13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Stackay) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– On several occasions I have asked when theHouse might expect legislation arising out of the adoption of the Statute of Westminster. Will the Prime Minister state when such legislation is likely to be introduced?
– The matter has received consideration by the Cabinet, and the Attorney-General has been asked to report further upon it. There is no prospect of legislation on the subject being introduced before the forthcoming adjournment of the House, and 1 cannot indicate when it is likely to be brought down.
– I. rise to a personal explanation. Lost week, when speaking On a tariff item relating to duties on sheet glass, I made some observations on Belgium, to which the Consul-General, M. Soagurt, has taken serious objection in a letter to the press. After reading his letter and my own speech I have come to the conclusion that my remarks gave legitimate cause for complaint, and I desire to express regret for having made them. Although natural resentment at the tactics of the Belgian glass combine might justify my references to the combine, any reflections on Belgium, a friendly power, were quite unwarranted.
Prime Minister’s Speech - Political Propaganda - Wave Length - Starting Price Information - Mrs. John. Moore - Commission’s Quarters
– Does the Prime Minister consider it dignified on his part to broadcast an attack on another political party through a B class station in one of which one of his own colleagues has a big interest - a station, which, unlike the national stations, is not obliged to give other parties an opportunity to reply?
– I have no doubt that any party that feels aggrieved at my broadcast remarks will be allowed to reply through the same station upon payment of the usual fee.
– Did the Prime Minister pay it?
– I have previously stated that any expense inconnexion with the broadcasting of my speeches is a party liability, not borne by the Government as such. No doubt, if other parties care to make a similar arrangement, they will be permitted to do so.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House whether any decision has been reached by the Government concerning the wave-lengths of ‘ existing broadcasting stations, and of those that are to be constructed?
-I refer the honorable member to previous statements by me, which give full information on the subject.
– Can the Postmaster-General state whether, to his knowledge, any political propaganda attacking any political party has been sent out from 2KY, which is a B class broadcasting station ?
– The station to which the honorable member refers is almost exclusively used for the broadcasting of attacks upon political parties other than that controlling the station, and its propaganda is constant and endless.
– In view of the fact that the new manager of the National Broadcasting Station, Major Condor, has, on his own initiative, made an arrangement with the race-clubs of New South Wales regarding the method of broadcasting descriptions of races, arc “we to understand that that system is to be continued, and that the controversy regarding starting-price betting is now closed?
– by leave - The arrangement made by Major Condor, as the manager of the Broadcasting Commission, refers only to A class stations.
On the 5th May, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) referred in the House to certain matters affecting the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The statements which he made on that occasion have since been brought to the notice of the commission, and I desire to submit for the information of honorable members the following explanations which have been furnished by that body: -
Mrs. John Moore. Mrs. Moore has not, as was stated by Mr. Beasley, been appointed organizer of the women’s programmes at any of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s stations. She has been engaged, like any other speaker, to deliver a series of addresses on non-political subjects, and she also submits to responsible officers from time to time the names of other possible women speakers. The commission does not concern itself with tho political views of Mrs. John Moore, nor of any other speaker or artist.
Australian Broadcasting Commission Offices. - The commission denies that it has housed itself in “palatial quarters” and that it has been guilty of “ ostentatious extravagance “. The commission’s rooms in both Melbourne and Sydney are not the property of the commission, and it occupies them merely as lessees. . Theoffices in Melbourne occupy the fourth floor of an unostentatious building in Russell-street, and in Sydney at 06 Marketstreet and 264 Pitt-street, conveniently adjacent to the studios, and containing sufficient, but not excessive, room to carry on efficiently the business of broadcasting.
The commission is practising all economies which the maintenance of efficiency will permit.
-Will the AttorneyGeneral state what fees are being waul to the chairman and other members of the royal commission appointed to inquire into the trade in petrol and mineral oils?
– No payment has yet been made; in fact, some of the terras of remuneration are still under consideration. The likelihood of questions being asked in Parliament regarding the remuneration paid to persons who are prepared to serve the Commonwealth in connexion with inquiries of this kind is an obstacle to such service by individuals who do not appreciate the public discussion of what ‘they regard as their personal affairs. I am aware, however, that there is a public aspect of this matter, and the Government will consider whether it is desirable at this stage to announce the rates at which the members of the royal commission are to be remunerated.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs be able to make available to the House before the forthcoming adjournment, the report of the Tariff Board on the protective incidence of primage and exchange?
– The report of the Tariff Board on exchange is now being considered by a sub-committee of the Cabinet. The report is voluminous and comprehensive, and is not likely to be submitted to the House before the approaching adjournment.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce if he has received representations from, the recent conference of State Ministers of Agriculture regarding means of stabilizing the dairying industry; if so, what is the policy of the Government in regard to such proposals?
– I attended the conference. The representations of State Ministers regarding the dairying industry were submitted to Cabinet, and will be on the agenda of the Premiers Conference to be held in Melbourne a fortnight hence.
– Can the Assistant Minister for Defence state what overcoats, tunics, boots, and other surplus military clothing are likely to be available for distribution to the unemployed in Western Australia during this winter?
– When part-worn or damaged military clothing has accumulated in any State, it is made available to the State Government for distribution to the unemployed. I shall inquire whether any such stores are on hand in Western Australia, and if any can be made available, the State Government will be notified without delay.
– Has any action been taken by the Government to give effect to the recommendation of the Tariff Board concerning the admission of machinery under by-law? The recommendation to which I refer is contained in the board’s report upon machinery n.e.i., and relates to the provision of a panel to deal with by-law items and articles which have been recommended for admission under by-law?
– Action was taken by the Government to place in the tariff schedule a large number of the items of machinery” which were previously admitted under by-law. The report of the board to which the honorable member has referred has been received; but action has not yet been taken to implement it.
– Has the report of Mr.
Buring on the wine industry been considered by the Government, and, if so, will the Minister make copies of it available to the Grape Growers Association?
– A Cabinet subcommittee is dealing with Mr. Buring’s report, which, like the Tariff Board’s report on exchange, is lengthy. Some action has been taken by Parliament in accordance with that report; but, naturally, copies of the report cannot be distributed to the Wine Producers Association until . Cabinet has considered what action is necessary. Meanwhile, it is a confidential document.
– When will it be considered ?
– This week.
– Has the Government reached any decision as to whether it will instruct its delegate to vote at the Geneva Conference to be held next month, for a standard working week of 40 hours ?
– by leave - The honorable member has asked a question with reference to the instructions given to the Government delegate in connexion with the question of reduction of hours to be considered at the International Labour Conference to be held in June. These instructions have been sent necessarily by cable, and are therefore in short form, but I shall read them precisely as they have been despatched to our representative. They are under five headings, as follow: - 1. The proposal for 40 hours is made as a remedy for unemployment. 2. In Australia, large numbers of employees are already working 40 hours or less, and separate action in Australia by way of adopting 40 hours as a general standard would not assist towards any remedy for unemployment. 3. It is not practicable to adopt 40 hours as the standard in Australia unless the leading nations of the world whose products are competitive with those of Australia take similar action. 4. If those nations agree to adopt a uniform and reduced standard of hours, Australia will join in international agreement and action for that purpose. 5. The proposal for reduced hours does not make any contribution to the solution of the problem of the differences between industrial workers and those engaged in country industries. Considerations of justice require that the proposal should be associated with measures to improve the position of rural producers and workers generally.
– Will the Prime Minister be in a position, before the House adjourns, to state the Government’s attitude towards the request of the various Ministers for Agriculture who met in conference recently, for Commonwealth legislation in regard to marketing?
– I cannot give any assurance that I shall be in a position to make a statement before the House adjourns, but the whole matter is at present receiving consideration by the Government.
The following papers were presented : -
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 61.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1933 -
No. 14 - Native Labour.
No. 15- Customs Tariff.
No. 16 - Stamp Duties.
No. 17 - Advisory Council Ordinance Repeal.
No. 18 - Lega) Practitioners.
No. 19 - Appropriation (No. 2) 1932-33.
No. 20 - Native Labour (No. 2).
No. 21 - Liquor.
No. 22 - Lands Registration.
No. 23 - Lands Registration (No. 2).
No. 24 - Native Taxes.
No. 25 - Laws Repeal and Adopting.
No. 26 - Public Service.
No. 27- -Customs Tariff (No. 2).
No. 28 - Salamaua Lands.
No. 29 - Companies (No. 2).
No. 30 - Education.
No. 31 - Advisory Council Ordinance Repeal (No. 2).
Public Service Act - Appointment of A. W. Kaill, Department of the Interior.
Railways Act - By-laws Nos. 61, 62.
Sales Tax Assessment Acts (Nos. 1 to 9) - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 60.
Motion (by Mr. Stewart) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Dried Fruits Act 1928.
Motion (by Mr. Stewart) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Canned Fruits Export Control Act 1926-1930.
Bill brought up by Mr. Stewart, and read a first time.
Bill brought up by Mr. Stewart, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 19th May (vide page 1595), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the bill be nowread a second time.
.- This is a bill for an act to deal with the grants made by the Commonwealth to the States - nothing more, and nothing less. Its title should be, “ A bill for an act to deal with and to report upon the exploitation of the less-populous States, and to recommend to the Parliament what recompense should be made, by way of subsidy or sop, to retain their allegiance to a Parliament which has consistently ignored the Federal Constitution.”
– Order !
– The terms of the measure are -specific. Clause 9 deliberately and definitely limits the power of the commission to the making of recommendations in accordance with the provisions of section 96 of the Constitution. That section reads -
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth, and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament may direct.
I want to know why the powers of this commission are to be definitely limited to recommending only the amount of compensation that shall be paid to the States. If a grant is to be made, honorable members have a right to know what reasons have actuated the commission in making that recommendation. Under this legislation, a grant would be made because of the financial difficulties of a State, or on account of disabilities suffered by it as the result of federal laws and exactions. Such a grant would be regarded by many honorable members as an act of gracious consideration, as a sop, or a dole. Those who make such a jibe disregard the enormous sums that have been granted by the Commonwealth, by way of bounty, to the iron and steel industry. The point that I wish to make is, that the commission is not to be instructed to inquire into, and to advise the Parliament upon, the disabilities suffered by States on account of federal legislation and administration. Surely that should be made clear! To my mind, the inference is plain; the Government has no desire to make public the breaches of the Constitution that have unduly penalized certain States to the advantage of other States. “When the bill reaches the committee stage, I shall move for the addition of a sub-clause, empowering the commission to inquire also into any matters relating to the effect of Commonwealth laws and/or regulations upon the trade, commerce, and/or finances of a State or States. The commission certainly should have the power to advise this Parliament as to the difficulties that are caused to a State under the federation, as well as to the financial assistance that should be given to it. A full report of the commission should be presented to this Parliament, so that honorable members may be able to learn why a grant has been recommended, and to acquaint themselves more fully of the difficulties against which different States have to contend. Complaints - definite, bitter, and long disregarded - have been made by three of the six States in the federation, a peculiar feature being that the three in question are those that have little representation or influence in this House. Year after year, complaints have been made by Tasmania, in which State there has even been talk of secession.
Mr.Bell. - No.
– What nonsense ! I have heard honorable members from Tasmania complain bitterly of the effect of federation upon that State. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) would not express pleasure at the effect which the operation of the Navigation Act has had upon his State.
South Australia also has threatened to secede from the federation, and the Government of that State has presented to this Parliament a lengthy report dealing with its disabilities. Last year, the Commonwealth granted it £1,000,000 to assist, it financially. What this House and the people of this country want to know is, why such grants have to be made. Is not the effect of federal legislation the reason? Certain of the acts of this Parliament have caused serious embarrassment to South Australia. I advise honorable members to read the report of the South Australian Government, in which it is pointed out that, owing to high tariff imposts, it has been penalized, unduly, in its . efforts to open up new country.
In Western Australia the people have definitely made up their minds to secede from the federation. In the course of the debate on the bill, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), particularly, claimed that a unified form of government was desirable in Australia. Of course, the Labour party believes in unification.
– Does the Labour party iu Western Australia stand for unification ?
– No; because it knows that it could not survive for 24 hours, if it supported that policy. I shall read a portion of a speech made by exPresident Coolidge of the “United States of America, in 1926, in reply to a deputation which urged the granting of greater powers to the federal government of that country. He said -
No method of procedure has ever been devised by which liberty could be divorced from self-government. No plan of centralization has ever been adopted which did not result in bureaucracy, tyranny, inflexibility, reaction, and decline. Of all forms of government those administered by bureaus are about the least satisfactory to an enlightened and progressive people. Being irresponsible, they become autocratic, and being autocratic they resist all development. Unless bureaucracy is constantly resisted it breaks down representative government and overwhelms democracy. It is the one element in our institutions that sets up the pretence of having authority over everybody and being responsible to nobody. While we ought to glory in the union and remember that it is the source from which the States derive their chief title to fame, we must also recognize that the national administration is not and cannot be adjusted to the needs of local government. It is too far away to be informed of local needs; it is too inaccessible to bo responsive to local conditions. The States should not be induced by coercion or by favour to surrender the management of their own affairs. The federal government ought to resist the tendency to bo loaded up with duties which the States should perform. It does not follow that because something ought to be done the national government should do it. _
That, I think, is the most effective reply that could be made to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), and to those other members who, like the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr.
Lyons) himself, supported in this House, only two years ago, a bill which, had it been approved by the people, would have enabled Parliament to alter the Constitution in any way it thought fit, without even consulting the people by way of referendum. Then the Parliament could have taken away from the less populous States, such as “Western Australia and Tasmania, their right to the same representation as the other States in the Senate; in fact, it could then have abolished the Senate. The statement by ex-President Coolidge should be disseminated throughout Australia among those who would like to have full control of legislation throughout Australia vested in this Parliament. “Western Australia joined the federation under peculiar conditions. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) spoke of the outstanding statesmanship of the late Lord Forrest, whose qualities as a statesman it would be impossible to appraise too highly. Lord Forrest had a strong belief in the future both of his own State, and of Australia as a whole. It is well known that when the Federal Convention took place, he considered that it would be wise on the part of Western Australia, at least for the time being, to remain outside the union, for ho recognized that new conditions had arisen in Western Australia. For years, its agricultural development had been retarded, and a new era had dawned with the discovery of gold at Coolgardie. People from all parts of the world, and particularly from the Eastern States, flocked to the Western Australian gold-fields in thousands. The success of the mines proved a godsend to Australia, and particularly to Victoria. Huge sums were sent regularly from the Western States to the Eastern States for the goods required in the development of the goldfields. Many persons, like myself, went to the fields for the purpose of making money there, and leaving the fields as soon ‘ as possible. Over 24,000 persons living on the fields signed a petition, which was sent to the Imperial Government, demanding secession from the State if it declined to join the federation, and I am given to understand that the late Sir Edmund Barton cabled to Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, then Secretary of
State for the Colonies, urging him to persuade Lord Forrest to support the proposal for federation. Mr. Chamberlain replied that if Western Australia did not join the federation, he would be obliged to consider favorably the petition from the gold-fields. When the referendum was taken in 1899, the gold-fields vote was 26,330 for, and only 1,813 against, the proposal to join ‘ the federation. Most of the voters were recent arrivals from the Eastern States. When the recent vote was taken in Western Australia on the secession issue, the figures from the gold-fields showed the small majority of 1,516 in favour of remaining within the federal union. Taking the State as a whole, 138,653 voted for secession, and 70,706 opposed it, showing a majority of practically two to one against continuation under the federal yoke. Even when the people of Western Australia were asked to say whether they favoured the holding of a convention foi the purpose of considering the disabilities of the States under federation, they replied, “No, we have had too much of this “. By a majority of over 31,000 votes they declared themselves against that proposal.
Honorable members should ask themselves what this decision implies. It cannot be said that it is due to a lack of loyalty on the part of Western Australia: During the war period, no section of the population was more loyal to the Empire than were the people of Western Australia. In 1917, when a referendum was held on the conscription issue, Western Australia and Tasmania were the only States in which an affirmative vote was recorded. Western Australia’s quota of volunteers for active service was higher, in proportion to its population, than that of any other State. The demand for secession arises from the highest sense of loyalty to the King and to our own people. Throughout the history of the State, an intense feeling of loyalty to King and Empire has been shown, though this Parliament has often proved itself to be lukewarm in that regard. Western Australia has observed the federal spirit more consistently than has this House. The State that I represent uncomplainingly suffered huge losses on account of the commandeering of its gold supplies during the war period, as the result of which the Commonwealth Government made huge profits. Other losses to Western Australia were occasioned by the embargo on sugar, the high tariff policy that has been adopted since 1920, the operation of the Navigation Act, and the passage of the Surplus Revenue Act, under which, by a legal trick, all the States have been robbed of millions of pounds that should have been returned to them.
Since 1920, no consideration has been given to other than the demands of manufacturing interests, and city populations. Duties have been greatly increased, until last year they averaged 77 per cent, on dutiable goods. Dumping duties and embargoes have been imposed on imports, production costs have been increased, and federal restrictions, such as those imposed by the Navigation Act, have proved a great handicap to trade and industry. Foi, years the wrongs of Western Australia were borne in silence, but the burden has now become intolerable, and has engendered a deep feeling of distrust in this Parliament. The Prime Minister seems to think that by throwing to Western Australia a sop, in the shape of a monetary grant, he will allay the feeling of the people. A mere grant is not what that State requires. It desires a reduction of the cost of living and the cost of production, so that the goods which it wishes to sell in the markets of the world, can be disposed of at a profit. A money grant might placate a State- Treasurer for a time, but I do not think that it will do so now, because the people realize how unjustly they have been treated in the past.
I wish to place before honorable members a few facts relating to Western Australia. The value of the imports of that State for the four years ended 1929-30 was £75,250,000, the average annual value being £18,875,000. During 1930-31 the average duty on dutiable goods was 77 per cent. As the goods produced in Western Australia included a very small amount of manufacturers’ requirements, it is safe to assume that £12,000,000 of dutiable goods would be imported. With retailers’ profits added to those goods, the cost would be 100 per cent over c.i.f.e. plus natural protection and exchange, of which full advantage was taken. With a revenue duty of 15 per cent, and profits,
Western Australia would show a saving of about £9,500,000 per annum. The plain fact is that with normal imports and tariff imposts at past rates, federal policy is adding about £12,000,000 to the cost of living and production in Western Australia. Is it any wonder, therefore, that the people of that State now recognize that federal policy has made profitable production hopeless and impossible. This House had one opportunity, about, eight months ago, to discuss this subject when I moved a motion, the object of which was to obtain for Western Australia tariff autonomy for a period of 25 years, without the right to impose duties on Australian-made goods. There was much resentment in Western Australia, because I added that final provision to my motion. The people there felt that they should have the right to protect their own industries. At that time, I obtained an assurance from the Prime Minister that, the debate on my motion would not be unduly delayed. The right honorable gentleman said -
Tlie debate will not bc unduly delayed; an opportunity will, I hope, be given for further consideration at an early date.
I waited for a long while for that opportunity to be provided, and then wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to fulfil his promise to me. The right honorable gentleman, in his reply to my request, asked me to withdraw my motion, as the Government could not support it. Parliament, therefore, was not allowed a further opportunity to deal with the subject. What I suggested in my motion might have been acceptable to Western Australia at that time, but, to-day, the people of that State are incensed beyond endurance. They are determined, irrespective of the cost, to relieve themselves of the shackles of penury and despair.
– The honorable gentleman is taking considerable latitude. The remarks which he has made in the last few minutes cannot possibly have any bearing on the bill.
