House of Representatives
17 March 1931

12th Parliament · 1st Session



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

page 266

DEATH OF SENATOR J. H. CHAPMAN

Mr SCULLIN:
Prime Minister · Yarra · ALP

by leave - Death has removed from this Parliament many members in recent months, and the latest to fall before the grim reaper is Senator John Hedley Chapman, who died in Adelaide on Saturday last. He was elected to represent South Australia in this Parliament at the general elections in 1925, and served continuously until his death. Previously he was for six years a member of the House of Assembly in South Australia. Although not a robust man, he attended to his Parliamentary duties assiduously, and conscientiously, and those who had the pleasure of knowing him, held him in high esteem. Death lies ahead for all of us, ana the frequency with which we have to mourn the passing of a colleague is a salutary reminder, in the midst of our striving and disputations, of the brevity of human life and the limitations of human achievement. I am sure that the sympathy of all honorable members will be extended to the widow and family of the late Senator Chapman. I move -

That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of Senator John Hedley Chapman, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement.

Mr LATHAM:
Kooyong

.- On behalf of the Opposition, I join in the expressions of sympathy by the Prime Minister with the family and other relatives of the deceased senator.

Dr EARLE PAGE:
Cowper

.As Leader of the Country party, I associate myself with the motion and with the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister. We regret the loss of a loyal colleague and very old friend. Senator Chapman was one of the pioneers of the country movement in South Australia. He battled for it in the South Australian Parliament, and subsequently in this Par liament, and unquestionably the energy and enthusiasm with which he supported his principles undermined his health and hastened his untimely death. As an instance of his keenness for public service, I have only to mention that last year he visited England at his own expense to investigate the marketing overseas of Australian primary products. Death has removed an indefatigable worker for everything that was clean and wholesome in public life.

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

Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -

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

Mr SCULLIN:

– As a mark of respect to the memory of the late honorable senator, I suggest that the sitting be suspended until 4. o’clock.

Sitting suspended from3.5 to 4 p.m.

page 266

QUESTION

CENTRAL AUSTRALIA

Concession Rates on Railway.

Mr NELSON:
NORTHERN TERRITORY, NORTHERN TERRITORY

– As a result of representations made by me to the Minister for Works and Railways, a concession to the extent of 20 per cent. was granted last year to settlers in Central Australia on materials used by them in developing their properties. I have now been advised that the concession has been withdrawn. I have just received a letter on the subject from a friend who has spent many thousands of pounds on developmental work in the Territory. A portion of his letter is as follows : -

I thought you had told me that the concession would continue so far as the Commonwealth Hallways were concerned. Many settlers here were going to do a bit of fencing, as the top-end cattle are hard to hold without it. They are finding it difficult to carry on with the present high rates of freight. I bought a half-gallon tin of soldering solution from Harris, Scarfe for 4s. 3d., and the freight on same was 16s. 8d.

The writer enclosed the following letter from Young and Gordon, merchants, of Port Augusta : -

We are in receipt of yours of the 14th instant enclosing Statutory Declaration in connexion with fencing material, account Aileron Station, and, in reply, wish to advise that the railage rebate was in force for four months only, and this clause has now been cancelled.

Will the Minister inform honorable members why the concession has been withdrawn, seeing that it applied only to materials which were used for developmental purposes, and that it is to the pastoral industry we must look for help in the economic crisis with which we are now confronted? Will the Minister instruct the Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways to reconsider this matter with a view to having the concession restored?

Mr CULLEY:
Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Transport and War Service Homes · DENISON, TASMANIA · ALP

– The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) brought this matter under my notice this morning, and I endeavored to obtain the information for him.. Unfortunately, the file relating to the subject is in the railway office in Melbourne, but as soon as I can obtain the information I shall forward it to him.

page 267

QUESTION

EAST-WEST AIR SERVICE

Mr LACEY:
GREY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– Seeing that the air service operating between Adelaide and Perth is a serious competitor with the Commonwealth transcontinental railway, will the Minister for Transport inquire whether it is not possible to amend the existing agreement with West Australian Airways Limited, so as to have the planes put on some other route ? Recently the company put three new planes on this service, which is responsible, to a considerable extent, for the losses incurred

On the east-west railway.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY:
HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– As a result of a contract entered into by the last Government with West Australian Airways Limited for a period of five years, a serious loss is taking place in the operation of the Commonwealth transcontinental railway. It is difficult to have that contract varied, but I shall look into the matter to see what can be done.

Mr GREGORY:
SWAN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

– Is it not a fact that the Postmaster-General himself recently used this air service, and afterwards referred to it in most complimentary terms ?

Question not answered.

page 267

QUESTION

HUNGER FOR OFFICE

Mr CROUCH:
CORANGAMITE, VICTORIA

– Is the Prime Minister aware that “ the young lions do lack and suffer hunger “ for office ?

Question not answered.

page 267

QUESTION

TAXATION DEPARTMENT

Dismissal of Mr. Harrisson

Mr CURTIN:
FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

– Will the Prime Minister take steps to give effect to the promise made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) when he was Acting Prime Minister to the effect that inquiry would be made into the case of Mr. Harrisson, an officer temporarily employed in, and recently dismissed from the Taxation Department in Western Australia. Has anything yet been done with regard to the matter, and if so, when may Mr. Harrisson expect action to be taken?

Mr SCULLIN:
ALP

– I shall look into the matter raised by the honorable member, and let him have an answer as soon as possible.

page 267

QUESTION

COMMONWEALTH RAILWAYS

purchaseof Sleepers.

Mr LACEY:

– Will the Minister for Transport state what practice is followed in securing supplies of sleepers for the Commonwealth railways, and whether any consideration is given to the claims of sleeper-getters in the northern part of South Australia?

Mr CULLEY:
ALP

– Some time ago tenders were called throughout Australia for the cutting of 20,000 sleepers, the successful tenderer being Mr. E. L. Gumley. The department is having some trouble with respect to this contract, however, and it is probable that one of the other tenderers will be given the work.

page 267

QUESTION

NEW TELEGRAPH POLES

Mr YATES:
ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– In the district from which I come it was formerly the practice of the Post and Telegraph Department to erect for telephone and telegraph purposes squared, tapered and chamfered poles, painted white with black bases. Recently, however, the department has been erecting unsightly tree trunks, with a derrick arrangement on top to carry electric light wires, presumably by arrangement with the Electricity Department. Has any consideration been given to the suitability of a new style of post made from “H” iron, tapered, and filled with cement? It is claimed for the post that it is everlasting, sightly, and effective.

Mr A GREEN:
KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

– Consideration will be given to the honorable member’s question, and he will be furnished with a reply in due course.

page 268

QUESTION

WAR SERVICE HOMES

Mr WATKINS:
NEWCASTLE, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP; FLP from 1931

– Will the Minister see that persons who are out of work are not evicted from war service homes because of their inability to pay their rent ?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY:
HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– On assuming control of war service homes, I altered the policy of my predecessor. During my term of office no unemployed returned soldier occupant of a war service home has been evicted. That policy will be continued.

page 268

QUESTION

TICK PEST

Mr NELSON:

– In view of the costly and disastrous experience of Australia in connexion with the tick pest, will the Minister cause a cattle dip to be erected somewhere near the twentieth parallel of latitude in North Australia, with the object of keeping Central Australia free from the tick pest?

Mr BLAKELEY:
DARLING, NEW SOUTH WALES

– The construction of a dip for cattle travelling from North Australia to Central Australia is under consideration. It is hoped that in the near future sufficient money will be available to provide a dip for them.

page 268

QUESTION

ABSENT GOVERNMENT SUPPORTERS

Mr GULLETT:
HENTY, VICTORIA · LP

– Can the Minister for Transport give the latest information as to the whereabouts of the aeroplane which, I understand, is hurriedly transporting truant ministerialists from Melbourne to Canberra?

Question not answered.

page 268

QUESTION

COUNTRY POSTAL SERVICES

Mr CROUCH:

– Can the PostmasterGeneral see his way to alter the policy of his predecessor, under whose administration a number of country post offices were closed ? If necessary, will he adjust matters by depriving the cities of some of the surplus postal services which they now enjoy?

Mr A GREEN:
KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

– If the honorable member will furnish me with details of the cases he has in mind I shall go into the matter thoroughly.

page 268

QUESTION

WINE INDUSTRY

Mr GABB:
ANGAS, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– Is the Prime Minister in a position to furnish a reply to the letter forwarded to him by the secretary of the South Australian Grape Growers Association, Mr. J. Gersch, and also to the request that I made to” him in an interview on the 30th January last, regarding an extension of the provisions of the Rural Credits Department, by which the term of repayment by wine-makers may be extended from twelve months to two years ?

Mr SCULLIN:
ALP

– After the honorable member’s interview with me, I went into this matter, which is really one for attention by the Commonwealth Bank. I shall take up the matter with the Treasurer, who, in turn, will consult the bank authorities, and let the honorable member know the result.

page 268

QUESTION

MOVEMENTFOR SECESSION

Mr CUSACK:
EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES

– Is the Minister aware of the existence, in portions of New South Wales, of a movement in favour of secession, in support of which seditious utterances have been made, and can he say whether the river channel defences and the aviation corps are prepared to defend the rest of Australia from humiliation ?

Mr CHIFLEY:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– If the honorable member will supply me with particulars, I shall go into the matter.

page 268

QUESTION

PLEURO-PNEUMONIA

Mr NELSON:

– As pleuro-pneumonia has made its appearance in cattle in Central Australia, mainly cattle brought from North Australia, will the Minister consider the advisability of stationing the North Australian Veterinary Surgeon at Newcastle Waters in order to permit of his inspecting all travelling and local stock?

Mr BLAKELEY:

– The freedom from disease of travelling stock within the Commonwealth Territories of North Australia and Central Australia, and the inspection of stock travelling from Central Australia to the Adelaide markets, has caused a good deal of concern recently by reason of some cattle having been found to be suffering from pleuro-pneumonia. Representations have been made to the Government by the Premier of South

Australia, and also by the Stock-Owners Association of that State, regarding the inspection of cattle at the railhead at Sturt. As the result of negotiations, the South Australian Government has agreed to accept the certificate of the Inspector of Stock at Alice Springs. I do not apprehend any further delay or trouble in connexion with the inspection of stock at that centre.

page 269

QUESTION

COMMONWEALTH OIL REFINERIES

Mr CROUCH:

– Last December I asked a question regarding the administration of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and was informed that I should receive a reply later. During the recess I again wrote to the Minister on the matter, but have not yet received a reply. I should be glad to receive an answer to my inquiries.

Mr THEODORE:
Treasurer · DALLEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– In December last the honorable member asked whether the Commonwealth Government was being supplied with sufficient information relating to the accounts and business transactions of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, in which it is the principal shareholder. The matter is being taken up by the Government with the company, with a view to obtaining fuller particulars as to the conduct of the business generally, for the confidential information of the Government.

page 269

QUESTION

TRANSPORT WORKERS ACT

Mr NAIRN:
PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

– Can the Prime Minister say when it is intended to lay on the table of the House the regulations under the Transport Workers Act, -which have been framed?

Mr SCULLIN:
ALP

– Owing to the censure motion which was before the House last week, the regulations could not then be laid on the table. I understand that the Attorney-General has them ready to lay on the table when an opportunity to do so presents itself.

page 269

QUESTION

GOVERNMENT’S FINANCIAL POLICY AND JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS

Formal Motion foe Adjjournment.

Mr SPEAKER (Hon Norman Makin:
HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– I have received an intimation from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The deliberate adoption by the Government of a financial policy described by the Prime Minister in a cable to the then Acting Treasurer as unsound and desperate, and the acceptance by the Government of political directions for appointments to the High Court, notwithstanding the declaration of the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral that such appointments would strike fatally at the authority of the Court “.

Five honorable members having risen in their places,

Question proposed.

Mr LATHAM:
Kooyong

– I have taken this action with the object of giving honorable members an opportunity of expressing their opinions on the extraordinary disclosures which have been made by the publication of certain confidential cables. I regret that the time available for- the discussion is so short; but that is not my fault. If desired by the Government, the time could be extended. The authenticity of these cables has not been denied by the right honorable the Prime Minister in the statement which he has made in the public press concerning them. I assume that the Government is making inquiries into the circumstances in which these cables were divulged, for the purpose of ascertaining who has been guilty of a breach of what I regard as a solemn confidence.

I shall deal with the substance of the cables as they appeared i’n the public press of Australia from which I have obtained all the information that I have in my possession. Honorable members are aware that in June last the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), in a very clear speech, repudiated the financial policy which he now asks this House and the country to adopt. The cables now published show that four months ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), in very definite .and explicit terms, also repudiated the policy which he now submits to the people and the country. I notice that the Treasurer is speaking to the Prime Minister, and for their information let me state that the precise reference to the statement of the Treasurer, to which I have referred, is to be found in Hansard of the 13th June, 1930. It is a surprise to find that the right honorable gentleman, who is still the Leader of the Government, explained fully and clearly in these cables how the adoption of a certain financial policy would probably mean ruin to the country. The Government now, according to statements recently made by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, proposes to create money - to use the words of the Treasurer speaking at Brisbane on Saturday last-“ to provide additional currency,” and the Prime Minister himself in a speech which was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 2nd March last, spoke also of the proposal to create some £18,000,000 of additional currency. In that speech he said that the evils due to inflation arose when prices were allowed to soar, but that the Government was determined that this would not be permitted so long as it was in power. Therefore, the policy of the Government is a policy of controlled inflation. In a cablegram sent to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons) when Acting Treasurer on the 5th November last, or received in Australia on that date, the Prime Minister, after speaking of the heavy strain on the finances of the banks caused by the necessity to finance the harvest, said -

To create credit for £20,000,000 for loan works is unsound, and I expect the banks to refuse to do so. Government cannot deliberately coerce administration of banks.

I interrupt the reading of this cablegram to inquire whether any honorable members heard over the wireless the speech of the Treasurer at Brisbane on Saturday night.

Mr Lacey:

– To whom was the cablegram sent?

Mr LATHAM:

– To the then Acting Treasurer. A considerable portion of the Treasurer’s speech over the wireless was to the effect that the Government would try to coerce the banks into adopting a policy which was in accordance with the political views of the Government. However, in November last, the Prime Minister said -

Such proposal - he referred to the £20,000,000 proposal- means permanent inflation, which could not be checked as is implied, and would demand further inflation.Inflation is a desperate attempt at a remedy, and will react seriously on all sections. The first ill-effect is upon our credit.All this talk about creating credits and inflation is most damaging, and will seriously prejudice conversion maturing loans and treasury-bills. Since inflation was suggested efforts are being made here by men to withdraw their money from Australia, as they would lose by payment in a depreciated currency. Depreciation in currency would decrease values of savings bank deposits and insurance policies. Property would increase in price, and there would be a rush to sell bonds for investment in properties. Financial panic may result.

That was the judgment of the Prime Minister in November last upon a proposal which cannot be distinguished from the proposal which on several occasions has recently been advocated by himself and the Treasurer, and which the House is soon to be asked to consider. There can be no clearer or more explicit demonstration of the evils of the policy now suggested than that contained in this cable message. Nothing that has happened since has disproved the truth of what the Prime Minister said in his message to the Acting Treasurer.

Mr Crouch:

– The honorable member has omitted to read the first part of the cablegram.

Mr LATHAM:

– I shall read it. The honorable member seeks, by his interjection, to suggest that I have left out something that modifies or qualifies what I have said.

Mr Crouch:

– That is so.

Mr LATHAM:

– I have only a limited time at my disposal, but I am aware of the devices often adopted by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) such as interrupting, interjecting, and taking points of order, when time is valuable to some other honorable member. The first part of the cablegram reads: “Your telegram of 4th November. Banks are expected to carry any shortage in budgets.”

Mr Crouch:

– I rise to a point of order.

Mr LATHAM:

– Here is another instance of the honorable member’s devices.

Mr Crouch:

– I object to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) stating that I am taking this point of order so as to waste his time. That statement is most offensive to me; it is most inaccurate, in fact, it is absolutely false.

Mr SPEAKER (Hon Norman Makin:

– The honorable member will first require to withdraw his remark that the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) is false.

Mr Crouch:

– I withdraw that remark, and say that it is deliberately inaccurate.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I now ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw his statement that the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) was acting in a manner calculated to waste time.

Mr LATHAM:

– I withdraw the statement. The first part of the cablegram reads -

Banks are expected to carry any shortage in budgets, also to underwrite loan conversion. That, together with responsibility to finance harvest, will be a heavy strain on banks. To create credit for £20,000,000 for loan works is unsound.

The Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) consistently condemned the policy which is now the policy of the Government, and refused to carry it out; so did the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and his colleagues until they returned to Australia from Great Britain. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons) resigned from the Cabinet rather than change his policy, and, on the floor of this House, has had to submit to being called a traitor, because he stuck to the policy of the Government, and because other honorable members of the Government repudiated and reversed their own policy. In the place of the honorable member for Wilmot, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) entered the Cabinet to carry out the policy which he himself condemned in scathing terms on the 13th June last. This question, affecting, as it does, the whole financial position, the industry, and the national economy of Australia is no mere question ofpolitical expediency in regard to which it can be said that to compromise is readily excusable and intelligible. It is a question of vital principle, profoundly affecting the welfare of the people, as the cablegram of the Prime Minister himself shows. The behaviour of the right honorable gentleman, in relation to this matter, appears to me to be indefensible, and it has certainly caused consternation throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth.

The other matter to which this motion refers is equally important. The independence ofthe judiciary is essential to the preservation of our national and individual liberties, and it is upon the independence of the judiciary that the just and non-political interpretation and the just administration of the law depend. The judges, when they are appointed, take an oath to administer the law without fear, favour, or affection. The Government has the grave responsibility of appointing judges. ‘ In Great Britain, and in all dominions under the British Crown, the people, the parliaments, and the governments have, up to the present, sternly resisted any appointment of judges by votes of electors, or by votes of any political party. This objection to any system of electing judges is an essential part of responsible government as we know it. The cables show that the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral realize the importance of these principles, as does every other honorable member; that they regard them, too, as absolutely vital; yet the fact is that they remain in office in a government that has sacrificed these principles for a mess of political pottage.

There could be nothing more clear than the resolute determination of the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, when in England, and on their way back to Australia, to stand for what is right, than their abandonment of the right course when they returned to Australia and met the caucus. A cable from the Prime Minister to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr.Fenton) reads as follows : -

Telegram from Vice-president Executive Council to Attorney-General stating that steps being taken to appoint judges astounds us. It is a reversal of Cabinet decision, and means that Cabinet accepts political direction on appointments to the High Court judiciary. Political interference removing this matter from Cabinet responsibility strikes fatally at authority of Court. Attorney-General and I will be no party to that. Number of judges adequate; moreover, long vacation begins. Why rush appointments, and deny Prime Minister and Attorney-General opportunity to express strongly held view? We have the right to take part in the discussion on this most vital question. We ask party to reconsider, appointments before it is too late.

I can see in the drafting of that cablegram, the hand of an Attorney-General who understands something of the principles underlying our judicial and legal system, and I agree with every word of it ; it is entirely sound. There has never before been even a suggestion in Australia that a cabinet has accepted direction from the members of its party upon an appointment to the bench. “Political interference removing this matter from . Cabinet responsibility strikes fatally at authority of Court.” Those are the words of the Prime Minister.

Mr Scullin:

– Is the Leader of the Opposition sure of it?

Mr LATHAM:

– If the Prime Minister denies the authenticity of these cables let him do so. He could readily have done it when he made a statement through the press. I began by saying that I was aware of the cables only by reading them in the press, and that I had read statements by the Prime Minister in which he reflected on those who had disclosed the cables, but had not suggested that they were inaccurate. If they are inaccurate let him say so, and produce evidence of it, in which case I shall be relieved.

Mr Brennan:

– Produce evidence? Produce the communications between Cabinet Ministers?

Mr Scullin:

– The Leader of the Opposition is so confident, I thought he had it from the horse’s mouth.

Mr LATHAM:

– I say that I agree that the acceptance, by a cabinet, of political direction regarding appointments to the judiciary is unsound, and strikes vitally at the authority of the court; but the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral now appear to contest that principle. They seem not to agree with that assertion in the cable. I ask them whether they do or not. If the Prime Minister replied, “ Attorney-General and I will be no party to that,” they followed the only possible course that decent Ministers could take, and I hope that they are not going to say that they did not, at that time, at least, take that stand. “Number of judges adequate,” said the cable. Everybody knows that the number of judges was adequate for their work before those appointments were made. Honorable members may remem ber a return which was laid on the table, in answer to a question asked by me, showing that the work of the High Court was decreasing. It is obvious that there was no need for the making of any additional appointment to the Bench. The cable that I have just quoted goes on, “Moreover, long vacation begins.” Where was the necessity at the beginning of a long vacation to appoint two judges at £3,000 a year, with other incidental expenses? There was no need at all if the only matters in view were the performance of the normal work of the court; but we know that during the vacation the waterside workers’ case and the New South Wales Legislative Council case, were to be heard. I wonder what the reply was to the inquiry, “ Why was it necessary to appoint those judges at the beginning of the vacation, when normally there is no work for them to do?” Will the Prime Minister answer that question? The story of the appointment of those judges is coming out, bit by bit, to the shame of the people of Australia.

