13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether there isany truth in the press statement that theGovernment intends to remove the prohibition on the importation of foreign glass? If so, what steps are being taken to prevent the dismissal of Australian workmen ?
– There is no authority whatever for this statement. As the report of the Tariff Board on the glass industry has not yet been received by the Government, Cabinet could not have considered the matter and come to a decision upon it.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs furnish information concerning press statements as to the attitude adopted by Belgium towards the Australian glass industry ?
– There is little that I can add to what the Prime Minister has already said. The statements that have appeared in the press are quite unfounded.
The Government has not yet received the report of the Tariff Board on the glass industry. As honorable members know, the matter was referred back to the board for further investigation of the position in regard to employment. When the report of the board is received, it will be considered by the Government. I can, however, inform the honorable member that the Consul-General for Belgium advised the Government that he would endeavour to have retaliatory action taken by his country against Australia on. account of the embargo on the importation of sheet glass. Such an attitude, I think, is to be deplored.
– In view of the fact that £230,000 worth of Australian barley is to be excluded from the Belgian market, will the Minister for Commerce consider the imposition of a sales tax on sheet glass to com pen sate the barley -growers for the loss which they may incur?
– I am sure that the honorable member will hardly expect me to announce a matter of Government policy in reply to a question. I remind the honorable member, however, that up to this moment there has been no actual prohibition imposed on importations of Australian barley into Belgium.
– What steps are being taken by theGovernment to meet the complaints of the Government of Belgium with the object of preventing further retaliation by that country against Australian trade?
– The honorable member is aware, I believe, that the High Commissioner for Australia intends to visit Belgium to discuss this matter with the Belgian authorities. Every consideration is being given to the matter by the Government, but we have to regard it from every point of view. We have to consider the report of the Tariff Board on sheet glass manufacture as well as every other aspect of the matter, but we hope at an early stage to be able to intimate to Parliament the intentions of the Government.
-In order to appease certain honorable members will the Prime Minister consider surrendering the Government of Australia to foreign countries?
– by leave - Consideration has been given by the Government to the restorations of pay and allowances of the defence forces to he made under the Financial Relief Act recently passed by the Parliament. That act provides that any adjustment of the salaries of members of the forces shall be effected in such manner and to such extent as, in the opinion of the Minister, is fair and reasonable. In. other words, adjustments were to be made corresponding, as far as practicable, to those of other members of the Public Service.
The pay of the defence forces has not, so far, been subjected to periodical adjustments in accordance with variations of the cost of living. It has now been decided to apply this principle to the pay and allowances of the Naval Auxiliary, Military, and Air Forces, but in order to establish equality between the defence forces and the Public Service, the standard rates of pay of those sections of the defence forces arebeing increased by £21 per annum, being the cost of living rises granted to the Public Service between the 1st July, 1924, and the 1st July, 1930, the revised standard rates then to be subjected to the same reductions as are now prescribed for the Public Service.
Whilst naval ratings were subjected to reductions under the Financial Emergency Act 1931, they were not subjected to the reductions required by the act of 1932. The Government, in deciding not to include these ratings in the reductions of the 1932 act, took into consideration the special circumstances of their employment, and, in fact, they were granted an increase of10d. a day. The further restoration to the naval ratings will be a full restoration of marriage and dependants’ allowances, which wore reduced under the act of 1931.
The Government has decided to restore in full the deferred pay of the defence forces. Whilst this has been regarded, to some extent, asbeing in the nature of “pay,” the Government has accepted the view that, being in effect a retiring allow ance, it should berestored in full, as has the Government’s contribution to the Public Service Superannuation Fund.
Subject to the above, the pay and allowances of the defence forces will have applied to them the same restorations as have been granted to the Public Service.
– Does the Government anticipate reaching a decision upon its marketing policy in time to allow of the necessary legislation for the marketing of dried tree fruits- being passed before the Christmasrecess?
– The Minister for Commerce has this matter under consideration, and I understand is hopeful of submitting to Cabinet at quite an early date representations covering the whole question of marketing. It is not intended to deal with each item separately. The Government expects to make an early decision, and hopes to be in a position shortly to submit recommendations to Parliament.
– A telegram that has just been received from the President of the Victorian Dairymen’s Association reads -
Re dairying products legislation my committee very concernedannouncement your House adjourning endmonth Suggest you urge Government pass necessary federal act and hold up proclamation pending passing of acts Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria.
Is the Minister for Commerce prepared to agree to that proposal?
– In view of the experience that he gained in the office that I now hold, the honorable gentleman surely would not expect mo to make a pronouncement upon a question of Government policy, in response to a telegram from an interested party. However, the reply that the Prime Minister has just given covers this matter. The whole question of the Government’s marketing policy, in which is involved the marketing of both dried tree fruits and butter, will be considered by Cabinet at a very early date.
– Will’ the Prima Minister state whether the representations made by me, as well as by other honorable members, to him, through the PostmasterGeneral, in this House last Friday afternoon, concerning the granting of extra assistance for the relief of unemployment prior to Christmas, were discussed by the Loan Council in Melbourne on Monday, and whether a decision was arrived at? If not, is the Government in a position to declare its attitude towards the request?
– The message that I received merely asked what this Government proposed to do before Christmas. I have already made it quite clear that the budget proposals submitted to this Parliament provide for the appropriation this year of a definitely increased amount for purposes of employment. The appropriation from revenue account, which last year was about £800,000 or £900,000, has been approximately doubled, and in addition sums totalling approximately £800,000 are to bo made available from loan funds - an item that did not appear last year. Therefore, the extra provision this year is in the vicinity of £1,500,000. The question of unemployment was considered by the Government when framing financial proposals for the year. The desire and the object of the Government throughout have been to make provision for increased employment. I have issued instructions to accelerate works in every State so that, as far as possible, an additional volume of employment may be provided between now and Christmas. In addition, I know that it is the intention of State Governments to push on with their works programmes. Up to the end of September, as is shown by the figures submitted to the Loan Council, some of the States have not spent the money made available to them at a rapid rate, but they made it clear at the last Loan Council meeting that it is their intention to spend the money at a much increased rate, not only during the next three months, but also throughout the remainder of the financial year. In these circumstances, I hope that there will be no necessity for the Commonwealth
Government to find any additional sum for the purpose referred to by the honorable member.
– Considering the urgency of providing immediate relief to apple and pear growers, can the Minister for Commerce say how soon these growers can expect to hear what the Government’s proposals are in the matter of affording them relief?
– I have ready for submission to Cabinet a proposal covering the allocation of the budgetary provision of £125,000. The matter will be discussed by Cabinet as soon as possible; but I remind the honorable member that it is merely a budgetary provision, and that until the Government’s budget proposals are passed, no distribution can be made.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that 500 case3 of Japanese toys were landed inMelbourne on Monday last? Does not the Minister think that the purchase of so many toys manufactured outside Australia will mean a loss, particularly to partially-disabled soldiers who have been concentrating upon toy-making for the Christmas season? If such is the case, will the Minister prevent any further dumping before Christmas?
– The honorable member is wrong, I think, in alleging that there has been dumping of Japanese goods, but if there has been, and he brings a specific case under the notice of the department, an inquiry can be held by the Tariff Board. Furthermore, I do not agree with the honorable member that partiallydisabled soldiers are being handicapped by the importation of Japanese toys. He has said this before, and has been invited to supply particulars to my department, but no information has been furnished. J apan buys from Australia three times the quantity of goods that Australia buys from Japan, and more than one-half of .the imports from Japan consist of silk and other goods which do not come into competition, with the products of Australian industries, and it may be said that this is a sign of returning prosperity. An analysis of the increased imports’ of Japanese origin shows that this increase consists largely of silk and silk goods which are not produced in Australia. The pressed tinware toys of Japan are not competitive with Australian toys. If, however, the honorable member has any specific instance in mind, I invite him to bring it under the notice of the Trade and Customs Department.
– I ask the Assistant
Treasurer if it is a fact, as stated in several quarters, that the Government has issued treasury-bills during the current financial year, not only in Great Britain, but also in Australia, and, if so, for what purpose ha ve these bills been issued?
– It is not a fact, that the Government has issued new treasurybills. There have been renewals of the existing treasury-bills. The Loan Council, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Bank, decided in February last that there were to be no further issues of treasury-bills for loan works, and that any further issue was to he solely for the purpose of meeting the deficits of the v ari ous governments.
– Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that the practice which obtained for a quarter of a century, and which is provided for in the Constitution, that there shall he a session of Parliament each year, will in future be observed, and that after the approaching Christmas vacation, the old practice will be reverted to of having a session of Parliament in each year?
– I am hopeful that we shall be able to do what the honorable member suggests. The consideration of tariff schedules and other important matters have prevented that being done, but the Government is desirous to reverting to the previous practice as soon as possible.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the urgent necessity for action being taken to assist those engaged in the coal-mining industry, particularly in view of the fact that oil is superseding coal to such an extent that at present approximately 6,000 coal-miners on the northern coal-fields are idle, and, as we are informed by the press, two additional coalmines in the Cessnock area are to be closed, throwing another 1,500 persons out of employment? Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House as to the stage the negotiations have reached between the Commonwealth Government, the Government of New South Wales, and the Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, for the establishment of the hydrogenation process for the extraction of oil from coal on the Newcastle fields for the purpose of rehabilitating this industry?
– With respect to the absorbing of unemployed coal-miners in the Newcastle district by the development of the hydrogenation process, I have already informed Parliament that nothing further can bc done at present in this direction for the simple reason that those controlling the process in England require about six months’ actual experience of the process before they can consider its establishment in Australia. No time will be lost in dealing with this matter when the Government is in a position to give it definite consideration.
– In order to relieve unemployment, will the Postmaster-General obtain reports from his department, particularly in South Australia, to see if work cannot be provided by engaging in a” painting-up “ campaign in connexion with postal buildings?
– Steps have already been taken to give effect to the honorable member’s suggestion, but I shall see if further steps cannot be taken to accelerate the matter.
– In the large country towns as well as in the cities the public has the privilege of being able to send lettergrams, but this privilege is denied to small country centres with nonofficial post offices. Will the PostmasterGeneral see that the people in these districts have extended to them the same privileges as are enjoyed by city folk and people residing in large country towns ?
– There is no justification for any suggestion that country people are denied a concession which is enjoyed by people in the cities. Post offices throughout the Commonwealth that do a considerable amount of business are permitted to receive lettergrams for despatch. Up to the present it has not been found practicable to allow every post office throughout the country to accept business of this kind because it would involve a great deal of expense, but I shall give consideration to the matter and see to what extent the lettergram facility can be extended to additional country post offices.
– Can the Prime Minister give an assurance that the Bankruptcy Bill or some other measure will be passed through all stages before the Christinas recess so that the federal bankruptcy law will no longer come into conflict with the reasonable provisions made in the various States for relief to farmers ?
– On behalf of the AttorneyGeneral I intend at a later stage to-day to move for the discharge from the notice-paper of the present Bankruptcy Bill and the substitution of a much briefer measure, which the AttorneyGeneral will explain immediately he returns.
– -In yesterday’s Melbourne Herald tha following paragraph was published : -
The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will devotehis salary increase, which amounts to £40 a year, to the benefit of Geelong and district charitable institutions. Mr. Caseyhas announced that the increase, which was received as a result of the decision of members of Parliament to increase their salaries, would beset aside for charities and public institutions.
Within the next few days Geelong hospital, Geelong orphanages, babies’ homes, free kindergartens and libraries in the Corio electorate, will receive portions of the fund.
Will the Assistant Treasurer state whether he gave that information to the press ?
– I neither gave it to the press nor authorized anybody to do so.
£10,000,000 INTERNAL LOAN.
– Will the right honorable the Treasurer inform the House why the new internal loan of £10,000,000 is to be issued at a discount instead of at par. What reasons are advanced by the Commonwealth Bank Board against an issue at par, and were the members of the Loan Council unanimous in accepting theboard’s terms?
-The practice observed in recent years is that when the Loan Council considers the launching of a loan it confers with the Commonwealth Bank authorities, who are the banking advisers of the Government, and on the advice given by the Commonwealth Bank Board a decision is made as to the rate of interest to be charged. That practice was followed on this occasion. The Loan Council has accepted the advice offered by the Commonwealth Bank Board. The board gave as the reason for its advice its desire that the loan should be a success, and that there should be a gradual reduction of interest rates. It is not the practice of the chairman of the Loan Council to announce whether a decision of the council has been unanimous or otherwise or how the members have voted on any matter. Nor is it necessary that the public should become possessed of that information.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House why the proposal to retire £10.000,000 worth of treasury-bills by raising a public loan of £15,000,000 was not adopted by the Loan Council? Does the right honorable gentleman consider that it is in the best interests of the people tha t the bank should be allowed to earn profits on treasury-bills?
– The first proposal was to raise a loan of £15,000,000, but it was finally decided that it was preferable at the present time to approach the market for a loan of only £10,000,000, of which half 3hould go to the works’ programmes of the various States and half to the redemption of treasury-bills. As to the latter portion of the honorable member’s question, the practice has grown up and has proved of great assistance, not only to the Commonwealth Government, but also to all the State Governments to issue treasury-bills with the backing of the Commonwealth Government, in which the various banks participate. Without this arrangement, in recent times particularly, it would have been utterly impossible to raise a shilling in Australia either for works programmes or to liquidate deficits. All governments in Australia would have been placed at a decided disadvantage, to say the least of it. I see no reason why this practice should be altered.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that the plans and specifications for the vessel to be used in the development of the fishing industry are being prepared in Canada, and whether preference will be given to Australian ship-builders when tenders for the construction of the vessel are considered?
– I do not know whether the actual plans and specifications are being prepared in Canada, but I point out that if information is being sought overseas, it is because other countries have had experience in these matters whereas Australia has not. I assure the honorable gentleman that preference will, as far as possible, be given to Australian tenderers for this vessel.
– Does the Minister for Commerce think that an expenditure of £75,000 and a guarantee of ls. a dozen for export eggs would be justified if it ensured employment for 40,000 poultry farmers and their dependants?
– I do not propose to answer the honorable member’s question, but I intimate that I have received a request for assistance to the poultry industry somewhat along the lines indicated. That request will be considered by me, as Minister, and. also by Cabinet.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1933 -
No. 21 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 22 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules . 1933, No. 122.
Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules1933, Nos. 113, 114..
Sydney “ Sun “ : ‘Comments on Parliamentary Allowance Decision.
Debate resumed from the 2nd November (vide page 4173) on motion by Mr. Ward -
That the printer and publishers of the Sunday Sun newspaper, having been adjudged guilty of contempt, they now be called to the bar of this House forthwith in order that the House may demand from them an explanation of their conduct, and, if necessary, deal with them as it thinks fit.
