12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2.80 p.m., and offered prayers.
– The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs agreed to exempt from duty tractors that were not to be used as road rollers orcould not be converted for that purpose, and that no guarantee would be required in respect of tractors that were not. convertible. I have received the following telegram from Adelaide:-
Dumbfounded, just hear from Customs removal exemption from security of caterpillar type tractors after definitely proving impossible economically convert road rollers, and Ministers definite assurance fair treatment. New decision incomprehensible. Trust you willhave matter rectified. Impossible traders shoulder responsibility and ultimately result primary producers penalized.
– I remind the honorable member that it is not competent for questions to be asked regarding business on the notice-paper. Does the question refer to an item in the tariff schedule?
– The question has reference to a guarantee which is not part of the tariff schedule.
– I rise to a point of order. The duties to which the telegram quoted by the honorable member refers are definitely part of the tariff schedule.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs whether the item referred to is in the tariff schedule ?
– It relates to a by-law, and I am prepared to answer the question.
– Does the Minister assure me that the question does not relate to the tariff schedule?
– Tractors are mentioned in the tariff schedule.
– That being so, I cannot allow the question.
– The Canberra Times publishes the following telegram from Sydney. -
The economic adviser of the Australian Transport Association (Mr. J. B. Brigden) in a statement to-day said that a slump in outward earnings to Australia had set in at a rate of about £3,000,000 a year.
A slump of about 40 to50 per cent. in outward cargo had been going on now for about three months.
He added that the council of the association would be called together again before any changes were made in freight rates. Shipowners were still holding off increases in freights and were examining the effect of the tariff. “They can carry extra loss for a reasonable time,” added Mr. Brigden, “but they cannot face it for a long period, say, for more than twelve months.”
Having regard to the serious effect on the Australian export trade of an increase in shipping freights, what action does the Prime Minister propose to take)
-The only check which the Commonwealth had on overseas shipping freights was the competition of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers, which was sold by the last Government. For many years it had kept Freights down, but immediately after it was disposed of an increase in freights was rumoured. Then a conference was held to discuss the possibility of cheapening shipping, and thus avoiding an increase in freights. A deputation from the shipping companies and the shippers waited on me, and asked that legislation be introduced to enable them to enter into agreements by which shipping and cargo could be regulated. The deputation made no reference to the regulation of freights, but suggested that if agreements could be made between shipping companies and shippers, freights would not increase. I refused to take any action unless the agreement specifically provided for the regulation of freights. Eventually that was done, and the agreement was presented to the Government, and laid on the table. It contained a condition that freights could not be increased during the first twelve months of its currency, and that three months’ notice of any increase of freights or alteration of conditions would have to be given. In accordance with the terms of that agreement the Government introduced amend1 ing legislation, which was passed through both chambers. The newspaper reports that an increase of freights is contemplated . will impelme to ask the organizations concerned to see me, as the head of this Government, again before they take any further action.
Appointmentof Conciliation Commissioners.
– The Argus of yesterday stated -
The proposed appointment in the various States of industrial commissioners under the Arbitration Amendment Act has caused a stir in Labour circles. Already a number of union secretaries are pressing their claims for appointment, and some have made special visits to Canberra for that purpose, Provision has been made in the act for the appointment of two commissioners for New South Wales.
I ask the Attorney-General whether it is true that union secretaries are pressing their claims for appointments, and that special visits to Canberra have been made for the purpose? Has the Government made provision for the appointment of two commissioners for New South Wales?
– Although the bill provides for the appointment of conciliation commissioners it makes no special reference to any particular State.
-Order ! It is not permissible to anticipate business on the notice-paper. I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether the question has refer ence to the Arbitration Bill?
– None whatever.
– The AttorneyGeneral may proceed.
– What was the bill which the Attorney-General mentioned?
– The Arbitration Bill.
– In those circumstances the Attorney-General’s answer must be disallowed.
– I referred to the bill, but the question has no reference to it. I am asked whether certain persons have visited Canberra for a particular purpose.
– What was the purpose?
– The purpose was to make certain governmental appointments. If you, Mr. Speaker, think that this is an inappropriate time to answer the question, I shall take another opportunity of supplying the information.
– Some considerable time ago the Prime Minister promised to make available to honorable members copies of the report of the Royal Commission on Coal. I should like to know whether these copies are now available. In addition, I ask if the righthonorable gentleman has received any request from the Queensland Government concerning the sum of £3 00,000 which is to be made available for the repatriation of excess coal-miners. Has he communicated with the Queensland Government; and, if so, has he received any reply from it?
– I have asked the Premier of New South Wales to print a sufficient number of copies of the report of the Royal Commission on Coal to supply to honorable members. We have yet received only two advance copies. We have asked the State Government to expedite the supply of extra copies, which as soon as available will be distributed among honorable members. With regard to the second question, the Government is not yet in a position to communicate with any of the State Premiers. We are now merely investigating the matter to ascertain what proportion of relief or assistance should be given to each State in which coal-mining takes place.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether any questions have been asked by honorable members in regard to the tariff schedule since the last tariff debate took place in this House, and whether any such -questions have been answered by the Minister; if so, why was I treated differently from other honorable members?
– I am not aware that the honorable member has been treated differently from other honorable members. Questions have been asked concerning the reports of the Tariff Board, but I have not permitted any questions relating to the actual items of the tariff schedule. I have- no knowledge of the circumstances referred to by the honorable member. He must recognize that the Chair is not prepared to treat him differently from any other honorable member.
– I hope not.
– Order. The Standing Orders definitely lay it down that no honorable member shall anticipate any debate that may take place upon the business that is before the House. That being so, I ruled that the honorable member’s question was out of order.
– The question of the honorable member for Grey was a prepared question.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), has stated that my question was prepared, so as to give the Minister an opportunity to reply to it today. That is an absolute untruth. The statement is objectionable to me, and 1 ask that it be withdrawn.
– The honorable member is not in order in referring to any statement made in this House as an untruth.
– I withdraw the remark.
– I ask the honorable member for Richmond to withdraw any statement which the honorable member for Grey regards as offensive.
– If the honorable member for Grey finds anything offensive in my remarks, I certainly withdraw them.
– Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 21st June, wherein it is stated that the Federal Government has introduced a regulation prohibiting the export from Australia of plain grade apples and pears as from the 1st January next. Will the Minister state if this report is true?
– It is not true that the Government has come to any decision in the matter. It is now under consideration.
– As the question which I propose to ask concerns an item which is not in the tariff schedule, I ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, whether I am permitted to ask it.
– The honorable member would be in order in referring to an item which does not appear in the tariff schedule.
– Surely there is no such item !
Other honorable members interjecting.
– Order ! The honorable member for Corangamite must not ask a question that is likely to cause disorder or that would be irregular under the Standing Orders. There is, of course, a limitation to the right of the honorable member to ask a question.
– I am not responsible in any sense for the disorder that has arisen among the Opposition.
– I would suggest to the honorable member that it would be more appropriate for him to ask his question when the tariff schedule is before the House. There is grave doubt whether his question is relevant. I ask the honorable member to recognize the difficulties of the Chair in determining before it is asked whether a question is strictly within the Standing Orders or not.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker, that I am permitted to ask a question about an item that does not appear in the tariff schedule. If I am permitted by the Opposition, I wish to ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs if there is any reason why a duty on Oregon was not included in the tariff schedule?
– As that item is in the tariff schedule I cannot allow the honorable member’s question.
– Has the Prime Minister received the report of Mr. Gepp with respect to the operation of the Moonta copper-mining field, and, if so, will he, when considering applications for bounties on other minerals, also consider the possibility of requests for bounties to assist in the mining of copper, lead, zinc, silver, graphite, osmiridium and the like.
– I have not yet received the report, but when the Government gives consideration to it all the matters mentioned by the honorable member will be considered.
– This question does not relate to the tariff schedule, but to bylaws. Will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs inform me why security is now required in connexion with the admission, under by-law, of caterpillar type tractors, seeing that these cannot be converted into road rollers?
– The honorable member was good enough to send a message to me this morning-
– I must ask the Acting Minister to give me an assurance that he is not seeking to defeat the object of the ruling I gave a few moments ago.
– I am not seeking to do so, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) intimated to me this morning that he intended to ask this question, and from inquiries that I have made I am able to reply as follows: -
The requirement of security was eliminated from the original by-law for the reason that it was ascertained caterpillar type tractors were not readily convertible into road rollers.
Subsequently, however, investigation has revealed that caterpillar type tractors have been converted, and are readily convertible, into road graders, and other road-making machines other than road rollers. Consequently, to afford local manufacturers of various kinds of road-making machinery the protection afforded by Parliament, it became necessary to require security for the admission of caterpillar type tractors under by-law.
I would mention that the operation of the by-law provisions in connexion with the importation of tractors for farm and agricultural purposes, and for use as traction engines, has been greatly simplified by waiving the production of evidence formerly required from the users for determination of securities, and requiring only a clause inserted in the seller’s agreement to the purchaser that the tractor purchased will be used only for farm and agricultural . purposes, or as a traction engine, and will not be converted.
The security required in connexion with the entry of tractors under by-law is limited to a documentary security of a maximum of £500 for any one shipment of tractors, and provision has been made for any one importer to lodge a general security for a sum approved to cover importations into all States of the Commonwealth, thus eliminating separate securities for each shipment.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– No representations on the matter have been made to me by the company mentioned, nor, as far as I am aware, were any such representations made to the Minister, but reports received from the Tariff Board show that a representative of the company gave evidence on oath before the board on some of the applications regarding accessories. A copy of this evidence could be shown to the honorable member if desired.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Do motor companies of the United States of America operating in Australia stipulate that insurances on hire-purchase sales must be effected with an insurance company controlled in the United States of America?
– I understand that some of the companies referred to make this stipulation.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
In view of -the early completion of the War Memorial and Anzac Square at Brisbane, is it the intention of the Government to proceed with the erection of Commonwealth offices on the site adjoining during the next financial year?
– The erection of these offices will receive the consideration of the Government in connexion with the Loan Estimates for the forthcoming year.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The question of sustenance is a matter for the State Governments, and the Commonwealth Government has no information that would enable it to determine whether adequate provision is being made?
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
– On the 12th June the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) asked the following questions, upon notice -
The information desired by the honorable member is as follows: -
Rationing of Employment
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 20th June the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) asked me the following question, upon notice -
How many unions, excluding those concerned in the recent lockout on the northern coalfields, registered in the Arbitration Court, flouted the awards of the court during the last two years?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that, during the past two years, charges of offences against the provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act relating to strikes were sustained against the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia and the Australian Timber Workers Union. There is no method available to me of classifying differences which might in any particular instance be regarded as flouting an award. The above mentioned prosecutions are the only cases which have been established in fact and in law.
The following paper was presented: -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 60.
– Business of the day.
– On a point of order, I think I rose before you called on the busineiss of the day, Mr. Speaker.
– At the time I called on the business of the day no honorable member was on his feet.
Reports of Conference and by Commonwealth Representative.
– I lay upon the table the report of the conference on the operation of dominion legislation and merchant shipping legislation, and also the report by Sir Harrison Moore, the Commonwealth representative at the conference, and move -
That the reports he printed.
The Imperial Conference of 1926 declared that the dominions are - autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
It went on to state as principles that it was the right of the government of each dominion to advise the Crown in all matters relating to its own legislation and that legislation by the British Parliament should apply to a dominion only with the dominion’s consent. It decided that it could not with safety take more definite action until it had obtained expert guidance. It accordingly recommended that a committee should be set up to report on various aspects of the operation of dominion legislation, and that a sub-conference should inquire into the question of merchant shipping legislation. It was later decided that the committee and sub-conference should be organized as a single conference, and it met in London from 8th October to 4th December, 1929. The terms of reference were as follow : -
To inquire into, report upon and make recommendations concerning-
Existing statutory provisions requir ing reservation of Dominion legislation for the assent of His Majesty or authorizing the disallowance of such legislation.
(a) The present position as to the competence of Dominion Parliaments to give their legislation extraterritorial operation ; (b) The practicability and most convenient method of giving effect to the principle that each Dominion Parliament should have power to give extra-territorial operation to its legislation in all cases where such operation is ancillary to provision for the peace, order, and good government of the Dominion.
The principles embodied in or underlying the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865, and the extent to which any provisions of that act ought to be repealed, amended, or modified in the light of the existing relations between the various members of the British Commonwealth of Nations as described in this report (i.e., the report of the Inter-Imperial Relations Committee of the Conference,
and to consider and report on the principles which should govern, in the general interest, the practice and legislation relating to merchant shipping in the various parts of the Empire, having regard to the change in constitutional status and general relations which has occurred since existing laws were enacted.
The conference was an advisory body, and its recommendations, contained in the report now placed before members, are recommendations to the governments of the various parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and as such will be considered by the representatives of those governments at the Imperial Conference this year.
The constitutions of the dominions of the British Commonwealth of Nations are contained inacts of the Parliament of the UnitedKingdom, and it is from this source, that the legal power exercised by the dominions under those constitutions flows. The paramount power of the parliament of the United Kingdom to make legislation binding on all the King’s dominions existsin law, although its exercise is regulated by constitutional conventions. The implementing of the report of the Imperial Conference of 1926 resolves itself into a question of the parliamentof the United Kingdom formally renouncing the exercise of its legislative powers in respect of any or all of the dominions except at the request of the latter. This, generally, expresses the major conclusions reached by the conference.
Taking the recommendations rather more in detail, the conference first of all pointed out that the deletion from the Australian Constitution of the provision for disallowance by the Crown of legislation passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, and reservation of legislation for the royal approval, are internal matters for the Australian Commonwealth itself. That is to say, reservations contained in the Commonwealth Constitution may be removed by an alteration of the Constitution itself.
The conference next recommended that an act should be passed by the parliament of the United Kingdom, with the consent of all the dominions, declaring that theparliament of a dominion has full power to make laws having extraterritorial operation. This recommendation was made to meet the point of view of the other dominions, for the Commonwealth Parliament has, by its Constitution, power to make laws with effect outside the Commonwealth. The provisions of the Constitution in respect to external affairs, the relations of the Commonwealth with the islands of the Pacific, fisheries in Australian waters beyond territorial limits, immigration and emigration, and naval and military defence give the Commonwealth Parliament a large measure of power in this respect. Section 5 of the Commonwealth Constitution Act declares that the laws of the Commonwealth shall be in force on all British ships whose first port of clearance and port of destination are in the Commonwealth. So far as Australia is concerned., such an act would be subject to the Commonwealth Constitution, and would only apply to those subjects over which we have jurisdiction.
The third subject which was referred to the conference for investigation, namely, the extent to which the provisions of the Colonial Laws Validity Act of 1865 should be amended or repealed in the light of the existing relations between the various members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, may be regarded as the central point of the work of the conference. The report of the Commonwealth Government’s representative, Sir Harrison Moore, sums up the position in this respect as follows: -
The general application of the principle of equality laid down by the Imperial Conference in 1926 was at once accepted, and with the result that the unqualified paramountcy of the legislation of the Parliament of the United Kingdom must go. That involves that no future legislation of that Parliament should apply to a dominion without its consent, and, secondly, that dominion legislation should no longer be invalid or inoperative by reason of repugnancy to Imperial acts extending to a dominion. But the precise manner in which these applications of principle should be given effect to was the subject of long and anxious debate.
The conference adopted the view that the only way to give effect to the principles laid down by the 1926 Imperial Conference was to repeal the Colonial Laws Validity Act in so far as it applies to laws made by the parliament of a dominion, and recommended that legislation be enacted by the parliament of the United Kingdom to this effect. To guard against this purely negative solution of the problem leading to confusion, the conference recommended that this legislation of the United Kingdom should also provide that dominion legislation shall not be held invalid on the ground that it is repugnant to the law of England or to British legislation, and that the dominion parliaments shall be empowered to repeal or amend a British statute which forms part of the law of the dominion.
The conference recommended that the most desirable method of giving effect to the principle of the equality of status of the United Kingdom and the dominions in so far as the legislative power of their respective parliaments is concerned is for the forthcoming Imperial Conference to place on record a constitutional convention expressed as follows: -
It would be in accord with the established constitutional position of all members of the Commonwealth in relation to one another that no law hereafter made by the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall extend to any dominion otherwise than at the request and with the consent of that dominion.
It is recommended that this convention should be inserted in the recital or preamble of “the proposed act of the parliament of the United Kinglom referred to ‘above. In order to meet practical difficulties it is recommended that this proposed act should also contain a provision that no act of parliament - that is, of the parliament of the United Kingdom - shall in future extend, or be deemed to extend, to a dominion unless it is expressly declared- therein that that dominion has requested and consented to the enactment of such legislation. The establishment of a number of parliaments in the British Commonwealth of Nations, with what will be in practice equal legislative authority raises the question of how uniformity is to be secured with regard to the several matters as to which uniformity throughout the British Commonwealth is desirable. The. succession to the Throne, nationality, naval prize “law and prize courts are the outstanding examples. The conference recommended that a constitutional convention should be agreed to by the various governments of the British Commonwealth of Nations that any alteration in the law touching the succession to the Throne or the Royal Style and Titles shall require the assent of the parliament of the United Kingdom as well as the assent of the parliaments of all the dominions. It is suggested that this constitutional convention should be also included in the recital or preamble of the act of the parliament of the United Kingdom referred to above.
The acquisition of equal legislative authority by the different parliaments of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and the conferring on those parliaments of the power to give their laws extraterritorial force, gave rise to a discussion of the question of the nationality of British subjects. The problem which will confront the various governments of the British Commonwealth of Nations will be that of reconciling- the general rules providing for a single nationality for all British subjects, with the particular rules which the parliaments of the different parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations may find it desirable to lay down in respect to the status of their own ‘ citizens. The conference did not come to any conclusions on this difficult question, which will require further examination.
On the fourth question, the recommendations of the conference in respect to merchant shipping legislation are of a particularly technical character. The disappearance of the paramount power of the Parliament of the United Kingdom in respect of this subject will give rise to questions of a somewhat special nature. The recommendations of the conference on the matters touching merchant shipping legislation are not exhaustive, and it is likely that further consideration will need to be given to various points in connexion with them.
Finally, the conference realized that if, in the future, the principle of agreement between the various members of the British Commonwealth is substituted for the paramount authority of the British legislation, differences may arise between the Governments concerned with regard to these agreements.
Honorable members . will remember that when Australia and other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations accepted the optional clause of the statute of the Permanent Court last year, all, except the Irish Free State, made the reservation that their acceptance did not apply to differences between themselves. A method of settling such differences there must be, and the conference gave some consideration to the proposal for a tribunal to deal with differences between the different governments of the British Commonwealth.
What I have said will give honorable members some idea of the many important matters that are dealt with in this report. Some of them affect the States as well as the Commonwealth; and it will be understood that careful examination here, and further discussion at the Imperial Conference, are necessary before this Government can bring down detailed proposals to give effect to them.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Latham) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committed of Supply (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
– I move-
That there be granted to His Majesty, for or towards defraying the services of the year 1930-31, a sum not exceeding £7,636,270.
The purpose of this bill is to appropriate sufficient revenue for the services of the Commonwealth during the first three months of the next financial year. The amount which the committee is asked to appropriate includes the following sums for ordinary services: -
The items making up these sums are based on the appropriation passed by Parliament for the present financial year, and provision is made to meet the first pay day in October.
In some cases, notably that of defence, the provision is below the annual rate of expenditure last approved by Parliament.
In view of the change in the administration of the Federal Capital Territory, it has been necessary to make provision in the Supply Bill to carry on the ordinary services of the Territory. Previously, these services were paid from funds that were made available to the Federal Capital Commission by the authority of Parliament. The total amount which the committee is now asked to appropriate for the Federal Capital Territory is £78,550.
In addition to the foregoing items, the usual provisions are made for “Refunds of Revenue “ £350,000, and “ Advance to the Treasurer” £1,500,000. This latter amount is mainly required to enable loan works and services in progress on the 30th June, 1930, to be continued, pending the passing of a loan bill by Parliament for the next financial year. It will alsocover “ Additions, New Works, &c, payable from Revenue “ and “ Miscellaneous and Unforeseen Expenditure.”
There is a further item of an unusual nature in the bill, namely, a sum of £750,000 that has been set down as a grant to the States towards the relief of unemployment. This is in accord with the announcement made by the Prime Minister in Parliament on the 12th June, to the effect that the Government had decided to place on the Estimates for the next financial year a sum of £1,000,000 for this purpose.
It is proposed that the full grant shall be made to the States during the first four months of the next financial year to assist in meeting the acute unemployment that is now taking place. Three-fourths of the proposed grant, namely £750,000, has therefore been included in this bill.
The decision of the Government in this matter was arrived at after consultation with the Loan Council that sat in Canberra recently. The details and conditions of this expenditure have not yet been definitely decided as between the Commonwealth and the States; but, broadly speaking, latitude will be allowed to the States so that they may alleviate the unemployment that now exists, and at the same time carry on necessary works.
The proposed grant of £1,000,000 is to be distributed as follows : -
This distribution, broadly speaking, is on a population basis, with the allowance of a slightly larger sum to South Australia, became the position of that State is worse than that of any other State, and requires special consideration.
I do not propose, at this stage, to deal fully with the financial position of the Commonwealth, nor to go at any length into the policy of the Government with respect to finance or the position of the different funds. The budget speech will be delivered early in the new financial year, and an opportunity will then be afforded to honorable members to survey the whole financial position.
– Has provision been made to supplement the trust fund from which invalid and old-age pensions payments are made?
– No provision has been made in that direction. The appropriation that is to be made by the bill follows the lines of the appropriations that were made for the year that is just closing, with the exception of the item relating to unemployment.
Perhaps I ought to state that the budget speech will be made on the 8th July next, or as soon thereafter as possible. I wish to warn honorable members that it will not be possible to bring down the printed Estimates on that date; they will not be ready for presentation to Parliament before about the 22nd July. The speech will be accompanied by a statement giving figures closely approximating to the actual figures relating to receipts and expenditure for the year 1930-31. All the information that is available will be placed before honorable members to enable them to proceed with the debate upon the budget.
– Will not the Estimates, as distinct from the accounts, for the then current year, be brought down immediately ?
– No ; the printed Estimates will not be available before the 22nd July; but the departmental and sub-departmental headings in the papers that will accompany the speech will give approximately the expenditure for the year that will then just have closed, and the proposed appropriation for the ensuing year.
– Will the information include last year’s expenditure?
– It will give the approximate expenditure in as much detail as is possible. The precise figures are known to a certain date in June, but those relating to the last few days of the financial year are gathered by telegram, and have to be checked and balanced before a final statement can be prepared. The information, however, will be sufficiently accurate to permit the budget discussion to continue. Before we deal with the details of the Estimates the revised figures will be printed and circulated.
– Does the Treasurer suggest that we should proceed with the budget debate before we get the Estimates?
– It would be advisable to resume the budget debate within a few days after I have delivered my speech, and then to proceed with the incidental financial measures as early as possible in the new financial year. If practicable, the Government hopes that the financial programme will be completed before the session ends. In addition to the budget debate, further consideration will have to be given to the tariff schedule and bills arising out of it. Certain financial measures will be introduced, including an income tax assessment bill, which has been on the stocks for some time, and a loan bill. It may be possible to conclude the business of the session by the end of August or early in September; if not, suitable arrangements can be made to meet the convenience of honorable members on both sides of the chamber. If the budget speech is made at an early date, and we can proceed at once with the debate on it and with the incidental financial measures, we may be able to terminate the session a fortnight earlier than otherwise would be possible.
– The Treasurer is not suggesting that the tariff can also be disposed of by the date he mentioned ?
– The Prime Minister promised last week that the tariff discussion would come on within a fortnight of that date. I do not know how far the consideration of the tariff schedule will have proceeded before the budget is introduced.