The later cables are equally definite and equally strong. One from the Prime Minister to the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons), is as follows: -

Personal. - See telegram to Acting Prime Minister and Vice-President of the Executive Council regarding appointment of judges. For your personal information I would go out of office if in the circumstances appointments were rushed through during our absence. Attorney-General takes same view. Appeal to you to avoid this.

Mr Curtin:

– The recipient of the cablegram congratulated the appointees.

Mr Maxwell:

– That does not make it any better.

Mr LATHAM:

– The next cable from the Prime Minister to the Acting Prime Minister reads as follows: -

Obliged for your message stating party meeting rejected unanimous recommendation of Cabinet to hold over appointments to High Court pending our return, I urge that Cabinet remain firm.

Of course, we were all aware of that party decision at the time. These things do become known somehow.

It is matter solely for Cabinet decision. Attorney-General and I hold strong views we want to express, and cannot agree any appointment coming into force until our return. Grave principle involved.

The other cables state that the Prime Minister’s cable was received too late for consideration as Cabinet had already appointed Mr. McTiernan and Dr. Evatt, the former having resigned his seat in this House. A cable sent to the Prime Minister by the honorable member for Wilmot concludes with these words: -

Therefore consider only course now possible is to stand by Cabinet decision. Cabinet agreed to dictation of party during my absence from Canberra. I learned of Cabinet’s final decision from press.

There is another telegram from the honorable member for Wilmot to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton), which states -

Agree entirely with views expressed in Prime Minister’s cable, and urge Cabinet take full responsibility and hold over appointments pending further reconsideration on return of Prime Minister. I strongly urge this course be taken.

Those cables show that the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General resented in the strongest possible manner the assumption by their party followers of the function of appointing, selecting or nominating judges. I would have expected them to do that. . It would be difficult to find any more definite statement of their concern at the likelihood of vital principles being infringed than is to be discovered in those cables. They said truly that a grave principle was involved, and added that they would be no party to a departure from fundamental principles. The right honorable gentleman went so far as to declare : “ I would go out of office, if, in the circumstances, appointments were rushed through during our absence.” They have not gone out of office; they still hold their positions of power and responsibility.

These messages disclose a very serious situation in relation to both of the matters to which I have confined my . speech. It is, indeed, extraordinary that the Government should bring down a financial policy which its leader described in the language that I have read; a description that had the concurrence of the AttorneyGeneral. How can these two gentlemen expect to have the confidence and the respect of the people when they accept that policy, and condone the procedure that was followed in the making of entirely unnecessary appointments to the High Court bench, which they condemned in terms whose severity was completely justified? Early last year the Attorney-General expressly stated that it was not the intention of the Government to make any additional appointments to the High Court, the reason assigned being that the volume of its work neither demanded nor justified it. Nothing has since occurred to change that position. These appointments were absolutely unnecessary, and the making of them infringed a fundamental, although an unwritten, principle of our Constitution. These events make it impossible for me to believe that the policy of the Government in relation to financial matters is really sincere, or that it can be trusted in its administration of the public affairs of the Commonwealth.

Mr SCULLIN:
Prime Minister · Yarra · ALP

.- The time allowed the Leader of the Opposition to speak to the motion was limited, but that which I am given under the Standing Orders to reply to him is only one half of it. I shall have an opportunity in another debate to answer many of the points that he has raised ; therefore, on this occasion I shall deal with only a few vital points. The honorable gentleman launched his attack as a result of the publication in the press of certain secret cables that I, while overseas, sent to the Acting-Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton) and the ActingTreasurer (Mr. Lyons).

Honorable Members. - Shame !

Mr SCULLIN:
ALP

– I do not know who made those cables public. But I do know that they were secret cables.

The Leader of the Opposition dealt with my remarks in regard to inflation and the appointment of judges to the High Court, as reported in those cables. I interjected only once while he was speaking. I do not make a practice of interjecting; but he was so confident that every word of those cables was mine, that I was curious to know on what evidence his confidence rested - had he received first-hand information-

Mr Latham:

– No !

Mr SCULLIN:

– Or did he rely upon the accuracy of a report published by a press that is prepared to use information obtained by fraudulent means?

Mr Latham:

– I said that I relied on the press, from which I have learned all that I know about the matter.

Mr SCULLIN:

– It is not my intention, to accept the invitation of the honorable gentleman to produce the cables. I propose to respect the tradition that has been handed down for centuries in the British Parliament. But I shall give one or two facts that will place upon the matter a complexion somewhat different from that which the honorable gentleman attempted to place upon it. Nothing is revealed by the cables with respect to my views in relation to inflation. I have repeated every word that appears in them, from the moment that I landed in Australia; and I shall do so again. I did so in the Parkes byelection campaign, and in the town hall at Richmond, Victoria.

Mr Gullett:

– You did not.

Mr SCULLIN:

– I have done so in different parts of Australia. It may be said that there has been a change in our financial policy. I deny that that is so. I agree, however, that there has been some change in regard to method. I shall enlarge upon that, and I am sure the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) will also do so, when the House is dealing with certain legislation. I repeat, that to issue £20,000,000 of credit or notes in order to put in hand public works, and to go on doing that, is inflation, and is unsound. But I also repeat that the making of bank advances pending an approach to the market, is not unsound. When the Government discussed with the Commonwealth Bank Board the question of making further advances, it was told that that could not be done under existing legislation, and that it could be made possible only by parliamentary sanction of a fiduciary issue. We shall explain fully to this Parliament our attitude on that matter. I deny that there has been any somersaulting by me, by the Treasurer, or by the other members of this Government.

I wish to spend a few minutes in clearing up the question that has been raised in regard to the recent appointments to the High Court. It is perfectly true that the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) and I sent to Australia protests regarding the making of those appointments. While we were in the Red Sea, we received very little information from our colleagues here; but we learned from wireless messages published on board ship that the matter was being discussed at meetings of the party, that the names of certain gentlemen were mentioned as likely to be appointed, and that it was suggested that we were undermining the whole of the principles of the court. I was astounded that such a suggestion could be made, and I did not believe that what was alleged could happen. Both I and the AttorneyGeneral did what we conceived to be our duty - we sent cable messages to those whom we had left in charge. I take the view that no suspicion of political influence should surround an appointment to the High Court. I always have, and always will, hold that view. After these appointments were made, I did not question the integrity of the men who were appointed, any more than I questioned the integrity of Judge Drake-Brockman, when he was appointed. But I have always protested that there should be no possibility of the suspicion that an appointment was a political one. If ever there was a political appointment, it was that of Judge Drake-Brockman. Although I made not the slightest suggestion ‘ against his integrity, I protested in this House when the previous Govern-‘ ment appointed him. I wanted our appointments to be above even the suspicion of political action. That is why I asked that the party should not even discuss the names of possible future judges. On the 17th December I received a message from the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Penton) stating that the party had declared that these positions should be filled, and asking me to communicate with him immediately as to the appointments. On the 19th December I sent the strongly-worded protest which has been published, and which, although not entirely accurate, is substantially correct. On the. date that that message was despatched a wireless message was received on the ship in the ordinary way, stating that immediate steps were being taken to appoint two judges. I felt that, as I had received a cablegram asking me for information as to who should be appointed and then found that steps were being taken to make the appointments, a deliberate attempt was being made to deny” the Attorney-General (Mr. Bren- nan) and myself an opportunity to express an opinion upon such an important matter. I, therefore, sent a cablegram stating that I could not remain in office if that was to be the attitude of my colleagues towards the Attorney-General and myself.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

– It was done.

Mr SCULLIN:

– I will show that it was not. I received a cable message from the Acting Prime Minister on the Ormonde on the 17th December, when the vessel was in the Red Sea, to which 1 replied on the 19th December; but the appointments were actually made on the 18th December. What is the explanation? Several days passed during which the vessel did not receive wireless messages - I remember that at the time wireless messages were not being received. The Acting Prime Minister assured me that my message arrived too late for the consideration of Cabinet, which placed an entirely different complexion on the matter.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

– That is too thin.

Mr SCULLIN:

– Those are the facts. That is the explanation I received from the Acting Prime Minister, and if the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) disbelieves his words he may. As late as the 29th December I sent a cablegram asking for a reply to my message of the 19th December, as to what had been done regarding the appointment of the two judges. When I returned to Australia the Acting Prime Minister informed me that he did not receive my message in time. The delay was due to the non-receipt of wireless messages during a period of several days. I am now jibed at because I did not go out of office ; out after receiving that explanation, there did not appear to be any necessity to do anything further in the matter. I also learned when I returned to Australia that there was not any discussion between the members of the party as to the names of the judges, although the appointments were discussed. I frankly admit that such appointments should be made by the Cabinet, and not by the party, and that was done. But there is a difference between a discussion on the necessity to fill position and the naming of persons to be appointed. The Acting Prime Min ister did not receive my protest until after the appointments had been made. I did not receive his message for several days after it had been despatched, because of the difficulties, as those who are accustomed to travelling on the high seas know, of receiving wireless messages.

I come now to the grave aspect of this question - the violation of confidence by those who receive or handle messages. I make no charges against any one of having disclosed the information. The disclosure is unprecedented, and if it is possible to discover the guilty person, I trust he will be discovered.

Mr Latham:

– Hear, hear !

Mr SCULLIN:

– The Leader of the Opposition says “Hear, hear.” He suggests that he is strongly opposed to such treachery; but he does not refuse to use the information obtained by such vile means which is disclosed by the published messages, and with which he has launched an attack upon this Government in order to defeat it. He can talk about high honour in these matters, but he uses dirty tools. A person who uses dirty tools cannot have clean hands. Every member of the Executive Council takes an oath that he will not reveal what transpires in Executive Council. The Constitution does not so provide, but it is implied that Cabinet business is Executive Council business and that the oath applies to both.

Mr Prowse:

– But the matter wa3 taken to caucus.

Mr SCULLIN:

– No. The Government has been using the same code as its predecessors, but in consequence of these disclosures, has been compelled to destroy the code and prepare another, at considerable cost. Cabinet confidences have been betrayed. Such disclosures may lead to international distrust, particularly if confidential messages between Ministers are to be published in this way. This is the kind of information used by this great Nationalist party in order to pillory the Government ! This is the source from which it obtains its information - information procured by vile treachery. I would scorn to use such information. I remember an occasion when the last Government prosecuted and dismissed a person for having copies of Cabinet documents in his possession.

When Mr. Bruce was in office the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) quoted certain cable messages, not between Ministers, but between the Prime Minister and the Australian Shipping Board. The right honorable member, who has said that I ought to be a strong leader, did not hesitate to use information obtained in the same way as this has been obtained. That is the gentleman who can lead a party in which there is not a dissentient, because he has run away from so many parties that to-day he has no party to lead. I recall another instance when the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) was charged by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) for having accepted a local, instead of an overseas, tender for certain railway engines. When asked what happened in Cabinet he was too honorable to reveal the information. He challenged the right honorable member for Cowper to produce the Cabinet minutes. He would not do so. The honorable member for Wimmera suffered an injustice rather than betray a cabinet secret, although he had long since ceased to be a member of the Cabinet. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) did not decline to use the information that came to him in this way. My withers are unwrung, I have nothing to withdraw and no apologies to make for what I have said. The party did not do what honorable members opposite charge it with having done. I did not agree that any discussion in. the party should take place concerning the judiciary, and certainly did not agree to it dictating as to the appoinment of the two judges. It is the duty of honorable members opposite to discuss the motion upon its merits.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order ! The Prime Minister’s time has expired.

Mr WHITE:
Balaclava

.- The Prime Minister never lacks vehemence in denunciation. I personally agree with him that cabinet documents should not be disclosed, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has said that he also deplores such disclosure. I hope that the person through whom, the information obtained publicity may be discovered, and that there may not be a repetition of this experience. I remember that towards the end of April, 1929, in the first parliament of which I was a member, the Opposition of the day gloated over the fact that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) had obtained possession of certain Cabinet documents. The honorable member declared that he was entitled to obtain these documents by whatever means they were obtainable. I deplore that politics are in such a condition that this could happen. However that may be, the press of Australia has obtained the full text of certain cablegrams on important public questions which passed between the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and other Cabinet Ministers, and the Prime Minister and caucus, during the right honorable gentleman’s absence from Australia.

Debate interrupted under Standing Order 119.

page 276

SUSPENSION OF STANDING ORDERS

Motion (by Mr. Scullin) - by leave - agreed to -

That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable questions upon notice and notices of motion to be considered.

page 276

WHEAT BOUNTY BILL

Message recommending appropriation reported.

page 276

DEATH OF DAME NELLIE MELBA

Mr SPEAKER:

– I have received from Mr. G. Armstrong, son of the late Dame Nellie Melba, a letter thanking the House for its resolution of sympathy.

page 276

ELECTORAL REDISTRIBUTION

The following paper was presented : -

Electoral Act -

Reports with Maps by the Commissioners appointed for thepurpose of redistributing into Electoral Divisions the States of-.

New South Wales

Queensland

page 276

QUESTION

OBJECTION TO MR. SPEAKER’S RULING

Mr LATHAM:
Kooyong

.- I move -

That the ruling of the Honorable the Speaker - that he is at liberty to leave the chair at any time during a sitting without leave of the House or the passing of any motion - be disagreed with.

This motion raises a question that is extremely important in parliamentary practice. If it is to be established that the Speaker may at any time leave the chair without the consent of the House, manifested by a motion or otherwise, then, it is obvious that the House is entirely under the control of the Speaker as to the time and seasons of its sittings. If the Speaker may leave the chair without leave for half-an-hour, he may leave it for half a week, half a month, or half a year. I invite honorable members, therefore, to consider the principle that is involved in this subject. I suggest that the true principle is that the Speaker may leave the chair at any time by the general consent of the House, which may be manifested by the statement that he is about to leave the chair being received without dissent, or with practical unanimity, or by the carrying of a motion. I think I am right in saying that there is no provision in our Standing Orders for the suspension of a sitting as distinct from an adjournment of the House. The House, of course, has control of its own business, and may suspend its sittings from time to time as it may think proper, and I submit that the decision of this question rests with the House itself and not with the Speaker. This is surely a matter of principle, otherwise the Speaker could suspend a sitting for a week or a month or longer by merely leaving the chair. The suspension of a sitting may occur, I contend, only with the consent of the House. Sittings are commonly suspended when communications are awaited from the other chamber, or when a meal time arrives, but this is always by general consent. That is quite all right. But if an objection to the proposed suspension is raised, the matter should be determined by the House as it thinks proper. There is no precedent, so far as I can discover, covering the precise point with which I am dealing. There are, of course, many precedents for the suspension of a sitting by Mr. Speaker leaving the chair when no objection has been taken, or when there has been general consent or practical unanimity. I could quote the well-established practice of the Speaker leaving the chair by general consent, but that does not meet the point raised in my motion. The question that I raise is whether the Speaker may leave the chair without leave being manifested in some appropriate manner, ordinarily by tha absence of dissent when the matter, iti mentioned, or by the passing of a motion. In May, 10th edition, at page 21, the practice of the House of Commons is described, but this has no bearing upon the matter with which I am dealing, and will not help us to determine this question, for the point is not raised as to tha right or authority of the Speaker to leave the chair without leave. There are certain precedents in our own parliamentary procedure which have a more or less remote association with the point at issue; but they do not bear fairly or directly upon it. The position appears to’ be that when there is practical unanimity, or when there are exceptional circumstances, such as long-continued disorder or those which may arise after an unduly long sitting, there is reserve power in the Speaker to leave the chair and so, as it were, cut the Gordian knot. Such long-continued sittings, leading to the physical exhaustion of honorable members, have occurred, and on one such occasion, when the House had been sitting continuously for several days, and was still sitting at midnight on Saturday, Mr. Speaker Holder, left the chair until Monday. But I submit that only in such exceptional cases as those I have mentioned is there any reserve power in the Speaker to suspend a sitting. . The conditions which should govern the exercise of this reserve power are, however, illdefined.

I have been unable to discover any authority which confers upon the Speaker the right to leave the chair at any moment that he may desire to do so. I am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, will understand that in mentioning particular incidents, I desire only to deal with the general principle. Suppose, for example, that a government were in difficulties and that it was short of a vote or two for the time being, the suspension of the sitting might be very convenient to it. But I suggest that the power to suspend the sitting should rest with the House.

Mr Lacey:

– The Speaker is always impartial.

Mr LATHAM:

– That may be so ; but he should be subject to the control of the House. The determination of the time and period of sittings should, clearly and plainly, rest with the House. That is the only principle to observe to ensure strict impartiality. The attribution to the Speaker of the power to suspend a. sitting at his will or at the request of a Minister, at a moment’s notice, would be dangerous. The adoption of procedure of that sort would be apt to lead to suspicions of partiality, which, I am sure, no honorable member desires to encourage. In November, 1905, during a long sitting of the House, Mr. Speaker Holder suspended the sitting at midnight on Saturday until half-past 10 o’clock on Monday morning. In taking this action he gave the following reasons, his remarks being reported in volume XXIX. of the Parliamentary Debates, page 5425 : -

The House will perhaps permit me to «ay that I have gathered from the speeches of honorable members, and otherwise, that there is a general wish that the sitting shall -not be continued during Sunday. I have looked up the precedents and I find that there are many for the Speaker suspending the fitting for such time as may be necessary for secur-ing the purpose in view. In this House the time for which sittings have been suspended has usually been one hour for refreshments. There are other cases in which sittings have been suspended for longer periods - up to three and a half hours in one case, and in Victoria, on one occasion, the sitting was suspended for eleven hours and three-quarters. I recognize that if I suspend a sitting of this House for 24 hours, I go beyond any period for which I can find a precedent. Yet in suspending the sitting for that time, I should hot go beyond the period which is necessary to accomplish the purpose we have in view. 1 find, however, that there is a general desire that the House should not be called back to transact business at midnight to-morrow and that the convenience of honorable members should be studied to a further extent. ‘.Therefore, I now suspend this sitting of the House until half-past ten o’clock on Monday morning.

Again in 1907, Mr. Speaker Holder, acting upon a suggestion made by the honorable Sir William Lyne, that there should be an extension of the dinner hour, said - his remarks are to be found in volume XXXVI., page 113-

I can only act in “this matter by the desire of the House which must be practically unanimous. Is it the pleasure of the House that the sitting be suspended for one hour and a half to-night?

Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!

Accordingly, the sitting was suspended for an hour and a half. There are on record other instances in which the sitting has been suspended by general consent to suit the convenience of honorable members. In 1920, Mr. Speaker Johnson said - his , remarks are reported in volume XCII. page 2404 -

In accordance with what I understand to be the desire of the House I shall resume the chair at 2.30 p.m.

I have sought to obtain all the information I can on this point, and I can find none in accord with your ruling. I suggest, therefore, that this is now a matter entirely for the decision of honorable members. They are entitled to say what they think should be the practice of this House. Since the principle involved may, on occasion, be important, honorable members should address themselves to the discussion of it without regard to their membership of parties or whether or not .they are supporters of the Government. They should themselves lay down a clear rule on this matter. It should be determined by the House itself. This is in accordance with the principle underlying our system of parliamentary debate, namely, that the House at any time can control its own affairs. The danger of introducing any other principle is, I suggest, very great indeed.

Mr NAIRN:
Perth

.- I second the motion. Standing Order No. 37 reads -

The House can only be adjourned by its own resolution, except in the cases mentioned in Orders numbered 29, 31, 32, and 33, when the Speaker adjourns the House without putting a question.

Standing Order 29 provides that the House may be adjourned for want of a quorum; Standing Order No. 31 enacts that “if the tellers in a division report the want of a quorum, the House is adjourned ; Standing Order No. 32 states that if the Chairman of Committees reports the want of a quorum in a division, the House is adjourned; and Standing Order No. 33 provides that when want of a quorum is noticed the House is counted, and if a quorum of members is not present, the House is adjourned. Extraordinary circumstances may arise, as has been indicated by the Leader of the Opposition, in which the action of the Speaker may have an .important bearing on the business of the

House. There may arise a matter of extreme urgency or a condition of great disorder, in which case the Speaker may terminate the sitting of the House. But apart from such extraordinary circumstances, our Standing Orders provide that the adjournment of the sitting is a matter entirely in the hands of honorable members themselves. It is not competent for the Speaker himself to determine when the House will adjourn. As the Leader of the Opposition has remarked, the principle involved may be of supreme importance. It may be important to-day, in view of a certain motion before the House. It has been reported that a Yi umber of honorable members supporting the Government are coming to Canberra by means of an aeroplane. One can readily understand, therefore, that the power of the Speaker to adjourn the House might, on occasion, be wielded to save the Government from defeat. An adjournment for half an hour might entirely alter the complexion of a division list on a particular motion. Our Standing Orders clearly provide that except in the circumstances mentioned, the House can only be adjourned by its own resolution. We should, therefore, at all times observe them in the spirit and the letter.