– When this matter was before the House last week, I suggested that it might again stand over in order to enable me to look into the whole question in consultation with the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), whose health prevented him from attendance in the House at the time. Since that date, there has been a development which, I think, should be satisfactory to all honorable members. We have entered our protest against the charges contained in the newspaper, and its use of extravagant and unjust language in criticizing honorable members. Members do not object to criticism, but they do object to the misrepresentation that has been indulged in, not only by the newspaper specially mentioned in the motion, but also by other sections of the press. In dealing with this matter a week or two ago, the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) mentioned that the directors of Associated Newspapers Limited, whose names he gave, were men against whose characters he would cast no aspersions, and that he expected from them similar regard for members of this House. Yesterday, three members of the board of directors of Associated Newspapers Limited waited on one of my colleagues, and indicated that - to use their own words - “ without in any way limiting the right of their newspapers to criticize the actions of Parliament, they assured him that they, and the majority of the board, were definitely opposed to, and deeply regretted the use of, offensive language such as had recently been used by certain of their publications. They asked him to convey to the Prime Minister an assurance that the whole matter would be dealt with at the first meeting of the board which, owing to the absence interstate of several directors, could not be held until next week.” That statement is signed by Mr. D. W. Roxburgh on behalf of Mr. Tout and Dr. Ziele. Those members of the board assured the Minister that a majority of the members of the board felt as they did in this matter. In the circumstances, and knoAving that at least two members of the board are in another State, I suggest that the motion be withdrawn until after the meeting of the board next week, in order to give it an opportunity to carry out the promise made by three of its members.
– Will their apology be made public?
– Undoubtedly, it will. The three members mentioned have authorized me to announce to the House the statement I have just read. There is no need for any further action at this stage provided that the board does what three of its members believe should be done in justice to honorable members of this Parliament.
– I listened attentively to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and to his suggestion. The members of the party to which I belong believe that the proper course for Parliament to take is to allow the debate to be adjourned until after the meeting of the board of directors has been held and its decision has been communicated to this Parliament. Notwithstanding the statement of some of the directors which the Prime Minister has read, the fact remains that the directors of Associated Newspapers Limited had ample time to deal with the objectionable statement in the columns of their newspaperbefore the matter arose in this House. If they agreed with the opinion which three of their number have now expressed, an obligation rested on them to take prompt action to make amends for what appeared in their newspaper; but, instead, they permitted the offence to be aggravated by further and more objectionable statements. If my suggestion is adopted, and the debate adjourned until after the meeting of the hoard, we shall be in a better position to decide what action Parliament should take.
– I understand that the board will meet on Wednesday morning next. In the circumstances I suggest that the honorable member move that the debate be adjourned.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) having spoken to the motion, may not move that the debate be adjourned, but may ask leave to continue his remarks at a later date.
– I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
That the debate be now adjourned, and that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for Thursday, the 16th instant.
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act 1922-29.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Section 3 of the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act provides that after the introduction of a customs tariff bringing into operation increased duties of customs on the articles in respect of which bounty is paid, the rates of bounty shall be decreased by an amount, which in the opinion of the Minister for Trade and Customs, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, corresponds to the amount by which the respective duties of customs have been increased. The principal act provides for the reduction of the bountywhen a tariff is imposed or increased on goods entitled to bounty, but does not provide for the restoration of the bounty, wholly or in part, if the new or increased tariff duty is subsequently abolished or decreased. This was an oversight. The intention of the principal act was to provide protection for the Australian manufacturer in the form of a bounty inlieu of tariff protection, and the proposed amendment of the act provides for an adjustment of bounty rates to equalize the protection in the event of increases or decreases in the rates of customs duties. Provision is made that nothing in the bill shall authorize the Minister to increase the rates of bounty so as to exceed the rates set out in the schedule of the principal act. This amendment is being made so that the Government may have power to restore bounties when customs duties are reduced or removed. The schedule of the principal act deals with fencing wire, galvanized sheets, traction engines, and wirenetting. The particular item the Government has in mind at present is traction engines. The rates of bounty provided by the act for traction engines are “internal combustion engine types £40 to £90 per brake horse-power according to brake hor3e-power.” In July, 1930, primage was first imposed at the rate of2½ per cent. Later in the year the rate was increased to 4 per cent., and in July the following year it was further increased to 10 per cent. In the same month of that year the financial emergency reduction was also applied with the result that, in the case of a tractor on which bounty was originally payable at the rate of £90, the amount was reduced to £43 4s. On the 2nd September, 1932, the primage duty on farm tractors was removed in the interests of the primary producers. The position then was that the manufacturers of tractors had lost half the bounty and also the protection afforded by the 10 per cent. primage duty. If this amendment of the act is agreed to by both Houses of the Parliament, it is proposed to submit to the Tariff Board, for report, the question: What amount of bounty shall be paid on these tractors ? As honorable members will see, the object of this amending measure is to remedy a hardship imposed on manufacturers of tractors who at present have no protection against such goods made in the United Kingdom.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
Thathe have leave to bring in a bill for an act to suspend the operation of Sections 3. 4 and 5 of the Spirits Act 1932.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
. -by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The necessity for this bill arises out of the proposed amendment of the whisky item in the excise tariff embodied inthe proposals now awaiting ratification. At present whisky must have been matured in wood for two years before being delivered for home consumption.In 1932 the Spirits Act was amended to provide that the period of maturity shouldbe three years, and the amendment was made effective as from 1st October, 1933. Subsequently, it was pointed out that this would act unfairly to one or two of the smaller distilleries, and it has now been decided that the date of operation shall be deferred for two years, until the 1st. October, 1935. This date has been inserted in the excise tariff proposals now before Parliament, and it is, therefore, necessary to provide that the appropriate sections of the Spirits Act shall operate from the same date. This will bring the Excise Tariff and the Spirits Act into conformity in this respect.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- It would be of interest if the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) could inform us of the general position in regard to the question of the maturity period of three years. The Government has made several alterations of the date when this change from a minimum limit of two years to one of three years shall come into operation, and I understand that strong representations have been made to the Minister to the effect that, in a climate like that of Australia, a maturity period of three years for whisky and other spirits is quite unnecessary. Brandy, for instance, is subject to a maturity period of only two years. Are we to understand that the Minister has rejected those representations, or has he referred them to an expert body, like the Tariff Board, for inquiry? When the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) was Minister for Trade and Customs, this change from a minimum limit of two years to one of three years was made hastily by the members of this House, even against the wishes of the then Government, and against the advice of the customs officials. I should like to know if this is just a machinery hill to ensure, at any tate, a longer period for initiating the change while the Government is in the meantime obtaining expert opinion as to whether a minimum limit of throe years is at all necessary?
– The honorable member for Wakefield -(Mr. Hawker) is quite correct in saying that this is a machinery bill. Representations have been made to the Government respecting the maturity period for whisky, but it is not prepared to do anything more than postpone the change for another year. It is debatable whether a shorter maturity period is sufficient. I do not pretend to De such a connoisseur of whisky as to be able to give an expert opinion on that subject, but the matter has been referred to the Tariff Board for its expert consideration, and, when the board’s report is received, the Government will consider what further action is necessary.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - hy leave - read a third time.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 11th October (vide page 3455), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division 1 - The Senate - namely, “Salaries mid allowances, £G,840 “, be agreed to.
Upon which Mr. Scullin- had moved, by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by fi.
– The Commonwealth budget is undoubtedly a document of far-reaching importance, but, in reviewing the whole position of Australian governmental finance, we must take into consideration the State budgets as well as the Commonwealth budget. While the Commonwealth Parliament can congratulate itself upon having a surplus of some £3,500,000, we have to remember that the States, taken collectively, have for the last twelve months a deficit of over £8,500,000, so that the governments of Australia as a whole have failed to balance their budgets by a little more than £5,000,000. We have also to remember that the Australian governments have approached only thus near to budget equilibrium owing to our not being called upon by Great Britain to meet our obligations in the shape of interest and principal payments on our overseas war debt. Again, we find that for the current financial year the States, finding the task of making revenue meet expenditure beyond them, have deliberately budgeted for a deficit of some £8,500,000, less such savings as they may make on account of overseas loan conversions at lower rates of interest. Therefore, any jubilation that may be felt in Commonwealth circles because of having a surplus, must be tempered by the knowledge that the Australian governments as a whole are not yet out of the wood, and that what we might term the composite budget of Australia has not yet been balanced. The position of Australia can be likened to ‘that of a great business concern, whose central office iri the city shows a profit, of £3,500,000, hut whose branches in the six different States show a loss of £8,500,000. I am sure that the shareholders in such a business would not feel greatly jubilant about its financial position.
– Such a business should abolish its six country branches.
– Even if we adopted the honorable member’s suggestion in respect of the Australian governments, and brought about unification, we could not escape the financial obligations of the States in respect of education and a hundred and one other essential activities. Fortunately, we have now reached the stage when the expected Australian deficits for the coming year will be no greater than the sinking funds, and that is something. I was very interested to read the National Debt Sinking Fund Commission’s report for last year, which shows that the sinking fund receipts for the Commonwealth and States last year amounted to nearly £8,000,000. It is expected that, at the end of the present financial year, they will amount to something more than £8,000,000, quite sufficient to balance the expected deficit. So long as this occurs, it can be said that Australia is just holding its own, instead of slipping back as it has been doing for some years. Even that holds good only so long as whatever money we borrow is spent on projects which immediately return both interest and sinking fund. To the extent that they fail to do this, and become a drain on revenue, our finances must be still slipping back.
I congratulate the Government on its decision to make substantial remissions of taxation, because I believe that to be the best means of stimulating industry and employment. It is generally acknowledged, even by those who would rather not admit it, that private enterprise furnishes the biggest share of the employment in Australia, and I hope that that condition of affairs will long continue. I should like to see the Government take its courage in its hands, and risk a little more by making still further remissions of taxation, in the belief that the favorable business reaction which would result would more than make up for any immediate loss of revenue. The Commonwealth has more avenues of taxation open to it than have the States, which accounts for the Commonwealth surplus and the State deficits. Those persons who, for reasons of their own, confine their view of this subject to the Commonwealth surplus, refusing to notice the unsatisfactory financial position of the States, profess to see in the Commonwealth budget justification for the wholesale abandonment of the Premiers plan, and the sacrifices it entails. When that plan was adopted, the basis taken was Australia’s position as a whole. Every government was, at that time, in grave financial difficulties, and every government was called upon to exact sacrifices from its taxpayers, its public servants, and those who benefited from its social services. We are still in full partnership with the States in their efforts to win back prosperity. So long as Australia’s composite budget remains unbalanced, so long must we give the most critical scrutiny to any increase of governmental expenditure, and only that expenditure which is wholly justifiable should be incurred.
I welcome the Government’s action in remitting taxation. I welcome it, not merely as a means for stimulating industry and employment, but also because I recognize that, as the Commonwealth dips less deeply into the pockets of the taxpayers, who are drawn upon by both the Commonwealth and States, so the States will find it more easy to obtain revenue, and to balance their budgets. Any lightening of the Commonwealth taxation load must help the States.
What are the possibilities before the Common wealth with respect to tax relief? The Government of New South Wales, in the justifiable belief that the consequent stimulus to industry will result in the final returns being better than the estimate, hae done a very courageous thing in cutting down taxation to a point which, on paper, will involve a deficit of over £3, 000,000. Tha t Government has had experience of the effect of over taxation, and it now proposes to try the result of taxing somewhat more lightly even while deliberately budgeting for a deficit. I believe that, in its decision to reduce unemployment taxation, it was influenced by the fact that if, by this means, it can increase the number of persons employed, it will, at the same time, and to the same extent, reduce the number in receipt of sustenance payments, so that the benefit will be felt in two directions.
It is estimated by the Treasurer that, if the Commonwealth had continued to tax at the same rate as last year, we should have finished the present financial year with a surplus of nearly £5,500,000. During the last two years we have accumulated surpluses totalling nearly £5,000,000, made up of £1,300,000 for the year ended the 30th June, 1932, and approximately £3,500,000 for the financial year recently closed. Therefore, had we continued on the basis of last year’s taxation, we might expect to close the present financial year with an accumulated surplus of over £10,000,000. In the circumstances, it must he admitted that the Government, in making tax remissions, has acted with excessive caution and conservatism. I appreciate to the full the relief that has been given, hut I believe that even more relief could have been afforded without undue risk. We should remember that the greater the relief the greater will be the stimulus to industry and employment.
The Government has reduced the supertax on property from 10 per cent., pr 2s. in the £, to 5 per cent., or ls. in the £. That should have the effect very shortly of reducing the interest rate on mortgages and such securities by i per cent, because it will lessen, to that extent, the present disparity between the rate of taxation levied upon income from Government bonds, on the one hand, and the rate levied upon income from mortgages, on the other. As the bond is really the measuring rod of interest rates, the effect of reducing the disparity between the taxation upon incomes from bonds and that upon incomes from mortgages by $ per cent, should have a prompt result in reducing interest generally by per cent. Indeed, it should be possible for’ the man whose income is under £500, to whom a total exemption is granted, to lower the rate that he charges by -J per cent., but he, of course, is not the principal moneylender. I hope that it will not be long before the Government is able to abolish the super tax, which I look upon as one of the principal reasons for keeping the rate of interest for mortgages considerably above rates on giltedged securities.
There are some taxes which are much worse than others with respect to the proportion of the gross tax paid by the public, which finds its way into the Treasury, and probably none gives poorer results in this respect than primage, which fails lamentably when the cost to the public is contrasted with the return to the Treasury. It would he a fair guess to say that three business men out of four would express the opinion that the sales tax is more objectionable to them than primage, because it is more irritating and complicated. Yet with all its objection able features, and they have been very well presented to honorable members by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) and others, the return to the Treasury is much greater than is the revenue received from primage. I should like to see primage abolished, and regret that the relief which the Government proposes to give is only to the extent of one-tenth of the impost for last year, when the return to the Treasury was £4,500,000. An amount of £9,450,000 was collected last year from sales tax, and when that is contrasted with the revenue obtained from primage, one is inclined at first to think that sales tax has been twice as heavy as primage upon the ordinary public. Yet, I believe that despite the higher return from sales tax, the burden it imposes upon the general public has been very little greater than that imposed by primage. I say that for two reasons. In the first place, the incidence of primage is entirely different from that of the sales tax, for although primage is impose’d only; on imports, owing to its protective incidence, the prices of local manufactures not infrequently increase to the extent to which primage adds to the cost of imported articles with which they are in competition ; and not one penny of that additional cost goes into the Treasury. Secondly, primage is imposed the first time the article on which it is levied is handled in Australia. As the article passes through those who deal with it before it reaches the ultimate consumer, there is a great opportunity for profits to be taken on the original tax, and then on the tax and the profit taken on it by intervening traders. By the time the article reaches the consumer, this snowballing process has a tremendous effect on the price which is out of all proportion to the 5 per cent, or 10 per cent, originally imposed. Whatever faults the sales tax may have, and they are many, these two fundamental defects of primage do not apply to it. There is an ever-growing list of exemptions from sales tax, but, over a considerable field, that impost applies to imports and local manufactures alike ; therefore, the local manufacturer cannot use it as a shelter for taking additional profits. Further, unlike primage, sales tax is imposed at the last wholesale transaction. There is, therefore, only one opportunity for taking a profit on the payment “of that tax, and that by the ultimate retailer. Because of these reasons, the £4,500,000 which comes into the Treasury through the gateway of primage probably costs the ultimate consumers of the goods on which it is levied in Australia, also the consumers of goods on which it is not levied, as much as the £9,000,000 which is collected from sales tax. The gross cost of primage duty to the consumer is so out of proportion to the net returns to the Treasury that the sooner it is abolished, the better it will be in the interests of lower costs.
