Who introduced compulsory military training?
– I do not care who brought it in - it was a mistake. I supported it once. Under the leadership of the right honorable member for Worth Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and moved by his eloquence, I was at one time an ardent supporter of compulsory military training. I once attended a meeting on the Yarra Bank addressed by Harry Holland, now the leader of the Labour party in New Zealand. I listened to his analysis of our military system, and I defended that system against him. I found afterwards, however, that he knew a great deal more about its abuses than I did. Eventually he had to leave this country, because he refused to allow his son to come under the domination of the military caste. No country has ever yet prevented, nor ever will prevent, a war taking place by building up what are called defence forces. Every nation says that it is arming only for defence, and yet the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) tells us that he does not want to defend Australia on its own territory. He does not want a “scrap” in this country; but wishes to send our citizens overseas to fight. He twitted the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) for his statement that it would take six months to - land an effective army of invasion in Australia, and that in the meantime it would be possible to train forces to resist it. I hope, with the help of this Parliament and the people of this country, to prevent the sending of our citizens to fight outside Australia. With the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) I hope that we shall spend sufficient money in peace propaganda to make impossible a recurrence of a bloody and brutal war such as that which recently devastated mankind. Can honorable members conceive the cost of the last war to the nations which participated in it ? An American has compiled a pamphlet -in which he has attempted to set out some of the things that could have been done in the way of social service with the money which the last war cost. He says -
I could build a school in every hamlet of ten persons, a church on every hilltop, a hospital for every 10,000 inhabitants, a university for every town of 100,000 inhabitants, a home costing not less than £1,000 for every adult male in all the belligerent countries, and we could provide a motor car costing not less than £500 for every family. With the residue of the money invested .at 5 per cent., I could endow all the institutions to make them independent of government aid or public subscription.
That was the cost of the last war, and what did we get out of it? - the dead, the sorrowing, the maimed and the afflicted, and, in addition, a legacy pf debt. What is hampering this country to-day, and arresting our economic development, is the interest burden imposed on us in consequence of the last war.
– Who committed Australia to the war - to the last man and the last shilling?
– Mr. Fisher must answer for his own sins. I refuse to accept the responsibility. From the day when war was declared I opposed it. I opposed war then, and I oppose it still. As a result of the march of events I am convinced that I was right. If all the citizens of every belligerent nation had taken up the same attitude we should have saved the world a hell of misery.
– Does the honorable member think that it is not necessary to make any preparation for the defence of this country?
– I do not think military forces are necessary. We can rely upon moral force. This House is ruled by moral force, and not by violence. Does the honorable member think that he is the only peaceably disposed person in the community? Does he wish to go and kill anybody else? If he is not disposed to march across the frontier and take the lives of his fellow men, why should he not think that they are disposed to leave him in peace?
I shall say this for the honorable member, that he made the most temperate speech on this subject which I have heard, with the exception of .that delivered by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch). It was entirely at variance with those of some other honorable members who have had military experience, and who have tried to bait honorable members on this side for the convictions they expressed. The preparations which such honorable members are so fond of advocating did not prevent the last war, and will hot prevent another. Since the nations, according to Mr. Lloyd George, drifted into the war without any desire of their
Own, I am not prepared to entrust to such palsied hands the fate of thousands, since they might again easily allow the country to drift into another bloody holocaust. I believe all the nations should disarm. A sentiment for peace is growing throughout the world, and I shall do my best to cultivate it. Possibly I am not the most peaceful exponent of the doctrine of peace. I admit that I am irascible, and apt to become heated, but I am earnest and sincere. I have people near and dear to me, and I should not like to see them witness another such war or be involved in one. I believe the risk of another war is far greater when the nations are armed. If we examine the history of the human race in regard to past wars, we shall find that kings have sent men to their doom for a smile from their mistresses. Nations have been plunged into war for the satisfaction of private ambitions or personal quarrels. Is there anything to be proud of in the record of the last war ? It was indignantly repudiated that it was a trade war, but everything indicates that it was that and nothing else. That there was some moral justification for Britain’s entry into the war in defence of a treaty of peace cannot be denied, but it should be remembered that France and Russia would not have embarked on hostilities but for the admitted fact that Britain had, in consultation with those countries, planned military strategy, and decided upon the position which they should occupy in the event of an outbreak of war between France and Germany. Are we to entrust to persons such as were responsible for that arrangement, the destiny of nations, and the peace of the world? I hope that neither prince nor cabinet, apart from the people themselves, will be trusted with the responsibility of declaring war. If the people are unarmed, we shall be far more secure than if they are armed to the teeth. Challenge breeds challenge, and so the nations go on piling up armaments upon armaments. More will be achieved in the direction of peace by disarming than by continuing our military preparations. At one time it was considered that the honour of the individual could be satisfied only by fighting a duel. That practice has long since passed away, except in a few isolated places in Europe. At one time duels were fought between the representatives of opposing political parties in the Parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland. Are those countries any worse off because duelling has been suppressed, as it hai been in most countries of the world? What we have done in this direction in civil life, I believe we can do in the sphere of international relations.
Since I have been a member of this House, I have listened to only one speech from the other side of the House with pleasure, edification and profit. That was the speech delivered by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), who gave the House a temperate, reasoned and unimpassioned address. I am pleased to pay this tribute to him, and I shall always be prepared, whenever he makes a speech, to listen to him with attention and appreciation. To most of the speeches which I have heard from the Opposition side of the House, I can apply the epitomised description, once recorded of an impassioned speech delivered in the House” of Commons -
What has been said that is true is not new, and what has been that is new is not true.
.- The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) has made a somewhat eloquent and forcible speech, but he is very sadly astray in regard to many of his facts. I am inclined to think that honorable members who sit opposite will have difficulty in explaining away some of his remarks, and probably, when he sees them in cold print, he will regret having made them. He was particularly unfortunate with his allegation that the workers of Australia are oppressed. He ought to know that about 95 per cent. of the adults in the Commonwealth are workers. It is absurd to say that they could be oppressed by the remaining 5 per cent. I was also interested in his reference to the State of Queensland, and am glad to know that he holds such a high opinion of its possibilities. Apparently, however, he has confined his reading to works by Labour on the Nationalist Government. I suggest that he read the views of the Nationalists on the Labour Government. I further remind him that, within the last few months, there has been an election in Queensland, and the people of that State were so little impressed with Labour administration, that they returned another government, with a very large majority.
I congratulate the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), upon having been Leader of the Labour party when the people of Australia decided that there should be a change of government. During the time that the honorable member was Leader of the Opposition, he earned the respect and esteem of his opponents, who always admired his conscientiousness and sincerity. I trust that, while he is Prime Minister, he will be blessed with health that will enable him to carry out the important duties of that high and honorable office.
I cannot conceive how the Government can be gratified at the result of the recent general election, as some of its supporters would lead us to believe is the case. It is true that the Prime Minister has an overwhelming majority behind him; but the Government must feel keenly the humiliation ofbeing in a minority in the Parliament as a whole. It is some consolation to members of the Opposition that, while the Labour party has the responsibility of government, it will be helpless to interfere to any serious extent with the constructive programme that has been carried out during the last six years.
– The people of Australia did not think it was constructive.
– They were grievously misled by Labour propaganda, which did not contain a great amount of truth.
– Cannot a similar remark be made about Queensland?
– The honorable member is well acquainted with Queensland. I challenge him to compare the propaganda of the two parties in the recent elections.
I wish to relate one or two of the accomplishments of the late Government. The public debts of Australia were consolidated, permanent sinking funds were established, and the centralized management of government borrowing was instituted. These changes strengthened the confidence of our creditors, both at home and abroad. There has been a greater measure of co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth, with a consequent avoidance of duplication in the public services. The other day, I asked the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) whether it would be possible to extend the existing measure of cooperation in connexion with our electoral rolls; and I hope that during the recess he will do whatever he can to bring into line those States which are now responsible for duplication.
During the regime of the late Government there was a. fuller realization of our dependence upon our primary and secondary industries. Our resources have been developed and ourproducts marketed on an orderly basis. Science has been applied to the problems of our industries, which have been organized along the lines of co-operative effort: On this foundation the late Government hoped to build so that Australia might make the progress that her wonderful resources warrant. A necessary preliminary to that desirable condition, however, is the existence of friendly relations between the two partners in industry, and it was in an honest and sincere attempt to bring that about that the Government was defeated. But the necessity for the display of a better spirit and a greater measure of co-operation between employer and employee still exists; it has not been altered by the defeat of the last Government. The present Government will need to direct its efforts towards securing an improvement in that direction. After a great deal of misrepresentation, the electors were persuaded to vote heavily against the late Government, because it advanced proposals for the removal of dual control in industrial regulation. Honorable members opposite are mistaken if they imagine that the policy of socialism received an endorsement. The Government was given an exceedingly limited mandate. The late Government was challenged to appeal to the electors on a single issue; and that fact was emphasized by practically every candidate in his speeches to the electors. Even the Leader of the Labour Party, the present Prime Minister, admitted it. His policy speech contains the following paragraph -
The issue upon which Parliament was dissolved was whether the people should be consulted before federal arbitration was destroyed. Parliament insisted that this great wrong should not be done behind the back of the people, and the main question to be determined on 12th October, was whether the people believed in the maintenance of federal arbitration or not, whether they believed with the Government that the National Parliament should shirk its responsibility for the legal regulation of industrial conditions to enable industrial disputes to be determined by tribunals rather than by . direct action.
