12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and offered prayers.
Statement by Mr. Percy Deane.
– by leave - Upon the publication of certain allegations by a particular individual that the former Prime Minister, the Right Honorable S. M. Bruce, had been in the habit of applying for free seats in theatres, Mr. Bruce was communicated with through a gentleman with whom he had left a power of attorney, and I have now received a copy of a cablegram from him from London, which I desire to place before the House, as it affects in some degree the reputation of all honorable members, as well as his own. It reads as follows : -
Referring your cable 18th, on no occasion did I request or authorize any one on my behalf to request Tait or any other theatrical producer to provide me with free seats on assumption of office Prime Minister.I understood that it had been the practice of all theatres as an act of courtesy place boxes at the disposal of Prime Minister whenever he visited theatre. This practice I acquiesced in although I did not like it as it appeared to me that it would be churlish to decline whatI imagined was designed as compliment to high office which for the time I held. As a result the practice led to my visiting the theatre very limited number of times many of them being gala performances upon national events when presence of Prime Minister essential. On many occasions I refrained from attending theatre owing to embarrassment which arose ifI met any of management which might lead to necessity of refusing what we believed was a courtesy designed by the management to do honour to the Prime Minister by insisting I should occupy a box when desire was to spend quiet evening in ordinary seat as ordinary citizen. If you consider necessary or desirable you might give publicity to the above.
I think it both necessary and desirable that full publicity should be given to this denial by the ex-Prime Minister. Mr. Bruce also asked that I should say that he very greatly appreciated the action’ of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), in defending his reputation in his absence. That appreciation has been conveyed to the Prime Minister by letter, but I am glad to have the opportunity of repeating it here in the most public fashion.
I was absent from the House on Friday last, when this matter was the subject of some discussion. It will be sufficient for me to say now that I associate myself entirely with the denial of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) of the allegations that wore made, insofar as any of them may be conceived to affect myself, either as a Minister or as a member of this honorable House.
– In view of the cablegram from the former Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), which has just been read, and the prejudice which has been created against members of Parliament, and particularly against members of the previous and the present Ministry, by the statements of Mr. Percy Deane, will the Prime Minister make a thorough investigation into this whole matter?
– The suggestion of the honorable member will receive consideration.
– Will the Treasurer inform me whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth Bank authorities in Sydney propose to increase the working hours of miscellaneous employees of the bank, such as attendants and others, to the extent of four hours per week, which will presumably bring the total number of hours worked by them to 52 weekly?
– I shall have inquiries made into this subject, and let the honorable memberknow the result of them.
– In view of the desperate position of the timber industry in South Queensland, due to unfair advantage given by the tariff to the importers of Oregon, will the Minister for Trade and Customs review the claims of the timber-millers and timber-workers with a view to placing a higher duty on imported Oregon?
Mr.FENTON. - The whole matter will be investigated.
B-Class Licence for Geelong
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform me whether any applications have been received for a B-class broadcasting licence for Geelong, and if so, when the applications will be dealt with, and a decision reached?
– I believe that two or three applications have been received for such a licence, but no decision has yet been reached in the matter. The department is at present negotiating with representatives of musical societies and other bodies in Geelong, with the object of forming a company which will be capable of providing a good service for the whole district. I hope that the negotiations will be concluded before long.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether any representations have been made to the Government by interested persons with a view to securing a renewal of the sugar agreement, and if so whether he will give the House an opportunity of discussing the matter before a decision is reached?
– Representations have been made for some time with regard to the sugar agreement, and I have agreed to meet a deputation next Saturday representing the growers, the millers, the Queensland Government, and the workers.
– What about the consumers ?
– This deputation represents the sugar interests. If representatives of the consumers would like to meet me subsequently,I shall no doubt be able to make time to meet them.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me whether an invitation has been extended to the sugar-growers of New South Wales to be represented at the deputation ?
– I have not sent out invitations to those who are to compose the deputation. The persons who have communicated with me have claimed to represent the growers, the millers, the Queensland Government, and the workers in the sugar industry. If other interests desire to be represented, and the persons responsible for arranging the deputation have no objection, I shall have no objection. It is customary for the persons who arrange such deputations to decide who shall attend them. I have no desire to make the deputation exclusive in any way.
– Has the Treasurer’s attention been drawn to an article in the Sydney Sun of yesterday, referring to the Parliamentary refreshment room, and having the following headlines in large black type : - “ £80 a week for meals and refreshments,” which leaves the impression that members do not pay for the convenience? What charge is made for the accommodation placed at the disposal of the press representatives within the Parliamentary buildings? If no charge has yet been imposed, will an investigation be conducted with a view to ascertaining the value of the general accommodation availed of in the building by the press ?
– I have not seen the statement referred to; but the Parliamentary refreshment room is a hardy annual with some newspapers. This matter is raised in connexion with almost every Parliament. Unfortunately, every Parliamentary refreshment room seems to be conducted at a. loss. Honorable members are, of course, painfully aware of the fact that they do not obtain their meals or other refreshment within the building free of charge. They are called upon to pay what are considered fair prices, having regard to the charges made elsewhere. The control of the Parliamentary diningroom is not in the hands of the Government, but is vested in the House Committee, which, for some time, I understand, has been exploring every possible avenue of economy. Already certain savings have been effected, and the committee is making other investigations with a view to making the service as economical as possible. Regarding the other part of the question, I do not know that any charge is made for the use of the press gallery.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received a report from the committee composed of representatives of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Development- and Migration Commission, and the dairying industry on the intensification of dairying? Some time ago the Minister promised that the report would be available about the middle of July. If it is not yet ready for presentation, when does the Minister expect to receive it?
– I have not seen the report; but, if it is to hand, I shall make it available to honorable members.
– Can the Prime Minister say when the sales tax will operate, and whether retailers will have to remit the amount of the tax monthly to the Federal Taxation Department or be responsible for it themselves to wholesalers and manufacturers ?
– I stated the other day that it is expected that the date inserted in the bill will be the 1st August. I hope to give ali the details that honorable members require when introducing the bill, which will probably be ready for presentation to Parliament early next week.
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to state whether, owing to the unfortunate disturbances that are occurring in Egypt, special steps are being taken to safeguard Imperial communications ?
– I have no information to communicate in regard to Egypt in addition to the statement that I made last Friday.
– I have received a number of telegrams, of which the following, from the town clerk of Lismore, is typical : -
Council strongly protests against falling of scrub on old rifle range. Urge you to take immediate steps to prevent same.
From other telegrams received I understand that the falling of this scrub has already been commenced by a lessee. It, is a . remarkably fine patch of natural timber, and I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence if it is possible to delay this action until such time as proper representations can be made to him?
– If the honorable member makes the telegrams available to me, I shall take the matter up with the department this afternoon.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether the Defence Department has purchased any of the Southampton class of super - marine plane; if so -
What was the cost of each machine;
Are these machines still in commission, and in serviceable condition;
If any are at presentout of commission, is it due to having suffered damage; and, if so, for how long has the machine been damaged, and what is the nature of such damage;
Have Australian aircraft manufacturers been given an opportunity to repair any damaged machines;
Has any overseas firm linen given a contract to repair any of these machines; if so, at what price; when was such contract entered into; what are the conditions and for what period does it operate;
Does the contract (if any) provide for penalties; if so, will they be enforced or the contract cancelled for non-compliance;
Was it a stipulation of the purchase of these machines that they were to be fitted with wooden wings to admit of repairsand replacements being done locally, if required?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The Premier of South Australia has submitted the following proposals: -
In submitting the foregoing proposals, the Premier stated that upon receipt of notification of approval, the, work would be put in hand pending remittance of the funds asked for. The Premier of South Australia has linen informed that the proposals are acceptable to the Commonwealth Government on the assumption that the expenditure involvedis an augmentation of that which would ordinarily have been incurred by the South AustralianGovernment, and that all labour engaged will be employed under conditions determined in accordance with the terms of industrial awards applicable to the class of labour concerned.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Sugar Prices- Exports
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– On the 21st July the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long) asked me the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: -
– On the 21st July the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
Consideration resumed from 22nd July (vide page 4453), on motion by Mr. Scullin -
That the first item in the Estimates for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, under Division1 - the Department of Defence - namely - “ Naval Establishments - machinery and plant,£ 1,500 “, be agreed to.
Upon which Mr. Latham had movedby way of amendment -
Thatthe item be reducedby £1.
.- This budget has created more interest, and has I think, been greeted with fiercer criticism than any other budget introduced in this Parliament since federation. Yesterday I listened to the exTreasurer, the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), dissecting the budget for 95 minutes. That was a goodperformance, more especially becauseonly the other day he had talked on the tariff for over 100 minutes. I appeal to him in future to give us his advice in spoonfuls, rather than in tubfuls. If he distributed physic tohis patients in the generous way in which he lavishes his wisdom upon us in this chamber, I can understand how it is that of late his activities have been confinedchiefly to politics.
It shas been said that the best method of defence is attack. This policy was adopted by the right honorable member for Cowper in his speech yesterday, and I propose to follow his example. He stated that the accession to office of the present Government made it impossible to borrow money overseas at reasonable rates. He gave a number of reasons in support of his statement, one of which was the Labour Government’s reduction of defence expenditure. He said that people overseas would regard this as a failure by Australia to pay its life insurance premiums. Another reason given was the allegedly oppressive tariff imposed by this Government. The Arbitration Bill, he said, had also damaged Australia’s credit. Then he went on to say that the Government’s proposal to establish a centralbank had contributed to our diffi culty in obtaining money, and he concluded his list by saying that the Government had abolished the gold standard.
In regard to the cut in defence expenditure, the right honorable member for Cowper cannot have it both ways. In one breath he pleads for economy and retrenchment, and in the next criticizes the Government because it is exercising economy. I question very much whether anything done by this Government in regard to defence influenced the money market in London in any way whatever. There may be some truth in his statement that the increases in our tariff affected the market to the extent of making it more difficult to obtain credits. It is possible of course that if the manufacturers of Great Britain become incensed about our tariff restrictions they would pull the strings with the British financiers and bring pressure to bear upon them in the hope of persuading this Government to change its attitude. I admit that I am not a wholehearted supporter of the tariff provisions that have recently been brought before this chamber. I have not the cheery optimism of the Assistant Minister (Mr.Forde), in regard to the beneficial effects that the increased tariff will have on unemployment in this country, although I believe that it will have some good effect.Theoretically freetrade is the policy that we should adopt. The ideal state is to produce under the most favorable circumstances, and to inaugurate a system of exchange between the peoples of the world. It is idle to expect such an ideal state to. be reached in a world that showed its insanity in the great war. Therefore, I am a tariff agnostic. I do not support the dogmatic affirmations of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and the honorable member forForrest (Mr. Prowse) in regard to freetrade; nor would I make any dogmatic assertions in favour of protection.
– The honorable member forForrest says that he is half protectionist and half freetrade.
– The honorable member forForrest may claim to be a “shandygaffer,” but I listened to him in the Melbourne Parliament House for six years and I have listened to him in this House, and if he is not a freetrader, I do not know what he is. I have signed the Labour party platform, which provides for New Protection. That is a good platform for a tariff agnostic, because New Protection, if properly carried out, is concerned, not only with the profits of the manufacturer and the wages of his employees, but also with the interests of the consumer. I know, of course, that some of my colleagues call me a “ freetectionist.” If that designation means the same thing us a tariff agnostic, I am prepared to accept it as applying to myself, shall consider each tariff item on its merits, but I am not prepared to support the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), who has stated that he is not prepared to vote for any vale of duty over 25 per cent.
– What about the primage tax on the requirements of the farmers ?
– X shall refer to that directly. The amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Wakefield is cunningly and politically designed, and I shall deal with it before I finish my remarks. The third reason advanced by the right honorable member for Cowper for the impossibility of obtaining money from Great Britain since this Government took office, was the introduction of the amending Arbitration Bill. Could any statement be more ridiculous than that ? Does any honorable member in this House really believe that the money-lenders and banking institutions of Great Britain would refuse to lend money to Australia simply because of the introduction of the Arbitration Bill in this chamber? The British financial institutions are not so foolish as that. They know the position of Australia fairly well. One cause of the industrial depression is the action of the previous Government in flooding this country with migrants, particularly southern Europeans. Our industrial position is such that no decision of the Arbitration Court could make much impression upon it.. We may be able to mitigate some of the circumstances; but the blame for our presentposition does not He with this Government or wholly with the Bruce-Page Government. When the conscription issue was before this country, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), then Prime Minister, brought a shipload of Maltese to this country, thus starting the campaign to make the supply of labour overtake the demand for it in Australia. With cunning and clever design the Nationalist party worked through the years, steadily flooding this country with people from overseas. At one time it bribed the electors to return it to office by granting the war gratuity. At another time it befooled the people on the Walsh and Johnson issue. While the people were being given this political dope, migrants were being steadily brought in. and at last the supply of labour has overtaken the demand. 1 marvel that the Bruce-Page Government, when everything was working so smoothly for it, in respect of the labour market, took the risk that it did in going to the country on the arbitration issue. It is ridiculous to say that the amending Arbitration Bill introduced by this Government has contributed to the difficulty of obtaining money overseas.
Another reason advanced for the existing loan position overseas is that this Government has attempted to interfere with banking by introducing a Central Reserve Bank Bill. I can quite understand a sort of free masonry or commercial relationship existing between the overseas banking institutions and those of this country. I can also understand that some pressure might be brought to bear on the financial institutions abroad. There may be something tangible in the. arguments advanced by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), but there is nothing in the Central Reserve Bank Bill that would prevent this Government from obtaining credit overseas.
The final reason given by the honorable member for the difficulty of obtaining money overseas was the elimination of the gold standard in Australia. I wonder if honorable members opposite will claim that the actions of the Bruce-Page Government had nothing to do with the necessity for doing away with the gold standard. If they are honest, they cannot make such ;i claim. They knew of the exchange position and in what direction the Government was working. The act mobilizing the gold resources was introduced largely on the advice of the Commonwealth bankers. Had the Bruce-Page Government been in office it would have been competed, in view of the exchange position, to introduce similar legislation.
The right honorable member for Cowper suggested that it was only since the accession of this Government to power that it had been impossible to obtain money overseas. Has he forgotten that in January, 1929, an attempt was made by the Commonwealth Government to float in Great Britain a loan, with an interest rate of 5 per cent., issued at £98, with a currency of 46 years, and that only 16 per cent, of the amount sought was taken up by the British public, the remainder of the loan having to be underwritten? The Bruce-Page Government was then in power, and there was not the slightest indication that there would be a change of government for at least a couple of years; yet the people of Great Britain were not prepared to subscribe fully to the loan. Do honorable members opposite think that financiers overseas have no inside knowledge of the position that exists in Australia? It is well known that they have. The reason that the public of Great Britain could not be induced to subscribe to that loan more largely was that even then the financial position of Australia was becoming well known. In the Sydney Morning Herald of tho 14th July last there appeared a very interesting article which had been supplied by its special representative in London under date the 12th July. Among other things, it said -
Interesting references are made to the mission-
That is, the mission to Australia of Sir Otto Niemeyer and those who are accompanying him - by the well-informed financial correspondent of tho Review of Reviews in the following issue, a proof of which was supplied to me.
This is what will appear in the Review of Reviews -
Although the plain truth is that Australia is not in a position to meet her obligations, her politicians and some of her writers foolishly assert that she will honour every obligation. The simple fact is that she can’ only honour them if somebody else lends her the money to honour them. That has been the case for the last ten years, in which she has not paid from current revenue a penny in interest on her overseas debt. She has bor- rowed all that she has paid, and £10,000,000 iu addition.
I ask honorable members to note thai the reference is to the last ten years. The paragraph may mislead if it is not read carefully. Sums have been paid from revenue account into the banks here for the payment of interest on our loans overseas. It is true, also, that a fair proportion of the total indebtedness of Australia cannot be charged to the Commonwealth Government ; the State Governments were partly responsible for it. But the point that I wish to make is that that inside knowledge of the actual position in Australia was in the possession of financial authorities overseas before the Labour Government came into power in this Parliament; and it was accentuated only slightly by the advent of that Government. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) may be playing the political game when he claims that money has not been obtainable overseas because of the accession of this Government to power, but that kind of argument does not commend itself to me.
Another reason for the difficulty of obtaining money overseas is that after this Government assumed office reports were sent overseas by the press, and through other sources, that were anything but helpful to either this country or the Government. To what extent they were inspired politically I cannot prove, but I hold certain views on the matter. If the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) continues to employ these tactics, we shall have to meet him at his own game. Shortly after this Government took office, the ex-Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, arrived in London. The prices of our bonds were then falling. I cannot say what efforts, if any, that gentleman made to arrest the downward trend; but if I were to follow the example that has been set by the right honorable member for Cowper, I could express certain views. As was done in the case of Queensland some years ago, an attempt, apparently, has been made to injure the credit of this country for the purpose of serving political ends.
Another statement of the right honorable member for Cowper was that the sales tax was imposed before the arrival in Australia of a certain gentleman from Canada. The right honorable member’s comment upon that was that this Government was “ going it blind “. I point out that legislation providing for the imposition, of a sales tax has not yet been presented to this Parliament, and the tax has not yet been imposed, although the gentleman referred to is now in Australia. There is nothing in the argument that it would not be possible to obtain information by other means than a personal interview. With a view to fortifying his argument that the retail price , level should be brought down, the right honorable member stated that when a sales tax of 1£ per cent, was imposed in Germany, the amount of the tax had increased to 15 per cent, by the time the commodity reached the consumer. In that respect, the right honorable member himself was either “ going it blind “, or misrepresenting the position. I shall quote from the article published by Professor Brigden, in the Sydney Morning Herald, of the 14th July last, to show what was the position in Germany. It read’s -
The .modern gales tax was started in Germany early in the war, and the example was followed by France, Belgium, Italy, and most European countries other than Scandinavia. It has .’never been contemplated in Great Britain. These emergency taxes were turnover taxes, requiring payments of from 1 per cent, to 2 per cent. of the value each time the goods changed hands. This feature is still characteristic of the European taxes.
Therefore, the right honorable member completely misrepresented the position. That was a turnover tax; and, possibly, from the time that the commodity left the manufacturer until it reached the consumer, it would pass through three, four, or five hands. By straining that point so as to bring the percentage up to 15 per cent., the right honorable member was either “ going it blind “ or doing something worse. The following statement appears in the same article: -
The Canadian appears to be much the best system in operation, largely because it avoids as far as possible the pyramiding of taxation through levies on each transfer of goods. This aspect is of the greatest importance, for a relatively small rate levied on each sale may become heavy taxation by the time the articles reach the ultimate consumers. For example, it was estimated by Professor Hirsch, formerly German Minister of Industry, that a tax of 1.5 per cent, on turnover increased retail prices from 10 to 15 per cent.
If the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) had not been “ going it blind “ he would not have made such a foolish statement.
I am dealing principally with the statements of the right honorable member because I think they should be refuted without delay. I expected a Minister to continue the debate, but as one did not rise, and as no other honorable member on this side of the committee rose, I felt it my duty to do so.