– The Government is afraid of the ordeal.
– The Government certainly is not afraid of any criticism that may be directed against the tariff, and has no desire to avoid full discussion of its financial measures. I am giving to the committee an early intimation of what the Government has in mind, but if that programme does not suit the convenience of honorable members we shall not adhere to it.
– It is desirable that as many of the budget-papers as can be made available should accompany the Treasurer’s speech.
– The budget speech will be accompanied by a statement of the Consolidated Revenue Fund showing the approximate figures relating to receipts and expenditure for 1929-30, together with estimates of receipts and expenditure for the year 1930-31. The approximate figures of loan expenditure and a statement relating to the public debt will also be supplied.
– May we regard the 8th July as the date upon which the budget will be delivered?
– Yes, unless anything intervenes which will necessitate postponement for a day or two. If it is not delivered on Tuesday, the 8th July, it will almost certainly be delivered on the following day: After an adjournment for a few days to allow honorable members to study the budget, we may then proceed with the consideration of the financial bills before the budget debate is resumed in the following week.
– Does the Treasurer propose to say anything to-day about the financial position?
– It is undesirable to start a general discussion on the finances now. Within a few days fuller information will be available, and honorable members will then be better qualified, to analyse the finances and to understand the proposals of . the Government.
Any debate at this stage would necessarily be restricted by the incompleteness of the information available.
.- I take this opportunity to protest against the action of the Government in rationing the employment of the whole of the staff of the Permanent Military Forces, for a compulsory rationing of their services is distinctly unfair to a loyal body of public servants whose mouths are stopped by regulation from protesting by meetings or in the press. At first sight this attempt by the Government to save approximately £61,000 a year might seem an equitable means of spreading the economic burden which must be shouldered during this period of financial difficulty, as an alternative to dismissals. But is it equitable? Is it the only alternative? I submit that it is neither. It is time to take serious stock of the economy that can be effected in the governmental services. We are all prepared to make sacrifices, and, if necessary, I would support the rationing of members of Parliament. The singling out of one section of the Public Service for a reduction of salaries is not equitable. Rationing in the Defence Department is to be applied to 351 officers; 567 warrant officers and sergeant-majors, and 184 of other ranks ; a total of 1,102. The total permanent military personnel is 171S, and the combined total of the Public Service of the Commonwealth is 30,000. Of a military service of 1718, and a total Public Service of 30,000, only 1,102 are to be rationed. . If the Government is not concerned with the defence of Australia, or believes that as a gesture to the world, and in accordance with the opinion expressed at the Federal Labour Congress recently, all our defence measures should be abandoned, this is certainly a step in that direction and squares with that policy. This latest action suggests that the Government is persisting in its policy of unfair discrimination against returned soldiers. The majority of the men in the Permanent Forces are returned soldiers and the Government seems to have singled them out for special treatment.- If the Government is not concerned with the defence of Australia a statement published in the Melbourne Sun recently by a Chinese journalist, representing the South China Morning Post, is interesting
If Australia could get away with her white Australianpolicy, her prohibitive tariff, and several other openlyantagonistic measures, her success was assured.
War in the Pacific.
But I would not like to conjecture what will happen if she is not able to do so, he said. Australia will be a mere pawn in the hands of whichever nation likes to get it.
The Great Pacific War, between whites and coloured races, if it ever comes, will be centred on Australia.
Australia is a lone outpost of the white race against Asiatic hordes. Except for a few extremists on both sides, all honorable members believe in the White Australia policy, or, as I prefer to call it, doctrine; but how can we expect to be more than a mere pawn in the hands of any hostile nations, until our safety is guaranteed by international pact, if this belief is backed up by nothing more than legislation. We all believe in the League of Nations and world disarmament, but it is the height of folly to undermine the morale of the skilled military staffs, first by substituting the voluntary system for compulsory training, and secondly by rationing the employment of the permanent officers who would be the nucleus of our army, and responsible for its training if war should occur. The reduction in pay to those concerned is as high as 16 per cent. in some instances, and averages 13 per cent. In terms of money it means to a majorgeneral a reduction of from £183 to £216; a colonel, £145; lieutenentcolonel, £125; major, £108; captain, £83; lieutenant, £58; warrant-officers, £65 and £57, or approximately £1 per week for sergeant-majors, who are close to the basic wage, and £2 a week for captains. The two latter are the grades most affected. What an outcry would occur in the industrial world if the Arbitration Court or any other tribunal were to make an award applying a 16 per cent. reduction to the wages of any organized workers. The big industrial crises of recent years were caused by awards that were infinitely less drastic. We have a vivid recollection of the big timber strike on account of an increase in hours and a variation of wages, and the waterside workers’ dispute because of a provision in the award relating to pick-up places. Would honorable members care to have their salaries reduced by 16 per cent.?
– It will come to that.
– It may, and if such a course is necessary I shall support it.
The Bavin Government in New South Wales has reduced the salaries of civil servants and members of Parliament in order to try to balance the State ledger. At first a tremendous outcry was made by organized Labour, but in the main the reduction was accepted philosophically, particularly by the railway service. The reduction averaged only 71/3 per cent. right through the Public Service, and 15 per cent. for members of Parliament, yet the Commonwealth Government has instituted rationing of the permanent military forces which is equal to a reduction of 16 per cent.
Honorable members will recollect the definite promise of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence, when voluntary enlistment was substituted for the more democratic compulsory system, that no permanent officers would be dismissed. The Government proposed to enlist 35,000 volunteers in lieu of the 49,000 men under the compulsory system and 7,000 senior cadets instead of 14,000. It was obvious to any one in the forces that those numbers could not be raised by the voluntary system which has the additional defect that it does not create reserves, without which an army cannot properly function. As a matter of fact the volunteer services are not as efficient as the compulsory trainees. The Australian army has already slipped back five years in respect of efficiency. We recollect how, in 1920, when compulsory service was suspended for a time, the army become a mere rabble. As an indication of the extent to which the voluntary system was falling short of expectations in spite of the strenuous efforts of those interested to make it successful the enlistments to date are : officers, 2,644; non-commissioned officers, 5,229; privates, 19,186; total, 27,059, inclusive of the cadets, leaving a shortage of 8,000, notwithstanding that the Government said that no difficulty would be experienced in enlisting the full quota. Because enlistment has largely failed and a reduction has taken place in some of the units, some sergeant-majors and officers of the staff corps have been declared surplus.
In reply to a question the Minister for Defence stated that the only alternative to rationing was dismissal. I submit that there are many alternatives. The total amount of military pay of the whole of the Permanent Forces is £522,140. That is equivalent to a salary of £303 for 1,718 men. The civil personnel, the military clerks in the Defence Department, who, to put it bluntly, owe their positions to the existence of the army, number 709, including one-third of the central administration, and their salaries amounting to £257,239, work out at an average of £362 per head. Therefore, the civilians ‘ cost, on the average, £59 per head more than the soldiers. There is also a further anomaly. The Secretary of the Defence Department receives £2,000 a year plus travelling expenses amounting to about £200. That is a higher salary than that of any general of the highest command in the forces.
– The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), is responsible for that.
– It is for the Government to suggest measures to obviate this retrenchment, but is it not obvious that it is advisable to keep this trained staff in the employ of the Commonwealth? By rationing their work as we are now doing their efficiency must be undermined. Their hours of work are not from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The best part of their work is done at night on parades, on Saturday afternoons at rifle shooting, at volunteer camps and at schools of instruction. They also work on public holidays when other members of the Public Service would be receiving extra pay. We know how many anomalies creep in because of the presence of civilians among the military personnel. In camp a rear party is frequently left behind to strike camp and to hand over stores, just because the civilian ordnance personnel cannot work on Saturday afternoons or Sundays. The officers of the permanent staff on the other hand work at night and on public holidays, without thought of overtime or double pay. In the various formations of the army there are also a great number of clerks. The number of civilians employed in this branch of the Defence Department is 554, or 254 more than the Minister has declared surplus. If our forces had to take the field these civilians would have to be enlisted as soldiers or be replaced by soldiers. Would it not be a better alternative to rationing the whole of the Permanent Forces, that these clerks in the different formations should be transferred to the other branches of the Commonwealth Public Service and be replaced by members of the Permanent Forces? The officers and sergeant-majors of the forces are already doing administrative work. A great, deal of their work is clerical, and if anything they would be more efficient than the civilian, clerks.
The next problem would be to absorb the displaced civilian personnel in other Commonwealth departments. Starting from the lowest ranks of those who are being rationed, there are 123 privates, 169 sergeants and corporals, and 122 warrant officers available, making a total of 414, or 114 more than those declared surplus, of a salary value equal to £95,400, or £34,900 more than the Minister hopes to save by rationing. The clerks of medium seniority holding positions held by soldiers in war, represent a further £29,000. Considering that for the various divisions of the Public Service excluding Defence there was provided in the Estimates for temporary assistance for 1929-30 a sum of £428,786, there should be no difficulty in absorbing these clerks. The Government could go further - and in this connexion I quote the British Army precedent - and form an Army Ordnance Corps, where all clerical and stores assistance could, be done by soldiers. This would ultimately effect substantial economies in travelling allowance and overtime paid to the existing civilian ordnance personnel, particularly in regard to camps. In the British Army the whole of that work is done by soldiers. They are enlisted for clerical work, and in time of war they take the field. There is no reason why clerks now attached to the Defence Department could not be gradually absorbed in other departments. In that way no injustice would be inflicted upon the members of the permanent forces whose motto, whatever the circumstances may be, is “ Carry on “. If the Government persists in its rationing policy, it will undermine the efficiency of the forces. With the adjutants and quartermasters away for two months on compulsory leave, without pay, there will be a serious risk of loss of arms and equipment. If the Government continues its policy of rationing, which, I submit, is -a false economy, it will pay for it over and over again. Approximately 554 members of the civilian staff on headquarters of formations could be adequately replaced by soldiers. For instance., the clerks at the Royal Military College could be replaced by one captain, one lieutenant, four warrant officers, and two sergeants or corporals. I intend to supply the Minister with a schedule of replacements for clerks, messengers, storemen, watchmen, rangers, &c, to the required 554, which will provide for the absorption of all surplus training staffs. I ask him to give it his earnest consideration. There is no doubt that the Government, in carrying out this illthoughtout scheme of rationing, will undermine the general efficiency of the army. The graduates of the Duntroon College have competed successfully with men from the other military’ academies of the world, and have been a credit to Australia. Their work is not measured by any industrial standard or regulation. They study hard for their examinations. They are paid no1 overtime, and, generally, are underpaid as compared with professional men outside. It is for the Government to make suggestions to obviate the necessity for rationing the work. But I draw attention to the fact that the salaries of the whole of the Commonwealth Public Sei’ vice amount approximately to £10,000,000 per annum. As private employers have had to reduce their staffs and their salary, list, and are rationing their work, would it not be fairer to reduce the salaries of the Public Service by 1 per cent, and thus save £100,000, instead of- making a 16 per cent, reduction in the salaries of a few men engaged in the Defence Department to save £61,000? If a reduction of 2 per cent, were made it would mean a saving of £200,000. Such a reduction would scarcely be noticed. There are many other avenues of economy that could also be explored.
According to the sixth report of the Commonwealth Public Service, £162,551 was, during 1928-29, expended on travelling allowances within the Public Service, and £91,957 on overtime. It would certainly be more equitable to cut down expense in those quarters than to alter the whole scale of living of the permanent, men of the citizen forces. If war came to these shores we would be thankful for an efficient army and navy, and, if we force these men out of the Service by making their positions intolerable, the price that we may have to pay in the future cannot be now calculated.
– Will the honorable member indicate in which branch of the Public Service most of the overtime is being worked?
– Largely in the Postal Department. Let me say a word or two in regard to the retrenchment carried out in the Navy.’ Is it fair that men who started as boys of thirteen in a naval college, whose parents signed a covenant that these boys would not leave the Navy bef ore they reached the age of 30, should be given notice to quit, and sent out of the Service without compensation ? That is what is actually taking place. Officers of the Navy even of rank as low as midshipman have been unceremoniously dismissed. Some of them are on exchange with the Royal Navy, and they have been placed in the humiliating position of being dismissed while on the other side of the world. In some cases they have taken their wives with them at their own expense and they will now have to pay their fares back to Australia. There are, perhaps, only one or two such instances, but no fewer than 40 officers in the Royal Australian Navy have been dismissed. In the Royal Navy an officer who is dismissed receives retired pay, and in the case of a lieutenant-commander the pay is £155 per annum. In 1922, when certain Australian officers, both of the Army and N”avy, were dismissed, they were first given the option of retiring voluntarily. In that case they were given compensation equal to one month’s pay for each year of service. In this instance naval officers have been put off and given only their deferred pay. As I have said before in this House, that is an insult to their intelligence, because their deferred pay is really deducted from their salary, and set aside in a fund at 3$ per cent, interest. Had that amount been paid to them it could have been invested at more than 3$ per cent, interest. These men have loyally carried out their duty, both in peace and war. If they are not specialists in engineering, or in some technical branch, they will find the utmost difficulty in obtaining civilian positions.
The Government’s action is more than open to question, and if this policy is still further pursued the Army and Navy might just as well cease to exist. Recently the submarines Otway and Oxley were laid up. They are craft comparing with the best in the British Navy. Incidentally, they have the most powerful short-wave wireless sets, both ashore or, afloat, in Australia. We must observe what is going on among the nations that adjoin our waters. We all know that a certain nation has recently sanctioned a submarine cruise over great distances with craft equivalent to our two submarines. Yet ours are to be laid aside. The personnel, specially trained for that class of work, is to be absorbed into other branches of the Navy, or dismissed. At one time the Navy was our national pride. Without it we would never have been able to take our troops overseas in the early part of the war. If the Government persists in its policy our Navy will become defunct. It is time we took serious stock of the situation. The naval trainees who go to Jervis Bay sign agreements that if they are dismissed before they reach the age of 30 years they will refund to the Government a certain amount of money, which, in some cases, would amount to about £300. That matter was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, and the reply by the Government, such as it was, was to the effect that as shown, in Circular No. 10125 issued by the Navy Office an undertaking had been given that such men under the age of 30 would be admitted to the Public Service.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I join the honorable member for Balaclava (*Ir. White) in protesting against the action of the Government in calling upon a small section of the Defence Department to bear the whole of the burden of the departmental economy campaign. In my opinion it is a gross injustice to single out the military members of the department for salary reductions, for that is what the rationing system is, in effect. Rationing may have something to recommend it, but if such an economy is necessary - and I do not say that it is not - I am perfectly certain that all the soldier members of the Public Service would be quite prepared to bear their share of it. Obviously, it is an injustice to call upon one section of the department to suffer.. The effect of the rationing will be that men in receipt of £500 a year will lose £85 of it. That is a serious reduction. The great majority of the men to be rationed carry the rank of captain. Doubtless, many of them have involved themselves in certain liabilities, such, for instance, as the education of their children. Probably some of them are purchasing their own homes, or, if not, they are paying rent. All of them, of course, will have to meet the cost of the necessaries of the life during the period that they will be without pay. If a reduction, of this nature were ordered by a court in the case of organized workers there would undoubtedly be a serious industrial upheaval. It would be fairer for the Government to impose a percentage reduction of wages. I make that statement deliberately.
The figures quoted by the honorable member for Balaclava have been checked carefully, and I do not think that their accuracy will be disputed. If a reduction of one per cent, were made in the wages of civil servants, the saving would be almost double the amount it is proposed to save by rationing these defence officers. In addition to the officers, non-commissioned officers, and warrant officers, there are in the department about 700 civilian employees whose average wage is higher than the averagewage of the members of the Defence Force. I do not desire to make comparisons,. but I think it will be admitted that the members of the Defence Force, in order to do efficiently the work assigned to them, have to undergo a longer period of training than the clerical employees of the department;
It appears to me that the reason why the members of the Defence Force have been singled out for rationing is that they are not organized like the members of the Public Service generally. The Government’s antipathy to non-unionists is well-known, but it should not be extended to officers who are prohibited by law from forming themselves into unions or associations or expressing their opinions upon any subject on the public platform or in the press. These officers are being most unjustly treated. If they had the power to organize themselves I am certain that we should not have heard anything of a proposal of this character. Like the honorable member for Balaclava, I am of the opinion that if there is to be Any rationing it should be made uniform throughout the Service. I hope that the Minister will assure us that some fairer method of effecting economies will be adopted.
I suppose that there is hardly a person in the community, except civil servants, who is notbearing, or will soon have to bear, a reduction of income to the extent of at least one per cent. I should like to see the members of the civil service receiving high wages, and every person in the community making a good income, but if reductions of pay are to be made, they should be made on a basis which Will not be unjust’ to a section.
I wish to make a few observations in reply to the attack made yesterday by the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) on Senator Sampson and Senator Elliott. I do not know what Senator Sampson said in Tasmania, for I have not read the report from which the Minister quoted yesterday; but Senator Sampson and Senator Elliott are distinguished soldiers who should not have been subjected to the vicious attack - for it was that - which the Minister made upon them yesterday. I do not know what steps they intend to take to reply to the remarks of the Minister, but as they are not in a position to reply in this chamber, I intend to refer to one or two statements made by the Minister.
In the first place, the honorable gentleman said that these officers were in the pay of the Defence Department. He repeated the statement twice, the second time to reply to an interjection, by an honorable member on the Government side of the House. The Minister’s statement might very easily cause a wrong impression to go abroad. Senator Sampson’s allo wan ce - I prefer to call it such - as commanding officer of the 12th Battalion is £ 1 17s. 6d. per day while in camp or on parade for the four days compulsory parade in the year. The maximum that he can receive is £22 10s. per annum. Of course, Colonel Sampson may attend more than four parades, and I am perfectly certain that he does so; but he can only receive pay for four outside of camp. So far he has not received a single penny from the department this financial year because there have been no camps ; and the total amount that he can possibly receive will be only £7 10s.
It should be remembered that General Elliott and Colonel Sampson are not only military officers, but also members of the National Parliament, and they have a duty to perform to the electors and to the public in that capacity. It seems to me that the only crime which they have committed is that they have been zealous in the’ discharge of their duties as military officers, and have expressed their opinion upon the defence policy of the Government. I can quite understand that these gentlemen are concerned, and possibly angry, because the effect of the Government’s policy has been to undermine the efficiency of the units under their command. I do not propose at the moment to express any opinion upon whether the voluntary system of training is better than the compulsory system. But the Minister saidit was important to realize that the two States where the percentage of volunteers was lowest were the States in which Senator Elliott and Senator Sampson had used their influence to prevent men from volunteering.
– I did not say that.
– I have not before me a copy of the Minister’s speech; but I am certain that honorable members generally understood him to mean what I have said if he did not actually say it. He said that these two officers were criticizing the policy of the Government for party reasons - though I am certain that is not so - and that the result had been that a lower percentage of men had volunteered in Victoria and Tasmania, than in the other States. But that is not the case. I do not propose to speak for General Elliott, because I am not sufficiently familiar with the work he has done in Victoria for the Defence Department ; but I do say that there is no officer of the department move zealous about his work than is Colonel Sampson, nor has any other officer done more to encourage young mcn in Tasmania to join the forces. He has spent a great deal of his time, and of his money also, travelling about Tasmania holding meetings for this purpose. Yet the Minister says that he is in the pay of the Defence Department, and for that reason has not the right to criticize the Government’s defence policy. He also says that he is responsible for the units in Tasmania still being understrength. In my opinion the Minister overstepped the bounds of decency in the attack he launched yesterday on these two officers. If he had consulted one of the senior officers of his department before making that attack, and had accepted the advice which . would be offered, we should not have had the scene to which we were treated yesterday. The Minister for Defence said that recently he had had the doubtful privilege of extending the term of command of Senator Sampson, who is in charge of the 12th Battalion. I suggest that the Minister for Defence is privileged in occupying the position he does to-day, which gave him the right to extend the command of Senator Sampson, a distinguished soldier, and an old comrade of mine both in war and peace. He deserves the thanks of the people of Australia for his services, and has justified the confidence of those who sent him to the Senate.
– I join with other honorable members on this side who have protested against the action of the Government in singling out a small section of those employed by the Defence Department, and compelling them to make all the sacrifices demanded by the Government’s defence economies. Owing to the change of policy in the method of training our defence forces, it is’ inevitable that there should be some slight over-staffing at the present time. We should remember, however, that a military staff is not built up in a day. You cannot make a good staff officer by putting a red band on his hat. It is necessary that the staff should be maintained in a state of efficiency and up to strength so as to be ready for immediate service in the event of war. We are far below war establishment. It is proposed to ration employment among officers, warrant officers, and noncommissioned officers and this cannot but bring about inefficiency. Staff officers and warrant officers are not among those who begin their working day at 9 o’clock, and end it at 5. A soldier is always on duty, and these men are entitled to more consideration than they are receiving from the Government. This treatment will destroy the officers’ interest in their work. If the department is over-staffed at present no difficulty should be experienced in finding places for the surplus men in other branches of the Public Service. These are all picked men, possessing good educational qualifications, and of more than ordinary ability. A man trained as an officer at Duntroon or as a non-commissioned officer in a special school should be qualified to fill a place somewhere in the Public Service. These men should be absorbed in this way so as to be instantly available if their services are required in time of war. They could be given a short refresher course, and would then be ready for service. Those who had experience of the last war know that Great Britain was seriously handicapped during 1915 because she did not possess a competent and highly trained staff to direct her forces. The men who will be affected by this rationing scheme “would be invaluable in building up the system of voluntary training on which the Government has embarked, but it will be difficult for them to retain their enthusiasm under treatment such as this.
The Minister said that any saving effected in the administration of the department would be applied to reducing the period of leave without pay which officers and warrant officers will be required, to take. This, in effect, is an intimation to the staff that if expenditure is cut on training, camps, noncommissioned officer classes, week-end and voluntary schools, &c, there will be more money left to pay their own salaries. One can hardly imagine anything more calculated to sap the efficiency of the defence force. Indeed, I should not be surprised, from what has been said by government supporters outside Parliament, if that were one of the reasons behind this rationing move. The Government is creating a Gilbertian situation by practically telling the officers that they must save their salaries by destroying the army they are supposed to build up and lead.
The approximate strength of the permanent military forces at present is - officers, 300; warrant officers, 450; total, 750; other ranks, 850. There are also 750 civilian employees working side by side with these officers and noncommissioned officers, but they will not come within the scope of the rationing scheme, although, were it not for the military section, there would be no work for them to do. The Minister has stated that the rationing system could not be applied to the civilian employees because they are working under an award of the Public Service Arbitrator. The military employees are selected for sacrifice because they have no union to protect them. The regulations prohibit them from forming a union or association, nor are they able to voice their opinions either individually or collectively in public or through the press because such action would be dealt with as a breach of discipline. The intention of the Government is to save approximately £80,000, which is to be clipped off the pay of these officers, warrant officers, and non-commissioned officers. This works out at a reduction in the salaries of these men of approximately one-sixth. The sacrifices which differentranks will be called upon to make are as follow : -
I feel certain that no arbitration court judge or conciliation- commissioner would-, in any circumstances, order a reduction of one-sixth to be made in the wages of trade unionists. If any such order were made it would result in a nationwide industrial upheaval. This proposal is glaringly unjust, and I am confident that it is the outcome of a desire on the part of those who influence the Government to get at the returned soldiers who form so large a proportion of those who will be affected.
I propose now to make a comparison between the salaries received by military employees of the department, and those paid to civil employees. The number of persons in the permanent military forces is 1,718, and the amount of their annual pay is £522,140, which is equal to an average per man of £303. The total annual pay of the civil officers of the department is £257,239, or an average of £302 per person. It will be seen, therefore, that the civil employees cost the country much more than does the military personnel.
