12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and offered prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister make a statement in reference to the report that the Commissioner of Taxation is seeking to collect sales tax on meals served in restaurants, hotels, and cafes ?
– It is not proposed to levy sales tax on meals served in restaurants, hotels, and cafes. The tax is imposed on manufactured goods, including cakes, scones, buns, sandwiches, &c. Meats are specifically exempted. Many manufacturers of buns, cakes and scones have been paying sales tax on the whole of their output, whether disposed of to other retailers or through their own restaurants. Other manufacturers Lave been paying the tax only on that portion of their output sold to others in the trade or over the counter; they have not been paying on the goods sold for consumption in their restaurants. The Commissioner of Taxation has good reason to believe that some persons are not even making correct returns; they are representing that the bulk of their output is consumed in their restaurants. It is impossible to discriminate justly between a dozen buns sold over the counter for consumption in the park and a dozen buns sold for consumption in restaurants. The tax is collected, however, not on meals but on manufactured articles.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to a paragraph in the Canberra Times of this morning’s date to the effect that the sales tax is to be collected on meals supplied by restaurants and eating houses, which will be compelled to charge extra to cover the tax? In view of the fact that there is no penalty clause in any of the acts pertaining to the sales tax, will the Prime Minister consider bringing in a bill imposing severe penalties upon any one who charges 100 per cent. extra for meals when the sales tax is only 2½ per cent.?
– It is wrong to say that there are no penalty clauses in the Sales Tax Act. Such clauses are to be found in those acts as in all taxation measures, but there is no power conferred by the Sales Tax Act to regulate the price of meals.
– “Will the Prime Minister inform me whether it is intended to collect this’ taxation from the smallest restaurants, or whether a provision will be made that it shall not be collected in respect of restaurants with a turnover below a certain specified amount?
– I believe that the Commissioner of Taxes is issuing a statement upon this matter immediately.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to the following paragraph in the Sydney Sun of the 23rd April : -
Had matters not turned as they did on Wednesday, the Commissioners were confident of the bank’s ability to meet the situation.
Will the right honorable gentleman take steps to cause the impeachment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) whose damaging speech in this House is known to have caused the rush of depositors which precipitated the closing of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales ?
– On a point of order, I submit that the honorable member is not in order in expressing an opinion, or in making a statement or damaging imputation, when asking a question.
– When asking a question an honorable member is not entitled to offer any observations, to make a statement, or to express an opinion. The honorable member for Martin may be permitted a certain amount of latitude to indicate the serious character of the subject upon which he is seeking information, but I ask him not to exceed the limitations I have mentioned.
– I submit that my question conforms to your ruling, sir.
– The Government has no intention to impeach the Leader of the Opposition.
-Will the Prime Minister state whether a definite agreement has been reached by the Commonwealth Bank Board and the Government Savings Bank of New SouthWales ; if so, what is the nature of that agreement, and will honorable members have an early opportunity to peruse it?
– So far as I am aware, no agreement has been reached yet. The Commonwealth Bank Board is still investigating the matter.
Re-appointment of Sir Robert Gibson.
– In the Melbourne Herald of the 28th April, the following telegram was published: -
Adelaide, Tuesday. - Addressing Trades Hall officials to-day, the Federal Treasurer, Mr. Theodore, indicated that while he was temporarily out of the Cabinet, the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) asked his advice on the re-appointment of Sir Robert Gibson to the Commonwealth Bank Board.
Mr. Scullin, at the time, was negotiating with the British financiers for a loan, and he explained to Mr. Theodore that he thought it might be dangerous to the chances of the loan not to re-appoint Sir Robert.
Mr. Theodore expressed the opinion that Sir Robert should not be re-appointed for longer than a year, but Mr. Scullin pointed out that theact precluded this.
When an interjector shouted that Sir Robert was “ too old “, Mr. Theodore replied, “ And too conservative “.
I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any truth in that statement ?
– I advise the honorable member not to accept as absolutely accurate telegraphed condensations of speeches. The statement reported to have been made by Mr. Theodore is substantially correct; the inference that probably would he drawn from it would be substantially incorrect.When the matter of re-appointing Sir Robert Gibson came up for consideration I consulted not only the members of the then Cabinet, who, unanimously endorsed the action taken, but also the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) who was temporarily out of the Cabinet. All agreed that Sir Robert Gibson should be re-appointed. Whether the re-appointment should he for seven years or a shorter period was also considered, but the act provides that a director must be appointed for seven years, and, accordingly, Sir Robert Gibson was re-appointed for that period.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Has the honorable member been misrepresented?
– I have. In September last Sir Robert Gibson was reappointed Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board. On the day the decision was taken I objected to his appointment, and in order that there might be no mistake as to my attitude, I wrote at the time these words : “ I protest against this appointment , “ and passed the paper on to Mr. Forde for his perusal, and for the information of other honorable members of the Cabinet.
Mr.Forde. - The honorable member did not hand the paper to me.
– I did. The Minister for Customs asked what the paper was for, and I replied that it was to ensure that there would be no mistake as to where I stood. If at any time I agreed to the re-appointment of Sir Robert Gibson, I must at that time have been unconscious from over-eating. I particularly desired that there should he no misunderstanding about the matter, and for that reason I wrote the note I have mentioned, and threw it on the Cabinet table.
– I, too, have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister. In his answer to the question regarding the appointment of Sir Robert Gibson, he said that the appointment was agreed to unanimously by the Cabinet. It was not. The statement made by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) in regard to putting his objection in writing is correct. I was present at the time, and witnessed the action. Not only did I object to the re-appointment on the occasion upon which the decision was taken, but I objected to it at a previous meeting. I do not want to go more fully into the matter now; the time is not fitting; but I do not wish it to be said in this House that I was a party to the re-appointment of Sir Robert Gibson.
– In view of the personal explanations made by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), and the honorable member forWest Sydney (Mr. Beasley), does the Prime Minister intend to say anything in explanation, extenuation, or rebuttal?
– I am not in the habit of revealing anything that takes place in Cabinet; but I emphatically deny the statements made by the honorable member for Bourke and the honorable member for West Sydney.
– And I deny the Prime Minister’s statement just as emphatically.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether, in view of the disclosures made this afternoon by two exMinisters, which reveal Cabinet secrets, you are prepared to review your decision in regard to the exclusion of a member of the press from the gallery of this House, seeing that his offence is much less serious than that committed by the two ex-Ministers ?
– The incident which occurred in this House last week in regard to the press representative has been closed, and I am not prepared to reopen it. I consider that the second part of the honorable member’s question is trivial.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs take immediate steps to have an answer furnished to the question I asked on the 16th April regarding the importation of whisky and the customs duties paid thereon, and the manufacture of whisky in Australia, and the excise duty paid thereon?
– I shall ask the officer responsible for collecting the information to have it ready to-morrow. It should have been supplied earlier, but there must he some good reason for the delay. Probably the information has to be collected from the various States.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral given consideration to the proposal that public hospitals should be exempt from the payment of licence-fees on wireless sets installed in those institutions ?
– Whether free wireless licences should be issued is a question which has been raised on numerous occasions, and has been given very close consideration by the department, by the Wireless Advisory Committee, and by the last Government. Invariably, the conclusion has been reached that it would be undesirable to issue free licences to any of the institutions or individuals on whose behalf application has been made. The matter has also been discussed with Mr. Maxwell, M.H.R., who took great interest in the endeavour to procure free licences for blind people. The main objection arises from the administrative difficulty of deciding how to limit such a concession once the precedent is established. The natural inclination is, of course, to make the path easy for all those who are afflicted, but it is extremely difficult to weigh the merits of one case against another so as to grant the concession in one instance, and to withhold it in others. In addition to these considerations, the question affects not only my department but also the Amalgamated Wireless Company, which receives a royalty payment of 3s. on each licence, and the Australian Broadcasting Company, which is entitled under the contract to 12s. from each licence-fee.
The conclusion has been reached that it would be undesirable to issue free licences to any of the institutions or individuals on whose behalf application has been made.
Danger of Political Statements
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to a paragraph in yesterday’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph relating to the meeting addressed recently in Sydney by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons) ?
The paragraph is as follows: -
Mr. Lyons, in deliberate phraseology, said that the Federal Treasurer, Mr. Theodore, apparently contended that the risks of the Commonwealth Bank’s insolvency and consequent ruination of its customers should be incurred so that the Government might continue to spend more than it received.
Does the Prime Minister think that such propaganda may have the same result in regard to the Commonwealth Bank us it has already had in regard to the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, and, if so, what steps does it propose to take concerning those responsible for such statements?
– What about the action of .Mr. Lang who broke the bank?
– The honorable member had better keep out of this; he- has done enough harm already.
– I did not see the paragraph, nor have I read a report of the speech. I am satisfied that it would be merely a re-hash of what has been already said. My time is too valuable to be spent in reading a repetition of those hoary old statements which have been already repeated all over Australia. If the honorable member for Wilmot is correctly reported, his was a wicked statement, and it is greatly to be regretted that we cannot have our political differences . without trying to drag down our financial institutions.-
Mr. THEODORE, M.P.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice, and shall preface it by referring to a report in this morning’s issue of the Canberra Times to the effect that (he defendants in the Mungana case have been refused an extension of time-
– Order ! I cannot permit the honorable member to ask a question in regard to that matter.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.It is a matter of public importance.
– I repeat that noquestion may be asked on that subject.
– The honorable member wants to get back to the gutter.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Well, I should be only getting to where the honorable member has always been. Will the Prime Minister state the nature of the official business which is occupying the attention of the Treasurer? Is it not a fact that at present his official business consists of delivering electioneering speeches in South Australia, and that he proposes to go from that State to Tasmania ?
– The Treasurer is performing the very important official function of answering the misrepresentations of the honorable member of this House whom he has been following through the various States.
– Will the Prime Minister consider the advisableness of appointing an Assistant Treasurer to relieve the Treasurer of his duties temporarily, so that he may not be able to plead pressure of duties as the reason for neglecting to take certain action in a case which is now before the Queensland courts?
Question not answered.
– In view of the published statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer of Great Britain that the Imperial Government did not intend immediately to meet the deficit of £23,000,000 in the public accounts, will the Prime Minister intimate to the British Government that Australia does not propose to borrow any more money on the London market until the budget of the British Government is balanced ?
Question not answered.
Proposed Five-day Week.
– Does the Government propose to make a regulation introducing a five-day working week in the Public Service? If so, when will the regulation in regard thereto be tabled, and how many officers of the Service will be affected by it?
– The Government has been considering the advisableness of instituting a five-day working week in certain Commonwealth departments, and the general principle has been approved,, subject to the conditions that there must be no inconvenience to the public, nor any added cost or inefficiency in the Service. The whole subject has been referred to the Public Service Board for consideration. In some instances, it has been shown that definite economy would be effected by instituting a five-day week, just as economy has been effected in the same way in certain directions in New South Wales. If further investigation shows that the adoption of this principle will result in inefficiency or added cost, it will not be adopted. The Public Service Board is now drafting a regulation which will be submitted to honorable members in due course.
– Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Treasury has withheld the sum of £433,000 due to New South Wales under the Main Roads Board Agreement? Is the Prime Minister aware that approximately £150,000 of that money is owing to local governing bodies in respect of construction work already done? Is he further aware that a considerable amount of construction work in connexion with bridges and culverts is in a partly completed state, and is rapidly deteriorating? If it is not completed soon it will be valueless. Apart from these aspects of the subject, has the Government given consideration to the hardship and suffering that will be inflicted upon an additional number of women and children whose breadwinners will be turned out of employment by such action?
– The position is that the Commonwealth Government has had to provide large sums of money because of the default in certain directions of the New South Wales Government, and it has endeavoured to offset the provision of this money by withholding certain moneys clue to the New South Wales Government. I am not aware of the exact figures in this regard, but possibly those quoted by the honorable member are correct. The New South Wales Government has defaulted to the extent of more than £1,500,000.
– The Government is starving the women and children of Australia to send money overseas.
– Mr. Lang was warned that his policy would result in the infliction of additional hardship on the people.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the following statement published in to-day’s Canberra Times: -
That is the sub-committee of the Loan Council - said that the £12,000,000 loan had been definitely decided upon, but when asked whether this meant the abandonment of the fiduciary note issue he replied that that is entirely a matter for the Federal Government to decide.
Will the Prime Minister inform me whether, in view of the fact that definite arrangements have been made to raise this loan, the Government has decided to abandon the proposed fiduciary note issue?
– Details in regard to the proposed £12,000,000 loan have not yet been completed in any respect. It is proposed that £6,000,000 of any such loan shall be devoted to the assistance of wheat-growers, and £6,000,000 to the assistance of the unemployed. The latter provision is only half what the Government intended to make under the fiduciary note issue. It is not proposed to drop the Fiduciary Notes Bill until honorable members have suggested something better to take its place.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The termination of the services of returned soldiers in the Commonwealth Public Service, such as (1) cleaners from the engineering branch of the General Post Office, Sydney, and (2) limbless soldiers from various departments “.
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– We can now see where the alliance is! Honorable members of the Opposition are supporting the motion.
.- I regret such an interjection by the Prime Minister. I do not propose to cover the dismissal of all returned soldiers from departments of the Commonwealth Public Service, but merely to make citations of two types of such dismissals. The first relates to the dismissal of 36 returned soldier cleaners temporarily employed in the engineering branch of the General Post Office, Sydney; and the second, to the dismissal of six limbless soldiers from various Commonwealth Departments. The 36 men were dismissed on the 6th September last. Thirty of the men were married, and had families of from two to four children dependent upon them. Most of them were suffering from war injuries, which make it virtually impossible, even in the best of times, for them to compete on the labour market with able bodied men. In times of severe depression such as we are passing through at present the position of these men becomes infinitely more hopeless. The men were not dismissed because there was no work for them to do, for their positions have been filled by engineering mechanics, 30 of whom are single men, and the majority of whom are not returned soldiers. Nor is any element of economy in pounds, shillings and pence involved in the dismissals, since the returned men whose services have been dispensed with were receiving less than £5 a week each, while the junior mechanics who have replaced them are on a scale of wages in excess of that amount. The department cannot even advance efficiency as a pretext for the change complained of, because the dismissed men have given satisfactory service in the capacity of cleaners for periods extending from two to thirteen years.
– Has any explanation been advanced for the change?
– I do not know that it can be termed an explanation. However, I shall come to that presently. All of the men whose services have been dispensed with became qualified for permanent appointment under the regulations of the Public Service Act, but when they pressed for permanent engagement some considerable time ago, their request was declined, although it was admitted in writing that their eligibility was unquestioned. The grounds of the refusal were that it was considered that the class of work on which they were engaged did not warrant the employment of permanent men. Yet, we have now reached the point when these men are dismissed, and permanent men with shorter sen-vice and infinitely poorer claims are put in their places. I understand, too, that the majority of the new appointees do not belong to the State of New South Wales; that they were brought from a neighbouring State to take the places of these unfortunate men. I made an appeal on the subject to the PostmasterGeneral, but he proved as cold as a dead fish, and nothing satisfactory resulted from my request. In my communication to the Postmaster-General, I pointed out that it was probable that his departmental officers would endeavour to justify the change on the ground that permanent officers must receive first consideration. That is the usual routine bureaucratic subterfuge employed when dealing with such a situation. Knowing that, I endeavoured to make the position clear in a statement, with which I furnished him. I ventured the opinion that such a reason might be admitted under normal conditions, but that existing conditions were not normal, and the reason was, therefore, infinitely less entitled to admission, especially in view of the fact that the dismissed men had long ago become eligible for permanent appointments. I proceeded to say that I was aware that, because of the existing financial stringency, his department was sorely perplexed in dealing with the necessity forced upon it to effect certain reductions in staff. I expressed my sympathy with the department in its difficulties, but stated that nevertheless the dismissals of the men concerned had caused an injustice which must be redressed. As previously intimated, my appeal was in vain. I then made a similar appeal to the then Acting Prime Minister, with no better results. I then made an appeal to the Prime Minister, with the result that the circumstances were submitted to the Public Service Board, from which, in due course, I received an intimation of a bloodless character. It was, to me, repellant in the extreme, especially in view of the circumstances »i these men. There the matter has since rested. I have made no further move, in the hope that the Government might in its wisdom and kindness devise some means to restore these men to employment. My hope has been vain.
Some of the war injuries suffered by these men are very painful. One unfortunate had his face nearly blown away. The fact must be appreciated that these men are unfitted for work more difficult than that of using a broom on a level floor. It is very sad indeed that they should be cast adrift because of the action of the Commonwealth Government.
I shall now refer briefly to the second citation of dismissals.
– Will the honorable member explain the nature of the reply that he received from the Public Service Board ?
– The Board stated that “ the prospects of the re-employment of these men in the future are not bright.” Nor is the Board bright. It proceeded to say that the men “ would be accorded every consideration permissible by the Public Service regulations in the event of opportunities arising for their employment “. I point out that these happenings are occurring in a department which enjoys the luxury of a secretary receiving £S0 a week. Yesterday we heard honorable members of the Opposition talking about extravagance. That is one of the extravagances that they and ! heir colleagues imposed upon our country. That gentleman is enjoying ib.it salary whilst unfortunate returned men with families, and twelve or thirteen years of satisfactory service, are being turned adrift to sink or swim. Last week I directed certain questions to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. A.. Green) concerning picturegrams. The Director of Posts and Telegraphs is very expert in lofty plausibility. He Introduced into the
Country, picturegrams which nobody asked for, with the result that his fantod has cost the country nearly £12,000. For the nine months ended the 30th June last, the latest figures that I could obtain, its operations resulted in a trading loss ofl over £3,000, which tine country must bear. That extravagance’ has been indulged in and perpetuated with impunity, whilst the Government and the Public Service Board will do- nothing to remove the injustices or to ameliorate the condi tions of hardship under which these unfortunate returned soldiers are labouring.
– How many returned men does the honorable member’s motion concern.
– Thirty-six, who have been replaced by thirty-six nonreturned soldiers and also six limbless soldiers who have been dismissed. The second citation deals with a case of equal, if not greater, gravity than the first. I shall enumerate the war disabilities of these six returned limbless soldiers, and I hope that they will not mind my mentioning their names. The first is Mr. Albert Hallam, who is suffering from a gun-shot wound on the right thigh, considered to be equal in severity to an amputation. This man was also working as a cleaner at the General Post Office, but is not in the group that. I previously mentioned. The next case is that of Mr. H. W. Thornwaite, a returned soldier suffering from an amputation of the right leg: He is a member of the Storemen and Packers Union, which he joined in 1920, and his references and character are very good. I may mention that all the men to whom I have referred, and to whom I shall refer, are unionists in addition to being returned soldiers.
– That does not give themany additional rights.
– It gives us an additional right to respect them. The next case is that of Mr. A. McLennan, a returned soldier with a war disability. He is suffering from blindness in the left eye and partial deafness. Since 1918- he has been a financial and prominent member of the Storemen and Packers Union, and his references and. character are very good.
– Is he a unionist as well ?
– Yes. All these men arc trade unionists in addition tobeing returned soldiers. The next case is that of Mr. Clement Clarke, a returned’ soldier, with leg amputated at the hip. Another case is that of Mr. J. C. Squire, a returned soldier, with amputation of the left leg and gunshot wounds in the other leg.
– He is- one of my constituents.
– That is so. Mr. Todd, Director of the Commonwealth Department of Works, wrote of this man as follows : -
Mr. J. C. Squire was employed in this branch us assistant specification writer from the 18th August, 1924, to the 29th November, 1930, inclusive, and censed duty in consequence of the slacking off of work in the branch. During the period Mr. Squire was with the department lie proved himself to be conscientious, industrious, and gave of his best in respect of all work entrusted to him. Personally, I regret that circumstances have been such as to cause thu termination of his employment in the britnell.
The sixth case is that of Mr. C. L. Tindall, a particularly painful case, as the details will demonstrate. This man is a returned soldier whose left leg has been amputated above the knee. In addition he has a compound fracture of the right ankle and a gunshot wound above the right knee. All these men have been turned out of their positions in the Government Service. They are, in the main, married men with children depending upon them. Apparently, these are the only cases of their kind involved throughout the whole of the Commonwealth, and in spite of the fact that the men concerned are in receipt of war pensions, the position of the Government will be quite indefensible if it refuses to reinstate so small a number - only six - limbless soldiers, and thereby declares to the world that the Commonwealth is so barren of resources that it cannot honour its solemn obligations to these unfortunate men. With Mr. Martin Farrow, the President of the Limbless Returned Soldiers Association, I headed a deputation which waited on the Prime Minister. He was most sympathetic) and promised to do what he could for these men. I had previously expressed my assurance of the Prime Minister’s personal sympathies with these men and those depending upon them, and because of that I approached him confident that these cases would be properly attended to. I assured the Prime Minister that any action taken by him to assist these men would not only be gratefully appreciated by them and their dependants, but would also receive the endorsement of the people of Australia. As a returned soldier, it is with a sense of deep sorrow, and yet privilege, that I have tried in this supreme Parliament of our country to inform honorable members of the facts, and to explain the circumstances of these unfortunate comrades of mine, so that honorable members may come to some decision which may induce the Government to reconsider its previous unfavorable replies aud to direct that these men be re-employed.
