12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and offered prayers.
-I ask the Acting Trea surer whether it is true that, in accordance with an interpretation given by the Commissioner of Taxation, sales tax has been demanded upon bags used as containers for chaff? If so, is such interpretation consistent with the assurance given by the Treasurer when the Sales Tax Bill was under discussion in this House, that containers used in the marketing of primary produce would not be subject to the sales tax?
– The honorable member brought this matter to my notice only a few moments ago. I shall have this complaint investigated.
May lands Telephone Exchange.
Mr. LACEY, as chairman, brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at Maylands, Western Australia.
– In order that members from remote States may be able to make their arrangements in advance, will the Acting Prime Minister indicate, approximately, when the present sittings will terminate, and what legislation the Government proposes to introduce before then?
– Last week I informed the Leader of the Opposition that I shall make an announcement regarding the sessional programmeas soon as I am in a position to do so.
– I ask theActing
Prime Minister whether counsel for the
Acting Attorney-General was acting in accordance with instructions given by the Commonwealth Government when he represented to the Arbitration Court that the amount of national income, and the ability of industry to maintain the existing standards, were irrelevant to the determination of any matter affecting the basic wage?
– I shall have inquiries made, and furnish a reply to the honorable member later.
Mr.R. GREEN. - This morning several of the. employees at ParliamentHouse, all of whom are married residents of Canberra, received verbal notice of dismissal. Have you, Mr. Speaker, any information to give to honorable members regarding any proposed reduction or reorganization of staff in connexion with this building?
– The administration of the Parliamentary refreshment rooms has been under the’ consideration of the Joint House Committee, which, after studying all phases of the subject, has decided on the complete re-organization of the system. I shall see the President of the Senate, who is the chairman of the Joint House Committee, and, possibly at a later hour this day, make a full statement onthe subject.
– Were the employees affected given the option of accepting voluntarily a wage cut or rationing instead of dismissal?
– That is not a matter which has arisen for consideration.
– Will you, Mr. Speaker, give an assurance that before drastic action is taken by the House Committee, interfering with the conveniences and privileges of the members of the Parliament, an opportunity will be provided for them to express their opinion on what is proposed, at a meeting either in the Senate club room or elsewhere?
– The recognized and legitimate rights and privileges of honorable members will not be curtailed or taken from them. A joint committee has been appointed by the members of this House and of another place to control these matters, and, after a full investigation, it has made certain decisions. L cannot promise the honorable member that the course he suggests will be followed, but I shall communicate his request to the chairman of the Joint House Committee, and will refer to the matter later.
– The proposed changes in the management of the Parliamentary refreshment rooms will involve the dismissal of thirteen or fourteen nien. Seeing that most of them have invested their savings in making permanent homes in Canberra, will you, Mr. Speaker, impress upon the Joint House Committee, and through it, upon the Government, the need for sympathetic treatment of their situation? If they are about to be deprived of their livelihood, it is not right that they should also be deprived of their savings.
– All relative factors will be taken into consideration when dealing with the matter. i AUSTRALIA HOUSE.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state what reductions and changes of personnel have been made at Australia House on the recommendation of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) ?
– Several alterations and reductions have been effected, but the report on the subject is not yet complete. As soon as finality has been reached, the House will be advised of what has been done.
– Is the staff at Australia House still under the control of the High Commissioner, or has control passed to a private member of this Parliament, or an official subordinate to the High Commissioner?
– All members of the staff at Australia House are under the control of the High Commissioner, and before action was taken on the report submitted to the Government, he and responsible members of his staff were consulted. Their representations have received due consideration.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister say whether the Government will be prepared, to accept Commonwealth Government bonds in payment of income tax?
– Announcements of government policy are not customarily made in reply to questions.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that in Melbourne insurance companies are doing record business in anti-riot insurance policies, because of the fear that public disturbances will occur, owing to the enormous amount of unemployment in that city?
– I have heard that that is the case, not only in Melbourne, but also in Sydney.
– Will the Minister for Home Affairs state whether it is a fact that the estimate for the construction of the Canberra baths has already been considerably exceeded? Will he also give particulars regarding the earthworks and garages mentioned by him the other day?
– I have been informed by the Public Works Department that the estimated cost of the baths will be exceeded by £500, the reason being that, during the course of the excavations, wet weather was experienced, which caused the banks to fall in. No garages are being built, but grading is being done to form parking areas. This work is being carried out under the control of the Canberra Unemployment Relief Committee, whose funds are subsidized by the Government to the extent of £1 for £1.
– It was decided by the Government, and approved by Parliament, that one-half of the semidetached cottages to be erected at Manuka were to be built by day labour and the other half by contract. Will the Minister for Home Affairs state whether it is a fact that orders have been placed for the construction of half the number of cottages by day labour, and none on the contract system ? Has the building of these cottages yet reached an advanced stage, and is it true that there is every prospect of the estimate of cost being greatly exceeded?
– It was decided by the Government, with the approval of Parliament, to build a certain number of cottages. Of these, the first instalment were built by day labour, under the control of theWorks Department, and later, it was decided to postpone the construction of the remaining cottages because the transfer of the Patents and Copyright Branch to Canberra had been deferred. As regards the cost of the cottages that have been built, no reliable data can be obtained until the work has been completed.
Mr.BAYLEY.- Will the Assistant Minister for Trade and Industry state what it is proposed to do with regard to the grant of £100,000 for the encouragement of the shale oil industry?
– The Government is not in a position to give this information yet. Negotiations are still proceeding, and until we learn just what is preventing the industry from going ahead, we cannot determine the best method of applying this assistance.
– Can the Acting Minister for Markets and Transport inform me whether the Tariff Board has yet completed its inquiry into the wattle bark industry. If the inquiry has not been completed can the Acting Minister give me any idea when the report will be available?
-A number of Tariff Board reports have come to hand within the last day or two. I shall see whether the report on the wattle bark industry is among them, and, if so, make it available to honorable members as early as possible.
asked the Acting Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
What is the consumption per annum per head of (a) dried fruits; (b) butter; (c) meat; and (d) wine, in Australia and Great Britain respectively, for the years 1920 to 1930?
– The desired information is being obtained.
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– In May, 1929, a maturing Queensland loan of £12,403,000 was converted in London into a Commonwealth loan. Thereafter, the late Government had the question of raising a longdated loan in London continuously under notice, but owing to market conditions being unfavorable, no such loan could be raised.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
What is the existing basic wage in - (a) The Commonwealth Public Service; and
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1. (a) £216 from 1st July, 1930. The Service basic wage is adjusted annually on the statistician’s figures for the average of the six State capital cities for the year ended March. (b) So far as is known, the basic wage in the State Services are: -
REPORT of Tariff Board
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is he in a position to state when the Tariff Board proposes to issue its report on the recent inquiry into olive-growing in Australia, and the olive oil manufacturing industry?
– It is understood from inquiry, that the report is now in course of preparation. I cannot say exactly when it will be available.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
In connexion with any Commonwealth expenditure to assist the shale oil industry, will such expenditure be on the basis of equal State and Commonwealth expenditure?
– I am not at present in a position to indicate the nature and extent of the assistance, if any, which may be granted to this industry.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
Is he in a position to state the figures regarding the following staple food product prices for the financial years 1914 and 1930 respectively: - (o) bread, 2-lb. loaf; (6) meat, per lb., average; (c) butter, ‘ per lb.; (<J) milk, per pint; (e) jam, per lb.; (/) sugar, per lb; and to show the increased percentage of the 1930 prices over those of 1914?
– The information desired by the honorable member will be made available to-morrow.
Phosphatic Rock and SULPHUR
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as fol. low : -
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
Whetherhe anticipates action by the Commonwealth Bank and private banks for the raising of the exchange rate?
– The matter is being kept continuously under notice; but, so far as I am aware, no immediate action is contemplated.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has his attention been directed to a statement by the Premier of Western Australia, published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 24th instant, to the following effect: -
Has he any knowledge of the reported request by the Primary Producers Association to the Federal Government to consider the payment of ls. per bushel on wheat; if so, what steps, if any, does the Acting Prime Minister intend to take, and how will the Federal Government finance the proposition ?
Mr.FENTON- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The only published accounts of the company are those furnished with the annual report, viz., balance-sheet and profit and loss account, which have recently been made available to honorable members. The company has advised that it is not. considered to be in the interests of the company to make public any of its transactions which may place it at a ‘disadvantage in competing with the other oil companies operating in Australia.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– -The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Dr. Woolnough was expected to arrive in Australia during the first week in December, but later advice indicates that the boat has been delayed at Suva by a hurricane. 2. (a) Dr. Woolnough left Australia on the 22nd February, 1930.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What were the quantities of Australiangrown leaf used in the manufacture of (a) tobacco, and (b) cigarettes, for the year 1929-30?
– The information will be obtained.
Cost of Advertising
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Mr. Fenton) - by leave - agreed to -
That the Chairman of Committees shall, on each sitting day, during the absence of Mr. Speaker, take the Chair as Deputy-Speaker, and may perform the duties and exercise the authority of Mr. Speaker during such absence.
– Yesterday afternoon, and again last night on the motion for the adjournment of the House, several honorable members referred to the postal charges on correspondence school mail matter, and I assured them that I was anxious that no extra burdens should be placed upon those concerned in this excellent work. I said that I would look into the matter, and, if the increase in rates were due to any misinterpretation of the regulations or instructions, the matter would be corrected at once. If it was due to something inherent in the regulations it would be corrected as soon as possible. I find that it has already been corrected. The following definite instruction has been issued in connexion with the matter : -
Regarding comments made by teachers on pupils’ corrected exercises, please note that so long as comments directly refer to the work of the exercise, and not to an extraneous subject, they should not be regarded as debarring the article from transmission as second-class mail matter.
Steps have been taken to confirm those instructions, so as to obviate any misunderstanding on the part of the officials in the State branches.
Mr.Riordan. - How did it take eight years to find that out?
– I cannot say.
Bill brought up by Mr.Blakeley, and read a first time.
In committee (Consideration resumed from the 25th November, vide page 685) :
Clause 4 -
This act shall not apply to -
the salary, in. any financial year commencing on or after the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirty, of any person who, in pursuance of an arrange- ment made for the purposes of economy, is, in that year, required to take leave without pay.
– I raised a point last night regarding the phrase “ in pursuance of an arrangement made for the purposes of economy”. I suggested that consideration be given to the re-drafting of the clause for the purpose of identifying such arrangement, and placing the matter beyond the possibility of dispute. I now ask whether consideration has been given to this point.
– Yes; and I think that it is unnecessary to amend the clause in order to make its meaning clearer or more definite. After all, the clause provides for an exemption and the onus is upon the officer who claims the exemption to show that he is entitled to it. Complete control is in the hands of the Government in this matter. The rationing system is in operation only in one department, and to that department, and to the officers who are rationed, will paragraph b apply. The only other public servants who could be required to take leave without pay are such officers as may be suspended for an offence, and in those cases the exemption would not apply.
– Do the words employed in the clause fully cover the position ?
– Yes; because a suspended officer would not be put off “for purposes of economy “. The clause as it stands enables the Government to apply the exemption only to the rationed class. The Crown law authorities are perfectly satisfied that the clause will operate as intended.
– I agree that the effect of the clause is as the Minister has stated. It provides for an exemption, and leaves the Government to determine who is to get it. Yet, by putting off an officer for a week in a year, for the purpose of economy, and requiring him to take leave without pay, he would be relieved of payment of this tax. I submit that the matter should not be left to the discretion of the Government. A taxation measure should be clear upon its face. It is very objectionable to pass legislation which would make it possible for a departmental head, for the purpose of saving money, to require men to take leave for a week or two, and thereby relieve them of the payment of a substantial tax. It is undesirable that the Government, which, in effect, here means the permanent head of a department, should be able, possibly inadvertently, to place an officer outside the scope of this measure by requiring him to stand off for a week without pay. It will be observed that if any officer is required to take leave without pay, even for a day, in any year in which this measure operates - I am leaving out of consideration cases of suspension, which are entirely different-he will escape all the taxation imposed by the bill. As a matter of principle that is unsound. The liability to taxation ought not to depend on departmental administration or governmental decision; it ought to depend simply on the terms of the statute. The clause is unsatisfactory, because it might bring about the very result that I have mentioned.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 (Tax not included as income under other laws.)
.-I would call the Minister’s attention to what seems a defect in this clause. It provides that the salary of the taxpayer is exempt from taxation to the amount of the tax. If the Minister refers to the definition in clause 2 of a taxpayer, he will find that “ Taxpayer “ there includes a person employed by the Commonwealth, but not, as was intended by the definition as to salary, persons who receive remuneration as employees of an authority under the Commonwealth. Clause 3 undoubtedly does not include any but taxpayers, and clause 5 exempts those taxed under clause 3. Unless the definition of “ Taxpayer “ is amended to include those persons employed under the authority of the Commonwealth, which was the intention of the Government, neither clause 3 nor clause 5 will be operative. I suggest that in the definition of “ Taxpayer “ the following Avords should be inserted : “ under an authority of the Commonwealth “.
.- There appears to be some ground for the contention of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch). The term “ taxpayer “ is used in clause 5, with which we are now dealing, and also in clause 3, under which the tax will be levied. The tax will be levied, and exemptions made, in respect of -the salaries of “ taxpayers.” In order to ascertain who are the persons to whom the act applies, one turns to the definition of the term “taxpayer” in clause. 2, and finds that, apart from certain persons associated with Parliament, “taxpayer” means “a person employed by the Commonwealth or the North Australia Commission, whose annual salary exceeds £725.” Accordingly, an individual must be employed by the Commonwealth itself before his salary can be regarded as that of a taxpayer. But, turning to the definition of “ salary “ at the beginning of clause 2, we find that it reads - “Salary” in respect of an officer or an employee of the Commonwealth or of an authority under the Commonwealth, means the annual remuneration paid to the officer or employee . . .
That definition clearly contemplates the imposition of this taxation upon persons employed by Commonwealth authorities. The definition of “ taxpayer “, however, is limited to persons employed by the Commonwealth, and does not include persons employed by an authority of the Commonwealth. The Acting Treasurer stated yesterday that . it was the intention of the Government to impose this tax upon every person employed by a Commonwealth authority who receives his salary from the Commonwealth Public Account. The bill, apparently, does not carry out that intention; therefore, I suggest that the Acting-Treasurer consider the desirability of recommitting clause 2, with a view to amending the definition of “ taxpayer.”
– I shall have clause 2 recommitted and amended in the direction indicated.
Mr.R. GREEN (Richmond) [3.12].- I should like to know from the Acting Treasurer whether he is satisfied, on advice from the Crown law authorities, that the States will not be able to regard as income the amounts that are deducted under this tax. Take the case of honorable members. The States may say that their allowance amounts to £1,000, whereas in reality after this tax has been deducted it will amount to only £900. By taking that extra £100 into account, not only will the rate of tax be higher, but the income upon which the tax will be paid will be greater than has actually been received.
– In Victoria, federal taxation is not allowable as a deduction.
– That is the case also in New SouthWales. This clause purports to prevent the States from taking the amount of these deductions into account as salary. I do not know whether the Commonwealth has the power, by enactment, to override the income tax law of any State. I am sure that the Government has no desire to. overload those whose salaries they propose to reduce, by misnaming this a taxation measure. I should like to have a definite assurance from the Minister on the point.
– It is needless for me to say that I am unable, of my own knowledge, to give the assurance which the honorable member seeks; all that I can do is to take the advice of the Crown Law officers. They assure me most emphatically that this provision is sufficient to safeguard members from being taxed by the States on the amount deducted.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 8 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 2.
In committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 2 - “ Taxpayer “ means a person who is -
Amendment (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to-
That after the word “ Commonwealth “, first occurring, paragraph (6) of the definition of “ Taxpayer the words “ or by an authority under the Commonwealth “ be inserted.
– The word “by “ also ought to be inserted before the words “ the North Australia Commission.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with a further amendment; reports adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by have - proposed -
That the bill be now reada third time.
.- Before the bill passes this House, I wish to make a final protest against the exemption from this special taxation of officers of the Public Service in receipt of salaries of less than £725 per annum. I shall not go over the ground covered by members of the Opposition yesterday, or refer at any length to the extraordinary discrimination shown, not only between officers in receipt of over £725 per annum and those in receipt of less, but also between officers of the Commonwealth Public Service and those of the State Public Services. It is quite obvious from the drafting of this bill, and the exemption from its operations of officers in receipt of £725 or less, that the . Government definitely takes a stand against the adjustment of this year’s finances. Had it been in earnest in its stated desire to economize, it must have placed the exemption at considerably below £725. Its decision not to practise economies seriously at present, is to me profoundly important. It is clear that the Government is intent upon a policy of inflation, and that, however unsatisfactory this year’s budget may be. Difficult as it may be to raise revenue now, our problem of this year is as nothing compared with what that of next year will be. Broadly speaking, this year’s revenue comes from the taxation of last year’s incomes, and I therefore ask honorable members to visualize next year’s revenue from this year’s incomes. It is perfectly clear that next year’s revenue will be short of this year’s revenue by many millions of pounds. If the Government is determined not to make economies in the cost of government, it will be impossible to finance this country during the next financial year without a heavy inflation of the note issue. The Government should be candid, and make a full statement to the House in respect of its financial intentions. Even at this late hour, I appeal to honorable members opposite, who are opposed to economy and to applying this reduction of salaries to the Public Service generally in this time of emergency, to adopt a policy of sound finance. Let me point out briefly to honorable members, as I did the other night, how immediate and beneficial would be the fruits of a real economy budget this year. I submit that the budget could be improved without any hardship being placed upon any one inside or outside of the Public Service. Economy in the cost of government would be attended by astonishing boons to industry and the unemployed. All that the Government supporters demand - what they term release of credit and other specifics - could be obtained by the balance or relative balance of the budget.
– I challenge the honorable member to show that any policy that he advocates would give more just treatment to the people, or a greater and more immediate advantage to the workers of this country.
– My remarks all hinge on the exemption of £725.
– I cannot permit a general discussion on budget matters.
