13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) look the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the report of Mr.Gepp concerning the possibility of improving the trade relations between Australiaand the Far East, can the Minister for Commerce say if the Government proposes to take action to appoint a trade representative of the Commonwealth to reside in China?
– As I have so recently accepted the portfolio of commerce, I am unable to say, offhand, what action is contemplated, but I will have the matter investigated, and give the honorable member a reply as soon as possible.
Mr. Stewart’s Position
– In view of the fact that the honorable member forParramatta (Mr. Stewart), as chairman of directors of Australian National Airways, has been conducting negotiations with this Government on behalf of that company and other aerial services, seeking a subsidy to enable his company to link up with Imperial Airways or with the Royal Dutch Air Service, does the Prime Minister consider it fit and proper that he should have been given the portfolio of Minister for Commerce, which he now h olds?
– I selected the honorable member for Parramatta for the important office of Minister for Commerce because, knowing him as I do, I am absolutely certain that he will not endeavour to further his private interests by using his position improperly.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House when the report of the royal commission which recently inquired into the wool industry in New South Wales will be made available?
– I expect to receive the report very soon.
– I ask the Prime Minister if, in consequence of the rise in the recently-converted Commonwealth 3½ per cent. stock in London to above par, the Government will give immediate consideration to the conversion of the whole of our loan obligation in Great Britain over which we have optional rights of conversion ?
– The matter is receiving the earnest consideration of the Government, which intends to use the first suitable opportunity to take action.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral if, in the event of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company and the Pacific Cable Company desiring to reduce their rates for cable messages to Great Britain by 6d. a word, he will give his consent?
– Immediate attention will be given to this somewhat vexed question, with a view to arriving at a decision as soon as possible.
– Has the attention ofthe Prime Minister been directed to the following report concerning the wheat market which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald under yesterday’s date: -
The lifeless tone which pervaded the city wheat market for the past couple of weeks, showed no sign of lifting yesterday. A small sale was reported at 3s.1¼d. with sellers willing to continue but buyers were reserved and the best offer was 3s.1d. No further business was transacted.
The Melbourne Herald of the previous date also reported -
The price in the Winnepeg market fell to-day below 48 cents a bushel.
– Order ! The honorable member must not continue his reading of newspaper paragraphs. He should ask a question.
– In view of the depressed state of the wheat industry in Australia, will the Government consider the urgent need of providing a wheat bounty for our farmers, especially in view of the fact that the Commonwealth finances to-day are in amuch healthier condition than when the previous bounty of 4½d. a bushel was provided ?
– It is not the practice to reply to questions without notice concerning government policy, but I assure the honorable member that the Government is watching theposition very carefully, with a view to ascertaining what assistance is necessary, and what form it should take.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral, notwithstanding the decision of his predecessor, give consideration to proposals to reduce telephone charges to bring them into line with the general reductions made during the last few months, and thus increase the number of subscribers, and assist in providing employment?
– I shall give attention to the matter.
– Does the Minister for Commerce agree with the following resolution which was adopted by the Highfield branch of the Australian Labour Party on the 26th September: -
Thatwe consider the Federal Government’s inquiry into the wool industry a farce and waste of money, while the best of our stud stock is allowed to be exported to South Africa and Japan. Japan has now acquired suitable land in Manchuria, and intends to emulate South Africa in raising sheep, both countries having the advantage of coolie labour.
If so, will he act on the suggestion of the branch in question ?
– I was notaware of the resolution that has been read; but if the honorable member will communicate with me on the subject, or give notice of his question, I shall endeavour to furnish him with the information he desires.
– In view of the rush to the Granites gold-field in Central Australia, will the Minister for the Interior take the action necessary to provide adequate police protection for those who may be attracted to the field?
– I shall make inquiries about the condition of affairs at the Granites gold-field, and take whatever action maybe necessary.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral received the offer of wireless transmitting sets from the Australian Inland Mission for use on the field, and if so, has that generous offer been accepted ?
– The offer from the Australian Inland Mission was sent to the Department of the PostmasterGeneral by the Department of the Interior. I shall let the honorable member know later what will be done in the matter.
– Since, because of the disparity in taxation, money loaned on mortgage at 5 per cent. gives only about the same net return as is obtained from Commonwealth bonds at 4 percent., will the Treasurer give immediate consideration to a request to remove the super tariff of 2s. in the £1, to prevent the transference of money from mortgages to bonds to the detriment of mortgagors?
– In the budgetspeech I intimated that the Government regarded this impost as excessive and somewhat unfair, and it is desired to give partial or complete relief as early as possible; but that must depend upon the actual financial position of the Commonwealth. Relief will be given as soon as possible.
– I ask the Prime Minister if, when filling vacancies in the Cabinet this week, he was unmindful of the claims of South Australia to Cabinet representation, or was unimpressed with the qualifications of those members of his own party who represent South Australian constituencies?
– I was not unmindful of the interests of any State, nor of the qualifications of any of the Government’s supporters.
– As it is the practice of many sons and daughters of invalid and old-age pensioners who live in their own homes to set asideone or two shillings a week to keep the homes in repair, will the Treasurer give instructions to the department not to deduct this sum from pension payments?
– The allowable deductions are determined by legislation recently passed through the Parliament. I shall inquire whether something ofthe kind suggested by the honorable member can be done.
– I should like to know from the Prime Minister whether inquiries are being, made by a committee into the expenditure of the Parliament,, and if. so, will the report of the committee be availableto honorable members before the, items in the Estimates concerning Parliament are considered?
– No parliamentary committee has been appointed! to inquire into the cost of Parliament; but the matter has been, and still is, under the consideration of the Government, which desires to effect necessary economies in all departments throughout Australia.
– I ask. the Attorney-General if the. case has been brought under his: notice in which a citizen of New South Wales, under conviction for a breach of the coinage law, namely, counterfeiting,. has been denied the right of appeal because of the: lack of jurisdiction of the Criminal Appeal Court in New. SouthWales, and also of the High Court of Australia? If so, will he undertake to remedy the position by amending the law, to give such men the ordinary right of appeal against conviction?
– I have seen some reference to the matter,, and shall examine the question immediately.
– Prior to the recent week’s adjournment to enable the Government to prepare its statement of policy in regard to the Ottawa Conference, I placed on thenotice-paper a question seeking information regarding the Commonwealth Oil Refineries. Limited and the prices of petrol. Has the Prime Minister a reply to that question ? If not, what is delaying it?
– The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has been asked for the information sought by the honorable member, but a reply is not yet to hand.
– Will the Prime Minister make time available during this session for a discussion on Mr. Gepp’s very able and valuable report?
– Without absolutely committing myself, I shall endeavour so to. arrange the business of the House that honorable members may be enabled to discuss the matter.
Mr.JAMES.- Is the Prime Minister aware that the Government of New South Wales, in determining the income o£ recipients of the dole is now taking into consideration invalid and old-age pensions, with the result that familiesare being denied food relief? Will the right honorable gentleman make representations to that Government, pointing out that the invalid pension is granted for the maintenance of one individual and not that of a whole family?
– The matter is. entirely one for the Government of New. South Wales. The Commonwealth Government has no more right to make representations to that Government regarding its relief administration than such a. government has to make representations to us with respect to the basis on which invalid and old-age pensions should be determined.
– As invalid pensions are payments made by this Government, does the Prime Minister approve of a State government ruling that they are to be regarded as income to the detriment of other members of an invalid’s family in connexion with their food relief ? Will the right honorable gentleman also enlighten the House as to whether this isa part of the Premiers plan?
– Whether I approve or disapprove is of no consequence; the matter is entirely one for the Government of New South Wales. Its action cannot be interfered with by me.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral yet been able to ascertain what steps have been taken to prevent the recurrence of a hold-up such as, unfortunately, took place recently in the Williamstreet Post Office, Sydney, on a pensions pay day ? What steps does he propose to take to protect Commonwealth public servants against the danger of loss of life or serious injury in the discharge of their duty?
– I am sure that the sympathy of every honorable member goes out to those public servants who were so efficiently discharging their duty when they were attacked on the occasion referred to. I have not yet had time to go fully into the matter, but although I feel sure that adequate steps are being taken to prevent the recurrence of such an unfortunate affair, I shall personally ascertain what has been done, and if any further steps can be taken to protect efficient and patriotic officers in the performance of their duties, the Government will see that they are adopted.
– Is the Minister in charge of repatriation aware that the pensions of certain widowed mothers of deceased soldiers are being cancelled in cases where they possess assets of any kind, other than their own homes, to the value of £200, irrespective of their outgoings? Apparently the terms of the Premiers plan were not properly understood, if this interpretation of the department is the correct one.
– It was never so intended.
– That was how I understood the matter at the time. Will the Minister endeavour to have the exemption raised from £200 to £500, in view of the great hardship that is inflicted ?
– The reductions that have taken place have been in accordance with the Financial Emergency Act passed by the last Parliament. Widows’ pensions are not being interfered with, nor that of the mother of a soldier who became a widow within three years of the expiration of the war. Those who became widowed later are in a different category, but they are receiving the same treatment as invalid and old-age pensioners.
– The pension is completely cancelled.
– It is not completely cancelled except in certain cases that are provided for in the Financial Emergency Act. Neither the Minister nor the department can disregard the provisions of the act.
– The Minister for
Trade and Customs has been good enough to circulate a printed statement showing the alterations of duties under the customs tariff proposals of the 13th October, 1932, compared with the previous tariff proposals of the present Government. Will lie also have prepared for the convenience of honorable members a statement showing the increases or decreases in the consolidated schedule brought down yesterday compared with the tariff proposals of the Scullin Government?
– The honorable gentleman will find that the information he asks for is contained in the memorandum that was circulated yesterday.
– It is picked out in the one ease but not in the other.
– The whole of the information is furnished, as the honorable member will see if he cares to take the trouble and study the memorandum.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral take into consideration the charge of £4 10s., plus sales tax, made for the new telephone, with a view to revising the rental charges made to telephone subscribers?
– I have already intimated, in reply to another question, that this matter will be taken into consideration.
Galvanized Iron - Primage and Exchange: Practice of Tariff Board
– The price of galvanized iron has been increased in con- sequence of the re-imposition of primage duty on this item. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether it is the practice of the Tariff Board to take into consideration primage and exchange when arriving at a determination as to the rate of duty that ought to be imposed in any particular case?
– In recommending a protective duty it is not the usual practice of the Tariff Board to take into consideration primage and exchange, but it has done so in isolated cases. During this week I instructed the board that in future it should not do so.
– Will the Minister state why the protective incidence of primage and exchange should not be taken into consideration by the Tariff Board?
– The reason is fairly obvious. Exchange is controlled by the Commonwealth Bank, and customs duties and excise are collected by the Department of Trade and Customs in accordance with the legislation of this Parliament. If allowance for exchange were made by the Tariff Board, and a substantial reduction in the rate occurred during a parliamentary recess, the whole of our protective system would be dislocated. The Government regards both primage and exchange as temporary conditions which should not be associated with the investigations and deliberations of the Tariff Board. Full consideration has been given to the practicability of adjusting on some basis the tariff level according to the prevailing exchange ; but it is not considered to be practicable.
– I understand, from the speech delivered by the honorable gentleman yesterday, that it’ is the declared policy of the Government that no action shall be taken by it either to raise or to lower customs duties except upon a recommendation by the Tariff Board, which was set up as an independent and impartial tribunal. What reason does the honorable gentleman advance to-day for having instructed the Tariff Board not tj do certain things?
– Primage and exchange are matters quite unconnected with the protective policy of this Government.
– Will the reimposition of the duty on galvanized iron have any effect in the direction of reducing the price of that commodity?
