13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Owing to financial difficulties, many persons whose homes ware connected with country telephone exchanges that give a continuous service have found it necessary to discontinue their subscriptions. In consequence, the remaining subscribers on such exchanges are asked to make up the difference between the minimum reyenue required and that actually contributed. Will the Postmaster-General consider the advisability of slightly reducing the minimum so that those continuing to subscribe may retain the advantages of a continuous service without incurring undue cost?
– On the face of it, the request appears reasonable, and I shall ask the department to report on its financial practicability.
– Will the Minister for the Interior say whether there is any truth in the rumour that payable gold has been struck at the Granites, in Central Australia?
– Yesterday I received a telegram from Mr. Chapman, the leader of a prospecting party, stating that payable gold has been struck at the Granites.
– Has the Assistant Minister for Defence read the following newspaper report published to-day: -
Sydney, Wednesday. At the inquiry into the death of Robert John Saunders, 17, ofRozelle, after he returned from the military training camp, the Government Medical Officer, Dr. Palmer, expressed the opinion that death was due to acute enteritis and toxaemia caused by food poisoning.
Will the Assistant Minister inquire as to the possibility of the trainees’ food having been infected, and will he also furnish a list of the foodstuffs supplied to the trainees in camp?
– I shall call for a report on the subject.
– Will the Minister for the Interior consider the advisability of making available the services of Dr. Woolnough, the Commonwealth Geologist, to make an oil survey of Tasmania, similar to that made of the mainland and mandated territories? In the event of such a survey being made in Tasmania, will he direct that special attention be paid to the southern part of the State, particularly the vicinity of Brum Island, where good prospects of oil are said to exist?
– The request will be considered.
Regional Station in Western Australia.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral able to give a fuller reply than that furnished by the Prime Minister to a question asked by me last month regarding the location of the new wireless station in Western Australia? The Prime Minister then said that he was not able to indicate the location of the proposed regional station, as the site had not been secured, but that the department intended to place it where it would be best able to serve the country beyond the Darling Ranges.
– 1 shall endeavour to obtain the information for’ which the honorable member has asked.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether there is any foundation for the newspaper statement that he intends to visit the United Kingdom early next year on public business?
– When I propose to visit the United Kingdom, this House will be the first to be advised as it was in regard to other Ministers who have gone abroad on public business.
Cost of Living Deduction
– As the Government has compromised in respect of the reduction of £S per annum recently imposed on members of the Defence Forces, because of the fall in the cost of living, by not deducting that sum from the pay of certain non-commissioned officers and men, will the Assistant Minister for Defence instruct that the deduction be not made from the salaries of the officers also who did not receive the increase given to mcn-bers of the Public Service when the cost of living rose?
– A report on the subject has been submitted, to the Minister by a committee of senior officers, and the recommendations- of that body have been accepted by the Minister.
– In view of the statement of the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) that, as a result of the Ottawa agreement, there would be a gradual ‘adaptation of the Australian tariff policy to the principles therein adopted, and the conflicting statement of the Prime Minister in Sydney on Monday last that Australian secondary industries had nothing to fear from the Ottawa agreement, because no interference with Australia’s protective policy was contemplated by the Government, will the right honorable gentleman, before the Tariff Board is elevated to a position of supremacy over this Parliament, give the exact meaning of the instructions which will be issued to that body?
– The statements do not conflict. Australian industries have nothing to fear from the Ottawa agreement. The policy of the Government today is that which was enunciated at the last election - that before the protection afforded to any Australian industry is altered a complete investigation of that industry will be undertaken by that independent tribunal, the Tariff Board. Whatever is done in the future will be done only after an investigation by that body.
– Has the Prime Minister received from the Premier or
Government of New South Wales a protest regarding the proposed reduction of duty on bananas from Fiji?
– I have received representations from the Premier of New South Wales in opposition to the proposed reduction of duty.
– Will the right honorable gentleman lay the document on the table?
– The representations were made through the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett), and but for his illness would have been dealt with earlier.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been invited to the following extract from a leading article in the Brisbane Courier of the 17th October : -
Those people who tried to justify the introduction of Fijian black-grown bananas to Australia by saying that the new duties represented the “ give and take “ of the Ottawa Conference, and did not matter because u supply of 40,000 centals a year is only a small part of the Australian consumption, paid small compliment to the intelligence of the community.
In view of the widespread indignation expressed by Australian primary producers, will the Prime Minister, before putting into operation the clause relating to bananas, refer the whole matter to that independent tribunal which he has just mentioned, for investigation and report?
– by leave - At no time has the tariff on bananas been referred to the Tariff Board. I have already pointed out that only an infinitesimal proportion of Australia’s consumption of bananas will be affected by the arrangement for the introduction of bananas from Fiji. Australia cannot hope ,to open up new markets for her primary products without making some slight concessions in return. The concession in relation to Fijian bananas is small, but efforts are being made by certain interests to show that real injury has been done, particularly to a Queensland industry. The honorable member himself has not been entirely free from participation in that propaganda. Australia has granted this small concession in order to obtain other concessions for herself. Under the Ottawa agreement Great Britain regards as con- cessions to herself, concessions given to her colonies by the dominions, and, therefore, in granting concessions to the colonies, Australia made it possible for Britain to grant her concessions in regard to primary products. Australia is the largest exporter to Fiji, and although at present we do not enjoy the lowest possible tariff in our trade with Fiji, under the reciprocal arrangement we shall do so. That is a valuable concession. Failure to ratify this agreement would result in the loss of the partial preferences we already enjoy - a loss which would be disastrous to our trade. Either we must have an agreement, or we must lose what we already have. Australia will gain by the agreement; but, obviously, the agreement is not entirely one-sided. To gain something, wemust be prepared to give something in return. It is true that this small concession affects Queensland and part of New South Wales; but, on the other hand, the value of the preference to Queensland granted by Great Britain in regard to sugar alone is estimated at about £1,000,000 per annum. In regard to butter, of which Queensland is our chief exporting State, the concession will amount to about £400,000 per annum, and that State will gain about £30,000 per annum from the concessionswith respect to cheese. Moreover, the restrictions on the importation of meat into Great Britain will mean much to Queensland. It is not possible at this stage to estimate with any degree of accuracy the extent of that benefit, but honorable members would do well to compare the concession in respect of meat alone with the slight concession granted by Australia in the case of bananas. Other Queensland products which will benefit substantially under the agreement are canned fruits, eggs, leather and tallow. Of all the States, Queensland will gain most from the concessions granted by the Mother Country. Since we shall lose the hold on the Fijian trade which we nowenjoy if no agreement is made, it is well that honorable members should know that in 1931 Australia exported to Fiji goods valued at £372,000, whereas our imports from Fiji for that year were valued at only £34,000. For whatever concessions. Queensland will make under the agreement, she will be amply compensated.
– I ask the Prime Minister how many new appointments to the investigation staff of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Office have been made since the Financial Emergency Act 1932 came into operation?
– I shall obtain the information for the right honorable member.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s statement that the Government, will consider cases of undue hardship in the administration of the Invalid and OldAge Pensions Act, does he not consider that hardship will be inflicted on persons whose pensions are reduced because a son has erected a building on property belonging to his parents? There are many cases -
– The honorable member must not argue the matter.
– Does the Government propose to instruct the department to administer the act sympathetically, and to safeguard the interests of persons adversely affected by the recent legislation?
– The Government will give careful consideration to allcases of hardship, but it has to administer the law as it stands. If it can be shown that in cases such as those mentioned by the honorable member, some concessions can be made, the Government will consider whether the law should be amended. The Government is willing to review every case upon its merits.
– In view of the pledge given by the Prime Minister that “ I pledge my party to govern sympathetically in the interests of the whole of the people and to inflict no hardships upon one section to the advantage of another, and that undertaking will be adhered to solemnly,” will the right honorable gentleman either withdraw that declaration or withdraw the legislation which has inflicted such hardships upon invalid and old-age pensioners?
– This subject has been raised so often that one is tempted to believe that itis only raised for propaganda purposes. I have answered similar questions on at least three occasions.
– What about the right honorable gentleman’s own statement?
– I refer the honorable member to the answers previously given to similar questions.
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs if any decision has yet been reached upon the subject of glass?
– A few moments ago I met a deputation representing those interested in the glass industry; but I have not yet had an opportunity to consider the proposals submitted.
– Will the Assistant Minister say whether the gentlemen who waited upon him in connexion with the glass industry represented the importers, and, if so, are they the gentlemen who, notwithstanding that tbV duties on plain sheet glass were reduced, refused to pass on the benefit of the reduction to the users of glass?
– The gentlemen who interviewed me claimed to be the representatives of the distributors.
– In. view of the report in this morning’s press that, at the Premiers Conference, a proposal will be advanced to raise a loan of £20,000,000, can the right honorable the Prime Minister say -what the attitude of the Government is? If such a loan is raised, for what purpose will the money be utilized ?
– There is no definite proposal for raising a loan of £20,000,000 at present, at least, on behalf of the Commonwealth. When the Premiers meet in conference they will have to deal with the question of making provision for a works programme for the various States for the year, and consideration will also be given to funding some portion of the floating debt. If there were any proposal to provide a loan to cover more than is necessary to deal with the works programme, it would be to fund portion of the floating debt. I am not in a position to say whether thai will be done. This is a matter in which the States, because of the necessity of meeting their deficits and covering their works programmes, are more concerned than the Commonwealth. Until the Premiers meet, it is impossible to say what proposals will be submitted.
– In view of the repeated statement about the alleged advantages which will accrue to the meat producers in Australia as an outcome of the decisions reached at the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa, I desire to ask the right honorable the Prime Minister if he has read the report of a speech delivered by Mr. Neville Chamberlain in the House of Commons, in which that gentleman deplored the fact that due to the large importations of New Zealand and Australian meat there ‘ had been a continued fall in prices, and stated that the dominions must be prepared to limit their supplies? If that is the attitude of the British Government with respect to importations from the Commonwealth and New Zealand, will the Prime Minister indicate how the meat producers in Australia will benefit by the decisions of that conference?
– Apparently, the honorable member for East Sydney did not follow very closely the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) when he explained that the restrictions to be placed upon the dominions are for a very short period, and will not, therefore, impose any injury upon the producers of Australia. If he .wishes for a statement to place against that given by Mr. Neville Chamberlain, I suggest that he should read what Mr. W. Angliss, of Victoria, had to say concerning the prospects of Australian meat producers.
The following paper was presented : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal - Report for year 1931-32.
Formal Motion fob ADJOURNMENT
– I have received from the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), an intimation that he proposes to move the adjournment of the House to-day io discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the necessity for the Government to take immediate action to provide a substantial amount of money for the relief of the unemployed throughout the Commonwealth prior to Christmas.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– My object in submitting this motion should be readily understood by all honorable members. The problem of unemployment is the most serious that this and many other countries have to face. As the position has steadily become worse, I feel that immediate provision for relief should be made in order that those affected may receive some assistance prior to and during the Christmas season. Just before the last general election, the supporters of the Prime Minister and the United Australia Party declared from a thousand platforms throughout Australia that the problem of unemployment would be tackled and solved if they were returned to power. A very large quantity of literature was distributed to support that contention. Unemployment was then regarded by them as the most important problem facing the country, as everything else largely depended upon its solution. Not only were the workers affected, but the members of the business community, propertyowners, and almost every section of the people, were also involved. In these circumstances, it was only natural that a large number of the people were deluded, and placed confidence upon the promises of the members of the- party which this Government represents. It is now nearly twelve months since this Government assumed office, but so far it has not honoured its promises, nor discharged its obligations to the unemployed. We of the Opposition are entitled to remind it of these facts, and adopt every means in our power to see that it is forced to mend its ways.
In order to find out just what the position is in regard to unemployment, I have had prepared for me by the Commonwealth Statistician a statement comparing the percentage of unemployed in the various States for the quarter end ing September of this year, with that for the corresponding period of last year. It is as follows: -
An average of practically 30 per cent, of the registered trade unionists throughout Australia are now definitely unemployed, besides the large number who are rationed. No figures are available as to the number who have been rationed, but we know that rationing is widespread throughout Australia. Just how long the people will endure this condition of affairs is a question which should be seriously agitating the mind of the Government. There must be a limit to their endurance, and it cannot be far off. No words of mine could describe the misery and suffering which must exist in the homes of those who have been unemployed for a long period. Whatever small resources they had to begin with must have been long since used up. This applies, not only to what money they may have saved, but also to their clothing. We know through the press that the unemployed in other parts of the world have become so desperate that they have rioted, and brought themselves into serious conflict with the civil authorities. In Belfast, recently, there were serious disturbances, and only this morning I read of similar happenings in London.
– All very well organized, too.
– That may or may not be so; but if the people were not suffering no amount of organization could induce them to riot. The position in London is reported to be very serious. We know that authority is armed at all points to suppress demonstrations by the unemployed, and the fact that men will risk injury or death to make known their dissatisfaction with things as they are, shows how desperate they must have become. We are unable to learn just what is going on in many foreign countries, because there a strict news censorship is maintained. Within the last week or so, however, I had an opportunity of discussing this matter with a representative from a foreign country, and I realized very quickly that we are not getting all the facts in our newspapers. Even such news as has trickled through from London and Belfast was so reported, I am sure, as to minimize the seriousness of the disturbances, which were almost certainly much worse than we have been led to believe. Those who have been out of work for some time must be sick and tired of all this talk about confidence, and of prosperity being “just round the corner.” Confidence will not fill empty stomachs, nor put clothes upon the naked. I have no doubt that the unemployed have anxiously scanned the press reports of conferences at Ottawa- and Lausanne, and have followed the speeches of politicians urging the need for a general rise in price levels; but most of them must have come to realize by now how little all this talk will help them. For too long now have they been awaiting the results of conferences. During the last two years enough conferences have been held to settle the problems of several worlds, let alone those of Australia, a comparatively small portion of this world. A certain stage is reached, then another conference is called, with the idea of allaying unrest and misleading the general public as to the true position. No solution of the trouble has been evolved from these conferences. On Monday next there is to be another such gathering in Melbourne. The Prime Minister and the Premiers of the various States will reassemble for the purpose of meeting their master, the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board. It was admitted, in answer to a question asked in the House this afternoon, that it is not a matter of what the elected representatives ‘ of the people have to say; the decision lies with the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Surely the unemployed and the people of Australia generally must now appreciate the true position, that all- this talk about our so-called democracy and the elective rights of the people, is so much flim-flam.; that their representatives have no opportunity to give effect to their convictions.
Next Monday will witness a repetition of what has happened at previous conferences. The Premiers will meet merely to receive their instructions from the man who has been master of the situation throughout. At the last Premiers Conference, which was held in Canberra not long after this Government was returned to power, great publicity was given to what was declared to be a new policy which would overcome all difficulties. One slogan was “Economy alone is not the solution.” It was reasonable to assume from those words that the Government of Australia had learned from bitter experience that the policy of slashing wage standards and social services would not solve the problem. I and many others fostered the hope that the Government had determined to alter its policy, but when the amendments of the Financial Emergency Act came before us recently, we were quickly disillusioned. All that talk was mere camouflage, to quieten the people while the Government prepared a new offensive against the workers and the pensioners. It would appear that the Government has no solution of the problem. It has been in office for almost twelve months, a sufficient period for the evolution of a satisfactory policy of rehabilitation. If the policy of the past is to be persisted in, there is no hope of relief for those who have suffered so much. Apparently those who are unemployed are expected to remain at home disconsolately waiting, Micawber-like, for something to turn up. That is a sad commentary on the social system of this country, particularly as science and machinery have reached such a high standard,. and Australia is capable of producing ten times more, than our people need.
Despite the exaggerated promises that were made by this Government during the election, and the flourish of trumpets which ushered it into power, the sad fact remains that, although it has been in office almost twelve months,: our unemployment figures have increased. . The Commonwealth Government endeavours to place the burden on the State Governments. . I disapprove of that cowardly action,, because I’ know that the real power rests with the Commonwealth, and not with the States. The Government must be forced to recognize and honour its obligations, in accordance with its election promises. Even if the Government cannot meet the position adequately, it should at least make provision for speci.il relief prior to Christmas, lt has been disclosed that a surplus of £2,600,000 has accumulated since the end of the last financial year; therefore the Government cannot properly refuse to meet the request that my colleagues and I now make. I could continue almost’ indefinitely on this most important subject, but time will not permit me to do so. I shall merely refer to other opinions in support of my contention. Speaking at Grafton on the 20th July last, the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) said -
Since Mr. Lyons assumed office, the official figures show that unemployment has increased in every State, and primary producers are drifting steadily closer to bankruptcy.
– That is true.
– The right honorable member’s words are supported by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), and they should be given serious consideration. I leave the matter at that, feeling that all must realize the seriousness of the position of our unfortunate unemployed. If tradition has any merit in the eyes of the Government, let it give effect to the spirit of Christmastide, agree to my motion, and assist those who are in distress, so that their lot may be made easier than it has been for the past two years.
.- Every honorable member must recognize the importance of the subject which has been raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). He has referred to a problem, which is not peculiar to Australia, but exists in every other colin try in the world. No one with any knowledge of the subject, or with any sense of responsibility, would suggest that the Government of Australia is responsible for a phenomenon which has made its appearance in every quarter of the world. The widespread general unemployment which now exists is a symptom of the absence of economic and social equilibrium throughout the world. The honor able member has only one suggestion, so far as he suggests anything at all ; that is, the payment of money. Surely everybody recognizes that the payment of money is no cure for unemployment. It affords temporary relief, but does not even begin to solve the problem. In fact, it has been demonstrated that it frequently aggravates the trouble towards the solution of which it is directed. The Commonwealth Government has provided substantial sums this year for the relief of unemployment.
– It has wasted the money.
– That is a perfect instance of the completely irresponsible interjections which honorable members from that quarter of the House make, in order to obtain some publicity for themselves. As a matter of fact; the money provided was expended by the States, and not by the Commonwealth. Thus, it is perfectly clear that if it was wasted - upon which point the honorable member presents no evidence - it was not wasted by the Commonwealth. The amount provided was one-half of £3,200,000, with an additional sum of £600,000 for the State of New South ‘Wales, because the then Government of that State was reduced to such a position that it was unable at the time to afford any special assistance to the unemployed. The total sum made available by the Commonwealth was, therefore, £2,200,000, which it must be admitted was a substantial grant. The question whether the money for this purpose is provided by the Commonwealth or the State is not a matter of prime importance, because it takes the form of an advance from the Commonwealth Bank, and if the Commonwealth receives more the States get. less. It is very easy to suggest that the Commonwealth should do more than it is doing. If it did more the result would be that the States would do less. That, unfortunately, has been the position within recent years.
I come now to the wider question. The honorable member for West Sydney has said that the Leader of this Government (Mr. Lyons) at the last election promised that unemployment would disappear, and .that the problem would be solved if his party were returned to power. The honorable member has not been able to quote any such statement. Throughout the elections, as well as during the last Parliament, I .spoke very frequently indeed on this subject. On a number of occasions I said, both here and elsewhere, that the unemployment problem could not be solved by direct government action, that by far the greatest proportion of employment in this country was provided by private enterprise, and that the only long-range method of dealing with the question was to give private enterprise a chance to employ our people. That has been the policy of the Government. The promise has not been made by its leaders that the problem would be solved by direct governmental or legislative action. The policy speech delivered before the last elections by the present Prime Minister, a copy of which I have in my hand, does not contain a promise to solve the problem. It recognizes the difficulty of the subject, and states that many of Australia’s troubles are duc to world conditions over which we have no control. It mentions, however, that there are certain things that we can do to assist in righting the position in which Australia, in common with other countries of the world, finds herself. The right honorable gentleman pointed out that there was no prospect of even beginning to deal with the problem in Australia unless the finances of the different governments were placed on a sound basis; and he argued that the first requirement was the balancing of the Commonwealth budget. He directed attention to the fact that the fear of default, which was clue very largely to the actions of the political group that is represented in this chamber by the honorable member who moved this motion, was perhaps the most significant cause of unemployment in this country at that time; and he expressed the belief that if the policy of repudiation were removed from the political arena we should begin to have a chance of overcoming our difficulties. Surely it must be appreciated by everybody that time is required for the settlement of this question, no matter what methods may be adopted, particularly in the present unfortunate condition of the world. It is most gratifying that already there are many signs of improvement. Honorable members have watched with sadness and sorrow the growth of the unemployment figures. In September, 1929, the percentage of unemployment was 12.1 per cent. The position became worse every quarter after that date, until the figure reached 2S per cent, in December, 1931, 28.3 per cent, in March last, and 30 per cent, in June last. The first backward movement for four or five years was in September of this year, when the figure receded to 29.6 per cent.
– The honorable gentleman is quite wrong.
– The quarterly summary of Australian statistics for June, 1932, gives the unemployment figures on an annual basis from 1927 onwards. They are as follows : -
The percentage, of course, varied from time to time throughout the different years. Accepting the challenge of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), I shall give the quarterly figures. In the first quarter of 1929, the percentage of unemployment was 9.3 per cent. Then, unfortunately, the figure increased every quarter, .until in the second quarter of the present year it reached the level of 30 per cent. Now, for the first time in that period of practically’ four years, there is a turn for the better. The figures for the July to September quarter were taken in the middle of August, which is a bad time of the year for employment. The experience of honorable members must be similar to mine. I hear from day to day of more and more men obtaining, not losing, employment. I have met a large number of employers, all of whom have told me that they are engaging additional hands. One hears of works opening this year. During the past two years or more, unfortunately, I heard only of works closing, and of men being put off. A press message from Sydney, dated the 13th September, gives the following unemployment figures: -
The number of metropolitan unemployed registered at the Labour Bureau has dropped to 37,000, the lowest since last year. The big registration this year was 44,712 in June.
I find that in Melbourne and , Sydney there is now an improvement in building operations. I remind honorable members of the irresistible facts, based on his personal experience in his own constituency, placed before the House yesterday by the honorable member for Batman- (Mr. Dennis). In all directions there are signs of improvement, because people feel that there is no longer the risk of values being destroyed, and of the reward of a;ll enterprise, which permits the giving of employment, disappearing on account of,, governmental repudiation and default. We see the change taking place on every hand.
Let honorable members examine recent figures showing increased importations of goods. They will see that the additional imports are not goods to be consumed directly in Australia, but goods to, be used by manufacturers in giving employment in this country. An examination of the nature of the imports shows that manufacturers are now in a position to give more employment than has been possible for a considerable time past. The Government hopes that it will be possible to reduce taxation, which would be one of the greatest contributions that could be made to the putting of men into employment. We believe that if this Parliament and the other Parliaments of the Empire adopt the Ottawa agreement, there will be such a greatly improved prospect for the man on the land that he will have a market secured for his goods to such an extent that not only will employment on the land increase, but work will be provided in other industries in the cities and towns of Australia. One of the difficulties of the w>orld is well illustrated by an extract from a publication of the International Labour Office, dated the 11th July last. The report of the Economic Committee of the League of Nations states that -
The value of international trade is only onehalf, or perhaps less than one-half, ;of what it was in the first quarter of 1929. . During these three years the number of unemployed lias more than doubled, and according to inter national labour office figures now reaches 20,000,000 to 25,000.000. The situation daily grows worse.
In Australia I am glad to say that to-day the position is improving.
.- The motion submitted by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is surely one that we can consider on humanitarian lines, without endeavouring to convert the discussion into an argument on figures. I regret that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has made the reply that he has given to the speech of the honorable member. His statement affords little hope to the many thousands of unemployed. In the first place, I direct attention to a matter which may be regarded by some as of small consequence. . The Attorney-General deliberately quoted, and repeated, figures which appeared to be official, but which did not clearly show the accurate position. When I was speaking on the budget there was an interjection to the effect that my quotations from the Statistician’s figures regarding the number of unemployed were for the June quarter, but that the figures for the September quarter showed a marked improvement. I have ascertained that the figures for the September quarter showed the degree of unemployment to be 29.6 per cent., compared with 30 per cent, in June. But that is not a substantial reduction.
– But after September, the winter months were being left behind.
– I shall refer to. that aspect of the matter. The AttorneyGeneral deliberately placed official statistics before us, and showed the position, quarter by quarter. He stated emphatically that the last quarter’s figures gave the first sign of any decrease in the number of the unemployed. I find from the official figures that in the third quarter of 1931 the amount of unemployment was 2S.3 per cent., and in the fourth quarter 28 per cent., there being a very slight reduction; yet the AttorneyGeneral claimed that the first sign of any downward trend was that in last quarter’s return.
– I am sorry if I misrepresented the position in any way; but I was reading from the figures that I had before me.
– The figure was28 per cent. when the present Government took office, and then it rose to 28.3 per cent., although it had been 28.3 per cent. during the quarter before the Government came into power. The degree of unemployment was 28.3 per cent. in the third quarter of 1931, 28 per cent. in the fourth quarter of 1931, 28.3 per cent. in the first quarter of 1932, and 30 per cent. in the second quarter of 1932. At the present time, it is 29.6 per cent. But the proper test is applied by comparing the figures for the September quarter of this year with those of the September quarter of last year. The figures last year were 28.3 per cent., and this year they are 29.6 per cent. That is the answer to the argument presented by the Minister.
The next point that the AttorneyGeneral made was that no promise had been held out at the last election that unemployment would be reduced if the party opposite were returned to power. The Attorney-General claimed that the leaders of the ministerial party had said nothing on that subject at the election, but this is what the Leader of the present Government stated at Adelaide on the 10th April-
Restore confidence and money will flow into industry. Men will begin to be employed, and the whole thing will grow like a snowball.
I remind honorable members of the election slogans that were posted on hoardings and printed on leaflets by the party opposite. These have been quoted in this House by the score. I recognize that at election times leaflets are distributed by candidates other than leaders; yet when I was the leader of a government I was held personally responsible by the present Attorney-General for all sorts of election cries. The present Government and its supporters appealed to the people by means of heart-rending pictures of men crying, “Mate, give me a job “, and “ Come and give me a chance “. Another slogan of the party opposite was “ Work for all.” Many of those announcements were signed by the private secretary to the Prime Minister. Surely, if the right honorable gentleman will not accept responsibility for them, he will take responsibility for nothing. I regret that he has launched an attack upon the
Opposition on the subject of unemployment, because on the Prime Minister rests the responsibility of showing what can and will be done to relieve those in need of work. I do not say that the Government alone can solve this problem, for I know that it is unable to do so; nor do I deny that the great bulk of government employment must be provided by State governments, for I know that it is so. But the finding of the money to make additional employment possible is the direct responsibility of the federal authority. I do not agree that the master of the situation is the Commonwealth Bank Board. When my Government was in office, the masters of the situation were the Commonwealth Bank Board and the Senate in combination. But this Government has control in both Houses of the Parliament. It can, therefore, control any board or banking institution., and can introduce and cause to be passed any banking legislation necessary to meet the situation. It is true that about 80 per cent, of the employment in Australia must be provided by private employers; but a start must be given by the Government. A wage fund must be provided that will create a demand for the goods that private manufacturers and producers make available. This fund can be established only by the provision of money. I do not suggest that the provision of advances by the banks will solve the unemployment problem, but it will cercertainly go a long way towards alleviating the sufferings of the people. The proposal that something should be done to provide an extra amount of work before Christmas ispractical in every sense, and it is of no use for the AttorneyGeneral to sneer at those who are suggesting it. We need money. We have available in” this country the machinery, the natural resources, and the man power, together with a magnificent season. But the machinery and man power are idle. Given the money, we could provide all the necessaries of life, and also some of its comforts, for our people. The only thing that stands in the way of our doing so is the lack of money to set the wheels of industry in motion. This can be provided in the way I outlined in my speech on the budget. But the Government has seen fit to ignore tlie suggestions that have been offered to it in this House, and also the advice of some of the world’s, leading economists and financiers. We’ cannot solve the world-wide problem of unemployment; but I believe that we can reduce by 50 per cent, the suffering of our own people. This is the time for action. _In view of the high hopes that were held out to hundreds of thousands of people in Australia by the members of the present Government during the election campaign at the end of last year, there is every justification for the demand that the Government, should attempt to do something more than it has done of a practicable character.
I shall not deny that the Government has done something. It has made a start. But has it done all that we may reasonably expect of it? Does it intend to stop immediately after it has started? Notwithstanding what the Attorney-General has said, there is ample room for the immediate improvement of the position. The honorable gentleman quoted^ certain import figures with the object of showing that goods were coming here which manufacturers will use. Amongst those goods is cotton yarn. It was being produced in this country until the present Government interfered with the arrangements in existence when it assumed office. It should still be produced here, whereas it is being imported. What the AttorneyGeneral said about men being employed in industry was true. Undoubtedly there was an upward tendency in manufacturing industries ; but, unfortunately, it has been checked. In the circumstances, this Parliament should demand that the Government shall provide some money to enable public employing authorities to make additional work available before Christmas, and so alleviate, at least to some extent, the sufferings of the people.
. Unemployment is too poignant a human tragedy, and creates too great an amount of national waste, for us to regard the alleviation of it as a party question. I will not attempt to attribute to any particular government dr party the blame for the present situation. We shall not cure this ill merely by talking about it. Our duty is to devise ways and means of striking at the root of it. Unfortunately for Australia, as well as the rest of the world, the position is not improving. Official statistics which have just been made available show that while the percentage of unemployment in the September quarter of 1931 was 28.3, in the September quarter of 1932 it was 29.6. In consequence of the great variations in casual labour conditions in Australia, the only fair comparison that we can make is between the corresponding quarters of each year.
We must do something to alleviate the conditions which face us. Before the Premiers Conference was held last April, the Prime Minister asked honorable members of this Parliament to offer constructive proposals for the consideration of the conference. The Country party made certain concrete propositions. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) suggested a means by which the maximum amount of employment could be given in developing rural areas for primary production. The scheme he outlined was intended to be submitted to the Premiers Conference, for it could only be implemented by Commonwealth and State action. Certain State governments have, to some extent, put into operation the proposals of the honorable member, and there has since been a marked improvement in the unemployment position in certain localities. For instance, at least 1,000 additional men have been employed on banana plantations in the North Coast areas of New South Wales. This ha3 been possible largely as the result of the implementing of the scheme of the honorable member for Calare. Whether the employment of these men. will be jeopardized by the recent action of the .Government in regard to the banana industry, is a matter that we shall have to consider very carefully. In the dairying districts, to cite another example, a number of additional men have been employed in clearing land and constructing roads of access, so that areas not formerly available for use, have been opened up. This will, undoubtedly, result in permanent good to the dairying industry. But the good work that has been started in this way by the State Governments has been more or less nullified, because the price of plant and equipment for primary production is three or four times greater than it was years ago. The price of shovels, for instance, is double what it was before the war, and the cost of galvanized iron, barbed wire, and many other requirements essential to the advancement of our primary industries, is also very much greater than it should be. This makes it impossible foi- primary producers to provide the amount of employment that they could otherwise make available. Every one knows that the only real way in which the people of this or any other country can be put to work, and kept at it, is to bring the prices of the products of the farm into harmony with the prices of industrial products. In seeking to solve our present difficulties, we cannot afford to overlook the significant fact that, while the price of farm products fell between June, 1928, and June, 1932, by 46.7 per cent., and the value of real wages by 14.4 per cent, in Australia, the price of industrial products actually increased by 10.7 per cent. It is quite obvious that the purchasing power of the wage-earners and producers of this country is hopelessly incapable of coping with such a situation, and consequently, unemployment has spread to an alarming extent. We cannot expect to improve our conditions, and make industry profitable, until there is a greater degree of harmony between the prices of farm and manufactured products. I have some interesting quarterly statistics showing the percentage of unemployment in certain industrial groups, up to the end of June. These show that although prices have advanced, unemployment has increased in every group in the second quarter of this year, compared with the first quarter of it. In wood and furniture manufacturing, the percentage of unemployment in the first quarter was 36.6 per cent., and in the second, 39.6 per cent. Engineering metal works, &c, first quarter, 31.1, second quarter, 33.9; books, printing, &c, 15.4 and 16.8 respectively; and building, 37.9 and 42.1 respectively. Altogether, the percentage of unemployment has increased from 28.3 to 30. Only two groups relating to secondary industries - clothing, hats and boots, and food, drink, and tobacco, which are absolute, necessaries of life - are really employing as many men as previously. For three years we have had tariff imposed upon tariff, and that has proved to be no cure for our ills. Let us now try the opposite course of reducing tariffs, so as to increase the total international trade and the total employment throughout the world. Australia ha3 about 400,000 people unemployed, and, according to the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), the rest of the world has from 24,000,000 to 25,000,000 people unemployed. We have increased tariff after tariff, but have been unsuccessful in relieving unemployment. We are getting deeper into the financial mire, so let us take the opposite course and try to improve our position by reducing the tariff.
.- The moving of the adjournment of the House by an honorable member is undoubtedly an effective means of attracting the attention of the House, the people and the press, to a subject which he deems to warrant immediate discussion ; but the’ honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in moving the adjournment of the House when we are dealing with the budget, under which every subject under the sun may be discussed, has shown questionable taste. The honorable member had every opportunity to discuss unemployment during the debate on the budget. Every honorable member is concerned with the problem of unemployment within Australia, but we have to face the fact that the world has been stricken with an economic crisis, and that there is no easy solution of our problems. The last Government, when it took office, had a colossal task in front of it. It endeavoured to deal with unemployment by introducing legislation which was anathema to every one except its supporters. Fortunately that legislation was rejected by another place, and Australia’s reputation remained unblemished, both here and abroad. The allegation has been made that this Government has broken its promise to give every man a job. It has been stated that we, on this side of the House, made wild election promises to eliminate unemployment altogether. Nothing of the kind ever entered the head of any supporter of the Government.
– The honorable member cannot truly say that.
– It is all very well for honorable members opposite to try to make political capital by exploiting the unfortunate unemployed. Personally, I have no misgivings on the .subject. I realize that the recovery of Australia will be slow. The depression is world-wide, and our financial problem cannot be solved in Australia alone. Yet we can take remedial measures, and make some improvement in our position. A human being who is seriously ill does not suddenly recover. The age of miracles is past, and & patient must pass through the convalescent stage before he recovers from illness. Australia has now reached the convalescent stage. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) advocates a reduction of the tariff as a means of increasing employment. It is easy to do that, but not quite so easy to show how it can be done. The majority of the people of Australia are dependent on secondary industries. The finding of the tariff committee, which consisted of prominent economists and public men of Australia, was that Australia could not feed its present population if it depended only upon its primary industries. No agricultural country has ever become a great country. The great countries of the world - Great Britain, Germany, and the United States of America - are manufacturing countries, their secondary industries working hand in hand with their primary industries. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) quoted certain figures, in which the Leader of the Opposition (.Mr. Scullin) was able to point to a slight discrepancy.
– The Attorney-Genera! admitted that he had made a mistake.
– I should be surprised had ho done otherwise. It was a mere slip in figures. What he has said is, in effect, absolutely true, because the unemployment figures have now practically halted. The percentage of unemployment was, in the third quarter of 1929, 12.1 per cent., and in the corresponding period of 1930, 20.5 per cent., an increase of 8 per cent. In 1931, the percentage was 2S.3, which was a considerable increase, and in 1932, during this Government’s term of office, it increased only by 1.3 per cent. We can, therefore, say that Australia is now convalescing, and making some recovery in respect of unemployment. When an adjournment motion is sprung upon the House, it is difficult for honorable members to gain access to the figures that they require.
– A postponement of this discussion is not likely to help feed the unemployed at Christmas time.
– That is a mere empty statement, which, although it may impress people in the Domain, does not impress honorable members in this chamber. Any honorable member who is in touch with the commercial world - and I can speak for Victoria - knows that there has been a definite improvement in business. Our adverse trade balance, which has been criticized by the Leader of the Opposition, is undoubtedly a sign of improvement; but I do not say that it is advisable that it should continue. A trade balance must be kept; but it is a distinct sign of improvement when warehouses renew their stocks. This is the seasonal period of highest imports and lowest exports, and at such a time it is only natural that there should be an adverse trade balance in Australia. On Tuesday night last the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Dennis) submitted to the House pertinent figures relating to brick works and other activities, and he showed definitely that many additional men had been absorbed in those avenues of employment. I know that in my own business affairs there has this year been a definite improvement in turnover compared with last year. Many firms, including my own, are making a net profit for the first time for some years, while there has been a great increase in building and allied activities in Melbourne. The moving of the adjournment of this House will not help to solve the problem of unemployment; it merely gives the honorable member for West Sydney and others an opportunity to make a speech and to have 35 copies of it sent to his favoured constituents.
– That is a mean thing to say.
– It is true. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has for some time past endeavoured to embarrass the Prime Minister by continually asking questions without notice on the subject of unemployment. Members of the little group in the corner. - the sole surviving supporters of Mr. Lang and his policy - who were so truculent a little while ago, but failed miserably when the appeal to the people was made, would now have the people believe that they, and they only, are the friends of the widows and children, and have a monopoly of human sympathy. Honorable members on this side of the House are just as much concerned as they are about this problem of unemployment and are just as anxious to see introduced measures to relieve it. So I say that since this Government has come into power, there has been a definite improvement in the unemployment figures, and I suggest that the honorable member who submitted this motion and those who support it would do well to await the publication of the figures for the December quarter. If then, there is no improvement they might direct attention to the matter.
– I support the motion, not as was suggested by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), for political purposes, but because Ibelieve it is right that attention should be directed to the plight of our great army of unemployed and their dependants. This problem should be above all parties; it should not be used as political propaganda. Many thousands of people having been unemployed for so long, are practically without clothing, and while State Governments are doing what they can to give work, this Government has, so far, done nothing to make available clothing to those who need it so much. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has declared that the United Australia Party did not, during the election campaign, promise, if returned, to introduce legislation to provide employment. I direct his attention to a circular which I hold in my hand, issued in the name of Mr. M. M. Threlfall, private secretary to the Prime Minister, and publicity director to the United Australia Party during the elections. Honorable members will notice a photograph of Mr. Threlfall and Mr. H. V. Levy inspecting posters that were issued on behalf of the United
Australia Party. This one bears the following caption: -
The things that matter.
Security for your savings.
Another poster issued during the election made this appeal to the people -
Mates help me get a job.