– This measure is really a supplementary budget bill. The Government, by fixing the exemption below £725, would show the people that it was in earnest in its policy of economy. If we made a small cut in the salaries of all public servants no hardship would be imposed on any individual or family. Such action would bring in its train, not only other economies, but also the success of this year’s conversions and cash advances from the banks. It would also ensure benefits for us in London. Wo have in London an unsecured debt of from £38,000,000 to £40,000,000, and if we made a satisfactory job of this bill, and brought about other economies, that money in London would be funded by the British people into a loan to us. Of that amount, £23,000,000 represents overdrafts from the London end of the Australian banks. It is frozen Australian credit, and, if funded, would release at once for Australia £23,000,000 for the industry and the business of this Commonwealth. That method of releasing credit would be infinitely less dangerous than the release of £20,000,000 by inflating the note issue, as advocated by so many honorable members supporting the Government. In addition, if we made a satisfactory job of the budget this year we could obtain temporary relief by funding, say, from £5,000,000 or £10,000,000 of our overseas interest for a few years. Thar, certainly would be a substantial relief to us. But, if the Government continues to heed the protests of the lower-paid members of the Public Service, it will sacrifice all these certain boons which are within our reach in. this time of stress. To me, the Government’s action is incomprehensible. If ever a bone were thrown away for the shadow it is being done to-day by the Government in refusing to exercise true economy. Easy money and easy relief are available to us if we take the right course instead of the wrong course, which, unfortunately, we seem to be doing. We should take the broad Australian road, instead of the narrow party road. How utterly inconsistent are honorable members supporting the Government in respect of this exemption of £725. I refer particularly to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane). This year he is president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party. The honorable member has countenanced salary cuts throughout the Victorian Public Service. Before entering this House, he was secretary of the Victorian Railways Union, one of the biggest railway organizations in the Commonwealth. The Railway Commissioner in Victoria is reducing all salaries and wages, and not a word of protest has been uttered by the president of the Victorian Labour party. The honorable gentleman has not raised a finger for State public servants, but of the salaries of the Federal Public Service he is, for some extraordinary reason, a stalwart defender. Is he not treating his old friends in the State Service rather shabbily? What will those men, who have been good supporters of the Labour party, think of this discrimination ? They have been thrown to the wolves by Labour Premiers, and not a word of protest has been uttered by honorable members opposite.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– Ministerial members, who represent country districts, are acquiescing in the reduction of the salaries of the local school teacher and stationmaster, while, at the same time, declaring that the salary of the postmaster is sacrosanct. There may be some reason for this inconsistency, but it is beyond my understanding, as it will be beyond the understanding of State public servants. It is idle for honorable members to say that their attitude is due to a pledge given at the last election that they would npt allow salaries to be reduced. They are, in fact, allowing the wages and salaries of the State public servants to be reduced. Moreover, has not the unemployment been . responsible for a large reduction in aggregate wages? And unemployment has more than doubled since the present Government came into office. This extraordinary stand is not based on any principle, but it is of supreme importance to the finances of the Commonwealth, because it is a declaration to Australia and the world that the Government, despite its adherence to -the Melbourne agreement, is not in earnest in regard to economy. Its continued resistance of economy will be a clear indication to the world that it contemplates an almost limitless output of paper money as a substitute for real money.
– What does the honorable member mean by real money?
– The currency of today is infinitely more real than it will be if the Government adds 20,000,000 notes to it. It has an accepted and honored value, because the public has confidence that there is substantial backing behind it. Inflate the currency and it will be valueless. I suggest to the public servants that if, subject to just exemptions for those on the lower levels, all would accept 90 per cent, of their present salaries, paid in the currency of to-day, they would be infinitely better off than if they were paid 100 per cent, in inflated and debased notes. By opposing sound economy and a true adjustment of the finances, and by insistence upon the wretched discrimination proposed in this bill, honorable members opposite are rejecting an easy and Teal solution which would immediately pay dividends to industry and relieve unemployment.
– I regret very much that I was absent yesterday through having to make a hurried visit to my “home in ‘Queensland, and during my absence honorable ‘members agreed last night to defer the operation of ‘this tax from the 1st November to the 1st December, thereby saving to themselves the paltry amount df £8 6s. 8d. If the saving amounted to hundreds of pounds, I could understand their cupidity, but I ‘cannot find words to express my contempt for ‘their keenness, to escape the payment of a trifling sum. I ‘do not believe in making the reduction upon the ‘gross amount. That is not fair to country members. I would have been prepared to vote for a reduction of 25 or ‘even 5’0 per pent, on th’e net amount, because ‘then-ail honorable member s would be on an ‘equal ‘footing, but by making the reduction from th’e ‘gro’s’s amount country members will sacrifice a greater percentage than ‘city members. If the Acting .Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) would adopt that course he would do justice to all honorable members and would effect a saving that would be worth while.
– I join in the protest against the incidence of this tax. Any outside citizen who is unfettered by class organizations will agree that the tax should be more embracing, and include ‘the majority of the public servants who are now being allowed to ‘escape. According to the last report of :the Public ‘Service Commissioners, there are in the Commonwealth Public Service 30,561 officers, of whom 4,908 are in receipt of salaries ranging from £313 to £399, representing a total payment of £1,676,631. They are exempt from the operation of this taxi If their salaries were taxed at the rate of only 5 per cent., they would contribute to the revenue £83,000, or more than twice as much as the bill proposes to take from some of the higher paid members of the Service’. There are also -2,-286 officers drawing salaries of between £400 and £499, or an aggregate amount of £1,012,575. A tax of 7$ per cent, on that amount would yield another £50,000.
When the nation has suffered a big diminution of income it is just that the burden should be distributed over all the people, but the Government, having reluctantly decided to reduce the allowances of members of Parliament - ministerialist members resisted this proposal very strongly when I submitted it last session-now proposes to tax a few of the higher-paid public servants and to ignore others because they are members of powerful industrial bodies, including the Postal Workers Union-. The ‘Government should have proposed ‘a graduated tax commencing with approximately 5 per cent, for those on the basic wage We have read in the newspapers of the reductions that are being applied to the Victorian railway service. One news. paper article on the subject is headed -
Some lost £40 a year. Saving of £20,000 expected.
Labour Governments in both Victoria and South Australia are carrying out more equitable wage cuts. I endorse the remarks made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett.) regarding the failure of the honorable member for Bendigo .(-Mr. Keane.) to oppose the -reduction of the salaries of State public ‘servants, whilst at the same time supporting a proposal to exempt all Federal public -servants receiving less than £7-25 a year. The wage fund has been depleted because of the reduction of the national income. The chairman of the associated -banks said at a conference in Melbourne yesterday, that, -if by employing a man a firm can -make ls. ‘a week in these times, it will employ him, but if such employment means a loss of 6d. a week it must dispense with, his services. Yet this Government is creating further unemployment. It dismissed no less than 1,429 men from the postal department, including married returned soldiers who were also unionists, instead of making a slight wage cut throughout the department.. Unfair discrimination Ls shown in the rationing or reduction of State public servants and officers of the Defence Department, and the dismissal of men from the postal department, whilst many thousands of Commonwealth public servants are left untouched. This policy is grossly unfair, and the Government is suspect of obeying the dictates of Labour organizations. We read in the newspapers that a Labour conference at the Trades Hall, Melbourne, last month resolved against any reduction of salaries or rationing of employment in any government service without the permission of the unions concerned. If the Government will not depart from the wrong system contained in the high exemptions allowed by the bill, I ask that the Treasurer will, even at this late hour, withdraw the measure and introduce another, in which the incidence and graduation of the tax will be more in accordance with equity and justice.
– I do not associate myself with all the statements that have been made in regard to the salaries of public servants. I have previously expressed my views on this subject. In all walks of life we can pay too highly for cheapness.
We must realize, however, that one section of the community, the primary producers, are being harassed by increased taxation, and the reduction of postal and telephone services, in order that members of the Public Service may be kept in full employment at full rates. The primary producers are contending against great difficulties in the way of low prices and high taxation, and any relief which it is possible to grant them will be welcome. Equality of sacrifice from all sections of the community should be the watchword of the Government. Instead of that, however, it appears to be demanding all tha sacrifices from, one section, and asking for none froth the others.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Consideration resumed from the 25th November (vide page 638) on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I intend to support this measure, the purpose of which is to grant the sum of £850,000 to.the State of South Australia. I object, however, to the way in which the bill has been brought before the House, and also to the manner in which the payment of the subsidy has been arranged. The Government should have brought down all these financial measures with the revised budget, carried them to the’ second-reading stage, and then deferred discussion of them until after the debate on the revised budget. This applies particularly to the Sinking Fund Bill, and the Income Tax Bill, which are being introduced later. If the course I suggest had been followed the subsequent discussion on these measures would, I am sure, have been greatly curtailed. This subsidy of £850,000 to the State of South Australia is the biggest grant ever made by the Commonwealth to any State at any one time .in any one year. This money has been raisedby taxation throughout the whole of Australia from every State, and, before it is voted away the very fullest inquiry should be made into the proposal. Subsidies have been paid on previous occasions to Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia, only after exhaustive inquiry by an independent commission. In the case of South Australia, a royal commission was appointed to conduct the investigation, and it recommended that £1,000,000 should be granted over a period of two years in sums of £500,000 a year. The Bruce-Page Government decided to make the money available over three years, and the present Government adopted this proposal twelve months ago. In the case of this present grant, a procedure has been followed which I trust will never be followed again. A few months ago the Commonwealth Parliament voted the sum of £1,000,000 for a specific purpose, namely, the relief of unemployment. There may have been objections by individual members, but the decision of this Parliament should not have been over-ridden by any other body in Australia, not even by a conference of State Premiers. The decisions of this Parliament should be altered only by the Parliament itself.
I support the proposal to grant this subsidy to South Australia, particularly because of the desperate position in which the finances of that State now are, and also because of the tremendous effort, which is being made by its Government to put them in order. The Acting Treasurer indicated, in the course of his speech, exactly what South Australia was doing to balance its budget. The Government had, he said, reduced its deficit by £1,860,000 by reductions in expenditure. It had reduced the grant to local bodies, the university grant, the salaries of public servants and railways’ expenditure. It had increased land and income tax, and had applied the proceeds of motor taxation to general revenue. No one can suggest that any of those measures were of a popular character. No doubt they were as unpopular in South Australia as they would have been elsewhere. Nevertheless, the Labour Government of South Australia has made an honest attempt to face the position in the only way in which that can be done by a State. Unfortunately, the Federal Government, on the contrary, goes on in the old stupid way of piling up the costs of administrations and the cost of money. I regard this grant purely as a palliative which can have no permanent beneficial effect. The manner in which the money is being raised by the Commonwealth Government is likely to aggravate the trouble in South Australia rather than ameliorate it. The Parliament of South Australia has reduced its expenditure wherever possible. It has reduced the salaries and allowances of Ministers by 15 per cent., and of members by 5 per cent., while reductions of as much as 20 per cent, have been made in other salaries. The teachers have made a voluntary sacrifice of 10 per cent, of their salaries, and certain bonuses have been struck out. If the cost of living is maintained at its present high rate, as the result of tariff impositions by the Commonwealth Government, these people whose salaries have been reduced will be caught both ways. Their income will be lowered, while the cost of living will remain as before. That, of course, applies not only to public servants, but to all citizens because taxation is really a reduction of income. South Australia is very heavily taxed at the present time, the average being £1 15s. per head higher in that State than in the other States. This high taxation naturally results in the income of the citizens of South Australia being correspondingly reduced.
This subsidy to the South Australian Government will not, in my opinion, remove either the immediate or ultimate cause df South Australia’s difficulties. The immediate cause of her trouble - apart from the succession of bad seasons which has resulted in poor harvests - is the position of her railways. Last year the deficit in the State finances was £1,600,000, and the deficit on her railways was £1,769,000, so that there is a very close relationship between the two amounts. .But for this railway deficit, the finances of the State would have been in a satisfactory position. There are two main causes for the South Australian railway losses. The first is that during the last seven or eight’ years South Australia, foolishly, in my opinion, embarked on a huge scheme of railway rehabilitation on a basis of 5ft. 3in. gauge. She has spent £11,000,000 in altering her permanent way, and buying new, expensive railway stock which cannot be used for the greater part of the year. This expenditure was unnecessary because, had she come into the railway unification scheme, the entire work would have been carried out at a cost to the nation of £4,600,000 of which her share would have been £1,700,000, or about oneseventh of what she has already spent. The result of her action has been that her annual interest bill has increased by £562,000, while the railway working expenses, contrary to the optimistic belief of the Railway Commissioner, have increased to the extent of £567,000 a year.
Therefore, as a result of this rehabilitation scheme, South Australian finances were worse off to the extent of £1,129,000 for the year 1927-28.
– Tell us who did that.
– I understand that the scheme was carried out by the Barwell, Gunn, Hill and Butler Governments.
– The Gunn Government had to finish it.
– All the governments were in it.
– According to my information, each of the four governments in turn supported Mr. Webb, the late Commissioner, in this huge undertaking. I do not think that the Gunn Government can escape a share of the blame. This scheme was not in the national interest. If South Australia had set to work to reconstruct her railways on the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, she would have been able to use Commonwealth and New SouthWales rollingstock, and would have saved the expenditure of a huge sum in additional 5-ft. 3-in. gauge rolling-stock. She would also have saved heavy expenses in other directions.
The second reason why the railways of that State are in such a deplorable condition is that Commonwealth Arbitration Court awards have been applied to them. The Disabilities Commission reported that the increase in expenditure on the railways over the last thirteen years, due to the operation of Commonwealth awards in South Australia, was £1,000,000 per annum. This was a very heavy load for the State to carry; so heavy, in fact, that the present Labour Premier, Mr. Hill, acting in conjunction with the State Railways Commissioner, has succeeded in securing the suspension of these awards in South Australia for six months. Last year the Labour party opposed a proposal that State instrumentalities should be removed from the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court; but, if that policy had been carried out, South Australia would be in a much better position than she is in to-day. It is regrettable, in my opinion, that the Commonwealth Government is resisting and delaying the declaration of a new basic wage by the Federal Arbitration Court. If the efforts of the various railways commissioners are successful in securing a reduction in the wages bill of the railways, it should be possible to bring about a reduction in freight charges, which would go a long way towards ameliorating the position of the producers. As I have said, the huge deficit in South Australia corresponds roughly with the deficit incurred in her railway accounts. Had it not been for this heavy loss, the State would not have been obliged to appeal to the Commonwealth for this assistance.
The Commonwealth Government should endeavour to do something to improve permanently the position of the railways. It is not sufficient merely to make a monetary gift to that State.We shall have to do much more than make money gifts if the position is to be permanently improved. Although it is apparently possible to grant South Australia £850,000 this year, it will not be possible to do so next year. It is necessary that the production of the State should be encouraged and costs of transport lightened and that can be done by attacking the whole railway problem.
Last year the deficit on Commonwealth and State railways in Australia amounted to £8,500,000. Seeing that the Commonwealth and the States have invested no less than £330,000,000 in their railway systems, it is imperative that the present almost complete lack of railway co-ordination and cooperation should be corrected. Huge losses are being incurred to-day in the uneconomic conveyance of commodities over long distances to some unnatural port, and interstate trade is being seriously embarrassed because the railway systems are not being properly coordinated. It will be remembered that at the Premiers’ Conference in 1929, the Bruce-Page Government introduced a proposal for the setting up of a federal transport council, with the object of evolving a national transport policy. It was felt at that time that a transport council, set up first as a voluntary body, would ultimately prove so valuable that, like the Loan Council, it would be given statutory power. Such a council could do a great deal to improve the operation of the railways, and to bring about economic reductions in freight charges.
One of the first problems which has to be faced is the unification of our railway gauges. This cannot be done at once, but we should be working towards that end, instead of working- in the opposite direction, as South Australia has been doing for the last eight years. We should be making a start with the standardization of the whole of our railway rolling-stock and equipment. Years ago, in both England and the United States of America, railways with different gauges and many variations of rollingstock, were being operated, with the result that tremendous waste was being incurred; but steps wore taken to standardize both the gauges and the rolling-stock, and remarkable economies were effected in railway management by this means.
The first objective of a federal transport council, such as was envisaged by the previous Government, and which actually met in July of last year, but has not met since, could be the compilation of a uniform rates book for Australia. It is absurd that so many different rates should be charged for the carriage of goods from the eastern States to Western Australia, and also between the eastern States. At present there is no standardization whatever in freight charges. Let me give honorable members the rates charged on a few commodities from Melbourne to Kaniva, a distance of 275 miles, and from Adelaide to Kaniva, a distance of 209 miles -
The disparity in freights on groceries is extraordinary. For instance, it costs £10 per ton to send groceries from Sydney to Broken Hill, a distance of oyer 700 miles, and £10 15s. per ton to send them from Adelaide to Broken Hill, a distance of 335 miles.
– There is a break of gauge between Adelaide and Broken Hill.
– That is true; but it has been shown that the break of gauge at Albury involves an extra charge of only l£d. or 2d. a ton.
– There is a preferential rate on groceries from Sydney to Broken Hill.
– That emphasizes my point that there is no national outlook in the management of our railway system, and that is essential for profitable working. Our railway systems are a national asset, which should be used for the benefit of the nation. Freight charges in Australia are about three times as great as those of the United States of America and Canada for similar distances. The charge in the United. States of America is about .61d. per ton mile; in Canada it is .58d. ; in South Australia, 1.68d., and in some of the States more than 2d. It will be realized, therefore, that under existing conditions our railway systems are not only involving our people in a huge burden in respect of interest charges, but also unnecessarily increasing living costs by their high freight charges. We need in Australia a railway clearing house and a federal transport council to deal with all matters affecting the control of railways in the national interest, to secure the cheapest possible transport of our goods.
– Political control is damning the railways at present.
– We should endeavour to substitute for political control a method of independent management.
But this bill raises many other questions than that of railway control. One of these is unemployment. I remind honorable members that the money it is proposed to divert to South Australia was originally voted by this Parliament for the purpose of assisting in the relief of unemployment. The efforts of the present Government to deal with the unemployment problem have been signally futile. When the Labour party appealed to the electors for their votes during the last federal election campaign, it declared that it would adequately deal with unemployment if returned to power. The election placards of the party appealed for support on this ground of work for all. The New South Wales campaign director of the party, speaking at Balmain on the 24th. September, said -
The Labour party recognizes that unemployment is one of the gravest problems of the time. It is a problem that should engage the fullest attention of every truly national government. :Study of statistics shows that there are 120,000 workers unemployed in the Commonwealth for lack of work. . . There is, therefore, scope for an authoritative body that would constantly study these aspects of the problem and formulate a policy to cope with the great question. . . . The Labour Government would constitute such a body - an employment council.
No one has since heard anything of the proposed employment council. The honorable gentleman proceeded to say -
Governments can do much to minimize the terrible effects of unemployment ‘by adopting practical schemes for regularizing employment. . . . There would, also be established an employment register . . . All employers would be required ‘to furnish returns of ‘persons employed ‘by their ‘so tha’t from time to time the fluctuations in labour supply and demand could be properly observed. It would be necessary, also, to establish an unemployment insurance scheme ‘based oh contributions from both employers and .employee’s, us well ‘as .the several governments.
The present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), dealing with the same subject iti his policy speech, said -
A system of unemployment insurance will hu established, the fund created to be distributed as far as possible in providing ‘work.
That -was not a new attitude for the Federal Labour .party to -adopt. It -was constantly urged by Labour members of the last Parliament that a determined effort ‘Should be made by the government of the day to deal comprehensively with this whole subject. I remember the Minister ‘for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) discussing this matter in the House in February, 1928. According to Hansard, page 3407, <he condemned the Bruce-Page Government for its “-callous ineptitude in administration and for its refusal to ‘take action to relieve the industrial ‘depression.’” He went on to say - lt -is the responsibility of a government as far >as possible to keep its citizens employed at a 5-egular and fair wage, with a pay envelope ‘every week adequate if or >the purchase of the necessities -of life. Any (government which fails in this regard does not .deserve to govern. . . . The Government, instead df pursuing ian >insane policy ‘Of sacking men, ought -to -accept its responsibility .now, and make a start with public works of a developmental o’r productive character. Instead o’f curtailing ‘expenditure at the Federal Capital, let the Government re-employ 1,000 men who have been sacked. Let it extend its operations in the Murray Valley. . . . Why cannot a start be made with the locking of the Darling and the Mumimbidgee? Why cannot a start be made with the ‘Bourke-Camooweal Northern Territory railway?
