12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and offered prayers.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment : -
Appropriation (Unemployment Relief Works) Bill.
Commonwealth Debt Conversion Bill (No. 2).
Debt Conversion Agreement Bill (No. 2).
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Australian Institute of Anatomy Agreement Bill.
Service and Execution of Process Bill.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill.
Financial Emergency Bill (No. 2).
Wheat Bounty Bill (No. 2).
Appropriation (Unemployment Relief Works) Bill.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1927-30.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill1927-30.
Debt Conversion Agreement Bill (No. 2).
DEATH OF HON. P. McMAHON GLYNN.
– I have received from Miss Glynn, daughter of the late Honorable P. McMahon Glynn, a letter thanking the House for its resolution of sympathy.
– I have received from Mrs. G. Bennett, daughter of the late General Sir John Monash, a letter thanking the House for its resolution of sympathy.
– Has the Prime Minister given consideration to the protests made to him against the imposition of primage duty and sales tux on books of an educational character; if so, will he indicate the intentions of the Government in regard to this tax on knowledge?
– The representations to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred were merely a renewal of those made when the primage duty and sales tax measures were under consideration in this Parliament. Invariably, new taxation arouses protests in some quarter. A Parliament is sometimes obliged to impose taxes against its inclination, a tax on books is one of them. It is not easy, however, to distinguish between educational books and others; much depends on the point of view. The Government has to raise additional revenue, and if all the exemptions that have been asked for were granted, other sources of income would have to be explored. Those who have made representations against the tax on books are the best organized protestors of whom I have knowledge, for I received 40 telegrams on the one day, lodged simultaneously at the same telegraph office.
– Will the Treasurer state whether the Government has made any proposals to the exchange pool regarding the reduction or maintenance of the present rate of exchange?
– The Government has not asked the banks to reduce the exchange rate; on the contrary, in consultation with the Commonwealth Bank, the Government indicated that its policy was to endeavour to maintain the existing rate.
– In view of the factthat at least two of the Australian States have objected to, and are making strong protests against, the proposed Statute of Westminster, and that the bill for its adoption is at present before the British Parliament, will the Prime Minister advise the Imperial Government that the States of Western Australia and Tasmania have protested against this measure, and suggest that it he held in abeyance until agreement on the subject has been obtained?
– The Parliament of Western Australia adopted a resolution in opposition to the proposed Statute of Westminster, and the Commonwealth Government’s first knowledge of it was a communication from the United Kingdom stating that it had been conveyed tothe British Government. We thought that at least we might have been communicated with simultaneously with the Imperial Government. The Commonwealth Government communicated with all the State Governments, examined their objections, and gave assurances that there was no desire to encroach in any way on the constitutional rights of the States. To make assurance doubly sure, a supplementary motion to that effect was submitted to this Parliament and adopted. The Government of Great Britain is apparently satisfied, for it has introduced a bill in the terms of the proposed statute. The Commonwealth Government has no intention to make further representations to the British Government other than to urge the passage of the bill through the Imperial Parliament.
– Is there any foundation in the report that the amendments to the resolution accepting the Statute of Westminster which were agreed to by the Commonwealth Parliament, were not included in the measure brought before the British Parliament?
– There has been some deletion from the amendments which were moved by this Parliament, and, if the honorable member desires, I shall give him the particulars to-morrow.
– Will the Prime Minister make a statement in the House?
– I ask the Treasurer whether the agreement made between the Commissioners of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales and the Board of the Commonwealth Bank for the amalgamation of the two institutions has been approved by the Commonwealth Government; if so, is any validating legislation necessary; if not, can immediate effect be given to the agreement so far as it concerns the Commonwealth Bank? Has the Premier of New South Wales indicated his attitude to the agreement?
– On Monday the representatives of the Commonwealth Bank presented to me the draft agreement reached by the committees representing that institution and the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales. After consultation with the Prime Minister, I advised the Commonwealth Bank that the Government approved of the draft, which I minuted accordingly. When the formal agreement is presented, it will be approved by me as Commonwealth Treasurer. The Commonwealth Bank Act requires no other sanction or validation on behalf of the Commonwealth.
– I ask the Assistant Minister in charge of War Service Homes whether he can make known to the House the recommendations of the Cabinet subcommittee which investigated the concessions requested by occupiers of War Service Homes? Is the Minister aware that the State Savings Bank of Victoria, in agreement with the Government of that State, intends to evict certain occupiers of War Service Homes whose payments are heavily in arrears?
– No finality has been reached in regard to the requested concessions. If the honorable member will let me have a list of the persons to be evicted by the State Savings Bank of Victoria, I shall investigate the matter. I remind him, however, that persons financed by the bank are in the position of ordinary mortgagors, and in such cases the Commonwealth Government has no power to intervene.
– I ask the Assistant Minister in charge of pensions whether arrangements can be made for the oldage pensioners to be admitted into the drill room at Elizabeth-street on paydays, and so be under shelter from rain and heat; and, if possible, be provided with seats?
– I shall inquire into the honorable member’s suggestion, and let him have a reply.
The following papers were presented : -
Tariff Board - Reports and Rccommendations -
Abrasive Papers and Cloths.
Braids, Fringes or , Edgings of Textile. materials not being for attire.
Gasoliers, Electroliers, Pendants and Brackets.
Sulphate of Magnesia.
Tools of Trade.
Wrought Slate, Slate Slabs andRoofing Slates.
Ordered to be printed.
National Debt SinkingFund Act - National Debt Commission - Eighth Annual Report, for year ended 30th . June, 1931 .
– Is the money for the bounty on wheat available; if not, when will it be made available? Will the Minister also state what steps are being taken by the Markets Department to acquaint the wheat-growers of the procedure to be followed in applying for the bounty ?
– Within the next two or three days I shall be able to make a complete statement as to the exact position.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that a general impression prevails among persons who have entered into contracts for the payment of certain telephone rentals, that the rates will be reduced after seven years, at the expiration of their contracts?Will the Minister state whether any of his predecessors have given these persons to understand that such a reduction in rates would take place, and will he consider reducing telephone rentals in accordance with the decline in the purchasing value of money?
– I have received no word to the effect that the persons concerned expect a reduction in their telephone rentals after seven years when their contracts expire. The question of reducing telephone rates has been repeatedly raised in this House, and referred to me in correspondence, but every examination has shown that it would be entirely uneconomical to reduce telephone rates. We are to-day showing a great loss on telephone services. With the exception of one other country, we have the lowest telephone rates in the civilized world, and if the telephone rates were reduced, a further loss would be sustained.
– Has the Minister decided to allow mining in the Federal Capital Territory; and, if so, what mining laws are to be adopted?
– A mining ordinance dealing with mining in the Federal Capital Territory has been promulgated, and will be made available in the near future.
– I understand that certain representations have been made to the Attorney-General concerning a necessary amendment to the Bankruptcy Act, covering deeds of inspectorship.. Is there any likelihood of the act being amended in that direction shortly, because if no alteration is made, a great deal of hardship will be . inflicted on country storekeepers throughout the Commonwealth?
– It is correct that representations have been made to me, proposing amendments in the bankruptcy law, and relating to many things, including deeds of inspectorship. It was proposed that a short amendment should immediately be introduced to cover that point, but we have a number of matters which we propose to submit to the House by way of amendment to the Bankruptcy Act, and deeds of inspectorship will be among them. Precisely how far we shall be able to meet the wishes of those who have made representations on the subject is a matter for further and fuller consideration, but I think that I can assure the honorable gentleman that a bill, dealing with the subject that he has raised, will be introduced at an early date.
– When is it anticipated that the necessary arrangements will be completed to enable bondholders, in necessitous cases, to obtain an advance, as provided for in recent legislation passed by this Parliament?
– The measure referred to makes full provision for meeting hardship cases. It passed both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament, and has since received assent. The agreement does not become operative until ratified by the State Parliaments. Three weeks ago, the Commonwealth Government corresponded with the State Governments, urging them to expedite the passage of the ratifying legislation in their respective Houses, so that the hardship provisions might operate. I do not know how many of the State Parliaments have passed that legislation, but until they pass it, we cannot operate the agreement.
– Has the attention of the Minister been called to a report in yesterday’s Melbourne Argus, in which the Australian Trade Commissioner in Canada, Mr. L. R. Macgregor, states -
It is almost certain that a Canadian-New Zealand trade treaty will be negotiated in the near future which should place New Zealand butter on an equal basis with Australian as regards tariff preferences.