I do not think that the Government should discriminate in imposing sales tax between local and imported goods, as we already impose tariff duties considered to be sufficient to give Australian industries adequate shelter. Sales tax should be levied on both local and imported goods or on neither, otherwise the tax_charged on imported goods and not on locally-manufactured articles becomes an added protection concerning which the Tariff Board has had no say; and indirectly, it is doing something which alters the effect of recommendations mad! by the Tariff Board when determining the measure ‘of protection to which an industry is entitled.
I am pleased that land tax has been cut in halves, and I hope that the time is not far distant when it will be entirely removed, for it is much fairer to tax persons on their incomes than on the unimproved value of their property, or in other words, on their capital.
I should like to express a few words of congratulation to the Government in connexion with the satisfactory debt conversions which it has effected overseas, and I hope that the remaining £34,500,000 over which it has current optional conversion rights will, be converted at much lower rates of interest during the present calendar year.
It is gratifying to know that the wool industry is now on a very much more satisfactory price basis than it has been for some years, though it remains to bo seen to what extent, the lighter clip this year will offset the substantially increased prices. On the other hand, the wheatgrowers have never been in a worse plight than they are in to-day: For some years they, have been feeling the effects of what might be termed an economic war of attrition. They have been steadily becoming poorer and poorer, and will be unable to carry on much longer unless world prices improve, or unless some method can be devised to assist them in a substantial way. Nearly all countries which depend mainly on the export of their primary products are now feeling the full effect of the world tariff war. For several years, certain European countries have been attempting to provide their own requirements of wheat at prices which are utterly out of proportion to prices which normally rule for that cereal. For example, in France, during the second quarter of this year, the price of wheat, expressed in terms of Australian currency, was 7s. 9d. a bushel; in Germany, it was 9s. 2d., and in Italy, 9s. lid. In Australia it was selling at a little less than 2s. a bushel at most country railway stations. This extraordinary situation has been brought about by high import duties upon wheat, imposed by European countries which formerly were among Australia’s best, customers for this grain. The fact that wheat is now selling in one country at 2s. a bushel and in other countries at 8s., 9s., and even 10s. a bushel, is an example of the dislocation of trade and the uneconomic results which flow from the imposition of excessive duties. [Quorum formed.’] Australia is suffering to-day because a considerable proportion of its surplus primary products which, formerly, was exported in large quantities to Belgium and other European countries, is now being excluded in retaliation for the high tariff which Australia, in common with other countries, has adopted for the protection of its secondary industries. In retaliation Belgium is now prohibiting the importation of Australian barley, and the cabled news states that the Belgian Avar office has been instructed not to accept in future Australian contracts for the supply of meat, presumably because of the manner in which we have treated the Belgian glass industry in our tariff legislation.
– Action by Belgium is general; it is not being directed against Australia only
– I believe it is tlie intention of the Belgian Government to make concessions to certain countries,, and I should like to know that Australia was included in the list. I note that the High Commissioner in London intends to proceed to Brussels, if he has not already gone there, to endeavour to right the position ; but it seems to me that, unless action is first taken on the floor of this Parliament, his mission may be in vain. If duties against wheat all over the world were removed the position of Australian wheat-growers would be set right within two years, because wheat would then be grown in countries where it can be produced economically, instead of, as a.t present, in countries at highly artificial prices, such a3 are obtaining to-day in Germany, Prance and Italy. Under the present world conditions the Australian wheat industry is being threatened with extinction.
A few days ago the Government indicated to a deputation of wheat-growers’ representatives that it was considering a suggestion that relief should be given by means of a sales tax on flour. I hope that action in this direction will be taken, and that the tax will be sufficiently large to be equivalent to a price of 4s. 6d. a bushel on the 32,000,000 bushels of wheat which, it is estimated, will be required for milling purposes for consumption within Australia.
– What will he the additional cost of the 2-lb. loaf of bread?
– I should say that the added cost of flour, if the bakers pass on the whole cost of a sales tax of £5 10s. a ton, will mean an increase of Id. per 2-lb. loaf of bread. This figure has been arrived at after a close examination of the probable effects of the tax, and I understand that it is accepted by all parties concerned as accurate.
I turn now to the dairying industry which is also facing difficulties. To give relief, various. State Governments are busy with legislation to ensure a more constant local price and some measure of stability to the industry. But these measures will be valueless without Commonwealth legislation dealing with interstate trade. I, therefore, hope that the Government will, at an early date, introduce a bill giving to the dairying industry the same powers relating to interstate trade that Parliament gave to the dried fruits industry five years ago. It is impossible for this Parliament to discriminate between these two important industries. Therefore the Government should bring down legislation to supplement the measures that are passed by the various State Governments.
– State legislation relating to the dairying industry has not been passed yet.
– But we are in process of getting.it. I understand it has been brought before the Victorian Parliament, and that it is under consideration also in New South Wales.
– Li New South Wales it is not yet in final draft form.
– I trust that all the Parliaments concerned will speedily bring down this legislation. As a matter of principle there can be no discrimination in the treatment meted out to the dried fruits industry and the dairying industry.
I am glad that the budget figures disclose a substantial profit on the operations of the post office last year. For some years, postal and telephonic facilities in country districts have been ruthlessly cut down, the reason advanced at all times being financial stringency. As that is now a thing of the past in the Postal Department, I hope that country districts will be more liberally treated in future.
– It is a thing of the past only because of the 2d. postage rate.
– I realize that. I do not blame the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill), who has had a particularly lean time and has probably done everything possible in the circumstances; but I appeal to him to devote a portion of the profit of close on £1,000,000 to the liberalizing of the mail and telephonic facilities provided in country districts. I trust that he will also restore the concession formerly enjoyed by public hospitals in connexion with telephone charges, which was withdrawn on account of financial stringency. Public hospitals are notoriously impecunious at all times, and they would welcome its restoration.
I urge the Government to be as generous as possible towards rifle clubs, which I believe are one of the best adjuncts imaginable to our defence system.
I regard this budget as a useful instalment, and a step in the right direction, towards relieving industry of burdens that destroy enterprise and diminish employment. My one regret is that the instalment 13 not larger and the step a good deal longer.
I trust that the Government will give immediately the most serious consideration to the improvement of our foreign trade relations and the removal of unnecessary barriers to the interchange of goods. I particularly urge the making of mutually acceptable reciprocal treaties with countries that are Australia’s best customers. The action taken by Belgium typifies what is happening almost all over the world. [Quorum formed.’]
Mr. E. F. HARRISON (Bendigo) 1.4.36]. - Those who have read the budget speech must feel exceedingly proud of the progress made by Australia out of the depression in which it found itself two years ago. A comparison of the conditions that existed when the Premiers plan was implemented, and every section of the people was obliged to make sacrifices, with those that now prevail, discloses changes that must surprise even those who formulated that plan. The improvement is due to the wholehearted support of all classes of the community, and it will not be long before they will be amply repaid for the sacrifices they have made.
Last year’s accounts were closed with a credit balance of £3,546,608. There is no particular reason why we should budget as though financial years were made up in heaven-sent packets of twelve months each. The Government has wisely decided to make appreciable remissions of taxation out of the surplus of the last two years. The first requirement, as the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has rightly stated, is to place the primary producer on his feet. The report of the AuditorGeneral for South Australia, that the cost of interest in the wheat industry amounts to ls. a bushel, justifies the immediate tackling of the problem of interest rates. The Government is taking the correct course in proposing to reduce the company rate of tax from ls. 4.8d. to ls. in the £1. Immediately that intention of the Government was made known, one of the big lending institutions in Australia announced that, upon the enactment of the necessary legislation, its interest rates on loans would be lowered. That example, I believe, will be followed by other similar institutions. Even the much-abused banks have reduced their interest rates, and are continuing to make reductions. Although I hold no brief for the banks, it is well to clear our minds as to the reason why the reductions they have made are not so great as those of institutions which lend money on mortgage. A bank loan or overdraft is charged interest on a day-to-day balance. When a borrower does not need to use the funds of a bank, he is not charged interest up to the limit of his overdraft. The interest on a mortgage or a loan from a lending institution, however, is charged on the full amount of the advance for the whole of the period. . Comparing the two, I believe it will be found that the borrower from the bank pays less interest in a twelve-monthly period. I am glad that the property rate also is to be reduced, because the interest on manymortgages, on broad acres has been kept at an unduly high figure through the super tax that has had to be paid. I believe that the reduction from 10 per cent, to 5 per cent, will shortly have the effect of lowering the mortgage rates by at least ^ per cent.; and if, as should be possible, tho super tax is entirely removed next year, the reduction should become 1 per cent. Incomes from property are derived, not only by people with considerable means, but also bywidows and orphans whose husbands and fathers have invested their savings in property so that at their death their dependants may not be left totally unprovided for. The .reduction of the personal exertion rate by 15 per cent, will help considerably those who are on the basic wage or thereabouts. At first blush it might not appear that the effect would be felt so far down in the wage scale. Actually, however, the result must be an appreciable reduction of the living costs of those who have rather small incomes.
I do not altogether agree with the honorable member for Gippsland, that when taxation remissions are to be made in future, the primage duty should first receive attention. In. my opinion, the sales tax has a much greater influence on the general community. The reduction of that tax by 1 per cent, involves a loss of revenue amounting to £1,350,000. Last year the Government exempted certain goods from the operation of the sales tax, with the express intention of benefiting the man on the land, and thus lost revenue to an amount of £400,000. This year, further exemptions are to be made totalling £1,220,000.
– The loss of revenue last year was £700,000.
– That included both primage and sales tax. These exemptions relate principally to agricultural requirements, few of which are now subject to sales tax. The actions generally of the Government, and the taxation remissions it has made, would lead one to think that it regards itself as representative solely of primaryproducing interests. I agree, of course, that without primary production there could be no secondary industries. The time has arrived to remit the sales tax in such a way as to provide the maximum of employment in the more densely populated centres. Undoubtedly, the building industry employs more labour for the amount of money expended than does any other industry, and the remission of the sales tax on all building materials would stimulate building’ operations .throughout Australia. In a city, not of enormous size, in. the centre of my electorate, 40 houses are now being erected as the result of the improved conditions under which dwellings can be built. The Government has also taken into consideration the sales tax on food and medical requirements; but assistance should ‘be extended still further by remitting the tax on bed linen, furniture, and other requirements used in hospitals. Hospitals are not ex traordinarily well endowed, and require money to provide patients with the utmost comforts. Already, remissions have been made with respect to surgical, medical and dental requirements, which is of great assistance. The remissions already made are staggering considering the financial position of the country two years ago. Within the last eighteen months, the Government has remitted approximately £9,500,000 of taxation, although it has not been in office much longer than that. In addition, it has wisely decided to stimulate spending by itself increasing expenditure in certain directions.
I congratulate the Government upon removing some of the anomalies in our invalid and. old-age pensions legislation, and upon having appropriated over £600,000 to make the lot of the pensioner easier than it was under the enforced conditions imposed by the Premiers plan. It is also pleasing to note that the Government has provided approximately £250,000 to afford relief to the mothers of deceased soldiers, and to the widows of totally incapacitated soldiers whose income was not sufficient to provide them with reasonable comforts. On the figures presented last year, I do not think it was anticipated that the Government would be able to set aside over £500,000 on an annual basis for the partial restoration of public servants’ salaries. The sum of £125,000 is also to be appropriated to assist those engaged in the export of fruit. Fruit exporters have not received any assistance from the Government, and have suffered more severely than the wheat-growers. I know of one orchardist with a first-class orchard of 90 acres, who, after exporting last season’s crop, had to forward a cheque for £700 to meet the loss which resulted from the marketing of his fruit in London. A more orderly system of marketing in England is necessary to meet such a situation. The whole trouble was due to a glut of Australian fruit on the London market, caused by an inefficient shipping time-table. I cannot say who was responsible, bint if the ships carried the fruit free of cost, and it had arrived in London at the same time as it actually did, with the exception of a few early shipments which met a good market, it would not have returned any profit to the growers.
The Government also proposes to allocate £1,300,000 for defence purposes. As honorable members know my views on this subject I do not propose to speak at length on it this afternoon, but at a later stage I hope to have some comments to make on the Governments defence policy. I deprecate, however, the action of self-appointed experts running through the country with a flaming torch advocating the sole use of one arm of the service to the disadvantage of other branches of our defence system. It is always advisable for the cobbler to stick to his last. The Government should accept the advice of its paid experts from whom it expects to receive a considered defence plan, which can be carried out as finances permit. Australia is desperately in need of an adequate defence system., and whatever our financial position may be we should be able to defend ourselves. “With this first instalment of £1,300,000, the Government should be able to bring our defence requirements up to date. Instead of allocating a comparatively small amount this year and a similar sum next year, the Government should adopt a definite defence policy covering a period of six or preferably ten years, in order to receive an adequate return for the money expended.
Some of the results of the Ottawa agreement are now noticeable, and in future that agreement should have a marked effect upon inter-Empire trade. The Ottawa agreement, which some have condemned, has been of great benefit to Australia, and especially to those engaged in primary production. For instance, the prices obtained overseas for Australian lamb and mutton have increased to an extent that was not anticipated when the agreement was signed, and for the first time since the termination of the war, frozen beef is now being profitably exported from Victoria.
The reductions of customs duties since this Government assumed office have been in favour of Great Britain, and the increases have been with a view to assisting trade between Australia and Great Britain. Since tho Ottawa, agreement came into operation added preference has been given to Great Britain by means of an exchange adjustment, which will not detrimentally affect any Australian industry. Honorable members opposite will, I think, agree with me that the reductions of excise on beer and spirits have not been sufficient to stimulate revenue to the extent desired or to enable the reduction to be passed on to the consumer. At present the excise on beer represents more than half the actual cost of its manufacture. If a substantial reduction of price were made consumption would increase, and the revenue would benefit. That was the experience in Great Britain about ten years ago. A reduction of Id. a pint would, I believe, be the means of increasing revenue from this source to an enormous extent.