The right honorable member for Cowper also said that the Labour party’s first line of attack appeared to be to allege that the Bruce-Page Government was responsible for the fall in the prices of our wheat and wool. But he, and also the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) and, I think, the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) have frequently alleged that the tariff is the principal cause of unemployment in Australia. It is just as foolish to make that statement as it is to allege that the Bruce-Page Government caused the fall iu the prices of our commodities. I think the Leader of the Opposition said that last year because of the reduced prices of wheat and wool, Australia’s income had fallen by about £30,000,000 on those two items alone. The Treasurer’ stated the other day in his budget speech that our income would be reduced by between £50,000,000 and £60,000,000 through the continued fall in the prices of our products. In these circumstances I regret that any honorable member should, on the one hand, accuse the Bruce-Page Government of having caused the fall in prices and, on the other hand, assert that the tariff is the main cause of the unemployment that is so prevalent to-day. I deplore that such hypocritical statements should be made by honorable members on either side of the committee, for every intelligent honorable member must realize that the main cause of the depression is the serious fall in the prices of our exportable commodities.
– The whole speech of the Minister for Health (Mr. Anstey) yesterday afternoon was a condemnation of the administration of the previous Government.
– The Minister for Health blamed the previous Government ‘ for many things, and I .suppose that even the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) will agree that it should be blamed for some things.
– Not at all; I entirely disagree with the honorable member;
– The honorable member is merely showing his ineradicable political bias; but as hie was the secretary of a party political organization for so long I suppose it is natural for him to find difficulty in outgrowing his old associations, though I did expect that his meeting with honorable members of all parties in this Parliament and his recent elevation to the office of second mate of the Opposition ship, would clarify his mind to some extent.
The right honorable member for Cowper said that the Labour party had blamed the previous Government for extravagance. I certainly maintain that that charge is justified, and I repeat it without a qualm of conscience, for it can be supported with evidence from Nationalist supporters and the daily press. Why, even the Canberra Times published a double column headline this morning which read, “Dr. Page could save millions now, but not when in office.” I also call Sir Edward Lucas, of South Australia, as a witness in support of the charge. This gentleman is a true-blue Liberal. He was at one time AgentGeneral for South Australia in London, and has been a consistent supporter of the anti-Labour parties in South Australia for many years. In a letter which appeared over his name in the Adelaide Advertiser on the 16th July, I read the following paragraph: -
The Bruce-Page Administration, after six years of abounding revenue and squandermania, was defeated at the polls in November last, a fitting retribution on the most prodigal Government the British Empire has ever known, and it is sincerely to be hoped that neither of these politicians will ever again be permitted to hold office in Australia.
I have not heard any stronger language than that in condemnation of the extravagance of the Bruce-Page Government. Sir Edward considered it the most prodigally wasteful government the British Empire had ever known.
– The extravagance of that statement is the condemnation of it.
– Sir Edward Lucas is not, an extravagant man, but a citizen who is. held in high repute in South Australia. The letter, which savors of the candour with which Sir Edward sometimes criticizes even his own side in politics, proceeds as follows : -
I have examined the financial statements of the Commonwealth Statistician (Mr. Wickens) for the past four years, and have noted the abnormally increased annual cost of all departments of the Commonwealth Public Service. I have selected the following showing the increase in the four years ended 30th June, 1929.-
Those were four years of the Bruce-Page regime.
– Is that not the very best of reasons why the present Government should reduce expenditure ?
– The following figures, which are given in the letter, are surely most illuminating: -
[Quorum, formed.] In all tho circumstances I think I am justified in claiming that the previous Government was extraordinarily extravagant.
– That is an extravagant claim.
– It is nothing of the kind. The honorable member will recognize the source of the quotation “If these should hold their peace the stones would immediately cry out.” As a matter of fact, some of the stones are crying out. They are to be found in the foundations laid within a few hundred yards of this building at a cost of something like f 7 0,000. The previous Government must accept the sole responsibility for that serious waste of public money. The interest on the amount there lying idle at 6 per cent. is £4,200 per annum. When I interjected during the course of the speech of the right honorable member for Cowper, he said that Mr. Fisher chose the design for the Federal Capital, and that two Labour members, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) and the then honorable member for Dalley (Mr, Mahony) submitted the motions which made it necessary for the Seat of Government to be transferred to Canberra by a certain date. I believe that that statement is correct; but the right honorable member for Cowper had charge of the national purse at that time. Who can deny that there is clear evidence of extravagance in Canberra on every hand ? Take, for example, even the silverware in the hotels and refreshment rooms.
– Can the Treasurer of the Commonwealth be expected to go into such details as the silverware on the hotel tables ?
– Straws denote which way the wind blows. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), as a Scotchman, must recognize that there has been unnecessary extravagance. The right honorable member for Cowper said that the present Government had been in office for nine months, and the deficit, had increased. Did the present Ministry assume office with a good surplus? The Bruce-Page Government was in control of the affairs of the Commonwealth at a time of buoyant revenue, when the customs revenue was higher than at any pre vious time in our history; but it ended its term of office with a deficit of nearly £5,000,000. If that deficit has increased in the last nine months, the present Government cannot be held responsible for it. Would any sane person contend that the accumulated effects of six and a- half years of extravagant administration could be counteracted in nine months?
I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) upon his courage in avoiding vague generalities and making definite proposals in his criticism of the budget. He did what is not usually done by a leader or member of the Opposition ; he pointed out the directions in which he thought that savings could be made. I do not intend to congratulate him upon his recommendations, although 1 quite agree with him in certain points that he made. I am in accord with his suggestion that the salaries of Ministers and members should be reduced. If I adopted any other course, I should be acting inconsistently with the stand that I have taken previously. Never have I had cause to regret doing what I thought to be right. One of the reasons why .1 am in favour of this reduction is thai this Parliament is the taxing authority, and, at the present time, members should be willing to accept a reduction, as wageearners and those in receipt of a salary are compelled to do. The gesture made by the Leader of the Opposition should be backed up by honorable members.
– Does the honorable member think it was only a gesture?
– I shall give the Leader of the Opposition credit for the honesty of purpose which I claim for myself in this matter. We should be prepared to reduce our own salaries for the purpose of showing that the heavy additional taxation being imposed on the people is absolutely necessary. This would be an act of penance on the part of those members who came into this House prior to the last election. Parliaments in the past have been so extravagant that some of the blame for the present straitened condition of the finances must rest upon their shoulders. Those members should accept a reduction in their salaries as a graceful act of penance, knowing that governmental extravagance in times of plenty i.* responsible for the extra taxation now levied on the people. I cannot vote for the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, because it involves a reduction in the proposed expenditure for the services of the country of £4,000,000, and I am sent here to support the present Government. Although the Leader of the Opposition has merely moved for the reduction of the item by £1, his amendment is equivalent to a no-confidence motion. If an opportunity is offered me to vote directly for a reduction in the salaries of members, I shall avail myself of it.
I disagree with the Leader of the Opposition in his suggestion that a saving of £200,000 could be made in connexion with the maternity bonus. Does any honorable member imagine that one-third of the infants in this country arc born of parents in receipt of incomes of over £0 a week? The section of the community with such incomes does not embrace those who usually have the largest families. In saying that a saving of £200,000 could be effected, I believe that the Leader of the Opposition was indulging in pure guesswork. The late Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, made inquiries into this matter, but did not go on with the scheme.
– It was advocated in his last policy speech.
– If so, it was rejected by the people at the election. Many proposals appear in the policy speeches of governments that are not carried into effect.
I am not in favour of the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition to eliminate the grant of £1,000,000 to the States for the relief of unemployment. I do not agree with any honorable member who says that no obligation rests on this Parliament to deal with that problem. The proposal of the Government provides not doles, but work, and, since the money will be raised by means of taxation-
– Out of other men’s employment.
– Such are the circumstances in which Australia finds itself that any man in employment to-day should be prepared to help those who are Ieas favorably situated. Tt is true, J admit, that special taxation for the relief of unemployment is being imposed in some pf the States; but I do not think that £1,000,000 is too much for the Commonwealth Government to make available for the same purpose, especially when the whole of it is to be expended on useful works.
– Docs it not seem a farce that we should pay back to the States £1,000,000 after having first taken it out, of the pockets of the people in the States?
– It is true that Commonwealth and State taxation must come from the same set of taxpayers; but w. must remember that a very large propor-l ion of Commonwealth revenue is derived through the Customs Department, and, as such, is paid by the people as a whole. * Quorum formed.]* The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) suggested that economies might be effected by reducing bounties, and he mentioned the bounty on wine. He claimed that it could well be reduced from ls. 9d. to ls. 6d. I remind him that, whether the bounty is fixed at ls. 6d. or ls. 9d. a gallon, the revenue from excise is placed in a fund for the benefit of the industry, and special legislation would have to be introduced to interfere with the control of that fund.
– The honorable member means the additional excise revenue.
– That is so. I thank the honorable member for the correction. I was subject to some criticism in my own district because I supported the last increase in the excise duty on spirit used for fortifying wine. I am glad now that I did agree to it, because I am quite sure that had not the present arrangement for funding the extra revenue been made it would, in the present circumstances, have gone into general revenue. I am just a little bit anxious about the increase in bounties. If a bounty is granted which particularly benefits one’s own district, he feels somewhat mean if he declines to support the granting of a bounty for the benefit of some other district, even though to do so might be against his better judgment. However, there is comfort in remembering that each bounty may perhaps prevent further increases in unemployment, or even result in absorbing some of those already unemployed. Both the Leader of the Opposition and the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) pleaded for greater economy in government administration. I agree with them that economy is desirable, and I am sure that the Government is trying to practice it in some directions. From my knowledge of what has been taking place in caucus, I am certain of this, and I know that instructions have been given to practise economy wherever possible.
I believe that important economies could be effected in regard to the parliamentary refreshment room. I know that what I am about to say may not be popular, but I feel that it is necessary to say it. A question was asked to-day by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons), inspired evidently by newspaper statements to the effect that members of Parliament have been receiving their meals free. That is just as ridiculous as the very widely-held belief that members of Parliament do not pay income tax.
– The honorable member will have to pay more income tax now.
– Yes, and I will willingly pay it. I have never yet squirmed under any taxation which came my way. This is a grand country to live in. We have much to be thankful for, and it is only fair that weshould standup to our burdens, some of which are due to our own fault. As I have frequently said, as we sow, so shall we reap, and it is no use squealing, as too many people are inclined to do. When I was in Parliament before it was once stated, I remember, that a parliamentary refreshmentroom meal, for which a member paid 2s., actually cost the country 10s. Whether that is true or not, I know that it was said. I have tried to learn what the facts are regarding the present refreshment-room, and as far as I can discover, the amount paid for meals just about covers the cost of the food, but no more. As a matter of fact, I do not believe that the position is quite as good as that. It is obvious, therefore, that the cost of the service is a net loss. In the Estimates just published I notice that provision is made for a steward at £470 a year, an assistant steward at £360, a principal cook at £400, a head waiter at £305, three waiters at £280 each, or £840 altogether, three kitchen assistants, one at £320, one at £290, and one at £270, or £880 altogether, a pantryman at £270, two cleanersat £270, or a total of £540, and child endowment £78, making a total for service in the refreshment-room of £4,143. In addition to that, there is a “ grant in aid “ of £900.
This seems to be one direction in which economy could be effected. There is on one side of Parliament House the Hotel Kurrajong within half a mile, and on the other side the Hotel Canberra, which is even closer. A little further away is the Hotel Wellington. These three hotels are government owned, and nearly every honorable member of this House sleeps in one or other of them. Most honorable members have their breakfasts there also, and a staff has to be kept in the hotels sufficient to prepare and serve the breakfast. The other two meals many honorable members have, I understand, in this building. I maintain that, whatever justification therewas for running the refreshment-room in Melbourne, there is none here, and the department could well be done away with. There are cement paths leading from Parliament House to the hotels, past beautiful wattle groves. It would do honorable members good to walk backwards and forwards to their meals. The expenditure of £5,000 is not justified at the present time, especially when we remember that the hotels in the Territory are not paying. The Prime Minister said that the refreshment-room was not under executive control, but was under that of the House Committee. I appeal to honorable members to give serious consideration to my suggestion if the matter comes before them. Some honorable members may ask what about the bar ? Well, it would not hurt them to wait until they get to the hotels to have their drinks. I infer that if this substantial economy can be made in this one department it might also be possible to economize in other government departments also. Another objectionwhich may be raisedto my suggestion is that it is too far foraged members to walk backwards and forwards for meals to the hotels. My reply is that there is a free bus service of which they can avail themselves. There is nothing to he urged in favour of the retention of this department except the idea in the minds of some honorable members that they must be specially looked after. A great deal of food must be wasted in the refreshment-room, because those in charge never know how many’ will be in for meals.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) moved an amendment, the effect of which is that the primage duty shall not be levied on a number of commodities used by primary producers. This is a very good move for an honorable ‘ member who has only been eight months in the House; it shows that he is learning some of the political tricks.
– Does the honorable member suggest that it is only a trick?
– It is a political trick. I believe that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) is desirous of helping the primary producers in his electorate just as I am desirous of helping those in my electorate, but he knows that there is not the slightest chance of a reduction of 10s. in any particular item of the Estimates being agreed to by this committee.
– Will the honorable member support the amendment?
– No. The amendment, as framed, is equivalent to a wantofconfidence motion. There are many reasons for supporting a reduction in the tariff, not only on cornsacks, but also on petrol, particularly that used by the primary producers as a means of livelihood. But this Government is faced with a difficult job, and revenue has to be raised somewhere. The primary producers are exempted from the sales tax in respect of their products, but not in respect of what they consume. We have to take our gruel. The primage tax will be borne by every section in the community. It ill becomes the honorable member for Wakefield to say that there is no anxiety on this side of the chamber in respect of the position of the primary producers.
– There is some. anxiety; but it is not worth much.
– When the Wheat Bill was before this chamber, the honorable mem ber did his best to prevent it from being passed. The farmers in the electorate of Wakefield and other portions of South Australia will realize, when they sell their wheat at the low prices offering by the wheat merchants, how great was the anxiety pf the honorable member in respect of the primary producers on that occasion. This Government did try to assist the wheatfarmers by introducing legislation providing for the establishment of a wheat pool, and a guaranteed price for wheat. That was proposed in order to give the fanners some relief from tariff inflictions. Unfortunately for them, the Country party and the Nationalist party in the Senate refused to pass the bill.
I could suggest many other avenues of taxation and there are some which I regret are not being availed of. We are faced with a deficit for which this Government is not responsible. It is the accumulated deficit of the last Government. That deficit is now being funded. We cannot allow this country to drift as it has been drifting in past years. [Quorum, formed.] It is because of the previous Government’s extravagance in days of plenty, when the machinery of government was working easily and smoothly, that this Government is now faced with a serious deficit. Despite our heavy taxation, we should exploit every avenue of economy in an endeavour to raise moneys with which to balance, to some extent, the national ledger.
.- The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) took much credit to himself for having listened most attentively for aD hour and a half to the speech of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Page). He said that the right honorable gentleman had served up his facts, not in the small spoonfuls in which a medical man was supposed to give medicine to his patients, but in tubfuls. I have listened to the honorable member for some 75 minutes, and have not felt his speech to be too long. I pay the honorable member that compliment; but I suggest that if the facts made known by the right honorable member for Cowper could be said to be a “tubful”, then the honorable member’s arguments were sufficiently lengthy also to fill a very large receptacle.
In every budget speech there are several important features, and in this one there are two outstanding features. One is that our national income has been reduced by some £60,000,000. To use the exact words of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), it has been reduced somewhere between £50,000,000 and £70,000,000. The other feature is that our expenditure is to be increased by over £4,000,000 above the amount expended during the last complete year of the Bruce-Page Government. Instead of this Government making an effort to live within its means, and to make its expenditure conform with the straitened circumstances of the nation, it proposes to impose taxation, in the aggregate, at least £4,000,000 more than the expenditure of the Bruce-Page administration during the year 1928-29. That is the best reply to the charges, groundless in most instances, of extravagance in regard to the financial administration of that Government.We had a much larger national income, and yet we spent at least £4,000,000 less in our last year than is now proposed to be expended by this Government. The last election was won not merely on the arbitration issue. There were, at least, three other important factors. One was the bold attempt of the former Government to face squarely and fairly the economic situation. We could see that difficulties were ahead of us, and we tried to face them. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) read a part of a letter written by Sir Edward Lucas, in which that gentleman condemned the former Government because, after examining certain figures of the Commonwealth Statistician, he blamed the Government for the steady increase that was talcing place in the cost of the Public Service. The honorable member read that letter with a good deal of gusto and a certain amount of enjoyment, but I remind him that the Bruce-Page Government realized that this increase in cost was taking place at a pace with which the country could not contend, and that before long, if that increase were permitted to continue, this country might be brought to insolvency. We tried to face the position. We realized that most of these additional costs in the Public Service were brought about through the instrumentality of the Public Service Arbitrator. Therefore, just before we went to the country, we introduced’ a bill to abolish the position of Public Service Arbitrator, because his term of office was expiring, and to deal with the Public Service in a simpler and better way. The honorable member did not assist us in that endeavour to economize. He condemns us now because ofthe increases that took place during the administration of the Public Service Arbitrator. He went before the people and said that he. for one, would maintain the Public Service Arbitrator, and the situation as it existed at that time. He would not do anything to stem the tide of extravagance, as he called it, in the Public Service. Yet with other members of his party he did not scruple to condemn the courageous but unpopular stand which the former Government took to stem the tide of growing costs, and used the situation as a means of gaining the treasury benches. Recently, the Prime Minister said, in reply to a question, that he would not do anything in the direction of rationing the Public Service. He said that that was impossible because there was not one surplus man in the Service. Yet the honorable member blames the Bruce-Page Government because the Public Service was too expensive. By doing so, he suggests that it must have been over-manned. It is difficult to believe that there is much sincerity in the charges that the honorable member has made against the BrucePage Government. We endeavoured courageously to face the position, and. because of the unpopularity of our action, we now occupy the Opposition benches. In addition, the former Government proposed to lighten the burden of taxation on industry generally by extracting a reasonable share of our revenue from the big capitalists in the amusement world. But those gentlemen poured out money like water in order to protect their pockets. They found most willing tools in the members of the Labour party. Honorable members supporting the Government then showed themselves to he the real friends of the capitalists. Another factor at the last election was the persistent mis representation of the Bruce-Page Government as an extravagant Government which squandered its surpluses most riotously, turned surpluses into deficits, borrowed recklessly, and enormously increased the national debt. Honorable members opposite made those reckless assertions, and unfortunately a sufficiently large number of people were gullible enough to accept them. The Labour party gained the treasury bench largely as a result of that misrepresentation.
The Minister for Health (Mr. Anstey) yesterday, and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) to-day repeated these charges that the former Government was guilty of extravagance. Let me deal with the financial administration of that Government, and contrast it with what is being done to-day. Among the many references to the Bruce-Page Ministry made by the Minister foi- Health, the one most nearly correct was that the Bruce-Page Government held office for eight years. In that particular statement the honorable gentleman was only 20 per cent, astray, because that Government held office for less than seven years. During that period it had five surpluses, totalling £17,500,000, and two deficits, totalling about £5,000,000. It applied £7,500,000 of that £17,500,000 to the redemption of our national debt, and thus reduced the debt by an amount greater than the total of the two deficits. That was in addition to the ordinary sinking fund payments that were made every year for the extinction of the debt. I may mention that, by that action, the Bruce-Page Govern.men reduced its interest payments by £400,000 a year, which sum is being saved by the present Government, and will be saved for many years to come by succeeding governments. Of the remaining £10,000,000, the last Government expended £7,000,000 on the purchase of two modern 10,000 ton cruisers and an aeroplane carrier. Some honorable members who now sit opposite argued at the time that the whole of that money should have been spent in Australia.