The late Government might have continued in office for a further two years if it had decided that the challenge which was issued on the floor of this chamber was of so little importance that it oughtto be ignored, because twelve months previously it had been returned with a very large majority. Some supporters of both the National party and the Country party outside of this Parliament consider that a mistake was made in going to the country; but the action then taken illustrated the high-mindedness of the late Prime Minister and his desire to do the right thing regardless of party advantage.
– Was the honorable member consulted?
– At meetings of the Nationalist party its members are always taken into the confidence of their leader.
The verdict of the electors was a complete contradiction of their previous attitude. It will be remembered that on no fewer than four occasions, previously, they were appealed to by way of referendum - by the Fisher Labour Government on two occasions, by the Hughes National Government, and in 1926 by the BrucePage Government - and on each occasion they declined to extend the industrial powers of the Commonwealth; yet, when the late Government attempted to rectify the position in a way that it considered would meet the wishes of the people, by handing over to the States full power to regulate industry, the people again registered their disapprobation. But this is not the time to invent excuses nor to “express regrets. We who now sit on this side desire to assist the Government in every way to build up a better Australia and to improve the economic position.
The Government is expected to make an attempt to unravel the tangle that our industrial legislation is in at the present time; and I am pleased that the Prime Minister recently announced his intention to convene a peace conference of employers and employees. I sincerely hope that the Government has not gone cold on that proposal on account of the fact that objections to it have been raised in one or two quarters. I notice in the Sydney Morning Herald of a recent date that a meeting of the Sydney branch of the Carpenters Union expressed uncompromising hostility to the proposed conference. The report states -
A recent meeting of the Sydney branch of the Carpenters Union expressed uncompromising hostility to the proposed industrial peace conference convened by the Prime Minister, Mr. Scullin. The decision of the Federal Government was described as an act of treachery against the working class. It was condemned on the ground that the suggested conference would assist the employing class in smashing the militancy of the organized workers.
For the reason that objections are being raised the Government should not refrain from proceeding with the conference. It will be remembered that the late Prime Minister calle’d a similar conference. I believe that some good would have been accomplished on that occasion but for the fact that the Australian Workers Union decided not to participate in it. This Government is in a position to make the proposed conference a success.
– The late Government should have had the conference before it passed its industrial legislation.
– The late Prime Minister provided means for holding the conference. He was prepared to stand down and allow the employers and the workers to discuss these matters privately.
On no fewer than four occasions the late Government endeavoured to bring about peace in industry.
Having regard to the expensive Commonwealth and State systems of industrial arbitration, the continuance of the coal strike for nine months is most distressing. I realize the delicate situation in the industry to-day, but I hope that the Government will stand up to its responsibilities and do what it can to encourage industrial peace. If it will carry out its promise to promote friendly relations between employer and employee, and thus enable us to proceed on sound lines with the development of our industries, great benefit will be conferred on the people of Australia. Unfortunately, the extremists of the Labour party welcome the confusion and distrust that are caused by industrial turmoil. They seem to delight in fanning the fires of class hatred, and make no secret of their desire to promote disruption. In dealing with these fomenters of strife the political leaders of labour do not show that courage which is necessary. The majority of honorable members supporting the Government are moderate men, but they appear to fear the extremists.
– Are not extremists to be found on the other side?
– There are extremists on both sides, the conservatives on one side, and the communists on the other. But there is no need for any political party to pander to either section, for thu great majority of the people are moderates. The duty of every political party is to do what is in the interests of the majority. By some agitators every hold-up of industry is regarded as a step towards nationalization. The honorable member for Corio- (Mr. Lewis) is optimistic regarding what the Labour party may accomplish by such a policy, which, however, has been discredited in every State of the Commonwealth. He expressed pride in what has been accomplished in that direction by the Labour party in Queensland, but the AuditorGeneral’s reports show that the State enterprises have been dismal failures. I hope that the present Government will profit by the bitter experiences of the past.
– Quote one report in which the Auditor-General condemns State enterprises.
– I refer the honorable member to any report made by the Auditor-General within the last ten years. Private enterprise is not all that it should be, but until we can find a better economic system we should endeavour to improve that which we have, rather than experiment with the communistic doctrines that are in operation in Soviet Russia. The present Government has an opportunity to bring about peace in industry, and I commend to the notice of the Prime Minister the statement of his predecessor after his defeat at the last election. Mr. Bruce said in his personal message to the people of Australia -
The prosperity and happiness of the people are of paramount concern. Only by bringing about better relations in industry, and simplifying the method of its control and regulation can increased output and cheaper production, concurrently with the maintenance of wages and the standard of living, be obtained, and only thus can prosperity in industry and permanent relief from the distress and suffering caused by unemployment be ensured.
Those are wise words which are free from any political motive, and the present Government might, with advantage, pay heed to them. We all recognize that trade unions serve a useful purpose, and we are proud of the fact that so many of our workers are organized for the betterment of their conditions. They are justified in trying to get higher wages and improved conditions, and so raise the standard of living. But under the present economic system capital also has responsibilities, and profits are necessary in order that wages may be paid, plants improved, and production increased. There is no reason why capital and labour should not work harmoniously together to their mutual advantage.
During the last election campaign we were told on every hand that the proposals of the last Government were designed to reduce wages. Nothing could have been further from the truth, and honorable members of the ministerial party do not seriously believe that that was intended. They have a sufficient knowledge of economics to understand the difference between a nominal wage and an effective wage. Mr. Bruce frequently spoke about the high cost of production, but it is untrue that he suggested a reduction of wages. Greater co-operation between employers and workers is necessary so that production may be increased. Then wages will increase and the standard of living will improve. A new spirit of goodwill in industry is very necessary, and honorable members opposite, instead of making political capital of this debate, would be better engaged in advocating co-operation and harmonious relations between capital and labour. Mr. Bruce will be best remembered for his efforts to create a better feeling in industry. He spoke often on the subject and the sending of an industrial commission to America and the convening of an industrial peace conference were directed to the one end of increasing and cheapening production, while protecting and advancing the standard of living. The present Government has an admirable opportunity to continue that work. Ministers enjoy the confidence of unionists, and if the Prime Minister and his colleagues are sincere in their proposals for a peace conference, they can bring it to fruition by using their influence with the various unions.
I admit that the Government has a gigantic task. The economic position is unsatisfactory, and the finances require careful handling. I suggest that all the brains are not to be found in Parliament. Some of the new members have already given a good account of themselves, and we may expect wise counsel from them from time to time. But the Treasurer should not hesitate to call to his aid commercial men of large experience, and to act on their advice. During the election campaign the Prime Minister talked much of economy, whilst at the same time making many promises which would enormously increase Commonwealth expenditure. This is not the time to try out doubtful experiments. The honorable gentleman said that his Government would not introduce revolutionary changes, and if he will stand by that promise, honorable members of the Opposition will be ready to help him in every way possible. The present economic and financial condition of Australia demands that party considerations shall be subordinated to the imperative need for the co-operation of all parties in order to bring about an improvement.
If there is one political principle in regard to which the people are unanimous it is the maintenance of a White Australia. But we must realize that that policy is regarded by other nations as provocative. Those living in over-populated countries view with resentment the reservation of this continent for the exclusive use of a comparative handful of people, and this is certainly not a time for the weakening of the national defences. The first administrative act of the Government was the suspension of compulsory military training; and the only excuse offered for that step was the need for economy. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) have shown convincingly that there is no likelihood of saving money by the adoption of the voluntary System, and we are justified in assuming that the Government abandoned compulsory training as a concession to the extremists in the Labour movement. I am informed that the Minister for Defence proposes to attract possible recruits by new and attractive uniforms. Surely there is no economy in issuing new and more expensive uniforms while probably 50,000 of the present pattern are in the departmental stores. If Ministers were candid they would admit that they have taken this course merely because it is one of the planks of the Labour party’s platform. I do not think that the people believed at the last election that this action would be taken without reference to Parliament. The wise course would have been to do nothing until a suitable scheme had been drawn up to replace the present system. Since the defence system is- to be seriously interfered with, we realize that the need for economy is not the only aspect from which it has been considered.
In my opinion the Government has also blundered in asking the British Government to suspend the assisted passages clause of the £34,000,000 migration agreement, without first consulting the States.
– The honorable member has been speaking of economy.
– Yes ; but I am also considering the need to fill the empty spaces of Australia. Surely the parties to this agreement should have been consulted. The Government has interfered with the rights of the States.
– Is it a sound policy to bring migrants to this country while we have so many unemployed here ?
