12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and offered prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether it is proposed to ask Parliament to take action with respect to the naval treaty which resulted from the recent conference in London, and, if so, whether it will bo done before the end of the present sittings?
– I hope that it will be possible for the Minister for Trade and Customs to make to Parliament this week his report on the Naval Conference, and a motion for the ratification of the treaty will then be submitted to the House.
Explosivesforminingpurposes: Export Containers
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the proposed sales tax will apply to explosives used in coalmining, and, if so, whether it will not operate harshly against miners doing contract work, seeing that these explosives are part of their tools of trade, and have to be purchased from the coal-owners ?
– The honorable member’s question is not in order, for it anticipates business which is already on the notice-paper.
– Then I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that the miners were recently obliged to accept an illegal reduction of wages through economic pressure, the Government will modify its proposal, to provide that explosives purchased as tools of trade by the coal miners shall be exempt from the tax?
– The bills for the imposition of the sales tax will be introduced to-morrow, and will receive full consideration. The Government will be glad to consider any representations made in respect of these measures, at either the second reading or the committee stage.
– I have had numerous inquiries from my constituents as to whether the proposedtax will apply to containers, such as butter boxes, which primary producers use for the marketing of their products. I should be glad if the Prime Minister could give me this information.
– I stated on a previous occasion that butter boxes would be exempt from the sales tax, and so will all other containers used for export purposes. I shall explain these exemptions fully tomorrow.
Commonwealth Grant to States
– Will the Prime Minister inform me what conditions are attached to the granting of the £1,000,000 by the Commonwealth to the States to assist them in dealing with unemployment? Is it a fact that the State Governments will be required to pay award rates of wages on all work in respect of which this money is used? Will the conditions make it difficult for the State Governments to expend this money to the best advantage?
– The conditions, if they can be called such, are very moderate. The decision as to how the money shall be spent has been left almost entirely to the State Governments, with exceptions. It has been provided, however, that the ruling award rates shall be paid in respect to any work carried out with this money. I do not think that any difficulty should arise from that requirement.
– Does the Minister for Markets and Transport propose to take any steps to develop shipping and other facilities in order to assist us to open up markets in the East for our primary products?
– Complaints have been made for some time that our primary producers have been at a disadvantage in regard to shipping freights to the East as compared with their competitors, and I have arranged to meet, on the 11th August, representatives of the shipping companies trading with the East to see whether some better arrangements cannot be made.
– Can the Prime Minister inform mewhether the Department of Industry has made any investigations with a view to ascertaining the number of boys engaged in blind-alley occupations, such as newspaper vending, or acting as golf caddies. If so, will he make the report available to honorable members.
– I have no knowledge that any investigation of that kind has been made, but I shall inquire definitely, and if there is a report on the subject, will make it available to the House.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether he has received any representations from a conference held recently in Melbourne with the object of opposing the renewal of the sugar agreement? Will the Government before coming to a decision on this subject, appoint a time for a conference, either in Melbourne or Canberra, at which the fruit-growers and manufacturers using sugar, and also the consuming public, may be represented; or, alternatively, will he afford the House an opportunity to discuss the subject before the sessionends?.
– I have received certain representations from the conference referred to by the honorable member, and from numerous other sources, both for and against the renewal of the agreement. I hope to be able to submit the matter to Cabinet to-morrow, and to make an early statement in regard to the whole position.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the statement by Senator Kakichi Uchida, of the Japanese House of Peers and President of the Wireless Telegraph Company of Japan, that, as a result of the Commonwealth’s recent tariff changes, particularly increases of duty against imports from that country, the Japanese purchases of Australian wool are likely to be decreased by some 50 per cent.? Also, has his attention been drawn to this matter by the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia?
– I have not seen the paragraph referred to, nor has my attention been drawn to it by the organization mentioned.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
With regard to the 8,028,054 super. feet of oregon, valued at £36,731, imported free into Australia in the year 1928-29, for use underground for mining purposes, as prescribed by departmental by-laws, will the Minister say - (a) Which firm or firms imported this timber, and what were the quantities?
What guarantee or assurance was given that the timber would be used exclusively underground for mining purposes?
What precaution is taken by the department to see that any guarantee or assurance so given is honoured?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount of money has been made available for home building by the Commonwealth ‘Bank and of such amount -
How much was made available each year?
How much has been advanced each year in each State of the Commonwealth ?
How much is considered to have failed to yield an adequate return?
– The following replies have been furnished by the Commonwealth Bank: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he inform the House as to what extent Australia’s trade balance has Improved for the half-year ended 30th June, 1930?
– Particulars of Australia’s trade for the half-year ended 30th June. 1930, are -
These figures are subject to revision when details for the month of June, 1930, are available. Comparable figures for the six months ended 31st December, 1929, are -
– On the 25th July, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked the following questions, upon notice -
In reference to the finance member of the Naval Board, the paymaster-commander, and two lieutenant-commander paymasters (page 114 of the Estimates), the director of naval accounts, and 50 other officers in the finance branch of the Naval Department (page 115), the paymaster lieutenant-examiner (page 116), the 31 paymaster commanders, lieutenantcommanders and other officers called accountant officers (page 120), the paymaster midshipmen (page 121), the paymaster commander and paymaster lieutenant (page 125), the unnumbered paymaster lieutenantcommanders and lieutenants (page 130), three paymaster lieutenants (page 134), -the accountant and expense accounts officer (page 135) -
How much pay do the 100 naval officers and the unnumbered naval officers (page 130) receive (a) in annual pay, and (b) in allowances and other payments?
How many officers are employed in naval, accountancy, and finance branches of the Naval Department?
Are more than 106 of these officers necessary; if not, what remedy does he propose?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
-On the 1st July, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked me the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
Salary of Secretary
– On the 25th July, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked me the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as fallows: -
– On the 16th July, the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) asked me the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: -
-On the 23rd July, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) asked the following question : -
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?
The Commonwealth Bank has now furnished the following reply: -
It has always been the practice of the bank to see that its wages employees who are not provided for by federal awards receive treatment at least as advantageous as that provided by a State award for a similar class of employee. So far as hours of duty are concerned, the number worked is determined according to the current award or statute. At present, therefore, miscellaneous workers, liftmen, cleaners, &c, at the bank’s Sydney office work on a 48-hour week basis, which involves 52 hours duty per week in the case of nightwatchmen. Such is usual with this type of employee in New South Wales, i.e., with the 44-hour week in general operation nightwatchmen were required by award to perform 48 hoursduty weekly.
The following papers were presented: -
Hops Industry. -Report by the Honorable J. A. Gunn (Director of Development).
Ordered to be printed.
Cotton Bounty Act - Return for 1929-30.
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act - Return for 1929-30.
Papua and New Guinea Bounties Act - Return for 1929-30.
Power Alcohol Bounty Act - Return for 1929-30.
Shale Oil Bounty Act - Return for 1929-30.
Sulphur Bounty Act - Return for 1929-30.
Wine Export Bounty Act - Return for 1929-30.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until to-morrow at 2.30 p.m.
Consideration resumed from 25th July (vide page 4748), on motion by Mr. Scullin -
That the first item in the Estimates for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, under Division 1 - the Department of Defence - namely, “ Naval Establishment - Machinery and Plant, £1,500,” be agreed to.
Upon which Mr. Latham had moved by way of amendment -
That the item be reduced by £1.
.- I have stressed the inequitable incidence of taxation, particularly in respect of South Australia. That State will suffer more than the eastern States as a result of the Government’s taxation proposal, and. therefore, is deserving of special consideration at the hands of the Commonwealth. The following passage from The Australian Tariff, sets out the position of South Australia under the new and existing forms of taxation : -
The State taxpayers are called upon to meet deficits on railways (the capital and Working expenses of which are inflated because of the tariff), because tariff costs do not allow of freights being raised. The State finances therefore bear a substantial share of the tariff costs. The States which enjoy more than their proportional share of the benefits of protected industries may be able to afford this result. Their taxable capacity is increased through the protected industries established in their territories. But opposite results are experienced in the other States. Their taxable capacity is lowered, so that their rates of taxation have to be increased; industry is further encouraged to concentrate in the more fortunate States, and the cumulative effects which follow intensify the inequalities created by the tariff itself.
South Australia is at present suffering acutely because of the existing financial depression. At one time the States received from the Commonwealth a greater measure of assistance. The curtailment of that assistance was, I admit, intensified by the Commonwealth’s war commitments, which forced it to enter fields of direct taxation which, up to that time, had been availed of only by the States. But that does not make it any easier for the people of South Australia. During the first ten years of the federation the States had returned to them 75 per cent, of the customs and excise revenue collected within their boundaries, and, under the Surplus Revenue Act, the Commonwealth also returned to them any unspent amount over and above that proportion. During 1901-2, South Australia received £332,239 from the Commonwealth. An increase in the population of both the State and the Commonwealth resulted in the sum of. £803,057 being paid to South Australia by the Commonwealth in 1909-10. For the first ten years of federation South Australia received 80.44 per cent, of the customs and excise revenue collected in that State. From that time onwards the States received from the Commonwealth payments based on their population. The changed system had a serious effect on the finances of South Australia, for the amount received by that State from the Commonwealth in 1928 represented only 16.96 per cent, of the customs and excise revenue collected within its boundaries.
I have referred to the unfortunate posi-tion of South Australia at some length because it is so serious as to necessitate the State applying to the Commonwealth for assistance. There are approximately 20,000 persons unemployed in South Australia to-day; 11,000 householders are receiving weekly doles to keep them from starving. The position of the State is indeed bad. Ou Friday one honorable member attributed the serious position of South Australia to the losses on the State railways. Those losses may, to some extent, be responsible, but whatever the cause, something must be done. Last year the losses on the South Australian railways amounted to £1,800,000; for 1928-29 they were £1,400,000. The railways rehabilitation scheme, which cost £12,000,000, is largely responsible for South Australia’s present position. Losses have also been incurred in connexion with water schemes and other public works.
It is reported that efforts are being made to induce the Government to extend the sugar embargo for a further period. That embargo costs the people of South Australia about £600,000 per annum. They are also called upon to pay £300,000 each year to provide for the butter bounty ; £2,600,000 to support various secondary industries; and £300,000 per annum for the assistance of other industries. For a State with a population of 580,000 to find £13,800,000 per annum for bounties places a heavy burden on its people. Notwithstanding that the Government of South Australia proposes to use the pruning knife freely, it does not expect to end the year with a deficit of less than £1,000,000 ; the deficit may even be more. The additional taxation imposed by the Commonwealth has deprived all the States of opportunities for raising new taxation, so that deficits cannot be made up by taxation. During recent years South Australia has had a series of deficits. The year 1926-27 ended with a deficit of £1,050,049, excluding losses on soldier settlement. If those losses are included, the deficit for that year amounted to £1,581,965. For the following year the deficit ‘ w-as £274,931, or, ‘including soldier settlement losses, £734,662. For. 1928-29 the figures were £930,858 and £1,198,909 respectively. The financial year 1929-30 ended with a deficit of £1,625,472, excluding soldier settlement losses, or £1,925,472 if those losses are included. Excluding soldier settlement losses, the accumulated deficit for the four years mentioned amounted to £3,881,310. Including those losses, the total deficits for ‘ those years reached £5,441,008. The deficit for 1926- 27 has been funded, while the deficits of the succeeding years have been met temporarily out of trust and loan funds. Should the revenue and expenditure for 1930-31 be on a scale equal to that for the year just ended, it is possible that the deficit at the end of the current financial year will be as much as £2,500,000. The estimated fall in the income of the people of South Australia for the present financial year, as compared with the boom years, is estimated at £8,000,000.
I realize that I have told a doleful story of the State I assist to represent; but, unfortunately, it is a story which must be told. In the past, other States have applied to the Commonwealth for assistance; to-day South Australia is in the position of a suppliant. There is a good deal of talk among the people of Western
Australia in favour of secession. Some honorable members have quoted the Premier of South Australia as having said that he blamed federation for his State’s present position.While I do not say that that is the cause, I am of the opinion that the duplication of governments and parliaments has, to some extent, been responsible. I hope that the day is not far distant when the present costly duplication of parliaments will end, and we shall have in Australia a parliament which is truly national in character.
I believe that a good many of the State jealousies that exist in this chamber and elsewhere would be eliminated if we legislated for Australia as a single entity. The best answer to those who talk of secession is to ask them whether their State is prepared, upon secession, to take over its proportion of the direct and indirect war debt, on a population basis, together with its share of the cost of the various public utilities, essentially of a State nature, that are controlled and financed by the Commonwealth Parliament. I am confident that if any State seceded under those conditions it would promptly become insolvent. Certainly such a step would not solve the existing problem. So much for those who decry the Federal Parliament, and blame federation for the position of the States.
I remember, and no doubt many other honorable members also do so, a very able speech that was made a few years ago by the Right Honorable W. A. Watt, then the federal member for Balaclava. In it the honorable gentleman outlined the whole of the activities of the States, and the cost thereof, including the maintenance of an expensive system of education, public works, hospitals, and so forth, and he drew attention to the fact that this Government was encroaching more and more upon the taxation possibilities of the States. That is all very true. While the States, particularly South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, retain their State Parliaments and State instrumentalities, it is essential that they should receive some assistance from the Federal Parliament to enable them to carry on, and we should be able to arrive at some amicable agreement to that end. I believe that the timelyassistance rendered by the Commonwealth Parliament has placed Tasmania in its present position. The following statistics have been taken from the work to which I have already referred. They indicate that the subsidies granted by the Federal Parliament to protect industries, per head of population, are -
It will be seen that South Australia is at a considerable disadvantage compared with most of the other States, as its proportion amounts to £3.7, while the average for the different States was £6.0. Working out the position of South Australia, ona population basis, it will be found that it is entitled to an annual grant of £1,800,000 from the Federal Parliament to counteract the disabilities from which it suffers under federation from that point of view only. The South Australian Government appointed a commission to inquire into the disabilities suffered by that State as a result of federation, but the finding of that body was not acted upon. The Bruce-Page Government also appointed a commission to inquire into the disabilities sustained by South Australia by reason of federation,and it was presided over by Sir Joseph Cook. That commission recommended that the State should receive a payment of £1,000,000, spread over two years. Its recommendation was not adopted. We, in South Australia, appreciate what has been done for our State by the present Commonwealth Government, but it is insufficient. If an inquiry were made into existing conditions, especially the result of the intrusion of the Commonwealth into the field of direct and indirect taxation, it would be found that South Australia is suffering three times as much from the disabilities of federation as it was when that last report was submitted. Tasmania was recently granted a special inquiry into its disabilities under federation, and I urge that similar action should be taken with regard to South Australia. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I do not suggest that this Government has failed to assist South Australia. The representatives of that State in this Parliament have every reason to thank the present ‘federal Government for the way in which it has assisted their State. One of the first measures introduced by this Government was the South Australian Grant Bill, which provided for the payment to South Australia of £1,000,000 over a period of three years. Under it myState received £360,000 last year, and it is to receive £320,000 this year, and a further £320,000 next year. South Australia also participated in the gram of £1,000,000 thai was made available by this Government last Christmas to relieve unemployment, its quota being £114,000. Recently the present Federal Government made a further advance of £1,000,000 available to the .States and, speaking from memory, South Australia’s proper proportion of that amount was about £90,000. Owing to the special disabilities under which that State labours as a result of federation, it was paid £150,000. In his speech on Friday last, the Prime Minister intimated that the Commonwealth had allocated £1,000,000 worth of loan moneys to the credit of South Australia. I know that that is not a permanent gift, but that sum was made available because of the exceptionally straitened circumstances in which the State finds itself. That grant will assist South Australia, but I still urge that the Government should appoint an independent body to inquire into its disabilities under federation. That body should include a representative of South Australia and, after making exhaustive inquiries, its finding should be given effect by the Federal Government. South Australia does not approach this Government in the guise of a mendicant, seeking largess. I am not petitioning on behalf of a pauper State; I merely seek for it equitable treatment from the Commonwealth Government. I maintain that in the circumstances it is entitled to relief. Eventually we shall have to take steps to do away with the prevailing duplication of government and taxation. When the present Government in South Australia assumed office it found itself faced with the urgent necessity of devising means for balancing its budget; but, as the Commonwealth Government imposed additional taxation at about that time, it could not do so. Therefore, the revenue required must be sought in some other quarter. The proportion of taxpayers to population is greater in South Australia than in any other pan of the world. People in that State who earn as little as £100 a year are taxed to the extent of £2 5s., and the taxation per head of the population last year *v/n> as high as £6 10s. I hope that this Government will realize the difficult position in which the State is placed, and thnecessity for taking action to relieve it.
During the course of this debate, numerous suggestions have been made asto directions in which economies can bteffected. In my opening remarks oi. Friday, I ventured the opinion that tin amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) was merely political propaganda. I realize, however, that in the hurly-burly of politics, an Opposition is entitled to avail itself of any opportunity that presents itself to criticize the Government. There are one or. two directions in which, I believe, the Commonwealth can improve its position. Wi have a big mileage of Commonwealth railways, the management of which is equal to th at of any of .the State systems in Australia, and so far as I can learn, of any system in the world. About twelve oi eighteen months ago, it appeared that theCommonwealth railways were becoming « payable proposition; but since then th, position has been less favorable. The complaint that I make is that, instead of having encouraged our railways, action has been taken that has been detrimental to their best interests : I refer to the subsidy that is being paid to Westralian Airways Limited. On the loth July last, I asked the Minister for Defence the following questions : -
The answers that I received were -
The passenger fare charged by that company from Perth to Adelaide, a distance of 1,200 miles, is only £12 - practically the same as the fare charged for a journey between those two capitals on the transcontinental railway. It will thus be seen that the subsidy places this company in a position that enables it to be a serious competitor of our railway. That it is determined to secure all the business that is offering is evident from the fact that its charge for carrying a passenger from Perth to Derby, a distance of 1,450 mile3, where there is no rail competition, is £28. The Bruce-Page Government entered into this contract, and the present Government cannot escape from it.
– Can it not be terminated at an earlier date than 1934?
– The contract stipulates that it shall operate for a period of five years, commencing on the 2nd April, 1929. If it cannot be terminated, the Government can at least take action to compel the company to increase its fares, or confine its operations in such a way that it will not compete with our railways, and will only be used in emergency. Even the Auditor-General has considered it necessary to comment upon the extraordinary situation in which the Commonwealth is placed. (Quorum formed.]
The Leader of the Opposition, in criticizing the present Government’s activities, argued that the roads grant should be substantially reduced. I trust that that agreement will not be interfered with, because, as it now stands, it is of direct advantage to the States. The States were virtually forced to accept the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, although its conditions did not suit them. It was stipulated, in the first place, that money advanced under the agreement was to be spent only on roads of a developmental nature, and that for every £1 advanced by the Commonwealth the States would have to find 15s. The obligation upon them did not end there, because once the roads were finished the entire burden of maintaining them fell upon the States. lt was discovered that a good deal of money and effort were being wasted on the construction of roads which, for lack of funds, could not be kept in repair. Some of the States could not accept the whole of the grant, because they could not put up the 15s. for each £1 as required by the agreement. South Australia’s share of the annual Commonwealth grant is £228,000, which, under the new agreement, will be the same as a straight-out gift. Now that there are no conditions attached to the grant, the States can take full advantage of it, and will do so the more readily because some of the money- can be used for maintenance. It may be objected that the money thus granted to the States is first raised from the people in the States through the petrol tax. Perhaps the money raised in a particular State from the petrol tax, and the chassis tax, may, upon analysis, be found to equal approximately the Commonwealth road grant to that State, but we must remember that it is competent for the Commonwealth to raise taxation in this way, and not return any of it to the States.