Speech after speech, which I do not wish to quote, including one by yourself, Mr. Speaker, was made to show that the Federal Government should take practically the sole responsibility for the solution of the .problem of unemployment. The Opposition ;still maintains, as we did at that time, that this matter is mainly one with which the State Governments should deal. We say that the methods that can be adopted <by the Federal Government to assist in the solution of the problem are strictly .limited, .and that .the -late Government did all that was possible in that direction. I am satisfied that -the lines followed by it -are exactly those on which the .present Government must proceed, if we are to escape from the present morass of unemployment. [Quorum formed.] I regret that honorable members behind the . Government are not sufficiently interested -in the subject of the proposed grant to South Australia to -maintain a quorum. The Government has 47 members in this House, and yet during the .first speech of the day on this bill they -are unable to keep even 25 members in the chamber.
The Ministry has -made certain definite attempts to deal with the problem ‘of unemployment, and ‘each has proved abortive. In tike first place, it tried to solve it -by means of ‘restrictive tariffs and embargoes’. Last week ‘the official organ of the Labour party of New South Wales stated that the party’s tariff policy was misdirected and had misfired, that unemployment had almost doubled during the period ,since the .present -Government had .assumed office, .and that it behoved the Government to devise different methods >of -dealing with this ‘ great menace. T-he honorable member for Boothby (Mr. -Price) recently stated that although he -had been >a strong protectionist, he was not now so -enthusiastic over that policy, because it seemed to create more unemployment (than work. It is admitted -even >by the ‘Government’s own followers that its first attempt to tackle this problem has definitely failed. Instead of hundreds of thousands of workers being placed in new factories, of which the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) has been speaking so much of late, unemployment has increased.
The second attempt by the Government to increase employment also misfired. The sum of £1,000,000, the surplus under the Federal Aid Roads Scheme, which had accumulated during the regime of the previous Government, was to be used for the purpose of creating new employment. The questions asked week after week by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) as to whether the Governments intended to use this money for that purpose indicated that this attempt was not very successful. I believe that New South Wales spent some of it to wipe out portion of an overdraft in connexion with road funds. This sum of £1,000,000, of course, came from the Federal Aid Roads Fund, and an undertaking was given that at the end of seven years new taxation to the extent of £1,000,000 would be placed on the people to replace that amount. That attempt also failed. The third proposal is that contained in the measure with which we are now dealing; but we find that of the £1,000,000 voted to relieve unemployment, £850,000 is to be used for the purpose of making a special grant to South Australia. Therefore, the present Government has confessed its inability to solve the problem of unemployment. Its three attempts to do so have been futile, and the evidence of that is the steady increase in unemployment from 12 per cent., when the Government took office, to 20.5 per cent, to-day.
The time has come when everybody in Australia realizes that this hopeless policy, which is taking us further into the morass of despair, should be reversed. It has increased the cost of production and the cost of living in Australia, and we shall not get out of our troubles until we begin to reduce those costs. We should make a start by reducing the duties which increase the cost of the machinery used in primary and secondary industries. Then we may hope to turn our face towards progress, prosperity and renewed employment. At the present time we are suffering from lack of confidence in Australia. The whole world is waiting for this country to show that it sincerely desires to get down to honest work. When evidence of that is given, full confidence will be placed in us ; but we are now dashing to the ground the hopes of people overseas that we shall ever come to our senses. Consequently, we find ourselves in difficulty, not merely in converting our longdated loans in Australia, but also in converting short-dated stock into long-dated loans on the foreign market to give u.s breathing space in our present troubles.
When the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) was campaign director of the Labour party, he propounded, in connexion with the unemployment problem, the sound opinion that there should be some means of estimating, by a statistical review, the exact position regarding unemployment in Australia. Inquiries should be made, he said, as to the directions in which work could be provided, what further industries could be established, and what seasonal activities could be increased to enable additional men to be absorbed. The Commonwealth is in sore need of a statistical bureau to deal with this matter. The Bruce-Page Government indicated that it was prepared to endeavour to secure definite data along those lines, and I understand that the census that was to have been taken this year would have provided an index of employment as well “as production. The Ministry has decided, however, that it will not spend the £300,000 which would have enabled us to get this essential information. The Government is prepared to use money for various wild-cat schemes, but refuses to sanction expenditure which would admit of the problem of unemployment being tackled on intelligent lines.
Matters that have important bearing on the amount of employment available are regularity of output and the consuming power of the public. This was pointed out frequently by the Development and Migration Commission, which advocated a standardization pf various factory products. This body submitted recommendations that would have resulted in the saving of hundreds of thousands of pounds, and yet this Government has abolished the subsidy of the Engineering Standards Association, which has reduced the number of types of taps from 350 to about ten. This standardization has increased employment, because the cheaper these articles become, the greater is the number of plumbers that are employed to fit them, and more are used because more persons can afford them. This Government refuses to provide for continuous research . into ‘ the causes of the constant fluctuations of trade and unemployment, which every other country recognizes as the only scientific way of dealing with such problems. The Government has- abolished the Development and Migration Commission, which was engaged on the problem of selecting for special encouragement those industries whose products had a definite assured market. The Government has chosen to proceed blindly in the matter, and to give tariff concession to nil and sundry, whether justifiable or not.
The sum of £850,000, which was definitely allocated for the purpose of creating employment, is now to be diverted to the relief of South Australia. I stated previously that the methods employed by the Government to cure unemployment were futile, and the States have proved it by their readiness to hand over to South Australia money that was intended for the relief of unemployment. I pointed out at the time that a wiser way in which to spend part of this money for the relief of unemployment was to take the census. That would have kept in work many clerical workers who could not be otherwise employed, and would also have provided statistical information of great value to the country. While I support the allocation of £850,000 to South Australia at the present time, to assist her in her great difficulty, and admire the gallant way in which she is facing it, 1 protest against the stupid manner in which the Government is approaching the subject of unemployment. By its methods of increasing costs and restricting production, it is allowing Australia to sink deeper and deeper into the morass of unemployment and financial trouble.
.- The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr.
Page) rambled a good deal during his speech upon this measure, but made one or two points that appealed to me, the chief of which was in connexion with the unification of the railway gauges of Australia. I take it that the right honorable gentleman would go so far as to hand over the railways of Australia to some federal authority. I have been astonished lately at the number of honorable members of this House who favour a system of unification in connexion with our railways. I should very much like the railway debts of the States to bv funded, and complete control of the different systems handed over to a federal authority. If that were done, the railways of Australia might eventually be made to pay.
The right honorable member for Cowper explained that many of the difficulties in which South Australia finds itself to-day are due to the expensive administration of its railway affairs. I say at. once that, in the past, South Australia has had some Cabinet Ministers with very expensive ideas, and that, in addition, the control of the system was, until recently, in the hands of one of the most expensive railway commissioners the world has known ; I refer to Mr. Webb, who was brought to South Australia from the United States of America, and filled the position of commissioner for a little over five years, during which time he cost the State many thousands of pounds. One of my objections to him was that he endeavoured to Americanize the railways of South Australia. In that he largely succeeded, quite overlooking the fact that he was catering for the needs of a population of only 580,000, compared with millions in the country from which he was brought. When he took up his duties, he expressed his intention to make the railways pay; but upon relinquishing office, he confessed that they could never be made to pay-
The Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons), in introducing this bill, said that the finances of South Australia are in a very difficult condition. No one could have put the position more clearly than he did. According to the lastest information available, the position may be summarized as follows: -
To which must be added -
Even if the treasury-bills be regarded as part of the public debt, there are still short-dated advances totalling £4,320,000 that are re-payable practically on demand. The figures relating to the deficits of the State from 1927-28 onwards may prove interesting to honorable members.
– Do they justify assistance being given?
– I shall quote them to show the necessity for giving assistance.
– If they are a justification, every State should have a deficit, and then ask for a grant from the Commonwealth Government.
– The deficit in the revenue account on the 30th June, 1927 -£1,050,049- has been funded. The deficits for the last three years have been as follow: -
Those figures show clearly that South Australia is ‘in financial difficulty.
It is claimed that, under federation, South Australia has suffered certain disabilities in the ‘way of tariffs, subsidies and bounties. Let us consider the position in regard to protected industries. South Australia has a population of 580,000 persons. The total amount received by it in subsidies is £2,146,000, which represents a loss of £2.3 per head of the population, or a total of £1,334,000. It will thus be realized that the Commonwealth grant of £320,000 for this financial year will be totally inadequate. The Government now proposes to make available under this measure an amount of £850,000, by diverting that sum from the £1,000,000 which it allocated to the different States for the relief of unemployment. The State Premiers, at their conference with the Prime Minister in Melbourne, in August, agreed to that diversion, with a view to assisting South Australia to balance its budget. I regret that the unemployment grant has been thus raided. Unfortunately, the unemployed position in Australia to-day has no parallel in our history; and I should have liked the Commonwealth grant to be utilized in relief measures. The State Premiers, however, decided otherwise, and agreed to forgo in favour of South Australia the following amounts: -
I regret the diversion of this money from the unemployment grant, but the bill having been presented I have no alternative but to support it. I trust that in the near future some concrete scheme may be evolved to relieve the unemployment that unfortunately is rife throughout the country. It is contended that the chief difficulties of South Australia are its disabilities arising out of federation, the war, over-borrowing, continued deficits in its accounts, unfavorable seasons, and the shrinkage in the national income, brought about by the falling prices of our exports. These factors have indeed had a great bearing on the financial position of South Australia, and I am pleased that the Federal Government has requested the Public Accounts Committee to make a full investigation. I am sure that South Australia has no objection to such an inquiry, and the sooner it is made the sooner will we in this Parliament be able to determine in what way we can most effectively help that State. The bill, if passed, will afford some measure of relief to South Australia. I have, therefore, no option but to support it.
.- The bill proposes to divert to South Australia the sum of £850,000, from money provided by the Commonwealth Government for the relief of unemployment. The reasons for this diversion were given by the Acting Prime Minister some time ago. It was originally proposed that £1,000,000 should be provided by this Government and handed to the States for them to expend.
– The money was earmarked.
– It was provided for in the Estimates. Speaking from this side of the House at that time, I took the view that it was better to leave the States to raise this money by an unemployment tax and similar measures than for the Commonwealth Parliament to provide the money and simply hand it to the States to expend as they thought proper without having the responsibility of raising it. At the time the Government refused to listen to any proposal which would diminish by1d. the amount to be spent throughout Australia. Now, however, we have, as the result of arrangements made between the representatives of the Commonwealth and the States, the introduction of this bill, which provides for the ratification of an agreement which, I understand, has already been carried out. This money has been paid to South Australia.
– It is being paid in monthly instalments.
– The real issue is whether this is the best method of dealing with unemployment. The bill appears in the form of a grant of financial assistance to South Australia; but the real issue is unemployment.
– There is nothing in the bill about unemployment.
– The object of the bill is to divert money from expenditure on unemployment to enable South Australia to meet inter alia its own unemployment problem. The question is whether this ought to be done. In the first place temporary assistance of this kind to a State, can act only as a palliative. It is no solution, not even the beginning of a solution, of the unemployment problem. I quite agree that it may be necessary to take this step, because citizens cannot be allowed to starve. Relief in bad times must be provided, but the provision of relief is not a solution of the unemployment problem, and, in considering this proposal to pay money to South Australia, we have to consider the principal cause of the financial difficulty of that State, which is to be found in the deficit on the South Australian railways. But for that deficit, it is unlikely that that State would have asked for special treatment from the Commonwealth. In New South Wales also, the railway deficit is the overwhelming difficulty in the way of balancing the budget. That State is losing money on the railways at the rate of about £80,000 a week. Last year Victoria had a deficit of about £1,200,000, of which £1,000,000 represented the loss on the running of the railways. It is impossible for the States to adjust their budgets without diminishing their railway expenditures or increasing railway receipts. I doubt whether anybody pretends that there is much chance at present of substantially increasing railway revenues, and accordingly, the only way in which the States can balance their budgets is to diminish railway expenditures. This is an unpleasant and uncomfortable fact, which many Government supporters are disinclined to face; but if they were in charge of the New South Wales railways and found that they were losing £80,000 a week, they would recognize that it was impossible to carry on indefinitely without decreasing expenditure. Accordingly, some radical alteration would have to be made.
– At least £60,000,000 of railway indebtedness should be wiped off.
– Some honorable members seem to think that by saying that something should be wiped off or written down they will solve problems. But these problems are not to be solved by writing figures in a book. In the past greater provision should have been made for depreciation and other matters. Probably in the past everybody agreed theoretically that that was essential, but governments wanted to have money to spend rather than to pay it into reserve accounts, and in that they were supported by the parliaments. The Labour party in all the State Parliaments has been most consistent in increasing railway expenditures, which to-day are such a heavy burden upon State budgets. This position was apparent in August last when the Prime Minister and the Premiers met in conference at Melbourne, and it was then agreed that the budgets should be balanced. It had become obvious that if the Commonwealth and the States incurred deficits they would not be able to meet their accounts, and would find themselves in a position of repudiation and default. Accordingly, it was determined that the budgets should be balanced. The real significance of the agreement reached in Melbourne, so far as the States were concerned, was that there should be reduction in expenditures, and principally in railway expenditures. The alternative is the dismissal of large numbers of railway employees.
– Large numbers have already been dismissed in South Australia.
– Many railway men have already been dismissed, but unless there is a reduction in railway expenditure, more must inevitably be dismissed. In the Argus of the 24th of this month appears the following: -
Vor the last twelve months the commissioners have been engaged in a constant review of the strength of the railways staff, and widespread retrenchment affecting supernumerary employees has already been undertaken. The serious and persistent decline in railways revenue has forced a curtailment of expenditure, and as the decrease in traffic has greatly reduced the work available, dismissals have been inevitable. Some months ago the chairman of the commissioners (Mr. H. W. Clapp) indicated that unless relief from ruling rates of wages could be obtained, drastic staff reductions, which would involve the dismissal of between 1,500 and 2,000 men would be necessary to avoid a crushing railway deficit at the end of this financial year. Giving evidence before the Railways Classification Board last week,. Mr. Clapp indicated that the dismissal of between 400 and 500 mcn would be necessary almost immediately, and he hinted that further dismissals might follow. It is understood that the Cabinet has been summoned to consider the dismissal of these men.
That is the position in Victoria. In New South Wales the position is similar, and the Railways Commissioner (Mr. Cleary) has said that he has not the money with which to carry on the present staff at existing rates of pay. Accordingly, it is important that nothing should be done to prevent a readjustment of railway expenditure. The policy of the Federal Government, unfortunately, is to ignore the. growth of unemployment while professing to observe what it calls standards, irrespective of the most unfortunate fact that those standards have become quite unreal, that in many cases where it is pretended that they are being observed they are not. Awards are being evaded all over the country, and probably every member of the House knows it. They are being evaded with the consent of both sides in industry. Men are begging the employers to give them work at under award rates. It is futile to shut our eyes to the facts. Men are representing to employers, particularly in rural areas, that they are not members of unions, in order that they may be employed at less than award rates.
– What awards operate in rural areas?
– There is an award in the pastoral industry; I am not speaking of State rural awards. Moreover, a contract system is growing up, by means of which awards are being brought to nought. In many industries there is extensive rationing, in some cases of doubtful legal validity. It is, in these cases, questionable whether em- .ployers are entitled to ration instead of employing at casual rates. But these things are happening. Owing to the financial condition of the country, thousands of men are out of work, and award standards are not being maintained. The policy of the Government is to pretend that they are being, and must be, maintained; but facts show that they are not. The Governments of Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania, and the Bavin Government of New South Wales, applied to the Arbitration Court for an adjustment of the railways’ award. I do not disguise the fact that that was an application for a reduction of the ruling rates of wages, in order to avoid the dismissal of thousands of men. The Commonwealth Government has put every obstacle in the way of such adjustment, notwithstanding that the veal substance of the Melbourne agreement was that the States must obtain a reduction of railway wages if savings in expenditure were to be effected. The attitude of the Commonwealth Government has been surprising. The railway commissioners of the four States issued a summons in respect of the rates of payment in railway services, and on the 14th August the matter was referred to the Full Arbitration Court. When it came before the court on the 27 th August, representatives of the unions informed the court that conciliation committees had been appointed, and, therefore, the jurisdiction of the court was dusted.’ In fact, no conciliation. committees had been appointed, no members having been named, and on the 29th August the court so held. On that day conciliation committees were appointed, obviously for the purpose of delaying the hearing of the application by the court. Then application was made to set ‘ aside the award, and the Commonwealth Government has resorted to every method of postponing and complicating the decision of that and other questions by the court. Not only did the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth intervene, briefing Mr. T. C. Brennan, K.C., and Mr. Fraser, but the Commonwealth also intervened, briefing Dr. Evatt, K.C., and Mr. Fraser. Later, the conciliation committees stated to the court a case regarding the basic wage, and it was heard in September. Once again the Commonwealth Government used every means of delaying the proceedings. At an early stage an invitation had been issued by the court to all concerned to attend and be heard. When the hearing was resumed on the 20th October, the trade union representatives presented a list of fifteen matters which they declared would have to be investigated before the court could consider the basic wage. They ignored the fact that the application was based on the considerations that the national income had been tremendously reduced, a financial crisis was imminent, and, therefore, a prompt decision was essential. Next, the Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral intervened and intimated that he desired to be represented by counsel. Previously the unions hud objected to legal representation, but the AttorneyGeneral intervened and briefed counsel. On one occasion, I, when AttorneyGeneral, intervened, only to afford opportunities to others to be heard, but I took no part in the proceedings. In the railways’ case, however, the Attorney-General is participating in the proceedings, for the purpose of maintaining the rates of railway wages at their present standard, thereby preventing any re-adjustment. I have repeatedly said that the futile effort to avoid recognizing unpleasant facts is doing to’ the community’ immeasurable harm, and its effects are most serious to those who have the least resistance to untoward economic conditions. But the Commonwealth Government is doing everything possible to postpone a determination of the railways’ case. ,
– What does the honorable member think is the reason?
– The reason’ is thai the Government fears the action of some of its supporters who, like the honorable member for South Sydney, have been for many years, the victims of catch phrases. One of those phrases is “ the maintenance of Australian conditions.” It is an ill service to the workers as a whole to prevent an economic readjustment which will prevent dismissals and make possible a reduction in the cost of living, thus providing for further employment. In order to deal with unemployment it is necessary first to appreciate the facts of the economic situation. I need not recite them; they are already familar to honorable members. We must recognize that a Commonwealth grant to a State does not even begin to remedy its financial and economic ills, particularly unemployment. Grants are palliatives, although sometimes they are necessary. I do not wish to be understood as stating that no grants should be made for the relief of unemployment. Sustenance must be provided for citizens who want work and cannot get it. But that assistance does not solve the social problem. Nor can taxation be a remedy for unemployment. At most, it will effect a limited redistribution of wealth; it will not create wealth, and often it aggravates unemployment. The only solution is to make employment profitable to private enterprise. The Acting Prime Minister made in Melbourne two or three months ago the very interesting statement that it was impossible for governments and semigovernmental bodies to solve the unemployment problem, because “ only “ 400,000 of about 2.000,000 employed persons were in the service of governments, municipalities, &c. Whatever expectations honorable members may have of some new social and economic order to be established in the distant future, they must, for the time being, recognize things as they are. One fact is that the greatest proportion of employment is, and must be, provided by private enterprise. Work will not be found for men in ordinary industrial enterprises unless employers have an expectation of profit. If an employer employs men at a loss for any extensive period he will soon be unable to employ anybody.