– Hear, hear!
– I point out to the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), that if that course had been followed, Australia would have had only one instead of two cruisers, because the cost of one in Australia would have equalled the price paid for the two. The expenditure of that £7,000,000 was in the nature of an insurance against the possibility of attack, and its wisdom cannot be challenged. That leaves £3,000,000 of the surpluses still to be accounted for; and of that amount £1,250,000 was expended. on roads. That was prior to the agreement with the States, under which the Commonwealth Government collected an additional tax on petrol, and paid it to the States at the rate of £2,000,000 a year. Will any honorable member say that that money was not wisely spent ? Then, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was given £600,000. The Prime Minister himself, during the life of the present Government, has referred on more than one occasion to the splendid work that has been done by that council. One of its biggest successes was achieved when it combated the spread of prickly pear in Queensland ; and there are numerous other researches and investigations that have been and are being made. An amount of £500,000 was made available to assist in the marketing of primary products overseas. The present Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney), knows how advantageous it is to have a fund for that purpose. A substantial proportion of that sum has been and is being used to advertise Australian products in Great Britain, the Government subsidizing the advertising expenditure of certain organized exporting industries on a £ for £ basis. Some of it was used to provide an export bounty for the canned fruits industry, and other industries that were in extreme difficulties. Prospecting for oil and precious metals was aided to the extent of £220,000; and £250,000 was provided for air force equipment, iD addition to £200,000 for civil aviation. The balance of £100,000 was expended in the purchase of radium for the cure of cancer. Will any honorable member say that that, money was not wisely spent?
Now let us examine the reckless charges that have been made in regard to borrowing. The statement has been made from many platforms, and it is still being made when people can be found credulous enough to accept it, that the former
Government was most reckless in its borrowing, and that the present Government is having difficulty in clearing up the resultant mess. Honorable members opposite have stated freely and quite- truthfully throughout Australia that during its regime the Bruce-Page Government raised loans for public works totalling £58,000,000; but they have not mentioned the fact that ‘during that period the dead-weight war debt was decreased by £45,000,000. The BrucePage Government changed the character of the debt, with the result, that for a small increase of our loan indebtedness amounting to £12,750,000 we have £58,000,000 worth more assets, £40,000,000 of which are already definitely reproductive. Some of the works upon which loan money was expended are not wholly reproductive; such, for example, as the North Australia railway, the Central Australia railway, and the river Murray works. But, broadly speaking, that £58,000/000 was spent on works that are capable of returning interest and sinking fund payments. The larger part of it was absorbed in postal works; with the result that, employing the language used by the Treasurer in his budget speech, Australia has risen to the position of being fifth among the nations of the world in the density of her telephone development per head of population. The money so spent is returning not only interest, but sinking fund payments, the latter being at the rate of lj per cent., which is three times as great as the normal sinking fund payment in connexion -with other Commonwealth works.
– The expenditure should have been defrayed out of revenue.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about. If he were to give effect to that idea, it would only be in years when the Treasurer obtained a surplus that money could be provided for the extension of postal and telephone facilities, while in years such as the present, when there is a deficit, progress would be arrested absolutely. His suggestion is absolutely absurd. Construction can be carried on over a period of years only out of loan money, and it must be so conducted that it will return both interest and sinking fund payments. As regards the post office this is being done.
A good deal of the loan money raised by the last Government was spent or war service homes. [Quorum formed.] Will any honorable member suggest that that was not wise loan expenditure? When I handed over the War Service Homes Department, which I had the honour to administer for a brief period before the defeat of the last Government, payments of interest and capital were less than 1 per cent, in arrear. That was perfectly sound. If we inquire how the money was spent on railways, we shall see that, although the two lines which I have already mentioned are relatively unproductive, the South Brisbane to Kyogle line, on which about £4,000,000 of Commonwealth money was spent, and which is part of a huge unification of gauges move, is likely to become the second most important line in Australia. The most important is the Sydney-Melbourne line.
– The opening of the South Brisbane to Kyogle line will result in heavier losses on the existing line.
– That may be so, but it will save between six and seven hours of travelling time between Sydney and Brisbane, and obviate the haulage of freight to an elevation of 4,800 feet. The highest point which will be reached on the new line is about 800 feet, at the tunnel, near the border. This must result in enormous economic savings of both time and haulage.
I mention these facts to show that, while there has undoubtedly been a certain amount of loan money spent in works which will not be immediately reproductive, such as certain railways and undertakings in the Federal Capital Territory and so forth, the previous Government was responsible for an increase in the Commonwealth national .debt of only about £12,750,000 during its regime, while it increased the value of the genuinely reproductive assets to the country by at least £40,000,000. It changed the whole character of the debt from an unproductive to a reproductive debt, and left the loan position far better than it found it. That cannot be gainsaid. Although a good deal may be said in a general way in criticism of the previous Government’s financial policy, a study of the facts will, in every case, ‘show that the criticism is unsound
– No doubt the South Brisbane to Kyogle line will help to develop Queensland.
– It will hell) to develop some of the richest country in Australia, in the north coast district of New South Wales, the settlers in which have hitherto had inadequate facilities for reaching the Queensland capital.
Australia has undoubtedly been overborrowing, but we should be careful tolay the blame for this upon the party responsible for it, and that party is not the Commonwealth Government. The loan bill of Australia has - increased during the last seven year’s by about £220,000,000; but the Commonwealth bill has increased by only about £12,750,000, while the bill of the States has increased by more than £207,000,000. Those facts speak for themselves.
In 1923 the Bruce-Page Government, almost at the inception of its career of so-called financial recklessness, took steps to provide for the steady redemption of all Commonwealth loans. For this purpose a compulsory sinking fund was established of 10s. per cent., which, with compound interest, will redeem all loans in fifty years. Because of the passing of this legislation all present and future Treasurers will be obliged, irrespective of the impecuniosity of the Treasury, to contribute 10s. per cent, to the sinking fund in respect of all loans. The sinking fund has been .placed under non-political control, the board consisting of the Chief Justice of the Commonwealth, the ‘ Commonwealth SolicitorGeneral, and the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. The fund is tied up as safely as a fund can be tied up.
The next step that this so-called reckless Government took to improve the financial position was to prevent, so far as possible, competitive borrowing by the States. With this end in view, the Loan Council was formed. At first it was a purely voluntary body, without any statutory authority; but under the chairmanship of the right honorable member for Cowper it gradually began to function more like an Australian body than like a council of State Treasurers, who were, practically free agents. Yet, , even though it lacked cohesion in some respects, in those days it did excellent work until the then Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Lang, broke away from it. That honorable gentleman wished to borrow as much as he liked, anywhere he liked, paying any .rate of interest that was demanded. He pursued that policy, not only to the detriment of his own State, hut to the detriment of all the States and of the Commonwealth itself. But, in 1928, the then Treasurer, the right honorable member for Cowper was able, after many fruitless attempts, to reach a solution, of the difficulties which confronted the Loan Council. An agreement was made with all the States, under which the council was to be clothed with statutory powers, and given constitutional authority. Previously its value was destroyed, to a large extent, if there was, so to speak, one “ jib “ in the team ; but now that the agreement has been made with the States, and the council has been given constitutional power by means of a referendum of the people of Australia,, the non-co-operation of a single member is not serious, for he is bereft of the power which he formerly had to work havoc in the realm of Australian finance. As the result of these successful negotiations, binding agreements were made with the States regarding future borrowing, and past and future debt redemption. These agreements were made with the unanimous consent of all the States, and can only be terminated by their unanimous consent. The result is that all future borrowing by the Commonwealth and the States must be done through the medium, and with theauthority, of the Loan Council. The council will have the right to scrutinize the loan programmes of the States, and this will undoubtedly place a salutary check upon any State carrying its loan programme too far. The formula which was agreed upon lias set a definite limit upon the borrowing appetite of succeeding Treasurers, who ‘will now only be able to borrow in accordance with real needs. To put it in a nutshell, the financial agreement clothed the Loan Council with constitutional authority, made compulsory the submission of all loan programmes to the council, and obliged all the States to make adequate sinking fund provisions for all loans past and future. The Commonwealth had already put its house in order in this connexion, for in 1923 the Bruce-Page Government introduced a bill, which Parliament passed,which provided for sinking fund contributions of 10s. per cent, to be made in respect of all Commonwealth loans. The financial agreement made a similar provision necessary by all the States. In addition to that, the Commonwealth Government accepted responsibility for the existing State debts, which amounted to about £725,000,000 at that time. Under the provisions of the agreement, it pays as its share of interest in respect of these debts an amount equal to the sum that was at that time paid to the States on the per capita basis. This was equivalent to about 1 per cent, on the whole of the State debts. In addition to that, the Commonwealth agreed to assist the States to provide a sinking fund for the extinction of their own debts. Foi this purpose it was arranged that a sinking fund of 7s. 6d. per cent, should be established in respect of all debts in existence prior to the making of the agreement, and towards that amount the Commonwealth pays 2s. 6d. per cent., and the States the other 5s. per cent. On this basis loans are paid off at the end of 58 years. On all loans raised subsequently by the States under the aegis of the Loan Council the sinking fund provision of the States must be 10s. per cent., which is the amount which the Commonwealth provides in respect of its own loans. Of that amount the Commonwealth provides 5s. per cent., and the States 5s. per cent. I submit that the previous Government showed rare qualities of statesmanship in carrying the negotiations for this agreement to a successful issue. Whatever may be said by little men who are blinded by political or personal prejudice, or both, I am sure that the historian of the future, when he is dealing with the first 30 years of federation in Australia, and examining the vents of that period dispassionately, and in proper perspective, will have no hesitation in declaring that the financial policy of the Bruce-Page Government, as disclosed by the making of this agreement, was. perhaps the greatest achieve- ment in the realm of finance in that period. While the making of these payments to sinking funds may cause some hardship, particularly in times like the present, it will steadily reduce the debt burden which Australia is carrying, nearly one-third of which is due to the war.
It may surprise some people who do not look into these facts - and I am dealing with facts which cannot be refutedthat during the last two years of the Bruce-Page’ regime, when deficits amounting to £5,000,000, of which we have heard so much, were shown in our accounts, no less than £11,000,000 was paid into sinking funds. This sum was provided by the 10s. per cent, sinking fund contributions to which I have referred, and also by the ear-marking of a certain proportion of the profits of the Commonwealth Bank, and the allocation of money received in German reparation payments for this purpose. If the previous Government had not taken this action, it could have shown a considerable surplus in its annual statement of receipts and. expenditure. Any one who in the face of these facts condemns the Bruce-Page financial administration shows himself to be actuated by either ignorance or prejudice, or possibly both.
Let us now examine the financial proposals of the present Government, and contrast them with the actions of the previous Government. Great credit was given to the Government by the Treasurer, in his budget speech, and by the Minister for Health (Mr. Anstey), in the speech which he delivered yesterday, because it had reduced our loan expenditure for the coming year to just over £4,000,000. But that seems to me to be comparable with giving a man credit for remaining sober when it was only possible for him to get drink in small medicinal doses. The Government should not take so much credit for its financial sobriety at a time when it can get loan money only in thimblefuls, so to speak. If it could get away from this position I believe that it would rapidly do so. The brightest spot in the budget, in connexion with our loan liabilities at any rate, is the sinking fund provision for which the previous Government was responsible.
Turning to the revenue proposals, we find evidence of many additional turns to the tariff screw. A tariff schedule has been brought down about every month. Whatever might have been the sins of former governments in not giving facilities for the discussion of individual tariff items for a considerable time after the imposition of the duties, I think that all records have been well eclipsed by the present Government, which brought down tariff schedules in 1929, and now suggests that they should be discussed in 1931.’ L think that this Government has gone further in that respect than any other Commonwealth Ministry. We find that, in all, a cool £12,500,000 of additional taxation is being imposed this year. The primage duties and other tariff increases will amount to £5,500,000, and the sales tax to £5,000,000. In round figures, another £1,000,000 is to be raised by means of increased postal rates, and a similar sum is to be obtained by additional income taxation, and this at a time when our national income, to quote the Prime Minister himself, is from £50,000,000 to £70,000,000 below what it was a couple of years ago.
I quite recognize the weight of the arguments put forward by the Prime Minister that it is extraordinarily difficult to reduce national expenditure, because much of our annual disbursements is due to statutory obligations, such as interest, and payments for the redemption of war debts, war pensions, and invalid and old-age pensions. The pensions bill continues to grow at a pace which makes one who is at all concerned about the financial position of his country, wonder whether we are not approaching a point where the load will be so heavy that it will be beyond our capacity to bear. I realize these difficulties; but I think that the present Government seems to forget that it is necessary for it to cut its coat according to its cloth, as the ordinary citizen must do. A working man in receipt of £5 a week may, one week, have a family of three, and the next week his family may be increased to four. Although his financial responsibilities are increased, he. still has to carry on with. £5 a week or, in these times, perhaps a lower wage than before, and this means that he must curtail his expenditure. It seems to me that the time has come for the Government to make an effort to live within its reduced income rather than impose additional taxation for the purpose of spending at a higher rate than was considered necessary when times were prosperous.
I am prepared to support a reduction of the emoluments of members. This is being done by most State Governments, irrespective of the parties to which they belong: In some of the States, voluntary movements have been made in this direction. In South Australia, for example, the school teachers have voluntarily offered to forgo 10 per cent, of their salaries, because they realize how critical is the financial position of that State. Generally speaking, arbitration awards are being lowered; economic laws have made that course inevitable. Should honorable members in this Parliament be the last to make a sacrifice until the financial position improves?
I do not propose to go over the ground traversed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) ; but there are a few other points concerning the budget to which I propose to refer. Take postal expenditure. The Minister for Health (Mr. Anstey) said yesterday that a very large increase was necessary in that department because of the larger payments required to meet interest and sinking fund payments on loan moneys expended on postal works. That is true; but the difference between that expenditure on the Postal Department this year and in 1928-29 is over £900,000. I do not think that the Government is taking sufficiently into consideration the fact that there must bra drop in the volume of postal and telephone business, owing, in the first place, to the increase in the postage rate from lid. to 2d., and, secondly, to the fact that there are fewer telephones in use, because many people cannot afford them. These facts should make it possible to carry on the Postal Department on a more economic scale than in the past. Surely some compensating economies could be effected against the additional interest, and sinkin’g fund burden “mentioned bv the Minister yesterday.
The granting of £1,000,000 to the States for the relief of unemployment will simply cause further duplication and overlapping of governmental activities. The Prime Minister himself has said that he regards the relief of unemployment as a responsibility of the States, and the States are accepting that responsibility. In Victoria, legislation has been passed under which additional taxation will be imposed on wage-earners, and those who are in receipt of incomes, in order to build up a large unemployment relief fund. Similar action has been taken in New South Wales, and I believe also in Queensland. Therefore, I am opposed to this payment to the States. I do not agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that the £2,000,000 due to the States annually under the roads agreement should be reduced to £500,000. I am not in favour of that method of saving; it would create additional unemployment at a time when we need to have as many avenues of employment as possible, and, if this reduction were made, we should be in honour bound to cease collecting the special petrol duty of 2d. per gallon which was imposed for the specific purpose of the road grant. We told the people - I, at any rate, stated on many platforms - that the Bruce-Page Government would impose an additional duty of 2d. per gallon on petrol to enable it to pay to the States £2,000,000 a year for ten years for the construction of roads. We said that the road users would be amply repaid for that tax, because they would have improved road surfaces, which would cause less wear on motor tires and give them a better mileage from their petrol. If this payment were cut out we should be under a moral obligation to cease collecting this tax. I do not suggest for a moment that I regard a tax collected from a particular body of individuals as necessarily having to be used exclusively in their interests; but in this instance we gave an undertaking that the money collected would be spent for a specific purpose. I do not think that anybody could justify a tax of 7d. per gallon on petrol alone, unless a portion of it were used for the improvement of roads. It would have to be reduced even from that point of view, apart from the promises made in the past. A tax of 7d. per gallon amounts to about 100 per cent, of the f .o.b. value of the petrol. The late Government taxed petrol to the extent of 3d. per gallon) of which only about id. went into the Consolidated Revenue ; the other 2Jd. was used to provide the; £2,000,000 paid annually to the States for roads. The importation of petrol has grown tb-day to such an extent that a tax of 2d. per gallon is sufficient to provide the annual grant of £2,000,000 for roads. Consequently, this Government is putting into the Treasury, purely for revenue purposes, at least 5d. per gallon, or ten times as much - tax as was imposed for revenue purposes by the late Government. That is a tremendous impost on a necessary form of transportation. More harm than good would be done by eliminating this payment to the States at the present time, and, therefore, I am opposed to the suggestion.
Of the primage tax and the sales tax, it is difficult to say which is the worse - both will add to the cost of production and to the cost of living, and reduce the purchasing power of wages. We have heard a great deal from honorable members opposite about their determination to maintain existing standards of wages; but what they permit to go into one pocket they take out of another by means of taxation of this character, which must add tremendously to the cost of living. Probably the primage tax is the more undesirable of the two, because it is further removed from the consumers than the sales tax, which, I understand, is to be imposed on the wholesaler .who finally sells goods to the retailer. That being so, there will not be so many hands for the goods to pass through after they have been sold, as in the case of the primage tax, which is likely to grow to a greater extent between the time when it is imposed and when the goods reach the consumers.
I listened with interest to the speech of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker). His survey of the effects of the primage tax was, in my opinion, admirable. He classified into four groups the commodities on which the tax will be levied. . He dealt with luxuries, the tax on which he said would be no hardship. The second class of goods mentioned he described as conventional necessaries, that is, things which have been regarded as necessaries because of convention, but which are not essential for the maintenance of the health of the people. He said that no great harm would arise from a primage tax on conventional necessaries; but he went on to show that there were two other classes of necessaries in regard to which the tax might do great harm. He pointed out that the use of certain commodities, such as fertilizers, should be encouraged to even a greater extent than to-day. He showed that it was thegreatest possible folly to tax goods such as those, and I quite agree with him. It is almost incredibly stupid to tax raw materials and articles that are absolutely essential in a country that must live by exportation. I would have given even this Government credit for more sense than to bring down such a. proposition. Regardless of party, it should be a fixed tenet of the political religion of every honorable member that export industries should be kept free from every burden it is possible to save them from. A primage duty on such things as phosphate rock, cornsacks and raw material, such as tin plate, for example, is one of the most preposterous proposals that could be brought down by any government. I propose, at an appropriate time, to move that tin plate be removed from the list of articles upon which primage duty shall be paid.
The canned fruits industry, which is finding it very difficult to carry on even under present conditions, will be hard hit by the new taxes. It has a substantial export trade, but it will suffer as a result of both the primage duty and the sales tax. For some obscure reason the sales tax is to be levied on canned fruits, although dried fruits and milk products will escape. I cannot understand why this should be, in view of the fact that the two constituents of canned fruits, sugar and fruit, are both exempt from the sales tax; though once they are brought together in a can they are to be subject to it. This industry will be hit by the primage duty also, because the duty will have to be paid on tin plate used for the manufacture of containers, many of which will be exported again. I wish to enter an emphatic protest on behalf of the canned fruits industry against both these impositions.