I invite honorable members to study these election posters, and see if they were not so much lying, guttersnipe propaganda for the purpose of securing votes, because now the Government is not prepared to redeem its promise.
– Order ! The honorable member must not use unparliamentary language.
– On an occasion like this. Mr. Speaker, I feel that what I am saying is fully justified, but I shall endeavour to obey your ruling. Another election promise of the United Australia Party appeared in the Adelaide News on the 7th December, 1931, in the form of the following advertisement : -
A vote for Lyons is a vote for work.
Scullin and Lang failed.
Give Lyons a chance.
He can do it.
Where is he doing it? Here is another Christmas message that appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 26th December -
We should all of us, too, determine that our one impelling purpose will be to work towards the restoration of conditions that will provide employment. That is the fundamental problem confronting us.
We admit that it is. Yet members supporting the Government object when a motion for the adjournment of the House is submitted by the leader of my party, and accuse us of taking up the time of the House! The adjournment should be moved every week until this Government really does something of a tangible nature to relieve unemployment. At West Wallsend and other parts of my electorate, where some of the coal mines have been closed down since 1927, and where one mine only is working intermittently, the people are in a desperate plight. I have received a letter from the local relief committee asking me to appeal to the Government for clothing and boots, of which they stand in great need, as a grant of clothing has not been made to them since August of last year. We are not so foolish as to think that we can cure unemployment under the present system, but we contend that it is the duty of the Government to relieve the sufferings of the people. As we shall soon be approaching the Christmas season, I appeal to honorable members who, in the security of their homes will have ample supplies of all the necessaries and comforts of civilization, to remember the lot of those 400,000 fellow citizens who have been unemployed for so long. Doubtless, many honorable members are regular attendants at, church services, and would like to be regarded as Christians. How can they claim to be Christians if they are not prepared to bring pressure on this Government to redeem its election proraises to relieve unemployment? We have no desire to occupy the time of this House in unnecessary discussion about unemployment. Our one aim is to induce the Government to take definite action. Let us examine the figures relating to unemployment and see where we stand. Last night we listened to the honorable member for Lang” (Mr. Dein) who, apparently, is suffering from “ Langitis.” He endeavoured to show us that the position had improved, but unfortunately for him the Attorney-General admitted that the latest figures indicated an increase in unemployment from 28.3 to 29.6. Consequently, the statement of the honorable member for Lang is absolutely all “puff.” When he said that the number of unemployed had declined, he meant, apparently, that there had been a reduction in the number of those on the dole. No doubt that is true. Many persons have been deprived by the Government of New South Wales of the miserable sustenance given to the unemployed, and the pension paid by the Commonwealth to invalids is assessed by the so-called Christian Stevens Ministry as income which debars their families from receiving the dole. I have appealed to the Prime Minister to protest to the Premier of New South Wales against ‘ assessing as income the pension paid to the sick and afflicted in hospitals and homes. This pension is paid for the maintenance of the indi vidual, but the. Stevens Government includes it in the income of the family. As a result of legislation to be introduced in the New South Wales Parliament, 3,000 railway employees mli lose their jobs and be added to the ranks of unemployed. Is this solving the unemployment problem?
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Any person who understands parliamentary tactics realizes that this motion has been made only for the purpose of anticipating the deliberations of the Premiers Conference which is to commence on Monday next. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is a member of a party whose aim and object has been to create as much unemployment as possible, and put men on the dole, with a view to bringing about a state of discontent which will facilitate the socialization of industry. The members of the Lang group have from every platform promulgated their belief that the present social order has run its course and must make way for the Communist system represented by the Soviet government in Russia. When comparing statistics regarding unemployment, we have to remember that until June last, the Lang Government was in power in New South Wales, and for months before had been advocating that Australia should not pay interest on its overseas debt, and had advertised that policy of default to the world. The Lang party set out to ruin the credit of Australia with a view to increasing unemployment. That was clear even to the Scullin Ministry. But, after taking legal proceedings against the’ Lang Government to recover amounts paid by the Commonwealth to. overseas bondholders, in respect of which the Lang Government had defaulted, the Federal Ministry accepted Mr. Lang’s promise to reform and took up a more sympathetic attitude towards him. However, he again defaulted and the present Commonwealth Government had to resort to drastic measures to bring the defaulter to account. When the enforcement legislation was before this House, the entire Opposition combined in destructive criticism of the Commonwealth
Government, apparently, in order to destroy public credit and throw more people out of employment, and so discredit the Lyons Ministry. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) referred to the coal-miners who are out of work. Every representative of the coal-mining industry in New South Wales knows that when the miners went on strike two or three years ago, the Bavin Government offered to compromise with them on their claim if they would return to work. The officers of the Coal Miners Federation accepted the offer, but the Red minority dissented, and the whole of the northern miners were on strike for two years.
– Were they not locked out ?
– If they were locked out, it was by their own leaders.
– You are a liar.
– Mr. Speaker, I do not know what latitude you allow to the honorable member, but do you permit him to call me a liar?
– The honorable member for Hunter must withdraw the statement he made.
– I withdraw the word “ liar “ and substitute “ guilty of wilful and deliberate misrepresentation.”
– The honorable member has used an unparliamentary expression, and must withdraw it without qualification.
– Why should I withdraw when he has told a wilful falsehood?
– I cannot allow any explanation or argument. If the honorable member -will not withdraw, I shall name him.
– - I withdraw the remark, but I shall repeat it to him outside the chamber.
– Order !
– I withdraw.
– It is common knowledge that although the executive officers of the Coal Miners Federation were willing to accept the compromise offered by the Bavin Government, their advice was overridden by the Red minority, with the result that there was chaos and unemployment in the industry for two years, after which the men returned to work on the terras they had rejected. The widespread unemployment in New South
Wales to-day has been caused by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), the honorable member for Hunter (Mr James), and men who are politically associated with them. They have incited the “ basher “ gangs and done everything within their power to create discontent in the minds of the workers, and make an increasing number of persons dependent upon the dole. This motion for the adjournment of the House will do nothing to provide the unemployed with a Christmas dinner. The present Government, by countering the evil deeds of the Lang Government in the Parliament of New South Wales, and nullifying the effects of dangerous propaganda, which has caused chaos not only in New South Wales, but throughout Australia, is gradually bringing about a healthier economic state which will lead to greater employment. No reasonable person expected that the evil effects of the “Lang is Right “ propaganda would be completely eradicated at once. Happily the supporters of Mr. Lang received their quietus from the electors; only a few of them were returned to this Parliament, and even they had meagre majorities. In the history of New South Wales, no party has done more injury to the workers thaihove the supporters of Mr. Lang. We who support the Lyons Ministry, are accused of having made to the electors, lavish promises of employment. When during the election campaign I was asked in my electorate, which at the previous election had given a majority of 20,000 to the Labour candidate, what the United Australia Party would do to restore employment. I stated frankly that a long time would be required to undo the misdeeds of the Lang Government. The members of the legitimate Opposition in this House did not act fairly towards the Commonwealth Ministry when it was trying to counter Mr. Lang’s mischievous policy.
– Order. The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The motion for the adjournment of the House in order to discuss the allimportant subject of unemployment has generated a considerable amount of heat amongst honorable members on the
Government side, but if the motion serves only to impress upon the Government the urgency of this problem, and to bring it prominently under the notice of the Commonwealth and State Ministers who will assemble in Melbourne next week, it will not have been made in vain. It is futile for ministerial supporters to try to brush this motion lightly aside by suggesting that we who are supporting it are actuated by political partisanship. During the last general election campaign, the United Australia Party candidates not only promised to relieve unemployment, but gave all sorts of reasons why they would be able to do so. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) stated this afternoon that the honorable member for West Sydney could not point to any definite promise made by the present Prime Minister during the election campaign. But the pamphlets which were broadcast by the anti-Labour candidates were full of definite promises. I hold one headed “ The United Australia Party way to solve Unemployment.” These publications mentioned the number of men out of work while the Scullin Government was in office, and stated that the election of Mr. Lyons to office would bo followed by an extension of credit, and that money would be available for public works and industrial developments which would speedily absorb the unemployed. One pamphlet stated that the United Australia Party stood firm for sound tariff protection, and that no rough hands would he laid on the existing tariff; there would be no sudden drastic changes, without reference to the Tariff Board, that would be likely to lead to further unemployment in Australia. Other definite promises were made by responsible members of the present Government. On the 4th of December last, the Prime Minister said -
Bya change of government, every man out of work will at once be brought nearer to reemployment.
The 400,000 men who are out of work to-day have a right to demand that something be done to give relief to them. The statistics quoted by the Leader of the Opposition showed that the number of unemployed has substantially increased since the present Government assumed office. When the Scullin Government resigned, the total number of unionists registered as unemployed was 118,732 or 28 per cent. ; in the first three months of the Lyons administration, the number increased to 120,366 or 28.3 per cent., and in the second three months to 124,068 or 30 per cent. Comparing the quarter ended the 30th September, 1932, with the corresponding period of last year, we find that unemployment has increased from 28 . 3 per cent. to 29 . 6 per cent. If we go back to the figures of the 1921 census as a basis of calculation, we find that it was estimated that there were four times as many men out of work as the number of unionists who were so reported. On that basis there are about 495,000 workers unemployed to-day. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) said that the recent influx of imports was a sign of returning prosperity; but he added that we must not allow it to continue. What an extraordinary contradiction ! The influx of imports is not a sign of returning prosperity; it is the natural result of the reduction of import duties. The AttorneyGeneral, who should have known better, said that these imports comprise goods which are not manufactured in Australia.
– That is true.
Mr.FORDE. - Let me give the House the facts in connexion with cotton yarn. Whereas during the two months, July and August 1931, our imports of cotton yarn were valued at £81,000; for the corresponding two months of this year we imported cotton yarn to the value of £131,000. Because of the reduction of the duty on cotton yarn, goods from Japan and Great Britain are entering this country to the detriment of the Australian cotton-spinning industry. I have here a letter from Davies Coop and Company Proprietary Limited, from which I extract the following paragraph : -
We wish to state that we are having orders cancelled and buyers are requesting to return yarn because they are able to import this partially mercerized yarn approximately 10 per cent. cheaper than the soft cotton and are using it as soft cotton for the purpose of making underwear.
Another paragraph in the letter reads -
Our new mill contains the most modern machinery in the world, with an additional capacity of 2,500,000 lb. weight per annum on oneshift.
As a result of the reduced duties on cotton yarn, and the substitution that is taking place, Australian mills are not work’ ing at full pressure, and men and women are being thrown out of employment. The vice-chairman of Austral Silk and Cotton Mills Limited, one of the biggest manufacturing concerns in Australia, stated in his annual report-
It ia with great concern I have to state that the sales of cotton yarns produced by our mill have been affected seriously by the action, or rather inaction, of the Federal Government during recent months. Most unfortunately, it has led also to short-time at the mill, and the dismissal of employees.
In an address to the shareholders of Yarra Falls Limited, the Vice-Chairman stated -
At present your mill is fully occupied, hut reading between the lines of this Ottawa agreement I can sec signs of trouble ahead.
– I am afraid that the honorable member has forgotten the purpose of the motion. ‘
– I was replying to the’ Attorney-General’s statement that there had been no imports other than of raw materials for Australian manufacturers, and that the Ottawa agreement would lead to a restoration of confidence in Australian industries and provide employment.
– The honorable member is not making merely a passing reference; he is debating the matter.
– Instead of employing more hands, some of the big industrial concerns in Australia are putting men and women off. The Ottawa agreement, referred to by the Attorney-General, will reduce employment in the Queensland banana and the canned pineapple industries, which employs large numbers of workers. Hundreds of returned’ soldiers who are engaged in growing pineapples in Queensland will be hard hit by the terms of the Ottawa agreement in relation to canned fruits. According to Mr. Ranger, the director of fruit marketing in Queensland, the Ottawa agreement will give a decided setback to at least two important Queensland industries, instead of providing employment, which the AttorneyGeneral claims it will do. It is interesting to recall that, in 1921, when supporting the duty on Fijian bananas,
Senator Greene said that he did not know of any industry more entitled to a full measure of protection. Today the honorable senator is a member of a Government which is striking a blow at .one Australian industry after another. The Government has failed to grapple with the problem of unemployment. Unemployment has increased considerably since it assumed office, notwithstanding that during the election campaign its candidates declared from every platform that a Nationalist Government would solve the unemployment difficulty. Members of all parties are justified in calling on the Government to honour its election promises. ‘
.- Many honorable members who have spoken have lost sight of the purpose of the motion, which is that some relief shall be granted to those who will be out of employment during the forthcoming Christ’ mas season, Statistics have been quoted to show, in turn, that unemployment has both increased and decreased; but figures mean nothing to me in this connexion, If only 1 per cent, of our people is out pf employment it is the duty of the Government to provide the unfortunates concerned with the necessaries of life. Honorable members who claim that adequate relief can be obtained by the workless from the State Governments should be subjected to a dose of the same medicine; they should be forced to exist op the measure of assistance rendered by the States. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) admitted that he was in error when quoting certain figures to support his claim that unemployment had decreased. He was inaccurate in other statements also. He said, for instance, that unemployment is increasing in every country in the world. That is not so. I do not wish in this discussion to compare the various forms of government in other parts of the world with the system of government in Australia; but I remind honorable members that in the parliamentary Library there is a volume which contains a report of a committee set up by the League of Nations to inquire into world problems. The League of Nations cannot be said to be favorably disposed towards the Soviet form of government.
Yet Professor Ohlin, of the Stockholm University, who was chairman of the committee to which I have referred, said that the only country in the world in which unemployment had practically ceased to exist was Russia.
– Work is compulsory there.
– It is well for some honorable members that work is not compulsory in Australia. Lord Marl and, who recently visited Soviet Russia, reported on his return that, whereas the standard of living in England was on the decline, in Russia, where the people had lived for centuries on a low standard, it was improving. Whether honorable members believe that unemployment in Australia has decreased or increased, not one of them would suggest that a grant of money to relieve the effects of unemployment at Christmas time is a permanent solution of the problem of unemployment. It is urged by honorable members opposite that, by stimulating private enterprise, the problem will be solved. Private enterprise cannot solve this problem. If private enterprise could show a profitable return on the money invested, work would be plentiful. But what is the use of private enterprise stimulating production when it is finding it impossible to secure profitable markets for the present production? The representatives of the farmers in this Parliament have repeatedly told us that the price realized for wheat is less than the cost of production. What is the use of manufacturing more commodities if they cannot be disposed of? There are some who claim that these difficulties are the result of our high tariff. Country party members profess to believe in a lower tariff; but, in order to assist the primary producers, they would impose restrictions on the importation of primary products from other countries into Great Britain, so that they could sell their products at an enhanced cost to the British workers. They cannot have it both ways. By means of the Ottawa agreement, the advocates of a lower tariff have endeavoured to create additional tariff protection. Recently, the League of Nations, whose decisions are frequently quoted in this House, granted financial relief to
Austria; but it stipulated that the Austrian nation should not enter into any contract with Germany, either economically or politically, until 1952.
– The honorable member is not dealing with the motion before the Chair.
– If I were permitted to continue my argument I should be able to connect my remarks with the motion. I was endeavouring to answer the contention of the Attorney-General that unemployment is an international problem, and therefore insoluble. . I agree with him that it is an international problem but deny that it is insoluble. Every time it is suggested that representatives of the workers from the countries of the world should get together to discuss that problem, restrictions are placed upon them, although other sections may have as many conferences as they like, so long as the purpose is to stabilize the existing social system. The Statistician’s figures have been freely quoted; but, as I have said, figures can be made to prove almost anything. For instance, in Japan a man who works three days in a year is not counted among the unemployed. The position is not vastly different in New South Wales, for there a man who is employed on relief work for two weeks out of five is not. considered to be unemployed. The Government of New South Wales has another scheme by which it hopes to reduce the number of persons said to be out of employment. It proposes to obtain 100,000 tons of coal from the northern coal-fields, and to give the coal-miners there two days work a week. Their employment will make them ineligible to receive food relief. It is in such ways that United Australia Party Governments seek to reduce the figures relating to unemployment. A further illustration of the methods adopted : the Government of New South Wales counts the old-age pension as income when considering applications for food relief, evidently placing the responsibility of providing for the children upon the pensioner, while the Commonwealth Government, by its legislation, reverses the procedure and places the responsibility of providing for the pensioner upon the children. It is contended by Government supporters that the motion now before the House is merely so much political propaganda. Among them is the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) who, when asked to subscribe to an organization which assists old-age pensioners, refused to contribute a coin, saying that the representations made by (lie organization were only so much Labour propaganda. Some honorable members use the term “ propaganda “ to escape from their obligations to the pensioners and the unemployed. Honorable members opposite speak of equality of sacrifice, but what sacrifice have they made in comparison with those who have lost everything? The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) referred to the losses incurred by those engaged in business, but he has never had to face adversity. It is useless running away from the position. No one has denied that the posters issued during the last election campaign, which were used for exploiting unfortunate unemployed people, were official. They were displayed to delude the people, and to make them believe that they would be provided with work, if this Government were returned to office.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– I do not intend to make any apologies for taking part in this discussion’. I agree with the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) that this is a humanitarian question, and that it should be discussed regardless of party considerations. I go further than the right honorable member, and say that it is also fundamental in connexion with the general economic position of Australia. I deplore the manner in which some honorable members opposite have side-tracked the main issue upon this farreaching problem, the handling of which will determine whether we are, or are not, to continue in a state of economic and industrial depression approaching national insolvency. Honorable members opposite have devoted most of their time to showing that there has been an increase or a decrease of 1 per cent, or 2 per cent, in employment during the last mouth or two. What does that matter? Surely it is not pertinent argument to contend that the percentage of unem ployment in Australia to-day is higher or lower than it was last month, or even at this time last year? The figures disclose that there is a larger number of totally unemployed workers in Australia than ever before. The number of workers on part time this year is seen to have doubled when properly examined and compared with last year. The number of criminal offences, which go up and down as unemployment increases or decreases, is also the highest on record, and will rise higher if nothing is done to tackle this problem. More persons are receiving the invalid and old-age pension, in spite of the restrictions placed upon applicants within the last year or two, than at any previous period. All the evidence goes to show that the problem has never been seriously tackled, and the situation is becoming worse. The records show that governments are not facing the problem, and that commercial men are in the throes of insolvency. I was pleased that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) participated so early in the debate, because it suggested that the Government proposed to face the issue, but I was disappointed to find that he only excused the Government by saying that unemployment is an international question. Of course it is. Some speak of international questions as if they were confined to some particular country, and did not affect the civilized world. Every one who understands internationalism., and the economic and industrial conditions of the world, knows that a question becomes international in character when a large number of countries are affected. An international problem is not one which affects only one or two countries, but one which affects every nation. Had the AttorneyGeneral elaborated upon the international problem of unemployment, he could .have said that every royal commission which has sat during the last two or three years to deal with this subject has passed resolutions instructing the delegates to such conferences to convey such resolutions to the governments of the countries which they represent. The representatives of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Bulgaria, and other countries, have been asked to give effect to the recommendations adopted at such conferences, and until such recommendations are adopted, we cannot solve the problem on an international basis. No relief can be given until some country takes the initiative. The Macmillan Commission made a recommendation to the British Government as to the way in which the problem should be tackled, and a start made. All the members of the British Empire sent delegates to Geneva to take part in a conference with respect to the gold standard. It recommended the various representatives to tackle that problem. The supporters of this Government are urging every one to face the facts, but the Government says that it cannot do anything because this is an international problem, and so they wait for this international unit, which does not exist, to make the first move, and consequently no move is made at all. That is a cowardly attitude to adopt, because no one does anything at all. No movement is made in the matter of disarmament, because no coun try will make a start. As a citizen of Australia, and as a representative of the Australian people in this Parliament, I say emphatically, that if the Government does not face this issue, it will be responsible for ruining our present social system, and destroying the morale of the Australian people, which will bring revolution and ruin in its train’. It is the responsibility of this Government to make a definite move. There are more persons out of work, and more destitution in the country than ever before. The number of claims for invalid and oldage pensions increase every time wages are lowered and the consuming capacity of the people thereby reduced. Every time wages or pensions are reduced the position becomes worse. If we did not know that two years ago, we ought to realize it to-day. The world’s greatest students of political economy have shown the way. A publication issued two months ago and one written by a Mr. Cole, which was made available only to-day. both deal with the world’s economic position and show that the great advantages which should accrue to the world as the result of scientific development are lost because of our faulty system of distribution. “We are producing so rapidly and so abundantly that this is bringing ruin in its train. We are producing at a greater rate than we can distribute and consume. The only way to utilize the benefits which science has made available to industry is by putting men back to work. We should provide them with wages so that they may became consumers, and therefore useful members of society. The Attorney-General said that this is a problem which must be solved by private enterprise, but private enterprise has failed. It is waiting for orders which are not forthcoming, because the people have not the money to purchase the goods produced. There is no demand for goods or services, and consequently private enterprise cannot meet the needs of the nation. At present there are over 400,000 persons actually out of work and a much larger number in only casual employment. If we multiply this number by three as suggested by the judges of the Arbitration Court we will arrive at the actual number who are out of work and who cannot get the necessaries of life to make their homes as comfortable as they ought to be. Many of these persons are on the verge of starvation. What they receive to keep body and soul together comes from their relations, and lessens the consuming power of those who give it, and in that way the position gradually becomes worse. By distributing the work available, by reducing working hours, and by increasing rather than reducing wages, we can increase the purchasing power of the people. Private enterprise cannot be of any use in solving this problem without the help of the Government. If the Government does not tackle it, some honorable members must have the courage to move the adjournment of the House week after week, and month after month. We should not be content until we have relieved the terrible distress which exists.
Question (by Mr. Gander) put -
That tlie question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 2G
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
Tn Committee of Supply.’ Consideration resumed from the 19 th October (vide page 1414), 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.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) stated in his speech introducing the budget that the estimated deficit for 1932-33 -was £2,781,000, and that it was proposed to bridge this gap in part by the objectionable means of reducing pensions to the extent of £1,110,000. I feel that it is desirable to test the feeling of the House on this matter, and I therefore move -
That the item be reduced by 10s.
I take this course in order to call attention to the fact that this attack on pensions is causing hardship to pensioners, and great unrest among the aged and infirm. Referring to the proposal to reduce pensions, the Prime Minister said that he regretted that no other course was open to the Government. With that assertion I emphatically disagree. The Estimates show that many votes have been increased, and unnecessary duplication and waste of public money continue unchecked. State governments still cling to unnecessary appendages, such as governors and agents-general. Dual services are being maintained at much cost to the community, when such services could very well be carried out by one government. In order to permit such extravagances to be continued, some State governments appeal, from time to time, to the Commonwealth for financial assistance. Economy should be effected by abolishing unnecessary overlapping, and by transferring certain powers from the States to the Commonwealth.
Although I am anxious at all times that the Government should avoid all unnecessary expenditure, it is not my intention to follow the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) in the attack he made yesterday on one or two insignificant items of expenditure. There are other items in the budget regarding which we do not require the aid of a microscope, nor the alertness of the honorable member for Angas, to recognize as extravagant. During the Bruce-Page regime, when revenues were buoyant and reckless expenditure was indulged in, Government supporters, backed up by the agents of overseas shipping companies, and by the press of Australia, complained of what they called the enormous losses being incurred by the Commonwealth Shipping Line. They clamoured for the disposal of the ships, urging that losses amounting to approximately £400,000 a year constituted sufficient justification for what they proposed. The line was sacrificed, being disposed of to the shipping company controlled by Lord Kylsant. The primary producers and consumers in Australia were robbed of the protection which the shipping line had afforded them, and were left to the tender mercies of overseas shipping interests. Australia, from the point of view df defence, was also worse off as a result of the disposal of these seven ships, which formed a useful auxiliary to the Australian fleet. Although the line has now been sold for several years, Lord Kylsant still owes the Commonwealth a considerable amount of the purchase money. Not only is this sum outstanding, but the taxpayers have been called upon to find £350,000, representing the difference between the interest paid by Lord Kylsant’s company on the unpaid portion of the purchase money, and that paid by the Commonwealth on the loan money used for the purchase of the five “ Dale “ ships, and the construction of two other ships in Australia.
The hue and cry raised by honorable members opposite over the losses incurred by this shipping line is in strange contrast to the silence they now maintain regarding the losses on other business undertakings controlled by the Government. I refer particularly to the recurring losses of the telegraph branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department.For this year the estimated expenditure in the Postmaster-General’s Department is £12,139,250, which is £57,057 less than that of last year. The reduction, no doubt, has been made at the expense of the employees in the department, but no attempt has been made to check the losses. Some weeks ago, when the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton) was Postmaster-General, I asked him the following questions : -
He replied as follows: -
Members of the Government are continually talking about the rosy economic prospects before Australia, but apparently the prospects are not sufficiently rosy to induce them to spare the pensions of the aged and infirm, though the excuse is sufficient to justify the Government from investigating and checking the losses in the telegraph branch. It seems strange that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, with its elaborate costing system, has not available the information which would enable the Postmaster-General or the Treasurer to say to what extent the losses incurred are due to a particular cause. The pensions department has always had at its disposal tabulated information to show just how much could be saved by amending the Pensions Act in order that a little more might be pared off what the pensioners receive. I should like to know the reason for the Government’s extraordinary action in permitting those huge losses to continue, and at the same time slashing invalid and oldage pensions. Is it that the wealthy interests of the community, which unfailingly rally to thesupport of the Nationalist party during election time, are receiving special consideration in telegraphic and other rates at the expense of the taxpayer? I regard the PostmasterGeneral’s Department as wonderfully efficient, and consider that it should be conducted similarly to a modern departmental store; no section should be carried on at a huge loss, at the expense of other sections or of the taxpayers.
I have here information regarding the working of the New Zealand PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which should be of interest to the Minister. It shows that last year that department made a profit of £980,000. I have been in communication with the postal authorities of the sister dominion, and find that its charges and regulations governing services vary considerably from those made in the Commonwealth. That should give our enthusiastic PostmasterGeneral food for thought. I hope that he will go carefully into details, and take appropriate action.
– New Zealand is one of the easiest countries in the world to operate in connexion with post and telegraphic facilities.
– That is no reason why the Commonwealth should continue to lose hundreds of thousands of pounds in supplying such services.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) estimates that our customs and excise revenue will be £806,000 less than the actual receipts last year. I do not know whether he bases his figures on the advice of departmental officers, but to my mind they are absurd. Is it merely a subterfuge to justify the Government’s action with regard to pensions? In view of the increased revenue that has been received during the first three months of the present financial year, I am satisfied that the estimate of the Prime Minister will be considerably exceeded.
It is also estimated that revenue from land tax will be £357,000 less than it was last year, and further remissions of taxation have been forecast by the Prime Minister - at a time when certain unfortunate sections of the community have been singled out for exceptionally drastic action! The Government has also made provision for exemptions from sales tax and primage duties, amounting to £400,000. That is done entirely at the expense of the invalid and old-age pensioners, apparently to placate pastoral interests and to avoid Country party criticism in this chamber. I remember that when the list of exemptions was read out, there wore expressions of glee on the faces of members of the United Australia Party, apparently because the Government had robbed the Country party of its thunder.
At first the Government proposed to make an all-round reduction of 2s. 6d. in invalid and old-age pensions, that is, from 17s. 6d. to 15s. a week. So gloomy was the outlook when that proposal leaked out that the Government hastened to alter it. Now, pensioners are to be subjected to an inquisitorial examination by departmental officers, who will determine the extent to which they are tobe mulcted. Since the policy of the Government has been announced, many old and feeble pensioners have approached me. They are terror-stricken, and seek the advice of their parliamentary representative. It is tragic that these unfortunates, defenceless, and lacking the vigour of youth, are to be subjected to such treatment. It would not have happened had they enjoyed the advantages of a virile, nationwide organization to fight their case. These pensioners, who have borne the burden and heat of the day and pioneered the country, are to be bombarded with questions by inquisitors recently appointed by the Government. It would have been better to employ the services of those investigators in policing our income tax legislation, to bring to justice those who are evading the law, rather than to pursue relentlessly such a helpless and worthy section of the community as the indigent aged or invalid.
I hope that my amendment will be debated in a non-party spirit, and that the Government will take prompt steps to restore to invalid and old-age pensioners that which has been token away from them, so that they may enjoy some of the prosperity about which we hear so much from the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) and other honorable members opposite.
.- The discussion on the budget has proceeded so long, and so many subjects have been dealt with, that the debate could aptly be described as a marathon event. Honorable members have had an opportunity to ventilate their opinions on many matters, and they have not been slow to avail themselves of the chance to do so. It is not my intention, however, to speak this afternoon on more than a few subjects, and I shall leave untouched several matters to which I can address myself when the various items in the Estimates to which they are related come under review.
Many honorable members have spoken upon the very important subject of exchange. Yesterday, I placed a question on the notice-paper in order to ascertain the position of our exchange over a number of years. I find that the present rate of exchange Australia on London for telegraphic transfer is “ buying “ £25 per cent. premium and “ selling “ £25 10s. per cent. premium. For the four previous years it was -
Exchange is a most vexed question, and many and varied opinions have been ex- pressed regarding it. In my view, the natural rate of exchange is the rate determined by the balance of indebtedness, and in regard to it the law of supply and demand must operate. Yet it is clearly, in our present circumstances, the function of the Commonwealth Bank Board to decide the rate of exchange, and I am prepared to accept the decision of that body in the matter, knowing that it will do what is best in the interests of the people of Australia generally.
Export trade is one of the matters which has to be taken into consideration when fixing tlie rate of exchange. Our export trade is largely seasonal, and it is the sale of our exports which provides us with funds in London. Those funds are available to the banks for sale to those requiring Australian-owned funds in London. In June, 1932, our favorable commodity balance was £40,193,000. That amount includes bullion and specie to the value of £9,502,000. Our government and local authority commitments were estimated at £27,000,000, while private interest and dividends in Australian companies owing to shareholders overseas represented £5,000,000, or a total of £32,000,000. On this estimate it will be seen that there was a surplus of’ about £S,000,000. During the next ten years Australian loans, aggregating over £119,000,000, will mature in London. I was pleased to note the success that attended the recent conversion of the New South Wales loan of £12,600,000 from 5$ per cent, to 3£ per cent., an operation for which great credit must be given to the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce), who I believe to be the right man in the right place when it is a question of making financial arrangements on behalf of the Commonwealth. The right honorable gentleman has performed a valuable service for Australia, and I hope that he may long he permitted to employ his exceptional talents in the interests of this country. In 1933-34, £13,750,000 will fall due, “and in 1934-35 £15,500,000. Should those loans not be converted, there will be a sharp rise in the demand for London funds. I believe, however, that we shall be able to convert them on favorable terms.
Notwithstanding the disbelief of many honorable members opposite, I consider that there are signs of a substantial improvement in Australian affairs. Confidence is gradually being restored, and the restoration of confidence is the first step to financial rehabilitation. But we cannot expect that the corner will be turned until better prices are being received for the products that we export, such as wool, wheat, butter, eggs, and meat. Australia is like a man who has been very ill, and, although convalescent, is still on the sick list. I trust that the country’s recovery and the return of prosperity will be speedy.
The outcome of the deliberations at the Ottawa Conference offers some ray of hope. Personally, I am pleased that an advance has been made along the lines of Empire reciprocity. It was high time that the Mother Country came to our aid to a greater extent than she had done in the past, and a big step in that direction has now been taken. Wheat, which is one of our staple products, will benefit to the extent of something like 3d. a bushel in competition with that grown in foreign countries. The wheat-growers came to the aid of the nation when they were urged to increase their production, and I am glad that something is to be done to improve their conditions.. Many parts of Australia are admirably suited to dairying, and it is pleasing to note the rapid progress that is being made by that industry. The temporary duty of 10 per cent, which was imposed by Great Britain on imports of butter from foreign countries has been increased to 15s. per cwt., or a little more than ltd. per lb. This will prove most helpful to the dairying industry in Australia, and will enable, us to compete on more favorable terms with Holland, Denmark, and other dairying countries. The 10 per cent, ad valorem preference on cheese has been increased to 15 per cent., and the preference on condensed milk has also been considerably enlarged. Another industry that has made substantial progress within recent years is the egg industry. For many years Great Britain has purchased the largest part of her egg requirements, in pulp form, from China. [Quorum formed.) Australia has increased her trade in eggs with Great Britain during the last few years, but I believe that the new preference which has been raised from ls. to ls. 9d. a great cwt. according to weight, and is equal to ;about 10 per cent, of the London wholesale price, will give the industry a big impetus. South Australia, Tasmania, and parts of Victoria and New South Wales, grow large quantities of apples, our export trade in which has been increased materially during the last few years. The preference in this case has been advanced from 10 per cent, ad valorem to 43. 6d. per cwt. The value of our export trade at present is £1,125,000, hut that should be increased considerably under the operation of the agreement. South Australia also grows pears, the trade in which is gradually increasing. The present value of our exports is about £70,000, and it also should be increased by the preference of 4s. 6d. per cwt., which in future will be enjoyed. The orange trade, too, is expanding. Many of the difficulties that were ‘experienced in connexion with transhipping have been overcome. Along the river Murray the orange groves are becoming extensive. The preference of 3s. 6d! per cwt. will prove advantageous, but a better result would have been secured had no distinction been drawn between oranges, apples and pears. The preference on dried fruits has been increased from 7s. to 10s. 6d. per cwt. Within recent years, thousands of soldier and’ other settlers have undertaken the growing of dried fruits along the river Murray, and the additional preference will prove most acceptable to them. Other primary products which are to receive preferential treatment on entering the United Kingdom are leather, honey, copra, eucalyptus oil and wattle bark. Eucalyptus is an excellent remedy for colds, and the oil produced in South Australia is the best obtainable in Australia, though I recognize, of course, that eucalyptus oil of good quality is’ manufactured in many other parts of Australia, and I believe that a valuable market for this commodity could be developed.
I shall not, at this stage, discuss the position of 0111 meat export trade, because I wish to pas3 on- to another matter of great importance to the people. No tax is ever popular; but the sales tax is one of the most unpopular that has ever been imposed. The cost of its collection i3 very considerable. I was informed, in reply to a question submitted by me to the Government, that the revenue collected from the sales tax between the 1st August, 1930, and the 30th June, 1932, amounted to £11,897,921, but that the cost of collecting that sum was estimated at no less than £125,000. It seems to me, therefore, that if this tax is to be continued, a cheaper method of collecting it should be devised. But the tax causes such great annoyance to the public and so much hindrance to the business community that I hope that in the near future it will be found possible to wipe it out altogether. Recently the Government has accorded primary producers some relief from this tax, and I trust that the time is not far distant when it will entirely cease to be applied to the sale of foodstuffs.
The excessive duty on oregon is a matter of concern to the people of South Australia. Early in 1914, the duty was 6d. per 100 superficial feet, and in July, 1930, the rate was raised to 14s. We grant to Canada a preference of 2s. per 100 superficial feet, but there is 10 per cent, primage duty and 6 per cent, sales tax.
– -The honorable member may not now discuss an item of the tariff schedule which is before the House.
– Then I shall merely mention, that the high cost of Oregon due to the tariff seriously affects the building trade in South Australia, where, owing to climatic conditions, it is advisable to use that kind of timber for roofing purposes in preference to any other.
I am pleased to learn that, following upon the deliberations and decisions of the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa, negotiations for trading agreements have been commenced between the Commonwealth and certain other dominions. We have an excellent opportunity for trading with the sister dominions of Canada,- New Zealand and South Africa1, and it is to be hoped that the negotiations instituted at Ottawa will be continued.
The time now at my disposal does not enable me to discuss, except very shortly, the pressing problem of unemployment. No stone should bc left unturned in seeking to arrive at a solution of our present social and industrial difficulties. But I should merely say now that I am glad that the Government has set up what may be termed an .employment’ advisory committee. I hope that it will do effective work, and help to solve the problem of unemployment. I understand that the committee will collect and disseminate information as to the best methods adopted by each State and by countries overseas in dealing with this matter. Plenty -of talk has been indulged in, but action is what is required. The present Government has done good work by creating confidence on the part of investors. The purse strings having been loosened, private enterprise should soon be able to give increased employment.
There are many other things that I should like to say, but I have had to curtail my remarks to enable other honorable members to participate in this debate. Therefore, I shall not now detain the committee any further.
.- I thank the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) and other honorable members for giving me this opportunity to say a few words on the budget proposals of the Government. I shall not deal with the Ottawa treaty, nor with any other subject not strictly relevant to the budget. To a great extent I am pleased with the budget proposals of the Government. I am glad to know that there is a chance of balancing the finances.. The people have long looked forward to that happy result. In my opinion Australia has not yet “ turned the corner I realize that there are difficulties ahead of this country as well as the civilized world in general. I believe that an honest attempt is being made by the present Government to improve the conditions of the people; yet I do not agree with all that is being done.
The Scullin Government was confronted with a difficult and unpleasant ‘task when it had to reduce the expenditure on pensions and other social services, and’ the action taken by the present Government in that regard was not agreeable to it, or to any honorable members sitting on this side of the House. The only way to end the dole system is to get people back to work, and there is no chance of getting them back to work until the country is paying its way. When the payment of sustenance to the unemployed wa$ introduced, I realized that, if that system were continued for a long” time, there was no chance of thisCountry ever paying its way. I saw Labour governments in power in two of the largest States - Victoria . and New’ South Wales - and Labour was also itf office in the Commonwealth. I saw the payment of sustenance and the dole inaugurated by those governments, and I witnessed the payments increase, and yet the army of unemployed increased week by week. No proposal put forward by honorable members opposite reduced to any degree the number of unemployed. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) referred to the attitude of the Senate towards the financial proposals of the last Government, but the only financial proposal that it sent to the Senate was a measure for the introduction of a fiduciary note issue, and I have yet to learn that the printing of banknotes would solve the problem of unemployment. -I realized that, if government expenditure were to continue at the same extravagant rate as in the past, the army of unemployed would increase, and I could see anarchy looming in the distance.
