13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H.Mackay) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has given any consideration to the suggestion that the gold reserve should be shipped abroad, and the proceeds invested in British treasury-bills or similar shortterm securities? If not, will consideration be given to this highly important proposal ?
– The matter has been under consideration for some time, and is still receiving attention, but up to the present the Government has not seen any necessity to take the suggested action.
New Station in South Australia - Half- Yearly Fees for Listeners - Reception in Tasmania. ‘
– Will the PostmasterGeneral, before finally deciding on the location of the proposed broadcasting station at Red Hill, consider the desirability of establishing one in the south-eastern portion of South Australia, say, at Narracoorte?
– The department is considering the establishment of eight more regional broadcasting stations throughout Australia, and their location will be decided largely on the reports of wireless engineers. Should a station be established in the south-eastern portion of South Australia, it may be at Narracoorte or any other locality from which,’ in the opinion of the experts, the best service can be given.
– Having regard to the financial stringency, will the PostmasterGeneral consider the advisability of allowing listeners to pay their fees half-yearly, instead of annually?
– The honorable member’s suggestion will receive consideration.
– In view of the natural difficulties which prevent listeners in southern Tasmania from picking up mainland stations during the day time, and thus preclude them from obtain- ing the midday business reports’, will the Postmaster-General arrange for a special midday message to be relayed through 7ZL, covering stock exchange and general commercial market information ?
– I shall have the honorable member’s request investigated.
– In regard to the concessional tariff duties on articles in the nature of machinery, does the Minis ter for Trade and Customs consider right toregard it as possible to manufacture such articles . “ commercially “ in Australia if the local costs exceed the price in England, plus freight and all other charges necessary to put them on this market? If not, will the Minister review his recent decisions on this point?
– If the right honorable member will furnish me with particulars of a specific instance of the nature he has described, I shall be glad to examine it.
– Will the Prime Minister investigate the present distribution of orders forstores and services required by government departments, including printing, and boots, shoes, and clothing for the Navy Department? Will he arrange that South Australia shall secure a fair proportion of the contracts for supplies for Federal Government instrumentalities?
– I shall look into the matter.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs received any report to the effect that at least one of the major petrol companies has been for years carrying on an extensive system of fraud in connexion with the importation of crude oil? Has such a report been communicated to the Tariff Board for consideration in connexion with its investigation of the application for an increase in the duty on crude oil?
– No such complaint has come to my notice, but I believe that a charge of fraud was made to the department, and very fully examined. At the present moment I am not in a position to give the honorable member any more definite information.
– In view of the con flicting rumours about his threat to resign, if the Government drops the Broadcasting Bill, will the PostmasterGeneral enlighten the House on the subject?
– I advise the honorable member to peruse the columns of the daily press, in which he will not find the truth.
Mr.R. GREEN- In a letter I have received from the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions inNew South Wales, regarding the application of a returned soldier for a pension, the following paragraph occurs : -
On the 2nd January, 1932, the member lodged an appeal to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal against the decision recorded by the Commission. Owing to the member’s position on the waiting list, it is not anticipated that his case will be heard by the Entitlement Tribunal prior to June, 1932.
In view of the delay of six months indicated in that letter, will the Minister for Repatriation consider the advisability of appointing another appeal tribunal, if only temporarily?
– The War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal deals only with cases which have been previously adjudicated upon by the Repatriation Commission. In recent years many of the decisions of the commission have been confirmed by the tribunal. In those circumstances, the appointment of a second tribunal to do the work of what is really a final court of appeal would be unjustifiable.
– In view of the interpretation placed upon the act by the Commissioner of War Pensions that a widow is debarred altogether from a pension when her bank account exceeds £200, will the Minister investigate the hardship that is being inflicted upon many widows whose only possession is £200 or over, while other widows who have a sum only slightly less than £200, but possess a home of infinitely greater value obtain pensions? Will the Minister also arrange to increase to £300 or £400 the amount which a widow may possess?
– Two questions have been asked by the honorable member. One is whether a pension should be payable to a dependant of a deceased soldier when that dependant has £200 or more in the bank. The law provides that the pension shall not be payable unless the dependant is in necessitous circumstances, and under a regulation of the department, if a dependant has £200, he or she is not regarded as being in necessitous circumstances. There is a distinction between the widow or widowed mother of a soldier and other dependants, such as parents, of a soldier, who, in some instances, may be individuals who have become widows more than three years after the death of the soldier. In the case of a mother who was a widow when her soldier son was killed, pension is paid without conditions. It is only when widowhood has occurred long after the death of a soldier, and the pension is much in the nature of a grant ex gratia, that any restriction is imposed.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Repatriation to the position of the widow of Gunner Perry ; his case caused a good deal of discussion some time ago. Gunner Perry disappeared, and has not since drawn his pension, which gives reason for the supposition that he is dead. Although already married, he went through the form of marriage with an unfortunate girl. The Queensland police have issued a warrant for his arrest, but neither the police nor the Defence Department, despite the fact that it has branches in all the States, can locate him. For a number of years Mrs. Perry has, therefore, been deprived of her pension. I shall furnish the Minister with full particulars of the case and I desire to know whether during the coining recess he will look into the matter with a view to an alteration of the present law. That, I understand, would be necessary to enable this woman to obtain justice.
– I cannot, without notice, give any opinion in regard to an individual case, but if the honorable member will furnish me with the details of this case I shall have it looked into. Possibly, thewidow could obtain her pension if she applied to the court, and obtained a declaration that her husband could be presumed to be dead.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation inform me whether there is any regulation which would debar a soldier’s widow from getting a pension in a case where her husband has been dead for nine years, and there is no proof of how he died? This question is based on an actual ease. A pension was paid to the husband of this woman, but all payments in connexion with it have been withheld from her and her children since his death, although they have been in very great need of assistance.
– I am not sure whether the case is one in which it has not been determined whether the soldier’s death was due to, or contributed to, by war service. If that is so, all that would be necessary would be the production of evidence on that point. This would entitle the widow and children to receive certain allowances. If the case is one in which the woman was deserted by her husband there may be no evidence available as to whether his disability continued until the time of his death, and it may be difficult to prove. If the woman is a deserted wife she would have no claim; but if she is a widow she would have a claim.
– Germany is reported to have agreed not to apply its super tariff to Australian exports, and this action is said to be due to certain concessions granted to German imports since the 1st March. In view of the fact that Tasmanian and other Australian apple shipments are now approaching German ports, will the Minister for Markets state what concessions have been extended to Germany since the 1st March to bring about this more favorable trade arrangement?
– I am glad to be able to inform the House that the special super tariff imposed by Germany during the last few days is not to apply to imports from Australia. This decision is the result of representations made through the High Commissioner in London and the British Ambassador in Berlin. For the first time in many years the German Government has exempted Australia from the list of countries to which retaliatory duties have been applied, and this welcome decision is due, not to any special concessions granted by the Commonwealth to Germany, but to the evidence, furnished by recent tariff schedules and the withdrawal of embargoes, that the present Government has regard to the interests of the export industries.
– The House was rather surprised at the statement made last night that upwards of 700 postal employees are not to receive the basic wage upon attaining their majority. That is serious, having regard to the fact that Public Service salaries generally were reduced on account of the financial circumstances of the nation. I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will suspend the proposed action for further consideration, so that one section of the community shall not be selected to make a special sacrifice?
– As the PostmasterGeneral explained last night; juniors in the postal service, upon reaching adult age, would, under normal conditions, be appointed to permanent positions at full pay. Under existing circumstances, there are no vacancies to which they can be appointed; they, therefore, become redundant officers, and the Government bad to choose between dismissing them from the Service and retaining them at junior rates of pay. The Government did not like the prospect of dispensing, with the services of these men, whose places later would be filled by juniors.
– Apparently there are vacancies for them.
– When they reach adult age they become redundant officers; as there are no higher positions to which they can be appointed, but rather than dismiss them and engage juniors in their stead, the Government preferred to continue them at their present salaries. If evidence is furnished that some special disadvantage is imposed upon one section that might be more widely spread, the Government will be prepared to consider it.
– Is not the Government violating the award under which these men work?
– No. They continue to occupy junior positions, and are paid accordingly. The Government would not feel justified in paying an adult’s wage for services that can be performed by juniors; that would be an infringement of the award. With the greatest reluc- tance the Government made its decision, which, however, is preferable to adding these officers to the ranks of the unemployed.
– I have received from the Grocers Association of Tasmania a letter in which the writer states -
It will also interest you to know that if a Launceston grocer sends to Melbourne or Sydney for sugar or sugar products at the spot cash price, he has to pay 4s. 9d. a ton wharfage, &c, which amount the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is made an allowance for by the Queensland Government - another breach of agreement.
Is the Colonial Sugar Refining Company committing a breach of the agreement by charging wharfage to the Launceston growers, when an allowance is made to that company by the Queensland Government for that purpose?
– I am not familiar with the details of the subject, but 1 shall be pleased to have an investigation made.
– Will the Minister make the bounty available on wheat stored in grain sheds at railway stations, provided that both the grower and the caretaker made a declaration that it will not be removed prior to sale? Does the Minister propose to take any steps to ensure that the growers of this country shall obtain at least the cost of production for the 1932 crop?
– The department cannot make the bounty available on wheat stored in a co-operative grain shed. The bounty will be payable on that wheat when it is sold. The Crown Law officers advise that the bounty is payable on wheat only when it has passed out of the control of the grower - when it is sold or delivered to a wheat-buyer for sale. Therefore, the department cannot pay a bounty on wheat simply because it is delivered to a co-operative shed as distinct from a pool shed, the grower still having control of his wheat. When lie sells it, the bounty will become payable. The position of the wheatgrowers is at present under consideration by Cabinet.
– In view of the serious and consistent allegation of exploitation by the Australian Performing Right Association, will the Minister institute some adequate form ofinquiry into that body’s activities?
– That is really a matter for the Attorney-General’s Department. All I can say at present is that I believe that the whole subject of performing rights is under review.
– I desire to make a personal explanation in respect of misrepresentation that took place last evening during the debate upon the resolution dealing with the Financial Agreements Enforcement Act I had to be absent from the chamber when the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) was speaking ; but I have had an opportunity of reading his remarks as recorded in Hansard. I notice that the honorable member stated that I had voted for a reduction in wages and pensions. Those who have a knowledge of what transpired during the debate on the Financial Emergency Bill will remember that, although at that time I occupied the honoured position of Speaker, and could have claimed liberty not to take any active part in the deliberations of this chamber, I spoke on the floor of the House, and recorded my vote against a reduction in wages and salaries, pensions, and the maternity allowance.
– Did the honorable member vote against the Premiers plan?
– I voted against the Premiers plan. Volume 130 of Hansard, recording the debate on the 9th and 10th of July, 1931, at pages 3706 and 3727, contains the various divisions which were taken, and they in every instance include my name among the “ Noes “. In view of the misrepresentation that occurred last evening, I feel that this explanation is due to my constituents and to myself.
– I wish to make a personal explanation in answer to the statement of the honorable member for
Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). When an honorable member goes out of his way to make a speech-
– Order! The honorable member must proceed with his explanation.
– I am prefacing my remarks by saying that the honorable member for Hindmarsh took it upon himself to lecture the members of the party to which I belong.
– Order ! It is not necessary to make any preface.
– I do not desire to retract anything that I said last night.
– It should be clearly understood that the making of a personal explanation is allowed only to remove a misrepresentation, and not to enable an honorable member to make comments. The honorable member, if he disagrees with the statement of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, will have an opportunity to reply to him on the adjournment of the House.
– I shall take an opportunity to deal with this subject later.
– In view of the delays in establishing regional and relay broadcasting stations under the scheme of 1929, and of the impossibility at present of day reception in many country centres, will the department institute a broadcasting service by existing B class local stations which are able to do this work.
– I cannot now give a definite reply to that question; it must largely depend upon the quality of the B class stations - whether they can provide a better service. The Government is greatly concerned regarding the broadcasting service in country areas, and we intend to do our best to supply country listeners with an adequate service. That, of course, will take some time to provide, but when the eight additional regional stations have been established throughout Australia, 95 per cent. of the people will have a first-class service.
– In view of the numerous complaints that have been made to the Trade and Customs Department during the last two years in regard to restraint of trade, and in view, also, of the important information that has bean submitted to the Minister during the past fortnight, to the effect that there has been grave restraint of trade in Australia in connexion with certain manufacturers, will he instruct the Tariff Board to make a public inquiry to ascertain to what extent this exploitation is taking place?
– I am afraid that the subject raised by the honorable member is too wide and vague to warrant an inquiry by the Tariff Board ; but, if he will bring under my notice any particular cases of restraint of trade, I shall be glad to have them investigated.
Inquiry by Expert.
– It is reported in the press that the Minister for Trade and Customs has secured the services of an independent tobacco expert to investigate the whole of the tobacco industry. Will he state who is the expert, and when he will commence his work; also whether the Government will accept the recommendation of the expert, and whether any decision of the Government in respect of the representations of the growers will be postponed until after this inquiry?
– I have appointed no one to make any sort of general reinvestigation of the tobacco industry. All that I have done is to borrow an officer from the Development Branch of the Prime Minister’s Department; for the purpose of checking over the various estimates of this year’s tobacco crop.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs announce the name of the officer of the Development Branch of the Prime Minister’s Department who is investigating the tobacco industry?
– No officer is investigating the industry; but the Government is endeavouring, with the help of Mr. E. N. Robinson, of the Development Branch of the Prime Minister’s Department, to check the various estimates that have been made of this year’s crop.
– Has any definite date been fixed after which necessitous bondholders cannot apply to the Treasury for redemption of their bonds at face value? It has been stated in the press that after the 31st March necessitous bondholders will not be able to redeem their bonds at face value, and, therefore, I ask the Minister to make a definite statement on the subject.
– The 31st of March was originally fixed as the definite date by which applications must be received. It was desired that the whole position should bo surveyed by the department in order to ascertain whether the concessions that were being applied for by necessitous bondholders were reasonable, and whether it would be possible to give a greater measure of assistance. “We have obtained a great deal of information from the applications already received, and I am glad to say that it will be possible . to increase slightly the assistance to be given to necessitous bondholders. A statement will be made in the course of the next few days as to the .nature of the additional concessions.
– As grave doubts have arisen as to the validity of the appointment by the New South “Wales Parliament of Senator Mooney to fill the vacancy caused in the Senate by the resignation last December of Senator Duncan, will the Government refer the facts of the case to the High Court, or the appropriate tribunal, with the object of obtaining a decision for guidance in future cases of the kind ?
– I shall bring the subject under the notice of the Minister for Home
– In view of the publication of a paragraph in the press relating to sales of Australian butter to Germany, will the Minister for Markets say definitely whether the new tariff arrangements in Germany apply to Australian butter?
– Official advices are to the effect that the new German super tariffs do not apply to any Australian product.
– I have received a letter from Sir John MacFarland, Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, in which he states that he has asked the Prime Minister to consider granting relief from the payment of primage duty on educational books, periodicals, and music. Will the Government undertake to give consideration to this request during the recess ?
– This subject conies under the control of the Treasury, but I am sure that the Government will be pleased to give consideration to the matter.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform mc what action his department proposes to take in connexion with the allegations of fraud that have been made concerning’ certain importations of crude petroleum?
– If the honorable member will furnish the department with some definite evidence that frauds have been perpetrated, I shall be. glad to cause an investigation to be made.
– hy leave- The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), and other honorable members have recently referred in thu House to the question of the issue of military clothing to those in necessitous circumstances in New South Wales. The Minister for Defence has gone very carefully into this question, and, on his behalf, I desire to state that the Commonwealth Government is entirely sympathetic with the object honorable members have in view, and is desirous of doing everything within its power to assist in the relief of distress among the unemployed. In this connexion, the Defence Department has made the following items of serviceable and part-worn military clothing available for this purpose: -
Large quantities of naval clothing have also been made available.
It was impracticable for the Defence Department to undertake the issue of this clothing to charitable organizations throughout the Commonwealth, and arrangements were accordingly made in all the States, except New South Wales, for the distribution to, be made by the State governments. As the New South Wales Government would not undertake the distribution, it was necessary to find some other mea.ns by which this clothing could be distributed throughout the State, and the previous Government arranged for the members representing New South Wales constituencies to issue the clothing to charitable organizations in their electorates.