.- I support the motion for the adjournment of the House on the principle that if the Government does anything that is not in the interests of the returned soldiers I must oppose it. I was in doubt at one stage of the honorable member’s speech whether he was not using this motion as a means to attack the DirectorGeneral of Postal Services, to whom the honorable member has a distinct antipathy, and about whom he has from time to time asked questions in this House with a view to doing him an injury. The policy of the Postmaster-General’s Department is a matter for the Minister, and it is to the Minister that the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) should direct his complaints. The action of the Government in dismissing returned soldiers from various Government departments is acting harshly upon these men. A great number of them were put into those departments on their return from the war by the Repatriation Department. They were partially disabled, but held their positions right up to the time when this. Government came into power. In reply to a question that I asked in September or October last of the then Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons), I was informed that no fewer than 1,492 returned soldiers had been dismissed from government departments since the 30th June.
– Prom the PostmasterGeneral’s Department alone.
– I took the matter up with the Postmaster-General and I spoke at various times in this House protesting against the Government’s action in dismissing these men. I endeavoured to have their cases reviewed, but so far as I can gather, not one of these men has been reinstated. I have a joint letter from 36 men who were dismissed from the mail room in Melbourne. They are all married men, with 74 children in all, depending upon them, and the majority of them are partly incapacitated. What possibility is there of those men obtaining employment in this country? Although the Postmaster-General promised to consider the various cases, not one of the men has been reinstated. I pointed out to him that they could be reinstated by amending the Public Service Act to allow of the rationing of permanent employees. The honorable member who moved this motion pointed out that the six men he mentioned were all unionists. That does not concern me. . The only preference that I recognize is the sentimental preference to returned soldiers, which was promised to them and has been adhered to by every government in the past.
– And by private employers !
– The Prime Minister has stated that the Government will shortly consider the introduction of a five-day week throughout the Public Service, If that were to be introduced to permit of the rationing of permanent members of the Public Service, and the re-employment of dismissed returned soldiers, I should support it, but apparently the Government merely proposes to have the work of the Public Service performed in a fewer number of days per week at the existing rates of pay. A returned soldier was recently dismissed from the mail room of the General Post Office for failing to- pass a medical examination. He was rejected on the ground of slight deafness : despite the fact that his disability did not interfere with his duties as a mail sorter. I admit that the Government has a difficult task to perform in financing the Public Service.
– How can the honorable member say that when the Government is paying one man £80 a week?
– The Director-General of Postal Services is in charge of an enormous undertaking and has to be well paid. The honorable member should not allow his bias against one man to affect his attitude in this matter. The DirectorGeneral of Postal Services is under the control of the Postmaster-General, and the Postmaster-General need only bring down an amendment of the Public Service Act to permit of the rationing of permanent officers and the reinstatment of dismissed returned soldiers. I support the motion because harsh and unjust treatment has been meted out to returned soldiers in the Public Service, particularly those who were only temporarily employed.
.- I am entirely in sympathy with the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) because one of the cases that he has mentioned concerns a constituent of mine. I also assisted the honorable member in presenting his case to the Postmaster-General, who at that time was the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons). I distinctly remember thathonorable gentleman coming to the table and telling us tfe whole story. He said that the Government had no money, and consequently some 1,400 or 1,500 returned soldiers - according to the figures supplied to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) - had to be discharged. The Government coffers were empty, and it was of no use to employ men if they could not be paid. Someone had to go, and therefore the temporary employees in the Government Service had to be dismissed. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons) made it clear at the time where his sympathies lay; but, at a later stage, I again pointed out that the limbless men, who are deserving of special consideration, should be reinstated at all costs. I think that Mr. Squires was employed in the department for years after his return from the war. Some of these men had been engaged for so long a period that they began to consider themselves permanent officers. I know some who had been in the department for ten years, but are now tramping the streets looking for work. Perhaps, by an amendment of the Public Service Regulations, this Parliament could make possible the re-employment of the limbless men. They are few in number, and we should give them some hope in life.
– A ministerial direction would be sufficient.
– Or an amendment of the regulations issued under the Public Service Act. There should be some way out of the difficulty; but, if funds are not available to pay these men, I do not know what can be done. No blame in the matter is attributable to the honorable member for Wilmot. His sympathies are entirely with these men, and the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) knows it.
– I do not know anything of the sort. I have shown that he was responsible for thousands of pounds being squandered at the very time when he was sacking these men.
– Nonsense. The late Government was faced with probably as difficult a situation in certain directions as that now confronting the present Government. Since the number of the crippled and limbless returned soldiers is so small, I hope that the Prime Minister will do everything possible to restore them to their former employment.
were still PostmasterGeneral, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) apparently would have nothing to say about this matter now, since the honorable member for Wilmot is his new leader. The fact remains that the dismissals occurred when that honorable member was PostmasterGeneral, and he is now going about the country telling the people of his ideas for solving the problem of unemployment. He is talking, perhaps more than anybody else, against repudiation; but, when he was Postmaster-‘ General, he repudiated the sacred promise given to the men who fought for their country that they would be looked after upon their return. In his efforts to balance the budget he did not care a jot for that promise to the returned soldiers.
– So long as he pleased Niemeyer.
– The honorable member for Martin has spoilt a good case.
– Originally the honorable member for Martin brought this matter under the notice of the honorable member for Wilmot.
– Who gave the returned men his sympathy.
– Apparently that is all they received. I suppose that, in the final analysis, the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) should take more blame than any other Minister for what has been done.
Honorable members have become intoxicated with the idea of balancing the budget, and they are willing to let the returned soldiers, and many other deserving members of the community, go to the devil, so long as the overseas financiers are paid. Irrespective of whatever government happens to be in power, the interests of the overseas bondholders are to be safeguarded, at the dictation of the big financiers, even to the extent of sacking returned soldiers. As the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) has pointed out, the dismissed men were engaged in probably the only class of work that they were capable of doing; yet they were sacked in cold blood, and left to shift for themselves. I would not have said anything about the way in which the blame for this action should be apportioned, if the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) had not attempted to throw a cloak of innocence over the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons). On broad principles, the dismissed men should be reinstated.
A direction should be given by the Government that the services of a certain official receiving £4,000 a year are not required. The post office ran well for a long time without him. I believe that he received only about £700 a year in Great Britain. This officer is not worth anything like £4,000 a year, and I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) will take a couple of thousand pounds off his salary so that the discharged men may be re-employed. In times like these, nobody in this country is worth a salary of £4,000 a year. In any reduction of expenditure in the Public Service, we should begin at the top of the ladder, and leave men. such as limbless soldiers alone. This is the least we can do for those who served their country from 1914 to 1918. Every person in the community who is in need to-day is entitled to food and shelter, irrespective of war service. Many of those in want to-day could not have enlisted, because they were below the age for military service. I hope that the appeal made by the honorable member for Martin will be acted upon by the Government, and that the dismissed men will at least be reinstated under the same conditions as they previously enjoyed.
.- It is not my intention to abuse the Government for its attitude towards returned soldiers, nor can I join with the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) in his general denunciation of the Director of Postal Services, who is a most efficient officer. Some men are cheap at £4,000 a year, others are dear at £4 a week. As a member of the Government that appointed Mr. Brown, I know that by one of his first administrative acts he saved to the Commonwealth £25,000 on one contract. That saving was sufficient to pay his salary for six years ahead. During the last general election the Labour campaign director in New South Wales made certain specific promises to the returned soldiers. It was cruel of him to make such promises if they could not be fulfilled. I join with those honorable members who claim that the disabled soldier should have sympathetic consideration. He has a much harder row to hoe than have other soldiers, and certainly than non-soldier members of the community. Therefore, he should receive particular care. I have had brought to my notice the circumstances of a man who was employed as a temporary officer in the Postal Department prior to the war. In 1914 he applied for, and was granted, permission to enlist in the expeditionary force sent to New Guinea. Upon his return he resumed duty in the Postal Department, but subsequently was given permission to enlist in the Australian I mperial Force. He was badly knocked about on service, and spent many months in the Caulfield Military Hospital. After his discharge he was given work in the Postal Department, being sent to New South “Wales because there was no position for him in Victoria. Until recently he has been a lift attendant at the General Post Office in Sydney. Now, after seventeen years of service to his country, either as a soldier or a public servant,he is thrown out into a cold world. His original full pension was reduced to half because he preferred a job. He is so disabled that he has to live in a straight jacket, and is unfitted for any ordinary employment. It is true that as he receives a half pension he is not wholly destitute, but what honorable member would sacrifice a limb for the sake of a pension? We have responsibilities to the limbless men, and we should see that they get a fair deal. If it is possible to restore them to the Public Service, even to the detriment of permanent officers who did not go to the front, preference should be given to them.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) referred to an election pamphlet. It is a pity to introduce extraneous considerations into the discussion of the distressing subject whichthe honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) has brought before the House. I regret that he did not give to me earlier notice of his intention to submit this motion. He communicated with me at 12.30 to-day, and as the House met at 2.30. and the luncheon hour intervened, such notification was not sufficient to enable me to acquaint myself with the facts. I have obtained the file from the department, but have had no chance to domore than peruse it hurriedly. It is clear, however, that this matter is not new; even the honorable member’s activity in respect of it dates back to September last. When the Government took office in October, 1929, 1,700 of these men had received notice of dismissal ; 95 per cent. of them were returned soldiers. The Government retained these men in the Service for six months longer than was intended by the previous administration. I well remember the appeal which the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons), when Postmaster-General, made to the Treasurer for extra money. His appeal was granted, and the men were kept on until the end of the financial year. Admittedly since then more than 1,700 men have been dismissed. I do not like having to defend the dismissal of any men, particularly those who are disabled, but the revenue had fallen, works in hand had been completed, and no more money was available for new works. On one day the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) introduced several deputations to me in Sydney, but the briefest was that consisting of half a dozen limbless men who had been dismissed. Their appearance so aroused my sympathy that I could not continue to listen to the details of their circumstances. I consulted immediately with the Public Service Board regarding the possibility of their reinstatement. The members of the board received most sympathetically my suggestion that a thorough search of all departments should be instituted with a view to finding positions for the displaced men. Officers of the board were deputed to do that. The honorable member for Martin received a letter from the then Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons), dated the loth September last, together with a minute setting forth all the particulars regarding these dismissals. The simple fact is that the department engaged a number of lads as junior mechanics, and trained them until they were fit to take up positions. They are permanent members of the Service, and unless they displace the temporary men, there is no work for them to do. The department had to choose between efficiently-trained mechanics, who were too young to go to the war, and less efficient temporary employees. Many of these junior mechanics are sons of men who died at the front. Honorable members will realize that the principle of preference to returned soldiers does not work out altogether as we would like. I have in mind ti young man whose father was killed in France, and who was dismissed from the Postal Department to make room for a returned soldier. I was very touched by the appeal made on behalf of the six limbless soldiers, and in normal circumstances I would say that we should go out of our way to make provision for them in public departments. But in the parade before this building on Anzac Day I saw able-bodied returned soldiers who must have been ashamed of the clothes they wore. They were not limbless or halfblind pensioners, but men who were physically fit, able and willing to work. Honorable members should not forget that the disabled men are at least receiving in pensions money which the ablebodied returned soldiers would be glad to receive as wages for work.
– Would the right honorable gentleman lose a leg for thirty shillings a week?
– I would not. I remind the honorable member that in August last, when replying to a barrage of criticism from the press that supports his party, and that advocates the reduction of soldiers’ pensions, I pointed out that soldier pensioners are occupying good positions in the Public Service and elsewhere; but I said that no able-bodied nian would change places with a disabled soldier for the sake of his pension. We have occasionally to choose between returned soldiers who are in receipt of a pension, and returned soldiers who are starving. My sympathy is extended to the disabled men, and if it were possible to do so I would create positions for them. But all of them are receiving pensions ranging from a maximum of £3 6s. to a minimum of £1 Ss. a week. I ask the House to take into consideration all the facts. The letter sent to the honorable member for Martin, although couched in official language, was not cold-blooded. In one paragraph of the letter the board pointed out that Messrs. Thornwaite and McLennan were not employed under the Public Service Act, but under the Defence Act, and were not registered with the board for temporary employment. The chairman of the board suggested that they should so register. That letter showed the desire of the board to find positions for the displaced men. My instruction was that every avenue should be explored with a view to placing the six men who had been specifically mentioned, because of the nature of their injuries. But other returned soldiers are out of work. The widespread unemployment is a tragedy, and if the Government could get some sympathetic support for its financial proposals it could do something to alleviate suffering. Unfortunately that support is not being given to us. These dismissals from public departments commenced long before the present Government assumed office. For many mouths we saved hundreds of men who were under notice of dismissal, and in so doing strained the financial resources of the department, as the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons) pointed out. The Government does not lack sympathy for the returned soldiers, and there is no need to make a special appeal in their behalf. If members are prepared to declare that positions must be found for every returned soldier who is out of work, or for every returned soldier who was formerly employed in the Service, whether there is work for them to do or not, means of financing such employment must be devised. The Government has suggested a means of raising money for unemployment relief. Its proposals have been rejected. If other honorable members can devise a solution of the unemployment problem or a means of alleviating the distress it causes, I earnestly appeal to them to make their suggestions, which the Government will sympathetically consider.
.- Having regard to the Prime Minister’s statement that the six limbless men who waited upon him at a deputation in Sydney were such a distressing spectacle that he could not continue to listen to them, the reply he has just made is most unsatisfactory. It clearly indicated that men who have served their country in the Great War and have been seriously disabled for life have had to give way to young men in the employ of the PostmasterGeneral at the General Post Office in Sydney. That policy cannot be justified. After the war, when employment was being sought for returned soldiers, particularly disabled men, the Postal Department and other branches of the Public Service were found to be the only avenues in which seriously disabled returned men could be placed. We have spent many millions of pounds on the repatriation of returned soldiers, and some of that money has been devoted to training limbless and disabled men for positions in the Public Service. It is a tragic thing that, so soon as this country finds itself passing through a time of hardship, so soon as we are, in effect, up against it, the men who served their country at the war should, in effect, be thrown on the scrap-heap. They are compelled to go. in search for work at a time when it is almost impossible for them to find it.
It has been disclosed in the statement of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) that the services of returned soldiers have been dispensed with because there was a shortage of employment. Handicapped as they are in many cases as a result of their war service, they have had to go out and look for work elsewhere.
The six cases which have been quoted, are merely typical of others in various States. During the last election campaign the Treasurer issued a statement over his own signature giving an assurance which, no doubt, was accepted by many of the returned men now concerned, that employment would be provided in the Public Service for all disabled returned soldiers. This is what he said -
The placing in employment of partially disabled returned soldiers is a very hard problem. But for the sympathetic treatment of them by employers, it would indeed be almost impossible to solve. These men could all be found positions in the Public Service, doing useful work and, thereby, distributing responsibility over the whole of the taxpayers; not, as now, leaving it to a very few to carry. This could be done without in any way impairing the efficiency of the Service.
That is a very definite and precise promise, and should be honored as far as practicable by the Government, certainly to the extent of keeping in employment men with long service. As was pointed out by the honorable member for Martin, all the men affected have had long service, and all have excellent records. We cannot escape from the fact that they have not received proper consideration. All sorts of promises were made to them before they went to the war, after they returned, and during the last election. In spite of those promises they have been callously turned out by the Government. Although the Prime Minister said that he was impressed by the case put forward on behalf of the six men specifically referred to, the fact remains that they have received no satisfaction. I ask the Prime Minister to look into their cases again, and also into the cases of the other disabled men who have been dismissed in other States. It was found necessary, in order to avoid, dismissals in the Defence Department, to ration the work. If need be, something similar should be done in the other departments so as to furnish employment for disabled returned men. The Government has fallen down on its job. It has failed to honour the promises made by this and previous Governments.
– The Government which the honorable member supported sacked dozens of returned soldiers.
– Some interesting information regarding the dismissal of returned men by this Government was given to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) in reply to a question. It was stated that during the period from June to October of 1930, this Government dismissed 2,292 employees.
– And 1,700 of them were under notice of dismissal when this Government took office.
– Of the 2,292 mentioned, 1,429 were returned soldiers, of whom 1,144 had had two years’ service, while many of them had had twelve years’ service.
– Were any returned soldiers discharged prior to the advent of this Government?
– At present we are concerned with 36 very seriously disabled returned soldiers whose situation has been explained by the honorable member for Martin. The Prime Minister himself admitted that he was impressed by the serious nature of their disabilities.
– The actual number is six, not 36.
– There are 36 men altogether, and the Prime Minister considered the cases of six of them.
– There were only six disabled men.
– The number quoted by the honorable member for Balaclava was 36. These 36 disabled men were employed in the Postmaster-General’s Department in Melbourne and there were also 36 returned men in the General Post Office in Sydney, six of whom were seriously disabled - the six the Prime Minister saw in New South Wales. All the Governments of Australia have an obligation to the returned soldiers, and surely the position of the country is not so utterly hopeless that provision cannot be made for our seriously disabled men. There must be room in a huge organization such as our Public Service, which costs £11,000,000 a year, for such of the returned soldiers as have been referred to in this debate. I ask the Prime Minister to re-consider this matter carefully, and to ensure, if possible, that the dismissed men are restored to the positions they have held for so many years.
.- I sympathize with the efforts of those who have interested themselves on behalf of returned soldiers, but one might be excused, after listening to this debate, for believing that all the returned soldiers in the country are, or have been, in the employ of the Commonwealth Government. It is true that, during the régime, not only of this Government, but of the previous Government, returned soldiers have had to be dismissed along with others ; but it is also true that, in many cases, injustices have been perpetrated in order to provide returned soldiers with employment. I remember that, even during the war, a post office employee whose five sons had gone to the war, two of them having been killed, was dismissed in order to make room for a returned man. We should look at this matter from all points of view, and it would be instructive, I think, to inquire what private employers in Australia have done for returned soldiers.
Mr.Killen. - They have done as much as anybody else.
– Not all of them. I have known returned soldiers who have wandered about the country for months in search of work, and have finally taken off their badges and stood in the queue for jobs, because in. no other way did they have any chance of obtaining work. Bad as may have been the treatment meted out to some of the soldiers in government employ, they have been treated ten times worse by private employers.
– Does not the honorable member see that the Commonwealth Government is setting private employers a very bad example?
– I do not deny that. I merely wish to point out that we should not do injustice to other sections of the community in our laudable desire to help returned soldiers. Many young men of the present day were too young to go to the war. Probably their brothers fought, or even their fathers, and surely they should not be denied the right to work, even to benefit returned soldiers. I admit that there is room for inquiry into many matters relating to the rights of returned soldiers. Besides employment, there is the matter of pensions which would bear scrutiny. I am as desirous as any one that the promises made to returned soldiers should be honored. They were promised much by State and Commonwealth Governments, particularly by the Commonwealth Government, and it is our duty to see, if possible, that they receive fair treatment.
.- Only the Prime Minister has yet seen fit to speak to this motion on behalf of the Government. I have been waiting to hear the reply of the Minister concerned, but so far he has been silent. I listened carefully to the statement of the Prime Minister, and I must confess that his arguments left me cold. His was a most unsatisfactory reply. In the first place, he introduced party politics by saying that if certain legislative proposals of the Government, presumably those relating to the printing of notes, had been allowed to pass through Parliament, money would he available for the employment of returned soldiers. He also referred to 1,700 employees who, he alleged, were to be dismissed, but who were kept on for six months by this Government, which acted in the role of the Good Samaritan.
– That has been already pointed out on more than one occasion by the honorable member forWilmot (Mr. Lyons).
– If there is any merit in it, the honorable member for Wilmot is entitled to all the credit he can get for his action.. I do not propose to throw any stone at him for having kept these men on.
– The honorable member is not game. The honorable member for Wilmot is now his leader.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Cusack) is misinformed. Information has been supplied in this House to the effect that, during the period of eight months, this Government dismissed 2,189 returned soldier employees from the PostmasterGcneral’s Department. The 36 men referred to by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) are only a few the number concerned.
The mover of the motion also referred to six disabled men. I cannot understand the attitude adopted by the Prime Minister in this connexion. The right honorable gentleman said that on Anznc
Day he saw a number of unemployed returned men standing about in full possession of their health and strength. He left the inference to be drawn that those men were much worse off than the disabled returned men who wore unemployed, because the latter received a pension. I am the oldest member of the Council of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, and one of the three who founded the Limbless Soldiers Association. I wish to make it quite plain that that association, and the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, have always adopted it as a cardinal principle that the fact that a man is in receipt of a pension should not be taken into consideration in assessing the value of his services to the community. If a soldier pensioner is able to do the job for which he is paid, he ought to receive the full wage for it, irrespective of the fact that he is in receipt of a pension. Yet the Prime Minister this afternoon used the argument that because a returned soldier was receiving a pension from the Government, he was being well paid-
– He said nothing of the kind.