– That is emphasizing the obvious.
– Nevertheless, many do not understand it. They think that governmental and political action can solve the unemployment problem. It cannot. In the existing social and economic order employment depends upon the prospect of profitable private enterprise. The all-important thing is to try to make the employment of labour remunerative. Parliament can do no more than assist to that end. One could associate with the proposal now before the House, almost every element of the economic and industrial situation; but I shall mention only two matters. The first is the Labour party’s prescription for unemployment - high protective duties on imports. The tariff is a powerful instrument, but it must be used with intelligence. The House has had no opportunity to discuss the many tariff schedules presented during the last twelve months. They have failed to produce the predicted results. On the contrary, the tariff measures have themselves caused a large amount of unemployment and suffering, which has not been compensated for in increased employment in other directions. It would be a wise thing for the Government to reconsider its own tariff proposals. There is no doubt that, in some directions, its tariff policy has been very unwise from the point of view of the Government itself. I believe that the object of the Government was, principally, to increase employment and develop Australian industry; but everything turns on the wisdom of the means adopted. I believe that much could be done by the tariff in that direction, but this tariff is working the wrong way.
I have said that the only proper way of dealing with the unemployment problem is to make private enterprise profitable, and it can be profitable only if it maintains a certain standard of efficiency. That standard depends, to a considerable extent, upon the effective cooperation of those engaged in industry, and a great deal more could be done to bring about co-operation between employers and employees. Various attempts have been made to procure that result. These have been frustrated in large measure by the preaching in Australia of. the doctrine of class warfare by such statements as that the interests of employers and employees are irrevocably opposed. If that doctrine becomes widely accepted, there is little possibility of private enterprise being successful. It is deplorable that things in Australia have reached such a stage that the parties to industry are generally unable to do anything to adjust their mutual relations without going into what is, in effect, a court of law. Take the Victorian railways, for instance, with which I am best acquainted. There we have no fewer than nine separate tribunals dealing, at one time or another, with the wages and conditions of railway workers. We have first, the four conciliation committees; then there is a conciliation commissioner; then the Arbitration Full Court; then a special tribunal consisting of a judge of the Arbitration Court; then the High Court; and, finally, the Railway Classification Board, functioning under Victorian law. This railway department, which, according to the Chief Commissioner, Mr. Clapp, may be forced to dismiss between 1,500 and 2,000 employees, and is losing £1,000,000 a year, is not under the control of the manager of the enterprise or even of the Government of the State which pays for the enterprise, but is controlled, at one time or another, and in its various aspects, by no fewer than nine separate tribunals. Surely no one can say that we are conducting our affairs sensibly with such a system.
– That is not correct.
– The honorable member was not present when I enumerated the nine tribunals.
– They are not all operative.
– They are, more or less. The High Court is sitting at the present time, and the single judge tribunal is merely in suspension until a decision is reached on another matter.
– The Railways Classification Board is operating now; that is the only one.
– All the tribunals I mentioned have a finger in the pie at one time or another. When one is checked, another comes into operation.
– All this adds to the cost of production.
– Of course; I am not dealing with this matter from a party point of view. I ask honorable members whether we cannot do something better, than we have been able to do in the past. This complicated industrial machinery is partly due to arbitration legislation of an earlier time, and partly to the working of the recent Arbitration Act. I am dealing now only with the actual consequences of the system, and I ask honorable members to agree with me that there is no sense in the methods adopted. There should be some way of bringing together the parties to industry. I would rather see the employees and employers do the job themselves without interference from politicians.
I conclude by making an old suggestion. Proposals have been made from time to time for the holding of industrial conferences, and these have mostly resulted in failure; the proposals have been greeted with suspicion, and there may have been grounds for it in the minds of the parties. At the present time, however, the Government has an unexampled opportunity of helping the country out of these entanglements by calling an industrial conference. The times are as grave as they can well be, and, if the Government were to give a lead for the holding of an industrial conference really representative of both sides in industry, and if politics could be kept out of the matter so that the parties would approach the subject intent on finding work for our own Australian brothers and sisters, I really think that something might be achieved.
.- This debate has taken a much wider field than I anticipated when the bill was introduced. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) said that the only solution of the unemployment problem was to make private enterprise profitable. What does he mean by profitable? He seems to think that the problems with which we are confronted to-day had their origin only yesterday. He seems to think that the class war of which he speaks is something for which the worker is responsible, and is the outcome of some ingrained “ cussedness “ in the worker himself. If he knew anything about the history of the Labour movement, he would know that the iron “was driven into the souls of the workers by the rapacity of employers over-anxious to make the profit of which he has spoken. He said that the employers and employees should get together. Does he believe that the employer who made 7 per cent, on his capital last year, would be wrong if he attempted to make 10 per cent, this year? Yet the worker, who gets £5 this week, would, if he attempted through his organization to increase his reward for the next week, be condemned and denounced as an enemy of society. The solution of our troubles does not lie in making private enterprise profitable. If the honorable member would only be guided by the evidence of his own senses, he would realize that private enterprise has broken down. Our troubles can be cured only by the social control of industry. In that direction lies the salvation, not only of Australia, but of the whole world. The honorable member spoke about production and private enterprise. The fact is that private enterprise is using the machine, and not the worker. The honorable gentleman said that tariff protection has failed. Of course it has. It has failed because it is protecting, not the workers, but machine production. In my electorate, the manager of Australian Iron and Steel Limited, Mr. Hoskins, stated the other day that six men working at Port Kembla were able to do as much as was formerly done by 175 men at Lithgow. I can vouch for that statement, but what I am about to say now I heard at second-hand. I was told that a manufacturer of porcelain enamel baths, who had previously to employ two men ‘.o turn out three baths in a day, was now, by means of a new machine, able to get one man to turn out 30 or 40 baths a day; and the net result of this is that the price of enamel baths has gone up 13s. each.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– The machine must bc controlled for the benefit of the nation, and working hours must be reduced to two or three or four hours a day, if that is sufficient to supply all that is needed. The machines in use for production today are the product of brains which have been devoted to mechanical problems over a period of centuries. Why should the benefit of those machines, capable of enormous production, be enjoyed by only a few individuals, because, perhaps, their fathers were wealthy enough to pay for the patent rights? Why should they be in a position to exploit the rest of the community, and leave thousands of men and women to starve? That is the problem with which we are confronted to-day. We are not concerned with sophistries about getting the employers and workers together. One might as well try to get the magpie and the worm together at a round-table conference. The system of production for profit has broken down. No thinking person can make even a superficial analysis of the capitalist system without coming to the conclusion that it is utterly incapable of meeting the situation with which we are now conffronted
– Well, what does the honorable member propose?
– The only means by which this country, and, indeed, the civilization of the world, can be saved, is by the introduction of social control of the means of production.
– We have social control of the railways to-day.
– By that interjection the honorable member merely dis- plays his stupidity. The railways are as much a part of the capitalist system as is any,other enterprise in the country.
– What relation does this bear to the subject before the House?
– I do not know. I am merely replying to arguments which were used before me. Everything I have said bears on what’ was said by the last speaker. The Leader of the Opposition said that the losses incurred on the South Australian railway system were, to a large extent, responsible for the unsatisfactory position of that State’s finances.
There is always a desire on the part of honorable members opposite to take a little more from the man lower down. If Mr. Cleary wants to reduce the cost of working the New South Wales railways, let him start by sacking half the bosses. I have frequently seen half a dozen men working with picks and shovels near my suburban railway station, with a fat, lazy boss standing by all day without doing a tap of work. Half the highly-paid bosses who are strutting about the railway stations of New South Wales could be sacked, for they never earn a penny of the money they receive; but, apparently, their jobs cannot be touched. It is only the poor wage-plug, or the engine-drivers, the firemen, and the guards, on whose nerve and ability the- lives of tens of thousands of our citizens depend every week, who may be called upon to suffer.
– Will the honorable member deny that Mr. Cleary voluntarily reduced his own salary?
– Apparently, he tried to do so, but could not do it. He now says that he has given the money for the relief of unemployment; but I have not heard of any unemployment fund in New South Wales which has received money from him.
– I would rather believe Mr. Cleary than the honorable member.
– That is a matter of indifference to me. I would sooner believe any one than the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). Honorable members opposite appear to forget that the main southern line in New South Wales, and probably a good many of the lines in South Australia, were built with money borrowed at 3£ per cent. Not a penny of the loans raised for the building of these railways has been repaid, and we are now obliged to pay interest at the rate oil 5 per cent, and 6 per cent, on practically all the money that was borrowed. In spite of this, bondholders are not being called upon to bear some sacrifice in common with the general community. Honorable members opposite arc willing to take ls. or 6d. or 3d., or even a mean and miserable halfpenny, out of the pay envelope of the worker, but will not call upon the wealthy interests, which they represent, to sacrifice a penny.
I shall vote against this bill, because I consider that it amounts to a betrayal of the unemployed by the Government. This money was originally voted for the relief of unemployment, but now it is proposed to divert it to assist a so-called Labour Premier, who, to balance his budget, is slavishly following the advice of Sir Otto Niemeyer and others of his ilk. The Leader of the Opposition, and the right honorable member for Cowper, are willing to support this measure because it is in accord with the practices of the Nationalist party, lt is a deplorable thing to me that a Labour Government should rob the unemployed in order to assist a Labour Premier to reduce wages. The Government, led by that honorable gentleman, is no better than a Tory or Nationalist Government. I shall not stand for that kind of thing, for it is false to every fundamental principle of the Labour party. A Labour Government would never reduce wages.
– Did not the honorable member vote yesterday for the Income Tax Salaries Assessment Bill?
– I am talking about wages, by which I mean the remuneration of the men who arc receiving barely sufficient to maintain themselves and their families. The remark of the Leader of the Opposition is such as one might expect from a lawyer trained to appear in our courts to split hairs and prolong litigation with the object of increasing bis emolument. If £1,000 be taken from a man with £4,000 a year, he is not called upon to suffer very much. If I had my way I would not pay a single public servant in this country more than £1,000 a year.
Although I shall oppose this bill, 1 should not object to the making of s special grant to South Australia or any other necessitous State in a proper and honest way. I have on many occasions in this Parliament voted in favour of grants-in-relief to various States. What I object to is the diversion of this money from the purpose upon which Parliament intended it to be spent. It is disgraceful that the Government should think of taking £850,000, which should be spent to provide food for the thousands of hungry men, women, and little children in our midst, and using it to assist a State to pay interest, charges. This action is, in my opinion, miserable and contemptible. If is not only a betrayal of the people by the Government, but also a betrayal of the best principles of the Labour movement. I shall have nothing whatever to do with the proposal, and if I had 2,000 votes I should use every one of them against it.
.- Like the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), I shall vote against this bill, because I- believe that it is, in effect* a betrayal of the unemployed by the Government. The sum of £1,000,000 was voted to assist in unemployment relief, and it should be used for that purpose. To use it for any other purpose is’ a piece of political legerdemain. It has been said that some, promise was made by the Premiers of the other States to assist South Australia by foregoing their claim to a portion of this money, and that this has made it possible for the Commonwealth to devote the whole of the money to the relief of South Australia. I know very well why some, if not all, of the State Premiers were not willing to use this money for the specific purpose for which it was provided. The Queensland Government, for instance, has a relief scheme in operation, principally for the purpose of breaking down award rates of pay. The Moore Government does not want, this money, because it can only be used on works in respect of which aware! rare.” are paid. Only last week Mr. Moore put in hand the building of a railway from Wallaville to Goodnight, on which less than award rates are. being paid.
– If the men were not given this work they could not get any work at all.
– So far as I am concerned, the Government has taken a cowardly course in connexion with this money, and I am not prepared to stand for it.- This kind of sleight-of-hand trick does not commend itself to me.
– Evidently the honorable member would rather let men starve than work.
– It is not a question of starving or working. The unemployed workers of South Australia will continue to starve, even if this money is voted to that State, for it will be used to pay interest, and not to provide work.
– Mr. Baddeley said the other day that the New South Wales Labour Government could not afford to pay award rates on relief work, and he is as good a Labour man as the honorable member.
– I do not know whether Mr. Baddeley made the statement which the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has attributed to him; but,, if he did, I disagree with him, whether I am as good a Labour man as he- is or not. It is extraordinary to me that a Labour Government should have even suggested the diversion of this money from the purpose for which it was voted. The Labour Government of South Australia, like the Labour Government of any other State which has reduced wages, stands in exactly the same category as a Nationalist government, so far as I am concerned. Even if this money is voted to assist South Australia, the budget of that State will not be balanced this year, while the budget of the Commonwealth will be much farther from being balanced. In my opinion, it is cowardly and contemptible to take this money away from the unemployed. Only one or two measures for grants-in-aid of necessitous Spates have come before this Parliament since I have been a member of it, and I have voted for them. If a legitimate request had come from South Australia for assistance to tide it over a particularly difficult financial period, I would have supported it. I am willing to support in a straightforward way a straightforward request of that kind. I have been straightforward all my life, though I may not have very great ability.
– Is the honorable member the only political Simon Pure opposite ?- .
– I do not make any such claim; but I shall never support a contemptible proposal of this kind. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and honorable members opposite can support the bill, of course, because they realize that this Government is working for the Nationalist party, and not for the Labour party. If the various State Premiers will say clearly that they do not want this money because of the conditions that are attached to the taking of it, and South Australia applies for it, I shall be prepared to consider the request favorably; but I shall certainly not support this measure. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Page), speaking this afternoon about the first £1,000,000 granted by this Government for the relief of unemployment, ‘ said that the New South Wales Government had misused the portion it had received. It was refreshing to hear the right honorable member admit that one of his confreres, Mr. Bavin, could be guilty of an action of that kind. It is a common trick of National governments to accept money for one, purpose and. use it. for another; but the Labour party should never ‘ descend to that kind of thing.
– The Labour caucus has been doing something similar to that ever since the re-assembling of Parliament two or three weeks ago.
– The honorable member does not know what the Labour caucus has been doing.
– The Labor Daily has given us a good deal of information on the subject.
– If the honorable member does not know more about the doings of the Labour caucus than he knows about the doings at Mount Morgan he does not know very much. It has been said that the Hogan Labour Government in Victoria has reduced wages. I do not regard high salaries in the same light as wages.
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) is the president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party. Why does he not protest against what the Hogan Government is doing, if its actions are out of accord with the Labour platform?
– I am not responsible for what the honorable member for Bendigo does or does not do. So long as I am a member of this Parliament I shall indignantly refuse to stand for trickery of this kind.
Mr.SPEAKER (Hon. Norman Makin). - The use of that word is disorderly.
– It might not be parliamentary; but what I have said is perfectly true. I resent the action of the representatives of the Government in agreeing to hand over to South Australia money which was voted for the specific purpose of relieving unemployment. No doubt the Bavin and Moore Governments did not desire to use it for the purpose intended. The grant was made by this Parliament for one purpose only, and Messrs. Bavin and Moore wished to make themselves good fellows in assisting to balance the budget of South Australia by agreeing to hand over to that State their proportion of the £1,000,000. But they had no authority to agree to that, and I will not stand for an illegal act of that kind.
.- I hope that those honorable members who have signified their opposition to the payment of the proposed grant to South Australia will consider the matter in another light. I ask them whether it is not possible for them to agree to the granting of £850,000 to South Australia at the present time, and the provision of a quid pro quo for the relief of unemployment out of some other fund. If South Australia is not assisted as proposed under this hill, it will still be necessary for it to apply to the Commonwealth for financial aid. I admit the soundness of the arguments advanced by those honorable members who hare expressed opposition to the bill. In my own electorate I have eulogized the Government for having placed £1,000,000 on the last Estimates for the relief of unemployment, and I was pleased to be able to do that ; but I was grieved when I noticed that, at a meeting of Premiers and State Treasurers, it was agreed that £850,000 of that sum should he used for another purpose. I urge those honorable members who do not feel disposed to support the bill to request that another £1,000,000 be made available for theassistance of the unemployed.
As honorable members know South Australia is in a most precarious financial position. Her disabilities under federation have been investigated from time to time, and, therefore, I do not intend to traverse the recommendations of the various commissions that have inquired into them ; but in each case the granting of financial assistance by the Commonwealth was suggested. Personally, I see no necessity at the present time for a further inquiry into the matter by the Public Accounts Committee. I have before me copies of the reports submitted by various investigating bodies. The Bruce-Page Government appointed a commission that sat under the chairmanship of Sir Joseph Cook, and it recommended that certain action be taken, but its recommendation was not adopted at that time. Prior to that, the South Australian Government itself appointed a select committee to inquire into the matter. Before its report was to have been presented an election intervened, and another committee was appointed. The latter found that South Australia was entitled to assistance from the Commonwealth, because, owing to its geographical position, it did not receive the benefits intended from the policy of protection adopted by the various governments of the Commonwealth. On that account special consideration has been given to South Australia, and all the evidence procurable now by the Accounts Committee would be identical with that obtained by the commission that sat under Sir Joseph Cook, and by the committees appointed by South Australia. Tasmania has applied to us for financial aid from time to time, and similar requests from both Western Australia and South Australia have been made in the past. The present Government has done a good deal to assist my State. An arrangement has been made to grant South Australia £1,000,000 over a period of three years, and I believe that £340,000 is to be paid this year.
The subject of unemployment should not have been discussed in connexion with this measure. The present position of my State is not due to unemployment; but the percentage of unemployment there, in proportion to the population, is greater than in any other part of the Commonwealth. It is impossible to tax the people back, to prosperity. One might as well bleed an anaemic person as sack men in order to remove unemployment. Our attention should be directed to means of creating employment^ instead of perpetuating the evil that has brought about the present depression.’ If we eliminated .interest charges on our railway systems, we should find them to be paying propositions. Unemployment will be intensified if we rely on borrowed money. It is a cruel policy to dismiss employees for the purpose of assisting to balance a budget. South Australia has 24 per cent, of its working people out of employment; but, on one scheme alone - the construction of the Red Hill to Port Augusta railway - 1,000 men could be given work. This line would be reproductive from the day when the first train ran over it. It would show a profit of £7,000 per annum, and it would also provide greatly improved facilities. It could be built on the same plan as that followed in the construction of the transAustralian railway, without the Government borrowing a penny. Many other works could be carried out in a similar way.