– Actually, there Las been no re-imposition of the duty; there has been a restoration of primage. That has not made, and will not make, any difference to the selling price of galvanized iron, which has been fixed by arrangement at, I believe, £24 10s. a ton ex store.
– Does the Minister deny the practicability of taking into consideration the protective incidence of exchange and primage by amending thu Customs Act in such a way that a percentage of the exchange will automatically be taken off the amount of duty imposed upon imported goods ?
– As I have already said, this matter has been given the most exhaustive consideration, and the idea has been abandoned on the ground of its impracticability in administration. I think the honorable gentleman overlooks the very important fact with respect to the protective incidence of the exchange that such protection is afforded to an Australian industry only when the raw materials that it requires are not sold within Australia at world’s parity. In the case of wool, for example, exchange is included in the price. That is one of the fundamental difficulties that confronts us in the consideration of this matter.
– Do the instructions that have been given by the Minister to this independent and impartial tribunal which in future is to direct the fiscal policy of Australia mean that in connexion with any item on which the Government has reduced primage duty the Tariff Board must not take that reduction into consideration when considering whether a duty ought to be reduced?
– No, it does not, as our action with respect to the primage duty on galvanized iron clearly shows. No instruction has been given to the Tariff Board concerning its investigations or recommendations regarding questions bearing on the protective policy of this Government. The board is as completely independent to-day as it ever has been.
– In view of the fact that in the splendid compendium of Australian statistics just issued by Professor L. F. Giblin, the private wealth of Australia is stated to have been, in 1927, approximately £3,063,769,000-
– I have referred the matter to the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, Professor Giblin, who is endeavouring to ascertain whether the information sought can be compiled without undue expenditure.
The following paper was presented: -
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1932, No. 106.
Assessment and Entitlement Appeal Tribunals.
– by leave. - Honorable members have asked questions from time to time concerning the cases that have been considered by the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal and the War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal. I have, therefore, had prepared the following tables, which show how the various cases have been disposed of. As the information therein contained should be of general interest to the House, I shall, by leave of the House, have them inserted in Hansard:-
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 13th October(vide page 1270), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the first item of the Estimates, under Division 1. - The Parliament, namely, “ The President, £1,300,” be agreed to.
Upon which Mr. Scullin had moved, by way of amendment -
That the amount be reduced by £1.
– The discussion on the budget has centred on the subjects of finance, unemployment and tariff revision. The present position of the Commonwealth indicates that the Government has been successful in its financial operations. During the comparatively short period during which it has been in office, it has done much to rehabilitate the finances of Australia. In September, 1931, last, when a Labour government was in office, Australian 5 per cent. stock in London was quoted at £55 15 s., and the present price of the same stock is now above par. This shows that the present Government has not only restored confidence, but has almost completely rehabilitated the finances of the country. Statements that have been made in this connexion by certain honorable members opposite are not in accordance with fact. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), for instance, said that the Resident Minister in London had simply gone there for the purpose of re-establishing himself in the eyes of the people as a Minister of the Crown. It seems to me that the honorable member took advantage of his position in Parliament in so criticizing the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) in his absence. The right honorable member represents Australia in London most ably. He served his country with distinction during the war, and he is still serving it well. The fact that the New South Wales conversion loan was eminently successful is indicative of the ability displayed by the right honorable gentleman, and of the character of the work which he is doing for Australia.
The honorable member for East Sydney also stated that the adoption of the Premiers plan would bring ruin upon this country, but I draw his attention to the fact that the price of our stocks has risen so high that the country, far from being ruined, is being rapidly rehabilitated. The honorable member also asked why the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), when he was Prime Minister, did not take command of the banks, and use their resources for the benefit of the people. The right honorable gentleman did not take command of the banks because he saw the mess that Mr. Lang had made of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales. Chaos would result if any Prime Minister or State Premier seriously interfered with the currency or the banking practices of the country. The financial smash in New South Wales was brought about by the meddling action of the Lang Government. The Premiers plan has been adopted by every party in this country.
– No !
– I do not regard the honorable member for Dalley as belonging to an Australian party; be is a member of a New South Wales section of a party. Every party represented at the Premiers Conference accepted the Premiers plan, and the conference reflected all shades of political opinion. The plan was again ratified at the Premiers Conference that was held recently in Canberra.
– Not by the Queensland Labour party.
– The Premier of Queensland and others, at any rate, supported it.
The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) spoke of the effect of high duties upon the community, and it seems to me that that subject provides food for thought. The tariff, of course, will be discussed at a later stage, and I intend to refer to it only in so far as it relates to the financial proposals of the Government. The honorable member for Forrest said that until duties were reduced, we could not hope to provide an adequate measure of employment for the people. He remarked that ships were lying idle, and that coal-lumpers and wharf labourers were without work. But this Government does not stand for employment on the wharfs only. It has a bigger policy than that of merely finding work to enable boys to become hewers of wood and drawers of water. The
Government does not intend to assist in providing work for labourers only. The primary industries must be supported and protected. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) will, I think, admit that this Government has shown a very keen appreciation of the work of the primary industries, and has done everything in its power to help them.
– Yet no member of the Country party was included in the Ministry.
– We should have been glad of their co-operation in solving the nal ion’s problems.
– What’s wrong with the men you have?
– Nothing. We have plenty of talent on this side, but, unfortunately, we cannot take our whole party into the Cabinet. The honorable member for Forrest endeavoured to be fair, and put the case as he saw it from the point of view of the primary producers. He said that the wealth of the country depended upon primary industry. I believe that that is largely true, but we cannot solve the unemployment problem by depending entirely upon our primary industries. Those industries will not provide employment for the -growing army of young men who are now unable to obtain work; we cannot put everybody on the land. We must evolve a policy of developing our secondary industries side by side with our primary industries, and this for two reasons. In the first place, we must obtain a bigger population in order to provide a better home market for the products of our primary industries, for, after all, the home market is the best market. Another reason for developing our secondary industries is to solve the present acute problem of unemployment.
– It will never be solved.
– I am not so pessimistic as the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb). This is a matter which transcends party politics. All sections of the community should unite in an endeavour to find a solution of the problem of unemployment so that work may be found for the boys and young men now walking the streets.
The honorable member for Forrest said that the primary industries were over burdened. They are carrying a considerable portion of the country’s burdens, I admit, but some honorable members are inclined to over-estimate their share. I remember when the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) was Prime Minister, a deputation representing primary industries waited upon him to protest against high tariffs. The BrucePage Government lasted for nearly seven years, and the Country party, which was associated with it, was just as keen to protect Australian industries as were members of the Nationalist party.
– Was the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) just as keen as the rest?
– Yes, the right honorable member for Cowper has always held the opinion that certain secondary industries in Australia should be adequately protected. The right honorable member for Flinders was able to inform the deputation that the extra cost imposed upon wheat-growers, for instance, by the tariff, was less than -Jd. a bushel.
– I challenge that.
– That was the figure arrived at as a result of calculations made at that time. Of course, costs may have increased since then. Various articles, such as harvesters, ploughs, and other machinery, were considered, and the extra cost due to the tariff was spread over the value of the goods produced. I am sure that the primary producers would be the last to say that only their interests should be considered. The city depends for its support, on the country, and the country, in its turn, looks to the city to provide it with essential services. The two interests should work hand in band. Those who endeavour to set them against each other serve no useful purpose. The building up of separate parties to represent the two sections of the community is, I think, most unwise.
– How many members of the present Cabinet represent country interests ?
– All of them. We must look to private industry to solve the unemployment problem. Some honorable members propose that we should raise loan money for expenditure upon local governmental works; but that would be a mere palliative. It would provide only temporary relief, and when the money had been spent, the problem would lie still unsolved, and we should be so much deeper in debt. In ordinary times 82 per cent, of thu population is employed in private enterprise and 18 per cent, on government or quasi-government work. If we could reduce that 18 per cent, to 8 per cent, we should be better off. Under the regime of the present Government everything is being done to stimulate private enterprise. In my own electorate, for instance, one woollen factory has recently put on 200 extra employees. That is a good deal better than what happened during theterm of office of the previous Government, when employees were being discharged. We are all familiar with the claims made by the then Minister for Trade and Customs, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), when he used to say that, as a result of increasing certain duties, employment would be found for 50,000 persons. We know that, as a matter of* fact, no such employment was provided. Mr. Theodore claimed that his party, if returned to power, would provide work for all, but what his Policy really meant was the workhouse for nil.
Now that the country is once more on the road to solvency, private interests are being encouraged to invest money. “Persons with capital are not compelled to invest it. Labour supporters believe that - no man should be compelled to give his labour if he does not wish to. If he is not satisfied with the price offered he should be, they say, entitled to withhold his labour. We say that the man with capital has a similar right, but we join issue with them in their claim that, if the labourer withholds his labour, no one else should be permitted to do the work offering. We maintain that each man should be master of his own actions, and (hat his labour belongs to himself, not to the trades hall or to his union. [Quorum formed]. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), speaking last night, said that this Government has no policy. That charge could certainly not he sustained against the last Government, because it had a policy for every day of the week. Each Minister who got up to speak voiced a different policy. When the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was in London in the capacity of Prime Minister, endeavouring to re-adjust the financial position of the country on a more favorable basis, he met with no criticism from honorable members on this side, who were then in opposition. We realized that the right honorable gentleman was doing his best for Australia. Unfortunately, his Cabinet colleagues had a different standard of ethics and, by their squabbling and disloyalty, embarrassed their leader, and tended to bring discredit upon the country. Now, when a responsible Minister of the Government is in London, conducting delicate negotiations on behalf of the nation, an occasion calling for cooperation, he is subjected to ungenerous and unfair criticism by honorable members opposite, and particularly by those in the corner group.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) propounds the theory that we should raise price levels, and in that he is supported by other honorable members opposite. I have yet to hear a satisfactory explanation of how that can be done. The real policy of the Labour party is to be found inscribed on every garage in the country - “ Free air “. Their deity is inflation, to which the section in the corner adds repudiation. That group has talked ad nauseam about “ the creation of credit” and, surprisingly, the Leader of the Opposition has supported them. He says that he has no time for the man who tears off his bond coupon and collects his interest, but in the next breath says that we must raise further loans for government works. How does he expect to persuade the people to subscribe to loans when he tells them that, if he had the opportunity, he would deprive them of the interest thereon? The right honorable gentleman is particularly unfair to the Bruce-Page Government, which, he declared, borrowed more than £40,000,000 per annum overseas. The right honorable gentleman, and members of the group in the corner, know perfectly well that that money was raised by the Loan Council, not by the Government, mainly on behalf of the States.
The problem’ of unemployment is allimportant, and the Government is doing its utmost to solve it. Yet, time after time, honorable members opposite endeavour to nullify the efforts of the Government. The latest attempt to censure the Government is a motion by the Leader of the Opposition to reduce the first item of the Estimates. I congratulate the right honorable gentleman on beating the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) to it on this occasion. He must remember that for an appreciable period he was the head of « government, and had an opportunity to pui into practice what he now preaches. Actually, instead of relieving unemployment, the Scullin Government left the position worse than when it assumed office. I do not altogether blame it for that. It is a difficult task for any administration. But the right honorable gentleman should be fair to his successor in office and assist the Government rather than work against it. t am glad to note that there has been a lack of criticism of the budget, indicating that honorable members on all sides believe it to contain statesmanlike proposals and, therefore, support it.
.- It would interest me to know how the Minister for Health and Repatriation (Mr. Marr) reconciles his views in connexion with the building up of secondary industries through the medium of high tariff protection, with his support of a government which proposes handing over the fiscal policy of the country to the Tariff Board for five years, in conformity with the Ottawa agreement. Is the honorable member sincere, or is he merely indulging in propaganda to placate the manufacturers ?