Mr SPEAKER (Hon Norman Makin:

– Before putting the motion, I desire to state the case from the chair. The motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), and seconded by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) is in the following terms: -

That the ruling of the honorable the Speaker - that he is at liberty to leave the chair at any time -

I emphazise these words “ at any time “. during a sitting, without leave of the House or the passing of any motion - be disagreed with.

If the circumstances had been such as are suggested in the motion, the Leader of the Opposition or any other members might justly feel a grievance against the Chair for the action taken. But the position is not as stated.

Mr Latham:

– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I inquire whether the Speaker is at liberty to take part in a debate from the chair, or whether he should not speak from the floor of the House. The question before honorable members is whether your ruling should be accepted or rejected. That is a subject which must be determined after debate. You have given your ruling, and I respectfully submit that you are not entitled to go any further. If you nile otherwise, any honorable member will have his ordinary right to reply to your remarks.

Mr SPEAKER:

– It has been the invariable rule, when a motion has beer submitted inviting the House to disagree with Mr. Speaker’s ruling, for the Speaker to reply from the chair. I have endeavoured to secure all the information possible concerning the particular procedure to be observed. If my own personal wishes were consulted in the matter I should reply to the Leader of the Opposition from the floor of the House, I then might say a good deal more than I intend to say from the chair.

Mr Latham:

– I should prefer you to reply from the floor of the House.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I shall make my statement from the chair, which has been the invariable practice in such circumstances as these.

If the motion correctly stated the circumstances in which the ruling from which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) wishes to dissent was given, the honorable gentleman would certainly have a grievance, and therefore, I call attention to what actually did occur. The ruling was given on the last day on which we sat before Christmas. Twice during the sitting the House was without business, and was waiting for messages from another place. The Standing Orders make no provision for the suspension of a sitting in such circumstances, and it has been usual for the Leader of the Government to suggest that for the convenience of honorable members the Speaker might leave the chair, either for a stated period or until a message was received from another place. Upon every occasion on which there has been a departure from the ordinary practice in regard to a suspension, affecting either its duration or the time at which it should commence when business has been before the House, I have asked whether the House concurred in the proposal to suspend the sitting at that hour, and it has always been after the signification of- the will of this House that the sitting has been suspended. When there is no business before the House, it is quite another matter ; it would be absurd to require the Speaker to remain for any long period in the chair. As the question of the adjournment is not raised on this issue, the point taken by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) is not applicable. When a motion for the adjournment of the House has been moved and carried, the House cannot assemble again until the hour appointed for its next meeting.

It has been the invariable rule in this Parliament from the beginning, for Speakers to leave the chair at the request, or instance, of the Leader of the Government, upon his stating that no further business is available until such time as it has been completed in another place. In such circumstances the Speaker, to meet the convenience of the House, temporarily suspends the sitting. It must,- however, be left to the discretion of the Speaker to say whether there is business before the House. In all the circumstances, I intend to follow the very worthy and, I think, proper precedents that have been laid down by my predecessors, Mr. Speaker Holder, Mr. Speaker Watt, Mr. Speaker Johnson, and Mr. Speaker Groom. I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition, nor any other honorable member, can feel aggrieved at my doing so. If, however, it is thought that provision should be made in the Standing Orders to cover circumstances such as have been called in question, the matter can be raised when the Standing Orders are under review.

Mr LATHAM:
Kooyong

.- I should like to say, on the question of fact - whether there was further business before the House when you, Mr. Speaker, left the chair - the notice-paper for Wednesday, 17 th December, 1930, contained quite a lot of business still undealt with. There were such items as Supply, Ways and Means, Commonwealth Bank Bill - second reading to be moved - and the Shale Oil Bounty Bill, second reading, resumption of debate. There were also eleven notices of motion and. six orders of the day. There was certainly ample business to occupy the time of the House. You have said that you propose to follow what you regard as the practice of former honorable speakers, whose names you have mentioned, but I presume that you will recognize that that depends entirely upon the result of the vote upon my motion. At any rate, I should hope so. It is for the House to determine what practice shall be followed in future. You have not been good enough to favour honorable members with, any references to the decisions of your predecessors, and my researches have not enabled me to discover any case in which objection has been raised when a request has been made by a Minister for the Speaker to leave the chair, or for the sitting to be suspended, and in spite of that objection the Speaker has left the chair. I have specifically referred to exceptional cases, such as that in which, after a long and exhausting sitting, there has been a general desire for the Speaker to leave the chair, or during long-continued disorder, but my investigations have not enabled me to discover any case in which, objection having been taken, the Speaker has left the chair, refusing to allow the House an opportunity to consider the objection. That is the point involved in the ruling to which I am taking exception. Take the case in which there can be no dispute as to the facts, that is to say, as to whether there is business before the House or not, and the Speaker says that he proposes to leave the chair for two hours or two weeks, and, although the House may object, he leaves the chair, exercising his own discretion, just as you say you propose to do. If Parliament were subject to control of that character, can it be said that the principle embodied in your ruling is sound? If again, as ruled by you, the Speaker .may upon the request of a Minister, leave the chair, notwithstanding that objection has been raised, we are presented with alarming possibilities. An instance of this kind has not arisen before, so far as I am aware ; at least no citation has been made by any one of any precedent which precisely applies to the case, and I submit that the true principle to be observed is that the House is in control of its own business where the Standing Orders do not otherwise provide. The Speaker, of course, may leave the chair with general consent, or as the result of a motion, or when a Minister asks that the sitting be suspended and no, objection is raised. That is a reasonable thing, and no question arises upon it. So long as there is general consent, no question can arise. But the point is whether, when objection is taken, the House has any power to say that it prefers to go on sitting. According to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, the Speaker may, without the will of the House, leave the chair and, if he does so no motion can be submitted. In such a case the House is rendered incapable of giving effect to its will. That would be the effect of the ruling if carried to its logical conclusion. I, therefore, ask honorable members to disagree to it.

Question resolved in the negative.

Notice of motion (by Mr. Gullet) - by leave - withdrawn.

That the ruling of the honorable the Speaker - that he is not bound to put a motion that a member be not further heard, in the event of the said member resuming his seat - be disagreed to.

page 281

QUESTION

ASSISTANCE TO COAL-MINERS

Mr WATKINS:
NEWCASTLE, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP; FLP from 1931

asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that the Governmenthas allotted £100,000 to help the coal-miners?
  2. If so, will the Government, in view of the great profit from minting silver at1s. 4d. per ounce, viz., 312.5 per cent., consider the question whether it would be to the advantage of the miners to have the sum of £412,500 in silver less the cost of minting rather than the allotted sum of £100,000 in notes?
Mr THEODORE:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Yes.
  2. The amount voted for this purpose by Parliament is £100,000, and, apart from the merits or otherwise of the honorable member’s suggestion, there is no legal authority to expend anything in excess of that amount.

Mr.FROST asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

Will he inform the House whether, when allocating the £100,000 towards the employment of unemployed miners, the claims of Tasmanian miners will be considered?

Mr SCULLIN:
ALP

– Representations previously made on this subject by the honorable member are at present receiving consideration.

page 281

QUESTION

BUTTER

Mr PRICE:
through Mr. Gabb

asked the Minister for Markets, upon notice -

Is he in a position to furnish in connexion with the State of South Australia, for the year ended 30th June, 1930 -

The total consumption of butter?

The total amount of butter imported from other States of the Commonwealth, and the value of same?

The total amount of butter exported overseas from South Australia, and the value of same?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY:
HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -

  1. The total annual consumption of butter in South Australia is estimated at approximately 17,187,000 lb.
  2. This information is not obtainable.
  3. During the year ended 30th June, 1930, the quantity of butter exported overseas from South Australia was659,061 lb., valued at £59,022.

page 281

QUESTION

TORPEDOES FOR AUSTRALIAN CRUISERS

Mr C RILEY:
COOK, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP; FLP from 1931

asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

When was the final payment made in connexion with the torpedoes for H.M.A.S. Australia and Canberra?

Mr CHIFLEY:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– The final instalment was paid on 21st February, 1930.

page 281

QUESTION

RENT OF GOVERNMENT OFFICES

Dr MALONEY:
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -

  1. In view of the large amount of money paid for rents for government offices inconveniently scattered over Melbourne by the Commonwealth Government, will he bring under the notice of the Cabinet the necessity of completing the Melbourne Post Office, and thus provide offices for all the Commonwealth Departments ?
  2. In view of the urgent need of helping the unfortunate unemployed in Melbourne in the building trade, will he inquire from the Melbourne City Council whether that body would assist the Government in removing this eyesore and completing a beautiful building, thus combining help to the unemployed with beautifying the City of Melbourne?
Mr A GREEN:
KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. In view of the present state of the finances and the necessity for confining available funds to urgent works, it is not considered that action in the direction indicated would be justified at present.
  2. See answer to 1.

page 281

QUESTION

IMPORTATION OF MOTOR CARS AND PETROLEUM

Mr PRICE:
through Mr. Gabb

asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

  1. What was the value of motor cars and chassis, imported into Australia for the years 1928-29 and 1929-30?
  2. What was the value of petroleum spirits imported during the same periods?
Mr FORDE:
Minister for Trade and Customs · CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

page 282

QUESTION

EXPORT DUTY ON SHEEPSKINS

Mr HAWKER:
WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

asked the Minister for Trade. and Customs, upon notice -

  1. Whether any question with regard to a request’ or proposal for the imposition of an export duty on unscoured wool and sheepskins has been referred to the Tariff Board since the board reported on the subject on the 18th June last?
  2. If so, has the Minister received any report from the board on the subject other than that dated the 18th June, 1930 ?
  3. If so, will he make the report available?
Mr FORDE:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. No, but a reference was made- on the subject of a bounty.
  2. The board has reported on the question of a bounty, and has recommended against it.
  3. The report will be made available later.
Mr R GREEN:
RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

  1. What amount has been collected per month in each State as an export duty on sheepskins ?
  2. Has all this money been paid into court?
Mr FORDE:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. All the duty collected is now being refunded.
  2. In two instances only was the amount paid into court.
Mr KILLEN:
RIVERINA, NEW SOUTH WALES

asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that the duty on sheepskins has caused serious loss to wool-growers and sheep-owners ?
  2. Is it a fact that the duty has dislocated trade in regard to export of sheepskins and has caused the loss of overseas markets?
  3. Is it a fact that the imposition of the duty is an attempt to foster a secondary industry at the expense, of primary producers?
  4. Is it a fact that the duty has thrown out of employment large numbers of men who were engaged in handling and despatching skins for export, and that it has not had the effect of causing the employment of an equal number of unemployed men in the fellmongering industry?
  5. What is’ the estimated annual revenue from the duty?
  6. Will the Minister take the necessary action to have the duty abolished at the earliest possible date?
Mr FORDE:

– The Government has decided to allow the resolution imposing the duty to lapse, and to refund all duties already collected. A statement on the matter was made in this House by me on Wednesday, the 5th March.

page 282

QUESTION

LOANS

Mr PRICE:
through Mr. Gabb

asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. What are the .figures in connexion with the recent Commonwealth loan of £28,000,000?
  2. Will he state the total amounts invested in this loan by each of the States of the Commonwealth ?
Mr THEODORE:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

Subscriptions made by life assurance companies and other large institutions are shown in the States in which the applications were lodged.

Mr MACKAY:
LILLEY, QUEENSLAND

asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. What are the total amounts of loans falling due in the years 1931, 1932, and 1933, for the Commonwealth and each of the States?

    1. What is the total amount of (a) treasurybills, and (b) short-term indebtedness, due on behalf of the Commonwealth, and for each State in Australia and in London?
Mr THEODORE:

– The information desired is as follows: -

Mr KEANE:
BENDIGO, VICTORIA

asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. What was the amount of loan money obtained by the Commonwealth and the States for each year from 1924 to 1928?
  2. What amount of new loan money has been raised by the present Government during its term of office?
Mr THEODORE:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. The amount of new loan money borrowed bv the Commonwealth for its own purposes each year from 1923-24 to 1927-28 is as follows : -

After allowing for redemptions of public debt from sinking fund and other moneys, however, the net increase in the debt for the live years amounted to £14,275,000. The actual amount of new loan money obtained by the States for each’ of the years named is not available, but the following figures show the increase of the public debts of the States for each of those years: -

  1. For Commonwealth purposes, £3,835,000: for State purposes, £18,610,000.

page 284

QUESTION

PRICE OF PETROL

Mr PRICE:
through Mr. Gabb

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

  1. Is he in a position to state the retail price per gallon of petrol in the capital city of each State of the Commonwealth, for -

    1. Shell, at the bowsers, and in containers ;
    2. Plume, at the bowsers, and in containers ;
    3. C.O.R., at the bowsers, and in containers ;
    4. Other brands, at the bowsers, and in containers ?
  2. Is he satisfied that the price which the various oil companies are extracting from the petrol-consuming public is a fair one?
  3. If not, what methods does the Government propose to adopt to protect the general public ?
Mr SCULLIN:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -

  1. Inquiries have been instituted with a view to bringing up to date the information communicated to the honorable member by letter on the15th January, 1931.
  2. and 3. The report of the officers deputed to investigate the price of petrol was received at the end of last week, and will be given consideration as soon as possible. In the meantime, a reply cannot be furnished to the honorable member’s questions.
Mr KILLEN:

asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

  1. Can petrol be landed in Australia for about 9d. per gallon?
  2. Did the previous Minister for Trade and Customs state that petrol should be retailed at1s.8d. per gallon?
  3. Is the retail price 2s. 3d. per gallon?
  4. Is the difference on Australia’s consumption over £6,000,000?
  5. Has the Government a controlling interest in the Commonwealth Oil Refinery for the purpose of protecting the people’s interests and preventing their exploitation by the oil combine?
  6. Will the Minister take action to secure a proper reduction of the Commonwealth Oil Refinery price?
  7. Will the Minister have an inquiry made to ascertain landed and distribution costs of petrol ?
Mr FORDE:
ALP

– The information is being obtained.

page 284

QUESTION

FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY

Rural Leases - Rents

Mr McGRATH:
through Mr. Gabb

asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -

With reference to . the question asked on the 20th November last, by the honorable member for Ballarat regarding rural leases in the Federal Capital Territory, will the Minister state whether the report referred to has been received by him, and, if so, when he proposes to make it available to the House?

Mr BLAKELEY:

– The report has been received by me, and the Government has announced its decision thereon, details of which are published in the Canberra Times to-day. I shall lay the report on the table of the House to-morrow.

Mr CROUCH:

asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -

  1. How many rural lessees in Canberra are in arrears in their rent and for what amount?
  2. Has the Minister directed that the lessees in default shall be permitted to continue in possession without payment?
  3. Did the Auditor-General report that: “If the vacation of the properties were insisted upon, probably other tenants could be found. The failure of the department to take action may lead other lessees to fall into arrears with impunity, even though they may be financially in a position to meet their obligations.”?
  4. What action does the Minister propose to take regarding this position?
Mr BLAKELEY:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1. (a) 213; (b) £30,740.

  1. Four leases only were terminated for non-payment of rent. One eviction occurred, and in the remaining three cases, it was decided that, pending the completion of full inquiry into the whole question of the condition of rural lessees, owing to the falling market and general depression, no action be taken to evict as the cases might be affected by any decisions arrived at on the general question.
  2. The words quoted are an abbreviation of the paragraph contained in the AuditorGeneral’s report to the like effect.
  3. A decision has now been reached by the Government in regard to the general question of concessions to be granted to holders of grazing leases, and action will now be taken to apply it as speedily as possible so that each case may be placed upon a definite and satisfactory basis.

Mr. McGRATH (through Mr. Gabb) , asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -

With reference to the question asked on the 20th November last, by the honorable member for Ballarat regarding rents charged for houses owned by the Government in the

Federal Capital Territory, will the Minister state whether the report referred to has been received by him, and, if so, when he proposes to make it available to the House ?

Mr BLAKELEY:

– The report has been received by me, and the Government has announced its decision thereon, details of which are published in the Canberra Times to-day. I shall lay the report on the table of the House tomorrow.

page 285

QUESTION

INVALID AND OLD-AGE PENSIONS

Mr KEANE:

asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

How many invalid pensions have been cancelled or reduced during the past six months?

Mr THEODORE:
ALP

– Eight hundred and sixty-seven invalid pensions were cancelled during the six months ended 28th February, 1931. Exact information as to the number of invalid pensions reduced is not available. The number of such reductions during the past six months would, however, be small.

page 285

QUESTION

TARIFF PROTECTION

Mr KEANE:

asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

What are the names of companies who received tariff protection from this Government and have since joined in applications for a reduction of wages or increase of hours for the men engaged in the industries?

Mr FORDE:
ALP

– Tariff protection is given to industries as a whole, and not to companies or firms. The Department of Trade and Customs has no information as to applications for a modification of wages or hours, and could not possibly link up such applications with the numerous increases which have been made in the tariff during the period mentioned. It is regretted, therefore, that the information is not available.

page 285

QUESTION

NEW GUINEA PUBLIC SERVICE

Mr D CAMERON:
BRISBANE. QLD · NAT

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

Will he inform the House of the present position regarding the request of the Public Service Association of the Territory of New Guinea that section 39 of the Public Service

Ordinance of the Territory of New Guinea be amended, to exempt from its provisions, in respect of the age for retirement, officers who were members of the Service at the date of commencement of the 1928 ordinance?

Mr SCULLIN:
ALP

– The request to which the honorable member refers is at present receiving consideration.

page 285

QUESTION

WAR SERVICE HOMES

Mr D CAMERON:
BRISBANE. QLD · NAT

asked the Minister for Markets, upon notice -

Whether he has received representations from the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia urging that the rates of repayments on war service homes be reduced to meet the changed conditions brought about by the lowering of the basic wage; if so, will he inform the House whether he has considered the request, and, if so, with what result?

Mr CULLEY:
ALP

– Representations were made by the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia that the maximum term of 25 years for the repayment of a loan granted in respect of a timber home should be extended to 37 years, with the object of reducing the monthly repayment. The monthly instalment for the repayment of a loan of £800, over a period of 25 years, is £4 13s. 6d., the weekly equivalent being £11s. 7d. ; whilst in the case of a loan of £700 the instalment would be £41s. 10d., or 18s.10d. per week. If the repayment period were extended to 37 years the reduction in the weekly payment would only be 3s. 3d. per week.

The most important point in connexion with the repayment of a loan which is secured by an” asset capable of depreciation by wear and tear is whether the asset will exist as a realizable security over the whole of the period for which the loan is granted. There is a definite risk in extending the term beyond twenty-five years, which is recognized by State institutions engaged in the provision of homes which limit the repayment of loans in connexion with timber properties as under: -

Queensland - 20 years and 25 years.

Victoria - 26½ years.

New South Wales - 20 years.

Western Australia - 25 years.

The request to increase the maximum loan terms is based ou abnormal conditions, and when the Commonwealth is passing through difficulties of unparalleled magnitude. Having regard to all the facts, and irrespective of the risk involved in the proposal, it is considered that it would not be wise to make a permanent provision to meet a temporary difficulty where the indications are that the acceptance of the Government’s policy may lead to increased employment.