Only a year ago honorable members now on the Government side of the House blamed the Bruce-Page Government for collecting too much revenue by indirect taxation. They fulminated against us because so much revenue was collected through the Customs Department, which, they said, threw the burden on to the workers. They declared that a larger proportion of taxation should he collected by direct taxation from those who were most able to bear it, but that under the system of indirect taxation the burden fell chiefly on the poorer people, and particularly on families in which there were most mouths to feed. Such families^ it was claimed, should be exempt from taxation as far as possible. Yet this Government is doing in an immeasurably greater degree what honorable members opposite- blamed the last Government for doing. Of the. £12,500,000 extra taxation which has been imposed this year, and of the £3,500,000 imposed last year- £16,000,000 in allonly £2,000,000 is to be derived from income taxation, while £14,000,000 represents taxation which will directly affect those people whom honorable members opposite claim solely to represent. The increases in the tariff, the primage duty and the sales tax will all be felt by the workers, and particularly by those workers with large families. That is one reason, among others, why these proposals should be condemned by every honorable member, regardless of what side of the House he sits on. I shall support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that the first item of the Estimates be reduced by £1. I do not agree with everything the honorable member said with respect to various items, and I have already mentioned some matters regarding which I do not see eye to eye with him. However, I am sufficiently in agreement with him to be able to support his amendment.
– Every budget introduced seems to be given a nickname. I suppose some people would call this the “ Theodore-Scullin Budget”, but I think that it would be more properly described as “ Page’s Political Palsy Purge “. There is no’ doubt that had the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) stayed in office much longer, the palsy which lie had induced in the body politic would have led to paralysis.
– What is the difference between palsy and paralysis?
– One is temporary, the other permanent. Now he is out of office, and the action; of the present Government in attempting to pay the debts- and clean up the mess he left behind is causing much consternation among honorable members opposite. There is no doubt that this is a very drastic and most unacceptable budget. Nobody wants it, but it is the only way in which we can pay our debt in an honest fashion. Those who remember the extravagance, loan mongering and inefficiency of the last Government will admit that this budget, disagreeable as it. is, represents an’ honest attempt to remedy the evils left behind by the BrucePage Administration. In this connexion I recall a story appropriate to the attitude of- the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Page) towards the budget. A nian was once tried at the Melbourne General Sessions on a charge of stealing a pair of trousers. He was defended by a very able barrister, who, when addressing the jury, besought them to reason together on the case. He quoted several texts from scripture, and appealed to the Scotch members of the jury in a Scotch accent. He drew a harrowing picture of the accused’s children being left without a bread-winner if he were convicted and imprisoned, and pointed out that their plight would be rendered all tho more pitiful by the fact that it was nearing Christmas time. The jury listened to his pleading, and returned a verdict of not guilty. He was discharged by the judge, but did not leave the dock. It was tho last case of the day, and those in court wondered why he remained. His barrister approached him and asked him whether he did not realize that he had been acquitted and discharged. “ The jury found you not guilty “, he said “ You may go “. The man asked anxiously, “Is the judge leaving?” and was informed that the judge would leave presently. “ Will the jury go too ?” h* asked. “ Yes “, replied his counsel. “ Why are you anxious that the judge and jury should leave before you do?” “ As a matter of fact “, said the man “ J have got the trousers on !” It ill becomes the right honorable member for Cowper to accuse this Government of extravagance. In reply to such charges it is only necessary for us to point to the extravagances of the last Government, and to remind the right honorable member every time he condemns this Ministry or this budget that he “has the trousers on”: When the lasGovernment came into office it found in the Treasury an accumulated surplus of £7,428,594. At the end of 1927-28 ithad a deficit of £5,450,237. In the 192!> budget it alleged that the deficit was £2,358,795, but the Auditor-General said that the accounts were faked, and that the real deficit was £4,927,000. That was one legacy left us by the last Government. The Melbourne Stock Exchange is a fairly reliable financial barometer, and the prices of Commonwealth stock quoted on the exchange during 1929 and 1930 make an interesting comparison. According to the Australian Finance Bulletin No. 20, the average price of Commonwealth stock up to October, 1929. which was the last year of the BrucePage regime, declined by £1 14s. 10d., while during the following two months, when the Scullin Governmnent was in office, it declined by only £1 10s. lid.
Most of the ex-Ministers on the other side of the House have urged the Government to effect economies; but I wish to quote one or two examples of the extravagance and inefficiency practised by the Government which they supported. In 1922 there was passed through this Hou9e a measure called the Military Officers’ Retirement Act, the purpose of which, as I was informed in reply to a question, addressed to the Minister for Defence was to promote efficiency and economy in the Public Service, and particularly in the Defence Department. I also asked whether it was a fact that shortly after the bill was assented to, the offices of Adjutant-General and QuartermasterGeneral were held jointly by one officer, and whether they had again been divided. I learned that these two officers were held jointly during 1922, 1923, and 1924 by a person who received a salary of £1,050. In 1925 they were again separated, and an Adjutant-General was appointed at a salaryof £1,150 and a Quartermaster-General at a salary of £1,100, an increase of £1,200. In 1922, 303 officers were employed after the retirements, their salaries aggregating £139,481. In 1929. the number had increased to 352, and their annual salaries amounted to £181,700. Thus we find that, £349,860 having been paid to retire certain officers in the interests of efficiency and economy, this extravagant Bruce-Page Government very shortly afterwards expanded the number of military officers in employment by 49 and the salaries by £42,000. Is not that an example of gross extravagance? We are told that this greatly increased debt was brought about by reproductive loans. When we find that, after applying sinking funds amounting to £26,000,000 towards paying off our loan indebtedness, we Still have increased our debt by £12,000,000, weare told that the money was spent in reproductive works, mostly in the post office. What are the figures relating to the post office? In 1924-25 there was a deficit of £242,322 ; in 1925-26, a deficit of £285,337; in 1927- 28, a deficit of £230,663; and, in 1928- 29, a surplus of £56,524. [Quorum formed.] The honorable member for Gippsland said this afternoon that the national debt had been largely reduced in consequence of the action of the late Government. We find that, although that Government, during the period from 1923 to 1929, received £26,307,982 by way of reparations, profits from the Commonwealth Bank, repayments for war service homos, and sinking fund, the increase in the debt was £12,000,000. In all, £38,000,000 in addition to revenue was expended during that period. Then I find, from a statement made to-day by Mr. Nettlefold, of Melbourne, that, since 1923, there have been twenty federal royal commissions appointed, at a cost of £107,500. Recently an. economic section of the League of Nations investigated the capital movements and interest payments of the various countries during the last five years. The figures available for 1928 show that the majority of the countries are debtors, and that those who have the largest interest payments are India, the Dutch East Indies, the Argentine, Australia, Germany, and Canada. Canada, although owing more than any other country, has been steadily reducing her indebtedness since 1923. The average net interest payments per head of population, illustrating the burden of interest charges for three years, show that Australia, which had 25.5 dollars per head debt in 1926, increased it in 1927 to 26 dollars per head, and in 1928 to 27.5 dollars per head. At the same time Canada, South Africa, and even the United Kingdom, with its burden of unemployment, reduced their debts. Australia was the only dominion of the British Commonwealth of Nations which increased its debt during that period. Marked improvements of capital occured in 1927-28 in the other dominions. In respect of the net outflow and inflow of capital, the figures for Australia, which cover the funded public debt only for the years ended 30th June, reflect the increase in Government borrowing in the two years mentioned. As a matter of fact, the figures show that we received an inflow of capital of 29.9 dollars per head in 1926, 9.2 dollars per head in 1927, and 42.7 dollars per head in 1928, while Canada, South Africa, and the United Kingdom greatly reduced their burdens.
Recently the Lord Mayor of Melbourne called what he said was a non-party meeting to protest against the budget, and it is just as well to note that only Nationalists were asked to speak at that meeting. Among the speakers were two defeated Nationalist candidates for this Parliament.
– The honorable member was in that position for a long time.
– That is nothing to be ashamed of. It was the country’s loss.
Mr.Gullett. - Then why make a point of it?
– I am showing the party nature of the meeting, not emphasizing the misfortune of defeat. The Argus report of the meeting states : “The commercial community was fully represented; not one seat in the hall was empty.” On the day that this report appeared, the Sun Pictorial published a photograph of the meeting. The camera cannot lie. Although the Argus, which publishes more lies and distortions than any other newspaper in the Commonwealth, says that not one seat in the hall was empty, yet according to the photograph in the Sun Pictorial at least half of the seats in the gallery were vacant.
– A number of seats in the body of the hall were empty.
– One of the speakers at that meeting approved of the primage duty, yet the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) attacked that duty. The meeting passed a resolution affirming the necessity for balancing the budget. The need for that is accepted by us. A joint committee was formed of primary producers, financiers, and business men, and it recommended a reduction in salaries. It was admitted at the meeting by Mr. ; Rodgers that the trouble was that Mr. Bruce did not face the facts. Then Mr. Greenwood, said that the voice was, the voice of Jacob, but the hand. was. the .hand of Esau. That remark was greeted with, great laughter., Whether Mr. Greenwood meant that the voice. -was. (tHe voice of the right honor-, able . member for ..Cowper ;(Dr. Earle Page), and the ..hand was. the;. hand pf. the .Prime . Minister, ., or whether he recognized that this . Government had. to .. .clear- ., up .. the . mess… left * ,,by the , right- honorable member fbr Cowper, I ‘do not’ know. The meeting also seems to have predicted the speech of the Leader, of the Opposition (Mr.a Latham) ‘on the budget. It suggested. a reduction in the maternity bonus, and/no, increase -of the £11,000,000 paid in old-“ age and invalid pensions. ‘ Apparently, it desired that every one ‘ reaching the pension age after this, date should be refused the pension. The. . point that I wish to make is that the meeting approved of the primage duty. It is clearly evident that every one wants to pass on the duty to some one else. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of a reduction in Ministers’ and members’ salaries. Immediately he did so, there was an organized cheer from the Opposition, but when I and some other honorable members on this side interjected that honorable members opposite would be surprised if we carried out that suggestion. A gloom settled on hon orable members opposite as soon as they thought that the Leader of the Opposition’s suggestion might be carried out by the Government. The subject was quickly dropped, and it has not since been mentioned. The Opposition became sad, sorry, and despairing in the fear that they might be taken at their word.
The next proposal of the Leader of the Opposition is that the maternity allowance should be limited to the wives of those who earn £6 a week or less. By that means, the honorable gentleman considers that a saving of £230,000 could be made. That is purely an arbitrary amount, and has been arrived at on the assumption that those who earn over £6 a week have as many children as those whose, incomes are £6 a week or less. But the birth statistics prove that the people with the large incomes do: not have as many children as those with small incomes. In any ,case, it would be outrageous to discriminate between mothers in the payment of the maternity allowance, which is :a generous: gift ,by this nation to every Australian woman. One of the things of which J am most proud -is that the wife of a Victorian Governor, who was wealthy and well :able to meet every medical expense, accepted the maternity allowance, stating that she. felt it was a- gift- to Australian women; and that; she’ did .not wish-to .decline. at when her poorer sisters: were’ obliged by circumstances to accept it. ,
The Leader pf the’ Opposition also proposed that the Governmen t should cut down its expenditure by refraining from paying bounties ‘to different industries. Do honorable members opposite who’ repre–’ sent South Australian constituencies favour the wiping out of the .wine bounty, or ‘honorable members ‘who represent Queensland electorates the withdrawal of the cotton bounty? Would those honorable members who come from Tasmania assist to defeat the measure that proposes to pay a bounty on the production of flax? When it comes to details, honorable members opposite are hopelessly divided. Their theory is that, if new taxation is to be imposed, it should be levied on the other fellow.
The next proposal of the Leader of th« Opposition is that the grant of £2,000,000 to the States for the relief of unemploy- ment should bewithdrawn. Coming from that honorable gentleman, such a suggestion is understandable. The principal argument that he uses at every meeting that he attends is that, under the present Government, the ratio of unemployment has been increased; but whenever a measure is brought forward to alleviate it, no support is forthcoming from him. Such a withdrawal would be a breach of faith with the States. We must stand up to our honorable engagements.
Then the honorable gentleman contends that £1,000,000 could be saved by a 10 per cent. reduction of the Public Service salary bill. As the Public Service salaries amount to ten millions this means that every officer’s salary should be reduced irrespective of whether he receives £4 or £40 a week. It is just as well that those figures have been given, because they prove that he would reduce the lower-paid public servants equally with those who are in the higher grades, so that the wealthy men of thiscommunity may be relieved from the necessity to pay additional taxation.
The panacea of the right honorable memberfor Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) is different from that of the Leader of the Opposition. He wouldsave £1,000,000 on businessundertakings. The only way in which that can be done is by reducing the salaries of postal and railway employees. It is extraordinary to find such a proposal put forward by a member of a government thatplaced in charge of the Postal Department an Englishman who was receiving £700 a year in London, and paid him £4,000 a year. It is not suggested that the highly-paid officials only should be affected; the proposal embraces every officer and employee in the department.
Whenever the present Ministry has endeavoured to effect savings, honorable members opposite have opposed it. Recently, a bill was introduced to obviate the necessity for taking a decennial census next year, and thus save £300,000. The Opposition not only fought that measure at every stage, but divided the House upon it, although that is a very proper economy to make. But they object to all economy except as applied to wages and pensions.
Last year this Government had to adopt largely the estimates that were prepared by the previous Government. Itfound that provision was made for the erection of a war memorial in Canberra to the extent of £250,000. That was one of the most useless proposalsthat has ever been brought forward in the Commonwealth Parliament; yet, when the Government removed the item from the Estimates, bitter attacks were made upon its loyalty, and it was accused of not desiring to do the right thing by the peopleof this country. If that work had been proceeded with, the Government would have had to raise the money by additional taxation.
The Governmenthas been severely criticized by honorable members opposite because it has rationed work in the Defence Department. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has been particularly active in this regard. Whenever he gets the opportunity he denounces the Government for compelling the members of the Military Forces to take a certain time off without payment. [Quorum formed.] Yet we save £400,000 this year by the proposal to reduceour verymuch overstaffed defence force.
The present budget has beenrendered necessary by the action of the past Government.No one cares for these drastic proposals, but they cannot be avoided if we are to pay our debts. The first criterion of a good citizen is his ability to pay his debts.
– Is not he a better citizen who does not incur debts?
– He is. But in this case the debt was incurred by other people, and this Government has to pay it. We must meet our creditors honorably. It ill becomes the Opposition, some of the members of which are entirely responsible for the present financial position, to criticize every effort that is made to apply remedies.
.- I do not propose to examine critically the whole of the budget, as did the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), nor to go into it in detail like the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Page). But it appears to me that it is necessary for honorable members to express their views in relation to the items that impress them, especially i ho increase in expenditure and the attempts that arc being made to balance the accounts. It is necessary to consider also’ the reasons that exist for increasing taxation; and that involves an examination of the causes of the financial position in which Australia finds itself to-day. I. hope that I shall not indulge in captious criticism of the Government. From time to time, while I was a supporter of a government, I criticized items in the budget in connexion with which I differed from the Treasurer of the day. I regard that as the duty of every honorable member. I propose to take that course on the present occasion, not because T am a member of the Opposition, but because there are in this budget items that should not appear there, ;md also because I believe that a greater effort should have been made to economize before it was proposed to impose upon the people additional taxation to the extent of £12,000,000.
It does not appear to me to be necessary to call to our aid professors in economics to tell us why Australia is in such a difficult financial position to-day. Every one who has observed the trend of things here should know that our troubles are due to the extravagant manner in which wo have lived since the war period. It was during the war that we discovered how easy it was to raise money and to spend it, and it was at that time that we began to live expensively. We realized about that time that the raising of loans by pledging the credit of our country was an easy way to get money. ro doubt this was known before, but the knowledge was not greatly acted upon. It was when we began to borrow such huge sums of money for various purposes, and to pay rates of wages to which our people were unaccustomed, that we began to spend so freely. The mother country set i.lie example in this regard. Her policy appeared to be to spend money freely in order to keep up the morale of the people; and she actually spent, in a very few years the savings of a hundred years, and pledged the credit of the country for many more years than can bc counted. Hor people began to enjoy comforts which they had previously never dreamed of, and they acquired the habit of spending money on luxuries which they could not afford. It is easy to form this habit, but, as we have discovered, very difficult to break it. I discussed this matter frequently with various people during the war period, and said that the time would come when we would have to pay for our extravagance.
The remarks that I have made in respect to England apply also to Australia and the other dominions. Consequently it is futile for us, in discussing this budget, to blame this or the previous Government for what has occurred. We had to prosecute the war with all the vigour of which we were capable, and bear our part of the burden of the cost of it, which meant raising large sums of money. But having tasted the sweets of lavish expenditure we now find it difficult to’ overcome the liking for it. We have continued for much too- long the policy of large borrowings and heavy expenditure.
The previous Government has been criticized for its expenditure, but as the honorable mein bor for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has just pointed out, that Government was not responsible for a very large increase in the public debt during its term of office. In any case vrc are all to blame for what has happened. I do not know of honorable members who have protested against the expenditure of public money in their own districts or, for that matter, in their own States; nor do I know of any public mcn, or any financiers, or any directors of public companies, who have objected to the expenditure of money in their own towns and cities. So far as I know, the Melbourne press has never protested against the expenditure of public money in Melbourne, nor has the Sydney press protested against the expenditure of it in Sydney; and, as for local governing authorities, they have always been ready to acquiesce in the expenditure of public money on railways and roads passing through their districts. The trouble is that we are all too prone to complain of public expenditure in localities in which we are not interested, and to applaud it in the localities which we represent; but the time has come when we must reap the reward of our wrong doing in this respect. We are now, to put it in tho vernacular, “ getting it in the neck “.
We found it easy until recently to borrow all the money that we wanted, because the price of our primary products was high in the markets of the world. In good seasons we had large exportable surpluses of certain commodities, and we evidently thought that it would be possible for us to go on borrowing as long as we liked. It is true that a good deal of this borrowed money was spent on public works which we hoped would be reproductive; but tho interest rate was so high that when the value of our exportable commodities fell, we found ourselves with insufficient money to meet our liabilities. While our surplus of exportable commodities could be sold for, let us say, £160,000,000, it was not difficult to provide £30,000,000 for interest; but now that the sale of our primary products brings us in only about half as much as formerly, we are in serious trouble unless wo are prepared to do without some things which we had accustomed ourselves to believe were necessary for our well-being.
In the days when money was plentiful, and seasons and prices good, our various wage-fixing tribunals prescribed rates of wages in keeping with the buoyancy of the times, and our public works were, in many cases, constructed at high wages rates, which, of course, made them more costly than they should have been. In these circumstances difficulties were bound to occur when hard times came. If wo paid £2 for £1 worth of work, as values are to-day, it is apparent that wo did not get value for our money. Those who are competent to express an opinion, tell us that it is highly probable that the price of commodities will remain low for years to come. Other countries have taken steps to meet this situation, but we have not done so up to date, though we are now being forced by sheer economic necessity to meet the situation. The position to-day in Australia is that many people who thought they had an assured income find that they have practically no income. The deflation in prices has had a serious and unlooked-for effect upon their fortunes, and this has caused a great deal of. dislocation as well as hardship. We have to-day a great deal of unemployment in our midst. It has been said that 18J per cent, of our people are out of work, but those figures were, I understand, calculated on returns supplied by trade union officials, and as not all the workers of Australia are in trade unions, the position is probably worse than is suggested by tho figures quoted.