As the Post and Telegraph Department was able to show a considerable surplus last year, I suggest that the whole community should be granted a concession by a return to 1½d. postage. At present the Government is obtaining a good deal of revenue from 2d. postage which is a burden carried by the whole community. A return to l$d. postage would not result in a loss of revenue, as business firms and private individuals would so increase their correspondence that at the end of the financial year the Postal Department would be able to offer considerable concessions, not only to telephone subscribers, but also to other customers of the department.
We can now say definitely that there is no temptation to withdraw capital invested in Australia. The improvement in our financial position is due largely to the action of the Commonwealth Bank, which is able to carry on its operations froe from all political interference. The primary and secondary industries of Australia have been assisted by a wellmanaged currency which has not been pegged to gold. The proper control of our currency and of the exchange rate has assisted those industries most in need of help. The Commonwealth Bank should be permitted to continue in the position it holds to-day; in fact it is in control of all major financial matters, including the rate of exchange. I do not believe that it is prudent but sheer pedantry to say that the opportunity to remit some forms of taxation should be neglected. TheGovernment has a number of historical cases to support its action. For instance, there is a post-war case in which the British Chancellor of the Exchequer decided on an all-round reduction of ls. in the income tax which amounted to approximately £52,000,000. He was blamed by opponents, as I have heard the Prime Minister criticized in this House, for having budgeted for a deficit; but the result of the reduction of ls. in the £1, and a slight reduction of the tea duties, was an increase of revenue in Great Britain of £105,000,000, and a reduction of 400,000 in the number of the unemployed. I believe that as a result of the budget proposals of the Commonwealth Government, unemployment in Australia will be reduced at an increasing rate. Since the present Government has been in oflice, unemployment has been reduced, and I congratulate the Ministry upon the courageous policy it has announced in the budget. Australia has a war debt hanging over its head, and it must not be assumed that the debt will be wiped out. We must be prepared to meet an annual payment to Great Britain on account of our war liability of about £5,250,000; but, until Australia is required to make that payment, the Government is acting properly in budgeting along the present lines. I believe that the effect of this policy will be shown in the near future to be in the best interests of the Commonwealth.
.- The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) referred to the proposed increased expenditure on defence, and I believe that this proposal has evoked quite as much interest among the people as have the remissions of taxation. I intend to discuss the defence problem, because of recent statements in the press both for and against the proposals of the Government. We must not shut our eyes to the wave of enthusiasm that has passed over Australia about the need for effective defence, both before and since the budget was introduced. Defence leagues have been established in many parts of Australia to draw attention to our undefended condition and the possibility of invasion, and to urge that adequate means he taken at once to defend our shores. Certain minorities, however, decry these activities, and describe the members of defence leagues and other defence enthusiasts as war-mongers and militarists. This opposition comes from sections who view the matter from two different angles. There is the Christian view-point of those who believe in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, and who look upon war as barbaric, which, no doubt, it is. These people claim that no war-like preparation should he countenanced. Another section of the community, which objects to the activities of defence leagues, is prompted, perhaps, more by political than by patriotic motives. Its view is rather illogical, because one could hardly imagine any honorable member, if his home were invaded by a burglar, standing by while a midnight marauder ransacked his dwelling and ill treated his women folk. If he had not sufficient personal courage to attack the invader, he would certainly send for the police. When the police force falls below the requisite strength, a public outcry occurs. The police give us protection against evil fellow citizens, and similarly we should provide protec-‘ tion for our country against other nations that may attack us. Yet the defence forces of not only Australia, but also the whole of the Empire, have fallen far below requirements, and have given grave concern to those who are intensely interested in the safety of the Empire. Only recently, however, has the interest of the general public been aroused in this vital matter.
The world’s hopes were centred in the League of Nations, but in the last year or two the impotence of the League to prevent war has been clearly demonstrated. Disarmament can be successful only when honestly and universally applied. Recently we have seen that neither of these conditions has been observed. One of the criticisms that has been levelled against the defence leagues - and I agree with the opinion expressed by the honorable member for Bendigo that alarmist propaganda should be deprecated - is that their support comes mostly from persons who are probably too old to bear’ arms. This is an unmerited gibe, because these persons are genuinely interested in defence matters, although I do not consider it wise of them to assume a virtue that they do not possess, and to suggest that they are able to determine the proper defence policy of this country. Our returned soldiers, who know the borrows of war, would be the last to encourage action of an alarmist nature. They remember the landing on Gallipoli, the grim experience of retaining possession of a small area of land for months, the desert campaigns of Egypt and Palestine, the mud, rain, and frosts of France and Flanders, the wholesale destruction of towns and bridges, and a smiling countryside, the incessant nerve-racking noise of armaments, and the agony of wounds and death. Yet, reluctant as our returned soldiers would bc to plunge Australia into another war, I have no doubt that, as a body, they would be the first to respond to their country’s call if help were needed.
Imperial defence has been described as “ the business of affording protection to the persons, territories and interests of all the people who constitute the Empire.” It will be noted that no reference is made to aggression ; the term used is “ affording protection.” It would be just as logical adequately to protect the Empire as it is to provide a policeman tq keep the footpad in check. The problem of defence naturally falls into the following four divisions : - (1) The protection of the sea communications of the Empire, the trade routes, and the necessity for dealing with piracy even in times of peace. (2) Protection against invasion by a foreign foe. (3) The protection of British citizens in the more uncivilized countries of the world. (4) The preservation of law and order within our own borders. The immensity of the task which empire defence entails cannot be overestimated; it is in inverse ratio to our state of preparedness at the present time. The British Empire covers one-fourth of the land surface of the globe, and comprises one-quarter of the world’s population. There are Great Britain, the dominions, the colonies, the protectorates, and the mandated territories. They are all interdependent, and 1 arc held together by bonds of common interests and sentiment. As one writer has said, “ We must all hang together or we shall all hang separately.” The present world position is not reassuring. According to the latest figures, the British army consists of 198,000 men, of whom about one-half are stationed abroad. The British Empire has one permanent, military effective for every 1,140 persons. These figures do not compare favorably with those relating to other nations. The following table shows the number of persons in the five leading countries to each permanent military effective : -
Canada, with a population of 10,000,000 has 3,800 permanent military effectives and 49,000 citizen soldiers. Australia, whose population is 6,500,000, has 1,600 permanent and 26,000 citizen soldiers, while New Zealand, whose population numbers 1,500,000, has 300 permanent and 6,000 citizen soldiers.
In view of the disturbed condition of Europe, one is not surprised that public interest is being aroused in our defenceless position. Within the last few days, the reports received from Europe have been of a disturbing nature, and we cannot close our eyes to the possibility of friction there. I have mentioned the mandates with which Australia has been entrusted by the League of Nations. Australia has control of the former German pacific colonies south of the Equator, while Japan has been entrusted with a mandate over those in the northern hemisphere. These mandates are of great importance both to Japan and Australia. We are required to see that freedom of conscience and religion is given in the mandated territories. We must prevent slave trade and liquor traffic. The natives may receive military training for police work only, and no naval bases or defended forts may be constructed. I saw in tho press recently a disturbing statement from Europe to the effect that Japan was building an aerodrome on one of its mandated islands. Australia has established aerodromes in New Guinea, but merely for the purpose of providing communication between the gold-mining districts and the centres of population. One may be pardoned for a passing thought as to what may happen when Germany and Japan have finally withdrawn from membership of the League of Nations. At the present time, all the signatories to the covenant of the league are in duty bound to obey the terms of their mandates.
Let us now consider our own island continent of 3,000,000 square miles containing a population of about 6,500,000 persons - about two to the square mile. Australia has peculiar difficulties, included in which are an extensive coastline, a multiplicity of railway gauges, an absence of lateral communications, an isolated outpost at Darwin, and a concentration of half its meagre population in six capital cities. The centralization of our population constitutes a grave menace in the event of aggression by a foreign power. Under our dominion status, Australia is not responsible for actions taken by. other .members of the British Commonwealth of Nations without our consent; but, under the Kellog Pact, to which Australia is a signatory, this country is committed to “ action in defence of our interests in certain regions of the world, the welfare and integrity of which constitute a special and vital interest for our peace and safety.” Australia must watch the world position. The problem confronting us is a serious one, and friendly enthusiasts vie with each other in advocating different solutions of it. To some the development of our air force is the only solution, while others, who pin their faith more to the navy than to the air force, would have submarines and destroyers, but not cruisers. Still others strongly advocate the mechanization of the army, while there are not wanting those who look to compulsory military training, as our strongest means of defence. This chamber is not the place to discuss these technical matters, and, moreover, we can reasonably assume that the Ministry is in consultation with the professional heads of the navy, the army and the air force, and is, therefore, more in touch with world developments than are those of us who sit in this chamber.
Until 1914, the Royal Navy was maintained at a strength equal to that of any other two navies combined, but since the war, the United States of America has claimed equality and has, in fact, achieved it. The Royal Navy, however, is still superior to that of France, Italy or Japan. Since 1929, the tonnage of the Royal Australian Navy has fallen from 65,000 tons to 41,000 tons- a fall of 36 per cent. In the same period the personnel has been reduced by about 40 per cent. - from approximately 5,000 to a little over 3,000. Five destroyers, on loan from the Royal Navy, are now on their way to Australia, but it is disappointing to read that on their arrival in Sydney two of them will immediately be put out of commission because our personnel is insufficient to man them.
– They will deteriorate.
– It takes longer to make a trained seaman than it does to build a ship, and I therefore urge the Government to increase our naval establishment and encourage recruiting, so that these vessels may be placed in commission, and their personnel adequately trained. By that means another problem - that of finding appointments for some of the senior officers of the Royal Australian Navy - would be solved. For these early products of the Royal Australian Naval College, it is difficult to find places in the sadly reduced Royal Australian Navy. In my opinion, it is unnecessary to continue any longer the practice of obtaining captains and officers of higher rank from the Royal Navy, for Australia has a large number of well-trained senior officers who have held their own against the best that the Royal Navy could produce and have brought great credit to the Royal Australian Naval College. We should be able to man our navy with Australian officers, especially in view of the excellent system of exchange between the two services.
Honorable members generally will be pleased to learn that the survey work undertaken by H.M.A.S. Moresby is being continued. This survey work, both on land and sea, is of great importance in a new country; and, quite apart from the defence aspect it would be well to push ahead with it. The photographic assistance rendered by the Royal Australian Air Force is invaluable, but it is unfair that the cost should be debited to the defence vote.
Another matter of great importance to Australia is the supply of oil fuel. Unfortunately, the Empire is not in a strong position in this connexion, for 60 per cent. of the world’s supplies comes from the United States of America, only 4 per cent. being produced in the British Empire. In these days the navy, as well as the air force, is dependent on adequate oil supplies, and for that reason the Government has done well to complete the storage tanks at Darwin and provide a small garrison for their defence. Every effort should be made to encourage the search for oil within Australia, to perfect the production of oil from shale and coal and to examine the possibilities of power alcohol. The successful production of oil from coal would serve two useful purposes ; not only would it provide a. muchneeded fuel, but it would also render assistance to the coal industry.
The permanent military forces of Australia are used mainly for instructional purposes, and, for that reason, should themselves be highly trained. It is therefore, most unfortunate that in recent years, that terrible master, “ shortage of funds,” should have not only demanded the retrenchment of valuable staff, but also caused a serious restriction of both the amount and the quality of the instruction available. The recent rapid long-distanceflights of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and of Lord Apsley and Captain Crawford-Greene have given prominence to the great improvement in air craft in the last few years, and the results of the mock battle in England between the air force and the navy show to what extent the air arm may be relied on in future operations. It is not difficult to imagine what would happen to our big cities in the event of an air attack by a powerful enemy. As in the navy, so in the air force, the training of the personnel is a long task, and I am certain that the people of Australia would be glad to see an active policy of development in both the Royal Australian Air Force and civil aviation.
The committee heard with pleasure the statement by the Prime Minister this afternoon that certain improvements would be made in the pay of the fighting services. It is about twelve months since I moved the adjournment of the House to draw attention to the necessity for an immediate improvement of the pay of naval ratings.
– The honorable member voted against his own motion.
– I am gladto say that post hoc, if not propter hoc, there was an immediate improvement, but much still remains to be done. There is no need to remind the’ committee that the fighting services are prevented from taking public or political action to state their case. In this respect, they suffer a great disadvantage compared with members of the Public Service or trade unions. Moreover, the fighting services are dominated, both in numbers and in comparative salaries, by the clerical officers of the Defence Department. That the chief of the general staff - the leading executive soldier -in Australia - should receive hundreds of pounds a year lessthan the secretary of his department, is indefensible. The same comparison can be made throughout the department, but, as I mentioned this matter a year ago, I shall not go into details now. So far as I can see, the position will not he altered by the Government’s budget proposals. It is a mistake to select first-class men and train them in the fighting services, and then dishearten them by inadequate remuneration. It is a matter for wonder that any young men of ability should join, or remain in, the army, the navy, or the air force. Indeed, they would not do so if they considered their own financial welfare, for they would do better to pass the leaving certificate examination and join the Public Service. When retrenchment was found necessary, highly-trained officers of all services were axed, but the clerical section of the department did not suffer to the same extent. They had their clerical associations with well-organized voting strength. I believe that the Government has the welfare of the Commonwealth at heart, and I hope, therefore, that it. will see that the conditions and the pay of the fighting services are so improved as to attract and to retain the best men. I am not unmindful of the fact that Australia has been passing through a period of deep depression ; and although ‘there are signs of improvement, I do not believe that we are yet out of the wood. I feel, however, that action to put our defence affairs on a. sound footing can no longer be delayed; and, for that reason, I express gratification at the Government’s proposal to spend on defence about £1,500,000 more than was expended last year. With the honorable member for Bendigo, I hope that the Government will work to a definite plan. I am not indulging in war-mongering, but I emphasize the necessity to take stock of world conditions, and the frailities of human nature. Defence is a national insurance against international conflagration. While we welcome the possibility of the improvement of our defences, we all pray that Australia may never again be involved in war.
