12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon, NormanMakin) took the chairat 2.30 p.m., and offered prayers.
-I ask the Prime Minister if there is any truth in the cable message published in the Sydney Sun last night that the British Government is conferring with the Commonwealth Government before coming to a decision regarding the Singapore Dock? If so, will the House be afforded an opportunity to express its opinion upon this matter before the Government conveys any recommendation to the British Government ?
– No communication has been received from the British Government regarding this matter within the last month.
– Will the House have an opportunity to express an opinion on the subject?
– When there is something on which to express an opinion.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been directed to a cablegram in the press stating that apparently the British Government considers that the Naval Conference results were satisfactory enough to warrant reducing activities at the Singapore Naval Base, and possibly the eventual abandonment of the scheme? If so, has he any pronouncement to make on the matter?
– I have read the paragraph referred to, but, as I intimated earlier to-day, I have received no official communication from the British Government on that subject.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether the Government has decided to retain the Naval College at Jervis Bay?
– Three methods of reducing the expenditure on the naval college at Jervis Bay and the military college at Duntroon were investigated. The continuance of both colleges on a reduced scale was regarded as the most satisfactory means of effecting the desired economies.
-Will the Minister for Defence say whether there is any foundation for the statement published this morning that it is the intention of the Government to keep open both the Duntroon Military College and the naval college at Jervis Bay, though reducing the expenditure on them?
– It is proposed that both the naval college at Jervis Bay and the military college at Duntroonshall be retained. An official statement was given last night to the press setting out the position . very clearly. The saving to the Defence Department under the amended proposal will be £46,000, and there will be no decrease in efficiency.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Cusack) had the authority of the Government for stating on the steps of Parliament House to-day that the best means of providing money for the relief of unemployment would be the conscription of private wealth to the extent of four- fifths?
– I have no knowledge of the incident referred to by the honorable member. The Speaker, not the Government, is responsible for happenings within the precincts of this chamber.
– I ask the Prime Minister, as I did a considerable time ago, when the House will have an opportunity to discuss the tariff schedules so that legislation may be substituted for government by executive act?
– It is the desire of (he Government to afford an early opportunity for the discussion of the tariff. The delay that has occurred is not undue in comparison with that which has occurred in previous Parliaments.
– According to a newspaper paragraph, the construction of the railway from Kyogle to South Brisbane has been suspended and 350 employees have been dismissed on account of a dispute between the Commonwealth and State Governments regarding ‘the financing of the work. Will the Treasurer inform the House if that statement is true?
– Discussion has taken place between the Railway Council and the New South Wales Commissioners regarding the liability for excess expenditure incurred in the construction of the Casino railway section. This does not involve, however, interruption of the work of rehabilitating the section from Grafton to Kyogle, and will not delay its opening.
– Is it a fact that only £30,000 is required to complete the Grafton to Casino section of the Grafton to South Brisbane railway? Is it true that only about seven weeks’ work is required there, and that the men employed there have received a week’s notice, which terminates next Friday? I mentioned this matter to the Treasurer last week, and I ask if he now has any further information regarding it.
– I do not know how much money is required to complete the work, but the amount in dispute between the railway council and the New South Wales Railways Commissioners is about £32,000. The New South Wales Commissioners intimated to the local engineer that notice must be given of the cessation of ‘ work there, pending the allotment of additional funds amounting to about £32,000. I have since asked that instructions be given that the work be not stopped pending a settlement of the matter. We must not allow a dispute between the two authorities to cause a stoppage of the work. If it is not settled in a way that will involve the finding of the necessary funds by the New South Wales Commissioners, it may be necessary for me to seek a further appropriation from this Parliament authorizing the railway council to expend a sum greater than the £4,350,000, which is the present limit.
– Some time ago I asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs to inform me of the number of employees engaged in match making and the output of the industry. The Acting Minister replied that some of the firms objected to their competitors getting such information. Similar information has been obtained in regard to other industries, and I ask the Acting Minister to endeavour to get these particulars, because I desire to calculate how much the Commonwealth would benefit by paying a pension for life to all persons engaged in the production of matches in Australia.
– I shall give further consideration to the honorable member’s .request, and see if the information can be obtained.
– The last issue of the Sunday Times published this paragraph - ‘
When the Scullin-Theodore Government assumed office the strong. room was as bore as old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard.
Money was not available in London or New York, and the federal Treasurer set out to collect some ninety millions in Australia. He offered 6 per cent., but nine months before the closing of the loan it was taken off the market
It is now said that the Federal Government has been successful in inducing Mr. Montague Norman, Governor of the Bank of England, to finance the essentia] overseas liabilities of the Commonwealth, provided that the federal authorities agree to borrow no more for a period of two years
I ask the Treasurer if that statement is correct ?
– No such undertaking has been given, and there are no grounds for the assumption contained in the paragraph.
– Has the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs read a paragraph stating in to-day’s newspapers that Sir Herbert Austin is considering the possibility of manufacturing chassis in Australia if the Commonwealth Government “ is willing and able to take a broad view of the situation.” Has the Government intimated to this gentleman that his enterprise will be entertained in a broadminded manner?
– I have not seen the paragraph to which the honorable member refers, but any representations received from the manufacturer mentioned will receive the same sympathetic consideration as is given to all overseas manufacturers who propose to establish branches of their industry in Australia.
- by leave. - I desire, in the first place, to withdraw a statement I made yesterday in reference to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). I said that he had carried a sword. I have since learned that he did not carry a sword; it was only a scabbard. I withdraw the sword. I wish also to refer to something that concerns the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). Early last year, C. J. White & Sons, hardware merchants, of Post Office Place, Melbourne, advertised for a bookkeeper. The applications were narrowed down to two, one a returned soldier and the other a nonsoldier.
– I rise to a point of order.
– I have no objection to the honorable member for Ballarat proceeding with his statement.
– I do not rise to defend the honorable member for Balaclava, but I have some respect for the forms of the House. The honorable member for Ballarat said that he wished to make a personal explanation. No doubt he could get an opportunity later to make a statement such as he is making, but I submit that he is out of order in dragging in the matter in this way.
– The honorable member for Ballarat asked leave to make a statement. No objection was raised to his doing so, and the leave asked for was therefore granted.
– You were rather in a hurry to give him leave, Mr. Speaker.
– The honorable member for Richmond has insinuated that I sought to show some special favour to the honorable member for Ballarat. He must withdraw his statement, and apologize to the Chair for having made it.
– Let us review the facts.
– There can be no argument on the matter. The honorable member must withdraw, and apologize to the Chair.
– Was my statement personally offensive to you, Mr. Speaker?
– It was.
– Then I withdraw it and apologize.
– The honorable member for Ballarat may now continue with the statement he obtained leave to make.
– The returned soldier applicant for the position possessed the following qualifications : A.F.I.A. ; A.C.A.A.; F.C.L; he also had practical experience of the trade.
– Tell us what those letters stand for?
– They indicate the possession of certain qualifications gained by passing various examinations in accountancy. The non-returned man apparently had similar qualifications; he was doing, or had done, the commerce course at the University. He was engaged by the firm at £5 10s. a week. Possibly Mr. T. White, in whose hands was the making of the appointment, might contend that “ all things were not equal.” The returned soldier applicant states that if he had not served at the war his degrees would have been obtained about ten years earlier. The other man did not go to the war, so that he enjoyed an apparent advantage which, however, did not justify his selection, because the returned man had had experience in the trade. In Parliament Mr. White demands unqualified preference, but in this instance he did not practise what he preaches. If he states that he required :i man capable of compiling statistics and making analyses, it is only necessary to reply that the returned soldier applicant was thoroughly experienced in that class of work. The following is his war record: Service, three years nine months; 1,007 days abroad as gunner in artillery and private in infantry; age of enlistment, eighteen years, four months; number 2G,681 - 31st Battery, 39th Battalion. I shall not disclose his name because it might injure him in his present employment. I appeal to the Minister for Repatriation to get in touch with Mr. Holland, who has been so keen on the subject of preference, and ask him to try to get the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) to follow as a business man the doctrine which he preaches as a member of Parliament.
.- by leave - This attack which has been made ou me by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) is absolutely without justification. No doubt he was very much annoyed at my statement yesterday that he had masqueraded as a soldier. I would withdraw that statement if he could prove to me that he was not court martialled, and that he did not serve behind the lines in the Postal Department. The returned soldiers know quite well that the honorable member for Ballarat sought every kind of privilege in order to stay in London.
I have mentioned these matters only because the honorable member, in his speech of Friday, on the preference to ex-soldiers question, said that he spoke as a “ dinkum “ digger. On that occasion lie spoke very strongly in favour of taking away all preference from returned soldiers. There was no doubt where he stood on the issue. I had spoken strongly in favour of the retention of preference to returned soldiers. Speaking after me, the honorable member for Ballarat said that he was a “ dinkum “ soldier and that I was merely a “ brass hat meaning that I had been an officer, who had not been in the fighting line. He then indulged in a long tirade against the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and myself, impugning our war records. He said, among other things, that I had not joined the infantry; that I hod had influence, and in that way had got into the Air Force. That is laughable to any one who knows the facts.
I volunteered on the first day of war, and was gazetted as machine gun officer of the 5th Battalion. Later I was taken from Broadmeadows to join the first school of flying. I am sorry that I have to go into these details, but this explanation has been forced upon me. The present Air Chief, Air-Commodore Williams, two others and myself, were selected for the first flying school at Point Cook. We qualified about October, 1914, and I had the honour of going away with the first flying corps to Mesop’otamia. When the honorable member for Ballarat said that I avoided the Western Front, and implied that it was because of the heavy fighting there, he again showed a lamentable lack of knowledge of the events of the war. There were no Australians ‘ in France at that time, and no Australian? on Gallipoli. I went away before either of those campaigns started - so far as the Austraiian troops were concerned. The honorable member went. on to say, after many references to myself, that I had not sufficient brains to prevent my plane from colliding with n telegraph pole and being taken prisoner by the Turks, from whom I escaped on a magic carpet. He possibly meant to be funny, but any one who does not know him, might be tempted to believe some of his silly facetiousness. I do not take any credit for having gone to the war. Every ablebodied man should have done so; but I deplore the personal references that are continually being made in this House to men who went to the war.
I regretted to hear yesterday the Minister for Defence say that I threw up my hands to the Turks. I had not an opportunity then to reply to the statement. It is true that I did surrender to the Turks, but that was the fortune of war. When a man goes on service he does not know what may be his fate, and that was particularly true of the members of the Flying Corps in the last war. Our mess con,sisted of nineteen flying officers, of whom eighteen were either killed or taken prisoner, and it was no disgrace to them, but an honour that that was their fate. This, however, is by the way, but if every big, hulking man like the Minister for Defence had offered his services
– I rise to a point of order. The statement of the honorable member is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– What is the point of order ?
– The honorable member’s remark was offensive to me. He has suggested that at my age - but I shall not go into that-
– The Minister may not argue the matter. As the remark of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was offensive to the Minister it must be withdrawn.
– If the Minister objects to words “ big “ or “ hulking “ I withdraw them and substitute “ able-bodied.”
– I shall deal with the honorable member’s record if he is not careful.
– The Minister is welcome to do so. I hope all records can be tabled to end this kind of thing. If every able-bodied man had heard and answered the call to the greatest crisis in the world’s history, the war would have ended sooner than it did. But many of these men did not even have a headache or lose a night’s sleep because of the war, and it ill becomes them to say anything about combatants who had to surrender to the Turks. If the Minister for Defence and a few others had volunteered, the fight would have been easier for those of us who were there. Ever since I have been a member of this Parliament, objectionable epithets have been thrown across the chamber at certain honorable members who joined the Australian Imperial Force. The use of these insulting epithets and personal attacks is to be deplored, but when statements are made like that of the honorable member for Ballarat on Friday last honorable members are forced in selfdefence to reply to them in kind.
The honorable member for Ballarat has drawn attention to the fact that I gave employment on one occasion to a man who was ‘ not a soldier. It is perfectly true that I did so, and I shall now give the facts of that case. The policy of the firm of which I am managing director has always been to give a direct preference to returned soldiers. Sixteen or eighteen men who are in the employ of my firm at present are returned soldiers and there is not one who was eligible to serve who is not also a soldier. I practise the principle of preference to returned soldiers not only in connexion with my firm, but in connexion with all my family and domestic arrangements. I always trade with diggers, even though it might be for the smallest domestic requirement. If every one in Australia did that, the diggers would not need a repatriation department; they would have been repatriated long ago, for they would have received the help which was their due. The man to whom the honorable member for Ballarat referred was an accountant. Applications for a position were called by my firm, and the applicants were narrowed down to four, all of whom were diggers except this man. The four were interviewed personally. The honorable member for Ballarat said that their qualifications were practically equal ; but there was this difference, that the man who was not a digger was a rejected volunteer and a Bachelor of Commerce. He showed .me his rejection badge. I investigated the case, and found that the facts were as he had stated. None of the other applicants had the qualifications of this man, and as he was rejected on offering for enlistment I felt that it was a fair thing to give him a chance.
– The possession of the degree of Bachelor of Commerce is not needed in a bookkeeper.
– A man should De a better accountant if he has that degree. Although I knew that, one of the men who did not get the position had strong Labour sympathies, I did my best to find him better employment elsewhere. I will leave the matter at that. I think I have shown that the qualifications of the applicants were by no means equal. I felt, from the knowledge I had gained of the men, that the rejected man who was the successful applicant ought not to have been penalized unnecessarily.
– I ask the leave of the House to make a short statement.
– Is leave granted?
– I object on behalf of the people to this “ dirty linen “ being washed here.
Leave not granted.
– I understood the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) to say that I was court martialled during the late war, and stayed in London as long as I could at the Post Office. My answer is that I was not engaged in the Post Office in London at all. I was in London, however, and if the honorable member for Balaclava wishes to be fair to me, I refer him to General Griffiths and Brigadier-General Sir R. M. Anderson for my record. The first week after my arrival in London I put in a written application to be sent to France, and I repeated that application every week. As to having been court martialled, I was never even threatened with a court martial.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he has seen a picture which is being shown throughout Australia under the title “ Disraeli “ ? Special concession rates are being offered to schoolchildren to view this film. If the Treasurer has not seen it I should like him to do so, in order that he may ascertain the main point upon which it turns.
– I have not seen the picture, but will take an opportunity to do so.
–Will the Prime Minister afford this Parliament an opportunity to discuss the treaty which is now the subject of negotiations between Great Britain and Egypt, before any action is taken by the Government in regard to it?
– At the present time I cannot give the House any definite in- formation even as to the negotiations referred to; hut I can assure honorable members that a treaty will not be ratified until the House has an opportunity to discuss it.
– Is it a fact that the North Australia Commission, which has cost the taxpayers of Australia approximately £40,000 in the last two years, is the highest paid body of unemployed in the Commonwealth ?
– I have no knowledge, on that matter.
– Have any exceptions yet been made to the list of tariff items on which embargoes were imposed a month or six weeks ago? The announcement as to the proclamation of the embargo was made in this House, and it seems to me that a statement that the embargo is being lifted with regard to certain items should also be made in this chamber.
– Certain exceptions have been made, and if the honorable member desires it, a list of them will be furnished to Parliament. I ask him to place the question on the notice-paper, and I shall have the list of exceptions presented tomorrow.
– Has the Government yet received a report from the Development and Migration Commissioner, Mr. Gunn, with reference to the stabilization proposals submitted by the dried fruits industry? If not, will he take advantage of Mr. Gunn’s presence in Canberra to ascertain from him when the report will be available?
– The report is not yet to hand, but I anticipate receiving it in the very near future.
– Has the Prime Minister received a communication from the secretary of the Manufacturing Grocers Employees Federation of Australia, stating that in July, 1928, the New Zealand Government amended its tariff to provide that macaroni was to be free under the British preference tariff, and to pay a general tariff of 20 per cent., the Australian rate remaining at 30 per cent.? This, it is pointed out, gave British and Canadian foodstuffs a 30 per cent. advantage over Australian goods, and foreign traders a 10 per cent. advantage. The. association asked that something be done with a view to increasing the production of macaroni in Australia. . Does the Government propose to continue its retaliatory measures, or will there be increased duties on macaroni to provide employment for Australian workers?
– This is not a proper subject on which to base a question. The matter might well be brought forward during the debate on the tariff.
– Will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs state what steps have been taken to give effect to the assurance of the Governmentthat it would sternly discountenance the increasing of prices of commodities affected by the recent tariff changes. During the last couple of days, three notable examples of rises in prices have been brought under my notice. The price of galvanized iron sheets has been raised from 3s.10d. to 5s. a sheet.
– Order! When asking a question the right honorable gentleman is not in order in giving information. The purpose of questions is to elicit information.
– Is it true that the price of 9-ft. galvanized iron sheets has been raised from 3s. 10d. to 5s. a sheet, that of light steel rails from £18 to £20 a ton, and that of deck spikes from 28s. to 34s. per cwt?
– No. 6 of the questions upon notice deals with this matter. I feel sure that the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has no desire to forestall the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy), in whose name that question appears.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I have received to-day the following letter from the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts, signed by the Acting Chairman (Senator M. R. O’Halloran)-
My dear Prime Minister,
On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts I am forwarding herewith copy of an official report of portion of the proceedings of the committee at Temple Court, Melbourne, on the 29th April, 1930. You will observe from the statements made therein that the honour of every member of the committee is impugned. The committee took such a serious view of the matter that it unanimously decided to immediately suspend the inquiry and to convene a full meeting of the committee at the earliest possible date. Arrangements were accordingly made to meet at Parliament House, Canberra, on the 7th May, 1930, when careful consideration was given to the course of action the committee should take.
As the broadcasting inquiry was instituted as the result of a direct reference from yourself as head of the Government the committee decided that the proper course to pursue was to place the facts before you with a request that appropriate action be taken by you as the recognized head of Parliament.
For the time being the inquiry of the committee will be suspended.
Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.
Accompanying this letter is the report of that portion of the proceedings of the committee which the committee considered ought to be placed in my hands. I have taken this, the earliest available opportunity, to bring it to this House, because
I believe that the information which it contains should be given to Parliament. The introductory remarks refer to a leakage of information in regard to the doings of thecommittee. The relevant portion of the report begins where the Chairman of the Committee (Mr. Coleman) raises a question that apparently had been brought forward on some previous occasion by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). It reads -
Mr. Green. The chairman has set out the position correctly. I have been trying to think who this individual was and who it was introduced me to him. He is an insurance man from Melbourne. I have not the slightest idea what his name is. The conversation took place on the verandah by the bar on the day I left Canberra for Sydney.