I have closely followed this debate, and also the published opinions of the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) supporting the raising of commodity price levels. That course, they claim, would solve the problem of unemployment. I am curious to know how. In the absence of a satisfactory explanation, my colleagues and I refuse to be lulled into a feeling of falsesecurity by the specious promises made by the Government. We recall that, in June of last year, the Scullin-Theodore Government declared that if awards were re duced and reductions made in invalid and old-age pensions, maternity allowance, and Public Service salaries, 100,000 persons would promptly be placed in employment. Events have proved that the result of that policy has been that the purchasing power of the people has been lowered, with a consequent reduction in business turnover, so that we are now deeper than ever in the mire. Business men have been compelled to decrease overhead charges, and the method adopted has been that of discharging employees. 1 believe it was the Scullin-Theodore Administration that first coined the phrase,- “Prosperity is just around the corner “, which has been so freely used by the present Prime Minister. [Quorum formed.’] Honorable members opposite talk a lot about prosperity being round the corner, but they never mention that the queues of unemployed men and women now extend beyond the second corner. These people are in great need of food, relief, and other assistance. Prosperity, as a matter of fact, is very far ofl’. lt is stupid for the Government of this or any other country to think that the mere lifting of commodity price levels or the readjustment of the monetary system will cure unemployment. That may relieve the position for a time; but it should be recognized that that problem goes deeper. Not even the cancellation of war debts will meet the needs of the situation. Our greatest difficulties are due to the mechanization of industry. The use « of machines in our industrial, agricultural, and general developmental projects has had the result of displacing human power to an enormous extent, and the economic structure of the world must be recast to meet the new situation that has thus been created. At present about 40 per cent, of the workers of the world are either totally unemployed or intermittently employed, and this is largely due to the increase in the use of machinery. To-day there is discontent, among three sections of the people. The unemployed are discontented because they cannot get the necessaries of life and have to exist on a miserable dole which is not sufficient to feed them, let alone provide them with clothing. Surely no one imagines that these suffering people can be kept in subjection through another winter. There is discontent also among the people who are in employment because of the heavy burden of taxation they have to carry. These people have to pay unemployment and other taxes to provide some food for their fellow beings who are out of employment. There is discontent likewise among the owners of our industrial undertakings because the taxation to which they are being subjected is, in their opinion, unreasonably heavy. We have been told often enough that taxation is reaching saturation point. It is ridiculous that one-half of the community is being kept in work in order that the other half may be maintained, however inadequately, In idleness. This is a stupid policy. We must face the great problem created by the displacement of human power, and endeavour to overcome it by the reduction of working hours, or some other means. The mere imposition of taxation for relief purposes will get us nowhere. Honorable members opposite may be satisfied with the policy that the Government is pursuing, but we, on this side, can see that before verylong there will be a revolt.
– That is what the honorable member wants.
– That statement is entirely incorrect. I have always resisted every form of warfare, and particularly civil war or revolution. The last thing I desire to see is rioting and bloodshed.
– The honorable member’s party stands for revolution.
– That statement is also entirely incorrect. We recognize that something more must be done than is being done at present to cope with the problem of unemployment, otherwise the thrifty section of the community will continually be penalized and others will be forced into bankruptcy, and our position will become much worse than it is to-day. Australia has always endeavoured to maintain a decent standard of living for her people and I believe that she still desires to do so. Many persons in the community are offering suggestions for overcoming our present difficulties. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), for instance, thinks that our tariff policy should be scrapped and a freetrade policy adopted. That would mean that the people of Australia would become hewers of wood and drawers of water - mere wood and water joeys - for overseas manufacturers. Our aim should be to make Australia a selfcontained and -a self-reliant country; but this goal will never be reached by the cutting down of wages and the reduction of the benefits provided for people under our social welfare legislation. I. cannot see how the Government carr x possibly justify the reduction of pension* in view of the fact that the financial returns for the three months ended the 30th. September last indicate that revenue has! exceeded expenditure by £2,619,000. As’ soon as the Government saw that- the figures were tending that way it should have withdrawn its proposal for the reduction of invalid and old-age pensions and the maternity allowance. The saving of £1,100,000 in pensions and £60,000 in maternity allowance during this year is entirely unwarranted in view of the Treasury returns to which I have just referred. These figures indicate that our customs revenue for the period mentioned exceeded that of the corresponding period of last year by £982,000, our excise revenue by £479,000, our sales taxation revenue by £647,000, our income taxation revenue by £138,000, and our land taxation revenue by £42,000. These facts would entirely justify, the immediate withdrawal of the sections of the Financial Emergency Act relating to tho reductions of pensions. In the first quarter of this year, our payments in interest and sinking fund, principally on overseas commitments, increased by £190,000 over those of the corresponding period of last year. It appears, therefore, that the Government intends to insist that first consideration shall be given to those who draw their income from interest. Our old-age and invalid pensioners, the most defenceless section of the community, are given no consideration whatever. It is regrettable that provision should be made in the budget for an increase in our defence expenditure this year of £29,000. Do honorable members realize also that our payments in war pensions are to be reduced by £431,000, and that this is due principally to the policy of the Government of restricting to the greatest possible extent the payments to those suffering from the ravages of war who are entitled to pensions ?
– That is not so.
– It is true. I have received voluminous correspondence from returned soldiers who have been endeavouring to establish claims for pensions. In one instance a returned soldier with a crippled arm, who was in receipt of a 10 per cent, pension, became insane, and to-day he is confined in a mental institution in Sydney. The department claims that this man’s insanity is not due to war service, despite the fact that many of his former officers and comrades at the war have declared that prior to the war this man had all his mental faculties and that when he returned he showed definite signs of being mentally affected. . To-day that man, his wife and children arc receiving no pension, because the 10 per cent, pension is being paid, not to the man himself, but to the Master iti Lunacy. Many returned soldiers, when they first returned, had a cough of which they took no notice, but which subsequently developed into tuberculosis, and it is exceedingly difficult for them to establish the fact that their dread disease had been contracted because of war service.
For the first quarter of this financial year the expenditure on the maternity allowance has been decreased by £10,000, and recent legislation provides for a further cut of £60,000. The Government cannot justify its action in taking this allowance from the mother at the most critical period of her life, at a time when she requires proper medical attention. If her husband’s income exceeds £208 per annum, she is not entitled to the allowance, and if the income is under that amount, the allowance is £4 instead of £5 as before. The Scullin Government reduced it to £4.
There are many open spaces throughout Australia in which developmental and reproductive work could be carried out, but this Government has not the courage to undertake it. This country is governed, not by Parliament, but by the banking institutions, because they control the credit resources of the nation. Many economists are today _ of the opinion that bank- i ig; operations and the expansion and con traction of credit should be controlled,, not by a few bankers to the detriment of the community- generally, but by the representatives of the people in this Parliament in the interests’ of the people themselves. I have previously referred in this chamber to various developmental works which could be undertaken by the Commonwealth and State Governments, in order to afford relief to the unemployed.
– Does the honorable member advocate the expenditure of loan money on developmental works?
– The credit resources of this country were utilized through the Commonwealth Bank and the Note Issue Board, to finance the war. Of course, any proposal by honorable members on this side of the chamber to utilize the credit resources of the country is condemned by the members of the Nationalist and the Country parties as a form of inflation. Why should we not put in hand works of a reproductive nature, so as to give work to some of the unfortunate 400,000 unemployed people throughout Australia ?
– Why did not Mr. Lang take some steps in that direction?
– When Mr. Lang was Premier of New South Wales, the Loan Council had sole control of credit.
– Will the honorable member indicate what he regards as developmental works?
– I am referring to irrigation works, and the construction of reservoirs and sewerage systems in country districts. We have vast inland areas which have little or no rainfall. Our coastal districts have abundant rainfalls, and if reservoirs were constructed there, water could be reticulated to the inland districts to make them suitable for settlement.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we could conserve water on the coast in order to irrigate inland areas?
– We could irrigate some of our inland areas which have an inadequate rainfall, and so make them suitable for settlement.
– What would be produced from the irrigated areas?
– We could produce sufficient for the requirements of the unemployed. They would be far better living on the laud independent of charity than continuing to receive the dole. The supporters of the Government are continually stating that we should encourage men -to go back on the land, and we have now an excellent opportunity to settle our unemployed on the land, giving them the laud free, and paying them the dole until such time as they can produce sufficient for their own requirements. Such a proposal, if given effect, would be far more economic than the payment of approximately £11,000,000 per annum in food relief for which there is no return. Of course, it will be said that Ave cannot put developmental works in hand because the banks will not provide the necessary finance’. In 1931, when, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) was Prime Minister, he told us that if wo would be good boys, and put into operation the Premiers plan, which provided for a reduction in the expenditure on our social services and in the wages of public servants, the banks would come to our assistance, and 100,000 men would be immediately placed in employment. Since then, unemployment has actually increased. Surely we must realize that the manipulation of the finances of this country must no longer remain in the hands of the private banking institutions, which exploit to their own advantage the credits of the people. A reduction in wages is no solution of the unemployment problem, and avc should not hesitate to adopt the policy of the Labour party, which is the national control of Australia’s credit. The Labour party established the Commonwealth Bank, and before three years had elapsed, that institution Avas financing this country’s war operations. The Avar brought much distress to the community, and placed the lives of many of our citizens in jeopardy. Many parents lost their sons at the war, which they thought Avas a Avar to end Avar, a war to make this country fit for heroes to live in ; yet many of our returned soldiers are now sleeping in the parks, hungry, and in dire distress. The promises made to them at the time of their enlistment were repudiated recently by the Scullin Government, and by the members of the “Nationalist and Country parties who were then in’ opposition, because had it not been for their support of the policy of that Government, it Wouk not have been able to bring about a reduction in the expenditure on the social services of this country. At that time, the Scullin Government could not depend on the support of eighteen members of the Labour party in this chamber. We have also to face the world-wide problem of having to re-adjust our economic structure to meet the progress that has been made in industrial and agricultural science.’ Improved methods of production are being introduced year by year. No matter where Ave look, Ave find that men are being displaced by machines. Take, for example, the coal-mining industry, in which I have been engaged all my life. The mechanization of that industry by means of coal-cutting machines now makes it possible for two men working a machine to fill from 24 to 28 tons of coal a day, whereas prior to the introduction of coal-cutting machines 3 0 tons of coal a day Avas regarded as a good output for two men. The increasing use of electrical power in place of steam power has also affected the coal-mining industry. Steamdriven locomotives, using coal for fuel, require both a driver and a fireman, whereas an electric train requires only a motorman. In other directions, also, electricity has superseded steam power and displaced large numbers of men. All these things have tended to reduce the number of men employed in the coalmining industry. Motor transport has practically driven out of business blacksmiths, wheelwrights, saddlers, and coachbuilders, while even the farming industry has been affected, because no longer is it necessary for large supplies of fodder to be provided for horses to draw the vehicles engaged in the transport of goods. Many industries in this country have suffered as a result of the introduction of this new form of transport which takes so much money out of the country. On the farms themselves rural labourers have had to give way to agricultural machinery. The greater use of machines during recent years has done much to create unemployment throughs out the world. The mechanization of inrdustry is a problem which must be faced, and already various solutions of it have been offered. There are some who claim that the position can be met by reducing wages; but they forget that that would mean that there would be less money in circulation, less buying and selling, and consequently less employment, because men in business would seek to adjust matters by dismissing some of their employees. In order to meet these changed conditions, an adjustment .of our economic structure is necessary. In this connexion difficulty at once arises, because so many people wish .the world to remain in .the same groove in which it found itself a century ago. Others claim that a solution of the problem will be found by increasing the hours of labour. Let us see how this theory would work out in practice. An industry may .employ twelve men who, under the existing award of .the Arbitration Court, work 44 hours a week. Should it happen, as appears likely under the Premiers plan, that the working week is increased to 48 hours, each of those twelve men would be required to work an additional four hours a week, a total : of 48 hours for the week, or the equivalent of a full working week for one man. If the market for the products of that industry took only_ the output of twelve men working 44 hours a week, the employer would meet the altered conditions by dispensing with the services of one man. That would be the result throughout New South Wales of an increase in the working week from 44 to 48 hours. It is an economic truism that a solution of this.- problem will not be found by increasing the hours, of labour, and I am, therefore, sorry that so many in our midst should advocate a longer working week.
