12th Parliament · 1st Session
Ms. Speaker (Hon. Korman Makin) took the- chair at 3 p.m., and offered prayers.
– I have received a return to the writ which I issued on the 18th February last, for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of East Sydney in the State of New South Wales in the place of Mr. John Edward West, ddeceased. By the endorsement on the writ it appears that Edward John Ward has been elected to represent that division.
Mr. Ward made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
Mr. BLAKELEY laid upon the table the following paper : -
Electoral Act - Reports, with maps,by the Commissioners appointed for thepurpose of redistributing into Electoral Divisions the States of -
Debate resumed from 6th March (vide page 42) on motion by Mr. Latham -
Mr.CROUCH (Corangamite) [3.3].- On Friday last, I referred to the damage caused to Australian credit and the prejudice done to the Prime Minister’s financial mission in London by the republication in British newspapers of most damaging and alarmist statements made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) and published in Melbourne journals. I also called attention to the fact that Mr. Bruce, when Prime Minister, had, in the course of an address to a conference of bankers in 1926, predicted the financial difficulties that now confront Australia, although his Government took practically no steps to obviate them.
To-day I propose to consider what would be the outcome of the carrying of the motion that has been submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. Presumably it would involve the advent of a Nationalist Government, and during the week-end I have sought authoritative definitions of what nationalism is. The oldest Victorian Nationalist in this House is the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), and he will remember that the Nationalist party represented an endeavour to combine a section of the
Labour party with the Tory party and Free Traders with Protectionists. Those who sponsored the new organization said that their hearts bled for the workers; but they bled much more copiously for the financial interests that were opposed to Labour. The Nationalist party was an endeavour to reconcile the irreconcilable - the claims of the money power with the claims of humanity. Within recent years, other Nationalists have entered this chamber to represent Victorian constituencies, and I have endeavoured to find in their speeches a definition of nationalism. The Leader of the Opposition has given several analyses which the House should ponder carefully. When he first sought election to this Parliament in 1922, he would have nothing to do with nationalism ; he stood as a Liberal-Progressive against the endorsed Nationalist candidate, Sir Robert Best. The Labour candidate was the brilliant and honest Miss Jean Daley. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) also stood as a Liberal-Progressive against Nationalist and Labour candidates. In order to catch the second preference of the Labour supporters it was expedient for the LiberalProgressive candidates to flirt to some extent with Labour. At a meeting held at the Malvern Town Hall on the 3rd November, 1922, the Liberal-Progressive candidate for Henty (Mr. Gullett) was assisted by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). The candidate then described the Leader of the Country party as a “plain, sane, consistent and constructive Australian “. This Liberal-Progressive gentleman was unsuccessful at that election, but on a subsequent occasion, he stood under the Nationalist banner and - fared better. Having entered this House, and being no longer dependent upon the favour of the right honorable member for Cowper, he described him as “ the most tragic treasurer Australia has ever known”. We come now to what the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) used to think about the Nationalist party. Speaking as a Liberal Progressive candidate, Mr. Latham, on the 28th November, 1922, was reported as follows : -
Mr. Latham said he was opposed to the Nationalist party because it was a party of opportunism, and had no principle.
Again, speaking on the 5 th December, he said -
It had really been remarkable how Nationalist candidates had come before the electors; not on the merits or demerits of their own policy, but on the demerits of the Labour party. The Nationalists said - “ If you do not elect us the Labour party will get into power, and what a horrible thing that will be.” That was really the main plank apparently of iiicNationalists.
On the 9th December, speaking at Camberwell, he stated -
He was unable to agree with the principles of the Labour party or the absence of principle of the Nationalist party; he could not conscientiously have anything to do with either party. Parliament had been bought by raising members’ salaries from £600 to £1,000 a year.
That charge was made nine years ago. Since then he has become a member of Parliament, and for some year3 was a Minister of the Crown; yet, I do not remember that he ever subsequently raised his voice against the practice of “ buying members.” Speaking again on the 13th December, Mr. Latham said -
He opposed the Labour party because he objected to its principles, and he opposed the Nationalist party because he failed to discover its principles.
Again, on the 15th December, 1926, Mr. Latham, speaking at Kew, stated -
Mr. Latham said he did not believe in the Labour platform, but at least the Labour party’s platform was down in black and white for all to see. The Nationalist party’s platform on the other hand was not known to any one; each member of the party had different ideas as to what the policy of the party was.
That is the sort of party which Mr. Latham now asks honorable members to support by voting for this censure motion. Mr. Latham was rewarded for his attacks upon the Nationalist party. Through his attitude at the election he received what he sought, the Labour second preferences. The voting was - Sir Robert Best, 13,000; the Liberal candidate, 9,000; and Miss Daly, 5,000. In consequence all but 690 of the Labour preferences went to Mr. Latham, and he was returned by a majority of 319. A verse writer describes that election in the following words: -
A young man stood for Kooyong,
And artfully did his best;
So he sang the Labour song,
And thus he did Bob Best.
It is really descending from the sublime to the ridiculous to turn from the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), but I think it is worth while to put on record at least one of his criticisms of the Nationalist party. In the Melbourne Age of the 2nd December, 1922, the Liberal Progressive candidate, Mr. Gullett, also angling for Labour second preferences, is reported as follows : -
The Nationalist party was like an overcropped and exhausted wheat paddock; it had long ceased to give a clean wholesome yield’ of grain to the people. It yielded now only black oats and thistles, pig face and hogweed. It was profitless to the nation, and was not worth re-seeding. It should be given a long spell at grass or turned up in fallow to the purifying and revivifying influences of the sun.
Nevertheless, as soon as he “won his seat, Mr. Gullett became a Nationalist, and now he wants honorable members to vote to put the “black oats,” the “thistles,” and the “ hogweed “ back into office. It is necessary to drag these statements into the light again when we find Mr. Latham, supported by Mr. Gullett, seeking to dislodge a Labour Government so that Nationalists, which they so fitly described, may take its place.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to what he described as the expulsion of Labour Ministers from the Government, and sought to convey the impression that those Ministers have been treated by caucus with a great deal of harshness. Yet their treatment cannot compare for severity with the autocratic action of the leader of the Nationalist party who, ju3t before the last election, expelled five members of that party without taking a vote of the party. Those men were thrown to the wolves, and were opposed by Nationalist candidates in their electorates, merely because they chose to act as their conscience dictated. I am glad that the party which was capable of tolerating such action received its deserts at the ensuing election.
The Leader of the Opposition said that this Government had done nothing for the benefit of the country. I remind him and other honorable members that for the last nineteen years Australia has had an adverse trade balance, but this year the country is beginning to pay its way.
It is evident that no nation can be really solvent if it is paying more away overseas than it is receiving. Because of the drastic legislation brought forward by this Government, there was brought into this country up to the 31st December last, for the first time in nineteen years, £6,000,000 more than was sent out of it; that is, our exports were valued at £6,000,000 more than our imports.
– I respect the interjection of the honorable member for “Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), because I know that it comes from an honest and sincere mind. I remind him, however, that this Government’ is not responsible for its inability to help the wheat-farmers. It has done its best, having made three separate attempts to help them. Honorable members opposite prevailed upon their friends in another place to throw out the best considered measure for the assistance of the wheat-farmers that has ever been placed before this Parliament. Other proposals having a similar object also were rendered ineffective, not by any action of this Government, but by financial influences over which it has no control, but which respond to the demands of the Opposition. If any government has endeavoured to help the farming community, it is this Government. The Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) deserves to be congratulated on his efforts in Australia, in the United Kingdom, and in America, to help our producing interests. The farmers of this country recognize that, and it will be well for the Country party to pay heed to ‘the fact.
This Government repealed the penal sections of the Arbitration Act, reduced borrowing-
An Opposition MEMBER - It had no alternative.
– Thirty years ago in this House, I protested against borrowing, and I protest against it now. I should like our debts to be paid always out of revenue. A man who borrows is not free. Until Australia is free from debt, particularly in other countries, it will not be able to steer an independent course, nor to regard itself as an autonomous community. It would give me a great deal of satisfaction to learn that it is impossible for us to borrow any longer. The less we borrow, the better it will be for the community and for our future.
Admittedly our unemployment figures are high, and have increased since this Government came into office;, but tb ,,v would have been very much higher had there been a Nationalist Government in power during the last eighteen mo-.ths.
It is greatly to the credit of this Government that, for the first time in our history, we now have: an Australian. Governor-General. I regret that only one member of the Federal Executive Council, of the National party - the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) - attended the swearing-in ceremony at Parliament House, Melbourne. The seats set out for Nationalist federal councillors were,, with his exception, vacant. That was an insult not only to His Excellency personally, but also to this Parliament and the people of Australia and to the Crown.
The Leader of the Opposition referred in his speech to the depreciation that has. taken place in the value of Commonwealth securities. It is significant, however, that since notice was given of the intention to. give effect to the financial proposals of the Government, there has been an appreciable improvement both in New York and in London.
– The Parkes by-election has been responsible for that.
– That improvement has been noticeable also on the Melbourne Stock Exchange. The value of our £100 bonds has risen by £2 within the last fortnight. Honorable members can ascribe the improvement to whatever cause they like.
– How do present-day values compare with the values of eighteen months ago?
– I admit that values are lower to-day ; but the tendency was downwards, and at an accelerating rate, during the latter months of office of the last Government. Honorable members opposite are doing everything they can to depreciate Australia, and to establish the belief that its credit is not good. They should cease to be so many political Mrs. Gummidges, and should adopt a more cheerful frame of mind. I say to my constituents “ Scullin is Prime Minister, and Crouch is member for Corangamite. All’s right with the world.”
– But the Corangamite electorate is to be wiped out.
– I do not think that it will be; but if it is, the honorable member for Henty will shiver in his shoes.
Let us consider the proposals of the Opposition to meet our present financial position. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) recently released in Sydney a sort of financial balloon. He expressed the view that we should have an internal loan of £10,000,000 and an external loan of £40,000,000, and gave the assurance that the policy he was expounding had the approval of his leader and of the Nationalist party. The matter was discussed for a couple of days, and. was then condemned by leader writers in all the Nationalist newspapers. The Melbourne Argus sympathetically purred its approval of the patriotism of the honorable member for Henty, but instructed him sternly to refrain from saying anything further about the matter. Since that slap he has been silent upon it.
I have in my hand an article that was contributed to the Colac Herald, which I feel sure will prove interesting to honorable members. It is headed “Real Money Available”. “Help for Industry and Unemployed “. The author is “H. S. Gullett, M.H.R.” Seemingly the honorable member for Henty is the financial expert of the Nationalist party, and aspires to become Treasurer in the next Nationalist Ministry. In this article the honorable member says -
We are all for economy, but this reduction of loan expenditure has been too sudden and severe. It is responsible for at least 100,000 of our unemployed, and the loss of all this purchasing power has been a great factor in the general retail, wholesale and manufacturing paralysis.
I might well say -
It’s mighty easy to pick out a flaw
In a man who’s proverbially loose in the jaw.
When the honorable member, last year, sought to have expenditure reduced drastically in every department, with a view to saving £5,000,000 per annum, had he given consideration to the effect of such sudden and severe reductions? The article contributed by the honorable member also states -
I do not suggest to return to £40,000,000 a year, or anything like it, but the present loan level of £14,000,000 for the Commonwealth and States as a whole is too low, and should, if possible, in the general interest be extended to at least £20,000,000.
Yet, when a proposal is put forward by the Government for the provision of credit to the extent of £18,000,000, it is called inflation.
Last week the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) outlined the Country party’s economy plans. I do not intend to. analyse his remarks in detail, but I emphasize that he advocated a reduction of the invalid and old-age pension to 14s. or 16s. per week. He said that a reduction of 20 per cent, in the vote for social and other services was required, and, if necessary, it should be as much as, perhaps, 30 per cent., until, the present difficult situation had been met. That would mean reducing the invalid and oldage pension to 14s. or 16s. per week. Every honorable member who intends to vote against the Government on this occasion should realize that the motion can be carried only with the assistance of the Country party, and those who support the motion will be giving their consent to a reduction of the invalid and old-age pensions to the extent mentioned. I am sure that nobody on the Government side wishes to see such a reduction made.
I now intend to refer to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition with regard to the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore). I can well imagine that, prior to the speech by the Leader of the Opposition, there was a little caucus meeting of the Nationalist party. There was such an organized claque that I can picture the honorable member telling his followers that the names of members of the new Government were to be announced that afternoon, and the caucus deciding that, when the name of the Treasurer was mentioned, they should call out “ Shame.” No doubt there was to be a great demonstration, and big head-lines were to appear in the newspapers next day, such as “ The Treasurer denounced. Received with cries of ‘ Shame ‘ in the House.” This from the party of law and order. But it proved a dud and the newspapers took very little notice of the incident, which was a very poor advertisement for the Nationalist party. I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition did not call “ Shame.” Honorable members of this House are expected to be gentlemen, and no gentleman would have used that expression. The silence of the Leader of the Opposition was the severest criticism of his supporters.
Reference to the reinstatement of the Treasurer was made in the Queensland Legislative Assembly last year, and the Leader of the Opposition regarded it as so serious a matter that he made a personal explanation concerning it. The following passage appeared in the Hansard of Queensland of the 9th September, 1930:-
Mr. Forgan Smith.. What did Mr. Latham think about it?
The PREMIER.- He said right from the very beginning that there was no chance of a criminal prosecution; but he also said that he thought there was a chance of a civil prosecution. I did not ask him for an opinion - it was volunteered.
I endeavoured to ascertain whether the Leader of the Opposition, in his speech, meant to convey that he had not given a professional opinion. Of course, he had not. He was not consulted as a lawyer; but he did say that he had notes of the evidence given before the royal commission which dealt with the case of Mr. Theodore. I suggest that the Attorney-General, or any person accustomed to dealing Avith legal evidence, could not read the report of the royal commission without applying a legal mind to it. A lawyer does not divide his . mind into legal and political departments. When the Leader of the Opposition said that he had not been consulted professionally, he meant that he had not received a fee; but the legal position was stated, although no fee had been asked. He said that he had not given advice, and I accept that statement. Then it must have been made a political matter and the opinion given purely for its political effect. The notes of the evidence were obtained, not for the legal mind, but to enable the politician to see how much harm could be done to the then ex-Treasurer.
– I cannot allow the honorable member to pursue that subject at any length.
– I am satisfied to leave the matter to the House. Let honorable members themselves decide whether or not the attack was a political one only.
The Leader of the Opposition remarked that the seat now occupied by the Treasurer had been obtained by the resignation of another member. This Avas merely a side allusion; but such statements are deadly damning. The Bruce-Page Government Avas so bitter in this matter - the former Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) seems to have been unaccountably bitter - that it appointed a royal commission to investigate it. Suppose ?3,000 or ?5,000, as has been alleged, waa paid to enable the present Treasurer to obtain a seat and enter this House; is it worse for one man to pay money for an opportunity to serve his country in this Parliament than for another to accept ?2,500, or ?3,000, on the understanding that he will not become a member? It may be said that I cannot prove that ?2,500 was paid on this account; but it is well known that a certain Nationalist intended to run for the North Sydney seat; that he did not run for it, and that a solatium of ?2,500 was paid in consideration of his not running for it.
– The honorable member is all wrong.
– Well, it may have been ?2,500 2s. 2d. But whatever the amount Avas, I ask whether it is not better that a man should pay for serving his country than that he should be paid for not serving it. I Avas not a member of the House when either of the events occurred to which I have just directed attention, but I think it well that we should keep our ideas clear when referring to payments of this kind.
– Does the honorable member think that either attitude is defensible ?
– My knowledge of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) leads me to say that as a legal practitioner he would attempt to secure an acquittal for a client however indefensible his client’s actions may have been.
I wish to refer now to certain happenings before the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) was elected to Parliament. During the campaign he conducted prior to his election, he referred in the severest possible way to incidents that occurred at the time when it was proposed to appoint Mr. Piddington to a judgeship of the High Court. It was said at that time that cablegrams were sent to Mr. Piddington at Colombo offering him a High Court judgeship in the event of him writing a letter to the effect that if he were appointed he would take a certain attitude in a” particular case. Such action was utterly reprehensible and was at that time properly condemned by the present Leader of the Opposition, who said that if he were elected to Parliament he would take steps to have the fullest inquiry made into the whole subject. So far as I know, the honorable gentleman has never requested an inquiry to be made, although he subsequently became Attorney-General and was in charge of the legal resources of the Commonwealth. If the story were not so old, I should feel justified in requesting an investigation of it even now. The appointment of a royal commission to inquire into this matter was justified if ever the appointment of one was justified.
Let me ask honorable members what advantage could possibly follow the carrying of this motion? Nationalism is dead, or practically dead. The party even desires to change its name. After fourteen years of misrule it has been found out. No one can say that the Nationalists were not warned of the disaster to which they were leading the country. I remember that on the 13th November, 1922, the Postmaster-General of the Bruce-Page Government, Mr. Gibson, a most estimable man, said at Avoca -
If Australia could not square the ledger in these times of abundance and good prices with taxation at £13 per head, instead of £4 10s. as previously, then what was the position going to be when the nations of the world got back to pre-war conditions?
It will be seen that I sometimes keep clippings of the speeches of my political opponents. Mr. Gibson is a most likeable man, and at that time he warned his own party of what was facing the country. About the same time Mr. Gibson said -
Australia was enjoying good seasons and prices at present, but normal times would bring reduced prices and make it impossible to meet our obligations.
Those warnings were uttered by a member of the Government of which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), and three members of the Country party were also members; but no notice was taken of it. The Government did nothing whatever in good times to prepare for the day when it would be difficult to meet its obligations.
– We were put out when we set about trying to meet our obligations.
– That was because the effort was so totally unsuccessful. The Bruce-Page Government never balanced its budget, although the Nationalists now state that the balancing of the budget is their absorbing desire. Whenever it found a deficit in the public accounts it borrowed more money, and showed the loan on the receipts side of the national accounts. It mortgaged the assets of the country right up to the hilt, and even then failed lamentably to meet the position. Yet as soon as the present Government began to try honestly to balance its budget, it was subjected to opprobrium and condemnation by its opponents, and to every attempt to embarrass the Commonwealth by slandering our credit:
What shall we face if this motion is agreed to ? The Opposition is a veritable cave of Adullam. I do not know how many parties there are on the benches opposite. There is the true-blue Nationalist party, of which the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) is a representative; there is the pseudoNationalist party, which is anxious to change its name, and the policy of which is the latest pronouncement - whatever that may be - of the Women’s National League; there is the Australian party; there is the party represented by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), which may be called the Independent Australian party; there is the opinion represented by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), who, I consider, is absolutely conscientious in his beliefs, and for whom I hold high respect, and which will become the Quorum party. The Country party stands when in opposition for a reduced tariff, for economy, and for new States. When it is in office it conveniently forgets any of such policies. What kind of a government could be formed from such a mass of heterogeneous elements ? We all know of the underground engineering that has gone oh in the last fortnight with a view to securing the secession of some supporters of the Labour party. It would never be possible to secure any kind of unity from the numerous fragments of parties opposite. As a matter of fact, the Opposition consists of a combination of negatives and the wreckage of all parties. I should be ashamed to vote for this motion, because I have a great faith in Australia - so much faith that I could never think of handing the government of it over to the remnants of parties which, after fourteen years, were found wanting, and were such abject failures in the recent past.