– No”; but I point out that the nomination of migrants falls within the province of the State Governments, which are fully responsible for the care of the migrants on their arrival. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has pointed out that this scheme is of great benefit to the States, because it enables them to carry out works that provide employment and, at the same time, develop Australia’s resources. I recently asked the Prime Minister for particulars of the sums to be expended in the various States, and the nature of the work to be done, in terms of the migration agreement. The reply that I received showed that the expenditure approved amounted to £2,082,437 in Western Australia, £1,369,000 in Victoria, £938,250’ in South Australia, £30.000 in Queensland, and £1,521,600 in New South Wales, or a total of £5,941,287. This money is to be used for land settlement, railway construction, water conservation, irrigation and other public works. It was .gross discourtesy on the part of the Commonwealth Government to take any action in the direction of suspending that agreement without consulting the States which have already been told by the Prime Minister that they are responsible for the provision of work for the unemployed. The proper course to pursue was to call a conference with the States and ask for their advice. The decision of this Government does not prevent the States from continuing their migration policy. I realize that Australia should ease down on migration until the economic position improves; but the Commonwealth Government might reasonably have devoted its energies to improving the industrial relations of the people, thereby bringing about a revival of trade that would provide for a progressive increase in population. If development is to proceed, we must open further avenues of employment; but we can only do this by inducing capitalists to invest their money here, and thus increase production. This means that the high cost of production must be reduced. Under the present circumstances, investments are discouraged. We had an illustration recently of the fact that the manufacturers in Australia are being forced to leave the country. The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) tabled to-day a second tariff schedule, which imposes increased duties on imports. He said that the object of the increased duties was to provide employment for the workless in Australia. If they would do that we should all commend his action, and probably say that the end justifies the means. But it must be realized that, owing to the high cost of production, less than 5 per cent, of Australia’s manufactures is exported. We read quite recently in the press that the firm of H. V. McKay Limited, of the Sunshine implement works, had been compelled to establish a factory in Canada in order to recover its lost export trade.
– Have not other firms in Australia been forced to take similar action ?
– That may be so ; but it is a sad commentary on manufacturing in Australia, that our factories should be compelled to transfer a portion of their activities to other countries.
– Is it not perfectly natural that H. V. McKay Limited should establish a branch in Canada in order to obtain Canadian trade?
– The Acting Minister looks innocent, but he cannot expect honorable members on this side to accept that suggestion.
– I had an interview with Mr. McKay, and I know that what the honorable member is saying is absurd.
– The following paragraph appeared in the press regarding this matter: -
Arrangements have been completed by Messrs. H. V. McKay Proprietary Limited, agricultural implement makers, of Sunshine, Victoria, for the establishment of a manufacturing business in Canada, with a view to regaining the valuable trade which the company once did with the Argentine. This is one of the few Australian manufacturing enterprises which has been able to develop, in the face of severe competition, an export business. That trade, mainly with the Argentine, was lost during the war, and the high labour costs ruling in Australia, combined with restrictive industrial legislation and strikes, have since effectively operated to prevent the company from recovering the strong position it once held in that market. Hence the decision to manufacture where such conditions do not prevail. It is understood that the Canadian plant will provide employment for 1,500 men.
That statement more than anything else, should bring home to the Government the necessity to face the position squarely, and consider effective rather than nominal wages. It is possible that, when this company has established its branch in Canada, it may decide to transfer the whole of its operations to that country. That would be a calamity, and I hope that the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs will look into the matter. If he has the information that he suggests is in his possession, I am sure that the committee would welcome it.
– There is no danger of McKay’s leaving Australia.
– Probably they will maintain their works in Victoria; but it would be much better if they carried on the whole of their operations in Australia. I make bold to say that we need an Australian-wide reduction in the cost of production that would bring about a complete transformation of the industrial and financial position. It would mean the absorption of employment in useful directions, and it would enable us to maintain a progressive increase in our population. The policy of the Bruce-Page Government was being developed along those lines, when it was proposed to remove the dual control of industry.
It is intended by the present Government to increase taxation. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), have dealt exhaustively with this subject. It seems to me to be a matter for deep regret that industry is to be further penalized, because the Government at the last election permitted itself to oppose the proposed tax on luxuries and amusements. When the people have had time to consider fully the effect of this decision, they will realize that they have blundered badly in voting the Labour party into office, because it has shown utter disregard for the problem of the high cost of living. The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) has said repeatedly that the producer pays and the worker suffers. Naturally, industries must pass on increased taxes by raising the prices of their products. While it may be regarded by honorable members opposite as a fine stroke of policy to place heavy burdens on industry, these must necessarily be borne by the consumers. I know that it is necessary for the Government to balance the ledger; but I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it would have been much better if the Treasurer had utilized for this purpose the £1,200,000 received from expropriated German properties. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) is proceeding to Great Britain, and he hopes to induce its people to buy more Australian products than they have purchased in the past. When the Minister arrives in Great Britain he will probably be told that his Government can have very little faith in Australia, because it has abolished compulsory military training and suspended assisted migration. He will also be asked to explain why tariff schedules have been introduced which must have the effect of keeping British manufactures out of Australia. I hope that, during the recess, the members of the Government will get over the feeling of novelty they must be experiencing at being responsible for the administration of the affairs of the country, and that they will introduce proposals which will be really effective for the development of Australia.
– I participate in- this debate with mixed feelings. From the point of view of my constituency, this budget is “ the worst ever.” There is not a glimmer of hope in it for North or Central Australia. The Government, apparently, has no intention whatever of grappling in the near future with the tremendous problems which my constituents are facing. I realize that the finances of the country are in a chaotic condition. I realize, also, that there is a good deal of unemployment in the States. But this is the responsibility of the States more than of the Commonwealth, whereas the obligation to do something for North and Central Australia rests entirely upon this Government.
It is 69 years since the indomitable Stuart first blazed the track across Central . Australia. Several attempts had been made previously . to lift the veil of mystery which shrouded the interior of this extraordinary continent; but it was left for Stuart to cross Australia from south to north. Ever since that time efforts have been made to get successive governments to put into operation an effective developmental policy for this huge area. But I am becoming convinced that we have lost the true colonizing spirit. Year after year duties have been imposed to protect this industry and that, and bounties paid to establish numerous manufacturing concerns in the southern States; but the interests of North and Central Australia have been totally neglected.
The first effort of Great Britain at colonization was a dismal failure. It will be remembered that the Mother Country established a number of settlers in the vast continent of America, and called the settlement Virginia. These pioneers were set up on farms, and then left to their own devices. The Government of the day neglected to provide them with means of transport and other necessary conveniences. The result was that, in many cases, the settlers perished, and in almost every other case failed to make a success of their holdings. On the other hand, the Spaniards colonized the island of Hispaniola with remarkable success. Unlike Great Britain, they provided their colonists with means of transport and other essentials to development. The world at that time watched with interest the success of Spain and the failure of Great Britain. The Spaniards were not better colonists than the British, but their Government had sense enough to afford them the necessary facilities for developing the new land in which they had settled. Hitherto the people settled in North and Central Australia have not been able to make much progress, because they have been denied means of transport and other necessary assistance.
I know that a good deal of distress and misery exists in the southern States because of the prevalent unemployment; but these people are to some extent under the eyes of the politicians, and something has been done to relieve them. But the unfortunate pioneers whom I represent are far removed from the centres of population, and so. have been totally neglected. I had hoped that this Government would do something for them, but my hopes have been dashed to the ground. The Government appears to be ignorant of the fact that it is its particular responsibility to look after the well-being of these people. Even at this late hour I appeal to the Ministry to take a broad national view of the situation. I sincerely hope that the Government will avoid the mistake of other administrations, which, time after time, began public works in North and Central Australia and discontinued them because of financial difficulties. In some cases these undertakings have cost more than £30,000 above what they should have cost, because of the interruptions that occurred in the operations. One result of this intermittent works policy is that this huge territory has been burdened very heavily with interest charges which it should not have been called upon to bear.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) said the other day that the best defence Australia could have was the settlement of her empty spaces. I regret that he has not been able to impress this view upon the Government. I was amazed a few days ago to hear an announcement on behalf of the Government that unemployed persons in North and Central Australia would be brought down to the southern States at the expense of “ the Government, and placed upon the already overcrowded unemployed market here. It is deplorable that the Government should adopt such a policy. I say frankly and fearlessly that if this is the best the Government can do for the territory that I represent the sooner it hands it back to the Crown the better. The settlers there would be able to do better for themselves than this Government or the immediately preceding Governments have been able to do for them. The Director of Agriculture of North Australia recently discussed with the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) the agricultural problems of that territory. He was able to show clearly that the return per acre from the farms in North Australia was considerable and encouraging, but it is of little use for the people to produce commodities which cannot be transported to market. It should be the first duty of this Government to provide proper transport facilities for theseunfortunate and neglected settlers.
Let me contrast the lot of the residents in North and Central Australia with that of the people of the Federal Capital Territory. I know very well that there is a good deal of poverty and misery here, but those concerned are under the eye of the Ministry, and in response to their constant appeals have been granted some relief. We have been informed that a works policy is to be put into operation to relieve their distress. But the people in the far north and in the “ dead heart “ of Australia are unable to make personal representations to the Government and are not seen by the politicians; consequently, not a penny has been provided on the Estimates to relieve their distress. I sincerely trust that before Christmas the Government will announce that these unfortunate citizens will be treated with at least as much consideration as those of the Federal Capital Territory.