I hope that the Government will shortly institute inquiries into the price of petrol. ‘ I have made a comparison between the price at which petrol is landed in Australia, and the price at which it is sold in country districts, and it appears to me that it should be possible for country consumers to get cheaper petrol. In regard to taxation, I believe that it would be better if the States were to abandon their own motor taxation, and allow the Commonwealth to collect the money by a petrol tax, the proceeds to be returned to the States on a proportionate basis.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) suggested that the allowance of Ministers and members of Parliament, and the salaries of public servants, should be reduced. I remind him that the salaries of the Commonwealth public servants are governed by awards of the Arbitration Court, or of the Public Service Arbitrator, and no one . has decided more emphatically than has the Leader of the Opposition that industrial awards should be honored. While the presentawards governing pay and conditions in the Public Service remain in force, nothing should be done to interfere with the salaries of public servants. The honorable member’s suggestion regarding a reduction of parliamentary allowances is merely a cheap form of political propaganda. Every honorable member of this House knows that the calls upon his parliamentary allowance are heavier during this time of depression than in normal times, and we should not forget that it costs members much more to attend sessions of Parliament now than when we met in Melbourne. The transfer to Canberra has been equivalent to a substantial reduction of their parliamentary allowance. In any case, I cannot agree that one section of the community should be thus singled out for sacrifice. I can understand that the Leader of the Opposition, whose private income is probably four or five times as great as his parliamentary allowance, may be ready to agree to dock his allowance by £200, provided his private income escapes its full measure of taxation. I agree that this is a time when every one should make sacrifices, and I suggest that every person in receipt of an income, from whatever source, of more than £500 or £600 a year, should pay a special tax, over and above the ordinary income tax. Much more could be obtained in that way than by reducing parliamentary allowances, and the sal- aries of public servants, many of whom are already underpaid; and those taxed would be charged equitably. The Leader of the Opposition did not advance his proposal because he thought that, if accepted, it would benefit the country, but because he knew that it would tickle the ears of the electors. The country is being flooded with propaganda issued by organizations and individuals who know that what they are writing is not true, but they are doing it in an attempt to evade their just taxation obligations. And, as I have mentioned perhaps a dozen times in this chamber, they are also trying id bring about their great object, the lowering of wages and the standard of living in Australia. By a reduction of members’ salaries they hope to be able to say to the people in their electorates, “ Even the member for your electorate has permitted, his salary to be reduced by 20 per cent., and if it is right for him to do so it should also be right for you “. If they were able to get a reduction of wages, the majority of employers would not employ one additional hand, and the amount’ of money they could save by a reduction of wages would only add to their profits. This propaganda to bring about a. reduction of wages has been going on for years, and if honorable members opposite could only succeed in reducing -members’ salaries it would be the best, incentive they could have for urging a .general lowering of wages in Australia. But instead of bringing about a reduction of wages, the policy of this Parliament ought to be to cut out some of the great expenses which are now such a prominent feature qf the cost of government in Australia. We should not only impose an additional tax on incomes and wages.; we should take steps to avoid the many costly duplications we have in administration, Federal and State. I have not heard honorable members opposite call attention to what it is costing Australia to have six Governors as well as the Governor-General and six Agents-General as well as the High Commissioner in London. There is clearly opportunity for economy in those directions. To. have six State Governors in Australia must cost the people an immense amount of money. I have not the figures for each State, but one can visualize what that cost must be from what it costs the Commonwealth to have a Governor-General. A reply to a question asked on the 1st May last relative to the annual cost of the office of GovernorGeneral was as follows : - 1
In my opinion, the ‘Governor-General should bc an Australian citizen; but it seems to me. that it is quite unnecessary for Australia to have six Governors in addition to a Governor-General and six Agents-General in addition to the High Commissioner who represents the Commonwealth in London. In this direction, economy could be effected, which would be better than cheap propaganda suggesting that men who are already specially penalized in a time of depression should forgo a portion of their salaries. I am prepared to submit to additional taxation provided every one on the same income level as myself is likewise penalized, but I do not suppose there is another honorable member whose salary is worth less to him than mine is. My electorate covers 300,000 square miles, and is far removed from the Seat of Government. It is a costly matter to visit my constituents. In my first election campaign, when the matter of the allowance to members of Parliament was a vital question before the electors, I said that the allowance should be zoned as was done in Tasmania; that special consideration should be. given to members with large constituencies far removed from the .Seat of Government. I do not, however, cavil at a reduction in salary so long as every one on the same income level as myself submits to the- same reduction.
I hope that the Government will take into consideration the points that other honorable members for South Australia and I have mentioned relative to the extraordinary financial position of the State. I hope, too, that the other matters I have mentioned will receive consideration from the Government, and I trust that when the next budget is introduced we shall not be in the unsavoury position of having to apply taxation to the people in order to clean up a mess such as this Government has inherited from its predecessors. (Quorum formed.’]
.- The tariff discussion and the present budget debate have clearly demonstrated that the revision of our standing orders is essential. Under the standing orders an honorable member is permitted to speak on the budget for one hour and twenty- five minutes; but in discussing the tariff no time limit is imposed, lt seems to me that much of the time occupied by honorable members is taken up with unnecessary repetition, the introduction of irrelevant matter and party propaganda. In addition the practice has developed of allowing honorable members to insert in Hansard long extracts which are not read. This practice should be carefully considered by Parliament. If the time limit were reduced,- it would, I believe, result in more interesting speeches being delivered, and would probably prevent the honorable member for Angas (Mr.’ Gabb) from continually calling attention to the state of the House. The previous Government appointed a committee to revise our standing orders, but because a general election has intervened that committee has not submitted a report to Parliament. Some time ago I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) whether he proposed to call the committee together to complete its duties, so that our work might be commenced next session under a moresatisfactory system. Although the Prime Minister proposes to leave Australia shortly, I trust that he will arrange for the committee to complete the work which was commenced while the last Government was in office.
A noticeable feature of the budget speech delivered by the Prime Minister was that he did not blame the past Government for the present economic position confronting Australia. It is most unfortunate that those of his supporters “ who have spoken on the budget have not followed his excellent example. I submit that there is absolutely no justification for the charges of extravagant administration and the squandering of loan moneys that have been made by some honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) accused the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) of party propaganda in submitting the amendment now before the committee. I do not intend to go into the charges that have been made. They were clearly disproved by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) in an excellent speech. The Prime Minister accurately stated the position when he said that, the
Government was faced with a depression which is unparalleled since the inception of Federation. The right honorable gentleman also put the position very clearly when he used these words -
The severe economic disturbance at present prevailing in nearly all 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, are wellknown. Concurrently with, the decline in the value of exports there has been a cessation of the flow of loan moneys from overseas. Drought conditions in many districts during recent seasons also have had their adverse effect by reducing the volume of primary production. The loss in Australia of real income consequent upon these factors is variously estimated for the year just closed at between £50,000,000 and £70,000,000.
He further stated -
An inevitable result of the reduced local spending power is reflected in curtailment of credit, reduced trade, increased unemployment and derangement of Governmental finance.
It is useless for honorable members opposite to indulge in charges against the late Government of reckless administration. In my opinion, we would be very much better employed in dealing with some of the. problems facing us to-day. Speaking on the amendment ‘ moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) the Prime Minister took no small amount of credit to himself for the warning he gave when himself Leader of the Opposition. I think it is fair to state that the previous Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was equally emphatic as to the necessity for adjusting our financial, industrial and commercial position.
-Why did he not take some action ?
– The late Prime Minister took action which was not acceptable to the House or to the constituencies; but in view of what has transpired since, the course he suggested was justified. When the late Prime Minister was welcoming the representatives of the States at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, held on the 28th May, 1929, he used these significant words -
The situation that confronts us to-day cannot fail to cause anxiety to every thinking citizen. Australia has in the past experienced periods of temporary depression, which have been due in the main to adverse seasonal influences. Generally speaking, we have huon fortunate in that they have been of short duration, and that the disabilities which they have occasioned, such as unemployment and stringency in public finance, have rapidly disappeared with the return of normal season?. Our present position is, however, due, I suggest,, to causes that are more deeply seated, and good seasons alone will not restore prosperity. The prices of our staple commodities - wool and wheat - have recently declined. The sale of the surplus products of most of our other primary industries has become unprofitable, and the position of our secondary industries is becoming more and more difficult owing to over-increasing competition from overseas. The cumulative effect of all these things is discernible, in the growth of unemployment throughout Australia, and in the increasing complexity of the problems with which we have to contend in relation to our finance, commerce, industry, and production generally.
He concluded by saying -
Having regard to Australia’s unrivalled resources and unexampled opportunities, this check in the progress of our commerce and production is the clearest indication that there is something wrong somewhere in our national economy, which it is our duty to discover and to remedy. The situation calls, therefore, for the closest investigation of the causes of our present difficulties, not merely with a view to ending the existing period of depression, but also with the object of eliminating the factors that are impeding our national progress and retarding our development. Thi, can be done only by an exhaustive examination of the whole position.
The remedy proposed by Mr. Bruce was unpopular with the electors; but I submit that’ Mr. Scullin, who was so wise in the past, has now an opportunity to apply the remedy he previously suggested. When Parliament met early this year, the Prime Minister made an urgent appeal for co-operation, in order to devise a means to overcome the difficulties then facing us. I submit that that cooperation has been enthusiastically offered by members of the Opposition; but apparently the co-operation expected by the Government is that we should sink our political principles, and give it an opportunity to carry out the planks of its political platform. A good deal of the present session has been occupied in discussing such measures as the Wheat Marketing Bill, the Central Reserve Bank Bill and an amending Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, all of which were designed to place the control of industry in the hands of labour organizations.
The Prime Minister has, from time to time, asked honorable members of the Opposition for constructive criticism of the budget proposals. In response the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) made a close analysis of the finances of the Commonwealth, and suggested further reductions in expenditure which would relieve the taxpayers of a portion of the taxation proposals of the Government. While I congratulate the Government upon its endeavour to balance the national ledger, I must direct attention to certain objectionable features of its financial proposals. The fact that protest meetings of taxpayers have been held in every capital city of Australia is undeniable evidence that the public has been greatly antagonized by the steps which the Government proposes to take to balance its accounts. I shall read some of the resolutions that have been agreed to at meetings held in Melbourne - and they are typical of the resolutions carried at similar meetings in the other States. The first, which was passed by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures
– They are mostly political resolutions!
– I do not think that the Minister for Home Affairs can seriously suggest that the Chamber of Manufactures is opposed to the Labour party, for, as has been stated in this House, it contributed handsomely to the funds of the Labour party prior to the last election.
– That statement is a figment of some one’s imagination.
– The resolution of the chamber read as follows: -
That in view of the serious position of the finances of the Commonwealth, a joint committee be formed of representative primary producers, financiers, and business men from ail the States with a view to placing before the Ministry suggestions that might be of assistance in the present crisis.
The Taxpayers Association of Victoria carried the following motion : -
That while recognizing the necessity for balancing the budget, this meeting considers that it should be done more by economy in all Government expenditure than by increased taxation.
The Chamber of Commerce, which, in most cities, is a very representative body, passed the following motion : -
That this meeting of citizens views with alarm the federal budget proposals. We stoutly protest against the imposition of such colossal new taxation when substantial allround economies in the cost of government and every branch of public expenditure have not been effected. The proposed taxes will further seriously increase the cost of living, raise production costs, and drastically affect the primary-producing industries and mercantile, manufacturing, and financial interests, causing additional widespread unemployment. We appeal to the members of both Federal Houses to support the public demand for a revision of the budget.
It is apparent to everybody except, possibly, honorable members who support the Government, that the putting into effect of the taxation measures foreshadowed in the budget must increase the cost of living, increase the cost of production, and throw many more people out of employment. I know that it is necessary that governments must impose taxation, and bear the responsibility of the measures which they propose to achieve that end ; but we are well within our rights, as an Opposition, in offering our protest against che adoption of objectionable methods of taxation.
I wish to refer particularly to the proposal of the Government to make £1,000,000 available to the States to assist in the relief of unemployment. I have the greatest sympathy with all the men and women in the community who have been thrown out of work; but I do not think that the Government is adopting the right means of assisting them. I object to the granting of this £1,000,000, because the money is not in the possession of the Treasury, and will have tobe raised by additional taxation. The fact that the State Governments will be obliged to pay award rates of wages, and observe award conditions in the expenditure of this money, makes it extremely difficult for them to use it to advantage. The insistence of the Commonwealth upon that condition is unfair to those State Governments which have already adopted carefully thought-out plans to cope with this great problem, and put in hand certain works with the object of spending such money as they have been able to raise for the purpose, to the best possible advantage.No one can deny that many of the people in the community who have been out of employment for some considerable time have lost a good deal of their efficiency. Unfortunately some of the men are not in a physical condition to-day to do a reasonable day’s work. Some of the State Governments have recognized this fact, and “have issued the instruction that the greatest leniency shall be shown to such men during the first few weeks they are at work. If the Commonwealth Government insists upon the payment of award rates to such workers it will mean that the works upon which they will be employed will be uneconomical in every sense. It may also mean that tens of thousands of men who cannot be employed under such conditions by the States will be obliged to continue living on doles and rations.
– Surely it is better that the men should do some work for the money they receive, even if they are not able to do a full day’s work, than that they should continue to receive charity.
– The honorable member for Corio has, without intending to do so, substantiated my point. During the financial year 1928-29 the sum of £491,503 was contributed to the unemployment insurance fund established by the Queensland Government, of which £439,171 was spent, in weekly payments, to workers. In addition to that large amount, a sum of £110,420 was distributed by the State Government in outdoor relief. Unfortunately the Government cannot show a single asset for the expenditure of this large sum of money. It is now proposed to raise £1,000,000 by a special tax of 3d. in the £1 on all incomes irrespective pf whether the money is earned in wages or from property or other sources. This money will be spent on definite public works, and the expenditure on doles and rations will be discontinued.
– This is a snide scheme for reducing wages.
– The honorable member for Herbert is simply voicing the objections to this scheme by the Labour unions of Queensland. The Queensland Government is at present employing 3,000 men on public works, and paying from the taxation raised in this way £2 10s. a week to single men, and £3 a week to (‘the married men. But all the works upon which these men have been engaged have been declared black by dictatorial labour unions: In my opinion, the Commonwealth Government is insisting upon the payment of award rates on all works upon which its £1,000,000 is expended, with the object of compelling all State Governments to pay award rates for relief work on which they are spending their own money. The whole proposal is, of course, absurd, as anyone who investigates it knows. Honorable members opposite have said during this debate that there are 120,000 persons unemployed in Australia at present. It is manifestly impossible to pay all these people award rates of wages on relief works. I submit, therefore, that the Queensland Government has adopted a very wise method of meeting the situation. The New South Wales Government has also decided to put a similar scheme into operation. This will result in very many persons obtaining employment who would otherwise be left without work.
– How would the honorable member like to attempt to maintain a family on £3 a week?
– I admit that there is some point in the interjection of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis), but it is surely much better for these men to work for £3 a week than to receive £1 or 30s. a week as a charity dole. The Prime Minister said in his speech on Friday that neither he nor the Government was looking for applause from the people of Australia; but it seems to me that they are looking for applause from the Labour unions. In the Summary of Commonwealth Government Activities, No. 5, issued this month, the following statement appears in connexion with the unemployment relief : -
The States already have, in existence organizations for the control of- money expended in the relief of unemployment, and it is not proposed that the Commonwealth should set up a special organization to duplicate the work of the States. The £1,000,000 proposed to be distributed among them by the Commonwealth will augment their funds. The Commonwealth Government does not propose tointerfere with the States in the matter; it will allow them to exercise their own judgment as to the best means of expending themoney.
In my opinion that statement does not reveal the true facts of the case, and does not square with the reply the Prime Minister gave to my question on this subject to-day. It is regrettable that the Government should have imposed any wages conditions upon the expenditure of the £1,000,000 grant. The State Governments are anxious to avoid doing anything to cause public discontent; they desire to spend such money as they have available in a way which will do the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. The Prime Minister has said on a number of occasions that the Commonwealth Government desires to work in the utmost co-operation with the State governments, but it is not acting in a way which invites co-operation. This grant is being made with a political object. It will not benefit the States, but will undoubtedly please the Labour unions.
I wish now to draw attention to what I considerto be a most deplorable feature of this debate. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long), and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) have, in my opinion, advocated, in their speeches, what amounts to a repudiation of our obligation to pay interest on our debts.
– I rise to a point of order. I have been entirely misrepresented.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr McGrath).That is not a point of order; the honorable member may make a personal explanation later if he thinks he has been misrepresented.
– I do not desire to misrepresent any honorable member of the committee.
-i did not make the statement suggested by the honorable member for Lilley.
– Undoubtedly, some of the honorable members to whom I have referred said definitely that our bondholders were not entitled to draw interest on the money they had invested in loans; and remarks of the honorable member for Lang contained at least a suggestion of that kind.
– But what did the Prime Minister say? [Quorum formed.]
– In reply to the interjection of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), let me say that I was extremely pleased to hear the Prime Minister rebuke those of his supporters who suggested the repudiation of agreements that had been entered into by the Commonwealth. It is most regrettable that that suggestion has been made, because it is likely to damage our credit abroad. The fanciful schemes of honorable members on that side are illconsidered, and palpably unsound. Their absurd suggestions, if given effect, would neither relieve unemployment nor increase the prosperityof industry.
Many thousands of our fellow citizens have contributed their hard-earned savings to Commonwealth loans. The heavy contributions by insurance companies, such as the Australian Mutual Provident Society, represent the savings of the people who have invested in those companies in the interests mostly of their dependants. Large sums from trust funds for the maintenance of widows and orphans have also been contributed to Commonwealth loans. All these moneys have been invested with absolute confidence by the community, in the belief that there will be no interference with existing agreements.
These loans have been expended to some extent in the building of war service homes. Many millions of pounds of loans are represented in the public works of this country, which have been undertaken to provide employment for our people. During the latter end of the war considerable patriotism was shown by many investors, who contributed to Commonwealth loans when they could have obtained a greater return from other investments. The people of Australia are sick and tired of party propaganda, and are looking forward to an honest and economical administration, in which all sections of the community will be treated without fear or favour. The difficult times ahead demand freedom from political and industrial strife, and co-operation between capital and labour. The Prime Minister is in an excellent position to promote industrial peace. In October last he stated that he was prepared to convene a conference of employers’ and employees’ organizations, at which their troubles could he freely discussed; but that proposal was suddenly dropped, because objection was taken to it by some of the Labour organizations. The Prime Minister enjoys the confidence of organized Labour, and he would be well advised to make a determined effort to bring about peace in industry. The primary and secondary industries of Australia could be made prosperous by a reduction in the cost of production. I do not support the theory that this would mean a reduction of wages only. It would mean the adjusting of profits, rents, values, prices, and wages to enable a better competitive basis to be reached.
– Would the honorable member include a reduction in interest rates ?