– Would the honorable member apply his theory to rural industries ?
– I would apply it to all industries, for, in my opinion, 44 . hours is too long for any man to work each week under existing conditions. I go further, and say that I believe that before long the various countries of the world will be forced to recognize that the establishment of a working week of 30 hours will prove a sounder economic proposition than payment of the dole to large numbers of workers who, under existing conditions, cannot obtain work. Every mechanical development adds to the army of the .unemployed.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– I take the opportunity to speak at this stage, because I am afraid that the Standing Orders will not permit me to say what I want to say about the defence of this country when we are dealing with separate items of the Estimates. Recently, the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) recounted his experiences at the Disarmament Conference. His report must have been a disillusionment to many of us who had hoped that something practical would result from that conference. The views of the AttorneyGeneral seem to be supported by the almost daily reports in the press, of rumours of wars, of sabre rattling in Europe, and of threats of disturbances in the Far East, which seem to be coming to a head. Although we in this Parliament are responsible under the Constitution for the security of the Commonwealth, this responsibility seems at times to be forgotten in the financial maze in which we find ourselves. I have no hesitation in declaring from my place in Parliament that at the present moment the condition of Australia is one of absolute insecurity. The world conditions, which we all hoped would be settled by the Great War, have not been settled. Indeed, the war turned the thoughts of, many men to the invention of new instruments of warfare, which they claim to be improvements, but which I call devilish because of their greater mobility, range, and killing power. These inventions mean that future wars will be waged not only between armies actually in the field. Because of the long range of these modern weapons, defenceless women and children, 20 or 30 miles behind the front lines, will become as much participants in a nation’s war as those who are carrying rifles in the front line trenches. Nowa- days wars are too large for most nations to be able to remain neutral. In the past we iu Australia thought that, because of our geographical position, we were immune from the effects of a world war ; but the experience of the years 1914 to 1918 showed us that we were wrong. For one reason or another, other countries than those primarily affected were drawn into conflict, and wo, as a part of the British Empire, cannot hope to be freed from participation in the Empire’s quarrels. V’7e might claim to be neutral, but whether the enemies of the Empire would recognize our claim is another matter. We could not afford to sit with our arms folded, basking in the sunlight, while an enemy took advantage of the position. One thing which brings home to us the fact that Australia is not an isolated nation is the knowledge that we must export a large proportion of our products to other countries, since the whole of our wheat, wool, and other products cannot be consumed in Australia. I am reminded ihat in 1915 and 1916 it was necessary to re-organize the transport arrangements of the British Empire, and its allies, in order that Australian wheat, wool and metals could be sent abroad, and other goods necessary for our use imported into Australia. Unfortunately, war seems to have no real terrors for many of those who did not go on active service. Luckily for Australia, no enemy shot has ever been fired in this country; but I remind those who say that war is not at all likely to come to Australia that, during the last war, an aeroplane from an enemy cruiser is alleged to have flown over Sydney, and that near Gabo Island and off the North Cape of New Zealand mine-fields were laid. The mine-field off Gabo Island was responsible for the sinking of the Cumberland, a large vessel which was carrying our exports to other countries.
– At the time it was said that the mine off Gabo Island was laid by the members of the Independent Workers of the World.
– The members of that organization specialized in attacking defenceless women and children. Our remoteness from the scenes of desolation caused by past wars has given us a false sense of security. But the venue of warfare is moving eastward, and, should there be another world war - which God forbid - it is probable that we in Australia will see blood shed in our own country. War comes without warning. The suddenness with which “hostilities commenced towards the end of 1914 staggered the civilized world. A nation does not have six months in which to prepare for war ; it suddenly realizes that it is at war. It would surprise many in Australia to awake one morning to find that the Sydney Town Hall or the Sydney Harbour bridge had been demolished by a raiding aeroplane. Within a few hours of such an event, Melbourne could be bombed from the air and munition dumps and supplies for the field forces could be demolished. It would also be a comparatively easy matter for a raiding aeroplane, iu the absence of opposition, to destroy the railway crossings over the river Murray. At such a time it would be useless to convene meetings or to write letters to the newspapers; that would not do’ anything to hold the enemy in check. We have to get down to realities. It would be useless for patriotic members of the community to say that they were prepared to do and die for their country, lt would be nothing less than murder to send ill-equipped and untrained men into the field to contend with superior forces equipped with tanks, gas apparatus and every modern weapon of warfare.
Our position in relation to Empire defence was definitely laid down many years ago. I give credit to those who took part in that conference, at which it was decided that wc should be responsible for our own local defence. In consultation with the authorities overseas a complete scheme for local defence within the Empire was formulated, but the strength of such a chain of defence is governed by the strength of its weakest link. Unfortunately, Australia is the weakest link in the chain of Empire defence. Are we to let the Empire down? We have relied on the British navy for so long that we have become imbued with the idea that that navy will always be able to protect us. We are depending too much on the Mother Country; we ought to do something for ourselves. In any future international conflict the Royal Navy may be so busily engaged in European waters that it could uot possibly be of any assistance to Australia. While praying and waiting for assistance from that source, our cities and towns might he destroyed, and our people murdered.We must defend our country, or face the possibility of later payment for services rendered, if payment were made at all, being made in marks, francs or yen. We should, therefore, get down to realities, and take stock of our position from a defence view-point.
The length of our coastline is equivalent to the distance between Sydney and London, and to protect that extensive coastline we have but two modern cruisers.
– Purchased in Great Britain.
– Exactly, and we have one obsolete aircraft carrier built in Sydney. With this totally inadequate naval defence, and an army whose maximum strength consists of 30,000 men without modern equipment, and without reserves, we have to protect 1 2,500 miles of coastline.
– Ill-equipped and untrained.
– That is so. Our air force is not provided with sufficient financial assistance to enable proper instruction in flying to be given. Our railway systems should be so laid out that they would be a means of defence against enemy attack; but, as the late Lord Kitchener said in 1909, they are now of more benefit* to an enemy than to ourselves. Honorable members travel the country speaking of our strategic railways; but that between Sydney and Brisbane, on which there is no break of gauge, has no more claim to be regarded as a strategic line than have the roads around Parliament House. On the contrary, it could be of assistance to an enemy. At seven points at least it could be thrown out of action in a few hours, and at two of them repairs would take twelve months to effect.
– Could not aeroplanes destroy any railway?
– At the moment the successful bombing of a railway from the air is difficult. An enemy aeroplane, if menaced with anti-air craft guns, might not be able to hit the Sydney bridge.
We have comforted ourselves with the fact that Great Britain is constructing a naval base at Singapore. We speak of that base as if it were an accomplished fact; but it is not finished, and in its present state it is merely a bait to attract the enemy. The Singapore base is not yet in a position to accommodate those vessels of the British Navy which would come to eastern waters should the occasion arise. The first endeavour of an enemy would be to seize that base.
– What is wrong with Darwin ?
– Everything. To make a base there the port would have to be reconstructed in order to provide water of a sufficient depth to accommodate naval vessels, and to prevent tide rips.
– What of Thursday Island?
– I know the conditions at Thursday Island, because I lived there for some years; I know also the strategic value of Darwin in its present state. Those honorable members who are conversant with the requirements of a naval base know that it should give anchorage for 300 or 400 vessels, and, therefore, both Darwin and Thursday Island are unsuitable. At the moment Singapore is a definite attraction to an enemy wishing to operate against Australia, and in its unfinished state is a point vulnerable to such an enemy. Having captured the Singapore base, an enemy would, some say, proceed down the eastern coast of Australia to a point in the vicinity of the electorate represented by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). because that is regarded as an industrial and commercial centre. But coal has now lost the important position it previously held in industry. In my opinion the first point attacked would be some place in Western Australia. What provision is there in that State to meet such an attack? There are a few shortranged guns at Fremantle, and some obsolete guns at Albany on King George Sound. To meet an invader we have only a thousand inadequately trained men with obsolete equipment. An attackupon
Fremantle would have to be resisted by troops from this side of the continent. The capture of King George Sound would be merely a matter of the enemy’s convenience; we could not prevent it. Most of our naval vessels have been scrapped, and we are left entirely unprotected from the sea. With an enemy located in King George Sound we could not send a single cargo of Australian produce from Australia through the Suez Canal or round the Cape of Good Hope. I do not wish to ask honorable members to follow me through a dissertation on Imperial defence, but it must be obvious to them that once Western Australia was in the hands of an enemy, it would be only a matter of time before the eastern States would have to surrender. We have a very small force, without reserves. We pride ourselves on the fact that the ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force would form a reserve for our present volunteer army in; time of need ; but the number of men so available is doubtful. Those who are alive and able, and who have already borne the beat and burden of previouscampaigns, would be willing to protect those who would not, or could not. protect their own kith and kin. But of the 330,000 men who went overseas, 60,000 were killed. Of the 270,000 who returned, 180,000 were wounded, and sickness and casualties leave only 90,000 ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force available. If their average age was 30 years on the date on which the armistice was signed, those men are now beyond the military age, which is that between eighteen and 45 years.
Sittingsuspendedfrom12.45to 2.15 p.m.
– The spirit of the members of the Australian Imperial Force is undoubted, but we cannot fairly ask war-worn men to carry on while others neglect to do their part in the defence of their country. Honorable members may be misled by the fact that in the Estimates the members of rifle clubs appear to be a portion of the defence force. Rifle clubs have performed, and still are performing, a useful part in their own sphere. They are teaching the elements of rifle shooting, according to their own tenets, although not necessarily according to the require ments of battle shooting, and some are giving useful instruction to young soldiers. But as a potential reserve to the field army they must be entirely ruled out. This contention is well illustrated by my own experience at the commencement of the Great War. It was necessary to call up members of rifle clubs to form a small guard, but we had to examine 65 of them beforewe could get twelve who were fit, according to military standards, to undertake guard duty. We must, therefore, write off a large proportion of rifle club members from the reserves of the field army, and must also recollect that riflemarksmanship is only a small factor in the training and qualifications of a soldier. How would the reserves for a battery of artillery be provided? Artillery is a special and technical arm, and a considerable amount of time must be given voluntarily to the training of the young gunner. That is true also of the engineers. Admittedly a number of civilians acquire, in connexion with their ordinary avocations, knowledge and experience which is of assistance to an engineering corps in the field, but it is not sufficient to qualify them to undertake the improvisations and hurried work necessary to provide a smooth passage for the fighting forces of the field army. What reserves are required for the field army? It is estimated that the organization which existed under the universal training scheme is the least that is necessary to provide an adequate defence force, namely, two cavalry divisions and five infantry divisions, with ancillary troops, making a total of about 130,000 men. In addition a fixed organization is necessary to provide transport, food supplies, and hospital accommodation, and do the 101 jobs that must be done to keep a fighting army in the field. We have approximately 30,000 men in the militia forces to-day, without any reserves. Of the members of the Australian Imperial Force, possibly 30,000 are still fit for service. We may get another 5,000 men from the rifle clubs, but these bodies are widespread and recruiting from them is not easy. Thus we have a possible total of 65,000 men of the requisite 130,000. We would commence a campaign with half our necessary strength, and the wastage in action is such, that we should need at least double that number behind the line if the field army were to be kept effective. After the reserves have been called up a considerable time is required to fit them to take the field. The first division of the Australian Imperial Force was recruited about November, 1914, and although given the most strenuous training ever given to any force in the world, did not go into action until April of the following year. Although the men were carefully selected, intensive training extending over seven months was required to make of them a real fighting force.
