13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Ministerwhen does the Government propose to submit to Parliament the Statute ofWestminster?
– I shall consider the matter at an early date, and advise the right honorable member of the Government’s intentions.
– I am advised by telegram from Western Australia that much distress exists amongst persons engaged in cutting sleepers for the Commonwealth railways owing to the fact that the contractor has defaulted. Will the Minister for Railways obtain a report regarding the circumstances of these men, with a view to affording some relief to them?
– I assure the honorable member that inquiries in regard to this matter were made some time ago, but a further report will be called for.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a report, in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, that the Resident Minister in Loudon (Mr.. Bruce), speaking over the radiotelephone with a representative of that journal, had stated that he hoped to see the Oxford and Cambridge University boat race, and would remain in London until March? Does the Prime Minister consider it proper for the right honorable member for Flinders to prolong his stay abroad at the expense of the Australian people in order to witness a boat race?
– I have not read the report, but I shall do so. ottawa agreement.
-Under the Ottawa formula, goods admitted duty free from Great Britain carry a preference of 15 per cent. As many of these items already carry a preference of 20 per cent., I ask the acting Minister for Trade and Customs if the Government intends to reduce the preference to 15 per cent., or to allow the present preference to remain ?
– The intention is to adhere to the present preference, pending investigation by the Tariff Board, but no alteration will be made below the formula agreed to at Ottawa. assistanceforprimary producers.
– In view of the report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of to-day, that 500 Manitoba farmers are urging their provincial government to provide needy farmers with free medical treatment, free education in technical and high schools, free clothing, and motor registration, and are asking that all farmers be guaranteed by the Government an income of 1,000 dollars a year, will the Minister for Commerce consider the granting of similar benefits to needy Australian f armers ?
– I shall consider the suggestion.
– On the 29th September last, I asked a series of questions regarding the control of oil prices, cheaper gasoline, &c. Included amongst the questions were -
Is there a pact called “ White Products Policy “ between the major oil companies which precludes price competition amongst themselves ?
Does the control, if any, by tacit agreement also virtually preclude the sale in Australia of cheaper gasoline?
Yesterday I received a reply to the effect that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited had furnished answers to questions1 to 6. As the issues raised are of national importance, will the Prime Minister investigate them thoroughly, with a view to deciding whether or not a full inquiry into the operation of the oil supplying companies is warranted, and let me have the Government’s reply?
– I conveyed to the honorable member the information supplied by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited., but the Government has been, and still is, considering the operations of the petrol supplying companies, and I undertake that inquiries will be made into the matters which the honorable member has raised.
Importation of Petrol in Cases.
– Can the Treasurer inform the House whether the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has decided to change its policy and import refined petrol, tinned and cased, and dismiss the employees now engaged in making tins and cases, and filling the tins from bulk supplies?
-I shall obtain an answer for the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for the Interior noticed that the noxious weed known as Paterson’s curse grows profusely in the Federal Capital Territory? Has Paterson’s curse been proclaimed a noxious weed in the Territory; if so, will the Minister issue instructions that steps be taken to eradicate it?
– I shall have inquiries made into the matter.
Negotiations Between Prime Minister and Leaded of the Country Party.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has stated that the Prime Minister desired members of the Country party to join the Cabinet, and promised that if that party omitted the word “ Country “ from its title, the word “ Australia “ would be dropped from the title of the Ministerial party. Will the Prime Minister state whether his willingness to drop the word “ Australia “ was due to party direction, or toa stricken conscience in view of the anti-Australian policy agreed to by representatives of the Government at Ottawa, and endorsed by the Prime Minister and his colleagues?
– As the question is obviously intended to. be offensive, I decline to answer it.
– I assure the Prime Minister that I desire this information and haveno intention of being personally offensive to him. Is it true that during the recent negotiations with the Country party, concerning a redistribution of portfolios, the Prime Minister suggested that the name “Australia” might be dropped from the title “United Australia Party” if the Country party would drop the word “Country” from its title? If that is correct, what was the significance of the offer?
– The matter referred to concerns only the right honorable member for Cowper and myself; in no way does it concern the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– As a great concession is being granted to the capital cities of Melbourne and Sydney by allowing Fiji bananas to be imported, will the Prime Minister favorably consider allowing bananas from Java or Ceylon to be imported into Western Australia under a similar arrangement?
Mir. LYONS. - I am prepared to give consideration to the request, but can hold out little hope for the variation of the present agreement.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed that certain fruit importers in Melbourne have decided not to handle Fiji bananas? If the admission of Fiji bananas to any part of Australia is constitutional, will the right honorable gentleman arrange for their delivery in Perth, where, judging by the speeches of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), the people desire black-grown products ?
– As I have told the honorable member for Swan, I am prepared to consider the suggestion, but can give no encouragement to the hope that it will be accepted.
– I have received- no doubt in common with other honorable members - a press telegram in which are expressed the views of 600 people interested in the banana industry and resident in the Murwillumbah district. These people have specially discussed the raising of the embargo on bananas., and are naturally apprehensive regarding the decision of the Government to permit the importation of the Fiji product. Is the Prime Minister prepared to hear the representations of growers before determining the action that will be taken in this matter?
– In regard to this and every other matter connected with the Ottawa agreement, every honorable member will be given the opportunity to express his views and’ those of the people whom he represents, before any arrangement that is definitive can be reached.
– In view of the fact that 10,000 acres of land are to be thrown open for the cultivation of bananas in the electorate of the Assistant Minister representing the Minister for Defence, what is the honorable gentleman’s attitude regarding the importation of black-grown bananas?
Question not answered.
– Regarding the answer that the Prime Minister gave to me yesterday concerning public announcements by himself or other Ministers on matters of Government policy, will the right honorable gentleman say whether the Attorney-General had authority for the statement that he made in Melbourne during the week-end that there was never any intention that the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) should continue to remain in London as Resident Minister when conversion matters had been attended to? Is it correct, as was stated, that the Minister without Portfolio will then return to Australia?
– The Attorney-General had authority to make that statement, which was entirely in accord with the fact. There was never any intention of appointing the Minister without Portfolio permanently to the office of Resident Minister in London.
– In view of the great interest taken in. the. important aerial reconnaissance in search of oil recently made by the Commonwealth Geologist (Dr. Woolnough), assisted by the air force staff and aeroplanes, will the Minister for the Interior make available to the public his report on the subject ?
– Consideration will be given to the honorable member’s request.
– Will the Minister for Health advise when it is anticipated that the work of building additional repatriation wards atCallan Park Hospital will begin?
– The matter is at present the subject of negotiation between the Federal and State Governments. It is hoped that the work will be begun in the very near future.
– When does the Minister for Commerce expect to receive the report from the committee that is inquiring into the wool industry?
– I have no definite information on the subject, but will make inquiries, and inform the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Commerce taken any action in connexion with the report of Mr. Gepp concerning trade with the East? Has that report been considered by Cabinet? If so, what action is proposed?
– I was appointed to my present position only recently, and have not yet had time to read the voluminous report referred to; but if it contains recommendations of value - and such recommendations are expected from any report by Mr. Gepp - they will receive prompt and sympathetic consideration.
– Is there any truth in the rumour that is current that the Government intends to seek additional new loan accommodation on the foreign market? If so, will an opportunity be given to honorable members to review tho proposal before negotiations are completed?
– The Government has no intention of taking the step indicated by the honorable member.
– As the Melbourne press has published a summary of the result of the inter-departmental committee of inquiry on civil aviation, will the Assistant Minister for Defence say when the report is likely to be made available to honorable members?
– The report has been received, and is now being considered by the Minister for Defence, to whom I shall submit the honorable member’s request.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the Postal Department in Sydney is notifying applicants for public telephones that no money is available for their installation? When does the honorable gentleman anticipate that the department will be in a position to install such telephones?
– I do not know that the answer he has stated is being given, but I do not think that it is. I shall make inquiries, though I feel sure that any one who applies for a telephone now can have it supplied.
– I referred to public telephones.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Whether or not the department agrees to the installation of a public telephonedepends upon the business likely to be obtained in a particular area. When it can be shown that the prospective business warrants the installation of a telephone, ample funds are available to provide it.
In Committee of Supply : Consideration resumed from the 18th October (vide page 1357), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the first item of the Estimates, under Division I. - 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.
.- This debate affords honorable members an opportunity of dealing constructively with the problems which confront the nation, and of advising the Government as to the policy it should follow. Apart, however, from two or three thoughtful addresses, most honorable members have made their speeches with one eye on Hansard and the other on their electorate. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) dealt fully with the subject of price levels as they affect Australia. He ventured the opinion - shared, I am sure, by every one in this House and by most people outside - that the only remedy for our troubles is a general increase in price levels. Having made that suggestion, however, he left honorable members to decide for themselves how price levels were to be increased. His failure to put forward any concrete proposal detracted greatly from the merit of his speech. He went on to criticize the Government for having effected economies in expenditure, stating that the buoyancy of the revenue made such action unnecessary. Immediately afterwards, however, he proceeded to attack the Government for having pursued a policy which was directly responsible for the buoyancy of the revenue. It is difficult to reconcile his two reasons of attack.
He was followed by the honorable member for West Sydney .(Mr. Beasley), who at once became embroiled in a fantastic life and death struggle with his old enemy, the Premiers plan. The mere mention of the Premiers plan agitates him severely. To him the plan has no virtues, hut every imaginable vice. In his opinion, it is responsible for all the misery, privation and suffering which, unfortunately, some people are enduring to-day. I remind the honorable member that when, about 15 months ago, the late Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Lang) signed the Premiers plan, the honorable member for West Sydney supported his action. Then when Mr. Lang, a little while later, repudiated the plan, the honorable member for West Sydney again agreed with him. The evidence he furnished of the failure of the plan was that it had not been able to extricate South Australia from its financial troubles. In that State*, he said,, the Premiers plan had been adhered to, but the Government had, nevertheless, found it necessary to approach the Commonwealth for a grant of £1,000,000. I point out to the honorable member that, for some time past, it has been the custom - a justifiable one, no doubt - for South Australia, together with two other States, to apply to the Commonwealth Government periodically for assistance, because of the disabilities arising out of federation. Had South Australia not adhered to the Premiers plan, there is every reason to believe that the finances of that State at the end of last year would have been as bad, relatively, as those of New South Wales, where that financial wizard, Mr. Lang, was responsible for building up a deficit of £13,250,000 in one year. The honorable member for West Sydney castigated the Government severely for having effected economies, and painted a gloomy picture of the hardships which would result therefrom. Again, I find it necessary to remind him that, when Mr. Lang thought fit some months ago, for political reasons, to withhold lawful payments to those entitled to widows’ pensions, child endowment, &c, the honorable member for West Sydney did not raise his voice in protest. On the contrary, he left his place in this chamber to tour New South Wales, more particularly the metropolitan area, in a miserable attempt to justify the action of the greatest political bluff and tyrant who ever attained power in Australia. When the State elections w7ere held on the 11th June, notwithstanding the frantic efforts of honorable members of the corner party in this House to justify the policy of the New South Wales despot and his cowardly administration, the people of New South Wales returned a verdict of guilty, and Mr. Lang was consigned to oblivion, from which he will not emerge until he is able to “ Reid “ his way into this chamber.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) next entered the fray, and denounced the Government, on the ground that it had not obtained sufficiently attractive terms for the recently converted New South Wales loan. In voicing this denunciation, he was, of course, merely echoing the editorial opinion of the Sydney rag known as the “ Labor Scaly,” or, to give it its official title, the Labor Daily. On the 27th December, a few days before the conversion was effected, this paper stated that, notwithstanding the slashing of wages, the bestwe could hope for was an interest rate of 4½ per cent. On the 30th September, it stated that Australia was entitled to convert the loan at an interest rate of not more than 3½ per cent., and in went on to say -
The defensive attitude being adopted by the Federal and State Ministers towards the negotiations for the conversion of the New South Wales £12,000.000 loan indicates that there is little possibility of -Australia effecting the new conversion at anything approximating the 3½ per cent. to which she is entitled through the enforcement of the Premiers plan.
It further said -
There is no valid reason why the conversion should not be effected at 3½ per cent., and unless the governments concerned insist on this rate, the whole Premiers plan must collapse.
On the 1st October this journal forecast that the interest rate would be 4 per cent., and the price of issue £96. Three days later, when every decent journal throughout Australia published congratulatory references to the favorable terms that had been obtained by the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce), it attempted to belittle the achievement, and stated that the loan had been converted at over 5 per cent. It did not. desire a successful conversion, nor did honorable members of the Lang party in this chamber. Had the conversion operation been a failure, they would have been able to make political capital out of the fact, that being of more importance to them than the interests of Australia or its people. Had this newspaper anticipated a conversion at 3½ per cent., it would have attempted to establish a case for some ridiculously low interest rate. Honorable members of the Lang party in this Parliament dare not express any sentiments other than those that are acceptable to this journal. Were they to do so they would risk their political existence.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) proceeded to castigate the Government for having proposed to effect economies, and charged honorable members on this side with being unsympathetic, insincere, and unreasonable in the attitude that they adopted towards the unfortunate people who will be affected by the reductions contemplated. He also stated that we neither understood, nor wished to do so, the sufferings of those people, and claimed that he was personally acquainted with their hardships, because he spent his time among them in his electorate at the weekend. I remind him that he does not spend the whole of his time in his electorate. On a recent Sunday afternoon he took charge of the platform in the Sydney Domain that was used by the unfortunateold-age pensioners, and did nothing but make a lying and slanderous attack upon honorable members on this side of the House.
-Order ! The honorable member is out of order.
– I don’t mind him. Every one knows what he is.
– The statements that he made were certainly worthy of him. I thought thatI was justified in giving the committee an idea of the manner in which the honorable member spent at least a portion of his time during week-ends. The honorable member abused the party to which. I belong, and tried to work the people into a frenzy. He then drew the attention of the crowd to my presence and challenged me to take the platform and defend myself. I did so, and derived the greatest pleasure from accusing the honorable member in the presence of his own supporters of having made lying and slanderous statements.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the financial statement.
– The next speaker from the other side in this debate was the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley). He beat the air vigorously, and worked himself into a frenzy in his denunciation of the Government, its fiscal policy, the banks, the monetary system, and everything that the Government had done or had failed to do. Like hi s leader, he dealt with the vexed question of price levels. He displayed markedly the qualities of leadership when he stated that all that was necessary in order to raise price levels was to print a sufficient number of notes to impress the people overseas.
– I said no such thing.
– The honorable member did not mention the number of notes that he intended to print, but enlightenment on this point may be gained from utterances of the members of his party last year, the lowest amount suggested being £18,000,000and the highest £1,000,000,000. A vital omission from the proposal of the honorable member was the provision of an incinerator, for the destruction of the surplus notes printed.
Leaving this subject, the honorable member proceeded to denounce the Government’s fiscal policy, which, he said, was bringing and would continue to bring ruin and disaster to Australia and its people. He claimed that it had already been instrumental in throwing a large number of persons out of employment. This army of men who allegedly have been thrown out of employment is as mythical as the hundreds of thousands who were to obtain work as the result of the operation of the tariff schedules brought down a couple of years ago by the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). The latest figures available in New South Wales show that employment is and has been for some months greatly on the increase. According to figures issued by the Sydney Labour Exchange, the number registered as unemployed on the 1st July last, was 200,000, and, on the 1st October, 170,000, which shows conclusively that during the intervening period of four months, there was the substantial reduction of 30,000. The argument that unemployment is on the decline is supported by the number of persons who went off the dole during the same period. On the 1st June, 160,000 were receiving sustenance, while on the 1st October, the number was 135,000, the reduction being 25,000. Those figures apply to New South Wales. I now propose to deal with the position in Melbourne. Unemployment in Melbourne has never been so widespread as in Sydney, because Victoria has never had a Lang. According to the Melbourne Herald of the 20th September last, employment had been found since June for 8,512 persons. The peak number of the unemployed was 44,712, and the fact that employment had been found for over 8,000 indicated an appreciable reduction in the number out of work. The following particulars, issued by the Melbourne Labour Exchange, were published in the Melbourne Sun of the 13th October : -
Unemployment registrations at the Labour Exchange continue their steady decline. The number this week is 35,897, being a drop of 949 from the previous week. This is the lowest enrolment since May, 1931..
That statement effectively answers the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), who said that unemployment was already on the increase-
– So it is.
– The honorable member and his friends wish the figures to show an increase, because the higher the percentage of unemployment, the better chance they imagine they have of getting on the side where they think the political plums are.
The fiscal policy of the Government does not meet with the approval only of those who support the Ministry. The following paragraph from the Sydney Morning Herald shows that in the Labour party there is a strong revulsion of feeling against the prohibitive tariffs of the Scullin Government: -
Union officials at the Trades Hall are divided concerning the value of high tariffs to the workers, and the controversy has now resulted in a definite cleavage among those who are strongly opposed to the Labour policy on protection.
Considerable hostility was shown to the tariff being made the main issue at the next federal elections by delegates to a conference of unions yesterday, when one leading official declared that he would not take part in an election campaign in support of Labour candidates if the party adopted a policy in favour of the tariff duties desired by the manufacturers.
It was disclosed to-day that four of the largest unions, the Boot Trades Federation, the Carters and Drivers Union, the Clothing Trades Union, and the Tanners and Leather Dressers Union, have expressed opposition to the Labour party’s policy on the tariff, and that if it was persisted in those organizations would break away from the official party. Officials of the four unions claimed to-day that their members were satisfied with the margin of protection afforded under the revised schedule adopted by the Federal Government.
Evidently the workers themselves are satisfied with the degree of protection afforded to industries by the present Government. In my own electorate are a large number of factories, including some of the most important in New South Wales. I have been in touch with several of those undertakings since the tabling of the latest tariff schedule, and they have no complaints to make with respect to the tariff proposals of the present Government. That shows that the Government has acted wisely in this matter. We on this side are a high protectionist party, but we believe that the degree of protection should not be sufficiently high to provide a cloak for either inefficiency or exploitation. That is the fiscal policy that the people want, and it is the policy which this Government intends to give them. The honorable member forForrest (Mr. Prowse) also denounced the Government’s fiscal programme; but, unlike the honorable member for Darling, he said that the present Government was bringing ruin upon the country, because of its high protective tariff. After hearing those extreme views, I contend that the Government, in following a middle course, must be very near the right track.
I now propose to submit what I venture to regard as a few constructive suggestions. Having examined the budget, which is the first that I have been privileged to review in this chamber, it seems to me that in addition to the economies already effected, there is room for considerable saving in connexion with the Parliament itself. In my opinion, the volume of printed matter issued to members could be considerably reduced. It seems absurd that we should be inundated with documents that we do not need. In many instances, a large number of copies of documents are printed, although a single copy is all that is required. I also direct attention to the cost of Hansard. I am doubtful whether a continuance of the expenditure involved in the production of Hansard in its present form is justified. It may suit honorable members to be able to distribute free copies of Hansard throughout their electorates, and thousands of slips containing reports of their speeches; but I do not regard that as a legitimate charge to make upon the taxpayers of this country. I must also refer to the cost of the bound copies of Hansard that are supplied to honorable members. These books are well bound, and costly; but often they are not used by members. I make that remark because in the federal members’ rooms, in Sydney, there are a couple of big cases containing these volumes that have been issued to private members. I venture the opinion that they have never been opened, and each book, I imagine, would cost the Government 5s. or 6s. Although the Hansard record of the proceedings of the Parliament is, in itself, valuable, and should be made available to members, we should pay for the bound volumes with which we are supplied. Bound copies of statutory rules and Commonwealth acts also are supplied to honorable members free of charge. These are valuable documents which should be made available to honorable members; but I submit that a nominal charge should be made for them, so that only those members who make use of them would receive them. As it is, whether use is made of them or not, members are not affected financially. I was told recently that one volume was used as a chock for a motor car wheel ; and even if that were not so, generally, the volumes might as well be used for that purpose as remain unused, occupying valuable space in the Commonwealth Offices, Sydney. If a nominal charge were made for these volumes, there would be no wasted expenditure in connexion with them. I hope that if the Government decides to continue Hansard in it’s present form, it will make drastic reductions in the expenditure involved. I am doubtful of the value of the publication, and, in my opinion, the present expenditure is not justified.
The telephone department isnot extending the telephone service as it should, chiefly because of the exorbitant ground rentals that are charged. I have been supplied with figures which show that when the ground rental was raised to £5 10s. per annum some time ago, tens of thousands of subscribers had their telephones discontinued. In its inexperience, the Scullin Government thought that the more taxes it imposed the more revenue it would obtain; but the effect of increasing the ground rental for telephones and extensions convinced it of its error. If the ground rental were reduced, I feel confident that many persons who have hitherto not had telephones, or have had them disconnected, would apply for them. That might mean some loss of revenue from that source, hut, in my opinion, that loss would be more than compensated by the greater number of subscribers, and the consequential increase of revenue from calls. If not, the department would bc justified in slightly increasing the charge for calls.
– At present, local calls cost ltd. each. It would be better to reduce the ground rental from £5 10s. to, say, £3 10s. per annum, and to increase the charge for each call to 1-Jd. The great obstacle to any considerable increase in the number of telephone subscribers is the ground rental; the £5 10s. has to be paid down before the service is connected. The aim of the department should be to have as many telephones as possible installed, for once they are connected, subscribers will make use of them. A reduction in the ground rental would, I feel sure, result in a greatly increased number of subscribers.