Mr. Green. I think it was the Friday before the House adjourned. I was not present the last week in Canberra. This man was to leave the same night for Melbourne. He was in the House and I am not positive now whether 1 was introduced to him or whether he saw me in King’s Hall. He is a senior man in one of the insurance companies here. I have a kind of idea I was introduced to him. Later on, when we were having a spot together, we were discussing the tariff and the prohibition business. He then said, “ I am rather interested in this broadcasting inquiry you are on. I hear the committee is going to come to a verdict in favour of the companies. You are, I believe, the only one standing out “. I said, “ Oh, where didyou get that information from ?” He said, “ That information came from the chairman.” I said, “ That seems very funny.” He said, “ Why the hell are you standing out? Anyway, Coleman earned his ?500 “.
Mr. Green. I was astounded. I tried to draw him on as to what proof he had about your obtaining ?500. He said, “He received it all right. I know that. Why be a damned fool? Why stand in your own light?” The conversation then ended rather abruptly. Every member of the committee can draw his own inferences from that. The next statement I want to make is this, and I am prepared to give sworn evidence before the committee as to the statement I have made. I was talking one day to Major Conder. I think it was the day we left for Tasmania. The conversation took place in the lounge in the Alexander. My wife was talking to the girl near the booking office. I have an idea it was the night before we left for Tasmania. Conder and I were standing up. He said to me, “ A couple of hundreds pounds would go very well.You could buy some dresses for your wife.” I just looked at him and said no more. Nothing more was said.
Mr. Green. Oh, yes; we all did.
Mr.Chairman. - You did not know him more than we did?
Mr. Green. I did not really know him. I had met him. I just looked at the man. He saw a man near the telephone and he walked away to see this man.
The man I saw at Canberra was a middleaged man. He is connected with an insurance company in Victoria.
Mr. Green. He did not say. He said, “ I am rather interested in the broadcasting inquiry “. My impression is that he came specially to see me. He started off his conversation by talking about the effect of the tariff. I have been trying to think whether I was introduced to him or not, or whether I met him casually. We went and had a drink together. He said, “You are the only one standing out. Why stand in your own light?” He told me he was associated with an insurance company. He arrived from Melbourne that morning and went back that night. I should know the man if I saw him again. He was a man about 5 ft. 9 in., reasonably well built, a slightish but good build, a prosperous-looking gentleman; his hair was slightly grey. I understand he is a very senior man in some insurance company in Melbourne. I told my wife about the Alexander incident at the time. I told her just afterwards.
Messrs. O’Halloran, Francis, Gardner, Guy, Hoare and Yates intimated that they had not been approached in any way.
Senator O’Halloran. I accept your denial without any qualification whatever. I have no doubt whatever as to your veracity. I realize the importance of the issue that has been raised by Mr. Green this morning. The matter is one which must be carefully discussed before a full committee.
Mr. Francis then moved a motion, seconded by Mr. Gardner, that the inquiry should not be proceeded with until the whole matter was fully discussed by a full meeting of the committee.
Senator O’Halloran. We must have a full meeting before any further discussion can proceed in connexion with this inquiry.
Senator O’Halloran. I think the chairman should leave the matter with the committee feeling that it will take all steps necessary to protect his honour during his absence.
I regret that I have had to take up the time of honorable members with so lengthy a report, but the Government was determined that nothing communicated to it should be withheld from this Parliament. It decided, in view of the seriousness of the allegations, and the fact that the Public Accounts Committee, having suspended further proceedings in the broadcasting inquiry, has officially brought this matter under the notice of the Government, to take the earliest opportunity to place before Parliament the information that has been given to it, and to announce that an immediate and thorough inquiry would be made.
– That has yet to be decided. This information came into my hands about 11 o’clock this morning, and I had time only to call a hasty Cabinet meeting, which determined within a few moments that a thorough, full and impartial investigation should be made. The appointment of the tribunal and its personnel will be determined after further discussion by the members of the Government.
.-by leave - All honorable members must have heard with surprise and a considerable degree of shock the statement read by the Prime Minister. I rise merely to say that the Government is adopting the proper course. The only thing to do is to have a searching inquiry into these allegations. In the meantime, it would not be proper for any of us to express any views or opinions on the subject, or to discuss it in any way.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the value of thefollowing articles imported into Australia during each of the past three years: - Cheese, butter, meats, dried fruits, preserved fruits, and edible nuts?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are contained in the following statement: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Dismissals of Returned Soldiers
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
How many returned soldiers have been discharged from thePostal Department during the past three mouths?
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Expenditure and Interest Charges - Construction of Baths - Saleyard Charges
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The total expenditure to the 30th April, 1930, in connexion with the establishment of the Federal Capital was £11,433,428. In addition to capital expenditure, this includes the cost of maintenance, working accounts, interest, sinking fund charges, and general administration. The amount which might properly be regarded as capital expenditure as at the 30th June, 1929, was approximately £7,991,000. Those figures represent expenditure both from revenue and loan.
The interest charges on loan expenditure have varied from year to year. For the year ended 30th June, 1929, the interest charge was approximately £365,700.
It is assumed that the honorable member desires information regarding the cost to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, excluding the taxpayers in the Territory for the Seat of Government. After allowing for amounts contributed by taxpayers in the Territory, the cost of Canberra during the financial year 1928-29, including interest and all charges except new capital expenditure, was £441,167.
The provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, require that any work estimated to cost over £25,000 shall come before this House. Matters of policy must, however, be decided by the Government.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether it is intended to proceed at once with the construction of baths at Canberra at an estimated cost of £10,000; and, if so, does he consider that the money might better be spent on reproductive works?
– The question of construction of public baths at Canberra was considered by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, which reported that, after giving the matter careful consideration, and having in mind particularly the children, the committee was unanimously of opinion that, when practicable, swimming baths should be made available. The report of the committe has received the consideration of the Government, which has decided to proceed with the construction of the baths. All aspects of the matter were taken into consideration before this decision was arrived at.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The information required by the honorable member is not at present available, but I hope to furnish a full reply to-morrow.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether consideration has been given to the recommendation of the Tariff Board that pyrites, now dutiable under Item 275 (b), be admitted duty free in order to reduce the cost of superphosphate?
– The matter is under consideration.
Mr.- CROUCH asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Who represents the interests of Australia in the receipts from reparations from former enemy countries, and who accounts for and checks same?
In the receipts from these enemy countries did the Australian share bear any, and, if so, what part of the cost of (a) the French Army of occupation, (&) the Belgian Army of occupation, and (c) the British Army of occupation?
Have the Australian reparation receipts been affected in any way or any deductions resulted from the costs of the armies of occupation?
Has any Australian protest been made at the expense of such armies of occupation?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– Yesterday the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) referred to the question of a reduction in the staff of the Defence Department, and made representations in regard to the claims of certain personnel for their retention. I can quite understand the anxiety of the staff in this matter.
– Is the Minister making a statement or answering a question ?
– I am answering a question asked on the adjournment last night.
– We are now dealing with deferred questions on notice, and this is hardly the time to answer questions asked on the adjournment last evening. The Minister may make his statement upon the motion for the adjournment of the House this evening.
The following papers were presented -
Munitions Supply Board - Report, from 1st July, 1927, to 30th June, 1929; together with extracts from, the report of the Commonwealth Government Clothing Factory.
Ordered to be printed.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 23.
Dried Fruits Export Charges Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 24.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired in the Hundreds of Bagot and Strangways, North Australia - For railway and road purposes.
Passport Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 32.
Public Service Act - Appointment of R. T. Hinckley, Postmaster-General’s Department.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1930- -No. 5 - Seat of Government (Administration).
Transport Workers Act- Regulations - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 38.
.- I move -
That this Parliament strongly advocates the encouragement of increased intra-Empire trade and the development of the ideal of Empire economic unity and considers that the most effective means which can immediately be employed towards that end is the adoption of a comprehensive system of reciprocal ‘ preference calculated to preserve and expand the particular and essential industries of each section of the Empire, upon which the prosperity of all depends.
I think there will be unanimous agreement in the House regarding the ideal contained in the motion, although there may be some difference of opinion as to its practicability or the method by which it may be achieved. The first portion of the motion must be regarded as axiomatic, because experience in the last 50 or 60 years has shown that the best markets for each individual part of the Empire are found within the Empire. It is quite evident that Great Britain is easily Australia’s best market and, to mention only a few outstanding products, we sold to the United Kingdom last year 80 per cent, of our butter, 40 per cent, of our wheat, 33 per cent, of our wool, 90 per cent, of our surplus sugar, 70 per cent, of our surplus meat, 80 per cent, of our dried fruits, and 90 per cent, of our wine, and eggs. It may be truthfully said that Britain’s prosperity is reflected in an increased consumption of Australian goods. The converse also is true, that the prosperity of Australia has also been reflected in. an increased consumption of British goods.
In regard to the second part of the motion, the ideal of imperial economic unity implies minimum trade barriers between the various partners of the Empire, the greatest measure of free exchange within the Empire and, necessarily, protection against the outside world for all industries within the Empire. Unquestionably, if we could evolve a considered and effective plan to achieve the ideal of economic unity, we could make more effective even lower tariff barriers than at present exist, because of the wonderful resources within the Empire and because the cost of living in every part of it would be reduced. This would be of special value to Australia, which is a young, undeveloped country with huge, untapped resources.
The third portion of the motion deals with the methods by which the ideal of imperial economic unity might be achieved. The principle of reciprocal preference has received general approval in all parts of the world, and has been on actual trial inside the Empire for the last 30 years, and by Australia vis a vis Great Britain for the last 23 years. Our experience during the whole of that time has proved its extraordinary value. It was also affirmed by the Economic Conference of 1917, which unanimously resolved that on the extension of reciprocal preferences throughout the Empire depended to a great extent its future development. The principle has been adopted by all units in the British commonwealth of nations, and meets with general acceptance by all parties in this Parliament. There are two outstanding instances of its national advantage to various parts of the Empire. In 1897 Canada granted preference to Great Britain. Five years earlier the exports from Great Britain to Canada were worth £6,870,000. and consisted mainly of a few special lines. In 1897, when the preference was given, trade had fallen to £5,172,000, but as a result of preference it had increased by 1902 to £10,345,000. and by 1918 to £25,795,000. We have had a similar’ experience in connexion with Australian and British trade. From 1885 to 1907 exports from the United Kingdom to Australia were stationary at about £24,000,000, despite the fact that our population increased by 1,000,000. But as a result of the preference granted to Australia in 1907 British exports to this country increased by 1913 to £34,447,000, and by 1925 to £64,000,000. This increase of trade from Great Britain to Australia actually tended” to increase the trade in the opposite direction, because our exports to Britain increased in the same period from £24,000,000 in 1901 to £72,000,000 in 1925. There occurred not only a total increase of trade but a remarkable increase in the consumption per head - in Australia of British goods, from £5 to £12, and in thu United Kingdom of Australian products from £6 to £12.
I shall mention two industries which have enormously benefited in a very short time as a result of the preference given by the United Kingdom to Australia. In 1925 when preference was first given to Australian wine the total- importations by the United Kingdom from all sources was 13,200,000 gallons, of which the Empire contribution was approximately 1,000,000 gallons. As a result of the substantial preference granted in 1925, of a total importation of 13,000,000 gallons in 1927, the Empire contributed 4,600,000 gallons and Australia’s share of that was 90 per cent. In -1924 when practically no preference was given to Australian dried fruits, Great Britain imported 1,150,000 cwt. of Grecian products, and 180,000 cwt. from Australia. Following the preference granted in 1925, the Australian export increased by 192S to half the total imported into the United Kingdom. The imports of Australian raisins and sultanas increased from 40 to 60 per cent, of the total consumption. That is a striking illustration of how trade is fostered by the policy of tariff preference. Later I shall indicate a vast new field in which this policy can be extended, enabling reduced costs of production in Australia and yielding incalculable benefit to our people. If we gave such assistance to Great Britain we would be able to ask in return for a substantial concession in the British market, which would be of value to us as agriculturists, and would also help to stabilize the great British agricultural industry.
The British Commonwealth of Nations is regarded by the rest of the world as a political unit; it is one for the purposes of defence and external relations. This concerted defence policy, in regard to which we all are agreed, does not interfere with the autonomy of the different parts of the Empire; all are equal partners in the British Commonwealth of Nations. But the Empire is not an economic unit. The time has come to develop a concerted commercial policy, and if we can achieve that we shall probably make a bigger contribution to the peace and welfare of mankind than we are able to do by military co-operation. If one studies the facts closely he cannot escape the conviction that an Imperial commercial defence policy is much more necessary than an Imperial military defence policy: During the great war as the result of concerted military measures, and the throwing of the whole of our energies into the conflict, there was scarcely a man idle throughout the Empire; our full manpower was being utilized either in the firing line, the factory, or the field. But to-day, because of the lack of a commercial defence policy, hundreds of thousands of men throughout the Empire are unemployed, whilst millions of Empire capital is being sent to other countries to develop their resources, and huge masses of Empire raw material are being sent abroad to increase .the population and build up the strength of nations who are potentially our future enemies. An Empire commercial defence policy might he able to remedy to a large extent most of the unemployment that exists in various parts of the Empire. We should strive to follow a policy which will enable us to keep the population of the Empire profitably employed upon sound economic undertakings just as in war time it was mobilized in the Empire’s defence. It is the duty of every citizen of the Empire to do his, or her, part to achieve this end.
The materials at our disposal are unexampled. We possess one-quarter of the total land surface of the world, and onequarter of the world’s population lives within the borders of the British Empire. That Empire is crossed by every line of latitude and parallel of longitude, and has all varieties of climate and soil. The Empire produces every kind of foodstuff, and every variety of raw material needed for manufactures. It produces 44 per cent, of the world’s wool, 70 per cent, of its gold, 90 per cent, of its nickel, 65 per cent, of its rubber, and 45 per cent, of its tin. The Empire’s trade represents 30 per cent, of the total trade of the world. Yet. despite the Empire’s huge area, and unlimited resources, it is, on balance, an importer of merchandise and manufactured articles. It is on balance an exporter of raw materials, but it is an importer of merchandise and manufactured goods. Great Britain, the industrial heart of the Empire, and for so many years the leader in regard to manufactures, does twice as much trade with foreign countries as it does with other parts of the Empire. Moreover, that foreign trade is actually growing faster than is its trade within the Empire, as. is shown by the following figures.
If the whole Empire were to combine in an endeavour to supply all its own wants, it would very quickly be able to produce much of the merchandise and manufactured goods it now imports. Already there have been formed in the world two great economic units with which the Empire as a whole, and its component parts individually will have to reckon. One is the United States of America, and the other is comprised of those countries situated in north-western and central Europe. The United States is one great nation, composed of many States, but among all those States there exists freetrade. In the north-western and central European group there are many nations, but there is developing there a definite economic unity, which is shown by the fact that Germany exports 70 per cent, of her total exports to other countries in Continental Europe, whereas Britain exports only 29 per cent.
– Is there any definite trade arrangement between those countries of which the honorable member has spoken?
– Not yet; but the matter is being discussed. Compared with the British Empire, the United States and the European group of nations have to deal with small compact areas, with short internal lines of communication, served by railways of one gauge. It is necessary for the component parts of the Empire to organize in order to withstand the pressure of these two great economic units ; and the best way of doing this is for the Empire to become an economic unit itself. In this we would be assisted by the great variety of our products and our huge population, and especially by the fact that the purchasing power of the average Briton overseas is gr.eater than that of the average citizen of other countries. For the year 1927-28 New Zealand purchased British goods to the value of £13 5s. 8d. per head, and the purchases of British goods by other countries were : Australia £8 17s. 3d. per head ; Argentine £2 18s. 7d.; France 12s. 3d., and the United States of America 7s. 9d. Therefore, even under our present haphazard system of Empire preference, Great Britain enjoys a definite advantage in trading within the Empire, by reason of the fact that Empire citizens possess a greater purchasing power than those of other countries.
As *a producer of raw materials the Empire is unrivalled. It supplies 70 per cent, of the raw materials imported by the United States of America for use in her factories. Notwithstanding this, however, the trade balance as a whole is unfavorable to the Empire. Many suggestions have been advanced to ensure that the British Empire shall pull its weight in the economic sense. The two most effective are reciprocal preference by means of tariffs, and preference by governments in allotting contracts. Britain herself has done much to assist inter-Empire trade development. One fact, frequently forgotten, with regard to the part played by Great Britain in this regard is her huge contribution to Empire defence, a contribution which is twice that of the people of Australia, and three or four times that of the people of Canada. Great Britain has also supplied capital on very reasonable terms for the development of the various parts of the Empire. The Trustees Security Act, passed in 1900 and again in 1925, defines Australian bonds as trustee securities. This enables loans for development to be raised at from $ per cent, to 1 per cent, lower than would otherwise have had to be paid. Four years ago the Imperial Government attempted to increase the volume of inter-Empire trade by the creation of an Empire Marketing Board, and a subsidy of £1,000,000 was granted for this purpose. The Merchandise Marks Act has provided for the marking of Empire goods in such a way that they can be recognized as such in any part of the United Kingdom. Legislation has also been passed by the British Parliament authorizing films made anywhere in the Empire to be shown as part of the British quota in theatres throughout Great Britain. In addition, tariff preference has been given on many items.