In introducing the bill, the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) eulogized the South Australian Government for the economies that it has effected; but I cannot wholly agree with him in that respect. We should give serious thought to the fact that Australia is over-governed. Our forefathers, and those who fought for the establishment of federation, never anticipated that the system of State and Federal governments would be maintained indefinitely. I favour the abolition of State parliaments. This would do away with the present State jealousies. If there were no State boundaries, the disabilities of South Australia under federation would receive more sympathetic consideration from this Parliament than they do under the present system. South Australia would then be regarded, not as a State, but as an important part of the Commonwealth. Western Australia, similarly, would benefit from the abolition of the State’ parliaments. If this legislature is not the National Parliament of Australia, we should abolish it, and return to the position that obtained prior to federation. In my opinion, the over-lapping of State and Federal authorities, and the duplication of taxation, are largely responsible’ for our present unenviable position. Although South Australia is said to have effected considerable economies, no consideration has been given to the abolition of the positions of the State Governor and the Agent-General in London. Let me remind honorable members opposite, who have spoken about wage reduction, that the Leader of the Opposition in South- Australia, Mr. Butler, agreed with the Premier, Mr. Hill, to reduce the wages of public servants on the bottom rung of the ladder; but Mr. Butler fought tooth and nail for the retention of the salary of £2,500 a year for the Agent-General, Sir Henry Barwell. If the pruning knife is to be applied, it should be used not on the basic wage, but on such salaries as those of State Agents-General. A High Commissioner is sent to Great Britain by this Government, and he should be sufficient-‘ to represent Australia, both the Commonwealth and the States. The abolition. by each of the States of the office of Agent-General would effect a saving of £15,000 per annum. A further saving could be made by abolishing the office of State Governor. So far, however, the effecting of economics in those directions has not been considered; or if it has, the suggestion has not been made by members of this Parliament. But they drag in references to the unemployed, and advocate the reduction of wages, on every occasion, whether it be opportune or not. Neither the reduction of wages, the dismissal of men from the Government service, nor greater production by existing industries, will enable Australia to escape from her present troubles. At the present time we are overstocked with the products of different industries, and what is needed is the establishment of new industries. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) spoke truly when he said that the principal factor responsible for’ unemployment is the advance that has taken place in the use of machinery. Only a few weeks ago the secretary of a branch of the Waterside Workers Federation, in a South Australian port, told me that 32 men did all the wharf work involved in the loading of four vessels. Less than three years ago the same amount of work would have meant the employment of 480 men. That reduction was made possible by the installation of modern machinery at the port.
– “Why kill men when machinery will do the work?
– We are reaching the point of saturation and what is needed is, not the bolstering up of industries that are producing more than we require, but the establishment of new industries. That should be the special concern of every government to-day. I could mention other instances in which a vast amount of labour has been displaced by machinery. I am not arguing against the practice ; it was bound to come as a result of the adoption of progressive ideas. But “we have to. counter its effect by employing in other suitable occupations those who have been displaced. Only a few months ago I visited a quarry in South Australia from which ironstone is sent to Newcastle. There I saw a large steam navvy lift 3,380 tons of ironstone. The two men who worked it could lift only 90 tons before it was installed. Every manufacturing industry is installing improved machinery at the present time, with the result that more and more people are losing employment. The argument of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that the reduction of wages would give employment to a great number of people, cannot be sustained. The employers will install the most modern machinery, irrespective of what the wage may be, with a view to making the utmost profit. We have to devise means for absorbing our large army of unemployed on reproductive works, and in profitable new industries.
Some honorable members are opposed to this measure because the amount that it is proposed to give to South Australia was originally allocated to the States for the relief of unemployment. I urge them to recognize that had South Australia not been promised this sum. it would have been obliged to approach the Commonwealth for assistance from some other source. This House recognized its responsibility to the unemployed when it voted £1,000.000 for their relief. That money having been diverted to another purpose, the Government should be asked to make provision for a further grant for the relief of unemployment.
– Where is it to obtain the money?
– Even if the deficit were increased by £1,000,000, that would be justified. Why is there so much talk of balancing budgets at the present time? It has become a catch-cry. It is not possible to rectify the existing position in one year, and any government that attempts to do so will face prohibitive odds. The attempt certainly should not be made at the expense of the unemployed.
Neither this Parliament nor a State Parliament can give effect to a policy while it is dominated by the Loan Council. That has been proved in the present case. It is not right that the Loan Council should have the power to veto the legislation’ of a Parliament or the act of a responsible government, as has been done on this occasion. I ask honorable members to give South Australia a quid pro quo for the disabilities she has suffered on account of federation, and to urge upon the Government the necessity for providing another £1,000,000 for the relief of unemployment.
.- It is not to be expected that the Commonwealth Government can continue to make these grants to needy States. At the present time no fewer than three States are receiving financial assistance from it.
– What is the cause?
– We must insist upon the cause being found, and a remedy being provided.
– The honorable member should not forget the assistance that is given to Queensland in connexion with the sugar, banana, pineapple, and peanut industries.
– It must not be forgotten that this grant will not be clear gain to the people of South Australia; as it comes out of Consolidated Revenue they will be called upon to pay their share of it in the form of increased taxation. That applies also to the people of Western Australia and Tasmania.
Before the decision was arrived at to assist South Australia financially, a royal commission was appointed to investigate the affairs of that State. I have read very carefully the report of that commission, and the statement in it which appeals most to me is that which deals with the geographical position of South Australia. The commission practically said that the State is so unfavorably placed, geographical^, that she is. unable to make ends meet. In support of that statement, it said that only 18.3 per cent, of the total area of the State has a rainfall in excess of 10 inches a year. No other State in Australia has such a small percentage of its territory in so low a rainfall area. Yet, although, geographically, South Australia is not a great agricultural or pastoral State, more than half of its population lives in the city of Adelaide. How can 43 per cent, of the population maintain the remaining 57 per cent.? I blame succeeding governments in South Australia for having permitted such a state of affairs to come about. I give them this credit, however, that during the last nine years they have made heroic efforts to make ends meet, with the result that to-day the people of South Australia are the most heavily taxed in the Commonwealth.
There must be a reason for South Australia’s present position. In the first place, it is essentially a big man’s State. The south-western portion of Queensland contains land somewhat similar to that of South Australia. In the early days, that country was held in very large estates; but the Labour party, in an endeavour to break up big estates, resumed them and subdivided them into grazing areas. The men who were placed upon these had to stock to the utmost to make a living, and when a dry period was experienced they found it impossible to carry on. That has been largely the position of both the wheat-grower and the pastoralist in South Australia.
S.o, necessitous: is South Australia today, that the Governments of the other States deserve commendation for having waived their right to share in this amount which it is proposed to. make available to. that State. I shall support the bill.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to’ 8 p.m. [Quorum formed].
– The introduction of this small bill has caused much discussion. Even the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Page) .gave it great attention. He deal with the unification of railway gauges, the expenses of running the South Australian railways, the purchase of rolling stock by the State and the construction of the Adelaide railway station. I shall not follow his example, because the bill contains no reference whatever to those things. He also said that the tariff had been largely responsible for the great amount of unemployment in South Australia. That was as good a peg as any other on. which to hang an argument. Then the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) treated the House to a learned discourse on arbitration, and suggested remedies for what he termed its defects. He wound up his speech by saying that if employer and employee could come together, we should have peace on earth and goodwill towards men. That is a good old argument, but it will not solve the unemployment problem. This Government placed on the Estimates £1,00.0,000 for the relief of unemployment throughout Australia. The Opposition resisted thai action, contending that it was not the function of the Commonwealth to relieve unemployment in the States. But, despite the Opposition, the Government in its wisdom decided that each State should get its quota according to its population. The money was to be allocated on two conditions; first, that the States were to expend it on new works and not on works under construction, and, secondly, thai’ award rates were to be paid. New South “Wales, under the leadership of the exPremier (Mr. Bavin), declined to accept its quota on those conditions. That State is certainly entitled to £365,000 out of the £1,000,000. It has a. large army of unemployed and that sum would have been just as acceptable to it as £850,000 is to South Australia, unemployment in New South Wales being just as great.
– South Australia has more unemployment than any other State.
– Yesterday a riot took place in Sydney, because of the. dissatisfaction prevailing among the unemployed at the lack of action on the part of the Government to give them relief. If £365,000 had been allocated to New South “Wales, many of those men would have been employed. Now the Premier of South Australia has been given £850,000. My great objection to the course adopted by this Government in conjunction with the Loan Council is that the money which they so freely granted to South Australia should properly be under control of this Parliament. The Loan Council had no right to usurp the function of this Parliament.
– It was not the Loan Council, but the Premiers Conference that decided on this grant.
– The Prime Minister gave this Parliament a solemn undertaking that the £1,000,000 placed on the Estimates would be spent solely for the relief of unemployment. Therefore, our representative at the Premiers Conference - the Acting Treasurer - had no right to authorize this payment of £850,000 to South Australia. Even the Treasurers of the various States present at that conference had no mandate from their respective Parliaments to decide what was to be done with the money. It was not their money; it was the money of this Parliament. Therefore, I repudiate the action of the representative of this Parliament who consented to the granting of £850,000 to South Australia. If that State intended to use the money to relieve unemployment, there would be some excuse for granting it, but not one penny of it is to be used for that purpose. “We are told that the grant is to help South Australia to balance its budget. It may do that; but it will not relieve unemployment. This Parliament now has an opportunity to reject, if it so desires, the agreement made at the Melbourne conference. I submit that New South “Wales has as much right as South Australia to this money. It is very nice to balance budgets; but that is not the outstanding requirement of to-day. The unemployment problem is of far greater importance.
– New South “Wales cannot balance its budget.
– No Treasurer, during the past few years, has been able- to balance his budget. Even the right honorable member for Cowper was unable to do that, although we know that he borrowed money by means of short-dated loans to get out of financial difficulty. He, like others who borrow money to pay their debts, then said, “ Thank God the debt is paid “.
– That is what the honorable member is at present advocating.
– This Government has committed a breach of faith by allowing this money to be expended for a purpose other than the relief of unemployment. We have heard lately the frequent use of the word “ repudiation “ ; but if the South Australian Premier accepts this money, and uses it to balance his budget, that will be tantamount to repudiation in-so-far as the money is not being used for the purpose for which it was originally voted. It will not be used to relieve unemployment.
– It will help to do so.
– -It will not place one additional person in employment.
– It will prevent a lot of men from going out of employment.
– We have a large number of unemployed in the Federal Capital Territory, but no money is to be expended for their relief. There is no relief for them.
– There is, indeed.
– Not from the expenditure of the £1,000,000 originally voted for that particular purpose. We are losing from £11,000 to £12,000 a year in the Federal Capital Territory because of the non-occupation of buildings, which are standing idle because the Government says that it cannot afford to transfer departments from Melbourne. This is a disgraceful state of affairs, particularly when hundreds of thousands of pounds are being given to one State to help it to balance its budget. I deplore the action of the Government in not using this money for the relief of unemployment.
– I am about to pay the Government what it may consider a doubtful compliment, by praising it for its action. I know that that may be rather embarrassing to it in view of the attitude of so many of the left-wingers on that side of the House. However, we as members of the Opposition can mete out evenhanded justice only when we get an opportunity, and when we find that deserving Ministers are being harshly dealt with, being figuratively kicked to death by members of their own party, it is only right that we should come to their rescue. We should look at these questions from the point of view of Australia, and not from that of any sectional or party interests. If ever there were a time when we should take a broader view than the mere petty party or parochial view of all matters before the Federal Parliament, it should be now; but, in all my experience of eight years in this Parliament, never before have I heard a more parochial, backyard discussion than what we have had to-day.
– Has the honorable member any unemployed in his electorate ?
– The speech of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) typified the truly parochial spirit - the State’s right spirit, which we should not see in this Parliament. “I was pleased, indeed, that the Government has retrieved its unfortunate action in deciding to make a grant of £1,000,000 to the unemployed in the various States. It was a foolish and wasteful proposal, because the expenditure of £1,000,000 for that, purpose would have been of little use. That money, like all easy money, would have been squandered mostly on sand-shifting schemes in the electorates such as that of the honorable member for South Sydney. That is where much of the unemployed relief money raised for the metropolitan areas is expended. I daresay that the honorable member is peeved to think that those sand-shifting works may not be continued at the same rate as previously. The Government has retrieved its error, and has converted a small parochial action into a large national one. It has conformed to the principle, adopted by this Parliament some years ago, of making grants to the States for high financial purposes. If we adopt the policy - I cannot call it a principle1 - of throwing unemployment doles to certain States which, like a lot of hungry dogs, are howling and barking on the Commonwealth door-step for a little contribution from the revenue, from funds that come partly out of the pockets of their own taxpayers, we shall lower the prestige of the Commonwealth in the eyes of the people, and this Parliament will lose its value as an instrument for the development and right distribution of the resources of the country. Never before in the history of the Commonwealth lias this been done. The Government showed considerable wisdom and vision in adopting the advice of the State Premiers at the Premiers Conference. When Ministers are away from the hypercritical political influences at work in their own party, they are more prone to take a broad national view than when Parliament is sitting, and I feel that if the Government will pursue that line of policy when the present sittings terminate, the interests of the Commonwealth will be much better safeguarded than they are now. Not only do I object to the offering of unemployment doles to the States from the money derived from the taxpayers who furnish the revenues of the Commonwealth and the States; I consider that we have reached a stage at which we must review the whole question of making grants to the States for any purpose whatsoever. I was never infatuated with the practice, commenced some years ago, of assisting the States to balance their budgets. As one who has studied the course of State development and State finance, I have always been convinced that no matter how much money the Commonwealth Government takes from the taxpayers and hands back to the State authorities, the same ‘ end is reached, for the reason that the States have always been working on wrong lines of development. The opinion I thus formed has been absolutely justified by the stupendous muddle in which the States find themselves to-day; not only South Australia, but also New South Wales, Victoria. Western Australia - which is in the biggest muddle of the lot - Queensland, and even Tasmania. Although, for years past, the Commonwealth Government has been showering special grants on the States for budget balancing purposes, it has not assisted them one whit to get out of the trouble which was inevitable. We have only to look at their position to-day to realize that, if they had been given a, great deal more money, unconditionally, with which to balance their budgets, their muddle would probably be much greater than it is now. Although the Commonwealth is hampering its own activities, and preventing the balancing of its own budget by giving these grants, it is not assisting the States in any material direction to return to the path of financial stability. We have only to study the case of South Australia to realize how tragic has been the policy pursued by the States, and also by the Commonwealth in encouraging them to continue on the lines they have been following. South Australia is in a position which is almost incredible. Within the last five years, its population has increased by only 41,000, or by about 8 per cent., yet its taxation has grown from £3 to over £6 per head, an increase of approximately 100 per cent. Its developmental expenditure, to which all governmental effort should be directed, has been disproportionate to the growth of the population, and it is obvious that its whole scheme of government has been unsound. As the honorable member for Oxley (“Mr. Bayley) pointed out this afternoon, South Australia suffers more from centralization than any other part of Australia. The bulk of its territory is arid, not more than 18 per cent, of its area having an average rainfall above 10 inches. That is certainly a serious handicap, but States in America oven more handicapped in that respect have, in the same period, achieved better results financially and developmentally. Mr. Price. - With the same population ?
– Originally, they had much less population than South Australia has to-day, yet they have overcome their aridity and their geographical disadvantages, and to-day have enormous populations and a sound system of decentralization, while there is nothing wrong with their financial methods. South Australia has been one of the worst borrowers in the Commonwealth in proportion to its population. In five years its public debt has increased from £66,000,000 to £92,000,000, an increase of 27 per cent. Per head of the population, the increase has been from £125 to £159, although in the same period the population has increased by only 8 per cent. Judged by the tests usually applied to determine the soundness of methods of government and development, the State has proved one of the most disastrous failures in the Commonwealth. I” have no particular desire to heap scorn on South Australia. There are other States with almost as bad a record. The muddle into which all the States have got proves that their methods of government and development are totally wrong, and constitutes a tragedy. They offer no security to this country; particularly do they offer no security to the workers. If the welfare of the workers of the country is the principal concern of its government, or the main motive for good government, Australia, taking it all through, is one of the biggest failures in the British Empire, judged by its development. Should this Parliament pander to local prejudices or State rights when such a policy has led us into our present position? And the position is bound to get worse. If the States do not try to get out of their own difficulties they ought not to expect the Commonwealth Parliament to come to the rescue. The Commonwealth Parliament should not misuse the powers given it under the Constitution to try to save the States from the consequences of their own mismanagement and folly.
– It is the Commonwealth’s legislation which has brought the States into- their present position.
– To some extent that is correct, because the whole system of federation, after 30 years, has been found to be unsound. It is based on the sovereignty of the States and the inferiority of the Commonwealth, and this has led to the disastrous position of to-day - the States, which for 30 years have been really masters in their own houses, are now beggars on the doorstep of the Commonwealth. The invited guest has been raised to the position which he should have held in the first place, though I am sorry to say, honorable members of this House, with few exceptions, will not recognize that.
My object in speaking is to impress on honorable members the futility of insisting on a continuance of the stupendous folly of showering doles on the States to try to save them from a condition of affairs which is enevitable, if they continue on the same old lines.
– This bill is showering another dole.
– It is a continuance of the policy adopted seven or eight years ago, of giving the States statutory doles to balance their budgets ; and this Government’s action recently in offering a dole, unconditionally, for unemployment purposes, was not in accord with that policy. But I ask honorable mem- 1 ers to consider where this will lead us. Fortunately, the good sense of the Government came to the rescue and the unemployment dole “was not given. A most undesirable precedent was thus nipped in the bud. “We know very well that £1,000,000 would not have relieved all the unemployment in the States, and in a very few months the Commonwealth would have been asked for another £1,000,000. Thus it would have become a fixed obligation on the part of the Commonwealth Parliament to attempt to relieve unemployment in the States by means of unconditional doles. How are the States spending the money which they raised for unemployment relief, money wrung by taxation out of their own workers? I know what is happening in New South Wales. We do not see any improvement in the position there, although in the last six months the Government has collected a wages tax at the rate of 3d. in the £1. There is nowT talk of making the amount ls. in the £1. I know that in South Australia and other States the tax is much more than 3d. in the £1.
– The people must be fed.
– Yes, and they are being fed. It is the common obligation of governments, in this country at all events, to feed and house the people, and that obligation is being honoured. I do not admit that there are any starving people in Australia. At any rate, there should not be any, because any government that knows that its citizens are starving, and does . not use sloane of its funds to feed them, is certainly acting contrary to the wishes of the community, and is not fulfilling the ordinary functions of a government. But merely feeding the people is not solving the problem of unemployment. Although ministerial members are now complaining of the action of the Government, before long they will be pleased that it has saved the Commonwealth from the consequences of this folly. A grant of £1,000,000 for the relief of unemployment will be as a mere drop in the Ocean. In a short time the States, especially the more necessitous ones, will be asking for further doles, and they will use the arguments advanced by Government supporters to-day - “ The balancing of the Commonwealth budget is a secondary consideration. Let the Commonwealth budget go hang. Hand over to us any money you can raise and let us spend it mainly on sand-shifting jobs.” Such a policy would mean the end of ordered government, and destroy all prospect of national progress. We must make a stand against it. It is difficult to oppose the immediate relief of unemployment, and I am not doing so, but in the unemployment sphere, as in the spheres of development, railways administration, and finance, the States have fallen down on the job. Except that they are maintaining a police force and a system of local government, and rendering a few other services to the community, they have singularly failed, and they will continue to do so, whether we give them £1,000,000 or £5,000,000. This system of doles must be resisted here and now. I may be asked what we are to do in regard to unemployment. My answer is that that is not the responsibility of this Parliament.
– The Opposition has made it appear that unemployment is the responsibility of this Parliament.
– The present’ Government has accepted it.