– And they were then the best soldiers in the world.
– That cannot be denied. But we must not rely on the reputation of the Australian Imperial Force for our defence at the present time. Untrained and improperly armed troops thrown into the firing line, not only become a menace to their own side, through their inability to perform the necessary tasks and bear the inevitable fatigue, but also speedily fill the hospitals and congest the rear organization. For the reasons I have mentioned I earnestly ask the Government to endeavour to devise some methods of providing reserves for that small but willing and highly efficient body of troops, who at the present time are doing a patriotic duty by preparing themselves for the defence of Australia. They suffer from a sense of injustice. After the war and until the advent of the Seullin Government, the spirit and efficiency amongst the citizen soldiers of Australia had not previously been equalled in the military history of this country. But through the policy of the last Government, a highly efficient force was converted into a mere skeleton. That imposed a tremendous hardship upon enthusiastic soldiers, and they felt the rebuff keenly. For reasons best known to themselves, the members of the last Ministry had no sympathy with the profession of arms. If they had declared that they had no sympathy with war, every member of the House and every soldier in the Commonwealth would have agreed with them, for nobody who has ever experienced the horrors of war desires to see them repeated, and certainly if war must occur again we want to keep it out of our homeland. The Scullin Government “ pruned “ - “ emasculated “ is, I think, the more correct word - the whole of the defence forces. Not only were they reduced to less than 30,000 men, but the party then in power seemed determined to depreciate the soldier, and to deny any value in the profession of arms. I have heard similar views expressed in all parts of the world, and frequently in Australia. We have been told that by giving a man a rifle and a uniform, he can be made an integral and useful part of an army. The attitude of the Scullin Government was illustrated by the “ pruning” of the liaison officers at Australia House. Up to that time, each of the fighting forces was represented in London by its own expert, who was a link between the Imperial Forces and those in Australia. After the visit of Mr. Scullin to England, the expert officers were returned to Australia, and a civilian, who had no status amongst the fighting services in the United Kingdom, was appointed with the title of “ defence liaison officer.” That was typical of the attitude of the Labour Government towards the fighting services. However, all the blame cannot be laid upon the shoulders of that Government. The depressed state of the national finances was partly responsible for some of the cuts that were made. I shall not discuss the particular severity with which the axe was applied to army officers long prior to the general cut throughout the service. They suffered in silence; they were not allowed by the regulations, or by professional tradition, to tell their sad stories to other than their own senior officers.
The expenditure upon defence in Australia during the last few years bears a pitiable relation to the expenditure prior to the war. In 1913-14, the expenditure was 23s. 7d. per head; this year it is estimated to be 9s. 3d., which, taking into account the depreciation of the currency, represents not more than about 5s. in real money. Since 1918, there have been rumblings and rumours of war all round the globe. Australia may be likened to an outback homestead or settlement during the bushfire season. “Would any sensible settler neglect to have a water cart’ at hand or to cut a firebreak about his property ? Yet, when the whole world is nervous and unsettled, we are doing our level best to reduce to vanishing point the small national insurance this country has had in the past. Having some knowledge of the military service, I venture to suggest that the previous system of training worked well. It was based on years of experience and was supported by the traditions of the Australian Imperial Force. We had a fighting force which would not discredit Australia, should it ever have to take the field. Now this most distant outpost of the Empire is almost defenceless, and we can only hang our heads in shame because of our reliance upon the goodwill of other nations, and upon the protection of the Mother Country.
.- The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) dealt at length last night with the subject of exchange. We have learned to listen attentively to that honorable gentleman. He commenced his speech by saying that most honorable members and others who spoke of exchange did so without any knowledge or understanding of it; it was, he said, a complicated subject, and should be left to experts. With becoming humility, the honorable member disclaimed expert knowledge of this subject, but then proceeded to speak in detail of exchange problems, leading us to value his remarks by his prefatory statement that only the expert could say anything that was worth listening to. His observations on the exchange problem were thoughtful and valuable, but his references to the attitude of the Country party on this subject were not quite correct. I, for one, am not an advocate of an arbitrary increase of the exchange rate. On the contrary, I should very much like to see the time come when exchange is back to par. In this matter, all that members of the Country party ask for is expert advice, and I suggest that we are quite justified in that attitude. Honorable members will recall that, somewhere about last November, SirRobert Gibson, the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, wrote to the Prime Minister asking for some guidance in this very complex matter. The honorable member for Corio quoted the Macmillan report on monetary reform, presented a year or two ago to the British House of Commons. I remind the committee that we have in this country a competent body of experts, who presented a report to the Premiers Conference in April last. In seeking a solution of our difficulties, they offered the following suggestions: -
The gap between export costs and prices is about 20 per cent. Some of this might be covered by direct cutting of costs, some by raising the exchange, and some gained by increased efficiency throughout industry.
Later, in the same report, they stated -
Through the comparative flexibility of the Australia-on-London exchange and the sterling gold exchange, cost and prices in Australian currency have been brought nearer together, but for wool and wheat in particular costs still exceed prices. The present volume of production cannot even be maintained until this position improves.
Apparently what was in their minds was an alteration of the exchange rate to improve the general position in Australia. They stated, further -
If we could count upon a. sufficient rise in overseas prices in the course of the next year or two, the method of raising the exchange rate might keep up production until the rise in oversea prices restores export industry to a profitable basis.
The view put forward by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) was really in agreement with the observations of the honorable member for Corio, namely, that exchange being such a complicated subject, Parliament is entitled to expert guidance, so that the rate may be managed in the interests, not of primary producers only, but of the people generally. No one will deny that a high exchange really serves the purpose of an addition to tariff duties. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) said this morning that it was impracticable to adopt the suggestion made by the right honorable member for Cowper, but it seems to me that it would be a normal procedure while exchange is so high to reduce the tariff proportionately, thus easing the burden on our people.
I regard the budget as a very honest and straightforward attempt on the part of the Government to square the ledger. In my opinion, the estimates of revenue have been prepared on a conservative basis. Doubtless, this is the right course for any government to adopt, and in view of our recent experiences, it is wise to proceed with caution. But the revenue returns for the last two or three months are very encouraging. Some people take the contrary view, because of the increase of imports over exports; but every one knows that exports have been held back in expectation of improved prices overseas; furthermore the new export season has not yet commenced. We have to remember also, that some proportion of the increased import trade is due to stocks in Australia being so depleted that it was necessary to build them up again. I suggest, therefore, that the general trade situation indicates a return to prosperity.
The Melbourne Argus, of the 6th October, published an interesting article dealing with international trade movements. From it, I extract the following : -
Any substantial improvement in world prices is unlikely without an increase of international trade. To deplore an increase of imports to the extent permitted by the improving financial position is tantamount to deploring the return of prosperity.
Admittedly our position is difficult. Our national income in 1927-28 was, in round figures, £650,000,000; in 1931-32 it had dropped to £430,000,000, a reduction of £220,000,000. Stated in other terms, four to five years ago the national income per head of the population was £104, whereas last year it was only £82. Therefore, we may regard the more recent trade figures with lively satisfaction, believing that they represent a marked improvement in our general financial position.
With regard to the Ottawa agreement, tabled by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) yesterday, I am very much in favour of any proposal to improve inter-Empire trade, and for this reason I welcome the increase in the margin of preference in favour of British goods in the Australian market. But I think the objective could have been achieved better by reducing the duties on British goods, allowing those on foreign goods to stand. Under the Ottawa proposals, the actual benefit to British manufacturers will be somewhat restricted, and there is the danger of retaliation by foreign countries. Also, we should not forget that every increase in customs duties means an addition to the cost of commodities required by Australian con-
Mr. Mcnicoll. sumers. The Minister for Health (Mr. Marr) was good enough this morning to credit the members of the Country party with having the interests of the Commonwealth at heart. Wc take the view that in all our legislation we should not overlook the welfare of the people who have to buy the things we produce.
It had been my intention to refer in some detail to a number of matters mentioned by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison). I have not been long enough a member of the House to appreciate the value of wearisome reiteration of views, the statement of which fills Hansard to repletion and induces in many members a condition of somnolence; therefore I shall exclude from what I may say any allusion to those subjects already dealt with by the honorable member for Bendigo. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham), who on Friday last presented his report dealing with the Disarmament Conference at Geneva, gave us some rather disquieting information. On this subject, the Sydney Morning Herald a few days ago made the following comments : -
The obligation . . . upon members of the league is not to disarm but “the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety, and the enforcement of common action of international obligations “… Every person of intelligence recognizes the difficulties. Those difli have been increased … by the failure or most of the great nations to realize that the higher and higher national tariffs which lui ve been reared since the Armistice represent the carrying on of another sort of war.
Further on the article says -
Outside the League, Soviet Russia has not only been arming heavily, but its Government has repeatedly proclaimed to the world that it, is arming for a world-wide proletarian war.
And again -
A special committee of the League lon; ago pointed out to its members that a grave hazard to world peace is the erection of national tariff barriers against international trade and that, if these barriers are maintained, the world will be heading towards war again, sooner or later.
As the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) pointed out, there have been outbreaks of trouble in Yugoslavia, Germany, and other parts of the world, and it has been stated that Japan is endeavouring to obtain a footing in the Malay Archipelago. During the last five years, all the1 important countries in the world have been increasing their expenditure on defensive preparations particularly in connexion with their navies and air forces. It must not be forgotten that, very often, our friends of yesterday are our enemies to-morrow. In Leipzig, one may see a tremendous war memorial celebrating victories that were obtained by Great Britain and Germany over France. In Australia, certain matters have been discussed so frequently that the inclination is to regard them as nonexistent. One is the vulnerability of our empty north. In that portion of the continent, there are large areas that are not populated by white people, and that offer temptation to other races to whom the climatic conditions would not be a “hindrance. In such matters, we have had to rely for our protection on the Royal Navy.
As the honorable member for Bendigo said, no one wants war. This Parliament contains something over thirty returned soldiers, every one of whom J guarantee hates war and its effects not less than those honorable members on mv right who so often declaim against war. They have been engaged in it ; they know and have shared, the sufferings caused by it, and have not a good word to say for it. But only a fool would shut his eyes to the necessity for defence measures. Some honorable members are followers of the prize ring: they would not recommend any person to enter it without making thorough preparations for defending himself. I recall with pleasure the announcement on one occasion by the honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that there was an obligation on the young men of this country to serve the nation in the last war.
Our forces hav been reduced to three sea-going ships, with a personnel of not quite 3,000 ratings in the navy, about 1,500 permanent soldiers, the provision for, but not the existence of, 30,000 trained men, a small air force, and a few planes that are rapidly becoming obsolete. It is quite true that we have been financially embarrassed, and have had to curtail our expenditure. It is rather significant, however, that the fighting men of the army and navy, who have very little voice in parliamentary affairs, and an inconsiderable voting power, should bc the first hit and the hardest hit. In the army, compulsory rationing was introduced very early in the period of depression, and caused severe hardship. These silent services have no means of making known their sufferings. Assuming that at the moment we cannot afford any considerable expenditure .on defence, I am hopeful that the provision will be increased before very long, because the situation that confronts us is a dangerous one.
