House of Representatives
30 October 1930

12th Parliament · 1st Session

The House of Representatives, on the 8th August, 1930, adjourned until a day and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker and notified by him to each honorable member. The House met pursuant to such notification.

Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and offered prayers.

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Acting Prime Minister · Maribyrnong · ALP

by leave - I move -

That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of the late Major-General the Honorable Sir Neville Reginald Howse, V.C., K.C.B., K.C.M.G., F.R.C.S., a former member of the House of Representatives and Minister of the Crown, places on record its appreciation of his distinguished public service, and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow and family in their ‘bereavement.

As honorable members are aware, Sir Neville Howse, who was then on a visit to England, died in London on the 19th September last, after a comparatively short illness. Born in Somersetshire, England, in 1863, he came to Australia at the age of 23, and practised the profession of medicine and surgery at Taree, New South Wales, until 1895, when he returned to England. Four years later, he came again to Australia, and entered into practice at Orange.

His military career was a notable one. Heserved intwo campaigns, and in South Africa his bravery earned for him the much-prized Victoria Cross. On the outbreak of the European war, in 1914. he proceeded on active service, first to New Guinea, and later to Gallipoli. where ho was wounded. He occupied several important positions in connexion with the Australian Army Medical Services, attaining the rank of SurgeonGeneral on the 22nd November, 1916. In 1916 he was appointed Director-General of Medical Services of the Australian and New Zealand Forces in the Mediterranean, and in J anuary, 1917, he was promoted to the rank of Major-General. with head-quarters in London. In addition to being mentioned in despatches, his valuable services were brought to the notice of the Secretary of State forWar. From 1921 to 1925, Sir Neville Howse was Director-General of Military Medical Services in Australia.

His parliamentary career commenced in 1922, when he was elected to represent Calare in this House. He was re-elected at the general elections of 1925 and 1928, but was defeated at the general election held last year. He was a Temporary Chairman of Committees from June, 1923, to October, 1924, and was a member of the Australian Delegation to the Fourth Assembly of the League of Nations in 1923. In the last Commonwealth Administration, he held the portfolios of Defence, Health, and Home and Territories, besides being for a considerable period the Minister in Charge of Repatriation. In 1926, when Minister for Defence, he accompanied the late Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to the Imperial Conference. In thedischarge of his parliamentary and ministerial duties, Sir Neville displayed marked ability, and an enthusiasm which it would have been difficult to equal; but he will be remembered, particularly, for his very close attention to all matters connected with the welfare of returned soldiers and their dependants. .

Both inside and outside the Chamber the deceased gentleman was ever courteous, and, while fearless,. and at times outspoken, in expressing and maintaining his views, he displayed withal a genial disposition and a fund of humour which made him, to the members ofall parties,a likeable personality. Hislife was one , of valuable public service, and wo trust that the knowledge of its usefulness and of the respect in which he was held will in some degree comfort his widow anc! family, to whom the sympathy of this Parliament is extended.


.- I second the motion. The late Sir Neville Howse, whom most of us hero present knew well, was distinguished as a medical man, as a soldier and military administrator, and as a minister of the Crown. He played a leading part in the local affairs of the town of Orange and the surrounding districts, and was the friend of thousands of those who afterwards became his parliamentary constituents when he was elected as the representative of Calare. As a soldier he achieved the distinction of winning the highest award for valour, the Victoria Cross, and those who had the honour of his acquaintance and understood his character and courage knew that the honour was fully deserved. Years after he had, as a young man, won this decoration in South Africa, his personal courage was still in evidence, and reference is made to it in very many of the books which have been written on the Gallipoli campaign. A former colleague, Sir Brudenell White, has, in the press of this country, paid a tribute to the great capacity, energy, and administrative ability displayed by Sir Neville Howse as director of Australian medical services during the war. In that capacity he was largely responsible for the high degree of efficiency which the medical organization of the Australian Imperial Force attained. His administrative duties were made particularly difficult by reason of the high standing and distinguished professional qualifications of those who were serving under him, and I have often thought that, his task was almost as difficult as would be that of presiding over a cabinet, of prime ministers.