– The dominant desire of the people of Australia and of the world is that prosperity may be restored. Any suggestions made “to that end should be received with approval by the Government. The mining industry has indisputably done more than any other industry to help Australia through her various crises, and to augment the population and develop the country generally. In I860 the population of Victoria was 30,000; but gold, was discovered in. that State in the following year with the result that settlement and population were tremendously stimulated. Nine years afterwards the population of Victoria had grown to 53S,000, by which time the population of New South Wales, after 72 years of British occupation, was only 349,000. The development of New South Wales has been chiefly along pastoral lines. I have no desire to decry the importance of the pastoral industry, but unquestionably throughout the history of this country the mining industry, especially goldmining, has been the greatest stimulant to settlement; certainly a greater stimulant than pastoral activities. I believe that history will repeat itself in this regard, particularly in the Northern Territory, but sympathetic assistance must be given to the mining industry by the Government. If it had not been for Mount Morgan, Charters Towers, Gym pie, Bendigo, Ballarat and the Golden West, Australia would not have attained anything like the degree of development which she has attained. The discovery of gold in Western Australia caused 55,000 adults to leave Victoria to seek fortune and employment in the western State. Such is the urge of gold 1
A good deal has been said at various times about the problems of settlement in the Northern Territory, and it has lately been suggested that we should admit our failure by handing over to a chartered company huge areas in the far north. This proposal is reminiscent of the granting of charters to various companies in South Africa. Disastrous results followed the policy in the sister dominion. There is in Northern Australia, 300 miles from the sea-board, an auriferous belt, the surface of which has hardly been scratched. There is another auriferous belt in” the Gulf country, and the mining possibilities in Central Australia are beyond the dreams of the average member of this Parliament. Yet the Government is providing in “ Division 137, Northern Territory,” of these Estimates, under the somewhat pretentious heading “Development of mining industry including loans to miners, “ only the paltry sum of £1,800. For many years similar paltry amounts have been provided on the Estimates for the assistance of the mining industry of the Northern Territory. But even those small amounts have rarely been expended. Last year £250 was provided for this purpose, but of that sum, which would not bc sufficient to sink a well in a back yard, let alone do anything effective for the development of the mining industry, only £106 was expended. This was not because there was a lack of applications from prospectors of proved ability. I know that applications were received for this money, but more than half of it was destined to remain unexpended.
Why the Government should have so sadly neglected the unemployed in North Australia is beyond my comprehension. The scourge of unemployment, is extending day by day in the huge territory that I represent. Many men have been attracted to that country by the lure of mineral wealth, but they have been left in” a hopeless position because of the failure of the Government to provide any money for the development of even the existing mining properties. Moreover a government decree was issued some time ago that men who had not been two years in the Northern Territory prior to a given date should not he allowed to participate in relief work provided for men who had been there for that period or longer. This has prevented many of the unemployed from participating in even the small amount of relief work that the Government has put in hand. Men are still pouring into the Northern Territory because it is known that gold exists there in payable quantities. It cannot be suggested that those men are loafers, because loafers do not go into such outlandish places if they can avoid doing so. The men going into the Northern Territory to-day, and those already there, are of the kind that have built up this great country. Such men have been principally responsible for the development of the mining industry in Western Australia, and in the far northern districts of Queensland-, and they may be relied upon, if they are given reasonable assistance by the Government, to do everything possible to bring into profitable working the mining fields already proved to exist in the Northern Territory. But, unfortunately, the Government has failed to make its contribution to this desirable end. Apparently it would sooner see these men perish, than do anything to assist them to produce wealth in this undeveloped country. The Prime Minister has often spoken about ‘” real wealth “. Gold is real wealth for it has an international value. There are several large gold-bearing areas in the Northern Territory which have been most favorably reported upon by government officials, yet nothing is being done by the Government to assist in their development for the benefit of the Northern Territory, and the Commonwealth as a whole. On the 6th October, the Administrator of the Northern Territory telegraphed to the Minister for the Interior the following report on Tennant’s Creek gold-field : -
Field distinctly encouraging great length main lode from Big Ben through Peter Pun to Wheal Doria and width values lode Wheal Doria shaft forty-eight feet seem reasonable indications persistence of lode and values at depth. Development proceeding Pinnacles
Peter Pan Big Ben Great Northern and Wheal Doria all under option but some instances work slow owing scarcity skilled miners. Rich gold Wheal Doria and Pinnacles found beneath ironstone deposits and Garnetts easterly in aboriginal reserve and Euroa about sixteen miles west from Garnetts several score similar ironstone deposits occur each possibly auriferous. Am threatening forfeiture blocks unworked after twenty-eight days according regulation eighty-five this should result many lodes outside districts being tested. Majority ironstone outcrops ten to fifty feet above surrounding plain but four instances lodes outcrop in plains. I consider other rich discoveries probable and oven if values not persistent depth practically certain ore now discovered must be treated and some permanent settlement here result.
The outstanding feature of this report is that this field has great possibilities of wealth production. When one considers what various State Governments have done in the past to develop and encourage gold mining, the failure of the Commonwealth Government is thrown into stronger relief. It is incomprehensible to me that it does not do everything in its power to exploit this field to the fullest possible extent. It was hoped, of course, that the field would be developed by private enterprise, hut activities in that direction have received a rude knock due to the greed and rapacity of people who have endeavoured to make huge fortunes by the sale of first options. Some options have been taken at a fairly big figure, and then forfeited. In spite of this fact the holders of various leases have refused to reduce the prices at which they offer options. Company promoters in Adelaide have paid up to £30.000 in cash and shares for some options, and loaded them by another £30,000, necessitating the formation of companies with a capital of £80,000 or £100,000. But twenty or thirty companies each’ with that amount of capital cannot be formed at once. The money available does not permit it. Many people have therefore been obliged to surrender their options. The consequence has ‘been a trail of misery in the Northern Territory, for holders of options have defaulted to the extent of anything from £600 to £S00 in the payment of wages. It is time that the Government introduced legislation to make it impossible for mercenary “go-getters”, not only to hinder development in these outlying areas, but also to bring disaster upon many people. Their operations have also caused a doubt to arise in the public mind as to whether there is really any gold in certain areas. The Government has been asked time and again to send a geologist to these areas. Only to-day I have been advised that an assayer will be sent to Alice Springs when laboratory provision can be made for him to conduct his work. But there is accommodation already available for him in the post office at Tennant’s creek. Both an assayer and a geologist should bo sent to the Northern Territory. I have seen miners who have got no gold from their dollying, but have discovered later that samples sent to Mount Isa from the areas in which they have been working have assayed 7 ounces or 8 ounces to the ton. In these circumstances it is high time that qualified government officers should be sent to the areas to which I have referred, for in my opinion some of them promise to become as great as any gold-fields yet discovered in Australia.
– Could not an assayer travel about the fields in a motor car?
– The assayer should bc established at the post office at Tennant’s Creek, because that is the central position of a mining field with a radius of from 20 to 30 miles.
– How far is the field from the post office?
– The post office is situated in the centre of the field. There is a possibility of employing from 40,000 to 50,000 men on this field; and as the Director of Mines has stated, it is certain that more rich mines will be discovered. Within the last couple of days I have received telegrams to the effect that other valuable discoveries have been made. The duty of this Government is plain. It should at least send its experts to the field in order to let the people of Australia know the true position, and to stop any further juggling by company promoters who, up to the present, have done nothing but check the progress of the field.
The efforts of this Government to assist tho gold-mining industry fade into insignificance when compared with those of some of the State Governments. According to the report of the Western Australian Mines Department, in 1931, the value of the output of gold was £2,524,557, representing an increase of £330,000 on the value of the output in 1930. It is true that the dividends amounted to only £53,125, but that was due to the tremendous extension of mining operations in Western Australia, and the installation of modern and up-to-date machinery in many of the mines. Some of the new plants cost nearly £1,000,000. There are 7,147 men employed in the industry, and, due to the vigorous policy of the Government of Western Australia, that State produces 69.78 per cent, of the total gold produced in Australia. Since 1919, when the Prospecting Board was appointed, 2,535 prospecting parties, employing 4,152 men, have been assisted at a cost of £72,465 18s. 4d. I ask honorable members to compare that sum with the paltry £1,800 which this Government, is providing to assist in the development of the mining industry in the Northern Territory. Under the Mining Development Act of Western Australia, mineowners there were assisted to the extent of £30,545 8s. 4d. in 1931, and £51,500 in 1930, and, as a result, the gold output increased from £1,768,623 in 1930, to £2,36S,771 in 1931. In Western Australia there are 23 State batteries which have treated 63,428 tons of ore, yielding 36,751.81 ounces. A tremendous quantity of gold has been won as the result of the methods adopted by the Government of Western Australia to encourage the development of the industry in that State. The working costs for all batteries in 1931 amounted to £52,970, the revenue being £51,630. There was, therefore, a loss on operations of only £1,340 for that year, as against a g;i in of 36,751. S5 ounces. This industry is an exceedingly profitable one, and has proved itself to be of immense value to’ Australia in all periods of crisis. Western Australia has also continued its system of free assays for prospectors, and in one year 1,483 free assays were made. South Australia has also assisted its mining industry by carrying out a considerable amount of diamond drilling. Last year Tasmania, under its Aid to Mining Act, expended £2,219 6s. lOd. on diamond drilling, and made sustenance allowance to prospectors to the amount of £7,710 18s. 2d., which gave assistance to 481 men. In 1932, New South Wales granted a subsidy of £1 for £1 on a footage basis, representing an expenditure of £10,115. In addition it advanced £5,000 to assist in the erection of machinery, and also made loans to tho:-o engaged in the industry amounting to £2,915. A further £10,000 was also provided by the Unemployed Relief Council in New South Wales to assist 2,400 unemployed prospectors. Throughout Australia there are 55,105 miners employed in the gold-mining industry, and in 1932-33 we exported £21,600,816 worth of gold. It is better to encourage the employment of our workless citizens in the mining fields of this country than to have them, figuratively speaking, shifting sand about the townships. Gold plays an important part in the affairs of the world to-day. It is estimated that if the budgets of the Australian Governments amounted to £200,000,000, it would represent £112,000,000 in terms of gold or in goods valued by gold. Gold to-day buys three times the quantity of goods it could buy in 1928. The payment of foreign interest amounting to £20,000,000 in terms of gold would necessitate a payment of £56,000,000 in terms of commodities based on 1928 values. We cannot escape the fact that everything which we produce is finally valued in gold. This commodity, on account of its “ scarcity, cannot be cheapened. Debts contracted in 1929 have since doubled and trebled, so that some countries cannot sell enough goods to enable them to meet their commitments, Austria and Brazil being examples. If the price of gold rose sufficiently it would be possible for those two countries to pay their debts in full with a corresponding increase of price levels.
It may be that this Government’s apathy to the gold industry, with respect to the development of this mining field, has been brought about by its desire to dangle this great potential wealth producer before the eyes of some would-be chartered companies. I hope that we shall never see a repetition of what took place in South Africa in respect to granting charters. Every one knows what an increased gold production would mean to Australia, and one is puzzled to find the reason for the Government’s indifference to the huge possibilities of gold-mining in the Northern Territory. It may be that it is suffering from a fear complex, that it is fearful that it may fail to achieve what the State Governments are now achieving and have achieved in the past. Mr. Bell, who has made a report to the Government on the Tennant’s Creek field, is an excellent and practical miner. He is a qualified assayer, having the confidence of those engaged in mining in the Northern Territory. His work covers a huge territory - six times the size of Victoria. He is absolutely certain, in view of the results obtained from the developmental work already done, that goldmining is likely to be a permanent industry in the Territory. I have received a telegram to the effect that one miner obtained samples of stone which yielded at the rate of over 20 ounces to the ton. I have seen similar samples and Mr. Bell has also reported having seen samples carrying this high yield. The men already at Tennant’s Creek are anxious to develop their leases, but they cannot proceed without assistance from, and the co-operation of, the Government. We should do as Western Australia is doing and provide facilities for these men to extract from mother earth the wealth of which this country is so badly in need. If this Government would do for these men only one-tenth of what Western Australia has done for the mining industry in that State the difficulties confronting gold mining in the Northern Territory would soon be overcome. We know from experience that the development of a large mining field attracts settlement from all parts of the world. It is not too much to ask the Government to send its experts to the field in order to assess its true worth. If they find that the stone is as good and as plentiful as is represented, the Government should then pay the men a £ for £ subsidy for sinking their shafts, making the repayment of the advance a first charge against production. The men would not object to that. The Government should also provide a battery, and the necessary cyanide treatment plant. There is sufficient stone there to keep a large battery going for many years.
– What about water?
– There is a natural rainfall of sixteen inches a year, and when I left the field a month ago, there was still water in the creek. If measures were taken to conserve the available water, there would be sufficient for all needs. Unfortunately, at the present time, the water is not fit for human consumption, because the waterholes have been fouled by cattle. The Government is now putting down bores, but with what success I do not know.
There are hundreds of unemployed in the north, and for many of them profitable employment could be found on this field, which, according to the Director of Mines, extends for, perhaps, 30 or 40 miles. There are at present 100 to 150 men at this place, and these should be assisted with rations to enable them to remain. The Government should not insist’ on the men working their claims, because very few of them have any money at all, and cannot possibly work their shows without Government assistance; but if this assistance were rendered it could then insist that the claims should be worked. There are thousands of tons of ore in sight which would yield many ounces of gold to the ton, but nothing is being done with it because the claim-holders cannot buy the necessary materials to treat it. The Government should regard this matter as urgent, both because it is desirable to do something for the men, and because the gold which they could produce would be of great assistance to Australia during this time of economic depression. There is an auriferous belt in the north extending for over 300 miles, and much of it could be worked if proper machinery were available. The other day I received a letter from a man who had got out 100 tons of stone assaying over an ounce to the ton, but he had no hope of ever getting it crushed unless he could obtain assistance. I appeal to the Minister not to wait for departmental advice, but to send his experts to the field, and, if they are satisfied, let the necessary plant be sent up so that the men will be able fo produce gold, earn their own -living and make themselves useful and independent citizens. * Quorum form,ed.~*
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), when presenting the budget, told us that the country was on the way to renewed prosperity, and in support of his statement quoted figures alleging that unemploy ment had declined. The suggestion was that this happy result had flowed from the policy of the present Government. Apparently, he did not take much trouble to verify the figures he quoted. He said that unemployment to-day was 25.7 per cent. For the second quarter of 1932, the percentage of unemployment, he said, was 30 per cent.; for the third quarter 29.6 per cent.; for the fourth quarter, 28.1 per cent.; and for the first quarter of 1933, 26.5 per cent. He did not say how these figures had been arrived at; but, having taken the trouble to communicate with the Statistician’s Department in order to find out, I learned that the figures supplied by that department were worked out from returns furnished by the registered trade unions throughout the Commonwealth. I learned also that only 56 per cent, of the trade unions supply returns, and that no figures are available regarding travelling unemployed, or youths and girls who have never worked, “ and, consequently, have never been registered as members of any organization. I asked officials in the Statisticiau’3 office whether the number of these people was estimated, but they told me that no account waa taken of them at all.
– The industrial unions have no unemployed members because, when a man loses his employment, he ceases to be a member.
– That is so. In the Tramways Union, of which I am a member, only four or five persons not working as tramwaymen are shown as members of the union. Usually, when a man loses his employment, he automatically ceases to be a member of the union.
– The present method of assessing the number of unemployed is no different from what it was in previous years.
– Perhaps not; I am merely pointing out that it cannot possibly reflect the true position. I am confident that if a proper record could be made the percentage would be not less than 40 per cent.