In these circumstances we must face the position just as private individuals would face it. Our case is exactly the same as that of a farmer or pastoralist who borrowed money, and spent it on improvements to his property which he expected to be reproductive, only to find later that the cost of the works had been so great, and the deflation of prices so severe, that’ the, works were not reproductive. Such a man finds himself to-day not only minus the income which he expected to enjoy, but also unable to meet his interest liabilities. It is probable that he has allowed tho members of his family to live extravagantly because of the easy money that flowed for a period. He has bought a motor car and farm machinery, doubtless with the object of doing his work more efficiently and easily, only to discover that he cannot afford such luxuries. A wise and courageous man would say to his family and to himself immediately he discovered what had happened, “ We must live less expensively. I ha.ve heavy commitments to meet, and must work harder and save money. Otherwise I shall find the insolvency court and ruin staring me in the face “. A careless man, or a man too kind to take the hard but proper course, might allow the members of his family to continue living at a rate which was beyond his means, and would, ultimately, find himself unable to provide them with the bare necessaries of life.
Very many settlers in Australia are in the position of having to choose between those alternatives to-day, and so are the Commonwealth and State Governments. It is useless to say that somebody else if responsible for it, or to ask why we do not make the millionaires pay more taxes as suggested by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Cusack) and others. We all have to bear our share of thi.’ burden. It is from this point, of vieT* that I am criticizing the budget and the attitude adopted by the Government. The right honorable the Prime Minister has certainly said that hewishes to distribute the burden; but can we truthfully say that it is being spread over the whole community to-day? This Government came into power pledged not to reduce wages and not to tax amusements. But effective wages have now come down, and they will continue to drop, in spite of anything that may be done by this Parliament. By artificial means we may be able to keep up wages and other costs in some cases; but, if we do, we shall merely put off the day of reckoning a little longer, and the ultimate burden will be increased.
In the first effort that the Government made to carry out its promise to maintain the present standard of wages tariff duties were increased. The Government contended that this wouldincrease employment and. reduce imports. I. agree that we have been importing far toomuch in recent years, and, in many instances, luxuries which we couldeasily forgo. When we. borrowed money overseas it was received, notin cash, but in goods which were bought freely, and, apparently, were within the means of the people at the time. The tariff was ill-considered, or was not considered at all, because it increased the cost of commodities at a period of financial stringency, and this action merely intensified our troubles. No. Minister who, within a couple of months of assuming office, prepares a tariff embracing some 320 items, can fairly claim that each has been carefully considered. Proof that they were not -so consideredis furnished by the fact that no less than three further tariff schedules were subsequently brought down, in which alterations in duties were made.
The schedule that I particularly wish to discuss is that which placed a complete embargo upon certain imports. The object, of course, was to help to correct the adverse trade balance, and that was a most laudable purpose. I am concerned only with the ill-considered method adopted, and to that aspect of it I confine my criticism. It has been suggested by the Prime Minister that the embargoes were imposed, in the main, upon luxuries ; but that claim cannot he substantiated. Barbed wire and agricultural machinery, such as cultivators, do not fall within that category. It was contended that this action was not taken in carrying out part of the protectionist policy of the Government but obviously that was the intention in some instances; at any rate, it had the effect of encouraging the establishment of certain industries in this country which, through being established during a period of deflation, will ultimately prove to be unprofitable. Probably the worst effect of the embargo was to provoke countries that are numbered among our best customers to retaliate by imposing duties upon Australian exports. Within a short space of time we found the Minister exempting certain goods from the. embargo. We do not know precisely what they are, because to date the Minister has refused the information; but the fact remains that these exemptions were given because the Government had not realized what would be the effect of the embargo.
Ihave thought a good deal about the bestway tocorrectthe adverse trade balance, and it ismy considered opinion that it could best be done by having a free exchange. That would assist to bringaboutthe desired result in a more certain and natural way then by placing embargoes on imports, and it would not impose hardship: on the community in the form of unemployment, and, in many cases, great loss to private individuals, nor would it provoke retaliative action on the part of nations who are good customers for our primary products.
– The honorable member should have suggested that policy to the late Government.
– That Government did not interfere with the exchange position.
– A free exchange would allow those engaged in industries that provide the whole of our exports to get a benefit of which they have been deprived in the past through the tariff. As the value of the commodities exported increased, not only would the trade balance be corrected, but it wouldbe done more surely and equitably than through the tariff, because the primary producers would receive better prices for their products and more funds would be provided abroad. I know that the method that has been adopted was approved at the time; hut I think that circumstances have shown that a wrong course was followed, and that a free exchange would be preferable.
– How long has it been free in Australia ?
– It was always free until this Government came into power. There had been no administrative act to prevent the exchange rate from rising.
– Does the honorable member say that past governments never approached the banks on that matter?
– I do not. know ; but the banks had not power to take the action that the Government took in placing a complete embargo on the importation of certain commodities, which did for a period “ peg “ the exchange. Exchange is controlled to a certain extent by the banks, but it is affected chiefly by the amount of money available, overseas and in Australia.. We now have ‘to consider what is to be done to extricate the country from its ‘unhappy position. We. know the reason for our financial troubles. The blame cannot be placed upon the shoulders of any particular Ministry; all governments must share the responsibility.
The* statement has been hurled across, the floor of this Parliament that honor-‘ able members on this side are a low-wage party,,, and that we wish to .reduce’ salaries. We say that all values -are falling, and that wages also will fall in spite of any action the Parliament might take. All we ask is that one section of the workers shall not be called upon to bear the brunt of hardships brought about by the sudden decline in values.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– It is imperative that the difficult financial position that has developed in Australia should be faced with courage. This Parliament must realize that it has a grave responsibility to the people. The public expect that, when sacrifices have to be made by the community in general, Parliament itself will set an example. It is idle for any one to suggest that greater economies could not be effected both as regards administration and the cost of Parliament itself. For the sake of example, if for nothing else, ministers and members of Parliament should be prepared to make some sacrifice, and, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), submit to a reduction of their salaries. The salaries of Commonwealth public servants should also be reduced. It is well known that in most instances the workers of Australia have had to bear some loss, either through reduction of wages or through loss of work, and- public servants, who are sheltered by acts of Parliament from the effects of economic circumstances, should be called upon to share the burdens of the community. Most people have had their incomes reduced within the last year, and in many cases no incomes have been earned at all. There are probably not less than 250,000 unemployed in Australia to-day. Would it not be fairer for some of those at present receiving reasonable wages to submit to a reduction of say 10 per cent., than that hundreds of thousands of workers should be out of a job altogether? What is the use of maintaining high nominal wages, and an allegedly high standard of living when great numbers of people cannot get any jobs’ or any wages whatever?” Some have argued’, I know, that the only’ way to reduce unemployment is to, reduce the number of …working hours. With that I disagree. As. an employer I know, that if . .my .employees, said to .me. that they would not,. go on working unless the,ir working -.hours, wore shortened, I should tell them that “I was . sorry, but that I could not employ them at all. I would be able to employ them only so long as I could pay them; and I would not be able to pay them if they- did less work. The cause of unemployment to-day is that many manufacturers ‘ and others cannot employ men with any prospect of profit. No one suggests that our public servants are being overpaid, hut we have to ask ourselves what we can afford. The Prime Minister said that the burden should be spread. I agree with him, and my complaint against the budget proposals is that the burden is not being spread. It must be evident to every one that important reductions could be made in the cost of Parliament.
Some suggestions for reducing expenditure were made by the Leader of the Opposition, and in the main, I agree with them. I am opposed to the Government’s proposal for the distribution of £1,000,000 among State Governments for the relief of unemployment. Increased taxation is necessary, as every one will agree; but the raising of th is £1,000,000 will make the taxes heavier than they need be. Most of the money will “come from persons who arc at present employers, and it would provide more employment if left in the hands of the taxpayers, than if distributed among the State Governments. [ realize that a government which claimed that if returned to office it would reduce unemployment, even if it could not find a job for every one, feels that some action must be taken. This proposal is, I presume, its answer to the complaints, not only from this side of the House, but from its own supporters also, that it has done nothing for the unemployed.
Regarding the cost of Parliament, I agree largely with the suggestions made this afternoon by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), when he was speaking of the refreshment room. It is obvious that a reduction of expenditure could be made there, and in numerous other instances as well. Of course, the newspaper suggestion that members of Parliament get their meals here for nothing, or for some very low price, is false; but it is true that savings could be effected in this department. For one thing, it should bc insisted upon that members indicate whether or not they propose, to have their meals in the refreshment-room. This would save the loss now occasioned by preparing meals’ for 50 or 60 persons each day when sometimes only half that number put in an appearance. Savings could also be effected by economizing on stationery, travelling expenses, printing, &c. Every item should be carefully examined. It is no answer for the Government to say to honorable members who raise these points: “Tell us where expenditure can be reduced.” The Treasurer knows that it is possible to effect savings, and if he were determined to do so, tho thing could be done. I understand that the Postmaster-General is assisting the Treasurer at the present time, and will act for him when the Treasurer goes abroad. . Although the Postmaster-General is a political opponent of mine, I admit that he is capable. If while he is Acting Treasurer he is directed by the Government, and by the party of which he is a member to make savings, he will, I am confident, be able to do so. He must know from his experience that the Tasmanian Parliament is run much less expensively in proportion than this one is, and he might use that experience to effect economies here.
The Parliamentary Standing Committees - the Public Works Committee, and the Joint Committee of Public Accounts - cost last year £8,000, exclusive of printing, &c, and I believe that some saving could be effected in regard to them. A good deal of criticism was directed against the late Government because it appointed a number of commissions of inquiry. It was said from time to time that the reports of those commissions were ignored. Perhaps they were in some eases, although in others they were acted upon. The Public Works Committee is called upon to examine proposals for government expenditure, and to make recommendations to Parliament. In how many cases are its recommendations acted upon ? So far as I can judge, in very few. Any way, it is certainly true that in many instances they are ignored because the recommendations conflict with the Government’s policy. One example fresh in my mind has to do with the proposal to build a lighthouse ship. The Public Works Committee examined this proposal, and recommended that tenders should bc invited for building the ship in Australia. Was that report acted upon ? It was not, for the reason that it is government policy that such work should be done by day labour. There is no doubt that the ship could bc built more cheaply if tenders were invited from the dockyards qualified to undertake the work. What is the use of spending £4,000 for the support of such a committee if its reports and recommendations are consistently ignored? I give as ari example a somewhat similar instance in regard to the Public Accounts Committee. About three years ago this committee was sent to Tasmania to inquire into the shipping service between that State and the mainland, and to report to the Government. Was its report acted upon? Of course not. Neither by the last Government, nor by this one. I am not mentioning these matters by way of criticism of the present Government only; I am endeavouring to indicate directions in which economies can be effected. That committee recommended that a certain shipping service should be improved, and a certain type of vessel constructed for that service. The Postmaster-General visited Tasmania a fortnight ago, and by invitation I was present when he met the representatives of the different bodies which had taken an active part in urging an improved shipping service for Tasmania. The PostmasterGeneral described the proposal of the. Government. He said that, because of the financial position, the Government could not at this time carry out its policy as outlined in the election campaign in respect of the provision of an improved shipping service for Tasmania. But he made no excuse for not giving effect to the report of the Public Acounts Committee; in fact, he did not refer to it. He gave reasons, which were accepted by those whom he addressed, why the policy of the Government could not be carried out. I deplore the fact that the report of the Public Accounts Committee has been ignored by both this and the past Government. What is the use of expending from £4,000 to £5,000 a year on a body whose reports and recommendations are ignored by the Government t
Economy could be exercised in the Federal Capital Territory. I shall not say who is to blame for the placing of the capital city at Canberra. I certainly do not share in the blame for that, because I was not in Parliament when it decided to transfer the Seat of Government to Canberra. I do not blame either the mover or the seconder of the motion relating to the transfer.
– The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) still maintains that it was right to transfer the Seat of Government to Canberra.
– The Parliament of the day was responsible for the transfer to Canberra, because it deliberately instructed the Government to make arrangements for the transfer at a certain date. The construction of the Federal Capital City is one of the gravest blunders ever made in Australia, and there will be no return on the money invested for many years to come. An enormous sum has been expended here, and we cannot afford to continue that expenditure. Canberra is now well equipped to carry on thefunctions of Parliament, and no further expenditure should be incurred unless it is absolutely unavoidable. The BrucePage Government has been blamed for extravagant expenditure at Canberra. 1 do not say that it is entirely blameless, but, in view of our present financial depression, we should examine carefully every item of expenditure. If there is one direction in which expenditure should be reduced, it is in regard to the Federal Capital Territory.
It has frequently been stated during this debate that the blame for our present financial difficulties can be laid at the door of the Bruce-Page Government. Yet this Government, under its budget proposals, is providing for an expenditure for the current year of nearly £1,000,000 in excess of the expenditure of last year. That is evidence that the Government is not endeavouring to economize to any great extent. There are hundreds and thousands of workers idle in this country, and there will be no opportunity of finding employment for them unless we restore to the community confidence in our own resources. Many of the hardest worker? have had to suffer substantial reduction in their wages. The men on the land, the men working in the forests and in the- mines, do not receive the high wages of the city workers. Yet they have had to submit to substantial reductions in their incomes. Honorable members supporting the Government contend that wages should not be below the basic wage; that a man cannot maintain a wife and family on a lower wage. That is foolish and idle. talk, and betrays the fact that those honorable members have no knowledge of the conditions under which thousands of our workers maintain their families. They feed, clothe and educate their children oil a wage very much below the basic wage. How many farm-workers and men working in the forests are earning a wage of £4 5s. a week? Few of them are getting more than £3 a week. They are receiving a wage that is much less than that prescribed for easier work in the city. Because of the substantial decrease in the value of metals and in the price of primary products such as butter, wool and wheat, the difficulties of the workers in those industries have increased. Many miners have been thrown out of employment. Instead of drifting to the cities and asking municipalities to provide them with relief work, they go into the bush with their food and bedding and scratch round for tin or other mineral, and when they obtain a sufficient quantity they take it to the town and sell it. The reward that they receive for their work is much less than the basic wage. These workers are facing the position with courage, and it is the duty of this Parliament, so far as it is able, to make their burden as light as possible.
I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) to the effect that there should be a substantial reduction in the cost of government in this country. The amendment enumerates many items in respect of which savings could be made. There is one item which I do not agree should be curtailed to any extent; I refer to the federal aid roads grant. The Federal Aid Roads Agreement was entered into several years ago between the Bruce-Page Government and the States. The financial difficulties of the States are much the same as ours. They are being forced to take drastic steps to balance their budget. They have based their financial proposals on the expectation that they will receive £2,000,000 under the roads agreement. It Would, therefore, be unfair for this Government not to stand by that agreement. I agree that, had it not been for Commonwealth assistance, the States would not have built many of the roads that have been con- structed under that scheme. But I believe that the majority of the States realize that they cannot continue the programme that was laid down five years ago for the building of new roads and the reconditioning of existing roads. The Government should not reduce the roads grant unless with the concurrence of the States. Probably the States would be willing to accept £2,000,000 if their obligation to raise 15s. for every £1 granted by the Government were waived. But I do not say that the Commonwealth would be justified in agreeing to that. In view of our financial stringency, the roads grant should be substantially reduced, and I think that the States would agree to that. I have no desire to criticize the Government just because it is a Labour Government. I have found it necessary on more than one occasion to criticize past governments. It is the duty of every honorable member to suggest means by which the financial position may be improved, and we, as an Opposition, are willing to co-operate with the. Government if its proposals are acceptable to us. But we are not prepared without protest to allow, one section of the community to bear the brunt ofl the increased taxation. I am. satisfied that if two or three members representing each party sat in a chamber, the doors of which were ,closed and the cur. tains drawn, and discussed the problems that confront this country, they would arrive at a decision that would be more acceptable to the majority of the people of Australia than any proposal brought, down by the Government of the day.
– Does the honorable member intend to vote for the amendment?
– In that case the honorable member would support a reduction in the federal aid roads grant.
– The Leader of the Opposition has moved for the reduction of the item by £1, as an indication to the Government that it should recast the budget with a view to decreasing the expenditure by approximately £4,000,000 ; and he has indicated the directions in which he considers that expenditure can be decreased. 1 have suggested other directions in which I consider that expenditure can be reduced, and have given reasons for my belief that the Federal Aid Roads Agreement should be honored. Those who sit on this side are powerless to instruct the Government as to the action it, should take; we have power only to move for the reduction of an item, as an indication to the Government that the Parliament considers that costs of government generally should be substantially reduced. Every honorable member has a perfect right to criticize items with which he disagrees, and yet is quite consistent in voting for the amendment. I suppose there are honorable members opposite who do not agree with every item in the budget - for example, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) - but I should be surprised to find them voting against the Government in a division.
If it be necessary for the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) to move his amendment, I shall certainly support him. Honorable members opposite claim that they are the guardians of the interests of the primary producers of this country. They allege that honorable members on this side do nothing to assist the primary producers, because we will not support proposals similar to that which the Government brought down for the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool. It cannot be said that an honorable member is in sympathy with the primary producer if he supports a proposal to tax cornsacks, jute goods of all descriptions, phosphatic rock - which is the raw material from which fertilizers are made - and other commodities upon which depend not only the livelihood of the primary producer but also the solvency and the credit of this country. Fertilizers are absolutely essential, if we are to produce the goods that will enable us to pay our debts. I have never in my career heard of a more uneconomic proposal than the taxation of what is absolutely essential to’ provide the wherewithal to pay our way. Yet honorable members opposite claim that they are more in sympathy with the primary producers than are honorable members on this side who will not support them in their endeavour to create another big socialistic monopoly. I do not often attempt to prophesy what my political opponents will do; but, because I have a good deal of confidence in the Leader of the Government and some other members - of the Cabinet, I believe that they will realize that the amendment of the honorable member for Wakefield is in the interests of, not only the community generally, but also the good name, of the Government, and that on that account it will be accepted-. It is possible that every item in the budget was not considered in the light that has now been thrown upon it since the budget speech was delivered! . If the Government should decline to accept the proposed amendment; and it goes to a division, I shall certainly vote for it.
– For two days I have been compelled to listen to the Pecksniffian criticism of honorable members of the Opposition. That criticism is the more astounding, seeing that for the last fifteen years they, reinforced by others who hold similar political beliefs, merrily jazzed this country into the position that it occupies to-day, and left to the present Government a heritage of debt and disaster, such as, I suppose, no government in any other country has ever had to shoulder. Wow, when the fruits of their economic evildoing are being tasted, they engage in the childish game of make-believe, and try to pretend that they have a remedy. So far, all that they have done is. to indulge in the mouthing of phrases that have no meaning, and that neither they nor anybody else understand. They began by floundering, and ended by being drowned, in the sea of their own verbosity.