Before considering methods by which the trade between Australia and Britain may be increased; it ls well to analyse the importations which Australia is receiving from other countries. For the year 1927-28, Australia imported from other countries £148,000,000 worth of goods. Of that amount, £40,000,000 worth represented such goods as petrol and petroleum products, which Britain cannot supply us with in any circumstances. Therefore, to that extent, and in regard to those goods, Great Britain is noncompetitive. The other £108,000,000 worth of goods in which Britain is competitive can be divided into two sections; there is one section of £53,000,000 worth, of which Britain at the present time supplies us with 85 per cent., and of the other section of £55,000,000 worth, Britain supplies us with only 30 per cent. It is in regard to this latter section that there exists a wide field for exploitation by Great Britain. I hope to show that there is a method by which we can increase our trade with Great Britain by a reduction of certain duties, which will materially cut the cost of producing, not only primary products in Australia, but also secondary products, so that we shall, be able to export secondary products at a profit. There is no reason why we should not be able to do what Canada has already done. Before the war Canada’s exports amounted to £89,000,000 a year. Last year they were £288,000,000, or three times the previous figure. The method adopted by Canada, in addressing herself to this problem, will, if followed by us, assist us also. An illuminating dissection of Australia’s position has been made by Mr. Dalton, the British Trade Commissioner in Australia. He shows that for 1927-2S, Australia’s total production, both primary and secondary, was valued at £417,000,000. £260,000,000 worth of that was not competitive from the point of view of foreign trade. For instance, such services as heat, lighting and power must be supplied on the spot, and the industries which provide them must be located in Australia. Other industries which come under this heading are flour-milling, jam-making, fruit-preserving, leathermanufacturing, brewing, and metal extraction. It is obvious that metal and o reextraaction plants must be as near as possible to the mines. Other factories which must,, in the nature of things, he located in Australia, are fellmougeries, soap and candle factories, sugar and butter factories.
There is also another £60,000,000 worth of production in Australia which is essentially non-competitive. Of this total £16,000,000 is represented by the work done in our railway and tramway workshops, much of it in repair work. We cannot send our locomotives out of Australia to be repaired. Another £16,000,000 worth of work is done in our newspaper offices and printing works. The newspapers must be printed where they are to be sold. We may add to this £5,000,000 worth of production in motor works and bicycle shops, in general repairs and so on. A large amount is also represented in the production of the furniture and cabinet-making works, which is practically noncompetitive, because of its bulk.
Roughly, only about £100,000,000 worth of Australian production is subject to severe competition with foreign trade. But a great deal of the work that is done here costs much more than it should, because of the method of application of our policy of protection, and the incidence of our duties. Our protective policy, therefore, tends to defeat itself. Because of the manner in which we are applying this policy, the
Dr. Earle Page. degree of protection afforded to our various industries needs to be continually increased, and price levels keep rising, with the result that it is impossible for us to export many of our finished products.
An examination of our factory production shows that it naturally falls into two categories; first, readily consumed products such as hats, boots, socks, butter, jams, biscuits, and the like; and secondly, capital plant and equipment such as locomotives and machines. The readily consumable products are essentially the natural secondary industries of Australia, to which we can easily apply the principles of mass production. Assuming that each person needs four pairs of socks or stockings a year, 27,000,000 pairs would be needed to supply the requirements of our 6£ million people. If each family consumed 1 lb. of biscuits a week, a very large quantity of biscuits would be required. If every person required one hat a year we should require 6^ million hats. Practically all our readily consumable products could be made here from the raw materials which we have available. We should bo converting our wool into clothing, our rabbit skins into hats, our fruit into canned products, and our hides into boots and shoes. The conversion of raw material into manufactured articles would add enormously to the value of our production. If we did this manufacturing in a proper way, and at reduced costs, we should undoubtedly be able to build up a much greater export trade in point of value than we have at present. The value of a pair of boots is roughly the value of a hide, but many pairs of boots could be made out of one hide. If, therefore, we were to manufacture our hides into boots and shoes, and export the same volume of hides in this form, it would add vastly to our wealth. We should take a leaf out of Canada’s book, and extend our manufacturing activities in the direction in which markets are most easily available. The production of such consumable articles which are in constant demand would tend to provide continuous employment to our people. We should not he satisfied with merely the Australian trade, but should stretch out to the overseas market. .
If we did so, we should find that the periods of depression in Australia would not affect us as severely as they do now, because we would have the oversea market available. We should strain every nerve to convert our wool into yarn and cloths; our wheat into biscuits; our hides into boots and shoes, and so on.
Why is it that, although we are at present producing the great bulk of the boots and shoes required for use in Australia, three-quarters of our operatives in that industry are out of work? One reason is that we have over-capitalized our plant and equipment in this industry as in others. We have done so because we have paid too much attention to the protection necessary to manufacturing of such plant and equipment locally. It must be apparent to everybody that although there are very many customers for such readily consumable products as I have mentioned, there are necessarily very few customers for expensive capital plant and equipment which last many years as against the short time the consumable articles last. We have recognized the defects of the principles under which we arc working by giving, under items 178 and 404 of our tariff schedule, a discretionary power to the Minister for Trade and Customs to reduce or even forego the duty on certain goods not made in Australia. We have also provided bounties for the manufacture of certain iron, steel and other products to keep down the cost of equipment in farm and factory. The fact of the matter is that we have too quickly encouraged the manufacture of capital plant and equipment in Australia, with the result that other secondary industries have been severely handicapped. We have apparently forgotten that, although the purchaser of socks may require perhaps four pairs of socks a year, the purchaser of a machine only requires one machine in, say, 20 years. Our policy of granting excessively high protection to heavy engineering machinery “ to induce it to be made in Australia, has weakened rather than strengthened our economic structure, and has, to some extent, intensified the depression which at present prevails. The purchasers of heavy machinery are in most cases the governments or local governing authorities in Australia. But we have reached a period when governments must apply a policy of retrenchment in employment. Governments have been unable to borrow money, and therefore have been unable to purchase locomotives from, say, the Clyde Engineering Works, or bridge material from other works. This necessitates dismissals at the worst possible time for the employees. Our whole economic structure has become like an inverted pyramid standing on the apex of a government loan. The artificial support given to the structure having been taken away by the lack of a loan, it has overbalanced, and the whole country is embarrassed and unemployment and depression increased.
I have examined the importations into Australia to see whether, without serious detriment to Australian industries already established, there is any considerable importation of goods not made here at present which could be brought in either dutyfree or at a much lower rate of duty, to enable us to equip more fully existing plants or additional establishments for the manufacture or production of readily consumable products that we could market on a competitive basis. I have found that in 1927-28 we imported into Australia machinery not made here which was valued at £16,209,000, on which wo paid a duty of £3,300,000. We also paid” duty amounting to £3,253,000 on metals and metal manufactures. Our capital assets that have been imported generally, including motor cars, have cost us £10,600,000 annually more as a result of customs duty paid on importation than similar assets would have cost our competitors. The Tariff Committee, which submitted a report about a year ago on tariff matters, pointed out that the cost of similar capital plant made in Australia, as the result of our protective policy, was at least £9,000,000 more than the cost of similar plant would have been in freetrade countries. If we add to that amount the £10,600,000 of duty paid which I mentioned a few moments ago, we find that we have added annually to the cost of our capital plant £20,000,000 more than ‘ our competitors would have paid for similar equipment. By the time the plant reached the user the increased cost was probably £24,000,000.
This has placed us at an extraordinary disadvantage, which we ought to do our best to remove without delay.
Let us look for a few moments at our position in regard to electrical machinery and appliances. Australia is ill-equipped with such plant compared with America, which is one of our greatest competitors in the production of canned fruits, boots and shoes, and so on. In Australia we have 1.6 horse power developed electrically for every worker employed in our factories. It is estimated that one horse power is equivalent to ten men. Consequently every human being that works in our factories has at his command 16 electrical men which involve no cost in wages. In America they have 4 horse power developed electrically for every worker employed in their factories. Every human being in an American factory therefore has at his command 40 electrical men whose wages the human worker draws. It will be seen therefore that we have a very long way to go before we reach the American standard as regards electrical assistance to our workers and to our production. In 1927-28 we imported between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000 worth of electrical machinery and appliances not made here, on which we paid duty amounting to £1,260,000. We had 4,800 persons employed that year in connexion with the electrical industry, many of whom were women. The value of the output per employee was £296. The amount of duty paid in respect of the imported machinery was equivalent to £260 per employee. The average wage paid to each employee was only £199 although the average duty paid on the imported goods was £260 per employee. It looks as if the community is losing £163 per electrical worker as a result of the electrical industry operations in Australia. It will thus be seen that we are actually placing ourselves at a serious disadvantage through attempting to manufacture electrical equipment here in our present state of development under the conditions existing. Our electrical employees are only 1 per cent, of the total number of workers, so that to give them protection, the other 99 per cent, have been penalized by the under equipment of their factories and the smaller amount of electrical energy put behind their labour. If it is essential to keep these electrical industries in operation in Australia, our policy should be to encourage them by means of bounties rather than duties, since the quantity of these goods that we import is so much greater than the quantity we manufacture locally. The result would be to cut down immediately the cost of electrically equipping the factories in Australia. We could then equip them to the same extent and as fully as the factories of America, giving our employees increased wages and at the same time reducing the cost of production. It may he said that such a policy would result in a loss of customs revenue, but I think that the impetus that would be given to production would lead to a bigger volume . of income on which income tax could be levied. In Canada. the export of their goods has been trebled in the last fifteen or sixteen years. This is no new policy that I am suggesting; there is provision in the present Customs Act that articles not commercially manufactured in Australia and necessary for the equipment of other industries may be admitted free of duty. It is held to be wrong to increase their cost to the users and impede other manufacturing development. What is now suggested is simply the extension of that principle in so far as all imports of such machinery equipment which is not made in Australia is concerned.
If we consider the Australian position without regard to Britain, we shall find that it is a sound policy to endeavour to cheapen the capital cost of equipping our factories. It would reduce production costs at the same time. Employment would then be much more constant that it now is. There is a big field for an advance in the direction of reciprocal preference, if we are prepared to give a decided preference to Great Britain. I have already said that “Great Britaingets 85 per cent, of one class of Australian import trade,- amounting to £53,000,000, and 30 per cent, of another class, worth £55,000,000. Many of the machinery items are within the latter group, and, if we could only increase Britain’s share of that £55,000,000 from 30 per cent, to 50 per cent., we should materially alter her position. Last year we imported £720,000 worth of batteries and accumulators from abroad, of which Britain produced £266,000 worth, as against a foreign production of £463,000. Thus almost twice the value of these articles were imported from foreign countries as from Great Britain. Our imports of filament lamps from Great Britain amounted in value to £299,000, as against £275,000 worth from foreign countries. When I turn to the figures regarding motive power machinery, I notice that our foreign imports totalled £126,000, as compared with £93,000 worth from Great Britain. Of machinery “n.e.i.”, the British imports totalled in value £840,000, and the foreign imports £719,000. The value of metal manufactures of British origin amounted to £1,053,000, as compared with £922,000 worth from foreign countries. It is evident that, if we could transfer to Great Britain 85 per cent, of the trade of which she now gets about 30 per cent., we should materially improve the position in regard to unemployment in Great Britain, and also reduce production costs in Australia. I have examined the figures to see how this would affect the British position. In 1927-28, of £4,572,000 worth of manufactures and metals brought in from Britain, £1,226,000 worth, or 26 per cent, of the total, was admitted duty free, under the special item in the schedule. So that £3,250,000 of British goods had to pay duty. If these were free it would materially benefit Britain in trade, and Australia in cost of equipment. For the same year, I worked out the value of certain imports of metal manufactures at £5,350,000, and the duty paid was £1,857,000. That was a definite charge added to the cost of equipment of plant. In one item of £1,815,000 I found.that £400,000 was admitted free of duty and duty paid on the balance amounted to £616,000. So I am probably right in saying that the duty paid amounted to 50 per cent, where the duty was collected. Thus 50 per cent, was probably added to the cost of all the machinery and plant imported into Australia. That makes a big burden for these industries to carry permanently. I suggest that we should extend the principle that we already have in operation by letting those articles in from Britain free of duty, even if we impose fairly substantial duties against other countries. If that were done, there are so many machinery manufacturers in Great Britain that the competition between them would be keen, and we should be receiving these goods at the lowest possible price.
– The right honorable gentleman ought to have tried that policy when he was a member of the late Government.
– An attempt was made to initiate it under the Pratten tariff in 1925. The late Mr. Pratten put about 60 items on a free list, among them being electrical vacuum cleaners. The British newspapers thereupon commented in such a way as to indicate that we were then trying to do on a small scale what now we are trying to do on a larger scale. The economic depression has shown weaknesses in our policies and has emphasized the need to increase the value of our exportable goods, and made it clear that we should adopt the policy that I am now advocating. We should then be entitled to ask Great Britain for substantial concessions. I am glad to notice that a member has to-day been returned to the British Parliament who is prepared to place a duty on British foodstuffs, and thereby give a substantial preference to the dominions. Even if we could not obtain from Great Britain protection against foreign foodstuffs, we should be able to secure a duty to prevent the dumping of foreign staple products into Britain at the present time. America exported about one-tenth of its total wheat crop. If this were dumped in Britain, and thus brought down the price of wheat, it would merely reduce the wholesale price; no material reduction would occur in the retail price of bread. Similarly, if that country dumped its surplus of dried fruits in Great Britain, which is roughly 5 or 6 per cent, of its total production, it would not be found to materially reduce the price of that commodity to the consumer. If we adopted the policy that I advocate, we could stabilize prices in Great Britain to the advantage of British agriculturalists and pastoralists, and Australian agriculturists as well.
– Since there is much British capital invested in industries in countries outside Britain, must not she take the goods of those countries?
– The Argentine, which now exports annually to Great Britain goods to the value of abou £60,000,000, takes only about £24,000,000 worth of British goods in return. When Mr. Bruce dealt with wine export about five years ago, it was said that British interests in Spain and Portugal would prevent the late Government from taking effective action, but that statement proved to bc incorrect. In Greece, too, British money is invested, but I think that this gesture would be worth a trial.
– The fact that there in so much British capital invested in foreign countries is an obstacle to the realization of the right honorable gentleman’s ideal.
– It is undoubtedly an obstacle, and one that must he overcome; but Britain’s trade with foreign countries is really greater now than her trade with the rest of the Empire, and there is room for improvements along the lines indicated without destroying that trade wholly. The British people are importers as well as exporters, and, if Australia could give them £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 worth of extra trade, it would have the right to demand something fairly substantial in return.
I have opened up one field of preference for discussion ; other fields are available to other honorable members. I have outlined a policy that would benefit Australia and Britain alike. It would provide a nexus of interests between these two great communities that would do something to bring into closer commercial union the whole of the Empire, whose defence ultimately has to be provided out of its own resources, which should consequently be exploited to the utmost to our mutual advantage. There may be other wide fields that other honorable members may desire to consider. I urge on them that this matter of Imperial economic commercial defence should bc above party considerations. The de fence policy of the Empire is traditional. Whatever government comes into power in Great Britain the foreign affairs policy of the Mother Country remains practically unchanged. Take the position in regard to Egypt. We find that the Labour Administration in Great Britain is insisting on safeguards like its predecessor in office on matters that are really vital. There may be big differences in detail, but the outlook on the whole problem keeps fundamentally the same upon the vital national issues at stake. Just as we have an Imperial defence policy that is more or less above party politics, I think that we should try to bend our energies to the development of an Imperial economic commercial defence policy that will become traditional, and act continuously in the best interests of the Empire. If we can bring about conditions under which employment throughout the Empire will be as great in peace times as it was during the late war, we shall do something worth while for the world as a whole.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Paterson) adjourned.
Orders of the Day Nos. 1 and 2 - “Elective Ministries” and “Marketing of Primary Products : Australian Organization “ - adjourned (on motion by Mr. C. Riley) to the 29th May.
– The House has listened to a very comprehensive economic survey by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). I appreciate greatly the close attention that has been given to it by the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley), but I regret that the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) and the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) have not seen fit to be present during the discussion of a question of such outstanding economic importance.
I support wholeheartedly the motion of the right honorable member for Cowper. I realize that Empire freetrade is an ideal that it is quite impossible to attain, at least in this generation; because Australia, in common with the other dominions, wishes to develop secondary as well as primary industries, and apparently can do so only with the assistance of a certain measure of tariff protection, not only against foreign nations, but also against other portions of the British Empire. We can all accept that as a starting point in the discussion of this great question. But that does not prevent each portion of the Empire from giving to other portions reciprocal advantages in trade -that they are not necessarily prepared to extend to outside nations. The development of a comprehensive system of reciprocal preference in fiscal taxation within the Empire would lead to the gradual building up of the Empire as one vast economic unit, with a range of products and of raw materials much more varied and predominant than that of any other nation, with a much greater population, and with a much stronger natural sentiment to trade together. It must, of course, be obvious that large economic units possess immense advantages in regard to trade over small economic units; larger sources of supply may be drawn upon in connexion with raw materials, and larger markets for the finished product may be exploited. But while these advantages have the greatest force where a powerful economic unit possesses complete freedom of trade within itself, as is the case with the United States of America, whose 120,000,000 people can trade with each other unrestrictedly, there are none the less advantages of a modified kind which may be enjoyed in an economic unit throughout which the trading conditions are not free but are freer than those which apply outside of it. I feel strongly that we in Australia ought to do everything in our power to co-operate with those statesmen in other parts of theEmpire who seek to bring about an economic unit- within which the larger vision of Empire will replace the narrower vision of country. It may he said that we in Australia are already doing something to bring this about. It is true that we give to Great Britain very substantial tariff preferences; and it may be asked why Great Britain does not do more than she is doing reciprocally to give us pr<- ferences in connexion with the goods that we export to her. In a first consideration of this question one cannot fail to realize that it is much easier for a protectionist country, such as Australia is to-day, to do that, than for an almost freetrade country to do it. We can impose very high duties against Great Britain and still higher duties against foreign countries, yet still give, the former preference. So long as the duties are not so high as to prevent some trade from being done, it certainly is preference. If, however, the fiscal taxation rises above a certain point and becomes prohibitive it ceases to be real preference. Great Britain is not a protectionist country. She certainly imposes some fiscal taxation, but the object of practically all of her duties is to raise revenue. I admit that there are a few exceptions. In the motor industry, for example, the safeguarding duties imposed are to some extent protective in character. Speaking broadly, however, Great Britain’s tariff taxation is imposed mainly for revenue purposes. The giving of preference to Australia in relation to those commodities on which revenue duties are imposed implies the sacrifice by Great Britain of a certain amount of revenue, while the giving of preference on those commodities which to-day are admitted free to Great Britain presupposes her preparedness to impose on foreign trade duties that do not now exist. I remember that while I was a very young man in the Old Country the late Joseph Chamberlain brought forward a new policy, which was then spoken of as tariff reform. The basis of his proposals was the granting of preference to the dominions or, as they were then called, the colonies. But Great Britain-was not ready to take such a step at that time. It may interest honorable members to hear a short extract from Lord Melchett’s book on Empire Economic Unity, dealing with the attitude of Great Britain at the time that Chamberlain brought down those proposals, and the attitude which exists to-day. Lord Melchett says -
On the other hand, there has grown up a policy of preference between parts of the Empire, partly owing to the Right Hon. Joseph Chamberlain’s daring and far-seeing attempt to change the course of the British economic system, partly owing to the wisdom and statesmanship of the great Canadian statesman, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who worked from an entirely different angle - namely, that of the Canadian freetrader. I refer to the system of preference between the Mother Country and the dominions, which, whatever its decriers may say, has exercised considerable influence on the flow of commodities between the Mother Country and the various dominions, and has produced a feeling of economic solidarity, which I think is now ripe for much further development.