Sir Neville Howse was a distinguished man before ho entered this Parliament, and, in my opinion, he conferred distinction upon it. He held many high political offices. He was an effective temporary chairman of committees, and held successively the portfolios of Defence, Home Affairs, and Health; and. throughout his ministerial service was in charge of Repatriation. In all those offices he waa an industrious and indefatigable worker. He wont personally into all the details of the matters for which he waa responsible; honorable members know how wholeheartedly he threw himself into all his activities, whether of work or play. Sir Neville was the personal friend of all who served with him in this Parliament, irrespective of party, and we join in mourning his death, and in expressing sympathy with his widow and family.

Dr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper) >10].The party which I have the honour to lead desires to associate itself with the motion of the Acting Prime Minister, and to express its great regret at the passing of a very great public figure, and a generous and gallant gentleman.

I feel a deep sense of personal loss at the death of Sir Neville Howse, for I was closely associated with him for many years. Thirty-five yean ago he walked into the dissecting room at the Sydney University, and at that moment a friendship started between ns which lasted until the day of his death. During those years we fought shoulder to shoulder for the decentralizing of surgery throughout Australia. Sir Neville Howse was one of those mainly responsible for securing the recognition of country hospitals as training schools for country, nurses. Throughout his professional career he exemplified in hie conduct the highest traditions of medical practice. Although a very “busy medical practitioner - one of the busiest, perhaps, in Australia - he found time during his residence in Orange to fill the high office of mayor of the town for a number of years. The fact that the town whs sewered during his term of office illustrates the active public spirit displayed by Sir Neville, and the worth of his public service. On several occasions he surrendered a lucrative practice to do what ho could for Australia and the Empire. He served in the South African war and again in the Great “War; in New Guinea, on Gallipoli, in Egypt, and in France. During this service he was personally responsible for the saving of. the lives of hundreds of men who, but for him, would never have returned to. Australia. He attempted to crowd into his public life as much as he did in connexion with his professional duties.. During the years iu which ‘he held ministerial office he performed an enormous amount of work ; as he did when he was discharging his ordinary civic and professional duties. No other Munster of Repatriation has devoted more personal attention and conscientious thought and effort to the concerns of that office. He worked day in and day out, night in and night out, and frequently looked through official papers at meal times to satisfy himself that no ex-soldier was suffering because of any failure to review the details of a case. He has left, by his administration of the Department of Health, a very definite impress upon the life of this country. The Oancer Research Fund and the Radium Bank, the establishment of which he undertook on the initiative of the honorable member for Brisbane (Colonel Cameron), will remain permanent memorials of his fine public service. He made the most of every opportunity that he could grasp, and he actually created many opportunities for rendering useful service to his fellows.

I regret, as I am sure docs every honorable member, the passing of this distinguished figure from our public life; and I also regret the loss of a great personal friend. Sir Neville Howse always gave of his best to his country and his fellows. In expressing our sympathy with his widow and his relatives in their loss, we wish to acknowledge the deep senseof obligation under which he laid Australia.


.- As the successor of Sir Neville Howse in the representation of the electoral district of Calare, I wish to tender my personal sympathy to his relatives in their loss. Through his death Australia has lost the services of a most able man. Sir Neville Howse was known far and wide, and loved as a good, benevolent and honest citizen. There is scarcely a home in the rural districts in which he lived whose inmates have not, at some time, been supported by his practical sympathy in their hour of trouble. In the town of Orange, in which Sir Neville Howse practised his profession, he made many riendships, and participated fully in the social life of the people. In Parliament he worthily represented his constituents. As a Minister, a member of this Parliament, and as a soldier his abilities, energy and courage were generally recognized. We sympathize with his relatives in their loss, and assure them that the country will not forget the outstanding service which he rendered to it.

Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.

Motion (by Mr. Fenton) agreed to -

That Mr. Speaker be requested to transmit to Lady Howse the foregoing resolution, together with a copy of the speeches delivered thereon.


Acting Prime Minister · Maribyrnong · ALP

by leave - I move -

That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of the late Lieutenant-General the Honorable Sir James Whiteside McCay. K.C.M.G., K.B.E., CB., M.A., LL.M., V.D., a former member of the House of Representatives and Minister of the Crown, places on record its appreciation of his distinguished public service, and tenders its profound sympathy to the members of his family in their bereavement.