– The AttorneyGeneral spoke of the unseemly attacks made on the Prime Minister, but perhaps I had better not discuss that subject. He, however, attacked Sir Hal Colebatch, particularly respecting that honorable gentleman’s statement in regard to the mandatory section of the Constitution relative to the appointment of the interstate commission. But that was only one of a number of complaints that Sir Hal Colebatch made respecting this Parliament. In view of the fact that the Constitution definitely provided for the appointment of the interstate commission, I am astounded that the Attorney-General,who -is regarded as one of the leading constitutional authorities of the Commonwealth, should have said that the appointment of the Commission was unnecessary, because certain powers of adjudication could not be given to it, in consequence of a judgment of the High Court. Sir Hal Colebatch complained of the failure of this Parliament to give effect to a number of the provisions of the Constitution. It is provided in the Constitution, for instance, that one session of the parliament shall be held each year. That has not been adhered to. It is also provided that the Senate shall have equal power with this House except in regard to money bills. But the Senate has never been given an opportunity to deal with the increases of taxation through the Customs Department that have been imposed since 1928. I could also refer to banking. In this connexion, I direct attention to the fact that in consequence of the power given to the Commonwealth Bank, “Western Australia has been robbed of the benefits of her savings bank. Certain of our arbitration legislation is also contrary to the spirit of the Constitution. The failure of this Parliament to maintain the Interstate Commission in operation is, however, a major complaint. Such a commission would be able to do the work that it is now proposed to delegate to the commission to be appointed under this bill. The Constitution provides that an interstate commission shall be appointed and the act passed in 1912 provided that-
The commission shall be charged with the duty of investigating from time to time, all matters which, in the opinion of the commission, ought, in the public interest, to be investigated affecting -
the production of, and trade in, commodities;
the encouragement, improvement, and extension of Australian industries and manufactures;
markets outside Australia, and the opening up of external trade generally ;
the effect and operation of any Tariff Act, or other legislation of the Commonwealth in regard to revenue, Australian manufactures, and industry and trade generally.
I direct the attention of honorable members to the opinions expressed at the time the Interstate Commission Bill was before this Parliament, of the importance of the work that that commission was intended to do. The Honorable Alfred Deakin said -
It will be a Board of Trade - an independent critic not only of social, industrial, and commercial events and tendencies, but of the operations and administration of laws.
It will be a Board of Advice to make recommendations and suggestions to Parliament as to amendments of the law.
This Parliament has great powers, but the old saying that “ knowledge is power “ applies in each case. Without knowledge, this is certain to be misused, intentionally or unintentionally. Under our Constitution, we have an authority of the widest kind; what we need to guide us is accurate knowledge. Without this, legislation and administration must fail. Hence, it has always seemed to me that one of the most natural endowments of this Government would be somebody of high character which could be trusted to be the eyes and ears of the Government, and of the people as a whole, with respect to the great interests with which we are surrounded.
The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) stated that the appointment of the commission was mandatory. He pointed out the value of such a commission in the United States of America and Canada, and also directed attention to the need for the fullest publicity in such matters, particularly in regard to the evils of trusts and combines. It was quite clear, of course, that the reports of the commission were to be presented to Parliament. In this respect, they were to be different from reports of the Tariff Board and of this commission, which may be pigeonholed and ignored. It is not compulsory for the Minister for Trade and Customs to act upon reports of the Tariff Board, nor even to’ present them to Parliament. But with the interstate commission, we were to have, as Mr. Deakin said, “ an authority of the widest kind “, which was to give us “ accurate knowledge “, which is what we need.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), in discussing the Interstate Commission Bill, said -
It will be a Board of Trade, an independent critic not only of social, industrial and commercial events and tendencies, but of the operations and administration of the law. It will be an active guardian of the Constitution.
After the Interstate Commission was appointed, a certain matter relating to the powers of adjudication conferred upon the commission as they affected New South -Wales, came before the High Court, and the court held that the commission could not under the Constitution be made a Court of Record. I admit that the Attorney-General is a high constitutional authority, but I propose now to quote an equally high authority in Mr. Justice Isaacs, now GovernorGeneral of the Commonwealth. In dealing in the High Court with the case to which I have referred, His Honour said -
On the whole, I reject the notion of the commission as a court of justice, and regard its quasi-judicial powers, where given, as incidental and assistant to its main and paramount purpose, as in the making of some executive order. Its order, subject to any appeal to this court on law, is taken to be lawfully made and binding, if the necessary judicial powers are given and exercised. But the end must be administrative, either by way of order or by way of an application made to a recognized court to deal with the question in the ordinary exercise of judicial power. I do not see any obstacle whatever to investing the commission with sufficient and probably equally effective powers, provided they are created in a proper way. There has not been found any difficulty in arming the American Interstate Commerce Commission with ample quasi-judicial powers, while leaving the body as it may be left an executive organization.
Apparently, it would have been possible so to amend the law as to enable the Interstate Commission to advise Parliament about the effect of federation on the States, particularly those which are remotely situated and sparsely populated.
Mr.Fenton. - Was the bench divided on that occasion?
– Its members all held that, because of a flaw in the act, the Interstate- Commission could not be a court of record, but Mr. Justice Isaacs clearly pointed out that the commission could have been armed with ample quasijudicial powers to enable it to function as was originally intended. The reports of the commission would then have been submitted to Parliament, which would long ago have been advised regarding the disabilities under which certain States labour as a result of federation. However, I can quite understand that when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister he did not wish the activities of an independent body such as the Interstate Commission to impinge upon the autocratic control that he exercised.
I am aware that Australia can now ill afford the expense of maintaining an organization such as the Interstate Commission, which was one of the reasons urged by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) against its re-establishment. I point out that only a few years ago the Development and Migration Commission was appointed, whose members had a tenure of five years, the chairman receiving £5,000 a year, and the remaining commissioners each £3,000 a year. Apparently, cost was not then an obstacle. No sympathetic grant will satisfy the people of Western Australia. I repeat now the words I uttered eight months ago : “In the West they speak of the great betrayal, of the scrap of paper, of their determination to be no longer forced on the road to penury and bankruptcy. The responsibility for Australian unity rests on this Parliament. We ask and demand justice, and see no other means to obtain it than secession.”
I do not believe that this measure can do much good. The commission should be invested with full powers to advise Parliament precisely as to the grants which should be made and disabilities under which States suffer.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the commission will not have such powers?
– Yes. Clause 9 reads -
The commission shall inquire into and report to the Governor-General upon -
applications made by any State to the Commonwealth for the grant by the Parliament of financial assist- ance in pursuance of section 00 of the Constitution.
Paragraph b and c are also framed to operate in pursuance of that section. When the bill reaches the committee stage I propose to have the following new paragraph inserted: -
If the commission is to be appointed, wo should try to make the measure specific as to the powers which are being granted to the commission, and not let it be discovered later that those powers are inadequate. I see no reason for appointing the commission for five years. It will make an exhaustive investigation, probably taking twelve months, into the finances of the States of Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania, and, on the advice which it tenders, the Government should be able to act for the next five to seven years. It seems to me absurd to have the commission report on the subject each year, for in addition to heavy travelling expenses, incidental expenses will amount to a considerable figure. I again urge that the commission should have full power to report to this Parliament what it considers to be the reasons for the existing feeling of antagonism towards the Federal Parliament in the States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.
– It is proposed, under the provisions of this bill, to appoint x a commission to advise, the Commonwealth as to the financial assistance that is required from the Commonwealth by certain States, in the form of grants, in pursuance of section 96 of the Constitution’. I have no doubt that this action is being taken in accordance with the promise that was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to establish such a commission. In the past many commissions and similar bodies have investigated the disabilities suffered by certain States under federation. In 1925, one dealt with the case of Western Australia; in 1926, the Lockyer Commission inquired into the disabilities of Tasmania; in 1928, the Sir Joseph Cook Commission dealt with the position of South Australia under federation, while in 1929 the Public Accounts Committee inquired into the disabilities of that State and Tasmania. We also have the report of the Development and Migration Commission on Tasmania. Now it is proposed to set up a commission, having a tenure of five years, to deal with the disabilities of the States generally under federation.
I have a great deal of sympathy with those States which are sparsely populated, particularly those which are more or less dependent upon their exporting industries for revenue.- Those States have endeavoured to develop their natural resources, and all economists worthy of the name admit that they have been handicapped by burdens attributable to our tariff policy, and the operation of the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act.
One of the first things that occurred to me when I read the bill was that it proposes to enable monetary compensation to be paid on account of disabilities, rather than to set up a body with the object of recommending how the disabilities themselves may be removed. I agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that this commission will have no authority to recommend measures for the removal of those disabilities. It appears to be taken for granted that the disabilities must continue practically indefinitely; therefore, certain financial props are to be provided to the States concerned, as compensation. When we examine the position we find that those States which are feeling the pinch most happen to be those which depend to the greatest extent for their income on exportable primary production. Western Australia, for instance, exports fifteen times as much wheat as is consumed within its own borders, so that the wheat-farmers are able to enjoy a local market for only one-fifteenth of their product, and even in that market must accept export parity prices. South Australia exports large quantities of wool, wheat’ and wine, while Tasmania exports large quantities of apples, zinc and copper. I understand that the price of zinc has fallen from £23 a ton, which was the pre-war price, to £15 a ton, while copper is being exported at a loss of between £4 and £6 a ton. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) stated in a previous speech that the value per head of Western Australia’s exports was £37. At the present time the total production of Australia for both primary and secondary goods is about £300,000,000. Some years ago, when prices were higher, it was as much as £450,000,000. The present value per head of Australia’s annual production is about £50, so that Western Australia exports approximately three-quarters of her annual production, representing £37 per head, and finds a. .local market for the remaining quarter. Taking the Commonwealth as a whole, the value of. the produce exported represents £16 per head, a little less than one-third of the total production, the other two-thirds being consumed locally. Thus Western Australia contributes a far higher proportion of Australia’s exports, in comparison with population, than does Australia as a whole.
This problem is not so much one of State versus State, as of the disabilities suffered by the exporting industries compared with those of the more sheltered industries that find their market in Australia, either under non-competitive conditions, or under conditions not so fiercely competitive as those of the overseas export trade. Moreover, the disabilities suffered by certain States as States, are shared alike by those engaged in the exporting industries, no matter in what State they reside. The wheatgrowers and wool-growers of Victoria and New South Wales are very little if, indeed, any better off than those of Western Australia or South Australia. Some interesting figures have been prepared, showing the burden of protection on the exporting industries.
– I have been waiting for the honorable member to say how the position he is describing affects the subject-matter of this bill.
– I submit that my remarks are relevant, inasmuch as the position of the States which require assistance is admitted by competent authorities to be largely due to our fiscal policy.
– But the honorable member has not said so. I want him to say it, not the authorities to whom he has referred.
– Well, I say so now, and I am supported by no less an authority than the committee set up in 1929 to inquire into this very problem. It consisted of five prominent economists, including Mr. Wickens, the then Common wealth Statistician. In an appendix to its report, the committee states -
The subsidies to production through the tariff are £30,000,000, which would average all round £0 per head of the population. But, if the £30,000,000 is distributed among the States in proportion to the quantity of protected industry, the amount per head will vary greatly from State to State, as shown approximately in the following table: -
– In what way did the committee arrive at that conclusion?
– I do not know; but I have no doubt that it went thoroughly into the matter. I believe that the committee based its calculation on the extent to which protected industries prevailed in the various States. The report continues -
These amounts arc additions to the income per head of each State, and no immediate deduction can be made as to the consequent effect on State revenue. But it is to be noticed that the subsidies to Victoria and Queensland are twice as great as those to Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. We next inquire in what proportion these subsidies are contributed by the different States in paying the excess prices of protected Australian products. We have found that these excess costs are borne in the last resort partly by luxury expenditure and fixed incomes and protected production itself, but most of all by the export industries.
It appears, therefore, that Western Australia, Tasmania and .South Australia are suffering, as compared with the other States, because they are more dependent on the export market than are the other States, which find in the local market a sale for a greater proportion of their products. We are forced to the conclusion that if this problem were tackled, not so much with a view to compensating the States for disabilities, as to removing,’ or, at least, lessening, those disabilities, we should confer a great benefit on the most important industries in all the States. I agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) regarding the functions of -this commission. In clause 9, it is set out that the commission shall inquire into and report to the Governor-General upon the various matters set out in paragraphs a, b and c, in each of which specific reference is made to the granting of financial assistance under section 96 of the Constitution, and to nothing else.
– Paragraph c confers wide powers on the commission.
– That paragraph empowers the commission to inquire into and report upon “ any matters relating to the making of any grant of financial assistance by the Parliament . . . “ That is wide enough to permit some passing reference to be made to the disabilities of a State, but notwide enough to enable us to read into it the granting of authority to the commission to make specific recommendations to the Governor-General for the removal of the disabilities themselves. The commission is to be authorized to report on the compensation due to the States rather than on the removal of the disabilities which make that compensation necessary. If, as apparently is the case, it is to be taken for granted that the disabilities from which some of the States suffer will continue indefinitely, we ought to make up our minds that the granting of assistance to them must also continue more or less indefinitely - at least until the States now in need are in a position more like that of the highly industrialized States.
– That time seems a long way off.
– I agree with the honorable member. During the regime of the Bruce-Page Government, Western Australia and Tasmania were assured of financial assistance from the Commonwealth for a fixed term of five years, and South Australia for three years. The Treasurers of those States were thereby enabled to follow a continuous policy. Because they knew what they could expect, they were not driven to a hand to mouth existence. This commission should recommend the granting of assistance to necessitous States for a definite period of at least three years - preferably five years. If we agree to that principle, I submit that there is no need to appoint the commission for five years. On that point I agree largely with the honorable member for Swan. Surely a businesslike commission, could satisfactorily investigate the problems of the needy States in twelve months, and recommend the granting of assistance for a period of years, during which the State Treasurers would be assured of some stability. The commission could, I submit, be disbanded at the end of twelve months, and reappointed later if the occasion arose. I am aware that clause 3 provides that “ Each appointment shall be for such term not exceeding five years . . . “ ; but the accepted meaning of those words is that the commission shall be appointed for five years. At least, it is definite that the retaining fee of members shall continue for five years.
– But not exceeding five years.
– I entirely disagree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) that the existence of difficulties in certain States is an argument for unification. I believe in the federal principle, and I see no reason for departing from it. I am prepared to support the second reading; but much sounder reasons than have yet been advanced will be needed to convince me that we ought to appoint the commission for five years. 1 reserve the right to oppose in committee the clause appointing the commission for five years.
.- The bill before us is intituled “ A bill for an act relating to a commission to deal with the matter of grants by the Commonwealth of financial assistance to the States “. It is, therefore, not a bill to deal with the actual disabilities of the States. I admit that there is great temptation to seize upon this opportunity to bring under notice some of the disabilities from which certain States are suffering.
– That temptation is too great for some honorable members.
– Especially one who remembers the boot and other factories which were closed down in his State, and the work transferred to the Eastern States, and also the condition of the necessitous States to-day compared with pre-federation days. I hope that I shall not be called to order if I mention a tariff matter ; I shall refer to it only by way of illustration. During a recent debate, you, Mr. Speaker, referred to me as “ the honorable member for Gabb “. That, I know, was merely a slip of the tongue, for the implied rebuke was not deserved by me, since I did not discuss one item in the tariff schedule. I regarded the debate itself as farcical, because I felt confident that only decisions of Cabinet would be allowed to be decisions of the committee. In prefederation days, Oregon was admitted free into South Australia; but, to-day, it is subject to a duty of 12s. per 100 super, feet if from Canada, and 143. per 100 super, feet if from the United States of America or other countries. In a federation of a number of States which has been entered into for the benefit of all, one of the last things we should do is to penalize a State because of its lack of natural resources. Yet, that is exactly what we have done to South Australia. That State has no great timber resources of her own, although during recent years efforts have been made to grow pinus insignis.
I realize, however, that this bill deals with the appointment of a commission, and I shall endeavour to keep my remarks within its scope. I am disappointed that this measure has been approached in so lighthearted a manner by many honorable members. The honorable members for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) damned it with faint praise. Other than the two Ministers who have spoken, the only member who has spoken wholeheartedly in praise of the measure is the honorable member ‘for Denison (Mr. Hutchin). I disagree with the bill for two reasons; first, because I consider that it is the duty of this Parliament to do what the commission about to be appointed is to do; and, secondly, because of the expense which the setting up of a commission will entail. -Surely the granting of assistance to any of the States in the federation is a fit subject for inquiry by this Parliament. I go further and say that the position of the necessitous States is largely the result of political muddling on the part of the State Parliament, and also of the Commonwealth Parliament. In that case, it is our duty to clean up the mess that we have made; we should not delegate the task - admittedly difficult - to someone else. With the subject before us, eight Houses of Parliament - two in each of the three smaller States, and two in the Commonwealth - are directly concerned. In addition, five other Houses of Parliament - two each in Victoria and New South Wales, and one in Queensland - are concerned to a lesser extent.
In this attempt to-.rectify the position of the smaller States, members of this Parliament should not attempt to dodge their responsibilities. Throughout the history of federation this Parliament has been shouldering its obligations on to commissions, committees or other public bodies. The duties to be entrusted to the proposed commission should be carried out by a parliamentary committee. By this I do not mean such bodies as the Parliamentary Joint Committees which, until recently, were constituted by members pf this Parliament to report upon public works proposals and financial matters. I should like something less expensive than either of those two committees, because, as is well known, their members were not appointed because of their ability. At all events I can say so of appointees of “the Labour party, . which selected its members by ballot. On one occasion I was nearly elected myself, much to my surprise, because I was then a marked man in the party owing to the stand which I had taken in 1920 in connexion with the salary grab, otherwise known as the increase of members’ allowances. On that occasion two members of the Labour party were wanted, and, as voting was by exhaustive ballot, to my surprise, when the first figures were announced, I was within one or two votes of a clear majority. I assume that the general belief was that, as I had no chance of election because of the feeling against me, certain members who wished to keep others off the committee, gave me a vote, with the result that I was very nearly elected on the first ballot. But they made no mistake about it in the second ballot. So I say that, supposing a parliamentary committee were approved, I would not like to see its members chosen in that way. If they were selected by the leaders of each of the three parties, I believe that party ties would not be paramount, and we would obtain men of capacity to act. I would allow them £1 a day for expenses, but not a penny more. That would be sufficient to recompense them for the expenses of accommodation through their absence from their homes during the time when other members would not be so inconvenienced. No one can suggest that members of this Parliament are overworked. ‘I admit, however, that if we read all the reports that are presented, gave careful study to all the measures prepared for our consideration, and, in addition, cultivated the electorates - this, I suggest, is essential because some one else- is always doing it - we should be kept fairly busy. But we are not overworked. Take, for example, the case of the Senate. That chamber, will meet this week after a recess which began on the 2nd December last, nearly six months ago, and, as its members have, in that time, drawn salaries totalling £13,500, surely the taxpayer is entitled to expect that service on such a commission as is now contemplated, should be given by members of that chamber as well as of this House. Since we are paid £15 a week to represent our constituents in this Parliament it is only fair that we should be prepared to give the people adequate service. Particularly should this be expected of members of the Senate, which, under the Constitution, is supposed to protect the rights of the smaller -States. Unfortunately, owing to the development of the party system, that chamber has not fulfilled its function, but has been representative mainly of the interests of the party instead of the interests of the smaller States.
– Order ! The honorable member may not criticize members of another place.
– I must, of course, submit to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but it is unfortunate that, because of Parliamentary usage, it is not permissible to discuss what is acknowledged to be an anachronism in our system of Parliamentary Government. Surely, in these days, we should drop some of the “ flummeries “ -of the past, and have liberty to criticize Parliament itself.
– I called the attention of the honorable member to the fact that he may not criticize members of another place, for the very good reason that they are not in a position to defend themselves against attacks made on them in this House. I hope the honorable gentleman will realize that criticism of the members of the Senate would be just as unfair as an attack in that chamber on members of this House.
– I see and acknowledge the reason for your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and I shall not transgress it. Accordingly, I invite honorable members to consider the position in this House. For about six months in every year, it is not in session. At all events, that has been our experience in Canberra. Under “the Bruce-Page regime, members were absent from the seat of Government for more than six months in every year.
– Speak of the record of the present Parliament.
– I doubt that Parliament sat for more than six months last year, so it cannot be said that members would not have the time to give to the study of the problems to be considered by the proposed commission. We are in receipt of a salary for a full-time job, so there should be no excuse for any member to decline to carry out such work as might be entrusted to him. If any honorable member refused to serve this country in such a capacity as I have suggested, the fact could be reported to his constituents, and they would know how to deal with him.
