13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– The arrangements for work to be provided out of the amount made available by the Commonwealth embrace the employment of only married and single men. Will the Government make provision whereby women and girls who do not come within the scope of these schemes, may be able to obtain assistance prior to Christmas?
– The honorable member’s request will receive consideration. I cannot, however, hold out any hope that the Government will set aside a special sum, apart from the substantial amounts that I mentioned yesterday, for the relief of unemployment between now and Christmas.
– Have representations been made to the Minister for Commerce tothe effect that the export quotas of mutton and lamb of some of the States have been filled, and that that live-stock market in those States has, as a consequence, been disorganized, while in other
States, on account of unfavorable seasonal and other conditions, the supplies are not sufficient to. fill the quotas?
– It is true that South Australia has reached its quota,, while several other States are a long way behind theirs. Arrangements have been completed for the transfer to South Australia of a portion of the unexpended quotas of those States. It is not intended to allow the South Australian market to be injured because of inability to transfer some of those quotas.
– In view of the ever increasing seriousness of the condition of the dairying industry, due to the continued fall of the prices of its products in Great Britain and Australia, will the Minister for Commerce introduce before the Christmas adjournment the proposed legislation for the stabilization of butter marketing?
– This matter has been raised so frequently that one is almost becoming tired of repeating that the whole question of the Government’s marketing policy is now being considered by the Cabinet. It is impossible to say whether a decision will be reached in time to enable the legislation mentioned to be enacted during this session.
Use of New South Wales Stone
– Last week the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) and I directed the attention of the Minister for the Interior to the intention of the Commonwealth Bank Board to use stone imported from New South Wales in its bank building in Adelaide. Has the honorable gentleman got in touch with the board and obtained information concerning the matter?
– The matter stands very much where it was when first raised. I have fulfilled the promise that I then gave, .to draw the attention of the Commonwealth Bank Board to the debate in this House; but, so far, the receipt of my communication has not been acknowledged. Other inquiries that I have made show that neither the Department of the
Interior nor this Parliament can prevent the use of New South Wales stone, which, I understand, is the intention of the board.
– In view of the promise of .the Government to discuss proposed amendments of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, providing for the complete elimination of the objectionable provisions relating to the attachment of a pensioner’s property after death, or the exemption from attachment of an amount up to £600, will the Government instruct the pensions department to waive all claims upon the estates of deceased pensioners until the act has been amended?
– As I have previously given an undertaking that this matter would be dealt with quickly, and it is necessary to deal with it before the Christmas adjournment, .there is no need to take the action indicated by the honorable member. This Parliament will be given the opportunity to consider amendments to the act at an early date.
Formation or Nation-al Band - Market Reports.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral state whether it is a fact that a national band has been formed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission ? If it has, -will ite services be available to public bodies in the Commonwealth?
– I understand that arrangements have been made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the formation and establishment of such a band as the honorable member mentions. While I have no definite information as to whether its services will be available to public bodies, I should imagine that that would be so, if mutually satisfactory arrangements could be made.
– It is reported that the Australian Broadcasting Commission intends to alter the time of broadcasting market reports from SCO from 12.40 to 2 p.m. As the later hour is an inconvenient time for country people to listen in, will the Postmaster-General bring about a reversion to the former arrangement?
– As the honorable member is aware, broadcasting is under the control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, consequentlyI am not familiar with all its details. I have no knowledge of the proposed alteration, but shall point out to the commission the inconvenience that is likely to follow any alteration.
Report of Investigating Committee - purchase of crops.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs received the report of the committee that recently investigated certain matters in connexion with the tobacco industry? If he has, when will it be available to honorable members ?
– This report is to hand, but is most comprehensive, and has not yet been considered by the Government, other more urgent matters having occupied the time of Cabinet. I hope that consideration will be given to it next week. A decision will then be made as to whether it shall or shall not be distributed.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to the following telegram which I have received from the Tobacco Growers Association of North Queensland: -
Great dissatisfaction prevails consequent recent sales tobacco. We consider prices inconsistent, being much lower than previously, also large quantity bright mahogany leaf now rejected. Growers consider position as serious. - Dimbulah Tobacco Growers Association.
The Minister said last week that the tobacco manufacturers had given an undertaking to huy all the tobacco leaf of bright mahogany quality, or better.Will he see that that undertaking is fulfilled ?
– I informed the honorable member last week that, if he would give me the names of any tobacco-growers holding bright mahogany quality leaf or better, I would refer their cases to the tobacco manufacturing companies in order that the leaf might be inspected. I have been informed that all the good leaf in North Queensland which has been offered has already been bought. I fear that the honorable member is being misled by growers who hold tobacco leaf inferior to bright mahogany quality.
– During the visit of the Prime Minister to the tobaccogrowing districts of North Queensland, early in August, a promise was given to the growers that an immediate inquiry would be made into the industry, and particularly into the marketing of the leaf grown this season. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs make that report available to honorable members? It will then be seen that I have not been misled by the growers.
– As promised by the Prime Minister, an inquiry was immediately held into the matters mentioned by the honorable member.
– It took three months !
– It took a long time. Many growers had to be interviewed. The report is a lengthy document. When I advised the honorable member that all the tobacco of bright mahogany quality or better grown in North Queensland had been purchased, I was speaking advisedly, as I had read the report. I again urge the honorable member to make available to me the names of any growers holding bright mahogany leaf or better.
– They are in the Mareeba and Dimbulah districts.
– Those districts have all been covered. Only six bales of bright mahogany leaf were discovered which had not been purchased, and they have since been sold. The companies have also purchased many bales of inferior leaf. If the honorable member will give me specific information, I shall submit it to the tobacco-manufacturing companies. It may be a week or two yet before the honorable member can obtain the report.
– I ask the Minister who decides whether tobacco is of good or inferior quality? Is the honorable gentleman aware that tobacco-growers in the Wagga district have not been able to sell their leaf, although it is of high quality? The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) can bear out my statement in this connexion.
– When I said that all the tobacco leaf of bright mahogany quality or better which had been offered had been purchased, I was referring to the tobacco-growing districts of North Queensland, and not those of Wagga. Undoubtedly those who wish to buy the tobacco leaf must be the judges of its quality. If leaf of bright mahogany quality or better is available in the Wagga district, I invite the honorable member for Capricornia to furnish me with the names of the growers who hold it, and I shall send them on to the tobacco manufacturers. I understand that the manufacturers are carrying out their undertaking to buy all the good quality leaf. They have also bought their usual quantity of inferior leaf.
– Will the Minister lay upon the table of the House the report to which I referred in an earlier question? I ask him whether he noticed in that report a statement to the effect that one grower in the Mareeba district had submitted eleven bales of tobacco for purchase, of which nine were sold for an average price of ls. 3d. per lb., and two rejected, and that the two rejected bales were offered for sale two days later, and purchased at an average price of 2s. 3d. per lb.
– The report cannot be tabled until it has been considered by the Government, and I can give no undertaking that it will be tabled even then. After the Government has considered the report, I shall be in a better position to give the honorable member some further information on the subject.
– The Melbourne Argus of the 7th instant published an article under the heading, “ Trade jeopardized - Country party criticism,” which reads -
Recent events have shown that our unjust -discrimination against certain Japanese goods endangers the retention of our best wool customer. For the sake of penalising £2,000.000 worth of Japanese merchandise, our tariff jeopardizes the purchase hy Japan of £0,400,000 worth of our wool and £2.200.000 worth of our wheat and other goods.
– Order ! The honorable member must know .that he cannot be allowed to read a lengthy extract when masking a question.
– There is no other way of explaining the matter. What is the position in regard to the trade relations between Australia and Japan?
– I have seen the article to which the honorable member has referred. lt is taken from the Country party Bulletin, a publication which is used for propaganda purposes, and for which accuracy cannot be claimed as its strongest virtue. Far from trade relations between Australia and Japan being of an unfriendly nature, I might explain that recent cables disclose that Japan appreciates the action of this Parliament in applying its exchange adjustment proposals to specific items only and not generally. It is hoped that before long trade relations between the two countries will be further cemented by the consummation of a reciprocal trade agreement.
– In view of the high prices that are charged for kerosene, particularly in country districts, will the Prime Minister endeavour to bring about an early resumption of the sittings of the Petrol Commission ?
– The honorable member’s request will receive consideration.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received the report of the Petrol Commission?
– The honorable member must be aware that the investigation of this body is not yet completed.
– In view of the assistance that has been given to other primary industries will the Minister for Commerce take into consideration the deplorable position, of onion and potato growers with a view to granting them some measure of assistance?
– I certainly shall be pleased to give consideration to the honorable member’s request, because I think that these are about the only two branches of primary producers which have not yet applied to the Government for assistance.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to indicate how soon either he or the Attorney-General will proceed with the Bankruptcy Bill, of whichhehasgiven notice to-day; and whether in the meantime the Government will circulate copies of themeasure to the different States, in which various interests are particularly concernedabout any amendment of this legislation ?
– I stall bring the honorable member’s question before the notice of the Attorney-General, who is anxious to proceed with this legislation as quietly as possible after his return to Canberra next week. I shall endeavour to havethe bill circulated as requested by the honorable member.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a report which appears in this morning’s Melbourne Sun Pictorial, which states that the Attorney-General contemplates resigning from the Ministryand entering private practice? Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House as to the truth or otherwise of the report?
– I am hoping that the health of the Attorney-General will enable him to resume his parliamentary and ministerial duties in this chamber on Tuesday next.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs observed the report which appears in this morning’s press to the effect that a trade and commercial agreement between Great Britain and the Argentine has been ratified and ‘came into operation last Tuesday night ? Has the Minister received a copy of the agreement; if so, will he lay it on the table so that honorable members may peruse it?
– I have not received a copy of the agreement, although I haveread press advance notices that it was to bo signed. I shall endeavour to obtain a copy for the honorable member, but I do not think that other honorahle members are anxious to peruse it.
– Has the Assistant Minister for Defence recently received a request from the
Queensland branch of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia that the Government shouldestablisha home for returned soldiers on similar line’s to the Chelsea Hospital, England? If so, has the Government reacheda decision on the subject? Further, will it give con- sideration to representations that were made some time ago by South African war veterans for like treatment?
– Representations alongthelines indicated by the honorable member have been received by me’ and fbrwarded t6 the Prime Minister’s Department, by which they are being considered.
– When may the House expect details in regard to the policy of the Governmentin affording relief to wheat-growers, both in the form of direct assistance and in the marketing of their products?
– The Minister for Com- merce has already dealt comprehensively with the subject of marketing the Australian wheat crop. An announcement will be made next week concerning the method by which the Government proposes to give direct assistance to wheatgrowers.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me whether the report of the Tariff Board on cotton yarn has yet heen received by the Government, and if so, when it will be made available to hori’orable members? If it has not yet been received when does the Government expect it?
– As I informedthe honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley), a few days ago, this inquiry has heen of a most exhaustive nature. Information on thissubject had to be obtained f rom Great Britain. The report has not yet come to hand,but the Government is expecting to receive it any day.
– Has the Minister for
Trade and Customs yet received the report of the Tariff Board on feldspar, and if so when will it be released?
– The honorafcle member for Kalgoorlie,personally, and other honorablemembers by letter, have Called iriy attention to the necessity for obtaining a report by the Tariff Board on this subject. The Tariff Board has not yet completed it’s report, but I expect that itwill do so in the near future.
– Is the Minister for the Interior yet able to make a statement in reply to my complaint about the working conditions of the school teachers in the Northern Territory?
-I am not, but I hope to be able td make a statement on the subject within the next two or three days.
– I havebeen informed that the masters of certain overseas ships are prepared to make quantities of dunnage available free for the unemployed. At present, owing to customs regulations, such dunnage cannot be landed without the payment of duty. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he is willing to lift the restrictions on the landing of this timber in order that it may be made available for the assistance of the unemployed ? If the restrictions are not lifted the timber will probably be thrown overboard when the ships arc at sea.
– Certain timbers are subject to import duty and cannot be landed without payment of duty except under special permission. Each case of this kind- and there are many applications at various ports - is considered on its merits. If the honorable member will submit to the department the particulars of the case to which he has referred, I shall give consideration to them.
The following paper was presented : -
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 121.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend section 4 of the Judiciary Act 1903-1932.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
WAYS AND MEANS (Formal).
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means - proposed.
.- I take this opportunity to bring under the notice of the Government the conditions surrounding the poultry industry in Australia. Prior to the last general election, and during the two years in which this Government has been in office, many promises have been made to various sections of the community. Government supporters have claimed that prosperity has returned, and that many benefits would accrue to the people. During the last election campaign, we were told that, if the Government were changed, confidence would be restored, and those engaged in primary production and tie unemployed in Australia would have all the evils besetting them removed. I should like to bring home as forcibly as I. can to the people how they were misled by these mythical promises, because to-day a great majority of them are in a worse position than they were when the promises were first made. Many of the troubles of those engaged in primary production have heen ventilated in this chamber, and the Government is at present endeavouring to deal with some of the requests made to it. Iri these circumstances, I ask the Government to give particular consideration to those engaged in the poultry industry, because, in view of the promises previously made, some of their difficulties should he immediately removed. According to information I have received, the circumstances surrounding this industry indicate that the export prices for poultry products are unremunerative, and that unless. something is done within the next few weeks to assist those engaged in the industry, the export price of eggs in the shell and egg pulp will be so low that many of them Will be unable to carry on. The Egg Marketing Board iri New South Wales has done wonderful work in arranging for the orderly marketing of eggs, but owing to continuation of the depression, and the reduced purchasing power of the people, it has found itself unable to control the situation. Unless assistance is provided, particularly in the matter of export prices, there will be such a large carryover that the home consumption market will also become unprofitable. The position has become so serious that the Egg Marketing Board in New South Wales is of the opinion that it will be impossible to stabilize the home market and to obtain prices sufficient to cover the cost of production. A large additional number of persons are now engaged in poultry raising. In the last five years, there has been a tremendous increase in the county of ‘Cumberland, where there are now 6,000 persons engaged in the industry. This is due to the fact that large numbers of unemployed have undertaken poultry raising, and that others have been compelled to take up additional lines in order to supplement reduced incomes. No doubt, what is happening in Australia is also happening in Great Britain and elsewhere; large numbers who formerly purchased the products of the poultry industry are now endeavouring to provide their own requirements. That provides a reason for the fact that the demand for eggs both here and abroad is not nearly so great as it was some time ago. Owing to the decreased purchasing power of the people, coupled with the lack of employment and the lower wages prevailing to-day, the poultry industry is now seriously affected. I am informed that an examination of the export figures show that during the 1927 season, Australia’s total egg exports were 1,104,005 dozen, or 36,800 - cases, while during the 1932-33 season, the total exports were 16,780,320 dozen, or 539,344 cases. In addition, 1,186,176 lb. of egg pulp, equivalent to 1,395,882 dozen, or 46,529 cases of eggs, were exported during the season. The exports of egg pulp alone during the 1932-33 season were far in excess of the total exports from the Commonwealth during the 1927 season. During the 1927 season, New South Wales, which is the largest shipper, exported nearly 15,000 cases of eggs, but it is now packing that quantity each week. With the low prices now ruling, local consumption is far in excess of any previous year. The Egg Marketing Board further states that in New South Wales, circumstances have arisen which make it desirable to obtain a profitable market, the tendency being for the products of other States to find their way into New South Wales in the belief that under the stabilized marketing system existing in that State better prices arc available. A larger measure of responsibility has always rested upon the New South Wale3 Egg Marketing Board in endeavouring to regulate the market on a profitable basis. Definite evidence of the extent to which other States lean on the New South Wales market is indicated by egg imports which, during the eleven weeks ended 16th March, 1933, totalled 40S,199 dozens, in shell alone, while large quantities of egg pulp were also placed on the market. During the whole of that, period, the New South Wales Egg Board was exporting or cold storing eggs so that, the market could be stabilized, and from its pool funds, was meeting, without help, the heavy losses incurred. The board also points out that meeting costs from the pool cannot go on indefinitely, and that unless assistance is given in the matter of export prices, circumstances will arise under which producers will be unable to obtain payment. A further serious aspect arising from the surplus is that it will” be impossible to stabilize the home market. Some weeks ago the board put its case to the Minister for Commerce, and* J have no doubt that some of his own constituents who are engaged in this industry have made similar representations to him.
– The honorable member is quite right.
– The board has set out the position, as follows : -
As an indication of the surplus which will, under normal conditions, be in existence during the November-March months, the board points out that over the same period of last year in New South Wales alone some 47.1 If! cases of eggs (each 30 dozen) were packed for export, and 17,830 cases (each 30 dozen) were packed for cold storage by the board. Kurt her, that the board alone this j-ea.r has to date packed some 10,000 cases more for export than at the corresponding period of last year.
Now that egg production has reached saturation point, mainly because of producers outside the pool flooding the market, the position of the industry is, Indeed, serious. As I have already said, this is not the only industry which has been affected by the depression, the decrease of wages and employment, and tho consequent decline of the purchasing power of the community. The responsibility to assist these industries still rests upon the Government because of its election promises to the effect that, if elected to office, confidence would soon be restored in the community, sound banking facilities would be instituted, and unemployment would be minimized as far as practicable. But since it has been in office, the policy of this Government has not had the effect of implementing the promises given prior to the election, and, in fact, the position of industry generally has become worse. “We, therefore, consider it the duty of tho Opposition to bring before the Minister the serious position of many primary industries which are suffering because of the Government’s failure to give effect to its election promises. The following statement, which I understand has been prepared by the Egg Marketing Board, sets out its system of marketing: -
The marketing of eggs through the year by the Egg Marketing Board covers approximately three periods -
Roughly, 15th March to 15th June.
15th June to loth November.
15th November to 15th March.
The first period is one in which fresh eggs are scarce and consequently dear by reason of the demand exceeding the supply. In the second period, when production greatly exceeds tho demand, there is a huge surplus, when it follows prices are low; and the third period, when there is a large surplus at its beginning, gradually lessening until about the middle of March.
The board’s endeavour is to keep as near to such a price level throughout the year as will enable the poultry-farmer to live, and it is a difficult, task.
You will appreciate the obvious result if eggs were 3d. to ls. per dozen for nine mouths and ls. to 2s. for three months of the year.
The board’s problem then is to hold tho market so as to give something like a payable price to the grower throughout the peak or second period, June to November. The actual peak of production is about the end of September. We set about our job as follows: -
About the middle of June, when the supply greatly exceeds the demand, we ship to London all surplus eggs as are of export quality, paying our growers, say, ls. 6d. per dozen, although we know these eggs will reach tho London market, about the end of August, and up to that date will only realize approximately ls. per dozen net. During June, July, and August, wo gradually reduce prices to the grower until the normal minimum is reached. This is about ls. per dozen, at which price the producer can just continue to pay his way.
We finance payments to growers by drawing on our London distributing agents at ls. 6d. per dozen (which we pay the farmer less a pool deduction of Id. per dozen), and, of course, our realizations show in these first two months a considerable debit against us. After the end of September, however, the London market usually improves until it reaches its peak just before Christmas.
We gradually reduce our drawings against shipments until we catch up with the debit balance at the London end, and square the ledger at the end of the export season, by meeting export losses from the pool funds collected over the year.
We are kept regularly in touch by cables once or twice a week as to realizations, so it is not difficult for us to arrange our finance.
It may seem odd to you that we pay the grower ls. 6d. when we know the most we can realize is about ls., but if we did not export this surplus at this particular time, the grower would bo getting something like ls. or less per dozen over the months of July and August, which would very quickly put him out of business.
During the period from the end of September to Christmas, we usually find a market for our surplus in London at prices that cover the cost of production, but this season the London market has dropped on an average ls. Od. per long hundred (10 dozen eggs) as compared with last year, on all eggs we have exported, and if this continues till the middle of November (the latest date we can ship to reach London before Christmas) we will not he able to pay the producers such a price as will enable them to carry on, for in order to meet our requirements in London, we would have to reduce the price to such a figure that the grower would be forced out of business. After the middle of November, a safe export advance would be 7d. per dozen at the most.
It is the function of the members of this board to watch closely developments on the London market, and they are, therefore, in the position to know what the future holds in store as regards prices. Their opinion, therefore, must be regarded more seriously than that of an individual producer, who may be inclined to magnify the difficulties surrounding his own particular case. I have given the cold and dispassionate long-range view of men who are associated with the marketing of the product, and it demands some reply from the Government.
It is unnecessary to refer to other figures that I have in my possession, because they merely substantiate what I have already said. I know that the matter has already had the attention of the Government, and I believe that requests have been made to the Minister by representative deputations. I feel, however, that advantage should be taken of every opportunity to obtain the expression of the Government’s opinion in this chamber, rather than from reports of deputations. I trust that the Minister will indicate the extent to which the question has been examined, and state whether the Government is prepared to heed the representations of producers as well as of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board. Does the Government accept in its entirety the case that has been made out, or is it in :i position to disprove the contentions of the board in regard to the future price of this product? One of my colleagues pointed out only yesterday that throughout Australia a large number of people are involved, and that this is a form of employment that can and should be encouraged by all. If many persons have been induced to settle on small areas to provide their own requirements and to produce a surplus that might enable them to supplement their meagre incomes, they should receive our wholehearted support. Responsibili ty new rests entirely on the Commonwealth Government. That the prosperity which its supporters so frequently mention has not yet arrived is proved by evidence which has been placed before the House by members of all parties concerning the conditions in both industrial and rural electorates. A reference to the tobacco industry to-day evoked a spirited reply from the Minister, in the course of which he expressed the belief that this was the only industry that, up to date, had not actually asked for direct assistance from the Government. The constant raising of these matters by honorable members may cause him annoyance.