Recently the Victorian Credit Foncier authorities intimated that from the 1st April, 1931, it intended to reduce its interest rates, some of which are 7 per cent, and T per cent., down to 6 per cent. It may be pointed out, however, that the war service homes rate of interest is only 5 per cent, per annum, and there are other provisions under which loans are made available considerably more liberal than those contained in other housing schemes in the Commonwealth.

page 286

QUESTION

COST OF GRISTING WHEAT

Dr MALONEY:
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

asked the Minister for Markets, upon notice -

  1. What would be the cost of gristing 48 bushels of wheat (o) to produce 2,000 lb. of white flour, arid (6) to produce 2,880 lb. of whole wheat flour?
  2. What is the cost of the machinery for gristing the same weight of (a.) white flour, and (6) whole wheat flour?
Mr PARKER MOLONEY:
HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– The desired information is- being obtained

page 286

QUESTION

PUBLIC SERVICE

Returned Soldiers

Mr D CAMERON:
BRISBANE. QLD · NAT

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

  1. If a returned soldier member of the Commonwealth Public Service is retired from the Service on account of ill-health, the result of war service, and subsequently recovers to the extent that he is re-appointed, would his continuity of employment for determination of furlough be affected by this enforced broken period of service?
  2. If so, will he consider the advisability of removing this hardship from any such exsoldiers, either by an amendment of the act or by regulations?
Mr SCULLIN:
ALP

– Yes. It is, however, pointed out that, in connexion -with: retire ments on the ground of invalidity, an officer with less than four years’ service receives pension from the superannuation fund on the same scale as an officer with twenty years’ service or more. An officer with at least four years’ service receives, in addition to pension from the superannuation fund, payment in lieu of furlough computed on his service at the time. Id the circumstances it is not considered that any variation of the existing provision would be justifiable.

page 286

QUESTION

ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES

Mr LEWIS:
through Mr. C. Riley

asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

  1. Will he inform the House whether homemade beer or home-made wine may be lawfully used in the home?
  2. Up to what degree of alcoholic strength may such beer or wine be made without payment of duty?
  3. What is the usual alcoholic strength of beer and wine as commercially used?
Mr FORDE:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Home-made beer containing not less than 2 per cent, of proof spirit is exciseable, and cannot be legally made by an unlicensed person. There is no restriction on the manufacture of home-made wine.
  2. Beer - up to 2 per cent, -of proof spirit. No restriction on wine.
  3. The strength of beer varies considerably, but probably 8 or JO per cent, of proof spirit would be an average for Australian beer. The spirit strength of Australian wine varies greatly. Much of it is fortified with dutypaid spirit up to 34 per cent, or more.

page 286

QUESTION

DEFENCE DEPARTMENT

Appointments - Promotions

Mr CROUCH:

asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

  1. How many new appointments were made to the permanent forces of the Defence Department in 1930 of (ff) officers, (6) warrant officers, (c) non-commissioned officers or petty officers, and (rf) other ranks, distinguishing between Naval, Military, and Air Forces ? 2.. How many promotions- were- made in 1030, distinguishing between ranks- and services as in. the first paragraph ?
Mr CHIFLEY:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Navy -

    1. Twelve cadet midshipmen joined Naval College in January, 1930.
    2. Nil.
    3. Nil.
    4. Forty recruits entered, and 31 exNaval ratings re-entered.

Army -

  1. Four.
  2. Nil.
  3. One.
  4. Thirty-five.

Air Force -

  1. Officers, 7; Air cadets, 32.
  2. Nil.
  3. Nil.
  4. Fifty.

    1. Navy - (a.) Promotions of officers to higher ranks have been made as under : -

By selection . … 4

By automatic promotion due to length of service and qualifications 42

  1. Four promotions to warrant rank have been made from chief petty officer and petty officer; one warrant officer has been promoted to lieutenant’s rank.
  2. Seventeen petty officers have been promoted to chief petty officer, and seventeen leading seamen to petty officer.
  3. Fifty-six able seamen have been promoted to leading seaman and 345 ordinary seamen to able seaman.

Army -

  1. Officers -

Four combatant officers.

Twelve automatic promotions of combatant lieutenants to captain.

Twenty-one honorary quartermasters.

The services generally are below authorized establishments, and the new appointments made only partly replaced wastage during the year.

page 287

QUESTION

GOLD YIELD

Mr KEANE:

asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

What was the Australian gold yield for the months of October, November, December, January, and February of the financial years 1929-30 and 1930-31, respectively?

Mr THEODORE:
ALP

– The information is contained in the following table: -

page 288

QUESTION

GRANTFOR RELIEF OF UNEMPLOYED

Mr KEANE:

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

  1. Has the last £500,000 unemployed grant made by the Federal Government been spent?
  2. What was the allocation to each State?
  3. What was the method of distribution and to which authorities was it disbursed?
Mr SCULLIN:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. The total amount has been made available to the States with the exception of a small amount of £170 15s.9d. not yet requisitioned by Tasmania.
  2. The allocation to each State was -
  1. The amounts have been paid to the State Treasuries as and when required. In making the amount available, the Commonwealth Government informed the State Premiers that it was desired that the grant be expended through local governing bodies to assist in providing work for the unemployed.

page 288

QUESTION

FINANCIAL GUARANTEES

Mr R GREEN:
RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

asked the Minister for

Trade and Customs, upon notice -

  1. Has his attention been drawn to a statement by the Honorable W. Dunn, Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales, and published in the Daily Guardian on 26th January last, to the effect that Australian machinery firms had “ held a gun “ at his ear in order to extort financial guarantees?
  2. Have the actions of these firms been reported (as stated) to the Government?
  3. If so, what action has been taken?
Mr FORDE:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. I have now seen the statement.
  2. I have not received such a report.
  3. See answer to No. 2.

page 288

QUESTION

NEW INDUSTRIES

Mr KEANE:

asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

  1. What is the number of new industries created in Australia during the past twelve months ?
  2. What is the approximate number of men employed us a result of the creation of the new industries?
  3. What is the approximate capital cost of the new industries?
Mr FORDE:
ALP

– Information is being obtained.

page 288

QUESTION

POSTAL DEPARTMENT

Rationing of Officers

Mr R GREEN:
RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

  1. Have any employees of his department been rationed: if so,under what conditions?
  2. How many of such employees are returned sailors or soldiers?
Mr A GREEN:
KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -

  1. Temporary telephonists in Sydney and Melbourne are being rationed, the periods of rationing leave being arranged to inflict the minimum hardship on the individual whilst conforming with the number of staff needed to meet departmental requirements.
  2. Nil.

page 288

QUESTION

DEFENCE DEPARTMENT

Rationing of Officers

Mr R GREEN:
RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

  1. Have any employees of his department been rationed; if so, under what conditions?
  2. How many of such employees are returned sailors or soldiers?
Mr CHIFLEY:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Yes. Periods of enforced leave have been imposed on members of the Permanent Military Forces during the present financial year to the following extent: - (i) For members drawing pay at rates of £260 per annum and upwards, 8 weeks; (ii) for members drawing pay at rates from £241 per annum up to £259 per annum, 4 weeks; (iii) for members drawing pay at rates of £221 per annum up to £240 per annum, 1 week;(iv) members drawing less than £221 per annum were’ exempt from all enforced leave. No member is forced to take more than one fortnight’s leave in any one quarter, and child endowment and superannuation contributions are not affected.

Ordnance Factory, Maribyrnong. - Period, 22nd September, 1930, to 10th December, 1930; number rationed, 42; conditions, ten for one week, including five returned soldiers; twelve for two weeks, including four returned soldiers ; twenty for three weeks, including four returned soldiers.

Explosives Factory, Maribyrnong. - Period, 21st September, 1930, to 7th March, 1931; number rationed, 52; conditions, 27 for one week, including nine returned soldiers; one for two weeks, including one returned soldier; six for three weeks, including one returned soldier ; seven for four weeks, including one returned soldier; four for five weeks, including two returnedsoldiers ; three for six weeks, nonreturned soldiers; two for seven weeks, including one returned soldier; one for eight weeks, non-returned soldier; one for ten weeks, non-returned soldier.

Clothing Factory, South Melbourne. - A number of employees of the Clothing Factory have had “ time off “ in accordance with terms of clothing trades award, but no returned soldiers or sailors have been affected.

  1. 645 returned soldiers of the Permanent Military Forces, and 28 returned soldiers employed in government factories.

page 289

QUESTION

TRADE BALANCES

Mr KEANE:

asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

What was the adverse trade balance of Australia (all States) for each year from December, 1925, to December, 1930?

Mr FORDE:
ALP

– The information is contained in the following table: -

page 289

QUESTION

ASSISTANCE TO HOP INDUSTRY

Mr FROST:
FRANKLIN, TASMANIA

asked the Minister for Markets, upon notice -

With reference to the representations made by the honorable member for Franklin concerning action to assist the hop industry in Tasmania to dispose of its surplus, is the Minister in a position to indicate whether, during his visit abroad on behalf of the Commonwealth, he was able to make any satisfactory arrangements ?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY:
HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– I kept in mind the representations of the honorable member and took up the question both in Great Britain and in Canada.

During my visit to Canada I impressed upon the Canadian authorities the great assistance it would.be if arrangements could be made by that dominion to absorb the present Australian surplus. The question of the suitability of the Australian hop for the Canadian brewing trade was raised, and with a view to negotiations being entered into to absorb the surplus, if such hops provedsuitable, I arranged for a trial shipment to be forwarded to Canada after my return to Australia. In accordance withthis arrangement five bales of hops were shipped to Canada on the 5th March. Subsequent action will, of course, depend on the results of this trial shipment.

page 289

QUESTION

SUBSIDIZED EAST-WEST AIR SERVICE

Mr KEANE:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice -

  1. What loss of revenue has been caused to the east-west railway by the competition of the air services subsidized by the previous Government?
  2. What is the amount of such subsidy, and the duration of the agreement under which it is paid?
Mr CULLEY:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. From the 1st January, 1929, when the east-west air service was inaugurated, to the 28th February, 1931, the number of passengers who travelled by airplane was 1,403. Assuming that 75 per cent. would have travelled by train, being a faster means of communication than the steamer, the loss to the railway systems for the journey between Adelaide and Perth would represent a sum of £12,535.
  2. The present subsidy to the West Australian Airways Limited for the PerthAdelaide air service is £39,520 per annum. The contract with the company for this service is for a term of five years, commencing 2nd April, 1929.
Mr MACKAY:

asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

  1. Whether it is a fact that the Western Australian Airways carries passengers in competition with the trans-Australian railway between Perth and Adelaide (a distance of 1,453 miles) for the sum of £13, while the fare by the same company between Perth and Derby (a distance of 1,455 miles) is £28?
  2. What is the amount of subsidy paid by the Commonwealth Government to Western Australian Airways, and the terms of the contract ?
Mr CHIFLEY:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. The respective fares and distances are -

    1. Perth-Adelaide, fare £13, distance 1,453 miles;
    2. Perth-Derby, fare £20, distance 1,467 miles.
  2. The subsidies payable to Western Australian Airways are -

    1. Perth- Adelaide service, £39,520 per annum ;
    2. Perth-Derby service, £19,707 for year ending 9th June, 1931; £19,071 for year ending 9th June, 1932; and £18,435 for year ending 9th June, 1933.

Under the contracts the company is required to provide a specified number of aeroplanes of approved type, hangars, workshops, hostel and rest houses, spare parts for aeroplanes and engines; and to operate the services once weekly in each direction to fixed time tables.

Subsidy for the Perth-Adelaide service is paid at the rate of 12s. 8d. per lb. of air mail conveyed with payment guaranteed as for a minimum mail loading of 600 lb. per single trip. Period of contract, five years from 2nd April, 1929.

Subsidy for the Perth-Derby service is paid at the rate of 2s. 7d. per mile, flown in accordance with the contract conditions; this rate will be reduced in June next to 2s. 6d. per mile, and in June, 1932, to 2s. 5d. per mile. Period of contract, three years from 10th June, 1930.

The contracts contain provisions enabling the Minister to withhold subsidy or to make deductions from the usual payment in the event of the conditions of contract not being observed by the operating company.

page 290

QUESTION

INTEREST ON LOANS

Dr EARLE PAGE:
through Mr. Paterson

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

  1. What interest is payable each month of the year 1931 by the Government of New South Wales to the Commonwealth?
  2. On what date does each amount fall due, and what is the amount?
  3. What interest has New South Wales paid during February and March?
  4. On what dates was such interest paid, and what were the individual amounts?
  5. What interest is overdue?
  6. What is the next date on which interest falls due, and how much will then fall due?
  7. Is it a fact that the Premier of New South Wales announced that his Government would refuse to pay interest when it fell due?
  8. What action does the Commonwealth Government propose to take to ensure that the Commonwealth law and the Constitution are upheld?
Mr SCULLIN:
ALP

– I am not in a position at present to answer the whole of the right honorable member’s questions, but will make the information available tomorrow.

Dr MALONEY:
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

In view of the announcement in the press on the 11th February, that the Savings Bank of Victoria has decided to reduce the rate of interest to 6 per cent. per annum on its loans, which rate has varied from 6¼ per cent. to 7 per cent., and in view of the fact that during the late war the Commonwealth Bank, under Sir Denison Miller, standardized interest at 6 per cent., will the Prime Minister request the Commonwealth Bank to follow this good example ?

Mr SCULLIN:

– The question of securing a reduction in all bank rates of interest is receiving consideration by the Government.

page 290

QUESTION

PARLIAMENT HOUSE

PicturesandWorksofArt.

Dr MALONEY:
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

  1. In view of the fact that many pictures by Australian artists and others are stored in the vaults of Parliament House, will he consider making use of the Commonwealth-owned hotels and other offices in which to hang some of these pictures?
  2. Will the Government announce publicly through the Gazette and newspapers that the works that are now hidden from sight could be lent for exhibition to any municipality or public body upon such public bodies guaranteeing safety, insurance, and carriage?
  3. What is the approximate number of such works ?
Mr SCULLIN:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. The honorable member’s suggestions will be brought to the notice of the Library Committee ana the Historic Memorials Committee.’ I am advised that some of the works of art referred to have already been made available to appropriate institutions on loan.

  1. This information will be furnished as soon as possible.

page 291

QUESTION

WORKS DEPARTMENT

Rationing of Officers

Mr R GREEN:
RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -

  1. Have any employees of his department been rationed; if so, under what conditions?
  2. How many of such employees are returned sailors or soldiers?
Mr CULLEY:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Yes. The conditions have varied in accordance with the amount of work available. In some cases employees were put off for one week and further broken time employment was not resorted to. The basis on which broken time is now being worked on departmental work is two weeks on and one week off, and, in one case, three weeks on and one week off.
  2. The total number of returned sailors or soldiers who have been affected is 22. The number affected at present is eight.

page 291

POSTAL DEPARTMENT

Dismissals

Mr R GREEN:
RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

asked the Postmaster-

General, upon notice -

  1. What number of employees (permanent, temporary, exempt and casual) have been dismissed from his department since 30th June, 1930?
  2. What is the number per month in each State?
  3. How many are returned sailors or soldiers ?
  4. What is the number of new appointments to the department since 30th June, 1930?
  5. What positions were filled by such new appointments ?
Mr A GREEN:
KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Four thousand and sixty-five.
  1. Two thousand one hundred and eightynine.
  2. One hundred and ninety-seven.
  3. Females. - Telephonist, 89; typist, 8; assistant 4. Juniors - Telegraph messenger, 85; junior mechanic, 3. Adults - Clerk, 1; lineman, 1 ; postman, 1 ; postal assistant,1 ; mail officer, 1 ; motor driver, 1 ; motor mechanic, 1; labourer, 1.

page 291

DEFENCE DEPARTMENT

Dismissals

Mr R GREEN:
RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

asked the Minister for

Defence, upon notice -

  1. What number of employees (permanent, temporary, exempt and casual) have been dismissed from his department since 30th June, 1930?
  2. What is the number per month in each State ?
  3. How many are returned sailors or soldiers ?
  4. What is the number of new appointments to the department since 30th June, 1930?
  5. What positions were filled by such new appointments ?
Mr CHIFLEY:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.

page 291

QUESTION

RENTS OF GOVERNMENT OFFICES

Dr MALONEY:
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -

  1. Will he give a list showing the addresses of all the Commonwealth Government Departments in Melbourne?
  2. Will he state the amounts of rent paid for each department that is rented, and the total rents paid?
  3. Could all these offices be accommodated in one building if the Melbourne Post Office were completed, as originally intended in the first complete plan?
Mr CULLEY:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. A list showing the addresses of all Commonwealth Government Departments in Melbourne with annual rentals in respect of each department and the total rentals at present being paid by the Commonwealth, is herewith.
  2. See answer to No. 1.
  3. No.

page 293

WORKS DEPARTMENT

Dismissals

Mr R GREEN:
RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

asked the Minister for

Works and Railways, upon notice -

  1. What number of employees (permanent, temporary, exempt and casual) have been dismissed from his department since 30th June, 1930?
  2. What is the number per month in each State?
  3. How many are returned sailors or soldiers ?
  4. What is the number of new appointments to the department since 30th June, 1930?
  5. What positions were filled by such now appointments ?
Mr CULLEY:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The information desired is furnished below.

  1. It is presumed that the honorable member’s question relates only to inside staffs. It is not possible to furnish information regarding casual employees engaged upon the various works throughout the Commonwealth, whose services from time to time have been dispensed with.
  2. One.
  3. Messenger (promoted from PostmasterGeneral’s Department).

page 293

QUESTION

IMPORTATION OF PROHIBITED GOODS

Mr R GREEN:
RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

  1. In how many cases has the consent of the Minister been given allowing importation of goods prohibited under Customs Proclamation No. 186?
  2. What goods or classes of goods were so affected; from what countries were they imported and on what dates were they passed for entry?
Mr FORDE:
ALP

– It would be impracticable to compile a complete list of the permits issued. Certain goods are rationed and others have been admitted to meet the special circumstances of the case. A very full statement of the manner in which the proclamation was being administered was furnished in an answer made in this House to the right honorable member for Cowper on the 14th May, 1930, and reported in Hansard, pages 1722-3, and for all practical purposes the conditions generally are now the same as those then prevailing.

page 294

QUESTION

ARBITRATION BASIC WAGE CASE

Cost to Commonwealth

Mr WHITE:

asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -

  1. What was the cost to the Commonwealth of the intervention of the Attorney-General in the “ public interests “ in the recent arbitration basic wage cases?
  2. What was the cost of further intervention through counsel when it was stated that the Government was formulating an industrial rehabilitation scheme and sought the suspension of operation of the orders made?
  3. What further costs were incurred by a later application through counsel that the court make no judgment for a month in cases pending?
  4. Who were the various counsels briefed by the Government?
  5. Are any members or former employees of the firm of Frank Brennan & Co. ; if so, which ?
  6. What fees were paid or are to be paid to the various’ counsels briefed?
  7. Have any returned soldier barristers ever been briefed by the present Government; if so, who ?
Mr BRENNAN:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. £408 6s. 9d.
  2. £83 9s. 6d.
  3. £13 2s.
  4. Mr. A. M. Fraser and Mr. T. C. Brennan, K.C.
  5. No.
  6. Mr. Fraser, £445; Mr. Brennan, £40.
  7. The following returned soldiers have been briefed by the present Government: - Dr. Brissenden, K.C.; E. M. Mitchell, K.C.; S. E. Betts; A. M. Cohen; W. S. Henton; E. F. McDonald; L. C. Badham; J. W. Shand; L. C. Hutchinson; W. R. Dovey; A. G. Hill; H. J. Studdart; T. A. Wells; E. W. Street; W. Hutton; G. J. O’Sullivan; V. E. Fetherston; P. Gallagher; W. L. Hamm, K.C.; E. Gorman, K.C.; N. O’Bryan; D. C. Robertson; D. Hearder; A. Dean; E. F. Herring; C. G. Duffy; J. H. Moore; R. Martin; E. R. Reynolds; P. D. Phillips; R. H. Gregory; J. B. Tait; L. Little; W. K. Fullagar; E. H. Coghill; G. L. Mayman; E. Reynolds; E. G. Coppel; A. L. Read; R. M. Warner; A. D. Ellis; G. C. Ligertwood, K.C.; P. F. Philp; and Hy. S. Baker.

page 294

QUESTION

IMPORTATION OF TEA

Dr EARLE PAGE:
through Mr. Paterson

asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that New Zealand admits Empire-grown tea free of duty, whilst 2d. per lb. is imposed upon foreign-grown tea?
  2. Is it a fact that a large firm of British tea producers has a controlling interest in 6,000 home and colonial stores which purchase Australian produce to the value of £1,250,000 annually, and that there is a danger of this trade reverting to New Zealand?
  3. Will he have inquiries made to establish whether foreign-grown teas are being sold to the Australian public labelled as “ Empiregrown pure Ceylon Teas “ ?
  4. Will he consider the reduction of the present duty by1d. per lb.?
  5. Why was preference to Empire-grown teas not given when the duty was recently increased ?
Mr FORDE:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Yes, if in bulk.
  2. No information is available on the subject.
  3. Inquiries will be made on this point, but if the labelling referred to is done in Australia the Commonwealth cannot take action.
  4. The duty is a revenue duty and was fixed after careful consideration. In view of the present state of the finances, no reduction is at present considered practicable.
  5. Except to the United Kingdom no preferences are granted by the tariff, except as the result of mutual agreements, and no such agreements have been made with regard to tea.

page 294

QUESTION

WAR PENSIONS

Mr YATES:

asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. What is the amount paid yearly in war pensions from the year 1915 to date, and what is the total amount?
  2. What is the amount paid yearly in war loan interest from the year 1915 to date, and what is the total amount?
  3. What is the number of the registered casualties of the Australian Imperial Force, including soldier pensioners?
  4. What amount of losses have war loan stock or bondholders suffered to date?
  5. What is the total amount of war loans, including war gratuity, borrowed?
  6. What amount has since been converted?
  7. What is the total now owing?
  8. What is the total interest paid to date on the foregoing?
Mr THEODORE:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

3.Registered casualties were 213,835. The number of soldier pensioners, if any, not included in this number cannot be ascertained without a complete analysis of all cases. Such an analysis would take a considerable time to complete.

