13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
. -by leave - The Commonwealth Government has the position of the Defence Forces continually under review, but, as honorable members will appreciate, the condition of the finances of the country has a distinct hearing on the amount of money that can he made available for defence expenditure.
When the Attorney-General was in London in August, 1932, he discussed with the British Government certain phases of Australian defence, and particularly the age of our destroyer flotilla. The outcome of the conference with the British Government is that certain vessels will be loaned to Australia to replace similarvessels which are approaching the end of their useful lives. The flotilla leader, H.M.S. Stuart will replace H.M.A.S. Anzac, and four “ V “ class destroyers will replace four “ S “ class destroyers when the present Australian destroyers are eventually scrapped. Australia will be responsible for the maintenance of these vessels.
The Stuart, a vessel of 1,800 tons, has five 4.7-in. guns and six torpedo tubes, and a designed maximum speed of 36 knots, while the Anzac is 1,300 tons, and has four 4-in. guns, four torpedo tubes, and a designed maximum speed of 34 knots. The Stuart has lately been serving in the British Home Fleet, and has been substituted for H.M.S. Mackay, which was originally mentioned, as she is more suitable for our requirements. .
The “V” class destroyers, although not new vessels, are superior in tonnage, guns, and torpedo armament to those of our “ S “ class.
The ships will be taken over in England. Arrangements are being made to bring them to Australia towards the end of the year, manned by officers and men of the Royal Australian Navy. The personnel will be available chiefly because of the paying off of the seaplanecarrier Albatross and the destroyer Tattoo.
The Government cannot say at this stage that all the vessels will be kept in commission during the next financial year. That is a matter which must be considered with the Estimates.
Honorable members will be aware that our Australian destroyer tonnage is included in the total tonnage allowed to the Empire. In the next few years it will be necessary to scrap certain destroyers, and those of the “ S “ class will be the first to go.
It will be remembered that the Anzac and “ S “ class destroyers were a gift from the Imperial Government, and the generous action of that Government in loaning these additional vessels to Australia means that this Government will be saved the cost of capital expenditure in replacing our present destroyers when the time comes to scrap them.
– Will the Attorney-
General inform the House and the taxpayers what is the rate of pay of the chairman and members of the commission who have been appointed to inquire into the subject of mineral oils and petrol ?
– No; for the reason that one of those gentlemen has given his services at a particularly moderate rate, as a form of public service, and before I can feel at liberty to announce the rate of remuneration he was prepared to receive, I think it proper to consult him again on the subject.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government has adopted the practice of appointing gentlemen to commissions under a secret arrangement as to payment? Will he inform honorable membersat what rate payment is to be made to the members of the commission inquiring into petrol and mineral oils - at least in respect to those two members with whom no secret arrangement has been made?
– No secret arrangement has been made. The Attorney-General has pointed out that special circumstances exist in some cases.
– He said in one case.
– Well, in one case, and there may be others. Honorable members must recognize that if some men are prepared to offer their valuable services to the Commonwealth for less than they are entitled to ask, they may, if they belong to a profession, place themselves under some disadvantage, and the Government is responsible for the disadvantage they suffer. The Government is, therefore, called upon to make them what compensation it can for the sacrifices they make in the service of their country. There is no desire to carry out these undertakings in an atmosphere of secrecy, but arrangements have not yet been completed, and I ask honorable members to leave the matter for the moment where it is.
Reply by Commonwealth Government to President Roosevelt’s Message.
– by leave - I desire to place before honorable members the precise terms of the reply of the Commonwealth Government to the message which Mr. Roosevelt, the President of the United States of America, recently broadcast. The reply was, in substance, as stated in the House recently, but the actual words” of the message sent were these -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia welcome the message which the President of the United States of America addressed on l6th May, to the heads of all countries participating in the Disarmament and Economic Conferences. They hope that his outspoken statement will expedite the consideration by the Disarmament Conference of the draft convention put forward by the United -Kingdom, and lead to the speedy adoption of a convention on those lines. They believe that an early and satisfactory conclusion of the Disarmament Conference would create a favorable atmosphere in which the Economic Conference could work towards the decisions which may help towards the renewal of prosperity and restoration of confidence in the world.
– Has the Minister for the Interior yet received any offers for the lease of the Hotel Canberra. If so, were any of them satisfactory? Is it the intention of the honorable gentleman to give any of the offers favorable consideration, or does he propose to call for tenders for the lease of this hotel?
– At least five applications have been received for the lease of the Hotel Canberra. The offers for the lease vary, each new offer being a little higher than the preceding one. It is for Cabinet to decide whether the Hotel Canberra shall be leased, and I intend to submit the matter to it within a few days.
Exchange and Primage
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me whether the report of the Tariff Board on the incidence of exchange and primage has been completed? If so, when will it be made available to honorable members?
– I answered a similar question yesterday and the day before. The report of the board on this subject is comprehensive, and is now being considered by a Cabinet sub-committee. Subsequently, it will be considered by Cabinet.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence inform me of the annual cost to the Government of the repair yard at Garden Island? Are any steps being taken by the Government to lease Garden Island, or to cut its loss there in any other way?
– Garden Island is the location of many naval activities, including repair shops, naval store, gunmounting depot, torpedo depot, medical store, hydrographic depot, signal station, naval depot, naval sick quarters and detention quarters. The annual cost of upkeep is approximately £99,000. No endeavour is being made to lease the plant.
– As the contract with the Western Australian Airways for the aerial service in the north-west of Western Australia will soon expire, I ask the Postmaster-General if action has been taken to renew it?
– The question might more appropriately be addressed to the Assistant Minister for Defence, because it concerns one of the activities of his department.
Sausages -Drugs and Chemicals
– Recently I placed before the Government a request that the sales tax on sausages, dripping, and small goods be removed. As the present tax constitutes a tax on foodstuffs, the Housewives Association and the general public are much concerned about it. I should like from the Prime Minister some assurance that when the budget is under review the removal of this tax will be considered ?
– I have informed the honorable member previously that I cannot give an assurance that the sales tax would not continue to apply to sausages.
– The Housewives Association continues to write to me about it.
– We shall ascertain how far we can go to satisfy the clamour of the housewives, but the item referred to by the honorable member will have to be considered in conjunction with many other items which it is desired, if practicable, to remove from the list of commodities subject to the tax.
– In view of the public outcry against the collection of sales tax on medicines and drugs, will the Prime Minister give an assurance that relief will be afforded in this direction at an early date?
– Very serious consideration will be given to the honorable member’s request, but the tax on drugs and chemicals will have to be considered side by side with that on the other commodities with respect to which applications for remission have been made.
Building of Flats
– It is reported that a private builder has made application to the Department of the Interior for permission to erect flats in Canberra. I ask the Minister whether the plans for such flats provide for more than two flats in each building, and, if so, will he exercise great care, so that we may not have a repetition here of such building atrocities as are to be seen in every State capital. Further, in view of the great importance of this project, not only to the people of Canberra, but also to this Parliament, will the Minister lay on the table of the Library the plans and specifications which accompanied the application.
– An application has been made to the department to build flats and it is now under consideration; but the request that the plans and specifications may be laid on the table of the
Library will have to be considered, in deference to the architect who is supplying the plans.
– With reference to the application for permission to erect blocks of flats in Canberra, will the Minister for the Interior state what number of flats it is proposed to have under a single roof?
– Speaking from memory, I think the number is eight in eachbuilding.
– Last night I and other honorable members were under the impression that no new business would be taken after the excise schedule had been dealt with, and, therefore, having obtained a pair, I went home. I wish to know whether the Government was in order in resuming at 2 . a.m. the debate on the bill for the appointment of a commission to deal with State grants?
– The procedure then adopted has been followed on many previous occasions. Personally, I doubted its propriety, and therefore referred to the matter before asking the leave of the House for the making of the motion to suspend the 11 o’clock rule. What I relied on, in allowing the motion to be put, was the fact that earlier in the afternoon the House had decided that the debate on the Grants Bill should be adjourned until a later hour, and that, I considered, made what was done conform with Standing Order No. 70, which says that no opposed business shall be taken after 11 p.m. unless otherwise ordered. I took it that the House had “ otherwise ordered “ the consideration of the bill referred to. It would be well, however, that the Government, being in charge of the business of the House, should realize that a motion to suspend the Standing Orders is, in itself, “ new business “ in a strict reading of the Standing Order.
– Is it a fact that more than half of the returns which are called for under the Land Tax Act are demanded from land holders who hold land of a value of less than the amount of the exemption - that is, between £3,000 and £5,000 unimproved capital value - and if so, will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of amending the law to obviate the necessity for large numbers of people who own land of an unimproved capital value of between £3,000 and £5,000 to furnish returns which cause them a tremendous amount of inconvenience and money, and at the same time overload the Taxation Department?
– I shall inquire into the matter raised by the honorable member to see whether something can be done in the direction indicated. I take it that what is being done to-day is considered necessary to safeguard the revenue, and it may, of course, be impossible to accede to the honorable member’s request.
– In view of the great interest taken overseas in the oil indications at Portland, Victoria, will the Minister see that a thorough examination of this area is made by the departmental experts?
– A few weeks ago a company approached me to see whether Dr. Woolnough could inspect the locality at Portland where oil indications had been discovered, but on approaching that gentleman he informed me that he had visited the spot on several occasions; and that, although there were indications of oil floating in the bay, there was no reason to believe that there was a submarine oil region in the bay itself, and that quite possibly the oil might have come from Chile or elsewhere. He also informed me that on the last occasion when he visited the locality he was accompanied by the government geologists of South Australia and Victoria, and that no good purpose would be served by visiting it again.
– Has Cabinet considered the desirability of introducing into this House legislation providing for a contributory system of pensions or national insurance to replace the present system of pensions, and, if . not, would it be possible for Cabinet to give consideration to this important matter?
– Some consideration has been given to this question, which, of course, presents great difficulties; but no decision has been come to. Further consideration will be given to it by the Government.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say where the proposed new radio broadcasting station in South Australia will be located?
– The broadcasting stations which were referred to in a statement I made last week are the subject of a notice in the Government Gazette just issued, and full details regarding them are published. An announcement will be made regarding the additional stations in a week or ten days’ time, and, in the meantime, I am unable to say where they will be erected.
– Towards the end of last year Dr. Woolnough made an aerial survey of the greater part of Australia. Can the Minister for the Interior say whether Dr. Woolnough has yet submitted his report, and if so, when it will be available to honorable members?
- Dr. Woolnough has already presented his report, and it is the Government’s intention to have it printed as soon as possible, and placed on sale.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral state when his department will be in a position to undertake the erection of public telephones in localities that have already been favorably reported upon by departmental officers?
– For reasons of economy it was found necessary, before I assumed office, to stop the erection of additional public telephones. Some latitude has been allowed, however, and it is the policy of the department now to carry out the most urgent work as funds become available. If the honorable member will place before me those applications which he has in mind they will receive consideration.
– About 36 days ago the Minister for the Interior informed me that the long-delayed ordinance relating to workmen’s compensation in the Federal Capital Territory would be published in the course of a couple of days, but that has not yet been done. Can the Minister tell me when action will be taken ?
– I am sorry that the promise I gave the honorable member has not been fulfilled, but this has been due to the pressure of public business. I hope that the ordinance will not be much longer delayed.
– Is it the intention of the Minister for the Interior to give favorable consideration to any of the applications received for the lease of the Hotel Canberra, or is it his intention to call for tenders?
– We have received five applications for the lease of the hotel, but the policy of the Government is that before any application is accepted, tenders shall be’ called. The Government must decide first of all whether it intends to lease the hotel or not, and if it decides to do so, public tenders will be called.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state what progress has been made by the Tariff Board in its inquiry into the duty on Oregon ; and will the board’s report be made available before the item is dealt with in another place?
– The inquiry is listed, and has begun, but I cannot say when the report will be received. The progress of inquiries is a matter for the Tariff Board, which will deal with matters as quickly as it can.
– In view of the fact that it is proposed that the House of Representatives shall adjourn this week, if possible, will the Prime Minister state what bills the Government intends to put through before the recess? I am particularly concerned with the bill to amend the Navigation Act, and with the amending Customs Bill?
– I am afraid that there will not be an opportunity before the House goes into recess, of dealing with the bills mentioned ‘by the honorable member. In regard to other matters, the Seat of Government Bill stands first on the notice-paper, and after that there is the Supply Bill, the Inscribed Stock Bill, and the bill to amend the Financial Emergency Act, the purpose of which is to prevent the most recent cost-of-living deduction from taking effect on Public Service salaries. The Attorney-General desires to proceed as far as possible with the Bankruptcy Bill, but, naturally, progress will depend entirely upon the time that is available. I might mention that the Navigation Bill does not deal with the coastal clauses of the act.
– Has “the Minister representing war service homes seen the reproduction of a photograph which appeared in the Sunday Times of the 7 th May, depicting a war service home, in connexion with which an accompanying report states that there was not a tap left in the building, the electric light fittings had been torn from the walls, the windows were missing from their frames, and the rooms had been turned into a lavatory? If so, will the honorable gentleman cause investigations to be made concerning the accuracy of these statements, and take whatever action may be necessary to ensure that the property of the taxpayers is not’ destroyed by vandals ?
– The press statement to which the honorable member has referred was brought under my notice by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and I have called foi’ a telegraphic report on the subject, I intend to leave for Melbourne to-morrow, and will there discuss the ma Iter with officers of the commission. In passing, I point out that this is the first complaint regarding vandalism that has been received from Western Australia over a number of years, which speaks volumes for the supervision of the department in that State, and also for the good citizenship of the people of
Western Australia. The general public can do much to assist in protecting government property. The Commonwealth Government has made available to returned soldiers approximately 48,000 houses under the war service homes scheme. In these abnormal times, considerable difficulty is experienced in protecting unoccupied houses. The police in all States are rendering valuable assistance; rewards are also offered to .any one who will lodge information enabling the department to proceed against vandals, and honorable members can do their part in assisting the Government in this respect.
– Will the Minister administering war service homes, when in Melbourne next week, make inquiries into the case of Mr. Hay, .a war service homes purchaser?
– I have the matter listed for consideration early next week.
– The secretary of the Co-operative Federation of Western Australia, which represents 7,500 primary producers, complains that the oil companies in that State have closed down many of their depots in country districts, to the great inconvenience of country users of petrol products; also that the companies have employed other methods in the conduct of their business which are tantamount to discrimination which is detrimental to the interests of these persons. Will the Prime Minister suggest to the Royal Commission which is inquiring into the petrol industry, that it should proceed to Western Australia to take evidence, and endeavour to adjust these matters?
– I doubt whether it is within the province of the Government to direct the commission where it shall take evidence. I suggest that the matters referred to by the honorable member are purely the concern of the companies referred to. The petrol companies have been accused of conducting their business with too great an overhead capital. If they are making efforts to reduce costs, and this will result in reductions in the price of petrol such as have recently been made, there can surely be no objection to what is being done. _The request of the honorable member is like a two-edged sword. I am afraid that the Government cannot direct the commission in its itinerary, which has already been arranged. I suggest that direct representations to the petrol companies should be made by those concerned.
– Has the Prime Minister decided to confer with the State governments with the object of convening a meeting of the State Ministers for Mines, for the purpose of encouraging greater gold production ?
– This matter, which is involved with the subject of unemployment generally, will be dealt with at the forthcoming Premiers Conference, when a specific recommendation, coming from the Development Branch, will be presented for the consideration of the Premiers.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state whether the future of the Paterson scheme will be referred to the Premiers Conference, and whether the Government has evolved a substitute scheme ?
– At a conference of State Ministers of Agriculture which was held at Sydney last week, which I attended as representative of the Federal Government, certain representations were made about the marketing of butter and other primary products, the whole of which will be presented to the Premiers Conference for consideration.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs state whether there is any truth in the intimation that has been published in the press that a meeting of Empire delegates is to be convened by Mr. Thomas, Secretary of State for the Dominions, prior to the holding of the World Economic Conference; and are our delegates to receive their instructions from that preliminary meeting or direct from the Commonwealth Government?
– I have received no intimation of the preliminary meeting to which the honorable member has referred.
It has been the practice in connexion with international conferences for representatives of the various parts of the Empire to have a pre-sessional meeting, with the object, if practicable, of determining a mutually agreeable policy. I hope that that practice will be followed in connexion with the World Economic Conference. At the same time, I assure the honorable member that the instructions which our delegate will receive from this Government will be adhered to. The Commonwealth Government, however, will be in constant communication with its representative, and will be willing to cooperate in every way with representatives of other parts of the Empire upon an agreed basis. ^
The following papers were presen ted : -
Alsatian Dogs - Report dated 19th September, 1028, by the Director, Division of Veterinary Hygiene, Department of Health.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 54.
Canberra University College - Report of Council for 1932.
Defence Act - Royal Military College - Report for 1932.
Debate resumed from the 19th May (vide page 1598), on motion by Mr. Perkins -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill provides for the continued application within the Federal Capital Territory, until a date to be fixed by proclamation, of certain New South Wales laws, in their relation to certain lands in the Territory not resumed under the Seat of Government Acceptance Act of 1908, and for the validation of Crown grants, conditional leases, and conditional purchases, granted in respect, of such lands. Although portions of the bill will have no application to present circumstances, other clauses have a direct and immediate application to certain transactions in land. The Seat of Government Acceptance Act provided for the resumption, if necessary, of the whole of the landa situated in the Federal Capital Territory. A large area of land was resumed by the Commonwealth, hut considerable areas, particularly south of Tuggeranong, remained in possession of the holders from the State. Various transactions in connexion with these lands have taken place, under the laws of New South Wales, in conjunction with the Seat of Government Acceptance Act, in the bona fide belief that the grants and titles so granted or transferred were valid. It has been determined, however, that many of the certificates and privileges issued by the New South Wales Lands Board, the Governor in Council, or the Minister for Lands, are open to challenge, and the members of the Opposition are in full accord with the proposal of the Government to validate these transactions, which otherwise would be held to be illegal, to the serious detriment of many graziers and others. A large area of land held under conditional purchase or conditional lease is involved, and it is of considerable value. The fact that the title and privileges of the holders are not valid has become common knowledge, and this has militated against their getting financial assistance for their operations. It has ‘been stated that the banks have refused further accommodation to the holders; if that is true, the matter warrants serious consideration by this Parliament.
There is another matter not mentioned in the bill to which I direct the attention of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham). Legislation arising out of the Premiers plan compulsorily reduced by 22- per cent, the rate of interest on all advances. Land-holders in the State of New South Wales are enjoying that concession under a State act; but holders of lands in the Federal Territory, not resumed by the Commonwealth, but continuing to be governed by State legislation, will not get the benefit of this reduction of interest. I ask the Attorney-General to inform the House, and the lessees concerned, whether that anomaly could be rectified by an amendment of this bill, or whether special legislation will be necessary to apply the interest reduction to all the lands within the Federal Capital Territory. It was the intention of the Scullin Government to make provision for the reduction of interest to apply to such lands in the Territory, just as the State Governments and the Commonwealth Government made it apply to lands elsewhere. I do not pretend to know the exact means by which this can be done. Action by both the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales may be necessary. I shall be obliged to the AttorneyGeneral if he will give consideration to my suggestion. I do not expect him to deal with the matter at the moment, but I shall be glad to have an undertaking that he will consider it as soon as possible, and, if practicable, introduce into another place any amendments to the bill that may be necessary. So that the people to whom I have referred may obtain legal titles to the land which they hold, I shall support the bill.
– The purpose of this bill is to assure certain land-holders in the Territory of a proper title to their land. The measure does not deal with the other matter to which the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has referred. I will, however, make an examination of that matter after the House rises. I regret that it will not be possible for me to do so until then. At present I have no reason to believe that the subject to which the honorable member has referred cannot be appropriately dealt with by ordinance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Definition).
– I notice that several companies have been registered in Canberra recently. Can the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) inform me whether such companies are being granted exemptions of any kind because they have registered here?
.- That subject hardly arises under this clause. It would be difficult to answer the honorable member’s question without a comparison of the laws of the States with the laws of the Territory, but I assure the honorable member that there is no intention on the part of the Government of making the Territory a kind of Alsatia for the companies which register here.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section six of the Scat of Government Acceptance Act 1909-1029 is amended by adding at the end of sub-section (2.) the following proviso: - “Provided further that, until a date to be fixed by proclamation, where a Crown grant in fee simple of any land referred to in the next succeeding section is issuable, the grant may be issued by the Governor of the State . . and any grant so issued shall vest in the grantee the fee simple in the land subject to the reservations contained in the grant…… “.
[3.26 J.- I move -
That after the word “ reservations “ the words “ and exceptions “ be inserted.
A printed list of amendments to this bill has been circulated, of which this is the first. It is appropriate, therefore, that, at this point, I should explain that since the bill was drafted further consultations have taken place with the Lands Department of New South Wales, and the amendments now proposed have been agreed to by the Government in consequence of the reconsideration of certain points by the State Lands Department. I assure the committee that none of them makes any departure from the original general intention of the bill. This one, for instance, is inserted with the object of improving the measure from the conveyancing stand-point. The amendments to clause 5 are designed to give the bill a reference to all the sections of the Crown Lands Consolidation Act, instead of to a particular section of it, so as to increase the degree of security given. The amendments to clause 6 cover, among other things, a case of conditional lease which should be covered. [Quorum formed.]
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Validation of extention of conditional leases).
On motions (by Mr. Latham) clause amended to read as follows: -
Where, prior to the commencement of this act, any authority of the State has purported, under or by virtue of the provisions of the Crown Lands Consolidation Act 1913 of the State, as amended by the Crown Lands and Closer Settlement (Amending) Act 1924. to extend the term of any conditional lease which, pursuant to section seven of the Seat c>f Government Acceptance Act 1909 or of that act as subsequently amended, has continued to be held from the Commonwealth on the same terms and conditions as it was held from the State, and any authority of the State has purported to determine the annual rent for the period or any part of the period of extension of the term, that extension and that determination shall be as valid and effectual, and the lease shall continue in as full force and effect, as if the law under or by virtue of which the authorities of the State purported to make the extension and the determination respectively had been a law in force in the Territory immediately before the proclaimed day.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 (Validation of determination of value of land held under conditional purchase).
On motions (by Mr. Latham) clause amended to read as follows : -
Where, prior to the commencement of this act, any authority of the State has purported, under or by virtue of the provisions of the Crown Lands (Consolidation) Act 1913, of the State, as amended by subsequent acts, to determine the capital value of any land in the Territory which, pursuant to section seven of the Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909, or of that act as subsequently amended, has continued to be held from the Commonwealth under conditional purchase or conditional lease, as the case may be, on the same terms and conditions as it was held from the State, that determination shall be as valid and shall have, and be deemed at all times to have had, as full force and effect, as if the law, under or by virtue of which the authority of the State purported to make the determination, had been a law in force in the Territory immediately before the proclaimed day.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses7 and8 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
By leave, report adopted, and hill read a third time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the foregoing message be referred to the Committee of Supply.
.- I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ the Government be condemned for its failure to give effect to its pre-election pledge to provide work for the unemployed “.
I have moved this amendment because I am of the opinion that before Supply is granted to this Government the House should express its opinion upon the subject of unemployment, which is of paramount importance. The members of the Labour party have brought this question under the notice of the Government from time to time during the last eighteen months, and have urged it to take some practical steps to fulfil the promise which, more than any other promise, won the last election for it.We have not embarrassed the Government or demanded impossibilities. We have admitted that the problem is difficult, but we believe that the time has arrived for this House to express the opinion that it is not satisfied with the action that has been taken by this Government to relieve unemployment. With practically half of the life of this Parliament gone, there is no appearance of any practical policy to deal with that problem. The danger is that, in addition to the suffering, the people are losing confidence in this Parliament. That lack of confidence is being accentuated by the Government’s failure to fulfil the pledges that it solemnly gave to the electors some eighteen months ago.
For months prior to the dissolution of the Parliament in 1931, the belief was fostered by those who now sit on the treasury bench that only a change of government was necessary to restore employment and prosperity. In May, 1931, some months before the dissolution took place, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) moved a motion of censure on the Scullin Government. He spoke of the necessity for inspiring confidence in the investors here and abroad, so that money would be made available at reasonable rates of interest. He added -
Then will the wheels of industry turn again, men will be employed and the misery and poverty at present prevalent everywhere will disappear.
A few months later the elections took place, and honorable members do not need to be reminded of the outstanding issue. What was it that stirred the imagination of the people of this country and caused them to flock to the banner of the United Australia Party ? It was the definite an d solemn pledge that, with a change of government, confidence would be restored and men would be given employment. The present Prime Minister then said -
By a change of government every man out of work will at once be brought nearer to employment and the restoration of confidence, and money will flow into industry.
On that definite declaration, this Government obtained control of both Houses of the Parliament. But the people, particularly the unemployed, have waited in vain for nearly eighteen months for a fulfilment of its promise. Even the present demeanour of the Government offers no prospects for the thousands of workers in Australia. The way in which it has buoyed up the hopes of the unemployed during the past few years has been tragic. When a temporary relief measure was before this House, under which the Commonwealth provided fl,S00,000, and the States £1,200,000, for assisting the unemployed during the months of last winter, the supporters of the Government, in fact, members of all parties in the House, were glad that some step had been taken in that direction. Every Government supporter declared that it was but a temporary relief measure for the winter, and the emphasis that was laid on that fact buoyed up the hopes of the people that this Government would adopt a comprehensive policy to deal with this great problem. The fires of hope that were kindled at the election time were fanned into flame last year by the promise of energetic action at the Premiers Conference. Unemployment was to be discussed there, a long-range policy was to be adopted, and developmental schemes that would make for. the permanent reemployment of men were to be put in hand. There was to be no sustenance or relief works for sustenance, but a permanent policy was to be inaugurated as a result of the restoration of confidence arising out of the change of government. On the 24th May, 1932, exactly one year ago, the Assistant Treasurer, while in charge of the Supply Bill, assured honorable members in reply to queries about unemployment that the Government was keeping the problem well in the foreground. He said that he sincerely hoped that there would be evolved schemes of a truly reproductive character which would lead to the permanent absorption of our unemployed. That was a definite promise made by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) on behalf of the Government, and it raised more hopes in the hearts of the people than probably anything else, because it was so definite and clear. Government supporters were impressed by that statement, and none more so than the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin). He expressed the hopes and feelings of Government supporters generally in an able, thoughtful and constructive speech which he delivered on the 24th of May last year. He said -
We are looking forward with confidence, in view of the utterances of the Prime Minister and the Assistant Treasurer, to the develop ment at the Premiers Conference of something in the nature of a long-range policy.
I quote that as being typical of the statements of honorable members on that side, that the Government would find some solution of the unemployment problem. However, that long-range policy did not eventuate, and the time has arrived when the Government should give effect to its election pledges. It has put forward no proposal which can be characterized as of long range or as adequate to deal with this supreme problem of unemployment. What makes us more apprehensive is the dangerous complacency of the Government, and the way in which it is allowing things to drift, hoping, like Micawber, that something will turn up. Instead of providing for something substantial, the Prime Minister and his colleagues appear to have convinced themselves that they have done everything required of them. They sing pagans of praise about themselves, praising what they have done. One would imagine from their speeches that they have solved the problem of unemployment. The Prime Minister speaking at the conference of the United Australia Party, referred in glowing terms to the position of Australia.
Yet all that Government supporters do is to quote figures which show that the number of men registered for sustenance has been reduced by a certain percentage. But there is no proof that unemployment has been reduced by the operation of a practical policy instituted by this Government. The figures quoted show a reduction in the number of men receiving sustenance, only because of the action of State governments in substituting intermittent employment for sustenance. That, of course, has reduced by many thousands the number of men registered for sustenance in the various States. Then a reduction has been shown in the figures by men being struck off the sustenance list, because of their sons and daughters leaving school and obtaining employment at a few shillings per week. In Victoria, a large number of persons have been struck off the sustenance list. The other day I heard of the case of an old lady who was receiving a pension and a small income. Her son, who is living with her, has been denied sustenance because of his mother’s pension. Such cases can be freely quoted to show how these apparent reductions in unemployment percentages have come about. Then the Minister in charge of unemployment there announced that as a result of a review and a cleaning up, cases of fraud and duplication, and of people receiving sustenance who were not eligible for it, had been discovered, and that, in consequence, the figures had been reduced by a further 20 per cent. Although that reduction has taken place, no impression has been made upon the real unemployment problem. Much is made of the fact that the unemployment figures during the last nine months show a decrease of 4 per cent. That result is achieved by comparing the latest return with that of last June, when unemployment had reached the peak, six months after the Lyons Government was elected. Unemployment in the first quarter of this year, however, represented 26.5 per cent, as against 25.8 per cent, for the first quarter of 1931. Slight variations in figures, one way or the other, hold out very little hope to the many thousands in distress. The Government is not grappling with the problem at all. It has frequently declared that it has done more than the previous Government to relieve unemployment. That is a gross misrepresentation, and an examination of the facts will show that that is so. That declaration is made only to excuse the Government’s own failure, and honorable members to be fair must realize that there is no comparison between the finan cial position of the Government to-day and the position when the previous Government was in office. The very foundation of the Government’s budget was laid by the Labour Government. That Government, when it took office, faced a crisis unprecedented in the history of the nation. Chaos was everywhere, and default imminent, and the whole edifice of government was crumbling. We had not full control of the Parliament. We were faced with a hostile Senate, but in spite of that, we did more than this Government has done to improve the position of Australia and the unemployed.