– That was the only inference that could be drawn from his remarks.
– No, no !
– All the talk about sympathy for these men gets us nowhere. I was amazed to hear the Prime Minister draw the distinction between able-bodied soldiers and limbless returned men particularly in view of the fact that the Treasurer, as campaign director for the Labour party in the last federal election, promised that positions would be found in the Commonwealth Public Service for every disabled soldier. That promise was like many others that were made. It did not have behind it the slightest intention of fulfilment. Neither in the original Cabinet formed from honorable members opposite nor in the reconstructed Cabinet was room found for even one returned soldier. I am not likely to be influenced, therefore, by the cheap claptrap of honorable members opposite. The Prime Minister said that his heart bled when he saw returned men out of employment. I do not think that his heart has ever bled.
– Be fair.
– No fewer than 2,200 returned men have been dismissed from the Postmaster-General’s Department in thelast eight months. A small amendment could have been made to the Commonwealth Public Service Act to provide for the admission of all returned soldier employees into the service as permanent officers. The present Postmaster-General (Mr. A. Green), the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr.Forde) and the exMinister for Health (Mr. Anstey) were all members of the Public Accounts Committee which recommended such an amendment of the act, and while they were Cabinet colleagues they could have caused a bill to be introduced to make that amendment. Had it been made, the axe would have fallen evenly on all redundant officers.
– When was that report presented ?
– About twelve months before the last Government was defeated.
– Then why did not the honorable member for Richmond cause the Government, which he supported, to make the amendment?
– This is the fourth occasion on which I have objected in this House to the dismissal of returned soldiers from the Public Service. This Government cannot escape condemnation for its failure to protect the interests of returned men. It is probably too late now to amend the act in the direction I have indicated, but in view of the fact that a bill for this purpose could be put through the House in ten minutes, it might still be worth while to do it. Had that amendment been made we should have been saved a great deal of heart-burning and trouble, and also all the histrionics and verbal acrobatics of the Prime Minister this afternoon.
– The honorable member’s time has expired. For the information of honorable members I intimate that the new Standing Order provides that this debate may continue for two hours from the time of its commencement. That period will not expire until 4.55 p.m.
– It is of no use for honorable members opposite to try to place on the shoulders of this Government the blame for the non-fulfilment of the promises made to returned soldiers. It must be remembered that these promises were first made in the earliest days of the recruiting campaign for war service overseas. The men who were urged to enlist were told that if they served their country Australia would be made a land fit for heroes to live in. They were promised that not only would they be cared for, but that their dependants also would lack for nothing. When this Government assumed office, many men were under notice of dismissal from the Postmaster-General’s Department; but many hundreds of returned soldiers had been dismissed previous to that time. It is therefore useless for honorable members opposite to try to shoulder the responsibility for what has happened on to other people. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) has said that more than 2,000 men have been dismissed from the Postmaster-General’s Department in the last few months and a large number in New South. Wales is now depending upon such assistance in the way of food as the Lang Government can give them. Let me also remind the honorable member that the men to whom the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) has referred arc among the number.
In the course of his remarks the Prime Minister stated that he participated on Saturday last in the celebration of Anzac Day. Let me ask him how he thinks the unemployed returned soldiers who were in attendance are being fed and clothed while they are walking the streets out of work? Hundreds of these men in Sydney and other parts of New South Wales are utterly dependent upon the dole and whatever assistance the New South Wales Government can give them. That Government, like every other government, has had to decide between providing these men and others with food, clothing, and shelter, and sending money overseas to meet the interest charges on war loans. Many of the people who invested in those loans took no part whatever in the war and are making no sacrifices at all to-day. Any attempt to defend the interests of these people and, in the same breath, to talk of the sacrifices of men whose health has been impaired by war service, is deplorable. Many men lost their limbs in the war, and have now been thrown on the industrial scrap heap. To-day they are at the tender mercy of governments and benevolent institutions. For my part, I have made it quite clear in the present crisis that I support a policy which provides for the granting of sustenance to these and other men in preference to a policy which provides merely for the payment of interest on war loans. A great deal has been said about repudiation. You are the repudiationists - you are repudiating these men every day.
– 1 rise to a point of order. I submit, first, that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is not in order in using threatening language, and, secondly, that he is not in order in addressing honorable members as “ you “ in any manner whatever.
– The line of argument being followed by the honorable member for West Sydney is in order ; but I must ask him to address honorable members as the representatives of constituencies and not personally.
– I have no desire to wound the tender susceptibilities of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). I shall be most careful to give him the fullest title that is due to him. I have no desire to take anything whatever from you.
– I again rise to a point of order. The honorable member is addressing other honorable members as “ you “ almost immediately after he has been directed to do otherwise.
– I ask the honorable member for West Sydney to obey the ruling of the Chair.
– I shall endeavour to do so. Honorable members opposite have repudiated returned soldiers over and over again. For my part, I intend, in this crisis, as at other times, to recognize my responsibility to assist, not only limbless soldiers, but other returned men and the workers generally.-
I make no apology to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who is interjecting, or to any other honorable member, for the attitude that I adopted during the war. I am quite satisfied that if the returned men who assembled in many places .on Saturday to celebrate Anzac Day were given the opportunity to do so they would endorse the sentiments which I am expressing this afternoon. I have the greatest sympathy with all who are in need in this country, and intend to do my best to see that they are given relief. The people who are the real repudiationists are those who have failed to redeem the promises made from the earliest days of the wai’ to the men who enlisted - the men whose case is under consideration in the discussion of this motion. These men were told that if they went to the war, both they and their dependants would be cared for; but their circumstances to-day show how far this promise has been honored.
– I stated recently that any criticism directed purely to embarrass a government in its administration is improper and unjustifiable in times such as the present. We must recognize that the work of all governments is difficult and becoming increasingly so. I have no desire to be in any way unreasonable in my criticism of the Government’s action in discussing the motion that was moved by the- honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge). It deals with the dismissal of members of the Returned Limbless Sailors and Soldiers Association, and of some other returned soldiers who were engaged in cleaning work in the. New South Wales branch of the Postal Department, numbering in all 36. I entirely agree with the representations that have been made, particularly with regard to the members of the Returned Limbless Sailors and Soldiers Association. There have been other cases besides those quoted by the honorable member. In regard to one of these I made representations direct to the Prime Minister. In a letter dated the 9th April last, the Acting Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department replied to my communication as follows : -
With further reference to your letter of the 11th March, relative to the case of Mr. J. E. Rice, a returned’ limbless soldier, on whose behalf representations were made to you by the Returned Limbless Sailors and Soldiers Association, Room 21, Courier Building, Queen-street, Brisbane, I desire to inform you that it has been the practice of the Com- monwealth Public Service Board and Commonwealth Departments to give special consideration in the matter of employment to maimed and limbless soldiers, and it is only in extreme circumstances that their services are dispensed with.
When Mr. Bice was last engaged there was a reasonable expectation of his services being required foi- some considerable time, as he was being utilized in place of a permanent officer who had taken up duty temporarily in the Territory of New Guinea, but no definite term of employment was assured Mr. Rice.
In the present time of general depression, there has been a falling off in the activities of Government Departments, particularly in the Customs and Postmaster-General’s Departments, and this has resulted in permanent officers becoming in excess of requirements in their normal positions. These officers cannot, under the Public Service Act, bc declared as “excess” while there are temporary employees occupying positions which the permanent officers could (ill, and the board, therefore, has no option but to replace the temporary employees if a permanent officer becomes available.
The Commonwealth Public Service Board very much regrets that a permanent officer of the Customs Department became in excess of requirements in his normal position, and the only position in which he could bc placed was that occupied by Mr. Rice, leaving no alternative to termination of employment.
I believe that Mr. Rice is one of the few temporary members of the Postal Department whose services were retained in Queensland. The letter continued -
I am to add that the case of Mr. Rice will be accorded every consideration permissible under the Public Service Regulations in the event of temporary assistance being required.
Honorable members must all agree that it is most regrettable that the services of these unfortunate men should be dispensed with at this stage. The position in Queensland has been somewhat different from that in other States. For some time past there has been a gradual elimination of temporary employees from the Postal Department of that State, so that to-day practically not one is left. The services of these men were dispensed with at a time when there was some possibility of securing other employment.
– During the time that Mr. Christie was Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Queensland. That gentleman, probably foreseeing what the future had in store, set out gradually to eliminate temporary employees from his depart ment. I urge that the Government should give consideration to the adoption of a rationing scheme, such as the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has suggested more than once, and also that it should further explore the possibility of employing limbless men to operate government lifts, to collect railway tickets in the Commonwealth Railway Department, and to do similar work for which they are qualified.
I believe that the honorable member for Martin was justified in bringing this matter before the House. I am not concerned at this juncture with the conduct of the Postal Department or with the Government’s financial policy. Those issues are not included in the motion which I am supporting. In the past I have made appeals to governments on behalf of my ex-soldier comrades, without heat or political prejudice, and again I ask the Government to give sympathetic consideration to the case of these men. I realize that they do not stand alone, but there are thousands of their comrades in the tragic position of being unemployed. These unfortunate individuals have proved themselves worthy employees of the Commonwealth, so there is an added and special obligation on the Government to make a definite effort to re-employ them, either on work that is rationed, or in capacities for which limbless soldiers are peculiarly fitted.
.- I have never allowed the subject of unemployment to pass without striving my utmost to have something done to alleviate the evil. I hope to see the day when governments will say definitely that it is their primal duty to find work for the people. I hate and loathe the term “ casual workers “. After a man has been employed for some twelve months and has proved himself capable of doing the work, his job should be made permanent. Many of the men to whom the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) referred had been employed in the Postal Department for years. Many are labouring under disabilities with which everyone must sympathize. It is my experience in life that one ounce of help is worth a ton of sympathy. I recollect helping a hero of the Balaclava Charge who came into the hospital in which I was engaged when a student, many years ago. The great British Government gave that man a pension of 6d. a day. He was recovering from his eighteenth amputation; both his legs were off- I went round among my fellow students and collected enough to purchase for him a vehicle in which he could propel himself. How many of the Balaclava heroes died in the workhouse, until one great man who conducted a London newspaper instituted a campaign and made the nation realize its responsibilities in the matter.
Then came the South African War. Promises were made that our men would be looked after. The then ActingGovernor, Sir John Madden, later stated publicly - and I have his letter if any one doubts what I am saying - that he regretted that promises were put into his lips which were not carried out by subsequent governments. Next came the awful holocaust of 1914-1918. Certainly those who participated in it were cared for much better than were those in preceding wars, but still not enough has been done. I do hope to see the time when we shall reach a stage described by the wonderful writer who referred to the three races of intelligent beings which inhabit this earth, the human, the ant, and the bee. Never in the nest of the ant or in the hive of a bee do the young or the workers suffer from a lack of the necessaries of life. Can we say the same of the human who, Ave are told, is fashioned in God’s likeness, who possesses brains that enable him to create almost anything. He can send a wireless message from pole to pole, and direct the greatest ship across the Atlantic during the night without a mishap. Yet he has failed to use those splendid brains to eradicate unemployment and misery. That is why I hate find loathe the term “ casual workers “.
I recognize that it might be difficult in times of stress to accomplish my object, but normally it should be possible to provide work for all. Nothing is better for humanity than regularity of employment. Rents and accounts are paid by the workers when their wages are received regularly, and they render valuable service to the com- munity. I impress upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and the Government that it is not sufficient to extend sympathy to the workless. I do not believe that any religion that is preached from Christian or other pulpits would fail to acknowledge that if God be God He never intended that this earth should be as it is at present. I base my knowledge of unemployment on a close experience with it of over 42 years, and I want to see something definite done by this Parliament to remove it from our midst. Rather than go on in the present miserable way I should prefer that the whole of the people of Australia be rationed, as was the case in Great Britain and other countries ‘during the war. If necessary let all incomes above what is needed to pay for the necessaries of life be placed in a common fund, so that this Australia of ours may be rescued from its slough of despair.
I am proud of my Australian brothers, of the young and strong men and women. This country teems with potentialities and food as does no other country in. the world, yet we have in our midst human beings who want for food and clothing. If necessary, I desire to see a state of emergency proclaimed, so that our heroes and their fellows might at least have a subsistence. I invite honorable members to scan the pictorial record which is in my very hand. Here is a photograph of one returned soldier who has lost three limbs, and who receives a paltry pittance of a pension. Here is another of one who has lost two limbs. I hope that we shall not witness what was pictured in the Bulletin by my old friend, Mr. C. Raven Hill. Under the caption “ Will it come to this?” he delineated an old soldier with a wooden leg, and a walking stick to assist his progress, clad in a ragged military coat and trousers baggy at the knees, standing with his hat in his hand, like Belisarius at the gates of Constantinople. It will be recollected that one of that great Consul’s young generals came along and said, “Why did you not ask me to help you ?” Displaying his ragged covering Belisarius said, “ Are not these rags speaking with a thousand voices?” Accordingly these returned soldiers, of whose distressful condition the
Prime Minister and other honorable members have spoken, must be helped. I hope that the Government will do something for them; I care not whether any action which it might take has, or has not, the approval of the Public Service Board.
.- In view of the facts as stated this afternoon, there is good ground for urging that practical consideration be extended to the returned soldiers in question. I know of a considerable number who have been in the employ of the department for some years, but who unfortunately have been retrenched merely because they were classed as temporary employees. All honorable members will agree that, other things being equal, the man who, during the war, responded to the call of his country, is entitled to some measure of preference. Apparently the Public Service Board would recommend preference in employment if the act permitted that body to do so. In the circumstances, it appears to me that the situation would be met by a short amendment of the act, which might contain a provision to the effect that any returned soldier who had been regularly employed in a department for a fixed term - it might be one or five years - should be treated as a permanent employee, and whenever any scheme for retrenchment was under consideration, have the same protection as other employees. It is of no use to talk heroics. What is needed is an amendment of the regulations so that due consideration may be given to these men.
– I am sure that all honorable members have the fullest sympathy for returned soldiers or, for that matter, any persons who lose employment because of circumstances over which they have no control. I admit, in common with all other honorable members who have addressed themselves to this motion this afternoon, that our returned soldiers have a special claim upon the Government. I would, however, remind the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge), that the retrenchment of some of those men took place prior to my appointment as PostmasterGeneral. But I do not wish to disclaim responsibility in this matter, and I am not unaware of the desire of honorable members opposite to make political capital out of the retrenchment of a number of ex-service men. We have been told that 36 disabled cleaners were dismissed by the Postal Department. The honorable member for Martin was, I feel sure, misinformed. The total number of cleaners retrenched was 32. Not one of them was a disabled returned soldier. These men were classed as temporary employees, and when the retrenchment scheme was put into operation, they were replaced by twelve returned soldiers, who were classed as permanent employees. The other 20 were men who had been classed as junior mechanics. They were permanent employees, but because of the exigencies of the situation, it was impossible to find further employment for them.
– The Minister might agree to an amendment of the act.
– That may be done. I regret that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), who outside the House is companionable and likeable, is, within this chamber, a bitter partisan. He charges the Prime Minister and, in fact, all members of the Cabinet with lack of sympathy for returned soldiers. Statements of that kind are not calculated to further the cause which he espouses, because they are extravagant and quite wide of the truth, and, if persisted in, would prevent us from getting to grips with the question at issue, namely, to see what can be done in the interests of ex-service men. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) put a number of questions concerning employment to my predecessor, and was informed that 2,292 men had been dismissed from the department. I believe the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons) mentioned that when he became PostmasterGeneral he found that 1,700 men had been marked down for dismissal because of the difficult financial position which was then developing. To illustrate how difficult it is to maintain the volume of employment in my department, I may state that in prosperous years expenditure on public works amounts to approximately £4,000,000 a year, but at the present time, unfortunately, our works programme has been cut down to the absolute minimum. It is impossible for me to authorize the erection of even one post office, and it has been necessary to cut out what would, in normal times, bo considered necessary mail services.
– Why not adopt the principle of rationing?
– I am advised by the Postal Director, who, whatever some honorable members may think of him is, I am sure, one of the ablest officials in the Commonwealth Public Service, that it cannot be clone if the department is to function efficiently. But I am prepared to make further inquiries, and, indeed, will consider any proposal that is likely to benefit our returned soldiers. When I was a young man I was an employee in the Postal Department for some years, and I have no doubt that I worked with men who, to-day, are in the ranks of returned soldiers. Consequently, I am prepared to examine carefully any proposal that may be made on their behalf. Under the act it is obligatory, whenever any scheme for retrenchment is being considered, to dispense first with the services of temporary employees so as to ensure, if possible, the continued employment of permanent men, among whom, of course, there must be a number of ex-service men. Until the act is amended, that policy must be continued. It is true that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), and the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) were with mo members of the Public Accounts Committee which some time ago, made an exhaustive inquiry into the position of temporary employees in the Public Service. Those who have no knowledge of the nature of the work in the Postal Department might quite reasonably argue that the employment of such a large number of temporary employees is uneconomic, but I join issue with the honorable member for Richmond when he declares that the committee approved of a proposal to classify all temporary employees as permanent officials.
– Surely the Minister must remember the recommendations made.
Mr.A. GREEN.- Administrative experience has convinced mo that the department must have a reasonable margin of temporary employees. The Postal Department, and, indeed, any government department, should be regarded as a business to be conducted in the interests of the people. I admit, of course, that unlike private corporations, of which it has been said that they have neither a body to be kicked nor a soul to be damned, the administrative head of a government department should he actuated by humane instincts and be prepared, during a time of financial stress, to give every consideration to the welfare of employees, whether permanent or temporary. But I am afraid that, unless existing circumstances improve, there is not the slightest hope of the re-employment of the temporary cleaners whose services have been dispensed with. With regard to the position of the limbless soldiers, I shall consider carefully what can be done for them, and, to this end, will confer with the Prime Minister and other members of the Cabinet.
– I shall bring under the notice of the Minister a number of deserving cases.
– I am sure that all honorable members have had representations made to them on behalf of these men, and I can assure them that I shall be glad to do what is possible.
Mr. McNEILL (Wannon - Minister for Repatriation [4.45] . - Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Bernard Corser) - put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . . . 5
– The Chair has no cognizance whatever of any pairs that may be made.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I am sure that we all sympathize with those unfortunate persons who became disabled because of the part that they played in the great war. They left Australia virile young men, but, unfortunately, many of them returned disabled for life, and it behoves this country to assist them to the best of its ability, according to the solemn promise that was given to those men when they left these shores. Well do I remember the flags that were waved at that time, and the statement that was made publicly, and from every platform in this country, to the effect that the best that Australia could give to those who left this their native land to help Great Britain in its time of need should be given to them on their return. That promise was given, not only to those men, but also to the 50,000 men who enlisted in Australia to take part in the South African war, and, so far as I know, not one of whom has ever been repatriated. Every promise given to those who took part in the Boer War has been broken, and almost every promise made to those who took part in the Great War has also been broken. I sincerely hope that means will be found to enable, at any rate, the limbless men to live under better conditions. It is the bounden duty of the War Pensions Appeal Tribunal to make adjustments in pensions from time to time so as to enable these men and their families to live decently and in comfort. I remind honorable members that the private employers of this country are also under an obligation to our returned soldiers, and they should be prepared to play their part. They should carry out as far as possible the promise that they made to our soldiers when they were leaving these shores to take part in the Great War. I am satisfied that this Government will do everything within its power to relieve the sufferings of the limbless returned soldiers who have been referred to by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Tully) and other honorable members.
– If the Minister finishes his remarks now, there will be just time for a vote to be taken on the motion.
– I remind the Leader of the Opposition that the Bruce-Page Government, of which he was a member, did not adhere too strictly to the principle of preference to returned soldiers, and that during the regime of that Government, hundreds of returned soldiers were dismissed from various government departments. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) has condemned this Government, but I remind him, too, that he was a member of a government that appointed the police force in Canberra, and in making that appointment I doubt very much whether consideration was given to the principle of preference to returned soldiers. I am not saying one word against those persons who were appointed to the police force, because I believe them to be good and honorable men. Unfortunately, our returned men have been made a sort of political cockshy by honorable members who should know better. The cause of the returned soldiers is too sacred to be bandied about in Parliament or on the public platform. I repeat that this Government will do everything within its power to give to returned soldiers the rights which truly belong to them. They have certain rights.
– Hear, hear !
– The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) took a prominent part in attempting to repatriate the returned soldiers, but, unfortunately, many men who returned from the war during the régime of a Nationalist government, are to-day suffering hardships and disabilities which no honorable member would be prepared to suffer for even £10 a week.
– The Labour party promised that when it gained office it would employ disabled returned soldiers.
