13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay), took the chair at, 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the urgency of the Australian wheat position, and of the impossibility of satisfactorily discussing the budget in the absence of precise information as to the exact terms of the wheat agreement, reached at the recent International Wheat Conference, would it be possible for the Prime Minister or the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) to make either to-day or to-morrow the promised statement in connexion with the matter?
– I am unable to give the assurance asked for by theright honorable gentleman. The matter is receiving the consideration of the Cabinet, and the promised statement upon it will be made as early as the Government is in a position to make it.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral say whether it is intended to carry out any of the recommendations of Mr. Justice Owen with respect to performing rights, by means ofan amendment of the Copyright Act?
– The recommendations in question raise some very difficult legalas wellas practical questions. At present I am engaged in an endeavour to arrive at a solution of the problems by agreement between the parties, which I consider - and itis the view also of the Government - would be preferable to action by way of legislation. There is a prospect that at least the more urgent difficulties may be solved in that manner.
Paymentof Rates: Revaluations
– In view of the fact that many municipalities have lost thousands of pounds because of the inability of many purchasers of war service homes to pay their rates, will the Minister in charge of war service homes (Mr. Francis) discuss with the Cabinet the justice of the payment of the rates, or at least a portion of them, due upon those homes that have reverted to the commission; being madeby the commission ?
– Stated briefly, there is an arrangement between the War Service Homes Commission and the municipalities of Australia, that where a war service home reverts to the commission, and the previous occupant is not available, one year’s rates shall be paid by it. When a home is occupied by a tenant who pays rent, the commission takes responsibility for the payment of all rates. That arrangement apparently has been acceptable to a vast majority of municipal councils throughout Australia.
– In view of the loss of wages because of unemployment, and the consequent inability of purchasers of war service homes to keep up their payments, also in view of the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) concerning the buoyancy of Commonwealth finances, will the Minister administering war service homes formulate a scheme for the revaluation of war service homes so that payments may be brought within the capacity of purchasers?
– The problem to which the honorable member has referred is not new. Some months ago the Government appointed a committee of inquiry, which consisted entirely of returned soldiers, to investigate the disabilities under which war service homes purchasers were suffering, including those caused as a result of the revaluation of homes, and subsequently it accepted the recommendations of the committee. The arrangement at present operating is that until 1935 “returned soldiers purchasing war service homes who comply with the recommendations of the inquiry committee and make their repayments according to their ability to pay will be adequately protected. Other phases of war service homes administration aTe at present receiving the consideration of the Government.
– Has the Minister for Commerce received from Mr. Murphy, an officer of his department, a report upon his recent investigations into the position of the apple and pear-growers, consequent upon the disastrous prices for fresh fruits shipped to Europe last season. If so, has the report been considered by the Cabinet with a view to the giving of immediate assistance, which is urgently needed ?
– The report to which the honorable member refers has been received, and is at present engaging the attention of the Government.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government has given consideration to the published recommendations of a committee of honorable members of thi3 House in regard to the removal of many injustices suffered by pensioners under existing legislation? Will the requests of that committee be given effect in the Financial Relief Bill that is about to be introduced ?
– No committee of honorable members of this House was appointed to make such inquiries or recommendations as those to which the honorable member refers.
– Earlier in the year a report was published over the names of honorable members supporting the Government, including the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), in which recommendations were . made regarding pensions grievances. Had those honorable members any authority from the Government, or from the party of which the Prime Minister is the head, to make that report?
– That is a matter which arose within the party room. I am not called upon to make any explanation regarding what takes place within the party room. -
– Oan the Minister for Commerce indicate when action will be taken arising out of the trade treaty with New Zealand, recently negotiated by Senator Massy-Greene ?
– The agreement will be tabled in this Parliament simultaneously with its tabling in the New Zealand Parliament, upon a date which has been fixed but which cannot be divulged at the moment.
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to make to the House a statement concerning the position that has been reached in the negotiations with those who purchased the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, and the amounts due to the Commonwealth on that sale ?
– The honorable member will remember that, prior to the adjournment of the House last May, I made a statement of the position which gave very full information regarding the transactions that had taken place.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the Government had anything to do with the design and the quality of the paper used in the recentlyissued new Australian notes, and whether it is satisfied with them?
– I would not pretend for a moment to be an authority on the design of these notes, which was recommended by those responsible for such a matter, but I can absolutely vouch for the value of the notes themselves.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform me of the number of interstate telegrams that were despatched during last financial year? If not, is the information available?
– I shall be very glad to supply the honorable member with the information when I obtain it.
Telephonic Communication with Mainland.
-Will the PostmasterGeneral indicate the probable date of completion of the Bass Strait telephonic installation?
– This work will be pushed ahead with all possible speed in an endeavour to have it completed, if possible, within twelve months.
– Because of the intricacy and length of his speech dealing with primage and exchange, will the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) permit those honorable members who so desire to have pulls of his speech this evening?
– I shall be pleased to oblige any honorable member who desires to obtain a copy of my speech.
New South Wales: Western Australia
– Is the PostmasterGeneral yet in a position to supply information to the people of Western New South Wales regarding the regional broadcasting station which the Government proposes to erect in that locality?
– Comprehensive information on the subject has already appeared in the press, but for the information of the honorable member and others I may add that tenders are about to be let for the erection of regional stations at Townsville, Northern Queensland ; Grafton, New South Wales ; Gippsland, Victoria; and in Northern Tasmania. In addition tenders which will close on the 14th November are being called for the construction of an additional three regional stations in the Katanning-Wagin area, Western Australia ; the Nhill-Murtoa district, Victoria, and the Dubbo area, New South Wales.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform me how long it will be before the new regional broadcasting station in Western Australia will be in operation and whether the Government will consider, in the meantime, reducing the fees payable by listeners-in in Western Australia who live beyond a radius of 50 miles from Perth?
Mr. ARCHDADLE PARKHILL.The exact date on which the station will be in operation cannot be stated but it will certainly be some months yet before it is in commission. It is not practicable to reduce listeners’ licence-fees as the honorable member has suggested.
– Can the Minister for Commerce state what proportion of the £250,000 which the Government is providing for the assistance of primary producers will be allocated to assist purchasers of fertilizers?
– I am not able to quote the latest figures, but those which were last before me disclosed that from £70,000 to £80,000 had then been expended for the purpose mentioned.
– Before the debate on the budget is proceeded with, will the Postmaster-General make available to honorable members the annual report dealing with the department that he administers ?
– I shall make inquiries with a view to ascertaining whether the request of the honorable member can be met.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs received a report from the Tariff Board as a result of the re-submission of the case dealing with duties on crude oil engines; if so, will he state whether the Tariff Board has made inquiries from the manufacturers concerned on the subject?
– The matter mentioned by the honorable member was again referred to the Tariff Board which, however, did not re-open the case, but submitted a recommendation upholding the existing duties.
– Will the Prime Minister advisewhen the report of the committee which is inquiring into the tobacco industry will be made available to honorable members? If the committee has not concluded its investigations will the right honorable gentleman consider the advisability of widening the scope of its inquiry to enable the committee to inquire into the profits that are being made by the tobacco combine, and the ability of the manufacturers to pay more reasonable prices for the leaf they purchase ?
– I understand that the report of the tobacco inquiry committee will be made available to the Government in about ten days’ time, when it will receive consideration. I cannot undertake to recommend that there shall be an extension of the investigation as suggested by the honorable member as I do not think thatthat is called for. If, after consideration of the report, the Government believes that further inquiry is desirable the necessary action will be taken.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs advise whether the Tariff Board has completed its inquiries into the duties on Oregon and when its report on the subject will be presented to Parliament ?
– The inquiry referred to has been completed and it is expected that the report of the Tariff Board will soon be in the possession of the Government.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral state whether the election of Australia to a non-permanent seat on the Council of the League of Nations will involve the Commonwealth in any additional expenditure ?
– There will be a certain amount of additional expenditure involved when the Resident Minister in London or any other representative of Australia is travelling from London to Geneva and back or is in Geneva, but as one accompanying officer should be sufficient on the majority of occasions the additional expenditure should be negligible.
– In view of the active preparations that the Commonwealth Government is making for war. does the Prime Minister consider that any further expenditure is warranted for the purpose of maintaining the League of Nations, which was allegedly established to maintain the peace of the world?
– The Attorney-General has indicated that only a small additional expenditure will be involved in connexion with the election of Australia to a seat on the council of the league. The Government is definitely of the opinion that that small increased expenditure is justified.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral give honorable members any information in connexion with the rumoured transference of the control of Beam Wireless from Amalgamated Australia Wireless Limited to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department ?
– The question of the honorable member is one which involves the policy of the Government, but I may say that an appropriate statement will be made upon the subject in due course.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform me whether it is the intention of the Government to transfer the Auditor-General’s Department from Melbourne to Canberra at an early date? If so, what amount has been provided for this purpose, and when is the transfer likely to be made ?
– Although the Estimates provide money for the transfer of departments to Canberra, no decision has yet been made as to which departments will be transferred or when the transfers will occur.
Danger of Introduction of Disease to Australia
– Will the Minister for Health make available to honorable members the report of Dr. Cilento on the danger of the introduction of certain diseases into Australia following the inauguration of the Anglo-Australian air mail service?
– I am not aware that Dr. Cilento has made any report on that subject. Any reports of that nature which have been furnished to the Government have come from the DirectorGeneral of Health. The whole subject is being considered by the Health Department in collaboration with the defence authorities which control civil aviation, and are actively interested in the calling of tenders for the proposed overseas air mail service.
– Will the
Minister for the Interior inform me whether the Government has come to any decision in regard to the completion of the Hume reservoir works?
– I have nothing to add to the statement that I made some months ago on this subject. Certainly the work will not be completed this year, but money is being provided on the Estimates for the continuance of certain parts of it.
– Has the Minister administering the affairs of New Guinea noticed a report in the press that certain Chinese have been given preferential treatment, and are being assisted by the administration in the taking up of land at Keravat, not far from Rabaul in New Britain? A report to this effect is published in the Pacific Islands Monthly, and if it is not correct, I should like the Minister to deny it.
– My attention was drawn to a statement published in the Pacific Islands Monthly to the effect that it is the intention of the administration to allocate 3,000 acres in the Mandated Territory for settlement by 50 Chinese from Rabaul, and I immediately sent a cablegram to New Guinea to ascertain whether the report had any origin in fact. The Administrator has now replied that it was entirely without foundation.
– In view of certain reports which have come to hand, will the Minister for the Interior withdraw the punitive expedition which has been sent out against the harmless and defenceless blacks of North Australia?
– There is no foundation whatever for the stories that are in circulation in this connexion.
The following papers were presented : -
Nauru - Ordinances of 1933 -
No. 7 - Appropriation 1933.
No. 8 - Nauru Royalty Trust Fund Appropriation 1933.
National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Tenth Annual Report, for year ended 30th June, 1933.
Ordered to be printed.
– I lay on the table of the House the annual report of the Tariff Board for the year 1932-33. The report is complete; but in the annexure, which contains a summary of the recommendations made by the Tariff Board during that year, one recommendation relating to a tariff revision matter not finally considered by the Government has been omitted. As practically the whole of the Tariff Board’s recommendations, included in the annexure, are covered by Tariff Board reports which have already been made available to honorable members, it is not proposed to print the annexure.
That the report be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to provide relief to taxpayers, to amend laws relating to financial emergency, and for other purposes.
In Committee of Supply:
Debate resumed from the 4th October (vide page 3263), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1933-34, a sum not exceeding £2,799,620.
– I support the remarks made last night by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) concerning the inconvenience caused by the way in which sales’ tax legislation is being administered. It is not my intention to detail the many cases of hardship brought under my notice, because honorable members on both sides of the chamber are aware of the severity with which this tax is administered by the department. Anomalies are to be found in every direction; but I shall mention only one specific case of a nian engaged as a distributing agent who received a small commission for the distribution of goods and when he received payment was asked by the department to furnish a return of his transactions. It was necessary for him to employ a chartered accountant to undertake the work, which involved an expenditure of some pounds, and when he received his assessment the amount for which he was liable was only Od. Surely a little more common sense could be used in such cases. Another person was summoned to appear in Sydney on the Sth September last, because he had omitted to furnish one monthly return. He communicated with me, and I consulted a representative of the department, before whom I placed his case. This man would have been put to considerable expense in visiting Sydney and in defending the case, yet the amount involved was only 4s. lid.
I also wish to refer briefly to the matter of war service homes, and particularly to the fact that some men who have received eviction notices are crippled and unemployed returned soldiers. These men have been informed that unless they can pay the amounts due within a specified time they must vacate the properties. That is most unfair, and, in view of the service which these men have rendered to their country in the past, and the fact that most’ of them are broken in health and spirit, it. would be a gracious act ou the part of the Government to allow them to have the houses in payment for that service.
– “Will the honorable member supply me with the names of the persons concerned?
– I shall supply the information brought under my notice of cases in my electorate in the hope that the Government will endeavour to rectify anomalies.
I congratulate the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) upon his administration of his department, but improved telephonic facilities are needed in isolated portions of this country, particularly in those localities where snow leases are used for the agistment of stock in the summer time. The value of stock depastured on these leases amounts tohundreds of thousands of pounds, but in the absence of proper telephonic facilities the drovers in charge of the stock are unable to receive instructions from the owners in Sydney or Melbourne in late autumn as to what is to be done regarding its removal when an early fall of snow occurs.
Protests have been heard from both sides of the chamber concerning the administration of the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act, and I take this opportunity to express my protest at the department’s attitude in interfering with the property of many old people. Its action in most cases is iniquitous.
– The honorable member is not entitled to reflect upon an act of Parliament’.
– Then I shall give instances of hardship inflicted upon these old people as a result of the way in which the act has been administered. I shall cite the case of a man whose claim is now before a Deputy Commisioner. This old man who has played a very important part i.u the development of the country owns a small property on which there is a tin hut worth about £70. As he is no longer able to look after himself he wishes to sell the place for £70, so that he can live with friends, but his request has been refused by the department on the ground that if the property is sold the Government’s security will disappear. The Government’s security over and above the exemption amounts to only £20. It is most unfair that such charges should be made against the property of pensioners, and that such distinction should be made between two classes of pensioners. There are thrifty old people with small homes, who have reared and educated families that help to support their parents by contributing towards their keep believing that the properties will eventualy come into their -possesion. On the other hand, there are pensioners who in the past may have spent their money in drinking and gambling, and who do not care what becomes of their children. Such persons on reaching 65 years of age receive a pension of 17s. 6d. per week.
– I again, remind the honorable member that he is reflecting upon an act of Parliament. He is entitled to do so only when an amendment of that act is under consideration, or when he is advocating its repeal. The question of the repeal of the act is not now before the Chair.
– On a point of order, I wish to know whether it is outside the scope of honorable members, when discussing the Supply Bill, to deal with the question of the administration of the pensions department. Surely the question is covered by these Estimates, which include the salary and allowances of the Deputy Commissioner.
– The honorable member for Hume is entitled to discuss the administration of the invalid and old-age pensions department, but my impression was that he was discussing the act itself.
– I was discussing the administration. I hope that the newlyappointed Minister (Mr. Casey) - I congratulate him on his appointment, and wish him every success - will ensure that the department gives sympathetic consideration to the claims of pensioners. I have found that it is very necessary to exercise the greatest vigilance in respect of the correspondence of the old people who apply for pensions; otherwise, unwittingly or otherwise, many of the names are eliminated and no replies are received by the applicants from the department. In one particular case I have had occasion to write three or four letters asking for replies from the department, and for some consideration to be given to the claims for pensions. The Minister in charge of the department should ensure that sympathetic consideration is given to every grievance and that all anomalies are removed. I hope that the Government will in the near future do something in the direction of removing the charge against the property of pensioners, or at least, raise the exemption to a reasonable amount. It is surely an injustice to make a charge against thrifty pensioners who have acquired their own homes, and to make no charge against spendthrifts who have made no effort to obtain their own homes.
Mr. HUTCHIN (Denison) [3.18).- Recently at Hobart some trouble arose in connexion with the administration of the War Service Homes Department and as the result the Minister in charge of war service homes visited Hobart and by arrangement with the State Government transferred the administration from the State, as agent for the ‘Commonwealth, to the Commonwealth itself. The visit of the Minister was timely and much appreciated, and the Commonwealth has now installed a deputy commissioner in. Tasmania; but in the re-organization of the department two officers with long service to their credit have been dismissed as from the 1st October. One officer, Mr. Davies, joined the War Service Homes Department in 1921 a ltd, apart from an absence of three months due to sickness, has had no break in his service. This man is a limbless returned soldier^ aged 42, married, and with two children. The other officer joined the war service homes staff in 1920 and his service up to now has been unbroken. I understand that the question of continuing the employment of these men was raised when the Minister was in Hobart and that the Minister was quite prepared to do his best to place one of the officers if the State Government would place the other. Two days ago I sent a telegram to the State Public Service Commissioner, asking whether the State Government was finding a position for one of these officers, and I received the following reply: -
Minister stated in reply to question in House last night the responsibility of placing those nien rested entirely on Commonwealth.
I am also in receipt of the following lettergram from Hobart: -
Following is copy of letter received by Mr. Davies in reply to his application for position in Commonwealth Federal Service. Any action you can take will he appreciated as Mr. Davies is member of the Hobart subbranch Referring to your application for appointment to the Commonwealth Service I a iti directed to inform you that, having regard to the standard of the examination passed by you for appointment to the Public Service of Tasmania, it is regretted that you cannot be accepted as eligible for appointment to the Commonwealth Service. The examinations passed by you in an accountancy course do not give you eligibility for appointment.
It seems that the State Government accepts no liability in this matter, and that the Commonwealth Public Service Board disclaims the qualifications of Mr. Davies and has no intention of employing cither or both of these men. I raise this matter now as it is causing considerable comment in Hobart, particularly in returned soldier circles. It is felt that as these officers have been capable of holding their positions in the Service for so many years, they should at least be found other suitable work. I wish to know from the Minister whether it is true that an arrangement was made toprovide work for one of these men provided that the State Government found employment for the other, and whether there is any possibility of placing either or both of them in immediate employment.
.- Much has been said in regard to anomalies or the misinterpretation of the provisions of the pensions legislation by the officials of the Pensions Department. Recently, I have had brought under my notice many cases of people who have been refused an old-age or invalid pension on the ground that they were not naturalized British subjects, although some of them have been residents of this country for many years. One case is that of a returned soldier who was wounded at the war. He returned to this country and received a military pension, which, when reviewed, subsequently was cancelled. When he made application for the old-age pension the department rejected his claim on the ground that he was not a British subject. The letter which I received from this applicant reads -
Some time ago I made application for an old-age pension, but was rejected through not being naturalized, and as I have no means to procure same, I would be glad if you could assist me. I may state that I am a returned soldier, which meant that I took allegiance to King and country and served abroad with the Australian Imperial Forces, and received a war pension for a considerable period after returning to Australia. Therefore, I imagined that I was a naturalized British subject, but the Pensions Department thinks different. I arn unable to follow my occupation through age and scarcity of work. I have been obliged to live in soup kitchens for an existence, which I can assure you are not by any means comfortable. I am65 years of age, and a pension, if granted, would be a Godsend.
I have made to the Prime Minister the suggestion that if there were no objection other than that the applicant was not a naturalized British subject, the pension should be granted and payments on account of naturalization fee be deducted over a period, or the pensioner be called upon to pay the sum to the department concerned within a reasonable time. That, I believe, would be acceptable to the pensioners themselves, and could be effected without an alteration of the act ; merely by direction of the Government. It is not many years since no fee was charged for naturalization. Then it was made £3, and eventually it was increased to £5. Surely no honorable member would suggest that this particular individual,who actually served overseas and was granted a military pension upon his return to this country, should be considered an alien, or as one who is not entitled to a pension on the ground that he is not a British subject. That is stretching the interpretation of the law a little too far. I have had brought to my notice numerous cases of this kind. There is one of a lady who was born in Germany, but who left that country at a very early age and came to Australia with her parents, both of whom became naturalized and subsequently were granted a pension. She has always been of the opinion that, with the naturalization of her parents, she automatically became a naturalized British subject; but when she found it necessary to apply for a pension she was informed by the department that, as she was over the age of 21 years when her parents were naturalized, the naturalization did not apply in her case, and that, unless she can pay the fee of £5, she is not entitled to have her claim for a pension considered. This lady has no recollection, and cannot either speak or write the language, of any country other than Australia. To all intents and purposes, she is an Australian citizen. Yet the officials of the department have stretched the interpretation of the pensions law to such an extent as to prevent her from obtaining that to which she is rightly entitled.
Another matter in connexion with the interpretation of this law has been raised by me on previous occasions. I refer to the departmental practice of taking notice of anonymous correspondence when dealing with complaints against pensioners. When I previously referred to this subject the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) questioned the accuracy of my information, and asked where it had been obtained. Since then I have been able to verify almost every word that I uttered. In the specific case that I mentioned I was inaccurate in only one detail: the letter sent, to the department was not anonymous, but was signed by three persons. One of those persons has since regretted the action taken, and has made a sworn declaration that the information supplied to the department was absolutely inaccurate. In the light of that recantation, I asked the department to make a further examination of the objections to this lady being granted a pension. The reply that I received reads as follows : -
With reference to your further representations concerning the abovenamed, and the declaration made by- , I have to say that I have had the parties concerned interviewed by an officer of this branch, and they both still’ adhere to their previous statements. This department is, under the circumstances, not prepared to do anything further in the matter.
Theggie, Deputy Commissioner.
In the first place, the information was laid by three persons and was accepted by the department. Eventually one of them, being satisfied that a wrong act had been committed, attempted to rectify it; but because the other two signatories adhered to their previous declaration, the department is not prepared to make a further examination of the case to ascertain whether the information furnished was correct or not.