– What does the honor able member suggest? It is easy enough to say that something ought to be done.
– I have already suggested that surplus officers might be profitably employed in other branches of the Public Service. It is evident that there is no goodwill on the Government side of the House for the military employees of the department. Because’ these employees have no trade union to protect them it is necessary for honorable members on this side of the House to speak on their hehalf. The Government’s proposal is indefensible and grossly unfair. I trust that the Minister will retrace his steps, and refrain from inflicting a serious injustice upon a body of men, mo3t of whom have done much to serve their country.
– That comes well from one who did his best to prevent returned soldiers from getting a pensions appeal board.
– I supported the appointment of an appeal board, and practically every returned soldiers’, organization in my electorate and the Federal and State Executives of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia have expressed to me their appreciation for the part I, together with some other honorable members on this side, played in securing the appointment of such a board. Almost all of. the advantages at present enjoyed by returned soldiers are due to the last Government.
There is another aspect of the matter to which I should like to refer. The absence from their duties of adjutants and quarter-masters for a couple of ‘ months in the year may lead to serious leakages occurring in military stores. If their services were retained. and they were fully occupied, the amount of their salaries might be saved by preventing losses of equipment. It should be remembered that these men are experts and specialists. They are invaluable to the nation, and the country has been put to considerable expense to train and make them efficient.
I am sure that the Minister does not wish to cause the injustice that will be done to these men under the proposals of the Government. I ask him to reconsider the matter, with a view to seeing whether it is not possible so to reorganize his department in conjunction with other departments of the Public Service that this small section will not suffer such a gross injustice, and have to bear the whole burden of the Defence Department economies. Being soldiers, these men would lay themselves open to a charge of breach of discipline if they took action to defend themselves; they must suffer in silence. The Minister must have some goodwill in his heart towards them. Australia became widely and favorably known to the rest of the world because of the efficiency of her staff in the recent war. Many of those for whom we are now appealing did credit, not only to themselves, but also to their country. I urge the Minister to do all that lies within his power to remove the serious injustice under which these men are suffering.
.- I wish to add my protest to that of the three honorable members who have preceded me, against what appears to be the singling out of one section to shoulder very much more than its fair share of the sacrifices that the Government feels that certain departments of the Public Service ought to make. Every honorable member on this side realizes that a smaller staff is necessary for the training of a voluntary army of 35,000 than was required for the larger number of compulsory trainees that was handled in. the past. The Government, of course, is in desperate financial straits, and feels obliged to call for the making of this sacrifice. Our complaint is that it is “ putting the boot “ into the little fellow, in order to avoid tackling sections that are numerically stronger and that individually would not suffer so greatly. These men certainly deserve the best that this country has to offer. I do not suggest that in times like the present it is possible to keep a full staff employed. When the Minister stated some time ago that there were to be no dismissals or retrenchments in his department, it appeared to me that, he was either bluffing or that he had very little foresight. I did not then suspect that in the back of his, or somebody else’s mind, there was this plan to reduce, by one-sixth, the salary of men who have never been highly paid. Possibly pressure has been applied to him by other members of the Cabinet who have stronger personalities and are able to fend for their departments more energetically. It is absolutely unfair that a clerk or a messenger who is employed on the civilian side of the Defence Department should suffer no curtailment of his salary; whereas a sergeant-major, or a warrant officer of the 2nd class, who in the ordinary course of his duties performs a considerable amount of clerical work, is compelled to forgo two months’ pay in a year. A sergeant-major would not be fully competent if he were unable toperform the work of a clerk; and the department employs scores of clerks in junior capacities. A large number of messengers are receiving pay equivalent to that qf the men who are to be rationed. Why should not a messenger be called upon to suffer a reduction of even one-half of 1 per cent: of his salary? In Canberra, living costs are so high that these men may be forced to move into a miserable hut, because the Minister appears not to have the personality to enforce the equal imposition of hardship throughput his department.
– Does the honorable member consider that it is fair to speak in such terms of the Minister when he is carrying out the defence policy of this party ?
– If this action is not the result of the exercise of greater influence by other members of the Cabinet, it must be due to the Minister’s own downright hardness of heart; and I do not believe that that is the case. Why should an unfortunate soldier have his pay docked to the extent of one-sixth, and a range assistant, who surely could be replaced by a soldier, not have to suffer any reduction? The department also employs a number of caretakers and watchmen. Obviously, there are many soldiers who could undertake that work. Those who have graduated from the Royal Australian Military College and the Royal Australian Naval College have had an education that fits them to All many clerical positions in the Public Service.
I wholeheartedly associate myself with those who have already spoken in protest against this casual disregard of the interests of one small section. It would appear that, because these men have not the organization or the voting strength to make a protest effective, they are being unfairly called upon to help the Government out of the unfortunate position in which it finds itself to-day.
.- I recognize that the policy of the Government involves a reduction of work, and, consequently, a reduction of employment, in the Defence Department. The appeal that has been made to it is to effect that reduction of employment in as fair a manner as possible. The Government has been urged to consider that the manner in which the burden which results from such a reduction is being borne is unfair, and to investigate any method that might obviate requiring a limited number of men to make, such a very heavy sacrifice as that involved in the proposals which the Minister has approved for the rationing of members of the Defence Forces.
There is only one other point that I desire to raise. In a statement that he made to the House on the 12th June last, the Minister said-=-
I wish to stress the point that any savings that c.i.n bc made in any branch of the Defence
Department during the next financial year will be applied towards the reduction of the period of enforced leave without pay to be borne by the members of the Permanent Military Forces.
Members of the Permanent Military Forces are thus informed that if they are able to make savings in any branch’ their enforced leave will be reduced. I suggest that that places them in a very difficult position. Everything that they can save, which means every expenditure which they can abstain from making, will benefit them personally. It is impossible to expect from ordinary human beings, however high their standard of character may be, successful and efficient work under such a provision. I should like the Minister to consider whether it is not possible to modify that provision, and to look to some other source for an alleviation of the position in which these permanent soldiers are being placed.
– Does not the honorable member realize that this is a thankless task for the Minister?
– I have impliedly recognized that fact in the remarks that I have ‘made. The manner in which I have spoken cannot be regarded as an attack upon either the Minister or the Government. I am quite prepared to attack the defence policy of the Government at a suitable time, and in. this place. We have to deal with this particular problem from the point of view that the policy has been determined by the Government, and as a necessary result there must be some rationing of employment. In the circumstances, I prefer the rationing of employment to dismissals. Though I disapprove of and deplore those circumstances, I am not asking that the rationing programme of the Government should be withdrawn and that men should be dismissed instead. I merely ask that the Government should make every effort to reduce the tremendous sacrifice that this small class of Commonwealth servants are being asked to bear. I believe that that is a reasonable request for the Opposition to make, and I hope that the Minister will answer my remarks in the spirit that I have uttered them.
.- When I was compelled to cease my previous speech because my allotted time had expired I was dealing with a matter concerning rationing and dismissals in the Defence Force. I pointed out that the Government promised employment in the Public Service to the younger type of naval officer, men under 30, who are being dismissed, and whose guardians signed a convenant with the Government that if they discontinued their training before reaching the age of 30 they would reimburse the Government for their training costs. Memorandum No. 10,125 was issued to that effect. I draw attention to what I consider to be the humiliating conditions under which they will have to serve in the Commonwealth Public Service. If appointed, they will be on probation for six months, confirmation of their appointments depending upon their satisfactory conduct, diligence, and efficiency. These men have been specially trained at Jervis Bay, and some have served with outstanding credit abroad. They are now being discharged from the Navy without compensation, with only their deferred pay, which, after all, is their own money, held in arrears at but 3-A per cent, interest per annum. The rates of pay they will receive in the Commonwealth Service are-
Take the case of a naval officer of 27, who would be a lieutenant, almost due for appointment as lieutenant-commander, receiving a salary in the region of £450. He would go to the civil service and receive £31S, on a probationary appointment for six months. Again, take the position of a lieutenant aged 29£. He would be eligible for promotion to lieutenantcommander, and would soon have been promoted. His pay would be £524. He will go to the civil service at a salary of £318. I submit that that is unfair to these men, and I ask the Government to reconsider the whole matter. I have put forward a scheme, which I had difficulty in elaborating during the short time at my disposal, showing that any surplus in the military section of the Defence Force can be absorbed without difficulty into the civil service. I advanced an alternative, indicating that, in view of the fact that the salaries paid to Commonwealth public servants amount to £10,000,000 per annum, a 1 per cent, reduction would produce a sum greater than the Minister hopes to save by rationing in the Defence Force. Furthermore, the efficiency of the Service would be maintained. It is a retrograde step, and if the permanent staff is attenuated that retrogression will be hastened.
I draw attention to another matter, which constitutes a serious injustice to certain members of the Permanent Forces. It is the practice of the Government, when any officer is detailed for service abroad, on exchange duty in India or Great Britain, to have him sign a document declaring that he will not leave the forces within five years. Although those officers are bound by that five-year agreement, they are now compelled to take two months’ compulsory leave each year. In most cases they are senior officers. I recall one particularly brilliant Duntroon graduate, who is now performing staff work at Quetta, in India. As he is temporarily off our strength, I assume that he will not be rationed. That officer was so outstanding that he was chosen for special service in India, in preference to a number of British officers. He is fortunate to be absent from Australia at such a time as this.
An irregularity occurred in the statement made by the Minister in regard to rationing. I admit that it may have been purely an oversight. Clause 8 of the Military Order dealing with rationing, states, “ In no circumstances will outside employment be permitted during the period of enforced leave.” By some chance that was omitted from the ministerial statement, although the omission may have been corrected since. None of the numerous sergeant-majors or other non-commissioned officers is permitted to seek work durng his enforced holiday of two months. I do not suggest that it is inadvisable to insist on that. I merely direct attention to the fact that these unfortunate individuals are undergoing a series of misfortunes, _and submit that it is not too late for the Government to consider the absorption of the military surplus into the civil service. I do not criticize the Minister unduly for his action. I crossed swords with the honorable gentleman previously, and believe that he is under a misapprehension as to the remuneration received by officers of the Citizen Forces. I am in the same position a3 Lieutenant-Colonel Sampson, whom the Minister has attacked because lie is an officer of the forces, and draws an allowance and has dared to criticize, and I. can assure the Minister that the pay we receive in the militia barely covers tram fares to parades. We are in the business simply for the good of the cause, to give the benefit of our training to the embryo defenders of the country. I hope that the Government will give due consideration to my proposals.
– 1 have listened with a great deal of interest to the speeches made by honorable members opposite, and I sympathize with them in their endeavours.! The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham),’ has taken up a very commendable attitude and has pointed out that the Government 13 faced with a very grave financial problem. It is no use employing men if you cannot pay them. A reduction in any service means a reduction in the supervision of that service, and consequently warrants dispensing with some of its officers. No one takes a pleasure in seeing men discharged, particularly military men, whose training renders them unsuited to engage in work outside their profession. It is not a pleasing thing for the Minister or the Government to take such action, but the financial position of the country compels the Government to take drastic action. It would be very much more pleasant for the Government and the Minister to avoid it. No matter which party happened to bc in power at the moment, it would have to effect these economies. Some honorable members opposite have stated that the hardship is imposed on only a small section of the community, the military branch. I remind them that some time ago over 2,000 workmen were employed in the Federal Capital Territory, owing to the great demand that existed for houses, roads, and so forth; but the Government has been compelled to dismiss the majority of them.
– How many were dismissed ?
– I suppose over 1,000.
– Those men were not specially trained for a career.
– They were in employment, and the financial circumstances of the country compelled the Government to dispense with their services. They have had to look elsewhere for jobs, but I did not hear any honorable members opposite make any complaints about the action of the Government.
– We did not know of it.
– There are a great many things that honorable members opposite do not know. I remind them of another branch of the Service, the shipbuilding dockyard at Cockatoo Island, where our ships are repaired and built. At one period 4,000 men were employed there.
– Tha’, is not recently
– No. The financial position of the Government has compelled it practically to close the place down, involving the dismissal of mechanics who have been engaged there for the past fifteen or sixteen years. Retrenchment has been necessary in all directions, but those draftsmen, mechanics and others, who have suffered more than will the military officers, have not asked honorable members to make a song about the matter. To-day they are walking the streets and cannot obtain employment. I understand that at the end of this week a number of men will be dismissed from Garden Island, another important branch of our defence system. The personnel of the . small arms factory at Lithgow has also been reduced to a skeleton, because the Government finds it imperative to cut down expenses. Therefore, the statement that the Government and the Minister for Defence has concentrated on a small section and made it bear the burden of retrenchment is not borne out by facta.
It is necessary to consider the position of the Government, and to assist it to solve its financial difficulties. I hope that the tide will soon turn in our favour and that prosperity will return. I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that he preferred rationing to dismissals. So do I. A few weeks holiday should do these men good, after their long service. It is unfortunate that they cannot be paid in the interim, but it is much better to have an enforced holiday without pay than to be thrown on the scrap heap. The Government is to be commended for introducing a system of rationing, to avoid wholesale dismissals which would have forced many people into the bankruptcy Court. I know of builders, contractors, and architects who have been obliged to reduce the number of their employees in order to cut down expenses. I could name dozens of men in responsible positions who, through no fault of their own, are on the bread line. Because of the economic depression banks have called up overdrafts and contracted credit. The defence officers who have been retrenched or rationed have my sympathy, but necessity knows no law. Ministers also are deserving of consideration because theirs is a thankless but unavoidable task. They are doing the best they possibly can under the pressure of circumstances.
.- Rationing of employment is preferable to dismissals, because it retains the services of valuable officers who have been highly trained in military and naval science. The recent dismissals f:om the Navy are a tragedy. In answer to a question I asked last week the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) stated that the officers retrenched included 6 LieutenantCommanders, 7 Lieutenants, 5 SubLieutenants, 7 Midshipmen, 1 Lieutenant (E), 2 Medical Officers, 1 Instructor Officer, 3 Accountant Officers, 6 Warrant Officers, 5 Temporary Officers of various branches ; total 43. Those figures are staggering. Of the total of 43, 26 had been trained at the Royal Australian Naval College at Jervis Bay at a cost to the taxpayers of from £500 each per annum to £1,300 each in later years. Thus a total of approximately £90,000 has been spent in training those young Australians for the Navy. What are they to do on the congested labour market? Nobody can suggest any avenue of employment for them, although their training fits them to tackle almost any work. I do not blame the Minister for Defence; he has consulted closely the ‘Naval, Military, and Air Boards, and has acted on the recommendation of his technical advisers. Probably if I were in his position I could not do other than he has done, but I hope that instead of dismissing further officers he will ration their employment, and so retain their services. No man who had experience of the last war wants another, but we must be prepared for the worst. Notwithstanding the peace treaties and the Three Power Naval Pact, war may happen again, and we should retain a nucleus of the three defence services for expansion when the call comes. The dismissals from the Navy are causing a good deal of disquietude in the minds of those left on the ships. I have been informed by Rear Admiral Evans that the Royal Australian Navy is 100 per cent, efficient. Our ships could take their place in the British Navy and perhaps teach the other vessels in the fleet something. Will the retrenchment of 43 officers diminish the efficiency of the Australian service? I ask the Minister to consider carefully that possibility before he sanctions, any further retrenchment. Will the dismissals undermine the efficiency and morale of those who are left? The retrenchments included seven midshipmen who had been trained at a cost of £5,000 each. The parents of the boys remaining in the Navy are becoming concerned, and I have had letter after letter asking my advice as to whether boys should be withdrawn from the service. I recognized that the action taken by the Minister is due to the exigencies of the time. If economics must be effected, rationing appears to be the only means by which the services of highly skilled men can be retained. Whilst rationing is a reduction of wages in one sense, in another it is not, because the nominal salary of the officer remains unchanged ; he is simply put off for a certain portion of the year. I do not advocate a reduction of wages or salaries. I am advising the Minister to adopt a system that will permit of economy whilst retaining in the naval, military, and air services highly qualified men.
– I do not blame the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) for the economies he is effecting. I realize that he has an exceedingly unpleasant duty. to perform- in contracting the defence forces to the money available. . But I suggest that the procedure, might be varied. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber have urged a system of rationing, but the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) stated yesterday that rationing and retrenchment are not proposed in other departments than the Defence Department, because there is no evidence tha it they are over-manned. If economies are obligatory, it is unfair that the whole burden should fall upon two or three departments. Retrenchment and reduction of salaries are pressing heavily upon the Defence Department, and, to a lesser extent, upon the War Service Homes Commission and the Department of Home Affairs. If the views expressed even by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) were adopted by the Government, this burden would be spread over the whole Service. There are three courses that should be adopted by the Government. In the first place, it should consider retrenchment in respect of the whole of the Service, and not merely in respect of one or two departments.
– Retrenchment cannot be effected in departments whose activities have not diminished.
– In such circumstances, I would not suggest it, but it is extraordinary if the whole diminution of activity has occurred in only two or three departments, and only in respect of the professional division. If retrenchment is necessary, it should apply to the Service as a whole, because transfers from one department to another, particularly of officers in the clerical division, can be easily effected. Secondly, no nev/ appointments should be made; every vacancy that occurs through resignation, death, or retirement should be filled from within the Service. Thirdly, no more overtime should be worked than is absolutely imperative; extra work should be distributed amongst the men employed in the Service in order to ensure that all are occupied full time. Those courses are preferable to letting the axe fall on only one small section of the Public Service.
There is another aspect of the matter to which I have drawn the attention of the Minister;. he has been looking into the facts for the past ten days, and I hope that his decision will be in accordance with the promise of a former government to the men who stood loyally by the Commonwealth in the hour of trial. I refer to the 1917 strike, in the Royal Edward Victualling Yard at Garden Island. Of the 50 men in the yard, 24 struck, and 26 remained loyal t.o the Government. Resignations and death have diminished, the loyalists to fourteen, and the rights of these men should be conserved. This would not mean an attack on unionism, because both the loyalists and the strikers were unionists. In 1917 the Government of the day permitted the officer in charge of the Royal Edward Victualling Yard to placard a notice to this effect -
I have the authority of the Captain in eli urge to state that the services of all employees who have remained loyal and taken no part in this strike will be retained by the department so long as the said employees desire.
That notice was signed “Salter, Royal Edward Victualling Yard.” All I am asking now is that the Government should honour that promise, and that the retrenchment that is now taking place should not fall upon these men, except in the most extreme circumstances. They should not be asked to suffer retrenchment until all others have been retrenched ; excepting, of course, returned soldiers, with whom, at least, they should be placed on the same footing. This was not an ordinary strike in an industry of the country. It concerned men who, fortunately for us, remained true to their oaths. During the war they loyally stood by their posts at a time of national danger. They were specially asked to do so.
– lt- was a matter of victualling the transports.
– It was a matter also of carrying out a national work during a critical period. These men are entitled to consideration on that ground, quite apart from the definite promise made to them by the Government of the day, which, I submit, is binding upon this and any future Government.
– Are any of those men being dismissed?
– Of the fourteen men remaining, five have been given notice that their services are to terminate at the end of this week.
– They are all being dismissed.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.They are not. Some are being retained. There should be some special treatment meted out to these men. Previously when a man has left the service or has died, he or his widow has been given one week’s pay for every year of satisfactory service. That has been the practice up to the present. Not only is the promise that was made to these men being broken by their being given notice of dismissal, but the gratuity which others have previously received is being refused them.
– Some men are being discharged who are within a few months of retirement.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Some of these men who are being discharged have had sixteen or seventeen years’ service, while other men who have been appointed more recently are being retained.
– Does the honorable member believe in giving preference because of long service?
– Yes. Subject to certain exceptions, the rule should be that the first to come is the last to go. These men with long service and not a single mark against their conduct should not be picked out to bear the full burden of retrenchment. The statement of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) that this rationing of employment is in accordance with the policy of the Government is not correct.
– It is in this direction.
– The Prime Minister himself has stated that it is not the policy of the Government to ration employment. All I ask is that some statement of ministerial policy be made to the effect that, instead of dismissing men, the Government will institute some general scheme of rationing work throughout the Public Service. The salaries and other allowances of the Commonwealth Public Service amount to about £10,000,000. Surely some scheme could be evolved which would permit of retrenchment covering the whole of the Public Service instead of it falling upon one department, involving, perhaps, onetenth of the total amount paid in salaries. I quite agree with the honorable member for South Sydney that this a most unpleasant business. One of the most uupleasant experiences in a man’s life is to dismiss an employee through no fault of his own. I admit that the Government takes no pleasure in this retrenchment. On the other hand, it is a source of great annoyance to it. I am not seeking to embarrass the Government. I sympathize with it, but more particularly with the persons who are being retrenched. I have made certain suggestions in the direction of alleviating the blow which is falling upon a number of officers in the Defence Department, and on architects and others in the War Service Homes Department, and the Department of Home Affairs. I hope that my negotiations with the Minister concerning the men employed in the Royal Edward Victualling Yard will be successful, and that, as a result, the notice of dismissal served upon them will be withdrawn.
.- I am in general accord with the policy of the Government in respect of military retrenchment, but I consider that the way in which it is being carried out is most unfair. In some cases, men who had only a few months to serve before retiring have been dismissed. They have contributed to the superannuation fund for a number of years, and, because of their discharge, their payments will be lost to them. That is certainly most unfair. Then, again, the Military Depot at Newcastle has been closed down, although the work of that institution could have been carried on by recruits and voluntary teachers at no additional expense to the Government. In the hurry to economize and to clean things up, the authorities even took away the local honour roll which was subscribed to by the citizens in the district. That is carrying things too far. In another case, a boy, who had been in hospital undergoing an operation, was told, when he reported for duty, that there was no work for him. In carrying out retrenchment in the Defence Department, the Minister should see that no injustice, however small, is done, because this is a serious matter to the persons affected. In fairness to them, they should at least have their superannuation payments refunded.
– I am pleased, indeed, that a discussion has taken place this afternoon on this so-called rationing scheme. A number of honorable members opposite spoke on this subject, and the objections raised to the Government’s policy were practically similar in each case. It is true that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) went to some length to explain his suggested alternatives to the rationing system. It must not be forgotten that this policy which the Government is carrying out was recommended by the Military Board. The Government was faced with this position. In the Defence Department it had to save £150,000 this current year, and £500,000 in the next financial year. There has been little personal abuse introduced into this debate, although the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), who is usually fair-minded, did not add. anything to the debate by his personalities. Statements like that do not get us very far. Let me say at once that Cabinet decided that retrenchment was necessary. The question was in what department should it be effected. The Postal Department is a growing concern, and no mcn could be dismissed from that service. As a matter of fact, the expenditure is ever increasing. Any suggestion to economize in the Commonwealth railways is untenable, because the same service is necessary whether business is dull or brisk. The Labour party is pledged to a certain policy in regard to defence. The honorable member for Balaclava somewhat marred his speech by suggesting that we do not believe in defence. In fact, he said that the last Labour Conference decided to abolish defence.
– That was suggested.
– If the honorable member did not wish to mislead the chamber, he should have explained that the last Labour Conference endorsed the defence platform agreed to by the previous conference, which is to the effect that the Labour party stands for the adequate defence of Australia against invasion. On that platform I stand four square.
– It was suggested at that conference that defence be abolished.
– Of course, anycrank can make suggestions. People may go to a -spiritual seance and hear some absurd idea put forward. There are cranks everywhere. There are tories even in the Nationalist party. I suppose there are in Australia quite a number of would-be Ministers for Defence. I have had some most extraordinary schemes propounded to me. I have been told that if I would abolish the Military Board hundreds of thousands of pounds could be saved annually. But very few persons, except military men - and not all of them are competent to advise - have any idea of the situation that has to be faced.