I ask honorable members to note particularly that last sentence. The author of this work goes on to say - .
Chamberlain’s appeal on the imperial side always had a great attraction for the younger men among us, of whatever party, and I remember myself being captivated with the idea. Unfortunately, all too soon it became confused with the discussion of the purely domestic problem of general protection, for which at that time some of us could not see the real justification from the point of view of British trade and industry during those years. It was also very limited in scope, and seemed to carry with it, rather unnecessarily, proposals which inherently and antagonistically were against the ideals of the British people, to whom the days of the Corn Laws were still a memory. In fact, one might say that, as with the visions of all prophets, the period of expression of the idea anticipated very considerably the economic conditions under which its advocacy could be proved most fruitful. But since that time there have been such great changes both in the economic position of the world and of this country; the Great War itself has produced such radical dislocations in territories, markets, and financial conditions, that one is entitled to review the situation entirely afresh.
We may ask ourselves, what has been done by Great Britain in the direction of granting preference to the dominions in return for the preference which undoubtedly Australia, in common with Canada and other parts of the Empire, grants to her. It is interesting to review what has been attempted, and what done, in this direction, by the Governments of Great Britain since the year 1919. For very many years duties have been imposed by the British Parliament upon wines, sugar, dried fruits, tobacco, and many other commodities. The commodities that are of the greatest interest to Australia are the first three mentioned. In the 1919 budget, the first delivered after the Armistice was signed, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Austen Chamberlain - who, by the way, was a son of Joseph Chamberlain - made provision for the granting of an Empire preference on sweet wines, sugar, and dried fruits. The preference on sweet wines was onethird of the rate of duty, and amounted to 2s. a gallon. On sugar it was one1 sixth of the total duty at that time being collected, and amounted to £4 5s. lOd. a ton, which was of very great advantage to the sugar-growers of Australia. On dried fruits, which at that time were paying a duty at the rate of £10 10s. a ton in the case of sultanas, and £2 a ton in the case of currants, the preference was one-sixth of the amount of duty. In 1923 the then Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, Mr. Bruce, attended the Imperial and Economic Conferences that were held in the latter part of that year. Mr. Bruce fought strongly for the acceptance by those governing Great Britain of the principle that preference should be accorded to the dominions generally, and that they should be placed on a better trading basis than foreign nations. The right honorable gentleman pointed out to the people of Great Britain that if they expected Australia and the other dominions to be prepared to take their surplus population they must do their part in enabling the dominions to ©nd markets for the products which those immigrants helped to produce. He made it clear that the best way to ensure the obtaining of those markets was the adoption of a system of preference under which the dominions would receive somewhat better treatment than other countries. The right honorable gentleman did undoubtedly fire the imagination of the Baldwin Government, and it made certain proposals to the Economic Conference, including a recommendation that the preference on sweet wines, which since 1919 had amounted to 2s. per gallon, should be doubled. It was also proposed that the existing preference on sugar should be established over a considerable period, and that even in the event of the duty being reduced all round, this preference should still he retained. It was also proposed that instead of the dominions enjoying only one-sixth of the amount of duty payable on dried fruits as a sort of preference rebate, we should enjoy a preference of the whole of the duty. It was proposed that our currants and sultanas should have entry into Great Britain duty free, while foreign fruit would still hear duties of £10 10s. a ton on sultanas, and £2 a ton on currants. It was also proposed that a new foreign duty of 5s. per cwt. should be imposed on apples, on which formerly there was no duty, and of 10s. per cwt. on honey, the idea being that Empire apples and honey should enter Great Britain duty free. A duty of 5s. per cwt. on, say, American apples, which enter into competition with Empire grown apples, would represent about ls. 9d. a case. That would mean a substantial help to the apple-growers of Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The Baldwin Government put the question of preference to the dominions to the British people at an election, which took place shortly after the Economic Conference was held, and much the same thing happened then as had happened some years before, when the right honorable Joseph Chamberlain put his tariff reform proposals before the people. The cry went up throughout Great Britain, “ Your food will cost you more “, and the Baldwin Government was defeated. The MacDonald Government succeeded, and although it was opposed to preference to the dominions, a pledge had been given to the people on the hustings that if the Labour party were returned to office, that question would be submitted to Parliament for its decision. Let me briefly recapitulate the proposals. The then existing preference of one-sixth of the amount of duty on sugar was to be stabilized, and was to continue even in the event of the total duty being reduced. The preference on wine was to be doubled, and Empire dried fruits were to be admitted free, although the existing duties were to operate in respect of other countries. In addition there were to be imposed duties on apples and honey imported from foreign countries. We mighthave expected that, with regard to the first three proposals, which merely involved the taking off of duties in the case of the dominions, and retaining existing duties in the case of other countries, the British Parliament, would have agreed to the recommendations of the Economic Conference, even if the proposal to impose duties on apples and honey was not acceptable, but, unfortunately for us, none of the proposals was supported by the MacDonald Government, ,and substantial preferences were lost to us by a mere handful of votes. It is interesting to note that in the House of Commons with nearly 700 members, the proposal in respect of dried fruits was lost by only six votes. At that time I could not help feeling that had the Federal Labour party, which was then in Opposition in this chamber, used the influence that it undoubtedly possessed with its colleagues in Great Britain, the necessary votes would undoubtedly have been cast, and Australia and the other dominions would have received a substantial preference. The MacDonald Government lasted only a few months, but during its regime, it reduced the duty on sultanas from £10 10s. to £7, and the preference of one-sixth of the duty given to the Empire was proportionately lowered. In that way the margin of preference enjoyed by Australia and other parts of the Empire, as against such countries as California, Greece and Turkey, dropped considerably. Obviously a rebate of one-sixth of £10 10s. was greater than one-sixth of £7, and the reduction of the duty meant that the dried fruits growers of Australia, in competition with the Greek and the Turk, received a preference of £1 3s. 4d. a ton on sultanas, instead of £1 15s. a ton as formerly. Not long -afterwards the Baldwin Government was returned to power. On the hustings it had given a pledge to the people of Great Britain that during its lifetime it would not impose additional taxes upon foodstuffs, regardless of the country of origin, but within the limits of that pledge, the Baldwin Government proceeded almost immediately to give us the advantages in preference which had been recommended by the Economic Conference. It gave us all the preference that it could extend to us without imposing new duties. We were given preference by the taking off of duties. I believe that the action of the British Government at that time saved the dried fruits industry of Australia. That industry still has a difficult row to hoe. The preference is still comparatively small, but it means that we get the full advantage of £2 a ton on currants and of £7 a ton on sultanas, instead of 6s. Sd. and £1 3s. 4d. respectively. Since .the war there has been an enormous increase in our production of dried fruits. When Sir Austen Chamberlain brought down in the British Parliament his proposal to give us a preference of one-sixth of the existing duties on dried fruits, we were only producing about 14,000 tons, and of that we exported 2,000 tons. Since 1919,. there has been an enormous increase in production, because large numbers of returned soldiers have been settled by State Governments on irrigation blocks in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, more particularly in the districts of Mildura and Redcliffs. Increased areas have been planted, with the result that last year we produced some 71,000 tons of dried fruits. This year the production will be something like 75,000 tons.
– Has there been any considerable increase in the local consumption ?
– I am coming to that point. It must be apparent to honorable members that once we reach the stage of supplying our own market, any increase in production must be wholly exported, unless we alter our habits and consume a greater proportion ourselves. The position to-day is that we consume about the same quantity of dried fruits as we did in 1919. The figure has not increased appreciably. It may have gone up merely in conformity with the increase of population, but not to any great extent, with the result that instead of exporting some 2,000 tons, as we did in 1919, we shall this year have an exportable surplus of 60,000 tons. If our preferences were widened by Great Britain increasing the duties against foreign countries, Australia would enjoy considerable advantages. Take, for example, the advantages that we enjoy to-day under the Canadian treaty. Canada gives us a preference, not of £2 a ton on currants, and £7 on sultanas, as Great Britain does, but of £14 a ton on both currants and sultanas, equivalent to 1^-d. per lb. That preference has within the last two or three years enabled us to get a substantial foothold in Canada, particularly in respect of currants, and we are able to compete successfully with the
Californian growers, who are much nearer to Canada that we are. We obtained that preference of £14 a ton by giving to Canada concessions on articles which we required and which that country could supply. We entered into a reciprocal trade treaty with Canada. We buy from Canada on terms advantageous to it, large quantities of newsprint, and in return we have enormously increased our export of dried fruits to the dominion. To-day Australia supplies practically the whole of the dominion’s requirements of currants.
– To what extent does that leaves us dependent upon Great Britain?
– To an enormous extent. Canada’s population is only about 9,000,000 whereas the population of the United Kingdom is between 40,000,000 and 50,000,000 people, whose consumption of dried fruits is considerable. Australia is now able to supply a substantial proportion of the United Kingdom’s requirements of these goods. Our contribution in 1919 was a mere bagatelle, and Great Britain relied mainly on Greece and Turkey, hut to-day we are supplying such a substantial part of the total that the preference we enjoy can be justified in a way that was not possible before. The question may be asked, “ What have we to bargain with if we ask Great Britain to extend the limited list of preferences we now enjoy ?” The canned fruits industry illustrates what we might do. The United Kingdom does not give a preference to Australian canned fruits as such, but we get a minute preference in the form of a rebate on the sugar content. The fruit is contained in cans made from tin plates imported from Great Britain. We could presumably buy those tin plates as cheaply or more cheaply from America if we did not impose a 10 per cent duty on the American article in order to give a preference to Great Britain. We would be entitled to say to the United Kingdom, “Presumably but for the 10 per cent, preference now given to your tin plates, you would lose ‘the larger part of the business you now do with us. What preference will you give to the canned fruits we export to you in containers which we bought from you as tin plates?” Another item on which
Australia gets a substantial preference in Great Britain is wine. The preference granted on sweet wine iu 1919 was 2s. a gallon, and that was increased by the Baldwin Government to 4s. a gallon, and in addition the datum line between the low strength wines and the high strength wines was raised, putting into a higher dutiable class foreign wines which were formerly in a lower dutiable <;lass. In that way Australia was given very substantial help. The products upon which we now get preference can be counted on the fingers of one hand; can this limited list be extended? Will Great Britain be prepared to impose dumping or other duties on imports from foreign countries and give free entry to goods produced within the Empire? A year or two ago I would have said that the answer would be “No”, and with the present Government in power in Great Britain, the answer is still “No”. But there is a steadily growing feeling in the Old Country in favour of Empire economic; unity which can take definite shape only through the imposition of duties, even though very small, on foreign supplies, if this movement becomes effective Australia will be advantaged to an enormous extent. We could not reasonably expect Great Britain to impose duties on commodities of which the Empire does not produce a sufficient quantity to supply her requirements; that would be merely taxing the British consumers for the benefit of the dominions. Bur on other commodities which can be supplied largely or entirely from empire sources, we may reasonably ask Great Britain to grant to us a preference in exchange for concessions we can offer. If we’ are to ask the United Kingdom to depart from a long-established policy of practical freetrade, at any rate in regard to breakfast-table items, we must give in return something more than prohibitive duties against foreign goods and almost equally prohibitive duties against British goods. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has shown n means by which this can be done. He has shown that it is possible in the interests of the Australian people to discriminate between different kinds of imports. He has shown the advantages to be gained by giving to Great Britain free entry for certain classes of machinery. By the imposition of duties on tools of trade and machinery and electrical equipment to be used in local production we have injured ourselves. Duties imposed upon those goods are in a different category from duties imposed on readily consumable-products. By the policy of taxing heavily machines and electrical equipment intended for factories, we enormously increase our overhead costs of production. Wc have made it impossible to produce cheaply, and a customs duty once collected on machinery compels the consumers of the goods it produces to pay an additional price for all time.’ The increased costs that must result reduce the effective wage of .every Australian, because the only measure of the value of wages is their purchasing power. I saw, recently, some interesting statistics which show that whilst the nominal wage in Australia had increased since 1913 in the ratio of £1 to- 35s. 6d., the purchasing power has only increased to 20s. lid. In other words, although the nominal wage has increased by 77-1 per cent., the effective wage, as represented by its purchasing power, has increased by less than 5 per cent. One cause of this is the high cost of manufactured commodities, which in turn is attributable, to some extent, to the customs taxation of machinery and equipment used in production. Getting the manufacturing world into perspective, we see that production on a large scale is confined to three parts of the globe, namely, the eastern part of the United States of America, central and western Europe, and the United Kingdom. The United States of America has a population of 120,000,000; it has 120,000,000 customers within its own borders and close to the point of production. Probably, with their high standard of living, their purchasing power is equal to that of 200 million people elsewhere per annum. In central and western Europe are 400,000,000 people. The United Kingdom has only 45,000,000 people, but the population of the British Empire is about 450,000,000.
– What of Japan?
– Whilst Japan is advancing as a manufacturing nation its output is small in comparison with the three areas I have mentioned. The huge strides which the United States of America has made in manufacturing is attributable largely to its immense home market. Central and Western Europe may become one great economic unit if the efforts of certain persons achieve success. We know that M. “Briand is animated by a strong desire to bring about the economic unity of continental Europe, and, indeed, of the whole of Europe, if that be possible. He wishes to make a sort of economic United States of Europe. There are enormous difficulties in the way, no doubt, and no purpose i’s served by depreciating them. There are difficulties of race and language to be overcome, but the thing is possible. If continental Europe should be welded together as one economic unit, and the United States of America, with a population of 121,000,000 people, remains absolutely solid as an economic entity, we, the people of the British Empire, will represent the only great commonwealth of nations which is economically disunited. Sheer force of circumstances would then compel us as an Empire to form a closer economic alliance. Why should we wait to be forced by circumstances? Many of the best brains of Great Britain are thinking along these lines already, and Canada is attempting to further the ideal. No country in the world to-day is entirely self-contained economically. That is an expression which is frequently used, particularly in the controversy of protection versus freetrade, but the economically self-contained country does not exist. Undoubtedly, however, the United States of America is more nearly self-contained than is any other single nation. I believe that the British Empire could go even further in that direction than the United States of America has clone, owing to the extraordinary diversity of our products, and. the wide range of our resources. As the Prime Minister and other Ministers have told us, Australia must increase her exports, and with that object in view the Government has offered a guaranteed price for this season’s wheat crop. We must increase our exports if we are to balance the ledger. The only way we can increase exports is to make it profitable to export, and the only way we can make it profitable is either to find new markets or to obtain a larger share of existing ones.
I believe that the best way to obtain a larger share of the existing markets within the Empire is to give effect to the proposal which has been put forward today, namely -
The adoption of a comprehensive system of reciprocal preference calculated to preserve and expand the existing and potential industries of each section of the Empire on which its prosperity depends.
I wholeheartedly subscribe to that proposal, and while I recognize that there are big obstacles in the way, we should not be daunted by present obstacles, but should look to the future.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Price) adjourned.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, a referendum should be held on a proposal to give the Federal Parliament power to establish new States, on the lines suggested by the majority of the royal commission appointed to investigate the working of the Federal Constitution.
I gave notice of that motion some time before the Government brought down its present referendum proposals. I realize that it will be said by honorable members opposite that the way to get new States on the lines suggested is to support the Government’s referendum proposal, No. 1, to give this Parliament power to amend the Constitution in any way it sees fit. However, the subject of new States is so much in the air at the present time that it is opportune, even before the referendum is taken, to expound the point of view of the majority section of the Royal Commission on the Constitution. It is a remarkable thing that the majority report of this commission has so far received no prominence, and, in fact, very little publicity. All the attention has been focussed on the minority report. I do not desire to underrate the value of the minority report. I followed the activities of the commission very carefully for two years, and I was one of the witnesses who gave evidence before it. I have the highest opinion of the calibre of all parties who comprised the commission, and I was convinced that they approached the problem of constitutional reform, particularly in regard to the re-alignment of State and Commonwealth powers, from the angle of the national welfare. We must consider a subject of this importance from the point of view of the future. Where does the report as a whole lead us? The commission cost the country £20,000, which is a large sum of money to be spent in times like these unless some definite action be taken to test the value of its report. I am afraid that the present Government has considered the work of the commission from one angle only; that is, how does the report fit in with the policy of the Labour movement? The Government may be justified in doing that; but I suggest that, as the problem is a national one, the good points of both the majority and minority reports of the commission should have been fully explored. We are about to have a referendum which will cost £100,000, to which must be added the £20,000 expended on the inquiry by the royal commission.
– The present Government can accept no responsibility for the appointment of the royal commission.
– That may be so; but there is no doubt that the Government has adopted the minority recommendation of the commission.
– We wanted a constitutional session, which was not granted by the Government you supported.
– The Government has ample power now to hold a constitutional session if it wishes.
– There is no time for it now. It should have been held when we wanted it.
– I was in favour of the holding of such a constitutional session, and consistently advocated it. I believe that, but for the untimely extinction of the last Government, we should have had such a session. I do not think that the members of that Government intended to commit such a breach of faith with its supporters on this side of the House as to refuse to honour the promise of the then Prime Minister that a constitutional session would be held to consider the report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution.