– If the honorable member contends that the Commonwealth has a constitutional right to undertake the solution of the unemployment problem, the logical inference is that the States have failed, and that the federal authority has a constitutional right to step in and take charge of their affairs. If that is correct, the Commonwealth has suddenly acquired some hitherto unsuspected constitutional power to supersede the States. What gives’ to the Commonwealth a right to take from the States a responsibility which is constitutionally theirs? Have the States asked the Commonwealth to assume that responsibility? I have not heard any honorable member quote reliable evidence that’ any State has approached the Commonwealth for money for the relief of unemployment.
– All. the States are doing that.
– No ; they are not requesting a dole for the relief of unemployment; they are asking the Commonwealth to leave certain fields of taxation free to them, so that they may impose further burdens on the taxpayers. Their grievance against the Commonwealth is not that the money that it is providing for unemployment is insufficient, but that it is encroaching too greatly upon the field of taxation which they claim belongs to them. ‘
– That is a fact.
Mr. THOMPSON.We shall have to determine which fields constitutionally belong to the Commonwealth and the States respectively. We are begging that question now, but we shall have to face it sooner or later. Labour members who are flogging the Government on account of the paltry grant of £850,000, which is being rightly made to South Australia in accordance with the previous policy of assisting the States to balance their budgets, lose sight of the fact that if the Commonwealth desires to go in for unemployment relief in a practical and businesslike way, there are many important national works upon which its surplus money can be advantageously expended. If there is any case to be made out against the Commonwealth in regard to unemployment, it rests on its inability to carry to completion a number of big projects which have been started in recent years. The Federal Capital is the most striking instance. Where could £1,000,000 be applied for the relief of unemployment more usefully than in Canberra? There would be no difficulty in getting unemployed from Melbourne and Sydney to work here if employment were available. The completion of works that must sooner or later be proceeded with, rendering the city more attractive, and helping it to yield a return to the Commonwealth, would be a logical and businesslike policy. But all constructional activities have been suspended. Our attitude towards Canberra is thoroughly unpractical and illogical. The north-south railway has not been completed. This is a national undertaking on which could be spent another £1,000,000 for the relief of unemployment.
– Do not waste the money there.
– If the honorable member is right, the Commonwealth is in an anomalous position. After having built 140 miles of railway from north to south, construction has been stopped within 20 miles of the original objective. Surely that is bad business.
– Do not send good money after bad.
– That is all very well, but if the Commonwealth has money to spare it should finish the job. The Hume Weir is a vast national project, hut apparently, we have been compelled to abandon for the time being our roseate dreams of carrying out one of the world’s greatest river-locking and water conservation schemes because the Commonwealth is short of money. The speeding up of that work would absorb many of the unemployed, and expedite a return from the capital invested. For many years Ave have talked of the unification of railway gauges at an estimated cost of £57,000,000.
– The estimate for the modified scheme is £21,000,000.
– That work must be taken in hand at some time, and if the Commonwealth has money to spare now when money is elsewhere so scarce, we should apply it to some national undertaking rather than fritter it away on the shifting of suburban sand. Another means by which unemployment can be relieved in a logical way without encroaching on the sphere of the States is by extending the operations of the Postal Department. Thousands of men who have spent many years in the service as temporary hands - I know of one man who was temporary for fourteen years - have received notice of dismissal. If we have £1,000,000 to spare, we should hand it over to the Postal Department so that the services of those men may be retained for a time at any rate. If the expending of this money is to be governed by considerations of sympathy and benevolence we could do as much good with it in the Postal Department as if we handed it over to the States unconditionally. They very probably will spend it on relief works in electorates such as South Sydney.
– What about that relief job at Tamworth?
– I know of none there, and I remind the honorable member that the cry for unemployment relief is not’ coming from country districts.
– I have seen many unemployed walking along country roads.
– They are the surplus population who can no longer make a living in the cities and are obliged to “waltz Matilda.” The country is keeping many of the unemployed. They draw rations at the police stations, obtain food at farms, and get a little casual employment in the towns. The country is draining off the dangerous surplus population of the cities and keeping them from starvation. Many are proceeding from the cities to the country, and the reduction of the city population is likely to continue. At present, the country districts have very little to help them to withstand the economic shocks they are receiving from the capital cities. They have practically no industries. Many of the small factories, which were once operating have been closed down, and their activities transferred to the capital cities. Many of the farmers are practically bankrupt, the pastoralists can just manage to keep themselves, and generally speaking, those engaged in business in country districts are having as bad a time as city commercial men. Notwithstanding this, the country has to carry the extra burden of supporting many city dwellers, who are now drifting to rural areas. The view of the country districts in this connexion has been totally ignored, particularly by honorable members opposite. If we focussed our minds upon some of the problems which are vital to country districts, such as the cost of wheat production, and country road development, there would be more justification for spending any money available in that direction than in throwing it away on so-called relief works in the capital cities. I do not wish to use my place in this House to disparage a State such as South Australia, which has indeed a very hard row to hoe. South Australia is in a serious position, and from my study of the situation, I should not be surprised if, before long, the Commonwealth has to take over the control of its finances for at least a period. If that should happen, a similar procedure may be followed with respect to other States, as it is impossible for some of them to continue to function as at present. Their position is absolutely hopeless, and they will have to ask the Commonwealth to assume the responsibility of balancing their budgets. I may be looking some distance ahead; but if that situation arises we shall have to face the issue, and disregard many of the minor problems upon which this Parliament is now engaged. I feel that in discussing measures such as this, which are not worthy of more than five minutes consideration by this Parliament, we are wasting our time. We should be debating more important problems such as the constitutional relation between the Commonwealth and the States, finance, and the cost of production. While such problems are being sidestepped, we are devoting our time to a discussion of whether it is right or wrong to do something which has already been done. This money has been handed over to South Australia.
– Not all of it.
– A decision has been reached, and as a portion of the money has been paid, the arrangement cannot now be revoked. I was surprised at the ingenuity displayed by certain honorable members opposite when they woke up. to the fact that payment had already been made. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) coolly suggested that if the money had been handed over to South Australia the Government should obtain, another £1,000,000 from some source, which was not disclosed, to relieve unemployment. One honorable member naturally asked where the additional money was to be obtained, but the question was not answered. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) referred to another mythical £1,000,000.
– The honorable member should ask me where to obtain it.
– Where would the honorable member for Adelaide obtain it ?
– Prom the Commonwealth Bank. Give me the job, I will do it.
– I was unaware that the honorable member had served his apprenticeship at the printing trade. Certain honorable members opposite who have criticized the action of the Government, which they usually support, know that the money has been disposed of in a clear and straightforward way. Now that it has gone, they coolly suggest that another £1,000,000 should be obtained, so that the Government can proceed with its original proposal and hand it over to the States, which have not asked for it, and if they had it would merely put it down the sink.
– Some of the States would not accept a Commonwealth contribution because of the conditions attached to it.
– If that is so, why force another £1,000,000 upon them? One honorable member said that £1,000,000 would have to be found somewhere.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey). In view of the financial statement presented by the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons), I ask honorable members opposite if it is not unreasonable to require the Government to rake over the financial garbage heap for another £1,000,000, which would only be thrown away, particularly as there is a possibility of the Commonwealth being faced with a deficit of £20,000,000. The Commonwealth may eventually be the bankrupt party. We should be making a desperate effort to balance our budget. The Commonwealth should set an example to the State Governments. If we adopt these unusual methods, disregard the principles of sound finance by robbing Peter to pay Paul, we shall not be assisting to restore public confidence. We should endeavour to assist the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton) and the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) to carry out what they consider the great desideratum in removing the wide-spread inertia which seems to bc increasing in Australia. The Acting Prime Minister stated that the Commonwealth Parliament could assist in overcoming our difficulties by the example it set to others. He presumably meant that it could do so by displaying common sense, and removing the inertia which is not only paralysing the commercial life of this country, but absolutely “destroying the hopes of the workers. Those honorable members opposite who are criticizing the Government are adopting a frivolous and irresponsible attitude. I am amazed that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) should laugh in the face of stark tragedy, such as that with which we are confronted to-day. The economic depression in Australia is something with which every one is vitally concerned, and should not be treated lightly by this Parliament. The Government was not under any obligation to hand over £850,000 to South Australia, and could have used it for other purposes. It has retreated from a bad position, and is continuing the policy previously adopted by this Parliament of making a grant to a State for the definite purpose of balancing its budget. The Government apparently realizes that it made a mistake in offering £1,000,000 for unemployment, and now declines to waste money on some intangible unemployment relief scheme. I cannot understand how any South Australian member, with any sense of responsibility to the State which he represents and to the Government which he supports, can criticize an action which may be the means of saving South Australia from almost immediate insolvency.
.- In briefly expressing my views upon this measure I wish to follow the example of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) by endeavouring to discuss it from the national viewpoint. While I believe the Commonwealth should work in co-operation with the States in an endeavour to solve their problems, I do not think that any outside body should vary or set aside a decision of the Commonwealth Parliament. The question is not whether the Premiers’ conference or the Loan Council or the Commonwealth Government should assist South Australia or any other State which is in difficulties, but whether ouside bodies have the right to set aside decisions of the Commonwealth Government.
– The decision was reached at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and not at a meeting of the Loan Council.
– What had they to do with it?
– The Prime Minister attended that conference, and the honorable member should support him.
– For months and months honorable members representing almost every Commonwealth electorate raised the question of unemployment, and eventually the Commonwealth Government agreed to provide £1,000,000 to relieve the situation. Not only did Parliament authorize the expenditure of £1,000,000, but it cut up the sum into quotas, and allocated them to the several States of the Commonwealth in accordance with the requirements of each State. It was not regarded as a parochial question at all, but as a national one. And yet, after Parliament had agreed to this expenditure, an outside body over-rode its decision, and arranged that something else should be done. This money has been collected from the people of Australia, and was allocated according to the needs of the six States. An important principle is involved here. If we allow outside bodies to set aside the decisions of this Parliament, a dangerous precedent will be created, and I intend to register my protest against it.
– The alteration was agreed to by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), and the Premiers of the States concerned.
– It was not agreed to by this Parliament. I am not going to prostitute my judgment by speaking against this proposal, and voting for it. I am going to speak and vote against it, and no one is more loyal to my leaders and my party than I am. I said the first time I spoke in this House, that I would vote against any measure which, in my judgment, I thought to be wrong, and I think that it is wrong for this Parliament to allow its decisions to be disregarded by any outside body. This particular instance may not be vital, but perhaps the next one will be. We should be big enough to agree that each man is entitled to hold his own opinion, and we should cast our votes as we think best.
Speaker after speaker has told us, in the course of recent debates, that we must face the facts. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) made a very good speech. He got right down to economic principled, and appealed to honorable members to face the position squarely. He explained the situation confronting the country, and pointed out that we were drifting into a worse and worse position with each passing year; but he finished his speech without suggesting any way of overcoming the difficulty.
– Yes he did ; he made concrete suggestions.
– If he did I must have missed them. I intend, without any presumption on my part, and without seeking to pose as a financial expert, to say what I think ought to be done to prevent the continual lowering of our standard of living. The Leader of the Opposition said that there was no fixed basic standard of living in Australia, and he added that wages had been continually coming down within recent years, while unemployment had been growing like a snowball. He spoke truly, and I agree with him. Wages have come down. They have been dropping steadily for the last, three or four years. The costs of production have been coming down. Those who have advocated that the salvation of the country lies in cheaper production, lower wages, and lower prices should be satisfied. These things have been coming about steadily for years past.
– The process did not begin as long ago as the honorable member says.
– As a matter of fact, it has been going on for at least five years. Surely the honorable member does not think that all this could happen in five minutes. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, there is - in Australia to-day no fixed minimum standard of living. On paper, there is, but in practice there has never been any such thing. The minimum living wage as fixed by the judge of the Arbitration Court in the Harvester judgment was supposed to be received during 52 weeks in the year, but it has never been received for that period of time by any considerable number of workers. On paper, we have had the highest standard of living in the world, but, actually, the great body of workers has never approached anything like that standard of living. For the last five years, that minimum standard of living has become an absolute farce. The Leader of the Opposition spoke truly when he said that Arbitration Court awards were not being adhered to, and that men were offering to work for less than award rates. Organizations of primary producers are advertising rates of pay as low as £2 10s. a week. I do not say that there is anything wrong in that ; if they are able to do it, they are entitled to do it, but a few years ago such a thing would have been absolutely impossible. No body of employers could then have met, and decided upon rates of wages entirely without consultation with the other side. I do not blame any one in this connexion ; I am merely quoting the fact as proof that the whole economic basis, which determines the relations between capital and labour, has undergone a change, and it has changed in the way that certain persons set out to bring about. I do not suggest that those who embarked on a policy of deflation did so because they had inhuman feelings, or because they hated any one. They probably were honest in their belief that the standard of living was too high, and they set out to lower it. They thought that the more quickly the country got back to pre-war values the better. And they have been very successful - much more successful than one might think from a casual survey of the situation. Consciously, or unconsciously, those persons who thought that in economic deflation lay the salvation of Australia, have brought about the present position. There was a good following of five or six years ago for those who said that we must bring down prices, and lower the cost of production. They said that Australia could not compete in the markets of the world unless production costs were reduced. We could not, they said, produce goods profitably unless the standard of living was lowered. Well, they have got those costs down almost to zero. I am certain that they have got them down as far as they ever expected to.
– No; they can go a long way yet.
– Perhaps the standard of living will be still further reduced; but let us see what has already resulted from this downward trend. Surely it is obvious to every thinking person that the process of deflation has not produced the results anticipated.
Every honorable member opposite, who has spoken in this House recently, has painted the same picture. One group said that relief must be given to the canned fruit-growers, or the whole industry will become insolvent. And they spoke truly. Somebody else moved the adjournment of the House to urge upon the Government the need for granting relief to the wheatgrowers, who are on the verge of bankruptcy. It was pointed out that they owed millions of pounds to the storekeepers, and that it was necessary to carry them over until the crop was harvested. This is what has resulted from the process of deflation.
– No; from inflation.
– I have yet to hear of any school of economists which described as inflation the conditions that exist when prices are coming down.
– They are not coming down.
– Is it not true that the canned fruit-growers, the dried fruitgrowers, the wheat-growers, and other bodies of primary producers are in difficulties to-day because they cannot find a market for their products, or because prices are too low? If that is not true honorable members opposite have been deceiving us. I agree that something must be done by the Commonwealth Government to come to the assistance of the wheat-growers and other primary producers. All our national wealth comes from the primary producers. Land is the only real source of wealth. My studies of economics have taught me so much. But while we must stand by the wheatgrowers and the fruit-growers, we must also stand by the army of unemployed wage-workers. Something must be done to start industry going again. It cannot be denied that during the last four or five years there has been a gradual but persistent process of deflation. The facts are clear, and show that the curve has gone the one way for the last five or six years. Consciously, or unconsciously, the deflation process has been successfully carried out, and these are the results. ‘
Surely it is an admitted economic truth that the ultimate end of production is consumption. If a country loses its power of consumption, what is to happen? The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) said this afternoon that we must concentrate on cheaper and cheaper costs, on more efficient management, and greater production. Every honorable member on the other side has repeated, parrot-like, that we must have more and more production, at cheaper and cheaper costs. And all the while the world is teeming with goods, and there is no one able to buy them because the consuming power has been cut off because of unemployment. It must, be clear to any one who reads modern literature on the subject of economics that there has been a complete revolution in economic thought, brought about by the recognition of this truth; that the one thing necessary to ensure industrial prosperity is high purchasing power of the great mass of the workers of the world. All the economists say that; not merely adherents of the Labour party, but professors of economics in the great universities of America, Canada, and elsewhere. The president of the Bethlehem Steel Works, in a recent article published in the Iron. Age. said that high consuming power, made possible by high buying power, in turn made possible by high wages, was the real root of industrial prosperity. Honorable members opposite apparently concentrate all their attention upon producing more, and doing it more and more cheaply. Yet all the while there are millions of bushels of wheat lying unsold because there are no buyers; there are thousands of bales of wool in store, and canned fruits by the ton are deteriorating because there are no purchasers. Shop assistants are idle, and warehouse attendants have become “dopey” on the job because no one is coming to buy And yet, while this obtains, the process of deflation is going on, and is pushing us further and ‘ further into the quagmire of industrial stagnation. Men are being displaced from industry all over Australia. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), and an honorable member representing one of the South Australian electorates h.ave been commenting lately about the large number of dismissals from the postal service. I have received scores of letters from constituents of mine complaining that economies are being effected, even in regard to such small matters as allowance post offices. Postmistresses, who have been doing postal work for” the meagre sum of £20 a year, have been dispensed with by the department, and when representations have been made to the department, people have been advised that, if they are prepared to continue the work without salary, the postal service may be retained.
– Who is responsible for that ?
– I am not in a position to say definitely. All I know is that this policy of economy has been in force for the last twelve months at least. I am not concerned with the fixing of the responsibility upon any particular administration. I should offer the same criticism irrespective of the Government in power, because I believe that this policy is not the right one to adopt. Surely our mission here should he, not to argue or to place political opponents in a position of disadvantage, but to confer with one another and, if possible, agree upon a course of action to overcome our difficulties. I deprecate criticisms such as have been offered by the honorable member for New England, who, for the last hour, complained about the Government’s sins of omission or commission, but never once made a practical suggestion.
– Now perhaps the honorable member will tell us what is in his mind?
– I purpose doing so. Emerson, on one occasion, gave this advice to politicians, among others - “ Say what you think to-day, if you think it is right, because to-morrow everybody will be screeching it out in the market place.” For the last twelve months experts in finance, and thoughtful university professors and students, have been declaring that this policy of deflation must end, because all the evidence points to the fact that it is making our position worse. It has brought industry below what is regarded as the stabilization point. I am convinced, from my study of economics, that the longer we continue with this policy of deflation, the more deeply shall we find ourselves in the quagmire of stagnation. No one will deny that, industrially and financially, Australia is in a bad way. The position has never been so bad in the memory of any member of this House as it is to-day, and, unhappily, there is no sign on the horizon to indicate that it may improve in the near future. On the contrary, every honorable member, who has taken part in this debate has predicted that it is steadily becoming worse from day to day. Since we are all agreed about the facts, is it not time that we considered seriously proposals to apply the corrective for our economic and financial ills? And, if orthodox measures have proved to be ineffective, why should we be afraid to apply remedies which, hitherto, have been regarded a* unorthodox? I hope that I am not giving the impression that, in this master, I am speaking dogmatically. All I can say is that I have made searching inquiries into this worldwide problem, and I know that economic students in all countries are endeavouring to establish some scientific system for the stabilization, of credit, the giving of employment, and the increasing of the consuming power of the people, which are inextricably interwoven in the fabric of modern society. The figures relating to these three phases of the problem all work together. All existing data show them bending together backwards and forwards, unemployment figures go up or down with the restriction and expansion of credit, and the authorities which I have studied are convinced that the policy of deflation is fraught with grave economic dangers. In 1920 an important conference was held at Brussels to consider the problem. The majority of those who attended that gathering held the view that inflation had continued long enough, and that the time had come for deflation. Accordingly, this policy was put into force. Australia, being so far distant from European countries, was the last to feel its effects. It was a long time before the ripple reached these shores. When at last it came, representatives of chambers of manufactures and groups of employers were wondering when and where this deflation would end. For many years they hart been enjoying an uninterrupted period of prosperity. Our standard of living was uniformly high, business was thriving, dividends were being paid, and huge factories were in full swing. At every conference which I attended, with representatives of the chambers of manufactures and employers’ federations, there was general agreement that our high standard of living, due to high wages enjoyed by the great masses of the workers, was an aid to prosperity. I have talked earnestly to the representatives of industrial organizations about our present difficulties, and I have endeavoured to show them that, as increases of wages and profits occur simultaneously, they should not be concerned if industry paid high dividends provided the workers’ conditions were not impaired. I think that the money lenders were chiefly responsible for the inauguration of the policy of deflation. I studied carefully the report issued by the Brussels Conference, which, I may add, did not issue a great deal of literature. I took my copy of the report with me to a meeting of the Employers Federation in order to inform Mr. Ashworth, the chairman, of the trend of events in other countries.