As it will not be contended that members are so fully occupied with their ordinary parliamentary work that they could not undertake this inquiry, we should consider the proposal from the point of view of capacity. Can it be suggested that it would be impossible to appoint, from this Parliament, a commission of three or five members of sufficient capacity to do the work efficiently? I do not hold that view. I believe that if an attempt were made to elect another Cabinet from the representatives of the United Australia Party members in this Parliament, we could get one nearly as good as the present Ministry. I say nothing about the capacity of members belonging to the Country or Labour parties. I contend that it should easily be possible to secure the services of three or five members, having the necessary capacity, to carry out these duties. As this Parliament claims to have the ability to manage “ Australia Unlimited,” the duties expected of the proposed commission, difficult though they may he, would not be beyond the capacity of some of its members.
– Would the honorable member approve of members, elected to voice the opinions of their constituents in Parliamentary discussions, being absent for possibly two months in Western Australia on commission work during the sittings of the House?
– No; and that should not be necessary.
Five inquiries into the disabilities of the States have been held already, and practically all the information required is available in the departments. What is wanted is not more information, but more pluck! If this Parliament lacks the capacity to do this political job, the party system is to blame. We are reaping the effects of the system of preselection, caucus domination, and ministerial parties meeting in camera to discuss proposed measures for a couple of hours, arriving at a decision, and then discussing them in this House for two or three weeks. The party system discourages research by individual members. It turns many of them into party hacks, or mere automatons to be used for voting purposes only. If parliamentarians are as incompetent as the proposal of the Government suggests, the electors are reaping what they have sown through tieing themselves to the party machines. But I do not believe that this Parliament lacks capacity. I well remember the impression left on my mind by the speeches of several of the younger members when they entered this Parliament fifteen months ago. Some of them, I am sure, are not giving to the country of their best; they are not as effective as they would be if it were hot for the cramping discipline of the party system. When a government desires to get measures through this Parliament its individual supporters are rendered more or less inarticulate.
– What has all this to do with the bill?
– Have I not a right to contend that there is no need to appoint an extra parliamentary body to conduct this inquiry, that this is part of the job which we were elected to do, and that we have the capacity to do it? I do not propose to allow the honorable member for Fawkner to dictate what my attitude shall be. If members of Parliament will not accept the responsibility that is rightly ours, I fear the people will say of us, with double apologies to Tennyson -
Commissions to the right of them,
Boards to the left of them,
Bankruptcy in front of them,
Blundered and plundered
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to shirk or fly,
Recreant one hundred.
Perhaps I should say “ one hundred and twelve.”
The objection may be raised that a parliamentary committee would not be permanent. To that I reply that members of the Senate are elected for six years, and they, at least, could serve for the period of five years proposed in the bill; but I question whether a fiveyear appointment is necessary. I am afraid, however, that there is not much chance of inducing honorable members to agree to my proposal. They are always ready to protect their privileges and status, and may consider that service such as I am suggesting would be derogatory of their status. There is no foundation for that objection, but as I cannot count on adequate support for the appointment of a parliamentary committee, I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ the bill be withdrawn with a view to introducing legislation appointing a permanent body of inquiry constituted as suggested by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts in its report of the 17th June, 1931, relating to South Australia “.
No explanation has been given of why the Government adopted portions of the committee’s report and ignored other portions. In the course of its report on the finances of South Australia as affected by federation, the Public Accounts Committee said -
The committee is strongly of opinion that the time has arrived when a permanent body should be appointed to make a continuous study of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States . . . The committee is of opinion that the permanent body suggested should be composed of a representative of the Commonwealth Treasury with a close knowledge of Commonwealth and State finance, the Director of Development, and a qualified economist who should be attached to the office of the Commonwealth Statistician. The committee also holds a strong view that in the investigation of any State’s claim for financial assistance a treasury officer’ from the State concerned should bo temporarily attached to the proposed permanent body during the course of the inquiry.
Failing inquiry by a parliamentary committee, a body such as that proposed by the Public Accounts Committee would be admirable, and I hope that those members who are inclined to believe that they must support any suggestion made by the Government for the appointment of a commission will seriously consider the merits of my amendment. Honorable members who were in this Parliament during the period 1922-28 will recollect that the Bruce-Page Ministry appointed so many boards that it became known as the wooden government. I hope that the present Ministry does not propose to follow that example; but already there is functioning one commission on taxation, another on performing rights, and a third on petrol. Now the Government proposes to set up a more or less permanent body to deal with State disabilities and finances. The time has come for this Parliament to take a firm stand against a continuation of this policy of government by boards and commissions.
To-day I addressed a question to the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) regarding the fees to be paid to members of the petrol royal commission. On a previous occasion, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) asked if the Chairman of the Commission was to be remunerated at the rate of £30 a day; he was told that the remuneration would not be so high. To-day, I sought more specific information, to which this Parliament is fully entitled, and as a representative of the taxpayer, I object to the answer that was given to me. We know the salary of even the Governor-General, and ‘this House cannot quietly tolerate evasion of a legitimate inquiry by a representative of the people.
In regard to the expense of the commission proposed in this bill, the Government proposes to pay a retaining fee of £300 a year, plus £5 5s. a sitting, and travelling expenses, which may be from £1 to £2 a day. The Attorney-General mentioned, incidentally, that public servants had served in connexion with previous inquiries, and drawn no extra remuneration. He rightly commended them for that, but the text of this bill seems to show that the Government has no intention to ask public servants to serve on ~the commission. What will be the impression created in the minds of the farmers who are selling their wheat at less than the cost of production, and the wool-growers, many of whom are in dire circumstances, if they should read that this Parliament lightheartedly, possibly withotit a division, has voted £300 a year, plus £5 5s. a sitting and travelling expenses of from one guinea to two guineas a day to members of a commission for a period of five years ?
– Much depends on whether we get value for the money. The honorable member draws more than £2 2s. a day.
– I fail to see the honorable member’s point in referring to that. My electors know the position in respect of my parliamentary salary. In my district, grape-growers are suffering severely because of their straitened circumstances. As taxpayers, they have a right to voice their opinions through their representative in this Parliament respecting this proposed needless expenditure. In my electorate a fortnight ago grape-growers with their wagons assembled outside the wineries at midnight, waiting for the gates to open in the morning. At daybreak there was a queue of wagons about half a mile long waiting outside one of the wineries in the heart of my district, and the growers had to sell their grapes for £2 a ton, although they were entitled, under the price fixed by the Government, to receive about £8 a ton. Can we expect those men to support the action of this Government in giving to the members of this commission practically a blank cheque as to their fees? I, for one, shall not knuckle down to such a position. There are in my district vegetable-growers who, after months of labour, have had to throw a large portion of their products on the manureheaps. We cannot expect those people to consent to this extravagant expenditure.
Surely the Government does not think that it has money to burn. The sales tax on building materials is one of the greatest causes of unemployment in this country. The Government should appoint members of this Parliament to 1 the commission, and thus save the expense that would be incurred by appointing outside persons. The Government is taking from the tobacco consumers of this country between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 per annum in tobacco duties. The people are becoming disgusted with the way in which this country is being governed, and in my district the unemployed have become so desperatethat they are organizing. I shall be surprised if the two sections of the Labour party in this House agree to giving this commission a blank cheque in respect of sitting fees and travelling allowances, particularly when a committee formed of members of this Parliament could carry out the duties required. Of course, some honorable members will argue that we can stand the expense of the appointment of this commission. It is alleged that we have a surplus. I question whether that is a fact. We are not making any payments in respect of our interest and sinking-fund obligations on the war debt overseas.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the subject-matter of the bill.
– I am referring to the financial position of the Commonwealth in order to show that, at this time of financial stress, the Government is not entitled to appoint an outside commission when it has at its disposal members of Parliament who can do the work required. I had intended to deal with the fact that there is every indication of an unfavorable trade balance.
– The honorable member is entitled to deal with the finances of the States.
– South Australia has a deficit of about £1,000,000, although the Commonwealth has made it a grant of practically that amount. The Commonwealth must stand behind that State, otherwise the whole fabric of federation will be torn asunder. Some assistance must be given to South Australia to compensate the disadvantages that it is suffering under federation. This Govern ment, in proposing light-heartedly to establish this commission, is evidently not aware -of the agitation that is taking place in various parts of Australia against our system of government. What has happened in. Germany and other countries? In The Industrial Australian and Miming Standard of the 15 th May last, there appears a statement to the effect that there is grave danger in France because of the “agitation of the people against excessive governmental expenditure. The article reads -
In the whole of France in all regions and towns they are agitating against “ the present financial paddling.” It is a veritable putting on of armour. At Saint Amour, in the region of Macon, the taxpayers, the peasants, raise the flag of revolt. Everywhere it is the parliamentary regime which is aimed at, attacked and fought, in these popular movements. And, in the Matin of 7th February, a serious warning is given to the deputies and senators, headed in large type: “Does the Parliament desire a class war and revolution? Above the sovereignty of Parliament is the sovereignty of the nation. It wants to have peace, it desires reforms not upheavals. It wants the budget pillage and the exactions from which the President of the Council himself has called the democracy of savings, to cease. It is sick of all bureaucratic scribblings. Let Parliament take care, the last word will rest with the nation. Where are we going? To revolution ! “
In this Parliament, surrounded as it is by the everlasting hills, eloquent in their silence, we may think that all is well; but those of us who mingle with the people must have heard mutterings, rumblings, and groanings of discontent. One of the things which help to bring this Parliament into disrepute, more than anything else, is the shifting of its responsibilities to other shoulders, and if this proposed commission is appointed, we shall add fuel to the flames of revolution that are already smouldering in this country. My amendment may be opposed by some honorable members on. the ground that, on a committee such as I suggest, the Commonwealth would be overrepresented ; but that is not my view at all.
There was little indication in the speeches of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) of the constitution of this proposed commission. The Attorney. General said that it was not the intention to appoint a man from each State, and the Prime Minister said that the members, if appointed from the smaller States, might be biased in their opinions. The members must be appointed from the various States, and the smaller States have just as much claim for representation upon the commission as the larger States. The members should not be selected entirely from the eastern States. I suggest that a committee, such as that recommended by the Joint Committee on Public Accounts, would be as effective, as free from political influence, as inexpensive, and just as likely to arrive at the basic formula to which the Prime Minister referred, as any outside body appointed by this Government. I suggest that the chairman of the commission should be the Director of Development, the Honorable John Gunn, who, as a Premier of South Australia, has had State experience, and is now a Commonwealth officer.
– Would the honorable member suggest the appointment of Mr. Webb, an ex-Railways Commissioner of South Australia?
– I want Mr. Gunn appointed to this commission so that he may undo some of the work that was done in South Australia when he was Premier. Mr. Webb was brought to South Australia, not by Mr. Gunn, but by Sir Henry Bar well, at whose door lies the blame for bringing to South Australia a Yankee who persuaded the Government to allow him to spend £11,000,000 in rehabilitating the State railways. I remember spending nearly an hour with Mr. Gunn, when he was Premier of South Australia, begging him not to rebuild the railway station., because the scheme was 50 years before its time. In addition to Mr. Gunn, an economist and a Commonwealth Treasury official should be appointed as a committee, and a State Treasury officer should be attached to the committee to aid it in its inquiries. A committee such as that would not be biased in its opinions. I ask honorable members to accept my amendment.
– On a point of order, I wish to know whether the amendment of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) is in order. It refers to a report of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts, of a certain date, and does not specify the title or nature of that report.
I submit that in the amendment reference should be made to a specific and definite report.
– The amendment is specific, in that it relates to the setting up of a permanent body of inquiry as suggested by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts in its report of the 17th June, 1931. I do not consider it necessary actually to quote the recommendation of that report.
.- I second the amendment of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), because I believe that it would prove more effective and . less expensive than the pro- posal of the Government. But it does not go far enough to suit me. If I had my way, the commission bird would be shot before it got on the wing. In my opinion, once it rises into the air we shall have difficulty in bringing it down again. However, if it is winged in the manner provided by the amendment, it will be more easily controlled. It seems to me that the commission industry is over-capitalized, over-crowded and overdone. Although in the present depressed times every industry should be kept up to concert pitch in order to provide employment, the booming of this industry is beyond all reason, and cannot be justified. I have read a list of the commissions, boards anjl committees that have been appointed since 1924, and would recite it to honorable members but for the length of time that would be occupied in doing so. I understand that it will be the duty of this commission to tour the various States, seeking information that already is, or ought to be, in the possession of the federal authorities. In my opinion, we have far too many Mrs. Jellabys, who are bothering their heads about the savages iu South Africa and allowing their own homes to go to ruin. We ought to put a stop to that practice immediately. The different State Governments will present their case to the commission instead of to the Eederal Cabinet or the Loan Council. Why should the commission intervene between the authorities that should handle this matter? There is no answer to that question, unless it is that the Government is anxious to shirk its responsibilities. The commission will recommend to the Federal Cabinet just what a State wants or does not want, and what it should get or should not get; and the Government may either accept or reject the advice thus tendered, look at what has happened in the past. No notice has been taken of the majority of the recommendations that have been made by bodies such as this, and they might just as well have been left unmade. But even if the Government should accept the recommendation, Parliament will have the final say as to whether a State shall or shall not get what the commission recommends. I am reminded of a story that is told in one of Dickens’ works, in which figure the characters Spenlow and Jorkins. In my opinion we want, not more information, but more courage and determination, and, possibly, more opportunity to apply the information that we already possess. We might as well post a sentinel on the top of Mount Ainslie to discover whether the sun rises in the east, as appoint a commission to advise us what is wrong with Australia. W’e all know what ought to be done. I strenuously object to the proposal to pay the commissioners a fixed salary of £200 a year, and £5 for every day that they sit. I object to this arrangement on the ground that payment for sittings creates a tendency towards a broody state, and the frequent hatching of monstrosities. .Even if at times something of value is produced, it is often stifled at birth, or placed in the pigeonhole to starve from lack of nourishment, should- its colour not suit the powers that be. Misadventure will befall this commission in Western Australia, which lias told the Commonwealth what she wants and what she intends to get. She does not want a commission or a convention. Why? Because, in the past, so much money has been wasted on commissions, and nothing has been done that would assist the States to reduce their expenditure or to lower the cost of living and production. I did not recommend the secession of Western Australia, as was stated in the press; but secession is clearly the desire of the people of that State. If the reception accorded to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and to other Commonwealth peace emissaries can be taken as a criterion, Western Australia should not be the first State visited by this commission. I regret keenly that the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues were not given a more favorable reception;’ but one could hardly expect anything else, because the people of that State were not in the humour to hold out the hand of welcome at that particular time to representatives of the Eastern States. When the Prime Minister announced his intention of visiting Western Australia, I apprehended trouble, and I was sorry to see him go. His visit reminded me of the experience of a neighbour of mine, who, for some inscrutable reason, was greatly desirous of obtaining a seat on the Fremantle City Council. Towards evening on polling day he discovered, or thought that he did, that the poll would be very close; so he returned home to bring his wife to the booth, in order to be sure of her vote. He later discovered that she had voted against him; and he lost the election by one vote. The only effect of the visit of these gentlemen to Western Australia to try to convince the people of that State that secession was opposed to their interests was to increase the vote in favour of secession.
Generally speaking, the condition of Australia at the present time is comparable with that of an apple which is attacked by the codlin moth. The trouble lies Tight at the core, and the mischievous grub is working from the centre to the outside. The trouble does not lie with the people or the country, nor even with their parliamentary representatives. Under the present sectional and factional form of government - with which the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has so ably dealt - we have no hope of correcting the evil, and, as a consequence, Australia is suffering. I cannot understand what need there is in this country for thirteen houses of parliament, containing approximately 680 members, who draw salaries aggregating between £400,000 and £500,000, and enjoy other privileges that cost a similar amount. Why should we want a commission to tell us what to do? If we are not capable of taking suitable action, we should be disbanded, and full statutory and plenary powers should be given to a permanent commission, which would be responsible for its recommendations. Why are we here, if we cannot find a remedy for the present deplorable state of Australia - one of the finest countries in the world? About one-third of our people ride in motor cars, and live on turkey, champagne, gorgonzola, and other delicacies, while another third cannot buy boots for their feet, and a big proportion of them do not know where the next meal is coming from. Many women and young children, even babies, are ill nourished. Why, then, talk of allowing the members of this commission to draw £5 a day, for a sitting that could last as short a time as five minutes? I advise the Government to withdraw the’ bill. It is bad politics, bad business and bad policy. Let the Government obtain an expression of opinion from the farmers who, loaded with debt, are working night and (day, and are living on almost nothing. Let it obtain the view of the unemployed, who are living on the dole, and who get barely sufficient to keep breath in their bodies. Let it ask the people of Australia, as a whole, whether they want this commission. This is the worst piece of legislation, with the exception of the last amendment of the Pensions Act - which will have to be altered - that has ever been brought to this Parliament. If it is not withdrawn, the Government will suffer as a political body. As the honorable member for Angas has said, there is danger of the entire political system collapsing. Hardly a person in Australia has any regard, respect, or esteem for a politician to-day. Why? Because of ridiculous legislation. Why try to place responsibility on other shoulders? We have ample time, and, as the honorable member for Angas affirms, tons of brains. All that is needed is the use of those brains, if we are to save this country from further misery. We are not yet in the wood, let alone out of it. I advise honorable members to go among the what-growers. the dairymen, and the wool-growers, and ask them whether they are willing that this commission should be appointed. The money needed to defray the expense must come from the soil, and the producer and the toiler will have to find it. They will not continue much longer the sacrifices that they have been making. If the bill is not withdrawn, I shall condemn it roundly and soundly from every platform, and shall tell the people that the Government is not fit to govern.
.- I have no objection to the remarks of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), with regard to his amendment, although I do not agree with it; but his severe castigation of honorable members, both in this chamber and in another place, is unjustified. He suggested that honorable members generally - excluding himself, presumably - were corrupt. 1 am reminded that it is recorded in the Scriptures that Abraham pleaded with the Almighty not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, if ten just men could be found within those cities. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) referred to the recent campaign in Western Australia, on the subject of the secession of that. State from the Commonwealth, and said that some extraordinary misstatements had been made prior to the taking of the vote. He claimed that the representatives from the eastern States were not given a fair hearing. The AttorneyGeneral ‘ appears to imagine that the people of Western Australia have a mentality different from that of the people of the other States, and do not realize their responsibilities as Australian citizens. But it should be realized that for many years there has been growing dissatisfaction in Western Australia with the treatment that the State has received under federation. Its disabilities were made known before South Australia and Tasmania announced that they were suffering similar hardships under federation. Mr. Norbert Keenan, K.C., although one of the foremost champions of federation, ably led the recent movement in favour of secession. Sir Walter James, K.C., a man of undoubted forensic ability, also actively participated in the secession movement, although he was an earnest advocate of federation, prior to its inception. Examples of this change of opinion could be multiplied, and they serve to show that there is good reason for the present feeling of the people of Western Australia.
Several commissions and committees have inquired into the disabilities of the less-populous States. In 1925, the Commonwealth Government appointed a royal commission for the purpose of such an investigation. The commission consisted of Mr. W. G. Higgs, a former Treasurer of the Commonwealth, who was chairman; Mr. John Entwistle, of South Australia; and Mr. Stephen Mills, who had had considerable experience in tariff matters. The majority report submitted by Messrs. Higgs and Entwistle contained the following recommendation : -
That whatever benefit the Commonwealth protectionist policy may have conferred upon other States of the Com mon wealth, it has not benefited the State of Western Australia; that it is impossible to give the primary producers of Western Australia relief by way of reduced customs duties without injuring the secondary industries of the Eastern States; and that the only effective means of removing the chief disability of the State is to restore to the State, for a period of years, the absolute control of its own customs and excise.