There is no doubt that we must have new States or provinces of some kind, and we must have them soon. That appears to be generally accepted. There is, however, a division of opinion as te the nature of the States or provinces which should be set up. I do not think that there exists in Australia to-day any considerable section of opinion to the effect that no new States are required, and that there should be no further decentralization of government. No one really believes that the present condition of affairs fulfils all the political and economic requirements of Australia. We know that many honorable members of this House, and thousands of persons outside affiliated with nil political parties, favour a system of unification. Others are opposed to unification for various reasons. There are others again who believe that we must have decentralization of government, but that the principle of State rights must be protected. So long as those rights are adequately safeguarded they do not much care what system is adopted. I believe that to be an unsatisfactory and indefinite attitudes to adopt. The question then arises, how soon are we to submit the issue to the people for their decision ? My honorable friends opposite will say “ Support the Government’s Constitution alteration power of amendment proposal and this question can be tested in the near future.” Had I thought that that would be so, I would have supported that proposal, but it was made clear in the speeches delivered by honorable members opposite on the Constitution Alteration Power of Amendment Bill that this question would ‘ not be tested by the vote of the people on that issue. It was also made clear by members of the Government in the debate on that bill that even if the people approved of the proposal the Government might not take any immediate action to amend the Constitution. It proposed to administer its constitutional medicine in homeopathic doses. So far as we can learn, it certainly does not intend to give the people a lead in regard to the resubdivision of the States. In the circumstances, I urge the Government to put another question upon the ballot-paper, so that we may ascertain definitely whether they desire unification or the creation of new States or provinces. An affirmative vote on any or all of the three questions which the Government has already decided to submit to the people will do nothing to settle this vexed question. The only way in which we can get a decision upon it is to put a definite question in relation to it before the people. Seeing that three questions are to be submitted, another one would not make any difference, for as many as six were submitted on a former occasion when Constitution alteration proposals were made. The Government could easily formulate a simple question which would enable the people to express their mind on this important subject.
I listened with interest to the speeches made by honorable members opposite on thu Government’s ‘Constitution alteration proposals; and was struck by the amount of time and thought they had given to the proposal to create newStates. Hardly one of them failed to mention it or unification. But it appears that the supporters of the Government
Mrc ahead of the Government in this matter, although I do not suggest that they know more than the Government knows. I do not suggest, either, that the Government has anything “ up its sleeve.” I believe that it has laid all its cards upon the table. It has made no definite proposal to alter the Constitution except in relation to industrial powers and trade and commerce; it is merely asking the people to equip it for future action. But, surely a proposal which goes down to the roots of the rights of the States and the Commonwealth is sufficiently important to justify the consulting of the people! If the boundaries of the States are altered the sovereign character of them must be undermined. It appears to me that if the Government’s power of amendment proposal is agreed to the whole basis of the federation will he white-anted, if I may use the term. The centralization of legislative authority must seriously interfere with the States.
In view of the fact that the Government intends to spend £100,000 on a referendum in the near future in order to ascertain the opinion of the electors on the minority report of the Constitution Commission, I hope that it will also take advantage of the opportunity to find out how the people regard the majority report of the commission in regard to the re-subdivision of Australia. The Constitution Commission wrote a new and valu- able chapter upon the alleged insuperable difficulties of the re-subdivision of Australia, and I submit that its proposals should be put before the people. It was surprising to me that in the Constitution debate which we had a few weeks ago not. one honorable member put before the House the salient points of the commission’s report in this connexion. I intend to do so before I finish my speech.
The general public is taking a great deal more interest than the Commonwealth Parliament in this subject. Everywhere to-day discussions are occurring in the press, in debating societies, in constitutional clubs, and in other organizations interested in constitutional reform, upon the future of the Commonwealth and the States in relation to sovereign powers, and I have been disappointed by the lack of interest displayed by this Parliament in the subject, particularly as we are about to embark upon a Constitution alteration campaign. On Monday week a conference will assemble in Canberra of delegates representative of numerous bodies inter- ested in .constitutional questions, many of whom will travel thousands of miles, and it, I hope, will give Parliament a lead on the subject, though I fear that even if it does so Parliament will ignore it. The Commonwealth Parliament has, to use vulgar parlance, “ loafed on the job “ in this connexion, notwithstanding that it is vital to the welfare of the country that the issues with which I am dealing should be settled without delay.
It cannot be denied that all of the Australian States are in a perilous condition to-day, and one which was not contemplated by the framers of the Constitution. lt never entered the heads of the members of our various pre-federation conventions that within 30 years of the consummation of federation practically all the States would be on the verge of bankruptcy.
– They did not foresee the war.
– The war is chiefly responsible for the financial troubles of the Commonwealth, but the responsibility in that connexion rests with this Parliament and not with the State Parliaments. The States are suffering to-day because of the adoption of a disastrous policy of concentrating their populations in the capital cities. Not one of the States has the faintest notion of how toget out of its difficulties, and this Parliament should give them a lead. Every section of the community is thoroughly alarmed to-day at the shocking financial position of the country, and there is excuse for this alarm, because most of the leaders of our political and economic thought have, in endeavouring to suggest solutions for our troubles, made confusion worse confounded. No one seems to have a definite idea of the causes which have brought us to our present impasse.
– Anex-Treasurer of the Commonwealth, the Honorable A. Poynton, is writing to the Adelaide press to-day on the very subject with which the honorable member is dealing, namely, the cost of parliamentary government in Australia.
– I am not dealing with that subject, but with one vastly more important. The cost of parliamentary government is a red herring which muddle-headed people, incapable of clear thought, arc endeavouring to draw across the trail. While the general public may think that the expenditure of tens of thousands of pounds annually on the Commonwealth and State legislatures is a serious factor in our economic situation, it is, as a matter of fact, nothing of the kind. This expenditure is a mere flea bite compared with the amount that the Parliaments themselves are spending. Even the cheapest legislature in Australia, that of Tasmania, is on the verge of bankruptcy though it has only 30 members and each Minister of the Crown holds three or four portfolios. The cost of parliamentary government has very little to do with the present financial difficulties of the community.
– But it is one argument advanced against the creation of smaller States.
– That may be so, but our real troubles have been caused through successive Commonwealth and State Governments spending huge amounts in the last decade or so in developing the country on wrong lines. One of our greatest troubles is the concentration of more than 50 per cent. of our population in the six capital cities of Australia. In Victoria 54 per cent. of the population reside in the metropolitan area of Melbourne, and in Sydney we find 52 per cent. of the people of New South Wales.
– If a new State were formed, would not the process of centralization begin there?
– No; that has not been the experience of other countries. It has been proved, without exception, that when a new centre of government is established, there is an immediate development of local energy and activity in what was previously an isolated area. A small legislature, with its limited financial resources, concentrates on its local problems, and, in the course of time, the area begins to approach the economic developmental condition of the older-established districts. That has been the experience in various parts of the United States of America, in South America, and in Canada. Seventy years ago Queensland had a population of about 16,000. Desperate efforts were made to prevent its separation from New South Wales. Victoria, too, was once governed from Sydney, and, even in those days, the strongest opposition was raised in New South Wales to its separation from the Mother State. If the agitation for the separation of Victoria and Queensland had not been successful, we should have had about four-fifths of the population of this country governed from New South Wales, which is, and always has been, virtually Sydney. Certainly when a new State is established the expense of another government has to be met; but that does not necessarily represent an addition to the total cost of government throughout Australia. In northern New South Wales there is a population of 400,000, which is greater than that of Western Australia. There an agitation has been in progress for separation from New South Wales for 70 years. It is suggested that the setting up of another parliament in New South Wales would increase the total cost of government, but that does not follow, because at least one-sixth of the parliamentary representation in the present State of New South Wales could be transferred to the new area, and that would result in a reduction in the cost of government in the older State.
I represented the new-State movement for twelve months before a royal commission appointed by the Parliament of New South Wales under the presidency of Judge Cohen. The interests of New South Wales were represented by Mr. Holman, an ex-Premier of that State, and Mr. Nicholas, who appeared for the Commonwealth at the sittings of the federal royal commission that investigated the matter. One of the big arguments used against the establishment of a new State in northern New South Wales was that at that time £3 10s. per head was as much as the people could pay in taxation, and, if the new State were formed, it would immediately increase the taxation to £5 per head. To-day, only five years later, the taxation in that State amounts to £5 10s. per head, and it appears that it will be over £6 in the near future. In Central Queensland the tendency is for the population to drift towards the southern areas surrounding Brisbane; the population in the northern and great central divisions is certainly not increasing to any noticeable extent. Many years ago, before federation was brought about, it was proposed that there should be three subdivisions of Queensland. I have visited that part of the State that was formerly represented by the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), and I contend that Northern Queensland is an ideal centre for a new State. It “will never develop as it should until it has its own local government.
Although the State authorities have resisted further subdivision, they cannot make suggestions as to how they are satisfactorily to carry on their governmental functions in future. It is a deplorable indictment of State legislatures that in no State are satisfactory proposals put forward for the future. If the present State governments can succeed in dragging a few more shillings out of the pockets of the already overburdened taxpayers, they seem to be satisfied. They merely tell us that when the present period of depression, is over their difficulties will vanish, but I am afraid that they will continue to govern in the same old way. Let me refer to the appalling position in New South Wales, the great mother State that is supposed to be an example to the rest of Australia. In northern New
South Wales, part of which I represent in this House, it was decided to grant certain “ sops,” partly with the object of breaking down the new State movement, and partly to placate the Country party, the backbone of which comes from that part pf New South Wales. The New South Wales authorities decided to build a £2,000,000 railway from Guyra to Dorrigo, and then down to Coffs Harbour. It was said that if we had an eastwestrailway connexion with the coast it would put an end to the new State movement in northern New South Wales. The construction of the railway was begun with a great flourish of trumpets. The Minister of Works visited the district and said : “ Don’t worry ; we are going on with the railway.” Last October nearly 1,000 navvies were employed on the job, hut to-day there is not one. The trouble was that the available funds were exhausted. What an example of Government ineptitude! The sum of £100,000 has been spent, and no tangible benefit has been obtained. Is it surprising that the States are almost bankrupt?
– How could a new State do better work than the present authorities?
– It would be able to concentrate on the most urgent local problems, the cost of which could be met out of its limited funds. When Queensland became a State, the people there had only 9d. in the Treasury, and even that was later stolen. They started practically without a threepenny pipes. There were no railways, but the authorities in the new State, immediately tackled problems that had not interested v the government in Sydney. They built narrow-gauge, lines for the purpose of economy, and Queensland eventually gained a front rank position amongst the States. Queensland now has 7,000 miles of railways. I do not say for a moment that there are many outlying centres in Australia to-day that could go ahead on extensive lines, but if certain communities such as northern New South Wales, the south-west corner of Western Australia, with its magnificent port of Albany, central and northern Queensland, the Mildura district of Victoria, and the Riverina district of New South Wales were permitted to’ set up small . governments of their own, they would approach the problems of local development to better advantage than they can be dealt with by the present State authorities. It may be argued that, even if new States were formed, they would have no funds with which to carry on. If that were so they could follow the example set by Queensland when it was separated from New South Wales.
– Queensland had a lot of Crown lands, which were an asset.
– Any new States formed would collect revenue from Crown lands.
– There are not so many public estates to sell now.
– There is still a tremendous area in the hands of the Crown; but, if present conditions are allowed to continue, this will quickly be sold and there will be no hope of deriving any benefit from it in the future. The people are asking what action we propose to take in regard to the existing States, and are making it clear that the present position is not to their liking. It would be an easy matter to ask the people by referendum whether they wish existing conditions to continue, or are in favour of some cheaper form of State government. If they ‘ will agree to a gigantic proposal the like of which has never previously been contemplated in the history of federation, is there not an equal probability of their agreeing to this simpler proposal?
– What definite proposal was made by the Constitution commission ?
– The majority favoured the addition of a new section to chapter 6 of the Constitution, giving to the Commonwealth Parliament full power to establish new States or provinces on certain terms and conditions. The Constitution, as it now stands, makes it quite clear that, before a referendum can be taken of the people of any State to decide whether they are in favour of the subdivision of their territory, the consent of the parliament of that State must first be obtained. That is the lion in the path. State consent has never been given. On three occasions the Parliament of Queensland carried resolutions, one of which was moved by the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), when he was a member of that legislature. He did great work for Queensland when he was instrumental in having that resolution passed. The Labour Government in Queensland gave him its blessing; but that was the end of the matter; the resolution found a place in the wastepaper basket. The honorable gentleman has been one of the leaders of the movement for subdivision of Queensland, and he should now use his influence in the Cabinet of which he is a member so as to keep faith with the people of Queensland, and have this question placed on the ballot-paper.
– Why did not the honorable member use his influence with the last Government?
– I always used whatever influence I possessed; and finally I obtained from the late Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) the promise of a constitutional session. The carrying of the first of this Government’s referendum proposals would not give it a mandate to interfere with the boundaries or the powers of the States; there would need to be a further reference to the people before that could be done. Why not do it now, when a large volume of public opinion outside of Parliament is demanding to know what we propose to do in regard to the States, and why we cannot cheapen the cost “of government? Supporters of all political parties are in favour of unification ; but many of them are attracted by the name without knowing what it means. They have at the back of their minds the abolition of State Parliaments. That is absolutely impossible; we must have some local, decentralized form of government. The people are so obsessed with the idea that we must have a cheaper and better form of government than that which now exists that I believe they would vote in favour of the abolition of State Parliaments in every State, with perhaps the exception of Western Australia. Apparently we in thi3 Parliament are unconscious of the extent to which this issue is being forced. Conferences are being held everywhere. T hope that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) will attend that which is to be held at Canberra shortly. Honorable members opposite have not so far displayed any enthusiasm towards that conference. They are viewing the matter in a purely party light. They have been invited to attend and make known their views, and have been assured of a non-party welcome. We have reached the stage when we must examine these questions from a non-party point of view. So long as we are assured of efficiency, economy and progress, we shall be prepared to accept any scheme, no matter by what name it may be called. That is the frame of mind in which New Staters are approaching this conference. If the Government had the courage to put. this issue to a vote of the people of Australia, thousands of New Staters would support it. We want something concrete.
Mr.Crouch. - That is provided by the first referendum proposal.
– That is not concrete. The people are not being told what is to be done in regard to the big problem of State Governments. If they were asked to confer on this Parliament the power so to amend the Constitution as to alter the boundaries, the powers and the functions of the States in whatever way this Parliament should think fit, I believe that they would grant that power. The future is dark, and the existing States are bankrupt of statesmanship. They are not able to show the people that there are brighter prospects in the future. All that they can propose is to place a levy upon their people to get them out of the difficulties in which they find themselves, and to let the future disclose what it holds in store. That is an unwholesome prospect for the people. No development is taking place. All country works have been closed down in New South Wales.
– Would the creation of new States overcome that difficulty?
– If this Parliament had the power to establish new States in certain parts of Australia, and did so, areas that are neglected at present would be given a chance to develop.
– Does the honorable member favour giving this Parliament the power to carve up a State at its will ?
– Yes, provided a referendum of the people in that State were first taken. The Constitution commission recommended that before any action was taken to establish new States the proposal should receive the approval of 60 per cent. of the voters in the defined area and of 40 per cent. outside that area.
– Does the honorable member hold that there should be a60 per cent. majority?
– I would sooner have a simple majority. But it would not be difficult to obtain a 60 per cent. majority in any of the areas that are agitating for separation.In northern New South Wales the majority in favour of separation would be 90 per cent. The trouble, however, is that the States are now dominated by the capital cities. In Sydney there would probably be a 90 per cent. majority against, the establishment of new States, and that is the reason for the recommendation of the commission that outside the defined area a 40 per cent. vote should be regarded as sufficient. Those who are in favour of new States are taking all the risks. They would have to go outside their area and win over to their view 40 per cent. of the electors in the remainder of the States. Surely it is fair to ask that the Government shall adopt the recommendation of the majority on the commission, and not incur this gigantic expense of £100,000 in addition to the £20,000 that it has cost to obtain the report, merely to give effect to the proposal of the minority. That is not playing the game with the people of Australia, who want this big issue decided. The people are now awake, and can see where the evil of centralized government is leading them. The existing States have reached a certain stage of development, and are unable to advance any further. I again appeal to the Government not to miss this golden opportunity of obtaining an expression of opinion from the people. If the matter is allowed to remain in abeyance for a further three years we may in the interim have so great a disaster, economical or other, that it will not matter very greatly whether we continue along the present lines indefinitely or abolish the federation and make a fresh start. We now have a well-ordered public opinion, which is faced with certain economic facts. The people are prepared to think out a solution of the problem; all that they need is a lead. They are looking to this Parliament to give that lead, yet it is the one Parliament which is silent on the subject.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I formally second the motion.
– I am entirely in accord with the movement for the creation of more States. Australia began with one State, and now has six. We have gone’ far since those six States were established, and it appears to me, and, I am sure, to the majority of the people also, that further development is seriously handicapped by the constitutional obstacles to the creation of new States.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), who moved this motion, has made certain suggestions. Without accepting the precise verbiage of his motion, I entirely agree with him that it is most desirable to give the electors an opportunity to express an opinion as to whether the time has not now come when the Constitution should be amended so as to vest in this National Parliament the power to legislate in this matter. What we desire - and we are not very particular how it is done - is that this Parliament shall be able, when a sufficient case has been made out by the citizens within an area which it is desired to constitute a new State, to establish such a State without hindrance. As it stands the Constitution effectively prevents the creation of new States.
The honorable member for New England was a little critical of the attitude) of this Government towards the new State movement. That attitude, however, is perfectly clear. The Labour party stands for unification, and it may, therefore, be said that it stands for the new States policy.
– Not for new sovereign States.
– At least it stands for putting an end to the present condition of affairs. We are not here to split hairs; whether the new States are to be quasi-sovereign, or provincial councils is a question the people will decide; our concern is to remove the barriers to further development. In this the primary producers are more deeply interested than any other section of the community. While the honorable member was criticizing the present Government I thought that he might have said something about the Government that preceded it. That Government was composed of members of two parties, of which one, at any rate, was not only definitely committed to the advocacy of the new States policy, but was elected to Parliament to make the creation of new States possible. Yet Ave are pained to find that there does not appear to be a scintilla of evidence that, during the six and a half years of the regime of the Bruce-Page Ministry, its members ever tried seriously to give effect to their policy. There was no day during those years when they could not have done one of two things, either provide an opportunity for the expression of thu popular opinion on this subject, or, alternately, put the Government out of office. Had they been in earnest about new States, this movement would have been unnecessary, for the Constitution would have been amended and new States could have been created. But their ‘policy was only a pose. Contrasting their once . almost lyrical enthusiasm in praise of the new States movement with their funereal silence of late years, and their absolutely barren record, one could almost despair of mankind.