Although the budget may not be a perfect’ document, it has been the subject of favorable comment both in Australia and in other parts of the British Empire. It has been framed courageously, with a single object in view - the restoration of financial stability in Australia. If we can get through the present year, which I regard as the most critical period, we can look forward to better times. I am hopeful that next year our position will have so improved as to enable the Government to remove some of the hardships caused by the financial emergency legislation, particularly from that section least able to bear them. The Government’s policy, as outlined in the budget, made possible the recent loan conversion of £12,000,000 on satisfactory terms, notwithstanding that those terms are unpalatable to the Labor Daily and to some honorable members opposite.
.- In the few remarks that I shall make, I shall not descend to parish pump politics. I wa3 sorry to hear fall from the lips of a new member the remarks to which we have just listened from the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein). What this Parliament has to do with the controversies that take place in the Sydney Domain is not clear.
The so-called Premiers plan has always appeared to me to be an unending plan to bring down wages and living conditions in this country. Already it has resulted in a small section of the community accumulating greater wealth, while other sections face hunger and want. The honorable member for Lang said that the fiscal policy of the Scullin Government had led to unemployment in this country.
– That is true.
– The huge importations of foreign goods made possible under the tariff iu existence when the Scullin Government came into power had brought Australia almost to a state of bankruptcy. That Government’s efforts to correct the adverse trade balance were attended with conspicuous success, but since the present Government reduced the duties on many items the trade balance has again turned against Australia. Within twelve months of the defeat of the Scullin Government, which, by its tariff policy, had put our external trade on a proper footing, the figures again disclose an unfavorable trade balance.
I do not intend to refer at any length to the Ottawa agreement, although it is linked up, to some extent, with the Government’s budget proposals. All I wish to say now is that, within a few months, the people generally, and especially the primary producers, will have reason to be dissatisfied with the trade arrangements made at Ottawa.
– They are dissatisfied now.
– They are complaining of the price of galvanized iron.
– I shall argue that matter on another occasion. If honorable members desire to learn how the primary producers of this country are likely to fare in the future, I invite them to read the reported utterances of the British delegates upon their return from Ottawa. England, being a freetrade country, is not in a position to give substantial preferences to the dominions. Following her traditional policy, she will ignore the interests of our producers and, if the price is right, will buy in the cheapest market, whether it be the Argentine or, as has been proved more recently, Soviet Russia. But while Britain is not able to give worth-while concessions to the dominions, we, on the other hand, have given substantial preferences to the Mother Country for many years.
– For over 25 years.
– I would not say that our trade preferences to Great Britain extend over that period of time; but as regards the Ottawa agreement, I submit that no parliament has the right to tie the hands of succeeding parliaments as is now contemplated.
– Nevertheless thathas been done with regard to sugar.
– I pass on from the Ottawa agreement to consider the budget proposals of the Government, andI regret to say that they contain no ray of hope for the unemployed people in this country. The Government has done nothing to relieve unemployment.
– It has done more in six months than the previous Government did during its term of office.
– This Government is really reaping the fruits of the good work done by the Scullin Administration to correct the trade balance, and to encourage Australian industries, thus paving the way to increased employment in many directions.
I am glad that the Assistant Minister in charge of war service homes (Mr. Francis) is in the chamber, because 1 wish to bring under his notice the unsatisfactory position of a considerable number of our returned soldiers in occupation of departmental homes. I am aware, of course, that the Minister is merely giving effect to the Government’s policy, but I urge him to do whatever is possible to bring about a revaluation of war service homes, from one end of Australia to the other, in the interests of our returned soldier tenants. Privatelyowned houses, equal in every respect to war service homes, are now available for rental purposes at one-half the amount which returned soldiers have to pay for their properties.
– Returned soldiers are not occupying their homes on a rental basis; they are purchasing their properties.
– In the altered circumstances, due, of course, to the depression, many of our returned soldiers do not now wish to buy their homes. Only yesterday I brought under the notice of the Minister the case of a man who, after paying some hundreds of pounds towards the purchase of his place, had appealed to me to urge the Minister to release him from his contract because, so he said, he would be 60 years of age before the property became his own, and, meantime, he could obtain a much cheaper house. All these homes should be revalued, so that returned soldier tenants may have a chance of making the places their own within a reasonable time. The Minister has promised that returned soldiers in partial employment, if they are unable to continue their payments, will not be ejected from their homes; but in some instances, at all events, the department is bringing pressure to bear upon these men, and is dealing rather harshly with them. One man drawing only a half pension has been asked to pay 10 per cent. of the amount to wipe out his debt. Instead of the re-purchase terms being extended over a long period of years, returned soldier tenants should be placed on the same footing as tenants of properties privately owned. Many of these men have asked to be allowed to rent their homes instead of buying them, at the rental charged to men who never went to the war, but strangely enough this privilege has been denied them.
– That is a very serious charge to make.
– Nevertheless it is true. It is common knowledge that after returned soldier tenants have been ejected for non-payment of rent, others who rent the properties later obtain them on more advantageous terms. One such case has occurred in my own district, and I have no doubt that other honorable members can cite similar instances.
In view of the improved financial position of the Commonwealth, the Government was not justified in further reducing invalid and old-age pensions. With an estimated deficit of slightly over £1,000,000 the Government would have been more honest had it adhered to its original proposal to reduce pensions by 2s. 6d. a week, instead of altering the property qualification and penalizing unfairly the thrifty section of our community. The law now provides for the mortgaging of the home of a pensioner so that, upon his death, the Government may be reimbursed for its pension payments. In many instances, pensioners have been able to build homes only because of the assistance given to them by their children, and when these pensioners die, the children will be left lamenting, although they have invested some of their hard-earned capital in those homes. ‘This law will never be given effect, because no person will mortgage his home merely to entitle him to receive a paltry pension. I could quite understand the Government instituting a scheme to decrease gradually the payment of pensions if, at the same time, it inaugurated a national insurance scheme for the benefit of the younger people of this country. That would be a step in the right direction. But the Government’s action in this instance is one of the poorest acts of statesmanship that we have experienced in this Parliament. No bad law has ever had any force in the community, and this law will never be given effect, because our old people will refuse to mortgage their homes.
I come now to the subject of State grants. I. have never opposed the principle of making grants to the smaller States to enable them to balance their budgets, but I wish to protest against the grant that has recently been made to Tasmania. It has now been, announced that that State has budgeted for a surplus of nearly £12,000. No State should receive a grant from the Commonwealth unless a thorough inquiry has been made into its financial position. I ask honorable members to contrast the position of Tasmania with that of Papua, which is a Commonwealth Territory. Papua enjoys an almost tropical climate, and is peopled by nearly as many whites - mainly Australians - as there are in Taslto] mania. The Government has cut the cost of administration at Papua almost to the bone, although that territory was given to us by Great Britain for the purpose of developing it. At Samarai, which is the commercial centre of Papua, the wharfing facilities are in a shocking state, Recently, a modern British cargo vessel called there to pick up copra. The vessel was tied to a large pile at the wharf, and during the night, because of the rising tide, the vessel lifted the pile, and was almost on the reef outside before the anchors could be dropped. The master of the vessel took the pile home to give the owners some idea of the wharfing facilities at Samarai. Until some improvements are made, we- cannot expect large cargo vessels to call at that port. There is ample evidence at Papua that Australia is not fit to undertake its control and administration.
– We are developing the coffee industry there.
– Almost any primary product can be grown at Papua; in fact, Queensland obtained its original sugar plants from that territory.
Recently, certain employers’ organizations requested the Commonwealth Government to institute throughout Australia uniformity of working hours and conditions of labour, and the AttorneyGeneral’s reply was that the time was not opportune for such an innovation. I say that the time is opportune, not only for uniformity of hours and conditions of labour, but. also for uniformity in various other directions. We cannot continue indefinitely to have duplication in many of our government activities. If the people had the opportunity to-morrow, they would vote for the abolition of State Parliaments, and for the pledge that was made at the beginning of federation, of “ one flag, one people, and one destiny.” The people, despite the antagonism of this and other nationalist governments, will one day insist upon a proper recognition of the ideals of federation. Australia is carrying a tremendous burden of debt, and some relief is long overdue. We are not likely to obtain much relief from the Ottawa agreement, or any other similar scheme.
– We have too many governments in Australia.
– There is no doubt about that. We also have too many High Court judges, who, in a time pf serious depression, would not agree to a reduction of their salaries and allowances in accordance with the general reduction.
– I am not making an attack upon the judges, but simply stating a fact. One judge who decided that £2 a week was enough for a trained carpenter would not agree to the reduction of his High Court salary or pension. Is it to be expected that the people will suffer this kind of thing very long? I believe that actions such as those to which i am referring do more than anything else to spread communism and bolsheyism amongst the people.
– The Scullin Government stood that kind of thing for two years.
– It ill becomes the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) to refer in that way to a government in the wrecking of which he had a hand. I am certain that this Government will never obtain the approval of the electors to the policy which it is pursuing, and particularly to the new pensions policy which it has put in operation. It is not only the budget hut also the administrative acts of the Government which the people will object to. Until something is done to reduce the number of Parliaments in Australia, and consequently the heavy taxation which the people are bearing, government deficits will be the order of the day, and depressions will continue to recur.
.- In this debate it is competent for honorable members to confine their remarks to one subject or, within the time at their disposal, to discuss all the subjects mentioned in the budget. I am strongly tempted to deal at some length with the monetary system to which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) .and the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) devoted so much attention. I was astonished to hear the honorable member for Oxley quote a statement by Professor Cassel, and then try .to interpret it as a justification for the issue of fiduciary notes in accordance with the proposal of the Scullin Government. The Leader of the Opposition discussed at some length the subject of price levels, but neither he nor any other honorable member who has referred to this subject has outlined a formula by which price levels could be increased throughout the world. The right honorable gentleman desires to see price levels , lifted to the 1929 level. [Quorum formed J] But even if that were done, I know from my experience of the Labour caucus that it would be absolutely impossible for a Labour Prime Minister to resist a demand by a majority of the caucus that they should be increased above that level. That being so, it is clear that the good intentions of the Leader of the Opposition could not be realized. The right honorable gentleman cannot control the caucus. This was shown when Sir Robert Gibson was reappointed to the Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank. Had the members of the caucus known that the Scullin Government had any intention of making this appointment, they would have objected very strongly to it.
– Hear! hear*
– I am glad to have an endorsement of that statement from a member of the Labour party. I am firmly of the opinion, also, that if by his currency manipulation scheme, the Leader of the Opposition were able to bring about a restoration of prices to the 1929 level, he could not stabilize them if caucus decided otherwise.
But I shall not yield ‘to the temptation to enlarge upon this subject. Owing to the application of the guillotine during the debate on the Financial Emergency Bill, many honorable members were prevented from discussing certain provisions of that measure. It was not even possible for them to vote so as to express an opinion, on the wine bounty without expressing the same opinion on the gold bounty. They had to vote for or against both. Consequently, I shall take this opportunity of discussing the action of the Government in altering the conditions governing the payment of the wine bounty with the object of reducing the outlay in that direction by £44/000 this year. I view this action with a good deal of apprehension ; for several reasons.
It is probable that this season South Australia will harvest the largest crop of grapes she has had for several years, though, of course, it is somewhat early to make such an estimate. Owing to the prevalence of frosts and dry conditions, the grape crop nf recent seasons has not been heavy, and it is possible that the yield this year will be larger. Young vines are now hearing their full crop, which will considerably increase the quantity of grapes to be marketed this year, and, in view of a probable glut in the market, a reduction of the bounty at this stage is most inopportune. My second objection is based on the fact that a glut gives the wine manufacturer, who is not an exporter, a further opporunity to exploit the home market. The wine-maker who does not produce for export is not compelled to pay a fixed price for grapes, and is, therefore, able to purchase his supplies at the lowest prices. It is reported that purchases have been made by buyers in New South Wales at £3 and £4 a ton less than the price fixed by the Government, and these wine-makers are disturbing the trade of old-established-firms. If there should be a glut, this menace will be greater than it has been in the past, because, in the event of an unusually heavy crop, other makers will he tempted to purchase in the same way and confine their trade to the home market. The third objection I have to the Government’s proposal is that the price to be paid for grapes to any person desiring to obtain the export bounty on wine will be fixed by a committee. In the past the price has been fixed by Mr. Gollin, who was senior excise officer in the Department of Trade and Customs,, but has, unfortunately, resigned his position. At a conference recently held in Melbourne it was decided that the wine-makers and grapegrowers shall have equal representation on a committee which is to decide the price to be paid. I understand that an excise officer is to be present; but I do not know whether he will be the deciding factor. In the event of a glut, some of the representatives of the growers may be apprehensive about opposing the winemakers in the matter of prices, believing that there may be a possibility of being boycotted, and thus placed at a great disadvantage. Unless a careful selection has been made, I am afraid that the growers’ representatives will not stand up to the wine-makers as did Mr. Gollin in the past. I do not suggest that that gentleman was partial to the growers; but, from my experience as an onlooker, I am able to say that he always did his best to give the growers a fair deal. Up- to the present it has not been disclosed- whether the reduction is to be in the rate of the bounty, or in the quantity of wine on which the bounty is to be paid. That is important. I am somewhat apprehensive with respect to the framing of regulations to deal with this phase of the business. ‘When regulations have been tabled, it is almost impossible for an honorable member to have them amended or disallowed. I am sorry that the Government’s proposals with regard to the wine bounty have been embodied in the Financial Emergency Bill (No. 2), and that such an importantmatter as the method of payment of the bounty is to be governed by regulations. If there is to be a reduction in the rate of the bounty on wine, that will have a serious effect upon the price paid for grapes, because that price largely depends upon the rate of bounty paid on wine exported. If, on the other hand, there is to he a reduction in the quantity on which the bounty is paid - there is now a definite limit to the assistance from Consolidated Revenue - that’ will also have the effect of reducing the price of grapes* and will constitute a breach of faith on the part of the Government. When the Government fixes the price for grapes, the wine-makers understand that they are to get an export bounty if they export wine; but a limitation of the quantity on which the bounty is paid will affect the price fixed for grapes. It seems to me that in either case there will be a breach of faith. I know that there is a wine overseas marketing board which controls the quantity and quality of wine exported, and I am pleased that such a body is operating. It has been said by some that, although the Government has definitely limited the amount to’ be paid from Consolidated Revenue,- there is no fear of the rate of bounty being reduced, as there is a trust fund into which a portion of the excise on fortified spirit is paid. Those who are sufficiently optimistic anticipate that there will be heavier withdrawals of wine from bond for sale in the home market this season, and that as a result the trust fund will be larger than it has been in previous years. Even in the event of heavy withdrawals I doubt whether they will increase sufficiently to make up the sum of £44,000.
I have discussed the subject of a wheat bounty on previous occasions ; but I again wish to impress upon the Government the precarious position in which the wheat producers are placed. I cannot overemphasize the seriousness of the situation. It is useless to employ extravagant language when the need of the wheatgrowers is so apparent. To-day I received a letter from Mannum in South Australia, which contains the following postscript -
Wheat outlook here was good but take-all and red rust are doing tremendous damage. Fear of receding prices at the moment has accentuated need of bounty or something.
That indicates the seriousness of the position in at least one portion of the State which I represent. The wheat industry is in urgent need of financial assistance. I am well aware of the difficulties confronting the Government, and although there may not be any possibility of paying a bounty on wheat this season, I take this opportunity to remind the Government again of the urgent needs of the wheat-growers.
I wish now to refer to certain aspects of our sales tax legislation. I am glad that some assistance has been given to the primary producers, and am sorry that the fruit-growers have not received greater consideration; . I refer more particularly to the position of butchers and bakers who do not contribute more than £1 a month in sales taxation, because most of the commodities which they handle are exempt from this tax. These tradesmen, particularly those whose payments are under £1 a month, have, however, asked me to get the Government or the department to relieve them of the necessity of furnishing sales taxation returns every month. A paragraph in a letter I have received reads -
We are trying to get the following -
Every one whose tax is under £1 a month two returns a year.
those paying £2 a month four returns a year.
those paying over £2 a month a monthly return.
I ask the Government to give earnest consideration to that request. Unfortunately we cannot remit this taxation, but the monthly return causes a considerable amount of irritation to the small tradesman, and a man may be fined £1 for late payment of taxation amounting to only 5s. The sales tax has been in operation sufficiently long enough for the department to know who are liable to pay, and there is no chance of any tradesman avoiding payment; each has to give a bond or make some other deposit as security that he will meet his liability. It is ridiculous that a man who is paying in sales tax less than £1 a month should be involved each month in such costs as exchange, cheques, and postage. In addition, a large staff must be employed by the department to deal with the monthly returns. The reform suggested is reasonable, and would be to the advantage of the department as well of the taxpayers.
I propose to refer to the need for a further reduction of government expenditure, and I warn the Government that I intend to bring this matter tip in detail when the departmental estimates are under consideration. For a long time I have been under the impression that some department’s of the government service are considerably overstaffed, and I have been investigating the matter. This, I know, is an unpopular action, for which I shall get no thanks. I am not in a position to estimate what staff is required in, say, the Customs Department, but in order to get an idea of what is occuring in some departments of the goverment service, I have obtained particulars of the expenditure each year, on new works, buildings, &c., and the number of architects employed. I have obtained the following facts: -
For the four years 1926-27 to 1929-30 the average expenditure was £6,533,690, and the average number of architects employed was 58½; yet this year, when the expenditure is estimated to be only £963,000, the number of architects employed is 32. The Government claims to be practising economy, and I shall expect an explanation of these figures.
– The honorable member’s information is obsolete. The Works Department has been abolished.
– Will the Minister deny that the Government estimates to spend only £963,000 on works and buildings this year, and employs 32 architects? How can the retention of all those officers be justified, when only 58 architects were required for an average expenditure of £6,533,690?
– Several of the architects are engaged on work for the Commonwealth Bank which does not appear in the Estimates.
– In 1926-27 the architects were doing that work for the Commonwealth Bank.
– They were not; the agreement between the bank and the Government had not. been made then.
– The Commonwealth employs two architects in South Australia. Can the Minister inform me of works in progress in that State which warrant their employment for twelve months?
I turn now to the abuse of telephones in this building. In 1926-27 thecost of telephones in Parliament House was £622; in 1927-28, £910; in 1928-29, £657; in 1929-30, £681; in 1930-31, £948; and in 1931-32, £1,219. For the first five years mentioned, the average expenditure was £763, and I want to know the reason for the increase to £1,219 last year. I remind honorable members that the telephones for Ministers are charged to their respective departments; so the expenditure I have mentioned represents the use of telephones by private members and employees in the building. One explanation of this excessive cost is that in the last Parliament some honorable members were accustomed to ring up friends in the State capitals to make bets on their behalf after the switch-board attendant had left on Friday. I know that some honorable members have an exalted idea of the rights and privileges of their position, but do they think it right that the trunk lines should be occupied and the ordinary taxpayers prevented from using them, while members are making free use of the telephone system to make arrangements for wagers on racehorses? I should be sorry to think that honorable members are prepared to defend practices of that sort, although I have personal knowledge of their occurrence on more than one occasion.
– Are any of those who were guilty of such practices still in this Parliament ?
– I am speaking of what occurred in the last Parliament.
– Did they back any winners; that is the main consideration?
– The main consideration is that members should see that the taxpayer gets a fair deal. There were, in this Parliament, men who made it a practice to ring up their homes in distant State capitals nearly every day. Probably that is still done.
– We have to pay for such calls.
– That is not so. If the call is made on days on which the House it sitting, and while the switch-board attendant is on duty, the member pays for it with “ On Service “ stamps, but from about 4 p.m. on Friday, on Saturday and on Sunday, these amounts are not collected.
– Did the honorable member ascertain that by ringing up his own home?
– I have never done that. Mere membership of this Parliament does not entitle a man to speak daily by telephone to his relatives 500 or 1,000 miles distant, at the expense of the taxpayers. The two abuses I have mentioned are amongst the causes of the tremendous increase in the expenditure upon parliamentary telephones. I shall explain just how that works out. From the 1st July, 1931, to the 30th June, 1932, this Parliament sat for 73 days. The cost of the telephone calls registered in this building during that period amounted to £1,219, or an average of £16 for every day that Parliament was in session. It is obvious that the employees of the House do not use the telephone extensively, and that a considerable portion of the total represents long distance calls.. Telephones are installed in this building for a legitimate purpose, and not for the indiscriminate private use of honorable members, against which I strongly protest. I am glad the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) has had the courage to express his opinion on these matters. I have been called nasty names in the past for doing these things, but I intend to continue doing them.
– Is there any contra account against that £1,219 representing sums paid by honorable members for the use of telephones ?
– No. In any case the contra would be paid in On Service stamps, for which the taxpayer also pays. Our job is to think less of ourselves and more of the taxpayers.
– The honorable member charges everybody indiscriminately with indulging in these practices.
– I do not charge anybody specifically. I merely point out that the amount of £1,219 was incurred in telephone calls principally over a period of 73 days, and I should like an explanation.
– Does that amount include the use of telephones at member’s rooms in the various State capitals?
– No. In Sydney alone charges for telephones installed in the members room at the Commonwealth Bank amount to nearly £800 for last year. That matter also needs investigation, and I shall have more to say about it at the right time.