The death of Sir James McCay occurred in Melbourne on the 1st October. At the age of 31, Sir James was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, as member for Castlemaine, and held the seat for four years. For a short term during that period he was Minister of Public Instruction and Commissioner of Trade and Customs. He was elected member for Corinella, Victoria, in the first House of Representatives in 1901, and was returned unopposed at the general election of 1903. From August, 1904, to July, 1905, Sir James was Minister of State for Defence. On the redistribution of seats in 1906, he contested Corio, but was defeated.

Sir James had a long and distinguished military career, both in the Commonwealth Military Forces and in the Australian Imperial Force. On the outbreak of the European War he was one of the first to volunteer for active service abroad, and left Australia in the first expeditionary force, in command of the Second Infantry Brigade. He saw active service on both the Gallipoli and French fronts, and was twice wounded at Gallipoli. On becoming convalescent he was returned to Australia, and was appointed Inspector-General of the forces, which position he held until the formation of the Fifth Australian

Division, when he was promoted to the rank of Major-General and given com-r mand. He was subsequently appointed General Officer Commanding the Australian Forces in Great Britain.

After the termination of the war, Sir James was appointed a Commissioner of the State Savings Bank of Victoria, and at the time of his death he was Deputy Chairman of Commissioners.

There are few members to-day who were associated with the late gentleman in this chamber, but his meritorious public; service is well known, and will be remembered with gratitude. The sympathy of this Parliament goes out to the members of his family who are left to mourn his loss.


.- I second the motion. It is many years since Sir James McCay was a member of this House, and but few of those who are now members of it shared his parliamentary duties with him. I knew him for many years. We attended the same school, and the same college at the University, where I knew his name as that of a distinguished scholar. He had a particularly brilliant career both at school and in the University. He was a member of the Victorian Parliament and, subsequently, of the Commonwealth Parliament, and held office iu both Victorian and Federal Ministries; but he will be best remembered for his long association, with the Defence Force of the Commonwealth. His services in that connexion have been outlined by the Acting Prime Minister. He held high command during the last war, and endured much personal sorrow in consequence of it. This is not the occasion on which to raise controversial matters ; but I may be permitted to mention that his friends were more than gratified by the statements in the recently-published volume of our official war history about his military service. We all sympathize with his family in the bereavement that they have sustained, and regret the passing of a distinguished servant of the public.


.- On behalf of tho Country party I associate myself with the tributes that have been paid to that great public servant, the late Sir James McCay. Few of the present members of this House had much opportunity to become personally acquainted with the deceased gentleman; but his name and his record have become tradition. The members of the Country party desire to be associated with their fellow members in this motion of sympathy with his relatives, and to express their deep regret at his death.

Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.

Motion (by Mr. Fenton) agreed to -

That Mr. Speaker bc requested to transmit to the family of the late Sir James McCay the foregoing resolution, together with a copy nf the speeches delivered thereon.

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Motion (by Mr. Fenton) proposed -

That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 p.m.


.- The House is entitled to an explanation of the reason for this motion. Parliament has been summoned to deal with most important financial, economic, and political matters, and yet members now find that the Government has no business to place before them. If it were proposed to adjourn until to-morrow, as a mark of respect to the distinguished men whose names are recorded in the resolutions just passed, I should have no objection to offer; but no explanation has been given as to why we should adjournuntil Wednesday next. I presume that the Government does not regard the fact that a horse race will be held in Melbourne next Tuesday, as a ground for deferring the business of the country.

On the 21st August last the Commonwealth Government agreed with the State Governments that certain steps should be taken in the direction of balancing the Australian budget, if events should show that the revenue being received was not sufficient to meet current expenditure. At the end of August it became - apparent that the Commonwealth revenue was not meeting current expenditure, and that our finance was going to the bad at the rate of more than £30,000 a day. At the end of September’ the position was worse. Delay will intensify the difficulty of the situation. Had remedial action been taken at the time that the budget was being debated, the country.- would “nothave drifted into its present position. ‘

Parliament should have been summoned many weeks ago; but on the 3rd October last, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton) announced that the Government had decided to reduce Commonwealth expenditure at the rate of £4,000,000 per annum, and to make other changes in the Estimates. On the 7th October Parliament was summoned to meet to-day, the 30th October.