– The concluding remarks of the honor7 able member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) are hardly calculated to help us out of the difficulty in which we find ourselves. The majority of the people of this country, I am sure, consider the time over-ripe for this motion. The honorable member discussed the kind of government that could be formed on this side of the chamber. It is not the sins of past governments or the possible incapacity of future governments, but the abject and complete failure of the present Government that is being considered. No administration ever took office with brighter prospects - none had greater opportunities. It came into office through an overwhelming victory at the polls which had given it, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has reminded us, a majority greater than had been given to any single party in the history of the Commonwealth. Flushed with triumph, it took office after fifteen years of exile. One would have thought that it would have learned something from its experiences in adversity; that it would have used its opportunities to do great things for the country, and have acted in such a fashion as would have ensured the occupancy of the treasury benches by Labour for at least a decade. But, although the need for action was imperative, after eighteeen months of office it has done nothing. It has begun many things, it has finished none.
The Government is always on the point of doing something radical, and even revolutionary, but fate always sprags its wheel, some impish trick arrests its progress. I have been one of the most consistent supporters of the Government, and,, despite much provocation, I have hitherto refrained from hostile criticism. But its continued failure to deal with the great problems that confront it, its inaction, its vacillation, its pitiable display of weakness, force me to speak plainly. This Government has failed, it has no policy, no strength of purpose. Labour, whose proud boast has been that it always presented a solid front to its opponents, has been split into fragments. The weakness of the Government has done what no opponents of Labour ever succeeded in doing - it has split the part hopelessly - and it has done this not on any great issue. For months the people have looked to this Government for a lead, and looked in vain. The people when they gave them a majority believed them to be men firm of purpose, with minds of their own, men who knew what ought to be done and were prepared to stake their fortunes on the issue. If Labour is divided to-day, it is because the Government has failed to give it a lead. For months past we have had the pitiable spectacle of a Government which knew not what to do, nor what policy to adopt, seeking counsel from a party split into hostile factions, each with a policy of its own, which it sought to make the official policy of the party. The Government has toyed with every policy, but persisted in none. For months it has been groping in darkness. Instead of issuing orders it has waited in abject submission to receive them. Now conflicting orders are being received from different quarters, and the Government does not know which authority to obey. It is willing to abase itself before any authority in the Labour party having force behind it. It cannot lead, and it does not know whom to follow. Contrast the position in the country and in this House with that of one short year ago. Then the Government was a name to conjure with. The people were behind it. They expected the Government to do things and were prepared to support them. But that time is past, and the opportunity with it. “ There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune.” They let the flood slip by, they dallied too long in Capua. The Government cannot make up its mind, the party is torn into factions by internecine strife, each with a policy of its own, and it remains to be seen which of these will be adopted by the Government. In all that I have said there is nothing of exaggeration, it is the sober truth. The Government does not know what its policy is. It has had no policy to which it has adhered. The policy which it for a time professed, and entrusted to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons) was jettisoned together with those two . honorable members who endeavoured to give effect to it. I was not one who championed that policy ; but the Government has made no endeavour to face the situation either from the angle of the position of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, nor from any other angle.
– The right honorable member has faced the position from all angles.
– I have done what the honorable member will never do. The Government has not faced the situation. Unemployment is greater, the depression is deeper. The position of the farmer is critical, almost desperate; yet what has the Government done for him? The Prime Minister said that the Government has tried to help the farmer; that it was a government of “triers.” It guaranteed 4s. a bushel at railway sidings, and on the strength of that promise the farmers sowed the magnificent crop which is being reaped now in such tragic circumstances. When the 4s. guarantee failed, the Government promised a guarantee of 3s.; but that, too, went by the board. It proposes to float a loan of £6,000,000 to give the farmers a bonus of 6d. a bushel; that also they will see nothing of. The Government may be a government of “ triers “ but certainly not of “ doers.” It is always going to do some great thing, but always finds good reasons why these should not or cannot be done. When the Labour party was returned to power it was pledged to amend the Constitution. It said that its policy for the betterment of the workers could not be effectuated unless the Constitution were amended. That is quite true. But has the Government attempted seriously to amend the Constitution ? The Government blundered even in the manner of presenting its constitutional legislation in another place. Can any one say that the Government has honestly endeavoured to honour its promises to the farmer? If the payment of 4s. a bushel was vital to -the wheatgrowing industry - and it was vital - did the Government show any readiness to stake its life on that issue? No. It has trumpeted its intention round the earth; it is always going to do something, but it has done nothing. It has no policy.
– Nor has the right honorable member’s party.
– What the Labour party, badly needs is a leader; it is without one.
– What the right honorable member needs is a party.
– That is quite right; but before long the Minister who interjects will have neither a party nor a leader. Even the small piece of earth on which he stands may crumble beneath his feet.
The motion declares that the House no Longer has confidence in the Government. I do not see how the Government can enjoy the confidence of the House. It has flouted Parliament, and made it a byword. It has never attempted to consult Parliament; it has not now any policy on which it can consult Parliament. Certainly the Government says that it has a policy which will cure the evils now afflicting Australia. But the Government qua government had nothing to do with it. That policy was formulated by the Treasurer while he was a private member. Somehow he contrived to persuade a majority of the members of the ministerial party to accept his proposal, and when the majority had accepted it, and not until then, the Government adopted it; although to do so it had to jettison its earlier policy together with the honorable members for
Maribymong and Wilmot, who had tried to give effect to it. We are told that the policy formulated by the Treasurer will save the country. If that be so, what is the reason for the delay in presenting it ? For more than a year Australia has cried aloud for a formula that would give relief, for a Moses who would lead it through the wilderness. Not until’ the Treasurer had left the Government did his new financial policy occur to him. By persistent propaganda he recruited members in favour of his policy until at length they became a majority; whereupon the’ Government promptly adopted it. This is its present policy, and it is in order to support a policy born in those circumstances that we are asked to continue to repose confidence in the Government. It is a policy which, we are assured, will restore prosperity to the country. The essence of it is the restoration of prices to the average levels of 1925-1929. By that means, the inflation which the policy connotes will be regulated. This regulation is vital.
The Government has shown beyond all possibility of doubt that the House cannot accept from it any declaration of what its policy is to-day or will be to-morrow. I say most emphatically, and the Treasurer will admit, that it is vital that any inflation of the note issue shall not go beyond that safe level which our circumstances demand: But the only surety we have that inflation will be kept within these levels is the word of a government. And what is that worth ? Who will decide where inflation shall stop ? Certainly not this Government. The Government that during the last eighteen months has never been able to call itself master in its own house will not assert itself in this. The forces against it will be too strong. It has shown, itself ready to accept whatever policy was dictated by the strongest faction within its own party. When one section gained a majority over the others its policy became the policy of the Government. But the policy of that section or faction was first dictated by some outside body. Whether future dictation shall be by the federal executive of the Labour party or by the New South Wales State executive, we do not know ; but we do know that the amount of inflation will be determined, not by the Treasurer or by the Government, but by those extra-parliamentary bodies which control the Labour movement. They will call the tune to which the Ministry must dance. For that reason we ought not to consider the Government’s policy on its merits ; but must have regard to the circumstances in which it is presented to us. Only a madman would accept such a policy promulgated under these conditions. There is no policy that the Government is not prepared to accept, provided that the supporting forces are sufficiently powerful. We see in this House to-day evidence of schism in the ministerial ranks. The Government, which is without a policy, had not even the courage to assert itself in the first real trial of strength since the Parkes byelection. At this critical juncture in the history of Australia there is need for leadership, if ever there was. Yet, the leader of the Parliamentary Labour party did not go upon the platform during the East Sydney by-election; he could not find courage either to bid Alderman Ward begone or to champion his cause. My words are harsh, but they are amply justified by the circumstances. So long as this Government had a mind of its own I would have supported it, even had its policy involved radical or revolutionary reforms, provided these were practicable and for the good of Australia. But who can support it now? Above all things, we need to-day the leadership of men who have a policy and are not afraid to declare it, and, if needs be, to stand or fall by it.
The need for action becomes daily more urgent. The position of the farmers in New South Wales is desperate. One may see in the secession movements in the Riverina and elsewhere evidence of economic and political unrest created by the circumstances in which many country people find themselves. They are heavily indebted to the Rural Industries Board, to private creditors, and to bankers. Yet the Government does nothing. The Prime Minister said that the Government had tried to help the farmer; but its negotiations with the Commonwealth Bank had failed. Why did they fail? Because the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, Sir Robert Gibson, was opposed to the Government’s proposals. Who re-appointed Sir Robert Gibson to the board?
– A very good appointment.
– I neither endorse nor complain of his appointment; but if the Government has failed to get money for the farmers because the Commonwealth Bank Board, of which Sir Robert Gibson is chairman, refused to make credits available, then upon the heads of the Government which appointed him rests the responsibility. The Government knew very well that finance is at the root of the present trouble, and that along financial lines alone can a remedy be found. Yet, holding those views, the Government appointed a man who, Ministers must have known would defeat their every endeavour to rectify the position by the aid of the Commonwealth Bank.
For the reasons I have stated it is impossible to continue to repose confidence in the Government, and I shall vote for the motion.
.- For the fifth time in his political association with this Parliament the right honorable member for North Sydney has changed sides. His impassioned declaration of hostility to the Government was received by the Nationalist party with marked coldness. The right honorable gentleman has hada varied and turbulent political career; but always, he declared, he was master in his own house. In the realm of politics he has occupied many houses. When he first entered parliamentary life he was an inmate of the temple of Labour, and it was because he wanted to be master and even dictator there that ultimately he changed to other quarters. During a great national crisis when issues of life and death were being decided, the right honorable member left the Labour party. His reasons for doing so have been the subject of a good deal of discussion. He was not actuated by patriotism or conviction of the justice of conscription ; he transferred his allegiance because the Labour party did not pay enough, and went to another which appeared to offer him greater opportunities and scope. At all events, when he was connected with the Nationalist party he certainly did very well. No man in Australia has fared better out of politics than he has. For a time then he was master of a second house, the house of Nationalism. It is his proud boast that he built that house, laid its foundations and chose its timbers. Indeed, so particular was he in regard to the choice of timbers that he made sure that no one could enter the main room - that is to say his first cabinet- without having first been subjected to most careful scrutiny by himself. But the time came when Nationalism could no longer tolerate him as master, or perhaps, anticipating the storms and thunder clouds that were gathering, he decided that it was time to “ get in out of the wet “ in some other house. Believing that the house of Nationalism would no longer serve to keep him dry, he decided to form yet another party - to build a third house, the house of the Australian party. That in the task he had very few helpers did not deter him, but by now the art of building has deserted him. This third house of his proved to be shoddily constructed and speedily fell to pieces. His few helpers quickly left him, and for a little time he embraced what Labour offered, a refuge, not necessarily in the house of Labour itself, but somewhere about the garage or the stable. He had deserted Nationalism when the storm clouds were about to burst and now that temporary storm clouds are hovering over a Labour Government the right honorable gentleman is again prepared to desert. He has nothing to gain by supporting Labour any longer. That immunity which he received from it and for which, up to a certain si age, of course, he was prepared to give a quid pro quo; seems to be no longer offering; and now that his very few supporters in the Australian party have left him all forlorn, he is making coy advances, very coldly and reluctantly received, to the Nationalist party. He talks of policies and says that the Government has none. My reply is that it has a policy - one policy, not half a dozen.
The vein that rau through the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) was apparent in that of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), but the remarks of the former were incisive and clearer. The right honorable member for North Sydney was somewhat uneasy in his utterances which, of course, was only to be expected from one who has been straying so long outside the Nationalist fold, but no doubt a few years’ association with the Nationalist party in opposition will enable him to become more adept in pushing an attack upon a government.
The Leader of the Opposition and the right honorable member for North Sydney, particularly the former, have laid much stress on the present Government’s policy. I propose to deal with some of the factors which are now operating in Australia. The improvidence, incapacity and inefficiency of Nationalist administrations may not be responsible for the whole of Australia’s present troubles, but they are certainly responsible for threefourths of them, and the right honorable member for North Sydney must accept responsibility equally with the Bruce-Page Government for- the orgy of borrowing, and the squandering of the people’s money, with a complete disregard for the people’s interest which characterized Nationalist administrations. The present Government has made certain promises, and is carrying them out ; as it will continue to do so long at it remains in office. The Leader of the Opposition, who devoted a considerable portion of his speech to promises, must accept his share of responsibility for the almostcomplete refusal of the Bruce-Page Government to carry out its promises. I am not for the moment speaking of promises made by individuals ; I am relying on the speech delivered by Mr. Bruce, the ex-Prime Minister, which was adopted and endorsed by every Nationalist and Country party candidate seeking the suffrages of the people.
Taking one of the promises made by the Nationalists, one that stands out with the prominence of an obelisk, Mr. Bruce said -
We are determined to provide for our people a standard ‘of living which £ives our workers a reasonable measure of comfort and happiness.
That was One of the promises to which the Nationalist party has not given effect. On. the contrary, whilst in power, it did everything possible to break down the standards of living in Australia. In every avenue over which it had control, plans were carefully prepared and carried out by it to prevent increases in wages being awarded by constituted industrial tribunals, and it did everything it could by legislative action to make it practically impossible for trade unionists to secure benefits from those tribunals. Finally, its courage strengthened by repeated successes at elections, the Nationalist Government decided to make a bold bid on behalf of those it represented. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) spoke about policy and about how the policy of the Labour party is made. Let me explain that in the first place it is made by the rank and file of the party and is then endorsed at various State conferences. But not until it has been adopted at a federal conference does it become the policy of the Australian Labour party. On the other hand, the policy of honorable members opposite is dictated to them by employers, vested interests, squatters, and big business men.
The policy of the Bruce-Page Government, that which it applied and not that which Nationalist candidates had previously enunciated on the hustings, was an attempt to week arbitration. In that respect, it was buoyed up by the determination and courage of Mr. Moore in Queensland, and of Mr. Bavin in New South “Wales, who, in anticipation of the Federal Government’s action, had already taken steps to curtail or abolish certain rural awards. At any rate, the Nationalist Government went to the country with a policy the purpose of which was the complete abolition of federal arbitration awards with the exception of those that applied to maritime industries. It proposed also that the question of hours of the workers should be submitted to Commonwealth and State arbitration judges with a view to making recommendations for uniform hours of labour which could be considered at a conference representative of the Commonwealth and State G.0vernments. The last thing the Nationalist Government would do was to take any step to improve the conditions and hours of work of the workers. It determined that both the basic wage and the 44 hours, as well as the 48 hours a week, had to go.
– Where are they now?
– Where are those who advocated that policy? For windowdressing purposes, the Bruce-Page Government went to the people with a policy in regard to child endowment. With tears in their eyes, Nationalists declared from a hundred platforms how necessary it was to provide some form of child endowment for the people of Australia, but all that they proposed to do was to refer the matter to Commonwealth and State arbitration judges - apparently there was yet no determination to get rid’ of the Commonwealth industrial judges - with a view to recommendations being considered at a conference of Commonwealth and State Governments in the hope that a national policy of child endowment would be evolved. A beautiful proposal! Wonderfully vague! It sounded well, but nothing was done to carry out that promise.
Another ambitious scheme promulgated by the Nationalist party to tickle the ears of the electors, but without any intention to carry it into effect, was that £20,000,000 should be set aside to provide homes for workers. The Nationalists were in power for six years, but nothing was done by them in regard to those homes; nothing was done by them in regard to social insurance or the development and control of ports and harbours throughout the Commonwealth. They promised employment, plentiful and continuous, a reduction in the cost of living, and sane governmental finance, but did nothing to give effect to their promises. Indeed, because of their incapacity, and their absolute refusal to face the facts, by the time they were defeated in 1929 they had succeeded in placing this country in a state of bankruptcy. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) made many charges against the Government, the chief of which had to do with its administration of the finances; yet that gentleman belonged to the Bruce-Page Government which, even in a time of plenty, when revenues were buoyant, so mismanaged the affairs of the nation that it is to-day in its present serious position.
Australia’s difficulties to-day are due to thi-ee causes, for all three of which the Nationalist party can be fairly blamed.
The first has’ to do with migration. The Bruce-Page Government and its supporters^ - but particularly the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) - reiterated that Australians salvation lay in a progressive migration policy. Hie laid it down as an economic axiom that the more migrants that were brought into Australia the more work would be provided for every one in supplying them with food and necessaries. At that time I considered it the most insane economic policy ever advocated by a responsible Minister of the Crown. It has been proved to be a calamitous policy, and has resulted in what everybody prophesied for it. Notwithstanding the appeals of members of the Labour party, and, indeed, of other sections of the community, this suicidal migration policy was persisted in. The Bruce-Page Government Avas not concerned with whether the hundreds of thousands of migrants it brought, to the country were of British stock; it mattered not whether they came from England, Scotland or Ireland, or whether, on the other hand, they were Italians, Greeks, or Jugo-Slavs; whether, indeed, they were European or not European. It was only concerned with carrying out the well-defined policy of the employers of this country, namely, to bring into Australia a steady and’ growing stream of cheap labour. From 1923 to 1929 - the period during which the BrucePage Government was in power - there came into this country a total of 256,414 persons. Of these 210,033 were British; 30,920 were southern Europeans, and 15,461 were from other European countries. To-day Ave have in Australia approximately 250,000 unemployed. I do not claim that the 250,000 are all adult male workers, but I do say deliberately that the migration policy of the BrucePage Government has been responsible for bringing, no fewer than 150,000 adult male workers to Australia. When the present Government came into office it had to take very drastic steps to check this stream of European migration. Conditions were such that those who were coming into the country had either to undercut workers already here by accepting lower wages, or join the crowd who congregated around police, stations seeking relief. Under the Labour policy the excess of departures over arrivals at the 30th November, 1930, was 7,426, including southern Europeans, 633. Other Europeans increased by 2,209. It was laid down by the Labour Government that only those southern Europeans who were coming to join their families in Australia would be allowed to enter the country. Tourists and certain other classes were, of course, excepted. In January last the excess of departures over arrivals was 1,075, including Greek, Italians, Maltese, Jugo slavs, British and other nationalities. It is evident that had the Bruce-Page Government remained in power, and persisted in its migration policy, there would have been an additional 100,000 persons out of work in Australia to-day.
The Leader of the Opposition dealt very warily with the fiscal policy of the Government. The members of the Country party have, of course, always been free traders, but the Nationalist party, while largely freetrade in sympathies, has, for political purposes, professed to be protectionist in order to woo the votes of the workers. Mr. Bruce declared on the hustings that the policy of his party was adequate protection of Australian industry, but when he came to administer the Government’s fiscal policy it was the influence of the Country party which predominated. Indeed, it could hardly be otherwise in the case of a government which consisted, on the one hand, of several avowed free traders, who believed that everything should be admitted to the country duty free, with the exception of potatoes, onions, and other primary products, and, on the other hand, of a section led by a man whose fortunes depended upon importing cheap goods from overseas, and selling them in Australia at a good profit. Mr. Bruce is the head of the firm of Paterson, Laing, and Bruce, which would naturally benefit by a freetrade policy. The freetrade influences in that Government were sufficiently strong to ensure that importers were able to compete on very favorable terms with the few industries operating in Australia.