– The reply that the honorable member has in mind referred to potatoes and onions, not to tobacco.
– I may have obtained a wrong impression of the Minister’s attitude. It appeared to me that the thought in his mind was “ Who next will ask for assistance?” If that were so, it was a practical thought, and one that I can understand ; but it nevertheless proves that the circumstances of this country are still far from promising. The change of government has failed to effect the improvement promised two years ago. If it had, these industries that have battled along on their own, and have assisted materially in building up Australia to the level at which it stood before the depression, would not now have to enlist the aid of the Government. The crisis first affected the ‘ man who had only his labour to sell. He accepted the position because he had no alternative. With the passage of the years, however, the effect is being gradually felt by other sections, and now particularly by the primary industries. The case that I. have presented to-day affords further evidence of the need for radical and fundamental financial changes. I deplore the fact that much suffering and misery have had to be endured, and that doubtless bankruptcy has been common throughout the Commonwealth. That could have been avoided had governments been prepared to tackle the problem earlier. Honorable members of all parties arebeing gradually forced to recognize that action which should have been taken long ago has now become imperative. I trust that the Minister and the Government will regard this matter in the serious light in which I have endeavoured to place it before the House, and take immediate steps to remedy it.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) put -
That the debate be adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governer-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. White) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act toamendthe Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act 1922-1929.
Resolution reported; report - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed from the 8 th November, 1933 (vide page 4248), on motion by Mr. White -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- There are aspects of this bill which I should like explained by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White). When the honorable gentleman made his secondreading speech I understood that the amendment was intended to apply only to the small item of a bounty on traction engines, but on reading the bill I find that it also applies to fencing wire, galvanized sheets and wire netting, items which cover the major portion of the products of the iron and steel industry. At present, if the duty on these commodities is increased, the amount of bounty is automatically reduced proportionately. This hill provides that if the duty is decreased there will be a corresponding restoration of bounty, and I am inclined to believe that the reference to the Tariff Board is only for the purpose of fixing the amount of bounty to be restored.
– The Tariff Board is to decide if a bounty shall be paid.
– If clause 2 means that the Tariff Board has to deal with the matter and submit a recommendation for the restoration of the bounty, that removes a great deal of the objection which I have to. the bill, but I. shall be glad if the Minister will indicate precisely where that instruction is conveyed to the Tariff Board. Clause 2 reads -
Minister, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, corresponds to the amount by which the respective duties of customs are decreased.
That is all. Apparently, after the Tariff Board has ascertained the amount, the bounty will come into operation automatically. That being so, the proposal should not have the approval of the House. Bounties were introduced for the purpose of giving public assistance to industries to enable them to become established. They were never intended to be permanent. In the case of the cotton industry the amount of bounty diminishes yearly, and, when the price of gold increased, the bounty on that commodity was withdrawn as it was recognized that the industry no longer needed such assistance.
– Does not the bill limit the amount of bounty that may be authorized ?
– My objection is that the period for the payment of the bounty is unlimited.
Mr.White. - The honorable member will admit that the payment of the bounty is dependent, in a measure, on customs duty or primage.
– My objection is to making any declaration that these bounties shall continue for ever.
Mr.White. - The House is not asked to do that.
– Clause 2 means that if. a reduction is made in the rate of duty automatically there must he an increase of the bounty.
– That is not so.
– That is the way I view it. The matter to he referred to the Tariff Board is merely the extent to which the bounty shall be restored, and I do not think that we should affirm any principle that bounties should he continued permanently. To the end of 1932, the Commonwealth had paid bounties amounting to £1,030,000 on fencing wire, galvanized iron and wire netting.
– The amount is £1,800,000.
– I am quoting the figures which appear in the Commonwealth Year-Book. In any case a very large sum hasbeen paid in bounties on these articles.
– Not in recent years.
– The reason for that is that the bounty of £4 10s. a ton has been replaced by a duty of £4 10s. a ton, so that those engaged in the industry receive the same advantage through the tariff while the consumer has not received any advantage. Admittedly we should support the establishment of this key industry, but surely there will come a time when it will be self-supporting. The industry operates in a big way, its raw materials are available in Australia, and the local market is reserved to it. It has the natural protection afforded by exchange, freight, insurance, and so on, and soon should be able to carry on on its merits.
A good deal has been said recently about those who use galvanized iron and wire netting being able to buy those products cheaper than would bc possible if there were no Australian industry, and they were imported; and that the Australian iron and steel industry can operate on its merits. I want to see that put into practice. When we reach the committee stage, I propose moving an amendment to ensure that if there is a reduction of duty the matter shall be referred to the Tariff Board for investigation and report, and that if that body considers that further protection is necessary to the industry it shall be competent for the Minister to provide it in the form of a new bounty.
– There will be no need to move such an amendment, as that is practically the position at present.
– I shall be pleased if the Minister will demonstrate that the bounty is to be restored only on the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
.- There is a good deal in the point that has been raised by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn). As I read the proposed new proviso to section 3 of the principal act, the matter which is to he referred to the Tariff Board is not whether or not a bounty may be necessary owing to a reduction of duty, but simply what is to be the amount of bounty which will correspond with the reduction of duty. It is a matter of simple arithmetic, not an expression of opinion on the part of the Tariff Board as to whether the bounty is needed for the maintenance of the industry.
– I shall deal with that matter, which is covered by the Tariff Board Act.
– If the Minister can give a satisfactory explanation on the subject it will remove the diffidence which I now feel about supporting the measure. I quite realize that the proviso is almost a necessary corollary of a proviso in the principal act which works in the opposite direction, but I should like an assurance, from the Minister that the increase of bounty will not apply automatically merely on the Tariff Board assuring the honorable gentleman that a certain bounty corresponds with the reduction that has been made in the customs duty. The justification for the increase should be that the board considers it essential for the maintenance of the industry.
.- I cannot fallow the reasoning of the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson), who does not favour the encouragement of an industry, either by a bounty or by duties, but would prefer to see it go out of existence. This bill merely contains a clause which will -work automatically.
– I do not want it to be automatic.
– Every other nation has legislation of this nature. The United States of America prevents competition from any foreign country which seriously competes with American industry. This bill simply provides that if the duty on a certain product is removed, the Government shall substitute a bounty through the ordinary channel ‘ of a Tariff Board recommendation. Without such a recommendation, the Minister would bc powerless to fix either a duty or a bounty. Unfortunately, every time a proposal is made for the adequate protection of Australian secondary industry, honorable gentlemen of the Country party rail against it. They would like to see us obtain all our supplies in the cheapest markets of the world.
.- I was surprised to hear the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) say yesterday that this bill would not require discussion. I regard it as important, for it seeks to make a vital alteration of the law. We have been told that it relates only to tractors, but I cannot see that it is limited to that item, for the schedule which is to be amended deals with fencing wire, galvanized sheets, traction engines, and wire netting. Wire netting was previously admitted to Australia duty free, but the local product was assisted by a bounty of £3 8s. per ton. This was subsequently reduced to 9s. 7d. per ton. If this bill is passed it appears to me that, the Minister, subject to inquiry and recommedation by the Tariff Board, will have power to increase the bounty to £3 8s. per ton. Statements have been made frequently that this industry does not require either a duty or bounty in these days to enable it to compete with similar overseas industries. We have been assured that locally-manufactured wire netting is being sold at a price lower than that which would be asked for imported notting, and that Australianmade netting is able to compete successfully agains! English-made netting on the New Zealand market. In these circumstances, there should be no necessity to continue the provisions for the payment of the bounty. An amount exceeding £600,000 has been paid in bounty on wire netting. The Minister has told us that up to last year £1,800,000 had been paid in bounty on galvanized iron, wire netting and fencing wire.
– That was in the last ten years; but in the last three years practically nothing has been paid.
– Then why should we continue the provisions for the payment of a bounty on these items ?
– Who are our competitors in New Zealand ?
– I have frequently expressed the fear that the LysaghtRylands combination of Great Britain has exercised an undue influence over the market. According to a cable that I received some time ago the price of wire netting in Australia and New Zealand is considerably higher than it is in South Africa. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) recently published a statement that a steel fence costs 40 per cent, or 50 per cent, less in South Africa than in Australia. I submit that there is no justification for that difference. We have in Australia the richest iron-ore deposits in the world, up to date plant, and first-class workmen. Our industry is also protected by the incidence of exchange and the imposition of primage duty. We were told a little while ago that the primage duty was intended to provide revenue and not protection, but it is being used to provide extra protection for many industries. The galvanized ‘ iron, wire-netting and fencing wire industries of Australia are well able to stand on their own feet. I remind honorable members again, that, according to the report of the Tariff Board, the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited charges an enormous price for the bars from which sheets are drawn compared with the price of similar ‘bars in Great Britain and Belgium. There is no justification for retaining the provision for the payment of a bounty on these products. I ask the Minister to say definitely whether, if this amendment is agreed to, he will be able, subject to recommendation” by the Tariff Board, to restore the bounty of £3 8s. a ton on wire netting manufactured in Australia
.- In answer to the opposition to this measure by the members of the Country party-
– We are not opposing it, but simply asking for an assurance.
– It seems to me that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is opposed to every measure designed to protect the secondary industries of this country. As the purpose of this bill is simply to assure certain industries of the protection that this Parliament has declared is necessary for their maintenance, I can see no reason for opposing it. In view of the great importance to Australia of the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited’s iron and steel industry, and the works of Lysaght Limited in New South Wales, and those of the Electrolytic Zinc Company, in Tasmania, we should be careful to protect these industries. I cannot understand why the Country party should oppose this measure. We never begrudge the granting of protection to primary industries. The honorable member for Swan frequently talks about certain Aus tralian industries making excessive profits at the expense of our primary producers, but he has himself said this afternoon that Australian-made wire netting is obtainable in Australia at no greater cost than English wire netting. I hope that the bill will be passed.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) need not fear that, if this bill is passed, the Minister will himself determine the amount of bounty that shall be paid. I remind him that section 15 le of the Tariff Board Act makes it incumbent upon the Minister to refer to the board for inquiry and report “ the necessity for granting bounties” for the encouragement of any primary or secondary industry in Australia.”
– That relates to a new bounty.
– Provision is made in our legislation for the reduction of bounties in certain circumstances, but not for the restoration of them if former conditions again prevail. The object of this bill is simply to permit that to be done. In consequence of the manner in which the principal act is framed, it is necessary in this amending measure to refer to the four items mentioned in the schedule of the principal act, and apparently because of this, certain honorable members find themselves again entangled in wire netting, fencing wire, and galvanized iron. The Government is, however, only concerned with traction engines, which are at present admitted British free, foreign 10 per cent. It is desired, that authority shall be given, on the recommendation of the Tariff Board, to increase the amount of bounty to an amount which corresponds to the amount by which the customs duties on traction engines are decreased.
– That is not a sufficient assurance, for it merely means that the Tariff Board would say that a certain amount of bounty corresponded with a certain decrease of duty. What we wish to know is whether the Tariff Board will recommend the amount of duty necessary to “ maintain the industry.”
– The Tariff Board is a board of economic survey. If it has the right to recommend that the degree of pro- tection be reduced, surely it is a natural corollary that it shall have the right to say that a duty shall be increased. At present the duty on fencing wire is 52s. per ton. Previously there was a bounty of 52s. per ton. The bounty does not apply to-day, for the duty has taken its place. Galvanized sheets are dutiable at £4 10s. per ton. This duty has also taken the place of a hounty. In the absence of a duty on traction engines the Australian manufacturer would be in a difficult position without the right to appeal to the Tariff Board. Members of the Country party have, in many instances, advocated the payment of bounties in preference to the imposition of customs duties. The intention of the Government is to give the manufacturers of tractors the right to approach the Tariff Board. The Government has also the power to submit other items to the board if it so desires. If honorable members approve of the Tariff Board having the right to recommend rates of duties, they must agree that it should also have the power to make recommendations with respect to bounties.
– What bounty is now paid on tractors?
– It has been reduced from £90 to £43 4s.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section three of the principal act is amended by inserting after the first proviso thereto the following proviso: - “ Provided further that when the rates of bounty payable on any fencing wire, galvanized sheets, traction engines, or wire netting, have been decreased in pursuance of the last preceding proviso, and a further customs tariff has been introduced bringing into operation decreased duties of customs on any of those articles, then the rates of bounty payable on any of those articles, delivered from the Australian factory after the introduction of such further customs tariff, may bo increased by an amount which, in the opinion of the Minister, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, corresponds to the amount by which the respective duties of customs are decreased, but nothing contained in this proviso shall authorize the Minister to increase the rates of bounty so as to exceed the rates set out in the schedule to this act.”.
.- Will the Minister (Mr. White) say whether the bounty will be payable on exports as well as on material used in Australia? It is quite likely that with a bounty of, say, £3 Ss. a ton on wire netting, Australian manufacturers of that commodity would be able tobuild up a large export trade, and taxpayers would be paying a bounty on exports.
– I cannot say at the moment whether that has been the practice in the past with respect to wire netting, but I shall supply honorable members with the information.
– I move -
That after the word “ decreased “ last occurring the words “ and which is recommended by the Tariff Board as necessary for the maintenance of the industry “ be inserted.
Thesection of the principal act quoted by the Minister (Mr. White) does not meet the situation. When a reduction of duty is made it might or might not be necessary to restore the whole or any portion of the bounty in order to protect the industry. That question, I submit, should be inquired into by the Tariff Board. It would appear that in future all reductions of duty will be upon the recommendation of the Tariff Board, but when the board recommends a reduction of duty it should also take into consideration the further question of whether there should be a restoration of the whole or any portion of the bounty. In some instances the board may be of the opinion that an. industry is able to carry on without assistance, and that further protection in the nature of a bounty is not necessary. When inquiring into a reduction of duties, the board would necessarily consider whether in lieu of the reduced protection there should be a bounty ; but under the bill as drafted, the board has simply to make a calculation of the extent by which an industry is affected hy a reduction of duty, and would be exceeding its proper functions if it expressed an opinion as to whether a bounty should or should not replace the duties. Its only function would be to ascertain the amount by which customs duties were decreased, and to calculate the amount which should he restored hy way of a bounty in order to compensate for the reduction of duties. If, therefore, the provision is retained in its present form we can never bring about an effective reduction of duty on any of ‘the commodities mentioned, because if the duties are reduced the bounties will automatically increase within the limits of the. principal act. Conversely, if the duties are increased the’ bounties will be reduced. If the bill is passed in its present form the position of these industries will be firmly established so long as the measure remains upon the statutehook. The Tariff Board or any other authority will not be in a position to interfere with the protection provided for any industry concerned. If the amendment which I have moved is agreed to, it will prevent any unnecessary restoration of a bounty. If, when customs duties are reduced, a corresponding increase is made in the bounties, a serious liability will be placed upon the Commonwealth. The large amount paid in the past in the form of bounties has been a great liability, and I do not think that the committee should allow the iron and steel industry, or any other associated industry, to remain in a specially favoured position. Any alteration of customs duties, or of bounties, should- be made only on the advice of the Tariff Board, which should recommend whether, in reducing duties, a corresponding increase should be made in bounties.
.- I. hope that the Minister will agree to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), and thus remove the objection which some honorable members have to the proviso which deals with what may happen in the case of a reduction of customs duties. The proviso reads - . . the rates of bounty payable on any fencing wire, galvanized sheets, traction engines or wire netting have been decreased in pursuance of the last preceding proviso, ii nd a further customs tariff has been introduced bringing into operation decreased duties, of customs on any of those articles, then the rates of bounty payable on any of those articles, delivered from thu Australian factory, after the introduction of such further customs tariff, may Vic increased by an amount which, in the opinion of the Minister, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, corresponds to the amount by which the respective duties of customs are decreased . . .
The only matter to be determined by the Tariff Board is not, whether an increase of bounty, or if any bounty at all, is necessary in the interests of the industry, but what amount of bounty is equivalent to a reduction, of duty. For instance, if an ad valorem duty is reduced by 20 per cent., the board may recommend that _a bounty of £1 is, as nearly as possible, tho exact equivalent of a reduction of 20 per cent., and the Minister would be in a position to pay a bounty of £1. It may happen that the industry, which has sustained a reduction of duty of 20 per cent., the equivalent of a bounty of £.1, may not require a bounty to enable it to carry on. I am anxious that the measure as a whole should ensure that the Tariff Board should not only give an indication of the amount of bounty equivalent to the reduction of duty, but also must recommend that such bounty is necessary for the maintenance of tho industry.
– The honorable member wants another inquiry to be made.
– No. I want a definite report from the Tariff Board that the bounty or the duty, as the case may be, is necessary. I hope that the Minister will agree to the amendment, which would make the clause read -
– T am prepared to accept the amendment.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Perth (Mr Nairn), because it makes the intention of the clause much clearer. I should like some information from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) respecting the bounty paid on tractors. A bounty on tractors is preferable to a duty. At present quite a number of Australian manufacturers are making remarkably good tractors, and I take it that the Government’s intention is to assist the industry until such time as it is firmly established. It seems to me that the bounty paid on tractors has been reduced by some 50 per cent. The Minister has not yet explained the reason .for that.
– I gave the reason yesterday when introducing the bill.
– I did not hear the reason and I should like the Minister to restate it. [Quorum formed.]
– The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) wishes to know the reason for the reduction of the bounty on tractors. 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 again 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 October, 1932, the primage duty on farm tractors was removed in the interests of the primary producers. The position was then that the manufacturers of tractors had lost half the bounty and also the protection afforded by the 10 per cent. primage duty.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause as amended, agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill -by leave - read a third time.
. -I ask leave to give notice of a motion.
– The Minister must disclose the nature of the motion. It is an undesirable practice for leave to be sought to give notice of a motion after the time provided in the Standing Orders, for the giving of notice of such motions has expired.
-I wish to ask leave to give notice that to-morrow I shall ask for leave to introduce a bill to implement the sales tax alterations in connexion with the trade treaty between New Zealand and Australia. It will not be possible to bring down this bill before to-morrow, and as. the customs portion of the implementing of the treaty is now being considered in the Senate, it is desired to pass this short and formal bill through both Houses so as not to delay the date of the proclamation.
hh Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the8th November (vide page 4279), on. motion hy Mr. Lyons -
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division1 - The Senate - namely, “Salaries and allowances, £6,840 “. be agreed to.
Upon which Mr. Scullin had moved by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by£1.
.- When the Financial Relief Bill was before the House, I took the opportunity to discuss many matters appertaining to the budget, and I shall therefore reserve most of my remarks until the Estimates are under discussion. What I wish to emphasize most is the necessity for this committee to accept the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). Since the budget speech was delivered, evidence has continually cropped up to make it all the more imperative for us to accept that amendment. The Leader of the Opposition has moved “ That the item be reduced by £1”, on the understanding that if the amendment is carried, it is to be regarded as an instruction to the Government to reconstruct the budget in order -
The discussion which has taken place in this chamber within the last two or three days in connexion with the position of the primary producers of this country shows conclusively that it is necessary to recast the budget proposals in the manner suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. When the emergency cuts were made in pensions, salaries and wages, the Government promised to restore them so soon as conditions returned to normal. That promise was made by the Scullin Government and by the then Opposition which is now in office, and it was only right and proper that such a promise should be made in view of the fact that most of the people affected were among the poorer sections of the community. The Government now proposes to remit taxation to certain sections of the community which did not suffer as a result of the implementing of the Premiers plan. Surely those sections should not benefit from remissions of tax until the Government has honoured its promise to restore to the pensioners and public servants what was taken from them under the Premiers plan.