– Yes, so far as the future is concerned. I would not be a party to any interference with existing agreements. The preaching of class hatred and discontent must have the effect of aggravating the existing position. The inculcation of a better spirit between employers and employees would lead to the prosperity of all sections of the people and to the development of the great resources of the Commonwealth. I sympathize with the Government because it. has a difficult task to perform. I sincerely hope that it will take advantage of the suggestions that have been made by honorable members on this side of the chamber. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), in a spirit of peace, made certain suggestions, but up to the present, the Government has not considered one of them. The Prime Minister’s speech on the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, although admirable and clever, was entirely unsatisfactory, inasmuch as it did not refute the arguments of the Opposition. While the Prime Minister ignores our suggestions, he cannot ask for our co-operation and constructive criticism. He would be well advised to drop some of the planks of the Labour party’s platform and to adopt in their place the suggestions of the Opposition, with the one object of assisting Australia. If he is prepared to dp that, we shall be just as active in supporting him in the future as we have been in the past.
– The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) began his speech very well by stating that it was a waste of time for honorable members to make quotations from various publications. But, unfortunately, he did not practise what he preached, because he quoted a long extract from a speech by the exPrime Minister, Mr. Bruce. This committee is now discussing the budget. The proposals which the Government has put before honorable members are necessary not only because of the administration of previous Governments, but also because of a series of national events. Australia is suffering to-day from the after-effects of the war. Heavy interest bills have to be met each year, and they undoubtedly have brought about a dislocation of trade. The Bruce-Page Government, instead of imposing additional taxation to meet these interest payments, floated short-dated loans and obtained overdrafts from the banks which are now falling due. We have a commitment this year of £70,000,000 for the renewals of loans, quite apart from short-dated bills and bank overdrafts. The previous Government made a boast of reducing taxation, particularly in respect of the wealthy people. A previous Labour Government increased land taxation against the holders of great tracts of leasehold property in Queensland and North Australia. The Bruce-Page Government, by remitting that taxation, diminished the Commonwealth revenue and the possibility of reducing the war debt. It obtained accommodation from the banks, which, for the time being, established a false prosperity throughout Australia. The importers of this country also obtained extended credit from the banks to enable them to flood this country with imports. The overseas merchants are now demanding payment for goods supplied by them. The local banks cannot find sufficient money to enable them to finance the importers, so they have .been compelled to contract the currency throughout the Commonwealth. that, in turn, has led to increased unemployment. This Government has to face acute and unprecedented financial and unemployment problems. What steps lias this Government taken to solve those problems? A few months after the election, it was discovered that Australia had ;m adverse trade balance to the extent of about £40,000,000. The Government immediately brought down an amending tariff to rectify that position to some extent. Increased duties have been placed on articles that can be manufactured in Australia, so as to provide more employment for our people. Our protective policy has not yet had an opportunity to develop. The local banks cannot assist our secondary industries because they are financially involved with the importers. Those who control the currency also control wages and employment. The budget is evidence of the Government’s determination to balance the ledger, seeing that it is proposed to raise over £12,000,000 this year by new taxation. Had there been no change of Government there would have been no attempt to check the financial drift. “ The Government has undertaken an unenviable task, which it has faced in a statesmanlike way. Australia has been advised by British investors to put its house in order, and this Government is seeking to do that. Instead of borrowing money abroad, it is floating loans on the local market. It has also increased customs duties to make the country more self-contained. But now that the Government has taken the advice of British investors, it is condemned by the press. I believe that the people will yet be grateful to the Government for the firm stand it has taken in this crisis. I regret that so many honorable members have nothing good to say of their country. The burdens that we have to bear to-day are not to be compared with those which were borne by the pioneers of this country. Australia has wonderful potentialities; it is a land of sunshine, rich soil, and great mineral wealth. Yet honorable members opposite appear to have no hope for the future; they speak as though the present depression will last for ever. All that is needed is that we should put our shoulders to the wheel and develop the country. If we do. so, our troubles will soon pass. Our present difficulties are chiefly the result of the war. Within a few years we should be in a much better position. Indeed I think that by the end of this year we shall have turned the corner.
I was glad to hear the Prime Minister say the other day that the Government would not stand for the repudiation of its obligations. If a man owes money to another, he is in honour bound to pay it. The same rule applies to nations. No nation should repudiate its debts; if it does, it forfeits the confidence of other nations. I hope that the Prime Minister’s statement will be broadcast throughout the world.
The Government proposes to balance the ledger by raising over £12,000,000 by new taxation. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), criticizing its proposals, said that £1,000,000 could be saved by a reduction of the salaries of members of Parliament and of public servants. But were the Government to reduce the wages of its employees, other employers would quickly follow its example, with the result that the standard of living would be reduced. Those persons in the community who advocate low wages should go to China, Japan, India or the Malay States, which, although low wage countries, are feeling the present depression just as much as Australia feels it. Prosperity ebbs and flows like the tide. For some years Australia enjoyed prosperous times, but now the tide is on the ebb. But prosperity will come again. Indeed, I predict that before long Australia will be among the most prosperous of the nations. Its resources are so great that the country cannot go back. The Government has tackled courageously the problems confronting the country. The Leader of the Opposition, who would call upon the public servants of the country to make a heavy sacrifice in an attempt to balance the ledger, appears to have forgotten that a reduction of the salaries of public servants would lessen their purchasing power, with the result that business people would suffer, and unemployment still further increase. The Government was returned with a mandate to maintain the present standard of living. It would be false to its promise if it accepted the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition.
What is needed is greater co-operation between the Government and the banks. The Commonwealth Bank found £190,000,000 to finance the war, but since that time the currency of the country has gradually contracted. The value of the notes in circulation to-day is £11,000,000 less than it was five years ago. The Commonwealth Bank should be used to a greater extent to assist in the development of the country. It is true that we owe a large sum of money, and that the interest on the amount borrowed represents the huge total of £30,000,000 per annum ; but as time goes on our commitments in respect of the war will decrease. When we reflect on our almost measureless assets we should not hesitate to issue credit to the people. At a time when there is so much unemployment the Government and the Commonwealth Bank should come to the rescue of the nation. In boom times the country is developed largely by private enterprise; when a slump comes, it is the duty of the Government and the Commonwealth Bank to carry on that development. If that bank were in the hands of men like the late Sir Denison Miller it would issue credit for the development of the country.
The Leader of the Opposition suggested that economies could be effected in connexion with the Pensions Department. I do not think that he intended that pensions should be reduced, but that the department itself needed overhauling. I have had a good deal to do with the Pensions Department in Sydney, and I say without hesitation that no department is more deserving of praise than it is. Its officers carry out their duties courteously and efficiently. The large increase in the number of pensioners has necessitated their working day and night. Last year the amount paid in pensions was £600,000 more than in the previous year; yet the staff remained the same. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that a saving could be made by limiting the maternity bonus to necessitous cases. Does he suggest the payment of a pauper’s dole to the motherhood of this country? The Labour party will not allow the mothers of the nation to be subjected to an inquisition before receiving the maternity bonus. In any case, the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition would not effect any considerable saving.
The Government’s proposal to advance £1,000,000 to the States for the relief of unemployment has been criticized. It i true that the Commonwealth has no direct responsibility in respect of unemployment; but the fact remains that the citizens of the States are also citizens of the Commonwealth, and, therefore, the Commonwealth has a duty in this matter. There may be some waste in connexion with these relief payments; but is it not a greater waste that men, able and willing to work, should be walking our streets with nothing to do? Any expenditure to provide them with employment will eventually benefit the Commonwealth. With- other honorable members I look forward to a good harvest this year. If our hopes are realized, more prosperous times will soon come.
The time is not far distant when the State Parliaments will have to go, and we shall have one national Parliament for the whole Commonwealth. That would be a true economy. Wherever possible, the Government has reduced expenditure, and it will avail itself of every opportunity that presents itself for further economies. Increased taxation is, however, necessary to balance the ledger. The nation should be proud that there is in office in the Commonwealth a Government sufficiently courageous to tackle the financial position. Why should we continue to borrow money from abroad and to increase our overdraft when the resources of the country are greater per head of population than those of any other country in the world. I can afford to pay my share of taxation, although I do not want to pay a greater proportion than anybody else. We should all take a pridein endeavouring to bring about a readjustment of the finances of the country so that it may meet its obligations. When the people of Australia understand what this budget means, they will be very thankful to the present Federal Government for having balanced the ledger and renewed Australia’s prosperity. If it is successful in its object, the Government will be able to proceed with necessary public works, so stimulating private enterprise to engage in fresh undertakings.
We look to the Commonwealth and the State Governments to set an example by employing as many as is possible, so allowing our people to live to meet their obligations.
Some people complain of the methods of taxation resorted to. It may interest and inform many to know that at the beginning of the Great War, Canada imposed a sales tax, which still operates. Had Australia resorted to that form of taxation some years ago its position would have been much better to-day. Some critics claim that the tax should have been placed on the retailers. That would have necessitated all shops that retail goods keeping a close account of every article sold. It would also have meant theemployment of an army of inspectors to police the working of the scheme. The tax when placed on the wholesaler is easily collected. I do not think that the imposition will become a permanent one, although I believe that this is one of the soundest methods of taxation, as it is spread over the whole community. We should allbear our share of any form of taxation. We have heard of manufacturers claiming that, while on the one hand the Government grants tariff concessions, on the other it taxes them.
– And it also imposes a primage tax.
– That does not matter so long as we can balance our ledger. I desire to see our manufacturers receive protection through the medium of the tariff, but they must be prepared to pay their share of taxation. I really do not think they will object to doing so.
– They are putting off thousands of hands now.
– I urge the honorable member not to be a Jeremiah. Unfortunately, honorable members opposite are too prone to decry Australia. Let them take a broad national outlook on things. This country is too big and too wealthy to warrant their adopting a pessimistic attitude. We spring from a virile race that is unaccustomed to whine about temporary misfortunes. Let honorable members opposite take a more optimistic view of our position. Australia is capable of bearing its share of hardship as well as is any other country.
– The honorable member refuses to accept a cut in his salary.
– Certainly I do. 1 believe that I earn my salary. If honorable members opposite believe that their salaries should be cut, there is nothing to prevent their returning to the Treasurer what they believe to be an appropriate reduction.
– Does not the honorable member consider that a general reduction in salaries would be a good thing?
– No. We are not all built alike. The honorable member might not be as well able to afford a salary cut as I, or vice versa. I have pleasure in supporting the Government in its endeavour to adjust the financial position of Australia. It has had the courage to bring down a budget that promises to balance our ledger. That will be the first step towards our future prosperity. If we continued borrowing money instead of raising what we need by taxation, we should deserve the contempt of all other countries. Let us tell the people of the Old Country, “ We do not desire to borrow any more money from you. We can raise what we need by taxation. We want to govern Australia ourselves, and to pay our debts.” By taking that stand, and all doing our best we shall eventually get the ship of state on an even keel. [Quorum formed.]
.- Speaking in this debate the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) referred to the prevailing unemployment, and accused the Bruce-Page Government of having accentuated it by bringing people to this country from other partsof the world. The honorable member should have known that that Government was not responsible for bringing even one person to Australia. It should be within his knowledge that immigration to Australia is of two classes - nominated and voluntary. Nominated immigrants are brought here at the request of individual States; the Commonwealth Government merely arranges for their passages from the Old. Country to this. It was to the voluntary immigration that the honorable member particularly directed attention. He accused the Bruce-Page Government of having brought to Australia a great number of Italians, and claimed that they had been imported only in an attempt to break down the Australian standard of living and rates of wages. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and I interjected at that point, and the honorable member for Adelaide then challenged me to produce figures to prove what I claimed to be the facts. I now do so.
The statement that I made was that, under the present Government, there had been an increase in the percentage of foreign immigrants compared with all others. For my purpose I have taken the first six months of the present year, and the corresponding period of 1929, when the Bruce-Page Government was in office. For the period between the 1st January and the 30th June, 1929, 961 Italians came to Australia, not one of whom was brought here by the Nationalist or any other government. Each of them came here of his own free will, paid his own fare, and had to submit himself, when desired, to the dictation test. During the same period 39,024 Europeans of all countries came to Australia, the percentage of Italians to the total influx of Europeans being 2.462. For the corresponding six months in 1930, the number of Italians who arrived, by a strange coincidence, was 961 and those from all European countries numbered 30,781, the percentage of Italians to Europeans working out at 3.12, which is higher than that during the Bruce-Page regime.
– The honorable member might also mention that there has been a net loss in the migration of Italians this year.
– So that I shall omit nothing, and that I may not be accused of having burked the matter, I shall also give the departures of Italians and Europeans for the, same two periods. For the first six months of 1929, 1,153 Italians left Australia out of a total of 38,843 departures. On a percentage basis, for every 100 people who left Australia during that period 2.97 were Italians. It must be remembered that those figures are for the present year, and cover a period of great depression, when one might reasonably expect the total departures to be considerably augmented. For the first six months of this year, 1,227 Italians left Australia out of a total of 41,090 departures. On a percentage basis that works out that, for every 100 people who left Australia for Europe during that six months, 2.98 were Italians, or only .01 per cent, more than during the Bruce-Page regime, when Australia was in a far more prosperous condition that it is in to-day. I shall now deal with the relation that exists between the purely British and the Italian migration to this country. I do so because it has long been our boast that 98 per cent, of the population of Australia is of British extraction, and the maintenance of that percentage has always been our ideal, so that there may be no weakening of the British stock of which we are all so proud. During the first six months of 1929, the number of Britishers who arrived in Australia was 34,707 ; but during the first six months of this year, the number was only 27,082, a decrease of 7,625. I have already stated that the number of Italians who arrived in Australian in both periods was 961. The percentage of Italian to British migration during the first six months of 1929 was 2.768.
– Is the Government excluding Britishers in favour of Italians ?
– The honorable member’ for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) knows what action the present Government has taken in regard to migration. It has removed the matter entirely from the hands of the States, and is holding itself responsible’ for all migration to Australia; and it has reduced it as far as possible. From the figures that I have given, it will be seen that, under the Bruce-Page Government, the percentage of Italian to British migration was 2.768. and that under this Government it ha.= been 3.548. That is my answer to the honorable member for Adelaide.
– The honorable member has dealt with only a six-month period; he should deal with the full term of the Bruce-Page Government.
– I have taken a period during which the present Government has been in office and compared it with the same period last year when the Bruce-Page Government was in office. The longer the present Government is in office, the worse the percentage will become.
All parties agree that it is absolutely essential to balance the budget; but they differ in regard to details. The Government proposes to achieve this object by increasing taxation and reducing the defence estimates. Honorable members who sit on this side say that the budget should be balanced by a reduction of expenditure and an increase in the volume of production. During its term of office the Bruce-Page Government relieved considerably the burden of taxation, and concurrently reduced the national debt. It recognized that it was the duty of a government to take from industry as little as possible, and to leave as much as it could in the pockets of the people, so that industry would be encouraged, not discouraged as it is at the present time. This Government proposes to increase taxation; consequently, less capital will be available ‘for the carrying on of industry, and unemployment is bound to become more acute. Over and over again, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has quoted figures to show that unemployment has increased at a rapid rate during the eight months that the present Government has been in office.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has moved an amendment that is designed to reduce the proposed expenditure. But the Leader of the Government and those who support him have refused to pay any heed to his suggestions. Practically, the Government has placed the telescope to its blind eye, and has refused to see the danger that must be evident to any one whose vision is not obscured by party bias. Honorable members who sit on this side are in earnest in the proposals that they have made, and if the amendment is accepted they will be only too willing to assist in placing Australia once more on a firm financial footing.
The last election was won on the cry of “ Low wages “. The Prime Minister has repeatedly expressed the view that there is no necessity for wages to be reduced. It is useless for the right honorable gentleman to make such a statement; wages have been, and are being, reduced throughout Australia. There is scarcely a wage earner who today is receiving as much as he received at the corresponding period last year.
Either his wages have been reduced directly, or his employment has been limited, with the result that his income is less than it was twelve months ago. The scale of wages that existed in Australia until recently was made possible only by the high prices that were obtained overseas for our .primary products. A severe and lasting decline in prices would render impossible the maintenance of wages at their present high level. The Government proposes additional protection as a means of maintaining that level. No country can have two scales of wages operating side by side - a low wage in the primary industries and a high wage in the secondary industries. Such a condition mav obtain for a short period, but eventually the wages paid in secondary industries must approximate to those that are paid in primary industries. If they do not, no one will work in the primary industries. The wage that may be paid in primary industries is governed by the prices that are obtained overseas for our primary products; when they art high, the wages may be correspondingly high, but if they decline, the wages must drop in sympathy. The wage scale in secondary industries is on a different basis. The prices of our secondary products are fixed according to the purchasing ability of the Australian people. When money is abundant, prices are high, and wages are correspondingly high. In its desire to maintain the present scale the Government is attempting to bolster up our secondary industries by increased tariff protection. The only effect of that will be to drive men out of employment. We are not in a position to-day to pay the prices that were paid twelve months ago. For many years, high prices prevailed for our wool We would have been far better off had they not advanced much beyond the 15£d. that the British Government paid for its first big purchase shortly after the outbreak of the war. Although we did not think so at the time, I believe that it will be generally admitted to-day that the rapid and considerable advance which they made was calamitous. We thought at the time that those prices would continue for many years, and fabulous sums were paid for wellsituated sheep properties throughout Australia. If a property would - carry 30,000 sheep, little difficulty was experienced in obtaining as much as £240,000 or £270,000 for it. When prices fell, those who bought at that figure found it impossible to make ends meet, and at the present time the income of many persons who are engaged in the wool industry is not sufficient to pay working expenses, and leave a margin of profit.
– Excessive prices of land affect the city as well as the country.
– We must return to a sound basis. When wool prices were high, the effect was felt by every other industry in this country. A similar condition existed in the wheat-growing industry. Recently the Government has been urging the primary producers to grow more wheat. It would have been better to advise them to produce wheat more cheaply. We can grow, and have grown, more wheat in this country than we can profitably sell overseas. We have in our warehouses and in our granaries a large carry-over of last year’s wheat. At a time when this Government is urging the farmers to grow more wheat, the farmers in the United States of America are being told to grow less wheat
– How does the honorable member suggest that we can grow wheat more cheaply?
– The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) should be the last to enter a debate of this kind. He it was who told the people before the last election that if a Labour Government were returned to power the farmers would receive 6s. a bushel for their wheat.
– That is not true.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I ask the honorable member for Calare to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, and ask that the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) withdraw his reference to me. It is not correct.
– If I said what is not correct I shall withdraw it, but I shall take the opportunity during some future debate to introduce into my speech the remarks contained in the circular either published by the honorable member for Calare or authorized by him. The honorable member for Calare and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) have both asked me how 1 consider that wheat can be produced more cheaply in Australia. In a few words, my answer is, by intensive rather than extensive cultivation.
– Does the honorable member suggest that our wheat-farmers are inefficient?
– No; but I say that they are not making the full use of their land. Honorable members need only refer to the Commonwealth Year-Book to find that the average yield of wheat per acre is much lower in Australia than it should be. If we could raise the yield by 5 bushels an acre, it would increase our total yield by over 30 per cent”. Then the wheat would cost less to produce, and we should be able to place it on the world’s market at a price which would not only pay the cost of production, but leave a sufficient profit. At the present time, farmers are growing, or attempting to grow, wheat on land on which it should not be grown. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has given notice of his intention to move an amendment dealing with the primage duty on fertilizers. If the Government would only hearken to his request, and would wipe out the duty on fertilizers, the farmers would, by a more extensive use of artificial manures, be able to increase their yield to a noticeable extent without materially raising the cost of production.
The same thing applies to the produce of our dairies. It is impossible for us to produce butter in Australia at a price which will permit of its being sold overseas at a profit. To allow our butter to be sold in England, it is necessary for every one of us in Australia to pay more than we should for the butter we consume here. So long as the Paterson scheme endures, there will be no encouragement for the dairy-farmers to improve either their herds or their pastures, and, until herds and pastures are improved, our butter will not be able to meet competition in the markets of the world.