Every honorable member opposite has argued that this country is going through a period of deflation; but no attempt has been made to assign a reason for deflation being necessary. During the whole of the time that the Government which was supported by honorable members who now sit opposite held office, the forces that are opposed to the economic well-being of this and every Other nation Carried on this process of deflation in order to enrich themselves at the expense, not only of the workers, hut of the nations of the world. The last Government had the power to prevent them from doing that, and might have taken steps to that end if it had been aware of what was going on. It is more than merely stupid to say that this Government could have righted matters in nine months, seeing that deflation had reached practically its lowest point when it assumed office. Honorable members opposite are not prepared to lay the blame upon the joss that they worship - the financial institutions. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) blamed this Government for abolishing the gold standard. Economic facts prove that the gold standard has played jio part in the internal economic arrangements of the nations for at least 50 or 60 years. The right honorable member for Cowper likes to juggle with this subject. During the time that he was Treasurer he periodically took it up, had a look at it, talked about it, and put it away again for a while. He played with it as a child plays with a toy. There is no such thing as a gold standard.
– How could the right honorable member for Cowper play with something that did not exist?
– He thought that it existed. There can be no such thing as a gold standard, or a gold basis, in the internal arrangements of a country, when paper is legal currency. No country dare make use of it, because the system would collapse in 24 hours. There are close upon £700,000,000 of claims against the gold held in this country to-day. and there is not £40,000,000 worth of gold to meet them. If I had my way, I would allow that £-10,000,000 to go” out and be used in the making of false teeth.
– And print another £700,000,000 worth of notes.
– The interjection of the honorable member proves his stupidity, and is an indication of the confusion that exists in his mind in relation to these matters. He may be able to tell fairy stories to ladies in
Melbourne, and dilate upon the shortcoming of “ tragic Treasurers “, but in these matters his mind is as unformed as that of an infant. The currency of this and of every other country to-day is not even pound notes, let alone silver or gold. Cheques are the currency of this country, and notes would have no effect even if they were printed. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) knows that. The methods adopted are merely those by which the spieler puts over the thimble and pea trick, or manipulates his three cards. The cry of “ Back to a gold standard “ has been used by financiers in all countries, with the object of deflating, and of robbing the nations in the process. As was pointed out by Arthur Kitchen in Great Britain before the war, they first of all talk in a learned way, and have articles printed in financial journals urging that the position of the nation is becoming unsafe and that it is time to revert to a gold basis. Their paid hirelings, the newspapers, print their speeches, and thus the psychology develops. Then a complaisant Treasurer, such as’ the Treasurer in the Government to which the honorable member for Henty belonged, makes reference to a gold . standard in his budget, speech ; and so the merry game goes on. That is the reason for the economic troubles of Australia, Great Britain and other countries, and it accounts’ for their armies of unemployed. In the United States of America they have gold in ton blocks, stored in such a way, that it will be safe from burglars. In taking this gold from the mines multitudes of men have been destroyed, body and soul. There are many men in the Waterfall Sanatorium in my electorate who have been thrown on the industrial scrapheap because they have had to work in such mines. When the gold has been melted into bars, and put into secret vaults, armed men are sent to guard it so that the people may not be allowed to see it. Of what use is it, therefore, in the economic cosmos of the nation ?
The trouble to-day “is that we are compelled to pay back loans obtained at inflated rates of interest with goods which are sold at deflated prices. The interest rates, of course, remain inflated. There is- not an economist living who has analysed the position who will not admit that that is our trouble. The banker gets the advantage coming and going - he gets the benefit of the inflated interest rates, and also of the deflated prices for commodities. France and Germany are two countries which stand out as oases in the desert of world depression. They pegged clown the deflation before it reached the serioUS stage which it has reached in Australia, Great Britain, and other countries. The bankers have brought about the deflation by juggling with the credit arrangements of the nation. They hold a monopoly of the nation’s credit, and make it available so sparingly that they are able to keep interest rates high, notwithstanding that price levels have fallen disastrously. This credit does not belong to the bankers, but to the nation, and they should not bc allowed to parcel- it out as they like, but should be forced to make it available to meet the needs of the country. There is every indication that interest rates will rise still higher. The effect of this is that our secondary industries arc being crippled, and our rural industries bled to death.
– ‘The primage duty will settle them properly.
– The honorable member for Gippsland is straining at a gnat, and swallowing a camel. To put it in another way, he has swallowed the bankers’ bait, and the hook, line, and sinker as well. I met a man not long ago who told mc that although he had clear freehold assets valued at £14,000, his bank would not advance him £200 to pay his income tax. His assets were tangible. They were not merchandise liable to deterioration, or sheep liable to depreciation, or a wool clip still to be sold, but freehold land. While this kind of thing is going on the Lathams, and the Pages, and the Prowses, and the Gregorys of this country continue to bow down before the joss they worship, namely the money-lender who exploits the nation.
The amendment which the Leader of the Opposition has moved must tend to add to the depression which prevails. The only practicable solution that honorable members opposite have for our present difficulties is to take more and more money out of circulation by reducing the wage fund. They desire to push the nation still further into the mire. They are destitute of a single constructive idea.
– We want to reduce the- cost of living.
– I arn reaching the stage when I feel like slitting the tongue of the man who talks to me about economy. The .right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) is as oldfashioned in his economic ideas as a medical practitioner would be who would apply a leech to a man suffering from loss of blood. If I were to take a patient, suffering from loss of blood, to Dr. Earle Page, and asked him to bleed him, as was done in days gone by he would regard me as insane. Yet the right honorable member would drain every drop of economic blood from the workers aud then bash their brains out. The right honorable member is still in the stone age of economics.
Although we hear so much about inflation and deflation, the plain fact is that the nation is suffering from a shortage of currency. A manufacturer told me about four years ago that when he went to his bankers and asked for an increase in his overdraft and said that his assets were then double what they were when his previous overdraft was granted, he was told that it was not a question of security at all, but that the bankers had decided that all overdrafts must bc reduced. Instead of being granted an increase in his overdraft, that man, who was engaged fin the ^cottonspinning industry, was told that he must reduce his existing overdraft. To do that he had to ship 1,000 bales of cotton to Liverpool and bring it back again. He had to get finance in London, and a condition of the granting to him of such accommodation was that his collateral security had to be sighted at Liverpool. The trouble is that our financiers are too interested in the manufacturing industries of other countries. They desire to keep Australia as a sheep-walk and wheat-field, and compel her to buy manufactured goods from the countries in which they are interested.
– We cannot buy much if we have no money.
– We should be allowed a certain amount of money. We should create credits by sending our raw materials abroad. These financiers want Australia to be a dumping ground for the manufactured goods of other countries.
A community without currency is like a machine without electricity. Just as electric current drives ordinary machinery so the currency of the community drives the human machinery. I do not suggest for a moment that a man should be regarded as a piece of machinery; nothing is farther from my thoughts than that. But as electricity is required to drive ordinary machinery so currency is required to enable the workers to produce wealth. If no currency is available, the human machinery must stop. Honorable members opposite are endeavouring to spread the available currency supply over too wide an area, and the result is comparable with the result of trying to make a certain amount of electric current drive more machinery than it is capable of driving. They think that if the workers were compelled to accept half-time or quarter-time employment the position would be rectified; if that policy were adopted the nation would soon reach a condition of absolute stagnation.
It is necessary that new supplies of currency should be unloosed. The credit of the nation is sufficient, if used properly, to make this currency available, and so provide the energy necessary to enable our people to produce more wealth. There is not an honorable member opposite who, if he discovered that a new loan could be floated at reasonable rates of interest, would not say immediately, “Float it.” That is the only way that they can see out of our difficulties, other than robbing the workers of their wages. Our old panacea for economic ills was our protective policy; but to-day that policy is being applied to the protection of machinery and not the protection of human life.
The economic formulas of 20 and 30 years ago must go by the board. We must think on new lines, and realize that we are living in a rapidly-changing world. Only by new methods can we extricate the nation from its present deplorable position. Until we have the courage to attack the bankers we shall make no real progress. They make loans available through instrumentalities of their own creation. By paying interest on loans at the rate of 5 per cent., 6 per cent, and, in a year or two, perhaps, 7 per cent., we shall leave a heritage of crushing debt to unborn generations. I used to hear my father say, “ Let posterity pay “ ; but posterity will never be able to redeem the tremendous debts which are being built up in Australia under present methods of finance. If the nation, through its own instrumentalities, expanded the credit, of the country to the extent necessary for governmental activities, it would he possible to relieve the woeful unemployment. The buoyancy that would be produced by such action would create a good demand for the products of primary and secondary industries, with the result that the taxable capacity of the nation would be increased. Instead of paying interest at the rate of 5 per cent, on borrowed money indefinitely, the money could be used to build up a redemption fund, and every twenty years the credit, expansion, could be accounted for. Thus the works carried out would be the free assets of the people. This system has operated successfully in the little island of Guernsey, and could be adopted with equal advantage in Australia on a scale proportionate to its resources, which are so many times greater than those of Guernsey.
Why adhere to the present capitalistic system that is breaking down before our eyes? While we do so, budgets of this character must be brought down, and worse budgets will follow each succeeding year until the accumulated burden brings about disaster. Those who refuse to recognize the truth of that assertion resemble ostriches, which imagine they can avoid danger by burying their heads in the sand. Had the Bruce-Page Government still been in office, a worse budget than this would have been presented, because that Ministry would have merely postponed the day of reckoning, to the detriment of the wealth-producing sections of the community. The people who principally bear the burdens of this country are the primary producers and the men who work for wages. The most unholy political alliance ever witnessed in Australia was that which brought the late Government into office. It was an alliance of representatives of the bankers and of the so-called representatives of the producers, who are the men who “ farm “ the farmers. This budget is the best instrument that could be conceived under present conditions, and for that reason I give it my support. Until such time as sufficient members of this Parliament are prepared to adopt the method that I have proposed for dealing with the financial crisis, I accept the lesser of two evils, believing that this budget is better than any produced by honorable members who have condemned it.
– The speeches delivered yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr; Latham) and the right honorable member for Cooper (Dr. Earle Page) remain clear and unrefuted statements of fact, despite the denials of honorable members supporting the Government. It seems extraordinary that, when every section of the community is crying out for a justification of the budget, and pointing to means by which reductions in expenditure could be effected, the only Minister who has spoken so far in support of the proposals of the Government is the Minister for Health (Mr. Anstey), who, to some’ extent, covered the ground from his own point of view. Who have been the champions of the Government in reply to the criticism that has been published throughout Australia? They are the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Cusack), the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). I invite the committee to consider whether any light has been thrown on the problems raised by the budget by the speech to which we have just listened. Nobody else on the ministerial side appears to be prepared to defend the Government’s financial statement. I suppose that, when the debate is in its closing stage, the Treasurer will tell us that economies have been effected, and that inaccurate assertions have been made by members of the Opposition; but more than an exhibition of rhetoric and mock heroics will be required to convince the taxpayers of this country that they need to be bled white, as they will be under this budget.
Tlie people will have £50,000,000 less to spend this year. The fact is so obvious that, whether we like it or not, we are compelled to resort to economy - economy by governments and by communities as well. . . . I am confident that the people will give full credit to the government that faces the position honestly.
Recognition of the necessity for economy has been forced upon every section, and the people say rightly that this Government is not economizing. I say, with the late Treasurer, that “ the people will give full credit to the government that faces the position honestly.” But the present Government is not doing that. The Prime Minister went to a meeting of the Federal Public Service unions, and, emphasized that the present time was not opportune “for the free exercise of arbitration claims., regardless of consequences.” We have had those two -clear announcements by members of the Government; but it is not acting up to its protestations by effecting’ the real economies that could be made by means of the budget. When members of the present Government and its supporters were in opposition they constantly inveighed against the late Government for what they described as its extravagance. On one occasion the present Treasurer, then the Leader of the Opposition, ventured into detail, and indicated directions in which reductions could be made. What were those economies? There was a reference to the £2,000 additional allowance to the Governor-General for his Canberra residence, and to a sum of money for the upkeep of the Prime Minister’s lodge here. Something was also said about an employee at Australia House, and another in Paris. All the suggested economies would not have amounted to anything like £100,000 if they had been put into effect, yet that same leader, now Treasurer of the Commonwealth, brings down a budget which includes practically all of those items with the exception of the allowance to the Governor-General. This is a clear indication of the Government’s lack of sincerity in regard to economy. Instead of being reduced, the cost of our overseas establishments has been increased by the appointment of additional trade representatives. Two facts stand out: First, that there is to be an increase of expenditure in the present budget of £1,094,000 over that of last year, and of £4,000,000 over that of 1928-29. The Opposition says that expenditure this year should not be greater than during 1928-29. The third salient feature of the budget is that it records the biggest deficit the Commonwealth has ever faced.
– Who created it?
– 1 am coming to that. The question is asked, who is responsible for the present state of affairs? The Minister for Health (Mr. Anstey) said that the present Government is cleaning up the mess left by its predecessor. Other honorable members opposite who followed him made the same statement, and I have no doubt that succeeding Government speakers will repeat it parrot-fashion throughout the whole of this debate. In this they are contradicting their own leader. Mr. Scullin, in his budget speech, did not lay the responsibility on the last Government. Surely he should be listened to by members of his party who are talking this claptrap about the last Government being responsible. This is what he said -
The severe economic disturbance at present, prevailing in nearly nil countries has been preceded or accompanied by a disastrous collapse in commodity values. Its effect on the prices of wool, wheat, metals and other products, which constitute the major portion of Australia’s exportable production, is well known. Concurrently with the decline in the value of exports there has been a cessation of the flow of loan moneys from overseas.
The last speaker said “ we could not blame God for the present trouble “, but the Prime Minister blames droughts to some extent, and they, I suppose, are the act of God. The budget statement continues -
Drought conditions in many districts during recent seasons also have had their adverse effect by reducing the volume of primary production.
That gives the lie direct to the honorable member who has just resumed his seat.
– That is very rude.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL Well, I shall amend it by saying that it disproves his statement. Mr. Scullin continued -
The loss in Australia of real income oon.sequent upon these factors is variously estimated for the year just closed at between £50,000,0011 and £70,000,000.
That is the considered statement of the Leader of the Labour party as to the cause of the economic depression. After that we should hear no more from honorable members opposite to the effect that the last Government is responsible for the present position. Professor J. B. Brigden, in his book Escape, to Prosperity. estimates that there has been a falling off of £32,000,000 in the national income from wool and wheat. If that is added to the reduction of overseas borrowing referred to by the Prime Minister, we reach the figure of £50,000,000 to £70,000,000 mentioned by him. The writer of this book also says -
For Australia as a whole the effect is the same as in a mining town whose volume or value of minerals is reduced. The shopkeepers cannot sell the same quantity of goods as before and the farmers and manufacturers who supply the shopkeepers suffer also . . . Nothing is gained by exaggerating or by minimizing the degree, but I prefer to stick to my optimistic estimate of a 1.0 per cent, fall only in the total income of all people.
If honorable members are inclined to think that we are over the worst of our troubles, I commend to them this further statement of Professor Brigden -
We are not yet feeling the full effects nf the fall in our income for this year. . . . Ac the year 1930 progresses we may expect the reserves to become reduced, and the full weight of -the loss of income to be gradually felt. Fortunately, of course, it is possible for greater efficiency to “take up some of tin; slack” and to produce more, so that the full burden is never felt at any one time, lt can bc spread, with wise social management, and with resiliency and intelligence. Hut if nothing is done to promote extra production, the full weight of the loss must be felt as “boom” gradually sinks into “slump,” and thi1 community lies floundering at the bottom.
That is the opinion of an outsider who has no interest in this argument, beyond setting out the facts as he honestly sees them. He hears out the statement of the Prime Minister as to the causes of the existing depression. He points out that the national income has beeL. reduced, and that the private incomes of individuals have been reduced on an average by 10 per cent. Moreover, he warns us that we have not yet seen the worst of the situation. It is the duty of every thinking citizen to take steps to meet the crisis when it arrives. That can be done, as the Treasurer pointed out, only by public and private economy. The clamant demand of the Opposition for economy is an honest expression of the public will at the present time. There is no need to explain again what the last Government did with the surplus of £7,000,000 which it found in the Treasury when it assumed office. It has already been pointed out many times that the money was devoted to liquidating debts. One thing stands out in this budget like the peak of a mountain; a deficiency of £14,050,000 has to be made up by increased taxation. I have stated that general economic conditions of worldwide incidence are chiefly responsible for our present difficulties, but the Government must accept some responsibility. By its unwise tariff policy it has dislocated trade, ruined businesses, and thrown hundreds of thousands out of employment. Had the tariff been given proper consideration it could have been so adjusted as to make up practically all the revenue required.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should have gone on importing at the same rate as before?
– No ; I do not say that. I agree that the importation of luxuries should be restricted, but the consequent loss of revenue could have been made up by duties on other items as, in fact, is now being done. If it had been done before, no dislocation of trade need have taken place. The tariff changes were ill-advised from the beginning, and I hope to have more to say regarding them. “Whenever the tariff was being discussed the then Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), who was let loose among the industries of the country to play ducks and drakes with them, assured us that the increased duties would have the effect of providing employment for an extra 50,000 or 100,000 men. Everybody in this House now knows that they have done nothing of the kind, and even the Assistant Minister has ceased talking about it. . The unemployment figures were 12.1 per cent, in October, 1929; 13.1 in December, 14.6 in March of this year, and in June they had increased to 1S.5. I do not say that the Government is responsible for not having reduced the unemployment percentage below the first figure mentioned; but the fact that unemployment has gone on increasing month after month shows the absurdity of the Assistant Minister’s contention that the new tariff schedule would have the effect of providing additional employment. If what he said were true, if his statement had the least foundation in fact, then, at least, our unemployed figures would not have risen, but would have remained stationary or stabilized. The tariff increases have not even stayed the progress of unemployment, because that has increased by leaps and bounds, and to-day it is greater than it has been before in this country. A leaflet, which was issued during the last election, states that Labour rule means constant employment. Yet to-day there are thousands of men walking the streets looking for work. Those poor unfortunate men were deluded by this political dope, and they voted for the Labour party because they honestly believed that it would carry out its promises. The Labour party is now in power, and yet thousands of our workers are tramping from workshop to workshop seeking employment. God knows how Chey are keeping their wives and families. Honorable members supporting the Government have no sympathy with the unemployed. Every day that I am in Sydney I meet men who are looking for jobs. Their conditions are heart-rending, and I am surprised at the levity of honorable members supporting the Government. They should, at least, take some steps to find employment for these men, who are rueing the fact that they voted for a Labour Government on the promise of constant employment.
– Who issued that leaflet?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.”Mr. E. G. Theodore, campaign director of the Australian Labour Party, State of
New South Wales, Trades Hall, Sydney.” It is a genuine document, and is one of the means by which the Labour party won the elections.