Is it a fact that the Australian-Canadian trade treaty, which was recently negotiated, contains no clause which would prevent it from being more or less nullified by other treaties which may in the near future be made by Canada with other countries?
– I did notice the statement of the Australian
Trade Commissioner in Canada, but I have had no official communication from Mm. I know that a similar statement was made about a month ago, but nothing further has happened. I am not aware that any negotiations are taking place or are contemplated respecting a trade agreement between Canada and New Zealand. The honorable member can rest assured that Australia’s interests will be safeguarded in any circumstances.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether the British Government has decided upon the place and time of the next Imperial Conference?
– There is no information to hand as to the definite time or place of the next Imperial Conference.
– Some considerable time ago, the Government undertook to make an inquiry into the selling price of petrol within Australia. A preliminary report had been received, and it was stated that a further inquiry would be undertaken. Will the Prime Minister inform the House what is the position to-day, and when does he expect to be able to present a report to the House concerning the selling price of petrol?-
– The Government has appointed to the Board of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited an official of the Treasury, so that it will be better informed as to the whole position regarding our interest in that organization. An officer of the Customs Department is at present, investigating the general question of duties and excise on petrol and the margins between them. Other information has also been gathered. We are awaiting information from those officers as to the real position before deciding whether an inquiry is necessary. When we get the information, it will be given to the House.
” ON SERVICE “ STAMPS.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say whether O.S. stamps have recently been issued to the public, and, if so, whether there is precedent in any postal administration in the world for such action? If O.S. stamps have been issued to the public, will the Minister give the reasons for the action taken ?
– A number of O.S. stamps have been made available for sale to the public, and there are precedents for such action. In the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, O.S. stamps were recently issued to the public, although not by the Postmaster-General’s Department. The reason for making available these stamps to the public is that all over the world there are stamp collectors who will get O.S. stamps by surreptitious means, and pay high prices for them, if such stamps are confined to the Public Service. That actually happened in New Guinea; stamps which _ were bought for 2d. each were sold for fi each. Moreover, it is known that certain Melbourne stamp dealers forged New Guinea O.S. stamps. It will not be necessary to forge these stamps. The free sale to the public will prevent that.
– Are these stamps being sold to the public at their face value, and can they be used for ordinary postage? If they can be so used, will the Minister explain why O.S. stamps are necessary?
– The O.S. stamps are being sold to the public at their face value, but it has not been decided whether they may be used for ordinary postage. They were used on letters posted by the special Christmas air mail to Great Britain, although ordinarily O.S. stamps are confined to use by government departments.
– Can the Minister say how many of the New Guinea stamps were forged, and what action was taken against the person or persons who forged them ?
– It was not possible, to ascertain who forged the stamps; but it is known that a large number of O.S. stamps were in circulation, and that the only way to secure them, other than by obtaining them from members of the Public Service in New Guinea - and that was not possible - was to forge them. The Government’s action will make forgery unnecessary and unprofitable in this instance.
– Has Cabinet considered the making of appointments to a board to control wireless broadcasting; and, if so, what names have been suggested ? If the matter has not yet been dealt with, will the Government consider the advisability of appointing a select committee to inquire into the control of broadcasting, as was done in Great. Britain in connexion with the British Broadcasting Corporation, an institution which is without political bias?
– At a later hour today the Postmaster-General will move to introduce a bill to deal with national broadcasting. Until that legislation has been passed, no action will be taken along the lines indicated. Obviously, it will Iia necessary to pass the legislation before anything can be gained by making a selection. There is no need to appoint a select committee to make an investigation at this stage.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral consider the advisability of altering the regulations relating to group telephone lines, so that, where one person in a group defaults in payment, the other members of the group will riot bc penalized through having their telephone service disconnected?
– The question raised by the honorable member is one which cannot bc answered off-hand, since it involves i radical departure from the existing system. I invite the honorable gentleman to place his question on the notice-paper.
– When does the Minister expect to receive the report, of the Tariff Board on tobacco duties? Will he give “an assurance that no alteration of the existing duties will bc made pending the receipt, of the report?
– I shall have inquiries made to ascertain when the report of the Tariff Board on tobacco duties is expected, and shall let the honorable member know. It is not, usual to give assurances thai duties will not be altered. The object of referring the matter to the Tariff Board was to have a full investi gation made. When the board’s report is received, it will be carefully considered by the Government before any alteration is made.
– In view of the con: fusion caused by’ conflicting laws in the several States regarding the possession of revolvers, and other similar weapons, will the Attorney-General bring in a law to control the sale and possession of firearms, which will apply throughout the Commonwealth ?
– I am afraid tha< constitutional limitations would prevent the Commonwealth from legislating in the direction indicated. The States have ample powers to control the possession of fire-arms within their boundaries. I cannot promise that the Government will consider the introduction of federal legislation to control fire-arm’s.
Formal Motion fob Adjournment.
– I have received from the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) an intimation that he desires to move tire adjournment of the House this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The method adopted by the Government in the selection of men to be employed in connexion with the recent federal grant for the relief of unemployed “.
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
Mr. BEASLEY (West Sydney) [3.29J. - On the 30th September last I was requested by the Glebe Municipal Council to inquire whether the Government intended to make money available this year for Christmas relief, as was done on previous occasions. The Prime Minister answered that the Government intended to do much more before Christmas than had been done in other years. In a cynical way the right Honorable gentleman suggested that if we Sad to wait until Christinas to do something in this- matter, the relief given would bc rather overdue.
On the 23rd October, the Prime Minister made a statement in this chamber to the effect that the amount of £250,000 would be made available for_ relief work just prior to Christmas. That sum was to be spread over the whole of the States, and £90,000 of it was allocated to New South Wales. Thereupon honorable members who belong to this group made inquiries as to the way in which the money would be distributed in New South Wales. They were anxious to know whether the Government intended that the money would be expended through municipal councils, as was done previously, and to learn just how the labour was to be engaged. That was important to mc and to all the members of this group, as we desired that the expenditure should assist the greatest number possible of needy unemployed persons. We failed to get any satisfactory reply to our inquiries. We were told, in answer to our questions, that the Government had not determined the details of the scheme, and consequently, could not enlighten us on the subject. On the 5th November, Senator Dooley made a statement in another place outlining the intentions of the Government, and particularizing the work that was to be undertaken in New South Wales. Following on that utterance, representatives of this group waited upon the Works Director at the Customs House, Sydney, on the 7th November, and asked what he proposed to do with regard to the engagement of the labour. That gentleman informed us that he had received a circular from the Government detailing the procedure to bc followed. That circular was dated the 30th October, which makes it clear that the Government had arrived at a decision before the announcement was made by Senator Dooley. My colleagues persisted in our inquiries as to the method that was to bc employed with regard to the engagement of the labour, and were informed that the names of the men desiring work would bc registered at the Sydney Customs House, and at the office of the superintendent of the engineers branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department in Castlereagh-street, Sydney. Men seeking work proceeded to register at those places, particularly on the following Monday and
Tuesday. So many thousands sought registration that the authorities decided to call a halt, and made a public announcement that sufficient names had been recorded. To the surprise of myself and my colleagues, we found that between the time of the determination of the method by which the money would be spent, as set forth in the circular of the 30th October, and the statement that was made by Senator Dooley on the 5th November, supporters of the Government had been secretly informed as to the procedure to be followed. That gave them an opportunity to canvass the unemployed in their centres who favoured their political opinions, with the result that those persons received priority of registration. In the circumstances, it was not strange that a sufficient number of names was recorded on the Monday and the Tuesday, and that the list was then promptly closed, causing many applicants to be turned away.
Our contention is that the Government divulged to its own supporters information denied to other honorable members which provided them with an opportunity to get their friends registered early, thus assisting their political organization, at all events, in New South Wales. We chirn that the money that was voted by the Parliament was intended for the benefit of the unemployed generally, and that any announcement by the Government of the procedure of distribution should have been made publicly; such information should not have been kept confined to those who were supporters of the Government; members of my group, and other honorable members of this House, should have been informed simultaneously, so giving no undue advantage to anybody.
I desire to pay the highest tribute to Mr. Todd, the Works Director for New South Wales. I have no grievance against that gentleman for anything that he, lias done in this matter. He frankly informed us as to the position, and stated that, in the circumstances, the only course open to myself and my colleagues was to send along the names and addresses of those who came to us for employment. After the registration, had closed on the 10th November, there was a positive stampede of applicants to myself and my colleagues both at the offices of the Commonwealth Bank and at our homes. As a matter of fact, when men called at the Postal Department’s office in Castlereagh-street, the officer in charge informed them that they should go to their local member, and register through him. We contend that it was then too (ate to do anything; that the men who came to us were not given a fair opportunity to obtain employment, as supporters of the Government had already submitted names for registration, and in many instances the men had already obtained employment. I shall not dilate further upon that aspect of the matter, as my time is limited. My colleagues will amplify my remarks if they get the opportunity to do so.