In examining this question from an economic stand-point, there are certain fixed principles which should be observed regardless altogether of party considerations, and it seems to me that if the Government expended its surplus revenue on a works programme to provide employment for our workless citizens, it would < be helping every section of the community to a much greater extent than by giving effect to its present proposal to remit taxation to certain sections of the community. Australia will emerge from the depression only when its governments increase the volume of credit among those who will bridge the gap between production and consumption. A wage fund must he created that will make possible the employment of those who are at present unable to obtain work, and give them a purchasing power which they now lack that will increase the demand for the goods and services of private enterprise activities the lack of which has brought private enterprise almost to a condition of insolvency. The remission of taxation in the case of insurance com- panies, land-owners, overseas shipping companies, and others for whom budgetary provision has been made, will not have that effect. Business activities may be benefited, but so slightly that no appreciable inroad will be made on the depression. I could mention a dozen leading authorities who, during the last five or six years, have pointed out that the necessary stimulus will be given to industry only if the demand for goods ‘and services is increased. The Commonwealth must inaugurate, in co-operation with the States, a properly organized scheme of employment. .Surely the experience of the last three or four years must have convinced honorable mem’bers of the fallacy of the policy of cutting down the cost of labour ! Thrift, which in times of scarcity may he regarded as a blessing, is more in the ‘ nature of a curse to-day. In the midst of superabundance, such a policy is neither sane nor logical. The problem of production has long since been solved. There is a superabundance of every commodity, but no demand, because the wage fund has been so constricted. Although employment on relief works for two or three days a . week, at a wage of £1 a week and 2s. 6d. a week for each child, has caused the unemployment figures to decline, the spending power of the community is still at the low ebb at which it stood last year and the year before. But while a greater number of persons are earning, the amount in the aggregate is no greater, and less for each unit. In reply to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey), who made an excellent speech last night, I would say that private enterprise cannot provide employment unless governments first establish a new wage fund, by means of which a large number of our people may find work. The spending of their wages in the purchase of the necessaries of life would give the stimulus that private enterprise needs. The curtailment that has been practised in every direction during the last three or four years has made the gap between production and consumption wider, though the need is to make it less. At least £200,000,000 has been abstracted from the wage fund regulated by the Arbitration. Court alone. This policy has made the depression permanent, and until it is altered we cannot expect private enterprise to employ much more labour. Eighty per cent, of the total population of Australia comes within the category of wage-earners and salaried employees. They are the real consuming unit of the nation, and it is because their spending power has been reduced that consumption has been lessened.
All over the world, new methods are gradually but surely being adopted, but the Commonwealth Government will not fall into Une. Last year, the British Government budgeted for the addition of £150,000,000 to the credit distributedthroughout the community, and since then other large additions have been made, with the result that wonderful improvements have been effected in the housing conditions of the poorer people, and many necessary public works have been carried out. Slums have been cleaned up, and modern buildings have taken their place. Business activities generally have been revived, and unemployment has been reduced by about 1,000,000 persons during the last two years. The Labour party has advocated the adoption of a similar policy in Australia, but governments here will not take what they regard as a risk, nor will they ‘break away from the old habit of waiting for somebody outside Australia to come to the rescue.
An honorable member yesterday recounted the number of conferences that had been held during the last three or four years in an endeavour automatically to adjust the affairs of the world by every nation starting off on the same foot at the same moment. From the time that the first emergency legislation was introduced in Australia, every Prime Minister and Treasurer has suggested that we should await the developments of economic and financial conferences abroad; but meanwhile our people have been forced to suffer misery, want and travail.
I remember the first award made by the late Mr. Justice Higgins in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court nearly 30 years ago. Low though it was, it improved the conditions of the people. Child labour was eliminated from the industrial system or lessened, a scientific scheme of. apprenticeship was introduced, and gradually the Australian standard was increased until it became the envy of the workers of every other country. In 1928-29, on the basis of the effective value of wages, the United States of America ranked first, Canada second, and Australia third. During the last three years, however, the Australian standard has been smashed as the result of the attempts that have been made to balance budgets by curtailing services, reducing wages, enforcing sacrifices, and practising thrift. A great many persons honestly believed that such a policy was a short cut to prosperity; but it has had the opposite effect; it has made permanent the depression which was first felt four years ago. Judging by what has occurred in this and other countries, there is no hope of regaining normality unless different methods are adopted. Up to a certain stage, production was increased, and the higher standard due to a decent wage fund enabled the people to .purchase what they required; but since the adoption of the policy of reduction, the standard of the workers has been consistently lowered and business activities have been undermined. As the result of the last four years, they have learned the lesson that the workers of Australia, as well as those of any other country, are not only inevitably necessary as workers to produce commodities, but are also just as necessary to consume the things that they produce.
I still hope that the Government will abandon its policy of waiting for something to turn up. It is really fortunate that the world economic conference was a complete failure, otherwise the Government might have been able to cling to the forlorn hope that some similar gathering in the future would evolve a plan to rehabilitate the economic status of all countries. Delegates left the world economic conference without any understanding having been arrived at other than the determination to return to their respective countries and make it plain that it was more than ever necessary for countries to depend upon themselves and look internally for relief by” giving to their own people employment at higher wages, thus making them a better market for their own goods.
The amendment aims at a recasting of the budget, and seeks to bring all parties about the conference table to devise a fresh budget, of which the cardinal feature would be the allocation of money to create a new wage fund, through thu medium of our own Commonwealth Bank, to carry out a proper programme of public works in con junction - with the State governments, to bring about the stimuli to which I have referred, and to rehabilitate industry. If that conference met and I prophesy that it will have to be convened by this or some other Government, one of its first tasks would be to map out a plan to make uniform the overlapping and multiplicity of railway gauges in. Australia. Surely it would not be wasting money to put to this work 100,000 or more persons who are at present unemployed. They would spend every penny they received in wages, and, a.s they did so, an additional demand would be created for the goods and services which are provided by private enterprise, the result showing itself in a general restoration of business.
I was greatly struck with the speech that was made by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll), which, from his point of view - that of a militarist - was well reasoned and dispassionate. As I am an anti-militarist, ,1 do not agree with the convictions of the honorable member, but I do think that if the Government should immediately do what he suggests, and provide for a more adequate defence system of Australia, which most people believe is necessary. The first plank in the defence policy of this country should be to set to work, on tho unification of our railway gauges, men who are now deteriorating, and who will not be of much use in the defence of the country until they are a.gain employed and rehabilitated.
We should take heed of the lessons that wo have been taught during the last four years. No one will deny that the experience gained in ‘that period does not show that a more modern policy must be adopted to meet what we thought, was a transitory period of depression, a turn in the wheel of “booms and busts.” We now all realize that it is different altogether from the short periods of depression that have been experienced periodically in the past, and know that it has been brought about by the immensity of our power to produce things.
Strange as it may seem, one of the greatest reasons for our present troubles is tha wonderful advance made in man’s inventive genius, which has resulted in tremendous improvements in the methods of production. As a result we have surrounded ourselves with super-abundant quantities of many things which make up home life, while half of our people are unemployed, and in semi-starvation.
If, unbiased by any desire to make a case for this or that side, we were carefully to examine unemployment statistics, we should be forced to the conclusion that, there has been no improvement during the last two or three years. The worst feature of the whole business is that 90 per cent of the relief jobs that are available are suitable only for those capable of doing hard manual labour. In my OWn electorate, 3,000 or 4,000 men. who were previously employed as wharf labourers, ships’ labourers and dockers, and even as skilled and semiskilled workers, such as metal and other artisans, are doing pick and shovel work two or three days a week. and they have been taken off the register of unemployed and classified as being in employment. By no stretch of the imagination can we solve the problem of unemployment by saying that a man is employed when he is given two or three days’ work. A sad feature has been the whittling away of the standard of comfort in Australia and the compulsory acceptance by the people of a lower standard. So long as we allow that state of affairs to continue and fail to do something to re-employ these people as fulltime workers on a wage which will give them a decent standard of living, we shall not restore Australia’s prosperity.
The amendment also suggests that, in a. recast budget, money should be provided for the relief of wheat-growers. I agree that that is necessary; also, that a bounty or some other form of assistance should be given to increase the return to the growers.
– There are some growers whose crops have been destroyed, and who would not be helped by a bounty on production.
– I know, and I am anxious that every section should be helped, not because I am more sympathetic or have a softer heart than others, but because it is the right thing to endeavour to bring about the general rehabilitation of all sections. However, in helping the wheat-farmers we must also improve the standard of living of those who work for them; but if we do not improve the standard of living of those employed in our secondary industries, how can we hope to do so for those in our primary industries ? Those who are employed by farmers and graziers in Australia are still the lowest paid in the country, as they always have been.
Mr.Gregory. - There are many wheatfarmers who are worse off than those whom they employ.
– Although I do not contradict the honorable member’s statement, I do not think that there is any logic in it. Farmers employing, at only 5s. or 6s. a week, thousands of men who have been sent from the cities, will not help to restore Australia to prosperity. If I were to say that, generally speaking, the agricultural workers in Great Britain receive higher wages and live under better conditions than similar workers in Australia, I probably should notbe believed. An agricultural wages board was set up in Great Britain with the approval of a conference of agricultural employers. Some employers protested against it,but the great majority favoured it. Thisboard provided for higher wages and shorter hours than had ever been known in the agricultural industry in Great Britain, and also, for the first time, overtime rates for Sunday and holiday work, and special rates for male and female labour of different classes.
I suggest in all seriousness that the Government should introduce legislation to provide for the ‘reconstruction of the charter of the Commonwealth Bank to enable it, in conjunction with the Government of the day, to release credits for the carrying out of public works, so that the wages fund of the people may be restored. Action has been taken to this end by the Bank of England and other banks with similar powers. While I do not suggest that private banks in Australia could do anything of this kind, I am convinced, that as long as the Government pursues ortho dox financial methods so long will it fail to restore complete prosperity. I agree with thePrime Minister’s statement that the Government cannot continue to float loans for the relief of unemployment, for that involves an increase of our. interest bill, which is to-day bearing everybody down. It is quite impossible to continue the present financial practices. Sir Robert Horne, and other members of the British House of Commons, have frequently said in the House that the Government should and must use its own instrument, the Bank of England, to make credits available for public works. This can be done only by a government institution. I remind honorable members that the first Governor of the Commonwealth Bank said that the Commonwealth Bank was as strong as the people of Australia, and that he could do, through the bank, whatever, within reason, the people of Australia desired, because the bank was backed by theassets of Australia. It is significant that when Sir Robert Gibson, chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, was called before the bar of the Senate a couple of years ago, he did not say that he could not or would not do what the Government of the day desired him to do. Nor did he say that the Government was asking him to do something wrong. He said, in effect, that if the Government would cause legislation to be passed to enable him to do legally what he was desired to do, he would do it. Naturally, he commented upon the point of view of the private banking institutions. His environment would cause him to do that. I believe that only the. private banking institutions would object to the Commonwealth Government using its own instrument, the Commonwealth Bank, to create credits to provide money for public works. The private banking institutions realize that if credits were provided through the Commonwealth Bank, their sphere of influence and power would be seriously impaired. Profits, in the form of interest on advances, would be lost. Profits earnedby the Commonwealth Bank would be public revenue and remain in the hands of the Government. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has pointed out, the remission of taxes to the extent of £7,500,000 will have a very small beneficial influence upon the people at large, whereas the release of credits for the provision of public works would have a big beneficial influence upon them. If money is made available for public works it will go to the people in wages and will be spent on the necessaries of life. A demand will thus be set up for the things that are grown and manufactured in this country. The creation of that demand is the only thing that will set the wheels of industry moving and restore economic prosperity to the country. If this Parliament will not amend the charter of the Commonwealth Bank as I have suggested, a future Commonwealth Parliament will do it in days not far distant. At the last meeting of the board of the Bank of England, the Governor of the hank, Mr. Norman Montagu, said that almost wonderful changes of policy had been adopted hy the Bank of England, from time to time, in the last ten years. The financial editor of the Manchester Guardian, commenting upon this statement, said that a remarkable change had occurred in public opinion respecting banking institutions, and that many financial experts, literary men and publicists in Great Britain, were to-day demanding the complete nationalization of the Bank of England.
For these reasons I commend the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition to the committee. Only by this means can I see us doing anything effective to cope with the depression. Nothing in the budget can have any great influence upon the position. I do not say that there is nothing good in the hudget - he would be a completely biased individual who could not find some good in it - but itdoes not go far enough, for it does not even suggest means of relieving unemployment in this country, and of solving the problem permanently. The 80 per cent. of our people who are wage-earners, are the consuming public upon whom prosperity depends. Unless these people are able, by some means, to draw upon a reliable wage fund, they will not have sufficient money to spend to enable those responsible for the conduct of industries to maintain their operations. A spending power must be created in order to stimulate private enterprise. The Prime Minister has repeatedy said that private enterprise must provide the great bulk of employment in this country, but the Government should adopt a policy that will create a demand for the goods produced by our various industries. I believe that if the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition is agreed to we shall take the first step in this direction.
– The Treasurer should be gratified at the reception given to the budget by honorable members of this committee, and also by the great mass of the people of this country. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) properly said a few minutes ago, he would he a very biased man who could not find some good in the budget. The honorable member has, therefore, to’ an extent, endorsed the budget. The attack upon it has been crystallized in the six reasons given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) in support of his amendment, and I propose to deal briefly with them. The right honorable gentleman said, in the first place, that the budget should bereconstructed to provide against a deficit in our current revenue and expenditure account, thus ensuring a continuance of balanced budgets. The deficit budgeted for by the Government is £1,176,000. The principle of balanced budgets is, speaking generally, sound and in conformity with the Premiers plan. Every conference which has considered the suhject of public finance, has recommended that budgets should be balanced. In this connexion I direct the attention of honorable members to the following paragraph in the report of the Brussels Conference of 1920:-
It is imperative that every government should, as the first social and financial reform, on which all others depend -
Restrict its ordinary recurrent ex penditure, including the service of the debt to such an amount as can be covered by its ordinary revenue.
Rigidly reducing all expenditure on armaments in so far as such reduction is compatible with the preservation of national security.
Abandon all unproductive extraordinary expenditure.
Restrict even productive extraordinary expenditure to the lowest possible amount.
It should be remembered, however, that that report was prepared immediately after the war, when, the public finances of nations were dislocated. The Brussels committee was set us by the Council of the League of Nations “with a view to studying the financial crisis and looking for means of remedying and mitigating the dangerous consequences arising from it.” But since that time conditions have altered considerably. We are faced to-day, not only with disorganized public finance, but also with disorganized trade and commerce. Prices of commodities have fallen disastrously, and private enterprise throughout the world is facing business problems on a scale never previously known. Governments are therefore required to-day to consider not only the balancing of budgets, but also the restoration of industry, and it is conceivable that they may, under certain conditions, propound budgets not strictly in accordance with the principles laid down at the Brussels Conference. The Prime Minister, in his budget speech, said -
When it is borne in mind that the Commonwealth had a surplus for 1932-33 of £3,540,608, and that £7,709,002 was found by all the Governments of Australia during the year for sinking fund purposes, ,it will be agreed that Australian finance, taken as a whole, is on a fairly satisfactory and sound basis. Tlie amount estimated to be payable this year to the National Debt Sinking Fund for debt redemption is £8,038,000.
In the monthly circular issued by the Bank of New South Wales, on the 17th May last, reference is made to the fact that the Premiers plan is doing its work and that there is no lack of confidence in that respect. The circular also states that-
One may even go so far as to say that no further reduction of current expenditure is desirable, except in cases in which the expenditure is clearly wasteful. This may mean continued deficits for a time since any increase in taxation cannot be contemplated, but the position is no longer unsound in spite of this. It has been freely advocated elsewhere that the suspension of sinking funds is justifiable in a time like the present, and it is easy enough to find justification for such a contention. While the suspension of statutory sinking funds might prove unsound, one may certainly say that Australian governments are holding their own during this difficult period, if their combined deficits are no greater than their combined sinking fund contributions.
It would appear, therefore, that the Government’s financial policy is sound, and that while the combined deficits of the
Commonwealth and the States are not greater than the combined sinking funds, the Government is justified in budgeting for a deficit this year. The article deals further with the subject of continuing deficits in these words -
There are times when the effort of balancing budgets is so great that it can only be achieved at the expense of balance in the community generally. . This point was well brought out by Sir josiah Stamp in a recent speech. He contended that though financial purists might regard the borrowing of money by the State for investment purposes as an “ unbalancing “ of the budget, the real consideration was that a budget balanced in the strict sense might coincide with a thoroughly unbalanced condition of the internal economy.
The Government has budgeted for a deficit of £1,176,000 this year, but as the right honorable the Prime Minister pointed out there has already been a revival in certain directions. It is true that those engaged in the wheat industry and in other primary pursuits have reason to be anxious as to the future, but the price of wool has considerably improved and tho general financial outlook in Australia is better than it has been for some time past. Although the Government has budgeted for a deficit, it has at the same time remitted a considerable amount of taxation which will be the means of stimulating trade and providing further employment. While taxation has been reduced by £5,540,000 expenditure is to be increased by £1,212,000. Tlie total reductions of taxation on an annual basis amount to £7,490,000. The intention of the Government is to relieve industry of the heavy burden of taxation it is now bearing, to encourage production and development, and in that way to stimulate employment. On these grounds the budget which the Treasurer has presented to Parliament is justifiable. The next ground upon which we are asked to agree to is the amendment moved by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition -
To formulate a practical and extensive loan works -programme in co-operation with the States for the stimulation of employment.
In a federation such as ours the powers are’ divided between the Commonwealth and the States. Generally speaking the Commonwealth has not the same opportunities except in respect of its territories to provide employment as the
States which regulate industry and production, control lands, harbour works and the means of transport. Although the authority of the Commonwealth is limited, it nevertheless has power to appropriate money for the States and to assist them in raising loans. It also has power to provide employment in the matter of defence and postal works and similar Commonwealth activities, but it has not the same direct power as the States to encourage development or to carry out works of a reproductive nature. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has complained of the absence of any general scheme to provide employment, thus increasing the purchasing power of the people, and in that way rehabilitating industry generally. Any scheme such as the honorable member has in mind must be one in which the Commonwealth and the States act in cooperation.
– That, is what I meant.
– Australia’s ultimate recovery will depend, not upon an active Commonwealth works policy, but largely upon a stimulation of land settlement,- and the encouragement of private enterprise, which should result in additional permanent employment being made available. The honorable member sees no prospects in international conferences to bring about stability in trade and industry. I agree with his suggestion that in the meanwhile we must direct our attention to Australia, and concentrate largely upon our internal position if we wish to improve our present economic position. While seeing that those who are engaged in primary industries receive a fair reward for their industry, we should also see that profitable markets are sought for their products.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who suggested that the credit of the nation should be used to finance public works, will admit that, even if a government received substantial credit from the Commonwealth Bank, it would be only in the nature “of aloan, and would have to be repaid with interest. I do not think that the honorable member has in mind the issue of additional Commonwealth notes.
– If the business were done through the Commonwealth Bank, a portion of the profits would be returned to the Commonwealth Government.
– If a loan of £3,000,000 were obtained from the Commonwealth Bank to construct a railway in Queensland, the Queensland Government would have to repay the principal with interest, otherwise it would be a fantastic scheme of finance. If the Commonwealth Bank were asked to render financial assistance to a State to enable it to undertake a certain public work, it would he. justified in wanting to know if the work was of a reproductive nature.
– The millions of pounds paid in the form of a dole to men whoare unemployed do not represent reproductive expenditure.
– That is so; but it would be useless as a matter of policy to place upon posterity the responsibility of paying interest on large amounts of capital expended on other than reproductive public works. The honorable member is aware that the States were asked to report to the Loan Council as to the number of reproductive works which they were prepared to undertake.
– And the States had more money allotted to them than they could spend.
– At a conference between the Loan Council and the representatives of tho Commonwealth and the States, a general works policy was decided upon. The sum of £1,624,880 is to be provided out of revenue this financial year for new works, as compared with £874,390 for 1932-33. In addition to this expenditure from revenue, it is proposed to spend £810,000 on works from loan funds. Provision is also made for the expenditure this year from loan funds of £368,000 to complete commitments of last year, making the total loan expenditure for 1933-34 £1,178,000. Again, provision is made for increased expenditure from revenue, of £750,000 on additions and new works. On ordinary services, £357,000 is to be spent in the Defence Department, £86,000 in the Postmaster-General’s Department, and £74,000 in the Railway Department, while £78,000 is provided for payments to the States for Federal aid roads, making a total of £2,523,000.
The proposed amendment suggests the recasting of the budget because of the fact that the Government has not fully restored the financial cuts to invalid and old-age pensioners, war pensioners, and public servants. Actually the Government is now proposing to make these restorations - invalid and old-age pensions, £635,000; war pensions, £24S,000; Public Service salaries, £550,000; and superannuation payments, £80,000. The honorable member has made special reference to the bornes of pensioners, in regard to which the -Government has already stated that this House will be given an opportunity for discussion. My own view on pensions generally has already been expressed. The Treasurer has stated that in view of the financial position of the country, he is not justified in making a larger restoration of pensions. What is being done represents a marked improvement, in. the position with respect to pensions and Public Service salaries generally.
The amendment complains that the budget docs not provide for any assistance to tlie wheat-growers’. When the budget was framed, no one knew exactly what the position of the wheat industry would be, especially as Australia was, at that time, directly concerned with the negotiation of an international agreement. We know that that agreement is not wholly satisfactory to Australia, but it was the best that could be obtained, and Australia’s position is safeguarded as far as. practicable under it. The price of wheat is not at all satisfactory, and we learn from the deputations which have wailed upon the Minister that the Government is giving sympathetic consideration to the position of the wheat-growers. The farmers of parts of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia have been and are suffering considerable hardships. The question must be regarded from the point of view, not .of the individual State hut of Australia as a whole, so that when it is decided that this great Australian industry shall receive assistance, whatever grant is made should be distributed in the fairest manner possible in the circumstances. The attitude of the Government was justified, and it cannot be condemned on the ground that it has not included in its budget statement some form of assistance for the wheat-growers.
– .Surely the honorable member does not agree that the Government should hold a lien over the property of pensioners?
– I have already stated my views on that subject. The property provision should be amended. Apart from that this Government has brought down one of the best budgets ever presented to Australia.
