12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. NormanMakin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and offered prayers.
Ratings on loan fromroyal Navy -
H. M.A.S. Canberra: Exchange Service; Retrenchment - Cost of Naval Administration - Medical and Dental Courses
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Royal Navy Officers; (e) How long does it take to train such personal attendants?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Mr.CROUCH (through Mr. C. Riley) asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 1st August the honorable member forWentworth (Mr. Marks) asked the following question, upon notice : -
During such time as H.M.A.S Canberra is attached to the British Fleet, can arrangements be made for service in ships of the British Navy of as many officers and midshipmen from the Canberra as can be spared for draft for that purpose?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that it is anticipated that, when theCanberra is due to return, the midshipmen will be appointed for a period of service in the Royal Navy. As regards other officers, the matter will receive consideration.
On the 31st July the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Tully) asked the following questions, upon- notice: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
On the 29th July, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked me if I would make available to the House a chart, which had been prepared in the department, showing the cost of naval administration. I assume that the honorable member referred to a series of graphs which were prepared by an officer of the Navy Administration. These graphs are held not to present the true position and have not been accepted by the Naval Board. I have been advised that it is not possible to complete accurate graphs before Parliament goes into recess without incurring additional expenditure for the payment of overtime. If, however, the honorable member so desires I will have instructions issued for an accurate series of graphs on similar lines to those referred to to be prepared and make them available to him as early as possible.
On the 1st August, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked the following questions upon notice : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
Trip to Hobart
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What expense was incurred by the transport of the Governor-General and the retired Governor of New South Wales in their trip on H.M.A.S. Australia to Hobart last February ?
– There was no expense to the Government. The GovernorGeneral and the State Governor were the guests of theRear-Admiral commanding H.M.A. Squadron.
Dr. MALONEY (through Mr. E.
Riley) asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
With regard to the information supplied to the honorable member for Melbourne, on the 17th instant, regarding the cases of bakers suffering from dermatitis through using certain brands of yeast or yeast goods, will the Minister obtain information as to the names of the brands used.
– The preparations in question bear a variety of names such as “ cyco “, “ quick doug”, and others which are not at present identified by the department.
Competition with Railways.
– On the 1st August, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) addressed to me the following questions upon notice : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: - 1. (a) Yes, (b) yes, (c) yes.
– On the 1st August the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
Cost - Construction - Transcontinental flights.
– On the 1st August the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
Leader A. Hepburn, 12 hours; Squadron Leader F. W. F. Lukis, 5 hours; Squadron Leader G. Jones, 12 hours; Squadron Leader R. J. Brownell, 28 hours; Squadron Leader J. H. Summers, 9 hours; Squadron Leader R. M. Drummond, 25 hours. 10. (a) The Air Board; (b) the Munitions Supply Board.
Alleged Destruction of Clothes and Blankets
– On the 30th July the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I replied to the effect that I had received a report that no blankets had been so destroyed, and that I would have inquiries made regarding the alleged destruction of clothing. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that I have received a further report from the Royal Australian Naval College, Jervis Bay, as follows: -
No government clothing has been burnt. Surgical towels, three sheets, and two blankets were surveyed and burnt on 10thJune, having been rendered unfit for further use after amputation operations on Albatross. Rubbish is being burnt daily as houses are evacuated. Rubbish includes old boots and clothing of no value, owned privately. No government-owned clothing, blankets, boots, are being burnt.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until to-morrow at 2.30 p.m.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 1st August (vide page 5163).
Department of Trade and Customs
Proposed vote, £913,100.
– Many questions were asked on Friday that I could not answer without infringing the Standing Orders, but in regard to the complaint of congestion in my department I desire to say a few words. Honorable members must recognize that always when new tariff schedules are introduced a certain amount of congestion is caused at the Customs House and in the department, and I admit that owing to the exceptional circumstances at present obtaining, and the number of schedules that have been introduced, the congestion is a little more pronounced than on previous occasions. I am informed, however, that all important business is being transacted with the utmost expedition. Sometimes, when inquiries are made for the purpose of obtaining information desired by honorable members, considerable time elapses because it is necessary to consult with officers in the different States, and in some instances when the replies received give incomplete details, further correspondence means further delay.
– It should not take longer than a month to get information.
Mr.FENTON. - In some instances, investigations have to be made, and these take much time.
– I have had three inquiries outstanding for more than a month.
– If the honorable member will furnish me with particulars, I will do my best to expedite the inquiries, so as to get the desired information. To give honorable members some idea of what is involved in these matters, I may say that in respect of one item alone, we have received over 100 communications. It is almost impossible to keep pace with the correspondence.Without in any way trespassing upon your ruling, Mr. Chairman, with reference to the 50 per cent. surcharge and the primage duties, this is the first experience we have had in collecting such duties, and I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) who the other day paid a high tribute to the . administrative efficiency of officers in the Customs Department. As a private member I had dealings with that department for very many years, and I am convinced that for integrity and ability its officers stand as high as any in the Public Service here or elsewhere. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also remarked that in view of the congestion in the department he doubted the wisdom of allowing one of its chief officers to leave Australia at the present juncture.
– I was not protesting.
– I am aware of that, but the honorable member referred to the action of the Government in allowing the officer mentioned to go abroad at the present time. I can assure him that the duties which the officer in question will” perform abroad will be of greater service to the Commonwealth than the duties he would be performing if he remained in Australia. Some important work will fall to his lot in London.
– In any case he is entitled to a holiday.
– He is not going to have a holiday.
– Mr. Synan has also been relieved of his ordinary duties.
– That is unavoidable. Mr. Synan is taking the place of the chairman of the Tariff Board. Unfortunately, a number of valued officers in the Customs Department have died prematurely as a result of overwork. Mr. Maconachie is in need of a holiday.
– Then why not arrange for a tariff holiday?
– The people of Australia would not be satisfied then.
– They are certainly not satisfied with the latest tariff schedules.
– Yes, they are. I am aware that it is not in order to discuss the various tariff items on these Estimates, but I thought it desirable that I should reply to some of the points that have been raised.
.- When the committee adjourned on Friday last, I was discussing item 24, which deals with the Tariff Board. I suggested that that body should be abolished, and the expenditure incurred on it saved. The board was appointed for the purpose of making independent investigations into requests for higher or lower tariff duties, and submitting its recommendations to Parliament. A considerable expenditure is incurred in the payment of the salaries of the members of the board, and upon its investigations. I have nothing to say against the personnel of the board. I believe that it is capable of rendering valuable service to the Commonwealth if allowed to function properly ; but in view of the action of. the Government recently in ignoring its recommendations, I suggest now that it be abolished. If it is to serve the purpose for which it was established, all requests in respect of tariff matters should be referred to it. Recently the Government increased the duties on timber. That matter had been referred to the board, which conducted an investigation, and made a recommendtaion.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).The honorable member is not in order in referring to any item in the tariff schedule.
– I am endeavouring to explain why the board should be abolished. The board inquired into the position of the timber industry, and submitted its report, which was completely disregarded. The action’ of the Government in this matter alone benefited certain timber merchants to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
– Again, I remind the honorable member that he “is not in order in discussing any item that appears in the schedule.
– I am not discussing the effect of any item of the schedule; I am merely showing that the Tariff Board now. is an excrescence, because its recommendations have been totally disregarded by this Government. For this reason it should bc abolished. In future, schedules should be submitted by the Customs Department, and discussed in this House in a deliberate manner. I believe that the Tariff Board would be a useful institution if its recommendations were adopted. It took a good deal of evidence in the inquiry into the timber industry.
– -Contrary to the act, they met in conference without taking evidence.
– The abolition of the board would result in a saving of £15,000 a year. Had it been allowed to function properly, it might have been a useful institution; but under existing conditions it can be regarded only as an excrescence.
– An old and tried servant of the Department of Trade and Customs, Mr. Bowman, has been dismissed, and has failed to secure the revocation of the order of a departmental committee of inquiry. Hi was on duty on one of the wharves at Circular Quay, Sydney, and failed to prevent a Chinaman with opium in hit possession from leaving the wharf. He feels that he has not had justice done to him. He was within a few months of retirement, and his dismissal has blighted his whole career. I ask the Minister to appoint a committee of three honorable members to inquire into the matter, so as to make sure that justice has been done.
– Had he not the right of appeal ?
– His case went through every form of appeal.
– He believes that he would be able to establish his innocence before a committee appointed from outside the Department.
– Many officers think that they have been wrongfully dismissed, and if we took this action now we should have to adopt the practice in hundred? of cases.
– This is a special case. Mr. Bowman is getting on in years, and has given lengthy service. Hi? dismissal has deprived him of the benefits that he otherwise would have enjoyed upon retirement. He should be given the opportunity to establish his innocence. He may be labouring under a delusion; but from his demeanour and his anxiety to have his case further inquired into, I have formed the opinion that he is innocent.
– I support the policy of having applications for increased duties inquired into by the Tariff Board, which is a most useful body. The trouble is that the Board has not been asked to furnish reports with respect to items in the tariff schedules that have been brought dowD by this Government. We have not been given an opportunity to discuss those schedules. Parliament has had no voice in the matter though it has sat for many months; and the recess will prevent discussion this year. With such a slack system, it is essential that the Tariff Board should function in every case.
– Supposing that the Government does not allow it to function?
– Parliament has the right to say whether the reports of the Board shall be followed.
Its function is merely to investigate applications, and to supply information for the guidance of Parliament. Some months ago, I asked to be advised of the number of items that had been revised without a report from the Board, and the number that the Board had under consideration, but so far that question has not been answered. Before this Government came into office, the pork products industry was the subject of an investigation, but it has not yet been reported upon. We should be given a reason for the delays that have occurred when our primary producers have been affected. The practice of calling together Sydney manufacturers to decide what tariff revision shall be made is likely to get us into trouble. We should be guided by the advantages in regard to trade that we enjoy with other countries.
THE CHAIRMAN.- That matter has no connexion with the Estimates.
– Under the system that is at present in vogue, the tariff has been misdirected. The policy of imposing duties on the products of countries with which we have a creditable trade balance is likely to react severely upon our primary industries.
THE CHAIRMAN.- I again request the honorable member to keep clear of that subject.
– I consider that, without’ dealing with individual items, I can discuss the trade that we do with other countries when the estimates of the Trade and Customs Department are under consideration.
THE CHAIRMAN.- The trade that Australia does with other countries is not a matter that can be discussed on the Estimates.
– When we are reviewing duties, we should consider their effect upon other countries. The policy that has been adopted in the last few months has re-acted detrimentally upon Australian producers by restricting our exports of butter, meat, wool and wheat. We should purchase our requirements from countries with which our export trade can be developed.
– For the last time I request the honorable member not to touch upon that subject. I expect my request to be obeyed.
– I hope that, not only will the Tariff Board continue to operate, but that an opportunity will be given to honorable members to review its reports and recommendations on all tariff schedules in a business-like manner.
.- I find myself in disagreement with the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) with regard to the abolition of the Tariff Board. From time to time that board has done excellent work. Certainly its findings have, on occasions, met with the disapproval of honorable members, but that is no reason why the board should be abolished.
– The Government does not always agree with the findings of the Tariff Board.
– It coes not. I am not in agreement with the action of the Government with regard to timber duties, and my State sees the matter in the same light as I do.
– Order ! The debate does not permit the discussion of the timber duties.
– If I cannot proceed along those lines I shall resume my seat.
.- During the past few years I have received a number of requests from the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, urging that the Customs Act should be amended to provide that, as soon as an overseas vessel has .reported to the customs at its first port of call in the Commonwealth, the rate of duty leviable on that day shall be the legal rate for the whole of that ship’s cargo if entered for home consumption. At the annual conferences of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, in 1925, 1926 and 1927, the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce moved resolutions affirming that the act should be so amended, and these were carried unanimously. In 1926, the late Mr. Pratten, then Minister for Trade and Customs, visited Brisbane. He was interviewed by representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, who again stressed the opinion that the action of the Customs Department amounted to discrimination between the different States of the Commonwealth, and was, therefore, ultra vires of the Constitution. Mr. Pratten advised the chamber to seek legal advice on the subject, and it was referred to Mr. T. S. O’Halloran, K.C., of Adelaide. That gentleman submitted the opinion that there was nothing in the Constitution that prevented section 132 of the Customs Act being amended to give effect to the desire of the Associated Chambers of Commerce. I understand that Mr. Pratten conferred with Mr. Latham, who was then Attorney-General, on the subject, and that the latter supported Mr. O’Halloran’s opinion. On the 30th August, 1928, I asked the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) what action had been taken to provide for a uniform duty being levied throughout the States. The right honorable gentleman replied that the matter had received consideration, that an amendment of the Customs Act had been drafted to give effect to the request ‘of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, and that the Government intended to proceed with the amendment as soon as possible. In a letter dated the 5th October, 1928, the Prime Minister reiterated the advice that he had given me on the floor of the House. Later, the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) visited Queensland in his capacity of Minister for Trade and Customs, and he also gave an assurance that a bill was being drafted to give effect to the request of the Associated Chambers of Commerce. The following letter, written to the Minister for Trades and Customs by the President of the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, and dated the 25th November, 1929, states the position concisely: -
The copy of letter and telegram attached, relating to the collection of customs duties at the rate of1d. per pound in the southern States and 3d. per pound in Brisbane on dates exSS. Carignano, brings forcibly to mind the urgent need of legislative action to rectify an injustice of 28 years’ standing.
Since 1901 importers in Australia have been liable to pay different duties, usually higher, in the separate States on the same goods out of the same ship, and it is contended that every importer in every State is equal before the customs law, and must receive equal treatment under the Constitution, but, as a matter of fact, he does not under the present Customs Act, and this, we contend, is ultra vires of the Constitution. This position has been thrashed out at several of the annual conferences of the Australasian Chambers of
Commerce, at which strong recommendations have been carried, practically unanimously, asking that this manifest injustice should be remedied.
On presentation of the resolutions the Minister for Customs suggested that legal opinion should be obtained on the question, and accordingly the resolutions were submitted to Mr. T. S. O’Halloran, K.C., of Adelaide, who gave it as his opinion that there was nothing in the Constitution to prevent an alteration of section 132 of the Customs Act to give effect to the desire of the associated chambers. At our interview in Brisbane with the Minister for Customs,he stated that on his return to Melbourne, he would refer the whole matter to the Crown Law authorities, and it was stated in the House of Representatives on the 5th December, 1927, in the tariff debate, and was not contradicted either by him or by the Minister for Customs, that the Federal Attorney-General agrees with Mr. O’Halloran’s views, and has confirmed his opinion.
According to Hansard, of 1st September, 1928, the member for Brisbane asked what action had been taken regarding this matter, and the Prime Minister replied, “ That the matter had received consideration, and that an amendment of the Customs Act had been drafted to give effect to the request of the associated chambers of Australia, and that the Government intended to proceed with the amendment as soon as possible.”
During an address given by the Minister for Trade and Customs to the members of the Chamber of Manufactures and Chamber of Commerce on the 8th August this year, he was asked about the amending bill, and replied that it would be introduced shortly.
As this matter is not a party measure in the slightest degree, and the amending bill is to remedy an obvious injustice, and what is an illegal preference, and, further, is contrary to the Commonwealth Constitution, I venture to ask that it will have your favorable and prompt action.
Probably you arc fully conversant with the position, but, in order to bring all the salient points used at the last conference under your notice,I am posting you under separate cover a copy of the annual report of the Associated Chambers of Commerce Conference, 1927-28. and on pages 86 to 91 will be found the debate on the question. (Sgd.) J. E. Plumridge.
I do not wish to take up the time of the committee any further, but I urge the Minister for Trade and Customs to rectify this anomalous position. I am confident that had there not been a change of Government, the act would have been amended as promised by the then Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade and Customs. I have quoted the opinions of men who obviously are thoroughly conversant with the matter, and they deserve the attention of the Minister. With the continual amendments of the tariff to which we are now accustomed, it becomes ail the more necessary that this defect in the Customs Act should be remedied. I sincerely trust that the Minister will review the matter, and that his reply will not be as curt as was that given to my question on the subject a few days ago. The question was as follows : -
With reference to the questions asked by the honorable member for Brisbane on the 5th December last, and the Minister’s reply thereto, regarding the question of uniform customs duties, will he inform the House whether this master has been further considered, and, if so, with what result?
The following reply was given : -
Customs duties are at present uniform in that at any given time the same rate of duty applies to any particular class of goods all over Australia. The proposal, if adopted, would have the effect of making the duties not uniform and at present I see no sufficient reason to suggest an alteration of the law.
.- The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) suggested that the Tariff Board should be abolished.
– Or that its recommendations should be followed.
– The ground of the honorable member’s suggestion was that effect was not given by the present Government to the board’s recommendations. I remind him that although before October last he supported a government which did not always give effect to the recommendations of the Tariff Board, he did not then advocate the abolition of that body. Had the honorable member been consistent, he would have advocated the abolition of the Tariff Board when the late Government failed to give effect to its recommendations in connexion with the timber industry. His suggestion is somewhat belated. I propose to quote briefly from the report of the Tariff Board on the timber industry -
At the outset of the conference the various delegates constituted two main sections - the one representing those by whom the proposals were put forward-
– Order ! The honorable member is departing from the subject before the Chair.
– The two sections could not agree at the conference. The policy of the present Government is one of protection of Australian industries. For some time the timber industry in Australia has been in a state of depression. Recently, I drew the attention of honorable members to the beautiful Australian timber in the panelling of this chamber, as well as in the parquet floor of King’s Hall. I agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) that the Tariff Board should be subservient to the Government of the day. The present Government recognizes the value of Australian timber-
– I again remind the honorable member that in the item before the committee there is nothing about timber.
– I am giving reasons in support of the contention of the honorable member for Wide Bay that the Government should be. paramount to the Tariff Board. Last year the United States of America imported Australian timber to the value of £250,000 for use as veneers.
– I shall not again tell the honorable member that there is no mention of timber in the subject before the committee. The honorable member will be in order in discussing the abolition of the Tariff Board, but not in dealing with any of its reports on a particular item.
– I disagree with the. contention of the honorable member for Forrest that ‘the Tariff Board should be abolished. In London, there are numbers of restaurants owned by the firm of Lyons, and 7,000 tables in those restaurants are made of Australian timber.
– I shall at once relieve your mind, Mr. Chairman, of any doubt you might entertain as to my bona fides. I do not propose to say anything about tariffs or the Tariff Board; nor do I purpose following the example of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), who sought by speed of speech to evade even your acute and admirable judgment. I rise to say only a word or two on a subject raised by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley). The man, Bowman, to whom he referred, is a constituent of mine; I know him well, and have made representations to various Ministers about him.
– Is he referred to in the Estimates?
– I am dealing with the administration of the Trade and Customs Department, and claim that I am perfectly in order. For many years this man served his country well. A descendant of soldiers, he himself served in two wars ; he has done his part in building up this country and the Empire. Practically on the eve of his retirement he was dismissed, in circumstances which deprived him of even the enjoyment of his superannuation allowance. As to his culpability I say nothing, except that I am firmly persuaded, from my .personal knowledge of the man, that he is incapable of doing the things alleged of him. Had he been a cunning man he would have been able to thread his way through the maze which led to his undoing. He is, perhaps, a little stupid; but, after all, stupidity is not a crime for which the law fixes any penalty. And, even if it did, the punishment should fit the crime. In my opinion, the claims of justice would have been met by merely dismissing him and allowing him to retain his superannuation allowance: About 60 years of age, and a sick man, he is now thrown on the world at a time when there is no opportunity for even a man in the prime of life to obtain employment. He is moreover, left without a character, so that it is futile for him even to seek employment. I support the request of the honorable member for South Sydney that a committee should inquire into his case. I am not sure that his dismissal occurred when the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) was Minister for Trade and Customs, but I think that it did. I am perfectly sure that neither the previous nor the present Ministry has any personal knowledge of the case ; their minds have been informed through departmental channels. I say nothing against the department, except to suggest to the Minister that possibly it is a little biased against this man. In any case, an act of injustice has been done, and there is a real doubt in this matter. That the man has been treated harshly, there can be no doubt whatever. The Minister is an eminently fair man, and I ask him how he would like to be placed in the position of this unfortunate individual? That is a question which I always put to myself in considering such a matter. In my opinion, this man has been adequately punished through having been deprived of his office. I, therefore, urge the Minister either to agree to the appointment of this committee, or to give the man his superannuation rights.