Almost as soon as I came to this House I referred in strong terms to the way in which the parliamentary refreshment rooms are conducted. This Government claims to have effected economies. In some cases its claims are justified, but I ask it to defend the expenditure of £4,000 of the taxpayers’ money on the maintenance of parliamentary refreshment rooms when, within a quarter of a mile of Parliament House, we have the hotels Canberra and Kurrajong. There are well kept cement paths between Parliament House and these hotels, and we are also provided with free transport to and from those places. Further the Can berra and Kurrajong are losing about £5,000 per annum, which does not take interest into account. [Quorum formed.]
While the quorum was being formed the Minister declared that this was not so much a matter for the Government as for the House generally. I tax honorable members with the evil if the Government will not accept the responsibility, and add that if the Government refuses to look after the finances of the country it should be exposed to the condemnation of the people. The Government cannot justify that loss of £4,000 per annum on the refreshment rooms, particularly when it is remembered that both of the hotels to which I have referred are fully staffed, and are able to supply honorable members with their lunches and dinners as well as breakfasts and beds. Also while the quorum was being formed the honorable member for Batman declared that hepays for the food that he receives. That loss of £4,000 per annum clearly indicates that honorable members do not pay sufficiently for their food and service. If honorable members are not prepared to support an increase in tariff in the parliamentary refreshment rooms, as recommended by the Auditor-General, they should have all their meals at their hotels.
An examination of the Estimates over a period of a few years discloses one pleasing fact, that the “ grant in aid “ of the parliamentary refreshment rooms has been eliminated. That is evidence that some House officials are seeing that the refreshment rooms are being conducted more economically and, I believe I am safe in saying, more honestlythan was the case in the past.
– What does the honorable membermean by “more honestly?”
– It would be apparent if the Minister examined the figures. In 1926-27, Parliament voted a “grant in aid “ of the parliamentary refreshment rooms of £1,500, the whole of which was expended. In 1927-28 the grant was £2,000, of which £1,250 was expended. In1 928-29, the figure was £1,500, of which £1,000 was expended. In 1929-30, £700 of a vote of £1,225 was expended, while in 1930-31, £900 was voted, none of which was spent. None of the vote of £200 was spent in 1931-32, and no provision is made in the present Estimates for a “ grant in aid.” What is the explanation? It cannot be claimed that the number of members has increased.
Mr.Rosevear. - How does the honorable member link up those figures with his charge of dishonesty?
– While I may not be able to prove dishonesty, I say definitely that I think it existed in the conduct of the parliamentary refreshment rooms, and I put forward the figures that I have quoted as my reason. There was either gross inefficiency or something worse in the years when it was necessary to make a special “ grant in aid “ of over £1,000 to cater for the refreshment room requirements of honorablemembers.
– Does it not mean that there is more honesty under the present Administration than previously?
– I have no comment to make on that. It does mean that in the year 1926-27 there was something more sinister than inefficient management to make it necessary to vote £1,500 “ in aid “ in order to carry on the parliamentary refreshment rooms. It has been claimed that those rooms are making a profit of £200 a year. I have the balance-sheet, which discloses that a sum of £4,086 18s.10d. was paid by the Treasury towards their maintenance during the last financial year, which shows conclusively that honorable members are not paying in full for what they receive. The Government Cannot justify that state of affairs in a country that is nearly bankrupt, whosegold reserve is almost exhausted, where the prices of our exported products are so low, and when we have had to resort to the reduction of invalid and old-age pensions to such a level. It is criminal to spend that amount of money merely to gratify honorable members who are too lazy or too tired to walk a few hundred yards to the hotels that have been provided for them.[Leave to continue given.]
I shall now refer to the position of the parliamentary refreshment-room in Melbourne.
– Because in Melbourne, where there were no government-owned hotels in proximity to Parliament House, the cost of the maintenance of the parliamentary refreshment-room was considerably less than it now is.
– Why does not the honorable member advocate that thehotels be run by private enterprise?
– I am satisfied that, in the circumstances, they are being well run now. If the members of the refreshmentroom staff are permanent employees, they should be transferred to the hotels.
– What about those now employed in the hotels?
– They would have to go. Some honorable members, I know, will object that this would involve throwing men out of work, but that argument cannot be justified. If we pile up excessive government expenditure by keeping men in jobs when there is no work for them to do, we merely throw a heavier burden on the taxpayers, who will then be less able to provide employment in private undertakings. There is nothing economic in keeping men doing jobs that are unnecessary. The refreshment-room vote for salaries in 1932-33 is £3,799, made up as follows: -
In Melbourne, for the year 1918-19, the total cost of the refreshment-rooms to the taxpayers was £1,264. The salaries paid were as follow: -
In addition to this, there was a grant in aid of £450, and wages paid to sessional waiters amounted to £198. In 1919-20, the year in which I entered Parliament, the cost to the taxpayers was £1,453.
– More guests were entertained in Melbourne.
– I do not know whether the honorable member is taking the stand that the taxpayers should be asked to pay for the upkeep of the refreshment-rooms here so that he may entertain his guests. If so, I strongly disagree with him.
– Some of the employees mentioned by the honorable member are really members of the cleaning staff.
– I have given the figures, and, as the honorable member can see, provision is made for only one cleaner. The present position cannot be justified, and honorable members who attempt to justify it, convict themselves of selfishness, more particularly when Parliament has decided to reduce pensions and social services. I expect the support of the Speaker on this matter. Last year, when speaking on the parliamentary vote, he stated -
The honorable member for Angas has referred to the parliamentary refreshment-rooms and I endorse all that he has said. On previous occasions I have pointed out that the Government hotels in Canberra, which are fully staffed, could easily accommodate the members of this Parliament with three meals a day and a bed. At the present time, members are supplied with bed and breakfast at the hotels, and the country is put to considerable expense in providing the other two meals at Parliament House. I favour closing the parliamentary refreshment-rooms as a dining establishment, but making them available to members for morning and afternoon tea. It is absurd for the Government to provide meals at Parliament House and at the hotels as well. It involves a duplication of staff which is unwarranted.
Those remarks may be found on page 4577 of Hansard, dated the 29th July, 1931. I hope that the honorable gentleman is doing his best now in his official capacity to carry his proposals into effect. Last year, Parliament sat only 73 days, yet for the whole of the year a steward was employed at a salary of approximately £S a week, and an assistant steward at a salary of between £6 and £7 a week. What were they doing while Parliament was not sitting? What was the cook doing to earn his £400 a year when there were no meals to prepare? This Government claims that it stands for economy, and the elimination of duplication, but if it is prepared to countenance unnecessary expense of this kind merely to save members the trouble of strolling down to one of the hotels for their meals, it merits the condemnation of Parliament, and of the public. The Auditor-General, in his last report, stated that the loss on the parliamentary refreshment-rooms for the year 1931 was £G,007 2s. 9d., while for the previous year, the loss was £7,047 7s. 2d. I maintain that there is no need to have food served at Parliament House at all. There is nothing to prevent members from going to the hotels for meals, as I do now. As a matter of fact, it is a relief to get away from the atmosphere of this chamber, and stroll down the tree-lined paths to the hotels, instead of hanging about the billiard room. Honorable members who seek this form of relief may expect to draw sufficient inspiration from their surroundings to enable them to do their jobs better when they return to the House.
.- There is a good deal in what the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) said, but I may, perhaps, be pardoned for suggesting that those honorable members who now go to the hotels for their lunch and dinner might, with advantage, remain and have them at Parliament House. It should be possible to improve the service provided here. While the meal obtainable is a good one, a better and cheaper meal may be obtained at restaurants in Sydney or Melbourne. If any honorable member doubts me, I am prepared to take him to a restaurant in either of those cities, and, if he is forced to admit the truth of my assertion, I shall require him to pay for the meal. If I am proved to be wrong, I shall pay.
In my opinion, however, the whole of Canberra should be closed up. It has been the scene of the most shameful bribery, corruption, and fraud, and I would give my left hand to be able to prove some of the irregularities which f am certain have taken place. We all know that 600 tons of cement, which should have gone into the foundations of the permanent offices, simply disappeared ; yet no man has been, cashiered, no man has been sacked, and, so far as I know, no man has even been reprimanded because that happened. This scandal was exposed by my colleague, the honorable ‘ member for Cook (Mr. Riley). What is the history of this building in which we now are? Let any one read the report of the royal commission over which Mr. Wilfred Blacket, K.C., leader of the New South Wales Bar, presided. It was proved upon oath before that commission that there was a conspiracy to get rid of the architect, Mr. Burley Griffin, an honest man, who laid out the City of Canberra, and had prepared plans for the construction of a Parliament House to cost £250,000. Those plans, I believe, are still in existence. For that amount of money, it was proposed to erect a building which would provide every one of the 111 members of this Parliament with a separate room for himself, whore he could interview callers. In the present building, there is no such accommodation. A private member has no place in which he can interview a constituent, unless through the courtesy of his party whip. As soon as Burley Griffen was got rid of, various heads of departments suggested, and got accepted, a proposal to build a temporary House at a cost of £230,000. We know that, far from having the building erected at that cost, approximately £800,000 has been spent on it up to date, yet no one has been dismissed or reprimanded. Nor has a royal commission been appointed to inquiry into the matter. When the building was erected, it was found that the roof leaked in dozens of places. Evidence of this may still be seen in the vicinity of the refreshment room. I called attention in the House to the leaking roof, and I found, when we returned after a fortnight’s recess, that 82 tons of gravel had been placed on the roof to keep the rain from percolating through. Never before in the history of building has anything so absurd been done as to lay gravel on a roof to keep the rain out. I asked whether the roofs of any buildings in Sydney or Melbourne had been similarly treated, and was told that it had been done in two or three instances. I visited one of those named, but could find no gravel on the roof, if honorable members inquire of any building engineer or architect, they will he told that, given the required strength, the lighter the roof, the longer will be the life of the building. The building of this city was an infamy. I know that large sums of money were taken improperly, but I cannot prove it. I believe that if a committee including a good building contractor were appointed, it could find numerous irregularities in the accounts associated with the building of Canberra.
I contend, as would any business man in connexion with an unprofitable concern, that it would pay Australia to close down Canberra and to let the people decide where the seat of government should be situated. This so-called city might then be turned into si sanatorium for the benefit of sufferers from certain diseases in all parts of Australia. That is the only use which, in my opinion, can properly be made of it. I am proud to be able to say that in my election speeches at the time when Canberra was first mooted, I urged that the citizens of Australia should be given the right to decide whether the seat of government should be here or in some State capital. Canberra is four miles across, and the population numbers only 6,000 persons, yet there are 22 residential areas. An effort was made to engender the spirit of toadyism, by grouping officials according to the salaries that they earned. It is to the credit of the- citizens of Canberra, who on the average are the best educated persons in any city in the world, that they had too much sense to allow themselves to be influenced in that direction.
I come now to a more serious matter. I protest, with all the powder that I possess, against the infamous action that was first taken by the last Government, and has been repeated by this Government, of robbing the poor and making their faces thin. [Quorum formed.’]
It has been suggested that I ought to refer to building costs in Canberra. Inquiries that were conducted by the Committee of Public Accounts disclosed the fact that, on the basis of Melbourne building costs, Government House would have cost 20 per cent, less than it did. The House of Parliament in Melbourne cost approximately £1,000,000. During its occupancy of that building, the Federal Parliament was not asked to pay any rent. Had rental been charged at the rate of 5 per cent, on the capital cost, the total payment would have been close upon £1,000,000. Yet a great mouthful was made of the gift of £50,000 that was made by the Commonwealth to the State when the seat of government was transferred to Canberra.
– The Victorian press was very anxious to keep the Federal Parliament in Melbourne.
– Would not any capital city welcome it? I would vote for its transfer to Sydney, because I believe that Melbourne has been given a fair deal. If honorable members voted in accordance with the dictates of their -conscience, and in the interests of Australia as a whole, I believe that there “would be an overwhelming majority of “them in favour of closing down Canberra, on the ground that it is a non-paying “concern.
– The honorable member would not think that if he remained here for a month at a time, and caught the spirit of the place, as I have done.
– There is nothing that the honorable member has the courage to do, which I would not do if I believed it to be right.
I have already protested from many platforms, and I intend to continue to do so, against the reduction of the invalid and old-age pensions by 2s. 6d. a week. On a previous occasion the words that I used with respect to such a proposal were : “ I would sooner cut my throat than take one penny from an old-age, an invalid, or a war pensioner.” I possess a book containing the photographs of men fashioned in God’s likeness who were maimed in the accursed war. Any man who studied it would refuse to take a halfpenny from a war pensioner. But there is a battle line in which the risk of death is considerably greater than that taken by those who fought in the last awful war, or in any previous similar conflict; I refer to the danger that is faced by women in tho discharge of the God-given function of bringing children into the world, thus handing on the torch of life and proving its immortality. Yet the law has been, so altered that the paltry £5 to which mothers were formerly entitled was reduced by £1. I once had charge of an awful case of child-birth in Paddington, England, the recital of which greatly influenced Mi-. Fisher in proposing the maternity allowance. I sent for the Superintendent of Saint Mary’s Hospital to assist me. We worked without coats or waistcoats, and relieved one another every five minutes. The blood was flowing, not ebbing away, and we had to adopt what was then the accepted practice in such cases, of contracting the muscles by clasp ing them as firmly as possible in the hand. When we had completed our task we had to clean our arms of the vermin with which the room was infested. The women of Australia are indebted to the late Andrew Fisher for having enacted legislation entitling them to a maternity allowance of £5, thus making it possible for decently clean accommodation to be obtained. The knowledge that I have gained as a medical man, and from my reading, convinces me that children born under circumstances such as those I have described rarely, if ever, reach the age of 21 years.
The wage reduction legislation of the Government is equally infamous. , What enabled us to carry on the war, and what would, have made -it possible to continue it for another five years, had it lasted so long? Millions of pounds were blown away’ in powder, but there was a marker for every bushel of wheat that the farmers could produce, every bea3t that could be converted into meat, and all the hides that could be manufactured into leather. That was what enabled the war to be carried on. But Parliament will not appropriate one-tenth of what it cost for the purpose of wiping out the next greatest curse, that of unemployment. Its only idea is to tax and tax. Too much reliance is placed on experts. When the transfer of land statute was first passed in South Australia, it was condemned as impracticable by every expert and the whole of the legal profession. It was a government official in South Australia who, upon being returned to parliament, set himself the task of securing its enactment; and ultimately induced the parliament .to agree to it. That man, who was not an expert, proved that he had greater wisdom than, all the experts in Australia. To-day that splendid statute is in force in every State. Some of the opinions of 30-called experts are merely ridiculous. 1 quote from New Economics, in which Professor Copland is credited with having made the following astounding assertion -
Ultimately, the effect of cutting wages would he to increase the spending power of the community.
If that opinion has been expressed by Professor Copland, I pity him. Commenting upon it. this journal says -
The reductio ad absurdum of this contention is to cut wages down to nothing.
The appeal to the farmers to grow more wheat, that was made a few years ago by every politician and the Lord Mayor or the mayor of every city, was responded to as nobly as was the appeal to the men of Australia to offer their lives for their country. The wheat-farmers planted 4,000,000 acres more than the average planting for the three preceding years, but they have since been left in the lurch. Certainly the last Labour Government endeavoured to pass an act, but was prevented by the Senate from doing so, to assist them with a guaranteed price, and to that extent saved its. face. I maintain, however, that the farmers have not been properly treated. Every farmer could have been paid 4s. in silver for every bushel of wheat that he grew, and his product could have been exported to England and sold there at a profit of ls. 3d. a bushel. At the time that I speak of, ls. in silver was worth 5s. 6d. in currency. Consequently, the Government could have obtained 4s. for an outlay of only 9d. With sales at 2s. a bushel the profit to the Government would have been, as I have said, ls. 3d. a bushel. We could have underbidden every other wheat-growing country. Before the Government asks that further money be made available for defence purposes, it should consider the high cost of naval and military establishments. The cost of training naval cadets, boys ranging in age from thirteen to sixteen years, amounted in one year to £30 per week for each boy. The annual cost of the naval college at Jervis Bay was £67,000.
– I have suggested that a saving be made in connexion with- the aviation vote.
– That is so. Aerial defence is the least expensive form of defence. In one year £67,000 was spent at Jervis Bay on 51 scholars.
– That college has been abolished.
– It is not necessary to tell me that. By directing attention to the high cost of the institution, I was instrumental in having it abolished. The training of cadets is now carried out at the Flinders Naval Depot, Westernport Bay. I was informed, in reply to a question asked by me in this chamber in 1930, that £871,000 had been spent on the college, and only 200 cadets had graduated. Therefore, each cadet cost the country over £4,000. That is muck greater than the cost of providing a. student with the university education* necessary to fit him for a profession.. Another absurdity is that for 54 scholars,, the Jervis Bay Naval College employed 162 teachers and others to look after them.
– That is not’ correct.
– Does the honorablemember suggest that the statement contained in a ministerial reply received by me is a lie?
– I merely say that 162 teachers were not employed in the training of 51 cadets.
– I am afraid thai the honorable member docs not desire to hear the truth. Let us now turn to what Mr. King O’Malley called the “giltspurred roosters.” The military college at Duntroon cost £52,000 in 1930. The cost of the training of each of the 69 cadets amounted to £764, or about £14 per week for each cadet. For the training of the 69 scholars, there were 9S teachers and others.
– The honorable member should emphasize “ and others.”
– The total cost of this college up to July, 1930, was over £1,000,000, and it had trained only 355 cadets, at a total cost of £2,877 each. A certain gilt-spurred person in Melbourne told me on one occasion that if it cost £60 per week for each cadet, Australia would be getting good value for the money expended at Duntroon. Heavy charges of that nature impose serious and unnecessary burdens on the people.
Australia House in London costs £139,000 every year. . The building itself involved an expenditure of over £1,000,000. Who pays for the upkeep of this establishment? It is borne by the people of this country, who have no effective voice in the matter. Can anybody tell me what good has resulted from the maintenance of Australia House? It has certainly been instrumental in introducing to His Majesty the King, a few wealthy Australians who could afford to visit Great Britain. I always retain a lively recollection of the charming and dexterous way in which ladies, in the old days, kicked hack the trains of their dresses so that they would not be incommoded when retiring from the presence of royalty. I was informed, in reply to a question asked in this chamber, that, in addition to the 100 clerks employed at Australia House, there were no fewer than 57 typists.
There is an opportunity to reduce expenditure, instead of trying to make a saving at the expense of the old-age and invalid pensioners. The pensioners have memories, and each has at least one friend and sympathizer. This Government, if it appealed to the people tomorrow, would be rejected at the polls, because of its policy respecting old-age pensions. In my own office, I have come in contact with as many as 3,000 pensioners in a year; last year tho number was a little over 2,000. No fewer than 9,000 pensions are paid in my electorate alone. When the leader of the last Government and his associates permitted the old-age pensioners to suffer a reduction of their income, they did not. count on the result, and I am convinced that the present Government, like the last, will have its majority reduced because of its action in this matter. This Ministry has made the mistake of subjecting the aged people to the misery and indignity of seeing their children placed in the witness box to testify whether they can afford to support their parents. I remember when the Victorian pensions law contained a provision of that nature. A relative of a pensioner, who was summoned to give evidence, was so upset that he fled to another State, and ou returning later he hid in a cheap lodging house in order to avoid arrest. This unfortunate man swallowed a dose of liniment in mistake for medicine, and died as1 the result-
There is at least one sensible country in the world. I refer to Sweden, and I intend to place on record in Hansard some particulars regarding its financial policy. I believe that Hansard is read more widely at the present time than at any previous period. Unheralded by the press of the world, Sweden, last October, took a momentous step with regard to her financial policy. In Professor Gustav Cassel, of Stockholm University, she has an economist of international standing, and a world-famous authority on currencyproblems. He has consistently maintained that the present depression arises from essentially controllable causes, and he blames international mismanagement of the gold standard as the primary cause. Largely through his influence, the Swedish Government has evolved a standard of its own for its currency, completely divorced from any metallic basis. The Reichsbank, the central bank of Sweden, has instructions from the Government to base the currency on commodities through a price-index system. By this means, the price level in Sweden has been stabilized, and whatever ills of inflation or deflation,, booms or slumps, may cause the rest of the world to stagger fitfully and haltingly along the path of progress, Sweden will be immune from them. She will maintain her steady advance, unaffected by troubles around her.
The details of the Swedish scheme are not yet available, but it is hoped that they will be published at an early date. I have received from a correspondent the following comment upon this scheme : -
You will observe that the Swedish Government are giving the banks instruction - not the banks giving the Government instructions - that they are to base their currency on commodities, whereas, at present, currency is based on any whim that the banking system may feel. Their whim starting from 1928 was deflation. Finding this whim has to a large extent caused disaster not only to industry, but also to the banking system, they are now going to adopt a policy of inflation now termed “ Expansion of Credit “.
It is interesting to note that the New Economics, in its issue of the 14th October, publishes the following message from Switzerland : -
Mr. Juce, the Swiss financial wizard, has completed the flotation of the new naval loan of £10,000,000 for reconditioning the government mussel fleet on Lake Geneva. The loan, which is for five years, and has been arranged at the phenomenally low rate of .1 i per cent . was fully subscribed in three minutes. The Swiss people are overjoyed. The low rate of li per cent, is taken to indicate the confidence of the world’s financiers in the future of the Swiss mussel industry.
The Bank of Japan has requested the Japanese Government to accept a loan of 200,000,000 yen, which is equivalent, in Australian currency, to £20,000,000. The loan is available at 1 per cent, for 99 years; but the Japanese Government declined the offer on the ground that this would unbalance the budget, and provide an embarrassing surplus. [Quorum formed.]