  1. Interest on all loan holdings has been paid in full as it fell due, and the principal has been repaid on maturity or converted into a new loan at the holder’s request.
  2. £376,832,935.*
  3. £60,833,771.
  4. £315,999,164.
  5. See answer to No. 2.

*This sum includes an amount of £35,348,068 in respect of loans by Commonwealth to States for soldier land settlement. &c.

page 295

QUESTION

MINTING OF SILVER CURRENCY

Dr MALONEY:
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. Can the Government mint silver as an administrative act?
  2. Is there any silver currency held by the Commonwealth Treasury; if so, what is the amount, and how long has it been held in idleness or been sterilized?
  3. Will the Treasurer ask Cabinet to lend any such silver to the States at 2 per cent., to be expended on reproductive works for the unemployed ?
  4. What would be the yearly income from such silver at 2 per cent. interest?
Mr THEODORE:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Yes, provided it has funds available for the purchase of the bullion and for meeting the expenses of minting.
  2. Silver coin of the nominal value of £313,200 is held by the Commonwealth Treasury. Portion of this coin was minted in 1928, and the balance in 1929-30.
  3. As the silver already issued is sufficient to meet present public requirements, the Government does not consider it desirable to force the issue of additional silver.
  4. £6,264.
Mr MACKAY:

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

Whether it is a fact that Australian silver coins, which have been freely in circulation in the Union of South Africa, are now being refused by the post office and banks of that dominion ?

Mr SCULLIN:
ALP

– The Government is not in possession of any information on this subject.

page 295

QUESTION

IMPORTATION OF TIMBER AND MATCHES

Mr CROUCH:

asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

  1. What amount and value of (a) timber and (b) matches, were imported into Australia last year from the Russian Soviet Union?
  2. Is a system of forced labour now in existence in Russia?
  3. Has the United States Government recently prohibited the entry of many Russian articles because they are the product of forced labour ?
  4. Has his attention been drawn to the statement in the British House of Commons on 15th July, 1930, by the president of the Board of Trade, that forced labour, including that of prisoners, was employed in the timber industry in the Soviet Union?
  5. Will he make inquiries into these importations, and, if necessary, apply the prohibitive clauses of the Customs Act to them?
Mr FORDE:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1. (a) 1929-30 - Plywood, 898,492 square feet, valued at £8,651 ; dressed staves, 15,000, valued at £896; (b) l,256 gross of boxes, valued at £204.

  1. It has been so suggested in the press.
  2. Very little information is available, but, apparently, consular certificates have been demanded, and it is impracticable to get such consular certificates in Russia.
  3. Yes.
  4. Inquiries will be made, but importations at present are negligible.

page 296

QUESTION

HIGH COMMISSIONER IN LONDON

Mr CROUCH:

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

  1. Has his attention been drawn to the following statement by the Prime Minister of Canada in the Canadian House of Commons on the 20th September last : - “ In the judgment of the Administration, the High Commissioner should not only reflect the policies that were initiated by the Government, but enjoy to the fullest degree the confidence of the Administration, and reflect the attitude of mind of the Administration towards the problems with which they had to deal . . . Under these circumstances, it was the settled policy of the Administration that the office of High Commissioner was one that must be filled by some one in fullest accord with the policies of the Government of the day.”?
  2. Does the Australian High Commissioner in London reflect the policy of the Government ?
  3. Does the Prime Minister propose to adopt the Canadian position of regarding the High Commissioner in London almost as a member of the Government?
Mr SCULLIN:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. I have noted the extract quoted by the honorable member. 2 and 3. It is not the practice to express opinions or to deal with matters relating to policy in answer to questions.

page 296

QUESTION

WAR-TIME PROFITS TAX

Mr YATES:

asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

What is the amount collected each year to date under the authority of the War-time Profits Tax Act?

Mr THEODORE:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -

page 296

QUESTION

NEWSPAPER REPORTS

Mr CROUCH:

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

  1. What difference is there in standard time between Melbourne and Canberra?
  2. Can he explain how a speech of the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), which was concluded in this House at 4.25 p.m. on the 12th November last, appeared in the 3 p.m. edition of the Melbourne Herald on the same day?
  3. Is it a breach of privilege for a newspaper to report, as proceedings of the House, what has never occurred?
Mr SCULLIN:
ALP

– I would point out to the honorable member that any question concerning privilege should be addressed to Mr. Speaker.

page 296

QUESTION

NOTE ISSUE

Mr.CUSACK asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

What is the amount of paper money now extant in Australia?

What are the respective denominations of the bank notes?

Is it a fact that there are about £20,000,000 worth of notes of £1,000 denomination ?

Is it a fact that these £1,000 notes have never been put into circulation?

Are these notes kept in Canberra or Melbourne ?

Would it be of more advantage to Australia if a government bond or treasury note, or an I.O.U., were substituted for the £1,000 notes, thus rendering it unnecessary to hold so much gold?

Mr THEODORE:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. £45,653,426 10s.

2.-

  1. The value of £1,000 notes in circulation is £11,366,000.
  2. The £1,000 notes are used almost exclusively by the banks.
  3. The notes are held at the branches of the banks (including the Commonwealth Bank) in the several States.
  4. This question will be considered.

page 297

QUESTION

BRITISH ECONOMIC MISSION

Dr MALONEY:
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

  1. What are the names of the members of the delegation from England known as the “Big Four”?
  2. What was the number of persons accompanying each of these gentlemen, and in what capacity were they travelling with the delegation ?
  3. What was the total number in the party?
  4. What were the names of the Australian officials who assisted this delegation; what were their salaries and, approximately, the allowances paid to them during their attendance on the delegation?
  5. What was the name of each hotel at which the delegation stayed; what was the total of each hotel bill, and the amounts paid by the Commonwealth for motor cars, theatres, tips, and sundries?
  6. What was the cost of the various special trains, with meals, wines, cigars, tobacco, tips, &c. ?
  7. What was paid for steamer accommodation to and from Tasmania?
  8. If the return passages to England were paid by the Commonwealth, what was the cost?
  9. Will the Prime Minister furnish a list of any expenses incurred which are not included in the above?
Mr SCULLIN:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Sir Arthur Duckham, K.C.B.; Sir Hugo Hirst, Bart. ; Sir Ernest Clark, K.C.B., C.B.E. ; Mr. Dougal Orme Malcolm.
  2. Sir Arthur Duckham was accompanied by his wife, two daughters, son, and personal secretary - total, 5. Sir Hugo Hirst, by wife and personal secretary - total, 2. Sir Ernest Clark, by wife - total, 1. Mr. Malcolm, by wife and daughter - total, 2. Mr. Archer, of the Dominions Office, London, accompanied by wife, and Mr. Henderson, of the British Board of Trade, acted as secretaries to the delegation - total, 3. One male clerk, one male shorthand writer, and five servants also accompanied the delegation - total, 7.
  3. Twenty-four. 4. (a) Mr. A. C. Smith, salary £408 per annum, equipment allowance, £20. (b) Mr. J. S. Macfarlane, salary £250 per annum, equipment allowance, £10. (c) Mr. A. S. Kay, salary £416, travelling allowance 12s. per diem. Various other Australian officials accompanied the party from time to time to supply information and attend conferences, &c, but were not engaged in conducting the party throughout the tour.
  4. The name of each hotel and the amounts paid, inclusive of the hotel accounts of Commonwealth officials accompanying the delegation, are as under: -
  1. Most of the cost for railway transport was borne by the State Governments. £413 14s. Id. was paid to the Commonwealth Kailways Department and to the Government of Western Australia for special services on railways.
  2. £ 165 7s. 6d.
  3. The visit took place during the term of office of the previous Government, but the records indicate that. the Commonwealth did not bear the cost Of either the passages to Australia or the return passages from Australia.
  4. I am advised that all expenses are included in the foregoing figures.

page 298

QUESTION

AMENDMENT OF CONSTITUTION

Mr CUSACK:

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

Will he consider the taking of a referendum at the next federal election to alter the Constitution so that when a bill has passed the House of Representatives in two successive sessions it shall become law without the consent of the Senate?

Mr SCULLIN:
ALP

– Any proposal for an alteration to the Constitution or for legislation in connexion therewith would involve a matter of policy, and, as such, cannot be dealt with in answer to a question.

page 298

QUESTION

IMPORTATION OF FRUIT

Mr MARTENS:
through Mr. 0. Riley

asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -

  1. . What were the total importations of mangoes and other fruits used for the manufacture of chutney during the years 1925-26, 1926-27, 1927-28> 1928-29, and 1929-30?
  2. From what countries did such imports come, and by whom were they imported?
Mr FORDE:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. and 2. The importations of mangoes are not recorded separately in the statistics, and it cannot be said what quantity of other fruitimported is used in the manufacture of chutney.

page 298

QUESTION

UNIFORM TAXATION LAWS

Auditor-General’s REPORT

Mr CROUCH:

asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. Has the Auditor-General recommended that great economy could be effected by uniform Commonwealth and State income tax laws?
  2. What steps have been taken to bring about such a reform?
Mr THEODORE:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Yes.
  2. The question has been considered on a number of occasions, but so far all attempts to secure uniform income tax laws have failed. The matter will be further considered by the Government.

page 298

GARDEN ISLAND STAFF

Mr CHIFLEY:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– On Friday last the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) stated that it had been reported to him that the Naval Board, through its officers, intended to replace a number of civilians at Garden Island with naval ratings.

I promised the honorable member that I would have inquiries made, and am now in a position to say that the Naval Board has not received ,any proposal of the nature referred to by the honorable member, and no such action is contemplated.

page 298

QUESTION

AMALGAMATED WIRELESS (AUSTRALASIA) LIMITED

Royalties

Mr CROUCH:

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

  1. Did the Government pay in royalties to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited £46,240 in 1929-30, and £114,115 from November, 1927, to June, 1930?
  2. Are these royalties paid to the company on patent rights which appear in its balancesheet at £93,000?
  3. Has the Auditor-General reported that these royalty payments are excessive?
  4. Are the operating and overhead expenses of the company 81.6 per cent, of its revenue?
  5. Is it a fact that the larger the amount of operating and administrative costs, the lesser return is made to the Commonwealth on its shares ?
  6. Is the company ready to disclose what salaries are paid to its principal officers, which account for such heavy administrative costs?
  7. Will the Government obtain this information from the directors appointed by it to protect its interests ?
  8. When was the last individual reportreceived from any one of the directors appointed by the Government, and are such directors’ reports available?
Mr A GREEN:
KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Yes.
  2. The payments referred to are made in accordance with clause 8 of the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the Amalgamated Wireless, Limited, on the loth November, 1927, which reads as follows: - “ Within 30 days after the close of each month, commencing with the month of November, 1927, the Commonwealth shall pay to the company the sum of threepence in, respect of each person who was, on the last day of that month, licensed or otherwise permitted by the Commonwealth under the Wireless Telegraphy Act to listen to the transmission of wireless telephone broadcasting stations, and whose licence or permit was in force.”
  3. The Auditor-General reports - “Royalty payments to the company for the year 1929-30 amounted to £46,240, and for the period from 1st November, 1927, to 30th June, 1930, £114,115. Assuming that the balance-sheet value of the patent rights, viz., £93,000 is correct, it is considered the royalty obtained is altogether out of proportion.”
  4. The information is being obtained.
  5. The disposal of the profits is a matter for the directors.
  6. and 7. Sec answer to 4.
  7. The Government directors have,, from time to time, conferred with members of the Government, but beyond the printed annual report, made available to all shareholders, no reports have been submitted.

page 299

QUESTION

EXPORT OP CANNED MUTTON

Mr KILLEN:

asked the Minister for Markets, upon notice -

  1. Has his attention been drawn to the acceptance by the British War Office of Argentina’s tender, in preference to that of Australia for 1,500,000 tins of canned mutton?
  2. Is it a fact that Australia has a huge surplus of good mutton suitable for canning for which producers have for a long time been receiving Id. to lid. per lb. (a price far below the cost of production and the lowest price in any market in the world), and that this surplus is seriously depressing our local markets and, combined with the low price of wool, is ruining our sheep-raising industry?
  3. Is it a fact that the reason that Argentina was able to tender a lower price than Australia for the army contract is that labour conditions in the former country allow of much lower costs of packing of the meat?
  4. Will the Minister have inquiry made into this matter with a view to reducing the cost of packing to enable Australia to compete successfully for such contracts?
  5. Will the Minister impress on the British Government the urgent necessity that preference should be given in such contracts to tenders from British dominions?
Mr PARKER MOLONEY:
HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -

  1. My attention has been drawn to the acceptance by the British War Office of Argentina’s tender for 1,500,000 tins of canned meat, of which approximately 89 per cent. (1,335,000 tins) was canned beef and the remainder (165,000 tins) canned mutton. Originally this contract was limited strictly to beef, but as a result of representations by the Commonwealth Government to the War Office, it was agreed to include the small percentage of mutton mentioned.
  2. It Ls a fact that Australia has a large surplus of mutton suitable for canning for which producers have, for limited quantities, been receiving as low as Id. per lb. The average price, however, would be lid. per lb. 3 and 4. I am having inquiries made as to the definite reason why Argentina is able to tender at a lower price than Australia.
  3. The Australian delegates to the recent Imperial Conference strongly impressed on the British Government the necessity, not only for the retention of existing preferences to Australia, but their extension, and, as a result, all existing preferences, including that on meat, have been retained. The present preference which Great Britain gives the British dominions on canned and other meat is a substantial one.

page 299

QUESTION

ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE

Machines

Mr CROUCH:

asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

  1. Whether the airplane Widgeon I. is now out of service owing to the expense of its reconditioning not being justified?
  2. Was the machine of the Widgeon II. inefficient, and destroyed in an accident with loss of life?
  3. Was the Warrigal I. found unsuitable for the purpose for which it was designed?
  4. Who built these planes, and who is responsible for their purchase, acceptance, use and loss?
Mr CHIFLEY:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as’ follow : -

  1. Widgeon I. was an experimental boat amphibian designed in the first place for civil aviation purposes, but finally used up by the Air Force for the training of seaplane pilots. When no longer serviceable through fair wear and tear, rebuilding was not considered justified and it was struck off charge.
  2. Widgeon II. was a boat amphibian, a development of Widgeon I., produced for civil aviation purposes. It had done 130 hours flying, including a flight round Australia. Whilst undergoing tests at Point Cook it met with an accident involving loss of life. There was nothing to cause Air Force officers to consider that it was aerodynamically inefficient.
  3. Warrigal I. was an experimental training landplane, designed for the purpose of reducing the cost of Air Force training. During the course of its development a still lighter and cheaper aircraft was developed in England and, although not meeting all the needs for which Warrigal I. was designed, its use was considered to be still more economical. The light plane was adopted for training and the original idea of Warrigal I. was not gone on with.
  4. These planes were designed and constructed at the Royal Australian Air Force Experimental Section, Randwick, Widgeon I. and II. for the Controller of Civil Aviation and Warrigal I. for the Air Board. Widgeon I.was used up by the Air Force and was not lost. Widgeon II., after construction, not being required by the Controller of Civil Aviation,was being tested with the view to its possible use for the training of seaplane pilots and was lost under conditions set out in the answer to question . 2. Warrigal I., after test, was damaged during a landing due to an error of judgment on the part of the pilot, and in view of the circumstances set out in the answer to question 3 was not rebuilt.

page 300

QUESTION

CONSTRUCTION OF TELEPHONE LINE

Mr CUSACK:

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that a telephone line was constructed from Wee Jasper to a property owned by a Mr. Killen?
  2. What was the cost of that line?
  3. Does it serve any persons in addition to the gentleman referred to?
Mr A GREEN:
KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP; FLP from 1931; ALP from 1936

– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.

page 300

CONCILIATION AND ARBITRATION BILL

Motion (by Mr. Brennan) agreed to -

That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1930, and for other purposes.

page 300

FIDUCIARY NOTES BILL

Motion (by Mr. Theodore) agreed to -

That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act relating to the issue of a fiduciary currency.

Bill brought up and read a first time.

Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.

Second Reading

Mr THEODORE:
Treasurer · Dalley · ALP

by leave - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

In speaking to the second reading of this bill it is not necessary for me to discuss its provisions in detail. It is a clearly drafted measure, and its main principles are contained in a few clauses. Having directed attention to the scheme of the bill, I shall deal at greater length with the policy of the Government in regard to finance.

The bill provides for a fiduciary currency. The notes printed by authority of this measure will be known as treasury notes. An amount not exceeding £18,000,000 will be issued by the Commonwealth Bank Board. Of that amount a sum not exceeding £6,000,000 will be issued, as and when required by the Governor-General, for the purpose of providing relief to wheatgrowers. That relief will be provided in accordance with the plan which was agreed to at a conference of Premiers held last month. There will also be an issue to an amount not exceeding £12,000,000, and not exceeding £1,000,000 in each month, to be issued as and when required by the GovernorGeneral for the purpose of providing employment on reproductive works. The money derived from the issue of treasury notes and any interest thereon is to be placed to the credit of a fiduciary notes account - a trust account which will be under the control of the Treasury, and will be established within the meaning of the Audit Act, 1901-1926. Upon the raising of loans for the redemption of the securities issued by virtue of this bill, the proceeds, after payment of the expenses of borrowing, will be applied to the redemption of those securities, whereupon they, and also treasury notes up to £6,000,000 will be redeemed and cancelled.

The bill contains an important provision which may obviate the necessity of issuing any additional notes at all. That provision is contained in clause 10, which reads -

Notwithstanding anything contained in this part, if the board notifies the Treasurer that it is prepared to provide, for the purposes of this act, loans or advances to the Commonwealth to the extent of the whole or part of the total amount of Treasury notes which may be issued in pursuance of section 5 of this act, and the Treasurer certifies, by certificate published in the Gazette, that he is satisfied that the terms upon which the board is prepared to provide those loans or advances are satisfactory to the Commonwealth, the amount for which Treasury notes may be issued in pursuance of this part shall be reduced by the amount for which the board is prepared to provide loans or advances.

The only other important provision is that which relates to the necessary statutory authority for. the expenditure of money to carry out the purposes of the measure. The bill itself is simple; it provides the machinery whereby the Government may demand from the note issuing authority currency up to the amount already mentioned.

Before I deal more specifically with the monetary policy of the Government, I desire to remind honorable members that a fiduciary currency is by no means a novelty. In England a form of currency known as a fiduciary currency has been in operation for many years, and is now under the management of the Bank of England. It was established during the period of the war by the British Treasury as one of the measures provided for the purpose of financing the nation’s war operations. It is now authorized under the British Currency and Banknotes Act, 1928, which authorizes the Bank of England to issue banknotes up to an amount representing the gold coin and gold bullion in its issue department, and, in addition, notes representing £260,000,000 in excess of the notes issued against gold. That excess issue is known as a fiduciary note issue. It is well to remind honorable members that it may arbitrarily be increased upon requisition by the Bank of England, approved by the British Treasury. When considered necessary, the bank makes a request for a certain amount of increased currency for a stated period. Upon the Treasury approving of the request, authority is given for the issue of the additional currency for a period not exceeding six months. The issue can be renewed each six months, provided that it shall not remain in force for more than two years, without the sanction of Parliament.

I mention these facts because there seems to be a widespread belief that what is being proposed by the Government in this bill is something without precedent, and therefore unorthodox and unsound.

In order to understand what has rendered necessary the introduction of this measure, we have to consider the main problem confronting Australia to-day. Australia is faced with a crisis which may be described as the result of the breakdown of our monetary and economic system. That breakdown is evident when we reflect that, although our productive capacity is almost without, limit, many thousands of our citizens are either starving or are on the brink of starvation. There is a vast amount of work waiting to be done in Australia - work which is necessary for the proper development of the country and would, if completed, be reproductive; but the work is not being proceeded with although scores of thousands of our citizens are unemployed and hungering for work. The industries Of the country are intact; the organization of industry and the marketing of the products have been placed on a sound basis. Our land has not been devastated by war, drought, pestilence, flood, or any other natural evil or calamity. Our transport services are better than they have ever been; our warehouse accommodation has never been so great; wharfs and other facilities for the handling of goods are in as good condition, as ever. Yet the country is commercially and industrially paralysed. The troubles from which we are suffering arise, not from what may be termed natural causes, but from human causes, from the maladministration of the system that is operating in the country. We are where we are to-day because of human faults and the complete breakdown of our monetary system.

Unfortunately, Australia is not alone in her suffering ; the present depression ‘ is world-wide. Primary-producing countries as well as those which are highly organized industrially; countries that have established a highwage system, and those which are struggling under low wage conditions; countries whose fiscal policy is freetrade as well as those which espouse protection ; countries with a republican, or monarchist, or other form of government - all are suffering from the samo economic maladies from which Australia is suffering. In every case the cause is the same - the complete breakdown of the monetary system.