– Did the pensioner deny the accuracy of the information?
– Yes, she challenged it immediately, and asked to be confronted with ‘those who supplied it to the department. The’ Minister might see that further inquiries are made.
– Why does not the honorable member make the inquiry?
– If the honorable member had been awake, instead of asleep, he would know that representations have been made by me in this particular case.
The department is not prepared to inform honorable members of the exact basis upon which it arrives at the amount of profit derived by a pensioner from the contributions of children towards the upkeep of the home. When I made representations on behalf of two pensioners, the reply that I received stated that the pensions were computed after making allowance for bank interest, £1 10s., and percentage of- children’s contributions, £1 16s., a total of £9 6s. I asked the department to inform me exactly how it had arrived at the amount of profit that had been made from the board paid by the children towards the upkeep of the home, and the reply that I received was as follows: -
With reference to your communication of ;t0/l/’33, asking by what reasoning the department arrives at the sum of £7 Kia. as being the percentage of children’s contributions, I have been instructed to inform you that each case is dealt with on its merits, and that after reasonable allowances have been made for the keep of the contributing children, the balance is considered as pensioner’s income.
There should be some uniformity in regard to the amount considered by the department as profit derived from the board paid by children.
Yesterday, during my absence from the chamber, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) expressed regret that some honorable members were so “ cowardly “ as to attempt to undermine his -influence among his constituents. It is quite true that I have visited his electorate on many occasions. I found it necessary to do so because of the difficulty experienced by his constituents in learning the truth, on account, of his inaccurate statements.
– Order! The honorable member’s remarks are distinctly out of order.
– I ask for the withdrawal of the statement made by the honorable member.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) must withdraw the statement, which constitutes a serious reflection upon the honorable member for Barton.
– I withdraw it. But in fairness to my constituents, and to the electors generally of the Commonwealth,.
I may mention that on page706 of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates for the 22nd September, 1932, the following statement will be found to have been made by the honorable member for Barton during the debate on the Financial Emergency Bill: -
The provision under which the amount of pension paid will, upon the death of a pensioner, be the first charge upon his estate, is a wise one.
That is different from the statement which the honorable member for Barton made to his constituents.
I understand that the Defence Department exercises control over the naval establishment at Garden Island. Several of the employees at that establishment, whose engagement is covered by a State award, have what I consider a legitimate complaint against the department, by reason of the fact that they are subjected to many of the cuts that have been made under federal legislation. They say that when the wages under federal awards are higher than those under State awards, the Government is prepared to work under the State award ; but when it happens that the federal award provides for a lower rate, they are subjected to the cuts that are applied to the Federal Public Service. In a letter that has been received, the case is set out in the following terms : -
There is only one award covering the industry, and that is a State award. The rate of wages payable under that award in shipping work is 2s. 5d. per hour, which totals £5 6s. 8d. per week. Prior to the 1st October, 1931, the award rate of £5 19s. 2d. was being paid, but on that date the rate was reduced by 20 per cent. Since then, it was reduced 4s.6d. on the 5th October. 1932;11d. on 1st November, 1932; and11d. on the 1st February, 1933.
It will thus be seen that the department lowers the wages of these workers not only when there is a reduction of the State basic wage, but also when any cuts are made in federal salaries. That is not fair. If these men are working under a State award, they should escape any cuts that are made in the salaries of the Federal Service.
I hope that Ministers will give immediate attention to the matters that I have raised, which include the payment for work performed at Garden Island, that dealing with the payment of naturalization fees, and the disregarding of any information received by the pensions department, unless the individuals who furnish it are prepared to confront the pensioner, and give him an opportunity to answer any charges that may be laid.
– I take this opportunity to urge the Government so to amend the pensions law that those who, for pensions purposes, have been regarded as Asiatics, may be entitled to the benefits of that law. I desire to bring under the notice of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Casey) a case upon which I made representations to the department some time ago. It is that of a man who has been in this country for 38 years, and has reared a family of nine children. He was naturalized in 1924. He has been engaged on the land, and has done excellent pioneering work. As a result of failing health and of the depression, be has found himself obliged to apply for a pension, but his application, has been turned down. For the information of the Minister, I shall read to him a letter that I received to-day from the department. It is as follows: -
With reference to your personal representations concerning the above-named, I have to say that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act provides that Asiatics (except those born in Australia and Indians born in India) shall not be qualified to receive an old-age pension. The evidence in this case indicates that the claimant was born in Mount Lebanon, Syria, and he is, therefore, an Asiatic, and not eligible to receive a pension.
If the act precludes the payment of a pension in such cases it is time that it was amended. Australia needs population and development, and it should treat its pioneers as sympathetically as possible when they reach the winter of their lives. I urge the Government to give favorable consideration to my representations.
.-I should not have participated in this debate had I not desired to associate myself with a remark made last night by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby), which concerned one of my constituents. When the trouble occurred I was ill and I asked my colleague to take it up for me with my constituent, which he did. The man concerned went out west, got a job and gradually built up a business, incidentally becoming an alderman and filling the office of mayor of his town on several occasions. When the depression occurred he suffered in common with everybody eke. He was then engaged in a sawmilling and blacksmithing business, and had recorded in his books outstanding debts that were due to him amounting to £2,000. He was registered under the Sales Tas. -Act, and when an inspector examined his books it was found, purely because of his ignorance of the provisions of the act, that he was due to pay an additional £200 in sales tax. His income had practically disappeared, and he had no - available money, for he had experienced a good deal of sickness in his family, one member of which had died only a week before the inspector arrived. The best that he could do was to offer to liquidate the amount at the rate of £3 a month. Instead of accepting that bona fide offer, the Government put in a bailiff with orders to seize and dispose of the man’s furniture. I cannot speak too strongly of that abominable action. I contend that such a callous action should not he taken hy a departmental officer except with the express approval of his Minister, who must accept full responsibility for it. It is not pleasant for me to attack departmental officials, but I am compelled to do so on this occasion because of the pain and suffering imposed upon that man, and I think that the right thing to do is to ventilate the matter in this chamber. I appeal to the Government to realize that action is being taken by departmental officers which, I am confident, was not contemplated when the act was passed. Parliament should be in control of these matters, and a Minister should control his department. Because of the depression which has swept the world the majority of us have been in financial difficulties during the last* few years, and unable to meet our taxation obligations. When a person is doing his utmost it is not right that an official should have authority to instruct a bailiff to take over his possessions and dispose of them, in this case in the streets of the town of which the man concerned bad been mayor. The Minister should probe the incident thoroughly to see whether there are any extenuating circumstances in favour of the officer who authorized such drastic action. The honorable member for Calare and I have put the circumstances as we know them, and we should be informed if they are not correct. From the facts in my possession I consider the occurrence to be one of the most callous in the history of any department, and I only wish that I had the power to inflict on the officer concerned the punishment I think that he deserves.
– I wish to refer to the subject which was brought up early this afternoon by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) regarding the payment of rates for war service homes from which the purchasers either have been evicted or have departed for other reasons. I have received communications from municipalities pointing out the difficulties under which they labour because no one appears to be liable for the rates on these properties. In good faith the municipal authorities have provided roads and other services, for which they should be paid a proportionate amount of rates. It may be that the act frees the Government from liability in this respect. If so, that discloses a flaw in our legislation and it should be rectified. I urge the Minister to investigate the matter and, if the Government should pay these rates, to have the indebtedness liquidated. If, on the other hand, a loophole exists in our legislation let us close it at the earliest opportunity.
.– At the outset of my remarks let me express regret that no action has yet been taken by the Government to provide representation for pensioners whose claims are in dispute. On a number of occasions my colleagues and I have raised the subject in this chamber and we received a definite promise from the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that he would consider the appointment of a representative to safeguard the interests of the pensioners; also that a board might be established to deal with disputed claims. Unfortunately, that promise has not yet been honoured. In many cases pensions are stopped for trivial offences and a considerable time intervenes before they are re-commenced. Frequently, because of their ignorance of the provisions of the act, pensioners take action that conflicts with the act. The Commissioner is given a great deal of discretion and, because of his intimate knowledge of this legislation, has a great advantage over the pensioner when a dispute is in progress. Consequently, I urge that pensioners should be adequately represented on such occasions.
Some honorable members have made an attack on the Pensioners Association because of its alleged interference with the pensioners. I ‘believe that that body fills a want which should really be filled by the Government, for it safeguards the interests of the pensioners to a great extent when a dispute arises.
My colleagues and I have also drawn attention frequently to the trouble that occurs when applications are made for invalid pensions, but we have not yet received satisfaction. At times, when a person applies for a pension, his claim is supported by the report of a medical practitioner who has attended to him for a number of years, and who knows the case intimately. That report states that the claimant is totally and permanently incapacitated. He then goes before the departmental medical officer who submits him to a cursory examination and declares that he is not totally and permanently incapacitated. As a rule the department sides with its medical officer and disregards the considered opinion of the doctor who has treated the case for years. That condition of affairs needs rectification.
Some honorable members have attacked the Commissioner and his deputy, claiming that they lack sympathy. I do not think that those officials are entirely unsympathetic. When an amendment of the Pensions Act was before honorable members, many endeavoured to apologize for their support of it by claiming that the act would be administered sympathetically, and that everything would be all right. Frequently, the Commissioner has no discretion’ and, where anomalies exist, he should not be blamed for the harsh treatment of pensioners. I admit also that, on occasion, mistakes are made in the interpretation of the act, but unfortunately they act with hardship on pensioners. For instance, I have in mind the case of a lady who had been drawing a pension for some time and then, when she went to collect it one day, was informed that she must hand in her card as her pension had been stopped. She had been receiving los. a week, but the department claimed that as her husband had been receiving the dole she could not receive the full amount. When, however, the Government decided that the receipt of the dole should not be taken into account when assessing pensions, 1 made application that the pension paid to that lady should be increased. At the time the application was refused, the notification to the department being to the effect that investigations were pending. After an interval of about seven months, during which period the reduction of 2s. 6d. continued, I was informed that this lady had an interest in a property, an old weatherboard house, which was valued for municipal rating purposes at £240, and, therefore, would have to return her pension card. That property was left to this lady and her sister by their mother. There was a mortgage of £110 on it, so that the equity enjoyed by each sister was originally about £60.. Owing to the pensioner’s husband having been unemployed for about four years, she got into difficulties on one or two occasions. On one occasion the bailiff took possession, and she had to borrow about £15 from her sister to get him out of the house. On another occasion a threat of eviction was made, and the sister again came to her assistance. For one reason and another the sister borrowed within £6 or £7 of her equity in the cottage. I have had- proof of these statements in a letter written by a solicitor at a time when steps were being taken by the debtor sister to transfer the property to the sister who had helped her. The lawyer pointed out that it would be a waste of money to transfer the property because of the expense that would be involved, so the debtor sister decided to give her sister a mortgage over it to the extent of her debt. She, therefore, relinquished all claim to the property. The Pensions Department then stepped in and, claiming that she had property, stopped the payment of her pension. Although evidence was furnished to the department of the facts which I have outlined, a decision in this case was delayed for two months. After that time the pension was restored : hut, on account of the delay, the pensioner’s sister had lost about £7. She also lost 2s. 6d. per week for nearly seven months, which made an additional £3 10s. It will be seen, therefore, that in consequence of a departmental error, this pensioner lost no less than £10 10s. through the stoppage of her pension. When the pension was restored, it was made payable at the full rate of 17s. 6d. a week instead of the 15s. previously paid, which clearly shows that the department had decided that the pension should never have been stopped. But no refund could be obtained by the pensioner in respect of the £10 10s. which she had lost through the delay of the department in reaching a decision in her case. Evidently, some departmental official thought that this pensioner was trying to obtain money from the Government illegally; but, as the subsequent investigation showed, this was not the ease. I submit that the amount lost by the pensioner should be refunded.
Everybody who has been in touch with the Pensions. Department knows that, since our pensions legislation was amended some time ago, the officers of the department have been “ snowed up “ with work. This has caused considerable delay in dealing with applications and in investigating cases. It is unfair, however, that pensioners should be called upon to suffer on this account. We know very well that the only consideration pensioners get when such delays occur is about a fortnight’s back pay. If the pensioner is found to have obtained too much money from the department, very strong measures are taken to recover the amount, even though the extra payments may not have gone on for months; but, when the boot is on the other foot, no compensation is paid.
– Are not pensions supposed to be payable from date of application?
– In New South Wales payment is made for only a fortnight or thereabouts before the date on which it is decided that a pension is payable.
I wish now to deal briefly with the war service homes administration. Of all the departments controlled by this Government the one that is most unsympathetically administered, from an every-day point of view, is the War Service Homes Department. You get nothing for nothing from this department! It is well known that many occupiers of war service homes entered into agreements to purchase their property at a time when the property market was inflated and wages were much higher than they are to-day. Since the fall in wages and the rationing of employment, to say nothing of unemployment, many of these war service homes purchasers have found themselves unable to meet their commitments. In these circumstances, I contend that the time is ripe for a revaluation of war service homes. However much Ministers may attempt to side-step the facts, it cannot be denied that the position is as I have stated. The statement made by a returned soldier at the returned soldiers’ conference that war service homes in Belmore had been deserted for over 12 months is quite ‘ correct. Nearly 12 months ago I referred to this matter in this chamber and placed on record the location of a number of these houses, the condition in which they were, and the date upon which they had been renovated. These particulars are all in Rannard, yet to-day when I asked the Minister whether there was any truth in the reported utterance at the returned soldiers conference, to which I directed his attention, he said that he wanted more information on the subject, and asked me to give notice of the question. We all know that the War Service Homes Inquiry Committee decided that occupiers of war service homes, should be required to pay 20 per cent, of their earnings in repayments. I think every member of the committee, and certainly honorable members generally, thought that the net earnings were to be the basis of calculation; hut’ the department, in computing the amount which occupiers of war service homes should be required to pay, takes no notice whatever of the amount paid in wage tax, superannuation, or anything of that kind. Consideration is given only to gross earnings in determining the amount of money that occupiers of war service homes must pay. Despite the assurance of the Minister that re- turned soldiers have not been evicted from their homes, evictions are as rampant to-day as ever they were. Unfortunately, the War Service Homes Department, while- refusing to allow returned soldiers to occupy their homes when they are unable to pay about £1 a week, is prepared, after such occupiers are evicted, to let the houses to other people for anything from 10s. to 15s. a week. When it is taken to task on this account and requested to allow returned soldiers to remain in occupation of the homes on the payment of the amount that could be obtained for the premises as a straight-out rental proposition in the ordinary way, it says that it must take into consideration the state of the property market in seeking to let houses to others than returned soldiers. If the department feels that it must have regard to the state of the property market in determining the rental value of the homes, it should accede to our request for a revaluation of the homes in accordance with present day values. This claim is all the more justifiable in view of the fact that many of the homes were built at a time when both values and wages were inflated. It is unfortunate in the extreme that after returned soldiers are evicted from homes which they have not even been able to keep them in repair other people are allowed to occupy them for lower payments than the original occupiers were prepared to make. In view of the fact that the War Service Homes Commission has so many homes on its hands which it cannot either sell or let, it should be prepared to give special consideration to returned men who have been evicted but who are prepared to occupy the houses on a fair rental basis.
One other complaint that I have to make at this stage is that the department is continually chasing up men who have been relieved from their contract to buy war service homes. In some cases these men owed the department a few pounds at the time they had to abandon their homes. The department has threatened them with legal proceedings for the recovery of this money. It must be apparent to every honorable member that these men would not leave the homes which they agreed to buy unless they had some very strong reason for doing so. Almost invariably economic circumstances have forced these people to leave their homes. I submit that if the Government, is prepared to cancel the contracts of men who have left their homes through inability to keep up their paymen!ts, it should also cancel any debt that exists at the time. It certainly should not chase men from place to place and threaten legal action for the recovery of such amounts. ‘’ [Quorum formed.’]
– The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) referred to two returned, soldiers in Tasmania who . had lost their employment through the Commonwealth Government taking over the administration of war service homes in Tasmania from the Agricultural Bank. I wish to make it quite clear to the honorable member that those men were employees, not of the Commonwealth, but of the Agricultural Bank. The Government was not satisfied with the manner in which the Agricultural Bank was administering the war service homes legislation, and after consultation with the Tasmanian Government decided to take oyer the administration itself as from the 1st October. A separate organization has now been established in Tasmania for war service homes purposes. I regret that the need arose for any change in the administration, but the circumstances that existed in Tasmania could not have been allowed to continue. The change was made at the express wish of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia which carried a resolution inviting such a change. That resolution was subsequently endorsed by the federal executive of the league. I am particularly sorry that any returned soldiers should lose their employment in times like these, and I discussed with the Tasmanian Minister for Works (Sir Walter Lee), and also the Premier and the AttorneyGeneral of Tasmania, ways and means of finding employment for these two men. I said that the Commonwealth Government would make every endeavour to find employment for one of the nien if the State Government would find employment for the other. I think that that was a reasonable way in which to solve the problem, particularly with unemployment so rampant. I have made the position quite clear to these gentlemen and I now renew the promise previously made. At the present time the Public Service Commissioners of the Commonwealth and of the State of Tasmania are examining the question.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “Ward) made certain observations concerning the variation in the payments made to some of the employees at Garden Island. It is impossible for me to be conversant with the numerous variations in the award under which the many men employed at Garden Island in various industries are working, but in. view of his remarks I shall have inquiries made into the matter.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) made a brief but general statement concerning the activities of the War Service Homes Commission in his electorate. I repeat the invitation which I extended to him by way of interjection when he was speaking, that if he will supply me with particulars of the cases to which he referred’, I shall be very pleased to give them my personal attention.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) commented upon what he regarded the unsympathetic administration of the War Service Homes Department. All I can say is that the Government’s endeavour has at all times been to bc as sympathetic and as helpful as is humanly possible to all returned soldiers occupying war service homes, who are confronted with financial and other difficulties. Every effort is being made to ease the position of the occupiers of these homes. When this Government assumed office there appeared to be no general policy to meet the acute position, and it therefore made special provision for the immediate relief of occupiers of war service homes. Another step taken was to appoint a committee of inquiry consisting entirely of returned soldiers, some of whom had been occupiers of war service homes and who had met their obligations to the commission, to investigate the whole matter. The committee made a series of recommendations to the Government all of which were accepted with slight explanatory modifications. The Government’s action in this respect has been approved generally by returned soldiers. Generally speaking, the committee’s recommendation was that occupiers of war service homes were to meet their commitments according to their ability to pay. Arrangements were made for payments to be made on a pro rata basis according to the ability of the occupier. If the income of an occupier was less than £2 2s. 6d. a week he was not expected to pay anything. On the other hand, if - he was in receipt of the basic wage or more he was expected to meet his obligations in full.
– The commission considered only his gross income.
– That is the only basis upon which it could act.
– It did not pay any regard to the wages tax or to superannuation payments.
– The commission could deal only with an occupier’s income. The honorable member’s income, provided he does not receive income from any other source, is his parliamentary allowance, and not the amount which remains after he has paid income tax and other necessary commitments. The Government proposes to have the position reviewed in 1935.
General statements concerning returned soldiers being evicted from their homes are carelessly made in this chamber, but I say most emphatically that in not one instance has an occupier of a war service home been asked to vacate the property or any action taken until his case has come before me personally. I examine every case and in no instance has action been taken against an occupier who has complied with the recommendations of the committee appointed to inquire into war service homes. That is the policy of the Government. I listened most attentively to some of the extraordinary statements made by honorable members opposite, and I say advisedly that they have not been as careful as they might have been in the statements they have made. I emphatically reiterate that if a returned soldier pays according to his ability as provided in the recommendations of the committee he can occupy his homewithout any further investigation until 1935.
– What about Kentwell’s case ?
– I am sorry that the honorable member should mention names. I am willing to deal with any case. I have not, of course, all the facts before me at the moment, and I would remind the honorable member that there are about 36,000 occupants; but I know that in the case mentioned by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) the occupier did not make any pro rata payments at all. Every endeavour was made to prevail upon him to do so but he failed. When he declined to pay a few shillings a week the commission was forced into the position of carrying out thepolicy of the Government.
– Where was he when his family was evicted? He was away prospecting for gold.
– It does not matter where he was. He refused to pay a few shillings a week in accordance with the recommendation of the committee. These proposals are most fair and helpful to the occupier. The Government has done all that is possible to meet difficult cases. The man mentioned had a definite income and failed to meet his obligations under his contract. He refused to pay even on a pro rata basis which forced the commission to take action against him.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) raised the question of the payment of rates due to municipalities. In 1924 a comprehensive scheme was drawn up, which was submitted to municipal councils throughout the Commonwealth, and, I understand, was, without exception, adopted. Brief particulars of the scheme are as follow : -
Contract of Sale Cases.
When a home reverts the commission pays all rates.
When a home reverts and a tenant is placed in the property the commission pays rates during the period of the tenant’s occupancy.
When a home reverts other charges such as roadmaking, &c., are paid.
These proposals were contingent upon all councils taking proper action to collect outstanding rates from purchasers and borrowers, as both classes are liable under their contracts and mortgages for the payment of rates and other outgoings.
– Quite a number have objected.
– Some are not entirely satisfied with the arrangement, but the majority have agreed. One municipal council in particular does not display the same good-will in this respect as others.
– The Minister has been wrongly informed in that respect.
– At any rate I submit that the opposition to this arrangement has been organized by one particular municipality. I am not unmindful of the difficulties of municipalities regarding the collection of rates, but the occupants of war service homes are not the only people who are, at times, unable to pay their rates.
– Whena war service home reverts to the commission and there is an accumulation of arrears, the arrears of rates should be met by the commission.