We all know that one reason at least for the delay in calling honorable members together was that the Government was awaiting timorously the result of the New South Wales elections, and this result has apparently aggravated its difficulties. It has had many weeks in which to frame a policy, but seemingly it has no proposals for dealing with the most urgent financial and economic position that has yet confronted the people of Australia, although it has summoned this Parliament especially to consider it. Never before in the history of the Commonwealth has there been such an exhibition of incapacity on the part of a government and a political party. The proposal to adjourn until Wednesday next is an affront to Parliament, and furnishes reason for the most severe criticism that could be directed against the Government itself and the party which is understood to support it.

The proposals of the Government should be made known to-morrow, so that we might have an opportunity to consider them before being asked to discuss them. I ask the Acting Prime Minister to assign some reason for an adjournment to Wednesday next, to say whether any business will be brought forward for consideration then, and, if so, what it will be. Further, I ask him to say what period will be allowed for the consideration of any proposals that are introduced before members will be required to debate them.


.- [ am surprised at the failure of the Acting Prime Minister to f avour the House with some reason for the moving of this motion. He vouchsafed not the slightest explanation why this Parliament, which has been specially summoned, should adjourn immediately for a week. The members who sit behind the Government scrambled more or less wounded into this chamber this afternoon. Probably they are not ready for immediate action, and require a week to recuperate. That, however, is no justification for withholding from the public of Australia, and from this Parliament, the action which the Government proposes to take to meet the present situation. With its huge majority, the Government has full power to handle the situation in whatever way it deems fit. But I remind the Ministers and the members of the Labour party that the people of Australia are now waiting for them to give a lead in connexion with the difficult financial and economic problems that face this nation. The electors do not desire that the Federal Government shall be dragged at the heels of the Governments of the States; its function is to give a definite lead to the other governing authorities of the Commonwealth.

The present position is absolutely unprecedented. We have been summoned to meet to-day, but having met we find that the Government has not a programme to place before us. That is an insult, not only to this Parliament, but also to the people of Australia. Yet it is in keeping with the action of the Government in postponing the meeting of this Parliament, and deferring the announcement ‘ of its policy until after the holding of the New South Wales elections. One result of those elections’ ie that the Government is now between the horns of a dilemma. Ministers are nol united as to what policy to pursue, whether that upon which the Government agreed last week, or that which it is now trying to formulate. It was stated by the head of the Government, and by other Ministers, that’ Parliament would be called together without delay if it were found that the budget had not been balanced, and further measures would be taken to balance it. At the end of July there was a deficit. At the end of August there was a deficit of £2,259,000, and at the end of September there was a shortage of approximately £6,700,000. Taking even the most optimistic view possible, it is evident that the deficit at the end of the year will be between £10,000,000 and £13,000,000. This House should have been called together, if not in August, at least in September. Now, however, it will be well into November before the Government proposals are brought down.

What will be the effect of this delay? It is evident that if new taxation proposals are introduced - say, for instance, higher customs tariffs - it will be necessary, since only seven months of the financial year remain, to make them much higher, if the 3ame amount of revenue is to be collected, than they need have been had they been introduced earlier. I presume that the Government will not meet the House without proposing some measures for economy, and any such measures will, on account of the delay, have to be more severe than they need otherwise have been.

Moreover, we are drifting perilously close to the time when, on the 15th December, over £18,000,000 of Commonwealth securities, and £9,000,000 of State securities, will have to be converted. Every one who has had any experience in the conversion of such securities knows that there should be an intensive campaign lasting over at least two or three months in order to obtain money at a reasonable rate of interest. Yet here we are within five or six weeks of the date when these loans mature, and nothing has yet been put before the public. The present position should not bo allowed to continue even for a day longer. The Government will be censured right throughout Australia, first for hav- ing met Parliament so late, and secondly, for having no programme to put before Parliament when it has been called together. Because of the hesitancy of the Government and the uncertainty of the future financial policy of the Commonwealth, upon which the financial policy of the States largely depends, there has been, during the last few weeks, a continuous decline in the value of Commonwealth securities, both in the United States of America and in London, while the terms upon which it is possible for Australian Governments to raise money have become steadily worse. Nothing but early and drastic action by the Commonwealth Government can now remedy the position. The sooner such action is taken the better it will be for Australia, and the sooner will the prosperity of the country be restored.