I consider that mere monetary grants such as are proposed in this bill would not satisfy Western Australia. Full fiscal autonomy should be granted to the State for a period of years. Tariff preference would, of course, be given to some extent to the products of the eastern States. Failing the satisfactory settlement of the tariff problem, the subject of the secession of Western Australia will be the shuttlecock at every election in that State, and will cause considerable unrest. So long as this disability remains, the dissatisfaction must increase. The commission to which I have just referred made other recommendations, and drew attention to several other disabilities under which Western Australia labours. The committee appointed by the Federal Government in 1925, consisting of Professors Brigden, Copland, and Giblin, Mr. E. C. Dyason, and the Commonwealth Statistician and Actuary, Mr. C. H. Wickens, pointed out that the added cost of Australian products due to the policy of protection amounted, in the year before that in which the inquiry was held, to £36,000,000, or about £6 per head of the population. Of course, while some of the States benefit under that policy, others suffer loss. New South Wales, for instance, instead of receiving £6 per head, got £5 10s.; Victoria, £7 ; Queensland, £8 ; Tasmania, £4; South Australia, £3 7s.; and Western Australia, £3 6s. The loss suffered by Western Australia under the policy of protection amounted to £2 4s. a head of the population, or £1,080,000 per annum. I do not wish it to be understood that I advocate a freetrade policy for the Commonwealth. I consider that the federal tariff is needed to protect this country against competition from the rest of the world ; but Western Australia, being a primary producing State, has lost a great deal on account of the policy of protection. Therefore, I regard it as futile to hope to remove the disabilities of the State by means of a monetary grant. This proposal will not be received with favour by the people, because they demand nothing less than fiscal autonomy for a limited number of years.
– Can that be granted?
– When Western Australia entered the federation it operated its own tariff. It was recognized by the rest of the Commonwealth at that time that it was purely a primary producing State. At the time of federation I was a customs officer attached to the Postal Department, and I remember that a tariff was evolved which suited Western Australia very well. But, unfortunately, the federal tariff has not enabled Western Australia to progress at the same rate as the other States. I fail to see why any opposition should come from the eastern States to the granting to Western Australia of complete control of its tariff for a number of years, in the interests of its primary producers.
It must be recognized, of course, that Western Australia, in common with South Australia, suffers many natural disabilities which increase the problems of government. It is not merely an accident that, out of Australia’s total population of 6,500,000, no fewer than 6,000,000 . people live mainly on the eastern and south-eastern seaboard of this continent. Fewer than 500,000 are to be found on the western coast.
– Settlement follows the good country.
– That is true. Western Australia, with its population of 450,000, has the responsibility of developing half of this continent, and because its natural difficulties are greater than those experienced in the other parts of Australia, the task is almost superhuman. North of the Tropic of Capricorn, Western Australia has a population of only 6,000, which is not much larger than it was when federation was inaugurated; while Queensland, which, thanks to federal legislation, has, I am glad to say, been able to develop the sugar industry by white labour, has a population, north of the Tropic of Capricorn, of about 1S0,000. Within a vast area in the northern portion of Western Australia, the streams do not flow constantly, and much of the country is not capable of supporting from three to five sheep to the acre, which is frequently the number carried in the eastern States. Some country in the north-west of Western Australia carries only one sheep to fifteen acres. Honorable members who know the value of land for pastoral purposes, and have seen this class of country, will agree with me that this is its carrying capacity. Our rainfall is not so abundant, nor is our land so fertile as that of the eastern States. Western Australia is in the same position as the western areas of other continents. In Africa, for instance, the fertile State of Natal is on the eastern side of the continent, while the arid territories of the country on its western coast formerly known as German South- West Africa, are practi- cally desert. Neither the Germans from whom the British took this country, nor the British themselves, were able to develop these areas. In South America there are on the eastern side of the continent the fertile lands of Brazil, which are watered by the largest river in the world, while on the western side there is the dry coastal country of North Chili, Avith the* Atacama desert behind it. Obviously, dry areas such as I am speaking of, require a much higher expenditure of money to make them habitable than well-watered tropical and subtropical areas. It is not to be. wondered at that our people have ‘been attracted to the eastern coast of Australia rather than to its western coast. Because of the poor country of Western Australia, a greater expenditure of money has been necessary for its developmental purposes than has been needed for the development of the eastern States, and so our public debt is heavier than that of the other States.
Western Australia has to wrestle, not only with the disabilities which have come upon her in consequence of federation, but also with those that afflict her naturally in consequence of the poorness of her land. Our people have very often had to go long distances inland to reach the wheat belts of the State, and this has meant an expenditure on railways much greater than that of the other States. This expenditure is equivalent to £8.70 per head per annum in Western >Australia, and £1.68 per head per. annum in the rest of Australia. Our people have, therefore, to suffer an annual tax of £7 a head in consequence of this disadvantage alone. Another disadvantage consequent upon our poor land is that our expenditure per acre for superphosphate is much in excess of that of the other States. In the eastern States there are hundreds of thousands of acres on which wheat can be grown profitably without the use of superphosphates; but there is not a part pf Western Australia of which, to my knowledge, that is true. Superphosphate must be used wherever farming is carried on in Western Australia if there is to be a harvest. Previous to the discovery of gold in Western Australia, the amount of wheat produced in the State was negligible. We know very well that the Hentys originally intended to settle in Western Australia. They abandoned their settlement at Albany and went to Tasmania, and, later again, to Victoria, and they finally settled at Portland, in that State. The settlement on the Peel Estate in Western Australia was unsatisfactory right from the beginning. In the early days in Western Australia, the people were, on many occasions, entirely dependent upon the arrival of cargoes of flour and wheat for these necessaries of life. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I have no desire to decry my State, but I should be blind if I did not see the disabilities to which I have referred. Considering all the circumstances, the people of Western Australia have worked miracles. To-day, they are exporting more wheat per head of the population than the people of any other State. This is due, of course, not to the fertility of our land, but to the fact that only 450,000 people have to be fed in that State. This requires only onefifteenth of the wheat produced. The rest is exported. That the protectionist policy of Australia has undoubtedly benefited the eastern States to the detriment of Western Australian industries is shown by the variations in the number of persons engaged in secondary industries. I have compiled figures covering a number of years, which show that in the period under review the number of persons per 10,000 of the population engaged in secondary industries has increased by 57.5 in New South Wales, 45.2 in Victoria, 20.2 in South Australia, and 8.4 in Tasmania, while it has decreased by 7.3 in Western Australia. Instead of our industries progressing under protection, they have fallen back. Even the small secondary industries that we had established prior to our entry into the federation found themselves unable to meet the blasts of competition which blew upon them from the eastern States in consequence of the free trade in interstate commerce which the Constitution provided for. It was impossible for our small industries, with their limited home market, to compete against the mass production methods of the eastern States, which their larger markets made possible. Prior to federation we had a tobacco factory, a boot factory, and a shirt factory of considerable dimensions in proportion to the population; but soon after federation was consummated the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company found it more profitable to concentrate its activities in the eastern States, so the Western Australian factory was closed. In 1930-31 Western Australia had an adverse interest trade balance of serious proportions. We imported from the eastern States goods to the value of £6,476,000, and exported to them goods to the value of £775,000. In other words, goods to the value of less than £1 were. sent to the eastern States in return for every £8 worth of goods that they sent to us. The most casual glance at the shipping trade between Western Australia and the eastern States illustrates the point I am making. It is common for boats travelling to the west to be loaded down to the Plimsoll mark ; but the boat on which I returned from Western Australia recently carried only a couple of truckloads of timber as her complete cargo to the eastern States. In these circumstances a bill of this kind is not of much use to Western Australia. A mere money grant cannot restore prosperity to that State, nor encourage the development of her secondary industries. The only practicable solution to the difficulties of Western Australia, so far as 1 can see, is to grant to that State complete control of her own tariff for a period of years, as was done for some years after she entered the federation. This bill may be satisfactory to honorable members who represent other necessitous States, but ii certainly is not satisfactory to me. The Government may have introduced the measure with the best of intentions, but it will not be acceptable to Western Australia.
.- I support the bill. It provides, to my mind, a better method of dealing with the disabilities of certain States than the methods which have been adopted hitherto. In effect the measure provides for the appointment of what I may describe as five independent father confessors, who will be given the duty of assessing the amount of conscience money which the Commonwealth Government should pay to certain of its State Government victims. Although this bill marks a step forward in the method of assisting necessitous States, it has been introduced, I believe, less from any sense of shame on the part of the Commonwealth because of the condition to which it has reduced certain sections of the people, or from a feeling of repentance for injuries inflicted upon certain communities than from the feeling that it is necessary, in consequence of the vigorous protest of Western Australia, as expressed by the secession movement in that State. 1 should be very sorry to see the Australian Commonwealth disintegrated because of the nation-smashing policy which has been followed by the Commonwealth for a long time; but I must congratulate Senator Johnston, the honorable members for Perth (Mr. Nairn), Swan (Mr. Gregory), Forrest (Mr. Prowse), and other honorable gentlemen who represent Western Australian constituencies in this Parliament upon the effect that their secession campaign has had upon the Commonwealth Government.
The establishment of an independent body of highly qualified advisers is an improvement on the previous system of appointing special commissions to deal with each application made by the States, and on the system of asking a purely parliamentary body, with the advantages and the . greater disadvantages associated therewith, to report to Parliament on the disabilities suffered by States because of federation. Under the previous system, a stigma of mendicancy was left on every applicant; for .members of the committees, also, members of Parliament, were ever ready tq characterize as begging the action of States in seeking financial assistance, just as ‘the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), often attaches a stigma ,of party to honorable members who differ from him.
That is not the only improvement. The measure, should do something to remove from honorable members who represent the more populous and wealthy constituencies in and about the cities of the wealthier States, from what must have been most embarrassing criticism, insinuating that they consented, to these grants in order to exercise political patronage to States from .which their party received support. It is highly undesirable from the point of view of both the representatives of applicant and. those of other States in the Federal Parliament, that these grants should be assessed in an haphazard ( manner, . or under conditions which make their consideration in. any way subject to considerations of political tactics as distinct from the merits and justice pf the case. .
There is a third advantage in having an independent commission appointed for a period of years. There is the prospect that it will , not only evolve a . basic formula by which grants can be assessed, but also that there will be continuity and consistency in the grants made to different States from year to year ; ‘both the Commonwealth and State Treasurers will have a much better opportunity of estimating in advance what the position is likely to be.
Statements have, been made to the effect that honorable members of the Federal Parliament are so highlypaid, or so bountifully endowed with special intelligence ,by the votes that, they have received, that they are peculiarly qualified to carry_out this investigation, and adjudicate 011 the facts disclosed.
With that I entirely disagree. Members of Parliament are elected democratically because their speeches reflect the opinions and prejudices. of democracy. But for. an inquiry of this nature we need highlytrained specialists : , economists, accountants, lawyers, jurists and .constitutional experts, whose investigation will enable us to unravel these issues; and, what, is the more difficult, task, to determine the degree of incompetence attributable to the State itself. For it must be recognized by those who represent the more sparsely populated States, that some pf the disabilities ,under which they labour are due to the mistakes of persons whom they have elected in the past, while others are due partly to their own mistakes, and partly to federal policy. As an example, I mention harbour dues, which represent one pf the considerable costs of marketing primary products. No harbour dues are charged in the port of Melbourne on wheat which is exported. Revenue is collected to administer and develop that port from charges levied upon other produce, more particularly that entering the port of Melbourne. To some extent that policy results from the advantages with which nature has endowed that port, making it a central distributing depot for the major portion of Australia. Those concessions increase the volume of business that enters the port, so enabling the administration to levy upon all the other parts of Australia to which it distributes imports from overseas. That advantage, which is, to some extent, geographical, has been magnified by the protectionist policy of the Commonwealth which enables secondary industries to establish’ themselves in Melbourne, but to some extent at the expense of primary industries elsewhere. It also, enables the port authorities to exact sufficient revenue from goods entering the port to, in fact, subsidize Victorian exports. This is only one of the many problems which have a dozen facets, and is a highly technical one, and whether it is dealt with by a parliament, a government, a dictator, or a democracy, the same experts should be employed te apply their knowledge and experience in comparing the advantages with the disadvantages of all States. .
Those are the principal reasons why the system .provided, for in the bill is a great advance upon any previous arrangement. But it does not cure the ill. lt only provides compensation to sections of the damaged party.’ The revenues of the poorer States fall because their citizens are impoverished or handicapped by certain actions, or by certain world conditions, and their impoverishment is intensified by the policy of this Parliament. Simply to cure the revenue position is only to deal with a fraction of the injury and injustice, and although I believe that this is a real contribution to the inequalities which led to the secessionist movement in “Western Australia, it is not a cure. Even if it enables a State Government to balance its budget by making a grant derived mainly from the manufacturers and merchants of the eastern States, it will not enable the citizens of Western Australia or of any other State to develop their industries or, in times like these, to hold those industries together as effectively as they could had they the advantage of cheap costs. One example of costs inflated by Commonwealth policy is freight. High freights rule because ships from overseas come to Australia practically empty, as a result of the protectionist policy of this Government, which works to the advantage of the manufacturers of the eastern States. I am not discussing the merits of that policy, which, admittedly, confers benefits on one section at the expense of another. The paying of grants to enable the balancing of ‘ budgets in the weaker States will not remove the fundamental disabilities. I agree that more than such payments are necessary, if we are to hold Australia together and even up that fundamental inequality, but I totally disagree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), who suggested that unification is the way out. Unification would deprive those export industries which are in places remotely situated from Canberra of the benefits and concessions which they enjoy because of the constitution of the Senate. Because of the Constitution, they are able to have just a little greater say, enjoy greater advantages, and keep in closer touch with matters through their State representatives. Those fundamental inequalities will be remedied only when there is a live public opinion which thoroughly appreciates them. I do not believe that they have grown up mainly because of disregard or personal unfairness on the part of the members of this and previous Federal Parliaments. They have grown up because of the ignorance of honorable members, due to the great distances which exist in Australia. Honorable members regard the different problems from the point of view of their immediate neighbours, and do not realize the hardships which much of their policy piles upon those who are remotely situated.
If this commission does its job, and there is no reason why it should not, it will give authoritative opinions, in support of which it will advance sound arguments* It will analyse and make available to Parliament and to the informed public of Australia a great deal more definite, explicit and authoritative opinion than has been made available in the past. In that way, it may make plainer to honorable members the financial implication of federal policy; the way in which, when they inordinately increase the tariff, they in turn increase the claims upon the Treasury for relief by those States which are handicapped by such trade barriers. It will lead to their thinking a little more on an Australian and a little less on a local eastern-coast basis before plunging into drastic dislocating additions to cost’s. It will also help to inform public opinion in all parts of the Commonwealth, and make it possible for the basic inequalities to be corrected. In that way, Australia will be made safer from disintegration, and more capable of development than through the secession of any section of its people. I shall oppose the amendment of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) and support the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McNicoll) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 8th March (vide page 8), on motion by Mr. Latham - .
That the report be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) - by leave - agreed to -
That Standing Order 257b be suspended in order to enable the right honorable member for North Sydney to conclude his speech without any limitation of .time.
– As honorable members are aware, the Government did me the honour to appoint me to be a delegate to the 13th Assembly of the League of Nations. Urgent and important business in connexion with the conversion of certain maturing loans detained in London the Resident Minister (Mr. Bruce), and, consequently, I acted as leader of the Australian delegation during the greater part of the session. The Assembly opened its sittings in an atmosphere of gloom. The representatives of the nations assembled at Geneva, in exchanging confidences, heard from each other variants of the story of economic depression and financial collapse with which they had become only too familiar in their own countries. Although the depression had worked more cruel havoc in some countries than in others, all had grievously suffered. Overhead hung the dark clouds of war. The situation in the Far East, although obscure, was disturbing; and, notwithstanding that the Disarmament Conference had been sitting for eight months, it had failed to evolve a practical scheme for lightening the burden of armaments. The world still floundered in a bog of depression. Every delegate was deeply disappointed at this failure of the conference, and criticisms of the League of Nations passed freely between the delegates.
Mr. De Valera, who, as Acting President of the Council of the League, presided at the opening meeting, put the position clearly when he said that the League was on its trial, that its very existence was at stake. He added that the world viewed the League of Nations with distrust and suspicion, because, although it had talked, it had not acted, and that, unless it were able to evolve a scheme of disarmament which would substantially reduce the burdens of the people of the world, it would inevitably collapse. Mr. De Valera reminded the Assembly that it must adjust itself to the altered circumstances of the world; that it could not expect to maintain in an impoverished world that standard of expense which had been tolerated in times of prosperity. The heads of the Secretariat, as well as the most enthusiastic supporters of the League, naturally resented such criticism. Probably they felt that if there were grounds for complaint regarding the failure of the League to promote the cause of peace, Mr. De Valera was the last man in the world who should voice that complaint. To most, if not all, of the delegates, Mr. De Valera seemed strangely out of place in the role of an apostle of peace. Following immediately after Mr. De Valera, I addressed the Assembly, and expressed the opinion that, since the causes of wars were, in the main, economic, it was idle to expect peace in a world in which economic conflict, instability, unrest, and depression were outstanding features. I said that there could be no disarmament without an assurance of security; that every nation was entitled to security, and would insist on getting it before disarming. I added that there could be no security without stability, and, in turn, no stability in a world in which millions of men who, because of the lack of employment, depended on public or private charity for the necessaries of life, were embittered against a state of society which could find no place for them or their children. I asked how there could be peace in a chaotic world in which the nations were engaged in a senseless but desperate trade war; a world in which a power existed whose avowed purpose was the destruction of civilization as we know it. How could there be peace in a world whose conditions encouraged the propaganda of the class war? I went on to observe that a condition precedent to world peace was a return to prosperity, and I urged that the Economic Conference, of which all had heard so much, and which had been so often postponed, should be summoned without delay. I expressed the opinion that only by the solution .of the world’s economic problems would disarmament be brought within the sphere of practical politics.
The plenary conference was full of interest. Men whose names were household words throughout the world ascended the rostrum, one after the other. Aga Khan, the head of the Mohammedans of India, and a famous sportsman, spoke of world affairs from the view-point of his people. He expressed the hope that the league would take a world view, rather than merely a European view of the matters which came before it - a hope which I shared. M. Herriot, then Prime Minister of France, delivered a magnificent oration- on the policy of his country, which was received with tumultuous applause. The delegate from China dealt tactfully with the existing situation in the Far East. Although the Lytton Report had been presented; it had not at that time been considered. He was succeeded by two women delegates, who spoke eloquently on the subject of peace. There followed a highly picturesque interlude; Iraq, the new Arab Kingdom created by the Treaty of Peace, being admitted as a member of the League of Nations. The ceremony of admission was the cause of great rejoicing.
I found the plenary conference most interesting and was not at ‘all disappointed that, for the time being, at all events, it led nowhere, because in the very nature of things that was to be expected. My experience at the Peace Conference at Versailles had taught me that in a polyglot assembly in which nearly all the nations “of the world are represented, it is extremely difficult, if hot impossible, to get business done. However, the Assembly does not attempt to deal with business in the plenary conference; it remitsall matters to committees. Following that practice, the subjects on the agenda-paper were remitted to six committees, on all of which Australia was represented. I was appointed to the first and the second committees, which dealt with legal and constitutional questions’ and with technical’ organizations ; but, owing to the absence of Mr. Bruce, I devoted most of my time to the Fourth Committee, which dealt with budgetary and financial questions.
I take this opportunity to testify to the zeal and capacity of my co-delegates in the performance of their duties’. Although the delegation was greatly weakened by the absence of Mr. Bruce, Australia was fortunate, indeed, to have the services of Sir Donald Cameron, Mr. Alexander, a lecturer in modern history in Perth, and Dr. Ethel Osborne. To them, and to the secretary,’ Major Fuhrman, I owe this tribute of recognition, and I congratulate Australia on the manner in which they carried out their duties.
Before reviewing the work done in the Fourth Committee, I shall give an account of the proceedings of the other committees. The subject which aroused most interest was the “ Nationality of Women “ which was considered by the’ First Committee. Upon this fascinating theme, the keenest and most exciting debates continued during the greater part of the session ; and as this subject is of the greatest possible interest to the women of Australia, I may be permitted to deal with it somewhat in detail. In 1930, a convention had been adopted at The Hague which improved the status and removed some of the disabilities under which women labour. That convention had been considered at the twelfth session of the league in 1931, on which occasion it aroused considerable discussion. Ultimately, it was decided to ask the Council to refer the matter back to the various Goverriments, and to” request them to express their opinion of the Hague Convention in general, and in particular, of clauses8 and 11, around which most of the controversy raged. They were also asked to express an Opinion as to the possibility of legislating along lines which would not be open to the objections raised against these clauses at the 12th session. This had been done, and replies from 35 Countries had been received, containing the observations of the various governments on the matters submitted to them. This report was before the 13th session, and on it the debate was continued.