The distribution of such surplus or part-worn military clothing as may become available from time to time is still being conducted by all State governments, except New South Wales, and, as the Defence Department is not in a position to undertake the distribution in that State, it has now been decided that all unserviceable articles available for free issue in New South Wales are to be handed to recognized charitable institutions selected by the Base Commandant in collaboration with the State Chief Secretary’s Department. The Commonwen 1th Government does .not desire in any way to restrict the issue to charitable institutions in the metropolitan area, and definite, instructions on this point have been issued to the Defence authorities. The question as to what charitable organizations shall handle the future distribution of part-worn and unserviceable military clothing and camp equipment that may be made available in New South Wales, and how far the activities of the organizations selected extend to country centres, has been taken up with the New
South Wales Government by the Base Commandant.
The enormous quantities of naval and military clothing which have been supplied from Defence stocks during recent months for distribution to those in necessitous circumstances in the several States have reduced the stocks to such an extent that the quantities of serviceable clothing remaining on hand are barely sufficient for the department’s needs, and the only clothing likely to be available in the future will be part-worn. The quantities of these articles issued from time to time as they become available will probably be small.
– In view of the fact that the practice of the previous Government of distributing surplus military clothing to the members representing various electorates gave general satisfaction, will the Government continue it? I point out that honorable. members, in their turn, made the clothing available to relief organizations, and were able to arrange with the State Governments for reduced freights on clothing transported to different centres.
– The request of the honorable member will be brought under the notice of the Minister for Defence.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to a letter which appears in to-day’s issue of the Canberra Times from the headmaster of the Telopea Park Intermediate High School, in which it is pointed out that although the Council of the Canberra University College has authority to grant up to four scholarships annually, only two have been awarded this year and only two were awarded last year? Is the Government also aware of the fact that the difference between the standards of the Universities of Melbourne and Sydney place Canberra students whoare working for scholarships under a considerable disability? Will the honorable gentleman endeavour to do everything possible to ensure that, as students are, as a rule, only able to accept scholarships in the year following the passing of their leaving examination, all the scholarships available are granted each year?
– I have not seen the letter referred to by the honorable member, but I shall look into the subject.
– Will the Treasurer inform me why thirteen technical schools are exempt from sales taxation while others have to pay it?
– I have no information onthe subject, but I shall look into it.
– Will the Government indicate to honorable members the attitude it is adopting in respect to the maintenance of the present exchange rate?
– The maintenance of the exchange rate was brought before the Loan Council at its last meeting in a letter from the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board. The Bank Board intimated that it could not undertake any risks in respect to a falling exchange rate. The matter was considered by the Loan Council in association with the State Premiers, because of its obviously national importance, and the need to determine a rate of exchange that will give reasonable equality of treatment between our exporting and our internal industries. The matter was discussed from that angle at the Premiers Conference. A certain amount of correspondence on the subject has since taken place with the State Governments, and there has also been discussion with the Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank. I had an interview with the board as recently as last Saturday. I hope that the matter may be further reviewed at the Premiers Conference in April, and that a definite policy may then be announced that will have the support of both the Commonwealth and the States, giving the desirable stability to the exchanges, and determining the exchange rate with regard to both the external prices of our produce and the internal cost of production.
– Will the tariff schedule, and particularly the duties on tobacco and cotton, be one of the first matters for consideration when the Parliament resumes after Easter?
– That, I understand, is the intention of the Government.
– Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, I used the word “insincere” in describing the attitude of a particular political party. Will you, for the future guidance of honorable members, indicate another word with a similar meaning that would be accepted as parliamentary?
– It is not the duty of the Chair to suggest words for the use of honorable members. The term “ insincere “ applied to a party may be taken exception to by a member of that party.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he state the position of the Commonwealth and State Governments in regard to the following: -
Total amounts written off as lost on account of advances to land settlers between the years 1920-1930, in the case of ( a ) civilians, and ( b ) ex-soldiers ?
Payments of interest and principal in arrears on above at 30th June, 1930?
Any estimate of outstanding advances which must be regarded as bad or doubtful debts?
Total losses from 1920 to 1930 on various land settlement schemes, such as irrigation, group settlements, &c. ?
Total expenditure on irrigation schemes, group settlements. &c., forthe period 1920 to 1930?
Total expenditure on rural developmental railways, roads and other rural developmental work from 1920 to 1930?
Losses on developmental railways from 1920 to 1930?
– The information desired relates chiefly to State activities, and the question of whether that information can be made available withoutundue expense will be considered. Mr. Justice Pike’s report of the 24th August, 1929, on losses due to soldier settlement gives available information regarding soldier land settlement.
Cost of Construction
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of his recent efforts to enforce payment of moneys alleged to be due from the State of New South Wales, will he also see that similar action is taken in regard to all those insurance companies who are still wrongfully withholding a payment of 10 per cent. of their salaries from insurance employees, even though such a deduction has been declared illegal by the High Court of Australia?
– The claim by employees of the insurance companies against their employers bears no relation to the enforcement of payment by the State of New South Wales of the amounts due and payable by that State to the Commonwealth. If amounts of salaries are being wrongfully withheld by the insurance companies, appropriate action may be taken by the employees in the courts.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– I would refer the honorable member to replies given by me to questions without notice on this subject on the 15th March.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Who are the officers of the Commonwealth Public Service Board, what positions do they occupy, and which of them are returned soldiers ?
– The information is being obtained, and will be made available to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– On Tuesday last the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked me a question, without notice, concerning a statement in the Melbourne Age of the 11th March on the subject of an advertisement inviting applications for the position of Liaison Officer, External Affairs, London. In particular, he asked for my comments on a suggestion that the conditions of the appointment had been so framed as to make it impossible for the appointment to be secured by any one other than the person named in the newspaper statement.
I have looked into the matter, as promised, and have been unable to discover anything to bear out the suggestion. As I pointed out in reply to a question upon notice, asked by the honorable member on the 11th March, the basis of remuneration has been altered, for reasons which I explained at the time, but the total remuneration payable to the appointee has not been reduced or increased. The academic and other qualifications stipulated are also in accord with the conditions laid down when the position was created in 1924, and with the conditions approved by the Public Service Board in respect of the senior External Affairs position in Australia in 1929. I may add that an appointment from outside the permanent Public Service can be made only upon the approval of the Public Service Board, after claims from applicants within the Service have been duly considered.
– Yesterday, the honor able member for Cook (Mr. Riley) asked whether a report made by Mr. Root, of the Auditor-General’s Department, regarding certain works constructed by contract in the Federal Capital Territory could be made available. I have made inquiries and ascertained that, following upon Mr. Root’s report, the then Minister for Home Affairs appointed a committee to inquire into Mr. Root’s conclusions and the contract generally. I have laid upon the table of the Library Mr. Root’s report and the report of the committee of inquiry.
– On the 26th February, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) asked me the following questions, uponnotice: -
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply : -
From the available statistics it is not possible to furnish comparable figures in regard to the imports of similar goods into New Zealand. The following arc the existing rates of duty (excluding primage) applied on entry into New Zealand: -
Machinery (practically all principal classes) ad val. - British preferential tariff, free; general tariff, 25 per cent.
Agricultural Implements and Machinery - Cultivators, Harrows, Plows, Drills, Seed and Fertilizer Sowers, Lime Sowers, Seed or Grain Cleaners and Cellular Seed or Grain Separators, ad val - British preferential tariff, 10 per cent.; general tariff, 35 per cent. Other - British preferential tariff, free; general tariff, free.
Fencing Wire, ad val. - British preferential tariff, free; general tariff, 10 per cent.
Galvanized Iron, ad val. - British preferential tariff, free; general tariff, 20 per cent.
Woollen Piece Goods, ad val. - British preferential tariff, 20 per cent.; general tariff, 45 per cent.”
– On the 4th March, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
on the 3rd March the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Deter mination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 1 of 1932 - Federated Public Service Assistants Association.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 28.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended -
Statutory Rules 19132, No. 29.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance of 1932 - No. 1 - Adoption of Children.
Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 27.
British Phosphate Commission - Report and Accounts for year ended 30th June, 1931 (Eleventh year).
Patents Act- Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 30.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 2 of 1932- Federated Public Service Assistants Association.
No.3 of 1932 - Fourth Division Officers Association of the Trade and Customs Department and the Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
Debate resumed from the 10th March (vide page 981), on motion by Mr. Fenton -
That the bill bo now read a second time.
.- It is rather interesting to find this bill again under the consideration of the House after the perplexing experience the Government has had in seeking to negotiate a clear course on the subject of the control of wireless broadcasting. It appears that at one stage the Minister in charge of the bill threatened to resign from the Cabinet ‘if the measure were not proceeded with ; but I suppose that those who sponsored the proposal are now prepared to stand by the bill. I trust that vested interests such as the public press, and the agencies they employ, will be unable to prevent the Government from protecting public interests. The Government should see that it is not stampeded into doing something that will serve sectional rather than public interests. The bill deals almost exclusively with the conduct of national, or A class, broadcasting stations; but I had hoped that a measure of a far more comprehensive character, providing for the control of every phase of wireless broadcasting, would be presented. I consider that it will be essential, in the immediate future, to protect the interests of the people generally in regard to this important public utility. Surely no service is more essential to the community than the provision of means of communication, and, therefore, there should be no division of authority in the control of broadcasting. The time has come when it may be necessary to review the association of the Commonwealth Government with Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited.
We need a scheme of direct national control, with a common policy. It would be inimicable to the public interest if the management of wireless were divorced from the Postmaster-General’s Department. Many technical and other services are required in connexion with broadcasting, and public facilities should not be subject to any control or direction from outside interests. Honorable members recognize the efficiency with which broadcasting is controlled in the United Kingdom. Under the British system, public interests are conserved, and the full requirements of the nation are met. The British Broadcasting Corporation works under charter, and is subject to the supervision of the PostmasterGeneral. The British authorities would not think of depriving the responsible members of the British Cabinet of a voice in laying down the lines of policy which govern the administration of broadcasting in Great Britain. [Quorum formed.] The method of supervision employed in Great Britain over broadcasting has been adopted with modifications in most European countries. I ask the Government, therefore, not to remove from the bill those provisions giving the Postmaster-General’s Department a measure of control over this service. Rumours have been current that the Government proposes to shelve the bill for the time being, and to effect important alterations in it before bringing it down again. Newspaper reports have appeared to the same effect, and their probability has been strengthened by the fact that several meetings of Government supporters have been called, and threats of ministerial resignations have been made. All this indicates that pressure is being brought, to bear on members and Ministers, which may result in the fundamental principles of the measure being abandoned.
Mr. -Stacey. - ‘That is only conjecture.
– The honorable member will not deny that there has been a series of party meetings to discuss this matter. I do not usually give ready credence to what I read in the press. I recognize that it is an unreliable medium of information; but press statements to the effect -that the Government proposes to recast the bill are supported by what has taken place in this House. This measure has been criticized because it provides for a degree of ministerial control; for what is generally called political control. I believe that there should always be a measure of government control over essential public services. In other words, I believe in the nationalization of public utilities. Government supporters believe in the right of private enterprise to exploit all avenues of profit, whether public or private. They believe that the whole field of enterprise should be left open for exploitation by private persons. They are entitled to hold that opinion, no doubt, but it is not my opinion. Those who are so apprehensive regarding political control ought to remember that private enterprise has not such a wonderfully good record that we should unhesitatingly entrust it with the control of such an important service as broadcasting. I direct the attention of honorable members to the long list of bankruptcies which have been dealt with by the courts recently. No doubt honorable members will say that these business failures have been due to the depression, accentuated by government interference in industry. I am certain that when the history, of this economic crisis comes to be written, it will be demonstrated that private enterprise ha3 failed lamentably to meet the situation. The failures of governments will sink into insignificance compared with the proved ineptitude of private enterprise. When private enterprise fails to do its job, it never hesitates to seek the assistance, by way of bounty or subsidy, of a benevolent government.
– The honorable member has himself supported the payment of bounties.
– That is true, but I believe it would be better, and cheaper in the long run, for governments to assume the direction of those industries which have failed under private enterprise.
– The honorable member has not investigated conditions in New South Wales where the policy he advocates is, being carried out.
– I am glad that Sew South Wales is notthe Commonwealth, although it is an important part of it. There may have been certain abuses of government control in that State, but the whole system should not be condemned because of that. Even the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison ) would not be prepared to hand over the post office to private enterprise.
– The draft bill prepeared for the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), when he was Postmaster-General did not contain so many ministerial leading strings as this one does.
– The bill has not been changed in essentials. Honorable members who so strongly condemn Government supervision of broadcasting or other services demonstrate a woeful lack of confidence in the ability of members of this House to see that public services are properly carried out.
– They fear what might be done by another party later on.
– If the honorable member were a citizen of the United States of America, I could understand his fears, because in that, country a change of government is generally followed by a sweeping change in the personnel of the Public Service. In Australia, however, a change of government need not, and does not, cause any change of departmental heads. There is therefore noneed to fear that the public interest will be imperilled by permitting a Public Service department to control broadcasting. It is one of our proud boasts that our Public Service is absolutely loyal to the government of the day, and we should be prepared to acknowledge that in the collective wisdom which is represented by that Service there is the ability to guide the destinies of an important community service such as this. I am confident that no man in Australia is better able to control broadcasting than the Director of Posts” and Telegraphs. I know that his administration has been challenged on the floor of this House, but the accusations do not, in my opinion, detract from his qualifications. In point of fact, the criticism is centred chiefly about the salary that he is paid. Possessing, as he does, the necessary technical and administrative qualifications for the task, it would be wrong for the Government not to use the services of Mr. Brown to control wireless broadcasting in the Commonwealth. Certainly we cannot afford to allow this essential service to become a private monopoly.
– Does the honorable member think that there is any necessity to establish a commission at all? Would it not be akin to a fifth wheel in a coach ?
– As a rule, the honorable member says something that is worthy of attention; but I cannot regard his present suggestion in that light. I am not enamoured of commissions. I prefer that broadcasting should be under the direct control of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, possibly acting in conjunction with an advisory committee.
– I evidently read the mind of the honorable member aright.
– Broadcasting affords a medium of expression that should be at the service of all. I believe that wireless broadcasting is now more powerful as a moulder of public opinion than is the press, but, unfortunately, though any section can express its opinions through a news sheet, there is a limitation to the expression of public opinion through the medium of broadcasting stations. An effort is being made by the important newspaper combines of Australia to obtain control of wireless broadcasting. The possibility of only one side of a question being promulgated through this far- reaching agency was made manifest during the last general election. I remember how, night after night, the United Australia party practically monopolized the services of a certain broadcasting station in
Adelaide, and disseminated its views. It would be interesting to obtain a return from that station showing how much the United Australia party paid for the privilege. If it paid the scale of charges that was applied to the fifteen minutes when Iused the station, I am confident that those concerned considerably exceeded the sum that is allowed candidates under the Electoral Act. It is not right that any one party should have a monopoly of what is equivalent to a political platform. There should be more equity,and a wider measure of freedom, when regulating the medium of broadcasting for the purposes of political propaganda. This measure should be made more comprehensive, and it should place wireless broadcasting under the control of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– What about the commission ?
– The very low salary that is offered to prospective commissioners makes it improbable that persons of the proper calibre will accept the position. It is proposed to appoint a general manager, who will be responsible for the policy that is determined uponby the commission; but as the members of that body will be only part-time officials, they will not give the same satisfaction as they would if wholly responsible for the administration of wireless broadcasting in Australia. They will give their divided attention to the matter, and that can result only unsatisfactorily.
– The Chairman of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank is a part-time official.
do not subscribe to the beliefs of the honorable member in that respect. I consider that the Commonwealth Bank should be under the direction of the Governor, subject to the control of this Parliament and the Treasury, as was originally intended.
Radio is, socially and politically, one of the most revolutionary additions to the pool of human resources, and we should be careful not to leave any loophole which will permit a service that rightly belongs to the people to be exploited by any monopoly. At the bottom, the issue is part of the larger conflict between exploitation for private profit and the increasingly articulate movement for public ownership and public operation of essential services. In this conflict the citadel of radio is the key position, because the control of radio means increasingly the control of public opinion. This fact the press has recognized.
The matter of sponsored programmes is one of the most contentious features of the bill, so far as ministerial opinion is concerned.
– The honorable member appears to be well-informed.
– My information has the basis of fact. Private enterprise feels that a national station is likely to intrude upon a source of income that has hitherto been its exclusive right. Why should not the national stations enjoy the right of broadcasting some of the special features that are associated with sponsored programmes? There is no proposal that these stations should engage in general advertising, but the press is endeavouring to make the public believe that the Government is seeking to invade the whole field of advertising by wireless. I would not be opposed to the national stations operating in that field; but the hill does not provide for their doing it.