This Government has adopted protection as part of its policy, and the majority of the people favour it. The Bruce-Page
Government undoubtedly favoured protection, and it gave the industries of Australia what it considered sufficient protection - not prohibition, but sufficientprotection to permit of any progressive manufacturer making a ‘ success of the industry in which he was engaged. If any competition remained, it was that healthy competition and rivalry without which a business cannot thrive. Honorable members opposite, and many on this side of the House also, have frequently held up the United States of America as a country that has prospered because of its high protection ‘ policy. There are those, however, who refuse to accept the deduction, and the view may be put forward that the prosperity of the United States of America has depended, not so much on its high protective tariff, as on the cheap labour with which that country has been flooded for the past 30 or 4.0 years. Had it not been for this cheap labour, many of her great transcontinental railway lines would not yet have been built, and much of her important construction work would have been postponed for another 20 or 25 years.
– In the United States of America there is a freetrade market of 120,000,000 people.
– As the honorable member for .Swan (Mr. Gregory) reminds me, the manufacturers and primary producers of. the United States of America have a home market of 120,000,000 people. However,, despite her protection policy, the United States of America is confronted to-day with a higher percentage of .unemployment than at any other period in her history. There was a time when Great Britain, and more particularly England, manufactured for the whole world, and no matter how her factories grew, there was always ample opportunity to dispose of their products. Gradually, other countries came into the manufacturing field, particularly Germany and the United States of America, but still there were fresh worlds to conquer. Honorable members will recall the saying “ trade “follows the flag “. To-day, however, there are no new countries to be possessed, no new lands upon which European nations can plant their flags as a preliminary to selling their manufactured goods there. Britain cannot dispose of her surplus manufactures, and Germany and other European countries are in a similar position. Practically all the important manufacturing countries of Europe are making sufficient to supply their domestic needs, and are faced with the problems of disposing of their surplus overseas. What hope of success have we in Australia if we pursue our protectionist policy with our eyes closed, and on our lips the slogan, “High protection, and, if need be, prohibition “? Such a policy is uneconomic. Some industries, certainly, should be established in Australia, and I would favour giving them protection. Such a basic industry as the iron and steel industry, without which no country can prosper, or, in time of war exist, should be encouraged, if necessary even to the extent of prohibition.
– Give it a bounty.
– Oh, a bounty! That word is anathema to me. I have heard so much of it lately that I am sick and tired of it. Bounties are one of the extravagances of this Government.
– A bounty is at least just a little less expensive than a high tariff.
– Take the hosiery industry, for example. To-day, we have more factories in Australia turning out stockings than we need. The market is glutted with stockings, and there is keen competition among the manufacturers for the chance to exist. We should review the whole situation. Let us decide on those industries which can be maintained on a sound economic basis, which can produce articles at a price our people can afford to pay; but let us open our doors to goods which we cannot make here to advantage, and let our consumers have the benefit of a reasonable cost of living.
– What can. we not produce here?-
– Well, consider artificial flowers, for instance. A few years ago we put a duty on artificial flowers.
– And we are now making them here.
– Of course we are making them here, and as a result, every woman and girl in Australia must pay more for the little posy she puts on her shoulder or her hat, in order that a handful of girls in the cities may obtain employment.
There are two ways in which we should look at this budget. First of all, we must balance it. We must agree to differ as to how that should be done. Members of the Government say that it should be balanced by cutting down the defence estimates, and by increasing taxation. We on this side say that it should be balanced by reducing taxation, and increasing the volume of our primary production. There will be another budget next year, and what is being done to make it possible for us to balance that budget, or the one the following year, or the. one the year after that? 1 hold that it is our duty to face the facts, and to ask ourselves how we should alter our mode of living. What must we do to enable us to face and surmount the difficulties with which we are at present confronted? One solution would be to prevent the influx of people to our cities. This Government and past Governments have done little or nothing to prevent this influx. In 1914 Australia had 39.43 of its population living in its capital cities. Fifteen years later the proportion had increased to 47.65 per cent. The figures in relation to the capital cities are exceedingly interesting. They are as follow: -
I was reminded of these figures when the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) was saying that the people of South Australia were feeling the pinch more severely than were the people of any other State. It is not to be wondered at when we realize that 57 per cent, of the people of the State live in Adelaide. No States are more prosperous to-day than Queensland and Tasmania, and the reason is not far to seek. It is due to the smaller percentage of people in each of those States who reside in the capital cities.
– And the larger proportion of the people in those States who are engaged in primary production.
– The honorable member is quite right. If we are to get back to a sound basis, we must face the fact that it is impossible for approximately 50 per cent, of our people to live in the cities, if the country is to prosper, larger numbers of our people must get away from the cities, and back into the country, and the sooner that it is done the better it will be for Australia as a whole. Therein lies the problem to be faced. The tendency is for the people to leave the country districts, and to go to the cities. It is the duty of governments to give every consideration to people who are engaged in primary industries, and to offer every inducement to others to engage in primary production. It is useless, however, for people to go on the land unless they can produce more and cheaper products. Each government in Australia must, therefore, stand behind the man on the land, and make it possible for him not. only to engage in intense cultivation, thereby increasing his yield, but also to produce at a lower cost than is possible under present conditions. Unless that i« done no budget in Australia can be balanced.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. This afternoon I said that the remarks of the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long), and others, suggested repudiation of the agreement made between the Commonwealth and its bondholders. The honorable member for Lang said that I was misrepresenting him. I had looked up the report of his speech and based my criticism on the following passage -
That the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) dealt extensively with a certain scheme, and I do not say that it is unsound. It certainly could not produce results worse than those that we have experienced for the last few years.
I find, however, that later on the honorable member said -
A third alternative, the repudiation of our debts, would not be acceptable to anybody.
As I take it, the later remark of the honorable member represented his true opinion. I regret having stated it was otherwise.
.- The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley), who has preceded me, has been very critical of the budget. For six and a half years he supported the Government which is responsible for the present position of the Commonwealth, and when challenged upon the prohibitive items in the Government’s tariff proposals, mentioned posies, and complained that some girls have now to pay more for the artificial flowers they wear in order that other girls may find employment in making those flowers. Labour makes no apology for its tariff schedule, nor for its prohibition of the entry of goods which can be manufactured in Australia. Nor does it apologize for the budget which it has found necessary to introduce. If its proposals are stringent, it is because six and a half years of maladministration by honorable members opposite demand it. The Government came into office eight months ago, not with the idea of strangling any section of the community, but to give equal justice to all. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), who has submitted an amendment to indicate the need for saving £4,000,000 a year, held office in the last Government, and must take his share of the blame that properly attaches to any government that lives a millionaire’s life on a “ beer “ income. His Government got money from overseas, and flooded the country with migrants, making no effort to place them on their arrival in Australia. Migration is still proceeding under agreements which the present Government cannot repudiate. Each week the Brisbane press reports the arrival of groups of Barnado boys. No one objects to boys, or girls, coming from Great Britain; but what the Government has to do is to ascertain what becomes of these boys and girls when they arrive here. It seems to me fairly obvious that they must be displacing our own boys and girls in various occupations. What has been the result of the migration schemes upon which the last Government embarked? What settlement has been induced? What schemes reported on by the Development and Migration Commission have been put into operation to settle people on the land? The only real effort in that direction was one which came in for the most criticism, and it was made by the only government which actually did something to absorb migrants. I am referring to the Dawson Valley scheme put forward by the
Queensland Government. Because of political jealousy, the Development and Migration Commission, which was sent to Queensland to investigate the scheme, condemned it. Eventually its condemnation of that scheme will be thrown back in its teeth, because alongside the north coast railway, between Brisbane and Cairns, there is land that will support millions of people in the very near future.
– It was not the function of the central government to develop the Dawson Valley scheme.
– I quite agree with the honorable member, but the Queensland Government was anxious to have that land settled, and, in order that it should not be over-capitalized, sought to take advantage of the cheap money available under the £34,000,000 agreement. Consequently, the scheme had to be reported upon by the Development and Migration Commission.
One can come to no other conclusion than that the purpose of flooding the country with migrants was to bring about a reduction in the cost of production. When the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) was speaking on migration the other evening, he quoted certain figures which were contradicted. I propose now to quote the latest figures from the 1929 Year-Book. It is useless to tip us down to figures relating to the last few months. It is much better to takea period of years. The figures relating to assisted immigration from 1914 to the end of 1928, are as follows: -
The Commonwealth Y ear-Book gives particulars of the occupations of the number of selected and nominated immigrants during 1928, under the following heads : -
Wood, furniture, &c. ; engineering metal works, &c. : food, drink, tobacco. &c. ; clothing, hats, boots. &c. ; books, printing,&c. ; other manufacturing; building: mining; rail and tramway services; other land transport: shipping; wharf labour, &c.; pastoral, agricultural, &c.; domestic, hotels,&c.; general labour and miscellaneous.
In all, 16,410 persons were brought into Australia in 1928 to fill occupations under those headings. The number of persons admitted to Australia of all nationalities during the past few years, was as follows: -
During the time those migrants were coming to the Commonwealth large numbers of deserving Australians were walking the streets- or tramping the country vainly seeking work. Many of those who came to Australia with the intention of settling on the land, eventually obtained work in city factories, with the result that Australian youths found it exceedingly difficult to become apprenticed to a trade. Boys who came here under the auspices of the Big Brother, and other such movements, were placed on dairy farms and pastoral holdings, and undertook work which should have been given to men and paid for at award rates. As soon as they reached the age at which they we’re entitled to receive award rates they were dismissed. Travelling through the country to-day one can see thousands of migrants’ “ humping “ their swags and begging food. I hope that this phase of our migration system will be ‘brought under the notice of the British Government by the Prime Minister when he visits Great Britain. Migrants should not be brought to this country until the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the States, can formulate a policy under which suitable land can be made available on easy terms. The Government should then give preference to Australians.
– The Little Brothers were not brought to Australia by the Commonwealth Government.
– Those responsible for bringing them here should look after them when they lose their employment.
– Such organizations are supposed to take some responsibility.
– They appear to be responsible for a time, but it is not long before those brought here by private organizations are thrown upon their own resources.
A reduction in the parliamentary allowance, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), would not be of any benefit to the country, but would give a lead to employers generally to reduce wages. When speaking on a measure introduced into the Queensland Parliament, providing for a reduction in members’ allowances by 33 per cent., I said that those in receipt of high salaries could afford a reduction, but the reduction suggested would result in employer? generally reducing wages, thus decreasing the purchasing power of the people and eventually resulting in additional unemployment. In this connexion it is interesting to note that the basic wage in Queensland has already been reduced, and that an application has been made for a further reduction within three months, which, if agreed to, will bring the basic wage down to £3 16s. a week. Single men ‘ engaged on relief work in Queensland are now being paid only £2 10s. a week, and ‘ married men £3 a week, and doubtless these low rates will ‘ influence the court in ‘ making an all-round reduction. A general decrease in . wages appeals to certain persons who think that we should get back to the old standard of living. Frequent reference has been made to the views expressed by economists, but as economists, like politicians, cannot agree, we are justified in -disregarding their opinions. The Leader of the Opposition, who suggested that our expenditure this year should be reduced by £4,000,000, said that he and. his supporters did not favour a.genera’l reduction in wages. Where can reductions be made ? During the time the previous Government was in office the postal services, particularly in country districts, were starved.
– That is not so.
– I am speaking of the electorate which I represent. Post and telegraph offices in certain Queensland districts were closed - I do not know if that was because they were represented by Labour men - while large postal buildings were erected in capital cities, and in certain towns where adequate facilities already existed. In my electorate there was little or no expansion of postal services. [Quorum formed.]
– The proposals of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) for the reduction of expenditure are not acceptable to the Government, for it does not stand for the lowering of wages. The honorable gentleman has suggested that the Government should reduce the cost of the Parliament and Public Service and the post office by £1,000,000, that it should decrease the amount, appropriated for the maternity allowance by £200,000, and bounties by £146,000; that it should also reduce the amount to be made available under the Federal aid roads agreement by £1,500,000, and withdraw its proposal to make £1,000,000 available to assist in the relief of unemployment. But the Government has indicated that none of these proposals are acceptable to it. During its term of office, the Government has made £2,000,000 available to the States for road work and unemployment relief. Recently the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) made some inquiries from the Treasurer (Mr. Scullin) as to how much of the first £1,000,000 of the grant had been utilized by the various States, and he was Supplied with the following information: -
The position in regard to the £1,000,000 to be provided for roads work is as under: -
As regards the grant of £1,000,000 which the Commonwealth recently undertook to make to the States for the relief of unemployment, the position is that the Commonwealth is awaiting the receipt from the State* of certain information in regard to the relief works to be undertaken. lt will be seen, therefore, that all the States still have a considerable amount of Commonwealth money available with which to provide road work for the unemployed.
It has been argued by honorable members opposite that the conditions under which the Government proposes to make the additional £1,000,000 available for special relief work are objectionable because they include a provision that award rates of wages shall be paid on any work upon which this money is spent. I can see nothing wrong in that proposal.
The trouble with honorable members opposite is that they are being egged on by the press and by certain interests which they represent to do their utmost to bring about a reduction of wages under the pretext that this will cause a fall in the cost of production; but this is no time for gestures of that kind or mock heroics. This is a time for action.
The Leader of the Opposition seems to be highly desirous of singling out one section of the community for special taxation. The honorable gentleman thinks that the Public Service salaries should be reduced by 10 per cent., but I maintain that if there is to be any reduction of wages it should affect everybody.
– Including members of Parliament.
– The trouble with many’ honorable members opposite is that they use Parliament House as a kind of club. They could forgo, to-morrow, their salary of £1,000 a year and not feel the loss of it very much, for nearly all of them have incomes from other sources. The Government finds the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition, that special taxation should be levied upon the Public Service, just as unsatisfactory as bis proposal that there should be a general reduction of wages.
The press has severely criticized the budget proposals of the Government. The Sydney Evening News, of the 11th July, declared, in its leading article, that arbitration should be abolished. It went on to say that -
The amending Arbitration Bill is the dictation of the Left that the cost of living and production are not to be reduced, and that the insolvency of industry is to be converted into a permanency. Industry in Australia is insolvent, primary and secondary, -and can only be salvaged by reductions in costs.
But I point out that although the wheatgrowing industry is not affected by arbitration court awards, it is not flourishing. As a matter of fact, when the wheatfarmers of Queensland were paying arbitration court awards they were receiving 5s. 6d. a bushel, and in some cases rooTe.
Tor their wheat, which was the highest price they have ever received. That was because the action taken by the Queensland Labour Government made it possible for them to market their wheat under the pooling system, and so abolish the middleman. The dairying industry is not subject to arbitration court awards, yet the Paterson stabilization scheme had to be evolved to assist it. If industries would flourish through the abolition of arbitration, these industries, which are not subject to it, should now be flourishing. The grape-growing industry is not subject to arbitration court awards, yet the Government has had to provide a bounty to enable the grape-growers to carry on. The cotton industry and the flax industry are both free from the control of arbitration and yet the Government has had to provide bounties to enable them to maintain operations. So much then for the argument that the Arbitration Court is responsible for our industrial difficulties.
One of the main troubles of the primary producers is that the land, which is essential to their operations, has been sold and resold until the price of it has, in many cases, become prohibitive. Unfortunately the community, which gives the land its value, does not reap the advantage of this added value, for it goes into the pockets of speculators and land monopolists who have done nothing to earn it. The value of the land is increased by the construction of railways, roads and other public utilities, and I submit that the general community, and not a few individuals, should enjoy the benefits that these utilities create. Under i lie’ Nationalist regime, however, land profiteers and others have made a fine rake-off” for many years at the public expense. The Queensland Government has, for the last fifteen years, been developing the leasehold system of land tenure. In that State, perpetual grazing, farming and pastoral leases are available. When the cost of production becomes too high the Government is able, under a leasehold system, to adjust rentals accordingly. When the wool producing industry was at the peak of its prosperity it II charges were high. Freights, for instance, went up considerably. But although the price of wool has fallen greatly in the last few years, the freights have remained high. Recently the Arbitration Court made a reduction of 20 per cent, in the wages of shearers but the sma wool-grower - the man who is settled on the land and lives on the produce of it. as distinct from the grazier who lives in London or Sydney or Melbourne - doe&” not desire to see wages reduced. All that he wants is a reasonable price for his wool. When the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister he fixed the price of wool at 15½d. lb. for export. In my opinion, it would be a good thing if this Government’ took a similar action. The people who took up land for grazing purposes in th* boom period, and borrowed money to stock it, had to pay very high rates of interest for the accommodation granted to them; and now many of them are being forced off their holdings because they cannot meet their obligations. Many others artmerely working for the bankers who lent them their money, and the shearers, who now have to suffer a reduction of 20 per cent, in their wages, are also practically working for the bankers.
That the policy of Nationalism involvesthe reduction of wages is shown by the experience of Queensland under the Nationalist Government which assumed office there in 1929. On the hustings during the State election campaign las* year the Nationalist candidates said that they wanted to “ give the boy a chance “ in Queensland, and that if they were returned to power they would not increase the hours of work or reduce wages. Yet the basic wage has just recently been reduced to £4 a week in Queensland, and notice has been given of another reduction of 4s. a week, to take effect three months hence. In addition to that, theworkers have to contribute 6d. per week to the unemployment insurance fund, and 3d. in the £1 to a fund for relief works..
It has been suggested to the PrimeMinister by honorable members opposite that a tax of 3d. in the £1 should be imposed on all incomes over £80 a year. If this were acted upon by the Government the old-age pensioners would have to pay a tax of ls. a year. Another “brain wave “ is that a tax should be imposed upon tea. This is about the only drink that the poor man can afford in these days- - and some cannot even afford that. The adoption of a policy of wage reduction will not get us anywhere.
– What has the Government done to relieve unemployment?
– The honorable member seems to have a sudden desire to assist the unemployed. All the evidence that we have had before us up to date clearly shows that the policy of the Nationalist party, to which he belongs, is responsible for the enormous unemployment existing in Australia to-day. The Bruce-Page Government utilized the money that it borrowed overseas to pay Australia’s debts overseas. On the 14th of this month the Melbourne Argus said - tn 1921. Australia found relief in the recovery of wool and wheat prices, and a resumption of overseas borrowing. On this occasion no such help is available, and the community has to accept the loss of national income as permanent. It is, therefore, necessary to adjust economic and political life to :i new and lower scale of values.
That is, again, a suggestion for a reduction in the cost; of wages and the purchasing power of the community. On the 15th of this month the Daily Mail, of Brisbane, said -
What Mr. Scullin overlooks is that it is quite possible to effect large economies by making money go further, or, in other words, by encouraging deflation, so that less money will suffice for the same needs. . . . The chief demerit of the budget proposals is that they arc calculated to arrest the progress of deflation, if not to increase the cost of living.
Mr. Scullin, in introducing this budget, has made an honest attempt to square the ledger. It is a long time since that has been done. The budget is not popular, or designed for vole-catching. We have to face the position. Even if the Government were desirous of borrowing money overseas, it could not get the accommodation. We shall be lucky if within four or five years wc are able to borrow money from overseas. That situation has been brought about by the mad borrowing policy of our friends opposite, who to-day say that they want to save money. The Bruce-Page Government had the greatest income of any Commonwealth Government. As a result of its borrowing policy, the road running alongside the railway between Sydney and Newcastle was constructed at a cost of £28,000 a mile. That was done to destroy an asset of this country, and to encourage the Yankee imported motor car. Of what benefit has the highway between Sydney and Melbourne been to the man on the land? The Bruce-Page Government was responsible for many of the tourists roads constructed in Australia. The only result of its policy was to assist the motor car industry of America, a nation which buys nothing from us, and to which we send millions of pounds every year.