It may be said that if the troubles from which we are suffering are worldwide, then Australia’s difficulties do not arise from any failure on the part of our own bankers and financial controllers. I shall endeavour to show that those who control the financial policy of Australia have failed to do what they might have done to mitigate, so far as this country is concerned, the worst evils of the world-wide economic depression. Australia has suffered its worst effects owing to the collapse of the export market and the fall in the prices of our export commodities. The bankers and financial controllers of Australia became panic-stricken at the first onset of the trouble; by their drastic reaction to . world conditions they added immensely to our troubles. Had we such a well-ordered and flexible system that upon any diminution in the national income arising from a decline in commodity values there would be a corresponding equitable and immediate decrease in individual incomes; had we a system that would work so pleasantly that there would be a proportionate, fair and immediate reduction in all costs with our diminished national income; there would virtually be no suffering in Australia to-day. The national income comprises a certain fund out of which wages, salaries, interest, profits and dividends, and all other commitments are paid. If everyone who draws from that fund could, by some form of magic, be made to suffer a proportionate diminution of income with the decline of the fund, there would be no intolerable hardship. Whatever hardship existed would be shared by all.

Under the system now in operation a fall in the national income resulting from any sudden slump in commodity prices, brings about such a condition of disequilibrium that certain sections of the community suffer a great deal more than others do. In order to avoid that disproportionate sacrifice, a new monetary policy must be devised. These are the things which the Prime Minister and I have been discussing with bankers, State Premiers and other authorities. The Government set before the banks certain considered proposals which were designed to meet the situation in Australia, to bring about as far as practicable a revival in industry, the re-employment of our unemployed citizens, and the stimulation of business and trade in order better to meet the difficulties caused by the fall in the prices of our commodities sold overseas.

I shall outline the matters discussed first with the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, subsequently with the Premiers in conference assembled, and later with the representatives of the associated banks. I shall give only an outline of the proposed financial measures, but. it will be sufficient to indicate the scheme that the Government placed before those authorities. The first discussion was with Sir Robert Gibson, on 30th January last, about a week before the Premiers assembled at Canberra. We stated that the objects we were aiming at were: -

  1. Re-absorption in industry of workers at present unemployed;
  2. Restoration of budget equilibrium;
  3. Maintenance of national solvency;
  4. An equitable spread of the loss of national income over all sections of the community.

To enable this to be achieved we urged that it was necessary that there should be a definite policy embodying the following:

  1. Provision of bank credit to support existing industries and to extend industry and enterprise where the propositions are sound.
  2. The upward movement of prices resulting from the credits made available to be checked and stabilized at the wholesale price level denoted by the index number 1800, which is the approximate average index number for five years ended 1929. By stimulating production, the amount of saleable goods will be increased, and the upward trend of prices that had begun will be automatically arrested and will be stabilized.
  3. The Commonwealth Bank to purchase government securities on the market as extensively as is needed to restore such securities to a reasonable value. The object is to regain a 5 per cent. rate.

Existing government overdrafts to be funded. Commonwealth Bank to arrange to make reserve bank credit available against this issue of securities or to advance Australian notes to the extent of one-third the amount of this issue held by banks.

  1. As early as possible after the market recovers a loan to be issued for new money to finance farm relief measures; and a moderate increase in the loan programme to assist in the absorption of labour. This loan to be on a 5 per cent. basis and to be underwritten by the Commonwealth Bank and supported by the trading banks.
  2. Substantial reduction in bank rates of interest on deposits and on bank loans and overdrafts.
  3. London exchange to go to its natural level. The exchange pool to be maintained to provide funds for oversea obligations, and if necessary to that end, exchange to be controlled through customs licences, share transfers, &c, so that proceeds are made available to the pool at the Commonwealth Bank, London. The present exchange rate being abnormal, the action outlined should bring about a reduction atan early date. As production increases the exchange rate will decrease.
  4. The bank margin on exchange transactions should be reduced to 7s.6d. per cent.
  5. At an early date an attempt should be made to fund the short term London debt.
  6. Rigid economy in State and Commonwealth expenditure, and elimination of duplication in all kinds of services.

It is expected that these measures will increase employment and production and result in budget equilibrium by June, 1933, as shown in an approximate budget statement drafted by the Treasury officials. A restoration to the 1929 level of internal prices will result in an increase in the value of production used in local consumption from approximately £220,000,000 to say, £290,000;000. With the return to normal home consumption there will be a further increase in the value of production of about £30,000,000 to replace imports. Imports very largely declined, first of all because of the lack of funds in London to finance purchasers, and, secondly, because of the operation of tariffs and markets, and so on. But the need for certain goods that we have heretofore purchased still exists, and with the restoration to something like prosperity that need could be met from local production. These increases in value will bring about a vast improvement in the national income. The public will benefit from the effect of increased volume of production and trade following as a result of the employment of many thousands of men now idle; from the enormous increased turnover, calculated in money, in almost every branch of trade and industry; and from the restored value of estates and properties. It can be expected that the revenue of the railways, post-offices, and other government services will be immediately benefited, and that after the policy has operated for a few months nearly all sources of government income will become more buoyant, especially excise, probate and succession stamp duties, as well as the sales tax, and other forms of direct and indirect taxes. The income tax will not respond to the full effect of the new policy until the third year owing to the assessments being made on an earlier income-year.

That briefly is the outline of the monetary policy that was placed before the Commonwealth Bank, and discussed with the Premiers and the associated banks. It was a practicable proposal that took into account the difficulties with which this country is faced, and undoubtedly, had it operated, it would have contributed to the solution of the worst of those difficulties. It is true that had that policy operated in its entirety there may have been some risk of what is called inflation. The Prime Minister and myself consider that that risk is small. Although a certain amount of inflation may take place, it will be controllable. The factors and influences that will en able a policy of this kind to be operated can be operated to stop it, or to prevent it from getting out of hand. The banks themselves can bring about deflation, and they can stop deflation. They can if they wish bring about a certain measure of inflation, and stop where they like. It is true, however, that these are not things which can be governed exactly. The banks cannot, without many preliminary precautions, measure the point to which they can safely go in an inflationary or deflationary policy. But, proceeding cautiously, it would be an easy matter for the banks to stop the trend towards deflation at any given point. To prevent inflation from getting out of hand, precautionary measures are undoubtedly necessary. The effect of a release of credit has to be carefully watched. Let us consider what it is that everybody dreads from inflation. It is feared that inflation may lead to the collapse of our currency, or have such an adverse effect upon currency as to depreciate its value enormously. There can be no other fear. No one will oppose inflation merely because it is inflation; it is opposed because of its possible evil consequences.

Mr Gabb:

– The people oppose it because of the lessons of history.

Mr THEODORE:

– Surely not merely because of that alone; but because they fear some evil consequences. If a measure of inflation were to lead to the destruction of our currency, and to the disorganization of our financial affairs and relative values, it would be evil. We must guard against such a happening. But before we could reach that point, certain things would come about. We cannot have the effects of inflation until we stop deflation; we cannot have the adverse effects of inflation until there has been a considerable stimulus in industry, trade and business, and the setting up of such competition for the buying of goods as to cause price levels to ascend. It is this stimulus in trade ; it is this active buying and selling of goods and commodities that is so much needed in Australia to-day. Before price levels ascend to such a point as to cause the destruction of relative values, we must control the output of credit or increase of currency or whatever measure of inflation has been operating. That is the safeguard to the community. One honorable member spoke about what has happened in Germany and other countries as a result of inflation. Inflation took place in Germany, but it was an unlimited and deliberate inflation; it was a policy of inflation that consisted of the deliberate injection into the system of finance of billions of marks for a definite purpose, as part of the definite government policy of that country. There is no doubt that that was done designedly. It was not a case of a monetary policy getting out of hand. Inflation was resorted to by the Government of the day as a means of relieving the people of Germany ofthe tremendous and crushing obligations resting upon them from the reparation settlements.

Mr Marr:

– What about France?

Mr THEODORE:

– In France, there was a certain measure of inflation, but it did not lead to the destruction of the national currency. On the contrary, it led to a condition of things which has resulted in the financial position of France to-day being better than that of any other European country.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

– The Treasurer knows nothing whatever about that subject.

Mr THEODORE:

– I have here a table showing the position of France in regard to the inflation of the note issue.

Mr Gabb:

– What happened to the bondholders of that country?

Mr THEODORE:

– Whatever happened in France, it is certain that there was an enormous increase in the currency in circulation. It was designedly increased twelvefold compared with the currency of 1913, and by about fivefold compared with that of 1922. In 1926, the currency was stabilized at a certain point. What was done in France was done intentionally. If that nation depreciated its currency, and did injury to its internal bondholders, it was done as the result of the deliberate policy of the Government. We now know that it is possible to have inflation, to control it and to stabilize it. That is all that can be argued from the experience of France. Honorable members may argue that an injustice was done to the internal bond holders, or to the holders of certain fixed money claims. That is a different question. But the history of currency control in France in recent years, teaches us that inflation is controllable. It must be strange to those who are opposing this measure to learn that at the time when the maximum increase was taking place in the French currency, there was stability in internal price levels. The price levels did not increase; they remained stable. Since 1924 the French currency increased in the following way : -

While the wholesale price levels, during the three years from 1927 to 1930 were indicated by the index numbers 617, 619 and 611, last year they had actually declined to 487.

Mr Stewart:

– Why have not other countries followed the example of France ?

Mr THEODORE:

– That may be an inquiry worth pursuing; but these figures cannot be challenged since they are taken from the monthly bulletin of statistics issued by the League of Nations in December, 1930. They show an expansion of currency in the measure I have mentioned, while the price levels, after remaining stationary for three years, actually declined in the last year. It is well known, too, that productive activity continued to increase by leaps and bounds while the inflation was going on.

Mr Hughes:

– The franc has been stabilized.

Mr THEODORE:

– Since 1926 it has been stabilized at 125 francs to the pound.

There are naturally grounds for apprehension that any policy of inflation may get out of hand. Nobody recognizes that danger more than the Government. But so long as the policy is properly controlled we can prevent it getting out of hand. Why should we not properly control it? Honorable members opposite, and their newspaper supporters, have had their fling at this idea of inflation, and have erected out of it a bogey, which is frightening even themselves. But I wish to show how we may utilize the credit creating possibilities of this nation for the purpose of saving this nation, and we ought not to be deterred by the fear of a bogey that exists chiefly in the imagination of honorable members opposite. Even some of the conservative economists in Australia are not frightened by the bogey of inflation. Professor J. B. Brigden had something to say about this matter in the course of an address before the Queensland Grocers Association on the 30th October last. His address is reported in the daily press about the same date. That was on the eve of the meeting of Parliament for the short session at the end of last year. He was then envisaging the difficulties of meeting the loan maturing in December, and he said -

I think it (the money) cannot be got. I doubt very much if it can be raised in the ordinary way from the public, and either we must default in December or adopt some artificial expedient. It can be done by the expansion of credit. When the conversion is going through it will be seen that enough new money is not being subscribed, and the Commonwealth Treasury will, perhaps, bring a little pressure to bear upon the banks in order to save us from failing to pay our debts in Australia, and the banks may be forced virtually to expand credit to a degree they do not want to do at present, and increase their credit to cover the unsubscribed portion of the loan.

He explained that this was the way loans had been financed during the war. It was the cause of the inflation of credit during the war, and the inflation of prices. The same thing might happen in the near future - inflated credit and inflated prices, but reduced costs would provide a margin for the latter.

Professor Brigden also made this pregnant remark -

Why should Australia go down with the rest of the world to a lower price level, if that would mean more distress, and if they could check that drift and assure to manufacturers and producers generally that, if they went ahead with their production, in three months’ time they would have fairly stable values ?

In that observation there is wisdom. Professor Brigden, although one of the leading economists of Australia, is undoubtedly a man of conservative mind; he is not one who would advocate .wild theories. I find that most of the economists in this country speak in a similar strain. Politicians, mostly, are responsible for the scare about inflation, and for the talk about the necessity of allowing the banks to carry on their ruinous and destructive policy.

Mr Maxwell:

– How did the banks receive the Government’s proposal?

Mr THEODORE:

– They received it with hostility. The Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks indicated no readiness to co-operate with the Government to give effect to it.

Mr Gregory:

– What did they suggest?

Mr THEODORE:

– At a later stage, I shall show the attitude they adopted. They pretended to find, something unsound in this policy, and I shall quote their letter shortly to show how they thought the situation should be faced. First of all some of the representatives of the banks rushed into the press and said that what the Government and the Treasurer advocated could not be done, because it was beyond the capacity of the banks to provide the extra credit required - they had not the reserves. That was their attitude. There was, they said, a demand for millions to provide employment. They had not the millions. I never at any time suggested that the trading banks had notes or any other tangible currency amounting to millions of pounds which they would not use. I know, as a matter of fact, that the ratio of advances to deposits in the trading banks has been gradually increasing; but that is the result of the monetary policy carried out by the banks themselves. Contraction of credits has the effect of reducing deposits, while a more liberal and progressive policy by the same banks will have the effect of increasing their deposits and reserves.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

– Oh!

Mr THEODORE:

– The well-known and pontifical authority from Warringah presumes to sneer at what I am saying. For his special benefit I shall quote what has been written upon this very matter by Mr. Wickens, the Commonwealth Statistician, so recently as the 20th January,. 1931. This comment is embodied by the Statistician in a report to the Government. He does not set it forth . as an original idea, but as the result of his research as a statistician and economist- -

Here it may be well to draw attention to another popular misconception. It is believed by many that the source of the deposits of the ordinary cheque-paying banks is the lodging therewith of currency or its equivalent by depositors, and that the funds available for the purpose of advances by the bank are these same deposits. There is no doubt an element of truth in this. Depositors do lodge currency with their bankers, and the banks do. utilize these deposits in connexion with advances. But it is far from the whole truth. Very much of the amount which appears as “ deposits “ in a bank’s returns was actually brought into existence as such by means of an advance by that or some other bank. That is to say, the current accounts of the bank are in part due to the lodging of currency by clients, and in part to the creation of credit by the banks themselves; and where banking business is brisk much the larger part is due to the latter cause.

Of course, any one who has read or studied the mechanism of banking knows that that is an indisputable fact. I do not say that any individual trading bank can, by its own machinery, create an unlimited amount of credit upon which its customers may draw. Nor do the trading banks, acting collectively, do that. But the banking organization of every country, including the central bank, which controls the note issue, undoubtedly has the power to create credit. The only reason why central reserve banking systems have been so largely organized in the last ten years is that an improved system for the control of credit to suit the needs of trade was desired.

Mr Gullett:

– What nonsense!

Mr THEODORE:

– I hear some mutterings from the Opposition; but they show a disposition not to listen to the statement of the Government’s case on this subject. It would, perhaps, lead to the better edification of honorable members if they would listen in silence.

The banks were unwilling to- co-operate with the Government in operating the policy that I have outlined. Had they been willing to do so, it could have been put into effect without the necessity for additional legislation. At any rate, in the first place, the only legislation that would have been necessary, and even that was conjectural, was legislation which later might have been required for the better governmental control of the exchanges. It was suggested in the course of the discussions by the banks themselves that, on account of operations outside the banks, in the exchange markets, it might have been necessary to license exports in order to give complete control of the funds accruing in London and the overseas markets. That might have been necessary ultimately; but practically no other measure was required to operate the complete policy which was outlined.

The banks having rejected that proposal, it has now become necessary for the Government to ‘come to Parliament for specific legislation to give effect to the Government’s monetary policy. This measure, a bill to provide for a fiduciary currency, is but one of a series that will be necessary to put the Government’s scheme into operation. The fiduciary currency measure is a pivotal one, round which the others will revolve. It will provide for the wheat-growers the immediate relief of which they stand in such urgent need to-day. Without it they cannot be provided with the required assistance. Neither the banks nor any other authority can provide the £6,000,000 which is necessary. It is true that the farmers may obtain certain limited advances from State agricultural banks financed by the Commonwealth Bank. They may also have a more or less futile hope of additional assistance from the loan put up by my honorable friend the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), if ever it is subscribed, and if. having been subscribed, it is made available to the farmers, who have no security to offer for it. Apart from that measure of relief, small though it is bound to be, there is no hope for the wheat-farmers, except what is provided under this fiduciary note scheme. That is a fact which cannot be overlooked by the farmers and their representatives in this House. There is no other possible means forthcoming. No other means is suggested by the banks, by the Leader of the Opposition, (Mr. Latham), or by any other authority, to provide for the employment of the hundreds of thousands of our unemployed citizens. Where are they to obtain either sustenance or remunerative employment unless the necessary money is provided?

Mr Maxwell:

– Can there be any sound creation of credit without adequate security behind it?

Mr THEODORE:

– I agree with the honorable member that you cannot have a sound creation of credit without security behind it. If credit is created by means of additional currency, or merely by bank advances, and is expended upon activities or enterprises, that have no security, it is an unsound transaction that probably will result in heavy loss to whoever is backing it. But it is not suggested that any scheme put forward by the Government for the creation of additional credit or currency will not be amply backed by security. Honorable members opposite scoff at that statement. They apparently believe that this country has no security to offer; that it is bankrupt. They have no faith in their own country. They believe that its security has vanished. If that security is impaired at the present time it is as a result of their rotten propaganda against the proposals of the Government.

At the present time the real national liabilities resting upon this nation - that is, the debts that we owe’ overseas - are not greater than £575,000,000. Against that indebtedness we have in this country assets that two years ago were valued at £3,000,00’0,000. I am prepared, if honorable members opposite please, to halve that figure, to suppose that the depreciation has been so tremendous that those assets are now worth only £1,500,000,000. Even then they would amount to three times as much as we owe overseas. Surely, therefore, this country is solvent, and has all the security that it needs! Will anyone say that it cannot meet its commitments, provide for its requirements, and cover the additional bank credit or the additional currency that may be needed? Anyone who suggests that, does not know the economic strength of his own nation.

The Fiduciary Notes Bill is the pivotal measure. It is necessary to have other measures, in order to carry out what was outlined to the banks by the Government. We have to control in some way and to reduce interest charges upon industry and business. There is no doubt that existing interest charges are too high. They are bearing heavily upon every branch of industry and business. If we can effect a reduction of the interest on deposits, as well as upon bank loans and advances, the result will be a lowering of interest charges over the whole financial gamut of our industrial world. The interest charged by the banks is practically the basis upon which rates are’ fixed by other institutions, and is the controlling factor also in the fixation of the rates payable on government loans. Consequently, we must deal legislatively with that matter. As the banks will not voluntarily agree to the control of interest rates, a measure designed to effect that purpose will be introduced.

Another measure may be necessary to provide better and more effective control of the exchange, so that the rate will not rise to an abnormal level. In my opinion, it is at an abnormally high level at the present time.

Mr Gregory:

– That, I suppose, is another way of helping the wheatgrower !

Mr THEODORE:

– The primary producer who depends on overseas markets will receive the actual measure of .pro’tection to which he is entitled. If, as a consequence of the operation of our monetary policy, price levels in Australia increase, the primary producer must be protected, by being given from time to time an adequate premium upon his exchanges. That matter will be looked after.

Then again, the Central Reserve Bank Bill must be re-introduced and become law, and the Commonwealth Bank must be freed from that private bank domination which has prevented it from carrying out its true functions in Australia. There is no doubt that it has been strangled in its operations. It has not been allowed to extend its branches, nor to operate in active or aggressive competition with other banking institutions. From the time that the Bruce-Page Government amended the Commonwealth Bank Act, the Commonwealth Bank has not expanded, but has been in a condition of arrested development. It has become a mere appanage of the other banks in Australia.

Doubtless it will be necessary also in the near future to deal with the gold reserve which is the backing of the present currency. I have not been able to find any one who can’ logically defend the retention in the Commonwealth Bank of a large amount of gold bullion or gold coin which serves, no useful purpose except to provide a mere backing for the gold issue.

Mr Gullett:

– A mere backing!

Mr THEODORE:

– The honorable member who makes that sneering remark probably will defend the keeping of that large quantity of gold in the Commonwealth Bank while we are faced with the necessity of having to default upon our payments due in London.

Mr Gullett:

– If you send the gold away this year, what will you do next year?

Mr THEODORE:

– We cannot send it away twice. I suppose that the logic of that interjection is “Don’t send it away this year; don’t pay your debts this year; keep the gold so that you will be able to pay your debts next year after you have defaulted this year.” The honorable member would default in London so long as we were able to maintain that superstitious reverence for the gold reserve at the Commonwealth Bank. I see no necessity for doing so. I do see the necessity for having a limit placed upon our note issue; but that can be done without the present gold reserve.

Honorable members interjecting,

Mr SPEAKER (Hon Norman Makin:

– I have allowed honorable members a fair amount of latitude, but I cannot extend to them any further leniency. Any honorable member who, in future, disobeys the Chair, will be named without further warning.