But we are not here to bewail the wasted opportunities of the vanished years; we arc here to do something. A further opportunity is now given to us, and I support the honorable member in urging the Government to consider seriously whether, when it refers its other proposals for constitutional amendment to the people, it should allow them to express au opinion on this question also. Whether the majority of the people would vote for the abolition of the existing State Parliaments I should not like to say. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) looks at me with the pitying smile which is characteristic of him whenever any suggestion is made concerning Western
Australia, but just as a good thing once came out of Nazareth, so something good for the New State movement might in time come out of Western Australia. I certainly believe that the majority of the people of Australia, as distinguished from the States, are in favour of doing away with the present state of things. It is difficult to believe that they could be worse.
While’ I advocate wholeheartedly the amendment of the Constitution to give the people an opportunity of establishing new States, I do not consider that any great and lasting good can come merely from the creation of new States. Whether we have six or sixty-six States in itself cannot matter. The reason, for setting up new States is not that an increase in the number of States would of itself be beneficial, but that by removing artificial barriers we should afford the man on the land greater facilities for transporting his produce to the markets of the world. That is the real justification for new States. The railway in the district to which the honorable member referred, and about which he complained bitterly of the expenditure of £100,000, now lies pathetically idle awaiting the coming of men who will use it. I have not the slightest doubt that the men responsible for the building of it had in “their minds the one idea only that they could get their produce by a shorter and less costly route to a navigable port from which they could ship more cheaply and speedily than at present. Dr. Pern, an enthusiastic New-Stater - who in the opening paragraph of a pamphlet that he has written, declares that he has held a New State button since the inception of that movement and still has it, the only relic apparently of that once nourishing movement - quotes from Sir George Buchanan’s report of 1926, the following pregnant paragraph regarding the relation of transport to the cost of production : -
When questions of production costs are being considered, it is now generally realized that cost of transport is a most important item, ranking equally with labour and material costs, because it is essential that produce, whether from land or from factory, should be moved by the best and cheapest methods to the nearest markets. In the case of both exports and imports it has been found by experience that port terminal facilities and port charges, including handling, are frequently a decisive factor in the economic situation and that the avoidable delays and unnecessary ‘high charges generally occur si’t the terminals.
Those who took charge of a New State movement in New South Wales ignored these pertinent facts. They were NewStaters per se. So they proposed, as the honorable members has just disclosed, the construction of a railway to Coffs Harbour, in order to make that a port. The primary producer was crying for bread and they gave him a stone. Any one who has embarked at Coif’s Harbour has painful recollections of being hauled up the side of a steamer in a basket. If there is any place less fitted to be used as a port through which the produce of the northern, tablelands of New South Wale.3 should be discharged and the merchandize of the world imported in, I should like to know of it. What the primary producer wants is good roads and railways with easy gradients carrying goods cheaply to great natural harbours. While in favour of the creation of new7 States, I am certainly not in favour of attempting to make out of any such place as Coffs Harbour a port.
Let us turn from ports to railways.
Because of the restrictions imposed by the Constitution it is impossible to bring about a unification of railway gauges. The present position of Australia is pathetic. Every expert who has visited the Commonwealth has drawn attention to this grave defect in our transport system. Means of communication march hand in hand with civilization; civilization cannot proceed ahead of them. Yet at Wallangarra, Albury, Terowie, and Kalgoorlie are toll gates, at which passengers and merchandise are held tip because of the breaks of gauge. What is needed is a uniform gauge from end to end of our railway system. The Nationalist party is everlastingly advocating a reduction of the cost of production. That objective cannot be more effectively promoted than by a whole-souled advocacy of the unification of gauges. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) dissents. His thoughts are out of date. I have no doubt that he is a lineal descendant of the person who was responsible for the hysterical outburst against Stephenson’s locomotive, and was intensely concerned with the fate of the cow that stood on the line. But people alive to the needs of the present generation realize that there is no more effective way of reducing the cost of production than by unifying the railway gauges That is one reason why I advocate the creation of new States. Those gentlemen who are everlastingly talking about reducing the cost of production, and who mean by that nothing more than lowering the wages of the workers, would do well to turn their attention to this matter. The gauge to which all railways should be standardized was settled long ago. Commission after commission has made the same recommendation. In 1921 I appointed a commission consisting of two of the greatest experts in the United Kingdom and the United States of America and one Australian engineer, and they unanimously urged the immediate conversion of the railways to the 4 ft. 8£ in. gauge. Those who are opposed to the unification of the gauges and to the development of ports which will most conveniently drain the hinterland of this great continent, are certainly not friends of Australia. I have no sympathy whatever with those people who talk about State rights. There are no State rights; there are only the rights of the people who live in them, that is to say the citizens of the Commonwealth, and it is to the people that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) proposes to remit this matter. For that reason I am supporting the motion. Whilst the recommendations of the Constitution Commission may be open to criticism, it is for the Government to say, in what way the people shall have an opportunity to express their opinion. That they should have that opportunity I emphatically affirm. What will be the position of this Parliament in regard to new States and other matters, if the first amendment of the Constitution which the Government proposes to submit to the people is rejected? It will be able to do nothing. If, on the other hand, the amendment is carried, it will be convincing evidence that the honorable member for New England is correct in saying that the people of Australia are heartily ‘ sick of the present system of State Parliaments. At the back of the people’s minds when they assented to the
Federal Constitution was the idea that it meant the abolition of State Parliaments. But time has passed, and I am not in favour of the proposal put forward by the Government. I very much prefer that the people should be asked a straightforward question, “ Are you in favour of such alterations of the Constitution as will clothe the National Parliament with power to create new States?” If I am asked that question I reply most emphatically in the affirmative, and I am supporting the motion, because I believe that there is no more effective way of helping the primary producer than by the creation of cheap and speedy means of transport. The present haphazard and unco-ordinated systems of transport are determined by economic considerations, which in turn are dictated by the interests of the great capital cities. This is an inevitable result of the manner in which Australia has developed. But the time has come when the hinterland - the Northern Tablelands, some parts of Queensland, the Riverina, and the north-western part of Western Australia - should be enabled to ask this Parliament to create new States, and if they make out a good case, be given an opportunity so to re-arrange transport that they will be able to market their produce in the most speedy and effective way.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McTierNAN) adjourned.
.- I move -
That all ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force who served overseas and have since developed tuberculosis shall be’ deemed to be . suffering from a war disability and be ‘ eligible for pensions under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
This proposal is opportune because recently the country has been stirred to its depths regarding the privileges of returned soldiers, the preference they should enjoy, and the manner in which the promises made to them when they enlisted to fight for Australia and the Empire, should be honored. In the main I agree with all that has been said regarding the consideration to which” returned soldiers are entitled, and at no time have I failed to pay my testimony to their courage, heroism, self-sacrifice and patriotism.
Nevertheless, I maintain my contention of yesterday that now they are restored to civil life, those who are fit and well should shoulder the ordinary responsibilities of civilians. But if there is one class of soldiers to whom we should give possibly a little more than was promised by the Parliament and people fifteen years ago, it is those who to-day are suffering from tuberculosis. Honorable members opposite are treating this subject flippantly. They profess interest in the soldiers, but having apparently completed their propaganda stunt in regard to preference in Commonwealth employment, they have no further interest in the diggers.
– Keep to your subject.
– I intend to do so, but I want to bc sure that when honorable members opposite make an outcry about what is due to returned soldiers, they really believe and mean what they say. I have been sincere in my advocacy of their rights at all times, and shall continue to plead their cause until the maimed and nerve-wrecked survivors of the great war receive their due. I know of many sufferers to whom a war pension would be a god-send. The lot of several of them is worse than it would have been had this relief been given to them years ago. This is either the third or fourth time that I have moved a motion in similar forms to this. On other occasions I have altered the wording of it to suit honorable members. At one time I was told by some honorable members that they must vote against my proposal because they suspected it to bo a political move. I think they realize now that my action is without political significance. Its motive is a sincere desire on my part to get justice for the returned soldiers, amongst whom are no more pitable cases than those victims of tuberculosis who are pensionless and almost penniless. When this dread disease takes hold of a man he is under virtual sentence of death, and his days on earth are numbered. The majority of the tubercular soldiers have wives and children, who are sharing their privations, and will suffer even more severely when those who should be their breadwinners are gone. It is unnecessary for me to repeat the statistics that I have quoted on other occasions. The facts are well known to the Minister for Repatriation.
The probability of tuberculosis being the result of war service was made plain by the description by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) on Friday last of the privations and hardships endured by the soldiers in Palestine. He said that one could notice the returned soldiers becoming prematurely old, and that ageing can only be the result of . the hardships endured while on service. This all serves to emphasize what I have said in regard to tubercular soldiers, whose complaint may, in nearly all instances, be traced to the terrible conditions under which they had to live during the war. Some honorable members have spoken to me about the cost to the country if this request is acceded to. There are not many tubercular returned soldiers outside the provisions of the Pensions Act, and if the recognition which I seek is extended to them the extra cost to the country will not be great. If this is not done it will constitute a repudiation of the promises made to the soldiers when they were going to the front.
Only two weeks ago a returned soldier wrote to me soliciting my assistance to obtain a pension. He told me that he had been gassed at the war, but was unable to produce any medical sheets in proof of it. I told him that the only thing he could do was to lay his case before the Assessment Appeal Board. In another case the Repatriation Board in South Australia recommended that the applicant be given the benefit of the doubt, but the Repatriation Department turned him down because the records were not satisfactory, although it was shown that a sheet was missing from his file. He is receiving no assistance other than what he can get from returned soldiers’ organizations. His wife is working her fingers to the bone trying to keep their home going, and from her appearance her exertions are rapidly undermining her health. This man did not get to France at all, but he offered to serve his country, and the conditions under which soldiers had to live even in England were frequently had enough to undermine their health.
I do not wish to labour this matter, but I propose to read one of the many letters I have received in regard to the treatment of tuber- cular ex-soldiers. The lady who wrote this letter did not ask for a pension, hut wrote to me in regard to a pension for her father. In the course of her letter she mentioned, incidentally, that her husband had died of tuberculosis after he returned from the war, and I asked for particulars of the case. Her letter is as follows : -
Ite my husband’s case. I will be only too pleased to give you all particulars. It might bc the means of helping’ some other soldier to ‘ escape the cruel treatment my husband mct with. I hardly know how to begin, but I will give you the most important facts as briefly as I can. My husband’s name was- .
Hu served with the Australian Imperial Force in the 48th Battalion. He enlisted on 2nd October. 19 Ki, and was discharged at Keswick on 29th September, 1919. He had no sickness; neither was he wounded on active service. But about eighteen months, I think it was, after his discharge he had a severe attack of pleurisy and was in the Adelaide Hospital for thirteen weeks. Twelve months later he had another attack of pleurisy, and was again in Adelaide Hospital for twelve weeks. Then in December, 1928, he was again in hospital at Peterborough, where the doctors discovered what they said they thought was tuberculosis, but said they were not sure. However, my husband, after a holiday, went back to work, until last June, when he came to Adelaide and a specialist told him he had tuberculosis on both lungs. We at once sold our home, as the doctor said he needed six to twelve months’ complete rest.
The doctor put Mr.- into the Adelaide
Hospital and said he would treat him. He was there five weeks and was practically ordered out of that institution, as they told hiin in a most callous manner that he was too sick to stay there. They wanted to send him straight to the tuberculosis block on North Terrace. He did not want to go there, and asked me to try and get him to Bedford Park or Myrtle Bank, which I did my utmost to do. 1 asked the doctor if he could or would assist me to get him to one of those soldiers’ homes, but he was anything but sympathetic, so I had him taken to a private home at Kensington Park, with the specialist’s consent. He was well cared for there, but it seems the council would not allow him to stay there, as the home was only licensed at the back, my husband being on the front verandah. The doctor, when I saw him, told me I could send him to Kalyra, at Belair, and promised me that he could stay there for at least a month. I said it seemed terrible that he could not rest anywhere. However, I took him to Belair, and he seemed very comfortable, and I paid for two weeks in advance. He was at Kalyra ten days when I received mi urgent wire to remove him at once, as lie was a dying man and could not remain there. All this time I did all in my power ‘to have Mr.- put with other returned men at either of the homes, but his only crime was that ho was not sick while away, and lie had a clean discharge. After receiving such an urgent telegram (I had visited him the day before and was not told anything about him having to be moved) I had to make arrangements to have him moved bade to Adelaide in a dying condition. The doctor at Kalyra told me that he would be moved most carefully in an ambulance and that he would see to that himself. However, I rang Kalyra to know what time they were moving my husband and was calmly told I would have to come and have him moved myself, which I did do, and he was brought to Adelaide in an ordinary passenger car. which people are taken to and from Kalyra in to visit patients. That was four moves in four months. My husband died at the last private hospital at Dulwich. This to me seems disgusting treatment to give a returned man after serving three years at the front. I offered to pay for him to go to either soldiers’ home, so that lie could be with other soldiers, and have a peaceful end with his comrades, which was denied him. Fortunately we were able to pay for every comfort for my husband in private hospitals, but I shudder to think what returned nien suffering with tuberculosis are going through that can’t get repatriated, and can’t afford hospital comforts. They should, I consider, have the privilege of going to a, returned soldiers’ hospital. That seems little enough after serving their country. I hope I have not tired you with this long letter, but I think this will serve to show you what returned men are going through; but I expect you already know”. If this letter will help von in any way in your worthy attempt to get tubercular soldiers’ cases recognized, I hope you will use it as you think fit.
There is the preference which returned soldiers are receiving ! It will be an affront to the nation if my motion is not accepted, and a fair thing done to those who sought to do the fair thing by their country when they had their health and strength.
.- I support the motion of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), and hope that this may be regarded as an indication that preference to returned soldiers is not a party issue. I recognize that the Repatriation Department is doing most humane work, and is usually sympathetic. The doctors on the hoards are experts, and I know from long association with them that cases are sympathetically investigated. I do not think that the department is ever deliberately callous, but sometimes a man may be outside the scope of the regulations, and for that reason does not get a pension. When the soldiers first returned to Australia many men were too proud to apply for pensions, even though they were entitled to them. They did not regard the pensions as a right, but as a kind of charity. They let the time go by, and eventually many of them were shut out. Probably some of the cases referred to by the honorable member for Adelaide are in that category.
Tuberculosis is an insidious disease, which may be developing in a man for a long time before he becomes aware of it. I have in mind the case of a man who was wounded at Gallipoli, and afterwards spent six years in the Caulfield Military Hospital. Apart from his wound he was quite healthy at first, hut as a result of being bed-ridden for so long he developed tuberculosis, and died a few weeks ago. I also knew a captain who lost an arm and a leg at the war, but who for years afterwards was able to get around quite well, and was apparently healthy. He also developed tuberculosis, and died lately. I hope that the Government will’ not close the Caulfield Military Hospital. The patients there are among other returned soldiers, and I do not think that they would wish to be removed to other institutions. I trust that the Government’s economy campaign will not carry it to the extent of closing this hospital.
I also wish to enter a plea for those returned men who suffer from cancer. It is a fact that the majority of deaths in European communities are from tuberculosis and cancer, more, probably, from cancer than from the other complaint. I . have taken up cases in which men suffering from cancer have been refused admission to military hospitals. Had the cancer occurred in a place where there was a gun-shot wound the sufferer would have been given treatment. I submit that in such desperate cases the exsoldiers should not be obliged to prove their cases so conclusively. A man who was gassed sometimes carries the effects of it for many years before they show themselves; but a slight cold may cause pneumonia to develop. In many such cases the sufferers have been quickly carried off. We all know of men who have gone that way. I support the motion, but would like to see cancer as well as tuberculosis included.
– I was not present on a previous occasion when the honorable member for Adelaide moved a similar motion, or I should certainly have supported it. Tuberculosis is quite different from most diseases. It is most insidious in its growth. Many men who went to the war with latent chest complaints and spent the severe European winters in the mud of the trenches, and particularly the winter of 1916-17, must have suffered severely. Foi this reason I suggest that the words “ in a forward area “ should be inserted in the motion after the word “ overseas “. The motion would then read -
That all ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force who served overseas in a forward area and have since developed tuberculosis shall be deemed to he suffering from a war disability and bo eligible for pensions under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
Many men who were in the trenches got a whiff of gas, or perhaps several, without being particularly aware of it. 1 doubt whether there was a single man who spent much time in the trenches who escaped being gassed in some degree. All such men who had a predisposition to chest complaints must suffer sooner or later. The men who were in the back area in camps in England and elsewhere could easily secure treatment in hospitals for such complaints as influenza, pneumonia, bronchitis and the like, and if they contracted tuberculosis later their hospital record would assist them in proving that it was due to their war service. But the men who served in the forward areas were not able to get into hospital so easily, and might have a good deal more difficulty in establishing their claim for consideration. Sufferers from tuberculosis are a danger to their families and to all with whom they associate, and consequently should be given every assistance. I sincerely hope that if the motion is carried the Government will accept it as an instruction. I move -
That after the word “overseas” the words “ in a forward area “ be inserted.
– I trust that the honorable member for Adelaide will accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Richmond, and that the Government will accept the motion as so amended. In a time of national stress and financial difficulty, such as the present, honorable members may be misunderstood when they advocate any increase in expenditure. Consequently I wish to make it quite clear that the views’ that I now hold I held in 1928, when the honorable member for Adelaide moved a motion similar to that we are now discussing. On that occasion I said -
The most tragic figure of all to me is the mau who. left these shores strong and healthy, and on returning from active service, and rejoining his family, was presently struck down by this dread disease. In many instances a man suffering from this disability cannot obtain employment even if he is able to work, and he is always oppressed by the nightmare that he is probably a menace to the members of his own family. I know that the Government had that in mind when it accepted the recommendation of the royal commission.
The royal commission referred to is the one which, in 1924, recommended that a permanent pension of not less than £2 2s. per week should be paid to all exservice men who could definitely prove that . they were suffering from tuberculosis due to war service. As the honorable member for Richmond has pointed out, some ex-service men who were in the gas area may not have been conscious of contracting- any disability through the inhalation of gas; but they may, nevertheless, have done so. I understand that the practice of the Repatriation Department to-day is to accept tuberculosis as a disability due to war service in every sufferer who is able to prove that he had served in a gas area. But in certain cases all the comrades of these men have died, and they may find it difficult to establish a claim for the pension. I trust, therefore, that the Government will give the most sympathetic consideration to the motion of the honorable member for Adelaide amended as suggested by the honorable member for Richmond. The expenditure which would be incurred in giving effect to this policy would be entirely justified.