– What did that report say?
– The Brussels Conference agreed upon a policy of deflation in regard to everything. Professor Cassel, however, warned the gathering that deflation in wages and living standards must not be attempted too quickly. He urged that it was necessary, first, to create the right atmosphere. This “ right atmosphere “ or environment, it should be pointed out, was a creation of competition among the workers so that they would be prepared to accept lower wages .and agree to lower living standards when the time camn to enforce them. Professor Cassel further warned the conference that if an attempt were made to deflate standards too quickly, it would do more harm than good, because, as he pointed out, there were, in all countries, millions of demobilized returned soldiers who had not, at that time, been absorbed in industry, and, possibly, there would be a revolution if an attempt were made to force them to accept lower standards. Accordingly, the countries represented at the gathering laid their plans carefully. Employers’ groups, individual tea planters, rubber planters, coffee-growers, manufacturers, millers, employers’ federations, semi-public bodies, and municipal and provisional governments were advised to curtail activities’ to the’ lowest possible margin without closing alto” gather, so’ as to create the right environment to ensure success.
We have seen the fruits of this policy in Australia. I do not Suggest that the employers in this country conceived the idea. Deflation was forced u’p’On Australia. But it has proceeded beyond the mean figure at which stabilization should1 take place. From my study 6’f the problem; I am convinced that deflation is as great an evil as inflation.’. I-n: other countries there is now a movement to stabilize employment at the mean or normal figure, and, this, I s’uggest,- is; what we should aim at iri Australia. No one can deny that- we are below the stabilization point.- To correct the evil, there m’u’st be a release of what may be described as frozen’ credit. I make this s’ta’t’ement,- not- because* I think h’on’o’rable members opposite wish me to do’ So’,- but because” it is- my firm conviction, and- surely, if - one believes in a certain line of policy, the only honest thing to do is to declare it.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) suggested that it was- not the duty of the Commonwealth M continue to help the States in this crisis. 1 hold1 the contrary view. This problem is’ sb’ important, and affects so vitally the welfare of the people, that it is incumbent upon’ the Commonwealth, through the Commonwealth Bank, to take whatever’ step’s may be necessary Ito’ apply the’ corrective for our financial’ ills. The Commonwealth Parliament was- resp’onsib’le for the’ establishment of the Commonwealth Bank. Accordingly, it should have some control over that institution. By this I do hot- mean that Parliament should always be interfering with the management df- the: bank. I agree that it should’ be managed by experts iri banKing- but,’ at the same time, ito should” be! under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth- Parliament, which, through some’ properly constituted’ authority, should be able to’ ensure the release’ of a’ certain measure of credit when the country is passing through lean times. I am- convinced that soon there will be a general’ belief that the remedy which’ I have suggested is” the only solution for this period of stag-‘ nation, and that to checkmate the evils 6f- de’flation” and to assist industry to get upon its feet, the” release of credit is essential. This release of credit will stimulate’ public bodied and private industries,- and restore Australia to her normal condition.I am’ convinced, also, that this is the’ proper and scientific remedy for our present difficulties1; that only in this way will it be possible to’ relieve unemployment Of give assistance to our primary producers. What is called1 inflation- is the’ only known dr natural corrective: to’ a! deadly and disastrous policy of- deflation
.^. The object of this bill is to make1 a grant of £ 85Q;(f6’0 to the’ Government of South’ Australia to assist it in it’s” present e’x=tremely difficult financial position. Ho’nof able members opposite have’ complained that this money is being diverted from the’ purpose for which it was originally .intended, namely, the relief of unemployment’. As a matter pf fact, this debate has developed into a discussion of the unemployment problem; but I shall not continue to discuss the subject from that angle. I wish to draw attention to the disabilities’ under which South Australia is labouring. I am pleased indeed (hat the Prime Minister, the Acting’ Treasurer, and the S;fate Premiers- had sufficient’ statesmenship and foresight to realize, that it wasessential that South Australia should be assisted through the period of . depression which’ has f allen upon her. The decision of the, conference to make this, money available to- South Australia- was, I understand, unanimous. It is true; as somehonorable members opposite have said;, that this £850)060 was originally part of” a vote of £1,000,000 for the relief, of unemployment throughout Australia. T opposed, the making of that grant; for I believed that the proper course for theCommonwealth Government to take, if it desired to assist the- States to the extent of £i,pob’,60d-, was to- evacuate the field of taxation sufficiently,, that the States could themselves collect the money. Togive them1 the money as the Government proposed’ to do was not wise, for’ easily-obtained money - money obtainedwithout the’ responsibility which attaches’ to taxation - is easily spent. When the-
States have themselves to impose direct taxation to obtain money they exercise care in the expenditure of it.
Several reports have been made recently upon the financial disabilities which South Australia has suffered in consequence of federation. I propose to refer briefly to the report made by Sir Joseph Cook, at the request of the BrucePage Government. Sir Joseph made certain recommendations for the assistance of South Australia to which, I am glad to say, this Government decided to give effect, with minor alterations. The report proposed, for instance, that certain assistance should be given to South Australia over a period of two years, and the Government decided to grant it over a three-year period.
The report contains the following paragraph, on page 36: -
Inequalities have arisen in the incidence of the general tariff policy of the Commonwealth, but are due to the varying natural conditions of the several States. States, and particularly South Australia, whose industries are chiefly primary and agricultural, and whose staple products depend largely upon the price ruling in the world’s markets,, must feel the burden of a general protective policy most acutely.
It is beyond question that South Australia has suffered seriously during the last twenty years, because of the tariff policy of the Commonwealth. South Australia is essentially a primary producing State. Unfortunately, it has no large deposits of coal, and no big water resources which could be used to generate cheap power for manufacturing purposes ; nor has it any large forests. It is very much worse off in these respects than the manufacturing States of New South Wales and Victoria. This has meant that these States have been able to sell their manufactured products in South Australia, but they have not bought any of South Australia’s primary produce. Official statistics reveal that the trade between South Australia and New South Wales and Victoria is very largely in favour of these two States. I submit, therefore, that because of disabilities caused by our tariff policy, if for no other reason, South Australia is entitled to substantial assistance from the Commonwealth.
Dealing with the subject of Commonwealth arbitration in relation to South
Australia, Sir Joseph Cook stated on page 37 ot his report that -
The decision of the High Court with regard to State Instrumentalities has led to an anomalous position, whereby one Sovereign Authority decrees the amount to be disbursed while another Sovereign Authority is left with the obligation to find the money’ This has caused considerable confusion in the finance? of South Australia. [Quorum formed.] South Australia’s railway difficulties really began when her railway authorities were obliged to pay federal award rates to their employees. This involved the State in the additional expenditure of many hundreds of thousands of pounds annually in wages alone. It has been said that South Australia has been guilty of serious railway mismanagement; but the report of Sir Joseph Cook shows clearly that the State is very difficult to serve economically by railways. It happens in several places that large areas of poor and unproductive country have to be traversed in order to serve comparatively small tracts of rich country. This has meant greater expenditure than would have been necessary if the country had been a uniformly good class. It is true that South Australia embarked a few years ago upon an ambitious railway rehabilitation scheme; but it is open to” question whether the State would not have been just as badly off from a railway point of view if she had pursued a policy of drift instead of the policy of rehabilitation to which I have referred. It must be remembered that this State has passed through four successive years of drought conditions, which have caused an extraordinary decrease in the volume of her railway business. Had she experienced normal seasons in the last four years her position, from a railway point of view, would not have been very different from that of the other States of the Commonwealth. We were told this afternoon that the New South Wales railways were being operated at present at a loss of £80,000 per week. If that is happening in a wealthy and populous State like New South Wales, all I can say is that South Australia is to be congratulated because’ her position is no worse than it is.
Seeing that thi Public Accounts Committee will shortly, at the request of the Government, begin’ an investigation into the financial position of South Australia, I shall not analyse the financial position of the State as exhaustively as I should otherwise have done. The extent to which the Commonwealth will be prepared to assist South Australia will naturally depend to some extent at least upon the report which the Public Accounts Committee makes. I wish, however, to direct attention to the fact that the South Australian Government is very heavily taxing the citizens of that State in a determined effort to correct her financial position. In this connexion I wish to pay a tribute to the Premier of South Australia, who has been reviled this afternoon by certain supporters of the Government. It has been said that the State Government is worse than a Tory or Nationalist Government. Such a statement is not, from my point of view, a censure of the Government. Evidently it conveys the severest censure that members of the left wing of the caucus can apply to a Labour supporter, ifr. Hill gave his word of honour as a gentleman, and as Premier of South Australia, that he would endeavour to balance the budget. Shortly after assuming office he had sufficient common sense and statesmanship to appoint a committee consisting of the best available material in South Australia, and, fortunately for the State, he accepted its advice. When Mr. Hill attended the Premiers’ Conference in Melbourne he placed his cards on the table, and impressed the Prime Minister and the Premiers of the States with his sincerity. Realizing the harm that would result to Australia generally if any State defaulted, they agreed to assist South Australia to the extent of £S50,000. But. it was still necessary for Mr. Hill to tax the people of South Australia to a greater extent than those of any other State are burdened. I shall give as an example an assessment which was brought to my notice to-day. It was made on the earnings of a lady typist employed by the Government, who is at present in Canberra. Her income was £129 from personal exertion and £9 from property. The assessment on her income from personal exertion was £7 8s. 7d., and on that from property 15s. 7d., making a total of £8 4s. 2d. In addition, she was subjected to a special tax of £2 10s., which applies to’ all in South Australia, other than companies or absentees, who have an income of at least £1, and to a tax of £2, which applies to all adult single persons in receipt of any income. That increased the total assessment to £12 14s. 2d. Had the £9 been a dividend from a company instead of interest on a savings bank deposit, the assessment would have been increased by a further 4s. 6d., making a grand total of £12 18s. 8d. ! The property rate of taxation in South Australia begins at ls. 8d. in the £1, and increases by .006 for every £1 in excess of £100, up to £7,000, the maximum rate being 5s. 2d. in the £1. The deduction previously allowed on payments for federal income tax has been discontinued.
Unemployment is more severe in South Australia than in any other State. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) stressed the necessity of doing something for the unemployed. In the circumstances, I was surprised to hear him say that he intended to vote against the bill. While this money will be diverted from other States in order to assist South Australia to balance its budget, it will provide a great deal of employment. Because of the severity of taxation in South Australia, business people are not able to employ the number that they should. As a matter of fact, if present rates of taxation continue, many manufacturers will be forced to “ fold their tents like the Arabs, and as silently steal away.” I hope that the pique of certain honorable members opposite will not induce them to vote against the measure. Unfortunately, dismissals are still taking place in South Australia. Many men have been given notice to quit shortly after their employers received their income tax assessments. If this grant is not approved, there is a possibility that South Australia’ will not he .able to find the money necessary to pay its civil servants. It is well known that the Commonwealth must stand behind any State in an endeavour to prevent it from defaulting. It would be futile for honorable members who support the Government to embarrass it in this matter, and so do irrevocable injury to the State of South Australia and to the Commonwealth generally. I regret that the honorable members for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), Herbert (Mr. Martens), and even Grey (Mr. Lacey) have seen fit to indulge in such regrettable criticism of their Government. It is certainly not to their credit.
– Does not the honorable member expect them to be honest? *
– I do. That is why I am astonished at the honorable member and his colleagues refusing to support the policy enunciated by their leader, who is absent from the country, and unable to defend himself. They are endeavouring to embarrass the honorable gentleman by inferring that he is not honest in his attitude. I contend that the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) has adopted a statesmanlike attitude in facing the present financial difficulties for which he deserves the commendation of the people of Australia. In view of the additional inquiry that is to be made into the financial system of South Australia, it is unnecessary for me, further, to stress this matter. Honorable members have been supplied with several reports on the financial standing of that State, and I am confident that if they take an unbiased view of the position they will support this proposal of their Government.
– I propose to refer to the bill before the House along similar lines to those followed by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron). This afternoon and to-night we have listened to a great number of speeches which ostensibly related to this measure but, actually, the majority of them scarcely referred to the subject-matter of the bill. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) treated us to a meandering discourse on practically every subject on the political horizon, with the exception of the grant to South Australia. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) also gave one of those speeches which are, to me, so very disappointing. I do not wish to be unduly harsh or offensive to the honorable member as I understand that his health is not good - -
– Do not be dirty.
– I merely repeat, in perfect sincerity, what was told me. Otherwise I should be more severe in my criticism.
– The honorable member is cunningly trying to be dirty.
– The honorable gentleman is judging me by the standards that he has employed throughout his political life-
– Order !
– And from which he will never get away even though he be a Minister, a position in which he finds himself out of his class.
– Order ! The honorable member must understand that when the Chair calls him to order it expects to be obeyed. I ask him to address himself to the bill before the House, and not to the health of the honorable member for Flinders.
– I am sorry if I have misunderstood the position. The speech delivered by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) was one of those disappointing efforts that he invariably delivers in this chamber. I am amazed that he should enjoy a reputation for having a sound knowledge of Australian politics. Throughout his speech, the honorable member referred to students, constitutionalists, and scientists, and used a number of terms which indicated clearly that he has merely a superficial knowledge, and no real understanding of the subject. He spoke about deflation. Did you, sir, ever hear that subject discussed at the last election? It was not referred to on any platform. What we then heard from honorable members opposite was that if the people would put Labour into office it would do two things: It would prevent wages being reduced, and maintain the then existing high standards of living. Because of the gullibility of the. electors, . who are now bitterly disillusioned individuals, the Government was returned on those promises. Tonight we heard from one of the leaders of the party opposite that his Government has done nothing to fulfil its election promises. It was one of the most striking indictments of the Labour party that has emanated from a supporter of the Government since it assumed office. The honorable member said that wages were down. That is true, and despite his claims with regard to Arbitration Courts, I assert that wages are’ down because of the economic conditions of the country, just as they are down in other countries of the world for exactly the same reason. The honorable member said that the standard of living is down. I deny it. He also claimed that the costs of production are down. He has not the capacity to see that if wages, the cost of production, and the cost of living are down, the workers are in comparatively the same position that they would be in if enjoying high Wages and subjected to a high cost of living. He attributed this to deflation, a term that is now employed daily, and almost hourly, by members of the party opposite, although no mention of it was made at the last election. Some mysterious spirit, summoned from the vasty deep, has apparently been causing the deflation of the workers’ wages, and sending out circulars to the workers’ organizations; yet the honorable member did not give the slightest proof that any such deflation had occurred. It could only have been caused by a constriction of the note issue. If the honorable member had wished to ascertain whether there was any foundation for his statement, he could have found out that there has been very little variation of the note issue. There has been only a slight temporary inflation in connexion with the sale of our wheat and wool, when money has been coming back to the Goverment itself, and when it is perfectly safe to adopt such a course. Otherwise, there is not the slightest foundation for the statement that the deflation referred to by the honorable member has been practised. Therefore, his whole reasoning was utterly fallacious. He spoke at a later stage about deflation having been attempted in the United States of America, and said that country had refused to accept the principle of deflation which was urged upon it. Yet to-day the United States of America is” in a relatively worse position than Australia in regard to unemployment and the high cost of living. He added that the solution of this difficulty was not to be found in the creation of more wealth, or in the provision of works in which men could earn real wages.
The honorable member also said that a national bank should take charge of the financial situation. In one breath he declared that he was not in favour of a politically-controlled bank, and in the next, apparently not realizing that he had already expressed opposition to political control of a national bank, he contended that Parliament should control such an institution through a body of experts. This body would be composed, no doubt, of such financial authorities as the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). That would be the class of experts appointed by this Government. It has no leader, and every member of the party is climbing upon the box seat and trying to snatch the reins from the palsied hands of the man holding them. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) stated that this Parliament, through the national bank, should direct the extension of credit.
– Will the honorable member direct his remarks to the subject-matter of the bill?
– I submit, with great respect, that I am entitled to the same latitude as that extended to other honorable members.
– I have shown the honorable member every consideration, and he cannot accuse the Chair of partiality in that respect.
– If you ask me for my opinion on that matter, Mr. Speaker, I do.
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it.
– I ask the honorable member to comply with the Standing Orders by making his remarks relevant to the bill before the House.
– I shall do that. The honorable member for Flinders did not suggest, as a solution of our present difficulties, that we should find work in which the men employed will obtain real wages to enable them to purchase the necessaries of life-; but he contended that what was required was a releasing of credits. We have heard many high-sounding phrases of this nature recently, and we shall doubtless hear many more of them. What does the releasing of credit mean? It implies that the banks should hand out money to people, irrespective of the conditions that operate within those banks at the present time. My conception of a bank is that it is a clearing house for the Savings of the people, the workers’ earnings, that are placed there, but, owing to the present economic circumstances, far less money is being deposited in the banks to-day. The people have had to draw out their savings; through a reduction of their income; many have been forced to live on capital.
It has been shown that the bank’s have extended credit already to the very utmost. In some cases, it is. admitted that they have advanced credit to the extent of 105 per cent. of their deposits, which is going beyond the safety point. To-day they are conducting their affairs on a sound basis. We do notnow hear of bank smashes, as we did in 1892. Apparently, some honorable members would like to see a number of the banks broken, in order to demonstrate the extentofcredittheyare “releasing.” The only method of releasing credit, as the honorable member for Flinders desires, is by theissue of further notes. Those would be valueless until put into circulation, and, when once circulated,they would be mixed with the notes already issued. Therefore, if the note issue were increased by 25 per cent. every pound note that is now possessed, by the wealthysection and the workers alike, would be reduced in value by 5s. If thenote issue were not increased beyond 25 percent., perhaps the country could carry the additional currency ; but the partyopposite would not stop until it had reducedthe value of the worker’s savings to vanishing point. Then, havingdone that it would start to put into operation the policy how being advocated from this side of the House.