Mr THEODORE:

– The metallic reserve for the Australian note issue, when established, was intended to enable Australian notes to be convertible into gold at the will of those who held them. That character of the Australian note has been entirely lost. To-day it is no longer convertible ; or at any rate, its convertibility is illusory. It is true that the notes stillbear upon their face a promise to pay in gold at the head office of the Commonwealth Bank. If a large quantity of notes were presented, and gold were demanded, that gold would be paid by the Commonwealth Bank; but the recipient of it would immediately receive from the bank a notice requisitioning that gold back from him.

Mr Yates:

– Under the act passed last year?

Mr THEODORE:

– Yes. The convertibility of the Australian note has been entirely lost; but that has not shaken the faith of the Australian people in it. Its value in the performance of its currency functions is exactly the same as it was previously. If all the gold in the Commonwealth Bank were shipped away, that value would not be destroyed.

Mr Gregory:

– That is nothing to be proud of.

Mr THEODORE:

– What is there to be proud of in keeping idle gold, while we imperil, by that process, the solvency of the nation? No good purpose is thereby served, and we shall have to take the steps that I have indicated to place the matter on a sounder basis.

A few days ago the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons), speaking in this House, made a sarcastic reference to the proposed fiduciary currency, and said that the money to be created under this measure would not be real money. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), speaking or writing somewhere, referred to it as “ spurious money “. I ask those honorable members who speak so slightingly of the proposed currency to define real money. If this is not to be real money, what is real money? Are the Australian notes that are now in circulation real money ?

Mr Marr:

– They are becoming unreal.

Mr THEODORE:

– In what respect?

Mr Marr:

– They are becoming less in value.

Mr THEODORE:

– The Australian note is more valuable to-day than it was two years ago, because it purchases nearly 25 per cent. more than it did then. One of the difficulties that confront Australia to-day is that money is becoming more valuable, while goods, commodities and services are becoming less valuable. That is what is creating the dis-equilibrium between one class and another of our citizens. The Australian note has a real, a tangible value. It is legal tender; it will pay for any service or any obligation that can be paid for with any money.

Mr Gullett:

– Overseas ?

Mr THEODORE:

– Not overseas. The paper money of any country is not currency in any other country. The honorable member simply exhibits his igno- ranee of the character of paper money when he makes that interjection. The Australian note never had currency overseas, except that kind of currency that might have been given to it by any person who held it and others who were willing to accept it. It had no legal tender character in any sense. It was made legal tender in Australia, and has to be accepted to any amount in the discharge of debts or obligations here. In that sense, the character of the Bank of England note is not in the slightest degree different from that of the Australian note.

Mr Gullett:

– What about the exchange value?

Mr THEODORE:

– The honorable member is merely displaying his ignorance. Will those who refer to the proposed currency under this bill as “ spurious money “ explain what difference there will be between the character of that money and the money which is now in circulation in Australia? This fiduciary currency will be legal tender up to any amount, and will have to be accepted for the discharge of debts and obligations. Its value will not vary to the slightest extent from that of the Australian note that is now in circulation ; it will vary from time to time only as the Australian note varies.

Mr Nairn:

-. - It will buy less.

Mr THEODORE:

– It will buy exactly the equivalent of any other currency in circulation in Australia.

Mr Yates:

– It will buy as much as a sovereign will buy.

Mr THEODORE:

– Will those who say that this will not be real money say what is real money? I suppose they argue that the Australian notes, or the bank currency in circulation at the present time, can be regarded as real money. According to them, if a bank grants an overdraft to a client and gives him a cheque book, with the right to draw upon his account at the bank, that is real money. Yet this, they say, is not real money. A cheque is not legal tender, and has an altogether different character. I do not wish it to be thought that I am attacking that practice as unsound. The point that I wish to convey is that apparently honorable members opposite regard as real whatever money is created by a bank, but as spurious the currency established by this Parliament, with the backing .of the resources of the nation - currency that is made legal tender within our borders. If the honorable member’s salary is tendered to him in these notes, I hope he will not regard them as “ spurious money.”

Mr Gullett:

– I shall. They will not be worth 2s.

Mr THEODORE:

– If I could be sure that the honorable member would refuse to accept them, I would see that these notes were tendered to him in payment of his parliamentary allowance.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

– The Treasurer will not be here to authorize that to be done.

Mr THEODORE:

– I have heard similar statements before. Something to the same effect was said last week, but we are still here.

Mr Maxwell:

– On what principle is the issue fixed at £1S,000,000?

Mr THEODORE:

– On the principle which the Government has stood for all along - that there must be some limitation. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) surely has not been under any misapprehension in that regard. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) made it abundantly clear that there must be a limit. We recognize the necessity for a limit in the issue of currency lest it might react upon price levels and perpetrate a greater injustice than it rectified.

Mr Maxwell:

– That is scarcely an answer to my question as to the principle on which the issue has been fixed at £18,000,000.

Mr THEODORE:

– That is the principle

Honorable members of the Opposition interjecting,

Mr SPEAKER (Hon Norman Makin:

– Honorable members, particularly those on the front Opposition bench, have repeatedly disregarded my request that interjections should cease. I ask them to obey the Chair, and not to display such disrespect as has been evidenced by certain honorable members this evening. I have given honorable members fair warning, and shall certainly not warn them further. I shall name the next honorable member who disregards the direction of the Chair.

Mr THEODORE:

– The honorable member for Fawkner asks on what principle the issue is being fixed at £18,000,000. I take it that he wishes to know how we were guided as to the amount that should be fixed as the limit. I think I indicated earlier, in outlining the plan placed before the banks, that the Government thought it safe, and, indeed, desirable, to have such an increase in credit as would not take us beyond the 1929 price levels or their equivalent. That, I think, -is a fair measure by which to control the additional amount of money made available to the community, either by way of expenditure upon public works or by assistance to industry. Indeed, it is recognized that before we could reach the price levels represented by the 1929 index number, it would be necessary to create a large amount of credit - no doubt far beyond the £18,000,000 provided for in this bill. But in this measure we are providing for specific things, which will be under control, by way of expenditure by the Government itself. “We are asking Parliament. to approve of the expenditure - of £6,000,000 for the relief of wheatfarmers, and £12,000,000 for :l,ne immediate creation of employment. Because of the expenditure of that money - because of the employment of the 40,000 men who would be provided with work by the expenditure of £1,000,000 a month on public works, the consequent increased volume of purchasing power, and the extra demand that would be created in industry and trade, the necessity for additional bank credit would be created. Although only £18,000,000 is provided for in the bill, it will undoubtedly have the effect of creating a demand upon the banks for money which will result in a considerable issue of credit, a considerable restoration of purchasing power, and, therefore, absorption of a large body of men in the community.

Mr Stewart:

– In what way will these fiduciary notes differ from the existing Commonwealth bank notes?

Mr THEODORE:

– In the actual instrument itself?

Mr Stewart:

– Yes.

Mr THEODORE:

– They will not differ in any essential detail with the exception that they will not bear upon the face of them the promise to pay in gold.

Mr Stewart:

– Apart from that, will they differ in any particular from the existing notes?

Mr THEODORE:

– The only distinction may be a superscription on the existing notes.

Mr Marr:

– The Treasurer was to give us the reply by the banks.

Mr THEODORE:

– I shall do so before I conclude.

Honorable members opposite seem to think that this policy is wholly unorthodox. They appear to regard it as an experiment in the realms of the dangerous. They pretend to think that this scheme which the Government is formulating is something highly dangerous, and, therefore, one that should not be tolerated; that it has never been thought of before, and, therefore^ would not be sanctioned by any authority who knew anything about economics or banking. Well, I want to call the attention of honorable members to a very interesting document, of the existence of which I learned only when I re-entered the Cabinet at the end of January. It is a document signed by Professor D. B. Copland, Mr. F. C. Dyason, and Professor L. F. Giblin, and presented to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton) and the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) on the 18th September, 1930. If honorable members will carefully examine this document they will find that almost everything that, the Government has been contending for and is standing for to-day in order to secure financial and monetary re-organization is recommended by these three gentlemen. Two of those gentlemen are professors of economics, regarded as authoritative men in their profession - men whose views are taken notice of, whose knowledge is specially recognized. Professor Copland is recognized as the economist of Australia, who has specially studied banking, and Professor Giblin has given particular attention and study to monetary questions.

Mr Crouch:

Mr. Dyason is President of the Economic Society of Australia and New Zealand.

Mr THEODORE:

– That is so. I shall quote from their memorandum, which, so far as I know, ‘is not confiden- tial andshall later lay it upon the table so that honorable members may read its full text. In it the writers deal with distribution of the loss of national income, with the effects of deflation and the nature of the fixed money claims and they formulate what they regard as remedies. They state -

This distribution of the loss is inequitable, and the first problem of economic readjustment is to distribute the first loss of income fairly among all classes according to their capacity to bear the burden. If this condition is fulfilled, it will then be possible by a sound monetary policy to restore industry and employment, and thus to counteract the repercussions from the first loss of income and to provide a means of escape from the indirect losses. In this way the paralysing effects of depression will bo overcome and confidence in the future of industry restored.

I am not reading the full text. Honorable members will be able to read it later. They continue -

The present drift towards a deflation of the Australian price level will unduly lengthen the process of re-adjustment and delay recovery. Assuming that parity of exchange with sterling is to be restored, a substantial fall, probably 20 per cent., in the Australian price level will be required.

This was written as recently as last September -

Wages will fall but under our method of wage adjustment they fall after the price level. Industry, therefore, faces a declined price level, but its” costs lag behind. This cannot but depress industry throughout the country, and a continuance of the present decline in prices must result in an increase of unemployment. If the deflation of the price level necessary to restore exchange parity could be accomplished over a period of twenty years the depressing effect upon industry would be small, and severe unemployment could be avoided. But the task of reducing prices rapidly cannot be accomplished without a substantial increase in the present numbers of unemployment. This is the worst aspect of hasty deflation, but it is by no means the only serious objection to such a policy.

They go on to say in regard to the policy of hasty and uncontrolled deflation -

The adjustment of wages to the cost of living would involve a substantial fall in money wages, but not of real wages. A further fall of 10 per cent. in money wages would he necessary to accomplish the decline in real wages of 10 per cent. required to restore industry. Thus a total fall in nominal wages of 30 per cent. must be faced, and this could not be accomplished without serious social unrest.

I ask honorable members to remember that, although this memorandum was presented to the Acting Prime

Minister and the Acting Treasurer in September last it did not come into my hands until the end of January. I am not criticizing the Acting Prime Minister or the Acting Treasurer of that day.

Mr.Fenton. - I would not mind if the Minister did.

Mr THEODORE:

– I repeat that I am not criticizing the Acting Prime Minister. I am only pointing out that the Government formulated this policy without a knowledge of the existence of this memorandum. These are the details of the policy proposed in it -

  1. Reduction of all parliamentary and Public Service salaries and wages by a. graduated reduction amounting to 10 per cent. of the total.
  2. Such action as is possible for government and parliament to bring about a rapid reduction in real wages . . .
  3. Graduated super tax on income from property averaging 2s. in the £1.

Commonwealth Bank to buy or sell sterling exchange at not less than 20 per cent. premium. This rate should be the estimated maximum rate required, and further consideration should be given to the exact figure. A small reduction should be made after a short interval to remove fears of still higher rates. A high exchange rate to be maintained until London funds fully restored. Exchange policy then to be reviewed in the light of world prices and internal conditions.

Trading banks’ to announce that advances are available on all sound security. Commonwealth Bank to give assurance thatcredit and cash reserves will be available to sustain this policy.

The suggestion is that the banks should create credit for the use of industry and that the Commonwealth Bank should back them with such cash reserves as are necessary to sustain that policy.

Mr Maxwell:

– “Would these gentlemen regard fiduciary notes as cash reserves ?

Mr THEODORE:

– Of course they would, because the Commonwealth Bank could only give an assurance that the credits would be available by virtue of the fact that it had the power to issue fiduciary notes.

Mr Hawker:

– All this has already appeared in the press.

Mr THEODORE:

– I do not think so. Something like it may have been published. They continue -

Commonwealth Bank policy to be aimedat stable prices, as measured by the complete retail price index, which includes clothing and miscellaneous expenditure. The level thus measured has been very steady for the last five years, and the standard aimed at might be that of1929, which was about 4 per cent. above the last published figure . . .

Bank to purchase government securities and increase note issue so far as it is required to sustain the cash reserves of the trading banks.

The three gentlemen who signed the report go on to show the effect of such a policy -

This action will -

Maintain credit structure of trading banks and make money available for industry.

Facilitate conversion by reversing the present decline in the value of bonds.

Bring some lowering of interest rates.

If and when the price level threatens to rise above the 1929 levels, the banking policy to be moderated or reversed by the sale of bonds and some restriction of credit on the part of the trading banks - the aim being to keep prices steady at the 1929 level.

The bank to equip itself with an economic service competent to advise on current tendencies in trade, employment, price levels, and world conditions.

The working out of this policy to be studied continuously by the board, with the help of its economic service, with a view to deciding at the end of two or three years when and on what basis a permanent relation to sterling should be restored. In the meantime, exchange to be left elastic and no de-valuation of the £1 attempted.

Later in the memorandum they say -

We have to consider briefly the effects of the policy of stabilization on the following: -

Export industries.

Other industries.

Unemployment and the wage-earner.

Distribution of loss.

Government budgets.

Local bondholders, interest rates and conversions.

Oversea bondholders and the shortloan position.

I do not propose to read the whole of the document, but there is one significant paragraph in it to which I shall direct the attention of honorable members. I shall then lay it upon the table. This paragraph is headed, “ Government Budgets “, and reads as follows : -

We have suggested a reduction in government expenditure, and this is being achieved in some States. The fall in revenue is, however, so serious that no practicable reduction in expenditure can relieve the budget sufficiently. The main cause of budget deficits is a languishing revenue, and this cause cannot be removed until industry is restored, and the fall in national income checked. As indicated above, this process of restoration will take place more rapidly under stabilization than under deflation, and we look forward to an automatic increase in revenue under the former policy.

This reviewof our monetary difficulties, and the propositions that it outlines, are a valuable contribution to the discussion on how we may solve our problems, and also a valuable justification for the policy which the Government has adopted, and is now submitting for the approval of honorable members.

Mr Hughes:

– Will the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) make available some copies of that memorandum?

Mr THEODORE:

– I will. I have been asked a number of times by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) and others, not to omit to say how the banks received the policy which the Government submitted to them. They received it with hostility. That, I think, is the only word which adequately describes their attitude. My own impression is that the banks regarded the proposals of the Government from the point of view of traditional conservatism. They were unwilling to co-operate with a Labour Government in a matter of this kind.

Mr Maxwell:

– What was their criticism?

Mr THEODORE:

– The impression left upon my mind was that they were prepared to remain adamant, and to follow a conservative and narrow financial policy along precedents established by the English banks. They were unwilling to depart in the slightest detail from the advice they received from the overseas financial authorities. After the matter had been discussed with the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, it was dealt with in greater detail by myself in the presence of all the members of the board. The chairman of the board subsequently forwarded me a letter which embodied the views of the board. As the text of this letter has been published in the press, I shall not read the whole of it, but only the resolution which it contains, and which I was asked to convey to the Premiers’ Conference. This resolution reads as follows: -

Subject to adequate and equitable reductions in all wages, salaries and allowances, pensions, social benefits of all kinds, interest, and other factors which affect the cost of living, the Commonwealth Bank Board will actively co-operate with the trading banks, and the governments of Australia, in sustaining industry and restoring employment.

I call the attention of honorable members to the condition laid down. Apparently, the Bank Board could co-operate with the Government and the trading banks in sustaining industry and restoring employment, but it was not willing to do so except upon conditions. It stipulated that there should be -

Adequate and equitable reductions in all wages, salaries, and allowances, pensions, -social benefits of all kinds.

Apparently the board was to be the judge of what was adequate. It is only because of those conditions that this bill is being submitted to Parliament. If the Commonwealth Bank Board had been willing to co-operate with the Government there would have been no necessity for this bill, and no necessity for the delay which will be occasioned in considering it. If the board had been prepared to do what undoubtedly it should have done, this policy would have been in operation to-day, our people would have been in employment instead of being still idle; and our farmers would have been relieved instead of being still in distress and anxious about their future.

Subsequently we met the representatives of the associated banks with the representatives of the Commonwealth Bank. After having heard the Prime Minister and myself this conference considered the case submitted to it, and later sent a communication to the Government. This letter was not so blunt in its terms as the communication received from the Commonwealth Bank Board. It did not so plainly lay down the conditions which the trading banks would insist upon, but it- laid them down quite sufficiently for the Government to understand the attitude that had been adopted.

Mr White:

– Did not the trading “banks say that the proposition was economically unsound?

Mr THEODORE:

– I do not think those exact words were used.

Mr White:

– I think the Treasurer will find them in the communication.

Mr THEODORE:

– The letter which they sent to us has been published extensively. I, myself, handed it to the press. I quote the following paragraph from it: -

The banks regret that they cannot agree with all the methods suggested by the Treasurer, as, in their opinion, these are not on sound banking or economic lines. The carrying out of the ideas therein would, in the opinion of the banks, not alleviate the position, but would rather increase the difficulties by which the country is beset.

A later paragraph in the letter read -

The banks consider that the suggestions by the committee of experts are on the proper lines, and should be generally followed.

The proposals of the committee of experts were as follow : -

A further reduction of £15,000,000 per annum in the total present expenditure of the Commonwealth and States appears to be imperative.

In their analysis of the position the officials who comprised the committee of experts referred to wages, salaries and allowances at some length in the following terms : -

Under this heading are grouped Commonwealth payments for invalid and old-age pensions, war pensions, maternity allowances, and State expenditure for education, public health, and charitable purposes. An annual total of nearly £40,000,000 is involved, a sum involving so large a proportion of the community’s taxable resources that it cannot escape scrutiny. This expenditure reached its present proportions in times of prosperity. The subsequent fall in the cost of living justifies the inclusion of these payments within the field of review.

The committee did not suggest specifically how the economies should be effected, but referred to old-age, invalid and war pensions, maternity allowances, education, charitable and social legislation in general terms. The inference from its report is undoubtedly that the major portion of the proposed saving of £15,000,000 per annum in government expenditure was to be obtained from these services, and the banking authorities evidently desired the same thing. The committee practically suggested that if economies were effected in these directions, the economic condition of the country would be restored.

Mr Hughes:

– Who were these experts ?

Mr THEODORE:

– The experts who signed the report were the UnderTreasurers of Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, and Tasmania, but they had the advice and guidance of three economists who, however, did not sign the report.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

– Professor Brigden was among them.

Mr THEODORE:

– I have already said that I regard Professor Brigden as one of the conservative economists of Australia.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

– The Treasurer did not mention his name in connexion with the report, but he mentioned it before.

Mr THEODORE:

– The honorable member is always seeing some kind of specks before his eyes. He is too suspicious.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

– I am suspicious of everything that the Treasurer deals with.

Mr SPEAKER (Hon Norman Makin:

– I warn the honorable member for Warringah.

Mr THEODORE:

– The banking authorities with whom the Government conferred suggested that the proposals in this bill are not on sound banking lines, and that the suggestions made by the committee of experts should be followed. The inference is that the committee of experts prepared a completely new monetary policy which, if operated by the Government, would restore prosperity to the country. But practically all that the committee recommended was the reduction of wages, salaries and allowances, and of the pensions payable to the pioneers of the country, and to those who suffered through the war. Surely no one is simple enough, or imbued with such pristine ideas of economics, or equipped with such an infantile mentality, as to think that, the adoption of these proposals would be sufficient to meet the circumstances in which Australia finds herself.

I have never denied, nor has the Government, that reductions must be effected in government expenditure and all possible economies insisted upon. We recognize that this is necessary. We have economized as far as possible in government expenditure. We have cut down by £2,300.000 per annum the expenditure of the previous Government, and we say quite frankly that further economies are necessary. We must get rid of overlapping and duplication in the services rendered by the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth Public Service cannot hope to retain its present salary level with the cost of living falling, and with salaries of the people in outside employment also falling. All salaries will have to be adjusted to the cost of living. The Commonwealth public servants recognize this, and I believe they will be willing to accept whatever reduction of wages might be necessary as the result of the reduction in the cost of living.

Mr Nairn:

– When does the Government propose to make a start with these reductions ?

Mr THEODORE:

– Very soon. The honorable member is impatient. He desires that the remuneration of the wageearners, salary-earners, and so on shall be reduced without delay; but he does not seem to be so very much concerned about when a start is to be made with the interest-earners.

Mr Nairn:

– Interest rates will come down.

Mr THEODORE:

– How does the honorable member suggest that they will come down?

Mr White:

– Sane government will bring them down.

Mr THEODORE:

– The honorable member must be referring to interest rates on. future loans. Surely he does not mean that sane government, or insane government for that matter, can affect the interest rates applicable to the existing £543,000,000 of loans already outstanding in Australia.

Mr White:

– With sane government money could be borrowed at 3 per cent.