.- I should like to know from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) whether there is any hope of reconsideration of the decision of the Customs Department in connexion with the super tax that was imposed at the same time as various embargoes were placed on imports. At that time a super tax of about 50 per cent, was placed on certain articles. In cases in which contracts had been entered into, and goods were actually on the water when the tax was imposed, is the Government willing to waive the collection of the tax? Compliance with this request would not prevent effect being, given to the declared policy of the Government that certain imports should be prohibited ; nor will it interfere with the Government’s policy of assisting exchange as even if the contracts are cancelled payment must be made. Many men now find themselves in the position of having ordered certain goods, and having them on their hands in bond. By reason of the sudden and unexpected action of the Government they are unable to lift the goods out of bond, because it would be impossible to sell them owing to the excessive cost caused by the super tax. I shall furnish the Minister privately with a list of the persons who find themselves in this unfortunate position owing to the incidence of the super tax, and I would much appreciate his general acquiescence in their request.
I also direct the attention of the Minister to .a matter to which the Tariff Board might, with advantage, direct it? attention ; I refer to the fishing industry of Australia. Some three years ago the possibilities of this industry were investigated by the Development and Migration Commission, and certain suggestions were made for its development. One proposal was that experimental trawling should be carried out, and I understand that the Government intends to take action along these lines. The commission, in its report, stated -
Other important questions to be solved arc those relating to the preservation, transport, refrigeration, and distribution of fish, and the successful development of the industry as a whole depends very largely upon their solution.
Is the Ministerwilling to permit the Tariff Board to inquire into the industry generally, so that much of the £1,762,000, which is approximately the value of the tinned and smoked fish and fish products imported into Australia annually, might be kept in our own country by the development of what might well prove to bo an important national industry? I am satisfied that the possibilities of this industry are so great that its development would be more profitable than the encouragement of some of the minor industries to which Government assistance has been directed.
– Did not the commission deal with that matter?
– Only with certain aspects of it. This industry should be encouraged, not merely to enable Australia to supply fish to take the place of the huge quantity that is now imported, but also to assist in building up a large export trade.
I understand that the primage duty has been applied to practically every article that is imported. Some exceptions, I understand, have been made, and I ask that a further exception be made in the case of vegetable, horticultural and grass seeds required for pasture land. Practically all the grasses required in connexion with dairying to ensure ample yields of milk and butter are grown from seeds which have to be imported. In the case of paspalum we can supply our own requirements; but as the seeds of many other grasses are ordinarily obtainable only in the wet season, it has been found necessary for Australia to depend upon other countries to supply them. “We cannot hope to reduce the cost of production if we unnecessarily increase the cost of grass seed to farmers and agriculturists generally by making that commodity subject to the primage duty. I suggest to the Government that these goods should be similarly exempt from the sales tax.
.- I bring under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton), and the Minister for Health (Mr. Anstey), an important article in respect of which, I understand, a tariff alteration is to be made in September next.
Insulin is now all-important in the treatment of diabetes; it is giving and preserving life in the case of many of our citizens. In the past it has been free of import duty; but it is proposed by the Government that this exemption shall be removed in September, and that thereafter duty shall be paid on it at the rate of 30 per cent., if it comes from Great Britain, and 40 per cent. if from foreign countries. The late Government agreed to admit insulin free of duty, and to place a sum on the Estimates equivalent to the amount of duty remitted. In response to an inquiry, I have now been advised as follows: -
The Director-General of Health now advises that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories at Royal Park are now in a position to supply at a reasonable cost the whole of the requirements of Australia’, and in view of this fact it has been decided that from the 1st September next the duties payable on insulin under tariff item 285 (a) shall be levied.
The result will be that from that date insulin obtained from abroad will be subject to duty at the rate of 30 per cent. British, and 40 per cent. general. Many people in Australia are alive to-day only through the discovery and use of insulin. If this remedy had not been discovered many people, especially those who had the misfortune to contract diabetes early in life, would certainly have died, but they are to-day living normal lives through the use of this wonderful remedy. They have to observe a carefully arranged diet graduated in the most precise manner. The evenness of the quality of insulin which they can obtain is a big factor in the maintenance of their health. If there is any variation of, or deficiency in, the quality of their insulin injections, there may be a reaction, and, in some cases, they become dangerously ill. This is not a trading matter, and I hope that it will not be regarded from the point of view of the trading success or otherwise of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. I know of a number of households in which the insulin serum used costs from £1 to 30s. per week for one patient. Only a limited number of medical practitioners are highly skilled in the use of this valuable remedy, and some of them have informed me that the quality of the insulin which they obtain from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories is not so reliable as of that which they obtain from abroad, and particularly from Canada. I can quite understand that the DirectorGeneral of Health is genuinely satisfied that the serum insulin produced at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories is as good as any other insulin, but the DirectorGeneral is not a specialist in the use of this remedy. He cannot be expected to have so wide a knowledge of it as the few specialists who are rendering the community such valuable service by their expert use of it. I appeal to the Minister, therefore, not to take the step which he proposes to take without first consulting the specialists in the treatment of diabetes. This is more than a matter of health ; it is a matter of life itself to some of our people.
.- 1 join with other honorable members on this side of the committee in protesting against the manner in which the Government is ignoring the Tariff Board. If the board had been consulted as it should have been with regard to the numerous tariff schedules which have been tabled during the life of this Government, we should not have had cause to complain of so many glaring anomalies. The second schedule-
– I must ask the honorable member not to discuss the tariff schedule.
– I desire to show that the Tariff Board has been ignored in the preparation of these schedules, which bear upon the face of them the marks of immature consideration. If they had been prepared only after mature and expert consideration, and following upon the receipt of the reports from the Tariff Board, there would not have been so much reason for complaining. The introduction of such schedules as are now awaiting our consideration undoubtedly causes a restriction of business, and therefore an increase in unemployment. The members of the Tariff Board have an expert knowledge of our primary and secondary industries, and are better able than honorable members of this Parliament - and I say this with all respect - to determine whether an industry should be granted more or less protection. The Tariff Board is not a tariff-making instrument, although its work may, on many occasions, have resulted in the in creasing of duties. It can also recommend the reduction, the abolition or the deferring of duties. The board certainly should be consulted in respect to every item which appears in a tariff schedule submitted to this Parliament, and honorable members should be given a reasonable opportunity to discuss schedules when they are tabled.
I support the request of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) that seeds should be exempt from both the primage duty and the sales tax. We have been assured by the Government that it does not desire these imposts to fall heavily upon our primary producers, but if seeds are subject to both primage duty and sales tax it will undoubtedly adversely affect the farmers. There is no doubt whatever that the primary producers have been very hardly hit by some of the increased, duties provided for in the schedules tabled by this Government.
I wish to refer to a matter affecting a deferred duty-
– I cannot allow the honorable member to discuss that matter:
– I should like to know when the Government proposes to give us an opportunity to discuss these matters. I should like the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) to direct his officers to issue to business people a simple table of some kind which would enable them to calculate easily the amounts of duty payable on different classes of merchandise.
Since it has been decided that the duty payable on motor springs is dependent upon the weight of them, the springs have to be removed from motor vehicles in order that the duty may be accurately assessed, whereas the weight can be assessed by measurement.
– The honorable member cannot discuss the duties provided in the schedules now awaiting consideration.
– I regret that the debate is so confined as to prevent my doing so. I shall conclude by again protesting against the continual ignoring of the Tariff Board, and the unbusinesslike manner in which this Government i3 dealing with tariff affairs.
.- I am opposed to the whole vote foi the Trade and Customs Department. Honorable members will have no opportunity to discuss the things that really matter in this country so long as the Government can obtain Supply, and carry on without parliamentary debate and sanction. I support what the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has said about the Tariff Board being kept by the Government like a pet sheep to be looked at rather than to be of any use. It is given a few subjects to toy with, and any reports that it makes on those subjects are unnoticed by the Government, whose attitude is causing a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty throughout the country. The people do not know what is happening. Certain documents are, one after the other, laid on the table, and the business life of the community is, as a result, disrupted. Parliament is given no opportunity to place any check on the Government at all. One newspaper published an article under this heading, “Audacious Attempt by Merchants to make Public Pay for Mistake”. The Minister’s name is given.
– Is that in relation to whisky ?
– I have no wish to mention any particular items, because, by so doing, I should disregard the Chairman’s ruling. That newspaper article is typical of others that are being published throughout the country. The public’s confidence in Parliament is being destroyed, and it can be restored only by bringing matters affecting the business life of this country before this Parliament and having them threshed out in debate. The matters which Parliament does not approve should lapse and no longer be a drag on the prosperity of this country.
.- I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) in regard to the remission of duty on insulin. There is in the Estimates an item concerning the remission of duty on that drug. The amount remitted last year was £2,147, although the total vote for that purpose was £2,220. A duty was placed on insulin for the purpose of stimulating ks local preparation. The late Government examined the position in consequence of representations made to it. It felt that a great deal of hardship would be inflicted on the sick people of this country, especially the poor, sick people, if some action were not taken to remedy the position. It, therefore, placed on the Estimates an amount to cover refunds of duty on insulin. Insulin is a drug which was discovered only during the last few years by a Canadian doctor, and it is from Canada that we obtain the most reliable and consistent serum. It has been found that insulin must be given in continuous doses to patients suffering from acute diabetes; in fact, this treatment has to be continued during the remainder of the life of the patient. Every big public hospital of Australia, such as the Melbourne Hospital, and the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, has many cases df acut diabetes, and the patients are kept alive only by continuous doses of insulin. If this drug is to be subject to duty, the amount which we previously refunded to the importers of insulin will have to he found by the State Governments, because, although the big public hospitals obtain voluntary contributions and payments from patients, ultimately their maintenance is a responsibility resting upon the State Governments. Consequently if the Commonwealth imposes the duty on insulin it will take a certain amount of money out of the pockets of the States. It may, at the same time, do a great injury to sufferers who are treated at home, because the increased cost of the drug may force them to decrease the number of injections which it is necessary for them to have, I trust that the Minister will reinstate this item on the Estimates. That would help the sick people of Australia, and cause no harm to the Commonwealth serum laboratories. In passing, I should like to give a meed of praise to those in control of the Commonwealth Health Laboratory for the wonderful work that is being done at that institution, particularly in respect of the preparation and distribution of serum, especially in the form of diphtheria antitoxin and tetanus anti-toxin. Insulin is a newer proposition, and is not used to the same degree as are those anti-toxins.
-Some two months ago I sent in, not one, but several complaints relating to the restraint of trade that is now taking place in Australia. The Tariff Board Act provides that the Minister shall refer to the board for inquiry and report -
Any complaint that a manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the protection afforded him by the Tariff, and in particular in regard to his-
charging unnecessarily high prices for his goods; or
acting in restraint of trade to the detriment of the public; or
acting in a manner which results in unnecessarily high prices being charged to the consumer for his goods.
The Prime Minister has informed me in reply to my representations that investigations will be made, and the Assistant Minister (Mr. Forde) has made a similar reply ; but, although I have sent to the department copies of the correspondence that I have received, it has taken no action. One would think that the Government was shirking its obligations. We have had no definite undertaking from the Minister, and we know nothing of the investigations of the Tariff Board. [Quorum formed]. When special protection is given to certain Australian manufacturers, it is the duty of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fen ton) when charges of restraint of trade are made, to direct the Tariff Board to make investigations. A considerable time has elapsed since I first brought these matters under the attention of the Government, but so far as I am aware, no action has yet been taken in respect of them. As a matter of fact, in recent months, it has been the policy of the Government to add to the possibilities of restraint of trade in Australia. When complaints such as I have submitted are made, one would naturally expect an immediate investigation, so that there would be no possibility of a continuance of the grievance. But, possibly, the Government has no desire to take such action.
– Has it not ? The honorable member must make no mistake on that score.
– I know what action the Government has taken. Australia is supposed to be a democratic country, with a Parliament elected to look after the interests of the people, and although no taxation may be imposed until it is approved of by Parliament, so far we have had no opportunity to deal with certain taxation which has been imposed, and the probability is that we shall not have an opportunity to deal with it for at least six months. This is a reflection on this Parliament.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in dealing with that matter.
– What I am saying may be disorderly, but it is wonderfully true.
– Order !
– It is provided in the Tariff Board Act that the Minister shall take no action in regard to certain specified matters until he has received a report from the Tariff Board. I should like the Minister to tell me, if he does reply to any of the queries that have been raised this afternoon, whether he has brought down schedules to this House imposing new duties without first receiving reports from the Tariff Board. It is the general impression that this has been done in defiance of section 15 of the Tariff Board Act. I should be sorry to think that my old friend, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) would wilfully defy an act passed by this Parliament with his full concurrence, because when the bill to bring the Tariff Board into existence was before Parliament in 1921, he was one of its strongest supporters. If I read the act correctly, and am properly advised in regard to its meaning, there is not the slightest doubt that there has been recently a contemptuous and wilful defiance of it.
– Mr. McGrath-
– If honorable members are not anxious for me to reply, I have no desire to speak. I shall do my best to satisfy the queries raised.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £135,000.
.- In 1897 Dr. Jefferies Turner and Dr. Lockhart Gibson addressed themselves to the study of lead poisoning in children, and from that time have continued to attack the problem. Other prominent Queens land medical practitioners have also entered the lists, and as a result of their combined efforts, there is available sufficient data to make it possible for certain conclusions to be drawn. It may be wondered why so much more attention has been paid to lead poisoning in children in Queensland than in any other State, but statistics which I shall quote indicate that the disease is more common in Queensland than in any other State, and at a later stage I shall 3tate the reasons for that. I have obtained these statistics from the Australian Medical Journal of 3rd August, 1929. They were based on a report published in that journal .by Dr. L. Jarvis Nye, who, in conjunction with Dr. Gifford Croll, has devoted much time and attention to the study of this subject. The figures covered the period from 1917 to 1926 only, but, by the courtesy of the Minister for Health (Mr. Anstey) I have been able to bring them up to date. They are as follow : -
The relation of these figures to the population of each State is as follows : -
Dr. Nye commented on the statistics as follows : -
A glance at these figures shows clearly that the increase in the death-rate from chronic ‘ nephritis in young people in Queensland is a tragic reality, which presents an important field for research. It will be noted that in Queensland 1,751 persons died from the disease during the years 1917-20, and only 312 deaths are recorded in South Australia. These tables deal with deaths from nephritis only; they indicate nothing of minor damage to kidney tissue with its accompanying debility. The toll of ill health from this cause is surely much greater than the figures reveal.
Discussing the reasons for this, he said -
It has been known for many years that drinking water is a common source of plumbism when lead pipes are used, since the carbonic acid in the rain water forms a soluble acid carbonate of lead. This cannot be a factor in Queensland, as very little lead piping is employed for this purpose. Tanks have been used in the past to supply most of the people in Queensland with water for drinking purposes, and it has been suggested that the lead is obtained from this source owing to the fact that a great deal of solder is used in the ordinary galvanized-iron tanks, but this contention has been disproved. The remaining probable source is, as described by Dr. Lockhart Gibson, the paint on the walls and railings of verandahs. Queensland, which is mainly situated within the tropic zone, is unique throughout the world; in that it possesses the largest settled white population of any tropical area. The houses are almost entirely built of wood, and in the. past have been painted exclusively with lead paints. The sun after a few years dries this paint into a powder, in which form it is readily brushed off. The typical house is built on high stumps, and the children are usually confined to the verandahs where they have an outdoor and safe playground from the mother’s point of view. Conclusions may now be drawn from the fact that a great proportion of our patients with plumbism have been nailbiters or thumb-suckers. The powdered lead carbonate is removed from the walls and railings by contact with the hands, whereby it is conveyed to the mouth, and ingested. Another very common factor is the habit amongst children of licking the droplets of rain from the verandah railings. Legge points out that it is known that the daily absorption of l-3~2nd grain, representing l.-15,3C0th oz., may produce lead-poisoning in an adult, and he remarks how infinitesimally small a dose would be required in order to produce similar results in a child of two or three years.
It is possible that the debilitating effect of a hot humid climate is a factor in increased susceptibility of some people to plumbism, and Gibson strikingly bears this out in Queensland by noting that out of 89 patients with plumbism observed between 1895 and 1903, 09, or 78 per cent., were admitted to hospital during the summer months. This is also supported by our findings in 85 consecutive cases of proved lead-poisoning in children admitted to the hospital for sick children. The great majority of patients’ were admitted to hospital during the summer months, and this is due to the fact that at this period of the year Queensland is experiencing its wet season, and children are naturally confined to the. verandahs more constantly during these months. Dr. Croll states that after a prolonged wet season the number of casesis always greater than after a short wet season.
To any observer who has had the opportunity of probing this subject, and of examining these unfortunate children, no further evidence is necessary to convince him that the extraordinary incidence of chronic nephritis in Brisbane is largely due to lead-poisoning in childhood. It is estimated that 85 per cent. of the Queensland houses are of wood, whereas in Victoria the percentage is 66, in New South Wales 48, and South Australia only 8. Wooden houses are almost invariably painted, while brick and stone houses are either uncovered, or calcimine-washed. If one compares the mortality from nephritis with the percentage of wooden houses in each State a definite association between the two will be noted.
Honorable members may say that the relation is not maintained in Victoria, where 66 per cent. of the houses are wooden, and the mortality from nephritis comparatively low. This is explained by the fact that the summer is much shorter in Victoria than in Queensland, and therefore paint there does not dry and powder to the same extent. He continued -
The painting of houses with white lead is certainly not the only factor to be considered. If this were so widespread plumbism would be present in all countries where lead paint is used. It is obvious that there must be some factor in Queensland especially, which makes this paint readily available to children and particularly to nail biters. Of whole families examined, the only sufferers from lead poisoning were nail biters or thumbsuckers.
The solution of the problem is probably climatological, for it is the siccativing action of the sun which dries up the oil and leaves the paint in the form of a chalky carbon. White lead being a siccative has itself some effect in catalysing the oxidizing action of the air, furthermore, any addition of driers to the paint will hasten the destruction of the oil.
Dr. Nye arrived at the following conclusions
The International Labour Office connected with the League of Nations has for years been searching for a substitute for white lead in the painting industry. In this it has been actuated by the desire to safeguard the health of all those who were compelled to work in either the preparation or use of paint. To secure the information necessary to permit of a full discussion taking place, a questionnaire was submitted to each of the member nations. The Commonwealth Government requested answers from each of the State Governments on the points raised, and the replies form very interesting reading. It was shown that whereas the deaths per 1,000 throughout the Commonwealth as a result of lead poisoning were only 0.4 in the case of painters they were 16; while the death from Bright’s disease was 55.2 for all classes of people, and as high as 152 in the case of painters.
In July, 1918, a deputation from the Queensland branch of the British Medical Association waited upon the Home Secretary and urged that the Health Act should be amended so as to deal with the use of white lead in paint on surfaces within the reach of children. A fortnight later, a conference was held between the council of the Queensland British Medical Association and representatives of the Master
Painters. Amongst others, the following resolutions were passed : -
Shortly afterwards, the then Government of Queensland caused to be drafted the following amending clause : -
On and after a date to be decided upon, no paint containing more than5 per cent. of soluble lead shall be used on walls, &c, within 5 feet of the floor on the inside or of the ground on the outside of any residence.
Unfortunately no further action bus been taken by the Government.
The movement against the use of white lead in painting is gaining ground. Already thirteen countries have ratified the findings of the Geneva White Lead Convention of 1921, and three other countries have authorized its ratification, while five other countries have recommended its ratification. Such action has been taken in the interest of the worker alone. But I am thinking about the children of tender years - those defenceless little tots of three, four and five years of age who, in the course of their play, touch with their hands the surfaces of painted fences and walls, and then thoughtlessly place their fingers in their mouths. In this way they absorb a certain amount of lead poison.
