13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. H.Mackay) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Regulation 32 under the Dairy Produce Export Control Act provides that, when the chairman or any member of the board is engaged on any business of the board outside Australia he shall be paid his actual travelling expenses and a fee of £5 for each day he is engaged on such business. I ask the Minister for Markets whether the daily fee was fixed by the Government, whether it will be payable for each day on which a member of the board now abroad is travelling, and whether the regulation does not lend itself to abuse at the expense of the dairy farmers?
– The regulationwas not made by the Government. It does not apply to public moneys. It is made by the Dairy Produce Export Control Board, and relates to the funds of the board. I understand from the Government representative on the board that it relates to cases which have not occurred until this year, when special investigations were carried out, where it was considered by the board to be necessary to enable members of the board to proceed overseas without expense to their employers, which are co-operative companies. The travelling expenses to which reference is made in the regulation are travelling expenses on the scale paid to members of the board when travelling to attend meetings of the board in Australia, for which they receive no fee ; but when they are absent from Australia, and not drawing their salary from their co-operative companies, the board considers that a fee equivalent to that salary should be paid. In those circumstances I do not consider that there would be any question of exploitation of producers. The producers have, through their cooperatives, a substantial majority of representatives on the board, and for the Government to lay down the way in which they shall manage their business would be a step towards interference with the producers in the management of their board, which has not been made in the past, and which, I do not think it is necessary to embark on at present, when the producers have it in their own hands through their representatives to manage their own affairs.
Applications fob Employment.
– A circular recently issued by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician contains instructions to applicants for employment in connexion with the taking of the 1933 census, and states that candidates will be examined in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. Will the Prime Minister include Brisbane in the examination centres, and thereby give to the unemployed of that city the same opportunity as has been afforded the unemployed in other states to secure work in connexion with the census ?
– An examination should be held in Adelaide too.
– In all capitals.
-I shall investigate that suggestion, and if practicable it will be adopted.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral grant to subscribers who have purchased telephone instruments of the new type at a cost of £4 each an adequate revision of rental charges?
– A number of subscribers having expressed the desire to use thenew type of telephone, permission was given to them to install the instruments at their own expense, and I can see no prospect of concessions in regard to rental charges being made at the present time. As an experiment, the department is calling for tenders for the supply of 1,000 of the new instruments, and, if a satisfactory quotation is received, arrangements will be made to extend their use.
– The finance and commerce columns of the Argus of the 17th August, contain this paragraph -
EASY PROFIT ON BONDS.
Unwittingly the door has been left open by the Loan Council to dealers in Commonwealth bonds to make quick and certain profits. Last weekfor a few hours the market prices ofseveral of theAustralian consolidated loans were quotedasabove par. The price, however, was inclusive of accrued interest, and par was not really attained. Had the value exclusive of interest exceeded £100, it would have been possible for a speculator to purchasesuch securities at par over the counter from any State treasury, the Loan Council having granted authority to State treasurers to deal thus in Commonwealth securities. He could then have sold the bonds on anystock exchange and made a profit.
I ask the Prime Minister whether the authority granted by the Loan Council to State treasurers to sell Commonwealth bonds at par “ over the counter,” irrespective of their price on the market, is still current?
– Because of the enhanced value of the bonds, that authority has been withdrawn.
Expenses of Australian Delegates
– Will the Prime Minister state what expenses, if any, the Government is meeting in respect to the trip overseas of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and the ex-member for Brisbane, Sir Donald Cameron, who are to attend the Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva?
– The Government is incurring no expense whatever so far as the travelling of these gentlemen overseas is concerned, but is meeting the ordinary expenses incurred by them while actually attending, as Australian delegates, the Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva. Their expenses will be paid from London, or from whatever other place in the United Kingdom they leave for the conference.
– Will the Prime Minister state the number of officers in the Public Service in receipt of £400 a year or more who have had salary increases since the 1st January last?
– I shall obtain the information, and make it available- to the honorable member.
– Has the Government as yet come to any decision regarding the taxation of certain moneys belonging to the Starr Bowkett Societies?
– No decision has been come to, but further consideration will be given to the matter.
– There is a rumour current in Queensland that the Commonwealth Government proposes to prohibit the use of hoop pine for the manufacture of butter boxes. Will the Minister for Commerce state whether there is any foundation for that rumour?
– My attention has been drawn to a report which stated that the Minister for Agriculture in Queensland had expressed fear that the Commonwealth Government might impose such a prohibition. I assure honorable members that no such proposal has been brought under my notice^ nor is the matter even being considered. On the contrary, in conjunction with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Government is making every effort to improve* the condition of hoop<pine as a wood from which boxes can be made for the export of Australian butter.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral state whether the terms of the inquiry to be conducted by a royal commissioner into the operations of the Performing Right Association in Australia are to be limited in any way, and, if so, in what direction? Is the commissioner to take evidence in the capital cities only, and, if so, what steps does the AttorneyGeneral propose to take to enable persons in the country to lay complaints before the commissioner?
– I stated in the House recently the precise terms of reference to the royal commissioner, and I think that they cover all aspects of the matter. If there is any question which the honorable member thinks is not, but ought to :be included, I shall be glad to have it brought, under my notice. The Commissioner himself will decide the places at which evidence will be taken, and interested parties will be able to make representations to him for sittings to be held at particular places. It is desired, “however, that the inquiry shall be as iu- expensive as possible.
Standard Horns and Wades
– Having regard to the desirability of establishing an Aus- tralianwide standard of wages and hours, and in view of the general” agreement on this matter by all parties concerned, will the Prime Minister State whether it is the intention of the Government to allow the electors at an early date to express their opinion on the constitutional issues involved?
– B - Before such a standard as that referred to by the honorable member could be established, it would be necessary to hold a referendum on the amendment of the Constitution. As that would cost £100,000, the matter must be seriously considered before such expenditure could be undertaken.
– Has the report, of the Tariff Board on bunker coal been presented ‘to the Government; if not, when is it expected?
– The report is in the hands of the department, but is not yet. ready for printing.
Eviction of Occupants
– Will the Minister for the Interior state whether there is any truth in the published report that it is the intention of the Government to evict the occupants of Government-owned houses in Canberra who have fallen into arrears in the payment of their rent owing to unemployment, or to intermiittency of employment?
– It is a fact that a considerable number of residences are at present occupied by persons who pay no rent for them. No decision has yet been come to, but the matter is under consideration.
– Recently, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) asked me the following question : -
Has -the Prime Minister any knowledge thai an overseas firm with brunches in the various States and a head ellice in England, is defrauding the Commonwealth of large sums of money through evasion of income tax? If not, will he institute inquiries us early >u> possible with a view to making thu House conversant with information which may he in the possession of the Taxation .Department, so that it may he considered in relation to the Government’s proposal to sim tol) 2s. fid. from the old-ap! and invalid pensioners, and to adopt inquisitorial methods in connexion with the administration of the pensions?
I undertook to inquire into the matter, and referred it to the Commissioner of Taxation, who, in his report to me, stated that he had no knowledge of any such case. If the honorable member will furnish the name of the firm, together with any other information in his possession, further inquiries will be made.
– Can the Assistant Minister for Customs state when the Tariff Board’s report on textiles will be available ?
– I cannot state definitely when it will be ready.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to the conduct of the Glass Distributing Company, which has imposed penalties amounting to £450 on traders, and has forced some glass merchants into liquidation, while others have been refused supplies, for selling glass below the stipulated price? Will he have an inquiry made into the company’s affairs, to determine whether it does not constitute a monopoly in restraint of trade?
– I am not aware of the circumstances to which the honorable member has referred, but if he will furnish the information to my department they will be inquired into.
– Does the British ^Government propose to establish the quota system in connexion with beef imports into Great Britain, and if so, can the Minister say what is Australia’s quota? Does the Government propose to appoint some authority to allocate the portion of this quota which each State is to supply?
– The British Government, under an agreement come to at Ottawa, undertakes to regulate the imports of beef as well as mutton and lamb into Great Britain, and a quota was provided for Australia for the calendar year 1933. The actual figure is confidential, but I can assure the honorable member that it is such as will require the absolute minimum of regulation to ensure the maintenance of the quota.
Formal Motion fob Adjournment.
– I have received an intimation from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The disallowance of determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- I have moved the adjournment of the House as this is a matter of urgency. Last Friday I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) whether the Government would agree to stay its hand, and not put into operation any disallowance of the award that might be carried in another place until the matter has been discussed in this House, and members here had expressed their views as to the proposed action of the Government. As the Prime Minister declined to do that, I now take this, the first opportunity, to’ make protest on behalf of the Opposition, and to give honorable members an opportunity to object to what I regard as a serious infringement of a great principle.
The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) said on Friday last that the disallowance of the Senate would take effect irrespective of what we did in this chamber, but that .suggests a defiance of the opinion of this House which I cannot believe the Government would be prepared to do. It is true that either House may disallow an award of the Public Service Arbitrator, and it may be technically true that this award is not consistent with certain sections of the act or regulations made under it. But so much is true of every award. Such an objection is merely technical, and does not touch the merits of the case. Last year, when the financial position of Australia was much more serious than it is to-day - certainly the financial position of the Commonwealth Government was then more serious - the position of surplus officers - particularly in the
Postal Department - came up for the consideration of my Government. The matter was brought before us by the Public Service Board, and we had to decide whether the surplus men should be dismissed and juniors engaged in their place. Our decision was emphatically that these men should be retained in the Service, and employed at the basic wage. They were retained in junior, or so-called “ minor “ positions, and they did not receive the increments which they would have received had they been in senior positions but were being paid the basic wage. We thus preserved and safeguarded the principle of the minimum living wage. The action of the present Government in departing from our decision of last year is a violation of a vital and long-standing principle which has been accepted by this Parliament and by the Arbitration Court of this country, the principle that a minimum living wage shall be paid to every adult irrespective of the class of work upon which he is employed. When the basic wage for the Public Service wa3 much higher than it is to-day, and the financial position of the Commonwealth Government was worse, the principle of the basie wage was maintained. Even last year when we were facing a possible deficit of £20,000,000, none of the economies then instituted reduced the wage of adults in the Public Service below the basic wage. The Public Service Board in its report to Parliament last year on the arrangements made to deal with these surplus officers said that it would “ ensure that the officers should not be excessively overpaid for the work they are required to perform,” That was the opinion of the board when the arrangement was made for the surplus men to be engaged in minor occupations, and to receive the adult basic wage. A change was made by the present Government by regulation. The unions thereupon appealed to the Public Service Arbitrator. He examined the facts, and his award was that the adult basic wage should be maintained. Many of these adults, although classified in junior positions and receiving less than adult wages, are actually employed in adult positions. In other cases some of the work-in these classified positions is similar to the work done in adult positions. The Arbitrator in his determination said -
As recently as July, 1931, the Commonwealth Parliament in the Financial Emergency Act specifically re-affirmed this principle by providing that no adult male should be reduced below the basic wage. This decision is so recent and so definite in its pronouncement that, in my opinion, action contravening that expressed intention should not bc taken without the specific assent of Parliament.
Parliament means, not one chamber but both Houses of legislature. The real basic wage of the Public Service is £186, which amount, less child endowment of £12, leaves a living wage of £174 per annum, or £3 6s. lid. per week. That is low enough in all conscience ! The living wage has been reduced to £3 6s. lid. by the application of a reduction in cost of living figures which commenced to operate on the 1st July of this year. That wage is too low, notwithstanding that it is said to be based on the cost of living figures! It is, however, the basic wage of these men under the award. But because of the action of this Government, adults employed in the Public Service will receive a wage as low as £2 12s. a week. This is a shameful thing which should not be tolerated by this Parliament. The Arbitrator further said -
It was submitted that these rates of pay were adequate from the point of view of work value. Mr. Justice Powers, in dealing with the salary rates for telegraph officers, said on this point, “ The minimum wage as a minimum living wage only is fixed not on the value of the work, but on the principles recognized by the Federal Parliament and by this Court that a man at the age of 21 years is entitled to such a wage as will enable him to marry and live in reasonable comfort after lie does marry.”
The Arbitrator said that he concurred in that view. He went on to Say -
It was contended that the prescribed rates lower than the basic wage are adequate for a male adult who is unmarried. If it be valid the application of a new basic wage for an unmarried adult should not be limited to the small number of officers concerned in this claim.
That,” I submit, is a logical view. If we are to have a new basic wage discriminating between married and unmarried men, the change should not be confined to this small number of men. But no honorable member in this House would dare to advocate such discrimination. In the Public Service £12 per annum for child endowment is deducted from the ascertained basic wage, so that unmarried men really receive £12 per annum less than the minimum wage, in order to provide child endowment for those who are married and have families. I have been unable to check up statements made on behalf of the Government with respect to the cost of this endowment; but I venture the opinion that the cost has been grossly exaggerated, and that the position has not been candidly placed before the Senate.
The number of officers affected is 854, and that is but a small proportion of the total number in the Public Service. The figures that have been quoted are based on what it is said would occur over a period of five years; but why not, give the actual figures for the present financial year, so that honorable members may judge for themselves. The alleged cost, spread over five years, is based on the assumption that there will be no revival in post office business in the near future.
– There is now a not gain of 88 in the number of telephones connected, whereas twelve months ago there was a considerable loss.
– Quite so. The evidence from the department is that the surplus men will be absorbed long before five years have elapsed, owing to retirements, and the general wastage in the department. The Government has made no allowance for staff increases that may be necessary; yet the Prime Minister, in his budget speech, drew attention to the increase in the number of telephones connected in the last financial year. Is retrogression to continue for five years? Are we not now experiencing merely emergency conditions? Yet the Government is budgeting, in this case, for a period of five years. It holds out hope that within six months there may be a reduction of taxation ; but it is prepared to impose the worst form of taxation on the lowest paid section of the Public Service.
It has been suggested that the Government’s action is humane, the object being to avoid dismissals; but I absolutely dispute that statement. The last Govern ment faced this problem in a more acute form last year. It did not conclude that the alternative to dismissals was to reduce the employees concerned below the living wage, although they were of adult age. MyGovernment dealt with the position, and the Public Service Board reported to Parliament that it was satisfied with the decision reached. No member in either House took exception to what was done. Although it is suggested that the officers concerned are working in minor positions, they are not employed on boys’ work; their duties are of a. serious and important nature. Some of them, although classified as juniors or minors, are doing work similar to that performed by adults, and in some cases they are working alongside adults. The PostmasterGeneral will not, say that telephonists’ work is not being done by adults; yet some of these officers are carrying out work of that nature. The Public Service Arbitrator, in bis determination, also said -
The analysis made of the staffing position in the Postmaster-General’s Department indicates that that department as a whole is not overmanned. . . . Dismissal from the Service is not the inevitable alternative to the retention of the principle of payment of the basic wage to male adults.
That is the opinion of the impartial Arbitrator, who heard all the evidence and sifted it without fear or favour. I venture to say that not two Ministers in the Cabinet have even read the determination of the Arbitrator, let alone examined the evidence as closely as he has. The Government should allow the Arbitrator’s award to stand. For the past six or seven months, the Public Service unions have been before the Arbitrator, and a number of awards given by him have gone against the unions; but these awards are not being disallowed. Are we to take it that the principle laid down by this Government is that arbitration awards shall be honoured only when it suits the Ministry? One of the gibes commonly hurled against trade unions by supporters of theGovernment is that the unions abide by awards only when they raise wages, but now we have the Government refusing to abide by an award which is favorable to employees. Yet this Government sponsored the arbitration laws and the appointment of the Arbitration Court. It is not prepared to honour an award that goes against it, but it wishes the unions to abide by awards which do not favour them ! That is not equitable, and it is not in accordance withthe principle of arbitration.
A vital principle is involved in this matter, and, therefore, I regard the motion as urgent. It is not too late now for the Government to retract from the position that it has taken up. Let it deal with the situation as we find it in the present financial year, and meet other circumstances as they arise from time to time. To take 800 men who have been classed as surplus, largely as a result of the policy of the parliament rather than of the department, would be to do a grossly unfair thing. The consideration shown to returned soldiers is, undoubtedly, responsible for the position that has now arisen, a. large number of adults being engaged on junior work. I am not objecting tothat. It is not, however, the fault of the young men coining on that they are finding it difficult to obtain positions; the responsibility rests upon this Parliament. If there is financial stringency - and the budget statement shows that the position is not so acute as it was twelve months ago - let the Government come down to this chamber with proposals for economy. Ministers would not be able to induce this Parliament to agree to the principle that the brunt of the sacrifice should be borne by the lowest paid members of the Public Service. The Government’s decision not only flouts the award of the Public Service Arbitrator, but strikes a blow at the vital principle of a minimum living wage. The action taken by the Government is unnecessary and unjust, and I urge it to reconsider this farreaching decision.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) intimated that, owing to the matter being one of urgency, he was prompted to move the formal adjournment of the House; but surely it is within his recollection that only last week the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) intimated that every opportunity to discuss this matter would be afforded when the SupplyBill came before us. There was no desire on the part of the Government to burke discussion on this subject. It is well known to all honorable members that the act under which the Public Service Arbitrator was appointed is different in many respects from the general arbitration act. If I may express my personal opinion, I think that the time has arrived when workers, generally, both in and outside the Public Service, should be brought under the provisions of the general act. Sub-section 5 of section 22 of the Arbitration (Public Service) Act reads -
If, inthecase of a determination accompanied by such a statement of the Arbitrator, or opinion of the Attorney-General, as is above referred to, either House of the Parliament, within thirty days after the determination with the statement or opinion has been laid before both Houses, passes a resolution disapproving the determination, the determination shall not come into operation.