The attack on the offending clauses 8 and 11 was led by Madame Pizano, the delegate from Columbia, and Madame Vergara, from Chile. These delegates, in eloquent and forceful speeches, supported by the representatives’ of Turkey and China, set the tone of the debate, and the ‘ following : motion was moved by Madame Pizano : -
I invite honorable members to note that this revolutionary change in the status of women, was proposed and supported by delegates representing countries that we have been in the habit of considering as backward, and, in my opinion, nothing illustrates so strikingly the extraordinary progress that has been made in the social and political conditions of the world during the last few years than that, in the vanguard pf the battle for the emancipation of women, should be delegates from Turkey, China, Chile, and Columbia. Where these led it was natural that others would follow. The delegate from Australia, Dr. Ethel Osborne, and the delegate from Britain were equally enthusiastic, though the enthusiasm was so general that it would be invidious to single out any delegate for particular mention. When Madame Vergara, of Chile, epitomizing the reasons for demanding the change, said that “ women asked for equality because it was their right “, and the delegate from Turkey said that the change was in conformity with Turkish law, and the Chinese delegate declared that the Chinese civil code was one pf the most advanced in the world, naturally one did not expect the delegates from other countries, which hitherto had taken the most prominent places in the march of civilization, to skulk in the rear. tOn its face the motion moved by Madame Pizano was both alluring and unobjectionable. But Mr. Gahan, a Canadian delegate, and Minister for State in Mr. Bennett’s Government, threw much light on the subject by showing how the proposal would work out in practice- Mr. Cahan said that, until 1922, the law in the United States of America, was similar to .that which existed in Canada at that time,, and exists in Australia to-day: that is to say, the family was deemed to be the foundation of the social and political institutions of the country. A woman who married a citizen of the United States of America was deemed to be a citizen of the United States of America, and an American woman who married a foreigner was deemed to have acquired the nationality of her husband. The Cable Act, passed in the United States of America in 1922, reversed that principle, so that a foreign woman who married a citizen of the United States of America did not thereby become a citizen of that country, and a woman citizen of the United States of Amenca did not cease to.be a citizen of that country by reason of her marriage with a foreigner. Mr. Cahan pointed out that this law had serious reactions in Canada, where thousands of women were married to American citizens resident in Canada. The consequences of such a marriage are set out in Mr. Cahan’s comments. Since the passing of the Cable Act in 1922, a Canadian woman who had married a citizen of the United States of America had not thereby become a citizen of that country, although she ‘had lost her status as a Canadian national. She could not, he said, obtain either a United States of America passport or a Canadian passport. There were cases of women who had been married abroad to .United States of America citizens, and were unable to return te America. The new Canadian law came into force on 15th January, 1932. Until that date, the certificates of nationalization issued to the husband conferred British nationality on the wife and minor children, but since that time, under the new law, the wife, unless she made a declaration of her desire to acquire British nationality, remained an alien. So far as he was aware, no alien woman had since then made such a declaration under the new law. These wives remained aliens, and were not entitled to mothers’ allowance, public care or assistance during illness, or old-age pensions. Yet they were the mothers of future generations of Canadians. Mr. Cahan expressed the opinion that “ the Hague Conversion would remove some of these disabilities, and pave the way for further advances. I only add that, while the Cable Act and the new Canadian law do not go perhaps quite so far as Madam Pizano’s motion, yet they were based on the same principle, the effect being that a foreign woman who marries a British citizen does not, by that marriage, acquire the nationality of her husband. In short, instead of the social and political institutions of the country being based on the foundation of the family, they are based 011 the individual, and where the in dividuals contracting a marriage are of different nationalities, a most extraordinary position may, in certain circumstances, arise.
I have said that the debate continued during the greater part of the session. Finally, the committee adopted a resolution expressing the opinion that articles 8 and 11 of the Hague Convention represented the degree of progress which could at present be attained by general international agreement in regard to the nationality of women, but asking the governments of the various States to consider whether it would not be possible to introduce into their laws the principle of equality of the sexes in matters of marriage, taking particularly into consideration the status of children, and the power to decide that the nationality of a wife should not be affected without her consent, either by the act of marriage, or by any change in the nationality of her husband. These resolutions have been submitted to the various governments, and, at the forthcoming meeting of the Assembly, in September of this year, they will come up again for consideration.
Another interesting debate was that on the traffic in dangerous drugs such as opium, morphia, cocaine, and the like. Here, again, the overflowing enthusiasm of the delegates found ample room for expression. A resolution was carried condemning the traffic in dangerous drugs, and urging governments to suppress it. The inconsistency of human nature, and the gap that separates the real from the ideal, surely was never better illustrated than in the contrast between this resolution and the sordid facts in the background, because it is in Geneva, where the League of Nations has set up its temple, and where these resolutions condemning the drug traffic were carried, that the cocaine ring of Europe has its head-, quarters and chief distributing centre. From this, honorable members may gain some idea of the difficulties which confront the League, and the obstacles in the way of any reform.
Subjects that were discussed by other committees had to do with mandates, slavery, protection of children and young persons, health, European union, intellec tual co-operation, economic and financial organizations - on which Mr. Bruce made a valuable statement - communications and transport, and several others.
I now come to the proceedings of the Fourth Committee, on which I acted during the whole of the session. Honorable members will have gathered from what I have said that the labours of some’ committees proved unfruitful, even before the committees concerned had reached the threshold of action. But whatever may have been true of other committees, the position of the Fourth Committee, which controlled the expenses of the League, was entirely different; it dealt with realities, because, having control of the purse, it had power to give effect to its decisions. Its deliberations, therefore, will be of interest to the taxpayers of this country. The revenues of the League are derived from the contributions of its various member States. It should be noted that, while there is equality of representation on the League, there is marked inequality in the matter of contributions by its members. The principle upon which the quotas are fixed is, so far as I could ascertain, capacity to pay. It is true that suggestions were made in the committee about the possibility of discovering a new principle upon which to base future con-‘ tributions, but lest such a prospect should raise extravagant hopes, I should add that it was generally understood, in any case, that even if such a principle could be found and adopted, it would not have application to the finances of the League for 1933 or 1934. Australia’s contribution is 891,443 gold francs a year. Expressed in sovereigns this represents £35,000, or in Australian currency, £65,000. Our contributions are paid up to date. The arrears owing to the League by other States members are very considerable, amounting last year to over 17,000,000 gold francs. Some nations have not made contributions for years ; others, like Australia, have paid regularly, although they could ill afford to do so. Now, although the world’s income has fallen catastrophically, and nations have been compelled to resort to drastic economies, including the reduction of the salaries of their public servants, the League’s secretariat has not reduced its expenditure.
The Australian delegation was instructed to press very strongly for such a measure of economy as would bring the finances of the League into line with the circumstances of the rest of the world. All the British Empire representatives were in agreement on this point, and Major Elliot, who acted as Leader of the British delegation, took an early opportunity to move for a reduction by 10 per cent, of the salaries of secretariat officials, in order to give effect to this policy of economy. Perhaps if Major Elliot had remained at Geneva, something might have been done to give effect’ to his proposal, because every delegate who took the floor expressed himself in the strongest possible terms in favour of economy which all regarded as not only proper, but inevitable. But as the debate proceeded, it became clear that, while all were in favour of economy as a principle, the majority were strongly opposed to Major Elliot’s motion, and to any modification of it that stopped short of complete emasculation. Upon the principle itself there was complete unanimity; but, as to its application, great diversity of opinion, and there was marked hesitancy to make its application immediate. The delegates were in- agreement that economies should be made, perhaps next year, but certainly not now. Unfortunately, the leader of the British delegation, after Major Elliot’s departure, was unable to combat these forces, and so the debate continued for seventeen sittings. Finally, it was resolved to ask a committee of jurists to declare whether the League had power to reduce the salaries of those members of its secretariat who had been in its employment before the launching of this odious campaign in the previous year. Of course, this reference covered the overwhelming majority of the League’s employees, and, the jurists having expressed the view that the League had not the power to reduce salaries, the range of economy was reduced to limits pitifully narrow. Summed up, the net result of three weeks of resolute and unremitting labour on the part of the committee in the great cause of economy was an increase of expenditure by 61,000 gold francs !
Let me now say a word or two in general about the League and its relation to world affairs; let me review briefly its record, and deal shortly with the criticisms directed against the League, and finally indicate what, in my opinion, should bc the attitude of Australia towards the League. I may remind honorable members that, while I speak as one of the signatories to the Peace Treaty which created the League, I am one who never shared the extravagant hopes of those who looked upon the League as the outward and visible sign of a new world, from which war would be banished for ever, and in which man would live in peace and happiness all the days of his life. I have never believed that the League could be, for the world, and particularly for Australia, an effective substitute for the British Empire. I have never believed that, with its present limited power, the League could ensure peace to the world. I have always held, and still hold strongly, that to talk of peace in a world where conditions prevail which sooner or later must make conflict inevitable, is idle. Unless the nations recognize the basic facts in this new world in which we live, and unless, in combination, they agree to curb national ambitions, and adopt a policy adjusted to existing conditions, and in particular to the ever-increasing growth and uneven distribution of population, civilization is, in my opinion, in danger of collapse. But, because I believe that the League of Nations can do a great work in leading the people of the world along the road which they should travel, and that, in any case, its existence is necessary for the well-being of the world, I .range myself now, as always, among those who support it.
As most honorable members are aware of the constitution of the League, it is unnecessary that I should trespass upon their time by reminding them of its constitutional limitations. Lately the League has been subjected to much hostile criticism. Mr. De Valera was no doubt right when he said that it is on its trial. But so is every other human institution, including the Dail Eirann. The League has failed: that is the charge levelled against it. But, looking around the world today, strewn, as it is, with the wreckage of human institutions, we may well ask ourselves what institution has succeeded ? Even democracy itself is being challenged. Need I remind honorable members tha!, three great powers iri Europe - Russia, Germany, arid Italy - Have abandoned democracy? Admittedly, the League has failed to banish war from the world, and to fulfil those glittering promises that fell from the lips of the orators and idealists who ushered it in. It has failed to evolve a workable scheme of disarmament, it has failed to banish war, it has failed to settle the disputes between two’ of its members, China and Japan. These things’ have caused bitter disappointment arid disillusionment throughout the world. But what did the world expect the League to do? To make bricks without straw, to perform miracles? The League is not a super-government outside and independent of the nations which compose it. It is composed of the nations, and is what they make it. It is not a physical force; it is the moral force of the world arrayed and organized. It stands for the principles that the world has inscribed upon its banner, peace and justice. But standing for these principles, it is powerless to punish those who floUt them. The nations that compose the League have this power; the League” itself has hot. It is rightly said tha’t Parliament is what the people make it; that every nation has the parliament it deserves. The nations make the League. It is the nations in conclave, but it has no’ armed force at its disposal.
The League of Nations is thirteen years old. It is ti concept of government fundamentally differing from that of any national government or authority. The governments of States have, been evolved through long periods of time, or have been hammered out on the anvil of war or revolution, and have their roots in the history and traditions of their countries. All have behind them armed force. Such governments are . natural growths, the League is an artificial growth, ah. exotic, a thing of yesterday, without history, tradition, or power. The League has the world for its kingdom, yet it has less power than a municipality. Yet it has fully justified its existence, and is to-day an integral part of world government. In the thirteen years’ of its being, it has a record of good work well done. It has laboured deligently to promote the wellbeing of mankind. It has striven to bring closer . together nations separated by barriers of distance, race, language, tradition, and ideals’; to .allay racial hatreds, remove mutual distrust, arid propagate the gospel of the fundamentals kinship of humanity. It has led the way in a crusade against disease, drugs, and evil social conditions. It has reared the splendid edifice of the International Labour Bureau which is ceaselessly active in improving industrial Conditions, and promoting industrial peace throughout the world. It has established the Permanent Court of International Justice. The creation of that body was a landmark in the history of international relations, for it gave to the world; for the first time, a properly constituted court with a permanent seat, a regular bench of judges adequately remunerated and appointed with due care for a considerable term of years ; a court holding its sessions at fixed dates, arid, by its judgments, gradually building up an authoritative body of international jurisprudence. And the League has gone on steadily pointing the way to peace. If it has been unable to banish war or settle disputes between warlike nations, the fault lies, not with the League but with the nations that . compose it. We legislators realized that between commandments and laws a great gulf is fixed. Every law passed through this legislature has a sanctionpenalty for the breach of it. Yet when the wisdom of the world is assembled at Geneva and reaches a decision it is powerless to enforce its will. The Disarmament Conference has been in session for many months and has failed. Why ? Because it is dealing , with a problem that would almost baffle the wisdom of Solomon., There are conflicting interests ; nations fear each other; they seek for security where there is neither security nor stability. The League was born but yesterday, yet it has built up great world institutions that are functioning smoothly and efficiently. And it has done all this in thirteen of the most difficult years the world ha!,s known.
It is easy to criticize the League for its failure to establish peace or evolve a scheme of disarmament; it is easy to gibe and sneer at it because it has riot been able to perform miracles, but the League is necessary for the well-being and orderly government of the world. If no league existed, it would be necessary to create one. That is its justification. The world has reached a stage pf development where international organization is essential, not only to its well-being, but to its very existence. The problems that confront the world are international in character and scope, and can be solved, not by individual nations1, but only by co-operative action. The old order is passing; national barriers are slowly crumbling. A new outlook on life is being gradually evolved, and unless it is evolved soon, civilization will be in danger of collapse. The League is ‘diligently working to educate the mind of mankind, and to hasten the day when man, freed from the chains of ignorance, superstition, and intolerance, will prove himself worthy of his wonderful inheritance.
I propose to say now briefly what I think should be Australia’s policy towards the League. I would not have honorable members think for a moment that I am blind to! the defects of this great new organization. There are Spots on the sun. But criticism of the League would do no good for it is, I repeat, “essential to the world’s well-being and progress. Australia is a member of the League. At the assembly it is on a footing qf equality amongst the nations of the world, and by its membership of the British Common.wealth of Nations, its influence is greatly increased. As a mandatory power, its relations with the League are direct and intimate. It has exercised its mandatory powers in a way which commands the League’s support. Australia has contributed loyally to the maintenance of the League and is regularly represented at the annual assembly. But in my opinion a more active policy is required. It ‘‘has ‘been pointed out that the Assembly is European rather than universal in character; the origin and environment of the League _ explain why this is so.’ Half of its members, represent European nations. Many of them ‘are representative of nations created by the Treaty of Peace. The League is the guardian of minorities and of now nations created by that treaty.
Those nations are within easy distance of Geneva. Some are represented by permanent delegations which are able .to keep their respective governments in touch with every movement and every suggested change of policy. The assembly is composed pf delegates from all parts pf the world whose prim’ary concern is to support, and promote the interests of their own countries. A striking feature of the assembly is that every delegate understands the circumstances of his. own country, but very little of the circumstances of others. Naturally, there is less ignorance of European countries than of overseas countries. What de the other members pf the League know pf the circumstances of Australia? Very little. What do the PeOPle pf Australia know of the League of Nations? Very little. It is necessary that the Australian people should interest themselves more in the League, and that the League should know more’ of Australia. By exerting its influence, Australia could further its own interests. Our position unci our interests make it eminently desirable that the ‘ League should be thoroughly informed of bur circumstances. The day may come when it will have to hear our case, and it would be well to have it informed’ of our circumstances, not ‘ hurriedly at the last moment, but by a steady ‘continuous stream of first-hand knowledge. Dominions have sought for, ‘ and have obtained, seats on ‘the Council of the League,’ and it is high time that Australia took her place alongside them. I recommend to honorable : members the advisability pf concerning themselves with the doings of the League. They/ should recognize the great influence’ that it wields, and realize that that influence is a growing one. The League has come to stay; it plays an integral part in world affairs. ‘The’ more Australia is able to give expression to its views, arid to influence the League, the better will it b.e for this country. We have everything to §.ain, and nothing to lose. from the adoption of such a policy’. ‘ I strongly urge that we should make our influence felt at Geneva; that we should see to it that our circumstances are brought prominently before the League! so that it may understand ‘just what is the position” in this country. And the advice” I am now tendering to Australia might also be given to the League itself. If the high officials of the Secretariat of the League were to acquaint themselves first-hand with the circumstances of the different nations that send delegates to its assemblies, I am t satisfied that the League would be very much better equipped than it is now for the discharge of its functions.
I thank the House for having given me this opportunity to amplify the official summary of the proceedings of the last Assembly of the League of Nations, and I am glad to be able to report that there seems a reasonable prospect of improvement in connexion with the difficulties that confronted the League last -September, and the world only a few days ago.
– The House is deeply indebted to the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) for his speech this evening ; not only for the report that he has made concerning the proceedings at the 13th Assembly of the League of Nations, but for the manner in which he has dealt with the League generally, and with the position of the Australian nation with respect to it. We are also indebted to the other delegates who accompanied the right honorable gentleman to Geneva, and appreciate his generous references to them. It is pleasing to note that Australia was again represented by a woman delegate as a substitute delegate. This is one of the few nations that have been consistently represented by a woman, and on every occasion Australia’s selection made has been amply justified. I hope that the practice will be continued.
The objects of the League of Nations are twofold: First, to promote international co-operation; and secondly, to achieve international peace. It has been said of the 33th Assembly that it did not deal with the great major propositions that are before the League of Nations, but rather confined itself to minor subjects. I point out that the major subjects were definitely excluded from determination by the Assembly. Disarmament could not, be discussed in detail, because it was being handled by a special conference. The conflict between China and Japan, and the economic question, also were being dealt with separately, and, consequently, could not be fully considered. The Assembly, therefore, was thrown back on to subjects which deal more with the promotion of international co-operation. Those particular subjects form, and have formed for some time, a very large portion of the work of the League of Nations. They include the work of those conventions and conferences which have brought the members of the League together, and have done a great deal to promote an international spirit among the nations of the world.
The organization of the League itself is not so well known as it might be throughout Australia. It must be remembered that the League started with practically a blank sheet, with a mere skeleton of an organization, the whole of the technical and administrative organization had to be completely developed. There were the Assembly, the Council, and the Secretariat mentioned in the League Covenant. The Secretariat, presided over by Sir Eric Drummond - a British subject - has developed to such an extent that to-day it stands out as one of the most remarkable pieces of technique in government that the world has ever seen. This branch of the League’s activities includes over 600 officials on the pay roll of the League. It has developed such a complete technique that no conference of an international character is held without its assistance. Composed as it is of considerably more than 30 different nationalities, it forms a permanent public service which is working for the peace of the world and for international co-operation.
There is also the work of the Permanent Court of International Justice. That body has been functioning unostentatiously, and has already achieved considerable results. To the end of 1931, it had deliberated upon 41 different cases, of which 22 were submitted for decision by the Council of the League, and nineteen were the ordinary contentious cases that come before the court in the usual way. We have witnessed the spectacle of one of the greatest nations in the world - Great Britain - deliberately submitting its case to that tribunal, and willing to do so even at the invocation of one of the small nations in the world. It has accepted quite readily the principle that in this court certain international disputes are settled, not on the “ basis of might, power, or financial resources, but on that of right and equity, and according to definite principles of law. The court is beginning to develop international principles that will help very considerably in the framing of rules of an international character for the regulation of the civilized world. The problem that faces the nations to-day is, bow to reduce to an ordered international community the world as it now exists. To do that, there must be law and there must be order. One of the aims of the League is to introduce throughout the world a system of law and order, so that all nations will know what are their definite rights and duties, and thus avoid & good deal of conflict.