When I raised this question in March last, the Prime Minister said that this Government had done in one year, nearly as much as the previous Government had done in two years. He said that the Scullin Government had provided £2,190,000 in two years, while the present Government had provided £1,970,000 in one year. He reduced the amount provided by the Scullin Government ‘by £750,000, by ignoring the sum that had been granted to South Australia, on the ground that that grant had been made merely on account of South Australia’s financial position. We. know perfectly well, however, that the money was granted to South Australia because of the more serious unemployment position in that State, and ‘because the South Australian Government had had to make unusually large allocations of public funds for the relief of unemployment. The position, therefore, is that the Scullin Government provided in two years £2,941,000, as against £1,970,000 provided by the present Government in one and a half years. For a period of only six months less than that covered by the Scullin Government’s allocation, the Lyons Government provided £1,000,000 less for the relief of unemployment. There is no room for boasting in regard to that. The Prime Minister went further, and made this extraordinary statement: He said that, compared with the amount spent during the first year of the late Government’s term of office, the present Government and the States were making provision for the expenditure of nearly twice as much. The first year of the Scullin Government’s term of office must, surely, be the first complete year, which was 1930-31. If honorable members look up the figures for Commonwealth and State expenditure on loan works and on works from revenue for 1930-31, and compare them with the expenditure for this financial year, they will find how incorrect the right honorable gentleman’s statement is. The information I have received shows that, by way of loan expenditure on public works, special and ordinary, the Commonwealth and .State Governments, at the end of this financial year, will not have spent one penny more than was spent by the Scullin Government in 1930-31. It may turn out that less will be spent ; but, in addition, in 1930-31, the Labour Government granted £1,640,000 from revenue for relief works, and nothing is provided from that source by this Government.
– But private enterprise has supplied a big fund.
– Private enterprise has increased employment in only two directions. Advantage has been taken of the tariff to expand existing industries and to establish new ones. Some of these new industries have been open only for six months; but, over a period of two years, there has been an increase of employment as a result of the tariff, and that employment is now being threatened by the present Government’s fiscal policy. As an offset to any increase in employment, workers in other industries have been thrown out, and the net result is that the unemployment position is practically unaltered. There has been a little improvement in some directions, and retrogression in others. The figures which have been quoted, showing marvellous reductions in the volume of unemployment, merely record transfers from the sustenance roll to the list of those in camps in the bush, and that is no solution of the problem.
– What about the building trade?
– Employment in the building trade has increased, and this is due very largely to the fact that there was such a lull in the industry that a great deal of leeway had to be made up. Moreover, the increase is in some measure attributable to the realization ‘by shrewd men that they are able to build more cheaply now than for a long time past. As a matter of fact, if we take into consideration the reduced cost of material and of labour, the cost of building is probably 25 per cent, less now than three years ago.
Notwithstanding this, the fact is that, side ‘by side with increasing activity in the building industry, there has been increased unemployment in other industries. The Statistician’s figures for the first quarter of this year, as compared with those for the first quarter of 1931, show a variation in the unemployment returns of less than 1 per cent., proving that there has been no general improvement. The Government cannot evade its responsibilities by pointing to a few buildings going up here, and a few factories starting there, as a result of the tariff. We must take a comprehensive view of the matter. I have moved this motion because of the smug complacency of honorable members opposite, and because the Government seems to take the view that everything is lovely. We have heard of Nero fiddling while Rome burned, but this Government is showing equal callousness in face of an appalling situation. The Government is so self-satisfied with itself that it does not realize how the trou’ble is growing. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey), and the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), who represent many unemployed, may laugh in their sleeves, but the tragedy is there, and I ask Parliament to face it seriously; not to try to turn it aside by sneers and interjections, but to listen to the facts. Let them try to answer the facts, and not to distort them.
That is the position, and I feel keenly about it because of what has happened, and is happening, around us. Honorable members will admit that we on this side of the House, like the unemployed themselves, have shown great patience. It is of no use asking what the Scullin Government did. I charge those who sit behind the Government that it was their party which, in the Senate, prevented us from doing much that we wanted to do.
I commend to honorable members and the Government the statement of Mr. J.
Hitherto war has been the only object of governmental loan expenditure on a large scale which governments have considered respectable. In all the issues of peace, they are timid, over-cautious, half-hearted, without perseverance or determination.
How aptly that sums up the record of this Government. When the last Government tried to make a substantial contribution towards the solution of the problem, to build up a wage fund to increase the purchasing power of the people, and provide additional employment, it was met by the sneering comment of the honorable member for Henty, who spoke about living on paper. The sneer is now thrown back in his teeth, because this Government, ever since it has been, in office, has lived on paper, and on nothing else. When we sought to ship gold away in order to build up a solid fund overseas, honorable members opposite cried that we would then have nothing but paper’ left ; yet the money on which this Government has financed all its undertakings is paper, and nothing more, and the whole of the note issue is now fiduciary. It was with statements of that kind that the party opposite misled the people, but now the great thinkers of the world are all advocating what we advocated two years ago. When we put forward- our policy for spending £12,000,000 on public works for the absorption of the unemployed, the banks refused to advance the money. When we were forced to go to the country, we were defeated because of the misrepresentations of honorable members opposite. If there was room for criticism of the means we proposed - and I do not admit it - let the Government now come forward with its own proposals, or are they going to admit that there is no solution of the unemployment problem? They condemned our proposals, and it is now for them, who swung the electors off their feet by their denunciations of our methods, to say what are their plans. Up to date they have not done so. Matters have been allowed’ to drift, and very little has been done to face the issue in a serious way.
Public works of a developmental character can be put in hand in Australia. When we proposed to do that, the banks refused us money, saying that it was not available. That cannot ‘be said now, because the money is available. I have here the last circular issued by the Bank of New South Wales, on 17th May, in which it is stated that there is no dearth of money awaiting investment in Australia at present. Surely no one can say that, there is no scope for developmental work. If there is no shortage of money, and no lack of work to be done, why are thousands of Australians idle? I refer the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) again to the speech he made last May, when he himself outlined a scheme of developmental works in Tasmania, Gippsland, and all along the coastal belt from New South Wales to as far north as Cairns. He said that there was scope for developmental work, and the solution of the unemployment problem, in a long-range policy of public undertakings. The people have had their hopes raised high by a statement of the Prime Minister that such a scheme would be inaugurated, but, up to date, nothing of a practical character has been done. Some money was provided last year for winter relief, but this year no provision has been made even for that. The Premiers Conference, which sat in 1931, prior to the defeat of our Government drew up a list of works which the States could put in hand, but we were refused the necessary money. We strove to obtain money to employ the people, so that they would not be allowed to flounder in the slough of despond until their- morale was gone, their patience exhausted, and their respect for parliamentary institutions at an end. When that time comes, the Government will reap the whirlwind ihat it is sowing to-day by its complacency and inaction.
Public works can be put in hand. Cost’s are now at least 25 per cent, less than they would have been a few years ago, and interest rates are lower, so that the annual charges must be 50 per cent, less than in 1929. There is everything to recommend the inauguration of a bold developmental policy by the Commonwealth and the States. Common sense dictates that course. Humanity demands it. The patience of the people is being exhausted. The Government is paltering too much with the problem, and they will live to regret it.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the debate to be continued after the termination of the time allowed by Standing Order 119.
– The subject that has been brought before the House by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) to-day is a most important one, and has given, not only this Government, but the governments of all the States, a great deal of concern in recent times. We should be happy were we able to saythat some scheme had been evolved that would remove unemployment from our midst. We are no more in that position than is any other country in the world. What the right honorable gentleman asks has not been achieved elsewhere, but Australia has gone further in that direction than has any other country.
Special mention of this fact is made in the April issue of the publication Industrial and Labour Information, which is issued by the International Labour Office, a subsidiary body of the League of Nations, to the effect that, although the table of unemployment statistics appearing in the issue shows a general increase throughout the world as compared with a year ago, the only countries showing an actual decline in the number of recorded unemployed are Australia, Canada, Germany, and Poland. The position of Germany is, however, doubtful.
– “ Recorded “ unemployed.
– Yes, and so far as Australia is concerned, the record is based on definite figures. The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition has deprecated the efforts of this Government to show an improvement in the unemployed position by referring to the gradual progress that has been made from time to time; he spoke as though such claims were unsatisfactory and proved nothing. When the figures were going the other way the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues did not hesitate to snatch at every adverse decimal point in an endeavour to prove that during the first six months for which this Government occupied the treasury bench the position was becoming worse. Statistics worked quite satisfactorily when they were going the other way, but the Government is not entitled to use them when they indicate an improvement; and there has been a definite improvement in the unemployed position throughout Australia. Some honorable members appear to be disgruntled at that thought. The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition even made light of the fact that buildings are being erected here, there, and everywhere. Are we to express disappointment when there are signs of building activity throughout the country, and make little of the fact that more and more people are being given employment ? Should we not encourage even greater activities, which must create confidence in our country ?
The Leader of the Opposition has admitted that statistics show that there has been an improvement in the position, but he disapproves of the Government using them as they apply since the peak period in May, 1932. The reason is that under the administration of his Government the position was rapidly becoming worse and worse, and it was six months before this Government could stem the tide and turn it in the other direction. The number of the unemployed, which had been steadily growing since 1929, reached its maximum in May, 1932, when, according to the reports of the trade unions, about 30 per cent, of their members were workless. The report for August, 1932, indicated that there had been a slight improvement of about 4 per thousand members, while the November report, showed a further substantial improvement to the extent of 15 per thousand members. That improvement continued into 1933, and in February of that year it reached 16 per thousand” members. Since the unemployment rate reached its maximum in May, 1932, there has been an improvement of 35 per thousand members. Surely we are not going to wail about that, and tell the world that the position in Australia is no better than it was, particularly when the Geneva publication to which reference has been made certifies that Australia is one of the only four countries in the world in which an improvement is shown. Some honorable members have suggested that the Government should follow certain of the methods adopted in the United States of America. Surely no responsible representative in this Parliament would like to think that Australia was slipping so alarmingly as is the United States of America in the increase of unemployment. The following figures show the improvement that has occurred in Australia since the second quarter of 1932 : -
The number of persons recorded in December, 1931, as having received food relief in New South “Wales, was 133,865, while for the same month in 1932 the figure was 101,694. Is that an infinitesimal reduction in the number of the unemployed ; are not honorable members prepared to acknowledge the improvement? The New South Wales Unemployment Relief Council reports that the number of persons to whom it provided employment to the 31st December, 1932, was 40,000. Yet honorable members ask what are the Australian Governments doing? My answer is that the Commonwealth Government has co-operated with the State Governments, and made available the necessary funds to provide additional work, and all are definitely doing their duty to help to solve the problem. The registration of unemployed persons in Victoria reached its maximum in July, 1932, when the figure was 61,115. At that time, the State Government put in hand a number of relief works in an endeavour to improve the position, and since then the registrations have progressively fallen until, in March, 1933, the number was 37,039, which indicate that Victoria is doing its share. On the 20th April, 1933, 11,000 persons were employed on relief works in that State, while since May, 1932, work has been provided on relief projects for over 44,000. I shall not give the figures for every State, but the comparative figures that I have quoted indicate that everything possible is being done by the Commonwealth and State Governments to meet the situation. It has been suggested that in order to improve the figures, men have been taken off the dole and put to work.
Will anybody claim that in a country like Australia men should continue to lose their self-respect by drawing sustenance and remaining unemployed? Every honorable member knows how such a practice makes inroads on the manhood of the people. The position has been improved only by the Commonwealth and State Governments combining, the former to make money available, and the latter to provide the necessary public works. The only suggestion that the right honorable gentleman has made has actually been given effect for at least six months. When representatives of the State governments met members of the Commonwealth Government in Sydney recently, they admitted that the practice of granting sustenance to the workless was unsound; that it undermined their manliness. They indicated that they required sufficient loan money to carry out reproductive works in order to take these persons off the dole, and allow them to retain their self respect. That money has been provided.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has complained that the banks would not assist his Government in such schemes.
– The right honorable gentleman has not got much out of the banks on behalf of his Government.
– The Leader of the Opposition answered himself when he referred to the millions of pounds that the banks have made available to the Federal Government for reproductive works. Yet he now says that the Government cannot get any more.
– The right honorable gentleman contended that everything would be so easy when his Government assumed office.
– As a result of the efforts of the Commonwealth and State Governments, there has been an improvement throughout Australia, and a restoration of confidence in the banks and among the people. The banks refused to make money available to the Scullin Government. I am not reflecting upon that Government, and I do not suggest, for a moment, that the right honorable gentleman or his supporters would have done the things that were proposed by the Lang Government, which, if carried out, would have destroyed the fair name of Australia.
But while he allowed that Government to continue on its course, nobody could have confidence in the country. In the circumstances, it was impossible for the banks or any other financial institution to make funds available. The removal of the Lang Government from office is one of the things that has improved conditions in Australia, and particularly in New South Wales. Honorable members who come from the Newcastle district know that at least 50 per cent, more men are now employed in the iron and steel works at Newcastle than was the case when the Lang Government was in office. What have those who have again been placed in employment to say on the subject ?
I know that the Leader of the Opposition is concerned about the matter. Today he has been eloquent, and even rhetorical. Despite the fact that he is earnest, all the eloquence in the world will not provide work for one man, and the right honorable gentleman did not put into his speech one suggestion for improving the position.
Let me get down to the actual position.
If has been stated over and over again - and it is true - that it is utterly impossible for a government to cure the evil of unemployment unless there is a worldwide improvement. So far as Australian governments are concerned, much has been clone, yet I do not pretend to be satisfied with the position. At the conference ofCommonwealth and State Ministers, and at the meeting of the Loan Council in Sydney, the representatives of the States made it perfectly clear that they had reproductive works to carry out, and would proceed with them if money were made available. The Commonwealth Government acknowledges the position. It has not many such works. Substantial sums have been made available to the States, and in the coming year these will amount, roughly, to £12,000,000, £10,000,000 of which will be new money, a substantial sum for a country in difficulties such as those which beset us. That money will be spent on public works. The Commonwealth Government will raise the money, and will let the States use it, and the States will he free to spend it upon reproductive works. Let me analyse the suggestion that the Commomwealth Government can, and should, do more.
We have decided to return to the old, sound method of approaching the market for the money required for the carrying out of loan works. A certain amount of money is available in the Australian market, and the Government proposes to raise it for the benefit of the States. In ordinary circumstances, the Commonwealth can undertake a programme of public works only by drawing money from the general pool. If the pool contains, say, £12,000,000, and the Commonwealth takes of that sum £2,000,000 to carry out federal works, the amount available to the States is correspondingly reduced, and no more employment is provided than if the States had expended the wholeof the sum. But as a result of the adherence of governments to the Premiers plan - and I make no distinction between the political complexions of governments - the restoration of public confidence and the improvement of the financial position, the Commonwealth Government will provide in the next budget for the expenditure upon works from revenue at least as much as has been provided in each of the last two years, namely, about £900,000. In addition, approximately the same amount will be provided from loan for a works programme. This means that, in the next financial year, the Commonwealth Government will expend on works, from revenue and loan, about double what was expended last year. The loan money will be drawn from sources at present accessible to the Government; we shall not go to the market for one penny of it, or make any inroads upon the resources available to the States.
– To what sources does the right honorable gentleman refer?
– The Government can draw upon certain loan moneys that have accrued, and this expenditure will not substantially affect the revenue programme during the next twelve months. In recent years, the Government has refrained from carrying out certain works which, though necessary, could be deferred. In many directions the Defence Department has been starved because of the state of the finances; but that policy cannot be allowed to continue.
– But the Government will allow the people to continue hungry.
– The Government is trying to prevent an increase of the people who are hungry. The defence works expenditure will he principally upon the erection of a new cordite factory in Victoria at a cost of about £40,000, and the construction in Australia, possibly at Cockatoo Dockyard, of a sloop to cost in the vicinity of £200,000.
– The Government could not find money for works at Cockatoo Island when it owned the dockyard.
– By leasing that dockyard to private enterprise, the Government has made available for works and services about £60,000, which it was losing on the operation of the establishment. In various parts of Australia, works associated mainly with the Department of Defence and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will be undertaken, and most of the expenditure involved will be for labour. The loan programme will cost approximately £750,000, and will provide considerable employment. In conjunction with the State Governments, the Commonwealth Government is doing everything possible. The States are endeavouring to cope with the requirements of the situation, and, during the approaching winter, funds will be available to them to push on faster with their works in order that greater relief may be afforded to the needy. Of course, money cannot be extended upon the construction of a cordite factory or a sloop until parliamentary approval has been obtained. But plans are being prepared and preparations made for the commencement of the works as soon as they have been sanctioned. The work at Cockatoo Dock will employ a large number of men, including some of the unfortunate limbless soldiers who were temporarily dismissed from the dockyard. They have a prospect of work for two years, even if no further orders should be given to the establishment. The Government hopes that the sloop will be built at Cockatoo Dock; at any rate, the order will be placed in the Commonwealth, so that employment may be found for our people.
I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) became heated over the comparison of the expenditure of his Government and that of the present Government on the relief of unemployment. He claimed that my figures were wrong in that I had not given his Government credit for an amount of £750,000 made available to South Australia. That was part of £1,000,000 granted to all the States for the relief of unemployment.
– The grant to South * Australia was specifically for unemployment relief, and nothing else.
– The South Australian Government approached the Scullin Government for an additional grant of approximately £1,000,000. The Commonwealth Government replied that it could find no more money, but if the other States could be induced to waive their claims to a portion of the £1,000,000, made available by the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Government would not object to the amount surrendered being transferred to South Australia. The £750,000 made available to South Australia was the amount surrendered by the other States.
– For the relief of unemployment.
– That is not correct. The money was made available to South Australia to help it to reduce its deficit in the same way as the present Government granted £i,000,000 to that State.
– My Government gave £1,000,000 for the relief of the State’s finances in addition to the £750,000 for unemployment relief.
– The honorable gentleman is incorrect. Does he contend that his Government made available to South Australia the sum of £1,750,000?
– That is not so. The amount of £750,000 was taken from the other States and transferred to South Australia, and on the present’ Government assuming office, it arranged for a straight-out grant of £1,000,000 to the State for the reduction of its” deficit.
– Merely to bolster up the Premiers plan.
– A special grant was made to South Australia, because of its exceptional need, to provide for the relief of unemployment.
– Every State was expending money on unemployment relief, but the grant made to South Australia was, as the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has said, to help the Government to carry out the Premiers plan.
– The Premiers plan was not mooted until nine months later.
– At any rate, the grants by the Scullin Government and the present Government helped the State to adhere to the Premiers plan.
I repeat that the Commonwealth Government is doing everything possible in conjunction with the States to relieve unemployment. In the domain in which the Government has sole responsibility - the Federal Capital Territory - at least as much work is being done as was done by any preceding government, except during the original construction of Canberra. Having regard to all the facts, no complaint can be legitimately laid against my Government. We hope that the forthcoming World Economic Conference will bring about an improvement of conditions, in which Australia will share. Meanwhile, we have an acknowledgment from Geneva that Australia is in a better position than almost any other country in the world. ‘That fact should stand to the credit of the Commonwealth and State Governments that have laboured to bring about an improvement of the nation’s affairs.
.- I support the amendment. The problem of unemployment is giving concern to the whole world, and I recognize that it will not be solved while the present social order continues. The statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that the present Government has done more than any other government for the relief of unemployment is not correct. For instance, it has not been as sympathetic as its predecessor to the unemployed occupants of war service homes. Notwithstanding statements made from time to time by Ministers that the Government would not evict occupants whose arrears are due to unemployment, we read from day to day of soldiers being evicted from war service homes. In those circumstances, how can the present Government say that it is showing due concern for the unemployed? The
Scullin Government was much more generous in the distribution of military clothing and stores for the relief of the needy. The present Government is doing very little in that way. I represent a district which has suffered acute unemployment since 1927, but I know that the Scullin Government made available considerable quantities of military clothing and blankets to my unfortunate constituents. Since the Lyons Government has come into office, the unemployed have not been able to get even a puttee.
– The matters with which the honorable member is now dealing may probably be discussed in Committee of Supply; but it is not in order for him to discuss them at the moment.
– Surely I am entitled, in discussing unemployment, to refer to the sufferings of the people. We know very well that neither this nor any other government will be able to do much to help the unemployed while the control of the credit resources of the nation remains in the hands of the banking institutions. The experience of the Scullin Government proved conclusively that the bankers can dictate government policy. The Lyons Government, however, has been much more ruthless in its treatment of the unemployed than the Scullin Government was.
The Prime Minister has told us that a cordite factory is to be built. What a commentary on our civilization ! The Government is apparently more concerned about preparing for another war than about rendering service to the community. Cordite factories for the manufacture of material intended to destroy human life can be built ; but homes for the homeless unemployed cannot be built! Instead of caring for the unemployed, the Government intends to build a cordite factory! Apparently, the nation is again to be plunged in ablood-bath like that of 1914-18. We have also been told that war sloops are to be built. Would it not be better to build merchant ships? Of course, this Government can do very little of a substantial character to help the unemployed so long as the money power is held by the banking institutions, and they exercise sovereign sway. These institutions are prepared to allow havoc to be worked within the nation, and widespread misery and want to overwhelm the people, so long as they retain control. It is extraordinary that this should foe tolerated in the age in which we live. Hunger, misery, and want can be allowed to continue; but money cannot be provided to put people into useful employment. There is sufficient credit available in. the country to meet the present situation, but the system of controlling it is all wrong. Although our fellow citizens are suffering so severely, the ‘Government is unable to pursue a policy which will grant them relief. The banking institutions directed that the Premiers plan should be put into operation, and the reductions of from 22-J per cent, to 25 per cent, in government expenditure, which involved a reduction of pension payments to the aged and infirm of the Commonwealth, and an interference .with other social services, became effective. The Scullin Government adopted the Premiers plan, but this Government has operated it in a much more callous fashion than the previous Government. Let it ‘be stated quite definitely and clearly that no less a sum than £700,000 has ‘been taken from the aged, and infirm people of this country - the most defenceless section of our community. By the action of this Government, these people, who, in the past, have made great sacrifices for the development of Australia, and have handed down the wonderful inheritance which we now enjoy, have been brought to dire need inthe evening of their life, when they are, in many instances, standing on the very verge of the grave. Not only has the Government robbed them of their pensions, but it has also made provision for the confiscation, after their death, of the little property that they possess. What’ hope is there, in these circumstances, that it may now be influenced to give any consideration whatever to our downtrodden people? There is no Christianity in the Government. Christ whipped from the temple the people He described as usurers and money lenders-
– Order !
– But this Government is submitting tamely to the domination of the soulless and callous money lords of this generation !
– Order, order !
– Even the expectant mothers of this nation have been robbed of £60,000 by this Government.
-Order! If the honorable member will not take notice of me, when I call him to order, I shall be compelled to direct him to resume his seat. I cannot believe that he did not hear my calls for order. I wish to assist the honorable member ; but he must conform to the rules of the House, and confine his remarks to the subject under discussion.
– I must admit that I become emotional when dealing with this subject, and I did not hear the first call to order. There is no doubt that the mandate issued to the previous Government by the banking institutions, in the form of the Premiers plan, has beer acted upon by this Government in the most ruthless manner. So long as we are content to . allow the financial resources of Australia to be controlled by the banks, we shall find our various governments, whether they be composed of members of the Labour party or of the United Australia Party, incapable of meeting the needs of our people. The banking institutions have undoubtedly manipulated the credit of the country to their own advantage. There is sufficient credit available to meet all out requirements, but the people have been soullessly exploited. By whatever terms we describe the manipulation of credit, the fact remains that the banking institutions have utilized the resources of the Commonwealth for their advantage, and left the unemployed people of the community to suffer.
Some of the schemes for the relief of unemployment put into operation by various governments, and particularly by the Government of New South Wales, have been deplorable. In New South Wales, for instance, single men are being offered 9s. 4£d. for a week’s work in substitution for the dole which was previously paid to them. This is a coolie wage, which even the Chinese coolie would blush to accept. If this Government was sincere in its desire to help the unemployed, it would adopt the fiduciary notes policy to which the Scullin Government, by the action of the Senate, was prevented from giving effect. Many of the leading countries of the world, including the United States of America, have now adopted the policy of issuing fiduciary notes to meet the financial circumstances in which they find themselves, and there is no reason why this Government should not do likewise. I have said previously in this House that fiduciary notes were issued to provide money for the carrying on of the war. Apparently that policy was good enough when the object was to kill men, but is not good enough when the object is to feed them by providing them with useful and reproductive employment. If, when the Senate refused to approve of the fiduciary note issue proposed by the Scullin Government, the Leader of that Government had appealed to the people, I am sure that they would have endorsed that policy. The result would have been that to-day he would be regarded as a world leader, whereas he is now relegated to the obscurity of the Opposition.
The Government says that the relief of unemployment is a subject for State governments to deal with. Let me remind the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that there is a Commonwealth Health Department, with a Minister for Health in charge of it. To-day, the health of the people is being impaired because of their lack of suitable nourishment. I know of women who have been taken to hospital suffering from malnutrition. Surely this should be the concern of the Commonwealth Health Department. The State governments have done yoeman service in some respects, in trying to feed needy people. Is the Commonwealth Government to do nothing of this nature? Unfortunately, it will not even make surplus military clothing and stores available for the assistance of the unemployed. The people need both clothing and blankets. A woman who is shortly to usher a new life into this country appealed to me some little time ago for some blankets. The only thing I could do was to tell her to appeal to the police. Doubtless, the police would go through her home, and make an- examination of it just as they go through the home of a returned soldier, and make an examination of it when the Government is preparing to evict the unfortunate occupier of it. I know of a returned soldier totally dependent on an invalid pension, who has been served with a notice to quit his home at Cessnock. The Scullin Government did not evict even one returned soldier from his home, but both this Government and the Bruce-Page Government have evicted returned soldiers. While the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) was administering the War Service Homes Department, a returned soldier was evicted; but I am glad to say that when the Scullin Government’ came into office the man was re-instated in his home. That is something which the Scullin Government did for the unemployed. This Government must be condemned for its callous attitude to those who are occupying the war service homes.
.- It is my experience that the more serious a problem the greater the necessity for facing it calmly; otherwise we are apt to reach wrong conclusions. I regret, therefore, that some speakers in this debate have become unduly heated.. I give them full credit for their sympathy with the unfortunate unemployed, but that sympathy is shared by others who do not allow their feelings to. run away with them in public. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked what the banks were doing to relieve unemployment, and he accused them of being partly responsible for the present unfortunate situation. He gave them no credit for doing anything. I propose to make a partial answer to his question. When in Melbourne recently, I obtained details of some of the operations of one of the major banking institutions in keeping people in employment. I am not at liberty to mention the name of the bank or of its manager, but this is the position. About £1,600,000 worth of advances have been made, upon which no interest is’ being received at all, and the money advanced is money which the bank holds in trust for its depositors. That sum was advanced in order to keep country people on their properties, and to enable them to find employment for themselves, and for others. [Quorum formed.]
– Was the money loaned free of interest?
– No; but no interest is being collected, and the money is not being called in. Obviously it cannot be called in.
– The bank has good security.
– Yes; but it is not forcing its customers to realize on their holdings. In addition, this institution has advanced £1,300,000 at an interest rate of between 4^ per cent, and 5 per cent., and upon that sum interest is being received, but the bank, instead of placing the interest payments into profits, is holding them in a trust fund in aid of its needy customers. So that, at least one banking institution is standing behind the sorely pressed producers of this country, to the extent of £2,900,000, to enable them to weather the storm of depression, and by that action it is doing much to mitigate the unemployment problem.
I listened with great care to the fine forensic effort of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), but I failed to mark in his speech any suggestion other than the implication that the cure for unemployment lies in the increased expenditure of public money. That is the yardstick, and that alone, which he appears to employ in this matter. He paid me the compliment of quoting from a speech which I made in this chamber last year on the question pf unemployment. In it I stressed the hope that the Government would evolve a long-range plan for the relief of the unemployed, and I stated that there were ample opportunities in certain areas, which I mentioned, for development, mostly of a rural character. I do not deny my disappointment that a long-range policy . along the lines which I had in mind has not been developed by the Commonwealth and the States in conjunction. There may be difficulties of which I am not aware which have prevented the adoption of. such a policy, but when we apportion the blame the whole df it cannot lie with the Commonwealth. The States have a sovereign responsibility in respect of their own people, and if the Commonwealth and the States in conjunction have not done what in my opinion they should have done, I do not lay the whole of the blame at the door of the Commonwealth.
There is no need for me to repeat what the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said about the expenditure of the previous and the present Governments, nor is there any need for me to repeat what was really a budget forecast of the expenditure which the’ Government has in mind, for providing employment during the coming year. The Prime Minister’s speech was good hearing. He said, among other things, that the States have sufficient money with which to enable them to carry on during the coming winter, and we have the assurance which we received when the question of unemployment was being previously debated in this chamber that the States have more money than they can spend, because of the delay that must necessarily take place in preparing for the works upon which to expend it. I interjected during the speech of the Leader of the Opposition that there had been a considerable increase of private spending, as all common-sense people realize, the cure for unemployment lies in private activities rather than governmental activities. I feel impelled to draw the attention of the right honorable gentleman to the fact that, during the last eighteen months, there has been greatly-increased activity in the building industry. It is recognized by all students that that industry gives the first indication of an upward or downward movement. Last autumn, when in Brisbane, I observed that a building revival was in progress comparable to that in Sydney and Melbourne a year or two earlier, and at a public function in that city I mentioned that fact. The bankers and the insurance officers, confident in the future of Queensland, were at that time spending tens of thousands of pounds to the advantage of the citizens of Brisbane and for the beautification of the city. I come now to- Melbourne, a city which is thoroughly familiar to the right honorable gentleman. The position of the building industry there is one of substantial improvement, whether in regard to the retail stores, like Myer’s and Buckley’s, where building extensions are taking place, or in regard to banks or chambers like the Manchester Unity building, a magnificent structure on one of the main corners of the city, which was completed only a few months ago. In the suburbs of Melbourne, building operations are increasing, and further out there has been a resurrection of home-building activities. This progress is indicative of certain changes, some political and some economic, but the main cause is that the people who have money are more willing to “spend. The reduction of costs is another factor responsible for the building activity; but unless the community was confident that we are heading in the right direction, those factors would not be nearly sufficient to make the people invest heavily in real estate. The position of Sydney is different from that of Brisbane or Melbourne. Until a few months ago that city was stagnant so far as building operations are concerned. The biggest activity was the extension of the Commonwealth Bank premises. But during the last six months the figures indicate that applications for the approval of building plans are being placed before the city authorities in increasing volume, and that an astounding percentage increase is revealed.