The sales tax is one of the most infamous forms of taxation that could be imposed on the people of any country. Some time ago I bought a number of articles which cost 3s. and was called upon to pay a sales tax of 3d. This tax affects not only the small shopkeepers throughout the country but also their thousands of customers.
The nominal rate of exchange between Australia and England is 25 per cent., and, recently, in answer to a question, I was informed that the rate of exchange between this country and the United States of America was 79 per cent. Australia is the only country in the world which is paying its debts.
– Britain is paying her debts.
– Britain has received from her creditors concessions which she does not grant to Australia. Britain’s debts to the United States of America were funded, and for ten years the rate of interest will be 3 per cent., and thereafter3½ per cent.
– There is no Jack Lang in Britain.
– It would be well if the honorable member were as honest and courageous in the expression of opinion as Mr. Lang is. Great Britain is not paying the heavy rates of interest that Australia is called upon to pay. Britain pays the United States of America 3 per cent. or 3½ per cent. ; but she charges Australia 6 per cent. with sinking fund payments. The Mother Country has not treated Australia as liberally as she has treated France and Italy.
– In Australia’s case the rate includes sinking fund payments.
– Apart from the sinking fund, the rate is still 5 per cent.
– It is 4.9 per cent.
– I am the son of an English mother, and I love England ; but that does not prevent me from saying that England has not treated Australia as well as she has treated France and Italy, or as well as she herself has been treated by the United States of America.
I challenge the Government to ask the people of Australia, who, after all, pay the expenses of the Government, whether they are willing to pay exchange at the rate of 75 per cent. If given the opportunity to decide, they would register an emphatic “ No “. The most powerful newspaper in Australia - the Melbourne Age - has been most definite in this connexion. In its issue of the 21st July last, the Age stated -
Increase in exchange isa euphemismor depreciation in currency. Every fresh move in that direction means an added slur to the reputation of any country, a further barrier to the return of its prosperity. . . . It might seen an attractive bait, but its very attractiveness makes it to a large extent ineffective. Investors feel doubtful of the security based upon any country with a currency which it is proposed should be still further depreciated … In its simplest aspect the propaganda for a higher exchange rate is a request for greater assistance to the primary producer. . . . The nation’s generosity in the form of an exchange rate which reacts adversely and heavily on the whole community is being garnered in by. all classes of exporting producers alike.
It is monstrous that, in order to pay £100 in interest to Britain, Australia has to pay an additional £25 for exchange. While such conditions continue, it cannot truly be said that this is a democratic country. So long as the people control Parliament only one day in three years, no country can be truly democratic. Only when the people of this country control Parliament every day will they be able to look up into the clear blue sky and say, “We are truly a democracy.” The people who provide everything should control everything.
– Can the honorable member mention a country in which that policy is in operation?
– It operates only in Switzerland.
I have warned the Government that the old-age pensioners, although, perhaps, no longer able to work, have keen memories ; and that when they hit, they will hit hard. Only one thing can save the Government, and that is a restoration of pensions to the rate previously in operation as soon as the budget has been balanced.
– Tens of thousands of pensioners have not been affected by the reduction.
– What a Solomon the honorable member is! There was never a man his equal in blatant ignorance ! He does not know what he is talking about.
– The honorable member should be fair.
– Order ! The honorable member must cease his interjections.
– If I have done any honorable member an injustice, I shall withdraw my remark as publicly as I made it.
The honorable member for Lang continuing to interject -
– I shall not speak to the honorable member again.
– It has been my bitter experience-
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Motion (by Mr. Gander) put -
That the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) have leave to continue his speech.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Since nearly all aspects of the Government’s policy have been discussed by pre vious speakers, it is not my intention to occupy the attention of honorable members at great length, although the budget embraces every form of governmental activity throughout the Commonwealth, and directly or indirectly, affects all sections of the community. .
The dominant note of the speech delivered last week by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) was an attack on the trading banks in Australia and on the banking system under which the financial affairs of the country are conducted. The right honorable gentleman also reaffirmed his belief in the policy which, by now, is fairly well known to the people of Australia, namely, the socialization of banking, the adoption of which, as every one knows, would be the prelude to the socialization of production, distribution and exchange - the declared objective of the Labour party. He had something to say, too, about the action taken by his Administration to rectify the trade balance of the Commonwealth. I do not object particularly to his reiteration of this achievement, although the topic has, by now, become somewhat stale to most honorable members, who, I think, are quite willing to give the Scullin Administration any credit due to it in this regard. But, in common with many other honorable members on this side of the committee, I take the right honorable gentleman to task in connexion with Labour’s proposals for monetary reform, and will deal briefly with the main factors responsible for the rectification of the trade balance. These were most convincingly stated by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) the other night. As every one knows, the trading of a country is governed by the purchasing power of its people. If, as has happened in Australia of recent years, the market value of primary products recedes to any material extent, it follows that purchases cannot be maintained at a level which could be justified in years of more buoyant incomes. This, I suggest, was a predominant factor in the rectification of our trade balance. We are unable to continue to purchase abroad on the former somewhat lavish scale. This view is borne out by an examination of the figures relating to imports under the duty free list and to imports subject to duties. The decline of imports into Australia of duty free goods almost equally with that of dutiable goods clearly indicates that although the high protectionist tariff imposed by the Scullin Government assisted to rectify our trade balance, the governing factor was the reduced purchasing power of the Australian people. The high exchange on London - for .some time it was £30 per £100 and is now £25 10s. - also helped to restore our trade position. While on this subject I should like to ask those honorable members opposite who contend that high protection is necessary to rectify an adverse trade balance if they would advocate the lowering, of the tariff in times when, as the result of a substantial surplus of exports over imports, the trade balance is much in our favour. To be consistent they should not. raise objection to such a proposal, though I. have no doubt that they would.
I wish to deal particularly with the part played by the trading banks in Australia during this depression. The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition declared definitely that the decline in commodity prices, which has been so disastrous to Australia, was due in part to the conservative banking policy of the commercial banks. Those “who listened to the right honorable gentleman would have been inclined to believe that the institutions in question had pursued a definite policy of credit contraction, the effect of which was to1 increase the difficulties which have confronted all sections of the community during the last few years. The figures relating to the advances and deposits of the trading banks from 1927 to 1931 completely dispose of the contention that the banks have, in any way, restricted credit in Australia. In 1927 the ratio of advances to deposits was 95.83 per cent.; in 1930 it was 105.46 per cent.; and in 1931, 104.44 per cent. In 1929, the note issue was £43,000,000, and in 1931 it was £52,000,000. As every one knows, bank advances are governed by deposit?, and as the figures show that in 1930 and 1931 advances exceeded deposits, it is obvious that during those years, instead of restricting credit, the * banks drew largely on reserves -which had been accumulated by sound banking practice in more prosperous years. Therefore it cannot be argued with truth that the hanks deliberately pursued a policy of deflation.
On the contrary, they did everything in their power, having regard to the safety of their deposits, to check deflation in Australia. We have to consider also the assistance rendered to the various governments. For a period of two years, and possibly more, Australian governments refused to curtail expenditure to meet the financial stringency which, even then, was apparent, with the result that when the full force of the economic blizzard struck this country, Governments, Federal and State, had heavy commitments in Loudon, and practically no funds from which to meet them. For some time the position was met by the issue of treasury^ bills and by increasing the overdraft at the Westminister Bank by £3,000,000 to a total of £8,000,000. A year later the continuance of this financial policy was impossible, because Australian credit was at a low ebb in London. Therefore, the Governments were forced to fall back- on bank reserves for accommodation. Gold holdings of private1 banks in Australia fell from £23.S millions in 1929 to £2,000,000 in 1931, and gold holdings of the Commonwealth Bank during the same period were reduced from £25,000,000 to £10,000,000. The accommodation, totalling £82,000,000, provided in. London and Australia by Australian banks for the Commonwealth and State Governments must cause grave concern to all who have studied the .financial outlook. Fortunately, a high exchange saved our principal primary industries from complete collapse, maintained the value of securities in land, helped to hold up the internal price level, and assisted to restore the trade balance. The effect of this banking policy, and the high exchange is, I think, well illustrated in the following, figures of the wholesale price levels in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Australia. Those dealing with the United Kingdom are taken from the Economist, and those relating to the United States of America and Australia are from official sources : -
The above figures are a complete refutation of the allegation of the Leader of the Opposition concerning the trading banks of this country. They show conclusively that the banks played a definite part in checking deflation in Australia, and they justify the confidence which the people have in those institution?. The members of the Country party have referred to the action of this Government in not giving any indication to Sir Robert Gibson as to the basis upon which the rate of exchange should be fixed. There seems to be some misapprehension on this subject tn the minds of some honorable members. They think that Sir Robert Gibson required something more than a mere indication as to whether in fixing the rate of exchange he should take into consideration only the banking policy or the economic position of Australia. An examination of his letter will show what information was desired by him, and his statement, which appears in the latest report of the directors of the Commonwealth Bank, is a direct reply to thi questions raised by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), and a senator. Sir Robert. Gibson, in that report, states -
The representations of the board did not a.« lias been suggested invite Parliament or the Government to interfere in the administration of exchange nor does the board subscribe to any policy of interference. In this connexion the Government has publicly announced its policy of non-interference, but at the same time has indicated to the board its desire that the economic aspect of the position as well as the ordinary banking question of oversea balances, should receive the consideration of the board in determining the rate of exchange.
That statement clearly indicates that the Government has given to Sir Robert Gibson the information that he desired, and it is a sufficient reply to the statements of members of the Country party. It is evident, therefore, that, in fixing a rate of exchange, the Commonwealth Bank Board takes into consideration the effect, not only on its own particular banking policy, but also ou every aspect, of the economic position in Australia.
I come to the policy of raising price levels, as advocated by the Leader of theOpposition (Mr. Scullin). Although the raising of the world’s price levels is of particular importance to debtor countries, it is of almost equal importance to creditor countries. When the purchasing power of a debtor country declines, there is an immediate reaction on the creditor country. That fact has been referred to by many speakers in the House of Commons, who have instanced the reduction that has taken place in the exports of Great Britain. It is, therefore, to the* benefit of every nation in the world to work together in an effort to arrive at some method of increasing price levels. Many honorable members opposite in dealing with this subject have confused it by treating it as a national matter when it is definitely international in character.
I come now to the’ statement that we can by liberating huge sums of money in Australia revert to the price levels of 1929. If we adopted such a scheme with the deliberate idea of releasing credit sufficiently to raise price levels to a given point, what a wonderful gamble it would be for all concerned; in fact, every person in the community would become a gambler or speculator. People would buy goods sure in the knowledge that sufficient currency would be released within a certain time to increase the price of those goods to the level of 1929. Such an action would, I think, soon bring about a swift inflationary process which could not be stemmed, and would definitely undermine the confidence of the people in their own currency. Our credit overseas, which at present is definitely high, would decline. Capital would flow from this country, and the exchange rate would rise to a point over and above that at which it would benefit Australia. The price of raw materials necessary for manufacturing purposes in Australia would be increased, and this country would soon bo in an impossible position. Default would be no longer in the air, but become a certainty, and a financial collapse would undoubtedly follow.
The right honorable member admitted that if the price levels were raised, production costs would also increase. Take, for example; the wool industry of Australia, which exports practically the whole of its product. As the price of wool is governed by world prices wo could not by any means raise the price of this exportable product to a point at which it would become payable, because any advantage conferred in that way would be counteracted by the disadvantage of the increased cost of production. Therefore, the raising of price levels would lead to the collapse of this and other important primary industries, and to the consequent collapse of Australia as a whole. With high price levels, money which is now being invested in government bonds, would be used for the purchase of commodities and government securities would fall. Governments would then have to pay high interest rates for any money that they required. Therefore, a high interest rate is the natural corollary of high price levels brought about by an inflationary process. One of the factors in bringing about the rehabilitation of Australia is undoubtedly low interest rates. The alternative to the policy of raising price levels is the present policy of this Government which is emphasized in the budget. Since the Premiers plan has been in operation in Australia, there has been a definite recovery, slow in some directions, but remarkably swift in others. The flotation of the recent conversion loan in London has been mentioned. The fact that our position abroadhas improved from no credit at all to a credit which permits of the flotation of a conversion loan at3½ per cent., is the finest indication that we can have that the policy of this Government is best suited to the interests of Australia. The first part of the budget discloses an improvement in respect of many items of revenue; in fact, nearly every government department has better prospects ahead of it. Another sign that Australia is on the road to recovery is the improvement in stocks and shares. There is a brighter outlook in the community today, and the Government’s policy has, in the short few months during which it has been in operation, shown itself to be sound. One lesson which the world has learned is that the whole welfare of a’ country and its progression towards brighter times rest really on the integrity of government finance. Therefore, it is imperative that we should aim at complete budget equilibrium. The mere fact that the seven Australian governments are spending about £194,000,000 of our total national income of £430,000,000, shows the necessity for further reduction of government expenditure. With other honorable members, I regret, however,that it has been necessary to reduce the total amount paid to invalid and old-age pensioners. The justification for the re-adjustment of the pensions is the fact that the payments have been increasing out of all proportion to the growth of the population. In 1910 pensions were costing us 8s. 4d. per head of the population. The cost rose consistently until 1931-32, when it was 34s.1d. per head. In 1925-26, when times were prosperous, pensions were costing us 27s. 6d. per head. Today, with the national income down £200,000,000, and with so many thousands of unemployed, it is manifestly impossible for the country to maintain the high pension payments of 1931-32. It has been said repeatedly by honorable members opposite that all pensioners have had their payments reduced by 2s. 6d. per week, but that is not so. Pensioners wholly dependent on their pensions have not suffered any reduction. Figures published only the other day indicate that 80 per cent. of our pensioners are still receiving the same amount of pension as formerly. Surely it will be generally admitted that relatives of pensioners who are able to contribute towards the support of their parents should do so. If they do so voluntarily, there is no likelihood of court proceedings of the nature referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney).
In regard to the revision of the conditions governing the payment of the wine bounty, it should be remembered that the indications point to the improbability of there being a reduction in the amount of bounty that will be paid this year. Exports of wine will be less than last year, and funds from the higher rate of excise placed on fortifying spirit by the Scullin Government will become available. It is not thought, therefore, that any real reductions of bounty is imminent.
– But £44,000 will take a lot of catching up.
– That is so; but the indications are that the amount provided for the bounty will be sufficient to maintain payments at the rates of last year.
I do not think that there is any need to make any comment upon the suspension of the gold bounty, except to say that the alterations that have been made in this and other respects have been due to the altered conditions of the country, and to the much enhanced price of gold. If we are to maintain confidence, the budget must be balanced. I wish now to refer to the statements in the early part of the budget speech in reference tO’ primary production in Australia. Every honorable member, irrespective of party considerations, must readily admit that ou-r primary producers have responded magnificently to the appeals made to- them to assist in overcoming the depression. . When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking about our trade balance, he might have referred to the fact that the primary producers have played a great part in increasing our exports. The figures given in the budget showing our exports of butter, eggs, mutton, lamb, pork, rabbits, and apples are enlightening. In my opinion, our primary producers deserve every encouragement that the Government can give them. The remission of primage duties and sales taxation, estimated at £440,000, and the remissions of land taxation to the; extent of £357,000, will to some extent.ease the. burden resting upon primary producers. But it is also necessary that a sane tariff policy shall be pursued in relation to primary and secondary industries. I believe that the principles upon which the Ottawa agreement is based will lead to the stabilizing of our tariff on a satisfactory economic basis probably for the first time since it was inaugurated.: I refer particularly to Article 9, which provides that protection by tariff shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success, arid Article 10, which provides that the tariff shall be. based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give the United Kingdom a reasonable opportunity of trading successfully in Australia. We should not be obliged slavishly to follow the recommendations of the Tariff Board, but I think that the Government should rely very greatly on such recommendations. It would be wise, however, in view of the Ottawa agreement, to add to the personnel of the board an economist of standing.
Our land tax legislation requires redew. The federal land tax was imposed originally with the object of breaking up large estates, but all pretence of that kind has long since vanished. Land taxation has been continually increased since 1914, until to-day it is equivalent in the case of some of our best studs to £6 per hale or 4d. per lb. of wool. The pastoral industry cannot carry this heavy burden, and at the earliest possible moment the Government should lift if. from them.
The 10 per cent, property tax has been mentioned by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). This impost, also should be removed without delay. It is; quite apparent that it is having the effect^ of preventing the investment of capital’ in the country and of causing investors to concentrate their investments on government bonds. We should do everything, we can to encourage the investment of capital in primary production. I therefore welcome the statement of the Prime Minister that if conditions permit, after Christmas this taxation will be reviewed, and possibly lightened. We should do everything possible to induce the investment of overseas capital in this country. As I see world affairs, capital moves freely wherever stable political conditions exist. If we can increase the sense of stability which has grown in Australia during the last eight months, we shall certainly induce English investors to make their money available to Australia. If the English people feel that they can invest their money’ in Australia without risk, it will be all to our good. The flow of capital into Great Britain:, and the consequent low interest rate there is largely due to the stability of its Government and the measures- it has introduced to safeguard the national interests.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to- 8 p.m.
– I have referred to the way in. which, by securing stability of government,’ Great Britain is attracting capital and shown how that . factor, to some extent. is responsible for the cheap money available in that country. By making the conditions more acceptable to investors in Australia, we too. could induce capital from abroad. I would even go so far a3 to suggest giving some special reduction in taxation to enterprises established upon capital furnished from abroad. The solution of our problems, of which unemployment is one of the most important, depends largely upon the activities of private enterprise. While the Government can and ought to help i n this direction, unemployment is a problem which must, in the end, be solved by those engaged in private undertakings. In considering this subject, we have to remember that loan moneys are not likelyto be made available to the same extent as previously, and that in those circumstances, everything possible should be done to attract capital to Australia. An extension of our enterprises would be followed later by an increase in. population from overseas, although I believe that we should first provide work for our own people. It is on these lines, which are largely in keeping with the proposals contained in the budget, that the Government should act. Only by adopting this policy, which has given such good results in the last few months, can Australia hope to travel along the road to recovery.
.- A discussion of the budget provides an opportunity to review the past and prospective policy of the Government. Before we enthuse over the Government’s economies, it is interesting to review its policy and performances. Prior to the last general election, the electors were promised that, with a return of the United Australia Party, there would be sound government. The people have had “ sound “ government ; it has been all “ sound “ with nothing achieved. The people were also promised that with the return of such a government they would soon «be upon the broad highway to prosperity, and that work would he found for every one. But strange to say, the latter claim is refuted by the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures, which show that during the first six months this Government was in office, unemployment throughout Australia in creased by 2 per cent. That increase wasnot peculiar to any State, but was general throughout Australia. It is said that the Stevens Government in New South Wales has provided additional employment since it assumed office. As a matter of fact, work of a kind has been provided by that Government, but it has been pruned tosuch a degree that those to whom it hasbeen given are worse off than when they were on the dole.
The Commonwealth Government,, realizing’ that it has nothing to commend its performances, and that, to-day, we are as far off as ever from the realization of the promises it made prior to the last general election, believes that it can still hoodwink the people by the use of specious catch cries. For instance, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in his budget speech, used various catch phrasesto delude the people. He commenced by saying, “ We are not yet out of the wood “, and concluded by asserting “ We have weathered the storm “. During the course of his lengthy speech, he told us that “ prosperity was just around the corner “, yet shortly afterwards we were assured by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) that the Government was out to “recapture prosperity.” Where is this prosperity? It must be “in the wood,” “in the storm,” or “ around the corner,” seeing that the Minister says we are out to recapture it. Such are the deluding catch-cries used to fool the people.
The Prime Minister, who said that an increase of the number of telephones in use was an indication of a return to prosperity, assured us that during the month of July there had been an increase of 88. In the old world, a return to prosperity has always been accompanied by the ringing of bells and carillons; presumably the return of prosperity in Australia has been sounded by the ringing of 88 additional telephone bells.
The Prime Minister seemed pleased to announce that Commonwealth 5 per cent, securities which, at one stage, had fallen to £55 15s. in London, had now reached £101 4s., the increase being due, he said, to the fact that’ overseas confidence in Australia has been restored as the result of the governments’ of Australia adopting the Premiers plan. The right honorable gentleman could have gone further in quoting the prices of Australian securities, and, in saying that £100 Commonwealth bonds fell in Sydney to £70, could have given the reason for such a drop. What he did not’ disclose was how many separate interests hold these bonds at the various periods which he mentioned. There is no disguising the fact that thousands of our small bondholders were caught in a financial jamb and compelled to sell out at a very low price. During the war period and immediately afterwards a determined effort was made to get small contributors to invest in Commonwealth bonds. Many employers took tip such bonds on behalf of their employees who paid them off under the timepayment system. Thousands of those employees are now on the dole or starving, and through force of circumstances have been compelled to dispose of their holdings. It was not lack of confidence in the ability of the Government to redeem its bonds when they fell due that caused bondholders to glut the market by trying to unload stocks which they could no longer hold. The same thing happened when the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales was closed. Many cunning persons purchased depositors’ accounts in the bank at one-half of their value. Moreover, thousands of workers have been compelled to abandon the homes they were purchasing and upon which in many cases most of the instalments had been paid. In these circumstances there has been a general decline in property values.