– In such cases, the commission is burdened with a house which, possibly, is of lower value than it was a few years ago. At present the commission is paying one year’s back rates to the municipal council concerned, although, under the contract which the occupier entered into, he was liable for the rates. We have told the municipalities that as they are quasi-governmental institutions they should bear some share of the loss. We pay one year’s rates and they have to shoulder the balance. That is an arrangement which has been generally accepted.
– What percentage of the war service homeshave reverted to the commission?
– Only a small percentage. If the honorable member desires the actualfigures I shall be pleased to supply them. We. do not pay rates on homes that are occupied by the purchaser.
– Last night the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) criticized the manner in which primage is imposed, and I am pleased to say that that was the only criticism which he or others had to offer concerning the administration of the Customs Department. During the period in which Parliament was in recess, I read many criticisms of a general nature by the honorable member concerning other departments, and the department under my control was mentioned; but I have had the files searched and I find that no complaint has been received from the honorable member, and that the only communication which he sent to the department was one referring to the comparative qualities of dates and prunes, about which we shall doubtless hear more during the tariff debate. I am, therefore, pleased to find that lie has no greater complaint than the one he mentioned last night, in which he said that the importers of tractors and tractor parts experienced great inconvenience because there were different rates imposed on set screws, gears and the like. In that connexion I would point out that most importers place their work in the hands of customs agents who, for a small fee, pass the entries. In these circumstances I cannot see that any greater inconvenience is caused to the person importing tractor and tractor parts than is occasioned to the importers of other goods. The honorable member complained that a bond could not be given by the person concerned that the tractor or tractor parts were to be used for agricultural purposes. I think the Government* should be complimented- .upon the ‘fact that it went to the extent it did to assist the men on the land by exempting tractor and tractor parts from primage provided that they were to be used for agricultural purposes.
– Which assurance cannot be given.
– The difficulty in this instance is not as great as it is in the case of those who import water pipes on which the farmer gets a concession and on which a plum-ber or a builder does not.
– He does not.
– He did not originally. That was a difficulty that had to be overcome. The complaint is that the importers cannot say that a tractor is to be used solely for agricultural purposes. The trouble is that some honorable members have backed up applications when tractors are to be used for road rollers.
– That is a deliberate misstatement. A tractor cannot be used as a road roller.
– There was an application from Western Australia supported by some honorable members who could not say whether a tractor was not to be used for road-rolling purposes or for hauling a road grader. The honorable member was rather belated in his complaint, because before he spoke yesterday the tariff proposals had been brought down, completely exempting tractors and tractor parts from the payment of primage.
– I rise to a point of order. Yesterday I spoke on the Supply Bill, and the Minister is now referring to tariff items affected by the budget proposals.
– My impression was that the Minister was replying to criticism levelled at the administration of his department.
– The Minister was referring to changes proposed in the budget introduced yesterday.
– The honorable member is trying to stifle my explanation. He had in his hands yesterday a schedule which showed him that there were no longer primage duties on tractors and tractor parts, yet later in the day he complained about the duties on them. There was no occasion for his complaint because if he studies the tariff proposals he will see that those articles have been exempted from primage duties.
.- I wish to refer to certain matters affecting the administration of the Repatriation Department. The first refers to anonymous letters which arc received by the department and attached to the files of the returned soldiers concerned. When an anonymous letter is received, the department is perfectly justified in making full inquiries, because persons may have written from a sense of public duty without wishing to disclose their names. But after investigation the department, whether the allegation is found to be true or otherwise, attaches the anonymous letter to the file of the returned soldier concerned. I maintain, however, that anonymous letters should be destroyed after investigation. On the one hand, if the allegation is found to be false the letter is useless. Ou the other hand, if the allegation is found to be true, the department, a3 the result of its inquiry, has ali the facts in its possession, and, therefore, the anonymous letter is quite unnecessary and should be destroyed. I raised this matter in this chamber previously when the Minister was absent on a visit to New Guinea, and the reply which was put by the Repatriation Commission into the mouth of the then acting Minister (Mr. Francis) reads as follows: -
On the 4th May, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) made reference to anonymous letters which may be addressed to the Repatriation Commission in regard to individual returned soldiers, and suggested that such letters should not be retained on the departmental files. I then intimated that I would give the matter consideration. I have now had an opportunity of examining the question, and, as I indicated to the honorable member, it is the practice to retain on departmental files any anonymous letters which may bc received, and also the results of any investigations made concerning the contents of such letters.
I have seen on a certain file anonymous letters the allegations in which had been proved to be absolutely without foundation, yet those letters were still attached to the file. The reply of the Acting Minister continues -
This procedure, it is considered, is most desirable, because if allegations prove that they ;ira without foundation, the records on this particular point would be complete, and the war pensioner would not be affected adversely. On the other hand, if inquiries show that allegations made in anonymous letters were well-founded, no injustice would be done to the ex-soldier, and if the subject of the inquiry and the result were contained in the files, there would be a record to support any action taken.
I agree that the department should make inquiries into allegations contained in anonymous letters, but if those allegations are found to bo without foundation the letters should bo destroyed.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the practice of the Repatriation
Department of throwing the onus upon an applicant for a war pension to prove that his disability was due to or aggravated by war service. The attitude of the department to-day is to admit that an applicant is suffering from a certain disability, at the same time contending that it is neither due to nor aggravated by war service. In that way the returned soldier applicant has to prove that his disability was due to war service. Many ex-soldiers, when they returned from the war, were anxious to get into civilian clothing, and made no claim for pensions, although they were suffering from disabilities which, at that time they thought of little or no consequence. In later years those disabilities became more manifest, but the sufferers were quite content to pay for medical or hospital treatment. Now, however, owing to the depression, they are not in a position to pay for such treatment, and are anxious to obtain, not a pension, but some assistance from the department by way of medical or hospital expenses. They have asked that their disabilities be classed as due to war service, so that they may obtain free treatment., In nearly every instance the department has decided that these disabilities are not due to war service. The first appeal against its decision is to the State Repatriation Board, which consists of two departmental officers and one outsider nominated by the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League from a panel of three persons. It is obvious that the decision of the two departmental officers, who are in a majority, would prevail. If the appeal is refused, there is a further appeal to the Repatriation Commission, which body has disagreed with the verdict of. the State Repatriation Boards in less than 20 per cent, of cases. If the appeal is refused by the Repatriation Commission, there is still a further appeal to an appeal tribunal, either the Entitlement Tribunal or the Assessment Tribunal. According to the act as amended in 1928, an applicant when appealing to either of those tribunals must make out a prima facie case. The act further provides that the onus of disproving that the disability was due to or aggravated by war service shall rest with the Repatriation Commission, and that the appellant shall have the benefit of the doubt. That was the view of the Parliament at the time, but the view of the administration is altogether different. The Repatriation Commission purports to have a complete medical file of every applicant for a pension. Every honorable member well knows that it is not, and that anything which he may bring forward is regarded as new evidence. That is totally opposed to the ideas held by the Australian people as a whole. I desire to quote from a very important letter written by a well-known medical man in Sydney who was an Australian Imperial Force medical officer. In it he says -
I draw particular attention to that statement. The letter goes on to say -
There were others in like case. If we had known then that evacuation was apparently to be looked on as a sine qua von to establish a soldier’s injuries in after life, the evacuation would have possibly made it impossible for a battalion to carry on its duties.
That was quite common on the other side. Because a man had not manufactured a medical history overseas, and was patriotic enough to carry on without a pension, and without applying for medical treatment upon his return to Australia, he is told that, there is no mention of his having suffered from, anything on the other side. I know this particular soldier very well, and can say that there is no doubt that” he is suffering from pharyngitis and laryngitis as the result of having been gassed”. No man who served anywhere near the front area in France for even a short period escaped getting a whiff of gas. Many of these cases were not evacuated, because they were not in a proper state to be so treated; and even if the sufferers made application for evacuation, the departmental medical officer had
-. orders to refuse it, The act says that an appellant before an appeal tribunal shall have the benefit of the doubt. At no time has the Repatriation Commission given effect to that provision.
There is also the case of a man who enlisted at the outbreak of the war, left Australia as a sergeant in the original 3rd Battalion, and was commissioned at’ Gallipoli. One of his officers, a captain, wrote of him that he was one of five officers of the battalion who survived’ the first 72 hours bitter fighting at Lone Pine, from which he emerged unscathed, although it was afterwards noticed that the awful strain of that 72 hours had turned his hair quite grey. He was mentioned in Sir Ian Hamilton’s despatches. Later he rose in rank until, in August, 1917, he was made colonel of his battalion. Meanwhile he had been five times mentioned in despatches. He won the Military Cross, and the Distinguished Service Order and bar. In October, 1918, he left the battalion on leave for Australia. His farewell words to the men of his battalion were “ I shall be back with you for the big move in March “. As honorable members are aware, the armistice was signed in the following month of that year. A report from the secretary of the re-union committee of the battalion, which this gentleman commanded, reads -
Throughout the whole of this time-
That is, right from the time when the Australian Imperial Force first went into action- he never for one day left his post on the score of illness or wounds. He accepted the minimum of leave, and then only when he knew that his beloved battalion would be out of the line while he was away. At one period, lie suffered so severely from scabies that he had to he bandaged almost from head to foot. The president of our Bc-union Association helped to bandage him, and another gentleman will also guarantee these facts.
This returned soldier, although now only 42 years of age, is a decrepit old man.. whose nerves have completely gone, and whose hair is quite grey. It is against all the facts to say, as the Repatriation Department does, “ What you are suffering from is not due to war service.”
– Does the department suggest what it is due to?
– It does not, and never has done so. I am acquainted with the ease mentioned by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) - that of Victor Hugo. That man, upon his return to Australia, was discharged on a pension. Later he received a full pension, and, finally, drew a special pension on account of war service. Subsequently his pension was withdrawn, but upon appeal the full amount was restored, as he was an absolutely broken case. It was then again cut out, on the strength of a manufactured diagnosis that he was suffering from alcoholism. I use the expression “manufactured” with a full knowledge of what it means in connexion with medical diagnoses. The man was a wreck. He had been in Callan Park for a period. His nerves were absolutely shattered. The whole of his history shows that there was no justification whatever for the departmental diagnosis. Last week, at the annual State Congress of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, in New South Wales, these manufactured diagnoses of the Repatriation Department were referred to in rather scathing terms. I know of a particular case in which the diagnosis of a junior departmental medical officer was that the returned soldier was suffering from alcoholism. That particular man was able to prove to the appeal tribunal that, although he had been in and out of hospital on many occasions, there had not at any time been the slightest mention of this complaint. He produced eminent medical opinion to show that there was no justification for the departmental medical officer’s diagnosis. I brought the case to the notice of a previous Minister for Repatriation, but was any action taken against that medical officer? None whatever; he is still at Randwick. The Entitlement Tribunal upheld the soldier’s appeal. That should have been sufficient to induce the department to dismiss with ignominy this particular medical officer. The case is made worse by the fact that he placed on the file the statement that his diagnosis had been made three years previously; yet, meanwhile, the department had decided the man’s appeal on the ground that he was suffering from an altogether different complaint. I ask the committee to accept my assurance that I am able to prove every charge that I make against the administration of the
department. I have stated previously in this chamber that one cannot expect very much while there is at the head of the department such an example of futility as the Chief Commissioner. I was astonished at his reappointment a few years ago for a further term of seven years. He saw no active service whatever. Although he designates himself Colonel Semmens, he has never done any soldiering, and does not know soldiers. He left Australia in command of a battalion, with which I afterwards served, but never saw a shot fired. I ask, however, that he be judged, not on that, but on his administration of the department. The great bulk of the people of Australia want those who served overseas to be given a fair deal. The department, however, holds other views. I could support my views by giving the committee case after case if that were necessary. When an ex-soldier appeals to the Entitlement Tribunal he must make out a prima facie case. The department takes the attitude that his disability is not attributable to or aggravated by war service. That means that he must obtain outside medical opinion, because, as a layman, he would not be able adequately to present his case.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Under the heading of “PostmasterGeneral’s Department, Queensland “, provision is made in the bill for the expenditure of £2,000 for the purchase of stores and material. Just before I left Brisbane I was approached by the manager of the Queensland Industrial Institution for the Blind, who complained that Commonwealth departments, and particularly the Postmaster-General’s Department, did not give the institution an opportunity to tender for the supply of stores. The institution is controlled by the Queensland Government, and- a number of its inmates are employed manufacturing baskets, mats, brooms, and so on. On inquiry, I found that the complaint was well founded. I discovered that while the Queensland Government purchases every article that it can from the institution, the bulk of these articles for Commonwealth offices in Queensland are imported from New South Wales and
Victoria. As a good Queenslander, I contend that they should be bought in Queensland, particularly those commodities which can be supplied by the Industrial Institution for the Blind. The following letter from the manager of the institution should be of interest to the Minister : -
During the last twenty years we only had about two orders of any consequence for mail baskets and a few smaller orders of two or three sorting baskets at a time. It is at least eight years since we have been asked to quote for these mail baskets.
We have a genuine complaint, because we think that all the baskets used in Queensland should be made here and not in the southern States. The counter baskets and the waste-paper baskets also come from the south, but they could be purchased just as cheaply here. At times we quoted for the repairing of different classes of baskets, and nomatter how ridiculously low our prices are we are seldom successful.
We could supply all the baskets required in the postal service at a price equal to any in Australia, and guarantee the work as good as, ifnot better than, any other manufacturer, as the blind workers can only use the best of material.
I hope that, in fixture, this organization will be given an opportunity to tender for the supply of brooms, baskets and so forth, the quality of which is equal to that of any made elsewhere.
– I deplore the tone of the remarks that were made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), and also the fact that he has submitted individual cases to this committee, allegedly to receive justice for the persons concerned.
– I have chosen representative cases, which prove to be the general rule.
– In its wisdom, the Commonwealth Parliament has removed the handling of returned soldier pensions from the immediate jurisdiction of the Minister, and placed the matter in the care of a number of boards, which were created at the request, and almost at the demand, of returned soldier organizations. Ex-soldiers who seek pensions must first submit their applications to the Repatriation Board, which consists entirely of returned soldiers and on which the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Im perial League of Australia has a representative. If the case does not receive the consideration which the applicant thinks necessary, he has the right to appeal to the commission, which again is constituted of three returned soldiers, one of whom is nominated by the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. If he is still dissatisfied with the decision, he may then appeal to the War Pensions Entitlement Tribunal, consisting also of three returned soldiers. I might add that every officer of the Repatriation Department is a returned soldier, and is just as sympathetically disposed to returned men as is any member of this committee or of the public. In my position as a returned soldier and Minister in charge of the department, I deplore the personal attacks that are so frequently made on the Commissioner for Repatriation by the honorable member for Richmond, and against which that official has no opportunity of defending himself.
– He is so hopelessly incompetent.
– Unfortunately, the honorable member has made these attacks on the Commissioner almost quarterly, and his action is most unfair. When presenting cases for review it is imperative that every available scrap of evidence should be advanced to support them. It is the duty of this Parliament to ensure that justice is meted out to the taxpayers as well as to the pensioners. From my experience of the Repatriation Department I must confess that I have found that the most sympathetic treatment is extended both to pensioners and applicants for pensions. I fail to see what can be done further to assist returned men in this direction. Innumerable bodies could be appointed, and still it would be impossible to satisfy everybody.
– Has not the Minister any power in the administration of his department?
– The honorable member is familiar with the powers of the Minister, and he knows that I avail myself of every opportunity to assist returned men. I am just as sympathetic in the administration of my department and of the act as any returned soldier or other occupant of the position could be.
During my absence earlier in the year the matter of anonymous correspondence being placed on the departmental files was dealt with by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis). I do not think that anybody has much sympathy with anonymous correspondents; but, as departments are responsible for the administration of public money, they must investigate complaints that are placed before them; and if an inquiry substantiates the claims made in the anonymous correspondence, it is justified. If not, the letters should be expunged from the records.
– Will the Minister give instructions that, when anonymous letters are proved to he without foundation they must be destroyed?
– I shall certainly do so. I assure honorable members that whenever they have specific cases to present to me I shall do my utmost to give the persons concerned a fair deal.
– I presented a case to the honorable gentleman about which he could do nothing.
– That matter had already been dealt with by the Appeal Tribunal, and in such circumstances nothing can be done by the Minister.
– Could not the Government alter the act in cases where there is a glaring injustice.
– It is always within the province of Parliament to alter an act, and where it is evident that injustice is being done, I shall be glad to receive representations from honorable members and submit them to the Government.
.- It has been frequently suggested in published statements and otherwise, and particularly in the August issue ofHealth, a Commonwealth publication, that the Common wealth Government is doing everything that can be done to safeguard the health of the people, especially in North Queensland and North Australia. The statement in Health, to which I have referred, suggested that the health problem in North Queensland had been practically solved, and perhaps Dr. Cilento, one of the Commonwealth health officers, might be quoted to that effect, although I assure the Minister that Dr. Cilento is not of this opinion. But if the Minister for Health (Mr. Marr) will make careful inquiries he will find that the hookworm problem in that area is still acute. It will perhaps be suggested that this is a subject for attention by the Queensland Government.
I also wish to make another definite protest against the transfer of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine from Townsville to the Sydney University. Dr. Cilento, whose opinions are highly regarded in North Queensland, stated in sworn evidence, which he gave before a commission of inquiry in 1925, that it would not be wise to make such a change.
As a matter of fact the people of North Queensland are considerably disturbed about the health outlook in their locality. Many municipal councils in that area realize the wisdom of constructing sewerage systems and of taking other action to preserve the health of the community. Hookworm and malaria are subjects of particular interest to medical practitioners and others in North Queensland. TheCommonwealth Government has spent £58,000 in research work in connexion with hookworm and other tropical diseases, but principally in connexion with hookworm, and it is regrettable that it should now practically abandon this field of activity. In doing so it is acting unjustly to the Commonwealth as a whole and to Queensland in particular. Australia has determined to maintain this continent on a White Australia policy, and in this circumstance it is essential that every care should be taken to ensure that the health of the people is preserved. An unhealthy condition in any one part of the Commonwealth is a matter of more or less serious concern to every other part of it. If the Minister will examine the report of the commission to which I have already referred, he will see that Dr. Cumpston, the DirectorGeneral of Health, was not favorable to the removal of the School of Tropical Hygiene to the Sydney University. The British Medical Association of Queensland has recently taken Dr. Cumpston to task for his more recent actions in this connexion, and it has issued a pamphlet from a statement which appeared in the Telegraph of Saturday, the 16th
September, from which I take the following concluding paragraph: -
The council repeats, in the words of Dr. Cumpston, that this is work that can only be dene in a tropical area, and invites the Commonwealth Department of Health to give effect in Queensland to its own proposals of 1925.
I commend the whole pamphlet to honorable members. Although the school has been transferred to the Sydney University both Dr. ‘Cumpston and Dr. Cilento were originally opposed to such a transfer.
It was stated in reply to a question earlier this afternoon that Dr. Cilento had not furnished the Government with a report on a certain subject. I am sure that if the Minister will make further inquiries he will see that this is not so. Dr. Cilento has made no secret of his attitude on these questions. There is no doubt that hookworm is a very serious menace in North Queensland, and it is highly regrettable that the Commonwealth Government should have ceased the activities in which it was formerly engaged for combating this disease. We should increase rather than decrease the number of persons qualified to inspect premises and keep records in this connexion. The public health officer at Innisfail told me last month that Dr. Cilento, who is thoroughly qualified to speak on the subject of tropical diseases, was of the opinion that hookworm was becoming just as great a menace in North Queensland as it was a few years ago. If there is neglect in this connexion now, the good work that was done some time ago by the expenditure of nearly £60,000 of Commonwealth money will be nullified.
– Did I understand the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) to say. that the Commonwealth laboratory at Townsville had been closed ?
– It has been practically closed.
– I assure the honorable member that this is not so. The only change has been that the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine has been removed from Townsville to the University of Sydney. The result of this move has been that, with the additional faci lities available for this purpose at the Sydney University, more people have been trained in one month in public health and tropical medicine than were trained during the whole time that the work was done in Townsville.
– They get theoretical but not practical training.
– It has been alleged that the Government has abandoned the field of tropical hygiene; but this is not so, for it is really carrying on this work to a greater extent than ever before.
– In Sydney?
-. - In Sydney and in its own territories. As soon as I took office as Minister for Health, I sent a specialist to New Guinea for the particular purpose of studying malaria, and two experts were also set to work to study filaria. The . Government is doing everything that can be done in this respect at present. At various Premiers conferences a good deal has been said about the overlapping of Commonwealth and State health departments; but I point out that the Commonwealth Government is maintaining nine laboratories, which are situated in every State of the Commonwealth, while it has not one laboratory in any of its own territories. The States talk about overlapping only when it costs them nothing. The Commonwealth is paying for all the work of this description that it is doing. I do not desire to detract from the good work that the Queensland Government has done. Queensland has taken its fair part in the investigations into tropical diseases. The amount of £58,000 which the Commonwealth has spent in this regard completed, to a greater or less extent, the phase of activities then in hand. The work which the honorable member for Herbert says has been abandoned is really being done in Sydney instead of in Townsville. We have been able to train h large number of medical practitioners in tropical medicine. In addition, every doctor who is serving in our own territories holds a degree in tropical medicine, and more than 40 missionaries have been trained in this science.
All honorable members will agree with the honorable member for Herbert that hookworm is a dangerous and loathsome disease. The Commonwealth undertook an investigation into this disease because it considered it of national importance; but the investigation has been practically completed. The Queensland Government has been for some time dealing with hookworm complaints, and it has been asked whether it desires to take over the complete administration of that particular phase of investigation, which it is practically doing at present. I assure the honorable member for Herbert that the Commonwealth Government has not withdrawn from this field of activity, but has actually extended its operations. If the honorable member would visit the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at the Sydney University, he would be convinced that excellent work is being carried on there.Dr. Cilento is, of course, recognized throughout Australia as an authority on tropical diseases.