– According to a schedule of amendments just circulated by the Government, sponsored programmes are to be cut out.
– If that is so, the PostmasterGeneral has been obliged to climb down in a most humiliating fashion. Apparently private enterprise has been able to extract from the Government its full pound of flesh. Not that we need be surprised at the Government submitting to such domination, for there is no doubt that those who are in power to-day will offer every facility to the wealthy interests which desire special privileges and opportunities to exploit the public. If the Government has abandoned some of the main principles of the bill, the public will need no further proof of the power of the vested interests that are behind the Ministry.
– Country interests.
– Before long the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) will have serious occasion to” re- gret giving to private interests control of a service that is probably more important to country people than to those in the metropolitan areas. I prophesy that the day will come that the honorable member will rise to protest indignantly against the abuses which have developed out of private domination of radio services. What is happening in connexion with this bill indicates what we may expect from this Government whenever it has to choose between protecting the interests of the community and giving special privileges to private vested interests.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– As a result of helpful and constructive criticism by members of all parties,* the Government has decided to propose certain amendments to the bill.
– Would not this explanation come more fittingly from the Postmaster-General?
– The Government desires to announce these proposed changes to the House, and if the PostmasterGeneral intervened at this stage he would close the debate. I have risen, not to make a comprehensive statement on the bill, but merely to indicate the nature of the proposed amendments. The first, and perhaps most important, is iu clause 5, which reads - ]. For the purposes of this act, there shall be a com mission, to be known as the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which shall be charged with the general administration of this act. subject to such directions (if any) as are from time to time given by the Minister.
The suggested amendment is that the words “ subject to such directions, if any, as are from time to. time given by the Minister “ shall be omitted. Critics of this clause have been divided, some urging that the commission has too much power, and others that the Minister has reserved too much control. On reconsideration of the matter the Government is prepared to grant greater power to the commission than was originally intended. If we can secure a capable commission we should entrust to it complete. control of this important social service.
Clause 16 sets out the functions of the commission, and sub-clause 2 provides -
The hours during which programmes shall be broadcast from the various national broadcasting stations shall be subject to the approval of the Minister.
Several honorable members pointed out that that seemed to be an unnecessary reservation of power to the Minister, and the Government has acquiesced in that view. Therefore, sub-clause 2 will be eliminated.
The alteration to clause IS is perhaps more contentious. The clause gives to the commission power to compile, publish, and circulate such papers, magazines, periodicals, books, &c, as it thinks fit, and to issue, as the British Broadcasting Corporation does, programmes and other matters of interest to listeners. The fear was expressed that the commission might decide to exercise exclusively the right to publish the programmes of the national broadcasting stations. The Government has decided that that would be undesirable. In the interests of listeners, the widest publicity should be given to programmes, and honorable members will agree that publications dealing with programmes should be comprehensive, and relate to B class as well as national stations. Therefore, we are providing that the commission’s power to publish and issue this information shall not be exclusive; the programmes’ will be available for publication by any firm or person interested in broadcasting.
Clause 22 reads - -
The Government never intended that the commission should engage in general advertising in competition with other enterprises, but the clause seemed to awaken apprehension on that score in the minds of many honorable members.
– Sub-clause 1 would have made that possible.
– It might be possible, sothe Government has decided to amend the clause to read -
Nothing in this sectionshall be construedas preventing the commission from broadcasting if it thinks fit -
– Why not say frankly that the commission may broadcast anything for which there is to be no payment?
– The Government believes that the clause, as amended, will give to the commission all the power it requires in connexion with sponsored programmes, while definitely preventing it from engaging in general advertising.
– That was the original intention.
– This is not a concession, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) suggested, to any vested interest.
– The Government has come to heel at the call of the daily press.
– Perhaps in committee the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) will explain how the clause actually curtails the rights of the commission beyond denying to it the right of general advertising. It has never been the intention of the Government, or the desire of listeners that a national broadcasting scheme should be used indiscriminately and as a general advertising medium.
– This is a craven crawldown.
– Is the Government investigating the exorbitant charges of the Performing Right Association for the broadcasting of copyright numbers?
– The Government is much concerned about the complaints of excessive charges, and they will be fully investigated. When the commission is appointed, its function obviously will be to investigate matters of that kind, and to report to the Government. This is merely the pioneering bill in connexion with national broadcasting, and probably at an early date amending measures will be introduced. We are now merely laying down the foundation for the control of national broadcasting under a capable commission.
Sitting suspended from 12.48 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Paterson) adjourned.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour tobe fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
The intention is that the House shall resume its sittings on Wednesday, the 20th April; but in case there is need for an earlier meeting, it is being provided that Mr. Speaker may summon honorable members to attend on a date to be decided upon by the Government.
– I trust that the Government will give honorable members an assurance that the House will meet not later than the 20th April.
– The House will meet not later than the 20th April, unless the recommendations of the Premiers Conference in respect of unemployment are not ready for submission by that date.
– Parliament should adjourn for a specified period, and the date of re-assembly should be definitely stated. During the regime of the Bruce-Page Government we had recesses of several months duration under arrangements of the kind now proposed. In view of the legislation which this Parliament has recently passed, this House should be constantly in session, and I am not prepared to agree to the motion unless we have a definite assurance regarding re-assembling, it being then left to Mr. Speaker to convene the House at an earlier date, if possible. We should revert to the procedure which was adopted in the early years of this Parliament, when no adjournment took place, unless the date for the re-assembling of Parliament was definitely stated. Unless that is done there will be grave danger, par- ticularly at a time like this, of Parliament being indefinitely in recess.
.- I should like some statement from the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) as to what business he proposes to bring down when the House re-assembles. Is it intended to bring forward the tariff schedule for discussion, and is a lengthy legislative programme contemplated? ‘I quite understand that the Prime Minister, in accordance with the promise that he gave some days ago, intends to have the subject of unemployment discussed at the Premiers Conference ; but it is necessary that Parliament should meet as soon as possible after that conference has been held, because a grave responsibility rests upon us to relieve the unemployed before winter sets in. I hope that the Prime Minister will give the House some assurance regarding the date of meeting of Parliament, the business that will then be done, and the nature of the proposals for the relief of unemployment throughout Australia.
– I understand that the Government is. asking for the adjournment of the House for a period longer than the Easter holidays so as to give time to enable the Premiers Conference to deal with the unemployment problem. None of us can object to an adjournment for that purpose, although I feel that I can justly criticize the Government for having to propose such an adjournment, seeing that those who are now Ministers stated at the general election that, if elected, they would be capable of dealing with this problem immediately they obtained office. It is clear that they cannot fulfil that promise, and that further investigations are necessary. I hope that the Government’s investigations will be completed within the period of the proposed adjournment, and that there will not be a repetition of what has occurred in connexion with conferences held within the last two years. Committees have been appointed, and various suggestions for the relief of unemployment have been made, such as could be made by almost every member of this House, yet nothing has been done for the relief of the unemployed. If the time of the Premiers Conference is not to be wasted in useless discussion or investigation, there may be some justification for the lengthy adjournment of the House, but the Government must expect that upon the resumption of business, definite schemes will have to be submitted for the relief of unemployment. Only under those conditions do I feel disposed to agree to the adjournment being as long as is now proposed.
.- One would not care whether the House adjourned for a month or two months so long as the Government, after the meeting of the Premiers Conference, was able to submit tangible proposals for the relief of unemployment. But the Government has been in office for about fourteen weeks, and all indications point to a further reduction in governmental expenditure by retrenchment or, as the Ministers have termed it, a reorganization of departments, which must throw more men out of employment. Prior to 1929 the Commonwealth expended up to £35,000,000 a year on public works, thus giving employment on loan works to over 17 per cent, of our people. What is the position to-day? The Government has no loan policy. As has been the practice during the last two and one-half years, the Government will adjourn and meet the Premiers in conference. Then the Loan Council will invite the bankers to a conference, to ascertain what moneys can be made available for the relief of unemployment. The economists will be asked to make recommendations as to the methods to be adopted for relieving unemployment, and a further report will be submitted to Parliament. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) must admit that this Government has endeavoured to shift its responsibility to the Commonwealth Bank Board and the economists of this country. The electors returned us to this Parliament to solve the problem of unemployment. Some honorable members say that it is necessary to increase production in this country, but others say that if we do that we shall find no markets for our products. There is plenty of work that requires to be carried out in Australia. Sydney is the third city of the world, and carries a population of over one million. Yet many of its suburbs are not sewered. The wealthy landholders in the city of Sydney itself are rated at 44d. in the £1.
– I wish that that were correct.
– That information was published last week in one of Sydney’s journals. The provision of a proper suburban sewerage system would absorb all the unemployed of Sydney, and the work could be paid for by increasing the rate by Id. or Ld. in the £1. That convenience should be given to the people, if for no other reason than the preservation of health. In Queensland the rate is l(H-d. in the £1.
– Is that on the unimproved value?
– It is on the improved value. When I left the State House in Queensland seven different councils had applied for £22,000,000 of loan moneys to enable them to carry out sewerage work. No one can argue that sewerage does not meet interest and principal so soon as it is installed. Those municipalities cannot obtain finance, because the banks say that there must be a breaking down or deflation of credit.
– I rise to order. I promised that an opportunity would be given for a discussion on unemployment, on the motion for the adjournment of the House. I wish to know whether the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) is in order in discussing unemployment on the motion now before the Chair.
– The honorable member for Kennedy mentioned the Premiers Conference at which the subject of unemployment will be discussed, and is giving reasons why substantial relief should be required as a result of that conference. It is for the honorable member to decide whether lie will observe the arrangement regarding the discussion on the motion for the adjournment of the House. So far, I cannot say that he is not in order.
– I fully understand that after this motion has been disposed of the Prime Minister will move that the House do now adjourn, thus giving an opportunity for a discussion on unemployment.
– I promised to do that.
– Honorable members will be allowed only ten minutes in speaking to the motio.li for the adjournment of the House, and they cannot formulate a policy for the relief of unemployment in that time. Is the Prime Minister more hopeful of the success of the coming conference than he has been of other conferences which have dealt with unemployment? In view of the fact that the Government has declared that the relief of unemployment is the business of private enterprise, it seems to me that we are notlikely to get much further by referring the subject to a conference. The more delay there is, the further drift there will be towards starvation by many people who are to-day in dire distress. I am afraid that, we shall find ourselves in just the same position after the Easter adjournment as we are in now.
– I assure the -honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) that the re-assembling of Parliament will not be delayed any longer than is necessary. There is no reason, so far as the Government can see, why the date of meeting after Easter should not be the 20th April ; but unexpected delay may occur on account of our desire to formulate some definite plans for submission to the House in regard to the relief of unemployment. I have no reason to believe that the conference will need more time than has been allowed it; but the unexpected may happen.
– It is not expected that anything will happen.
– I assure the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) that I have confidence that we shall have a more successful conference this time than on previous occasions, and I hope to be able to submit to Parliament, as soon as it re-assembles, definite plans agreed to by the conference for the relief of unemployment. After that business is dealt with, the Broadcasting Bill will be further considered. It must be passed early, because the existing contract expires in June. The discussion of the tariff will be introduced as early as possible, and as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) knows, the items dealing with tobacco appear early in the schedule.
– Can the Government make any variation in the cotton duties before Parliament rises?
– I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) intends to do more than make a statement on that subject. In reply to the remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), I point out that there would necessarily be some adjournment at Easter, and in order to allow honorable members who represent distant constituencies to go to their homes and return to Canberra, at least three weeks would be necessary. The extra week is being allowed so that the subject of unemployment can be dealt with by the Premiers Conference.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Lands Acquisition Act 1906-16 does not authorize the disposal of transferred property to a Commonwealth authority such as the Commonwealth Bank or the War Service Homes Commission. The sections of the act which have application to the matter are section 62a and section 63. Section 63 authorizes the disposal of land acquired or deemed to have been acquired under the act which is not required for any public purpose. “ Public purpose “ means any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws, but does not include the acquisition of Territory for the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth under the Constitution. If land is being transferred to a Commonwealth authority, such as the Commonwealth Bank, the War Service Homes Commission, or the Repatriation Commission, for the use of that authority, it cannot be said to be not required for any public purpose. Section 62a was, therefore, inserted in the act to enable disposals of land by the Commonwealth to a Commonwealth authority, but the section refers only to land acquired by the Commonwealth under the act. It will thus be seen that property which was transferred to the Commonwealth at the time of federation under section 85 i of the Constitution does not come within the terms of section 62a of the act. Under section 64 transferred property is deemed to have been acquired under the act, but in view of the references in sections 62a and 63 to the land which may be disposed of under those respective sections, section 62a can only be taken to apply to land which, as a fact, has been acquired under the act, and not to land which is deemed to have been acquired under the act. The amendment now under review is to bring under the provisions of section 62a, transferred property which was transferred to the Commonwealth under section 85 i of the Constitution.
The Commonwealth Government has power to sell land that it has acquired by purchase if it is not required for any public purpose ; but it has no power to sell transferred properties even though the land is not required for any public purpose. A few blocks of land which the Common wealth possesses is desired by certain quasi-government institutions, such as the Commonwealth Bank, the War Service Homes Commission, or the Repatriation Commission, and the Government cannot give the necessary certificate. It is now proposed that this position shall be rectified. The Commonwealth Bank desires to build premises on one or two small blocks of land which the Government possesses, and it naturally wishes to own the land on which any of its buildings are put, but. at present the Government cannot sell the land in question.
: - In various city and suburban areas, land has been reserved for such public purposes as the provision of recreation parks and children’s playgrounds, and all honorable members will agree that nothing should be done to deprive the people of the benefits of such reserves. Owing to the increase of population and suburban development, the value of such land has greatly increased, and I can well imagine a government, moved by the commercial spirit of the age, desiring to use it for such purposes as the erection of branches of the Commonwealth Bank, or other public buildings. If this bill is so far-reaching in its effect as to enable a government to use for such a purpose land which should be reserved for all time for the benefit of people living in thickly populated areas, I am not prepared to support it. The Minister has certainly stated that this measure will have application only to small pieces of land here and there ; but I suggest that it will also have a general application, irrespective of the size of the blocks. The framers of the law on this subject, probably anticipating considerable suburban development, made provision to prevent these open spaces from being used for other purposes, and there is every reason why we should jealously guard the interests of the public with respect to such land. The names of the far-sighted men whowere responsible for setting aside such areas as Centennial Park, Sydney, for the benefit of the public will always be honoured. Many of the people in my electorate live in thickly populated areas, and ample breathing spaces should be reserved for them by preserving all the open spaces possible.
.- This does not appear to be a contentious measure. I understand that if the postal authorities in a city such as Rockhampton had more land than they required for postal purposes, and a branch of the Commonwealth Bank were located on an adjoining allotment, and required some of that land, there is no power at the present time to transfer it, because a certificate could not be given that it was required for a public purpose. Therefore I have no objection to the bill.
– I point out to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that the Commonwealth Government does not own park lands. Let me indicate the circumstances in which this measure would be put into operation. A piece of land was acquired for the building of a new general post office at Perth, but the whole of the land was not needed for that purpose. Immediately adjoining the General Post Office and the Commonwealth offices is a valuable corner block which was sold to the Commonwealth Bank; but the land not required for postal purposes could not be transferred to the Commonwealth Bank unless a certificate was given to the effect that it was not needed for any further public purpose. Such a certificate could not be given, however, because the Commonwealth Bank is a quasi-public institution. It is unnecessary for the honorable member for West Sydney to entertain such fears as he has expressed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and - by leave - passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 2.55 to3.24 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Senate’s amendment - After “ that “ in the proviso to proposed new section lc, paragraph a, insert “in respect of any repairs effected after the fifteenth day of March, 1932.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This amendment is consequential on the amendment moved by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll), and accepted by this committee. Its effect is to make this provision operate from the date of the passing of the bill, namely, the 15th March.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Duties on Yarns.
– I move-
That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1921-1930 as proposed to be amended by Customs Tariff Proposals introduced into the House of Representatives on the twenty-fifth day of February, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-two, be further amended as hereunder set out, and that on and after the eighteenth day of March, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-two, at nine o'clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to standard time in the Territory for the Seat of Government, Duties of Customs be collected in pursuance of the Customs Tariff 1921-1930 as so amended. That, excepting by mutual agreement or until after six months' notice has been given to the Government of the Dominion of New Zealand, nothing in this Resolution shall affect any goods the produce or manufacture of the Dominion of New Zealand entering the Commonwealth of Australia from the Dominion of New Zealand.