It falls within the province of the Public Service Arbitrator to deal with members of the Public Service.
The following figures were supplied to me to-day relative to the number of junior officers reaching 21 years of age: -
The Postal Department employs about 24,000 of the 28,000 Commonwealth public servants, so it will be seen that the great majority of the youths who will reach 21 years of age in the years I have mentioned are employed in the Postal Department. A general approximation of the amount of wastage in the Public Service is between 275 and 300 officers per annum. As soon as a vacancy occurs through wastage among men receiving the basic wage or more, an officer doing junior workbut over the age of 21 is appointed to the position, and he thereupon receives the basic wage. The federal basic wage was £182 per annum, but it is now £174 per annum. The persons affected by the determinations now under review are telephone messengers, whose rate of pay is £136 per annum, junior assistants who receive £143 per annum, and telephonists who receive £167 per annum. The payment of the last class of officers is, therefore, within a few pounds per annum of the Public Service adult basic wage.
The lower salaries are paid only to single men. If married men are filling even the humblest of these positions, they receive the full adult basic wage. Adults at present filling junior positions are being absorbed into the Service every day. Orders have been issued that public servants with a considerable accumulation of leave shall take their leave, and as soon as they do so qualified adults filling junior positions are appointed to take their places, or if a letter carrier falls sick, for instance, a qualified person doing junior work is appointed to take his place, and as soon as he does so he receives the full adult basic wage. If an officer occupying a junior position marries he is automatically placed on the adult basic wage. Like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), we all hope that times will improve. When they do, benefit will accrue, not only to the rank and file of workers in outside employment, but also to the rank and file in the Public Service. Rut as only from 275 to 300 juniors can be absorbed annually into basic wage positions, only about 1,200 can be dealt with in that way up to the end of 1935, which will mean that 1,531 will then still be left unprovided for.
I am not one who rejoices that wages are being reduced; but we have to face the facts. The federal basic wage in Melbourne is £3 3s. per week at present; in Sydney it is £3 8s. per week, and in Adelaide £2 18s. 6d. It will be seen, therefore, that the junior telephonists included above in the Public Service are receiving a wage higher than the ordinary basic wage in Adelaide.
The Government has had three reports from the Public Service Board upon this particular subject. Let me remind honorable members that the determinations which are the subject of this motion relate only to the salaries of adult officers occupying positionsnormally filled by minors. Some time ago, the board first reported to the Government that several hundred officers who were appointed as boy messengers had reached 21 years of age, and that no positions suitable for adult employment were available for their absorption. It also pointed out that the number of such officers was rapidly increasing, and that during the next five years about 2,900 lads would reach adult age, of whom probably only 1,500 could be absorbed in adult positions. Under the conditions which existed at’ the time of that report, the juniors who reached adult age had necessarily to be paid as adults at the existing adult wage of £182 per annum, whereas the salary of a boy messenger on appointment was £74 per annum. The retention of these adults in positions which ordinarily would he filled by boys would involve an approximate expenditure during five years of from £750,000 to £1,100,000 before the situation could become normal. The board submitted three possible courses for the consideration of the Government. These were -
The Government approved of the second course, and a Public Service regulation was made accordingly. Certain Public Service organizations thereupon lodged claims with the Public Service Arbitrator for an order that the adult rate of wage should be restored. After hearing the parties, the Arbitrator granted the claims, and made thedetermination now in question. Various matters were touched upon by the Arbitrator in the reasons accompanying his judgment, and he observed, inter alia, that Parliament, if it thought fit to depart from the principle that adult employees should be paid the basic wage, could disallow his determination. In effect, the reason for the Arbitrator’s determination was that Parliament had not expressed assent to departure, in these cases, from the principle that the wages of no adult male should be reduced below the basic wage. But Parliament has already seenfit to depart from that principle. The regulation which the Arbitrator’s determinationseeks to annul prescribes a reduction in the cases of certain adult males below the basic wage. That regulation - I refer honorable members to Statutary Rules 1932/27 - was laid before Parliament as prescribed, and was not disapproved. Non-approval by Parliament of a regulation is an endorsement of it’s terms and conditions. It cannot be contended that Parliament was not thoroughly aware of the position, as it discussed the regulation on the 16th and 17th March, 1932, vide Hansard, volume 133.
Since the Arbitrator has made his determination, the situation has been carefully reviewed, and after making every allowance for wastage and all other conditions for the absorption of these officers in adult positions in the Service, there will still be a large number necessarily retained in junior positions. It is estimated that despite absorption wherever practicable, there will, at the end of five years, be from 1,300 to 1,500 ‘ of these officers not provided for. It will be recognized that this position is most unsatisfactory, and the Government has had to consider -
Financially, this would be the preferable course. During the next five years £500,000 would be saved, but with great hardship, not only on the officers themselves, but on their families. To add to the number of adults unemployed is also undesirable at the present juncture, even though it would mean that a like number of boys would find employment.
In all the circumstances the last course is regarded as the most desirable for adoption. The payment of an adult basic wage fundamentally presupposes performance of adult work of some kind. But here there is no such factor. From causes beyond control, the Service is found with more adults than can be placed in appropriate positions.
That practically affirms the course of action taken by the Government.
– Those proposals were put before the Public Service Arbitrator, and he rejected them.
– I am not aware that that is so. The Government has acted in conformity’ with the report of the
Public Service , Board. Everything possible will be done to absorb these young men in adult positions, but, in view of the financial affairs of the country, the Government cannot do what the Leader of the Opposition says, and pay all of them the higher rate of - wage while they are performing junior work. Is that not better than dismissing the men?
– It is not necessary to dismiss them.
– In the ordinary course of events, 600 of these positions would be filled by juniors. It is true, as was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that the finding of jobs for returned soldiers has, to some extent, affected the position, but that has the endorsement of all parties.
– Is it the policy of the Government to violate all awards ?
– The Government treats each case on its merits. In common with other honorable members, I deplore the necessity for reducing the scale of wages. In many of our big industrial organizations, the workers have co-operated and arranged that, rather than that further dismissals should take place, available work and wages shall be divided among the employees. That displays a fine spirit of comradeship. I might point out that there are now 31 vacancies in the Sydney General Post Office for which applications have been called. Because of the smallness of the funds available, the affairs of the telephone branch have been considerably dislocated in recent years, and it has been necessary to place employees from that section in other branches of the postal service. Many who are now receiving junior pay will have an opportunity to qualify for one of these 31 senior positions: Had the Government dispensed with the services of these men doing junior work it could have been, justifiably criticized. I believe that the Government is perfectly justified on humane and practical grounds, and that, already, the young men concerned are thankful for what has been done.
– I am glad to have an opportunity to protest against the action of the Government in this matter. Attention was first directed to it by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) on Friday last, when the adjournment had been :moved.
– No; I asked a question on the subject on Friday morning.
– The Leader of the. Opposition- asked if opportunity would be given to discuss the matter in this chamber; but the real protest against the action that was being taken in the Senate was made by the member of this party to whom I have referred. I agree that a great principle is involved, but I remind the House, and particularly honorable members now sitting in Opposition, that a principle equally important was at stake when the Financial Emergency Bill was before the House, and wages awards were flouted in an arbitrary fashion.
– There was then no basic wage cut.
– That is not the issue. The principle involved then and now is shall an arbitration award be violated. Such violation will always meet with the opposition of the real Labour party. I have here circulars and other literature put out by the Public Service organizations in protest against the proposals of the Seullin Government under the Financial Emergency Bill. The names of those honorable members who vigorously fought and voted against that measure are on record. Unfortunately, the bill was passed, notwithstanding our protests, and it was passed with the assistance of honorable members who now sit on the Government side. These facts should be kept before the public. If the action now being taken by the present Government deserves the condemnation of the Opposition,’ then that taken by the Scullin Government in connexion with the Financial Emergency Bill is equally deserving of censure. I desire that the Public Service unions shall appreciate that fact. Any party professing Labour tendencies must insist on the honouring of awards.
T have here a circular issued by the combined Public Service unions in connexion with the proposals of the Government. It reads -
Under tlie Financial Emergency Act. which came inn force on the !)th July, 1031, the salaries payable to Federal Public Service employees were substantially reduced. The reduction ranged from Ki per cent, on the basic wage up to 25 per cent, on the highest salaries. The average reduction for the whole of the Service works out at1 10.5 per cent. The salaries of the State Government employees have also been reduced by special legislation, but in very few States are tlie reductions greater than those imposed on Federal Public Service employees. On and from the 1st July, 11(32, the wages of a number of the lowest paid employees were further reduced by varying amounts ranging up to £8 a year. This will have the effect of raising the average salary reduction for the Federal Public Service, as a whole, to slightly over 20 per cent, compared with the salaries ruling at the 1st July, 1930.
That clearly indicates the great sacrifices that ‘have been made by this section of the community since the introduction of the deplorable Premiers plan and its associated^ ^’legislation. The present Government had not the courage to try to carry the disallowance of this regulation in this chamber. Many who now sit on the Government side, and particularly the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) have declared that unions, whether Public Service or otherwise, should always accept the awards of a properly constituted authority. During the recent. State elections in New South Wales, our opponents declared that wages and conditions should be fixed by properly constituted tribunals. In this instance the Government has departed from the very principle which it laid down as fundamental. At first it attempted by regulation to take from the public servants their rights; but the union carried the case to the Arbitrator. All the facia, including the report which has been quoted by the Postmaster-General, were placed before him, and he decided that the proposal of the Government could not be sustained. Having failed first with arbitrary regulation, and then at arbitration, the Government finally appealed to the Senate to disallow the determination. and the Senate did so, although it was not in possession of the whole of the facts placed before the Arbitrator. The Government did not want the facts to be known. It has persisted in its policy of slashing wages and lowering the conditions of the workers - a futile attempt to starve the people back to prosperity. Only recently during the hearing of the carters and drivers case Mr. Justice Beeby declared that the 10 per cent, cut of real wages and its general application to federal .awards had increased unemployment. Far the last two years I and my colleagues have said that this policy of deflation would merely produce further misery and unemployment, but Government supporters have denied that, despite the evidence on all sides that the circumstances of the country are becoming steadily worse. The lowering of wages and working conditions will not solve’ the problem of unemployment, and the least the Government might do is to accept the decisions of the properly constituted tribunals, for if a government may set aside a determination in one case it may do so in others, and we may be certain that other determinations from time to time will be dealt with in the same fashion. I say to the Public Service unions that they cannot expect to enjoy the benefits of the principles for which the Labour party stands unless they take a greater interest in public affairs throughout the Commonwealth and make a wiser choice of those who are to represent them in this Parliament.
.- I was amused at the appeal of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) to the public servants to alter their representation in this Parliament. Aft,er all, the honorable member and his supporters are responsible for the present circumstances of the Public Service. Only by their hostility to the Labour government in this Parliament was the advent of the present Ministry made possible. Their destruction of the Federal Labour government was one of the most treacherous betrayals in history - a betrayal, not only of the public servants, but of all workers throughout Australia. I hope that those officers of the Crown who are now suffering at the hands of the present Government will remember that only a few months ago the honorable member for West Sydney and his supporters joined with the party -now in power to defeat a Labour government. Even this afternoon the honorable member for West Sydney, by his attack on the Labour party, was merely diverting criticism from those whom he assisted to place in office only a few months ago.
– The honorable member voted with them to give effect to the Premiers plan.
– The honorable member for West Sydney collaborated with the Nationalists to defeat the Labour government, and thus paved the way for the present wage cuts.
The somersault performed by the Postmaster-General was tragic. He spoke this afternoon in opposition to political principles which he hud advocated throughout his public career, and allied himself with the employer who clamours for low wages and sweating conditions at all times, regardless of the fate of the workers. The Commonwealth, being a large employer, should set an example to others, but the present Ministry, unlike a Labour government, does not believe in high wages and good working conditions, and therefore the action it has taken in regard to the Public Service is understandable. The Postmaster-General declared that, in the present state of the finances, the Government could not possibly continue to pay adult wages to junior employees. The payment of the adult wage was introduced by a Labour government. It is a striking anomaly that over 800 men who recently attained manhood should be selected to bear the brunt of an economy of £200,000, whilst certain vested interests are being granted, under the Government’s budget proposals, benefits amounting to £1,200,000 a year. The Postmaster-General enunciated the old fallacy that it is better to pay men less than to sack them. That principle is a survival of the economic dark ages; but it, is still the apology of the capitalist who wants cheap labour. Something better than this is to be expected from the senior government in the Commonwealth; it should stand high in the estimation of the people, and should hold as sacrosanct humanitarian principles in the relations of capital and labour. We have developed a vast and complex machinery for ascertaining variations in the cost of living, and the utilization of that data for regulating the basic wage is a protection of the workers and their families. The basic wage is intended to ensure to each man and his wife and children sufficient to live in reasonable comfort. The Government’s immoral departure from that system should not be tolerated. At great length the PostmasterGeneral told us that the procedure by which the Public Service Arbitrator’s determination was disallowed was legal. An action which is quite legal may, nevertheless, be highly immoral, and that is the allegation we make against the practice adopted by the Government in the Senate. G. Anderson, in Fixation of Wages in Australia, says -
In regard to individual industries or employers, under no circumstances will the court fix a wage for adult unskilled workers less than the basic wage.
The Public Service Arbitrator, in the Broken Hill case reported in 3 C.A.R., page 32, said -
Unless great multitudes of people are to be irretrievably injured in themselves and their families, unless society is to be perpetually in industrial unrest, it is necessary to keep this frying wage as a thing sacrosanct beyond the reach of bargaining.
The present Government issued a regulation which was a departure from that principle. The Public Service Union applied to the Arbitrator, and the claims of the Government were almost contemptuously dismissed, the Arbitrator declaring that the basic adult wage must be paid to employees over 21 years of age. The present Government has elected to break down an economic principle that is dear to the people. By undermining the basic wage, it is reducing the standard of living of the public servants. If that example is followed by private employers, the standards of living of the workers generally throughout Australia will be adversely affected.
– It is quite appropriate that the two sections of the Opposition should combine in the attack upon the Government, having regard to the fact that the honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) supported the last Government, which sacked 2,000 men from the government service, many of them returned soldiers. That action was supported by the honorable member for West Sydney and the honorable member for Hunter. The Lang Government in New South Wales sacked every junior in the railway service as he attained the age of 21. The Commonwealth Government had to decide whether it was better to retain the services of juniors after they had reached 21 years of age, paying them their previous salary, or to throw them out of the Service to join the ranks of the unemployed. These young men joined the Service as youths, and are paid wages according to their age until they are 21. If there are positions to which they can be appointed when they become 21, well and good, but otherwise the practice has been to dismiss them. In this instance it would have been easy for the Government to leave the matter in the hands of the. Public Service Board which, if it had been unable to find positions for them, would, as a matter of course, have dismissed them from the Service. The Government took a humane view, and determined, rather than dismiss them from the Service, to keep them employed at their previous salary. In the Engineering Branch of the Post and Telegraph Department there are at present 207 engineers, and considerably more than 2,000 mechanics. I have had some experience in this branch, because I was connected with it for several years, and I know that there is at present not sufficient work for 2,000 mechanics. At the Sydenham workshops the other day I saw 11,000 telephones stacked because there was no demand from subscribers.
– Is the department paying men who are not working?
– I believe it is. While the last. Government dismissed 2,000 men, we have not dismissed any from the Post and. Telegraph Department. In 1931, 698 adults were filling minor positions. During this year, 581 officers will attain the age of 21 years, making a total of 1,299 surplus officers. In the ordinary course of events these young men would be dismissed.
– They are permanent officers.