– That is not true.
– The cause that lies behind the Melbourne development also lies behind the Sydney development, and while honorable members opposite make it their business to cudgel this Government for its inaction, they make no mention of the fact that, in New South “Wales, the largest State of the Commonwealth, the opportunity to recover was longest delayed because of the political riot which existed there. The situation there has only recently been changed. The State election, which removed Mr. Lang from office, is only eleven months’ old, and the referendum a fortnight old. The conditions which have existed for some time in Victoria and Queensland are now beginning to exist in New South Wales. I have no hesitation in forecasting that New South Wales will soon catch up to, and possibly overtake, Victoria.
I have one comment to make regarding the Commonwealth Government’s activities in connexion with unemployment. It concerns a point which I raised some time ago, and which I shall now repeat. It is difficult for honorable members to obtain a true picture of the unemployment situation in Australia and of what has been done by the Commonwealth and the States and private enterprise to alleviate that situation. The Commonwealth Government has set up an unemployment committee, which is a sort of clearing-house for information. It was referred to by the Prime Minister to-day as being an institution which enables the States to know what each is doing. I believe that a central body like that is of considerable value, but its value would be greatly enhanced, and its work would be more appreciated, if honorable members in this chamber could, through this agency, obtain a proper picture of the position. I offer it as a suggestion to the Government that, from time to time, by means of the collecting and collating body which it has set up, it should make available to honorable members, not only figures showing what the various Governments are providing in the way of public funds for the relief of unemployment, not only the Statistician’s figures showing the rise and fall in the reported volume of unemployment, but something more, such as a brief survey of the general trend of events. I believe that if that were done, there would be less complaint from honorable members, who seem to lack information as to what really is going on, and there would be a better understanding all round. Above all things, unemployment is a subject which should not be placed on the chopping block of party politics. When unemployment comes before the House for discussion, the debate should not be regarded principally as an opportunity for party warfare.
– The honorable member used it at election time.
– During the election campaign, I promised no one a job, but I promised that, if stability could be achieved in national political circles, confidence would be restored, and opportunities for employment increased. So far as Tasmania is concerned, I ‘am prepared to face the public, and stand by what I then said. The results are now appearing in our own State.
– They are just around the corner.
– They are not around the corner, they are coming up the straight. I emphasize my suggestion that, through this agency which has been set up, a more systematic effort should be made in the future to keep honorable members advised on matters relating to unemployment, amelioration, the amount of money spent, the results achieved, and a general survey of the trend of events.
.- Probably never before in this House has the Prime Minister been heard to greater disadvantage than in the course of the debate this afternoon. His arguments were unsound, and his attempted justification of his Government’s policy in regard to unemployment was unconvincing. It is regrettable that he should have shown such a lamentable disregard of accuracy in the presentation of his case. The fact that, in order to answer the strong indictment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), he found it necessary to quote figures that did not accurately represent the position, is a poor compliment to his Government’s handling of the situation. The impeachment of the Government by the Leader of the Opposition was not answered satisfactorily by the Prime Minister. Had his statements been allowed to pass unchallenged by the Leader of the Opposition, they would have gone forth to the public as a further example of the misleading propaganda by which the Government seeks to justify its policy. We expected something a little better from the Prime Minister in a debate on a subject of such importance.
The Prime Minister’s references to the grant of £1,000,000 by the Scullin Government for unemployment relief were grossly inaccurate. This sum was made available by the Scullin Government for the specific purpose of relieving unemployment, and the Premiers Conference, which met to allocate the money to the various States, decided that £750,000 of the £1,000,000 should be granted to South Australia because of the unprecedentedly large number unemployed in that. State. I propose to read from the record of Parliament to prove that the statement of the Leader of the Opposition was correct, and that of the Prime
Minister incorrect. In the Hansard report for the 9th June, 1930, the then PrimeMinister, the Right Honorable J. H.Scullin, is reported on page 3896 aa follow.? : -
The Government has undertaken to distribute among the States a grant of £1,000,000 to be used for the purposes of immediate relief of unemployment. This will be in addition to the amount of £1,000,000 provided from Commonwealth revenue for road construction purposes, some months ago. Additional funds’ were provided for the Postmaster-General’s Department enabling employees, who would otherwise have been dismissed, to be retained to the number of 1,720.
The Prime Minister sought to convey the impression that the £750,000 granted to South Australia was a portion of the grant made to that State because of its disabilities and insecure financial position. That is not correct. Actually, a sum of £320,000, over and above the £750,000, was granted for this purpose in accordance with the recommendations of the Cook Royal Commission. In the following year, the Scullin Government granted a further £1,000,000 to South Australia. The Prime Minister also implied that that grant of £750,000 to South Australia was for the purpose of enabling that State to carry out its share of the Premiers plan. I remind honorable members that the grant was made in August, 1930, while the Premiers plan was not initiated until June, 1931, nearly twelve months later.
The Prime Minister was also misleading in his references to the unemployment figures for the period during which the Scullin Government was in office and during the regime of the present Government. He represented the unemployment figures as having been consistently mounting during the whole time that the Scullin Government was in office, and said that the peak period reached during the early part of his Government’s term was the culmination of the unfortunate effects of the previous Government’s administration. For the third quarter of 1931, the unemployment figures stood at 28.3 per cent., while for the fourth quarter of the same year, which was the last year of office of the Scullin Government, the figure was 28 per cent. Actually, therefore, the volume of unemployment had begun to decline in the last year that the Scullin Government was in office. During the first quarter of the term of the present Government, the percentage of unemployment rose to 28.3 per cent., and increased to 30 per cent., while in the third quarter of 1932, it stood at 29.6 per cent. Therefore, the volume of unemployment, which had begun to decline during the last stages of the Scullin Government’s administration, increased again when the present Government took office. The Scullin Government certainly did much better than this Government.
– What are the figures?
– For the first quarter of 1931, 25.8 per cent., and, for the first quarter of 1933, 26.5 per cent. That is proof enough that this Government has not fulfilled its promise to solve the problem of unemployment. In fact, it as been callously indifferent, and has regarded the subject more or less as of minor consideration. It has been more anxious to give relief from taxation to its special friends, and to confer favours on those who are already well situated, simultaneously imposing greater hardship on the less fortunate by reducing expenditure on certain essential social services. Comparison favours the Scullin Government, and the people of Australia will be able accurately to adjudge the position. They will realize the ineptitude of this Government, and condemn its failure to honour its promise.
The Prime Minister has claimed that the figures supplied by the League of Nations indicated that Australia was one of the four most favoured nations in the matter of unemployment. It is significant that the comparative figures given in the latest publication from Geneva are only provisional, and do not disclose the actual position of unemployment in Australia.
– What does the honorable member mean- by provisional figures?
– Figures that are unconfirmed, and subject to alteration.
– No country can supply accurate figures.
– It is remarkable that some do. The Government is not justified in preening itself on having obtained better results than other countries. The Prime Minister has endeavoured to delude himself that there has been some improvement of the position in
Australia, and he repeatedly used the well-worn phrase, “ There has been definite improvement.” The mere reiteration of such a catch-cry does not prove anything. If honorable members will visit industrial centres, rub shoulders with the unemployed, and consult with their associations, they will quickly become convinced that unemployment is now more acute than ever.
The Leader of the Opposition was perfectly correct when he said that some State governments endeavour to hide their true position in regard to unemployment. Men have ‘been taken off the unemployed register in South Australia, put into what are termed forest colonies, and given two days’ work a week in return for an amount which would otherwise be paid in sustenance. That is not providing work for unemployed, and solving the economic problem.
– If they are definitely taken off the unemployed market, they are employed.
– They have not been taken off the unemployed market, and to-day require employment just as much as they did three years ago.
– Are they kept at work regularly in those camps, or only intermittently?
– They are given two days’ work each week, and, while they are in these colonies, they are, for the statistical purposes of the Government classified as being in employment. In Victoria, if a man pays 1s. for a waterside workers’ licence, his name is taken off the unemployed register, though he might not get work for another year. So that the figures that have been referred to do not disclose the true position. If the Government admits this to be an especially difficult problem, it should detail a Minister exclusively to deal with it, and it would be found that such a Minister would have a full-time job.
The Government should arrange for a session devoted entirely to the matter to enable honorable members to discuss the complete problem of unemployment. The question of a shorter working week adopted on a nationwide basis must engage our attention. While the Government tinkers with the effect and neglects to seek the cause, it is not doing what is expected of a public body which has been chosen to safeguard the welfare of the community. During the last six months, particularly, the Government has shown remarkable complacency in regard to this matter. Had not’ the subject been raised by the Opposition from time to time, I doubt whether we should have heard anything about what is the most pressing problem confronting the nation? Not once has the Government voluntarily offered to review the subject.
– Why does not the honorable member advance a remedy?
– Obviously, the honorable member does not appreciate the fact that this is the direct responsibility of his Government. Members of the Labour Opposition are repeatedly suggesting schemes. The Scullin Government did advance a practical proposal by endeavouring to provide £1,000,000 monthly for twelve months to place persons on reproductive works, to increase the spending power of the community, and, incidentally, to stimulate trade. Honorable members opposite, who were then in Opposition, did everything possible to thwart the desires of the Scullin Government.
Economist’s and leading thinkers stress the need for raising price levels. Until we do that and enlarge the spending capacity of the community, we shall not overcome existing difficulties. At page 9 of the circular which is issued by the Bank of New South Wales, there appears the following passage: -
The problem of getting money into circulation may also be attacked from another angle. It has to be kept in mind that the problem is chiefly one of establishing in the minds of business men confidence in the possibility of making a profit by the expansion of enterprises. This confidence could only be established by the stimulation of demand at a price which will pay the producer, ami to increase demand it is necessary to set some one spending.
The Government must recognize that the problem is incapable of solution solely by private enterprise. It is necessary foithe Government to initiate a forward movement by using the powers of finance that are at its disposal, and undertaking a vigorous policy of development with reproductive public works, thus effecting a revival of trade, and placing persons in profitable and suitable employment. The fact that in this and that city there has been an increase in building activities is not a true indication that deflations has been checked, and that there is am improvement in the economic condition of the country. The facts do not support the claim of the Prime Minister that public confidence has been restored. If confidence had been restored, would the Government require to postpone the negotiations for the conversion of Australia’s external debt? Confidence will not be restored until there is in office a government capable of rising to the occasion, prepared to provide funds sufficient to re-employ our people at profitable work.
– The postponement of the London negotiations was due to the disturbance of the money market by European politics.
– That was the excuse; but it is a remarkable fact that other nations were able at that time to secure in London financial accommodation that is not available to Australia. The wretchedness and poverty of the unemployed, and their lack of clothing and comforts for the approaching winter, prove that the social and economic position, instead of being improved, is worse. The Leader of the Opposition has done a great public service in inviting the House to censure a government which, by its ineptitude, has shown itself to be unworthy of the confidence reposed in it by the Australian people eighteen months ago. I regret that such censure is necessary, but the Government’s failure to grapple with this national problem compels me to support the amendment.
– We are very much obliged to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) for his expression of regret that he finds it necessary to castigate and censure the Government. No doubt his sympathy was offered with the best intentions; but as the grounds upon which he based it can be proved to be unsound, the Government has no reason to be particularly grateful to him. I listened with interest, as I always do, to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). His gestures and eloquence, the pathos in his voice, and his’ elocutionary effects are invariably the same whether he is speaking of a symphony or a sausage.’ He adduces the same arguments in the same manner on all occasions, and he can be equally impassioned, perfervid, and eloquent about a gem of poetry or about the musical gurgling of a municipal gutter. Whilst he is always interesting, we are so accustomed to his expressions and methods that we do not pay the same attention to his speeches that we otherwise might. I do not blame the right honorable gentleman for his attack upon the Government. When I was in Opposition I realized that an occasional demonstration against the Government was necessary, and I participated in attacks upon the Labour Ministry as enthusiastically as honorable members of the Opposition to-day assail the present Government. Listening to the Leader of the Opposition, I imagined him saying to the unemployed : “ Behold me ! note the enthusiasm with which I am fighting your cause “ ; then, as he sat down with an expression of self-satisfaction, murmuring to himself, ‘’ That was a good effort; it should satisfy the unemployed for the next three months”. The unemployed get these soft words and oratorical outbursts on the eve of each adjournment of the Parliament. Business is delayed in order that the members of the Opposition may make their usual demonstration in force, so that when they return to their electorates they may say to the unemployed, “ Have you read in Hansard what we said in Parliament about you?” These gestures are all that the unemployed get. The workless unfortunate who is out in’ the cold winds without the clothing and blankets which the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) desires the Government to provide, cannot get much comfort out of what has been done for him by the Opposition.
The main point sought to be made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh was that the Prime Minister had been grossly inaccurate in reference to an amount of £750,000, which originally formed part of £1,000,000 provided by the Scullin Government for the relief of unemployment in all the States, but was transferred to South Australia for another purpose. The Prime Minister has completely disposed of the charge against him, but to provide conclusive testimony on the subject, I quote from Hansard of the 25th November, 1930, a speech made by the right honorable gentleman when he was Acting Treasurer in the Scullin Ministry. In moving the second reading of the South Australian Grant Bill, he said -
As honorable members are aware, a resolution was carried at the August conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, held in Melbourne, under which the Commonwealth and each State, with the exception of South Australia, undertook to do everything possible to balance the budgets for this particular year. Mr. Hill gave convincing evidence of his determination to make every effort to do so, but proved that the task was utterly beyond the capacity of his State. The Commonwealth could do no more directly than it had already done; but the States agreed to forgo, and thus make available to South Australia, certain grants that the Commonwealth had proposed to pay this year, chiefly to assist in relieving unemployment.
The States were prepared to surrender sums granted to them by the Commonwealth for the relief of unemployment in order to help Mr. Hill to balance his budget.
The total amount involved was £850,000. The balance of £150,000 that Mr. Hill said he would require to balance his budget has not yet been provided.
There was no mention of any purpose other than the balancing of the budget -
This bill seeks to give effect to the resolution carried by the representatives of the States. It will bo of interest to honorable members to hear the terms of that resolution -
That the claims of South Australia for further financial assistance from the Commonwealth be inquired into by the Federal Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee.
That pending £he result of such inquiry, the Governments of the respective States have agreed to forego certain grants which the Commonwealth proposed to make to them during the present financial year; and the Commonwealth has agreed to pay to the State of South Australia the moneys which the States have so agreed to forego.
– And he did not say that it wa3 for the special relief of unemployment in South Australia.
– If the right honorable gentleman will study the earlier portion of the speech of the then Acting Treasurer, he will realize that he has made a mistake.
– He misinterpreted and misrepresented what was done. My Government voted £1,000,000 for unemployment relief. You cannot get away from that.
– The money was voted for unemployment relief, but the Scullin Government diverted it to another purpose. Repeatedly, when in Opposition, I pointed that out. In proof of that I have quoted the speech of the Acting Treasurer in the right honorable gentleman’s Ministry.
– And the PostmasterGeneral’s leader of to-day.
– Yes, and the members of the Ministerial party, and, I believe, the Australian people also are glad that he is our leader.
– He was as inaccurate in 1930 as he is now.
– Mr. Hill’s plea was that the extra money was required to provide for the unemployed.
Mr. ARCHDALE ‘ PARKHILL.That was not so. I shall leave that aspect of the subject. Honorable members who are interested in it may read the speeches about it reported in Hansard, and form their own judgment upon it.
The amount of money made available for unemployment by respective governments is the best test that we can have of the sincerity of an administration in regard to this matter. It is recognized, of course, that unemployment relief is provided in Australia by the Commonwealth Government making money available for expenditure by the State Governments. A fact which stands out like a mountain peak is that the gross expenditure on loan works in 1930-32 by the Scullin Government was £10,700,000, and that the amount made available in 1932-33 by this Government was in the neighbourhood of £18,000,000.
– But how much money has this Government actually spent?
– It is useless to attempt to make a speech, which requires the statement of figures, if one is to be constantly interrupted by honorable gentlemen who wish to keep changing their ground. The figures which I have quoted make it abundantly clear that this Government has made much more money available for the relief of unemployment than did the Scullin Government. The accuracy of the figures that I have quoted cannot be denied. It is beside the point to ask what amount of money has been actually spent. The fact is that the Government is making money available to the State Governments, which are spending it as rapidly and, I hope, as efficiently as possible. Of course, there is room for difference of opinion as to whether the State Governments, though they have the best intentions in the world, are spending their money wisely. It is possible that later we may have to consider whether, in view of the fact that the Commonwealth Government is making such large sums of money available for the relief of unemployment, it is not desirable that State councils or joint Federal and State councils should be set up toensure that the money shall be spent on reproductive works, and not merely in doles. Expenditure in doles, of course, increases the interest bill of the States, and yields no permanently beneficial result. We should take all possible steps to- see that the maximum value is obtained for the money that is spent. It is not sufficient that the money is used for providing jobs for the unemployed in the electorate of particular members, or in different municipalities. Some properly prepared plan should be followed in the expenditure of this money. One of the main objects which governments should have in mind in making money available for the relief of the unemployed is the encouragement of private enterprise to provide additional employment. After all, it must be remembered that, normally, governments provide work for only 18 per cent, of our people, and private enterprise provides work fbr the remaining 82 per cent, of them. The money provided by the Commonwealth Government for the relief of unemployment should be used in such a way as will encourage private enterprise to make more employment available. Two thing3 are necessary, however, to cause private enterprise to do this. First of all, the private persons concerned must have confidence in the Government, and feel that” the investment of their money will be protected in the years to come and, secondly, they must have an assurance that they will obtain some return for the money they spend. All our efforts should be directed to induce private enterprise to expend money more rapidly than it is doing to absorb the unemployed.
Signs are not wanting that the position is improving. No one will deny that in New South Wales, at least, things are infinitely better to-day than they were eighteen months ago. We have been told to-day that building operations have been stimulated. When that statement was made, honorable members opposite sneered at it as though they objected to the detection of any progress in the absorption of the unemployed. We are, nevertheless, gradually emerging from the morass in which we were left by the previous Government. I believe that happier and brighter days are ahead of the people of this country. Honorable members opposite may twist and turn figures as they like, but they cannot get away from the fact that improvement is shown in every direction. I could, for instance, direct attention to the returns furnished by trade union secretaries. I do not suppose that honorable members opposite will dispute the authenticity of such returns. In any case, it is well known that many men who were formerly members of trade unions are to-day not members of them, and are in employment as non-unionists. The improvement shown in the figures furnished by trade union secretaries is, consequently, not the full measure of the improvement in the general position. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) referred to the remission of taxation by this Government as though it was a special blow to the workers of Australia, whereas the fact is that all such remissions must inevitably ‘beneficially affect the working class by making more money available for employment, so increasing the general prosperity. My sympathy is not entirely with the manual workers. I know of many clerical workers, including youths and female typists, whose lot is harder than that of many manual workers. It will be seen, therefore, that this subject should be examined from many angles.
It has been suggested that a whole session of this Parliament should be devoted to the discussion of unemployment. Apparently, honorable members opposite think that the more they talk about unemployment, the more they are doing to relieve it. That is not my opinion. If the debate this afternoon is to be taken as a sample of the debates that would occur if a full session were devoted to the subject of unemployment, God help the unemployed! Not one constructive suggestion was made by the Leader of the Opposition from the opening of his speech to his eloquent peroration, nor by any one of his followers who spoke in the debate. As a matter of fact, the points at issue have been, first, the amount of money that should be advanced for unemployment relief; and secondly, the amount spent in this way by the Scullin Government, and that made available by the present Government. The unseemly quarrel that has developed on this point is unedifying. It is regrettable that, in this debate, the speeches of honorable members opposite have, so far, been barren of constructive suggestion. Abuse of the Government is not helpful, and will not provide food for a single unemployed person. The challenging of the Government’s figures is also useless, in that it does not help to find work for the workless. In spite of the quibbles of honorable members opposite, it cannot be gainsaid that this Government has given much more substantial relief to the unemployed than was given by the previous Government. Unfortunately, in a debate of this kind, the repetition of time-worn platitudes is always a noticeable feature.
I could quote figures to show that the food relief expenditure of New South Wales has decreased very greatly, and that the revenue of the unemployed relief fund from the shilling in the pound tax imposed by the Lang Government has increased. A fair deduction, therefore, is that there are fewer persons unemployed, and more paying the unemployment tax. For the seven months from the 1st July, 1932, to the 31st January, 1933, the New South Wales unemployed relief tax of ls. in the pound yielded £4,431,933, and for the seven months from the 1st July, 1931, to the 31st January, 1932, £3,116,899. So that from the 1st July, 1932, to the 31st January, 1933, the amount collected by means of the unemployment tax of ls. in the fi increased by £315,094, clearly indicating that 3,000 additional men had been provided with employment during that period.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said that 38,000 additional men had been employed.
– I am referring to only one aspect of employment, and the figures provide indisputable and unmistakable evidence that work had been provided for 3,000 men who were previously unemployed. During the regime of the previous Government, we were accustomed to hearing the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) saying, at least once a week, that 50,000 more men had been placed in employment, and on one or two occasions he ventured to say that 100,000 men had been employed. But if employment had been provided to the extent mentioned by him every man in this country would have had a job. What did the Labour champions of the unemployed do for them during their term of office? Let them cast their minds back to their inglorious record in respect of the distribution of £100,000 which was provided for the relief of unemployment - the cry on which they lost office. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) described the distribution of that money as one of the greatest ramps that had ever been perpetrated in politics, and he took action in regard to it which threw the Government out of office. I invite the unemployed of this country to remember that episode, and to judge the previous and the present Governments by their actions. Our predecessors were thrown out of office most ignominiously. They were defeated on a motion submitted by a Labour supporter censuring them for mishandling and misusing unemployed funds. That is the way in which honorable members opposite helped the unemployed while they were in office, yet they have the audacity to criticize this Government, which is using every effort to place men in employment. One would think that the members of the Opposition had the sole performing rights to express sympathy with the unemployed, and to shed crocodile tears on- their behalf on the eve of an adjournment of three months. I have certainly no wish to join them. A man who goes about the country saying what he intends to do and what he has done is usually ignored and avoided. That is what the Opposition is doing. But the attitude of the Government is genuine. It’ desires to improve the condition of the people of this country. There are evidences everywhere that as a result of its efforts this country is slowly but surely emerging from the financial slough of despond into which it was allowed to sink by the previous Government and moving towards a happier and more contented state.
Sitting suspended from 6.12 to 8 p.m.
.- One interesting feature of this debate, so far as it has gone, is the refusal of those who speak for the Government to say anything definite regarding the Government’s intention in respect to unemployment. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons),, when replying to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), worked himself into a passion, and cried aloud to Heaven that unemployment had decreased, and prosperity had returned since the Nationalist Government had assumed office. The speech of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) consisted chiefly of distortions, and there was nothing in either of the speeches indicative of any determination to depart from the policy of dilly-dally and waitawhile, in the hope that something would happen somewhere else - anywhere but in Australia - to relieve the situation. The Government has taken up a negative attitude. In spite of the passionate declarations of the Prime Minister and his supporters, nothing has been done. Fundamentally, the position of the country to-day is infinitely worse than when the present Government took office. Wages have come down, and the prices of commodities have fallen. I do not say that the Government is responsible for the decline of overseas prices, but the Government can control, to some extent, internal price levels. The wool-grower is worse off than when this Government assumed power, and the wheat-growers, are definitely in a worse position. For some time the dairying industry was on a paying basis, but when large numbers of pastoralists and wheat-growers went in for dairying, the rot set in there too, and prices fell. The same applies to fruit-growing, with the result that there is not in Australia one primary industry that is better off now than when the Lyons Government took office. When we see price levels continue to fall as at present, there is obviously nothing before the primary producers but bankruptcy. The Prime Minister, when Leader of the Opposition, painted a rosy picture of the prosperity which Australia would enjoy if only the United Australia Party were returned with a majority, and every one of his supporters, with the possible exception of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin), who assures us that he promised no man a job if he were elected, declared from the public platform that unemployment would be relieved if the Scullin Government were defeated.
I have here a copy of an advertisement authorized by the United Australia Party before the last election, in which the public were assured that, if the United Australia Party were returned, there would be more jobs for the workers. This advertisement appeared in practically every newspaper throughout the country, and in some instances, as much as £120 and £140 a page was paid for its publication. Not content with publishing such statements in the press, the Prime Minister, who was then leading the Opposition, mouthed them from every platform. It is stated in the advertisement that the United Australia Party would restore confidence throughout Australia, and throughout the world. The right honorable gentleman was not satisfied with merely establishing confidence in Australia; he was prepared to take on the job of doing it every- where. We are assured that, once the United Australia Party was put in control, money would return, the wheels of industry would begin to revolve, and prosperity would be restored. Yet the position, as we know, is worse now than it was then. Speaking in the northern part of South Australia, Mr. Lyons said that all the people had to do was to look the facts squarely in the face, to find a way out of their difficulty. He spoke of the wretchedness of unemployment, and of the thousands of men who were tramping the roads looking for work, knowing that they were leaving misery in their homes behind them. Honorable members opposite taunted us this afternoon notwithstanding the obvious sincerity with which we stated our opinions on this subject. The implication was that we were shedding crocodile tears over the unemployed, but for sheer volume, we cannot go beyond the crocodile tears shed by the Prime Minister when referring before the last election to the plight of the unemployed. He declared that the one great duty of the Government was to take steps to start the workers on the way to more employment. The Scullin Government, he said, had been compelled to adopt the policy which he had advocated. The Scullin Government, as a matter of fact, attempted to implement the policy over which the right honorable gentleman left the party, and we were prevented from doing so. Until the policy of the Scullin Government is put into operation, unemployment figures cannot be reduced, or prices improved. Then, last but -not least, we have this utterance of Mr. Lyons, delivered at Port Melbourne -
Unemployment is the important question of the moment. . . . For 22 years I have looked after the workers in my State, and I hold that private enterprise alone can solve the unemployment problem.
Every speaker on . the other side of the House has reiterated the fallacy that only by private enterprise can Australia recover from the economic depression.
The Government has shown a complete and callous disregard for over 300,000 unemployed persons in Australia, and has taken no steps to relieve their distress. Rather has it created more unemployment because of its refusal to deal with the problem as it should be dealt with, and as it would have been dealt with but that the supporters of the Government in another place blocked the legislative programme of the Scullin Government.
We have been told that the volume of unemployment has decreased. As was stated by way of interjection during the debate, any set of figures regarding unemployment, even those prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician, can be taken only as an indication of the position, and not as an actual record of the number out of work. The responsibility for supplying unemployment figures rests exclusively upon the trade unions, and although they perform the work to the best of their ability, they are obviously unable to take into account unemployment among those who do not belong to their organizations. There are anything from 300,000 to 500,000 workers in Australia who do not belong to trade unions, and in order to estimate the amount of unemployment among them, we can only assume that the percentage is approximately the same in ‘ their’ case as among trade unionists. In addition, there are the thousands of boys and girls who have left school every year during the last three years of the depression, and have had no opportunity of obtaining employment, or of joining trade unions. Between 60,000 and 80,000 boys leave school each year in Australia, and very few of them have found employment during the last three years. The percentage of unemployment as disclosed in the official figures has declined by only about 1 per cent, in twelve months, despite the fact that there has been in office a Government which was going to give everyone a job, and which had promised to bring real money to the country. So far as I can see, there is no more real money in Australia now than when the Scullin Government left office; probably there is less. After nearly eighteen months of persistent effort, of racking of brains, and making of speeches, the present Government must admit that the volume of unemployment has probably increased during its term of office, and that the hundreds of thousands of miserable men described by the Prime Minister as tramping the roads are still tramping in search of work they are unable to find. “We were told by the Prime Minister that in New South Wales, the number of persons in receipt of the dole or sustenance allowance has been decreased by 40,000. I challenge that statement, and if the right honorable gentleman will accompany me through various towns in New South Wales, he will find how it is that the Stevens Government has been able to compile these figures which, in practically every case, misrepresent the position, and, in some cases, amount to an actual lie in regard to the unemployment position. For example, take Hay, Bourke, Brewarrina, Cobar, Nyngan, and Dubbo, towns in which I have known families for some 30 years. In Hay, particularly, you will be told that there are but five persons on the dole. Probably there are 40 who should be on the dole or, as an alternative, given work. So that, if all these things were totalled, it would be found that instead of there being a reduction in the number of persons on the dole in New South Wales, there has actually been an increase since this Government assumed office.
The Postmaster-General made a characteristic speech, excelling in brazen effrontery and the distortion of facts. His references ranged from symphonies to sausages, from poetic language to the gurglings of municipal gutters, but were mostly germane to the latter. The honorable member said that the present debate is the usual pre-recess demonstration from the Opposition; that honorable members opposite desired to return to their homes. Why, then, should the Labour opposition make such a demonstration, and put Ministers and honorable members who support the Government to inconvenience? Surely the fact that there is a three-months’ adjournment in prospect, affords the best reason why there should be such a demonstration. I assure the honorable member that honorable members on this side will- continue to make these demonstrations while there are. from 300,000 to 350,000 persons who are either suffering from mal-nutrition or are on the verge of starvation, and ultimately we shall convince the people that we are right. I can quite understand the annoyance and, probably, the anxiety of honorable members opposite, who dislike intensely our speeches, which expose the wilful misrepresentation and distortion of facts resorted to by supporters of the Government. But there is no distortion of fact in the statement that, in Australia, there are from 300,000 to 350,000 persons on the verge of starvation, without proper clothing, and unable to obtain work or adequate sustenance. Even the churches are taking a hand in the matter, to the shame of this and every other tory government in Australia. Last week the
Presbyterian Assembly met in Sydney, and its members, not politicians desirous of making a demonstration, but ministers of religion, who are brought into close contact with our workless, and are trying to do something for the vast body of suffering humanity, exhaustively discussed this problem. From the deliberations of those representatives of a great church, there emerged a statement which virtually amounted to a charge of incapacity against this and other governments for failing to relieve the need of the thousands of almost starving people who remain unemployed.