At the 1921 convention Mr. Merry, the Australian representative, was the only one of all the workers’ representatives to vote against the proposal to prohibit the use of white lead. I have not had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Merry; but I am confident that his opposition was based on the fact that no suitable substitute for white lead was then known, and also that he was under the impression that, if the worker took reasonable care, he would not be exposed to grave danger. I remind honorable members that the opposition to the use of white lead would be much stronger were it not for the fact that the danger to the worker can be greatly minimized by the worker himself taking care to wash his hands carefully before partaking of his meals. This bears out the statement that nail-biters and thumb-suckers amongst children are more liable to attack than others. It is possible for the worker to protect himself; but children of tender years should be protected against themselves.
The argument that there is no suitable substitute for white lead no longer holds, in view of recent discoveries. The white lead report issued by the International Labour Office, Geneva, 1927, state on page 281 -
The most recent physical and chemical research in white pigments has produced substitutes equal or superior to white lead. These are the titanium paints, produced mainly in Norway and the United States. Titanium, the oxide of which is a pigment, takes the first place in covering power, permanence, and harmlessness. Schoofs’ experiments have shown that pure titanium oxide is inert physiologically, and has no toxic properties.
A patent has been taken out by Clem and Brown, in England, who propose to recover titanium from iron-furnace slag. The material is pulverized by means of a jet of steam, and after drying is subjected to magnetic separation for the removal of the iron. The titanium is recovered from the residue.
Hixon and Piechner, in Chemistry and Metallurgy, English volume 36, page 76, give the following information regarding titanium white : - “ The refractive index of titanium white is 2.71, as compared to white lead 1.99, andzinc oxide 1.90. The hiding power of various pigments per unit weight is as follows: -
The Mineral Industry, New York, 1928. states - “ During the past year there has been a considerable increase in the imports and consumption of titanium ores and compounds. As the advantages of titanium pigments are becoming better understood these materials are coming into more general use, and indications are for greatly increased consumptionin the future.”
In view of the evidence which I have placed before honorable members, both as regards the health of the community, particularly the children, and the availability of substitutes, I contend that the time has come when Australia should stand behind . the International Labour Conference of Geneva, and prohibit the use of white lead in painting.
The governments of various countries, as well as societies and individuals, have spent millions of pounds in the endeavour to free the world of the twin scourges of cancer and tuberculosis. As regards lead poisoning, we have the remedy to our hat-ds. I have brought this matter under the notice of honorable members in the hope that definite action may be taken. I realize that, unfortunately, the Commonwealth Health Department itself is powerless to do anything except urge the various State Governments to take the necessary steps to give effect to the convention. I have always contended that our Health Department should be
Tested with wider powers, so that it maj interest itself more directly in those matters that so closely affect the health of the people generally. In order to direct public attention to this matter, I now move -
That the first item, “Director-General, £2,000,” be reduced by ls.
As regards the Government and the Director-General of Health, the motion is a friendly one. My purpose is to indicate to the Government that this committee is of the opinion that the use of white lead in painting in Australia should be prohibited, or at least he greatly re,stricted, and that the Commonwealth Government should take such steps as lie in its power to induce the various State Governments to adopt such a policy.
.- -I commend the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) for having directed attention to this matter. As he has pointed out, it was the subject of an important discussion at the Geneva Conference in 1921, when a convention was agreed upon for a campaign against the use of white lead in painting. Many countries have given effect to the resolution of the conference but, unfortunately, the various States of the Commonwealth have not taken action up to the present. Failure on the part of the Commonwealth to give effect to the convention suggests a waste of public money in sending Australian delegates to Geneva to discuss the various matters that are dealt with there. The honorable member for Oxley, in describing the effect of white lead poisoning upon painters, did not overstate the facts. We are all familiar with numerous cases of lead poisoning. I have been associated with the building trade for many years, and I have come in contact with a considerable number of painters who have suffered in this way. Many of my acquaintance, after suffering for many years, have died from the effects of white lead poisoning. The Commonwealth should bring pressure to bear upon the various State Governments, to give effect to the resolutions of the Geneva convention relating to white lead poisoning. If the States decline to take the necessary action, the Government should ascertain whether it is within its constitutional powers to pass a federal law dealing with this matter.
– Have any protests been made by painters themselves upon this matter ?
– I understand that protests have been voiced in this House on a number of occasions by honorable members speaking on behalf of painters, who have protested against the continued use of “white lead in paints. I give my wholehearted support to all that the honorable member for Oxley has said, and I hope that some action will be taken as a result of his representations. I cannot, however, vote for the motion to reduce the vote.
– I am pleased that the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) has directed attention to the Geneva convention with reference to white lead poisoning, and I endorse all that he said in support of his motion. I have been connected with the building trade for a number of years and, like the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Culley), I have known many painters whose hands have been twisted out of shape through lead poisoning. Many have died prematurely. Plumbers also are affected in much the same way. In view of the constitutional limitations, preventing the Commonwealth from giving effect to the Geneva convention, I suggest that the use of white lead in paints could be materially reduced if action were taken by the Customs Department to increase the duty on all paints containing white lead. I understand that it is possible to compound paints of the best quality by using zinc instead of lead. White lead is a poison, and its distribution could be prevented by the Governments of the States. Everything possible should be done to remedy this great and growing evil. I ask the Minister to consult with the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Brennan) to ascertain what action is possible.
– The speech of the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) was most informative, and he has made several valuable suggestions. I point out to him, however, that Australia’s representatives at the International Labour Conference in 1922 - Sir Joseph Cook and Mr. Merry - voted against any action being taken in this matter. For 30 years this subject has been of vital interest to the people of this country. The Queensland Parliament, eight years ago, amended its Health Act in the direction of preventing the use of white lead within 4 feet of the ground; but, apparently, that has not proved effective. Last year Dr. Nye advanced certain proposals, and the Medical Association took the matter up, and came to the conclusion that a full inquiry was necessary on account of the difference of opinion that existed as to whether this particular disease was caused by lead poisoning. Many medical men hold the view that it arises from other causes. Dr. Nye and the Medical Association suggested to the Queensland Health Department last November that inquiry should be made into, first, those cases that arise directly from lead poisoning; secondly, those in which lead poisoning is not a feature; and, thirdly, those in which lead poisoning and other features are present. The Commonwealth Health Department, under Dr. Cumpston, immediately took action to have such an inquiry instituted. Some months ago the Department of Health in Queensland was informed that the Commonwealth Department was prepared to co-operate fully with it in the taking of any action that might be considered necessary. The machinery was ready to be put into operation, but from that day to this no reply has been received from the Queensland authorities. The Common wealth Government has shown both sympathy and initiative to the full extent of its restricted legislative powers. As it has proved its bona fides, the amendment might very well be withdrawn.
.- For about half of a century I have had experience of an industry in which white lead is used very extensively, and I do not know of one operator having died as a result of its use.
– The honorable member ought to study the statistics.
– I have studied the statistics, many of which, I believe, have been prepared by manufacturers whoso product competes with white lead.
– It is the other way.
– The greatest risk from white lead is encountered when old paint is being rubbed off. At one time the method adopted was to rub it down with sandpaper.
– What about the high mortality in automobile factories in the United States of America ?
– I have in my employ a man who has been a painter all his life, and- he has now reached a fair age. The only thing that he dislikes is the duco work, which he will not undertake, because of the injurious effect that it ha* upon health. Duco has a most objectionable odour, and, if inhaled, causes illness ; yet it is not suggested that its use should be prohibited.
– We are protesting against its use also.
– Many workers have to use disinfectants, which are poisonous, and must be handled carefully. Danger arises only when one is careless. I have seen painters handling food without having removed traces of paint from their hands. In such cases the effect is likely to be injurious; but the use of white lead should not, on that account, be prohibited. Paints in which white lead is used are most durable, and because of their preservative qualities are beneficial to humanity.
– Beneficial to undertakers.
– The work of undertakers is not increased by the use of white lead. The present method is to rub down old paint with a substitute for sandpaper, and water. Under these conditions there is no danger of the workmen inhaling it.
– What about the danger to children?
– I cannot see that children run any risk. A paint dries and hardens immediately it is applied. Danger is present only when it is inhaled. The use of a saw-sharpening machine is equally dangerous, because of the likelihood of inhaling the steel filings. The Minister would be well advised to consider what this proposal really means. Doctors and others are unable to determine whether the use of white lead i3 injurious. Its use would have been prohibited long ago if the effect was what, in certain quarters, it was proclaimed to be. Many substitutes for white lead would be just as dangerous to health if due care in their use were not exercised.
.- I disagree with the views of the honorable member for Eden Monaro (Mr. Cusack). The only point that he has established is that a doubt exists as to whether the use of white lead is injurious to health. To my mind, it is unquestionable that risk is run by those who use it. Therefore, I congratulate the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) for having raised this very important matter. This is one of the many subjects that have been discussed by the International Labour Conference. The Commonwealth sends delegates to that conference, and should do its utmost to see that its recommendations are observed. The discussion this afternoon has emphasized the unfortunate position in which the Commonwealth is placed on account of its limited powers, which are not nearly wide enough to enable it to deal with this and other important matters that affect the welfare and the lives of our people. One of our disabilities is that we cannot, pass legislation for the safety of the crews and the travelling public, making it compulsory for wireless to be installed on vessels that trade intra-state. I regret that the Queensland Government has not responded to the overtures of the Commonwealth Health Department. But, notwithstanding our constitutional limitations, I believe that the Commonwealth fan do a great deal in the direction of safeguarding national health. I suggest that leaflets be published and distributed periodically with a view to educating the public.
– That is done to a certain extent at the present time.
– I am aware of that. I read with great interest the publications that are issued by the Commonwealth health authorities. I suggest, however, that the dissemination of information in relation to the use of white lead is more important than the publication of, say, the life history of the Australian mosquito. Health hints and warnings to our women folk could be stamped on mail matter by the utilization of the letter marking machinery in the Postal Department. There are great possibilities in that direction. Unfortunately these important matters have been neglected in the past. We should avail ourselves of every opportunity to stress the danger that accompanies the use of white lead, and the necessity for taking reasonable precautions for the preservation of life and health in this and other directions. The present Minister for Health (Mr. Anstey) has displayed commendable enthusiasm in his administration of the department. I suggest to him that a portion of this year’s vote be made available to those States, particularly Queensland, where there is a high mortality from lead poisoning. The cost of distributing leaflets would not be great. Post offices could be used as distributing centres, and the money expended on printing, &c, would be well spent.
.- The Commonwealth Health Department is performing excellent work; but it is not endowed with sufficient power. It is not possible to erect barbed-wire divisions between two States to segregate the inhabitants in health matters. Complete powers should be vested in one central authority - that of the Federal Government.
I am indebted to the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) who has certainly drawn attention to the dangers associated with the use of white lead as an ingredient in paint. For years I have followed the controversy that has centred about this vexed question, and I have paid particular attention to the debates on it that have taken place at international conferences overseas. Unfortunately, although resolutions has been carried at those conferences, they are not put into effect. I realize that Australian industries such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company are large manufacturers of zinc and lead, and I should be loath to restrict the activities of such an important industry. However, if it is conclusively proved that the use of white lead as an ingredient in paint is injurious to health, we must find a substitute for it. I hope, with the Minister, that in the near future a conference will be convened to formulate a scheme under which uniform legislation will be introduced to deal with this matter.
The amendment of the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) has certainly provoked a worth-while discussion on an important subject. Now that his object has been achieved, the honorable member would be wise if he withdrew his amendment.
.- As I realize from the statement made by the Minister that he realizes the seriousness of the danger of the use of white lead in paint, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment, resting assured that the honorable gentleman, the Director-General of Health, and all those connected with his department will not allow the matter to drop, even though the Queensland Government has been remiss in its attention to correspondence on the subject.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £782,650.
.- I desire to deal specifically with items 22 and 23, on page 270. The former provides for “Assistance in co-operation with the States towards the recovery of export coal trade, £50,000,” and the latter for “Assistance in co-operation with the States towards employment of surplus coal-miners, £100,000.” The right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) stated in his budget speech that £150,000 was to be set aside to repatriate excess coal-miners in the northern coal-fields of
New South Wales, and to subsidize the production of coal for export. I register my protest against the use of that sum solely to repatriate miners in New South Wales, because the Prime Minister has promised me on a number of occasions that the money would be made available to repatriate excess coal-miners throughout Australia, which includes my own State - Queensland. I should like to know what progress has been made in allocating the money. I was privileged to receive an invitation to attend a conference convened by the Assistant Minister for Industry (Mr. Beasley), and at that meeting certain progress was made. The conference was adjourned to obtain further information regarding the actual position in the industry in New South Wales, and again for the consideration of a draft scheme of general repatriation of excess miners. The fund has been available f or some considerable time, and, although I admit that the problem presents difficulty, certain data was placed at the disposal of the Minister by me and definite steps should have been taken to repatriate these coal-miners before this. The matter is dealt with very fully at page 333 of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry. The commission submitted a scheme which promises to provide a solution to the problem, and I suggest that effect should be given to it. I quote the following extracts for the information of honorable members : -
Upon the closing of mines the fact is not lost sight of that claims for compensation will arise from the owners, and for alleviation from the men who are thrown out of employment. These claims must be dealt with by the board, but this commission does not concede it as a principle that, because a man loses his employment through a scheme of reorganization, he is entitled to compensation in full, to the extent of the basic wage, or of any fixed amount. No fund provided by the industry would be capable of meeting such a charge, and the burden could not be thrown upon the Government. The limit of the amount payable on behalf of any displaced employee should be determined by a committee appointed by and acting under the direction of the board. A large sum admittedly must be found for this purpose, and action should be as speedy as possible to make the fund provided available for the furtherance of the scheme. In order to establish such a fund a levy must be made on all coal raised, to the extent, possibly, of 1s. 6d. per ton. It is not anticipated that for at least a year or two the demand for coal will reach that of 1927, but, in the opinion of the commission, that output should be exceeded eventually, and the fund in such an event should reach a sum of approximately £750,000 per annum.
A further paragraph reads -
In the meantime it may be necessary for the Government temporarily to finance the scheme until it becomes firmly established by contributions to the fund. Such assistance however, should be on the basis of repayment being made by the fund as soon as its financial position will permit. When the charges on the fund become lessened in process of time, as the surplus men are placed in other occupations, there will be further means available for carrying out the other functions of the board.
The scheme suggested is certainly practicable if the details are tackled with enthusiasm, and I hope that the Prime Minister will give effect to it, and take early steps to co-operate with the States in an endeavour to raise the amount that is necessary to repatriate excess coalminers. There were at least 700 excess coal-miners in the State of Queensland at a .time when the northern fields of New South Wales were not operating, when much of the coal produced in Queensland was exported to meet the needs of other States. I understand that at present 80 per cent, of the coal-mines of New South Wales are operating, therefore a great many more coal-miners in Queensland will be in excess of the requirements of the industry. I commend the matter to the right honorable the Prime Minister for his early attention and definite action.
– I shall speak briefly with regard to item 13, appearing at page 269 of the Estimates, which allocates £3,333 for investigation work connected with the establishment of the tobacco-growing industry in Australia. I was a member of the select committee that investigated that subject. Unfortunately, owing to pressure of business, Parliament was unable to discuss the committee’s report. Up to the present there has been an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the British-Australasian Tobacco Company, the first three-year period of which has just concluded. This is a short history of the agreement -
In August, 1926, the representative of the British- Australasian Tobacco Company Proprietory Limited, when giving evidence before the Tariff Board, made an offer on behalf of the company to provide a sum up to £50,000. for expenditure in conjunction with the Federal and/or State Governments on a £ for £ basis for the development of the tobaccogrowing industry in Australia.
The Development and Migration Commission and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research subsequently discussed this offer with the company, with the result that a definite proposal was submitted by the company and agreed to by the Commonwealth Government. The arrangement is that over a period of three years the company will find £20,000 rateably with the sum of £10,000 to be found by the Commonwealth and/or State Governments for the purpose of carrying out investigations and field experiments. If. at the expiration of the three-year period, developments are sufficiently satisfactory to warrant further effort, and it is mutually agreed that further expenditure is justified, the company will provide a further £30.000, conditionally upon the Commonwealth and/or State Governments providing a similar amount. The total amount that may be applied to this work is, therefore, £90,000. The Commonwealth Government has made an arrangement with the Governments of the five mainland States, under which it is provided that, over the first period of three years, the Commonwealth will find £5,000 and each State £1,000, and over the second period the Commonwealth £15.000 and each State £3,000.
The first three-year period has expired and I understand that the Government is now considering the renewal of the agreement. The select committee reported against a renewal of the agreement, although it offered no objection to the British Australasian Tobacco Company, or any other firm, voluntarily subscribing to a fund for research in connexion wtih the tobacco industry. Should the agreement not be renewed, and neither the British Australasian Tobacco Com.pany, nor any other company, make voluntary contributions to the fund, the Government will be involved in additional expense in the event of the research work being continued. The committee’s recommendation against a renewal of the agreement was based on the objection of many tobacco-growers to any interested party contributing towards the cost of scientific investigations into the industry. The committee felt that there should be no grounds for any suspicions in the minds of the growers. The report gives the quantity of both Australian and imported leaf used in the manufacture of tobacco and cigarettes in Australia. In 1915-16, 1,730,020 lb. of Australian leaf, as against 10,811,296 lb. of imported leaf, were used. In 1928-29, the Australian leaf manufactured into tobacco was only 978,030 lb., whereas the imported leaf so used increased to 1S,157,689 lb. In other words, the percentage of Australian leaf dropped from 13.79 per cent, in 1915-16 to 5.1.1 per cent, in 1928-29. The members of the committee are convinced that good tobacco leaf can be produced in Australia. I have here a sample of tobacco grown in north-eastern Victoria. It is of that bright colour for which there is a big demand.
– Is Australian leaf blended with imported leaf in the making of tobacco and cigarettes?
– Yes. Some firms also make cigarettes solely of Australian tobacco. Various disinterested persons who have smoked them have spoken favorably of their smoking qualities. The sample I now exhibit to the committee is a portion of a crop of 20 tons of leaf grown by Panlook Brothers Proprietary Limited, of Eurobin, near Myrtleford, Victoria. Of the total Australian production of tobacco last year more than half was grown in the north-eastern district of Victoria. Some years ago samples of Australian tobacco were sent to the Imperial Institute, which body reported that the tobacco contained certain defects, which were probably due to insufficient or unsatisfactory curing. The difficulty in getting evenly-cured leaf in the past was due to the varying temperatures in the drying kilns. The temperature at the top of the kiln differed from that at the bottom by as much as 10 degrees in some instances. It was also difficult to maintain the same humidity throughout the kiln. Messrs. Panlook Brothers have spent large sums of money in installing curing kilns incorporating a new process which enables both the temperature and the humidity to be regulated. The result is that a bright leaf of even texture is obtainable.
Honorable members are aware that the members of the late Government, particularly the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett), strenuously opposed the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the tobacco-growing industry.
– The opposition was not very strong.
– More than once during the debate, the then Minister for Trade and Customs said that he held no brief for the monopoly. Unfortunately, there is a monopoly in the tobacco industry: one large company is practically the only buyer of Australian leaf. The absence of competition has forced growers to accept the prices offered by that company or to have their leaf left on their hands. It is, therefore, pleasing to note that two other companies propose to establish works in Australia. One of these, Geoffrey Phillips and Company, whose capital is £500,000, has purchased premises in Melbourne, and landed uptodate machinery, valued at many thousands of pounds, for the manufacture of tobacco. The other company is the wellknown English firm of Carreras. The story of that company reads like a romance. The Melbourne Herald of the 14th January last, referring to Carreras, stated -
Carreras Limited, which maintains a large connexion with the Australian tobacco trade, reports a record net profit of £1,285,154 for the year ended 31st October. It exceeds the total for the preceding twelve months by nearly £131,000.
– Where are the headquarters of the company?
– I believe they are in England. The Herald goes on to say -
Ordinary shareholders received £703,125 in dividend of 50 per cent., free of tax. The 25 per cent, capital bonus distributed at the beginning of the year ranked for this dividend, which is, therefore, equal to 62J per cent, on the 1927 capital. lt is proposed to allot another 25 per cent, bonus by capitalizing £351,503 of the undistributed profits, amounting to £1,140,728. shown in the latest accounts. The company has become remarkable for these regular yearly capital distributions. They are piling up fortunes even for the smallest holders of the Carreras shares marketed less than a decade ugo. For example, a man who bought 100 ordinary shares at about par in 1921, and has retained his interest until to-day, finds himself in possession of 580 £1 -shares which, at their present market price of £14 each, represent a capital value of about £8,204.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the prospectus and share capital of this company are not before the committee.