– They are appointed on the condition that, if positions are available for them when they become 21, they will be appointed to those positions, but in the past only 50 per cent. of those reaching 21 each year have been appointed to higher positions. I remind honorable members that the full adult basic wage will be paid to all married officers, no matter what their age. Only single men will be paid junior rates. It is anticipated that this year there will be vacancies for 275 of these young men, leaving 1,004 to be provided for. I believe that honorable members on both sides of the House would rather have these men employed, even at lower wages, than have them become unemployed. This is not a matter of employing qualified journeymen at junior’s wages, but of keeping young men in employment over a slack period, in the hope that positions will become available in the near future. Moreover, the basic wage is designed for a man, his wife, and three children. As the law stands at present, a considerable amount of money is paid away in wages for children who do not exist, and the Commonwealth Government pays child endowment as well. We must examine the position to see for how much longer we can afford to carry on in this way.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire to enter my protest against this attempt of the Government to ignore an award of the Public Service Arbitrator. This seems to me to be an attempt to introduce junior labour in the place of adult labour in the Public Service. These young men will be employed at an average wage of £2 12s. 6d., as against the adult basic wage provided for by law, besides child endowment for those officers receiving less than £500 a year. In my opinion, it ill became the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) to attack members of my party under the guise of attacking the Government. The honorable member claimed that we, in this corner, were responsible for the defeat of the Scullin Government, which would have ensured that all public servants would be paid the wage provided for by award. The fact is that the Scullin Government first reduced public servants’ salaries when they masqueraded as a Labour Government. They were fighting under false colours.
– The honorable member must not continue on those lines.
– The honorable member for Darling was allowed to attack us ; but I am not allowed to reply.
– When the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) was speaking, he referred to certain incidents not connected with the motion before the Chair. The honorable member for Darling was the first speaker who followed him, and was, therefore, entitled to make a brief reply to the previous speaker’s remarks. He did so, and with that the incident was closed.
– The Government is now establishing a precedent which private employers will not be slow to follow. This Government is quick to take action against employees who disobey an award; it will prosecute them, and, if the law allows, deport them, but itclaims the right to break those same awards itself. The Bruce-Page Government took no action against the coal-owners when they deliberately broke an award of the Arbitration Court. That, I think, was the last occasion upon which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) moved the adjournment of the House. When that honorable gentleman and his party came into power they also fell down on the job, which showed that his action in moving the adjournment of the House over the coal dispute was merely a piece of political propaganda.
– Order ! The honor able member will be asked to withdraw his statements if he is not careful.
– I feel strongly on this matter. I have had so much experience of political trickery-
– The honorable member is certainly out of order. Nothing will be gained by using extravagant language. It is out of order to accuse an honorable member or a party of practising political trickery.
– Do I understand, Mr. Speaker, that you are asking the honorable member for Hunter to withdraw the words that are considered to be offensive?
– I did not ask the honorable member for Hunter to withdraw the words “ political trickery,” but I shall do so if any honorable member feels that they have been applied to him personally, or to his party.
– I consider that the words used bythe honorable member for Hunter are highly offensive, and I ask that they be withdrawn.
– As objection has been taken to the use of the words “ political trickery,” I ask the honorable member for Hunter to withdraw them.
– As the description applies to the honorable member for Cook, 1 shall withdraw the words to which objection has been taken.
– 1 ask the honorable member to apologize to the Chair and to the House.
– I apologize. I regret very much that the Government has set a precedent that will be followed by private employers. .The Government’s object is to displace senior officers in the Public Service with juniors, who will be paid a low rate of wages. The Government contends that, by its action, it is exercising economy in the Public Service, but its real intention is to engage sweated boy labour. The Crimes Act provides that any persons or companies disobeying the awards of the court and the laws of this country may bi cited before the court, to show reason why they should not be declared an illegal organization. That law is applied strictly to the working class. I should like the present Government to be cited before the High Court under this provision, /0. that it may be declared an illegal organization. Such an action would be in the best interests of Australia, and would enable U3 to place on the treasury bench a government that would act in the interests of’ every section of the community.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), in his speech this afternoon, amply justified his action in moving the adjournment of this House to consider this important subject. The action of the Government strikes a blow at a recognized principle which the Australian Labour Party has always declared should not be interfered with. The members of the Government, when on the hustings, said that, if they were returned to power, they would act in the interests of the workers as well as in the interests of every other section of the community. They stated that, under no circumstances, would they interfere with arbitration or arbitration awards. By misrepresentation, they obtained a large measure of support. The Government says i).-i*v that it must follow the recommendations of the Tariff Board, even though its action strikes a blow at the interests of the local manufacturers; but,, when the Public Service Arbitrator - another statutory authority - gives a decision in favour of a section of the Commonwealth public servants, the Government departs from the award simply because it does not suit the interests that it represents. We heard much misrepresentation! indulged in this afternoon by the Minister for Health (Mr. Marr). He said that, there were no unemployed in Canberra,, and that no men had been dismissed.. Actually there are about 500 men. unemployed at Canberra. It is truethat the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Parkhill) has done his best to, rid Canberra of unemployed, not by giving; them jobs, but by pushing them out oi» the road without employment and without food. When on the hustings, the members of the Government stated that, if returned to power, they would provide jobs for the jobless, and particularly jobs for our growing boys and girls. It is true that when the last Government was in office certain construction works, being; built out. of loan moneys, were completedand a number of temporary hands were dismissed. But this Government saysthat the only alternative to putting these surplus officers out of employment is to rob them of the basic wage. That is absolute misrepresentation. The Public Service Arbitrator, on page 44 of his determination, stated -
The analysis made of the staff position in the Postmaster-General’s Department, however, indicates that that department as a whole is not overmanned … As to the future, the financial outlook for Australia is not so black as to preclude an expectation of a reasonable improvement in business . . - . An increase in the demand for telephone services, for example (many thousands were cancelled in . the depression), will result in mechanics and lines staff being recalled from the positions in which they are temporarily acting, and so permit of the placing of adult males now employed on minor duties. . . . hi all the circumstances, the surmise is ventured that dismissal from the Service is not the inevitable alternative to the retention of the principle of payment of the basic wage to male adults.
I would accept the opinion of an impartial arbitrator before any opinion of a political partisan. I challenge the Government to justify its action in sweeping aside the award of the Arbitrator. It should have learnt a lesson from the fate «f the Bruce-Page Government. In 1929, when the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) said “ away with arbitration “, and’ appealed to the people on the issue, his Government fell. This Government deserves- to fall as the result, of its action in striking a blow at a vital principle.
The Public Service Arbitrator, at page 40 of his determination, said -
Til order that 1 might clearly seu what is the true staffing position as affecting adult male officers, 1 requested that certain further information lie supplied nic. This has been done, and the following summary shows the stalling position on 31st January, 1032. in the Postmaster-General’s Department : -
Thu position as disclosed indicates that tho redundant male adult staff in certain designations is not sufficient, to meet the requirements under two main headings, viz. : -
Dining 1U3I-32- up to 30th April, 1032-408 officers had been granted furlough - and the relief necessary for this purpose lias not been /included. Fifty adult male officers per annum is the departmental estimate. The other relief requirements, mentioned in an earlier paragraph, should also be taken into account. Despite these limitations, which indicate an understatement of the stuff position, the figures «how that the permanent personnel as u whole is numerically under requirements.
When boys are taken into the PostmasterGeneral’s Department as telegraph messengers, they should, on reaching the age of 21 years, receive the adult basic wage. Unfortunately, many of these youths have had no opportunity of qualifying for the clerical or professional division. That position is the natural corollary of giving’ effect to the policy of preference to returned soldiers. Since the war, few boys have had the opportunity to enter the Public Service, although lately, under some arrangement, a certain number of boys have been recruited. The avenues of promotion have largely been closed against, many of the bright boys who are employed as telegraph messengers in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. They have no opportunity of being employed in the clerical or professional divisions. They can be absorbed in the general division, but the Public Service Arbitrator himself is not satisfied with the proposal to reduce the wage of the single men below the basicwage as the alternative to dismissal. Government supporters have indulged in subterfuge and misrepresentation. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Fenton) spoke with his tongue in his cheek when he tried to justify the action of the Government in striking a blow, at the vital principle of arbitration. If this Government refuses to observe the awards of the Arbitrator, how can it expect outside employers to obey the awards of the Arbitration Court? The Government is acting treacherously, since it went to the country pledged to safeguard the interests of the Public Service. I deprecate the action of an honorable member in the corner trying to turu the attack of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) upon the Government into an attack upon the Opposition itself. I conclude by saying that every word uttered by the Leader of the Opposition was justified.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
[“4.451 . - If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) had not brought this matter forward on Friday last, nothing would have been heard of it to-day.
– The Leader of the Opposition raised the matter first by asking a question about it.
– Yos: but the real demonstration was made by honorable members led by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). The credit of having concentrated attention upon this matter appears to rest with the group in the corner. The honorable member who. has just resumed his seat contributed little or nothing to the elucidation of the problem raised. What have the reports of the Tariff Board to do with the matter ? The honorable member’s speech” showed the lengths to which he Was prepared to go in bolstering up a weak argument. The position is simply that a number of youths in the employment of the Postal Department were about to become of age, and, ordinarily, would then have received an increase in salary. They were nearly 21 years of age, and unmarried. In the usual course of events, as business in the Post Office stood at that time, their services would have been dispensed with; but, instead of dismissing them, the Government allowed them to remain in the Service. The Government said - “ We will not dismiss you, and thus create an accession to the ranks of the unemployed ; but we will keep you in employment at the wage you are at present receiving.” I am satisfied that any reasonable person, leaving political bias out of consideration, would approve of that attitude. It would be considered a fair view for any private employer to take, and the Government has acted accordingly. Yet, because it has not acted in conformity with the castiron industrial rules of the members of the Labour parties opposite, which rules are not by any means being generally observed by their supporters outside this House, honorable members opposite detain this Parliament with an attempt to make political capital out of this matter, with the result that our time is being wasted.
– An honorable member may not say that the time of this House is being wasted.
– At any rate, our time has been occupied with an aimless and unnecessary discussion which will have no effect, because the period allowed for it will expire by effluxion of time within half an hour. Honorable members opposite will have had the satisfaction of having participated in a sort of all-champions race to decide who are the chief champions of the employees concerned; but it, is really a championship t’o determine how to put them out of employment. Honorable members on the Government side consider that it would be reasonable in these difficult times not to add to the number of unemployed in this- country. We should not be tied down by hide-bound rules that were made to apply in times far different from those now being experienced. The Government takes a humanitarian view, and claims that until general conditions improve, these employees should remain in the Service at their present salaries.
– This Government would scrap arbitration awards.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.It certainly will not scrap the individuals concerned. If a vote were taken of those in whose interests the mover and supporters of the present motion are supposed to have spoken, the employees would declare with one voice that they do not want this championship, but prefer to retain their jobs even at their present salaries.
.- The Minister has evidently disclosed the policy of the Government with regard to ‘ arbitration. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) made his last appeal to the country he did not advocate the abolition of arbitration; but a government that stands for disallowance of an award of the Public Service Arbitrator cannot consistently pose as a supporter of the principle of arbitration. Both sections of the Opposition are in agreement as to the necessity for maintaining the vital principle which is at stake, namely, the fixation of wages by a special tribunal, rather than by the Parliament itself. The Minister for Health (Mr. Marr) attempted to evade the real issue that has been raised. He crawled back into this House at a by-election on the issue of arbitration; but to-day he goes back on that principle, allegedly to prevent the employees concerned from being thrown out of work. The Prime Minister, I think, will admit that when he was Postmaster-General in the Scullin Government, no permanent employees were put off as the result of the closing down of construction works; only temporary employees were affected. The question to be decided is, “Does the Government believe in arbitration, or does it not?” Is the Ministry to accept arbitration awards only when they go against the unions concerned? If anybody outside this Parliamenturged the workers to break an award, to do what theGovernment is now doing, he would be liable to deportation or imprisonment.
The Government, apparently without making full inquiry into the matter, has flouted the decision of the Public Service Arbitrator, whose office costs the country about £2,000 a year. If the Government is consistent it will relievethe taxpayers of the necessity for continuing this expense. If such drastic measures as that now taken by the Government be necessary, why do we employ an arbitrator at a high salary to determine the rate of wages to be paid in the Public Service and then disallow his award? The right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) had thecourage to say that he did not stand for arbitration; but the people of this country showed that they desired that great principle to be maintained. The Prime Minister and the Postmaster-General both entered this Parliament after the defeat of Mr. Bruce, who was defeated on the principle of arbitration. He was prepared to tell the truth by saying that he was against arbitration. I invite the Minister for Health (Mr. Marr) to say definitely whether any permanent employees in the post office were dismissed by the Scullin Government. If it is logical for the present Government to reduce wages in order to keep a number of men in employment it is logical to expect that that policy should be adopted by outside employers for the same purpose. But the policy of the Government is arbitration when wages are falling and disallowance of determinations when wages are rising. If low wages offer a solution of our difficulties we may as well immediately advocate working for nothing. The whole of the Government’s plan of restoration by means of equality of sacrifice breaks down if it persists in its present policy with regard to the public servants concerned. What equality of sacrifice is there in taking £8 a year off the wage of a youth in receipt of £1 a week, and making a similar deduction from the remuneration of another officer in receipt of £40 a week? The Government shows clearly that it does not understand the meaning of equality of sacrifice when it lifts taxation from the shoulders of those best able to bear it and places it upon the shoulders of the poorest class in the community. The action which the Government proposes to take of reducing the lower-paid officers of the Public Service by £8 a year has not the slightest degree of equality in it.
The question which honorable members are being asked to vote upon this afternoon is whether this Government believes or disbelieves in arbitration. The Minister for Health (Mr. Marr) who has been in and out of more ministries than probably any other honorable member, and who has been a backstop for many governments, may successfully evade the issue this afternoon, but he will not evade it in his electorate. He is here under false pretences-
– Order !
– He promised that he would support arbitration, and now he is repudiating it.
– Order ! I regret that I have had to call the honorable member to order twice.
– I am sorry that I did not hear the first call, Mr. Speaker.
– I can hardly believe that the honorable member is sincere in making that statement. I request him to apologize for his disobedience of the Chair.
– I apologize and repeat that I did not hear the first call.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member’s statement that I am here under false pretences is objectionable to me and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I called the honorable member to order to request him to withdraw that statement, which was not parliamentary.
– I withdraw it.
.- I cannot see how any one who was either a member or a supporter of the Government responsible for the initiation of what has become known as the Premiers plan, can consistently oppose the action which this Government is now taking. In May, 1931,, the Government then in office declared that budgets were to be balanced by successive steps, and it took the first step when it arbitrarily reduced the wages of the workers. Another step is now being taken along the same road by this Government, in order to assist in balancing the budget. The party to which I have the honour to belong has opposed the Premiers plan consistently from its inception. Probably I have not the same reverence for the judiciary as some other honorable members of this chamber, because I know that when vested interests apply pressure, as they have done on many occasions, political and not judicial decisions are delivered. When decisions are delivered which conflict, with the policy of this Government, the alleged respect of members of certain political parties for law and order disappears into thin air, and the decisions to which objection has been taken are reversed. This Government is at present seeking to deport certain individuals and to declare certain organizations unlawful -
– I cannot allow the honorable member to pursue that line of argument. He must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– All I wish to say is that because certain individuals are doing outside of this House the kind of thing that this Government is doing- now, an endeavour is being made to deport them. Certain persons are being condemned outside of this House for belittling the law and the decisions of the Judiciary, while this Government is bringing Parliament into contempt by doing the same kind of thing. The action which is being taken at present by this Government in regard to the Public Service Arbitrator will do more to bring the law into contempt than anything that is being done by certain individuals elsewhere. Honorable gentlemen opposite say that they believe in accepting the decisions of constituted legal authority, but they only believe in doing so when the decisions are acceptable to themselves. When decisions adverse to them and the interests which they represent are given, they are prepared to pursue any back-door methods to have them vetoed. The steps necessary to have the determinations now under consideration disallowed were taken in another place because certain honorable gentlemen in this Chamber wished the action to be taken quietly. They did not desire any undue publicity, and had no intention of showing their hand if they could help it.