– It also promised to give every unemployed returned soldier a job.
– I have not heard of such a promise.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order257b.
Standing Orders suspended to enable questions upon notice to be answered, and notice of motion No. 1 to be considered.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Willhe explain and reconcile the following items in the reports of theTreasurer and Auditor-General for the year ended 30th June last: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will he inform the House of the quantity and value of goods purchased overseas for the Postmaster-General’s Department during 1930, and specify the countries from which the goods came?
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether the Government will consider the exemption from the proposed taxation of interest of the holdings of Commonwealth inscribed stock by the members of the Returned Limbless Sailors and Soldiers Association ?
– The Government will give consideration to this matter before the bill is proceeded with.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained as far as practicable.
– On the 28th April the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me the following question, upon notice -
Referring to the answers given on the 21st instant to questions by the honorable member for Melbourne regarding export of primary products, will the Minister furnish a list of primary products showing -
Those upon which about 30 per cent. is charged to merchants in addition to the f.o.b. price in Australian ports ; and
Those exported on which such 30 per cent. additional is not charged?
I now desire to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Report No. 6 of the Printing Committee, brought up by Mr. Tully, and read by the Clerk.
Motion (by Mr. Tully) - by leave - proposed -
That tlie report be agreed to.
.- The paper with which this report is concerned is the result of investigations by the committee appointed to inquire into the operation of the sugar bounty. As I understand that the discussion on the committee’s recommendations is to take place to-morrow, I have_ endeavoured to inform my mind concerning them by a perusal of the majority and minority reports of the committee in their present form. Unfortunately, neither of the reports contains appendices, notwithstanding that the conclusions of the committee were based largely on the information contained therein. I challenge any honorable mem-* ber to arrive at an intelligent conclusion on the sugar question without having before him the material contained in the appendices. It may be said that the printing of the appendices would involve additional expense; but I point out that the reports are quite useless in relation to many aspects of the case unless accompanied by the appendices. Personally, I feel that I must see the appendices before being in a position to consider the reports as they ought to be considered.
– We are dealing with a big question, and should have before us all the information available.
– The matters dealt with in the reports are of considerable importance, not only to Queensland, but also to the rest of Australia; and consequently the fullest information should be made available to honorable members before they are asked to discuss them.
– Could not the discussion be postponed until further information has been made available to us?
– I was about to suggest that course. In my copy of the minority report, and probably also in the copies of other honorable members, the table of contents is wrong as to the pages I doubt whether, in their present form, the reports are of much use to honorable members. This House is not obliged to accept the recommendations of any committee, or of a majority of any committee, and consequently we need to have before us, in addition to the opinions of the committee, the evidence upon which those opinions were based. I suggest that the discussion of the sugar question - a profoundly important subject - should not take place until we have been placed in possession of all the information available in the appendices.
– Would it meet the wishes of the Opposition if the discussion took place a week later?
– Yes, if the papers are made available to us in the meantime.
– If the papers were made available to-morrow, would the postponement of the discussion until Thursday of next week suit the convenience of honorable members ?
– That arrangement would be satisfactory to me, and I believe also to other honorable members.
– I understand that revised copies of the majority and minority reports will be available in printed form to-morrow morning, but that would probably not allow honorable members sufficient time to become acquainted with their contents by the afternoon. The reports themselves have already been printed, but not the appendices. They will be available to honorable members to-morrow morning. I shall discuss with the Prime Minister the desirability of postponing for a week the discussion on the sugar question, so that, in the meantime, honorable members may have an opportunity to consider the information contained in the appendices. It was only because the Prime Minister thought that honorable members desired an early discussion on this matter that the consideration of the reports was set down for to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Export Guarantee Act - Return showing assistance granted to 31st March, 1931.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1931, Nos. 37, 38.
Motion (by Mr. Blakeley) agreed to-
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Solar Observatory Fund Act 1930.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, although small, is important. It deals with an amendment of the Solar Observatory Fund Act, which was passed by Parliament last year. Honorable members will recollect that it provided for the management, by -a number of trustees, of a fund subscribed to, and collected by the late Dr. Duffield. Unfortunately, iu the drafting of that measure an agreement which had been entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the late Dr. Duffield in relation to the administration of the income from the fund was overlooked. The principal act provided not only that the trustees of the fund should invest the moneys of the fund, but also that they should expend the income. That was contrary to the agreement to which I have referred. Section 9 of the act provides that the trustees may expend, for the purposes of the observatory, the income accruing from the investment of the money constituting the fund. The money comprising the fund is not Commonwealth money belonging to the Consolidated Revenue; it was subscribed and collected in the mariner I have indicated. The amending bill provides that the director of the solar observatory shall have the power to spend the income derived from the fund. It repeals section 9 of the act of last year, and inserts a new section 9 which provides, first for the establishment of a directors’ account; secondly for the payment into such account of the net income from the investment of the money constituting the fund ; and thirdly for the director, not the trustees as at present, to expend, for the purposes of the observatory, money standing to the credit of the directors’ account.
The principal act provided that the accounts of the trustees shall be subject to investigation and inspection by the Auditor-General. The bill provides that the expenditure by the director of the income from the fund shall also be subject to such investigation and inspection.
– What is to be done with the income from the fund?
– The money is invested in Commonwealth stock. The fund totals approximately £1,800. The income will be expended by the director, in pursuance of the agreement entered into between the late Dr. Duffield and the Commonwealth Government, on the work of the Solar Observatory.
.- The explanation given by the Minister appears to be complete and satisfactory, and I therefore see no reason why the bill should not be passed forthwith.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and - by leave - passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to a conference with five members of the House of Representatives on thi3 bill, and had appointed Senators Barnes, Dooley, Hoare, McLachlan and Carroll to represent it at such conference ; also that it had appointed the Senate Committee Room as the place, and the hour of S p.m. this day, as the time for the holding of the conference.
Motion (by Mr. Blakeley) proposed -
That the place and time appointed by the Senate for the conference be agreed to.
– The standing order relating to that matter has already been suspended for this conference.
– It will be remembered that when the previous motion regarding the appointment of managers was submitted to this House, certain honorable members declined to act as managers; but, prior to that, the standing order relating to the suspension of the sitting during a conference had been suspended.
– Yes, the previous suspension applies to the forthcoming conference.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 29th of April (vide page 1356), on motion by Mr. Forde: -
That the schedule to the Customs Tariff 1921-1930 be amended as hereunder set out (vide page682).
That the schedule to the Excise Tariff 1921- 1928be amended us hereunder set out(vide page 740).
Item 1 (Ale and other beer, cider and perry, spirituous).
.- I am glad that at last members of this chamber have been given an opportunity to discuss the various tariff schedules, many of which have been before us for approximately eighteen months. There are no fewer than 117 pages of printed matter in the schedules now under consideration. The whole of the items in the -first schedule were placed on the table within a month of the Government assuming office, and I submit that, in those circumstances, the law of the country could not have been observed, because the matters dealt with could not have been referred to the Tariff Board before being brought before the House, as provided under the Tariff Board Act. Many of the problems confronting Australia have been seriously accentuated through the Government’s failure to observe the law in that respect. The Government claimed that many thousands of new avenues of employment would be opened up as the result of its tariff policy, and with every succeeding tariff schedule the Government became even more emphatic on that point, declaring that still further avenues of employment would be made available. The Commonwealth Statistician, in his report for the year ended the 30th June, 1930, stated that the number of factories in New South Wales had decreased by 527, and the number of persons in employment had decreased by 16,732. If one adds to those the number of persons who have been rationed, or placed on part-time, in New South Wales, alone, one realizes that the tariff has been responsible, directly and indirectly, for putting out of employment no fewer than 20,000 persons in that State.
Many of the duties provided for in. the schedule are of a prohibitive nature, and will create monopolies which, in other parts of the world, have proved dangerous to the public. They have resulted in price-fixing, against which the people have no means of protecting themselves. I submit that the tariff, as a whole, as well as its incidence, should be reviewed. Many of the items should be re-classified, and a modification of the duties now imposed should be insisted on. This Government has gone tariff mad. Its policy has proved disastrous to the people, and has interfered particularly with the prosperity of the primary producers.
I do not wish it to be imagined for a moment that I am not a protectionist. I believe that the general prosperity which may be reasonably expected in Australia is possible only under a sound tariff policy for the protection and development of our secondary industries, particularly during their early stages. When the United States of America, which is now the greatest manufacturing and agricultural country in the world - the two classes of industry are vital to each other - attempted to manufacture under a policy of freetrade, the task was found to be hopeless, owing to the costly plants, perfected processes and vast accumulations of capital of America’s competitors in Great Britain. It was realized that a protective policy was essential in the interests of the people of the United States of America, so they erected a tariff wall and jealously maintained it. Australia finds that it is subject to competition from the United States of America, and also from Europe and Asia, where the wages paid are infinitely lower than we claim to be fair to the workers of this country. In the United States of America, particularly, the resources of capital are almost illimitable. Manufacturers there resort to mass production, and they dump large quantifies of their surplus goods in Australia. For those reasons I am strongly in favour of a policy of protection.
In Australia, we have set up a high standard of living for our workers, higher than that in most countries of Europe, and certainly higher than in Asia. We have arbitration courts and wages boards which fix wages. How then, is it possible for us to keep our manufacturing industries alive, and pay the high wages that our workmen receive, if our home market is to be free to outside manufacturers, many of whom pay wages 50 per cent, lower than those received in Australia? If Australian labour is to be protected, we must protect also the product of that labour. A scientific tariff does not exclude all imports; far from. it. There should be a large free list, subject to the demands of revenue. Australia is a debtor country, having to pay Great Britain in kind, and the interest on our loans amounts to considerably over £40,000,000 a year. We have endeavoured to develop the manufacture of goods -which could be produced more profitably elsewhere, and, therefore, the cost of their manufacture in Australia is too high. This has a boomerang effect on other industries. A protective tariff should develop the industries necessary to a country’s safety, wealth, and progress. Protection creates a population with great purchasing power, a people who, besides supporting the industries of their own country, are able to buy extensively abroad of the valuable commodities that are either unobtainable, or cannot be profitably produced, in Australia. Under freetrade, the products of foreign cheap labour are admitted in competition with the domestic products which represent higher and better paid labour. This results in giving our money, our manufactures, and our markets to other nations, to the injury of our labour, our tradespeople, and our farmers. Therefore, I cannot support the freetrade policy, and I am pleased to find that the remnants of the freetrade party are almost unheard in this chamber.
When the late war began there was an enormous demand for blankets, boots, tents, and a wide variety of other equipment for our troops. Under a freetrade policy, it would have been impossible to have met our requirements in these commodities within a reasonable time, and our contribution towards the defence of the Empire would have been seriously minimized. That would have placed an additional burden upon Great Britain, whose responsibility it would have been to supply us with goods, which, under a freetrade policy, we were unable to manufacture. In such circumstances the cost would have fallen not upon all industries, but largely upon the primary producers of this country.
Tariff schedules should be discussed immediately they are tabled, and even when adopted by Parliament should be reviewed from time to time. Duties first imposed should be sufficiently high to enable new industries to become established, and to develop, but further investigation should be conducted after these industries had been in operation for some time, when it would be found that in many instances they should be able to carry on under lower duties. Many of the prohibitive duties imposed by this Government during the past eighteen months have been the means of creating dangerous trade monopolies. In many instances high duties are as detrimental to trade and commerce as are low duties: A protective policy should be carefully planned, discriminating and scientific. Many of the duties in operation to-day are excessive, and should be reduced, not only to protect consumers, but in the interests of manufacturers themselves, who, in the absence of competition, take advantage of the fortunate position they occupy and, generally, do not > carry on their undertakings on the most satisfactory basis. If the present protective policy is continued, it will not be long before a good deal of the time of this Parliament will be occupied in discussing legislation framed with the object of ridding this country of monopolies, trusts, and combines which have become established as the result of the imposition of prohibitive duties. In every country in which prohibitive duties have been imposed competition has been destroyed, trusts and combines have become established, and notwithstanding the efforts of price-fixing, consumers have been unable to obtain the necessaries of life at reasonable prices. I recall the time when members of the Labour party devoted a good deal of their time to fighting trusts and combines which they said were acting detrimentally to the interests of the people; but to-day the members of the Labour party who support a high protective policy are indirectly assisting the creation of such monopolies, which will always be a menace to the people. The present protective policy, under which unnecessarily high duties are imposed, and in some cases the importation of goods absolutely prohibited, is so extreme that it will eventually collapse under its own weight.
From time to time tariff schedules have been thrown on the table of this chamber before they have been properly considered or examined; but that is this Government’s way of doing business. The duties imposed by this Government have had a staggering effect upon the community, and from all quarters complaints are being received concerning the instability and uncertainty of trade. There should be a complete review of our tariff schedule, which should be of such a nature that it would meet the requirements of trade and commerce for some time. There ought to be a reasonable period in which business could be carried on without any interruption caused by amendments to the tariff. Under the present system of introducing amending schedules at short periods, it is impossible for those engaged in trade and commerce to forecast what is likely to happen, and to carry on their businesses with any degree of certainty. There is a w,elldefined and long-established principle in compliance with which increased duties should be imposed, that is, their probable effect should be carefully considered before they are made operative. That was the policy adopted by the previous Government, and I trust that the present administration will agree to a reduction in many of the duties before further serious injury is done.
In this connexion, I refer to the damage caused to an important exporting industry. Immediately prior to an adjournment for several months, the Government tabled a schedule providing for the imposition of an export duty on sheepskins, regardless altogether of the protests made by honorable members of both parties on this side of the chamber. Notwithstanding the objections then raised, the Government proceeded with its ill-advised scheme, which remained operative until the opposition became so strong that it was compelled to reverse its policy. Communications in opposition to the Government’s scheme were received from other countries, which immediately adopted a policy of retaliation.
– The objections came from the exporters.
– Many supporters of the party to which the honorable member belongs were also opposed to the scheme.
– Who were they?
– The members of the Federated Storemen and Packers Union strongly opposed the duty.
– The members of that organization were divided on the matter.
– They complained that almost all the members of the organization employed in skin packing establishments in Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria had been thrown out of employment. I refer the honorable member to a speech I made on this subject recently on a motion of want of confidence in which I quoted letters from the representatives of industrial unions, which show that about 1,000 employees were seriously affected. In consequence of the persistent attacks of the Opposition and others, the Government removed the duty immediately Parliament reassembled. That shows clearly that its hasty action was detrimental to trade and industry generally.
The tariff schedules, which have now been consolidated, were prepared so hastily and in such a clumsy fashion that many of the items are to correct mistakes made in preceding schedules. I shall quote shortly the opinion of the President of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce concerning the manner in which schedules have been presented to Parliament. It has been contended by some that the Chambers of Manufactures have only to ask the Government for increased duties when they are immediately granted, and that when requests are not coming in with sufficient rapidity, the Government has asked if there are not other items on which higher duties could be imposed.
– I give that statement an emphatic denial.
- Mr. Marks, the President of the Sydney Cham’ber of Commerce, said, “ The uncertainty that has been created “ - he was referring to the manner in which schedules are introduced - “ has tended to paralyse trade, industry and commerce.” It cannot be denied that many persons engaged in commerce have been ruined by being forced out of business, unemployment has increased, and chaos has prevailed in consequence of the Government’s fiscal policy. It is interesting to note that in November, 1929, a month after the Government came into office, a schedule covering 240 items, consisting largely ot prohibitive duties, was tabled, and that in December - only a month later - another schedule, comprising 80 items and comprising principally prohibitions and corrections, was tabled. In the following April another schedule consisting of 51 items, on which there was a 50 per cent, surcharge, and 7S items on which total prohibition was imposed, was also tabled. The schedule tabled in June, 1930, consisted of 140 items on which increased duties were imposed, and the March, 1931, schedule comprised 91 items, in which there was an alteration of duties. In these schedules many corrections were made which could have been avoided if the proposed duties had received proper consideration.
– How can business be satisfactorily conducted in such circumstances?
– It is impossible to adjust prices and ensure business stability when duties are being amended almost monthly. The real effect of the Government’s policy results in stagnation in in dustry, increased unemployment, higher costs of commodities to the primary producers and a reduction in the purchasing power of the people. Under the present fiscal system Australian manufacturers do not benefit, ob there is insufficient money in circulation to purchase the goods which they are manufacturing. The Australian manufacturers would have derived real benefit had the Government brought clown carefully prepared schedules which would not have the effect of injuring or dislocating trade. Mr. Phillip Snowden, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the present British Labour Government, said -
Nearly all Australia’s financial troubles are , Jue not to the late Government, but to the excessive protective policy of the present Government.
The effect of our present fiscal policy has been not only general trade disorganization and unemployment in Australia, but general irritation, resulting in acts of retaliation by our best overseas customers. The Tariff Board, in its annual report for the year ended 30th June, 1930. states -
It is gratifying to note that, following the successful establishment of certain industries under a protective tariff, the selling prices of the products of those industries compare favorably with those charged in other countries for comparable goods. Operating under a duty of 35 per cent. British Preferential Tariff and 45 per cent. General Tariff the boot and shoe industry has gained 95 per cent, of the Australian trade in that commodity. This is an example of an industry that cannot only compete in Australia against importations, but can make its product available at prices which bear favorable comparison with those charged on the home market by overseas manufacturers.
The blanket and rug manufacturing industry has secured 87 per cent, of the Austraiian market in these goods. With reasonably low tariff- protection S4 per cent, of Australia’s requirements of corsets, SO per cent, to 90 per cent, of its requirements of canned fruits and vegetables, pickles, sauces, &c, and 99 per cent, of its requirements of soap are made locally. Yet the Government has introduced extraordinarily high duties which are calculated to paralyse industry, create chaos amongst traders and provoke retaliation by other countries. [Quorum formed.’] The following table *show** the value of our trade with some of our principal customers other than the United Kingdom: -
In 192S-29 our principal exports to Germany were - Foodstuffs of animal origin, £272,000; foodstuffs of vegetable origin, £531,041; animal substances, mainly unmanufactured, including principally wool, cattle, rabbits and hares, sheep and pearl shell, £S,376,961; vegetable substances and fibres, £30,493; and to Italy- Beef, £44,495 ; wheat, £1,440,299 ; hides and skins, £414,741; wool, £3,019,802; copra. £12,S00, and tallow, £52,424. The exports to France, Belgium, and Japan were of similar commodities. Honorable members will see that those exports were almost entirely primary products, and show a balance, in these five countries only, of over £39,000,000 in favour of Australia. The Government, by its ill-considered and extravagant tariff policy, is destroying the goodwill of the countries that purchase our exportable goods, and assisting to turn the balance of trade against us, and thereby accentuating unemployment. The more we do to cultivate the goodwill of those with whom we trade the greater will be the market for our primary produce. The fiscal policy of the present Governmenthas done substantial damage to Australia and particularly to the primary producers.
The tariff policy of members of the Opposition has been clearly stated by our leader. “We stand to-day, as we have always stood, for effective protection - first, for industries essential to national security, and, secondly, for industries for which Australian conditions offer opportunities for success at a reasonable cost, direct and indirect. I can, perhaps, best express our protectionist principles by two or three negative statements. Nationalism does not stand for indiscriminate prohibitive tariffs, or for the wholesale creation of manufacturing monopolies. We stand for protection of industries upon a selective basis, taking into consideration the supply of raw material, climate, supply of labour, and dimensions and purchasing capacity of our local market. We do not stand for the protection of all industries, regardless of their relative promise and cost. We differ from our friends opposite in that we believe in competition in all things. We believe that all industries that are artificially protected must be assured of some measure of competition from within or without. We are proud to believe - and it is remarkable, to my mind, that honorable members supporting the Government apparently no longer believe it - that the Australian people, who provide protection for secondary industries, must, in their turn, be absolutely guaranteed protection against possible exploitation by those industries. We are uncompromisingly opposed to the creation of industrial and trade monopolies through the agency of the tariff. We stand resolutely for the fullest obtainable measure of Empire trade, and especially for preferential trade between Australia and the Mother Country. We believe that anything that aims to reduce the measure of preferential trade that has been in operation in recent years is an influence calculated definitely to weaken the ties of Empire. Further, we believe in the cultivation of the maximum attainable trade with all foreign countries, consistent with the progress and preservation of Australian industries. We are opposed to tariff measures of a selfish and provocative kind that are calculated to excite retaliation by foreign countries against Australian primary production.