Certain avenues have been suggested in which economies could be effected. It would be an easy matter for the Opposition to move an amendment to the effect that reductions should be made in the budget proposals; but the Leader of the Opposition in moving the amendment now under discussion has not only suggested that there should be a reduction of £4,000,000 in the cost of government, but he has also enumerated the items in respect of which savings would be effected without in any way destroying or impairing the efficiency of industry in this country, and, at the same time, leaving money in the pockets of both employers and employees, and providing more employment in the community. The Prime Minister should make known to honorable members his attitude in respect of the various items enumerated in the amendment. The country is waiting for his explanation, and it is entitled to it now. The first item referred to by the Leader of the Opposition affects the Parliament, the public services and the post office, the cost of which, he says - and I agree - could be reduced by £1,000,000. The first reduction that should be made in Parliament i3 in the salaries of Ministers and members. I do not say that honorable members are overpaid. Each honorable member can decide that for himself. We all have calls upon our salaries of which the general public knows nothing. But what honorable members do in that regard is their own business. The salaries of Ministers and members of Parliament in practically all the States have been reduced. Salaries in New South Wales have been reduced, and in South Australia, under a Labour Government, salaries are being reduced.
– Who made that statement ?
– It was made by the Premier of South Australia. In Tasmania steps are being taken to reduce the salaries of Ministers and members of Parliament. I agree with the honorable member for Angas that, to show our sincerity in regard to the taxation that we are imposing upon the people, we should at least reduce our own salaries. I do not often agree with the honorable member, but on this occasion I do. That one statement is of more worth than the rest of his speech, because it is an honest expression of opinion which reflects great credit upon him.
– The honorable member for Angas previously made a sacrifice in that direction.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That is also to his credit. I believe thai that was one of the principal factors in his return to this Parliament. How can we retain our salaries intact when the salary of every other person in the community is being reduced? Some of the big newspapers have reduced salaries by 10 per cent, and others by more than that. Similar reductions have taken place throughout the whole of the big businesses in Australia. That can be ascertained by an examination of the companies’ returns at the stock exchange. Professor Brigden’s estimate of a 10 per cent, reduction in the income of the people generally is a conservative figure. We have no right to retain our emoluments while the community outside is making sacrifices in an endeavour to improve the financial position of Australia. The railway employees of New South Wales were given the option of the retrenchment of a large number of men or a rationing system, under which each employee would lose one week in, say, six weeks. By an overwhelming vote - by a secret ballot which is so objectionable to honorable members opposite - these men, in order to retain their positions, agreed to accept reduced wages under the rationing scheme. A paragraph in the report of the Tariff Board on the timber industry reads -
Inquiry shows that the Brickmakers’ Union has a membership of 1,750. Under normal conditions the number of unemployed would be from 20 to 30. At the present time, however, there are 9S0 unemployed, 80 only working full time and 720 working half time.
– In which State?
– The report does not say. Those figures relate to the brickmakers. Let me give the position of the brickmasters. The average sales of one of the big brick associations in Sydney in the months of April, May, and June of last year amounted to £350,000. In April of this year the sales were £134,000; in May, £133,000; and in June, £115,000. The figures relating to the number of houses building in Sydney to-day show that in January, 1929, when the timber strike was taking place, 742 permits were issued for houses, and in January, 1930, only 381. In February, 1929, 715 permits were issued, and in February, 1930, 302; in March, 1929, 780 permits were issued, and in March, 1930, 241 ; in April, 1929, 692 permits were issued, and in April, 1930, 213; in May, 1929, 736 permits were issued, and in May, 1930, 191; in June, 1929, 671 permits were issued, and in June, 1930, 146. The total permits issued for the first six months last year, when the timber strike took place, was 4,336, as against 1,475 for the corresponding- period this year. It is not an exaggeration to say that 80 per cent, of the operatives in the building trade are out of work at this moment. In view of those facts, how can we, as members of Parliament, stand out prominently in this general depression as a sort of wealthy oasis in a vast desert of misery ? It is our bounden duty to do the right thing to the community, and to agree to a reduction in the salaries of both Ministers and members. When the income of practically every other member of the community is being reduced, there is no reason why the incomes of a favored few in the federal services should remain sacrosanct. It is unpleasant and unpopular to recommend a course of this kind; but on this,. as on every occasion, I say what I think is right, irrespective of the consequences. No difficulty should be experienced in saving £1,000,000 upon the salaries of Ministers, members of Parliament, the Public Service, and the proposed additional expenditure of £900,000 in the Postal Department estimates.
This move by the Opposition has been described by the Minister for Health (Mr. Anstey) as an attack on wage standards. It is nothing of the kind, and the honorable gentleman knows it. If times were good, such a suggestion would not he made; but it is justified in times of depression, and to characterize it as an attack upon wage standards is merely nonsense that will be given no credence by the general public.
The proposal to make available the sum of £1,000,000 for the relief of the unemployed is merely a political gesture. Unemployment is not a federal matter; the Prime Minister has said so on innumerable occasions. If that item were removed from the Estimates, and the matter were left entirely to the States, they could deal with it adequately without federal interference or assistance. Therefore, it is superfluous. In New South Wales and other States a tax has been imposed upon earnings. It is expected that in New South Wales something over £3,000,00p will be raised in that way. If this Government adheres to the budget as it stands, New South Wales will receive as its contribution from the Federal Aid Roads vote and the Unemployed Relief vote an amount which, together with the £150,000 set down for the northern coal-fields, makes a total of between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000, and, therefore, will have available for unemployed relief works between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000. It cannot spend that amount, which is more than sufficient to place in permanent employment a greater number of unemployed than New South Wales has to-day. Therefore, it is extravagant to make that provision. If that £1,000,000 were removed from the Estimates, and left in the pockets of the people, there would be less unemployment to relieve. It is far better that the citizens of this country should he engaged by private employers in remunerative and productive enterprise than on government relief works. I merely state a simple fact when I say that, if New South Wales spends £4,500,000 on works of this character, not more . than £3,000,000 will be spent advantageous13 or profitably.
– Why has the State Government proposed this tax if the money can be better spent by private employers ?
– It was imposed before this Government made the additional sum “ available for the relief of the unemployed. The State
Government realizes that it is its responsibility to attend to these matters. That fact was recognized also by the Prime Minister, before he felt that it was necessary for political purposes to make this gesture. I admit that, under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, a large number who otherwise would be unemployed are absorbed on road works. I read in a newspaper the other day that £37,000 was to be spent on five miles of road somewhere in the vicinity of Goulburn. I put it to honorable members, can we, at a time like this, afford roads costing that amount? The money that is made available by the Commonwealth Government is for the construction of new roads. In our private lives, if we cannot afford luxuries we cut them out. I agree that certain roads that have been commenced must be completed; but at the present time there is no justification for the .expenditure of £2,000,000 this year upon new roads, and it should be temporarily suspended. How many times was the last Government attacked for entering the sphere of road construction? Honorable members who now sit on the Government side then said that that was purely a State matter. The present Government now has the opportunity to get out of an activity upon which the Commonwealth should never have embarked.
– The Government that the honorable member supported made and signed the agreement, and this Government has to continue it.
– I know that the Bruce-Page Government made and signed the agreement; but I am not prepared to accept the Minister’s statement that the present Government has to continue it. There is no reason why it should not -be discontinued for a period. I know that some honorable members honestly believe that the grant was made as a result of the imposition of the petrol tax, and that if the agreement is not carried out in its entirety the petrol tax should be lifted. I do not hold that view. Although that was the understanding, this Parliament is not bound by it. When the Premier of New South Wales was asked whether, in his last, policy speech, he did not state that he would not interfere with the question of hours, he replied, “ I am not prepared to ask men to walk the streets workless because of what I said two and a half years ago.” So I say that this Government should not compel men to walk the streets workless because of something that was done in 1926. I insist that the action which was then taken is not binding upon the present Government, and that it can be altered.
I have no hesitation in supporting the view that the maternity allowance should not be paid to wealthy people. I know of no reason why the Labour party should insist upon retaining the present provisions. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), that any person whose husband is in receipt of £6 a week and over should not receive the allowance. If his proposal were adopted the country would be saved £200,000 per annum.
I shall deal now with the northern coal-miners. This is not a federal matter. The vote of £150,000 will never be used, because these men will not consent to be repatriated. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), knows that that is so. Their roots are deep down, and cannot be shifted. Previously, when similar efforts were made to relieve worse conditions than those that now exist, the men concerned refused to be moved.
An amount of £3,000 has been set, down for the Coal Tribunals- As Mr. Hibble has resigned, and those tribunals do nol operate, there is no further need to make that provision.
A considerable reduction can be made in the vote of £2,500,000 for the post office, and in that of £500,000 for war service homes. To-day there are many empty houses; and in addition, few men will accept the responsibility of building or buying a house, because employment is so insecure. This amount of £500,000 will not be required, and the interest on a considerable portion of it could be saved and at the same time all applications provided for.
I have already expressed my opinion of the proposal of the Government to spend £120,000 on a vessel for lighthouse service which was not asked for by the department, but which the late Treasurer insisted should be built at a cost of £50,000 more than it could have been bought for overseas. That is a most glaring example of unwarranted extravagance.
It is proposed to spend £200,000 on river Murray works. I do not know exactly how this money is to be spent, but this proposal should be very carefully scrutinized.
I have already directed attention to the fact that the newspaper press throughout Australia is not only demanding that economies should be effected, but is suggesting definite items of expenditure which could be reduced. Last night’s Sydney Sun contained a long article which makes numerous suggestions of this character which were very impressive. This Government has been responsible for the sending abroad of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) to attend the International Labour Conference, although a member of Parliament had never previously been sent from Australia specially for that purpose. I have nothing to say against properly accredited delegations attending the Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva, and the imperial and economic conferences, but it was an absolute waste of £1,000 to send the honorable member for Reid abroad to attend this Labour Conference. Every one knows that the honorable member was disappointed because he did not secure a ministerial office, and the Government gave him this solatium at the public expense. But now the honorable member is to attend the conference at Geneva. During the period that will elapse from the end of the Labour Conference to the beginning of the League of Nations Assembly he has been put on the public pay roll. He is conducting an inquiry, at the public expense, into the administration of Australia House. He has been asked to criticize people far more able than himself, and to belittle the prestige of Australia’s High Commissioner in London. One of the most disgraceful things that any Australian Government has ever done has been to authorize an honorable member of this Parliament, who is himself the subject of an inquiry by a royal commission, .to investigate the administration of the
High “Commissioner in London. The honorable member will, doubtless, pore over the records in Australia House, investigate the work of the High Commissioner, and interview the High Commissioners of other dominions. The newspapers have informed us that in between his bouts of indigestion and nerves the staff of Australia House will be permittee to interview him. This whole business is most, shameful, both from the point of view of public expense and public morality.
– I am surprised at the honorable member making such statements.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) has no reason to talk. He was sent to London on a special mission and, so far, he has not said a word in this House about what he did. It seems to me that upon returning from such a mission a Minister should take the first opportunity of giving the Parliament an account of his stewardship; but days anc? weeks have gone by, and months are going by, and we have heard nothing about the work which the Minister for Trade and Customs did while he was abroad. It is true that we have been informed through the press that he has returned £100 of his expenses to the Treasury. Possibly, he was able to do this by living on ginger bread, rabbits and milk. It is creditable that he should have returned this money, but I remind him that a Minister of a ‘State Government, the Honorable E. H. Farrar, on one occasion returned £600 of his expenses to the Treasury without any ostentation, and without any mention of it in the press.
I shall now proceed to discuss the proposals of the Government to make up the deficiency of £14,050,000 between the estimated receipts and expenditure. It is proposed that £1,500,000, which has been received through the liquidation of ex-enemy properties, shall be paid into Consolidated Revenue, though, in my opinion, it is improper that that should be done. I am surprised that the Treasurer should have consented to the taking of any action like this because, when he was in opposition, he was always a stickler for the right thing to be done. That money should have been paid into the sinking fund. It is proposed also to impose a primage duty which will increase the revenue by £6,700,000 and a sales tax which will yield £5,000,000. The primage duty will, like the rain from heaven, fall upon the just and the unjust alike. Those who have no income which can be taxed will have to contribute to this duty as well as those who have a taxable income. The primage duty and sales tax will be taken out of the pockets of the workers. It is proposed to increase postal charges to the extent of £1,000,000. This extra taxation will also fall heavily upon the workers, who will be required to pay id extra for every postage stamp they buy.
– Most of that money will be obtained from the big business firms.
– And they will undoubtedly pass it on to the people. Additional income taxation is being- imposed to the extent of only £850,000. If all my constituents were wealthy people I could go to them and tell them what a fine budget this was from their point of view, and I have no doubt they would be immensely pleased with it ; but as I represent many wage-earners I am compelled to ask what the Government is thinking about that it should suggest imposing £10,700^000 of additional taxation upon the ordinary people through, this primage duty and sales tax. In addition to that, the Government has increased our tariff duties enormously, and that also means the extortion of more money from the workers. Not only the people who have taxable incomes, but also those who are working on short time and are engaged in, casual occupations, or have even to beg for jobs from door to door, will feel the burden of this additional taxation. The man who has a wife and seven children will pay seven times as much in primage duty as the wealthy man who has no family. During the election campaign the Labour party issued a leaflet which contained this sentence : “ The Labour party voices the needs; of the vast majority of the people.” It is: doing so to-day through this Government by taxing the needs of the people, and placing extra burdens upon their backs ! I shall be interested to hear the Treasurer tell us- how he- intends to justify the imposition of this additional taxation on the workers. This pamphlet also says, “ The Labour party believes in the same law for the rich and the poor. It does not coddle the coal barons”. It is not coddling the coal barons, but it certainly is coddling the monopolists, the wealthy manufacturers and the Jack Wrens and T. M. Burkes of this country. It is coddling the millionaires of Australia as they have never been coddled before, and its policy is making the rich richer and the poor poorer. I cannot conceive how the Government will justify, on the public platform, this outrage upon the people, or survive the tide of indignation that is rising against it. But for sheer hypocrisy this statement, which is also contained in the same pamphlet, is surely the limit : “ The Labour party will not add to the already heavy hurden of taxation on the workers, imposed largely through the customs tariff “. Yet it is calling upon the workers to pay a primage duty of 2J per cent., which is estimated to yield £5,000,000 and is, after all, an additional customs tax, and a sales tax which is estimated to yield £5,700,000. This pamphlet, which was issued over the name of our absent friend, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore), also says that the Labour party will not add to the already heavy burden of taxation on the workers”by adding, to the cost of their amusements at the movies or elsewhere “. The unfortunate people who cannot afford to go to picture shows will havetheir pockets picked more cleverly by this Government than it could be done by the most skilful pickpocket. Whyshould not those who have money to spend on picture shows be taxed!’ Those who can find time to stand in queues at picture theatres before 1.0 o’clock in the morning, and’ crowd into the most expensive seats at certain times of the day, must not. be touched; but those who cannot afford to patronize amusements, must have theirpockets, turned inside out by this Government to pay the taxes to be imposed upon them in the sacredname of Labour ! The German Government has. levied heavy impostson beer and commodities of thatkind., If. the people of Germany cannot afford to. buy those luxuries they do- not pay those taxes; but the position is being reversed in Australia. Anybody who has sufficient money to enable him to take a holiday from his work and attend picture shows is not to be taxed, although the poor fellow who has to work month in and month out must meet the new imposts. I have before me a cartoon depicting the honorable member for Dalley smacking the foreign manufacturer in the face. At the next election the Government should be ‘represented as similarly dealing with the Australian workman, who is hit right and left by these increased charges.
The Sydney Evening News recently stated -
One of Australia’s leading economic authorities, Professor Brigden, asserted to-day that the sales tax will inevitably hit the workers’ living costs, despite the various exemptions. “The general effect,”- he said, “will be to stop the .present gradual fall in the cost of living. The sales tax is going to hit the working man far more than a corresponding increase in income tax. The position is such that the new imposts, superimposed on existing ones, must obviously be passed on. An increase in the whole range of income tax would have been infinitely better than the sales tax, which will inevitably hit the wage earner, “ The Government is actually hitting its own supporters. The British Labour Government would not entertain a sales tax of this character. This tax, which will cover a vast field, even if the incidence and operation of it were not fully appreciated, will hit the small shopkeeper particularly. It will affect all the sundry household items, and, as a natural corollary, the wage earner “.
This independent authority, Professor Brigden, has furnished further useful information in an article contributed by him to the Sydney Morning Herald of the 15th July. He states that while the worker will have to pay, those in receipt of professional incomes and salaries, however large, and incomes from interest and rent, will escape. He points out that “incomes from Government bonds will not be taxed under the sales tax, nor will sales of services as, for example, of advertising and of amusements, and the services of banks, brokers and agents generally. “ All the professional men with’ their large incomes will go scotfree; but the worker, who is the principal purchaser of commodities, will be penalized.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) told us to-night that the bankers were ruining this country. I point out, however, that this very class which he abuses is to be specially favoured by this Government. How can companies which pay, perhaps, 5 per cent., or whose returns may be even lower than that, be expected to pay a 2£ per cent, tax, when, at the same time, the public is invited to invest in Government loans yielding interest at the rate of 6 per cent. Such action is utterly inconsistent, and this will soon become apparent. I challenge the Treasurer to tell us why the salaries of Ministers and members of this Parliament, as well as the, cost of the Public Service, should not be reduced as in the various States. I also wish to know why £10,700,000 of the extra £12,500,000 of taxation is to be placed on the backs of the workers.
I direct the attention of the committee to the duties on Oregon and baltic pine that have been exercising the mind of the Minister for Trade and Customs recently. Canberra has been visited by representatives of certain interests who have been urging the Minister to place an embargo on baltic pine, and a further heavy duty on Oregon. I suppose that log-rolling is especially appropriate in connexion with timber. It could almost be said that the corridors of this building, and the lounges of the Hotel Canberra, have during recent weeks reverberated with the sound of the rolling of logs. These gentleman who hold tremendous stocks of timber in Melbourne, in alliance with union secretaries, and men associated with the hardwood industry, put proposition after proposition before the Government. I merely mention this matter at this stage to indicate the seriousness with which it is viewed by the general public, and to suggest that the Government should pause before it yields to the clamour of these people. In the past they clamoured for a reduction of the duties on oregon and baltic timbers, but, for reasons which I shall give presently, they have turned round and are now asking for higher duties on those timbers. It would take too long for me to discuss now the relative merits of baltic and Victorian ash, or to compare oregon with Australian hardwood. At another time I shall be happy to do so. Already the Government has made building exceedingly expensive by reason of the duties on imported timbers. One of the reasons why men have been thrown out of employment in the hardwood milling trade, is that building operations have practically ceased, largely because of the high cost of oregon and other timbers, which are essential for the building of homes. This is a matter for consideration on some other occasion, as is also the exclusion of Japanese timber. These gentlemen have insisted on placing before the Minister certain proposals in regard to the imposition on and from the 31st January, 1931, of a duty at the rate of 24s. per 100 super, feet on baltic floorings, linings and weatherboards. The duty is now 20s. per 100 super, feet. A stipulation is embodied in the proposals that the embargo shall not affect baltic floorings, linings and weatherboards purchased prior to the 1st January, 1930, and that the rate of duty at 15s. per 100 super, feet provided in the Customs Tariff 1921-28, shall apply to such of the timber specified as has already been imported, but upon which duty has not yet been paid. Their cool request is that on approximately 36,000,000 super, feet of baltic timber now in stock or afloat, about 60,000,000 super, feet of oregon in stock or afloat, and 11,000,000 super, feet on order and to arrive, as well as on 16,000,000 super, feet of red wood in stock or afloat, and 1,000,000 super, feet to arrive, they shall be charged only 15s. per 100 super, feet on the oregon timber, although the duty is now 20s., and from the 1st January next will be 24s. per 100 super, feet. They want a charter from this Parliament which will enable them to make at least 5s. per 100 super, feet on all that timber. They are really asking for a grant of £50,000. If this Government accedes to such a demand, it will earn the universal execration of the people.