– Let the honorable member read the resolution on the subject arrived at by that conference.
– I have read, not only it, but also the various speeches made by members of the conference.
– The conference commended the Government for what it had done.
– And did it riot ask that the dole payment should be increased? The honorable member is silent, as he well might bc. After the PostmasterGeneral had made a political speech which was a fairly bitter one, he asked “ Why is it that we cannot get this Parliament to come together in a non-party spirit and discuss this matter fairly and openly in an endeavour to evolve a solution?” After dwelling on that aspect for some twenty seconds, he continued his speech on party lines for another twenty minutes. Following his customary practice, the honorable gentleman misquoted figures, and side-stepped the issue. Together with his leader, he has a happy knack of taking figures from their context to suit the case of the moment, but I believe that of the two the PostmasterGeneral is the tutor. The honorable gentleman said that, during the administration of the Scullin Government in 1931-32, £10,000,000 had been spent on public works by the combined governments of Australia. The Scullin Government was in office for only five months of that year, for the remainder of which this so-called “ prosperity “ Government occupied the treasury bench. During that seven months, this Government effected an economy of £62,000 in the amount that the Scullin Government had set aside for expenditure in the Federal Capital. The fair thing to do is to take a full year. In 1930-31, when a Labour Government was in office, the Governments of Australia spent £16,500,000 on public works, plus an amount of £1,640,000 taken from revenue, making a total of £18,140,000. The Postmaster-General has said that this administration intends to spend £18,000,000 on public works this year. His colleagues and he know that that amount will not be expended by the different governments of Australia, but that the so-called “prosperity” Government will effect a saving on that amount of at least £2,000,000.
The honorable member expressed doubt as to whether governmental expenditure can solve unemployment, and pinned his faith to the fetish of private enterprise. Private enterprise has had an opportunity for three years to do something and has failed. We were told that as soon as there was a change of government, and the “ reckless administration “ of the Labour party was removed, prosperity and confidence would follow. The PostmasterGeneral omitted to mention this afternoon that, within six months of the Scullin Government vacating office, Commonwealth bonds increased by £20 in the £100, which indicates that, as a result of the courageous fight put up by that administration, the tide had turned. I should like the next Government supporter who speaks to point to any private organization or person who is willing to engage in the production of more stockings, more , wheat, more wool, fruit, cheese, or any other primary or secondary product. What organization is prepared to invest £100,000 in the erection of a new factory, particularly in view of the tariff-smashing policy of this Government? Private enterprise will not make such investments, because it knows that there are no prospects of making profits. Honorable members opposite, who probably know more than I do about the matter, because they are in contact with the owners of factories, businesses and financial institutions, are aware of the complete incapacity of private enterprise to do anything towards increasing employment. Private enterprise would say “give us a market by providing the workers with a chance to earn and purchase; then we shall show what we can doby supplying the demand. Until the demand is created, nothing will be done”. The Scullin- Government put forward a well thought out monetary policy which was attacked by honorable members who now sit opposite, and who spoke about “ real money “. The present Prime Minister was prominent in the attack, and he insinuated that spurious money would be turned out by machines, saying that his party would have none of it, as the scheme lacked gold backing. Lo and behold, we find the present Government doing precisely what was contemplated by the Scullin Government. The only difference is that the scheme of the Scullin Government had the backing provided by the maintenance of law and order, the stability of governments and of the people, together with the capacity of people to pay. It is extremely doubtful whether the Commonwealth note issue has at present any gold backing. I am confident that if there is a hacking amounting to even 3d. in the £1 it is almost accidental, because the Government had not enough gold to sell overseas. The honorable member for Lang asked what we proposed to do. He was not a member of this House when the Labour Government’s financial programme was submitted, but as an aspirant for political honours, he should have known what our proposals were. The first was to create a fiduciary note issue of £18,000,000, of which £12,000,000 was to be expended through the State Governments at the rate of £1,000,000 a month on reproductive or developmental works. That programme would have put into employment immediately 100,000 men. The other £6,000,000 was to be made available to the various State Governments and agricultural departments to assist the men on the land to undertake clearing, ring-barking, scrub-cutting, fencing, and other works which would make their properties more productive. That money, expended at the rate of £50,000 a month, would have given employment to another 40,000 men. The £18,000,000 fiduciary issue would have set 140,000 men to work.
– This reminds one of old times.
– The fiduciary note issue proposed by the Scullin Government was for £18,000,000; the present fiduciary currency is £49,000,000. What was a sin in a Labour government is a virtue in a Nationalist government ! After the Scullin Government’s monetary policy had been assailed in this chamber, and in every tory newspaper, the representatives of the private banking institutions in the Senate defeated the proposals. But is not the present Commonwealth note issue merely a fiduciary issue, with no backing other than the credit of the country, the capacity of Australia to pay? Until we have an increased fiduciary currency which will expand credits, restore men to work, increase price levels, assure a reward to the farmers, graziers, orchardists and dairymen, and increase the purchasing power of the community, private enterprise will be unable to do anything to decrease unemployment.
– The problem of unemployment transcends in importance any other subject that receives the attention of this Parliament. I do not propose to attack either the last Government or the present Government for having failed to solve this problem. No country in the world has yet been able to find a solution, with the possible exception of Russia, where methods are in use which could not be reconciled with the democratic principles of the Australian people. I propose to approach the subject as one calling for the co-operation of all parties and all interests. We are passing through trying times, and there is a call for action in which we all ought to be playing a part, irrespective of party. This is the Federal Parliament, the National Parliament, and the people look to us to act in a truly national way for the good of the whole Commonwealth and all who dwell in it. We have our party differences, and I suppose that in this far from perfect world we shall continue to have them, but, after all, there are some things in which we should be able to act as a unitedbody without seeking to make party capital. Especially should this be our attitude at a time when so many thousands of our people, through no fault of their own, are vainly searching for work. Many of them have been out of work for months, and some for years. Regarding ‘the necessity for opening up avenues of employment for these people there cannot be any difference of opinion. It is not a question of what can I do or what can you do ? Rather should we ask ourselves what can we all do, if we apply ourselves wholeheartedly to the task as members of one family? Are we not all Australians? Is not this our country? Are not these our people? I am not alone in expressing my disappointment that we have done so little. Many months have elapsed since this Parliament met, and the great spectre of unemployment still stalks the land. Perhaps the evil is not so bad as it was a year or so ago, but it is bad enough, and the time over-ripe^ for decisive and united action . by this Parliament. What action can we take? That question is too big to be answered by any one of us, but unitedly we may be able to see light in the darkness. I have sat here day after day, night after night, waiting for something that has never happened, and I would not be true to myself, let alone to my constituents, if I were to remain longer without protesting that it is time we made some real united effort to bring about a happier state of things. Unemployment is a desperate ill, and may require a desperate remedy. We have occupied many months in discussion of the tariff. Of course, it is right that the tariff schedule should be validated, but tariff schedules will not cure the great evil of unemployment. We have heard a great deal about the need for international action, but little about the need for national action. Are we to wait for the other nations to cure our ills, or shall we tackle our own problems in our own way? I suggest that the problems should be tackled practically in a spirit ot co-operation. For the time being we should forget party, and appoint a parliamentary committee representative of all sections in this chamber to make a thorough examination of the problem, and survey it from all angles, and submit recommendations to this Parliament. Is that impracticable or impossible? If it is, that is only because we’ arcfollowing a system of government that is unsuited to these times. I have sufficient faith in the good sense of the members of this House, no matter what their political opinions may be, to believe that such a commi’ttee could make helpful recommendations. I believe that the members, striving earnestly and faithfully, would find common ground on which they could meet, as Australians imbued with no other desire than to do something really^ worth while for this country and its people. There must be some way out of our trouble. Let the committee find it, even if.it should give a shock to those of us who are so pinned to the old methods and shibboleths that we are afraid of anything new. We have had shocks enough already, and one or two more will not hurt us much. We seem to be afraid of ‘breaking new ground, or creating fresh precedents ; but is there any precedent for the depression through which the world is passing? Many things have .broken away from their old moorings during the last two or three years, and perhaps a few more will break away before we are through with our difficulties. Every man is entitled to work and to earn a living as . a decent citizen, and it is the duty of Australia to find work for all its people. The dole is neither Christian nor economic; it is a confession of political ineptitude, and, if that is the best we can do for our people, we should hand over our jobs to a ‘board of business men, who will manage the country as they manage their own great companies. The committee I suggest might consider the introduction of rationing. That might be objected to in many quarters; but it would he preferable to allowing the people to live under a system akin to bolshevism.
I have lately been reading a good deal about the new economic science, if it can be termed a science, known as technocracy. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that all things are changing in this modern world, and most of the change is the result of the introduction of new and better machinery. We are living in a machine age, and it is questionable whether man is governing the machines, or the machines are governing mankind. I am not one of those who contend that the march of science has been a bad thing for the world, but I do say that we are not using science as we should. If it has been a bad thing, it is because we have allowed the machines to master us instead of our mastering them. What is the use of inventing machines if those for whom some employment still remains are to continue working as hard as ever, whilst many thousands of their brothers are to have no work at all? A system of rationing will have to be considered. In other words, there is a great deal to be said for shortening the hours of labour. This is one of the great subjects that a nonparty parliamentary committee might investigate. Something has been done in America in the direction of shortening hours. It is not more production that is required, but more employment to provide the people with the means to purchase what is produced. We are not overproducing, but under-consuming, because there is no power to buy the goods. The march of science we cannot stop; but the displacement of man-power, following the tremendous acceleration of production with the aidof modern machinery, must be investigated. Mass production lowers the price of goods, but people will not buy more than they need, and they cannot buy at all if they are unemployed. It is said that about two-thirds of our people are producing more than sufficient for the whole population. Many of our factories, if working at their maximum efficiency, could produce enough in six months to provide for the whole year. Over-production, as we call it, means that huge sums of money stagnate in large surplus stocks of goods. This, in turn, means less money in circulation and less money for industry, and consequently less employment for men and women.
Another subject that might be investigated is the need for expanding the markets for our products. Whilst the Ottawa agreement will help in this direction, I hope that governments and producers will do all that is possible to open new markets. There is a vast source of wealth in the Far East - the near East to us - waiting to he tapped by Australia. What the United States of America andCanada have done we can do. We should have trade representatives able to speak the languages of the countries they visit, and our goods should be labelled in those languages. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) is not over optimistic regarding the problematical benefits of the forthcoming world economic conference, and I have a great respect for the opinions of the right honorable gentleman. He said in Sydney recently that he would be glad when the conference was over, because then, whatever its conclusions might be, Australia would be able to tackle in real earnest the task of straightening out her position, and dealing with her own peculiar problems. But why wait for the conference? Why not make a start at once? The committee I suggested might give a lead to our own people and to the world. An international conference may pass resolutions about war debts, tariffs, and monetary policy; but, before any practical benefit could be felt, a great deal of time must necessarily elapse. Australia has problems that cannot be settled by other people. No resolutions of a world conference will resolve the difficulties which are peculiar to this country. I have mentioned some of the directions in which a non-party committee of this Parliament might conduct its inquiries. Others might he mentioned. For instance, the committee might discuss the prospect of starting a great rural movement, with the object of establishing colonizing settlements to assist city youths. This is a matter in regard to which other honorable members are better informed than I am. I have said sufficient to indicate that co-operation is necessary if we are to reach our desired goal. I hope that, in the interests of our people, the Government and political parties generally will give this suggestion the most earnest consideration.
.- The discussion in this House of the subject of unemployment always engenders heat, because of the promise made so confidently by Government supporters prior to the last election that, if the United Australia Party were returned to power jobs would be found for everybody. The only job that unemployed people have been able to find is the job of hunting for a job. Even thosewho are in work are fearful that they may be thrown on to the industrial scrapheap. The honorable member for
South Sydney (Mr. Jennings) made a plea for party unity, but how will unity do anything to solve the unemployment problem ? During the last election campaign, the leaders of the parties supporting the Government made it clear that they did not desire any assistance from the Labour party to solve the unemployment problem. Consequently, honorable members opposite must not be surprised if they are reproached somewhat bitterly for not giving effect to the definite promises they made. There have been political unity movements in this and other countries, but they have not resulted in a solution of the unemployment problem. The Liberal and Conservative parties of Great Britain, which had been fighting each other for many years, joined with the remnants of the Labour party to form a coalition government about eighteen months ago, but the only result, in relation to unemployment, has been that the number of unemployed in Great Britain has increased by 160 per cent, in the period that has since elapsed. Political unity movements will do nothing to solve the unemployment problem.
The honorable member for South Sydney said that if this Parliament could not solve this problem we should revert to government by commission. I was surprised to hear the honorable gentleman suggest the adoption of a policy which was very close to that advocated by the New Guard. The honorable member also suggested the rationing of work. That is the next step towards the dole. The trouble to-day is that even the people in employment find difficulty in providing themselves with the necessaries of life. “We need an increase of the purchasing power of the people. A distribution of the present purchasing power over a greater number of people will not do anything to increase the consumption of goods. The taking of a part of the earnings of one section of the people and the giving of them to another section will not help us.
I was somewhat heartened for a moment to hear the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) tell us that prosperity was not round the corner, but was now actually “coming up the straight “. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) said . a few weeks ago that we were prepared for prosperity when it arrived. Now that it is arriving, what does the Government propose to do ? The honorable member for Denison always makes a strong point of hia sympathy with the workers; but, as has been pointed out on many occasions in this chamber, sympathy does not fill empty stomachs. The honorable gentleman also frequently has a great’ deal to say about the necessity for efficiency, and the cutting down of costs. He, himself, made a considerable contribution towards the increase of unemployment when,- just before Christmas, he succeeded, with others, in inducing the Government to suspend the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act. This resulted in the displacement of Australian seamen by coolies. The honorable gentleman made it clear to ,us that he could not tolerate the effluvium of the sheep and cattle which were carried on the decks of the Australian vessels trading between the mainland and Tasmania, but, apparently, he has no objection to the effluvium of the coolies who walk the decks of the boats of the P. and O. Company, and other overseas shipping lines.
In dealing with our criticism of the private banking institutions, the same honorable member stated that he had himself investigated the affairs of one banking company in Melbourne, and had discovered that it had recently loaned £1,600,000 free of interest. I thought, for a moment, that the honorable member must have investigated, by mistake, the affairs of a benevolent society. But when he was pressed for additional information he disclosed that the institution concerned had only lent the money free of. interest temporarily, and that ultimately the persons to whom it has been made available would have to pay the piper with accumulated interest. The money was lent in order to allow persons in possession of certain securities to retain possession of them for the time being. The company knew that if” the securities were dumped on the market at present they would have to be sold at bargain prices, and would not yield the amount of money that had already been lent on them. It therefore made certain sums available to the persons concerned to enable them to retain the securities until such time as the full indebtedness in respect of them could be met. .
Building operations in Sydney in recent months were also discussed by the honorable member for Denison. He told us that a considerable amount of new building was going on. But those who are dependent upon the building industry of Sydney for employment know very well that the trade was never in such a parlous condition as at present. There is no evidence in this direction of a return to prosperity. Similar statements to that made by the honorable member have also been made by other persons. Alderman Jackson, of the Sydney City Council, speaking at Katoomba recently, said that there was a building boom in Sydney, and that this was evidence that prosperity had returned. But after making that statement on a Saturday night, he made a plea on the following Tuesday at the Sydney City Council to stay its hand in regard to the enforcement of a regulation which required the substitution of hanging awnings for post awnings. Prosperity had not returned sufficiently, in the opinion of the alderman, to justify the council in forcing people to give effect to the regulation which it had framed.
One of the most remarkable disclosures made in this debate is that £750,000 of a certain £1,000,000 made available by the Commonwealth Government’ some time ago for the relief of unemployment in various States had been used, not for that purpose, but for the payment of interest to bondholders in order that the South Australian Government might meet its obligations. I am not concerned, at the moment, whether the version of the story given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), or that given by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) is the correct one. The fact remains that this scandalous .thing has been done. It is most’ reprehensible that money voted for unemployment relief by this Parliamentshould have been used to assist to balance the budget of a State Government. I do not think that the people of Australia will tolerate that kind of thing.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in the course of his speech, said that in consequence of the co-operation of the various State governments with the Commonwealth Government unemployment had been reduced throughout Aus tralia, and in support of his statement he referred to the reduction in the expenditure of the New South Wales Government on food relief. Honorable members who are acquainted with the position in New South Wales know that this reduction of expenditure is explained by the fact that the Stevens Government has wrongfully, in my opinion, restricted the granting of food relief with the result that many thousands of unemployed persons, who are justly entitled to such relief, are not now able to obtain it. In addition, many of the people who are in employment in that State are really working for the dole. I ask how far the unemployed people of Australia are to-day above the level of the coolies of other countries? Many of our people are working for only sufficient food to maintain life. They have no margin whatever for the purchase of clothing or the provision of housing. The Postmaster-General said that in a certain period the amount received by the New South Wales Government in unemployment relief taxation was £3,116,899, but’ if honorable members care to calculate the amount of money spent by the Stevens Government in providing relief work and food relief they will discover that practically the whole cost of such operations is provided by the contributions of working people who are still fortunate enough to remain in employment.
The unemployment figures quoted by the Prime Minister and the PostmasterGeneral show a remarkable divergence. The Prime Minister said that over a certain period 38,000 additional people had been placed in employment in New South Wales. The Postmaster-General said that only 3,000 additional people had found employment. That slight difference of 35,000 requires some explanation. These two statements indicate how unreliable is the information used by members of the Government in discussing this subject. It has been said that tha people should be told the truth. I suggest to the members of the Government that in discussing this subject they should compare notes before delivering their speeches, so that their remarks may, at least, be somewhat consistent.
– I did not say that at all.
– The PostmasterGeneral said that during a period of six months 3,000 additional men had been placed in employment in New South Wales.
– I said that that was only one aspect of the employment that had been provided.
– Much has been made of the fact that the banks made money available for the provision of employment on the understanding that the various governments of Australia would accept the Premiers plan and put it into operation. I do not know that the banks have made any great contribution towards the relief of unemployment. Despite all the talk about confidence being restored in the community, and the Prime Minister’s assurance to-day that the Government is able to borrow money in order to carry out national works, the fact remains that a few months ago when the Commonwealth endeavoured, on behalf of New South Wales, to raise a loan of £8,000,000 by public subscription for the purpose of carrying out a public works programme, about £3,000,000 was subscribed by the public and £5,000,000 left on the hands of the underwriters. Had confidence been restored in the community, one would have thought that the people would be only too ready to invest their money in public security. But the failure of that loan shows clearly that confidence has not been restored. The Prime Minister said that there was evidence that the people of Australia, and particularly of New South Wales, were prepared to invest their money because they had confidence in the Commonwealth and State Governments, but I do not know what consolation he draws from the fact that, at the recent referendum, the Labour party in New South Wales increased its vote by over 100,000, showing that, within twelve months, over 100,000 people had transferred their allegiance from the Stevens Government to the Labour party. That is not very good evidence that the administration of the Nationalist Government in New South Wales has restored confidence to the people of that State. The Prime Minister has endeavoured to buoy up the unemployed with the statement that the Government intends to expend this year more money than was expended last year on the relief of unemployed. The fact is that more money is to be expended on defence. It is intended to build a cordite factory. It would be better if the Government paid a little more attention to some of the men who fought in the last war. The Sun report of the Anzac march referred to the fact that many of the returned soldiers were becoming greyhaired, were ill-clad and much thinner than they were twelve months ago. Many of them marched in rags, and the majority in sandshoes, the only sort of footwear that the unemployed can afford to buy. Many of these men have been forced out of war service homes which they were endeavouring to purchase. These men marched in the streets of Sydney in a state of semi-starvation. They went to the war; they were told to fight in order to make this country a better place in which to live. To-day, their conditions of living are worse than they have ever been before. This Government, although it can afford to expend money to prepare for the next war, is not even able to provide for the men who fought in the last war. It is proposed to have constructed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard a sloop at a cost of £60,000. Only a few months ago this Government practically made a present of that dockyard to private enterprise. A deputation which waited upon the Minister requesting the retention by the Commonwealth of the dockyard in the interests of the nation, and of the local shipbuilding industry, was informed that the Government was not prepared to build any vessel - whether for war, merchant or trawling purposes. Yet, after making a gift of the dockyard to private enterprise, it is now proposed to have a sloop built there. It is contended that this expenditure of £60,000 at the dockyard, will enable limbless soldiers to obtain work. But I venture to say that if this vessel is built, no work will be provided for the limbless soldiers who were dismissed when the dockyard was taken over by a private company. These men wore previously engaged as messengers, lift attendants, and, as such, are certainly not necessary for the building pf a sloop at Cockatoo Island. A private company which, is so unscrupulous as to dismiss, after the Government has abandoned them, limbless soldiers, many of them with two artificial legs, will not reengage them unless their employment is made a condition of the contract. The Government has asked for suggestions for the solution of the unemployed problem.
We have endeavoured for some time to bring before the notice of the Government the menace of the Matson shipping line, which is operating on the Australian coast. We have, from time to time, urged the Government to take action against that line on behalf of the Australian shipping lines, and, incidentally, the Australian seamen. We are now told that the Government is unable to take action until the result of the World Economic Conference is known. But while we are waiting for that conference to. take place, the Matson Line is conforming to a preconceived plan to capture the trade of the whole of the Pacific. Yet we stand idly by, making no effort to prevent the American company from achieving its object. I have with me information respecting the Matson shipping line which may be of interest to honorable members. In the United States of America there is an act known as the J ones- White Shipping Bill, and under its provisions, no foreign shipper is allowed to trade on the coast of America. With that policy I have no quarrel, because a similar policy should be adopted by Australia. Nor is any foreign ship permitted to trade between Honolulu and the American coast, a distance of over 3,000 miles. Foreign ships are also debarred from trading between Pago Pago and the American coast, a distance of over 4,000 miles, and between Guam and the American coast, a distance of over 5,000 miles. Attempts are also being made to have the Philippines declared coastal, notwithstanding that Manila is over 6,000 miles distant from California. We therefore have the spectacle of the government of the United States of America placing a stranglehold on Australian and New Zealand vessels at the American end of the voyage between Sydney and San Francisco, while vessels of its own flag are allowed, because of the absence of restrictive legislation in this country, to compete openly with Australian vessels at this end of the voyage. It is common knowledge that since the Matson Line entered into this portion of the trade in 1921, its vessels have carried between this country and New Zealand many thousands of passengers who should, in the circumstances, be compelled to travel in Australian ships. In accordance with American laws, Australian ships must dump overboard, before reaching the 3-mile limit, all fruits, vegetables and salads, thereby compelling the ships to re-store from American merchants. Passengers are also prevented from taking ashore samples of Australian fruit, thus depriving the Australian fruit-grower of an excellent avenue of advertisement. Further restrictions are placed by the Government of the United States of America upon its own ships, of course, to its own advantage by prohibiting vessels of the Matson Line from spending one penny in docking or repair work unless that is found to be absolutely imperative. On the other hand, the Aorangi and the Niagara, owned by the Union Steamship Company, in a period of twelve months ended recently, docked on twelve occasions, the work involved costing over £12,000. Should the Union Company decide, because of its inability to stand up to this uneven fight - to take the articles of the above vessels out in some other country, then the work of docking and repairing will be completely lost to the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. But let me indicateto honorable members just how far the Government of the United States of America is behind the Matson shipping line in its effort to capture the shipping trade of the Pacific. The act to which I have referred, provides for the construction of 100 vessels to be built in accordance with government requirements, and to be suitable for merchandise and passengers, and, if necessary, war purposes. These vessels are to be paid for by selected shipping companies, which receive as a loan from the United States of America up to three-fourths of the cost of construction. But the companies concerned .are expected to pay interest on this advance at low rates, varying from 14 per cent, to 3 per cent., and they repay the total advance by instalments of varying amounts extending over considerable periods. Under this scheme, such liners as the Mariposa, Monterey and Lurline have already been put into commission.
Unless this Government is prepared to take action against the American shipping company, a serious blow will be dealt at Australian shipping and seamen. The Government of the United States of America provides the Matson Line with a mail subsidy of 10 dollars per mile for the outward journey to Australia, which gives it a handsome return of over £203,000 per annum with respect to the Mariposa and the Monterey, and when the Lurline is placed on the line, that amount will be increased to nearly £266,000 per annum. The company also has a subsidy for the New Zealand service, and on one occasion, for the dropping of a single mail-bag, at a New Zealand port, a subsidy of £3,000 was received. That will give an idea of the extent to which subsidies are being paid to the advantage of the American shipping lines, and to the detriment of Australian shipping. It is estimated that the total subsidies paid by the American Government amount to £490,000 a year on Australian and New Zealand services. I have here an extract from an American journal, published on the day that the Mariposa, one of the Matson shipping line, returned from her maiden voyage to Australia, and, read in conjunction with the preamble to the Jones-White Act, it furnishes some idea of what the American Government is doing to build up an American mercantile marine. The extract is taken from the San Francisco Chronicle, of the 31st January, 1932, and reads as follows: -
A romantic sca adventure began yesterday with the arrival of the Matson superliner Mariposa on her maiden trip. Usually adventures begin when ships sail, but the colourful arrival in the bay of this monarch of tropic travel was the occasion for the officials of the Matson lino to announce they had invested 25,000,000 dollars in. a gesture of challenge to British Empire trade.
That shows how far the Americans are prepared to go in order to drive British and Australian shipping off the seas. The Government has, upon occasion, resented our persistence in this regard, but we cannot refrain from urging that the Commonwealth should make the same provision to protect Australian shipping and Australian seamen as the American Government is making to protect the interests of the shipping of that country. The Americans have thrown down the challenge, and Australia must take it up, or abandon all hope of establishing a mercantile marine. Ours is an island continent, and our future depends on our ability to transport our goods for sale abroad. We have been assured that we cannot depend entirely on the Australian market. Therefore, we must consider whether we are justified at the present time, and particularly in the event of war, in allowing the carriage of our produce to fall into the hands of foreign shipping lines. We must consider whether the time has not arrived to strike a blow to retrieve what we have lost, and to resist further inroads into our shipping trade. We have here an opportunity of doing something to prevent further unemployment, and to provide a livelihood for Australian and British seamen. I admit that this is only a small contribution towards the solution of the unemployment problem, but it is an indispensable contribution. We can- in this way keep our shipping trade for Australian seamen, and maintain our own lines of communication between Australia and the overseas markets, at the same time providing work in our seaports for men engaged in the maintenance of our ships. We should cease to contribute to the support of a shipping line belonging to a country which insists that all work on its ships must be done in its own ports, and the avowed object of which is to drive Australian shipping lines off the trade routes.
– I entirely agree with the criticism of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) regarding American subsidized shipping, but I do not propose to make any further reference to that subject. I propose to speak on what I conceive to be the greatest problem that now confronts the world, namely, unemployment. All other phases of the depression express themselves eventually through unemployment, or arise out of it. I join with the honorable member for .South Sydney (Mr. Jennings) in his expression of regret that this greatest of our problems cannot be treated in a non-party spirit, for I have always looked upon unemployment as a matter too serious to be the plaything of party. I am not concerned whether the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) was in the right in the charges he made against the Government. He said, “ You have failed “, and though he did not add in so many words “ as I failed”, we all know that he did fail. No doubt he would say, and not without reason, that if he could have done what he wished to do, things would have been different. The fact remains, however, that he did not do that which ought to have been done, and that his regime was barren so far as any contribution towards the solution of the unemployment problem was concerned. But what does it matter whether the Scullin or the Lyons Governments failed in this matter? What we have to do is to consider the problem as it exists to-day.
– Apparently, the right honorable gentleman thinks that the Government has failed.
– I did not say that. The honorable member must permit me to be the interpreter of my own words. As I see this problem, it is one which can be expressed very simply. Everywhere throughout the world we see it operating, with more or less serious effects. Everywhere we see unemployment rampant, industries stagnant; producers reduced almost to despair, and everywhere we see that the remedies applied have failed to restore the body economic to a state of normal health. We see everywhere, accompanying depression, low price levels, and if we examine the position closely, we must be driven to the conclusion that low price levels are a primary cause of the world depression. We were told by the Leader of the Opposition that unemployment had not decreased in Australia, and by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that it had. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) said that it would be advantageous to honorable members if they could get full and complete information on this point. We should be better able to discuss this great problem if we were supplied with information that accurately set out the facts. On the figures supplied by the Prime Minister, it would appear that the position has improved, and on looking round the country generally one cannot fail to observe signs of reviving industry. No fair-minded person will deny that. Business has improved. NI do not say that the improvement is great, but it is there. There are signs of building activity, but with these signs of slight improvement there goes an amount of unemployment and distress the like of which this country has never known before. It is, therefore, fairly evident that the methods now being applied for the removal of the depression are inadequate. The figures supplied regarding the percentage of unemployment in various countries are most disturbing. I shall not attempt to quote those for Australia, and shall refer only very briefly to those for other countries. The circular issued by the Bank of New South Wales for the month of May sets out, on page 5, the position as it exists in Britain -
The March, 1933, number of the Round Table, in an article on British trade and industry, states - “ The unemployment returns for January came as a sharp corrective to the rather dangerous complacency that political speeches during the recess had been displaying. . . . The seasonal set-back was no greater than in the three preceding years, but that is all the less encouraging to those who have been arguing as though if we waited long enough our difficulties would end themselves.”