This is an alteration of the tariff dealing with duties on cotton yarns n.e.i., and its effect is to impose a duty of 3d. under the general schedule upon all kinds of yarn. The alteration has been made because of the sharp variation of exchange rates between Australia and certain foreign countries. These rates have varied considerably since I tabled my previous resolution, and it has, therefore, been deemed advisable to afford extra protection to cotton yarns to the extent of 3d. per lb. The British duties remain the same.
. - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I am moving the adjournment early in order that honorable members who have not yet spoken on the subject of unemployment may have an opportunity to do so.
. -I welcome this opportunity of discussing the vexed but vital question of unemployment.
This is a time when governments, political parties, employers, employees and all other interests concerned should realize that only by co-operation and compromise can the problem of unemployment be solved. Honorable members, no matter to what party they belong, should approach this matter free from political bias so that the House, in its collective wisdom, may evolve proposals of value to be referred for consideration to the Premiers Conference, that is shortly to meet to deliberate upon the subject. I take the opportunity to make several suggestions and proposals on behalf of the Country party. We contend definitely that’ wholesale dismissals will not effect national economy. Rather must we as a parliament and a nation provide wholesale employment in reproductive avenues where labour can be used economically and profitably, and endeavour to increase the exportable production of the country.
I shall outline briefly two or three suggestions which are based upon vital principles. I believe that we could relieve unemployment in Australia by using a portion of the unemployment relief taxation that is collected by the States, and adding to it a contribution by the Commonwealth. Particularly, by assisting them financially, and by removing harassing legislative restrictions should we encourage those engaged in our rural industries to employ a greater amount of labour. There should be a spirit of compromise throughout, from the Government right’ down and between employer and employee.
The Country party contend that as- over four-fifths of the total employment in Australia is provided by private enterprise, we must look to it to absorb our workers. It is only by assisting private enterprise that we can hope to achieve that end. By devoting to this purpose a portion of the unemployed relief taxation that is collected by the various States, plus a contribution by the Commonwealth Government, we could place our workless back into industries where their labour would be reproductive, and so overcome many of the economic difficulties that now confront us. Advances would be made to settlers who are engaged in primary production, to enable them to carry out a series of developmental and reproductive works. In order that the greatest amount of encouragement may be given, to such people, it would be desirable to remove many of the legislative restrictions that are placed upon those engaged in rural industries. We all know that many primary producers refrain from employing outside labour because of those restrictions, so that production is either diminished, or the maximum result is not obtained from their holdings. It may be necessary for our governments to agree temporarily to suspend the operation of legislation such as the Hut Accommodation Act, the Workers Compensation Act, the Child Endowment Taxation Act and the rural workers’ award. That suggestion is not animated by political bias. This is a time when all parties should realize the seriousness of the country’s position, and do whatever may be possible to surmount our difficulties. Any proposal put forward should, therefore, be considered on its merits, free from party bias.
The authorities who made these advances would automatically afford protection to every man engaged in these national relief schemes, just as is now done in. industries under the Workers Compensation Act : but as this would not be an obligation upon the employer, he would be relieved “of the harassing conditions imposed by much of our existing legislation although the interests of the workers would be as fully protected as they are at present. I know that the operation of those acts now deters many people from making temporary employment available. If adopted, my suggestion would simplify and stimulate the engagement of labour in rural industries. It would also encourage the activities of private enterprise without in any way creating a new government department, or even increasing existing staffs. Persons desiring an advance would make application through specified departments in the State concerned. The advances could be for periods ranging from two to five years, and should be absolutely free of interest. I suggest that the advances should range over periods of from two to five years, because some activities produce results more quickly than others.
The vital point is that producers would not be increasing their interest bill, neither would the Commonwealth nor the States be increasing their loan debt or annual interest commitments. The primary producer, being responsible for the repayment of the amount advanced, would naturally see that the money was expended to the best advantage.
Another important point is that all repayments would go back into the central fund, to be re-issued. The fund would be ever-circulating and evergrowing, and it would give a stimulus to developmental works. I suggest that, among other things, advances could be made for fallowing or pasture improvements, and the destruction of noxious weeds and animals. I mention those items first, because, although they are improvements of a temporary nature, they go a long way towards increasing the productivity of a property. Permanent improvements would include clearing, fencing, scrub-cutting, sucker ing, the destruction of noxious weeds and animals, the erection of dog-proof and rabbit-proof fences, the construction of dams, wells, bores - either sub-artesian or artesian - underground tanks, silos, hay sheds, cow sheds, bails, and any other class of improvement of a reproductive nature. I have mentioned only a few works typical of those which could be undertaken in country districts, the majority by unskilled labour.
Among other works that. could be carried out with advantage to the community generally are the reclamation and drainage of swamp areas, the planting of permanent pastures, grading for irrigation, and the construction of channels for drainage and irrigation purposes. Unskilled labour would be absorbed on these works which would yield to the country the greatest and quickest return. The Government should also consider the need for revising the tariff downwards, in order to cheapen the cost of secondary, products. The works I have mentioned will necessitate the use of quantities of galvanized iron, wire, wire netting, cement, timber, and fertilizers; all Australian products. The extra demand for .these commodities would increase employment in secondary industries. The suppliers and transport authorities should be asked for concessions, so that the goods he needs may reach the farmer at as near cost price as is practicable. By this policy we would be giving the maximum assistance and impetus to the primary industries, which produce the whole of our exportable commodities, and would be providing increased employment under the least onerous conditions. “We suggest further that advances be made by loan or grant to shire councils, and other local governing bodies, so that they might undertake works in country towns, including water supplies, sewerage schemes, electric supply extensions, and the construction of roads of access to assist production. All these works could be undertaken out of relief funds; they would not involve any increase of our loan indebtedness or the interest commitments of the country or individuals. They would relieve the burden on government exchequers by reducing the demand for food relief, increase the spending power of the workers engaged, and gradually lead the country back on the road to economic recovery.
– Would Parliament be required to give any security for these advances?
– So that existing loans and mortgages would not be interfered with, the borrower would be required only to acknowledge receipt of the money, and give an undertaking .to repay it. That system is already in operation in New South Wales very successfully. If the policy I have outlined is put in operation it will probably assist more than anything else to increase primary production and will give work for tens of thousands of men who are unemployed at the present time. Owing to the short space of time available to me, I am not able to explain fully these proposals of the Country party, but they will be amplified in a communication to the Prime Minister.
.- Unemployment is the most serious problem confronting Australian Parliaments, and, indeed, the whole world, and I agree with the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) that we should brush party differences aside in order to attempt to solve it. The time has come when something substantial must be done to provide work for the thousands who are living on the dole to-day. Candidates of the United Australia party were twitted by the Opposition with having made promises to the unemployed during the election campaign, and not attempting to carry them out. That charge does not lie against me, for I made no promise other than to give a fair deal to. all sections. The unemployed have my sympathy.
– That is all they will get.
– If they received as much support from the honorable member and his colleagues as they have from me their position would be much better than it is to-day. For the last three years I have housed rent free between 50 and 60 unemployed. In normal times the Governments of Australia employ only about one-sixth of the working community ; the other five-sixths are dependent for work upon private enterprise, which offers the only hope of increasing employment today. I suggest to the Prime Minister that when he meets the Premiers in conference .he should put before them the suggestions made by the honorable member for Calare, which include some that I had intended to submit to the House. The sustenance of the unemployed is costing the various Australian governments approximately £12,000,000 annually. Having lived for a long time amongst the unemployed, I have noticed that a man at first applies diffidently for relief; after six months he -becomes more hardened; within twelve months he claims the dole as his right; and if he continues to draw it much longer he concludes that there is no need to work. He cannot be blamed for that attitude, when, each morning he rises to face an absolutely blank future. We on this side of the House are prepared to do all in our power to relieve the unemployed. 1 suggest that we call a conference of eminent men, not politicians, representative of each State, to discuss and to put into effect the scheme that I am submitting to the Hou3e. At present £12,000,000 a year is being spent in doles. The dole system is degrading to our people. They want work, and not charity. I suggest that instead of expending the whole of that amount in doles, £4,000,000 be used as a loan to private enterprise to enable men to be employed in both primary and secondary industries. - The arbitration awards could be suspended temporarily, to enable a uniform wage to be paid throughout Australia.
– Such a wage would soon become permanent.
– I am not in favour of low wages. I have been one of the largest individual employers in South Australia, and have always paid the highest wages ruling in that State. I suggest that this money be lent to private enterprise free of interest over a period of ten years. If the wage were on the basis of the minimum wage in South Australia to-day, this expenditure would provide employment for 52,000 men for twelve months. This suggestion is well worthy of the consideration of the Premiers Conference. We have been asked to make suggestions for the relief of unemployment. If 50,000 men were given employment, they would, in turn, provide work for other men. It is reasonable to suppose that men who have been out of employment for twelve months or two years would expend at least half of their wages for the first month or so on clothing, and that would provide employment in the retail shops and the clothing factories. It would set the wheels of industry moving. The same remark applies to boots. The landlord has suffered most of all from the depression, because the workless have no money with which to pay rent. Houses are badly in need of repairs, and if the rents were paid men in the building trade would be given employment. I know from experience that thousands of pounds could be expended on the renovation of buildings. If 50,000 men were given employment within the next twelve months, that would, in turn, give employment to 75,000, and probably 100,000 others. It has been said that if more men were employed in primary production we should have no market for our goods. I disagree with that contention. A year or two ago we had large quantities of dried fruits unsold, but to-day all stocks have been disposed of. We have a good market for our wheat and wool, and we can find markets for all our primary products. I trust that the Prime Minister will give consideration to my suggestion, and bring it before the Premiers Conference.
Mr. HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) [3.56 1 . - I agree with the last two speakers that we have not now sufficient time at our disposal to enter into a proper economic discussion of this problem; but I suggest that the Government should at the earliest moment turn this Parliament into an economic council for a week or two so that we could discuss the problem of unemployment in a non-party atmosphere. I join with other honorable members in asking the Government to treat this matter as urgent. I do not object to the long-range plan suggested by the Country party; but it is almost like lashing the backs of the unemployed to ask for further conferences, further economic discussions, and further meetings of unemployed secretariats to discuss this problem, when there are many hundreds of thousands of breadwinners actually starving, and in need of immediate relief. If we mean business we must at once set to work to place a large number of our workless men in employment. Surely the Commonwealth Statistician has, during the last three years, collected sufficient information to enable the Government to decide upon an effective . policy for the relief of unemployment. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) spoke of the difficulties of the primary producers, and mentioned what they could do to relieve unemployment if they were assisted by the Government, and certain restrictions were removed. But I would point out to the honorable member that the work that he suggests should be put in hand is generally carried out by contract labour or piece-work, and that, therefore, no responsibility would be placed on the actual’ farmer or the employer concerned. While I agree with a good deal of what the honorable member has suggested, that class of work would not employ much labour in comparison with the number of persons out of work. The contention of the Government supporters is that this problem of unemployment must be solved by encouraging private enterprise. I admit that private enterprise is the largest employer in this and almost every other country. We all agree that private enterprise is anxious to employ labour, but why has it not done so during the last two or three years? The Commonwealth Statistician has this week published figures showing that the cost of living has, during the last twelve months, fallen by 11 per cent., the cost of material by 15 per cent., and the rate of interest by from 12£ per cent, to 15 per cent., yet during that period of reduced wages and costs, the unemployment figures have more than doubled. When we began to discuss this problem two and a half years ago, the unemployment figures were menacing, but we did not dream that the position would become worse. The percentage at that time was 11.5; to-day it is 28.30. That is the average percentage of unemployment among the organized workers of Australia. That increase of unemployment has to some extent been due to the Commonwealth Government’s policy of reducing costs, yet we hear persons saying to-day that if we could only reduce further the cost of production all would be well with Australia. With every reduction in the cost of production there is a further reduction in the wages paid in industry, but because of the restriction in the purchasing power of the community, the unemployed figures go up by leaps and bounds. We cannot close our eyes to these facts. Private enterprise, as I have said, is anxious to employ labour. No employer in this country would decline to give employment if he could employ mcn at a profit, and the only way to restore the needed confidence in industry is to ensure a satisfactory demand for the goods produced by the services rendered. Employers everywhere are anxiously waiting to give employment. Huge sums have been spent on the installation of modern and efficient industrial plants which, because of the lack of demand for goods are lying idle for a great part of each working week, or even rusting in complete disuse. Therefore, unless we can give to private enterprise some impetus by the creation of a wage fund which will lead to an increased demand for goods and services, private enterprise cannot be expected to provide much relief for our workless people. I appeal to the Government to give serious attention to this aspect of the problem.
I believe that the Ministry, having in mind the experience of the last two or three years, will consider it to be its duty to take steps to put a stop to the deadly system of deflation, which is destroying confidence in the business community. I hope that the Government will give favorable consideration to the proposal for the creation of a fund by the Commonwealth Bank, which will give temporary employment to 50,000, 60,000 or perhaps 100,000 workmen, as a first step towards the rehabilitation of industry in this country. With nearly 500,000 people out of work, it was only to be expected that the market for the output of industry would be restricted to an extraordinary extent. Primary producers, and persons engaged in many avenues of business, are more or less in a condition of insolvency, because they cannot sell their commodities in sufficient volume to ensure a reasonable profit. The only thing to be done is for the Government to call immediately upon the Commonwealth Bank to provide a release of credit, and in this way give the necessary impetus to private enterprise. In normal times, when there is competition for labour, I would not offer this suggestion, but we are not now living in normal times. On the contrary, we are passing through an abnormal period of great adversity. The present unemployment figures do not represent the annual winter period of unemployment. I am afraid to think what may happen during the next three months. I know, perhaps more than any other honorable member of this Parliament, how severely the workers of this country are suffering, because, for over twenty years now, I have had my finger on the pulse of the industrial movement, and I know how the workless fear the approaching winter. The existing situation constitutes the greatest menace that has confronted the Commonwealth within my knowledge. Everyone who has studied it must realize that the present great volume of unemployment might easily lead to insurrection, communism, and rebellious outbreaks. The Government cannot, with safety, allow the situation to develop. It must take some steps to remove this threatening problem. I hate to think what will happen during the coming winter unless the Government rises to the occasion. Any further attempt to take from the wages of the workers will further reduce their spending power, and, to that extent, still further limit the market for goods produced for services rendered. I, therefore, make this last appeal to the Government. I do not care what Government gets credit for it, but I hope that the present Ministry will do the one thing which, in my opinion, will relieve the situation. Knowing something of the economic and industrial history of the Common wealth, I am convinced that before we can expect an improvement, the Government must give an impetus to private industry by creating a wage-fund in the way I have suggested, and so widen the market for the output of industry. Surely it is obvious to all that shopkeepers, manufacturers and primary producers throughout Australia are waiting anxiously to give employment to people who are clamouring for it. I have in my hand the report of the Director of the International Labour Conference held at Geneva last year. This is what he has to say concerning the economic and industrial outlook, with special reference to the expenditure on public works as a stimulus to private enterprise -
Here the virtue of this policy of public works is clearly revealed. As has been well demonstrated by Mr. Keynes, it acts not merely as a palliative, but as a positive remedy. Extensive schemes for works of public interest, by helping in some measure to raise prices and increasing the demand for material, stimulate activity generally and produce a psychological reaction that is far from negligible in economic fluctuations.
Mr.White. - Does he say howexpenditure on public works should be financed ?
– Yes ; he refers to the artificial curtailment of credit, and goes on to say that the only hope is to make the credit machinery more responsive so as to fit inwith the demands of industry. This is not the advice of an irresponsible advocate of wild inflation, but of an acknowledged economist. The events of the next few months will show us whether or not this or any other Government can evolve means of solving our present economic problems. A check to the present policy of deflation would, I believe, be followed by a steady rise in commodity prices, and establish a feeling of confidence in the business community which will lead to an increase in employ- ment throughout the Commonwealth. No one cares to invest capital in industry while prices are failing, because of the absence of demand for goods produced. The only remedy, in my view, is for this Government to call upon the Commonwealth Bank, which is the only institution in this country with authority to create credit, to release sufficient funds to enable us to get out of our present trouble. I believe with the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) that every additional person employed in industry gives work to some one engaged in some other industry. I sincerely hope that the Government will act promptly.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has made a spirited appeal for the relief of our unemployed, in the course of which he admitted that private industry cannot be expected to provide employment unless it is in a position to show a profit. The real wealth of Australia comes from the soil, and the winning of it is essential to secure employment. Much of the legislation of recent years has increased the handicaps on our primary producei’3. It is a tragedy that, in a country like Australia, with its marvellous resources, we are unable to provide employment for all our people.
– What is wrong with the worker ?