When the Labour Government took office it was faced with an almost impossible situation. It was confronted with a series of deficits piled up by its predecessors, and the country was over- whelmed by a flood of migrants from overseas. The same ships which brought those migrants in their hundreds of thousands had their holds crammed full of goods which could, and should, have been manufactured in Australia. I have already referred to the migration policy of the Bruce-Page Government, and I have no doubt that the same policy would be carried out again if the Nationalist party secured control of the Government. Bad as was the last Government’s migration policy, its fiscal policy was even worse. The traders of many other countries were granted many favours, and freetrade interests in Australia were pandered to in every way possible. The following is an interesting table of our imports and exports during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government : -
In two years only we had a slight advantage in the trade balance; but in the aggregate our imports exceeded our exports by £92,000,000! What a convincing demonstration of the hopeless manner in which those self-styled financiers, great statesmen, and big business men, conducted the affairs of the country! Practically every ship which came to our shores was filled to capacity with imported goods, while our own industries languished. Potentially, there was the opportunity to expand our existing industries, and to establish new industries to the extent of £92,000,000 - activities which would have provided employment for another 200,000 Australians.
As a result of the disastrous policy of its predecossors in office, this Government has had to adopt drastic measures in an endeavour to stabilize the affairs of the nation. Instead of manifesting a desire to help in such a necessary and desirable project, the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters have done everything to embarrass the efforts of the Government, which they have roundly condemned because of its refusal to perpetuate the policy of profligacy and excessive overseas borrowing that was pursued by its predecessors. Previous governments depended entirely upon overseas borrowing. Unfortunately, Australia did not benefit by the introduction of new money to the country. Goods were imported to the value of the amount borrowed, which resulted in the collection of huge customs revenue. Upon that the country existed. Obviously such an artificial and unsound system of. economics could not survive. A crash was inevitable. And now this Government is reaping the whirlwind from the improvidence that was so recklessly sown by the Bruce-Page Government. To restore financial equilibrium the Government has deliberately refrained from encouraging the importation of goods to Australia, and consequently it has sacrificed approximately £10,000,000 in customs’ revenue. At the same time, the pursuance of its policy during the past half-dozen months has established a trade balance in Australia’s favour to the extent of £6,613,000, or, if bullion is taken into consideration, a favorable trade balance amounting to £13,665,000. It realizes that, if Australia is to be placed upon a stable footing, there must be an excess of exports over imports of not less than £36,000,000 per annum. That is what the Government seeks to attain. In achieving its object, it will develop the industries of this country enormously.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson), and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) have all had their tilt at the financial policy of the Government. The right honorable member for North Sydney claimed that such a policy was non-existent. The Labour party and this Government have a very definite financial policy, which will be introduced in this House either during the present week or next week - a policy which will provide for the stabilization of conditions in Australia. Linked with its fiscal and migration policy will be a fiduciary issue providing foi1 credit to the extent of £18,000,000, of which £6,000,000 will be made available to primary producers, and £12,000,000 for employment purposes. For the next twelve months, the Govern ment proposes to .spend approximately £1,000,000 per month to relieve unemployment. The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) will enunciate a policy in the near future definitely providing a remedy to arrest the calamitous fall in price levels which is bringing bankruptcy, ruin, and unemployment in its train. No country that is being subjected to continuously falling prices can hope for financial stability. Such a deplorable state of affairs causes lack of security in employment, in trade and commerce, and in the financial institutions of the nation. So the Government proposes, as one of its initial steps, to stabilize price levels.
Honorable members opposite criticize this Government because of its financial policy. The evidence proves that Nationalist governments have brought about the disastrous conditions from which Australia is suffering. The yearly value of our wool and wheat receipts has diminished by £40,000,000, and that of our metals and other important products by a further £20,000,000, chiefly because of the deplorable lack of economic foresight displayed by the predecessors of this Government. During the regime of the government led by the right honorable member for North Sydney, and of the Bruce-Page Government, Australia’s assets were dissipated in an orgy of reckless borrowing. In 1922 the overseas debt of the Commonwealth was £114,529,000, while in 1929, when the Bruce-Page Government was deposed by the people, it had increased to £159,786,000. In 1922 the Commonwealth internal debt amounted to £250,311,000, which was reduced to £217,835,000 by 1929. While there was a decrease in the internal debt of £32,476,000 there was an increase of our overseas obligation by £45,257,000. How significant those figures are. The retrogression occurred during years of plenty, when unemployment, was practically nonexistent, and when we were receiving record prices for our wool, wheat, and other primary products; at a time when Australia was enjoying the most bountiful seasons in its history.
Not only did those governments, by reckless administration, make it almost impossible for their successors to raise money in Australia; they made it absolutely impossible to obtain it overseas.
Even their rich friends in London were appalled by their financial debaucheries. Here is proof. In 1928 the Bruce-Page Government endeavoured to float a loan of £8,000,000 upon the London market at 5 per cent., issued at £98. Of that amount £6,720,000, or 84 per. cent., was left in the hands of the underwriters. Yet honorable members opposite chide this Government about not possessing the faith of overseas investors. In 1928, the Bruce-Page Government endeavoured to raise a further loan of £7,000,000 in London at 5 per cent., issued at £98. On that occasion £6,090,000, or 87 per cent., was left to the underwriters. What better proof could there be of the lack of faith of overseas investors in the financial administration of the Bruce-Page Government. In January, 1929, there was a further loan of £8,000,000, issued at £98 and carrying an interest rate of .5 per cent., and. the underwriters were left to “carry the baby” to the tune of £6,720,000. Later that year they were once again left with £5,760,000 of a loan of £12,000,000, issued at £97, and carrying an interest rate of 5 per cent. These heaven-sent financiers, these big business men, these statesmen, who left this country in such a condition that it has been almost impossible for this Government to carry on, commenced their term of office with a surplus of £6,400,000. How the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) managed to leave that amount is beyond my comprehension. When the Government of which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) were members had control of Australia’s affairs taken out of its hands there was an accumulated deficit of £4,987,000.
– The deficit of this Government for the first eight months of this year amounts to over £13,000,000.
– I confess that the deficit at the end of the financial year will be substantial ; but it will be less than that figure. During the six and a half years that honorable members opposite were in power they had the advantage of abounding revenue, no unemployment, high prices for exportable products, record production and prosperity; yet they produced an accumulated deficit of £4,987,000 !
– What about the sinking fund?
– I have made allowance for the sinking fund provision on account of debt redemption. But for that provision, which totalled £7,415,000, the deficit would have been very much greater than it was.
The Leader of the Opposition wept crocodile tears over the treatment that he alleged this Government has extended to returned soldiers. His charge against the Government in this matter has been made so often, probably for political purposes, that he has convinced himself of its soundness. I propose to place before the country the Government’s version of the matter. The Leader of the Opposition contended that 2,000 returned soldiers had been dismissed from the Commonwealth Public Service by this Government.
– That is an understatement of the number.
– I deliberately make the charge that the Government of which the right honorable member for Cowper, the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, were members, gave notice of dismissal at the latter end of 1929 to 1,700 returned soldiers. That was the Christmas box which the BrucePage Government proposed to give to those men.
– The honorable member’s party said that it would not dismiss any returned soldier.
– We cancelled those dismissal notices, and by a superhuman effort kept those men employed on necessary work for over nine months. Therefore, it is of no use for honorable members opposite to manifest indignation against the Government, or to lay claim to a desire to assist and protect returned soldiers.
Recently the Government has endeavoured to place industries- on the waterfront on a stable foundation. To that end it attempted to pass legislation; but, having failed in that object, it issued regulations designed to place waterside workers on the footing that they occupied before they were interfered with by the Bruce-Page Government. The actions of that Government - its notorious legislation, and its regulations which gave preference to loyalists and certain other persons - prevented a large number of returned soldiers from obtaining employment. So long as a returned soldier was a member of a loyalist organization, so long as he was susceptible to the influence of Nationalism, so long as he refused to join an industrial union and was prepared to dissociate himself from the Labour party, Nationalism was willing to look after him; but immediately he became a member of a trade union and a supporter of the Labour party, it had no further desire to help him. There has been a good deal of speaking with tongue in cheek by honorable members opposite in regard to the treatment of returned soldiers. Let me enumerate some of the appointments that, were made of non-returned soldiers by the Bruce-Page Government between the 9th February, 1923, and the 21st October, 1929. The number of officers appointed by the Public Service Board iu the various Commonwealth departments was 1,007. There was no suggestion of preference to returned soldiers when those appointments were being made ; and, in the majority of cases, they were made to fairly well paid positions. Other appointments were as follow : -
From the above figures it will be seen that 1,687 officers were appointed by the Bruce-Page Government during the six and a half years that it mis-managed the affairs of this country; and not one of them was a returned soldier. Apparently, the view is held that a Labour Government, in its dealings with returned soldiers, must give effect to a real policy of preference to them, but that those who claim most vociferously to be the friends of returned soldiers need not do so. Even in the Department of Defence and the Repatriation Department, where one would think the interests of returned soldiers should be paramount, no fewer than 233 persons who were not returned soldiers were appointed.
At the beginning of my speech, I recalled the promise made by the Nationalist party and the Country party that the wages and conditions of the workers of Australia would be safe in their hands, and that the last thing which they desired was to reduce wages or to lengthen hours. Yet when the Bruce-Page Government placed before the electors its proposal to abolish federal arbitration, it did so with the definite object of having wages reduced and hours increased. I go further, and say that it wished to remove from the Federal Arbitration Court all power to control hours and wages.
We have been told by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and by the Leader (Mr. Latham) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett), that drastic reductions must be made in Commonwealth expenditure. These gentlemen have declared from many platforms the urgent necessity of saving at least £4.000,000 during the present financial year. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has said that £15,000,000 must be saved by the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth has certain commitments on account of interest and sinking fund. The expenditure on war pensions, as well as on invalid and old-age pensions, has been substantially increased, principally as a result of the prevailing economic conditions. A large number of returned soldiers, who have been suffering from some slight injury, did not apply for a pension; but with the passage of years their resistance to that injury has become less, and on account of their inability to procure employment they have now been compelled to apply for a pension. Many invalid pensioners come within a similar category. So long as work was plentiful, many of them could obtain light employment, but now that work is no longer available, they are forced to apply for invalid pensions. The same may be said of old-age pensions. If - the policy enunciated by Nationalism during the last twelve months is to be carried out, it can be done only by cutting the pensions of the soldiers, the invalids, and the aged people in the community. The policy of Nationalism is a policy of reduction of pensions and wages; it means a reduction of at least 20 per cent, in the salaries and wages of government employees.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) admits the truth of my charge. The Government, however, refuses to make such a drastic cut in the emoluments of its employees. It will protect the basic wageearners in its employ, and, so far as is humanly possible, shelter them from ruthless treatment by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The Government has made several attempts to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, only to be thwarted by honorable members opposite and their colleagues in another place. Not for nothing did the Nationalists and the other anti-Labour parties reign supreme in the legislature of this country for thirteen long years. During that period, everything possible was done to keep the Labour party out of office. Honorable gentlemen opposite must accept the charge that, if given the opportunity, they would reduce pensions, and remove public servants from the control of the Arbitration Court. Bad as is the condition of Australia to-day, I claim that it would be an absolute calamity if the opponents of the Labour party were again given possession of the treasury bench.
– Things could not be worse than they are now under the Labour party.
– As the Labour party has a definite fiscal policy, so it has also a definite financial policy. Its fiscal policy is already benefiting the Commonwealth, and the continuance of that policy must lead to stabilization and greater prosperity in both our secondary and primary industries. The Government has done these things, and will continue to do them. I predict that the motion before the House will be defeated by an overwhelming majority.
.- It was surprising to see the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) floundering the whole time he was on his feet and then sitting down suddenly and unexpectedly, unable to make any defence of his government. He reminded me of a motor car with a flat tyre and broken springs. During the whole of the time he was on his feet, he scarcely referred to the work of the Government. His speech was indeed a pathetic effort. In that sense, it differed very little from the speech of his leader. On many occasions, the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) has delivered able speeches in this chamber, and I certainly expected that in reply to the’ motion of censure moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) he would have endeavoured to have risen to the occasion. But when he sat down all that he had said was that, at least, he could claim to have been a tryer After seventeen months of office, he claims the right to continue to control the destinies of the country merely because he has tried! Throughout his speech, the right honorable gentleman carefully avoided the charges levelled against his administration by the Leader of the Opposition. He made no effort to explain his vacillation, or his incapacity, or why Australian credit has sunk so low. He did not refer to the general lack of confidence in his Government. Indeed, he made no defence at all.
– For a very good reason.
– The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) was the next speaker to attempt to defend the Government. Although he spoke at considerable length, he did no more than refer to what certain honorable members said in 1922, before the present Government was dreamt of. Apparently, he also had no defence to offer of the tragic record of the Government, during whose term of office unemployment and starvation have increased, to say nothing of the deplorable condition in which the farmers of this country find themselves. Following him came the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who smote the Government hip and thigh. He was succeeded by the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley), who obviously was glad when he was able again to resume his seat. His speech was typical of those he delivers when speaking to the extremists at Broken Hill. He repeated the oft-told story of how the Bruce-Page Government introduced into Australia large numbers of immigrants from Southern Europe, notwithstanding that that charge has been refuted from hundreds of platforms throughout the country. It is now generally well known that immigration is a matter for which the States are responsible.
The Minister can be enthusiastic about many things; but his enthusiasm failed him when he attempted to prove that the Government had kept faith with the electors. Let me call to mind some of the promises made by the Labour party during the last election campaign. I suggest that no government, with the possible exception of the Lang Government in Hew South Wales, was ever elected on promises which were more impossible of fulfilment than those of the present Government. Many of the electors of New South Wales would almost give their right hands to cancel the votes they cast at the recent election in that State. The same may be said of many who voted for the present Government, which was returned with the greatest majority ever obtained by any political party since the beginning of federation. No government ever had a better opportunity to carry out its pre-election promises than the present Government has had; yet it has failed miserably. It came into office pledged to do away with unemployment. The present Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) said that the unemployment problem was easy of solution, and that the policy of the Labour party, if given effect, would remove the evil. Yet unemployment is greater to-day than ever. The army of unemployed in Australia to-day contains more men than comprised the Australian Imperial Force. The Government can do nothing to redeem its promise in respect of unemployment. Honorable members opposite fear to return to their electorates at week-ends, because of the demands made upon them to carry out the promises uttered on the hustings. The Government also promised to assist the farmers of this country; but their plight to-day is worse than it has ever been.
Another promise made, particularly by the present Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), was that the coal mines would be opened within a fortnight. Yet many months elapsed before anything was done even to try to bring that about other than the holding of a conference. Indeed, so hopeless were the miners of Kurri Kurri of the Government’s promise ever being fulfilled that they demanded the return of £1,000 which they contributed towards the election expenses of the Labour party. Another bribe offered to the coal-miners was that a grant of £100,000 would be made to repatriate excess coal-miners.
Mi-. SPEAKER (Hon. Norman Makin). - The honorable member is not in order in describing any public action as bribery.
– I withdraw the word “ bribe,” and say that although the Government promised to allocate £100,000 for the purpose of repatriating excess coal-miners, no effort has been made to carry out its promise.. I go further and say that, in my opinion, it does not appear as if it ever intended to keep that promise. Nothing has been done to redeem the promise to make £50,000 available to encourage the export of coal. I have made countless applications for a portion of that amount to be made available to assist coal-miners in Queensland, as has also the Queensland Minister for Mines. I have placed before the Government definite schemes showing how those excess miners could be repatriated. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), when Assistant Minister for Industry, sent me a letter in which he said that he had submitted my proposals to the Government, that the Cabinet had approved of them, and that effect would be given to them when other proposals to assist the coalmining industry were put into operation. He referred particularly to proposals to deal with the shale oil deposits in New South Wales and Tasmania. While the Government remains inactive, the coalminers are suffering untold hardships. When the late Government relinquished the reins of office, 11.1 per cent, of the population were unemployed; to-day, more than 25 per cent, of the people of Australia are out of employment.
The Labour party made numerous promises to the returned soldiers in order to secure their votes. I have here a copy of some of the propaganda issued by that party; it contains page after page of promises to the returned soldier which have not been fulfilled. One of them was that a Labour government would place in employment all partially incapacitated returned soldiers. I shall read what these men were told -
The placing in employment of partially disabled returned soldiers is a very hard problem. But for the sympathetic treatment of them by employers, it would indeed be almost impossible to solve. These men could all be found positions in the Public Service, doing useful work, and thereby distributing responsibility over the whole of the taxpayers, not, as now, leaving it to a very few to carry. This could be done without in any way impairing the efficiency of the Public Service.
There was a definite promise; but no effort’ has been made to fulfil it. On the contrary, more than 3,000 returned soldiers have been dismissed from the Public Service by the present Government. Indeed, the treatment of these nien by the Government can only be (.”.escribed as callous in the extreme. Let me refer briefly to the treatment of returned soldiers in the employ of the Defence Department. The ex-Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) must be astounded when he contemplates his callous treatment of the men employed in that department. He could not have realized what the effect of his action would be. Most of the employees in the Defence Department are returned soldiers, and they have been given parttime work as a reward for their war services.
– Is that not better than dismissing them from the department?
– The Minister would sack anybody. His whole record as a member of the Government has been one of hopeless indecision. I remember the’ honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) following up a statement by the Minister, when he was Minister for Defence, that he would see that nothing was done to interfere with compulsory military training until such time as serious thought had been given to the matter. The honorable member for Ballarat declared, “No more of this humbug; compulsory military training must be abolished before Christmas “ - and the Minister submitted. The honorable member has probably been having too much to say in other matters, and if he does not make the fight of his life for the office which he holds in this House he will lose it, as certain ex-Ministers opposite lost their positions recently.
It was stated by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) that in no circumstances would the prices of beer and to’bacco be increased, and that on the contrary they should be reduced; but since the present Government has been in office it has caused the prices of those commodities to be increased by over 300 per cent, by increasing the duty and excise. The entertainments tax was to be abolished as a reward for certain support received by the Labour party at the last election; but no such action has been taken. There was to be- no charge for wireless licences; but, again, nothing has been done to remove the present fees. A promise was given that a new Commonwealth shipping line would be established. Thank Heaven, no more has be<-n heard of that proposal. Tasmania was promised as a bait a government line of steamers; but, so far as I am aware, no public action has been taken in that direction.