The Minister for .Health (Mr. Marr), in the course of his remarks, referred several times to the possibility of certain unfortunate individuals being thrown out into the cold world. After hearing the budget speech the other day one would be justified in imagining that prosperity had returned. We were told that Commonwealth stocks had, in several cases, gone above par, and in nearly all instances were approaching par, and that the number of telephone connections made last quarter exceeded the number of disconnections by 88. On these grounds it was said that prosperity had returned. I do not think that the officers of the Postal Department who will be denied the basic wage through the disallowance of this determination, will imagine that prosperity has returned. The Prime” Minister said the other day that confidence had been restored. But whose confidence has been restored? No doubt it is the confidence of vested interests and of the anti-Labour forces that has been restored, because a government is in office which will make any attacks it is requested to make upon the workers of this country. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has indicated to the Minister for Health (Mr. Marr), that the provision of work is not all that is needed, for, as he observed, men could be employed without payment digging post holes and filling them in again, and by this means all the unem- ployed could be absorbed. But thiB would be poor comfort for their dependants. It has been admitted by members of the Government that some hardship will fall upon the men affected by ‘ the disallowance of these determinations. It must be apparent therefore that even the Government realizes that the men concerned have some responsibilities. Is nothing to be done for single men who are keeping, or assisting to keep,, their parents or other relatives? The married man is not the only one who hae obligations. It is rank hypocrisy for certain honorable gentlemen to adopt the attitude which they have adopted. The plain fact is that the Government has determined that the budget must be balanced, and that the poorer sections of the community must make that objective possible qf attainment. The present Public Service Arbitrator, Mr. Westhoven, was appointed by a government of which the present Prime Minister was a member. If the Government does not intend to accept the decisions of the Arbitrator, let it dispense with his services and save the taxpayers the cost of his tribunal. We should he honest in this matter. I realize that so long as this Government remains in office the workers will be subjected to continual attacks. There is no easy way out” of our difficulties. Honorable gentlemen who support the Premiers plan and desire the continuance of the existing social order, must expect attacks to be made upon the workers to the extent that the vested interests outside this House direct. I am not under any misapprehension as to my position, and I do not desire any honorable gentleman to be under any delusions about it. I am opposed to the existing social order, because it has nothing to offer to the great mass of the people. I am prepared to do everything I possibly can to expose the hypocrisy of those who use this or any other means to attack the working class of this country.
Let me direct the attention of the Government to the common rule of Statutory Rule No. 24 of 1931, in respect of time off in lieu of overtime, which expires on the 2nd of September next. Will the Minister in charge of the department concerned indicate to honorable members the number of hours overtime worked by officers of his department, and how long they have been waiting for time off in lieu of that overtime. I am not prepared to accept the arguments put forward by honorable members opposite, or to swallow the baits which they throw out from time to time to honorable members on this side of the chamber. I am opposed to this Government, and I shall resist its policy, both inside and outside of Parliament, whenever direct attacks are made upon the wages and conditions of the workers by this Government or by instructions issued to the judiciary of this country.
.- With other honorable members on this side of the chamber, I wish to lodge an emphatic-, protest against the action of the Government in disregarding the determinationsof the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator. This Government is consistent only iri its inconsistencies. Notwithstanding the statements made this afternoon by the Minister for Health (Mr.. Marr) the fact remains that while the Government is lauding itself for adhering tothe decisions of the Tariff Board, it is, at the same time, refusing to give effect to the decisions of the Public ServiceArbitrator. The Tariff Board has been set. up to deal particularly with tariff matters, but the Commonwealth PublicService Arbitrator acts in a semi-judicial capacity, and his decisions are entitled to the same amount of respect as would be given to the decisions of any arbitration court in Australia. Honorable membersopposite have on many occasions vociferously denounced trade unionists whohave suggested the non-observance of arbitration awards. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham), who bases his argument in this matter merely upon its legality, said in this House on one occasion -
Apart altogether from the provisions of the law, it is obvious that any party which appeals to the jurisdiction of the court by riling a plaint, or which submits to the jurisdiction of the court by appearing as the respondent to a plaint, is in honour bound to carry out the award made by the court. . . I arn sure you admit that it is impossible to expect that awards of the court can always satisfy both sides. It is equally impossible and unreasonable to expect that- all awards will conform to principles laid down by one side which upholds them. Arbitration is possible only upon the basis that both sides observe the awards of the court in all particulars.
Despite those remarks the honorable gentleman is a keen supporter, of the Government’s action in moving for the disallowance of the determinations now under notice. This is not the first occasion on which determinations of the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator have been disallowed. In February, 1929, soon after the return of the Bruce-Page Government, whose party consisted of supporters of the same political policy as that espoused by this -Government, the decision was given by the Public Service Arbitrator that allowances at a certain rate should be made to officers of the Postal Department employed in Canberra. The Bruce-Page Government successfully moved for the disallowance of that determination. On that occasion, as on this, the action was taken in the Senate, and not in this chamber, for the obvious reason that the Labour party was weaker in that chamber than in this. It is more than probable that another reason which actuated the Government of that day inarriving at such a decision was the fact that the officers affected by the determination were living in Canberra, and having no vote could not retaliate against the Government. As was pointed out by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), the Government in its budget for this year proposes to reduce by £8 the salaries of all public servants, no matter how low those salaries may be. This reduction will not affect a number of highly-paid public servants who are acting in a judicial capacity. The Government’s attitude to-day is opposed to a principle which has been laid down by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and which has been adhered to for many years past. The Public Service Arbitrator,when giving his decision in this matter, stated -
For many years the general policy of the main Arbitration Court has been the maintenance of the living wage. Its general attitude is expressed in the following quotations: -
In regard to individual industries or employers, under no circumstances will the court fix a wage for adult unskilled workers less than the basic wage. (Fixation of Wages in Australia, by G. Anderson, pp. 202-203.)
Referring to another case, a judgment of the Arbitration Court contained the following passage: -
Unless great multitudes of people are to be irretrievably injured in themselves and their families; unless society is to be perpetually in industrial unrest; it is necessary to keep this living wage as a thing sacrosanct, beyond the reach of bargaining.
In order to save a few pounds, this Government is prepared to abandon a principle which has governed arbitration decisions for years. To be logical, the Government should support the principle of arbitration as it applies to its own employees, as well as when it affects the employees of others. It must either accept the decision of the Public Service Arbitra tor, or abolish his office. It should adhere to the Arbitrator’s award, or dispense altogether with arbitration. The PostmasterGeneral stated that all public servants should be amenable to the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court, and I have shown that, according to the principles laid down, the Arbitration Court would support the decision given by the Public Service Arbitrator. Dealing further with this matter, the Public Service Arbitrator stated -
In the Commonwealth Public Service arbitration proceedings the policy of the main Arbitration Court in respect of the living wage has been followed. Moreover, the decisions on this point contained in the Public Service arbitration awards by the main Arbitration Court, and later by the Public Service Arbitrator, have consistently been confirmed by Parliament.
This is the first occasion upon which the principle has not been confirmed by the Federal Parliament. He continues -
As recently as July, 1931, the Commonwealth Parliament, in the Financial Emergency Act 1931, specifically re-affirmed this principle by providing that no adult male should be reduced below the basic wage.
Members of the party opposite, and the press which supports the Government, have always shown remarkable facility in fixing upon the Labour party names of an objectionable and damaging character. One such name was” repudiationist “, but it must be admitted that the present Government is composed of arch-repudiati oni sts.
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it. I appeal to the Government, if it will not give way on the major issue, at least to pay the full basic wage to those lads who have womenfolk or unemployed dependent upon them. .
– It has been suggested that the steps taken by the Government in connexion with this matter are not in accordance with the law. As a matter of fact, everything that has been done has been in accordance with law.
– I move-
That the honorable member be no longer heard.
– It is within the right of the honorable member under the
Standing Orders to make that motion, but I submit that it would be uncharitable to do so. Does he persist in his motion ?
– No, but I move-
That the question be now put.
Question - That the question be now put - put. The committee divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . 25
Question so resolved in the negative.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1, 2 and 3. Particulars of debt of municipal and semi-governmental bodies in 1930, as furnished by the Commonwealth Statistician, are as follow: -
The debt due to State Governments, Viz.. £65,094,000, is included in the public debts of the States and the apportionment of this sum between internal and external debt is not available.
Savings in Expenditure.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What was the amount received byeach Minister as travailing allowance during the financial year ended 30th June. 1932?
– The information is being obtained, and will be made available as soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The following replies have been furnished by the Commonwealth Bank: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1.Every effort is being made to secure the moat economical working of the branch, and present indications are that the deficit will be substantially reduced.
Customs Duty on Machinery and Supplies.
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the amount paid in customs duties on machinery and allclasses of supplies and mining requisites by theWiluna Consolidated Gold Mine Limited, of Wiluna, Western Australia., during the last four years?
– It is the long established custom not to disclose the business of individuals or companies in relation to their transactions with the Customs Department, and it, is regretted that the information asked for cannot be supplied unless the company agrees.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice. -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Expenses of American Visit
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– On the 31st August, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked a question, without notice, regarding the policy of the Government in connexion with the use of military camp areas by unemployed.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that it is not the policy of the Government to evacuate unemployed from a military camp except where, for military purposes, the evacuation becomes necessary. In the case specifically referred to by the honorable member, I have ascertained that the Rutherford camp is required for military training purposes during the present month. The Base Commandant, Sydney, communicated with the New South Wales Department of Labour and Industry on the matter, which advised that so far as that department was concerned, the camp could be taken over at any convenient time by the Commonwealth military authorities. The Departmentof Labour and Industry stated that, as only 39 unemployed single men and one unemployed married couple were at present reported in residence, there should be no difficulty, on the camp being closed, in finding accommodation in the various other camp sites in the Newcastle district. The Department of Labour and Industry further advised that the necessary arrangements were being effected with the officer in charge of the food relief depot at Cessnock for the evacuation of the unemployed from the camp area, and for the military equipment loaned by the Defence Department to be checked and handed over to the Commonwealth authorities. In view of the fact that satisfactory arrangements are being made by the responsible State authorities for the accommodation of unemployed at present occupying the Rutherford camp, the Minister for Defence does not propose to take any further action in the matter.
– On the 2nd September, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked me the following question, upon notice : -
Whether the Government has yet decided to take any action in regard to inducing certain High Court judges, who are also in receipt of State pensions, to conform to, the general salary reduction suffered by all other citizens of the Commonwealth?
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply : -
I am not aware that any Justice of the High Court is in receipt of a State pension.
In any case, in view of the provisions of section 72 of the Constitution any contribution which any Justice of the High Court may choose to make to the public funds would be purely voluntary.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and(on motion by Mr. Latham) read a first time.
The following papers were presented : -
Tariff Board - Reportsand Recommendations -
Fishing Appliances (Reels).
Formaldehyde and Preparations thereof.
Frozen Fresh Fish.
Generator and Starter Brushes for Automobiles.
Hyposulphite of Soda.
Jewellery Gases, Brush and Toilet Cases. &c.
Nicotine Spraying Preparations.
Sodium Alumino Silicates, cither natural or synthetic.
Vessels exceeding 1,000 tons gross register.
Ordered to be printed.
High Commissioner of the Commonwealth in the United Kingdom - Report for 1931.
Audit Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 81.
Customs Act - Regulatipns amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 90.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1932 - No. 19 - Companies.
Papua Act - Ordinances of 1932 -
No. 1 - Port Moresby Electric Light and Power.
No. 2 - Stamp Duties.
No. 3 - Supplementary Appropriation, 1931-1932.
No. 4 - Constabulary.
No.5 - Appropriation, 1932-1933.
. -byleave - A copy of the protocol signed in London on the 21st January last provided for the suspension, in accordance with the proposal of President Hoover, of certain payments due by Hungary under the International Agreements of April, 1930, which was signed on behalf of the Commonwealth by Sir Granville Ryrie, has been placed in the Library for the information of honorable members.
. -I lay on the table-
Tariff Board Act - Tariff Board - Annual Report for 1930-31, together with Schedule of Recommendations.
The report is complete, but from the annexure, which contains a summary of the recommendations made by the board during that year, a few recommendations relating to tariff revision which have not yet been finally considered by the Government have been omitted. As practically the whole of the Tariff Board’s recommendations that are contained in the annexure have been included in the Tariff Board reports which have been made, or will, at an early date, be made available to honorable members, I move -
That the report only be printed.
– What is the justification for omitting portions of the board’s report on the ground that the Government has not had time to consider them?
– Portions of the annexure, not of the report, are omitted, and they relate to proposed alterations in the tariff. I understand that such proposals are usually attached to the report but never printed with it. In tabling the report in this form I am merely following the usual procedure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 2nd September (vide page 187) on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill provides for a grant of £1,000,000 to the State of South Australia, and I regret that it is associated with a budget portions of which have justly provoked hostility and bitterness. When some of the other measures arising out of the budget, especially those involving reductions of social services, are before the House, I intend to avail myself of every opportunity to oppose their passage. But in regard to the proposed grant to South Australia, I ask the House to appreciate the circumstances of the State and the responsibility which the Commonwealth has towards it in its time of need.
I repudiate any suggestion that South Australia comes before this Parliament as a mendicant. The State claims Commonwealth assistance, but not in any arrogant assertion of a right. It has a very strong and just claim, however, which is entitled to consideration, and I am certain that when the House understands the hardships which South Australia has suffered in recent years honorable members will unanimously and wholeheartedly agree to render this assistance. Some of the views I am about to express may not be pleasing to the present South Australian Government, but I feel thatI have a duty to put before the House the facts as I know them. The existing circumstances of that State are the result of an accumulation of misfortunes. From 1927 to .1929, when both primary and secondary industries in other portions of the Commonwealth were enjoying prosperity, and public revenues were buoyant, South Australia suffered one of the most serious droughts in its history. For three or four years the rural industries, which are the economic mainstay of the State, were in difficulties, and partly as a result deficits have recurred with unfortunate regularity from 1927-2S onwards. When the seasons improved, and bounteous harvests were reaped, prices, in the world’s markets had fallen. Thus at a time of good prices the farmers reaped little or no harvest, and later in years of heavy production, the prices of wheat and other primary products were such that, the prospects of a good return from nature’s- bounty were not realized. The industrial position of that State is affected by certain natural limitations or deficiencies. South Australia has no extensive coal deposits or other natural fuels for the generation of the cheap power which is essential to secondary industries. The State, too, is more sparsely timbered than other States, and except for that portion of the Murray River which flows through its territories, has no extensive river system. Had the State been blest with coal deposits similar to those in New South Wales, or had oil been discovered in commercial quantities within its borders, the great iron and steel works now established at Newcastle would probably have been developed in South - Australia near to the rich deposits of iron ore that are there.
– South Australia has some advantages also.
– I admit that. Those who say that South Australia has not benefited to some extent from federation are not speaking the truth, and I do not justify that narrowness and prejudice upon which is founded the declaration that some States of the Commonwealth are designing to benefit themselves at the expense of others. South Australia must not be unmindful of the fact that) its wine, canned fruits, sulphur and other industries have received considerable assistance, by way of bounties and otherwise. I realize, too, that South Australia benefited considerably when the Commonwealth took over responsibility for the Northern Territory, and constructed the Central Australia and transcontinental railways. On the other hand it must bt recognized that, because of the absence of secondary industries from South Australia, its people arc compelled to purchase their commodities from the eastern States, not at world’s parity, but at the higher prices which are necessary to maintain in Australia the industries concerned. The Public Accounts Committee reported that if the amount paid by the people of South Australia because of enhanced prices resulting from a high tariff were remitted to my State, it would benefit by some £3,700,000 per annum. I do not quibble about that. I believe that South Australia should contribute its quota towards establishing national industries, whether within its borders or in other States, so that the nation can be as self-contained as possible. But I ask honorable members to realize that if South Australia is to meet its obligations it must be proportionally compensated for the part it plays in building this great Commonwealth, and my State has gone to expense in its endeavour to meet its obligations fully. Incidentally, I do not agree with the methods adopted by the present Government of South Australia. They have failed lamentably. I spare neither my State nor its government in my criticism.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Premier of South Australia is deserving of censure?
– He is the most tragic Premier and ‘ the most pathetic figure in the public life of Australia. That is not a happy description, but it Ls truthful and well deserved. Because of the ill-advised action of its government, South Australia has been more seriously impoverished than any’ other State. Its people are the most heavily taxed in the Commonwealth taxation. To prove that contention I quote the following table from the report of the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held at Canberra on the 2.8th. 29thand 30th of June, and the 1st July last. It appears at page 40, and reads -
That indicates that the people of South Australia are taxed to the limit.
– They are taxed out of house and home.
– It would seem like it. In a desperate endeavour to balance the budget, the Hill Government has resorted to methods which have resulted in a most serious curtailment of social services, charities and hospitals suffering to the extent of £170,000. So serious is the position that many persons who should be inmates of the children’s or general hospitals have to be treated as outpatients. The South Australian Public Service has been subjected to such serious rationing and reduction that its efficiency is jeopardized. Moneys collected for motor licences, which had been ear-marked for road maintenance, have been placed into general revenue. A like position exists with regard to land tax assessments in respect of which appeals are pending. That money has been taken into revenue account instead of being held in a suspense account - for some of it will in all probability have to be refunded. Despite those methods and the Commonwealth grant of £1,000,000, according to the Prime Minister, the State accounts still show a deficit of £1,215,000 for the year. If this additional grant of £1,000,000 is withheld it will result in still greater hardship being suffered by the people of my State. Already the amount of sustenance per adult paid to its unemployed is lower than that obtain ing in the other States and the percentage of unemployment higher.