– What is this Government doing now to stop that?
– It has restricted the importation of foreign cars to a certain extent, and so soon as the Australian manufacturers are ready to supply local needs, American motor cars will be prohibited altogether. If I had my way, I should immediately stop the importation of motor cars into Australia, and thus prevent our money from going overseas. Australia, in proportion to its population, has more cars than any other country in the world. It purchases more American cars per head of its population than any other nation. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) cannot accuse this Government of wasting money on the construction of tourist roads. He, at least, is a member of the Country party which stood behind the policy of the Bruce-Page Government.
– Did not thi States build those roads?
– The Commonwealth provided the money to enable the States to build them. The Loan Council could, at any time, have restricted the States in regard to their construction. The tourist roads in the various States were built by the Nationalist Governments of those States. The only road that give1” assistance or relief to the primary producer is that over the range to the Atherton tablelands. At one time, it took a day to travel from Atherton to Cairns, but the journey can now be undertaken in a couple of hours by motor car. That road is being used by the farmers for taking their produce to market. A few rays of light have been thrown on the budget during this discussion. Of course honorable members opposite will say that any utterance in favour of the budget is a sign of insanity, but nevertheless there are a few who recognize the true position.
Mr. Arthur Upjohn, secretary of the Hosiery and Knitted Goods Manufacturers Association, in a press interview, 3aid -
We think the burden has been spread on all shoulders, and surely Australia can follow in the footsteps of France and Canada, both of which have a sales tax without apparently disastrous results. [ am convinced that the workers would prefer a 2? per cent, sales tax rather than a 10 per cent, reduction in wages. Then, again, the Sun, of Sydney, reports Mr. Bag-nail, the general manager of the National Tobacco Corporation of Australia, as follows: -
Air. Bagnall thinks the new duty on tobacco leaf has transformed the tobacco industry in Australia from a Cinderella into an Eldorado. Growers of high-grade tobacco, he declares, are showing net profits of up to .?100 and over.
Mr. David Campbell, in a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald of 14th July, states -
The outcry from the leaders of commerce is regrettable, if inevitable. One might have reasonably expected a more balanced and rational appreciation of the Government’s position … It has been suggested that -the deficit should be funded, temporarily by a loan. It is surprising that such a suggestion should have been made by a business man,’ for the proposal is based on anything but business principles. Some of our greatest troubles have developed because of constant borrowing, and this part of our financial policy needs complete overhaul. The position must be cleared up by sacrifices made in every quarter and the sooner they are made the better. The budget in some of its details may be open to legitimate criticism, but the general policy of the Government is the right, if unpopular, one, overseas opinion seems to be satisfied.
Even the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) seems satisfied with the policy of the Government, because he can suggest nothing except an impracticable saving of ?4,000,000. Other honorable members have said that the Government is imposing new taxation to the extent of ?12,000,000. But that is not actually so. The new taxation to that extent, which is being levied by means of the sales tax, and an increase of taxation on incomes of over ?600 per annum, will take the place of indirect taxation through the customs. The incidence of that taxation -will be widespread. The press has criticized the budget proposals on account of an additional duty of ?1 a ton being imposed on newsprint. The post office has been losing practically ?200,000 a year in respect of the carriage and delivery of newspapers, and it is time that the press should contribute something towards making good that loss. The Daily Commercial News and Shipping List publishes this statement -
When the Scullin-Theodore Ministry arrived it found that the financial obligations of Australia had been increased from ?284,000,000 or ?57 Os. 8d. per head in 1918, to the colossal sum of ?494,000,000 or ?78 12s. 7d. per head. The mess was so colossal that the Minis’try almost regretted that it had won the election. The interest bill had increased from ?12,500,000 sterling in 1918 to ?25,750,000 sterling in 1928, whilst the population had increased’ by approximately a shade ‘ over 1,000,000 souls. These figures refer to only the Commonwealth liabilities, and the position is infinitely more ghastly if the liabilities of the States are taken into consideration. In fact-, the total liabilities are over ?1,200,000,000, a sum altogether beyond the capacity of 0,260,000 people. . . The position’ of the Government is desperate. It has no alternative but to increase’ taxation. .’ It can float no more loans if it wished to. Its sole resources now ave what it -can collect from Australian profits in the form of taxation, loans and forced contributions.
I come now. to the views of the press in regard to the ex-Treasurer (Dr. Earle . Page), who would now save millions freely: The taxpayers and the electors of Australia gave the right honorable gentleman every opportunity to make those savings. Surely he was long enough in office to have made savings. But the financial doctor was more concerned about getting back to office than about the finances of the Commonwealth. He is the Leader of the Country party which, as the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has said, sold itself wholly and solely to the Nationalist party. It bartered its freedom for a couple of portfolios and away it went on its path of extravagance. Its only concern was to gain its division of the spoils. The right, honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) was Acting Prime Minister when the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was overseas. What did he do for the farmer, or rather what did he do the farmer for? The Bulletin on the 10th July, 1929. stated -
In 1925-6 the Bruce->Page crowd had a smaller revenue and a surplus. The present large deficit indicates the Government’s capacity for constructing a big hole at short notice, and falling into it head-first.
The Melbourne Age of the 21st August, 1929, stated-
The fact that the Bruce-Page Government has, during its tenure of olfice, led the nation further and further into a financial quagmire, is unchallengeable. To come forward confessing failure for two years running in the handling of the nation’s finance is a performance for which the Government must have a pachydermatous hide.
The Daily Telegraph Pictorial of the 23rd August, 1929, said -
Indirectly, if not directly, this budget is a blow at every wage-earner. It may be the last of Dr. Page’s budgets. It is easily his worst.
Instance after instance of criticism can be found in practically every daily newspaper in the Commonwealth regarding the previous Government’s mishandling of the finances. During this great depression most people are making sacrifices, but an examination of the balancesheets of the companies operating in Australia, such as banks, insurance companies and newspapers, shows that they are still paying 12½ and even 15 per cent. dividends.
– Not all of them.
– Did not the honorable member read the Herald of this morning? I refer him also to the figures published in the Wild Cat Monthly. He surely cannot accuse the Bulletin of being a supporter of the Labour party.
-What was the last dividend of the Associated News?
– I invite the honorablemember to supply that information. In 1928 Sun Newspapers Limited paid a dividend of 11.1 per cent.
– Let us have some later figures. What dividends did the company pay in 1929 ?
– It paid a dividend of 15.5 per cent. in 1929. Its profits were £182,840; it paid £143,360 in dividends to shareholders, and added £39,480 to its reserves. Other companies made similar profits.. That the Sun has done exceedingly well since the merger is evidenced by the magnificent building the company has erected in Sydney. While I do not object to fine buildings, I point out that the Government is losing hundreds of thousands of pounds a year because the rates of postage on newspapers and press telegraph rates are so low. Notwithstanding the huge profits made, the salaries of newspaper employees have been reduced by 20 per cent., allegedly on account of the general depression.
Some of the banks are also making huge profits. The Bank of New South Wales is an example. In 1928 that bank paid a dividend of 12½ per cent. Its profits that year were £1,184,943. It also added to its reserves £248,038, its total reserves being thus increased to £6,068,653. The paid-up capital of the company is £7,500,000. The shareholders have practically doubled the number of shares originally held by them, without cost. Insurance companies also have been doing well. The United Insurance Company Limited, whose nominal capital is £1,000,000, showed a profit of £67,403, and paid a dividend of 10 per cent. in 1928. It also added to its reserves £22,403, making its total reserves £436,052. Referring to this company, The Wild Cat Monthly states -
Last year the 10 per cent. dividend called for exactly double what it did in 1920, and though the return from interest and rents was still more than enough to pay the dividend, underwriting profits have fallen off considerably.
– Why tell us about what happened in 1928? Could not the honorable member give us some more recent figures?
– I have given the latest information respecting this company as published in The Wild Cat Monthly. I have not gone back to the dark ages, as the honorable gentleman did when speaking the other day. If I were to go back a few years I might remind the committee that on one occasion the honorable memberfor Henty (Mr. Gullett) advised the Treasurer to spend £50,000,000 bravely. Some of the breweries have also been making good profits.
– The Scullin Government has taken off the tax on beer which the previous Government put on.
– The honorable gentleman should ask the hotel-keepers and brewers how this Government has taxed them. They do not think that they have been let off lightly. The Carlton and United Breweries Limited showed a profit of £445,920 in 1928. It paid a dividend of 15 percent. iu that year, and added to its reserves £104,670. Its nominal reserves were then £1,177,173.
Dalgety and Company Limited, which has the support of the Country party, has also been doing well out of the produce it has handled on behalf of the primary producers of Australia. If the woolgrowers of Australia were to dispose of their own product they would obtain better returns than they do now by selling it through Dalgety and Company Limited and others. Wool sold for ls. 3d. and ls. 4d. a lb. returns to the grower only 7d. or 9d. per lb. The cost of selling and marketing wool is a much heavier impost on the wool-grower than is the cost of labour. For six years the Country party, which professes to represent the primary producers of the country, kept in power the Nationalist party, which assisted importers to the detriment of the primary producers.
– The Nationalist party did not add 60,000 to the ranks of the unemployed in six months.
– The increase iu unemployment is the aftermath of the late Government’s administration. The benefits of the change in policy by which the flood of imports will be checked, as well as the effect of the increased customs duties, will not be felt for at least twelve months.
– That is a new story.
– It is not new to me I am in the habit of telling one story - a true one - and sticking to it. In that respect I differ from the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who tells a different story every five minutes. The policy of the Bruce-Page Government with respect to imports has caused Australian wool-growers to sell their wool to overseas buyers. They have sold it at centres whore Dalgety and Company Limited, and Goldsborough, Mort Limited, wanted it sold. Wool is not sold at Townsville to suit the convenience of North- Western Queensland wool-growers, nor at Rockhampton to convenience growers from Central Queensland. .It is sold at Brisbane, where Dalgety and Company Limited have their stores.
– That is what killed Wool Tops Mills at Charters Towers.
– Our wool is sold to buyers from other countries, and is manufactured into cloth overseas, and returned to us. Instead of remaining “ wood and water joeys “ for other nations we should manufacture our own woollen goods. The price of wool has dropped considerably, but are woollen garments any cheaper than they were?
– That is not likely.
– What happened when the bottom fell out of the cattleindustry in 1919 ?
– Why does not the honorable member stick to wool ?
– I shall get back to wool presently, to the discomfiture of the honorable member. When the bottom fell out of the cattle market, beasts which previously realized £14 a head sold for 30s. or 35s. a head. But the price of meat to the consumer remained the same. Cattle-raisers were told that production costs must come down. In order to accomplish that end the wages of the workers in that industry were reduced by 12^ pur cent. But those workers had to pay the same price for meat that they paid when cattle were £14 a head. What happened in the cattle industry in 1919 is taking place in the wool industry to-day. Let us see how Dalgety and Company Limited has been affected by droughts. In 1928, the company made a profit of £276,887; it paid a dividend of 17 per cent., and wrote £25,000 off the value of its premises. Its reserves arc valued at £1,695,352. Those results have been achieved at the expense of the primary producers of this country. Let us review also the transactions of another struggling firm - John McGrath Limited - which might be - suspected of having had a bad time. The Wild Cai Monthly for 7th September, 1929, referring to this firm, states -
For the past five years a regular 40 per cent, dividend has been paid ; in addition, two bonus issues of £25,000 each have been made, making last year’s 40 per cent, equal to 60 per cent, on old holdings. And then owners of the scrip could see all but £5,000 of its face value invested in more stable assets outside the business.
That firm deals with American motor cars. The Government is advised not to interfere with businesses of this nature for fear nhat the Opposition will be annoyed. Since the members of ‘ the Nationalist and Country parties have been sitting in opposition they have been m bie to find means of effecting savings which were not apparent to them when sitting on the treasury bench. I hope that they will occupy the Opposition benches sufficiently long for their education to be completed. Fourteen years in opposition would probably improve them. 1 hope that for the remainder of their political lives they will be found on the other side of the chamber.
.- I do not know whether the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) intended to deliver a facetious address. % Certainly, many of its details were humorous. The honorable member waxed indignant with regard to the roads policy of the BrucePage Government, claiming that money had been wasted here, there, and everywhere. Almost in the same breath he congratulated the present Administration because it had granted £1,000,000 to the States to perpetuate the same policy. I really cannot understand the honorable member. He also expressed solicitude for members of Parliament, and was very indignant that at such a time as the present, it should be suggested that we should submit to a reduction of salary. I do not think that the honorable member has any need to worry over that matter. He has on that side of the chamber a very solid combination who will see that parliamentary salaries are not reduced. I am of the opinion that at this juncture, more particularly as the honorable member for Kennedy blamespoliticians for the evils that have befallen Australia of recent years, members of Parliament might well participate in the general sacrifice that is being made by the community. I remind honorable members that some of us wanted to have incorporated in a conciliation and arbitration bill a clause providing that if members of an industry went out on strike, their union secretaries should not be paid, during the duration of the trouble. As we, apparently, have got the country into trouble, surely some of the load should fall on us; surely we should bear our share of the punishment for thai . financial stringency that has afflicted the nation. I recollect that over a year ago, when speaking in Western Australia, 1 foretold the difficulties that have arisen, and pointed out that until our difficulties were overcome there -would have to be a reduction in the allowance to members as well as an all-round reduction in expenditure.
I cannot help congratulating the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) upon the speech that he delivered on Friday last in this chamber. I do not agree with the politics of the right honorable gentleman, but I willingly concede that his Government is confronted with financial difficulties unprecedented in the history of Australia. The need exists for us to see whether it is not possible to lead the country out of its present difficulties. The right honorable gentleman quoted statements made by him during the past three years, warning Australia as to the direction in which its extravagance was leading. I shall take honorable members back further, to 1923. Remember, at that time, I was supporting the Government in power. Then, and frequently since, I made very solid pronouncements about the financial morass towards which Australia was heading. In 1923 I said-
We cannot ignore the. great increase that lias taken place in the public debt, and the fact that during the next few years large sums of loan money will have to be converted at u higher rate of interest than the Commonwealth has paid previously. That will necessitate, not only economy, but higher taxation. With increased borrowing, and a heavier interest bill, in addition to sinking funds, the Commonwealth will have a very big liability to meet, and we must slow down our industries in such a way that wc may be able to honour our obligations.
Only last year I absolutely refused to support the budget proposals of the last Government. At present we have in power, a party whose policy is absolutely destructive of everything that is beneficial to Australia. Let me touch briefly on the sugar agreement and the tariff. As a Parliament, we are supposed to be representative of the people. We should, therefore, be taken into the confidence of the Government, and allowed to decide the terms of the sugar agreement, if it is to be continued. The embargo on foreign sugar means an additional expenditure to Australia of something like £7,000,000 a year. While I hold that it is wise to give some assistance to an industry of that nature, I do not believe in the embargo. In my opinion, it is prejudicial to the best interests of Australia. That is why I contend that the Government should bring the sugar agreement before Parliament for endorsement.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) stated that the tariff was not perfect, but that the Ministry hoped to make it so. Truly, the sublime and the ridiculous are often nearly related. Since this Parliament met, the Government has brought down nine different tariff schedules, one following another with bewildering rapidity, each conceived in the hope that it would make the tariff a little better than it was in the past. I repeat what I said on the tariff debate, that no schedule ever submitted has exhibited such blundering incapacity, such bewildering ignorance and palpable inexperience as that disclosed by the schedules submitted by this Government. I do not believe that the officials, men who are responsible for the administration of the Customs Department, were responsible for the succession of slipshod schedules that have been brought down since this Government took office. It has been stated that the New South Wales manufacturers were instrumental in their introduction. It is no wonder that those people feel quite satisfied with what has been given to them, and were prepared to come forward even after the elections and make still further payments to the election funds of the Labour party.
– That is not true.
– I am referring to the New South Wales manufacturers, not those of Victoria. Why has not the secretary of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufacturers denied the accusation ?
I shall draw attention to two or three results of the Labour ‘ party’s tariff schedules. Some five or six months ago an importer brought into Australia a quantity of- hoods, which are used for making children’s hats. They cost 2s. 8d. a dozen in Java. The duty was 60s. a dozen - 2,250 per cent. They could not be made here. Recently, a firm imported 220 gross of microscopic glass slides, the duty on which was ls. a dozen, or £132 on the consignment, compared with £15 15s. 2d. under the old rate, and £22 17s. 9d. at. the new ad valorem rate. The goods were invoiced at £75 10s., the duty amounting to no less than £507, or nearly 700 per cent, ad valorem. I shall not traverse the ground covered by previous speakers regarding the prohibition of the import of glassware into Australia, but 1 shall illustrate the way in which the people of Australia are being exploited in this matter. Not long ago, when speaking to a chemist, I was informed that babies’ feeding bottles, which in pre-war times cost 7s. 6d. a dozen and sold at ls. each, now cost 24s. a dozen, and have to be sold at 2s. 6d. each. The Sydney Morning Herald of 11th July, intimates that an importer bought 100 dozen cotton knitted singlets from Japan at a total value of £25 12s. 6d. The duty was 48s. a dozen, plus 45 per cent., plus a super tax of 50 per cent., plus primage duty of 2$ per cent., a total duty of £379 18s. 5d., or 1,500 per cent, on the original total value of the goods. Another instance: the aunt of a boy, whose uncle died in India, sent over some second-hand clothing to him. In all, there were eight suits, which would cost about 25s. to 30s. each new in India. The duty on each suit was 25s., plus 45 per cent. Do honorable members opposite claim that that is necessary to assist us to build up Australian industry? The item dealing with suits stipulates the rates as 15s. plus 25 per cent, for British, and 30s. plus 45 per cent, foreign, a suit. It seems preposterous that such duties should be required. There is a duty on woollen piece goods of 2s. a yard, plus 35 per cent., British, and 3s. a yard, plus 55 per cent., foreign. In Australia we produce the finest wool in the world, and are supposed to have first-class machinery and firstclass labour. I have never heard of old firms such as Foy and Gibson applying for increases in the duties on woollen goods. Apparently they are quite content and able to compete in the world’s market .
New Zealand has a duty of 20 per cent. British, and 35 per cent, foreign, for woollen goods, with no additional imposts. A New Zealand firm, the Mosgiel “Woollen Factory Limited, was able, last year, to disclose a dividend of 10 per cent. The report of the company’s activities reads -
The directors are again pleased to be able to submit a statement of the company’s position which must prove satisfactory to shareholders. During the past year, the company has been able to dispose of all its output at remunerative prices, and the result of the year’s trade has been quite satisfactory. The liquid assets of the company in the form of New Zealand Government loans, cash on deposit, and the amount standing to the credit of the company’s current account at the bank, shows this year the amount of £58,400, as against £52,987 in the previous year. In view of this increase, and seeing that we have more than sufficient capital for our business, the directors recommend that a special bonus of 10s. per share (which will absorb £11,922 10s.) shall be payable to shareholders, and the same will be chargeable to the reserve account.