Bill, by leave, brought up by Mr. Brennan and read a first time.
– by leave-I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The necessity for this measure arises out of a recent judgment of the High Court in the case of Le Mesurier versus the West Australian Trustee Executor and Agency Company Ltd., the executor of Connor. In this case the appellant had been served with a notice purporting to have been issued out of the Court of Bankruptcy, district of Western Australia. That State has been declared a bankruptcy district by proclamation under section 12 of the Bankruptcy Act 1924-28 and under section 18 of that act the Supreme Court of Western Australia was authorized to exercise jurisdiction in bankruptcy. Objection was taken that the notice was issued by a person who assumed to be
Registrar in Bankruptcy and had been appointed as under an arrangement made under section 78 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, to execute the duties of Registrar in Bankruptcy in the district of Western Australia. It was contended that the person issuing the notice did not hold the office of Registrar in Bankruptcy created by section 12 of the act, and that the Bankruptcy Act purports to make the Registrar in Bankruptcy part of the organization of the court having jurisdiction in bankruptcy, although it was a State court. The High Court held that the action taken under section 18 of the Bankruptcy Act to authorize a State court to exercise jurisdiction in bankruptcy, did not amount to an investment of the State court with federal jurisdiction withinthe meaning of section 77 (iii) of the Constitution and that the section does not enable the Parliament to make a Commonwealth officer a functionary of a State court and authorize him to act on its behalf and administer part of its jurisdiction. The High Court accordingly held that sections 12 (5), 23 and 24 of the Bankruptcy Act are nugatory in relation to the courts of the States and the person appointed to execute the office of Registrar in the district of Western Australia had no authority to issue the bankruptcy notice. The decision of the court has a far-reaching effect upon the operation of the Bankruptcy Act throughout the Commonwealth, in view of the fact that what has been regarded as the effectual vesting of State courts with federal jurisdiction has been declared to be of no effect. This measure is designed to remedy defects in the Bankruptcy Act which have been disclosed by the judgment to which I have referred. It is of the highest importance that the measure should be passed into law without delay, inasmuch as the Commonwealth act is now, by reason of the recent judgment of the High Court, ineffectual in certain essential particulars. I propose to introduce in clause 7 of the bill a slight amendment which I shall explain when we reach the committee stage.
– I agree that this bill is not only a desirable, but also a necessary measure. The decision in the case to which the AttorneyGeneral has referred wasgiven yesterday.
It was a case in which I, as ‘ AttorneyGeneral, authorized the intervention of the Commonwealth for the purpose of presenting certain considerations to the court in respect of the act as originally drafted by my predecessor, as Attorney-General, in 1924. The decision of the court was by a majority of three judges to two, and this Parliament must necessarily regard itself as bound by that decision. The majority determined two points. Section 77 (iri) of the Constitution provides that this Parliament may make laws investing any court of the State with federal jurisdiction. The Bankruptcy Act 1924, section 18, purported to do that, by providing that the Courts having jurisdiction in bankruptcy, shall be (a) such Federal Courts, if any, as the Parliament creates to be Courts of Bankruptcy, and (fe) such State Court or Courts of a territory as are specially authorized by the GovernorGeneral by proclamation to exercise that jurisdiction. No federal courts have been created, and, instead, this Parliament agreed to the authorizing of State courts to act as courts of bankruptcy. Accordingly, certain courts in the several States have been authorized by the GovernorGeneral by proclamation to act as courts of bankruptcy. In the case of Le Mesurier, the majority of the High Court held that the courts to be vested with federal jurisdiction should be specifically identified in the Bankruptcy Act. That has never been the view upon which this Parliament has acted. Under the Judiciary Act of 1903, section 39, all State courts are vested with federal jurisdiction in certain matters, without any identification of the courts, and it has always been considered that that section is perfectly valid. Indeed, it is under that section that the courts of the States have been operating ever since the act was passed. In at least in relation to bankruptcy, the courts must be identified in the act, and should not be left to be identified by proclamation by the Governor-General. Accordingly, clause 4 of the bill expressly provides that certain named State courts shall be vested with federal jurisdiction in bankruptcy. These courts are, in fact, the courts which have been exercising jurisdiction under a proclamation by the Governor-General. The effect of that clause is, therefore, simply to make the 1 act effective in accordance with the intention of Parliament.
The other provision of the bill is that to which the Attorney-General devoted most attention. It deals with the position of the registrars heretofore appointed, and makes their powers relate back to the commencement of the operation of the act. The high Court has held that it is beyond the power of this Parliament to provide that a Commonwealth official shall be attached to a State court vested with federal jurisdiction, as a functionary of that court. There, again, there is a division of opinion in the High Court, but this Parliament must accept the decision of the majority. There is, as the AttorneyGeneral has said, a small amendment which, I think, it is desirable to introduce into clause 7 of the bill, so as to make the position certain. The only object of the bill is to give immediate effect to the clear intention of Parliament. This bill is founded upon a draft which I, when Attorney-General, had partly prepared in anticipation of this possibility, and I have no objection to offer to its immediate passage into law.
– Does not the honorable member think that it would be wise to include the Supreme Courts of South Australia and Victoria, in addition to the Courts of Insolvency?
– The Court of Insolvency in Victoria is acting as the Court of Bankruptcy by arrangement with the Government of that State. I endeavoured when Attorney-General, to arrange for that jurisdiction to be vested in the Supreme Court. I have had a long experience as a practitioner in Victoria, and I consider that it would bc desirable to have the bankruptcy jurisdiction vested in the Supreme Court. It would be much more convenient to all who are concerned in bankruptcy work to have these matters dealt with by the Supreme Court, which is always sitting, rather than experience the difficulty of making appointments with the judges of County courts. The honorable member knows of the inconvenience arising out of the present system. However, that question should, when possible, be settled by arrangement with the State Government. Exactly the same considerations apply in the case of South Australia, except that in that State a special history is attached to this matter. There, by an arrangement with the Commonwealth Government, the Commissioner in Bankruptcy was specially instituted as a judge of the Court of Insolvency in the State of South Australia to enable him to act as federal judge in bankruptcy. If, in this bill, it were provided that other courts than those now acting were to act in bankruptcy, confusion would inevitably ensue. I suggest that it is wise to leave that question to subsequent negotiations between the Attorney-General of the day and the State Governments concerned. I think that the Attorney-General himself will agree with what I have said on this subject.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
– Before this bill is passed I should like to know what it purports to do, and what effect it will have. Does it protect the bankrupt, the creditor, or whom?
– It protects everyone concerned.
– It is merely intended to carry out the original intention of Parliament by repairing the altered complexion of the act arising out of the decision of the High Court yesterday.
– No one’s rights are being prejudiced in any way.
Clause 7 -
Any order made or act done by a Registrar before the commencement of this act in pursuance of a power purporting to be delegated to him by the court under section twenty-three of the Principal Act or in pursuance of a power, duty or jurisdiction purporting to be had by him under section twenty-four of the Principal Act shall be as valid and effectual to all intents and purposes and may be enforced as if it had been made or done in pursuance of an authority or direction given to him under the Principal Act, as amended by thisact.
– I move-
That after the word “ Registrar “ the following words be inserted: “in Bankruptcy or by any person purporting in pursuance of any authority or appointment, to act as such Registrar.”
I think it is due to the Leader of the Opposition to say that I am moving this amendment on his suggestion to ensure greater certainty.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Brennan) agreed to-
That the following words be added - “ and any appointment of a person as Registrar in Bankruptcy made, or purporting to have been made under the Principal Act, shall be, and be deemed to have been as valid and effectual as if it had been made under that act as amended by this act.”
Clause as amended agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following papers were presented -
Audit Act - Special Report of the AuditorGeneral concerning the Internal Check of the Customs Department.
Customs Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1929, No. 127.
In Committee of Ways and Means: (Consideration resumed from page 1092).