Of the £90,000- that was made available for expenditure in New South Wales, £5,000 was set aside for special work at the naval dockyard at Cockatoo Island. The management of that dockyard determined upon the procedure to be followed when registering names. For about a week the names of men were registered at the dockyard - that is to say, the fact that it was necessary to register was publicly known for about a week. Over 1,000 men registered, and the management then, declared that they had sufficient for their purpose. In order to prevent any more men coming from the mainland, they posted notices on the Sydney wharfs and at Balmain, informing those seeking employment that sufficient men had already registered. They were then troubled about how to choose the number needed from among the names registered, confining the work available to men who had formerly been employed at the dock. A number of those registered bad not been employed at the dockyard for upwards of ten years. The management decided to engage only those who had been employed at the dockyard within the last four or five years, claiming that such men. were more familiar with the work, and because they had not worked elsewhere but had depended on the dockyard for their means of subsistence, they should have preference of employment. The welfare committee at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, which is composed of representatives of various organizations, had also discussed this matter, and it arrived at the conclusion that the work should be made available for former dockyard employees. The matter then became a very live issue in the residential centres surrounding the dockyard, which is situated on an island among a number of electorates adjoining the surrounding water. The dockyard itself is in the subdivision of Darling Harbour, in my own electorate, but most of the employees live in adjoining electorates, including Martin, Dalley, West Sydney, North Sydney, and Parkes.
After it had been made known that £5,000 was to be available for this work, it was discovered that’ an organization in the Dalley electorate was busily engaged collecting names, to enable its nominees to obtain preference of employment. The Bailey-Theodore organization had sent out its paid organizer, Mr. Macpherson, in association with Alderman Thompson, of Balmain, who is also an. organizer for the Federal Treasurer, and is now working on The World newspaper, to collect names to be submitted for employment. I have here a number of declarations from men who were visited by those two persons, in which arc set out the reasons that the latter advanced for their activities. One declaration contained this statement -
In another declaration the following statement is made: -
Having registered for relief work at Cockatoo, T was naturally anxious to get a position by fair competition. In conversation with a Mr. Simons and Mr. Stein, I was informed by Mr. Simons that to make a certainty of a position all that was necessary to do was to attend the Theodore league and get in. touch with Theodore or Thompson.
Still another declaration contains this statement -
I was approached by a Mr. Frank Murphy and told to go to Cockatoo Dock and put my name down for employment, and probably a letter would follow notifying me of a job.
The last declaration which I shall quote states -
Thompson would see that I was included among those selected, but that 1 must register my name as a matter of form.
– Are these sworn statements?
– Yes. Before I conclude my speech I shall make a proposal “which, if accepted by the Government, will enable it to prove its bona fides in this matter. The declarations from which I have quoted are only a few of the number collected. I have dealt only with the Dalley electorate, but the activities of the political organization that I have referred to extend beyond it into my own electorate. I have a letter in which two persons are named, Mr. Charlesworth and Alderman Walsh. These gentlemen were directed “to collect a selected list of names for Christmas employment for Mr. Theodore.” We shall be able to prove, if we are given the opportunity to do so, that canvassers went from door to door in my electorate informing householders that they had instructions from the Federal Treasurer to collect 200 names. They also said that their instructions were that priority of employment would be given to those who supported the political views of the Treasurer. We also learned that Mr. MacPherson told a member of the Annandale Workers Association, Mr. Gilchrist, who was collecting names for the Federal Treasurer, that work would be available, not only at the dockyard, but also on jobs under the control of the Public Works Department. Mr. MacPherson asked Mr. Gilchrist for 50 names. Mr. Gilchrist said that he could not supply the names there and then, but he supplied them on the following Sunday, having collected them by the same process that I have already outlined.
There is also in Annandale an organization known as the Unemployed Workers Movement, which is associated with the communist party. This party has branches of the Unemployed Workers Movement established to conduct political campaigns in every centre where it is concentrating. The Unemployed Workers Movement is working under the direction of the communist party. It is interesting to note that the secretary of the Annandale Unemployed Workers Movement took the chair at Mr. Theodore’s meeting at Annandale last Wednesday- night. I state this fact because we have recently heard a good deal about the “ moderate Labour party,” and have been told by the Treasurer that New South- Wales is heading towards communism or fascism. As a matter of fact; we read a little more about that subject in a statement attributed to the Treasurer in to-day’s press. Honorable members will, in these circumstances, be interested in the developments which are occurring in the Treasurer’s own electorate, for they show how far that gentleman is prepared, for his own. ends, to exploit any organization, whether it is communistic or otherwise. No doubt the honorable gentleman thinks that the Unemployed Workers Movement, or any other organization, may be called upon to fire poisonous darts at Lang, and cause inconvenience and trouble to those who foster Lang’s views. At any rate, one of the chief officers of the Annandale Unemployed Workers Movement took the chair at the Treasurer’s meeting. This man, I am informed, has already secured employment.
The Annandale Workers Association, which has 500 members, has so far not received a reply to its request for information as to when work will be provided for the 50 men whose names it supplied. One of the members of this association attended the meeting of Mr. Theodore’s league last Wednesday night, and asked the Treasurer to say definitely what would happen in regard to the men whose names had been taken. He was told by the Treasurer that the whole matter was in the hands of Mr. MacPherson, the organizer of the party to which I have referred. I have the name and address of this person and he will make the necessary declaration as to the facts when the opportunity to do so presents itself to him. When I interviewed him in the presence of others, he told me that he was informed at that meeting that employment would be guaranteed to the men whose names -had been taken. That the Treasurer .should have given such a guarantee surely is conclusive evidence that the expenditure of this money is being ministerially directed.
Having had all this information collected, the Treasurer sent for the manager of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and told him that the work must be provided for ex-employees of the dockyard, and at the same time handed him a list of over 100 names. This instruction altogether upset the manager’s intention to give the available work at the dockyard to men who had registered and had been employed there during the previous four or five years. All the employment had to be reserved for the men whose names had been collected on behalf of the Treasurer. The manager was also informed that additional lists of selected men would be supplied. It is interesting to know that those additional lists have not been supplied because of the exposure of the whole scheme by Senator Dunn in another place.
I feel that I have made out a prima facie case for an inquiry into the methods employed for the expenditure of the grant for the relief of unemployment in New South Wales. Seeing that this is public money, it is not right that any one should be able to guarantee a job to any particular man. Most honorable members were under the impression that there would be an equal opportunity for all men to register for employment, and that the work would be allocated in the ordinary way. I, therefore, suggest to the Government that a select committee be appointed of honorable members of both Houses of the Parliament. Five honorable members of this chamber could bo elected by ballot in the House, and the Senate could be asked by message to appoint three members. Such a committee could make a thorough inquiry into this whole matter. If the Government will adopt that course it will not be necessary for us to proceed with the discussion of this motion. Only in this way can the Government satisfy the general community, its own supporters, and honorable members generally, that this business has not been improperly handled. This money was voted by Parliament for the purpose of affording some relief at Christmas time to men who are in dire straits, and men should have been given work without inquiry as to their political beliefs or their willingness to serve a particular party during an election campaign which may be only a short time ahead. The facts which I have outlined justify the making of an investigation. Only by a thorough examination of the whole situation shall we be able to ascertain who has been responsible for what has happened. If honorable members were to go through the Dalley electorate to-day they would, find i t seething with discontent in all directions. Naturally, when a man finds that other men can get a job and he cannot, he asks how the other fellows are able to get work. A. man who came to my home last night told me of a man he knew and whose name 1 have, who was actually sent for to begin work at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, although he is on. compensation for an injury to his thumb inflicted while working at Mort’s Dock where he has been employed for five months. Other honorable members of the group to which I belong can give the names of persons who have been specially selected for work by canvassers who have gone right through the districts named. It is to be regretted that such troubles should have arisen at a time when we should all be straining every nerve and putting forth every effort to relieve distress. It is also to be regretted that this should have happened in the electorate which the Treasurer represents. I assure the Prime Minister and the Government that the evidence that we have collected in the Dalley electorate is such that the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the position, is thoroughly justified.