The honorable member is dealing with an item in the Estimates providing for an investigation of the tobacco-growing industry. His remarks are in order.
– The report from which I have quoted continues -
This, of course, takes no account of the taxfree cash distributions which for each of the past six years have been at the rate of 60 per cent.
The firm referred to in that report i3 now starting operations in Australia.
– It is to be hoped that it will not profiteer in the same way in Australia.
– There is scope for further scientific research in connexion with this industry, particularly in the direction of finding a preventative for bluemouldThat is essentially a problem for scientific research, and the work being done by the Entomological Bureau in Canberra should lead to results of great benefit to the tobacco-growers of Australia. The select committee believes that there is an excellent opportunity for the establishment of the industry on sound lines. About £7,000,000 is received from it in customs and excise duties, but 95 per cent, of the tobacco consumed here at the present time is manufactured from imported leaf. About £3,000,000 is sent abroad annually, mostly to the United States of America, for raw leaf, and the committee and the experts agree that there is no good reason why the bulk of the raw material required by manufacturers in Australia should not be grown iri this country, and the greater part of the £3,000,000 diverted into the pockets of Australian tobacco-growers.
.- Two items to which I object are “Assistance in co-operation with the States towards recovery of export coal trade, £50,000,” and “Assistance in cooperation with the States towards employment of surplus miners, £100,000.”- The Government should not pay £50,000 to the coal-owners; they can afford to look after their own business. Other industries, with the exception of flaxgrowing, the manufacture of sewing machines, and a few more, are not pampered in this way by the Government. In 1925, we exported 1,770,000 tons of coal; but, in 1928, we exported only 1,130,000 tons. The exports of coal from New South Wales to the other States in 1925 totalled 3,000,000 tons, and in 1928 only 2,270,000 tons. The consumption of coal in New South Wales in 1925 was 6,600,000 tons, and in 1928 it was only 6,000,000 tons. Those figures reveal a decrease in consumption of over 2,000,000 tons per annum. That is a big slump, and it has been brought about largely by industrial trouble. The use of oil fuel, admittedly, has also reduced the demand for coal; but strikes, particularly on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales, are chiefly responsible for the present position of the industry. The cost of winning the coal rose to such a high level that its production for export became unpayable, with the result that the industry lost a good deal of its South American, and interstate trade. In South Australia and Victoria, contracts for the supply of coal were let in England. It was cheaper to import it from the Old Country than to hew it on the New South Wales coalfields, which are claimed to be the finest in the world. That is a terrible indictment of Australian industrial conditions. I submit that a grant of £50,000 to the industry is not needed. When the cost of winning coal drops to a reasonable level, it will again be possible to produce it for export, and our lost trade will be regained.
The provision of the sum of £100,000 for the repatriation of coal-miners is due to a promise given by the present Government to assist the men concerned in the lamentable strike in New South Wales. Whether we call it a strike or a lockout, the fact remains that the miners ceased to work and lived on a levy. This is not a time for the Government to pay away huge sums which the country cannot afford. We are confronted with the most drastic budget in Australian history. Despite the sales tax, and other extreme measures that the Government has adopted, it is doubtful whether the budget will be balanced at ‘the end of the year. Yet the Government is willing to give away £100,000 to miners who, for fifteen months, refused work under conditions which allowed wheelers to earn up to £7, and miners up to £10 a week.
The unionists preferred to fight an industrial issue, and the members of the present Government did not dare to urge them to return to the employment awaiting them. Tens of thousands of unemployed men would have gladly accepted that work, but for the tyrannous action of unions. It stands to the everlasting credit of the Bavin Government that it fought the matter to a finish, and employed free men to win the coal required, so that government utilities might be supplied with the necessary fuel. The miners have now accepted the terms offered to them over a year ago; but members of the present Government, fearing probably that they might be declared “black” had not sufficient courage to advise them to accept the work offering. Now these unionists are to be repatriated, at a cost of £1G0,000, in addition to the present the’y received’ at Christmas time of £7,000. Is such treatment fair to the other workers of Australia? The waterside workers in Melbourne and in other parts of the Commonwealth suffered disastrously in consequence of ill-advised strikes. This Government now desires to placate a powerful militant union. I asked the Prime* Minister (Mr. Scullin) if lie could say how many men were still unemployed on the northern coal-fields, and be was unable to give me that information. A more partisan attitude has never been adopted by any government in Australia. The press has said, and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) who, to my surprise, supports this payment, has admitted thai 88 per cent, of the miners are already at work. If we are to divide the sum of £100,000 between the remaining 12 per cent, of 8,000 miners, we see what a nice little gift is to be made to each man.
This . so-called Labour Government stands condemned as a trade union government. It is not interested in the other men who are unemployed, on the coal-fields of Australia and elsewhere; it is concerned only with .the miners on the New South Wales fields who are within the union ranks. When the present contracts which South Australia and Victoria have made abroad for the supply of coal have lapsed, all the men now to be assisted will probably have been absorbed in the industry, and. therefore, the proposed payment is absolutely unnecessary. I submit that the Government should not give away this money, which it cannot afford, to relieve conditions produced by the miners themselves at the instigation of agitators.
In the budget speech, there is an item reading as follows: - “Coal - to repatriate miners in the northern coal-fields and to subsidize the production of coal for export, £150,000 “. Now in the Estimates it appears as “Assistance in co-operation with the States towards employment of surplus coal-miners”. Evidently, after further thought, and seeing that there are so few coal-miners to be repatriated, the Prime Minister has decided now to distribute this money among the coalminers throughout Australia. These workers are a pampered body, and the money could be more usefully spent by distributing it among charitable institutions for the purpose of assisting genuine cases of distress.
.- The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has attempted to ridicule a large number of my constituents, in whose defence I feel it to be my duty to speak. I admit that the honorable member has had experience on the northern coalfields since I was employed there. It is quite possible that during the period of about two hours that he spent on the mines in company with “ scabs “, he acquired a wider knowledge of conditions in the industry. than I have obtained after 30 years’ experience. It is incorrect for him to say that the average wage of miners is from £7 to £10 a week.
– If they liked to work.
– It is incorrect to say that the miners could earn those wages, even if the coal-owners had work for them to do.
– What was the average wage earned in 1927 over the whole field ?
– I am sorry that I have not the figures before me, but I have quoted them previously. Mr. Bavin stated in the New South Wales Parliament in October, 1928, that he was surprised that so many thousands of men employed in the coal industry received less than the basic wage. That statement is to be found in the New South Wales Hansard records, and gives the lie direct to the statement of the honorable member for Balaclava. I worked in the mines as a borer in that section of the industry in which the highest wages were made. I bored for years in the Pelaw Main, and my largest wage was earned one Christmas, when I received £2 a day. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill), prompted by Mr. McDonald, made reference to the fact that I had received £2 a day for one pay ; but for the other 25 pays, I probably did not earn 30s. a day. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) said that £100,000 was intended for distribution among the miners on the northern coalfields, I remarked that the money was to be spent throughout Australia.
– I accepted the statement appearing in the budget speech, and the Prime Minister pointed out that it was erroneous.
– I believe that the amount should be devoted to the relief of the miners who lost their employment on the northern coal-fields, because that is the district where the greatest amount of suffering is being experienced. While the men and their wives and families were in want there, the rest of the coalminers were at work. During the fifteen months when the men on the northern fields were locked out, the others were in daily employment. Unfortunately, the £100,000 has not yet been made available, because there has been no reproductive work in hand upon which it can be spent. I regret that the coal-owners have absolutely refused to elect representatives to the joint committee proposed by the Prime Minister for the purpose of allocating this money in the best possible way. The coal-miners are genuinely desirous of using this money to the greatest advantage to the community, but the coal-owners evidently have no interest whatever in the matter, which is to be deplored. The money should be made available at the earliest possible moment, because many of the coal-miners and their dependants are on the verge of starvation. The State Government has refused to provide sustenance for boys who are living at home with their parents. The mothers of many families have been obliged to go out to domestic service - some of them have had to leave their homes - to earn money to maintain their family, although, properly speaking, this should be done by the fathers.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) said that no one had had the courage during the time the miners were out of work to tell them that they should resume operations; but I remind the honorable member that in this chamber on the 5th December last, when I realized that they had been deserted by this Government which had promised to protect them I said definitely that, so far as I could see, the miners had been defeated, and that, therefore, they should resume work.
– Did the honorable member make that statement in this chamber ?
– I did.
– Then I withdraw my remarks in that connexion.
– Last May Day I faced 5,000 men at Speer’s Point and told them, though it was a most distasteful thing for me to have to do, that it was apparent to me that they had been defeated. I was roundly condemned by my own friends for making statements of this kind. I was actuated by an earnest desire not to see them further victimized and crucified.
The charge made by the honorable member for Balaclava that the coalminers have been pampered is entirely without foundation. As a matter of fact, these unfortunate workers have been misled, deserted, and tragically treated, not only by the Bruce-Page Government, but also by this Government and the New South Wales Government. I regret that the honorable member re-introduced this subject for discussion, and spoke in such a disparaging fashion of the coal-miners. The only crime - if it could be called such - of these men, whom I have the honour to represent, was that they desired to obey an award of the Federal Arbitration Court, but were prevented from doing so by the coal-owners. If I had my way the coal-owners who were responsible for causing this trouble would be deported under the Crimes Act, and, if necessary, hanged.
– I wish to re-direct the attention of honorable members to work done by the Select Committee on the Tobacco-growing Industry. The tobacco industry is responsible for the contribution of about £7,000,000 annually to the Consolidated Revenue. Its importance was recognized by this Government when it agreed to the appointment of a select committee to carry out investigations into the industry along the lines defined in its terms of reference. I was a member of that committee, but, unfortunately, found myself in disagreement with my colleagues on a number of important matters. Our standing orders in relation to select committees made it impossible for ]ne to express my views completely in the report, and I feel that I should, therefore, take this opportunity of making my position clear.
The committee recommended that the duty on imported tobacco should be increased and the excise duty on locallyproduced tobacco abolished. This recommendation was made at the request of the growers, but, in my opinion, it would be unfair to the consumers of tobacco, under existing conditions, to increase the customs duty, and useless to the growers to abolish the excise duty, for they would not receive the benefit of an alteration of that nature.
I also disagreed with the recommendation of the committee that the existing agreement between the Commonwealth Government, certain State Governments, and the British-Australasian Tobacco Company Limited, in relation to the carrying out of certain experimental work in connexion with the production and treatment of tobacco leaf in Australia, should be terminated. I believe that it .would be in the best interests of every one vitally interested in this industry if the agreement were .continued, because it has resulted in the co-relation and centralization, both of the scientific and research work and field exploratory and demonstration work, in a way which has proved beneficial to all concerned. The British-A ustralasian Tobacco Company Limited, which the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) referred to as a monopoly, and which, it is suggested, has a straangle-grip of the throat of the tobacco-smoking public of Australia has, in my opinion, shown itself to be peculiarly interested and singularly generous in its endeavours to develop the tobacco-growing industry of Australia and to improve the smoking qualities of our local product. It has indicated that it is prepared to buy locally-grown leaf in almost unlimited quantities.
– I suppose the honorablemember will not deny that this company is a monopoly?
– I do not deny it ; but, so far as I was able to discover through the investigation made by the committee, it is a most benevolent and healthy monopoly. It has shown a laudable desire to assist the Australian tobacco-growers in every possible way. If the agreement between the respective Governments and this company is terminated, the whole cost of carrying on the experimental field work, and also the scientific research work, will fall upon the Commonwealth Government, which can ill afford to undertake an added burden of that nature at this time. The British-Australasian Tobacco Company Limited has acted splendidly towards the whole of its employees, and is held in the highest regard by them.
I am in agreement with the recommendation of the committee that it would be desirable to make provision for the continuance of the investigations into the tobacco-growing industry on a permanent basis. The suggestion has been made that Mr. C. M. Slagg, the present director of this work, should be placed in full charge of the investigations, so that the relations between the research workers on the one hand, and the practical field-workers on the other, could be more intimate. I have heard it stated in some quarters that Mr. Slagg is not adequately qualified to fill the position to which it is proposed to appoint him, but I entirely disagree with those views. In my opinion, this gentleman possesses admirable qualities from every standpoint to justify his appointment.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– If the report of the committee be accepted, Mr. Slagg will be brought to Canberra, and the first real effort made towards creating a complete liaison between the research work on the one hand, and the practical field work on the other. The lack of such a liaison in the past has, to my mind, militated more than anything else against the success of the industry. The new system could he put into operation without creating a new department, or involving the Commonwealth in any great expense. Some of the critics have contended that Mr. Slagg does not possess the necessary qualifications for this position, but during the inquiries of the committee I was able to discover that he is particularly well equipped to fill such an office. .Before he came to Australia he held successively since February, 1917, the following responsible positions: From 1917 to 1920 he was assistant in tobacco investigations, United States of America Department of Agriculture. From 1920 to 1923 he was assistant pathologist, Office of Tobacco Investigations, United States of America Department of Agriculture. From 1923 to 1924 he was pathologist-in-charge, Connecticut Tobacco Experiment Station, and research director and secretary of the Connecticut Valley Tobacco Improvement Association. From 1924 to 1929 he was chief of the Tobacco Division, Dominion of Canada Department of Agriculture. In 192S he was appointed Director of Tobacco Investigations, Commonwealth of Australia. Furthermore. Mr. Slagg is a graduate in agriculture, University of Wisconsin, 1916; and a Bachelor of Science, University of Wisconsin, 1917. In 1918 he made himself a Master of Science in Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin. In addition, Mr. Slagg has practically completed his work for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Plant Pathology - plant diseases - and he would have obtained the degree had he not taken up the office he at present holds under the Commonwealth Government. His scientific training in agriculture, plant biology, diseases and pathology is second to none in Australia, and his experience in tobacco research work, including tobacco diseases, nutrition, physiology, &e., can be duplicated by few men in the world. Consideration of these qualifications confirms me in the belief that the select committee acted wisely in recommending that Mr. Slagg should be given complete and unfettered charge of this department, in which he would be responsible only to the Minister who controls it. That, I think, is necessary because, under the conditions which have hitherto obtained, he has found himself in a position of considerable embarrassment. It is not necessary for me to say just now what constituted these embarrassments, but they were such as to fetter him in the exercise of his office.
I support this proposed vote of £3,000 for the continuance of research work in this very important phase of the department work. During the committee’s inquiries many comments were made on the fact that the tobacco-growing industry had not progressed in Australia as it had done in other parts of the world, notably in Canada and Rhodesia. The British- Australasian Tobacco Company has, I am sorry to say, been referred to in this House as a destructive monopoly, but I contend emphatically that it has proved itself a very benevolent monopoly. It has been stated that the company deliberately kept down the consumption of local leaf to suit its policy. I have no hesitation in saying that not one tittle of evidence was heard during the course of the inquiry to justify this assertion. On the contrary, all the evidence went to show that the company has done its utmost to encourage the industry. The company paid prices which, according to Mr. Slagg, were 100 per cent, above world’s market prices on a weight, basis, while on a quality basis they were 200 per cent, to 300 per cent, above world’s market prices. In my opinion, the real reasons for the lack of progress in the tobacco-growing industry in Australia may be enumerated under the following heads: - (1) The growers have not applied suitable cultural methods. This was made quite clear by the evidence from all districts. (2) The prevalence of blue-mould has done incalculable harm to the producing side of the industry. It will, I hope, be successfully checked, if not eradicated, as a result of the research work at present being carried on in the institution here in Canberra, and applied in practical form in the field operations throughout the Commonwealth. (3) The growers have continued to produce dark and inferior leaf, notwithstanding the warnings of State tobacco experts, and of the company itself. (4) The growers have attempted to grow light leaf on unsuitable soil. One of the Victorian growers, giving evidence at Stawell, stated that the Pomonal Growers Association, a live and progressive body in the Western District of Victoria, had separated from the Victorian Tobacco-growers Association over this question of light leaf. His association, he said, had never agreed to the sale of dark leaf, and if the growers happened to plant in soil that was not suitable, and so produced dark leaf, it was not their policy to try to force it on the market. If that policy were put into general application it would, to a large extent, rescue the industry from the unsatisfactory position in which it is to-day.
Mr. Slagg, in the course of the evidence which he gave before the committee, stated, inter alia -
There has been in evidence a feeling that the Australian tobacco manufacturers were discriminating unfairly against the tobaccogrowers in insisting that the proportion of dark leaf be reduced, and warning growers that they are prepared to buy only limited quantities of such dark leaf. It should be stated quite plainly, however, that the lessening demand for dark tobacco in Australia is only an echo of what has already taken place in many other parts of the world. During the past twenty years the tastes of smokers of many nations, but particularly of Englishspeaking countries, has changed from dark and medium smoking mixtures to the light aromatic tobaccoes. This change in taste has spelled ruin to those American districts where dark leaf is grown.
That this tremendously decreased demand for dark tobacco has taken place in Australia, as in other parts of the world, is shown quite clearly by a comparative study of our imports of bright flue-cured and dark Virginia tobaccoes in recent years. The following table shows the comparative amounts of these two types of tobacco exported from the United States to Australia during the past seven years : -
These figures disclose the fact that the use of American-grown bright flue-cured tobacco in Australia has remained at a fairly constant high level, whereas the use of American-grown dark Virginia tobacco has markedly decreased, so that while in 1923 the dark Virginia leaf imported represented 27.4 per cent, by weight, and 25.9 per cent, by value, as compared with the bright flue-cured imports, in 1929, these percentages had dropped to 4.2 per cent, by weight and 2.9 per cent, by value. This indicates quite plainly the change in smoking tastes of the Australian public that has taken place in the last seven years.
That quotation serves to illustrate a point that should be stressed if a proper understanding is to be obtained of the relationship that exists between the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company and the growers of tobacco in this country. For years past the company has been endeavouring to encourage the production of a better class leaf by paying a bonus over and above the market price for a superior product. At present the company is giving 2s. 6d. a lb. for lemon and 2s. a lb. for bright mahogany, to which is added a bonus of ls. a lb. Those growers who are producing 60 per cent, of bright leaf are obtaining prices which are quite satisfactory to them, and calculated to provide them with sufficient encouragement to continue in the industry. Mr. Pollock, of Brisbane, an expert in the employ of the Agricultural Department of Queensland, said that an average price of 2s. 6d. a lb. would mean over 100 per cent, profit, and that at the present price given by the company the growers could earn 200 per cent, profit on their tobacco. That evidence was supported by independent witnesses in Victoria, New South Wales, and, to some extent, in Queensland. Mr. Temple Smith, the tobacco expert for the State of Victoria, in giving evidence before the committee, said that the average price for bright leaf in Victoria for the 1929 crop was 3s. Id. per lb. Further evidence was given in support of the fact that substantial profits could be made out of this industry by small growers, if the advice of experts was followed and that of the Company accepted. Mr. Slagg also pointed out that there must be something radically wrong if,’ under these prices, tobacco cannot be grown profitably in Australia.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire to direct the attention of the committee to several of the items contained in the schedule of miscellaneous services; but particularly to items No. 6, 17, 18, 19 and 20. These items relate to the expenditure of Australia for the current year in connexion with the League of Nations, the Imperial Conference, the cost of the delegation this year to the Assembly of the League, and the delegation to the International Labour Conference. It may be of some interest to honorable members to realize that the expenditure estimated under these various headings this year amounts to £42,500. That amount, of course, is quite apart from the cost of Australia’s representation at the Naval Disarmament Conference, held in London early in the year, at which the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) represented the Commonwealth. It appears that the cost of Australia’s identification with the League of Nations is to increase annually, or that our representation is not to be as effective as our identification with the League should be. In considering this subject two points obtrude. One is to what extent, if at all, is Australia to rely upon Great Britain for representation and advocacy at international conferences convened under the auspices of the League, and the other is the extent to which Australia can be served by having a dual outlook upon the world - one through the instrumentality of Imperial Conferences focussed upon London and the other through our membership with the League of Nations focussed upon Geneva.