In addition, £5,000 was written off for depreciation, £8,000 was placed to reserve, £2,000 was credited to an employees’ benevolent fund, and a balance of £16,093 remained, out of which the directors recommended the payment of a dividend of 4 per cent, and a bonus of 2 per cent., amounting to £5,722 16s., which, with an interim dividend, totalled 10 per cent, for the year. That is the marvellous record that this company has been able to show with the aid of a duty of 20 per cent, against Great Britain.
– What were the conditions of the workers?
– I have not heard of any complaint that their conditions were not satisfactory. However, in one year the company voted £2,000 to the employees benevolent fund. Unlike the socalled workers in the honorable member’s constituency, they do not ask this Government for sustenance and monetary assistance. The honorable member should keep quiet when such a subject is being discussed. Nothing is more discreditable than what has happened in his constituency during the last eight or ten years. The following figures in relation to the retail prices of different classes of popular dress materials in Great Britain,
and the duty that is imposed upon them in Australia, are illuminating: -
Those dress materials contain mostly wool, and are extensively used in the manufacture of women’s and children’s clothing.
Australia has been tariff-mad for a number of years. I do not believe that the officers of the Department of Trade and Customs were responsible for these latest recommendations. Nothing could be more one-eyed or jaundiced than these duties. It is mere hypocrisy to say that they are essential to enable our manufacturers to compete on the local market with the products of other countries. The producers of wool, wheat, butter, and other primary commodities are being urged to do their utmost to build up an export trade, so that Australia will have in London credit that will enable her to lift the financial load that at present is weighing her down ; yet this Government has placed an embargo on the importation of agricultural machinery and other necessaries of the primary producers, as well as a primage duty on their sacks and the raw material that is required for the manufacture of fertilizers. Where, I ask, will such a policy lead us? One, of our first requisites is intense culture. Even the Prime Minister himself has stressed its importance. Yet what is being done to make that possible? Let us take the case of sulphate of ammonia. At page 28 of the report of the Tariff Board on fertilizers, it is pointed out that in Brisbane the price of sulphate of ammonia is no less than £18 10s. a ton, whereas in New Zealand it is £12 12s. a ton, and in England the cost fluctuates round about £10 10s. a ton. How can the primary producers be expected to produce profitably under such conditions? Both the party that sits opposite and a party that sits on this side look to them to make contributions to party funds. The statement was made by one man that they had both parties “ in the bag,” and were prepared to contribute to the funds of both.
– He was referring to the Country party and Nationalist party.
– They have not me “ in the bag.” It is sufficiently serious to saddle the primary producers with these tariff imposts; but the Government has gone even further than that. It has introduced an amendment of the Arbitration Act, that is designed to hand over to trade union leaders the control of industry in Australia. Let me give an idea of where we are being led. Only a little while ago a Mr. Rene Contal, the manager of an organization in Paris, gave an interview dealing with trade, the report of which reads -
Mr. Contal explained that, because of increasing costs and of conditions on the coalfields, the Societe le Nickel would cease to spend approximately £75,000 a year in Australia. This amount was paid previously for coal, coke, stores, and machinery, which Mr. Contal’s company used in its mines in New Caledonia. The manager said that a ship had been chartered by his company, and he calculated that about 40,000 tons of coal and coke, bought each year from England, France, or Germany, would result in a saving of approximately 10s. a ton. The ship would make five or six trips a year. Machinery and other goods would be procured on the Continent and shipped to Noumea, as the charter would make freights low for the firm. “When I told business men three years ago that the company could obtain coal and other goods cheaner from Europe than from Australia, they laughed at me,” said Mr. Contal, “ but they have now been won to my opinion. Other companies on the island are following the same course, and Australia will lose about £500,000 in trade with New Caledonia. . . . “
– They were looking for cheap markets.
– Of course, they were. Our producers have to sell their commodities in. a cheap market. The cost of production in Australia is the highest in the world, we are furthest from the markets of the world, and we have to compete with countries in which the labour cost is low. Honorable members opposite cannot see beyond the trade union organization to which they belong. But what about the wheat-growers in Western Australia? I say quite candidly that I am prepared to place the wheat-grower on the same basis as the man who works in a factory in the city. Let them both be upon the same basis, and let it be an equitable basis. The fruit-growing industry has been urged to lend its aid in getting Australia out of her difficulties. I have here a letter from the manager of the Shepparton Canning Factory, in which the following statement is made: -
You will see that, on the above contracts, which only represent about 75 per cent. of our requirements, the extra duty we will be called upon to pay amounts to £4,071.
– That is a very prosperous concern.
– The honorable member for Indi is one of those who are never satisfied. I invite him to study the magnificent export trade in hardwood timbers that Australia held up to 1919. Nature has provided this country with the finest hardwoods in the world, yet we cannot market them because of the political favours that are handed out. The honorable member for Indi, and other honorable members, are continually chasing round endeavouring to obtain a concession for some of their constituents; in consequence of which we are now saddled with such extremely high costs that goodness knows what price the Australian worker will soon have to pay for a wooden house. There is nothing more scandalous than the demands that are continually being made of this Government for increased duties on timber.
– The honorable member would bring to Australia timber that is grown in cheap-labour, foreign countries.
– Will the honorable member for Indi say that there is cheap labour in. Canada and the United States of America?
– In that industry, yes.
– If there were not, they would not be able to sell their timber in Australia at such a low figure.
– They can cart it to the coast, ship it here, and then sell it considerably below the local cost.
I agree with the Prime Minister that Australia is passing through a severe economic crisis, and that the position has been intensified by the low prices that are obtainable for our primary products in the world’s markets. In the first nine months of the financial year 1928-29, the wool clip returned £46,600,000, but in the first nine months of 1929-30 the return was only £24,300,000, a decrease of £22,300,000. In regard to wheat, the figures for the corresponding periods were £15,600,000 and £7,500,000. It will thus lie seen that there has been a big falling off in our export trade. Let nae again remind honorable members that our primary producers have to compete against low-wage countries on the markets of the world. Our wheat-growing and mining industries are our big labouremploying industries, and anything which affects them adversely must react detrimentally upon the people. I have as much regard for the working man as any other person, and if I had my way he would not be tyrannized over in the future as he has been in the past. “With the existing prices for metals, copper, lead, /.iiic and tin, production must be unprofitable and the loss in the value of production this year will be anything from £50,000,000 to £70,000,000 compared with previous years. These low prices are one of the big causes of our present difficulties and they intensify the need for decreasing the cost of production and marketing.
What is the use of placing an embargo upon imports when an attempt is being made to build an export trade to correct our adverse trade balance? Do honorable members opposite believe that shipping will come to our shores in ballast for the purpose of taking away our products? How are we to trade with other countries if we do not allow them to trade with us? I.”t must not be forgotten that we are a debtor country. Over £30,000,000 a year lias to be found to pay the interest on our national debt. Great Britain, being a creditor nation, can import more than she exports and still show a profit. We can. not import unless we have the money to pay for the goods that we purchase. If »(j do not allow other countries to trade with us, we shall soon find ourselves in greater difficulties than those that now beset us. We must recognize that an export trade is the balancing wheel in a country’s prosperity. There is no doubt that the present crisis has been accentuated by the reduction that has taken place in our exports. For the four years that ended with 1928-29, our imports exceeded our exports by approximately £12,000,000, to which has to be added four years’ interest at the rate of £30,000,000 a year, or £120,000,000, apart from semi-governmental concerns. Therefore, the adverse trade balance in those four years was £132,000,000. Last year our imports were valued at £131,000,000, and our exports, exclusive of gold, £97,000,000, showing a deficit of £34,000,000, or with interest added, £64,000,000. Consequently, during the last five years the trade balance has gone against us to the extent of £196,000,000. Last year we exported £27,748,549 worth of gold. We cannot continue that practice; we must produce for export.
In my opinion, the Commonwealth and the States are equally to blame for the present financial situation. After the war no special effort was made to put our house in order. Now we have to take our medicine, and it will prove very unpleasant for the people of Australia for some time to come. It will hit every class of the community, and will increase the evil of unemployment. In 1920 the total indebtedness of Australia, Commonwealth and States, was £778,000,000. In 1929. it was £1,101,000,000- an increase of £323,000,000. During the intervening period interest rates steadily increased. I remember in the old days in Western Australia, when we were building the Coolgardie water system, wo could raise money at par in England at 3 per cent. Now the average rate for loans, both new money and conversions, is a fraction over 5 per cent., and it will probably increase as further loans have to be redeemed. In 1920, taxation amounted to £56,000,000 ; last year it had increased to £88,000,000, an increase of £32,000,000. The Treasurer, in the course of his budget speech, made what I regard as a very unfortunate remark when he said -
The failure of the Loudon loan market as a supplementary source of national income precipitated the monetary stringency from which the whole country is now suffering.
There is no doubt that loans from London have been used in the past as a supplementary source of national income, but the fact that we have come to look upon borrowings of this sort as a normal means of balancing our budget, is a very poor reflection upon our financial acumen. We must recognize that when we borrow abroad the money comes here in the form of imported goods, and the cost to us is further increased by the duties which are paid on them. In the sense that the duties go to swell Commonwealth revenue, our overseas borrowings may, indeed, be said to contribute to our national income; but such a statement in the Treasurer’s budget must naturally make capitalists think hard. ‘ It has been frequently suggested that we should borrow in Australia instead of overseas. Those who urge this course forget or overlook the fact that money invested in government loans must be withdrawn from banks or other big financial institutions, and there is just that much less money available for the promotion of private industry. Thus the volume of private production is lessened, while public extravagance is encouraged. In 1919 Commonwealth and State expenditure totalled only £97,000,000; in 1929, it had grown to £193,000,000, and we had an accumulated deficit of over £6,000,000. I should like to ask the people of Australia what they have received either from the Commonwealth or the States since 1919 to justify the expenditure of nearly £100,000,000 a year more.
– They have got rid of the Bruce-Page Government, anyway !
– The honorable member forgets that during the period from 1919 to 1929, there were Labour Governments in many of the States, and they frequently were more extravagant than their political opponents. However, I am not making a party attack now; I merely point out that there have been grave extravagances by both Commonwealth and State Governments. We have been taking more money from the people by way of taxation than production warrants. That money should have been left in the hands of the people to aid in the production of wealth, by which alone we can give good conditions to the people. It cannot be done by borrowing. The affairs of a nation are similar to those of an individual. Either may live for a time on borrowed money, but eventually the bill must be paid. During the last ten years the increase of the Commonwealth debt has been small; but the States have been borrowing to excess, and the people of Australia must now pay the bill.
– Where will Western Australia get its money from when it secedes from the Commonwealth?
– That is a matter which would cause more concern to the people of Western Australia than to the honorable member. They are not likely to seek the advice of the honorable member, who, as a result of his Government’s policy, must pay a duty on his oratorical soap-box, because it is put together with foreign nails. In 1919 Commonwealth and State taxation amounted to £45,000,000; by 1929 it had increased to £88,700,000. War commitments in 1919, when the total taxation amounted to £45,000,000, were £21,000,000, which covered interest on loans, sinking fund, pensions, &c. In 1921, when the full interest charges had to be met, it was £33,000,000. In 1922 it had fallen to £31,000,000, and in 1929 it was only £30,000,000, or less than in 1921.
The Federal Parliament seeks to assume control of business, to interfere with trade and commerce, to meddle with finance, and to regulate industry. A bill was recently passed through this chamber providing for the creation of a central bank, although no exhaustive examination of the subject had been made. A bill has been introduced to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act, so as to substitute the control of one man for the management now exercised by the board of directors. Thus the institution which controls £90,000,000 of the people’s money is to be placed under the complete control of one individual.
– Where did the honorable member get that information from?
– It is in the Commonwealth Bank Bill.
– The act provides for control by a board of directors.
– I have a copy of the bill here in my desk, and it does away with control by a board of directors.
This Parliament seems to delight in inventing new methods of taxation. Is it any wonder that the people are growing tired of the Federal Parliament? Recently there have been numerous complaints from business men and importers that the new tariff schedules introduced from day to day have seriously dislocated business;’ yet the Government appears blind to the fact that all this is causing still more unemployment and destitution. On the 14th June the Prime Minister broadcast the following message: -
The standard of living is something of which we in Australia are very proud.
– Hear, hear!
– Let the honorable member who applauds ask the unemployed whether they are proud of our standard of living. Ask them whether they would not prefer to be employed even at something less than award rates rather than starve for want of any employment at all. The Prime Minister continued -
Shall we, because of temporary depression and difficulties, throw up our hands in despair and declare that this great country is no longer able to maintain conditions which we believe arc the envy of many peoples of the world less fortunately endowed with God’s gifts?
It is true that God has bestowed many gifts ou this land. Nature has been wonderfully prolific, and has endowed us with great wealth in minerals and in land, but that we should be proud of the way we have managed this country I do not believe. We should be grateful to Britain for the wonderful constitution she has given us, and for the assistance she has granted in developing our natural resources, but we requite her by refusing to buy her goods. Even after treating her in that way we still run to her when we are in dire distress, and ask her for another £30,000,000 so that we may pay our debts in America and elsewhere. No country has any cause to envy us the conditions that prevail in Australia to-day. We should be ashamed of the position into which we have drifted. This would be a glorious country if it were not for the politicians who interfere with industry, and who believe that by means of meddling legislation they will make the country prosperous. No amount of legislation can do that. Governments allow themselves to be led away by cheap claptrap. In his budget speech the Prime Minister said that the country was faced with a financial depression without parallel during the 30 years of the life of the Commonwealth. Compare that with his broadcast statement to the people about our conditions, “… which we believe are the envy of many peoples of the world less fortunately endowed with God’s gifts. “ The time has arrived when we should put our house in order.
– Who is responsible for our present position ?
– I do not care who is responsible; we must face facts, and try to improve our position. In his budget speech the Prime Minister said that as a result of lower prices for our primary products we were faced with a reduction of national income of from £50,000,000 to £70,000,000; that it would be necessary to raise £30,000,000 to meet our overseas obligations; and that our stocks had depreciated alarmingly, particularly in comparison with New Zealand and South Africa. There is nothing in that to arouse the envy of other people. The Prime Minister stated that the most drastic forms of taxation would be necessary, and we are informed by the Commonwealth Statist that 18 per cent, of our people are unemployed, while many more are being rationed in their employment. I admit that fresh taxation is necessary; but we must have economy. When the Prime Minister speaks about maintaining our high standard of. living, he reminds one of a jesting Pilate, who washes his hands of all responsibility for the conditions prevailing, or for the con-* sequences of his policy. We cannot compare conditions now with anything in the past, because we never suffered so serious a loss in our export values. We must produce more wealth and build up our export trade, and every Id. taken by the Government in taxation makes it harder for us to put industry on a profitable basis.
Let me point out some of the effects of the tariff on primary industries. The Prime Minister said that the primage duty would apply to everything imported into Australia. Therefore, it must be paid on the cornsacks which the farmers use for the export of their -wheat. This will tend further to increase the cost of production, so that .with low prices and high freights, the growers will experience the utmost difficulty in competing in the markets of the world. The Government has placed embargoes on certain classes of agricultural machinery, and, as I pointed out on the tariff debate, the farmers of Western Australia have to pay 12 per cent, more than Victorian . farmers, because of the heavy freight charges between Melbourne and Fremantle. In audition to the embargoes, a 50 per cent, surcharge has been placed on many goods required by producers. (Quorum formed.] I would not have minded these surcharges if they had been imposed on goods coming from countries such as the United States of America, which place special impositions on any Australian goods they import, but I object to our placing a 50 per cent, surcharge and a primage duty of 2i per cent, on goods coining from Great Britain and at the same time appealing to that country to lend us £30,000,000.
– We have 3hut out from Australia American imports valued at £1,000,000.
– I can only go by the statement laid on the table by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Forde) giving the items to which the surcharge would apply.
– In addition to the £1,000,000 worth of American goods shut out by the prohibition, the tariff measures affect annually £18,000,000 ‘ worth of goods from America.
– The Assistant Minister should have shown it clearly. At any rate, I do not think he can show me the item, motor- cars, in any list to which the embargoes or surcharge duties apply.
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that there is need for economy. But when we talk of economy we should start in this Parliament. We cannot preach economy throughout the country unless we start economizing in the administration of Commonwealth matters, particularly in connexion with members’ salaries. Those who represent constituencies far removed from the Seat of Government know well that there is very little left to an honorable member out of his parliamentary allowance, but sacrifices must be made. Retrenchment must come sooner or later. Already some of the States have had to ration their Public Services and reduce salaries, and it would look very bad indeed for the Commonwealth Parliament to ask for rationing or a reduction of wages, in,’ say, the Post Office, and at the same time refuse to bear any share of the sacrifice to be borne by the community. A reduction of 15 per cent, on salaries over £J.,o00, and 10 per cent, on salaries ranging about £1,000, with possibly a reduced percentage on the lower grade salaries should apply to our Commonwealth service, including members of Parliament, We must make economies, otherwise it will be impossible for us to get private people to economize. I cannot speak too highly of the sacrifices that are being made by public servant? in the States, or of the work now being done by Mr. Bavin, the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Moore, the Premier of Queensland, and Mr. Hill, the Labour Premier of South Australia, to balancethe State ledgers. It is claimed by some that those who advocate a reduction of parliamentary salaries are courting popularity. Last year I said in Western Australia that the timewould, come when salaries would have to be cut down. Was it courting popularity to advocate that I should lose £300 or £200 a year? I am prepared to make a sacrifice, because I cannot ask other people to make sacrifices unless 1 am prepared to do so myself. Retrenchment is always unpopular, but in politicone must never be afraid of becoming unpopular, particularly when the financial’ position of the country makes onerealize that it is necessary to advocate an unpopular course.
Recognizing the difficult financial position in which the Government has been placed, nothing can condone the numerous bounty measures which it has brought forward since it has come into office.’ W> have had an increased cotton bounty, and an increase in the wretched galvanized iron bounty : a sewing machine head bounty; a flax and linseed bounty, and a shale oil bounty. They could all have beau left to a more suitable occasion. The present is certainly not the time to tax the people with the idea of building up a prospective industry. It is too heavy a price for the country to-day for having returned the present Government, to. power.
– Nearly all those bounties wore initiated by past Governments.
– The increased bounties on cotton and galvanized iron, and the bounty on sewing machine heads were not initiated by past Governments.
As far as the Public Service is concerned, we ought to be able to economize in Sunday pay, overtime, travelling time, and higher duties pay. There are certain rules which apply in ordinary time, but at a time like this 1 should say that if a man has to work a little overtime, he should be told, “ It has to be done “. In these items the budget shows that- expend Uture last year was - Sunday pay, £97,000; overtime, £91,000; travelling time, £25,000; higher duties pay, £92,000. These extras in one year increased by £15,000. I hope that there will be no dismissals. I hope that rationing in the Public Service will be adopted instead of dismissals. When I jokingly suggested that Canberra should be put up to auction, the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) cleverly suggested that I should put myself up to auction. I think that at a time like this it would be well for us to consider whether any money should be spent at Canberra for some time to come.
The Health Department is an example of how departments can grow. The following figures show how its expenditure has developed year by year: -
The work done by the Commonwealth Health Department no doubt supplements a great deal of the work now being done by the State, and a big reduction should be possible in this department. Another suggested saving of expenditure is in connexion with the maternity allowance. lt is a mistake to give wealthy mothers the right to claim the maternity allowance. I understand that now 97 per cent, of the mothers of Australia, who are entitled to the allowance duly claim it, but I think that people whose income is a couple of thousand pounds a year should not be entitled to draw the allowance. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that the maternity allowance should be limited to those who are in receipt of £300 a year or less. No one is anxious to see the old-age pension cut down, but where it can be shown that people claimi rt.tr the pension have transferred property of value to relatives, the pension should not be paid until the value of the property has been worked out and those who have received it are compelled to pay out the amount involved.