– The speech of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) must have disappointed his colleagues in the corner party. He had allowed the impression to get abroad that he intended to launch a serious attack on the Government, and that Ministers would bc assailed on unanswerable charges. Yet for twenty minutes we have listened to sheer puerilities. The honorable member stated that his allegations would be supported by evidence, but what sort of evidence has he produced? I propose to answer, categorically, the innuendoes and charges relating to myself, against whom this attack appears to be mainly directed.
First, the honorable member stated that in connexion with the employment to be given under this Parliament’s grant for relief works, an organization was established in Dalley, under my authority, to collect the names of persons desiring work at Cockatoo Island, apparently with, some kind of promise by me that the persons whose names were so collected would get preference. I deny that any such authority was given by me, or that such an organization as is alleged was set up in Dalley under my authority or with my cognizance.
Secondly, the honorable member stated that canvassers in his own electorate, as well as in Dalley, were instructed, at my request, to collect the names of 200 applicants for work. I deny that. No such request was made by me; if any person collected names and said that he had my authority or instruction to do so, he was stating a falsehood.
Thirdly, the honorable member stated that at the meeting of the Annandale branch of the Australian Labour Party which I addressed a week ago, some person asked me a question regarding employment at Cockatoo Island, and that I replied that the matter was in the bauds of Mr.. MacPherson, and that I would guarantee to get work for any persons whose names were collected by him. I deny that any such question was asked, or that any such answer was given by me. That denial is not given lightly, because there are at least 100 persons who could testify regarding what took place at that meeting.
Fourthly, the honorable member said that I sent for the manager of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard to instruct him as to the method of selecting men for work. I deny that also. It is true that I had a consultation with the manager of the dockyard; that I shall explain later.
So soon as it became known that the Commonwealth Parliament had granted a sum of money for the provision of relief work, I, in common with other federal members representing New South Wales, received many applications for employment.
– That did not happen only in New South Wales.
– No doubt members representing constituencies in other States had a similar experience. When the application indicated that the applicant was a former employee of Cockatoo Island, it was sent on to the management of the dockyard; where that was not indicated, the application was sent on to Mr. Todd, Commonwealth Works Director in New South Wales. All applications were forwarded for registration and ‘consideration in the usual way. Probably two or three hundred applications passed through the hands of myself or my secretary, I did not ask for preference for any applicant, nor suggest that, others who had a superior claim should be overlooked in favour of those whose names had been forwarded by me. lft Balmain, Rozelle, and Leichhardt there was a general desire on the part of the hundreds of unemployed to have their names registered, and naturally they wrote to their member. Some of the letters I received contained lists of names, the writers apparently having gone to the trouble of collecting the names of others of their acquaintance who desired to be registered. I sent those names on to the appropriate quarter in the same way ‘as the honorable members for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), East Sydney (Mt. Ward), and Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) did. The numbers are not known to me, but probably as many electors of West Sydney as of Dalley are employed on this relief work; probably also the list of applicants forwarded by the honorable’ member for West Sydney was larger than the list I submitted. I do not know how many names were on my list.
– Why did not the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) apply that procedure to all honorable members?
– I applied no procedure; I merely forwarded to the appropriate quarters those applications which were addressed to me, and that was the common-sense course for any member to adopt. I am certain that if persons applied to the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) for employment under the Commonwealth, he would forward their names to the department concerned. That is all I did.
– We did not get a chance to forward names until all the positions had been filled.
– I had no greater chance than any other honorable member.
– The Treasurer filled all the positions first.
– I did not. Speaking from memory, of the applications from Dalley that passed through my hands, not more than 120 were forwarded to Cockatoo Island. Probably the registrations at the dockyard numbered between 3,000 and 4,000; the number of men to be employed was about 400, and the state-, ment that I attempted to rush my constituents into these positions is without a tittle of justification. It is only part of the slanderous campaign that has been undertaken to discredit me. The honorable member for West Sydney speaks of evidence! What evidence has he produced which would impress anybody but a school boy?
– He stated that he had several sworn statements.
– If the honorable member has definite particulars, why does he not disclose them, instead of merely making foolish insinuations to advance a vague and indefinite case? I received yesterday this letter referring to employment at Cockatoo Island - .
I notice in The World of to-day’s date that Mr. Beasley is going to move a motion re £250,000 being used for political purposes.
I wish to inform you that while sitting in the union room of the Federated Ironworkers (Balmain branch), the secretary of the branch, Mr. Stacey, while telling the members who came whether they were among those chosen for work at Cockatoo Island, made the following statement: - “That he had had to stop Mr. Bensley and Mr. Dunn from sending men over to the island with letters to register their names who had never worked on the island; one of these was Mr. Dunn’s brotherinlaw.”
A man who complains in this Parliament of other members sending forward names for registration has been trying to work into a job at Cockatoo Island his brother-in-law, who had never previously been employed there. The chief cause of the chagrin that, is evident in the Corner party is that its members have not been able to work their own political stunts at Cockatoo Island and elsewhere.
I admit that the irregularities of the Lang Administration would not justify similar misconduct by the Federal Administration, but the fact is well known that the Lang Government has used its political power to exercise patronage of the worst and most tyrannous kind. It is common knowledge throughout New South Wales that railway and tramway employees dare not, for fear of losing their jobs, open their mouths against the so-called Lang plan or the State Government, or support the Australian Labour Party. There is ample evidence that a miserable, mean tyranny is practised by the State Government against the workers in New South Wales. These have been sacked and victimized by the Langites, yet members of that party in this Parliament have the hardihood to criticize the Commonwealth Labour Government for what is alleged to be unfair discrimination in the giving of employment. If this Commonwealth Government were guilty of one-tenth of the malpractices of the Lang Government, it would deserve to be censured, but no evidence of wrongdoing has been adduced. I have nothing to apologize for in connexion with the distribution of work under the relief grant.
The honorable member for West Sydney stated that I had sent for the manager of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and instructed him how he should engage men. I have already denied that. In the absence of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley), I communicated with the manager of Cockatoo Island Dockyard in connexion with the grant of £5,000 by the Treasury for expenditure there. He produced a list of works which he intended to carry out, which, after discussion, I approved. We discussed nothing further, and he received no instruction from me in regard to the men he should employ, or the manner of preparing the employment register. If any persons in West Sydney or Dalley promised to get work at Cockatoo Island, they were not acting with my authority or knowledge. I can say no more.
.- The Treasurer stated that not a tittle of evidence has been adduced in support of the charges against him. .We know from his past career that a lot of evidence is required to convict him of wrongdoing. A government could not be guilty of anything more contemptible than to exploit the unfortunate unemployed to gain a political advantage. The Treasurer sought to excuse himself by alleging political patronage by a State Government; that has nothing to do with the matter now before the
House. I charge the Treasurer with having deliberately misled the members of this House in regard to the manner in which workers needing relief were to be engaged, in order that he and others might be able to put their own particular cronies into jobs at Cockatoo Island. On the 29th October, when the relief grant of £250,000 was being discussed, I asked the honorable gentleman, amongst other tilings, what method would be adopted for the engagement of relief labour, and whether the employment that was to be given would be distributed through the State Labour Exchanges. The Treasurer replied - “ I cannot answer that question; the details have not yet been settled.” Yet on the 30th October instructions were issued to the Commonwealth Works Department by the Government, notwithstanding that the Treasurer had stated on the previous day that the details had not then been settled. Not only did strange things occur in the Dalley electorate in connexion with registration for employment, but a member of this House went so far as to break the defence regulations in order to make a political attack on the Premier of New South Wales and exploit the unemployed. The Treasurer has asked for specific evidence; I have here one of the original notices posted at Liverpool Camp -
TO ALL THOSE WHO ARE UNEMPLOYED.
Mr. A. K Rowe, M.H.J?., Federal member for til is electorate, will visit Liverpool on Tuesday, tlie 10th November, 1931, and wishes to obtain a list of names of men seeking employment: lie would bc glad to interview, personally, those who wish to be placed on his list, at the Works Office, Liverpool, at 9 a.m. on the above date.
Remember - !) o’clock next Tuesday morning, at the Works Office, just inside the main entrance to Liverpool Camp. 1’. G. Whiteside, K.A.E.,
Works Officer, Liverpool.