– This is the most unjust budget ever presented to this House.
– I do not agree with the Leader of the Opposition. The Government has endeavoured to do justice to every section of the community. Of course honorable members may naturally disagree with the distribution of the assistance that has been given.
Some outside criticism has been directed to the increase of the defence vote, and it has been suggested that Australia is increasing its defence expenditure just at a time when it should he seeking peace and disarmament. No one desires more than I do the reduction of armaments and tlie adoption of peaceful means for the settlement of international disputes, hut, at the same time, that ideal does not absolve us from the responsibility which we owe to our own country. Article S of the Covenant of the League of Nations states that the members of the League recognize that the maintenance of peace requires a reduction of national armaments. Article S (.1.) reads -
The members nf the League recognize that the maintenance of peace requires the reduction of national armaments to tlie lowest point consistent with’ national safety and the enforcement by common net ion of international obligations.
The constant race for armaments can have only one result. Nations should aim at the reduction of armaments.
– Does that mean scrapping old vessels aud building new ones ?
– Agreements should be sought which reduce armaments to the lowest point consistent with, national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations. It cannot be said that the Government, by ‘ increasing the defence expenditure, as now proposed, is increasing the armaments of this country in such a way as to invite hostility from other countries. We, in Australia, are to-day below the defence standard consistent with our own national safety. As a member of the British Empire, we have to conform to the defence standard of the Empire. When the Washington Treaty, which dealt with naval limitations, was entered into, the position of Australia was taken into consideration, because under that treaty we had to sink the battleship Australia. In my opinion, the proposed expenditure on defence is perfectly consistent with our international obligations, and with the fine lead given by the British Empire to the other nations of the world in respect of the limitation of armaments. I have nothing but admiration for the work of British statesmen like Mr. Arthur Henderson, the chairman of the Disarmament Conference, Sir John Simon, Captain Eden, and the other British delegates.
It has been suggested, both inside and outside of this chamber, that the Commonwealth, although receiving large revenues, is not, considering the position of the States. At present the Commonwealth, out of its revenue, is granting to the States this year a sum of no less than £12,982,000. Certainly the greater part of that sum is a permanent obligation upon the Commonwealth under the financial agreement, but the remaining part of it is freely given, by the Commonwealth to assist the States which are in need of financial assistance. Out of a total revenue from customs and excise of £32,200,000 the Commonwealth is granting to the States nearly £13,000,000. It therefore cannot be said that the Commonwealth is neglecting the States. On the whole, we can compliment the Treasurer upon the budget. Relief has been given to the States. Remissions of taxes are being made to those engaged in primary and secondary industries. Assistance has been given to superannuated and other public servants, invalid and oldage pensioners, war pensioners, and others. The great body of taxpayers generally will benefit. The object of the
Sir Littleton Groom.
Government in presenting this budget is to remove the disabilities of industry, and to stimulate. production; and although it has budgeted for a deficit, its proposals should meet with the wholehearted support of the House.
.- The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), in discussing the budget, has said that the policy of his party is to bring about peace and justice to all people. We know a good deal of the honorable member and his colleagues in this House and in the country generally, and I venture to say that the kind of peace and justice we should obtain from any policy initiated by them would be somewhat in conflict with Australian ideals. We have heard much about the defence of Australia. Various speakers have urged the necessity for greater defence preparation. What is the best method of defending Australia? Various economists have expressed the opinion that Australia could carry a population of 50,000,000 ; in fact, some have said 100,000,000. Has our policy been such as to encourage the peopling of the huge undeveloped areas of Australia? We have heard that the Government is considering some scheme for the development of the north, and with respect to that I have received the following lettergram from the Pastoralists Association of Australia: -
The threatened restriction by Belgium of Australian meat if given effect to will mean extinction of East Kimberley cattle industry which is already overburdened with tariffs, arbitration awards and Navigation Act, &c. Your Government, apparently, recognizes by proposals for development by chartered companies this area necessity of freedom from such hampering legislation. Why should not such treatment be given to those who are already endeavouring develop this portion of Australia. Kindly advise other members.
We have in the north-west of Western Australia one of the most valuable mineral areas of the Commonwealth. It is rich in gold, copper, tin, and asbestos, and has fine pastoral resources, yet, despite that, fewer people are there today than there were 40 years ago. Huge sums have been spent on the development of the Northern Territory. Vestey’s invested about £1,000,000 in the great cattle industry; but, owing to restrictions imposed ‘by this Parliament, were forced to close down. To-day there are fewer people in the Northern Territory than there were 40 years ago. Is any advancement possible in this vast continent while the people are hampered in every direction? Our federal laws must be made less restrictive if we are to people and defend the country?
The Government deserves commendation for its taxation reduction proposals. Unfortunately, there has always been too great a tendency in both the Federal and tlie State spheres to load taxation on the people, the fact being overlooked that every fi of revenue thus derived is withdrawn from industrial development. Last year direct taxation - Federal, State, and municipal - exceeded £100,000,000; and I am not over-estimating when I say that our high tariff policy adds at least £150,000,000 to the cost ‘of production. The public debt is increasing at the rate of £30,000,000 annually. From 1929 to 1932 it rose from £1,104,000,000 to £1,187,000,000, and, including treasurybills, is now well over £1,200,000,000. It is time, therefore, that a stern check was imposed on public expenditure, and every item in the Estimates was scrutinized closely. Although economies have been effected, governmental expenditure is still far beyond the capacity of the nation. In these days of very low world prices Australia cannot afford anything in the nature of useless expenditure. The proposal to appoint a number of trade commissioners is absurd. Much ‘better results would be achieved by trade agreements with other countries.
Despite the contrary contention of many honorable members opposite, there i3 not the slightest doubt that trade and employment increased last year. The improvement in business activities is revealed in the figures relating to building operations in the different States. Unfortunately, the ratio of unemployment is still high. The reduction Of taxation, however, should tend to promote employment. The improved condition ,of affairs is due wholly to psychological causes, the result of the operation, of the Premiers plan, and to the belief that the finances of Australia are controlled by Ministers who realize their responsibilities to the State. A further factor which had considerable weight was the widely-held belief that, at the inter national monetary and economic conference held in London some time ago, an agreement would be arrived at that would tend to improve world prices. In a speech that I made in Perth eight or nine months ago, I pointed out that many questions of great importance had to be settled by the nations before there could be any improvement, and I instanced war debts, the gold standard, and the economic nationalism, that had sprung up in different countries. Consequently, I was not at all surprised .at the breaking up of the conference without achieving anything of value. Years must elapse before there can ‘be anything in the nature of economic agreement; therefore Australia must set about the task of putting its own house in order.
I give this Government credit for the valuable results that have accrued from it3 administration. The year 1931 witnessed the complete collapse of confidence in the financial stability of the nation. Australian stocks were sold on the open market at a price which gave purchasers a. return of 9 per cent, on their investments. In the carrying out of the Premiers plan, confidence in Australia, which is the first and most vital step towards national rehabilitation, has been restored both here and abroad. That is proved by the results of the recent conversion operations in London. The statistics show how great has been the -recovery, due to the psychological effect of having in power a government that is responsible to the nation as a whole and not to an irresponsible junta. Commonwealth securities on which the interest rate at December, 1930, was £6.18 per cent., gave a return in January, 1931, of £9 per cent. Their value subsequently appreciated, the yield in December, 1932, being £3 17s. 6d. per cent. It is now down to £3 13s. 4d. per cent. In January, 1931, the overdraft rate charged by the Commonwealth Bank was 6^ per cent. Last July it was 4f per cent. Private banking institutions have a maximum rate of 5-£ per cent. In many of the States of the United States of America the interest rate on overdrafts is 8 per cent., while in one it is as high as 10 per cent. The average rate in the Argentine at present is 7.95 per cent. In 1931, New South Wales 5i per cent, stocks were sold at £63. They have since been converted into 3J per cent, stock at about par. Surely that is due wholly to the belief that Australia has a responsible Government, which conducts its finance on sound lines. The big loan conversion in Australia resulted in a saving to the Commonwealth and the States of £7,000.000 a year, while the saving on the conversion of overseas loans is £1,2S0,000, to which has to be added £320,000 on account of exchange, making a total of £1,600,000. The suspension of interest and capital payments on the war debt owing to the British Government has relieved the Commonwealth of the necessity for finding £5,548,000 per annum. The total amount saved by the Commonwealth under these three heads is £9,043,000, and the States have saved a total of over £5,000,000. I should imagine, therefore, that it ought to have been possible, with the other savings effected on salaries, wages and pensions, to return a much lower total expenditure and a larger surplus. I have not the slightest doubt that in the near future Mr. Bruce will succeed in converting another large portion of our overseas indebtedness, and thus effect additional savings. In the circumstances, the Government could have made further reductions of taxation, especially in regard to primage and income derived from mortgages, particularly on broad acres. I believe that more generous remissions would have resulted in a lower mortgage rate being charged.
I disapprove of the restorations of the salaries of higher-paid officers of the Public Service and of the allowance made to honorable members. Although I was in attendance up to midnight on the Thursday, and returned to this chamber at ten o’clock on the Friday morning, not the slightest intimation was conveyed to me of the suggestion that there should be a partial restoration of the allowance made to honorable members. I was acting leader of the Country party at the time, and should have been given some intimation ‘of the proposal.
– It was not known that the honorable member was not within the precincts of the chamber.
– I have sat through a number of all-night sittings, and have suffered in consequence. There are too many all-night sittings, followed by long recesses.
The Government must have believed that one outcome of the monetary and economic conference held in London would be an arrangement that would tend to increase world prices, otherwise I do not think it would have consented to the policy that has been followed since if assumed office. There is not the slightest doubt that Australia is dependent upon its export trade. It would appear that primary production is regarded as something in the nature of a huge reservoir, upon which a. continual drain can bo imposed. That is not the case. The reports of the Commissioner for Taxation disclose some interesting figures. They show that in 1929-30 the assessable income of those engaged in our throe great basic industries, farming, pastoral, and mining, amounted to £15,193,000. while in 1930-31 the amount had dropped to £5,300,000, the assessable income of the remainder of the community being £117,000,000. That clearly points to a dreadful fall in world prices, which has made it impossible for those engaged in these industries to carry on at a profit, and demonstrates that no other section of the community is making any material sacrifice. The estimated value of production in Australia for the last year was £319,000,000, of “ which £207,000,000 represents primary production. Primary products of a total value of £95,000,000 were exported. Nearly one-half of the primary production had to compete on the markets of the world after paying freight charges and the other expenses involved in reaching a foreign market. The value of that export trade is recognized, for without it, the Government would not bo able to find the money that is necessary to pay interest on Australia’s overseas debt. It i3 also essential to the manufacturer, who would be unable to purchase his raw materials if he had not, that credit abroad. It is essential that every effort should be made to assist our primary industries to carry on profitably. If the Government seeks to preserve the basic industries of the nation it cannot afford to ignore these facts, which make it clear to those who wish to see that primary production has been un- duly and unfairly penalized, with the result that in many industries it is impossible to export at prices that will pay even the cost of production. The Government is responsible for having encouraged practically every industry to seek concessions. This has set up a vicious circle of ever mounting costs, tho effect of which it will be difficult to counteract. In 1929, the Bruce-Page Government appointed a committee of experts to report on the economic effects of the Australian tariff, and upon receipt of the report of that body the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, made a lengthy statement to the Premiers of Australia, in which he said -
Unfortunately, however, production has not huon on an economic basis, with the result that one of the greatest problems we have to face arises from the fact that the prices weare receiving in the markets of the world for our surplus products, are not equivalent to the cost of production.
Since then the duty on many tariff items hasbeen increased threefold. Mr. Bruce went on -
A critical examination of our present position leads inevitably to the conclusion that the basic cause of all the economic troubles of Australia to-day is the high cost of production, and that a reduction of our costs of production is the first step that we must take tobring about a solution of our problems. There is no obstacle to our progress and prosperity which we have not ourselves erected and which we ourselves cannot remove.
– The chief of those obstacles is the interest which producers have to pay on their land.
– I wish that the honorable member would refer to some of the speeches which he has made in the past when he saw the light more clearly. He would then admit that the high costs of production are duc to our tariff. Mr. Bruce concluded -
Our duty to Australia demands that we shall return immediately to saner and healthier methods and, placing our feet upon the path of economicwisdom, follow that path until it leads us intoa newera of prosperity.
When speaking at Heidelberg, the present Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) quoted from that speech, and admitted the real cause of the trouble to the electors, and, when speaking in this chamber, the right honorable gentleman pointed out that it was impossible to carry on wool and wheat production in Australia unless costs were reduced When in Opposition, the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) said -
The most skilful pickpockets could not rifle thepockets of the middle and working elasses more effectively than the Government’s present tariff proposals. The wealthy corporations, the foreign films, and the liquor interests are their first consideration, and in many cases they are being permitted to continue without hinderance to plunder the people of this country.
While Senator McLachlan declared -
The schedule is a thing of shreds and patches, and contains some extraordinary anomalies, duc to the fact that it was begotten in iniquity. It was not examined by the Tariff Hoard before being submitted to Parliament. It is the illegitimate creation of a man who has not grasped even the fundamentals of economics.
The contribution of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) was -
I have said that the whole proposals are tainted and have been introduced with the idea of giving effect by subterranean methods to a policy of extreme, rabid, and insane protection.
Speaking in the Senate, Senator Sir George Pearce declared -
Mr. Theodore appealed to the manufacturers of New South Wales for election funds, and as aquid pro quo let thom make out their own bill, and referring to the circular of the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), which invited manufacturers to come along and state their requirements, the honorable senator said -
It does not matter what it is, come along, state your requirements, and they will be forthcoming.
If von are not satisfied with the tariff, in which direction aru you not satisfied?
– To what circular does the honorable member refer?
– I am quoting from Hansard.
– The honorable member should not repeat untruths that have heen stated by Senator Sir George Pearce. What he has quoted is a tissue of falsehoods.
– I am quoting tho opinion of Senator Sir George Pearce with regard to the effect of the honorable member’s action on the tariff.
– On a point of order. Is the honorable member justified in repeating a tissue of lies simply because they are reported to have been made in the Senate?
– That is not a point of order.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– In addition to the quotations I have already made from speeches delivered by presentday Ministers who were sitting in Opposition in 1930, when the Scullin Government’s tariff was under consideration - extracts which seem to have caused some annoyance - I direct attention to the following extract from a speech delivered in this chamber in 1929 by Mr. Bruce : -
Two alternatives face Australia to-day. Either we can resolutely attack this problem of reducing our costs of production, and by so doing reduce our costs of living, expand our avenues of employment, maintain and augment our standards of living, and increase our national wealth; or wo can refuse to recognize the needs of the position, and allow our national wealth to diminish, and unemployment to increase until, faced with a national crisis, we arc forced to lower our standards of living and reorientate the whole of our national life. Between these two alternatives, can there be any hesitation?
This shows clearly that Mr. Bruce realized the position into which Australia was drifting and the need for drastic reforms. As the outlook then was not as serious as it is to-day, I ask, with even greater emphasis, whether there is any alternative other than that then suggested by Mr. Bruce, if the living standards of Australia are to be maintained? The cost of production must be reduced if our export industries are to continue operations. It is extraordinary that we should have allowed ourselves to get into such a position that customs duties and other charges on imports have, in some cases, increased up to tenfold since 1914. The following table is surely illuminating: -
Policies which might have been regarded as moderately successful in prosperous times have been shown to be disastrous in times like the present, when our export trade is in a desperate condition. The following figures show the percentage of tax on production in the years indicated : -
Those figures do not include municipal taxation. In 1915, 18 per cent. of the national dividend was needed for governmental purposes, hut the percentage had increased by 1924 to 24 per cent., and by 1931 to 43 per cent.
– What deductions does the honorable member draw from those figures ?
– That the cost of Government is altogether too high - particularly in these times when the value of our exportable produce is much below that of 1913. We are now taking from the people in taxation, including municipal taxation, £100,000,000 a year, although our national income is only £315,000,000. I estimate that our tariff is adding £150,000,000 a year to the costs of the people over and above the amount that a purely revenue tariff would add. I do not ask for drastic reforms immediately, but I urge that steps be taken to get back as rapidly as possible to the conditions of 1929. We should he careful not to destroy the industries that have been established, as might be done if we made a startling departure from existing conditions; but in view of the terrible plight of the primary producing industries, it is essential that something be done in the direction I have indicated. Nearly the whole of the produce of Western Australia is exported. In one year the State exported a little more than half of the total Australian exports of wheat. If it were not for the low prices ruling for primary products we should not be in our present disastrous position. In my electorate there are many abandoned farms, and thousands of farmers are living on the bread-line. When honorable members are requesting high wages for workers in secondary industries, they should remember that many farmers in “Western Australia are worse off than men on the dole. It is dreadful to think that men who have spent a considerable amount of capital and fifteen or twenty years of labour in establishing themselves on farms should to-day find themselves unable to maintain operations.
– Does the honorable member think that there is no poverty elsewhere ?
-At least, the farmers ave not trying to rob any one.
– The people living in the industrial areas could not be robbed, for they have nothing.
– Surely, in view of the huge increases made in duties since 1914, when our export values were greater than those of to-day, it is not unfair to ask that something be done for the farming community.
– The farmers were given £2,500,000 last year.
– I do not consider that I am inconsistent in any way when I ask that assistance be provided by tha Government for the farmers. It must be remembered that in 1931 the average duty on dutiable goods was 72 per cent., to which 25 per cent. must he added for exchange. Western Australia is required to import from overseas and the eastern States about, £18,750,000 worth of goods annually. Taking all the factors into consideration, I calculate that the people of Western Australia are paying 100 per cent. more for their requirements than they would need to pay if we had a revenue instead of a highly protective tariff.
– The honorable member appears to forget that many requirements of the farmers cost just as much in countries where no duties are paid as they cost in Australia.
– I do not admit that. An accountant in Perth published some figures recently which showed that a piece of land which cost £2,600 to develop in 1914 would cost £4,400 to develop today. In 1914 export values were higher than now, while production costs since then have practically doubled. The fiscal policy which has been in operation in Australia for the last few years has built up our big cities and drawn people away from our rural areas. It is admitted that population is one of our greatest necessities, particularly from the defence point of view. Economists have estimated that Australia could easily carry a population of 50,000,000 people - some say 100,000,000- but even if we made our objective 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 people, surely we should be prepared to give tho greatest possible encouragement to those who are willing to take all the risk of opening up new country to increase the wealth of Australia. All real wealth is produced from the soil. Honorable gentlemen who are now members of the Ministry appear to have retreated from the position they occupied two or three years ago when they sat in opposition. I suppose that when the nations of the world agree upon some fiscal policy to replace the present nationalist economic systems and the currencies of the world are placed upon a proper basis, prices will be restored, but in the meantime, we should be setting our own house in order. It is urgently necessary that the primary producers should be relieved of the heavy burdens that they at present carry. These unfortunate people are at present suffering a grave injury. The existing fiscal policy of this country is dangerous in the extreme, for it is forcing our primary producers into bankruptcy and destroying our export trade, which has always been the greatest wealth-producing factor in Australia. This Parliament has created the vicious circle into which we have drifted and if we wish to save the nation from bankruptcy we shall have to retrace our steps. I urge the Government to take some steps to remedy this disastrous state of affairs.
– I congratulate the Government upon having introduced such an extraordinarily good budget in such times as these. I am specially gratified that relief is being given to industry by the remission of taxation. These remissions will undoubtedly give industry an impetus, but move is required in that direction than relief from taxation. Although I have no doubt that the reaction of industry to this consideration will be remarkable, steps must also be taken to absorb our unemployed in useful work. Industry in general demands more attention from Parliament than it is at present receiving. Previous governments increased taxation upon it at a time when it could ill afford to be so hampered. I feel sure that this course would not have been followed if governments had been a little more interested in industry from the economic view-point. At the very moment when it was fighting for its existence, and keeping in employment 80 per cent, of our people, it was being hamstrung by increased taxation. The many anomalies that exist in industrial legislation are staggering, and it is the duty of this Parliament to review the whole of the industrial conditions of Australia with a view to bringing about a condition of complete understanding and harmony by means of which industry may once more be placed upon its feet. It has been said that government interference has brought industry to its knees. It is a matter which demands the consideration of this Parliament which should now take every opportunity to rehabilitate industry. I agree with the honorable, member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that it is absolutely necessary for the Government to put in hand a scheme of governmental work so as to increase the purchasing power of the community, and thus give an impetus to industry generally. It is only by means such as this that the wheels of industry can be set in motion.
– The advocates of the Douglas credit system have evidently influenced the honorable member.
– Had I to decide between the Douglas credit system and the policy enunciated by Jack Lang, of New South Wales, I should prefer the Douglas system, because, in spite of its short-comings, it is honest in. intent.