I have, therefore, supported the. Government generally in all that it has done up to the present time; but T intend to refer briefly to one matter, in which, in my opinion, a mistake has been made. I also propose to make passing reference to a speech or two delivered from this side of the House. We have been promised a reduction of taxation, the need for which has been referred to by the Prime Minister and others. There is an agitation for the reduction of the land tax, but I remind the Prime Minister and other members who support the Government, that the greater proportion of the land tax is obtained from city properties. A good deal more than half of this tax is raised in the metropolitan areas. Federal land taxation is not paid in the country ‘by any poor person. One has to have a property whose unimproved value is at least £5,00.0 before this tax is imposed.” No doubt, owing to the low prices of primary products, many who were wealthy landholders are struggling to-day to exist. But I desire the Government to realize that most of the land tax is collected in the cities from property-owners who can well afford to pay it.
Reference has been made in this debate to the defence system. I did not hear the speech of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. P. Harrison) who, I understand, pointed out the difficulties now experienced in providing adequate defence measures owing to the shortage of money. I have never stood for a large expenditure on the defence forces. My attitude on that matter is the same to-day as it was when I was a member of the Labour party. I am proud of the fact that Labour abolished the compulsory training of our youths, and I sincerely hope that that system will never be restored. I trust that the present Government will not increase the vote for defence. Australia is not in a financial position in which it can afford to spend one penny more on defence than she is spending at present. We must all realize that if another war should occur within the next few years, it will mean the end of civilization. We are still suffering severely from the effects of the last war. I realize that a country like Australia needs some provision for defence, but I am strongly opposed to any increase in the amount of money at present being spent in this way. If the honorable member for Bendigo wishes the elimination of waste in the expenditure of the present vote, I am with him; but if he desires the expenditure of more money on defence, I am against him.
The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) had a good deal to say yesterday about the control and management of affairs in this Parliament House. I agree with some of the things he said but disagree with others. He suggested that members of Parliament get a lot of things for nothing. That is not a fact. We pay for all we get here. I pay as much for my meals here as the honorable member for Angas pays for his meals at Hotel Kurrajong - perhaps’ I pay more. I resent the honorable member’s statement that honorable mem- bers waste their time in the billiard room. I do not play a game of billiards once in six months; but I readily admit that some of the best and most informative speeches delivered in this chamber are made by members who sometimes indulge in a game of billiards. Does the honorable member think that we are sent here to be slaves, and that we should have no recreation whatever ?
– He was only indulging in cheap heroics.
– The honorable member made a great mistake in delivering that speech which showed evidence of very little thought. I also resent the statement that we waste our time in Canberra. We cannot be expected to sit in this chamber all the time. Private members have a considerable amount of correspondence to deal with, and Ministers have their administrative work to attend to. In these circumstances, it is unfair that the honorable member should so frequently call for quorums. I agree with a good deal that the honorable member said about the parliamentary refreshment rooms. Some time ago, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley), and I, complained at a meeting of the House Committee about the waste that occurred in the refreshment rooms.
– -There is no waste now.
– It would astonish the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) to learn of what went on there at one time.
– If the honorable member for Ballarat had seen the last report of the House Committee - he would know that there is no waste now.
– I have seen the report. The grant-in-aid of the refreshment rooms is ‘not being made this year. The work of the House Committee has effectively reduced costs and eliminated waste in this department. I shall probably say more on this subject when we are dealing with the Estimates.
I wish now to make some reference to the pension re-adjustments. Although I voted for the reductions, I am satisfied that neither the Government nor its supporters expected the new arrangements to work as they are working. I did not for a moment imagine that a pensioner’s combined pension and income from other sources would be less than 17s. 6d. a week, but it is so in many cases. I shall cite several instances. A lady who was getting a pension of 12s. 10-Jd. a week had £150 in bonds and £25 in the bank. I submitted her case to the Government before the Financial Emergency Bill was passed, and was told that she would get a pension of 15s. 6d. As a matter of fact she is to get a. pension of only 10s. 4jd. a week. The interest on £150 would be about £5 a year, or about 2s. a week, so she will get only 12s. 4£d. a week in pension and income. If she had squandered her money she would be able to get a pension of 17s. 6d. a week, but because she has been thrifty she is getting only 12s. 4-kl. a week. I hope that the Government will rectify this anomaly.
In another case an old lady, 80 years of age, was getting 17s. a week in pension. When the first reduction was made she lost fid. a week, but under the second reduction she has lost 2s. 6d. a week because she had a total income of slightly under 17s. 6d. a week. Another case which reflects the anomalies in the present arrangements is that of an old lady who lives in Melbourne, but has a home in Ballarat valued for municipal purposes at £300. She cannot let the house-
– And she cannot eat it.
– That is very true. The property is in a bacl state of repair. When the first reduction of pensions was made her pension was reduced to 10s. lOd. a fortnight, hut under the second reduction it fell to 5s. 3d. a fortnight. That is her total income. Her health will not permit her to live apart from her daughter in Melbourne, but because she has this home in Ballarat, which is useless as a revenue producer, she is obliged to suffer.
I remind honorable members that the Financial Emergency Act provides that there shall be an exemption of £50 in respect of any property that a pensioner holds, but that for every £10 worth of property exceeding £50 the pension is to be reduced by £1 a year. For every £100 worth of property a pensioner owns he must sacrifice £10 of the pension that he would otherwise be entitled to. This amounts to assessing the interest on a pensioner’s property at the rate of 10 per cent. Every honorable member who has anything to do with real estate knows that property today does not bring in anything like even 5 per cent., yet a pensioner who has a property worth £300 has to suffer a reduction of pension to the extent of £1 for every £10 of that amount or £25 altogether, allowing for the statutory exemption of £50. This means a reduction of £25 from the £45 of pension that would otherwise be payable in the case to which I draw attention. Surely the Ministry does not intend to insist on this 10 per cent, assessment of interest, for it is absurd in the face of existing conditions. I sincerely trust that these anomalies will be removed; otherwise great cruelty will be inflicted upon the aged people of this country. Tha Government would show its strength if it acknowledged that a mistake had been made, and rectified it. It was never intended that people should have to live on an income of less than 17s. 6d. a week, whether it came wholly from pension or from pension and other sources.
I direct attention also to the hardship that is being inflicted upon certain oldtime miners in my constituency. The State Government allows such persons who suffer from miners’ phthisis an amount of 5s. a week which is payable from the Worn-out Miners’ Allowance Fund. Since the passage of the Financial Emergency Act this amount has been reduced to 2s. 6d. a week.
– It was made clear in the bill that that would happen.
– It was never intended that these unfortunate miners should be deprived of money which was provided for them to buy medicines and other small comforts to ease their sufferings.
– The honorable member ought to have thought about these things before he voted for the bill.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) led the way in bringing about a reduction of pensions. Practically all legislation has at times had to be amended, and I am pointing out the defects in the pensions legislation, so that they may be remedied in the near future. We should not do any injustice tq the old people in the community. But the
Commonwealth Government was forced to reduce its expenditure to enable Aus.tralia to overcome its financial difficulties. The Leader of the Opposition, when Prime Minister, said that, if we did not reduce pensions, within a short time the pension of £1 would be worth only 12s.
– Circumstances are different to-day.
– There has since been little change in our financial position. We have to place Australia on a sound financial basis. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) has complained about the appointment of additional pension inspectors ; but I commend the Government for making those appointments. Had such inspectors been appointed long ago, there would have been no necessity to reduce pensions at all. About three months ago two persons came to my home in Ballarat, and one of them, throwing a paper on t*he table, exclaimed, “ That is the result of the Lyons Government and the reduction of pensions.” I read the paper, and it was to this effect, “You are hereby notified that your pension has been cancelled, and that you are called upon to refund £98 paid to you by the department.” Upon inquiry at the Melbourne office, I discovered that three months prior to one of these persons applying for a pension, he had transferred property worth £3,500 to his brother, and that he had declared to the department that he had no property, and had parted with none recently. The department ascertained that the banking account was still in the name of the two brothers, and that the applicant owned a motor car. If the inspectors who have now been appointed prevent impositions of that kind, there will be a good opportunity later to restore the pension to the original amount of £1 per week. No honest pensioner needs to be afraid of the inquiries which will be instituted by these inspectors. The Government should ensure that sons and daughters of pensioners who are earning less than the basic wage should not be compelled to contribute to the upkeep of their parents. The act gives power to the department to fix the amount which the sons and daughters, of pensioners may be called upon to contribute. That provision will strike a hard blow at some of the wealthy people of this community. I know of one wealthy person whose mother and father are both drawing pensions. He should be ashamed that his parents are in that position. I hope that that kind of person will be severely dealt with by the department. Because of the refusal of some wealthy persons to support their aged parents, I regret that the inquiries into the affairs of the families of some pensioners are not to be undertaken in public. The working men and women need not fear any inquiry that is instituted by the. pensions department, because only those persons who are not carrying out their obligations to their parents will suffer under this provision. I trust that the Government will give effect to the intention of this Parliament that no pensioner shall receive less than a payment of 17s. 6d. per week, whether it be income or pension, or income and pension combined.
.- The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has made a remarkable confession in- view of his attitude to the recent proposal to reduce pensions and restrict the conditions under which they are granted. He cannot plead that at that time he was ignorant’ of the circumstances to which he has now referred, because they were emphasized time and time again by the members of the Labour party in this House.’ It is most unfortunate that the honorable member did not recognize in time the position in which the Government, of which he is a supporter, was placing the old-age and invalid pensioners. His tardy action on this occasion can be of no relief or solace to these unfortunate people, many of whom he represents in this House. The honorable member is fully aware of the fact that during the last fortnight I have frequently and unsuccessfully urged the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to amend the legislation which was recently passed by this Parliament. It is now beyond the power of the Executive Council or the Administration to alter any of the conditions under which pensions are paid, because the act, to a great extent, has deprived the department of the discretionary control which it previously exercised. The department is powerless to prevent the hardship which is being inflicted upon old-age and invalid pensioners, to which the honorable member for Ballarat has, at this belated hour, referred. Therefore, those who voted for that legislation must accept full responsibility for their action. The honorable member has been in this House long enough to understand the value of the wording of legislation. Because of his wide parliamentary experience, he must have appreciated the fact, when this legislation was first introduced, that it would i mpose a severe hardship upon pensioners.
– The honorable member need not worry about me.
– I am worried, because the honorable member has, unfortunately, spoken too late. He has now admitted that he has been remiss in his duty to his constituents. No excuse or apology will mend his dereliction of duty. If he is a man at all, he will accept full responsibility for his action, and be prepared to tell his constituents that he, together with other Government supporters, increased the difficulties of the old-age and invalid pensioners.
– -The honorable member need not trouble himself about my electors.
– I am troubled about the attitude of the honorable member in not taking steps at the right time to preserve the interests of the old-age and invalid pensioners. Had the supporters of the Government voted in accordance with their conscience, when this legislation was before us, we, on this side of the chamber, would not now be obliged to protest against the lack of consideration shown by this Government to the aged and the infirm.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to8 p.m. [ Quorum formed.]
– The chastened spirit which seems to have come over a number of Government supporters concerning its proposal to reduce pensions gives one reason to hope that the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) will receive a fair measure of support. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) spoke feelingly of the hardships that are being endured by a number of invalid and oldagepensioners throughout the Commonwealth, and I noted that many Go vernment supporters, and particularly the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Dennis), gave sympathetic attention to his remarks. Honorable members opposite may have been misled in the party room a few weeks ago as to the probable effect of the proposed reduction of pensions ; but within a week of the new provisions coming into force, the pensioners fully appreciated the consequences of this legislation. I predict that within the next two or three months there will be a perfect avalanche of protests from pensioners affected by these new provisions, and that their truly tragic nature will then be fully revealed. I, therefore, put it to honorable members supporting the Government that, if they are conscious of the injustice which is being done, and of the hardships which are being inflicted upon our pensioners, whom we should regard as the most deserving section of our community, the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Cook will at least give them the opportunity to express their opinion when it is put to the vote. If the honorable member for Ballarat and the honorable member for Batman, and other honorable gentleman who have voiced objections to these proposals, really desire to register an emphatic protest against the Government’s action, I shall expect them to cross the floor and vote for the amendment.
– Does the honorable member suggest that that is the only way to alter the position ?
– That, at least, will be an effective way to indicate to the Government that this committee desires that immediate steps be taken to repeal the objectionable provisions. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) will appreciate the need for such an emphatic declaration, because I have no doubt that, in common with other honorable members, he has received many complaints from pensioners concerning the hardships that are imposed upon them by this legislation. This, then, is the opportunity to express an opinion, divorced from party feelings.
– The honorable member knows that that could not be done.
– The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) does himself less than justice when he suggests that, on an issue like this, honorable members could excuse a vote on the score of party loyalty. Surely this is an issue upon which individual members are not bound by a decision of the United Australia Party caucus. At all events, in view of their public utterances on this subject, I shall expect the support of the honorable member and of a number of others behind the Government. Opinion is steadily growing outside this committee against the Government’s proposals. I have received a telegram from the Australian Pension League of Victoria, a body S,000 strong, supporting my protests with regard to hardships that are being imposed upon invalid and old-age pensioners under the new provisions; and on my recent visit to Adelaide during the short parliamentary recess, I was astounded at the large number of persons who besieged me with inquiries concerning the bearing which certain provisions in the latest financial emergency legislation would have upon the pension. I was surprised also to find that departmental officials in Adelaide were overwhelmed with work in connexion with the new legislation. As was only to be expected, much anxiety exists in the minds of pensioners throughout Australia as to the conditions under which pensions will be payable in future, and I sense a feeling of nervousness and humiliation among the very best people that this country has ever possessed. The honorable member for Ballarat said to-night that the condition of the finances at the present time differs very little from what it was twelve months ago when pension payments came under review by the Scullin Administration. Surely the honorable gentleman was not speaking seriously; because the Prime Minister ha3 repeatedly assured the committee that confidence has been restored, and his observations in this respect have been endorsed by many Government supporters. So I am entitled to conclude, on the utterances of Ministers and their supporters,’ that the financial outlook today is more favorable than it was twelve months ago, and that, therefore, there is no longer justification for a reduction of pensions, because of the financial position. Last week I asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the buoyant state of the revenues, as revealed in the Treasury returns for the first three months of the financial year, he would be prepared to cancel instructions to reduce pensions, and take the necessary action to repeal the recent legislation. The right honorable gentleman emphatically stated, in reply, that the cancellation of instructions for the reduction of pension payments would involve an increase in, expenditure which could be maintained only by continuing excessively heavy taxation and that it was not the intention of the « Government to maintain such excessive taxation unless it was absolutely necessary. From this it is clear that the Government does not intend to review its obnoxious legislation dealing with pensions, or do anything to restore other social services which our people have enjoyed hitherto. The reason is not far to seek. The Government is anticipating remitting taxation upon other sections of the community. I again bring under notice a pledge given by the Prime Minister to the people of this country last December, when he took office in the Commonwealth Treasury. I do so because he must be brought to realize that if he imposes hardships on one section of the community, as in the case of our invalid and old-age pensioners, he cannot possibly justify proposals to ease taxation on others. On the 20th December last the right honorable gentleman said -
I have pledged my party to govern sympathetically in the interests of the whole people and to inflict no hardship upon any one section to the advantage of the other. That undertaking will be adhered to solemnly.
I bring this solemn pledge given by the Prime Minister under the notice of Government supporters in the hope that, realizing its import, they will vote for the amendment as the most practical way of registering their protest against the Government’s action in this particular matter. The Government has exaggerated the pensions liability by seeking to ignore the fact that the present conditions are abnormal, whereas we know that during the depression the number of applications for pensions has increased considerably. When normal conditions return the present number of pensioners will be greatly reduced; therefore, the Government’s plea that, because of the ever- increasing number of pensioners, a reduction in the rate is necessary, fails. If, as the Government would have us believe, revenues are becoming more buoyant and the financial outlook is improving, we should not, at this stage, reduce social services to the extent of imposing serious hardship upon deserving people. The Prime Minister stated during his budget speech that Australia has weathered the storm. That assertion implies further improved conditions, and, if it is well-founded, the Government could not justify a further reduction of pensions. When our revenues are increasing, the benefit of this relief should be extended to all classes. Whilst relief of the taxpayer may be desirable, it should not be given when it necessitates the imposition of greater hardship upon the poorer sections of the people. Those pensioners who are being penalized under the new conditions relating to property are principally those who have been thrifty and made sacrifices to acquire homes. Their resentment of the harsh conditions introduced by this Government has been expressed in Adelaide by the withdrawal of many pension claims. As soon as the provisions of the Financial Emergency Bill were announced, many pensioners declared that they would not humiliate themselves by accepting this aid from the Government under the altered conditions. When speaking on that measure I prophesied that many pensioners who had acquired small homes would prefer to sell or mortgage their property and live - at any rate temporarily - upon the proceeds rather than submit to the humiliation which the Government is imposing upon them. That prophecy is being verified, as the Prime Minister will find by reference to the Pensions Office in Adelaide.
– I have a lot of facts of which the honorable member knows nothing.
– That may be so, but the right honorable gentleman has not a monopoly of facts or experience. I only ask that he will give to the committee the facts in his possession. I repeat that the harsh provision that a pensioner shall practically mortgage his property to the Government has impelled many persons to withdraw their claims.
– The honorable member does not attribute that to the appointment of inspectors?
– No. The honorable member, by imputing dishonesty, is doing a serious injustice to some of the most worthy and most honest citizens of this country. It is their resentment of the new conditions attaching to the pension that has impelled them to withdraw their claims.
– I am not reflecting on the pensioners; I am merely asking for information.
– I am glad to have the honorable member’s assurance that he is not reflecting on a trustworthy and deserving section of the community. He represents a comparatively opulent electorate, and, therefore, has not that intimate knowledge of the hardships of the poor that is possessed by honorable members representing the industrial and less wealthy divisions. I believe that within three months the protests by the thousands of pensioners who will be adversely affected will reverberate from one end of the continent to the other, and that the Government will then realize the tragic mistake it has made. I am receiving letters by every mail in verification of the dire effects which I warned honorable members would follow the introduction of this legislation. It is a deplorable condition of affairs.
I have no illusions as to the motives which actuated the Government in imposing the new conditions. The deliberate purpose was to make the pension so unpopular that people would be disinclined to accept it.
– That is unworthy of the honorable member.
– This legislation is unworthy of the Government. I ask that it be judged, not on my statements, but on the facts and results. Investigations of the living conditions of the pensioners, and their refusal to accept the pension under conditions which they regard as harsh and humiliating will prove the truth of what I have said. Honorable gentlemen opposite would do well to review their tragic mistake in passing this repressive legislation, and to show, by their votes,. their practical sympathy with the invalid and aid-age pensioners. Avote for the amendment would indicate to the Government that this committee desires that the hardships imposed; on pensioners by the recentlypassed: legislation shall be removed, so that these people may enjoy a little additional comfort in their time of need.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority .. .. . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the item be reduced by 10 s. (Mr. Riley’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.).
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- When I retired from the political contest in 1928, I thought that I had finished with politics, but circumstances changed, and I am again in my place in Parliament. On my return I missed a number of old faces.
– The honorable member will miss many more if he gets back at the next election.
– Many of those with whom I was associated in this Parliament previously I learned to respect as men rather than as politicians, and I am sorry that they are no longer with us.
– Order! The honorable member must address his remarks to the financial statement before the Chair.
– The electors of Fremantle returned me to this Parliament on the same basis as on a previous occasion. I am an independent, and am, therefore, free to vote and to speak as I wish, subject, of course, to the direction of the Chair, and to the tolerance of honorable members. I feel somewhat at a disadvantage in this chamber in that
I am opposed to the machine system of government. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) hit the nail on the head when he doubted whether under the present form of government we are fully equipped to meet acrisis. I have no such doubts. I am certain that we are not. There is ample evidence to show that we are not properly equipped. If we were we should not be in our present mess. This continent consists of nearly 3,000,000 square miles of country, much of which is fertile, but not more than 1½ per cent. of it is cultivated or effectively utilized. We have also extensive mineral resources, which are not fully developed. Notwithstanding all our potential wealth, we have a population of only 6,500,000 persons, and nearly one-third of the male adults are unemployed. We have an enormous overseas debt. We have all these disadvantages, but it appears to be nobody’s business to rectify the position. I do not blame the members of the present Government more than any one else. I have the highest regard for men who are able, honest, and willing, but because of our machine system of government they cannot do justice to this country. It is deplorable to realize that there are thousands of men trying to obtain even one hour’s work a day. It makes one blush to think that these conditions prevail in a country of such vast resources. Under a proper system of government, Australia could be more effectively developed, and could provide employment for practically every one.
For the difficulties with which we are confronted to-day, honorable members on this side of the chamber place the responsibility on honorable members opposite, while they, in turn, blame the ministerial side. We become animated over artificial means of restoring prosperity. We are vainly endeavouring to bolster up values. Practically every industry is overcapitalized. At the one moment we are trying to depreciate the value of money and increase its purchasing power. The intrinsic value of money to-day is out of all proportion to the value of the goods received in return for it. Under our present system business is partially paralysed. This country is like a man with one side paralysed and the other side kept in a state of intense animation by means of artificial expedients. It needs a transfusion of blood from one side to the other. While many of our people are on the verge of absolute want, and many businesses, particularly in country districts, and primary producers generally, are in danger of insolvency, there are others in the community living in a state of luxury, ease, and extravagance. Owing largely to the fact that industry is over-capitalized, the cost of living is already too high, yet we are trying to bolster up all sorts of values by exchange rates, inflation, and the issue of credits. These methods only tend to aggravate the position.
It is not my intention to discuss the budget at length, because almost every phase of it has been talked to death. I find myself in difficulty in determining the difference between a budget deficit and temporary accommodation. A budget has been presented showing a deficit of £17,000,000, but our temporary accommodation amounts to nearly £32,000,000. Temporary accommodation, money borrowed in order to carry on the ordinary activities of government, is as much a deficit as is the amount actually shown in the budget as a deficit. What would be the position of a merchant who went to his bank to borrow money with which to pay wages and ordinary business expenses and when a balance was called for, asked the bank to put the borrowed money aside as a temporary accommodation loan? He would be called upon to show it as a distinct loss, and governments should be compelled to do the same. The budget, therefore, does not disclose our real financial position. The Commonwealth finances last year actually showed a deficit of between £31,000,000 and £32,000,000. A private firm would not be able to “ put it over “ its bankers in the same way. The bank would ask if it had any assets to show for the money it wanted, and if it said that the money was to be used solely for wages and salaries and ordinary expenses, the accommodation would not be forthcoming.
I do not wish todetract in any way from the good work being done by the
Resident Minister in London, although I believe that the same results could have been achieved by Mr. Collins, the financial adviser to the Commonwealth in London, and his staff. Let us look at it from the view-point of the bondholders. We received £12,750,000 in the equivalent of gold, or a little more, but had we provided gold or its equivalent to redeem the loan on maturity, . it could have been repaid with £8,750,000, thus effecting a saving of over £4,000,000. We have been “crowing” over what has been done, but had we been able to redeem this loan with gold or its equivalent in goods, the bondholders would have lost £4,000,000; whereas by having it converted, they will not only receive interest at the rate of 3^ per cent, or 4 per cent, but. also avoid the loss of £4,000,000.
Britain must revert to the gold standard. If she does not, she will lose her present strong position in world ‘finance. Australia must also revert to the gold standard, whatever sacrifices may be involved, even if it means that land worth £100 an acre a few years ago, falls in value to only 6s. an acre.
We have too many saviours in this country. First there is the ordinary barnyard politician. I do not wish to be offensive to honorable members, but I think they will agree with me that during elections we almost exhaust ourselves in explaining to the people what is wrong and what is necessary to cure all our ills. We tell them that if they return us as their representatives everything will be all right, but when we are returned, we spend most of our time in explaining why we cannot do what we promised. In this connexion, I am reminded of an incident in my youthful days when a young fellow named Nat Woods undertook to give another young fellow in the district a thrashing. For weeks he kept explaining just where he was going to strike his opponent and dwelt upon every detail of the forthcoming contest. Most of its were “ Natites “ and were naturally delighted. Unfortunately, Nat met trouble early. His opponent gave him “ a beaut “ on the nose which knocked him down and out. Nat, who was suffering from a broken nose, spent the next fortnight explaining how it all happened. We are like that. We are telling the people that we know “what the trouble is, but we cannot supply a remedy. The trouble is that our political system is at fault. What has happened during this debate? We call each other names. The budget has been torn to pieces or praised according to the side on which an honorable member sits. Its good features are, in the opinion of some, as bad as its bad features.
We have another lot of saviours in the form of State Governments. Before a State Government is elected it makes all sorts of promises to the electors, many of which it cannot fulfill. The members of the Opposition say that they will be in power after the next election, and they too make promises. As soon as a new government is elected, it discovers that, owing to the maladministration of its predecessors, the country has got into an awful mess, it is loaded with debt, and virtually bankrupt, and the only remedy the new Ministers can think of is to leave the State and attend a Premiers Conference, or participate in some other political seance of that type.
Then again, we have what one might call the national ministerial saviours. I am not now referring to any particular side in politics, because one side is no better than the other. As soon as they are appointed, they discover that they can do the best for Australia by rushing off a long way from it, some to Ottawa, others to Lausanne, others to Geneva, and others to London. I do not know why they think they can help Australia best by leaving it, unless it be that, as the airman from aloft can see the bottom of the sea, with the sharks and whales swimming about, they, on the other side of the world, can view what is happening in Australia with a clearer vision and in a truer perspective. We really ought to call them long-distance saviours. They put me in mind of a man who, seeing his wife drowning in the Cotter River, rushes away to Manly, gets into a flash bathing suit, and begins to take swimming lessons so that he may be fitted to rescue his dear spouse.
The next group are the industrial economic saviours. They maintain that the only way to save Australia is to prevent immigrants from coming into the country, and to ship back to the places whence they came those already here, in this way preventing the production of Australian-born immigrants. In this “way, they say, there will ultimately he employment for all who remain, and I suppose they are right, even if the only employment be that of undertakers. This seems to me like trying to go forward by going backward. It puts me in mind of the story of the schoolboy who, when asked by the teacher why he was late, said that the road was so bad that, for every step he took forward, he slipped two back. When the teacher asked him how he eventually reached school at all, he said that he had managed it by turning round and going backwards. Of course, what we want in Australia is not less population but more. If we had 10,000,000 more people, and a proper system of government, we should be able to develop our country, exploit our mines, pay our debts, and become a prosperous community.
Some say that we should then be unable to find markets for our output. I remind such objectors that Denmark, which is only one-eighth the size of Victoria, and which has a cold, inhospitable climate, making it necessary to stall cattle in the winter, ships annually to England £146,000,000 worth- of goods, mostly dairy produce. She sends £22,000,000 worth of bacon alone, whereas last year Australia sold to the United Kingdom only £8,000,000 worth of bacon, butter, and meat. One would think that the position ought to be reversed, Denmark selling only £S,000,000 worth of such goods to Britain, and Australia selling £60,000,000 worth. The market is there, but we fail to exploit it. We overlook the fact that we cannot fix overseas markets to suit our producing conditions. Our only hope of success is so to arrange our producing conditions as to suit the world’s markets. When I suggest that we ought to bring more population to Australia, the industrial economic saviours ask, “ What about the standard of living ?” They fear that living conditions will be depressed if fresh population enters the country. I maintain, however, that our present policy is tending towards, not a standard of life, but a standard of death ; death to our independence, our sovereignty, our prosperity, and our national progress. The industrial saviours charge me with being the enemy of the workers, but I am certain that the only way to save the country is to people it as speedily as possible. Let us increase our population, and pay our debts. Not 10 per cent, of the people in Australia to-day are doing effective work.
I have been told by those who appear to be satisfied with our present policy that we annually produce £390,000,000 worth of goods in Australia. What basis of valuation is adopted in arriving at that figure? Gould the goods we produce be sold abroad for that amount? When I ask such questions, I am told that we have sold the goods to each other. For example, we grow sugar and sell it to each other at 44.d. per lb. when it is worth only 1-id. per lb. in the overseas markets. The butter we produce is worth only 9-kl. per lb. abroad, hut in this country Ave sell it for ls. 4d. per lb., wholesale, and ls. 6d. per lb., retail, We flatter ourselves that our products are worth £390,000,000 annually, but it seems to me that this figure is arrived at merely by adding noughts. We have been suffering from the nought disease. If we want to make a thousand into a million, we do it by the simple process of adding noughts. Of course, we should all like to have plenty of money, but I am afraid that it cannot be obtained so easily as that. About three or four years ago, when you asked a man bow he was getting on, the invariable reply was that he was making money at an enormous rate. Most men seemed to be on their way to their first million, and many were in a fair way to getting the second. If you asked them what was the basis of their wealth they would say, “ Look at the value of my property “. One man from New South Wales, who took a trip to London, was asked by a friend whom he met there, how he had managed to make so much money. He said that he was in his then happy position because the value of his property had increased so much. Whereas he had paid Only £1,000 for it twenty years before, it Was worth, at the time of speaking, £50,000. To-day, of course, he is bankrupt.
We have also what I may describe as our financial saviours.. These great experts are so clever that they are able to arrange a set of figures so that no one can understand them ; they can draw up adocument that a Philadelphia lawyer could not make head nor tail of. According to them, the way of salvation is to borrow our way out of debt. Of course, as practical men, we know that to he absurd. Micawber tried to do it, hut he never succeeded in getting clear of his financial troubles until, as a grey-headed old man, he came out to Australia and started producing from the land. We must realize that we shall have to work our way out of debt; there is no other way of doing it. One set of financial experts suggests that we should pay each other with post-dated cheques, while others advise us to print more bank note3. This year we are to give the wheatfarmers a bounty of £3,500,000. What does this mean? All wealth must come from the soil in one shape or another, except for the few fish which come out of the sea, and they do count for much. If we pay the farmer a bounty on his wheat, other sections of primary producers must provide the money. We are merely paying him with a post-dated cheque. Eventually, he must find, not only the money that has been paid to him, but also the interest and other charges associated with raising it. We shall not help the wheat-farmers by giving them a bounty, any more than we are helping the butter-producers, or any other section of the community by giving them similar financial aid.
It is of no use trying to delude ourselves that we can get away from the fundamental basis of value. The value of everything we have in Australia, whether it be hats, boots, shirts, socks, land, bread, or anything else, is determined by the value of Australia’s products on the world’s markets. We try to bolster up values by granting bounties, but it is a hopeless task. Eventually we must get down to a basis of competition with other parts of the -world, and the sooner we do it the better. If we give a bounty to one industry, we shall have to give bounties to all. There is no half-way stage. For many years our political and economic machine has been rushing forward at a great rate, but always down-hill. So long as we were able to borrow money everything was all right, but eventually the stream of borrowed money dried up ; the machine reached the bottom of the hill, the grade was in front of it, and it came to a stop. We are now trying to sneak round the foot of the hill, but there is no road that way. We must face the climb. Our duty is to tell the people the truth. I have always done so, in so far as I knew it. I have never prevaricated, and I have never given a promise that I knew I could not fulfil. I have no wish to injure anybody, nor to hinder the work of the Ministry. I have come to this Parliament to help. If I could see any way of helping them out of their difficulties, I should willingly do my best to aid them, but I do not believe that the man lives who can do anything for Australia if we continue the present system.
Some time ago, in Western Australia, I made a speech advocating the setting up of a commission form of government. It was, I might’ add, the best speech I have ever made. Afterwards one of my friends suggested that we ought to let the people elect, as now, 75 members to the House of Representatives, but that those members, instead of meeting in Parliament, should choose from their number ten or twelve of the best men available, and leave the work of governing the country to them. The remainder would then retire, leaving the selected members with full plenary and statutory powers. There would be a convention say, every year, at which the 75 representatives would review the operations of the preceding twelve months. If any man had failed in his job, he would be cast out and replaced by another. That is what is needed in this Parliament. There are 400,000 unemployed in Australia, mostly hardworking men who are only too eager to work. We only half feed them, and are gradually killing their souls. It is inevitable that, sooner or later, we shall have trouble, and, God knows, I am not a revolutionary, . nor by any manner of means an extremist. I recall an experience that I had in Queensland. I went for a walk in the bush and met a poor fellow with a sugar-bag on his shoulder, containing two paltry palms. I asked him what he was doing with them and he said “ I have been hunting all day for these; I might get a shilling each for them.” He had two little kiddies with him, and I asked “ Have you got any more of those ?” He said that he had five, that he was a carpenter, and had been out of work for two years. I inquired “ How have you got along ?” He said, “ I married a very good woman, and before doing so had saved carefully, so that I had about £150. At that time work was plentiful, and I put in a good deal of overtime to augment toy funds. After we married my wife said ‘Wouldn’t it be better if we had a little house of our own?’ We bought a. home, a wooden house in Brisbane, for £650, on which I paid £150 deposit, the balance being on time payment. For a while we got on fairly well. I had plenty of work, and my wife was extremely careful. We had a bonny little home, with a pretty garden surrounding it. As time passed our children came along, and we were mostcomfortable. Then came bad times. At first we managed, but, by the process of attrition, one thing after another went. I was reduced to doing odd jobs about gardens, anything to keep the pot boiling.. Finally, my wife said that we were down to the last pound, so I had to go along and hold out my hand for the dole.” I asked the man “ How does it feel to hold out your hand for the dole for the first time; I know that afterwards, having lost your soul and everything else, you would not care twopence ?” He said “ That is a cruel question to ask any man.” I said “ I only want to know, because you. are a decent hard-working man and have done your utmost to get work.” He said “ Imagine yourself, old man, situated as I was, hardworking, with a splendid little wife, a family coming on, and an attractive home with its flower garden, reduced to allowing, your wife to go out washing. It hurt, but I had to accept the dole.” Then turning, aside, he said “I shall never be a man again.” That is the sort of thing we are doing, killing the soul as well as the body.
We mustuse the land that is lying idle and get the people back to work. To-day, Australia is sailing on an uncharted financial sea, and we are all hoping that she will dodge the rocks, the shoals and the banks. But nobody seems to have any confidence in the skipper, the crew or anything. I am reminded of the words of Cowper -
Man, on the dubious waves of error toss’d,
His ship half founder’d, and his compass lost,
Sees, far as human optics may command,
A sleeping fog, and fancies it dry land,
Spreads all his canvas, ev’ry sinew plies,
Pants for it, aims for it, enters it, and dies!
That is our position, except that we have not quite lost the compass. Let us set a new course before it is too late. It is all very well to talk about turning corners. We are turning corners every day, but they are the wrong ones. We must get back to common sense, to common values, to low values and to honest dealings with one another. Australia wants not high duties, but a higher appreciation by its citizens of duties to one another. Our system of government does not inspire the nation. Can we not raise ourselves above this petty-foggying party bickering and courageously face the crisis before us ? Surely we can strike a higher note !
– No, not here.
– Of course we can. Is there a man in this chamber who does notblush because of the state that the people are in ; whose heart does not ache for those who are suffering? Let us strike a note high enough to reverberate throughout the land with a message of hope and confidence. If the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart), who is a business man, tried to run his buses as this Parliament runs the country, he would do better to catch the fastest bus he has and make straight for the Bankruptcy Court, for that is where he would ultimately land. I am a business man myself, controlling a fairly big concern, and I know what I am talking about. If I were to endeavour to conduct my business on the lines in which we are trying to run this country, I should not last twelve months. The country can be saved, not by a manipulation of credits, but only by a manipulation of its resources. We have two great assets, the energy of the people and the resources of the country. There is not a more virile people anywhere else in the world. No other countryhas a better climate, better land, or greater resources than we have. Let us get to work and prove ourselves worthy of our inheritance. If a man, with a family of sons, had a fertile farm upon which he owed a lot of money, he would not allow those sons to remain idle bickering among themselves. He would say, “ Come, boys, let us get to work and pay off our debts “. And that is what Australia must do.
– I am induced to intrude for a few moments on the time and patience of the committee because of some of the sayings I have heard and the things 1 have witnessed in this chamber in the last 4S hours. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) thinks that a safe cure-all for our ills is for all to come together and live in brotherly love and affection. I presume that the honorable member runs his business on love and sentiment. However, those are his ideas. We have had an example of the operation of such a policy in the Old Country. Twelve months ago the people of Great Britain believed that they could solve the problems that confronted them if they came together imbued with the spirit of brotherly love and affection and swept out of existence the disreputable Labour party. So the leaders of the different factions came together, and a composite makeshift government was formed. The inevitable result of a union of divergent opinions is to do nothing.
– Then let us have a dictator.
– That would probably be more beneficial to the country than a chaotic democracy. The idea of the politicians in Great Britain was to sweep aside the Labour Government. Then, they declared, they would be able to maintain the credit of the country and stabilize sterling. From the hour that they achieved their great “victory” the value of the British pound on the markets of the world has been steadily diminishing. Within the last 24 hours we have read in the press that its value is now but 12s. To Australia, that means that we must pay 20s. for 9s. 6d. in New York. With the present rate of exchange, we shall have to pay £5,000,000 in New York for the £2,500,000 interest that shortly is due for payment. That is the contribution of the combined intelligence of the Empire towards solving our problems. I notice that there are bread riots in London, and that the city is torn from end to end with strife. Remember, that is in a country which is. on the road to prosperity! They arethe first bread riots that have taken place in London since 1SS6. Is that an expression of recovery - an indication that the Empire has turned the corner, and is on the up grade?
No doubt my- contribution to the debate will be just, as sensible and valuable as some of the others to which I have listened. One honorable member believes that our difficulties arise principally from the excessive use by some honorable members of the parliamentary billiard-room. I am not one of the guilty ones. But I can quite understand that billiards is a form of relaxation which furnishes honorable members with relief from the worries and troubles of existence. In any case, I think I could find a much more congenial occupation than going around trying to see how my fellow politicians spend their leisure hours. And I can quite understand some honorable members finding congenial occupation in walking around our beautiful gardens, communing with themselves upon their own virtues and upon the delinquencies of their fellows. Admittedly, those gardens are beautiful, but they are a greater charge on the country than is the parliamentary billiard -room.
It has also been stated that certain honorable members abuse their parliamentary privileges by the excessive use of telephones iri this House for the purpose of laying wagers on racehorses. Again, I am not guilty, nor do I believe that the charge applies to the majority of honorable members in this chamber. But, whether I am guilty or not, I know that there is a proper place and more appropriate time to deal with the trouble, which t’he Government has it in its power to rectify, and that the time of this committee should not be wasted in listening to petty grievances of this character.