– What is wrong with the politicians? Oan any one deny that for years now we have been drifting dangerously? I remember the present Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) addressing a conference of Premiers in 1929, and emphasizing the urgency for the reduction in the cost of living and production, if wo were to avoid the grave dangers then confronting us. But we are still drifting, and it is time we realized that the economic nostrums that have been foisted on the people of this country are the real cause of our present troubles. I .was elected to this Parliament to support the Government; to give it a chance to make good, and I should now like to see the Prime Minister - instead of going about the country like a disciple of Coue, launching prosperity campaigns, when there is no prosperity, as if things could be made well merely by saying that they are well - take some practical steps to relieve the present economic position by the introduction of legislation which would make it possible for our primary producers to create more wealth and give more employment to our people. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) has just reminded us that every additional person employed gives some measure of relief to some one else in another industry. This is particularly true of the mining industry. For every person engaged in it, five or six other persons are employed in other industries. The Mount Morgan mine, which gave employment to 200 dr 300 persons, was forced to close down with ore bodies worth £2 10s. per ton. These could not be worked because of the high labour costs and other charges. Similar conditions have resulted in forcing out of employment tens of thousands of persons at Kalgoorlie and Broken Hill. The Government has been urging the fuller development of all our natural resources. The mineral resources of this country, particularly in Western Australia, are still enormous. The Wiluna Gold Mining Company whilst endeavouring to comply with the request of the Government to make all possible purchases in Australia, had to import special machinery; but on this machinery it was forced to pay customs duty amounting to £100,000. Is that the way to encourage industry? Our farmers have been urged to grow more wheat, and although huge sacrifices have been made in wages, none has been made in respect of machinery. The Sunshine Harvester manufacturers have cancelled the 5 per cent, reduction previously announced. Customs duties on reapers and binders, which the Minister says range from 27£ per cent, to per cent., are 49 per cent., and with other charges representing an intolerable burden on our primary producers. For every £1,000 worth of reapers and binders imported into this country the cost to the importer, exclusive of exchange, is £2,478. This absolutely crushing load applies to every class of machinery the farmer needs.
We often hear the cry, “ Go on the land.” But the settlers in our country districts have suffered very heavy losses this year through devastating fires, and in other ways. Miles of fencing have been destroyed, and many farm buildings have been burned to the ground. Yet this Parliament persists in imposing extremely heavy duties oil galvanized iron, fencing wire, barbed wire and other fencing materials. Last week a complaint was forwarded to the Minister for Trade and Customs to the effect that a manu.facturer of iron and steel wire, who had interests in manufactured goods, dumped his manufactures into Victoria at the cost of raw material, and stated that he would continue to do so unless a Victorian manufacturer who made wire nails and barbed wire agreed to refrain from selling in New South Wales and Queensland, fixed his price for Tasmania and raised his price by £6 per ton.
– “Will the honorable member make just one plea for the unemployed ?
– I agree with the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) that everything possible should be done to assist in finding work for our unemployed; but the Government must get down to facts. We must realize that the future prosperity of this country depends absolutely upon the development of her primary industries. Of course, we need certain secondary industries and are prepared to make some sacrifice to set them going ; but we must make it possible for primary industries to be developed. Only to-day I have received letters from nearly every roads hoard in Western Australia, directing attention to the extensive ravages of the rabbit pest, and demanding that the dumping duty on wire netting and the duties on poisons, rabbit traps, and other requirements for combating the pest, shall be abolished to enable effective action to be taken to overcome the trouble. We know very well that the price of rabbit-proof fencing and poison for the destruction of pests is fully three times what it should he in this country.
I do not think that we would have great difficulty in obtaining money for definitely reproductive works; but the trouble is to find works of that description. Can any honorable member indicate at this moment a public work that could he put in hand which would be reproductive immediately on its completion? Possibly, the proposal for the bulk handling of wheat enunciated by the Western Austra lian Minister for Works, would be reproductive.. The scheme propounded by that honorable gentleman will be much less expensive than that adopted by the New South Wales Government, and might, upon thorough investigation, be found to be worth while. Apart from that project, I do not know of one which is sufficiently promising to justify us approaching the banks for a loan. We mustrealize that it is useless for us to throw our money into the gutter, and equally useless for us to cart sand from one place to another and then cart it back again.
I agree with the honorable member for Calare, also, that nothing has such a detrimental effect upon a man as to be but of work for a long time, but the unemployment of our adult population is only a part of our problem. It is essential that we shall do something to provide for the 100,000 boys and girls who are ready to take up work every year. It might be possible to obtain money to establish some of these young people in productive primary occupations, but to place them on the land without first reducing costs would be scandalous. No one will deny that if primary production were to cease suddenly in Australia, our secondary industries would not be able to carry on for 24 hours. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) was recently asked 6s. 6d. for a hoe which he had previously bought for 2s. 9d. The stupid restrictions which this Parliament has placed upon the importation of tools of trade, and implements for primary production, have contributed to a great extent to bring Australia into her present position. I hope that action will be taken speedily to grant substantial relief from the existing tariff surcharges and prohibitions. The Government should take steps to see that every section of the community makes some sacrifice for the common good, and particularly to help in reducing the cost of production in this “country.
– I listened attentively to the speeches that were delivered to-day and last. week, and believe that the only honorable member who has approached the real solution of this problem is the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). It is all very well to say that the only hope for the unemployed is the stimulation of private enterprise. Comparison may readily be made between countries where private enterprise prevails, and those in which it does not rule supreme. Figures are obtainable, not from text books written by Trotsky, Lenin, or some other writer who would be unacceptable to honorable members opposite, but from the report of a committee set up by the League of Nations, a.nd presided over by Professor Ohlin, of the Stockholm University. They show clearly that, in every country where private enterprise prevails, unemployment is increasing to a very large extent, and that the country which has reconstructed its social order, and in which there is production for use and not for profit, is the only one in which unemployment has declined; and, later reports indicate, has been practically eliminated - I refer to the Soviet Republic.
Government Members. - Forced labour !
– Apparently I have touched honorable members on a sore spot. Why do men work in this country? It is not because they love work, but because of the necessity for making provision for themselves and their families. That i3 the position in Russia to-day. Honorable members opposite talk about reducing the costs of production. I have heard them in this House ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to prevent the importation of goods from the Soviet Republic, on the ground that these goods compete unfairly ‘ with our goods because their costs of production are too low. Artificial means, such as tariffs, are applied for the stimulation of trade in this country, and what is the result? When embargoes are placed upon imports from other countries, those countries retaliate, and compromise is necessary. Such action is only tinkering with the position ; it does not give a definite solution of the problem. There is plenty of work waiting to be done in this country; but, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has pointed out, it is not profitable for private enterprise to undertake it. Private employers, as the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) says, want the Government to lend them money free of interest so that they may undertake this work. Their desire is to wipe out arbitration awards. If the provision of work was all that was necessary to restore prosperity, the whole of the unemployed could be engaged in digging holes and filling them up again. They would all be working, but we should be no closer to an era of prosperity. What the unemployed and the workers of “Australia generally want is not so much’ the right to work as the right to live. Why is it that many thousands of our citizens are in want? Is it because there is a shortage of the necessaries of life? Honorable members talk about stimulating private enterprise! Who among them has not read of the dumping of 8,000 bags of Brazilian coffee into the sea? Why? Not because the people of the world did not need it, but out of a determination to keep up the price in the markets of the world. Then again, in the United States of America, with a view to maintaining prices, the producers of cotton were prepared to plough into the ground every third row. They had had prolific harvests, but were not v.- ill ing that the people generally should derive any advantage from that fact, with the result that persons described as “ night raiders “ raided a number of the homesteads of those unwilling to do what was asked of them and burnt them to the ground. Those producers were not Communists or revolutionaries, about whom we hear so much, but the champions of private enterprise. If I were to suggest that our water supply should be placed under the control of private enterprise, and that, unless the workers had the means to purchase what they required, they should dic of thirst, ridicule would be heaped upon me. and justifiably so. Food, clothing and shelter are just as necessary as water for the unemployed, and it is equally ridiculous to suggest that while there is a plentiful supply of those commodities, some people should bo compelled to live in a state of semi-starvation, and that many others should be allowed to die in our hospitals as a result of malnutrition. These are facts to which we cannot close our eyes. There is only one occasion when people should go short, and that is when there is a shortage of what they require. It is criminal for any government, or set of individuals, so to conduct affairs that thousands of persons go hungry,, and are in want, when there is a plentiful supply of all that they require. I have no brief for private enterprise. It has served its purpose, and has outlived its usefulness. It is time that the governments and the people of this and other countries understood that the problem of unemployment will be solved only by a complete recon’struction of the social order, under which there would be production for use and not for profit. Wherever private enterprise has held sway, there has always been unemployment; but notice is taken of it only when it reaches such alarming proportions as to give rise to the fear that the unemployed may revolt and destroy the existing form of government. In what are regarded as the better years, when the number of unemployed was comparatively few, and could be handled, no consideration was extended to them. It was not during what is now termed the period of depression I was looking for employment. I was one of the unfortunate few who had that experience in what was considered to be a prosperous era, when the different governments balanced their budgets oxdeclared surpluses. That was not a prosperous era for me. Children were in want, and many persons died in our hospitals from mal-nutrition. It may be claimed that pneumonia, or some other complaint, was the cause of a number of those deaths ; but the fact cannot he disguised that the combative powers of thousands of people are so impaired by semi-starvation- that they fall easy victims to what in ordinary circumstances would be nothing more than a slight indisposition, which they would be able to throw off. Since 1925, when the scheme for the rationalization of industry was inaugurated with a view to reducing the costs of production, production has increased, despite the fact that the human element has been a consistently decreasing factor in industry. During the period from 1925 to 1929, industrial production increased in France by 30 per cent., in Germany by 22 per cent., in the United Kingdom by 13 per cent., in Canada by 54 per cent., in the United States of America by 14 per cent., and in Russia by 123 per cent. Notwithstanding the fact that, as a result of the improvement of machinery, and of the means of production generally, fewer men are required in industry, and that the output has been increased to an untold extent, the workers throughout the world are sinking lower and lower into poverty and degradation. Were they able to repurchase all they produce that’ would be the end of our present social order, and the destruction of what is known to-day as private enterprise. While those who produce the goods are not able to purchase all that they are able to produce, there will be a surplus, and unemployment to a greater or less extent. It is useless to attempt to disguise that fact. You may have your Premiers conferences, and your meetings of economic councils. Of what use will they be unless the real issue be faced and the understanding arrived at that the existing social order cannot be patched up so as to provide work for all who need it? There must be a complete reconstruction of the social order, under which there will be production for use and not for profit. I can suggest to honorable members many avenues in which the unemployed might be engaged on work of a national character in this country, work that is necessary, but which private enterprise is not rushing in to undertake, because it i3 not profitable. Does private enterprise show any anxiety to do what is necessary for those who are in want or who are ailing i Does every person who needs medical attention receive it?
It is admitted that governments should control such undertakings as the provision of postal services, because private enterprise does not consider that work to be profitable; yet, where private employers can exploit the workers they are prepared to do it. If cheap labour were the royal road to prosperity, India and China would be among the most prosperous of the nations; but their position is even worse to-day than that of Australia. Although honorable members opposite talk of the necessity for reducing the cost of production, I claim that the main requirements to-day is markets in which we can dispose of what we produce. The monetary system of the United States of America is capable of providing all the credit required to make work available for the unemployed in that coun- try, yet its people are suffering from the same complaint as those in Australia. Markets cannot be found for the goods we are already producing. A reduction of the cost of production in Australia might give the primary producers a temporary advantage, but that would not provide a permanent solution of their difficulty. If wages were cut down, and the hours of work were increased in Australia, governments in other countries would respond by taking action to force down the living standards of their people, and all the workers would be reduced, eventually, to the level of coolies.
Honorable members opposite who claim to be Christians, and to have the welfare of humanity at heart, should do more than merely express sympathy for the unemployed. There is plenty of food available in Australia to provide for the needs of every hungry man, woman and child; but it is of no use to say that when confidence is restored, provision will be made for them. Every member of the National Parliament, before taking his seat here, should be compelled to undergo a course of study in economics. Honorable members opposite told the electors that if the affairs of Australia were conducted by business men, all would be well. I remind them that for years the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who is a notable business man, was Prime Minister of Australia, but under his regime general prosperity was not experienced, because the party led by the right honorable gentleman was concerned only with exploiting the people, and making the utmost possible profit.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I regret that reference has been made to conditions in Russia, and that political dissension has been introduced into this debate. I had hoped that suggestions would be forthcoming to help solve the problem of unemployment. I trust that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) does not take his instructions from Russia, although I have always suspected that his leader, Mr. Lang, does.
– I merely quoted figures to indicate the displacement of human labour by machinery.
– Those figures applied only to the period from 1925 to 1929. Prior to that the Russians were destroying themselves. They repudiated a debt owing to Great Britain, alone, which was greater than the whole of the Commonwealth debt. Russia had a great initial advantage when it repudiated its debts to all countries. Perhaps the attitude adopted by Russia is responsible for a certain policy that is being followed in New South Wales. Russia, which slaughtered its bourgeoisie, and almost exterminated all its better class citizens, behaved like a fraudulent insolvent, and had a great financial advantage over other countries, because it was not burdened with debt. In Russia, work is compulsory. Since the honorable member for East Sydney advocates a policy similar to that of Russia, does he believe that all the unemployed in Australia should be compelled to work?
– I believe that all the unemployed should have the right to live._
– The honorable member evades my question. He has given the typical reply of those who claim to believe in Russia ; yet he would not have Russian conditions imposed on Australia. Honorable members opposite appear to imagine that they have a monopoly of human sympathy. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) has mentioned that he has been a large employer of labour, and other honorable members on this side are employers. I submit that more good could be done by finding employment than by indulging in the sort of talk that is characteristic of Gandhi, who, when trouble occurs in India, uses women and children as a screen for those agitators who are perpetrating his iniquities. Mr. Lang, the Premier of New South Wales, employs the same tactics.
– Should not all people have the right to work?
– If they refuse to work, what happens to them?
– The Minister for Labour in Victoria, Mr. Williams, says that 15 per cent, of the applications for sustenance are made by impostors. It is unfortunate that we nave that type of person in our midst. When honorable members opposite exploit ignorance, and lead worthless persons to believe that they are entitled to something for nothing, they do an injury to the genuinely impoverished.
The world-wide nature of the present depression must be recognized. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) attributes it to overproduction, and another honorable member has declared that it is clue to underconsumption. There are cycles of depression, and, in my opinion, governments, like business men, should set aside reserves in prosperous years to act as a balance wheel to carry thom over difficult periods, so. that the people might be kept in continuous employment. But governments find it difficult to resist the claims made upon the public purse, and politicians who are not statesmen spend public money which ought to be placed in reserve to meet difficult times such as are now being experienced. Thousands of businesses would have been insolvent by now if their directors had not built up reserves. In a period of depression, the Government should not resort to taxation to maintain the same expensive governmental machine as it might justifiably keep going in times of prosperity. Already our income tax is twice what is paid in New Zealand. I think I can safely say that the Commonwealth has gone over the peak in the matter of taxation. The result has been a fall in revenue and greater unemployment. If thousands of businesses are taxed out of existence because it is no longer profitable to employ labour, it means an increase in the number of unemployed.
Honorable members elected from all parts of this vast Commonwealth may have many suggestions which the Government can work into a mosaic that should prove helpful. I have two suggestions. There are many here to-day who remember how the Victorian Government dealt with unemployment during the slump in the ‘nineties. In 1893 it established a labour colony at Leongatha, in Gippsland, under the auspices of the Charity Organization Society. Any unemployed man could report there and be paid for the work he performed. He received part of hi3 pay in cash. The balance was banked for him.- Over 500 men a week went through the depot. The farm was completely selfcontained. Mixed and general farming, pig raising, dairying and fruit farming were carried on. Some years later 260 acres were producing oats, onions, wheat and potatoes, and there were 21 acres of garden and orchard. The remaining acres were cleared for grass, the timber being dead. Eighty cows were being milked and the cream marketed. In one year the return from 51 cows was £493. That labour colony, which continued up to the time of the South African “War, when unemployment practically disappeared in Victoria, actually showed a profit. The property was ultimately subdivided into three excellent farms, which are being worked by soldier settlers. We might well profit by the experience at Leongatha. Although land settlement is a matter which is dealt with by the States, we have a large number of unemployed in Canberra. Rather than remain idle, the majority of them, I am sure, would prefer to be tilling the ground and providing a little towards their sustenance, so that when ultimately they secure employment they may have a little capital behind them. The Commonwealth Government could easily make a piece of land available to these men, and, by getting them employed and satisfied with their conditions, set an example to the States. At Broadmeadows, in Victoria, there is a camp of 400 or 500 unemployed almost within a stone’s throw of a number of farms. It would be better to have those men employed on the lines of the Leongatha settlement, or on adjacent farms by a system of subsidized labour. That question is dealt with in a report by the Victorian representative on the Secretariat Committee presided over by Mr. Gunn, which submitted recommendations to the Premiers Conference. Such a scheme worked in conjunction with that which has been proposed by the honorable member for Calare, would undoubtedly he beneficial to thousands who to-day are unemployed.