The Government should endeavour to bring about the establishment of standard hours and basic wage conditions throughout the Commonwealth. Until that is accomplished, very little ‘good will come from any relief from taxation or any other palliative that may be given to private enterprise. We must wipe out the overlapping of Federal and State industrial awards and other anomalies before industry can be placed on a sound footing. Many tribunals are adjudicating on industrial matters throughout the Commonwealth. First there is a Commonwealth
Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Then there are industrial! boards and committees in New South Wales; wages boards in Victoria ; a. board of trade and arbitration in Queensland; an industrial court and board in South Australia; the Court of Arbitration and an Industry Board in Western Australia; and wages boards in Tasmania. These numerous tribunals operating, in some cases, contrary to federal jurisdiction, have created many anomalies that are crippling industry and reacting generally to the detriment of the States in which dual industrial systems operate. There are over 400 State awards, and some 70 federal awards operating in New South Wales alone. In many instances, the federal awards overlap the State awards. The federal court is supposed to function only in respect of disputes which extend beyond the boundaries of one State. Unfortunately, those who framed the Commonwealth arbitration law did not have sufficient breadth of vision to realize the brick wall against which they were placing industry. As a result, extraordinary anomalies have been created. Let me cite one or two instances which will no doubt cause some amazement to the committee. In the tailoring trade of New South Wales the State award provides a wage of £7 7s-. for merchant tailor cutters. Cutters and trimmers who cut to order are paid £4 16s. 6d. a week, while cutters and trimmers who cut stock work are paid £4 6s-. 6d. a week. Under the federal award, if a merchant tailor cutter happens to be a unionist, and his employer is cited under an award he must be paid £4 10s. 8d. a week, aud in the case of a. stock cutter, £4 4s. 4d. a week. There is no State award for tailoresses, but under the federal award, if the tailoress happens to be a unionist, and her employer has been cited and made a party to the award, the award rate must be paid. If she is not a unionist almost any wage down to the basic wage can be paid, since she is not covered by any State award. The federal engineering award, made some time ago, provided an instance of a further anomaly. A fitter or turner at Newcastle was paid a wage of £5 2s. 6d. a week, while the State award is £5 12s. 6d. If the employee happens to be a unionist and his employer has been cited and included in the federal award, he must be paid £5 2s. 6d. a week, but if he is not a unionist he is paid £5 12s. 6d. under the State award. Here wo have an example of overlapping; both awards cover the same class of work, and could be applied to two employees working side by side, and, in many instances, receiving different wages and working under different hours and conditions. These 400 State awards and 70 Federal awards in New South Wales are being a ltered from time to time by the tribunals concerned, and the unfortunate employer has to make himself conversant with all these overlapping awards and the various alterations that are made from time to time. If he happens to step aside from the beaten path by a fraction of an inch he is immediately “ blistered “ by the unions concerned. The following statement was made by Mr. Menzies, the Attorney-General of Victoria: -
The present system lias helped to create a now and hitter industrial psychology, has fostered the growth of industrial discontent and has done extensive moral injury to the participants in industry.
There is no one more qualified than Mr. Menzies to speak on the legal aspect of the present industrial situation. The power of the Commonwealth court to intervene in industrial disputes has caused a . loss of millions of pounds to the industries of Australia. It has been the means of bringing about strikes and numerous anomalies and has lost to Australia millions of pounds of productive wealth. Surely this Federal Parliament, which was established in. an endeavour to wipe out State boundaries, should take a broader view of the industrial conditions of Australia. The narrow parochial view which it has taken up to the present has done serious injury to Australian industries. The overlapping of awards has caused both employers and employees in industry to take fine points in respect of awards to their own individual benefit. 1 agree with compulsory arbitration provided that the employer and the employee are able to come to a complete understanding, thus obviating aggravating and mischievous interruptions by union, officials who endeavour to police the awards to their own advantage. The employer should be prepared to take into his confidence his foreman or “ leading hand, so as to give him an understanding of the financial difficulties that beset the industry, particularly in times of stress. This would make for greater harmony in industry, the employee understanding some of the problems that face the business executives. It is interesting to note the considered opinions of the leaders of the different political parties in Australia in regard to standard hours and basic wage conditions. They are all in accord on this matter. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in his policy speech expressed the view that such matters as the basic wage and standard hours, should be regulated upon a uniform basis throughout Australia, and said -
If returned to power our object would be to make any amendment of the Constitution which would resolve these difficulties, reserving local matters to local authorities.
The policy announcement of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) was in the following terms: -
The Country party advocates a constitutional change which will leave the determination of the minimum wage and maximum hours in the hands of the federal tribunal, leaving detailed arrangements, through a process of conciliation, to local bodies.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), who was Prime Minister at that time, said -
His Government had hoped to place before the people, among other constitutional questions, proposals to grant the Commonwealth full industrial powers to enable Parliament to pass a comprehensive arbitration law.
Even our old friend Jack Lang is in the picture. One could hardly hope to find him in agreement with anything; yet he believes in the necessity for standardizing industrial conditions. The record of the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, which was held from the 28th January to the 5th February, 1932, credits him with the following statement : -
That brings us back to the point that the Commonwealth is striving for the principle of ‘ uniformity of tho wage paid, real and nominal, and the hours of the working week. That is a reform that all Australia wants, and which only the Commonwealth Parliament oan bring about, and I hope before this conference concludes, we will have a definite, statement from the Prime Minister that his Government has taken stePS to immediately obtain the necessary powers to brin’g about uniform industrial conditions so far as the basic wage and the working week are concerned throughout Australia.
The leading authorities in the different States being in accord, one naturally wonders why there has been delay in consummating this much needed reform. These men of wide wisdom realize the consequences of the jealousies and bitternesses that arise out of the competition of the States within the Commonwealth, and have convinced a majority of the people that the correct industrial policy is one of uniformity. Although constitutional amendments have previously been rejected by the people, I believe that the present unanimity among the leaders in the public life of Australia would result in their acceptance if they were again submitted. Opposition may be expected from union organizers and secretaries, because the removal of overlapping would cause many of them to lose their employment. It is our duty, however, to ensure the smooth running of the industrial machine. Why should we sprag the wheels of industry by allowing the present conditions to exist a day longer than is necessary?
I shall give the committee some examples of the machinations of my worthy friends opposite, and of the advantage that is taken by ‘union organizers of overlapping awards. A business man came to Australia from America to engage in the timber trade. He foolishly imagined that industrial conditions in Australia were similar to those of the United States of America, and immediately fell foul of his cranedrivers. The timber industry as a whole is covered by a comprehensive award. At the time, these crane-drivers were members of the Federal Engineers’ Union, which was working under an award that provided for a week of 48 hours. Learning that the members of the Timber Workers Union had an award which provided for a week of 44 hours, they resigned from the Federal Engineers Union and joined the Timber Workers Union. The organizer informed the employer of the change, and pointed out that he could not, in future, work these men for longer than 44 hours a week. Later, the Federal Arbitration Court increased the weekly hours to 48, whereupon the crane-drivers resigned from the
Timber Workers Union in a body. The employer, in his ignorance, believed that they had become disgusted with the methods adopted by the union, but he was quickly undeceived when he received a summons embodying a claim for overtime for a certain number of hours. Upon making inquiries he found that the State engine-drivers’ award provided for a week of 44 hours and that these men, being non-unionists for the time being, were entitled to take advantage of that fact. The unfortunate man was forced to pay a fair amount of back money for overtime. This is one of the absurd results of the overlapping of awards. I am afraid that my honorable friends opposite do not realize what would be the effect upon union secretaries and organizers of the adoption of the policy enunciated by their leader.
Another industry employed a fair number of storemen and packers, who were members of the federal union while the conditions of the federal award were better than those of the State award. When the position was reversed, however, they immediately resigned from the federal and joined the State union. The anomalous position was thus created of nine or ten unskilled men receiving considerably more than skilled men, and working 44 hours compared with 48 hours a week.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! The object of frequent interjections is merely to irritate and interrupt the honorable member for Wentworth, and they must cease.
Mr.Blakeley. - The honorable member for Wentworth is irritating.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) is out of order. If honorable members do not heed the call of the Chair, I shall have to take action against them under the Standing Orders.
– I was showing the advantage that was taken by these union organizers of the extraordinary and absurd conditions that are caused by the overlapping of Federal and State awards.
– Why is the honorable member so strongly opposed to decent wages and conditions?
– I am not opposed to “decent wages and conditions. I should welcome the highest standard that could bc maintained. An incident that occurred three years ago does no credit’ to those who advised the workers in regard to their industrial conditions. The federal award rate for white workers was considerably above that of the State. but the .10 per cent, reduction of the federal rate brought it below the State rate. The union obtained from the State industrial tribunal an increase of the wage to 48s. a week. This rate applied to non-unionists. The federal rate, which applied to unionists only, was 42s. 4d- a week. The union organizers advised the employers that if they forced their hands to join the union they would need’ to pay them only 42s. 4d., instead of 4Ss. a week. This was at the depth of the depression, when the girls who were affected could ill afford to lose the few shillings a. week. Tho honorable member for West Sydney twits me with being in favour of low wages, when his friends, the union organizers, deliberately forced .many hundreds of girls down to a wage of 42s. 4d. a week when they could have obtained 48s., and collected pennies from them for union dues. 4 remark by Ihe honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to which exception n as taken by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) having been withdrawn with an apology, by direction of the Chair, and the honorable member for W entworth having also, by direction- of the Chair, withdrawn a remark to which exception was taken by the honorable member for East Sydney,
– I rise to order. The honorable member for East Sydney has taken exception-
– Order! The honorable member for Darling is not in order. The honorable member for East Sydney is quite capable of taking care of himself. The Chair having decided the question, the incident is closed.
– On a point of order. The honorable member for East Sydney has asked for a withdrawal and an apology.
– Order! The honorable member for Darling is not in order. The honorable member for East Sydney did not ask for an apology.
– The honorable member for East Sydney, I repeat, asked for a withdrawal and an apology. You allowed the honorable member for Wentworth-
– Order ! The honorable member is reflecting upon the Chair and must resume his seat.
– Just now, sir, you said that the honorable member for Wentworth.-
– The honorable member must obey the ruling . of the Chair.
– The trouble is that the Chair is not carrying out its duty.
– I will name the honorable member unless he apologizes immediately.
– I apologize, but the fact is that you said that the honorable member for Wentworth-
– I name the honorable member for Darling for not obeying the direction of the Chair.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) having entered the chamber,
– I have named the honorable member for Darling for not obeying the direction of the Chair.
– As I was not present when the incident to which exception is taken occurred I am not familiar with the details, but if I arn permitted to do so I make an appeal to you, Mr. Chairman, to permit the honorable member for Darling to apologize for having offended the Chair.
– The right honorable gentleman knows that Mr. Speaker has ruled that when an honorable member is named the Prime Minister is expected to take the necessary action; and, although it may be thought desirable to have uniformity in both the House and Committee, if the honorable member for Darling proves that he is in earnest in doing so, I shall be quite willing to accept his apology. He has, however, seriously offended after having been appealed to on a number of occasions.
– I did apologize to the Chair.
– The honorable member apologized but immediately repeated his offence, and would not resume his seat upon being called upon to do so.
– I regret the incident.
– On a point of order. I understand that the honorable member for Darling said that when I asked for the withdrawal of what I considered an offensive term, I did request an apology. I asked that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) should be called upon to withdraw and apologize, and I urge the Chair not to refuse to apply to the honorable member a penalty that it inflicted on me.
– Order ! The honorable member is reflecting on the Chair.
– I now ask that the term a.pplied to me be withdrawn, and that the honorable member for Wentworth apologize for having used it.
– At the time the expression was used I intimated that I did not understand its purport. To me it did not appear to be unparliamentary. The position was quite different when the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) used an expression whichI asked him to withdraw with an apology.
– If the Chair did not know the meaning of the term how could it determine that it was not offensive? Would it not have been better to ask the honorable member for Wentworth to explain its meaning?
– Order ! The honorable member asked that the honorable member for Wentworth should withdraw the remark. He did not ask for an apology.
– On a point of order-
– Does the honorable member desire to raise a fresh poiut of order ?
– It relates to a ruling that was given by Mr. Speaker-
– There can he no point of order on a ruling given by the Chair.
– With all due respect I dissent from your ruling, and move -
That the decision of the Chairman wherein he refused to comply with the request for an apology following the withdrawal of a term which was regarded as offensive be dissented from.
I justify my motion by referring to the ruling that was given by Mr. Speaker regarding remarks which are withdrawn after exception is taken to them, and in respect of which Mr. Speaker has gone to the length of ordering that all references to the incident shall be expunged from the Parliamentary records. On this occasion, after the honorable member for East Sydney had obeyed your instruction and Avithdrawn and apologized, he asked that a similar penalty should be inflicted upon the honorable member for Wentworth, who had applied an offensive term to the honorable member for East Sydney. My colleagues and I consider that the Chair should observe consistency in its rulings, and we do not intend to allow the occasion to pass’ without giving honorable members an opportunity to express an opinion as to whether the honorable member for East Sydney is entitled to that consideration from the Chair which was given to the honorable member for Wentworth.
– I support the motion. The honorable member for Wentworth applied to the honorable member for East Sydney a term which was regarded by that honorable member as offensive. The honorable member, therefore, asked that it should he withdrawn and that the offender should apologize. You, sir, stated that. you did not understand the meaning of the word that was used. In the circumstances you should have given effect to the request for its withdrawal. I consider that, in common with other honorable members on this side of the chamber, I, too, was justified in taking offence at the statement that we had forced persons to join unions in order to bring about certain results.
– The honorable member must realize that he is referring to something that is not relevant to the motion before the committee.
– You, sir, admitted that you did not understand the meaning of the term used by the honorable member for Wentworth, but, after asking the honorable member for East Sydney to withdraw and apologize, you refused to give him a similar right regarding a term which he considered to bc offensive. With all due deference I suggest that, as you did not understand the term, you should have asked for ins withdrawal and for an apology from the honorable member who used it.
– I do not desire to intrude in this debate, hut I do think that the action of the Chair has been quite inconsistent and, obviously, inconsistency in either Mr. Speaker or the Chairmen of Committees must result in pandemonium, which is more or less evident at the moment. So that our debates may be carried on in an orderly and decorous manner it is customary for the Chair to give rulings in all good faith and, generally speaking, honorable members respect and obey those decisions, although they might not agree with them. One reason is that the Chair holds the big stick and. can compel obedience. When an honorable member, smarting under an injustice, asks for the withdrawal of a term and an apology from the honorable member who used it, the Chair must decide whether it was offensive or not. You, sir, had no hesitation in making an emphatic demand for a withdrawal and apology from the honorable member for East Sydney, but you adopted only a mild attitude in your treatment of the honorable member for Wentworth. You have made fish of one and fowl of the other, a procedure which is incompatible with the high position that you hold. If you expect the respect of thiscommit tee-
– Order ! I am loath to interfere in the debate, but the honorable member must realize that he is quite out of order when he charges the Chair with having exhibited partiality.
– If I did not consider that you had been partial, Mr. Chairman, I should not now he speaking. If the honorable member for West Sydney did not consider that you had been partial, he would not have moved his motion of dissent. The whole point at issue is whether there has or has not been partiality. If the honorable member for East Sydney cannot demand and receive an apology as the honorable member for Wentworth did, he does not, in my opinion, enjoy the same privilege as that honorable member. Because I believe that there has been partiality, I hope that this motion of dissent will be carried. Irrespective of party, honorable members would do well to recollect that impartiality is essential if the business of this House is to be conducted satisfactorily. We all know that the political wheel turns, and honorable gentlemen who sit on the Government side of the chamber to-day may be sitting on the Opposition side of it in a few months’ time. I, therefore, ask them to bear this in mind when they vote on this question, which involves the rights and privileges of every honorable member of Parliament. It is because I think that your ruling was partial, and in that respect not in accord ance with the demeanour desirable in a chairman, that 1 shall vote for the motion of dissent.
– When the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has recovered from the excitement engendered at the moment, I think he will realize that his suggestion that you, Mr. Chairman, have been guilty of partisanship and unfairness is not warranted by the facts. The procedure that should be followed in a matter of this kind, is, in my opinion, that an honorable member who feels himself to be offended or insulted by some remark made in the course of the debate should say so to you. I submit that no honorable member other than the one concerned has the right to say whether a remark involving him is offensive or not. Not even you, Mr. Chairman, could say that.For reasons that may be known only to the honorable member concerned, a certain remark may be definitely offensive to him. When an honorable member has applied a phrase to another honorable member which he regards as personally offensive, he has the right to ask for a withdrawal of it, and also an apology. If the honorable member for East Sydney assures you, Mr. Chairman, that the remark made concerning him is offensive to him, I respectfully submit that it is your duty to ask the honorable gentleman who made the. remark to withdraw it and apologize. I do not know whether such a request was made in this case.
– lt was made.
– There was a good deal of confusion at the time, and I must say that I did not hear the request for a withdrawal and an apology. I have no doubt, sir, that if such a request were now made you would ask the honorable member for Wentworth to do what is proper in the circumstances. There is, so far as I can see, no direct standing order bearing on the matter, but if honorable members take their memories hack about twelve months ago they may recollect an unpleasant incident in which I was concerned. A certain remark was made about me which I regarded as offensive for certain reasons which I placed before the Chair. The honorable gentleman who made the remark was then called upon to withdraw and apologize. I submit that that is the working rule that should he followed. Honorable members are entitled to he free from insult in the course of debate. A remark may be offensive for reasons known only to the person to whom it isapplied.
– An honorable member could say that he regarded every remark as offensive.
– That is so; but the remark would need to be personally offensive. I have had more years of parliamentary experience than the honorable member for Dalley has had months of it, and the rule has always been applied as I have said. The word to which objection was taken is one of which I do not know the true meaning.
– It was a Japanese word.
– If the honorable member for East Sydney took exception to it as being personally offensive, I submit that it is the duty of the Chair to call upon the honorable member who made it to withdraw and apologize. The true course to take in this matter is not to dissent from the ruling of the Chair, but to call upon the honorable member who made the remark to which objection has been taken to withdraw it, and apologize.
– I am afraid that the honorable member for Martin is not familiar with what has happened.
– It was certainly difficult to hear what was said, but from what I understand of the position, your ruling, sir, was correct. I submit that, if the honorable member for East Sydney asked for a withdrawal and an apology, it is in conformity with customary procedure to ask the honorable member who made the remark to withdraw it, and apologize. The whole matter would then be adjusted.
– I wish to have the position clarified. I should like to know whether the Chair ruled that the word complained of by the honorable member for East Sydney was not offensive. If that was the ruling, I must oppose the motion of dissent. I am reluctant to do this, and for that reason I ask for information as to the ruling that has been given. If the honorable member for Wentworth is not to be asked to withdraw and apologize for an offensive remark, I must associate myself with the motion of protest.
Mr.Forde. - Last week an incident happened in the House late in the evening which seems to me to have a bearing on the subject before the Chair. After the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) had resumed his seat, I rose to speak, but the “ gag “ was moved while I was speaking. Naturally, I protested. I made a remark to the Minister, who complained, and I was ordered by the Chairman to withdraw it. In conformity with procedure, I did so, and sat down, but the Minister insisted upon an apology. Again in conformity with procedure I apologized. As the honorable member for East Sydney was called upon to withdraw and apologize, I submit, sir, that you erred in not calling upon the honorable member for Wentworth also to withdraw and apologize for having used a remark which the honorable member for East Sydney regarded as offensive, and for which he asked an apology. You, sir, have not been consistent. As I had to make an apology last week, I submit that the honorable member for Wentworth should have been obliged to make one to-night.
– The term applied to me by the honorable member for Wentworth might not be regarded in some circumstances as offensive, hut the Standing Orders require that honorable members shall address themselves to each other in a certain way. When I speak of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), for instance, I am required to call him the right honorable gentleman, and I am required to call other members of the House honorable members. My own ideas on the subject might be quite different, but if I wish to participate in the debates I have to use a form of address in keeping with parliamentary procedure. The remark which the honorable member for Wentworth directed to me was intended by him to be an offensive term, and because of that I exercised my privilege as an honorablemember and asked that he withdraw it and apologize.
– The honorable member did not ask for an apology.
– The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) tempts me to repeat a remark which I might apply to him with as much accuracy as to the honorable member for Wentworth. I rose in my place, and asked that the objectionable remark be withdrawn, and that the honorable member apologize, for having made it.
– The honorable member did not do so.
– The honorable member for Wentworth asked that I withdraw and apologize for a remark that I made. I did so. I then asked that he should do the same with regard to a remark which he applied to ‘me. I suggest, sir, that if tho honorable member for Wentworth is not called upon to withdraw and apologize you are showing distinct partiality.
– I was listening very carefully to the honorable member for Wentworth, and I heard the remark which called forth the retort of the honorable member for East Sydney. The retort was offensive, and the honorable member for Wentworth took exception to it. He asked that it be withdrawn, and that an apology should be tendered to him. After that had been done the honorable member for East Sydney took exception to the original remark of the honorable member for Wentworth, and asked that it be withdrawn.
– He also asked for an apology.
– I, with other honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber, was listening carefully at the time. We did not” hear the honorable member for East Sydney ask for an apology. That my version of the incident is correct i3 shown by the fact that the honorable member for Darling rose and asked for an apology to be made by the honorable member for Wentworth. I submit that the honorable member for East Sydney asked for a withdrawal, but not for an apology.
– If the honorable member for East Sydney regarded the term which I used as being personally offensive to him, I withdraw it and apologize for having made it.