Another honorable member spoke yesterday on the enormity of paying high salaries to the public officials of this country. That may be quite true; it may he deplorable that a few men should receive so much while so many have so little. But after all, is it not a case of straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel? Irrespective of what governmentis in power, this country is faced with the necessity of finding, by some means or other, £26,000,000 annually to discharge interest and sinking fund commitments. For the payment of old-age, invalid and soldiers’ pensions, a further £20,000,000 annually has to be found. Each year, a sum of £12,000,000 has to be paid’ to the States in one form or another. In connexion with those three items alone, therefore, either this Government or any other government that is charged with the administration of the affairs of Australia, is faced with an annual expenditure of £58,000,000. Apart from the postal department, which costs the country nothing, but on the contrary contributes to its revenues, the ordinary public departments which from one end of Australia to’ the other arc a reflex of the federal authority and its powers, cost only £3,000,000 per annum. Thus if the whole of those departments were wiped out, the saving would be only 5 per cent, of the total expenditure which this country has to meet. The problem that faces us is so vast that it cannot be solved by saving a little here and a little there. Look at what has happened during the last few years. “What we have saved in one direction has been swallowed up in another. There was a loan conversion scheme which enabled a saving in interest to be made amounting to £2,750,000. Where is that saving reflected in the budget? Thousands of men have been thrown on the labour market, and the earnings of those who are still in employment have been diminished, enabling vast sums to be saved. Why, then, is the expenditure budgeted for not reduced by a corresponding amount? The answer is, that what has been saved in the directions that I have mentioned has been swallowed up in the extra amount that has had to be paid on account of the increasing rate of exchange. Instead of floating loans, the present practice is to issue I.O.U’s in the form of short-dated treasurybills. At the present time these total £S3,000,000, of which the Commonwealth’s share amounts to £17,000,000, upon which the annual interest commitment is approximately £750,000. Thus, the saving of interest brought about by the conversion loan has been swallowed up in the payment of higher exchange and interest on our short term indebtedness. In the postal department alone the dismissals have totalled between 2,000 and 3.000 men, and the wages of those who are still employed have been scaled down. Thus on the one hand public expenditure has been avoided at the expense of starving families, while on the other it has been piled up in the payment of doles, and whatever benefit has accrued from savings has been nullified by the exchange payments that have to be met in connexion with the capital expenditure involved. I noticed in the newspapers the other day that in New South Wales, as the result of the dismissal of thousands of men from the railways, and the scaling down of wages during the last two years, there had been a saving of £4,750,000 in that service. Is that reflected in a diminished railways expenditure? Of course not. Why? Because an additional £2,000,000 has been loaded on to the railways by the higher rate of exchange. Health, wealth, morale - all those things that make for the stability and the character of man - have been sacrificed, and what has been saved has been swallowed up in other directions.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) occupied the time of this chamber the other evening, not on the issues that confront this country, nor on the outlook for the future, but on his merits as a Treasurer in a past government. I am not conscious of the fact that the shortcomings, the limitations, or the. virtues that any man might have had in the past can be of any service to this country, either now or in the future. The right honorable gentleman, however, felt called upon to defend himself; and having done so, other honorable members also are entitled to refer to the subject. I remind the right honorable gentleman that there are others whose memory is as keen as his, and who have not forgotten the attitude that he and the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) once adopted towards each other. Do we not remember the manner in which they assailed each other? Can we not recall the right honorable member for Flinders referring to the right- honorable member for Cowper as a man who had a paralysed mentality, and saying that the policy of his party if put into operation would bring disaster to this country? Did not the right honorable member for Cowper, in his turn, say equally pleasant things about the right honorable member for Flinders? Yet did not these two gentlemen, within a fortnight of those mutual recriminations, band, together in brotherly love for the salvation of this country? The right honorable gentleman spoke of his administration during a period of seven years - as many years as Jacob served for Rachel. What he did is written in the history of this country. They were seven fat years, years of prosperity, increasing prices, and enormously expanding revenues. Never had the revenue been so buoyant as it was during those seven years. When the right honorable gentleman took over the administration of the Treasury he inherited a surplus of £5,000,000. What were his results during that period of prosperity? Year after year, this financial genius could do nothing but produce deficit after deficit; and at the end of his term he left the country in debt.
– He left it much better off than it was when he started.
– If it is sound business administration to commence with a credit of £5,000,000, and end with a deficit of millions of pounds, the right honorable member is certainly entitled to credit. But, in my opinion, any mau who takes credit to himself for results such as he achieved has marvellous powers of self-delusion. It must not be forgotten, also, that during his period of office the States borrowed heavily, and that the more they borrowed the greater were our imports and, consequently, the revenues received by the Commonwealth from customs duties. The right honorable gentleman spoke of the evils of high tariffs. It is well known that while living on the reputation of being a low tariffist his Government gave to this country the highest tariff that it had had up to that time. What does he propose should be done in the present crisis ? He says that the rate of exchange must be increased and the tariff reduced. I point out that 50 per cent, of the imports into this country have no customs duty imposed on them. But what thetariff fails to do is done by the existing exchange. The present high exchange applies to £26,000,000 worth of goods representing 50 per cent of our total imports. It will thus be seen that when this gentleman advocates the raising of the exchange to 45 per cent, or 50 per cent., he merely proposes to replace what would he taken off by a lowering of the tariff. Could public deception go to greater lengths? It is argued that benefits are derived from a high exchange rate. If a banker in London gives an exporter £150 for £100 worth of goods, he must get it back in some other way. No banker will give away £50 for nothing. If he gives £150 for £100 worth of London money, he must sell it for £152. Who pays the £152? Those, of course, who have financial commitments to meet in London; hut not the hanks. The Government must pay, and it can recoup itself only by imposing additional taxation upon the people. The burden thus falls upon ‘the community at large, in the form of increased taxation, and higher prices.
The budget of this Government strikes me as being the greatest good-news story ever. told. I read, either in a speech by a member of the Ministry, or in the budget speech itself, that the dole was destructive of morale. Of course, we all agree with that statement. We know how pleasant it would be for a man to starve rather than accept the dole! The Prime Minister remarked, “All we need is to get round the corner, because we are on the point of financial and economic recovery.” “ The haven of safety)” he said, “ is greater confidence ; and then all we need is a little more security.” “ The only other further requirement,” he said, “ general prosperity, and the only other thing- higher prices for our exportable products.” But, he added, “ There is not much chance of getting those.” That, in short, is the pith of the budget. The Prime Minister, proposes to scale off something like £750,000 from the returned soldiers’ pensions, but. it will not be done by legislation, for that, of course, would be indiscreet; nor will it be done by regulation. The soldiers will merely be docked to that extent, and consequently, the expenditure in the ensuing year will be three-quarters of a million less than it was last year. There is to be a net saving of another £750,000 at the expense of the invalid and old-age pensioners; £500,000 is to be saved by cutting out bounties; and £250,000 which was granted last year for the relief of unemployment, will not be spent this year. Thus, the Government designs to save £2,250,000 in pursuance of the policy laid .down under the glorious Premiers plan.
This Government is “ standing fast to its principles.” It is said that if the Premiers plan is observed in its entirety, national safety will be ensured. The Government is “saving the working people from privation,” and, therefore, we must not blame it for putting the Premiers plan into operation. We are told that this policy will benefit every industry, because it will increase purchasing power, and restore confidence. The banks are expected to make money available so that the unemployed can be absorbed. What gain is there in quoting figures to show that unemployment has increased, when the Government tells us that owing to the operation of the Premiers plan, unemployment has been reduced? We were assured that no fewer than 100,000 men would find employment, and that newhope would be born in the hearts of the people. But has that prophecy been fulfilled? This Government has advanced the extraordinary theory that the less money a person has, the more he can buy. The Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Stevens), speaking at Burwood on the same day as that on which the Prime Minister delivered his budget speech, remarked that the velocity of money was increasing. Of course it is; it is going faster than we get it. He went on to say that the working man of this country wants not the dole, but work. What a discovery.! Yet that is the sole contribution cf the Premier of NewSouth Wales to the solution of the problem.
I now propose to refer to the banking interests of this country, and I point out to the committee that nothing that I saycould be more damaging than what was said by the ex-Trea3urer (Dr. Earle Page), when introducing a bill to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act. He then remarked that the associated banks, because of the interests which they represented, were incapable of operating as freely as they should in the public interest. The truth of that statement has been borne out by experience. I invite honorable members to recall certain remarks in this connexion made by the late Mr. Pratten, who was an honorable member of this House well versed in finance. In October, 1924, he attended a Chamber of Manufactures dinner, at which he said -
Do you know why it is we have to borrow so much? It is because tlie banks refuse to make money available to the various States, and the result, of course, is that the States have to go upon the market and borrow tlie money required by them in order to meet the interest charges that accumulated during the years when governments paid no interest at all.
He added that unless governments were no longer compelled to borrow overseas so that they might meet their interest obligations, there could be no effective tariff. When overseas borrowing ceased, the last Government had an interview with Sir Robert Gibson, who said that Australia’s potentialities were such that we could look forward to reasonable prosperity; that the outlook did not warrant taking a pessimistic view. That statement was made at the end of 1929, when Australia was heading towards the depression. But in December, 1930, Sir Robert Gibson stated, on behalf ‘of the Commonwealth Bank Board, that the bank had no funds to advance to the Government, and had no power to create credit. He said that the bank had already made advances to the limit of its resources, and that it could do no more, because there was no prospect of the Government repaying the advances already made. He refused to make any advance to the Government unless it complied with certain conditions involving a reduction of the wages of public servants and of the pensions of the invalid and aged. We remember well how that request of the Commonwealth Bank Board had to be complied with, and that the reductions had to be made.
Although it was said that the banking corporations had no funds at their disposal, and no power to create credit, immediately the Premiers plan was put into operation, money was made available; credit was created to the extent of millions as soon at the Government of the day complied with the conditions laid down by the banks. As a matter of fact it was the depression itself which caused the banks to create credit out of nothing; because they feared a collapse of the social structure. The manager of the Bank of New South Wales, Mr. Davidson, admitted that the banks had come to the aid of governments by creating new money. “ Every month “, lie said, “ new money must be created to keep governments going “. Yet honorable members opposite say that money cannot be created ; that it cannot be drawn out of a hat, as a conjurer produces rabbits. Mr. Davidson went on to say that governments drew cheques on the Commonwealth Bank, which Sir Robert Gibson had declared had no funds. He added -
These cheques arc paid by governments to their creditors. The creditors pay the cheques into their accounts with the associated banks. The associated banks pay the cheques to the credit of their accounts with the Commonwealth Bank, and against these credits, the associated banks can draw Commonwealth notes.
If the private banks can create £83,000,000 worth of credit in order to keep governments going, and to enable thom to meet their interest obligations, why cannot they issue credits based upon Commonwealth bonds, in order to keep thousands of men in employment? My conclusion is that a country that can keep 400,000 men at war for four years, provide for their families during their absence and create money to maintain the war, can also keep 400,000 men engaged in doing useful work for the protection and welfare of the land in which they live. A country that, out of its own resources and capacities, can, at one period in its history, spend many millions in waging warfare, and that can, at another period, spend millions in providing doles for as many men out of employment as were at the war, should also be able to provide sufficient money to keep those men in useful occupations.
The Bank of England the other day made credits available on the security of bonds. Many years ago I made the affirmation in this country that that kind of thing could be done here. Yet, when the first Labour Government which came into office in this country for more than a decade, was asked to do something of this nature, a gentleman who, two months after he was elected as the member for Dalley was forced upon the Labour party as Commonwealth Treasurer, stated in his electorate that that Government would never be identified with a policy involving the inflation of the currency by issuing paper money, because this would only lead to an increase in prices and to the robbing of the workers. Surely he and his colleagues knew that when Mr. Andrew Fisher created n national currency in this country which Sir Joseph Cook asserted would prove to be absolutely worthless, he did an immense service to the nation. The security then established has been of tremendous value to Australia.
I have no particular desire to make an attack upon the Government for pursuing a policy which it has inherited from the past, but wherever there are honest men who, like the honorable member for Fremantle, desire to live together in love and affection, and to see the advancement of their country, they must realize that the problems confronting us to-day will not be solved by any mere tinkering with the system under which we are living. The only hope of salvation for this or any other country is the opening up of new roads to prosperity and the adoption of new methods of finance and trade. Sooner or later the nations will be forced by circumstances to confess that the existing social system and our whole financial fabric are shattering to pieces and that new, sound sane, and reasonable methods must be adopted in order to meet the changing circumstances of the world. If this is not done disruption and discord will overwhelm us. The difficulties of the world are not insurmountable. Many things should be done to-day, which, because of human ignorance and prejudice, and our attachment to old ideas, men will not do. But “ the old order changeth, yielding place to new.” Old ideas like old clothes wear out. Humanity will be forced to adopt new methods, although we may not live to see it. I believe that the first step in that direction will involve the abolition of the existing system and the adoption of a system of public ownership of the instrumentalities of production in the interests of the whole community. Not ours to-day the power, not ours, possibly, ever the power; but other men will surely be driven by the sheer force of economic circumstances to make changes greater than we are prepared to countenance to-day. 1” thank the honorable members for their attention and consideration. I shall trouble them no more.
.- We are indebted to the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) for the contribution that he has made to this debate; but we look in vain for any one who has seen in operation the system of public ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange to which he has referred. We are also indebted to the honorable member for the history he has given us of various periods of Commonwealth activities. But, in spite of the honorable gentleman’s remarks Australia can to-day pride herself that confidence is being restored. The honorable member asked in a sneering fashion where this confidence is to be found. If he would take the trouble to investigate conditions in our big cities he would certainly be satisfied that stability is returning to Australia. My experience in my own electorate in recent months has shown me quite definitely that there is a new and better feeling in industry. I could mention the names of several manufacturers who have told me that they have increased the number of their employees. In one case, twenty men have been taken off the dole and ten additional men employed in a certain factory. In another case, the class of employees desired can be obtained only by advertising for them.
The honorable member for Bourke, and certain other honorable gentlemen opposite may condemn the banks, but, in my opinion, Australia can justly be proud of the fact that her banking institutions are to-day in a stable and solvent position. We have had some experience of the efforts of Labour governments to revive confidence in this country. I have particularly in mind the Lang Administration. Mr. Lang had under his control only one bank. Through this institution advances were made to farmers and rural industries generally. But when that mighty Treasurer - I refer to Mr. Lang - put his shoulder to the wheel he smashed this hank, although it should have been the last in Australia to close its doors. I remember the time years ago when many private banking institutions in this country had to suspend operations. Whatever has been our lot during the three years of depression that we have experienced, it has nothing like the calamitous experience of the people generally when the private banks were forced to close their doors. I remember Mr. George Dibbs, afterwards Sir George Dibbs, telling the citizens of New South Wales that every penny that they had in the State Savings Bank would be repaid to them. But although Mr. Lang asserted that the Government of which he was the head was behind the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales that institution had to close its doors. If the members of the Labour party do not know what confidence is they certainly know what it means to have no confidence. In New South Wales, many members of the working class have been damned and ruined by the Labour party. No one can deny that, in recent years, that party has done a great deal to destroy confidence in this country, and to accentuate the depression. Instead of bringing happiness and comfort into the homes of the workers, it has brought into them misery and want. Yet honorable members of that party in this chamber have laid the charge against this Government that it has been indifferent to the interests of the working man. I believe that a number of honorable members opposite are sufficiently honest with themselves to admit that the closing of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales was directly due to the actions of the Labour Premier of the State at that time. At any rate that gentleman has caused great disruption in his party, and bas increased incalculably the lack of confidence in the country, which has been one of our greatest difficulties. A gentleman who was Treasurer of the Scullin Government for a time has also contributed to that lack of confidence. It is remarkable to me that certain honorable gentlemen who supported the persons to whom I have referred can look honest men in the face and say that they have done anything for the welfare of this country. I have been’ surprised at the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) towards the measures that have been adopted for the rehabilitation of Australia’s finances. Every effort of the Government to readjust the financial affairs of this country has been opposed by the members of the Labour party. They declared that the financial agreement enforcement legislation would not enable this Government to bring Mr. Lang to book, nor do anything to restore confidence in this country. Nevertheless, as a result of that legislation, the Lang Government was defeated. An honest Government is now in charge of the finances of New South Wales. Freed from the disruptive policy of the Lang Government, the people of that State who have money to spare are seeking avenues in which to invest it. [Quorum formed.’] When the Commonwealth Government was doing its utmost to inspire confidence in this country, the Lang Government was introducing amending arbitration and financial measures, which, if passed, would have destroyed confidence in Australia, both here and abroad. Surely the members of the Labour party in this chamber are not insensible to the revival of confidence that has taken place in this country now that sane and sound Government has been established. The honorable member for Hindmarsh and other honorable members have discussed old-age and invalid pensions, and have invited us to join them in a vote condemning the Government for its action in reducing those pensions and restricting the conditions under which they are granted. I admit that there are anomalies in the pension system, but they have been in existence for a long time, and have little to do with the recent legislation passed by this Parliament. The intention of this Government is that no pensioner shall receive a payment of less than 17s. 6d. per week. No honorable member cavils at that. It is also intended that pensioners who have an income shall suffer a reduction of 2s. 6d.’ in their pension. But hardship is being inflicted upon some pensioners because of the fact that their frozen assets are taken into account as -income. For example, one source of income, according to the act, is the value of land. Many old-age pensioners have, as a result of exercising thrift during their lifetime, saved sufficient to enable them to purchase a block of land worth, say, £400. They cannot sell it or obtain any income from it, yet in fixing their pension, the department takes its value as actual cash. That method of adjusting pensions is wrong in principle. Having no desire to inflict hardship upon the pensioners, I brought this anomaly under the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and I hope that he will take action to rectify it. There is no reason why the income should not be fixed at say, 5 per cent, of the capital value of the block of laud. Again, when an oldage pensioner has an insurance policy, its surrender value is calculated as income. Actually there is no income from an insurance policy except at death, or, in the case of an endowment policy, at the end- of a certain period. That method of arriving at income places an additional burden upon the oldage pensioner. The assets in both instances are frozen, yet in respect of the pension, they are taken into account as income. The old-age pensioners are permitted to have £50 in cash without any reduction of pension, and for every £10 in excess of that amount, £1 is taken as income. If the limit was increased to £20, it would mitigate to a great extent the difficulties under which the pensioners are suffering in respect of frozen assets. The old-age pensioner who has a home of his own pays no rent, but the old-age pensioner who has a block of land with no dwelling upon it, has to pay rent and, in addition, suffers a reduction of his pension. In order to place both pensioners on an equal footing the income from the block of land should be fixed at, say, 5 per cent, of its capital value.
I turn now to discuss certain remarks made by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) yesterday, concerning what he suggested were administrative laxities within the Parliament itself. The honorable member went so far as to cast doubt upon the honour of honorable members, and altogether spoke in a most extravagant manner. I have since made inquiries, and I understand that the burden of his complaint related to incidents of two years ago, when he was supporting a Labour Government, and, at least, should have had ample opportunity to prevent many of the abuses about which he now complains. I, therefore, suggest that it ill becomes the honorable member now to complain about certain shortages which everybody knew took j.lace, and to make a broad general charge against members, as the matter was inquired into at that time. I am quite sure that every honorable member would support any move to prevent such abuses in the future.
The honorable member had a good deal to say about the wine bounty, and I could not help noticing how careful he was to protect the interests of the wine-makers in South Australia. I remember attending a meeting held at Mildura in, I think, 1922, to discuss the grievances of the doradillo grapegrowers, who complained that the winemakers were not giving them a fair return. The position of returned soldier settlers was then desperate, and it was alleged that the wine merchants, instead of dealing fairly by these growers, had cleared out their cellars and taken the whole of the bounty.
– The wine bounty was not payable in 1922.
– I am referring to the position that obtained in the industry when the first bounty on doradillo grapes was paid. Because of the unfair treatment, which growers alleged was being meted out to them by the wine-makers, they threatened to root out all their vines and give their attention to the production of dried fruits. I doubt the wisdom of propping up the wine business in this manner. Even in France where, for many generations, wine has been the national drink, the people are now showing a preference for mineral waters, and in this country the most intensive propaganda has been Indulged in to force our wines upon the market. Some of “(3ie wine saloons in Sydney are among the most disgraceful to be found in any city on the face .of the earth.
– That is not correct.
– During my term as a member of the New South Wales Parliament I inspected many wine bars in Sydney, and brought under the notice of the Government the disgraceful conditions then existing, pointing out that some of the saloons were places of assignation for nien of the underworld to procure women associates of the lowest type.
– I investigated charges against the saloons, and found that, with one exception, every wine bar in the metropolitan’ area of Sydney was well conducted.
– Possibly the honorable member’s investigations were conducted after a clean-up had taken place following the charges which I had made. [Quorum formed.’]
I wish now to discuss for a few moments the position of the wheat industry, and the proposals for a continuance of the bounty. Every honorable member, I am sure, bas the fullest sympathy with our wheat-growers, and would like to see everything possible done to assist them; but I should prefer the introduction of a scheme more equitable than a general bounty proposal because, as honorable members know, wheat production varies, in different districts, and, under a straight-out bounty, the man with the largest production gets most benefit.
– Under existing conditions, a big turnover in wheat means a bigger loss to the grower.
– Not if scientific massproduction methods are employed. The smaller grower is confronted with many difficulties which are more easily dealt with by the larger growers. Unfavorable climatic conditions may seriously interfere with his average yield, with the result that his return per acre is low. His costs of production are unduly high as compared with those of a farmer operating in a large way, and using scientific and mechanized means of production. I understand that some members of this House participated in the bounty last season in respect of wheat grown on large areas of comparatively cheap land. It appears to me, from my study of the position, that those who advocate the continuance of the bounty have not considered its relative advantages to large and small wheat-growers. I understand that the men who are growing wheat on a large scale are continually urging members of the Country party in this House to insist upon a continuance of the wheat bounty, because they are the people who will derive the most benefit from it.
– The honorable member is right off the track now.
– I have yet to learn that
Country members in this House have ever correctly interpreted the attitude of our primary producers in these matters. Take for example the tobacco industry. Members of the Country party declared last year that it would be entirely destroyed as a result of the action of this Government in placing an excise duty upon locally grown tobacco leaf. Every member of the Country party supported that cry from Queensland. But yesterday the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) introduced to the Prime Minister a deputation which admitted that all the commotion raised by the tobacco-growers, their statements that the industry was endangered, and that the growers would be forced to live upon the dole, was only bluff.
– That was never said.
– Members of the Country party almost danced the hornpipe in their professed concern for the tobacco-growers, and I recollect the Minister for Tra.de and Customs (Mr. Gullett) informing the House that some of the growers were making 300 per cent, profit, and asking why the wheat-growers’ representatives were not protesting against the greed of their fellow primary producers in Queensland. The Country party went so far as to threaten to destroy the Government if the demands of the growers were not’ granted.
– That is a wild statement, surely.
– Not half so wild as some of the statements made by the honorable member’s party with regard to the tobacco industry. We have been told more recently that the sugar industry would be ruined if the Government persisted in asking that the price should be reduced by id- per lb. The Government was charged with seeking to destroy a great primary industry, and hand the Australian market over to the products of black labour. Last night, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) admitted that the cane-cutters were being paid 30s. a day. In New South Wales, at the request of the Country party, the rural industries have been withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the State Arbitraion Court in order that labour may be engaged at 6s. or 7s. a day, or at whatever rate the employers chose to pay.
– No, at a wage they can afford to pay.
– Last night, an honorable member advocated a tax on flour, which, he said, would not increase the price of bread by more than -J-d. a loaf, in order that a bounty might be paid on the production of wheat. It is significant that just prior to the filling of the. vacancies in the Cabinet the adjournment of the House was moved in order to discuss the wheat industry. I hope that the Government will take a firm stand against both attacks and offers of support made with a view to gaining ministerial office for members of the Country party.
– Nonsense !
– I am speaking of what I have witnessed. In the New South Wales Parliament, about twelve years ago, two farmers were admitted to the Fuller Ministry in return for the Country party’s support. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) barged his way into a ministry on the promise of the Country party’s support.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair.
– Even before the last general election in New South Wales the Country party was bartering its support for a certain number of portfolios. Now members of the Country party are making an outcry regarding the decision of the Government to remove the duty from Fijian bananas.
Yesterday’s newspapers report a deputation from farmers and settlers to the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales (Mr. Hugh Main) regarding the bulk handling of wheat. He said several of the requests were impracticable.
– How many did he grant?
– Not many. The first request was -
That the Government be urged to spend whatever money can lie made available in extending the bulk handling system by building more country silos in preference to country terminals.
Mr. Main stated that there were many objections to country terminals and that the department was not favorable towards their construction.
– There is no such thing as a country terminal.
– That is the phrase used by the Minister for Agriculture, but I never had a very high opinion, of his knowledge, nor of that of the honorable member for Calare when he was associated with him. Mr. Main said -
It must bo remembered, however, that as the bulk handling system was extended to embrace other stations, further terminal accommodation would be absolutely- necessary in order to take the overflow.
Another request by the deputation for the preferential treatment of bulk wagons was refused.
– Is the honorable member dealing with Commonwealth finances?
– I am dealing with the claims of the Country party for a wheat bounty.
– Is the honorable member in favour of such a bounty ?
– Yes, if it be placed on. an equitable basis. But the Country party is asking for a bounty which will yield the greatest return to the man who reaps the largest quantity of wheat, and give no assistance to the small man whose crop has been destroyed by unfavorable weather or disease. When a generous Commonwealth bounty has been obtained for the benefit of the large grower, the State governments will be asked to assist the small men in other ways. Every honorable member would support a reasonable bounty, but honorable members are asking the Commonwealth Government to commit itself at a time when they know that there is a possibility of the price of wheat increasing. When the demand was made for a bounty last year, the price of wheat was lower than when the bounty was granted ; but having obtained an assurance of the sympathy of the Government when the price was low, the farmers were sure of even greater benefit when the market improved. In dealing with this problem we ought to be most careful, because we are under an obligation to treat all sections of the people equitably. Honorable members talk of farmers being bankrupt. At Brighton Beach, in my electorate, I could show them 80 families occupying homes made of odd pieces of iron and timber. They have lost everything, and are now living on the dole. In our cities there are large numbers of families which have suffered ten times as much as those farmers who claim special privileges by way of bounties. While such conditions exist we have no right to hand over £3,000,000 as a bounty on wheat,- unless the grant is made on an equitable basis. Honorable members who advocate a wheat bounty have not established a claim for it. I am glad that the Government has resisted the pressure- brought to bear on it to spend the national income in the interests of a section of the community rather than of the whole of the people. When the Government proposed to bring about a reduction of the price of sugar a strong demand was made on behalf of the sugar-growers for the protection of the primary industry in which they were engaged. Later, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) championed the cause of the hair-cloth industry because it is made in Goulburn. Australian-made hair-cloth costs three times as much as the imported article. The people look to the Government for honesty and integrity in’ administration; they do not expect it to be turned aside by any threat of loss of office.
.- I . count it a privilege to address the House following the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), since the honorable gentleman seems intent on abusing the Country party, both inside and outside Parliament, and on misleading the committee. At the outset, I claim that the case of the primary producers, which has been placed before the committee by members of the Country party, is based on facts. We have made no unfair or unreasonable request, nor have we disregarded the interests of other sections of the community. If the honorable member speaks for the Government of the Commonwealth, I can only say that that Government is politically bankrupt. The sooner the Government realizes that the views expressed by the honorable member are not acceptable to the electors, the better it will be for the Commonwealth.
– It is not fair to condemn the Government upon the speech of one honorable member.
– If necessary, I am prepared to deal in the same way with the speech of the ex-Postmaster-General (Mr. Penton). So long as the honorable member for Barton is a supporter of the Government, the responsibility for his irresponsible utterances, both inside and outside this chamber, must be accepted by the Government.
Referring to the wine industry, the honorable member said that the wine bars of Sydney are of the lowest type in the world. As one who had control of the wine industry in New South Wales, and officially inspected every wine bar in the metropolitan area of Sydney, I say unhesitatingly that that statement is slanderous and incorrect. With the exception of two or three isolated instances, I found that the wine bars of Sydney were conducted on better lines, than in most other countries, and generally better than in the other cities of Australia.
– What were the two or three like ?
– They were dealt with effectively immediately my reports were submitted.
The utterances of the honorable member for Barton entirely misrepresent the claim of the Country party on behalf of the wheat-growers of this country for a bounty on wheat. The wheat-growers are making that claim because to-day it costs more to produce wheat than is obtained for it in the markets of the world. The price of wheat to-day is lower than it was when the bounty was granted last year; it averages approximately 2s. 4d. a bushel at country sidings, there being a slight variation according to the length of the railway haulage. That is about ls. a bushel less than the actual cost of production. In claiming that the Government should grant a bounty of 6d. a bushel on the exportable surplus, the wheat-growers are not asking for any special consideration, nor are they actuated by selfish motives. They say that the whole of the people of the Commonwealth should make a small contribution towards stabilizing one of the most important industries of this country, and keeping tens of thousands of wheatgrowers out of tho bankruptcy court next year. Every reasonable person in the community recognizes that any money paid to the wheat-growers by way of an export bounty on wheat will immediately circulate throughout the community, not for the benefit of the wheat-growers alone, but also so that they may pay their creditors, and so that an industry which provides more labour than does any other industry in the Commonwealth may be maintained. Directly and indirectly, the wheat-growing industry is the greatest employer of labour in this country. There are from 65,000 to 70,000 wheatgrowers in Australia, and if we multiply that number by four or five, we shall get a fair estimate of the number of people who comprise the wheat-growers and their families. To that total we may safely add another 25 per cent, or 30 per cent, in order to arrive at a rough estimate of the number of persons directly employed on the wheat farms of this country. Nearly half the tonnage hauled on our railways consists of wheat. Thus any moneys paid to those engaged in the wheat-growing industry by way of a bounty is, in effect, paid to the whole of the people of the Commonwealth. A bounty should be provided for the specific purpose of stabilizing a most important primary industry during a period when those engaged in it are suffering serious financial stress and strain. The wheatgrowers are deserving of special consideration since they are compelled to sell their wheat in the world’s markets at world’s parity in competition with wheat from every other wheat-producing country. They have no customs duties or spoon-feeding methods to protect them. Yet we find the honorable member for Barton abusing them and their direct representatives in this chamber, merely because they have the courage to place the facts before the Prime Minister. To whom else could they go but to the Prime Minister to explain the problems which will confront this country within a few months if the wheat industry is destroyed? All that we ask is that those engaged in wheat production shall be given a helping hand during their hour of need. Moreover, the wheat-growers have for a considerable time been carrying a large proportion of the burdens of taxation and customs duties. The Minister for Health (Mr. Marr), when speaking on this subject some days ago, said that the customs duties imposed increased the cost of production of wheat by only½d. a bushel. With due respect to the Minister, I submit that his statement is incorrect. Let me give him one illustration. The actual customs duties imposed on 114 locomotives, purchased principally for hauling primary products to the seaboard, cost the Railway Departments of this country an additional £500,000. I state definitely, and emphatically, that practically the whole of the customs duties imposed have a direct bearing upon the cost of producing wheat.
– Customs duties are not imposed on locomotives.
– If the Minister doubts the accuracy of my statement, I shall have to substantiate it by quoting from the Tariff Board’s report.
– Large locomotives were imported free of duty.
– On page 11 of the annual report of the Tariff Board, it is stated that the actual duty imposed on railway locomotives cost this country £500,000, as against the price at which they could be purchased overseas. The Prime Minister and his colleagues have stated, on previous occasions, that they are prepared to accept the recommendations of the Tariff Board. The board’s annual report for 1930-31 reviews the circumstances surrounding various industries, and recommends that the duties be reduced from British 55 per cent., intermediate 65 per cent., and general 75 per cent., as provided in the 1921-30 tariff, to 40 per cent., 50 per cent., and 55 per cent. respectively. Notwithstanding this, the Minister contradicts me when I say that customs duties are a direct charge against wheat-producers.
– Large engines for the haulage of wheat were imported free of duty.
– The Tariff Board reports that the duty should be reduced to British, 40 per cent.; intermediate, 50 per cent., and general 55 per cent. These and other excessive tariff duties increase the railway freight on grain, wool and other primary products to the seaboard. I again emphasize a fact I previously stated in this House, that the primary producer pays freight to the Railway Department both ways on long distance haulages.
– I referred to the cost directly incurred in producing wheat.
– I have quoted the Tariff Board’s report, which states that the duty on locomotives of British manufacture should be 45 per cent. instead of 55 per cent. When the wheat-growers of Australia are in serious financial difficulties their circumstances are reflected in the general financial position of the Commonwealth.
– When prices were higher than they are to-day, experts who reported upon the effect of the tariff said that customs duties represented an increased cost of 8½ per cent. on all export industries, including wheat.
– I accept the statement of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). I do not wish to labour this question by quoting further from the annual report of the Tariff Board at this stage. If the wheatgrowers are allowed to drift further the financial structure of the Commonwealth will be seriously undermined. Honorable members have compared the position of the unemployed with the wheat-growers, but serious as is their position, the absence of employment will not undermine the financial stability of the country to the same extent as would a collapse of the wheat industry. Our rural industries are producing the great bulk of our exports. The right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and many other speakers have shown how our trade balance overseas has assisted in relieving the financial situation. Practically every economist and banker has directed public attention to the importance of the primary industries of this country which supply 95 per cent, of our exports. Honorable members opposite should realize that, in the interests of Australia, the members of the Country party have tried to impress upon the Government the- urgent necessity for granting a bounty to an industry responsible for the production of a tremendous amount of national wealth, “??d the employment of such a large number of persons. It is imperative that the wheat-growing industry should be stabilized in order to prevent the collapse which seems imminent, particularly if the wheat-growers are forced to sell wheat at about ls. a bushel less than it costs to produce it. I am prepared to give the Government full credit where credit is due. It has lifted a heavy burden from the shoulders of the primary producers by removing the sales tax of 6 per cent, on the great bulk of their requirements, but that tax should never have been imposed on materials used for the purpose of producing the nation’s wealth. The primary producers will need to obtain a much greater measure of relief than has been afforded them up to date. They will have to get cheaper money, and they will have to be relieved of many of the taxes imposed on them, particularly the land tax, which is a serious burden on our pastoralists. Some of these latter are certainly occupying large tracts of country, hut they are using them for the best purposes, and producing from them more wealth than could be won if the areas were subdivided. That has been proved by what has happened on many soldier settlements. “When those lands were held in large areas by men with sufficient capital to work thom properly, and employ labour at good wages, they were sound financial propositions; the owners paid taxes, and there was no poverty in the district. When,, however, the areas were divided into small, starvation holdings, and occupied by men with no capital, whether they were civilians or soldiers, the Commonwealth and State Governments very shortly were saddled with heavy financial responsibilities. The individual settlers, in many instances, are today worse off than the unemployed. They are facing poverty and privation of a kind probably unknown to many honorable members of this House. They are trying to eke out an existence on areas that they will never be able to call their own; their indebtedness is too great for them ever to wipe off.
The Tariff Board, on page 11 of its last report, emphasizes a point frequently stressed by members of the Country party. Dealing with the high cost of essential plant and raw material, it states -
The board considers it necessary again to comment upon the disturbingly high cost in Australia of essential plant and raw materials. This is hot done with any idea of disparaging local industry, but the board feels it incumbent upon it to continually lay emphasis on the prevailing high prices of essential products, for the simple reason that until such prices are materially reduced to meet the seriously reduced purchasing power of the community, neither the demand for the products nor cm*ployment can be effectively resuscitated.
On that point I desire to make a definite appeal to the Government to realize that it is time we got away from the hard and fast rule of trying by artificial means to bolster up the whole range of secondary industries in Australia at the expense even of the operatives engaged in them, but particularly at the expense of other really important industries. I make a personal appeal to the Minister in charge of the House to realize that it is essential that we should remove those artificial barriers which prevent manufacturers in Australia from purchasing raw material in the cheapest market in any part of the world, sp long as they can use i’t for the manufacture of goods which are to be reexported, and sold in the world’s markets. Only by encouraging manufacturers in this way can we build up our essential industries, and re-employ those now out of work. No doubt the Minister will raise the objection, which was made to mo by the Customs Department the other day, that the department must oppose any application from a manufacturer for a concession on the importation of raw material, if such raw material is at pre- sent being manufactured in Australia. Nobody is keener to retain for Australia and Australian industry every pennyworth of employment we can legitimately provide for them, but it would be the height of folly for the Government to refuse to facilitate the importation of cheap raw material - and I care not from what nation it may come - so long as its admission assists manufacturers to produce goods for export and sale on the world’s markets. If the Government refuses to grant a drawback, as it is called, on the importation of raw materials for the purpose I have mentioned, it will definitely prevent the manufacture of goods in. Australia for export abroad. I appeal to the Government to amend the Customs Act, if necessary, and not continue to leave the manufacturers in this respect at the mercy of a Minister for Trade and Customs who now deals with each case on its merits, and may refuse to manufacturers the right to build up their industries and provide employment. This is a vital point. To-day factories are being closed clown, while others are working only half time, and thousands of operatives arc being thrown out of employment because our factories are producing only for the Australian market. They cannot obtain their raw material cheaply enough to enable them to compete in the markets of the world. That constitutes the great difference between the’ primary and secondary industries of Australia. In the primary industries we do produce for export, irrespective of the cost of production, and we meet the world’s markets. To the everlasting credit of the primary producers it must be said that, during this period of depression, they have not only maintained the volume of our exports, but have also increased it. But they have sold their produce at a loss, which means that every primary producer is gradually mortgaging his assets. They have been going further and further into debt until their liabilities, in tens of thousands of cases, exceed their assets. If they were forced to realize on those assets, in order to meet their liabilities, they would undoubtedly be bankrupt. Tor this reason we say that, although generally we are not keen supporters of the granting of bounties, some help must be given to the primary producers. “We prefer that industries, both primary and secondary, should be built up on a sound, economic basis; but, while the Commonwealth accepts as a principle of its policy the granting of protective duties to secondary industries, thus creating a high plane of costs, it must bc prepared to give some consideration to the claims of those engaged in the primary industries. Even if it means granting them a cash bounty, either on production or on export, it would be merely giving to those engaged in the great primary industries assistance similar to that granted for years past to the secondary industries, and in a few instances to some branches of primary industry.