Much has been said concerning the successful conversion of the New South Wales loan of £12,000,000. It has been contended by honorable members on this side of the chamber, and it can be substantiated, that that loan which was raised at 3 A per cent., with a discount of £2 10s. per £100, will cost over 5 per cent. That figure is made up in this way: Interest charge 3$ per cent., exchange £ths of 1 per cent., a discount of £2 10s. representing Cue-half per cent, per annum, brokerage and other charges #ths of 1 per cent, over the period, or 1/6th of 1 per cent, per annum,, making a total of nearly 5J per cent. It is just as well to face the position honestly. That £12,000,000 loan became due at a time when the Government of New South Wales could not meet it. The Commonwealth Government would have been in a similar position had it to meet such a loan. The bondholders, as well as the Government, realized that it could not be redeemed, which is one of the principal reasons why it was converted. The Prime Minister in. his budget speech- said that we would be able to convert without difficulty, provided that we took no foolish steps in the meantime. I am wondering whether some of the steps which the Government took were for the purpose of creating a favorable impression abroad. Its economy affects only those who are least able to put up a fight against an attack. It has reduced the wages of public servants, pensions and the maternity allowance, and at the same time proposed a remission of the taxation now imposed on the wealthy section of the community, and added a sacrifice of self government in the terms of the Ottawa agreement. All these things lead me to believe that the economies provided in the budget are- for the sole purpose of impressing upon overseas bondholders that we are not going to do anything foolish. It is significant to realize that all these steps were taken or proposed before the Resident Minister in London approached the London market. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said that the increase in the value of the stocks together with the lower rate of interest was due to a psychology awakened by confidence. Whoever heard of a money-lender being swayed by psychology? Does any one think that the business interests of this community arc swayed by psychology? They are influenced only by hard business deals, and not by psychology such as that which may sway electors at election time. If confidence is to he engendered abroad the Government must first have confidence in itself ; in its ability to carry on. If the manceuvreing which has been going on during the last fortnight, in an endeavour to ensnare the Country party as a left wing, is any criterion of the Government’s confidence in itself, there is little likelihood of it securing confidence abroad. If the Government had confidence in itself it should be able to carry on without outside assistance. Why does the Prime Minister say that Australia cannot expect to convert at the rate at which Great Britain converted its war debt. If confidence in governments is an influential factor in the conversion of loans, why did not Great Britain convert its internal war debt in 1923 at the same time as its war debt to America was converted? One would think that the most opportune time for Great Britain to convert its internal war debt was when a creditor nation was displaying such confidence in the debtor as to allow it to convert its external debt on more favorable terms. It is a fair assumption that the British investors would have more confidence in the Government of Great Britain than the Americans would have. But. the truth is that confidence does not govern conversion operations; the determining factor is the capacity of the debtor to pay. That was the sole reason why Great Britain was able to convert its war debt to America and why the recent conversion of the British internal war debt of £2,000,000,000 was a conspicuous success. Great Britain had no hope of repaying its own bondholders or of continuing to pay the rates of interest formerly obtaining. It could not continue to pay interest at the rate of 5 per cent, to the United States of America. Similarly, the Australian people have no hope of being able to pay the current rates of interest on their overseas debt. Interest will find its own level when the people of the world, particularly the money lenders, recognize the incapacity of the debtor governments to pay in the terms of their bonds.
It is interesting to review the reasons which prompted the conversion of the British war debt to America, because the conditions then obtaining were parallel with those prevailing in Australia to-day. The total British war debt to the United States of America amounted to £850,000,000. Interest had been paid to May, 1919, in cash. But as the result of negotiations by Lord Reading, payment of interest was suspended by agreement for three years, thus increasing the debt to £957,000,000. In return for this concession, Lord Reading signed the necessary formal obligations to pay in gold dollars bearing interest at 5 per cent.
But very soon the British statesmen recognized that they had bitten off more than they could chew. Upon the formation of the War Debt Commission the principle of “capacity to pay” was recognized, as it was recognized recently in connexion with the New South Wales conversion loan, and also by the money lenders of America when they agreed to the funding of the British war debt in 1923. Capacity to pay influenced the money lenders of Great Britain in connexion with the conversion of the £2,000,000,000 internal war debt, and that will be the principal factor in determining the rate of interest which the Commonwealth will pay in future to the overseas bondholder. The financial agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States of America was signed in 1919, but, in 1923, a further agreement Avas made by which the interest was reduced to 3 per cent, until 1932, and thereafter to 3-J per cent. The Australian people are asking the money lenders of Great Britain for no more consideration than that. Members supporting the Ministry complain of the criticism levelled against what they regard as the generous terms upon which the New South Wales loan of £12,000,000 was converted recently. But what happened in Great Britain after the interest on the war debt to America had been reduced from 5 per cent, to 3 per cent. ? Upon Mr. Baldwin’s return to England a powerful section of the British press expressed the opinion that the Cabinet had acted too hastily in agreeing to the 3 per cent, and 3£ per cent, terms, as with negotiation the Funding Commission would have compromised on a 2 per cent, basis. Notwithstanding the decrease in the rate of interest by per cent, to 2 per cent., the leading newspapers and politicians of Groat, Britain were dissatisfied with the terms of settlement, and Mr. Philip Snowden was one of the most bitter critics of what he termed Mr. Baldwin’s “ generosity “. We of the Labour party are critical of the terms of the recent conversion of the New South Wales loan because, although the rate of interest is nominally 3-J per cent., it will amount, with discount, exchange, and other charges, to over 5 per cent.
Tlie members of the Lang party have not been alone in demanding lower rates of interest on the overseas debt. I quote an opinion expressed by a gentleman -who has many supporters in this chamber -
Since Great Britain came to her arrangement with America for the funding of her debts and for the payment of interest at a rate of from 3 per cent, to 3J per cent., I have thought it would be only just and equitable that ‘the arrangement with Australia should be varied, so that we would only pay the average rate of interest paid by Great Britain for her war indebtedness. This point of view I have put to three successive Chancellors of the Exchequer, and have argued strenuously in favour of it. Unfortunately, up to date, I have, not been able to induce any of them to share the view which I hold. I’ am confident, however, that in the future some arrangement will be come to, qualifying the agreement entered into in 1921.
That gentleman was emphatic; first, he said that it would be only just and equitable to grant to Australia the same terms as had been granted by America to Great Britain; secondly, that he had represented that view to three successive Chancellors of the Exchequer; thirdly, that he had argued strenuously in favour of it; and, fourthly, that he was confident that, in the near future, some arrangement would be reached to qualify the agreement made in May, 1921.
– “Who was that gentleman ?
– The Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce). Yet, despite the emphatic views he expressed in 1927, he was one of our most bitter opponents in this chamber less than nine months ago when we advocated that if the bondholders abroad were not prepared to grant a reduction of interest, we should take steps to force them to do so.
– The honorable “member’s party threatened to repudiate.
– When, early in the present year, we advocated the scaling down of the overseas interest charges, we were accused of being repudiators. Amongst those who thus assailed us was the right honorable member for Flinders, who declared that all the British investors in Australian loans were not wealthy, and that some of the investments were made by the trustees of poor orphans. I wonder how many poor orphans had invested money in the New South Wales £12,000,000 loan, and what- amount of consideration the Resident Minister in London extended to them when arranging the terms of conversion ! We have stood consistently for a. reduction of interest rates. We do not claim that that will solve the social problem, but we. do say that such a reduction is inevitable. Had our policy been adopted eighteen months ago, over £12,000,000 would have been saved to the people of Australia, and that sum would have provided remunerative work for the unemployed. Honorable members opposite, however,, are prepared to grind the people down into, the dust, and enforce sacrifices upon those who are least able to bear them; and when our nation has reached the limit of its capacity to pay, the Government will crawl to the money lenders in Great Britain, saying, “ Providing . we do nothing foolish in the meantime, we hope you will be benevolent enough to reduce the interest on our debt “. Will not the governments of Australia take a firm stand before our people have reached the limit of their capacity to pay, and the Commonwealth is on the verge of financial and economic destruction ? . If our policy were carried into operation, involving, if necessary, the forcible reduction of the rate of interest, and the total overseas debt of £474,000,000 were converted at 3 per cent., the annual interest bill would be reduced from its present figure of approximately £22,500,000 to about £14,500,000, yielding a straight-out saving of £8,000,000 a year to the Australian people. Of the total debt abroad, only £27,500,000 bears interest at 3 per cent. On the other £326,500,000, we pay rates varying from 5 per cent, to 7 per cent.
– Lang borrowed a lot’ of money at 6 per cent.
– Neither the Lang Government nor any other Labour Government was in power in New South Wales or in the Commonwealth long enough to borrow a substantial proportion of the amount owing. Probably, 80 per cent, of the overseas debt was incurred by anti-Labour governments. But I am concerned, not with the borrower, but with the inability of the Australian people to pay the present rates of interest while the depression continues.
Although the advocacy of economy has been taken up wholeheartedly by the
Government and its supporters, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) lias advocated increased expenditure of a kind which the Govern-1 ment lias so far shown no inclination to adopt. While we are still struggling under the direct and indirect burdens of the last ivar, the honorable member refers to other nations “ rattling the sabre,” and appears to be animated with the keenest possible desire that Australia should join in the armaments contest. The cry has been taken up by the press, and I have not the slightest doubt that many honorable members opposite will be prepared to support the honorable member for Bendigo in spending more money on armaments. The honorable member visualizes some nation in the East attacking us. For generations, people advocating the spending of vast sums of money on defence and armaments have always put np some such bogy. At one time, it was that of Russia coming down through India and swamping Australia with its hordes’. At another time it was the German menace, and now the old “ yellow peril “ has been resurrected. Yet the very people who advocate spending more money on armaments are not prepared to pay our invalid, old-age, or soldier pensioners a sufficient, sum to live on. They support a Government which is prepared to sacrifice Cockatoo Island dockyard, the finest naval base and repair shop in the Southern hemisphere, and are prepared to see that valuable acquisition go the same way as did the Commonwealth woollen mills, the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Line, and the Newnes shale oil works. Where is their consistency? The honorable member for Bendigo claims that there is an abundance of money available, and demands that preparation should be made for war with another country. Yet he is not prepared to put up a fight for the rights of those who were crippled in the last war.
Much has been said during this debate concerning Australia’s prospects from the Ottawa agreement. Let us consider the genesis of that gathering. Originally, it was a conference of the representatives of the various dominions and the Mother Country, each member having one specific purpose: the desire to sell more to the other fellow than the other fellow sold to him. Yet it is claimed that an agreement has been arrived at that is satisfactory to all! Considering the guiding principles which animated those who participated in the conference, I am at a loss to know just how that could be achieved.
One very evident fact is that Great Britain is not prepared to sacrifice its trade with Russia. We know that while Australian wheat was rotting at railway sidings the Mother Country purchased Russian wheat because it was cheaper than that of the dominions. Great Britain will again buy in the cheapest market despite “ the ties that bind tho Empire.” Another thing that is evident is that Britain is unwilling to sever its trade relations with the Argentine, in which, country there is invested over £600,000,000 of British capital. One of the principal arguments advanced prior to the making of the Ottawa agreement was that Great, Britain must deal with Australia to enable this country to pay its debts to the Mother Country. Let us examine the position. The following quotation concerning British loans with tlie dominions is taken from the Industrial. Australian and Mining Standard, which is not a Labour journal. It reads : -
According to figures compiled by the Federation of British Industries (quoted at a recent meeting of tlie London Chamber of Commerce by Viscount Elibank) over £543,000,000 oi loans have been floated in Britain for Empire countries during the past ten years, and upon that huge sum there is not one penny in default for interest. During the same period, a total of £203,000,000 was raised for foreign loans, and upon £145.000,000 of that interest is in default.
The totals of Dominion and Colonial Government and Corporation loans and’ of foreign loans respectively floated in London from 1st July. 1923, are as follow: -
Although it is not specifically stated, the greater portion of interest in default is in respect of the South American republics.
If there is any force in the argument that Great Britain must trade with us to enable us to meet our interest commitments to that country, how much greater force is there in the argument that British capitalists must trade with the South American countries, whose default ro the Homeland is so enormous. That is one of the principal reasons why Australia did not come out of the Ottawa negotiations so well as certain honorable members opposite would have us believe it did.
During the period this Government has been in office, there has been a continual attack upon the wage standards of the nation by both governments and industrial courts. We now have an opportunity to review in retrospect the result of the policy of wage cutting and the slashing of standards of living that has been pursued. The only Australian Government not guilty of that offence was the Lang Administration of New South Wales, which for eighteen months hold the fort for the workers, who, unfortunately, have since been battered down, with the assistance of the Arbitration Court, until now the standard of living in Australia is lower than it has been for at least twenty years. I challenge anybody to prove that the result of that policy has been what was expected by this and other anti-Labour governments. As I indicated earlier in my speech, statistics reveal that unemployment has increased throughout Australia during the regime of this Government.
It is interesting to note the opinions of certain honorable members opposite concerning the breaking down of wage standards. In his book, Bond or Free, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) wrote -
A healthy, well-nourished, well-clad, wellhoused people is a nation’s greatest asset. That policy which ensures the people abundant food, good clothes and decent houses to live in is the best policy.
One effect of a reduction of wages would be an immediate fall in property values, which would spell disaster to hundreds of thousands of people who are attempting to buy homes for themselves.
And the effect upon those who have invested their savings in house property would bo equally disastrous. This would react upon all sections of the community, causing panic and chaos.
Although the right honorable gentleman follows this Government religiously, and does not practise what he preaches, there is much truth in his words. What he prophesied has resulted from the policy of this and other anti-Labour governments. I shall quote another opinion on wage slashing from the Macmillan report, ‘which is signed! by Sir Thomas Allen, Mr. Ernest Bevin, Professor J. M. Keynes, the noted economist, the Right Honorable Reginald McKenna, the eminent banker, J. Prater Taylor, and A. A. G. Tulloch, the Right Honorable Lord Bradbury, and others whose names rank high in the financial world. It is as follows : -
For the longer the slump lasts, the more probable is it that country after country will feel itself compelled to resort to competition in wage cutting. This will be a counsel of despair, especially for debtor countries, since universal wage cutting will help none, and will merely serve to rivet on the shoulders of the debtors a heavier burden of monetary obligation. If at the ‘present juncture when we are at the bottom of a world slump of unparalleled violence all countries alike were to sock equilibrium by competitive wage cuts we should merely confirm the low level of prices and rivet on our shoulders nu intolerable burden of debt fixed in terms of money. We see no solution of the great problem of social justice by any proposal to reduce salaries and wages whilst leaving untouched those money incomes which are protected by contract.
That report proves that the policy of a reduction of wages is “ a counsel of despair “ ; that “ universal wage cutting will help none.” Incidentally, it definitely favours a reduction of interest rates.
The policy of this Government has been an attempt to starve our way back to prosperity. It is not a new idea, for it has been tried by other countries, but we are now trying to outdo them in putting it into effect. Experience has proved that the longer we pursue the policy, the deeper we get into the mire.
I shall now deal with pensioners. It is very fortunate for the critics of the Government that, before the budget is disposed of, we are in a position to review the operation of recent pension reductions. It was claimed that, as a result of sympathetic administration, no” injustice would be done to pensioners. I contend that there has not been a sympathetic administration of the law. At the time the first reductions were due after the passing of the amending legislation, the Pensions’ Office had not had an opportunity to consider the individual merits of each case, yet practically every pensioner who was not utterly destitute had his pension reduced by 5s. a fortnight.
– That is incorrect, and the honorable member knows it. Even those pensioners who drew only Ss. 9d. a fortnight have been cut down by 3s. 9d., without any regard to the circumstances of the individual cases. It is ridiculous to say that there is a class of pensioners who will continue to receive 17s. 6d. per week, and make no sacrifice.
– Eighty per cent, of them will receive 17s. 6d. per week.
– Practically all pensioners will suffer reductions in one way or another. In the first place, the amendment to the act provides that, if a pensioner earns even so little as ls. a week, the Commissioner is entitled to reduce his pension by a corresponding amount. Under the old act, a pensioner receiving 17s. 6d. per week was allowed to earn a certain income without having his pension affected.
– Pensioners are still permitted to earn £26 a year without having their pensions affected.
– They are not. A pensioner receiving 17s. 6d. a week may not earn a shilling to supplement his pension without suffering a reduction. In regard to pensions the honorable member has adopted the same attitude as that of many other honorable members on his side of the House, notably the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman). On the very day that ‘ the amendments effecting . reductions in pensions were forced through ‘Parliament by means of the “gag”, the honorable member for Martin had published in the Sydney Morning Herald an interview stating that any one who claimed that the amending bil] was designed to reduce pensions was saying something ridiculously untrue. Yet he informed honorable members in this chamber, when he was arguing in favour of the bill, that he had not even read the amendments. The honorable member is an eminent King’s Counsel, but that did not prevent him from endeavouring to deceive the public in regard to the purport of the measure.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- The favorable terms upon which the New South Wales loan was recently converted came as a surprise to every section of the people of Australia. The success achieved was a source of disappointment, to many who would have rejoiced at the failure of the loan. Those same people are to-day casting around for any argument that may suffice to decry our efforts, and injure tlie credit of the country. One argument put forward by the last speaker was that we had obtained favorable terms for the conversion because it was realized that we were not in ti position to repay bondholders. The honorable member overlooked the fact that most of those who subscribed to the loan were new investors. If Australia had not been in a position to pay its debts, it is impossible to imagine the public advancing new money on terms less favorable than those of the old loan. The fact is, of course, that we obtained favorable terms because those in England with money to invest realized that Australia was not only able to pay her debts, but was also prepared to do so. What is generally described as confidence in the country formed the basis of tlie success achieved. The last speaker said that Australia, would not be able to pay even the new rate of interest, amounting to £4 ls. 2d. per cent. The honorable member is a supporter of Mr. Lang, who not so long ago borrowed money in New York at 6 per cent. Possibly, of course, lie never intended to pay the interest. The honorable member said that if we could convert all our overseas debt at 3 per cent., we should save £S,000,000 ti year. That is a matter of arithmetic, and I remind the honorable member that if we had not in this country so many public men of the Lang type, there is no reason why we should not be. able to convert our debts at 3 per cent.
The favorite remedy of honorable members opposite for our economic troubles is the old one involving the raising of price levels. Unfortunately, only the raising of external price levels would benefit us, and over them we have no direct control. It would be of no advantage to us from a national point of view to raise internal prices, because that is merely a domestic matter and its only effect would bc that our money would not go so far. What we need, of course, is to raise prices in those countries with which we trade, particularly European countries. If they would abandon their policy of deflation, and bring about an increase in prices, Australia would benefit immediately, but for us to raise prices in Australia by means of inflation or otherwise, would merely add to our difficulties, especially. as costs are already too high to enable us to manufacture economically.
The Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) is to be congratulated on this, his first budget, a document which marks the turning point in Commonwealth finance. For four successive years, Commonwealth treasurers have had to record deficits, and for 1930-31 the deficit was £10,700,000. During the last financial year that deficit was converted into a surplus of £1,200,000, making an apparent improvement in the national finances of £12,000,000. That, however, is subject to the fact that £2,000,000 extra revenue was raised by taxation and other means, so that,’ from the point of view of the taxpayer, the improvement in federal finances amounted, in round figures, to £10,000,000. I do not claim that this happy result is all due to the action of the present Government. It has proceeded mainly from the economy measures initiated during the regime of the Scullin Government in pursuance of what is generally known as the Premiers plan. Unfortunately, that plan was but tardily adopted, but already it has produced results. The greatest credit in this connexion is due to the Treasurer who introduced it. He, in association with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), had the courage to place the interests of Australia before his own. I feel that it is very largely due to the Treasurer’s efforts at that time that the financial position was taken in hand even as early as it was. I hope that when this depression passes, as I have no doubt it will, the people of Aus- tralia will not forget what they owe to the present Treasurer. He has rescued Australia from a position of bankruptcy, and placed it in one of comparative financial stability.
I do not wish to detract from the general appreciation I have expressed for the budget, but I feel I am entitled to offer some observations by way of criticism, regarding one or two of its minor features. I desire to protest chiefly against the methods that have been adopted to reduce expenditure. With all due respect to the Government, I must state it as my opinion that, in some respects, it began at the wrong end. Pensions are to be reduced, but the higher public officials have been spared any further reduction of salary. Regarding pensions, a compromise was reached which I accepted, and I do not intend to go back on that. I do hope, however, that during the present financial year, national finances will improve to such an extent that we shall be able to review the whole subject. I find it difficult to reconcile the position of pensioners drawing 17s. 6d. a week with that of those who have been receiving partial pensions, and who will be reduced to the extent of 2s. 6d. a week, merely because they have been receiving partial pensions.’ One cannot help contrasting the position of pensioners under the amending act with the- position of the higher officers of State in this country. ‘I regret that it is necessary to comment on the action of certain justices of the High Court who have refused to accept their share of the sacrifices imposed on the community. They are protected by the Constitution, but that was done with the idea of affording them such security that they would not be subject either to fear or to favour at the hands of any government. It was never intended to place them in such a position that they would be specially favoured as compared with the generality of the community in a time of crisis such as this. What I have said applies to only two of our justices ; the majority of them have realized their duty and performed it loyally.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bell).The. honorable member must not reflect on the judiciary.
– I regret that the action of any person, particularly a judge, should have brought the reputation of the judiciary under discussion.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy), lately was furnished with a return of all officers in the Commonwealth Public Service who, on the reduced scale that now operates, are in receipt of salaries of not, less thai!. £1,000 a year. That return showed that there are 57 such officers. A matter of this sort involves the discussion of personalities. It is unpleasant, but we should not on that account shrink from doing our duty as members of Parliament. If we refuse to discuss the positions of officers with whom we come in frequent contact, we admit that we are content to allow abuses to continue. I do not propose to shrink from the task, unpleasant though it may be.