The honorable member for Balaclava has suggested that the abolition of compulsory training might destroy our defence system, but yesterday I quoted figure’s to show that the enlistments under the voluntary system have been very much greater than the honable member expected. A few months ago he said that we would not get one- tenth of the required enlistments under the voluntary system.
– Oh, no; I said that not one-tenth of the number required had then enlisted.
– The fact is that to-day we are getting on towards a full establishment.
– We are still 8,000 short.
– That may be so; but last November we had only 17,000 enlistments, 80 per cent, of which were trainees under the compulsory system. Every month we are showing an increase of 2,000 recruits. To-day we have 27,059 volunteers, so that by the end of October we should reach our full strength, 35,000.
– But the recruits are not attending the parades as well as the trainees did.
– It cannot be expected that so many will attend parades now as when we had 47,000 trainees.
An attempt was made this afternoon to joke about my statement that the enlistment of senior cadets under the voluntary system had exceeded 100 per cent. of the number required; but the figures are as follows: -
Captain Kingsford Smith, we have just heard, has reached the United States of America, and performed one of the greatest accomplishments ever achieved by an Australian. Just as his spirit is worthy of his country, so the spirit of the young men who are enlisting under the voluntary system of defence is worthy of it. The hearts of our Australian boys are beating true to our best traditions. If the experience of the honorable member for Balaclava has been the same as my own, he must admit that these young recruits are entering into their work in a most inspiring way.
– That is so.
– On a recent Sunday in Western Australia I went out to watch the field artillery trainees at work. In parts of Western Australia some training is done on Sundays. I watched these young fellows for two hours and was delighted with their work. One young fellow, in particular, was carrying harness through heavy sand, and his officer called out to him, “Double up, Carmichael !” The young fellow replied, “Yes, sir,” and struggled gamely under his heavy load to obey the order. If such an order had been given under the usual industrial conditions, the man who gave it would have been invited to go to the nether regions. That is a spirit that money cannot buy. I am confident that these recruits will do their work thoroughly. Seeing that the Council for Defence has decided that the full strength required under the voluntary system will give us the nucleus of an army of 180,000 if it should be required in the case of an invasion of this country we should be satisfied. It has been declared that it would take any potential enemies several months to prepare to invade Australia.
– But how should we obtain information that they werepreparing?
– Our Intelligence Department, which is associated with the British Intelligence Department, has its officers in every part of the world. We showed years ago that we were ready to defend ourselves at a. time when people thought we were never less ready to do so.
The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) took it upon himself this afternoon to reply to some remarks I made yesterday about the attitude certain members of another place had adopted in regard to voluntary recruiting, and he gave a particularly fine testimony of the qualifications of a gentleman from his own State. But everything that I said yesterday in regard to that gentleman was thoroughly justified, and I was provoked to say it. The honorable member referred to my remark that the person whom I criticized was in the pay of the Defence Department; but I was careful to say that the pay he received was small. What mattered to me was that he was entrusted with responsible duties by the Defence Department. Some of the remarks that he made to which I called attention showed that he is indiscreet at times. The honorable member for Darwin admitted that he had not read the report from which I quoted. I object to any person . holding an office in my department referring to official departmental figures as “damnably rotten mean lies.” Any officer who makes such a statement deserves to be brought to book.
Although a great deal of objection has been offered to the proposed rationing of defence officers, I remind honorable members that this method of meeting the difficult situation that faced’ us was recommended by the Military Board. Attention has been called to the statement that I made towards the end of last year that I did not consider there would be any need for a reduction of personnel in the department. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has suggested that I had some sinister motive in making that statement; but I assure him that this is not so. When I made that remark I did not anticipate that there would be any need to dismiss men.
– The Minister was quite definite about it.
– That is so. But conditions in Australia have probably never changed as much in ten years, as they have changed in the few months that have elapsed since I made the statement. Conditions to-day are totally different from those of December last. The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), as honorable members will realize in a few days, is making an heroic attempt to meet the situation, and I, as Minister for Defence, consider it my duty to help him. Several deputations which have waited upon me have suggested that instead of rationing the work I should dismiss officers. One person who made this suggestion was the commanding officer of a battalion in Victoria and two others were warran t-officers. Of course, these persons did not expect that they would be dismissed themselves. I believe that their suggestions were made from selfish motives. But after fully considering the. whole situation, the Government has come to the conclusion that rationing is likely to cause less hardship than dismissals. If the Government had suggested the dismissal of the excess officers instead of the rationing of the full strength, I can imagine the noise that would have been made by honorable members opposite. The last Government, which was supported by the present Opposition,dismissed a number of officers in 1922.
Mr.White. - And compensated them.
– Quite so. But dismissal with compensation is far less humane than rationing.
Mr.Francis. - The men were not dismissed; they were invited to retire.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) said that the military personnel should be drafted into positions at present occupied by members of the Public Service.
– In connexion with military work.
– That is so. That suggestion has been put to the Military Board not once, but several times. The proposal to put military men in such places as the ordnance stores, as is done in Great Britain, has been made many times, and is generally advanced by any one who comes along with new ideas. However, the Military Board is against it. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) referred to the young men who had been trained at the Naval College at Jervis Bay, and are now being retrenched. Nobody regrets more than I do that these men must be retrenched, but we are endeavouring to make provision for their absorption in the Public Service.
– I gave the Government credit for that, but provision is being made only for officers up to the age of 30 years.
– I doubt whether any persons over 30 years will be affected; certainly they will be very few. We deplore the fact that any retrenchment has to be made, but in times like these savings must be effected, and, indeed, men are being retrenched all over the country. Every day I get letters pleading for special consideration for this one or that. The last thing I desire is to sack any man; but sometimes it must be done. The Government has not decided upon this policy without having explored the situation thoroughly. It was at first suggested that all defence employees should be rationed, irrespective of their pay. The Government decided, as a matter of policy, that no one on the basic wage should be rationed. It is true that the move highly-paid officers will be asked to give up a considerable amount of salary, but their sacrifice, after all, will not be so great as that of the lowerpaid men.
– Does the Minister expect to be able to put into effect his proposal to place naval officers in the Public Service?
– I do ; we are Working for that. Several honorable members raised matters which could have been more properly dealt with in personal communications to the Minister. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) said that, through the restriction of defenceactivities at Newcastle, the people there had lost their honour roll. I assure him that I shall be just as diligent in getting back his honour roll for him as were the police at Innisfail in their endeavours to restore the missing coat of arms to the Italian consular office. The honorable member also cited an instance in which he said a gratuity payment had been most unfairly withheld from Somebody. If a constituent of any honorable member suffers an injustice of that kind, the member should communicate with me, personally, instead of disclosing the matter in the House before I am told a uy thing about it. He also referred to a nian who, after returning from hospital, was informed that his job was gone. That was unfortunate, but if he had never gone to hospital he would still have lost his job.
The Government has exempted from leave without pay those members on or below the basic wage. It has not thrown upon the higher grades the burden of making up the additional savings necessitated, by such exemptions. Such a step would have entailed leave without pay up to eleven weeks. The Government has undertaken the responsibility of making up the amount, approximately £20,000, which would otherwise have been saved. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) criticized the Government for stating that savings effected by officers in administering the department would be applied to reducing the period of leave without pay which they would bc required to take. I consider that that is an excellent way of getting the men to improve efficiency. The honorable member for Moreton made the absurd statement that this was a Gilbertian proposal, amounting to a request to the officers to save their own salaries before they could receive them. He said that it would induce the officers to cut out drills, &c, in order to save money with which to pay themselves. I have faith in these men, and believe that they will go on with the job. Notwithstanding what has been said of them by some honorable members, I maintain that these officers are a very fine type of men, who have taken up this work because they believe in it. That, of course, makes it all the more regrettable that it has been necessary to ration their employment; but theirs is the one service in which there are surplus men. I remind honorable members that, in connexion with other government activities such as the government dockyards, and road construction work here in Canberra, employees have simply been dismissed when the job was done. The defence officers have at least had their jobs saved for them. 1,1
– Still more could have been done for them by transferring the civil employees of .the department elsewhere.
– Fifteen per cent, of them have already been transferred elsewhere. The Government has agreed that the Military Board may discharge on pension members of the Military Forces approaching the retiring age, the retention of whose services is not warranted in the present stringency. The Government will pay the superannuation contributions of such persons from the date of their retirement up to the retiring age of their rank, in order to ensure higher pension payments. The liability for this is estimated at £3,000. It is evident, therefore, that everything that is humanly possible has been done to make things easier for the defence forces. Further, the Government has approved of a proposal that proportionate payment in lieu of furlough based on regulation shall be allowed to those discharged with less than twenty years’ continuous service, as if they were being retired through having reached the age of retirement. The estimated cost of this concession for all branches is from £10,000 to £12,000. The Government is submitting an amending Public Service bill to provide for the appointment of junior naval and military officers to the Public Service. If this rationing scheme had not been adopted it would have been necessary to dismiss 247 employees, made up as follows: - 65 staff corps officers; 16 quartermasters ; 47 sergeants-major - first-class warrant-officers; 76 sergeants-major - second-class warrant-officers ; 13 warrantofficers and sergeants provost staff; and 30 non-commissioned officers, gunners, &c, of the Permanent Forces. No matter what government might be in power, sooner or later the Minister occupying my position would be forced to do something similar to what I am doing now.
– To what stage has the Minister advanced his proposal to appoint naval and military men to the Public Service?
– It has been submitted to the Chairman of the Public Service Board, and there are now no practical difficulties in the way, so far as I am aware.
.- The debate which has taken place on this subject., and especially the statement of the Minister for Defence, has, I am sure, convinced honorable members that a great change has taken place since the last election in .the attitude of the Labour party towards financial matters. The Minister has said that there have been greater changes in the financial situation’ since last December than could ordinarily have been expected to occur within ten years. Honorable members will recall that before the last election the BrucePage Government foretold the present financial depression, and had begun to take steps to arrest the drift. The revelation of the Minister for Defence that he had been asked or forced to reduce defence expenditure by £150,000 this year, and by £500,000 next year, indicates that the situation was sufficiently serious to have warranted the Government taking the whole House into its confidence before arriving at a decision. Honorable members should have been informed of the exact position, not only in regard to the Defence Department, but in regard to all departments of the Public Service, so that they could form their own conclusions as to whether the methods adopted by the Government to meet the situation were wise or not. In- the light of the partial information placed before them it is difficult for honorable members to pass judgment on what has been done. I appeal to the Government to reduce the expert personnel of the Defence Department as little as possible. I agree with the honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Marks) that the trained personnel of the Defence Department is practically irreplaceable, and should be retained if possible. Large sums of money have been spent on training officers and bringing them up to the necessary standard of efficiency. Nothing should be done to dampen the enthusiasm of these able and keen-minded men, upon whom we would have to rely in a time of extremity. Before there is any sacrifice of personnel, bv rationing, dismissal, or any other means, a halt should be called to the proposal to change the uniform in the Defence Department. I understand that the new uniform is expected to cost something like £5, compared with £4 in the case of the old uniform; and according to a statement that was made last December or January, the total additional expense is estimated to run into over £100,000. It would be far better to. persist with the old uniform, and, if possible, retain the services of these men, than to dismiss them and give the fresh men a more attractive uniform. The best way in which to set about obtaining new men is to encourage, by justice and consideration, those whom we already have.
The Treasurer has brought forward a proposal which, he says, will provide him with the necessary finance to carry on the public services of the Commonwealth for the next three months. He has also promised that he will bring down his budget statement in the first or second week in July. I congratulate him upon having taken up that attitude, because the whole of Australia is anxiously awaiting the financial proposals of this Government, and until they have been announced no State Government can settle its own finances. Although it will be impossible to discuss comprehensively many of the proposals that will be brought forward, because of the limited amount of information that the honorable gentleman will be able to place before us, yet the course that he proposes to take is wise in the circumstances. The sooner the exact position is known, the better it will be for everybody in Australia, because a national effort can then be made to rescue this country from its difficulties.
I should like to draw attention to the propaganda that is continually being indulged in with respect to our present position, and the suggestion that is made, especially by the two morning Labour dailies - the Sydney Labor Daily and the Melbourne Age - that the last Federal Government was entirely responsible for the position that we now occupy.
– Hear, hear!
– The Minister for Home Affairs says “ Hear, hear.” I give the ‘ statement the lie direct, and shall be able to prove in a few seconds that there is not the slightest truth in it. If there is to be whole-hearted cooperation of all sections in dealing with our present position, the least we can expect is a truthful presentation of all the facts. The following comment appeared in the Sydney Labor Daily last Monday -
Let it be recalled, then, that in 1928 alone the Bruce-Page Federal Government expended £30.000,000 from loans and £82,000,000 from revenue.
That statement is too farcical to warrant consideration. The paragraph goes on to say that the Bruce-Page Government also spent during the last five years £132,372,557 from loans. The Melbourne Age, in a clever and unscrupulous fashion, also has endeavoured to convey the impression that the Bruce-Page Government was responsible for reckless spending. Its statement is as follows -
During the pact Government’s tenure of office, the Commonwealth debt, irrespective of war debt, rose from £5 15s. 3d. per head to £14 3s. 5d. per head.
No explanation whatever is vouchsafed that the total debt per head had been reduced by over £6 because of the reduction of the war debt by £15 per head or £45,000,000 in all. I shall examine these statements of the propagandists for the Labour party, and when I have given the official figures, which furnish a complete rebuttal, I hope that this particular lie will be nailed, and will stay fast. The official figures show that on the 30th June, 1922, the public debt of the Commonwealth was £364,839,590, while on the 30th June, 1929, it was £377,621,573. It is true that those figures do not include expenditure on soldier land settlement. The present Treasurer mentioned that matter in his budget speech last year; and it has not since been finalized. The expenditure in connexion with soldier land settlement was incurred before 1923, and makes no difference to the amount spent since. Therefore, during the six and a half years that it was in office the BrucePage Government increased the public debt by £12,781,983. During that period the population of Australia rose by 827,000; consequently there was actually a reduction of debt per head to the extent of £6 12s. 5d. Of that 827,000 no fewer than 500,000 were born in Australia and approximately 200,000 came to this country from Great Britain. I cannot understand why the Sydney Labor Daily saw fit to make an attack of this particular nature last Monday. There was no need to raise the matter; and had it not been raised I should not have been obliged to reply to it. Between 1922 and 1929 the war debt was decreased by £45,276,088, from £333,093,834 to £287,817,746. In the same period the works debt increased from £31,745,756 to £89,803,827. These two make up £12,781,983 increase in the debt and is one-tenth of the £133,000,000 that the Labor Daily said the last Government spent out of loan money. The fact is that that Government borrowed and spent £58,000,000, while at the same time it paid off, by means of a sinking fund and from revenue, the sum of £45,000,000.
– That newspaper cannot have a competent accountant.
– Nor has it a “tragic Treasurer.”
– The “tragic Treasurer “ whom the honorable member has in mind was able to place Tasmania’s finances in order by means of the gift that was made to that State by this Parliament at the instigation of the BrucePage Government. But for that gift the honorable member’s deficits would have been very much greater proportionately than any that have been disclosed in the Commonwealth Parliament. Of that expenditure of £58,000,000, postal works absorbed, £27,000,000. Those works are returning 5½ per cent. interest, and a sinking fund payment at the. rate of1½ per cent. There were also built £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 worth of war service homes, which are returning at the present time 5 per cent. interest as well as amortization payments. In addition, other capital works were created, many of which are completely self-supporting. The net result of this expenditure of loan money by the Commonwealth Government during that period was that the taxation burden with respect to interest on the public debt of the Commonwealth was lessened. The British Economic Mission, in its report, pointed out that during the period that the Bruce-Page Government was in office there was a diminution of the taxation burden on account of interest payable by the Commonwealth, while at the same time the States went back to the extent of between £4,000,000. and £5,000,000 increased taxation burden on interest account. On page 7 of its report, it showed that in 1921-22 the interest payable in Australia amounted to £18,976,803; that the amount available from revenue-producing assets was £876,202, leaving a balance to be covered by taxation amounting to £18,100,601. In 1926-27 the interest payable was £20,749,113; the amount available from revenue-producing sources was £2,768,467; leaving a balance of £17,980,646 to be covered by taxation.
– The comment that follows that table in the report is rather severe commentary upon the Commonwealth.
– There is no adverse comment upon the Commonwealth. The report states -
It will be seen that, while the total interest charge in respect of the Commonwealth debt increased by about £1,800,000 during the five years, the amount of it which had to be provided by taxation . . . was reduced only by about £120,000.
That is neither a serious nor a damaging comment upon the conduct of the Commonwealth’s finances. When one remembers that during that period it was necessary to convert war loans to a total of scores of millions of pounds, at rates of interest ranging between 5£ and 6 per cent., loans that in the height of patriotic fervour had been raised at rates between 4£ and 5 per cent., one realizes what a remarkable performance it was on the part of the last Government.
– The rates of interest paid were too high.
– The present Treasurer is obliged to pay 6 per cent, upon the conversion of loans that mature. His situation is identical with that of the last Treasurer; he must pay what the market demands.
– The Minister for Markets says “No.” Possibly this Government may be able to adopt the suggestion that has been made by some honorable members - repudiate the interest burden of this debt. I venture to say, however, that if ever there was a time to keep quiet on such a subject, it is the present.
– The right honorable gentleman should apply that axiom to himself; he is the only one who has men1tioned repudiation.
– The matter was raised by the Minister for Markets when he expressed objection to the payment of an interest rate of 6 per cent.
The facts that I have given are absolutely opposed to the assertion of the Labor Daily, and no one knows that better than the Treasurer. During the six and a half years that the last Government held office there was raised for the States a total of £200,000,000. The Commonwealth had no control over State borrowing, until the Loan Council was incorporated by an act of this Parliament last year as a result of the passage of the financial agreement with the States and its ratification by the people of Australia at the 1928 elections.
– I thought that the honorable member’s Government hoped to save the Commonwealth a large sum of money by that scheme.
– That will be the result. I venture the opinion that the credit of Australia . would be much worse than, it now is if there were not in existence an organization such as the Loan Council, which effects unified borrowing and makes provision for a sinking fund for the whole of the Commonwealth and State debts. During the period to which I have referred, £200,000,000 was borrowed on behalf of the States, New South Wales alone increasing its debt by £17,000,000 in one year - a sum exceeding the whole of the Commonwealth debt increase during the time the last Government was in office. In addition there was an increasing employment of the combined sinking fund provided by the financial agreement and by the sinking fund pro? visions of Commonwealth legislation, for the payment of overseas debts. Last year no less a sum than £3,396,000 was paid off overseas debts through the medium of the sinking fund, and at the same time Australia’s internal debt was redeemed to the extent of about £6,657,000. During a period of six and a half years,, while the Commonwealth increased its total indebtedness by £13,000,000, it actually spent £58,000,000 on important reproductive works that had the approval of honorable members opposite when they were in opposition, and reduced its per capita , indebtedness by £6 12s. 5d. The States increased their indebtedness by £200,000,000, and their per capita indebtedness by nearly £22. The position of affairs is fairly and impartially disclosed by statistics, as he that runs may read. Apparently these journals desire only to misrepresent the position, and, instead of studying the informative publications that are in existence, give free reign to their imagination, and produce any result that they desire.
Dealing with the amount of revenue expended, which after all is really -the principal bone of contention with these journals, which sometimes try to link it up with loan expenditure, I point out that the last two deficits of the BrucePage Government were due to decreased customs receipts during the last two years of the Government’s existence. In the last year of the Bruce-Page Government regime customs receipts were £2,600,000 less than two years before.
– That was a good sign.
– That is what the present Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) said, and also. what the Minister for Health (Mr. Anstey) stated in a very brilliant speech in this chamber. The honorable gentlemen always advocated that there should be a reduction in the Commonwealth customs revenue. When that did come about, as a result of the policy of the Bruce-Page Government, we were held up to scorn and ridicule throughout the country, instead of being praised for the result. The main reason why our customs revenue did not then reach the expected amount was that the balance of trade was steadily becoming in favour of the Commonwealth. An examination of the figures for the past three years reveals that for 1926-27 there was an excess of imports over exports amounting to £19,000,000; in 1927”28 there was again an excess of imports over exports to the extent of £4,731,000, while in 1928-29 there was an excess of exports over imports of £1,152,000. Despite that, there would have been no deficit had it not been for the policy of the Bruce-Page Government in regard to old-age pensions, and its action in giving additional subsidies to States to enable them to carry out public works that would otherwise not have eventuated. During the past six years, the annual payments for old-age pensions have increased by some £5,000,000. Honorable members, will recollect, too, that an amount of £2,000,000 per annum was provided by the Federal Government for a federal aid roads scheme, and about £1,000,000 a year was given to assist the States to establish a sinking fund on a sound and satisfactory basis.
I have not yet heard honorable members opposite say that they intend to reduce the old-age pensions. Because of the decreased purchasing power of money the increase in old-age pensions was long overdue, and should have been made years before. We are faced with a continual diminution of customs revenue, and shall not be able to increase our direct taxation substantially, so that it ‘ will bc necessary to bring down the cost of production and price levels and increase production in order to balance our budget. That is the only satisfactory method, as it will maintain the purchasing power of old-age pensioners and wage earners at its present standard. We must find some means to increase production and to bring about increased employment.
Sitting suspended from 6.12 to 8 p.m.
– The increases in expenditure have been due to old-age pensions and payments to the States. That the last Government was not guilty of reckless extravagance is shown by the fact that during the six years in which it was in office departmental expenditure was practically constant, and the surpluses which the Government had at its disposal were utilized chiefly in these ways : - Debt redemption, £7,415,000 ; naval construction, £7,000,000; main roads grants, £1,250,000; science and industry, £600,000; assistance in the marketing of primary products, £500,000 ; air service equipment, £250,000; civil aviation, £200,000; prospecting for oil and precious metals, £220,000, and purchase of radium, £100,000. The debt redemption payments resulted in a saving of £400,000 in interest. Any criticism of the Commonwealth financial position should take into account the reduction of the national debt by the sinking fund. “During the last two years over £10,000,000 has been paid out of revenue and cognate sources to the sinking fund, and the deficit with which the Treasurer will conclude the present financial year will not be seen in proper perspective unless the public takes into consideration the tremendous contributions from revenue this year towards that fund. The people should understand what has been done to lighten the burden of Commonwealth debt. Last year £6,230,708 was paid into the sinking fund from revenue - a contribution equivalent to £1 13s. 5d. for each £100 of Commonwealth debt. s
In regard to the amount of £750,000 provided for unemployment relief, it seems to me desirable that the Government should have regard to the unemployment amongst clerical workers, and reconsider the postponing of the decennial census next year, thus providing work for men who are not fitted for ordinary manual labour. At present it is almost impossible for them to find employment. The census would provide much valuable information; for instance, it would enable us to understand exactly how the tariff has affected industry - the resultant distribution of population, and the division of industry into various sections. These matters are of such importance that it would be worth while for the Government to consider the advisability of not paying all of the £1,000,000 to the States for the relief of unemployment, but to retain some of the money in its own hands for the taking of the census and the provision of clerical work.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) rose primarily to complain bitterly of the misrepresentations of his administration while he was Treasurer of the Commonwealth. He mentioned the criticism of his policy by the Labor Daily and the Melbourne Age, and complained that the facts were not fully set forth. I sympathize with the right honorable member. It is most unfortunate that public men should be subjected to criticism that is based upon misrepresentation. It is bad enough to have to answer for one’s real faults, without having one’s administration misrepresented and maligned, and deliberately lied about. But complaint on that score comes ill from the right honorable member for Cowper, who has frequently applied the same tactics against his political opponents. Many times have I been the victim of his criticism, based, if 1 may say so, without breach of the Standing Orders, upon complete misrepresentation. The right honorable member visited Queensland in April of last year, and during the State election campaign made several speeches in which he referred to my administration as State Treasurer very fully, but not fairly.