There is another point that we must not overlook. Wheat-growers, wine-producers, cotton-growers, canned fruit men and others engaged in primary production, receiving a bounty, are merely having returned to them in cash some of the money that they have already paid into the treasury in the form of high duties on the whole of their requirements, or .on the money they have already paid out of their pockets for services rendered to them by private enterprise and various government departments. As I have already pointed out, excessive tariff duties are a big factor in the inflation of railway transport charges, and they certainly tend to increase the cost of living of every individual in the community, and even governmental costs. The result is an increase in direct taxation, some of which finds its way back, in the form of bounties, to those engaged in primary production.
It is remarkable that, although the value of our primary products has been reduced greatly in recent years, and incomes have diminished, governments have actually taken more money from the taxpayers each year than they did when the value of those products was high. Producers are hit both ways ; they are losing money because of the fall in the market value of their products, and their smaller incomes are more heavily taxed. As the result they are forced into a critical position, from which it will be difficult to extricate them if they are allowed to remain in it much longer.
I wish to draw attention to two or throe other matters that are of vital concern to those engaged in pioneering the country. Wo are told that the Postal Department is faced with certain financial difficulties, although the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) mentioned that there is plenty of cash available for necessary work. I hope that country districts will get their share of that money when it is spent. People in those districts suffer disabilities from which they should be given relief by the Postal Department. For . many years appeals have been made to that department in the hope that subscribers in isolated districts will be granted better facilities. Yet the practice still persists of disconnecting their telephones every week-end and holiday. In the metropolitan areas and in large towns the telephone service is continuous, and should an accident or fire occur, it is only necessary to run a few hundred yards to the nearest telephone to obtain help. In remotely situated country districts the telephone exchange is hermetically sealed from 6 p.m. until 9 a.m., and very often from noon on Saturday until 9 a.m. on Monday. Whether the place is a hundred miles or one mile from the nearest police station or ambulance, one has no hope of using that telephone service during those closing hours, simply because of a stupid, obsolete regulation. I impress upon the Postmaster-General that it would not be a costly matter to introduce a system whereby the people in isolated districts could enjoy almost continuous service, simply by allowing the local police office, store, or some other centrally situated subscriber to plug into the nearest continuous exchange.
– That could be done.
– I know it could be done, because at present it is done unofficially fu a few cases.
– And officially.
– Then why should some particular office be singled out for the favour? Tens of thousands of people are disconnected from this essential service in the way that I have described. One is told that there is a regulation which enables the office to be opened upon the payment of a fee of 2s. 6d. I should like the Postmaster-General to try to open some of these offices, even at a cost of £100. I can mention offices where the contractor would insult any person who asked him to put a call through after hours. I know of a case where a man working for a district surveyor had his arm almost amputated through an accident with an axe. Somebody went to the local post office and begged the woman who resided on the premises to allow him to ring up Dubbo and get a doctor out to the man, who was in danger of losing his life through loss of blood. The woman flatly refused. Yet she is still in charge of that office! It is a disgrace that any country district should be disconnected for even one hour at any period of the year. No one can tell when disaster might occur. Year after year appeals in this regard are made to the postal department, which writes voluminous replies pointing out the difficulties in the way of connecting a subscriber to the nearest continuous exchange. I know of a very simple method of attaching a form of automatic connexion which would enable any subscriber connected with a country exchange to get in touch with the nearest continuous exchange.
– It is physically impossible.
– I say that it is not, and I am prepared to provide the attachment free of charge so that it may be demonstrated. The ringing of the telephone subscriber’s bell causes a shutter to fall in every telephone office. So long as that shutter could be brought into contact with the nearest exchange, a very simple attachment would make it possible for that subscriber to get into touch with a continuous exchange.
– The honorable member has solved the biggest problem that has confronted the Postal Department.
– It could be done. It is astounding to me that an exPostmasterGeneral should suggest that there is any real mechanical difficulty in the way of connecting an automatic exchange with a small country office.
– At a cost of probably £600?
– The cost would be negligible. It is ridiculous to say that there are any difficulties which would prevent an automatic exchange from being connected with a small country office where there are fifteen, 20, 30 or 40 subscribers, when the different metropolitan areas are linked up in a most complicated network, and give a greater service than it is possible for any manual exchange to give. The country people have tolerated this position too long. Even if the expenditure on the cities had to be reduced by one-half, we should be justified in asking the Postal Department to provide telephonic communication in the inland districts for 24 hours a day, and for 365 days in the year. It is absolutely essential to their development. The Postal Department is hedged round with a greater number of regulations than any other department, and presents more obstacles to the obtaining of any service. It is the duty of this Government to clear away not only the regulations, but also those officers who are preventing the country people from, securing that to which they are justly entitled. For the time being I should be quite satisfied with a system under which, in every office, upon the attendant leaving the exchange, one subscriber in the area could be plugged in to the trunk line so that in cases of emergency essential communication with other centres is maintained.
– At one time that was always done.
– I have had the honour to represent large country constituencies for the last nine or ten years, and I have had scores of complaints in regard to practically every little country post office. I know of none in which this practice has been followed except unofficially, and even then only in a case of critical illness, when the postal officer was begged to allow the particular number to remain connected, so that in the event of an emergency call being necessary, communication could be established with the doctor or relatives.
I wish to emphasize the position of those in rural industries who have lost heavily financially, and are seriously embarrassed on account of the low prices they have realized for their products.
They are appealing for relief from the unnecessary charges which the Government is imposing on them. “When a government is asked to lift a burden from industry, the reply invariably is that the financial position does not justify the reduction of taxation or the removal of other burdens. I appeal to the Government, as I did when the Sales Tax Assessment Act was being amended recently, to make it unnecessary for those who arc liable t.o pay that tax to put up guarantee bonds. If that were done, it would immediately remove from the shoulders of all such taxpayers the necessity for incurring the expense of what is really a fidelity bond with the insurance companies of this country, as a guarantee that they will pay their sales tax upon demand. With all duc respect to those who contend that this bond is necessary, I claim that it is one of the most ridiculous taxation anomalies that has ever been perpetrated in this country. In addition to sales tax, nearly every citizen pays taxation in some form or other - entertainments tax, income tax, land tax, or the different taxes that are collected in the States - but in none of those cases is any form of bond required of the taxpayer to ensure the payment of his tax upon demand. All that is required of him is the furnishing of a return, upon which an assessment of his tax is made. The bond which is demanded of those who are liable to sales tax causes them to incur some outlay, and in reality only puts cash into the pockets of the big insurance companies of this country. These taxpayers must have some assets which, if necessary, could be attached by the department. In any case, the department is well able to protect itself by means of the penalties that are provided in the Assessment Act itself.
I wish now to refer to some of the comments that were made to-night by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), who, on the average, addresses himself to this chamber not more than once in each session. He took a delight in attacking the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and his administration as Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia. I say, without hesitation, that the record of the right honorable member in that office is one of -which, not only he, but also his party is justly proud. The Commonwealth is indebted to him. He placed its finances on a basis of soundness that they had never previously occupied. No subsequent government has dared to repeal, the legislation which he introduced, and had passed to control and protect the finances of Australia. The satellites of other government’s may abuse him, and ridicule his efforts to stabilize our finances, but those administrations have been pleased to avail themselves of the legislation for which he was responsible. He secured the establishment of the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank, which from its inception has been the sheet anchor of Australia’s primary industries. While he was Treasurer, he established a favorable trade balance overseas and £45,000,000 of our war debt was paid off. In addition, sinking funds were established for the liquidation of the debts of the Commonwealth and the States. The Loan Council was brought into existence, and stabilized the financial position throughout Australia.
– The honorable member assumes that no other members of that Government did anything.
– The others are not entitled to the credit due to the Treasurer.
– Except the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce).
– The right honorable member for Cowper is entitled to full credit for what he did as Federal Treasurer. He got all the abuse, and the honorable gentleman made no attempt to protect him.
– Why should I do so?
– The honorable gentleman now seeks to take from him the credit to which he is entitled for having established the Loan Council.
– It was the then Prime Minister who did that.
– He did nothing of the kind. I give the credit to the Treasurer of the day for the measures which preserved the financial integrity of this country during its most difficult period, particularly while the last Lang Government was in power in New South Wales, when every effort was made- by it to undermine our financial stability. Yet, for no other purpose than to belittle the record of the leader of the Country party, the honorable member for Bourke, in one of his rare speeches in this chamber, has vilified and attacked one who has so contributed to the building up of this nation.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), owing, perhaps, to an interjection, which I made to the effect that it was not fair to hold a government responsible for an utterance of a private member, practically accused me of applauding the sentiments of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane). I certainly did not do that. For the greater part of tho honorable member’s speech I was absent from the chamber.
– I regret that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) has left his seat. I think that his attitude towards Queensland indicates a serious lapse on his part from the ideals generally attributed to members of the Nationalist party. It has always been the pride of that party, that in all its actions, it considers the best interests of Australia generally. For the last 30 years, the general desire of the party to which honorable members on this side belong has been to give justice to every industry, irrespective of the State in which it is carried on. From the inception of federation, all Nationalist governments have recognized that the development of the tropical portions of Australia is essential to the maintenance of the White Australia policy. There would be grave danger to that policy in leaving a large area in the north undeveloped. Yet, for some extraordinary reason, the honorable member for Barton seems to have a prejudice against Queensland industries. Surely, he believes in keeping Australia white, and recognizes that no government that has. the well being of the nation at heart, should do anything contrary to the best interests of tropical Australia. It must be said to the credit of the representatives of Queensland in this Parliament, that they have consistently helped both the primary and the secondary industries of the southern States.
Probably, the Government has heard enough adverse criticism during this debate, and, therefore, I desire to offer it my congratulations upon certain points of its policy. In the first place, I commend the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) upon his recent administration of the Department of the Interior: The attitude adopted by him to the claims of Canberra was most gratifying. When I heard the hostile remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) concerning the Federal Capital, and read certain press criticisms of it, I was reminded of a letter that was published in the New York Daily Advertiser on the 24th February, 1789. At that time, the building of the city of Washington had not been commenced. But a proposal to establish the seat of government of the new American Republic on a site away from any existing city had been mooted and criticism similar to that heard regarding Canberra was levelled against it. The letter, which was written from Baltimore, and contained criticism on all fours with that now directed against Canberra, was as follows : - _ There ure already subscribed for the erection of buildings in this town for the use of Congress 20,090 dollars. When we reflect on the present state of population in the United States, nothing can be more. preposterous and absurd than the idea of fixing the seat of Congress in a village, or the raising of a new city in a wilderness for their residence. Before we give in to such fancies, we should consider whether we have such a surplus of people and. trade, as is necessary for the erection and maintenance of a new city. If we have not, the new city must necessarily draw from our present towns their wealth, trade and people, to compose its greatness. I believe no considerate men will venture to say that a new city can be established by any other means than by attracting the wealth, trade, and inhabitants,’ of the old ones; or that it is consistent with the interests of the United States of America to adopt a measure so pregnant with injury and desolation. The contest for the seat of Congress will, therefore, and must necessarily be, between New York and Baltimore.
If “ Sydney and Melbourne “ were substituted for “ New York and Baltimore,” that letter might have been written concerning Canberra. To-day the city of Washington is the pride of the people of the United States of America. I notice in the budget, that steps are being taken to transfer the
Patents Department to Canberra, and I hope that honorable members will support that proposal. The Government could not make a more profitable investment than to transfer to the Federal Capital the various government departments now located in Melbourne. It would mean increased revenue to Canberra,, and a reduction of overhead expenses, because it would save the high rents now- paid in Melbourne for the accommodation of several Commonwealth departments. In the course of time, Canberra will prove to be one of the most profitable investments of the Commonwealth.
– I hope that the honorable member is right.
– I have no doubt on the matter. Every public servant who is transferred here, and who occupies a block of land the unimproved value of which is £200, contributes £10 per annum regularly to the revenue. It has been suggested that the seat of government should have been established in Sydney or Melbourne; but I point out that the capital cost of the land on which the present parliamentary buildings were erected was about £17 10s. If the Government had had to acquire a site of about five acres in Sydney or Melbourne, the land alone would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. The transfer of the seat of government to Canberra was stoutly resisted in Melbourne. The people of that city said that the Federal Parliament should be transferred to Sydney in preference to Canberra. But the establishment of this city can be justified on high political and constitutional grounds. Even in the short period that the Parliament has been sitting here incidents have occurred which have demonstrated beyond all question the wisdom of conducting the parliamentary business of the Commonwealth away from the dominating influences of any of our great cities. That also was the experience of the United States of America.
It is gratifying to note the progress of Canberra in educational affairs. It will not be very long before this city becomes one of the most attractive educational centres of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for
Darling (Mr. Blakeley), who was the Minister in charge of Canberra in the Scullin Administration, is entitled to credit for the part that he took in the establishment of the Canberra University College. The college, which is growing in importance every year, is associated with the Melbourne University, which has treated it most generously. The number of students in the college was 32 in 1930 ; it increased to 66 in 1931, and this year it is 63. These students will have the opportunity to graduate in arts or commerce, and may make a selection from a wide range of subjects in those two courses. Law subjects are also taught. It is advantageous to the Commonwealth Government that its officers may qualify in this college for the higher administrative positions in our Civil Service. The acquirement of academic qualifications adds to the efficiency of the Service. Already some of the officers who took university courses in Melbourne in their spare time are occupying high positions in the Service. Notable among these is Mr. G. S. Knowles, who, while an officer of the Patents Department, qualified as Master of Laws in the Melbourne University, and is to-day discharging with wonderful efficiency the important and responsible duties of the high office of Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth. I am glad that the Canberra University College has been established. In these days, when Australia is taking an ever increasing part in international conferences of one kind and another, it is necessary that our public servants, who will also be required to discharge important duties in connexion with these conferences, shall be thoroughly educated in languages, history and international law. A knowledge of these subjects is necessary in diplomatic work.
The number of visitors to Canberra recently has been remarkable, and it is notable also that many of them who came to criticize have remained to praise the ideals of and the work that is being done in the city. I sincerely trust that the Government will transfer with the least possible delay all the departments that will ultimately be located at Canberra. The completion of the transfer will result in improved efficiencyandeconomy of administration, and will make possible the holding of many more Cabinet meetings here than in either Melbourne or Sydney, and the concentration of attention by Ministers on their administrative work here without the necessity for so much of the travelling that they are now compelled to do to reach their departments.
Sitting suspended from 11.45 p.m. to 12.15 a.m.(Friday).
Friday, 21 October 1932.
– The residents of Canberra owe their thanks to the university men and others interested in education who formed the University Association which led to the establishment of the University College at Canberra. When the scheme for a federal capital was being evolved, the hope was expressed that a university more in the nature of a post-graduate university, or one engagedin higher research work, would ultimately be established, and, as Melbourne and Sydney had universities which gave training in the various professions, it was thought that the university at Canberra should give training to the young men who would be required for fulfilling the duty of scientific research for Commonwealth purposes. During this debate, honorable members have stressed the need for increased production and the expansion of our overseas markets for the purpose of restoring prosperity to Australia. It is vitally necessary that Australia should extend the application of science to production generally, and, in that connexion, I draw the attention of honorable members to that part of the Estimates dealing with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Any discovery which affects the plant and animal life of Australia is of vital importance to us as a nation. For years it was urged that the Commonwealth should undertake at a bureau of agriculture or some such institution, the investigation of all diseases affecting animal and plant life in Australia. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is fulfilling that function in a remarkable way. That institution, although functioning silently, is doing work of enormous advantage and of the greatest importance to the Commonwealth. I am afraid that few people realize what it has- done for Australia. It is difficult to make some people realize the necessity for developing our various industries under scientific methods. They seem to resent strongly scientific theories,, and to depend more upon practical knowledge. However, after much agitation, this institution was established, and it has. since rendered valuable assistance to Australia. The loss through disease in connexion with plant, life, alone is. something like £12,0000,000 annually, and any discovery which reduces that, loss must increase production. That also applies, to the animal life, of Australia. This, department, so far. as, the Commonwealth is concerned, must be primarily one “of research, the administrative functions being performed by. thu States. The institution at. Canberra, which is its proper centre,, has already made sayings in production far- in excess of the- cost of the- department itself. Let nae give several striking, illustrations. The institution! investigated the ravages of bitter pit in the- apple industry, of Tasmania. I know from my experience as Minister years ago- that bitter pit was a continuous- and troublesome: disease.. It was first investigated by Mr. McAlpine Other investigations followed,, until finally a proper method of control was. evolved. It is stated that, bv the establishment, of this control, an annual loss of £100,000- on the export of apples, from Australia will be reduced to- negligible proportion*. The saving in, that direction is likely to exceed the cost of the whole department. The report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, dealing with the animal health branch of the institute-, reads- -
One of the outstanding achievements of- tlie Division of Animal: Health, is- the discovery and- practical application of an effective vaccine against black disease of sheep. The economic value of this, work will be realized when- it is stated that the estimated annual loss from- black disease, in Australia is no less than £1,000,000 per annum. The council has been informed authoritatively that the results of this work will lead to a saving of £100,000 per annum in Tasmania alone, with corresponding savings in other States- affected. The application of that remedy to Tasmania,, for instance, would be of immense benefit to that State, and result in a e&arsiderable saving. Research work has also been undertaken in connexion with the irrigation schemes along the- river Murray, and on that subject the council says–
Since the establishment of the viticultural research., station at Merbein, the yield of dried fruit per acre has been more than doubled;, and this increase has been accompanied by a substantial improvement in- quality.-
The report also states -
Irrigation investigations on the “ duty “ of water have been extended to the Renmark area,, the work in the. Mildura and Red- Cliff districts having resulted in an estimated saving of no less than £9,000 per annum.
– There is a lot of windowdressing in that report.
– The council is perfectly justified in giving an account qf the actual results of research work.
– There is much duplication of effort in that report.
– I have given three distinct instances which cannot be said to be duplications. Even if the report does contain duplication of effort,, the work that I have mentioned has- resulted in an enormous saving to Australia generally. In. 1924, 1 happened to he passing through Canada. Being interested in the application of science to production, I- ascertained that that country bad produced a new class of wheat which could be planted l’ate in the season to avoid late frosts, and harvested early in the season to avoid early frosts. By utilizing that class of wheat, the wheat belt of Canada was extended almost 100 miles nearer to the Arctic circle. Science is moving so rapidly in connexion with primary production and secondary industries that output is now getting ahead of the absorptive capacity of the people, and the trend of criticism by leading writers on sociology is to direct attention to the. need for applying scientific study to a greater extent and1 with more concentration, to the means: of distribution as well as to discovery and invention. We should be grateful to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for the good work which it has done, and glad to know that it is to be continued. It is gratifying also, to note that young- Australian scientists are beginning to. play their part in this work. Men trained in our universities and agricultural colleges are now being employed in Canberra. One who Was formerly on the staff of the Gatton Agricultural College in Queensland is now doing useful work in this city. Every one must approve of the training of young Australians in the various branches of science. A few years ago highly trained men for work in these departments were difficult to obtain, and when found, commanded high salaries, which for the most part they justly merited. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) the other night directed criticism to a number of highly paid officers in the Public Service, questioning whether they were worth the salaries paid to them. Scientists employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are men who have attained to positions of high eminence, and if their remuneration were not adequate we should probably lose them to other countries, which would be willing to pay them salaries commensurate with the value of their work. It is important that we should devote serious attention to the training of our own scientists, because, in the tropical and temperate zones of Australia, which cover an area as great as that of the United States of America, we have a number of problems which can be dealt with satisfactorily only by trained men studying them on the spot. It is gratifying to know that young Australians are making their contribution to the solution of these problems.
The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) suggested a few moments ago that there was a good deal of window-dressing about the compilation of this report. May I remind him of one outstanding achievement following extended research work by scientists? I refer to the introduction of the cactoblastus to deal with the prickly, pear pest in Queensland. Already 3,000,000 acres have been practically reclaimed. Some portion of this land is being made available for settlement, and the Queensland Minister for Lands informed me a few days ago that for 39 blocks that had been thrown open, there were many hundreds of applicants.
– I have read all the reports issued by the council.
Sir Littleton Groom
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say that. I hope that he will read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest their contents. The work of the council is deserving of the sympathetic consideration of every honorable member, and I am glad to know that it has the goodwill of the Government. On every hand we have evidence of awakening interest on the part of primary producers as to the value of science in industry. In my own district men employed at the butter factories are now eagerly taking advantage of their vacation periods to go down to the Agricultural College at Gatton for scientific training. On other occasions in this House we have heard aspersions cast on our primary producers, who were charged with a lack of interest in scientific methods as applied to production. That charge cannot now be sustained. All honorable members who are in touch with primary producers know that they appreciate to the full the value of scientific training and are anxious to become as efficient as possible, because they realize that the business of production is quite as important as any of the professional callings, and that to command success, scientific knowledge is essential.
It is gratifying to know that the Forestry School, in Canberra, is doing extraordinarily good work. I trust that the various States will be as loyal to the school as they should be to a scheme introduced for the benefit of them all. One of the difficulties under federation has been the manner in which State Governments have entered into agreements with the Commonwealth Government, and the way in which they have slipped away from them. We have had several instances of this conduct. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) will, I have no doubt, recall our difficulties in connexion with quarantine, owing to the reluctance of the States to come into line with the Commonwealth. There has been similar trouble over the unification of the railway gauges of Australia. Several years ago the States agreed with the Commonwealth to appoint a commission to report upon a uniform gauge. But when the report was received, two of the States withdrew their support from the scheme. Had they accepted the proposals and entered into agreement with the Commonwealth, a great deal of the loan money which has been otherwise expended in recent years could have been used for the unification of our railway gauges, to the great advantage of our primary producers and the people generally.
Another matter which we should bear in mind is our responsibility for the enactment of legislation for the development of the continent as a whole. Our friends from Western Australia have lately been criticizing Queensland rather freely in connexion with the sugar industry. We who hail from Queensland do not believe in recrimination. Moreover, our sympathies are with Western Australia, because that State is in very much the same position as Queensland. It depends almost entirely for its success upon the primary industries. So also does South Australia.
– We are not getting £5,000,000 a year for sugar from the rest of Australia.
– Nevertheless the other States have benefited from the establishment of the sugar industry in Queensland. ‘ South Australia has also gained something considerable from federation. Queensland did not object to the project for making the river Murray navigable; on the contrary, we consented readily to the adoption of the scheme. Nor did we complain when South Australia wished to hand the Northern Territory over to the Commonwealth. I mention these matters incidentally to show that our feelings for South Australia are of the kindliest character, because she is a part of Australia, and is entitled to as much consideration . as any other State. Large areas of Western Australia are still unoccupied. At one time, the Commonwealth approached the Western Australian Government with a view to the consideration of those extensive tracts in the north-west part of the State, which are capable of carrying a large population. The empty areas of the north constitute a menace to our possession of the continent, and, sooner or later, action will have to be taken to occupy them effectively. The potentialities of this country were emphasized in a valuable report made in 1920 to the Commonwealth Government by Mr. G. A.
Hobler, an able Commonwealth engineer, who was engaged in the construction of a large proportion of the western railways of Queensland, and had a thorough practical knowledge of pastoral country. He was appointed by the Commonwealth to accompany a party to investigate and report upon’ the northern portion of Western Australia, and referring to the Kimberley and north-western division he said -
With proper development the country could carry a great population and support numbers of wealth-producing industries, adding immensely to the wealth and revenue of tha State of Western Australia and the Commonwealth as a whole . . .
The country is not necessarily sensational in its extent of natural value and resources, but is just a portion of the very valuable and large extent of country which exists to a considerable degree almost all round the sea coast of Australia for a good distance inland, and it fully warrants opening out and developing in the same way as many of these other portions of Australia have been.
Those areas can be developed only as the western pastoral country of Queensland was developed - by constructing railways from the coast far into the interior. But for the railways, the large advance of the wool industry in Western Queensland would not have been possible. A similar policy is necessary for the Northern Territory and North- Western Australia. Facilities must be provided for trade and commerce to flow between the coast and’ the hinterland. As Mr. Hobler pointed out, an enormous extent of NorthWestern Australia is still undeveloped, but the time will come when our western kinsfolk, who, to-day aTe gibing at’ the support given to Queensland industries, will have to face similar problems. There are in the north-west large pastoral areas generously watered, and areas with a tropical or sub-tropical climate, and the development there of appropriate industries will be to the people of Western Australia, and of Australia generally, of immense importance. We must, therefore, take a national view, and plan for the future development of the continent on a wide scale. It is questionable whether if this Parliament had large sums of money available for expenditure it might not be justified in assisting Western Australia to open up the unoccupied areas of the north-west, and make them available for settlement. This is a big problem, and it will become pressing as soon as normal conditions are restored, bringing with them an increasing demand for our wool and for new pastoral areas.
Against one feature of the budget, that of pensions, I have already made a strong protest, but with two exceptions, the Government’s proposals are probably the best possible in the circumstances. I would remind those who criticize federal expenditure, that the Commonwealth has enormous commitments, many of which are inescapable. Members speak of the vast revenues collected through customs and excise, and of the desirability of lowering duties, but they should not overlook the charges which have to be met from those revenues. No less a sum than £12,434,912 has to be collected by the Commonwealth and paid to the States. This practice, by which the responsibility of taxation is divorced from the power of expenditure, is not politically sound. As a general rule, the authority that controls the expenditure should have the responsibility of raising the taxation. Only in that way can we be assured of sound control, but, I am sorry to say, the present separation of the collecting and spending powers is unavoidable. The States are sometimes apt to overlook the service which the Commonwealth renders to them. The amount collected by the Commonwealth for payment to the States is made up as follows : -
These are enormous liabilities, but the last two amounts are unavoidable; they are a survival of the time when the Commonwealth had to pay hack to the States a proportion of the customs and excise revenue, originally 75 per cent, and later 25s. per capita. Now a fixed annual payment is made in accordance with the Financial Agreement. The fact should not be forgotten that special grants to the States increase the taxation liability of the Commonwealth. This anomalous state of affairs should be avoided as far as possible, but I recognize that the Commonwealth must go to the aid of any necessitous State, and I heartily approve of the grants recently made by this Parliament to the States of South Australia, “Western Australia, and Tasmania on account of their disabilities and financial need.
The administration of our quarantine laws is a matter of great importance to Australia. On looking through the Estimates, I was surprised to find that the number of officers of the Health Department in Queensland had been considerably reduced. It is no true economy to expose the nation to the risk of disease entering this country from other lands. Previously, there were 51 health officers in Queensland, but that number has been reduced to 40, and the number of medical officers has been reduced by three. In New South Wales there has been a reduction from 54 to 49 officers, but no medical officers have been affected. In Victoria and South Australia no reduction has taken place, there still being 28 and 19 officers respectively. There is a reduction of one officer in Western Australia, while the position in Tasmania remains unaltered. When we consider the long coast-line of Queensland, and tho number of ports at which ships call, it is important that every precaution be taken to prevent the introduction of disease from other countries. I ask the Minister to look into this matter, remembering that disease does not recognize arbitrary border lines, but may easily extend over the continent.
.I have listened attentively to the speeches of honorable members, each of whom has expressed freely his own idea of what is necessary to solve Australia’s economic problems. Each has expounded his own pet theory. Provision is made in the budget for the payment of large sums of money as interest on overseas loans, and to this phase of the financial statement I wish particularly to refer. Since federation, Australia has paid to bondholders in interest alone the staggering sum of £871,006,113; but, despite that huge interest payment”, this country still owes £1,556,036,118, of which £599,136,012 represents the amount paid by Australia for the privilege of participating in the last war. Of nearly £900,000,000 paid to bondholders, £380,086,466 has been paid overseas. Sinking fund payments, exchange, and loan flotation costs are not included in that total, otherwise the amount would be about £1,000,000,000. That the Australian people have been bled white by interest charges is best shown by the fact that from 1901, the first year of federation, to 1914, our interest hill increased by only £5,000,000. Since then it has grown like a pyramid, it having increased by £44,000,000. Interest payments in themselves represent stark, human tragedy and suffering in a community nearly one-third of which is unemployed; hut further sacrifices are now demanded by the Commonwealth of invalid and old-age pensioners and expectant mothers, while the New South Wales Government is cutting child endowment, widows’ pensions, and child welfare payments.
– Who prepared the honorable member’s speech?
– It was prepared by the Honorable J. T. Lang, the exPremier of New South Wales, who will be the next Prime Minister of Australia.
Here is the position in a nutshell. Since 1901 every man, woman, and child in Australia has paid £134 in interest charges, and still owes £177 16s. 9d.. in public debt. Since 1901, the interestbill has increased by 750 per cent. Interest in 1901. was £2 4s. perhead ; in 1932, it is £8 19s. per head. Australian production in 1931 was valued at £319,701,000, and interest payments at £58,169,436. Of every £1 of exports, 6s. 8d. goes to overseas bondholders. The following table shows how staggering are the amounts of interest Australia has paid since 1901. It is compiled from official sources, to which the Prime Minister directed the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), when he asked for information on this matter : -
Although since 1901, the trade balance with England has been in Australia’s favour to the extent of nearly £100,000,000, our overseas indebtedness has increased by £400,000,000 in the same period. Yet the Ottawa agreement demands that the right of Australia to use the tariff to rectify the trade balance, which is swiftly going against Australia, is to be surrendered by Parliament to a board which will be dictated to by British interests.
We pride ourselves on paying adequate wages;, at least, we did so before the Stevens Government slashed the New South Wales basic wage, and the Federal Arbitration Court set aside its own basic wage. Yet, of every £1 pf public expenditure, 6s. Sd. is for interest, and only 5s. for wages and salaries. Notwithstanding that, since 1S95, New South Wales has paid £212,000,000 in interest, that State still owes £164,000,000 overseas, more than half of it at 5 per cent, and a proportion at as much as 6^ per cent. It may not be believed, but it is nevertheless a fact that the first overseas loan ever raised by New South Wales in Britain, as far back as 1854, has never been repaid. It has lost its individuality in the many subsequent conversions, and different systems of government book-keeping, so that it is impossible to ascertain how much interest has been paid on ,it in the intervening years. ‘
Here is an example showing how Australians are “ milked.” In the late eighties, a loan of £16,000,000 was raised in Britain at 3£ per cent., and up to its maturity, on the 1st October, 1924, £24,907,726 had been paid in interest. A renewal was then obtained - not at 3$ per cent., despite the large amount received in interest, but at 5 per cent. This loan finally matures in 1955, and no less than £49,825,526 will have been paid in interest on the original sixteen millions. This makes the total cost, exclusive of exchange, the staggering figure of £65,825,526. Honorable members opposite hailed with delight the recent New South Wales conversion loan. I wonder if they will be so delighted when they realize that already £21,000,000 has been paid in interest on this comparatively small loan of just over twelve millions. I submit that if the Government ratifies the Ottawa agreement without demanding a show-down with Great Britain on the overseas debt position, it will be guilty of base treachery to the oppressed people of Australia.
Although I represent an industrial constituency, I followed with particular interest the brilliant speech delivered by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) who referred to the hardships experienced by those engaged in primary production. Honorable members on this side of the chamber are always prepared to support any proposal to absorb the unemployed in this country. I therefore move -
That the item be reduced by 5s.
I move this as an instruction to the Government to grant a wheat bounty for the coming harvest. I trust that a majority of the committee will support the amendment, which is submitted to assist the wheat-growers and also to provide some benefit to other sections of the community. There are 4,000 railway employees in New South Wales who are threatened with immediate dismissal. Thousands of transport workers engaged in the handling of wheat on the railways and at the sea-board would benefit if some stimulus were given to the wheat industry.
– I second the amendment moved by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander). Last night the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) objected to the payment of a bounty on wheat, and referred to what he termed the insincerity of the members of the Country party. In dealing with the subject, the honorable member displayed lamentable ignorance, and I suggest that he visit the wheat-growing areas of Australia to see the conditions under which many of our primary producers are labouring. He views all subjects which come before this House from the view-point of a city resident, and I suggest that before he criticizes the ‘activities of those engaged in rural pursuits he should “ see Australia first.” Although I realize the intense hardships experienced by the unemployed in the cities, I do not think that their position can be compared with that of many of- our wheat-growers.
Some of them live under conditions much worse than those of many city dwellers who, in most cases, receive some form of assistance. Those engaged in the production of wheat should be given relief at the earliest possible moment. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) reply so effectively to the statements of the honorable member for Barton, who has no knowledge of the conditions under which many of our farmers are living. It was stated in this chamber a few days ago, that wheat was selling in “Winnipeg at 2s. a bushel. In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 13th of this month, it was reported that the price in Sydney had dropped from 3s. l£d. to 3s. Id. a bushel. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph of yesterday, prices in country districts where farmers are inactive, were unaltered at 2s. od. for bagged, and 2s. 4d. a bushel for bulk supplies, which is equivalent to 3s. a bushel ex trucks, Sydney. In the course of a few days, wheat which was thought to have reached an exceptionally low level, dropped Id. a bushel. From 1915 to 1929, the average price of wheat was 4s. lid. a bushel, but for various reasons many farmers were unable to derive much benefit from the high prices which then prevailed. For four years South Australia experienced bad seasons, and in the northern portion of that State hardly any wheat was produced. North of Goyders line of rainfall, and at some places below it, men were compelled to walk off their holdings and endeavour to find a job in the cities. If they could not get work they could obtain food. I am pleased to say that the crops in South Australia for the last two years have been a delight to see. The yield in that State, however, for the four preceding years was low. For a period of six years, 1926-27 to 1931-32, the average yield in South Australia has been the lowest of any State of the Commonwealth, being only 9.145 bushels to the acre, and this in a State which contains some very good land.
Not only is the price of wheat exceptionally low throughout the world, except in one or two continental countries’ where prices are artificially fixed, but the prospect of finding any market at all for our surplus wheat is becoming more difficult. Dealing with this, aspect of the matter, the Industrial Australian, for the 15th October, states -
The overseas markets for wheat have not displayed any considerable activity. With tha North American crops showing a considerable increase over the estimates and with good harvests in Europe and smaller requirements from consuming countries, the general tendency has been downwards. Prompt parcels, which a month ago were worth 28s. to 29a. per quarter, c.i.f., have declined to 27s. Od.
The article was probably written several days before it was published, and since that time prices have continued to fall. Those countries to which we formerly sold wheat are now drawing immense supplies from Canada and the United States of America. A deputation of wheat-growers which waited upon the Prime Minister to-day informed him that Canada had this year 360,000,000 bushels for export, the United States of America, 400,000,000 bushels, and Australia, 150,000,000 bushels. Thus, these three countries alone, not counting the Argentine, which also has a large quantity of wheat for export, have to find a market outside their own borders for 910,000,000 bushels. Britain is probably the only country in Europe which offers a market for wheat, and she can absorb only 200,000,000 bushels. In the circumstances, it -is evident that we must look for fresh markets. In regard to wheat, France has become self supporting. Germany will require some wheat, but not a large amount, and that country, like others in Europe, is following the fashion by attempting to become self-contained. She has imposed a duty on the importation of wheat.
– There is a reason for that.
– I do not think that the duties imposed by Germany are aimed particularly at Australia. We play too small a p&*t in world affairs to be victimized to a.y extent by European countries because of our protective policy. It is possible that some of the duties imposed by France have been retaliatory, but we must remember that the United States of America has imposed protective duties for 100 years, yet her wheat has always found a ready market in Europe. In my opinion, the depression is the real reason for the imposition of duties on foodstuffs by European countries. Every country feels that it must conserve its own wealth, within its borders, and grow what it needs for itself. I realize, of course, that the present’ policy cannot continue; civilization would collapse if it did. In the past, radical economists Were ridiculed for advancing the theory that if the workers in industry received less for their labour than the value of what they produced, the difference must represent surplus Value, which could be realized only by sale “abroad. I do not desire to be didactic, but it would appear that the world has now reached a stage when its capacity to absorb the goods represented by this surplus value has been exhausted. While there were undeveloped countries, such as China, prepared to take these products, everything was well, but it is evident now that the world has got itself into a bad way, and almost anything might happen. The publication from which I have been quoting continues -
The Italian wheat harvest is stated to be 270,000,000 bushels, which is the largest in the history of the country .and 250 per cent, above pre-war average. The result is not due to increased acreage, but to the increased yield under the scientific reforms introduced by Mussolini. The pre-war yield averaged 15 bushels per acre, whereas the average yield for 1932 was 22 bushels per acre. The object of the dictatorship is to make Italy independent of grain imports. Though there have been considerable obstacles to the importation of Australian wheat into Italy during the past two years owing to the quota system, that country has still remained a market for Australian wheat, but it is unlikely during the coming season that it will import very much. The prospects of the market will largely depend upon the requirements of the Far East and of Brazil. The former country is in negotiation with the American Farm Board for 15,000,000 bushels, as a first instalment; but no decision has yet been arrived at, as China is not in a position to pay cash for the shipments, and credit terms will have to be arranged. Brazil, which earlier in the year took several millions of bushels from America, is also likely to be a buyer.
The Australian farmer is largely depending for a market on the Ear East, a market which has been opened to him only within the last two or three years. It is apparent that our only hope is for additional trade with Japan and China. I. point out that low prices are just as great a problem in Canada as in Au*
Mr. A. Green. tralia. European countries have fixed their own artificial prices for wheat, and it is interesting to compare them with the price sought by our own wheatfarmers. In Italy, the price of wheat is now 9s. a bushel, in France, 7s. l$d. ; in Germany, 8a.; in South Africa, 6s. 6d., and in our sister dominion, New Zealand, which’ has conditions similar to our own but a more prolific soil and an abundant and sure rainfall, the price has been fixed at 6s. It will be seen that it is absolutely essential that we should do something to assist our wheat-farmers, whose product, in addition to being the cheapest commodity in Australia, is sold to-day at ls. a bushel below cost.