The problem of unemployment is bound up with the subject of the grantproposed to bemade to South Australia under this bill. The Government wrongly placed £1,000,000 on the Estimates for therelief of unemployment. In aspeech onthe budget Icontended that that sumshouldnot have been in cluded, since the dare 6f the unemployed was a function of the States. I was fortified in ‘that view by the statement repeatedly made by the Prime Minister in the early days of this Government’s existence that unemployment was not a question for the Federal Government. Later, however, he changed his mind, and budgeted for £1,000,000 for the reliefof unemployment. Although I merely repeated the right honorable gentleman’s statement that the relief of unemployment was not the function of the Federal Government, I still remember the howls of criticism with which my remarks were received by honorable members opposite. I was accused of having no sympathy with the unemployed in their suffering) and was abused for suggesting that the money should be devoted to otherpurposes. Now the Government and its supporters are prepared to turn themselves inside out to prove that the money need not have been there at all, because the unemployed have hot had a penny of it spent on them. It was handed over to South Australia to meet that State’s liability. That proves clearly the hypocrisy-
– i was referring to myself, Mr. Speaker, when I used the word “hypocrisy”.
Mr. SPEAKER. The, honorable gentleman is not in orderin imputing hypocrisy even to himself, seeing that he is a member of this legislature.
-it must be patent to every one how utterly insincere is an argument in favour of the retention of an amount of money to relieve the sufferings of a section of the people - -
– The honorable memberhasusedtheword “ insincere “. I have allowed himto go far enough to know that he was not imputing insincerity to himself and, therefore, t ask him to withdraw the statement.
– I withdraw it.But what can any one think of a Government which first says that the money must be kept for the benefit of the starving unemployed, and laterhands it overtoa State Government for anentirelydifferent purpose?. The words i attempted to useare nothing to what 1 feel I ought to say in regard to such an action. Let me quote from the Prime Minister’s budget speech -
We come now to the grant of £1,000,000 for unemployment relief. The sum of £1,000,000 which we granted before, and the further sum of £1,000,000 which we propose to grant now, will undoubtedly take the place of what would have been State loan expenditure. It has been suggested in this House, and outside, that it would hu very much better not to raise this sum of £1,000,000 by taxation ; that it should be left in the possession of the taxpayers so that it might, in the ordinary course of business, provided employment for the people. More good, it is claimed, could be done with it in that way than by making it available for expenditure by State Governments. There is something in that argument.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) is quoting from Hansard of the current session.
– If that is so, the honorable member is distinctly out of order.
– I remember quite well what the right honorable gentleman said. He said, “ Are we to sit here with folded arms or wring our hands, and do nothing while these people are suffering?” Those are the precise words he used. The right honorable gentleman concluded his speech by saying, “ I wish we could make the amount larger “. Those are the words of the Prime Minister, in which, he expressed the views of his party. I opposed the grant to South Australia on the last occasion the proposal was before us; but I am not prepared to do so on this occasion, for reasons which I shall now give. The report of the royal commission on the finances of South Australia, as affected by federation, shows that in 1927-28 the Federal Government of the United States of America contributed £28,405,642 to the assistance of the various States within the union. In paragraph 59 of the royal commission’s report the following appears : -
From figures compiled by the Commonwealth Treasury, it appears that the financial operations of the Commonwealth in South Australia have conferred substantial benefits on that Sta.te.
The report then compares those benefits with the benefits conferred by the Commonwealth legislature on the various individual States, finally arriving at the conclusion that, up to the 30th
June, 1924, the States had benefited from Commonwealth expenditure to the extent of £14,000,000 in the case of Queensland, £4,000,000 in the case of South Australia, and £12,000,000 and £9,500,000 for Western Australia and Tasmania respectively. There is ample justification for the course which the Government is adopting. In paragraph 57 of its report the commission states -
We have shown that in South Australia the total taxation per head of population is greater than in any other State, except Queensland. In comparison with that State, however, income tax in South Australia is much heavier on the average man earning up to £800 per annum. We were much impressed with the honest und courageous effort that both Government and people are making by moans of additional taxation to face the difficulties of the present situation.
In those circumstances, and in view of the fortitude and determination of the people of South Australia to surmount their difficulties, I am prepared to support this proposal. It has been said that the grant has been refused by the various States because they would not accept the terms under which it was offered to them. They believed that, if they accepted the money, it would be on the condition that award rates were paid to those engaged in relief work. I do not know whether this is so or not; but I draw attention to the remarks of Mr. J. M. Baddeley, the Minister for Labour in the Lang Administration. Replying to a deputation at Lithgow a few days ago, Mr. Baddeley said that the Government of New South Wales could not pay award rates for unemployed relief work. In those circumstances I submit that there is no justification whatever for the objection of some honorable members to the utilization of this money in the way proposed. During this debate the Government has been abused by its own supporters. They have asserted that Parliament decided on a certain course, and that that decision was altered by the Loan Council. The Loan Council did nothing of the kind; the decision to divert this sum from an unemployed relief fund to South Australia was come to at a conference between the Premiers of all the States and the Prime Minister and Treasurer of the Commonwealth, who is the leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party. The Prime Minister, at that conference said, in effect, “ “With all the facts in front of us, with a knowledge of all the difficulties that this State has to face, and with all the evidence before us that is furnished by the reports of the most expert authorities in Australia, I am convinced that the best thing in Australia’s interest is to allow this money to be utilized by the South Australian Government to meet its liabilities.”
– That does not alter the facts.
– I do not suppose that it does, to the mind of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) ; but if he had any sense of loyalty or gratitude to his leader it would mean something. The honorable member was entirely unknown prior to the last federal election, when the present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) dragged him out of his obscurity into the glare of public life.
– He did not.
– I do the Prime Minister the credit of saying that if he were in Australia at the present time he would assert clearly, definitely, and positively his leadership of the party that sits opposite, and there would not be so much opposition to him as there has been during his absence. He expected his party to support him in this action. Had that party a sense of loyalty, instead of quibbling and complaining over minor details in the pettifogging spirit that has characterized the speeches of honorable members opposite, they would respect his judgment and pay tribute to his statesmanship. They would also support with the same loyalty his locum tenens. the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton), and other Ministers who are bearing the heat and burden of the day, instead of placing more difficulties in their path. If they were supported by their own party they would, I am sure, redouble their efforts to improve the present parlous condition of Australia.
I shall not embark upon a discussion of whether the greater use of machinery has been responsible for increasing unemployment, as the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) did. I remind that honorable member that the troglodytes uttered similar sentiments in their ^generation. He has never grown up.
Years ago, in Lancashire, a labourer heaved a brick through the window of a house in which a piano was being played, accompanying his action with the remark to his mate - “ That is more machinery destroyed, Bill.” We have with us to-day persons whose ideas’ are similarly warped. Like the Bourbons, they learn nothing and forget nothing. They would prevent, if they could, the practical expression of the inventive genius of the race, and revert to the conditions that obtained in the days when drays and spring carts were in common usage. They must recognize the benefits that steam has conferred on mankind. In New South Wales alone, .30,000 men are employed as a result Of the invention of the steam engine. The suggestion that the use of machinery has increased unemployment is so feeble, childish and puerile that so far no one has bothered to contradict it. At this late stage I shall not say more than that, probably, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) would abolish the railways if he could.
– I would abolish the honorable member if I had the chance.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That interjection typifies the tyranny of the Labour party, which would abolish everybody who is opposed to it. That is olle of the principal characteristics of the Labour machine ; it is soulless and bowelless. Intolerance is its motto; it is intolerant even of its own leaders. The honorable member for Bendigo is president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party, yet he does not call to task the Labour Premier of Victoria (Mr. Hogan) on account of the drastic economies that he has effected in the railway service and the Public Service generally in that State. The honorable member appears to exercise a powerful influence in this Parliament and on this Government.
– Hear, hear!
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.The honorable member says, “Hear, hear !” That is an illustration of inflation, more than of anything else. The Labour party is in a sorry position when Johnny.comelatelys like the honorable member for Bendigo, who are more or less political accidents, have the temerity, the assurance, the audacity and the effrontery to imagine that they possess the qualities of leadership. Those qualities are apparent to no one but themselves.
For the reasons that I have stated, I intend to support the second reading of this bill, and, if necessary, to cast a vote in that direction, notwithstanding the fact that when a similar measure was before us on another occasion I opposed it and did not vote for it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and - by leave - passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
TrenchRents.-Melbourne-Canberra RailwayService.-Dutyupon CrudeOilandGasEngines.
Motion (by Mr. Fenton) proposed -
Thatthe House do now adjourn.
. -I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green). the answers given byhis department to questions that I asked in this House in regard to trench rents in France. For some time past I have been trying to findout whether the Australian Government or the British Government paid trench rents during the war. I asked a question to this effect about twelve month’s ago, and was informed that the AustralianGovernment had paid nothing in the way of trench rents in France; in fact all my questions on this subject have been answered in the negative by the Department for Defence. I was not Satisfied, because thestatement h’ad been made frequently outside that trench rents had been paid by the Australian Government, so I went to some trouble to investigate the matter. Yesterday I asked the Minister for Defence the followingquestions: -
The answers were as follow : - 1 and 2. No information is available as to whether the British Government was charged with or paid “ trench rent,” compensation for damages to land, &c, to either the French Government or French land-owners.
I suppose that the Minister has to accept information supplied to him by the department, but I would point out to him that if the department did supply those answers it was a case of inexcusable ignorance or palpable evasion. In the first place I asked whether the British Government was charged trench rent. I submit that our experienced officers who held high commands in France should have some knowledge of the fact that we paid the British Government for accommodation in that country. I find that trench rent was paid. My authority is Major-General Sir Wyndham Childs, who was Deputy-Assistant AdjutantGeneral, an important staff office, in the English Army. In his book, Episodes and Reflections, he says-
It Wasat St.Omer, or at any rate behind St.Omer,thatthe storyorigin ated about our having to pay for the trenches which wedug. The facts were as follow: -It was decided to construct strong fines of trenches at the back of the townin case of emergency.Some of thesetrenches were in the zoneof the armies and some were not.Underthe old French Napoleonic code,there is adifference between damage done within the zoneof the armies and damage done outside. Damage done within the zone is known as a fait de guerre., and compensation isnotpaid.. Outside the zone damage is known as degat, and compensation is paid to the owners of the land. I think we paid compensation for disturbance forthetrenches wedugoutside the zone of thearmies. It seemed very ridiculous, but such,I feel sure, werethe facts.
Iasked the Minister whether the French land-ownerschargedcompensation for damages,known as “ degats “, to land by war trenches. I submit thattrenches are not dug in France by armies unless they are necessary fordefence and occupation bytroops, : irrespective of whether the trenches arein the imimediate frontor behind the lines inthis case they were behind thelines, and we have the absoluteevidenceofoneofthe highest officials ofthe English Army that rent was charged for them. I shall go further and show that the Australian. Government, through the British Government, paid for accommodation. This question was raised in this House on the 1st October, 1919, when Mr. Finlayson asked the then Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise)-
What is the amount debited against the’ Commonwealth Government by the Governments of (a) Belgium, (&) France, as rent for use by the Australian Imperial Force of trendies, dug-outs, billets, &c, during the war ?
Mr. Wise answered
Nil. The per capita charge of 5s. paid to the Imperial Government for the maintenance, -equipment, &c, of Australian troops operating in France and Belgium, includes accomodation.
Yet the answer supplied me by the Minister, and prepared by his department, was to” the effect that the British Government did not charge for accommodation for Australian troops in France.
– What is the importance of this?
– Its importance is that in the flush and glory of war which inspired the people in 1919 when the fighting was just over, we did not look too carefully into these matters, and we then thought that France had treated us generously. But circumstances have since arisen that have made it necessary to inquire into some of the tragic features of the enormous debt of ?742,000,000 incurred by Australia in war debt.
– The war debt is some ?300,000,000.
– The total cost of the war to Australia, including interest up to the 30th of June, 1930, was ?742,000,000, and it is well to try to get from the Defence Department some particulars as to the way in which the miserly and bloodsucking French Government treated Australian soldiers and, through the British Government, charged for the use of land in the defence of which Australian soldiers were fighting.
.- I cannot understand the object of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch). To my mind the Defence Department has given him the best answer it could furnish, and I do not think that the records he has raked among disprove it. The debt we owed to France was not a monetary one nor was hers to us. It is that we helped each other in the world’s greatest crisis. As a matter of fact, our greatest debt is owing to the 60,000 Australians who did not come back. These jaundiced views of a disappointed soldier serve no good purpose. I hope he will not bring up the matter again. No doubt he is trying to prove ingratitude on the part of France or- Britain, but has not produced any evidence to show that France has charged Australia for trench rent. In effect, the reply given by Mr. Wise to Mr. Finlayson in 1919, was that the per capita’ charge of 5s. paid to the Imperial Government was for equipment and including accommodation. Accommodation does not necessarily mean trenches. It covers billeting and huts. The per capita payment also covered the loss and repair of equipment. I think that the honorable member has wasted the time of the House.
.- I understand that the New South Wales Railways Commissioners are, contemplating cutting off the train conveying Melbourne passengers from Goulburn to Canberra and reaching here at 9.30 a.m. Under the new arrangement these passengers will leave Goulburn not at 7 a.m. as at present, but some hours afterwards and they will be hauled by a goods train reaching Canberra at 1.30 p.m. In the interests not only of honorable members, but also of residents of Canberra and Goulburn, who use the train which arrives at 9.30 a.m., I suggest that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton) should make some inquiry into the matter.
– I rise to call attention to what I may describe as the latest exhibition of tariff mongering in which the Acting Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Forde) has been indulging. It is one that I think ought to be brought before this House in the hope that honorable members may get some satisfactory explanation from the ministerial bench, or at any rate, hear something in extenuation.
It is reported in the press that recent decisions of the Minister have had the effect of imposing a duty of 55 per cent, upon crude oil engines between 90 and 1,000 horse power, and upon gas engines between 90 and 200 horse power. These engines were previously admitted free of duty under departmental by-law. I should like to know if the press report is correct, and what motive has inspired the Acting Minister in taking such a drastic action at a time like this. How highly prejudicial it is to the interests of the community is shown by a case with which I am intimately acquainted, and which I propose to cite in order to show the extravagantly disastrous nature of the impost. A telegram from Toowoomba published in yesterday’s Argus sets out the position as follows: -
The Toowoomba (Q.) Power and Electric Light Company has invited tenders for a crude oil engine of not less than 600 horse-power, coupled in tandem to one alternator and one generator. As Toowoomba is 2,000 feet above sea level, and has an ambient temperature of 00 degrees Fahr., it will be necessary for the engine supplied to bc of considerably more than 600 normal B.H.P. at sea level. The extra cost to the Toowoomba Power and Electric Light Company consequent upon the recent tariff decision will be not less than £2,600, and probably considerably more than £3,000.
– Upon a ministerial decision?
– Yes; the. press telegram continues: -
This estimate does not include primage, which would have to be paid in any case, but it comprises the 55 per cent, ad valorem duty, together with the duty on packing, which becomes operative owing to the fact that the engine is now dutiable. 1 hope that the Minister will explain how this extraordinary action was taken. Was it on his authority? If it was, on what is that authority based ? Was the matter referred to the Tariff Board? If so, did the board make any report? If it did, what was the nature of the report ? If an embargo can be imposed by ministerial action without consulting this House, a grave injustice may at any time be perpetrated on the community and in this instance has been perpetrated. Drastic action has been taken by the Minister without reference to Parliament, and, apparently, without reference to anybody, against a struggling: company in a provincial town. If it can be done in one instance, it can bedone in many, and the evil may ramify God knows where. The fact that thereis before this Parliament a mass of schedules which honorable members havenot been, and I do not think will be, permitted to debate, shows clearly that oneof the clamant needs of the community is effective parliamentary control of tariff matters. I ask the Minister to* explain this extraordinary and unaccountable piece of ministerial folly.
.- I support the appeal of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) to the Acting Minister .for Transport (Mr. Forde) to intervene regarding the proposed alterations of the railway service to Canberra. It would be singularly unfortunate for this city if such a change as is indicated in the newspaper reports were to be brought about, so that 6£ hours would elapse between the arrival of the Melbourne train at Goulburn and the arrival of passengers at Canberra. That would just about finish this Capital City so far as traffic from the southern Statesis concerned. Passengers to Canberra would be dependent on a mixed train which would take five hours to travel the 60 miles from Goulburn to Canberra, and the Federal Capital would be as badly served as the remotest country town at the end of a railway line. I ask the Minister to intervene, not only on behalf of members of this Parliament, but particularly in the interests of Canberra. Many people come here on business, and we hope that the number will increase. The Commonwealth has invested £12,000,000 in this city, and we are concerned in its development. If the railway service be reduced, as proposed, nobody will come to Canberra by train who can possibly avoid doing so. The altered service would also impose a greatly increased physical strain upon members of this Parliament. Yet I appreciate the view-point of the New South Wales Railways Commissioners. The’ Commonwealth should not ride on the back of the State, and if the service to Canberra is not paying, I suggest that, empty though the Treasury is, the Government should seriously consider the advisability of offering to pay the difference in cost between the present service and the hopelessly inadequate service that is proposed.
– In regard to the train service to Canberra, I shall inquire into the representations that have been made by honorable members, and do everything possible to conserve their convenience.
The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) to-day asked a question without notice regarding the matter which he has mentioned to-night. I asked him to put his question on the notice-paper, so that I might obtain particulars and furnish a reply to him, and I am sorry that he has not treated me with that courtesy to which a Minister of the Crown is entitled. He could have brought the newspaper extract to me, and asked me to obtain definite information regarding the complaints that have been made. I cannot speak offhand of the details of this case; but I believe that Walker’s Limited, of Maryborough, are making engines similar to that required by the Toowoomba Power and Electric Light Company. “Where Australian manufacturers can supply what is required, protection is afforded to them in accordance with the intention of Parliament, and the by-law concession is not allowed. Probably, the application of the Toowoomba company was referred to the investigation officers through the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, and if they reported that the engines could be produced commercially by Australian manufacturers, the applicant would not be allowed to import them at concession rates. Had the honorable member been sincerely desirous of having this matter investigated, and of helping the Toowoomba Power and Electric Light Company, he could have consulted me in my office today, and I would have inquired into the matter and furnished him with the reasons for the departmental action. Evidently he was more concerned about getting a little cheap publicity.
.- The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) has complained that certain information furnished by my department, in reply to a question asked by him, was not correct. I am anxious that every honorable member should be satisfied with information supplied to him, and if he will let me have a proof of his speech, I shall have his complaint investigated.
– In accordance with the promise I made earlier in the day that I would consult Mr. President, the Chairman of the Joint House Committee, and, if possible, make a statement concerning the future control of the parliamentary refreshment rooms, I have to intimate, after consultation, that owing to legal complications that have arisen, necessitating further attention of the Joint House Committee, it is considered undesirable to make a further statement at the moment.
.- I understand that to-day thirteen members of the parliamentary refreshment rooms staff received notice of dismissal to take effect from the 31st December next. Of that number eight were transferred from Melbourne to Canberra at the public expense with at least an implied promise that they would have permanent employment. Of the thirteen, who have received notice, twelve are married men with families, and are bona fide householders in Canberra. In view of the statement which you, sir, have just made, it would appear that the notice was somewhat premature. I hope that these men will not be suddenly thrown out of employment, and that if they are other work will be found for them in Canberra. I also sincerely trust that there will be no undue curtailment of the privileges now enjoyed by honorable members - in this I am sure I am voicing the opinion of all honorable members - and that in any decision reached due consideration will be given to the rights and privileges of honorable members.
– At this stage, I can- not make any further statement on the subject.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 November 1930, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19301126_reps_12_127/>.