.- I have pleasure in supporting the motion, but I disagree with the amendment of the honorable member for Richmond, and trust that it will not be accepted. When we were discussing the preference to returned soldiers policy yesterday, no distinctions were drawn between the men to whom the policy was to apply, and I can see no reason why any distinction should be drawn in this case.
During the last nine months I have been endeavouring to secure compensation for a young man discharged from the navy. He contracted tuberculosis, which he attributed to his service in the navy. The previous Government refused to admit his claim, but I persisted in pressing it. This man was only 26 years of age, and he was able to prove that he had to sleep beside a man who was later discharged from the navy with tuberculosis, and also that he was servant to an officer who was afterwards discharged for the same reason. The man’s own family doctor declared that he was suffering from tuberculosis. I assured the parents of the boy that I would fight his case to the bitter end, and I am glad to say that on the 17th April last a cheque for £635 15s. was forwarded to him as compensation.
I hope that the motion will be agreed to. I would go a good deal farther than the motion goes. I would be quite prepared to offer to every man who went to the war free medical service for himself, and his wife and family for life if it were desired.
It is a satisfaction to me that the preference to returned soldiers policy has been restored, for I fear that if it had not been, it would have meant the disintegration of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. A great deal of work still remains for that League to do for the wrecks and for the dependants of the men who suffered and died through the war. For my own part, I would do more for the men who have suffered than for the men who returned strong and well.
It is strange to me that under the Repatriation Act the period within which a returned soldier could apply for assistance in order to repatriate himself was limited to twelve months. An officer in my company returned from the war and went to the islands, where he had a venture before he enlisted. He tried for fifteen months to make a success of his project, but failed. When he returned to Australia he sought assistance under the Repatriation Act, but was denied it because the twelve months period had expired. That man was penalized for trying to be independent. I trust that such anomalies will be removed as early as possible.
Debate (on motion by Mr. C. Riley) adjourned.
Tariff Exploitation - Country Party’s Publicity : Colonel Munro - Labour Party’s Promises - Conscription of Wealth - Extension of Credit - Tariff Discussion - Long Distance Railway Freights.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - proposed.
.- From time to time, during this session, a number of questions have been raised in the House as to the action that the Government is prepared to take to prevent the community from being exploited under the tariff proposals of the Government which are in operation, although they have not been discussed by the House. We are becoming accustomed to hearing strong declarations by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), and the ActingMinister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) to the effect that definite action will be taken, or that the Government will go so far as to give consideration to the matter; but that is as far as we have ever got. I now bring before the notice of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs a definite instance that has been communicated to him already by the parties concerned, and as to which I have also formally- written to him to-day. I have received the following letter from the Hardware Supplies ProprietaryLimited, of North Melbourne, dated the 19th April, 1930 : -
On 17th ultimo I wrote the Acting Minister of Customs complaining that while bolts and nuts of local manufacture were fully protected we were refused supplies on the distributors’ basis. My complaint was supported by correspondence. Since then the importation of bolts andnuts has been prohibited. So far I have failed to even receive an acknowledgment of my complaint, let alone any redress. When a somewhat similar complaint was mentioned in the House of Representatives recently, the Acting Minister promised to investigate.
On a number of occasions the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has been gratified by receiving an assurance from the Government that a matter to which he has directed its attention will be considered. I now point out that, to a complaint made on the 17 th March, no reply had been received on the 17th April. It appears that bolts and nuts had a certain amount of protection, which my correspondent described as “full protection”. Their importation was subsequently prohibited. My correspondent complains that he was unable to obtain supplies on the distributors’ basis. I am not arguing as to the meaning of that basis; I presume it implies special terms given to persons who, possibly, buy certain quantities of goods. Whatever it may mean, no reply has been received from the department, and this manufacturer is unable to get supplies of bolts and nuts upon terms that he regards as fair. Here is a definite allegation pertinent to the many statements made by the Government that it will protect the public against exploitation. I now ask the Assistant Minister whether he has anything to say regarding this matter.
.- I desire to reply to the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch), who, last night, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, after I had already spoken and had no opportunity for further reply, made certain statements which I cannot allow to go unchallenged, regarding a gentleman employed by the Australian Country party. The honorable member spoke of him in most scathing terms, as if he were almost too vile to live. This gentleman, of course, has not the opportunity that honorable members enjoy to defend himself, and last night I was precluded from speaking on his behalf. Tonight I intend to say who he is, and also give an illustration of the comments that have been made by him. Then I shall ask honorable members whether those comments justified the statement made by the honorable member for Corangamite.
Colonel Munro was too young to go to the Boer war, but ever since then he has been associated with the military forces of Australia. When the late war broke out, he immediately enlisted and went overseas as a second-lieutenant, which rank he was qualified to hold by reason of his previous military experience. He served during the whole period of the war. First of all he was promoted to be the captain of a divisional train, and he was subsequently made a major. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for bravery in action in January, 1917. He was second in command of his divisional train at the end of the war, when he was specially chosen by General Monash to assist for a year in the demobilization of the forces. That is the record of the man who the honorable member for Corangamite says is unfit to associate with honorable men. The reason given for this suggestion is that he occasionally makes statements, in certain weekly bulletins that are published which are regarded by the honorable member as not strictly in accordance with facts. For the information of honorable members I have brought the two latest copies of this bulletin, as being fair samples of what is usually issued, andI ask them to say whether their contents do not constitute fair political criticism and are actually based on facts. For instance, on the 28th April last the following article was published : -
Canberra, 28th April, 1930. “ Members of Labour conferences in two States during Easter censured the Federal Government for its actions or lack of actions,” declares the weekly bulletin of the Australian Country party. “Mr. Scullin admitted his inability to carry out election promises. “ At the Victorian Labour conference Mr. Scullin said it would be necessary to raise £40,000,000 extra taxation if his promise to introduce a federal unemployed insurance scheme were introduced. He pointed out the difficulties in the way of this by indicating that if present direct taxation were doubled it would produce only £15,000,000 additional.
– I am merely reading what was published in the Sydney Morning Herald. “ Parliamentary Actionbankrupt.” “Mr. Maurice Blackburn, M.L.A., a Victorian Labour stalwart, said Mr. Scullin’s speech had sounded the death knell of parliamentary action by Labour. The Labour party, he said, had an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives, and if it could do nothing, they might as well recognize that parliamentary action by Labour was bankrupt. Mr. Dellison (A.R.U.) described Mr. Scullin’s speech as camouflage. “ The New South Wales Labour conference sneered at the federal referenda proposals. The chairman (Mr. Graves) ruled out of order an amendment, ‘ that conference support the proposals ‘ on the ground that the conference did not know what Mr. Scullin’s proposals really were. “At this conference also a motion was carried unanimously, demanding that the Labour Government make credits available to local governing bodies and public trusts to enable reproductive works to reduce unemployment. The mover of the motion said Australia was now losing £40,000,000 a year through unemployment.
Amazing Speech. “Mr. H.P. Lazzarini, M.H.R., a member of the Federal Labour Caucus, made an amazing speech attacking the Government, saying there were now 200,000 unemployed. He said that when he asked that money be made available to continue the federal housing scheme, Mr. Theodore said he had no money for the purpose. “‘This high “protection, this tariff,’ said Mr. Lazzarini, is all for the purpose of putting money in the maw of the financiers who dominate this country. They are demanding their pound of flesh.
OnlyPromise Kept. “ Thus the supporters of the Federal Labour
Governmentare finding that all the election promises of the party are vanishing into thin air like the promise to open the coal mines in a fortnight, the guarantee of 6s.6d. a bushel for wheat, &c. The only promise so far kept in its entirety is the promise made that American movie profiteers would be exempt from taxation. And productive enterprise and primary producers are being taxed to save them.”
– The Labour party never promised the farmers 6s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat.
– I am reading the statements made by Labour members in condemnation or praise of the present Government.
– Did the right honorable gentleman write this article?
– I had nothing to do with it. I venture to say that the Country party has never been guilty of one-fourth of the abuse for which the Labour party is responsible.
– Does the right honorable member say that the Labour party promised 6s. 6d. a bushel?
– I claim that that was promised to the farmers of Calare on behalf of the party; but I am now dealing only withthe statement of the honorable member for Corangamite. The bulletin that I have read consists of a number of statements by federal Labour members, and these are followed by a small paragraph by way of comment and comparison. These comments are quite mild compared with the matter served up ordinarily in other quarters.
The second statement which I propose to read was published on the 5th May, 1930. It is as follows:-
A Slap for Britain.
Labour and Governor-General
Canberra, 5th May, 1930. “ Had Labour announced in its policy speech that it contemplated acts tantamount to cutting the painter with Britain it would never have been given the opportunity of forming the present Federal Government,” asserts the. weekly bulletin of the Australian Country party. “ Since it has been in office it has gone out of the way to slap in the face the people of Britain, ignoring the fact that 98 per cent. of Australian population is pure British stock and the majority of the remainder have married Britishers. “Labour’s first move was to destroy the scheme of migration to Australia from Britain. It followed this by damaging Australian trade with Britain through its tariff of embargoes and prohibitions. Whether one agrees with this method of stopping imports or not the direct result in wiping out preference to Britain oh many items of trade and placing her on the same commercial basis as foreign countries must be condemned. “ The proposal to refuse to continue the sentimental link with our kith and kin in England through the medium of a British Governor-General is the latest act of antagonism. Six weeks ago a newspaper announced that the name of the Chief Justice, Sir Isaac Isaacs, had been submitted to the British Government for appointment as Governor-General. Since then, as the Government has not repudiated this statement, Australia and Australians have been under the obloquy of this proposal to destroy our connection, with the homeland, repel this graceful and harmless method of showing our friendship for our own flesh and blood on the other side of the world, and destroy the practical symbol that actually we are the one race and the one people. “ The Labour Government has apparently attempted to do this action by stealth and in secrecy, in an atmosphere of darkness and suspicion. The policy speech did not mention that it was even contemplated. No one has demanded action except one or two caucus members, who in irresponsible speeches, cast re- flections upon the office of Governor-General and upon the people who have honorably filled the position. “ Maybe it is the fear that the authors of these irresponsible addresses will sooner or later disintegrate the Government and the Labour party that has led to this hasty scheme to cut the painter. What a paltry attitude this would be - to smash an empire and cut adrift from our relatives to appease the political threats of irresponsible speeches. “The question of the ability of an Australian to fill the office with honor and success does not enter the main issue. Australia has distinguished citizens fully capable - but no Australian can form the sentimental link with the Motherland which is an essential portion of the office.”
I do’ not think that anybody can say that that is not absolutely fair comment.
Last night the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) made an attack on the Country party, though I had not an opportunity to reply, while other members of the party who might have done so were absent from the chamber discussing with the Minister for Markets the Wheat Marketing Bill. To-night I approached the honorable member for Corangamite and told him that I proposed to read the two latest bulletins issued and to defend the gentleman who wrote them. By doing so I showed only that courtesy which should be extended by one honorable member to another in a matter of this sort. During the period that I have been a member of this House I have always endeavoured to treat absolutely fairly my opponents in politics. If it can be demonstrated beyond dispute that these articles contain unfair criticism I shall accept the responsibility of taking the matter up with the gentleman who published them. There appears to be an extraordinary degree of sensitiveness to criticism in the ranks’ of honorable members opposite. At different times they have made all sorts of statements regarding the motives that actuate members who sit on thisside, and on occasion they even delve into the private affairs of honorable members, as has happened to-day. But despite the fact that frequently much of their propaganda is wide of the truth, it is suggested that the only persons who are ever guilty of what is not absolutely fair and reasonable criticism are the members of the party that I have the honour to lead. I have always tried to fight cleanly and fairly on the floor of this House for the principles in which I believe, andI have never hesitated to defend my actions to the fullest extent. I am still prepared to carry on a clean fight. I have given the honorable member for Corangamite an opportunity to peruse the statements that I have read. They do not contain any mis-statement of fact. The deductions of the writer are such as any reasonable man might draw.
– Surely it is within my province, as it is within the province of the honorable member, to comment upon what may appear to be the motives behind any action. I have never known a member of the Labour party to be at all diffident in that respect. The Minister for Health and Repatriation (Mr. Anstey) has never hesitated to impute to me or to any other honorable member whatever motive happened to occur to him in the heat of debate, whether it was a reasonable imputation or not. I have yet to learn that we who sit on this side are the only people who may not make criticism or comment, andthat the Labour party may make whatever comment it likes at any time and in any place. During election campaigns I cannot be expected to worry myself about the speeches that are delivered by my opponents. I outline the policy which the party that I represent will endeavour to carry out if it is favoured with the confidence of the electors. I do not travel the country defaming individuals. I attack policies and actions. The motives that underlie their actions may be explained by honorable members if they can do so. We must be guided by what is transparent when drawing our deductions with respect to those motives. If honorable members opposite wish to attack the Country party or its members they are at liberty to do so ; but I ask them to refrain from attacking men who are not able to defend themselves in this House.
– I am grateful to the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) for his courtesy, first in notifying me that he intended to bring this matter forward to-night, and, secondly, in allowing me to peruse these papers. After reading them I feel that I can fittingly repeat the words used by Cromwell at Dunbar, when he saw the Scotch forces get themselves into an absolutely untenable position : “ The Lord hath delivered them into our hands.”
I have been in the habit of subscribing to a number of newspapers that are published in my constituency; but last night, after I had undertaken to place before the right honorable member for Cowper those which contained statements to which I objected, I remembered that I had not copies of them. I employ in. my office female typists and other young people, and I did not consider it right that such improper literature as this should be kept there. Some of this literature is not merely improper, but absolutely false, so I destroyed it. To-night I endeavoured to procure copies of some of these newspapers in the Commonwealth Library, but because of the time that has elapsed since they were published I was not able to do so. I am, therefore, pleased indeed to find that those that have been used by the right honorable member for Cowper contain statements that justify the remarks that I made last night.
In the first place the right honorable gentleman apologized for the false statement by the writer that he wrote from Canberra whereas in fact he wrote from Sydney. At the bottom of the second statement there is sufficient evidence to show to what depths the writer is prepared to sink so that he may discredit the Labour party. The quotation marks make it appear that it is wholly an extract from a speech by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini).
– That is not so; no person could place that interpretation upon it.
– I shall have it inserted in Hansard, with the quotation marks where given, just as it is printed, so that there may be no mistake about the matter. It is printed in small type to distinguish it as a quotation and not an original criticism, which is printed in the larger type. This is how it is printed -
” Mr. H. P. Lazzarini, M.H.R., a member of the Federal Labour Caucus, made an amazing speech attacking the Government, saying there were now 200,000 unemployed. He said that when he asked that money be made available to continue the federal housing scheme, Mr. Theodore said he had no money for the purpose. “ ‘ This high protection, this tariff,’ said Mr. Lazzarini, is all for the purpose of putting money in the maw of the financiers who dominate this country. They are demanding their pound of flesh.
Only Promise Kept. “Thus the supporters of the Federal Labour Government are finding that all the election promises of the party are vanishing into thin air like the promise to open the coal-mines in a fortnight, the guarantee of 6s.6d. a bushel for wheat, Ac. The only promise so far kept in its entirety is the promise made that American movie profiteers would be exempt from taxation. And productive enterprise and primary producers are being taxed to save them.”
I leave it to the honour of the right honorable gentleman to say whether country readers who were unaware of the facts would not conclude that all of those statements were made by the honorable member for Werriwa, particularly in view of the fact that the article is headed “ What supporters think”; “Scullin censured”.
– It is now alleged to be comment, but it was all stated to be a quotation. I know that, as a fairminded man, if the right honorable gentleman read that statement in a newspaper and was unacquainted with the facts he would regard it as the statement of the honorable member for Werriwa. In the opening paragraph the article reads - “ Members of Labour conferences in two States during Easter censured the Federal Government for its actions or lack of actions,” declares the weekly bulletin of the Australian Country party. “Mr. Scullin admitted his inability to carry out election promises.
The Prime Minister admitted merely that some promises which had been made by the campaign director in New South Wales were not fulfilled. Is not this paragraph such a distortion of the truth as to be a lie? What constitutes a lie? It is not the actual wording of a statement but the impression which it conveys to the mau who reads or hears it. 1 venture to say that that paragraph comes within such a category.
But the second statement that was read by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) is even worse than that with which I have just dealt. It is headed, “ Cutting the painter ; a slap for Britain; Labour and the GovernorGeneral.” This statement also falsely purports to come from Canberra, although it was not written there, and part of it reads -
Six weeks ago a newspaper announced that the name of the Chief Justice, Sir Isaac Isaacs, had been submitted to the British Government for appointment as GovernorGeneral. Since then, as the Government has not repudiated this statement, Australia and Australians , have been under the obloquy of this proposal to destroy our connexion with the Homeland, repel this graceful and harmless method of showing our friendship for our own flesh and blood on the other side of the world, and destroy the practical symbol that actually we are the one race and the one people. The Labour Government has apparently attempted to do this action by stealth and in secrecy, in an atmosphere of darkness and suspicion.
During the time that the right honorable member for Cowper was joint head of the last Government, a GovernorGeneral was selected. Although an Australian Governor-General was not asked for, several names were submitted. When I was in England in 1924 a name was mentioned other than that of the Governor-General appointed. Surely the right honorable member ‘ for Cowper would not ‘say that, because no announcement was then made to the people and to the press in respect of the names submitted for appointment, the Government acted by stealth and in secrecy, and in an atmosphere of darkness and suspicion. Yet. this article falsely states that. The Prime Minister, on this occasion, acted constitutionally. He neither denied nor admitted that any representations had been made to the British Government for the appointment of an Australian GovernorGeneral. He acted in a way that appealed to the proper mind, but not to the dirty, slushy mind of the writer of this article, which is a scandalous misrepresentation of facts. What would the right honorable member for Cowper have said if, during the regime of the BrucePage Government I had accused him of acting by stealth and in secrecy in respect of the appointment of the GovernorGeneral? He would certainly have considered that I was telling an untruth. The article continues -
Maybe it is the fear that the authors of these irresponsible addresses will sooner or later disintegrate the Government and the Labour party that has led to this hasty scheme to cut the painter.