It is often claimed that a slight increase in the price of wheat sold for home consumption would increase the cost of bread. We know that political die. hards in the Old Country who espouse the freetrade cause, use the catch-cry “ A free breakfast table,” and insist, among other things, that wheat shall be admitted free of duty, also that the cOst of a loaf of bread shall -be low* Yet bread is cheaper in Great Britain than it is in Australia. To make it clear how little the wheat-f farmer receives for his commodity, I mention that his proportion of the price charged for a 2-lb. loaf of bread is Id. Honorable members know that housewives pay from four to five times that amount. It is most annoying and disturbing that the miller or baker, or both, should help themselves to such a disproportionate rake-off from the sale of one of our chief necessaries of life. If we assisted the farmer by fixing the price of wheat at a reasonable sum, it certainly would not justify the baker or the miller in raising the price of bread even by id. a loaf.
– Nor would it warrant the carter asking for more.
– The honorable gentleman is evidently referring to wages. There are 400,000 men out of employment in Australia, and we know that thousands more are paid below union rates.
– That does not apply to the operative baker and bakers’ carters.
– It is said that it costs Id. to distribute a 2-lb. loaf of bread. I do udt know how that figure is arrived at, but I do know that if bread-carters were asked to work for half their present salaries the cost of distribution would not materially differ from what it is now, and. I am confident that members of the Country party do not want bread-carters to be employed at lower wages.
I do not wish to make political capital by1 claiming that the Government does not desire to help the wheat-farmers, or follow the example of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) and say that members of the Country party are continually trying to squeeze the Government for what they can get out of it. I do not blame those honorable members for trying to get something for the people whom they represent. If they failed to do so, they would be lacking in their duty as representatives. If ever there was a time when help should be sought for the primary producers, it is now. I must admit that the remarks of the honorable member for Barton disclosed an appalling lack of knowledge of wheat-farming, which is strange, as he claims to be a business man.
Recently; the Government made remissions of sales tax and primage duty amounting to £400,000 per annum. Members of the Country party claim that that has substantially affected primary producers. I have no wish to criticize unfairly, but while I admit that at first glance the list appears to be rather formidable, it must be conceded that, when the amount is compared with the number of primary producers, it does not represent a great amount. It must also be remembered that our primary producers are not now in a position to buy many of the commodities concerned. I shall make a comparison of the position of primary producers this year and last year, and deal first with my own State. The position of Western Australian wheat-farmers was certainly no worse this time last year than it is to-day.. There is no reason to suppose that the price of wheat will be higher when this season’s crop is garnered next month, than it was last year. The last Government gave a bounty which was responsible for the distribution of £707,000 among the wheat-growers of Western Australia. The sales tax, on the basis of acreage, amounts to £80,000. Consequently, if no further assistance is given this year, those primary producers will be worse off to the extent of £627,000. The wheat-growers of New South Wales last year had distributed among them £939,000. In their case the sales taxamounts to, roughly, £110,000 ; thus they/ will receive £829,000 less than was made* available to them by a government that’ was not so strongly supported as is this Government by the Country party. In1 South Australia the wheat-growers, benefited to the extent of £863,120*, Deducting the sales’ tax of £102,000, it will be found that they will be down by £761,000. Other primary producers, including wine-growers, in that State are losing £44,000, which makes the total £805,000. The wheat-growers of Victoria last year received from the bounty £802,000. As the sales tax in their case amounts to £93,000, they will lose £709,000. It is unimaginable that the Government should say that no further assistance is to be given to the wheatgrowers. They cannot be left in the position that they occupy to-day. The only alternative for many men would be to walk off their land and swell the ranks of the unemployed. That happened in Western Australia in 1930. Many men who had started without capital found it impossible to continue when assistance was not forthcoming. It is pitiful to see the deserted farms in many districts. It is safe to say that unless further assistance is given the area planted in the coming season will be less than one-half what it was last season. The banks could not be expected to take the risk of having left on their hands properties of which they could not dispose. The balance from our exports overseas would decline very considerably, the great efforts that have been made to stabilize our stocks and to restore the confidence about which we have heard so much would be wasted, and we should be in the position of a bankrupt minor South American republic. It has been said that the Government is earnestly considering the question of granting further assistance. The matter is an urgent one. The harvest is upon us, and it is necessary for a statement of its intentions to be made immediately. Nothing less than what was requested by the influential deputation that waited on the Minister would be of any use to the farmer.
Some stresshas been laid upon the value of the primary producers to this country. A wheat-grower who planted 1,000 acres, from which he obtained 12 bushels to the acre, at to-day’s price of 2s. 6d. a bushel, would show a loss of £500, because his expeuditure would be not less than £2,000. He has to incur expenditure on goods of all kinds, railway freights, machinery, breakages, and other items that the average man never has to meet. He is thus of tremendous advantage to the country. Unless he is successful, our railways in the interior will become so much scrap iron. If the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) will employ his time in the next recess in visiting the western portion of his State he will find that the primary producers there are not doing at all well. I have seen men and women on blocks inWestern Australia producing a kind of porridge meal from a portion of their crushed wheat, and flavouring it with treacle. Meat, in some cases, is an unknown article of diet; they have to depend almost solely on kangaroo. I agree with those honorable members who have referred to the necessity for a. re-organized system of finance for granting financial assistance to the wheat-farmers. In the Commonwealth Gazette which was issued on the 5th August last, there appeared a summary of the financial position of the seven leading Australian banks, and it gives details of their capital, profits, and reserve funds, and other information. I recognize that the banks are entitled to make profits; but I maintain that they should not charge the primary producers 6 per cent. interest on overdrafts. A few months ago, even8 per cent. was charged. No matter what assistance may be given to the primary producers, honorable members must realize that a change in the banking system is essential.
– The honorable member must connect his remarks with the amendment.
– I am pointing out to the committee that a wheat bounty alone will not solve the problem with which the farmers are faced. According to the Sydney Morning Herald of the 13th October last, Bank of Adelaide shares paid up to £5 had been sold for £6. This bank had paid a dividend of 4 per cent., and had disbursed a total of £25,000 in dividends.
– The honorable member is not complying with my request that he should confine his remarks to the amendment.
– I am pointing out that the disabilities of the primary producers are due to several causes. The low price of wheat is one reason why a bounty is needed. Another is the difficulty experienced in finding markets owing to over-production. Another drawback under which wheat-growers labour is the heavy interest charge levied by the banks on overdrafts. I am not speaking without some knowledge of the great difficulties under which the primary producers labour. I submit that a private bank, which recently paid a dividend of 4 per cent., and has paid, altogether, £25,000 in dividends, should not charge 6 per cent. on overdrafts. If the banking system were nationalized, it would not be necessary to obtain large dividends.
– I again call upon the honorable member to confine his observations to the amendment.
– I claim that I ought to be permitted to furnish the committee with details of the summary to which I have referred, of the financial position of seven leading Australian banks. It is necessary for me to give this information, if I am to present my case clearly; but as you have ruled against me, Mr. Chairman, Ishall resume my seat and await a favorable opportunity of bringing these matters before the House.
– In view of the reply given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to a deputation which waited on him this afternoon asking for assistance to the wheat industry, the workings of the mind of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander), in submitting his amendment, are fairly transparent. The deputation was received sympathetically by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart). The Prime Minister stated that the Government was giving earnest consideration to the position of the wheat-farmers, and recognized that something had to be done to relieve them. He added that full consideration would be given to everything that had been said by members of the deputation, and that an early decision would be made. The subject of assistance to the wheat industry, he concluded, had been listed for consideration atthe Premiers Conference to be held in Melbourne next week. In view of that reply, the members of the Country party do not intend to be dragged at the heels of the honorable member in supporting what must be regarded as virtually a censure of the Government. The Country party has no reason to doubt the good faith of the Prime Minister, and when that right honorable gentleman promises that assistance of some kind will be forthcoming, we accept his word. In spite of the very heavy application of bird-lime upon this amendment, we do not propose to be caught by it.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. ( Chairman - Mr. Bell. )
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the amount proposed to be reduced be so reduced (Mr. Gander’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.) .
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
.This is the first opportunity that I have had of speaking on an Australian budget. While I feel pleased with the manner in which the Government has attempted to balance its budget, I rather regret that it has found it necessary to reduce the allowances made to certain sections of the community. I am pleased also that the Government has assisted primary production by removing the sales tax from many of the requisites of primary industries. I have listened attentively to the speeches of honorable members. I pay a compliment to the honorable member forRiverina (Mr. Nock) for the excellent manner in which he placed before the committee the case for the primary producers of Australia. The members of the Lang group who listened to that speech must have derived some benefit from it, because the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) moved an amendment on .behalf >of the wheatgrowers of this country. I fully appreciate the spirit which prompted him to take that action. I was sorry to hear .the remarks of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), who is a frequent visitor to country areas. I deprecate his remarks concerning the position of those unfortunate people who are compelled to accept the dole and to live on the beaches. The honorable member also referred to the trials and tribulations of the wheatgrowers. Let me inform the honorable member that the failure of the wheatgrowers to obtain decent prices for their exports has been the cause of the unfortunate unemployed being forced to live on the beaches of this country. It is vitally necessary that assistance should be given to the wheat-growers and other primary producers of Australia.
I commend the Country party, .to which I have the honour to belong, for the manner in which it has put before this committee the case for the primary producers, who are to-day carrying on at a loss. They are exporting their products at a probable loss of £50,000,000, and that, of course, has forced them into the unfortunate position in which they find themselves .to-day. It is on the primary producers that the prosperity of this country and the occupation of nearly every person in the cities depend. If the primary industries fail, there is little hope for secondary industries, and the men employed in them. The costs of government must be reduced, and the burdens pressing most heavily upon the primary producers removed. They should be given, relief in the form of remissions of land and other taxation.
The Government should inquire into and review the authority of the Federal Taxation Commissioner, and simplify the procedure in respect of disputes between taxpayers and the Commissioner. At present, the Commissioner’s word is practically law, and the unfortunate taxpayer, although he may be entirely justified in querying his assessment, must nevertheless pay his tax first and argue afterwards. The Commissioner seems to have authority to make rulings as to the interpretation of the act, and he has been known to overrule a previous ruling, and to make his new ruling retrospective, thus .inflicting .great hardship on taxpayers. For instance, in one country town, the Commissioner has recently decided that certain income of the StarrBowkett societies is taxable. Four of these .societies have been operating in that town for the last twenty years, and they have over 1,-000 members. They aare working upon an entirely co-operative basis, the members paying weekly subscriptions which are aggregated and balloted for so that the members in turn are able to purchase homes without making interest payments. ‘ These societies are doing a tremendous amount of good throughout Australia. They are not intended to make profits, and at their termination the money subscribed, less the expense of administration, is returned to the members. The Commissioner of Taxation has recently ruled that certain income from Starr-Bowkett societies is taxable, and he is now endeavouring to collect t.ax retrospectively over a period of years. Under the State laws, these societies are exempt from taxation, and the Commissioner’s recent ruling is causing consternation in New South “Wales. There is a difference between Starr-Bowkett societies and building societies. Some building societies are investment societies, the income of which, like that of any other investment company, is properly taxable. The income from truly co-operative StarrBowkett societies should be exempt from taxation, and, to that end, the income tax acts should be amended as soon as possible. In 1931, the Federal Commissioner of Taxation assessed the StarrBowkett societies in a manner which, Lt is contended, is entirely incorrect. He has since considerably amended his assessments, but the legality of any assessment of the income of these societies is, according to counsel’s opinion, open to grave doubts. In 1921 the Commissioner issued an order stating that these societies were not taxable under the act, but in 1930 he changed his -views, and in the following year issued assessments retrospective to 1915.
– That matter has been investigated and the societies have been informed of the decision.
– The societies operating in New South Wales have, in the aggregate, made advances to members to buy bornes for themselves to the extent of many millions of pounds without asking for government support, and without leaning on any bank or financial institution. The New South Wales act specifically exempts them from taxation, and one section of the Commonwealth Act already exempts the income of a. society registered under tlie Friendly Societies Act of the Commonwealth or a State and not carried
On for the purpose of profit or gain to the individual members thereof. Up to 1924 the societies to which I refer were registered under the Friendly Societies Act, but in that year they were compelled by State legislation - to register under the Co-operative Societies .Act, though their policies remained unchanged. They do not carry on for the purpose of profit or gain, and when their funds are eventually distributed at liquidation - they do not declare periodical dividends - any small surplus by way of bonus or shares, would, in most cases, barely exceed the deductions from members’ subscriptions to cover working expenses. The whole of the societies in the State have now combined, and are making representations to the Minister to secure, if possible, an amendment of the act to clarify what is at present an obscure position, The following amendment is suggested: -
The funds of a terminating building society registered under an act relating to co-operative or mutual societies in any State of the Commonwealth and which makes advances exclusively to its own members, shall be, and shall be deemed always to have been, exempt from income tax.
That, possibly, is the amendment to which the Minister has just now referred. In” the matter of income tax, the Commissioner’s rulings should, I submit, be re.stricted by the elimination of all sections which make the “ opinion “ of the Commissioner final and conclusive. We have had a number of instances in which rulings by the Commissioner have been reversed subsequently, and there has been no power to authorize him to retrace his steps. Undue hardship is also caused by the fact that a taxpayer wishing to query his assessment is compelled to pay first’ and then fight, if he is in a financial position to do so. In most cases the taxpayer, through, force of circumstances, is compelled to accept the decision and pay up, having no other option, not being iD a position to enter upon litigation with the department. This treatment gives rise to rebellious f feelings or “ bolshevik “ ideas on the part of the “taxpayer, now so prevalent in the community, for which, sooner or later, the Government will have to pay.
One specific case is that of a primary producer who, in 1928, was called upon to ‘ pay £3,000 in income taxation. Through failure to dispose of his surplus stock, and through failure, also to secure a reasonable price for his wheat and other products, he was unable to pay at once, so he approached the Taxation Commissioner for permission to pay by instalments. This the Commissioner agreed to. He paid by instalments in various amounts’ from £350 upwards. When he had completed his payments, he received a demand from the Taxation Department for £259 interest, at the rate of 8 per cent, on the amount of income taxation originally due, which, as I have stated, he sought and obtained permission to pay by instalments. This was nothing more nor less than persecution. In times like these, no department should exact such an exorbitant rate of interest as 8 per cent, from a man who is endeavouring to remain in a condition of solvency.
Another matter to which I have directed attention in this chamber on other occasions, is the need for giving sympathetic consideration to our returned soldiers. Recently I was instrumental in arranging a conference at Wagga Wagga to review the position of returned soldier settlers in the southern areas of New South Wales, and subsequently, when a deputation waited on the Minister for Lands in Sydney, I was disappointed to learn that he was unable to do anything to assist them. Our returned soldier settlers, equally with the other sections of primary producers, are entitled to the utmost consideration that can be extended to them. These men gave from three years to five .years of the best period of their lives to fight in filthy trenches on the other side of the world in defence of our liberty, and when they returned they were promised all sorts pf concessions and assistance to enable them to become, re-established in civil life. On former occasions in this Parliament I have directed the attention of honorable members to the position of these men in the business world, and I have assurances from the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that they would receive sympathetic consideration. I am sorry to say that this has not always been given. A case in point is afforded by the recent appointment of a manager for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I have received a complaint from one returned soldier who made application for that position, stating that, although he possesses all the qualifications necessary, he was overlooked. In his application he stated his qualifications in the following terms: -
In accordance, with the Commission’s published requirements, I mention briefly here some of my qualifications which may entitle this application to your favorable consideration in the spheres of education, culture and administration.
An extensive study of international literature, extending over a period of some twenty years, has given me a practical knowledge of the following languages: Old, Middle and Modern English; French; German; and in classical languages, Ancient Greek and Latin. During the same period I have devoted much study to the social and cultural histories of the countries whose languages and literatures have been the objects of my continuous attention. I have given particular attention to the drama, ancient and modern.
As a member of the Executive of the League of Nations Union and one of its principal lecturers, I am constantly in touch with current affairs in relation to current international matters. The broad basis of historical knowledge that I have laid is therefore augmented by an insight into more recent world events.
I have some historical as well as practical knowledge of music, and for some years studied under the late Mr. Andrew Black and under Signor Fosati from whose tuition I passed on to professional appearances as a baritone vocalist. I was one of the foundation players of the first Repertory Society, founded here in 1912, and played major par ts in their productions. . I have also played leading parts in comic opera. I played the leading role in the initial production of Alfred Hill’s comic opera, The MoorishMaid.
In the realm of sport, I have gained representative honours both in Australia and New Zealand, having taken an active part in football, boxing, rowing, tennis, swimming, cricket and golf.
As a public speaker and debater I have been frequently before the Australian public in social and political connections and have lectured to learned bodies on educational and cultural subjects. For about six years I was a regular speaker from the ‘A’ class broadcasting stations.
With regard to administration I might here mention that I am atpresent honorary organizing secretary of the Rural Employment Scheme for Boys, the organization and administration of which has been entirely in my hands since its inception. I was for some time managing editor of the Green Room newspaper, and also of the Bystander. Immediately after the War I was occupied in the organization of the labour for the procuring of timber supplies for the Commonwealth Government’s ship-building scheme. During the War I re-organized the Overseas Artillery School in France and carried out other work of a similar nature after my return to Australia. I served throughout the War with the Australian Artillery and at various times commanded batteries of field and howitzer guns.
The applicant is at present the honorary organizing secretary of a rural employment scheme for boys, the organization and administration of which have been entirely in his hands since its inception. His application to the Broadcasting Commission was disregarded, and when he wrote to ask the reason why, he was merely informed that his letter had been received. It is obvious that the principle of preference to returned soldiers is being disregarded; that preference was a definite pledge given on behalf of the people of Australia, and at all costs must be honoured.
Although the Commonwealth has provided many millions of pounds to assist the States in settling returned soldiers on the land, it does not actively interest itself in the affairs of the settlers. The factis well known that in all the States properties were resumed at top values, and money has been lavished on improvements and subdivisions. These farms are, to-day, over-capitalized, and under present conditions it is impossible for the majority of the soldiers to meet their liabilities, and at the same time maintain a decent standard of living. Many of them have been forced to accept the dole, and each day more men are being subjected to this humiliation. Although the loss on soldier settlements must be high, we must remember that the soldiers have raised primary products exceeding many times the value of the probable deficit. The new wealth they have created more than counterbalances, not only their liability, but also any loss of capital.
At a Premiers conference in 1927, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was asked by the representatives of the States to share in the losses incurred in settling soldiers on the land. Following that conference, an inquiry was ordered, and in New South Wales, Mr. Justice Pike went thoroughly into the affairs of the settlers, and presented to the State Government a report containing practical suggestions for their relief. His recommendations have never been acted upon, and the report has been shelved. The Commonwealth should revive the matter in all the States with a view to easing the burden on returned soldier settlers throughout Australia.
Some reform in the system of government may be necessary. It is the tendency throughout the world for countries to be governed less and less by act of parliament, and more and more by regulation, through the departmental heads administering the various services. Much adverse criticism has been directed against this practice in Great Britain, with the result that a halt has been called there to government by regulation. In Australia, this system has not yet reached such an acute stage, but there is a growing tendency, nevertheless, to adopt it. An example of this was the Scullin Government’s successful attempt to validate certain waterside regulations. Regulations should be confined strictly to the machinery required for operating the various acts which express the will and intention of parliament. The result of governing by regulations is that departments, and not the elected representatives of the people, really rule Australia.
I again commend the Government for its honest attempt to balance the budget. Of certain reductions of social services I do not approve, but I hope that they will be found to be justified. I trust that with the co-operation of the various parties, and with assistance to, and sympathetic consideration of, the rural industries, particularly wheat and wool production, we shall soon witness the complete rehabilitation of the national finances and the industries of the country.
.- I would be lacking in appreciation if I did not rise to commend the Government on the budget it has submitted to the com mittee. The proposals contained in it give further effect to the Premiers plan, which has been the subject of a great deal of criticism from all parts of Australia, but in operation has produced the benefits which were foretold by its authors. Criticism comes most consistently from those honorable members who were the first to accept and give effect to the plan in this Parliament; they are constantly condemning the Government for continuing the policy which they inaugurated. The people of Australia were fortunate in the fact that for the two years immediately preceding the last general election, a government professing labour principles and ideals was in office in the Commonwealth. It was the first opportunity given to a Labour administration in the federal sphere to grapple with great national difficulties. Under normal conditions, Labour policy was able to win many adherents; while the country was flourishing, Labour governments could give effect to the planks of their platform, but when confronted with the conditions which have prevailed during the present depression, the Scullin Ministry was able to achieve very little.
– It had not the opportunity to give effect to its policy, because of the opposition of the Senate.
– If that be true, the Government would have been wise to accept earlier the advice which eventually it was obliged to accept. Shortly after the Scullin Government assumed office, the finances of the Commonwealth caused Ministers great concern, and they invited to Australia Sir Otto Niemeyer, who investigated the financial and economic position of the nation, and submitted certain recommendations which the Government accepted.
– The Scullin Government did not invite him to come to Australia.
– It did!
– Hansard records that Sir Otto Niemeyer was invited by the Scullin Government.
– That is correct.
– That Government was asked if it had any objection to his coming, and it had reluctantly to agree that he should come.
– The recommendations of Sir Otto Niemeyer were agreed to by the then Government, but, unfortunately, before effect was given to them, Mr. Scullin left for England. When he returned he was unable, because of dissension in his party, to carry out those recommendations. The Scullin Government endeavoured to give effect to its own policy, and by the time it accepted the Premiers plan, conditions were worse than when Sir Otto Niemeyer made his investigation. If we examine Sir Otto Niemeyer’s report, we shall find that hia recommendations were substantially the same as the terms agreed to in the Premiers plan. The Leader of the Opposition said that conditions to-day are vastly ‘ different from what they were when his Government accepted the Premiers plan. I give the Scullin Government credit for having accepted the principles underlying the plan when the position of the country became acute. Nevertheless, it imposed on the people of Australia a heavy burden of taxation. That probably was unavoidable, for, under the plan, the Government wa3 forced to impose extra taxation amount^ ing to over £16,000,000.
I am particularly gratified with the present budget proposals because, for the first time in many years, it is proposed to depart from the practice of increasing taxation. The budget evidences a desire to lower taxation. I was surprised at the rebuke of the Leader of the Opposition because of my statement as to the loss which would have been incurred had the bill introduced by the Scullin Government to provide for a guaranteed price for wheat been agreed to. According to the figures supplied by one honorable member, the loss would have been over £20,000,000. The Leader of the Opposition said that I was rather precipitate in suggesting a loss of £20,000,000, because he could think of several ways of raising revenue to recoup any loss, although he did not admit that a loss would have been incurred. It is difficult to convince the taxpayers of this country that a loss is not incurred when they are forced to pay extra taxation in order to make up a deficiency, and, unfortunately, many legislators think that there is no loss if the taxable capacity of the people i3 such that any deficiency can be met by taxation. To draw money from the pockets of the people to meet such losses is detrimental to the public interest, particularly at a time when unemployment is rife.
I was astounded at the remarks of the honorable,, member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), that although modern methods and improved plant made profits for manufacturers, the workers in the factories received no benefit from the mechanization of industry and the improvement of methods of production. If we were to compare the standard of comfort enjoyed by the workers prior to the introduction of modern methods of manufacture with those now obtaining, we should find that the workers have benefited largely from the greater use of machinery.
-That is not so.
– The standard pf living of the workers of this country could not be so high were it not for modern machinery.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) said that there had been no slowing down in industry by the workers of this country, and as an employer of a considerable amount of labour, I frankly admit that, in the main, the Australian worker is equal to any in the’ world. Yet, Sir Otto Niemeyer pointed out that whereas the number of workers in industry in this country increased by 5 per cent, between 1924-25 and 1927-28, their output during that period increased by only 3 per cent., evidencing a definite slowing down, or a reduction of output, during that period. In the United States of America during the same period, the number of workers decreased by 5 per cent., but their output increased by 15 per cent.
– What benefits were derived by the workers engaged in industry in the United States of America ?
– I shall deal with that point presently. In Great Britain, the number of workers increased by 5 per cent, and the output by 7 per cent. I suggest that the position which developed in Australia was brought about largely by the activities of leaders of industrial organizations, who told the workers that they were not ‘-receiving the full fruits of their labour, and, in many cases, definitely advocated a limitation of output. The interjection of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is opportune. We find that in 1930, based on the purchasing power of wages, and with an index figure of 100, the highest real wages in industry were paid in the United States of America. In that country, the real wages were represented by 197 points, compared with 100 in Great Britain. In the Dominion of Canada, where they have not the same industrial system as in Australia, they were 165, and in Australia, 148. That demonstrates very clearly that the workers in America did benefit by getting larger real, not fictitious, wages. It has been contended, and I do not deny if, that the Labour organizations have done a great deal for the workers of this country; but it is rather interesting to see what benefit they have received in the matter, of real wages.
– I suppose the honorable member is aware that those figures apply only to skilled workers?
– Taking the wages in 1911 as a basis, we find that in 1930 wages had increased 119 per cent., while the cost of living had increased by 103 per cent., so that the actual benefit to the workers was small. In view of the abnormal prosperity that Australia experienced during the latter part of that period, the workers of Australia were’ surely entitled to all that they received.
A good deal of criticism has been levelled against the Government with respect to its pensions ‘policy. Members on both sides of the chamber are deeply sympathetic with those who are really in need of relief from the pensions fund. The huge impost placed upon the taxpayers in contributions to that fund has accentuated unemployment. The problem of how to provide for pensions is as great as how to get men back to work. On the basis of the cost of living figures, which determine the rate at which workers shall be remunerated, the Government was justified in reducing the pensioners to the standard which prevailed in previous years. It is incorrect to say that those who are least able to bear the burden have been .attacked, because reductions have been made only inthe case of those pensioners who haveother means. The .only real reduction imposed upon those -entirely dependent upon their pensions was made by the previous Government. Those who aredependent solely upon their pensions still receive 17s. 6d. -per week.
– How would the honorable member like to live on 17s. 6d. a week ?
– I would not liketo do so, and if the country could afford it I should wish the rate restored. With an acute unemployment problem it is theduty of the -Government to endeavour to get our people back to work, and at the same time maintain pensions on the same basis as in prosperous years. It has been said that the pensioners have no means -of redress ; but I do not think that that contention can be substantiated. They have a real influence at election time, and fi om observations made in this chamber during the last week or -two, I venture to say that that aspect of the matter has not been overlooked by honorable members.
I direct the attention of the Government to the 10 per cent, tax on incomes from property, which is bearing heavily upon primary producers. A 5 per cent, mortgage yields little more than a 4 per cent, government bond, and in these circumstances it is quite conceivable that it will be most difficult, if not impossible, to get further mortgages granted. There are certain very definite advantages in holding government bonds as against mortgages. The former are negotiable instruments and security which is easily converted. I trust that the Government will give serious consideration to this matter, with the object of relieving those concerned at the earliest possible moment.
Reference has been made to the nationalization of our banking system, and to the recommendations contained in the Macmillan report, issued in Great Britain last year. One outstanding feature of that committee’s report is that it recommended that the Bank of England, which is free from political control, should be the central bank in Great Britain. It is not proposed anywhere that the Bank of England should be nationalized, and if we accept one portion of the report, it would be only reasonable to accept its recommendations in this respect also. I am opposed to the nationalization of banking. In my opinion, the Commonwealth Bank should be kept free from political control as it is now.
– Why have it at all?
– The Commonwealth Bank has rendered valuable service to Australia as, indeed, have the banks in general. The banking institutions of this country have, as a whole, been an example of stability in these difficult times. With two exceptions, no defaults have taken place. Of these, the first was the Primary Producers Bank, a newly-established institution, which was caught by the depression before it had had time to accumulate reserves, and the other was the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales. It is interesting and instructive to compare the stability of our banks in Australia with the insecurity of many of those in the United States of America, where, within the last few years, thousauds of such institutions have become insolvent, to the great distress of the public, and to the injury of business.
– They were private banks.
– Yes, but private banks have stood the strain in this country, and rendered valuable service.
– Only because the Commonwealth Bank was behind them.
– The Commonwealth Bank undoubtedly gave them great assistance, but there is no evidence that, had the Commonwealth Bank not been in existence, the private banks would have defaulted.
I again congratulate the Government on its budget, and trust that it will shortly be in a position to grant further relief from taxation, which is hampering the absorption of the unemployed.
Item agreed to.
Remainder of Vote - “ The Parliament £59,200 “-postponed.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to suspend the operation of the Committee of Public Accounts Act 1913-1920.
Bill brought up by Mr. Lyons, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Perkins) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to suspend the operation of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913- 1921.
Bill brought up by Mr. Perkins, and read a first time.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed.
Prime Minister’s Department
Proposed vote, £260,000.
– The first matter with which I desire to deal concerns the Development Branch, and, specifically, the Newnes shale oil deposits, over which the Government has granted certain rights to a firm of contractors, allegedly for the purpose of developing the deposits and providing employment for surplus miners. About a fortnight ago I asked questions on the subject in this chamber, and the Prime Minister promised that he would consult the Minister in another place, and inform me concerning the details inquired about. I take it that the right honorable gentleman has done so, and will be able to give the required information later.
I shall refer to the conditions under which these shale oil deposits were handed over to the company and to the prospectus which that concern issued, soliciting public subscriptions. As the subject is of a somewhat technical nature I have taken the trouble, with assistance, to prepare my remarks in a manner which should clearly express the position. The prospectus of the Australian National Shale Oil Company Limited sets out that the assets to which it has gained access, apart from the leases themselves, represent an expenditure of £1,800,000. In a recent valuation, Mr. H. W. Gepp, technical consultant of the Department of Development, declared that the present value of the assets is approximately £1,000,000. Incidentally, Mr. Gepp is to act as business and technical consultant for the company. It must be borne in mind that the tenderers also have the benefit of £30,000, which was spent at Newnes by the Development Committee in reconditioning and rehabilitat ing the plant and machinery. That sum is a portion of the £100,000 which was set aside for the purpose of transferring surplus miners from the northern coal-fields of New South Wales, as a sequel to the well known lock-out in that area. In addition, the prospectus sets out that the Commonwealth Government has given the company a free grant of £10,000 on a pound for pound subsidy basis, the cash from the tenderers to be supplied by subscribing shareholders. It also proposes that the company shall be given access to 7,000 tons of shale at grass at Newnes which, it claims, will produce 700,000 gallons of refined motor spirit under the process to be established with the money obtained from the public, representing at market prices about £38,000, without residual oils. These are remarkably valuable assets and concessions, and the prospectus does not disclose that the tenderers have paid, or intend to pay, one cent for them.
Looking at the other side of the picture, the company proposes to develop these concessions on a nominal capital of £500,000. The proposed allocation of this capital is interesting. One hundred thousand fully paid up ordinary £1 shares are to be allotted to the vendors, the tenderers, Messrs. Chambers and Treganowan, in consideration of their option, for which, apparently, they have paid nothing, and in payment for preliminary work in Australia and abroad, which seems to consist in the gathering up of all the reports and information which was at the disposal of the Development Committee. Two hundred thousand 8 per cent. cumulative, participating preferred ordinary shares of £1 each are to be offered to the public, but there is a restriction on the issue of option, 100,000 of these shares being reserved for the vendors. The other 200,000 shares are to be held in reserve.
It appears that, for the relatively small sum of £200,000, the vendors consider that they can develop these magnificent concessions that the Government has given away, and, at the same time, still quoting from the prospectus, pay a minimum dividend of 20.3 per cent. on a capital of £300,000, which is somewhere in the vicinity of 30 per cent. on the actual capital that will be used.
The generosity of the Government to Messrs. Chambers and Treganowan is truly astounding, and makes one wonder, not so much who Mr. Chambers and Mr. Treganowan are,but whom they represent. There is a nigger in the woodpile somewhere, and the Minister has before him the task of proving to the people that it was in their interests to hand over for nothing this wonderful money-making concern, which can afford to give two lucky men one-third of its capital for nothing, and still pay up to 30 per cent. on the amount invested.
Mr. Chambers and Mr. Treganowan must surely have performed some wonderful service for the people of Australia to merit treatment with such astonishing generosity. I feel sure that the Minister will let us know exactly what those particular services were, if the transaction is a bona fide one. There are extensive shale deposits in Tasmania which, although not so rich as those at Newnes, are very valuable. But they, it appears, are, for the most part, under the control of Amalgamated Zinc - De Bavay’s Limited - and the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited. If I remember rightly, it was as general manager of these concerns that Mr. Gepp was employed before Mr. Bruce, when Prime Minister, induced him to accept a salary of £5,000 to furnish reports to the Federal Government under the development and migration scheme. Now we find that Mr. Gepp is called upon to report on the Newnes shales for Messrs. Chambers and Treganowan, and that he is to attach himself, as business and technical consultant, to the company which is being formed. I believe that a little inquiry will reveal the association of many interests, and disclose a plot to use two dummies in the persons of Mr. Chambers and Mr. Treganowan, to give the permanent monopoly of shale development throughout the Commonwealth into the hands of the Amalgamated Zinc and the Electrolytic Zinc combines - the capital of which is intimately related to that of important newspaper groups, certain big banks and finance companies, and other key. organizations in the scheme of big business in Australia - or to close it down altogether. From what we can gather from tho latest reports, it is clear that these deposits are not being worked. Whatever little developmental work was proceeding under the control of the committee that was set up for that purpose, has been suspended, and doubtless the district has thereby been seriously affected. This calls for criticism, even if it does not give rise to a good deal of suspicion in regard to the genuineness of the whole proposal. The prospectus would lead one to believe that the scheme contemplated was of such a character as to encourage investment, and that it offered wonderful promise of substantial returns on the capital put into it. No action has been taken by the Government to compel these gentlemen to observe the terms of their agreement. Therefore, it would appear that there is no desire to develop these deposits, but that on the contrary, the purpose is to sabotage them, so that, on the one hand, they will be prevented from providing employment, and on the other hand, Australia will be deprived of the spirit that is necessary to its industrial and transport undertakings. The prospectus issued by the vendors purports to give a resume of the bond and undertakings into which these gentlemen have entered with the Commonwealth Government, on behalf of the company that is about to be formed. In view of what’ I have just said, this bond, if it means anything, is one of the biggest bluffs that has ever been put up on the people of Australia. For instance, it is stated “ that the company shall not enter into, or be in any way concerned in or a party to, or act in concert with, any commercial trust or combine, and shall always be and remain an independent Australian business.” It is independent in that, so far, no step has been taken to develop these deposits. But the Minister should assure the committee that Mr. Chambers and Mr. Treganowan, at this moment, are not acting in concert with any commercial trust or combine. We should be told whether they are really serious, what their purpose is, and who is behind the scenes, preventing the accomplishment of what was alleged to be the intention of the Government. Can the honorable gentleman assure the committee that even at this early stage the Newnes project is inde-
J/r.. Beasley. pendent of capital or influence from outside Australia? What safeguards have been provided to ensure that what I have read is something more than mere words? What means has the Government of checking up the source of any capital, or the nature of any influence that is being used in the direction of this company? They are simply throwing dust in the eyes of the people; and behind the cloud of dust that has been raised, a powerful combine is forming either to exploit Newnes for profits amounting to 30 per cent., or to close it in the interests of overseas oil companies. At the moment it appears that the latter is the only result that has been achieved. The Minister should define the position exactly, and show, if possible, that the opinion that we have formed is a wrong one. In consideration of this meaningless undertaking, and of certain guarantees regarding the erection of plant, the Commonwealth has arranged for a subsidy of £10,000. Apparently, however, that subsidy is not to be withheld until the good faith of the vendors, or of the company that they are forming, is guaranteed, but is to be given to them as a sort of financial certificate to the effect that the Government has implicit confidence in their bona fides, their high spirited Australianism, and their willingness and ability to sacrifice profits for sentiment. Newnes is in great danger of being linked with a ruthless octopus, or of being squeezed out of existence. It must not be thought that any member of the Labour party wishes to stop its development. That party is more desirous than any other in this Parliament of having it developed quickly and on a large scale. The granting by the previous Government of a certain sum for its development proved that that Government was earnest in its desire to find employment for those men who had previously been employed in the northern coal-fields of New South Wales. My criticism this morning must not be construed as an attempt to prevent the continuance of this work. I am merely endeavouring to direct the attention of the public to what is happening. But we do not want the expenditure upon, it limited to the miserable £200,000 that already has been pledged with a view toreturning profits amounting to 30 per cent. We advocate its development on the largest scale possible, and the only agency that has the money and the necessary facilities to achieve that end is the Government. We believe that a paramount consideration is that the production of such an essential commodity as oil should be reserved as a national undertaking, so that it will always be at the service of the people, at the cheapest price. That is not possible under monopoly rule.
Newnes can be rapidly developed so as to give employment in a short space of time to every miner who has lost his employment as a result of the scientific developments that have taken place in power process and the widespread substitution of oil fuel for coal. It looks as though it will be a long time before they are all employed if the present plans are not altered. When these valuable concessions were given away by the Government; what happened to the miners? Who were more entitled to such concessions than the men who would do the work of developing this gigantic enterprise? But do we find that vendor shares, fully paid up, are reserved for issue at par, and at no expense, to the Miners Federation? Certainly not. The lot of the miners is hard work, and the same old fight that they have always had to make, in order to secure a living wage. The handling of Ibis business has created uneasiness, suspicion, and disgust. I call on the Minister to show that the patronage extended to these two gentlemen is above suspicion and in the interests of the people of Australia. The contract provides, among other things, that an amount of £37,500 shall be subscribed on or before the 16th July, 1932. A further provision is that, within one month from the date of the grant of the lease, an order shall be placed for a cracking unit, at” a cost of about £60.000. It was, apparently, recognized that before the Newnes deposit could be properly developed, it would be necessary to install a new cracking plant. I have been informed that it was also found necessary to obtain the plant overseas at a cost of about £60,000. Under the terms of the contract, the process was to be put in operation, and I think that we are entitled to know whether this has been done. We should be informed particularly whether the contractors have violated their agreement with the. Government, under which the sum of £37,500 was to be subscribed on or before the 16th July, 193^. It was also provided under the contract that after approval of piara by the Commonwealth Government, the contractors would commence the construction of a tunnel to the Capertee valley, begin mining and retorting operations, and maintain an output of 150 tons of shale a day. There is a limitation of this requirement to the effect that, except during such period as is specified, the Commonwealth may agree to a smaller output. A guarantee has been given by the English, Scottish and Australian Bank that these conditions will be complied with, in default of which an amount of £5,000 is payable to the Commonwealth, and the guarantee specifically states that it shall not be waived for any reason whatever, whether for the granting of time or otherwise. The question arises whether the conditions have been complied with, and if not, whether the penalty of £5,000 has been collected by the Commonwealth. I think that we are entitled to know whether the Government’s professed intentions regarding the Newnes field are genuine. We have had governments of the type of the present Commonwealth Ministry in office in Australia in the past, and they have - dealt with propositions of this character in a most unsatisfactory manner. I might instance the sale of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. I remind honorable members of the bungling that took place over that transaction, and of the inadequate amount for which the Government disposed of those ships. Replies given to questions asked in this chamber recently show that the Government, apparently, does not know where it stands with regard to the Newnes deposits. There is a movement now to dispose of another valuable public asset known as Cockatoo Island Dockyard. It seems to me that the present Government and other governments of a like political colour, are prepared to dispose of public assets in a very free manner, without regard to the national consequences of such action. I particularly wish to know whether the Government has collected the £5,000 which is payable in the event of failure to observe the conditions of the guarantee, whether it has forced the contractors to stand up to their obligations, and, if not, whether the whole agreement has been cancelled. Does the Government intend to do the right thing in this matter, and develop these deposits in such a way that this country will have an adequate and free supply of oil?