.- I have listened with interest to the debate on the budget, but although the condition of the Commonwealth is so serious, the debate so far has not been different from that which has taken place in connexion with the many budget debates that I have heard since I have been in this
Parliament. Honorable members do not seem to realize that the existing circumstances call for special treatment. In my opinion, the budget proposals of the Government are the only proposals possible under the existing system. If the views I hold were held by a majority of the members of the Labour party, a different policy would have been adopted. The speech of the honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) was. similar to other speeches made on the budget by honorable members sitting in opposition. They have discussed and criticized the Government’s proposals, and given their opinion of the result of putting them into operation. I should not be surprised to find that some of their predictions will be fulfilled. Under our present system the worker cannot escape. It was a dictum of the Bight Honorable W. A. Watt, who until a- year or two ago represented Balaclava in this House, that all taxation finally rested upon the wageearner. He said that there was a filtration process, not easily discernible, which worked down through the various strata of human society until taxation rested finally on the shoulders of the one who could not pass it on - the manual worker.’
In preparing its financial proposals for the ensuing year, the Government was faced with great difficulties. It has done the best it could to meet the abnormal conditions it inherited from a previous government. The Government was forced to take action. No honorable member opposite has yet attempted to show a remedy other than the reduction of wages and living conditions. However they may try to side-step the matter, the fact remains that the proposals of the Leader of the Opposition amount to an attack on wages and conditions. He even went to the extent of suggesting that the wages of the members of this Parliament should be reduced, and that the members of the Public Service should be called upon to make a heavy sacrifice. His attack on the post office was in reality an attack on wages. The honorable member went further, for his suggestion that a saving could be effected in connexion with the maternity bonus was an attack on the motherhood of this country. When it suits them they will capitalize a human being. and estimate just what his worth is to the community. But when it is proposed to secure for children a fair entry into the world, they desire that assistance shall be asked for as a charity.
The Commonwealth should not be in its present unfortunate position. .1 am not going to reiterate what I have said before on this subject. It is all on record. Last year it was evident what was coming; indeed, the depression was then upon us, though it was not so acute as now. It is some years ago now since the former Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Charlton) moved the adjournment of the House to call attention to the growing volume of unemployment. We could see what was coming, but nothing was done to prevent economic depression. Probably the primage duty will succeed in raising the revenue required, but [ am doubtful whether, when the time comes for the preparation of the next budget, the country will really be any better off. The same thing is true of the sales tax. It should be possible so to shape our policies that the depression from which we are suffering will be lifted. If we cannot do that we ought not to hold our jobs. The tariff is quite right in all respects. I have always stood even for absolute prohibition if necessary, so that Australia may become self-contained, but this cannot take place unless the people have the necessary purchasing power. Members of the Opposition have suggested nothing to remedy our difficulties. Suppose we do reduce our salaries. Will that give one man an extra week’s work? Will it enable the Government to start new works ? It will simply help to balance the budget; to fill up some of the gaps left unfilled by the previous Government. It will not give the community anything more than it had before.
The honorable member who has just resumed his seat stooped very low in his attack on the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), who has been honoured by being given a commission to go overseas and represent this Parliament. The Government cannot be blamed for selecting him. He is at 1 least as capable of doing the job as some globe-trotter who might happen to be abroad at the present time. As regards the impending visit of the Prime Minister to Europe, I believe that it is the duty of Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth, and even of State Premiers, to see something of the world. Money spent in sending them abroad is a good investment, because they should be, when they return, better able to serve the country. Com- parisons, as Dogberry says, are odorous, and this is certainly true of the comparisons drawn by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) - they smell. It cost £8,000 to send Sir George Pearce to Washington. That was the officiallyadmitted cost, but by the time everything was paid it was probably nearer £10,000. Honorable members opposite never uttered a word of complaint about that. I remember that during the war Mr. Cook and Mr. Hughes went to Great Britain to attend something or other. I was on the north side of the Somme at the time, and when the sergeant asked me if I proposed to go and have a look at them I told him that I wasn’t interested. The cost of their visit, perhaps, was necessary expenditure. But I know that Senator Pearce was. howled off the continent when he proposed to rush off and share in the buckshee trips while the going was good. There is no justification for attacking the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). He is doing the job for which his Government selected him. I believe that the late Prime Minister and his retinue cost Australia £10,000 the last time he visited Great Britain. Let us wait until the present Prime Minister comes back, and see whether he spends £10,000. It will then be time to howl about his expenses. He may go one better than Stanley Melbourne Bruce - I do not think he will - but we should wait until he does. This sort of thing, however, is not getting us anywhere, nor making any contribution towards the solution of our problems. Nor does the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that I should reduce my salary. I am not going to support that proposal, and I have told my constituents so. I am worth the money I get for the services I render. Honorable members opposite do not desire salaries to be reduced for any goods that might be effected by the saving, but because they wish to be able to say to the electors, “Look at the sacrifice we are making when the country is confronted with a crisis. It is now up to you to do likewise.” This is a wage reduction stunt pure and simple. I am glad that the Government does not propose to agree to any such suggestion. We may be a useless appendage to the scheme of government, and not worth our money, but I do not believe that to be true. If we do our job properly we earn our money. If honorable members opposite really desire to eliminate superfluities, let them do the thing properly. Have they suggested cutting down the GovernorGeneral’s “screw,” or making him live in one house? Have they suggested eliminating the superfluous State Governors Honorable members can propose the cutting down of wages and the maternity allowance, but they are not prepared to CUt down, where expenditure can be spared, or cut out that which can be done without. I say deliberately that State Governors are an anachronism, and that the time is over-due for scrapping them. Has any one attempted to tell the States that they cannot afford to have six Agents-General ? The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), is now inquiring into the cost of Australia House. If Australia House were differently constituted and administered, it could do the work done by the Agents-General of the States, and save a lot of expenditure by the States; but as yet no one has been prepared to tackle the business in a business-like way.
– Is that why the honorable member for Reid was sent to London ?
– It is true that the honorable member for Reid has been instructed to report on Australia House, and possibly when he returns with the report of a common-sense man, and not of one who has been overwhelmed by the glamour of the office of the High Commissioner, we may get at some of the facts. Possibly we may be able to do something in the direction I suggest. When I was out of Parliament for a while, I remember reading how the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), dilated upon the futility of Australia .House, and upon the manner in which it was run. He said that an individual living in a suburban house instead of at the Hotel Savoy, and applying himself to the job of High Commissioner in a manner consistent with the duties of the office, would do far better than one surrounded with all the pomp and glory that goes with the position.
– The honorable member for Forrest has changed his views since he visited London.
– It is quite possible. He may also have changed his views hecause there has been development in other directions. But I also read some criticism of Australia’ House by the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell), who saw it when he was overseas as a soldier, and by the former honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), who trenchantly criticized the waste and futility attached to the office of High Commissioner. I do not say that the office should be abolished, but I say that it is foolish to have the High Commissioner in London and six Agents-General representing the various States. When we are considering the finance and management of the Commonwealth it is our duty to point out to the taxpayers generally that a saving can be made by the States by avoiding duplication and over-lapping. We should be able to tell our constituents that it is absurd to have seven Houses of Parliament when one is quite sufficient.
– If we believe in it.
– There is no logical reason for not believing in it. When federation was being brought into existence, I took as active an interest in the politics of the day as could be expected from an ordinary individual, and I voted against the two bills that were presented for endorsement by the electors of South Australia, because I had read Sir Josiah Symon on the question of unification. I quoted Sir Josiah Symon’s words in the early part of this session, when we were dealing with the proposal to alter the Constitution by giving to this Parliament the full power of amendment. I have since read the proposal made by Sir George Dibbs, in pre-federation days, for a unified form of government for Aastralia, and I am satisfied that in the main the people, when in 1898, they voted for “ one people, one destiny, one flag !” really thought that that connoted one central management and one parliament, and the scrapping of all others.
– After 30 years’ experience they would be glad to get rid of the central parliament.
– In the honorable member’s State only is that desire expressed, but if the honorable member’s constituents were properly led, and this Parliament did its duty as it should in the management of the Commonwealth, the people of Western Australia would not be found wanting to secede.
– If I
– Yes. It is our job to do it.
– This Parliament is very slow about doing it.
– I have to admit it, because members of this Parliament are harder to convince than are the people outside, but eventually it will be driven to recognize the facts, and the financial position is one of the biggest factors that will bring about that result. To-day we are facing an almost impossible financial position. Will some honorable member opposite trace the activities of the Commonwealth from the date of federation, and point out why we are in such a position? To place the responsibility on the workers is to fly in the face of demonstrated facts, because Mr. Wickens, in addressing the Peace in Industry Conference in 1929, pointed out that, in that year, the wealth produced in Australia, primary and secondary, was greater than it had ever been before. If wealth production counts, Australia ought to be on the top of the wave instead of in the trough, as it is at present. That is the incongruity about the whole thing. We are now really better off financially, economically, and in every other way than we ever have been before. Why then is our financial difficulty so acute if it is not due to bad management? It is certainly not due to want of capacity on the part of the people.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– I shall come to my suggestion directly. I will not leave any ohe in the dark as to what these Estimates reveal, or as to a way out that could be taken if Parliament would only face the facts and do the right thing. But first I want to make one point clear. Honorable members are always talking about cutting down wages and the need to work harder and produce more. Seeing that we are now worse off than when we were producing less, that line of reasoning seems to show that the more we produce the worse off we shall be. Our present position cannot, therefore, be due to a lack of production. I have no desire to give once more the figures relating to the productive capacity of the people of Australia or to the added productive capacity, year by year, by the use of more uptodate machinery and the adoption of newer methods. Honorable members are well acquainted with all those details. But, in the matter of production, we, in common with other nations, are approaching the saturation point. It is a contingency we are not making preparations to meet, but the time is rapidly coming when there must be a new system of distribution. On the one hand we have affluence and on the other hand poverty and degradation of the very worst type. Yet we ask, when this House meets, for deliverance from evil, that our work should be guided for the glory of God and the true welfare of the people of Australia. There is a day of reckoning coming. Our sins will be brought before us, and we shall have to answer for them. “ Thy Kingdom Come.” What sort of a kingdom? The kingdom of production is approaching rapidly, and under our present system of management we shall soon reach the apex. Under the present system when that apex is reached we shall plumb the depths of poverty and misery. Unfortunately, we are close to that to-day. Alterations must be made, but the arguments of honorable members opposite are not likely to assist in making them. It would be of little use to reduce the salaries of Ministers and members, to make a 10 per cent, cut in the salaries of the . public! servants, and to save a few shillings at the expense of the motherhood of this country. Why should not the mothers of this country, even if they are affluent, receive a bonus for every new arrival that they bring to this country ?
– Why give them the bonus if they are affluent?
– That is no argument at all; as a matter of principle, the mothers of this country are entitled to whatever amount is made available in the form of a bonus.
– On that principle the bonus should be more than £5. Surely a child is worth more than that ?
– If the honorable member bases the price of every new Australian on the cost of bringing a Southern European here, he insults our own womenfolk.
– No Southern European was ever brought to Australia by the late Government.
– Had I known that the Leader of the Opposition would make that claim on behalf of the Bruce-Page Government, I should have produced facts and figures showing the increase of Southern Europeans in Australia.
– Not one of them was brought here by the late Government.
– The Leader of the Opposition is viewing the Southern European from the point of view of somebody else’s dog. He is like a man who, having dragged a red herring along the trail to induce a dog to follow him home, will then swear that he never “pinched “ it. There are other ways of killing a cat than by choking it with butter. The last Government aided, assisted, and abetted in bringing Southern Europeans to Australia during the period that it was in office.
– There is not a scintilla of evidence for that statement.
– There were more Southern Europeans brought into this country during the regime of the BrucePage Government than at any other period up to the 1921 census. It is useless for honorable members to squirm when the facts are related to them.
– Are they facts ?
– The Southern Europeans are here, and the econom’ic effect of their presence is being felt. The expense of bringing them here was met by the late Government; in fact, it welcomed these Southern Europeans with open arms, because the more migrants of that class that were brought to Australia the more opportunity there would be for that Government to reduce the standard of living in Australia. It could not do that, by fair means so it was prepared to do it by foul means. It destroyed the Arbitration Act; it introduced the Transport Workers Act, commonly known as the “ Dog Collar Act “, which the specific idea of reducing the standard of living The Southern Europeans are here, and we are already feeling their presence.
– The honorable member is a good romancer.
– My little fiction is based on facts.
– The honorable member’s statement betrays his ignorance.
– The honorable member has not yet contributed to this debate so I challenge him to give to-morrow the migration- figures since 1921, and the details of the £34,000,000 agreement.
– Not a single foreign migrant was brought here by the late Government.
– The honorable member is in a position of being able to say that, the Government of which he was a member did not actually bring theseforeigners here.
– It is quite untrue to say that that Government did bring them here.
– That Government was a party to bringing Southern Europeans here. Page 900 of the Year-Book No. 20 gives the figures relating to persons admitted without dictation test. The following nationalities were admitted in 1926 :- Arabs, 10 ; Chinese, 1,780 ; Filipinos, 15 ; Japanese, 328 ; Javanese, 5 ; Malays, i2; natives of India and Ceylon, 1S8; Palestinians, S3; Syrians, 224; Timorese, 212; Pacific Islanders, 69; Papuans, 312, and unspecified 35; total 105,91S. Those nationalities were admitted during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government. Not only did the Labour party raise its voice in opposition to their admission, but the State Governments telegraphed their protest.
– The honorable member began talking about assisted immigrants.
– I am talking about the influx of southern Europeans during the regime of the late Government.
– That Government decreased and did not assist foreign migration, as the honorable member well knows.
– I am prepared to produce facts and figures to prove what I am saying. It is futile for the Leader of the Opposition to deny the responsibility of the late Government for the influx of southern Europeans to this country. 1 have no desire to detain honorable members unnecessarily; but I have not yet explained the real cause of our present economic position, and what I consider the best way to end the present system, which has produced the results with which we are so strikingly confronted to-day. We are following the same old track that we have trodden. ever since there has been responsible government in this country. “We are still ruled by capitalism, which is still bringing the some results. We are in our present position, not because of an insufficiency of production or taxable capacity, but because the imposts placed upon the people are most inequitably distributed. I wish to preface my explanation of the real trouble by reading a letter which appeared in the Melbourne Herald of the 11th July from Mr. G. M. Beck, of Melbourne, in which he quotes a statement made by Mr. Houlder, of Houlder Brothers, who controls the Furness line of steamers, and was in Australia some time ago. This letter, like those to which the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) referred, is similar to others contributed to newspapers throughout the Commonwealth in which storms of abuse are being raised against the budget. Of course that is happening. It is seldom that such communications appear in the newspapers; but in this instance the proposals of the Government arc hi’tting the newspaper proprietors, and consequently they are squealing a little more loudly than usual. This letter, which I shall quote shortly, sets out the position, which should not have been dis regarded by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) when he was a member of the previous Government. It contains the opinions of a person representing big business, and is compatible with what is usually expressed by globe-trotters such as Sir Otto Niemeyer. Let us see what ho says concerning the basis of the suggestion once made by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), that we should turn on the light and make them drop the loot, and who, when he came into power, made the load so heavy that the Commonwealth cannot now stand up to its burden. This Government must see that the loot is dropped. It is only a Government such as this that will properly apportion the blame. Mr. Boyd, who once represented Henty, in addressing the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, used the term, “ Boom, borrow and bust.” That is what I said is happening on every occasion when 1 have spoken on finance. The balloon has now burst, and we shall have to mend the rent. We are being assailed and told that we must mend the rent with our own twine instead of using that of the fellow who should pay. They will not get a bit of my twine to do the job ; they will have to use their own. Mr. Houlder’s remarks read -
Boom, borrow and bust is the motto out here, and from what I have seen so far Australia is getting near bust. I daresay m opinion of Australia is going to make me unpopular, but it is no good trying to say anything else. The country is going downhill. It is all being done on loans, but the bust iti coming. ‘ When they start reviewing the Australian loan in London you won’t get another cent out of her. Since I was Inst here in 1881 there has been a lot of development - but in my opinion that development has been overdone. Union tyranny here is simply grotesque. Everybody is borrowing more and the country debt is steadily increasing - everybody is helping to pay off the nation’s debt here instead of repaying their debt, lt is a tragedy to see a young country headed for ruin and not say anything.
The correspondent then concludes with these words : “ Will we ever heed advice, I wonder?” That is the position that confronted the previous Government.
– And this Government, too.
– It has now come to us, and the rent in the balloon is becoming larger. Practical and unprecedented. steps are now being taken to repair the damage. It is left to this Government to find a way out of the difficulty. The proposed primage duty and sales taxes are regarded with holy horror.
Unemployed Belief: Distribution op Defence Clothing and Blankets.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I have received the following letters that I should like to place before the Prime Minister or the Minister representing the Minister for Defence: -
Marrickville, 17th July, 1930.
Dear Mr. Long,
Now that the Naval College at Jervis Bay is being vacated it has occurred to me that there should be a considerable quantity of blankets, and, probably, some boots and clothing that will not be further required.
Might I suggest that in view of the present distress these might be sent to the municipalities for distribution through the various relief committees.
They would be a godsend for us at Marrickville, and would be received with gratitude by many distressed families, particularly by those where there are little ones.
Will you do your best for us in this regard; we feel that there should be plenty of this class of material available in view of the retrenchment in the Defence Department.
Thanking you for whatever you may be able to do, and with appreciation for your past efforts,
Petersham, 18th July, 1930.
Dear Mr. Long,
His Worship the Mayor (Alderman J. Bain, J.F. ) desiresme to bring under your notice a report that has been made to him by a gentleman who was visiting Huskison last week-end, to the effect that he had been credibly informed by local residents there that large quantities of blankets and clothing were being destroyed by burning, at the Naval College.
It was said that 2,000 blankets were so destroyed there last week, and requests by local needy residents, fishermen and others, for some of such blankets had been refused.
The Mayor’s informant states that his information came from reliable sources.
In view of the pressing need of so many people who are suffering by reason of the prevailing depression, the destruction of blankets and clothing appears to be a wanton waste, and indicates a shameless disregard of those who are in need, on the part of the officials responsible.
The Mayor would be obliged if you could have the matter inquired into, and if the report is correct, he hopes that you will be able to induce the Government to take some suitable action against those responsible, and also prevent any repetition of such an action in future.
Thanking you in anticipation
I hope that some inquiry -will be made into the statements that those letters contain. If they are found to be correct, action ought to be taken against the officials who are responsible. Should there be any further surplus clothing or blankets, I urge the Government to distribute them to the depots that have been established for the relief of the needy.
– If, as is stated, clothing and blankets have been destroyed, a most unusual course has been adopted. I shall be pleased to have a thorough investigation made to ascertain whether the statements contained in the correspondence quoted by the honorable member are correct. It is the policy of the Government to make available surplus clothing, and if there is any in this case it will be distributed to those who are in need of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 July 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300723_reps_12_126/>.