Certain Government supporters even made use of the military department in order to have the men mustered. The meeting was duly held inside the gates of Liverpool Camp, on military property, and a political address was delivered, in which not only the Premier of New South Wales, but also the members of the Beasley group, were castigated. During the meeting some of the unemployed objected to the procedure that was being adopted in distributing labour, and the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Rowe) replied, “ If you do not want work, go to the State Labour Exchange; if you do want work, enrol now”. Even then, the men who were enrolled were not given work in the order in which their names were taken. Discrimination was exercised against certain men, because their political views were known ; because they were not supporters of the Premiers’ plan and of the present Commonwealth Ministry. No known Lang supporters were given work. Evidence to that effect can be obtained in hundreds of instances. It is perfectly true, as the Treasurer has said, with his usual adeptness in confusing the facts, that we supplied lists of men ; but what we complain of is that the supporters of the Government had previous knowledge, and were able to supply their lists a week before we did. We were not informed that names were being taken by the Commonwealth Works Department, and we would never have known that fact had we not ascertained it by accident. We certainly submitted lists when we found that other honorable members had already done so. One member of the Permanent Military Forces at Liverpool Camp attempted to get into touch with the Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley) to protest against the breaking of the military regulations, and to suggest that the arrangements be cancelled with a view to engaging labour through the local bureau. He could not get into touch with Mr. Chifley, so he made representations to Senator Dooley, who refused to take any action. It is also true that members of the Federal Government have received letters from men in the East Sydney electorate seeking employment. These men wrote to the Government supporters. Knowing the type of Government with which they had to deal, they were of the opinion that if they submitted their names through the member for East Sydney no work would be given them. These things certainly warrant an inquiry. Discrimination has been shown against certain men. One member of the East Sydney electorate was fortunate enough to receive a notice to commence work, but no opportunity was given him to commence work. The following is his declaration : -
I, James Frederick Baird, of 35 Waterloo- street, Sydney, in the State of New South Wales, solemnly and sincerely declare that 1 was engaged by a Mr. Todd, of the Public Works Department (Commonwealth at Customs House, Circular Quay, for the purpose of relief work, painting the Balmain telephone exchange. I reported for work on Monday, 16th November, at 7.30 a.m. When I arrived on the job at Balmain, which cost me tram fares,I was informed by a Mr. Gardiner that he had received instructions not to start me. Othermen were treated the same way, andI make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same tobe true and by virtue ofthe provisions of the Oaths Act 1900. jamesfredrick Baird.
Subscribed and declared at Sydney this 24th day of November, one thousand nine hundred and thirty-one before me,
W.E. R. Bates,
Justice of the Peace, Paddington.
One of the suggested reasons why that man was not allowed to start work is that his brother is one of the Lang party candidates at the municipal elections at. Paddington. The Treasurer has brushed lightly aside the charges made against him. It takes quite a lot of evidence to convict him.
– Who gave Mahony a job at Cockatoo Island?
– The honorable member is in a better position than I am to answer that question. The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) has made certain attacks outside of this House against the Beasley group. I remember an occasion when he demanded the right to defend himself against certain charges. All that he wanted was the opportunity to be sworn and to be cross-examined on oath. But when he was given the opportunity he did not take advantage of it. He was too cowardly to subject himself to cross-examination. The facts that have been submitted to the House warrant an inquiry being made. I have much pleasure in seconding the motion of the honorable member for West Sydney.
.- There seems to be some disturbance in connexion with the appointment to positions of certain persons in Sydney. A certain organization is in operation there, and its plans have been interfered with by the officers of the Commonwealth
Works Department, who are only doing their duty. I wish to give an illustration of the methods adopted by the members of the Lang party in respect of appointments to prominent positions. Take, for instance, the Graves family, which is closely connected with the Lang group.
– On a point of order. I submit that the remarks of the honorable member for Calare are distinctly out of order, since they have no bearing on the subject before the Chair.
– The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) has not proceeded far enough to enable me to determine whether his remarks are actually out of order.
- Mr. Graves, who is secretary of the Lang group, receives £10 a week. Miss Graves, his sister, receives £5 a week as dole inspector. Miss Graves, his daughter, is employed in Mr. Graves’ office, at £4 a week. Another daughter, who is employed in the Child Endowment Department, receives £5 a week. Another daughter receives £3 10s. a week.
– I draw the attention of the honorable member to the fact that the motion before the Chair involves the adjournment of the House and relates to the methods adopted by the Government in the selection of men to be employed in connexion with the recent federal grant for the relief of unemployed. The honorable member must confine his remarks to matters that are relevant to the motion.
– I was pointing out that a section of people in Sydney have been making political appointments, and that their actions have been interfered with by the officers of the Commonwealth Works Department, who have adopted a rational and proper system of allocating employment. I am showing that one family alone, because of political appointments, is receiving £27 10s. a week. Then in connexion with another family-
– On a point of order, I submit that the honorable member for Calare is introducing into the discussion matter which is quite foreign to the motion before the Chair.
– I cannot permit the honorable member for Calare to proceed further on those lines, and I ask him to confine, his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– I am justifying the system which was adopted by the officers of the Commonwealth Works Department. This work has now been distributed among a larger number of families. I. now wish to refer to the family of Jock Garden.
– The honorable member must not try the patience of the Chair too far. I have given him reasonable latitude, but so far he has not, to my satisfaction, connected his remarks with the subject before the Chair.
– The statement that Government supporters were given a privilege as against other members of this House is absolutely untrue. As soon as I knew that a certain sum of money was available for unemployment relief, I endeavoured to have as much of it as possible expended in my electorate. Other honorable members have taken similar action. The statement that members of the Cabinet and other Government supporters have received an advantage through being able to place certain of their electors in positions, is absolutely untrue, and cannot be substantiated by evidence.
– The honorable member has been in the House sufficiently long to know that his expression that a certain statement is untrue, is unparliamentary.
– I withdraw it, and say that the statement cannot be substantiated by facts. There is no evidence that the officers of the Commonwealth Works Department have given consideration to the political opinions of persons applying for employment, and it is altogether wrong to allege that they were in any way influenced by political representations. This charge, summed up, is simply a charge against responsible officers of the department.
. - I take this opportunity to protest on behalf of the electorate which I represent against the methods adopted by the Government in distributing the grant for unemployment relief. This grant was agreed to by the House entirely on non-party lines. The measure was introduced at the closing stages of the recent sitting of the House, when there was a small attendance of honorable members, and I was one of those who, at that time, pointed out to the Government that grave difficulties would arise if the members of the Opposition were not consulted by the Government as to the fairest way of apportioning this money. The Treasurer’s statement that any suggestion made by members of the Opposition would be considered by the Government is on record in Hansard. But no sooner had the House adjourned than it was announced that the scheme had been finalized; the money was actually allotted a few days after the House rose. I regard the Government’s action as a grave breach of faith.
– In what way?
– The Treasurer gave an undertaking that any suggestions made by Opposition members would be considered; but, apparently, that was never intended, for suggestions were never invited. The scheme was announced a few days after the House rose.
– The scheme was drawn up by departmental officers.
– Then why did the Treasurer say that the way was open for honorable members to make suggestions?
– Did the honorable gentleman make any suggestions?
– Before Parliament adjourned, I said that, in my opinion, the right: procedure was to employ as many men as possible, rather than that £4 a week should be paid to only 14,000 or 15,000 men. When I pointed out the difficulties which I considered would arise in applying the Government’s scheme, the Treasurer interjected that the Government would not necessarily follow that scheme. He said that he had not attempted to give any details of the scheme which would be adopted. Yet a few days later the Sydney Morning Herald showed how the money allotted to New South Wales had been allocated. I am pleased that honorable members opposite have been able to throw some light on this subject; their statements show that members sitting in opposition have not been given a fair deal. Apparently, Government supporters, especially those representing industrial electorates, were invited, either by the Government or by the authorities in charge of the scheme, to submit lists of unemployed men in their electorates. I received no invitation to supply such a list in respect of the New England electorate, in which there are probably 12,000 men out of work. For their relief the sum of £750 has been allocated ! That money is to be spent in painting one post office - work which has been approved for many years. I do not object to that work being done.
– Some electorates represented by members on this side have not been allocated even £750.
– I object to the method of allocation. The evidence placed before the House by the honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) shows that some members were invited to submit a certain number of names of unemployed men in their districts.
– We were not invited to do anything of the kind.