– I made only one speech, and that was at Gympie.
– Then it must have been very widely disseminated, because extracts from it were sent to me from many places. He referred particularly to the financial administration of the Labour Government of which I was Premier, and charged it with extravagance, particularly in connexion with loan expenditure, and with having increased the public debt and the cost of living. There was no justification for either his general attack upon the Labour party’s policy, or the conclusions he arrived at. I could quote at least half a dozen speeches made by the right honorable member in criticism of the Queensland Labour Government’s financial policy, in which he was a great deal more careless of the truth than were the writers of the articles of which he has complained to-day.
– To-day Queensland is in a better position than any of the other States.
– In spite of the Labour party 1
– Because of it.
– There is a new administration in Queensland now.
– And the better position of Queensland must be the result !
– I do not go so far as to say that.
– That is the inference to be drawn from the interjection. This it not the occasion to enter into a full discussion of
Queensland’s finances, but I am justified in pointing out that that State is in a less unhappy position financially than any other State of the Commonwealth. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), complained of a leading article published in the Melbourne Age. I do not know whether the article referred to was one published on the 20th June, in which the following passage occurred : -
Even when in the course of a few weeks the Treasurer makes plain the worst, taxpayers are certain to feel relieved that the financial rake’s progress of the previous Government has been stopped. Recognizing the seriousness of the nation’s financial position, the great majority of taxpayers will have sympathy with the Treasurer. The astounding fact is that the men by whom the position was created are the only men who are trying to make political capital out of it. The present Ministry had not been in office many days before the deposed Treasurer, Dr. Page, was inviting attention to a fall in the price of Australian stocks overseas. Australia’s financial reputation was at stake, and he seemed exultant at the fact.
– That is a misrepresentation.
– It is true that the right honorable member referred to the decline of Australian securities in London, and by inference, at any rate, attributed it to the advent of a Labour Government in the Commonwealth.
– I quoted London opinion.
– Was the right honorable member fair in doing that? He seemed to be giving his imprimatur to that opinion ; otherwise what was his reason for quoting it? Was it fair to assume that because Australian securities had declined by one or two points on the London market immediately after the election, that the advent of a Labour Government had had a deplorable effect on Australian credit?
– And within a week the securities rose again.
– That is so. Nobody knew better than did the right honorable member for Cowper that our securities had steadily declined from January of last year until a few weeks after the election. Unfortunately the market has continued to fluctuate, and today our securities are at a very low ebb. But the decline had commenced nine months before the last federal election was thought of, and the right honorable member was quite unfair in allowing the inference to be drawn from his remarks that the return of the Labour party to power had affected Australian securities abroad.
– That was generally stated in London newspapers.
– It was not stated generally. I have seen very many of the English newspaper reference to the last Commonwealth elections.
– There was a big contrast between the right honorable member’s statement and those of leading business men in Australia.
– There was indeed. Any comment in London, attributing the decline in Australian securities to the advent of a Labour Government, was confined to two or three partisan organs. The Times did not take up that attitude, nor did many of the other leading newspapers.
– What did The Times say?
– It said that there was a loss of confidence in Australian securities attributable to many factors, some of which it mentioned. They were factors which are generally recognized as having had an important bearing on the status of Australian stocks inLondon. They are mainly economical and financial; they are not inherent,but are the results of seasonal, economic, and exchange difficulties in Australia during the last few years. These include the deflation of world prices of primary products and the . consequent tremendous decline in the value of Australian exports, monetary problems, and the unhappy belief that Australia would experience difficulty in paying its way. All these factors reacted on the London market, and would have done so if there had been no change of Government. I have never charged the last Government with sole responsibility for the difficult financial and economic position that exists to-day; whatever the factors are that are operating to the prejudice of Australian credit abroad, they havebeen developing for some years.
– During the last election the Treasurer said that the BrucePage Government was entirely responsible for all the country’s financial and economic ills.
– As a matter of fact, at the last election the full effect of this situation which is now being criticized was not realized. The right honorable member for Cowper should be the first to recognize the difficulties of the present financial position, and to extend sympathy to the present administration in its terrific task of attempting to solve these problems. He knows that it is an inherited position, and that this Government, when it came into office, was confronted with immense difficulties. There was practically no cash, and little credit, available to it. That can be admitted without attaching blame to any particular individual or administration. Those were the facts which we had to face.
– There was enough cash available to enable the Government to remit the cinema taxation.
-We did not remit any film taxation. A proposal was put forward by the late Government to impose an amusement tax upon the patrons of picture shows and theatres. That proposal was rejected by this Government, and it had good grounds for what it did. The suggestion that this Government has remitted taxation applicable to American film corporations, or has conferred some special favour upon them, is a woeful misrepresentation; it has done nothing of the sort. As a matter of fact, honorable members will see, when the Income Tax Assessment Bill comes before them, that we have included in it proposals to tax the income of the American film corporations and distributors.
– That was not the proposal of the late Government.
– There was no proposal on the part of the late administration to tax American film corporations; its proposal was to tax the women and children who patronize the amusement houses of Australia.
– The proposal of the late Government was to tax the money that was going out of this country to America.
– Where was that proposal stated?
– There was a definite proposal to impose a12½ per cent. tax on money remitted to America.
– I do not see any reference in the budget speech of the right honorable member for Cowper to a proposed tax on money going out of this country to American film corporations. The only reference that I can find in that speech to the proposed amusement tax is this -
It is proposed to raise additional revenue of £600,000 by means of a tax of 5 per cent. on the total receipts from charges for admission to entertainments. This tax will be a levy upon a national luxury, which, it is considered, should make a special contribution to the national revenue in the present circumstances, and will take effect on 1st September, 1929.Records relating to the present entertainments tax, which will continue, show that the attendances at amusements have increased enormously since 1921-22, namely, from 78.000,000 to 126,000,000 in 1928-29.
– That statement was supplemented later.
– I am referring to the statement in the last budget speech. I find in the speech no definite proposal to tax the income of American film corporations.
– It was in the policy speech.
– It was a separate statement made by the Prime Minister.
– Of the financial proposals of the late Government, the proposed tax on amusements was the only one that we referred to at the last elections as being necessary to abandon, and it was abandoned when we assumed office. When we formulated our financial policy after the election, and brought down a supplementary budget, we indicated that we would not impose any additional amusement tax, but nowhere did we say that we would not impose taxation upon American film corporations.
– The Government has altered the tariff since.
– How does that bear on the question?
– When the tariff schedules were introduced, the duty on films could have been dealt with.
– I do not follow the application of that interjection to the point that I am debating. We have never indicated that we would extend any favour to the American film corporations, or allow them to escape their just taxation. In the Income Tax Assessment Bill which I hope to introduce shortly, we have devised a method . which we consider will be satisfactory and effective in compelling those companies to contribute a reasonable sum to the revenues - of the Commonwealth.
– What amount of taxation does the Treasurer anticipate?
– I cannot indicate that at present, but there will be a fair tax on the assumed profits of the film corporations. I do not wish to unduly delay the committee, nor would I have spoken had not the right honorable member for Cowper risen with an air of injured innocence to complain about being misrepresented. I am not saying that he was not misrepresented. Indeed, I have every sympathy with him, because in recent years I have frequently been the victim of the same kind of misrepresentation. My sympathy goes out to the right honorable member; in fact, my heart is bursting with sympathy for him. I fully understand how he feels as a; result of the gross misrepresentation of newspaper reports and unfair public criticism. I do not intend to deal further with the financial position now, because we shall presently have a fuller opportunity to discuss it, when we shall have additional data before us.
.- I am sure that honorable members will have heard with interest the kind expression of sympathy with the exTreasurer uttered by the Treasurer. It has become the practice of the Labour party, especially of Ministers in this chamber and outside of it, to represent themselves as . heroes struggling with almost overwhelming difficulties which have been bequeathed to them by the last Administration. They congratulate themselves upon their heroic efforts to deal with the obstacles which stand in the way of what otherwise would have been an ideally happy Commonwealth. At the beginning of this Parliament, and immediately after the election, we heard a great deal about “ cleaning up the mess “ left by the previous
Government. I have been waiting to discover the mess, but have not yet done so. It is a common thing, when one party succeeds another in office, for the new Government to discover some scandals in connexion with the administration of the previous Government. I am proud to say, as a member of the late Government, that no scandals have been discovered, notwithstanding any investigations that the present Ministers have been able to make. There are differences on questions of policy, but those are to be distinguished from the matters to which I am referring. There are no scandals; in fact, nothing oven remotely approaching scandal.
But it is said that in the realm of finance the difficulties under which the present modest but heroic Treasurer is labouring are the result, in a large measure at least, of the administration of the late Government. It is true that this evening the Treasurer has been good enough to say that economic factors have had something to do with the present financial position. That is a rather belated admission from honorable gentlemen on the other side. There are many honorable members who will remember the derision and scorn poured upon any suggestion of the late Government that we should order our administration in financial, economic, and industrial affairs, in the light of economic factors. The Treasurer has justly said that the present difficult financial situation is the result of certain factors - such as the price of our primary products and the fall in customs revenue and the resulting international exchange position - which have not been brought about by any Government. It is said that the late Government was extravagant and spendthrift. That has been repeated by persons who evidently have not regarded themselves as being under any responsibility to inform themselves of the facts. I propose to refer shortly to certain particulars of the financial administration of the late Government. The facts and figures to which I shall refer are available in the official documents to honorable members and to any member of the public who is sufficiently interested to check what I am about to say.
In the first place, I shall refer to the surpluses of the late Government and the manner in which they were expended. That Government inherited from preceding administrations a surplus of about £7,000,000. About £7,500,000 was applied to the redemption of debt: therefore more than the whole of the preexisting surplus was used in paying off a portion of the debts of the Commonwealth. That was not an extravagant or wanton expenditure. We applied our own surpluses, amounting to £10,000,000, or thereabouts, in this way:
Naval construction, £7,000,000. As a result of that we have the Australian fleet, so far as it is permitted to exist to-day.
Grants to the States for the development of main roads, £1,250,000;
Science and industry investigations, £600,000. I suggest that there has never been a wiser expenditure of public, money ;
Assistance in the marketing of our primary products, £500,000. I doubt whether any honorable member is prepared to dispute the wisdom of that expenditure.
Air Service equipment, £250,000;
Civil aviation, £200,000;
Prospecting for oil and precious metals, £220,000;
Radium £100,000; an expenditure which has already brought relief from suffering and great happiness to many homes in the Commonwealth.
It was in this manner that the surpluses were expended, and I am prepared to defend the expenditure of every penny of the money. There was not one shilling of those surpluses wasted.
I come now to another subject. It is said that the Bruce-Page Government was responsible for an enormous increase in the borrowing of money, and that, as a result, the people of Australia, as a whole, are saddled with a tremendous liability for interest overseas, out of which some of the present exchange difficulties have arisen. In dealing with this subject it is essential to distinguish between the Commonwealth and the States. I refer honorable members to the Finance Bulletin No. 20, which reached them within the last fortnight. The facts to which I direct attention are to be found on page 32. I shall refer first to the war debt. In 1921-22 this stood at £333,093,834; but in 1928-29 it had been reduced to £287,817,745, a decrease, in round figures, of £45,000,000. The works debt in the same period increased from £31,745,756 to £89,803,827; but of that increase of £58,058,071, no less than £33,000,000 was expended on postal works and war service homes, the return from which, as the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has pointed out, has provided all the interest and sinking fund charges. Not one penny has had to be paid in respect of that amount by the general public in taxation.
The total result of the loan expenditure in the period to which I have referred was that the debt of the Commonwealth increased from £364,839,590 to £377,621,572. In other words, although the debt increased in the seven years by £12,781,982, we had additional assets in postal equipment and war service homes alone to the extent of £33,000,000. Other assets represent the balance of the money. In the same seven-year period the public debt of the States advanced from £519,537,643 to £726,406,490, the net increase being £206,868,853.
– But the honorable member will admit that the States, also, have some assets to show for that expenditure.
– Undoubtedly there are assets; but I do not propose to examine the position State by State. My point is that, while the public debt of the. Commonwealth increased by less than £13,Q00,000, the debt of the States increased in the same period by nearly £207,000,000. Those figures cannot be contested. I submit, therefore, that the previous Government was not responsible to any appreciable extent for the enormous increase in the public debt of Australia in that seven years. It is idle, in these circumstances, to say that our interest liabilities, which are causing our difficulties in London at present, are due mainly to the administration of the previous Government.
Let me now examine the same subject from another aspect. The debt per head of the population is given on the same page of the bulletin from which I have already quoted. The figures show that in 1921*22 the debt per head of the population for the Common wealth was £65.539, and in 1929 it was £59.251, the decrease in the seven years being £6 5s. lOd. per head. In the same period the debt of the States per head of population increased from £93.439 per head to £114.202, the increase being £20 15s. 3d. per head.
I desire now to say a few words on the revenue position. Certain expenditure out pf revenue such as that incurred by the roads policy and the like depends upon the financial position of the Commonwealth and the States at the time. I agree that the roads expenditure of about £2,000,000 a year should be reviewed. But let me take some items of expenditure which do not depend upon policy, but upon Government administration, for from them we may obtain an-‘ accurate standard for judging the; administration of the previous Government. In the seven-year period which I am reviewing the Post Office,, generally speaking, balanced its accounts. In some years there was a deficit-, and in some a surplus; but always, the amounts, were relatively small, having regard to the*, expenditure of between £11,000,000 and £13,000,000 annually by the Post Office. It may be said that the, Pos.t Office is. selfsupporting, for it provides the whole of its working- expenses, interest and sinking fund charges, I shall, therefore, take the Civil Service, exclusive of business undertakings. An examination of the figures for the period under review shows that there has been a decrease in expenditure on the basis of the population. Speaking generally, it is to be expected that with an increase of population there will be an increase of expenditure, for more service has to be rendered for a larger population than for a small one. But in 1921-22 the cost of the Public Service, excluding business undertakings, was. 10s. 7d. per head of the population, while in 1928-29 it wa3 9s. Bid. per head, notwithstanding that in the period many awards and determinations, were made for increases of pay to public servants. The expenditure in ordinary government, departments is, I submit, a, fair test of administration.
This year any government, irrespective of its political colour, would have to face a difficult situation owing to the decrease in the value of our important primary products. This is not the only factor which causes financial difficulties, but the value of our wheat crop and wool clip has a profound influence upon the present financial position. During the last elec-r tion campaign honorable members opposite spoke volubly and, at times, vituperatively concerning what they described as the extravagant expenditure of the previous Government. But let us look at the position in which they find themselves now as supporters of the present Government. Last year our expenditure on government services reached a certain figure, but the present Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) brought down a budget in which he estimated that the expenditure would have to be increased by £744,000.
– That was to make provision for expenditure incurred by the previous Government.
– The point that I am making is that previous to the election honorable members opposite- had so much to say about the expenditure of tha Government that one might have expected that when their own party came into office the expenditure would be immediately reduced. Prior to, the election, honorable members opposite were not too ready to suggest specific items of expenditure that could be reduced ;. they spoke in a general way only. During the election campaign they described the Government as a monstrosity of extravagance, yet the Government which they now support has provided for an increase- of expenditure of £744,000 in the first year.
– I think the honorable member’s figures are incorrect.
– I refer the Treasurer to- his own budget speech of last year in which, after referring to repatriation, other war services, and so on, which no government could reduce and keep faith with the people, he said -
The amended Estimates increase the expenditure of the previous year by £744,424.
– Surely the Leader of the Opposition would not hold a. government that, had been in office only a fort? night responsible, for that.
– That is the estimate for the current year, and the expenditure for that same period is under the control of this Government except for about three or four months. There will be an increase upon last year’s expenditure of £744,000, and this by a Government which was to introduce economy into Commonwealth administration. I admit that there will be some saving.’ Something will be saved by the abolition of the Development and Migration Commission, but it will be only a flea-bite compared with the increased expenditure. All the States are reducing their loan expenditure, so that there would not in any ease have been the same demand on the services of the Development and Migration Commission, and expenditure would have decreased by any government. Migration would also have decreased through natural causes, no matter what government was in power. A small saving in revenue expenditure, will be effected in regard to Canberra, but that saving was already being planned by the last Government when it went out of office. It was inevitable that, staffs would have to be reduced with the completion of many works at Canberra. Apart from those savings, and the economies effected in the Defence Department, which, seems to be bearing the brunt of the attack, there’ will, apparently, b© no reduction in expenditure in a budget providing for over £70,000,000. The reason is that so much of Commonwealth expenditure represents fixed payments which cannot be reduced except by reversing our national policy in respect to such matters as old-age and invalid pensions. Interest payments on Commonwealth debts amount to something over £20,000,000 a year, while war and invalid and old-age pensions account for another £20,000,000. The Government has not given any indication of its intention to alter the policy in regard to pension payments, and unless that is done expenditure upon these important items cannot be reduced, despite what was said by members of the Labour party in the last Parliament. The first fruits of the present Government’s policy is an increased expenditure from revenue account of nearly £750,000, accompanied by a reduction of certain services, particularly in regard to the Development and Migration Commission and the Defence Department. It is evident that the financial administration of the last Government measures up to any proper test, and I am prepared to defend it here or elsewhere. When honorable members on the other side see the budget, which will be presented in about a fortnight’s time, they will have good reason to revise the criticism of the last Government which some of them have so glibly offered in the past.
.- I can understand the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) declaring his readiness to defend the financial administration of the last Government outside this Parliament, but he is not very successful in his attempt to defend it here. He began his speech by saying that though we might differ about policies, no scandal had ever been associated with the administration of the Bruce-Page Government.
– Nor was there.
– Is it not scandalous when a Treasurer states’ in ‘his budget that the deficiency amounts to so much when, as a matter of ‘fact, it really amounts to many millions more? The Leader of the Opposition condemned the present Treasurer- because; - as has been stated, the probable expenditure for this year will show an increase of £734,000. That increase is unfortunate; but, at any rate, the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) made an honest admission. Just before the last election, however, the -then Treasurer (Dr, Earle Page) went round Australia stating that the budget deficit would be a little over £2,000,000, which he sought to excuse by saying that there had been a lot of unexpected expenditure. That, no doubt, was good enough at . election time for his Nationalist supporters. Unfortunately for him, there, is in the Public Service an officer, the AuditorGeneral, who has been placed in a position of independence and is required under the law to make an absolutely impartial examination of the public accounts. His last report, published on the 12th March of this year, discloses a serious scandal in regard to the financial administration of the Commonwealth, by the late Government. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), when he was Treasurer, stated in his budget speech that the deficit for the year ending 30th June, 1929, was £2,358,975. The AuditorGeneral, in the course of his analysis of the budget, says -
It will thus be seen that the 1928-29 budget covering the transactions for 1927-28 showed a deficiency of £5,450,2117, while an analysis of the expenditure revealed a deficiency of £4,209,492, or £1,240,745 less than the budget figure. The last budget showed a deficiency on the transactions of the year 1928-29 of £2,358,975, while an analysis of the actual disbursements discloses the fact that the deficiency was £4,395,540, or £2,030,505 more than the budget figure.
– The honorable member surely knows that the whole thing hinges upon whether or not there is taken into account the unexpended portions of trust funds.
– The Auditor-General desires that, and I am not prepared to follow the Leader of the Opposition through his financial trickery.
– When the AuditorGeneral was Secretary to the Treasury he himself did the very thing he now condemns us for.
– The right honorable member for Cowper did not tell his constituents before the last election that he had arrived at his budget figures by a process of financial juggling, in the course of which he showed as expenditure for next year what should have been debited to this. He said that the deficit for the year ending 30th June, 1929, was only £2,358,795, but this scandalous misstatement has been exposed by the AuditorGeneral.
We have heard a good deal from honorable members opposite about reductions of the public debt effected by the BrucePage Government. It would almost seem that the last Government, in an endeavour to show a reduction of the public debt per head, had deliberately flooded the country with migrants for whom there was no prospect of employment. Dealing with the Commonwealth debt, the Auditor-General says -
It will thus be seen that the Commonwealth debt has increased since 30th June, 1925, by £15,548,800, but on account of growth in population, the debt per head has decreased.
– And then he goes on to say “ - a result not unsatisfactory.” The honorable member has left out the words that do not suit him.
– Yes, he adds “-a result not unsatisfactory “, but it is not difficult to show that this result was obtained by the undue encouragement of immigration, a policy which has resulted in depression and unemployment. That policy was pursued even at a time when the Canadian Government was imposing serious restrictions on immigration, and even when. the British Government itself was enforcing similar restrictions. The’ Auditor-General continues -
While the war debt for the same period has been reduced by £23,370,451, works debt shows, an increase of £38,925,257.
So that the actual increase in debt in the six years during which the late Treasurer held office was £15,548,806. Summing up the financial position of the Commonwealth, the Auditor-General says -
The heavy revenue deficiencies shown in the Commonwealth Treasury account for the last two years are not only a matter of serious concern to Parliament, but to the whole community.
That, in a few words, is a complete and decisive condemnation of the financial administration of the last Government. This gentleman is not connected with the Labour party or with any of the six parties that comprise the Opposition. He is a financial expert, and an honest and independent officer.
The heart of the Nationalist party is the Australian Women’s National League. That league sends out emissaries to different parts of the country to expound among other things the financial policy of the parliamentary party that it supports. Its principal lecturer in Victoria is Mrs. Aitcheson. This lady has recently made some rather important revelations. At a meeting that she addressed in a country town she said that they now had a general Nationalist council, which was composed of three members of the Federal Parliament, three State members, three members of the National Federation, three members of the Australian Women’s National League, and three members of the National Union. She went on to say -
Take the Federal Parliament. They all knew how the Labour party was returned t» power. It was because Mr. Bruce put forward certain proposals to the people. He trusted the people too much, but they all felt his proposals were right. … He appealed to the people, but the people could not get away from self interests, and even many members of the Women’s National League in Mr. Bruce’s electorate voted against him.
She also had quite a lot to say regarding finance. It must be remembered that, whenever this league makes a pronouncement, it represents the policy of the Nationalist party, because it is the only organized body of that party. It is to meetings of this body that our friends, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) go at week-ends. They gather round them a select little coterie, and pour into their ears Nationalist truths. This is what this lady had to say regarding finance -
Mr. Scullin had not an easy row to hoe. The party was not able to do much wrong because they were hampered for funds and could not go on with socialistic schemes.
That reminds me of a speech that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) made lately, in which he said that the finances of Australia were greatly depressed. Statements like these will only help to increase our financial troubles. He admitted that that was not altogether the fault of this Government, but was dueto natural causes. Some honorable members opposite are doing all that they can at the present time to injure this country by making wild statements with respect to its position. The Leader of the Opposition made at Geelong a speech in which he said that English manufacturers would not come to Australia to establish new industries, because in the platform of the Labour party there is a plank-
– I did not say that.
– Perhaps I am not giving the honorable gentleman’s exact words; but I am giving their purport.
– I said that I wondered whether the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr.Fenton) advertised in England the fact that the policy of the Labour party is the socialization of industry. I doubt very much whether he did ; but in any case, I do not see why he should be ashamed of his policy.
– The purport of what the honorable gentleman said was, “ How can we expect manufacturers to come here and establish industries, when at any time they may find that their industries have been socialized?”
– What is wrong with that?
Mr.CROUCH- The Leader of the Opposition must know that, if we are to lift this country out of its present depression, we must increase our manufactures. Therefore, every attack that be makes upon our industries is an attack upon our financial position, and assists those who are deliberately attempting to depress our bonds in London. I have now received the report of the speech that the honorable member made at Geelong. It reads as follows: -
Mr. Latham said he had read with interest the reported utterances of Mr. Fenton (Minister for Trade and Customs) who, in speeches in England, was inviting manufacturers to come to Australia and commence branch industries here; but did Mr. Fenton tell the English manufacturers that if the Labour party got its amendments through, one of the first things the Government would do would be to socialize all industry?