It is obvious that our economic troubles have been accentuated, by the Government’s tariff policy. The greatest industrial development and prosperity that Australia has ever enjoyed followed the introduction of the Massy Greene and Pratten tariffs. In support of that statement one could quote the returns relating to many of the secondary industries, but I have selected the woollen, cotton, and tweed mills in regard to which the following table, prepared by the Com monwealth Statistician, is illuminating : -
In conclusion, I emphasize the vital necessity for preserving the British preferential duties. The prosperity of Great Britain and her dominions can best be achieved by inter-imperial trade. We should aim at developing trade within the Empire - the dominions supplying the raw material and the Mother Country those goods which she can manufacture most efficiently, Australian secondary production being confined to those industries which can be economically established here or are essential to national security, subject to the reservations I have already mentioned. Under that system the Empire will make the greatest progress. At the present time it is experiencing some of the difficulties that are incidental to the world-wide depression, and the Mother Country ‘is being subjected to extraordinary competition through the operation of the Russian five-years plan. Such competition can best be countered by the exchange of preferences between the different countries constituting the Empire.
– But Snowden will not have that. He will not tax Britain’s food.
– If the members of the Labour party in this Parliament had taken a definite stand in 1926, the motion in the British House of Commons in favour of Imperial preference would have been carried instead of being rejected by less than ten votes. The Australian Labour members were urged to impress upon their comrades in the House of Commons the advisability of supporting Australian industries ; they declined to do so, and the ground lost then has never been recovered. During the discussion of this schedule I shall assist in every way possible to restore the British preferential duties that have been removed directly and indirectly from many items. I hope that by the time the schedule emerges from this committee many of the prohibitive duties now included in it will have been reduced, and that where the margin of preference is too small it will have been extended. The discussion will, I believe, impress upon the Government the need for a revision of the whole tariff with a view to rectifying many existing anomalies, and evolving a fiscal system worthy of Australia and its industries. We do not want a repetition of the tariff muddle and confusion we have experienced during the last eighteen months.
– The statement of the honorable member for Moreton in regard to Imperial preference cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged. He endeavoured to lay on the Labour party in Australia and the United Kingdom the blame for the nonextension of the system of preferential trade within the Empire. If I were a member of the House of Commons I would strenuously oppose taxation of the foodstuffs of the people. Unlike Australia, the United Kingdom is largely dependent for its foodstuffs on supplies imported from other countries. That may be the fault of its people; possibly by a more enlightened policy, the Old Country could be self-supporting. Upon that matter, however, we are not called to pass judgment. We have to recognize the fact that the people of the United Kingdom are fed principally on foodstuffs imported from abroad. A wise government would hesitate before adopting a policy which, by increasing the cost of food, would place huge burdens upon its people. So far as I am aware, every government that has held office in Great Britain has adopted that stand; and probably some of the greatest political battles that have been fought in that country have had as their issue what has been termed the “free breakfast table”. When we look around us to-day, it is apparent that those who for years have regarded protection as a policy that would effect the economic salvation of our people have been woefully disappointed and misled. It appears to me that neither freetrade nor protection can ensure the economic salvation of any people. Protection, of course, is necessary in countries which, like Australia, are endeavouring to build up as high a standard as possible for their workers, because under it an effective check can be placed upon importations from countries in which labour is cheap and sweated, the competition of whose products with ours would result in the standard of our people being degraded. We cannot allow any of the products of Japan, India, and some continental countries to compete with ours. Such a policy is not advocated by any person in Australia.
I have never worked myself up to a white heat of enthusiasm for the efficacy of a protectionist policy as a means of solving the economic problems of our people. Speaking in a broad sense, Great Britain is a freetrade country, while America is highly protected; yet it is a question which is the greater sufferer from the present economic depression and unemployment. Australia also is highly protected. We were told that the schedules introduced by this Government would provide employment on a large scale; but we know that the opposite is the case. Whether or not they have imposed a certain amount of restraint on the upward tendency of the unemployment figures, one cannot say; possibly they have. But there is not much room foi’ argument, because we have very little data upon which to base our calculations. The fact is inescapable that from the time when this policy was given effect, unemployment has rapidly increased. The history of the United States of America furnishes one of the best examples that we have of the effect of what may be termed prohibitive protection. In the early stages of its development, the operation of that policy caused a considerable amount of unemployment to take place. I believe that that is one of the immediate effects of any tariff. But I am also of the opinion that a tariff .is a means of building up the industries of a country, and will ultimately provide a greater amount of employment.
During the last few; years, I have revised my opinions considerably, and have come to the conclusion that fiscal policy of a country has very little effect upon the economic position of the mass of its workers. The mechanization of industry and the application of scientific appliances to production, coupled with the attitude of mind of the captains, and the controllers of industry, are very considerable factors. Protection and any other policy must fail if it does not take into consideration the mechanization of industry, and the unemployment which results from it. I say, candidly, that I approach this question only from that angle. Any person who claims to have an acquaintance with the genesis and the development of the Labour movement knows full well that it adopted protection as a policy only because it regarded it as a weapon that might be used to protect the standard of living which it hoped to build up in this country. [Quorum formed.’] No one can say that the attitude of the Labour party towards protection is that of building up wealthy industries and creating monopolies in Australia.
– This tariff will do that.
– This tariff is a non-party instrument. Possibly, the honorable gentleman will in many cases vote for a higher protection than I am prepared to concede. I intend to exercise to the full my right to vote as I think fit. I may have to explain my reason for voting alongside honorable members opposite upon certain items. Such an occurrence is likely only on a tariff item. No vote of mine will ever give them the right to exploit the workers of this country as they have endeavoured to do.
When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) interjected, I was explaining that the Labour party cannot approach the question of protection with the intention of building up in this country wealthy industries that are prepared to rush to the Arbitration Court to have the wages of their workers slashed. When it does that, it will have ceased to be a Labour party. The only reason why any honorable member who belongs to the Labour movement can support a protectionist policy is that it protects the workers in their positions and those employers who give decent conditions to their employees.
– And the citizens who buy their goods.
– That is so. The Labour movement, at least, can approach this question in no other way. If we find that in the most essential point protection has failed the world over because of the mechanization of industry and the rapid displacement of man power by machine power, the working class movement will have to revise its attitude towards that policy, because, instead of protecting men in their jobs, the result will be to protect machine production in one country against a similar form of production in another. In these circumstances, I intend to analyse carefully every item that comes before the com mittee, and to exercise my right to decide whether the duties proposed shall or shall not be imposed.
Repeatedly, in this chamber, I have referred to a particular industry in my own electorate. We have built a solid tariff wall round the Australian iron and steel industry, in order that it may be developed as a base industry. But a base industry, if built up under sweated labour conditions, is no good for either this or any other country, and I do not wish to see such a one established here. We have been exceedingly proud of this industry at Port Kembla, and have boasted of the fact that there is nothing more up to date in the world; yet, so far as the employment of labour is concerned, it is the “ scabbiest “ concern that can be found anywhere. Aunion organizer cannot get within rifle shot of the works. The chairman of directors, Mr. Hoskins, gave the workers an hour off the other day so that he could address them on behalf of the All-for-Australia League, and paid them for that hour. It was the first time in his life that he had paid his men for time off. He used all his influence to force them to purchase AllforAustralia League buttons. That is the way in which practically all of those buttons have been sold.
– How many Australian Labour Army badges have been bought ?
– A large number of them have been sold, and in every case the sale has been a “ dinkum “ one. Addressing the Institute of Engineers in Sydney in March, 1930, Mr. Hoskins, giving an account of the up-to-date machinery at Port Kembla, said that six men., with the aid of that machinery, could turn out as much as 175 men at Lithgow, and with one-tenth of the effort. I am not so much concerned about that; I want to see the use of machinery that will obviate the employment of men at the laborious work of attending to blast furnaces.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to8 p.m.
– The iron and steel industry of Australia is, in one particular at any rate, being conducted more and more on the lines followed in the United States of America. In those departments of the industry where unskilled labour is employed, the manufacturers are, particularly at the present time when there is a surplus of labour available, taking on men for a couple of weeks only, and then replacing them by others. The reason is obvious. With a constant change of labour it is impossible to foster any sense of unity among the employees, and effective industrial organization is impracticable. The system has operated in America for many years, and is now being introduced here wherever possible.
I have on previous occasions referred to the manner in which machinery is replacing man power. Unless we face this issue, and deal with it, all our efforts to solve the problem of unemployment will be rendered nugatory. One instance I have in mind has to do with the manufacture of porcelain enamelled baths. Not very long ago two tradesmen - fully qualified men in receipt of the full margin for skill under the Arbitration Court award - were considered to be doing quite well if they finished three baths a day after they had been turned out from the mould in the crude state. Recently the manufacturers installed a new machine for doing this work, and now one man operating a machine turns out 40 baths in a day. Far from this conferring any benefit on the community, the retail price of baths is now 13s. each higher than it was before. One does not need a very lively imagination to realize, so mechanized is industry becoming, that we cannot be very far off the conditions described by Jack London in his book Iron Heel, in which he visualized a world populated by only a few people operating a wide complexity of machinery. Eventually this system must defeat its own ends, because, if too many workers are displaced, the consumption power of the community will be reduced, there will bo fewer to buy the products of industry, and industry itself will languish and die. The Labour party must be careful that it does not allow itself to develop into a purely protectionist party, devoting itself to protecting the interests of the manufacturers and captains of industry through the country’s tariff policy; while the party opposite is fighting to the death for another phase of the capitalists’ interests, and the workers are being crushed between the two forces with no one to represent and protect them.
The matter is deserving of the attention of Labour organizations of all sorts, industrial and political, both here and abroad.
The attitude of mind displayed by manufacturers towards new inventions is interesting and informative. When an inventor makes a new machine, he usually has to take it to an industrial capitalist to have the invention exploited, and he must demonstrate its effectiveness to the person whose interest he wishes to secure. Ever since the mechanization of industry began, the inventor has been called upon to demonstrate only one thing. He has not been asked whether his invention will make a better article, whether it will contribute to the general wellbeing, or whether it will ease the burden of mankind, or contribute to the happiness of humanity. One question, and one only, has been asked. How much human labour will it throw on to the scrap-heap? That policy has been followed for generations, and has culminated in the situation which confronts the world to-day. The world is inundated with goods, while men and women are starving, and are housed worse than the beasts of the field, which are, at least, provided by nature with the covering they require.
When the ex-Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Bavin, embarked on his wage-cutting programme two years ago he received the unanimous support of the members of the Chamber of Manufactures. Full page advertisements were inserted in the newspapers of New South Wales, carrying the names of all the manufacturers who declared their intention to stand shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Bavin. Again, when Mr. Bruce sought to pass through this Parliament legislation to destroy the Federal Arbitration Court as a prelude to a wagesmashing campaign, the manufacturers once more publicly advertised themselves as his supporters. So long as the manufacturers adopt that attitude they cannot expect, and should not receive, any consideration from a Labour government.
– They are doing the same thing in New South Wales to-day.
– That is so. There is grave danger that the Labour party will degenerate into a purely protectionist party, supporting the interests of organized, monopolistic industry at the expense of the workers. If that iB to he the final outcome of our protectionist policy, then I, for one, want to have nothing more to do with it.
– What about piecework and profit-sharing?
– Piece-work is the most effective method of speeding-up that the capitalists have yet invented, and profit-sharing is very similar. In my electorate there is a firm whose premises I visited in company with a union representative. This firm has been operating a bonus system. It pays a rate of wages somewhat below the Arbitration Court wage, but it also pays a bonus, which brings the total wage up to something a little above the Arbitration Court rate. The bonus system is really only a variation of the piece-work system, under which the boss does not have to be the speeder-up ; the worker speeds himself up.
– And earns good wages.
– Does the honorable member know anything of the sweating hells of Europe? If he did, and if he knew anything of the conditions which used to prevail there, and which led directly to the inauguration of the Labour movement, he would not make such asinine interjections. The firm to which I refer introduced a housing scheme under which employees were assisted to build houses for themselves. I asked the manager whether the benefits of the scheme would be extended to one of the employees whom I named, a man who enjoyed the reputation of being somewhat of a radical, and I was informed that it would not. Bonus systems, housing schemes and other things of that sort are on a par with the practice of inducing the workers to buy £10 government bonds, so that there will always be a few stool pigeons among them to cry “ repudiation !” when any action is proposed which threatens the interests of the capitalist. There is no philanthropy in such methods. They are merely insurance schemes for which the employers pay a very low premium to protect their own interests. If the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) wishes to know something of the conditions which led to the formation of the Labour party in Great Britain, let him read Disraeli’s book, Sybil, if he has not already done so. Perhaps he will accept what Disraeli said, when he would not be prepared to believe the writings of a more radical person. He might then learn something of the conditions under which the workers carried on in England in 1S40, when the piece-work system operated.
– Let us have something more modern ; this is 1931.
– The honorable member would like to get back to the conditions of 1S40 if he could. The Labour party in this country set its face against the introduction of such conditions in this country, and believed that it was helping the workers when it adopted a protectionist policy. It appears evident now, however, that the manufacturers are using our fiscal policy as a weapon against the worker. If the manufacturers insist upon applying to the Arbitration Court for a 10 per cent, cut in wages-
– They have already done so.
– In that case the Government should make it quite clear to the manufacturers that unless they behave decently to their workers the protective tariffs will be lifted altogether. Something of the kind was promised by the Prime Minister early in the session, when he was asked what action the Government would take if the manufacturers abused the protection afforded by the increased tariff. Protection has failed to protect the only persons with whom I am concerned, namely, the workers in industry. I say, frankly, that the workers are my only concern. The manufacturers and capitalists are able to protect themselves, because they are able to draw upon the accumulated brains of the centuries. I do not suppose that one recent invention of any importance has been the work of the controllers of machinery. These persons are in a position .to buy the brains of a dozen generations. But the workers have only their labour to sell. The mechanization of industry has made the position of the workers more hopeless than ever it was. To-day the wageearners are mere automatons. Even a few years ago it was possible for a man to become an employer of labour; but to-day industry is carried on with huge machinery plants, and a worker cannot hope ever to obtain sufficient capital to become his own employer. He is sentenced to remain a worker for the term of his natural life. As he has no means of emancipation, it is the duty of governments to see that he is protected economically.
– Most of the manufacturers of to-day were the workers of yesterday.
– The honorable member cannot produce any evidence to support that statement. There was never a time when the workers were in such a hopeless position.
– The honorable member’s outlook is altogether too gloomy.
-I am facing the facts, whereas the honorable member is refusing to accept the evidence of his senses. He will soon be denying his own existence. It is only in recent years that the workers have begun to realize that our protectionist policy cannot effectively protect them against exploitation. There was a time when we considered that by the adequate protection of our industries we could maintain our standard of living. But to-day we are beginning to see that this is impossible. So long as we retain the gold basis for our currency, capitalistic financiers will always be able to overcome the effects of our protectionist policy. A certain Japanese economist, speaking at a London University in 1907, said that one British sovereign was worth seven Japanese sovereigns. In other words, a British sovereign would buy seven times as much in Japan as it would in England. I suppose I would not be exaggerating if I said that the purchasing power of an Australian sovereign in Japan would be fourteen times as great as that of a Japanese sovereign. Bearing this in mind honorable members must surely realize that it is futile for us to expect adequately to protect our industries against Japanese competition by the imposition of a duty of even 100 per cent. With the existing currency system it would be possible for a Japanese manufacturer, with even a 100 per cent, duty, to send goods worth £1,000 to Australia, and receive in return currency which would be worth £14,000 in Japan. The manipulation of currency has always been used to defeat the objects of a competitive tariff.
– Is there much unemployment in Japan?
– Of course there is. Seeing that the honorable member likes cheap labour countries I advise him to go to Japan.
There is evidence that the workers of Australia are beginning to realize that our protective policy is doomed to failure, as a means of protecting our industries against foreign competition. According to the Labor Daily, of the 17th April, a deputation waited upon the Prime Minister in Melbourne with the object of urging him to do something to assist the workers. The report dealing with the subject reads as follows : -
Leading a monster deputation opposing wage cuts, D. Cameron, vice-president of the Trades Hall Council, told the Prime Minister to-day that manufacturing concerns were highly protected, and were making enormous profits. If the manufacturers were not prepared to give protection to the workers, they should be compelled to do so.
Mr. Cameron drew attention to the fact that while the Government was giving up to 100 per cent, protection to some industries, moves were being made to reduce wages.
The Government should, he considered, insist that wages should not be loss than the equivalent of the Harvester judgment, plus the Powers 3s. Manufacturers were taking advantage of the depression to make unnecessary reductions.
Mr. F. Riley said that all manufacturers who were approaching the court for reductions should be required to produce balance sheets showing that reductions were essential to save their industries from strangulation. If the Government would restore the 16 per cent, cut workers would congratulate themselves on having a Labour Government in power.
Mr. Scullin replied that protection should not be one-sided, but should benefit manufacturers and workers alike. He was a strong protectionist, but did not believe in building up industries if it was to be accompanied by lowering the standard of living.
When the Government fought for the retention of the Arbitration Court it contemplated the retention of the Harvester standard as a minimum, but the 10 per cent, cut had brought the standard below what it was 24 years ago.
Even the Prime Minister realizes that the recent 10 per cent, cut in wages has reduced our wage standard to a point below that of 24 years ago.
– I shall deal with that subject when the appropriate item is under discussion. The report from which I was quoting also contained the following paragraph: -
Mr. Scullin said he did not believe it was necessary to reduce wages apart from the automatic adjustment according to the fall in the cost of living.
He went on to say that in most cases the profiteer was the retailer, and not the manufacturer. One can hardly believe that a gentleman holding the high position of Prime Minister of Australia knows so little about industry as to say that the retailer is a greater profiteer than the wholesaler. The retailer, as a rule, has to meet a considerable amount of competition. He has the shops of his competitors all around him. It is practically impossible for the retailers of cities like Sydney and Melbourne, or even those of the larger country towns, to make an effective watertight agreement for the regulation of prices. But this is not the case with the manufacturers. 1 have been buying goods at wholesale prices for half a life time, and my experience is that there is not a difference of even 5 per cent. in the prices charged by different warehouses for goods of about the same quality.
– Then the honorable member admits that prices are rigged?
– Of course I do. The wholesalers have in operation, through their organization, one of the most effective watertight agreements for price regulation that has ever been drafted. Under its terms the association can impose fines up to £1,000 in cases where a breach of the agreement is proved. That agreement has been in operation for many years. The ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was a member of one of the importing firms which was doubtless a party to some such agreement as that. When our manufacturers became thoroughly established, they, with two or three exceptions, made similar agreements among themselves. I challenge any honorable member to prove that he can buy at different warehouses boots, hats, ties, hosiery, or any softgoods of a comparable quality, at prices which show a greater variation than 5 per cent. But not only have the manufacturers fixed the wholesale prices of their goods; they have also fixed the retail prices. If a retailer will not contract to sell the goods which he buys at the fixed retail prices, his supplies are cut off. Bond’s Industries Limited were notable for the fixation of retail prices, except in the case of a few cheap lines, which they did not care whether they manufactured or not.
– The Tariff Board was instructed to inquire into this subject, but it refused to do so.
– That is true. If a man sold any of the goods obtained from the warehouses which fix the retail prices for even1d. less than the stipulated prices, his supplies were cut off the next day.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The presentation of a tariff schedule is usually regarded as a suitable occasion for a contentious debate upon the relative merits of freetrade and protection. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has left us all guessing as to what his real convictions are on this subject. He made a most gloomy speech which will not give encouragement to the people of Australia. Our protective policy is based upon the belief that it will tend to accelerate our development, and to increase our national prosperity. We were told when the new duties now under consideration were first tabled that they would be the means of instituting an era of magnificent prosperity. This schedule was laid upon the table in eight different sections, although we are now considering it as one schedule.
– It is probable that the Minister for Trade and Customs has a few more schedules up his sleeve.
– We all know that the Minister is optimistic. He has told us on different occasions that the schedules which he has tabled would result in the employment of 50,000 additional persons, but we were never informed whether each schedule was to give work to 50,000 extra men or whether that was the aggregate additional number that would be provided with work. There is no doubt, however, that the Minister said on several occasions that the operation of the new duties which he was providing would result in a period of great prosperity.
– The honorable member should pay a visit to some of our factories when he would discover that hundreds are now employed where, two years ago, there were practically none.
– I shall say something on that aspect later. I do not wish honorable members to be under any misapprehension as to my attitude in this matter. I have said, on previous occasions, that I believe in the protection of industries that are native to the soil if that can be legitimately done. The people of Australia have endorsed that policy on many occasions. However, I think that it is essential that from time to time we should inquire into the method by which we are striving to apply that policy, in order to satisfy ourselves that it is achieving its object.
– We had better start with Queensland.
– I do not wish to raise that issue with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) . In my brief speech this evening I desire to deal with the position frankly and honestly, and to make some pertinent remarks with regard to the costs of production in Australia. The policy of protection is in almost world-wide operation, the most notable exception being Great Britain. The evidence available does not show that the people of Australia could have maintained our present population at a higher standard of living under freetrade. I agree that commodities indispensable to life and health, and the social welfare of the people should be within the financial reach of every family. If, therefore, it is not possible to produce or manufacture those commodities in Australia at a reasonable price, no government should impose such high duties as would make them needlessly expensive.