Mr.Rosevear. - Will it be more generous if this grant is made?
– Perhaps not, but if the grant is not forthcoming, wageearners and the unemployed will most likely be the first to suffer. While I intend to protest strongly against some of the other budget proposals of the Government,I shall fight to the utmost to secure this grant of £1,000,000 for South Australia, because I realize the terrible suffering that would result if it were withheld. This is not the first grant that has been given to South Australia, for £1,000,000 was made available to that State last year. That is not the reason why pensions have to be reduced. That is being done because customs concessions were given to importing interests, resulting in a lessening of Commonwealth revenue to the extent of £300,000. The granting of this £1,000,000 to South Australia ought not to affect invalid and old-age pensions at all. The sales tax has been reduced by £400,000, so as to placate the members of the Country party. If this grant of £1,000,000 were withheld from South Australia, it would not prevent the reduction in pensions taking place, because the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has, according to press reports, stated that the pensions cuts have come to stay.
– In what newspaper was that stated ?
– In the Melbourne Sun Pictorial of the 6th September. If this grant of £1,000,000 is withheld from South Australia, remissions of taxation will take place, particularly in respect of the landholder. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) is reported in the same newspaper, to have stated that taxation will be reduced if possible. Therefore nothing will be gained by the pensioners because of the withholding of this amount from South Australia.
– Is the honorable member opposed to the grant?
– It is quite evident that the honorable member, who is a Government supporter, does not appreciate my remarks. I trust that this grant will be made to South Australia, in view of its special circumstances. The Premier of
South Australia claims that it has conformed more than has any of the other States to the plan decided upon bythe Commonwealth and State Governments in consultation. I claim that, in South Australia at least, the plan has been a collossal failure.
– Has that been due to bad government?
– It has been due to the fact that the principles of the plan were wrong, and that the Government of South Australia has been utterly incapable of giving effect to any plan of rehabilitation in respect of either that State or Australia generally. Australia cannot afford to maintain seven sovereign governments. Some of the public men of South Australia have a lamentably narrow outlook, and it would have been far more honorable, on the part of the Premier and some other public men of that State, had they declared that it was economically unsound for South Australia to continue as a sovereign State, and that the first opportunity should be taken to bring about unification throughout Australia. It is utterly absurd to have within Australia seven parliaments, seven separate systerms of railways, education and other forms of public services with their consequent multiplication of administration.
-Would the honorable member be prepared to link South Australia with Victoria?
– If unification is not acceptable to the people immediately - although I have a firm conviction that it would be - I would suggest as the first step the linking of Tasmania and South Australia with Victoria, because that would be a substantial instalment towards it. It would certainly tend towards economy and the abolition of many of the duplications of administration which exist in Australia to-day. Because of the inability of South Australia to administer the Northern Territory properly, that area was transferred to the Commonwealth. Because of the difficulties under which South Australia and certain other States are labouring to-day, a similar course should be adopted by handing over the control of administration to the Commonwealth as ‘the first instalment’ towards a system of unification under which
State Parliaments, as we know them today, would be abolished, and one government for one people with one destiny and one great outlook would be supreme. Under the present system of sovereign government, South Australia is certainly entitled to a claim upon the Commonwealth for assistance. The financial position of South Australia since 1927-28 is not such as would lead us to believe that there is likely to be any great recovery in the revenues of that State. The Premier has indicated that next year the revenue from taxation, particularly income taxation, will, in the aggregate, be considerably reduced.
– In that case does the honorable member seriously think that South Australia is in need of this assistance?
– The honorable member will be taken seriously when he makes a. serious interjection. He represents a State which has the advantage of wonderful natural conditions. It has many large industries which the honorable member expects South Australia to support, and he will do justice to South Australia as well as to New South Wales if he supports this measure providing for a grant of £1,000,000 for the relief of South Australia.
– I remind honorable members that there are on the notice-papertwo measures similar to this bill, and that at an earlier stage of the proceedings I ruled that notwithstanding that the three bills will have to be taken separately, the bills themselves may be discussed in full during the debate on that now before the House.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
.- The proposed grants to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania are fully warranted. As a member of the Commonwealth, Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts, I wasprivileged to assist in the investigation of the claims of South Australia, and, after full inquiry, I have no hesitation in saying that the provision of £1,000,000 for that State, proposed under the South Australia Grant Bill, is quite justified. I have studied various reports relating to the claims of Western Australia, and in view of the information before me, I support also the proposed grant to Western Australia. Being a representative of Tasmania, I am naturally particularly concorned about the grant to my own State. Under the present law Tasmania is entitled to £250,000 per annum until the end of the financial year 1933-34. The bill before us provides for the appropriation of an additional £S0,000, making the total grant for the present financial year £330,000. Again, I say that the grant is fully warranted; though I regard the amount, as inadequate. In the present circumstances of Tasmania, nothing short of £600,000 or £700,000 would meet the requirements of that State, but in view of the acute financial position of the Commonwealth to-day, I regard the additional grant of £80,000 for the present year as generous, and as a representative of that State I support it. Taking everything into consideration, the people of Tasmania may bc congratulated upon having received such generous treatment. Whilst I accept the total grant of £330,000 for the present financial year, that sum. of money will not satisfy the needs of Tasmania for future years. When the general financial position of the Commonwealth improves - and I hope that time is not far distant - the Commonwealth may be in a position to increase the assistance granted to that State.
Tasmania suffers a good deal from disabilities due to federal policy, although a number of its drawbacks arc not the result of- federation. An ex- Treasurer of the Commonwealth, Mr. Theodore, stated at the end of 1929-
Tasmania occupies an insular position which has certainly proved to be detrimental to her. She has not been able to take advantage of the mainland markets as freely as the other States because of transportation, and for the same reason has been unable hitherto to carry on any extensive secondary industries. Early in the history of federation it was shown beyond question that Tasmania was suffering serious disabilities in consequence of her insular position.
Many inquiries have been made to ascertain the cause of Tasmania’s difficulties, and ample evidence has been advanced to justify the increased grant which is to be made, and even a much greater amount. Each tribunal in turn has established beyond doubt that Tasmania suffers enormous disabilities owing to the operation of federal policy. It is estimated that that State loses approximately £600,000 per annum, because of the federal tariff laws alone. The Navigation Act also plays havoc with its trade. Increased freights and the curtailment of shipping services fall with special severity on Tasmanian production. Professors Giblin and Brigden, in submitting evidence before the Royal Commission on the Commonwealth Constitution, stated recently that the annual burden due to the operation of the Navigation Act was not less than 10s. per head of the population of Tasmania. On that basis the operation of that legislation costs the State well over £100,000 annually. Again, there is the result of federal policy in the form of the sugar embargo, which is estimated to cost Tasmania not less than £300,000 per annum.
There are many other directions in which the State suffers as the result of federation. For instance, the wheat bounty imposes a heavy charge on Tasmania. Very little wheat is grown in that State. Interstate free trade has badly injured the wheat-growing industry there, and consequently the State’s share of the financial liability for the wheat bounty is very much greater than the aggregate of the bounty payable to its wheat producers. The bounty last year involved the payment by the Commonwealth of £3,400,000, and on a population basis about one-thirtieth of that sum, or approximately £110,000, was contributed by Tasmania. On the other side of the ledger we find that the payments to the wheat-growers of Tasmania amount to not more than a few thousand pounds ; certainly not more than £10,000. Tasmania will lose, roughly, £100,000 on the transaction. Owing to the operation of the bounty, wheat prices have increased, and the wheat imported into Tasmania costs a good deal more because of the fact that Tasmania is obliged to import no fewer than 300,000 bushels per annum. In this way an additional amount of approximately £50,000 is taken from the pockets of the Tasmanian people.
Another disability of Tasmania - and this is not due to federal policy - is its enormously reduced income from lottery taxation.
– Thanks to Lang!
– Precisely. Tasmania’s ]cas of revenue from this source is, roughly, £260,000 per annum. This is due partly to the genera! depression; but mainly to the entry of the New South “Wales Government into the lottery business. Advantages as well as disadvantages have been conferred on Tasmania through federation; but when the advantages and disabilities are placed on the scales, it seems that the latter considerably outweigh the former. It has been found impossible to measure in monetary terms the extent to which the nuances of any State are affected by federation. However, I have studied the reports of all bodies that have inquired into the position of my State, and T estimate that the disabilities due to federation and other causes result in a loss of between £600,000 and £700.000 per annum.
Sir Nicholas Lockyer was appointed by the Bruce-Page Government to make inquiries into the disabilities of Tasmania under federation, and in his report he made the following statement : - lt appears to be. certain that Tasmania lias suffered more than any other State by the direct and indirect influence of federal policy. The State not only has been unable to share in the remarkable prosperity which has been so marked a feature in regard to Australia generally during the period covered by federation, but to an increasing extent each year she lags behind her more fortunate sister States. The most convincing evidence of this is the very regrettable serious annual loss of population.
It may he noted that Tasmania is the only State which has not received indirect benefits by Commonwealth expenditure within its borders, for the purposes of purely national policy, such as federal railways, sugar bounty, shipbuilding, the Murray waters irrigation scheme, defence factories, &c, in respect of all of which Tasmania bears a proportion of the cost.
There can bc no doubt whatever that the financial position of Tasmania is one of serious moment and calls for immediate attention. Without substantial assistance from the Commonwealth for relief of its present position, and for developmental purposes, it will lie quite impossible, in my opinion, to stem the exodus of population, which has reached alarming proportions, and, if permitted to continue, will surely lead to the bankruptcy of the State, a possible contingency of vital importance to the whole of the Commonwealth.
– That story has been “put over” for the last ten years.
– Yes; and we will continue to claim assistance from the Common wealth until justice is obtained. The recommendations of Sir Nicholas Lockyer comprised the granting of a loan of £1,000,000, free of interest, for the development of agricultural and horticultural resources; a special grant of £300,000 a year for ten years; £50,000 a year for afforestation; £500,000 ‘to relieve Tasmania of part of the capital cost of its hydro-electric scheme; £20,000 a year for ten years for a geological . survey ; a special grant for road construction, and £25,000 h year for ten years towards the maintenance of State trunk roads. These recommendations involved an annual benefit to Tasmania of over £500,000, and since the recommendations were made, the need for assistance has become more urgent.
A previous Commonwealth Government submitted certain Tasmanian matters to the Development, and Migration Commission, and that body recommended the extension of the Agricultural Department, the establishment of a demonstration farm, assistance to the fat-lamb industry, forestry development, the testing of lowgrade mineral ores, and the stimulation of the tourist traffic. No funds for those purposes have been made available by the Commonwealth Government, and the State has not been in a position to provide the necessary finance, although it is urgently necessary to give effect to the recommendations of the commission. An investigation has also been made into the affairs of Tasmania by the Commonwealth Joint Committee of Public Accounts, which made an exhaustive inquiry and recommended the payment of a substantial grant; but shortly after that committee had presented a favorable report, the Government of the day altered the committee’s terms of- reference. The committee was set the impossible task of assessing in monetary terms the extent of the disability which Tasmania’s finances have suffered through federation, and was requested to disregard natural disabilities. I submit that the natural disabilities of the State cannot possibly be separated from such disabilities as arise from federation, and that the Commonwealth should not disclaim responsibility for the effect of natural disabilities on the prosperity of the State. Tasmania has made ah honest attempt to give full effect to the Premiers plan, and it would be entirely unfair to penalize her because of the frugality of her administration in keeping within the terms of the plan. Every endeavour has been made to balance the budget. The financial disabilities of Tasmania cannot be ascribed to extravagant expenditure, because the State lias willingly accepted a lower level of governmental expenditure than the other States. An examination of statistics reveals that Tasmania’s expenditure per head of population on education, hospitals, charities, police, and general governmental activities, is in the vicinity of 65 per cent, of the average of the other Australian States. Had Tasmania expended money as freely as the other States, the Commonwealth Government would have been called upon for assistance to a much greater extent than has been the case, for huge deficits would have occurred. 1 do not think that any honorable member in this chamber will deny that Tasmania has made every effort to keep her expenditure within her revenue. lt has been suggested on many occasions that Tasmania’s taxation should be brought up to the level of that prevailing in the other States. It must, be remembered that taxation in that State has increased considerably in recent years. Having regard to taxable capacity, Tasmania is more heavily taxed than the average of the other Australian States. Statistics indicate that the taxable capacity of Tasmania is a little more than half that of the average of the other Australian States. The basis of calculation giving that result has been approved by such economists as Professors Brigden, Copland, Giblin, and Mills. All these authorities agree that the basis of calculation gives a reasonably accurate result. Foi the last four years the taxable capacity of Tasmania was as 47 is to 100 of the average for the other Australian States. Comparative figures for the last fourteen years, are 56 and 100. The statistical information available also demonstrates that taxation has been more severe in Tasmania than the average of flip other States, the comparison being as 125 is to 100. It cannot be denied, therefore, that Tasmania has imposed taxation with more severity than the other States. The following table shows the excess taxation paid in Tasmania, based on taxable capacity: -
I point out also that. 65 per cent, of the taxpayers of Tasmania have incomes of £200 per annum or less.
It is not a new thing for a State which is part of a federation to apply to the central government for assistance iu order to adjust its financial position. The States or provinces of various other countries in the world, notably the United States of America, Canada, South Africa, Germany, and Switzerland, have found such action necessary. The Canadian maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island are in much the same relation to the central government as is Tasmania to the Commonwealth Government. The Canadian Government has been very generous towards those provinces. A royal commission which inquired into the position of the maritime provinces of Canada some time ago made certain pertinent observations which I shall quote. The commission’s conclusions on the financial claims of the provinces were as follow7: -
On a full consideration of their arguments and their circumstances we think thu maritime provinces have made out a case for a revision of the grant from the dominion in support of their government machinery, and activity.
The commission concluded its recommendations on finance with these words -
We believe it is a sufficient minimum interim payment to ensure that the Governments of these provinces will approach any stable settlement of their financial relationships with the dominion, not in a spirit of meticulous bargaining, but in the broad spirit which arises from a feeling of their being met with sympathy and fairness rather, than with narrow compromise. These payments, also, will enable the provinces to undertake the more extensive progress in relation to agriculture, colonization, education, and other spheres of administration, which they represented to us they were precluded from undertaking now because of the inadequacy of their assistance from the dominion government.
Unless a more substantial grant than that proposed is made to Tasmania biter on, the State Government will be obliged to work on very heavy deficits, for it is impossible for it to retrench to any greater extent, or to effect any further economies. The expenditure on social services in the Island State has already been cut to the bone, and the people are living on a standard much below the Australian average. The State Government has been obliged to work on short-dated loans arranged for by the Loan Council, through the Commonwealth Bank, and the effect of any economies which it has been able to achieve has been more than counteracted by the increased interest costs it has incurred in respect of such loans. It is entirely unreasonable to expect Tasmania to continue her government on the frugal standard which has obtained in recent years.
I was glad to notice in the budget speech that the Government realizes the need for some more permanent method of assessing the degree of assistance which should be granted to the smaller States. It is not conducive either to good government or to the welfare of the people that the smaller and less populous States should be compelled to make annual applications for relief. Stable government cannot be built up by such methods. A policy with a longer range should be adopted. Interminable inquiries into the financial disabilities of the smaller .States are both irritating and futile. I trust, therefore, that the Government will, give effect to its promise to seek a more satisfactory method of meeting the position of such States as Tasmania. It is interesting to note that section 101 of the Commonwealth Constitution provides that-
There shall be an interstate commission, with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this constitution relating to trade and commerce and of all laws made thereunder.
It is true that there is no direct reference to finance in that section, but the references to trade and commerce are sufficiently wide, in my opinion, to make it quite within the ambit of the section for the Interstate Commission to investigate and recommend methods of overcoming the financial disabilities of the weaker States. The only Interstate Commission appointed under the terms of that section ceased to function in 1920. The act under which it operated empowered the commission to deal, among other things, with-
The effect and operation of any tariff act or other legislation of the Commonwealth in regard to revenue, Australian manufactures, and industry and trade generally.
Such a body could, therefore, appropriately investigate the subject of State disabilities. The Interstate Commission, or a body akin to it, should be set up to deal with this subject with the object of devising a more permanent method of coping with the problem.
– The honorable member must know that there is great difficulty in placing a monetary value on any alleged disabilities from which a State may suffer.
– I appreciate the contention of the honorable member, but nevertheless I trust that, at no distant date, the Commonwealth Government will take steps to put into operation a policy which will ensure to the smaller States a fairer deal than they are receiving at present.