That, broadly, is the position in every country of the world, except the United States of America, where matters are much worse. It is accurately reflected in the price levels, which., according to statistics supplied by the Board of Trade, are, for the countries mentioned -
A comparison of the market prices of securities shows a similar drop -
Everywhere there has been unemployment, trade depression, and falling price levels. Under the capitalistic system, enterprise cannot carry on without a margin for profit. The price of an article must be greater than the cost of producing it. Therefore, it is idle <to talk of reviving industry until price levels have been raised to a degree giving a margin of profit. When price levels began to fall, recourse was had to the old remedy of reducing the cost of production; but the experience of three years shows that remedy to be ineffective. At page 11 of the circular from which I have already quoted, this statement appears -
Thus the International Chamber of Commerce, in a memorandum for the World Economic Conference: “The normal method (to a new equilibrium) is through a fall in prices carried to a point which eliminates the marginal producer through losses, bankruptcies, and liquidations, a process which in the end generally goes too far. The last three years have shown also that it requires a long period of years- to become effective.” Here, again, is recognition that the “ normal “ method is too dangerous and therefore must be avoided. One of the greatest problems with which the whole world is faced is that of unemployment, and further liquidation will give this problem dimensions which may land us in chaos.
The first remedy applied was, as I have said, the reduction of costs - a natural, and, in ordinary circumstances, an obvious correction. But the disease is too malignant to be thus treated. It is evident that, since the nations are now largely inter-dependent, the effective reduction of the costs of production in one country must necessarily provoke a corresponding reduction of costs among its competitors. That compels further reductions, and so the process continues down to the lowest economic depths.
The position of the primary producer in Australia is tragic. He has tried all that man can do to meet the new situation by reducing costs; he has worked from daylight to dark, and has practised economies which have reduced him and his family to the level almost of coolies. Yet still the gap between the cost of production and the selling price of his produce remains unbridgeable. It is recognized by those who have given the matter thought -that nothing can save us but a rise in price levels, and though nothing we can do will raise external price levels, it is as well that this Parliament and the country should understand the position, so that our energies may not be frittered away in efforts that are profitless.
We in Australia are masters of our own destiny to the extent to which our own market can a’bsorb our goods. Having recently had an opportunity to compare the conditions of this country with those which exist overseas, I say emphatically that the people of this country are better off than those in any other in the world, because, relatively, price levels here have been prevented from falling so abysmally as elsewhere. We have been helped by the rise in the rate of exchange, which has increased internal price levels. I shall not venture an opinion as to whether we have reached the limit of action in that direction; but it is imperative, in the interest of the wool-grower, the wheat-grower, and the primary producer generally, that price levels in Australia shall at least cover the cost of production. I cannot see any hope for the primary producer unless they do.
The remedies now offered to the people of Australia are, to the conservative mind, at once novel and terrifying. But we have to choose between a complete economic and financial collapse and the acceptance of these strange and drastic remedies. Clearly the economic and financial machinery of the world has broken down. The gold standard has collapsed. Even the great financiers admit that matters have gone beyond their control. When I was in London, Mr. Montagu Norman, the Governor of the Bank of England, speaking to an assemblage of bankers, made this admission, and said that no individual or nation could hope to cope with the situation, and that only by co-operative action was it possible to find a remedy for the depression.
Mr. Franklin Roosevelt, the President of the United States of America, has come forward with, a policy so bold that, but a little time ago, it would have been regarded as the vilest of heresies. Yet it has been adopted, because the United States of America has felt the full force of this economic blizzard, and was lately in the grip of a banking crisis that threatened to shatter the entire fabric of world finance. Had that crisis not been firmly dealt with, our finances would have been reduced to chaos. By his courageous action, Mr. Roosevelt has averted the crisis, and now advances other remedies, about which I shall only say that I believe, so far as his objective is concerned, he is on the right road, for his policy is directed to raising price levels. Whether the method he is adopting is right, I cannot say. And nobody else knows. This can only be ascertained by experimenting. We, are all groping in the dark, and a general recognition of that fact would be helpful. When a man like Mr. Montagu Norman admits that the matter is too deep for him, we should not be ashamed to say that we do not know whether this remedy will be effective or not. But we have to attempt something; we cannot go on as at present.
Australia is groaning under a load of taxation that threatens utterly to destroy it, and from which no substantial relief can be hoped for unless employment is found for the people. The dole, whatever form it takes, and whether a return for labour or not, is a terrible load on the community, and its effect is appalling. I shall not follow the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) in his picturesque description of the depths to which these people have been reduced; but no words are too strong adequately to depict tho terrible condition of some of them.
The community, floundering in tho bog of depression, has turned from one party to another; but no substantial relief has been afforded to the man on the land or the man in the city. Nor is this possible unless price levels are raised. Industry can function only while the costs of production are not greater than the selling price. The remedy is obvious ; the difficulty lies in its application. We are not now considering any Utopian proposal. But a practical solution must be found ; price levels must be raised ; the purchasing power of the community must be increased. We are supported in this matter by some of the greatest experts and wisest advisers in the financial and economic world. For the last eighteen months or two years, the Bank of New South Wales has been advocating a policy along these lines. It has pointed out that there can be no substantial improvement unless and until the purchasing power of the community has been increased. The purchasing power cannot be increased unless employment is found for our people, and employment cannot be found unless price levels are raised so that there is a margin of profit for the producers. No man will employ labour at a loss. There must be a prospect of profit for the producer before he . will employ labour, and that applies to every industry, without exception. Somehow, the purchasing power of the people must be increased.
Reference has been made to the lack of confidence. One of the most startling phenomena of the present day is that there is an abundance of money in every country in conjunction with distress and unemployment. The banks are at their wits’ end to know what to do with their deposits. Sir Josiah Stamp has said that people are leaving their money in banks as they leave their cloaks in cloak-rooms. They are afraid to invest it ; they want it to be available at a moment’s notice. If they invest their capital, it ceases to be liquid, and they may be unable to meet any obligation resulting from the investment. How are we to restore confidence ? Good government is one of the essentials. Even the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) must realize that the effect of the Lang administration in New South Wales was to increase unemployment and add to our monetary difficulties. But we know from the experience in England and Australia that good government in itself does not suffice to induce people to invest their money. Even with good government, they are still without enough confidence. Nothing will induce them to invest their money but a reasonable expectation of profit. -Therefore, if we reject the suggestion that low price levels can be dealt with by reducing the cost of production - we can see very clearly that carried to any length this socalled remedy becomes dangerous as well as ineffective - we are driven to the conclusion that there is no prospect of getting profit until we raise price levels.
– How will that be done?
– The circular of the Bank of New South Wales shows clearly how those price levels may be raised. I do not say that we can, by waving a wand, cure the economic leprosy from which we are suffering. There is no water of. J Jordan in which to bathe to rid ourselves of this trouble; but, once we understand the cause, we shall at any rate cease frittering away our energies in profitless channels. It is idle to suggest a reduction of wages as a remedy for the depression. We need to increase, not to reduce, the purchasing power of the people. It is equally idle to tell employers that they are to pay a high rate of wages when that will leave them no profit on their investment. Here is a vicious circle which somehow must he broken. We know that the raising of the exchange rate enabled and still enables many Australian industries that otherwise would have been bankrupt to carry on.
– Does it not keep up the rate of taxation by increasing our remittances overseas to meet interest on the external debt?
– I do not propose to attempt in a few moments to prescribe a course of action. My only concern to-night is to show that this is a deepseated evil having its roots in the very foundation of our civilization. It affects the world. It has nothing to do with party, but everything to do with the nation, and should be tackled by the legislatures, both National and State, entirely regardless of party considerations. I agree with the suggestion of one honorable member that this Parliament should hold an economic session ; it would clear the air and disabuse the minds of some people of utterly-confused ideas as to the cause of this trouble. If it convinced the people that this Parlialiament is making an honest effort to deal with this problem, it would do some good. It might also impress it upon the man on the land, whom we must save if we are not all to go down, that he should disabuse his mind of old conservative ideas. We are living in a new world, and unless that is realized by men in the cities and in the country, there is no hope for a solution of our difficulties.
– Order! The right honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) admitted that the primary producers in the country and the workers in the cities are in a bad way, but he would not admit that the present Government had failed to grapple with unemployment. He said that the problem of unemployment should be debated on a nonparty plane, but it was evident that party political bias prevented him from saying what he really thought. He expressed great admiration for President Roosevelt and his policy.
– He spoke a lot of home truths, but did not jump the hurdles when he reached them.
– That is so. He commended the policy of inflation adopted by President Roosevelt, which, even the Bank of New South Wales admits, has restored confidence in America. The right honorable gentleman had to keep in mind the financial backbone of the Nationalist organization - the private banking institutions - and although he advocated the consideration of this matter on a nonparty basis, he was more or less gagged by party considerations. The circular of the Bank of New South Wales states -
The acute crisis in the United States went as quickly as it came, and it looks as if confidence has been restored for the time being.
The right honorable gentleman said that he believed that President Roosevelt was right. That gentleman’s policy provided for the issue of hundreds of millions of paper money. Then why does not the right honorable member for North Sydney say that he believes in the Federal Labour party’s monetary policy which the Scullin Government endeavoured to put on the statutebook, to provide for the establishment of a central bank and a fiduciary note issue to make available £12,000,000 for the relief of unemployment, and £6,000,000 for the assistance of rural producers. The effect which the establishment of a central bank might have had on employment in Australia may be judged from this extract from R. G. Hawtrey’s book, The Gold Standard in Theory and Practice -
By restricting (or relaxing) credit the central bank of any country brings about a decrease (or increase) in the volume of lending by the other banks to their customers. There results a corresponding decrease (or increase) in consumers’ income and outlay and therefore in the demand for goods. Demand here means the amount in terms of money spent by the ultimate purchasers of goods.
There is no doubt that if the central bank legislation proposed by the Scullin Government had been enacted, it would have given substantial relief to the unemployed. The central reserve bank would have mobilized credit, and made it available for approved works throughout Australia. It is suggested by some people that during a depression governments should not spend loan money. At a time like this, the Government should put necessary public works in hand, and provide as much employment as possible for the people so that money may be kept in circulation.
The action of the Leader of the Opposion (Mr. Scullin) in moving this amendment is thoroughly justified, for the Government has miserably failed to deal with the unemployment problem. Wo one was more misrepresented, or more bitterly attacked, than the present Leader of the Opposition for what he did to help Australia while he was Prime Minister, but the action that he then proposed to take has since been advocated by many leading financiers and economists throughout the world. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) quoted figures with the object of showing that a substantial decrease had occurred in unemployment in Australia, but the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures show that, whereas 25.8 per cent, of our people were unemployed at the end of the March quarter, 1931, 26.5 per cent, were unemployed at the end of the March quarter, 1933. The Leader of the Opposition indicated clearly in his speech that in 1930-31 £16,500j000 was made available by the Scullin Government to various State Governments for public works, &c, while in 1931-32 only £10,500,000 was made available for this purpose. The present Government was in office for half of that year. In 1932-33, £18,000,000 was provided for loan works, of which £16,500,000 will be spent. [Quorum formed.’) Nearly £2,000,000 more was spent’ in 1930-31 for unemployment relief than will be spent by this Government. It is deplorable that a party returned to office on the definite promise that it would relieve unemployment has taken no definite steps to carry out its promise. During the last election campaign, the present Prime Minister spoke in a tone of unbounded optimism of the good effects that would follow the return of his party to power, but his bl: tam pre-election speeches have proved to be empty words. His Government has taken no steps to solve unemployment, and has done nothing to overcome the monetary difficulties of the country.
After the failure of the Prime Minister to make an effective reply to the eloquent speech of the Leader of the Opposition, the Government brought its heavy comedian, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill), on the stage, and he tried to discredit the Leader of the Opposition. He quoted, with approval, certain remarks made by the present Prime Minister when he was Acting Treasurer of the Scullin Government. I ask the honorable gentleman whether he will endorse the following remarks made by his present leader on the 4th October, 1929, when he was carrying the Labour banner in the Wilmot division : -
For years tho Nationalists had been promising the electors many things, but they never materialized . . . The Bruce Government had taken Tasmania down time after time.
The right honorable gentleman said at that time that Nationalism could not be trusted. That statement is still true.
In his vain endeavour to reply to the statement of the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister said, this afternoon, that we were surely not going to sneer at any slight improvement. No one is sneering at any improvement; our complaint is that there has been practically no improvement. Thi3 is shown conclusively by the Statistician’s figures that I have quoted. Is the Government prepared to stand idly by in the hope that’ something will happen? Does it intend to do nothing to give effect to its definite promises? The Prime Minister was returned to power at the last general election as the potential saviour of the nation, and came into this House with the laurels of victory on his brow-. Naturally, after all that he had promised, the unemployed of Australia waited on the tiptoe of expectancy for him to do something. They had been given to understand that the United Australia Party had a panacea for all the industrial ills of the country. The Prime Minister started out by enthusiastically denouncing the Lang Government. He said that if that’ Administration were removed from office confidence would be restored and prosperity would return. The Lang Government has been removed from office, but the beneficial results predicted by the Prime Minister have not been realized. The Prime Minister told us long ago that the Government intended to float a loan overseas, to convert our indebtedness abroad, under conditions which would save this country millions of pounds per annum in interest charges. He said that these savings could be used to relieve unemployment and provide social services for our people. The Government has not floated the loan, and has advanced all kinds of specious excuses for its failure to do so. The Resident Minister in London has said that the time is not opportune for anything to be done, and the Prime Minister has said that we must wait until world conditions improve. But the right honorable gentleman told us, in his preelection campaign, that irrespective of world conditions he could convert the loan and do much to improve Australian conditions. He led the people to believe that all that was needed to cause credit to flow and to make money available was a change of government; but his statements to this effect have also proved to be inaccurate. Instead of putting public works in hand and providing employment with the surplus money at its disposal this year, the Government has preferred to make remissions of taxation to the wealthy people of Australia.
Many proposals made by the Scullin Government, which were strongly denounced by the present Prime Minister when he was in opposition, have been adopted by him since his assumption of office. For instance, when the Scullin Government suggested that the gold held in Australia against our note issue should be exported and sold, and the money utilized for the benefit of our people, strong attacks were made on the proposal by the present Prime Minister, the present Postmaster-General, and other honorable gentlemen opposite. The present Prime Minister said, at that time, that if our gold were exported the last vestige of confidence in Australia would be dissipated. Speaking on the 8th May, 1931, the right honorable gentleman said -
As the result of the shipment of our gold there will be nothing left but a fiduciary note issue, because that is what our currency will bc when the gold backing has gone. When it has been shipped abroad, the last vestige of confidence in our currency will be destroyed.
He has since turned a complete somersault, for he has shipped abroad the whole of our gold, amounting to approximately £11,000,000, and has converted our note issue into a fiduciary issue. No doubt the right honorable gentleman took this action because he discovered that Professor Gregory, who visited Australia with Sir O. Neimeyer, and other eminent economists, considered that it would be beneficial to Australia if the gold were exported and sold, as suggested by the Labour party. Professor Gregory said on this subject that -
It was ridiculous to advocate the freezing of gold in Australian vaults. It should be shipped to New York and sold, and the receipts transferred to the Bank of England for use on short terms. The profits might be used_ to pay part of the overseas debt of the Commonwealth.
No doubt such expressions of opinion caused the Prime Minister to alter his views.
The United Australia Party declared, prior to the last election, that it believed in the adoption of a sound protectionist policy for Australia, but since its return to power, it has been busily engaged in slashing the protective duties imposed by the Scullin Government. During the debates on the tariff schedule, figures were quoted to show that employment had increased in the big factories of Australia. Such increases were due, not to the policy of the Government but to the policy of the previous Government. But the protective duties provided by the Scullin Administration are being whittled down by this Government. No doubt heavier onslaughts would have been made on them, but for the fight put up by the Federal Labour Party in this Parliament. We have been told that the members of this Government are Empire builders. We know that the Government’ sent delegates to the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa, and that these delegates signed the Ottawa agreement which has added to our unemployment difficulties. They said that the ratification of this agreement would tend to restore confidence. But what kind of confidence has been restored? The answer is to be found in the statements by Mr. Kitchen, president of the Victorian Manufacturers Association, and by the increase in imports and the decrease in export’s shown in the following paragraph from the bulletin issued on the 3rd May, 1933, by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics : -
The trade position. Imports of merchandise were 3.8 per cent, higher in March, 1933, than in February, but exports of merchandise showed a decline of 4.1 per cent. Total imports, including bullion and specie, were 4.0 pur cent, higher, while total exports in sterling were 24.fi per cent, lower than those for the previous month.
That confidence has not been restored is shown by the fact that our great primary producing industries are still in a very difficult position. We were told that while our wheat, wool, butter and meat industries would immediately benefit by the Ottawa agreement because price levels would increase, no harm would be done to our secondary industries. It was apparent, of course, that the Government could not have it both ways, and we now know definitely that the result of the Ottawa agreement has been that the British manufacturers have been given a share of the local market for manufactured goods to the detriment of Australia’s manufacturing industries. It is also a fact that the price of butter is lower to-day than it has been for 60 years. At a recent meeting of manufacturers in Melbourne, Mr. F. W. Kitchen, the general manager of a large manufacturing concern, and president of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, speaking of this alleged restoration of confidence, said -
The shadow of the Ottawa Conference, for example, hung depressingly over the secondary industries of Australia. Doubtless entered into with the best intentions by Australia’s parliamentary delegates, the trade agreement brought back from Ottawa was unquestionably a serious obstacle to Australia’s rehabilitation. It immediately checked much of the revived spirit of enterprise and optimism then becoming apparent throughout the factory life of the Commonwealth.
That was the opinion of the president of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, a body which is essentially conservative; because on the eve of the last federal elections, it allied itself with the Nationalist party, saying that it was satisfied with its pre-election promises. This gentleman indicates that there has been no restoration of confidence in the secondary industries. The Government has done nothing practical to provide employment for the workless “of this country. It has failed dismally to con vert the whole of our overseas indebtedness. The huge British conversion of £2,000,000,000, and other issues, are sufficient to show that there is cheap money available, but it is evident that the Australian conversion has been held up by the British Government, which is of the opinion that its interests would be interfered with if Australia went on the market at the present time for the conversion of the whole of its overseas indebtedness. This Government, instead of helping the unemployed, attacked the Scullin Government for its action in imposing tariff surcharges and prohibitions, which shut out foreign imports and changed our adverse trade balance into a favorable one. While the Prime Minister and his colleagues were criticising the Scullin Government for taking that strong action, the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) was referring at a dinner of the Chamber of Commerce held in London to the action that “ we “ took to save Australia, and “ how we restored the trade balance by imposing surcharges and prohibitions”. The right honorable gentleman, although not then a member of this House, is not averse to allying himself with the action that the Labour Government took to rectify Australia’s trade balance. The Government claims that it has brought about a restoration of confidence in the community, and that as a result of its efforts, men have been placed in employment, but the figures quoted by the Leader of the Opposition absolutely dispose of the contention that there has been an increase in employment. The Australasian Business Conditions Bulletin issued by Hemingway and Robertson on the 20th May, 1933, contains the following statement : -
Complete confidence is by no means wholly established, and under such uncertain conditions, it is impossible to expect that businesm cn s confidence in the future would show an undiminished growth from month to month.
This Government has failed, not only to restore confidence in the community and to solve the unemployment problem, but also to tackle the monetary system and to introduce any radical banking reform. It is pursuing a policy of absolute drift, hoping that prices of our exportable commodities will increase. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr.
Hughes), who admitted that some inflation was necessary, said that President Roosevelt had performed a great service to the United States of America; that the primary producers were in a bad way ; that many people were on the verge of starvation ; and that we should- consider this problem on non-party lines ; but he refused, because of party ties, to criticize the Government for its inaction. I ask honorable members to accept’ the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition.
.- The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) is one of those many moves which are made under the party system of politics. It is usual for the Opposition to adopt such tactics. I do not doubt that the members of the Opposition desire to assist the unemployed. I frankly admit that I do not know how the great problem of unemployment will be solved. At present, no country has been able to deal with it successfully. The motion is really a censure of the Government for its inability to give effect to its pre-election pledge to relieve unemployment. There is nothing new in that, because no Government has given effect to the whole of its pre-election promises.
– That does not justify the continuance of the practice.
– That is so. But it seems strange that a party which, when in power, did not carry out its election promises should now criticize this Government for the same failure.
– The honorable member forgets that the Scullin Government was not actually in power, because it was faced with a hostile Senate.
– The Labour party, when in office, if not in power, was not prepared to take the risk of f* double dissolution, and in ‘that respect it was unjust to the workers who elected it. Quite a number of the members of the Ministry preferred to take a holiday trip to England instead of contesting the Senate with a view to placing the Labour party in full control of the government of this country. I have to ask myself whether, if I vote for the amendment, it will provide work .for the unemployed. I have to admit that, even if we pass it, not one pound more will be made available for the relief of the unemployed. I have also to ask myself whether, if I vote for the amendment, the Government will be goaded into making further efforts to assist the unemployed, but I must admit that my vote would have little effect, because the Government has a sufficient number of supporters to defeat the amendment. [Quorum formed.]
This amendment is mainly a party move. This is one of those political skirmishes or sham fights that frequently take place between two parties.
– To refer to the proceedings of this House as a political sham fight is not in order, and I ask the honorable member to withdraw his remark.
– It is the truth, and I shall not withdraw what I have said.
– I ask the honorable member to substitute other words for the term “ political sham fight “, which he has applied to the proceedings of this House.
– There is much makebelieve about the methods adopted by the different parties in this House.
– Order. The term “make-believe”, as used by the honorable member, is equally offensive.
– It is the truth. I stick to my statement that this is a political sham fight.
The honorable member for Darling interjecting ,
– Order ! The honorable member for Darling has no right to interject from outside the precincts of the chamber. I hope that the honorable member for Angas will not compel me to take action. He could discuss the matter before the Chair in a manner that would be forceful without being offensive. Any member who uses an offensive remark should withdraw it readily when asked to do so, and I ask the honorable member for Angas to withdraw his remark, and to substitute words that are not offensive.
– What I have said is the truth. I do not feel that I can withdraw my statement that this is a political sham fight.
– Then I am forced to take action which is repugnant to me; but I must uphold the dignity of this House. The honorable member cannot be permitted to defy the ruling of the Chair. I give him a last opportunity to withdraw his remark. Unless he does so, I shall name him.
– I have spoken the truth, and I shall stick to my statement.
– I name the honorable member for Angas.
– In the circumstances I have no option but to move -
That the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) be suspended from the service of the House.
Motion agreed to.
The honorable member for Angas was therefore suspended for the remainder of the sitting, and accordingly withdrew from the chamber.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Scullin’s amendment) stand part of the question - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original questionresolved in the affirmative.
OPPOSED BUSINESS AFTER 11 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 70- opposed business after 11 p.m. - be suspended for the remainder of this sitting.
In Committee of Supply:
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1933-34 a sum not exceeding £5,391,390.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Lyons and Mr. Stewart do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Lyons, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The proposal now submitted is to grant Supply to carry on the services of the Commonwealth for the first three months of the coming financial year. The amount which the committee is asked to appropriate is £5,391,390, which includes the following sums for ordinary services : -
The items making up these sums are based on the appropriations passed by Parliament for the present year, and represent approximately one-quarter of the appropriation. In addition, the usual provisions are made for “Refunds of Revenue “ and “ Advance to the Treasurer “. The amount set down for “ Refunds of Revenue “ is £350,000, and for “ Advance to the Treasurer “, £1,000,000. This latter item is required to carry on uncompleted works in progress on the 30th June, 1933, and to cover miscellaneous and unforeseen expenditure. It is anticipated that the budget and Estimates for the financial year 1933-34 will be submitted to Parliament before the expiration of the period of three months which is covered by this bill.
Provision is made in the bill only for the amount which is estimated to be sufficient to carry on essential services on the same basis as that provided for in the appropriation for the current financial year, 1932-33. No provision is made for any new expenditure, or for any departure from existing policy. I desire to mention, however, that it is proposed to make a number of alterations in the form of the Estimates for the ensuing financial year. In May of last year, a Joint Select Committee of Parliament submitted a report on the public accounts, included in which was a number of recommendations for alterations of the manner in which the Estimates are prepared. In submitting the budget for 1932-33, I stated that the report had been received too late to permit of its recommendations being exhaustively examined with a view to making certain reforms in the current Estimates and budget-papers. A few alterations had been made, and I advised that the whole of the recommendations would be examined, with the object of effecting further reforms next year. Since that date the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee have been carefully considered, and a number of changes are being made in the Estimates that will be submitted to the House in due course.
The Supply Bill that is now before the House has been compiled in conformity with the new form of Estimates. This course is necessary in order to enable the departments to put the new plan into operation as from the 1st July next, thus obviating confusion and duplication of effort. I do not think that the bill requires any further explanation than has been given; but I will be pleased to supply any particulars that honorable members may desire. Honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss the financial proposals of the Government when the budget for 1933-34 is brought down.
The present time may not be inopportune to furnish to honorable members some information in regard to the finances for the current financial year. The Consolidated Revenue Fund for the ten months ended the 30th April discloses a total revenue of £58,352,000, and a total expenditure of £55,585,000. The result of the transactions for the period, therefore, was a surplus of £2,767,000. In considering this surplus, it should be remembered that the full effect of the financial relief measures, aggregating £3,500,000, which were passed by Parliament in December last, has not yet been felt. Included in these relief measures was a grant of £2,250,000 to wheat-growers and other primary producers, of which £664,000 has yet to be expended. A feature of the results for the ten months ended the 30th April, 1933, is the buoyancy of the revenue, the total receipts being £58,352,000, as compared with £55,037,000 for the corresponding period of the previous financial year, or an increase of £3,315,000.
The expenditure for the ten months, £55,585,000, is below the pro rata budget estimate. The budget estimate for the year, including the later provision of £2,250,000 for relief to wheat-growers and other primary producers, was £69,538,000. It is anticipated that the actual expenditure for the year will approximate this figure. Owing to the difficulty in making an approximate estimate of the revenue that is likely to be derived from income tax and customs and excise during the remainder of the year, I am not yet in a position to give a definite forecast of the financial results for the year ending the 30th June next. It is expected, however, that the accounts for the year will disclose a substantial surplus.
– I object to the passing of the bill in its present form, on the ground that the amount which it proposes to appropriate is not sufficient, and that the recommendations of the Government are unsatisfactory, as they do not provide for the allocation of money for new works. The programme is orthodox, and does not take into account existing circumstances. It nullifies all the arguments that have been advanced this afternoon and this evening in regard to unemployment. I shall give reasons why extra sums should be made available to the Treasury or some other department to enable the Government, when mapping out its plans, to do something immediately to alleviate unemployment.
From my point of view, the discussion on employment revealed hopeful signs, because of the seriousness with which the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Jennings) tackled the problem. At last they have accepted the ideas and advice which have been advanced by leading economists of the world, and agree that the root cause of the trouble is the gradual but continual falling off in the spending power of the people. Those honorable members agree that we cannot hope for any simultaneous improvement on a world-wide basis to remove the evil. Sir Basil Blackett, a director of the Bank of England, and Mr. J. Maynard Keynes, recognized financial experts, believe that some individual countries must begin to break the spell, or every one will be dragged into poverty. The right honorable member for South Sydney said that he had given a good deal of thought to the unemployment problem recently, and, as a result of his studies, he considers that the everincreasing gap between producer and consumer is the main reason for our present chaotic condition.
I do not wish to blame any government’, or to say that one government has done better than another. I urge honorable members to do what the Prime Minister asked the people of Australia to do, that is, face the facts, and visualize the position as it is. Having agreed on that basis, let us ask, as the right honorable member for North. Sydney did, whether we should not make a move to relieve the position of Australia instead of sitting idly by, hoping that some international economic or monetary conference may solve the situation for all. In his book,
Planned Money, and his lectures in Europe, Sir Basil Blackett has urged the people of Great Britain and the dominions to make a move. His views are similar to those expressed by some honorable members this evening, that no one person can rectify the position for the whole world; also, that no country will rectify its own troubles if it waits until the whole world moves simultaneously. He suggests that there is a great anxiety on the part of. some countries to begin this levelling-up process, and that the best way to put matters right is for each nation to begin within its own confines, and then the scheme will have a cumulative effect and the affairs of the world will be put right; in short, that each country should put its house in order.
My main regret is that I have to repeat things that I have been saying for two or three years. I hate repetition. Tonight the right honorable member for North Sydney said practically what I have been -saying for years, and what I shall repeat.
– “What does it amount to?
– The right honorable gentleman made out a case which cannot be refuted, but he did not give the last chapter of the story, and so he has not helped us. He has merely repeated what Major Douglas and supporters of every school of political thought have said, each pointing out the cause of the trouble; but he did not say what the Government should do to overcome it. I could mention names which honorable members would agree are authoritative. My ground for hope is in the fact that the right honorable member for North Sydney and the honorable member for South Sydney have reached the stage when they say, “I think we ought to do something “. That is a definite advance. The right honorable member for North Sydney agrees with the world’s captains of industry and commerce that there is no hope of rectifying the position while prices continue to fall, and he said that prices will continue to fall because there is no demand for goods and services supplied by private enterprise ; that private enterprise cannot begin to set its machinery in operation and continue to produce its goods and services until a demand has been created for them by increasing the purchasing power of the people through the wages of the workers.
– They are doing it.
– Do not let us argue as to whether this government or that government has done a little better than another. The fact is that we are drifting all the time. There may be a temporary improvement because of a seasonal fluctuation or a demand for a line that has run out of stock, but the whole position is not improving appreciably. Private enterprise cannot help us unless we first give it the necessary stimulus by creating an increased demand. How can anybody who is in business begin to produce the things that the people want if there is no demand for them? How can anybody pay wages, buy raw materials, manufacture goods, if he is absolutely certain that nobody will buy them? Not even a monopoly could continue to do that for any lengthy period. The business people who control .the agencies of world production and distribution are not turning the wheels of their machinery. Instead, they have played safe, and put their money in the bank, and it has become frozen. As each month goes by there is a greater rush to play safe, and the zone of safety is daily becoming smaller and smaller. It is true, as the right honorable member for North Sydney said, that there is plenty of money in the community. The banks are stuffed with it. But no one wants to borrow it. When the depression first set in, two or three years ago, it was difficult to get credit. The private banks would not give accommodation, and people appealed to the Commonwealth Bank. At that time, they thought there was some chance of selling goods and services, but ‘ the depression has continued so long that that prospect has disappeared. Banks and money-lenders have plenty of money, but no businessman wants to borrow, because he has no confidence that he will be able to sell his goods.