– I wish to preface my remarks on the budget by congratulating the Prime Minister upon his elevation to the office he holds. I regret some of the circumstances attending his elevation to that position, but I shall deal with them later. The honorable gentleman has always had the goodwill of honorable members on both sides of the House, and I hope that while he occupies his present position he will continue to merit that goodwill. I promise my assistance towards the passage of any legislation designed to help Australia and her people. The office he has undertaken involves responsibilities, and I hope that he will discharge them faithfully. Unfortunately, a bad start has been made, a start which even the last speaker, a member of the honorable gentleman’s own party, felt called upon to criticize. Not upon the last speaker only, of the honorable gentleman’s supporters, has fallen the painful duty of criticizing his leader. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), and the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), have also criticized the Government. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) said that there was nothing in the budget to help the division he represents. With that I agree. There is nothing in the Government’s proposals to relieve unemployment in the Northern Territory beyond an offer to unemployed persons of assistance’ to leave the Territory, and come South to swell the number of unemployed already here. The honorable member for the Northern Territory characterized the budget as the worst that had ever been presented. He pointed out that he, as a representa*tive of the workers, had been disillusioned, and I believe with him that the workers and their representatives also will be disillusioned when they examine this budget. Its main provision, he said, was for extravagant administration. Anyone who studies the budgets presented by the last Government must agree that none of those charges could be laid against that. Not only have the members of the Government party to whom I have referred criticized the budget, but it has been characterized by the press of Australia, without exception, as being wholly bad. It has been properly pointed out by speakers in this House, and by the press, that the super-tax .of 20 per cent, on company profits is calculated to bring about distress and unemployment, and to increase the cost of living. Industry is already handicapped by the burden of taxation it is called upon to bear, but if it is further taxed to the extent of a 20 per cent, super-tax, business firms will have to curtail expenditure. They will be compelled to pass on the taxation, and this will swell the volume pf unemployment, increase the cost of living, and make it impossible to develop the country’s industries. The Treasurer, when presenting his budget, complained that he had not had sufficient time to reconstruct the budget of the late Treasurer in its entirety, but it seems to me that he had sufficient time to render that document almost unrecognizable. The late Treasurer endeavoured to secure what extra revenue was necessary by taxing luxuries and amusements to the extent of £600,000. He rightly maintained that amusements and luxuries should be called upon to bear their part of the burden of taxation. Most of the extra revenue required was to be collected from the American motion picture interests, other amusements and luxuries, which are not bearing their fair share of taxation. The late Treasurer said that here was a source of revenue which might be tapped to help Australia in its hour of need without affecting prejudicially the essential industries of the country. The American motion picture interests have a monopoly in Australia, and are collecting large profits here each year. They are certainly treating unfairly our suburban and country motion picture proprietors by exacting an undue toll from them. In return, we have been, getting very little from them. Australia has offered them generous support, but they are not prepared to pay their share of taxation.
The last Government recognized the needs of industry, and strove to diminish unemployment; framing its taxes in such a way as would’ “interfere least with national development. It is obvious that the present Treasurer prefers to tax the essential industries of the country. By such means he will certainly augment the already very great amount of unemployment. Those who took any interest in the recent election campaign can hold no other view than that the Government has abandoned the taxation of the motion picture in’terests out of gratitude for the support received from that source during the election campaign. A sum of £600,000 is to be raised by a super tax of 20 per cent, on companies, but the picture interests would have paid that amount if the tax upon them had been allowed to remain. The members of the Government promised on the hustings to reduce taxation and institute economies. In their first budget, however, they propose to increase expenditure by hundreds of thousands of pounds, and taxation by millions of pounds. What is more, practically every new tax introduced by the Treasurer represents a deliberate breach of his election promises. He stated that the workers’ beer would not be taxed if a
Labour government were elected. He said that this scandalous tax would be removed, yet it is still in operation, though reduced in extent. He said that a Labour government would remove the increased tax on tobacco and cigarettes, but far from doing that he has increased it by 50 per cent. The Treasurer proposed to increase the tax from 8d. to ls. a lb. The Treasurer promised, and so did his leader, that what he called a pernicious tax on petrol would be removed, and that they would exempt from taxation petrol used for other than road transport. The budget contains no proposal, nor has any legislation been forecast, to grant this measure of relief. The Treasurer also promised that the tax on petrol would be reduced, but he has increased it. These rash election promises convince me that honorable members opposite did not, in their wildest dreams, ever believe that they would occupy the government benches, and be called upon to honour the promises they made. They promised the people work for all: No one should go without work who wanted it. Yet, upon a careful examination of the budget we can find no provision in it to supplywork for the workless. So far as provision for public works is concerned, it might be inferred that it was designed for the purpose of increasing unemployment. At a late hour a proposal has been made to utilize money not expended by the last Government, money which was to be used in a comprehensive scheme of road improvement over a period of five “years. Nothing new has been proposed in this direction - it is only carrying out the late Government’s policy. Further. everywhere in the Public Service complaints are being made against dismissals. Far from finding more work, the Government has launched on a policy of dismissals. Recently a deputation from the Trades Hall made representations in Sydney to the PostmasterGeneral on the subject of the refusal of the department to withdraw notices of dismissal issued to employees. “When the Government was first returned to power a promise was made that the dismissal notices would be withdrawn, but one of the earliest actions of the Postmaster-General after he assumed control of his department was to re-issue the notices. According to a newspaper report, indignation was expressed at the Trades Hall at the refusal of the Postmaster-General to accede to the union’s request. It was stated that the men would have received better treatment from Mr. Gibson, the late Postmaster-General. One married man with years of service now finds himself out of employment. “We worked and voted for the return of the Labour Government” said members of the deputation, “ and all we have got in return is the sack.” I have here a record of the dismissals in the Federal Capital Territory. The returned soldiers, during the election campaign, were promised that in no circumstances would any maimed or disabled soldier be allowed to remain out of work, and they were encouraged to believe that a Labour government would find places for them all in the Public Service.
Mr. Theodore, the present Treasurer, promises in his propaganda that there would be found work in the Public Service for every disabled returned soldier. He said -
The placing in employment of partially disabled returned soldiers is a very hard problem. But foi’ the sympathetic treatment of them by employers it would indeed be almost impossible to solve. These men could all be found positions in the Public Service, doing useful work and thereby distributing responsibility over the whole of the taxpayers; not, as now, leaving it to a very few to carry. This could be done without in any way impairing the efficiency of the Service.
One of the earliest utterances of the Prime Minister was that this promise could not be fulfilled. I realize, of course, that it would be difficult to give effect to it. But when elections are won on such promises they should be honoured.
Another proposal which the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) placed before the electors in large, bold type, reads -
Anzac Day: - Preservation of Anzac Day as Australia’s national holiday.
This Parliament has always stood for Anzac Day being a public holiday, and the last Government made that provision long ago and the Treasurer knew it. When the present Treasurer was Premier of Queensland he made similar promises, and subsequently left the State without honouring them. Other Labour administrations followed that of which he was the leader and also failed to honour them. It fell to the lot of the present NationalCountry Party administration in Queensland to give executive approval to the keeping of Anzac Day as a public holiday. [Quorum formed.]
A further promise made by supporters of the Government was that free licences would be issued to listeners-in, but since the Government came into power I have not heard of any proposal to give effect to it.
Perhaps the most serious misstatement that the present Treasurer made was that if Labour were returned to power the coal mines on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales would be re-opened within a fortnight. I am privileged to represent a very large coal-mining district in Queensland. Practically 66 per cent, of the coal-miners in that State are constituents of mine. These men pinned their faith very strongly to the promise of the present Treasurer; but unfortunately, nothing has been accomplished in the direction of ending the suffering that is being caused to the dependents of the miners by this protracted struggle. When the honorable gentleman was asked how he proposed to open the mines, he said that the Commonwealth Parliament had sufficient power to bring about a resumption of work, and that the mere fact that Labour was in office would soon move the owners to open their mines. This Government has been in office for well over two months, and the mines are still closed.. The -miners are anxiously waiting for decisive action, but none has been taken beyond the calling of a conference. As a result of his promise, the Treasurer was able to obtain from the suffering miners a contribution of £1,000 towards his election expenses. In to-day’s press appears the statement that a meeting of the Kurri lodges demanded withdrawal from the Australian Labour party and the return of the £1,000 that was subscribed by the miners to fight the elections. They complain bitterly that the Government is not carrying out its definite election promises. The leaders . are called “ Twisters, turn-coats, and wrigglers “. This is a basic industry, which deserves better treatment. I hope that the mines will* be opened at a very early date. The dispute is interfering materially with the development of our manufacturing industries and is one of the principal causes of the unemployment that exists in Australia to-day. I trust that the Government will acknowledge the wisdom of giving the miners an opportunity, by means of a secret ballot, to say whether they are prepared to accept the proposals put forward as a result of the recent conference. They have been urged to accept them by the Prime Minister himself. When, in the future, political parties make promises of this character, with the object of securing votes, they should show a greater readiness than the present Government has shown to honour them.
The people were told that there would be no increase of taxation, yet, even al this early stage, a measure has been brought down to add a further 10 per cent, to the taxation imposed on even a taxable income of £200. The only direction in which the last Government increased its taxation was in regard to the super tax of 10 per cent, imposed on all incomes over £2,000. This Government proposes to add 10 per cent, to the taxation on incomes between £200 and £1,500, 15 per cent, on those between £1,501 and £3,000; and 20 per cent, on those above £3,000. If it had collected the £600,000 which the late Government proposed to take from the American film interests, it would not have been, necessary to impose this excessive taxation, which will hamper industry and increase unemployment. The late Government increased the statutory exemption to £300, reduced taxation by 42 per cent., granted increased allowances in respect of children, and deductions for medical expenses, and allowed the primary producers to deduct amountsspent in the development of their holdings. It also introduced the averaging system. Thus were 550,000 taxpayers entirely taken out of the field of income tax.
I could deal with the action of the Government respecting the excellent agreement under which the British Government provides cheap money to assist our development and remove unemployment. I could review its handling of many other problems, and show how little has been done to provide for the development of Australia. But I wish to devote the remainder of the time at my disposal to the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), “ That the item be reduced by £1,” as an indication of the opinion of this House that the Government has acted wrongly in abolishing compulsory citizen military training without parliamentary authority, and without having organized any alternative system of national defence.” No administrative act should over-ride a statute. The existing system of defence should not be scrapped until another has been prepared to take its place. The Labour Government of which the late Mr. Andrew Fisher was Prime Minister made provision in 1910 for compulsory military training, and gave Australia an effective defence system and our citizen forces. In introducing the measure, he referred to the pride which he felt at having been associated with our voluntary system of training. Yet this Government, the ranks of which do not contain one returned soldier, proposes to do away with compulsory military training on the grounds of economy without having any definite system to substitute for it. I quote the following words uttered by the late Mr. Andrew Fisher in 1910: - .