Honorable members will recall that during the Great War the Government of the day - a Labour Government, by the way - recognized that the country was facing a time of crisis, and decided that Parliament should remain in continuous session. At that time the lives and homes of the people were at stake. It is not too much to say that the lives and homes of the people are almost to the same extent at stake at the present time. The unemployment figures for this quarter show that 20 per cent, of the registered trade unionists are out of work. The livelihood of these people has gone, and their homes are threatened. Therefore, it would be fitting that Parliament should remain in continuous session during this time of crisis as was done during the war. One advantage of such a course would be that Parliament would have some control over the members of the Government. During the last few weeks we have seen Ministers travelling through New South Wales, each advancing a different policy for the financial rehabilitation of “ the Commonwealth. With Parliament in session, members of the Government would at least be constrained to preserve some measure of unity.

Australia at the present time is faced with this position: We must, by some means or other, bring clown. the cost of living and the cost of production. During the last twelve months there has been laid on the table of the House tariff schedule after tariff schedule. Embargoes have been imposed by proclamation upon the importation of various articles. I objected to the imposition of those embargoes at the time, but the fact that they were proclaimed during the sitting of Parliament made the practice less offensive than it might have otherwise been. During the last few weeks, however, embargoes have been placed upon the importation of British galvanized iron at the very time when our Prime Minister was asking in Great Britain for some measure of preference for Australian products. The imposition of embargoes by the executive when Parliament is not in session was never contemplated when that power was originally conferred by Parliament. It is desirable that Parliament should remain in continuous session, not only to discuss whatever urgent measures may be required - and they will probably be frequent in view of the Government’s numerous changes of front - but also that we may discuss the tariff amendments which have been introduced by the

Government. Those amendments,. I contend, have been responsible very largely for the present high cost of living and of production. The tariff should be used in a reasonable and proper way, and the decision in this respect should rest with Parliament. I protest against this unnecessary adjournment. Ever since the present Government has been in office the parlies on this side of the House have endeavoured, as far as possible, to give it an absolutely fair deal. If we compare the attitude of the Nationalist and Country parties in this House with the attitude of Mr. Lang in New South Wales, and of the Opposition in ‘some of the other States at the present time, we cannot help being struck by the contrast in favour of the Federal Opposition. We are still willing to help the Government, but the people are calling aloud for leadership and action. They are entitled to know exactly the reasons which are influencing the Government at the present time. The Government, apparently, is simply allowing the situation to drift. I trust that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton) will, in his reply, state the reasons which have actuated the Government in determining upon it’s present course. Those reasons should have been given when he moved the present motion.


.- I wish to voice a protest on behalf of myself and several other members in a similar position who have been summoned from a distance of 2,000 miles or more to attend this mooting of Parliament which proves to be nothing more than an interruption of the Labour caucus. The need for this meeting was recognized and admitted some weeks ago. No reason has been offered to the House as to why this adjournment should take place, or why the Government has been so late in calling the House together. It is quite plain that Parliament itself is being made subsidiary to the caucus, and members of Parliament who have been summoned from the ends of the Commonwealth are required to stand by awaiting the convenience of the Labour caucus. The action of the Government is in total disregard of the interests not only of honorable members of this House, and particularly of those coming from long distances, but also of the people as a whole.


.- I desire to say-


– The Acting Prime Minister rose at the same time as thehonorable member for Richmond.


– The speech of the Acting Prime Minister will close the debate, and therefore I am bound to call first any other honorable member who rises to speak.


– Then I move -

That the question he now put.

Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makln.)

AYES: 38

NOES: 28

Majority . . . . 10



Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

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Acting Prime Minister · Maribyrnong · ALP

– As a mark of respect to the memory of Sir Neville Howse and Sir James McCay, I move -

That the House do now adjourn.

In reply to the remarks of honorable members opposite let me say that honorable members generally willbe supplied with a full statement onfinancial and other matters when the House meets again. Rut, on a day when resolutions have been carried paying a tribute to the memory of two great men who have recently passed away, we should not indulge in anything like an acrimonious discussion. Therefore, I have nothing further to say at the present time.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 3.48 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 October 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.