I now turn to the need for an extension of credits, a subject of which honorable members in this chamber are chary. A few months ago, when the Opposition asked whether the Government would seriously consider an extension of credits to permit the undertaking of some extraordinary works for the relief of unemployment, the Prime Minister replied that the Government was earnestly watching the situation, but was waiting upon events overseas. He added that the Minister in London was studying the money market in consultation with other financial experts, and when the time seemed opportune for taking a real forward step towards the relief of unemployment, the Government would act, even if it had to adopt policies which ministerialists had opposed a few years ago. That is the correct attitude to adopt, and I hope that the Government will recognize that this problem can be solved only by the adoption of new methods, the old methods having failed. In every month in which we allow this evil to continue, the economic circumstances of the country are becoming worse, even though the actual number of unemployed bc 3 or 4 per cent, less than during the preceding month. Bankruptcies have been on the increase continuously for the last three years, and extra judges in insolvency have had to be appointed. Business generally is becoming more and more precarious. I am sorry that sometimes we are inclined to trip each other by quoting figures, when we should be co-operating in a serious effort to tackle this problem in a practical way. To-day the Prime Minister quoted some statistics from a report issued by the International Labour Office at Geneva. For the last two or three years, I have been the representative in Australia of the International Labour Office, and as I take a particularly keen interest in world affairs, I read all the publications issued by that organization. The report quoted by the right honorable gentleman is dated April of this year, and dealing with unemployment throughout the world, it mentions that there has been a slight improvement in Australia, Canada, Germany and Poland. The Prime Minister quoted no more than that, but a study of the accompanying statistics shows that unemployment in Australia is practically the same as it was last year. It mentions the figures for January, 1932, as being 11S,000. That is obviously wrong, because the unemployed in Australia number over 300,000.
– That has been said again and again, but it is very doubtful.
– The right honorable gentleman will not claim that the number of unemployed in Australia is less than 200,000. This report states that in 1933, the total was reduced to 116,000. In another column, the average for 1932 is shown at 2S.0, and for the expired portion of 1933, 2S.1. These figures show a slight increase, and do not indicate the improvement claimed by the Prime Minis,ter when he quoted only half of the report. Reference to the returns issued by the Commonwealth Statistician reveals that the figures quoted in the Geneva publication for the years 1932 and 1933 relate to the years 1931 and 1932. It is clear to my mind that the International Labour Office has made a mistake, .and I believe that the position is slightly better than the Geneva figures show. But even if the position has improved by 1 or 2 per cent, it is still terrifying, and I am sorry that these estimates do not provide for a bold plan of works, which is absolutely necessary before any substantial progress can be made. Before private enterprise can enter the field, Commonwealth and State Governments, and local governing bodies, must undertake new non-competitive public works, so that there will be established a fresh wages fund, creating a real increase in the demand for goods and services, and stimulating private enterprise to activity. I have repeated this probably a dozen times in this chamber during the last three years. Japan and America have already taken this step, and the United Kingdom, during last year, added two or three hundred million pounds to its fiduciary issue. This has resulted in a slight improvement in the unemployment figures, and private enterprise has been encouraged. Every country that has any credit is following this policy, at least in a small way. No great improvement is yet visible, because the policy has not been bold enough. I urge the Government, in all sincerity, to consider the addition to these estimates of from £6,000,000 to £10,000,000, to be earmarked for a policy of public works. This money, if expended at so much a month for a year, would keep from 60,000 to 80,000 people in work. Even if this experiment failed, we would be no worse off than we shall be by a policy of inaction. Honorable members will agree that if the governments were to remain inactive and leave to private enterprise the responsibility of solving the problem, a solution would not be achieved in less than ten years. Are we to be selfish or ruthless enough to risk another ten years, or even five years, of the poverty and degradation that exists in Australia to-day, or shall we be bold, and plan a twelve months’ programme of public works in the hope of substantially improving the situation ?
– What does the honorable member mean by “ non-competitive public works “?
– At the present time Parliament is doing no more than vote the money necessary to carry on public works at the normal rate, as if there were no depression. By this policy we make no inroads on unemployment, and, through so many people being allowed to continue out of work, a field from which usually the Commonwealth raises much revenue, is impoverished. New works should be undertaken - not works to take the place of the ordinary programme, or to compete with the present plans, but new works which would provide an additional wage fund, create a fresh demand for goods and services, and set all the factories to work to satisfy those demands.
– The Disarmament Conference, which has been prominently in the public eye for some weeks, has had an expected fillip which has not received in this country the appreciation that it deserves. As is usual in all big world movements, Great Britain has led in the effort to bring about European disarmament, and it has achieved more than on” previous occasions, for it has been able to get assurances of the complete co-operation of the United States of America with the four great European powers under certain emergent circumstances. What that will mean to the peace of the world cannot be assessed in figures. Europe recently passed through a crisis which might have been the commencement of another world war. It originated in Germany’s objection to being disarmed in accordance with the peace treaty, when the other signatories had failed to carry out their undertaking to reduce their armaments within a term of years to approximately the level of those allowed to Germany. As a result of Great Britain’s efforts recently, the four great powers in Europe have come to a decision which must have a big influence on world peace. The repercussions of the Disarmament Conference can be understood if one investigates closely Australia’s position as part of the British Empire. In all recent treaties, agreements and pacts, Australia’s naval forces have been regarded as part of the quota of the British Empire It behoves us to take stock of our engagements in this, respect, and to make provision in accordance with the agreement we have made. We are falling back. The situation of our Defence Force at present is dangerous beyond words.
Starting with the Navy, I remind the House that the fighting force we are contributing towards the Empire’s quota of cruisers is only half what we have undertaken to provide. Two of our cruisers are in some kind of condition to carry on active warfare, but the other ships are in such a condition that it would verge on murder to send men into action in them. We have to thank the British Government for the loan of the five moderately efficient vessels to which the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) referred this afternoon. We shall be able to man these without increasing the personnel of our force. But we should keep in mind that we have engaged to provide a squadron of four cruisers, and are only providing two. The addition to the Royal Australian Navy of one sloop, which the Government proposes to build as a relief work, will not be an addition to our fighting force. Sloops are not fighting ships. They are used for survey work, and other necessary but purely peaceful activities which permit our trade to be carried on. The survey of our coast is in a deplorable condition. Some of the charts in use date back to the time of Flinders, and others go back to the days of the old Dutch navigators. Although we are looking for an increase of trade with the Near East’, the Dutch East Indies and other territories thereabouts, we are sending our ships to sea under definitely dangerous conditions.
I do not intend to take up much time in dealing with our Army. It is such a small force that it may be whittled away even by discussion. Recruiting for our Militia is well below the bare skeleton of a force which was the establishment provided by the Scullin Government. It is impossible, in my opinion, to train an adequate force with the amount of money now provided for the purpose, despite the voluntary efforts and the public spirit shown by many officers, non-commissioned officers, and other ranks who are giving up their time for the defence of their country. I use the word “ defence “ advisedly. Our Army is a defence force. When I hear the sneers and gibes that are thrown across this, chamber at times with regard to the armed force of Australia, I wonder what the people who sneer and gibe would think if they could see the devastation wrought on the western front during the last war, and if they could visualize the same conditions in their own home town. No one wants war, but if it is to come to this country, as it will undoubtedly come one day, we shall wish to keep it away from our own homes. For that reason, we should provide some kind of a defence force. Those who say that persons who advocate preparation for defence go round the country preaching war, talk without any knowledge of the subject. Our armed force is a defensive, and not an offensive, force, intended to protect our hearths and homes and our families and children from the invader. People should not neglect to take such defensive measures as are necessary for the protection of their property and kith and kin. The armament of our- force is in a far worse state than its personnel. I know, of my own knowledge, that a considerable amount of time is taken up by members of the volunteer force in travelling relatively long distances to do what they feel they ought to do in preparation for the defence of their country. These people should not be made the subject of cheap jokes. Only last week, I learned of two members of a Light Horse regiment who had travelled over 100 miles at their own expense in their own time for training purposes. To send men untrained and ill-equipped into action -against a foe equipped with modern armaments would be comparable with sending our seamen to fight in the obsolete craft that we possess. It would not’ be fair to do it. If we aTe not prepared to equip our forces properly, I think - and I say this after a lot of thought - we should provide ourselves with a supply of white flags. I remind honorable members of this Parliament, who are pacifists, that certain nations overseas are land hungry. If war were to occur, if would be the easiest thing in the world for them to take possession of a part of this great country. I do not desire to enter upon a long discussion about the nature of our equipment. From conversations I have had with the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) and the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis), I am satisfied that they are well advised on the subject. They know what our requirements are. It is the lack of money which prevents the provision of them. Certain people who say that we should concentrate on our Air Force should remember that air forces are, so far, an untried quantity. But I will say this quite definitely in favour of an air force, that it could attack a large area or large cities like Sydney and Melbourne, and do a great deal of damage by spreading poison gas. This would make large areas of country untenable by the civil population. We need counter weapons of some kind to protect ourselves against such forms of attack, and I urge the Government to give early consideration to the necessity of providing anti-aircraft armament foi certain selected parts of Australia. At the same time, it must be remembered that it is necessary for us to ship most of our primary produce overseas. This makes it obligatory upon us to defend certain harbours, so that if our ships should be harried by the attack of an enemy, they might there find safety. Some such harbours, already defended, could not be used with safety nowadays if attacks were made on our shipping.
A complete overhaul of our defensive arrangements is long overdue. I suggest, therefore, that the Council for Defence should be called together to consider the situation. The council has a proper appreciation of the defence requirements of Australia, and it is composed of civilians and sailor, soldier and air force, members. It should be asked to determine our minimum requirements. I hope that there will not be a repetition of what happened on a previous occasion, when the Defence Force was cut to the bone. I doubt whether a single member of the council was favorable to the policy then adopted. We know, of course, that the financial position made economies necessary at that time; but surely we should begin to build up our forces again.
The Disarmament Conference, of which I spoke earlier, is concerned with European, and not Australian affairs. If a disarmament pact is made in respect of Europe, the ability of the Mother Country to help us will naturally be weakened, and it will become more urgent than ever for us to do all that we can for ourselves. As one who has taken considerable interest in the defence of Australia, I trust that steps will be taken to call the Defence Council into consultation, so that we shall be assured of some kind of protective force in the event of this country being attacked.
.- I deplore the speech of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison). It is the kind of utterance which resembles the conduct of the man who said, “ Como and tread on the tail of my coat.” A competent general would not, in a public place, advertise to the enemy the weakness of the defence forces of his country. It is regrettable that while Great Britain is doing her best to preserve peace throughout the world, a speech such as we have just heard should have been delivered in this Parliament.
I wish now to make some reference to the pensions policy of this Government - not so much as to the amount of money that has been made available, but as to the methods that have been adopted. I shall quote two cases to illustrate the farreaching effect of the Government’s policy and the mischievous way in which it is working. An old lady who could not be induced to accept the pension until she was 74 years of age, died after she had received £21 in pension. Her daughter was thereupon served with a peremptory notice from the department to sell the few sticks of furniture that the old lady had left to recoup the Government for the £21 that had been paid in pension. Under such circumstances, the pension becomes a direct tax upon thrift. Those who save nothing can obtain the full pension, and, of course, their relatives are not asked to repay anything after the pensioner dies. Take another case. An old couple had saved £40 for burial purposes. That sum was placed in the Savings Bank, and earned interest at the rate of ls. per fortnight. Because of that the department deducted 6d. from the pensions of this couple. Another case is that of a sick man, whose wife was industrious, and, because she earned 15s. per week, his pension was reduced to 30s. The old people who have practised thrift are penalized, while those who have saved nothing receive the benefit of the full pension. I ask the Prime Minister to take early steps to rectify these anomalies.
– I think that every honorable member listened to the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) with considerable respect and interest. He expressed opinions that have been in the minds of some of us, at least, for many years. In discussing this great problem of unemployment, we should drop all party prejudices, both inside and outside this chamber, in order to arrive at some solution of it. I remind the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that there is a sum of £1,000,000 set out in the preliminary estimates, under the item of “ Treasury Advance,” and no doubt some of that money could be utilized in providing employment. This problem will have to be tackled seriously at a very early date. I wish to suggest to the Minister in charge of the House that, for the taking of the census, there should be no necessity to bring to Canberra the whole of the men engaged in the tabulation of the statistics. If all the men who are employed on this work have to come to Canberra, some of them will have to keep two homes. Only returned soldiers are to be employed on this work. Examinations were held about a fortnight ago, and I presume that a sufficient number of men have qualified. No doubt those men who are to be employed will come from all parts of Australia. I do not know whether it is now too late to suggest that a portion of the preliminary work might be undertaken in the States, and thus save some of these men a considerable expense, which they can ill afford. These men will receive a wage of from £3 to £3 10s. a week. Although they have to pay their expenses to Canberra, I understand that there is to be some remission. In any case, those who are married will have to keep two homes, because they are not likely to transfer their families to Canberra for a period of from twelve to eighteen months. Arrangements are being made to house these men at Hotel Kurrajong, and other places. I suggest that some expense might be obviated if much of the preliminary work in connexion with the compilation of the papers is carried out in the States. It is clerical employment, and will give relief to a deserving class in the community, which has been hardly hit by the depression.
.- Some years ago we entered into an arrangement to accept as British subjects persons naturalized in that dominion. Any person who had been naturalized subsequent to the agreement was to be regarded by us as a British citizen, with full citizen rights, but any person who was naturalized in New Zealand prior to this agreement did not enjoy that privilege. Surely a person who has been naturalized in New Zealand for, say, twenty years, should, when he enters Australia, be regarded as a British subject, and be placed at least in the same category as a person who has been naturalized for. a period of five years or less. A person who was naturalized in New Zealand prior to the agreement is, when he enters Australia, treated as a foreigner, and if he desires to enjoy the rights of full citizenship, he must take out fresh naturalization papers. Surely that is an injustice, and a grave oversight on the part of those who entered into the agreement. I have in mind the case of a person who was naturalized in New Zealand many years ago and then came to Australia, but when this agreement was entered into he had to take out fresh naturalization papers in order to enjoy the rights of citizenship, such as the franchise and invalid and old-age pensions. I have brought this anomaly before the Government in the hope that it will be rectified.
Sitting suspended from 11.45 p.m. to
Friday, 26 May 1933
.I think that a few words should be said in reply to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). The gist of his criticism was that the Government had not included in its present proposals some millions of pounds in order to provide a widespread system of public works for unemployment relief. The honorable member then proceeded to mention such names as those of Salter, Keynes, and Blackett, as sponsoring some such scheme as he proposed. It is all very well for the honorable member to cite with satisfaction these well-known economists, but it is not right for him to ignore entirely what those men say and think. I submit that the honorable member has entirely misinterpreted, possibly not intentionally, the essential conclusions of two of the men he quoted - Keynes and Blackett - because the core and substance of their conclusions are that all the proposals that they enunciate should be put into effect on an international basis. It is wellknown that heavy releases of credit for relief purposes in any one country alone are likely to lead to the destruction of the monetary system of the country concerned. Blackett, in particular, with whose writings, no doubt, the honorable member is familiar, has a clear-cut theory, but it is entirely antagonistic to the honorable member’s proposal. The honorable member said that Sir Basil Blackett had put forward the proposal that each country should start by putting its own house in order.
If I interpret him correctly, Blackett said that the first thing was to get stable domestic price levels by means of open market operations by the Central Bank, and by the operation of the discount rate. He suggested that all countries in the world should, by international agreement, get their own internal price levels stable, but that, he admitted, was impossible. His next suggestion was that America and the British Empire should agree upon such a plan, but that, again, was admittedly improbable. Then he came down to what was his principal conclusion, and one that he thought was possible of achievement - that the countries of the British Empire, and the other countries that are loosely attached to sterling, should each stabilize their individual domestic price levels through central banking operations. That being done, public works policies should be inaugurated in each country, and price levels raised in all countries at the same time, and roughly at the same rate. That is not the same proposal as that put forward by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. The honorable member then quoted Keynes, and, I think, quoted him wrongly. Keynes’ principal proposal is based, in the first place, on international action. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports discounts international action, and criticized the Prime Minister for saying that he was watching overseas operations, and, if the opportunity presented itself, would take action even in opposition to his previously expressed opinions. In any event, neither Keynes’ nor Blackett has been accepted by the British Government. It remains to be seen whether, at the “World Economic Conference, the theories of Keynes and/or Blackett will be adopted, though they are both, in effect, on the agenda for discussion. I think that, to carry out anything substantially over and above the present public works proposals in Australia, would be unwise. Keynes’ proposal is based on the English situation, where practically no public works are constructed. In Australia, even now, though such expenditure has been much reduced, practically £12,000,000 a year is being spent on public works by Commonwealth and State Governments, which is the equivalent of £80,000,000 or £100,000,000 in Great Britain, and that would be a fairly extensive public works programme for that country. Australia is doing pretty well all that can be done if we are to proceed on sound lines, pending the World Economic Conference, or the making of agreements, as a result of that conference, by the sterling countries comprising what Blackett calls “ Sterlingaria “. This is a world problem, not one that we can solve ourselves. We should do everything possible within the limits of a sound financial policy to limit and prescribe the effects of unemployment, but the problem itself we cannot solve except by co-operation with other countries. It may, as has been stated, appear to be a policy of drift and wait, but the Government, insofar as the remedy is in its hands, has taken such steps as are possible, and the policy of sound public works will be continued. I do not think that it furthers the deliberations of this committee to suggest that, by some grandiose scheme of credit release, we could make any appreciable difference in the situation.
– Many and various opinions have been expressed regarding the world -crisis, but it is generally suggested that we should meet our overseas obligations. There are only two ways of doing this ; we must export either gold, or produce. It has been suggested that world prices are at present so low that we cannot afford to produce for export, and if that is so, and there is no gold to send away, we cannot meet our obligations. Nothing is gained by beating about the bush, but I believe that it should be possible to devise a scheme by means of which the people of this country could produce at a profit. It has been also suggested that some of the countries to which we owe money might not accept our produce, and that is true. A great deal of the money we owe is due to countries from whom we have bought manufactured products, and they should be told that, unless they accept primary produce from us, they will not be paid.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) referred to the need for settling the vacant areas of Australia, and I agree with what he said. There is still a great deal of unsettled land in Australia, and particularly in Queensland. For instance, there are hundreds of thousands of acres of good land in the Palmerston district at the back of Innisfail, land which is quite as good as the Atherton Tablelands. It is beautiful country, the climate is ideal, and the land will grow almost anything. It is particularly suitable for dairying. I know that, at the moment, the markets are glutted with primary products, but we must either settle the land of Australia ourselves, or it will be settled by those from other countries. The Queensland Government is doing what- it can to put settlers on the land, and small areas are being made available to- the unemployed, and financial assistance granted to them. I know that it is not the duty of the Commonwealth Government to settle people on the land, but it is the duty of this Government to provide money to assist in this direction. As the honorable member for Bendigo pointed out, if we are to hold Australia, we must settle the land. We must raise primary products, which, in turn, will furnish the raw material for secondary manufacture. There is ample room in Queensland and, I believe, in the Northern Territory, for thousands of additional settlers, and the Commonwealth Government, which administers the Northern Territory, should cut up some of the enormous holdings there, and lease them to settlers. If that is not done, somebody else will settle the land for us, and will make use of it. I believe this to be a real danger.
The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) said that we should not make more money available than we are doing now, that we are getting on all right as we are; but the present situation has lasted too long. I believe that money could ‘be spent to great advantage on public works. Some honorable members have said that private enterprise must be relied upon to furnish employment, and I believe . that, eventually, private enterprise will provide the bulk of the employment, perhaps when the working week is shorter than it is now. However, unless the Government gives a stimulus to private enterprise by expending public money, not very much will be done. Only by the expenditure of public money can prices be raised, and a profitable market ensured for our primary producers. When the Loan Council decided upon the reduction of interest, Professor Giblin, who was then Acting Commonwealth -Statistician, said that a fixed rate of interest of 4 per cent, would not be of much use if the depression continued or became worse. A rate of 4 per cent., he’ said, might, after a while, be just as heavy a load to carry as one of 6 per cent, was before. All over the world today thinkers are declaring that the one thing essential to bring about a better condition of affairs is the release of credits, so that those who are anxious to work, and have undertakings of value tq embark upon, may be able to do so. There is plenty of money in the banks for investment, but, because of low prices, people with real assets cannot obtain the money to use in the best interests of the community. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) eulogized the President of the United States for making credit available for the purpose of getting the people of that country back into employment. “ Either we must provide employment” he said, “ or we shall have something nobody wants, bloody revolution “. The Prime Minister of Canada has also determined that credits shall be made available for the rehabilitation of industry, so that people with work to do may be able to do it. There is plenty of scope in Australia for the carrying out of work of a useful character. On a previous occasion, when the then Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) introduced the Fiduciary Notes Bill, the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), and the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Archdale Parkhill), said that what Australia wanted was real money, with a real backing. Presumably they meant gold. Now the gold has been sent out of the country, and I do not think that that has made the least difference. After all, gold is of no use, except for the purpose of correcting an adverse international trade balance. Provided that our curency is made legal tender by Parliament, we should not be concerned about a gold backing to our note issue. A couple of years ago a letter was read in this House from the Chairman of the Bank Board, Sir Robert Gibson, in which he stated that if Parliament amended the Bank Act the Commonwealth Bank would make available the credits that were required. The Senate was not prepared to do that. Instead, Sir Robert Gibson was called before the bar of the Senate and it asked .him whether it would be wise to send £5,000,000 overseas to meet our obligations. Sir Robert Gibson replied that it would be quite right, and the amount was shipped abroad. This Government has sent away over £11,000,000 in gold since the Bank Act was amended, and nobody has troubled about it. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, it is better that the gold should go abroad to secure our credit than remain here as a frozen asset.
There is no reason why more paper money should not be made available, on a controlled basis. When the Treasurer in the Scullin Government was asked by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), who was acting as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, what amount the Government intended to make available as a fiduciary issue, facetiously suggesting that it might amount to £100,000,000, the Treasurer said that that might be so, but the consent of Parliament would first have to be obtained. Sooner or later we shall have to make a fiduciary note issue. We have been told that we should wait for the result of the World Economic Conference. Supposing that nothing comes out of that conference, as has been the case with other such gatherings. It is just as well to start now, so that Australia may be in a position to supply the commodities for which there is a world market.
I do not intend to enter into a discussion on unemployment at this juncture. I merely point out that this Governmentwas elected on the definite pledge that it would relieve unemployment. Though eighteen months have passed since the Government was elected that pledge remains unfulfilled. Honorable members must admit that the task cannot be performed unless credit is made available to governments, municipal bodies and the community generally, for public works, which would be in progress now if the money were available.
I rose partly to inform the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) that there are areas in the Commonwealth which would be of real value to other nations. The Government must realize that and, by making money available, and co-operating with the State Governments, effect the settlement of those areas and provide transport facilities so that settlers can bring their produce to the railway. That would be a much better plan than spending huge sums of money on building main roads parallel with existing railway lines. Many farmers have to travel up to twenty miles to take their produce to the railway, and, should they become bogged on the indifferent roads that now exist, the produce, which represents their livelihood, might easily become unfit for the market before it reached its destination. Again I urge the Government not to wait for the result of the “World Economic Conference. Let us determine for ourselves what we shall do, and start upon it immediately.
– Before the Supply Bill is passed, I should like the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) to consider reducing wireless licence fees. I base my argument mainly on an answer to a question that was given to the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) relating to wireless broadcast licensing fees, which indicated that the amount received in fees has exceeded the cost of broadcasting operations in this country by £172,000. Might I say here that that was after making a considerable portion of the revenue available for technical purposes. The PostmasterGeneral also stated, in reply to the request that steps should be taken to end the charge of 3s. on each listener’s licence to cover patent fees, the reduction to take effect in March next, that it would be considered in connexion with any proposed reduction of licence fees. It is not sufficient to hold that amount of £172,000 as a surplus. The mere fact that there is such a surplus is the strongest argument in favour of a reduction of wireless fees. There has been a most astounding increase in the number of listeners’ licences since 1925, in which year the figure was 54,853, while in March, 1933, it was given as 443,431. I believe that at present it is 448,788. Those figures indicate that the people are realizing the advantages of the broadcasting services rendered by the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Another aspect of the matter has to be taken into consideration, the revenue aspect. The latest figures that I have been able to obtain are for the year ended the 30th June, 1932, when the total number of licences issued was 369,945, the total revenue from this source being £442,950. Since then there has been a considerable increase in the number of licences, and, consequently, in the revenue collected. I believe that the revenue will continue to increase when the proposed network of broadcasting stations is complete. The general public has supported the national stations in their experimental stage, and, now that there is a surplus of revenue, it feels that it should enjoy a rebate in fees. I am supported in this contention by the recommendations made by the Royal Commission on Wireless in 1927. At page 7 of the report, it is stated -
In view of the recommendations of the Commissioners hereinafter made for reductions in copyright and patent royalties demanded from the broadcasting companies, and of our recommendations for an altered method of allocating available revenue, together with the fact that on last year’s operations the PostmasterGeneral had a surplus of £10,000 remaining after the cost of administration hud been deducted, the Commission is of opinion that the Postmaster-General should, after making provision for departmental research, give the listener-in advantage of the reduced royalties and of the surplus revenue.
While in the summary of recommendations, I find -
Your Commissioners recommend, therefore -
That the Postmaster-General should reduce the listener’s licence-fee by such amount as will give the listener-in the full advantage of any reduced royalties payable by the broadcasting companies to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and/or to the Australasian Performing Right Association Limited, and also of any surplus in the amount collected by his department and not utilized for the purposes of administration and research.
If, in 1927, the conditions were such that a royal commission could recommend a reduction of licence-fees, the time must be ripe for such a reduction now.
– Has the honorable member taken into consideration the new regional stations that it is proposed to erect ?
– I shall deal with that objection, which I anticipated, in a few minutes.
Admittedly, there has been a considerable outlay of capital on stations since 1927, but I take the view that any increase in broadcasting stations would amply repay the capital outlay because of the additional licences that would be taken out.
The same commission also made reference to the free issue of licences to persons afflicted with blindness, in these words -
Having regard to the great advantages that accrue to the blind from the use of wireless as a means of entertainment and education, the commission recommends that British legislation on the subject should be followed in regard to all blind persons, the PostmasterGeneral taking such precautions as will prevent the abuse of the privilege.
In its summary of recommendations, the commission stated -
There should be no need for me to draw the attention of honorable members to this severe disability. Honorable members realize that those who suffer from the dreadful affliction of blindness carry the full responsibility of citizenship. Those who are blind are denied many advantages which we enjoy, the pleasure of seeing the faces of their loved ones and of their friends, of the delight of viewing the beauties of nature and witnessing the changes of the seasons which bring the wonderful deep rich tints of the autumn, and the beautiful tender green of spring. Because of this, we should do everything possible to make available to them the comfort of wireless. By exempting the blind from the payment of wireless licence-fees, and enabling them to enjoy good music and instructive talks, we can partly recompense them for the loss of the priceless sense of sight. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) may object that the finances do not permit of such a concession, but he has already foreshadowed a reduction of the listeners’ fee by 3s., and I am sure that the community would be glad to forgo this reduction in order that the blind might be able to enjoy, free of charge, the benefits of wireless broadcasting. The Minister stated that the surplus available from listeners’ fees would be used for the establishment of additional broadcasting stations. I approve of that policy, but I again emphasize the remarkable increase in the revenue from listeners’ fees, and the surplus thus created above the capital outlay incurred. As this revenue has been obtained from only about 6 per cent, of the population, there is plenty of opportunity to recover further capital expenditure through the increase in licences that will assuredly follow the establishment of new broadcasting stations. If it is the intention of the Postmaster-General to hold the surplus for the establishment of new stations, I urge him to consider seriously the general reduction of the licence-fee and the total exemption of blind listeners. If he will not grant both those requests he should grant exemption to the blind, and recoup the loss by maintaining the listeners’ fees at their present level.
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. P. Harrison) has raised a question of extreme importance to Australia. As usual he pleaded for increased expenditure on defence. There is apparently some justification for directing the attention of the House to the subject of defence when we read that a powerful nation in the East has brutally and callously invaded a friendly territory and there committed wholesale murder and rapine. It is astonishing that in this Christian age, with the League of Nations in being, any country should be able to embark upon such a warlike enterprise without any effective remonstrance from the Great Powers. Unfortunately, the past actions of European powers in China have established precedents for recent occurrences. It was the common practice for European nations to seize territories adjacent to large Chinese ports and assert there extra-territorial rights. In these settlements the native Chinese were governed by the laws of the foreigner. The Chinese were regarded as so inferior to Europeans that when native offenders were hailed before the courts they were treated with much greater severity than European offenders, and punished much more severely than a similar offender in any European country. I can imagine no other explanation of the indifference of the Great Nations to what has happened in Manchukuo than the general world depression. The United States of America, a very wealthy country, claims, not without some reason, to uphold international justice and to champion the rights of smaller nations. The fact that it has established responsible government in the Philippines shows that, like Great Britain, it believes in extending the political freedom of humanity. I am astonished that that country which, ordinarily by the mere exercise of moral pressure would have been able to restrain the invaders in Manchukuo, did not intervene. The excuse of the invaders was that they were in Manchukuo only to suppress banditry, and that after a brief period their troops would be removed; but frequently this nation has shaken the faith of humanity by doing things which it said it would not do, and to-day, in spite of all its pacific assurances, its troops are penetrating further into the invaded territory. The only comfort I find in the situation is that no invader has been able to hold any country against the will of its inhabitants. China is numerically a giant among the nations, though militarily helpless. It is unable to offer an effective resistance to the invading forces that are murdering its citizens; but it has used the boycott weapon effectively in the past, and eventually we may witness the economic defeat of the aggressors who to-day are trying by force of arms to impose their will upon an unoffending nation. Evidently, the honorable member for Bendigo had these facts in mind when he suggested that Australia should greatly increase its expenditure on armaments. But his proposals would entail the outlay of millions of pounds which this country can ill afford, and would do nothing to mitigate the evil of unemployment. There is no urgent necessity for Australia to re-arm. The only nation from which Australia has anything to fear is engaged to-day in an almost impossible task, which will keep it fully occupied for the next 40 or 50 years, and the honorable member for Bendigo is aware, as I, too, am aware, of other reasons why the menace to the Commonwealth from that quarter can never be very great. At this time there is no justification for expending millions of pounds upon defence works that will not benefit either the unemployed or the people generally. If money can be raised for purposes of armaments it can be raised for other more urgent needs.