There are many instances in which it appears difficult for Australia to steer a course consistent with that of Britain, because of the inevitable points of divergence in economic policy which must arise between Great Britain and Australia, particularly with respect to that part of the work of the League which comes within the ambit of the International Labour Office. I believe that the time has arrived when this Parliament should decide whether it is imperative that Australia should continue separate membership of the League of Nations, while at the same time regularly sharing in the responsibilities that attach to our association with the Im perial Conferences. Generally speaking, Australia does not appear to have received much in return for the cost involved since accepting membership of the League, and for the regularity with which we have been represented at its assemblies. Our contribution to the cost of the League is £30,000 per annum. There is the obligation to be represented at tha Assembly at Geneva, which is held generally in the autumn, and at the” International Labour Conference which is held in the summer time. So far as I can see, delegations to these two gatherings cost Australia £3,500 a year, which, of course, is in addition to the £30,000 which we contribute towards the cost of the League. I do not think that any one will suggest that those figures cover the expenditure actually incurred. For example, when a Minister is a delegate, Australia is without his services in his administrative capacity during the time he is absent from the Commonwealth.” Broadly speaking, it is a conservative estimate to say that our partnership in the League of Nations each year costs us approximately £40,000. I speak with a certain amount of diffidence upon this point, but I offer my opinion for what it is worth. I think it would be quite sufficient for Australia to arrange with the British Government to attach to the British delegation a representative Australian officer conversant with international problems, who would always be available, and who would be able to inform the Commonwealth Government upon the work and general , development of the League’s functions. No Australian delegate at the Assemblies of the League has yet found it necessary to adopt an attitude distinct from that of the British delegation.
– But some issue might arise in the future which would necessitate such a course.
– It might; but if it should, I think that we could assume that it would be only in an emergency sense, when our delegate would not be in possession of any advice from this Parliament as to the course to follow.
As far as I have been able to read of what has transpired before I became a member of this chamber, and from my experience since I have been here, proper consideration has not been given by this Parliament to the reports of our delegates. These reports, which relate to international affairs, are considered only in a perfunctory sense; they are not closely examined by this Parliament, and Parliament ‘ does not make any pronouncement on matters of international policy. In so far as these reports serve as a setting for an examination by this Parliament of its place in world affairs, and of the policy which Australia should support or even advocate at the Assembly of the League, this legislature has had its tongue absolutely chained. It is as if these reports had never been submitted to us. From the standpoint of practical value, and of giving us an intimate place in matters of international consultation., whatever merit there is in them the work’ of the delegations has never been capitalized by this Parliament. I believe that we could, for some time, derive benefit by representation in association with the British delegation which could serve us satisfactorily at least at the Assembly of the League of Nations. The agenda paper i3 usually issued about three months before the Assembly is due to meet. The delegates do not depart, as a rule, until within about six weeks before the Assembly meets, so that if any profound change in policy were determined upon we could readily determine whether direct representation was necessary. In any case, that i3 not an important point, because the cost of representation is immaterial to the question of identification with the League.
The question we have to consider is how far, if at all, Australia is able to help in the formulation of a new concept of international practice. The International Labour Office is, at least, an instrumentality that affords to the world a positive example of the value of international action ‘ for social and economic purposes. Primarily, the work of the League, apart from the International Labour Office, can be summed up as an attempt to overcome phases of conflict which may lead to war. That is to say, it seeks, by achieving a limitation of armaments, to smooth down as far as possible any incipient influences that tend to set nation against nation in actual warfare.
The limitation of armaments has become a real live public issue in most countries, because to some extent armaments have been limited; but that has been done entirely outside the ambit of the League. That body has done no more than set the ball rolling. The actual work of. attempting to arrive at a basis upon which armaments might be limited has been done at special conferences such as the Naval Disarmament Conference held this year, and those held at Locarno and other places. The seat of the League of Nations has been regarded as a rallying point to which the nations send direct representatives for a general . purpose. The League is really a sort of international parliament, at which everything is discussed and nothing is done, although, of course, it has always considered it imperative, if any progress were to be made in any specific field, to hold a conference for that purpose. Hence, Geneva, Washington, Locarno. London and so on.
Then, again, the League hopes that there will be a mutual guarantee of territory and independence. Even the covenanters to the League have admitted that its work, despite all its paraphernalia, such as the Court of International Justice, its machinery for the administration of mandated territories, and its organization established iD Europe, is merely to negate, wherever possible, possible sources of conflict in Europe that may threaten international peace. But the world will not live by negations. It is not attracted by and will not take interest in such a policy. Therefore the Assembly of the League is merely regarded as a gathering place for statesmen and diplomats, and, whatever matters may be discussed there the great mass of the people is untouched and uninfluenced by the proceedings. But in respect of the International Labour Office there is no negation machine at work. It is not an ineffective instrumentality in the sense that it does nothing. It is an association for the realization of very positive purposes. There, nation and nation collaborate and attempt to realize something tangible. The efforts of the International Labour Office and of the International Labour Conferences have concentrated upon an equalization of industrial standards, so that the competitive advantages which low wages and long hours of labour may give economically to one country as against another country of high standards shall not be as great as has hitherto been the case. In that way by seeking to equalize standards, those conferences do two things. They offer, not only some hope to the countries low down in the scale of civilization, but also some protection to the countries that have improved their standards of living. In that way a conception of equality as between nation and nation in a world of competition has some possibility of realization. The work of the International Labour Office must be regarded ‘by the world as the paramount function of the League of Nations. I can see no hope for the League of Nations unless it does tangible things that are demonstrable to communities generally. For us to say that we prevented a certain thing from happening is equivalent to saying that we prevented stars from colliding and destroying the world. If a thing may happen, and does not happen, the people wifi say that in all probability it never would have happened: But if we show that something worth doing has been done, the evidence is there and the people are able to see the effect of the operation of the machines that have been established.
Australia has industrial standards which, until the present period of difficulty, were something to be proud of, but, I regret to say, that from the standpoint of world comparison we have not given to the work of the International Labour Office the degree of importance that I think it warrants. We have concentrated upon the Assembly of the League. We have sent to it representative delegations, always headed by a Minister, and until this year, the High Commissioner in London has also attended. We should insist on Australia having effective representation at the League of Nations, particularly if we are to maintain a High Commissioner’s office in London. I entirely agree with the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) that the High Commissioner is the representative of Australia, not only in London, but also in Europe. It is important that we should do nothing to lessen his prestige internationally. Our practice in the past has been to send three or four delegates, with the requisite staff, in order that Australia might at least be reasonably represented at the Assembly. But towards the International Labour Office - where Australia would be able to give a lead to Europe and to Asia, which is even of more importance to us competitively than any other country, and where we should be able, to some extent, to overcome the competitive disabilities that we suffer in the world’s markets - we have adopted the most perfunctory attitude. From the report of the last conference submitted to this Parliament by the three Australian delegates, one of whom was Sir Granville Ryrie,- 1 find that to the International Labour Conference held last year, Great Britain sent a delegation numbering 31. The delegation from Italy numbered 30, and that from Germany 29. Those delegations dealt with industrial and social problems only. Japan is a strong competitor with Australia in Eastern affairs economically, and of first importance from the standpoint of peace among the nations bordering the Pacific Ocean. It is a country with which we were in alliance for some years, and with which we are at least at present on terms of the utmost friendship, but which, from time to time, has felt that certain aspects of our national policy are provocative. It certainly has grievously misunderstood the basis of that policy. Japan sent to the International Labour Conference 27 delegates. France, Netherlands, Belgium were also represented. Spain sent 16 delegates, although that country, in many respects, has industrially a mediaeval outlook. Poland sent 15 delegates; Switzerland 15, and India 14. India is another competitor of Australia which has an economic advantage in that it has standards of labour which give to it a productive cheapness which is injurious to our competitive policy. Sweden sent thirteen delegates to the International Labour Conference, and Australia sent three delegates and the secretary to Australia House.
– They may have been good men.
– They were. But from my own experience, I know that the work at the conference is too complex and exacting, and covers too wide a field for any delegation composed of three persons to be able to deal effectively with the interests of the country that they represent. I remember that some years ago there were no less than five committees at work simultaneously, and as the Australian delegation consisted of three persons, it was impossible for Australia to be represented ou at least two of those committees. In addition, the conference is a gathering of the peoples of the world. A member of the Japanese workers’ delegation asked me to give to him a summary of the principles ou which our White Australia policy was founded and the reasons why Australia had adopted it. In order to comply with that gentleman’s request, I had to prepare the information, and to pay out of my own pocket for the work of typing it. Every other delegation, including the Japanese delegation, which was represented on every committee, and at every plenary session, had at its disposal an effective staff. The £30,000 that we contribute to the League of Nations is of little use unless it is backed up by effective representation at the International Labour Conference. Without that, we should leave the representation of Australia at the Assembly to Great Britain.
– That would not obviate an expenditure of £30,000.
– No, but it would obviate a payment of £2,500 for our representation at the Assembly of the League, which also involves the absence of a Minister from the Commonwealth. I would suggest that a representative delegation from Australia should attend the International Labour Office; that one of the principal Ministers of State should head the delegation, and be wholly engaged in the work of the International Labour Conference, and also in scrutinizing the general administration of the League. He could make such representations to the governing body of the League in respect of those matters under which Australia has contracted obligations, such as mandates, and so on, as would at least clear up any misunderstandings in re spect of the attitude of Australia. About four years ago the budget of the League wa3 stabilized at 25,000,000 Swiss francs, but last year the expenditure of the League was over 28,000,000 francs. The measure of economy which the Assembly adopted with the consent of the Australian delegation was to reduce the budget of the Internationa] Labour Office by 38,000 francs. I submit that that was an entirely wrong method of bringing about economy. There is an immense overloading of the administration of the League itself, but if there is one department of the League that has accomplished any effective work it is the International Labour Office. . The publications of that office, upon social questions alone, represent the most valuable contributions to economic and statistical knowledge that the world possesses. Even the bulletins of the American Department of Labour, that magnificent institution with its head-quarters at Washington, cannot approach the importance or the accuracy of the valuable work being done in the publication department of the International Labour Office. I conclude with the hope, not only that we shall reconsider our relationship to the League, of Nations as a whole, but also that this Parliament will take upon itself the responsibility of reviewing at least once a year the reports which are submitted to it by the respective delegations that go to these two conferences. The covenant into which we have entered is the first in which Australia as a nation has definitely entered into contractual relations with the world. We are part and parced of this League; we signed the covenant which says that there can be no peace among the nations until there is industrial peace, and there can be no industrial peace until there is social justice. A former Prime Minister, and Sir Joseph Cook subscribed, on behalf of the people of Australia, to a preamble which contains the declaration of principle, that in order to have peace among the people we have to overcome the causes of war. The causes of war are the economic and commercial causes that arise out of the search for markets, out of the advantages in trade some countries get as a result of certain considerations, and out of the injustice other countries suffer as a consequence. And it all resolves itself at the bottom into the injustice that is done to the great mass of the people. Injustice done to the fellahs of Egypt, or to the coolies of India, is injustice done to the workers of Birmingham or Paddington, inasmuch as it degrades the standard of labour everywhere, makes certain commodities cheaper than they ought t« be, gives advantages to those who control them, and, therefore, becomes one of the incipient causes of war. This is all set out in the preamble of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and, therefore, because I believe there will never be peace on earth until there is justice among the peoples, and there cannot be justice among the people until we get a right international basis for industry, I say it is not the Assembly with ia policy of negations, but the International Labour Office, with its positive policy of social reform, that is of importance.
– I did not propose to address my remarks to the expenditure set down in connexion with the League of Nations, but the speech of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) impels me to- make some observations. I have followed very closely the honorable member’s remarks, but I am not clear whether he is in favour of striking out the item. Although the whole course of his argument was directed towards showing that Australia is not receiving an adequate return for the amount of money it is spending in connexion with the League of Nations, he was not prepared to go to the length of indicating that it should be discontinued. On the contrary, he contended that a larger amount should be spent in order that there may be more, adequate representation at the International Labour Conference at Geneva. I have never been very enthusiastic about the League of Nations, because I have always felt that much more is being claimed for it than it can perform. One has only to mention, as the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) has done, the Locarno Pact, the Washington Naval Conference, the Geneva Naval Conference, the Kellogg Pact, and the Five
Power Treaty. All these movements for peace on earth have been created and carried out quite apart from the League of Nations. But, like the honorable member for Fremantle, I am not prepared, to go to the extent of saying that Australia should not be a party to the League of Nations, or that it should discontinue the annual payment of £30,000 towards the upkeep of that League. I realize that the League is striving for the fulfilment of an ideal. If anything can be done by it to abolish or prevent for ever the horrors of war, the expenditure Australia incurs in this connexion is nothing compared with the benefits it will derive. Therefore, whilst I say quite frankly that I do not think the League of Nations has, so far, accomplished a very great deal, I am prepared to admit that it has done something and may do a great deal more, and I agree to this expenditure in the hope that the object and ideals of the League of Nations will ultimately be achieved.
I do not attach to the International Labour Conference anything like the importance the honorable member for Fremantle has given to it. In the past it has functioned in a more or less perfunctory way. I am not sure, however, whether our active participation in it. to the extent the honorable member suggests would not bind us to decisions that would be against the interests of Australia. We have very much higher ideals and a higher standard of living than the people with whom we come into contact at that conference, and, if the conference is of a plenary character, we may be banned in regard to matters affecting the standard of living and migration, and even our White Australia policy - a subject which we are not prepared to discuss with any of the nations of the world.
– The last two subjects would be outside the scope of the International Labour office.
– But there are other matters of equal importance from the industrial point of view with regard to which there would be grave danger to Australia through going into a plenary conference, and being bound by the majority decisions of other nations whose standards of living are ever so much lower than our own. I agree. hovever, with the honorable member that the delegation to the Assembly of the League of Nations need not be of the expensive character that it is. I do not know of anything that the presence of Cabinet Ministers at these assemblies has achieved, and I think that money could be saved by confining Australia’s delegation to the High Commissioner and other citizens of Australia who, for the time being, may be abroad. To my mind, it is an annual expenditure of £2,500 to provide something like a holiday jaunt for politicians. I am, therefore, in favour of a reduction of this amount. It should be a sine qua non that at least one of the delegates should always be the High Commissioner for Australia in London. As I said last week, a grievous mistake has been made in not appointing him as one of the members of the present delegation, because, after all, he is the representative of Australia in London, and any slight upon him is not only a slight to him personally, but also a lowering of his prestige among the nations of the world as the representative of Australia. I agree also with the honorable member for Fremantle that the reports of these delegations should receive more consideration than they get. When they are submitted to the Parliament, they should not appear on the notice-paper as business to be dealt with when there is no other business to do, or to be discharged without being discussed. The delegates who go to these assemblies at the expense of the country should regard it as a sacred duty to give an account of their stewardship so that Parliament may discuss what they have done and may say whether they have done right or wrong. Parliament at least should -be given the opportunity to appraise or indicate, from an Australian point of view, the value of what each Assembly of the League of Nations has done. That is as far as I propose to go on this subject. I am not in favour of a reduction in the expenditure, except in the direction I have indicated.
My principal reason for speaking was to refer to the items, ‘Assistance in cooperation with the States towards recovery of export coal trade, £50,000,” and “Assistance in co-operation with the States towards employment of surplus coal-miners, £100,000.” No one has heard from the Prime Minister, or any one else who can speak authoritatively on the coal question, what steps are to be taken towards the recovery of the export coal trade. As a matter of fact, as I said on the budget, this money will never be spent and should never have appeared on the Estimates. The people should not be taxed to provide £50,000 which will not and cannot be spent. And, after all, why should it be spent? According to reports, the northern collieries have regained their normal trade. Why should a dip be made into the public purse for additional assistance which has never been sought?
– How can it be done if it is not going to be done?
– It ie for the Minister to say. After the disastrous stoppage which took place some fifteen months ago, this industry has regained its normal trade, and with a reduction in price by the owners, and the reduction in the miners’ wages, there is every expectation of the lost trade in the East and other places being regained. No one has yet said how the collieryowners are to be assisted to the tune of £50,000 of the people’s money to get these lost markets back again.
– How is the money to be distributed?
– We have not yet been told how it is to’ be distributed, whether it is all to go to the northern collieries, or whether Wonthaggi, in Victoria, with its brown coal, or Ipswich, in Queensland, is to get any share of the expenditure. If there is any justification for spending the money in New South Wales, there is equal justification for spending it in Victoria or Queensland, and if anything is to be done on a comprehensive scale, £50,000 will go a very small way. But I repeat again, that not one single piece of information has been vouchsafed to this Parliament as to how this money is to be spent, what it is for, and who is going to get it; and I repeat my doubt that it will ever be spent. At a time when they can least afford it, the people of this country are to permit the Government to dip its hands into their pockets and take out £50,000 without any occasion for it.
A further £100,000 is provided for assistance, in co-operation with the
States, towards the employment of surplus coal-miners. It was intended that this expenditure should be restricted to the northern coal-fields of New South Wales; but for some reason that statement has been omitted from the Estimates. The amount is being made available in pursuance of a promise given to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), when the recent stoppage on the northern coal-fields was nearing its end. It was a political gesture, the object of which was to propitiate the miners. Those mines have resumed their normal trade, and to-day there is no mention of surplus coal-miners. No one knows better than the honorable member for Hunter how difficult it is to induce men to leave these mining districts, where they have their families, their associations, and all their interests, and where they have lived for years. I should be quite prepared to agree to this item if there were surplus miners who wished to leave the coal-fields to take up rural or other occupations. ‘ My objection arises solely out of the fact that this is a political gesture, to permit of which the public is being taxed, and that the expenditure will never be incurred.
– Even if it were, the principle is a wrong one.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Assuming that the amount is expended, why should the miners on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales be treated differently from those on other fields? Why should any men be excluded from the benefits that this benevolent Government is prepared to confer? If in its benevolence it is willing to hand out £100,000 to a section of an industry in one locality, why should it not act similarly towards the coal-miners in Victoria, and why should it not extend the practice to include wheat-growers and those who are engaged in other industries ? I object to the item, firstly because this is not a federal matter, and secondly, because it is a political gesture.
– The explanation of it is that some Government supporters were becoming awkward to handle.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Every one knows, of course, that something had to be done to keep the lads quiet. This is one way in which the
Government is chloroforming its supporters into that state of docility which has characterized them ever since they have occupied the Government benches.
There is another aspect of this matter which must not be disregarded. The public of this country were told that, when the price of coal was reduced, the price of gas would also be reduced, and that there would be commensurate reductions throughout the ramifications of manufacturing industries. It would suit the Government far better if, instead of placing these items on the Estimates, it saw that the public received what was promised to it. The Government claims to stand for the whole of the people. Why, then, does it not act in the interests of all, instead of only one section? It is not concerned about reducing the price of gas in the interest of the needy worker who is out of employment; its sole concern is to propitiate its supporters inside and outside of Parliament.
The honorable member for Hunter stated that a speech that I delivered in this chamber some time ago was based upon information that I had received from Mr. Charles . McDonald in this House.
– I challenged the honorable member to prove that it was not.
– The honorable member said that the only occasion when he had earned £2 a shift as a miner was one Christmas, and that he had never at any other time earned more than £1 10s. a shift. In the first place, I had no conversation with Mr. Charles McDonald here; I obtained my facts on application from the books of the company as far back as February, 1929, when I first made the statement regarding what the honorable member had earned. They show that in 1925-26, he worked on SO days, and earned £162 4s. 7d., which works out at. a shade over £2 a shift. He was on the Workmen’s Compensation Fund from the 18th January to the 26th April, during which period he drew £42 10s. In 1926-27, the honorable member worked 142£ shifts, and received £286 lis., which was more than £2 a shift. In 1927-28, the year before he entered this Parliament, he worked 132^ shifts, and drew £298 13s. Id., an average of about £2 10s. a shift. In that year, the pit worked 232 days; therefore the honorable member could have worked on an additional 100 days. But he was a delegate to the Australian Labour Party Conference, and a delegate on the Miners’ Council representing the Pelaw Main Lodge, for which attendances he received payment. These figures prove the correctness of the statement that I made in 1929. Whenever the honorable member worked, he received an average of at least £2 a shift. He had no reason to complain of the manner in which he was treated, or of the conditions of his employment. Apparently, he was one of the lucky soldiers of fortune. I say now, as I said in 1929, that he had no ground for complaint, and that the crocodile tears which he sheds from time to time should be. for other people less fortunate than himself.