I wish to emphasize the absolutely unfair way in which salaries are allotted in such a highly specialized service as the different branches of the Defence Department. There is a Secretary for Defence, whose salary is £2,000 a year. He may be well worth it. But compare it with the salary of the leading professional soldier of the Commonwealth, the Chief of the General Staff, who is the executive commander in times of trouble, and whose whole life has been devoted to his profession. He receives only £1,500 a year. Each of these gentlemen, of course, is subject to a percentage reduction under the terms of the Financial Emergency Act, but the reductions are proportionately the same. There are also, in the central ‘administration, a Finance Secretary, whose salary is £1,094 a year, an Assistant Secretary, who receives £994 a year, and 40 clerical officers. In the clerical branch of the navy, there ave 111 officers of all grades, who receive a total of £39,235, an average of £353 a year for each person. Contrast that with the sea-going service, in which there is a personnel of 3,160, whose remuneration totals £860,754, an average of £272 a year each.
– They are also found.
– Although they have had years of technical training, they receive less than clerical officers who sit safely and comfortably at home. The honorable member for Melbourne’ Ports (Mr. Holloway), having to come to Canberra every week, knows what it means to be deprived of home life, and should be able to appreciate the feelings of those who have to remain at sea for months at a time. Many of these seamen, when on shore leave, find that they are worse off than persons on land, who are in receipt of the dole and family endowment. How can it be contended that discipline may be maintained under such conditions ? lu the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, which is, in a sense, a militia organization, there are 23 employed on the clerical side, receiving on the average £428 per annum, and on the sea-going side there are 119 of all ranks, whose salaries average £343 per annum, or nearly £100 a year less. Taking the permanent forces, which is a small nucleus of professionally trained men, I find that 1,552 officers and men receive, on the average, only £255 per annum. In the ordnance branch, the military staff numbers 45, and the civilian and storehouse staff 242. These figures show that the clerical officers have’ received greater consideration than the technical officers.. There have been fewer dismissals among the clerical staffs, and more have been retained than are necessary. The cut has been applied principally to the military, naval and air forces, and because the members of those services have been unable to secure that consideration for their claims which should be extended to them, they have been forced to accept lower salaries than should be paid to such specially trained men.
I shall refer only briefly to the air force, because I understand that another honorable member intends to deal with it in detail. This force, particularly the civil aviation branch of it, needs immediate and earnest attention on the part of the Government. I travelled through Europe two years ago, and I was amazed to find the extent to which civil aviation had been organized these. Even parcels of newspapers are carried by aeroplane on a successful commercial basis. A plane can be obtained in practically any important town to enable one to travel to almost any other part of Europe, and regular time tables are arranged. Civil aviation services have been developed to an extent of which we have little conception in Australia. The Government has, admittedly, spent a certain sum of money in encouraging civil aviation in this country, but mainly in subsidizing one or two private companies; therefore, the money voted for the purpose has been spent in a wrong direction. I recognize that the Government is faced with financial difficulties at the present time, but I am convinced that the Defence Department requires a thorough overhaul, in order to bring about a reasonable adjustment of the salaries of officers on the clerical and technical sides of the service. I agree with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) that a real danger threatens Australia. If time permitted, I could go deeply into the importance of providing for the adequate defence of Australia. When the financial position permits of it, the whole subject should he examined from a national point of view, not with a desire to precipitate war, but with a full realization of the isolated position of Australia in the world, and of the need for the defence of this country, in order that we shall not be taken unprepared.
.- The budget debate provides an opportunity for honorable members to discuss any subject with which they care to deal, and I_intend to offer a few observations, principally upon the subject of aviation, because I have found in the past that the individual items of the Estimates are often considered during an all-night sitting, when they do not receive the close attention to which they are entitled. We were treated to a speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mi-. Scullin) regarding our trade balance, and the right honorable gentleman suggested that this was not a good budget. While I admit that in many directions greater economies might have been effected, generally speaking. I regard the budget as a good one. The right honorable member traversed familiar ground, and discussed many matters of international moment to which all honorable members, no doubt, have given consideration. But he contributed nothing helpful to the debate. He drew attention to the trade balance, and said that because it was now adverse, it was likely to embarrass Australia. I agree that our trade balance should be carefully watched. Although the right honorable gentleman tried to take credit of having converted an unfavorable balance into a favorable one, Ave all know that that result came about to a great extent automatically. Evidence of the reduced purchasing power of the people was shown during the regime of the last Government with ever increasing unemployment, despite the measures that it took to adjust the trade balance. It is not statesmanlike to impose prohibitions and surtaxes irrespective of the amount of unemployment that may result. But a government does well if, while adjusting the trade balance, it keeps men in employment. I claim that the unemployment evil has now been checked definitely.
– It has in Victoria, because in that State thousands of men are going off the dole. Anybody who has commercial connexions knows that business has been stimulated since the advent of the present Government. The fact that the trade balance is adverse at this particular time is a sign of general business revival. It shows that many firms which were becoming short of stocks are now replenishing their warehouses, because they realize that confidence is returning. Money is coming into Australia, not in cash, but in goods, and that is a sign of returning prosperity. The trade balance will right itself. The present time of the year is the season when there is a maximum of imports. Commercial houses are getting ready for the summer trade. I t is the period, also, of minimum exports, and it follows that with the increased imports and the reduced exports, there must be an adverse balance, but only temporarily. I realize that if the trade balance does not soon adjust itself, we shall have to take measures to correct the position ; but it is unreasonable for honorable members opposite to condemn the present Government because the trade balance is adverse for a short period of the year. They might as well judge a business on one particular month’s trading. If the matter does not adjust itself, we can take measures, if necessary, similar to those adopted by the last Government. It is wise to watch the trade balance, to get men back into employment, and to let prosperity return.
I was pleased to hear the speeches of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll). I was reminded of past occasions when I have directed the attention of this Parliament to the need for adequate defence measures. I was vilified by supporters of the last Government when I pointed out that it was the duty of every citizen to support the compulsory training system, and to do his share in the defence of the country. The Minister for Defence at that time was the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), who accused me of trying to destroy the voluntary system. I pointed out at that time that, under the voluntary system, specialist branches of the service, such as artillery, air force, engineers, &c., would secure a full quota of recruits, but that a shortage would be experienced in the infantry units. My prophecy has, unfortunately, come true. A report recently issued by the senior officers shows that the infantry battalions cannot be kept up to strength. I pointed out that by training a few men, these men were only doing their share while others shirked. We do not, in that way, get the same body of reserves as under the compulsory system, and we do not get the trained man power that wo should have to defend this great heritage of our3. I am pleased, therefore, that there are now other honorable members in this House who appreciate the defence needs of the country. To destroy the defence system is to jeopardize the safety of Australia, and thus betray its most vital interests. I hope the Government will take heed of the speeches made on this subject, and will see that provision is made for the defence needs of the country.
We are practically an outpost of the white race, situated at only a short distance from the Asiatic coast. We have a coastline of 13,000 miles, and territory 25 times as large as the British Isles. Yet we are spending on defence only about one-fifth as much per head as Great Britain, which shows that we are leaning on the Mother Country in defence matters.Recently the admiral in command of our fleet pointed out that our navy was not equal in strength to that of Siam. I might also add that we have now no survey ships. What we had the last Government placed out of commission. although they had been used on practically civil business. There is still plenty of work for them to do, as navigators on some parts of our coast still have to depend upon the charts prepared by flinders and Bass. It is humiliating to reflect that countries like Portugal, China, and Siam are able to keep survey ships in commission, while vc are not, although their coast lines are much shorter than ours.
– What about the auxiliary cruisers that the Bruce-Page Government disposed of?
– The honorable member is no doubt referring to the Commonwealth line of steamers. Those ships would be of little use in time of war against even the most obsolete cruisers in any other navy. At any rate, the foundation of that shipping line was an experiment in socialism carried out by the former Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). I could never have supported that proposal, and Australia is still paying for it in interest on the money borrowed with which to build the ships.
Under the heading of Aviation, the vote this year is £311,750 for the Royal Australian Air Force, and £129,750 for civil aviation. As trustees for the people, we are responsible for the money spent on these items, and we should see that it is spent as advantageously as possible. The money devoted to the air force has been wisely expended. Small as the force is, it is efficient. Most of the air force vote has been silent on ground organization, such as hangars, -workshops, buildings, aerodromes, &c, so that the force may be quickly expanded in case of emergency. There is great scope for devolopment on the aviation side of defence. It is one of the. most economical, yet effective ai ms of the service. It is obvious that if Western Australia were invaded, we could not send a division of troops there from the east in less than a month, but a detachment of the air force could, arrive there in a matter of days. The some applies to an invasion in the north. It is admitted, of course, that the air force cannot fight a war alone; it is merely an auxiliary to the land forces, as, indeed, are the other arms. The air force, nevertheless, can arrive on the scene quickly, and, in recent years, air detachments have done wonders in the way of fighting small campaigns on their own. In Mesopotamia troop carriers each conveying a platoon of infantry quickly quelled risings in mountainous country in actions against the Kurds. Also, during the disturbances some little time ago in Afghanistan, hundreds of persons were carried by air force planes from Kabul to India. Every day improvements are being, made in the speed and carrying capacity of aeroplanes. During the war we were interested mainly in the destructive capacity of planes, but aviation has its humanitarian and commercial sides as well. In 1915, some air force planes were capable of flying at only 50 miles an hour. Recently, an air force seaplane flew at 407 miles an hour in the Schneider Cup tests, and Sir Malcolm Campbell, the speed motorist, when being entertained at the air force mess, was charged with “ loitering “ because he had done only 219 miles an hour in his car! In the days when Britain was portion of the Roman Empire, it took fourteen days to journey from Rome to London. Seventeen hundred years later, when Sir Robert Peel was recalled from Italy to London to assume the office of Prime Minister, it took him twelve days to do the trip; yet, in 1932, it takes only 48 hours to do the journey by train, or eight hours to do it by aeroplane.
In Australia, with its enormous spaces, the possibilities ahead of aviation are immense. Air services have brought the comforts of civilization to those living outback, and have been a definite factor in opening up remote areas. The air force, in addition to being an arm of the military service, has carried out valuable work in forest survey, spotting for bush fires, and reconnaissance for the discovery of oil-fields.
The money spent on civil aviation has been devoted chiefly to establishing commercial air mail lines, and it is in respect to these that I have criticism to offer. I consider that this money has not been wisely spent. The Civil Aviation Department came into being in 1920, when the Air Navigation Act was passed empowering the department to make regulations. Had the money been wisely spent we should have had a great deal more to show for it than we have. In the air force we have buildings, aerodromes and machines to show for the money spent, but if we were to take stock of the Civil Aviation Department we should have very little to show for the £1,000,000 or more which has been spent. If a business mau were to ignore the advice of his auditors he would be courting disaster, and it therefore behoves us to pay attention to what the AuditorGeneral has to say on the subject of civil aviation. In his last report he states -
In previous years I have dealt with the competitive and costly aspects of air mail services. I then pointed out that although there was some convenience to those who used the service, the expenditure, particularly during the existing Treasury difficulties, was economically unsound, because it was unnecessary and largely provided luxury and duplicate services. There is no doubt that aviation companies have attempted to push their business beyond a point for which justification can be found in this country, and that the great mass of the population, who never use those services and who cannot afford them, are subjected to a severe tax quite out of proportion to the benefits received. The subsidies paid hist year, after deducting the air mail fees, totalled £83,671. The weight of mail matter carried was 30,057 lb., the average cost per lb. being £2 14s. On one route in Queensland, tho average cost is nearly £7. Apart from the loss to the Commonwealth and State Governments by reason of competition with railways in regard to passenger and freight traffic and with the telegraph and telephone services, the direct cost of air mail ‘services totals £1,(100 per week. There is the further burden on Australian production, and its aggravating effect on the exchange position resulting from the importation of aeroplanes and petrol.