The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) has ridiculed the suggestion that the unemployed would be appreciably helped by a bold public works policy. I do not say that expenditure on public works will solve the problem of unemployment, but it will contribute to a solution. If money is available for armaments it should be available for ballasting the remainder of the transcontinental railway. That line has been ballasted for only half its length, and thousands of men could be employed on the completion of that work. We could also extend the 4-ft. 8-)-in. gauge to Adelaide, as has been proposed for many years. The unification of the east-west line from Adelaide to Perth would make that railway a formidable competitor with the steamship companies. There are thousands of works on which money could be profitably expended. For instance, there are still cities with primitive sanitary systems, which are a disgrace to civilization. The lack of modern sanitary conveniences is a serious menace to public health; these backward cities should be sewered. Years ago the unification of the Australian trunk railway gauges was declared necessary. Now is the time to re-examine this project, and if it is approved it can be carried out more advantageously while we have a large number of unemployed than it could be in boom times. The suggestion of the honorable member for Bendigo that the north coast would be surveyed for defence harbours is lamentably weak. No doubt that work will have to be undertaken some day, but when a survey vessel was being paid for by the Commonwealth at the rate of £60,000 a year, it spent many years on a detailed survey of the Barrier Reef. There was no intention to investigate the harbours of the north-west coast, which has never been charted. The suggested expenditure on armaments would be just as wasteful as the expenditure on naval vessels which are now obsolete and were never fitted for the work required of them.
– To what vessels does the honorable member refer ?
– H.M.A.S. Canberra, and others.
– They are absolutely up to date and are what Australia required.
– That is not so. If the Minister will inquire in the Defence Department, he will find that these vessels were foisted on Australia by a former Prime Minister, the right honorable member for Minders (Mr. Bruce) ; our Navy Board was never consulted. I do not charge the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) with having been remiss in this regard, for he was not in the Department at the time ; but it cannot be denied that huge sums of money have been wasted in the provision of our defence equipment. We have, for instance, bought an air plane carrier for obsolete air planes. It is natural that the honorable member for Bendigo should hold views such as he ha3 expressed to-night; People who are surrounded with military influences from their earliest days almost invariably show the effect of it by desiring the highest possible expenditure on military equipment. I trust, however, that the Government will find some more satisfactory way of spending its money than that suggested by the honorable member.
.I ask the Government to grant two requests; which it can do without any expense whatever, and with considerable advantage to certain sections of the taxpayers. At a time like this I would hesitate to ask for anything that would involve heavy expenditure, but I feel that sympathetic consideration should.be given to requests for relief which will not involve additional expense. On several occasions I have directed attention to these two matters.
The first request I make is that the necessity for furnishing sales tax bonds shall be removed. No other class of taxpayer has to furnish a bond that he will pay his taxation. As a matter of fact, sales taxation is frequently paid many months before the person who pays it can recoup himself . for his expense. The money spent in furnishing bonds to the Government in regard to .sales taxation is actually a present to the insurance companies, for the percentage of persons called upon to honour the bonds that are furnished is negligible. I have on other occasions asked the Government, as politely as possible, to give sympathetic consideration to this request. The furnishing of these bonds is unreasonable, unnecessary and annoying, and I shall continue to request that the furnishing of them be discontinued until .the Government grants my request. _ Sooner or later, of course, it will do so; I sincerely trust that it will be sooner rather than later. I also ask that medical, dental, and hospital equipment shall be exempt from the payment of sales taxation. I make this appeal not only so that the price of such equipment may be reduced, but also so that the persons concerned, and particularly the hospital authorities, may be relieved of the great trouble of furnishing returns and bonds in connexion with the matter. The granting of this request would involve a small loss of revenue, but the Government would be recouped for it by the saving it would make by yielding to my next, request.
My second appeal is that land-holders who are at present under obligation to furnish land tax returns in respect of land the unimproved value of which is between £3,000 and £5,000, shall be relieved of the necessity to do so. Tens of thousands of these returns, made in the course of the years, have been examined by investigation officers, checked and recorded; but the persons who have furnished them have never been called upon to pay a 3d. piece to the revenue. Persons who hold land, the unimproved capital value of which is between £3,000 and £5,000, are put to a tremendous expense, and are also called upon to spend much time, in preparing these returns. Frequently professional assistance has to be engaged to prepare accurate returns, which are subsequently simply pushed into pigeon holes, or stacked away as waste paper in some departmental office. It might be advisable to provide a small margin of £400 or £500 and call upon persons whose property is valued at, say, more than £4,500, to furnish returns ; but I say definitely and emphatically that many departmental officers with whom I have discussed this’ subject have agreed that it is unreasonable that certain taxpayers should be put to the annoyance and expense of furnishing these returns when it is well known that they will never be called upon to pay any taxation. If the Government would agree to this request, an actual saving of expenditure would be made, and public officers, now called upon to check and record the returns, would be relieved of this duty, and so be able to do other necessary work.
I sincerely trust that the Government will, on this occasion, agree to both the requests that I have made.
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) asked the Government this evening to grant free listeners’ licences to blind people with wireless sets. I was surprised to hear the honorable gentleman make this request, because not many months ago he supported the action of the Government in reducing the pensions of these persons by £6 10s. a year. The Government could best help these people by restoring to them the amount of pension which was taken away on that occasion.
There appears to be some doubt in the minds of certain honorable members whether profitable public works can be found to absorb the unemployed people of this country; but I suggest that an examination of the reports of various bodies such, for instance, as the Development and Migration Commission, would show that many reproductive undertakings could be put in hand. When honorable members now supporting the Government were sitting on this side of the chamber, and the Scullin Government was in office, they said that all that was necessary to remedy the trouble from which we were suffering was the restoration of confidence, and that this could be achieved by a change of government. On the 19th December, 1931, a change of government was made, but in the eighteen mouths that have since passed very little has been done to lead one to believe that confidence has been restored. The recorded unemployment to-day is only 2 per cent, less than when the Scullin Government was in office. That is a paltry achievement for a party which declared that if it were returned to power it would effectively deal with the problem.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said to-night that the Scullin Government had failed to deal with the unemployment problem. When the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) said that the Lyons Government had also failed to deal effectively with it, the right honorable member denied that this was so; but before he concluded his speech he actually proved that the honorable member for Darling was right in his statement. The right honorable member for North Sydney, in the days when he wrote The Case for Labour, almost came to the point of advocating the socialization of industry. To put it in another way, he rode right up to that hurdle, but just as he was expected to take the leap and skilfully clear the jump, he swung his horse round and passed by to take the next hurdle. I quote the following paragraph from the “ First Impression,” the right honorable member’s book, which is dated March, 1910 : -
Unemployment is the modern riddle of the Sphinx, which society must solve, and that speedily, or perish. Let us consider a little the causes of unemployment, and some possible remedies. Private ownership of land is undoubtedly a primary cause; private ownership of capital is another. In Australia, where there is sufficient fertile land for at least 50,000,000 people, it is absurd that, with a population of under 5,000,000, there should be unemployed men. But it is not less absurd that with capital amply sufficient to employ a population much larger than our present one there should co-exist idle capital and workless men.
These are the primary and, so to speak, passive causes of unemployment. It is with an active cause that I propose to deal with here - the manufacture of the unemployed man by employers of labour.
There is no feature about the present unsystematized methods of production so tragic as the manner in which private enterprise deliberately creates for its own selfish ends an army of unfortunates who are chained to their ringbolt in the industrial inferno by relentless necessity, as surely as were the galley slaves of old to the oar by fetters of iron.
The right honorable member very nearly got back to that point to-night. I should like to quote some further extracts from his book, but as the hour is late, I shall not do so. The members of the present Government claimed, in 1931, that if the United Australia Party were returned to power, private capital would be released, and employment would be provided for our people. This was to he the first step in the restoration of confidence, but the very small reduction in the percentage of unemployment in this country shows that the first step hasnot yet been taken. Confidence has not been restored, and so our people are not back in profitable employment. We are asked to-night to pass a bill which provides for the expenditure of £5,000,000, but not a penny of that money is intended for the establishment of any new industry which will create additional employment. The money is to be spent to provide relief works under conditions which are worse than those which men worked under 30 years ago. In the electorate of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) men are working under the federal relief scheme, with jack hammers, on sewerage work, without sprays or any means of combating the dust nuisance which causes disease among miners. This nation is to-day put to considerable expense f°r the upkeep of those affected with miners’ phthisis. The men of whom I speak work one day a week for a mere pittance of 10s. The same conditions applied when the Moore Government was in power in Queensland. This Government said that with the restoration of confidence, private enterprise would invest its money, the banks would release credits, and all would be well with Australia. I suppose that I mix with the people as much as most honorable members, and I am satisfied that the statement that was made to-night, that outside this chamber there is a feeling that confidence has been restored, is not justified. Confidence has not yet been restored in this country. Even the overseas investors have no confidence in Australia. That is shown by the cable that was received by the Government recently to the effect that London had advised that the market was still unfavorable for tho conversion of Australia’s indebtedness. We owe overseas £84,000,000, which carries an interest rate of over 5 per cent, and up to 6£ per cent., and if we converted that on the basis of an- interest rate of 4 per cent, a saving of £1,450,000 would be effected. We also owe approximately £213,000,000, the interest rate on which is 5* per cent. At present it is difficult to obtain a voluntary conversion overseas. The Prime Minister, in reply to questions asked a day or two ago, dealt with this subject, but did not hold out -much hope of an immediate conversion. We have an increased production of wool, wheat, and every other primary commodity, but the prices ruling for them are lower than they, have been for many years. Our favorable trade balance is gradually dwindling away, and unless an increase in commodity prices soon takes place we shall revert to the conditions of 1929.
The extension of the telephone system in country districts is absolutely essential. To-day, when people in the outback apply for telephone connexion, they are informed by the Postal Department that, on account of the financial position, favorable consideration cannot this year be given to their request. When application is made by ten, fifteen, or twenty persons for a mail service, the same reply is received. This Government could put in hand a considerable amount of work upon which men could be employed at a_ reasonable wage. If that were done, it would obviate the necessity for distributing money among the various councils to enable them to employ men one or two days a week at a wage of 10s. In Queensland there are at present about 12,000 people drawing unemployment insurance. They are engaged in seasonal occupations, and after 21 days of unemployment, are entitled to draw unemployment insurance, provided that their earnings do not exceed £156 for the year. In Queensland these men are considered as unemployed. Those who are employed on relief works also remain on the unemployed register, and the percentage of unemployment in Queensland is about 16 per cent. In Victoria, so soon as a man is put on relief work, he is struck off the unemployed list. That practice of course is responsible for the recent percentage reduction of unemployment. Any one who has travelled throughout the various States cannot but realize that the position is to-day worse than it was when the Scullin Government took office. One thing which that Government did was to make every effort to place the people in employment. This Government, in contrast, has stood idly by, and made no attempt to relieve unemployment. The Loan Council is controlled by the bankers. It is time that this Government made some effort to carry out its election pledges. I trust that when the Budget is before the House, some provision will be made to relieve the unemployed, to meet the demand for additional postage facilities in country districts, and to restore to the invalid and old-age pensioners the benefits that they enjoyed when the Scullin Government was in office. Honorable members must admit that pensioners are suffering severe hardships under the existing legislation.
– There are three points in. connexion with the Supply Bill to which I intended to refer, but at this early hour of the morning I shall concentrate on one only. It is a matter of great importance, and has to do with war pensions. The House is aware that there is a War Pensions Entitlement Tribunal which deals as a last court with applicants for war pensions. The tribunal, which is really above ministerial or other control, has the task of deciding whether the disability of an applicant for a pension is the result of war service. In a number of cases the soldier’s dossier contains no reference to illness during nui war, but at the same time it is definite that his recent collapse is due to war service. The best soldier at the war was the man who, though often ill, and sometimes wounded, refused to “ go sick “ and to have his name placed on the records as being ill or wounded. Every returned soldier in this chamber will remember many such cases, particularly men holding responsible positions, such as non-com- - missioned officers and officers. These men, though wounded, avoided the doctor or the casualty clearing stations, so that they might stick to their job. Many of them are at present suffering badly, and some are absolutely helpless; but, under the law, the Appeal Tribunal is not able to grant them a pension. An officer who was on my brigade staff - I shall not give his name - was, a month or so ago, in fairly good health, and intent on completing certain business in connexion with a patent. But recently he was found by the police in one of the streets of Melbourne suffering from loss of memory. He is now in the Mont Park Receiving House, not in the soldier section, but in the civilian section. This man, who was in my brigade as a non-commissioned officer, a junior officer, and a staff officer, fought in the strenuous years of 1917 and 191S, and I have no doubt that the hard physical and mental strain to which he was subjected at that time is now acting against him. Another case is that of a soldier who, it is evident, suffered at the war. There is the evidence of many of his friends that he was ill, and that he stuck to his unit rather than “go sick”. He lives in New South Wales. He cannot obtain a pension, although the authorities are sympathetic, and his case is absolutely genuine.
– Has not the question of evidence to be considered by the Entitlement Board?
– Yes; but the evidence is not in the document. The board requires that the document shall show that during the war period the applicant had some illness or sickness, and if that evidence does not appear in the man’s war record of service, then the board decides that his present illness is not attributable to war service. I ask the Minister to instruct the Entitlement Tribunal to be more lenient in its attitude when considering evidence which is not contained in an applicant’s record of service. I am quite certain that honorable members on both sides of the chamber know of numerous cases which could almost certainly be proved to be the result of war service.
– Does not the honorable member feel that many cases might be helped if one of the members of the Entitlement Tribunal were a medical officer ?
– That did not occur to me. I have no knowledge of the constitution of the tribunal.
– The Assessment Tribunal has upon it two doctors.
– But not the Entitlement Tribunal, which has to do with the granting of pensions.
– I have no doubt of the integrity of the tribunal, but if it could be induced to treat a little more leniently some of the men who are manifestly suffering as a result of their war service, we should be doing something to give justice to those from whom, perhaps, it has been too long withheld.
– It is unsatisfactory to honorable members who have urgent matters to place before the committee that they should have to speak at this hour of the morning, more especially as there is no need for it. The Government proposes to adjourn the House shortly for three months; yet it is, by process of physical exhaustion during two all-night sittings, wearing honorable members down so that it may get its legislation through.
I desire to bring before the committee the extraordinary action of the Government in regard to its treatment of the employees of the Commonwealth railways. Recently, I asked the Attorney-General whether it was a fact that an award of the Arbitration Court, made by Judge Drake-Brockman, had been declared invalid by the High Court, and I was informed that it was. I then asked him whether the Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways had applied to the full Arbitration Court, which alone has power to vary the basic wage, for a new award, to date from the time the DrakeBrockman award had come into operation, and again I was informed that that was so. There is nothing wrong with the action of the Commissioner in approaching the Full Court, except that we cannot approve of the object of his application, which is to reduce wages. “We maintain, that if the Government desires to reduce the wages of its employees it should do so in a fair and open manner. The action of the Government in the present case may be legal, hut it is not normal. In the first place, the Australian Workers Union was dragged into the Arbitration Court before a judge who exercised powers which he did not possess. The union was put to the expense of fighting the case, and then, after the award was made, the High Court declared it invalid. The Commissioner has now applied to the Full Court of the Arbitration Court for a new award, and the union has to conduct another case at still further expense. The DrakeBrockman award provided for a reduction of wages, and when, after some months, it was declared to be invalid,the employees became entitled to have paid to them the difference between the rates of wages provided for in that award, and the rates specified in the Quick award, under which they had been previously working. The Government, however, has refused to pay them that money, and has, instead, adopted the tactics of a shyster lawyer. It is a disgrace to the Government and to this Parliament that it should authorize action to he taken, the object of which is to prevent the men being paid the money to which they are entitled under an award of the Arbitration Court.
– I presume that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is acting under instructions.
– He is acting under instructions in refusing to pay the men the thousands of pounds due to them under the Quick award. This is a scandalous thing. The unfortunate union is now placed in the position of an honest man who has to sue a dishonest one to recover what is due to him. The Government will, no doubt, be brought before the court, and ordered to pay what it owes, but in order to do that the union will have to issue about 700 summonses. Eventually the union will obtain a verdict against the recalcitrant Government, because I do not think that any court of law could refuse one; but the union will be put to considerable expense, in issuing summonses, and also in applying for an injunction against the commissioner to safeguard the interests of the employees.
I have had it put to me that the Government’s action over this matter is in the nature of a warning to other organizations in a position similar to that of the railway employees. It has been held by those who should be competent to judge, that certain other awards made by Judge Dethridge, Judge Beeby, and Judge Drake-Brockman, are also invalid, but in those cases the men affected are employed by private persons. The Government’s action, therefore, seems to indicate that it desires to protect such employers by giving an illustration of how they may avoid paying the money which has been illegally withheld from their employees. Is it the policy of the Government to flout the unanimous decision of the High Court ? If so, it should come out into the open, and boldly declare its policy to the people and the workers. If it wishes to effect what it is now doing in an underhand and dishonest manner, it should bring down legislation for amending the arbitration laws.
– The matter to which the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has referred has arisen as the result of an alteration made by the last Government to section 18a of the Arbitration Act. That alteration provided that the Arbitration Court should not have jurisdiction to make an award altering the basic wage, or the principles upon which it is computed, unless the matter was heard before three judges - the Chief Justice, and not less than two other judges. At the time the amendment was made the intention of the Parliament was quite plain, namely, that any alteration of the basic wage or of the principle on which the basic wage is computed should be made not by a single judge but by three judges. The basic wage was understood to be the general basic wage of the court, as ascertained in accordance with the principles laid down in the Harvester case; it was not thought by anybody that it meant any minimum wage in any award. There was no suggestion at the time that this section meant that that which happened to be the minimum wage in any particular award could never be altered except by three judges. If that had been the idea behind the amendment, the provision made would have been that a dispute should be heard by three judges. In every ordinary application for a new award, there is a claim for the alteration of the amount of the minimum wage in the existing award. At the time it was not intended that this provision requiring a hearing by three judges should apply to a case simply because there was an alteration in the amount of the minimum wage prescribed by the particular award in any industry.
The opposite contention has now been advanced, and the Australian “Workers Union has won on a neat and tricky little point. The decision of the High Court is obviously right, and the result is that instead of section 18a being regarded as intended to bring about an inquiry by three judges, before the general basic wage is altered, or before the principles on which it is computed are altered, that section has been held to mean that if an application is made in any matter before the court for the alteration of any minimum wage in any given industry, even by as much as a penny, then three judges must hear the case.
Since 1930 many cases have been heard, and many alterations made, some up and some clown. Incidentally, I mention that this victory of the Australian “Workers Union on a purely legal point, which has nothing to do with the merits of anything, is a rather doubtful one, because it prevents a minimum wage from being altered upwards, as well as from being altered downwards, by a single judge. It may be that there will have to be an amendment of the act in order to make it work in accordance with what is intended by Parliament, if that is possible. I say “ if that is possible “ advisedly, because the constitutional power under which the court operates and this Parliament legislates is of such a remarkable character that it is not at all easy to legislate effectively to bring it about that any general ruling of the Arbitration Court shall be arrived at by a single judge in the determination of a dispute. In this case the Arbitration Court, constituted by a single judge, examined a dispute, became seised of the matter, and an award was made, the same in character as ever so many awards made by other judges. I do not say anything about the merits of the award, except that it left railway men at Port Augusta in a better position than any other railway men in South Australia, having regard to all conditions of their employment. The award was made, and the Australian “Workers Union lost. That organization tried to upset the award. According to what the honorable^ member for Darling has said, it is quite a right thing for the Australian Workers Union to succeed in upsetting a decision, of the court, but if the Commonwealth Government takes any action in a court to have the law as declared applied, that, to use the honorable member’s peculiar phrase, is taking action in the court to get behind the law. Of course the court merely interprets the law, whatever the law may be. The High Court has held that the application for an alteration of a basic wage in any award, whether it be by only a farthing or a penny, must be heard by three judges.
With the authority of the Government, the Commissioner of Railways is applying to three judges for a retrospective award. That is the only thing that it can do unless no action is taken and the old award which has been judicially determined not to be applicable to present conditions is allowed to continue to operate.
I have been amused to hear the honorable member complain so bitterly about the commissioner for making application for a retrospective award. The unions do this regularly. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. It cannot be alleged that there is any profound moral obliquity in applying for a retrospective award. It may be that the Government will have to introduce some legislation to amend the provision that was inserted in 1930, in order to allow the Arbitration Court to function. Inquiries have been made from the Industrial Registrar as to the actual effect of a decision of the High Court on the work of the Arbitration Court. If it turns out that any application for an alteration of the lowest award must be heard by three judges, it is pretty obvious that the court cannot work, and the act will have to be altered.-
At all times before and after 1930, awards have been made in which a single judge has altered the lowest wage in a particular award. That is a common practice in the court. Awards are altered simply in accordance with the cost of living figures. But now such an alteration cannot be made by a single judge in a new award. The position is ridiculous. Of course it is a different thing if an award is self-operating. What was meant in 1930, was to carry out the idea expressed in section 18a, which dealt with an award increasing the standard hours of work or reducing them below 48 hours a week; in that year the addition was made about altering the principles upon which it is computed. The argument before the High Court was that the basic wage meant the Harvester award adjusted in accordance with the cost of living figures; the basic wage as set out in the Commonwealth Statistician’s YearBooh. That is what everybody thought it meant. The High Court held that the words did not mean that ; that each award would have to be taken by itself. It said that there was no Commonwealth basic wage; that we simply have a series of orders of the court embodying awards; that there arc as many basic wages as there are awards. .Suppose the minimum wage in an industry to be £3 15s. a week. If another award is desired, say of £3 14s. or £3 16s. a week, it cannot be determined by a single judge. If it is found that as a result of this true interpretation of the act the Arbitration Court becomes clogged and cannot function, the problem will have to be approached again, and Parliament will have to consider whether it will simply strike out these provisions altogether. Personally, I think that the principle is valuable, and would rather see the basic wage determined by three judges than ohe. We shall have to see whether a simple method can be devised of giving effect to that desire to allow a judge to determine a minimum wage, irrespective of any consultation with his colleagues.
– There would then be no uniformity.
– The honorable member appreciates the difficulty. This is an attempt to bring about uniformity by making a general rule. The court has to decide whether it is possible to separate the basic wage from other elements of the award, and allow it to be dealt with by three judges. If in every industry the basic wage - which, the court has declared, is the lowest wage - is to be determined by three judges, and the other margins are to be determined by a single judge, the system will not work. The proceedings by the Commissioner of Railways will test whether the new system can be made to operate in a practical manner.
.The Attorney-General -has been at pains to show that the act contains something which Parliament never intended. I do not propose to debate that now; it will be an appropriate subject for discussion when any proposed amendment of the Arbitration Act is before the House. But the Commonwealth Government should be the last employer to defy an order of the High Court, or to break an award of the Arbitration Court. The Government is committing both of those wrongs. The Attorney-General said that the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) should not have criticized the Commissioner for Railways for applying to the court for a retrospective award, because the unions also have done that on other occasions. It is true- that the unions have asked for retrospective awards when their claim has been held up so long that an injustice would be done to them if the award were not made retrospective. But when such applications were made, the unions continued working under the existing award pending the decision of the court. The Commonwealth Government, on the contrary, is compelling its employees to work for a wage less than the award, pending an appeal to the court for a retrospective award. Do honorable members stand for that? The Commissioner for Railways applied to the Arbitrator for a reduction of the wages of the railway servants ; the case was heard, and was decided against the union. The wages were reduced to 9s. lid. a day, or £2 19s. 6d. a week, for men working on the Commonwealth railways in the Never Never country. This matter was raised in the House by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), who was supported by other members of the Opposition. We contended that it was not creditable to the Commonwealth that its employees should be working for such a miserable pittance. We were told by the Ministers that the men must abide by the award of the court. There was 1 nothing to prevent the Government from paying more than the award, but the attitude of the Minister for Railways was that the award must stand. The matter was carried to the High Court, and the union won its case before five judges. The Attorney-General said that the case was won on a neat and tricky point. For that reason, apparently, the men are not to get the benefits of the decision of the court. They have been working since the 7 th January of this year for a wage below the award rate, and now the Government is appealing to three judges of the Arbitration Court for a retrospective validation of the underpayment. More will be heard of this. . After this action let not Ministers on the public platform or in this Parliament declare that they stand for the observance of awards; let them never again criticize the unions for committing breaches of awards or advocating direct action. I ask the House to consider an analogous case, for the purpose of which I shall assume the correctness of the Attorney-General’s contention that there is in the act a flaw, something which Parliament never intended. I do not intend to contest that point at present, beyond affirming that Parliament knew what it was doing. Scores of cases have arisen out of flaws discovered in the taxation laws, and “neat and tricky points” have been taken by wealthy people anxious to evade the taxation which Parliament intended they should pay. When such appeals have succeeded, the Government of the day has introduced legislation to amend the law retrospectively, but never to my knowledge has any litigant been robbed of the fruits of his victory. Although he was gaining an advantage to which he was not morally entitled, although the case had been won, not on the justice of the claim, but on legal quibbles regarding the wording of a complicated act, governments and Parliaments have insisted that the successful litigant should enjoy his victory, and that the Taxation Department should bear the loss. Contrast that with the attitude of the Commonwealth towards a body of men working in the blistering ing sun of the Australian desert. They subscribed the money to fight a case in the courts ; they won, but are being robbed by the Government of their victory. Yet big capitalists in analogous circumstances are allowed to escape taxation. Such conduct by a government should bring about its defeat at the hands of an outraged democracy.
I ask the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), as a legal man, what he would think if, after he had successfully fought a case in the court, his client were denied the fruits of his victory.
– No legislation is proposed to take away any fruits of victory.
– No. That is being done by administration, and that will be worse than if it were to be done by legislation, because in the latter case, Parliament would have an opportunity to express its will.
– We are not proposing to do anything by administration either; we are applying to the court.
– The administrative act is the instruction to the Commissioner to apply to three judges of the Arbitration Court for a retrospective award. The objection is not to that procedure, but to the instruction to the Commissioner to reduce the wages below the award rates, pending the decision of the court.
– It certainly looks like attempting to deprive men of wages to which they are legally entitled under a valid award.
– That is the gravamen of our charge. The Government is withholding from its employees money they are entitled to under a legal award, and the court is being asked to validate that retrospectively. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has rendered a public service in bringing this indictment. Unless the Government pays to the men the wages they have earned under a legal award of the court, the matter will be revived in this Parliament. If the Government is not prepared to do this justice, let Ministers never again speak of the sanctity and binding character of awards.
Question resolved iri the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Yesterday I asked the Minister for the Interior whether a private builder had applied for permission to erect residential flats in Canberra, and I was informed that such an application had been received, and that the plan provided for eight flats under one roof. In every city of the Commonwealth are unhygienic blocks of flats in which large numbers of people are herded. I remember that at the commencement of the flat evil in Sydney, a newspaper published a cartoon showing a huge block of flats in front of which was the shadow of a cross on which was a baby. Flat life is unhealthy, and undesirable, even in large cities where land values are high. But the prospect of such buildings being erected in Canberra makes one shudder.
– What is wrong with modern flats?
– Much depends on how many flats are under the one roof. In this Federal Capital city there is ample land for future development, and sufficient to provide for playing areas and gardens for the children of our citizens. If buildings containing, say, eight flats under one roof were erected here under unhygienic conditions, it would be a sorry thing for Canberra. In a place like this there is room for every family to have a cottage, with a flower garden, a small vegetable plot, and a play ground for children. At present we have a number of flats which contain two suites of rooms under one roof, but each flat has its own entrance, its own garage, and its own garden. It would be extremely unfortunate if the flat system which, on its introduction into the big cities of the Commonwealth caused such a revulsion of public feeling, were to be permitted in Canberra. When it was first proposed to build flats in the State capitals, deputations waited on governments and municipal authorities to protest against it on the ground that it would be detrimental to home life, citizenship and morality; but, unfortunately, vested interests won. Flat life, as we find it in some of the big cities, is one of the atrocities of modern civilization. I earnestly appeal to the Government, therefore, not to allow anything of the kind to develop in Canberra.
– Are there no building regulations here?
– There are stringent building regulations, the object of which is to maintain hygienic housing conditions; but, unfortunately, in the early days of construction, when getrichquick builders and other unscrupulous persons were operating here, a number of jerry built homes were constructed. This was probably due to ineffective supervision by inexperienced persons. While I was Minister for Home Affairs and had charge of the Federal Capital Territory, many applications were made to me for exemption from the building regulations. There were also many attempts to evade the building regulations. In almost every instance the applications and evasions were by persons who were trying to make money without any regard for the beauty of the city or for the home life of the people. I urge the Prime Minister to do his best to protect the capital city from disfigurement by unwholesome and unhygienic flats.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Government to a matter that has been brought under my notice by both the Victorian and the Bendigo branches of the Federated Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia and the Bendigo United Friendly Society’s Dispensary relating to the imposition of sales tax on rectified spirit, which seems to be the foundation spirit for a number of medicines. At present the cost of this spirit i3 3s. 6d. per gallon, and the duty on it is 46s a gallon, making the total cost of it almost 50s. a gallon. Sales tax is charged on this amount. As medicines seem to be one of the necessaries of life, I ask the Government, in the interests of the people of this country who need medicine, to exempt rectified spirit from sales taxation. Probably at present, when many people are not able to obtain the necessary quantity of suitable food, more medicine is taken than usual. It is desirable, therefore, that the cost of medicines should not be unnecessarily increased. I should like to go further, and ask the Government to exempt all medicines from sales taxation. Perhaps both these requests can be considered when the budget is being discussed.