We all know how tragic is the position which is brought about in times of depression when youths or girls reach the age of 21, and become entitled to the basic wage. Obviously a wage which is supposed to be sufficient to maintain a man with a wife and two children, and may be adequate for a man with a large family, cannot, in times like the present, be paid to such youths and girls. Consequently the bulk of them are dismissed when they reach the age of 21. Thousands of dismissed apprentices are tramping the countryside at the present time. It would be better if the basic wage provisions of industrial awards did not operate until the worker reached the age of 23 or 25. Proper safeguards, of course, would have to be made in the case of married workers. Instead of a general reduction of the basic wage, the alteration at the other end I have suggested, might be considered by the Arbitration Court. It would keep thousands in employment. At the same time the frills of arbitration awards might be laid aside. A condition which prescribes that time and a half must be paid to a man who works for two days or less, a feature of many arbitration awards, keeps numbers of shop assistants out of work. The bulk of extraneous payments in the Public Service should be wiped out. We are told that they absorb nearly half a million pounds a year, particularly in paying waiting time and higher duties. These extras, which may be justified in times of prosperity should not be tolerated in a time of depression. Our sales taxation might be administered more economically. I have on the notice-paper a suggestion that the sales tax should be collected on turnover. That method would, I believe, bring in the same amount of revenue. At the same time, the cost of collection would be considerably reduced. Briefly my suggestions are: the establishment of labour colonies, the abolition of the right to the basic wage at the age of 21 during a time of depression, and subsidized labour for assistance to farmers. These suggestions, together with others to be put forward, might help towards the drawing up of a plan to alleviate the unfortunate position of a great number of people in Australia today, worthy citizens, who are unemployed through no fault of their own, but because it is unprofitable for others to engage their services.
– I support the proposal put forward by the honorable member for Calare (Mr.
Thorby), and I greatly regret that he had not sufficient time within which to elaborate his ideas. The payment of doles, I understand, costs Australia something over £12,000,000 a year. The community is like a man who possesses a huge engine, from which he gets no return, although he ‘ supplies it with £12,000,000 worth of fuel. The proposition submitted by the honorable member -for Calare is in effect that money which does not now return even 1 per cent, should be used in another fashion, iu which case it would show a very good return. The idle power of the engine should be applied in the direction the honorable member suggests. I do not know if honorable members generally are fully seised of the importance and the practicable nature of the proposition. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) will, doubtless, think that it would take a long time to bring it into operation, but a similar scheme is already being successfully conducted in one of the States. If only a portion of the £12,000,000 now being spent in paying the dole were used in providing actual employment, helping men to retain their respectability instead of becoming, paupers, the quantity of produce available for export would immediately increase, and additional labour would be required, not only in the country, but in the cities as well. Surely such’ a proposal will commend itself to every honorable member in this chamber. The honorable member for Calare states that -
The advantages of such a proposal are numerous. It would encourage the production of exportable products and the expansion of private enterprise. It does not create or extend government departments. It does not increase the annual interest bill of the producer, and makes no demand for repayment for two years, by which time returns will have resulted from the expenditure.
No sacrifice would have to be made by the Government in providing the money without interest, and even if repayments are not to be made for two years it would be infinitely better than spend ing £12,000,000 annually in a manner which does not produce an asset of any kind. The scheme further provides for-
A revolving fund by retaining all repayments for re-issue, in addition to the annual contribution from the unemployed relief taxation, and assists employment in the secondary industries, supplying the material as well as the transport services. It immediately reduces the demands upon governments to provide food relief, and increases the purchasing power of those unemployed. In the second year the scheme would tend to develop permanent employment in the rural districts, and would increase revenues while tending to increase production. As each producer borrowing under the scheme would be responsible for the repayment he would naturally see that he spent the money in a way that would secure the best return for the expenditure. lt. would be a self-supporting scheme. By employing the “ engine “ in some useful way we could provide employment instead of impoverishing the nation. A large number of those now out of employment would have some practical work on which to be engaged instead of existing on the dole, which naturally leads to physical and moral degeneration. Some members of the previous Government claim to possess intelligence, but for every four minutes in which that Government was in office, one man in the community lost his job. Surely that proves that the policy which they supported was impracticable. The application of the policy submitted by the honorable member for Calare would soon prove of great benefit to the Commonwealth. The honorable ^member for Melbourne Ports referred, and properly too, to the fact that the products of our primary and secondary industries .cannot now be profitably disposed of, because the people have no money with which to buy them. The financial position of most of those who are settled on the land is so precarious that they have not sufficient funds with which to develop their properties. Many holdings are going hack, because of the ravages of vermin and the rapidity with which noxious weeds are spreading. Scrub shoots are growing, and in the absence of money, it is impossible for settlers to keep their properties in a productive state. The scheme which the honorable member for Calare outlined, provides a way out of the difficulty. It should commend itself to honorable members and to the representatives of the States who are to attend the conference of Premiers shortly to be held.
.- After listening to the debate last week, and to-day, on our greatest national problem, I rise with a certain degree of pleasure, and with a great deal of disappointment, to express my views on the subject. I am pleased because the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and one or two of his colleagues, have shown that they are prepared to assist the Government in its solution. They have shown a sincere desire to help those unfortunate persons who are at present out of work. On the other hand, I am exceedingly disappointed to find that in the useless, bitter, and provocative speeches delivered by some of our friends opposite, who have taken up more than their share of time, not one constructive word, phrase, or sentence has been uttered. This debate offers an opportunity for constructive criticism, and any honorable member having a practical suggestion to make should give the Government the benefit of his ideas. I believe that honorable members generally are sincere in their desire to see those at present unemployed back at work. I believe that they are sympathetic and humanitarian in their feelings towards the workless; but they should not claim a monopoly of those virtues. Honorable members on this side of the chamber are just as sympathetic, sincere and humanitarian towards the unemployed as they are. Last week the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) said that during the recent general election campaign I traversed the country promising jobs to every one. That is not the case. It is grossly untrue. I said that with a Labour government in power, both in the federal sphere and in New South Wales, and with ever-increasing unemployment, there was no hope whatever for the unfortunate people who had lost their jobs. I went on to point out that those men and women who felt insecure in the positions which they were holding could not hope for anything until there was a change of government. Throughout Australia the electors accepted that advice, with the result that the Government benches are now full to overflowing, while there are only a few honorable members sitting in opposition. Evidently, the honorable member for West Sydney confused Mr. Lang, the Premier of New South Wales, with myself, the representative of the Lang electorate in this Parliament. It was Mr. Lang, not I, who a few months ago promised the unfortunate electors of New South Wales, particularly those who were out of work, the sun, the moon, prosperity, and jobs for. all, in return for their votes. To-day. we have Mr. Lang’s supporters in this House painting pictures of misery, poverty, and privation. They appear to forget that the head of the Government inNew South Wales is the wonderful Mr. Lang. The greatest privation exists in the State of whichhe is the chief citizen. The first duty of the Government is to explore all avenues which might lead to a solution of the problem of unemployment; and I believe that it recognizes that duty. Having explored those avenues, the Government will, I feel confident, rise to the occasion, and follow the course which it believes will be most productive of employment.
This debate offers honorable members an opportunity to offer constructive criticism. We want to hear, not’ about conditions in Russia, but about what can be done to improve conditions in Australia.
Mr.Rosevear. - Will the honorable member give us someconstructive criticism ?
Mr. DELIST. I shall do so, and I hope that other honorable members will endeavour to place before the House suggestions worthy of consideration at the forthcoming conference of Premiers. I should not have risen had I not felt that I could offer some helpful suggestions.
In my opinion, the first step towards the solution of the problem of unemployment is to set in motion a scheme which will provide the means whereby the unemployed can be absorbed in the ordinary productive life of the community. I believe that the quickest and most effective, as well as the most permanent, means of solving the problem is to develop a real system of land settlement. The old idea that land settlement should proceed mainly on the basis of living areas must, in my opinion, be somewhat qualified, in order that we may provide for a new type of settlement, which will give the unemployed men and their families, as well as others who seek to establish themselves in small homes, holdings which, while perhaps insufficient for the full maintenance of the family, will, to a great extent, meet their requirements, and enable them to produce something for sale. It may, of course, be necessary to seek other employment during off periods. For this purpose suitable Crown lands should be made available immediately, without any payment, in the way of rent or otherwise, being required for, say, five years, provided that substantial improvements are effected during that period. In addition to Crown lands, suitable private lands should be acquired - compulsorily if necessary. There are millions of acres of good land along our river frontages which is not put to its best productive use. That land would be most suitable for subdivision into areas sufficient, or nearly sufficient, to provide numbers of unemployed families with a livelihood. The amount of capital required would be small; not all of it would be needed immediately. In time, the money invested would be repaid. In order to ensure the success of such a scheme, the co-operation of shire councils and municipal councils should be invoked, because such bodies could provide employment for settlers in the off periods at road-making and in other ways. If such a scheme were started, I feel certain that many practical men would be only too willing to cooperate in order to ensure its success. The successful inauguration of such a scheme would necessitate the temporary continuance of the dole, in order to provide sustenance for thesettlers until such time as they were able to provide for themselves. Land settlement along these lines would do more than find employment for the workless; it would increase the productive wealth of the community. The two things would go hand in hand.
When the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was speaking, an honorable member inquired by interjection why men were denied the right to work. I have here a communication which shows that in New South Wales men are denied the right to work. The letter reads -
In connexion with your tender for Engineers’ stores,I shall be glad if you will favour me with a statutory declaration that in your business you do not employ other than union labour;’ that you do not work your employees more than 44-hours per week and that where you engage your employees under a Commonwealth award or awards which provide for a 48-hour week, you pay such employees for a full week although the employees work only 44-hours per week.
This declaration will of course cover all your employees without exception.
That men willing to work are not allowed to do so is one of the reasons why New South Wales is to-day in such a deplorable state.
I submit my suggestion to the Government in the hope that it will be carefully considered, along with other suggestions, for I believe that by settling the unemployed on small holdings, which are not necessarily living areas, we shall do much to solve the pressing problem confronting this country.
.- Were I so disposed, I could indulge in a caustic criticism of the Government’s attitude towards the pressing problem of unemployment. I have here some reminders of the many alluring promises made to the electors by the party now in office in the Commonwealth. During the election campaign, that party spared neither, pains u or money to convince the electors that only by a change of government could work be found for the workless. I have before me an advertisement which appeared in the Adelaide press, which said, “ A vote for Lyons is a vote for work “. Other advertisements and pamphlets similarlyworded were authorized by Mr. Threlfall, the secretary to the present Prime Minister, and Publicity Director of the United Australia party, in the recent campaign.
– Is there anything in the advertisement about Mr. Theodore opening the mines?
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) would do well to apply his mind to the formulation of helpful suggestions for consideration by the Premiers Conference which is to be held within the next few weeks. I do not regard the suggestion of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) as helpful, nor would his proposal, if accepted, solve even partially the problem of unemployment. Our difficulties have been accentuated by the reduced spending power of the community. When the workers have not the money with which to buy what is produced, there is necessarily a glut on the market. One of the most serious aspects of the problem, which seems to have been overlooked by most statesmen and economists, is the displacement of workers by the application to industry of science and improved machinery. Honorable members opposite would do well to read some of the works on this subject to be found in our own library, particularly one by an economist of repute named Henderson. In that work it is shown what a serious effect labour-saving devices have had upon employment. There must be a worldwide re-adjustment to meet these conditions. The problem cannot be solved by reducing the living standard of the workers, or by removing those safeguards which have been built up over a long period of years. The workers cannot be left at the mercy of those whose interest it may be to exploit them.
I am ‘confident that in the cities, and in country centres throughout Australia, there is work to be done which is only held up through lack of money. Tha Commonwealth Bank should be approached by the representatives of the States and the Commonwealth, and asked to make money available for reproductive work which would provide a sinking fund and interest on the money spent.
– What sort of work?
– An example of work urgently required in South Australia is a supplementary water scheme for Adelaide. It has been shown that water supply and reticulation schemes have, in the past, returned between 9 per cent, and 11 per cent, oh the money spent on them. Moreover, a large portion of Adelaide has not yet been given the advantage of deep drainage. From the standpoint of health alone such a work should commend itself to those seeking suitable undertakings upon which to employ those out of work.
– Would it not be better to use for such works a portion of the £12,000.000 now being spent on the dole?
– It is regrettable that such a large sum of money is being spent without any return being received for it. I remind the honorable member, however, that the money being spent on sustenance would not provide work for all those now obtaining relief. If the honorable member’s suggestion were adopted, some men would benefit by the inauguration of works, but others would receive nothing; they would even lose their sustenance allowance. I agree with him that if the money now being spent on sustenance could be used to employ men at wages which are recognized in Australia to be just, it would be a good thing. But no section must be left to suffer hardship.
Afforestation is another profitable activity upon which the unemployed could be engaged, especially with a view to the future supply of soft timber. We have been at fault in failing to make adequate provision in this respect. Up to the present we have been taking what we want from the forest, but we have been putting nothing back. As an insurance for the future Ave should embark upon a properly planned policy of reafforestation, which would give a return on the money spent. Surely the resources of the Commonwealth arc sufficient for this purpose. If we can find money for sustenance for these people, we should be able to put them into profitable employment. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) suggested that we should congregate our unemployed in industrial colonies. I should prefer to see some of our rich estates broken up to get people into rural pursuits. Many in country centres, reasonably adjacent to Adelaide, could be profitably used. However, I am afraid there is not much prospect of that coming to pass just yet. Our State Governments must recognize that not only is it necessary for them to institute an adequate programme of public works; they must also open up suitable lands on which to place our people. Governments have sent men to the Mallee, or away to the distant north, to work land that was quite unsuited for the purpose. Heartbroken, they eventually have given up in despair. If our people are to be placed on the land, let it be on the best country available; let them begin under the most favorable conditions. These are practical proposals for the Premiers to consider.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– I can at least compliment honorable members who have spoken this afternoon on the tone of their utterances, which indicates clearly that they are genuinely anxious to evolve some solution of this problem. I listened with a great deal of interest, in fact, with rapt attention, to the discussion on unemployment, a social disorder which touches indirectly or directly every citizen of the Commonwealth, and is afflicting some 20,000,000 to 30,000,000 persons throughout the world. The fact that this menace to our social life is so present to almost every citizen of this country gives one a vivid idea of the magnitude of the problem and the difficulties with which it3 solution is beset.
While individual governments might do a great deal to ameliorate the evils of unemployment, its permanent mitigation can be brought about only as a result of the united endeavour and common policy of all governments, each accepting to the full the obligations that that policy places upon them. Another vital essential to the solution of the problem is the whole-hearted support of the people to the governments concerned.
Last Friday the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) spoke upon this subject with admirable restraint, as one who has had experience of the many difficulties of the situation. The right honorable gentleman referred to the fact that his Government had made available for unemployment relief some £2,500,000, and he indicated that it would be proper for this Government to follow a similar course. The right honorable gentleman must admit, upon reflection, that the making available of such a sum cannot in itself be regarded as a real contribution towards the permanent relief of unemployment. It is merely a palliative, which may effect a small temporary decrease in unemployment. I say emphatically that the indiscriminate scattering of largess among the people can never achieve any permanent useful result.
Other honorable members on both sides of the House have suggested that the Government should make available money to be expended on public works. Admittedly, that would give a stimulus to industry, but only in a restricted sphere. All fair-minded people will acknowledge that it would touch only the fringe of the problem, and would, in all probability, have the effect of diverting credits from private enterprise into governmental activities, so depriving private enterprise of the funds necessary for carrying on business. In this connexion, it is worth while to remember the statement that was made by the Prime Minister on this subject last Friday, to the effect that the banks were now being called upon to provide more money to finance government deficits than they had to advance some three years ago for public works. That hits the nail on the head, and indicates how utterly impossible it is, at a time like this, for governments to make very substantial provision for public works. It is obvious that the duty of this Government is first of all to balance its budget, and to insist that every State in the Commonwealth shall do likewise. The failure of any one State to make a genuine effort to balance its budget must make (the recovery of prosperity in the Commonwealth impossible.