It is no longer a matter of money, but a question of principle. K is now a question whether every citizen of the Commonwealth should not undertake the first duty of citizenship of any country, and be prepared to protect its honour and its interest.
There have been three stages in the defence of Australia. In the first place, we were entirely dependent for our protection on the Mother Country. Later we were able to make to Great Britain a contribution towards our naval defence; at the same time we also endeavoured to build up a volunteer army. This proved to be incomplete and unsatisfactory. The third stage began in 1909. Compulsory military training was established, and under it were laid the foundations of an Australian military force, which in the recent war was the pride and wonder of the world. The present proposal is both unjust and undemocratic, and for a country that has not a professional army it is inadequate for the requirements of the nation. The defence of Australia is one of the most sacred duties that have been entrusted to this Parliament. One of the strongest arguments advanced in favour of federation was that it was necessary to have a coordinated and efficient defence system, which was impossible so long as the matter was handled by six States. Yet in this enlightened age the Labour party, yielding to the pressure of extremists, has decided to scrap our defence system. The Government has sought to justify its action on the ground that the system is worthless. The Prime Minister has referred to our compulsory trainess as “ boy conscripts.” If we compare their efficiency with the efficiency of the trainees in 1910, under the voluntary system, we shall find that it is much higher, although the standard required has been raised by 100 per cent. Any defects that may be alleged, against the present system will be intensified a hundredfold under the voluntary system. The Labour party has always stood for compulsory unionism and compulsory contribution to its political funds ; yet it is not prepared to compel the youth of Australia to discharge what the late Mr. Andrew Fisher described as the first duty of every citizen. The proposal to abolish compulsory military training is a gesture to satisfy the clamour of the militant union leaders or communists within the party fold. If Labour remained long in office it would be further compelled by its extremists to do away with all forms of military training.
– I sincerely hope we shall.
– The Government has taken the first step to abolish entirely the Australian system of defence.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member spoke at length of the horrors of war and the hardships of compulsory training. Nobody knows the horrors of war better than those who have experienced them, and the. 300,000 soldiers in the Australian Imperial Force will be the strongest force in this country to prevent Australia from taking part in any unnecessary war. But when the old Labour party introduced in 1910* the system of compulsory military training it did Australia a great service, and when the war broke out it was Mr. Fisher, a Labour Prime Minister, who pledged
Australia’s last man and last shilling for defending ourselves overseas. The legislation which made it possible for Australia to take an effective part in the war was introduced by the Fisher administration. The honorable member for Corio has declared that he would take no part in any war. It is the duty of every loyal citizen to assist in the defence of his country, but whilst the honorable member declared himself a pacifist he never loses an opportunity to preach the most bitter class warfare.
– That is warfare of the tongue. It involves no physical risk.
– The honorable member for Corio is accustomed to waging war on the Yarra bank. I pay my tribute to the naval and military officers of the Defence Council for having been able to save from the wreckage of our defence system so much of the old organization of the Australian Imperial Force and the wonderful traditions of its battalions and regiments.
– Those officers agreed to the abolition of compulsory training.
– That is not so. I understand that that step was taken on the authority of the Prime Minister without reference to the Defence Council, and he has definitely said so, and the achievement of that body in preserving the old units is proof that the abolition of compulsory training was strongly opposed by our great military leaders. No military system based on voluntary enlistment spreads the burden and privileges of the country’s defence so equally over the young manhood of the nation as does universal service. Nor does any other method of recruiting make so well for the consolidation of national endeavour, the destruction of class hatred, and the promotion of harmony and goodwill amongst all sections of the community. A voluntary army will be mainly composed of men of leisure and means, and that will certainly develop a military caste, which I would regret to see in this young democracy. The voluntary system is unjust, because it expects a section of our youth to carry burdens and accept obligations that are the proper duty of every able-bodied citizen. It will also entail sacrifices on the part of patriotic employers, and render them liable to unfair competition by less public-spirited rivals. At present the inconvenience of releasing employees to attend camps and parades is shared by all. The Government’s new defence proposals will penalize public spirit, and put a premium on selfish disregard of the country’s defence. The system of compulsory service was accepted by the Australian people for over twenty years, almost without friction or ill-will, until recently, when opposition to it was inflamed by Labour organizers for party political purposes. In the past, voluntary enlistment has failed and proved most costly, and it will be a greater failure in the future, particularly because of the many great counter-attractions of the present day, and the ampler means which youth now has for enjoyment. The ostensible reason for the change is the need for economy; but the Government will have to pay the volunteers more than is received by the compulsory trainees, and the provision of new and more costly uniforms will involve heavy increased expenditure. Even at great cost we have little chance of organizing a volunutary army as large and efficient as that produced by the compulsory system. Another advantage of compulsory service is the greater opportunity it affords for the proper allocation of our young manhood to the units in which they can render the most efficient service.
– Tell the committee why the Australian Imperial Force rejected conscription. We did not want the cold-footers who were sheltering behind the Labour party in Australia.
– The honorable member has correctly stated the reason. The modern army is rapidly becoming more mechanical, and requires special and continuous training, which cannot be given to the rapidly changing personnel of a volunteer army.
– What nation are we to fight?
– The purpose of our army is to defend Australia. It is worth defending, although apparently honorable members supporting the Government do not think so.
– No issue is worth the sacrifice of human life.
– Modern warfare requires a corps of officers and noncommissioned officers trained in the handling of large bodies of troops. Such training cannot be had under the Government’s proposal, and great difficulty will be experienced in getting senior officers qualified to lead our forces.
– Shall we not have the services of the honorable member for Moreton, the honorable member for Richmond, and the honorable member for Balaclava ?
– That remark is unworthy of the honorable member. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), because of his physical disability, is not likely to serve in another war. If the Government is content to depend on disabled and limbless men to officer the new army, we can imagine the sort of advice that the Governor-General must be receiving from his Ministers on this important question. Compulsory service enables a proper index of our manhood to be prepared and ensures its effective utilization. In the Light Horse regiments almost all were voluntary enlistments, and a first class personnel practically makes a complete change in numbers twice in every three years. A Bulgarian publicist recently complained that the voluntary army of 32,000 prescribed for Bulgaria by the Peace Treaty of Nevilly cost about three times as much as an army of similar strength compulsorily trained would have cost. I remind honorable members that in 1910, when the British Empire had a two-power naval standard, the late Lord Kitchener, in his report on the defence of Australia, said -
It is an axiom held by the British Government that the Empire’s existence depends primarily upon the maintenance of adequate and efficient naval forces. As long as this condition is fulfilled and as long as the British superiority at sea is assured, then it is an accepted principle that no British dominion can be successfully and permanently conquered by an organized invasion from overseas. [Quorum formed.]
He further showed that the concentration of force in one theatre of war might be compulsory for the navy; that in other seas British naval forces might remain for a time inferior to those of an enemy, and that some time might elapse before the command of those seas could be assured. Now that Great Britain has to accept a one-power naval standard this possibility is even more -real. Lord Kitchener pointed out that it was our duty to provide a military force adequate to deal promptly with any attempt at invasion until the command of the seas could be assured. I am a great believer in the League of Nations and its future usefulness, and I hope that one day it will be a great factor in maintaining the peace of the world. But those who pin their faith entirely to the League and neglect their defence are not worthy of their heritage. The position of Australia is unique. This outpost in the Pacific, with a coastline of 12,000 miles, amazing resources almost as yet untouched, and a population of only 6,000,000, must be the envy of the world. History has shown that when countries are over-populated, the comforts of life few, and the standard of living low, their peoples are compelled to look for relief in territorial expansion. This condition of affairs has already caused Japan to seek room for some of its surplus population in the United States of America. As we all know, Japan was denied that privilege, but, if America were not so powerful and so well prepared, the great Japanese nation could scarcely have treated the hostile American legislation so philosophically as it has done. America’s strength was its safeguard. Australia, with its small population, if undefended, would be in a less fortunate position. Let me briefly examine the conditions in countries immediately adjacent to Australia. Japan and Korea have a population of 78,000,000; China, 437,000,000; Persia, 9,000,000; Arabia, 5,000,000 ; Madagascar, 3,500,000 ; India, 251,000,000; Siam and Indo-China, 6,000,000; the Malay States, 3,225,000; and Java, 50,000,000. I am no alarmist, but one must be prepared to face facts. If we are to maintain the “White Australia policy we must have an army capable of defending our country. The adequate defence of this great continent cannot be built up in a day. It can be achieved only by a steady progressive policy extending over a period of years. “We are the trustees of the generations yet unborn, and we have a sacred duty to ensure the maintenance of an effective and progressive policy of defence. This cannot be done by continually changing our military system, and certainly will never be achieved by purely voluntary enlistment. The compulsorily-trained force was the most efficient army that Australia ever had. Visiting many camps, I found the young men thoroughly enthusiastic and anxious to become efficient. At no time during the last twenty years have the trainees voiced any objection to the compulsory system. What is the real cause of the sudden change of policy regarding our defence? The Minister for Defence was reported in the Melbourne Argus of the 26th October last, as having said -
No alteration in routine or policy would be made without careful consideration, and the advice of every responsible officer would be welcome. A definite defence policy has not yet been evolved by the Ministry. For the present, the existing conditions in the department would not be disturbed. . . . The Ministry lias not discussed the abolition of military training, and it will be months before this question becomes a matter for discussion. When the more pressing problems have been dealt with, we will make a comprehensive review of the defence policy.