– He is recognized as such throughout the world.
– Dr. Cilento’s services have not been lost to Queensland, for he is the Chief Quarantine Officer for Queensland. I know that the Queensland Government, and also the people of Queensland, pay a lot of attention to anything that Dr. Cilento says. The Commonwealth Government has not done anything to injure the State by removing the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine from Townsville to the Sydney University, and it certainly has no intention of discontinuing its activities in connexion with the elucidation and eradication of tropical diseases. As the honorable member for Herbert has said, we believe in aWhite Australia, and we are not unmindful of our responsibility for the health of the people. Cabinet is even no w considering an extension of its activities in its own territories, particularly in the Northern Territory, at Darwin. It is also contemplating additional work in Queensland at Longreach. It was not necessary even for the honorable member to make such representations as he has made in this connexion, for action had already been taken. However, I assure him that his remarks will receive the careful consideration of the Government.
– I direct the attention of the Government to certain aspects of work in the Repatriation and War Service Homes Departments, which have now become permanent instrumentalities of the Commonwealth. I shall concern myself principally, for the moment, with the position of the persons employed by the commissions which administer these activities. It will be remembered that after the completion of the war certain members of the Australian Imperial Force were employed in connexion with repatriation work to look after the hospital treatment of soldiers, pensioners, and the education of orphans of members of the Australian Imperial Force. The male members of the staffs ofboth the Repatriation and War Service Homes Departments were all ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force, and the female members were either returned nurses or relatives of men who had done their duty to their country. It is now eighteen years since that department was established, and although consideration was given by previous governments to the conditions of the employees, they still remain on a temporary basis. I understand that during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government there was a cabinet minute to the effect that when the services of these employees were no longer required in that department they would be found employment in other Commonwealth departments. Owing to the depression and war wastage generally, the activities of the Repatriation Department have increased rather than decreased, and instead of that department ceasing to function it seems that it is as active as it has ever been.
– It will continue to operate until the next war.
– If Providence is kind to us, there will be no next war. This department is engaged in overcoming some of the difficulties occasioned by the last war, and if that is so we should be fair to those who have done so much to amelioriate the conditions of those who served overseas. The staffs of the Repatriation Department and of the War Service Homes Commission are fairly well stabilized, and are similar in almost every respect to our other permanent departments of State. It appears to me that the members of those staffs are entitled to the same consideration as is shown to permanent Commonwealth public servants in the matter of long-service leave and superannuation benefits. Perhaps it is impracticable to arrange for superannuation payments on an age basis, but I submit that the Government could give them the long-service leave privileges enjoyed by other members of the Public Service.Few of those who have served fifteen years in the Repatriation Department were under 40 years of age when they were appointed, and some of them are now approaching the retiring age of 65 years. But they are not entitled to long-service leave, and, in the absence of any paymentin lieu of such leave, have no opportunity to sustain themselves while they are endeavouring to find other employment. I ask the Government to treat this matter with a certain amount of urgency, because, as I have already indicated, many of them are now approaching the retiring age. It is quite useless to say that they can get other employment of a similar nature. Their work is of a special nature, and, in most cases, they are too old to bring themselves up to date in modern business methods. They have been specialists for fifteen years, and have become so ingrained in the work of one department that they would find it hard to compete successfully with younger men in the outside world. The cost of this concession at the moment would be small, and even at the maximum figure, so far as I can work it out, would not exceed £2,000 per annum. I believe that these men are definitely entitled to this consideration to enable them to rehabilitate themselves, and to get some work to keep them going. This reward, if it were given, would take the place of the furlough payments which the permanent public servants now receive. I commend this matter to the notice of the Government, I trust that it will give it sympathetic consideration, and that this concession will be extended to the staffs of these departments.
– During the debate, there has been a certain amount of criticism concerning the administration of the Treasury, and I appreciate the privilege of this opportunity to reply. It is impossible to give individual answers to the many cases brought forward, but I should like to make a somewhat detailed reply to some of the points raised by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) if for no other reason than that, the honorable member has gone into rather more detail and taken more trouble in submitting cases of alleged maladministration than possibly some other honorable members. I believe that he has taken many opportunities other than those offered in this chamber to air his grievances.
– Which he has a perfect right to do.
– Quite so. I mentioned that because his views on this subject have had greater publicity during the last month or two than those of other honorable members. I regret that he has seen fit to make a personal attack upon a respected public servant who cannot reply for himself. As one who was for many years a public servant, I feel that the honorable member for Calare has put the Commissionerof Taxation, Mr. Ewing, in a very painful position. I admit that Mr. Ewing is in sole control of his department, which administers the sales tax. He has been put in that position by Parliament, but I suggest that the Minister in charge of the department is the person at whom any attack should be directed, and not a public servant who has no opportunity to reply other than through his Minister. The Sales Tax Acts are most complex, and, it will be admitted, difficult to administer. Lines have to be drawn for the purposes of administration, otherwise, if a precedent is created in one instance, it is liable to be extended in many other directions. To the many charges made by the honorable member for Calare there is a perfectly good and adequate reply from the department ; not a specious, hole-and-corner reply, but in every case one that has satisfied me that the department is not in the wrong. His criticisms may be divided into three categories (a) criticism of the act, which is out of place, because that act is not under consideration; (b) criticism of the administration of the act, coupled with a personal criticism of Mr. Ewing, and (c) criticism of Mr. Ewing for so-called maladministration of the act. It is impos- sible to deal with all the cases brought forward, but I shall refer to a few in order to put the viewpoint of the department.
In the first place, the honorable member for Calare said that a security bond could be dispensed with without any loss to the revenue. Our act, as honorable members are aware, is based on the Canadian act and Canadian experience. The Canadian law provides for a security bond considerably higher than that required under our act. It has been found in Canada after many years of experience, that a bond is essential as a deterrent to defaulters and useful in the collection and recovery of the tax. The New Zealand sales tax legislation recently enacted provides for a form of security practically the same as our own, and quite recently a sales tax act enacted, not within the Empire, but in the State of New York, contains a relevant provision.
In regard to the case which the honorable member for Calare brought up and which the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) mentioned, in which bailiffs were said to have been put in, and were, I believe, put in, the department has a complete answer to the suggestion of impropriety by those two honorable members, but is precluded by the secrecy provisions of the law from making a full statement of the facts. If the honorable member for Calare will get from the individual concerned his authority to publish the details, I am sure I would be able to convince him and the committee generally that the position is not as stated by him.
The honorable member said that a man was asked to furnish a detailed list of his sales of all items, but that is incomprehensible in view of the fact that the department, although it has the power, does not in any case require a taxpayer to furnish a complete list of all sales unless there is some hint of evasion, or fraud. Again, if the honorable member will submit the name of the individual, the department will be able to recognize the case.
– I shall give the name and all particulars if necessary. I did not wish to publish the person’s name.
– If the honorable member wishes to have the .case ventilated he should obtain permission of the person concerned so that the department’s case can be submitted.
He also mentioned the case of a man who was charged the trivial amount of Ss. 9d. after being put to the expense of an inquiry and a defence. If that case is exactly as he states, it should be brought to the notice of the department, as neither of the fines is in accordance with the normal practice of the department.
– The honorable member is quoting figures inaccurately given in the press. My statement, as recorded in ilansard, was that a fine of 10 per cent, was imposed plus, £1 when the amount due was 8s. 9d.
– These figures, I am informed by the department, are not in any way in accord with the usual practice.
– I can hand the Minister the department’s figures now.
– If the honorable member cares to let me have them, I shall have the matter investigated and, I hope, to his satisfaction. The honorable member stated that “with the wonderful intelligence of Solomon” the Commissioner say3 that margarine is not taxable because it is a substitute for butter. Actually, margarine is not taxable because the law expressly exempts it from sales tax. Again, he said that the Taxation Department can after a man. has become bankrupt, take precedence over any other creditors and distrain his home and furniture. Sales taxation in bankruptcy is payable after the satisfaction of all preferential debts on the same basis as the unsecured debts of the bankrupt to the trading community.
– Is that the interpretation issued by the department on the 31st December, 1932?
– I am certain that that is so. As to the sale of a business, including plant and machinery, the honorable member should know that they are. to be exempt under the new proposals forecast by the Prime Minister. Further, raw meat is exempt from sales tax, but sausages are not raw meat; neither is sausage mash, as other materials are mixed in its manufacture.
The honorable member also referred to the case of a merchant in George-street, Sydney, and stated that he had brought the facts under the notice of the Minister and the department. I have had the records examined by the department, and the case cannot be identified from the description given by the honorable member. If he will supply further particulars of the case, it will be investigated and an attempt made to give him satisfaction. I am also informed that from the description given by the honorable member there seems to have been some attempt at evasion or fraud.
– There was no suggestion of fraud. The department does not even suggest fraud.
Mr.CASEY. - If the honorable member will supply the particulars, the department may be able to identify the case.
– I shall supply the Minister with copies of the department’s own correspondence.
– The question of the payment of sales tax on the sale of the assets of a business has been raised. In the past sales tax has been payable on the assets of a business, but it has now been decided by the Government, as forecasted by the Prime Minister in the budget speech, to amend the law to exempt the assets of a business, when sold, from sales tax.
– Will the exemption be retrospective ?
– I expect not. The honorable member referred to a number of other cases, and with respect to those I can give him the assurance that there is a perfectly good departmental reply to every one of them.
– There has been no reply yet.
– I have given definite replies in cases other than those in which secrecy is involved. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) is incorrect in saying that second-hand goods are not liable to sales tax. There is no exemption under the law in respect of second-hand goods. They are subject to tax when sold by taxpayers in the same wayas any other goods, but where double taxation is involved, where goods have paid tax previously as new goods or as second-hand goods sold for the second time, there is a rebate of tax if evidence can be brought forward that the tax on such goods has been paid previously.
The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) raised the question of the inclusion of railage and cartage in the price of goods on which sales tax is levied. That, of course, would depend upon whether the price in the first place included railage and cartage. Obviously, if the price included delivery of goods at a certain place and covered in the seller’s account railage and cartage, then they would be liable to sales tax; but if, on the other hand, the goods were bought out of store, railage and cartage being a charge to the account of the purchaser, sales tax would not be levied. That procedure is, I think, quite reasonable. The honorable member also mentioned butter factory machinery. I cannot remember the exact description of the machinery, but at the time I made a note to the effect that I believed that the machinery to which the honorable member referred would be exempt under the new proposals.
The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) raised the question of the master tailors and their grievances in. the past. I have just as much sympathy as the honorable member has for the master tailors, and have made many representations on theirbehalf in the past. They, of course, have asked for a great deal, but there is definite reason for believing that the master tailors as a whole will be reasonably satisfied with the concession that they are to receive under the Government’s proposals. They are now to be allowed to pay sales tax on two-thirds only of the sale price of a garment, and not on80 per cent. as before.
– Why not tax on the basis of the material purchased ?
– Such a tax would be difficult to administer, and would mean a definite sacrifice of revenue. A number of garment makers other than master tailors would receive concessions, and the consequent loss of revenue would be considerable. In addition, there will be a 1 per cent. decrease in the sales tax as a whole.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr.Beasley) raised a number of points, one being in connexion with
Garden Island. I understand that his reference was to action taken under section 11 of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act 1930, and, insofar as it relates to the administration of the Treasury, if he will supply me with particulars of the case which he mentioned, 1 shall see that proper consideration is given to it.
Repeating what I have already said, the administration of the sales tax is most difficult. Although my connexion with the department has been short, I, as a private member, had many opportunities to discuss matters with Mr. Ewing and other senior members of the department, and in my own electorate I have had no reason to suppose that grievances on any appreciable scale existed other than a general regret at the necessity for such a tax. I deplore the attack of the honorable member for Calare on Mr. Ewing, and would invite that honorable member and other honorable members in the future to level their criticism at the Minister in charge of the work of the Treasury, and not at departmental heads.
– The Minister has exhausted his time.
– I thank honorable members for allowing me to continue my remarks. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred to the payment of pensions to unnaturalized aliens and Asiatics. That is, of course, a question of the law as it stands. As honorable members know, the two principal exemptions from pensions are aliens and Asiatics, and their suggestion, if given effect, would involve an amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. That question is, of course, not debatable at the moment. The provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act are more generous than those of similar acts in other countries. With regard to pensions generally, it is impossible for me to give detailed replies with respect to the numerous cases which have been mentioned and stated generally by honorable members in quick terms, and in some instances partial terms. It would be unfair to the department, and to honorable members themselves, if I were to attempt at this stage to reply to their queries ; but, if they will supply me with particulars of their complaints, I shall do my best to have them properly investigated. The pension law is complicated and difficult to administer. There have been complaints of delays on the part of the department, but I would remind honorable members of the extreme stress under which the officers of the department have been working during recent months, particularly in view of the necessity for a thorough examination of every pension case. 1 hope that, when the proposals outlined by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) have been given effect, the stress in the department will be eased considerably, mainly because there will be no further necessity to investigate pension payments of from 15s. to lis. 6d. If there have been delays in the past - and delays are inevitable - there is some reason to hope that they will not occur so frequently in the future. I cannot admit the criticism which has been levelled at my predecessor by several honorable members, and I do not wish to discuss it. In conclusion, let me say that I shall be glad, indeed, to investigate the general criticism of honorable members against the department, and do my best to investigate typical individual cases.
.- The Minister has challenged my statement to the effect that the Australian Institute of Tropical Diseases at Townsville has been abolished. I say emphatically that that institution has, to all intents and purposes, been wiped out, and in support of my contention I have behind me the statement of the British Medical Association of Queensland, a body which is just as capable as the Minister of saying what has been done in that direction. That association, in its statement, quotes Dr. Cilento as follows : -
Quotations are lifted from Dr. Cilento’s evidence and pieced together so that they look like one consecutive extract, conveying the impression that he advocated the removal of the Institute of Tropical Diseases from Townsville, and the setting up of an establishment for the teaching of tropical diseases in Sydney.
Perusal of Dr. Cilento’s evidence in the original (minutes of the Royal Commission on Health, Q.1707 to Q.1720) shows that he was not even considering the Institute of Tropical Diseases, but was discussing the question of training personnel for the various tropical services; and what he did say was that the whole of the training could easily he done at Townsville, and that only the first part of it could he done at Sydney. When asked if the whole of it could be done at Sydney, he replied “No.” “The only objection he could find to Townsville was the difficulty of getting men to go there, and this he thought might be overcome by doing the first part in Sydney and finishing at Townsville. Much is made of the recommendation of the royal commission that a chair of preventive medicine and a department of tropical hygiene should be established in Sydney. But these is no suggestion in the findings of the royal commission that this should be done at the expense of Queensland, and by the abolition of the .Australian Institute of Tropical Diseases at Townsville, which was primarily a research institute.
Dr. Elkington, another officer of the Institute of Tropical Hygiene, is quoted as follows: -
Dr. Elkington, then Director of the Division of Tropical Hygiene, in his evidence, giving an outline of the immense amount of work done in the institute (Q.8219), recommended that the teaching work should be done elsewhere, but added (Q.8218), “That does not imply that any limitation of the activities of the institute should be contemplated as the result of the establishment of the teaching centre elsewhere.” Considering that no attempt whatever is made by Dr. Cumpston’s article to show how very great and how very useful the institute was, Dr. Elkington’s report of its functions is«.interesting, and can best be seen in the words of his sworn evidence (Q.8219). In this he states that the institute serves 17,300 Australians living in the tropics, and, in conclusion, says, “It would lie a serious loss to tropical Australia if an institute carrying out such useful and varied activities were terminated.”
Q.8220: “These are activities that are mainly valuable to the State rather than to the Commonwealth?” asked the chairman, and Dr. Elkington replied, “I should say_ they are mainly valuable to Australians living in the Australian tropics who are citizens of both State and Commonwealth.”
The statement of the British Medical Association continues -
The great problem of leprosy in Queensland, which is a menace threatening all the north, has been replaced by the matter of ringworm in surfers’ feet at Bondi, Kew South Wales; the chronic nephritis of Queensland, which kills 100 young Queenslanders below the age of 40 every year, has been abandoned for the determination of the mosquitoes round Monaro, New South Wales, or left to the private practitioners of Brisbane, who have vainly pointed it out as a menace for a generation; filariasis, investigated in Queensland by private practitioners as far as they can go with their limited resources, and representing a problem affecting 3 per cent, of the white (not black) population, of the coasts, is displaced by the examination of titrol; malaria, which extends as far down as Cairns, in Queensland, gives place to examination of the food list of the Pacific Cable Company’s staff; a long contemplated survey of the blacks of Australia is eliminated in favour of a hasty survey of Norfolk Island, where no disease of the slightest importance to Australia was likely to be found. Several tonsils were also looked at, and the most effective method of sterilizing hairdressers’ instruments was considered an investigation “ indicative of local health problems “ in Sydney. A certain .amount of work done in other parts of the world was repeated to some extent.
The statement continues -
To a Queenslander the whole much-vaunted programme contains nothing of value. It appears that the needs of the great tropical portion of Australia have been overlooked. Exceptions are only made in favour of the Mandated Territory, where the filaria of the native, under the scrutiny of the League of Nations, is examined, though the filaria of the Queenslander is apparently of no account.
When our representatives were recently in Sydney to attend the meeting of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, they were invited to visit the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and. see for themselves what was being dune. They saw a building which, with equipment, they estimated must have cost between £50,000 and £100,000, and an establishment which they estimate costs about £10,000 a year to maintain.
In it they found the library of the late Australian Institute of Tropical Diseases, Townsville, and the museum of the same institute. The staff appeared to be the staff of the Townsville Institute, with additions.
They were impressed by the absence of any investigation into the serious problems of the white man in the tropics.
Was such an absorption of the Australian Institute of Tropical Diseases ever contemplated by the Royal Commission on Health when it recommended the establishment of the Sydney school?
The Minister for Health has stated that, owing to the urgent need for economy, it has been necessary to curtail certain research work in the tropics. Then why this large expenditure in Sydney upon matters which largely concern the southern States?
Meanwhile, private practitioners, with a driblet of money voted by the Carnegie Trust (an American body) are attempting the grave problem of the health of the children of Western Queensland, and the Commonwealth Department of Health is announcing that it has duly discharged all its obligations to the people of the whole northern half of the continent.
The article states that, of the twelve senior medical officers of the Commonwealth Department of Health, nine have spent part of their service in North Queensland or in the Northern Territory. Of a 6taff of 25 named on the cover page of Health, only three are now stationed in the tropics.
Several pages are devoted to what was dune up to 1933, and it is suggested that the story does not end there. “The future will hold new developments calling for new adaptations; hut the machinery is now iu existence and the staff is becoming increasingly competent to meet any new development.”
The council has already indicated the essentials in the case, and has done them on the lines and in the words of the senior officers of the Commonwealth Department of Health.
Work in tropical Australia and for the white man resident in the tropics censed when the Division of Tropical Hygiene was abolished. The restoration oi that division, with increased powers and responsibilities, is necessary to add to the scholastic work of the Sydney School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine the field work that will permit the white man to continue his work of colonizing our tropics, upon which our safety depends.
The council repeats, in the words of Dr. Cumpston, that this is work that can only lie done in a tropical area, and invites the Commonwealth Department of Health to give effect in Queensland to its own proposals of ]92r>.
The Minister suggested that if I visited the institute in Sydney, I ‘would come away satisfied with the good work that is being done there. I might be pleased with the institute, but 1 am not qualified to express an opinion upon the work that it is doing. I know, however, that in other cases in which very fine theoretical knowledge is being gleaned, practical knowledge has to be obtained before the individual is thoroughly competent* for the task that has to be performed. In connexion with sugar chemistry, the Queensland Government centralizes in Brisbane the training of the chemists. I challenge any one to prove that those chemists are as qualified as others who are trained in districts where sugar cane is grown and processed. I grant that theoretical knowledge is of very great importance. I contend, however, that it has no real value without practical knowledge. I again affirm that the institute in Townsviile has been closed.
– I wish to reply to one or two references to the Postal Department.
The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) raised the question of the utilization of the blind institution in that city for the filling of certain contracts. I am unacquainted with the facts other than as the honorable member has stated them, but I shall certainly have inquiries made into the matter. He may accept my assurance that there is no reason why the tenders of this institution should not receive the same consideration as any other tenders.
I am not prepared to agree offhand to the proposal that all the material required in a State should be manufactured in that State. I consider that, in such a matter, the Commonwealth as a whole must be considered.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) prefaced his remarks with the statement that his suggestions would be helpful and constructive, and I naturally expected to listen to something of interest; but all that I heard was a melancholy statement which did not amoun’t to a a great deal. The honorable member has said so often that I should visit country districts and travel a little more extensively, that he apparently believes such a course of education to be essential. I need only point out to him that my travels during any year he cares to take are much more extensive than hig. I have taken the trouble to make an estimate of the number of miles that I have covered on official business during the current year.
Mr.- Gibson. - From capital city to capital city?
– My itinerary has embraced, not only all the capital cities of the Commonwealth, but also country districts, the distance travelled having been something over 30,000 miles. That, however, bears no comparison with what I have done on other occasions. Wanderings of that kind differ materially from a journey from here to Tamworth, there to sit in an office writing an article for the Tamworth “ Talk and observing from the window the meandering and grazing of the cows on the streets and footpaths. The matters to which the honorable member referred had not previously been brought to my notice. I think that it would be only reasonable to expect that to be done in a case where 50 settlers required an extension of postal facilities or there was any serious complaint regarding mail services, f believe that honorable members generally will do me the credit of agreeing that when matters are brought to my notice,they receive immediate attention and are usually cleared up to the satisfaction of those concerned. I ask the honorable member to rest assured that the questions which he has raised, and any others that he places before me, will be given the most meticulous attention. Every effort will be made to prove to him, by deeds rather than by words, that the needs of his constituents receive the fullest consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Archdale Parkhill do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Perkins), read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Archdale Parkhill), read a first time.