I take, first, the office of Clerk of the Senate. The gentleman who occupies that office is a close personal friend of mine, and I believe that he possesses those admirable qualifications which are necessary for the proper discharge of his functions. I consider, however, that the classification of £1,350 a year, and even the actual payment under the financial emergency legislation of £1,046 a year, is altogether too high. Tlie occupant of the office does not require to be specially skilled. What is needed is a man who is well versed in parliamentary procedure, and that knowledge is acquired during the years in which the subordinate positions are occupied. This officer does not pay for his learning, as does a doctor, who has to serve in his profession for very many years before he can obtain a practice. He must, of course, be a gentleman of good bearing, and possess tact; but no extraordinary qualifications are needed, and on account of the position of this country we should be prepared to reduce his salary to a fair scale.
The salaries of the Commonwealth Service generally were augmented to the extent of thousands of pounds a year in the aggregate when money was plentiful, and boom conditions existed in private industry. It was then argued that the Commonwealth was liable to lose its best officers if it did not pay them sufficiently attractive salaries. Those conditions no longer exist. There is now no risk of losing an officer to an outside employer. In ordinary business, profits have declined in almost every case. Many managers have lost their positions, and almost invariably reductions have been imposed to the extent, not of 20 per cent., but of 50,per cent, and more. I am not suggesting that the Government should go to those lengths ; but we should do our duty by reducing high salaries to a lower scale.
In the Prime Minister’s Department there is a Secretary, who receives £1,550 a year; a Director of Development, who is paid £1,395 a year; and a Development Consultant, whose salary is £1,000 a year. I can see no justification for any of those salaries. Sometimes the Secretary to the department holds his position by reason of the fact that he makes himself acceptable to the Prime Minister of the day.
– That is nonsense.
– I can quote one instance of’ it. I am not suggesting that it is in any way improper; the Prime Minister i3 entitled to select the man who is likely to serve him the best.
– Is not the labourer worthy of his hire?
– Quite so, if the position that he fills is worth the amount that he receives. I’ say that in this case it is not. My honorable friend at one time supported the argument that no man was worth more than £500 a year. Now, however, he clamours for the payment of £1,550 to a departmental secretary. I should like to hear from the members of the Lang party whether they consider that these salaries are justified.
– Would the honorable member be in favour of reducing the salaries of judges to the same amount ?
– The qualification of judges is totally different. I am in favour of compelling judges to submit to the same reduction, as has been suffered by those who have come under the Premiers plan. I should go so far as to advise the Government to pay them only in accordance with that plan, and leave it to any member of the judiciary who thought fit to sue for the balance. We might then have the spectacle of a justice of the High Court in the position of a suitor before his brother justices.
In the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research there are five officers with salaries which vary from £1,125 to £1,550 a year. The Council is doing excellent work, and doubtless these officers have high qualifications; but is the country in a position to pay them such salaries? There is no market for their labour outside the government service.
– That is an erroneous belief.
– It is my belief. Generally speaking, professional men have the greatest difficulty in obtaining appointments. I believe that the salaries in these cases are very much in excess of those that private employers are in a position to pay.
In the Department of the Treasury, there are seven officers who are receiving over £1,000 a year. In the Defence Department, the office of Secretary is classified at £2,000 a year, and the actual payment is £1,550. Every branch of this department has been cut, and very properly so, except the clerical branch. The classification of the office of Secretary is on the same scale to-day as it was when this was a huge department. In addition, there is a Comptroller of Munitions, whoso salary is £1,550.
– A highly skilled man, who could earn far more than that anywhere else in the world.
– What munitions are there to control in Australia at the present time? We have hardly sufficient to make a demonstration on Guy Fawkes Day.
– I could show the honorable member something that would change his mind very quickly.
– I should be astonished to find that there are in Australia sufficient munitions to justify the payment of anything like that salary.
Then there is the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Secretary of which has commended himself to every Minister under whom he has served. He must be a manof considerable excellence. But is this country in a position to pay him a salary of £3,000 a year? I consider that it is not.
I am contrasting the position of these officers with that of pensioners and of unfortunate taxpayers who are contri buting more per head to-day than they were in the good old days of the BrucePage Government, although their financial position is not nearly so good as it was then. In the case of the majority of taxpayers it is an absolute hardship to meet their assessments. Their position, as well as that of old-age pensioners, should be considered in contrast with the position of officers who draw £3,000 a year. The reduction of such a person’s salary merely means that he has so much less for investment. What I am contending is that this country is not in a position to pay such an amount, and that it is at the expense of taxpayers whose status has been very much reduced and whose relief should be our first consideration.
The Health Department is redundant, because it very largely duplicates the work of the States. It has five officers who are paid over £1,000 a year.
– Cite one instance of duplication.
– Every State has its own Health Department, to which the Common wealth could quite properly delegate its functions, even that of quarantine. The Commonwealth, however, is jealous of its powers, and anxious to extend the ambit of its operations. It refuses to dispense with its department, because it considers that it would thereby suffer a lowering of dignity.
The Repatriation Department has six officers who are drawing over £1,000 a year.
I have mentioned some of the 57 fourfigure men whose names appear in the return to which I have alluded. In the group of officers who receive between £900 and £1,000 a year, however, there is a large number of men who, prior to the enactment of the financial emergency legislation, received over £1,000 a year. In my opinion, all these positions should be reviewed. I do not contend, of course, that the cutting down of these officers would enable us to balance the. budget. The rank and file of the Public Service already have suffered sufficiently. It is unforunate that when it is a caseof reducing salaries in the Public Service, the invariable rule seems to be that the reductions commence with the temporary employees, and then work upwards. Very seldom is one of the higher officers retrenched, no matter to what extent his position may be redundant. In private businesses the reverse process obtains. When they decline, it is found most effective to dispense with the services of the high salaried men. Lt is unfortunate to have to do this, but i t is the only way to bring about a reduction of expenditure.
The national income of the people is falling continuously, yet there is no corresponding decrease in the cost of government. In my opinion, the high cost of government constitutes the greatest obstacle to financial rehabilitation and the restoration of industry. I believe that the first step needed in attempting to restore prosperity is to reduce the amount taken from the national income for governmental purposes. The ministerial party advanced that argument at the last election, and the people supported them. Now that we are in office, we should not hesitate to put that policy into effect. The Government might have done more than it has in the direction of reducing the salaries of the highest paid officials in order to lighten the burden that has been imposed on officers in the lower grades of the Public Service. When the Estimates are being considered in detail, I intend to test the feeling of the committee on several items, and I hope that those who believe in a reduction of governmental expenditure will support me.
.- It was stated by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein), and repeated by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson), that 80 per cent, of the invalid and old-age pensioners were not affected by the latest proposals of the Government for the reduction of expenditure. I interjected when the honorable member for Lang was speaking that he was not yet in a position to make such an assertion, and in amplification of that statement of mine I wish to point out now that the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions has stated that the forms to be sent out to ascertain whether pensioners have other sources of income are not yet out of the printer’s hands. I hope that 80 per cent, of the aged people will retain the full amount of the pensions that they have been receiving; but I have no doubt that a large number of them will refuse to draw pensions because of the nature of the questionnaire that this Government intends to submit to them, in accordance with the amending legislation passed this session. During the few days over which the House stood adjourned a fortnight ago I met at least five elderly persons, who told me that they had determined not to draw the pension, because they resent the inquisitorial examination to be made into their affairs owing to the policy of the present Government. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) was not quite correct in saying that an old-age pensioner could not earn ls. a week without having his pension reduced. I understand that the law provides that a pensioner may receive 2s. 6d. per week without suffering any reduction of the pension. I interjected when the honorable member for Lang was speaking, because he was most definite in his statement, and the honorable member for Indi remarked at a later stage that it was well known that SO per cent, of the pensioners would not suffer a reduction of their income.
– When the honorable member for Dalley said that the pension had been reduced, I interjected, “ Not up- to the present “.
– But this afternoon the honorable member remarked that 80 per cent, of the pensioners were not affected by the financial emergency legislation. The honorable member , read a statement published in the Sydney Morning Herald, dealing with an alleged split in the ranks of the Labour movement in Victoria. He referred to certain unions that had objected to the Scullin Government’s tariff, and added that four unions would break away, if necessary, in order to make their protest. The honorable member made his quotation correctly from the Sydney Morning Herald ; but I have before me the reports, published in. the Melbourne Age and Argus, of the meeting referred to by the honorable member. There arc many people who are of the same opinion as those unions, and I, for one, agree with the contention that some manufacturers who enjoy protection, which practically amounts to an embargo, are not “playing the game” when they charge the consumers practically as much as the imported article would cost. According to the report in the Melbourne press, the unanimous decision of the unions represented at the meeting was as follows : -
That this meeting protests against the action of the present Government in interfering with the tariff schedules introduced by the Scullin Government, believing that’ such interference will have a decided tendency to create more unemployment.
It was a conference of unions whose members were affected by the tariff-slashing methods of the present Government. The proceedings were reported as follow : -
The conference of unions whose members are affected by the tariff-slashing methods of the present Government, which had been adjourned from Monday week pending the decision of the Trades Hall Council on the resolution regarding industrial legislation carried by the recent All-Australian Trade Unions’ Congress, was concluded yesterday. Mr. F. J. Riley presided, and the following unions were represented: - Australian Workers’ Union, Carters and Drivers, Boot Makers, Clothing Trade, Printing Industry, Coach Makers, Male Confectioners, Amalgamated Engineers, Tanners and Leather Dressers, Storemen and Packers, Textile Workers, Sheet Metal Workers, Tobacco Workers, Iron Moulders, Manufacturing Grocers and Boiler Makers.
The unions to which the honorable member for Lang referred and mentioned in the report of the Sydney Morning Herald including the Boot Trade Federation, the Carters and Drivers Union, and the Clothing Trade Union expressed opposition, but the resolution was agreed to unanimously.
– At the recent conference of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, diversity of opinion was expressed on the same subject.
– I was merely referring to the quotation made by the honorable member. The Age and particularly the Argus are not likely to give credit to the Labour party where it is not deserved.
A few days ago the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) and the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) referred to the need for round-table conferences between employers and employees to- bring about improved industrial relations. As one who was closely associated with industrial movements before’ becoming a member of this Parliament, I have a lively recollection of the conditions that obtained in industry when employers had every opportunity to confer with their employees. In 1912, the late Judge MacNaughton, of Queensland, heard an industrial dispute in Bundaberg over what was called “retention money.” He had the agreement between the parties before him, and he asked by what means it had been arrived at. As a matter of fact it was merely a schedule of conditions framed and printed by the Fairymead Sugar Company, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The employees had to either sign the agreement or go without their jobs. [Quorum formed.’) In the days before the establishment of arbitration courts ii was the usual practice for the employers to lay down certain conditions, which the employees must accept or go without work. Round-table conferences in those days were of no avail. It was practically impossible to arrange one with the employers in Queensland prior to the establishment of the Arbitration Court. The only means of redress employers or employees had, when they were dissatisfied with prevailing conditions, was a cessation of work; there was either a lock-out or a strike. No sane person would suggest that such conditions were desirable in the interests of the general community. In 1911, a strike occurred in the sugar industry, and a round-table conference was refused by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and the other sugar interests. If the employees were not prepared to accept ,the conditions offered them, they had to lose their jobs. After a struggle lasting six or twelve weeks, according to when the cutting season commenced in the - various districts, the employers agreed to meet the employees in conference, and they granted the very conditions that could have been arranged without difficulty if a conference had been granted at the outset. The employers would not listen to reason until a threat was made that the Waterside Workers Federation and the Australian Workers Union would join in the strike. When the conference cook place the companies agreed to a minimum wage of 30s. a week of 48 hours for mill and field workers. Prior to the strike and conference the employees were required to work 58 hours a week for a weekly wage of 22s. 6d., and one can scarcely imagine at the present time that such industrial conditions as were imposed could have existed in this country such a short time ago. The Queensland Arbitration Act was the best of its kind in existence until the Moore Government came into office and altered it. Because the court was there to regulate conditions in industry if agree- ment could not be reached by the parties, 98 per cent, of the awards in Queensland were the result of negotiations between the parties in a room of the court set aside for the purpose. It would be better for every one if that system of roundtable conferences operated generally. Unfortunately, a small section of both employers an,ci employees makes many of the ordinary round-table conferences futile.
– The trouble is that the workers are led by “ Beds.”
– They are led by nien more intelligent than the honorable member is.; and that is not praising their intelligence. The great majority of the workers are well led by those who are paid to do their work. I think that it was on the occasion of his resignation from the court that the late Mr. Justice Higgins said that if the representatives of both sides in industry could meet as plenipotentiaries, with authority to finalize arrangements, it would be better for every one. That was the position under the Queensland act; the representatives did not have to go back to general meetings of their unions for authority to act. Prominent among the representatives of the organizations there was Mr. W. J. Riordan, who had complete authority to do the best he could for the men concerned; and generally he was successful in improving their conditions. One. of the largest sugar-growers df Queensland, through the Brisbane Courier, and other sections of the daily press, recently said that Mr. Riordan stood out among those engaged in the conferences because of his reasoning faculties, his clear presentation of the facts, and his marked ability. Generally, the workers are represented by men who do not desire them to strike. Those who urge them to strike are not true representatives of the workers; they are men whom this Government will never send out of the country in any circumstances.
It is amusing to hear that confidence in Australia has been restored since the present Government assumed office. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) told us the truth when he said that people have invested in our loans because of the rate of- interest offered. Investors renewed certain loans recently at a lower rate of interest than formerly, because they knew that there was no other way of getting their money back. I have a distinct recollection of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) leaving the Labour party room waving his hands above his head, and saying that he would never repudiate. Yet, he supported the Premiers plan, which advocated repudiation. In a broadcast address to the people of Australia, he urged them to renew the £18,000,000 loan in order to demonstrate the stability of this country, and to instil confidence in the minds of those who had invested money in Australian industries. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that, although the loan was technically a voluntary one, those who did not subscribe to it voluntarily would be compelled to do so. The right honorable gentleman’s prediction was right. Sooner or later, the same thing will happen to the overseas bondholders. The Prime Minister claims that confidence has been restored because of the change of government. If there is any greater confidence in Australia than before, it is due almost entirely to the action of the Scullin Government. A person who pays his accounts monthly, and’ at the end of each year has a clean sheet, is more likely to obtain credit from the business people with whom he deals than is the person who does not pay his way. The Scullin Government balanced its ledger; had its financial proposals been put into operation, I am convinced Australia’s position would now be better than it is. I agree with the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson), that we must depend mostly on private enterprise to absorb the unemployed. No intelligent person believes that governments can absorb them. At the same time, the expenditure of public money throughout the States instils confidence in the minds of employers and those who have money to spend, so that they also provide employment. That is always the effect of the expenditure of public money. The present Government has not done anything worth while towards a solution of the unemployment problem.
A little while ago, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) was attacked by the Prime Minister because of something he said about Mr. Hill, the Premier of South Australia. The Prime Minister said that Mr. Hill had faithfully carried out the Premiers plan, or, at least, had got nearer to doing so than had any other Premier. In this morning’s press, the Auditor-General of South Australia is reported to have said that the true position of the South Australian railways is still hidden, and that the practice adopted in connexion with railway accounts “ is dangerously approaching the stage of faking accounts.” If that report had been made known to the public earlier, they would not have had much confidence in Mr. Hill. The statement of the South Australian Auditor-General justifies the charges made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh on the floor of this House. If faking accounts is all that the Premiers plan has achieved, all I can say is, God help us. I shall have something to say later about the methods adopted in balancing accounts, particularly in relation to our mandated territories. “We are told that the Premiers plan has created confidence, but I submit that confidence lias not yet been restored. The most recent loan conversion is not so satisfactory to Australia as the Prime Minister would have us believe. He speaks of it as a conversion at 3-J per cent., but, in answer to an interjection, he admitted that the rate was really £4 ls. 2d. per cent. The honorable member for Dalley sets it down at over ;> per cent. I am prepared to accept the right honorable gentleman’s own statement that it is £4 ls. 2d. per cent. It is well that the public of Australia should know the truth concerning this matter.
– The honorable member for Dalley included exchange in his estimate. 1/ r. f it r tens.
– Including exchange, the honorable member for Dalley made it 5^ per cent. The Prime Minister admitted that it was £4 ls. 2d. per cent., but later he again stated that the loan had been successfully converted at 3J per cent.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) spoke of the inadequate provision made for the defence of this country. If there is one thing which will induce men to fight for their country, it i3 the right to live in it like human beings. If we make Australia what it ought to be - a place worth living in - we shall find men willing to defend it more effectively than could any brass hats.
– That is mere wind.
– It is not. A man will fight for something worth having, but a man who has nothing, and is without hope, has no inducement to fight. The young people who are walking up and down our streets seeking work are capable of defending this country, but they have no inducement to do so.
-. - They must have some training.
– Our soldiers in the Great War did not have much training, hut they were the best soldiers in the war. All the training in the world will avail nothing unless the men are properly cared for. Thousands of young men in this country have nothing to look forward to; nor is there anything in the budget to encourage them to believe that things will improve, or instil in them such patriotic ideals as would make them proud to fight for their country. People are good or bad, largely according to their environment. These men seek merely the right to live. That they are not working is not because they are “ wasters “ and useless, but because there is. no opportunity for them to earn a livelihood. Men without a home, and unable to care properly for those whom they love, have no reason to be greatly concerned whether the country has a defence force or not. Without any hope in life, they deem themselves as well off under one government as another. I. am not referring only to the present Government, because every government hi Australia is being condemned in the same way by those foi1 whom there is no work and no prospect of obtaining it. All that they can see ahead is a continuance of the dole, while they carry their swags from place to place. While these conditions remain there can be no improvement.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) deprecated political influence in public affairs. He held himself up as an example of a man who permitted no political influence to sway him when he was administering the affairs of state in Western Australia. But the honorable member did not hesitate to support the present Government in disallowing an award of the Public Service Arbitrator. He was not concerned about political influence then. Nor would he hesitate to use political influence with the Commonwealth Bank Board, or any other body, if to do so suited his purpose. All this talk about political influence is so much humbug. Every government uses influence to achieve its objects. If one government does what another government would not do, it is said to be subject to political influence. There should be no authority in this country greater than this Parliament. I believe that the policy of the Labour party is right, and, in the interests of the Commonwealth, I should be prepared to use influence to pass the legislation necessary to put that policy into effect. Nor should I hesitate to exert influence upon the Commonwealth Bank Board. While one honorable member was speaking about a fiduciary note isssue, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) interjected that in any event we must have a fiduciary note issue. It is rumoured in the press and elsewhere that at the next Premiers Conference a proposal will be submitted for the floating of a £20,000,000 loan, mostly to relieve unemployment. How can that money be raised other than by a fiduciary note issue? There is no other way. We are told that the Commonwealth Bank Board is not in favour of increasing the note issue. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), when Prime Minister, said that if Parliament was prepared to alter the Commonwealth Bank Act to enable the bank board to make credit available, his Go- vernment was prepared to take steps in that direction. In a broadcast address on the second night after the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales had closed its doors, Sir Robert Gibson told the people of Australia that he was chairman of the only institution which could make money available to meet all the demands that could be made by depositors. He assured the people that if the money was not in the bank steps would be taken to provide it by means of a fiduciary note issue. Would there be anything wrong with that? As a matter of fact, although bank-notes in the pockets of the people are fiduciary to at least 75 per cent, of their value, nobody worries, and nobody- is concerned that they have not an effective gold backing.
The financial affairs of this country vi]) not be straightened out until the great majority of our 400,000 of unemployed persons are back to work again. The statement made by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) and other honorable members supporting the Government that, as the result of its policy, the number of unemployed in the Commonwealth has decreased, is not in accordance with the facts. In December last, when the Scullin Administration went out of office, the unemployment figures were 27.4 per cent.; at the end of the third quarter of this year they had risen to 29-.6 per cent.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Dennis) last night quoted later figures.
– The figures quoted by the honorable member for Batman last night were compiled by the Victorian Statist, whereas the information on which I am relying was furnished by the Commonwealth Statistician to the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) only about four days ago. These show, as I have stated, that unemployment, instead of decreasing, is increasing throughout the Commonwealth. The figures quoted by the honorable member for
Lang also took account of persons who are working part-time, and, for that reason, are not a true criterion of the actual position. How can it be said that unemployment is decreasing if the figures relating to it include people who are working, say, one week in three or three weeks in five? Only when the majority of our workless people are fully employed in remunerative occupations will it be possible to say that we are getting out of our difficulties. With all due respect to those honorable members who support this Government’s tariff policy, I say, definitely, that the best market for our primary producers i3 the local market, and that this can best be strengthened by the adoption of measures to encourage Australian industries, thus increasing the purchasing power of our people.
We have heard a good deal during this debate, about the alleged favoured position of the sugar industry in Queensland, and of the successful negotiations to alter the agreement made between the Commonwealth and. the sugar-growers, so tha: people in other States may obtain sugar at -Jd. per lb. below the price fixed in the agreement. It may be news to some honorable members to learn that a drop of id. per lb. will mean a difference of £1,000,000 in the return to Queensland growers, and as they are good customers of secondary industries in. the southern States, the repercussions, following the amendment of the agreement, will be severely felt in a number of the southern industries.