– Apparently the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Rowe) was invited to submit 200 names. I am not objecting to that; if the honorable gentleman can secure work for 200 men in his district, well and good. But I was under the impression that this grant would be allocated on a non-party basis. The Government invited all sections of Parliament to agree to the making of the grant, and it was reasonable to suppose that the money would be distributed fairly among all the electorates throughout Australia. -So far as I can gather,, country electorates will receive very little of the money. I have been bombarded with letters from all the local governing authorities in my electorate, and also from unemployed associations, inquiring whether the Government would distribute any money in their district. I realize that £250,000 will not go far in relieving the existing unemployment throughout Australia. On the basis of distribution in the case of the New England electorate, it would appear that only about £21,000 of the £90,000 which has been set aside for New South Wales has been accounted for. Apparently, 75 per cent, of the grant will be spent in metropolitan electorates; I do not blame the Government for attempting to find work for the unemployed in the metropolitan electorates; but I submit that the unemployed in my electorate are as much entitled to consideration as are unemployed men elsewhere. On their behalf I protest against the methods adopted by the Government in allocating this money. Because it did not adopt the suggestion that the local governing bodies should be allowed to distribute this money, the Government has got itself into difficulties. Although the honorable member for West Sydney revealed nothing of a scandalous nature, he made out a good case against the Government. If the anomalies mentioned by him are found to exist, the Government is deserving of censure. I strongly support the suggestion that a non-party committee be appointed to investigate this matter. I repeat my protest against the unequal distribution of this money.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) is labouring under a misapprehension. There was no suggestion that members were to participate in a conference, with a view to deciding how the money should be allocated, although they were invited to make suggestions. The honorable member said that he had made a suggestion ; but he did not indicate its nature. I have a recollection that he proposed that more men should be employed than could be given work at £4 a week. The Government did not accept his suggestion to lower the daily rate of pay. It was never suggested that £250,000 would be sufficient to relieve unemployment throughout Australia. That sum was set aside to inaugurate a prosperity compaign in which employers generally were invited to assist. When the campaign was launched, the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, as well as the Leader of the Opposition in another place, co-operated with the Government in making a broadcast appeal to citizens generally to employ more men. I am pleased to say that there has been a wonderful response to that appeal by every section of the community. All that the Government did was to set an example to other employers. Nor was it intended that the money should be equally distributed among the electorates. The Government’ had properties in various localities which were depreciating through lack of attention, and it decided to spend this money on renovating them. Other employers were asked to follow its example. The Government guarded against the possibility of duplication, by providing that the State labour bureaux should be given lists of the men who received assistance under the federal scheme. Some honorable members do not seem to realize that the Commonwealth has in every State an organization capable of dealing with this work. With the exception of Tasmania, each State has its Commonwealth works director. Moreover, the registration, of applicants for employment has not necessitated any additional appointments to the staff of the departments.
In order to show that in the allocation of the money there has been no discrimination against honorable members who support the Lang plan, I point out that, whereas an equal division of the money among the electorates would have given each district about £2,000, the East Sydney electorate has been granted £11,000 - a greater sum than has been allocated to any other district. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) complained that only £750 was to be spent in his electorate. The district of Barton is to receive no money at all, while only £170 is to be spent in the Calare district, and £800 in the district represented, by the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney).
– What amount has been allocated to the Dalley electorate?
– Only £600.
– Not £600, but £5,600.
– Even if the £5,000 set apart for Cockatoo Island Dockyard were included in the grant for Dalley, the amount would still be only £5,600, as against £11,000 for the East Sydney electorate. Mention has been made of the sum set aside for Cockatoo Island. The dockyard is controlled by a board set up by a previous administration. Section 11 of the act which constituted the board provides that the board may appoint such officers and servants as it thinks necessary for effectively conducting its business. The board was made absolutely independent of interference by any member of Parliament, or any Minister. I assume that the board is carrying out its instructions, and is doing its duty, since no evidence has been adduced to the contrary. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley), in his control of Cockatoo Island, acts on behalf of the Prime Minister. On the 5th of November, the Minister for Defence wrote to Mr. J. Payne, chairman of the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board, in the following terms : -
I desire to inform you that the sum of £5,000 is being allocated by the Treasury to your board for the purpose pf providing work at Cockatoo Island Dockyard for ex-employees of the dockyard.
The Government wishes it to bc clearly understood that no portion of the £,5000 referred to is to be expended in providing additional work for those already employed at the dockyard, but it is to be spread as far as possible over ex-employees who are now out of employment, with a minimum of two weeks’ work. The Government also desires that no distinction of any kind be made which would grant preference in employment, as the money is intended to provide some relief for Christmas to the general body of ex-employees.
P.S. - It is desirable that the work in question be put in hand and paid for before the Christmas holidays.
Those were the Government’s instructions. If any honorable member can give me an instance in which those instructions have been departed from, I, personally, undertake to have the matter investigated. But I will not agree to .the setting up of any royal commission or special committee of inquiry.
– Then we will have an election.
– Let us have it. If honorable members want to go on with the motion-
– We are going on with it.
– If honorable members wish to take the business of the House out of the hands of the Government, they can have an election. But I suggest that they have chosen a poor issue on which to appeal to the electors. The hunger of some persons for office would cause them to make anything an issue. This Government has said a score of times that when it loses control of Parliament, it will not attempt to carry on. It has not yet lost control. The honorable member for West Sydney made the statement that the officials at the Engineers Branch of the Postal Department had advised applicants for employment to apply to their local members.
– I said that the officials of the Postal Department in Castlereaghstreet had informed applicants that they could not register there, but should go to their members.
– In reply to an interjection from the right honorable member for North Sydney the honorable member reiterated that instructions had been given to that effect. I had a telephone message sent to the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs at Sydney, asking him to check the accuracy of the statement by the honorable member, and Mr. Kitto has telephoned stating that he has spoken to the Assistant Superintendent Engineer, who says that there is absolutely no foundation for any such statement. He said that the names were simply recorded, and that no advice to see or to apply to their local members was given to the men by any official. Three thousand men called to register, and three officials were detailed to record their names and addresses. The lists that were forwarded by main bers of Parliament to the postal authorities were accompanied with the request that the names should be added to the departmental list. No endeavour was made by any member to seek preferential treatment for those named in such lists. That is a complete answer to that particular charge.
I have obtained a report as to the allocation of this money in the various electorates, and it discloses that considerable sums have been made available in some electorates, while smaller amounts have been allotted to others. Everything depended upon the work that the departments had to make available, and the money was distributed irrespective of electorates, without bias, and free from political influence. I am the Minister in charge of the administration of Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and I delegated to the Minister for Defence authority to deal with this matter. Instructions were issued which had the approval of the Minister and of myself. If there is any charge of dereliction of duty, I am prepared to have the matter investigated by the permanent head of my department, on whom suspicion has never been cast. All I ask is that specific instances of improper behaviour shall be given. T am not prepared to allow the
Government to be subjected to the humiliation that would be associated with the appointment of a royal commission or a special commission to inquire into any unsubstantiated accusation made against a. Minister.
As Prime Minister of Australia, I say that the last thing that this Govern-‘ ment would dream of doing would be to take advantage of the unfortunate position of our unemployed by exploiting them for political purposes.
.- I am afraid that the discussion that has taken place this afternoon will not be very edifying to the large number of electors who have como here to listen to it, or to the larger number throughout Australia, who arc awaiting the result. Having listened to the case that was advanced by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), and to the replies that were given by thu Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), and another honorable member on the Government side, I believe . that a case has been made out which shows that, to say the least, this business has been badly managed. The endeavour of the Government to assist in the relief of the unemployed, and to encourage private employers to increase employment during the Christmas season, is most commendable, but, unfortunately, Ministers have adopted wrong methods in making this money available, and that has resulted in some honorable members being placed in a. more favorable position than others. It has been made clear by the honorable member for West Sydney that certain honorable members, through receiving early advice as to the intention of the Government, had already submitted lists of names before the proposals of the Government, were known to the public, or to other honorable members.
– I give that an emphatic denial.
– The honorable member for West Sydney gave it as a fact that between the 30th October, when he sought information from the Government, and the 5th November, when Senator Dooley made a statement oh the subject, lists of names of men seeking employment were lodged with the authorities, and the hon- orable member claims that the existence of those lists resulted in the principal lists being closed very quickly.
– Could not that have taken place as a result of the announcement that was made by the Treasurer to the effect that this money was available to relieve unemployment?
– If the right course had been followed, none of this trouble would have arisen. Because of the ill-considered action of the Government, there has been a conflict of opinion between honorable members, and an endeavour on the part of some to obtain a political advantage over others. That is not an edifying spectacle. It has had the effect of making distinctions even among the unfortunate unemployed themselves, who are now ranged into two camps, each fighting for jobs through a particular political faction.
– Here is a new apologist for Mr. Lang.