Consideration resumed from the 4th October (vide page 3223), on motion by Mr. Lyons) -
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division 1 -“The Senate, namely, Salaries and Allowances, £6,840,” be agreed to.
That the consideration of theGeneral Estimates be postponed until after the consideration of “ Estimates for Additions,New Works, Buildings, &c”.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, etc.
Proposed vote, £15,000.
– The Estimates of expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for “Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c,” for the year ending the 30th June, 1934, provide for a total expenditure of £1,624,880. The following table shows the distribution of this amount over the various sections of the new works Estimates, together with a comparison with the actual expenditure for the financial year 1932-33:-
It will be seen that these Estimates provide for expenditure to the extent of £750,490 in excess of the actual expenditure last year. The principal increases are -
I do not propose to go into detail in regard to these Estimates, as any information that honorable members may desire will be furnished by Ministers in the course of the discussion. It is desirable, however, to mention that, in submitting these Estimates, which show a substantial increase on the amount expended last year, the Government is making some provision to meet the needs of the services of the various departments which, owing to the financial stringency, have, during the last two or three years, been seriously curtailed, and, at the same time, to provide the means of alleviating, to some extent, the present unemployment problem.
– Division I. of the proposed vote for the Prime Minister’s Department is something of a new departure, and I shall deal with it on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons).
– I rise to a point of order. Is it proposed to deal with the departments item by item or in some other way?
– The proposed votes will be dealt with by departments unless the committee desires to deal otherwise with them.
– The amount proposed to be voted under this item is for the purchase of a vessel for the development of the fishing industry.
Immediately after assuming office the Government sought to ascertain what existing industries or new industries would, by economic -expansion or development, be likely to make a substantial permanent contribution to the solution of the unemployment problem. The fisheries . industry attracted interest. It was found that successive governments had focused attention on that industry by means of press publicity, but that no practical steps had been taken to stimulate development.
Australia possesses an abundant and varied fish fauna, but the extent of their commercial exploitation is far below that warranted by either the present or potential demand. Our average annual imports of fish in normal times amount to about £1,600,000, and our local production is approximately £1,300,000.
Because of its isolation Australia is out ‘ of touch with world fisheries development. The Government, therefore, considered it advisable to make a survey of the world position and to examine the matter carefully in the light of that survey and local conditions. It has been found that the practice followed by most countries of the world is for .governments to conduct research, and for private enterprise, taking advantage of the results of such research, to undertake the development of the industry without direct .subsidies from government sources.
The United States of America spends upwards of £400,000 per annum on fisheries, notwithstanding her vast store of inherited fishing resources and skill, Great Britain has recently added another research vessel costing £80,000 to her equipment; Japan, Germany, Norway, Prance, Canada, and South Africa all spend substantial sums annually upon research, including exploratory work by vessels specially designed for the purpose ; and even countries like Turkey, Egypt, China, and Soviet Russia are actively engaged upon fisheries investigations. As late as December, 1930, South Africa purchased a new research trawler at a cost of £25,000. It is quite clear that in fisheries development, Australia has lagged far behind other countries.
There is a general recognition abroad that sound fisheries development and con*servation is impossible without investiga-tion and research, which must be thoroughly co-ordinated, and which, therefore, is generally conducted by centralized governmental authorities. The resulting data are made available to private enterprise.
Dearth of knowledge and lack of experience dictate caution in the initial stages. The Government is of the opinion that we should concentrate upon research work designed to stimulate development of those branches of the industry most likely to yield the maximum results in the minimum of time.
The Australian Fisheries Conference held in 1929, at which the Commonwealth Government and all State Governments were represented, unanimously recommended that investigation work be undertaken by the Commonwealth Government. The steps which are now being taken are designed to implement that recommendation.
The sum of £20,000 has been provided on the Estimates for 1933-34 with the express objects of -
The reason for concentrating upon the pelagic, or surface-swimming, fish is that in other countries those fish are economically of greater importance than demersal, or bottom-dwelling, fish, and provide the basis of important fish meal, fish oil, and canned fish industries. There is considerable evidence of a general nature that suitable pelagic fish abound in our waters, such as pilchards, sprats, barracoota, anchovies, &c.
The Government feels that if the byproducts industries referred to could be developed in Australia side by side with the fresh fish industry, some substantial expansion of the latter industry would be likely to occur. A normal catch comprises probably upwards of 60 per cent, of inedible fish, including fish offal. If this material which, is now wasted could be put to profitable use in establishing by-products industries, the price of fresh fish should be cheapened, thereby establishing a more capacious market.
Tlie advantages likely to accrue to Australia from the extensive use of fish meal as a supplementary food for poultry, pigs, and milking cows have not. been overlooked. The meal is rich in proteins and experience in other countries has shown that ir,s use greatly advantages the i industries mentioned.
The prospects of developing au export trade in. fish meal, fish oil and smoked and canned fish, have also been noted. Those prospects, added to the advantages likely to accrue to the Australian producer and consumer by an expansion of the home market, are the factors underlying the policy now enunciated.
The proposals of the Government are intended to assist, the inshore fishermen as well as the deep sea fishermen. Such matters as the curing and preservation of fish, and the wider and better distribution, of catches are of particular interest to both sections of the industry.
The Government feels that private capital is available and ready to play its part in the development of the fisheries industry, but the information available regarding our fish, particularly our pelagic fish, is not at present sufficient to justify substantial capital investment. With the testing of our resources and the publication of results, it is likely, too, that oversea capital will be attracted by the industry.
The carrying out of the programme of development has been entrusted to the Commonwealth Director of Development, who will obtain the advice and services of such expert officers as are necessary and will consult with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the industry, and with other organisations and interests where such consultation is deemed desirable.
I cordially commend the item to honorable members.
.- I am very glad that the Government has submitted this- proposal. As the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) has said, this is quite a new item and at such a. time as this new items of expenditure need the most careful scrutiny; but as this money is to be voted for the purpose of scientifically investigating the possibilities of the fishing industry along the coasts of Australia, I venture to say that it will meet with the approval of the committee. Two years ago, I made an appeal, for consideration to be given to the fishing industry of Australia in accordance with the report presented on the subject by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I am quite satisfied that, if the Government wouLd proceed along the lines recommended in that report and also along the lines that I. suggested, at that time, it should be possible to establish the Australian fishing industry on a basis which would enable it, ultimately, to compare to the Canadian fishing industry. We have in the waters surrounding the Australian coast an incalculable supply of fish suitable for marketing if properly processed. During the last eighteen months, there has been perfected in Sydney a process which permits such fish as garfish, flathead and even mullet, to be marketed in such a way as to be indistinguishable, when served up, from freshly cooked fish. When one considers the difficulty of obtaining fresh fish in the interior of Australia, the possibilities of building up a big market within the continent immediately becomes apparent, to say nothing of the possibilities of establishing an export trade. Normally our imports of fish are in the neighbourhood of £1,500,000 per annum. There is undoubtedly a great harvest of the sea to be gathered from Australian waters if the work is undertaken in the right way. I am glad that the Government is taking this initial step to establish the industry on a proper basis.
.- Like the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), I am glad that the Government intends to make this sum of money available for the purchase of a vessel to develop the fishing industry of Australia. Honorable members generally must agree that we have been negligent in this matter. This is one of few industries which could provide ample scope for the absorption of men and money. The fishing industry gives employment to 1,500,000 people in Japan, nearly 90,000 in Canada, and 65,000 in Scotland. Undoubtedly, the industry offers tremendous possibilities in Australia. I hope that no action on the part of the development branch of the Prime Minister’s Department will retard the progress of this important industry. A great deal of propaganda has been indulged in by the press in recent years with the object of showing that there is a shortage of fish on the Australian coast. Certain newspapers have helped those engaged in the trawling industry in Sydney and elsewhere, who are desirous of discouraging competition, to create a false impression in the minds of the people of Australia in this connexion. There is no shortage of fish on the Australian wast and I take this opportunity to challenge the statement of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) that there is a dearth of knowledge in respect to our fisheries. Men who have been employed for a number of years in the fisheries departments in the various States have a thorough knowledge of this subject, and I know of two men in particular who have, an authoritative knowledge of our resources. I should like to know from the Minister whether it is proposed to purchase this vessel from overseas, whether the Govern ment has in mind a suitable vessel in Australian waters, or whether it is proposed to build one locally. This committee is entitled to know how the money is to be expended.
– The question of exploiting our fishing resources was brought under my notice some time back by a gentleman who was appointed by the Government of New South Wales to wind-up the trawling industry of that State, which of course, was not the success that the Government anticipated it would be. I made representations on this gentleman’s behalf to the Minister for Development, with reference to a loan to enable a company to be formed to exploit this particular industry. I was in consultation with the Minister for a considerable time and it may interest honorable members to know the nature of the scheme submitted to him. The gentleman in question is a man of repute, having had control of the Alaska Canning Fleet, and having a full and uptodate knowledge of modern methods of handling the fishing industry. He submitted a plan which I thought would appeal to the authorities concerned. He mentioned one or two vessels which were lying idle in Sydney Harbour as being excellent craft for the establishment of what is called a mother ship. The purchase price was reasonable and although certain encouragement was held out by the department, eventually the option ‘lapsed and the vessels were sold to the Japanese. The scheme was to establish a mother ship on which both edible and non-edible fish would be treated. The edible fish would be subjected to the necessary preparations, and be canned and boxed on the vessel ready for marketing on arrival at port. The non-edible fish would be treated for fish meal, fish oil, and fertilizer. The scheme appeared to be an excellent one. The suggestion was made that the proposed company would, free of charge, fit out a laboratory on board the vessel and give every facility to the department and its officers to make the necessary investigations and researches in connexion with the fishing industry, and, in addition., to chart, free of charge, the ocean bed and supply data to the Minister for Development; in short, to carry out the whole of the research work which the Government now proposes to carry out by means of a new vessel. The gentleman in question has excellent credentials and carries a master’s certificate, and with his knowledge of modern methods would undoubtedly, have made a success of the industry. He pointed out that a departmental vessel carrying out research work would not be so successful as a vessel controlled by private enterprise, because the latter would be forced to scour the ocean for suitable fishing grounds on a, practical commercial basis, which, when located, would necessarily be placed on record for departmental uses, while a research vessel under governmental control would be more concerned with the theoretical side of research. Of course, I realize the benefit that this proposal, when given effect, will be to the fishing industry, particularly in view of the immensity of the imports of fish to the eastern countries, and the ready market obtainable there. I was particularly interested in a series of photographs of our northern waters, which are teeming with whitebait, sardines, and other surface fish referred to by the Minister. The suggestion of the gentleman to whom I referred, in dealing with surface fish of these kinds, was to release from the mother ship a fleet of smaller craft with surface nets for catching the fish; and I feel sure that had the Minister given more careful consideration to the suggestion, he would have accepted it and rendered this proposed expenditure unnecessary. There is no doubt that our fishing grounds require greater development, and I commend the Government for the _help it proposes to give to private enterprise in prosecuting these researches.
– I listened carefully to the statement of the Minister, but honorable members will agree that it is difficult to remember its details, other than the fact that the Government proposes to place at the disposal of the Department of Interior a sum of money for certain purposes. I agree with the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) that we require further information regarding the intention of the department. The statement of the Minister was rather ambiguous. He said that the Government proposed to do this and that but stated nothing definite. We do riot know whether it is intended to procure a vessel from overseas, to puichase a vessel already in Australian waters, or to have one built locally. Surely we are entitled to have that information. It is proposed, I understand, to engage in research work in order to locate better fishing grounds which, when located, are to be handed over to private enterprise. A sum of money is also to be set aside for the purpose of developing the canning side of the industry, and I suppose that, when all the facts are known, that industry will also be handed over to some f avoured individuals who have the ear of the Cabinet. This Government has a strange tendency to spend public money for the benefit of a few favoured persons who are always referred _ to as “ private enterprise “. Honorable members who have spoken, have said that this industry will be of considerable benefit to Australia and that the Government is making a wonderful effort to establish it on a profitable basis ; but it is strange that so soon as there is a chance of making a profit from industry this Government hands it over to private enterprise. No doubt, this canning industry, when it has been established, will be handed over to private enterprise, which will immediately take the opportunity to exploit the public by charging exorbitant prices. If a Labour government were to put forward such a proposal, no doubt honorable members who are now on the Government side would impute -to it the worst of motives and be loud in their condemnation of Labour supporters. I have no doubt that it is desirable to develop the fishing industry, but I am absolutely opposed to the money of taxpayers being used in order to give private enterprise an opportunity to exploit them. I should like to know what company the Government proposes to subsidize in order to exploit the fishing industry. I am reminded of the handing over of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard to private enterprise, and the proposed transfer of the Northern Territory to a chartered company, and I hope that, before this subject is disposed of, the Minister will supply us with additional facts. As the debate proceeds, the party to which I belong will decide ite attitude towards this proposed expenditure.
– The remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) have unsettled me a little, because I was under the impression that this money was to be used solely for the purpose of research, and I had intended to confine myself to some observations upon that subject. The honorable member, however, has opened up a wider and more inviting field.
– So has the statement of the Minister.
– The expenditure is for research work only.
– What precisely is it intended to inquire into? The habits, the customs and the mannerisms, if any, of fish; their habitats and their edibility? I was certainly under the impression that most of those matters had been for some time the subject of animated inquiry. Indeed, I was brought up in the firm and unshakeable belief that the waters of Australia were teeming with fish. They are, unhappily, not always procurable, but that, surely, is not a question to be determined by research. Might I inquire whether this research is to be confined to determining the locale of the fish, or their numbers, or whether it is to be devoted, as the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has suggested, to the processing and marketing of fish? The Minister has mentioned two byproducts - fish meal and fish oil. I do not know whether there are any others.
– They are the two main by-products.
– I understand that there is no difficulty whatever in obtaining fish oil and fish meal. The process is simple. The raw material is the offal. Recently. there has been some kind of industrial disturbance in the fish market, and this has, for the time being, deprived potential processers of raw material; but. beyond that, I am not aware that there is any problem to be solved.
I am all for research, and I welcome, as other honorable members do, the enthusiasm of the Government in this regard. But I have been chastened by experience, and when we remember the number of committees that have inquired into the potentialities of industrial enterprises of this country, and the very meagre, almost pitiful, results that have followed, we may be pardoned for being a little doubtful whether, in these hard times, such a venture is entirely laudable. In my opinion, the fishing industry would probably progress much more rapidly if it had some sort of financial inducement offered to it by way of a subsidy. It is well known by fishermen that bait is the essence of the contract. I can speak with some experience of this matter. During the war, when industry had reached a stage of unheard of perfection in a very limited time, the fish processing industry was started in Australia. In fact, it reached the point when it became commercially profitable, or was just about to do so. I have at times had discussions involving differences of opinion with honorable members from Tasmania, and, by way of making some kind of apology for anything I may have said regarding them, I now make it known that this fish industry was located in Tasmania. The enterprise was under the control of a most enterprising Tasmanian. It progressed so far that the goods had been processed, and put up in tins of the most alluring kind, on which a salmon was depicted in the very act of leaping out of the limpid waters of a purling brook. Just at the point when the profits were beginning to pour in, a vigilant health officer crossed the track of the enterprise and, opening one of the tins, found that it contained, not salmon, but a jewfish, or part thereof which, having resorted to the use of cochineal, had dyed itself red, and become a kind of piscatorial recruit to the Soviet. That was the end of the industry. I trust that honorable members will not take my remarks too much to heart. I merely point out that this industry was within an ace of establishing itself successfully, and it was never suggested that any one was being injured by the gentle deception. On the contrary, the contents of the tin were most wholesome, and the enterprising man in charge offered, in front of me, to eat the fish. I have no serious objection to the present proposal. Indeed, I welcome it as an outward and visible sign of grace working within the Minister, but I cannot help thinking that he could spend the money to better advantage in other directions.
.- Like some other honorable members I wonder whether the Government’s proposal represents the best means for assisting the fishing industry in Australia. Some years ago, the Commonwealth Government purchased a trawler for the purpose of surveying the fishing resources of the Commonwealth. It was called the Endeavour, and was placed in charge of Captain Dannevig. Investigations were continued until, unfortunately, the vessel was lost with all hands: There is still in possession of the Government a number of volumes containing information regarding the fishing industry collected at this time, which should be of great assistance if it were turned up and studied. It has been said that the waters of Australia, with its 10,000 miles of coastline, ranging from the tropical north to the ice-cold seas of Tasmania, contain almost every imaginable kind of edible fish. The continental shelf in the Great Australian Bight is probably one of the best fishing grounds in Australia, and its resources have not been touched^ I have had many requests for information regarding the possibilities of fishing enterprises in the tropical waters of Australia. Shark fishing could be made a most profitable industry, but the trouble has been to find a suitable market for the skin anc flesh. At many places round our coast, from Port Stephens to Shark Bay in Western Australia, the enterprise could be carried on successfully, and a market exists for its products in the Malay Peninsula and in China. So far, however, the Department of Commerce has not been able to induce any one to undertake the business of marketing the skin and flesh overseas. I suggest that the money which it is proposed to spend in developing the fishing industry should be made available as a . bonus to any company which would undertake this work. Green turtles are to be found in unlimited quantities on the islands of the tropical waters of Australia, and a profitable industry might be built up in connexion with them.
.- I have noticed that many honorable members are ready to embark on this expedition without waiting to inquire where it is likely to land us. The proposal is that we approve of the expenditure of £15,000 for the purchase of a ship, but the expenditure is not going to end there. It is not sufficient merely to purchase a vessel; it must be equipped, a crew must be engaged and paid, and the vessel must be kept in commission. Probably, it will have to be maintained for a number of years, so that the expenditure will be continuing, and perhaps increasing. Our experience of governments in association with fishing, does not encourage us to undertake this work. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) referred to an earlier unfortunate experiment of the Commonwealth Government in this direction. The State of New South Wales has engaged in the fishing industry, and its present Government is now, I think, winding up the enterprise. Queensland and Western Australia have engaged in similar experiments, but the result has always been merely to add a further considerable amount to the public debt without any appreciable benefit being obtained. I thought that by now we should have had enough -of these little ventures into socialism. The Bruce-Page Government set up a department charged with the duty of promoting industrial development.
– Does the honorable member describe as socialism what various governments have done in the way of assisting the fishing industry?
– It is just dipping into socialism.
– Very lightly, however.
– Perhaps, but very expensively, too. It has been said that a great market is awaiting us in certain Asiatic countries for our fish and fish products. I cannot imagine that we shall ever be able -to carry on a profitable trade selling fish to coloured people. One of our great difficulties in regard to the fishing industry is that Australians do not care to do the unpleasant work which fishing entails. Most of the fishing in Australia is done by Sicilians, or natives of the Adriatic coast.
– It should be left to good Australians.
– So far, good Australians have not made a great success of the fishing industry.
– That is not so.
– It has been pointed out to-night that, they do not supply the Australian market. It is a fact that those who are principally engaged in catching fish are not Australians, but foreigners. I do not anticipate any better results from this scheme under government control than have attended previous similar ventures. There is also another feature that has to be considered. It is one of our complaints that, although we produce an abundance of food, we cannot find markets for it. Yet here it is proposed to engage in a most doubtful experiment for the purpose of adding to our production of food ! The committee is asked to agree to the item on very scanty information. I believe that a report was obtained upon the subject before the item was included in the Estimates. That ought to have been made available to us, so that we might see what is meant by “ experiment and research “. Does it simply mean research into existing literature upon the subject, or is it proposed to go into the business thoroughly? The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) informed the committee that research would be conducted into the canning branch of the industry. In order to do that, the Government would need to have a factory, and to employ experts in the business. There could be no half measures; the business would have to be thoroughly gone into, and that would involve very considerable expense. Already there are canneries in existence. The business is much more likely to be carried on profitably by a private person or a. company than by the Government. I protest against this policy of embarking upon experiments. Whenever a new Minister assumes control of the Department of the Interior it seems to be his desire to leave a monument behind him. In this case I fear that, like previous monuments, this will be a monument of debt.
– The remarks of some honorable members would lead the committee to believe that the Government intends to engage in the business of fish ing.Nothing is further from the thoughtsof the Government. It has not the slightest intention of setting up a fisheries department.
– That statement has not been made from this side of the chamber.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) made it.
– I did not.
– The honorable member said that this was a deliberate attempt by the Government to place the fishing industry on a sound footing, and then hand it over to its friends.
– I agree that I said that.