– For the “information of the members of the committee who were not present when the incident took place, let me state that while the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison.) was speaking the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) interjected, making use of an expression for which I immediately called him to order, and would have done so even if the honorable member for Wentworth had not taken exception to it. The honorable member for Wentworth then used an expression which, as I have already said, I did not understand, but it’ appeared to me to be more frivolous than anything else. However, the honorable member for East Sydney did withdraw his remark and apologize as I ordered him to do. He then rose in his seat and asked that the honorable member for Wentworth withdraw and apologize. I replied that I had not understood the expression, but that if the honorable member for Wentworth intended it to be offensive, it must be withdrawn. The honorable member for Wentworth withdrew the remark, and then proceeded with his speech. He uttered a few sentences when the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley)’ wanted to know why I did not’ order the honorable member for Wentworth to apologize. I replied that it was the honorable member for East Sydney, and not the honorable member for Darling who was involved in the matter and that the incident was closed.
Motion (dissent) - by leave - withdrawn.
– Mr. Chairman
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Lane) proposed -
That the honorable member for Wentworth have leave to continuehis speech.
Question put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr.bell.)
Majority . . . 15
Question so resolved in. the affirmative.
Leave to continue given.
Motion agreed to.
– When the interruption took place, I was on the point of saying that the existing conditions make confusion worse confounded.
– I rise to a point of order. Under the Standing Orders, an honorable member is permitted to address himself to the budget debate for 45 minutes, and any extension of time which is granted to him must include the time taken up by the intervening proceedings. One hour has already elapsed since the honorable member for Wentworth commenced his speech, and I suggest that, according to the Standing Orders, he is not entitled to continue his remarks any further.
– The Standing Orders provide that a member may he allowed to continue for periods each not exceeding fifteen minutes.
– There is no standing order dealing specifically with an incident such as this. This is the first time during my occupancy of the Chair that there has been a division on a question of extension of time. In the absence of a standing order dealing specifically with this matter,it would he fair to assume that the honorable member for Wentworth would commence his extension from the time when he is called upon by the Chair.
– That has not been done previously.
– I propose to quote figures showing the effect of the overlapping of industrial awards upon certain individual States. Since January, 1926, except for the last six months of 1930, New South Wales has had a 44-hour week. The original reduction from48 to 44 hours did nothing more than reduce the working time by 8 per cent., which meant that industry was paying its staff for 8 per cent. of time without the necessary production. The loss of time over a year of 52 weeks was 208 hours, or 41/3 full working weeks of 48 hours for each employee. According to the quarterly summary of September, 1932, the average wage for males on the 30th June, 1932, was £4 12s. 6d. Therefore, every adult male employee covered by State awards was paid £20 0s. l0d. per annum for time not worked. In the aggregate, the total burden cast on industry by the 44-hour week in New South Wales was enormous. The lost time of four hours a week for adult males and females, disregarding 80,000 juniors of both sexes, for 6½ years of 44 hours a week between January, 1926, and December, 1932, cost the industries of that State a sum estimated at over £36,000,000.
– From what is the honorable member quoting?
– I am quoting volume28 of the New South Wales Arbitration Reports.
– On a point of order. I wish to know whether the honorable member for Wentworth is entitled to read his speech?
– I do not consider that the honorable member for Wentworth is reading his speech ; he is quoting from certain reports.
– According to that report, the president of the commission, Mr. Justice Piddington, supplied the following figures, showing the number of employees in industry in New South Wales:-
The loss based on £20 per annum over a. period of 6i- years amounted to £32,500,000 for adult males, and £3,651,700 for adult females, or a total of approximately £36,000,000. That is the cost of the actual hours lost, and it docs not take into consideration the reaction upon subsidiary industries, nor the loss of production through the non-use of raw material. Let me give comparative figures in regard to factories in New South Wales and Victoria. In 1926-27, they were as follows: -
By 1933-32 these figures had undergone a remarkable change. They were then as follows: -
The percentages are remarkable. The number of factories declined by 8.25 per cent, in New South Wales and increased by 6.61 per cent, in Victoria. The number of hands decreased by 30.35 per cent, in New South Wales and” by 22.03 in Victoria, while the value of the output declined by 34.07 per cent, in New South Wales and by 26.77 per cent, in Victoria. Yet New South Wales is most favorably situated in regard to its geographical position and its close proximity to the raw materials needed for manufacture. I submit that, when overlapping of industrial awards reacts in” that way to tho detriment of a State, it should not be tolerated. Some time ago the. Common wealth took action to bring one’ State into line with the others in financial matters. I suggest that industrial conditions are equally, if not more, important, and that they should be made uniform in the different States. Since 1901, no fewer than eighteen industrial arbitration acts have been placed on the New South Wales statute-book. This number docs not include Mr. Lang’s crowning piece of folly, nor the 44-hour week act, the Factories and Shops Act, the, Workers’ Compensation Act, the Lifts and Scaffolding Act, the Family Endowment Act, the Unemployment Relief Act, and the Early Closing Act. Since 1904, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act has been amended on thirteen occasions. Surely there must be something wrong with industrial legislation that requires such frequent amendment! It is high time that this Parliament took control, and brought every State into line on industrial matters.
It is not my intention to discuss at length the effect of the Family Endowment Act on the conditions in New South Wales. Every honorable member who understands industrial affairs realizes that the operation of that legislation should never have been confined to one State. It is too big a subject for one State to handle alone. If it possesses the virtues claimed for it, it should be national in its application, so that; one State would not bo placed at a disadvantage compared with the others. I could cite eases of business firms which were covered to the extent of 90 per cent, by federal awards and yet were compelled to pay out from £10,000 to £12,000 per annum by way of family endowment. One particular firm operating in competition with, a concern owned by the Commonwealth Government which paid no family endowment was placed in this unfair position by the introduction of State industrial legislation requiring it to make heavy contributions in respect of family endowment. I submit that the effect of such an impost must be felt, not only by the employers, but also by the workers.
I wish to quote authorities in connexion with the establishment of standard hours and a basic wage. The President of the Board of Industry in South Australia made the following statement in the living-wage judgment: -
The limitation points to the desirability of providing some machinery which will fix the living wage for Australia, with due regard to the problem as a whole, and to particular conditions, such as the cost of living in each state or locality. While such machinery need not involve a sacrifice of industrial court autonomy, it would simplify materially the complexities of the industrial situation as it prevails now, and as it prevailed in1916.
The confusion between the principles adopted by different Australian tribunals is serious, and some uniformity in fundamentals is most desirable. The disconnected systems of wage fixing of the continent require national corelation, but pending public appreciation of this need, the board can only carry out to the best of its ability the duties imposed upon it by the statute! The wages paid in Adelaide are largely fixed by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. They arc without exception higher than the 13s. 4d. which has hitherto been the basic wage in this State. Here again is a fertile source of dissatisfaction and irritation . . . industrial peace is not to be promoted by marked disparities in rates of wages for similar types of work done in the same State.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I should not have participated in this debate had not the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) moved an amendment upon which I do not wish to give a silent vote. I shall also avail myself of the opportunity to bring under the notice of the Government two or three matters that directly affect my constituents; because there will not be another Supply Bill, and it seems that Parliament will be in recess for a lengthy period when it adjourns at the end of this month.
I have already described this budget as a gambler’s budget. I have found no reason for altering that description ; in fact, the passage of time has confirmed me in the belief that it is the correct one to apply.
One of the effects of the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, if carried, would be the re-casting of the budget to effect a balance in the current year’s income and expenditure. “With that objective I find myself in entire agreement. I cannot think otherwise than that the circumstances of Australia have not improved to such an extent as to warrant the Government in departing from the practice of balancing the budget, especially in view of the great sacrifices that have been made for that purpose by the people of Australia. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) has argued that, although the balancing of the national budget is desirable, it could be dispensed with if the effect were to enable the private budgets of the people to be balanced. I contend that that result is not being achieved by different sections of the community. In answer to a question to-day, the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) said he thought that the potato and onion industries were the only industries that had not asked the Government for assistance. This proves clearly that other industries which find it necessary to seek governmental aid are not able to balance their budgets. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) spoke yesterday of an orchardist with 90> acres who had had to send a cheque for £700 overseas to clear the expenses connected with a consignment of his apples. That indicates that the applegrowers are not balancing their budgets. To-day the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) pleaded for assistance to be given to poultry-keepers and the New South Wales Egg Board, and demonstrated that that section of the community is not able to balance its budget. Then there is the wheat industry, which certainly will not balance its accounts this year unless its circumstances materially improve.
The honorable member for Darling Downs, and practically every honorable member who has given the budget allround praise, have sidestepped the fact that within the last five years the accumulated deficits have amounted to £17,000,000, and that no attempt has-been made to liquidate a portion of them with the surplus of £3,500,000. That is one of the reasons for my use of the description “gambler’s budget.”
From the manner in which the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) commenced his speech yesterday, I thought it would hardly be possible for him to congratulate the Government upon tlie great relief it is giving in regard to taxation. He stated ‘that while the Commonwealth Government had a surplus last year of £3,500,000, the States had an accumulated deficit of £8,500,000. “He referred to the payments into a sinking fund which have been made by all governments to balance the deficits, and added that there had been loans for public works as to which all was well if they were reproductive. I should like to know any public works on which money could now be expended which are reproductive. 1 was somewhat surprised that the honorable gentleman so closely followed the course taken by his leader, the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). One would expect such an idealist to soar into the clouds, but a different attitude could reasonably be expected from a practical Scotsman such as the Deputy Leader of the Country party.
As another reason for this amendment, it is claimed there should be a complete restoration of the reductions that have been made in pensions, maternity grants and the salaries of civil servants. Personally, I do not think that the financial position of the country justifies a complete restoration; but, on the other hand, I remember that the Government has remitted taxation which was in existence before the Premiers plan came into operation. That should not have been done until there had been a complete restoration of the reductions made under the Premiers plan. Undoubtedly, there has been a departure from the plan which was designed to effect an equality of sacrifice from all sections of the community. I also regard as a dangerous sign the tendency of semi-governmental departments to shield behind the Loan Council and obtain advances without the complete sanction of that body. While on this subject I feel justified in reading a leading article from the Adelaide Advertiser of Tuesday last. As a rule I do not take much notice of leading articles in the press, for I know that, like many speeches made by honorable members, they frequently savour of “ eyewash. “ This article is headed “ Will the Loan Council fail, “ and, after dealing with the action that was taken in regard to the Lang Government, it proceeds -
Can it be possible that the agreement, although so abundantly successful in achieving a purpose far beyond its conscious scope, will yet fail to give permanency to the one vital reform which it was designed to effect? This grave question, undoubtedly, arises out of the present proceedings of the Loan Council, in the light of the eagerness of three State Governments to resume virtually unrestricted public borrowing through the instrumentality of semi-governmental bodies of the type of tho New South Wales Water and Sewerage Board. This board has been empowered to raise a loan of £2,500,000, with which to finance certain so-called “ reproductive public works,” and is even now engaged in raising the money at a higher rate of interest than, in the opinion of the Loan Council itself, is justified by the prevailing condition of the market. Nothing could be more directly opposed to the national interests; but so strong is the political itch for loan funds, and so powerful the influence of a thoroughly bad example, that Queensland and Western Australia have both been seized by the desire to create independent borrowing departments of their own. [Quorum formed.’]
The article goes on -
Queensland wants a £2,000,000 bridge, and Western Australia yearns for £400,000 worth of electrical machinery. Neither State is in a position to pay for these luxuries: nor can they oven be brought within the ordinary loan programmes, which are subject to the provisions of the iinancia.1 agreement. But if New South Wales can outrun the constable with the aid of a water board, argue the needy Premiers of Queensland and Western Australia, what is to prevent the appointment of commissions and corporations in other States, and their immediate and enthusiastic participation in the race? The question is one that demands a prompt and authoritative answer. Experts differ about the potency of the financial agreement. Sir Edward Mitchell, who has specialized in its study, seems to regard it as all-powerful; but, in face of the present unpleasant development, it is important to recall one of the main conclusions reached by another student, Mr. Norman Cowper, a founder and director of the Australian Institute of Political Science, who, writing in the Economic Record of December, 1032, said this: - “Tho legal power of the Loan Council to impose conditions is limited. Consequently, the pressure on the Governments to adopt a common policy will vary according to the condition of the loan markets. If loan money is easily obtainable, the individual governments will resent attempts to impose conditions on their borrowing, and will assert their strict legal rights.” It is exceedingly disquieting to see, in the prevailing condition of affairs, some prospect of the realization of this prophesy. Mr. Butler says frankly that there is the possibility of a crisis that might “result in the smashing up of the Loan Council.”
There is no blinking the fact that even more serious consequences will overtake this coun-try if the disease of squander ma iiia, accompanied, and ministered t<3, by a renewed orgy of competitive borrowing, is to communicate itself to the seven Australian Governments, simultaneously with the long-delayed appearance of the first signs of returning confidence and prosperity. Mr. Butler does well to be alarmed, lt is not in Canberra only that politicians seem disposed to relax their hold mi the vital business of financial rehabilitation and to rest upon their laurels.
That leading article sounds a warning chat the Commonwealth and State Governments would be well advised to heed. The press- and the Governments are engaged in boosting what they term as a return to prosperity, and a wrong impression is being gained by the public, with the result that, if we are not careful, the suffering and privations of the last few years will have been in vain.
I can quite understand the feeling with which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) referred to this subject. He was the leader of a government, which, in its earnest endeavour to cope with the desperate situation in which Australia was placed, temporarily abandoned many of its articles of faith, and, in consequence, estranged a number of its followers. After incurring unpopularity and doing much to set the ship of State on an even keel, his Government has been succeeded by another which is prepared to gamble with the finances of the country. From my humble observations I have concluded that the essence of politics is “who is to pay the taxes?” and “who is to gain the concessions?” That conviction is becoming more and more firmly implanted in my mind. I feel that the Government is prepared to gamble with the finances of the country, and if I am to take sides my vote will be cast in an endeavour to see that the poorer section of the community receives a fair share of the spoils. If the Government insists that the ship of State shall continue its voyage in dangerous waters, lacking careful guidance, I shall deem it my duty to see that not only the firstclass, passengers, but also the second and third-class passengers and the crew receive reasonable treatment. While I believe that some of the requests that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition are inopportune, I have to make my choice, and, accordingly, will cast my vote for the amendment.
I have been twitted outside this chamber for not having raised. my voice more frequently on behalf of pensioners. My retort is that it is votes .and not talk that have the greatest influence on a government. The present Government showed recently that it was prepared to shift its ground in regard to the charge on pensioners’ property. It was for that reason, I believe, that honorable members of this House were not called together on a recent Tuesday as was intended. The Government reserved that day to consider its policy in respect of pensions. But I ask honorable members of the United Australia party who are rebellious against the present property provisions of the Pensions Act not to cease fighting against them. Evidently some honorablegentlemen are trying to exert their influence in the party room. I sincerely trust that they will stand to their guns. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) suggested in his speech this evening that he was satisfied that everything would be all right; but I remind him and other honorable gentlemen that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. The more one considers the property provisions of our pensions legislation the more convinced one becomes that the only sound thing to do is to entirely repeal them. Any loosening of the system that has been evolved will, in my opinion, defeat the object that the Government has in mind. It seems to me that the wiser course would be to remove these provisions altogether. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) last night expressed sympathy with the pensioners and hoped that the property provisions of the act would be modified. I do not question the sincerity of the honorable member in this regard, for I know that he is a kindhearted and generous man; but he must realize, and so must other honorable gentlemen who support the Government, that -the pensioners need more than sympathy. Honorable members who have declared their sympathy with these unfortunate people should therefore be keenly alert to express their sympathy by their votes; otherwise many of the deserving old people of this country will suffer intensely. I know that many pensioners are to-day on the verge of starvation and are sacrificing themselves on the altar of sentiment. I have not often addressed myself in this chamber to the just claims of these aged people. Apparently something is about to bc done to help them, but we must not cease our fight in their interests until substantial relief has been granted to them. After earnest discussions with pensioners in my district I have had to tell them that their principal concern, at their period of life, should not he for their children, but for themselves. I have had practically . to force pen- sioners to sign the cards agreeing to the attachment of their property by the Government; but in some eases I have been unable to get them to do so, although they have been practically starving. For the sake of the sentiment attaching to (heir old family homes some pensioners flatly refuse to sign these cards. The following letter that I have received from an aged woman pensioner in another electorate speaks for itself-
I nui mi old pensioner, also my dear husband, hut it is just twelve months since both be and .1 applied for the pension. My husband is in his 88th year and I am in my 68tl year, so you will see by our ages we did not apply till it was really needed, as we could work no longer. In fact if is only I that, kept us off the pension. I worked and sold all our little belongings, bar the little house that we ]iv,e in. In the year .1024, tho time when property was at its peak price, with the help of our dear son, I bought this old home for four hundred pounds (£400) and, now to-day, if I could sell it would not realize two hundred pounds (£200). This letter is from our hearts praying you to use your influence as a member of the Federal Parliament to try and allow pensioners to have their property free although getting pension. We, and thousands of others, do not expect the taxpayers to keep us: but we wish our home protected up to, say, live hundred pounds (£500). Though we get tlie pension we ure still good citizens and pay our taxes, city rates, water and sewerage and land tax, so the money is not all for nothing - it goes back to the several governments and is good for the country at large and it shows that we are worthy of the pension and not wasters. We have had a. long life struggling along and rearing families and had it not been for the help of our dear son we would not even now have been able to have this small property.
In this case the male pensioner is 88 and his wife 68 years of age and they did not apply for the pension until they were absolutely forced to do so. That letter clearly shows the feelings of pensioners who feel penalized by the property provisions of the act. I now direct the attention of the Government to a paragraph in a letter sent to me by Mr. C. F. Veale, the honorary general secretary of the Old-age and Invalid Pensioners’ Association of South Australia. I hope honorable members who may subsequently discuss this subject will not make any caustic remarks about this gentleman who is doing valuable honorary work in the interests of the pensioners of South Australia.
– He is one of the most honest men to be found in the State.
– I am glad to have that . comment from the honorable member for Hindmarsh. It has been said of some persons who are acting in a secretarial capacity for pensioners’ associations that they are only interested in getting the few pence which the pensioners subscribe. I do not believe that that is so. This gentleman, for instance, is acting in an. honorary capacity. In my opinion the invalid and old-age pensioners have as much right as any other section of the community to organise for the protection of their mutual interests. Mr. Veale’s letter reads as follows: -
We would like to call your attention to paragraph 00 iri the handbook which sets out that the amount of pension paid after 12th October, 1932, is a charge on the pensioners estate, in so far as it affects an insurance policy. There is no provision made to make allowance for the amount of premium which the pensioner has had to pay .to make it possible for the policy to mature. This we consider is a grave injustice. We trust, sir, that yon will give this point the consideration it rightly deserves when the matter is before the House for consideration.
I hope that the Government will repeal all the provisions recently included in the Pensions Act relating to the property of deceased pensioners, but if it does not do so I ask its earnest consideration of the suggestion contained in that letter.
I wish now to speak briefly in the interests of the wheat-growers. I am in entire accord with the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition in this connexion. The Ministry may hare some scheme afoot to assist the wheat-growers, but if so, I have not been informed of it. I was a member of the deputation that waited on the Prime Minister a few days ago, and it appeared to me that in his reply, the right honorable gentleman leaned towards the suggestion that a sales tax should be imposed on flour. Whether or not that means be adopted, it is essential that something shall be done for these unfortunate people. It appears to me that the Government has gambled and lost in respect of the wheatgrowers. If, instead of granting such generous remissions of taxation, it had kept £2,000,000 or so in hand, it would not have found such great difficulty in giving relief to the farmers. It would have been fairer to use some of the money at its disposal to assist the farmers than to have limited its capacity to help them by giving such large remissions of taxation. A tax on flour may place a burden on a section of the community which cannot carry it; but if the flour tax is the only means which the Government can devise to assist the farmers, I shall support it, because I realize that the wheatgrowers are obliged to contribute their share towards the protection of secondary industries. We seem to be reaching the position when every section of the people will have to help every other section. Whether this will ultimately bring us all down I do not know, but that seems a possible result. Anyhow, the wheat-growers are entitled to consideration. It will not be sufficient, however, to use the flour tax to provide so much extra a bushel for the wheat that is sold. That would help only those farmers who are fortunate enough to be in a position to market wheat, though it is doubtful whether even they can be truly described as fortunate. It appears to me that every farmer who has grown wheat this year will lose money on it; but those farmers who sowed their fields and will reap three bushels, or less, an acre, will he very heavy losers.