The present Treasurer, and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons), devised plans for giving assistance to the wheat-growers by guaranteeing them the price of 6s. 6d. a bushel; but no action has been taken to honour the promise made. There was a subsequent proposal, however, for a compulsory pool, under which the farmers were to receive 4s. a bushel for their wheat at railway sidings. This measure was to involve the country in an expenditure of £18,000,000 ; but, fortunately for the industry and for Australia generally, it was rejected by the Senate. The basic principle of this proposal was also unsound. Two other proposals were then submitted. One was for the payment of 3s. a bushel, the Commonwealth Bank to be forced to provide the money; but the bank refused to do that, and the Government has taken no further action in the matter. The other proposal was for a loan to enable a bounty of 6d. a bushel to be paid to the growers; but, as the Government has shattered the confidence of investors, and ruined the credit of the country, there is no prospect of finding the necessary money, and the farmers have been thrown to the wolves. Even at that time Mr. Lang was saying in New South Wales that, if he were returned to power, the producers would be guaranteed 7s. 6d. a bushel for wheat. The farmers have been hoodwinked throughout the present Government’s term of office. Now it hopes, by means of a fiduciary issue of notes, to make £6,000,000 available to the wheat-farmers. Such a proposal is unthinkable and must be rejected in another place. The farmers cannot hope for any assistance or goodwill from this Government.
What is the record of this Government ? Undoubtedly it was returned to office upon the promises that I have enumerated; but it has never carried them out. It claims that it had a mandate to provide an effective system of federal arbitration ; but, after many weeks of discussion in this House, a bill, with 33 vital amendments made in this House and by the Senate, was finally accepted by Ministers without a fight. One of its chief provisions was designed to enable the -Government to appoint their union bosses as conciliation commissioners; but this part of the measure was declared by the High Court to be invalid. Other proposals of the Government have left the country staggering. Alterations in over 400 tariff items have been brought down, and they have entirely destroyed the export trade, with consequent retaliation by other countries. A promise was given that thousands of new industries would be established, and that employment would be found for hundreds of thousands of men out of work. But what new employment has been provided? Over 350,000 men arc out of work in Australia fo-day. The only quarter in which increased employment has been provided is the Taxation Department, and that alone indicates the almost confiscatory nature of the legislation brought clown for the purpose of extracting taxes from the people. The only new industry in this country of late that I can call to mind is midget golf. Its introduction cannot be placed to the credit of the Government, and even that industry is languishing to-day.
It was declared by the Government some time ago that there were far too many judges on the High Court bench; yet recently the Cabinet carefully made two political appointments to that judiciary. A gold bounty was asked for, and the Government decided to consider the claims of the applicants, whose request, after most careful consideration, wa3 refused. Then certain pressure was brought to bear upon the Government, and its solemn decision was changed. A half-hearted offer of a gold bounty has now been made. A declaration was made by the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) that the financial troubles of Australia were to be partially solved by the establishment of a lottery at Canberra, but when opposition was expressed to the proposal the Government dropped it.
As a consequence of the colossal blunder of the Ministry in putting an export duty on sheepskins, millions of those skins have been destroyed, and the many difficulties of the farmers have been intensified. Let me read what the Federated Storemen and Packers Union had to say concerning this foolish action of the Government -
Our organization opposes the continuance of this duty because it has thrown out of employment almost all members of the organization employed in skin-packing establishments in Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria. The incidence of the tax is unfair inasmuch as it reduces the return to the primary producer solely for the purpose of endeavouring to establish a secondary industry at the primary producers’ expense. A very big proportion of the sheepskins upon which the export tax is levied cannot possibly be fellmongered in Australia. The existing depression is and will continue to act ‘as a. natural deterrent to the revival of the fellmongering industry. Under normal conditions about 1,500 members of the organization are employed in the live States receiving, drying, treating, classing, baling, packing, and despatching skins for export. Because of the depression this number has gradually been reduced, and until the time when the export tax was imposed the number of members employed was about 700. Following the imposition of the export tax, France ceased to buy sheepskins, sheepskins sales have been suspended, and export from Australia has almost entirely ceased. The skins so retained in Australia, however, are not being purchased by fellmongers. They are lying in stores, and members of the union who may have been employed in looking after such skins and in dealing with other sheepskins which in normal circumstances would be bought are now out of employment, and practically the whole of the sheepskin packing establishment in Victoria will be closed by the end of this week. The tax has resulted in almost the entire elimination of the employment of our members, and there has been no corresponding gain iu any other industry.
This duty is typical of most of the taxes imposed by the Government. Referendum proposals were introduced and, after many months debate in both Houses, were abandoned. Theirs is a record of complete failure attended by serious effects on our people generally.
The record of this Ministry was well described by Mr. J. J. Graves, President of the Australian Labour Party in NewSouth Wales, when referring to the Government’s chances in the Parkes byelection. He remarked -
If it adopts a defensive attitude it will be forced to justify its sales tax, tlie tax on tea and tobacco, the increase of taxes on income from personal exertion and property; it will have to answer the fact that it has sacked more government employees than any other government since federation; it will have to answer the criticism of curtailment of postal facilities, not exempting 2d. postage, the failure to proceed with the referendum proposals, the banking bills, the arbitration tangle, the slaughter of thu basic wage . . . the attacks on the railway and tramway men, not forgetting the shearers. “You have distributed £1.900,000 to the unemployed, but the army is so great and thu effect is so slight that you cannot rest on that alone.”
There we have complete con dcm nation of the Government, by members of its own organization. The Prime Minister made no defence of his party beyond saying that Ministers have been triers and were, therefore, entitled to remain in office. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch), owing to lack of argument in support of the Ministry, devoted most of the time available to him to making reference to the speeches of independent members in this House in 1922.
The most distressing feature of the Government’s blundering policy is the fact that it is making no effort to check the national drift. An important conference was held in Melbourne in August last, and the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Penton) and the ex-Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons), after calling a special cabinet meeting, agreed to stand by the decisions of that conference; but hardly had the Prime Minister left the shores of Australia when the Labour party inaugurated its policy of repudiation.
At the August conference the following resolution, among others, was unanimously adopted: -
That the several Governments represented at this conference declare their fixed determination to balance their respective budgets for the financial year 1930-31, and to maintain a similar balanced budget in future years. This budget equilibrium will be maintained on such a basis as is consistent with the repayment or conversion in Australia of existing internal debt maturing in the next few years.
Shortly after that resolution, which was fully discussed at numerous cabinet meetings, had been adopted, it was thrown overboard by the caucus, and since then no effort whatever has been made to substitute a satisfactory scheme or to bring about financial stability. During the seventeen months this Government has been in office it has not submitted a sound financial policy to Parliament, and consequently matters have been drifting to such an extent that to-day our position is worse than it has ever been in the history of the Commonwealth. From time to time the Government has submitted what it has termed financial policies, but these have been impracticable, and have got the country nowhere. Notwithstanding his glaring display of ineptitude the right honorable the Prime Minister maintains that he has a right to retain office because he is a trier ! At the August conference, at which all the States were represented, Mr. Lionel Hill, the Labour Premier of South’ Australia, and Mr. Hogan, the Labour Premier of Victoria, agreed to effect economies and to carry out the proposal then adopted. In honestly endeavouring to honour their promises they have mct with a certain .amount of success; but cannot hope to succeed as they have been deserted by this Government. ‘ The Premier of Victoria, M,r. Hogan, when introducing his budget in the Victorian Parliament, said -
The failure of any government to comply with the terms of the agreement and the principles therein set out would not only be a grave dereliction on the part of the government concerned, but would also be a breach of faith with the other governments that had entered into the undertaking. Every other State Premier is endeavouring to live up to, as far as possible, the proposals agreed to in Melbourne. Substantial economies have been mode in the Public Service in Victoria.
Other State Governments have also endeavoured to honour the undertaking which they gave at the August conference, but as they have been deserted by the Commonwealth Government they find it extremely difficult. Not only have the Labour Premiers of South Australia and Victoria been deserted by the Prime
Minister, but be bas also betrayed the ex-Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) and the ex- Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Penton), who, during the Prime Minister’s absence, earnestly endeavoured to give effect to the decisions of the August conference. Although they had striven to the last ditch, what has been their reward? Although the Prime Minister made numerous wild promises after his return to Australia, practically his first step was to act as traitor towards those who had served him so well. The political history of Australia does not record any instance in which any government has failed so dismally as has this Government. The Prime Minister not only deserted those of his colleagues who were loyal to him, but totally disregarded the decision reached at the August conference. In the circumstances which I have outlined, it is, time an appeal was made to the people so that we may have a government in office capable of resisting the present serious financial drift. This Government has shown an utter disregard of the necessities of the people and of the farmers in particular. Its inactivity is causing uncertainty, loss of confidence, and in many cases, bankruptcy. The Prime Minister, who said that the Opposition had not done anything to assist in a scheme of rehabilitation, apparently overlooked the fact that the Opposition made a genuine offer to co-operate with the Government in order to relieve the present situation. Every offer of co-operation made by the Opposition has been rejected. Subsequent’ to the introduction of the budget last year, the Opposition which showed how our national expenditure could be reduced by £4,000,000 annually, practically forced the Government to reduce the parliamentary allowance as an indication to the people that it was in favour of reduced governmental expenditure. Ever since the Prime Minister returned from Great Britain he has been asking the people to tell him how to do his job. When the present Prime Minister was debating the budget in 1927 he said -
I consider it to be the duty of every honorable member to call the attention of the Government to the totally unsatisfactory economic condition of the country, even though they may have no ‘ remedy to suggest. The Government should find the remedy, lt cannot evade its responsibility by saying, “ You show us the remedy “. A government which would make a request like that would show itself to be totally unfit to govern, and should resign.
The right honorable gentleman should honour the undertaking which he gave in 1927, and resign.. If he does not do so an appeal must shortly be made to the people, when he will find that there is an overwhelming majority of the electors opposed to the present administration. During the floating of the recent conversion loan the members of the party to which I belong gave valuable assistance to the ex-Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons), and despite the advice of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) , “ Default and be damned “ the loan was over subscribed, because the Australian people do not wish the Government to repudiate, its liabilities. The Australian people will rally round the party that is anxious to restore Australia’s credit so that we may again travel along the road to prosperity. Although the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons), and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton), rendered Australia such valuable service in connexion with the conversion loan in order to avoid default, the Prime Minister has now dispensed with their services.
– He has not.
– Of course he has. He has appointed in the place of the honorable member for Wilmot a member of the section which was antagonistic to him all the time he was in Great Britain. The whole community was shocked at the betrayal of the two Ministers I have mentioned, and the recall of the present Treasurer. It was the duty of the present Treasurer to appear before the Mungana Royal Commission. People in Australia and overseas have been shocked by the action of the Prime Minister in re-appointing him. If the finding of the royal commission is wrong, and the Treasurer can clear his name, he should be doing his best to endeavour to get the Supreme Court of Queensland to bring in such a verdict. He owes it to himself, to the people, and, above all, to this House to do so. He should be doing this rather than endeavouring to foist upon the country impossible inflation proposals. I hope in the court, he can, as stated, clear his name. In view of the action which, this Government has taken, it will be a long time before Australia’s credit will be restored. As people have definitely and irretrievably lost confidence in the Government, organizations are being formed all over Australia to devise means of restoring responsible government in Australia. No government has ever proved so recreant to its trust or more justly deserves defeat than the present Government. The re-appointment of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) to the Treasury, the Government’s failure to honour its election promises, its cruel indifference to the unemployed, and to the requirements of the primary producers, the inexcusable delay in endeavouring to stop financial drift - its continued inaction, its refusal to reduce its ever increasing expenditure, its failure to bring forward some proposals for the restoration of credit and confidence, and the closing of the loan market condemn it in the eyes1 of all right thinking people. Australia’s inability to raise money overseas or in Australia is due to the lack of confidence in a government which is controlled from the Trades Hall. To-day we have not responsible government; we are being governed by wholly irresponsible forces outside Parliament who would apply to Australia foreign nostrums that have been of no avail elsewhere. The financial proposals which the Government intends to bring before Parliament constitute a camouflaged form of inflation, which, if adopted, would mean the ruin of our industries, the reduction in wages and social services and the complete destruction of credit. We would be faced with national disaster and black despair. In this connexion the present Treasurer in 1923 said -
It is a misconception to think that by adding paper to the currency any additional wealth is created. To merely pa,y higher wages in paper achieves only disappointment, as the purchasing power of the paper money will be Less than the purchasing power of gold by an amount which corresponds to the extent of the inflation.
By inflating the currency, we get into a vicious circle. Once the issue of paper exceeds the. currency requirements of the community, the value of the money is depreciated, and commodity prices commence to soar.
None suffers more than the workers, because their wages are paid on the assumption that commodity prices are in gold, and not inflated paper prices. Wages are always less than they should be in countries that practise inflation.
The adoption of a policy of inflation would result in the complete ruin of Australia’s credit and the prevention of an early return to prosperity. If honorable members opposite would act as their consciences direct them, they would oppose the proposed ^fiduciary issue. On the 8th February, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long), said, “ This Government has failed dismally.” For making that remark he was taken to task.
– Rut that was at a picnic.
– Yes, arranged by the executive of the Australian Labour Party, and held at Clifton Gardens. Immediately after the honorable member for Lang had denounced the Government the president of the Labour ‘ Council, Mr. Hooke, said -
It is disgraceful for a man like Mr. Long to come along and -make such on abject confession of failure.
That is a ‘ complete denunciation of the Government by the president of thai branch of the Australian Labour party. If honorable members opposite would be as frank las the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long) was on that occasion, and as frank as Mr. J. J. Graves, President of the Australian Labour Party in New South Wales, and many prominent Labour men, they would vote for this motion.
I propose to make very brief references to a newspaper article which discusses the record of this Government. The newspaper from which I shall quote is the Brisbane Truth, of the 22nd February last. This journal has always been a supporter of the Labour party, but it now declares quite definitely that the party, and particularly this Government, has ceased to deserve support. The article to which I refer is headed -
The tame cockatoo screeches of Scullin.
Workers look to Scullin to cease making parrot speeches.
Leaning pathetically on Theodore to hatch chickens from a’ basket of over-ripe eggs.
The contents of the article are summarized in its concluding paragraphs, which read as follow: -
Taking the Federal Labour Government generally, it has disappointed the hosts of electors who placed it in power. Even leaders o’f Labour outside political circles have openly stated that the Federal Government has made no attempt to do what it was sent to Canberra to do. Outside raising the tariff barriers, increasing taxation, placing an export duty on sheepskins for some obscure and unheard-of reason, the record of the Federal Labour Government is not one that raises admiration in the hearts of its supporters. And the army of unemployed has increased tremendously, and the number of people virtually starving makes the Government’s record all the more to be condemned. In plain, unvarnished words, it has failed signally as a government. Instead of governing, it lias allowed itself, to be governed by various cliques in the Labour movement until it has become thoroughly pathetic. It has not done one single thing savouring of statesmanship; it lias not performed one act calculated to relieve unemployment j it has not said one word that would assist in the smallest measure to re-establish credit abroad (on the contrary, it has gone on damaging Australia’s credit by pandering to the repudiationists and the inflationists), and, in short, it has failed dismally to do anything. There is only one course left open to it, and that is to get out and allow some other government, to clear up the present hopeless confusion, and put into operation a scheme that will lead Australia out of its present hopeless and hideous muddle !
Those comments were made in a newspaper which hitherto has been a consistent supporter of the Labour party; but thousands of similar quotations could be obtained from other newspapers throughout Australia. The Government has been absolutely condemned from every side, even by those who formerly have been consistent Labour supporters.
In the light of all these facts, it cannot be denied that the Government has completely failed to discharge the duties which rested upon it. No supporter of the Ministry has yet been able to say one word in defence of the Government’s policy or lack of policy or in justification of its administration. The Government has brought the country to the verge of ruin. During its regime, unemployment has increased until it is now rampant, and privation and desolation have been the lot of many hundreds of thousands of workers. Our primary producers have been misled, and, in many cases, ruined. Thousands of government employees, many of them returned soldiers, have been dismissed. Our credit at home and- abroad has been destroyed, and taxation has been increased almost to the point of confiscation. The inaction of the Government has absolutely shat tered the confidence of investors in Australia and abroad.
Throughout the Commonwealth, new organizations are being formed with the object of removing the Government from office. I feel certain that nothing but the removal of the Government, and the accession to office of a new administration permeated with a desire to restore confidence in Australia, will satisfy the people or restore them to prosperity and happiness. I hope, therefore, that this motion will be strongly supported and heartily carried.
.- The motion before the House reads as follows : -
As I was elected to this House as a member of the Labour party, and am still a member of that party, and as the Government on the treasury bench is a Labour Government, I face the discussion of this motion with some diffidence. I am not unmindful of the fact that the organization of the Labour party was used to secure my return to this Parliament. I know that very many workers assisted in securing my return. One union secretary, in particular, allowed his office work to fall into arrears so that he might work. for me in my constituency. Nor am I unmindful of the fact that I signed a pledge prior to receiving the endorsement of the Labour party to my candidature. This pledge read a? follows : -
I hereby pledge myself not to oppose the candidate selected by the recognized political labour organization, and, if elected, to do my utmost to carry out the principles embodied in the Australian Labour party’s platform, and on all questions affecting the platform to vote as a majority of the parliamentary party may decide at a’ duly constituted caucus meeting. I also pledge myself, if elected, not to resign without first having consulted and obtained the consent of conference or council.
I had to sign that pledge before 1 was allowed to stand as an endorsed Labour candidate. But in its letter that pledge does not bind me to support a Labour Government irrespective of who may be included in its membership; nor does it prevent me from supporting this motion if . I feel inclined to do so; I am confirmed in this view of my position .by a- ‘ ruling .which was given by the President of the Australian Labour Party. This information has been forwarded to me by the secretary of the South Australian branch of the party, Mr. F. Ward, and the secretary of the federal executive of the party, the Honorable D. L. McNamara. Both of these gentlemen have forwarded to me a letter from which I make the following extract: -
In reply to a question tlie Federal President ruled as follows: - “Any member of a parliamentary Labour party either voting against a Labour government or deliberately abstaining from voting for a Labour government on a censure motion automatically ceases to be a member of the Australian Labour party.”
How old is that ruling? It is not a month old! The very fact that the Federal President of the Labour party was asked for the ruling, and that it was approved by the federal executive of the party, shows that there was a motive behind it. There ca 11 be no mistake about that. This ruling, was asked for and given with a purpose. All that I have to say in regard to it, however, is that I shall allow neither the Federal President, nor the federal executive of the’ Labour party to control my actions in, the moral realm.
This ruling is a loaded gun. It is possible that it is loaded only against me; but if what I have heard of happenings at the caucus meeting last week is correct - I was not present at the meeting so I do not know at first hand what occurred there - a threat was made that if members of the caucus did not vote for the Government and, therefore, against this motion, the gun would also be loaded for them. Speaking for myself, the gun has been loaded against me for one of two purposes. Either it is designed to frighten me into accepting the discredited member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, or it is intended to shoot me. Whatever may be the object, I wish to say quite plainly that I am not one who is easily frightened.
I was brought up in the Labour movement, and naturally I .have my ideas of its ideals. At twelve years of age I distributed at Glenelg for my father, who was the local agent there, the first weekly Labour newspaper printed in South Australia, The Herald; and right through my life I have taken a more or less active interest in this movement. I learned during those years to look with respect upon many of the men who have held cabinet office in Labour governments. The names of some of these men which occur to me are : - E. L. Batchelor, Gregor MacGregor, Tom. Price, Andrew Fisher, John Verran, Frank Tudor, Tom. Ryan, and Mat. Charlton. I learned to look upon these gentlemen as men of integrity, honour, and rectitude. They were all men whose names were above suspicion. I question whether any one of them would have sat in a cabinet with a man whose honour had been questioned and whose probity was in doubt. I do not believe that any one of them would have remained in the Cabinet in such circumstances. I entered this Parliament expecting that the standard of the Labour party of the past would continue to be the standard of it; but the Scullin Government seems prepared to lower the standard.