– I shall never be an apologist for Mr. Lang, nor for his followers in this House. The only defence that was made by the honorable member for Calare was that Mr. Lang did worse things than this. Half of the defence of the Treasurer was an endeavour to draw attention to the awful things that Mr. Lang is doing in New South Wales. It is no satisfaction to us or the people of Australia to be told that the Government has done this because Mr. Lang has done worse. I regret that the Prime Minister, who has dealt with the matter very reasonably, andhas advanced the only adequate defence that has so far been submitted, is not prepared to have the whole matter properly investigated.
– I did say that I would have the matter investigated.
– Yes, by departmental officers. I point out that this £250,000 does not come from the Government, or from this Parliament.
– It comes from the people.
– It will not come from the people for a long time. It comes from the banks that have been subjected to so much condemnation of late. This £250,000 that the banks have made available is to beused to enable political capital to be made of the position by one party or another. Had the Government made the money available through existing State organizations, or through its own organizations in the various cities and towns of the Common wealth, all this trouble would have been obviated. Without bothering about bringing into the matter politicians, the workers could have been informed through the columns of the daily press, where to go to register. That would have shown a genuine endeavour to give the desired relief to our unemployed.
– Has not that course been followed ?
– It has not. Had that been done, politicians would not have been drawn in, and the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr.Rowe) would not have called the meeting at Liverpool at which he announced that those seeking employment must make application through him. There has been a definite attempt to make political capital out of the expenditure of this money. The Prime Minister has been courageous. I assure him and other honorable members opposite that his threat about going to the country will not deter honorable members on this side from following the course that they deem to be the right one. The Prime Minister could not offer a better reason to honorable members on this side for supporting the proposal of the honorable member for West Sydney, than to threaten that an election will follow that action.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) made reference to the action of an officer of the Defence Department, and alleged that somebody had endeavoured to get in touch with me. I assure the honorable member that it is not difficult to get into touch with me. The circumstances mentioned have not come to my knowledge; that statement I can substantiate.
The Prime Minister delegated to me the apportionment of the money that is to be expended on work at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. The dockyard officers submitted to me a list of the work that needed attention, and, at my suggestion, a substantial sum was set aside for the purpose. The proposal was first put to me by the representatives of the workers at the dock, who asked that some money should be made available specifically to provide work for ex-employees of the dockyard, of whom there was a great number. They made it perfectly clear that they did not desire the work for men already employed at the dockyard, although they were heavily rationed. Senator Dunn also waited upon me and made a special, request that a sum of money should be made available for the employment of dockyard ex-employees. After the £5,000 was allotted for work at Cockatoo Island Dockyard I made a request that the Shipping Board should supervise its expenditure, as I considered that that board is familiar with the work that is required to be done, and is most competent to engage the labour required. I suggested that the board, rather than the Works Department, should supervise the expenditure of the money, believing that it could apportion the money economically and to the best advantage. I did not discuss the matter with the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore). I did ask the management of Cockatoo Island Dockyard to furnish me with a report on the work that was to be carried out. The Prime Minister has read the instruction that I issued to the management of the dockyard, and he also made it clear to the House that the Shipping Board has complete control of these activities. Admittedly, that board is subject to removal by the Government, with a certain proviso as to notice. Not one complaint has been received by me, either from the representatives of the employees at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, or from any honorable member, to the effect that the money was being unfairly apportioned. It is extraordinary that on every other occasion when representations have been made to me in respect to Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Senator Dunn has participated in them, while on this occasion not a word was said to either myself or the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) about the matter by him or any member of his group. The first we knew of any alleged dissatisfaction was from newspaper reports of a discussion in another place. Even now, it has not been suggested that the shipping board, which has the entire responsibility for the spending of the money, has misused any of it.
In the first place, I consulted the dockyard management in regard to the expenditure of this money, and indicated verbally that a fortnight’s work should be given to men who had previously been employed at the dockyard, but were now out of work; that the money should be made to go as far as possible; that there should be no preference; and that as little as possible should be spent on materials. These directions were afterwards confirmed in the letter which the Prime Minister read. In order to ensure that the minimum amount of money should be spent upon materials, I arranged with the Defence Department to make certain tools available to the dockyard.
It has been said that lists of persons to whom employment should be given have been furnished by various members. I have a big industrial centre in my electorate, at Lithgow, but I did not send in a single name, although certain other honorable members, including Nationalists, sent in names of persons to whom work should, be given both at Cockatoo Island and on jobs being done under the Works Department. There has not been the slightest ministerial interference in the expenditure of this money, nor has there been any misuse of it, and not’ a single member of the Ministry has even been accused of having used his influence to secure preference for any particular person.
– Surely the Minister realizes that our chief complaint is that it is very unfair that supporters of the Government should have been able to furnish advance lists secretly.
– No secret lists have been furnished. On various occasions, when grants have been made for unemployment relief, honorable members have made representations to the Government with the object of securing employment for deserving cases. I have had a number of requests and letters of that nature; but’ in every instance I have forwarded them to the management of the dockyard without making any recommendation. The members of the Beasley group have made requests of this kind. I challenge any honorable member to prove that any Minister associated with the control of the dockyard has endeavoured to have a single penny spent in the giving of preferences to any particular class or person. No undue preference has been given. There is no suggestion that the management has been at fault in any way, for the instructions which I have given on behalf of the Prime Minister have been faithfully carried out.
.- I have listened very carefully to the three speeches made by Ministers within the last hour and a half in defence of their action inexpending the money voted a few weeks ago for the relief of unemployment; but, so far, no effective answer has been made to the charges of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). A certain amount of sob-stuff has been served up by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) to the effect that the Government intended to set an example to private employers of labour. But what an example it has been ! Ministers unquestionably had a flying start in regard to the expenditure of this money, and there has undoubtedly been a discrimination on account of their political views in giving employment between the destitute persons of this community, who have been used for political purposes. I consider that there should be a proper inquiry into these charges, for that is the only way in which they can be properly answered. The Government has seen fit to refuse the request for such an inquiry, and I am therefore compelled to vote in favour of the motion for adjournment. I shall do this also because the Government has repeatedly said in this House and elsewhere that it has a majority of its own, that it has never been defeated on the floor of the House, and that it determines the policy of the country. If this is so, let the Government prove it this afternoon. 1 shall vote in favour of the motion because I desire to test the bona fides of the Lang faction in this House, to see whether it will stand by its declared attitude towards the Federal Labour party. This faction has frequently quarrelled with, and criticized the TheodoreScullin faction, although I have not been able to find any fundamental difference between the policies of the two parties. The Lang policy, if persisted in, must, inevitably bring
New South Wales and Australia to. ruin. This policy must have the same effect as a meal of broken glass to a patient.
– The right honorable member must realize that his remarks are rather wide of the subject.
– All I wish to say about the other policy, Mr. Speaker, is that it would be like a dose of poison to the public.
– The right honorable member is not in order in making that remark.
– The discussion this afternoon has degenerated into one of the most squalid domestic party disputes that I have ever known to occur in Parliament. The Treasurer is accused of having used public money voted for the relief of unemployment for electioneering purposes in his own and adjoining electorates, and of having made political pawns of the destitute of this country. No one should be really surprised at this charge, for it will be remembered that immediately after the last election the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) made a plea for the starving children of the miners in his constituency, and said that £1,000 had been obtained from theminers by the present Treasurer for electioneering purposes on the understanding that the mines would be immediately opened. What one does marvel at is that the present exposure should have been made by those who were accessories after the fact to a similar happening. The Government has done other similar things. In December, 1929, it filched £1,000,000 of the federal aid road surplus funds ostensibly for the relief of unemployment throughout Australia. This was not new money, but money that was actually being used to carry out definitely planned work, and its withdrawal turned a certain number of men out of work. Later, another £600,000 a year was taken in the same way from the federal aid roads grant, and this also caused a large number of men to lose their employment. The £250,000 now under discussion was voted ostensibly for the purpose of relieving unemployment, but it was really taken out of the funds available for the carrying out of works maintenance. As a matter of fact, in every country district in Australia two-weekly and monthly mail services, some of which have been in operation for upwards of 70 years, have been discontinued, and the persons who provided them have been thrown out of work in order to make this money available for electioneering purposes in certain Sydney electorates. For these reasons I shall vote for the motion.