On the 29th October, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) was reported in the Melbourne Argus as having made the following reply -
Ballarat, Monday. - Mr. McGrath referred to-night to a statement by the new Minister for Defence that the Ministry had not yet given consideration to its policy concerning compulsory military training. Mr. McGrath said that Mr. Green should know well that the abolition of compulsory training had always been ft fundamental plank in the Labour party’s platform, and his statement therefore was certainly ill-advised. Compulsory military training would vanish before Christmas.
I remind the honorable member for Ballarat that the abolition of compulsory military training was not always a plank of the Labour party’s platform; it was only recently included as a result of the activities of political extremists in that party. I object strongly to the Government doing away with that system by an administrative act. This action has been taken regardless of the consequences at the dictation of the extremists within < the Labour party.
The amendment will certainly indicate to the people where, the Opposition stands on the matter of compulsory military training. I await with the utmost interest the proposal that the Government has yet to introduce’ to make adequate provision for the defence of Australia. The Labour party to-day is not even a shadow of the great party that was led by Mr. Fisher in 1910, when he gave the young manhood of Australia an opportunity to learn how to defend this country, should that ever be necessary.
.- I had not intended to speak on this motion, although I am fully in accord with the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) ; but, in view of the two tariff schedules that have been introduced, and realizing the possible economic result of the action taken by the Government, I should be failing in my duty if I did not refer to it. I fully endorse the remarks of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), regarding the vast potentialities of Northern Australia, and I propose to refer, particularly, to the grave danger that confronts us through failure to populate and develop that great area. Apart from its possibilities in the direction of agricultural and pastoral development, the latent mineral wealth is enormous, but the population there is smaller to-day than it was twenty years ago. If the question of our right to. hold that country were ever raised before the League of Nations, how could Australia assert that it was taking steps to populate and develop it? The great change that needs to be brought about there cannot be effected merely by the expenditure of Government money; we must first, alter the economic conditions in that part of Australia. We should allow all goods except luxuries to be admitted free of duty. The ships of the world should be allowed to call there without hindrance for the next 25 years or so, because, at the present time, the trade of Northern Australia is worth nothing to the people in the southern portions of the Commonwealth When industries eventually develop there, the time will be opportune to ask the settlers to abide by the same conditions as those applying to the people in other parts of Australia. The empty spaces of the North constitute one of our greatest dangers from a defence point of view.
I cannot help resenting the pacific utterances heard to-night particularly those from the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis), who spoke of the horrors of war, but said nothing about the terrors of invasion. What was his attitude during the timber workers’ strike, and during the strike of the wharf labourers? Did he then talk of pacific methods?
– I did not think much of his pacific methods when I heard of bombs being thrown and people being injured.
– Your paid agents threw the bombs.
– I ask that those words be withdrawn; they are most insulting.
– I withdraw them. I meant, of course, the paid agents of the party opposite to which the honorable member belongs.
– I rose particularly to object to the tariff schedules tabled by the Government. The five great economists appointed by the late Ministry to report upon economic conditions in Australia must have had prophetic vision, because, at page 99 of the book published by them, they stated -
A protective policy is especially dangerous, because it appeals to the good side of human nature in general, when that human nature is able to judge only by superficialities.
We think that the tariff may be likened to a powerful drug with excellent tonic properties, but with reactions on the body politic which make it dangerous in the hands of the unskilled and the uninformed.
Honorable members reading those paragraphs now must realize that the members of that committee had some prophetic instinct; they must have foreseen the advent of this administration and the imposition of these huge tariff duties without any knowledge of their effect on industry generally. Personally I am not displeased at. the action of the Government, because I believe the effect of these duties will force the people to realize the seriousness of the position into which Australia is drifting. It is obvious that the schedules were prepared without any sound technical knowledge of their effect on industry, and without any information from the Tariff Board, which was specially created for the purpose of advising not only the Government, but Parliament, as to what tariff duties should be imposed. I am astounded at the information contained in the report of the Economic Advisory Committee as to the cost to Australia of these high protective duties. I find that in the manufacture of electrical apparatus, the excess cost of the goods produced is £660,000, and the salaries and wages paid in the industry total only £793,000. I find also that in blankets and flannel goods, the excess cost due to protection is £468,800, while the wages paid in the industry is only £399,000. In knitting factories, the excess cost of manufactured goods is £1,699,000 and the wages and salaries paid is £1,269,000. [Quorum formed.’]
I do not wish to weary honorable members by reading further from the list. The instances which I have cited prove conclusively that the protection given to many of our secondary industries is far in excess of the actual wages and salaries paid in the respective industries. All these huge tariff increases must necessarily mean an increase in the cost of living and the cost of production. Timber duties have been increased by over 800 per cent, since 1919, and still Australian timber is unable to hold its own. The other night the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) spoke of the disaster which had overtaken the timber industry in Tasmania. Can we wonder that it is in difficulties in view of the huge tariff duties which have resulted in higher costs of all forms of production in Australia? It is admitted that we have some of the finest hardwoods in the world, and yet we cannot market them. Only the other day members of the Public Works Committee paid a visit of inspection to a number of houses erected by the Federal Capital Commission, in Canberra, and found that Baltic pine was being used for flooring, and
Oregon for lintels, door frames and roof rafters. Not one stick of Australian hardwood is being used in those buildings. Recently also I was in a hostel that was built in Hobart a few years ago lined with ornamental wood work and thought that there, at all events, Australian timber would be used, since Hobart is almost in the heart of the blackwood country. But there again I found that Oregon was used almost exclusively.
This extraordinary state of affairs is due to the uneconomic conditions in industry as the direct result of Government interference, arbitration awards, and excessively high tariff duties.
– Does the honorable member know what wages are paid to our timber workers?
– I know that some years ago our timber workers were earning good money and were a contented body of men, because the wages they received represented a greater value than the wages of to-day. Higher tariff duties have increased the cost of timber houses by anything from 50 per cent, to 70 per cent. I am astounded at the carelessness evidenced in the preparation of the new schedules. One importer of clothing informed me that he was asked to pay a duty of £3,000 on £180 worth of material for school childrens’ clothing. Most extraordinary duties also have been imposed on imported cotton socks, as well as on foreign matches. We all know also what action has been taken lately by those who control the Sunshine Harvester works at Sunshine, near Melbourne. That concern, which has always enjoyed a solid measure of “ protection, has for many years taken a heavy toll from the farmers of this country. When it found that it could not retain the Argentine connexion, which it held prior to 1914, it decided to establish a factory in Canada where there are no irritating industrial restrictions.
– The Sunshine people have done very well in Australia.
– I have not been in agreement with members of my own party in regard to these matters The first essential in Mr. McKay’s works is cheap and ample power and his raw materials at the lowest possible prices. Who should be called upon to pay to make it possible for the Sunshine Harvester Works to get iron and steel at a reasonable price. I suggest that the doctor, the lawyer and the politician should have to bear part of the cost. The whole burden should not be allowed to fall upon the primary producer, yet that is what is happening today. We should apply the bounty system to these key industries, and not impose these absurd duties. I would not object to the imposition of moderate duties to assist industries which are being established in Australia. I should not object to a duty of 15 per cent, or 20 per cent. Such duties should, with the natural protection available, enable an industry to establish itself. Men like Sir William Lyne and the Honorable Alfred Deakin were protectionists, but they would never have dreamt of imposing the heavy duties provided in the schedules that have been tabled in this House in recent years; but the evil is that once the manufacturer finds the politicians pliant there is no end to his demands. Canada is a protectionist country which has to carry on her operations in close proximity to the great manufacturing country of America. Here are some of her duties compared with ours for similar items -
Canada. - Pig iron, British 6s. 3d.; foreign, 10s. od. per ton. Angle rods, British 17s. 9d. ; foreign, 29s. 2d. Girders and beams, British, 8s. 4d.; foreign, 12s. 6d.
Australia. - Pig iron, British, 25s.; foreign, 45s. per ton. Angle rods, British, 80s. : foreign, 130s. Girders and beams, British, 80s.; foreign, 135s.
Before the Broken Hill Proprietary Company began manufacturing iron and steel at Newcastle, it informed the Government and the people that it did not desire any assistance by duty or bounty. In those days it was able to buy coal for lis. a ton. Last year, it had to pay 25s. 6d. a ton for it. In 1916, when coal was lis. a ton, every one on the coalfields was fairly well satisfied, but now when it is 25s. 6d. a ton nobody is satisfied.