– What did Billy Hughes give the honorable member for standing down ?
– The honorable member knows that that gentleman is the last person to give anything to anybody. These items are an incursion on the rights of the taxpayers, and should not appear on the Estimates.
.- I wish to reply to the assertion of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) that the International Labour Office constitutes a danger to the Australian standard of living, and the conditions of our workers. The honorable member need not worry himself on that score. The workers’ representatives from the East and the West are looking to the day when the International Labour Office will be the means of improving the conditions of the workers in all countries. The workers of this country have nothing to fear from the International Labour Office or from governments in other parts of the world; their principal concern is the attack that is constantly being made on their conditions by those who dominate the industrial position in this country. The honorable member for Warringah also stated that the High Commissioner should represent the people of Australia at these conferences. I remind him, however, that whenever any matter has been brought forward that is likely to be beneficial to the workers of not only this country, but the world generally, it has been opposed by the High Commissioner. An illustration of that was furnished today during the discussion of the proposal to prohibit the use of white lead. When that matter was discussed at the International Labour Conference, the then High Commissioner, Sir Joseph Cook, voted against any such prohibition, although the people of this country believed that it was essential for safeguarding the lives of men, women, and children. That was amply demonstrated in the very fine speech which was delivered by the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley). The Labour party has certain ideals which may be discussed at Geneva during a period when it is entrusted with the government of this country. It would be hardly fair to ask the gentleman who for so many years before he became High Commissioner represented the Nationalist party, or the employers’ party, in this Parliament, to vote against his principles. He might decline to support a proposal that this Government wished to have accepted.
The Australian delegation at Geneva is the meanest of any of the 54 countries that are associated with the International Labour Office. It consists of only one workers’ representative, one employers’ representative, and one government representative, the last of whom has two votes. Great Britain has a very full representation of the Government, the employers, and the employees, the total number probably being 50 persons, all of whom take a very active part in the discussions that are held.
– They are much nearer to Geneva than we are.
– I admit that.
– The representatives of the East are not. I agree very largely with what the honorable member has said.
– The honorable gentleman represented Australia at Geneva, and must have found himself in a very awkward position at times. When I attended a conference there, the other representative of Australia was Major Eurnham, a very fine type of public servant, who has always received the congratulations of every delegate on account of the magnificent work that he has performed. Different matters are sent on to committees, and with such a small delegation it is absolutely impossible for Australia to be adequately represented on those committees, three or four of which may be sitting at one time. The honorable member for Warringah is quite wrong in his assumption that attendance at one of these conferences is akin to a picnic. I represented the workers of Australia at the International Labour Office Conference in 1927, and my three to four weeks at Geneva were particularly strenuous. The conferences work from eight in the morning until eight or nine at night. I was considerably handicapped because I possessed a knowledge of only one language. I should certainly like to see the Commonwealth send numerically stronger delegations, both to the International Labour Office and the Assembly of the League of Nations each year. I am pleased to note that New Zealand has sent a delegation to the International Labour Office Conference this year. This is the first occasion on which our sister dominion has taken that action. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) said, there is no institution in the world that has a greater collection of international statistics, or better facilities to gather material for the benefit of the peoples of the world than has the International Labour Office at Geneva.
– I listened with interest and some surprise to the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin). I quite agree with the honorable member that members of this chamber, and Australians generally, have taken very little interest in the work of the League of Nations during the past ten years. Last year, by the way, the League completed its first decade of existence. It is remarkable how little interest is taken in the reports of our delegates when they are tabled. Probably Australia’s apathy in the matter is accounted for by the fact that we are far removed from Geneva, the scene of the activities of this great world organization. Furthermore, we are not influenced by world problems as are the countries of Europe, some of which have had very little peace for hundreds of years.
The honorable member for Fremantle suggested that it was advisable for us to relinquish our identity as one of the 54. State members that constitute the League of Nations ; that we should hand over our representation to the British delegation that attends Geneva each year. I cannot agree with him. I consider that such a procedure would be entirely wrong. We have taken our place as one of the independent members of that League, and we have a right to that position as much as has any other nation that is a member of it. If we did as suggested by the honorable member we should not save our contribution of £30,000 each year. Our representation would still be carried on by the British delegation and we would continue to pay our quota to the League. It is interesting in this connexion to recall that during the ten years that it has existed the League has cost its 54 members £7,900,000. Those figures are the latest available, but do not include expenses for the present year, or the £30,000 that appears on our Estimates. Of thai amount Great Britain has contributed £790,000, and Australia £320,000. I can never quite understand why our contribution should be so large, comparatively speaking, with that of Great Britain. The other dominions of the Empire which are members of the League, South Africa, Canada, and India, have contributed £1,239,694 to the cost of that great organization.
I do not agree with the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) that it is an unwarranted expenditure to send a Minister to represent Australia al Geneva. I remind the honorable member that at the Assembly last year, nine countries thought it worth while to send their Prime Ministers to represent them : that 22 countries sent their Minister for Foreign Affairs, while a total of 1,000 diplomats and experts and 400 pressmen were present at Geneva during the weeks that the Assembly deliberated. Such a gathering is found in the annual Assembly of the League at Geneva. 1 think it only right that we should send a Minister to head our delegation each year. I, personally, regret very much that on this occasion, our High Commissioner, Sir Granville Ryrie, is not to be a member of our delegation. The psychology of the League of Nations is worthy of con- sideration. The delegates are seated in their alphabetical order, and, upon the occasion of my visit to Geneva the delegates from Australia had on their right the representatives of Albania, and on their left those from China. In the immediate vicinity, was the delegation from Chile. Each year these representatives look forward to renewal of acquaintances, ft is one of the most extraordinary sights of the conference to see the first meeting of the Assembly, to witness the obvious and hearty welcomes exchanged by the members of different delegations. I am quite sure that many will be surprised io find that Sir Granville Ryrie is not a member of the Australian delegation this year. The delegation from Norway had as one of its representatives, from the inception of the League, that very notable figure, the ‘late Dr. N arisen, who always received a very warm welcome. Our Government .would bc well advised always to send its High Commissioner for the time being as one of the members nf the Australian delegation. As the honorable member for Fremantle has stated, the High Commissioner is not only our representative in Great Britain ; he is also our representative in Europe.
I do not propose to weary the committee by a lengthy discussion on the League of’ Nations, but I do hope that in future an opportunity will be afforded honorable members to discuss the previous year’s report before the succeeding delegation sets out for Geneva. It is futile to begin that discussion after the delegation has gone. I asked the’ Prime Minister to arrange for a discussion of the last report before the Attorney-General left for Geneva, if it were possible. I know that the right honorable gentleman made every effort to have that done. I quite realize that the League of Nations has fallen far short of the hopes entertained by its founders, particularly with regard to its main objective, general disarmament. But, in many ways, the League has been useful. In particular it has made it possible for the representatives of all these countries to meet at Geneva to discuss international problems. Previously, when the Prime Minister of one country made an official visit upon the Prime Minister of another country it was regarded as an international event, and often .engendered suspicion. At Geneva all of these representatives are able to meet and discuss matter’s freely. Another way in which the League has assisted to promote world peace is that it has arranged that all international treaties between members of the League shall be registered forthwith at the League’s Secretariat, and. shall as soon as possible be published by it. No such treaty or international engagement shall be binding until it is so registered. The world, for the first time, has a ledger of its international engagements. I shall not enter into a controversy with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) with regard to the International Labour Office. I know that the honorable member attended one of its conferences at Geneva as an Australian representative. I believe that many of the points considered at such conferences are of very little importance to the people of Australia, for instance, problems connected with the employment of child labour. For that we should bc entirely thankful. Probably if such matters required attention in this country our delegation to the International Labour Office would be just as large as those of lbc countries to which the honorable member referred. I hope that he was not serious in his contention that we should abandon our identity as an independent State representative at the League of Nations conferences.
– I did not suggest that.
– The honorable member suggested that it was no longer necessary to send a delegation to attend the annual Assembly at Geneva. Some of the countries that are members of the League adopt that practice; but it generally indicates that they no longer take an interest in the work of the League. If the League of Nations fulfils the hopes of its founders, the cost of our annual delegation - £2,500 - is surely worth while. As I have indicated, the honorable member’s proposal would nor in any way relieve Australia of it3 annual contribution of £30,000 towards the upkeep of this splendid organization.
.- I had no intention of speaking upon the League of Nations; but the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Min ‘Curtin) prompt me to do so. Eloquently as the honorable member spoke, he exhibited national shortsightedness when he put the deliberations of the International Labour Office before those of the League of Nations. No one will deny that the gathering together of representatives of the various nations to discuss industrial problems is all to the good; but the assembling of national representatives in an endeavour to bring about universal amity confers a greater’ benefit upon the world.
Like the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), I believe that the League of Nations has not achieved all that was expected of it. At the same time, I realize that it is practically impossible to bring about a complete understanding among the nations. Their differing views, moulded by varying national aspirations, geographical considerations, environment, and so forth, prevent the realization of a complete understanding. But, if by these annual gatherings of representatives of the nations,- they will understand each’ other better, and by that means we may obviate future wars, our little, subscription of £30,000 a year will be well spent. Has the honorable member for Fremantle forgotten that the Great , War cost Australia alone £687,366,236, in addition to bequeathing to us battalions of men who are maimed and shattered in health, and thousands of fatherless children? In addition, Australia lost 60,000 of the flower of her manhood.- Altogether, the Empire lost 1,000,000 .of her sons. We never know how a comparatively small disagreement between nations may lead to a vor Id conflagration. If by sending our representatives to Geneva we can assist to avert another war, the co3t of the delegation is money well spent. It is a great pity that the United States of America is not a member of the League. If that great nation were to join the League, I feel sure that the consummation we all so devoutly desire would be brought much nearer realization.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) said that the League of Nations operates in a negative manner. I do not agree with him. Is he aware that the League settled the line which forms the boundary of the British mandate in Northern Mesopotamia - a most difficult matter? Is he aware that the actions of the League prevented trouble between Italy and Greece when Italy overstepped the bounds and shelled Corfu? Had that action resulted in a war between Italy and Greece, who knows into what hostile camps the nations would have been driven ? Many other instances of its good work could be quoted. We might have had another world war. The world cannot stand another such conflict as that which comparatively .recently convulsed it; nor do honorable members who participated in the struggle desire it. Not by talking disarmament, advocating international brotherhood, or giving Chinese, Indians, and Egyptians false ideas of their worth, will we bring about world peace. Rather will that end be attained by bringing together the civilized nations, and particularly by exerting the influence which the British nation has exhibited in. the past. .The honorable member for Fre-mantle suggested that Britain might well represent Australia at assemblies of the League “of Nations. He. said that Australia could study the agenda; but that Britain could act on her behalf. Honorable members opposite would.be the first to object to such a proposal. It would be unfair to Britain. How could a British representative defend, before the League of Nations, the White Australia policy; or, as I prefer to call it,- the White Australia doctrine ? Already, at an ‘Assembly of the League, that policy has almost been challenged. France feels that it is not a matter for our domestic decision, but one with which the League’ should deal: Other nations have signified their approval of that attitude. Australia has not the man-power to resist an attack. This country is safe only because of its being a portion of the British Empire : if is protected by’ the British Navy. The White Australia doctrine has little more than legislation to back it up : it certainly will not help to maintain international peace. It is Australia’s duty to take her place among the nations of the world at Geneva. Indeed, we should regard it as a great privilege to be permitted to participate in the counsels of the great. It is well known that the United States of America nas one of the nations that took exception to Australia’s separate representation on the League. That country urged that Great Britain should be the only representative of the British Empire. Great Britain fought that battle for us; and seeing that, as a result, Australia has the right to be represented at Geneva, we should avail ourselves of the opportunity to send our delegates there.
I wish now to refer again to the coal industry. This afternoon I protested against the spending of £50,000 on an export bounty for coal and also against the distribution of £100,000 among miners who are to be repatriated. I also pointed to some discrepancies between statements made by the Prime Minister. First, he said that the relief would be granted to miners on the northern coalfields; now we find that the money is to be devoted to assist indigent coalminers in all the States. It is not right that money should be taken from the public .exchequer and given to a militant organization. The Government stands condemned by its partisan action. [Quorum formed.]
When I pointed out this afternoon that these men who sat down for fifteen months and refused to accept work that was offering, and at which they could have earned as wheelers, £7 a week, or as miners, £10 a week, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) said that he threw the statement in my teeth. I take it that he meant to convey that what I said was not true - that the men could not earn those wages. Before quoting figures, which are a complete rebuttal of the honorable member’s statement, let me mention his remark that when I was at Rothbury I worked with “scabs.” In my opinion, the term “scabs” should not be used in this Parliament. It is a foul Communist word to apply to Australians who dared to accept work against the orders of some trade union chiefs. The men whom the honorable member described as “ scabs “ accepted work in the Rothbury mines in order to assist the New South Wales Government. They faced great odds. They were subjected to intimidation, and at times, to attacks. ‘ Indeed, they were able to work only because of the police protection afforded them. I went to Roth bury in order to investigate for myself the trouble at the mine. It is useless for honorable members opposite to say that I set myself up as an authority on coal-mining. I do not. The honorable member for Hunter knows more about coal-mining than I do. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) has already told the committee that the honorable member for Hunter earned £2 a day as a miner - as much as many professional men earn in a day. I do not object to that. Good luck to him if he can get that amount. E went to Rothbury to investigate conditions for myself. I felt that it was better to make an investigation on the spot than to engage in a long-range discussion at Canberra as to, the cause of the trouble in the coal-mining industry. I suggest that when industrial troubles arise, honorable members generally would do well to investigate them on their own account. Economic effects are the same whether the industry affected is coalmining or any other industry. What work I did at Rothbury was only incidental. I found that the labour costs were much too high and that the rates had to come down. They will probably come down lower yet. The honorable member for Hunter said that the coal-miners had been misled. He mentioned that in December last he had advised them to return to work. Did any member of the present Government give the men that advice? They did not. As a Christmas present from the Government the miners were promised £7,000. Later, while still refusing to work, they were offered another £100,000. That amount appears on the Estimates for this year at a time when Australia is almost insolvent. That money is to be distributed among men, 80 per cent, of whom returned to work within two weeks of the resumption. When the present contracts with overseas suppliers of coal cease, most of the men will return to work. Some of them will not work. I do not say that the coal-miners are different from other workmen in Australia. They are equal to, if not better than, the workers in any other country. Of the British troops Napoleon on one occasion said that they were lions led by asses. This also holds good in connexion with organized labour in Australia.
I have here the report of the Royal Commission on the Coal Mining Industry. On page 216, there is a table giving the comparative daily average earnings of miners. In the northern field the average daily earnings of miners were - Greta, 41s.10d. ; Borehole, 30s. 5d. ; Victoria Tunnel, 30s. 5d. ; Great Northern, 31s.1d.; and at GunnedahCurlewis, 27s. a day. At Bulli, in the southern field, the daily average was 28s.1d. On page 218 of the report, the net average earnings per day for contract wheelers are set out. In the northern field, those earnings were - Greta, 29s. 7d. ; Borehole, 23s.; Victoria Tunnel, 24s. 9d.; Great Northern, 21s.1d.; and in the western field, 33s. Those ware the average earnings before the last great industrial upheaval. I admit that those rates were not earned each day during the whole year. There are numerous reasons why these men did not have continuous employment. One reason was that the greater use of gas and electricity had interfered with the coal trade. Victoria was for a long time the industrial vassal of New South Wales in that all her industries closed down whenever the wheelers in the New South Wales coalmines decided to strike. I have previously given some of the grotesque reasons for the strikes which occurred. Men were sent to the mines to work; but, unfortunately, they could not all be fully employed continuously. There are too many of them and different shifts are employed. The coal trade with Victoria was lost because of constant strikes. Victoria developed her own brown coal deposits, and became independent of New South Wales coal; South Australia sent her orders for coal a broad. The coal trade with New Zealand a nd the Near-East was also lost. The men engaged in the mines earn good pay when they work. Why they did not work more continuously is sometimes difficult to determine. Why they lost work when work was offering is, perhaps, their own business, but the fact remains. The Rothbury Colliery is difficult to work on account of the seams being deepand the coal having to be shot from the solid. Yet the wages earned by the so- called “ scabs “ who worked there were satisfactory. I have here some answers given by the Secretary for Mines in the New South Wales Parliament, to questions asked by Mr. Booth as to the average daily wages of the employees engaged in the Rothbury colliery. The Minister replied that the average daily earnings of miners were as follows: -
For the pay period ended 28th December, 1929- £1 2s. 2d.
For the pay period ended 11th January, 1930- £1 2s.6d.
For the pay period ended 25th January. 1930- £15s. 4d.
For the pay period ended 8th February. 1930- £16s. 3d.
For the pay period ended 22nd February. 1930- £1 8s. 9d.
For the pay period ended8th March, 1930 - £1 10s. 8d.
For the pay period ended 22nd March, 1930 £111s. 7d.
For the pay period ended5th April, 1930 - £114s.1d.
For the whole period ended 5th April, 1930 - £1 9s. 2d.
Those rates were earned by men, many of whom had not previously worked in coal-mines. The figures show thai wheelers could earn £7 a week and miners £10 a week if they wanted to. The honorable member for Hunter himself has earned that amount for long periods.
– He is a man of exceptional physique.
– Yes; and he would probably earn more than the average miner, but coal-mining is paid for on a piece-work basis, and a Rothbury miner and wheeler were paid 4s. 4d. per ton between them.
I emphatically object to the Government spending money on this industry. When I said that these men were pampered, I meant that in various ways the public had been exploited by the coalowners and the miners by the gradual raising of prices until the operation of economic laws prevented further increases. The coal-owners agreed to lower their prices, but the miners objected. Now, however, the miners have accepted conditions that were offered to them fifteen months ago, and the Government intends to pay them a bonus. It stands to the everlasting discredit of this Government that it induced the miners to subscribe £1,000 to its election funds. Now the miners are to receive back their own £1.000, and £99,000 in addition. We all remember the promise of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) that, if the Labour party was returned to power, it would open the mines in a fortnight. It is doubtful whether the present Government would have been in office to-day, had it not been for that discreditable promise to the miners, whom it is now endeavouring to placate with ;li is partisan peace-buying money.
.- The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) has stated that the particulars of the earnings attributed to mc were not supplied by Mr. MacDonald, hut that he obtained them from the books in the Pelaw Main office. How did the honorable member get those figures?
– They were sent to me.
– Did not the honorable member got them from Mr. MacDonald?
– I did not cot them where the honorable member said I. obtained them.
– I know the honorable member did, and if he had known anything about coal-mining he would never have quoted them. The earnings mentioned were for contract work, and not for shift work. I was credited at the time with half a day on shift work and half a day on contract work, but the honor.able member has computed the whole of my earnings on’ the basis of time spent on contract work. Of the 80 days referred to by the honorable member, f probably had 40 days on shift work, but the honorable member took it all as contract work. Had he taken these 40 days into consideration he would have found that my average earnings were less than his estimate. I regret that this matter was not mentioned at an earlier date, in order that I might have had an opportunity to’ produce my pay dockets, the whole of which I have at home. I would then have made the honorable member a liar.
– I think that that remark ought to bc withdrawn.
– If the honorable member has alluded to the honorable member for Warringah as a liar, he must withdraw the expression.
– After having had tho . pleasure of saying it, I withdraw it. The figures quoted by the honorable member are incorrect.
– -For every shift the honorable member worked he received £2.
– That is absolutely incorrect. I have never averaged £2 a day for a year in all the years I was employed at the mines.
– The books say that the honorable member did.
– Then the hooks say what is untrue, if the honorable member is referring to my average earnings during the whole period for which I was employed.