– In the honorable member’s opinion.
– I am answerable only for my own opinion, but it would be a good thing if some honorable members opposite had sufficient courage to stand by the private opinions which they have expressed to me on this subject. I object to the Scullin Government, or any other government, lowering the standards and prestige of the high office of a Cabinet Minister of the Commonwealth.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the dinner adjournment I discussed the letter of the Labour party’s pledge, which I signed before being endorsed as a candidate for Parliament, and I emphasized the fact that, in all the years that I have been associated with the party, its leadership had been entrusted to men whose probity was, as far as I know, unchallenged. It might be said in regard to the spirit of the pledge that, having been elected under it, I should support a Labour Government in any circumstances. If that view be taken, then I find myself on thehorns of a dilemma. Two courses areopen to me. It may be said that both are wrong. I do not admit that in thealleged breaking of the spirit of the pledge I have done wrong ; but if honorable mem- bers supporting the Government hold this opinion, my answer is that, if I find before me two wrong courses, and I must take the one or the other, I prefer to choose the lesser of two evils.
While not admitting that, in voting for the motion I shall be doing wrong, if the case is put to me in that light, my answer must be that I prefer to break the spirit of the Labour party’s pledge rather than to continue to support a cabinet that has lowered the prestige and dignity of responsible government in this country by the inclusion in its ranks of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore). In this regard may I say that “ happy is that man who is not condemned in that thing which he alloweth.” I remember also that the late Henry Drummond advised that if a man had two courses before him, and was in doubt as to which one he should follow, it was always wiser to choose the harder course. My attitude in this matter is guided by that sound reasoning. To any man who says to me that I have broken the spirit of the Labour party’s pledge, I reply that when giving my adherence to the Labour party’s platform I did not sign away to any political party my right in the moral sphere.
I intend to vote for the motion, firstly, because of the effect on the national character of Australia of the admission of the honorable member for Dalley to cabinet rank, with the existing stigma upon his name. It is still true that “ righteousness exalteth a nation.” Emmerson has reminded us that morality is the object of government. If that be so, then the moral attitude of a government must be absolutely beyond suspicion. In saying that the admission of the Treasurer to cabinet rank will, in my opinion, have a baneful effect upon the national life of this country, I am aware of the high opinion held by the people of any man in public life who displays character and courage. I do not forget the cheap sneers which appear, from time to time, in the public press against politicians. But I am convinced that in spite of these sneers - I fear that sometimes the actions of politicians justify them - the people pass in review the conduct of members of all parliaments and governments, and if their probity cannot be impugned they look up to and respect them.
Although we may not always he aware of it, we are at all times in the public eye, and all that we do or say has an important influence on the national life of this country.
My second reason for supporting the motion is that, in my opinion, the inclusion in the Cabinet of the honorable member for Dalley will have a baneful effect on the Commonwealth Public Service. I know what I am saying. One hears repeatedly comments throughout the Public Service; but one is unable to use any particular name because of the fear entertained by public servants that they might be victimized. In my view, the Commonwealth public servants are a fine body of honorable men and women. What will be the effect on them of the action of this Government ? If a member of a ‘ State Public Service, convicted of dishonorable conduct by one of the numerous tribunals, retired from it, and joined the Commonwealth Public Service, would not there be an outcry in all branches of the Commonwealth Public Service ? And is not the analogy which I am endeavouring to draw, clear to all honorable members? The appointment to one of the highest positions in the Cabinet of a man who is under a cloud, must have a pernicious influence upon the Commonwealth Public Service. I very much regret the situation which has arisen.
My third reason for supporting the motion is that, in my opinion, the inclusion of the honorable member for Dalley in the Cabinet, is a travesty upon democracy. I say this advisedly. What is the position? I do not intend to give away any party secrets. What I am about to say has been published in the public press. When the division on the motion for re-admission of the honorable member for Dalley as a member of the Government was taken in the ‘ Party room, the voting, as far as honorable members of this House were concerned - I am excluding senators - was 21 to 18 - 21 for his inclusion and 18 against it. Three Labour members of this House were absent owing to illness, and two, who were present, did not vote - the honorable member for Dalley himself, and the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E.Riley). Even if we concede that those five would have voted for the motion in caucus - I am not sure that all would have done so - there would have been 26 members of this House in favour of his inclusion in the Cabinet. Eighteen members of the Labour party showed, by their votes, that they were opposed to the Treasurer’s re-admission to the Government. From what I have said it will be seen that there were in the Labour Party room, eighteen members who, for various reasons, believed that the honorable member for Dalley should not again be a member of this Government. But they now come into this chamber and, we may assume, will vote against this motion of censure based on the re-admission of the Treasurer. I do not know what are the views of honorable members on this side.
– “We are all with the honorable member.
– I believe that is the position. If, however, any member of the Opposition believes that the Treasurer should have been included, I hope that he will have the courage to say so. I believe that if every man speaks in accordance with his conviction and inner belief, the vote in this House should show 26 members in favour of the inclusion of the honorable member for Dalley as Treasurer, and 49 against him. I notice that the honorable the Treasurer is smiling at my recital of the facts. That smile, as we have good reason to know, hides much in the honorable member’s character. It is, I repeat, a travesty on democracy that the honorable member for Dalley should force himself upon this Parliament as the Treasurer. I marvel that common decency does not prompt him to resign.
– Why does not the honorable member resign?
– I will answer that interjection . in due course. The Treasurer should retire from his present position. How did he get there?
– How did the honorable member get here ?
– Because in my electorate there are not many fools like the honorable member.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, Mr. Speaker. I ask again, how did the Treasurer get his present position? We all know that it was because he secured control of the machine. And how did he get control of the machine ? I do not propose to give away too much of the inside information, but I think I would be justified in throwing some light upon the Treasurer’s methods-
– Tell it all.
– I did not move to this side of the House to give away party secrets.
– There is nothing very sinister about what happened in caucus.
– I wonder if the honorable member for Werriwa would like me to repeat all that happened in caucus in regard to the appointment of the two judges ?
– Give it all.
– I do not wish to betray any of the confidences of the Labour party; but I may say something on this point before I resume my seat if goaded to do so. The Treasurer secured his readmission to Cabinet because of the appeal made by the Prime Minister, and also because he employed a weapon which he rarely uses - he put over the “ sob stuff “. His appeal was - “ Stick to a mate ! Stick to a mate !” It was this sort of “ sob stuff “ which gave him the necessary three or four votes in the Labour party room, and enabled him to thrust himself upon this House as Treasurer, in spite of the known opposition of the majority of the members.
Fourthly, the reason that I am supporting the motion is because of the political effect of the presence of the Treasurer in the Cabinet. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), to-day, truly said - and I do not often agree with him - that the need of this country is a leader in whom the people have confidence. If ever this country had need of a leader it is to-day. Neither the Prime Minister nor the Treasurer can meet that need. The people have lost confidence in both those honorable gentlemen. Some months ago, the Prime Minister said -
We are facing the position as we find it. We are administering to the people medicine that is unpalatable. If they want to call in another doctor to administer sweeter medicine 1 shall heave a sigh and say “ carry on “. But while the job is ours we shall face it unswervingly.
I think that the Prime Minister, when he said that, was sincere. At any rate, I believed him. I was proud of that declaration and I distributed copies of his speech, including that statement, throughout the length and breadth of my electorate. It is no wonder that the people have lost confidence in the Prime Minister. What is the ‘ position to-day ? What is the bitter medicine that the Prime Minister prescribed? It is made up of glycerine, saccharine, honey, and golden syrup. The only bitter thing about it is the opium that the Treasurer has added to the mixture. That concoction is labelled “ Fiduciary Currency “.
I come now to the attitude of the Prime Minister in regard to the finances of this country. The way in which he has shifted his ground on this matter has greatly shocked the people. They will have a feeling of despair so long as the Cabinet remains as constituted at present. Can the Treasurer restore confidence in the Government of this country ? Can he lead it to victory? Honorable members opposite know that he cannot do that. Leaving out the Mungana issue altogether, I still maintain that he cannot. His entry into the House is not forgotten. What did the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) say this afternoon? He said that an honorable member was alleged to have paid £5,000, or some one had paid that sum for him, to gain entry to Parliament. At the same time, it was alleged that another honorable member had been paid £2,500 to keep out of Parliament. All I have to say is - as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) interjected - that neither action was right. The honorable member for Corangamite said something about a person paying for the right to serve his country. Does the honorable member believe that the ex-member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) could have been persuaded to resign his seat in favour of the present Treasurer without receiving ‘something in return ? Why the ex-member for Dalley is one of the most cunning ;men. Does the honorable member for Corangamite really think that if the Treasurer paid anything, -he did it for the right to serve his country? If the Treasurer loves his country and his party so much, let him resign. He is in the way of the progress of his party and of his country, and he should get out.
I now come to the Treasurer’s attitude in regard to the finances of the country, and the subject of inflation or noninflation. In disclosing a little caucus history, I do not think that I shall be breaking faith with the Labour party, because the Treasurer made practically the same disclosure on the floor of this House. I remember him fighting valiantly against any inflation. He will not deny that. He fought well. He knows the horrors of inflation and where it leads. I say to him -
Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
When we were discussing the first proposal for a gold bounty, the Treasurer said -
There is only one thing more silly than this gold bonus and that is Ted Yates’s damn silly ideas.
Since then, a tremendous twist has taken place in the Treasurer’s ideas. In the eyes of the people, who are ever watchful, he is unfit to be a member of the Parliament of this country, and, as a leader, is not likely to rescue Australia from financial chaos. I have accused the Treasurer of backing and filling, of blowing hot and blowing cold. Let me now quote what the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) said. The following statement appeared in the News of 29th January last : -
I know what Mr. Theodore said could not bc done, and what lie consequently knew could be done, but no one knows what he actually will do. I have no hesitation in .declaring my attitude, for I said in caucus that I would not have Mr. Theodore ait any price.
At this stage, it may be appropriate for me to read an .extract from ‘a book entitled The Process of Inflation in France, written by J. H. Rogers, Professor of Economics, University of Missouri. The Treasurer should know a lot about this book, and I suggest that he would make ‘ia good tutor to .the honorable member for Bourke (Mr.. Anstey)., the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), the ‘honorable member for Werriwa .(Mr. Lazzarini), and the .honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin). He should take them into a room and give them lectures framed on the principles enunciated in this book. If the Treasurer were to frame his policy in accordance with those principles -it would be easy for him not to go too far with inflation.
– The honorable member has not sufficient intelligence to understand what he reads.
– I advise the honorable member to stick to macaroni. The writer of this book, who spent a considerable time studying the process of inflation in France, said -
With the precarious position of the Treasury thus being continually aggravated the political situation grew more and more strained. And the increasing uncertainty furnished to the disillusioned French investors a more and more powerful incentive to escape - illegally though it were - from the impending ruin, while to the central European speculator it presented another golden opportunity to profit at the expense of his country’s most hated enemy. Thus each- fall in the franc set in motion forces destined almost inevitably to bring about another fall. The process once sot going, not only found no resistance to its movement, but itself exerted influences causing it to gather momentum as it went. During all this period of rapid exchange rates and price movements and of dramatic political happenings, short-term interest rates continued low and generally declining until May, 1926. With the new funds being continually put out in large quantities by the* Bank of France it was hardly possible for them to rise materially. Long-term interest rates, on the other hand, moved rapidly and continually upwards, showing clearly the increasing borrowing difficulties of business as well as of the Government in a period of fast waning confidence in the position of the franc.
I wish particularly to bring this quotation under notice of honorable members -
Under these disquieting circumstances Poincaire assumed control at the head of his renowned National Union Cabinet. While he apparently had to “ encourage “ his measures through Parliament by a general increase in salaries, no such primitive form of inducement was required to win the support of the people. His reputation for irreproachable honesty and his scrupulous regard of the Constitution and of the law seemed to stimulate sufficiently widespread confidence to afford the much needed period of respite, during which constructive legislation could be passed and put into operation.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), rightly said that our need to-day is a leader whom the people can trust. I am tired of hearing some of the leaders of this country continually saying “ We can’t ; we can’t.” I am sick of it. It is not the spirit of the Australian people. There is a new member in this chamber. I do not wish to be nasty, and I hope that he will pardon me when I say that he is the first representative in -this House of the political Ned Kellys of this country. The honorable member has been elected to this Parliament on a policy of repudiation ; a policy of “ take.” I regret that political leaders are preaching throughout this country the doctrine: “We can’t; we can’t.” I remember reading of the early history of South Australia when Adelaide was a mere village; and the women who lived in the cottages scattered about the hills 2,000 feet above the plains - before there were macadamized or bitumen roads - had to walk with baskets of eggs and butter upon their heads, through the virgin forest to the little, camp on the banks of the Torrens. They carried back to their homes the necessaries of their households. From those sturdy pioneers the Australian people have sprung, and when Mr. Lang, or anybody else, despairingly declares, “ we can’t “ before we have tried, he is disloyal and un-Australian. What the Commonwealth wants is a leader who will say “ we can ; at any rate, we shall try “. Let us laugh at the impossible and adopt as our slogan, “ It shall be done “.
My speech has been somewhat personal, but it relates to a personal matter. There is no ill-will between the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) and myself for he has never done me any harm. But he has pleaded, “ I am not guilty ; I am the victim of circumstances “. I, too, am the victim of circumstances, and so are other members of the Ministerial party.
– The honorable member can resign.
– The honorable member has repeatedly asked why I do not resign my seat in this House. My reply is, first, that I was elected to look after the interests of the constituents of Angas.
– On the Labour party’s policy.
Several honorable members interjecting.
– When I call for order I expect honorable members to obey. If the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), and the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) again interject after I have called for order I shall name them without further warning.
– I was elected to this Parliament to look after the interests of my constituents, and I made that very clear in the caucus room, , as the Treasurer will remember. He and the Prime Minister were hotly attacking the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), and I asked whether a member was elected to this Parliament primarily as a party man or to look after his constituents. The Treasurer knows the answer that he gave. He did not say that a member was elected to watch the interests of his constituents.
– Nor is he.
– That interjection by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) requires no comment. The second reason why I do not resign is that I was elected to carry out the Labour party’s platform. When I fail to do that it will be time enough for members of that party to squeal. I appeal to members on the Government side.
– We all shall give as much as we can.
– One of my names being Moses, I shall naturally expect more than the legal 6s.8d. My attitude throughout this trouble which has occurred in the Labour party has been clear and open. I frankly informed caucus what my course would be if the Treasurer were readmitted to cabinet. I challenged the party to deal with me then ; later, I wrote out my letter of protest to the Prime Minister and handed it to him in his office. I made no bargain or compact with any individual or party ; I have not intrigued with any honorable member to try to influence his attitude; no concessions have been offered to me. It is true that the Adelaide Advertiser has asked that I be given immunity from opposition at the next election. That action was taken after I had made known my opposition to the re-admission of the honorable member for Dalley to the Ministry. If immunity be given to me, I shall gratefully accept it. But even if I have to fight the twobig party machines, and risk being crushed between them, I shall maintain the attitude I have adopted.
Some members on the Government side are, I know, opposed to the Treasurer’s inclusion in the Ministry, and to them I appeal. Some are present, others are absent; some have received their rewards.
– That is absolutely dirty.
– Not too dirty. I make a special appeal to to those who I know are not inflationists. ‘ Unless the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) has changed his attitude he is not an inflationist, nor is the Minister for Health (Mr. McNeill). The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) is not an inflationist, and he does not believe that the Treasurer should be in the Cabinet. That also is the attitude of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price). The Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley) is not an inflationist; of his attitude I shall say no more. I am in doubt as to where the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) stands. I was under the impression that he was opposed to inflation, but, after his speech to-day, I am afraid that he may be wobbling. To all who are opposed to inflation, I appeal to put the country before party. At this critical juncture in our history none should be for the party, and all should be for the State. I openly ask honorable members to record their votes in the interests of their country by helping to remove the present Ministry from office. If any of them are afraid to follow their convictions because of the risk of political death, I would encourage them by this paraphase of Macaulay: -
How can man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the honour of his country ,
To remove the nation’s clogs?
.-I shall be glad to see a vote taken on this motion as soon as possible. For that reason I shall be brief, believing that the greatest good that can be done to Australia will be the early removal ofthe present Government from office. This challenge may not succeed, but the Government is visibly f ailing, and its complete collapse is only a matter of months, or perhaps, days ahead. That Australia has been degraded in the eyes of the world by the actions of the Ministry cannot be denied. Although we are well aware that a world economic depression is operating, and that Australia is feeling this simultaneously with a post-war fall in prices that has been long delayed, the Government by its vacillation and incompetence has aggravated our difficulties, and made our chances of recovery more remote. Instead of taking cognizance of the nation’s diminished income, and regulating governmental expenditure accordingly, the Government has made only a pretence of economy, spending more than in years of prosperity, and confining its retrenchment largely to the training side of the Defence Department, and temporary members of the Public Service. It has rationed the labour of the staff officers, and non-commissioned officers in the Defence Department, ‘ although their clerical subordinates were practically left untouched. In other branches of the federal service the wholesale dismissals of temporary employees affected mainly returned soldiers, many of whom were incapacitated, notwithstanding that the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), as Labour campaign director, had promised that his party, if returned to power, would help disabled soldiers. I was informed by the Postmaster-General that of 2,200 men discharged from his department 1,400 were returned soldiers.The refusal of the Government to face the position generally, and its readiness to resort to any underhand method of repudiation or inflation in order to evade the issue rather than do what is obvious and honest, and its attempts to play upon the credulity of the farmers andthe unemployed with quack financial nostrums that must mean ultimate ruin, have created disgust and contempt for them among the mass of reputable citizens.
I listened with pleasure to the courageous speech of the honorable member for
Angas (Mr. Gabb). Although I differ from him politically, I have always felt that in him the Labour party has an honest man. I say that advisedly. On one occasion, when members of his party were gloating over the success of their election propaganda, and one of them said: “In my electorate, Bruce’s dog kennel cost £2,000,” the honorable member for Angas said: “Perhaps when next time you go before the people you will not be believed.” The present Government gained office by promises and platitudes and has carried on by procrastinating. We all know the promises made by the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) during the election campaign, notably his despicable promise that disabled returned soldiers would be found employment in the Civil Service, whereas they have been practically eliminated from the Service by this Labour Government. He also promised to get the coal-miners back to work within a few weeks. He failed to honour his promise, and eventually the miners, who had been induced to make a grant to the party fighting funds, had to return to work on terms which they could have secured for themselves twelve months previously. These and other promises were sufficient to return Labour triumphant to this Parliament, but with what a deplorable result.