That object is promoted also by the making of international treaties, such as those that are being entered into at the present time. Under the regime of the League of Nations every treaty entered into by a member of the League has to be registered ; otherwise it is not binding. Up to the end of 1930, 2,215 treaties were published; which proves that, throughout the civilized world, there is a greater degree of international agreement, defining respective rights and duties. These treaties deal with arbitration, economic matters, navigation, trade and commerce, and innumerable other subjects, all moving towards the definition of international rights and duties, and the development of law and order. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was right when he said that, if there were no League of Nations, one would have to be created. The nations having come into closer touch with each other than formerly, by reason of their communications, their international dealings in trade and commerce, and the continuous movement of their subjects from country to country, it became an absolute necessity for these international dealings and trade relationships to be brought under some organized system. If one would realize what the League is to-day, one has only to look at what the world was before the Great War - nothing but a series of conflicting nations with diverse interests. If, with the conditions that prevail to-day, there had been no international organization, the world would have reached a state of absolute chaos, and I believe that our civilization, as such, would have been threatened. M. Motta, the representative of Switzerland and president ,of that Confederation, speaking in the last Assembly of the League at the opening debates, said -
No government in the world, it seems to me, could contemplate with equanimity the collapse of this institution, this one great hope. For the small powers it would mean renouncing all possibility of bringing their influence - their beneficial influence - to bear in international matters. For the great powers, it would mean an inevitable return to the old system of big alliances, rivalries, and bitter competition. The League, even if it is weak and inadequate, remains a bulwark of peace,, an active symbol in the progress of mankind.
To-day the League is functioning as was* intended at its inception. It is now dealing with such subjects as the limitationof armaments, the Sino-Japanese Treaty, and the important matter of world! economic relations.
The subject of disarmament was taken up by the League when it was formed. At the very inception of ,the League a commission on disarmament was appointed, and the scope of this technical investigation had to be extended. Later, the Treaty of Mutual Assistance was drawn up, followed by the framing of the protocol of 1924, all leading up to the achievement of disarmament. In the meantime, exhaustive technical investigations were made, and, out of these considerations, emerged recognition of the- - three principles - security, arbitration^ and disarmament.
The subject of disarmament required the* fullest investigation, and only when the matter was examined closely was there a full realization of the gravity of the problems facing the world. In 1924 I attended the Assembly of the League,, and I happened to preside over one of” the committees that framed the protocol? on disarmament. The two committees had* to deal with the subjects of arbitration,, security and disarmament. Although theprotocol was not accepted, the work of.” the League has been carried to such a. point to-day that there is a general! arbitration act, to which many of the nations have assented, and under which they agree that all their disputes shall be settled by conciliation, arbitration or judicial decision. This indicates a general advance, and many mutual treaties have been drawn up for the settlement of disputes by arbitration. Most nations have now accepted that principle. It cannot yet be said that the League has failed in its efforts to bring about security and disarmament, for the occurrences of last week leave room for great hope as to the ultimate success of its efforts to bring about definite results. We can leave the Sino-Japanese dispute out of consideration for the present; it is’ still to be hoped that a peaceful’ settlement will result, and a full recognition” of the Covenant of the League be secured.
As regards the World Economic Conference, it is interesting to those who are interested in the work of the League to know that finance and economic matters are- subjects which the League has studied continuously from the beginning. Those who have perused its publications will have observed that it’ has done exceptionally good work in those directions. A great many of these publications are to be seen in our own Parliamentary Library.
At the Thirteenth Assembly of the League, the subject of world economic relations could not be fully discussed. However, the Assembly accomplished good work, because it devoted attention to the numerous other branches of its organization that are achieving excellent results. I refer especially to the work of the technical organizations, and particularly that of the economic and financial organization of the League. In the able report which has been presented by the Australian delegation, we read, on page 18, the following : -
Many governments had sought its assistance and advice, and, in addition, its services had been largely availed of in the preparation of many analyses required by the Conference for the Limitation and Reduction of Armaments.
In the course of the discussion a number of references were made to the publication of the Financial Committee’s Report on the “ Gold Standard “, and the technical advice and assistance rendered to Austria in efforts to” re-establish financial equilibrium in that country. It was stated that, during the year 1932, some members of the Financial Committee had visited Hungary, where a programme of financial reform had been laid down, and a’ definite limit of expenditure fixed.
The report deals also with the economic work done by the committee, and the various reports presented by it.- That work has been going on continuously during the whole period of the League’s existence, and it should not cease, because it brings together in conference the representatives of all nations, who thus get ‘to understand one another’s point of view, with the result that the delegates go to Geneva, not only with a knowledge of the affairs of their own country, but also with a willingness to try to understand the problems of other nations.
One o’f the committees dealt with the work of tlie health organization of the s League, which is one df its most successful activities. Australia has benefited by the establishment of an epidemiological bureau in the East, from which’ we receive advice weekly as to the best methods of dealing with epidemic diseases in the Eastern countries. The health organization is subsidized by the Rockefeller Foundation, and is giving valuable advice to various governments throughout the world. Representatives of the health organization recently went to China, and the organization is making its influence felt throughout the world. The subject of the traffic . in opium and drugs has been referred to by the ‘ right honorable member for North Sydney. He might also have spoken of the good .work being done by the League in connexion with the protection of women and children. The League has directed its attention to the abolition of the white slave traffic, and its work in that regard has been attended with good results. Valuable service is being rendered by the Nansen International Office for Refugees. This organization is still carrying on the excellent work inaugurated by Doctor N”ansen, at the cessation of hostilities in Europe, and it is co-operating actively with various governments with a view to restoring to their respective countries many thousands of refugees’ who to-day are still scattered throughout the world.
The right honorable member for North Sydney did not mention the work being done for the purpose of securing the abolition of slavery. An advisory committee of experts has been established, and progress is being made in the direction of abolishing that dread evil. A number of other subjects are being dealt with by the League. There is, for example, the work of intellectual co-operation. An effort is being made to link up various organizations throughout the world. The National Librarian in Canberra is associated with this movement.
In countless ways, the League has accomplished valuable results. The right honorable member asked, “ What’ has the League achieved?” The answer is that, although at the outset of its career there was mutual distrust, to-day it has brought the representatives of 57 nations into one great organization. In 1931, Mexico joined the League; in the middle of 1932, Turkey came in; and the last nation to join was Iraq. The advent of Iraq means the representation on the League of a new race, it being the first time that representatives of the Arabs have been enrolled. Some of the speakers, on the occasion of the admission of Iraq to the League, made picturesque references to that country and its past civilization. The Arabs will now be able to make their contribution to world advancement. Nobody who attends the meetings of the Assembly of the. League can fail to appreciate the remarkable spirit displayed there. It is undoubtedly uplifting to see the representatives of over 50 nations assembled with the common object of bringing about international co-operation and the peace of the world. I have heard a critical pressman refer to the “spirit of Geneva.” It is an interesting psychological fact that when large bodies of men meet for high purposes, an uplifting spirit pervades their assemblies.
The League has accomplished a great deal, too, in the way of the settlement of political disputes, and of these we hear very little. Not only has it secured the settlement of many disputes of this nature, but, starting without any machinery whatever, it has developed a remarkable procedure for quickly bringing nations together for the settlement of disputes. A considerable number of disagreements of a political nature have been successfully settled by the League. One of these disputes occurred in Europe, and had it not been for the rapidity with which the machinery of the League was brought into operation, serious results might have ensued. Therefore, the League is achieving its object, and is working along the lines on which it was established.
We also have to bear in mind the work of the International Labour Office, for, after all, the peace of the world as a whole will depend as much upon the conditions of employment that prevail throughout the world as upon anything else. That part of the preamble of the Peace Treaty which deals with this matter- it has been generally described as the Labour Charter - sets out in clear and’ specific terms that the League has for its object’ “ the establishment of universal peace, and such a peace can be secured only if it is based upon ‘ social justice.” The International Labour Office is continually working to achieve that high ideal. It does this by the framing of conventions by the appropriate machinery; but their adoption are matters for the individual nations. Already we can say that considerable progress has been made in the framing of conventions which uphold the ideals of the League. I think that approval will be expressed iri Australia of the following paragraph in the preamble: -
The failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve the conditions in their own countries.
That is one of the reasons why the League is trying to obtain universal agreement in these matters, so that there shall be equality of conditions among the nations.
When we review the past years of the League’s work, we must feel a great deal of satisfaction with the progress made. It is not meant to be a super State, nor is it meant to impose its conditions on the nations of the world. It can only move as quickly as the nations of the world move. The one thing necessary is to try to get the peoples of the world to develop the will to peace, and to get the parliaments and governments of the world to submit to the reign of international law and order, and to abide by treaties. We must get a willingness on the part of the nations to give effect to the decisions to which they are parties at the assemblies of the League. In that way we shall be able to bring about the desired international relationships. The ideal may be high; people may say that war will always be here. I cannot accept that position. Looking back over the pages of history, we find that there has been a continual conflict between good and evil. Every individual and every nation must decide for good or for evil. The picture before the League of Nations is the ideal foreshadowed by the Prince of Peace - that of all the nations of the world living together in the spirit of brotherhood and submitting to peaceful relationships. Can we lightly set aside this great ideal ? Can wo who believe in Christianity believe that such a high ideal is impracticable? To do so is almost to deny the Christian faith. We believe that it is practicable. But no one will contend that it can be attained in the short space of a few years. It will take many years to develop the spirit of goodwill, and achieve the highest ideals of the League of Nations. Are we then, when the first serious trials are placed upon the League, to abandon the ideals which we cherish? That is not the way for us to meet our problems. We are bound to see failures in the League of Nations as in all human institutions; but such failures should be made the stepping stones to higher things in international life. That is the spirit in which we should take up our work. We can look back with satisfaction on what has been accomplished, for it is an earnest of what can be done in the future.
Australia is a member of the League of Nations, and, as such, should strive to see that her very best men are appointed to represent her at the council table of the League. Other nations of the world not only send their best delegates, but they- also send their highest officials. Some of the nations have their delegates living at Geneva, and these representatives have a complete organization behind them. It is inspiring to see, as we saw it in 1924, a complete delegation of three delegates, three substitute delegates, technical advisers upon trade and commerce and international law, military advisers in regard to matters relating to land operations, naval advisers in regard to matters relating to the sea, aviation advisers in regard to matters relating to the air; aud health advisers in matters relating to health. I suppose some of the complete delegations included nearly as many as 40 persons. Australia must notbc afraid to spend a little money - she will need to do so if she is to do her duty as a member of the League of Nations. We should not hesitate to send even our permanent officials to the meetings of the League. If they go there to study conditions, and bring back here records of the proceedings of the League for preservation in their departments, we shall get continuity and permanency of experience and knowledge. So far from discouraging such representation, we should do our best to ensure that our best officials represent our interests. The last delegation was particularly fortunate in that it had for its leader a member of the Government who had himself been at a previous meeting of the Assembly. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who has just resumed his seat, was also a member of the delegation. His name is still honoured amongst the nations of the world for his distinguished work in connexion with the peace treaty. He showed to-night, by the grip that he has of international affairs, that he deserves his reputation. We were fortunate also in having Sir Donald Cameron as a member of -the delegation, for on a previous occasion he was a substitute delegate.
We must be constantly careful to see that the work of the League is kept to the front. The nations of the world look upon us as the possessors of this great continent, and I know from what I heard at the meeting of the League which I attended, that they are confident that in the future Australia will be the home of a big nation. The nations are asking us what we intend to do with this great continent. Seeing that we have accepted international obligations, we must live up to and fulfil them. We must be prepared to make contributions of a constructive character to international problems. Already Australia has won the respect of the other members of the League for the magnificent way in which she has handled her mandate over New Guinea. The commendations which our administration of that mandated territory have brought to us have shown that we can stand before the bar of public opinion as a nation, capable of governing native races well. So far, we have taken up our part and done it well. Even recently, Dr. Cilento, one of the distinguished medical men of Australia, and an officer of the Commonwealth, was appointed at the request of the League to do some important investigation work on its behalf in the Pacific. Owing to our poor publicity methods, the good work that Dr. Cilento did is scarcely known at all in Australia. We should do our best to make the work of the League of Nations known in Australia better than it is today. We have not discussed the affairs of the League enough in this Parliament. The reports of our delegates are presented to Parliament; but they have not been debated as fully as they should have been. I believe that, at present, more interest is being taken in the work of the League than ever before. A good deal of the credit for this is due to the work of the League of Nations Unions, which have been formed in Australia, and which are doing their best to educate public opinion. The Thirteenth Assembly of the League made special mention of the efforts of the International Federation of League of Nations Societies in support of the League of Nations. It was natural, also, that, at the last meeting of the League, the women of the world should be thanked for their co-operation. Arrangements are now being made to secure fuller cooperation by women throughout the world on behalf of the League and its objective. It was only to be expected that women should have advanced the claim that they are entitled to some appointments to the higher official positions in the League. The case which they submitted seems to have been sympathetically received. Women, perhaps, even more than men, are concerned about the peace of the world. That is why we find them taking such a deep interest in the subject.
I apologize for having taken up so much of the time of honorable members in dealing with this subject; but, as I feel so very deeply the value of the League to civilization, it is my aim and object to see, so far as I can, that Australia shall not be behind in carrying out the high ideals of the League, and especially in co-operating in the achievement of its ideal of international peace.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) should be complimented, I suppose, for having made the best defence that it was possible to make of this institution, which it was alleged, was primarily established to preserve the peace of the world, but which, if it be judged by results, has proved to be a very dismal failure. The gentlemen to whom I have referred have, no doubt, made the best case possible for the League; but, if the people of Australia are to be expected to keep on paying enormous sums of money annually for the upkeep of this League, it is also to be expected that they will require some good results from it. The honorable member for Darling Downs said that more should be known of the League of Nations and its activities. I suggest that, if the preservation of the League in its present form is desired by the honorable member, it would be far -better if not too much were known about it. If the true position of this organization were known to the people of Australia, they would not allow any government to inflict the cost of membership of the organization upon them any longer.
Let honorable members take their minds back over the thirteen years since the first meeting of the Council of the League was held. It may be said by supporters of the League of Nations that many political disputes have been settled satisfactorily by it; but, as Mr. De Valera has said, it is now on its trial. Honorable members who have defended the League might naturally be expected to evade certain questions which should have been dealt with and settled had the League done the work expected of it. The honorable member for Darling Downs said that the SinoJapanese dispute is something that does not interest the House at present. We were also told that the Disarmament Conference is a matter on which the League has not yet reached a. determination. It is said that its deliberations on ‘this subject have not yet been completed. But it’ has” been discussing disarmament for months on end, and no tangible results ‘ have so far been obtained. I suggest to honorable members who have supported the League to-night, and who have’ endeavoured to justify the expenditure of huge sums, of money On it, that its ‘failure to arrive at and enforce a determination upon these ‘ important questions is a proof that it has not accomplished what “was intended ‘‘of it. “We all know that the alleged primary motive of the League of Nations, and of those who advocated its establishment, was the preservation of world peace; and those who have listened to the speeches delivered in this chamber to-night might think’ that the League had been successful in ‘this regard. But is there peace in the world to-day ? There was never a period in world history when there ‘ was more international’ unrest than there is at the moment.
Wc arc all aware that the League failed to settle the Sino-Japanese dispute. The honorable member for Darling ‘ Downs said that he still had hopes that that dispute will be peacefully settled. It has been settled, but without the services of the League of Nations. The fight between China and Japan for spheres of influence in Manchuria is finished, because there is not now a regular soldier of the Chinese army in Manchuria. Even while the Japanese delegates were sitting in conference, discussing this subject with the other members of the League of Nations, armed Japanese “forces were fighting in Manchuria.” The Japanese delegates to the League practically agreed to’ ‘certain’ conditions, but’ the conditions were flouted by the Japanese army. ‘What is the use, therefore, ‘of honorable gentlemen telling’ us that the League can discuss these ‘questions, arid even reach decision’s, if it is’ powerless to do anything to avert war in the East, or in any other part of the ‘world, when any one nation, which Ls determined to take something which’ it desires, ‘is strong enough to do so ? In such circumstances there is no desire foi’ negotiations as a means of settling the dispute. ‘We know that a committee of inquiry was set up by the League to consider and report upon the
Sino-Japanese trouble. The Council of the League declared that there’ must be a cessation of hostilities and that’ the Japanese’ troops should “evacuate Manchuria before any discussion “could proceed. But at that very time fighting was actually taking place in “Manchuria, and defenceless Chinese cities and defenceless women and children were being’ murdered by the armed ‘ forces of Japan.” We know that’ these things are true. Honorable members are aware that when there is conflict between imperialistic nations for the purpose’ of expanding avenues of profitable trade, and it is eventually ‘ found that peaceful negotiation is futile, the stronger nation invariably resorts to arms.’ The right honorable member foi” North Sydney said ‘ that” the League’ of Nations is a definite contribution towards peace, but that before tHe nations qf the world are prepared to disarm they must be assured of security. ‘Experience has shown that the various delegates to the conferences of the League of Nations approach the subject of disarmament, not so much with the desire to” suggest means by which the ‘nations’ may disarm in order to preserve the peace of the world, but having in view the elimination of certain methods of warfare which are unfavorable to the nations which they represent. As an instance, I mention the strenuous advocacy of the British delegation for the abolition or limitation of submarines in warfare, because that form of aggression is’ particularly dangerous to the British Isles. “Similarly, continental nations seek to’ limit or abolish other farms’ of ‘ ‘aggression’ iri order that they m;ay reap an” advantage.
The only logical way to preserve world peace, provided ‘there is a” genuine desire that the nations shall submit their disagreements to this international court for judicial determination, is by forcibly urging complete disarmament! ‘ While nations are armed,’ it’ is immaterial whether they are limited to warships not exceeding “10,0,010. ‘tons, or’ to vessels of much greater tonnage. The mere fact that a nation is arched will induce it to resort to arms, when it is the stronger of the two parties to a quarrel which cannot, be satisfactorily adjusted peacefully.
I admit that the League of Nations has done much useful research work. Honorable members have only to refer to the records of that work in the Library, to convince themselves on ‘that score. Yet, iri’ other matters,’1 the League has disappointed. I instance the drug traffic. Despite the fact there has been much discussion as to ways and means of limiting way traffic, it is apparent that the only way to prevent it is to make it unprofitable. < “While the right honorable member for North Sydney ‘ urged agreement ‘among the nations of the’ earth,’ he added that it should never be suggested that the League of Nations would supersede the predominance of the British Empire. He more or less inferred ‘ that the ‘ British Empire would be justified in maintaining i its forces at such a strength that it would be enabled, upon disagreement ‘ with’ the determinations of the League of Nations, to enforce its will upon that body. That is what has happened in’ the case of Japan. While delegates, including those of Japan, were gathered in solemn conclave at’ the meeting of the League of Nations, Japan was consolidating its position in the East, and, when the League announced its finding, Japan refused to abide by it. ‘
While talking of our duty to the League of Nations, honorable members must riot be unmindful of “the duty that they owe to the Australian people. ‘ In our present position no one can .-justify the expenditure of these ‘large’ sums” of money towards tile maintenance ‘ of ‘ the “ League of Nations. ‘ In attempting to defend this organization the right honorable member for North ‘Sydney asked”, “ What institute is there ‘throughout the ‘world which’ has not failed? “ ‘’ He claimed’ that even democracy was failing, and cited three European’ nations as an illustration, Italy,” Germany- and Russia. I ‘ask the right honorable ‘member: “When was Russia a democracy ?” It never has been a democracy! It is true there is a form of dictatorship in Russia and the other two countriesmentioned ‘ We boast that there is a democracy iri Australia. What is that democracy about which we speak? The people enjoy adult franchise and elect their representatives to this Parliament. But ‘ the ‘ elected Government of this country does not determine its policy. The system is merely a means of deluding the people into the ‘belief that Aus’tralia is 11 real democracy. When the Soullin Government was in office with an enormous majority, it was not able to give effect to the policy on which it was ‘elected. Yet the people had spoken in no uncertain manner as to their desires. It may honestly be said that there is a dictatorship in Australia, for the Labour party has never been given an opportunity really to govern. Incidentally, I may say that while the people continue to enjoy the right to say who shall be their representatives, ‘when given the opportunity the ‘Labour party is determined, irrespective of any obstacles that may be in the way, to be the real governing body in this country. Possibly, in order to gain personal security, honorable members are justified” to an extent in deluding the people into the belief’ that there is a real democracy in Australia - that the people by their votes have a power which is certainly not vested iii this Parliament ; and I cannot help’ thinking that the so-called democracies* in other countries are also merely a means of deluding the people into thinking that their elected representatives are the real governing power.