The right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in reply to questions yesterday with reference to the lowering of the duty on Fijian bananas under the Ottawa agreement, gave the House to understand that, as it would mean merely the importation of 40,000 centals of Fijian bananas, or approximately 5 per cent, of Australia’s requirements, it was, after all, only a small matter. The right honorable gentleman omitted to mention that Fijian bananas will enter the Australian market at the peak period of Queensland production, and will seriously depress prices foi’ t!:3 local product. The honorable member for Angas, who also gave som?. attention to this matter, expressed the hope that the reentry of Fijian bananas into die Australian market would give the people an opportunity to obtain bananas of a better quality. Let me tell honorable members that no better bananas are grown, than those produced, in Queensland and on the northern rivers of New South
Wales. It is true that some improvement might be effected in their method of marketing. I have, on more than one occasion, discussed this matter with Mr. Ranger who controls the distributing end of the banana trade. Fijian bananas are landed in the bunch, whereas Queensland bananas are sent to southern markets in boxes, not because the growers prefer to market them in that form, but because the sellers request it, the idea being to cut down freight charges. There may be some ground for complaints in southern States as to the condition in which Queensland bananas are marketed, but, as I have explained, this is not the fault of the growers, who produce firstclass bananas which, when ripened under natural conditions, are equal to bananas produced anywhere else in the world.
We have heard much during this debate about the Government’s proposals to restore confidence, and to get our people back to work. I say, definitely, that sooner or later, the Ministry will be forced to adopt a fiduciary currency - in other words it will be obliged to provide for the issue of bank credits to employers, thus enabling them to put in hand business enterprises which, for lack of credit at the moment, they are unable to undertake.
We are told also that negotiations are about to be opened with bondholders overseas for the conversion of that portion of our loan obligations, approximately £92,000,000, over which we have optional conversion rights. When this subject was discussed in this chamber some time ago, the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) and certain of the Government’s supporters explained that it would be impossible to undertake such a financial transaction, because Australian loans in Great Britain were held by large numbers of small investors. Apparently, the Government has changed its opinion, because an attempt is now to be made to convert at least portion of out overseas commitments to investments bearing a lower rate of interest. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has just reminded the committee that the persons who will dictate the terms and conditions under which these loans may be- renewed are those in control of institutions which hold the bulk of tlie existing securities. It is just as well that we should he quite candid about this matter and admit our inability to pay 20s. in the £1, largely because of the -depressed state of the world’s markets for our surplus primary products. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) remarked this afternoon that it was a pity the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) could not be f air to our primary producers, who, he went on to say, had co-operated so loyally with the Scullin Government, when the appeal was made to them a year or two ago to increase production, and so help the Commonwealth to meet its obligations abroad. If, in this matter, the honorable member for Indi speaks with as much sincerity as did the Leader of the Opposition, then there need be no cause for complaint; because, as is well known, the Leader of the Opposition has, on many occasions, frankly admitted that our primary producers responded most’ nobly to the appeal made by his Government on the occasion referred to. We all admit that the only way in which we can meet our overseas obligations is by exporting our surplus primary products; but, obviously, we shall not get out of our difficulties if we are obliged to continue exporting three bags of wheat to pay debts which, when incurred, represented the value of only one bag of wheat. The same remark applies to existing prices for our wool and other exports. It will be impossible for Australia to recover fully while certain people deliberately depress the markets in which our products are sold.
– Nonsense 1 Who is responsible for depressing markets?
– The honorable member cannot deny that, in the world’s markets for primary products as for other commodities, the “ bulls “ and the “ bears “ .are continually at war with one another. Market fluctuations are to be noted almost daily in stock exchanges all over the world, and it is not wide of the truth to say that our primary producers suffer as the result of their operations.
Referring again to the sugar industry, I remind honorable members that last year, with an exemption of £150, less than 40 per cent, of Queensland growers paid income tax.
– But what about the companies ?
– The shareholders of the companies are, I believe, for the most part, “cobbers” of the honorable member. I have an intimate knowledge of many people associated with the industry, and I know the difficulties under which they are labouring. It would be a good thing for Australia if honorable members who are so critical of the growers could find time to visit the sugar districts in Queensland, and ascertain for themselves exactly how the growers are living. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) visited Queensland some time ago, and mow poses as an authority on the subject of sugar.
– I spent a fortnight in the sugar-growing districts.
– Senator Sir Hal Colebatch also spent about eighteen clays in Queensland, chiefly in fishing, but I believe he did devote two or three days to inspecting sugar areas. So he, too, has- constituted himself an authority on all phases of the industry. Sugar-cutters at 30s. a day are not overpaid ; they have to work very hard for it.
– That is the pay of the poorest cutters.
– At any rate, that was the evidence given before the Arbitration Court, and it was not denied by the employers’ representatives.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) had something to say about high salaries paid to certain members of the Public Service, and advocated economies in this direction. The cutting down of wages will not, of itself, get this country out of its difficulties.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) on one occasion recently said that the adoption of the Premiers plan had resulted in the dismissal of Mr. Lang, the Premier of New South Wales, because he would not come into line with the Commonwealth and the other Premiers in their economy proposals. On that point, all I wish to say now is that a reduction of wages and pensions is & miserable achievement, and will not get us anywhere. If we have to depend upon such economies for the balancing of our budget, it would be better not to balance it, and I suggest that the AuditorGeneral of the Commonwealth, who, apparently, can talk about everything except his own business, should follow the example set by the Auditor-General of South Australia who, a few days ago, severely criticized the manner in which the railway finances of that State have been handled.
I submit that the budget contains no proposals that are likely to get Australia out of its difficulties. We were told by the honorable member for Perth that the budget speech of the right honorable the Prime Minister will compare favorably with that delivered by any of his predecessors. I do not agree with him. The budget holds out no hope for the people. On the contrary, the proposals contained in it will probably make worse the financial and industrial position of the Commonwealth .
– I intend not to traverse the ground covered by previous speakers, but to refer merely to one or two important matters which are worthy of consideration. I was interested in the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), particularly his reference to our trade with the East. While our trade in that direction has certainly increased during the last three years, we are still only touching the fringe of the Eastern markets. The United States of America, like Australia, is much concerned about its unemployment problem, and it has suggested that one step towards the solution of that problem would be the development of its trade with the East. That is certainly interesting information to Australia. The development of our trade with the East almost equals in importance the Ottawa agreement, and in the future will probably transcend many of our outstanding national problems. Adjacent to Australia there are many nations, including China and Japan, with a total population of approximately 1,000,000,000. Although many of the people in those countries are of the coolie class, with little spending power, vast masses of them are gradually increasing their consumption of meat, wheat, wool and many other primary products which Australia can produce in abundance. The
United States of America has scientifically developed its trade with the East, with the result that in the Eastern markets it has outstripped every other nation; but what it has done Australia can also do. As the Argentine, because of its close proximity to Great Britain, has become a formidable competitor with Australia in the British meat market, so this country, because of its close proximity to the East can, by the use of scientific methods, become a formidable competitor with the United States of America in the Eastern markets. There are vast wealth resources in the East, only waiting to be tapped by Australia, not by our governments directly, but by private enterprise assisted by this Government in the direction of securing as much data and information as possible. The Queensland University recently sent Dr. Melbourne to the East to report on this subject, and his report is interesting and instructive. The Senate of the University is to be commended for its national action. It is essential that in developing our trade with the East our representatives there should be able to understand and converse in the native languages. The vast population of 1,000,000,000 people living so close to Australia could absorb far more than our small population of 6,500,000 can produce. Furthermore, only goods of the highest standard should be offered for sale, and they should bear labels in the languages of the respective countries. We should set out to capture this trade with keenness and determination, and, if we adopt scientific methods, there is no reason why we should not secure a considerable share of it.
Our present system of arbitration, which has been referred to during this debate, must continue unless we can substitute something better for it. I agree with the suggestion that there should be greater co-operation between employers and employees. [Quorum, formed.] Cooperation between both sides of industry would save much unnecessary friction and excessive cost of litigation. In my electorate there is a shining example of cooperation in industry. I refer to the British-Australasian Tobacco Company, which, because of its co-operative methods, has preserved peace in its particular industry for many years. In Australia the arbitration system is being hampered “because of the overlapping of State and Federal awards. It is, I believe, the desire of every honorable member that uniform hours and conditions of labour should obtain throughout the Commonwealth. It has been stated that to bring about that uniformity a referendum costing £200,000 would be necessary; but I submit that if this subject were referred to the next Premiers Conference, the Premiers could agree to give effect to it by having the necessary legislation passed simultaneously by each State legislature.
Two other important problems which must sooner or later be considered by us are over-production and the extent to which the use of machinery in industry has brought about unemployment. These problems are of great importance to employers and employees alike, and at the present time are being discussed by practically every country in the world. As Australia leads’ in all industrial and social movements, I suggest that we should appoint a committee representative of all parties in Parliament to investigate and report upon those two problems.
It has been suggested that the permanent members of the Defence Force have been unfairly treated in respect of reductions in salaries. For example, the members of the RoYal Australian Navy were not considered when increases of salaries were being made, but were included in the recent reductions of wages and salaries. I shall again refer to that matter when the Estimates are under discussion.
The budget Estimates have been framed on a conservative basis. I do not blame the Government for that, because, like all trading concerns, governments should make safe estimates. There is no doubt that the estimate of the customs revenue is conservative. Those of us who have a knowledge of the commercial conditions of the Commonwealth, know that most of tlie warehouses have been depleted of stocks due to the prohibition on imports, and to the fact that merchants have been afraid of governmental action. But now that confidence is returning stocks will be replenished, notwithstanding exchange, and at the end of twelve months the cus toms revenue, to the great advantage of the Australian people, will probably greatly exceed the estimate of the Government.
.- Although the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and every honorable member who has spoken in this debate from the opposite side’ of the chamber has been at pains to tell us that confidence has been restored, unemployment is still increasing throughout Australia. In these circumstances, it is useless for the Government and its supporters to try to create an impression through press propaganda that the depression of the last three or four years has been lifted and that normal conditions have been restored. The plain fact is that practically every Australian industry has been attacked by this Government in the interests of other countries.
– That is not correct.
– The honorable member spent a good real of time while he was delivering this address in abusing Mr. Lang, but I hope to show him in the course of my remarks that my charge is well founded. There is justification for bitterness against the framer of this budget. He was for many years a member of the Labour party, and entered this Parliament in 1929 pledged to support the policy of that party. But to-day he and several other former Labour members are opponents of that policy. Persons who fail to honour the pledges that they give to the electors cannot expect to have their subsequent undertakings accepted other than with suspicion. The outstanding feature of this budget is its failure to make even a suggestion for the relief of unemployment. It raises no hope whatever that better times are ahead for the unfortunate workless people of Australia. The Prime Minister seems to have completely overlooked the fact that more than 400,000 people, 28 per cent, of our population, have completely lost their employment and purchasing power. This means that the best market that the primary producers can have, which is the home market, has, to a large extent, been rendered incapable of absorbing their products. So long as the present adminstrative’ and financial policy is pursued, there can be no hope of reviving industry. The Government may maintain a certain financial position during this year and the next by allowing overseas importers to flood Australia with their commodities; but this will merely result in an adverse trade balance such as was built up during the six and a half years when the Bruce-Page Government was in office. That Administration brought Australia to the verge of bankruptcy. The Scullin Government relieved the position somewhat, but this Government is again heading the country towards insolvency. Had confidence been truly restored the price of our export commodities such as wool, wheat and meat would have improved ; but such is not the case. Those who are acquainted with the pastoral industry know very well that the low price of wool has made it impossible for pastoralists to employ any but absolutely essential workers. It is not due, as has been claimed, to the fact that wages are high. Our pastoralists borrowed money at high rates of interest when the price of wool was high, and now the price of wool has fallen, they are, in very many cases, unable to meet their commitments. The previous Government introduced sales taxation as a method of spreading fairly evenly over the whole community, the sacrifices rendered necessary in consequence of our reduced national income, but this Government has lifted that taxation to some extent in a most inequitable fashion. It is not only our primary industries, but also many of our secondary industries, which have been adversely affected by the policy of this Government. The match factory of Bryant and May Limited, for example, has had to reduce its production in consequence of the partial removal of the protection formerly given to the industry, and this has led to the dismissal of many employees. The tariff policy of this Government, as a matter of fact, is affecting most adversely practically all of our secondary industries. The Scullin Government converted a dangerously unfavorable trade balance into a favorable one. Had its policy been continued many unemployed persons would eventually have become customers of our primary producers, but that policy has been reversed by the present Government. I regret to say that the Queensland primary producers, particu- larly those engaged in the banana, peanut, cotton and sugar industries, have_ been seriously assailed. This Administra- “ tion has given them the rawest deal they have ever had. The Prime Minister assumed office with a great fanfare of trumpets. We were told that he had behind him a united party, and that this would result in a restoration of complete confidence in the government of Australia. Although the right honorable gentleman himself told us that his Government would not be hampered by party fetters, he found that his position was not as strong as he thought it was, and the other day he invited the Country party to join forces with the United Australia Party. It was the second occasion on which he has issued an invitation to the Country party. When this Government was returned in December last, the Prime Minister made overtures to the leader of the Country party, who, while opposed to unionists having a free selection in the matter of labour, wanted the right to select his own portfolio. For a time everything proceeded smoothly, but the Prime Minister then found that his own party was weakening. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) began to treat it as he had treated the Labour party. Those honorable members who deserted Labour between 1929 and 1931 began playing the same tricks with the Nationalists. The Prime Minister, realizing the treachery of his so-called friends, again sought the aid of the Country party, and by telephone communicated with its leader at Grafton. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), seeing an opportunity to discredit the leader of his party and secure the position of Prime Minister, wrote a letter to the leader of the Country party which was signed by the Prime Minister. [Quorum formed.] In an article which appeared in the Melbourne Argus during the election campaign, the present Attorney-General and the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson) are reported to have said that they based their support to the party upon the principles enunciated by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said -
Our supreme need is for a truly Commonwealth government that will be free from the crippling fetters of the party system, and that will confess special allegiance to no section of the community.
This is the gentleman who said that he would act in the interests of all sections of the community. In the Truth of the 15th October, the following article appears : -
The once great figure in federal politics, who long ago acquired a hitherto unchallenged reputation as a coldand ruthless political strategist, at last must strike his colours to the man who has condemned the Country party to indefinite exclusion from the Lyons Ministry - John Greig Latham, Attorney-General, Cabinet tactician, and the real man behind the Lyons throne.
When Prime Minister Lyons took it upon himself to enter into negotiations with the Country party a fortnight ago, there was just a chance that a coalition would come about, as Lyons badly wanted Paterson, Deputy Leader of the Country party, as his Minister for Commerce.
When Latham stepped into the picture a week later, a chilling breath of hostility to the Country party swept over the secret conversations; and, when Latham had finished with the Country party on Thursday, Dr. Page was so battered and torn that he was only too glad to let the proceedings come to an abrupt end.
The picture of Mr. Latham walking about the lobbies chuckling to himself and rubbing his hands with glee at the thought of how his subtle mind had thwarted the Country party ambitions and out-manuvred thehapless doctor at every stage, was a revelation to political observers as to the extent to which Mr. Latham dominates the inside Cabinet position.
Suspicion that Mr. Latham is a serious contender for the Prime Ministership was turned into absolute certainty; and after the display of Machiavellian cleverness which characterized his second-hand dealings with the Country party, there are few who will deny that his pretentions are backed with a powerful punch.
It was tho first time in his comparatively short political career that Mr. Latham has publicly entered the limelight as a political strategist; but his debut has made more impressionon his parliamentary audience than a new prima donna does at La Scala Theatre.
Of course, it was not officially intended as a public appearance, as the Prime Minister was supposed to be handling the negotiations, and artunlly did attach his signature to the letters to Dr. Page, which expressed the view of the Government.
But it was Latham who provided the ammunition for Lyons to fire, and as Latham made little attempt to conceal the part he was playing, it was not hard to see which hand was directing operations.
In the ordinary course of parliamentary life Mr. Latham is a dour, silent and reserved man, who has little time or respect for the intellectually inferior mortals who trail in his footsteps. He is not given to joviality or light headedness, and has never been accused of frivolity, even by his worst enemies.
The picture, therefore, of Mr. Latham playfully shadow sparring on the front bench with his ministerial colleagues, while Mr. Scullin was agonizing over the trade balance - and while the Country party members were closeted in secret places doing their pathetic best to out-manuvre the artist who had caught them napping, left no doubt that, in his private little world, Mr. Latham believed he had scored -a. signal triumph.
And triumph it was, for the Ministry now includes two eminently harmless gentlemen in Messrs. Stewart and Guy, who may be relied upon not to make themselves unduly obtrusive when the tide of political destiny turns to carry John Greig Latham towards the coveted chair at the head of the Cabinet table.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the financial statement.
– I am showing that it is impossible to restore confidence in the circumstances I am mentioning. The article continues -
Look at the Federal Ministry now. Two mediocrities, have been added to make the strength thirteen.
The article in Truth continued -
There is Mr. Lyons as Prime Minister - a spent force, lacking the political courage and merely hanging on desperately to his job; Mr. Latham, the crafty and clever lawyer; Mr. Bruce, the ex-Prime Minister, who nearly ran the country into monetary and economic chaos; Mr. Parkhill, deep-dyed tory, not without ability; Sir George Pearce, reactionary Leader in the Senate, and ex-Labour radical; Senator Massy Greene, an able but sick man; Mr. Gullett, a faithful follower of Bruce; and Messrs. Stewart, Perkins, Marr, McLachlan, Francis, and Guy, party hacks - none of whom can claim any particular ability.
Those are the men who are controlling the nation’s affairs. The negotiations with the Country party this week have shown an absolute lack of enterprise among Ministers, with the exception of the calculating Latham.
And he is the man who will eventually find a cure for Lyons’s weakness and vacillation.
That comment shows the trend of public thought. How can the people have confidence in a government which, in the allocation of portfolios, ignores South Australia, and allows to Queensland only an Assistant Minister, whomTruth describes as a “ party hack.” If the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) had any respect he would have left the Ministry as a protest against the insult to the State he represents. The State of
Tasmania dominates the Cabinet to the detriment of the larger States. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) is interjecting. Truth has something to say about him -
And Mr. Lyons, who really wanted the coalition, faced his own party, and was torn to ribbons by some of his own followers. ExLabourite McGrath, who left the Scullin Government with Mr. Lyons, spoke as if he at last realized his former colleague was unable to stand alone. He told Mr. Lyons that his plan for the admission of the Country party was an admission of his own weakness.
Mr. Maxwell, the blind barrister member for Fawkner, and Messrs. Dein and Lane, two noisy if unimportant New South Wales members, told Mr. Lyons what they thought of his plan, too.
The writer of those comments is a good judge, as we all know that the honorable members for Lang and Barton are noisy if unimportant. Even the members of the Nationalist party have no confidence in their leader. Not merely the noisy and unimportant members, but even so influential a man as Sir Hal Colebatch said in the Senate on the 29th September last -
What has happened in the past? We have “ collared “ the leaders of our political opponents, and made them our leaders.
I am surprised at the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) accepting the leadership of a man who had deserted from the Labour party, but I know that the present Prime Minister wa3 forced on the United Australia Party by the Melbourne Herald and the Sydney Morning Herald. Sir Hal Colebatch continued -
We are so ready, because wo think the public will swallow it, to pick up the chap from the other side without making any inquiries to see whether he has repented. . . We take these men, because they have left their party and not because they have renounced their doctrines. That is what we did with Mr. Hughes, but I do not know what is to happen in the case of our present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons).
Sir Hal Colebatch and other leading Nationalists have no confidence in their leader. They may tell us that confidence has been restored because an anti-Labour government is in office; but these gentlemen have not even confidence in themselves. For the last nine months they have been fighting for the spoils of office, without any regard for the 400,000 unemployed men who are starving. The dole is costing the taxpayers £7,500,000 a year; wealth that could be reproductive is being destroyed in slowly starving people with the dole and food relief. Loan money has been wasted. In the metropolitan areas we see council employees hoeing grass from the footpaths; a week after they have passed on the grass is again flourishing. If the Government were really desirous of restoring men to industry it would have obtained and circulated some of the money which ministerial candidates said would flow into Australia as a result of the restoration of confidence. In April, 1931, the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) said -
If confidence was restored there would he immediate stimulus to commerce and industry, and tlie re-absorption of the unemployed would start immediately.
Arrangements could be made to assist the primary producers, and it would be possible to raise a government loan for reproductive works to relieve unemployment.
There would be an immediate flow of private capital into Australia for investment. It would be possible to make arrangements in London to deal with Australia’s floating debt there of £40,000,000.
It would be- possible to arrange for the relief of our overseas interest burden during the period of reconstruction.
All this, said the right honorable member for Flinders, could be done if confidence were restored ; and, he added, it could be restored only through Parliament. In the light of what has happened since this Government assumed office, the magic word “ confidence “ will not continue to delude the people. Just before Christmas, 1930, the Scullin Government made £500,000 available for the relief of unemployment, and during its term of office, it provided £2,000,000 to the various shire councils for the same purpose. This Parliament should not adjourn next Christmas until the Government has made available some of the money which, in 1931, the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) claimed would bc available after the “ restoration of confidence.” Let the Government raise the loan that it declared it would, add it to the £7,500,000 at present being paid annually in sustenance, and spend the lot on reproductive work that is likely to assist the country on to a sound foundation. If the Government continues to tax people into unemployment in order to feed those already out of work, and persists in ruining our primary and secondary industries, there will shortly be no money even to pay the dole. We began with an unemployment tax of 3d. a week ; later it was made 3d. in the £1, and then 6d. ; now it is ls. in the £1, and is likely to be double that amount next year. There is no hope for the workers if governments continue to destroy wealth in that way.