– Tho census returns do not show that to be true.
– Because the questionnaire was deliberately framed to prevent the facts regarding unemployment from coming to light. If a person is employed on relief work in a State, even though he works only two weeks in five, he is regarded as being in employment. Moreover, those on rationed employment, though they may he working only a few weeks a year, are also shown as fully employed. In this way the Government seeks to delude the people into believing that, since the advent of anti-Labour governments, the position has improved.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
– If we were to take literally the claims that have been made by the Prime Minister we should expect an increase in population through an excess of the number of arrivals in Australia over the number of departures. Certainly, such a basis would afford a more accurate guide as to the prosperity or otherwise of the country than the indicator employed by the right honorable gentleman, namely, the number of telephones which have been connected since the Government assumed office. In the four years which ended on the 30th June, 1933, the number of departures exceeded arrivals by 38,119, the figure for 1933 being 9,807, compared with 4,843 for 1932. Another alarming feature is the appreciable decline which has taken place in the national birthrate. In . 1921 the figure was 24.95 per 1,000 of population, which had fallen to 16.94 by 1932, a decrease of 8.01. The natural increase has decreased from 15.05 per 1,000 in 1921 to 8.28 per 1,000 in 1932, a decline of 6.77.
The budget speech is full of inaccuracies, one of the most glaring of which is that dealing with London conversions -
From information which has been supplied to me by the Treasury, I find that much more liberal terms have been offered recently in the United Kingdom for the conversion of other loans. Here are two examples -
Two other instances are given in which the nominal interest rate was2½ per cent., which proves to me that, despite the exaggerated claims that have been made by the Prime Minister, the present High Commissioner in London, Mr. Bruce, has been just as great a failure in his handling of Australia’s loan conversions as he was as the representative of Australia at the Ottawa and World Economic Conferences. It must be remembered that substantial discounts had to be given in addition to the3¾ per cent. at which Mr. Bruce negotiated our loan conversions in London.
The Government has proved by this and previous budgets that it is either grossly inaccurate in its statements or utterly incapable of estimating the national revenue and expenditure. Last year it forecast a small deficit, hut the financial period ended with a surplus of £3,546,000. On this occasion the Government predicts a deficit of £1,176,000. I do not accept the claim that it finished last year with a surplus, because I find that the accumulated deficit of the Commonwealth is. now slightly in excess of £17,000,000, which is represented by treasury-bills. There was no suggestion by the Government that any portion of the so-called surplus should be used to reduce the accumulated deficit by cancelling some of the treasury-bills that are at present held by private banking institutions, and naturally these organizations are anxious that the Government should not depart from its, practice of dealing with deficits by the issue of these bills, which provide a profitable investment for their surplus wealth.
When the Government announced its intention to distribute its alleged surplus in taxation remissions to wealthy supporters, the press acclaimed the budget as a wonderful achievement and tho forerunner of a return to prosperity. ‘ Yet, on analysis, I find that the public debt actually increased during the period June, 1930, to June, 1933, by over £104,000,000, the addition during the last financial year being £16,800,000! Even taking into account the loan conversions which, it is claimed, will afford taxpayers a great measure of relief, the public debt per head of population has increased from £170 18s. 3d. in 1930 to £181 17s. Id. in 1933. Notwithstanding that unfortunate state of affairs the Government has distributed among its political friends large sums of public money that the country could ill afford. Such action is particularly to be deprecated when more deserving sections of the community have been illprovided for. Events in Australia are changing so rapidly that it is impossible even for honorable members ^satisfactorily to discuss” the budget that was introduced only a few weeks ago, for, although a deficit has been provided for, figures which have since been made available disclose that in all probability the surplus at the end of the current’ financial year will be larger than that which had . accrued at the end of the last financial year.. The budget made no provision for the restoration of allowances to honorable members, but the financial position of the country improved so rapidly that the Government considered that honorable members were entitled to, at least, a partial restoration of the reductions that had been made in their allowances; and it acted accordingly. Honorable members who belong to this party have been consistent in their claim that there was no necessity to reduce parliamentary allowances, pensions or the wages of the workers, and at last the Government has admitted that the position was really not so bad as it was painted.
If the financial position of Australia has improved to such a remarkable de gree that money is available in excess of that originally provided for in the budget, why does not the Government take prompt steps to restore invalid and old-age pensions to £1 a week, and indicate to the judges of the arbitration court, whose action is largely influenced by the attitude of the Government, that it believes that the country has arrived at a stage when there should be an immediate restoration of the 10 per cent, reduction of wages that was made because of the so-called financial crisis ? Honorable members of this party will avail themselves of every opportunity to provide the community with that measure of relief which has been afforded to members of Parliament. Unfortunately, our efforts have not been so successful as we had hoped they would be, and the budget provision for food, clothing and shelter for unemployed is absolutely inadequate. No honorable member who is in touch with industrial sections of the community will accept the Prime Minister’s claim, based on statistics, that there has been a reduction of unemployment. Men who are working two weeks in every five and those in New South Wales who have to work for the dole, are in a worse position than ever, for though they get a few pence in return for services rendered no allowance is made for the wear and tear of their clothing while they are working. Generally speaking, the position is becoming more acute, and, while the Government claims that its straitened financial position prevents it from restoring pensions to £.1 a week, or properly assisting the unemployed, it hands out large sums of money to its political friends. Just to show how hypocritical has been the stand taken by those who support the Government out side of Parliament, I remind honorable members that when the budget was presented it was acclaimed by the whole of the Australia press, with the exception of Labour journals, as a most statesmanlike effort. At last, it was stated, Australia had real statesmen ; and the Government was lauded to the skies for having removed burdens from industry and for steering Australia back to prosperity. A few weeks later, when there was a partial restoration of parliamentary allowances, the same press which had applauded the Government called members of this chamber thieves stealing in the night, pick-pockets, and robbers. All of which enables one rightly to estimate the value of the opinions expressed by the tory press.
– It is quite likely that the statement that the Government was composed of supermen is no truer than the assertion that honorable members are pick-pockets.
– The press was wrong on both occasions. The statesmen in this Parliament are in the minority and do not control the policy of the Government. Although, as I have said, provision has been made to give relief to other sections of the community, the Government has been indifferent of the plight of the unemployed and the pensioners. The few crumbs thrown out to pacify those who are dissatisfied with existing conditions, and are expressing their dissatisfaction on every occasion that offers, are not sufficient to gain labour’s support for the Government’s proposals. The budget makes provision for increased expenditure on defence in preparation for war. Evidently this policy finds favour with certain of its supporters. This afternoon the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll) occupied practically the whole of his time in impressing on honorable members the necessity for the adequate defence of Australia. T suggest to the honorable member that the best way to ensure the defence of this country is to make it worth defending. Under existing conditions the honorable gentleman would find it rather difficult to convince the thousands of unemployed, who are practically starving, and whose children, in many instances, have to’ go hungry to school, that they have anything to fight for. Equally difficult would it. be to persuade returned soldiers who have been evicted from war service homes, aud have suffered reductions of pensions, that they should again fight in defence of conditions which they are at present enduring. I repeat that, if the honorable member and his friends desire this country to be adequately defended, their first care should be to see that the men, women and children of the working classes are decently provided for. Unless they are willing to do this it is useless and hypocritical to attempt any appeal to their patriotism. On the 25th November last, the honorable member moved the adjournment of the House in order to discuss “ the advisability of increasing the rates of pay of certain ranks in the Commonwealth Forces “, ‘but was not sufficiently sincere in his supposed desire to secure redress to allow the motion to go to a division. He declined to vote against the Government.
– I voted against the motion for the closure.
– That is exactly what the honorable member did. Every honorable member knows that under our Standing Orders, when the adjournment of the House is moved to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, a vote must be taken within two hours of the commencement of the debate, otherwise it lapses automatically. Yet when, by the moving of the closure, the honorable member was given an opportunity to vote for his own motion, he was not prepared to support, “with his vote, the statements which he had made in the House on that occasion.
Now, let. me examine the statements made by the honorable gentleman this afternoon. He complained that the proportion of “professional soldiers to civilian population in this country was altogether too low, and stated that, in other countries the proportion was much larger. Apparently, if the honorable member had his way, every able-bodied unemployed man in Australia would be drafted into the ranks of the military or naval forces. Thus he would increase the burden of public debt to such an extent that, before long, the whole economic structure would collapse. In support of his argument, that we should have a more numerous defence force, he went on to suggest that, if a private citizen found a burglar in his home he would, if lie were a coward, call the police; but if he were courageous he would attack the intruder himself. The honorable gentleman knows very little of the functions of the police forces, otherwise he would not have made such a ridiculous suggestion, Because as a matter of fact, on many occasions the members of the police forces of this country have been called upon to protect, not the homes of the workers, but the burglars. Various parliaments. Federal and State, have, by legislative enactments, established legal forms of robbery, and have enlisted the aid of the police forces to protect the robbers.
The honorable member for “Werriwa talked about even-handed justice being meted out to the workers, and went on to say that if, under existing conditions, they had grievances, they had ample opportunity to bring them before the established tribunals. It is true that they oan have their grievances ventilated, but actually, the means to have them rectified is not provided because of the appointment, by Nationalist governments, to the arbitration court bench of three gentlemen who, at one time, were prominent members of the Nationalist party. Judge Beeby was appointed by an antiLabour Federal Government. Judge Drake-Brockman was at one time a Nationalist senator, and Chief Judge Dethridge, I understand, was formerly an advocate for the Employers Federation before the Arbitration Court. AntiLabour governments appointed to the arbitration court three judges who, in political life, had always been bitterly hostile to the principles of the Australian Labour party, and the industrial organizations of this country.
The honorable member for Werriwa, in supporting the Government’s proposal to increase the defence’ vote, suggested that, to ensure peace, we should prepare for war, adding that if the call came to them again, returned soldiers would respond just as readily as they did during the Great War. I do not know if the honorable gentleman has mixed much with returned soldiers recently, but if he has not, I tell him definitely that a large number of returned soldiers and sailors, in New South Wales at least, who have been organized into Labour clubs, have definitely declared that never again will they take up arms to participate in a trade war. These are some of the men who were deluded during the Great War. They were assured that, when they returned to Australia, they would come back to a land fit for heroes to live in. I heard someone say that the conditions of the workers of this country now were such that it would require a hero to endure them. I can cite case after case, and, when we are discussing the Estimates will do.7so, of men who, after rendering many years of service during the war, have been thrown out of employment, and, because they have no income, are practically denied, the bare necessaries of life. Yet the honorable member for Werriwa is foolish enough to say that these men would be willing to take part in another war! The Repatriation Department is a. standing disgrace to this Government,, not because the officials are not carrying out their duties conscientiously, but because of the legislation which has been passed and the instructions issued by this Administration. I have had brought to my notice many returned soldiers whose pensions, having been increased to rh, special rate, have since been reviewed and cut- -without any consideration for the pensioners or their families. These cases are so flagrant that I, as a Labour representative, would not urge one man to leave Australia to participate in another war. The condition in which this country finds itself to-day can definitely be laid at the door of those who were responsible for Australia’s entry into the last Avar. If, during those’ fateful years, Ave had had in power far-seeing statesmen, Australia would not have been required to render Avar service out of all proportion to its financial resources. Yet some people in this country talk quite lightly about further Avars. Australia, and for that matter any other country that Avas involved in the last Avar, could not stand the expense of another similar conflict, but all are arming in readiness for it. All honorable members know that the only thing that keeps the great nations of the world to-day from again corning into armed conflict is the knowledge that, if they exhaust themselves on the battlefield, there will be given to the people an opportunity to rise in revolt, demand a decent standard of living, establish an economic structure of society based upon social justice, and declare their intention not to take up arms in future against other people who had done them no injury.
– What is the honorable member’s remedy to ensure the peace of the world?
– The honorable member is entitled to ask me that question. My reply is that, when the social conditions in the various countries ensure justice and equality to all their people, there will be peace.” But we cannot expect to secure justice and equality for the people generally while the present economic structure remains and while there are in power governments whose aim is to protect those engaged in industry for private gain. Probably my views on this subject are well known to the honorable member for Darling Downs. I believe in the complete reconstruction of society so that every person employed in industry shall have the right to enjoy the full fruits of his labour. To-day in a land of plenty, thousands of people are starving.
At the moment, members of the Country party are at their wits end to know what is going to happen to the wheat farmers of this country. Various relief proposals have been discussed in this House. We now have the spectacle of alleged over production of this essential commodity and arrangements being made under an international agreement to restrict exportation from Australia, while thousands of men, women and children in the various States are in urgent need of food. Primary and secondary industries alike are in difficulty for lack of profitable markets. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) knows the truth of what I am saying, for at one time he was referred to as the socialist tiger. Nations are arming to the teeth and socalled patriots are fanning the fires of racial hatred. While governments are pretending that their defence preparations are merely to ensure the maintenance of peace, they are, as the honorable member for Martin knows, preparing for further wars. When he was Premier of New South Wales during the Great War, he introduced the infamous document known as the secret memorandum. That was after the appeal to the patriotism of the workers had failed to get a sufficient number to enlist for service overseas.
– The honorable member was in the cradle then.
– I may have been, but so long as the honorable member does not challenge the accuracy of my statements his interjection is beside the point. Evidently he admits its correctness. I repeat that, when he was Premier of New South Wales during the Great War, in order to ensure the enlistment of men in response to the appeal then being made, he suggested in his infamous secret memorandum, that single men should be dismissed from their employment - in other words, they should be denied the right to earn a livelihood. By this means it was hoped that single men would be forced to enlist. This infamous secret memorandum also provided that places of amusement should be closed, so that the people would have their attention focussed on the winning of the war. Thus, by economic conscription, many men were forced to take part in the struggle overseas.
If the Government is genuinely desirous of assisting every section of the community, I suggest that it withdraw the budget, and, in a re-draft of it, make special provision for old-age and invalid pensioners. Let it instruct the industrial courts that the depression has passed and, with ample revenues in the federal Treasury, the time has arrived for the restoration of the 10 per cent, cut in the wages of the workers. Let it advise the Government of New South Wales that there is no need’ to apply the recent reduction of the basic wage in that State. If a budget were presented which raised the living standards of the whole” of the community, it could justly be described as a prosperity budget. That which we are now considering makes provision for the prosperity of only one section, consequently, the Labour party is not prepared to accept it. When the details are being considered, we shall endeavour to induce the Government to stay its hand in certain directions. I realize that to-day the elected representatives of the people do not really govern. Talk as we may of democracy, the fact remains that the representatives of the people are not the dominant power. That was clearly demonstrated in the recent attack upon honorable members by a section of the press. Although the elect of the people, honorable members had to admit them- selves powerless to protect the parliamentary institution, simply because the forces which control parliaments and governments are stronger than the parliament itself. Before honorable members had this budget presented to them, wealthy persons outside Parliament, who are not the elected representatives of the people, were given the opportunity to discuss it and make recommendations to the Government concerning it. The Postmaster’General knows that that is true.