In my hurried visit to South Australia last week-end, I saw crops between Murray Bridge and the Mount Lofty foothills which will be almost complete failures. The wheat-growers in the eastern mallee districts of South Australia have been handicapped by the low price of wheat for the last two or three years, and prior to that, they experienced three years of drought. The farmers in the northern mallee districts of Victoria, which adjoin the South Australian areas to which I have just referred, are in the same unhappy plight. I suggest, therefore, that the Government should distribute a certain proportion of the amount obtained from a sales tax on flour on an acreage basis among farmers whose crops have failed. The hot winds that have prevailed in the last fortnight in parts of South Australia have dried off many crops. In this regard, I direct the attention of the Government to the following letter that I have received from Mr. R. G. Greiger, of Naidia, South Australia : -
I take the opportunity to inform you that we have had some very disastrous weather at Naidia, &c. Owing to the absence of rain, the strong hot winds of the last two weeks have practically ruined some of our crops. The average will be a very low one now. It is hoped that if the Federal Government will again give some assistance to wheat industries, it will again be on the acre system as last year. Any other way would not help us unfortunate ones. It is heartbreaking to toil all the year and then see the crop go off through want of rain, &c. Hoping that you will be able to do something for us,
Mr. Greiger speaks on behalf of many farmers in his own district, and I hope that their plight will not be disregarded by the. Government. ,
I now come to the wine industry. The Government may think that as it hasreduced the excise duty from 9s. to 6s. 6d. a gallon all will be well with this industry. I am glad, in one sense, that the excise duty has been reduced. I recognize that the Government hopes that because of this reduction, the wine makers will pay the grape-growers the price for their grapes originally fixed. No doubt, the reduction of the excise duty is a valuable concession to the wine makers, and the least that they could do would be to pay the fixed price for grapes. But I am exercised in my mind about the general situation. Up to date, the wine bounty has been paid partly out of the excise duty. In fact, 50 per cent of the old rate of 10s. went to the trust fund out of which the bounty was paid.
If tho Government in any way lessens the payment of 5s. a gallon into the trust fund the only effect will be to reduce the bounty, and any lessening of the bounty, despite the reduced excise, will not meet the needs of the industry. The surplus stocks of wine must be exported overseas, and that can be done only by the aid of the bounty.’ I, therefore, hope that the Government will make no move in the direction of further reducing it. As the bounty expires in February, 1935, I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) to give early consideration to its renewal at the rate that has been in operation hitherto.
– When does the honorable member intend to cease his advocacy of the wine industry?
– In South Australia there are hundreds of growers whose very livelihood is wrapped up in this industry. I was elected to serve the interests of my constituents, and I shall battle for the wine-growers so long as I am a member of this Parliament/ The Government has gambled on this budget, but I doubt whether it will have the opportunity to gamble on the next, because the drain on its financial resources on account of the remissions of taxation and restoration of financial cuts will be so much greater than anticipated, so that next year, on the eve of an election, it may be faced with the disagreeable task of re-imposing taxation.
.- When the Financial Belief Bill was under discussion I spoke on many matters appertaining to the budget, so there is no need for me to repeat the remarks that I made on that occasion. The Government is to be congratulated upon the fact that it has been able to present a satisfactory budget, and at the same time to give relief and concessions to every section of the community. The subject of pensions will be up for discussion later. Like the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), a consistent fighter for the invalid and old-age pensioners, I am definitely opposed to any interference on the part of the Government with the properties of pensioners, and I shall use every endeavour in the direction of deleting the property provisions now in the act. Later, also, I shall deal with the hardships of returned soldiers who are suffering from war effects. It is the duty of the Government to give these men its sympathetic consideration. The remissions of taxation will be beneficial both directly and indirectly to employers and employees in industry. Some honorable members have criticized the budget and have said that it is a rich man’s budget; but I agree with those who consider that every section of the community will benefit from it. Honorable members have stressed the necessity for the adequate defence of Australia against enemy invasion, a policy with which -I agree, but I think that this Government would be better employed in striking a blow at the influence of the communist forces that are operating throughout Australia. In our policy speech at the last election we pledged ourselves to the suppression of communism and the encouragement of loyalty to God, King and country; but, apart from amending” the Crimes Act to deal with the residence of certain persons in this country, the Government has done little or nothing to suppress communism. Its failure in that respect has caused great indignation among the people of Australia. The sooner the Government takes action to exterminate the forces that seek to undermine the national wellbeing of this country, the better it will be for the community generally. Some honorable members have advocated the adoption of uniform wages and hours throughout the Commonwealth, but until communism is suppressed, industrial peace within this country will be impossible. The Government must take drastic action against those who are advocating pernicious doctrines, more particularly in the State of New South Wales. Children of tender age are being taught to make use of disloyal utterances, and it is a disgrace to this country that such teachings should be allowed to continue. No disloyalist should be allowed to enjoy the privilege of residing in this country. Why should people of foreign birth who teach pernicious, ungodly, and antiChristian doctrines be allowed to live in a community which is 98 per cent. British born? One of the candidates forthe by-election now in progress in the Flinders electorate is an avowed Communist, a man opposed to the great principles of British justice, and the Christian faith upon which the Empire isbased. Any man who is an avowed Communist should be disfranchised and prevented from contesting municipal, shire, Federal and State elections. Forces such as the Communist element, the New Guard, and others, have come’ into being because of the apathy ofthis Government.
– Would the honorable member advocate the wiping out of the New Guard?
– There should be no need for a New Guard or a Red Army in this country, and the Government should take immediate action to exterminate such bodies. It is well known that the Communists are always active in strikes, and the estimated loss of wages duo to strikes has been as follows : -
Most of the strikes have occurred in New South Wales, andhave undoubtedly been promoted by Communists. The figures I have given are eloquent testimony of the injury caused to the workers of Australia through the activities of these individuals. Along with other honorable members I have asked questions in this chamber as to when the Government intends to take action to deal with this menace. The replies have been evasive, and I am sorry to say that no action has yet been taken. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), however, has informed me that legislation will he framed to deal with disloyal forces, and the Premier of New South Wales has also informed me that drastic legislation will be introduced in due course. This is an. important matter, and should have been dealt with by the Government long before this.
.- This is the second occasion during the life of this Parliament on which honorable members have participated in a budget debate. Last year, when the budget was introduced, the position was different from what it is to-day. The financial position was then uncertain; in fact we might say that at that time we had reached the crossroads in our financial history; and because of that, it was necessary for the budget to be prepared with caution, foresight and judgment. The present budget is perhaps the most noteworthy in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament, and the greatest credit is due to those who were responsible for its compilation. Its excellence has been acclaimed, not only in Australia, hut also in Great Britain and the other dominions. In England it has been acclaimed as “ The morning star of prosperity “, and the hope has been expressed that it will guide other countries, hut particularly Great Britain, towards the dawn of better days. Two years ago, it did not seem possible that a budget with such notable characteristics could be brought down in such a short period. [Quorum formed.]
Notwithstanding the numerous benefits that will be derived by different sections of the community, many problems still await solution. What is perhaps agitating all countries to the greatest extent is the problem of unemployment, but we must not allow its magnitude to shake our determination to solve it. During the last couple of years the Commonwealth Government, in co-operation with the governments of the States, has managed the affairs of Australia with such sanity that thousands of persons who were unfortunately out of work have been placed in employment. Many more thousands, however, must he absorbed in industry before we shall have reason to feel satisfied. Large numbers of young men and youths between the ages of 16 and 22 years have not succeeded in obtaining positions after leaving school. It is easy to realize, therefore, the evil effects upon them of an enforced period of idleness. The Commonwealth is somewhat prone to leave to the States the settlement of this vital question. I contendthat it is one of the Commonwealth’s major responsibilities, because the Commonwealth is charged with the duty of safeguarding the national life of Australia, upon which enforced idleness has a seriously detrimental effect. Australia is a large and an exceedingly rich country, capable of producing almost the whole of man’s requirements, in quantities far larger than are needed for local consumption ; yet thousands of its citizens are living in a state of dire necessity. The depressionhas lifted from those who have been fortunate enough to secure employment as the result of wise government during the last couple of years, but there has been no improvement of the conditions of the thousands who have not been able to do so. The causes of unemployment are many and varied. It is almost universally believed that private enterprise provides the widest avenue for the absorption of the unemployed, and that every encouragement should be given to it. “Wherever irritation or hamstringing is caused as the result of the lack of necessary legislative powers, a remedy should be found, This particular phase of the question was elaborated rather lengthily by the honorable member forWentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison). It is well known that the operation of one Federal Arbitration Court and six State industrial tribunals has led to needless overlapping, useless expense, irritation, and confusion. Until those defects are eliminated by uniform legislation private enterprise cannot provide the employment that is expected of it.
Uniformity and equality should accrue from our tariff policy, which is designed to protect industry. Although it applies uniformly throughout Australia, costs of production differ in each State, because of the existence of different standards of hours and wages. One authority should determine both labour costs and the amount of tariff protection. As labour costs in Victoria, and in some of the other States are very much lower than they are in New South “Wales, it is obvious that what might be considered reasonable protection in one State would be unreasonable in the case of another State. That is one of the evils which result from the lack of uniformity in our industrial laws. I feel with the honorable member for Wentworth that this problem must be tackled immediately. I realize, of course, that there will be opposition from State fighters, who are to be found in every State. Evidence as to what they are capable of doing has previously been furnished. This Parliament, nevertheless, should give the lead. The elimination of overlapping, useless expense, irritation, and confusion, would result in the stimulation of private enterprise, to which we must look for the provision of employment on a large scale. Although in the past efforts have been made to establish uniformity, petty jealousies and apathy have defeated them. I hope that during the life of this Parliament, steps will be taken by all partiesin an endeavour to straighten out the matter.
The greatest cause of unemployment undoubtedly has been the introduction of labour-saving machinery. In many quarters the opinion is held that the machine should be scrapped, and resort had. to the more primitive method of manual labour. I do not share that view. Scrapping the machine would be retrogression, and I believe in progression. But the benefits of machinery should be made more universal. Laboursaving devices have enormously increased productive capacity. This should be counter balanced in two ways. First, there should bea lowering of the prices of the articles produced or manufactured ; and secondly, there must be a shorter working week, so that those who have been thrown out of employment as the result of the installation of machinery may be re-engaged. I know that this possibility is disputed in many quarters. A. rather close study of the question, however, convinces me that a shorter working week is inevitable - the sooner we realize it the better - and those who are in employment must of necessity keep those who are out. A reduction of hours would be justified if thereby every man was absorbed in some useful occupation. Unemployment destroys the best qualities that we expect to find in a citizen, and the only remedy is to place him in employment and makehim dependent on his own efforts, even if that necessitates the innovation of fewer hours of work.
While the budget provides for taxation remissions to the extent of millions of pounds, and for partial restorations to pensioners and public servants, it falls short in two directions, the first, of which is adequate compensation to incapacitated returned soldiers. Our soldiers returned to this country after making Australian history, many suffering from disabilities, for which they received small pensions. As the years have passed, their 50 per cent. or 75 per cent. incapacity has become 100 per cent., but the pension remains at the original rate. It is only reasonable that these men, with their bruised and broken bodies, should be enabled to spend their remaining years in greater comfort than that which is now possible for them. Apparently, the Appeals Tribunal is not prepared to admit that as a man becomes older his disability increases in intensity. The problem should be dealt with by the Government, and additional relief given to the unfortunate men who sacrificed everything to answer the call of their country.
I direct attention to another unfortunate section in the community, those who are partial invalids. [Quorum formed.] One would scarcely expect, when dealing with a subject that is professedly near the heart of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), that he should interrupt me. When the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act was passed, it stipulated that a claimant must prove total and permanent incapacity before being entitled to . a pension. That drastic qualification remains unchanged. Until recent years it was comparatively easy for a partially-incapacitated person to obtain some sort, of light employment, but the position has changed, because thousands of able-bodied persons cannot obtain employment. The partial invalids in our community are entitled to more generous treatment. I have the reply of the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in Sydney to an application for an invalid pension. The final paragraph reads -
The medical evidence discloses that the applicant is suffering from infantile paralysis, and as a consequence, is greatly handicapped. It would appear, however, that he is not wholly incapacitated, and if suitable light employment were available, he could accept it. The claimant is, under the circumstances, not . incapacitated within the meaning of the act, and I. am sorry that a pension cannot be granted.
That applicant is 75 per cent, an invalid, but becausehe is not bedridden or permanently confined to an invalid’s chair, he cannot obtain a pension. While the wording of the act might have been suitable years ago, it is too drastic for present day circumstances. We live in a democratic and humanitarian community, and those of us who’ have health and strength, should be called upon to provide these unfortunate persons at least with the necessaries of life. The Go vernment should allocate portion of the money that is available in the directions I have indicated. I intend to endeavour to have the wording of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act amended or the interpretation of the existing provisions liberalized.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) referred to the pernicious teachings of communism, which many of us hoped would have been stamped out of Australia ere now. I often wish that some of our Cabinet Ministers would visit that stronghold of communistic orators, the Sydney Domain, when addresses are being made by the “ commisar “ or his colleagues, for in a few minutes they would: obtain a good idea of how pernicious are these teachings. In a civilized community, such as ours, where we have law and order and a democracy that is worth protecting, it is high time that these persons should be prevented from undermining everything that we hold dear. Despite the laxity that has previously been observed, I hope that the strong arm of the law will shortly be brought to bear on those who spread poisonous doctrines. I know that communism has representatives in ‘all sections of the community, and it is quite possible that some of them might come very near to us in this chamber. The Federal Government, working in cooperation with the State Governments, should scotch communism wherever it raises its ugly head, for despite the difficulties this, like other problems, has to be tackled, and the sooner it is dealt with the better it will be for Australia and all that we hold dear.
Question - That the first item be reduced by £1 (Mr. Scullin’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That the first item he reduced by 10s.
If this amendment is carried, it will be regarded as an instruction to the Government “ to take immediate steps to increase the duty on imported tobacco to 5s. 2d. per lb., and to reduce the excise on tobacco manufactured from Australian-grown leaf to 2s. 4d. per1b.” Action in this direction is urgently needed owing to the desperate plight of over 6,000 tobacco-growers. The Government anticipates that its financial proposals will encourage private enterprise to provide further employment; but if one may judge from its tariff policy, further employment will be given to the workless in other countries instead of to the unemployed in Australia. On many occasions during the recess, members of the Country party urged the need for the adequate protection of Australian primary industries. My amendment will give them an’ opportunity to show their practical sympathy for the man on the land. The position of the tobacco-growers is extremely grave. Early in the depression, men of small means, encouraged by the high protection imposed by the Scullin Government, gave their attention to the cultivation of tobacco, believing that the industry afforded scope for the profitable employment of themselves and their families, as well as promise of a reasonable return on their capital. They expected the protective dutieswould be retained, and believed that they could rely on the promise of this Government.
– So they can. I have been to Queensland. I have seen the product and do not think much of it.
Mr.RIORDAN. - The honorable member spent about 24 hours in the Mareeba district and thinks he knows all about the tobacco industry. In 1929-30, there were only eight growers in the Mareeba district; to-day are 866 registered growers in that district, and over 6,000 in the various States. This industry is deserving of the most careful consideration at the hands of honorable members, but whenever complaint is made of the treatment of growers by the manufacturers, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) endeavours to persuade the House that the manufacturers are giving favorable treatment to the growers and are paying high prices, and that they have purchased thewhole of the Australian tobacco crop. Most honorable members know that the Australian tobacco combine practically financed this Government and its supporters at the last election, so perhaps we should not be surprised if the Ministry, as some sort of return for the assistance then received, is willing to allow this important primary industry to be strangled in the interests of tobacco produced under black-labour conditions in the United States of America. Large quantities of unmanufactured tobacco leaf have been imported into Australia from that country, the total for 1931-32 being 15,000,000 lb., and for this year, to-date, over 14,000,000 lb. Since Australia’s requirements are in the vicinity of 18,000,0001b., is it likely that manufacturers, knowing that they have over 20,000,000 lb. of unmanufactured American leaf in bond, will purchase the whole of the Australian crop? It is deplorable that the Government should be so indifferent about the fate of Australian growers that, apparently, it is willing to see them and their families go on the dole rather than take effective measures for their protection. During the recess, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) accompanied by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis), the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison), and the honorable member for Indi (Mr.
Hutchinson), visited the tobacco-growing areas in northern Queensland. At Mareeba, the right honorable gentleman met a deputation of over 700 growers, and promised that an independent committee ‘would be appointed to inquire into tho condition of the tobacco industry. The commission appointed consisted of Mr. Townsend, chairman, Mr. Robinson, and Mr. R. Howell, the Government tobacco expert stationed at Mareeba, but by its terms of reference, the inquiry was limited to the question as to whether the manufacturers had refused to purchase all good usable tobacco leaf that was available. In the initial stages of the development of this industry, it is unreasonable to expect all the tobacco produced to bc of first-class quality. To-day the Minister stated that he had. been advised that all the bright mahogany leaf in Queensland had been purchased,’ although I bad read a telegram, received by nic from the Secretary of the Dimbulah TobaccoGrowers Association, to the effect that while the British-Australasian Tobacco Company had bought one ton of tobacco on the eve of the Prime Minister’s arrival at Mareeba, paying 3s.»5d. per lb. for it, the sellers had a further nineteen tons to dispose of, and had so far been unable to sell any of it. The Minister for Trade and Customs will probably say that the buyers are prepared to purchase good leaf; hut a certain amount of mistrust has ‘arisen between the buyers and the sellers, and there is no referee. The buyers reject some of the tobacco, and offer a price at which the growers could not afford to produce the leaf, even if they were allowed fo employ black labour under conditions similar to those prevailing in Virginia. One grower offered eleven bales of leaf at Mareeba, and foi- nine bales he received an average price of ls. 3d. per lb. The buyer rejected the other two bales; but, at a sale held two days later, this tobacco realized 2s. 3d. per lb. !
The policy of. this Government is to allow unlimited importation of tobacco into Australia, thus practically depriving the Australian producer of this” home market. Although the Minister promised that all bright mahogany leaf would be purchased, I challenge him to inform this committee how much of the Aus- tralian crop has been bought this year, and how much of the leaf produced in the Mareeba district has been sold. The estimated production of tobacco in Australia this year is over 8,000,000 lb., but not half of the crop has been sold. When the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) was Minister for Trade and Customs, and a deputation urged him to protect the local industry, he said that if tho growers produced leaf of good quality, he would guarantee them 2s. 3d. per lb. He went to the trouble of seeing that the buyers carried out their part of the agreement, and the whole of the Australian crop of ] 0,000,000 lb. was sold hist year at. the average price of 2s. l£d. per lb. The buyers actually purchased leaf that the growers themselves had classified as unsaleable. Tobacco which was commanding 3s. 9d. per lb. last year is not’ being bought to-day by the trust, because leaf can now be imported into Australia at a very low price from the United States of America, where it is grown practically under slave conditions. The policy of the present Government is not. to encourage the development of the Australian industry, but to destroy it. The Minister for Trade and Customs has declared that the Government proposes to be guided entirely by the recommendations of the Tariff Board. This means, in effect, that the Tariff Board will decide the fate of the industries of this country. On page i.2 of its report, dated the 3rd February, 1932, the board’ stated-
Tlie board bus already pointed out that the quantity of Australian-grown leaf will continue to increase, unless the industry is exposed to crushing com petition by the removal of the duty or its reduction to a figure that will constitute adequate protection.
One would imagine that to be an extract from the report, not of an Australian, but of an American tariff board. The policy recommended by the board would place the Australian worker and his family upon a dole, or give him not more than a couple of days’ relief work a week. It would certainly bring about the defeat of the White Australia policy. If such a recommendation were made concerning an industry in the United States of America, its authors would be hanged from the nearest lamp post-
Much has been said by the Prime Minister and his followers about their concern for the welfare of Australian industries. The Prime Minister has stated that the Government desires to create employment hy reducing taxation and thus encouraging private industry. The tobacco industry affords a considerable amount of employment in the electorate of Kennedy where there are 666 growers. Assuming that each grower employs, on an average, one man throughout the year, work is given in this industry throughout Australia to 1.2,000 persons. Supposing each worker supports a family of three, probably no fewer than 36,000 persons depend for their livelihood upon the tobacco industry. Prom the time the young plants are put out until the crop is gathered, a good deal of extra labour is employed over a period of three or four months in cultivating, harvesting, grading and baling the crop. It is estimated that the Australian requirements of tobacco leaf will amount this year to about 18,000,000 lb.; but 15,000,000 lb. has already been imported. Since 20,000,000 lb. of leaf is in bond, the prospects of the growers this year are. particularly gloomy. On the 25t.h October, I asked the Prime Minister when the report, of the committee of inquiry, promised by him at Mareeba in August last, would be available, and he informed me that it would be presented within a few days. I repeated the. question several days later, and the Prime Minister stated that the report would be presented in the following week. Today the Minister for Trade and Customs stated that the report was a lengthy one, and Cabinet had not yet had time to deal with it. He added, that he did not know whether the report would be made available to honorable members. 1 arn wondering whether the report contains anything of which the Government is ashamed, because, otherwise, it should have been presented long ago. The tobacco-growers, whose crops are left on their hands unsold, wish to know whether they should remain in the industry or abandon it. In my opinion, they may as well give up tobacco cultivation, because of the present Ministry’s unsympathetic Attitude to Australian industries. Practically every industry has” been dealt a severe blow, because of this Government’s eagerness to help its friends, the importers. On the 23rd October I read the following telegram from the Dimbulah Tobacco Growers Association : -
Successive delays in sale of tobacco leaf is making had financial position worse. We request you urge Minister for Customs use his influence to effect improvement.