– That is entirely wrong. Honorable members have stated that the coast of Australia teems with fish. That belief is generally held in the community. I venture to affirm, however, that there is not a single individual from one end of Australia to the other who knows the first thing about the habits of the fish on the Australian coast.From the investigations that have so far been made I can say that inquiries regarding pelagic fish have never yet been conducted in this country. Years ago the Endeavour was sent out on an expedition to gain information concerning deep-sea fish, the object being to make the results available to any one who cared to avail himself of them, but, unfortunately, she was sunk in 1914 and a great proportion pf the records were lost. There are now practically no records in this country concerning pelagic fish. The proposal before the committee is made with the express purpose of having inquiries conducted into the habits, breeding grounds, peregrinations, and habitat of pelagic fish. When the information has been procured, it is intended to make it available to the public at large. On numerous occasions surface-swimming fish have been seen in shoals by travellers round the Australian coast. No one knows whence they come, where they go, or the time of the year in which they visit our shores. By testing the fields and studying the habits of the fish, the Government hopes to obtain the desired information. I think every honorable member will admit that fish is a most useful and necessary diet in this country. The health of our people would be much better conserved if they ate fish that had been freshly caught off our own coasts instead of that which is imported in tins, but at the present time it is altogether too dear for the average individual to purchase. I regret the statement of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that it is the intention of the Government merely to help its friends. The information obtained will be available to any of his friends who desire to be furnished with it. The Government has no intention of spending a penny piece in establishing canneries or pickling factories, or even in catching fish for the retail market ; that is to be left to private enterprise. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research deserves commendation for the thorough investigations it has so far made. Those investigations have enabled the Government to submit this proposal to the committee. The amount provided on. the Estimates is small, but it may expand. It is not the amount which is spent, but what it returns, that matters. If the expenditure of £15,000 returns many millions in the future, it will be a cheap pri.ee to have paid.
.- I arn not at all perturbed at the suggestion that the Government might enter the fields of socialism in this venture; but I am concerned at the thought that, while prating so much about what private enterprise does for this country, it proposes to incur vast expenditure in the pioneering of something that will be handed over to private enterprise, which will exploit it for profit. The Estimates provide for the expenditure of £15,000 in the purchase of a vessel to be utilized in the development of the fisheries industry. That, however, will be merely the beginning of the expenditure. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) has already pointed out that the idea underlying the building of this vessel is to engage in research work in the fishing industry. That research will cover, not only the determination of suitable fishing grounds, but also the preserving of fish and the use of by-products for fertilizers. It is obvious, then, that the expenditure must be increased. I could find some reason for this expendi ture if the Government itself intended to exploit the industry; but as* it merely proposes to pioneer the way at great expense and then hand over to private enterprise the knowledge it has gained - and, if it runs true to form, it will hand over the whole of the equipment- I protest against the project. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) suggested that. the Government should give private enterprise a cash subsidy to exploit our fisheries. Is not this the equivalent of a cash subsidy? If it is the intention to assist private enterprise, this is a more effective way of doing so than would be the giving of a cash subsidy. The Minister has suddenly become a convert to the idea that it is urgently necessary to build or procure a trawler for research work. About nine months ago a deputation, representative of the employees at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and of the fishing industry in Sydney, waited upon him in regard to this very matter, but he was not then very much concerned about it. I doubt whether he took that deputation seriously, although he professed to do so. It suggested that if the Government intended to engage in research it .should have had a vessel for that work built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. That, however, did not suit the Minister, because at the time preparations were in train to dump the dockyard, and hand it over to private enterprise. Where is it now proposed to obtain this vessel? In May last, it was rumoured that it was the intention of the Government to purchase a second-hand trawler from Great Britain. A question asked on that subject, by a member of this party, did not elicit either a definite denial or a definite affirmative, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) merely stating that it was not the intention of the Government “ at present,” which left the matter open for future action. The Minister professes tonight. to see wonderful advantages in the expenditure of this money, but he did not appear to be so convinced when he was requested to build the trawler at the Government dockyard. On the question of whose function it is to pioneer, I remind honorable members that on one occasion the New South Wales Government embarked on a scheme of this description.
– There is no similarity between the two.
– That proposal was for the definite purpose of discovering fishing grounds off the coa3t of New South Wales, but it was not a paying concern because the scheme was burdened with an exorbitant rate of interest on the purchase price of the trawlers and other costs of pioneering the project. Nevertheless, the industry was gradually getting on its feet, and those responsible for it were selling fish to the public of Sydney at one-half the price charged by private enterprise. But what happened? Immediately a government of the same political colour as honorable members opposite came into power it sold the State trawlers as a going concern, and immediately after private enterprise secured control of the vessels, the price of fish to the people was doubled. It ‘is well known that existing fishing grounds have been nearly exhausted, but private enterprise declines to undertake the necessary research work for the discovery of now areas. It hopes that the Government will do this work. The trawlers in Sydney were handed over to private enterprise at bargain prices, and have been lying idle for several months. Apparently, this Government intends to do the necessary pioneering work in the discovery of new fishing grounds. I am wondering if it intends to take one of the second-hand, trawlers off the hands of the people who now control them. Private enterprise has had its opportunity. Experience has shown that it will not do the necessary research work, but it rs quite prepared to exploit areas that may be discovered by the Government. We are not concerned about the Government embarking on a socialistic enterprise, or encroaching on the domain of private enterprise; but we suggest that if private enterprise desires to exploit the industry for profit it should foot the bill. This is why we are attacking the Government’s proposal. We have no desire to restrict research in . connexion with the fishing industry, but contend that th« Government should not be regarded by private enterprise as a milch cow ; private enterprise itself should take the risk.
– I am not surprised that some opposition is being shown to the Government’s proposal, but it is astonishing that opposition should come from those honorable members who, one would have thought, would approve of proposals for the relief of unemployment. The Government has no intention to engage in trade in connexion with the fishing industry, but as I pointed out in. my opening remarks, the Government’s concern is to develop this new industry because of the possibility of widening the scope of employment. Practically every other country has done important work in this direction. Australia is about the one exception. In this country we are using about the same amount of fish meal, oil and other byproducts that we were using many years ago. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) referred to the activities of the Government of New ‘South Wales in connexion with the fishing industry some years ago. The work done by that government was entirely different from the present project. It had to do with deep-sea fishing, whereas the proposal now is to carry out research work for the discovery of pelagic or surface-swimming fish with a view to developing our resources in fish meal and other by-products. Considerable quantities of this fish meal are used in nearly all- countries for the feeding of farm animals, and the Government believes that there is wide scope for its development in Australia. To this end we propose to carry out research’ work around the Australian coast to discover what are believed to be important resources which, at present, are left untouched. It is not sufficient merely to know that certain fishes inhabit Australian waters. What is important is to discover their feeding grounds and secure reliable information about their habits, so that this new source of wealth may be fully exploited in the interest of the people of Australia. A private company cannot bc expected to make a comprehensive investigation along the Australian coast. We believe it to. be the duty of the Government to pave the way. We do not intend, as has been suggested, to establish canneries. Already a number of canneries are in operation in this country. A. few weeks ago when, it was reported that thousands of tons of fish were seen along the Gippsland coast, arrangements were made immediately by private enterprise to establish canneries, but as soon as the fish passed on these undertakings came to an end. The desire of the Government is to establish the industry on a firm basis. Its importance from the point of view of the mau on the land is readily understood, so it i3 not surprising that the Government’s proposal should receive the support of members of the Country party. But it is surprising, and somewhat disappointing, that opposition should come from the honorable member for West Sydney, who views the scheme, as he views all proposals by this Government, with suspicion. I assure him that the intention of the Government is, among other things, to provide a wider field of employment for those whom he claims specially to represent.
.- Fish preserving is not a new industry in this country, but its satisfactory development has been retarded largely because of the prejudice of the people against Australian products. We are importing large quantities of tinned fish, which are wrongly labelled sardines. If edible fish in large quantities are likely to be discovered in Australian waters as a result of the Government’s proposal, I shall not oppose it. But I suggest that, before the industry can be placed on a sound basis, the prejudice of the people against Australian products will have to be overcome. I am convinced that we have, in Australian waters, fish much better in quality than some of that which is imported in tins. Fifty years ago I sampled some excellent tinned bream, but because of the prejudice of the people in favour of the imported article the industry languished.
– I share the surprise expressed by the Minister (Mr. Perkins) that opposition to the Government’s proposal should emanate from certain quarters, and particularly from the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). That honorable gentleman and I, with my friend the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), attended a deputation to the Minister for the Interior some months ago to suggest means for the employment of workmen at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. Amongst other things, the deputation suggested that a trawler might be built for the exploration of fishing areas capable of being trawled. It was pointed out by Captain Hales, who, I understand, is an expert on the. subject, that there is need for more detailed information concerning 800,000 square miles of waters around the Australian coast. He added that there was, at present in the possession of the Government, detailed information with respect to only about 10,000 square miles of our coastal waters. The honorable member for West Sydney, like myself, had a good deal to do with the organization of that deputation, and although it would not be fair to charge him with any responsibility for the statement made by Captain Hales, he took no exception to the presence of that gentleman at the deputation. Since then, apparently, the Minister has taken other advice, and the Government has decided to extend its inquiries into the possibility of* exploiting our resources in pelagic or surface- swimming fish. Evidently the Minister is satisfied, and I am. bound to say, from my own short connexion with the proposal, that I also was satisfied, following subsequent conversations with Captain Hales, that there is a vast area of Australian waters which should be explored. Apparently, suspicion has arisen in the mind of the honorable member for West Sydney, that because there are, at the moment, fifteen, or eighteen privately-owned trawlers in Sydney, this information is being obtained solely for the benefit of the owner or owners of those ships. But clearly if useful information of an area of anything like 800,000 square miles, or even 200,000 square miles, of Australian waters should be made known by steps which the Government is now contemplating, there will be room for all the resources of private enterprise. If private enterprise should refrain, from exploiting this marine wealth, there should be scope for any patriotically inclined State Government which is disposed to run the risks that seem to descend like a curse upon government-conducted fishing operations. The objection of the honorable member for West Sydney is not well founded; he might with equal justification say that the public school education system is merely a scheme to provide educated persons for the benefit of capitalists who may employ them. Education is provided with the ultimate object of fitting those concerned for employment, but not necessarily for the benefit of any individual employer; the main purpose is to improve the status of both employers and employees generally.
It is the duty of this Government to obtain the required information regarding the fishing industry. If a private enterprise were to explore an area of 10,000 square miles, regardless of expense, what would prevent myself, the honorable member for West Sydney, or any one else who had invested nothing in the venture, from equipping trawlers and securing full benefit from the information obtained at great expense? Surely the honorable member for West Sydney does not believe that such a thing should be done? Why should these pioneering tasks be relegated to private persons, when the result of the research will be available for exploitation bythe community generally? This is work that would not be directly profitable to any individual, and, therefore, it should be undertaken by the Government.
– This investigation will be like a geological survey.
– Exactly . Who should make a geological survey except the Government, and who should ascertain the whereabouts of our fishing fields except the Government of the country? The information gained will be mapped out and made available to any State, company or person that is interested.
The Minister has set out the position of the Australian fishing industry clearly. I recall that at the deputation which I attended with the honorable member for West Sydney it was pointed out that although the bulk of the Australian population lived on the coast, its average consumption of fish a head was less than a quarter of that of Great Britain, and about half of that of New Zealand.
– Has the 10,000 ascertained square miles of fishing waters been exhausted ?
– We were assured at the deputation that the real reason for the comparative inactivity of the Australian fishing industry is that the known 10,000 square miles has been exhausted and those concerned are incapable of bearing the expense of exploring a further 10,000 square miles, and urge that it is a matter for the Government.
– The information previously obtained relates principallyto deep sea fishing.
– At the time I attended the deputation I was unaware of the difference between deep-sea and surface fishing; I do not claim now to have any technical knowledge of the subject, but I understand that what the honorable gentleman has said is correct.
– Most of the information gained in regard to deep-sea fishing went down with the Endeavour.
– I believe that that is so. If honorable members opposite will consider the immense area which will be made available by this exploratory survey, they will realize the futility of any suggestion that the project will merely provide a happy hunting ground for a specially favored monopoly.
.- The Minister for Health and Repatriation (Mr. Marr) stated that very little is known with regard to this subject. Two reports dealing with the matter have been made by the Development and Migration Commission; one of these supports the Minister’s statement that little is known of the habits of the fish in our waters, but I have in my possession a paper by Mr. A. W. Wood, an ex-director of the New South Wales State Fisheries, who, dealing with fishing in Australian waters, says -
Literature on the subject is prolific, displaying the extent and vastness of our fish wealth, which lies ready for the garnering.
From those early years (1878) - when Sir William Macleay, F.L.S., published the fact that “ there is no sea on the face of the globe, favoured with a more rich or varied supply of fishes of the herring tribe, than that which washes the shores of Australia “ to the year (1913) when the late Harold C. Dannevig. Commonwealth Director of Fisheries, published the statement, after four years intensive investigation of our ocean waters, that he had already located 10,000 square miles of trawlable ground, carrying fish in payable quantities, and within reasonable distance of principal centres, and further, that the results obtained therefrom, by him, compare favorably with the average catches obtained in the North Sea, by commercial vessels of modern type - many works have been published indicating the continuance of these supplies from year to year; and moreover, the richness of the product, in proteins, fats, nitrogen, gelatin and mineral ash, so necessary to the maintenance of good health, in all kingdoms of life.
At page 3 of the same report Mr.Wood refers to the subject that was dealt with by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) as follows: -
Let us visualize in its true commercial light that mighty menace of the deep - the15-foot shark - taking its toll, not only of the vast quantities of surface fishes, but occasionally of human lives.
He supplies us with oil, leather, dried fins, and flesh of great value. If he be of the tiger, whaler or grey-nurse species, his leather from the skin realized last year (1932) 5s. 3d. per square foot; the meal made from his flesh,£1 8s. per cwt. ; the oil from his liver, 3s. per gallon; his dried fins, £407 per ton; or his dried flesh, £25 per ton. Think of it! And we cast him back into the waters dead, after capture, to-day merely a carcass to feed his kind, yet he still is with us in countless thousands around the whole coastline of Australia; and every ton of them is worth £20, and the cost of treating his carcass for all processes about £8 per ton. A ton of mixed sharks will produce 200 lb. of dehydrated meat suitable for export.
He then goes on to deal with the difficulties associated with what is known as surface fishing, and declares -
Turtles, and dugong, trochus and bechedemer offer a wonderful field for exploitation, in addition to sea-weeds - with their rich content of sodium sulphate, potassium chloride and iodine. Some of them also contain as much as 47 per cent. of dry gelatin.
Master Mariner W. L. Kennedy, of Redcliffe, Queensland, has expressed the opinion that Fraser Island waters - from Sandy Cape to Hook Point, will supply all the school shark for meal, oil and skins, needed for many years to come. It is his opinion that there is an inexhaustible supply in these quiet areas. Northwest Islands are frequented by turtles in thousands during the season. The same conditions apply to Wreck, Wilson, and Tryon Islands, whilst Scawfell Island should make a splendid base for the Swain Reef, which is a veritable gold-mine for beche-de-mer and deep-sea fish.
Trawler Skipper Read, of Sydney, has stated that he has seen surfacefish, some nights along the New South Wales coast, from Kiama right past Sydney Heads.
The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) referred to the sardines obtained from Australian waters. Only last week the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) and I had a conversation with a friend of his in Brisbane, who will soon be in Canberra for the purpose of interviewing the Minister on this subject. He, with others, has established a trawling industry on Murray Island. The company sought the technical advice of Mr. Moorhouse, of the Queensland University, as to the possibility of success, and the advice of the chief curing officer ofFoggitt- Jones Limited, upon methods of curing and tinning. The project promises to be successful, but the company requires certain monetary assistance; into the particulars I shall not go, as they will be explained by this gentleman when he comes to Canberra to see the Minister. It is evident that for thousands of miles, from Murray Island to and along the Australian coast, there is an abundance of the very fish that has been declared to be so scarce. I do not claim that all is known with regard to this fish. The Development and Migration Commission reported that very little is known on the subject, and if it were only for the purpose of obtaining further knowledge, I should support the Government’s project. Not so very long ago, I listened with great interest to a lecture that was given at Thursday Island, under the auspices of the Geographical Society by a Mr. Lang, who has made a special study of the fish industry in Australia, and other parts of the world, and I was interested to hear him say that deep sea fishing on the Australian coast would not be profitable except in the southern areas and around the Great Australian Bight, because of the bad bottom that exists in close proximity to our coast. I desire to know precisely the intention of the Government. Does it intend to inquire into those matters which are mentioned in tha following words at page 6 of the report of the Development and Migration Commission ? : -
So little is known of the habits of any of our fishes that no one can say authoritatively what effect the operations of the fishermen are having upon the shoals, or that present methods are not a menace to the very existence of some of the species.
The subject is also dealt with at page 12 of the report as follows: -
No one appears to be in a position to say definitely, of most of our important fishes, why they are plentiful one year and scarce another, where the spawning takes place, what becomes of the fish when at certain seasons’ it is not procurable on the customary fishing grounds, or what conditions encourage or make difficult the existence of fish. No attempt has been made to correlate the migration of the fish on Our coast with the changes of temperature and salinity of the water and the prevalence Of the currents, all of which have been shown in other countries to have a definite influence on the movements of fish.
A little later, on the same page, the reportreads -
An outstanding fact is the general ignorance which prevails of the life histories (the breeding habits, food, migrations, and natural enemies) of our native fishes. In other parts of the world, wherever fishing is recognized as an important industry, much has been done in recent years to improve it by scientific investigation of the habits of the Ash.
Those are some of the existing difficulties. If the Government undertakes this investigation for the purpose of clearing up those matters it will be doing the right thing and the money will be well spent. But if the purpose is that suggested by the honorable member for West Sydney it will have my opposition.
.- I believe that the Development and Migration Department will be greatly disappointed if this scheme does not receive the support of Parliament. In my opinion that department has made a horrible hash of some of its operations.
– That is not so.
– It is. I am not at all satisfied with the manner in which the development branch has handled its affairs. It appears to he totally incapable of formulating any theory except that this investigation should be made, and that the Government should purchase a vessel to cruise around Australia. I have had an opportunity to see the work done in connexion with the fishing industries in other countries, particularly along the coasts of Great Britain and Norway. Australia has 10,000 miles of coastline, and our waters must be teeming with millions of fish, but as research work will probably continue for years, I desire to know how the expenditure of £15,000 to provide a vessel for investigation purposes will help the unemployed. I am not at all enamoured of this proposal.
– The intrusion into the discussion of the Minister for Health (Mr. Marr) has not assisted the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins), because their statements are at variance. The Minister for Health referred to the necessity for providing edible fish, and to the public demand for it, and he indicated that this was the object of the proposed vote; ‘but, when the Minister for the Interior spoke a second time, he said that it was intended to explore an entirely new industry. He explained that the assistance was to be given for the purpose of exploratory research to determine the best grounds for surface fishing and to conduct investigations with a view to the promotion of the canning industry and the treatment of by-products. It was disputed earlier in the discussion that there was any intention whatever to use public funds for the purpose of research work in connexion with the canning side of the industry. If the exact statement made on the matter by the Minister were available for our perusal, and we had not to rely on our recollection of what was said, I am sure that my contention would be. supported. The claim of those who wish it to appear that the expenditure is intended for survey purposes alone is not borne out by the Minister’s second statement. It seems to me that the Minister for Health has not heard the matter discussed in Cabinet, and probably fewother Ministers know anything about it. Probably a statement was prepared by departmental officers and handed to the Minister for the Interior, who is trying to do his best under awkward circumstances. I object strongly to the suggestion that, simply because the members of my party criticize certain actions of the Government, we are not acting in the interests of the unemployed. As the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) remarked, the statement that the expenditure of this small amount is calculated to assist the unemployed is ridiculous. The circumstances of the deputation that waited on the Minister some months ago were entirely different from what the honorable -member for Martin (Mr. Holman) tried to convey to-night: The purpose of that deputation was to provide employment for the men engaged at Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
– Did I not say that?
– The honorable member tried to bolster up the present proposal of the Government by referring to the deputation. The main object of the deputation was to assist the workers at Cockatoo Island; but the Minister showed no enthusiasm for the unemployed on that occasion. It is true that he listened to the request, and replied courteously; but, as is our common experience, we heard no more about the request, and it did not result in providing employment for the workers at Cockatoo Island. It is strange that so much stress is now laid on the possibility of providing employment, although that aspect was not regarded by the Minister as vital at the deputation. It was said on that occasion that the workers at Cockatoo Island could be usefullyemployed in the construction of a trawler, yet the Minister has not yet told us from what source the trawler for this work is to be obtained.
– Itis not intended to provide a trawler; a special boat is required, and the Government has not yet decided from what source the vessel is to be obtained.
-We are at least entitled to have that information. Is a new vessel to be built, and will employment be given thereby, as was urged at the deputation in May last?
– We have not reached a decision on that matter.
– The Government expects the committee to vote this money, and it does not care what happens afterwards. If it merely wishes authority to incur this expenditure without disclosing any information for the guidance of honorable members, then this discussion is a farce. Ministers are obliged to disclose that it is proposed to spend £15,000, but they are not prepared to say how it is to be spent, or who will benefit from the expenditure. It is hardly fair to treat honorable members in that way.
The members of my party are opposed to government funds being used for the purpose of bolstering up private enterprise. Government supporters have said a good deal about the necessity to look to private enterprise for the absorption of the unemployed, but when it comes to a test, the Government is most anxious to use public funds for the purpose of pioneering the way for private enterprise. If this scheme will open up avenues of employment, as has been suggested, let public funds be expended upon it, but let the profits derived from the work go back into the public purse, rather than into the pockets of private enterprise. Despite the suggestion that I have a suspicious nature, I have sufficient evidence to show that this Government is always out to help its political friends. One might instance the sale of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong, and the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers and the leasing of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. Conclusive evidence is available to show that this Government has a curious way of helping its friends under the pretence that it is assisting private enterprise to provide employment.
This committee is entitled to know more than the Minister has told it tonight. If, unfortunately, he has not been fortified with the full facts of the case, it is only right that he should have an opportunity to obtain complete particulars. No doubt the officers who prepared his statement are available. He should explain to what extent research into the canning branch of the industry is to be conducted, and how much of the £15,000 is to be spent in that way. Is it the purpose of the Government, after having found fishing grounds, only to hand them over to private enterprise ? What arrangements have been made for private enterprise to exploit the newlydiscovered grounds? The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) has said that there is no guarantee that the persons interested in fishing operations on a large scale would be ready to do that. In that event no new employment would have been provided, and it would be necessary to continue the research indefinitely. So this proposal offers little hope to the unemployed.