Last year I quoted figures showing the very serious effect which the East-West ““Mail Service was having upon Commonwealth finances. It has been estimated that if this service were suspended, and the Commonwealth compensated the company by paying to it the profit which it is deriving from this service, the Commonwealth would save at le;i.st £3fi,000 per annum until the expiration of the contract on 1st June, 1934.
The Commonwealth could save £35,000 a year by cancelling that contract. Why has no action been taken? Thatcriticism has been made, and it is necessary that action should be taken. Can we afford to throw away £35,000? If the reason is only that it is a contract, we must remember that contracts with the bondholders, and between mortgagors and mortgagees, have already been altered. If the condition of affairs has so changed that air mail is not now of such great importance as it was considered to be in 1929 when the contract was made, the parties concerned should be brought together and a new agreement entered into. I have raised a protest on this subject on two previous occasions when we have been dealing with the Estimates, but nothing has been clone. If these air mail companies have cut salaries, their profits must be proportionately higher. The AuditorGeneral draws attention to the fact that an air mail service between Australia and England is contemplated, and states -
Although it is perfectly clear that Australia’s financial position is such that it cannot afford the huge subsidy which would he necessary to maintain such a service, endeavours are being made by certain commercial interests to influence the Commonwealth Government with a view to establishing this service.
Undoubtedly, air mail services have been of value to Australia, particularly those in the remote parts, and I do not criticize such activities ‘as Qantas, which runs a service diagonally across Queensland and the coastal service of West Australia Airways Limited. It is the subsidy for the cast-west service which runs parallel with the eastwest railway that the Auditor-General particularly refers to as a waste of money. There is not the same need for air service nowadays, when the written and, thanks to the progress in the development of the wireless telephone, the spoken word can be sent overseas cheaply and expeditiously.
It would be interesting to know who have clamoured for these contracts. Is it the chambers of commerce or the chambers of manufactures? I think not. All the benefits appear to go to the companies which operate the services. The Auditor-General points out how small is the weight of the mail carried, yet the department called for tenders for machines with relatively enormous payloads. Departmental statistics reveal that some Westralian Airways machines operating between Perth, Derby and Wyndham, with a payload capacity of between 1,200 and 1,600 lb., are carrying an average of only 76 lb. of mail, while between Perth and Adelaide, machines with a payload capacity of 2,200 lb., have been carrying a mail weighing about 174 lb. That company has enjoyed a favorable contract, giving it £330 for every trip it makes, the average mail load being 177 lb. It had a very nice arrangement with the department; that, if, foist period of four months, the weight of mail could be raised to 800 lb., the company would receive £760 for each trip. The company made strenuous endeavours to increase the volume of mail by carrying catalogues and other heavy mail matter, and it was also arranged that the Government should institute a propaganda campaign, upon which it would spend £3,000 in advertising air services. The project was abandoned, and the company claimed £738 as compensation. It was granted £657. Air companies, realizing that those good things might slip from their fingers in 1934, are arranging to get together with a view to starting further services.
In addition to the opinions of the Auditor-General, I wish to quote those of aviation authorities. -Honorable members may be aware that recently there was an air convention in Melbourne. At that gathering very bitter things were said by different groups interested in aviation. They do not seem to be able to agree among themselves. Apparently, those who have are determined to hold, and those who have not are equally determined to possess something. I bring the matter forward because I believe that, if a select committee or royal commission were appointed to inquire into civil aviation, the people of Australia would learn how the money has been expended, and whether the Auditor-General was right in his criticism. First, I shall give the opinion of the principal aircraft operator in South Australia, Captain H. C. Miller, a man whose opinions are respected by every section interested in aviation. He said -
Take the firm that received the lion’s share of the money spent, which is somewhere about £60,000 per annum. They employ four pilots, six or eight first-class mechanics, and a few hoys . . . For just the amount that the above firm draws in three months we would be .sure of being able to maintain our Broken Hill service for 40 years. . . . This service covers 520 miles; so just divide the amount that has been paid out to the only firms that have operated with a subsidy in Australia (they number three) during the last eight years, and you will get an idea what could have been done with the same sum. Ten times the number of machines and men would have been employed for ten times the number of years. The firms that have been so wonderfully favoured for so many years are, naturally, not anxious to let their subsidy slip through, their fingers, and their proposals for. an AustraliaEngland link will further reduce the results gained for money spent, but will keep the subsidies flowing in their hands. . . . What we want is value for money spent, and it is time that this became the view of the powers that be. This does not necessarily mean that any existing services should not still run.
Another private aircraft operator, Major H. Turner Shaw, of Victoria, who has been flying for about twenty years, and has lost a fortune in endeavouring to establish aviation in Australia, points out that -
The subsidized companies, which have been paid £750,000, have in operation - 28 machines, 10 pilots, 30 mechanics, and possibly employ some casual labour. Where has that £750,000 gone? It is still going to the tune of £75,000- per annum.
– That would have gone a long way towards solving the unemployment problem.
– Wisely expended, it would have helped considerably to provide more employment for aircraft engineers. At present, the money is spent largely on air mail services. We have an excellent beam wireless service, and overseas telephone facilities, so that there is not the same urgent need for a fast air mail service. In any case the principal cost should be borne by the users of the air mail, and not by the whole of the taxpayers of Australia. The returns from these services are dwindling, yet the contract is again to be renewed. On the 10th June, 1930, I asked the then Minister for Defence -
Will the Minister for Defence offer an inducement to Australian National Airways, or some other company, to include Canberra in its itinerary, and so provide quicker transport to and from the Federal Capital, and relieve to seme extent the isolation of its people.
The reply was -
Civil aviation has already progressed to a stage which makes it no longer necessary to provide subsidies to enable properly-managed and capitalized organizations to operate aerial services successfully between large and important centres of population. This has alreadybeen demonstrated between Brisbane and Sydney, and is now in process of being so between Sydney and Melbourne.
In such circumstances it is not proposed to other any special financial inducement in order to facilitate aerial communication between the Federal and State capitals.
It is, moreover, in the knowledge of the department that active steps are already being taken by the different companies to include Canberra in their aerial itinerary, thus bringing the Federal Capital within 75 minutes from Sydney and three hours only from Melbourne.
Yet, in spite of the fact that on this occasion we are told they are not necessary, the Government is going on with these immense subsidies. In Canada, 425,000 lb. of mail was carried in the year 1930, for which the Government paid a total air mail subsidy of £126.000. The total distance flown in the sister dominion that year was 7,549,000 miles. Canada is carrying on a campaign to clear landing grounds and erect aerodromes, also to provide wireless communication, beacons and meteorological services. That is how the money should have been spent in Australia. As I have already stated, if the whole of our Civil Aviation Department were disposed of, there would’ be very little to show for the £1,000,000 expended. The money has gone mainly to provide profits for aviation companies, with the result that aviation in Australia has not developed as it should have done. In New Guinea, which is being developed largely because of recent rich gold finds, a private company has carried 2,997 tons of freight without any subsidy.
– And has charged £80 a ton for doing so.
– The point is that the company has not received any subsidy from the Commonwealth Government. In Australia the number of letters carried during 1930 was 383,492, and the total mileage flown was 3,000,000 miles, less than half that of Canada. I am at a disadvantage in not knowing what is being done by the inter-departmental committee set up as a result of severe criticism of our air mail subsidies. I have asked several questions on this subject in the House, and the Minister has kindly supplied me with the terms of reference, which show, among other things, that consideration would be given to-
A service and a schedule that would -
Be of a frequency of once weekly in each direction;
Provide a fourteen to seventeen day mail service between London and the Australian capital cities;
Enable replies to be received from overseas in approximately half the time now taken.
The fee to be charged on letters to England would approximate1s. 6d. to1s. 9d. per half ounce, inclusive of postage. It has been stated in the press that the operating company would be paid a subsidy of £180,000 a year for arranging for the carrying of mail matter between Australia and Singapore. Yet a Dutch company has offered to carry our mail without any subsidy or guarantee. The Royal Dutch Air Line in co-operation with the Royal Dutch Indian Airways is prepared to carry the Australian mail in a weekly service from Wyndham or Port Darwin to London, and the users would only have to pay a rate which would return a profit to the Commonwealth of £1 per kilogram.
– Does the honorable member consider that we should enter into a contract with the Dutch company for the carriage of our mails?
– I am not suggesting that ; but if the Dutch company can carry the mails under these conditions, Australian or British companies should be able to do so. Three Australian companies are concerned. One has now ceased operations, and we have read in the press that a merger is proposed with the object of organizing the carriage of mails between England and Australia. If the Dutch company can carry mails at a rate of only1s. on letters, Australian companies ought to be able to do it. The whole subject should be thoroughly investigated.
I have mentioned the interdepartmental inquiry; but I find nothing in the terms of reference to the investigating body to show that the mistakes of the past will be considered. We want to know how the savings proposed by the Auditor-General can be effected. The Dutch company, to which I have referred, was prepared to commence operations on the 1st October.
We now have this proposed expenditure under consideration, and we ought to know definitely what the policy of the Government is. The Dutch interests were neutral during the war, and they are now carrying a large proportion of the British air mail through Burma. As they have made their offer to us, without prejudice in regard to future operations, it should be looked into sympathetically. As money is being spent in subsidizing civil aviation, we should be satisfied that it is being wisely spent. I consider that a good deal more could be done to encourage gliding clubs, which give boys and young men a very useful training in the rudiments of aviation. The Government is being forced to economize in very many directions. It has reduced parliamentary allowances, civil service salaries and pensions, and has called upon bondholders to accept a lower rate of interest. It has even cancelled the pensions that have been paid to certain dependants of soldiers. I consider therefore, that there is every justification for my request that a thorough inquiry by a select committee or a royal commission should be made into our expenditure on civil aviation. Royal commissions have inquired, in the past, into the coal, the pastoral, and many other industries. There is no reason why civil aviation should not be brought under review, for, under proper control, it could become a great national asset.
I pointed out last year that whenever an aeroplane accident occurred, whether it was fatal or otherwise, the departmental inquiry which followed was of a secret nature, and that the public had no opportunity to ascertain what took place at it; also that when by request the papers were tabled in Parliament, only a summary and a finding were made available. Often, pilots are blamed for being careless, but it may be that their machines are not airworthy. If departmental machines are used there is, perhaps, less likelihood of an adverse finding by a departmental body in that regard. I submitted on that occasion that the Air Accidents Investigation Committee should become an open court like the Marine Court, and that citizens who were inter ested in aviation should be permitted to attend it. This will have to be done sooner or later. The Government’s action in wasting thousands of pounds in the payment of subsidies to commercial aviation companies is in direct contrast to the attitude that has been adopted towards the humanitarian aircraft service operated in Central Queensland, by which a flying doctor engaged under the auspices of the Australian Inland Mission of the Presbyterian Church is able to render magnificent service to the people living in the outback with the aid of an aeroplane hired from the Qantas company. This service was started by a few private subscribers with the assistance of a grant from the H. V. McKay Bequest. The flying doctor from his base at Cloncurry, spreads a mantle of protection over a district with a radius of 400 miles in the outback parts of Australia, to which, formerly, many were afraid to take their dear ones for fear of sickness or accidents. Since the flying doctor has been operating in this area a great burden of fear has been lifted from these people, for they now know that medical attention is available when it is needed. Coincident with the establishment of this service the mission provided a number of wireless transmitting sets with automatic keys, so that the doctor could be called up from outback centres to meet any emergency. This is a most valuable work. Yet the subsidy for it, which was formerly £600 a year, as against the £80,000 a year provided for the commercial company carrying a handful of letters between South Australia and Western Australia, was cancelled by the previous Government. I took the matter up with the Ministers at that time in charge of the Postal Department, the Home Affairs Department, and the Defence Department, and was given a sympathetic hearing. A promise was made that the subsidy would be re-considered when the new Estimates were being prepared, but that Government went out of office before that time arrived. Now that a new government has charge of affairs I look to it to do something. I am a supporter of this Government, but I shall criticize it just as I criticized the Labour Government if it does not do the right thing. I referred, this matter to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) while he was in charge of the Department of the Interior, and he promised that half the former subsidy would be provided.