Here is another catch cry that was used during the last election, “ Vote United Australia Party - Lyons party, and ensure yourself a job at a steady wage.” The only man who got the steady job was the Minister without Portfolio who went overseas. He claimed that if his Government were elected, there would immediately be a “ restoration of confidence.” But when he was returned to represent the people, the right honorable gentleman was promptly transported elsewhere. Having a little ability, he was a menace to the leaders of his party; so he was dumped overseas (at the first opportunity. Here is more of the propaganda used by the United Australia Party -
The U.A.P. Wat to SOLVE Unemployment.
Two U.A.P. Promises
The U.A.P. stands firmly for sound tariff protection. The promise is given that no rough hands will be laid upon the existing tarin*. There will be no sudden, drastic changes without reference to the Tariff Board. The Victorian and New South Wales Chambers of Manufactures are in entire accord with the tariff policy of the United Australia Party.
The United Australia Party accepts the verdict of the people at the 1929 elections. There are, however, some matters, such as the basic wage and standard hours, which should l)e regulated upon a uniform basis throughout the Commonwealth. No alteration of the kind required would be made until after the people had first been given the opportunity to vote upon it at a referendum.
Those are the people who now claim that they made no promise with regard to unemployment, because it is the responsibility of the ‘States. They are trying to make the public forget the policy that they enunciated only twelve months ago, and upon which they were returned to power. There were to be “ no sudden drastic changes “ in the tariff. Ask the manufacturers if they still support the Government. One day duties are imposed on glass; the next day they are taken off. One day importations are rationed ; the next day it is an open go. The Country party declared that the Government would be destroyed on the galvanized iron issue, but backed down, as it did over tobacco and other matters. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has been connected too long with the “ old gang.” He and the present Minister without Portfolio were for a long time in double harness and, incidentally, they did much to bring the country to its present deplorable state. A Messiah from the Riverina came along and endeavoured to depose the honorable member for Cowper as Leader of the Country party, but the old gang was too well organized, and his ambitions were thwarted. Fearing the worthy doctor, Country party members deserted Hardy.
The right honorable member for Cowper has been an advocate of new States ever since I have known him. How far has his pet project advanced ? He declares that he is out to help the primary producers. During his regime as Treasurer, those unfortunates were more heavily taxed than ever before or since. Now, the right honorable gentleman attacks the National party. One thing must be said in favour of that party. It has a policy which lasts from day to day, and sometimes over the week-end. That of the honorable member for Cowper alters at every town he visits. In the Riverina, he wants a pegged exchange. Somebody challenges the soundness of the idea, and he wants the exchange unpegged. Next he wants an increase in prices. He also demands a wheat pool. When the Scullin Government introduced a bill for that purpose in 1929, the right honorable gentleman supported it in this chamber, but sneaked around to members of the Country party in another place, with the result that the measure was defeated in the Senate. The right honorable gentleman claimed that the Government could not finance its scheme, although the Government had received an assurance from the real Government of Australia, the Commonwealth Bank, that the wheat crop for that year would be financed. Obviously, fixing the price of wheat for home consumption would have had an important bearing on prices overseas, as is demonstrated by the Paterson butter scheme. Who defeated the Wheat Pool Bill? The Leader of the Country party had followers in the Senate, and could have used his influence with them to have the bill passed. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Eorrest (Mr. Prowse) also had friends in the Senate. The other night the honorable member for Forrest declared that something would have to be done to assist the primary producers. What, I ask him, has been done for the great bulk of the primary producers at Ottawa? It has now been revealed that the total advantages which may be looked for from Ottawa do not amount to more than £1,500,000, and against that we have to set the concessions we have made. What advantage have the wool-growers obtained from the Ottawa agreement? None whatever, although for years they have been, in effect, carrying the couutry. What advantage have the meat producers obtained?
– After all, what can we expect when Australia was represented at Ottawa by the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), a man with a definite an ti- Australian outlook. Why did not the Country party see that representatives of the butter producers, the meat producers and the wool producers presented the case for those industries at Ottawa, instead of leaving the job to politicians? The business of the politician is to legislate, but experts associated with the various industries affected should have represented Australia at the Ottawa Conference.
– This is a very cheerful speech from the point of view of the unemployed.
– Unfortunately, there will be many more unemployed as the result of the Ottawa Conference. I believe that a great deal more could be done for the unemployed if some of the money now spent on sustenance were diverted to assist deserving industries. All over the Commonwealth to-day new mining companies are being floated, and if a measure of assistance were granted to the mining industry, it would be able to absorb great numbers of unemployed. If even £1,000,000 of the money now being spout on sustenance were devotedto assisting industry, and it resulted in an extra output of gold even to the value of only £500,000, the country would be better off to that extent. At present money is being spent merely on providing sustenance, and no return whatever is being obtained for it. Assistance might also be granted to those on the land to erect fences, and carry out other necessary improvements. During the last few years, many of those on the land have not been able to purchase wire with which to repair their fences, and, consequently, they have not been able to employ men to do this class of work. Very little assistance has been forthcoming from agricultural banks. Some little while ago, a farmer in my electorate applied to the Queensland Agricultural Bank for a loan. An Inspector visited the place, and the farmer’s wife asked him to wait while she went to fetch her husband who was working some distance away in one of the paddocks. The inspector, however, was in such a hurry that he would not wait. He rode off saying that he would return in a week or so. The farmer waited about the place for a week lest he should miss the inspector, and finally, three months later, he received a letter from the bank saying that his security was not sufficient to warrant the advancing of a loan. He had applied for an advance of £500 on security worth £2,200. He then applied to a private trading bank for the money, and, on the report of the local manager, was granted accommodation within twentyfour hours. There is plenty of scope for the expenditure of money on work of a reproductive character.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question - That the item be reduced by £1 (Mr, Scullin’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
. Dealing with the budget, one has to admit that many of the proposals which it contains must be appreciated ;but disappointment is bound to be felt at what is missing from it. It has to be recognized that “ government is finance “. But praiseworthy though the determination of the Government may be to balance its budget, what is equally important is that the industries of the country should beallowed to function so that they also may make ends meet. Otherwise, next year’s budget, and those that succeed it, will be adversely affected.
An analysis of the present budget will show that the concessions thathave been given to industry, making possible slight reductions in costs, are quite inadequate) and not proportionate to what is needed. It is recognized that the times are not normal, and that we are not yet back on the road to prosperity. The restoration of confidence, which is reflected in the favorable conversion of one of our loans overseas, is a cause for satisfaction ; but our export industries have to be placed on a better footing, and we must not lull ourselves into a sense of security when there is no justification for it. A few million pounds of surplus credits have accumulated in London, but in view of what is happening in connexion with imports, it will be found very shortly that those credits are depleted and that Australia is again dependent on its exports to meet its commitments. In 1931-32, although the production of Australia decreased to the extent of £7 0,000,000 compared with the previous year, federal taxation was greater by £3,500,000, a rise of10s. per head of the population, despite the fact that the savings effected as the result of the conversion of our internal debt at a lower rate of interest, the operation of the Hoover moratorium, and the suspension of sinking fund payments, totalled about £11,000,000. If a person is bogged on the road with a heavy load there are three methods by which he may extricate his team. He may add to his team every available horse; he may enlist the aid of his neighbour or of a comrade on the road, or he may reduce his. load. Those principles apply not only to the ordinary man on the farm, but also to the Government. The farmer has put all his spare horses at work; he has begun new enterprises and has undertaken mixed farming operations. But there are many things that he cannot do unaided. He has cut costs inside his fence, and he now looks to the Government, not only to reduce the costs that it has placed upon him, but also to provide some little assistance to tide him over the present time of stress. Although the national income has declined by £200,000,000, the governments ofto-day are demanding from the people practically an equal amount of taxation. If those who are producing what we export are, not assisted over thisperiod of depression, there is very grave risk of national default before very long. A few weeks ago, in this chamber, I stressed the fact that confidence depended, not merely on honest government, but also on the maintenance of our wealth production. The production of our wealth cannot be continued at a loss. The burdens that are imposed to-day are so excessive that relief must be given additional to that proposed by the budget in connexion with sales tax and primage, which may represent a considerable sum in the aggregate, but amounts to less than½d. a bushel on Australia’s wheat production. If a farmer on the road became bogged with 100 bags of wheat, and expected to get out by taking off one bag, he would be very greatly disappointed. [Quorum formed.] Within recent months 1,000 factories have been closed, causing80,000 hands to lose their jobs. The wheatfarmer, however, has increased his acreage in his endeavours to balance his budget, and has engaged in dairying, poultry-farming, and various other branches of primary production. The aggregate reduction of the sales tax and the primage duty represents only 1 per cent. of the farmer’s cost of producing wheat. It is necessary for the Government to do something far bigger than it has already done to enable the rural industries tocarry on their operations. When the Country party has suggested that the exchange rate should be increased to assist the primary producers, the Government has evaded the proposal declaring that it would be an interference with the functions of the Commonwealth Bank. I suggest that there should be an exchange pool, that the profits should go into the pool, and that any loss should be made up by the Government. The Government could guarantee the pool against loss without interfering with the Commonwealth Bank’s control of the exchange rate. If, by raising the rate of exchange, the extra cost of remitting money to London amounted to £3,000,000, and the Government lost £1,500,000 through the lowering of the tariff on commodities required by the export industries, those industries would benefit to the extent of about £14,000,000.
In about three weeks the farmers will be stripping their wheat. To-day the price is about8d. a bushel below what it was when they were delivering their grain last year. Yet, whenever members of the Country party ask the Government to provide a bounty to bridge over the gap between the farmers’ costs of production and the market price, they are told that the matter is still being considered. We have been informed that last year the price of wheat rose just before the harvest, and that the Government is waiting to see if that experience is repeated; but I point out that some farmers have already sold wheat for forward delivery. It is a pity that there should be so much uncertainty, for it is obvious that something will have to be done to save an industry so vital to the country’s stability. The only way to restore Australia’s position is to maintain and even increase her production, and, to bring about this result, it is essential that the Government should help the primary producers to “break even.” I submit that the export industries have saved Australia from default in the last two years and have ruined themselves in doing so. The statistics show that the volume of production has increased; and this is not all due to the more favorable seasons. Credit must be given to the man on the land for his increased energy. A royal commission that inquired into the position of primary industries in Western Australia some time ago, made this declaration -
The mercantile community must realize that much of the life blood of their business flows from the farmer, and in this crisis prices should not be the predominant factor; but the main object should rather be to keep the farmer producing and see that the primary industries do not disappear.
I submit that it is essential to save the primary industries if stability in national finance is to be maintained.
Take the grazing industry. We find that in spite of the classing of flocks, pasture improvements, and fat lamb breeding, the position of the grazier is no better now than formerly; but because of the inquiry being conducted by the Wool Committee, patience has been exercised, and the seriousness of the position has not been fully stressed. Despite the newspaper headlines such as “Big rise in Wool Prices “, “ Wool Prices well Maintained”, and “Spirited Bidding”, the market price is still 10 per cent, below the low figure of last November, and 60 per cent, below those of 1928. Wool of the same quality as was selling in 1928 at 30d. per lb. will not bring ls. per lb. to-day. The average price is about 8d. Yet figures submitted to the wool committee show that even at the written down current values of property, it costs, on the average, ls. per lb. to produce wool. The Government must recognize that it is a condition of affairs which cannot continue.
The position in regard to live-stock is just as bad. At Flemington this week, prime 60 lb. shorn wethers brought 6s. 3d.; full-woolled fat wethers were sold at 9s., and good crossbred suckers fetched 6s. 3d. to 10s. When 2s. 9d. is deducted from these prices for transport and other charges, the farmer is left with a ridiculous return. Compare to-day’s price of 7s. 6d. net with 27s. which the same class of lamb brought in the paddock four years ago. To-day there are 50 per cent, more sheep in Australia than there were in 1920.
When a grazier has aged sheep that should be marketed, he finds that the cost of transporting and marketing them is more than they are worth. The rabbit plague is devastating the pastures, ‘ yet the Government would not grant exemption from sales tax and primage of even the poison cart and fire-fighters. Unless something bigger is done in the way. of cost reduction or price raising, the next drought - and it may not be far off - will bring one of the greatest tragedies to graziers, with its repercussion on the Government, that Australia has ever known. If there is one thing that will destroy more rapidly the confidence that we have done so much to restore, it is a reduction of the volume of the production of exports necessary to meet our oversea commitments. The Government should recognize that our export industries must be kept going, and that, until it takes off more of the load that the producers are carrying, help through exchange or bounties is essential.
As a principle, farmers are opposed to subsidies or bounties, but we are confronted with a case of emergency. Almost every secondary industry in the land is subsidized every day of the year through the tariff, by the people who use the goods manufactured, but the export industries are being crushed by interest and by burdensome costs of production. I notice that only one-fifteenth of the wheat bounty provided last year has been paid by the Government; also that £3,000,000 allocated for unemployment relief has not been spent out of revenue. I strongly disapprove of passing current expenditure on to posterity. If a bounty be approved, it could, and should, be provided within, at the most, two years. A flour sales tax would be the simplest way of providing a bounty on wheat. Surely the wheat-grower is entitled, as much as any other industry, to a home consumption price, and this is what a flour sales tax arid bounty would provide. We say that a bounty, even if provided by means of a sales tax on flour, would be equitable, and would not place a serious burden on the average householder. We should realize that the price of 2s. 6d. per bushel for wheat represents only Id. for the wheat that is contained in a loaf of bread. The home price of wheat is 7s. ‘Id. in France; 9s. in Italy; 6s. in New Zealand, and 6s. 6d. in South Africa, but at country sidings in New South Wales it is only 2s. 4d. a bushel.
In connexion with unemployment, the soundest object to attack is obviously the cause, and when we examine the matter we find that the cause of unemployment is the lack of. purchasing power on the part of the people, due to the decreased value of our production and the cessation of borrowing. We have heard a great deal in this chamber about the influence of wage rates on purchasing power, but that is an illusion. If a man has £5 to spend in giving employment, the purchasing power of that money is the same, whether it is paid in providing a week’s work for one man at £5 a week or for two men at £2 10s. a week. Since the purchasing power of Australia is derived from the country’s wealth production, if our export industries continue to produce at a loss, the purchasing power of the community will continue to decrease. The Government should do something to enable our export industries to continue. They have been going back for a number of years. I have met numbers of men whose incomes have shrunk by from £1,000 to £1,500 a year ; the average farmer has gone back at least £140 per annum. We who know the position of our primary industries advocate the continuance of the wheat bounty this year, and that it should be paid for by a sales tax on flour. That tax should not affect the price of bread by more than a halfpenny a loaf; and since the average consumption of bread per family is less than twelve loaves a week the extra cost to a household of providing a bounty of 6d. a bushel on wheat would not be more than 6d. a week.
Last week the Deputy Leader of, the Country party (Mr. Paterson) referred to the heavy burden of taxation on interest as it affects mortgages. He showed how impossible it is to reduce the rate of interest until the burden oftaxation has been removed from mortgage interest. The honorable gentleman said that it would pay people to withdraw money from mortgages, and put it into government bonds. The margin on mortgage interest is a trifling return for the greater risk involved as compared with the interest on gilt-edged securities. Interest is one of the biggest burdens on our primary industries. If the Government really desires to assist these industries it should exempt from extreme taxation all interest on mortgages at rates which do not exceed 4½ per cent. There is quite a wrong impression in regard to mortgage rates. It is not the banks or the mortgagees who benefit by high rates of interest; these are solely the result of the extreme taxation which has been imposed on income derived from property. As a matter of business, the mortgagee must either pass on that taxation or withdraw his money, and escape the property tax by investing his money in government bonds.
But the tax to which I particularly wish to refer is the federal land . tax. As honorable members know,this tax was instituted ostensibly with the object of subdividing large areas of land. But its f ailure to achieve that object is obvious when we reflect that, although at its inception the aggregate assessments of taxable property, including city land, was £180,000,000 and that since then land valued at £143,000,000 has been transferred, yet taxes are to-day levied on land valued at £306,000,000. It is really a capital tax. Evidence given before the wool committee recently, showed that in the case of some small graziers this tax represented 4d. per lb., practically one-half the return from their clip. It is time that this heavy burden was removed, and if the Government is sincere in its desire to help rural industries it will take steps in that direction. [Quorum formed.]
I was pleased to note in the budget a reference to our expanding trade in the East. This trade warrants greater attention. With our increasing producing of butter, fruit, and dairy produce, and with millions of sheep almost unsaleable, it should be possible to make special arrangements with respect to transport and canning, and thus remove what is a menace to the Australian grazier. The Government would be justified in giving assistance in order that the densely populated market close to Australia may be exploited by Australians.
I have already expressed my views regarding the tariff. Country people are disappointed that the Government has not done more to reduce the extreme rates on many items. The Ottawa schedule is on the up-grade, and must tend to raise the prices of many commodities. The agreement is like a post-dated cheque; it” may be valuable in that it is the first step to greater things, but it offers little prospect of an early reduction of costs, or of an increase of the prices of our export commodities. The position of our primary producers is such that they are in need of immediate assistance. Practically every alteration of the tariff involves a rise in the rate of duty. The primary producers had hoped that the duties on British goods would be reduced instead of the duties on foreign -goods being’ increased. I can assure the Government that there is no ecstasy in the country regarding the Ottawa agreement. The primary producers are expecting the Government to do something to help them to carry on, and to meet their commitments.
Houseadjourned at 11.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
y asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the total value of all goods imported during the years 1929-30 and 1930-31 on which the duty charged was less than6 per cent., and the value imported on which the duty was less than 11 per cent.?
– The particular information desired is not on record. There is, however, on page 506 of the Oversea Trade Bulletin, No. 28 (Imports and Exports) a table showing the amount of duty collected under the various rates of ad valorem duties.
l asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow:
y asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The situation as to the classification of nitrogenous fertilizers has not been altered by the October tariff resolutions.
b asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What was the amount charged for telephone calls against Federal Members’ Rooms in each State capital for the financial year ended 30th June, 1932?
– The answers to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow:-
Mr.Beasley asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he supply the following information: -
The total interest paid by the Commonwealth and States on all outstanding external loans, each loan to be shown separately?
The total interest paid on all internal loans, before the conversion loan by the previous Government, each loan to bo shown separately ?
Tho currency of all internal and external loans outstanding, each loan to be shown separately ?
s. - It is regretted that this information cannot be supplied without incurring undue cost. The annual interest liability of the Commonwealth and States on external loans at the 30th June last was £28,666,000. The annual interest liability of the Commonwealth and States on internal loans at the 30th June, 1931 (i.e., before the conversion), was £29,742,000 and at the 30th June, 1932 (i.e., after the conversion), was £23,080,000. Detailed information in respect of the various loan issues, which are very numerous, will be made readily available to the honorable member at the Treasury.
– On the 1 4 th October, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked the following question, upon notice: -
In view of the fact that the line-engraved process of printing postage stamps costs four times as much as surface printing, and in view of the greater superiority of the former method,have any steps been contemplated to install rotary presses capable of producing engraved stamps at the cost of surface printing; and could such presses, if installed, also be used to print economically the Commonwealth Bank’s requirements of bank notes, at such a price as to justify their installation?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
Consideration has been given to the use of rotary presses and it is possible that a means may be found of utilizing these when the next special issue of stamps is to be made. It is not proposed for the time being to depart from the existing procedure in regard to the general stamp supplies. The rotary presses now being installed are primarily for preparing note issues.
s. - On the 22nd September; the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me a question, without notice, in regard to pension reductions in other countries. I communicated the honorable member’s request to the. Commonwealth departments administering invalid and old-age pensions, and war pensions, respectively, and the following advice has been furnished : -
Information available to the Commissioner of Pensions shows that the old-age pension in New Zealand has recently been reduced by 10 per cent. In New Zealand and the other countries of the Empire the schemes of noncontributory pensions are not so liberal as that of the Commonwealth, even after allowing for the recent alterations in the Commonwealth law.From the latest information available, a comparison with the non-contributory oldage pension schemes in non-Empire countries shows that in Australia the provisions are more liberal.
The Repatriation Commission is in possession of information which indicates that, in New Zealand, during the last twelve months, economic (war) pensions payable to exmembers of the forces and their dependants have been reduced by 20 per cent. In addition, the statutory pensions of all dependants, excepting those of widows and children of deceased soldiers, and widowed mothers of deceased soldiers, have been reduced by 174 per cent.
– On the 29th September, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) asked me a question, without notice, in regard to the rereported leakage of confidential governmental and commercial conversations over the Anglo-Australian telephone. The matter was referred to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which has furnished the following advice: -
The Anglo-Australian telephone channel is provided with a secrecy device. As this device impairs the performance of the channel its use is limited to periods when the circuit is at its best. The operating procedure provides for the use of the secrecy device on -
Calls for which secrecy is requested;
All calls when conditions permit;
If circuit conditions combined with the use of the secrecy device render the channel uncommercial, any call included under (a) or (b) is held over until the conditions improve. Ordinary business not included under (a) or (b ) is conducted oven the channel, even when the secrecy device cannot be used.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 October 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19321019_reps_13_136/>.