– The question at issue is whether we, as Australians, are sufficiently interested in our own continent to be prepared to authorize scientific research into the possibilities of industrial development. Investigation of the fishery resources of Australia is merely part of the research work that it is necessary for us to carry out. We cannot expect other countries to take up this work on our behalf. Research is essential in every field of industry. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has rendered most valuable services in the investigation of animal and plant diseases, and other Commonwealth authorities have undertaken geological and astronomical research. If we are to prove worthy of our trust as the inhabitants of this continent, we must be prepared to undertake scientific investigations of many kinds. It is suggested that if the Government is successful in opening up rich fisheries, we ought to make it a condition that private enterprise should return to the Commonwealth the cost of the preliminary scientific research; but that principle has not been applied in connexion with past successful investigations. I have in mind, for instance, the valuable experiments made in connexion With wheat production, beginning withFarrar’s work. It is quite impracticable to suggest that those who benefit from scientific investigations carried out by the Government, must contribute to their cost. The value of the experiments made by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research is so great that the benefits derived have been worth many times the total sum expended. If the proposed expenditure on an investigation of the fishing industry results in the opening up. of valuable food supplies, it will have been fully justified. In 1907, the Government of the day resolved to investigate the possibilities of fishery development in Australian waters.The SS. Endeavour was subsequently obtained, and Captain Dannevig was appointed director. His death was a calamity to Australia, and I understand that when the vessel went down some of the valuable records were lost. The immediate scope for investigation made was to be - (i)By various means of capture to ascertain what marketable foodfishes may be found in ocean waters adjacent to Australia,
Those in control of the Endeavour carried out useful exploratory work, and after investigating the eastern shelf of. the coast of Australia, consisting of trawling grounds covering an area of approximately 6,000 square miles, continued their investigations in the Great Australian Bight, estimated to cover an area of 4,000 square miles of trawling grounds. These two areas make the total of . 10,000 square miles referred to by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman). The results thus obtained have been of great advantage to the Commonwealth, and disclosed a wonderful potential source of wealth. Unfortunately, when the Endeavour was lost on her 99th cruise inNovember, 1914, the work ceased. The nation’s activities were then, concentrated upon theGreat War, and scientific work in connexion with fishing and in other directions came to an end. Since that time practically nothing has been done in connexion with our great marine resources; but the Government is now making an. earnest attempt to continue the activities which were interrupted and which have already proved of great benefit to Australia. The proposed vote of £15,000 is comparatively small ; but I understand that there is another item of £5,000 to cover certain developmental work.
– How much will the proposed investigation cost?
– Approximately £20,000 this year.
– I understand that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will be in control of the investigation, and doubtless advice will he obtained from experts associated with that department, and the money voted usefully spent. This vote has been submitted, not with the object of giving financial assistance to some particular individual or group of individuals, but to obtain scientific information which may lead to the development of an important industry.
– From whom does the Government propose to ‘purchase the vessel ?
– That does not matter provided the transaction is honest and open. Doubtless the best vessel available will be secured. I trust that honorable members opposite will support the vote and allow the work, which unfortunately was interrupted in 1914, to be continued.
.- I would not have risen again but for the misleading remarks of the Minister for Health and Repatriation (Mr. Marr). I do not suggest that he deliberately attempted to mislead the committee, but I am sure that he is not aware of what the Government intends to do. In an tinguarded moment he said that all the information obtained by the experts on the Endeavour went down with the vessel when it was lost. In the Parliamentary Library there are five volumes dealing with the results of the investigations made by the officers on that vessel.
– There is no reference in those volumes to pelagic fishing.
– There is sufficient on the subject to engage the attention of the Minister for the remainder of his life. It is unfair to suggest that all the information obtained “by the experts on the Endeavour was lost. I do not know whether the officers of the department are aware that these volumes are in existence, and if they are not I suggest that they be placed at their disposal.
– I can only repeat what I have previously said that most of the records obtained by the scientific staff on the Endeavour were lost when that vessel foundered in 1914. It is true that there are in the Library five volumes covering the investigations carried out by the Endeavour, but those volumes deal only with deep-sea fishing, in which we are not interested at the moment. The object of the Government is to facilitate investigation of surface fishing, on which very little information is available. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) said that I contradicted the remarks of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins).
– The Minister for the Interior contradicted the Minister.
– I said that the money was required to conduct an investigation into potential fishing waters, and the Minister for the Interior referred to the possibilities of the canned fish industry. The Government proposes to make a vessel available to carry out investigations, the result of which will be available to those who desire to engage in the canning industry.
– Is the Government going into the canning business?
– The Government is anxious to be in possession of .information which may be useful to those who wish to engage in the canning business. The whole matter will be determined by experts. As mentioned by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) thousands of pounds are spent annually in conducting marine surveys around the Australian coast, but the honorable member for. West Sydney would not suggest that money used in that way is spent for the benefit of our political friends. One honorable member said that the Australian fishing industry is practically controlled by foreigners, but there are very few foreigners engaged in fishing on our coast. Many who derive a livelihood in this way are returned soldiers. As to the allegation that Ministers know little of this proposal, my reply is that the matter was discussed by Cabinet for at least two days. I sincerely trust that the committee will agree to the proposed vote. The money will be used by the Department of the Interior to purchase a vessel on behalf of the Prime Minister’s Department, and the £5,000 provided in another item will meet administrative expenses for the present financial year.
– Is the amount to be expended on the purchase of an entirely new vessel ?
– No suitable vessel is available in Australia.
– Is it proposed to purchase a vessel overseas?
– Cabinet has not yet discussed that aspect of the matter. The Government is asking Parliament to sanction the expenditure of £15,000, and
I aru sure that honorable members generally would be delighted if the construction of a suitable vessel could be undertaken in Australia. It is proposed to call for tenders for a vessel equipped with the necessary scientific appliances, including persine nets. . Persine fishing has never been, undertaken in Australia. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) read a statement published by some one acquainted with the conditions on the Queensland coast, that certain exploratory work was undertaken 50 years ago. He also quoted from a report of the Development and Migration Commission to the effect that nothing in this direction has been done in Australia. His two quotations were contradictory. The information to be obtained is not for the benefit of the Government, but will be available to every one who wishes to engage in the business.
.- Information in connexion with this item is being obtained in a piecemeal manner. When this matter was first raised I asked whether it was proposed to purchase a new or a second-hand vessel locally or overseas, and the Minister, instead of giving the information, concentrated his attention on the point raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). The Minister (Mr. Marr) now says that. the Government proposes to invite tenders, and that Cabinet discussed the matter for two days. I cannot imagine the Cabinet being engaged in this matter for that time without receiving some recommendation from experts in the development branch of the Prime Minister’s Department as to whether £15,000 will be adequate, whether a suitable vessel is available locally, or whether one must be obtained overseas. The Minister should state quite frankly if this money is to be spent in Australia or overseas. If a vessel is purchased overseas, and repairs or alterations have to be undertaken, that work should be done in Australia. The Minister should give the committee further information before this vote is agreed to.
– The principal concern of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) appears to be as to whether the vessel required to carry out certain research work is to be built in Australia or overseas. The honorable member claims that it is the policy of those with whom he is associated to provide employment for Australian workmen wherever possible. That is also the desire of honorable members on this side of the chamber. If the honorable member had stated a case for the building of this vessel in Australia, instead of accusing the Government of making money available with the object of assisting its supporters, his claims would have received greater consideration from the committee. He does not object to thousands of pounds being expended on experiments regarding the possibility of commercially extracting oil from coal, as suggested by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), but objects to the research work necessary for the recording of data essential to the development of the fishing industry. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) referred to the expenditure incurred in scientific research work for the benefit of those engaged in the agricultural and mining industries. The Government is now proposing, by scientific research, to assist in developing our natural fisheries. As a result of research undertaken by the Alaska Canning Corporation, huge canneries, providing work for thousands of persons, have been established. Those controlling that industry are able to determine the movements of the fish and the most suitable time for fishing. The same can be said of the herring industry on the coast of Great Britain. Trawlers do not go out in a haphazard fashion ; those engaged in the industry know almost tothe minute when the fish commence torun and the proper time at which to engage in fishing operations. This knowledge can only be acquired as a result of research work. Huge quantities of edible fish are available in our tropical and sub-tropical waters, and it is the duty of the Government to show how fishingcan be undertaken profitably.
.- I do not intend to allow to pass unchallenged the attempts of honorablemembers opposite to misrepresent my colleagues and myself. We certainly favour the Government undertaking research work in connexion with the extraction of oil from coal; but we do not believe that that information or the industry itself should then be handed over to private enterprise for it to reap the benefit. There is nothing illogical’ in our attitude. The Government of New South Wales has already given to private enterprise the opportunity which this Government now proposes to give to it. The Minister in charge of Repatriation (Mr. Marr) said that only certain classes of exploration work would be undertaken ; but the Minister in charge of this bill (Mr. Perkins) said that investigations would be undertaken, not only in relation to the. location of fishing grounds, but also in regard to the preservation of fish and the use of the by-products for fertilizers. We should like to know whether this £15,000 and the other £5,000 will be all the expenditure to which the Commonwealth will be committed in this connexion. We differ from honorable members opposite in that we would undertake this research work in order to build up a State enterprise foi- the benefit of the people who would pay for the investigation, whereas they would have the people pay the cost in order to benefit one sect-ion of private enterprise. Our attitude is the same in connexion with the extraction of oil from coal. We would not use public money to explore the possibilities of this industry and then hand the information over to private enterprise for it to reap the benefit. Honorable members opposite would have us believe that private enterprise is the backbone of this country; yet there are not lacking instances of private enterprise waiting for the way to be made easy for them by Government enterprise. That has already been the case in New South Wales in connexion with the fishing industry, and we object to further public money being expended by the Commonwealth Government to benefit private enterprise. If the Government would say where the vessel for this undertaking is to be purchased, the eyes of some of its supporters would be opened.
– I owe an apology to the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) for having overlooked his inquiry as to where this vessel will be constructed. That is a matter which the Government has not yet decided. The vessel required is different from anything which has yet been built in Australia, but that does not necessarily mean that the vessel will not be constructed here. The Government desires that it shall be obtained in Australia if possible, and already it has instituted inquiries with a view to ascertaining whether a suitable vessel can be made locally. Inquiries are also being ‘made in Great Britain and Canada. The Government’s only desire is to obtain the best vessel for the service required. It has sought the advice of experts and now has some idea, of the cost of a suitable vessel. It therefore asks Parliament to vote the sum of £15,000.
– If the Government has obtained this information from overseas, there i3 little chance of the work being done in Australia.
– The Government will purchase a locally built vessel if a suitable one can be built here. One inducement to have the vessel built in Australia is the obligation resting on the Government to provide a certain amount of work for the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. The authorities there have been asked to submit a price for a new vessel. It would scarcely be fair to the project to use a secondhand vessel. So far, Australia has hardly touched the industry of supplying artificial fish food for animals. The chief motive underlying the Government’s proposal is the development of industry so that work may be found for our people. In other countries large sums of money are being invested in this industry. As the honorable member for Herbert (Mi-. Martens) said, Australian waters abound in fish; and all that the Government is attempting to do is to study their habits with a view to establishing this industry on a sound basis.
.- I congratulate the Government upon this move. I was the Minister for Agriculture in the New South Wales Government when Professor Schmidt came to Australia on behalf of the Danish Government. He spent some time along the New South Wales coast and conferred with the officers of the Department of Agriculture and of the Chief Secretary’s Department, which controls fisheries in that State, and as a result of his investigations he was able to convince those who had the opportunity of visiting his survey ship, The Dana, of the possibilities of the fishing industry. I was amazed at the amount of valuable information that he had gathered which was not known to the people of the Commonwealth. The fishing industry has. proved of tremendous value to other countries. That much of our effort is wasted because of our lack of scientific knowledge of the habits of the fish in our local waters was made clear to the then Premier of New South Wales and myself by this Danish scientist after he had spent only a brief period in investigating the waters along the New South Wales coast. If we obtain scientific knowledge and make it available to the people who are anxious to engage in this industry, the Commonwealth as a whole should reap a substantial benefit.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Treasure.
Proposed vote, £10,500.
– I should like some information about the items mentioned in this proposed vote.
. - In order to save the time of the committee, I do not propose to discuss the items in these Estimates unless a request is made for information. Of the amount of £3,700 mentioned under Division 2, £3,200 is required for the purpose of purchasing an additional perfecting machine for the letter-press machinery at the Government Printing Office, Canberra. At present, only one machine of this type is installed and it is being worked to full capacity. The new departments that have been transferred to Canberra, particularly the Patents Department, and also the prospective transfer of other departments, make it absolutely necessary to install an additional machine of this class to cope with the publications which the printing office will be called upon to print. The machine proposed to be installed is o’f British manufacture. The other £500 of the £3,700 is the” estimated cost of removing the various fixtures from the present printing office and re-erecting them in the new building now in course of construction. This amount also provides for new fixtures, such as partitions and racks for the storing of paper. The work will be carried out by the Government Printing Office. The amount of £6,800 mentioned in Division 3, which makes up the complete proposed vote of £10,500, is required’ to complete the additions and alterations that are now being made at the printing office.
– For some time past, the staffs in the government printing offices in the State capitals have been considerably agitated by the transference of work from those offices to Canberra. It is well known that, for many years, the Government Printing Office in Melbourne was the head-quarters for all federal printing and especially for the printing of Arbitration Court awards and the like. A good deal of this work has now been taken away from the Melbourne office, with the result that the staff has been disorganised to a great extent. Much of the machinery in the Government Printing Office in Melbourne is now being operated at only half its capacity. I should like to know whether this Government has consulted with the authorities in Melbourne, with the object of transferring some of the machinery and displaced staff from Melbourne to Canberra. I have been asked on several occasions to see whether arrangements could be made for members of the Melbourne Government Printing Office staff to be “employed at Canberra, if they desire to come here, when the work upon which they have been engaged has been transferred from Melbourne. The members of the staffs of the various government printing offices become specialists in government printing, and after they have been engaged on this work for a number of years, they naturally find difficulty in adapting themselves to other classes of printing work. If government printing is taken away from them they are in danger of being thrown on the industrial scrapheap. 1 appeal to the Minister to do everything possible to remove to Canberra employees of the Sydney and Melbourne Government Printing Offices when the work on which they have been engaged is transferred here. I believe it would be better to transfer these experienced employees than ,to engage new labour.
.- I also desire to discuss the subject referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). It is, of course, natural in times of depression for honorable members to do everything possible to keep work in their own localities ; but I appeal to the Government and to honorable members generally to look at this subject in a broad, national spirit. The Federal Capital has-been transferred to Canberra at great cost to the taxpayers of Australia, and large sums of money have been spent here, formerly by the Federal Capital Commission and more recently by the Federal Capital Territory Branch of the Department of’ the Interior; but, unfortunately, since the commencement of the depression in 192S-29, the development of the Seat of ‘Government has been greatly retarded. It is to be hoped that when a greater degree of prosperity returns to Australia, the development of Canberra will proceed more rapidly. I am pleased that the Government is taking steps to provide greater facilities for printing at the Government Printing Office in Canberra, for in this way it is assisting to cope with a very difficult problem in this city. This problem is a product not of the present depression, but of the peculiar circumstances of Canberra. Unless something is done to transfer suitable industries to Canberra, there will be very little scope for the employment of the youth of this city, particularly those who will require work at or about the basic wage. At present, many of the young people of Canberra are employed on census work, but immediately this work is finished a great proportion of them will have to accept either relief work or the dole. In the State capitals there are many avenues open for the absorption of young people, but this is not the case in Canberra. I, therefore, suggest to the Government that it should take steps to have all the stamps, notes and various government literature printed in Canberra. The printing industry has no noxious fumes or other disagreeable accompaniments, and so would be a fitting industry for this city, and government printing of the kind that I have mentioned would provide employment for between 750 and 1,000 persons. Although we naturally hope that the regime of the present administration will not continue for very long, I ask the Government, while it remains in office, to take into account the facts I have mentioned when it is considering the lines upon which this city should be developed.
– A large portion of the machinery now at the Canberra printing office has been transferred from Melbourne. There is still certain Commonwealth machinery at the Melbourne printing office, but that is necessary to meet the printing requirements of the Commonwealth in the different States. With the transfer of other departments to Canberra the work of the printing office will increase and for that reason new machinery and enlarged accommodation are required. I arn in full agreement with what has been said by . the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley). The sooner the Commonwealth departments are transferred to Canberra, the better it will be for the Federal Capital city and for the administration; but the entire transfer of departments at this juncture would necessitate the expenditure of a larger sum of money than is at present available. However, the expenditure proposed for this year shows an increase over that for previous years, and there is no reason why that increased expenditure should not be maintained in the future.
– The chief plea of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) was on behalf of men who are at present employed on Commonwealth printing operations either in Melbourne or Sydney and are likely to be dismissed when the work is undertaken in Canberra. The contention of the honorable member was that those men should have an opportunity to transfer to Canberra if they so desire. That, I think, is only fair. These men are trained in a particular class of work which, is essential to the good government of the country. They have undergone considerable training and have rendered loyal and valuable service to the Commonwealth. Both the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) have advanced arguments in favour of transferring most of the Commonwealth printing activities to Canberra, but I wonder if either of them knows that recently there has been a considerable extension of the accommodation and plant for note and stamp printing in Melbourne. It is absolutely essential that certain printing activities should be undertaken in Melbourne as well as in Sydney. It is only fair that men who, although not permanent employees of the Commonwealth, have been engaged for a long time upon federal printing activities, in either Melbourne or Sydney, should have an opportunity to transfer to Canberra when ‘that work is carried out here. The Melbourne office is splendidly equipped and the building is constructed in accordance with modern standards. The work is being done effectively, and there is no valid reason for doing it in Canberra. But if it is done here, I urge the Minister to give some consideration to the position of the men who have been engaged upon it hitherto in other cities.
– As the class of machinery and equipment to be obtained for the Government Printing Office in Canberra is not defined, honorable members do not know where the machinery is likely to be purchased.
– It will be British-made machinery.
– It might be possible to secure the machinery locally. Certain British firms operate in this country particularly in the production of electrical machinery, and it is more than likely that some of them hold patent rights for the class of machinery required. I should like to know whether there is any stipulation that, if possible, the machinery and equipment are to be purchased in Australia in order to keep the money in this country. The equipment might include shafting, belting, and other articles that can be made in this country, and it would be interesting to know whether the i 1171
Government proposes to assist local industry and, in that way, give relief to the unemployed.
In regard to the proposed building alterations at the Canberra printing office at an estimated cost of nearly £7,000, I should like to know the method of selecting labour for this work. I assume that the Government itself intends to carry out these alterations.
– The work is nearly completed.
– It seems to be a strange procedure to put the work in hand and nearly complete it before asking the Parliament to approve of the expenditure.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £222,070.
.- Does the Minister propose to give honorable members any information regarding the proposed expenditure? Considerable sums of money are involved.
– Tha first item deals with water conservation works on the Murray River. As honorable members are aware, these works have been in progress for several years. It was originally intended to provide storage for 2,000,000 acre feet in the Hume reservoir, and also to construct a series of weirs and locks on the river, in addition to a storage in Lake Victoria. After a considerable sum of money had been spent, however, it was decided a few years ago not to proceed immediately with the construction of all the weirs and locks, largely because, owing to altered circumstances, it was not likely that the river ‘would be used to any extent for navigation. It was also proposed to reduce the storage capacity of the Hume reservoir from 2,000,000 to 1,250,000 acre feet. Certain works are in course of construction, including No. 7 and No. 8 weirs and locks in the State of New South Wales near the South Australian border. For these, however, South Australia is. the constructing authority. The completion of these weirs and locks will not finish the undertaking. It will be a year or two before even the reduced scheme is completed. The work is being carried out by four contracting parties, namely, the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, and the Commonwealth, all of which contribute equally to the cost. The money provided in these Estimates represents the contribution of the Commonwealth Government.
.- I desire to deal with the proposed expenditure on the river Murray water conservation scheme. A tragic position has been brought about by the inability or refusal of the contracting parties to carry out the work which was agreed upon. This has resulted in serious loss to the settlers on the lower Murrumbidgee River. When the Burrinjuck scheme was commenced, a strong protest was made by the land-holders on the lower river on the ground that it would interfere with the natura] flooding of river frontage lands between Hay and the .junction. These protests were renewed when the construction of the Berembed weir was proposed. The Government of Nev,’ South Wales replied that the riparian rights of the lower river land-holders would be protected, and if the natural flooding of the river was effected by “those works, compensating weirs would be erected on the lower river. Altogether an area of about 400,000 acres is involved, and of this 100,000 acres was subject to flooding. An undertaking was given that the locks would be completed by 1929, but, although it is now 1933, the work is still unfinished. A very large sum of money would have been saved if the construction of the two weirs had been proceeded with from the start, instead of the nine locks which were at first proposed. The land affected is mostly rich river flat, and, when subjected to flooding, will carry from two to three sheep to the acre. Without flooding, it will carry only a sheep to several acres. In 1927, 90,000 sheep died in this area as the result of the drought, and over 100,000 were transferred to other areas at great expense to the owners, and consequent loss of work and revenue to the people of the district. Two station properties, Yanga and Paika were subdivided, and settlers paid as much as £5 an acre for farms on the understanding that the contracting governments would have the necessary locks and weirs erected. For four years there was a severe drought, and the losses to which I have referred were sustained. The Governments of New South Wales and Victoria entered into an agreement under which the Victorian Government built railways over the border into the southern portion of New South Wales, which commercially belonged to Victoria rather than to its northern neighbour. As the result of the failure of the contracting parties to fulfil their undertaking, the taxpayers of Victoria, as well as the settlers in the area immediately concerned, have suffered heavy losses. The Commonwealth Government is prepared to carry out its share of the work, but the Government of South Australia has refused to give its consent to the construction of the weirs on the lower Mumimbidgee unless the commission will agree to construct barrages at the mouth of the river Murray. The latter work was not included in the programme provided for in the original agreement, although the weirs or locks were definitely a part of the agreement. Victoria completed the vicious circle by refusing to agree to the barrages desired by the South Australian Government, unless the Yarrawonga diversion weir ako was included in the constructional programme. Thus the Governments of South Australia and Victoria have prevented the undertaking of work included in the original programme, and the subject of an agreement to which those States were .parties. Therefore,’ the locks and the barrages at the mouth of the river Murray, which it is thought would prevent the ingress of salt water and the consequent ruining of the very rich country at and in proximity to the mouth of the river,will not be constructed unless the whole scheme is ‘agreed to by all the governments concerned.