– Old-age pensioners also were able to make representations.
Mr.WARD. - The Postmaster-General knows that forces outside this Parliament dictate the policy of the Government.
– I know nothing of the kind.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I congratulate the Government on the excellence of the budget, which has been favorably received throughout, not only Australia, but also the British Empire as a whole. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr.Ward) contended that practically nothing had been done for the unemployed. I remind him that the number of unemployed is steadily decreasing, and the proposals of the Government will” cause it to decrease still further. The overpowering burden of taxation is to be relieved to the amount of £7,000,000 per annum. That will eventually enable private enterprise to absorb the majority of those who are now out of work. The Government has been true to its pledge that relief from taxation would be given as soon as the circumstances permitted. No honorable member had the slightest idea last year that at the end of twelve months it would be possible to lift £7,000,000 off the shoulders of the taxpayers. The benefit of the remissions will be felt by both primary and secondary industries. This action is possible, because the Government has lived within its income. Before it assumed office, State and Federal expenditure was far in excess of the revenue, but in its first year reductions amounting to £16,000,000 were made, despite the fact that an extra £7,500,000 had to be found for exchange payments, and a similar sum was devoted to the relief of unemployment. Government stocks, which had declined by 40 per cent., had risen to £1 above par when the 1932-33 budget was brought down, and to-day they are quoted at over £105, although interest rates have been reduced to an average of 4 per cent. This clearly demonstrates the confidence held in the Government and the people of Australia both at home and abroad. I congratulate Mr. Bruce upon his loan conversion achievements. The first conversion was a New South Wales loan of £12,360,000, bearing interest at the rate of6½ per cent., and subsequent conversions were - New South Wales, £9,621,000; . New South Wales, £6,427,000; South Australia, £2,983,000; Tasmania, £2,000,000 ; New South Wales, £9,527,000 ; Queensland, £2,000,000 ; South Australia, £2,978,000; Western Australia, £2,716,000; Commonwealth, £15,000,000; New South Wales, £4,901,000; and Western Australia, £1,050,000. The total of those conversions is £71,563,000. The interest rates on the old loans ranged from5¾ per cent, to 6½ per cent., with the exception of the New South Wales loan of £9,621,000, upon which the rate was 4 per cent. The new rates range from3½ per cent. to 4 per cent., and the saving to Australia totals £1,280,000 per annum; or, if allowance be made for exchange, £1,600,000 per annum. It would have been impossible for either Mr. Bruce or any other Australian representative to convert one penny-piece of those New South Wales loans, totalling more than £43,000,000, had the last Commonwealth Government remained in office, or had Mr. Lang continued to control the Government of New South Wale3. The amount still to be converted is £338,000,000, but I have no doubt that in respect of it Mr. Bruce will obtain equally satisfactory results, and increase the interest saving to at least £3,000,000 annually. We have every reason to thank the right honorable gentleman for the services he has rendered to Australia. I agree that considerable assistance has been derived from the higher prices received for our primary products. The following table shows the prices last year and when the budget was prepared: -
The gradual rise in the price of certain commodities has had the effect of decreasing unemployment. Recent increases in the price of wool will have given encouragement to wool-growers, who, in consequence of the low prices which have prevailed for some time, have been in serious difficulties, and should also he the means of providing additional employment in country districts. The unemployment figures for 1932 and up to the secondquarter of this financial year are as follow : -
For the information of honorable members opposite who deny that there has been any decrease in unemployment since this Government has been in office, I quote the following paragraph from the Adelaide Advertiser, of the 3rd November : -
Statistics just issued by the Department of Labor shows how gloomhas been dissipated. Thirty-one municipalities around Sydney have virtually gone off the dole., and unemployment figures have been reduced below the 100,000 mark for the first time for several years. Next week several other municipalities, including Canterbury, the biggest in New South Wales, with a population of 90,000, will join the doleless brigade.
In the country nearly80 municipalities and shires have not one able-bodied man receiving food relief. In July, 1932, there were 200,000 registered unemployed, and in September this year there were 99,524.
For some time Commonwealth Governments, realizing that South Australia,
Western Australia and Tasmania suffer certain disabilities under the federal system, have made financial grants to those States. For purposes of comparison I set against the grants made last financial year those proposed this year -
T he States as integral parts of the Commonwealth should assist each other whenever practicable, particularly in matters of trade. South Australia exports about 60,000 crates of celery to New South Wales annually, but the New South Wales Government has done all in its power to prohibit this trade because it is alleged that it may be the means of introducing the lucerne flea into that State. Honorable members representing New South Wales know that the lucerne flea is as prevalent in that State as it is in South Australia. Celery shipped to New South Wales is required to be cleansed with water under very high pressure, but that can only result in the insect being forced into the heart ofthe celery and. can serve no useful purpose. It is a farce to impose this restriction, and it. should be removed at once. I trust that the Minister for Commerce will see that the primary producers of South Australia are fully protected and that no unnecessary restrictions are placed on the trade between States.
The reductions of income tax will be of benefit to practically every section of the community. The companies taxhas been reduced from1s. 4.8d. to1s. in the £1. In addition to paying federal income tax, the taxpayers in South Australia have to pay a tax on dividends. Because of the reduction of the federal tax, the costs of many companies will be reduced, and they should be able to employ more labour. Parliament has also remitted £710,000 previously paid by life assurance companies, and this concession will, no doubt, be passed on to policy-holders and borrowers who may now have the benefit of reduced interest rates. The rate of tax on personal exertion has been reduced by 15 per cent, which will be of considerable advantage to all in receipt of taxable incomes. lt bas been said by honorable members opposite that the federal land tax, which has now been reduced by 50 per cent., will benefit only large city landholders, but that is not the case. Many wheat-growers owning only small areas of laud will not benefit, but many men producing wool on large estates, and whose operations have been severely hampered by the low prices of wool, will benefit and be able to provide additional employment. As the proceeds from the sale of Australian wool are used in meeting our overseas commitments, the wool-growers are entitled to special consideration.
The reduction of the sales tax from 6 per cent, to 5 per cent, represents a remission of £1,350,000 annually. Last financial year many items were removed from the taxable list, principally with the object of assisting those engaged in’ primary production, and further exemptions have now been made. Those engaged in all forms of primary production have already received considerable relief in this respect. Medical, surgical and dental appliances are now exempt from the sales tax. Most of the materials used in the building trade, with the exception of lime, are now exempt, and it is hoped that everything used by builders and contractors will soon be free from this form of taxation. The Federal Entertainments Tax Act has been repealed, thus giving a further concession to certain sections of the community. . It will now be possible for the States to collect additional revenue from this source should they find it. necessary.
It is pleasing to learn that invalid and old-age pensioners who were receiving less than 17s. 6d. a week have had their pensions increased to that amount. I am opposed to the existing property provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act–
– The honorable member supported them.
– I believe that a majority of honorable members favour a pensioner’s property being protected up to £600. Some persons living in a home valued at £3,000, or more, if not in receipt of income from any other source, receive a full pension ; and a working man, who has invested £500 or £600 in a home, even if he is not occupying it, should be entitled to the same concession. I feel sure that in the near future the Government will give further consideration to this matter, and that the possession of a property of a value of over £500 or £600 will not debar a person from receiving a full pension. When the pension was introduced 25 years ago, it was not intended to he sufficient to maintain the recipients in comfort. The payment of 10s. a week was intended merely to assist them to live. Since that time, four increases of the pension have %een made, on each occasion at the instance of a liberal or nationalist, not a Labour government. Those increases brought the payment to £1 a week, and the .Scullin Government reduced it to 17s. 6d. a week. I do not blame that Ministry for its action, because it was called upon to reduce payments in many directions. The finances of Australia were in such a condition that the .Government feared that unless expenditure was considerably reduced, the Commonwealth would be unable to pay more than 12s. in the £1. That would have affected public servants, pensioners, and all others dependent on the Federal Treasury. The Scullin Government took the only course open to it. Although the present Government cannot see its way clear to restore the pension to £1 a week, I hope that the time is not far distant when that will be possible. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have as much sympathy with the pensioners as have honorable members opposite, and have at all times given them greater assistance.
Provision is made for the expenditure of £20,000 a year to assist the tobacco industry. Some time ago, the Government was severely criticized by the Country party and the Opposition because it would not continue protection amounting to 500 per cent, against imported tobacco. If the Government had allowed that protection to remain, I have no doubt that, in the course of a few years, Australia would have been producing more tobacco than could be used here, and it would have been necessary to take steps to dispose of the surplus product on the world’s markets. Then the prospects of the Australian growers would have been very poor, because American leaf is sold at prices with which they cannot profitably compete. The expenditure of £20,000 a year for a period of five years, chiefly on research work, should greatly assist the industry. Many years ago, when the tobacco industry was being established in South Africa, difficulties similar to those confronting the Australian growers were experienced; eventually they were overcome and I have no doubt that, thanks to the assistance which the Commonwealth Government is giving, our growers will be able to carry on their operations in the future more profitably than to-day.
Everything possible must be done to help the man on the land, and one way to aid him is to make railway freights reasonably low. In South Australia, as in all the other States, the Railway Department is in debt, but these departments will not get out of debt by demanding excessive freight charges from primary producers and others. High charges frequently result in trains carrying only half loads. Many mistakes have been made in railway management in Australia. For instance, potatoes, onions and other products were formerly carried from Mount Gambier in the extreme south-east of South Australia, through that State to Broken Hill, but when a line was built from Sydney to Broken Hill, the produce was conveyed 300 miles to Melbourne500 -mile’s from Melbourne to Sydney, and a further 500 miles back to Broken Hill. The rate charged for 1,300 miles of transport was about the same as that for which the goods would have been carried 600 miles by the direct route. If railway freights were lowered, primary producers could probably make a living on second class land, whereas under present conditions they must have the best land obtainable, and they are reduced almost to starvation because of high railway freights. It seems to me that if the railways in a State made a loss of £5,000,000 in a year, but benefited the people of that State to the amount of £20,000,000, it would be good business. Wheat, wool, and many other products should be carried at much lower rates than those now charged. I recently received a letter from a farmer in South Australia telling me of his experience .in sending cattle from Alice Springs to Adelaide. The freight charged was £3 a head, and when all other charges had been met he had to pay about £4 a head for the transport of 70 or 80 cattle. These charges make it unpayable to raise beef at a great distance from Adelaide. The freight on hides would amount to more than ‘ they would realize. In one instance a man bought a prize beast in Adelaide, and had to send it 300 miles north. At the same time he ordered a truck to bring three cattle down to the Adelaide market. The railway authorities sent the prize beast in one truck, and attached to it another truck to receive the three cattle that were to be sent to the south. On arrival at its destination, the prize beast was detrained, the three southwardbound animals were entrained in the spare truck, and the used truck was carried back empty. By the exercise of common sense, one truck could have accommodated the freight in both directions.
I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) recently refer to the foolishness of the policy of subsidizing an air-mail service from Adelaide to Perth, thereby robbing the trans-Australian railway of passengers. The East- West line is probably the only trunk railway - in Australia that has not a good road running parallel with it. Between Adelaide and Melbourne, and between Melbourne and Sydney, good macadamized roads with bitumen surfaces have been constructed practically parallel with the railways, and consequently the railways have to meet competition from motor lorries in the transport of goods. The Government should conduct their railways on business lines.
For a number of years I have been greatly impressed by the possibilities of developing a highly profitable trade with the East. In normal times, the East could absorb practically all the surplus products of Australia. The market is to be found if we are willing to look for it. Canada spends about £40,000 or £50,000 a year on trade representation in the East, but until recently the Commonwealth had not spent a penny in this direction. I am glad, however, that the present Government has decided to send commercial representatives to the East. Java, although only 600 miles long and 80 miles wide, has a population of 43,000,000. The spending power of its individual citizens may be small - in terms of Australian currency it amounts to about10d. a day - but these people are willing to buy our goods. If each member of the population spent only 3d. a week in the purchase of Australian products, the trade would be worth to us £25,000,000 a year. Some years ago the Javanese would eat only dried fish and rice, but they have now acquired a taste for western foods. I. hope that the pioneering work recently carried out by the delegation that visited the East in the Nieuw Holland will be followed up by similar activities. I have no doubt that a large trade with China, Japan, and many other Eastern countries merely awaits development.
I am not ashamed of the vote that I gave on the subject of the increase of the parliamentary allowance. My circumstances may have been different from those of some other honorable members, for during the last election campaign I told the people that I was prepared to support even a reduction of the allowance then paid. I knew that Australia was passing through a great crisis, and I was prepared to give my services, even at some financial sacrifice on my part. When members of this Parliament reduced their allowances by £250 a year, no public comment was heard.The time was inopportune for a partial restoration of the cut, and I am sorry that it was made. I am proud of the good work which the Government has done since it assumed office, and regret that its record has this blot on it. After all, if this Parliament continues for its full term, each private member will receive only about an additional £100, and members generally should have been prepared to continue to make the sacrifice in view of the fact that the States are heavily taxed and thousands of men are still unemployed. In my opinion, that additional sum is not worth all the trouble which has arisen.
The honorable member forFranklin (Mr. Blacklow) referred to the proposal to allocate £125,000 for the assistance of apple-growers. Hitherto, these primary producers have fought their own battles, and have not applied for Government assistance. They do not want bounties; they ask only that proper marketing facilities for their fruit shall be provided. Last year fruit-growers in South Australia were unable to obtain shipping space for their products, with the result that 100,000 cases of apples were left on their hands. As, however, the fruit sent to England did not realize prices sufficient to pay expenses, the inability to obtain shipping space for the 100,000 cases was not so serious as at first it seemed. 1 urge the Minister to do what he can to secure reductions of freight on consignments of fruit. A reduction of 6d. a case on 5,000,000 cases would represent a saving equal to the proposed grant of £125,000. Last year 6,000,000 cases of fruit were shipped from Australia. During the month of March South Australian fruit-growers were unable to export any fruit because of the lack of shipping space, notwithstanding that that is the month when large quantities of fruit are available for shipment. I ask the Minister to enlist the aid of the High Commissioner in London in doing everything possible to ensure adequate freight space for the fruit exporters.