The right honorable member for North Sydney said that another nation had been admitted to the league, and referred to the festivities ‘ that had accompanied the formal aadmission of its representatives to the select circle. Apparently, its festive side is the most important part of tlie work of the League.’
– They had to wet its head.
– Possibly; but the people of Australia are anxious to’ know ‘exactly what justification there is’ for the expenditure of these vast sums of money.’ The rightonorable mmember for “ North Sydney said that Australia’s yearly ‘contribution’ to the League of Nations was £35,000 in gold f anes, wwhich is equal to £65,000 iii Australian currency; he also admittedhat many mmembers were riot paying their contributions to the League. He must ‘be aware that, ‘ while Australia remains’” a financial member, it must naturally be contributing more than a j.ust share to the upkeep of the League to makeup for the delinquents.
The right honorable gentleman said that the League of Nations had been responsible for much good work in the prevention of disease. I suggest that the Government of which he is a supporter could do much good work in Australia in that direction by seeing that the people are well fed, well clothed, and well sheltered. This big annual expenditure on behalf of the League of Nations, which allows selected members of Parliament and officials to have holiday trips to the other side of the world at the expense of the taxpayers, could well be made in Australia to prevent spread of disease bv assisting to provide the people with good food, good housing, and good clothes.
The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) referred to the many treaties and agreements effected by the League of Nations in recent years. That is not a proof that we are any nearer to world peace, the goal at which so many profess to aim. The international undertakings and secret agreements that have been entered into from time to time between different nations have been incentives to strife, rather than contributions to peace. We know that if the terms of the Ottawa agreement were given full effect, it would lead to armed conflict with other nations, who would protect their investments and avenues of profitable trade, for the markets of the world are becoming more and more limited. Many honorable members have been misled into the belief that the trouble with the world is that there is no credit available for our industries. That is not true. If any one advances a proposal that definitely assures a profitable return for the investment of money,- the capital is promptly forthcoming. By the improvement of technique and the introduction of modern methods of production, the nations are now producing wealth almost as easily as water flows from a tap, and they cannot find an outlet for their production. The Attorney-General has told the House that instructions have been issued to the Australian delegation to the next conference of the International Labour Office at Geneva to support the proposal for an international 40-hour week.
– Exactly, on condition that it is accepted by other nations. But already the British Government is opposing the proposal. I understood the honorable mem’bers who have spoken on this subject to say that the British Government is interested in the work of the League, and in the improvement of industrial conditions of the people of the world. Can the right honorable member for North Sydney, the AttorneyGeneral, or the honorable member for Darling Downs, point to one specific instance where any decision of the League aimed to improve the lot of the workers has been given effect? The right honorable member for North Sydney knows that the decision of the League to “improve the conditions of seamen, which was arrived at many years ago, has not yet been ratified; simply because the League is impotent to do anything -which will benefit the workers. The alleged purpose of the League of Nations, when it was first established, was to preserve the peace of the world, but, in effect, it is merely an organization of the victorious allied nations of the last war who Had repartitioned the earth’s surface, and were anxious to safeguard for themselves the spoils of victory.
– What does the honorable member suggest should take its place?
– I suggest that there should be an organization in which the workers of the various nations may be able to discuss their difficulties and problems. Honorable members should realize that the League of Nations has, up to the present, been dealing merely with effects, not with causes. As the right honorable member for North Sydney truthfully said, wars usually have their roots in economic causes. They arise out of struggles for spheres of influence, or for markets in- which to sell surplus products. It is a. fact, of course, that those in power in the various countries, having the press to support them, are able to delude the people into believing that wars are fought for other reasons. Side issues are introduced, the patriotism of the populace is played upon, and their fighting spirit aroused. If the people were told that they were being asked to fight in what was really only a trade war, they would be less likely to support it with enthusiasm. For that reason some international situation is engineered, or some event such as the assassination of a member of a royal family is seized upon, and its importance magnified until it is advanced as the reason for sacrificing the lives of millions of people. “We can listen to the speeches of men, and weigh their words for what they are worth, but in the long run we must judge men, and nations too, by their actions. In Australia to-day, if an organization attempted to hold a convention for the purpose of passing resolutions directed against war, it is extremely improbable that any local authority would consent to hire it a public hall for the purpose. Of what use is it to talk about preserving peace, or of supporting the League of Nations by contributions that Australia can ill afford, when Great Britain and other nations are all the time preparing for war? Their greatest scientists are spending their time, not iti trying to find remedies for disease, but in conducting experiments with a view to discovering some more deadly gas capable of destroying the population of an entire city overnight. There are some honorable members in this House prepared to give lip service to the cause of peace, but who, nevertheless, on every available occasion give their support to jingoistic demonstrations designed to keep alive the spirit of militarism in the minds of our boys who, they hope, will participate in the next war. The Australian Labour Party has a definite programme for the preservation of peace, and I shall advocate it on every occasion that offers. We believe that the best way to preserve peace is to persuade the workers of the world not to participate in war. After all, what have they to gain from any war? I have brought before the notice of this House numerous cases of men whose health was ruined in the last war, and who are now being denied even a pension by the country in whose service they fought. If those men were only able to instil into the minds of the younger generation the knowledge of war and its aftermath they have learned with so much bitterness, they would do more in the cause of peace than we can ever achieve by our affiliation with the League of
Nations. Honorable members have only to examine the record of the League of Nations, to review its actual accomplishments, in order to realize its value. The only time its authority was actually challenged, namely, during the recent Eastern disturbances, it proved to be impotent. In fact, there seems to be some ground for believing that, in reality, it approved of what was being done in China by the armed forces of Japan. Honorable members may think what they like, but I assure them that I shall do everything in my power to convince people that we ought to sever our connexion with the League of Nations, and do something tangible towards preserving world peace by educating the peoples of all nations to lose any desire to kill one another and cultivate the ideal of living in harmony with one another.
.- Except to congratulate the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) on his report, I desire to refer only to that section of it in which he dealt with the subject of the nationality of women. He told us of the disabilities of women in other countries. Women married to aliens in Australia are subject to disabilities similar to those which he has described as existing in other countries. An Australian national married to an alien is deprived of the right of voting, she is not entitled to a pension, and she is handicapped in regard to the holding of land. If an American comes to Australia, resides here and marries an Australian woman she becomes an alien until he is naturalized, and at least five years must elapse from the time of arrival until ho. may take out hi? naturalization papers. Some nations we refuse to admit to citizenship, and when our women arc married to such as those, they suffer disabilities during the whole, period of their married life, and during their widowhood.
This House, in 1925, carried a resolution to the effect that a married woman should not be deprived of her nationality by reason only of her marriage with an alien. Since then three governments have been in power, but the matter has been brought before Parliament - only in an incidental way; never substantially. On this subject there are two schools of thought. One may be described as the
European school, to which the majority of European countries subscribe, and which acts on the principle that the nationality of the husband determines the nationality of the wife, so that in one family there shall be only one nationality. The other is the more recently established school, which has spread abroad through many nations from China to Peru, that refuses to penalize a woman merely because she has married an alien. Those who subscribe to this theory believe that a woman should maintain her rights of citizenship unless she is prepared to surrender them by adopting the nationality of her husband. According to the report of the Secretariat of the League of Nations there were, in 1931, nineteen nations which had adopted the principle that a woman should not lose her nationality merely by marriage with an alien. Since then Canada, and most likely other nations, have subscribed to the same principle. It appears to me that Australia has attached itself to that school of thought which is least adapted to our conditions. In Europe, nations, which have for many generations had their wars and’ their jealousies, are situated side by side, and they have adopted strict rules regarding nationality : they hold that a family must have one nationality or another. Until comparatively modern times, Britain adopted the rule of individuality, but about 1870 she adopted the European rule, and she has followed it ever since. Australia is associated with Great Britain on the subject of nationality, because this Parliament has adopted a part of the English Nationalization Act. But the interests of the people of Australia are more in keeping with the principles adopted by those twenty nations to which I have referred. The whole continent of Australia is one nation, and it would not affect us much if we adopted the principle which Canada has adopted. It has been urged that in this matter there should be uniformity throughout the Empire. Last year, I approached the Government with the object of eliciting a statement of its attitude on this subject, particularly in regard to the instructions which would be given to its delegates to the conference at Geneva in September, 1932. I placed before the Government the request of the women’s societies of Australia for a recognition of the equality of the sexes, and I asked that, in accordance with the resolution already passed by this House, a woman should not lose her nationality merely by reason of her marriage to an alien. In reply, I was informed that’ the Government was fully in accord with the principle of the equality of the sexes, in the matter of nationality, provided that it. was adopted by Great Britain and the other dominions, because it was desirable that there’ should be uniformity in this matter throughout the Empire. The Government’s letter stated that experience had shown that the system of imperial naturalization had proved’ so much more satisfactory than the old sys- . tern of local naturalization that the Commonwealth Government considered that in the matter, of nationality laws there should’ be uniformity throughout the Empire. But since the British Government is not prepared to break away from the European principle, I take it that the Commonwealth Government . is not in favour of any alteration, and, therefore, I should like this House to have an opportunity to decide whether Australia should follow the school of thought favoured by the Government, or that adopted by the United States of America and Canada, and some European nations. “We do not follow British laws slavishly in regard to divorce and other social matters, and there is no reason why we should do so in regard to the nationality of women. I know of an Australian woman who is married to a man who came to Australia from China when only six months old. That man has an intellect far above the standard of the majority of the Australian people, yet he and his Australian wife, who are now in middle age, are classed as Chinese ; so long as they remain in Australia they will be treated as aliens. There is no necessity for a strict adherence to such a severe rule. This is a matter for determination by the League of Nations, but, so far, that body has not been able to reach a conclusion in regard to it. It is true that articles 8 and 10 of the convention were agreed to at the Hague, but those’ articles deal only with the position of women without nationality. Australia contains’ few, if any, such women, and, therefore, that decision is of little value to us. The women’s societies protested against the ratification by Australia’ of articles S and 10, and I believe they have not yet been formally ratified. Their ratification would be regarded by the women of Australia as a poor substitute for the remedy that is’ needed. They desire that some finality be reached in this matter, and, therefore, I urge the Government either to give this House an opportunity of expressing its views, or to instruct Australia’s delegates to the League of Nations to aim at an amendment of the law in accordance with the resolution passed’ by this House in 1925.
.- I have no desire unduly to prolong this debate. I rise for the single purpose of supporting the suggestion contained in the concluding words of the address of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), that the Government should take seriously into consideration the proposal that Australia should seek election to an elective seat on the Council of the League of Nations. It is generally known that seats on the Council of the League are divided into two classes. First, there are the permanent seats, which are occupied by the great nations which were signatories to the Peace Treaty; and secondly, there are semi-permanent or elective seats which, as the years have passed, have increased in number until they now total nine. A recommendation which will come before the League in September next will, if approved, bring the number of elective scats up to ten. Those elective seats are, by a universally accepted convention, allocated to definite groups of countries. Three are allocated to South American and Central American States, one to the Northern European States, one to the Little Entente - Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Roumania - and one to Asia, leaving three seats free. Even “ free “ seats are not really free, because Poland, Spain and Portugal are consistently pressing their claims as countries having the right to semipermanent seats; so there is, at the moment, only one seat which the British dominions can hope to contest successfully. In 1927 Canada successfully sought election tei a semi-permanent seat and’ held it for three years, when its place was taken by the Irish Free State. It. should, however, be noted that the Irish Free State declared it was seeking election not as a British dominion, but as an independent country having an unbiased viewpoint.
These semi-permanent seats become vacant by rotational retirement, and, in September of this .year, Norway, Guatemala, arid the Irish Free State retire. Norway’s place will be taken by another Scandinavian country, and that of Guatemala by another of the South American or Central American States. It is not known which country will secure representation in the place of the Irish Free State;’ but, if one of the British dominions, in September of this year, seeks election it would be reasonably assured of success, and such action would go some way towards crystallizing the contention that the British dominions shall be regarded as a group for the purpose of election to one of these semipermanent seats. If we do not seek election, the probable effect of the representation of Canada, and, later, of the Irish Free State, will have been wasted. The only dominions entitled to contest the seat are Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, and, I submit that, by virtue of our much greater population, and our geographical size, Australia is rightfully the dominion that should seek election.
Many reasons may be advanced in support of this course. In the first place the representation of a British dominion will mean a second British seat on the Council, Great Britain, of course, having one of the permanent seats as an original signatory to the Peace Treaty. For this reason alone one of the dominions, preferably Australia, should avail itself of this opportunity to crystallize the claim of the British dominions to one of the semi-permanent seats. Secondly, the effect of having a representative on the Council of the League would be to our distinct advantage, because if this depression has taught us anything it has brought home to the majority of thinking people the fact that this country cannot continue, as in the past, to be unconcerned about events in the world beyond its shores. If we do, we run the grave risk of world events moving to our disadvantage. Membership of the League of Nations itself will not keep us in touch with the world affairs; but membership of the League Council will very definitely keep us well informed of the trend of world events, and, in particular, of the political undercurrents in Europe.
It is not necessary to go beyond the report on the last League Assembly to find evidence of the necessity for our maintaining close touch with the League and with European affairs. I refer to the Stresa Conference which was convened to consider what was grandiloquently described as “ the . revalorization of cereals.” Apparently, the purpose was to draft a uniform type of bilateral treaty whereby any one of the Eastern or Central European countries might make agreements with one of the Western European countries for the disposal of grain in return for manufactured goods, to the mutual advantage of both. Obviously, such a proposal, if it had been adopted; would have permitted the graingrowing countries of Eastern Europe to give substantial tariff preferences, in respect of manufactured goods, to France and Italy, in return for similar tariff preferences for grain entering France and Italy. For many years, Australia exported considerable quantities of grain to European countries. More recently, that market has been slowly closing to us, until it is now almost of no value at all. If the Stresa agreement had been given effect, it is almost certain that a death-blow would have been given to our hopes pf selling grain or other primary products to those countries in future.
In his report on the Thirteenth Assembly, the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) mentioned that the Stresa Conference proposals came before the Second Committee, on which he was sitting, and that he had successfully combated the attempt to have them accepted. I quote the right honorable gentleman’s reference to this matter -
I immediately insisted that no reference by the League to the relief of agricultural countries should be confined to Europe and Central Europe. As a result of my intervention, the resolution was withdrawn.
I suggest that the Stresa Conference proposals may be regarded as a fairly typical example of the necessity for a real intereston our part in world events, and I further suggest that one way to implement and increase our interest in such happenings is to seek election to one of the semipermanent seats on the League Council. I have pleasure in supporting the recommendation of the right honorable member for North Sydney, and ask the Government to give serious consideration to the proposal that Australia should contest one of the free seats in September of this year.
– I agree with the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey), that the speech of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), in presenting his report on the Thirteenth Assembly of the League of Nations was most interesting and has given us a great deal to think about. The right honorable gentleman emphasized, for the first time in this Parliament, the opinion now universally held, that wars have their origin in trade rivalries. We were not permitted to say this during the Great War, but now the view is freely expressed, but the report presented to-night indicates that the assembly agreed that economic disputes are the cause of armed conflicts between the nations. I agree that the League of Nations is worth while, but I have to admit that it has failed to do many of the things expected of it. It is: nevertheless, the only piece of international machinery in existence which can bring the various nations together in conference to consider international disputes, or other happenings, in a reasonable atmosphere, and, for that reason, I hope it will have the continued support of the civilized world and will continue its efforts. With some of the views expressed by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) I cannot agree; with others I am heartily in accord. For instance, I concur in his statement that a blot on the record of the League was the failure of the nations associated with it to intervene in the Sino-Japanese dispute. That is a stigma which will not be forgotten for many years. Another disappointment to me is that the League has made no definite or serious effort to bring about a prohibition of the manufacture of arms and munitions for private profit, notwithstanding the world-wide conviction that has been steadily developing during the last decade, that the profit to be made out of the sale of munitions is one of the greatest incentives to war. There are thousands of intellectual men, probably amongst the cleverest in the world, who are making princely fortunes by propagating wars for the sake of getting orders for the armament combines. Some of the leading men associated with the League are agreed that this menace to international peace should be terminated, and I am disappointed that the right honorable member for North Sydney did not refer to the subject.
In reference to the economic aspect of the League’s operations, clause- 13 of the Peace Treaty, which states that international peace is not ‘ possible unless founded on social justice, appeals to me more than any other. There is no hope of ending international warfare unless we base peace on economic justice. Australia’s association with the social and economic activities of the League by its, representation at the International Labour Conferences, has not been as active as it should have been. This country has not even adopted the conventions which have emanated from these annual gatherings. Australian governments have said from time to time that, inasmuch as our social legislation was in advance of that proposed, nothing would be gained by adopting the conventions. However well-founded that excuse may have been in the past, I am certain that a careful examination of the present social legislation in many countries would show that Australia is no longer in the vanguard, but is actually lagging behind. “When I attended the International Labour Conference at Geneva, I stated the views of Australian governments, but I was met with the statement that Australia’s failure to adopt the conventions did not help the International Labour Office to impress upon backward countries the need for raising their social industrial and economic standards. There was placed before the delegates a chart divided into squares, representing the various conventions, and those which had been adopted by the different countries were shown in colours. All the squares opposite the name Austraila were vacant.
– One of the reasons is that we are dependent upon action by the State Parliaments.
– I am aware of that. Australia’s failure to adopt the conventions is due, not to disinclination to help other countries, but to the belief of governments that our existing legislation was much more advanced than even the proposals of the International Labour Conference. But even though such conventions mean nothing to our people, Australia should formally subscribe to them in order to assist in impressing upon the governments of lessadvanced countries the need for adopting them. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has mentioned our dependency upon action by the various State- Governments. But surely the Commonwealth could, at the conferences of Federal and State Ministers, stress the need for such action to be . taken, in order that Australia, as a member of the League of Nations, might do its duty to the League and its fellow members We shall be recreant to our trust if we allow this neglect to continue. I repeat that my main complaint against the League is in regard to its failure to take steps to prohibit the manufacture of arms and munitions for private profit, and to prevent the Japanese from almost indiscriminately slaughtering the population of northern China.
– What could the League have done?
– I agree with the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) that we should blame, not the League of Nations, but the nations associated with it. Undoubtedly the League is dominated by four or five of the great powers. The right honorable member for North Sydney hailed as a hopeful sign the fact that other nations had recently joined the League. Many of the smaller nations are urged to join for the sake of their affiliation fees, and, of course, for the sake of their moral, as well as financial, help in the enlargement of the League ; actually they carry no weight in the League, which has been controlled ever since the world war, by
Great Britain,France, Italy, and Belgium. It is those nations which are causing the League to fall short of the high expectations entertained concerning it.
– Does the honorable member say that Great Britain has failed?”
-If the Australian delegates to Geneva were to speak frankly, they would say, that having regard to the majority opinion at the assembly, Great Britain is_ one of the most reactionary nations associated with the League.
– It even pays its dues to the League.
– So does Australia, and I dissent from thesuggestion by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that Australia should discontinue its contribution to the League and expend the money upon internal relief: The sum of £60,000 now paid to the League would not buy a biscuit for each ofthe unemployed in Australia.’ Australia should continue’ its affiliation with’ the League, and take a more active part in this’ work. I agree with the suggestion of the right honorable member for North Sydney that the Commonwealth should seek a permanent seat on the committee of management. I know from correspondence which has reached me recently, that persons’ prominently connected with the Internationa! Labour Office are canvassing the possibility of a representative of Australia and New Zealand taking a seat on the permanent committee of. “management. One oftheobstacles would be the expense entailed’, but I understand that the League of Nations is “prepared to . pay all the, expenses of- the Australian delegate whose only sacrifice would be his absence from his calling or business. While”I am” disappointed at the failure of- the” League to save the ‘Chinese people’ from Japanese slaughter, and at its failure to end the private control of the manufacture of arms and ammunition, I congratulate the right honorable member’ for North Sydney upon his report! I hope” that Australia will take’ a more active part in th.e general work of the League. I am certainly dissatisfied with the ‘ result of its efforts to date. It is only fair to say, however, that that applies, not to the delegates, but to the nations whom they represent. I hold certain opinions in regard to international peace, and . the methods that should be adopted to achieve it. I have notf much faith’in the League of Nations; but it is the only int’ernational machinery which is operating in that direction. It would be ‘ unwise to scrap it, and Australia would do wrong if it did not remain a member of the League, and take a more active part in its work.