Prior to the departure of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) to the Imperial Conference he signed an agreement, now generally known as the Niemeyer Agreement, under which the Federal Government and the State Governments undertook to balance their budgets; and although during his absence inflation and repudiation proposals were put forward in caucus by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) and adopted, certain members of his party, to their credit be it said, including two Ministers who have since left the Cabinet in disgust, endeavoured to carry out the principles involved in that agreement. When the Prime Minister returned after incidentally delivering sage advice to the British people in an article in Nash’s Magazine that “ backbone “ was what was required to right the problems of the Empire, he had an exceptional oppor- tunity, the most wonderful that was ever offered to any Australian, to lead the people of Australia. Members of the Opposition, realizing the desperate state of the country, held out the hand of cooperation. The press was generous reporting him faithfully and with a good deal of admiration for his utterances. A waiting public asked for leadership. But after a few brave words reiterating that he was and would be the Prime Minister, he surrendered to the baser influences within his party and in effect said, “ What says the caucus majority? I must follow it, because I am its leader “.
– That was a good policy.
– The honorable member is merely repeating what another honorable member on his side has said. If it be a good policy, why have a Prime Minister at all?
Those who may still think that the right honorable gentleman has been in any way consistent may be convinced to the contrary by the following record, which I quote from the Melbourne Herald of the11th February last: -
Briefly, the Prime Minister cannot complain shouldhis fellow Australians sum up his recent policy somewhat like this - (1.) Signed the Melbourne agreement and then, without making any reasonable effort to honour its principle, declared it to be impossible. (2.) Supported Messrs. Lyons and Fenton in an economic policy against Mr. Theodore and the caucus inflationists, and then abandoned those Ministers to bring back Mr. Theodore. (3.) Declared against inflation, and then accepted it. ( 4. ) Accepted a three-year’s economic plan and saw it turned into a financial mockery.
Standing behind Mr. Theodore and well within his shadow, can Mr. Scullin reasonably say that the circuitous policy into which he has been led is likely to restore the confidence at home and abroad that he himself proclaimed many times to be a first essential?
It is clearly a case of “When the servant ruleth “.
– That declaration is as silly as the paper which printed it.
– We hear the honorable member’s voice so often that we have learned to ignore it. I intend to ignore it. From his record our Prime Minister is also clearly our prime political acrobat and contortionist. He fails to live up to his bold declarations. One day he says, “ This shall be done “ ; next day, because caucus has ruled otherwise, it is not done. The right honorable gentleman is ably summed up in the following lines I quote from a recently published political satire: -
But to the words of Moses hearken now -
Magnetic Moses, whom all men allow
The finished product of debating schools,
Master of cheapened elocution’s rules -
Ten words he used where one would better do
Although at times some meaning trickled through.
All we get from the present Government is words, words, words.
The Prime Minister may have mastered elocution and oratory, but he has failed as a leader of the Australian people. The motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition is therefore timely, and I hope that we have the numbers now to defeat the Government. If not, it is only a matter of time when the Government will be ignominiously defeated and forced to resign. Its record is a deplorable one. After having surrendered to the baser influences within caucus, the Prime Minister called to the Treasury one whose conduct I consider to be foreign to the ethics of British public life, one who, because of his previous conduct, has Balkanized his own cabinet and party, caused the withdrawal in disgust from it of two prominent Ministers, and brought upon himself the condemnation, not only of this side, but also, if we are to believe the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), of eighteen or nineteen honorable members of his own party. When we also learn from the honorable member for Angas of the lobbying that was employed to secure the requisite number of votes in caucus we can come to no other conclusion than that there is something wrong in the state of Australia.
– It is the system under which honorable members opposite work.
– That is so. To-day the country is under caucus rule. If the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), or any other egregious honorable member of the Labour party is desirous of repudiation and inflation instead of honestly paying debts, and can secure the support of a bare majority in caucus, it becomes the policy of the people of Australia. Such is the dreadful state to which we have fallen.
In the dying days of the Roman Empire-
– Cannot the honorable member get something more up to date ?
– If the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) would only study a little history he would bring himself a little more up to date. There was a time during the dying days of the Roman Empire when the government and the standard of public life had sunk to so low a level that the high office of emperor was. actually put up to public auction. In the bidding of the rival factions of the Labour party to secure power, in the recall to the Treasury of a man who was under a personal cloud, in the threats of repudiation by the rabid Premier of our largest State, we have sunk pretty low indeed. Repudiation should be repugnant to any one of British birth. It is a policy copied from Russia which has been a source of inspiration for many men in the Labour party. Russia repudiated its debt to Great Britain amounting to over £1,100,000,000, - a sum equal to the national debt of Australia to-day. It thus increased Britain’s burdens, and incidentally our own, because we, to a large extent, are indebted to Great Britain.
The Premier of New South Wales openly advocates that Australia should do what Russia has done. He is constantly declaring that Australia’s troubles have arisen out of the war - that we are in debt because of the war. He must be aware that our overseas indebtedness due to the war is only £92,000,000, only one-fourth of our total overseas indebtedness; and that the annual interest bill on that amount is less than £6,000,000.
– But did not the war cause an increase in all interest charges?
– I am referring to Mr. Lang’s statement about our overseas indebtedness. No State borrowed one penny overseas during the whole period of the war. Thanks to the Loan Council set up by the Bruce-Page Government, the debts of the Commonwealth and the States have now been pooled, and we all stand or fall together. There should be no talk of repudiation by any mem ber of this Parliament or by any State Premier.
As opposed to repudiation, this Government favours a policy of inflation, and we are asked to believe that the proposed fiduciary issue put forward by the Treasurer is different from any other form of debasement of the currency. It is, however, merely inflation masquerading under a different name. The end of inflation is chaos and ruin, with depreciation in values of savings bank accounts, insurance policies and wages. Inflation means a reduction of the old-age pension. Honorable members opposite say that honorable members of the Opposition believe in a reduction of the old-age pension; but, by their inflation policy, they themselves would bring about that reduction by lowering the purchasing power of the £1 a week which the old people receive. With inflation wages would be unable to keep pace with soaring prices, and this our cumbersome arbitration system would aggravate. Would any bank or individual lend to one who refused to live within his income and preferred to gamble on racehorses and pay with promissory notes? Yet that is the position of this Government. It is not surprising that while repudiation and inflation are even remotely considered here, cheap loans that are available to other dominions are refused to us. South Africa and New Zealand, and even India have recently floated loans at low rates of interest. Yet it is doubtful if Australia could borrow the smallest sum at 8 per cent. Money ought to be available to us at 3 per cent. Although in a measure I agree with an honorable member who has said that a borrowing policy is not a sound policy, it all depends on how the money is spent. It is wise to borrow if the money is used for reproductive works, as it has been in the past by governments of all classes of politics, but it is not wise if to the expenditure of loan funds Labour applies its favourite policy of day labour, which means that a great deal of, the money is squandered. The present-day talk of repudiation and inflation by Labour men is quite contrary to the traditions of Australia in the war and in its earlier history, and depreciates us monetarily and morally in the eyes of the world.
The following table shows the depreciation in Australian stocks on the Lon- don market from the 28th August, 1930, to the 10th February, 1931 :-
Every stock, Federal or State, has depreciated. This is an indication of how we are regarded by people on the other side of the world. The rising rate of exchange also shows how anxious our own people are to get their savings out of Australia. They are even prepared to pay £30 in £100 to do so. I am ashamed that such should be the position. One honorable member opposite has ascribed this state of affairs to the speeches made by Nationalist members. Nothing could be further from the truth. The trouble is largely attributable to the bickerings of honorable members of the Labour party, to the utterances of the
Premier of New South Wales, the Commonwealth Treasurer, and also the Prime Minister who backs and fills. No wonder people on the other side of the world are . beginning to wonder if we are becoming a race of mediocrities^ andsarcastic references are being made as to whether we should not hand back the country to the aborigines. Over and over again financial authorities have recommended that we should reduce government expenditure as a precedent to recovery; that we should turn our backs on all propounders of fraudulent schemes for dodging the issue. Inflation is’ neither more nor less than defrauding the public.
– How would the honorable member reduce expenditure?
– -The honorable member has interjected that question many times.
– And nobody has answered it yet._
– Surely the honorable member was awake when the Leader of the Opposition, in the course of the debate on the budget, submitted a motion for a saving of £4,000,000 in expenditure and showed how it could be made. Nine months ago I suggested that a 10 per cent, cut should be made in the allowance to members of Parliament. That was done after the Prime Minister had said it could not be done, but so far he has left the bulk of the Civil Service untouched. It should be remembered that for every £1,000,000 of expenditure saved a further £60,000 saving in interest is effected, because the Government is working on borrowed money. The present Treasurer said that £1,000,000 was not worth considering. Surely that was a childish statement to make. If a man were in financial difficulties, living from day to day by the issue of promissory notes, and yet refused to reduce his expenses, it is quite certain that his bankers would not grant him further accommodation. Some honorable members opposite are property-owners, and are well acquainted with these fundamentals. In their hearts they believe them to be true, yet when they get on the political soap box they talk the same old Labour shibboleths.
If we budget immediately for running the country on the revenue that is reasonably to be expected we shall regain our position of respect in the eyes of the world, and restore confidence, which will result in a rehabilitation of trade and the absorption of the unemployed. In everything this Government has attempted it has failed. Its financial policy is hopeless. It has been declared both by the associated banks arid by the Commonwealth Bank to be “contrary to banking and economic principles.” By means of staggering taxation the Government has depressed business and created unemployment. Its sales tax has proved to be one of the most irritating and futile measures ever perpetrated by any government.
– It is not in order for the honorable member to debate the Sales Tax.
– I shall content myself by saying that the Sales Tax has failed in its purpose and has not returned anything like the revenue expected, while creating a feeling of great irritation among business people.
The Government has been no more successful in carrying out its crude tariff policy. New duties have been heaped on with a spade. The Minister for Customs (Mr. Forde), repeatedly told the House that the imposition of higher tariffs would lead to the creation of new industries which would provide employment for 10,000 persons. Then, the following week he would come along with something else, which was estimated to provide employment for 20,000 persons. Nevertheless, unemployment has gone on increasing, and has actually risen from 12 per cent, to 25 per cent, during the regime of the present Government. The tariff policy of the Government has cut right across the loyal and patriotic ideal of Empire preference. Such high duties have been imposed that British exporters have been unable to retain their markets in this country. I believe in Australian-made goods so long as they can be produced economically, but we must not forget that Great Britain is our best customer for our primary products. The high duties which we have imposed against Great Britain, Italy, France, Germany and Japan have, in some cases, resulted in reprisals, so that we have lost valuable markets. So long as the Government re fuses to economize, and to cut down government expenditure, so long will our difficulties go on increasing, and the position will become worse and worse.
– My word,- the honorable member is cheerful!
– It is the foolish cheerfulness of honorable members opposite that has deluded the workers. They told the workers that their salvation lay in getting more pay for less work. The hollowness of these claims now having been exposed, the Government is trying to tide over the situation by means of inflation. Such a policy can lead to only greater difficulties. It is time we returned to sane Government instead of practising political brigandage and relying on the platitudes, promises and procrastination that have passed for government recently.
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement. It is not in order to reflect upon the Government in that way.
– I withdraw it. Would it be in. order, Mr. Speaker, to say that what we want in government is more business and less bushranging?
– The honorable member is merely aggravating the offence. When, the Chair calls him to order it expects him to obey.
– The people of Australia are long suffering, but they are paying now for their folly at the last election. There seems to be no hope of recovery through the present Government. The first step to recovery is undoubtedly to remove from office the public men who stand for un-British policies of inflation and repudiation, and relegate them to that obscurity from which only a benevolent democracy would ever have allowed them to emerge. I support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition, and will vote for it.
.- I have every confidence that the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition will be carried. The motion is that the Government no longer possesses the confidence of this House, and it might also be stated that the Government no longer possesses the confidence of the people of Australia. The people should be afforded an opportunity of reversing the decision they gave eighteen months ago. The Govern- ment has failed to grapple with the serious position in which Australia finds itself. As the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said, no Government ever came into office with a better opportunity of showing what it could do. The job was a tough one, but the Government has absolutely failed to face up to it. It received sympathetic treatment from this side of the House. The Opposition offered helpful suggestions to the Government, asking it to put aside all party considerations and work together for the good government of the country. In that way this House as a whole would carry the responsibility for doing the right thing, whether or not some section of the community should suffer thereby. The suggestion was turned down. The Government intimated that the people had put it into office to do the job, and it felt equal to doing it. “Well, it has not been equal to the job; it has utterly failed.
It is evident that the Prime Minister and the other members of the Government are quite well aware of the importance of the agricultural and pastoral industries to Australia. One of the first responsible statements made by the Prime Minister after he assumed office emphasized the importance of the primary industries, and set out clearly that the Government regarded the maintenance of those industries as of paramount importance. He urged the farmers of Australia to grow more wheat, and to that appeal the farmers nobly responded. Later the Government made a futile attempt to put through Parliament a measure guaranteeing the farmers 4s. a bushel for their wheat. We were assured that the Commonwealth Bank had been consulted, and that if the measure were passed there could be no doubt about the farmers receiving the 4s. a bushel. That bill was rejected in another place. Then the Acting Minister for Markets (Mr. Forde), in the absence of the Minister (Mr. Parker Moloney) on the other side of the world, called a conference of those interested in the wheat industry to discuss, at Canberra, proposals for the assistance of the wheatgrowers. A number of suggestions emanated from that conference, which sat for two days. One suggestion, which became known as the “ Perkins plan,” was that a sales tax of £7 4s. a ton should be imposed on flour for local consumption, and the proceeds distributed among the farmers, yielding them an extra 7$d. a bushel. There were other proposals also, but when they were placed before cabinet for its consideration, every one of those suggestions was turned down and nothing was put forward to take their place. Later a measure was forced through this House to grant 3s. a bushel to the farmers. That proposal went through this House and another place also, and although the bill has now become an act, the farmers are still waiting for their 3s. I should like to know just what the Government proposes to do, and whether the farmers are ever to receive this money. We have been told that the Commonwealth Bank cannot find it, yet we were told that the bank would be able to finance 43. a bushel had that measure been passed. Can any one be so brazen as to assert that if the bill guaranteeing the farmers 4s. a bushel had been passed the amount would ever have been paid?
– Yes, it would. We had an assurance to that effect from the governor of the bank.
– I am sure that nobody except the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) could be found to make such an assertion.
I shall cast my vote against the Government because it has failed to do anything for the assistance of the wool and wheat industries, for on those industries the prosperity of the country depends. No matter what government is in office, its first duty is to see that those industries are not allowed to languish. If they fall on bad times, other industries are affected, and the country is unable to meet its obligations. For many years past the secondary industries have battened upon the primary industries. They have led a sheltered existence at the expense of the great exporting industries of the Commonwealth, although, so far as establishing the credit of the country is concerned, the secondary industries are not worth a snap of the fingers. Even honorable members opposite now know that the secondary industries are worthless in the financial crisis with which we are now confronted, and that al] of them together could not take the place of a single wheat-grower. Not one of them can pay a penny towards our national obligations. Notwithstanding that fact, this Government has ignored the desperate position of our primary producers, placed additional burdens upon their backs, and granted still further shelter to our secondary industries. While talking about the burden being borne equally, it has given the proprietors of our secondary industries every facility further to fleece the people of Australia.
During the last recess, I attended many gatherings of distressed farmers. Whilst those people were receiving good prices for their wheat and wool, this Government in particular, to say nothing about the State Governments, took away practically all their earnings by imposing high tariffs and taxes. During the past eighteen months, land and other values have depreciated in Australia more than £2,000,000,000 and our primary producers have not received the cost of production for their wheat and only about half the cost of production for their wool. [Quorum formed.^ During prosperous times, our wheat and wool-growers contracted obligations with their financiers in order that they might improve their properties, increase their stock, and fertilize their land. They were then able to borrow £1 on a sheep, and £1 on a bag of wheat. Now that prices have fallen so calamitously, they have to give about five sheep or four or five bags of wheat to pay off every £1 that they borrowed in normal times. That is the mammoth task that is set the people who established the financial credit of the country: ,And instead of considering and relieving their case, the Government spends its time preparing party legislation.
Last year, the Government appealed to Great Britain to give it the aid of the best financial counsel obtainable in the world. Sir Otto Niemeyer came to Australia and tendered advice to our State and Commonwealth Governments. He was consulted in person by the Prime Minister (Mr Scullin), the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton), and the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons), and all agreed that his prescription for our ills was sound. . The advice was conveyed to Cabinet, which also found it good, and
Ifr. Prowse. an amended budget was formulated in accordance with Sir Otto Niemeyer’s counsel. I believe that that amendment would have had the support of the Opposition in this House. Unfortunately, there is a certain institution which controls Labour governments in Australia, whose whims take priority to the wishes of the constituted representatives of the people in Parliament. The recommendations of Cabinet had first to be submitted to caucus where they were mutilated and received the brand of party prejudice. The Acting Treasurer suggested a reduction in the cost of government which would embrace the whole of the Civil Service, but there were those in caucus, who were bound strictly by party considerations, who said, “We must not touch any one who is in receipt of an income of less than £725. He votes for us “.
Party government to-day is the curse of the country. It is killing democracy. My sympathy or disgust goes out to any Labour cabinet. Caucus appoints cabinet, and, presumably’, chooses the best brains available. Cabinet sets to work and formulates measures for the consideration of Parliament. But, first, its recommendations have to run the gauntlet of caucus, where, unless they are of approved partisan pattern, they are mutilated. So, naturally, we find the Government of the day at “ sixes and sevens.” It is evident to all that if honorable members opposite voted on this motion in accordance with their public utterances, the Governor-General would be informed “ that the Government no longer possesses the confidence of this House.”
During the recess I also attended a meeting of small wool-growers in Western Australia. There were 500 present, representative of one section of the producers of that State, the small men Practically 90 per cent, of the wool produced in Western Australia is the output of small growers who own under 5,000 sheep, a number of them being returned men on land with a carrying capacity of 1,500 to 2,000 sheep. I want this House to understand the position that they are in. During the time that the price of wool exceeded 16d., and reached 30d. per lb., those men were able to carry on, and to fertilize the soil in an endeavour to produce more wool. When the tragic drop in the price of wool and sheep occurred, their position became hopeless. Their output now brings 3d. to 4d. per lb. less than the cost of production. Those unfortunate settlers are unable to increase the carrying capacity of their land in order to produce more wool, as they lost on. the sale of last year’s wool, and are unable to buy fertilizers. Their position is truly desperate. The security previously afforded by their properties has gone. Practically 90 per cent. of those men are now without the means of subsistence, and I believe that the position of similar growers in other States is even worse.
I want honorable members to realize the importance of the wool industry to every man, woman, and child in this country. And what serious effort has this Government made to assist our wool producers? It has done nothing. Instead, it has seized every conceivable opportunity to embarrass them. It has imposed a primage duty on wool sacks, and has failed to bring about any concession in freight rates or in any other direction. It has even imposed an export duty of a pound on sheep skins! I am not actuated by any illfeeling towards the individuals who occupy the Government benches, but I say in all seriousness that the best thing that can happen to this Government is that this motion should be carried, and that honorable members opposite should be sent to answer to their masters. The Government has let Australia down, and has failed abjectly to fulfil the promises upon which it was returned to power. It has spent the greater part of its time since it came into office in party wrangling and there has been a continuous fight between Cabinet and caucus.