– What is the purpose of the diversion weir to which the honorable member referred?
– The diversion by gravitation of water from a river on to certain other country for irrigation purposes - a commendable scheme. There is doubt in the minds of some engineers as to whether the proposed barrages at the mouth of the Murray would serve the purpose intended. The Commonwealth’s share of the cost of the two works - the barrages and the Yarrawonga diversion - would amount to the very respectable sum of £230,000. The Commonwealth Government i3 quite prepared to pay its share of the cost of the two weirs, but it appears that the States of South Australia and Victoria are holding a pistol at its head by demanding that, before the weirs are constructed, these other works shall be agreed to. It is a tragic state of affairs that the people of the district who, in all good faith, relying on the honour of the contracting governments, entered into obligations, should be prevented from carrying, on their operations as pastoralists and graziers. Many of them have been brought to the verge of bankruptcy because of the refusal or incapacity of the contracting governments to carry out this greatly-needed work. I ask the Minister to inform the committee and the people concerned whether there is any possibility under the act of carrying out those works which I have indicated, and of preventing two States from imposing conditions that were not in the originalagreement.
.- I should like to know whether this item has any relation to the proposed ban-ages at the mouth of the river Murray. The honorable member for - Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has stated that a vicious circle has been described by the contracting parties. I believe that the position -now is that the contracting parties have agreed to scrap the original agreement, and have tentatively entered into a new agreement subject to the consent of the Commonwealth Government. That Government ha3 not, so far, been prepared to accept its share of the responsibility in connexion with the barrages at the mouth of the river. The honorable member for Darling said that some doubt exists in the minds of engineers as to whether the proposed barrages would be effective for the purpose intended. I believe that all the engineers are agreed that they would prove perfectly satisfactory.
Any objections raised to them are more or less local. There i3 considerable difference of opinion among the fishermen, pastoralists, graziers, and farmers as to whether the barrages would have the desired effect of keeping fresh the waters at the mouth of the river and in the lakes at the mouth. Those waters are rapidly becoming salt, and the view held by the engineers is that the erection of barrages would keep them fresh. If this item has no relation to those barrages, I shall not go further into the matter until the Commonwealth Government has intimated that it proposes to accept its share of the cost of constructing them.
.- Having listened attentively to the brief explanation given by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins), I feel that my hope that a much larger amount will be provided for further construction on the Hume weir, and for the construction of a bridge over that weir, is doomed to disappointment. The height of the wall, I understand, is now sufficient to impound up to 1,250,000 acre feet. Some time ago a list of works was drawn up by the River Murray “Waters Commission, included in which was the raising of the wall to a height sufficient to store 2,000,000 acre feet, a gap to bc left until that additional storage was necessary. The leaving of a gap in the centre of the wall would obviate the necessity for inundating certain valuable properties. ‘ The necessity for raising the wall was realized by the commission. Some time ago I directed attention to this matter in the House and pointed out that because work on the Victorian side was slowing up, a certain number of men were being thrown out of employment. After hearing the Minister’s explanation of the position, I visited the weor and was surprised to find that the work was in its last stages of completion. I understand that work on the Victorian side could shortly be finished, only a few thousand pounds of expenditure now being required, and it seems to me foolish in the extreme to abandon further work on the weir and dismantle the plant. I am disappointed that the sum of only £135,000 is provided for this work. I understand that the completion of the weir and the building of a bridge across the top of the embankment were contingent on the erection of barrages at the mouth of the river Murray, and I am informed that the latter work will not now be undertaken. Consequently the South Australian Government will refuse to share in any expenditure for the construction of the bridge. It would seem, therefore, that the project has been abandoned for the time being. “Work on the weir should be carried to completion, because it is a developmental proposal of first rate importance and will provide much needed employment. It would be unwise to cease work now and dismantle the plant. The people of Bethanga, in Victoria, are vitally interested in this work. Before the inundation of the Mitta Valley they had access to the railway station at Ebden, about 6 miles distant, and had all the facilities necessary for the trucking of stock. When, following the building of the Hume Weir as a national undertaking, the Mitta Valley was flooded, thus preventing access to the railway station, the building of a road round the edge of the water and across a small portion of New South Wales territory became necessary to meet their requirements. They now have to travel a distance of about 15 miles and thus are penalized to this extent for all time. Below the weir the road has a grade of about 1 in 9, and, therefore, it is not suitable for certain classes of heavy traffic, or for travelling stock. There are two bridges over the Murray at the foot of the weir. These are in such a bad state that their restoration would cost at least £15,000. Moreover, they are subject to flooding, and there is a definite risk that, in a heavy flood, they might be demolished altogether. In any case, it is extremely probable that even if repair work were carried out now, heavy additional expenditure would be required from time to time. The construction of a bridge over the top of the embankment, at an estimated cost of £51,000, is much the more desirable project, because it would last for all time. Because of the building of this national undertaking the people of Bethanga, who belong to Victoria, have been cut off from easy access to their State, and, as a matter of justice, facilities should be placed at their disposal to enable them to return to Victoria by the shortest possible route and at the least inconvenience. I should like the Minister to urge the Cabinet again to take this matter into consideration, and, if possible, induce all of its Ministers personally to examine the Hume Weir, see how nearly completed it is, and examine the two bridge proposals. I am confident honorable gentlemen would then have no hesitation in adopting the course that I have suggested, and that the Government would promptly make its portion of the necessary money available. It would then be doing something more than sponsoring a progressive work; it would be acting both wisely and justly.
.- 1 intend briefly to support the remarks of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) in connexion with the Hume Weir. It is to be regretted that the governments concerned have not come to some amicable agreement to bring about the early completion of this great national work. I am sure that, with a’ little trouble, any existing obstacles could be overcome and the work proceeded with. Only yesterday afternoon a public meeting was called at Albury to discuss the subject, and resolutions were framed urging the governments concerned to formulate schemes to bring about finality in the matter. Some time ago I was requested to meet a deputation at the weir. There was then a portion of the work that would cost £8,000 to complete, and I was given to understand that the necessary material was either on the job, or already purchased. Unfortunately, the governments could not see their way to continue the work, with the result that 197 married men who normally would have been kept working well into spring, were thrown out of work at the beginning of winter.
I have nothing to say with regard to the proposal of the Government to spend a certain amount of money in connexion with the fishing industry. I approve of the expenditure of any money for pioneering work which will provide employment and lead to the production of goods which will be sold in Australia and, perhaps, abroad. But I also think that this great national work at the Hume Weir should be continued. I shall not repeat what has been said by the honorable member for Indi and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), but I stand strongly for the completion of this work. Mighty rivers provided by the Almighty for the use of man are pouring millions and millions of gallons of water into the ocean, while acres of adjacent fertile lands parch from time to time under drought conditions. I trust that the governments concerned will sink their differences and endeavour to formulate a scheme that will enable the work at the Hume weir to be completed.
– I do not know whether it is the intention of the Minister to reply to what has been said regarding the completion of the Hume Weir, but I should like him to make a statement as to the intention of the Government concerning the contract for the Australian War Memorial, for which £25,000 is provided on these Estimates. Originally, the Australian War Memorial was to have a stone facing, but, for some reason, the Government has temporarily abandoned that scheme and intends to use a sort of rough facing. I bring before the Minister an urgent request that has been made to me by the secretary of the Stonemasons Union, stating that that section of the building industry has been affected by unemployment more drastically than any other, and asking for a fair share of the work available. The union urge3 that every opportunity should be taken to provide employment for its members when these great national undertakings are being carried out.
– Is the honorable member referring to local stonemasons who are unemployed ?
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has said that there are no unemployed stonemasons in Canberra, so I take it that those who are required for this job would be brought from Sydney. Although this work will have to be put in hand eventually, it is thought that the building will not look as well as might be desired under the conditions under which the Government intends to proceed. I have been reminded by a colleague that a similar request was made recently to the Commonwealth Bank authorities regarding a building in course of erection in Tasmania, and I am glad to say that they responded to the representations made to them, and decided to provide a stone facing for the building. I wrote to the Prime Minister on the matter under discussion, and the reply received was to the effect that the Government did not intend to alter its plans immediately, but would proceed with the work later. I believe, however, that it will prove more costly in the end if the work as originally proposed is not completed immediately.
– It will never be possible to get the work done more cheaply than to-day.
– That is so. It is desirable that the memorial be given a good finish, and I again appeal to the Government to accede to the request that has been made.
I shall be interested to have details of the proposed expenditure of £30,000 on war service homes, because members of my party have asked a number of questions regarding the management of these homes, and their condition in certain parts of the metropolitan area of Sydney. We wish to know whether this money is to be spent in repairing properties from which ex-soldiers have been evicted.
.- I support the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in his suggestion that work should be provided for unemployed stonemasons in the completion of the National War Memorial. It is true that the craft of these men is gradually disappearing as the result of the introduction of concrete buildings and the employment of various facings other than stone work. The War Memorial Board has recast its plans, because if it brought forward the original proposal involving additional expenditure, opposition would be raised. In view of the years that have elapsed since the project was put forward, it was considered by the board that at least some modest attempt should be made to erect a building which would be a shell in which to house the collections now kept in Melbourne and Sydney. It was thought that the cost of stone facings could be dispensed with for the time being, and that the concrete work could be so finished that it would not be an eyesore. I am unable to say whether the Government favours the use of stone for the facings; but, if it does not, I hope that it will give consideration to the employment of stonemasons on other construction such as the concrete work.
I assume that the £30,000 provided for war service homes will be spent, not only in the building of new cottages, but also on repairs.
– No new buildings will be erected.
– I regret to hear that no provision has been made for the erection of more war service homes this year. The commission has on its hands some hundreds of homes that have been vacated by returned soldiers for various reasons, but at the present time it is highly desirable that the building of new homes should be accelerated, so that a fillip may be given to the building industry, because many skilled tradesmen are walking the streets looking for work. Much can be said against the building of more of these cottages in view of the fact that the commission has hundreds upon its hands ; but, on the other hand, there are numerous applicants in country towns and elsewhere for war service homes, and the Commonwealth authorities should avail themselves of the opportunity to give much needed assistance to the building trade.
– Several honorable members have asked how the sum of £30,000 provided for war service homes is to be apportioned. Like the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley), I regret that it is not possible to do all that one would like to do to assist the building trade, but much has been done, and the manner in which the budget has been received shows that the Government’s action is generally appreciated. The Government has made a special effort to encourage the building trade by removing the sales tax on almost all building material. The items which make up the capital expenditure of £30,000 in connexion with reverted homes are as follow: -
Mr.Rosevear. - Whatfees are payable in addition to rates and taxes?
– They are included among the expenses.
– Do they cover bailiffs’ fees?
– I can assure honorable members that although a deadlock appears to have been reached in regard to the proposed amendment of the Murray waters scheme, much useful work is still being done. Approximately £138,000 is to be spent at the Hume dam, which now impounds 500,000 acre feet, and by June. 1934, the dam is expected to hold 1.250,000 acre feet. Much of the difficulty which exists between the four contracting parties can, I believe, be overcome. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) referred to the weirs across the Murrumbidgee. Under the original agreement between the four contracting authorities provision was made for weirs with locks, but the New South Wales authorities now wish to construct weirs without locks. It has been contended that if that is done the New South Wales Government will then be operating outside the provision of the Murray River agreement. It appears to be useless to construct locks because an inspection of the weirs where locks are provided shows that the locks are not used. When I visited Mildura I was assured that in the weirs completed between that point and the sea the locks have not been used, and that no vessel had passed through them for fifteen months.
– That is due to the transport policies of the State Governments.
– Yes, the policy appears to be to increase railway and motor transport which diverts traffic from the river. The Murray River is not used to any extent for navigation purposes, and the same can be said of the Murrumbidgee. If the locks are included the works would be in accordance with the agreement. There is also the Yarrawonga weir in which the New South Wales and the Victorian Governments are interested,, and which they are at liberty to go on with under the existing agreement. In South Australia barrages have been accepted as a workable scheme, but some doubt has arisen as to whether such an undertaking would prevent salinity in the river as anticipated. The Commonwealth Government is not involved in that respect. If the barrages, the Yarrawonga weir, the bridge across the river, and the two weirs referred to by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) were undertaken it would be of benefit to the three States concerned, but would be of no advantage to the Commonwealth, which would have to find an additional £97,000 beyond the liability already accepted. The question also arises as to whether the proposed barrages would be a success. That doubt is held by some Commonwealth Ministers. I visited the locality some months ago, and expressed a similar doubt. The local residents were also doubtful as to whether the expenditure of £500,000 was justified. This, naturally, makes the Commonwealth hesitant in coming to a decision. Some time will be taken to consider fully this matter. It will be reviewed at a later date.
– Is there any doubt in the minds of the engineers?
– No. The question of a bridge over the weir was also raised, as also was that of whether the dam should be constructed to a greater height than at present. These matters have been rejected by different governments, but au attempt is being made to see if some agreement can be reached.
A comparatively small amount has been made available to undertake preparatory work in .connexion with the construction of a war memorial in Canberra. It is expected that three or four weeks will elapse before tenders, which are at present in preparation, will be called. The original plans provided for a somewhat larger structure, but in order to carry out a portion of the work fresh plans had to be prepared, which has necessitated delay in calling for tenders. It is expected that the amount provided will be sufficient for the work to be undertaken this year. It is proposed to spend £25,000 this year, and £60,000 next year; but the structure, which will then be by no means complete, should be sufficient to accommodate the exhibits now housed in Melbourne and in Sydney. The proposal involves the saving of £5,000 in maintenance, which is now being paid. Stone facing would, no doubt, provide a better structure, but the committee, when consulted, was satisfied that a plain structure would be sufficient. Many of those interested in the undertaking are anxious to see the work commenced. When the depression came the whole movement was set aside, but at the request of those deeply interested a forward movement is now being made. I shall bear in mind what has been said by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). A good deal will depend upon the contract price and upon what the architects have to say on the matter. The Government is anxious to start the work because it will provide a certain amount of employment to unskilled workers who can be engaged in excavating the foundations, levelling, treeplanting and other such work.
.- I am not satisfied with the explanation given by the Minister (Mr. Francis) regarding the apportionment of the amount of £30,000. I should like to know exactly against whom all this money is charged. Take, for instance, the £5,000 which he says is for fees, rates and taxes paid by the Government in respect to reverted homes. There must be an enormous number of such homes if £5,000 is spent for the purpose mentioned in twelve months, or it would appear that a considerable portion consists of fees. We want to know who received these fees and who is charged with them. We should also like to know whether the rates paid to municipal councils comprise portion of the cost charged against a returned soldier who leaves his home or who is evicted. Under the act the Government has the right to make certain renovations to reverted homes in the hope of making them saleable. In the event of a home not requiring interior or exterior renovation, does the Government charge up to the limit of £50 for kerbing and guttering and rates and fees? If that is so, it would be unjust to make that charge against a person who has vacated a property. Out of the £30,000, only £’700 is being paid in respect of reverted homes, and I take it that that £700 is the equity that remains to the returned soldier after the re-sale of abandoned homes. If the Government’ has recouped itself of the amount advanced very few must benefit by the equity remaining if the Government makes these charges after a re-sale. I should like to know whether the rates and taxes which fall due between the time that the soldier leaves his house and its re-sale are charged against his equity in the estate. The Minister should have given us more details of these matters. Honorable members are interested in these things because of their concern for these unfortunate men. If the municipal charges which are paid after the soldier leaves the home are included in the £50 which the department is allowed to spend on the homes to make them saleable, it is unfair. It is equally unjust if they are charged against his equity in the home. I desire to know also whether, after a soldier has left his home, and money has been spent to make it saleable, further damage is caused by vandals, the Government accepts the responsibility for the additional damage or charges the costof repairing the home to the soldier.
. -I give the committee roy assurance that these moneys are made available out of the war service homes trust account. Until it is certain that the new purchaser is making sufficient progress to pay the soldier, the latter has no equity in the home available to him. The department makes available any equity it can at the earliest possible moment. This afternoon I made it clear that where a war service home reverts to the commis sion, that body pays the first year’s rates to the municipal council, which is entitled to payment for road-making and other similar work. When a home reverts to the commission, that body accepts the responsibility for the amount agreed upon, and it is paid out of the trust funds of the War Service Homes Department. Those are the full facts; nothing is being withheld.
– Supposing that after a soldier leaves the home, the municipal authorityforms a footpath, or does other similar work, is the cost of that work a charge against the soldier?
– Such work, if undertaken at all, is carried out by the municipal authority. The charge is made not by the commission, but by the municipal authority. The department makes the best arrangement it can with the municipality.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The Government hopes to complete the discussion on the Works Estimates tomorrow. When that business has been disposed of, I propose to introduce a bill to grant financial relief. With the consent of the House, I propose to deliver the second-reading speech on that measure to-morrow, so that honorable members may have full information regarding its contents over the week-end, and thereby be in a position to take up the discussion of the measure as early as possible next week.
– I crave the indulgence of honorable members to allow me to express my appreciation of the fine services rendered to the Commonwealth by our late Principal Parliamentary Reporter, Mr. C. H. P. Robinson. As member and Minister, I had frequent opportunities to judge the value of his work, but when I became Speaker my association with him was more intimate. This Parliament is losing the services of one of the most capable, efficient, trustworthy, and courteous of our public officers. He ever manifested a wonderfully unselfish devotion to duty. That his was a cultured, experienced, highly-trained mind his work bore ample evidence. He maintained the high traditions of the Public Service of the Commonwealth, a Service which commands the sincere appreciation of all those who have been called upon to administer the departments of State. As head of his department, Mr. Robinson was always just, fair, and considerate to all those under his control. He was more than an official to honorable members. His culture, his interest in the higher things of life,- his personal charm, made for him many warm friends among those who were associated with him. He can lay down his office feeling that he is honoured and respected by us all. Our best wishes go with him for a happy period of retirement among the friends who will appreciate him at his true worth. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), the ex-Speaker of this House, has asked me to associate him with these words of appreciation of Mr. Robinson.
– As one of the oldest members of the Country party, I wish to express, in a few words, my appreciation of Mr. Robinson’s work as Principal Parliamentary Reporter. I believe that all honorable members have, at most unexpected moments, in one way or another, found Mr. Robinson a true friend who has helped them to express in the printed word what they have endeavoured to express verbally. “We must all agree with what the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) has said about Mr. Robinson’s culture and kindliness. We have relied greatly upon his discrimination and advice. I am sure that all members of the Country party, and of other parties, too, for that matter, have a true regard for this gentleman who has so lately relinquished his position as Principal Parliamentary Re- porter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.1.42 p.m. j. [us]
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e. - Information is being obtained in reply to a series of questions asked by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), upon notice, respecting the production, consumption, importation and- price of tobacco.
l asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Mr.Watson asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
How many ex-soldiers who served in the Great War have died in government charitable institutions in Australia, such as old men’s homes and benevolent asylums, since the termination of the war, and how many are living in such institutions at present?
e. - The information is not obtainable. Such institutions are controlled by various and independent bodies, and are not under the supervision or control of the Commonwealth.
Public Service Examinations.
n asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the Government is holding an examination for male clerks this year, is it the intention of the Government to hold an examination for female clerks and typists; if so, when will such examination be held?
– The Public Service Board of Commissioners advise that the requirements of the Service will necessitate the holding of examinations for female typists, possibly in all States, at some time during next year.
en asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
In view of the dissatisfaction of those engaged in the pearling industry in Western Australia with the decision made by the Minister for unrestricted fishing for pearl-shell in the waters of the Northern Territory, will he arrange for the Secretary of bis department, Mr. H. C. Brown, who is now at Darwin, to visit Broome and Thursday Island, before he returns to the south, in order to confer with those engaged in the industry in those waters, on the problems at present facing that industry?
– The matter will receive consideration.
Tariff Board Inquiries.
Mr.Blakeley asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the following -
That sub-section (3) of section 15 of the act provides that if the board finds on inquiry that any complaint referred to it under paragraph (A) of subsection (1) of this section is justified, it may recommend - (a) that the amount of duty payable on the goods the subject of the complaint be reduced. or abolished; or (b) that such other action as. the board thinks desirable be taken - but shall, before it makes any such recommendations, consider carefully the conditions obtaining in the industry as a whole -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
e. - Information is being “obtainedin reply to a series of questions asked by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), upon notice, regarding explosives.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What number of invalid and old-age pensioners surrendered their pensions since the amendments to the act in October, -1932?
s.- Since 12th October, 1932, 11,174 pensions have been voluntarily surrendered. Since 1st September, 1932 - the date on which last year’s budget speech was delivered - 12,074 pensions have been voluntarily surrendered.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 October 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19331005_reps_13_141/>.