– That is done now.
– The authorities are very strict about it, and are quite right in doing so.
– I believe that the department is very strict on the matter. I merely wished to impress the need for care in this respect. I have always been an advocate of a reduction of the income tax exemption; but I do not think that we would be justified, at a time like this, in encroaching too much on the preserves of the States. ‘They must raise their revenue from income taxation, and already they impose heavy taxation on small salaries in order to provide work for unemployed. I believe that £3.000,000 can be saved on the Estimates submitted to us, and I regard it as the duty of the Government to make every effort to see that this economy is effected.
I prefer a sales tax to high duties or a primage duty. In Canada the sales tax in 1924 was reduced from 6 per cent, to 6 per cent., and realized £24,000,000. The revenue derived from the sales tax in Canada in subsequent years is shown by the following figures : -
It must be remembered that Canada has a population of 9,000,000, in comparison with our 6,500,000. The Treasurer estimates that he will not receive more than £5,000,000 for the balance of the year from a 2£ per cent, sales tax. It seem 6 to me, judging by the £16,500,000 raised by Canada on a 2 per cent, tax in’ 1929, that a 2^ per cent, tax in Australia would realize for the whole year anything from £10,000,000 to £11,000,000. However, we shall be able to deal more fully with the sales tax proposals, when they come before us. All I say at the moment is that it seems to me that it will realize more revenue than is anticipated, and that it is better to have a sales tax than a primage duty on cornsacks and- other requirements of the primary producers. Rather than have high duties and prohibitions, I should put a tax on tea. I do not know why the tea-drinker should be totally exempt. Taxation is imposed on everything required for building or furnishing a home, for clothing or for feeding people, and on most drinks the people consume; but everybody seems to be afraid of putting a duty on tea. In 4he United Kingdom a duty of 4d. a lb. on foreign tea, and 3$d. per lb. on Empire-grown tea, realized £5,740,000 in revenue. The duty was removed in April of last year. Canada had a duty of 5 per cent, on foreign tea, and 3$ per cent, on Empire-grown tea. The revenue derived amounted to £549,000. This year the rates have been altered to 5 per cent, foreign and 3 per cent. Empire-grown. The Canadian people are not teadrinkers. They prefer to drink coffee. Although Canada imported only 39,400,000 lb. of tea in 1929, during the same year Australia imported 50,000,000 lb. With an import duty of 5d. per lb. on foreign-grown tea, we could collect £510,000, and of 3$d. per lb. on Empiregrown tea, £368,000, or a total of £878,000. That would be far preferable to overburdening industry by imposing primage and other duties. Although we speak about going to Great Britain in days of financial adversity to ask for another £30,000,000 in order to pay our interest bill, we are not showing Great Britain, as compared with other countries, much consideration in the matter of duties. We are placing heavy restrictions upon trade between Great Britain and Australia instead of assisting that country which has done so much to help us. The Secretary of the Canadian Council of Agriculture points out that it is preferable to impose high duties against other countries, and to extend consideration, even almost to the point of f freetrade, with Great Britain. We should adopt a similar policy, although perhaps not to the same extent, as Canada.
As I have no desire to detain honorable members unnecessarily, I ask the permission of the committee to incorporate in the official report of the debates the following statement by the Secretary of the Canadian Council of Agriculture -
The suggestion has been made that it is advisable to impose new general tariff rates or to raise existing rates in order to divert to Great Britain trade which now goes to the United States of America. We contend that such arbitrary interference with commercial exchanges which are obviously made because we in Canada profit by them, can only result in increased cost to the people of Canada.
We are in favour of an immediate increase in the British preference. We wish to see successive increases in that preference until freetrade between Canada and Britain is attained. We were of that mind long before most of those who now advocate that policy. But. we desire just as strongly the reduction of general tariff rates and the abolition of special privileges in the form of protection. We believe that the people of Great Britain do not want to impose sacrifices upon us in Canada in order to create an artificial condition of trading, which would prove to be both injurious and impermanent.
No opposition to the British preference is expressed in Canada to-day. There arc some who would like to see it wiped out, because of the effect of British competition on their business, but, being ardent imperialists politically, they cannot publicly demand the abolition of the preference. An overwhelming majority of the Canadian people are in favour of increasing the preference on British goods, so that more of our imports would come from the country which is the best customer for Canadian agricultural products.
But there is a sharp difference of opinion as to how the preference should be increased. The organized farmers of Canada have for years advocated one method. They favour the immediate reduction of the tariff on British goods, and further gradual reductions until ultimately there is absolute freetrade between this country and the Motherland. The other method, advocated by the beneficiaries of protection, is to maintain the tariff on British goods somewhere near its present level, and to increase the tariff on goods imported from other countries. This would, undoubtedly, increase the preference, but it would do much more. It would increase the special privileges already enjoyed by protected industries, and increase the cost of living for every man, woman, and child in the dominion. As far as the farmers are concerned, it would increase their production and living costs without benefiting them one iota in the prices received for what they have to sell.
It has been contended by some honorable members opposite that I am not in favour of the establishment of Australian industries. I believe in the encouragement of those industries which can without too much artificial protection be carried on successfully in Australia. We should, however, endeavour to encourage trade within the Empire as Canada is doing, and take as many British products as is possible in preference to those of other countries. As France, Belgium, and Italy are buying extensively from us we should wherever practicable give those countries the benefit of our intermediate tariff. But in the case of the United States of America, which will not allow our goods to enter except under most extraordinary conditions, we should impose very high duties.
Mr.C. Riley. - Why did not the Government of which the honorable member was a supporter introduce such a policy?
– I am not responsible for the actions of the preceding Government.
I have pointed out directions in which our expenditure could be reduced, and although I would not go as far as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) suggests, I firmly contend that a reduction should be made in this Parliament and then in the Public Service. The advocacy of such a policy will, I know, make a lot of enemies ; but, in view of the difficult financial position with which we are confronted, a start must be made somewhere. The burden which is being placed upon the primary producers is altogether too heavy, and I trust that a commencement will be made by acting as I have suggested, in order to bring the financial position of the Commonwealth back to what it was in prewar days.
.- I have followed with a good deal of interest the speech of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and other honorable members on that side of the chamber who preceded him. It is remarkable to hear suggestions concerning the manner in which money can be saved by honorable members opposite who supported a governmentwhich expended money more extravagantly and recklessly than any Commonwealth Government since the inception of federation.
– This Government is spending £4,000,000 more this year than the previous government did.
– The Bruce-Page Government squandered money more recklessly than any government that has ever occupied the Treasury bench. Sir Otto Niemeyer, an official of the Bank of England is in Australia telling us how we should run this country, and how money can be saved, but it is regrettable that the services of this gentleman were not obtained some time ago.
– It is time we had some good advice.
– If the late Treasurer had taken the advice of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) we should have been £50,000,000 worse off than we are to-day. For the information of honorable members I should like to place on record the finanical transactions of Australia and other countries during the war. During that period Australia sent a fair number of men overseas to fight the battle of the Empire.
– A very large number.
– Yes, and a large number were members of the organization with which I am associated.
During the war Australia responded nobly with men and munitions, and footed every penny of the staggering bill in a magnificiently generous manner. It is true that Canada and South Africa also responded with men and munitions, but the wages for their soldiers, the cost of their munitions, and their maintenance while at the war, were paid by Britain. Canada and South Africa made no staggering war-time financial sacrifices as Australia did.
During the war the French Government demanded ground rent for the trenches and territory occupied by the overseas troops. Britain paid the ground rent for the Canadian and South African troops. Australia paid her own bill - a little matter of £17,000,000! During the war Britain was up against it for food supplies, wool and other commodities. Australian primary producers rose to the occasion and supplied Britain’s wants to the fullest extent. The British Government constituted itself the sole purchaser of the goods, and allowed them to be retailed at fabulous profits. Out of this war-time transaction Britain’s profiteers and distributors netted a profit of something around £300,000,000. Not a brass farthing of that money came back to the Australian primary producers.
When settlements were being arranged after the war the Italian Government pleaded its inability to pay her war debt to Britain. Something like 50 per cent. of the Italian war debt (£350,000,000) was written off by .British bond-holders, and the balance was funded on a basis of payment spread over 50 years, free of interest. France got a concession to the extent of nearly 50 per cent, of her war debt to Britain. Some of the Balkan countries also got generous concessions in the matter of war debts.
– Does the honorable member suggest that, we should have done that?
– I suggest that the British Dominions should have received treatment at least similar to that extended to foreigners. France and the Balkan States received a concession in their war debts of 50 per cent., and what was good enough for them was surely good enough for us.
– The honorable member should be ashamed of himself.
– After the war Britain funded her debt to the United States at 3£ per cent. Included in the funding process were Australia’s war debts to Britain. Australia pays 5$ per cent, and 6 per cen-t. on her debts to Britain, and on these Britain pays the United States of America only 3$ per cent. Britain is, therefore, showing a profit of 2 per cent, to 2£ per cent. If these people are entitled to that 3$ per cent., surely we, as a portion of the Empire, are entitled to our proportion of the concession. I suggest that this is to some extent responsible for the financial position with which we are faced. We have heard a good deal of the financial jazz that has been in progress for some time in various parts of the world, but for the financial jazz in Australia the previous Government is largely responsible. Huge quantities of Australian primary products were sent overseas during the war period to assist in bringing that conflict to a successful issue, but most of it was sold at profiteering prices.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) spoke of the impositions which are placed upon the Australian people in consequence of the bounties paid on certain Australian productions. Reference has been made by the Deputy Loader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) and other honorable members opposite, to the duties imposed on certain Japanese cotton goods. For the information of honorable members, I should like to direct attention to the excellent quality and low prices of certain articles manufactured in Sydney from Queensland grown cotton. For instance, men’s athletic undershirts manufactured from Queensland cotton at Wentworthville are sold by the manufacturers at 12s. 6d. si dozen. Allowing for a profit of 50 per cent., the retail price would be ls. 7d. each. Adults’ swimming costumes of all sizes are also sold at 24s. a dozen, wholesale, and after allowing for a profit of 50 per cent., are being retailed at 3s. each. Men’s extra fine undershirts, sold wholesale at 22s. a dozen, can, after allowing for a profit of 50 per cent., be purchased at 2s. 9d. each. These goods are all manufactured in Australia from Australian cotton and are of the very best quality.
The honorable member for Swan also in referring to the sugar embargo, which is a pet subject of his, mentioned the adverse trade balances in the differn States. I should like to remind the honorable member that during the Theodore.McCormack regime in Queensland there was, for the five years ending 1927, a favorable trade balance of £33,000,000 which would not have been possible but for the policy of that Government. That Government was able to conduct the finances of the State without indulging in any financial jazz, and handed over to the Moore Government a surplus of approximately £4,000,000. As a result of Labour administration, Queensland is now in a better position than any other State in the Commonwealth.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) said that he did not favour a reduction in wages; but went on to show how money could be saved by reducing the salaries of public servants. The honorable member for Lilley( Mr. Mackay) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said this afternoon that the Queensland Government is to be congratulated upon having made a gallant attempt to stem the tide of unemployment and improve conditions generally; but there is more unemployment in Queensland to-day than there has been for the last twenty years. Notwithstanding that Mr.. Moore and his party are supposed to believe in arbitration, they have caused the basic wage to be reduced to £4 a week for a man with a wife and three children. But they have done worse than this, for they have introduced a scheme of unemployment relief under which single men are obliged to work for £2 10s. a week and married men for £3 a week with only one month’s work in three. This is only another way of reducing wages. When this relief scheme was first mooted, a deputation of union representatives waited upon the Minister for Industry (Mr. Sizer) in Brisbane, and pointed out to him, among other things, that the adoption of this policy would lead to the dismissal of a large number of employees by municipal and other similar bodies, with the object of engaging workers at the lower rates. According to the Brisbane Courier, Mr. Sizer said that he hoped that that policy would not be resorted to; but he must have known that full advantage would be taken of the reduced rates of wages. At any rate, that is exactly what has happened. I believe that the Queensland Government has refused to take advantage of the money made available by the Commonwealth Government for relief work because of the condition attached to the grant that award rates of wages must be paid on all work for which it is used. The Government preferred to pay £2 10s. or £3 a week than to pay £4 a week.
It has been said that the new tariff schedules introduced by the Government will increase the cost of living; but there is no justification for increasing prices because of the introduction of these schedules. An increase of £1 per ton on the duty on newsprint has been used as an excuse by the Sydney daily press for increasing the price of their newspapers to 1-Jd. each. I took the trouble a few days ago to obtain six copies each of three newspapers to find out just how the increase would affect the cost of production from this point of view. I found that six copies of the Sydney Morning Herald weighed 2 lb. 7$ oz., an average of 6½oz. each. An increase in price by £d. will therefore return to the proprietors an additional £11 for every ton of newsprint used. As the additional duty is only £1 a ton, they will show a- profit of £10 a ton. In the case of the Guardian, the six papers weighed lib and 4£oz., an average of %i oz. each. The increase in price will thu.r return the proprietors a profit of £24 on every ton of newsprint used. The six copies of the -Daily Telegraph Pictorial weighed 1 lb. 3J oz., an average of 3^ oz. each. The increase in price will therefore return the proprietors a profit of £23 clear on every ton of newsprint used.
It has always been the practice of business concerns to take an unfair advantageof increases in the tariff or in wages to increase prices. I have a clear recollection of the bakers in the town in Queensland where I lived increasing the price of bread by £d. a loaf in the old wages board days, because journeymen bakers were granted an increase of 5s. and the carters an increase of 2s. 6d. per week in their wages. The baker who served us sold 1,000 loaves of bread a day. Honorable members can therefore work out easily the profit that he showed, when I tell them that he employed two bakers and two carters, and that his increased wages bill was only 15 s. a week.
I wish to make a few remarks on the report of the Select Committee on the Tobacco Industry. It has been suggested in several Victorian newspapers that, if the Government adopts the recommendations of the committee, and alters the form of controlling the investigations into this industry, it will involve the country in heavy additional expenditure. The committee has not suggested that a new department should be established:, but only that Mr. Slagg, the Common- 4 wealth tobacco expert, should be placed in full charge of the existing organization. At present he is under the control of the Tobacco Investigation Committee. In the opinion of the committee, this hasto some extent prevented him from doing his best work. We believe that it would be much more desirable for Mr. Slag: to have complete charge of the work. This will make for less costly and more efficient activities. [Quorum formed.] The committee made a close investigation into every aspect of the industry, and was unanimous in its recommendation that the form of controlling the investigations should be altered. One member thought that applications should be called for the position at present filled by Mr. Slagg. and the position to which the committee recommended that he should be appointed; but the other members thought that he should receive the appointment “without the calling for applicants for the position. We believe that the production of tobacco in Australia has reached such a stage that it will not be long before we shall be able to supply all our requirements of every class of tobacco.
I entirely disagree with the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that the salaries of members of Parliament should be reduced. I wish to make my position clear in this regard. I represent in this Parliament a territory which is represented in the Queensland Parliament by nine members, who receive £500 per annum each, and enjoy practically the same privileges that I enjoy. In view of the amount of travelling that has to be done in my electorate, and the cost of fighting an election, I consider that the .payment is by no means high. The average life of a Parliament since the inception of federation has been a little more than two years. In these circumstances honorable members who represent constituencies like Kennedy, Maranoa and Herbert, and who have to do a great deal of travelling to keep in touch with their constituents, know that their salary is not over-generous. In fact, ‘honorable members who have spent many years in public life find their salary barely meets their expenses.
I am’ also opposed to the suggested reduction ‘ of Public Service salaries. As a matter of fact, every Government in this country, including the Bavin Government df New South Wales, is pledged to no reduction of wages. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has said that Mr. Bavin is doing the brave and manly thing, when actually he is doing a ‘ cowardly and mean thing. Although he was elected to Parliament on the promise that the hours and wages of the workers would not be interfered with, almost the first thing he did when he obtained office was to penalize the public servants in the same insidious way as did the Moore Government of Queensland when it Was returned to power.
– What about the Lane Cove by-election?
– The honorable member, might just as well talk about a by-election in Bourke if one happened to be taking place. Even at Lane Cove the Nationalist majority was considerably reduced.
The ex-Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) suggested that this Government could save millions of money. Let me remind him that most of the newspapers of the Commonwealth that support the Nationalist party have, at least, pointed to the fact that when the right honorable member for Cowper was Treasurer, he failed signally to do what he now suggests this Government should do. A suggestion for economy comes ill from a member of a government that held office for six and a half years and gained the reputation of being the most extravagant Administration in the history of Australia.
The drastic proposals under the budget are warranted-. Much as we regret them, no other course is open to us. Even the honorable member for Swan has said that we must start to economize somewhere, but he made no such statement when he was a supporter of the BrucePage Government. I admit that, at times, he criticized that Government, but immediately a vote was to be taken, he invariably rushed outside the chamber. As soon as the division ‘ was taken he returned to the chamber to await his opportunity to condemn the Government further in respect of tariff and other matters. I am convinced that many of the proposals of this Government will receive the endorsement of the gentleman who has come here from England to investigate the financial affairs of the Commonwealth. Even the criticisms of British financial experts in respect of this Government’s proposals are more kindly than the criticism of the Opposition. The Government’s actions are being misrepresented by honorable members opposite, whose only desire is to regain the treasury benches so that they can make a worse mess of Australia’s finances than they did before. I support the Government’s proposals.
.- No one in this country is more deserving of sympathy than is the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin). We, on this side of the chamber, have the utmost consideration for him, and we wish him well in respect of the position in which he finds himself. It has been stated’ that in a time of financial stringency, such as the present, every party and every person in the community should stand together, but the act of standing together in a House of Parliament does not necessarily mean that we must approve and swallow every action of the government in power. We are told that we should not criticize the Government, but I contend that we should offer criticism in a friendly and helpful spirit. We, on. this side, have done our utmost to offer some constructive criticism. But there is this question to be asked : With Parliament constituted as it is, of what avail is any criticism or suggestion offered by the Opposition? No government in the world, after drawing up its policy and introducing it in Parliament, will alter it at the behest of the Opposition.
– Any sensible suggestions are welcomed.
– Any suggestions, sensible or otherwise, that come from the Opposition are never accepted by the Government. In fact, once a policy is drawn up it is rarely that a suggested alteration, even from the Government’s own supporters, is accepted. I am glad that the Labour party won the last elect1011 and is now in office. It criticized the late Government for six and a half years, and it has now an opportunity to put into operation some of the things that it then advocated. Had the late Government remained in office the propaganda that was used during its term of office by the Opposition would have continued, and the community generally would still be saying that a change of government was necessary if the financial position were to be improved.