– That amount is on the Estimates.
– But there is a stipulation attached to it which should be removed. I do not think that the Department of the Interior should have to bear the full cost of the subsidy, because such a service as that provided by the flying doctor is of great value to the whole community. For instance, the doctor was recently able to counteract _ an epidemic which broke out on Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Such a service as this should be recognized as a useful adjunct to the air force and the Defence Department should gladly support it. Civil pilots would be very useful to the country if war should unhappily occur. The Government has reduced the vote for the Royal Australian Air Force as it has done that for the military department. But unfortunately the previous Government changed the defence policy of Australia, and so seriously damaged the effectiveness of our defence services that it. will be a long while before they can be restored to their former value.
– The Postmaster-General should be requested to cai! for alternative tenders for mail services by air or road.
– That is a good suggestion.
It is only right, that merchants and other people who seize the opportunity to send letters quickly by the air mail service should pay for the carriage of those letters, and not the whole of the taxpayers, the majority of whom never use the services. The Government might well consider the establishment of directional communication between aerodromes and recognized air routes, on which passengers are regularly carried. Had there been a system of directional wireless in operation at the time of the last flight of the Southern Cloud, which was reported to have reached the neighbourhood of Melbourne, it. is probable that, even admitting the bad weather, it would not have been lost.
There should be some encouragement of competition between the manufacturers and importers of aircraft, with the object of effecting improvements, particularly with regard to horse-power in relation to pay load. The Government might also give consideration to the payment of a bounty in respect of machines in use. With reference to the system under which every pilot who renews his licence is subsidized, it should be a condition that the pilot himself, when he qualifies, should receive the subsidy, and not necessarily the aero club. I hope that the Government, before entering into any agreement with a company, whether Dutch or British, will give honorable members an opportunity to discuss any proposals that are placed before it, that it will institute a proper inquiry, either by means of a select committee or a royal commission into civil aviation generally which, as with the royal commission on wireless, will enable members to learn something of the subject, and that it will take the earliest opportunity to place information at the disposal of honorable members so that we may know what is being done under the vote that is being passed by this Parliament.
– I support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), because it has for its object the exposure to the people generally, of the neglect of the Government to make better provision for the unemployed. During the last election, the Nationalist candidates said that if their party were returned to power, immediate provision would be made for the relief of unemployment’. Yet we find that, although this Government has been in office for nine months, it has done practically nothing towards solving the problem of unemployment. The latest figures of the Commonwealth Statistician show that for the last quarter of 1931, the percentage of unemployment was 27.4, and for the third quarter of 1932, 29.6. Unemployment has therefore increased since this Government took office. There is plenty of scope for the Government to honour its promise. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, it could undertake public works of a reproductive character, such as public buildings, water supplies, and sewerage systems. I have in mind a building which the Commonwealth promised to erect in Brisbane, adjacent toAnzac Square, which is one of the most beautiful parks in Australia and is certainly a credit to the people of Brisbane. The Commonwealth Government, in order to make provision for that park, obtained from the Queensland Government certain State property on the understanding that each government would construct a public building on either side of it. The Queensland Government has carried out its undertaking, and it is now up to the Commonwealth Government to take similar action. If the construction of this additional building were put in hand, it would provide work for many of the unfortunate unemployed of Brisbane.
I have, on several occasions, referred in this chamber to the Commonwealth offices in Brisbane. On the 23rd September last, I asked the then Minister f or the Interior (Mr. Parkhill) the following questions: -
I received the following replies: -
The department’s estimate of the cost of a new Commonwealth building: is £170,000. If the Government were sincerein its desire to solve the unemployment problem and to serve its own interests, it would fulfil its promise to construct a building on this property, and would carry out many other reproductive public works in Queensland. The post office at Brisbane is a disgrace to the city and, indeed, to the whole Commonwealth. A person visiting a city for the first time looks for the post office and the town hall. I am proud to say that such a person would not be disappointed with the Brisbane Town Hall, for it is one of the most beautiful and up-to-date buildings in Australia; but, as I have said, the post office in that city is a disgrace. It is unfortunate that the Scullin Government did not remain in office a little longer, for in that case the finances of the country would soon have improved sufficiently to enable a new post office to be constructed. I hope that the new Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill), whom I congratulate on his elevation to his new office, will, at the first available opportunity, visit Brisbane, and consider this question on the spot. If a new building cannot be erected, the least that the Government should do is to renovate the existing structure, whose walls and ceilings are in a most dilapidated state. The renovation of the building would be reproductive work, and it should be undertaken without delay. I am keenly disappointed with the budget speech of the Treasurer, because it is barren of any proposal to solve the problem of unemployment, which all honorable members agree is the most important problem facing this and other countries to-day.
Since I did not have an opportunity to discuss the proposed reductions of invalid and old-age pensions, the maternity allowance, and the salaries of public servants, when the Financial Emergency Bill was before us recently, I propose to refer to those matters now. The Government’s proposals in this connexion are the most wicked of any ever contemplated by an Australian Government. It grieves me to think that there is in power a government so callous that it will take from the aged and the infirm in our midst, some- thing which they cannot afford to lose and which, after all, it is not necessary to take. That a government faced with a deficit of £1,467,000 should seek to balance its budget by taking £1,110,000 from the most defenceless section of the community, is unpardonable. It is true that the previous Administration reduced pensions; but it acted under totally different conditions. Although the Scullin Government was faced with a huge adverse trade balance and financial difficulties of great magnitude, it reduced pensions by only 12½ per cent. This Government seeks to obtain from the pensioners and the public servants of this country 75 per cent. of the amount required to balance its budget. Its proposal is outrageous. I shall continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Motion (by Mr. Parkhill) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I ask the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) to bring under the notice of the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) the following telegram which I have received from Mr. Bateman of the Chamber of Commerce, Perth: -
This Chamber although generally opposed to bonuses and bounties strongly recommends the Federal Government continue wheat bounty further period as temporary expedient in view disastrous position wheat-growers faced with throughout Australia.
When the precarious position of the Australian wheat-growers was brought under the notice of the Government a short time ago, I urged upon the Government the necessity for. giving early consideration to the proposal to pay a bounty on fertilizers used by wheat-growers, with a view to increasing production. No one can deny that the Australian wheat-growers are in a most precarious position, and, in view of the approach of the harvesting and marketing season - I believe that a large quantity of wheat has already been sold - I trust that the Government will announce its intentions in the direction of assisting this most important industry.
I desire also to refer briefly to the embargo placed upon the importation of glass, and to the primage duty imposed upon galvanized iron. I mention these two matters because I contend that undertakings once entered into should be honorably observed. If honorable members will refer to the agreement between Great Britain and Australia, signed at Ottawa, they will find that an undertaking was reached under which the Commonwealth Government “ would repeal as soon as practicable the proclamation published in the Commonwealth Gazette on the 19th May, 1932, prohibiting the importation of certain goods.” What has the Government to say with respect to the restrictions placed upon the importation of glass? The agreement further provides that the Government shall “remove as soon as practicable, the surcharges imposed by resolution introduced into the Parliament of Australia on the 24th May, 1932, and to reduce or remove the primage duty as soon as the finances of Australia will allow.”
– And the Government is imposing such duties.
– Yes. It cannot be said that primage duty has been imposed upon galvanized iron owing to the financial position of the Commonwealth. Clause 12 of the agreement provides that -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake that no new protective duty shall be imposed and no existing duty shall be increased on United Kingdom goods to on amount in excess of the recommendation of the tariff tribunal.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is not entitled to anticipate debate on the subject-matter of another motion.
– Under the agreement mentioned, the Government undertook to reduce or to remove primage duty as speedily as possible; and its action in respect of galvanized iron is contrary to both the letter and the spirit of that agreement. I trust that a reply will be given on behalf of the Government as to its action in imposing embargoes and collecting primage duty on commodities from Great Britain in direct opposition to the agreement recently entered into.
.- For some years the honorable member forSwan (Mr. Gregory) has been asking Parliament to accept the recommendations of the Tariff Board.
– I have not.
– If the honorable member examines the report of the Tariff Board on galvanized iron he will find that a lower duty was recommended in anticipation of the imposition of a primage duty, and now that that duty has been imposed the honorable member is dissatisfied. He wishes to have it both ways.When the tariff schedule is under consideration there will be ample opportunity to debate this matter, and it will be shown that the board has acted in the best interests of all concerned. It is hardly, fitting for any member of this Parliament to favour the adoption of the board’s recommendations when they suit him and discard them when they do not. I was in the first place opposed to the appointment of a tariff board, because I believed it to be the duty of Parliament to determine the duties to be imposed on imported goods; but the honorable member for Swan and other honorable members who favoured the appointment of the Tariff Board are now objecting to some of its recommendations because they do not suit them.
. - During the debate on the wheat industry a short time ago it was clearly stated that the interests of those engaged in wheat production were being closely considered by the Government. The remarks of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) will be brought under the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons). I can assure him that the Government, which realizes the importance of coming to a decision before the next wheat season, is giving the matter of assistance to wheat-growers its earnest attention.
The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) explained this morning the reasons for the Government’s action with respect to the embargo on the importation of glass, and the imposition of a primage duty on galvanized iron. These subjects can, however, be more fully discussed when the tariff schedule is under consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjournedat 3.50 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Yes; the White Star Company owes the Commonwealth £1,320,000, but the method of payment suggested by the honorable member is, in the existing circumstances of the company, not practicable.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
What is the amount of (a) revenue, (b) working expenditure, including interest and exchange, and (c) working expenditure, excluding interest and exchange, for the Commonwealth Government Railways for each fortnightly period for the quarters 1st July to 30th September in each of the years 1931 and 1932, showing separately the Central Australian and the Trans-Australian Railways ?
– The information desired is not available for fortnightly periods, as the accounts of the railways are kept on a four-weekly basis. The attached statement contains particulars for the four weekly periods during the quarters specified -
Aircraft and Aircraft Parts.
s. - Information will be obtained and a reply will be furnished as early as possible to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), in regard to questions asked as to aircraft and aircraft parts supplied to the Defence Department.
Importations of Yarn.
t. - Information is being obtained in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), in regard to importations of yarn.
en asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will make available to honorable members all the. correspondence between his department, bothat Sydney and Melbourne, and the postmaster at Lord Howe Island, from July, 1930, onwards, with regard to the shortage of 2d. postage stumps on the island, and the steps taken to overcome the difficulty?
– I will go into the matter, and furnish the honorable member with an early reply.
Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as early as possible to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), in regard to the cost of printing postage stamps.
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Offers, closing on the 5th October, 1932, for the leasing of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard were invited by public advertisement in the press of the capital cities of the various States on the 10th September. No firm offer was received in response to the advertisement, but contingent offers for the negotiation of a lease were received from persons representing three sets of interests. Each of these persons was notified that, if he would submit a firm offer within one month from the 6th October, it would receive consideration.
Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Employment.
e asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
t. - Information is being obtained in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) in regard to importations from abroad.
en asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
s. - On Friday, the 23rd September, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions, upon notice -
What is the total number of war pensions affected during the last two years in WesternAustralia, as the result of medical review, for the period ended the 30th June, 1932, and of those pensions -
The desired information has now been received from the Repatriation Commission’s Western Australian branch office, and is as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 October 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19321014_reps_13_136/>.