That is an outrageous, a dangerous, and an unpatriotic statement, designed to depress Australian industry. Any person who does that causes injury to be done to Australia’s financial stability all over the world. The honorable gentleman may jeer and assume a bold front. If he is not ashamed of having made that statement, I am ashamed of him. He may make these statements outside where they are taken at their face and not their true value; but in dealing with men who know how to appraise them how can he remain unabashed and unashamed? There has been a strangely depressing influence secretly at work in England. When the Labour party came into power in Australia last October, undoubtedly that fact caused a considerable degree of consternation in English financial circles. But those who are directing financial institutions in Australia saw that they were being affected, and Mr. W. L. Baillieu, greatly to his credit, issued in New York a statement that restored our financial status in both New York and London, with the result that the value of our bonds increased. It was a remarkable coincidence that they dropped two. or three points on the very day that the defeated and disgruntled ex-Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, arrived in England. Four days later Mr. Bruce held a secret meeting with London bankers, and, subsequently, our financial difficulties were tremendously increased, and our bonds again fell. One would have expected assistance rather than hindrance from a gentleman who, by reckless extravagance, had brought about a state of affairs that threatens to cause opprobrium to be heaped on the present occupants of the ministerial bench. Unfortunately, the people who suffer are not able to distinguish between cause and effect. They will blame the present Government, forgetting that the cause of the depression should be sought before the last election. The cause of our present depression and of the retrenchment in the Defence Department dates back to a period prior to the 12th October last. The present Leader of the Opposition and other members of the Ministry of which he was AttorneyGeneral, are mainly responsible. The only panacea that honorable members opposite can suggest for the rectification of our present position is a reduction of wages. Of course, they dare not say so; in fact, in all their public speeches they suppress it; but, fortunately, I have a pronouncement by their champion apologist, the ‘ lady’ from whose speech I have already quoted. This is what she says -
They needed more production, and, on the other side, they hi List be prepared for a reduction in wages, and they must come back to 48 hours a week and do away with .the artificial restrictions of the Arbitration Court.
In this, chamber honorable members opposite are afraid to preach the doctrine of a reduction of wages: If they are charged with holding that view, they deprecate the suggestion, because they do not wish to’ lose support in the electorate. They apply the soft pedal whenever the matter is mentioned. But in order to prepare the way. ‘ they send apostles into the country.
I think that I have established the three points that I set out to make. Despite the protestations to the contrary that are made by honorable members opposite there was a scandal connected with the financial administration of the last Government; according to the, Auditor-General it was responsible for the difficulties in which we now find ourselves - the Leader of the Opposition and the ex-Prime Minister have seriously injured our financial position - and on the authority of its mouthpiece in the country, it favoured a reduction of wages.
.- The subject of supply offers honorable members an opportunity to speak on any matter of interest to their electorates or to the country at large. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) took full advantage of his opportunity, and I half expected that you, Mr. Chairman, might have reminded him that the subject of supply was under consideration. I shall depart somewhat from the “ broad national “ issues that have been debated this afternoon, and, on behalf of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), draw the attention of the honorable the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) to a matter of electoral interest. I remind the honorable gentleman that as far back as March, 192S, the then Minister for -Works and Railways (Mr. Hill), moved in this chamber for the erection of Commonwealth offices in the City of Brisbane. A sum of £15,000 was placed on the Estimates for the purpose, but no further action has been taken. I admit that treasurers of various governments have always found opportunities to postpone expenditure, but I suggestthat, in view of the surrounding facts, this is a matter of urgency. The Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government have large- areas of very valuable land in what is known as Anzac Square, in the heart of Brisbane, near the central station. That square has been dedicated for the erection of a war memorial, for which some thousands of pounds have been collected. That memorial is just about to be completed, and I have received the following telegram on behalf of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Cameron), from the Lord Mavor of Brisbane, Alderman Jolly, C.M.G. -
Is there any prospect of the Commonwealth Government proceeding with Anzac Square buildings dunn? next financial year/ Memorial will be completed and square laid out by the end of October.
I urge upon the Treasurer the importance oil considering the representations that may be made to him in the matter by the Minister for Works (Mr. Lyons), and the necessity to carry out the promise made by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1928. The proposal was investigated by the Public Works Committee on several occasions, the reports always being favorable, as the proposal was regarded as one of great urgency. Their recommendation, appearing at page 4 of the report of the 29th September, 1927, reads -
It was stated in evidence that approximately 27,000 square feet of office space is now rented for Commonwealth purposes in Brisbane at a cost of about £5,000 per annum, and that a considerable portion of this accommodation is unsuitable and inadequate, and constitutes a grave fire risk. After personally inspecting this existing office accommodation, and hearing the evidence of the principal Commonwealth officials, the Committee is satisfied that more adequate, convenient, hygienic and fireresisting premises are necessary. It is considered that greater convenience to the public and increased economy and efficiency might be expected to result from the concentration of the principal activities of the Commonwealth in a central position in its own building, and the committee therefore is unanimously of opinion that the erection of Commonwealth offices in Brisbane should be proceeded with.
The very definite nature ofthat report should convince the Treasurer and the Government that some action is necessary. I was a member of the Public Works Committee that investigated this proposal, and I recollect that we made an inspection of the temporary quarters that the Commonwealth is hiring as an income tax office in Brisbane. Many tons of records were stored in a wooden building that might at any time catch fire. I remind the committee that the Queensland Government will erect buildings at the other end of Anzac Square in architectural harmony with the building to be provided by the Commonwealth. The foundations are being prepared, and the State Government has decided to call tenders shortly in order that the building proper may be proceeded with. Hot only from the civic, but also from the public point of view, it is necessary that the Commonwealth Government should take action. The provision of suitable accommodation would permit the concentration of Commonwealth activities in that city in one centre so tending towards economy and efficiency. The buildings will be utilized by the Commonwealth practically to capacity, the Commonwealth Bank alone having undertaken to rent some 10,000 feet of space. In addition to renting temporary premises in one of the side streets, the Brisbane branch- of the Commonwealth Bank is at present erecting a building of its own, but it is desirous that the savings bank operations should be housed in the proposed Commonwealth offices.
I understand perfectly well that the Treasurer is somewhat at a loss to know how to balance the Commonwealth budget, and that it is difficult to obtain loan money, but I point out that in addition to this building providing a certain amount of work it will effect a considerable saving to the Commonwealth Government in rentals that are now being paid for entirely unsuitable buildings. Several honorable members, including the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey), are familiar with the circumstances. I hope that when the Minister for Works (Mr: Lyons) consults with the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) as to the preparation of loan estimates an endeavour will be made to give effect to the motion carried in this chamber in March, 1928.
.- I desire to take the opportunity to deal with a matter that was brought up during question time to-day and I hope that Mr. Speaker will be present, as I have no desire or intention to ventilate the subject in his. absence. In the interests of honorable members, it is necessary that the matter should be cleared up. I made a very distinct charge thisafternoon that differential treatment was meted out to honorable members in regard to a matter then before Mr. Speaker. I asked whether an exemption from duty on tractors that were not to be used for or could not be converted to road rollers had received further consideration; and if not would the Minister further consider it. That is not a tariff item-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).Order! If the honorable member is questioning or criticizing the decision of
Mr. Speaker he will have to reserve his comments until the House resumes.
– I am not suggesting that the Speaker’s ruling should be dissented from, but I contend that inconsistency was displayed this morning, and I hope by my criticism to justify my action, and to urge upon Mr. Speaker the necessity to give uniform rulings in such matters. In the first place this is not a tariff item but a by-law that affected the distribution of tractors. Mr. Speaker ruled that it could not be discussed. I submit-
– Order ! I remind the honorable member that he cannot discuss Mr. Speaker’s ruling while in committee.
– Can I not discuss the subject at all?
– The honorable member would be wiser to wait until the House resumes.
– I shall do so, Mr. Chairman.
– In addressing themselves to the proposals of the Treasurer to appropriate £7,636,270, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) and other honorable members opposite have shown how barren are the arguments of the supporters of the Government when criticizing the administration of the Bruce-Page Government. No member of the Government party has displayed the courage at election time, or during any financial discussion in this chamber to inform the community that the Bruce-Page Government had redeemed £40,000,000 of Australia’s war debt during its regime. Nor have they the courage to state publicly that that Government created a record by its liberal reductions in taxation. The honorable member for Corangamite waxed wroth regarding a newspaper statement alleging that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) claimed that the Labour party desired to bring about the socialization of industry in Australia. The honorable member was annoyed to think that anybody would besmear the fair name of Australia by claiming that such an objectionable state of affairs could be brought into existence. I believe that the honorable member is not a socialist, but I remind him that he is subscribing to the ideals of a party that has in its platform a plank supporting the socialization of industry; a party that has for its
Treasurer a man who was Treasurer in Queensland when its Labour Premier published that attractively-covered red brochure entitled, Socialism at Work, which was promulgated throughout the world, lauding to the skies the socialistic activities of the Queensland Labour Government. Yet honorable members opposite express horror when informed that the Leader of the Opposition suggested that the actions of the present administration seek to bring about that same socialization of industry.
– Apparently they are ashamed of their policy.
– Why should they be?
– I admire the honesty of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). At the same time I am mystified about the attitude of the honorable member for Corangamite who, although he is no socialist, subscribes to a policy that is contrary to his convictions. What did socialization of industry mean to Queensland ? It meant increased taxation, millions of pounds of additional indebtedness, and severe financial depression. That is what the present Commonwealth Treasurer bequeathed to . the fair State of Queensland. Yearly the honorable gentleman brought down increasingly severe taxation measures, in an endeavour to counteract the perpetual deficits that mounted up under his administration.
– How much of that taxation has the Moore Government removed ?
– I am at present dealing with the administration of the honorable member. The present Moore Government in Queensland has to pay the debts left by the Treasurer when he was a member of the State Government.
– And theCommonwealth Labour Government has inherited the debts of its predecessors.
– That is not so; Commonwealth taxation was reduced after the Bruce-Page Government came into office.
– But it was first in creased.
– The honorable gentleman knows that that statement is not correct. Because there was a deficit during the last two financial years the Bruce-Page Government has been assailed by ministerial members, who misrepresent the facts to the people. Had the last Government increased taxation to the extent that the present Government has already done, it would have been, able to show a surplus each year. But it preferred to relieve the burden on industry by reducing taxation. Honorable members supporting the Government have said that the BrucePage Government was defeated because of the financial position that developed during its regime. That was not the issue upon which the last election was fought. Labour candidates misled the people to believe that the intention of the composite Government was to reduce wages; that issue, not the financial administration, governed the contest. No member of the last Cabinet approached the Arbitration Board for a reduction of wages. But the present Treasurer, in 1922, sought and secured from the Arbitration Court of Queensland a reduction of the basic wage from .4 5s. to £4.
– That is not true.
– It is true. The Pull Bench of the Industrial Arbitration Court, at the request of the then Government, reduced the basic wage as from the 1st March, 1922, as follows: - Males, £4 5s. to £4; females, £2 3s. to £2 ls.
– That is a lie.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).Order ! I call on the Treasurer to withdraw that remark.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay would not accept my denial, and I characterized his misstatement by an appropriate term. In that way I called attention to the inaccuracy in which he is persisting. If the word “ lie “ is not parliamentary, I substitute untruth.
– The honorable member’s protestations do not perturb me ; I know him too well. A petition was signed by the Chief Secretary, the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), Minister for Public Works, Secretary for Agriculture and Stock, Secretary for Mines, Secretary for Railways, AttorneyGeneral, Secretary for Public Instruction, Home Secretary, Secretary for
Public Lands, Commissioner for Railways, Commissioner for Trade, Commissioner of Police, Corporation of the Treasurer of Queensland, Corporation of the Secretary for Public Instruction, and State Advances Corporation, for a variation of certain awards.
– That is true; but w« did not apply for a reduction of the basic wage.
– The then Premier of Queensland, as State Treasurer, was as much responsible for that application as were the other Ministers and departmental heads I have mentioned. At their request the basic wage was reduced from £4 5s. to £4. I. challenge the Treasurer to deny that.
– I will deny it. The honorable member cannot get away with that.
– The Treasurer will deny anything. By that application awards in” the following occupations were affected : - State arsenic mines, asylum employees, State fisheries, forestry employees, Brisbane hospitals, miscellaneous workers in government employment, police, prison employees, Public Service, professional employees - Australian Union of Architects, Engineers and Surveyors - Queensland Government professional officers, Public Service general officers, railways, railway refreshmentroom employees, reception houses, road-making employees of the Department of Public Lands, State Government sawmills, teachers, and teachers in blind, deaf and dumb institutions. The people of Queensland knew the facts; that is why the Treasurer left that State. Ministerial members say that members of the Opposition are advocating a reduction of wages.
– Hear, hear !
– That parrot cry may deceive the unthinking into supporting the Labour party at election time, but the fact is indisputable that no member of the Bruce-Page Government applied to a court for a reduction of wages as has their comrade. That Government was never known as a wage reducer, as were the present Treasurer and other members of the Queensland Labour Government. The
Treasurer has denied my statement. The Labour candidate for Lilley said at the Albert Hall on the 31st July, 1922-
– I rise to a point of order. Are statements by the Labour candidate in 1922 relevant to the motion before the committee?
– The point of order is not upheld.
– The Labour candidate for Lilley said: -
The principles of the Labour Government had been distinctly violated by the Government which had distinctly departed from the pledges it had given to the people before the last general elections.
The following resolution was carried at a meeting of the Australian Railways Union on the 25th July, 1922 -
That this meeting asks, through its representatives, that they approach the Queensland Central Executive, calling for a special convention to deal with the Political Labour party for the betrayal of their platform pledges to the people.
Following on that, a special meeting of the Trades and Labour Council at Brisbane was held, and a manifesto was issued, from which the following is an extract -
The Labour Government of this State has, in opposition to the publicly-expressed wishes of the Queensland Central Executive of the Australian Labour party and other Labour bodies, including this council, seen fit to join in the bosses’ wage-slashing attack by reducing the wages of Government employees, in addition to increasing the working hours and wholesale retrenchment indulged in for some time.
The Railway Advocate of the 10th February, 1922, said:-
Probably never before in the history of the railways have the employees been compelled to suffer such injustices and hardships as arc being experienced at the present time under the camouflage of a system called “pooling of available work.”
– The journal is one of the honorable member’s best friends.
– It was a friend of honorable members opposite, but has been disillusioned and has turned from them. The admission of the honorable member that the official organ of the railway employees has become the friend of honorable members on this side proves that we are making good. The Railway Advocate said on the 10th September, 1922-
The subject-matter of this dispute arose from the actions of the Government, who, when in opposition, or on the soap box in the past, have referred to such actions as those of Tory Governments, and unmistakably led the workers to believe that such actions would not blot Labour’s career when placed in charge of the legislative machine ‘. . . The many promises and inferences made at the last election that “Labour would not retrench” are too well-known and admitted to need any further emphasis.
The present Government professes not to believe in deflation and the sacking of employees, and complains that the necessity for such action was created by the maladministration of the Bruce-Page Government. Tho fact is that that policy was pursued in 1922 by the Labour Government of which the present Treasurer was a member. Long before the bad influence of Labour finance in Queensland had affected politics in other parts of Australia, a Labour Government found itself obliged to deflate expenditure and retrench.
– Through sheer economic necessity.
– No ; through maladministration, and not the same economic necessity which operates to-day. In Queensland that necessity was the result of a spendthrift policy and faulty financial administration by the gentleman who is Treasurer of the Commonwealth to-day.
– That is why the Labour Government was in power for fifteen years.
– That was made possible by rigging the rolls, by re-adjusting seats, and by the introduction of the proxy system, which enabled the present Treasurer to hold power in the Queensland Parliament by exercising with his own vote four or five proxy votes for absent Labour members. The Commonwealth Government is following his example and giving the same excuses that were manufactured by the Queensland Administration of that period. A return tabled in this chamber on the 13th September, 1922, shows that between January, 1921, and June, 1922, the following deflations took place in Queensland: - 1,120 government employees dismissed, with a consequent saving of £240,872 per annum; 427,000 employees affected by pooling work, with a consequent saving of £66,000 per annum; 5,367 employees dismissed, with a consequent saving of £360,872 per annum. This Labour Administration was in office for fifteen years. It is, therefore, evident that if that deflation was necessary in 1922, something was wrong with that State. It is largely due to that administration that Queensland is in an unfortunate position to-day. At the last federal election the members of the Labour party tried to impress upon the people of Queensland that the adverse trade balance of Australia was due to the exorbitant extravagant borrowing policy of the Bruce-Page Government. The Daily Standard, which is another Labour organ, published on the 11th June, 1930, the statement that the BrucePage Government had increased the national debt of Australia by £78,000,000 in six years. Do honorable members, opposite subscribe to that statement? Their silence but emphasizes the fact that that statement is incorrect. As the Leader of the Opposition has stated, the increase in the total public debt of the Commonwealth in seven years under the Bruce-Page Government was £12,781.982, and in all the States £206,868,847. The increase in Queensland alone during that period was £27,663,813, yet we do not find the Daily Standard or any other Labour organ publishing those figures and informing the people of the facts. In Queensland during that period there was an increase in the debt per head of population of £13 18s.1d., whereas in the Commonwealth there was a decrease of £6 5s.10d. per head. The financial adnrnistration of the Commonwealth during that period will bear comparison with any State administration. How did the Commonwealth expend its revenue?
– At Canberra.
– Mr. Fisher, when a Labour Prime Minister, laid a foundation stone at Canberra, and started the expenditure of money at the Federal Capital. Honorable members opposite do not tell their constituents of the manner in which the revenues of the Commonwealth were expended during the first 21 years of federation. During that period £14,000,000 was expended on postal services, but during the next six years, under the regime of the late Government, £24,268,000 was expended in increasing postal facilities to country people. This was provided from loan fund for which assets remain, yet as stated, the Commonwealth debt was only increased during the Bruce-Page administration by £12,781,982. That Government also increased the old-age pension from 15s. to £1 a week. It expended £10,000,000 on old-age pensions, and £7,750,000 on pensions for soldiers per annum, as well as an additional amount for the repatriation of soldiers. The record of the BrucePage Government throughout is most creditable, especially when we take into consideration the expenditure of its surpluses for national purposes as the following statement will show: -
In addition there were in one year special payments to the States as follows : -
All those special paymentswere made in 1929-30.
– Tell us something about the increase in the customs revenue.
– The honorable member would no doubt like to have some information on that subject. This Government has so tampered with the tariff at the direction of certain southern manufacturers that the customs revenue is rapidly falling. Every few weeks the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) introduces a new schedule. Only three days ago a fresh schedule was introduced, and we are to have an opportunity of discussing the tariff within a fortnight, on the return of the Minister for Trade and Customs. I hope that any further revisions of the tariff will be decided upon before that discussion takes place.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member has raised a question which has been raised many times, and has been the subject of a great deal of misrepresentation. That misrepresentation has been added to to-night by the speech of the honorable member. He referred to the decrease in wages which took place in Queensland in 1922, and he attributed the blame for that decrease to myself. It was necessary for me to contradict him when he referred to the decision of the full bench of the Arbitration Court in Queensland in 1922. He said that that court reduced the basic wage from £4 5s. to £4 a week on the application of the Labour Government of Queensland. That I characterized as a lie, and that is what it is.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Treasurer cannot repeat that that statement was a lie in view of the fact that that word was withdrawn.
– I am referring not merely to that statement, but to similar statements that have been made by members of the Nationalist party in this chamber and elsewhere. The application for a reduction in the basic wage was heard in Queensland in March, 1922, by the full bench of the Arbitration Court. It was made by the organizations which supported the honorable member in the Queensland Parliament and his party - the Employers Federation, the Pastoralists Union and other organizations of employers.
– Who made the application in connexion with the railway servants?
– I shall tell the full story. The organizations supporting the Nationalist party in March, 1922, applied to the full Arbitration Court, which decided on a reduction in the basic wage from £4 os. to £4 a week. The court made an order reducing wages by 5s. per week. It applied to all workers covered by awards operating outside the Public Service. Subsequently the Public Service unions waited upon me, as head of the Government, and asked me whether I intended to extend that decision to the public servants. I said, in reply, that as the money for the full financial year had been appropriated, the Arbitration Court would not be approached until the end of the financial year, but that at the end of the financial year their case would go before the Arbitration Court, and its decision would be final. That is what happened. I ask honorable members opposite whether they approve or disapprove of that action.
– That is not the point.
– Then what is the point? The honorable member put his case to-night as though he had some grievance against me; as though the action taken by the Labour Government of Queensland in 1922 was something to be denounced. What is the Nationalist Government of Queensland doing to-day? Is it paying the basic wage or is it paying £3 a week to a great many men in its employ ?
– Does the Treasurer approve of that action?
– No, it is absolutely wrong. In Queensland the Government is cutting the basic wage and destroying the State award.
– Only for relief works.
– No. The basic wage is being cut in connexion with public works, such as railway and road construction, for which the basic wage prescribed by the Arbitration Court is £4 a week. The Nationalist Government of Queensland is taking advantage of the unemployment of the citizens of that State by giving them the option of work at £3 a week or starvation.
– That wage is being paid only to provide relief for the unemployed.
– If honorable members want a real explanation of the sourness of the honorable member for Wide Bay in this House, it is to be found in his gross disappointment at the failure of his political career. For many years the honorable member sat in the cold shades of opposition in the Queensland Parliament, hoping against hope that the Labour party would be defeated and his own party come into office, when he naturally expected that he would become a Minister of the Crown. The honorable member sat so long in opposition that it must cause him pangs of regret to be reminded of the fact. He entered the Queensland Parliament in 1912 or 1915, and hi s’ sufferings, while waiting so long for the defeat of Labour, have soured him. At any rate, in 1929, when a vacancy occurred in the Federal Parliament, he was elected to fill it. But no sooner had he been transferred to this Parliament than to his chagrin the unexpected happened in Queensland, and the Labour party there was defeated.
Honorable members interjecting-
– I rise to a point of order. I appeal to honorable members to uphold the dignity of Parliament.
– That is not a point of order, but 1 remind honorable members that interjections are disorderly.
– Within a few weeks of the election of the honorable member for Wide Bay to this Parliament his party was returned to power in Queensland; and he is apparently still doomed to sit for long years in opposition here. It is to this fact that I must ascribe his sour disposition, and the disappointment which he has displayed in this Parliament.
– It has always been a surprise to me that honorable members opposite should regard the Treasurer as a financial authority. I suppose that, just as the character in Dickens who had buried seven children while conducting a baby farm was regarded as an authority on babies, the Treasurer, who had many deficits during his career as Treasurer of Queensland, is regarded by his followers as an authority on finance. The honorable gentleman had such - a calamitous career in his own State that I was amazed when his party placed him in charge of the finances of the Commonwealth. I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I confidently predict that if the honorable gentleman remains in charge of the finances of the Commonwealth they will soon be in an even more deplorable condition than were those of Queensland when he left that State.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) stated to-night that the Treasurer had reduced the wages of the railwaymen in Queensland when he was Treasurer of that State. I have seen some displays of audacity and effrontery in my time, but I have never seen such a display as the Treasurer made to-night when he said that that statement was a lie. He had to withdraw his remark, but later stood in his place and admitted that the statement of the honorable member for Wide Bay that he had been responsible for reducing wages in Queensland was true. The only qualification that he made was that the money appropriated for the payment of public servants in the year under notice was paid to them; but the next year the honorable gentleman permitted the Arbitration Court to reduce their wages. I do not make that statement without support, for the Advocate, the official organ of the Queensland railway workers, referred to the matter in the following way: -
Between 1st January, 1921, and 15th September, 1922, the Theodore Government sacked 1,120 public servants and reduced the wages bill by £240,872.