Periodic revision of the tariff is necessary in order to keep Australia in line with constantly changing economic conditions throughout the world, and the Government would be justified in adopting a more speedy method of giving effect to necessary alterations. Many years ago, a suggestion was made that we’ should have a tariff session each year. This has very much to recommend it. All recommendations of the Tariff Board would then be considered without any loss of time. Such a procedure should be welcomed by the manufacturers of the Commonwealth, as well as the primary producers, as it would provide a better opportunity of controlling the cost of production.
I appreciate the efforts of the Minister to give reasonable protection to industries that can be legitimately carried on in Australia, but his efforts cannot succeed unless there is co-operation between the employers and the workers in producing goods that will compare favorably with articles imported both in quality and quantity. It is much to be regretted that even a small section of the manufacturers have not realized their responsibility in providing up-to-date plant, but have relied on the chance of obtaining increased duties through the customs to cover up their want of efficiency. It is well known that it is easy to gain access fo, and a hearing from, the Tariff Board.
The tariff proposals now before the committee are a consolidation of all previous tariff resolutions tabled since August of last year. The schedule contains amendments to a very large number of customs as well as excise items. The optimistic Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) has frequently referred to the tens of thousands of men who would’ be provided with work when his proposals were in full operation. The new industries which the Minister boasted would be established have not eventuated. On the other hand, there is overwhelming evidence that the general policy of the Government has been directly responsible for the closing down of many local enterprises. While the Minister admits that fewer men are employed to-day than previously, he contends that, had it not been for the new tariff schedule, more would now be out of work. Honorable members may please themselves as to how they accept that claim. From the general debate, it would appear that there are many geographical protectionists who will support high protection for industries within their own States, but are either moderate protectionists or freetraders when the protection policy is likely to benefit other parts of the Commonwealth.
– How does the honorable member stand with regard to sugar?
– The honorable member need scarcely have asked that question, because, as a man of some intelligence, he must know that on our sugar industry depends the existence of the White Australia policy. I believe that the honorable member would be one of the last in this chamber to seek to save one farthing to one half-penny on the price of sugar when he knew that, by doing so, he would de-populate the north of Queensland. However, there will be an opportunity to discuss that subject on a later occasion, when I hope that those who are opposed to the establishment of the sugar industry in Queensland will plainly state their position. If honorable members will take the trouble to peruse the excellent report submitted by the royal commission into the industry, they will find a complete answer to any of their arguments.
Australia is fortunate in having several products which sell themselves against world-wide competition. These include wool, wheat, butter and meat. All honorable members regret that the price of wheat has fallen, and hope that there will be an improvement in the near future. We have many other industries which are of great importance to the welfare of the people in providing employment, but which require the assistance of ample protective duties, even to the point of prohibition against the products of low-wage countries.
It cannot be expected that honorable members of this Parliament will have full knowledge of the wide variety of items in the schedule, and therefore great reliance will be placed upon the reports of the Tariff Board. Its members are able to devote all their time and ability to the investigation of industries, and I believe that the work of the board is faithfully and efficiently carried out. When we reach the discussion of the items it may be necessary for the Minister to explain his departure from some of the recommendations of this competent authority. When I consider the great amount of work which the Tariff Board has been called upon to perform during the year, I do not sympathize with the adverse criticism that is levelled against it. We must admire the energy and enthusiasm of its members. In my opinion the reports of the board should be adopted by the Minister in every instance. The gentlemen comprising the board have an opportunity to see the various industries in operation, to examine the representatives, and so should become remarkably well informed and efficient. When the Minister for Trade and Customs departs from the recommendations made, there is always room for the suspicion that political influence has been used. The annual report of the board, in dealing with this matter, stated -
Tlie method adopted by interested parties to influence departure from the Tariff Board’s recommendation is worthy of study and deserving of strong comment. It has happened, after the Tariff Board has held an inquiry, at which over a hundred witnesses were publicly examined on oath, has carefully studied the whole of the public and confidential evidence, and has presented a recommendation to the Minister, that a few men, parties to the application, have made representations to members of Parliament and to the Government which have resulted in the setting aside of the weight of public evidence and the studied recommendation of the board.
That very strong criticism should be a warning to any Minister who proposes to set aside, without proper investigation, the recommendations of the board. Its members do not confine their activities to public inquiries, but endeavour to keep in personal touch with the industries by visiting the factories and interviewing the representatives of industry. It is quite evident from the reports received that the inquiries are wide and exhaustive, and that all interested parties are given an opportunity of presenting their views in the form of evidence on oath.
– What was the date of that report?
– Then it refers, not to this, but to the late Government.
– I do not want the honorable gentleman to think that he has scored a point in that discovery. The criticism would apply to any government. I quoted the report simply as a warning to the honorable gentleman, as quite a number of the board’s recommendations have been set aside.
The question is sometimes asked, “ Does the Tariff Board have any consideration for the interests of the consuming public ?” The reply was given in the annual report for 1927, where these remarks were offered -
While it is true that there are no advocates present on behalf of the general public, it will be found on investigation of the crossexamination by the members of the board, that the consumers’ interests are never forgotten, and the board constantly seeks to ascertain what the effect of any proposed increase in duties will be upon prices to the public. The board must, however, consider all cases from every aspect, and obviously cannot let the interests of the consumer alone be the determining factor, but it reiterates the statement that this aspect receives the most careful consideration in every instance.
That is a perfectly fair statement. The Tariff Board also refers to the dangers of the tariff being used to bolster up the ever-increasing costs of production, thus adding to the price of products sold to the consumers.
On page 21 of the same report, under the heading of “ The Abuse of Protection,” there is this reference to industrial unions and also to manufacturers -
The board regrets being compelled to place on record its conclusions arrived at, after the most intimate touch with all phases of industry within the Commonwealth, that there is a prevailing tendency which is calculated to abuse the protective system, and by forcing the pace under disadvantageous conditions, to actually endanger the efficacy of the system.
Of the industrial unions the report says -
The board is profoundly convinced that, if Australian industry is to be maintained and safeguarded, it is absolutely essential that the leaders of industrial unions should recognize this serious menace of rising costs of production which the board has indicated.
It is not for a moment suggested that there is collusion between the industrial organizations and the manufacturers, but it is passing strange that nine important industries are mentioned in which, simultaneously with the board being asked to consider large increases in duties to enable them to exist, applications had been lodged before State and Federal Arbitration Courts for increased wages and improved working conditions.
– Does the honorable member suggest that there was collusion?
– If the honorable member is not suggesting collusion, why does he mention it?
– I am not suggesting that there was collusion. I am merely reading certain comments of the Tariff
Board which, we may assume, is an impartial authority whose duty it is to go into these matters. In my judgment, the board is to be commended for having done so. The manufacturers are also subjected to criticism from the point of view of efficiency and protected profits. I am making these quotations from the board’s report in the hope that the criticism may be helpful. All honorable members receive a large number of parliamentary papers and reports, but because of the pressure of other duties it is not possible to read them all. Possibly the board’s comments, to which I am directing attention, have escaped their notice. Under the heading, “Abuse of Protection,” the board also states -
Generally speaking, the Tariff Board is satisfied that in its experience secondary manufacturers in Australia are endeavouring to maintain a high standard of efficiency and the management in the main succeeds. However, it does happen that at times attempts are made to make use of the Tariff to shelter plant, machinery and methods which have passed, or are passing out of date under stress of modern development. Where the Board during its investigations finds evidence of such practise it does not hesitate to point them out and does not make recommendations which would encourage them to be maintained.
Manufacturers have been known to request additional protection to enable them to continue working a plant to produce goods in competition with those produced overseas by the use of more up-to-date machinery which greatly improves production at lessened costs.
There are times when the local manufacturer desires the superior article he is making at a far greater cost to be so protected as to force the cheaper one off the market, and there are on the other hand instances known to the board where he is making an inferior article and asks that it be protected against a superior one. Then again, his ranges, sections, and patterns are sometimes limited and he is not prepared to sympathize with the demand that exists for essential variety.
Another feature of the situation is the use made by manufacturers of profits arising as the result of a high degree of protection. Parliament has imposed protective duties in the interests of the community as a whole and distinctly not for the purpose only of enriching certain manufacturers. When such duties are imposed upon the community and under the shelter of such protection an Australian industry is made possible, one of the first duties of a protected manufacturer is to see that the community gets an adequate return for the protection it has accorded him, and that local prices sheltered by. the duty are kept down to the lowest possible limit consistent with a reasonable and legitimate return on capital. In an industry that tends to be a monopoly this is more than ever important and essential. Where a highly protected industry returns to its shareholders dividends considerably in excess of the ordinary commercial rates, it is obvious that the object of the protective duties is being abused, and that an appreciable portion of the profits disclosed should have been devoted to reductions in prices rather than as payments to shareholders.
The board calls pointed attention to this state of affairs, which, if it continues, may involve consideration of whether the duties imposed have not been higher than were necessary to protect the industry.
In its report for 1928 the Tariff Board repeats its warning as to the increased cost of production. In that and later reports reference is made to the overcapitalization of industries, “the increased price of coal, high coastal freights, high cost of marketing and distribution, high rates of wages and shorter hours. All these factors combined must necessarily increase the cost of production, and decrease the purchasing power of money. Productivity should be the basis of all wages, for on this depends the general welfare of all classes of the people. The honorable member for “Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) appears to scout any such uptodate suggestion as bonus shares, profitsharing, and piece-work in industry.
– Our problem is due to over production.
– That appears to be the honorable member’s pet subject. He and his friends are continually speaking of over production. Actually there is no foundation for the belief that over production is the root cause of our present difficulties. Much of it is due to unduly high ‘taxation. The honorable member must know that millions of people in other countries are suffering because, owing to their diminished purchasing power, they are unable to buy the things which they most require. Every one who has studied this problem admits that the standard of living enjoyed by the people of a country is determined, not by the amount of wages paid, but by the real value or purchasing power of wages. A needless strain is placed upon industry if it is compelled by Arbitration Court awards to pay to a single man a wage fixed as an adequate return for a man, his wife, and three children. Possibly this anomaly could be remedied by some scheme of child endowment to ensure to a man with a wife and family a higher wage return than is paid to a single man.
– Would the honorable member support a child endowment scheme ?
– I have spoken on this subject on many occasions, and I think I have made it clear that I consider it an anomaly that a married man should be expected to keep his wife and family on. the same wage as is received by a single man. Surely one is paid too much or the other too little.
– Would the honorable member support a .child endowment scheme ?
– If the honorable member for Bendigo can influence his Government -to do anything of a practical nature, it will receive my consideration.
I consider that there is very urgent need for reform in our industrial relation. Unless the cost of production can be reduced, Australia cannot hope to live in competition with other nations, and expect to maintain its present standard of living or find work for its army of unemployed. It was surely never intended by Parliament to continue indefinitely to pile up customs duties without regard to the possibility of competition in the markets of the world. To ensure efficiency employers and workers should co-operate. Dealing with this subject, in its report for the year ended 30th June, 1930, .the Tariff Board states, on page 17 -
The labour costs are seriously higher in Australia than in many other countries. In some cases, no doubt, the difference is the result of less efficient plant and machinery in Australia, but it is impossible to escape the conviction that the costs of production in some industries could be materially reduced if there were greater co-operation between employers and employees to secure increased output. While this’ is considered essential, it is far from the only factor.
Then it proceeds to give some illustrations. We all know what transpired during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government. Honorable members will recall that, with the object of ensuring greater efficiency in industry, the former Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) convened a conference of representatives of employers and industrial organizations, but owing to the refusal of the Australian Workers Union, no progress was made in the negotiations. “We were all gratified, therefore, when the present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) soon after his return to office, made a similar announcement; but, unfortunately, because of protests by certain unions, he was persuaded, apparently, that he was out of step with his party, so the proposal was dropped.
If scientific protection means anything, it surely means that the employers and the workers should co-operate in efficiency. It certainly should not be used to bolster up ever-increasing costs of production. Even if our object is to manufacture for home consumption alone, we cannot progress if we give to those engaged in secondary industries a higher standard of living than it is possible to give to workers in our primary industries or to the workers generally. There is considerable room for manufacture for export in Australia if it can be done at a reasonable cost. I understand that at present we export less than 4 per cent, of our manufactures. Surely there is something wrong with our conditions.
– We have to face high interest charges.
– Doubtless the h-gh interest rate is a factor in the cost of manufacture, Interest charges have become high because the enormous demands of Australian governments on the resources of the banks has caused money to become scarce, and when a commodity is scarce it is always dear. In conclusion, let me say that the preaching of class hatred and discontent will not provide work for the unemployed, but ihe bringing about of co-operation and goodwill between the workers and the employers will do much to assist in the welfare of the people and in developing the great resources of the Commonwealth.
.- I join in this debate as a representative of a waterside constituency in order that the views of the people I directly represent will be put before this House. Reference was made by the last speaker to certain collusion which he stated existed between the trade unions and the manufacturers for the purpose of securing tariff reform.
– Not tariff reform, but tariff concessions.
– Such a statement does not apply so far as the people whom I represent are concerned. The introduction of tariff concessions has placed a considerable hardship on them.
– It has destroyed the maritime industries of this country.
– Along the waterfront in Sydney the conditions are worse or at least, as bad as they are in any other part of the Commonwealth, and are due in a measure to the tariff policy of the Government. It is to that aspect that I wish to refer. We did expect, at the outset, that the employment lost to the waterside workers, because of the introduction of this Government’s tariff policy, would be offset by employment gained in other directions. In other words, that if there were less work along the waterfront waterside workers could transfer to other activities, and by that means gain some measure of compensation. I am sorry to say that that situation has not developed, but the responsibility or blame for that should not be laid entirely at the door of this Government.
In order to develop our secondary industries, and to provide employment for those who were previously engaged on the waterfront and for others, an expansion of our factories was essential. To that end capital or credit had to be made available; but the Government, although it attempted to develop our secondary industries by protective duties strangely enough, allowed certain institutions to exercise a power and influence which actually prevented that development from taking place. As the Government was sincere in its intention to develop our secondary industries by the methods already referred to, I claim that the responsibility for the failure to bring that about must be laid at the doors of the financial institutions which have been repeatedly referred to in this House during the last few weeks. The policy of these institutions is linked up with the visit of Sir Otto Niemeyer to Australia. It is known that prior to his departure from London many consultations were held between the representatives of the Government and the Bank of England.
– What government?
– This Government. Many discussions took place, and a good deal was said about our tariff policy. It did not suit the interests represented by Sir Otto Niemeyer that Australia should become self-contained in respect of its secondary industries.
– Australia has never been self-contained.
– The honorable member, and some other honorable members, hold the view that this country should not embark upon a policy of providing its own requirements. They are entitled to that view. They believe that Australia should be simply a primary producing country.
– Nothing of the kind.
– They believe that we should send our raw materials to the other side of the world to be manufactured there, and the finished article sent back to this country.
– The honorable member is wrong again.
– It is difficult to understand exactly what is the policy of the honorable member; but as far as I have been able to gather from his remarks I think that I have correctly stated his views. The interests represented by Sir Otto Niemeyer have invested enormous sums of money in industrial undertakings in other parts of the world, and those undertakings were, until recently, exporting large quantities of their products to Australia. With the introduction of this Government’s policy this market has been affected and now the overseas financial interests are anxious to regain the Australian market. When this Government embarked upon a policy of building up, not only our secondary industries to provide employment for our own people, but also our population to a degree that would enable a home market to be established for our primary products, I felt that we were tackling our problems from the right angle; but unfortunately that policy has failed through the actions of the financial institutions and I am therefore forced to use my best endeavours in this House to see that justice is done to the people that I directly represent.
It was also thought that the waterside workers would be compensated for any loss of employment consequent on the operation of the tariff policy, by being given additional employment in respect of our exports. Early in the life of this Government it was found necessary to take steps to rectify the adverse trade balance and to meet the obligations that had been forced upon this Government by the administration of the Bruce-Page Government. It was felt by the Prime Minister that the only way to obtain a favorable trade balance and to meet commitments overseas was to induce the primary producers to grow more wheat, and, as honorable members know, they responded nobly to the call. It was thought by the people that I represent that that increased production would provide more employment and thus compensate them for the employment that they had lost. That also has not eventuated, because, instead of the wheat being shipped abroad, we have the sorry spectacle of it lying at country railway sidings and in some cases in the paddocks in the farming areas.
It is therefore evident that . the waterside workers have suffered severely because of the tariff policy. The latest move of the Government is the imposition of an additional duty upon petrol in containers of a certain size and in cases and tins. To the waterside workers that duty is the last straw that breaks the camel’s hack, because its operation will still further decrease employment on the waterfront. The waterside workers have particularly requested me to bring before the House some of the reasons why this duty should not be imposed, and they ask that steps should be taken by this Parliament to defeat the decision of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde). The following quotation is taken from correspondence that I have received from the Waterside Workers Federation: -
This duty operates from the 1st May and it will be the means of quite a number of vessels which have been trading with the various states of the Commonwealth being withdrawn from the Australian trade. This will have a tremendous effect on all waterfront unions, such as the Waterside Workers, dockers and painters, coal lumpers and all unions engaged in the various docks. This penny half-penny extra duty will be the means of further unemployment even in the oil trade, as it will mean that the small oil firms will have to dismiss men as they will not be able to compete with the large firms who deal with bulk oil as in the discharging of bulk oil there are only about three persons engaged because it is pumped out, whereas in the case of oil in containers there are about seventyfive men employed for five gangs. It is understood that the large companies only deal in bulk oil; against that the small firms send their oil right through the State in oil containers. This means that a lot of labour is engaged to handle it even in the country, as against hulk oil which is transported in bulk oil trucks to the country, and as it is handled out of the bowser very little labour is engaged. The principle of bulk oil is to do away with labour and it is doing it successfully, notwithstanding what the large oil companies say to the contrary. . . . It is not necessary for me to tell you that the tariff proposals have brought starvation on our members and other waterfront unions.
– Was not the honorable member a member of the Cabinet which is guilty of this iniquity?
– I have already explained my position in regard to the tariff policy of the Government. It appears to me that the honorable member is asleep during a good deal of the discussion in this House. He reminds me of Rip Van Winkle, who suddenly awakened to find himself in a strange world. The honorable member seems unable to grasp the purport of my remarks, although other honorable members are fully aware of it. I shall not at this stage discuss the references that have been made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill).
– What about the “ ugly “ rumours ?
– I am not now discussing them. I am putting the viewpoint of the people that I represent, and I contend that, in view of the serious curtailment of employment on the waterfront, their case should receive serious consideration at the hands of the Government. A duty should not be imposed on oil and petrol in containers merely to assist large companies to freeze out smaller companies by preventing them from placing their products on the market. The report of the committee of inquiry, which was submitted to this House the other day, and which was commented upon by one of the Sydney newspapers is indeed illuminating. In itthe committee states -
In 1927-28 we bought 177,870,000 gallons from the United States and other foreign sellers. On the average figures supplied by two great companies, the c.i.f. cost was almost 7½d. per gallon, a total of about £5,500,000. In 1928-29 the quantity went up to 199,988,000 gallons. To one company alone we paid £8,325,917 last year, that figure including the duty, distributing and other overhead. That company made a profit of close on £1,000,000. Its profit was 8.7 per cent. on turnover or 48.9 per cent. on paid-up capital. Another company of 714,245 shares (of which 714,245 are held in New York) increased its capital from £1,000.000 in 1004 to £7,500,000 in 1930. Of this latter amount £1,800,000 consists of undistributed profits. This company estimates that the net return on each gallon of petrol sold at 2s. a gallon was 4.624d.
That extract from the report which was recently laid on the table of the House proves that these interests have been fleecing the public for many years. The Government should no longer assist or allow them to do so. The smaller companies should be prevented from marketing their product at a price below that now charged by these large importing firms, because the reduced price will be a great benefit to the community, particularly those engaged in primary industries. In the development of our primary industries; petrol, particularly that supplied in containers and cases, plays an important part. For that reason honorable members representing rural constituencies must be interested in this matter, although, perhaps they view it from a different angle from that from which I regard it. My mission is to put the case as it affects the waterside workers. These men are in a worse position than they have ever been in previously. Something should be done to grant them relief. One honorable member asked me what was my attitude to these matters when I was a Minister and they were discussed in Cabinet. I informed him that this subject did not come under review while I was a member of the Ministry.
– They were dealt with by a sub-committee of Cabinet.
– I understand that it is customary for matters of this kind to be dealt with by a Cabinet sub-committee. I frankly admit that the schedules which have been laid on the table were introduced, and I had no opportunity to peruse them. Decisions arrived at by those only who were appointed to go into tariff questions were embodied in the schedules which were introduced.
– That is a slipshod method of formulating a national policy!
– I suppose there is a reason for things being done in that way; honorable members know that when tariff schedules are being dealt with many influences are at work. At no stage was I desirous of interfering with inquiries that were being made. I was content to leave such matters in the hands of those to whom they had been entrusted.