On his return from the Old Country the Prime Minister spoke in Western Australia, and made a very excellent impression. I admit that there was a good deal of heroics about his speech. Still, the people of Western Australia were ready to follow anybody who was prepared seriously and honestly to grapple with the prevailing situation. The right honorable gentleman said that he was returning to do his job regardless of political consequences. While the people of
Western Australia appreciated those sentiments they have been utterly disappointed at the manner in which the Prime Minister has disregarded his promise. The right honorable gentleman made another statement that was a serious flaw in an otherwise excellent address, delivered to a crowded audience. He said : “ I do not see the impossibility of removing Australia from this depression. I do not see the need of altering our standard in Australia to lift this depression.” That section of the right honorable gentleman’s speech was political. Unless Australia realises that she cannot have her standards higher than she can earn, we shall simply drift further and further to the lee, and finally crash on the rocks. There are at present 400,000 people in Australia who have no standard of living at all. They are existing on the dole. It is impossible for us to continue aping a higher standard than wo can earn. It is vulgar to try to ape a higher standard than that adopted by the people from whom we borrow our money.
It is’ interesting to note the trend of the church to-day. Generally, I like to see the church keep out of politics. But, possibly, economics does affect it. Recently Dr. Mannix, a distinguished cleric, after consecrating the Roman Catholic cathedral site in this Territory, lauded the present Government to the sky, and concluded his remarks with these words -
However, all that they have done, or all that they can do, will not put Australia right till she produces primarily and secondarily to sell in the markets of the world at a profit.
That golden advice could with advantage be emblazoned on the street corners of every town and hamlet in Australia, so that it might sink into the minds of our people. With such an assurance a parliament could be established here that would restore confidence to the people of Australia, and to those to whom we owe money. Let me quote the view of another distinguished reverend gentleman. It is given in. the following paragraph that appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 15th December last.
Speaking at the opening to-day of a new ward of the Sacred Heart Hospice, Darlinghurst, , Archbishop Kelly, dealing with Australia’s, financial position, said: - “We must cense to be improvident or extravagant. Laws have been made and those laws have operated on society as a cancer operates on the human frame, gradually destroying it. An employer is asked whether he can provide work for an unemployed man. The employer looks around and gives the man some employment. Then he is told that he must pay the basic wage. That would be a loss to him. Why not reduce everything to the level of sincerity and reality, so that the men who earn will be a profit to their employers, who” will be able to pay them out of the profits. Large contracts have had to be sent away from Australia - contracts for ships and locomotives “.
That advice also might with advantage be tacked up at our street corners.
At a certain town in my division, I attended a meeting that was called to consider what means could be adopted to provide for the unemployed. During the course of the meeting, the secretary of the Roads Board suggested that a motion be carried asking the State Government to amend the Workmen’s Compensation Act, so as to exclude casual employment, and thus remove from potential employers the fear of being called upon to pay anything up to £400 in the event of accident befalling any person given casual employment.
– It is more honorable for the man himself, and better for all concerned, that he be given work, instead of rations. The member for this district - a lady - said that, as she wished to be honest, she would not support such a motion. It was put to that meeting of 200 people, and only two voted against it. Laws of this sort do not tend to make for a sympathetic consideration of the case of those who are out of employment.
It is incumbent upon us to recognize the fact that our revenues have declined by £40,000,000 per annum, and that a further £40,000,0000 to £60,000,000 of borrowed money which formerly was available) cannot now be obtained. The greatest suffering is felt by people on the land’, who toil the longest and the hardest of any section of the community. They have no remedy, and they receive no sympathy from this Government, which on the contrary, has laid additional burdens upon them. In prosperous years the value of their land increased. Those values have dropped by at least 50 per cent., and the prices which they receive for their product are lower than the cost of producing it. Yet the Government does not give them any relief in the direction of levying taxation on the basis of the lower values. The primary producer has been responsible for the cost of living having been reduced in the case of every other section of the community, but those who are working under awards of the Arbitration Court, and the manufacturers under high protection have not made any contribution to that reduction. After a farmer has cleared his land of timber, cultivated the soil, sown his seed, garnered, bagged and despatched his crop to the railhead and the seaboard, shouldering all the risks attendant upon these operations, he receives the equivalent of two out of the fifteen 4-lb. loaves of bread that are produced from a bushel of wheat; those who process it into bread get the other 13 loaves. I ask honorable members, are they justified at a time like this in contending that there should be no tampering with the rates prescribed by awards of the Arbitration Court during periods of high prices and general prosperity? Are they helping Australia by countenancing the suggestion that there should be an Australianwide strike against the proposed reduction by 10 per cent, of the wages of those who are bound by awards of the court? A bale of wool will make 40 suits of clothes; yet the small woolgrower who takes all the risks associated with the breeding of sheep and the production of that wool, receives the equivalent of only one suit. Is it fair that those who take no- risks should receive 39-40ths of the value of that product? This Government was asked to impose a tax of £7 4s. a ton on flour consumed in Australia, but it refused to do so on the ground that the price of bread would thereby be increased. Such a tax would increase the price of flour from the present level of between £8 10s. and £10 a ton, to £15 4s. a ton. In New Zealand, the farmers receive 6s. 2d. a bushel for their wheat, yet the price* of flour is only £16 a ton, and the price of bread is no greater than in Australia. Yet this Government, with its’ party political eye on the probabilities, declines to take the suggested action because of the likelihood of its increasing the price of bread to the consumer! There is no need for it to do so. If the wheat-grower and the woolgrower were ruined, what could the Arbitration Court do to maintain our standard of living?
Let us look at this matter from the correct viewpoint; let us discard nonsensical shibboleths, and get down to practical politics. If every one will play his part, there is enough to go round. But what can we hope for from a government that is split into four or five different factions? I realize,’ of course, that when this matter goes to a division honorable members opposite will vote for the Government. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has announced his intention to do so. Probably he holds the view that it is better to have the devil you know than the devil you don’t. I do not know whether he is anxious to institute the Soviet form of government in this country. He must have read in the press this morning the statement that certain individuals who spoke against the Soviet Government in Russia were given terms of imprisonment ranging from four years to ten years.
The ex-Minister for Customs (Mr. Fenton) summed up the position admirably when he said that the funds held by insurance companies and banking institutions are the property of people of moderate means, who would be very severely injured financially if their interests were depreciated.
I cannot point to one act of this Government that would commend it to the people of Australia. It has placed on the statute-book legislation of which it now admits it is ashamed, and which from time to time it has had to withdraw. I heartily endorse the indictment of the Government in the motion proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham).
– I desire to examine the case against the Government as set out in the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition, and in the speeches of those honorable members who have spoken in support of it. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) censured the Government because the wheat and wool industries were languishing. What an extraordinary reason for supporting the motion ! On that ground the honorable gentleman, in whatever country he happened to be, would have to condemn the Government in power, irrespective of party, because everywhere throughout the world those industries are languishing. The fall in the prices of wheat and wool, and the other problems referred to by the honorable member, have their root, not in the administration of this Government, but in the entirely wrong policy which has marked post-war monetary practice. These problems affect, not only Australia ; they affect civilization itself. There is ample evidence available to show that governments and banking institutions have more regard to the claims of creditors than to those of debtors - a fact which is responsible for a state of affairs which makes it unprofitable to produce.
Coming now to the particular acts of omission or commission with which the Government is charged, I point out that if the honorable member for Forrest seeks the reason for the plight of the farmers of this country he will find it in the fact that either the Opposition in this House, or in another place, or some external authority, has vetoed every proposal put forward by the Government to assist the farming community. The Government’s first proposal for the stabilization of the wheat and wool industries was rejected by another place because the majority there objected to the control of marketing. The honorable member for Forrest referred to the return which the wheat-grower or the woolgrower gets in actual goods for his products. The smallness of that return is due to there being absolutely no marketing control in Australia in respect of the article he produces. The Opposition in another place, stimulated by vested interests in this country, aimed at the preservation of the very conditions concerning which the honorable gentleman complained. The honorable member said that the Perkins plan had been rejected by the Government. That is so. My own opinion is that, in the absence of any practical alternative, the Perkins plan should be accepted. I supported that plan because of the opposition of the banking institutions to any other plan. One is forced to ask whether the banking institutions of this country are to dictate government policy in the matter of assisting the wheat-growers and woolgrowers of Australia. Are they to have the final determination of the country’s policy?
– They did not give any expression of opinion on the Perkins plan.
– No ; the honorable gentleman’s colleagues in another place did that. The first proposal of the Government was approved by this House but rejected in another place. The Perkins plan was not acceptable to the Government, although I, personally, was in favour of it and would have supported it. There is, however, a case to be made out against that plan. The honorable member for Forrest, who supports it, is evidently prepared to impose higher prices upon the unemployed consumers of bread and flour.
– Not at all.
– Can the honorable gentleman guarantee that if the price of flour is doubled the price of bread will not be increased seeing that, because of the activity of the party of which he is a distinguished ornament, the State legislatures have made it impossible to regulate prices?
– Why should the position in Australia in regard to the price of bread be different from that in New Zealand ?
– The honorable member knows well that in this country there are associations of master bakers, master carriers, and others, which are affiliated with the Employers Federation. Those bodies, if represented in this Parliament at all, are certainly not represented by honorable members on this side of the House. The responsibility for the excessive price of bread rests on members of the Opposition rather than on the Government.
I desire now to deal with some of the matters referred to by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb). I do not object to his resentment at the reinstatement of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) as Treasurer of the Commonwealth. He is entitled to his opinion. But why did he not deal with that subject on its merits instead of dragging in all sorts of irrelevant issues to its reinforcement. He referred to the resignation of a former representative of the district of Dalley (Mr. Mahony). Evidently the conscience of the honorable member is very tender, for in the course of his remarks he more than once used the word “ sin.” It would appear that he regards himself as a kind of pontifical interpreter of what should be the moral standard of this Parliament. I submit that it is rather a reflection on his own conscience that he should, so long after the findings of the royal commission which inquired into the Dalley by-election, have been willing to remain in the party in which the present Treasurer held an important portfolio.
– It was only a matter of a few hours.
– If a person has a case against another on a particular issue, and has confidence in its soundness, then let him stake his faith on it, and not engage in a general campaign of mudslinging or drag in all sorts of irrelevant matters. The honorable member referred to the appointment of judges to the High Court. Are there any valid grounds for challenging the fitness of the men appointed to those positions? Does the honorable member suggest that the appointments were not made in a bona fide manner ? Does he insinuate that the judiciary now includes men unqualified for their high office ? Unless the honorable member makes those accusations, his indictment must fail. Surely the only point worthy of consideration in connexion with appointments to the judiciary is the fitness and capacity of the men selected.
– And the necessity for the appointments.
– Is it urged against the appointments that one of the new judges was at the time of his appointment a member of this Parliament? Does the honorable member contend that that is a sufficient ground for disqualification? If he does, I remind him that a former Prime Minister of this country resigned his high office to accept a position on the High Court bench. The present Governor-General was Attorney-General for the Commonwealth when he resigned to accept a High Court appointment. The late Mr. Justice Higgins was a distinguished member of this Parliament prior to his elevation to the High Court bench. The appointments to which I have referred were made by the political predecessors of honorable members opposite. Does the honorable member for Angas say that appointments to the High Court by a Labour Government savour of political partisanship, while similar appointments made by non-Labour governments are in a different category? Evidently the honorable member’s moral standard is determined by the side of the House on which he sits. I remind him that one of the judges of the Arbitration Court was a former senator who was at the time president of the Employers Federation of Australia and relinquished his chance of selection as a candidate for the Senate in the interests of his party - in order that that party might present a solid front in “Western Australia. He was appointed to this present position by the party which now sits in opposition. The honorable member for Angas said the he could drag into the light of day, if he thought fit, what is alleged to have taken place in one of the rooms of this Parliament concerning the appointment of judges to the High Court. Surely that is further evidence that a man who leaves his party is will; ing to resort to all manner of accusations’ in order to justify his action.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), whose reputation and record will remain when others are forgotten, joined in the campaign against the Government. He will be remembered as the leader, first, of the Labour party; then of the Nationalist party, and still later of the Australian party. It is natural for him to oppose every government of which he is not the absolute leader. He looks at fate with the eye of a mathematician propounding the formula - “ Nothing plus myself equals all “. His claim to a superlative status in the political life of this country cannot be denied. His criticism of the Government this afternoon was in the nature of an interrogation. Again and again he asked, “ “What has the Government done?”
He accused the Government of being unable to make up its mind. The right honorable gentleman has a knowledge of world statesmanship; he is no neophyte in the study of political problems. He should know, therefore, that there is not a government in the world to-day which is giving satisfaction to the people it controls. I know of no government, anywhere, which can guarantee its tenure of office.
– “What about Queensland?
– If there were an election in Queensland in the near future, the present Government of that State would meet a fate similar to that which recently befell the Bavin Government in New South “Wales. In France, governments are tumbling almost every day. In Great Britain, it is obvious that not one of the three political parties; - Conservative, Liberal, or Labour - can ensure the political stability of the country while carrying out a policy based on its own fundamental principles. “Without a strong element of compromise between parties, it is not only impossible for a government to continue, but there can be no stability under its administration. When it is contended that failure on the part of the present Government is shown by the great volume of unemployment and the effects of world-wide depression, one is amazed at the insular view adopted by the right honorable member, apparently because of his determination to oppose the Government.
It is true that 400,000 persons are out of work in Australia; but throughout the industrial countries of the world no fewer than 25,000,000 are unemployed. I do not include those who are idle in Asia and the South American republics ; I am taking into account only the United States of America, Canada, the countries of Western Europe and Australia, where there is a stupendous army for whom no government and no nation is capable of finding an effective place in the ranks of production. The great measure of unemployment in all countries is an outstanding feature of post-war development, and the fact remains that while the party opposite was in power in Australia in years of comparative prosperity throughout the world our rate of unemployment practically doubled.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) said, in effect, that the fundamental failure of this Ministry is that it will not do the unpopular thing by reducing the cost of government and making a sincere effort to implement the agreement with which the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton), and the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) were associated. The present Ministry cannot be given lessons in economy by the party opposite, which increased taxation by £6,750,000<
– The present Government increased it by £1S,000,000.
– Nothing of the kind.
– It passed legislation for that purpose, but could not obtain the desired revenue.
– The honorable member is most illogical. First of all he said that the Labour party increased the revenue from taxation enormously, and then he remarked that the facts made it impossible to do so. In so far as Australia’s position in the world to-day has been aggravated by local circumstances, it is due to the seven or eight years of rule preceding the advent of the present Government. Furthermore, I shall show that the very remedies which honorable members opposite now suggest should be adopted are the reverse of their own performances. Those measures were never applied when they were in office, and, if they had been put into operation, they would have made it impossible to accomplish the objects at which honorable members opposite say governments ought to aim. The party opposite increased revenue by over £14,000,000, and, under its rule, Commonwealth expenditure was raised by £23,482,000.
It is suggested by honorable members opposite that drastic cuts should be made in the salaries of the Public Service. I shall come to the wage aspect of this matter at a later stage, but I point out that in June, 1922, when the Bruce Pam Government took office, there were 24,759 permanent officers attached to the Service and 14,981 temporary and exempt officers, a total of 39,740, while in June, 1929, that total had grown to 47.147. If the Commonwealth Public Service has been extravagantly managed and overstaffed, upon the shoulders of honorable gentlemen opposite rests the responsibility for having diverted to it many men who normally would be engaged in useful production. It must be admitted, of course, that while members of the Public Service give work in return for their salaries, the fund from which they are paid must be provided by the production of others. The cost of government, if excessive, is an indictment of honorable members opposite, because their party greatly increased the number employed in the Public Service. It remained for the present Government to reduce the numerical strength of the Service, and it has done so.
Then we have the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, and the reference of the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) to the cost of pensions and social services, particularly invalid and old-age and war pensions.
– I did not mention those subjects.
– The Deputy Leader of the Country Party referred to them, and it is idle for the Leader of the Opposition to dissociate himself from that propaganda. The newspapers which eulogise the honorable gentleman’s leadership, and which are looking to him to effect a change in government, strongly support the contention that there should be a drastic reduction in the cost of those services. Whatever be the cost of invalid and old-age and war pensions, all the machinery for their payment, and determining the rates of pay, are the work of honorable members opposite. This Government has not amended the act or regulations under which invalid and old-age or war pensions are paid. If it is true that pensions are being improperly paid,’ the irregularity is due to the legislation passed by the Government which honorable members opposite supported. The machinery under which pensions are paid was either framed or amended by preceding governments.
– Does the honorable member object to the present pension system ?
– Does the honorable member object to the conditions under which war pensions are granted ?
– No; but I read in the newspapers this week a report concerning the abuse that is practised in connexion with invalid and old-age pensions. If the country is being defrauded, it is in consequence of legislation passed by a previous government.
I now come to what has aggravated the position with respect to Australian finance. I have no hesitation in asserting that the fall in Australia’s overseas credit commenced in November, 1928, when Mr. Bruce was Prime Minister. At the Imperial Conference in 1926, Mr. Bruce was warned of the position which was then developing.
– What has that to do with the present position?
– The carrying of this motion means the return to the treasury bench of the party responsible for the facts I am about to relate.
– Not necessarily.
– Perhaps the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), will submit an alternative when he speaks to the motion. He may suggest that by some strange process of incubation another of the numerous progeny of parties which has developed on the other side may come to birth. In 1926, an attack was made in London upon the stability of Australia’s finances. I am going back to that year in order to show that our present position, which honorable members opposite attribute to this Government, is due to the action of a government which they supported. In a pamphlet written by Sydney Russell Cooke and E. H. Davenport, and dedicated to the Imperial Conference of 1926, this statement appears -
In the whole British Empire there is no more voracious borrower than the Australian Commonwealth. Loan follows loan with disconcerting frequency. It may be a loan to pay off maturing loans, or a loan to pay the interest on existing loans, or a loan to repay temporary loans from the bankers.
That constitutes the opening statement. Is it justified?
Mr.CURTIN.- If that is the honorable member’s contention, how did the Government of which he was a member meet the adverse trade balance which we had for a period of seven years? Did not the Government meet its interest obligations overseas by systematically raising loans on the London market?
– That is not so.
– It is so.. I could supply the honorable member with details of Australia’s overseas borrowing during the past ten years, but I do not wish to weary honorable members. The statement continues -
No dominion takes such full advantage of these unique, opportunities of raising cash as the Australian Commonwealth. But is the system safe? -Are trustees in this country justified in continuing to hand over a large proportion of the nation’s savings to such reticent and pertinacious borrowers? Itis, in fact, high time to ask the question - Is Australian finance sound?
That statement shows that there was then some justification for the disquietude concerning the stability of Australia’s position. It continues -
The . visible wealth of Australia, therefore, according to the estimates which have official recognition, amounted to £2,823,000,000 in 1921. The total net debt of Australia in that year was £828,000,000 or nearly 30 per cent. of the total visible wealth, private and public, of the Australian Dominion. On the reasonable assumption that the wealth of the country has not increased at so great a pace as the debt since 1921..
As a matter of fact, it increased at a slower rate -
It is fair to say that nearly one-third of the wealth of Australia has now been mortgaged.
That statement was made in 1926.
– It was answered by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) at that time before the Bankers’ Institute in London.