The Theodore Government reduced the wages of over 20,000 workers and decreased their wages by £256,000.
The Theodore Government imposed short time on 4,247 railway employees and reduced the wages bill by another £66,000.
That statement has never been contradicted, and I am therefore entitled to submit it to honorable members as authoritative.
– It has been contradicted many times.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.During the eleven years the honorable member was Premier of Queensland his Government borrowed £20,376,477 for railway purposes, and the railway losses reached the colossal figure of £14,162,712 ; yet the accumulated deficit in that period was shown as only a little more than £1,000,000. Why was this? The reason for it was that the railways of Queensland were practically pawned. Despite what the honorable member for Corangamite had to say about the report of the Auditor-General of Queensland, the official reports of that officer indicate clearly that, during the period the present Treasurer was Premier of that State, for every £1 of loan money put into the railways 14s. was lost in working expenses.
I realize that this is not a debate on the railways or the administration of Queensland ; but we are entitled to refer to these matters, for the Treasurer is adopting now the same methods of swelling the expenditure and over-estimating the revenue that he adopted when he was Treasurer of Queensland. In the first budget that he presented to this Parliament he provided for an increased expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds, although he had frequently criticized theprevious Government for what he called its extravagant expenditure on royal commissions and other comparatively trifling matters. We were told during the election campaign that if the Labour party were returned to office it would economize, and put the finances of the country on a sound basis; but the expenditure budgeted for in the first year the Government was in office exceeded the estimates of the previous Government. I have no doubt that we shall be told when the budget for this year is introduced that the estimates, of receipts for last year were entirely wrong. The Treasurer has intimated to us to-day that the American picture interests which, so far, have been given special consideration by this Government, will be taxed in order to provide money to make up the deficit that is to be expected. The honorable member for Bendigo said this evening, by interjection, that the picture interests proved to be a valuable ally of the present Government during the last election campaign. For that reason, no doubt, they have so far been exempt from increased taxation. I shall be interested to hear the Treasurer tell us, when he makes his budget speech, how the flow of money from Australia to the American film interests is to be stopped. It has been said that the Leader of the previous Government did not say during the last election that these interests would be taxed ; but he said quite clearly on many occasions, and honorable members on this side of the chamber approved of his state ment, that the American film interests would be taxed to the extentof 12½ per cent if the Government were returned to power.
– Tell us something about the national insurance scheme that was promised.
– I can tell the honorable member that his own Government promised to introduce a national unemployment insurance scheme, but we have heard nothing more of it.
I do not want to spend much time discussing the piffling statements of the honorable member for Corangamite, for I can hardly believe that he was serious in suggesting that a newspaper report of a speech by a lady in Victoria could be regarded as a declaration of the policy of the National party.
– He only wanted to brighten the proceedings.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Probably that was his intention. No doubt he desired to introduce a little levity, and so confused was his speech that he certainly succeeded in producing all the levity he could have hoped for. At any rate, he demonstrated quite clearly that his utterances were unworthy of serious consideration.
Mr.RIORDAN (Kennedy) [10.16].- Discussion on this subject seems to have centred in the actions of the Labour Government which was recently defeated in Queensland. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) said that the Labour Government had held office for many years because of the way it had carried out the last distribution of seats. However, it is not very long since the party to which the honorable member belongs won 48 seats in the Queensland Parliament on the same system of distribution as that under which the Labour Government had carried on. If that is what he calls gerrymandering, I hope, for the sake of the Labour party, that it will not again endeavour to tamper with the distribution of seats in the same way. Honorable members opposite have quoted freely from The Railway Advocate in regard to wages and hours of employment, but they have refrained from referring to the advantages gained by railway men under a Labour government in
Queeusland. In fairness to the Labour party I propose to make a comparison between the wage rates prevailing in 1914, before the Labour Government came into office, and those prevailing when that. Government went out of office. In 1914 the wages of engine-drivers were 9s. 9d., southern division, and 10s. 9d., northern division. In 1929 they were 18s. 6d. and 20s. 4d. respectively. Firemen’s wages were 7s. 6d., southern division; Ss. 6d. northern division, while in 1929 they had risen to 17s. 4d. and 19s. 2d.
– Does the honorable member intend to quote the cost of living figures ?
– Yes. What would have cost fi in 1911 cost, in 1929, 36s. 9din New South Wales ; 35s. 5d. in Queensland; 33s. lid. in South Australia; 35s; Sd. in Western Australia, and 33s. 2d. in Tasmania. Queensland was about 2s. 6d. better off than any of the other States in the Commonwealth, and she has had less unemployment than any of the other States. That much was admitted by the Leader of the Opposition the other day. Cleaner’s wages in 1914 were - under 16 years, southern division, 2s. 9d. ; central division, 3s. 3d. ; northern division, 3s. 9d. In 1929 the corresponding rates were - 8s. 8d.. southern division, and 10s. 6d. northern division. For those over twenty years the rates in 1914 were - 5s. 6d., 6s., and 6s. 6d. as compared with 15s. 8d. and 17s. 6d. in 1929. Before the advent of the Labour Government no provision was made for the payment of overtime. Since the Nationalist party has been in power in Queensland it has increased the working week from 44 hours to 48 hours. Under the guise of providing relief work, wages have been reduced to £2 10s. a week for single men and £3 for married men. The work on which these men are employed would have been carried out by a Labour government at wage rates laid down by the court. This is what The Union Voice has to say about the present Nationalist Government in Queensland -
The present Government of Queensland has descended to many paltry actions during its short tenure of office, but its action in eliminating the annual holidays of thousands of workers touches the depths of meanness.
Some Tory politicians are hastening to assure their working-class constituents that they had nothing to do with this latest attack upon the workers’ conditions. However, the same gentlemen voted to a man for the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, and it is this act which denies to the workers their annual holidays, hitherto enjoyed for many years. When the Labour Government went out of office in Queensland, it left over £3,000,000 in the Treasury to be expended on public works, and if it had remained in power it would have found work for the unemployed at standard wage rates.
– Where would the money have come from?
– From those who are now having their taxes reduced by the Nationalist Government - the big freehold land-owners in and around the city. The policy of the party to which the honorable member belongs is to impose class taxation upon those least able to defend themselves, and to reduce the workers’ wages by 10 per cent. The last Federal Government flooded Australia with immigrants in order .to create a ^ situation favorable to breaking- down working conditions, not only in Queensland, but all over the Commonwealth. Foreigners were brought here in such numbers that, in the sugar-growing areas of northern Queensland, there now prevails almost a state of war between members of the British Preference League and the Southern Europeans. Why were these foreigners brought here?
– They were hot brought here.
– Well, they were allowed to come here. All immigrants are supposed to pass an education tes*.; but every time a Southern European is prosecuted by the Australian Workers Union in Queensland he must have an interpreter to plead guilty, or not guilty, for him. The foreigners were brought here to break down our standard of living. When the Labour Government was in office in Queensland sugar-growers were prosecuted almost every day for employing foreigners at less than award rates.
Some honorable members opposite declared that the Labour Government practically ruined Queensland. If it did, it is strange that, after fourteen years of Labour rule, there should be less unemployment in Queeusland than in any other State. That will not, I know, put food into the mouths of those who do happen to be unemployed; but such unemployment as exists is’ largely the responsibility of the last Federal Government. Honorable members opposite say that they do not desire a reduction of wages; but they are always urging a reduction of the cost of production. Howis that to be brought about? They say that, if production costs are reduced, wages can come down, and the workers will still be as well off. No reduction, however, has taken place in the cost of the commodities chiefly used by the workers - such commodities as meat, bread, sugar, flour, and tea. Honorable members do not suggest that a man who is paying 7 per cent, on the money he borrowed to build his house should have that rate of interest reduced, or that something should be knocked off the purchase price of the property. There are over 50,000 persons unemployed in New South Wales, and in one municipality alone 90,000 loaves of bread are being distributed. The condition of affairs which renders that necessary is a disgrace to the Government which was in office for over six years. No real effort has been made by State governments to find occupation for unemployed persons. In Queensland, which is only half developed, large numbers of the unemployed could have been placed on the land. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) knows as well as I do that at every ballot for land in Queensland, whether agricultural or pastoral, there are from 500 to 1.700 applicants for each block. That lias been going on for years. Those people do not want the Government to place them on the laud. They are prepared to finance themselves if the land is made available. They would use for the purpose the savings they have now lying idle in the Commonwealth Bank. Under the policy followed by the last Government large areas of land in the Northern. Territory were leased at ls. per square mile, with no re-assessment for fifteen years, and no resumption for twenty years. A similar state of affairs prevailed in Queensland. But as land fell in, the Labour Government had it subdivided and balloted for, with the result that a good deal of settlement took place. The increase in the population of Queensland was proportionately greater than that of any other State during the fifteen years that the Labour party was in power. Some honorable members say that this country needs greater population, and that the Italian makes a good settler. They reflect on the Australian when they say that sport is his principal consideration. The sugar industry in Queensland was developed before the arrival of foreigners. They bought the land from the friends of honorable members opposite; and if they remain on it for the next twenty years they will not discharge their mortgages, although they are prepared to work from daylight until dark. The supporters of honorable members opposite are always anxious to employ persons who will work from daylight until dark, under any conditions and for small wages. That was what happened in the pastoral industry in Queensland prior to the advent of a Labour Government. When the employees reached the homestead at night they threw their saddles at the foot of a tree and lay down like a dog. The Labour party made provision for workers’ accommodation. The workers to-day hold the view that no matter how poor a Labour Government may be it is preferable to the best Nationalist Government. The Union, Voice has published the following opinion : -
Political Labour, with all its faults, was far preferable to the present representation of the employing class. Every effort should be made to re-organize the movement so that, at the next State election Labour’s return will be assured.
The defeat of the Labour party in Queensland has proved to be prejudicial to the interests of the workers of that State. But it has also been a lesson to many of those who were critical of its administration while it was in power. Those who were most militant, and who preached revolution and the emancipation of the workers while they had the protection of a government that would not call out the police to baton them, left their comrades to the mercy of the new regime as soon as a Nationalist Government got into power. That Government withdrew the 44-hour week, threw overboard the rural workers’ award - not that that mattered very greatly, because only the poorest labourer would work for less than the award provided - cancelled annual holidays, and made the men work broken time. The militant leaders, whose opinions honorable members opposite have quoted to-night, transferred their activities to another State where there was a labour Government, so that they could continue to bo militant under the protection that it afforded.
– I wish to reply briefly to a few points that have been raised during the debate. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) stated by interjection that the only taxation which was removed by the last Government was that which affected the large land-holders. That is an absolute mis-statement of the fact. The Bruce-Page Government removed income taxation from all the lower paid people throughout the Commonwealth. When it came into office it found that income taxation was levied on any person who had an income of £200 or over. When it left office no person with an income of less than £300 was subject to income taxation; and any person with four children would need to receive £500 before he would be liable. On an income of £250 the taxation when it took office was £5 2s. 10d., and when it left office that income was exempt. On an income of £350 the taxation in 1921 was £9 17s. 3d., and in 1927 it was 19s. 3d., a reduction of £8 18s., or 90 per cent. On an income of £500 the taxation was reduced from £17 6s. 7d. to £4 15s. 8d., equal to 73 per cent. On an income of £1,000 it was reduced from £47 19s. 9d. to £27 5s. 8d., equal to 43 per cent. Those figures give the lie to the statement that the only taxation which was removed by the last Government was that which affected big land-holders.
– I did not use the word “ only.”
– The impression sought to be conveyed was that the last Government had considered only the large land-holders. I wish it to be placed on record that that Government sought to relieve the lowest wage-earners and salaried persons, upon whom income tax had been imposed by the Federal Labour party when previously in office.
The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) suggested that I had endeavoured to detract from the credit of Australia. When I handed over the administration of the Treasury to the honorable gentleman on theo 22nd October last I did my best to make him au fait with recent events in connexion with loan matters. On the 26th October the honorable gentleman attacked me regarding the budget that I brought down last year. What I said in reply was -
There is no need for me to defend my financial policy against Labour. Unfortunately for Australia, the financial world generally has in no uncertain way expressed its opinion of Labour’s financial rule by a fall in the price of our stocks. In the eight days following the elections Australian Government stocks in London fell 3 per cent, without a corresponding fall in the securities of other dominions.
The Treasurer said that that was due entirely to other causes. I shall quote statements that appeared in English financial newspapers at that time, to prove the correctness of what I said. “Autolyous,” a responsible writer in the Financial Times, published the following statement on the 23rd October last: -
The fall in Australian stocks has proceeded far enough. The nervousness engendered by Labour’s success seems liable to carry sellers to the point of sacrificing good investments.
The Statist, on the 21st October, made the following comment: -
The best that can now be hoped is that Mr. Scullin and his colleagues will not attempt to carry out the irresponsible promises with which they appealed to the electors.
The Economist said -
There is a dangerous element of insecurity which is palpable to the most casual observer.
The Morning Post, on the 17th October, said -
Labour’s programme nibbles at rather expensive projects of State socialization. The fear of such proposals may have something, to do with the notable depression in Australian securities. The Exchange is running against Australia a good deal, and its debt will shortly mature. Until it is seen whether the devil or the baker is stronger in the tug-of-war there must be nervousness in financial circles . . . The . result of the elections will be to confirm the uneconomic conditions unless they break down of their own weight, or by common consent of employer and employed.
Those are typical of statements that were made at the time, and they bear out what I said.
– Does the honorable gentleman deny that there was a decline in Australian securities during the previous nine months?
– There was a decline in Australian securities in conmon with all other securities.
– During the previous nine months the English bank rate rose consistently, until it stood at 6^ per cent.
– I am referring to long-dated Australian securities.
– If the Treasurer cares to investigate the matter he will find that, during the six and a half years that ‘ the Bruce-Page Government held office, the difference between New Zealand and South African stocks and those of Australia was never greater than 3 per cent or 4 per cent. At the present time it is very much more than that.
The Treasurer referred to the proposals of. the last Government in connexion with the taxation of . the film industry. On the 17th September, 1929, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, issued to the electors a statement headed, “Pensions or Luxuries.” It read - .
There are the alternatives of refusing to face the position by failing to balance the budget, or, on the other hand, oi reducing either oldage, invalid, or war pensions, or of diminishing the payments made to the States. The Government, however, is not prepared to adopt any of these courses.
The new revenue required cannot be obtained without imposing taxation. The Government decided that the best course was to place a portion of the burden upon luxuries and amusements, where it would have the least harmful effect upon productive industry.
In determining the character of the amusement tax, the Government considered that it was not fair to ask the general public to bear the whole of the impost, but that the amusement industry itself, and particularly the more profitable section of the industry, should be prepared to bear portion of the tax.
The Government recognized that any attempt to levy upon the large profits which have led to the building of luxurious picture palaces in the capital cities, would be strongly resented by the powerful interests, largely American in affiliation and outlook, which control the picture business. These interests have indulged in theatrical and sensational propaganda. It is fortunate, perhaps, tha,t they have gone to such ludicrous and grotesque extremes, as the public is already resenting being made their catspaw. It would be an unfortunate thing for Australia if the public affairs of the nation were to be influenced by propaganda of this description.
The Government announced in its budget proposals that it was proposed to obtain £000,000 of new revenue from amusements by means of a 5 per cent, tax on admission receipts. Tha obvious advantage of this method of taxation is that it makes it difficult for highly-profitable enterprises to justify passing it all on to the public.
The precise proposals of the Government have never been submitted to Parliament, because there has been no opportunity to do this. The Government would, in the ordinary course, have considered any representations made by those affected, and would then have placed its proposals before Parliament. The proposal of the Government is that there should be a general tax on amusement receipts of 5 per cent., subject to an exemption of amusement and entertainment enterprises in cases where the takings do not exceed £100 in a week. There would also be an exemption where the takings in any one year do not exceed £500. This exemption will exclude from this taxation a very large number pf non-proprietary interests for the encouragement of sport and amusement.
All entertainments and amusements which are already exempt under the present act will also be exempt from this tax, such as those for charitable, educational and religious purposes. As a result of representations the Government has decided to obtain a proportion of the revenue from a section of the film industry, which is highly profitable and which, up to the present, lias succeeded in escaping taxation by devices which have taken its profits beyond the reach of existing legislation. It is accordingly proposed to ask Parliament to impose a tax of I2i per cent, upon the payments made to persons outside the Commonwealth by film importers for nonBritish films. The revenue so obtained will make it possible’ to adjust any anomalies of hardships -for which the exemptions do not provide. The .necessary revenue must be raised by whatever Government may be in power, but this Government declines to seek to purchase votes by placating wealthy companies, either because they are financially powerful or because they are prepared to spend large sums of money in publicity campaigns to protect their own interests.
That was a very definite statement regarding the policy of the Government.
– “Was it not a cry of “ don’t shoot and we will climb down “ ?
– There was no climb down at all. The matter was not mentioned in the House because immediately after the presentation of the budget the arbitration issue wasraised and preparations were made to go to the country.
– Is that the only reason why it was not mentioned in the House?
– Why was it not embodied in the budget?
– Because the statement contained in the budget is merely a summary of the Government’s financial proposals.
– That statement is an amplification of the Bruce-Page Government’s proposed amusement tax.
– It is merely a detailed statement of it. I come to another matter mentioned by the Treasurer. The honorable gentleman stated that I had spoken at many places in Queensland during the recent State elections, and that I had misrepresented him, I told the Treasurer at the time that that was an absolute mis-statement. I spoke only at one place - Gympie - on behalf of Mr. Tozer, who, I am glad to say, was returned. The statements that I made at the time I shall now repeat. They were based on the official figures of the Queensland Government Statistician, and confirmed by the Queensland AuditorGeneral. I invite honorable members to compare them with the records of the Bruce-Page Government. I dealt with two periods, that of 1914-15, and that of 1924-25. The revenue collected in Queensland during the former period amounted to £7,202,000, while in the latter period it reached £14,897,000. The revenue doubled in those ten years.
– That applies to every State.
– It does not apply to the Commonwealth, where the increase of debt over a period of 6½ years amounted to only 3½ per cent, as opposed to 73 per cent, in Queensland. In 1914-15 the amount raised by the Queensland Government in taxation was £954,000, while in 1924-25, the taxation had reached the figure £3,914,000. Annual interest on the public debt per capita increased from £2 18s. 5d. in 1914-15 to £51s. 9d. in 1924-25. The interest charge on revenue for the first period was £267,000, and for the last £1,783,000. Instead of the railways showing a surplus as they did in 1914-15 they showed a deficit of £894,000 in 1924-25.
– Will the honorable gentleman quote the Commonwealth railways ?
– During the Bruce-Page regime the Commonwealth railways showed a continuous improvement every year, which may be verified by a reference to the official statistics.
– Did they pay their interest bill ?
– They continually improved whereas, under the administration of the present Commonwealth Treasurer, the Queensland railways slumped badly each year. The Queensland public debt showed a record increase under the honorable gentleman’s régime. After the Queensland Government had been in existence 56 years the State debt was £56,869,000, at the 30th June, 1915, while, by the 30th June, 1925, it had reached the tremendous figure of £97,001,000, an increase of £40,132,000 in ten years.
– Is the right honorable gentleman attempting to lead or mislead?
– I am quoting the official figures prepared by the State Statistician of Queensland and issued by the Government. Those are the records of an administrator who says that it is an. awful thing that the federal indebtedness should have increased by £13,000,000 in six and a half years. The essential difference between the Federal and State indebtedness is that the BrucePage Government spent money on reproductive works that decreased the interest burden of the taxpayers, whereas the Theodore Queensland Government’s loan expenditure increased the burden on taxpayers all the time. During the honorable gentleman’s period of office the per capita debt grew from £82 9s. at the 30th June, 1915, to £114 at the 30th June, 1925, an increase of £3311s. per head. As a comparison I mention that during the Bruce-Page regime the Commonwealth per capita debt decreased by over £6. Because I quoted those figures and drew the natural inference from them at one place, Gympie, the Treasurer said that I spoke from many platforms and misrepresented him continually.
I come now to thesubject raised by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch), who said that the AuditorGeneral’s report indicated that a scandal existed in connexion with the method of keeping Commonwealth accounts. That is a remarkable statement to emanate from a supporter of the Government whose Queensland members know so intimately what has been taking place in regard to Mungana and other matters in Queensland during the last ten or fifteen years. The honorable member raised the point whether disbursements from Consolidated Revenue, previously transferred to trust funds for use, should be shown in the year they are actually spent or when they were withdrawn. That was the custom years before I assumed the Treasurership ; I merely continued it. The honorable member suggests that there was something in the AuditorGeneral’s report condemning the BrucePage Government’s conduct of finance. He quoted the following remarks from page 11 of the report: -
The heavy revenue deficiencies shown in the Commonwealth Treasury accounts for the last two years are not only a matter of serious concern to Parliament, but to the whole community. Reduced customs revenue and an increased expenditure are, of course, the main factors in causing these deficiencies.
But he did not read what followed. I shall do so for him -
Reduced borrowings abroad and smaller returns from wool, wheat, &c, have resulted in an adverse trade balance which strongly indicates that Australia as a community is living beyond her means and mortgaging her future production. Only by reducing imports and increasing exports can the exchange position be remedied. Although high exchange rates may automatically reduce imports, large remittances for interest must continue, but there is little hope of raising any large loans abroad in the near future. The present exchange rates are, therefore, likely to continue for some time, with the consequent reduction in imports and customs revenue. If customs revenue falls, some other form of taxation can hardly be avoided, because, unless policy is materially altered, the definite expenditure commitments are so great that the margin for savings of magnitude is very small.
The difficulties of the Treasury at the present time are great and the only remedy is economy in public and private expenditure. Two aspects of the matter present themselves -
For about three lines the Auditor-General examined the methods adopted by the Treasurer, and for over a page and a quarter he draws attention to the excess of expenditure by the whole community. From that the honorable member for
Corangamite assumes that the Bruce-Page Government failed in its duty to the country.
– And he was quite right.
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) is totally unable to prove his contention.
– The right honorable gentleman cannot produce a statement of a like character regarding the accounts of the Queensland Government under the administration of the present Commonwealth Treasurer.
– I am dealing with the outstanding points raised in this debate. Unfortunately the Treasurer demeaned his position in this House by making a personal attack on the honorable member for, Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), alleging that he was the victim of chagrin because, by coming to this Parliament, he had missed ministerial honours in Queensland. The honorable member’s father, the previous member for Wide Bay, had a reputation for unblemished honour and integrity in this House and throughout Australia. He was always spoken of honorably, and he acted fairly and squarely. Since entering this Parliament, and while a member of the Queensland Parliament, the present member for Wide Bay, his son, has done everything to maintain the unblemished record of his father. He was first returned unopposed, and at the next election he was returned with a majority greater than any previously recorded for Wide Bay. This chamber shouldnot countenance an attack such aswas made by the Treasurer on the honorable member. It was a vitriolic attack on a gentleman who vacated State politics to serve his country in a wider sphere.
– What is the honorable member crying about?
– I am not crying about anything. Federal politics were never subjected to such degradation prior to the arrival of the honorable gentleman in this chamber.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) worked himself into a frenzy, and suggested that I made an unjustifiable personal attack on the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser). If 1 that honorable member felt aggrieved at anything I said, and considered that it was offensive to him, I am sure he could have raised objection to it himself. I do not desire to do him any injustice. My reply to him was quite legitimate; it may have been tinged with sarcasm, but I am sure he does not object to that. I certainly took no exception to what he said regarding me. I have often been in conflict with him in this House and in the Queensland Parliament, but never previously, so far as I recollect, has any honorable member felt called upon to resent my remarks regarding any member of this or the Queensland Parliament. The right honorable member for Cowper must be in a testy humour to-night, or he would not have taken umbrage at the manner in which I replied to the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser).