Mr.R. GREEN (Richmond) [9.19].- Since the previous budget was discussed in this chamber many events of great importance have occurred. Australia has participated in two economic conferences - the first, a family gathering of the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations at Ottawa, and the other, a World Economic Conference at London. As regards the former conference, many of us had greater hopes some time ago than we have now. The Ottawa Conference has led to a good deal of recrimination between the various dominions and the United Kingdom - each blaming the other for not keeping to the spirit of the agreement. Unfortunately, the agreement entered into at Ottawa has not been a success. It purported to give to
Australia advantages in respect of a number of primary products, including butter, on which there was to he a preference of 15s. acwt. in the English market, but to-day Danish butter commands a higher price in that market than does butter from this country. The only method suggested by leaders in Britain to overcome the surplus importations was a restriction of imports; this has been aptly described as “a policy of despair “. A similar policy has been advocated in respect of wheat. That that is the official opinion of the Imperial Government is shown by the following statement by the parliamentary secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture, who stated in the House of Lords on the 19th July last -
United Kingdom market situation had depreciated very considerably, and circumstancesin some respects were worse for the British farmer to-day than they were before. They had to admit that if the policy of the regulation of supply was to be effective it had to be comprehensive. The regulation of imports they recognized to be quite useless if imports from the dominions were free to fill any gap that might he created. The cooperation of the dominions, therefore, must bo sought and obtained if any measure was to be effective for the regulation of imports. This aspect of the problem had been engaging the attention of the Government.
There are clear signs that Great Britain has attempted to induce the dominions to regulate their exports, notwithstanding that under the Ottawa agreement no restrictions were to be imposed for a number of years. The ink was hardly dry on the agreement when the British Government sought a fresh agreement with respect to meat. It is easy to understand the motive which has actuated the British Government. Its policy is to assist, first, the home agriculturist, and then the Empire agriculturist. I repeat that the enthusiasmwhich was shown a little while ago for the Ottawa agreement has waned considerably.
In November last, I predicted that if the representatives of British countries, at what was practically a family conference, could not reach an agreement, it was unlikely that the World Economic Conference would prove a success. Unfortunately, my prediction proved correct, for the World Economic Conference was a failure. It was hoped that that conference would enable the various nations to understand one another’s aspirations and needs, and so remove the causes of international friction, but it failed to achieve that end. During the last week, Belgium has taken retaliatory action against Australia, and it is rumoured that Japan may act in asimilar way at any time. A national economic policy causes nations to take steps to protect their own people and their own trade, whereas the adoption of an international economic outlook would remove the causes of much of the international friction which exists. The World Economic Conference broke down on the matter of restrictions. The National Recovery Act of the United States of America is another attempt to apply a policy of restriction. It would appear that the world is bankrupt of ideas when the only means suggested to meet and overcome difficulties is a restriction of production. Australia is a young country with heavy overseas commitments, and the only way in which its obligations can be met is by the exportation of its produce. A restriction of exports hampers us in meeting our overseas indebtedness, and retards development. Australia does not want to default, hut a policy of restriction makes it unable to meet its obligations in the only way possible - by selling goods to its creditors. The voluntary restriction of exports increases our difficulties. The wheat agreement between Australia, Canada, the United States of America and the Argentine is based on a restriction of production.
The Disarmament Conference also was a failure ; I would describe it as a ghastly failure. The news contained in the cables which have been published during the last month or two must give rise to considerable anxiety. Two excellent speeches delivered this afternoon by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison), an officer of senior rank in our military forces, and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll), who attained to high rank during the Great War, called our attention to the natural outcome of the failure of the Disarmament Conference. The honorable member for Werriwa, in particular, warned us to heed the happenings in other parts of the world. A desperate state of affairs exists close to our own shores. Serious trouble is occurring in the Far East, which, for us, is the Near East. China and Japan are almost constantly in conflict, and Manchukuo, which formerly was ‘Chinese territory under the name of Manchuria, has fallen into the hands of the Japanese; hut even yet there is great unrest in that territory due to Soviet aggression. Similarly in Europe, signs and portents are not wanting that war may break out at any time. Armed forces are moving hither and thither. All this is most disquieting. The people of Australia should not refuse to read the writing on the wall. At the risk of being called a jingoist; or an Imperialist, I direct attention to the grave danger which faces this country. We are far away from those who would aid us. if they could. In the past when we have needed help from Great Britain it has been forthcoming; but we must recognize that it may not be possible for Great Britain to help us in the future to the same extent as in the past. Therefore, I welcome the slight provision made in this budget for the improvement of the defence forces of Australia. I agree with the honorable member for Werriwa that the measures to be taken are not altogether a matter for determination by this Parliament. Parliament can provide the money, but in the spending of it the Government must be guided to a large extent by the advice of technical officers, and the confidential information available. Obviously, such information cannot be made available to private members. I am glad that the Government is alive, to some extent at least, to the necessities of the situation.
While dealing Avith our foreign .relations, I must express regret that more has not been done to negotiate trade agreements with other countries. I do not think that one trade treaty has been made directly between Australia and a foreign country. It has been suggested that Japan desires to make a trade treaty with Australia, but apparently nothing has been done to explore the possibilities in that direction. It would be interesting to know whether definite negotiations have been opened with any country for trade reciprocity. I do not ask the Government to announce the details of anything of that nature that may have been done, but the committee is entitled to some information regarding the Government’s policy in this regard.
It is high time that the Government did more than talk about the provision of marketing schemes for Australian primary products. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) have frequently to)d us that the subject is under the consideration of the Government; but the Ministry has now been in office for two years, and very little has been heard of the marketing schemes that Ave were told would be evolved. It is urgently necessary that something definite should bc clone to improve tha marketing of dairy produce, for dairying is one of the most important primary industries of the Commonwealth. The wool industry, and possibly the wheat industry, may be more valuable in bringing fresh capital to Australia, but the dairying industry is undoubtedly the best primary industry that we have for providing local employment. Week after week, I have asked the Minister for Commerce whether the Government proposes to introduce legislation to assist the dairying industry similar to that enacted for the benefit of the dried fruits industry. Unless Ministers bestir themselves, the general election will be upon us before anything is done, and Government supporters need not then be surprised, if they are asked by annoyed primary producers why they have failed to fulfil their promises.
The Prime Minister has described the budget as a “ restoration budget,” and it is so in certain respects. Restorations have been made, in part at least, of pensions, salaries and social services, and certain remissions of taxation have been granted. There are some grounds for optimism. Employment, for instance, is increasing. A sure gauge of the employment market in New South Wales is the amount of money received by the Government in unemployment relief taxes. Recently, the contributions of the people under this heading have increased considerably, indicating that more people are in employment now than, say, twelve or eighteen months ago. I realize, of course, that the State Governments must help in the relief of unemployment, but it is a matter for regret that they are budgeting for deficits aggregating about £8;500,000. The amount to be contributed to the National Debt Sinking Fund, is, it is true, £8,038,000; but greater efforts should be made to reduce the State deficits and also the national debt: Possibly recent loan conversions in London will have the effect of reducing the estimated deficits of the States, for interest payments should be considerably lower than formerly. At the recent Loan Council meeting, the CommonwealthBank authorities directed attention to’ one unsatisfactory feature of our national finance. I refer to the short-term indebtedness amounting to more than £90,000,000. Although it is true that the interest payable on treasury bonds is less than that which would be payable oil long-term loans, the Commonwealth Bank gave sound advice to the Loan Council when it recommended the reduction of this short-term indebtedness at a more rapid rate than that suggested by the council. This short-term indebtedness is not included in the national debt. Consequently few people realize the full indebtedness of the Commonwealth.
The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), in his analysis of the budget, suggested that taxation remissions of £20,000,000 should bc made this year by Commonwealth and State Governments.I think it quite possible that that measure of relief could bc given. The right honorable gentleman said that relief to the amount of about £11,000,000 could be given by the Commonwealth and the remainder by the States. According to the Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) relief is being given by the Commonwealth to the extent of £2,100,000. from what might bc called the more onerous forms of taxation, but the financial emergency taxation is still very heavy. Although £2.100,000 is deducted, the balance ofthe new and emergency taxation is still £25,400,000, so that to restore normal conditions there must be a remission of £27,500,000. The right honorable member for Cowpe» pro posed a remission of £20.000,000 in both Commonwealth andState taxation, hut even that Would leave £15,000,000 or £16,000.000 of emergency taxation still to be lifted from the community. Last year the estimated revenue was £52,990,000, and the actual revenue £60,374,030, a difference of £7,384,030. That is particularly bad estimating; whether the fault lies with the Treasurer or with his officers Ido not knows The estimated expenditure was £54,291,622, and the actual expenditure £56;827,422, an increase of £2,535,800. Although the Government received an additional revenue of £7,384,030, its expenditure increased by £2,535,800. I suggest again that that is not by any means satisfactory budgeting. After allowing for £2,250,000 on account of bounties forwheat and superphosphates, the actual reduction of expenditure was £714,000. Therefore, after allowing for increases both in revenue and in expenditure, the Commonwealth showed a surplus of £5,848,000. But for the bounty payments referred to, the actual surplus last year would have been over £8,000,000. In addition we have to take into account the previous surplus of £1.314,000, which, added to the last surplus of £5,S48,000, makes a total surplus of £7,162,000. That figure, of course-, excludes the bounty payments. That money was taken unnecessarily from the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, and it is fair to say that it could, without affecting the budget, be returned to the community. Non -recurrent expenditure last year also included payments on account of defence, £110,000; and miscellaneous, £171,000, or a total of £281,000. When these amounts are added to last year’s transactions, the possible reduction of expenditure becomes £6,129,230. Adding together the surplus of £1,314,091 for 1931-32, the surplus of £5,84S,230 on last year’s transactions, and unnecessary taxation, £6,129,230, we arrive at a total of £13,291,551 which the Government could fairly have returned to the community this year. Yet the Prime Minister has made quite a soug of the comparatively small measure of relief from taxation that is now contemplated.
Mr.Fenton. - What about the accumulated deficit?
– I have already dealt with emergency and new taxation amountin. to £27,500,000. That sum forms por- tion of the £90,000,000 which we owe on sh or t-d a ted t ve a sur y-b i lis .
– It is a deficit all the same.
– Undoubtedly, and, as I said earlier, it should bc funded. I commend the Commonwealth Bank for putting such a proposal forward at the last meeting of the Loan Council. In calculating the possible remission of £.13,291,000, 1 have not taken into account the wheat bounty of £2,250,000. That total is over £4,000.000 above the remissions provided for in the proposals of the Government. The Treasurer estimates a deficit of £1,176,000. Actually on my figures there could bc a reduction of taxation by £3,000,000 in excess of the amount proposed, without affecting the budget. I commend the Government on having given some relief from taxation to the community generally, and’ on having accepted portion of the recommendations of the joint select committee in respect of the method of presenting government accounts. There is certainly an improvement in the budget papers this year because they can be followed much more easily than was the case last year. The reports of the Treasurer and the Auditor-General are not yet available, but I sincerely hope that those reports will give effect to many of the suggestions of the select committee. When the Estimates are being discussed I hope vo make many suggestions to the PosmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill). The post office should not be a taxing machine; it should do no more than pay its way. Last year it paid the sum of £1,000,000 into revenue, and I sincerely hope that I shall bc able to persuade the PostmasterGeneral to use that sum this year for the purpose of giving relief to users of postal services.
T am. glad that the Government has seen fit to lift some of the burden of taxation from the shoulders of the people, and I hope that next year further concessions will be made. I have shown that the Government could make to the community a further remission of £3,000,000 oftaxes, and. still keep within the Premiers plan, Aldrich was adopted in order to prevent Australia from becoming bankrupt.
Order of the day called on for resumption of debate from the 19 th May (vide. page 1597), on motion by Mr. Latham) -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
– I move -
Phut order of tlie day No. !), Bankruptcy Bill (11)33) be discharged.
The object of the motion is to enable a shorter bill, which will deal with the same subject, and of which notice will be given to-morrow, to be introduced by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) later, and be finally disposed of before the Christmas vacation.
– What does the Government propose to do regarding the recommendations of the special committee, representative of all parties in the House, which made an investigation into the Bankruptcy Bill ? ‘ Are they to be abandoned, or will they be incorporated in the new bill?
– The recommendations of the committee have not been abandoned. The new bill is, however, limited to amendments which are of an urgent character.
Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.1 p.m.
y asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice - 1. (a) What is the number of promotions involving increases in pay made during tho period from the 1st November, 1928, to the 30th Juno, 1932, in the Australian Staff Corps in each of the following ranks: - Colonel or higher rank; lieutenant-colonel; major; and captain? (6) What is the total annual amount of pay required for payment of the increases involved?
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Consequently, during the period stated there were no promotions to the rank of quartermaster and only two promotions to the rank of warrant officer, Class I.
Promotion to quartermaster was resumed on the 2nd July, 1932, and to the rank of staff sergeant-major, 2nd Class (warrant officer I.) on the 21st July, 1932, since which dates regular promotions have been made to fill vacancies which have occurred in the reduced establishments.
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– After the sale of the ships, consisting of five “Bay” boats and one “ Dale “ boat to the Aberdeen and Commonwealth Line Limited, the White Star Line Limited asked, in April last, that the Commonwealth Government waive its right to the balance of the debt. The latter companywas informed that the Government could not consider such a proposal, and the matter has notbeen raised again. The interests of the Commonwealth in regard to the outstanding debt are being closely watched.
On the 3rd November, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked the following question, upon notice -
Canhe inform the House whether thefinal payments have been made in connexion with the disposal of the Commonwealth Shipping Line to the White Star Line; if not, how much is outstanding?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The amount owing by the White Star Line Limited is £718,868 3s. 5d., including £56,769 17s. 10d. for accrued interest.
Overseas Air-mail Service.
s. - On the 2nd November, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked the following ques- tion, without notice : - in view of the fact that the distinguished airman, Mr. C. T.Ulin, landed at Derby, and Air-Commodore Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith at Wyndham, on their recent flights from England to Australia., will the Government consider the claims of those two airports in conjunction with other landing places, when placing a contract for the overseas air-mail service?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
In both flights referred to by the honorable member, the pilots were seeking to establish records for the England-Australia passage, which is determined on the elapsed time between departure from any point in England to arrival at any point in Australia. The selection of either Wyndham or Derby instead of Darwin reduces the total distance, and so favours faster times.
In selecting the route (or the regular England-Australia air service, however, several important factors other than mute distance and Hying time between English and Australian shores have to be considered. Thu selection of Din-win as the port of entry for this service wau made only after very careful investigation of the subject, and the Government does not intend to vary the advertised conditions of contract in thu manner suggested hy the. honorable member.
Public Service Examinations.
s. - On the 2nd November, the honorable member for “Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) asked me the following question, without notice: - 1 ask the Prime Minister if the Government can arrange for the Public Service examination to he conducted in December to bc held in such provincial towns as Maryborough and other large centres as well as in the capital cities, in order to save the. cost and inconvenience incurred by candidates who would otherwise be compelled to travel to capital cities?
The Public Service Board of Commissioners hus advised that it is the practice at Public Service entrance examinations to meet the convenience of candidates as far as possible in the arrangement of examination centres, and, for the December examination, centres have been arranged at Maryborough and other large provincial towns throughout Australia.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 November 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19331108_reps_13_142/>.