– How will that help the unemployed?
– I ask honorable members not to rush me too fast at my hurdles. If in due course I fail to deal with what they have in mind I shall be quite prepared to answer interjections. While I would support the subsidizing of private industries of specified character, I admit candidly that I have no faith whatever in the average so-called schemes of unemployment relief work. They have been tried everywhere, and have never yet accomplished anything useful. If the disasters of the last two years, and the adversity with which we are now faced, has any lesson to convey, it is that we must cast aside false standards, and cease worshipping at the altar of economic fallacies. Even if we cannot learn to love economic principles, we should at least learn to respect them. It is only in that way that, we can hope to bring industry back to a reasonable state of prosperity. In” short, we should re mould the whole of our industrial life along lines which conform to the accepted canons of economics.
The suggestion has been made that the Government should undertake land settlement schemes. One member of the Opposition proposed that the Government should attempt to settle 10,000 men on the land. What on earth is the use of attempting to settle untrained and inexperienced men and women on the land when rural industry is not paying dividends even to those who understand it? Undoubtedly, we want more people on the land, but the proper way to effect that is to make rural industry profitable. If that were done, capital would flow into it, more land would be taken up, money would be available for improvements, and employment would increase. I recognize that the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) had but a little time to expound the policy which he is submitting to the Government on behalf of the Country party; therefore, I suspend judgment on it, although I express my doubt of its practical usefulness over a long period. The honorable member proposes the lending of large sums of money to primary producers. Whilst I have no doubt that the Government would be able to find borrowers, I gravely question whether the money could be profitably employed, having regard to the enormous costs which rural industry has to bear, and the fact that very few men are able to make it profitable at any cost. The honorable gentleman’s scheme shows evidence of deep thought, however, and I shall await, with interest, his amplification of it. Secondary industry is in very much the same position as primary production. It cannot hope to increase the number of its employees until it can sell a greater quantity of goods, and that can be brought about only by reducing the wide gap between the prices of natural products and manufactured goods. All honorable members may not be aware that the average prices of the products of rural industry are 20 per cent, lower than they were in 1915, whilst the average prices of the products of secondary industries are actually 80 per cent, higher. This wide disparity, due to the extremely high price of manufactured goods, is making enormous inroads on the spending power of, not only the primary producers, but every section of the community. While it continues, we cannot have any real recovery of industry, and government-hatched schemes for the relief of unemployment will not substantially improve the situation. Governments should tackle the fundamentals of this problem. Obviously, we shall be foolish to await the return of profitable prices for primary products. The nation must adjust itself to the lower prices by making every endeavour to reduce the costs of living and production in order that the diminished national income may be spread over a wider field of industrial activity. This will involve drastic revision of the tariff, and a reduction of wage standards in order that they may conform to the lower cost of living which a reduced tariff will bring about. It will involve also a considerable reduction of interest charges on money lent by banks and other institutions to finance productive private enterprise. It will involve further drastic governmental economies, and a determined effort to reduce the load of taxation at present carried by industry. Another essential is that the Government shall, through its Minister in London, immediately take heed of the recommendations of the Macmillan Commission, and endeavour to discover what action is necessary to avoid those vagaries of currency standards which have had such a devastating effect on the prices of Australian primary products. It seems to me that we should endeavour to follow the advice given in that report, and endeavour to get down to fundamentals. There is an inclination to confuse the problem of unemployment in Australia with the world problems which have produced universal unemployment. I suggest that our problem is divisible into two portions - that which we can attack in Australia, and the wider aspect, which can be tackled by our representatives at the various conferences abroad. If we approach the problem in that way, we shall better realize its ramifications, and be able more effectively to seek a solution of it.
.- I have listened with great interest to the long-range suggestions made by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson). He is right in saying that we cannot expect a complete re-absorption of our unemployed until we are prepared to face economic facts, but to effect the changes which the honorable member has suggested, and which I believe to be desirable, would take time, and we have to act quickly. I rise to urge the Government to submit to the Premiers Conference the practical proposals put before the House by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), which have been supported by practical critics like the honorable members for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey), and Forrest (Mr. Prowse), and others. The honorable member for Macquarie said that to use loan money for even productive purposes would be dangerous. But I do not know whether he appreciated the fact that the money which we suggest should be lent to the farmer free of interest is to be taken from the unemployed relief funds and that that will not impose any additional interest burden on the Government which advances it or the individual who -uses it. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) disparaged, private industry, which, he said, had failed. The fact remains that four-fifths of the total employment in Australia is provided by private enterprise, and naturally to it we must look for the reabsorption of our workless manhood. Undoubtedly a large number of landholders would be willing to employ men to effect improvements if the cost of them were not greater than their worth. If they could repay themselves in the added earning-power of their holdings by having those improvements done, many of them would employ men to carry out the work. If money could be provided free of interest over a term of years, as suggested by the honorable member for Calare - say, two to five years in accordance with the character of the work - that would give a tremendous encouragement and stimulus to landholders to provide employment by having improvements carried out, but it would bc necessary to have many of the harassing restrictions on the employment of labour, which obtain to-day, set aside, and to allow the employer and the employee to make their own arrangements.
– Does the honorable member consider that a good scheme?
– Yes; Australia will not overcome its difficulties until it is prepared to accept such a scheme. If a substantial proportion of the unemployment relief funds were diverted into that channel, it would tend to increase production, and that would be a tremendous improvement on the present system, under which some £12,000,000 is spent annually for subsistence relief.
– Where are we to obtain the market for those goods?
– There is a tremendous number of people in the world who are not able to get what they require, and if employment could be given to a greater proportion of those people, there is ‘no doubt that the demand for what is produced would be greater than it is to-day. There is much in the statement of the honorable member for Adelaide, that the fact of giving a man a job tends to provide a job for another man, just as the fact of a man being thrown out of employment tends to put others into the ranks df the unemployed. One feature of this scheme, which has been put forward on behalf of the Country party by the honorable member for Calare, and has much to commend it, is that it would be to the interests of employers who are carrying out improvements to see that the money is wisely spent, or spent in such a way as to render more productive the holdings on which they live. Even if some of the money were spent on the purchase of galvanized iron, sawn timber, and things of. that kind, one would find that ultimately the whole of the money had been expended on wages, because the wages of the men who manufactured the galvanized iron and sawed the timber in the mill would be provided out of this fund. I urge upon the .Minister in charge of the House the necessity for putting this suggestion before the Government, and bringing it under the notice of the conference which is to meet within the next few weeks. This Parliament has not the machinery to put such a proposal into operation, but the State Governments have it, and it is only through that channel that we can give practical effect to this scheme.
.- I add my protest to the many made by those who sit on this side of the House, with regard to the assertion that we gained our seats by reason of the undue optimism of our statements to our constituents in respect of the relief of unemployment. I do not think that any member of this party gained his seat by making any foolish promise or pledge on the subject. Even my principal opponent, Mr. Lewis, the late member for Corio, had no complaints to make of me on that score, although he warned me that when we began to tackle the problem of unemployment we would find ourselves “ biting on granite “, a picturesque description of the difficulty possibly not far from the truth. Personally, I think I treated the subject fairly. I did not attempt to saddle the responsibility on the late Government. I showed that the depression, which has brought unemployment in its train, has been caused by two things: First, the cessation of loan moneys from abroad, and, secondly, the catastrophic decline in the prices of our principal exports.
We have been told, until we are tired of hearing it, that our national income has declined, approximately, from £650,000,000 to £450,000,000, and we also know how much unemployment has been caused by the lack of loan moneys for the construction of public works. The reasons for unemployment may be stated in this way: Employment directly depends upon production - the sum total of the industrial activities in this country - which in turn, depends directly on consumption, or the total purchasing power of the community. That again depends on the size of our national income. Our national income declined in a brief period by some £200,000,000. There are now in this country 300,000 or 400,000 men who are without work. About one-third of that number were previously employed on public works, and about two-thirds in private enterprise. In normal times about SO per cent, of the people, we are told, are employed in private enterprise. It was these facts which led the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and those associated with him in the framing of the election policy of this party, to declare that the cure of unemployment, so far as we are able to effect it, would come chiefly from the lifting of the burdens that have been placed on private enterprise.
Unemployment provides a problem that cannot be tackled by itself. Its solution, and the return of prosperity, are matters which are- not, to any considerable extent in our own hands. They depend on the amount of loan money obtainable, and on the prices of our principal products in the world’s markets. We can mitigate unemployment to some extent, and the Commonwealth and the States should do everything within their power to that end. I have listened with considerable interest and profit to what has been said by almost every section of this House this afternoon, and I propose to use what little time is at my disposal to look at the subject from what might be called a purely federal point of view.
There are two aspects from which it may be considered, the short range andthe long range aspect. The short range aspect consists of the provision of moneys for the prosecution of public relief works, which, of course, must be sponsored by this Parliament; the long range aspectconcerns matters whichI wish briefly to mention and which are particularly the responsibility of this Parliament. There is, first, the financial question, the provision of funds for the relief of unemployment. We know that the Commonwealth and the States have leaned on the Commonwealth Bank, and, through that institution, on the trading banks to the extent of something like £85,000,000 in treasurybills and overdrafts, both in this country and in Great Britain. The magnitude of that figure must make us pause before we enter upon any reckless extension of our unfunded debt. It has not, I think, yet resulted in any inflation of the currency or a great extension of credit, but that is solely clue, I believe, to the existence of what may be regarded as a gentleman’s agreement between the trading banks and the Commonwealth Bank to the effect that treasury-bills, once discounted by the trading banks, will not be presented for rediscounting to the Commonwealth Bank, at any rate for some time ahead. This means that although inflation has not existed, and is not existing, we still have it hanging over our heads, because the time must come when the trading banks will be unable to carry the existing load of treasury-bills any longer, or, at all events, will be unwilling to accept any more. They will then present their bills for rediscounting to the Commonwealth Bank’ which will be unable to refuse the request, and will have to provide credit which will eventually result in increased currency.
– There is a remedy for that.
– I do not think that the Commonwealth Bank could resist the demand.
– No, but the Commonwealth Parliament could pass banking legislation.
– That would be discrimkiatory legislation against the trading banks, because it would force them to hold a completely frozen asset instead of a temporarily frozen asset.
One. of the principal considerations of the present Government should be the degree to which we can increase the floating debt with safety; that is, without creating a situation in which we defeat our own object. If we produce inflation by milking the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks to too great an extent we increase the cost of production within Australia. I think we must admit that there is a maximum, but as yet unknown, amount of treasury-bills which the Commonwealth Bank can accept in any given year, to be used for the meeting of deficits and for the provision of funds for public works, and it is obvious that the more we require to meet a deficit the less there is available for public works. That emphasizes the need for keeping our deficits within the smallest limit. This can be done by decreasing public expenditure and/or by increasing taxation, though both courses are for various reasons impracticable, and, in any event, would affect the situation only in a very small degree.
The next matter of major consideration is the tariff. There are those who regard the tariff as the sole and only solution for most of our troubles, on the ground that the higher the customs wall, the fewer our imports, and, therefore, the more work for Australian hands to do. One has not the time to pursue the effect of the tariff in relation to unemployment, but I am much impressed with the argument that the natural resources of a country impose a limit beyond which increased protection interferes with primary production, and offsets many of the benefits of protection.
In any broad consideration of the unemployment problem we are obliged to give some attention to the standard of living. I mention this, not because I think a reduction of the standard of living would necessarily make any contribution to the solution of our difficulties, but because I believe we must take cognizance of it even in a short conspectus of the situation such as I am now attempting. We wish our standard of living to be as high as possible, for social and for humanitarian reasons, and also because with a high standard of living and good wages we get the biggest possible home market for our primary products, and our primary producers, create the basis of our national income, although their own standard of living is governed not by any artificially imposed standard, but solely by their own labour, and the chance of the seasons.
Another subject which is possibly too large to discuss in the few minutes available to me, but which I submit for the consideration of the Government, is the relation of fixed money claims to the purchasing power of the community, through the medium of a weighted index figure. To a great extent, the budgetary difficulties of this and most other countries are due largely to the non-observance of that principle. Debt service and other such charges on the community, fixed at a time when gold is low in value, become intolerable burdens when gold values are high. The difficulties in the way of tackling this problem are considerable; but they are not insuperable.
The control of exchange is essentially a federal matter, and one which must be considered in relation to unemployment. We have to try to strike a happy mean, or the least unhappy mean. Exchange lower than its proper economic level induces deflation, and consequent increase in unemployment, and if it is too high it will produce a rise in prices in this country, in addition to an increased burden on our budget in the service of our overseas debt.
One of the preoccupations of the Commonwealth Government should be the watching of the exchange rate to see that it does not affect adversely any of the considerations I have mentioned.
Whenever a member on this side of the House uses the word” confidence “ a lack of enthusiasm is shown by honorable members opposite. Yet this word was extensively and effectively used by us during the last election campaign. The people of this country now have a Commonwealth Government in which they have complete confidence. But that is not the complete story, because confidence does not rest solely upon a sound Commonwealth Government. That is one factor. The Government of New South Wales is another potent factor, and is being dealt with, as we know.Confidence of the business community in the stability of prices and conditions overseas has not yet been restored, and this is, unfortunately, not in our power to effect.
I have tried very quickly to cover some of the principal factors that are the preoccupation of the Commonwealth Government from the purely federal aspect of unemployment. These are what might be called the long range aspects of the subject. The conference of representatives of the Commonwealth and State Governments to be held within a few weeks in Melbourne will be required to consider both the short and the long range aspects of the subject, the short range aspect being the provision of relief work of a more or less reproductive character, and the long range aspects being the other considerationswhich I have mentioned.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This is the first occasion on which we have discussed the subject of unemployment when every member who has participated in the debate has shown a realization of the deplorable condition to which the people have come, and a willingness, so far as his abilities will permit, to do something to remedy these conditions. Unemployment is universal. Some say that the cause of it is finance, but Major Douglas says that its cause is a bad system of bookkeeping, and he is, to a great extent, right. The question is whether machines own the men or the men own the machines. We know very well that millions of workers have been displaced by the splendid inventive genius of other men. An old Greek philosopher said that we could not have civilization unless we had slaves or machines to do the work of the . world. The time has come when machinery is doing the world’s work, and is displacing mankind.
I propose to direct the attention of honorable members once again to the possibility of minting silver money to overcome our difficulties. During the life of the last Parliament, the Labour caucus, with the exception of one gentleman, Mr. Theodore, agreed with my views on this subject. That gentleman admitted that he was a bimetallist, and I said, “ Thank God for small mercies “ ; but he was not willing to go as far as I desired him to go in the application of the principle to our currency. Not many people realize that when the banking institutions of the world adopted the gold standard, they sentenced every third person in the world to poverty, misery and starvation. During the election campaign, which resulted in the return of the Scullin Government, a promise was made that, if Labour were returned to power, the coal-miners would be returned to work within a fortnight. I. tried to do what I could to help the coal-miners, and when I found that my efforts were in vain, 1 decided to devote myself to the assistance of the miners of silver. At that time the price of silver had fallen to the lowest figure on record for more than a century. It was only ls. per oz. I pointed out that one ounce , of silver could be minted into 5s. 6d. worth of currency, which would show a profitof 4s. 6d. per oz., or 450 per cent. I urged the Government of the day to mint £1,000,000 worth of silver into silver coinage, which would have given us currency to the value of £5,500,000. I knew very well that no working man or woman in Australia would refuse to accept silver as wages. But I could not get my proposal beyond Mr. Theodore. I hope, however, that this Government will consider the matter seriously. Silver is now ls. 7d. per oz.. so that the profit on the minting of an ounce of silver would be only 247 per cent; but even that is a good profit. For the sake of my argument, I shall revert to figures which I prepared when silver was ls. an oz. The Premier of Western Australia, Sir James Mitchell, and Mr. Lang, are the only people, so far as I know, in positions of authority in governments, who have admitted the wisdom of my scheme. Sir James Mitchell said that he would be prepared to pay 2 per cent, interest on a loan made available iu silver currency, and Mr. Lang has said that if he had the power to mint money, he would commence minting silver to-morrow. If Sir James Mitchell could make a choice between a loan in notes or credit at 6 per cent., and a loan in silver at 2 per cent, he would not hesitate to accept the latter. If the Commonwealth Government would mint £5,500,000 worth of silver coinage and lend it to the Western Australian Government at 2 per cent., it would show a profit of 11 per cent., but the profit would be only 0 per cent, on a loan in notes or credit. If silver money could be made available to municipalities, shire councils and other public bodies, they could undertake a great deal of necessary construction and maintenance work. Our councils, for instance, could undertake road maintenance and repairs. The PostmasterGeneral could also put useful work in hand if money were available at 2 per cent. Many of our post offices are a disgrace to us simply because they need renovation. I took a photograph of one post office, and, after a great deal of trouble, was able to get the previous Postmaster-General to agree to the painting of it.