The honorable member takes the present Government to task for providing £100,000 for the repatriation of the miners, and says that the money will never be used for that purpose; but J. hope that it will be. The honorable member declares that the miners will not leave the districts in which they now reside. I maintain that they are prepared to go to any part of Australia where employment can bc found by the spending of this £100,000. It is little enough for the repatriation of some 3,000 men in the northern district who arc unemployed. The present average fortnightly period for which the miners are engaged is from four to seven days. When the Labour party was in opposition, the party then in power said that if the miners accepted a reduction in their wages, there would be an increased demand for coal. The late Government took up the cry of the coal-owners. Honorable members opposite object to the granting of £100,000 for the relief of the unemployed miners, but the Bruce-Page Government was prepared to assist the wealthy coal-owners to the extent of from. £400,000 to £450,000, by a subsidy of ls. per ton on an output of from 9,000,000 to 11,000,000 tons per annum.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) never raised his voice in protest against that action.
– That matter was never before Parliament.
– The honorable member is talking rot. Mr. Bruce offered1s. a ton, and the Bavin Government 2s. a ton, if the coal-owners reduced the price by1s. a ton and the miners accepted a reduction of1s. a ton. Even if I did receive the wages mentioned by the honorable member for Warringah, I worked very hard for them, and took a great many grave risks. No coal-miner ever accepted £3,000 to make way for another individual.
– Nor did I.
– That is most remarkable, seeing that the honorable member’s ambition was to enter political life. He had the North Sydney “football” at his feet, and could have kicked it, had he so desired ;but he made way for somebody else who was being ousted from Bendigo.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) referred to the report of the Coal Commission, and quoted the rates per day paid to miners in five instances. He said that those were only a few illustrations of the high wages received, but he should not have selected the best collieries; he should have given averages.
– I said nothing about averages. I instanced those figures in order to show what high wages could be earned in the industry.
– If the honorable member had turned to pages 212 and 213 of the report he would have noticed lists of average wages earned, and would have seen that they were nowhere near from £7 to £10 per week. The following table shows the average fortnightly pay of contract and wage-workers, excluding salaried employees, employed for the year ended 30th June, 1928. The pay shown includes net earnings, overtime, and workers’ compensation: -
In another table there is a general summary of the average earnings of employees, other than salaried staff, during the year ended the 30th June, 1929. It is as follows: -
In connexion with these figures, the report stated-
As explained previously the period ended 30th June, 1928, was characterized by unprecedented intermittency, coupled with a degree of “cavilling out”. These factors, taken in conjunction with the temporary suspension of operations at certain mines during the acute depression, render the average annual earnings of mine-workers for the period chosen, lower than in a normal period, when intermittency and unemployment were less.
I disagree with the finding of the commission in that regard. The fact is that when men are working on short time and know that the whistle blows for no work for a day or two, they work harder than when they know that they can come to work in the ordinary way on the following morning. When the average number of days worked per week is less than the normal number, the average earnings per day are higher. I think honorable members generally will agree that a man doing hard manual work for, say, four days per week can do more per day than the man working five or six days per week. It is humanly impossible for the ordinary man to maintain an output of 20 or 25 skips per day over a long period.
The report also referred at some length to the number of men who fail to earn the basic wage. In this connexion it said -
There were marked variations in respect of individual earnings on the different seams as shown in the appendices referred to.
Slightly more than one-fifth of miners employed for the full year earned less than’ the basic wage then’ prevailing under State awards. The greater number of these worked in the Newcastle and southern districts. The remaining four-fifths were distributed in approximately equal proportions in groups with average pay respectively from £4 5s. to £5 per week; from £5 to £6 per week ; from £6 to £7 per week ; and from £7 to £14 per week.
It will be seen from the following table, which appears on page 215 of the commission’s report, that a very small percentage of the men earned more than £12 per fortnight, while over 1,000 of them earned less than the basic wage: -
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) said that he was the only member of this Parliament who visited Rothbury colliery with the object of obtaining first-hand information; but honorable members on this side of the chamber who represent industrial constituencies are well informed of the nature of the work in which the majority of their constituents are engaged, and know the details of the awards relating thereto. I knew very well the conditions under which the miners were working prior to the trouble. I knew, also, that the coal-owners had refused to allow the men to continue to work under award conditions. In this connexion, the royal commission reported -
The action of the proprietors in closing the mines as they did was in complete conflict with the statutory principles of compulsory arbitration, and in complete disregard of the interests of the community.
In another place it reported as follows : -
If the Hibble awards were valid and exist ing on 2nd March, 1920, ‘and the owners appeared to act on them in giving fourteen days’ notice, there could be no excuse for disobeying them. Evidence showed that some, at least, of the proprietors were financially able to comply with them.
Had the honorable member for Balaclava studied the report a little more carefully, he would not have had the audacity to assert that many miners were earning from £7 to £10 per week. I have never denied that on one occasion I averaged £2 per day for a fortnight; but the statement of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) that I averaged £2 per day for a year was absolutely incorrect. As a matter of fact, a very small percentage of the coal-miners earned £10 per week for short periods. The cavilling system makes it impossible for them to earn more. A man might be working in a good cavil for three months, and earn £2 per day during that period ; but in the next three months he might find it very difficult, in another cavil, to earn even the minimum wage. My wages have often been made up to the minimum of 22s. per day, because it has been impossible for me to earn that amount where I have been working. I have been unable to earn the minimum wage of 22s. a day. It is a hard thing to assess a man’s average earnings because four times a year he changes places, and deductions such as for check weighmen doctor’s fees, and hospital contributions are not considered. I hope that this grant of £100,000 and even more, will be made.
– I wish to draw attention to item 23, on page 270 of the Estimates, in which it is proposed to make £100,000 available 1’ir assistance in co-operation with the States towards employment of surplus coal-miners. This item should not appear un the Commonwealth Estimates. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Warringah say that there was practically no unemployment amongst coalminers at the present time. I have not yet had time to read through the commission’s report, but I hope to do so. I understand, however, that there are still many unemployed miners who are likely to remain without employment because some of the less productive mines will have to remain closed. It is, I believe, the recommendation of the commission that the less productive mines should not open, even if it should be necessary to compensate them for remaining closed. Mines, which could bc worked profitably when coal was dear, cannot he so worked now. Operations must be confined to mines which are rich, and from which the coal is easily won. It is true that, if there are many miners whose occupation cannot find employment for them, some effort should be made to place them in other industries. I understand that private enterprise is considering the expenditure of a considerable sum of money on testing out the practicability of extracting crude oil in larger quantities from shale. Perhaps it will be possible to use many of the unemployed miners in this industry. Although I recognize that something should be done for the unemployed miners, I object to this item on the Estimates for the same reason that I object to the grant of £1,000,000 to the States for the relief of unemployment. Both grants are entirely outside the province of the Commonwealth Government. The relief of unemployment is a State responsibility, and the Commonwealth has many responsibilities which are peculiarly its own. Three of these involve an annual expenditure of more than £50,000,000 a year. £30,000,000 a year has to be found for our war commitments - for interest and sinking fund on our war debt, and for soldiers’ pensions. We hand over £9,000,000 to the States as our share of the interest and sinking fund on State debts, including various special grants to certain States. Further, £11,000,000 is devoted to the payment of invalid and old-age pensions, and in view of these crushing burdens which the Commonwealth alone must carry and which are becoming almost greater than we can bear, it is absurd for the Government quite unnecessarily to invade the province of State responsibilities to add further to our Commonwealth burden. I do not know whether it is an excess of paternalism or a desire to gain political credit which induces the Government to do these tilings, but I regard it as an unwarranted interference with State responsibility. 1 also oppose the proposal to grant £50,000,000 to be spent in co-operation with the States in the recovery of our export coal trade. Whatever view wo might have held some time ago on providing Commonwealth funds for the payment of an export bounty on coal, the position to-day is that our resources are so depleted that we cannot afford to take any such action. Both these items should be struck out of the Estimates altogether.
– I desire to refer again to the proposed vote for tobacco investigation. Earlier in the evening I said that while I agreed entirely with the recommendation of the select committee to establish a department in Canberra on the lines indicated, I found myself in corresponding disagreement with its recommendation as to tariff protection. I contend that the alternative tariff recommendations are not justified by the evidence given before the committee. It is interesting to compare the relative import duties imposed by the United States of America and Canada with those operating in Australia. Here we levy a duty of 3s. 6d. per lb., plus 2i per cent, primage duty. In the United States of America the duty is ls. 5d. per lb., and in Canada it is ls. 8d. per lb. If it is possible for the United States of America and Canada to produce surplus stocks of leaf for export with an import duty of 50 per cent, less than that imposed in Australia, it should be possible for Australia to carry on at least with its existing duty, unless there is some special set of reasons which definitely prevent it. It is quite clear from the evidence heard by the select committee, and from that given by Mr. Slagg in Canberra on the 22nd May, that the small use of Australian leaf is accounted for by its quality not being sufficiently high, and he pointed out that the remedy lies, not in increased tariff assistance to the growers, but in experimentation and research work to improve the quality and increase the yield of high-grade leaf. An examination of the evidence makes it clear that it was those growers who are producing dark tobacco - that is, the lowgrade leaf - who desired higher protection, not those who were producing the light, or lemon coloured leaf, as it is called. This point was emphasized by Mr. Murphy, a well-known grower, of the Stawell district in Victoria. He said that those growers who wanted the excise duty reduced were growing a class of tobacco which it was very difficult to sell. The growers who make this claim are in a majority, and their main desire is to bring down the quality of the tobacco which the consumers use to the level of inferior Australian leaf, instead of trying to raise the standard of Australian leaf to that of the imported leaf. Such persons would not be satisfied until they could secure a prohibitive duty on all imported leaf. A claim of that nature should never be supported by those who wish to encourage the tobaccogrowing industry in Australia. I am convinced that every further impost levied will have the effect of decreasing the consumption of .imported leaf in Australia with no corresponding increase - this is the important point - in the quality of tobacco produced in Australia. Such a policy would not result in increasing the production of bright leaf ; but, on the contrary, would encourage growers to continue producing a quality of leaf which is not wanted in Australia to-day. In view of the number of employees engaged in the secondary industry of tobacco manufacture and the revenue which the Commonwealth Government receives from import and excise duties, too much stress cannot be laid upon this aspect of the subject. All the evidence points to the one conclusion that the industry is of great importance to Australia, and that its development can be extended only by scientific research in order to ensure improvement in the cultural methods of the growers and the production of a leaf of lighter quality. I do not think any reasonable opposition can be offered to the vote, and I trust that it will be passed so that there will be some better opportunity to establish more firmly the growing industry in Australia with departmental head-quarters in Canberra, as recommended by the committee.
.- 1 wish to say a few words in connexion with the tobacco-growing industry. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) reminded the committee that I opposed the motion for the appointment of a select committee when the motion was before the House some time ago. After reading the report and recommendations of the committee I realize more than ever that the action I took on that occasion was justified. 1 understand that the committee held 34 sittings in four of the States, that 85 witnesses were called, and that no fewer than 6,245 questions were asked. The approximate cost of printing and publishing the report was £413, but I suppose a moderate estimate of the cost of this precious document would be £2,000 or £3,000. I have no hesitation in saying that it is one of the most disappointing reports ever presented to Parliament. Its contents show that there was no warrant whatever for the committee’s extensive inquiries. The report and the evidence are not worth the value of the paper on which they are printed. I shall endeavour to support that assertion by reading the colourless and useless summary of the committee’s recommendation to Parliament. The first recommendation reads, “ That no bounty be paid by the Federal Government on Australian-grown leaf”. That is a very foolish recommendation to make to this Government. We know that the Government will, in all probability, grant a bounty to this industry. It certainly will if any one interested in the industry suggests that a bounty is desirable. It is a modest and foolish recommendation. In view of this Government’s fiscal policy the second recommendation is even more foolish. It reads : “ That further protection be imposed to support this industry.” It is totally unnecessary to advise the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton), that this or’ any other industry requires further protection. The Minister believes, as he has already shown, that every Australian industry requires further protection, so why spend two or three thousands of pounds in making an unnecessary recommendation of that nature. The third recommendation is “ That the federal investigation work hitherto carried on with the financial assistance from the British- Australasian Tobacco Company Limited, should be carried on by the Federal Department presided over by a federal director,” &c. That is the main recommendation in this most expensive report. What does it mean? That we are to cut off a big voluntary subscription towards tobacco investigation work, which has previously been made by the British-Australasian Tobacco Company Limited. As the committee points out, during the last 25 years this company has spent £75,000 in encouraging tobacco culture in Australia. At present the company, in co-operation with the Commonwealth, is contributing £20,000 over a period of three years, upon investigation work. When that amount is expended the company undertakes, if progress in development warrants further investigation, to contribute another £30,000. At present, when the financial position is so acute, this committee has recommended the Government to abandon this £20,000 provided by the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company Limited, and that the Commonwealth Government should finance the investigation work without outside assistance. What is the object of such a recommendation ? The alternative recommended is to appoint a federal director at Canberra who is to have the assistance of six to twelve experts in various sections of the work. The honorable member for Indi is supporting a Government which severely criticized its predecessors for spending money on the appointment of boards and commissions, but this recommendation means the appointment of another expensive and entirely unnecessary department. The other three recommendations have a similarly slender basis. It is evident that what I said when speaking on this subject some months ago is correct. The appointment of this select committee was entirely unnecessary. It has apparently been found that the work of tobacco cultivation and the preparation of tobacco leaf within the Commonwealth is most satisfactory.
The absence of any criticism, or of any proposed change of methods, is an evidence of that. This report fully justifies the attitude that I adopted when the proposal for the appointment of the select committee was before this chamber last year. At times there has been a suggestion in this Parliament that the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company has not treated the Australian growers fairly - in fact, has exploited them. I am pleased, therefore, that the select committee has found that charge to be unsubstantiated. The report is to the effect that the company has dealt fairly, and, in some respects, generously, by the Australian grower. I congratulate the select committee on its candor, and even ite generosity in its references to the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company. Paragraph 79 of its report reads -
The committee submitted Mr. Bentley and Mr. Lough, two representatives oi the company, to a lengthy and searching crossexamination on all phases of the company’s activities in relation to the Australian growers. The questions were all answered freely and frankly, with an evident desire to conceal nothing which the committee considered relevant to the inquiry.
In many other directions the select committee appears to have found no foundation for the charges against the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company. I am sorry to have to say that this report is one of the most valueless documents ever presented to this Parliament as a result of an extensive and expensive investigation.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Refunds of Revenue, £1,100,000; Advance to the Treasurer £2,000,000, agreed to.
Grant to States TOWARDS Relief of Unemployment.
Proposed vote, £1,000,000.
– This grant is to be given to the States towards the relief of unemployment. I have already stated that, because of what is being done in this direction by the different States, this grant is unnecessary, and that it is not the duty of the Federal Government to contribute money towards the relief of unemployment in the States. It would be far better to leave the money in the pockets of industry, so that a large number of men who will be dismissed because of the increased burden that this form of taxation imposes upon industry may be retained in their employment. This money is to be distributed among the States, on the condition that award rates are paid. This grant, therefore, cannot be utilized for assisting the rural industries of Queensland, because award rates do not apply in that State. The same position obtains in New South “Wales. If the Government insists on award rates being paid, at least Queensland and New South Wales will not be able to participate in the grant.
– They will have to provide by way of taxation at least threefifths of that £1,000,000.
– That is so. I doubt whether South Australia will be able to pay award rates. Those States will be taxed in order to raise this money. It is clear that, in providing this money, the Government is making a political gesture, as it has already done in respect of many other items in the Estimates. I should not oppose this expenditure if it would render the least advantage to the bona fide unemployed of this country. But I am perfectly satisfied that under the conditions imposed, it cannot be used to advantage. The taxation involved in raising this money will throw out of work more men than will be given employment by its expenditure. I understand that one of the States has already said that the only use that it can make of the grant is to give sustenance to the unemployed.
– What is wrong with that?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.The object of this grant is, not to give sustenance to the unemployed, but to relieve unemployment. This expenditure of £1,000,000 is to benefit manual labourers only. But what about the clerical workers, of whom there are many thousands out of work? Are they to participate in this grant, or the sum of £3,000.000 to be raised in New South Wales? Is nothing to be done for the clerical worker who, because of the excessive taxation imposed by this Government upon the people, is thrown out of employment? Are there no supporters of the Labour party among the clerical workers of this country? Are they and women workers not to be given consideration? I defy the Minister to show that the clerical workers will receive ls. of this £1,000,000 grant except by way of sustenance.
– The clerical workers a re taking, their chance of working with a pick and shovel.
– When a man. who has been a bank clerk or in an accountant’s office all his life, who has reached the age of 50 or 60 years, and has a wife and family to support, is thrown out of employment because of the heavy taxation imposed by this Government, all that he is to be offered is pick and shovel work, a class of work to which he iB totally unaccustomed. I am complaining of that. It is as ridiculous to take them out of the grooves in which they have been working all their lives and ask them to take on pick and shovel work as it would be to ask the man who has been doing pick and shovel work all his life to take up a sedentary calling. In all these schemes, not a single thought has been given to the distress and misery of unemployed clerical workers, and it is to the eternal shame of the present Government that it should be careful of only one section of the community - the section which it regards as its own particular supporters, leaving entirely out of consideration a large section of citizens who are probably more in need of assistance than many manual labourers. I supported the proposal of the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) that the census should be taken next year, even at a cost of £300,000, first, because I thought it necessary that the population figures should be kept up to date, and, secondly, because it would at least afford some employment to clerical workers. I challenge the Minister to show that a single £1 has been provided on these Estimates to help this class of workers.
– This is a fine propaganda speech.
– The honorable member can say that if he likes, but every time I go to Sydney I am met by almost a procession of men who have been all their lives in clerical occupations and have come to beg me to try to get them into temporary work in the post office, the Taxation Department, or some other Government department, or some private employment. I spend the greater part of my time when I am. in Sydney acting as a peripatetic labour organizer looking for work for these men. But when I apply to the department administering the money which is contributed by the citizens for unemployed relief I am told that it is not for that class of worker. A most deserving class of citizen is entirely ignored. The grossest injustice is done to it by a Government which claims to represent all sections of the community, and particularly those who are unemployed. Again I challenge a Minister to show me a single thing that has been done to give these men relief. There is not the faintest contradiction to my charge that clerical workers of all kinds are being utterly neglected. In many respects their position is infinitely worse than that of the average manual labourer. They have their families to maintain and have to keep up a good appearance - a necessity that does not always fall upon the manual worker - and they have to keep up a stout heart and when seeking work maintain a face apparently impervious to the troubles they are meeting. They have to contribute taxation so that unemployed schemes may be launched. They have to pay sales tax, primage duties and customs duties. Out of any money they may earn they have to find some of this £1,000,000, but do not get a farthing of it spent upon themselves. They might not exist so far as this Government is concerned. I conclude by charging the Government, first, with putting into theseEstimates a political gesture in the shape of £1,000,000, which it will have to get by dipping into the people’s pockets; secondly, with accentuating the unemployed position, because if it left this money in the ‘ people’s pockets more clerical workers could be kept in their positions, and thirdly, with being utterly callous to the sufferings of the. unemployed clerical workers of the coun try, inasmuch as not a single shilling has been provided to succour them in their time of dire distress.
.- To some extent the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) hai struck a note which indicates the seriousness of the unemployed problem, but 1 disagree with him when he says that although £1,000,000 is being made available to help the unemployed, a certain class of worker is not covered. I remind the honorable member that the present position of these clerical workers is due to the fact that parliamentarians of his type and politics have always refused to enact a scheme of unemployment insurance. Had they done so the whole position would have been altered.
– There is nothing to prevent the present Government from bringing in a scheme of unemployment insurance.