.- I was connected for a good many years with the External Affairs Branch of the Prime Minister’s Department; but I do not intend to make that an excuse for detaining the committee for more than a few minutes at this hour. I shall refer briefly to the immediate reasons that led to the reconstruction of this branch. The principal fact responsible for the attention of the Government being directed to the reorganization of the External Affairs Branch was the Chanak incident at the end of 1922, when by a single cablegram from Great Britain, this country was asked if it was willing to participate in warlike operations in Turkey. This request brought it clearly to the mind of the Government of the day that Australia was insufficiently informed upon world affairs, andthat we had inadequate knowledge of the events leading up to questions on which we might be required to give a decision at short notice. It was decided during 1924 that the Commonwealth Government needed something in the nature of a continuous story of what was going on in the world, rather than ad hoc telegrams from time to time. [Quorum for,med: Before the war, Australia had control of its domestic affairs, but had insignificant knowledge of, and no control- over, foreign relations. These were dealt with entirely by Britain. and we merely abided by her decisions. Then came the war, in which the dominions played an important part, followed by the separate signing of the peace treaties by the dominions, and the series of post-war imperial conferences, which by slow degrees altered the constitutional position of the dominions vis-a-vis Great Britain. In the imperial conferences of 1921, 1923, 1926 and 1930, by reason of determined action by certain of the dominions, the old conception of the imperial position was broken down, and the Empire, as it was understood before the war, gave place to the British Commonwealth of Nations. This was due principally to the ambition .of certain dominions who laid greater stress on their being practically autonomous and independent world States than State members of the British Empire. This change was of considerable importance, principally because the single pre-war voice of the British Empire had been converted into the independent voices of the six practically autonomous dominions. In the old days Great Britain spoke through the mouth of the British Government for the whole of the Empire, including both the self-governing dominions and the non-self-governing colonies. But as a result of the previous post war imperial conferences of which I have spoken Great Britain no longer speaks for any other government unless she is specifically empowered by all or some of the dominions to speak for them as well. She does not now, as a matter of course, speak for the Empire as she did formerly. We in Australia, although not greatly concerned with these changes, were swept along the road of dominion independence whether we liked it or not. The various dominions reacted differently to this new sense of independence. Certain dominions were particularly pleased and gratified at having obtained independence, but neither Australia nor New Zealand rejoiced or showed any consciousness of the changed situation. We have never suffered from any inhibitions about our status within the Empire, and have continued to conduct our affairs in close association with Great Britain. But with the other dominions the position became quite different. They immediately asserted their independence by the formation of separate diplomatic services, and the establishment of a number of diplomatic posts in foreign countries. These services are costly. I speak from memory, but I think I am right in saying that the external affairs services of the dominions, other than New Zealand and Australia, are in no case less than ten times as costly as our External Affairs Department. The 1926 Imperial Conference, which was the key conference which brought about the change in status, it will thus be seen, has meant very little to Australia. We are not very much concerned about what may be the pure milk of constitutional theory in imperial relations. But although the new constitutional order of things has not had any great popular appeal in this country, it has quite definitely altered our situation. Great Britain can no longer speak for us as she did formerly, unless we specifically ask her to do so. We have to play a part in world affairs that Great Britain formerly played for us. We have therefore to learn what is going on in the world, to think for ourselves, and to make up our own mind on world problems. Although Great Britain is perfectly willing to act on our representations, and will make any information available to us, if we know what to ask for and advance any opinion that we desire her to express for us, she cannot, and will not make up our mind for us. There is thus a definite necessity for a small specialized department such as the External Affairs Department.
In latter years there has grown up a series of Australian interests that are not always exactly” parallel with those of Great Britain. I do not wish to weary the committee with a long list of examples of these interests, but one which is claiming some attention at the moment is fairly typical; ,1 refer to the proposed formation of a Danubian Federation. The States bordering on the Danube are seeking to band themselves together for economic and other reasons, but owing to the predominant influence of France and Italy in this part of Europe no such change could take place without the co-operation and assistance of those two countries. Before this help will be given France and Italy will see that their interests do not suffer. The quid pro quo considered to be possible at the moment is that these grain-growing countries of Eastern Europe shall supply France or Italy with agricultural products in exchange for French or Italian manufactured goods. We export primary products to France and Italy, and unless the situation is watched as between these EasternEuropean countries and France and Italy our interests as a country exporting primary products to Europe may quite definitely suffer. Negotiations of this kind illustrate how happenings in comparatively remote parts of the world may have a very real interest for us. If the proposed Danubian Federation is brought into being under the conditions that I have mentioned, our trade with Europe may be injuriously affected. I have said sufficient to indicate to honorable members that economic and even political movements on the other side of the world may have repercussions which will vitally affect us as a trading nation. Our geographical isolation is no index of our independence of the rest of the world. . Very few nations have such a large external trade per head of the population as Australia. We are among the leading countries in the world in that respect.
I am not, at the moment, pleading for an increase in the proposed vote for the External Affairs Department; but am rather trying to establish in the minds of honorable members on both sides of the committee the necessity for the department. On a later and a more appropriate occasion, I shall submit to honorable members some proposals for a slight increase in the scope and size of this department with the object of placing it upon, a better footing.
As honorable members will have gathered, the External Affairs Department cannot be discussed even briefly without- the intervention of that blessed term “ Liaison Officer “. The appointment of such an officer has, unfortunately, become a controversial subject, for reasons which I cannot understand. Manifestly, we have to keep contact with what is going on in the rest of the world. At any time, the most remote parts of the world may become significant to us. The proposed vote of a little more than £4,000 for this small department, which is really only a branch of the Prime Minister’s Department, is little enough for the purposes that have to be served. For nearly eight years, we have had resi-, dent in London a liaison officer. . With his help, the pitifully small organization of this department has managed, with considerable difficulty, to keep us in reasonably close touch with world affairs. At least, we have been kept in sufficiently close touch to enable the Government to express itself intelligently, on affairs of the day in respect of which its opinion has been required. If we retain this simple form of organization, we should not have to do either as New Zealand does, and rely solely on brief telegrams sent from Great Britain which permit practically of no decision on the. part of the dominion
Other than acquiescence in the action of Great Britain, or provide for a diplomatic service of our own, which would cost certainly not less than ten times the amount of this vote. The system that we have evolved is a simple, cheap, and effective method of keeping ourselves informed. We utilize the information and the services of the network of British diplomatic posts throughout the world, which costs Great Britain something like £2,000,000 a year to maintain. I suggest for the immediate future at least that this is the simplest and best method of keeping in touch with imperial and world affairs. Why this has become a controversial matter, I have never quite understood. The appointment of the liaison officer was contested by the Labour Opposition in 1924. In those days one could quite understand that, because the appointment was an innovation, the Opposition would naturally oppose it. But when the then Opposition became the Government two or three years ago, I think I am right in saying, it became convinced of the usefulness of this small organization. I think that can be said’ of the responsible members of the party opposite. I do not believe that there will be any serious opposition to this small vote.
– What is the information which this officer has to gather; is he a secret service agent?
– Is the honorable member asking a serious question?
– So far as I can recollect, he merely picked up letters from men going to Russia. That is all I saw.
– The honorable member could not have seen all.
– Then the honorable member sent correspondence to others than Ministers?
– The correspondence went to the Prime Minister, but I suppose certain of the less important communications were passed on to the
Assistant Minister. However, I have no wish to indulge in a controversial discussion. The work of the External Affairs Department needs no praise from me; but although I was connected with it intimately for a number of years, I think that I may be excused, now that I have severed my connexion with it, in giving a word of praise to this small department, which although very much overworked, has always managed to produce for the Minister of the day information relating to practically - any current subject of world or imperial importance. I hope to have a further opportunity to discuss the External Affairs Department, and at the same time to suggest a slight reorganization which I think would add to its efficiency. I do not expect that there will be much discussion on this relatively small vote.
– I should like some information from the Minister regarding the expenditure on the High Commissioner’s Office and the allowance to the Resident Minister in London. Most of us ‘expected a reduction of expenditure in the High Commissioner’s Office in view of the statement of ..the Prime Minister that the appointment of a Resident Minister in London would enable many economies to be effected. The Estimates provide for an additional expenditure of £2,000 in respect of the High Commissioner’s Office. Item No. 2 provides- for an allowance of £300 to the High Commissioner for expenses of the official residence. Is that amount due to the late High Commissioner for a portion of the financial year, or is it to be paid to some other person? Item No. 6 provides a sum of £520 for the upkeep of the official residence. Does that item meet the expenses of keeping a person in occupancy and other services, or does it relate to the maintenance of and repairs to the building? Item No. 1 provides £4,200 for stationery, travelling and incidental expenditure. I should imagine that the greater part of that expenditure would be travelling expenses. Is a portion of that amount, in addition to the sum of £2,100 for expenses under Item No. 7, to be paid to the Resident Minister in London on account of travelling expenses ; if so, how much ?
I come now to the Audit Office. I have no desire to refer in ungenerous terms to the Auditor-General; but I believe it is the desire of the Government to transfer to Canberra, as early as possible, all departments that can be conveniently accommodated here and which should be located at the seat of government. I should like to know what arrangements have been made to transfer that part of the Auditor-General’s Department which should be at Canberra. No preference should be shown or privilege given to any department or official. The Auditor-General should be subject to the same conditions as are imposed upon other public servants, and he should be transferred to Canberra as soon as possible, provided his transfer does not interfere with tlie efficient working of his department. I cannot see how this would interfere with his work, because his is essentially a central administration affecting all the States of the Commonwealth. If there is one department that should be centred in Canberra it is that of the Auditor-General.
– It should have been one of the first to be transferred.
– I want to know what progress, has been made in the business of transferring that department to Canberra and, if there is to be further delay, the reason for it.
– Replying first to the subject mentioned by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) - the development of the Newnes shale oil deposits - I admit that I had promised to get certain information from the Minister who is handling this matter, but as Senator McLachlan has been absent from Canberra, I have’ not had an opportunity to discuss the subject with him. I can, however, assure the honorable member that there is nothing sinister about the Government’s proposals for the development of those deposits. It is true that Cabinet is opposed to the carrying on of industries of this kind as government activities, and for this reason it was decided to get out of this particular undertaking. In any case the Government was not satisfied that the business was proceeding satisfactorily and that development was taking place. But it was anxious that something should be done to provide employment, particularly in view of the fact that the original allocation of money made by the previous Government was for the purpose of repatriating New South Wales coal-miners who, for various reasons, had been thrown out of work on the northern coal-fields. But its policy is entirely different from that of its predecessor in that it will not attempt to develop the Newnes shale oil deposits as a State undertaking. This is very definite. Accordingly the shale oil committee, of which I think Mr. John Gunn, of the development branch, is chairman, consulted with the Minister to see whether it was possible to get the area developed by private enterprise. Following this consultation, applications were invited from companies that were prepared to carry on the work, and I believe that two or three proposals were made. The offer of Messrs. Chambers and Treganowan being regarded as the most satisfactory, was accepted. Thereupon these people proceeded to form a company, but I have to admit frankly, that they failed to attract the necessary capital. The honorable member for West Sydney has referred to the wonderful asset offered to the company. Apparently it was not sufficiently attractive to Australian investors.
– Perhaps the promoters did not want it to be successful.
– I think the honorable member is entirely wrong. I believe that the promoters are anxious to develop the deposits, and are very disappointed at their failure to form the company. . The honorable member has asked whether the Government has closed on the guarantee. I do not think that that has been done up to the present, because Senator McLachlan is still endeavouring to see whether some means can be devised to enable development to proceed, as it is the sincere desire of the Government that work shall be proceeded with there.
– The Government will not, surely, hand over the taxpayers’ money to back up a private enterprise.
– The Government, on the recommendation of the committee and the Minister, felt that if . anything was to be done it would have to assist in that way. We were prepared to provide £10,000 for developmental work on a £1 for £1 basis, to ensure employment, because, as I have explained, this money was provided by the previous administration primarily for employment. We hesitated to provide so much, but we were determined that as it had been given to find employment, the work done must be of a developmental character. Up to the present not one penny, has been spent by the Government, and I can assure the committee that no advance will be made unless the company is in a position to go ahead with the work.
– Have they done anything with the cracking plant?
– I do not know the whole of the details; I can speak only of the general position a3 I knew it when Cabinet undertook to provide this assistance. Whether the company has failed to do other things I am not sure, but it has failed to get the necessary capital. I do not think that the promoters are associated in any way with a combine to prevent the development of the deposits. So far as I know, the whole of the business has been quite fair and aboveboard.
– There has been trouble, as the Prime Minister knows, in connexion with the Oil Trust.
– I am not prepared to contradict the honorable member, because I do not know anything of the matter to which he refers. I only know that for the last twenty years I have been hoping to see the development of the shale oil deposits in my own State. When I was a member of the Tasmania^ Parliament I did my best to help forward that project. Whether failure is due to the economics of the industry, or whether it is due to outside influence, I am not in a position to say. The honorable member has suggested that Amalgamated Zinc and Electrolytic Zinc own the bulk of tho leases in Tasmania. I can assure him that the best and most extensive leases are held by the Railton and Latrobe Shale Company, in which, so far as I am aware, the two first-named companies have no interest. They did have some leases, and held them for a time, but did nothing to develop them, because they realized that the proposal was uneconomic. The RailtonLatrobe group and the company with which Mr. Chambers was associated in
Tasmania still have some very substantial areas around Latrobe and Railton; but, so far as I know, the Amalgamated Zinc and Electrolytic Zinc have no interests there. The Government is very anxious to see the Newnes shale oil deposits developed in order to provide employment. Anything within reason that the Government can do to assist to that end will be done, but in no circumstances will it undertake to develop the deposits as a State enterprise.
– Apparently Messrs. Chambers and Treganowan have broken their contract.
– I think they have, but if their failure is not due to any fault of their own, and there remains a chance of completing the transaction, the Minister will be justified in affording them an opportunity to do so. Obviously it would be preferable to have this enterprise in operation, providing employment, than that it. should be closed down.
– Subdivide the area, and give two or three companies a chance.
– I assure the honorable member of the bona fides of the Government, and if any sound proposition can be made by the present promoters, or any others who can do the work, the Government will gladly accept it, and do what it believes to be justified to keep the industry going.
– The Prime Minister will appreciate the feelings of the surplus miners and the Lithgow people.
– I do. No man is more disappointed than I am at the failure of Messrs. Chambers and Treganowan to raise the necessary capital. However, the Minister is continuing negotiations.
– When the Minister returns to Canberra, will the Prime Minister be good enough to let the House know the exact state of the negotiations?
– It would be inadvisable to prejudice the prospects of the negotiations by any premature disclosure, but I shall not withhold from Parliament any information that can be given.
– I suspect that the big oil trusts are spragging the wheels, and if we can run them to earth, we should do so.
– Mr. Treganowan has been engaged in refining operations in Australia for some time, but since he became associated with the efforts to develop the Newnes area he has, I understand, experienced great difficulty in getting supplies of oil. However, that is a matter between him and the company. The Government has no desire to withhold information, and the honorable member for West Sydney will be furnished with full particulars as soon as they can be made available. I sincerely trust that as a result of the negotiations now taking place, we may yet see this industry developed.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked for information regarding expenses associated with the High Commissioner’s office and the Resident Minister in London. The item of £4,200 for stationery, travelling and incidental expenses, consists of: stationery and printing, £250; office requisites, £200; postage, £1,200; telephones, £500; motor car expenses, £200; insurance, including national, health, and unemployment, £170; advertisements and subscriptions, £200; overtime and tea money, £20; travelling in Europe only, £150; travelling to Australia,, £850; miscellaneous, £460.
– Was £850 expended on the passage to Australia of Sir Granville Ryrie and family ?
– The amount covers also the travelling expenses of the assistant secretary and his wife and family, the liaison officer and his family, and the new liaison officer should an appointment be made. The Government does not propose to make another permanent appointment immediately. The matter is under the consideration of the Resident Minister in London, who will submit a report to Cabinet.
– Why is provision made in the Estimates for that office if the money is not to be expended?
– The Estimates cover the financial year, and provision is made in case it should be needed.
– Did Sir Granville Ryrie and party return through America ?
– Yes ; the treatment extended to them was in conformity with the previous practice. The amount of £2,100 provided as an allowance for the expenses of the Resident Minister in London equals, with the addition of the allowance which he receives as Minister, the High Commissioner’s salary. He receives the same allowance as the High Commissioner, but there is an actual saving of the amount of his ministerial salary and parliamentary allowance in Australia. An amount of £520 is provided for the upkeep of the official residence. That is for refurnishing, taxes, repairs, &c. Nothing has been done in that way for the last five years, and more than this amount will have to be expended, if this government asset is to be properly maintained. The proposed expenditure does not arise out of the appointment of the Resident Minister.
– Will the right honorable gentleman explain the allowance of £300 to the High Commissioner for the expenses of the official residence?
– That was paid to the former High Commissioner, Sir Granville Ryrie.
– To the date of his return to Australia?
– In 1931-32 the expenditurewas £1,636; the £300 covers the period from the 30th June to the date on which Sir Granville Ryrie relinquished his position.
Mr.RIORDAN (Kennedy) [4.5 a.m.]. - The sum of £1,800 is provided for a Director of Development. Last year the vote was £1,850. Why has the salary of this officer been reduced? The Prime Minister says that he does not intend to develop the shale oil deposits at Newnes as a State enterprise. When did the right honorable gentleman throw overboardthe policy of State enterprise? I am convinced that he still believes in that policy, and would put it into operation against American interests, or in places where private enterprise would not operate because it could not see profits large enough. Whena man has money to invest he can, of course, accept bank interest at the rate of 3½ per cent.; but he will not accept bank interest if he can obtain elsewhere a return of 4½ per cent. for his money, or more, even though he may entertain socialistic ideas. I suggest to the Prime Minister that it would be well to develop these shale oil deposits.
I expected to hear from the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey), some authentic information regarding Australia House where, I understand, he has spent a. good deal’ of time., When I sought information regarding the position of liaison officer in London, he, like a true Melbournian. evaded the question and gave me no information. Surely he deserves a place in the “Cabinet. The vote for the Liaison Officer in London for 1931-32 was £862. Was that sum too! much, that this, year only £800 is provided? What has become of the Liaison Officer who was in London in 1-931-32?
– He is still over there.
– Since there was no expenditure under this heading for 1931- 32, are we to understand that this officer carried out his work for nothing? Are we further to understand that this year he has lost his sense of patriotism and will charge £800 for his services ? It has been suggested that the officer for whom £862 was voted last year now sits in this Parliament as the representative of the district of Corio. If that is so, it would appear that money was wasted in sending him to London, for, although the honorable member for Corio has been in this Parliament for about nine months, honorable members have heard from him very little about his experiences in London. Is that because of the visit to London of the former member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) who inquired into the conduct of Australia House? Does the Government intend to send Major Officer to London to assist his old Melbournian friend, the Resident Minister in London? Members of this Parliament want to know why so much money is to be expended in connexion with the London office when old-age, invalid, and soldier pensioners in this country are being robbed. The Estimates also provide for a vote of £52 for child endowment, . £312 for cost of living allowance, a special allowance of £160 to the Liaison Officer in London, although no expenditure under these items was incurred last. year. Why is a sum of £160 provided as a special allowance to this officer, when nothing was provided last year? Who is this Liaison Officer? Why is he to be appointed, and what necessity is there for an increase in the London staff? The- expenditure- of the Department, of External Affairs- for the year 1931-32 was £4,101, and- the vote for this year £4i258>, an increase- of £157. As the: G.Orvernment has found- it necessary to reduce public servants’ salaries, and invalid and’ old-age pensions, and to place a further restriction- upon those who receive the maternity allowance, one is justified in asking why even this expenditure has been increased. Provision is also made under the High Commissioner’s Office for an amount of £2,100 as an allowance for expenses to the Resident Minister in London; but as the Minister without portfolio receives his. parliamentary allowances, and also, I suppose, a ministerial allowance, there should not be any need to provide this amount. The sum of £520 is also provided for the upkeep of the official residence, which seems to me unnecessarily high. Under the High Commissioner’s Office, £7,400 has been provided for municipal, and other taxes, although £6,268 was sufficient last year. For the general upkeep of Australia House, £10,450 has been allocated, which is £200 more than was required last year. This increase is being made at a time when almost every section of the community has been compelled to submit to a reduction of 22£ per cent. Had the Prime Minister stated that it had been decided to abolish State Agents-General, and that their work was to be undertaken by the Commonwealth, there might be some justification for this vote. For the upkeep of the official residence, £520 is required, although only £243 was expended last year.
– One half of the £520 represents taxation.
– Unless the Government repudiated some of its liabilities during the previous financial year, one would imagine that the taxation would be the same this year. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) said that the salary of the Clerk of the Senate was unnecessarily high, and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), who raised a similar objection, is not game enough to suggest a reduction in the vote for the Department of External Affairs. Provision is also made for an expenditure of £5,292 to meet the cost of the Australian Commissioner-General in the United States of America.
It is an admission of failure for the Government to hand over the Newnes shale oil concern to private enterprise, lt would be a good thing if the Government tried working the deposits itself. Private enterprise will not take on anything, unless it can see a profit in it. The Government might well embark on various other enterprises as well. It could devote some of the money now spent on sustenance to encouraging reproductive undertakings There are gold mines in various parts of the country which might well he developed. Mines yielding half an ounce to the ton, which would not pay three or four years ago, could he worked at a profit now, at the present price of gold, and the present rate of exchange.
Regarding our overseas trade representatives, there is no great need to send commercial travellers from Australia to Great Britain. The people of Great Britain know what we have to sell them, but we ought to send representatives to China and Japan, and other countries in the Far East. I have a great admiration for the talents of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), and perhaps it would be a good thing for Australia if we sent them overseas to represent us in those countries. On second thoughts, I must apologize to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) - the Japanese Ambassador - for not mentioning his name in this connexion. He could no doubt represent us most ably in Japan.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin 1 asked me whether it was proposed to transfer part of the Audit Department to Canberra. No decision has yet been made in regard to this matter.
– Are we to understand that the proposal has not been definitely abandoned ?
– The transfer of various departments has been under consideration, and the Patents Department, as has been announced, will shortly be transferred. No decision has yet been come to regarding the other departments.
– I am pleased to observe that the travelling expenses of Commonwealth Ministers are showing a downward trend. I have frequently referred to this matter in the chamber, and it is gratifying to observe that an improvement is being effected. Sometimes when a member undertakes an unpleasant task of this kind he feels as if he ‘were beating against the granite walls of opposition with bare knuckles. As compared with 1929-30 the ministerial travelling expenses for 1931-32 have been greatly reduced. I do not desire to take credit to myself for this satisfactory state of affairs, but it is evident that I have not spoken in vain. According to a return prepared recently, Ministers in the Seullin Government, for a period of approximately six months, drew £1,156, whereas Ministers of the present Government, for a corresponding period, drew only £7-37. I trust that for the future, Ministers will not make a welter of travelling expenses as did some members of the previous Government. I have no complaint to make against Mr. Scullin personally when he was Prime Minister, because he set a splendid example to the rest of his Cabinet in the way of keeping down travelling expenses.
Provision is made in the Estimates for salaries and travelling allowances for officers acting as secretaries to the Leader of the Opposition in this House, tha Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and the Leader of the Country party. I now observe that a new departure is being made, and that a private secretary is being supplied to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House; I do not desire to reflect either on the Deputy Leader of the Opposition or his newly appointed secretary, but this appointment is another example of how expenses mount up. Studying the departmental expenditure for successive years since 1918, I was amazed to see how costs had mounted. There is no reason why the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should be supplied with a private secretary.
– Yes there is.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. It does not follow, because the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was once a Minister, and as such required the services of a private secretary, that he should have one supplied to him now. I am against the practice of members of this House scratching one another’s backs in regard to matters of this kind. In times like these, when the public finances are in such a serious position, we should cut out all unnecessary expenditure. The next thing, of course, will be that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) will demand a secretary, and from what I have seen in this chamber he is more entitled to one than is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Then, I suppose, the deputy leader of the corner party, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), will get a private secretary.
– What about one for the honorable member himself ?
– Well, there are several independent members in this House, so, if you have money to burn, why should they not have secretaries as well as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition? Why does the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate need a secretary? What does that officer do. in tho long periods when the Senate is in recess? One of the reasons why we are sent here is thoroughly to examine and criticize the Estimates. I want to know from the Prime Minister whether this appointment was made to find a job for the person who is now secretary, to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Further, is the position to last only during the parliamentary session, or is this secretary to accompany the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to Capricornia or anywhere else during recess ? During the last Parliament I tried hard to find out how much money was spent as travelling expenses by private secretaries, but my efforts were burked. I had good reason to seek information concerning the travelling expenses paid to Senator Daly’s secretary at that time, but my efforts were unsuccessful. I admit that the Prime Minister has given the committee more information than any other Prime Minister has done. That I appreciate. But I hope that the practice of appointing additional private secretaries will net be continued.
– It will be noticed that . the estimated amount for salaries and travelling allowances to private secretaries has been reduced from £2,500 last year to £2,300 for the present year, and that the actual expenditure for this purpose last year was £2,277. Anybody who has occupied the position of Deputy Leader of the Opposition will appreciate the need for secretarial assistance during the parliamentary session. The appointment referred to has not been made merely for the purpose of helping the Deputy Leader, but also to assist the Leader of the Opposition.
– He has a private secretary.
– But he is greatly assisted in his work by the Deputy Leader. I speak from recent experience. The Government felt that something ought to be done in this direction during the parliamentary session. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) need have no fear regarding travelling expenses being incurred by the secretary to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. There will be none. His work is done in Canberra. He receives a small cost of living allowance for residing here, because his home is in Melbourne. Regarding the suggestion that a job is being found for a particular person, I might state that when it was decided that assistance should be provided for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Government set about seeking a suitable person to fill the position, and it found a man who had had* many years of experience in the State and Federal spheres, who was out of employment. As he had the necessary qualifications, the position was offered to him, and he accepted it. Whether the appointment will be filled again next session remains to be determined, in the light of the experience gained. It will be a matter for the Government to determine.
.- . Item 14, which appears at page 35 of the Estimates, deals extensively with the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Nobody appreciates the work of that body more than I do. But I very much fear that there is a risk of the council duplicating the work that is being done by similar departments in the various States. For three years I was Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales, and I was closely in touch with the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and also with that of the State department, so I know what is going on. I notice that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has a staff of 23. So far as I can ascertain, that does not include the scientific officers, who are actually engaged in research work. It is almost impossible for those officers to carry on in Canberra investigations concerning animal health, plant entomology, horticulture, including soil survey and irrigation, food preservation and transport, and forest products. The necessary experimental and investigation work must be done in different districts throughout the Commonwealth, to determine, results under various climatic and soil conditions. It is futile to talk about a soil survey for the Commonwealth being carried out at Canberra. When honorable members realize that the bulk of the work is being done in the States, they will know why I raise the subject. Every State government has a fully equipped department of agriculture, and water conservation and irrigation, with highly trained expert officers, and well equipped laboratories, experimental farms, agricultural colleges, and facilities for veterinary research. Those State staffs are as highly qualified as any in the world. Officers controlling several of the research stations in New South Wales have been invited to attend and address world congresses, a distinct recognition of their capacity. And there are no better equipped laboratories for investigation and research work than those which are controlled by the Government of New South Wales. I need only mention the laboratories that recently were attached to the Sydney University for the specific purpose of investigating plant diseases, such as rust in wheat. What would be the use of officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research endeavouring to conduct, in the Federal Capital Territory, which is not a cereal-growing district, experiments in connexion with cereal crops?
– Farrar carried out all his wheat work in the territory.
– That is a different class of work; it is purely the crossbreeding of certain grains^ and could be done in almost any backyard. Farrar’s work was of a particular type; it was not scientific investigational work. The most valuable portion of such work, despite what the Minister has said, is being carried out in the different wheat-producing States. The investigational work in connexion with the blowfly pest is nowhere being carried out more effectively than at the Nyngan experimental farm under the direction of veterinary officers of the Department of Agriculture in New South Wales, in close co-operation with the officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. At the Glenelg Research Station in New South Wales, veterinary research work of the most delicate nature is being carried out by some of the most highly-trained officers of the department. A tremendous amount of jealousy exists between the officers of the different departments, and there is always a scramble to secure the credit for any investigational discovery that is made. I shall cite a specific instance of overlapping and inter-departmental jealousy, at the expense of the Commonwealth and the States, and to the detriment of the various organizations (investigating the parasitical diseases associated with the tobacco plant. I say without fear of contradiction by scientific officers or others, that no department has carried out a more complete set of investigations, and none has a more complete knowledge of the diseases associated with the tobacco plant, than the Department of Agriculture in New South Wales. An officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was approached not very long ago in connexion with a certain tobacco plant disease in the northern part of that State. I understand that the plant was brought to Canberra, where very extensive investigations were conducted, and a report was ultimately made.. The whole of the information thus obtained had been in the New. South Wales department for a considerable time, but no communication was sent to the department by the council. No Minister is competent to check a scientific officer for want of scientific training. Once scope is allowed for overlapping on the work of the States, there will be serious danger of centralization, and the concentration of investigational work in the Federal Capital Territory under the direction of this council. Every effort should be made to prevent interference with valuable work that is being undertaken by the States, and the Government should insist upon 100 per cent, cooperation by officers under the control of the council with those who are doing similar’ work in the States. The States are the proper authorities to carry out the bulk of the work, and the instruction should be issued that full advantage must be taken of what is being done at the various laboratories and research stations under State jurisdiction in different parts of the Commonwealth. Only matters of international importance, or those that require considerable expenditure upon investigation and research work should be under the direct control of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. A tremendous amount would thus be saved, and the work would be more effectively carried out. The same class of .research may be conducted in several laboratories simultaneously. Two or three officers investigating the one question in different places may arrive at a solution that might elude a single officer. Collaboration has frequently resulted in conclusions being arrived at that have proved most valuable to different branches of primary production all over the world. Scientific investigation does not recognize national boundaries. Whenever anything valuable is discovered it is made available to all. I earnestly appeal to the Government to see that overlapping and .duplication are avoided.
– The expenditure upon salaries in the office of the Public Service Board last year amounted to £32,840, and this year provision is made for £32,385, a slight reduction which is accounted for by the fact that the number of typists has been reduced by two. This office may be the most efficient in the Commonwealth Public Service, but it appears to me that its cost constitutes a very large overhead expense. We have a Public Service that costs a considerable sum to run.
At the same time, many thousands of our citizens are out of work, and there is the tragedy of a lost generation of young men and women who, no matter what their ability may be, cannot obtain employment. Numbers of brilliant youths are leaving the schools and universities every year, but no employment is available to them. Consequently the Government should consider a proposal, which has met with favorable reception in Great Britain, for an earlier retiring age in the Public Service, in order to prevent stagnation and the dismissal of a large number of young men who have families.
– The preference granted in the Service to returned soldiers is largely responsible for the position of which the honorable member complains.
– If my suggestion were adopted, the interests of returned soldiers would be safeguarded. If a bill were passed for retrenchment in the Service it would mean that men in the lower grades, who are practically all returned soldiers, would be dismissed. The present retiring age is 65 years, but in the air force, a flight-lieutenant has to retire at* the age of 40 years, and in the navy, a seagoing officer retires at 50 years. I recognize that the qualifications of an ordinary member of the Public Service are different from those required of naval and air force officers; but the public servant has the advantage on retirement of receiving adequate superannuation. The Government might invite some of the older public servants to retire voluntarily. In the army many officers retired in 1922, and no doubt a number of members of the Public Service would be patriotic enough to retire before reaching the age of 65 years, to enable younger members of the Service to receive promotion, and to make positions available to men who are now out of employment. Unemployed manual workers can be provided with pick and shovel work, but when a clerical worker loses his employment, he is often not fitted for work of any other kind.
– It would be hard on a public servant if he were asked to retire at the age of 60 years, when he had planned his life’s affairs with a view to retiring at the age of 65.
– But I ask the Minister whether he considers it fair to dismiss men who have the responsibility of raising young families. During the regime of the last Government over 2,000 men were dismissed from the Post Office.
– They were not permanent officers; they were engaged temporarily on construction work.
– I am not attempting to blame any party for the action taken. My proposal might well apply, not only to members of the Public Service, but to all elderly employees who are in a position to retire. An excellent officer in the Migration Department after some sixteen years in the Service was recently retired because he was temporary. Generally speaking, the men in the lower grades of the Service are in stationary positions, and have no chance of promotion. It has been the habit of officers to remain in the Service until the time when they are compelled to retire, and then to take a year’s pay in lieu of furlough. In the last Parliament I asked how much such payments had amounted to over a period of twelve months, and the sum mentioned was, I think, in the vicinity of £20,000. Strictly speaking, these officers should have retired without taking furlough. I am not blaming the public servants for this position. I recognize that, on the whole, the Service is an excellent one.
The report of the Public Service Board for 1930-31 showed that £314,000 had been paid for extraneous services, and that £36,163 had been disbursed in providing higher duty allowances. Can honorable members name any private firms which pay higher duty allowances when an employee goes on holidays? If a junior officer is called upon to take the place of a man on holiday leave, he is generally glad to have an opportunity to qualify for more important work. When reductions of the salaries of public servants are made, regard should be paid to the amount of the salaries received, and the reductions should be proportionate. The report of the Public Service Board for the year ended 30th June, 1931, showed that, instead of reductions being real, they have in a great measure been overtaken by increments. The report shows that the average rate of payment in the Service was £288 per annum, and £286 per annum in the previous year. We have not made savings in the Public Service in proportion to the fall of £200,000,000 in the national income. Every honorable member knows that in his domestic or official capacity he must reduce his overhead charges if his income falls. The income of the Commonwealth has fallen, but I doubt whether its overhead costs have been reduced sufficiently. The expenditure on the Public Service is only a fraction of the total expenditure of the Government, but every possibility of making savings in this direction should be explored. The country is suffering an incalculable economic loss by allowing young men to grow up in idleness. I believe that something effective would be done in the interests of these young men if highly paid public servants who are reaching the retiring age were invited to retire before it is necessary for them to do so.
– If they retired, their places would be taken by returned soldiers.
– Not in the case of telegraph messengers, but it would be a good thing if returned soldiers with large families were provided for by this means. I recollect that 36 men, every one of whom was suffering from some incapacity, such as the loss of fingers or an eye, were dismissed in one batch from the mail room at the Melbourne General Post Office, by the last administration. We certainly should do something to make it possible for young men to enter the Public Service. I am sure that every honorable member must have received numerous letters from constituents asking when the Public Service will again become an avenue of employment for the youth of this country.
– It is high time that the Government provided some clerical assistance for the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), who is leading the Labour party in this chamber. While I do not suggest that clerical assistance is not required* by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), I feel that the leader of the party to which I have the honour to belong, and which represents more than 500,000 electors in this chamber, is entitled to some assistance, for he has to deal with a very large volume of correspondence. Efforts have been made on various occasions to slight this party and overlook it, but an opportunity is now presented to the Government to make some redress for this by providing, if not a private secretary, at least some clerical assistance for the leader of it.
The provision of £10,155 for the Development Branch of the Prime Minister’s Department reminds me that this is the branch which is dealing with the Newnes shale oil deposits. We have been informed that it is not the policy of the Government to develop these leases as a government undertaking, but to allow them to be developed by private enterprise. Apparently, government resources are drawn upon to prove the worth of this and many other likely industrial enterprises in this country, and then they are handed over to private people for exploitation. The taxpayers are to be charged with the cost of preliminary investigations and purely developmental activities, but are not to enjoy the benefits of any profits that may accrue therefrom. That being so, I consider that the proposed vote for this branch is not warranted.
I listened carefully to the remarks of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) relative to the External Affairs Department and the liaison officer. The honorable gentleman told us that he did a great deal of hard work while he was liaison officer in London, but he did not go into details, nor did. he convince me that this expenditure can be justified. Does the liaison officer perform secret service work? Is it part of his duty to censor correspondence ? Unless the Prime Minister can give me some more information on this subject I shall vote against this proposed vote.
I come now to the proposed provision for the Governor-General’s office. I shall probably be told that it is not in accord with parliamentary traditions to discuss this subject, but that will not deter me from doing so. The GovernorGeneral is paid a handsome salary, and, in my opinion, the provision of an additional £1,400 for incidental expenses and petty cash is not necessary. It may be said that some of this money is used to entertain visitors, but the visitors who are received at Government House are well able to pay for their own entertainment. The salary of £8,900 per annum provided for the Governor-General should be sufficient to provide for his travelling and all other incidental expenses. It may be argued that the salary is fixed by the Constitution, and cannot be altered. Even if that is so, we can make a reduction of expenditure by deleting the proposed vote for incidental expenses.