– I hope that, honorable members will view this bill with grave apprehension. The measure brings under notice one of the most profound problems confronting this Parliament, namely, the future of certain so-called weaker, indigent, or necessitous States. A few years ago, when certain honorable members first sought assistance for such States, they made it clear that all they wanted was temporary aid in order to enable a satisfactory developmental policy to be put into operation. But since that time it has been the practice of the representatives of these States to demand, in a most vociferous manner, heavier and yet heavier toll from the other States of Australia until we have reached the position that even the Commonwealth Government is accepting the proposition that the granting of this eleemosynary aid is part of the Commonwealth policy. What we are asked to give these States now is not temporary but permanent help. Instead of deploring the necessity of having to find the money year after year, the Government advances the apology that the validity of the claims is unquestioned; that it is only a matter of evolving some formula to make it unnecessary for these States to humiliate themselves each year by asking for money. The Commonwealth Government thereby admits the right of these States to make annual claims for preposterous amounts. This year South Australia asked for the trifling sum of £2,000,000, Western Australia for a fleabite of £1,000,000, and Tasmania, more modest, being the smallest State, for birt £440,000. They are to receive half of those amounts. These requests are made to a Commonwealth that is, to. all intents and purposes, bankrupt. If it were not for the Premiers plan, which is inflicting tremendous hardship on the people of Australia, the Commonwealth would be unable to finance itself. Only twelve months ago the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) told us that if his Government did not make immediate heavy reductions of expenditure it would be able to pay only 12s. in the £1. Yet, when we arc making prodigious efforts to meet unprecedented financial problems, these three States suddenly come forward with a demand that yearly grants to them shall be a permanent obligation of the Federal Government. The effect upon the finances of the Commonwealth is disastrous, the direct result being that the Government has to cut old-age and invalid pensions by another 25 per cent.
– Rubbish !
– The fact cannot be ignored. Since 1929, £6,000,000 has been granted to Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania. That would be all right if there were an end to the business, but these gentlemen now claim that a yearly grant by the Commonwealth is an. inescapable obligation, on a par with the payment of pensions and the liquidation of our war debt. If it is logical for three States in impecunious circumstances to make a claim on the Commonwealth each year, it is logical for the whole of the States to do likewise. What was originally purely a temporary relief is apparently to become a settled part of Commonwealth policy. Even the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), who denounces the sugar agreement and practically everything else, unblushingly joins forces with South Australia and Tasmania in this grabbing campaign. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) said most audaciously that, while our tariff policy may hurt South Australia to the extent of £3.700,000 a year, he was pre-* pared to be a protectionist if his State had the bulk of that amount returned in the way of concessions. Every State would be prepared to accept the protectionist policy for a like recompense. If these three States are to have a yearly grant, why should not a fourth come in! We do not know what will happen to Queensland if the sugar agreement is varied. It may advance a good case for a yearly grant. And what about New South Wales, the most nearly bankrupt of all the States, with a deficit of £13,000,000? If the claims of these other States are sound, New South Wales has a, legitimate claim this year for £2,000,000 or £3,000,000. The disabilities about which we hear are largely conjectural. The claims of New South Wales and Queensland may also be conjectural, but they cannot be dismissed- as figments of the imagination.
Some honorable members may ask what is wrong with all of the States asking for some of the money for which the Commonwealth budgets. We are all one people; the money goes into circulation on behalf of one population and territorial content: it is only a matter of distribution. My answer is that the Commonwealth Parliament is a separate sovereign authority, with constitutional functions that are not possessed by the State Parliaments, and national obligations, which are yearly increasing, which are also foreign to the States. If the Commonwealth is to meet its obligations, such as overseas interest and pensions, it is necessary that it should have an irreducible revenue. It cannot have that if the States are to come each year for a grant. It may be argued that reductions in cost-of-living figures warrant pension reductions. These cuts cannot go on yearly; they must stop somewhere. The slashing cut in pensions made in the present budget proves that the time is fast approaching when we must call a halt. That cut, which will be discussed later, came as a bolt from the blue. I remind honorable members that these yearly grants receive no sanction in the Premiers plan. It is rather surprising chut the Premiers of South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania made no reference to any proposal to ask the Commonwealth for financial assistance. Each pointed out that his Government was doing its best, and with considerable success, to balance its budget without any help from this Parliament.
I shall refer to the case of South Australia, of which the honorable member for Hindmarsh painted such a woeful picture. I am aware that the honorable member has no great opinion of Mr. Hill, the Premier of his State, but the latter’s opinion is entitled to as much significance as is that of the honorable member. Mr. Hill painted a glowing picture of the position of South Australia. He pointed out that South Australia had made economies in adjustable expenditure totalling 29 per cent. - higher than the percentage economy in any other State - and was within ?1,500,000 of balancing its budget, and required only a slight improvement in its position to achieve budget equilibrium. He continued -
It willbe seen that South Australia has the highest taxation per head of the population of any of the State Governments, and this fact, combined with the reductions in expenditure, demonstrates in a remarkable way the determination of the people of South Australia to do their utmost to arrest the drift in State finance, and endeavour to approach as near as possible to a state of budget equilibrium.
He made no mention of the need for a grant from the Commonwealth.
– He thought that ?1,500,000 would be given by the Commonwealth.
– He certainly stated that he anticipated a deficit of ?1,500,000. I know nothing of what took place behind the scenes, but so far as the official record of the conference shows, the Premier of South Australia made no claim upon the Commonwealth for assistance in the balancing of his budget.
Now I come to Western Australia. The Premier of that State (Sir James Mitchell) said -
Western Australia has made the savings in expenditure which we undertook to make under the Premiers plan. Our figures show that we have made a reduction in our adjustable expenditure of 27 per cent., as against the 20 per cent. which we agreed to make. It must be remembered that unemployment relief and exchange are very big factors in our expenditure.
The collection of revenuehas been more difficult as we have not had the incomes to tax. We are a primary producing State, selling our products abroad, and the very low prices have left our people almost without taxable incomes. When we agreed on our budgets at the last conference, it was reasonable to expect that we could get our revenue in, but the position has since changed. The interest earned by our railways and other concerns last year was a million pounds short.
Sir James Mitchell asked for no contribution from the Commonwealth; he seemed to be quite satisfied with the position of his State. The third so-called necessitous State is Tasmania; the smallest State in the Commonwealth, but able to make more noise than all the other States together. Mr. McPhee said -
It will readily be seen that our efforts to make ends meet have been nullified by unexpected decreases in revenue. The drop in. the yield of taxation is largely due to the falling off in lotteries taxation.
Apparently, but for the Lang lottery, Tasmania would have been all right. Is the Commonwealth to accept responsibility because a New South Wales lottery has robbed Tasmania of some of its revenue? Mr. McPhee said - “ My Government considers it impracticable to impose more taxation in view of the low taxable capacity of the State.” I admit that point, but the main reason given by Mr. McPhee for the financial position of his State was the decline in lottery revenue, and he did not ask for any assistance from the Commonwealth. It is clear, then, that these grants to the States are not part of the Premiers plan, although every other feature of our financial policy seems to be, but the Government makes them the very pivot of the. budget, and all the other financial commitments and implications become subsidiary.
– The honorable member knows very well that the Premiers agreed to these grants.
– Yes, but although the grants are not part of the Premiers plan, the Government regards them as so pivotal a part of its financial programme that it is prepared to make the reduction of old-age pensions a vital matter of policy. The logical inference is that if Parliament, in its wisdom, refused to sanction a reduction of pensions, the Government would surrender office. It would not say that if Parliament did not approve of the sacrifice of the pensioners it would balance the budget by withholding the proposed grants from necessitous States. No ; .the £1,800,000 to bc given to the States is the rock of Gibraltar, the key of the financial policy, and everything else is of secondary consequence 1 What authority has been obtained from this Parliament for such an attitude? Hitherto, the grants in aid of necessitous States have been minor features of government policy, but for reasons which the Ministry is bound to explain, the whole course of Commonwealth finance has been altered.
Examining the finances of the three beneficiary States, we find that their deficits are due largely to railway losses. But that is true of Australia generally. The aggregate deficit of the Australian railways for the last seventeen years has been £77,000,000. One may safely estimate that in the last ten years our railway systems have lost, on an average for each year, £8,000,000. Here is the root of all our financial difficulties. It is a noteworthy fact that the railway losses of South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania amounted to £1,700,000 last year, and that the Government is proposing grants totalling £100,000 in excess of that amount. Instead of continuing to play with the financial problem, this Parliament should face realities. It is clear that, if we make grants this year, we shall he asked to do so next year, and the year after, and so on ; but eventually we shall be compelled, by force of circumstances, to call a halt. The Government would have shown more statesmanship had it made a bold stand this year, and told the States that, hard though their lot might be, they must depend upon themselves.
– That might have saved the honorable member from facing up to the reduction of old-age pensions.
– I shall face that issue at least as gamely as the honorable member, and with a great deal less perturbation. Sooner or later the Government will have to take a stand against the mendicant States. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) admitted in his budget speech, and also when moving the second reading of this bill, that the grants cannot continue indefinitely. Nevertheless, he postpones decisive action. That is a pathetically helpless attitude. A serious issue is involved, and the Government has treated the House cavalierly by merely throwing the bill on the table and asking us to treat it as a casual matter. We must first declare that we cannot year after year pay to South Australia £1,000,000, to “Western Australia £500,000, and to Tasmania £300,000. Having done that, our next duty will be to tell the people of the constitutional changes that are necessary. At the root of all our budgetary difficulties is railway finance. Commonwealth control of all railway systems must be a starting point of any policy of financial rehabilitation. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has stated that the solution of the financial problem will be found in unification. That would merely intensify existing difficulties, making the present States or their successors mere impecunious pensioners of tha central parliament. That has been the experience in South Africa. I advocate the opposite course. We need, not a unitary system of government, which would intensify existing evils, but increased federalization. More partners should be admitted into the federation. The partnership of three weak and chronically impecunious States with three large and generally financially strong States has created lack of balance ir the finances and problems of Australia. Territorially one-half of Australia is looking at all our problems from the small State angle, and the other half from the large State angle; there is no community of interest between the two sets of States. The only way out of the difficulty is to create new States. If we get nearer to equality in the federal partnership, we shall more nearly equalize the problems of Australia, also. It would be better to have twelve small or weak States than to have three weak States and three strong ones as at present. We should then be rid of the conflict between the small State view and the large State view which is the curse of Australia. I have been asked why I advocate the federal control of railways.
I do so because I think it a practical proposition. “We can control the railways in conjunction with the States, and still maintain the federal principle. We should then be able to admit more partners into the federation as need arose. At present we are pandering to State’s which are necessitous; which are making a policy of being necessitous. They are not making a serious attempt to solve their own problems. I am sure that not one representative of those States can show that their State Governments are making any attempt to stand on their own feet. The policy of depending upon the Commonwealth for charitable aid year after year has now become the fixed policy of those three States.
– I resent the honorable member’s statement that South Australia looks to the Commonwealth for charitable aid.
– It has been proved by the experience of the last six or seven years, and is again demonstrated by this budget.
.- On every occasion when these matters are brought forward we hear something about doles and charitable grants. To-night we heard an honorable member refer to these States as having cadged for assistance. If the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) would look at the figures prepared by the AuditorGeneral, he would see that the Commonwealth Government has disbursed £11,000,000 by way of bounties and grants to industry. By far the greatest proportion of this has gone to the iron and steel industry, situated chiefly in New South’ Wales. Until the granting of the wheat and gold bounties, Western Australia received only. £40,000 by way of assistance to industry, out of a total of £7,500,000 distributed in bounties throughout the Commonwealth. Most of the money had been spent in New South Wales Or Victoria. In addition, large sums of government money have been spent on establishing the Commonwealth Oil Refineries, and the Amalgamated Wireless Company. Before this, there was in existence the Commonwealth Line of Steamers which, far from returning anything on the capital invested, was a persistent drag on the finances of the country. It cannot be demonstrated that this shipping line was ever of any assistance to the smaller States. The Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways advocates Commonwealth control of all the railways of the Commonwealth. Yet it is he who perpetrates . the arrant stupidity of having the seven miles of railway line from Queanbeyan to Canberra under separate Commonwealth control, thus necessitating the payment of two lots of freight on goods coming to the Capital. As a matter of fact, Australia’s troubles to-day are in a large measure due to too much Commonwealth control. On top of all the other disabilities which may be traced to federation, the smaller States have suffered moSt severely from the tariff, which has increased the cost of production by 100 per cent.
Every one who has studied the history of federation must admit that it has been of most advantage to the three States with the greatest population, while it has been of very grave disadvantage to the other three States, whose weakness m population and political influence has rendered them unable to resist injustice. When the Commonwealth was established, it was never dreamt for a moment that the Commonwealth would enter practically every field of taxation. Tasmania has suffered enormous losses through the operation of the coastal clauses of the Navigation Act, yet, the Commonwealth Parliament has, until just recently, done nothing to relieve her. In pre-war days Australia had built up a very fine maritime industry. Large ships called regularly at all important ports, and trade was thriving. The Navigation Act has almost destroyed it. South Australia was one of the soundest and most prosperous States in the Commonwealth. Many fine secondary industries had been established, and even Western Australia imported considerable quantities of mining machinery manufactured in Adelaide. There is no hope for secondary industries in that State now. The Navigation Act has operated to increase the price of coal and other imported goods. Indeed, I should not be surprised if Holden’s Motor Body Works were removed to some other State. I have here
The tariff imposed by federation was designed to promote the establishment of protected industries, and it has seriously taxed the unsheltered export industries upon which South Australia is predominantly dependent.
If that is true of South Australia, with how much greater force does itapply toWestern Australia. The report continues -
As a result, South Australia has been detrimentally affected in its finances, whilst such States as Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales - in which the purpose of the tariff was attained by the establishment and expansion of protected industries- have received substantial financial benefits. Whilst protected industries are established under the tariff and by bounties and embargoes at the cost of the nation, the cost of development of primary industries is borne by the State, and developmental expenditure by South Australia has resulted in a heavy monetary loss to the State and a direct monetary gain to the other States of the Commonwealth.
These States, finding that they were unable to keep their secondary industries, borrowed money to place people on the land. This money was spent on developmental work, but, owing to the operation of the tariff, everything needed for land settlement had become enormously more expensive. The report goes on -
The cost of development has not been equitably spread over the States of the Commonwealth, and is a matter of serious concern to those States whose major activities must necessarily be directed to the development of unsheltered primary industries.
The report quotes the finding of a special committee on the economic problem as follows : -
Production in export industry has become so unprofitable that the volume of exports could not be maintained even with similar seasons. Prices of wool and wheat in Australian currency have fallen further than their costs of production, and are now below them.
– And now the honorable member wishes to cut the painter altogether.
– Yes, I do. The report continues -
If the total annual cost of protection, viz.. £36,000,000, can be accepted as an approxi mately true reflex of the cost of the tariff to Australia, and it is distributed among the States on a population basis, the cost to South Australia works out at considerably - more than £3,000,000 per annum. It is obvious, therefore, that on this basis the burden borne by the people of South Australia is very substantial.
The honorable member for New England said that the weaker States were asking for charity. If the Commonwealth encroaches on every field of taxation, including land tax, income tax, amusement tax, and probate tax, what is left for the States, which have to run the railways, build and maintain roads and harbours, maintain their own charities,provide for the education of their people and the administration of justice? The Commonwealth does not contribute a penny to the cost of federal litigation before any of the courts except the High Court.
– We have had a war.