There is another way in which we could make substantial profits out of the coining of silver money. In 1920 the people of Great Britain were nervous about the result of issuing fiduciary notes to the value of £300,000,000. At that time silver was as dear as it has ever been, and Great Britain decided to coin silver which contained only 500 parts of silver per 1,000 parts. I hold a British silver coin which contains only that percentage of silver, the rest of it being alloy. Our silver coins contain 925 parts of silver per 1,000, and only 75 parts of alloy. It will be apparent to honorable members that if silver coins were minted with only 500 parts of silver, as against 925 parts, we could make available nearly twice the amount of’ currency from the same amount of silver.
I trust the Government will give earnest consideration to this proposal. The soundness of this scheme has never been challenged by any banker, to my knowledge. On the other hand, keen business men have expressed astonishment that the previous Government did not take advantage of the proposal. But, as I have said, I found it impossible to persuade Mr. Theodore to adopt the proposal, though every other member of the caucus, including some honorable members who are members of this Parliament, was willing to do so. I should welcome any inquiry, or any criticism that was based upon logic. Arguments such as that the space involved would make the scheme impracticable are merely foolish. This chamber is sufficiently large to hold all the silver that has been taken out of the mines of the world from primeval times. Silver constitutes an excellent credit, for any nation. Every coinage system in the world, with the exception of those of Great Britain and Ireland, and the dominions of South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, is based upon silver. The dollar of the United States of America and Canada, the mark of Germany, the franc of France, the peseta of Spain - from the east to the west, silver is the basis of currency. The world will never obtain to a real basis for the interchange of goods until bimetallism is adopted and the fetish of gold is discarded. If, upon investigation, my figures are shown to be wrong, I shall gladly accept the correction and amend my speeches on the subject in the future.
.- I rise to a personal explanation arising out of misrepresentation by the press of a speech of mine in this House.
In to-day’s Sydney Daily Telegraph, that journalistic offal vendor publishes the following screeching headline: - “ James, M.H.R., threatens revolution and bloodshed “, under which I am reported as having said -
There is a determination in New South Wales to resist this interference by the Commonwealth, even to the extent of revolution and bloodshed.
I claim that that is wilful and deliberate misrepresentation. Rather than threaten bloodshed, I deplored the fact that the legislation which was being debated at the time might bring about revolution; and I expressed the hope that such & spectacle would not be witnessed in any part of this Commonwealth. I also said that honorable . members opposite possibly did not realize the extent of the resistance that might be offered by the people of New South Wales, and that they would not like to be pitted against their brothers in a revolution. I claim that, as a member of this Parliament, I am entitled to receive from the press justice and fair treatment. I have gone very carefully through the Hansard report of my speech, and can say that there is not in it a threat of any kind. I ask any honorable member of this House if he can remember my threatening revolution in the State of New South Wales.
– The honorable member did not make any such threat.
– No honorable member opposite can say that I did. Rather did I deplore the fact that such legislation as we were then considering might bring about a revolution, which nobody desired in this country that we all love so much. Those were my exact words. It was grossly unjust for a pressman to send to his newspaper a report that wilfully and deliberately misrepresented what I said.
– This is the usual hour -for the dinner suspension, and I have no option but to leave the Chair unless the House decides otherwise.
– It is possible that, if we “adjourned now, there might not be a quorum when we re-assembled at 8 o’clock. That would not matter to the Government, but it would matter to those honorable members who, as a consequence, were prevented from contributing to the debate. In the circumstances, perhaps, it might be better to continue the sitting for a while.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the sitting be continued?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– I have listened to this debate with a great deal of interest. The problem of unemployment is the most vital that this Parliament has to solve, in the interest, not only of orderly government, but also of the contentment of the people of Australia. Many governments have endeavoured to solve it, but have failed, principally because, the issue has been clouded by party politics. It was refreshing, therefore, to find the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Soullin ) approaching the subject in a spirit of co-operation. That example should have the acquiescence of every honorable member of this House. I trust that this spirit will continue, because without it we shall not be able to solve the difficulty.
Much has been said on the subject of industry. It has been admitted in this House that 80 per cent, of those who are employed in Australia are engaged in industry. “We know that, at the present time, industry is stagnant, and suffering from a lack of stimulation., due largely to too much government interference and too heavy taxation. It must be conceded that too much legislation is as bad as none at all. Every £1,000 that is withdrawn from industry by taxation lessens to that extent the amount available for the payment of wages upon industrial development, with a proportionate increase in the costs of production. I welcome the appointment of the committee that has been co-opted to advise the Premiers Conference. There are many experts outside Parliament who could give valuable advice on the subject. I give members of the left wing of the Labour party credit for sincerity in endeavouring to bring about a solution of the unemployment problem; they, like honorable members on this side, represent constituents whose claims should be heard.
Let me indicate some of the results of the industrial legislation passed in NewSouth “Wales in the last eighteen months. The last banking returns that are available furnish a striking story. I shall show that money is being driven over the border into Victoria. The fixed deposits in New South “Wales in September, 1930, for the quarter before the Lang administration took office, amounted, in round figures, to £69,500,000, while fixed deposits in Victoria at that time totalled to £62,000,000. At the end of December, 1931, the respective totals were - New South Wales, £60,000,000; Victoria, £71,250,000. Those figures show a decrease in New South Wales of £9,500,000, and an increase in Victoria of £9,250,000. The funds available for loan by banks in Victoria at that period had increased by 14.6 per cent., while those in New South Wales had decreased by 13.8 per cent. Bank deposits in Victoria had increased by 17.3 per cent., and those in New South Wales had decreased by 3.2 per cent. The figures clearly show that the people of Victoria can regard the Administration now7 in power in New South Wales as one of the best assets they have.
It is claimed, I note with much interest, by one or two honorable members opposite that the increased production due to the introduction of machinery is largely responsible for the unemployment difficulty. I would like the committee that has been co-opted to assist the Government to go into this matter, because it has an important bearing on the problem. The people of Australia would “welcome a review of the situation that has been brought about by the system of government relief known as the dole. At the present time, £13,000,000 is spent annually in Australia in affording this relief, and while it is recognized that the people must be fed, this system costs Australia £2_per head of the population. It is an economic waste which should be replaced by reproductive works. If the various governments of Australia could supplement by £2,000,000 the amount required for the dole, employment at the rate of one week in each month could be provided for 200,000 men. To save overhead charges, shire and municipal councils who have the necessary plant should co-operate with the Government.. Honorable members with municipal experience will appreciate the point. In that, way reproductive works for the development of Australia could be put in hand, much of the enforced idleness which is gradually destroying the fibre of the manhood of Australia would disappear, and ambition and initiative would be encouraged.
– I deplore the fact that the ministerial benches have been almost unoccupied during practically the whole of this vital debate. Greater interest should have been evinced in this important subject. I listened intently to the various arguments that have been advanced by honorable members, particularly the proposal of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), who was supported by other members of the Country party. I also heard the schemes outlined by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey), the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) and others. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) talked loud and long, but made no useful contribution to the debate; not one constructive idea was advanced by him. With due respect for the arguments put forward by various speakers, I submit that it is of no use to emphasize the losses in industry in dealing with the vital problem that now awaits solution; time is of the essence of the contract. The unemployed have passed through one winter, hungry in many instances, and dependent on the dole.’ They are now faced with the danger of having to submit to another winter of want, unless governments are prepared to act quickly.
Under the scheme suggested by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), work is already waiting to be done. All that is required is prompt governmental action. Existing departments should make available the money necessary to carry out the work. The farmers and graziers are unable, unaided, to increase the productiveness of their land. The bounteous rains that have recently fallen throughout the country make conditions ideal for carrying into effect the scheme propounded by the honorable member for Calare, and, therefore, I suggest that the Governments of the States and of the Commonwealth should forget party differences, and see that the scheme is put into operation immediately. The argument has been advanced that if production is increased it will be impossible to find markets for the additional produce; but I maintain that if the necessary money is made available for increasing the productiveness of the land, and large numbers of people who are now idle are given employment, markets will be created automatically for the absorption of the product of the land. The proposal would provide wages and healthy occupation, which would be much preferable to the acceptance of the dole. I do not favour low wages; as a matter of fact, I stand for high wages all the time,
Ifr. Collins. and I say that as an employer of labour ; but I like to see the wages that are given earned. I have stated previously that I desire to do nothing to prevent a workman from getting what his brain a.nd brawn can earn, because high wages create buying power, and enable the workers to be recognized as a contributing factor to prosperity. I hope that the State Premiers will lose no time in seeing that work is provided for those who need it.
. -The provision of employ-men t for the workless is undoubtedly a matter of paramount importance, for there can be no successful economic and financial rehabilitation of Australia while 300,000 of our work people are idle. Doubtless, the Government will collate the suggestions put forward to-day, and during previous discussions on this subject, and will be able to submit concrete proposals after the Premiers Conference that is to be held in the near future. It is undoubtedly pur duty to create avenues of employment, but it is also necessary to keep people in employment. With the limited time at our disposal to-day, we cannot go thoroughly into the whole question of un employment, but I take this opportunity to point out that certain anomalies and rulings under our sales tax acts have a tendency to reduce employment. Paradoxical as it may seem, we may, by the imposition of more taxation, secure less revenue. All taxation is, more or less, objectionable, but our sales taxation is most objectionable. Although the Government will have its hands pretty full during the recess, I hope that it will give consideration to the removal of some of the anomalies and injustices which are brought about by the administration of our sales tax legislation. In my opinion, the sales tax should be abolished as soon as the financial position of the Commonwealth will permit it, but, in the meantime, some of the anomalies which cause annoyance and irritation should receive attention. I suggest that the tax should be collected at the source, as is done in the case of excise duties, that is to say, upon the importation or manufacture of the commodity.
Although fish and similar products areexempt from the sales tax, the Taxation
Department claims that as mutton birds are processed, they are liable to the tax. The only processing to which the birds are subjected is to salt them before placing them on the market. Beef, when corned and pickled, is exempt, yet mutton birds when salted are taxed! It is generally understood that all uncooked meats are exempt from sales tax, yet mutton birds, which are uncooked, are taxed. The people who are engaged in the mutton bird industry are mostly half-castes, whose income over a year on the average does not exceed more than £1 a week. If, in addition to what they have to pay for freight, wharfage, stacking charges, &c, they have also to pay 6 per cent. on their returns from the sale of the birds, their industry will be ruined. The sales tax officials in Tasmania, who arc conversant with local conditions, say definitely that these birds should not be subject to sales tax. I have received the following letter on this subject from. Major B. H. Davies, a member of the Tasmanian Parliament : -
Thereare engaged in the industry for about two months every year about 250 men, women and children. The annual value of the industry is about £8,500. The total catch of birds varies from 800,000 to 1,000,000 annually. The oil is worth about3s. per gallon, and at present the feathers are unsaleable. Sonic few years ago birds were worth 25s. per 100, but the present market price is from 12s. 6d.to 15s. per 100. I would like to point out that this is practically a primary product and not a synthetic food, the birds being simply salted and casked.
Those concerned at present are not earning a living wage, and are mostly relying on the merchants to carry them over. Included in those interested are those people on Cape Barren - the half-castes - who are in a very bad way as regards having means to support them.
The half-castes are engaged birding for two or three months, and for the rest of the year are fishing and seailing, but rheir earnings are not more than £1 a week on the average over the year. If they are compelled to pay 6 per cent. sales tax it will mean ruin to them, and a number of them will be thrown out of employment.
Many anomalies under our sales tax laws should be removed. I suggest that all foodstuffs should be exempted. A person whois engaged in the preparation or manufacture of taxable commodities, and has a turnover of £50 a year in such taxable commodities, is obliged to register provided his gross turnover is £1,000 a year. Thus, a man with a gross turnover of £4,000 a year, but with a turnover of less than £50 worth of taxable goods, is not obliged to register, and consequently, pays no tax, whereas a man engaged in the same line of business whose gross turnover may be only a little over £1,000 a year, is obliged to register, and pay sales tax if his turnover in taxable goods is a little over £50 a year. Again, a tailor or mercer with a gross turnover of £10,000 or £12,000 a year pays tax on manufactured goods, that is to say, tailormade suits, although his turnover in those particular goods may be less than £1,000 a year, whereas a man who is purely a tailor, and whose turnover in manufactured goods is also under £1,000, is not required to register and pays no tax, except on the raw material he uses. He pays 6 per cent. on the invoice price of the roll of cloth he uses. The other pays 6 per cent. on the sale price of the ready-made suit less 15 per cent.For every Is. paid by one man in tax, the other man in identically the same line of business pays approximately £1. Educational books, including some containing splendid reviews of the working of various industries throughout the world, the compilation of which has necessitatedmost extensive research, are sent to Australia absolutely free, but are taxable. Although these publications are of inestimable educational value, they are subject to this abominable sales tax. I trust that the Government will consider the points I have mentioned in this connexion, particularly with regard to the mutton bird industry, which, if penalized any further, will cause further unemployment.
– I regret that the benches of the Labour party are practically empty, and that only two members of the Country party are present. It is rather discourteous of those honorable members who have spoken to leave the chamber. I should like, however, to direct the attention of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) to the fact that the greatest objection to the scheme which he outlined for providing employment is the very high price of land.
– Plenty of cheap landis available.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. I heard only recently that one of the wealthiest men in New South Wales was unsuccessful in his endeavour to obtain suitable land on the north coast.
– The honorable member should go west.
– Any one seeking cheap land in that direction would find that the problem of making a living is even greater there than it is in other districts. Although railways have been extended into the western districts of New South Wales there are still tremendous areas adjacent to railway lines and much closer to the seaboard, that could be utilized for closer settlement and intensive culture. During the five and a half years I was a member of the State Parliament I found in travelling north, south and west of Sydney - particularly in the western division - that even had the Government of that State not spent a penny upon railway construction, beautiful land adjacent to townships could be made available if it could only be obtained at a reasonable price.
Mr. James having called attention to the state of the House, and subsequently ashing leave to withdraw the call,
– In travelling through the country districts of New South Wales, I have met with requests from landholders for the construction of railway lines through virgin country, who promised that if a line were constructed the land would be brought under intense cultivation. A reference to the records will show that where lines were built giving the landowners an increased price of £4 or £5 per acre for their land, very little of the area served has been brought under cultivation. It was my intention to make several suggestions whereby employment could be provided; but I shall reserve what I have to say on the subject until some future occasion. I may say, however, that the exploitation of the worker by the worker is largely responsible for the position with which we are now confronted.
I take this opportunity of directing the attention of the Government to the hardships experienced by war widows who are at present deprived of a pension, and to earnestly request that further consideration be given to the matter before further pensions are withdrawn. The last Government passed an act which deprived of a pension a woman who has £200 in the bank. Honorable members are constantly receiving letters from all parts of the Commonwealth asking why a widow who lost her husband at the front should be deprived of a pension when she has £200 in the bank. A peculiar anomaly exists in that one widow who may have a home worth £800 and £150 in the bank is entitled to a pension, while another widow who does not own a home and has £250 in the bank is refused a pension. I have already brought one case under the notice of the department of an elderly lady who kept boarders, whose only son was killed at the war, and who, as a result of her thrift, was able to save up £250. She is not entitled, to the pension. Why should a woman who has reached the age of 70 years, and has that amount in the bank, be compelled to live in a home for the aged and infirm? I hope that during the recess the Minister will instruct his officers to interpret the law more liberally. I know of scores of women whose wealthy sons have left them without protection in their old age, with the result that they have ended their days in the Newington asylum. That fate awaits these women of whom I speak, for their £200 will not last them many months. Unfortunately, there is differentiation in the treatment of war widows. I do not know whether the law, or the interpretation of the law, is at fault. Some cases which I have brought before the Deputy Commissioner in Sydney have been dealt with there, while others have been sent on to Melbourne for decision, and I have been unable to make personal representations to the officer with whom has rested the final decision. I hope that the Minister will see that all mothers of worthy sons who were killed at the war will retain their right to a pension.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 6.53 p.m. until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 March 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19320317_reps_13_133/>.