The proposed vote for the High Commissioner’s Office also calls for some attention. Like other honorable members, I have on a number of occasions attempted to discover the real cost to the country of the Resident Minister in London. I have been told that it will not be in the proximity of £5,000 per annum; but I cannot say that I have been convinced on the point. The votes for this purpose are so cleverly camouflaged that it is difficult to tell exactly what money will be expended in this direction. All sorts of pickings are available. The provision of £520 for the upkeep of the official residence certainly cannot be justified. When the wages of the worker are fixed, there is no special allowance for the upkeep of the home. That is naturally a charge on income. Therefore, any special expenditure incurred by the Resident Minister in London should also be a charge on his income. Item No. 2 provides for the expenditure of £300 as an allowance to the High Commissioner for expenses for his official residence, and item No. 6 provides for an expenditure of £520 for the upkeep of his official residence. The expenditure under those two items should be considered as part of the salary of the Resident Minister in London. I come now to the item relating to the Official Secretary and Financial Adviser attached to the High Commissioner’s Office. Mr. Collins, the officer concerned, receives a salary of £2,000, yet this Government had not sufficient confidence in him, as a financial adviser, to instruct him to arrange the recent conversion loan. A Resident Minister in London was appointed to carry out that conversion, which, I con- tend, could have been carried out by any one. The loan really converted itself. Either. the position of financial adviser or that of the Resident Minister in London is superflous
Division No. 13 relates to the Australian Commissioner-General in the United States of America. The recommendations of the Ottawa Conference have been submitted to this House, and I understand that as a result of tlie agreement the policy of this and other Dominion Governments is to foster trade, not with foreign countries, but within the Empire. It is, therefore, unnecessary for this Government to appoint representatives in foreign countries to exploit trade avenues there, and a considerable saving could be made in that direction.
Division No. 15 relates to shipping and mail services to the Pacific Islands. I wish to bring under the notice of the Government the lack of adequate steamer communication between Lord Howe Island and the mainland. The shipping company that has the mail contract provides a sixweekly service. The vessel carries cargo, and has accommodation for 80 passengers. Lord Howe Island is only 420 miles from Sydney, but because of the lack of adequate communication with the mainland, the residents found it impossible to record their votes at the recent elections in New South Wales.
– In what federal electorate is Lord Howe Island?
– In the East Sydney electorate. The residents of Lord Howe Island, as Australian citizens, are entitled to record a vote for their parliamentary candidate. If it is not considered advisable to improve the steamer service, the Government might consider inaugurating regular aeroplane service for the carriage of mails.
– What is the population of the island?
– About 80 adults. The island is becoming a recognized and popular tourist resort, as a result of the publicity given to it by various scientists who have undertaken investigations there. I hope that the Minister who is representing the Prime Minister at the moment will be able to give some information on the matters that I have mentioned.
– The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) has referred to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and suggested that none of its activities should overlap those of the States. There is in every State a committee composed of State officers and officials appointed by the Commonwealth Government, which ensures that there is no overlapping of Commonwealth and State activities. The honorable member has had some experience in the Department of Agriculture in New South Wales, and if he can notify the Government of any instances of overlapping we shall be only too pleased to investigate them. The utmost harmony exists between the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the State Departments of Agriculture. .Their investigations and research work have been remarkably successful. Apparently the honorable member is under the impression that the majority of the activities of the council are undertaken at Canberra.
– I did not suggest that.
– The activities of the council which can best be carried out in the States are undertaken in the States. The honorable member has referred to soil research. As it was not considered advisable to carry out that work in Canberra, it is being undertaken at Maryborough and Griffith. Did time permit, I should be glad to give details of the activities of the council, but I can assure honorable members that that body has performed amazingly good work.
– Is not Mr. Duncan a member of the committee inquiring about departmental overlapping?
- Mr. Duncan is a Public Service inspector who is at present engaged in completing a report which he was asked by the Premiers Conference to prepare on the subject of overlapping. He expects to make his report available shortly.
The Prime Minister has requested me to inform the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. .White) that his suggestions for the relief of unemployment will be given careful consideration.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has referred to the. appointment of a liaison officer in Great Britain. The Prime Minister, in replying to the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey), clearly indicated that the proposed appointment of a liaison officer in Great Britain has been referred to the Resident Minister in London for investigation and report.
– Has the Government any one in view?
– No report has been received yet. Consequently, no decision has been made.
Replying to the honorable member’s comments with reference to the allowance for the Resident Minister in London, there has never been any doubt about the expenditure to be incurred in connexion with that important appointment. While the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) is in London he will receive allowances which, added to his ministerial and parliamentary allowances, will represent a total payment of £3,750 per annum.
– Will that include the allowance to the High Commissioner for expenditure on the official residence?
– It is the total sum which the Minister will receive. If he so desires he may occupy the official residence provided for the High Commissioner.
The honorable member referred also to the position of the Australian CommissionerGeneral in the United States of America. After attending the Ottawa Conference, the Minister without Portfolio, now the Resident Minister in London, visited New York to inquire into the wisdom or otherwise of continuing the activities of the Australian CommissionerGeneral. The Government is now awaiting his report. When that report has been received it will consider the matter.
The amount set aside as travelling allowances for His Excellency the Governor-General is smaller than the amount expended last year. For the information of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) I may explain that the provision this financial year for temporary assistance is £350. Of this “amount £300 is paid to the Governor-
General towards the cost of clerical assistance. From the 1st July, 1929, when the clerk to the Governor-General was withdrawn, it was arranged that this amount should be paid towards the cost of clerical assistance on the GovernorGeneral’s staff because certain duties previously carried out by the clerk were to be carried out by the Governor-General’s staff. The amount of £50 is provided to meet the cost of messengers loaned from the Postmaster-General’s Department to assist the Governor-General’s staff, when required in Melbourne and Sydney. Under the heading “ contingencies,” £200 is provided for official printing and stationery, and £250 for official telegrams and postage. These amounts are to cover expenditure by the Governor-General and his personal staff. Travelling expenses and incidental and petty cash expenditure is put down at £1,400, but no provision is made for services rendered by the rail way departments. As these items in previous years were overlapping, they have been amalgamated and an amount of £1,400 provided. Last year the provision was £1,500, and the actual expenditure £1,214.
– Does the Commonwealth Government pay for the special car put on for the Governor-General? I have been told that the States supply it free of charge.
– All State Governments make a. special car available free of charge to the Commonwealth.
.A perusal of the items in this department confirms me in the belief that the Government could still further reduce expenditure in many directions. But there is one activity in connexion with which further economies would be extremely unwise - I refer to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. In an agricultural country like Australia there will always be urgent need for investigations into plant life and entomological problems. When on a visit to Canada recently2 I was impressed with the extent to which, scientific and industrial research in relation to primary industries is encouraged by the various governments there, and I hope that no action will be taken by this or any other Government” to interfere with similar work which is being done in
Australia: Until tlie department was established by the Bruce-Page Government some years ago, very little attention was given to this matter. In recent years the council has done a great deal of very valuable work which I can assure the committee is highly appreciated by our primary producers. Recently the entomological section set to work to discover the parasite for the lucerne flea, which, unfortunately, was introduced to this country without its .parasite, and has done an enormous amount of damage. These imported pests, if unaccompanied by their parasite, do infinitely more damage in this country than in their native habitat, where the parasite restores the balance demanded by nature in all things. To Mr. Wormald, a scientist now occupying the position of curator at the Adelaide Museum, is due the credit for having discovered, in South Africa, the parasite of the lucerne flea. Since its introduction it has spread like wild fire and has practically eliminated the lucerne fica from some areas . A kindred pest called the red-legged mite or spider, which also was introduced without its parasite, is doing a great deal of damage in our best clover fields. I, therefore, suggest that the Government should again enlist the services of Mr. Wormald, who should be instructed to visit Mediterranean countries where the parasite has its home, and bring it back to Australia. This work might take some considerable time, but the expenditure would be well worth while, for this pest has done great damage to our clover crops. If the Prime Minister will give attention tq this matter, he will do a great service to the country. Every nation that has studied the application of science to industry has reaped great advantages thereby. I commend the experts of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, particularly Dr. Tillyard and his officers, for the very valuable service they are rendering to Australia.
– The amount of £33,219 provided for the office of the Public Service Board is for the salaries of the staff only, and does not include the special appropriation for the salary of the Commissioner. Similarly the amount of £1,100 for the Public Service Arbitrator’s office in the
Attorney-General’s Department is apart from the £2,000 paid to the Arbitrator himself. In the operations of the board and the Arbitrator, there appears to be unwarranted duplication. The board has a staff of highly efficient officers, who are paid high salaries, and have spent many years in the classification of the Public Service, allotting to all officers their duties, hours and salaries. But officers have only to lodge an objection to the board’s classifications to have their case re-heard by the Arbitrator, who may reverse the decisions of the inspectors. He, too, has an efficient staff of officers. Whilst the public servants should have the right to appeal from the decisions of the board, that appeal should be to a judge of the Arbitration Court. If that were permitted, many thousands of pounds now expended on the Public Ser* vice Arbitrator’s office would probably be saved, while the public servants would have an equally satisfactory court of appeal. If the Government is seeking opportunities for economy, the removal of this duplication is one which should receive immediate attention.
In order to make room for younger men, the Government is dispensing with the services of a large number of men as they attain the age of 60 years. It is unfortunate that under the act men, unless they arc declared inefficient, cannot be compulsorily retired at 60. The result is that men who have served the Government for 40 years without any complaint having been made against them, receive a curt notification that they are to be retired on account of inefficiency. The Government might as well be frank and tell these officers that, having reached the age of 60 years, they are to be retired, either to make room for younger officers, or in order to retrench. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral particularly will give attention to this matter, and instruct, that officers to be retired shall be notified in a common-sense way. The method now adopted is crude- and unjust, and casts a slur on men who have an unblemished record of service for many years.
– The amount of £324 is provided to pay the legal costs of the appeal to the
Privy Council in connexion with the proposed abolition of the Legislative Council of New South Wales. Who received that amount, and for what service was it paid? So far as I can learn, the Comv - mon wealth had no cause to intervene in this matter at all, especially as the costs to be borne by the taxpayers of New South Wales through the State Government will amount to over £5,000.
All the facts in regard to the Public Service Board have not been disclosed to the committee. It is a strange fact that public servants on the higher salaries are fertile in suggestions for reducing the pay of those in’ the lower grades. Much of their time is occupied in work of this character, but they manage to get their own salaries increased. The personnel of the Public Service Board has been altered. The Scullin Government Tightly decided that one commissioner would be sufficient, and that there was no need for duplication at a time when the salaries of all the public servants in the lower grades were being slashed. I understand, however, that the secretary to the board has’ been appointed an assistant commissioner, at an increased salary. The committee is entitled to know why a new position has been created, and why, if the position is necessary, an increase in salary has been granted. The Government’s idea of economy appears to be one-sided. It takes £8 a year from men with small salaries, who can ill afford to lose that amount, and at the same time it appoints an Assistant Public Service Commissioner at an increase of salary. The Estimates do not reveal the facts, for they make no reference to an Assistant Commissioner.
– This appointment has been made since the Estimates were printed.
– We should not have known anything about the appointment until next year had the matter not been raised, for the Minister gave us no explanation of this new appointment. During the past two years the rank and ‘ file of the Public Service, particularly those in the Postal Department, have suffered severely ; yet men already on high salaries have been granted increases.
Certain deductions from the estimated expenditure are provided for, among them being the following: - Amount to be recovered from administration of Papua, £1,100; amount to be recovered from special funds, £4,600; amount provided under Division No. 114, war services, £9,250; amount provided under Parts 2 and 3 of the Estimates, £11,250 ; and amount estimated to remain unexpended at close of year, £2,000. The last three of those items are selfexplanatory, but I should like to know something about the others. What are the special funds referred to ?
No provision is made this year to deal with the buffalo fly pest. Is that because the pest has been overcome, and there is no necessity for further action ?
– I should like an explanation of the absence of any vote for the destruction of the buffalo fly. This pest, which came from the Northern Territory, is now affecting certain parts of the Queensland gulf country. If it spreads to the coastal regions, it will mean a loss of approximately £3,000,000 per annum to the cattle and dairying industry. I understand that the pest can live as far south as Newcastle. The last Government estimated that the cost of eradicating the buffalo fly would be about £30,000. There was a proposal under consideration for the fencing of a buffer area into which affected cattle would be driven, and probably destroyed. The destruction of the buffalo fly is a- matter of great importance to the cattle industry.
Is it intended to continue the services of the Developmental Consultant in the Development Branch ? I have no fault to find with the work of Mr. Gepp, who has done good work, but I should like to know whether he is to be a full-time officer or a part-time officer in future.
– His position will remain the same as under the last Government.
– No good reason ha9 been given for the appointment of an Assistant Public Service Commissioner. Surely the board’s work can be carried out by Mr. Clemens. It may be claimed that Mr. Thorpe has to’ be trained as an understudy to the Commissioner, but, as secretary to the board, he can get all the training necessary to fit him for the position of Public Service Commissioner in the event of the retirement of Mr. Clemens. The last Government decided that one Public Service Commissioner was sufficient. There is no justification for this additional appointment. If Mr. Thorpe is made an Assistant Commissioner, some one else will have to be appointed secretary to the board. These appointments at high salaries should not bc made while men on the bottom rungs of the ladder are being dismissed.
– Those acquainted, with the Commonwealth Public Service cannot but be apprehensive as to its future. At present it comprises a body of loyal and efficient men and women; but, unfortunately, nothing is being done to provide a continuous supply of youths to take their places. Because of the omission of the Government to make provision for the future, the Public Service costs an additional £100,000 per annum. Two factors have contributed to the present unsatisfactory position. The most important factor is the policy of giving preference to returned soldiers, under which men up to 50 years of age have been, and are still being, admitted to the Public Service. Although I have always subscribed to the principle of preference to returned soldiers in the Public Service, I cannot do so any longer. It is a menace to good government in that it is allowing an important service to get into an inefficient state. Returned soldiers who did not enter the Service during their youth, have no opportunity to obtain the necessary training.
– They were at the war.
– I know that; but whatever instrumentality may be involved, its efficiency should not be destroyed by sentiment.
– How does the honorable member suggest that the difficulty can be overcome?
– In any way that will prevent sacrificing the Service. It would be better to pay some of these men a pension than take them into the Service. It has been estimated that the present system is costing the Commonwealth £100,000. Fresh blood is needed.
The second factor responsible for this threatening condition is the financial depression, and the consequent diminu tion in the activities of the various departments. The falling off in revenue has resulted in a number of men being thrown out of work, and it has also prevented new appointments from being made. I have studied this subject during the last three years, and although I could speak upon it at greater length, I merely take this opportunity to bring it under the notice of the Prime Minister, because it is apparent that the Government does not propose to do anything in the matter this year. Some of the departments may be overstaffed and redundant officers retained, but if the efficiency of the Commonwealth Public Service is to be maintained, we should have a constant supply of capable young men, qualified to fill the higher executive positions. In Australia to-day there are thousands of young men who have had successful careers at the universities, and public and State schools, and whose services are now available to the Commonwealth or any one requiring them. I urge upon the Prime Minister the necessity to give this matter earnest consideration.
.I should like some additional information from the Prime Minister with respect to the item “ upkeep of official residence “ for the High Commissioner, £520. I understood him to say on a previous occasion that this was to cover the purchase of additional furniture. What additional furniture is needed?
– £260 of that amount is for taxation, and the balance to meet the cost of repairs to the official residence. No provision is made for the purchase of additional furniture.
– Provision is also made for the payment of £850 to cover the expense of the return to Australia of the last High Commissioner.
– I have already pointed out that that amount covers the expense incurred by other officers and their families who have returned to Australia, and also to cover the travelling expenses of a liaison officer should one be appointed.
– Was there any necessity for the last High Commissioner to visit the United States of America on his return to Australia, seeing that it followed so shortly after the visit to that country of the Minister without Portfolio? I should also lite to know what other expenditure was incurred by” the High Commissioner and the members of his party during their return to Australia.
– Against Items 1 to 8 in the expenditure provided for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research there is an asterisk which indicates that the amounts include expenditure from contributions from outside sources. Do those contributions include amounts from the development fund of the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank?
– They include those amounts and others. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked for information with respect to the following votes under the Audit Office : -
With respect to the first item, an -audit is conducted by the Audit Department, with which the administration of Papua is charged, and the Audit Department subsequently receives a refund. The same remark applies to the other items.
The amount provided to cover the cost of the Commonwealth representation at the Privy Council appeal in connexion with the New South Wales Legislative Council was paid to the barrister who represented the Commonwealth. It was appropriated last year, and does not come into this year’s Estimates. Parliament was notified at the time that the Commonwealth would be represented. The amount is small because a suitable representative happened to be in London at the time. A good deal of the work was done by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), but for his services, of course, no charge was made.
– Was the barrister to whom this sum was paid the same gentleman who represented the other parties?
– I do not think so. The barrister who represented the Commonwealth was, I understand, in London conducting another case, and his services were availed of by . the Commonwealth. The salary received by the Assistant Public Service Commissioner represents merely his previous salary as secretary, plus the extra amount granted to him as a result of his promotion. There was no need for him to train for the position as he already possessed all the necessary qualifications. The appointment was made because it was realized that the amount of work being thrown upon the Commissioner was becoming too much for him. Many additional matters were being referred to him from other departments, including the Repatriation Department. The Commissioner was beginning to break down under the strain, and he could not continue to carry the load without assistance. There was no course open to us but to appoint an Assistant Commissioner, and by placing the secretary in that position, instead of bringing in a man from outside, a considerable saving was effected.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked whether any provision had been made for continuing the investigations into the buffalo and blow-fly pests. Provision for this; work is included in the vote of £17,000 for general entomological research. The amount made available has been slightly reduced because some portion of the investigation into the buffalo fly pest, namely, that which was being carried on in the East Indies, has been completed. The suggestion of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) that a parasite should be used to control the pest known as the redlegged mite will be taken up by the department.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) inquired regarding the travelling expenses associated with the return to Australia of the High Commissioner. The sum of £850 shown in the Estimates provides for the return of the High Commissioner and his family, the liaison officer and his family, the secretary and assistant secretary with their families, and also the expenses of sending another liaison officer to London if one should be appointed.
– But why did the High Commissioner return by way of America ?
– The High Commissioner was allowed sufficient expenses to bring him to Australia, via Suez. Anything over that amount which he expended in order to return through America he provided himself.
– Last year, for reasons of economy, Australia did not send a delegation to represent it at the meeting of the International Labour Office at Geneva. I observe that, on page 252 of the Estimates, £500 is set down to cover the cost of representation at the next conference. Is it the intention of the Government to send a delegation next year, as has been done in the past ? I mention this matter now, because, at the next session, very important questions will be discussed, particularly hours of work, and labour conditions generally. Last year the conference concentrated on unemployment, and on the subject of work and wages as they affect that problem. At the conclusion of the discussion on the Director’s report, a representative was sent to Paris to begin negotiations for the commencement of international reproductive relief work, the raising of price levels, and the attack on unemployment on an international basis. Honorable members will recall that, during recent debates in this House, international statistics have been freely quoted to show the significance of matters pertaining to unemployment and to working conditions.
The International Labour Office is the only authority that collects and distributes such statistics. The cost of sending an Australian delegation to the conference is small. I do not suggest that large expenditure should be. incurred, but I do urge that we should continue our affiliation with the office, and should take steps to be represented at the next conference. I believe that Australia has more to gain by the raising of the minimum standard of comfort in backward countries than hasany other nation in the world. We were for years the envy of many other countries because of the good standard of living we enjoyed. We are not now in the same enviable position; we have drifted back. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. McBride) reminded us this afternoon - and the figures quoted were collected by the International Labour Office - that the United States of America now pays the highest wages to its workers, Canada comes second, and Australia third, a position she shares with the Scandinavian countries. I do not care whether the Australian delegation be large or small, so long as we are represented. At present there is a wide margin between standards of living in the advanced countries and those in the more backward ones, and the more we can do toraise the standard in the backward countries the better it will be for us in tha field of international competition.
– No definite decision has yet been come to by the Government regarding the representation of Australia at the conference of the International Labour Office, but provision has been made on the Estimates should it be decided to send a delegation. The case made out by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) will be given full consideration. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) asked whether the Commonwealth Rural Credits Development Fund was included in the first eight of these sub-items. It is. For the information of honorable members I mention the following details of a number of these items -
They are -
The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) raised an important matter concerning the efficiency and future of the Public Service which can not receive proper consideration at this juncture ; but I assure the honorable member that it will receive the serious consideration of the Government.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £1,172,200.
– I should like an explanation from the Prime Minister regarding the item, “ New Hebrides, grant for special services, £860”. Is the “Grant to British Chamber of Commerce, Paris, £500 “ connected with the officer who represents this Government in Paris?
– It is for accommodation and other facilities.
– The possibility of dispensing with his services should be looked into. This officer was appointed many years ago when Mr. Hughes was Prime Minister, and he has remained in Paris ever since. We have received no report indicating the scope of his activities, nor do we know of what benefit he is to Australia. I should also like an explanation from the Prime Minister concerning Cockatoo Island Dockyard, for which a sum of £40,000 is provided for maintenance and £10,000 for repairs to plant and buildings. Rumour has it that the Government intends to lease or sell the dockyard. Is it intended to hand it over to some engineering firm, and to dispense with the services of the large number of men now employed there ?
– Under miscellaneous services there is an item, “ Contribution to cost of secretariat - League of Nations - £20,000”. The time has arrived when honorable members should express an opinion on the subject. This organization has recently been submitted to sharp criticism by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who declared, in effect, that it was useless. Last year, £42,656 was contributed to its upkeep. Then there is the item, “ Grant to Australian Commonwealth Branch of Empire Parliamentary Association, £150”. Does that amount go overseas?
Again, “ Commonwealth representation, Imperial Economic Committee, £1,438 “. Is that a separate body? A sum of £700 is set aside for “ Commonwealth representation at the Thirteenth Assembly Leagure of Nations, Geneva, 1932 “. Is that the cost of the delegation of which the right honorable member for North Sydney is a member? I should like to be enlightened as to a sum of £3,000 that is earmarked for “ Imperial Economic Conference, Ottawa, 1932 “. Also, what does “ Investigation of shale oil industry in Tasmania, £335 “ represent? It looks as if that is separate from the .Development Branch. Last year, £3,000 was spent on a “ Grant for relief of distress among unemployed returned soldiers and their dependants “. Was that money distributed among returned soldier organizations? At the bottom of page 253 appears a list of contributions to various bureaux which were, not paid last year. The amount totals £2,725, an addition to Commonwealth expenditure which we can ill afford at a time when we are imposing such hardships on certain sections of the community. From what I can gather the amount represents the cost of supplying and distributing literature on behalf of those bodies. I should like to know why it has been added to our expenditure.
– The item “ New Hebrides - grant for special services “ is provided to cover the salary of £600 per annum, and the tropical and house allowance of £150 per annum-, of the legal representative in the New Hebrides, Mr. Wallace, whose function it is to” watch the interests of the Commonwealth in connexion with land matters. He also assists in the preparation and presentation to the Joint Court of the New Hebrides of the claims of British settlers. In accordance with the Financial Emergency Act the salary, which nominally is £750 per annum, has been reduced by 20 per cent. The allowance has not been touched.
The Australian commercial agent in Paris, Mr. C. H. Voss, occupies accommodation at the offices of the British Chamber of Commerce, and the grant to that body covers office accommodation, typing, &c. A similar amount was pro- vided last year. The question of continuing the office has been under consideration for some time. It has been decided, however, to postpone a decision until the position created by the Ottawa agreements is thoroughly understood.
I assure the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that the contribution by the Commonwealth to the cost of the Secretariat of the League of Nations has given the Government a great deal of concern. The contribution that we make is a substantial one, and there is no possibility of its being reduced at the present time. All that we could hope for is a temporary postponement of some portion of it. Both the Australian and British representatives have made representations in regard to what is considered to be the very heavy cost of the Secretariat.
– Are we compelled to have representation there?
– Yes, unless we are prepared to withdraw from the League, and to admit that we are unable to meet the cost involved. Admittedly, the advantage we gain from our representation is not commensurate with the amount that wo contribute. The whole question is being considered at the present time.
The grant to the Australian Commonwealth branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association, £150, covers the Australian contribution to the journal of the parliaments of the Empire, and is paid as a grant towards the expenses of the Commonwealth branch of the association.
The amount of £1,438, which is provided for Commonwealth representation, Imperial Economic Committee, embraces the salary of Mr. F. M. McDougall, £1,000; temporary assistance, £420, and contingencies, £18. Besides being a member of the Imperial Economic Committee, Mr. McDougall assists the High Commissioner as an economic officer, and carries out certain duties in London on behalf of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I need not indicate, to ex-Ministers at any rate, the value of the services that Mr. McDougall has rendered. Particularly in connexion with the preparation of the matters that were dealt with at Ottawa, his services were invaluable to this Government.
The item “ Commonwealth representation at Thirteenth Assembly, League of Nations, Geneva, 1932 “ covers the cost of our representation. No expenses from Australia are included, because those who were appointed to represent ‘ the Commonwealth were already on the other side of the world. Honorable members know that our representatives are the Ri chi Honorable S.’M. Bruce, the Bight Honorable W. M. Hughes and Sir Donald Cameron. We have substitute representatives in Mr. J. R. Collins, Mr. F. Alexander and Mrs. Ethel Osborne. The provision is small compared with that made in former years.
The total cost of the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa has not yet been brought to account, and I cannot give the complete details. The greater part of the expenditure was incurred during the last financial year, in which it amounted to £4,294. It is estimated that £3,000 will be sufficient to meet the expenditure during the present financial year.
In regard to the investigation into shale oil in Tasmania, I point out that last year an amount of £500 was promised, of which £165 was expended, leaving a balance of £335, which it is anticipated will be devoted to work of this nature during the present financial year. A committee has been set up by the Minister for Mines in Tasmania. It includes the State Government geologist, and representatives of the miners and the companies. Certain work in connexion with the retorts, and so on, has been carried out.
I have already pointed out, in reply to questions, that the Government feels that it cannot continue to incur the heavy expenditure involved in connexion with Cockatoo Island Dockyard. It is a heavy drain on the resources of the Commonwealth. An endeavour is to be made to lease the works, and to have their operations continued so that they may be available for purposes of defence if required. The time for the receipt of offers has been extended. Two or three propositions are being considered by the Minister at the present time, but how far they have progressed I am not in a position to say. Honorable members will be notified of the Government’s intentions when it has a definite proposal-to place before them.
The contributions to different bureaux and associations, to which the honorable member forWest Sydney has referred, are made because of the valuable information that is thereby obtained. An earlier speaker pointed out that scientific and industrial research is not a matter that should be confined to a particular district or State; its character is really international. Valuable information is regularly being collected in other parts of the world, and it would be foolish of us to decline to avail ourselves of it. Refrigeration, for example, is a matter that concerns vitally the export industries of Australia. If the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is worth the amount that is being spent on it, and 1 contend that it is, surely these items, which add to the value of our local investigations and research, also are Worth the sums involved, particularly to the producers of Australia.
– Is not the grant of £2,000 to the Australian Commonwealth Association of Simplified Practice and Standards rather large?
– That is a very valuable engineering work.
– The Standards Association of Australia was formed by the amalgamation of the Australian Commonwealth Engineering Standards Association and the Australian Commonwealth Association of Simplified Practice. The association was formed primarily for the preparation and promulgation of Australian Standards, Specifications, Safety Codes and Simplified Practice Recommendations, which have as their objects -
The association operates by bringing together in committees the representatives of manufacturing, distributing, consuming and technical organizations concerned. There are over 300 committees in operation. The Commonwealth contribution in 1929-1930 was £8,000; in 1930-1931, £1,000, and in 1931-1932, nil. As the association has suffered from the lack of contributions from outside sources, there is a danger that it might not be able to continue its activities unless outside support is forthcoming.
– If the employees are not represented, and are not permitted to express their opinion regarding safety devices, this body will not be properly constituted.
– I shall ascertain what the practice is in that regard.
– The Government should be prepared to consider the elimination of the vote to provide for the representation of Australia at the forthcoming world conference on the reduction and limitation of armaments. Anybody who has studied recent events in connexion with the activities of the League of Nations must realize that the expenditure of this money would not be warranted, because the nations that participate in disarmament conferences are not prepared to accept the decisions of the League unless these suit their own policy. What has recently happened in Manchuria demonstrates the truth of my statement. Japan has declared that if the decision of the committee of inquiry appointed by the League goes against her desires, she will withdraw from the League. Those who imagine that the League of Nations can preserve the peace of the world are under a delusion. I do not know whether the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) has advocated increased preparations for defence, but, if so, his attitude is inconsistent with the proposal to send representatives of Australia to a disarmament conference. We may as well be honest about this matter. Wars are inevitable so long as the present armaments are maintained. Disarmament conferences discuss, not the need for the elimination of warfare, but the cheapest and most efficient ways of destroying human life.
– Russia put forward a suggestion for the total abolition of armaments.
-Yes, and it was the only logical suggestion that could be made by a nation desirous of maintaining the peace of the world. Those who pose as pacifists cannot consistently advocate the building up of big defence forces. Should powerful nations such as Great Britain, the United States of America, France and Japan be unable to compose their differences in the economic field by peaceful negotiation, war will be inevitable, if armaments are maintained on anything like the present scale. It would be unnecessary to hold wprld conferences on disarmament if governments were sincere in the protestation that they favour the abolition of armaments. Scientists in Australia should be grappling with many of the problems that confront humanity, and should be endeavouring to discover cures for the innumerable diseases from which mankind suffers. Instead of doing so, they are endeavouring to find fresh means of destroying human life by such agencies as poisonous gas. If the Government wishes to help to preserve the peace of the world, there are other ways of displaying its sincerity than by sending representatives to so-called disarmament conferences. Can any honorable member point to any benefit that Australia has derived through being represented at a disarmament conference? There has been plenty of talk about disarmament; but no decisions that could he enforced upon the nations have been reached. Some nations are prepared to limit armaments by reducing the size of capital ships, and Great Britain has suggested the abolition of submarine warfare because she desires her insular security to he restored to her. Other nations would agree to the elimination of the armaments that constitute the greatest menace to their own safety. These members of the League of Nations claim that it is wise for them to be armed against any eventuality. But we do not permit every civilian to carry a gun for his personalprotection. Ifwe did, we should not he assisting the cause of peace, but merely inciting citizens to violence. The same observation applies to nations. If the Government desiresto abolish war, it should try toorganize a. conference to. discuss the causes of war, and then deal with them. Every schoolboy knows today that the last war was not fought because of the assassination of a member of a royal family, but because of the desire of certain nations-
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the pauses of the last war.
– That being so, I shall content myself with the statement that this proposed vote should be negatived for the reason that the conferences on which it will be spent will deal, not with the causes of war, but merely with the limitation of armaments, and the provision of more effective means of destroying human life.
Mr.ROSEVEAR (Dalley) [6.47 a.m.]. - I wish to discuss the proposed leasing of Cockatoo Island Dockyard to private enterprise, because I do not think that honorable members willbe afforded another opportunity of doing so. The Postmaster-General stated, by interjection, some little time ago that the Government did not intend to get rid of the dockyard but only of the losses.
– I said that it would try to get rid of the losses.
– The dockyard has always been regarded as an adjunct to our defence system, and therefore the cost of it should be looked upon in the same light as the cost of the police force, or of any one of the arms of our defence force. The dockyard would be a paying proposition if the management of it were not prevented by certain High Court judgments from tendering for work in competition with private engineering enterprises. When private enterprise cannot get certain engineering jobs done elsewhere, it is glad to take advantage of the dockyard. It is well known that certain kinds of engineering work cannot be done anywhere else in the Commonwealth. I refer, for example, to theextensive overhaul of the steamerLoongana nearly fifteen years ago. That job was quite satisfactory, and the vessel has given no serious trouble since the work was done. Certain other vessels have had their main gears changed at the dockyard. Extensive repairs have been made at the dockyard at different times to steamers like the Aorangi, the Strathnaver, the Strathaird, the Monterey and the Mariposa. But when the management of the dockyard successfully tendered for certain work for the Bunnerong Power House and the Water and Sewerage Board, its right to do so was successfully contested in the High Court, Several eminent counsel are still of the opinion, however, that that High Court judgment is unsound.
– The honorable member is going beyond the bounds of legitimate discussion on this item. He may discuss the proposed disposal of the dockyard.
– I regret that the Government should even contemplate the disposal of the dockyard in the manner in which the Commonwealth Shipping Line was disposed of. The dockyard is an asset, the value of which is estimated at about £2,000,000. Any private enterprise which tendered for a lease of it would be expected, I take it, to provide at least 5 per cent, against depreciation. This alone would mean an annual cost of £100,000, and I hesitate to think that any private enterprise in Australia would he prepared to tender even that amount for the lease.’ We do not know the details of the offers that are said to have been made; but if a lease is granted for any less sum than £100,000 annually, it will amount to sheer robbery of the Australian people. Seeing that an exhaustive discussion on this subject is not permissible under this item, I trust that the Government will fulfil its undertaking to give honorable members an opportunity to discuss fully the whole subject before any agreement is made for the leasing of the dockyard. In the meantime certain work could be carried out there to the advantage of Australia. We have a specialized staff at the dockyard which has been thoroughly trained by certain persons who were sent to Europe at the cost of the Commonwealth Government to study shipbuilding and construction work. I suppose that a more efficient shipbuilding staff could not be gathered anywhere else in Australia than is to be found at Cockatoo.
In my opinion the Government would be wise to adopt the suggestion of the deputation of representatives of the trawling industry which waited upon it recently and put in hand the construction of a fishing trawler for work on the Australian coast.
It was pointed out at the deputation that not one-fiftieth part of the potential fishing grounds along the Australian coast had been investigated. It was also pointed out that the fishing industry in this country-
– Order ! The honorable member may not, under this item, discuss the fishing industry.
– I am putting the position respecting the Cockatoo Dockyard before honorable members so that they may realize what that establishment means to the people of Australia. I am not prepared to stand idly by while it is sacrificed in the same manner as were the Commonwealth Woollen Mills and the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. I refuse to agree to allow brigands or gaol birds like those persons who took over the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, to obtain control of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. We have suffered from repudiation once, and we shall suffer from it again unless we are careful in our negotiations for the disposal of the dockyard.
– I should like to know whether airy provision is being made to reduce the salaries of the officers representing Australia at the League of Nations in conformity with the reduction that has been suffered by Commonwealth public servants in Australia. I admit that hotel expenses at Geneva are heavy, but most of the officers there reside in pensions, at a cost far below that of similar living in Australia. Mr. Hughes has stated that these officers, who receive a remunerative salary, consider themselves to be a class apart from ordinary Commonwealth officers, and are not prepared to suffer a reduction in salary.
– I have already pointed out that Australia’s contribution to the cost of the upkeep of the League of Nations has caused, and is causing, us grave con- cern. But as the League of Nations is an international body, we cannot interfere with the salaries of its officials, which are fixed by the League itself.
– That is a poor position for us.
– It is, but it would not be at all satisfactory for each government to control its own officers at Geneva. We are making inquiries to ascertain whether some reduction in expenditure cannot be made. For the time being we are committed to this payment, and until some other arrangement is come to, the item must appear on the Estimates.
– I should like to know how the fund for the relief and repatriation of distressed Australians abroad is administered? I have frequently had occasion to make inquiries of various Departments regarding Australians stranded abroad, and have invariably been informed that no funds are available for their relief. In the opinion of the Department some people pay for a passage to England in anticipation of a joy ride home at the expense of the Government.
Mr.Ward. - The Prime Minister might also indicate whether the Government is considering the elimination of the vote for the Disarmament Conference.
– No consideration has been given to that matter. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has referred to the item relating to the relief and repatriation of distressed Australians abroad. A scheme was instituted many years ago under which destitute Australians abroad may, in certain circumstances, obtain relief and repatriation. The primary object of the vote is to enable the recipients to return to their homeland, but such relief is extended only in cases of destitution. The relief is confined to applicants who are native born Australians. Only persons who are destitute are afforded relief, a distinction being drawn between persons whose condition is due to unavoidable misfortune and those whose necessity is due to their own foolish conduct. Applicants for relief are required to submit the names of relatives or friends in Australia who may be in a position to meet the expense of repatriation, and before any expense is authorized these persons are approached by the Commonwealth authorities in Australia with a view to soliciting their aid. All expense involved - maintenance, passage money, advances, cost of cablegrams, &c., is authorized subject to the condition that it is to be repaid, and written guarantees are obtained from interested parties with the object of safeguarding this condition.
– Where is the authority obtained ?
– From the Prime Minister’s Department here.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Tuesday next at 3 o’clock p.m.
House adjourned at 7.5 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I have not received a copy of the report of the Auditor-General of South Australia containing the comment referred to, but from press notices of the Auditor-General’s remarks it would appear that the matter is not one which calls for action by the Loan Council.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Regarding the legislation recently passed which entitles the Government to have first claim on the estate of a pensioner who receives a pension, will the Government allow the amount of money that may be expended in repairs, painting, taxes, &c., to be deducted from the amount the Government claims from the estate at the death of the pensioner?
-There is no provision in the law which would allow expenditure of the nature referred to being deducted from the claim by the Commonwealth in respect of pension paid after the 12th October, 1932.
Mr.Forde asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice-
Haa the Minister for Defence yet received the report of the committee inquiring into aviation ?
If so, when will such report be made available, and, if it has not yet been considered by the Government, in view of the importance of aviation to Australia, can the Minister give any information as to when the Government is likely to consider it?
s. -The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow:-
l asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
e asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Customs duties must be uniform, and the proposed provision in the tariff with respect to bananas complies with this provision. The provision is British preferential tariff, 2s. 6d. per cental; foreign, . 8s. 4d. per cental. No bananas are imported from the United Kingdom, but provision is made in the customs resolutions, upon a proclamation being made, for the application of the British preferential tariff to colonies. If the Ottawa agreement is accepted, such a proclamation will be made applying the British preferential tariff rate to bananas from Fiji upon the basis of the agreement with the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Fiji that the imports of bananas from Fiji shall not exceed 40,000 centals per annum to be landed at Sydney and Melbourne.
Accordingly, none of the issues mentioned bythe honorable member arises in connexion with any proposal made by the Government.
y. - On the 14th October, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The figures quoted are “ advance figures “ subject to revision.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 October 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19321020_reps_13_136/>.