– The Government has taken special steps to arrange this debate in connexion with the League of Nations and the foreign affairs with which it is related. The House is deeply engrossed with other business, and perhaps matters that are nearer are of more direct interest to honorable members and to the people generally.” But after all, one of the principal functions of this Parliament, and of the Federation as distinct from tho States, is, concerned with external affairs. The Qoyernmen’t therefore considers it proper’ that ‘ a fitting opportunity’ should be afforded for a debate upon the annual work of the League of Nations.
Those who have preceded me in this debate have referred to several aspects of the work of the League. The right honorable member for. North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), in his interesting speech, re1 ferred to’the subject of disarmament, and spoke of the conference upon disarmament as haying been,” in’ effect, a failure. Within the last few” days, however, there have been most encouraging signs of a recognition ofwhat one may describe as the neqessity for success. Unless there is some real degree of success at the Disarmament Conference, not only the immediate problem of international war debts, but also the intimately associated problem of. the revival of world trade, will recede into’the distance so far as any solution by definite and deliberate action is concerned. I am sure that those honorable members who interest themselves in these affairs have felt “the greatest satisfaction at the prospect’s of real success attending the’ deliberations of the Disarmament Conference. If there should be - as there ought’ to be, in the interests of mankind as a whole - some real success at that conference, the effect upon the debts question, and upon the question of economic relations and world trade, may Be profound and far-reaching, and of much greater importance to the welfare of the people of Australia than some other matters upon which much more time is spent in this Parliament.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) referred .more particularly to the traffic in, and the private manufacture of, arms, and com.plained that the League had done very little in that respect. A convention has been formulated to deal with the arms traffic, and the governments of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth are parties to it. Up to the present, there Kas riot been a sufficient number of ratifications to bring the convention into effect ; but so far as the League is concerned, the work has been accomplished, and it remains- only for the different -nations of the world tq give effect to it. For several years, the League has been working on the subject of the manufacture of arms as distinct from the traffic in arms. A special committee of the League met, and its meetings Were, suspended pending the holding of the Disarmament Conference. This subject, together with that .of the traffic in arms, is being dealt with by a sub-committee of that conference.
The subject of the private manufacture of. arms is far from being a simple one. If , the. private, manufacture, of arms, is prohibited, and if as a result a. country that has no armament factory of its own is prevented from purchasing arms save by the goodwill of another government, there is the risk that the result may be to cause the establishment of national armament factories throughout the world; because every nation is entitled to defend itself, and. if a nation is unable to manufacture itS own arms; it must either depend upon the grace, the goodwill, or tlie concession of some government, or buy them . from other sources. The problem, therefore, is by no means an easy one; and no solution, I think I may say, has yet been suggested which will bear serious examination. , This is ari example of the difficulties’ that arise, and, it is impossible to deal with, them individually and separately. Behind all these pro.blems really lie the political and economic antagonisms or apprehensions of the nations of the world; and only when and iri proportion as we deal with those antagonisms or apprehensions shall we be able to approach a solution of them.
The right honorable member for North Sydney referred to the finances of the League df Nations. In reply, I need only say that Australia has communicated directly with the governments of other parts of the Empire, with a view to effecting a reduction of the cost .of the operations df the . League,. . including that of . the International Labour Office. That step has been taken, not on account of a lack of appreciation of. the value of the work that has been done. but because of the increased burden which, owing to exchange conditions, the expenditure of the League has .imposed upon .this country. A subscription . of £35,000 in gold francs at par becomes something like £51,000 . in sterling, and approximately £64,000 in Australian pounds, and it .is .thought that, every effort should be made, to reduce the burden upon our own people, consistently with the effective operation of the valuable agencies qf the League and of the- International Labour Office.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) referred to the nationality of married women. , That is a problem upon which very strong views are entertained in certain quarters; but it is not possible to. reach a solution pf it ,as easily as some persons are inclined to. believe. It can easily be said that Australia ought to deal with these matters quite independently of the rest of the world; but we should be doing an ill service to our own people , if we deprived them of the status of British sub.jects elsewhere in order to deal with a difficulty such as this. I think that I can speak on behalf of the Government in saying that it will not lightly run that risk in regard to. the people of Australia, and, that, the attitude which has. been adopted hitherto by all recent governments will be continued, namely, that Australia is prepared to fall into line with proposals for equal rights . as to nationality, provided that the United Kingdom and the other dominions are prepared to agree to an identical system. In the long run, it is very doubtful whether we should be conferring any benefit on our own people by adopting any other course, and it should be hardly necessary to say that, in relation to this matter, I include the interests of not only married women, who. are fairly content to join the nations of their husbands, if they are prepared to marry them, but also the children. On page .11 of the report, there is a quotation of a recommendation of the Hague Codification Conference in favour of introducing into the law of States the principle of the equality of the sexes in matters of nationality, “ taking particularly into consideration the interests of the children.” It is much easier to read those words at the end of a resolution than to deal really with that subject, if husband and wife are to be of different nationalities. It is easy to say that a boy shall be of the nationality of the father, and that a girl shall have the nationality of the mother. Many theoretical suggestions can be made; but it is a real problem, and will have to be solved more effectively than by the suggestions made hitherto by some of the advocates of the new proposals. However, the Government of the Commonwealth is prepared to adopt them on the basis to which I have referred.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) criticized the work of the International Labour Office, and said that it had not been effective in bringing about actual changes in labour conditions in the world. I point out, however, that 77 conventions and recommendations have been adopted by the Labour Conference and that the work of the conference has been very real in a number of directions. The subject with which it deals is. one of particular difficulty; we have to be content with slow progress, and be pleased if there is any progress at all.
Among other matters of a general character, affecting the League, there is one to which I would particularly like to refer. It is known as the Stimson doctrine, or the doctrine of refusal to recognize a state of affairs brought about by a breach of the Covenant of the League of Nations, or of the Kellogg Pact. That doctrine has been received with applause in many quarters, and has been formally approved by a resolution of the Assembly of the League at Geneva. In the report of the Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce), who led the Australian delegation at Geneva, he stated -
I feel perfectly convinced that the principles for which the League stands are sound, but I think greater efforts should be made at these annual conferences to translate theory into practice. The outstanding feature of Geneva to-day is the facility with which formulae are evolved, but in my opinion it is not sufficient to pay merely lip service to the ideal.
It is relatively easy to devise formulae. They sometimes serve a useful purpose in bringing about an agreement which makes it possible for individuals, or nations, to live together. Sometimes an agreement is reached by not raising difficulties and dangerous questions. Sometimes, however, formulae have within themselves the seeds of very grave danger. By way of suggestion, rather than making a dogmatic statement, I submit that acceptance of the formula of non-recognition of a state of affairs brought about by a breach of the Covenant of the League of Nations or of the Kellogg Pact may have in it the elements of danger. It is easy for an irate father to say that he will not recognize the marriage of his daughter with a young man whom he does not’ like, or he may go further and refuse to pay attention to the fact that there has been a divorce between a child of his and another party; but non-recognition does not alter facts. Non-recognition may be a useful weapon in some cases, but the United States of America herself has from time to time retreated from an attitude of nonrecognition of what have been described as revolutionary governments in Central America and the surrounding regions. If world peace depends on the doctrine of non-recognition of a changed state of affairs, because it may be said to have been brought about by illegitimate methods, there is a risk that the world may be entering upon a period of international chaos. Wherever there has been a fight, it may be said that even an agreement which terminates it brings about a condition of affairs dependent on a breach of the Covenant or the Pact. If even an agreed settlement is liable to be torn up because it may be said that the agreement is the result of a fight, and the fight was the result of a breach of the Covenant or the Pact, is there any possibility of reliance on agreements in future? Therefore, I suggest that this idea, which has been welcomed so readily throughout the world, requires some re-examination and cross-examination before it can be adopted as a safe guiding principle in international policies. I mention this point of view, because it ought to be, at least, expressed somewhere, and I have not hitherto seen it stated in definite terms.
Finally, I refer to the suggestions which have come from moTe than one quarter that Australia should take advantage of the opportunity which is now more open than ever before, and perhaps more open than it will be in future, to accept the responsibilities of a seat upon the Council of the League. This raises an important matter for consideration, and it should not be dismissed lightly. There is, I am inclined to think, a tendency in Australia to regard this as a country that is being developed in isolation, thousands of miles from the rest of the world, and developed through the major period of our history at a distance, measured in time, of months from the main centres of civilization. The tendency among many is to resent any action taken by, or on behalf of, Australia, outside the limits of our Commonwealth. There are those in other countries who regard Australia as an island at the extremity of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and they look upon Australians as a small pastoral and agricultural community settled in this rather large island. I take an entirely different view from that. I regard Australia not as an island in the southern seas, but as a continent of the world with an already complex and entirely developed civilization. Australia is a self-governing nation. “We say that from time to time; but if we accept the rights of self-governing nations, we must also recognize our responsibilities. The interests of Australia to-day are, perhaps, more intricate and more complicated with those of the other parts of the world than at any other time in our history. Our people are beginning to learn, as a whole, that our interests depend in a large measure upon what in the past has been referred to in terms of apparent derogation as foreign trade. Without foreign trade there would be no chance whatever of our maintaining anything approaching our present standard of living. Australia needs her markets overseas. It is important to us that we shall develop and cultivate real and friendly relations with nations that afford markets for our producers of many commodities.
– We shall not do that by the Ottawa agreement.
– The Ottawa agreement is the first step towards maintaining and extending the most important of all these markets for the Australian producers. We want to proceed further along the same line in the interests of our own people, and we should take every opportunity to establish friendly relations with other peoples. Sometimes it makes all the difference in the world if a country is known, and known in a friendly and favorable manner. The attributes of nationhood should be realized. Nationhood does not consist of speeches in self praise. Nationhood becomes real when it is recognized that a nation is an international entity, which has real relations with other international units. The Government proposes to give consideration to the opportunity which is afforded to assume the responsibilities of a seat upon the Council of the League. There will doubtless be some difficulty in discharging the functions of the office if ultimately it should be determined that it is desirable to accept the opportunity and its accompanying responsibilities; but if that determination is reached it will also be found that there are very great advantages for our country in developing friendships and obtaining from foreign countries information of value to Australia. If this opportunity is declined, there may be a risk of Australia being regarded as not sufficiently interested in the affairs of the world to concern herself about such responsibilities, and, internationally, she might run the risk of going down to the bottom of the list, never, in fact, to be considered again. I am not prepared at the moment to make any announcement on this subject on behalf of the Government. If, however, it is determined that it is wise to take this opportunity, may I express the hope that, whatever views may be entertained by honorable members upon the wisdom of the action, there will at least be a higher standard of criticism than is found in some quarters whenever it is proposed that Australia shall take some action to protect or promote Australian interests overseas. In such cases it is often, in effect, said that action is taken only in order to provide a pleasant excursion or job for some one. Whatever may be decided, and whatever may be the views of honorable members as to the wisdom of the policy and the steps taken in pursuance of such policy, I express the sincere hope that in this Parliament, at least, we shall rise to a higher conception than that, and shall realize that, if Australia is worth anything like what we dp not pretend, but actually believe, her to be worth, we must look at questions such as these from the point of view of Australia as a real element in the world, and not a negligible spot of land in the southern waters of the southern hemisphere.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr.ROSEVEAR (Dalley) [11.5].- I wish to bring under the notice of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) some tangible evidence in justification of the complaints that members of my party liave made in recent months regarding the medical examination of invalid pensioner’s by departmental medical referees, the ‘easewithwhich the names of pensioners are removed from the pension register, and the difficulty which they have in securing sufficient medical evidence to prove that they are entitled to the pension. A case was recentljy brought ‘ under my notice by the sister of an ‘ invalid pensioner who had been removed from the pensions register. The circumstances are set out in’ the follow ing ‘letter : -
I take the liberty of writing on behalf of
Frederick Mulqueeny, who had been receiving the invalid ‘ pension for 23 years.’ They cancelled’ payments about a month ago. Just imagine a man who has never worked in his life - in fact he is not capable of writing this letter - being told to go to work when there are so many good workmen out of employment. To my idea he is very much worse now than when he received the pension first, for he takes fits more often, and since they stopped it he looks very ill. The worry has caused him to take some bad fits, and I don’t think he will be worrying them for it much longer. He lived with me at one time and I know the case very well. He would never think of fighting for it back. He would just lay down and die. If they could sec the man as I see him, their conscience would never let them sleep.
The man referred to in the letter is subject to epileptic fits, and had been receiving the pension for 23 years. Those who know anything of a person who has been suffering from this complaint for any length of time will realize that the sufferer almost invariably gets worse, and, frequently, is finally affected mentally. That is the experience in this case. J. wrote to the department in regard to the matter, and received the usual formal reply that the medical examination by the departmental medical referee showed that the condition of pensioner had much improved. I contend that the medical referee who examined this man could not possibly say whether his condition at the time of such examination had improved in comparison with his condition of 23 years ago. I have been informed by his sister that when the decision of the department was conveyed to him he became’ mentally affected to such an extent that he attempted to commit suicide by drowning. He is at present an inmate of the Morrisset mental hospital. This person is therefore following the usual course of people affected By this malady.
This complaint is not an isolated one. Such complaints are being made all too frequently. The cursory examination to which these persons are submitted by the departmental medical referee is not sufficient to warrant the removal of their names from the pensions register. _ The fact that’ honorable members are’ not allowed to examine the files of pensioners places the departmental officers in a position to deal out whatever seems to them to be justice, but which may not appeal to other persons as being justice. It is only in such cases where there is a sequel to the man’s condition resulting in his attempting suicide and being taken to a mental asylum, that we have it impressed upon us that there is need for improvement in the methods adopted by the medical section of the pensions department.
I have another case, where the disability of the lady concerned, who was subject to epileptic fits, had increased greatly since she first became eligible for an invalid pension. That woman has since become slightly deranged mentally; also, a surgical operation became necessary to one of her feet, which has rendered that member practically useless. In this case I was able to produce evidence to show that the condition of the woman was infinitely worse than” when she first received her pension. After the department had consented to review the matter, I made application for the payment of the pension for the six or eight weeks during the interim in which payments had been wrongfully withheld. The department got out of the matter by saying that it was a borderline case, a subterfuge frequently resorted to. “We hear a lot about the sympathetic consideration that is exercised by the department.’ I shall give an instance which does not prove those contentions. A man who made application for the oldage pension, after being unemployed for three years, neglected to state in his application that he had been employed for a couple of weeks on unemployed relief work. The error was rectified after the form went to the department, arid before the magistrate made any decision in his case. Instead of being notified that the pension was granted, this “mau was’ told that the department had decided to postpone his application for three months. That is harsh treatment for such a case, as the loss of pension for twelve weeks practically amounted to fining the man £10 for a breach which was not intentional, and which had been rectified before a decision was arrived at; further, the amount that the man had earned did not affect the pension rate, and it was the only misstatement made in his application. It was only after I had put in a great deal of work and the file had passed from Sydney to Canberra a number of times, that the matter was adjusted. To give the central office its due, it agreed that my conten tion was correct, that the man had made no attempt to defraud, that he had informed the magistrate of the exact position before the decision was arrived at, and that even had he not informed the. magistrate about that couple of weeks work, his earnings from that source would not have affected a claim. But the department should not be permitted to fine a man practically £10 in such circumstances. The matter has been satisfactorily settled, but only after a good deal of work on the part of myself as the representative of the district. No doubt it could be shown that many such cases occur where there is no one to safeguard the rights of the pensioner.
In another instance, the department reduced the pension of a man and his wife by 7s. 6d. per annum, which averages about 1-Jd. -per week, because the couple had drawn interest on some £20 which they had in the bank. The Government should adopt’ a more humane attitude in these matters, because the amount on which the interest was drawn is below that which is exempted by the act. After all, the sums which pensioners keep in the bank are mostly to cover funeral and like expenses. It would not mean a great shrinkage in revenue if the Government waived its rights in regard to deductions because of interest earnings, provided the amount concerned was less than that which is exempted by the act.
The time is ripe when some sort of representation should be given to pensioners presenting their cases at departmental inquiries. So numerous and so unanimous are complaints from persons, many of whom I know personally, as to the treatment meted out to them by departmental medical officers, that it is evident that there is more than a small element of truth in their allegations. In a number of instances that come under my notice, it has been shown that medical officers who have treated these people for years are prepared to assert that the applicants are not in a fit physical condition to work, despite the claims of departmental officers. The Government should see that, in cases where the department is forced by the weight of medical evidence to review its decision to cancel the pension, the pensioners concerned receive payment for the term during which the pension hasbeen withheld.
.- I wish to refer to a case that has been brought under my notice, in which the pension has been discontinued on the ground that the health of the pensioner has greatly improved. The person concerned, a woman, had received an invalid pension for a number of years ; now, when she is nearly 50, it has been discontinued. The local doctor who has attended the woman for twenty years, has assured me as to the genuineness of the disability from which she is suffering. However, at one of the periodical examinations held by the departmental doctor, two or three questions were asked, as a result of which the department declared that her condition did not warrant the continuation of the payment of the pension. Local medical practitioners must have some standing in the eyes of the department, otherwise they would not be required to furnish a certificate, for which the applicant has to pay 10s. 6d. Yet that certificate is not worth 2d., for the department takes no notice of it. The Government should do something to ensure that these persons receive justice, and are at least provided with the amount of pension that is granted to oldage pensioners. I have had a number of other cases almost as bad, but in this case, the action of the departmental medical referee seems extremely harsh and unjustified.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister the cases of two “War Service homes purchasers against whom orders of eviction from their homes were made at the “Williamstown police court on Tuesday last. A newspaper report dealing with the cases was sent to me in the hope that I would bring the matter up in the House with a view to some action being taken by the Minister. A stay of proceedings for fourteen days was granted by the police magistrate who ordered the evictions. The report is headed “ Fought for their country - Is this the requital? - Soldiers’ Eviction.” The case was brought before the court by the War Service Homes Commissioner, who applied for possession of the premises occupied by Percival Richard Haigh, of Nellie-street, Altona, and by
David Valentine Anthony, of Hudson’sroad, Spots wood. Haigh applied for an adjournment of the case, but the magistrate said that the matter was decided, than no adjournment could be granted, and that Haigh could explain his position to the commissioner. An order for eviction in both cases was made, but a stay of fourteen days was granted. I ask the Minister to take some action before this time expires so that this soldier who has spent £50 in improving what he hopes to be his own home shall not be evicted. The editor of this newspaper evidently thought that the men were being treated with some severity, because in a footnote he wrote as follows : -
To the layman it seems rather hard that when a decision was made without Haigh having been seen or heard, the police magistrate should hold that the defendant’s application for an adjournment could not be granted because the case had already been decided. We understand that the police magistrate alone has jurisdiction in these cases.
There is still time for the Minister to take action, and I hope, if he sees fit, that, something will be done so that the men will not be put out of their homes.
– All the cases mentioned by the three honorable members who have spoken will be looked into. I hope I may say without offence to them that I am not prepared to give an undertaking that, because those cases have been brought up in the House rather than having been placed before the Minister by correspondence, they will receive any greater consideration. If I were to make any suggestion of that kind it would be unjust to those who are content to refer cases to the Minister by letter. Every honorable member, and Ministers as well, have brought under their notice cases which they consider should receive special consideration. It is obvious that all such cases could not be brought before the House, because some honorable members would have perhaps twenty to mention each day. Cases brought under the notice of the Minister, whether by letter or in the House, will, therefore, receive the same consideration - that is to say, the fullest consideration to which the responsible Minister believes them to be entitled on their merits.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.25 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– On the 18th Ma’y, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
The following’ information has been furnished by the Commonwealth Bank: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 May 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19330523_reps_13_139/>.