– I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) relating to the proposal to build flats at Canberra. There is undoubtedly a shortage of housing hero. People are beginning to take some notice of this city, and are talking of coming here to live. I believe that many would do so at once if the residential conditions were suitable. In view of the honorable member’s remarks I think it desirable that other honorable gentlemen who have any convictions on this subject should state them. Are we to understand that the honorable member for Darling thinks that there should be no further civic or architectural development in Canberra? If the present housing arrangements are to continue for all time we may as well write “Finis” to the progress of the city. One of the greatest handicaps under which Canberra is labouring at present is the high cost of housing. I know of many people who complain bitterly because they have to pay a rental of £2 or £2 5s. a week for a paltry four-roomed cottage. Such rentals are a thing of the past in the State capitals. I gather that the main objection of the honorable member for Darling to the building of flats in Canberra is that they are not suitable for family life; but we know very well that the tendency in the big cities of Australia is to replace small cottages by up-to-date flats. A modern building which consists of a number of suites of rooms built on hygienic principles is a desirable place in which to live. Many people would be glad to dispose of their small cottages if they could do so without heavy loss, and go to reside in a modern flat. The price of small cottages has fallen heavily in the last few years. People who have invested all their savings in their cottage homes now greatly regret having done so. In advocating the building of modern flats I have in mind, of course, good, hygienic flats, constructed under Government supervision. It would be desirable if every such block of buildings could have round it suitable playing areas for children. We have seen in Canberra that it is possible for people to have too much land about their homes. If there is always to be a large area of unused land about Canberra, the national capital will never become a real city, but will remain for all time a rambling garden, designed on the principle of a crazy maze.
– We already have groups of buildings here containing two flats under one roof. The rental for these flats is from 20s. to 22s. a week.
– The buildings that the honora’ble member has referred to are not flats in the ordinarily accepted sense of the word, but semi-detached houses. I know that a number of journalists living in private hotels in Canberra with their families would be very glad to rent suitable flats if they were available.
– Twenty-five people are waiting for houses in Canberra.
– That is an argument in favour of construction of flats. It seems to me that there is scope here for the building of flats. I do not suggest that the Government should altogether disregard the appeal of the honorable member for Darling; but. I do not see that any harm would be done if buildings of two or three stories were constructed, containing a number of well designed suites of rooms. I would suggest that each such building should have about it a sufficient garden, and playing area for children. If such housing provision were made, people who have visited Canberra and like it would be encouraged to come here to live for at least a part of the year. At present the great hindrance to their doing so is the lack of suitable housing accommodation. The accommodation at the Hotel Canberra is at times overcrowded, and private accommodation should be available. As small cottages are practically unobtainable, it is high time that flats were erected at Canberra. I urge the Government not to handicap further the development of this city. Its growth has been retarded in a most absurd and ridiculous manner by red tape regulations. Canberra is a millstone around the necks not only of its residents, but also- of the people of Australia generally. It has cost £13,000,000, and yet we are arguing whether we should allow additional buildings to be erected here. The place is a mass of trees, and a few flowers are to be seen at certain times of the year; yet this city is advertised on gorgeous posters at the railway stations as “ beautiful Canberra.” We see a few gardens round the houses and hotels. There are a few hills, not very attractive, a church or two, and a maze of roads which were planned, apparently, by a committee of taxi cab drivers, and not by an intelligent town planner. I realize that Canberra has come to stay, but I do not think that this Parliament is taking the interest in the capital city that it took when it was first established. Two or three years ago half of our notice-paper was filled with questions relating to Canberra, but now hardly one question ever appears on it.
– That shows that honorable members are satisfied with the present position.
– They do not take any interest in Canberra. They attend the sittings of the House, and leave as soon as possible. Seldom does any honorable member stay over the week-end. The members of this Parliament should take a little more interest in the capital city. This, debate, which has been initiated by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), gives to the Government an opportunity to proclaim to the world that it intends to make Canberra more attractive, not only to tourists, but also to people who are likely to make their permanent residence here.
.- So far as I can gather, the whole of the requirements of the Commonwealth departments are not obtained through the Supply and Tender Board, and I consider that the method of supply should be - tightened up with a view to effecting economy in that direction rather than at the expense of the public servants and pensioners. A few years ago I suggested to the then Government that there should be set up an office such as that of Controller of Assets, or some officer of the Public Service should be appointed to make an inventory of the whole of the assets of the Commonwealth, including the plant and equipment of the various departments. Unfortunately, my suggestion was not accepted and, as a result, there has been wasteful expenditure. I understand that the Commonwealth Bank Board has gone to considerable expense in installing in its new head office building in Sydney, radiators imported from the Old Country, although there are stored in this capital city 1,000 sections of 22-in. radiators which are quite suitable for the purposes of the bank, and similar to those installed in Parliament House and other public offices in Canberra. Some authority should be set up to keep a proper record of the various items of machinery and plant in the possession of departments. In recent years there lias been a diminution of Commonwealth activities. At one time the Navy made use of the cranes and other equipment at Jervis Bay, but that machinery is not at present being used. Then, again, in Canberra building operations are practically at a stand-still, and as a result valuable equipment is lying idle and deteriorating. It would be far better to care for it, with the object of using it later for some other purpose of the Commonwealth, thus saving unnecessary expense. Some record should be kept of Commonwealth equipment
– The Commonwealth Stores branch should do the work.
– The trouble is that it is not doing it. There is certainly room for co-operation between the various departments. Public servants salaries and pensions have been slashed, and yet thousands of pounds are being wasted in various directions. I urge the Prime Minister to inquire into this matter with a view to ascertaining whether any economies can be effected.
– The points raised by various honorable members will receive the consideration of the Government. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) referred to the application that had been made for permission to erect flats in Canberra. That, of course, will receive serious consideration before any decision is arrived at. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) referred to the sales tax on rectified spirit and medicine generally. That is a matter which is already under consideration. A case has been made out by the representatives of the trade throughout Australia, and they have been definitely assured that these items, in conjunction with other items, will be carefully considered in connexion with the budget. I have no information as to the subject raised by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley). I understand that the Commonwealth Bank Board acts independently, and is not associated with Government departments, although some of the departments undertake work on behalf of the bank. The bank plans its own policy, and I am not prepared to say that we can bring about that co-operation which the honorable member suggests should exist between the Commonwealth Bank and the Government departments. So far as the Government departments themselves are concerned there may be something in the honorable member’s suggestion, and I promise him that I shall look into the whole question.
– The Commonwealth Bank has already installed radiators in its premises at Melbourne and Launceston.
– Were the radiators acquired from the Commonwealth? Mr. Riley. - Yes.
– Then there is no reason why Commonwealth surplus stock should not be utilized in that way.
.In conjunction with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) I have been asked by the rifle clubs association to urge the Government to give it more assistance. As honorable members are aware, these clubs provide a training for marksmen, and to that extent assist our defence forces. In 1929 £50,000 was voted for the assistance of rifle clubs, but the amount decreased steadily during subsequent years. In 1928-29 the amount was £48,000; in 1929-30, £40,000; in 1930-31, £33,000; in 1931-32, £28,000; and in 1932-33, ‘ £26,600. The grant which is now made to the rifle clubs is only half of what it was four or five years ago, while at the same time the membership of the clubs has been steadily increasing. This recreation is useful as preparation for defence, and I suggest to the Government that it might increase the vote this year by at least £5,000.
. I take the opposite view to that of the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker). Last year £26,000 was voted for the assistance of rifle clubs. This expense is entirely unnecessary, and if we cannot find a better use for £5,000, which the honorable member for Oxley has suggested should be given to the rifle clubs as an additional grant, it is time that this Parliament ceased functioning altogether.. Such a sum is a high price to pay merely to enable members of rifle clubs to become amateur marksmen or pigeon shooters, as most of them seem to aspire to be. We should reduce and not increase this vote.
– The memorandum from which quotations were made is a circular that has been sent to all the members of this Parliament, and most honorable members on both sides of the House have forwarded copies of it either to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) or myself during the last two or three months. The contents of the memorandum, and the representations of honorable members, will receive the most careful consideration. When the budget is brought before Parliament, it will be seen what funds the Government has been able to provide for rifle clubs. I remind the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that the rifle club movement in Australia is doing valuable work as an adjunct to the defence of the country. At the time of the last war, riflemen were among the first to respond, and some of them travelled thousands of miles in Northern Queensland to enlist. They were the first to go on active service with the Naval and Expeditionary Force which was responsible for securing the territory of New Guinea which Australia is now privileged under the mandate from the League of Nations to administer.
Bill agreed to and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill bo now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to make amendments of a machinery nature in the provisions of the principal act. Section 8 of the principal act, which deals with the redemption of stock, provides for redemption “ after a date to be fixed in the order creating the stock “. For departmental convenience it is proposed to insert the words “ on or “ before “ after “, so that orders in council creating stock may specify a fixed date of maturity. Section 8 is also amplified to cover redemptions of a class of stock known as instalment stock, which is redeemable by instalments at regular intervals. These alterations, with consequential amendments, have been embodied in a new section to replace the present section 8 of the principal act.
Section 24 of the principal act provides that stock may be transferred from one person to another by “ deed in a prescribed form “. As a formal deed is not necessary to effect transfers, it is proposed to substitute “ instrument “ for “ deed “ in sections 24, 25 and 26 of the principal act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Mr. LYONS (Wilmot- Prime Minis ter and Treasurer [2.52 a.m.]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is to amend section 18b of Financial Emergency Act 1931-1932; which deals with the automatic adjustment of salaries in accordance with cost of living. The adult basic wage in the Commonwealth Service has been arrived at in the past by the same method as applies in respect of awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The Commonwealth Statistician’s index numbers - “ all houses “ table - have been used for this purpose, and salaries have been adjusted annually in the Service for each 48 points of variation of the index numbers either up or down; 48 points represent an amount of £6.
The Commonwealth Arbitration Court, in a recent judgment, decided to substitute another index table - that known as the “ all items “ table - instead of the table previously used. The first table was in respect of food, groceries and house rents - all houses ; the “ all items “ table covers food, groceries, house rent - rent of four or five roomed houses only - clothing, and miscellaneous items combined. The effect of the court’s decision is that, instead of a further reduction in wages as from the 1st May, 1933, there has actually been an increase on the rates payable from 1st February, 1933, when the last adjustment was made. In Sydney, from 1st May, 1933, the court’s basic wage is £3 7s.10d. a week, in lieu of £3 4s. 10d., which would have been paid but for the changed method. In Melbourne the new weekly rate is £3 3s. 4d. as against £218s. 6d.
While the Federal Court adjusts wages in most cases each quarter, it has been the practice to make adjustments in the Service annually. The index number for the last year under the “ all houses “ table was 1377, the equivalent to a Service basic wage of £162 per annum. The present basic wage is £174 per annum, and if cost of living adjustments were made as at present prescribed, there would be a further reduction of £12 as from 1st July, 1933. Under the “ all items “ table, now adopted by the Federal Court, the figure for the past year is 1467, the equivalent to a Service basic wage of £174 per annum - that at present payable.
Having considered the matter, the Government decided that the Service should have the benefit of the method now adopted by the Federal Court, and the proposed amendments to section 18b are designed to give effect to this decision.
Section 18b provides that variations in salary shall be made in the manner set forth in Public Service Regulation 106a, as in force at the commencement of the section. Regulation 106a has now been amended, with effect from the 24th May, 1933, providing for adjustment on the “ all items “ table, and it is accordingly proposed to amend section 188 to provide for variation in the manner indicated in the amended regulation, and with a further provision that no action shall be taken under the section in respect of any figures published by the Statistician prior to 1st July, 1933. This means that, from the 1st July, the salaries of the Public Service, instead of being subjected to a cost of living reduction of £12 a year, will be continued without any further reduction. The amount involved represents about £300,000 for the Public Service proper and about £400,000 for all Commonwealth employees.
– I wish to understand quite clearly what the bill provides. Recently, when we questioned the Prime Minister regarding the advisability of beginning to restore the cut in Public Service salaries, he told the House that he would be guided by the decision of the court. The Government, he said, would not suggest to the court that it should begin to restore the cut, but would abide by what action the court took.
– I said that the Government would not interfere with the court in regard to private employees, but that it was our business to decide what was right to apply to the Public Service.
– The Arbitration Court decided that it would not make further deductions from the basic wage in accordance with the reduction of the cost of living index figure, and, in addition to that, it varied the method of assessing the cost of living so that a slight increase in the basic wage was granted. Does the Government intend to treat its own employees in the same way as the court has treated outside employees, or is it the intention of the Government merely to refrain from making a further reduction in accordance with the cost of living figures ?
– The new basis for calculating the cost of living index has already been accepted, and on it the basic wage in the Public Service has been fixed at £174- - the same as it is now. The effect is that the reduction of £12, which would have been made in accordance with the former cost of living index number, will not now be made.
– Then the Government is not giving to the public servants the same advantage that will be given to outside employees as a result of the award of the Arbitration Court ?
– The Government will not deduct the latest cost of living reduction from the public servants. Any restoration of salary cuts is a matter for further consideration in connexion with the budget.
– That is what I was afraid of. As the Government has adopted the “ all items “ basis of calculation that has been adopted by the Arbitration Court, it should give public servants the advantage that is being enjoyed by outside employees, which would amount to a 3 per cent, or 4 per cent, restoration of salary. I regret that the Government is not doing that, and 1 urge that it should reconsider the proposal to make a 10 per cent, wage restoration. The Arbitration Court determined that the time was opportune for a 10 per cent, restoration, but decided that it would be too much to ask employers to make that adjustment in one lump, and fixed it on a gradual basis. It is to be regretted that the Government is not following suit. I thought it would take a lead from the decision that was given by the three judges of the Arbitration Court. In the circumstances I shall have to oppose the bill.
.The bill proposes to amend the Financial Emergency Act, and to adopt the “ all items “ basis of adjustment for the wages of public servants. That basis was recently laid down by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. By a remarkable coincidence the new method of computation changes wages by exactly the amount that would have represented the fall in the cost of living had the old basis been continued and, consequently, the amount of £12 per annum does not come off the wages of public servant’s.
Ever since we have had a Public Service Arbitrator, that official has, as a matter of course, adopted the same basis for calculating the basic wage as that used by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. So that all that the public servants had to do was to make application to the Public Service Arbitrator to obtain the advantage which is provided in this emergency legislation unless the Public Service Arbitrator was to go against all precedent. The Government is giving public servants nothing under this legislation. It is merely giving effect to the determination of the Arbitration Court under the “ all items “ basis. It does something more. This is the first time that we have had legislation designed to interfere with the fixing of a basic wage by the Arbitration Court. The principal Financial Emergency Act and later amendments did not interfere with the Arbitration Court in its method of fixing awards. It merely made percentage reductions as an emergency measure. It would have been much better had the Government allowed public servants to go to the Public Service Arbitrator and make application for this restoration under the new basis set down by the Arbitration Court.
I do not think it is the function of the Opposition to oppose this measure, but I suggest that the Government would be well advised to reconsider the matter, and let the public servants approach the Arbitrator. Their organizations have no doubt that that official would adopt the principle laid down by the court.
I was amazed to read a statement in the press attributed to the Prime Minister, to the effect that the Government is refraining from making this £12 reduction as a reward for loyalty shown by members of the Public Service. I am not sure that the Prime Minister has been correctly reported. This is no reward for loyalty; it is a question of what is their right according to the finding of the Arbitration Court; it is not a kind of bonus for services rendered.
Like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), I should like to ascertain a little more definitely whether this represents the full measure of consideration which the Government proposes to give to public servants. The
Prime Minister has indicated that any proposals for the restoration of wages would be a matter for consideration when the budget is under review. Is the Government seriously and favorably considering wage restoration to public servants when it brings down the budget? I do not wish to labour what I said when the last amendment of the Financial Emergency Act was introduced, which reduced the salaries of public servants by £8. The Government claimed that that represented a fall in the cost of living, which was a baseless statement so far as it applied to those who had already suffered percentage cuts. I should like to know whether there is any proposal to restore that £8, at any rate to those who had sustained cost of living reductions. As honorable members know, when the Financial Emergency Act was introduced in 1931, I made a definite declaration on behalf of the Government to the effect that when occasion arose, or as in the case of employees of the Commonwealth railways, no future cost of living reductions would be applied until the percentage reductions had been absorbed by falls in the cost of living, so far as the Public Service proper was concerned. The first fall came last year, when £8 was deducted. Other sections of Government employees such as those in the railways, were having cost of living adjusted quarterly, as were outside workers. I believe that the first quarterly adjustment was made before the Government announced its intention to pursue that policy, but all subsequent reductions in the cost of living were applied, and to that extent restoration was made in the percentage cuts effected under the principal act. That principle has since been set aside by this Government, and cost of living reductions have been made as well as the emergency cuts under the principal act, and those decreed by the Arbitration Court.
It is worth considering whether the “ all items “ basis of calculation should be subjected to a more thorough investigation, irrespective of any dispute between one party and another. If it is conceded to be logical, it is remarkable that we should apply it when we have reached what I hope is the lowest basis. Had it been adopted a year ago, there would not have been a reduction of £8, although there might have been a cut of about £2. If this is a fair basis now, it would have been a fair basis a year ago. Consequently, the Government should . consider restoring that £8, not as a recognition of loyalty, which has never been questioned, but as an act of justice. Recently, representations were made to the Prime Minister by a deputation from Public Service organizations, which made certain requests. Has the Government considered those requests, and how far does it propose to give effect to them when preparing its budget? An answer to that question is anxiously awaited by members of the Public Service.
.- I do not take any exception to what the Government proposes to do in this respect; I am simply seeking information. Regarding the alteration from an “ all houses “ to an “ all items “ basis, is it the function of the Arbitration Court to determine from time to time upon what basis it will make its calculations? I understood from the Prime Minister that there would have been an aggregate reduction in the salaries of the Public Service of £400,000 had the basis of computation not been altered. I take no exception to that, because I realize that quite a number of officers who have been in the Service for from 25 to 30 years, and have attained responsible positions, were receiving wages actually below those paid to pi.ck and shovel men. There seemed to be a lack of ratio, and a need for something to be done.
– I support the request df the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that the Government should consider the restoration of the amounts taken from the public servants under the Financial Emergency Act. I deprecate the action of the Government in departing from the -established practice of allowing the Public Service Arbitrator to determine these adjustments of wages and salaries in accordance with the principles laid down by the Arbitration Court. Had the old practice been followed, the public servants would probably have received an amount slightly more than the Government proposes to give under this bill. The nation should not treat its servants in a niggardly fashion. This bill is not conferring upon them any special favour. Equity demands that the basis adopted for adjusting wages and salaries in accordance with the decline in the cost of living, should be followed now, when there is a prospect of an increase of emoluments. The Government’s proposal is paltry and does not give to the Service all that to which it is entitled. When framing its financial proposals for next year, the Government should recognize the desirability of restoring a substantial part of the cuts made in the salaries and wages of public servants. There is an obligation upon governments to set a standard for the rest of the community by promoting the upward tendency of wages, thus establishing higher price levels, increasing employment, and helping to restore normal economic conditions.
.The method of adjusting Commonwealth salaries and wages in accordance with the rise and fall of the cost of living has always seemed to me most inequitable, and I spoke in opposition to it in connexion with the last reduction of £8 per year. It seems unfair that a man on a low salary should suffer the same reduction as an officer receiving £1,500 or £2,000 a year. That is an anomaly which I shall continue to oppose. The man with a weekly wage of £4 or £5, on which he has to support a wife and family, has obligations as great as men on much higher salaries ; in fact, in proportion to his income, the obligations of the lowly-paid man are’ greater. Therefore, the adjustments to meet fluctuations in the cost of living should be on a proportionate basis. The Government cannot be asked to do impossibilities, but I appeal to Ministers to give greater consideration to the public servants on the lower salaries.
– Some honorable members have sought information regarding the attitude of the Government to the claims recently submitted to it by representatives of Public Service organizations for the restoration of some of the reductions made under the Financial Emergency Act. I judged that the deputation was mainly concerned about the prospective reduction of £12 which, in accordance with the cost of living index figure, would operate from the 1st July. The case was stated ably and reasonably by the deputation, and I expressed the Government’s appreciation of the loyalty with which the Service had made sacrifices during this depression. When the cost of living figures became available, they disclosed that salaries and wages would be automatically reduced by £12 from the 1st July. The Government did not wait for the organizations to approach the Arbitrator, and take the risk of his verdict, but, after inquiry of the Public Service Commissioner, took immediate action to avert the reduction. For that the Government has been given no credit. The Public Service had the benefit of the old method of adjustment while the cost of living was rising and salaries were being increased. Now when the cost of living is falling and reductions of salaries are threatened, the Government has introduced this measure to avoid the £12 cut being applied to the Service. Surely this concession should be recognized. Honorable members have asked why the Government did this instead of allowing the Service to approach the Arbitrator. I understand that the Service may still do that. The Government is not departing from past methods. A Public Service regulation specifies the basis upon which increases or reductions were made in conformity with the cost of living, and the Government is proposing merely to amend those regulations, without departing from established principles, to provide a new basis of adjustments, so that public servants shall not be called upon to bear an extra burden. But for the fact that on the 1st July, the Service would have suffered a reduction of £12, the Government would not have considered this matter until it was preparing the budget, but in response to an urgent request that the £12 cut should not apply, special action has been taken by the Government. I am not prepared to give any assurance that other reductions of salaries and wages will be restored. That matter will receive consideration.
– But land taxation has been remitted.
– I hope that we shall be able to consider a further lightening of the burden of taxation. Such reductions would be in the interest of public servants and all other workers as well as those who pay large amounts in taxation, and public servants with taxable incomes would participate. I am certain that if I had been able to assure the deputation from the Public Service organizations that the £12 reduction would not apply on the 1st July, I would have received the unanimous thanks of all the delegates.
– That was all the public servants were asking for.
– No. The honorable member has not read the claims of the Public Service Association.
– At any rate the £12 figured conspicuously in the requests of the deputation. Naturally, the Service asked for a restoration of all the amounts which had been taken from it.
– The cuts were a sectional tax, and should be treated on the same basis as other taxation.
– Had the Government taken that view, it would have been entitled to say that the percentage cuts would be restored, and the cost of living adjustment be allowed to proceed. Had that been done, the Public Service would have been infinitely worse off than it. will be under this bill. If honorable members are not satisfied with what I have said, they may vote against the bill, and an appeal may be made to the Public Service Arbitrator. I am not prepared to give any assurance at present that the Government can go further than it has done in the direction desired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 2 -
Section six d of the Principal Act is amended by inserting at the end thereof the following sub-sections: - “(2) If any witness before a royal commission requests that his evidence relating to a particular subject be taken in private, . . the Commission may, if it thinks proper, take that evidence in private . . .
Senate’s amendment - .
Clause 2, after proposed sub-section (4.) insert the following new sub-section: - “(5.) This section shall be read as in aid of and not as in derogation of the Commission’s general powers to order that any evidence may be taken in private.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
When this bill was introduced I stated that in order that there should be no misunderstanding, a provision had been inserted to the effect that a commission - and we are now dealing with, the bill relating to royal commissions, and not the bill relating to the Petrol Industry Royal Commission - might take evidence in private if it thought it proper, in the circumstances, to do so. It was suggested that certain persons might feel that evidence given in the ordinary way relating to the profits of their company might bring them into some difficulty, and that, in such circumstances, the Commission could hear evidence in private. The Senate, in discussing this subject, thought it fit to amend the bill to provide that the relevant section of the act should be read “ as in aid of and not as in derogation of the Commission’s general powers to order that any evidence may be taken in private “. Those words express the law as it stands, in explicit terms, but, in my opinion, they do not add anything to the legal meaning that would be arrived at under the ordinary rules of construction of the statute as it stands. However, as the members of another place think that it is desirable that this amendment should be inserted, I have no objection to it seeing that it does not alter the law in any way.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
Messages from the Governor-General reported transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure, and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the financial year ended the 30th June, 1932.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration of Governor-General’s messages) :
Motions (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1931-32, for the several services hereunder specified, viz. : -
Supplementary Estimates for Additions New Works, Buildings, etc., 1931-32.
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1931.-32 for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c, a further sum not exceeding £209,000.
Standing orders suspended, and resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded upon resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Lyons and Mr. Stewart do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill brought up by Mr. Lyons and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Bill brought up by Mr. Lyons and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill relates to orations which have been arranged through the energy and activity of Sir Colin MacKenzie. The Solicitor-General has expressed the opinion that legislation is required to place this matter on a satisfactory basis, and accordingly it was decided to introduce this amending bill. It is purely a formal measure, and contains no provision other than that I have mentioned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Canned Fruits Export Control Act provides for the. regulation by the Canned Fruits Control Board, which has been constituted under that act, of the overseas marketing of canned apricots, clingstone peaches, pears and such other canned fruits as are prescribed. It is proposed in the amending bill that the overseas marketing of canned pineapples shall also be brought within the scope of the board’s activities. Although this could have been achieved by the passing of a regulation, it is considered that it should be included as an amendment of the act in view of the desirability of giving effect to a further amendment, which cannot be done by regulation, with the object of according the pineapple interests separate representation on the board. The inclusion of canned pineapples in the provisions of the Export Control Act is concurred in by the Canned Fruits Control Board, and is strongly supported by the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing, Queensland, the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, and the only establishment in Queensland which is at present regularly engaged on the processing of pineapples for export. The Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing is a State instrumentality constituted under the Queensland Fruit Marketing Organization Acts 1923-1930. It controls the packing of all canned pineapples, and each year makes arrangements with canners, both for the processing of the fresh fruit and for the disposal of the canned product. The committee is also the actual owner of a large portion of the pack. The Fruit Sugar Concession Committee was set up under the sugar agreement between the Commonwealth and the Queensland Governments, and is responsible for the disbursement of a substantial monetary grant annually contributed by the sugar industry for the purpose of promoting the use and sale of manufactured fruit products. This committee is financially assisting the export of canned pineapples by giving producers a guarantee against loss on the sale of their produce overseas. Pineapples are canned exclusively in Queensland. Production has increased from 155,000 cases in 1925-26 to the present average annual output of approximately 200,000 cases. Until 1931, the domestic market absorbed practically the whole of the pack, and the necessity for export therefore did not arise. Increased production in recent years, together with decreased consumption - due to the prevailing economic conditions and more active competition from other varieties of canned fruits - have resulted in an exportable surplus, of approximately 100,000 cases per annum, and if growers are to find an outlet for their crops it is essential that an overseas trade in this product be established and developed. To assist this enterprise, the Committee of Direction desires to take advantage of the overseas organization and trade contacts which have been successfully established by the Canned Fruits Control Board. The Canned Fruits Control Board at present consists of four members, three of whom are chosen by producers in the various sections of the industry, and the remaining member is appointed by the GovernorGeneral as the representative of the Commonwealth Government on the board. It is provided in the amending bill that an additional member shall be appointed by the Governor-General as the representative of canneries engaged in the production of canned pineapples, and that such member shall be nominated by any authority constituted under any State act for the purpose of controlling the marketing of canned pineapples. The only authority eligible at present to nominate a representative of the industry is the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing, Queensland. The remaining provisions of the bill are purely of a machinery nature and necessarily follow as a result of the principal amendments. Administrative and other expenses of the board are met by the industry, by means of a small levy of1d. per dozen tins imposed on. the exportof canned fruits. A considerable portion of the board’s funds is devoted to advertising Australian canned fruits abroad, and in this direction it works in close co-operation with Mr. A. E. Hyland, Director of Australian Trade Publicity in Great Britain. Since its establishment, the board has been recognized by successive governments as the mouthpiece of the industry in respect of all matters pertaining to the export of canned fruits. Through its activities, undesirable elements and practices previously associated with export marketing, particularly in Great Britain, have been eliminated. Export of canned peaches, apricots, and pears, have increased from 113,000 cases in 1925 - the year prior to the board’s establish ment, and one in which exports were heavily subsidized by the Commonwealth Government - to 662,000 cases in 1932, and the board has eliminated price competition on export markets between Australian interests, and has ensured full market returns to exporters and orchardists. The United Kingdom and Canada are the two most promising markets for Australian canned pineapples, and in these countries the board is in close contact with distributors and the market generally. In Great Britain, the board has its own representative, who is assisted by an advisory committee comprising agents of Australian exporters of canned fruits. A similar committee has been established in Canada under the chairmanship of the Australian Trade Commissioner in that dominion. As all the interests concerned are favorable to the inclusion of canned pineapples under the Canned Fruits Export Control Act, I am confident that honorable members on all sides of the House will have no hesitation in giving their support to the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 2.30 p.m. this day.
– I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
This bill alters the definition of the term “ officer “ in relation to the inspection of the various products dealt with under the original measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
House adjourned at 3.58 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice - 1.Against what countries, and in respect of what goods, are provisions in the nature of “ anti-dumping “ regulations in force?
Mr.White. - The information is being obtained.
Cotton Bounty : Claimsby Bonds
n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
l. - Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished, as soon as possible, to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), in regard to office expenses, salaries and rental costs of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Company.
On the 23rd May, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked the following questions, upon notice: - 1.Is it a fact that the people owning wireless sets in the North-western, Murchison, and Kimberley districts of Western Australia, as well as in the Northern Territory, are rarely able to get intelligible reception from 6WF or 5CK (Crystal Brook, South Australia) broadcasting stations?
Iam now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether areport is in possession of the Government dealing with the question of possible danger from Alsatian dogs; if so, will he arrange to make it available to honorable members during the adjournment?
– A report on this subject was furnished by Dr. W. A. N. Robertson, Director, Division of Veterinary Hygiene, Commonwealth Department of Health, under date 19th September, 1928. A copy of this report will be laid on the table of the House for the information of honorable members.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 May 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19330525_reps_13_139/>.