I am aware of no scheme to cut the painter with the Homeland. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) has endorsed the action of this writer, and agrees with his statement, because he has said that there is nothing objectionable in it. Does he really contend that the Labour party is attempting, by endeavouring to appoint an Australian Governor-General, to cut the painter with the Homeland? The right honorable member is silent, but for the sake of his own reputation he should make his position clear. No honest and fairminded person would suggest that an attempt to appoint an Australian GovernorGeneral was an endeavour to cut the pai nter. There is certainly no such desire in the minds of honorable members on this side of the House.
– From what is the honorable reading?
– I am reading from an article handed to me by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and written by a gentleman employed by the Country party. Last night I stated that the Labour party was getting unfair criticism at the hands of country newspapers, and this article is a typical example. It continues -
What a paltry attitude this would be - to smash an empire and cut adrift from our relatives to appease the political threats of irresponsible speeches.
That is certainly a gross and unwarranted misrepresentation of the truth. I am sorry, indeed, that the right honorable member has been responsible for lifting the anonymity of the writer of this article.
– There is no anonymity, because the name of the writer appears in practically every production of the Country party bulletin.
– So far as I am concerned the writer is unknown. I have never met or spoken to him, in fact, I have not heard of him before. I accept the statement that he has a good military record, and I respect him because of that service. This is but a further example of the conduct of many men who are respectable in other directions. They have good family ties, and can pass a blind man without taking a penny from his purse; but when they are given the power to write anonymously they become mercenary pimps. Every word that I said last night is fully justified in the light of the article that I have read. This kind of propaganda is becoming all too common. I have a strong recollection of many of these lying criticisms being published in the newspapers of my electorate. I had to read them week after week, because I knew that they were poisoning the minds of my constituents against me. The right honorable gentleman, if he is honest, should take immediate steps to suppress this anonymous writer’s activities. Does he think that this Government, by not announcing to the public at large its advice to the King in respect of the appointment of a Governor-General, is trying to cut the painter with the Homeland? Does he think that we are trying to separate ourselves completely from our own kith and kin? If he does, let him say so now. If he does not, he should for ever remain silent.
– The article contains definite statements as to what the Government is doing.
– The article is full of false suggestions and untruths, and, therefore, completely justifies the statement that I made last night.
.- It is certainly a surprise to me to find how sensitive and tender the supporters of the Government have become under well deserved criticism; but let me inform them that any attacks upon the Government that may be found in the Country party bulletin, pale into insignificance compared with the attacks made upon the Government by its own supporters in respect of the failure of certain honorable members to carry out their election promises. If the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) had read in Hansard the speech made in this House by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. ‘James), in respect of the distress in the coal-mining industry and the Government’s failure to fulfil its promises, he could not but admit that that indictment was fifty times stronger than any indictment contained in the Country party’s bulletin. I am surprised that the supporters of the Government associate with an honorable member who promised on his own responsibility 6s. 6d. a bushel to the wheat-growers, and surprised that they continue to associate with a member of the Ministry who entered this Parliament under false pretences; I refer also to the Director of the Labour Campaign at the last election, who on the hustings made a promise that he knew he was incapable of fulfilling. I am surprised also that the Government is willing to accept the support of honorable members who entered this Parlia- ment under false pretences. A promise was made during tlie election campaign that, if the Labour party were returned to office the coal-mines would be opened in a fortnight or failing that, would be nationalized. We know very well that the red caucus required those honorable members to fulfil their promises, and that its criticism of the Federal Labour party’s own executive was far greater than that contained in the Country party bulletin. Those honorable members were called upon to resign their seats because of the nonfulfilment of their election promises. The Government tried to carry out one of its promises against the soldiers, but had ignominiously to back down. To retain office the Government does not mind breaking a promise one way or the other. At first it sought to break the nation’s promise to the soldiers; finally, in order to save the political skin and seats of its supporters, it dishonored its undertaking to give preference to unionists.
I am sorry Mr. Speaker is not in the chair, but possibly you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will convey to him my complaint regarding a party political speech that was delivered by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Cusack) this morning on the steps of Parliament House. If I am correctly informed of the tenor of that speech, the honorable member for Corangamite has no grounds for complaint.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr; Cusack), I understand, Stated that he had authority to say that £7,000 was to be granted for the relief of the unemployed. Then he proceeded to make a party political attack, and referred in scurrilous terms to the press, and particularly to the Sydney Morning Herald. He said that the biggest shareholder in that journal owned £5,000,000 which he should not have; and he proposed to urge in the House to-day the conscription of four-fifths of private wealth. Members of the Labour party seem to be very touchy when any criticism is offered against them or the policy of the Government. During the election campaign Labour candidates stated that the Bruce-Page Government proposed to abolish arbitration. If the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) made that- statement, he is well acquainted with the half-truths of which he complained yesterday. Had honorable members opposite been honest they would have stated that the last Government proposed one arbitration court instead of both Commonwealth and State Arbitration Courts functioning in the same field. If that fact had been frankly explained to the electors they would not have been stampeded by half-truths. Those honorable ‘members who succeeded at the polls by means of promises which they knew were incapable of fulfilment, because they were unconstitutional, occupy seats in this chamber under false pretences. To-day the Constitution is being made a scapegoat. The Government says that the Constitution prevents it from doing what its supporters promised to do, and its masters outside Parliament are declaring that the Constitution must be altered. That is why honorable members who now occupy the ministerial benches are seeking to get into their hands a power that belongs to the people. I hope that the people will not be influenced by the statements made by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch), but will recognize which party it is that offends most by making promises that it does not intend to fulfil, and by stating half-truths.
.- Reference has been made to statements made by me at the conference of the Labour party and elsewhere. My views have been stated openly or printed over my name in the public press, and I stand by every word I said or wrote. I am not responsible for the misrepresentation of my views by the press or by any honorable member. The Daily Guardian published the statement that I made a bitter attack on the Commonwealth Government at the Australian Labour party conference. That is not’ correct. I criticized the Government, and whenever I think fair and honest criticism is warranted I shall offer it, regardless of whom it pleases or displeases. In doing that I shall feel that I am acting in the interests of the public and the movement of which I am a member. The Daily Guardian went on to say in reference to me -
He said that when he asked that money be made available to continue the federal housing scheme, Mr. Theodore said he had no money for the purpose. 1 did not make that statement; I have never asked the Treasurer to make money available for housing. I merely referred to the fact that a question had been asked of Mr. Theodore at the conference, and that he had given that answer. I combated his contention because I believe that funds can be made available. I am amongst those in the Labour movement who believe that the credit of this country can be extended to prevent men, women, and children from starving. The loading economists and financial writers throughout the world support my contention. Amongst them is Henry Dunning McLeod, the author of ‘Theory of Credit. If honorable members believe that there is any political advantage to be gained by publishing my ideas of national finance, and that they can injure the Labour party by quoting them, I extend to them a free and open challenge to meet me in public debate in any electorate; I shall state then, as I did at the conference, that this nation can do for its hungry and cold people what it did during the war - that it can extend credits for purposes of construction in the same way as it extended credits without limit for purposes of destruction. I am prepared to debate that matter against any of the honorable gentlemen opposite, or their nominees, on any platform in any electorate, and in the presence of a picked hostile audience. My views have been frankly expressed in articles published over my name in the Labour Daily. At the annual conference of the Australian Labour party, the recognized Parliament of Labour, I said what I think of the existing financial system. I am prepared to repeat those views in this chamber and to have them broadcast throughout the Commonwealth. If honorable gentlemen opposite think they can destroy the Labour movement by quoting my notions of financial reform, I ask them to accept my challenge. I shall be content to leave it to the audience to declare whether my ideas are stupid, or whether they are not in accordance with the thought of leading economists and financial writers.
.- Turning from our own misdeeds to a subject that may be of some practical interest to the people, I draw the attention of the House, as the Leader of the Opposition did, to the delay in discussing the tariff schedules that have been presented to Parliament. Many complaints are made of the exploitation of the public, and” of the losses that are accruing because of this delay. I want the matter dealt with promptly because I am convinced that Parliament will not approve of many of the extravagant duties proposed by the Government. I have already referred to a letter I received from the Manufacturing Grocers Association setting out how their trade had been affected, causing unemployment. I have also received the following letter from the Wine and Spirit Traders Association of New South Wales, stating that, since the introduction of the new tariff many persons formerly employed in the industry had been thrown out of work. I do not know whether that statement, is true, but it should be worth while for the Government to find out. Probably many men have lost their employment as a result of trade depression following the imposition of the new tariff, and this is not the time when anything should be done to increase the volume of unemployment. Only this morning a deputation of unemployed marched to Parliament House, a fact which I deplore, because I do not believe that anything should be permitted which would be likely to intimidate this Parliament. No doubt many industries will be started in Australia as the result of these new duties, and if the new tariff schedule is not approved by Parliament they will be unable to carry on, and there will be still further unemployment. The Government should not allow the schedule simply to lie on the table of the House, but should afford honorable members an opportunity of discussing it. That course is rendered all the more necessary because of the complaints which have been received of profiteering under the shelter of the new tariff. For instance, it has been stated that the iron and steel manufacturers have refused to supply persons or firms outside the retail organization with which they have arranged the selling price of their goods. It is not right for the Government to impose taxation by regulation without Parliament having an opportunity of considering the matter. These duties have now been in operation for six months.
– It is nothing new; greater delays have occurred before.
– Only upon one occasion, immediately following the war, when a schedule lay on the table of the House for twelve months before it was dealt with.
I ask the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) to supply me with the information I sought some time ago in respect of the freight rates charged on live-stock for distances of 100, 200, 300, and 400 miles respectively on the railways in the United States of America and Canada, together with a return showing the wages paid on those railways as compared with what is paid for similar work here. I believe that, although wages are higher in Canada and the United States of America, their long-distance freights are only a third of what they are here. Not since 1914 have our railways in Australia shown a profit, and notwithstanding the fact that the volume of traffic has doubled since then the accumulated losses or. the Australian railways now amount to £35,000,000.
– That is due to increased interest charges. If the interest rates were reduced by half of 1 per cent. the railways would show a. profit.
– The losses on our railways are largely due to political and industrial interference. Members of Parliament arc always seeking sops for their constituencies, careless of what the cost is to the country. I believe in Australia, but I have very little faith in parliaments. This afternoon I was called a troglodyte by the right’ honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) , because of my attitude regarding State rights, We should honour the pledge given to the States at the time they federated, and I have nothing but contempt for those who say that we may disregard a promise because it was made 30 years ago.
– I recognize by the applause with which I have been greeted that honorable members appreciate the fact that I am the only member of this chamber who has the seal of the High Court on his election. If honorable members on the other side were familar with the Constitution they would know that I can claim another £500 a year on that account. This morning I availed myself of my right as a member with the seal of the High Court on his election to address plenipotentiaries and envoys extraordinary representing unemployed from Queanbeyan. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) had the temerity to suggest that I did not possess that right. If he had read the newspapers to-day he would have seen published there a cablegram that unemployed in Great Britain not only approached but entered that sanctum sanctorum, the British House of Parliament. They even broke down a door, which is more than was done here. From the steps of this great edifice I addressed men who have inherited penury from the blighting period of Nationalist administration. If there is one issue which transcends all others in importance it is that of unemployment. I did address the unemployed this morning, and I advised them to start as soon as they could to advocate what has been advocated in this land before, namely, conscription - but in this case it should be conscription of wealth. Honorable members opposite were loud-mouthed some years ago, urging that the men of Australia should go to the war and defend their country. They spoke disparagingly of those who lounged against lamp posts in the streets while their comrades fought overseas; but we have men in this country to-day who are propping themselves, figuratively speaking, against posts of gold. There are millionaires in Australia, but what service do they render the community. The man who holds the greatest interest in the Sydney Morning Herald, one Fairfax, is reputed to be worth £5,000,000. Why should that be allowed when men, women and children are starving? Why does not the Government demand from the rich men of this country a loan of £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 free of interest, with which to relieve unemployment, and to give succour to the needy? What has the Sydney Morning Herald ever done with all the wealth it has obtained from publishing small advertisements for working men seeking jobs? It gets its representativeinto the galleries of this House, and it avails itself of the privilege to poison the inkwells of journalism. Some years ago a man in Turn- barumba was approached by two police officers in plain clothes who induced him to give them information as to where certain opossum skins were stored. After they had obtained the information they asked “Do you know who we are “ ? and when he professed ignorance, declared, “ We are police officers”. He then replied, “Do you know who I am”; they answered “No”. “I”, said the man, “am the biggest blanky liar in Tumbarumba “. The newspapers of this country are, on political subjects, the biggest liars one could find anywhere. The thing has reached a stage when we ought to take a hand in it. One did not see published in any of the newspapers the fact that when the present Postmaster-General took charge of his department he discovered that arrangements had been made by his predecessor in office for the dismissal of 1,700 employees, including 1,300 returned soldiers. The Postmaster-General countermanded the order for the dismissal of these men but nothing appeared in the press about it. If, however, he had dismissed them, that would have been published throughout Australia. If I had my way I would say to Mr. Fairfax, “ You will have to be subjected to a fair tax “. A fair tax would be the hypothecation of £4,000,000 of the £5,000,000 which that gentleman controls. I would make this money available for the building of homes, and the building of the war memorial. The conscription of wealth is a means by which money could be secured to provide work for the unemployed We have more wheat in this country than we know what to do with, and sheep may be bought for 2s. a head; yet many of our people are starving. The obligation rests upon the Government of New South Wales to provide sustenance for the unemployed. It can provide food through the Police Department and I challenge the Sydney Morning Herald to publish the food list to which unemployed are entitled.
There is a conspiracy of silence on the part of the press of Australia to suppress information that should be published. Yesterday I took part in the Empire Day celebrations at the Hall public school, in the Federal Capital Territory, but the
Canberra Times did not mention my name in a report of the event. It mentioned the name of the boy who was at the top of the class, but not my name. But had I said anything that could have been misconstrued into a disloyal statement my name would not have been excluded. I submit that the Postal Department which affords the press facilities to send telegrams costing the taxpayers £300,000 annually should not be made available to the newspapers as a means of assisting them to publish their falsehoods. Every newspaper should he licensed, and the licence should be withdrawn whenever it deliberately misrepresented any one on political issues.
Unemployment is a subject which should be considered in a non-party spirit, and I hope that honorable members opposite will help us to conscript wealth if that step is necessary to provide work for our people. Roads and railways should be built as well as homes. We should follow the example of Mr. Philip Snowden, the Chancellor of the British Exchequer, who has practically conscripted wealth under certain conditions. A tax has been imposed in Great Britain up to 6s. 6d. in the £1. I would make it as high as 10s. in the £1. I would tax men like the late Mr. John Brown at a very much higher rate. Such men have no consideration whatever for the workers who toil and moil to enable them to become’ millionaires. When Mr. John Brown died he left his money to the last chief justice of our High Court and not to the workers who earned it for him. I would conscript all that money and make it available to the unemployed. Many men in Queanbeyan, Yass and Berrima are absolutely destitute, and the Government will have to consider granting them some relief. If wealth were conscripted for the purpose it would be possible to provide them with the succour which they need. I understand that British millionaires are being taxed to the extent of 16s. in the £1. The probate duties there are on a fifty-fifty basis. I would go further than that. The New South Wales Government seems to take very light toll from the wealthy classes of that State. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company made a profit of 19 per cent, last year and this year its profit has been about 12£ per cent, notwithstanding that it has placed between £300,000 and £400,000 to the reserve fund. All these millionaire companies should be heavily taxed.
I am glad that the Government has seen fit to prohibit exports in certain directions. The adoption of this policy gave a great shock to the importers of Australia. But the Government did the right thing. It should now go further and conscript wealth for the purpose of building railways and doing other necessary work. If such railways proved to be profitable it could then consider paying interest on the money that it confiscated. I would not allow a single millionaire to keep his money in Australia while we have so many unemployed in our midst. Hundreds of our people are suffering from malnutrition at present, and we should endeavour, in a non-party spirit, to come to their aid. Even though the constituents of some honorable members opposite would be annoyed if wealth were confiscated, I maintain that that policy should be pursued in the existing circumstances. Possibly the contributions to the fighting fund of the Nationalist party would be reduced if the policy of the confiscation of wealth were adopted. I believe that it requires the spending of between £6,000 and £7,000 on the average for an honorable member opposite to win an election. But our primary duty is not to win elections, but to provide for the unemployed. The confiscation of wealth is the way in which we could do it. Many people would sooner sacrifice life than wealth. There is plenty of money available in Australia; what we need is a better distribution of it.
It is distressing to think that a great deal of the wheat that we are growing may be eaten by mice. I urge the Government to take immediate steps to provide sustenance for the hungry.
– Would the honorable member confiscate wheat?
– I would confiscate wealth from the millionaires of this country. The Government is to be congratulated upon the manner in which it is facing the great problems that confront it, and the press of Australia should be patriotic enough to give it credit for the Work that it has done.
Instead of doing so it is using its poisonous political inkwells to misrepresent the situation to the people.
– The honorable member will not get much of a report in the Sydney Morning Herald to-morrow.
– The Herald will not report my speech. I would take £4,000,000 of the £5,000,000 that Mr. Fairfax controls and use it to build railways, and I would take every additional million pounds that that gentleman makes and use it for a similar purpose.
There are some unemployed returned soldiers in Queanbeyan who are not eligible to apply for work in the Federal Capital Territory. Let some of the intelligent, political luminaries opposite apply their energies to the assistance of these men. The Government which they supported is responsible for a good deal of the unemployment that at present exists, because it scandalously wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds on schemes proposed by the Development and Migration Commission, and in other ways. The immediate result is that many men to-day are waltzing Matilda around the country looking for work. I have been asked whether I had any authority from the Government to address the unemployed this morning. I had not. A few members opposite have shown their independence by refusing to he bound by the caucus of their party. They deserve credit for their honesty, and nobility of character. I refer to the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), and others who have distinguished themselves as statesmen and patriots in that connexion. I trust that they will assist us in providing relief for the unemployed. An unprecedented situation exists in Australia. This country is flowing with milk and honey, and yet tens of thousands of our people are out of work and hungry. I trust that the Government will do something to meet the situation. If it does not, many of these men will be lying in the cemeteries before the next election comes round, and I shall have to provide scrutineers for the cemeteries if I am to retain the Eden-Monaro seat.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Theodore) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 May 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300508_reps_12_124/>.