– In the election campaign of 1925 the party to which the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) belonged claimed that the greatest cause of industrial unrest was unemployment, and the electors were told that if the Nationalists were returned to power they would solve the problem by establishing a scheme of unemployment insurance. They were returned, to power, but all they did to carry out their promise was to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the subject of national insurance. We know that’ in the States - the latest example is in Victoria - the Nationalist party has done nothing to bring about a system of unemployment insurance. In Victoria, the Upper House, composed chiefly of Nationalists, has refused to pass ‘legislation designed, not to cure this evil, but at least to afford to that class of workers whose claims the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) has so stoutly advocated, some kind of income when thrown out of work. I regret that the £1,000,000 oil these Estimates is not £20,000,000. Iri twelve months time it will probably be £8,000,000 or £9,000,000. Surely honorable members must realize that this wave of unemployment is not due to financial depression, droughts, or the low price of wheat or wool. The unemployment in this country and in every country to-day is due to the evolution of industry and the displacement of manual labour by machinery. The latest example is a machine at the Yallourn mine in Victoria, which digs and actually loads on trucks 4,000 tons of coal a day. That has had the effect of displacing between 100 and 150 working miners. I believe that, within the next year, unemployment will become worse. The Government is hopeful that its high tariff will have the effect of establishing new industries; but I do not believe that it will result in the absorption of many men within the next eight or nine months. Honorable members opposite are business men, and as leaders of industry must admit that a scheme of national insurance will have, to be evolved at an early date by this Parliament, with a view to correcting the hideous state of affairs that now exists. When this party came into office, it succeeded some of the biggest political and financial blunderers that Australia has ever known. During the seven years of Nationalist rule, the ratio of unemployment increased from 6 per cent, to 13 per cent., despite the fact that those were years of unprecedented prosperity, when revenues were colossal in magnitude and loan money exceptionally plentiful. Honorable members opposite built up an army that to-day is theatening, not only political parties, but even the national life of Australia. I repeat that when this committee is discussing the Estimates twelve months hence, the provision for the relief of unemployment will be, not £1,000,000, but £9,000,000.
– Where will it come from?
– The people will insist upon a realization of the fact that either work or sustenance must be provided. Some consideration will have to be paid to the lives and the well-being of our citizens. This Government would have made history on the present occasion had it trebled the amount that has been provided.
– And increased taxation accordingly.
– Perhaps so. As a result of this Government’s administration there have been no reductions and no dismissals. At the earliest available’ opportunity those men who have been retrenched will be restored to their former positions. I am not satisfied that it is sound business practice to make money available to the States without enforcing its speedy allocation to the relief of unemployment. There is too much delay on account of overlapping.
– If the State Parliaments were left to deal with unemployment there would be no overlapping.
-No State government, except the Queensland Government, had money available for this purpose until it passed legislation to raise it. The Queensland Government had £3,000,000 which the Labour Government that preceded it left to it. If this Parliament had the control it should have, greater celerity would be observed in the provision of work. The best judges of whether this Government has done right in making that miserable £1,000,000 available for the relief of unemployment are the working people, and I am prepared to leave the decision to them.
– I was specially interested to hear the honorable member’s recantation of all the pre-election promises of the Labour party. When that party went to the country at the last election it promised to do away with unemployment immediately and so practically to bring in the millennium. Now, however, we are told that though the Labour Government is in office unemployment will be still worse next year. The honorable member has suggested that the position will be straightened out without delay by the establishment of a national insurance scheme. He cannot be the mouthpiece of the Government, because his statement conflicts with that of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) on this subject less than a month ago. In his budget speech the right honorable gentleman said that a sound national insurance scheme, which extended to unemployment, would be particularly valuable if it had a sufficient length of time to operate, but that it would be a calamity to introduce such a scheme in abnormal times. His actual words were -
The number of unemployed workers in the Commonwealth has grown steadily during the last eighteen months.
For nine, months of that period the Labour .Government has been in office. The- honorable, member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) now asserts that unemployment will continue ,to grow steadily. This Government has brought into operation a great number of tariffs and prohibitions, as a result of which scores of thousands have been thrown out of work, despite the promise of the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) that jobs would be created for hundreds of thousands by the illusory industries that were to be established. The Prime Minister went on to say, and this is the complete answer to the statements of the honorable member for. Bendigo -
A sound national insurance scheme extended to unemployment, if it had operated a sufficient length of time, would have gone a long way towards mitigating the distress endured by the workers in the present crisis. Such schemes, however, imposing as they do additional charges upon industry, should be initiated only in normal times, when there is a reasonable prospect that through a succession of prosperous years insurance funds will be built up with sufficient strength to withstand the heavy drain in times of 6tress.
That is the considered policy of the Government. The remarks of the. honorable member for Bendigo are as far from the truth as were most of the figures that he quoted. Since the accession of this Government to office Australia has experienced a very great increase in unemployment. That is due to the policy pursued by the Government of preventing the normal trade of the country being carried out. There would have been sufficient dislocation of industry by reason of the reduced prices of wool and wheat, due to the lowered purchasing power of the other countries of the world restricting their imports. But this Government comes along and says, “ We will make certain that practically every importing and distributing concern in the country will have less to do.” As the Government is responsible for throwing so many out of work, it has imposed upon itself an obligation to try to provide employment for the people. The methods that it is pursuing will tend to increase their unemployment hardships, because it is taking more and more money from industry, and merely aggravating the position.
How will the Government raise the money that it proposes to hand out in this fashion? It talks a lot of award rates being paid to the workers though its method of raising money reduces wages. It is very interesting to notice that while those conditions are to be imposed in the States, the Federal Government is not applying them to work carried out in the Federal Capital Territory. Here we have the Government that talks so much about helping the workers handing out food orders to the value of 3s. and 9s. a week to single men, and 12s. 6d. and 18s. and 22s. 6d. a week to married men with families. It made no effort to provide work for clerical workers, as could have* been done, for instance, by taking the decennial census. Instead, it imposes sales taxes and primage duties upon every one in the community whether he is in work or not, and so increases the already inflated cost of living. ‘ In effect, the Government says, “Here is a man who is down and out; who Kas not enough to buy the necessary food for his wife and family. To help him we will impose a primage duty of 24 per cent, on all goods that come into the country, and a sales tax on practically anything that is manufactured in Australia, so that everything he has to buy is dearer.” It acts in a glorious spirit of abandon, imposing taxes indiscriminately in all directions, but particularly upon the poor. It how proposes to raise an additional £1,000^000 and hand it to the States to alleviate unemployment. Speaking as’ ‘a New South Welshman as well as ‘an’ Australian, I stigmatize the action of the1 Government as scandalous.
– Is there any primage or sales tax on bread?
– There is on practically almost every necessity of life, including boots, shoes, clothing, cakes and biscuits, and even on the bed covering that is necessary to keep the workers warm in winter. The New South Wales Government, which has to find a goodly proportion of this £1,000,000, says, “ We think that the right way to help the unemployed is to ask the employed to contribute something out of their superfluity to help those who are in want.” It is not asking those who are out of work to submit themselves to additional taxation by the indirect means employed by the Commonwealth Government. The New South Wales Government is setting aside £3,000,000 to alleviate unemployment, and it contemplates spending the amount in wise, reproductive ways.One instance recently came under my notice, the extension of a hydro-electric power scheme from t he Clarence River to Kempsey, at a cost of £100,000. That money was not available from the banks because of the tightness of the money market, but it is to be ear-marked out of this special fund. By that means work will be provided for men to cut and haul the poles in the bush, for others to make copper wire at Port Kembla, and for still more to dig the necessary post holes and lay the t ransmission lines. All of that work will be of permanent benefit to the people of the country. Victoria and Queensland. also have schemes to cope with their unemployment problems. Those three States contribute approximately three- quarters of the total taxation of the Commonwealth, and will find out of the taxation of their people about £750,000 of this unemployment grant, which is to be taken from the peoplein an indirect and injurious way, that must particularly hurt the poorest in the community. Thesales tax is an inverted income tax, falling upon the poor man, whereas a graduated income tax is paid by those who arebest able to pay. WhileI have a keendesire that everybody in the country shall be in productive work at the earliest possible moment, I believe that this move of the Government will do more to retard our recovery and to add to unemployment than any other that could be conceived. Its basis is altogether wrong, and Ishall oppose it to the uttermost.
.- I cannot but be fascinated with the manner in which honorable members opposite have endeavoured to make the items contained in the present Estimates a sort of tag upon which to hang an attack upon t he general policy of the Government with respect to unemployment. Whatever the proposals of the Government, as set out in the Estimates, they appear to think that they are entitled to blame it for the present unemployment. Indeed, they have gone to no end of trouble to induce the people to believe that it is responsible.
– The present Government is responsible for more than half of the existing unemployment.
– That is not so. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) extolled the organizations of the States and the manner in which they are grappling with the problem of. unemployment. This item refers to a proposal to give them £1,000,000 without any condition whatever.
– No conditions other than those affecting wages and conditions of employment are to be imposed. There is nothing to say whether the work is to be carried out by contract or by day labour as was the case in connexion with the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. There is no attempt by the Government to invade, the sovereign authority of the States in determining what means shall be employed to get the work done.
– The present Government is curtailing the sovereign rights of the States in the field of taxation.
– The States have the machinery for carrying out essential public works. The Government’s proposal will enable those works to be started earlier than would otherwise be possible.
– The States have not yet received1s. of the £1,000,000.
– Would the honorable member stand for the Treasurer handing over to the States £1,000,000 without first having received the authority of Parliament? The right honorable member for Cowper said that the Government’s taxation proposals are ruinous. He asked where the money would come from. The heaviest taxation ever imposed in this country was that levied by the Government of which the right honorable member was Treasurer. Let me place on record a few facts in this connexion. Commonwealth taxation in 1919 amounted to approximately £32,000,000; in 1929, it was £56,000,000. I submit that despite all the talk about increased taxation, primage duty, sales tax, income tax and customs embargoes in which honorable members opposite have indulged, the proposals of the Government do not represent any substantial increase on the taxation burden which the industries of this country will have to bear this year. In 1926-27, the right honorable member for’ Cowper, as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, collected £48,552,000 from indirect taxation. For the financial year ending June, 1931, customs and excise duties and sales tax - which may be described as indirect taxation - are expected to yield £44,700,000. That is an increase of about £1,200,000 on the indirect taxation collected for the year ended 30th June, 1927. The direct taxation collected for that year amounted to £15,442,000; the estimate of the current financial vear is £14,970,000.
– At a very much higher rate.
– The total taxation, both direct and indirect, collected for 1926-27 amounted to £58,994,000. It is estimated that this year £59,670,000 will be received.
– In addition to about £1,500,000 through the post office.
– For the current financial year the Government will have to find £11,400,000 for invalid and old-age pensions as agains £9,034,000 in 1926-27. War pensions this year will require £7,957,000 as compared with £7,558,000 for 1926-27. This year the Government lias to find £26,699,000 for interest and sinking fund charges on Commonwealth obligations. For 1926-27 those commitments amounted to £24,059,000. Whereas in 1926-27. the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), as Treasurer, had to find £40,651,000 for invalid, old-age and war pensions, and interest and sinking fund charges, the Government this year has to find £46,056,000 under the same heading. That is to say, an additional amount of about £5,500,000 has to be found this year for those special appropriations. Yet the Government proposes to increase taxation by only about £750,000. We must not forget that the country did not pay its way during the years that the Bruce-Page Government governed it.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I have allowed the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) considerable latitude, but I must now ask him to confine his remarks to the item before the Chair.
– The general policy of the Government has been attacked on the ground that, instead of providing employment it has increased unemployment and has enormously increased taxation. In order to show the fallacy of that argument I have made a comparison of the Government’s proposals for the present financial year with the actual figures for 1926-27. I remind the committee that the present Government has inherited from the late Government some undesirable legacies. The policy of drift encouraged by that Government had to come to an end. To effect that end the present Government decided that imports must be regulated. That meant a reduction of employment on the wharfs. It is true thai during the past five or six months unemployment in Australia has increased ; but I submit that the position would have been much worse had the late Government remained in office.
– In 1929, compared with 1923, the percentage of unemployment in Australia had doubled. The very fact that unemployment had become a grievous evil, and was perplexing the late Government, is shown by the fact that it gave special instructions to the Development and Migration Commission to survey the problem. That commission reported on the causes of the trouble, and the circumstances which had led to the increase in its severity. The report submitted to the late Government is, in itself, a condemnation of all that that Ministry managed to do when it was in power.
I agree with the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) that clerical workers occupy a place in the economic life of the community which makes it very difficult to find work for them when unemployment is on the increase, the assistance which governments usually provide in the way of employment mostly benefiting manual labourers. The honorable member concluded his speech without making a single suggestion, other than that a census should be taken. I remind him that only last week he voted for a. proposal which would have reduced Commonwealth expenditure by £4,000,000. . How - mam clerical workers would have been thrown put of employment if that proposal had been adopted?
– Fewer, because that amount of extra money would have been in the pockets of the employers, who would have been able to keep more of those men in. work.
– The honorable member is a marvel! How many manual workers has the Commonwealth directly employed? Comparatively few. That is the reason why £1,000,000 is being made available to the States. I submit that the great majority of the persons employed by the Commonwealth are clerical workers of one type or another, and any reduction in Commonwealth expenditure must inevitably be reflected in the reduced volume of clerical employment that the Commonwealth has to offer. Honorable members opposite do not shape their arguments to the particular proposals before the committee, but they bear in mind the effect that they hope their words will have on the people. The honorable member for Warringah thinks that £1,000,000 ought not to be provided in “ the Estimates for unemployment, and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) considers that the sum set down is insufficient. I also think that it is inadequate. I would agree to the granting of a larger sum, because taxation levied by the Commonwealth is more uniform than that imposed by the States, where the income tax rates vary. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) said that four-fifths of this £1,000,000 would be raised in New South Wales.
– I said that fourfifths would come from New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
– After all, the burden of taxation bears no more heavily upon the individual citizens of New South Wales, than upon those of South Australia or Western Australia.
– The party opposite is screwing £40,000,000 out of the workers, irrespective of their ability to pay.
– My answer to that remark is that this Government is taking less from the people through the cus toms than was- collected by, the late Government.
I believe that this Parliament should undertake its share of responsibility for the relief of unemployment. It must cooperate with the States in endeavouring to provide work for those who need it, and the granting of £1,000,000 shows that the Government recognizes its responsibilities with the States.
.- It has been interesting to hear the belated speech on the budget by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin). Apparently, since he had prepared the figures to which he has just treated us, he insisted on working them off. He has presented to the committee some crude, unanalysed figures of Commonwealth receipts from taxation, and he has done so in a manner intended to lead tq the conclusion that really -there has been no substantial increase in taxation this year. He referred particularly to the year 1926-27 for purposes of comparison. The budget papers for the current year, at page 5, show that the receipts from taxation, direct and indirect, for 1926-27, amounted to £58,994,809. In that year there was a surplus of about £2,500,000. In 1927-28, the receipts from taxation amounted to £56,637,858; in 1928-29, £56,303,489; and in 1929-30, the first year in which the present Government was in office, £58,187,775. In the latter year there was a deficit of £1,400,000. The estimated total receipts from taxation for 1930-31 are £59,670,000.
In the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, the actual indirect taxation for 1929-30 is shown, on page XII., as £41,774,391, and the estimate for this year as £44,700,000. The actual direct taxation for 1929-30 is shown as £16,413,384, and the estimate for this year as £14,970,000. The total figures are:- 1929-30* £58,187,775; 1930-31. £59,670,000, the increase being £1,482,225. It is quite useless, therefore, to pretend, apart altogether from the figures for the post office, that there has not been a very substantial increase in taxation this year.
In referring to unemployment, the honorable member said, in a tone that carried conviction with it, and made honorable members feel that he had really looked up the facts, that the 1921-22 figure for unemployment was 6 per cent. I have in my hand the Year-Booh for 1923, which shows, at page 576, that in 1921 the unemployment figure was 11.2 per cent., and that in 1922 it was 9.2 per cent. The figures for the respective quarters in 1922 were as follow: - 9.2 per cent., 9.6 per cent., 9.6 per cent., 8.6 per cent.
Mr.Curtin. - What is the figure for 1923?
– That figure is not given in this volume, but it is immaterial, because the honorable member said that the 1921-22 figure was 6 per cent., whereas the 1921 figure was 11.2 per cent., and 1922 figure, 9.2 per cent. So much for the accuracy of the honorable member’s figures. At the end of the September quarter of last year, the figure was 12.1 per cent. On the 12th October an election occurred. During the campaign which preceded it, the electors were invited to believe the promises of the propagandists of the Labour party that Labour, if returned to power, would reduce unemployment. In an election leaflet “authorized by E. G. Theodore, Campaign Director,” this statement was made -
There are more than 120,000 workers in the Commonwealth who are willing to work but are unable to find employment.
There are now, at a reasonable estimate at least, 250,000 out of work. The leaflet also, stated-
Labour will remedy this evil and will also provide a national scheme of insurance against unemployment.
The “remedy” has resulted in an increase in the figures from 120,000 to 250,000.
As to the promise that a national unemployment insurance scheme would be submitted to Parliament, I agree with the common-sense statement that, at present, it would be foolish, if not impossible, to bring in an effective national unemployment scheme. I am glad that the Prime Minister and his Government have had the courage to say that a scheme of that nature cannot be introduced at present, even though the statement is inconsistent with the election promises that were made on behalf of the Labour party.
Another promise made during the election campaign was, “ Constant employment”; but since the 12th October, our unemployment figures have increased successively from 12.1 per cent to 13.1 per cent., to 14.5 per cent., and now they stand at 18.5 per cent. I have never asserted that the Government is solely responsible for this increase in unemployment. I do not consider that unemployment is the result merely of governmental action. I have never associated myself with any statements that may have been made in this chamber to the effect that this, or any other, Government was solely responsible for unemployment; but as a member of the last Government, I was constantly taunted with the fact that unemployment was increasing, and that the mere existence of it was a reproach to the Government. If there had been a scintilla of substance in the statements made by honorable members opposite during the many years they were in opposition, to the effect that the Government of the day was responsible for unemployment - apart altogether from the fact that it had never promised during an election campaign, or at any other time, that it would abolish unemployment - this Government should have been able to cope with the situation effectively. The previous Government did not promise to abolish unemployment, because it knew that neither it nor any other government could guarantee to abolish it. But, as a matter of fact, unemployment has increased by 50 per cent. since this Government came into office. What is the hope held out that the Government will yet be able to abolish unemployment? The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) put it clearly when he said that £1,000,000 was being provided for the relief of unemployment this year, and that he looked forward to £10,000,000 being provided for this purpose next year. That statement is a condemnation of the Government’s policy from one of its own supporters.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the sum already voted for such services, there be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1930-31, for the several services hereunder specified; a sum not exceeding £24,840,529.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That towards making good the supply granted to His Hajesty for the services of the year 1929-30 there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £17,204,259.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Scullin and Mr. Fenton do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Scullin, and read a first and second time.
.- I desire to enter a most emphatic protest against this bill being passed without Parliament having had an opportunity to discuss the tariff schedules. The first schedule was introduced nearly eight months ago, and since then schedule after schedule has been brought down; but no opportunity has been furnished for discussing them. Nothing could be more disgraceful than that the people should be taxed as they are under the tariff schedules, simply on orders issued by the government of the day. I hope that honorable members on both sides of the House will realize that the people are being taxed in this way without Parliament having had any say in the matter.
.- I support what the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has said in regard to the tariff and I wish also to protest against the way in which the budget papers have been slung at the House without any sort of order or preparation. In one case, a discrepancy of £40,000 occurs between the figures given in the preliminary budget papers and those given in the final papers, which were not produced until after the budget debate had been completed. I refer to the item for assistance to the State of South Australia, in which the figure printed is £360,000, while the contribution to the interest on State debts is shown at £1,050,000. Evidently there has been a mistake made in the one item, and the other has, to some extent, been faked to make the two balance. The grant to South Australia is £320,000 - the amount fixed in the statute - and to balance that, an alteration has been made in the contribution towards interest and sinking fund, increasing it by £40,000. That is only one example of the helterskelter system of finance which has obtained, not only in regard to the Customs Department) but Tight throughout the budget. Other items might have been noticed if the Estimates had been brought before Parliament earlier, and honorable members had had an opportunity of examining them.
Bill agreed to, - and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers wore presented : -
Electoral Act - Regulations - Joint Electoral Rolls (New South Wales)- Statutory Rules 1930, No. 82.
Public Service Act-Appointments - Department of Health - C. J. Logan, H. B. Skinner,
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 81.
House adjourned at 11.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 August 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300804_reps_12_126/>.