– And who helped in the war? A lot of people took care to keep out of it. If the effect of federation in South Australia has been anything like as disastrous as is claimed by that State, what must the effect have been in Western Australia, which is at a greater distance from the eastern States? The effect of the Navigation Act is felt much more acutely in Western Australia than in Tasmania or South Australia. The burden of the extra freightage is an additional disability. Although South Australia is not being too generously treated, I regret that Western Australia is not receiving equal treatment, because it is suffering more as a result of the federal policy. Western Australia has no secondary industries worth mentioning. It is wholly a primary-producing State. It comprises one-third of the area of Australia, and it must be developed and peopled. We have been doing our best to make that State prosperous. The State Government has provided the money necessary for railways. Harbours and roads have been constructed. In the interior enormous sums have been expended in the provision of water supplies, not only for mining, but also for agricultural development. Most of the expenditure has been from loan moneys, and that naturally has meant a big interest bill. In pre-federation days, we were proud of our State. After the discovery of gold it developed rapidly. I was a member of the State Ministry from 1901 to 1911. At that time we were proud of our magnificent record in constructing public works out of revenue. Nearly half of the railway from Malcolm to Laverton was constructed out of revenue. It was nothing for the State to expend £300,000 or £400,000 out of revenue for the construction of public works. We expended from loans £12,500,000 on the Coolgardie water supply, the Fremantle Harbour works, and railway construction, and our credit was so good that some of our loans were obtained at par and 3 per cent. Since federation we have expended on developmental works £62,000,000 of loan money, equivalent to about £200 per head of population. In 1901, the area under cultivation was 201.000 acres; in 1931 it was 4,792,000 acres. Our wheat yield has increased enormously, and last year we produced 53,500,000 bushels. Magnificent work has been done in developing the resources of the country. Last year the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and 1. quoted, in this House, a statement, which was prepared by Mr. Wood, a wellknown accountant of Perth. It showed that, in the development of agricultural propositions, what cost £1.000 in pre-war days cost £2,400 in 1931. We have to compete in the markets of the world. There is no local market of any consequence for our produce, and we have, therefore, to accept world prices. How is it possible, therefore, for us to produce and still meet the enormous costs that have been piled upon us since federation? Even if the producers of Western Australia were making a profit, why should they be forced to buy at exorbitant prices the manufactures of the eastern States? What applies to agriculture in Western Australia applies also to mining. Some little time ago, the management of the Wiluna gold-mine wrote to the Commonwealth Government stating that’ while the company had made every effort to purchase its requirements in Australia, its new process and the need for immense power had compelled it to purchase from Great Britain machinery «nd appliances upon which it. had had to pay over £100,000 in duty. In the last four years the value of our imports, both oVerseas and interstate, amounted to £75,000,000, and on that we must have paid over £.18,750,000 in customs duties to which importers and traders profits must be added. The value of our exports represents £37 per head, of population, which is about double the average of Australia. I quote those figures to show that although the people of Western Australia are doing their best to build up that State, the high cost of their requirements for the development of the mining, agricultural and pastoral industries makes it impossible for them to carry on with profit. Western Australia cannot fulfil its destiny under such conditions. I look upon this grant only as a dole. It is of some assistance to the State Treasury and it may enable some slight reduction to be made in taxation, but the people of Western Australia cannot prosper whilst the system of exploitation established under the tariff policy of the Commonwealth Government continues. 1 have no objection to the granting of assistance to South Australia, but I think that in view of the disabilities of Western Australia similar assistance to that State also is justified. Personally, I should not. complain if the grant were withdrawn, because that would hasten the decision of % the people not to remain within the federation.
– The honorable member is a revolutionary.
– I assure the honorable member that, if given the opportunity. 75 per cent, of the people of Western Australia would vote for secession to-morrow.
– Why does not that State secede?
– Next week I shall submit to the House a motion which, if carried, will enable the Government to take the action necessary to give fair play to Western Australia. It is absolutely impossible for a primary producing State which has to compete in the markets of the world to make good while the- cost of its requirements remains so high. The Commonwealth Government has monopolized almost every source of taxation. It has placed every obstacle in the way of the States in respect of trade and commerce, and while that position exists, the people of Western Australia cannot feel anything but dissatisfied with their association with the Commonwealth.
. I approach the consideration of grants to the States along lines different from those followed by previous speakers. Those honorable members who sat in the last Parliament and objected to the adoption of the Premiers plan can look with a great measure of satisfaction at the circumstances of to-day. That plan was agreed upon outside of this Parliament altogether. This Parliament had little or no say in the making of it, because the Premiers of the various States met in Melbourne, decided upon the plan, and imposed their will upon the Federal Parliament. However, according to the then Government, everything was to be adjusted to the satisfaction of all sections of the community. I am sure that even those of whose lot the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) spoke so dismally to-night, have felt to some extent the drastic application of the plan, which was commenced in June of last year.
I listened attentively to the speech ofthe honorablemember for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), who put the case of South Australia, and to that of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) who spoke on behalf of Tasmania. It appears that. South Australia is not a very comfortable place in which to live at the present time. Such people there as have any money at all arethe most highly-taxed in the Commonwealth, and those there who arc fortunate enough to be working are in receipt of the lowest wages paid in Australia to-day. Hand in hand with low wages generally go bad conditions. Therefore ft appears that residence in South Australia is satisfactory only to a few persons who, no doubt, are sitting in the box seat, and reaping the rewards of their financial transactions by demanding their full pound of flesh in respect of interest rates.
The Premier of South Australia, prior to the State elections in New South Wales, visited Sydney, and in a congenial atmosphere - the Millions Club - delivered an address. He spoke at great lengthin showing how completely his State had observed the Premiers plan in the smallest detail. He said that his State had turned the corner, and that prosperity was near at hand. He added that if only New South Wales would do the same as South Australia had done, the position generally would be all that could be desired. He was at great pains to eulogize those in New South Wales who were endeavouring to force the conditions of the plan upon the people of that State. At the time of his visit, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that South Australia showed definite signs of revival.
– Nobody has seen such signs yet.
– Quite so, and much less were they evident at that time. Strange to say, almost contemporaneously with the announcement in the Sydney Morning Herald appeared a letter, addressed by Mr. Hill to the Prime Minister, and laid on the table of this House, pointing out the real position in South Australia. In that letter Mr. Hill said -
All governments in Australia in June. 1931, agreed to adopt the Premiersplan, which was designed to living about gradual recovery in Australiangovernment finance. South Australiahas faithfully carried out its obligations under the Premiers plan, and its percentage reductions in adjustable expenditure are greater than timer effected by any other government in Australia. Net loan expenditure in South Australia has been reduced practically to zero, and SouthAustralia’s record in thisrespect is eclipsed by only one otherstate,Queensland. Taxation inSouth Australia hasbeenincreased to such a degree that, with federal taxation superimposed, the burden placed upon the citizens of South Australia is almost insupportable. The tremendous fall in the oversea prices of our exportable productshas meant a serious fall in our national income, and has reduced to an alarming extent our taxable field. On the other hand, the reduction in national income hasmeanta large reduction in the volume of ordinary business, which has caused a large increase in unemployment, and also in government outlay for sustenance, an obligation which must be met.
Mr. Hill concluded by asking that £2,000,000 be made available in order to enable his State to carry on. It seems to me that there must be a measure of political hypocrisy about such action. Mr. Hill gives effect to the Premiers plan with a vengeance, and then he asks for £2,000,000 to enable him. to carry on ! That sum would have to be drawn from the States of New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria.
– These requests knocked the bottom out of the Premiers plan.
– Of course. New South “Wales, I think, provides 40 per cent, of the revenue of the Commonwealth. Honorable members who compose ray group are kicked and bludgeoned by the Premier of South Australia. 11is remarks in his own Parliament are notvery complimentary to many of us; but, in the political struggle in which we are engaged, that means nothing to us. The point I desire to stress is that he goes to great pains to show what he has done in carrying out the Premiers plan, and having done that he reduces South Australia to such a position that it is impossible for his Government to provide working people there with sufficient means of sustenance to keep body and soul together. Therefore, he now asks this Parliament for £2,000,000. If this plan were capable of accomplishing the things which we were told it would do, South Australia, instead of asking the Commonwealth for this amount, should be advancing it to the Commonwealth. The former member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) stated that the plan would provide work for 100,000 .men, and he pointed out that oldage pensioners could live better on 17s. 6d. per week than on £1- per week. It would be advisable for those who advocate such a reduction of the pension to see first how well they could live on such a miserable pittance. Undoubtedly, the circumstances of the people in South Australia are deplorable, and the taxation is of such a nature that I would not be surprised if they revolted against, it at the first opportunity. It was stated by the United Australia party candidates at the last election that they would relieve the people of- the heavy burden of taxation, because they were reaching the stage at which it would be impossible for them to bear it longer.
I am not satisfied as to the channels into which the proposed grants to South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania will go. I wish to be -assured that the money will be used for the benefit of those who chiefly need it. Naturally. I am concerned about all who are suffering through heavy taxation and unemployment, and 1. can support these bills only if I am satisfied that the money will be used to help those in real need.
– What does the honorable member think will happen to the unemployed in South Australia if the grant is not made?
– That matter must be considered. I realize that the sponsors of the Premiers plan find themselves in such a position that they are unable, in allocating these grants to States, to specify exactly how the money must be spent; but I snail not be doing justice to my constituents, who are suffering through unemployment and want, unless I am assured before voting for the bill before the House that the grant will be used for the relief of the unemployed and hungry in South Australia. Those who need employment in New South Wales could well do with a grant of £1,000,000 or more at the present time, and they are looking to this Parliament for assistance. If I had the assurance that I desire, I could then say to the people in my electorate, “ I know you need financial assistance from the Government, so that employment may be provided, but your fellow citizens in South Australia also , require help. The opportunity is not now presented for me to do for you what I am now able to do for them.” But I must be satisfied that the money will be spent in the interests of those who most need it.
I recall what some members of the Opposition said in discussing the Premiers plan, and I am sure that they will fight alongside my party for the purpose of forcing the Government to follow the course which we’ say is the only feasible one if this country is to be brought through its difficulties. Australia is saddled with debts which it is humanly impossible for it to meet. We said over two years ago that this country could not continue to pay the enormous rates of interest which it was charged on its loans, and because of that we were called repudiationists. AAs a matter of fact, the last federal election was fought on that issue. But Ave have lived to see the day when the very scheme which v/e suggested has become recognized as being well within the realm of practical politics. The position in regard to our overseas debts is of such a character that one of the duties assigned to the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who is to be the Minister in London without fortfolio, is to give effect to the Government’s desire to convert Commonwealth 6£ per cent, stock to a more reasonable rate. I advocated the adoption of that course long ago, but our opponents said it was impracticable, because our stock was held by trustee companies, agents, &c, who could not obtain the necessary authority to agree to the conversion. The reason why our opponents have changed their opinion on this matter i3 that they know that it is not now a question of what can or cannot be done, but of what must be done. If the present” monetary system is to be maintained the conversion must be made, no matter who holds our stock.
The States have been reduced to these unfortunate circumstances because of political hypocrisy. The leaders of the government of the day refused a considerable time ago to adopt a course which they are bound to take to-day. Even with regard to the £28,000,000 conversion, when some of us in the Labour party said that it should stand over for a period of twelve months at the existing rate of interest, those who advocated that course were called repudiationists. Yet a little later, not only was that £28,000,000 converted from 6 per cent, to a lower rate of interest, but the minimum period for repayment was fixed at seven years, and the maximum period at 30 years. Of course, in this as in other matters, the men who blaze the trail must expect to be bitterly attacked, and to be charged with being enemies of their country. But I hope that all honorable members now in this House will live” to see the day when those who advocated the reduction of interest will be recognized as greater patriots than those who condemned them. If the money to be granted to certain States under this legislation is to be used in meeting exorbitant interest charges, about which I complain, I shall not be a party to passing it, and, therefore, I intend to submit to the House an amendment which may place me in a correct light before the people whom I represent. I could go into many other aspects of the benefits which various
States have received from the Commonwealth, but that matter has been extensively dealt with by previous speakers.
Reference has been made to the reports of the Commonwealth Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts on the matter of financial assistance to various . States owing to disabilities due to federation. Arguments could be advanced for and against what has been 3aid by the various investigating bodies; but I do not wish to deny the people of those States the smallest fraction of the assistance which has been accorded them. Any lover of his country must deplore the impoverished condition of a large proportion of the people. If honorable members will allow these proposed grants to be spent in a certain direction, I shall support the bills.
I feel that every honorable member, irrespective of his party allegiance, must recognize that the present monetary system is unsatisfactory, and cannot be maintained much longer. However, in order to test the sincerity of the expressed desire of honorable members to do something effective to meet the existing conditions, I move -
That all the words after “That” be omitted with a, view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide that financial assistance shall bo for the sole purpose of relief of unemployment “.
If we provide that this money shall be spent to assist in the relief of unemployment, we shall do all that is necessary to meet other needs. The honorable member for Hindmarsh said that expenditure on hospitals in South Australia had been drastically curtailed. If we have any humane feelings at all, we shall not desire that state of affairs to continue.
– The honorable member’s amendment will not provide a remedy.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh also referred to the reduction in receipts from motor licences and other revenue, and went on to say that the tendency was to remit taxation in respect of persons who were quite capable of bearing it. I believe that if we provide that this money shall be spent in the relief of unemployment, it will be possible before very long to place all the social services of the State on a ‘better footing.
It is generally the poor who help the poor, and generally the poor who make the most substantial contributions, in the aggregate, to our hospitals. If we can increase employment, we shall add to the buoyancy of the revenue of South Australia. That also is true of Western Australia and Tasmania. This would have a correspondingly good effect in other directions. If my amendment is agreed to, I shall be able conscientiously to justify my support of this bill to my constituents, for I shall be able to say to them that although it was not possible for me to do anything to help the unemployed of New South Wales by this method, I was at least able to do something to assist the equally unfortunate unemployed of South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. I therefore hope that the amendment will be agreed to.
.- I am opposed to the amendment. I believe that the Premiers plan provides the most satisfactory way out of our difficulties.
– When will the plan begin to getus out of our difficulties?
– If the Lang plan had been in operation for much longer, the financial position of the whole of Australia would have been chaotic. We should thank God that an end was put to that method for overcoming our troubles. The Premier of South Australia has, in my opinion, done excellent work for his State.
– The honorable member is the only one who thinks so.
– I disagree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) on that point. Mr. Lionel Hill has made a success of his job, and if the principles for which he has argued had been put into operation more generally throughout Australia, the whole Commonwealth would have been in a sounder position. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has roundly condemned the Premiers plan. He believes that the Lang plan is the way out. I am glad that the people of New South Wales expressed such strong disagreement with the honorable member’s view. They let their voice be heard in no uncertain tone through the ballot box not long ago.
– The honorable member may not proceed to discuss the Lang plan.
– All I wish to say, Mr. Speaker, is that the honorable member for West Sydney showed remarkable audacity in attempting to justify the Lang plan in this House. When Mr. Lang was forced out of office in New South Wales, he left behind him a deficit of £13,000,000.
A ruling has been given from the Chair that we may discuss, in the one debate, the proposals of the Government for making grants to South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. I trust that honorable members will not, in these circumstances, indulge in a long debate on each of these three measures. For my own part I intend to confine my remarks to the proposal in regard to South Australia. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, in the course of his speech, roundly condemned the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Hill-
– And deservedly so.
– The honorable member and I differ on that point. I am glad that the honorable member resumed his seat when he did ; otherwise he would have jeopardized the prospects of the passage of this bill. I am astrong supporter of the Premiers plan, as is the Premier of South Australia. In view of the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, I feel that, in justice to Mr. Hill and his supporters of the plan, and to the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters, I should, in a public way, congratulate the supporters of the Premiers plan on the service which they have rendered to South Australia.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I must ask honorable members to cease their continuous interjections. The honorable member who is addressing the Chair is entitled to be heard in silence.
– I have no desire to provoke interjections, but I feel that the honorable member for Hindmarsh has done a great disservice to South Australia in criticizing its Premier as he has done.
– I think that I havedone a great service to that State.
– It has been said during the debate that the population of the State was decreasing. I have examined the statistics since that statement was made, and I find that the figures for the year ended the 31st December, 193.1, show an increase of 1,438 over the figures for 1930. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) complained that the Premier of South Australia had not taken the opportunity afforded bini at the Premiers Conference to discuss the financial disabilities of South Australia.
– I said that he did not intimate at the conference that he intended to apply for a grant of £2,000,000.
– Iti order to clear up this point, I refer honorable members to the following paragraph in the speech delivered by Mr. Hill at the conference in Canberra on the 29th June, 1932 : -
I may put the position in this way: Of a total estimated revenue ‘of £S),(i80,000, no less than £0,(100,000 is expended in interest, sinking fund, exchange ami unemployment, and £2,470,000 for thu maintenance of business undertakings. This leaves only £320,000 with which to carry on education, police, hospitals, and the ordinary administrative services of the Government. As the special grant of £1,000,000 from the Commonwealth lias been included in these figures, it will bc realized that without it the State would have no revenue at all with which to meet the outlay on its social services and the general administrative activities of the Government.
Mr. Hill then proceeded to quote the following extract from the Prime Minister’s speech which be described as “most significant “ : -
We recognize the great efforts that have been made by some of the States, nml the difficulties confronting the smaller States. We have indicated already to South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, the total sums hy way of assistance that we are prepared to recommend to the Federal Parliament. These totals have been arrived at after a most careful analysis of the relative position of each State, and they represent the utmost limits of the assistance that the Commonwealth, in view of its own position, is able to grant. The Commonwealth feels that it must look at the financial position of Australia as a whole and must help the less populated States as much as possible.
That proves that the matter was mentioned at the Premiers Conference. ^ I assure the honorable member for “West Sydney that South Australia is doing all that is possible for those whom the honorable member wishes to assist.
– The Hill Government is not doing as much as it should be doing.