– I wish briefly to state my reasons for supporting the motion of the honorable member for
We3t Sydney (Mr. Beasley). I have made requests to the Prime Minister for the. expenditure of a certain amount of this money in the Hunter electorate, and against the method adopted for selecting labour, but have not been able to obtain any satisfaction from him. It appears now that the right honorable gentleman has burnt his bridges behind him, and that we are headed for an election. A great deal of the dissatisfaction that has occurred over the expenditure of this money has arisen from the failure of the Government to use the enrolment machinery of the States. If it had informed those who desired relief work that, employment would be allotted according to the registers at the State labour bureaux, persons who had been unemployed the longest would have obtained the work; but the departmental officers were instructed by the Ministry that State facilities were not to be used. This has caused a number of jobs to be declared “black”. I have in mind two jobs in my own electorate upon which men will not work because certain persons employed on them were taken on although they had just left State relief jobs. It seems that departmental heads were anxious to avoid dissatisfaction among the unemployed in regard to the selection of men for the jobs available, and they would, had they been permitted to do so. have taken men whose names were on the unemployed registers of the State. But they were directed not to do that’. The jobs to which I refer are the painting of a drill hall at East Maitland, and the construction of a telegraph line between Maitland and Newcastle. Only yesterday I received the following telegram from a Mr. Appleton, the secretary of the unemployed workers of West Maitland, which reads as follows: -
Position unsatisfactory in selection of labour at West Maitland post ellice; nien just off State relief work of twenty days and selected to start work to-day; take position up immediately.
The Treasurer has admitted that certain lists were supplied over his name to the manager of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. What opportunity has an ordinary mau to obtain work when the names of other men are supplied by the Treasurer or any other member? It is absolutely inequitable that this should have been done.
The money made available for relief work should have been expended in the best possible way, but a great deal of it has been used in the purchase of material.’ When this money was made available, I suggested to the Government that an aerodrome site should bc cleared at Cessnock. It is true that that aerodrome would have been used for civil aviation, but as the Defence Department subsidizes civil aviation, it would have been in the nature of a defence work. Had that work been put in hand, 05 per cent, of the money spent on it would have gone in labour. Compare the expenditure of £5,600 on work at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and on other works in the Dalley division with the sum of £1,425 which is all that has been made available for expenditure in my electorate, although no other electorate in the Commonwealth has passed through such a severe time as mine. Some of my constituents have not worked for six years, owing to mines closing down. This Government promised that it would put an end to a lockout on the coal-fields in “a fortnight, but the lockout there is still effective to all intents and purp’oses. The Government, was offered an easy way out of this trouble by the appointment, of a special inquiry, but the Prime Minister rejected it, on the ground that, the Government could not consent to have the business of the House taken out of its hands. The last leader of this House to make that statement has passed out of political life, and history baa a habit of repeating itself.
This is the first time that the Commonwealth has set up an employment registration office in competition with the State bureaux. The result has been that persons who were aware of what was happening were able to get their names listed, whereas unfortunates living miles away from the centre in which the work was to be carried out knew nothing of what was occurring until the jobs had been filled. That has happened in parts of my electorate, particularly at Maitland. At Kurri Kurri and Wallsend the unions decided that work should not be accepted unless the employment was given according to the registers in the State bureaux. I communicated with the Commonwealth Works Director in Sydney, who informed me that he was not allowed to engage men through the State bureaux. I said to him, “Apparently this is a matter of jealousy between the Commonwealth and State authorities,” and he replied that I could think what I liked ; but, if I submitted a list, he would give consideration to it, because he desired the work to be allocated in a manner satisfactory to the unemployed. I went direct to the Officer in charge of the State Registration Bureau, and obtained from him a list, which the Commonwealth officers accepted. At West Maitland and East Maitland men were chosen before the trouble over the registration of workers was known. The unemployed, I understand, have declared the job “ black “, and are asking those who had been engaged to refuse to work unless engagements are made in accordance with the priority of the applicants as indicated on the State lists. The result is that both jobs are idle to-day. What has happened in the metropolitan area, according to Mr. Beasley, savours of sharp practice, and of preference to the political heelers, of Commonwealth Ministers and Government supporters.
.- Recently this Parliament voted £250,000 for relief works, moved by a genuine desire to relieve the unemployed who are suffering distress. Soon after the grant was approved the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) stated in Melbourne that the only qualification for employment under the scheme would be hunger. The charge is now made that in Sydney a policy was adopted which favoured men who undertook to support the Government by their votes at the next election.
– That is absolutely untrue.
– I am not concerned with the allocation of the grant between electorates, or with the complaints of individual members regarding the amounts spent in their constituencies. This money was provided for expenditure on Commonwealth works, and naturally the greatest expenditure would occur where the greatest Commonwealth activity was; I anticipated that the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, being a large Commonwealth establishment, would receive a substantial share of the amount. But the gravamen of the charge is that steps have been taken, through the organizers of the political party in New South Wales that is supporting the present Commonwealth Administration, to prepare lists of men seeking employment on the basis of favoritism to those who would support the Government in the electorates. We have known for some time past that this charge would be made. It has been made, and has been denied specifically by the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), and more generally by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Chifley).I had expected, however, that testimony would have been forthcoming from Mr. MacPherson and other persons who have been mentioned.
– To-day is the first time we have heard his name mentioned.
– I had expected that these persons would have spoken as to their part in the’ activities mentioned. 1 have read in the newspapers that organizers of the Australian Labour Party were preparing lists of men who were to be favoured in obtaining employment. The Government might have been expected to produce some evidence in rebuttal of that statement. A further allegation is that a list of persons seeking employment was prepared at Cockatoo Island, but was subsequently altered. Surely there are official records of any changes in the basis upon which employment was to be given.
– I undertook to investigate that. .
– That that charge would be made has been known for a week or ten days. If there are lists showing the men to be employed, and if such lists have been modified as a result of directions from a higher quarter, it should be easy to produce documentary evidence to that effect.
Motion (by Mr. Eldridge) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the House do now adjourn - put. The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Prices of Crude Oils - Alterations to Plant
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Refineries are fair and reasonable prices, and approximate to world parity for crude oils and world’s prices for freight on bulk oils?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I shall look into the honorable member’s questions, and let him have a reply as soon as possible.
Appointment of Postmaster at Camooweal.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
With reference to his reply to a question by the honorable member for Wentworth, on the 22nd October, regarding the office of Radio Postmaster at Camooweal -
. As the International Radio-telegraph Convention of Washington was not held until 1927, is the Minister correct in stating that the person in question has held, since 1921, a First-class Certificate of Proficiency in conformity with the Washington Convention?
Is it a fact that under the 1929 regulations (S.R. 1929, No. 81) the form of firstclass certificates was altered, and it became necessary for a person to pass an examination to entitle the department to convert a certificate held before that date into afirst-class certificate under these regulations?
Had the appointee, at the time of his appointment to Camooweal passed the necessary examination which would entitle the department to convert Certificate No.682 of . 1921 into a certificate of the first-class under the 1929 regulations?
Is it a fact that the only first-class certificates issued under the 1929 regulations are numbered from number 1 to a number in the vicinity of 300; if so, how is it that No.682 is still in force?
Is it a fact that under a memorandum. dated11 th October, 1929, the PostmasterGeneral made provision that a person operating the transmitting equipment at a licensed broadcasting station shall be in possession of a First-class Commercial Operator’s Certificate, issued in accordance with the tests laid down under the Washington Convention of 1927, or that, in the alternative, he shall hold a limited certificate of proficiency in radiotelephony?
Is it a fact that in direct conflict with the requirements set out in a memorandum by the Minister, dated 11th October, 1929, at broadcasting stations under the control of the Postmaster-General, and also under the control of private employers, persons who do not hold the proper qualifications are discharging such functions?
What are the precise requirements as to qualifications demanded of a person operating the transmitting equipment of “ A “ Class Broadcasting Stations, and which, if any, of the regulations under the Wireless Telegraphy Act are considered to apply to such stations?
In calling for applications from persons eligible for appointment to the recent vacancy at Camooweal, was the Postmaster-General conforming to the specific condition of any regulation; if so, which regulation?
If the invitation to applicants calls for a higher qualification than is necessary under the regulations, and persons holding such higher qualifications become applicants, docs a person already in the Public Service have a better claim, despite the fact that his qualifications are not of the standard demanded by the notice calling for applications?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Importation - Manufacture
-On the 20th October the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Employment of Asiatics - CaneCutters’ Dispute.
– On the 18th September the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Tully) asked me the following questions,upon notice: -
The following replies have been supplied by the Premier of Queensland, information in regard to parts 1 to 3 having been furnished by the sugar associations : -
On the 18th September the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Tully) asked me the following questions, upon notice: -
The following information has been supplied by the sugar associations through the Premier of Queensland : -
House adjourned at 5.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 November 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19311125_reps_12_132/>.