I desire to refer to another aspect of this question. I understand that the Minister gave a guarantee that the deferred duty on petrol in containers and tins would not operate until the 1st June next. An alteration has been made, and now it is to operate from the 1st May - one month earlier than was intended. The alteration will have a serious effect upon those operating in a small way. Believing that the duty would not operate until the 1st June, they, no doubt, made arrangements for supplies to be landed before that date. Now they appear to have been caught. It is not fair that they should be treated in this way. I do not know the reason for the change, and I, therefore, hope that the Minister will give them relief. Justice demands that something should be done to meet such cases. I leave the question of the duty on petrol, hoping that the necessity will not arise for any definite action to be taken by Parliament, but that the Government, or the sub-committee of Cabinet, will see the wisdom of granting some measure of relief to the men whom I represent.
I have also been approached by the Federated Tobacco “Workers Union of Australasia in connexion with a matter vitally affecting the members of that union. I bring this matter forward at this stage in order that the Minister may be in a position to place before us any information in his possession when the particular item concerned comes before us for consideration. As I have not had an opportunity of putting before the Minister the case as submitted to me by the Federated Tobacco “Workers Union, I propose to read some extracts from a letter which I have received from its secretary. After making some preliminary remarks, he says -
In tlie sworn statement given by one of the directors, Mr. C. L. Bentley, on the recent select committee appointed to investigate the Australian leaf industry, he has given the following facts: - That wages bill alone totals f l,i.l8(i,254 14s. (id. yearly, spread over 5,294 employees, CO per cent, of whom are suffering through decreased sales, and the acute depression now sweeping over the Commonwealth.
Tlie import duty on American leaf has been increased from 3s. to 5s. 2d. per lb., resulting in increased prices to the smoking public and bringing about a huge swing over to the Australian manufactured tobaccoes, owing to cheaper prices and economic circumstances, caused by unemployment and wage reductions now operating.
This has resulted in a rapid exhaustion of the local product, of which, in 192S, large surpluses were held. In the one big firm alone, the stocks held in 1928 were as follows: - Bright and lemon leaf, the lasting period, 19 months; No. 1 dark leaf, 74 months; No. 2, 40 months; total in all grades, 49 months.
Within two years, this has now reached the exhaustion stage, and the above manufacturers have notified the wholesale distributing houses and tobacconists throughout the Commonwealth of a system of rationizing of stocks, now in operation, until the 1931 crop of Australian leaf is harvested.
It has been the custom, over a number of years, for the purpose of maturing leaf, to hold the crop for at least twelve months, brit owing to the shortage and the demand, they will be forced to immediately manufacture the leaf as it is received from the growers.
The same position has been created at Dudgeon and Arnells, tobacco manufacturers, of Melbourne, who mainly rely on the Australian leaf, most of their brands being 100 per cent. Australian, and this firm has notified the officers of the federation that if no relief can be obtained, in relation to partial lifting of the tariff duty on imported leaf, they will be forced to dismiss the whole of their employees at the end of June, owing to the fact that the smoking public will not, or cannot, pay the prices now operating.
The total amount of leaf grown within the Commonwealth for the year 1929 was 903,868 lb. ; the figures for 1930 are not available.
The total for imported leaf, for the same period, was 19,203,274 lb. Assuming that the amount of leaf. Australian-grown, increased to 1,000,000 lb. for 1930, and in conversation with Mr. C. M. Slagg, Director of Australian Tobacco Investigation, in February of this year, he informed me that, despite increased acreage planted this year, owing to the ravages of blue mould, that the indications were that the 1931 crop would not exceed last year’s output.
The position which now confronts us is that, with the rapid consumption of the locallygrown leaf, and no relief from this year’s crop, that the industry and the members of our federation will be faced with the position oi acute unemployment over the winter months.
The total amount of import duty, 5s. 2d., added to the excise on manufactured tobacco of 2s. 4d., brings the amount to 7s. Cd. per Hi. on tobacco manufactured from imported leaf. The prices to the smoking public are as follow: - No. 1 Australian aromatic, 7s. per lb.; No. 2 dark, 5s. 2d.
Tobacco manufactured from imported leaf - Plug, dark, 12s. per lb.; aromatic, 13s.; fine cut, aromatic, 12a. ad. per lb.
Mr. C. M. Slagg, in his evidence before the select committee, was asked the following question (5597, page 247): - Would you consider Se. 4d. per lb. too much protection against imported leaf? (Reply) I would consider it more than necessary.
The danger of the exhaustion of the Australiangrown leaf was stressed to the Minister for Customs, by deputation to him, at Canberra, when the last tariff was under review, emphasizing the point of the danger of popularizing the Australian-grown leaf, and noi being in the position of keeping supplies to the smoking public; but, unfortunately, he was not prepared to accept our statements as facts; that our fears were groundless, and we were creating a bogy. Recent events have fully justified our fears.
The union contends that Australian growers are unable to supply sufficient leaf to meet the demand for cheap tobacco, and, consequently, one Melbourne firm will have to discharge most of its employees at the end of June. I do not Know the whole of the facts connected with this industry; but it was the subject of an inquiry by a select committee of this House, which, I believe, went very thoroughly into the whole question. It is true that the committee offered advice which differs from that of the employees of the union ; but, even on the face of it, their case is worthy of serious consideration by the Government. If the local supply of leaf is insufficient, and the public demands a cheaper tobacco, something should be done to supply the demand, and in supplying it these workers would be assisted. It might be argued that, if the duties on imported tobacco were lowered, the big tobacco companies would flood Australia with sufficient American leaf to supply their requirements over a period of years.
– That could be overcome by rationing imports.
– Some control over a situation of that kind could be exercised. I do not desire to advocate anything which might adversely affect the Australian tobacco-growing industry, because, from information supplied to me by members of the select committee, it would appear that the industry in Australia has wonderful possibilities.
– The tobacco combine made a record profit last year.
– The Government should do everything possible to assist the tobacco-growing industry. I want the committee to appreciate that the men and women now engaged in the industry, like all other workers, are concerned about their future. They have put their case to me honestly and sincerely, and I ask that something be done to assist them. I should like the Minister to go into this matter thoroughly before the item is dealt with. The members of the select committee should also be able to give us a good deal of information in regard to the points that I have raised. I do not wish it to be imagined that I am attempting to bolster up the big companies. I referred the other day to the British Australasian Tobacco Company, and I was assisted by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) in showing the enormous profits made by that company in recent years. My chief concern is the interests of the employees, and any action taken to assist them will have my cordial support.
I agree with the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) that the attitude of a large number of manufacturers to the workers employed in various industries is such that I sometimes regret that I have been associated with efforts put forward to grant increased protection to those industries. After having secured the protection, some manufacturers take every advantage of every opportunity to attack the wages and conditions of their employees. At election times they are profuse in their talk about the need for a decent standard of living, and the payment of a proper rate of wages, and they use many words in endeavouring to prove their bona fides in the matter, but when they secure the duties desired by them they soon forget their promises. Honorable members now have an opportunity to see that the interests of industrial workers are protected, and suitable action taken in regard to any who have been penalized. The honorable member for Werriwa properly pointed out that the big manufacturers have plenty of money to pay for huge advertisements designed to discredit Labour governments, when it suits them to do that. They are not backward at the present time in adding their weight to the attacks made on the New South Wales Government. The president of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures, among others, is always found in the forefront of the agitation for discrediting the Labour movement in that State; but we may be able to deal with him in another way.
– Is that a threat ?
– What does the honorable member mean ?
– Wait till the time for such action comes. The purpose of the party with which I am associated is to follow closely the various items in the tariff, as they are being discussed, and to collect as much data as possible regarding the attitude of employers to their employees.
– Will the honorable member send a bomb to the President of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures ?
– That is a reference to a “ frame-up “ which the honorable member’s party tried to “ put over “, but the joke did not come off. I make no apology for the fact that I am sent to this chamber to protect the interests of organized Labour, and if it can be shown that manufacturers have taken advantage of the duties imposed by the Government, by taking all that they can for themselves, and providing lower standards for the workers than should operate, I and those associated with me hope to use whatever’ power we have in this chamber to deal with those manufacturers as they deserve to be treated. In conclusion, I ask the Minister to assist, particularly, a section of the community that I represent, namely, the waterside workers.
.- I consider it scandalous that the tariff is only now being considered by this committee. Numerous schedules have been brought down since the 21st November, 1929. One was submitted by the late Government, and seven or eight have been tabled since then by the present Govern ment. There could be no greater political scandal than that of haying the fiscal policy of this country determined By administrative acts of the Government. I am pleased to know that there are a few eleventh-hour conversions to sane fiscal beliefs, and I hope that the number of members who come to the penitent form in the light of the experiences of Australia to-day will be increased. Without doubt, the fiscal policy of Australia has been thoroughly tested, and found wanting. With every increase in tariff duties we have had an increase of unemployment. Every Minister for Customs has promised that hundreds of persons would be employed if Parliament only gave certain protection to industries. The present Minister is probably the most blameworthy in that respect. Since he assumed office, and since the present schedules have been tabled, the amount of unemployment has doubled. When will the promises of increased employment as a result of the tariff be fulfilled ?
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) gave his case away this evening. He said that an English sovereign would buy £7 worth of goods in Japan; but that sovereign will buy less than 10s. worth of goods in Australia, and, therefore, the Australian wages have to be fourteen times those paid in Japan to equal them in purchasing power. Honorable members must realize that the important thing is the purchasing power of the wages received. . It is better for a workman to have a little money than a great deal, if he can buy a lot with it. In a report on the present tariff schedules prepared by the New South Wales Chamber of Commerce, the following passages occur : -
The present excessive duties on many lines, with the addition of embargoes and prohibitions, has narrowed the field of buying, and, in many instances, these excessive duties and embargoes are operating to the detriment of our import trade withcountries with which Australia has a favorable trade balance. An instance of this is the silk and artificial silk trade withthe East, which is the natural market for large quantities of Australian produce. Such restrictions on trade make the selling of Australia’s exports very much harder to effect. In addition to that, the buying by those countries of Australian wool cannot be continued, at any rate in the same volume, unless Australia, in return, is prepared to purchase their manufactures of wool. This can be done without in any way affecting the Australian manufacturer of the same type of goods, for there arc many lines for which there is a market in Australia, but which market is not big enough to enable economical manufacture to take place within Australia.
In the revision and recasting of the tariff it is essential that this phase of the effects of tariff legislation should be given very full consideration.
Australia depends entirely on her primary producers. The ability of her secondary industries to find a market is also dependent upon the primary producers. In turn, the employment possible in the secondary industries is dependent upon the purchasing power made available by our primary industries. Every action that retards or restricts reciprocal trade between Australia and other nations of the world makes it more difficult for the primary industries to carry on.
I believe that the Prime Minister, in his opening speech in this Parliament, emphasized that Australia depends almost entirely on its primary producers. The ability of secondary industries to find markets for their goods is also determined by the success of our primary producers. In other words, employment in secondary industries is possible on account of the purchasing power made available by the primary industries. Every action which retards or restricts reciprocal trade between Australia and other nations increases the difficulties of the primary producers in carrying on their industries. “What is the use of suggesting increased tariffs for our secondary industries ? How long could those industries live if the primary industries failed ? A secondary industry does not bring a shilling into this country. No community can prosper when one section of the . community is subject to the law of supply and demand, and another section enjoys a sheltered position at the expense of the former. That statement is axiomatic.
The present Government has made a great pretence of an attempt to help the primary producers by providing a bounty on wheat this year. Ministers will go to the country with an election cry that the members of another place have rejected four proposals under which they have attempted to do something for the wheatgrowers. But what of the things that the Government could do to take some of the load off the backs of the primary producers? The farmer pays the equivalent of the value of a bushel of wheat for every three gallons of petrol that he uses. . The Government should recognize that the States require: the primary producers to pay registration fees with respect to their motor vehicles, but on top of that this Government has imposed a petrol tax. Those two taxes, together take from the farmers of Australia the value of 25,515,000 bushels of wheat! A government that places such an impost on the primary producers cannot fairly be regarded as sincere in its professed desire to help them.
There is also a highly protective duty on farming machinery and a primage duty on jute goods and phosphatic rock, all of which are absolutely essential to primary producers, who have no protection against outside competition. What protection does the wheat-grower, who has to carry those engaged in secondary production on his shoulders the whole time, receive from this Government? It has even gone to the extent of imposing a 75 per cent. duty on shovels, merely because someone has undertaken their manufacture in Australia. Some eighteen months or two years ago five prominent economists, who were loyal enough to give their advice to the Commonwealth, without fee or reward, stated that the tariff then in’ operation levied upon primary production an impost equivalent to 9 per cent., but I venture to say that as a result of the action of this Government during the time it has been in office, that percentage has increased to 12, and at a time when the primary producers are receiving a price for their commodities much below the cost of production. In such circumstances, it is difficult to understand why this Government still continues to heap . burdens upon this deserving andstruggling section of the community. I defy the Government to justify its action. What would be the use of the Hugh V. McKay Harvester Works at Sunshine if the farmers were driven off the land? In consequence of our present arbitration system it is impossible for the agricultural machinery industry to produce at a price at which such products can be profitably sold overseas.
This Government, which believes in a highly protective policy, was asked to impose a sales tax equivalent to £7 4s. a ton on flour, which would not have necessitated an increase in the price of bread, in order to provide for a bounty of 6d. a bushel on wheat, but for purely political reasons it declined the request. Notwithstanding its action in that direction it still persists in tabling tariff schedules protecting secondary industries which are not of the slightest benefit to Australia. I think I arn correct in saying that the primary producers of Australia provide 97 per cent, of the revenue required to “pay those engaged in other industries including even the men employed in sweeping the streets of Sydney and Melbourne. A farmer has to give one bushel of wheat for every three gallons of petrol which he uses, but the revenue derived in this way is of no assistance to him as it is all utilized in bolstering up secondary industries, principally in Melbourne and Sydney, many of which should be closed down. What possibility is there of our secondary industries assisting to pay our national debt and interest commitments falling due? The revenue used to meet these payments has to be contributed by the unfortunate primary producers upon whose shoulders unnecessarily heavy burdens are being placed by a government which has the audacity to say that it has made several attempts to assist them. I have never been an advocate of freetrade; I believe in the imposition of a revenue tariff. With the liabilities we have to meet revenue must be derived from every possible source, and a certain amount should be obtained by the imposition of reasonable duties on luxuries, &c. Great Britain, which is always regarded as a freetrade country, obtains a tremendous amount of income in the form of revenue duties. Some time ago the Tariff Board warned us against the imposition of unnecessarily high duties, and surely no one with ordinary intelligence will contend that our present fiscal policy is not detrimental to Australia. Prior to federation, New South Wales, under a freetrade policy, exported manufactured goods, and even under a reasonable fiscal policy that could still be done. Some years ago boots manufactured in Australia were sold in New Zealand.
– Those then engaged in the industry were working for practically nothing.
– Hundreds of thousands of men in Australia to-day have no work at all owing to the policy adopted by this Government. Thousands of people were once employed in this country manufacturing goods which could be profitably marketed overseas ; but in consequence of legislation passed during recent years that is now impossible. I venture to suggest that if it were not for the foolish policy of spoon-feeding industries our great iron, steel and other resources could be successfully worked. In that way not only would employment be found for our people, but we should also be able to export our surplus production. It is impossible to develop this country and meet a national debt, such as we have, by taking in each others’ washing, which is what we are actually doing under our present fiscal policy. It does not bring in additional revenue, but prevents the investment of capital in Australia and strangles our primary industries.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has shown how the tariff is affecting some of his constituents, but when he was a member of the Cabinet he did not endeavour to influence his colleagues to assist the seamen. I suppose he was told by the Minister for Trade and Cu& toms (Mr. Forde) that they would be able to obtain employment in the new industries to be established as a result of the imposition of higher duties. The honorable member for West Sydney now finds that these jobs are not available. The Government’s policy has also seriously restricted shipping to Australia, and in consequence, farmers have to pay higher freight on their overseas shipments. The Navigation Act, which constitutes another form of protection, makes it practically impossible for our raw materials to be handled on a commercial basis. For instance, the freight on timber from Hobart to Adelaide is four times as great as it is from Vancouver to Australia, while the freight from Adelaide to Fremantle is greater than it is from New York to Fremantle.
– The honorable member supported the Navigation Act.
– I did not do anything of the kind. One of my first acts as a member of this Parliament was to ask the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the working of that act. A conference of world economists pointed out that high tariffs had a very disturbing international influence, and in some cases, had actually led to war. Why does not the Government seek the beet advice available as to which Australian industries are worthy of assistance, and thenconcentrate on them? The iron and steel and implement industries, also the manufacture of woollen goods, should be natural to this country. A heavy duty is now imposed on imported matches, but I believe that if every person in the matchmaking industry in Australia were paid a pension for life the Commonwealth would profit to the extent of £250,000. In 1890 Sir James Service predicted that the tariff would be the lion in the path of federation, and, unless property slain, would result in federation being slain by it. The people in the State which I represent are disgusted with the present fiscal policy imposing as it does unnecessary burdens upon them and, at the same time, seriously retarding the State’s development. I have received the following letter from the President of the Royal Agricultural Society of Western Australia : -
Re Primage Duty.
As we understand the customs tariff is shortly to be reviewed I would be pleased if you would endeavour to have the primage duty on phosphoric rock and jute goods removed from the schedule. It is felt by my society and by other agricultural societies who have approached us on this matter, that this is a direct charge on primary industry, and with the rate of exchange added, as in the case of jute goods, it makes the charge to the producer more than warranted under the present conditions.
Furthermore, the above-mentioned goods become almost immediately re-exports, either as containers or in the shape of produce, and cannot be classed with other importations. In other protective countries imports such as these are admitted duty free.
My society asks if you would give your assistance to the removal of these duties, also any which directly increase the burden of the primary producer.
Thos H. Wilson,
High freights from overseas which are a handicap to the primary producers, should be of assistance to those engaged in secondary production, affording as they do very substantial natural protection. Why should the Government increase duties to such an extent particularly at this juncture, when the exchange rate is an additional protection to those engaged in secondary industries? In addition to the protection afforded by the exchange there has been a 10 per cent. reduction of wages, and a 15 per cent. reduction of the cost of living. Yet the Government has said, in effect, to the sheltered secondary industries “ We shall give you further protection so that you may bleed the primary industries. We want to get them down and out “. The Government and its supporters attach more importance to keeping Lysaght’s iron and steel works prosperous than to maintaining the solvency of the primary producers. I invite honorable members to visit the dry wheat areas about Southern Cross, where men are working sixteen hours a day and getting less than1s. a bushel net for their wheat. Yet they have to pay double the price they should pay for the galvanized iron to build the humble shacks in which they, their wives and children, live. That is one instance of the madness and injustice of the Government’s policy. If honorable members can show how this form of protection is likely to help Australia I ask them to do so. But how can we hope for any improvement from a Prime Minister who, when sitting in opposition, said “At one time I did say that I would support the protection of any industry that could be commercially operated in Australia. I no longer use the qualification ‘ commercially ‘ ; I want to know only that an article can be made in Australia “. That is a one-sided and short-sighted policy. Who pays for it? Who maintains the credit of the Commonwealth? Honorable members boast of the Australian high standard of living, but that standard is paid for by those who produce the real wealth of the country - the primary producers.
– What is the honorable member’s attitude in regard to sugar?
– That is another cause of friction in the Commonwealth. Our people are voluntarily wearing a hair shirt. The people in Western Australia pay for one ton of Australian sugar as much, as would huy three tons from abroad. This is an impost of more than £400,000, or 19s. a head annually in excess of the price for which they could buy foreign sugar. But that is not the end of the injustice. If we could buy sugar from other countries we would not pay one penny in cash because they would buy in return Australian boots, wheat, meat, fruit and flour, and reciprocal trade would steadily develop. Under the £34,000,000 migration and development scheme many groups of settlers have been put on the land in Western Australia, but if their industry is to be profitable markets must be found for them.
– Why does not the Government find markets for them?
– That could be done, but for the political influence exerted in this Parliament by the State of Queensland. The adverse effect which the sugar policy has on reciprocal trade between Western Australia and its nearest neighbour and natural customer, is repeated by the high tariff duties and embargoes imposed on imports from other countries. Belgium buys from Australia approximately £9,500,000 worth of goods annually, chiefly meat, and we buy from it £900,000 worth, mostly cut glass. The present Commonwealth Government offended the Belgian people by declaring that we should not continue to buy their glass.
– Because it is a luxury.