– If everything sought by the honorable member were carried out South Australia would need another £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. It is all very well to make reckless statements, but the honorable member has not demonstrated how the funds are to be raised. The honorable member also goes about the country vilifying the Premier of South Australia. He knows that, if he had the opportunity, he would no’t be able to do the job as well as Mr. Hill. South Australia has a just cause, consequently the Commonwealth has recognized it. That State suffers many disabilities under federation, a number of which are set out in the report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. Our tariff is of distinct disadvantage to my State. The committee reports -
It is clear, to the committee that the State of South Australia is in a serious position financially, and that it will be necessary for the Commonwealth to render assistance in the form of a. grant to enable the Government to carry on its ordinary services and to meet it? contractual obiligations
Under the heading “Taxation” the committee states -
The adverse position of the State’s finances cannot be contributed to failure on the part of the Government to impose heavy taxation or to effect economies in fundamental services . . In the opinion of the committee the existing rates of taxation in South Australia cannot continue for long without very serious reactions on the State as a whole.
The committee also declares that the cost of essential services in South Australia is far below the average of the other States while, concerning loan expenditure, it reports -
Unfortunately, South Australia, in common with the other States, has contributed largely to her present troubles hy excessive borrowings in the past, and by the investment of loan moneys in uneconomic public works.
Of course, those remarks apply to every other State in the Commonwealth. I appeal to honorable members to support, the bill. I could continue quoting facts in support of my case, but I know that honorable members are favorable to the proposal, and I leave the matter to their sense of justice and fairplay.
.- Western Australia does not present itself as a suppliant for charitable aid. Its attitude is that of a petitioner before a court of justice. Only those who know nothing of the situation and have not taken care to examine the position, take exception to the proposal, and speak disparagingly of the grant. This money does not represent one-third of the disadvantages suffered by my State annually for being ‘ a unit of the federation. I remind honorable members that Western Australia did not join the federation until the other States had united. My State was cajoled into the union on sentimental issues. When the vote was taken in Western Australia, the great bulk of its population was on the gold-fields. Most of them were eastern Staters and their votes were influenced not by the permanent advantage of Western Australia, but by sentiment. They voted as Victorians and New South Welshmen, with the idea “ Let’s all be together “.
There were wise people who recognized the disadvantage of Western Australia coming into federation. The Constitution itself recognized such a disadvantage by providing that for five years the State should collect its own customs and excise duties. I submit that so long as Western Australia remains a unit of the federation it will suffer disadvantage. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) made puerile statements. He cannot realize the fairness of the request. On the other hand, those who have been commissioned to inquire into the matter have reported, without exception, that the disabilities complained of are real and substantial. The latest statistics reveal that in one year Western Australia purchased £10,600,000 worth of goods from the eastern States, compared with purchases from Western Australia by those States of only £1,200,000 in the same period - an adverse balance of £9,400,000. That big expenditure by my State gave much employment in the eastern States, and an income to their merchants which could be taxed. The market in which Western Australia is compelled to buy is the dearest on this planet. Had my State been able to purchase its requirements in the open markets of the world it would have saved no less a ,sum than £3,000,000 for the period I mention. Yet some honorable members speak disparagingly of my State, and oppose the proposal to make a grant, which has been recommended by the competent authorities after exhaustive inquiry. The Disabilities Commission which examined the matter during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government recommended a grant of £450,000 per annum to Western Australia. Instead, it has received only £300,000 annually for a term of six years. The principal grounds for the commission’s recommendation were the burdens imposed upon Western Australia by the operation of the Australian tariff, and the Navigation Act. Since that report was tabled in this chamber the tariff has nearly doubled, predicating a similar increase in the disabilities of my State. The only improper thing about the present proposal is that the grant is inadequate.
At the time of federation the less populated States were .in a sound position. The union has withered them, the excessive fiscal policy of the nation preventing their natural development. Western Australia has an area equal to one-third of the continent, and a population of only 450,000 people. Nevertheless, its people are making a grand attempt to colonize and develop their State. Statistics indicate that they have raised more for export per head of population than has any other State in the Commonwealth, Australia’s great need is to produce exportable wealth. During the years 1926-27 to 1930-31 the average output of exportable products for the whole of the Commonwealth is given as 15.918 per head, the output for Western Australia being 37.0 per head, more than double that of any other State. Had Western Australia, a primary producing State, been unfettered, it would have been able to make greater progress, and to produce more exportable wealth. What it has achieved has assisted in establishing the financial credit’ of the Commonwealth and in bolstering up the secondary industries of the eastern States. But the fall in the price of export commodities, and the heavy burden created by the excessive protection of secondary industries, have made the task of the Western Australian people impossible. Citizens of the eastern States must recognize the value to them of the operations of the small population in Western Australia. The commission appointed by the Bruce-Page Government to inquire into the disabilities of the western State reported that the average advantage of secondary protection throughout the Commonwealth was £6 per head; but in Wes tern Australia it was only £3 12s. Those figures clearly indicate the disadvantage which the Australian fiscal policy has been to Western Australia. I am sorry that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) did not agree with the conclusion of those bodies which have inquired into South Australia’s disabilities: that the tariff and the Navigation Act have retarded the progress of that State. The honorable member mentioned amongst the natural disadvantages of South Australia its lack of forests and coal deposits. Unfortunately, the Navigation Act which was introduced and continued by the honorable member’s party, prevents those commodities from being imported into South Australia at reasonable rates, and thus imposes a heavy handicap upon its industries. The freight on timber from Hobart to South Australia is greater than from Vancouver or Norway. The restraining legislation of this Parliament is shrivelling the smaller States. South Australia is obliged to import coal, but the freight from Newcastle is so high that the State Government finds it more profitable to buy coal from Wales and South Africa. Had the honorable member for Hindmarsh denounced the legislation which has brought his State to penury, he would have done something substantial to promote its emancipation. Professor Giblin, dealing with the taxable capacity of the States, has computed that, taking 100 as the average for the Commonwealth, the figure for New South Wales is 115 ; for Victoria 112 ; and for Western Australia, 71. This disparity did not obtain in prefederation days ; it has arisen solely from the fact that Western Australia was drawn by sentiment into an unequal partnership. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) referred to the agitation in that State for secession from the Commonwealth. A section of the commission appointed by the Bruce-Page Government was bold enough to say that the only remedy for the disabilities of
Western Australia was secession. A further suggestion was that that State should be given fiscal autonomy for 25 years. Of course the politically powerful eastern States would object to that, because Western Australia buys from them £10,600,000. worth of goods annually. On the other hand, foreign countries are infinitely better customers of Western Australia than are the eastern States. The references during this debate to “ sops “ aTe galling to a representative of the western State. A grant three times as large as that now proposed would not compensate that State for the losses it has sustained under federation. I have heard honorable members from Queensland sneer at the grants to necessitous States. I remind them that because of the legislation of this Parliament. Western Australia’s purchases of sugar cost £460,000 more than if its requirements could be imported from abroad. But that is not the worst feature of the monopoly given to Queensland sugargrowers. At great cost we have settled people on the land and provided railway communication for them. We expected to be able to find markets for their produce, but potential customers have been offended by the obstacles to the importation of their products into Australia. For the amount we pay for Queensland sugar we could buy three times the quantity of that commodity abroad, and we could pay for it with exportable products, thus providing employment for our people and promoting the development and defence of the Commonwealth. I cannot understand why the disabilities suffered by Western Australia are nol more fully realized. The adjustment of the existing inequalities would be to the advantage of the whole Commonwealth. The Western Australian people were induced by sentiment to joint the federation, but, they cannot live on sentiment much longer. No law in a British dominion should be as unalterable as the laws of the Medes and Persians. No law which imposes a permanent disadvantage or injustice on an individual or section can be indefinitely continued. The proposed grant will be acceptable, but it is totally inadequate. The three States that, are now asking for justice have been the milch cows of the other partners in the federation.’ At one time an effort was made to induce New Zealand to join an Australian federation, but it wisely resolved to maintain its independence. Economically, Western Australia is more isolated from the rest of Australia than New Zealand would have been. Sooner or later theinequalities of the present system will have to be removed and justice done to Western Australia. 1 believe that thatis true of South Australia and Tas mania also. Federation was premature, by many years. Had it been deferred another fifty years it might have commenced with a larger number of States on the lines advocated by the honorable member for New England. The existing union is unwieldly and unbalanced, and the more populous States are able to outvote all the others. Men are elected to this chamber to vote according to the interests of their electorates, and when two States have fortyeight votes in a house of seventy-five members it follows that the less populous States have little political influence. That if one reason why the smaller partners in the federation have been bled almost white.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hutchin) adjoumed.
TreatmentofUnemployed:Canberra and Newcastle.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- During the debate this evening I heard honorable members expressing sympathy with the unemployed, and contending that much of the money to be granted by the Commonwealth to the States would be used for the relief of the unemployed.
– The honorable mem- ber is not in order in referring to a. discussion which took place earlier in the sitting.
– I understand that the following notice has been posted in the unemployment camp at Canberra -
Department ofthe Interior. trespassoncommonwealthlandsordinance 1922-28. NOTICE.
Trespassing on lands withinthe precincts of this camp is prohibited, and any person enter ing or remaining in the camp without the authority of theOfficer-in-Charge, Commonwealth Police, Canberra, will be prosecuted.
The honorable member for Partes (Mr.. Marr) said that there were no unemployed in the Territory; that work has been found for them. But apparently there are still some unemployed persons, here, because the Government proposes to evict them from the camps. When Government supporters were before the people during the recent election, they stated that, if their party were returned to power, everything possible would be done to relieve unemployment, and that gradually all the unemployed would be absorbed. The right honorable member forCowper (Dr. Earle Page) exploded that fallacy by stating that unemployment has actually increased since the present Government assumed office. If the infamous Premiers plan has failed to result in the absorption of the unemployed, at least the Government should provide shelter and sustenance for those unemployed persons living in the camps at Canberra.[ Quorum formed.] The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) has demonstrated how much sympathy he has with, the unemployed by attempting to prevent discussion when another honorable member was speaking on behalf of the unemployed. 3 appeal to the Government, to show some consideration for unemployed men in the Territory.
.-I endorse what has been said by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). The Government should show a little human kindness to these men who, through no fault of their own, are to-day unemployed. The previous Government not. only provided them with shelter, but gave them rations as well. The present Government discontinued the issue of rations, except one issue when travellers arrived in the Territory, and another when they left. Conditions have been made very hard for unemployed single men. If they are residents in a home to which an income of £2 a week or more is coming, they are not eligible for the dole. The consequence is that many of them have to go on the track, and some, in the course of their wanderings, come to Canberra. Nowthey are refused even shelter.
The present Government, when seeking the suffrages ,of the people, claimed to have the interest of the unemployed at heart. Its spokesmen stated that everything would be done through Federal and State instrumentalities to provide relief. I remind the Government that the unemployed in these days of depression are nor. of the “ hobo “ type. In my own district the defence authorities propose to eject unemployed persons at present living in the Maitland military camp, the reason given being that the camp was needed for military training purposes on the 6th of this month. It has not been stated that those resident in the camp may return to it after military training operations have concluded. I asked a question on (his matter in the House recently, and was informed that only 39 persons, including one married couple, were at present “living in the camp. It was stated that these persons could easily be accommodated at other camps in the Newcastle district. According to information in my possession, the number of persons in the camp is not 39, but 70, and even if there be only one married couple there, the defence authorities show little consideration when they propose to turn that couple out. At least twenty of those living in the camp are returned soldiers, who are supposed to receive some sort of preference in return for the sacrifices they have made in the interests of the Empire. T remind the Government, also, that Newcastle is over 20 miles distant from the camp. Where the unemployed are now quartered they are near friends and relatives, whom they may visit on Sundays to get a decent meal. If they were shifted to Newcastle, they would be unable to do this. Tn addition I have asked the Defence Department to make available during the time that this camp will be occupied tents for the unemployed until the military occupation ceases, and then the unemployed can return to it. The Base Commandant, in Sydney, “Brigadier-General Heritage, said that lie was prepared to make tents available provided that the Government of New South Wales accepted responsibility for their return. I communicated with the Minister for Labour and Industry in New South Wales. but he refused to accept responsibility for the tents. He said that the Federal Government had forced his hands in order to have the camp handed over to it so that it could continue training. This is really a matter of one government trying to shift the responsibility to another. The unemployed are being ejected from a place in which they were decently quartered. There has been no complaint in regard to their good conduct, cleanliness and care of property generally. The adjutant has spoken in glowing terms of the unemployed. He has said that they are a well-conducted and well-disciplined body of men. Certain rules are followed in regard to cleaning and scrubbing huts, so that vermin may not accumulate. The local residents - many of them ‘are not Labour supporters - have provided a wireless set and other means of entertainment for the convenience of the unemployed. I appeal to the Minister to make these tents available for the unemployed, provided that the municipal council will accept the responsibility for their return, and immediately the camp is over, to allow the unemployed to return to it,
1 10.45.] - The notice read by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is substantially correct, as is also the paragraph which he quoted from th, press. The position is that this Government, in common with the various State Governments, accepted responsibility for its citizens in regard to unemployment. In other words the Commonwealth Government accepted responsibility for the upkeep of Canberra citizens who were unemployed. Obviously it would be impossible for this Government to agree to provide work for every person who entered the Territory. If that principle were established, then this Territory would simply be a centre or Mecca to which would flock all the unemployed from the various States. It must be clear to every honorable member that this Government could not undertake such a responsibility. When this Government first came into office, No. 4 Camp contained a large number of men who had been there for considerable periods, ‘ some of them for as long as eighteen months. They had been repeatedly told that they were entitled only to the consideration extended by the Lang Government in New South Wales to the unemployed - a walk-in and walk-out ration - but they persisted in staying at the camp, and were given rations for a considerable period. But an end had to come to that, and as a result a large number of them moved to other towns. Many of them obtained rations in Queanbeyan and then returned to the camp. Subsequently, most of the vacant cubicles were removed, and to-day all that remains at No. 4 Camp is the mess hut, which accommodates a number of men. The Government has acted on the principle of providing a walk-in and walk-out ration, and of permitting the remaining hut to be used as a rest-room for the unemployed. In it they may remain for a fortnight. The intention is that the unemployed shall move on so as to permit other unemployed to obtain the benefit of this convenience. It would be obviously unfair to allow some men to remain indefinitely at the camp to the exclusion of other unemployed.
Mr.James. - The Government closed down half of the camps so that the unemployed could not obtain accommodation.
– The Government took that precaution so that the unemployed from the various States would not come here expecting to be provided for. The intention of the Government is to protect the bona fide unemployed in this Territory, and to prevent the Territory from being overrun by the unemployed from the various States, which would naturally reduce the work available for the residents of the Territory.
– Has not this Government some responsibility in respect of the unemployed ?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.This Government accepts the responsibility of providingfor the unemployed of the Territory. The position is the same in the Northern Territory. A list was made of the unemployed residents of the Northern Territory, and arrangements were made to provide work for them, but it was not intended that work should be given to other unemployed who went there to create disturbances. I am happy to say that as a result of the steps taken by the Government, a number of undesirables have left the Northern Territory. Previously they lived there at the expense of the Government, although at the same time they were attacking it and advocating the overthrowing of all governments in Australia. Only recently some more of theseundesi rables left the Northern Territory. The position is clear. The unemployed of this Territory are the special responsibility of the Commonwealth Government, and they are being adequately provided for; but the Government cannot undertake to provide for large numbers of unemployed from the States. What remains of the No. 4 camp will continue to be utilized as a resting place for unemployed passing through Canberra. These men will be given an in and an out ration, and in other respects the regulations will be strictly enforced.
– Will the Minister allow the men to remain one more week in the camp?
– I do not mind giving them special consideration to the extent of a further week; but they will get. no rations. In the meantime, inquiries will have to be made in order that the general community may be protected against some of the men who come into the camps. I assure the House that everything reasonable is being done, and that the interests of the people of this Territory are being preserved. There is no sound foundation for any complaint.
– In reply to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), it is not the policy of the Government nor of the Defence Department to require the unemployed to leave the Defence Department properties unless the buildings are required for defence purposes. That policy is being carried out at the Rutherford camp. The Government has been advised by the New South Wales Department of Labour and Industry that only 39 unemployed single men and one unemployed married couple are at present reported to be in residence at the camp, and that there would be no difficulty, in the event of the camp being closed, in finding accommodation for them in other camps in the district.
– That is not correct.
– Provision has been made for the transfer of these men to other camps, and for the handing back to the Commonwealth of the cooking utensils and other equipment made available to the State Department of Labour and Industry for the use of the unemployed. Apparently, these men are willing to go to the other accommodation provided for them.
– Is it the intention of the Government to ask the unemployed to vacate the camp at Broadmeadows, Victoria?
– Only if the evacuation becomes necessary for military purposes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 September 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19320907_reps_13_135/>.