We have set up Arbitration Courts to fix wages in our various industries. Sir John Quick recently went to Western Australia to determine the wages that should be paid to railway men there. What does he know about railway work? Judge Drake-Brockman boarded a locomotive the other day to get some knowledge of an engine driver’s work. But how could such a casual acquaintance with a calling fit a man to determine the wages and conditions that should apply to it? Our whole Arbitration Court system is absurd. I asked last session for a return showing the freight charges for carrying merchandise 100 miles, 200 miles, 300 miles and 400 miles in Canada, the United States of America and Australia respectively. I believe that the figures would be astounding. Wages are higher in the United States of America than in Australia. Mr. McKay has made up his mind to establish works in Canada, not, because wages are lower there, but because the methods of industrial control that prevail in Australia are so impossible.
– That is not what he says.
– Mr. McKay has not had an industrial dispute in his works for fifteen years.
– But he has been most adversely affected by strikes and lockouts in other callings. In 1914, he was able to export £200,000 worth of machinery to the Argentine. Why is he not able to do that to-day? It is because of the absurd industrial restrictions which prevail in Australia. According to the Labour Gazette of Canada, a labourer in that country receives 3 dollars 60 cents or a little more than 15s. per day of eight hours. Electricians, building carpenters, joiners, sheet metal workers and tinsmiths get seven dollars a day and chief foremen and plumbers get eight dollars or about 34s., a day. Our wages in Australia are not higher than that. Mr. McKay has been obliged to establish works in Canada because our industrial position is so uncertain and the raw matrials for manufacture are considerably cheaper. In 1926, the time lost in Canada through strikes and lockouts was 296,811 working days, and in Australia it was 1,128,000. The respective figures for 1927 were 165,000 and 1,300,000.
– The honorable member does not seem to realize that those figures were compiled on a different basis.
– I have quoted from the official record for Canada and the official record for Australia.
– The honorable member takes those figures at their face value and does not analyse them.
– Since 1920, Canada, because of its improved methods of administration, has reduced the cost of living by no less than £1 per week, while we in Australia, have, by our expensive system of administration, continually increased the cost of living. That, un fortunately, has had the effect of depreciating the value of the wages paid to the workers. The tariff schedule which was recently tabled in this chamber must undoubtedly further increase the cost of living. Honorable members supporting the Government may think it of great advantage to Australia to pass legislation, the effect of which will be to attract more people from the country to the cities. But is it not a menace to the very existence of Australia to have most of the population of the States situated in the capital cities?
– The increased use of machinery in country districts has driven the workers to the city.
– If we continually increase the cost of production our settlers will refuse to develop the land. Should low prices rule for this season’s wheat, very few farmers will sow crops next year. The wheat industry is one of the greatest assets of Australia. It enables the cities to live. The destruction of that industry would mean disaster to this country. With the exception of Nestle’s Milk, leather and one or two other articles, none of our secondary industries export their manufactures. Our youth are as well educated as the youth of any other part of the world. They are robust and willing to Work. I have a wonderful confidence in them and I believe that, if given the opportunity, they will make good. With the type of workman that we have in Australia, our secondary industries should be able to compete in the markets of the world, but, unfortunately, under our present economic conditions, that is impossible.
– In the course of time we shall be able to compete with other countries.
– The boot-making trade of Victoria has been protected by that State for 40 years and by the Commonwealth for nearly 30 years. Yet we hear repeated statements to the effect that a dreadful depression exists in that industry in Melbourne. Up to 1899 awful conditions existed in Victoria under a policy of protection. The development in New South Wales under a freetrade policy was remarkable, while in Victoria men and women were sweated and underpaid.
– Was not that a justification of our industrial laws?
– Mr. Massy Greene, when tabling his famous tariff in 1920, pointed out that it would relieve unemployment and build up great industries which eventually would become self contained. Have we not more unemployment in Australia to-day than ever before in the history of Australia?
– It is due to the war effects.
– It is due to the incompetency of this Parliament.
– The honorable member is absolutely hopeless.
– The honorable member should realize that we must have wealth, and that wealth comes from the soil, the mines, the farms, the pastoral areas and the timber areas.
– Wealth has many forms.
– -Undoubtedly, but I am referring to basic wealth, and unless wealth is created we cannot maintain good conditions for our people. As honorable members know, I have for some considerable time disagreed with the financial policy of the Commonwealth. Australia is suffering a severe depression and some honorable members have suggested that the only remedy is to borrow more money. Let me tell them that we have been borrowing money too extensively of recent years. In the last four years we have borrowed over £140,000,000. Altogether, we owe about £1,100,000,000 and unless we set our house in order we shall soon be on the verge of bankruptcy. We must give more encouragement to the man on the land, and this can only be done by reducing the cost of production.
– During the last four years we have had the spectacle of reckless expenditure.
– At one time we could obtain money at 3 per cent and 3½ per cent., but to-day the interest rate is practically double, and this Government proposes to continue the reckless expenditure. The worker and the primary producer have to foot the bill. They get the worst end of the stick. When there is a depression it is the worker who suffers. Much has been said about the proposed grant to South Australia, and many honorable members have spoken of the doles and sops that are being continually given to certain States of Australia. I should like honorable members to realize that in the last seven years New South Wales has drawn in bounties, and in the form of assistance to industries, no less than £1,900,000. In view of that fact I hope that in the future we shall hear less of the cry that doles are being paid to Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. If this Parliament continues to increase the tariff and thereby further penalize the primary producers, I shall do my best to induce the people of Western Australia to adopt the policy of secession from the Commonwealth. I stood solidly for federation, and have a great desire that it should be continued. However, too great a weight is now being placed on the shoulders of the people of Western Australia, and it is impossible for them to bear the burden. Unless a change is effected in the near future, the desire will spread amongst the people of the States, and particularly those of Western Australia, for secession from federation.
Question - That the item proposed to be reduced be so reduced (Mr. Latham’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Thursday, 12 December 1929
Item agreed to.
– For some time, indeed, since the Sixth Parliament, there has been an excess number of members on the House and Library Committees, and it is desired to make a reduction. I might say that the gentlemen whom I am moving to be discharged from the necessity of attending those committees, have volunteered to retire from them. I ask for leave to move -
That Messrs. Jones, Martens and Thompson be discharged from attendance on the Library Committee.
– I object to leave being g ranted. With all due respect to the Prime Minister, I remind him that I have not even been approached on this matter. This is the first I have heard about my retiring from the committee.
– In view of the objection of the honorable member, I withdraw my request for leave. I was told that the honorable member had consented to the course proposed.
– I should like to remain on the Library Committee.
Motions (by Mr. Scullin) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Holloway be discharged from attendance on the Printing Committee.
That Mr. Bell and Mr. Gabb be discharged from attendance on the House Committee.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I should like to receive an assurance from the Prime Minister that the grant made during the last two years towards maintaining the Australian Inland Mission Medical Service in Western Queensland will be continued. This subsidy was granted to help the organization, which has raised a large sum of money to maintain an aerial medical service over a radius of hundreds of miles around Cloncurry. The Government has contributed 1s. a mile for every mile flown by the flying doctor up to £1,300 a year. This work may be regarded as the most humanitarian aspect of aviation, and deserves to be encouraged. It is a very valuable service, and the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) will agree with me that it is of the greatest help to those living in isolated areas. I think it is true that the service supplied by this doctor is instrumental in saving more lives in the course of a year than are lost in all the aviation accidents which occur yearly in Australia. The service is maintained by a Q.A.N.T.A.S. aeroplane, which we subsidize, and was inaugurated with the help of the H. V. McKay bequest, which provided much of the £5,000 originally raised. It was hoped to extend the service to other parts of Australia, and operate from two or three bases. I refrained from introducing this request in the form of question so that the Government might have time to think the matter over. Perhaps the Minister for Home Affairs may be able later to give me an assurance that the subsidy will be continued. Another aspect of this matter may well engage the attention of the Postmaster-General. In order to maintain communication between the outlying stations between Longreach and Cloncurry, wireless sets have been issued by the Inland Mission, and these, besides being available for medical call, are instrumental in providing a considerable amount of revenue for his department as a result of telegrams despatched by means of them to telegraph offices for transmission. The mission wants to know whether the Postmaster-General will give some practical assistance in the maintenance of these sets, as the expense is considerable.
.In connexion with the Prime Minister’s motion dealing with the Library Committee, I wish to state, by way of personal explanation, that, at the request of the Prime Minister, I got into touch with the Whips of the various parties, and Mr. Hunter, on behalf of the Country party, informed me that Mr. Thompson had agreed to stand down from the .Library Committee. I was surprised to hear from Mr. Thompson that he took exception to Mr. Hunter’s action.
– In view of what the honorable member for Boothby has just said, I do not wish to press my objection. I feel very disappointed that I have been put off the Library Committee. It was not done with my consent, and I am quite sure that the honorable member for Maranoa did not mention the matter to me. In order to facilitate proceedings, however, I am prepared to retire from the committee, though I do bo much against the grain.
House adjourned at 12.10 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 December 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19291211_reps_12_122/>.