The Labour party, when in opposition, continually blamed the BrucePage Government for the financial depression in Australia. Its charge of extravagance against the Government was so oft repeated that the people were beginning to give credence to it. Now that the Labour party is in office it is gradually discovering that what it advocated when in opposition cannot now be given effect, and it will not be long before the people realize that the charges made by the Labour party against the Bruce-Page
Government had no foundation in fact. The enormous indebtedness of Australia has been referred to as being Commonwealth in character. It is said that the Commonwealth indebtedness has increased from £800,000,000 to £1,100,000,000, and that the responsibility for the increase of £300,000,000 must rest with the BrucePage Government. That statement was made deliberately at the last election with the idea of impressing the people with the extravagance -of the late Government, and no attempt was made to distinguish between Commonwealth and State indebtedness. So many figures have been quoted during this debate that I shall not repeat them. I want, however, to settle this matter, because I have heard the statement repeated wherever I have gone. The people should know that the Commonwealth and State Governments are separate bodies, although now under one Loan Council so far as borrowing is concerned. During the period that the Commonwealth indebtedness increased from £364,000,000 to £377,000,000, the indebtedness of the States increased from £519,000,000 to £726,000,000. In other words, while Commonwealth indebtedness increased by £13,000,000, the indebtedness of the States increased by £207,000,000. Although the Commonwealth indebtedness increased by £13,000,000, its assets increased by £58,000,000 during the same period. £13,000,000 is a considerable sum, but, after all, it does not represent a great amount per head of the population. When the late Government assumed office’ the per capita indebtedness in respect of Commonwealth expenditure was £65. The per capita indebtedness had been reduced to £59 per head by the time that that Government went out of office. During the same period the indebtedness in respect of expenditure by the States increased from £93 to £114, or £21 per head. The charge of recklessness in financial matters cannot, therefore, be levelled against the late Government. It is easy to speak’ in terms of millions of pounds, and to say that, because considerable sums of money have been expended there must necessarily have been extravagance; It is possible to spend large sums of money without being extravagant. One man may start the day with £1 in his pocket, return home with his pocket empty, and be guilty of extravagance, whereas another man who spends £1,000 during ‘the same period may not be extravagant. It is all a matter of how the money is spent. It has frequently been stated that, although the Bruce-Page Government inherited an accumulated surplus of over £6,000,000, it left a deficit of £5,000,000 on relinquishing office.
– It had the advantage of record years from a revenue point of view.
– That is so; but let us see how that money was spent. It is true that that Government inherited an accumulated surplus of over C6,000;000; but during its term of office the public debt was reduced by about £7,500,000 from revenue alone in addition to the large amounts provided from the sinking fund. An additional sum, exceeding £7,000,000, was expended in defence, and a further £1,250,000 on roads, marketing of Australian produce, and for other purposes. Nor must it be forgotten that that Government reduced taxation to the extent of about £21,000,000, and that old-age pensions were raised from 15s. to £1 a week
While it is probably correct to say that there has been extravagance in governmental expenditure in Australia as a whole, the charge of extravagance cannot be laid against the late Commonwealth Government. The responsibility must rest with the States. The Bruce-Page Government took effective means of curbing the States.. Honorable members will realize that no government could say to another that it was borrowing too much without running the risk of being charged with interfering. The late Government avoided that risk by appointing a loan council to control all government borrowing. It is true that borrowing abroad increased our imports; but was that the fault of the late Government ? The goods which were imported were bought by private individuals. Certainly they were not bought by the Commonwealth Government. In the past, when loans were floated overseas, the Commonwealth Government took portion of the money by way of steel rails.; but the position has changed during recent years. The persons who bought those goods will pay for them through their bankers. When they have no credits overseas, the banks will inform the purchasers that there is no money to pay for the goods, and automatically the trade balance will adjust itself. I Quorum formed.]
It is easy to quote a number of figures from a book and to say that the arguments based on them cannot be gainsaid. Generally the public do not know whether the figures are correct, or whether the right conclusions have been drawn from them. But the public cannot be hoodwinked regarding their personal experiences. The public of Australia have had experience of various governments, both Federal and . State. In the federal sphere they are now experiencing a Labour Government. Whatever may be said by the Labour party about the late Government, the people can never forget that that Government reduced taxation. Every taxpayer knows that he paid less federal income tax last year than he did some years ago. Old-age pensioners will always remember that the late Government increased their pension from 15s. to £1 a week. The people are aware that during the past six years, when the BrucePage Government was in power, the cost of living was falling, although slowly. They have had experience of other classes of government, and their ordinary experience is that, under a Labour Government, taxation inevitably increases, and unemployment becomes acute. The people know how to judge the promises made at election time - by their fulfilment. The extravagant promises made by this Government at the last election will be the standard by which it will be judged according to the personal experience of the people.
Last Friday, in answer to the charges of extravagance made by both the press and by parliamentarians, the Prime. Minister (Mr. Scullin) . made a statement in defence of his budget. It was a pretty accurate statement, and disclosed that the statutory obligations of the Government made most of its expenditure essential. The right honorable gentleman asked honorable members to point to any item of expenditure in the list which he gave that could be reduced. T agree with the right honorable gentleman that not one of the statutory obligations could be avoided. But I also desire to point out that the present Prime Minister levelled similar charges of extravagance against the Bruce-Page Government, claiming that both revenue and expenditure had increased. In reply thethen Treasurer the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), referred the right honorable gentleman to the statutory obligation that had to be met by the Government, and addressed to him the same question. “ Which do you want reduced?” In the circumstances, this Government should not object to criticism. If its predecessor was extravagant, it is oven more so, because it has exceeded the expenditure of the Bruce-Page Government by £4,000,000 in one year. That definite conclusion may be drawn from the figures available. One, may reasonably assume, therefore, that the accusations made against the Bruce-Page Government were either not meant, or were uttered in ignorance.
During the last election circulars were broadcast in nvy electorate alleging that various commodities, particularly beer and tobacco, had been increased in price because of the policy of the Bruce-Page Government. I notice that those prices have not decreased since the accession of this Government to office. The price of tobacco has increased, while the quantity of beer obtainable for the same price has decreased. The cost of everything is soaring.
– The honorable gentleman does not mean to say that the cost of living is higher now than when his Government was in power?
– The cost of tobacco is; also that of beer, for a man now receives less for his money. The Assistant Minister made an attack - I think that it was printed in the Bundaberg Times - on the Bruce-Page Government, alleging that it had imposed additional duties on tobacco and beer, thereby increasing the prices of those pleasantries to the people, and he endeavoured to make it appear that they would be reduced if his Government were returned to power. His desire has been attained,but the prices have not decreased.
– The cost of living has.
– If this Government takes credit for the decrease in the cost of living, it must also assume credit for the increase in unemployment. The cost of living is falling principally because there is a shortage of money. Businesses are holding sales to realize on their goods, believing that, at this juncture, it is better to have cash in their coffers than goods on their shelves. This winter has been most unseasonable, and there has been very litttle sale for woollen goods, with the result that manufacturers’ agents have been touring cities and towns offering these articles for sale at. almost any price. A cardigan jacket that cost £2 2s. last winter can be bought to-day for 14s., and it costs the manufac turer 22s. to make.
One reason for our present financial slump apart from the decrease in prices overseas and our failure to obtain loan money, is that since thewar our prices have remained high. We have become accustomed to them. No man or woman under 35 has any knowledge of pre-war prices. They were then only about sixteen or seventeen years of age, unmarried, with no responsibilities, and unable to judge costs. Now the majority of them have married. They have become accustomed to the high prices, and assume that they have always been. so. They are unable to visualize the low-price conditions that existed before the war, and associate low prices with wage cuts. Even if they did not have that idea originally, they quickly adopt it after listening to the persuasive eloquence of a representative of Labour. It is well-known that it is just as well to have low prices and low wages as it is to have high prices and high wages. It is not so much a question of the wage one receives as what it will buy.
– What about low-price countries like Japan and China?
– If the honorable member is honest in his opinions he will acknowledge, after he has been here a little longer, there are sweated wages, low wages, and fair wages. He is a poor sort of white man who would compare himself with a Chinaman. I have no intention of doing so. In some quarters there is a decided set against low prices ; it would appear to be a sin to purchase anything cheaply. The argument of those who oppose low prices is that, as the money remains in Australia, it does not matter what is paid. That argument is plausible enough to be given credence on the street corner, but nevertheless it is idiotic. If it does not matter what price is paid so long as the money remains in Australia, why not pay £20 or £25 instead of £5 or £10 for a suit, and £3 instead of much less for a hat; or, to carry the matter still further, why not pay £500,000 instead of £120,000 for a lighthouse steamer? That there would be more money left in the Commonwealth is, of course, a foolish argument. Our prices and costs, at any rate in relation to the commodities that we sell overseas, must be fixed on a competitive basis.
The last Government was blamed for many things, including unemployment. It is remarkable that, whenever there is a State election, the State Government is blamed for the existence of unemployment. The speaker who preceded me (Mr. Martens) said that unemployment had increased in Queensland during the last twelve months. I expect that, if an election should take place in that State, the Queensland Government would be blamed for that. But at the last federal election, unemployment was increasing and the Bruce-Page Government was blamed. If the BrucePage Government was blameworthy for the unemployment that then existed, this Government must be held responsible for the increase from 12 per cent, to 18 per cent, that has since taken place.
It cannot be denied that conditions in Australia are extremely bad; but many people are shutting their eyes to that fact. The Leader of the Labour party in New South Wales, Mr. Lang, is trying to convince the people that the prevailing conditions are the result of jerrymandering and manipulation by boodlers. The Prime Minister ought to tender to him the advice that he claimed to have given to the Bruce-Page Government from 1926 onwards ; he needs it. The people must be made to realize that conditions are so bad that we have to get down to bedrock, and take radical steps to improve them. Governments can do a great deal of harm in times of adversity, but no government can do good unless it has the backing of the people. It is incumbent upon us to place the present position frankly before the people, and to state what remedies it is intended to apply. If remedies are not forthcoming, the people cannot be blamed if they regard the Government as incompetent. I do not believe that this Government is proposing the right remedies, and hundreds of thousands of people share that view with me. A great deal of concern is felt regarding the repercussion that is likely to be felt within the next few months, and possibly the next few years, as a result of the action that this Government proposes to take. There is a sharp division of opinion regarding what remedies are most likely to have the best effect; therefore, we should see that nothing is done to interfere with and upset economic conditions. That is what is likely to happen under some of the proposals of the Government.
During the debate on the tariff, some members of the Government appeared to be ashamed of its proposals, and excused itself on the ground that the Bruce-Page Government also had increased duties. Now, however, the chief sin with which that Government is charged is that it got Australia in a mess by its failure to impose duties. If it had prepared tariff schedules in the haphazard way that has been followed by this Government, chaotic conditions would have been encountered at a much earlier date. It cannot be said that, had the last Government been still in power, it would have imposed the taxation that this Government intends to place upon the people. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) say this afternoon that .the last Government did not tax to pay the interest overseas, but floated loans to do so, and did not meet its obligations, but sought accommodation from the banks, with the result that this Government has loans totalling £70,000,000 to meet this year. I do not believe that the honorable member meant what he said*
– It is absolutely true.
– Whenever a budget was brought down by the last Government members of the then Opposition, including the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) read lengthy criticisms of the financial administration of that Government that were published iu the Melbourne Argus, the Melbourne Age, the Melbourne Herald, and the Sydney Morning Herald. They believed that that criticism was justified, and they accepted it as gospel. I ask them to read what those newspapers are now saying about this year’s budget. Newspapers do not change their views, and criticism that is justified in one year is equally justified in another.
I intend to vote for the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). That will not occasion any surprise in the ranks of Government supporters. I do not believe in the policy of this Government, and if I do not vote for the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) I am, in effect, voting to support the Government and its policy. On the other hand, I do not agree Avith everything which the Leader of the Opposition said when addressing himself to the budget, but I find myself more substantially in agreement Avith him than Avith the Government. I am not afraid of what may be said outside Parliament regarding the vote I give on this question. Mr. Scullin, speaking the other day, said that those who voted in favour of the amendment would be voting for this, that and the other, but I do not follow him in his deductions.
The Labour party has always made a lot of promises at election time. Before’ the last election it issued a pamphlet especially addressed to old-age pensioners, promising what it would do if it were returned to power. This pamphlet contained what was alleged to be ‘ a facsimile of a page of Hansard. It showed that a motion by the member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) to increase oldage pensions to £1 a week had not been accepted by the Government, and that every member of the Government party voted against it. I, among others, was shown as having voted against this motion, the inference being that all I had said in favour of higher pensions Avas simply bosh. The entire credit ‘ for attempting to secure better pensions for the aged Avas attributed to Mr. Coleman. When the Minister for Health (Mr. Anstey) was speaking on the budget the other day, he stated, in reply to an interjection by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), that old-age and invalid pensions were inescapable commitments, the present Opposition having created the conditions. I am glad !o have that admission, because it means that the last Government was responsible for the payment of satisfactory old-age and invalid pensions. It is the first time that any such admission has been made by honorable members opposite, and it was done on this occasion only because the Minister desired to infer that some blame was attachable on that account.
I do not agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the Commonwealth road grant to the States should be reduced. The money must be spent, and if the Commonwealth does not find it, the States will. In order to raise the money, they would ask the Government to put a tax on petrol, and turn the revenue over to them. Neither am I in favour of the proposal that I should have my so-called salary reduced. The £1,000 a year which members of Parliament receive is not a salary; itis expense money. The Commissioner of Taxation recognizes this, because he- allows a deduction of £150 for city members, which leaves their net salary at £850, while for representatives of big country electorates, a reduction of as much as £450 is allowed. Therefore, the salary of a country member is only £550, as against £850 received by a city member. If allowances are adjusted to place country and city members on an even basis, I shall be prepared to agree to a percentage reduction of allowances all round. If a 10 per cent, cut were made under present conditions, the country member would be receiving a salary of only £450 a year, Awhile the city member would receive one of £750 a year. In other parliaments, a distinction is made between city and country members. In Tasmania allowances vary from £370 to £500. In Queensland, a flat rate of £500 i3 paid, but extra allowances varying from £10 to £150 are made to country members. It is all very well to talk about making sacrifices. I am prepared to make sacrifices if necessary, but the present margin in favour of city members is £300, and I think I am making that much sacrifice more than city members already. The budget proposals will involve considerable legislation, and I shall have an opportunity of discussing the matters involved when that legislation comes before the House.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Question - That the item be reduced by £1 (Mr. Latham’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman- Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That the item be reduced by 10s.
I do this as an indication of the opinion of the committee that the primage duty of 2½ per cent. should not be imposed upon -
I wish to thank the right honorable the Prime Minister for his courtesy, as he could have taken steps to prevent any further debate on the first item of the Estimates. I think it very desirable at this juncture in the history of Australia that the matter of primage duties in relation to primary industries should be dealt with at once by this Parliament, because, although the important bearing which primary production has on the welfare of the Commonwealth has always been recognized, the circumstances in which we find ourselves to-day make it more evident than ever before. The Prime Minister emphasized it in his recent appeal to the wheat-growers to increase their production. The figures I am about to quote apply to 1929. They are much lower than they will be this year if we have, aswe hope, a bumper harvest in Australia. The value of wool packs and sacks generally, imported last year, amounted to £4,091,831.When we add to that £1,887,489, representing the value of fertilizers, including phosphate rock, imported into Australia during the same period, we have a total of £5,979,320, which is only a few pounds under £6,000,000.We have to add to those figures the cost of sprays and ingredients for sprays, which are most essential for the production of fruit,wood for the manufacture of fruit cases and butter boxes, and tinplate for containers for jams and canned fruits. We have thus an enormous sum of nearly £7,000,000 on which primage duty will have to be paid. I think that all will agree that at the present time it would be most ill-advised to place further impositions on primary production in Australia. It will be remembered that some time ago considerable interest was shown in the matter of providing Government assistance for the importation of stud stock. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Forde) was one of the most active in the movement. We should be able to import stud stock into Australia without any hindrance, and a primage duty certainly ought not to he imposed on them. Fortunately for us we have merino sheep of the best type, and, therefore, there is no need for us to import them. But in the matter of British breeds we have to make further improvements if we are to take our place in the world as exporters of fat lambs. We must import a great number of stud sheep of this type, and also stud horses and cattle if we are to keep up our standard, and he in a position to compete with other countries. Every endeavour should be made to reduce the cost of fertilizers. There are thousands of farmers throughout Australia who are unable, in consequence of the high prices, to use the quantities they really require. If a primage duty is imposed the cost will make their use not only in connexion with the production of cereals, but also for pasture improvement purposes, almost prohibitive. It has come to be fully recognized throughout Australia that the topdressing of pastures is highly essential if Australia is to increase its primary production. There are millions of acres of land, in districts where there is a satisfactory rainfall, the carrying capacity of which could be considerably increased in this way.
I should like to discuss this matter at greater length, but I do not wish to impose upon the courtesy which the right honorable the Prime Minister has extended to me in affording me this opportunity to submit my amendment. The taxation which has been imposed on these and many other commodities used by the man on the land will retard primary production in Australia, and seriously affect our exports which are so essential to enable us to meet our obligations overseas. It would be better to accept the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition rather than impose this additional burden upon the people of Australia. It must be admitted that Australia’s policy of high protection has enormously increased the cost, of primary production. At this juncture we should do all we can to assist industry, and I feel sure that the
Prime Minister, recognizing this, will give this amendment his most favorableconsideration.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).It is contrary to the practice in committee to accept an amendment to which a condition or expression of opinion is attached. The question as put from the chair will therefore be, “ That the first item be reduced by 10s.”
in favour of these particular commodities can be put up. 1 have gone through the list very carefully in the hope that probably some exemptions might be made, but I have been forced to the conclusion that if such action were taken similar concessions would have to be extended in other directions. The very fact that so many of those things have been on the free lisshows that it has not been the policy of the country to tax them.
– They should not have been included.
– The trouble is that honorable members approach the Government with requests for. reduced taxation, and simultaneously ask for increased grants.
– Such requests have not. been made by the Opposition.
– A deputation which waited upon me to-day to ask for a grant included members of the Opposition.
-i did not know anything about it.
– The Leader of the Opposition may not be aware of all that his followers do.
– The Prime Minister may be in a similar position.
– The honorable member who moved this amendment, as well as several Government supporters from South Australia, was a member of the deputation which waited on me to-day and asked for an increased grant for that State. I received the request of the deputation sympathetically, and I hope that the financial position of the Commonwealth will enable the Government to do something along the lines suggested. The difficulty is that, while honorable members opposite make requests for concessions, they are opposed to additional taxation. It would be a happy world indeed if we could hand out grants without having to impose taxation.
The intentions of the Government are very definite in this matter. First of all, we have placed on the exemption list in connexion with the sales tax all these things, as well as others affecting the primary industries, and we hope that in a few months’ time, if the revenue comes up to expectations, and there is an upward movement, to increase the number of exemptions. We hope, also, if the revenue improves to give a certain amount of relief in connexion with the proposed primage duty. But I ask the committee to give the Government an opportunity to test it, and to see if we are going to balance the budget.
– The wheat-growers should also be given some consideration.
– And the wheat consumers, too. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) will admit that every proposition for relief for the primary producers that he and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) have submitted to the Government has received very careful consideration, and that we have met them more than half way. Wherever it has been possible we have given relief. I ask the committee to give these new proposals a trial for, say, three months. That will enable us to test them. If at the end of that time the Government finds that the revenue is promising, and if the position is sufficiently satisfactory, we shall see if we can start with an exemption list with respect to primage duties, just as we have made exemptions from the sales tax. We are now considering to what extent we can grant drawbacks on cornsacks, woolpacks, box shooks, &c, which are used for the export of primary products. That is going a long way on the road indicated by the honorable member. It is, in fact, going as far as the Government can go without running the risk of completely upsetting the budget proposals. I therefore ask honorable members to reject the amendment.
Question - That the item be reduced by 10s. (Mr. Cameron’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
First item agreed to.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I take this opportunity of intimating to honorable members that the Sales Tax Bill will be introduced to-morrow, but an adjournment of the debate will be granted the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). The debate will be resumed on Monday of next week and carried through to a conclusion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 July 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300728_reps_12_126/>.