Mr THEODORE:

– The honorable member appears to overlook that some of the existing loans will not mature until 1965. He keeps birking one of the main issues. We have to pay £28,000,000 per annum in interest on loans domiciled here, some of which do not mature for 40 years. We cannot compel these people to make any contribution to the general sacrifice except by taxation. That is the only way in which it can be done, unless you are going to alter the value of the £ and repay these people their interest and principal in a £ of a value equivalent to that which they subscribed.

Mr White:

– That is only one class of loan.

Mr THEODORE:

– What we have to consider is how we can distribute the loss in national income with the object of bringing about equality in sacrifice. We cannot ignore the fixed money claims in this connexion, nor can we ignore our re- sponsibility to repay between £70,000,000 and £80,000,000 a year on such fixed money claims.

About a month ago Professor Giblin prepared a memorandum at my request dealing with the subject of national income. In it he shows that our national income grew from £153,000,000 in 1903, to £663,000,000 in 1928-29, the maximum year. In order that there may be no mistake in the minds of honorable members I shall quote the definition of “ national income* “ which Professor Giblin adopted. Sir Josiah Stamp, in Wealth and Taxable Capacity, says, at page 416, after discussing the different definitions of the term “national income “ -

When all the different conceptions have been studied we come back to the fact that the sum total of wages, . salaries, profits, and interest, presents a fairly comprehensible idea, free from important ambiguities, for ordinary comparative purposes.

It is in this sense that the term “ national income “ is used by Professor Giblin. The professor says in this memorandum -

The national income for 1.930-31 may bc estimated with some confidence at between £460,000,000 and £480,000,000, as contrasted with £063,000,000 in 1928-29, and about £550,000,000 in 1929-30.

Subsequently, in dealing with fixed money claims, he says -

With such diminished income the whole relationship between public and private indebtedness and national income is upset. Fixed money claims (bonds, mortgages, preference shares, long term leases, &c. ), may be estimated at £70,000,000 or £80,000,000 per annum internal, and £36,000,000 per annum external, or a total (with parity restored) or about £110,000,000. It follows that fixed money claims would take nearly 30 per cent, of a national income of less than £400,000,000. In 1928-29 the fixed money claims, then a little less than £110,000,000, were about 16 per cent, of a national income of £050,000,000.

It will be seen, therefore, that fixed money claims now take twice the proportion of national income that they took only two or three years ago. The change in money values has upset relationships in all money matters as between one class and another, and especially as between the debtor and the creditor class. This factor cannot be ignored in connexion with any economic reconstruction which we may essay for the solution of our problems. Honorable “ members constantly ignore it. They speak only of the necessity to reduce wages, social services and pensions as though that would not be grossly unfair. We must take into account all the other factors which represent as great, if not a greater, charge upon the national income.

Mr Coleman:

– Will the Treasurer table that report also?

Mr THEODORE:

– I intend to do so. Coming now to the question of reducing the cost of government and that of whether any further substantial economy is possible, I have already said that we must economize to the maximum extent practicable without doing an injustice to our employees or our pensioners. That policy will be carried out. In September last, Professors Copland and Giblin, Mr. Dyason and Mr. Gepp were asked by the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Fenton) to advise the Government upon governmental economies. In their report they stated: -

Expenditure, Commonwealth and State, has increased since 1928-29 chiefly by increased interest, in spite of considerable economies in administration. The large element of interest in government expenditure cannot be reduced. There is no further great economy possible in administration. The only large saving possible is in education, old-age pensions and other social provisions, curtailment of which would raise new economic difficulties.

In another paragraph of their report they offered this comment : -

These difficulties of meeting overseas obligations and balancing budgets under existing conditions are so grave as to imperil the social fabric. The task cannot be accomplished immediately without increasing unemployment to such an extent as to run the risk of serious social disorder. Reasonable time is required to make the necessary economic re-adjustment and to spread the loss of national income evenly throughout the community.

I intend also to lay this report upon the table for the * information of honorable members.

Dealing now with the question of whether cuts in wages provide a method best calculated to bring about social reconstruction, I quote from a recent article written by Mr. J. M. Keynes, a leading economist, published in the Nation and Athenaeum of the 20th December last. After reviewing the causes of economic loss and financial difficulties, Mr. Keynes states -

If a particular producer or a particular country cuts wages, then, so long as others do not follow suit, that producer or that country is able to get more of what trade is going.. But if wages are cut all round, the purchasing power of the community as a whole is reduced by the same amount as the reduction of costs; and, again, no one is further forward. Thus, neither the restriction of output, nor the reduction of wages, serves in itself to restore equilibrium.

As apposite to the same matter I note a very interesting article in the New Statesman, of the 18th November last, by Mr. J”. A. Hobson, a well-known authority upon economic subjects. From that article I take the following : -

The false stress on money as a vera causa of depression and unemployment has singularly unfortunate implications. It is used to show that, since other costs of production cannot at once be lowered, money wages, a chief cost, should be reduced. The immediate result would be still further to worsen the distribution of income, and to contract still further the effective demand for commodities, with a consequent shrinkage of employment of capital and labour along the whole series of processes producing the commodities bought in reduced quantities by the employed workers. It is argued, however, that any such evil effect would be more than compensated by the expansion of our export trade which this reduction of costs would enable us to gain. More employment in this country, though at lower wages, might leave the total working-class income as large as now, or even larger. Upon this argument I make two comments. In the first place, it proposes to reduce the money income of the workers in those export or unsheltered trades where wages are already notoriously lower than in the sheltered trades. Secondly, it initiates a competition for the debasement of the standard of life throughout the economic world, by seeking to underbid foreign products and to force down the wages in their export trades so as to enable them to hold their markets. Instead of using the new machinery of internationalism in order to raise the standards of life for the workers in all countries, this proposal must work in the opposite direction. Experience in tariff wars ought to indicate sufficiently the danger of entering a contest in sweating. [Extension of time granted.]

I thank honorable members for their consideration. As a final reference to this phase of the subject I remind honorable members of the sacrifices already made by Australian workers and invite them to consider whether an adequate sacrifice has, up to the present, been made by property-owners, especially those with fixed money claims. I mentioned the other night, without entering into elaborate detail, that as the result of reductions already made by the Federal and State Arbitration Courts and in industries that are not governed by awards at all - industries the awards relating to which have recently been removed by certain governments - a reduction of at least £44,000,000 a year in wages is faced by the men in these classes alone. There is in addition a large number of workers whose wages are not governed by arbitration tribunals and who do not come within this category. They have been similarly affected by the economic depression; but it is not yet possible to estimate the amount of money wages lost by them. We do know, however, that at least £44,000,000 a year* will be contributed by the Australian workers as their part of the sacrifice. Surely honorable members will not continue to urge that more and more should be extorted from these unfortunate wage-earners or from those who are drawing pensions because of war injuries, or for the part which they played in pioneering the development of this country. Surely they do not think that more should be demanded of these sections of the community, while those who have fixed money claims enjoy what is really an increase in income because of the decline in commodity prices.

Mr Nairn:

– Why should not all sections contribute?

Mr THEODORE:

– That is what I am asking; and that is what is proposed in this legislation. We say that all sections should be expected to contribute in accordance with their ability to provide what is needed.

I turn now to the attitude of the banks. Undoubtedly the Australian banks have proved themselves in this crisis to be unable to rise to great heights. They think that a panacea for all the economic ills from which this country is suffering can be found if only the workers are content to make a sufficient sacrifice. I believe that doctrine to be unsound, unjust and unreasonable.

Mr Gregory:

– It is an unfair charge to make against the banks.

Mr THEODORE:

– I make this statement because, in a letter addressed to me after our conference, they stated specifically that they agreed with the plan formulated by the committee of experts to which I have already alluded, and the plan of these experts was, I understand, to secure the economic salvation of Australia by cutting £15,000.000 off governmental expenditure by means of savings on wages, pensions, social services and education. The banks cannot run away from that. That is their solution as contrasted with what the Government put up.

Mr ARCHDALE Parkhill:

– As usual, the Treasurer is not stating the whole of the case.

Mr THEODORE:

– If so, the honorable member can supply what is missing. The attitude of the Australian banks is perfectly consistent with the attitude of banking institutions in all countries. Everywhere, in this world crisis, they have adopted an attitude of unprogressive conservatism. They have been unable to solve the problem. They have meddled with it, and where they have meddled with it they have created chaos. The international bankers of the world are largely responsible for what has happened to the monetary policy of the world in the last two years, and must be held responsible for the consequences of that policy. It is not sufficient for them to say that it has got out of hand and that they are now unable to control it. They were the originating causes of the depression and the economic disaster that has overtaken the world.

Mr Nairn:

– That is sheer assertion.

Mr THEODORE:

– lt is backed up by incontrovertible facts. I ask honorable members to pay attention to what some of the leading financiers of the world have been saying about this matter lately. In the Christian, Science Monitor, a newspaper with a very wide circulation, there appeared, on the 25th November, 1930, the report of an address delivered by Sir Charles Stewart Addis, vicechairman of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, and a director of the Bank of England. .From that report I take the following extract: -

Instability is .dogging our steps at every turn and rendering ineffectual all our attempts to stimulate a recovery of trade, to maintain and continue the stability of our credit structure, to secure for the worker his assured reward, and to inspire in him new faith and courage. All this will fail, must inevitably fail, miti 1 something can be done to give us a reasonable amount of stability in our currency . . It is unthinkable that we shall continue to sit with folded hands while industry and trade throughout the world are becoming the sport of our ineffectual monetary systems. We must be masters in our own house, the rulers and not the slaves of money.

Mr Gregory:

– He asks for stability.

Mr THEODORE:

– That is true. His remarks, nevertheless, are a reflection upon the monetary policy that has been brought about, not by anything done by the workers, or even the parliaments of the world, but by the great international financiers who control the monetary policy of the world.

Professor Gustav Cassel, whose opinions on banking and monetary questions are regarded as authoritative throughout the world, recently expressed this view : -

A fall of the general level of commodity prices is identical with a rise in the value of gold. Such a rise may be caused, either by an increasing scarcity of gold, or by a restriction of the amount of credit built on a given gold basis . . . Nevertheless, the acute crisis that we have been exposed to for the last year is essentially a monetary crisis. In so far as it has this character, I do not hesitate to say that it has been absolutely unnecessary and could have been prevented by an enlightened co-operation between the leading central banks of the world.

It should have been possible by such a cooperation to hinder the scarcity of gold from resulting in a fall in commodity prices, and it should first of all have been possible to avoid a direct restriction of credit, for which- the commodity market certainly gave no reason.

Again he says -

The first condition of security against such calamities is that we should be decided firmly no longer to be the slaves of supposed mechanical necessities of periodical price movements, but be able to master our monetary institutions, so far as to secure for the world a reasonable stability in the purchasing power of its currencies.

Mr Archdale Parkhill:

– What is the honorable gentleman quoting?

Mr THEODORE:

– I am quoting from the Christian Science Monitor of 13th December, 1930, and from a special article signed by Professor Gustav Cassel.

Mr Hughes:

– He is the financial adviser to the League of Nations.

Mr THEODORE:

– He is an international authority on economics and finance, and as the right honorable gentleman has said, financial adviser to the League of Nations. I hope that I shall not be accused of quoting too extensively in order to support my arguments, but as honorable members opposite commented that I was expressing only my own views I wished to back up my arguments with unimpeachable authorities. Mr. J. M. Keynes’ book The Economic Consequences of Mr. Churchill, published in 1929, contains what I regard as an extraordinary prophetic remark. It is as follows : -

The Bank of England has manoeuvred its assets and liabilities in such a way as to reduce the amount of cash available to the clearing banks as a basis for credit. This last is the essential instrument of credit restriction. . . Credit restriction is an incredibly powerful instrument . . . especially in circumstances where the opposite course is called for. The policy of deliberately intensifying unemployment with a view to forcing wage reductions is already partly in force.

It was, therefore, already partly in force in England in 1929, and I ask whether that fact does not furnish an explanation of the policy and stand adopted by the Australian banks in Australia last year and this year.

Mr White:

Mr. Keynes has changed his fiscal ideas. »

Mr THEODORE:

Mr. Keynes is regarded by every one who has any knowledge of this subject as an authority in the banking and financial circles of England and the Continent, and as one of the best guides upon economic doctrine, economic necessities and the consequences of economic policies.

Mr White:

– But the honorable member knows that he has changed his fiscal ideas.

Mr THEODORE:

– If he has, he has not changed his ideas upon economic problems. His most recent work - A Treatise on Money - is accepted as a text book that will stand for fifty years as a guide to the intellects of the nations on this subject.

Mr Maxwell:

– Does the Treasurer suggest that the opinions of any of these authorities he has quoted are to be regarded as an endorsement of this fiduciary issue proposal?

Mr THEODORE:

– They can hardly be described as an endorsement of it, because the writers were at the time unacquainted with the intentions of the Commonwealth Labour Government; but undoubtedly they are an endorsement of the ideas that have actuated this Government in bringing forward its proposal, and they certainly do call attention to the weakness of the financial policy upon which they have commented. We are simply backing up our own policy by quoting their opinions.

Australia is faced with an enormous difficulty. No one else has come forward with a constructive policy that can be put into operation to correct the economic ills of the country. It is undoubtedly the responsibility of the Government to endeavour to formulate a policy to cor rect those ills, and that responsibility has not been shirked by us. We have drafted what we regard as a complete and comprehensive working plan that can be operated, and could have been operated without delay if the banks had co-operated. If there is delay it is because the banks have resisted us. . They may take the stand that in the matter of monetary policy they and not the Government are to decide. That apparently is the stand which honorable members opposite endorse. But, I ask, is that the correct attitude? Is it sound that in so vital a matter the affairs of the nation should be left to a handful of bankers in the community - that they alone should assert control and influence in such a matter, and that governments and parliaments can be pushed aside and dictated to in regard to it? Is that the attitude taken up by honorable members opposite ? In normal times, when it is merely a matter of managing the credit business of the community, looking after the finances of private or public enterprise, and providing credit facilities for the commercial and trading community, the banks ought not to be interfered with ; but to-day we have reached a time of crisis. The nation is being strangled. The workers are being starved. Business is stagnant, and thousands of enterprises are collapsing. The Bankruptcy Court is working overtime because of the collapse of individual businesses and enterprises. In a crisis such as this it is time for governments to assert their authority and accept their responsibilities. It is not sufficient for them to stand by without exercising their authority. And so I say we should not be worth our salt as an administration if we did not assert our authority to speak for the nation in a matter of this kind. I do not care what it involves, even if it means taking over the control of the currency by the Government, should that be necessary to save this nation from the chaos in which it is wallowing, to save it from ruin and destruction at the hands of unimaginative bankers. Who has given the general managers or boards of directors of banks any special dispensation to be the final authority for the nation in such vital matters? Has any one given them a sacred right in that respect which must not be questioned? They have certainly been given great powers by this Parlia- merit, but now we are asking Parliament to curtail those powers. When the last great crisis, the war, came upon the nation did the Government ask the banks for their kind permission or decision as to how far it should go in financing the military necessities of this nation? Did the Government take into consideration the warnings of conservative bankers on that occasion ? It may have consulted these financial institutions as to the means of implementing the Government’s policy, but it certainly did not ask them to formulate that policy. Is the crisiswhich the nation is facing to-day any less serious than that through which it passed during the war ? When 300,000 men are out of work, with no hope of getting it under the monetary policy dictated by the banks, when thousands and scores of thousands of women and children are on the verge of starvation, or are actually starving; when people in business are seeing their enterprises ruined, with no hope for the future, are we not justified in regarding it as a particularly critical time, and if we do, are we to stand aside supinely because half a dozen bank managers say, “ We do not agree with your policy. Slaughter pensions and wages and balance your budget “ ? I say that we should not be worth a moment’s consideration if we did not submit to Parliament this policy in which we believe - the only policy put forward that is capable of saving the nation in its present hour of trouble.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Latham) adjourned.

page 319

GOLD BOUNTY BILL 1931

Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -

That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Gold Bounty Act 1930.

page 319

DISTILLATION BILL

Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -

That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Distillation Act 1901-1925.

Bill brought up and read a first time.

page 319

WINE EXPORT BOUNTY BILL 1931

In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :

Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -

That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Wine Export Bounty Act 1930.

Resolution reported.

Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.

Ordered -

That Mr. Forde and Mr. A. Green do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.

Bill brought up by Mr. Forde and read a first time.

page 319

ADJOURNMENT

Transport Workers Regulations - Tariff Schedules

Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -

That the House do now adjourn.

Mr LATHAM:
Kooyong

.- I again ask the Prime Minister when . the Government proposes to lay upon the table of the House the new regulations under the Transport Workers Act. To-day, in reply to a question, the right honorable gentleman said that it would have been improper to table any regulation while a motion of want of confidence was before the House, although he knew that after the debate on that motion had been commenced, and while it was proceeding, over 40 regulations and ordinances were laid upon the table. The regulations under the Transport Workers Act have been in print for a long time; they have been distributed to the public, and are in operation. Moreover, they are of far greater importance than any other regulation amongst those which have been laid upon the table of the House during the last fortnight. We all know the politics which dictated the framing of the regulations under the Transport Workers Act. We know the trick which was played upon this Parliament.

Mr SPEAKER (Hon Norman Makin:

– Order! It is not in order to refer to any action of the Government or the Parliament as a trick.

Mr LATHAM:

– I am endeavouring to protect the rights of Parliament. The regulations, although they had been prepared some time before, were introduced the day after the adjournment of Parliament on the 18th December last. From that fact honorable members may draw their own conclusions. The regulations were challenged in the High Court, which, by a majority decision, upheld their validity. This is March, and although the Government has had ample time to lay 40 other regulations upon the table, those under the Transport Workers Act are still withheld.

Mr Gullett:

– Why?

Mr LATHAM:

– In reply to my first question on this subject, the Prime Minister said that the Attorney-General would look into the matter. Has he looked into it? If he has, what did he see? The second reason given was that it would be improper to lay the regulations on the table during a confidence debate. That excuse also fails. Therefore, I ask the Prime Minister for the third time this session why the regulations have not been tabled.

Mr GREGORY:
Swan

.- Will the Prime Minister indicate to the House when the general debate on the tariff schedules which have been introduced during the last eighteen months will commence? Apparently, ministerial supporters are content to give to the Government power to introduce schedules imposing taxation on the people and giving concessions to certain sections of the community, and then to defy all parliamentary precedents by refusing the House an opportunity to discuss them. The time is overdue for this House to declare whether these special taxes shall be approved.

Mr SCULLIN:
Prime Minister · Yarra · ALP

– The consolidated tariff schedules will be placed before the House about two weeks hence, and the debate upon it will proceed soon afterwards.

Mr Latham:

– What will be the duration of the Easter adjournment?

Mr SCULLIN:

– I do not anticipate an adjournment for more than a sitting week.

Mr Latham:

– For a week after Easter Monday ?

Mr SCULLIN:

– I do not think so. The present intention of the Government is that the House shall adjourn on Thursday, the 26th March, and resume sitting on Wednesday, the 8th April. It is desirable that we should get on with the business of the country, which for the last three weeks has been delayed by the Opposition.

Mr Gullett:

– Do your job at last after eighteen months of delay.

Mr SCULLIN:

– I advise the honorable member to do his job and let the Government proceed with its job.

In regard to the inquiry by the Leader of the Opposition, my answers to him have usually been civil, but to-night he has indulged in offensive insinuations. The Government is doing its job. Those who support it were elected by the people more recently than the members of another place, and we shall carry out our policy, which is not that of the members of the Opposition.

Mr Latham:

– Repeal the Transport Workers Act ?

Mr SCULLIN:

– No; we have found that we can use that act in the interests of the people, and not in the interests of a section as was intended by those who framed it.

Mr Latham:

-So the withholding of the regulations is a trick?

Mr SCULLIN:

– It is not. The regulations will be tabled at a time suitable to the Government, and if another place disallows them new regulations will be made.

Mr Latham:

– Why give misleading replies to questions in this chamber?

Mr SCULLIN:

– I told the Leader of the Opposition that the Attorney-General would look into this matter. Now the Leader of the Opposition desires to know what he found. The answer is that the Attorney-General found that he is acting within his statutory rights; he will observe the law by tabling the regulations within the period stipulated by the act. Subject to that limitation, the regulations will be tabled when the Government thinks they should be tabled.

Mr Latham:

– We shall see about that.

Mr SCULLIN:

– The policy pursued by the Nationalist Government was to hound to the last ditch a body of unionists because they had made one mistake. They were to have no hope of forgiveness in this world - or even in the next, if the Leader of the Opposition could contrive to prevent it. The view of the Government is that the unionists are entitled to an opportunity to work; those who were starved while the last Government gave preference to scabs have a right to live. The unionists are not to be starved to death merely because they are unionists and made a mistake. The vindictive policy that was pursued by the ship-owners and supported by the Leader of the Opposition is being frustrated by an act of Parliament, passed at the instance of the honorable gentleman, when he was Attorney-General.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 10.7 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 March 1931, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19310317_reps_12_128/>.