– We cannot afford the luxury of offending a customer who buys £9,500,000 worth of our goods each year. Japan buys from us £12,000,000 worth of produce, and this Government would refuse to buy from it even a match. Can we wonder that other countries adopt a policy of reprisals - that Germany imposes a duty of 5s. a bushel on our wheat, and France a duty of 4s. 6d., whilst Italy has taken similar action? How can we expect our country to progress if we isolate ourselves and have not a commercial friend in the world ? Let us drop the “ tiddlywinking “ industries and concentrate on iron, steel, implements and woollen goods - industries that are natural to this country. God endowed Australia with a soil and climate suitable for the production of certain things. Instead of trying by artificial means to produce everything, let us eliminate those industries, primary and secondary, which may he regarded as unnatural to Australia. The goods which we can produce economically we can send to the uttermost ends of the earth, and in exchange we can buy those articles which other countries can produce better than we can. If a policy of that character were adopted, shipping would be plentiful, our ports would thrive, unemployment would disappear, even the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) would abandon his communistic ideas, the whole country would be prosperous, and there would be an end to the distress and discontent which to-day are evident on all sides.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) on having clearly stated his fiscal views. He has declared himself a revenue tariffist. For many years I have used the simile of children playing at see-saw to describe the differences between the protectionist, the freetrader and the hybrid revenue tariffist. At one end of the plank is the freetrader who desires that all goods be admitted absolutely free of duty. Under his regime the Customs Department would consist only of a few quarantine officers. At the other end is the protectionist who would impose duties on imports up to the point of prohibition. That is my policy. Midway between the two stands the revenue tariffist.
– In see-saw, he is called “pudding”.
– Whatever he is called he is the boss of the see-saw. That was exemplified in England. Leaning alternately towards the protectionists and the freetraders he obtained the support of each in turn and really ruled the country. The English system of protection was, at one time, the most severe the world has known. Of the 200 crimes for which death was the penalty at the commencement of Queen Victoria’s reign, 75 related to the system of excise and customs. By this policy of protection England built up its wonderful manufacturing industries which earned for her fame as the workshop of the world. A later example of a high protectionist country is Germany. After the Franco-Prussian war in 1S70, Bismarck, recognizing the need for Germany to build up its industries, raised a high tariff wall, behind which German manufacturing progressed at a remarkable rate. This industrial development enabled Germany to bring into being a huge army and a navy second in strength only to that of Great Britain. She could never have done that under a freetrade policy.
The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) spoke of the disabilities suffered by the primary producers on account of the tariff. I propose to show how, in my opinion, the wheat-farmers can be paid 4s, for every bushel of wheat that they produce. I thank Mr. Saunders, of Eastwood, South Australia, for having given me the idea, in a letter that I received from him. He suggested that the Government should buy the wheat produced by the farmers out of the profits made from the minting of silver. My ‘idea, I believe, is an improvement on that, although I frankly admit that its conception arose out of his suggestion. I propose that we pay the farmer out of silver mintage 4s. for every bushel that we purchase. I have not overlooked the fact that when sent to Great Britain that wheat would realize only 2s. a bushel. That being so, how can we pay 4s. a bushel in Australia, and yet make on the transaction a profit of ls. 3 2-lld. a bushel? Answers by the Treasurer to questions that I have asked disclose that the minting of £1,000,000 worth of silver, purchased at ls. an ounce, would produce currency to the amount of £5,500,000. What, then, would be the value of the 4s. paid to the farmers? On that basis the cost to the Government would be only 8 8-lld. Therefore, the sale of the wheat in Great Britain at 2s. a bushel would show a profit of ls. 3 3-lld. a bushel; and that sum would be available to meet our indebtedness abroad, thus obviating the necessity of paying the 30 per cent, exchange involved in the transmission of funds overseas.
It is a matter of history that all parties urged the farmer to grow more and still more wheat, with the result that 1S,000,000 acres were sown and produced a crop of 211,600,000 bushels. That is an estimate only at present, because the figures for Victoria and South Australia are not yet final. The normal acreage is from 13,000,000 to 14,000,000 acres ; thus last season there was an increase of 4,000,000 acres - a brave response by the farmer to the appeal made to him to come to the aid of his country. In the present season it is estimated that the acreage will be considerably less, on account of the difficulties many farmers have been and are experiencing in purchasing fertilizers, and also because very little land has been fallowed. The biggest portion of the wheat area at the present day must be properly tilled and manured. I regret that, because of poverty, such action has not been taken this year by the primary producers. The average return for the ten years ending 1929-30 was twelve bushels to the acre. Based upon a return of 13-i bushels to the acre, next season’s crop, it is estimated, will be 162,000,000 bushels- 49,000,000 bushels less than last year. In all of these calculations 32,000,000 must be deducted from the gross figures for Australian consumption. They have been checked by one of the bes’t accountants in Canberra, and I hope that honorable members will give some consideration to them.
I may say that, on the assumption that there would be a profit of at least ls. a bushel, the gain to Australia from the sale in Great Britain of 211,000,000 bushels would be £10,500,000. The questions that I asked the Treasurer were -
I received the following replies : -
Australia is approximately 5.75 per cent., but this would not affect the amount of silver coined, which would be £5,500,000.
Surely if England started in 1920 and accomplished so much, we are justified in following her splendid example. In 1920 England reduced the silver content of her coinage to a level below that at which it had stood at any time in English history, except during the reign of Henry VIII., of any but sacred memory. He alone, in the thirty-eighth year of his reign, reduced the silver content of the coinage to one-third. After the Great War, England’s fiduciary note issue had grown to £260,000,000, and the English people were becoming somewhat timid. The Government availed itself of the opportunity to reduce the silver content of the coinage. Perhaps it was justified in doing that, but it seems to me that when the profit rose from £1,000,000 to £9,000,000, it could well have increased the silver content. I cannot say that the scheme I advocate is perfect, but I feel certain that there is something in it. If the Government were to give an order tomorrow for £1,000,000 worth of Australian silver, it would so stimulate the mining industry ait Broken Hill that, instead of 56 per cent, of the miners being out of work as at present, all of them would be employed. Not only that, but employment would be found for many of the coal-miners now out of work.
– And they would be assisting the production of real money.
– That is so. If ever our notes become less than their face value - which God forbid - the silver coinage will always be worth at least its silver content. With the exception of Great Britain and the dominions of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, whose currency is based on the gold sovereign, every other country has its coinage based on silver.
A girl is taken on as an apprentice, so it is said. She is not an apprentice in the remotest sense of the word, except that she is required to pay a premium. She can be sent away or can leave at a moment’s notice, but as she is an apprentice, the officers are calmly informed that she is charged a premium of exactly 2s. 6d. a week. The kind employer will then say that, instead of insisting on the money down, he will pay her half-a-crown on the Saturday, and he will make her return it to him on the Monday.
In God’s name, what sort of conditions were those? A girl was paid half a crown on Saturday morning, and was required to return it to her employer on the following Monday. All those Flinders-lane employers are dead now, and I trust that none of the honorable members listening to me to-night will be in their company in the next world.
The honorable member forWerriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) delivered a striking speech on the effect of the mechanization of industry on the workers. By the genius of human invention it is possible for us to produce more wheat, meat, and wool in Australia than we can consume. In fact, we are producing three or four times more than we can use. Some striking statements were made in a book published recently by W. H. Rhys, entitled Real Wealth and Financial Poverty on the effect of the mechanization of industry. I quote the following paragraphs from page 19 of it : -
Here are a few more striking instances of the wonders of machine production -
The Lancashire cotton industry can supply, by working only one full week, the total cotton requirements of Britain for one year.
Two months’ work of the boot factories will do the same as regards footwear.
One man tending 25 machines will produce 3,600 socks a day.
A brick-laying machine used by Arrol and Company, Glasgow, will lay 1,500 bricks per hour.
The “ Wade mechanical woodman “ enables one man to do the work of 30 men.
There is a machine for stripping currants off the bunch which disemploys 40 women, and does the work in less than half the time.
One man with a machine will turn out tens of thousands of tins per day to can those currants when made into jam, and the fish that automatic fish-cleaners prepare for canning.
The Boston Railroad Company has a freightcar handling device to take charge of a million cars per year. One man directs the whole operation, “thus saving the labour of 400 men and so reducing labour costs by the wages of the 400 men.
The Tube Railway in London has in use automatic booking clerks, doing all that is required in the work of issuing tickets. They even give the exact change.
An electrical power plant near Berlin, producing 24,000 kilowatts, employs 200 workmen and 50 clerks. Had it been equipped with less modern machinery, not less than 3,000 workmen and 700 clerks would have been employed.
In the United States, there is a huge factory filled with practically one single machine turning out motor car frames almost untouched by human hands. The output numbers no less than 9,000 per day, and only 200 men are employed. No less than 45 frames per day being the output per man.
On the East Loddon Estate, Victoria, a youth and a man on the bags, harvested 800 acres of wheat in three weeks. In the days of the stripper it would have taken five machines and fifteen men to do the same work in the same time. An improved machine does the work in even one-fourth less than this time.
The managing director of the International Harvester Company told me not very long ago that one man can now do more work in a given time than 100 men could do one hundred years ago, or 200 men could do in the days when the sickle was used for the reaping of wheat. Another paragraph from the book by Mr. Rhys reads as follows: -
Here is an instance that should interest the Brisbane City Council, and, indeed, all councils. At St. Louis, where sewerage work is being carried on, 33 machine operators, aided by 37 labourers, are doing the work of 7,000 pick and shovel men.
An automatic mechanism producing 73,000 electric light bulbs every 24 hours, disemploys 2,000 hand-workers for each machine installed.
We are undoubtedly living in the machinery age. I think it was Aristotle who said long ago that civilization could not be maintained without slavery unless machines could be invented to do the work that the slaves were then doing. Well, machines have been invented to do the work. With the object of coping with the situation which now faces us, I have given notice that when an opportunity is afforded me I intend to move a motion to the following effect: -
That, in view of the fact that machinery invented by the genius of the race has brought to pass -
That in the gathering of food-crops one man with machinery can gather more than 100 men, without machinery, could gather a century ago;
That the fabrication of clothing has been equally advanced by machinery ;
That the erection of buildings,&c., has been equally advanced; and
That in the multitude of needs of our civilization an equally advanced saving of labour has been made without a corresponding advance in the position of the workers; it is the opinion of this House that an amendment to the law controlling patents be introduced with a view to bringing into law that all inventions which are patented to obtain protection should be granted such protection only in consideration of the Common wealth being made full partner in all benefits that shall accrue from such inventions, and that all profits arising from such share of partnership shall be used to pay oft’ the National debt.
In this way I hope that it may be possible to do something to help humanity to overcome the difficulties created by the mechanization of industry. The question which faces us is whether the nation shall control machines, or whether machines shall control the nation. To put it in another way, we must determine whether humanity shall be subject to machinery or whether machinery shall be subject to humanity.
Honorable members will have noticed that I also have a motion on the businesspaper to the effect that referendums shall be held at the next general election on a number of important public questions. It may be said that it is not possible for the people to deal intelligently with so many questions at the one time; but the people of Ohio, in the United States of America, voted on 45 separate questions on the same day, and their intelligence is, in my opinion, no greater than the intelligence of the people of Australia.
T endorse the remarks made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in regard to the employees in the tobacco industry. I believe that the position could be met by a reduction of the excise duty, and I trust that when that item is under consideration the Government will agree to adopt that course.
I thank honorable members for doing me the honour of listening patiently, and, I hope, sympathetically, to my suggestion for the minting of silver as a means of assisting the farmers of Australia. My figures were calculated most carefully. I know of no reason why we should not follow the example of the Homeland, and convert our silver into coin for the purchase of the wheat crop of Australia. If we did so, and sold the wheat at 2s. petbushel, the substantial profit that I have indicated could be realized.
Re-appointment of Sir Robert Gibson - Civil Aviation - Hunter River FLOODS
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
– I do not wish to delay the House very long, but I feel that the conduct of the Prime Minister to-day in attempting to brand the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) and myself as untruthful cannot go unchallenged. This matter arose out of a question asked by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) with regard to the appointment of Sir Robert Gibson, and, in the course of an answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Darling; Downs (Mr. Morgan), the Prime Minister declared in unmistakable language that the honorable member for Bourke and I had lied. I have always felt that whatever difference might exist between the Prime Minister and myself, his word could at least be accepted in regard to any statement that he might make. After his exhibition to-day I am sorry to say that I can no longer look upon him in that light. It is not my desire to deal with this subject from the point of view of any business that might have been transacted by Cabinet. I want it to be understood that it was because of the Prime Minister’s attitude as to the disclosure of Cabinet business that the honorable member for Bourke and I made our respective statements. It was the Prime Minister himself who first referred to the transactions of Cabinet, so that the right honorable gentleman must accept the responsibility for any disclosures that may have occurred. If the Prime Minister or any other Minister sees fit to attribute to certain honorable members actions and words that they did not’ take or make, they are bound, as representatives of the public, to defend themselves. In the measures that I adopted to defend myself I tried to keep within the same bounds as did the Prime Minister, and not to go into any details surrounding the issue. I could give quite a lot of information if I cared to do so, but I do not propose to take that course. In all governments circumstances will arise that cause differences of opinion, but I believe that such differences concern only those interested. I have never adopted a squealing attitude with regard to the outcome of any such controversy.
I am sorry that circumstances have arisen that call upon me to defend, in a measure, my character, and which call in question the truthfulness of statements that I might make in this House or elsewhere. I say that the statement made by the Prime Minister about unanimity in this matter is not correct.I come now to the personal explanation of the honorable member for Bourke, and the claim of that honorable gentleman that he wrote on a slip of paper his opinion on the matter then being debated by Cabinet, requesting that it be recorded. The Prime Minister treated the question of the honorable member for Darling Downs in relation to the honorable member for Bourke in the same manner as he did mine. The Prime Minister was not present when the honorable member for Bourke wrote that opinion. He was then on his way to the Imperial Conference. The right honorable gentleman therefore did not know the true circumstances, and he had no right to attempt to create in this House, or in the country, the impression that any statement by the honorable member for Bourke or myself in the matter was untruthful in character. It is for that reason that I defend myself on the issue.
.- On the 22nd April last I asked a question of the Minister for Defence, which related to civil aviation, and the honorable gentleman said that he would have inquiries made and furnish me with the information desired. I am not permitted to quote from Hansard of the current session; but I point out that when giving his reply to my question the honorable member omitted from it the words “ inter alia “, and also the words “ and of providing more landing grounds “ as will be seen by a reference to page 1145. My question referred to the fact that FlightLieutenant Owen, who had just returned to Sydney from Wellington, had stated that civil aviation in New Zealand was in. an infinitely better position than in Australia. Somehow, when the reply was forthcoming my question was somewhat distorted. The reply was supplied by the Controller of Civil Aviation, and reads -
I have not seen the press report referred to. Mr. Owen is an employee of the Shell Company. I asked that company to inquire whether Owen made any such statement, and am informed that he categorically denies having done so. The denial is credible as a statement that civil aviation in New Zealand is in an infinitely better position than in Australia could only be made or quoted in good faith by persons without any specific knowledge of the subject. Mr. Owen is not in that category.
That rather suggests that I asked a question that is not fair, or that is untrue. I, therefore, quote in full the article that appeared in the Canberra Times of the 22nd of April last, which reads -
Facilitiesin New Zealand
Flight-Lieutenant Owen, who returned to Sydney to-day from Wellington, said that, considering the size of New Zealand, its comparatively small population, and difficult flying conditions, the civil aviation facilities were infinitely better than in Australia.
Towns of similar size to Wagga, Junee and Tamworth had their own aerodrome, with firstclass hangars and club-houses.
Flying conditions were very poor, as the many mountains caused terrific downward currents.
In regard to the latter part of my question, where I asked whether, in view of the recent loss of an air liner, the Minister would say if any alteration would be made with regard to the provision of wireless for aeroplanes, the Controller, through the Minister, said -
In connexion with the last paragraph of Mr. White’s question, it might bo stated that the necessity of providing wireless for aeroplanes on certain routes was foreseen many months ago, and work is proceeding actively in regard to the essential ground stations that must first be provided.
In view of the distortion of my question, and the fact that the person concerned has made very definite denials in the matter, I ask that my question be referred back to the Controller of Civil Aviation. Also, will the Minister ask whether, with regard to that part relating to wireless, it is correct that Electrical CommanderF. G. Creswell, chairman of the Defence Communications Committee, stated at the inquiry into the loss of the Southern Cloud, that he had addressed a letter to the Defence Department on the 6th June, 1930, stating that Australian National Airways Limited had applied for the necessary licence to establish wireless communication between ground stations at Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, and their aircraft, but that the Government was definitely opposed to privately-owned aircraft wireless stations?
.- I have been asked to submit to the House a matter that has been put forward to me by various shire presidents and mayors in my constituency with regard to the hardship and suffering that prevails in their districts, in an endeavour to sec whether it is not possible to obtain some assistance from the Government. Twice within ten mouths that district has been devastated by floods, and previous to that the miners there were locked out of the mines for sixteen months. Although work has been resumed in the coal-mines, the number of unemployed .in the district to-day totals 7,500. Some of the farmers for whom I am now pleading have had nothing from their holdings for three years. They are indebted to the State Government for the crops which have been destroyed by the recent floods. They are now without fodder for their stock; they have no seed millet; and, owing to the destitution which prevails in the northern portion of New South Wales, it is useless for them to seek relief locally. They are, therefore, forced to appeal to the Government. At the time of the previous visitation the State Government assisted them; but now Lt is unable to do so because the Commonwealth is withholding from New South Wales money that belongs to the State. The floods have left the roads and bridges in an untrafficable condition; the river banks are so undermined that, should another flood come soon, there would probably be a disastrous loss of life. I do not think that there is any other part of Australia in which the people have suffered more than the people of that district have suffered during the last two years. We hear a good deal about honouring our obligations overseas; but, in my opinion, our first duty is to see that our own people are supplied with the necessaries of life. It is, unfortunately, true that many persons have taken their own lives, by throwing themselves over cliffs, taking poison, or shooting themselves, rather than face the position which confronted them. Our first duty is not to bondholders overseas, but to the hungry men, women and children in our own country. 1 do not want to criticize the Government unduly; but, as I believe that it can help these people, I maintain that it ought to do so. It should show some humanitarian regard for them in their distress. It is said that if we spend money to feed our people we shall be forced to repudiate our liabilities overseas. Even so, that would not be the first time that this country has repudiated its promises. Have the promises made to the men who enlisted been kept? They were told that, if they enlisted, Australia would be theirs on their return ; that, if injured in the war, they would receive generous pensions. Those pensions have been cut down, and during the administration of the previous Government many returned soldiers were ejected from war service homes. It is to the credit of the present Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) that on assuming office he restored their homes to thom. The action of the former Government in turning them out of those homes was repudiation of the worst type. I say emphatically that, if there is not. sufficient money in the country to feed our own hungry people, and also to meet our interest obligations overseas, the claims of our own people must be our first consideration - the overseas bondholders must wait.
– All honorable members are glad to see the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) back in his place again, after his long illness, and displaying his usual vigour.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– With regard to the matter raised by the honorable gentleman, I feel sure that every honorable member is sympathetic to the men in his district, which has so frequently been visited by floods. The granting of relief to them is, however, a matter for the State Government. I remind the honorable member that floods and similar visitations have caused damage in different parts of the Commonwealth.
– The Commonwealth g ranted £5,000 to relieve persons affected by floods in Tasmania.
– One of the most severe floods in the history of the Commonwealth visited the smallest State of the federation; the circumstances were such as to justify a grant being made. The honorable member for Hunter said that the Commonwealth is withholding money belonging to the State of New South Wales. I point out that, even after allowing for money withheld, the Commonwealth is still £1,500,000 to the bad. I suggest that the State which has benefited to that extent should expend some of the money to assist the settlers visited by floods.
With regard to the question raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) I point out that this morning I answered a question asked by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) who sits next to the honorable member for West Sydney.
– I assure the House that there was no collusion between us.
– I accept the honorable member’s assurance. In answering the question of the honorable member for Hunter this morning I gave a straightforward and truthful reply. When I gave the information I had no intention of trying to pillory any one. I did say then, and I now repeat, that the decision was a unanimous one - a statement which I am sure my colleagues will support.
– That is a lie.
– The decision was agreed to unanimously, not once, but twice. The honorable member for West Sydney said that he does not believe in talking about things that happened in Cabinet ; yet he has gone throughout New South Wales and repeatedly blamed the Government for making certain appointments. Those appointments were made while he was a member of the Cabinet. Was not his action an attempt to disclose that he had no part in the making of those appointments? One of the most contemptible things that a man can do is to agree to something in private and-
– That is a lie. I did not repeat what took place,
– Order! The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has on two occasions given expression to an utterance that is unparliamentary. I ask him to withdraw it.
– Because my remark is unparliamentary, I withdraw it.
– If the honorable member were what he should be, he would withdraw his remark because it is incorrect. I repeat that one of the most contemptible things that can be done is for a man, who agrees to something at a private meeting, and is then faced with criticism, to run away and condemn the action that he formerly agreed to.
– The Prime Minister will run away when the story is told.
– I leave the matter there, andI leave honorable members to make their choice as to whose word they accept - that of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) or mine.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1 1.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 April 1931, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19310429_reps_12_129/>.