– Those are the facts, and cannot be truthfully contradicted. The previous’ Government approached Parliament from time to time for authority to borrow additional money overseas, and almost immediately became the rival of the States in the production of deficits. The financial years 1927-28 and 1928-29 were unsatisfactory from the standpoint of both Commonwealth and State finance. Following upon this disclosure in London, the problem of Commonwealth finance became as acute as that of State finance. It is idle for honorable members opposite to endeavour to dissociate themselves from all responsibility, because the speech of the former Prime Minister at the conference of Premiers in May, 192S, was a complete confession of the fact that Australia was approaching a serious situation.
– That is not so. The honorable member should refer to the Auditor-General’s report.
– The Prime Minister at that time explained to the Premiers why he could not balance his budget.
– That is a different statement.
– The Leader of the Opposition should explain the speech he made on the Maritime Industries Bill in which he said it was necessary to effect economies in order to check the drift.
– That is quite right. We proposed to make an alteration, but the Government which the honorable member supports proposes going on as before.
– We have at least obtained the candid admission that during the years, when the prices obtained for our exports were the highest in our history, when revenue was unparalleled, and when the taxation imposed up to that point was the highest in the history of the Commonwealth, we had reached a stage when, according to the Leader of the Opposition, Australia was drifting.
– Not at all.
– During an era of high prices and comparatively unbounded prosperity, and of the greatest taxable capacity that the statisticians can point to in the whole history of the country, the previous Government, with an absolute majority in both this chamber and another place, and therefore with absolutely unfettered scope for legislation, could do nothing but allow the country’s finances to drift. To drift where? The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) asked this afternoon where this Government was drifting. I might echo his query, and ask where was the previous Government drifting? It allowed the country to drift during the most continuous period of government that one party has ever had in the history of Australian politics. The record of the previous Government is a monument to its utter ineptitude.
I come now to a consideration in some detail of what the Leader of the Opposition really proposes. His major indictment was that the Government had not effected proper economies, and that, therefore, Australian credit had been destroyed. He added that confidence could not be built up until these economies had been effected. So far as I can estimate the position, the expenditure this year will be in the vicinity of £66,500,000. To use round figures, about £11,000,000 of this will be accounted for in Public Service salaries, £20,000,000 in pensions of all kinds, including maternity allow,ances ; £23,500,000 in interest and sinking fund payments, and £12,000,000 in payments to or for the States. In the first eight months of the financial year £43,000,000 had been expended, or twothirds of the estimate for the twelve months. In the same period the revenue has amounted to only about half of the estimated figure. The result is that there is a deficit at present of nearly £13,500,000. Next year’s revenue cannot be expected to yield even the amount that has been received this year. On that point I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett). I remember that in discussing the subject of budget equilibrium in this chamber early in this financial year I said that a fiveyear or three-year period was required to meet the position. I made it quite clear that budget equilibrium could not be achieved this year. The Leader of the Opposition did not agree with me. He wanted budget equilibrium this year because Sir Otto Niemeyer had planned that it could be achieved. Let me remind honorable members that interest and sinking funds payments amount to more than one-third of our total expenditure. .The Leader of the Opposition does not suggest that this item, should be cut. Payments to or for the States amount to a little more than one-fifth of our total expenditure. I presume that it is not intended that that amount shall be cut. Therefore, more than £35,000,000 out of the £66,500,000 must be paid. It thus appears that the reduction of expenditure necessary to restore Australian credit must be effected out of the £31,000,000 odd which is absorbed in pensions and salaries. It is only in these two items that the economies can be effected which the mover of this motion regards as fundamental to the recovery of Australian credit. But to what extent can this £31,000,000 be reduced with the object of meeting our prospective deficit of £13,500,000? It is not unreasonable to say that that will bc our deficit this fiscal year, nor is it unlikely that at the end of the next fiscal year, if! our rate of expenditure is maintained, and the fall in revenue continues, the deficit will be about £18,000,000. Do not honorable members realize that, if Ave were to get the Public Service to work for nothing, and were to cut our pension payments of all kinds in half, we should reduce Commonwealth expenditure only by about £20,000,000, and that that would just about balance our budget next year? Is it seriously proposed, then, that we shall impose a cut of anything from 25 per cent, to 40 per cent, in these services? If not, in what manner is it proposed that we shall put the pruning knife into our expenditure?
I should like honorable members to consider what might be done in even a threeyear period to show how absolutely fallacious the contention is that our treatment of Commonwealth financial policy with the object of balancing the budget should be confined to the two items of expenditure that I have referred to, and that it should leave untouched interest and sinking fund payments and payments to or for the States. During the next three years this country will have to pay interest bills of £82,800,000 in London, and £82,200,000 in Australia. Its interest bills will, therefore, in that period amount to £165,000,000. In addition to that, we shall have loans maturing which run into colossal figures. It is true that the loans maturing in London will not be very great comparatively. New South Wales will have to meet £22,629,000; treasury-bills amounting to £10,000,000 will have to be met, and so also will short-term indebtedness to the extent of £20,000,000, making in all £62,629,000. In Australia loans will mature to the extent of £137,800,000, and short-term indebtedness amounting to £9,000,000 will also have to be met, making, roughly, £146,000,000 in all. Therefore, in the next three years we shall have to meet debts amounting to £209,000,000, and pay interest amounting to £165,000,000, making a grand total of £374,000,000. Honorable members oppo site must surely realize that such a stupendous problem as this cannot be solved merely by reducing pensions, even the pensions to widows or returned soldiers and to old-age and invalid citizens, and by stripping the income from, let us say, the messengers of this Parliament or linesmen in our postal service. I compare the mere suggestion of a policy of that kind, in the face of this great problem, to the chirping of a bird in the forest while a tornado is raging. To accept such a philosophy of finance, and make it the pivot of a policy, is ridiculous in the extreme. It suggests that the only hope for Australia is that she shall become successful in an international poverty, competition, and that she shall reduce the price of her labour and services, and the payments made by her governments, to such a figure that it will approximate to the level of other countries whose citizens and working people have never known our standard of living. Honorable members opposite seem to think that the views that they have expressed reveal the only aspects that there are to this problem. A mere campaign to reduce expenditure and the standards of living seems to me to be entirely beside the question. We all know that the price of our wheat, wool and other exportable commodities, is down, and that we have to sell these in the world’s markets. But do honorable members opposite intend to pay no attention whatever to the causes which have led to the development of this world problem? They seek no re-arrangement of our existing relations with Great Britain or other countries, or in the formulation of an Australian policy to deal with this collapse in world prices. They accept the situation as though the people of Australia were so many fatalists, incapable of moving because of what has happened. I put to them the view that in Britain, where rates of pay are much lower than those obtaining in Australia, but are higher than in Austria or JugoSlovakia, it is recognized that the considerable volume of unemployment there reported is due to the fact that other countries are competitively advantaged because of the relative cheapness of their labour. If there is to be no solution of our economic problems except upon the basis of cutting down wages to the lowest of world standards; if we are to engage nationally in a struggle in which the test of success is to be, not a higher, but a lower, standard of living, then I suggest that, there can be no’ hope for our civilization. Strictly speaking, this is the policy espoused by honorable members opposite. Its effect is really to increase the burden of the public debt. They argue that for every fall in prices, and every fall in the national income, the remedy is to reduce wages. Every proposal for the solution of this economic problem includes the reduction of governmental expenses and wages. This, we are told, is to be not only expected, but also worked for. The effect of this policy, with the momentum which it will gather, will be to depress wages still further, with the result that the relative burden of the public debt, and the annual payment on our interest obligations, will become more grievous than ever. Honorable gentlemen opposite, including now the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), say, in effect, that any attempt to deal with the Commonwealth monetary policy, and with price levels, will mean inflation. The honorable member for Angas would have us believe, further, that inflation is fraught with so much danger to the community, and is so full of horrors, that it matters not how grievous may be the ultimate burden of the public debt: it would be, in his opinion, better to have a public debt out of all proportion to the national income than to endeavour to bring about a readjustment of price levels. I disagree with him, and with other honorable gentlemen opposite who share this view. If the records of this country are perused, it will be found that, in certain circumstances, inflation may not, by them, be regarded as so pernicious in its effects upon the people.
– What is all this leading to?
– It is leading to the recognition, as I see it, of the alternatives before this country; that is to say, we have either to accept the policy of the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) or the policy of . the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). One means an attempt at price stabilization and the control of the monetary policy by this Parliament. The other says, in effect, “ Leave the monetary policy where it is. Allow the bankers to retain complete control of the credit system of the Commonwealth. The only thing for this Parliament to do is to reduce public expenditure by £15,000,000.”
– How can we stabilize prices for our exportable commodities?
– There is an explanation for that. Everybody knows that during the war the gold standard disappeared. A tremendous dead weight of war debt was incurred by all the belligerent nations upon a purely paper basis. Enormous paper credits were created by the banking institutions of every country involved in the war. In April, 1926, Mr. Montague Norman, the Governor of the Bank of England, informed a royal commission that was inquiring into the Indian currency, that he hoped the time would arrive when, the circulation of gold could be resumed. He went on to say -
I intend to work for that end . . . I look forward to a time when note issues will gradually be : covered by a larger and larger proportion of gold.
I emphasize the statement of the Governor of the Bank of England that he intended to use the enormous resources under his control to enforce the restoration of gold, and I remind the House that the result has been a remarkable disproportion between prices for goods and prices for money. The effect of the world calamity which now faces civilization is not due .to any change in the relative value of one commodity to that of another but to the appreciation of the power of gold. The Economist, in an article dealing with appreciation, of the purchasing power of gold, put the case as follows : -
It will be seen that the general level of prices fell steadily, but moderately, from the end of 1925 to the end of 1928, while the subsequent fifteen months showed a much more accentuated drop which, towards the end of the period, degenerated into a slump. Gold may thus be said to have appreciated -
During the year ending 1926 by 5.4 per cent.
During the year ending 1927 by 2 . 3 per cent.
During the year ending 1928 by 4.0 per cent.
During the year ending 1929 by 7 . 6 per cent.
And during the five months ending 31st May, 1930 by 9.6 per cent.
Or for the whole period from end December, 1925, to end May, 1930 by 32.1 per cent
In reply to the honorable member for Swan. (Mr. Gregory) I would emphasize the fact that while prices for our wheat, wool and other commodities have fallen steadily during the last few years, to the serious embarrassment of our primary producers, the value of gold, and its purchasing power in the hands of those who hold title deeds to the public debt, has increased in the proportions I have just indicated. I see no hope for this Government, for the people of this country or, indeed, any other country; no hope for the millions of unemployed persons throughout the world or for the rehabilitation of industry upon any sane and stable basis without first a rearrangement of the relationship between the prices for commodities and money.
We have heard a great deal about the Lang plan. What does it imply? As I understand the Lang plan, it means that the receivers of interest are to be treated as the rest of the community are treated. I do not agree with the economics of the Lang plan. In my judgment it is an impracticable proposal.
– What about the underlying principle of that plan?
– I do not agree with the principle either. What does it mean ? Honorable gentlemen opposite say that a messenger in the Public Service now in receipt of £4 10s. a week should be given £3 5s. Mr. Lang says that a bondholder now in receipt of £100 a year, should be given £50. Both policies are in the direction of reducing the return to the man who has something invested. One policy relates to capital and the other to labour power, the capacity to earn a livelihood. It is to me most extraordinary that the law which says that food is essential for the stomach of one person should not be paramount to the law which says that a certain sum of money shall be paid to another person. What does the distinction between those things involve. In the next five years this country has to meet colossal interest bills - £55,000,000 this year, £58,000,000 next year and £60,000,000 the year after. It has to bear the load of maturing loans, and falling revenue. In view of that, do honorable members opposite tell me that it is certain that this country can avoid default? I submit that it would have been sound and practical for the Leader of the Opposition to have said to what extent a reduction of expenditure by this Parliament would make certain the payment of all our obligations.
– That is the Government’s job.
Mr.CURTIN.- According to the honorable member, everything is the Government’s job. We use to be told that the real wealth of the world consisted of goods and not money, which was merely a medium of exchange, and that the only way to advance materially the prosperity of a country was to increase the production of goods. Now we are told that the present poverty throughout the greater part of the world is due to over-production, the sterilization of gold, the inadequacy of exchange, and credit, depressed prices, and the high cost of production. The issues as between the Opposition and the Ministry in this time of crisis are not of sufficient importance to engage this Parliament indefinitely. Either the Opposition has the numbers or it has not. If it has the numbers, let it force a division in this House as speedily as possible so that the country may proceed with the elaboration of one of the two policies. One is the policy of deflation, which is the only proposition put forward by honorable gentlemen opposite. It is the policy of reduced wages and incomes for the people of Australia. It implies and involves a further fall in the national income, because the fall in prices in Australia will, of course, be quickened by a reduction of expenditure upon pensions and wages in all their forms. Under that policy the internal purchasing power of this country will be further lessened, the burden imposed upon the purchasers of homes will be increased. Thousands of workmen will lose their equities in the homes that they are now acquiring. Thousands of workmen who have taken out insurance policies, under which they have engaged to pay, say, £12, £15 or £20 a year to the Australian Mutual Provident Society - about which the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) was so concerned - will he obliged to forfeit their policies because of inability to pay their premiums. Purchasers of homes will also be incapable of continuing their payments. Deflation is in the saddle in all the countries in the world. Let me quote from the remarks of Sir Josiah Stamp, as contained in The Political Science Quarterly, of September, 1930, to show the nasty and miserable methods that have been adopted in the attempt to make money the master of all industry. Sir Josiah Stamp said -
I wentsome years ago into an embassy - you will readily identify it if I add that I have forgotten the country it was in, and I must not say the country it was for, and the time is unspecified - but anyway a member of the embassy looked up from his papers and said, in a rather despairing tone of voice, “ This diplomacy business has all gone to the dogs. When I was trained for it, I thought I knew my job. I knew the history of these people and their politics and their balance of power and all that business. But now what do we have to do? We are given all this black magic of finance and economics and currency. Here I am asked to say whether I think this government is going to get hold of the currency successfully, or whether they will get thrown out in the process, because that will make a difference in their foreign relations. I really don’t know the top from the bottom of the subject. I was never trained in this filthy science “.
That is the science which has the world by the ear. I ask honorable members opposite to explain why the wheat-growers should be in misery when they have produced abundantly; why there should be starvation and poverty throughout the world when industry’s capacity for output is to-day enormously greater than ever before? Can honorable members opposite tell me why our wharfs and warehouses should have an accumulation of goods that cannot be got rid of; why the produce of useful industry should be a drug on the market, why the holders of titles, deeds, mortgages, bonds, and securities should be entitled to live for ever upon the industry of the earth, while the bricklayer, the weaver, the wool-grower, the spinner, and the road-maker have to go without food, and are given no opportunity to get a livelihood? While this enigma remains unsolved, and while money is the master of mankind, the people of this country would not be justified in returning to the treasury bench honorable members opposite, whose primary object, in common with that of their financial friends overseas, is to bring about a reduction in the wages and standard of living of the producers throughout the world to the advantage of the power of money.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mack ay) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth and State Ministers - Conference held at Canberra and Melbourne, February, 1931 - Report of Proceedings and Decisions..
Excise Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1931, No. 25.
Inscribed Stock Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1931, No. 17.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Applications for Relief from Taxation during the vcar 1.930.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Mackay, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance of 1930 - No. 4 - Crown Lands.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinances of 1931 -
No. 1 - Fish Protection.
No. 2 - Public Baths.
No. 3 - Careless Use of Fire.
Fish Protection Ordinance - Regulations.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
I wish to make a brief reference to the death of John M. Chanter, who died at his residence last Monday. Many honorable members knew the deceased gentleman very well. He was a member of the House of Representatives in the first Commonwealth Parliament, and, with the exception of two short breaks, held his seat until 1922. Prior to his entry into federal politics he was for several years a member of the New South Wales Parliament, in which he occupied important positions. In the early years of his association with this Parliament, Mr. Chanter served on select committees and royal commissions, but will be best remembered by the older members as Chairman of Committees. He was the first occupant of that office in this House, and held the position for approximately ten years, during which he earned the respect of every honorable member as an upright, honorable and impartial chairman. Those of us who were privileged to know him personally learned to admire and respect his manly qualities. Only a few days ago I referred to the death of Mr. Cameron, who served in this Parliament in its early years. Now another of the pioneer members has passed away. I am sure I shall be expressing the wishes of honorable members if I extend the very deepest sympathy of this Parliament to the family of the late Mr. Chanter.
.- On behalf of the Opposition, I support the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Soullin). The late Mr. Chanter had a long political career in the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales. As a member of the first Commonwealth Parliament he did much useful work for many years. My acquaintance with him was slight, but. 1 am aware of the high respect in which he was held by all who were privileged to know him well. I join in the expression of sympathy with the relatives of the deceased gentleman.
– I join in the expression, of regret which has fallen from the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), regarding the demise of Mr. Chanter. He was Chairman of Committees when I entered this House eleven years ago, and, under his able presidency, my first lessons in parliamentary procedure were learned. I was often impressed with the wonderful range of his knowledge of parliamentary practice, gained as a result of long years of study and experience. I associate myself and my party with the message of sym pathy to the relatives of the late gentleman.
– Only last week a discussion arose regarding the procedure to be followed by this House to signify its regret at the death of former members. It is unfortunate that the death of another distinguished exmember should have occurred at a time when a motion of want of confidence excludes the consideration of all other business. I hope that, at the earliest possible opportunity, the leaders of the parties in this House will confer regarding the procedure to be followed in future, so that undesirable discrimination may be avoided. Meanwhile, I suggest that copies of the expressions of sympathy this evening should be sent to the relatives of the late Mr. Chanter, as is usually done when a definite motion of condolence is agreed to by the House.
– Although no motion of condolence is before the House, I suggest that honorable members should stand to show their reverence and respect for the dear dead.
– I ask honorable members to do so.
Honorable members stood in their places.
– Prior to the last adjournment of the House honorable members were promised a consolidated tariff schedule, embracing all the schedules produced during the last eighteen months. I was advised some months ago that such a document was being prepared. It should be completed by now, and I shall be glad if the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) will make it available to honorable members in the near future.
– The last report of the Auditor-General deals with matters of very great importance. Apparently copies of the report have been distributed to the newspapers, and extracts have been republished and widely discussed. I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) to make arrangements for the prompt distribution of copies to honorable members.
Mr. SCULLIN (Yarra - Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs) report are now available, and will be distributed to honorable members promptly.
A consolidated tariff schedule is being prepared. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) will inquire regarding the progress of the work, and copies will be distributed to honorable members as soon as possible.
In regard to the procedure to be followed in connexion with the death of former members, I hope that the Leaders of the Opposition and the Country party will be able to confer with rue at an early date. I remind the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) that a distinction has always been made between the death of a sitting member and the death of a former member. It has not been the custom of the House to adjourn on the death of a person who had ceased to be a member before his demise. I agree that a regular procedure should be formulated by agreement of the party leaders.
I remind honorable members that they will be asked to meet on Tuesday of next week, and I hope that they will make their arrangements accordingly. .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Houseadjourned at 10.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 March 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19310311_reps_12_128/>.