Throughout his speech the right honorable member for Cowper spoke most apologetically of his own administration ; he seems unable to tolerate the slightest criticism of it. That is a strange attitude on the part of one who is usually hypercritical of the financial policy of his opponents.
– He was just as critical of his predecessor.
– He criticized his predecessor in terms of unqualified condemnation; yet seems intolerant of any criticism of his own administration. I warn him that there will be many references to his handling of the finances before this Parliament has run its course. I do not object to references to my own financial administration, but I shall certainly answer them when I think it necessary to do so in order to place it in a better light than that in which it is shown by honorable members who are prejudiced against Labour policy. That prejudice often influences the inferences and deductions of honorable members when they are describing the allegedly unfortunate position of Queensland finances. The strong financial position of Queensland to-day is a sufficient refutation of the charges of extravagant borrowing and spendthrift administration by the Labour Government. The present solidity of that State’s finances, the relatively small ‘growth of the public debt, and its smaller per capita loan expenditure during the ten years I was Treasurer than the average for Australia-
– The honorable member cannot get away with that.
– During the ten years I was Treasurer of Queensland the per capita loan expenditure was less than th.e average for all the States and lower th.8” that of any other State but one.
– But the Treasurer will admit that the increase of loan expenditure was greater during his regime than in any other period.
– I do not admit that. I have not the statistics before me, because I did not anticipate that this bill would produce a debate on Queensland finances; but I repeat that during the period 1915-1925 the per capita loan expenditure in Queensland was lower than the average for all States, and the lowest in any State but one. When honorable members opposite allege an increase of £34,000,000 in the public debt during that period, they conveniently overlook the fact that the increase included about £5,000,000 of floating debt incurred by the previous Government but funded by the Labour Government. It represented debentures issued by the Savings Bank, and when that institution was transferred to the Commonwealth Bank those debentures had to be funded and added to the consolidated public debt of the State. Although that fact has been pointed out dozens of times, the critics of Labour administration persist in the old misrepresentation that it increased the public debt in Queensland in greater proportion than the increase in any other State.
– The Labour Government increased the public debt of Queensland by £34,000,000 in nine years.
– Yes, but that included the funding of at least £5,000,000 of debt incurred by the previous Government.
– That is not so.
– If the honorable member will riot accept my statement I leave it to other honorable members to say whether . he is not offering merely the public debt no member of the Opposicontumacious opposition. Is the exTreasurer fair in contrasting the expenditure in the years 1914-15 with the postwar expenditure ten or fifteen years later, and claiming that as a result of Labour administration expenditure and taxation had increased 100 per cent? Did not the expenditure of every State in the Commonwealth, under Nationalist or other governments, increase in like proportion ?
– The honorable member for Warringah is so irresponsible that he is prepared to deny even the most obvious truth. Honorable members opposite have so long revelled in the misrepresentation of Labour finance in Queensland that they are now flabbergasted at discovering that there is an answer to their mendacity.
– I rise to a point of order. The Treasurer has charged some honorable members with mendacity - lying. I ask that the remark be withdrawn ?
– I withdraw it. I content myself with saying that honorable members opposite are at a loss at finding that an effective answer can be given to their misrepresentations.
.- The right honorable member for Cowper accused me of having said that the only reduction in taxation made by the late Government was in the interest of the big land-holders. I am not so silly as to make such a statement. The last Government was a coalition, and when a plum was given to its supporters in the country, an equivalent plum had to be given to ministerial supporters in the cities. One of those plums was a 50 per cent. reduction of the charge for carrying the one-ounce letters of banks, lawyers, agents, and big business houses. Whilst the Government made a 10 per cent. reduction in the income tax rates applicable to all taxpayers, I do not forget that the bulk of income taxation is paid by the wealthy people, and the raising of the exemption and the 10 per cent. reduction in respect of smaller incomes were as nothing to the great concession made to the wealthy interests.
Although much has been said of what the last Government did in reduction of tion has referred to the enormous customs revenue that that Government handled for six years.
– It was specifically mentioned, and the reduction of it was referred to as one of the reasons for the financial difficulties of the Commonwealth.
– The last Government did not attempt to reduce the receipts from customs duties.
– There was a reduction.
– The returns from customs duties were greater during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government than when the Hughes Government was in office. Yet the coalition Government had the backing of a freetrade party! I do not object to members of the Country party advocating freetrade and supporting that policy in this chamber, but I condemn them for having a greater love of office than of principle, and allowing the last Government tocontinue to collect an enormous revenue from customs duties.
– I propose to place before the committee a concise comparison of the finances of Queensland and the Commonwealth during the period 1922-29.
– I thought the attack was on my administration; in what way are the figures for 1929 relevant ?
– This is a period of Labour administration almost entirely. The increase in the Commonwealth debt during that period was £12,781,982 ; the increase in the Queensland debt was £27,663,813. The Commonwealth debt per head decreased by £6 5s. 10d., and the Queensland debt increased by £13 18s.1d. If honorable members will refer to Financial Bulletin No. 20 they will find that between 1921-25 or any other period that may be considered relevant the figures substantially correspond with those that I have just quoted.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution of Ways and Means founded on resolution of Supply reported and adopted.
That Mr. Theodore and Mr. Scullin do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Theodore) proposed -
Thatthe bill be now read a second time.
.- I wish to know whether it is proposed to impose any condition on the expenditure of the unemployment grant by the States.
– [11.17]. - My figures were challenged a few minutes ago. I said that the public debt of Queensland between the years 1914 and 1927 had increased by ?34,000,000, and the Treasurer pointed out that that amount included ?6,000,000 which had been funded.
– I was referring to the time when I was Treasurer, up to the end of 1924.
– In 1914 the Queensland public debt was ?54,523,500, and in 1925, ?96,389,067, so that there is a difference of approximately ?41,000,000. If the ?6,000,000 which was funded is deducted . it still leaves an amount of approximately ?34,000,000, which I stated in the first place, and with respect to which the Treasurer contradicted me. The figures that I quoted are reliable, and taken out of the officialYear-Book.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- Recently I placed before the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) a request relating to the introduction of certain machinery into this country. Although the request has a bearing on the establishment of new industries, the Minister has unfortunately refused to grant it. I again urge him to make a concession under the tariff so that Australia may be given the advantage of a new manufacture. Apparently the firm on whose behalf I am acting is not receiving the favorable treatment that is being meted out to another firm in Sydney, which is receiving special consideration at the hands of the Customs Department.
The Minister is not acting fairly towards the other manufacturers of this country by adopting his present attitude. In
March of this year the firm in which I am interested asked to be allowed to bring into this country a. machine for the manufacture of mechanical toys. There is already a substantial duty on imported toys, but that can be of no assistance unless this firm has a special appliance for the manufacture of the material. This firm wrote to the Customs Department as follows: -
This machine will enable us to make many of the sheet metal toys which at present Australia imports from Germany and are not manufactured in the Commonwealth. It folds and grooves in a single operation, whereas the British and other machines take two operations and the work is done more efficiently.
An illustration of the machine was also forwarded to the department. On the 27th March, the department replied to the effect that two Australian firms, J. Heine & Sons, Leichhardt, New South Wales, and W. G. Goetz & Sons, Melbourne, were interested in making like machines, and advised the applicant to get in touch with those firms with a view to ascertaining whether either was in a position to satisfy its requirements. This firm wrote to both those firms. Goetz and Sons replied that they did not make the machine in question; Heine & Sons claimed that they were making something just as good, in fact a better machine. The machine made by Heine and Sons is a two-operation machine, but the machine desired is a one-operation machine known as the “ Kercheis.” The firm desiring to import this machine states -
One of the merits of the “ Kercheis “ machine is that it is fool-proof, and the old two-operation machine requires more skill to gain efficient results. We can only repeat that if we are permitted to import this machine we are quite prepared to let both Heine & Sons and Goetz & Sons come to our works and copy it. We know the new “ Kercheis “ machine well as we saw it in operation in England, and it is apparent from Messrs. Heine & Sons’ letter that the only “ Kercheis “ machine that they are acquainted with is the pre-war pattern. The two-operation side seaming machine to which Messrs. Heine and Sonsrefer is too slow for the purpose, whatever advantage it might be for making certain forms of square canisters.
Heine & Sons urge that their machine will do certain things in regard to the making of square canisters, but the question under consideration is the manufacture of metal toys, and a governing factor of the machine is its cylindrical diameter, and its ability to use various sizes of mandrels. The machine is practically fool-proof, and is a great improvement on that manufactured by Heine and Sons. This firm further stated -
It appears to us that Messrs. Heine & Sons have given a very strong argument why you should admit this machine, which according to their report is not satisfactory,, as it would be a lesson to us not to import any more, but unfortunately we have seen the same machine in England working nearly three times as fast as Heine’s two-operation machine, and we venture to disagree with them.
That is conclusive proof of the efficiency of this firm. I wish to make it clear to honorable members and to the Customs Department, that I served with this firm for 27 years. Prior to that my father was imported to do a certain class of work for this firm. I, therefore, know that the last thing it would do would be to stand idle and not progress with the times. Seeing that this firm has made such rapid strides in spite of having at its command only the limited market of South Australia, it must be regarded as one of the most progressive in Australia. It first introduced into this country the process of vitreous enamelling. I saw the first work turned out by the plant it installed for this work. This process had not previously been used in the Southern Hemisphere. The department is not assisting but is hampering industry by preventing this firm from importing these machines. If the machine is the “ dud “ that Mr. Heine says it is, the firm will have to pay the penalty for importing it. But the two principals of the firm have travelled in England and America since the war, and are not the victims of peri.grinating commercial travellers as Heine and Son suggest. They know the machine they want ; they have seen it working, and they know that it will turn out the articles that they want turned out. It is the height of impudence for Heine and Son and the department to tell a firm like this that it does not know what it wants. The departmental officers in commenting on this application said -
Mr. Heine stated that he is not surprised at the claim that the machine under notice has a larger output capacity than the English machine, because makers of canister machines in England have not improved the types of their units for years. Mr. Heine states that English manufacturers of canning machinery have remained stationary insofar as progress is concerned, and are building the same type of machine as was built years ago.
It is also impudent to suggest that the British manufacturers of canning machinery have not progressed with the times. Messrs. Heine and Son evidently want to sell their pre-war machines, which, as I have said, are not suitable for the work. We desire to stimulate the manufacture of metal toys in Australia, but unless proper machinery for the purpose can be imported, our desires will not be fulfilled. A duty of 90 per cent, on these toys is of little use unless the manufacture of them is encouraged. Only today I. have received another letter from the firm in regard to this matter. It had enclosed with it a copy of a letter which the firm sent to the Comptroller of Customs, dated the 23rd June, 1930, which read as follows: -
Yours of the 20th instant to hand. ‘ We did not ask to be permitted to import the Kircheis machine without being fully aware that the Heine machine did similar work, but we asked for it, us we have endeavoured to explain to you, because it did the work far more effectively, and because no skill is required in operating it. We could demonstrate this with the old-style pre-war Kircheis machine, which is in our own factory, if any of your officers caro to see it, but if comparison with the post-war patent which we want is required, then a visit of your officers to Messrs. Wilson Brothers Proprietary Limited, of Sutton-street, North Melbourne, will show the infinite superiority of the German machine. The difference between the German and the Heine machine is, in fact, far greater than between the American can-making machines and the Heine machines, as referred to by Dr. Earle Page in the House of Representatives recently; and we respectful lj’ ask, therefore, that our request be further considered.
I hope that Messrs. Heine and Son and the departmental officers will visit the North Melbourne factory at which this up-to-date machine may be inspected. I suppose that these officers do not know what putting in a swedge or planishing or knocking up a machine, means. If they had a wider knowledge of the complexities of the industry they would give applications of this kind more sympathetic consideration. This firm is thoroughly progressive. It spent many thousands of pounds in installing machinery to do vitreous enamelling, and its business progressed. I have known them triplicate a plant which cost thousands and later scrap the whole and install a more uptodate one. Later it scrapped all the machines and installed up-to-date ones. It is deplorable that a firm which has a monopoly of machinery of this kind should be allowed to call the Adelaide firm to which I have referred a set of fools. Such an affront should not be tolerated. I sincerely hope that the Minister will reconsider this whole matter.
– It is true, as the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) has stated, that on the 18th March last, A. Simpson and Son Limited, of Adelaide, made application to the Comptroller-General of Customs for the admission under tariff item 174 - free, British preferential, and 10 per cent, general - of one patent power folding and grooving machine for automatically folding and grooving side seams of round tins, together with one set of reverse bending blades for the machine for the manufacture of metal toys. In the usual way the Comptroller-General of Customs referred tlie matter to the investigation officers of the Customs Department. They made full, inquiries, with a view to ascertaining whether a similar machine could be made in Australia, and later submitted a report, in which they stated that two Australian firms, namely, John Heine and Son Limited, of Leichhardt, New South Wales, and W. Goetz and Sons Proprietary Limited, of West Melbourne, Victoria, could make the machine required. Those firms were interested in the manufacture of power-driven folding and grooving machines. It was suggested that the applicant firm get in touch with them with a view to ascertaining whether they could satisfy its requirements. Simpson and Son Limited did so, and received a reply from W. Goetz and Sons Proprietary Limited that that firm was not in a position to manufacture the machine required. Messrs. John Heine and Sons, however, offered to supply an Australian-made machine which, they said, would do the work satisfactorily. Simpson and Son Limited claimed that the two-operation side seaming machine manufactured by Heine and Son was too slow for its purpose, whatever advantages it might have in connexion with the making of certain forms of square canisters. That opinion was, however, not confirmed by the investigation officers of the department, who believed that the machine manufactured by John Heine and Son would meet requirements. Further representations were made by Simpson and Son Limited in April last, as a result of which I ordered a further full inquiry into the matter. I told the department’s investigation officers that, in view of the strong stand taken by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), the whole matter was to be care1 fully and sympathetically reconsidered. An officer was sent to examine the plans and specifications of the machines made by John Heine and Son, as well as the machines themselves, and to compare them with drawings of the imported machine. He also interviewed three of the companies which had previously been supplied with machines by that firm. They were all perfectly satisfied. Later, he reported that he was convinced that the Australian firm could supply a machine to meet the requirements of Simpson and Son Limited.
– Was the investigating officer an experienced man in the metal trade?
– He is one of the trusted and experienced officers of the Customs Department. The representations made by Simpson and Son were also carefully considered by myself, and I personally visited the factory of John Heine and and Son Limited. After a complete examination of all the facts it was found that the Australian machine compared favorably with the imported machine. Being satisfied that Simpson and Son Limited could obtain a suitable machine of Australian manufacture, I refused the request for the by-law admission of the imported machine, in accordance with the protection conferred on Australian industries by this Parliament.
The principle governing the admission of machinery at concessional rates under the tariff by-laws is that every endeavour is made to assist the establishment and the extension of Australian industries by admitting necessary machinery either free or 10 per cent., according to the country of origin, in cases in which equivalent machines -not necessarily similar machines - are not commercially manutured in Australia. Local manufacturers are entitled to the protection afforded to their industries by the tariff. In cases such as that now under review, prospective importers are referred to local manufacturers, with a view to their obtaining Australian-made machinery.
In this case the price of the German machine, including reserve bending plates, was £160 f.o.b. German ports, or £280 duty paid, landed in Australia. In respect of the machine imported by Simpson & Son Ltd. the duty was approximately £105. Seeing that that firm has a capital of £160,000, the payment of this duty cannot be regarded as a very serious disability. It would, if added to the revenue of the Commonwealth, keep a temporary employee engaged for at least six months. The price of the machine manufactured by John Seine and Son is £135. Of that amount approximately 60 per cent. represents the labour involved in its manufacture. In the manufacture of the Australian machine approximately £85 is distributed in wages in Australia, giving employment to fourteen men for a week. There are three manufacturers of metal toys in Australia using machines made by Heine and Son. Inquiry has elicited that all of them find the Australian-made machine satisfactory. Simpson & Son Ltd. engages in the manufacture of bedsteads, office requisites, hospital furniture, grocery tins, general metal-ware and metal toys. It may be mentioned that substantially increased protection has been given to their products since the present Government came into office. While an Australian manufacturer can produce a machine to do the work of a machine made in Germany or any other country I shall stand for the Australian product. We already have too many unemployed in this country. I shall not stand for German or any other foreign machines coming into Australia while Australian engineers capable of manufacturing the machines,required walk ourstreets out of employment..
.- I congratulate the Acting Minister (Mr. Forde) ! I cannot understand why the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) should ask that a German machine should be allowed to come into Australia to make goods for good Australians!It is a shame!
– Is this satire?
– It is remarkable how the engineers of the Customs Department are able to tell when machinery of this description can be commercially manufactured in Australia. I am reminded of the time when the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) told us about a boring plant which was required to bore for water in one of our mallee districts. The imported machine cost £600 and the duty on it was £396. The department claimed that a similar machine could be commercially manufactured in Australia for £1,500 !
I rose to express my surprise at the remarkable influence which John Heine and Son seems to have on the Customs Department. Some time ago a manufacturer of fibre trunks wanted a machine to make corners which would not tear the clothes of persons carrying the trunk. At the instance of the Customs Department he visited Sydney and interviewed Heine and Son, who told him that the machine it manufactured would not do the work satisfactorily. It advised him to buy a German machine which the best English and- German manufacturers used. He decided to do so; but instead of placing the order through Heine and Son, he ordered the machine himself. When it arrived, he applied to have it treated under Item 174, but his application was refused. Later, that application came before me. But when I went to Perth I called on this manufacturer. I saw among his correspondence a letter from Heine & Son, recommending this man to buy a German machine. Nevertheless, that firm had enough influence to make the department believe that it was prepared to manufacture that machine. However, when I produced this letter the department very unwillingly granted the concession. The manufacturer stated that if he was able to bring in these machines under Item 174 of the tariff he would import several of them, and set up a factory which would employ 50 or 60 workmen. The department said it would not allow the machines to come in under Item 174 unless it could be conclusively proved that they could not be made in Australia. If we are to build up our industries it is essential that manufacturers should be able to get the best and cheapest machines available. I could not but be surprised to learn that honorable members opposite were making application to have goods admitted duty
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).The honorable member is not in order in discussing the tariff.
– I do not desire to discuss the tariff. The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) referred to the officers of his department who reported on this matter, and provision is made in the Supply Bill to pay those officers. I do not think that I have gone any further than did the, Minister, who claimed the right to prevent goods from entering this country if they could be made by Australian manufacturers.
I wish to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to an article which appeared in yesterday’s Melbourne Argus relatingto the wonderful work being done in the Kyabram district by the application of high grade fertilizers to crops. I wish to impress upon him the advisability of allowing fertilizers to come into Australia duty free.
.- Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister to grant some relief to the victims of the recent flood in the Hunter River district. Many of these people are homeless, and have lost practically all their possessions. In his reply the Prime Minister, after expressing sympathy with the flood victims, said that the matter was one for the State Government, and he reminded me that Australia is a large continent, I realize that, but I remind him that precedent exists for the granting of relief by the Commonwealth Government in special cases to relieve distress in the States. For instance, a sum of between £50,000 and £100,000 was sent out of this country, being granted for the relief of sufferers from the Japanese earthquake some time ago. Five thousand pounds was made available for the relief of distress following on the floods in Tasmania. The Prime Minister pointed out in his reply to me that already £100,000 had been granted for the relief of coal-miners in my district. I understand that this sum is to be expended in the repatriation of unemployed coal-miners throughout the Commonwealth. Admittedly, a considerable portion of it will be allocated to the mining districts in the north, but I am appealing now, not for the miners alone, but for the unfortunate farmers who have lost their homes, their crops and their seed for next season. Ivisited the flood area during the week-end, and came away convinced that this was a matter, not only for State intervention, but for Commonwealth assistance as well. The flood was in the nature of a national catastrophe. Scenes of desolation confront one on every hand. An area estimated at 5,000 square miles was under water. In one place the flood waters burst the river bank, and cut a new channel right through the centre of a town. In this place refugees have been quartered in the town hall, and in private premises placed at their disposal, for the past fortnight. It is tragic to see persons of all ages, old men and women . from 80 years down to little children fourteen years old huddled in halls without even sufficient bedclothes to cover them. No one could visit these places without feeling the utmost sympathy with the people who have suffered. I do not want to be always drawing gloomy pictures, but it isremarkable that there has been nothing but gloom in the Hunter electorate for the last eighteen months. Before the miners could get one pay after a tragic lockout for over sixteen months, the mines in the northern coal-fields have been laid idle through this flood. Some will never open again. It will take three months before others can operate again. If the Prime Minister had visited this area and. seen the position of the dairymen and millet-growers, who have lost their cattle - their winter feed for their cattle, millet crops being entirely washed away - and, in many instances, their homes he would have felt it necessary for some action to he taken by the Commonwealth Government. I take the opportunity to commend the heroic deeds of citizens and police who at the risk of their lives braved torrents flowing at from 14 to 30 miles an hour to rescue people from housetops. I am sure the State cannot give sufficient relief to these people to sustain them through the winter. At least £100,000 will be required to repair the damage done to roads and the river banks. I hope, the Prime Minister will reconsider the matter and do something for the relief of the sufferers in the Hunter Valley. It would not be inconsistent, nor would it create a precedent if the Government did what was done by a previous government for Tasmania. I do not ask it to do what was done for Japan. The time has arrived when a Commonwealth Government should see that no one is in want, and the least the present Government can do is to see that Australians in want get the assistance that previous Commonwealth governments have given to people in other countries.
– Last night the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) spoke to me about the matter to which he has now referred, and I promised that I would have an investigation made. The Commonwealth Government intervenes in such matters only when they are disasters of a really national character, particularly if they occur in a rather weak State, such as Tasmania, a. large portion of which on a recent occasion was inundated. Serious floods have occurred in other parts of Australia. Not long ago there was one in Queensland attended with loss of life. The responsibility in such cases is assumed by the State Governments. To-day, I got into touch with the New South Wales Government, and asked for a report on the situation. The reply I received was that the State Government had the immediate situation well in hand, and would attend to it; that two Ministers were visiting the district and £10,000 had been voted for the relief of distress. It was indicated that perhaps later on the restoration of property might involve considerable expenditure, but I was informed that the immediate distress was being attended to by the State Government. The matter was left at that point. The committee has, I think, had a really good discussion on supply, and I now move -
That the question be now put.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
That the bill be reported without amendment.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).As there is nothing before the chair, there can be no point of order.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Theodore) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I regret very much that the Prime Minister saw fit to “ gag “ members of his own party when a matter of considerable importance to them was brought up by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James).
– I did not “gag” the honorable member.
– The floods in the Hunter Valley did not affect the constituents of honorable members opposite; but I represent a’ portion of the flooded area, and had my mouth shut because the Prime Minister was anxious to “ gag “ the bill. As the honorable member for Hunter has pointed out, past governments have come to the assistanceof people, not only in Tasmania, but also in Japan. In almost every State at one time or another, governments have come to the aid of people who have met with disaster. I have no desire to add to the harrowing pictures drawn by the honorable member for Hunter of the sufferings of the settlers in the Hunter Valley, except to say that on the lower reaches of the river, not one farmer could remain on his farm. Every one had to be taken away by boat and accommodated in a hall. The honorable member for Hunter has already described how the citizens in the towns attempted to succour the suffering. Even now the water is preventing traffic over the railways, and possibly it will not be resumed by the end of the present week. The distress in the district cannot be adequately described, and it is for the Commonwealth Government to do something at once to help the State Government to restore the people who have suffered from the flood to their homesteads as quickly as possible.
– Mr. Speaker -
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker. - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin). proposed -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker. - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.21 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 June 1930, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300625_reps_12_125/>.