As a result of that telegram the combine was communicated with and a buyer was asked to proceed to Mareeba to buy tobacco here and there in order to keep the growers quiet a little longer. Later, the secretary of the growers’ association wrote to the Minister pointing out the position and stating that, although one buyer had visited the Mareeba district, his methods were unsatisfactory, and that the position of the growers was indeed desperate’. This buyer inspected the crop, refused to buy it, and. said he would inspect it again in January, 1934. That the growers arc in a desperate position as a result of that policy is borne out by the fact that the Queensland Government is paying to the tobacco-growers £1 a week* relief money until such time as buyers visit their holdings and buy their leaf. In the event of their leaf being rejected the growers will, have no option hut to walk off their blocks. On the 6th November I received the following telegram from the Dimbulah Tobacco Growers Association : -
Great dissatisfaction prevails consequent re- “ cent sales tobacco. We consider prices inconsistent being much lower than previously, also large quantity bright mahogany leaf now rejected. Growers consider position as serious.
When I brought that telegram under the notice of the Minister he said that my informant was wrong. The person who sent that telegram spoke on behalf of the tobacco-growers in the Dimbulah area. He had nothing to gain by making incorrect statements. The position of the tobacco-growers is so desperate that they have to combine to get sufficient money to send a telegram. I should like to know where the Country party stands in regard to this matter. The time for sham fighting is over, and that party should now become active on behalf of those whom it professes to represent. We have heard a good deal of the intention of the Country party to bring about the defeat of the Government, but when an opportunity to do so presented itself both the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the party absented themselves from the chamber. On every occasion that the subject of tobacco duties has been before the Parliament, the Country party has sidestepped the issue. When the adjournment of the House has been moved to discuss the position of the tobacco-growers, members of that party have opposed the motion “ That the question be now put, “ and have crossed the chamber in order to allow the original motion to be talked out. They will be unable to repeat those tactics on this occasion. The Government should make a clear pronouncement of its policy, and say whether, it wants the industry to prosper or prefers to allow importers of tobacco leaf from other countries to continue. The select committee ‘appointed during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government to inquire into the tobaccogrowing industry, recommended a customs duty of 5s. 2d. per lb., and an excise duty on Australian leaf of 2s. 4d. per lb. Its recommendations were given effect in a tariff schedule introduced by the Scullin Government. Later, when a change of government placed the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) in the position of Minister for Trade and Customs, the margin of protection was removed, but the then Minister was fair enough to say that he would not allow the tobacco com-‘ bine to import more leaf than was required to make up the amount required in excess of the Australian supply. In that year 10,000,000 lb. of Australian leaf was purchased by the combine. The then Minister took steps to ensure that the combine carried out its part of the agreement. The present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) ‘ gave an undertaking that all good useable leaf, as well as all bright mahogany leaf, would be purchased; but that has not been done. The Government is guilty of a breach of the contract into which it entered. The tobacco-growers have been induced by false representations to engage in tobacco production. They regard the action of the Government as equal to that of a company promoterwho issues a false prospectus. Their savings are gone, yet the Government does not lift a hand to save them. This debate will offer an opportunity to those who profess to be in sympathy with the tobacco-growers to prove their bona fides. If only to assist in preserving the ideal of a White Australia, the Government would do well to give this industry every encouragement. This year the Government will receive over £7,000,000 in customs and excise duty on tobacco. It professes to be interested in the industry, and claims that in making £20,000 available to encourage the further development of the industry it is proving its interest; but I submit that further development of the industry is useless if at the same time 20,000,000 lb. of leaf is imported from other countries. Already there is 20,000,000 lb. of imported leaf in bond and another 15,000,000 lb. will be imported this year. Australia’s requirements are only 18,000,000 lb. of leaf a year, so that, even if there were no tobacco now in bond, it would be necessary to import an additional 3,000,000 lb. of leaf this year. We therefore get back to the position which existed prior to the imposition of the Scullin duties. The vote to-night will reveal the genuineness or otherwise of the Government’s profession of sympathy with the tobaccogrowers.
Sitting suspended from 11. 45 to12. 15 a.m. (Friday).
Friday, 10 November 1933 [ Quorum formed.]
– Yesterday the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) showed that the percentage of unemployment in the community was 25.7, and that only 56 per cent, of the trade unions supplied information to the Commonwealth Statistician, while the Australian Workers Union with a membership of over 50,000 supplied no information at all. Since then the Statistician has supplied me with figures which show that every year 58,000 boys were leaving school and seeking employment, and that out of 56,000 girls leaving school, from 32,000 to 35,000 of them were also seeking employment. No government should pursue a policy which is likely to addto the ranks of the unemployed in this country. I therefore make a final appeal to the Country . party to support my amendment, which, if carried, will restore to the tobacco-grower the protection afforded him by the Scullin Government.
.- I am surprised that the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has seen fit to misrepresent the position of the tobacco industry of Queensland. He has referred to my short visit to Mareeba, but ho knows as well as I do that scarcely one tobacconist in Queensland sells Mareeba tobacco.
– I asked the wharf labourers at Cairns what they thought of Mareeba tobacco, and they informed me that it was not worth smoking. At Bundaberg, one tobacconist told me that the only use that he had for Mareeba tobacco was to give it to hoboes. I examined the tobacco shops at Rockhampton and discovered only one in which Q.L.D. tobacco was exposed for sale. It is not possible to grow in Queensland a tobacco to suit the palate of the Australian community. It is necessary to blend it with leaf grown in other restricts. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) spoke of the injustice that was being done to the tobacco-growers of Mareeba by the tobacco companies. When at Mareeba, I took the opportunity to visit a few barns, and to inspect some of the tobacco leaf. One of the growers showed me a leaf which was spotted throughout. I said to him, “ This is not a decent leaf ; it seems to be diseased”. I then discovered a fungus on. it. The only complaint of the grower was that the tobacco company would not buy this leaf, although it had bought similar leaf last year. The honorable member referred to some trust which he said was trying to destroy the tobacco industry of Queensland. Tho fact is that the tobacco companies bought huge quantities of inferior leaf last year in order to give the growers an opportunity to produce a better leaf the following year. The growers in the Mareeba district have failed to produce a decent leaf.
– Has the honorable member smoked Queensland tobacco?
– No; hut at every place I visited I asked various people what they thought of Queensland tobacco. No Queensland tobacco is available except the Q.L.D. brand, which is being produced by the British Tobacco Company in Sydney, and that has only a proportion of Queensland leaf in it. At one place I was told by a man grading tobacco. that the great difficulty was to obtain a usable leaf. One grower who could not sell his leaf had it regraded, but despite that treatment it was still unsaleable. The man who was grading leaf told me that he had sent to the market leaf which had realized as much as 3s. 6d. per lb. Yet the honorable member for Kennedy has the temerity to say that the tobacco company is not treating the growers decently. Last year the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) told us that the tobacco company had penalized certain growers in his district, but upon inquiry it was found that the leaf was not suitable for manufacture. Last year, after hearing the speech of the honorable member for Kennedy in support of the Queensland industry, I was a little conscience-stricken in voting against him, because I felt that I might be doing the growers an injustice. Consequently I spent three weeks travelling from Cairns to Brisbane in order to ascertain the true position. One grower told me that tobacco was a most difficult plant to cultivate, and that few growers were producing a good leaf.
– Where was that grower ?
– Never mind. He assured me that in previous years he had cultivated five acres and had obtained a good price for his leaf, but that that year he had cultivated seven acres and because he could not give it proper attention, had made less profit than before. The tobacco industry is in no need of protection, and the Queensland representatives of this chamber are merely trying to bolster up the industry in order to bring about an inflation of land values. I am told that tobacco is like tea, in that the taste for it has to be cultivated. What the industry needs is more research work.
– And more protection.
– It does not need more protection. The growers should be given expert advice on the cultivation of tobacco. It is futile for them to ask the tobacco company to give them good prices for leaf which is practically nonusable.
– It is very evident that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), on the occasion of his visit to Queensland, failed to make a real study ofthe tobacco industry. He has stated that there is only one brand of tobacco in which Queensland-grown leaf is used. That statement shows that he is no more a connoisseur of tobacco ‘ than he is a connoisseur of wine.
– Can the honorable member contradict that statement ?
– Yes. In addition to the Q.L.D. tobacco, there is Captain Cook tobacco manufactured in Brisbane, Lucky Hit tobacco, 80 per cent, of the contents of which are Australian leaf, and the Queensland-grown brands of Mareeba and Myreba tobacco. The honorable member was quite wrong in saying that only one brand of tobacco contains Queenslandgrown leaf, so it is a waste of time to comment further upon his rambling speech in condemnation of a Queensland industry, which last year was worth £1,200,000 to Australia, and which should, under proper treatment, give employment to thousands of our workless citizens. Owing to the cessation of borrowing on a large scale, and the discontinuance of public works, thousands of men were thrown out of work, many of whom could have been provided with employment in this industry. How can employment be found for these persons unless new industries are established in Australia? The Scullin Government regarded tobacco-growing as a most promising primary industry which should be developed. The sinister influence of the tobacco combine, demonstrated when previous governments were in office, has been responsible for encouraging imports of black-grown tobacco leaf. That can be seen from the fact that for the financial year 1915-16, the percentage of Australian leaf to the total tobacco used in Australia was 13.79, whereas in 1928-29, it was only 5.11. That is sufficient to show that past Tory governments assisted in encouraging the importation of tobacco to the detriment of the Australian industry, and the satisfaction of the tobacco combine, which prefers to import its leaf from America rather than to buy the Australian product. In moving the amendment, the honorable member for Kennedy. (Mr. Riordan), who represents one of the best tobacco-growing districts in Australia, and can speak on behalf of more tobaccogrowers than any other honorable member, has rendered a wonderful service to the industry. His work on behalf of the industry has been of an outstanding character, and if he receives the support of those honorable members who say that they are always anxious to support primary production, but who run away rather than fight, the amendment will be carried. I sincerely trust that the members of the Country party will support the amendment and prove that they place the interests of the tobacco-growers before political expediency. They should remember that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), who is chairman of the Australian Tobacco Growers Association, said in a leading article, which was recently published in the Leader at Tamworth, that within the last six months,there was a drop of 25 per cent, in the number of growers, which showed that the industry was on a crumbling foundation. Why is it on a crumbling foundation? Did the honorable member for New England say that when the Scullin Government was in office, and when- a protective preference of 5s. 2d. a lb. was given to the Australian leaf? At that time, he said that for the first time in its existence, the industry had been given adequate protection, and that the number of employees engaged in it was rapidly increasing. He further said that under adequate protection, Australia would produce the whole of its requirements in seven or eight years. With the advent of a government that believes in low tariffs and the encouragement of imports, there was a reduction of the duty on tobacco, for which the members of the Country party are largely to blame. The members of that party are responsible for the downward tendency of duties which has characterized the fiscal policy of this Government, and under which the duties on the products of secondary industries, and also on those of primary commodities have been reduced. It is not surprising that keen disappointment has been expressed by tobacco-growers at the fact that no provision is made in the budget speech for the relief of those engaged in ‘ this industry. Excise duties have been lowered on beer, brandy, gin, liqueurs, rum and spirits used for fortifying wine, but no reduction has been made of the 93 per cent, additional excise placed on tobacco made from Australian-grown leaf. Tn view of the fact that the Government obtained revenue last year amounting to £7,281,000 from the tobacco industry, the growers expected greater consideration. As the Tariff Board declared that £6,500,000 would be a fair revenue from the tobacco industry, the growers have a just cause for complaint. The Minister for Trade and Customs (“Mr. White) has failed to give a satisfactory explanation as to why the tobacco combine was allowed to import 15,000,000 lb. of tobacco leaf during 1931-32 and 14,000,000 lb. during 1932-33. The Minister’s figures for last year show the Australian consumption at 15,032,000 lb., which is approximately the weight imported from America during each of tho last two years, while large quantities of Australian-grown leaf produced last season remain unsold. The secretary of the Australian Tobacco Growers Association rightly asks why restrictions are not placed on importations of foreign, leaf, which for each of the last two years totalled approximately 15,000,000 lb., while our total consumption is not much greater than that. That question, which was forcibly placed before the Minister by Mr. Paul Jones, the secretary of the association, has been absolutely disregarded. The farm price of tobacco in the United States of America is 75 per cent, below what it was in 1928. Large quantities of American leaf, most of which is grown and worked by black labour, are selling at below the cost of production. The importations are sufficient to supply the whole of Australia’s? requirements. It is unreasonable to support such a policy when so many men are out of work, and when 58,000 youths, who are leaving school every year, will be seeking employment. Many of the men engaged in the industry left other occupations in the hope of engaging in more lucrative work. Other persons spent thousands of pounds in placing their sons in. the industry. In the heydey of Australia’s prosperity, we were sending about £3,000,000 per annum out of the country for tobacco of all kinds, and it was with that fact in mind that, as Minister for Trade and Customs, I placed the industry on a sound foundation. Those who wished to see the industry developed appealed to the Bruce-Page Government to appoint a select committee to inquire into the industry; but, owing to the influence of the tobacco combine, a committee was not appointed. When the Scullin Government came into power, a select committee, which consisted of tho honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), and other honorable members, was appointed. That committee did valuable work and presented a most useful report, which was helpful to me, as Minister, in submitting a policy that led to a tremendous expansion of the industry. It was subsequently stated, by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), at the time Minister for Trade and Customs, and also by the ‘ Tariff Board, that the duties imposed by the Scullin Government created an unhealthy boom in the industry. The uneconomic, or, as it was termed, unhealthy boom, was really a remarkable increase in the production of Australian leaf, which led to an unprecedented demand for Australian tobacco. Thousands of unemployed were given work directly in the growing of tobacco, and indirectly in the manufacture and handling of galvanized iron, and in the cutting of timber and the supply of other products. It is amazing to find that the Tariff Board, which is alleged to consist of super men, should, in a recommendation which the Government blindly adopted, had the audacity to say that it had already pointed out that the quantity of Australian leaf will continue to increase if the industry is not exposed to crushing competition by the removal of the duty or its reduction to a figure that would not constitute adequate protection. Why should the industry be subjected to crushing competition? Surely we, as Australians, realize that, with 300,000 persons at present out of work, and thousands more who will soon be looking for employment, it is essential to establish new industries. I am surprised that the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis), who represents a Queensland constituency, should support the Government’s proposals, as he did with very damaging results to the sugar, cotton and banana industries. I offer no apology for having had the protection raised to 5s. 2d. per lb. while I was Minister for Trade and Customs. Unfortunately, the import duty on foreign leaf is now only 3s. per lb., while the excise duty on tobacco is 4s. 6d. per lb. If the Government would adopt the recommendation of the honorable member for Kennedy, the protection given to this industry by the last Government would be restored.
Let us consider the figures relating to production, with a view to realizing the effect on the industry of the practical assistance given by the last Government. Tho production increased from. 1,500,000 lb. in 1930-31 to 13,778,000 lb. in 1931-32; but it dropped to 8,430,000 in 1932-33, indicating stagnation in the industry and loss of confidence by the growers. The honorable member for New England has rightly stated that within the last six months several thousands of growers in different districts have surrendered their registrations. Is that likely to benefit either the Federal Government, or the Governments of the States in which tobacco is grown? Will it help the thousands of returned soldiers, unemployed, and sous of farmers, who were induced to spend what little capital they had, and use whatever credit they could obtain, in the clearing of land and the building of homes? A. great dis-service has been done to them. By slashing 2s. 2d. per lb. off the import duty, the Government has opened the flood gates to, and encouraged the importation of, cheap, foreign-grown tobacco, while the addition of 93 per cent, to the excise duty on tobacco has raised the price of the Australian product until it is so close to the price of tobacco made from imported leaf that the Australian consumer is discouraged from using tobacco manufactured from local leaf. Unless the Government is prepared to see the light, and even at this stage to undo what it did last year, this industry, which promised so well, will be practically abandoned by thousands who were induced to engage in it.
When on the 18th May, 1933, the honorable member for Kennedy, in a spirited speech, moved the postponement of the tobacco item in the tariff schedule as an instruction to the Government to restore the protection given by the Scullin Administration, I was amazed to find members of the Country party, and Government members who represent country electorates, voting against the amendment. Every member of the Country party, with the exception of the honorable members for New England (Mr. Thompson) and Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) voted with the Government. On the 24th May, 1933, when I moved an amendment, the object of which was to grant to manufacturers an allowance equivalent to ls. 6d. per lb., of manufactured tobacco for every lb. of Australian-grown leaf used, and thus to increase the demand for Australian leaf, to my amazement certain members of the Country party, who it was claimed were friends of the tobaccogrowers, again voted with the Government’. Had they stood by me, or by the honorable member for Kennedy, they would have forced the Government to concede some measure of relief to the tobaccogrowing industry.
The honorable member for Kennedy has made out an unanswerable case. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) visited the Mareeba district as a tourist, but the honorable member for Kennedy went among the growers and obtained first-hand knowledge of their difficulties, trials, and tribulations. It will be a tragedy if this chamber turns a deaf ear to the representations that have been made on their behalf. Realizing the possibilities of the further development of the industry, the absorption of many of the unemployed, and the circulation within Australia of money that otherwise would go to America, I stand wholeheartedly behind the honorable member for Kennedy.
– The amendment of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) is a challenge to the Government on its budget, and if it is carried the consequences to the whole of Australia will he serious.
In the first place, I remind the committee that the debate to-night contains nothing new on this question of tobacco growing except the statement of the honorable member for Kennedy that bright mahogany leaf is not being purchased from the Mareeba growers.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has said that he offers no apology for the action that he took when Minister for Trade and Customs. There is no occasion for him to apologize, because the Federal Treasurer of the day (Mr. Theodore) apologized for him and insisted upon the Minister’s proposal being referred to the Tariff Board.
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) has condemned in wholesale fashion the tobacco industry in Queensland. The test of the quality of the Queensland product is the price paid for it, which is one of the highest in Australia. I frankly admit’ that, unfortunately, the conditions in North Queensland this year have been unusual, on account of excessive rain, of disease and of insufficient knowledge of methods of cultivation, curing, and grading. This has had a very serious effect upon the quality of the tobacco produced in certain areas. To overcome the difficulty, the Commonwealth Government has, made available for educational and other purposes the sum of £20,000. The hearty co-operation of the States has willingly been made available to ensure that this fund is wisely and effectively expended. [Quorum formed.]
In the unavoidable absence of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) I desire briefly to reply to the statement of the honorable member for Kennedy, that bright mahogany leaf is not being purchased by the different companies. His remarks applied mainly to the Mareeba district, which embraces the whole of the area surrounding Mareeba, including Dimbulah, to which the honorable member particularly referred. No district in Australia has had the close attention and consideration that have been given to this particular district within recent months. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) himself visited it, and I accompanied him. The whole problem was examined, and the views of a representative deputation were obtained. The Prime Minister, being anxious to help those who then were and still are in difficulty, undertook on the spot to appoint a committee to investigate every aspect of the question. The growers were particularly anxious that the local - inspector, Mr. Howell, should be a member of the committee, and the Prime Minister readily acceded to their request. Mr. Albert Townsend, accountant to the Department of Trade and Customs, was appointed chairman, and Mr. Edgar Norman Robinson, agricultural adviser to the Development Branch, the third member of the committee. Mr. Townsend is very well and favorably known in North Queensland. The whole of the tropical industries of that State have from time to time been entrusted to his care. There is not a grower of sugar, cotton, peanuts, or other tropical product, who speaks of him except in the highest terms, and who would hesitate to accept his opinion upon any question affecting Queensland primary industries. He has investigated this matter very carefully, and in his report has dealt definitely and emphatically with the points that have been raised by the honorable member for Kennedy. In connexion with the alleged unfair rejections, the report states -
“ALLEGED UNFAIR REJECTIONS.”
The other complaint, viz., that manufacturers have refused to buy good, usable leaf of this year’s production, was more widely expressed in evidence, and also publicly but apart from the committee’s proceedings.
The committee inspected several hundred bales in various North Queensland districts. The individual stocks ranged from one or two bales to nearly 40 bales. Much of the rejected leaf submitted for inspection was what may be termed “ border-line “, i.e., leaf of grades and quality not much inferior to the leaf that was being purchased this year at the lowestprices offered by the recognized buyers. It is of course obvious that at all times there will be “ border-line “ leaf, or in other words, leaf that may bo just good enough to be saleable, or just poor enough to warrant rejection by the buyers.
Some witnesses considered that the “ borderline “ for 1932-33 was higher than during 1031-32. If so, that would mean that some of the leaf saleable last year would bc unsaleable this year, because the buyers had decided this year not to buy so low down in the scale of grades and quality.
In this connexion, the largest manufacturer stated in evidence that its buying operations for 1932-33 wore governed by its undertaking tq the Commonwealth Government to purchase all the usable, bright leaf available, but only so much of the. usable, dark leaf as would enable it to replace last year’s usings of dark leaf. This manufacturer also said that comparatively little dark leaf is produced in North Queensland, and that it was, in fact, buying all usable leaf produced this year in North Queensland. Moreover, the company - it was sworn by its two managing directors, by its chief buyer, and by its Mareeba buyer - has not issued any instructions whatever to its North Queeusland buyers to vary their standards of buying or prices from those obtaining during the 1931-32 season.
– Is it permissible for the Minister to quote from a report which honorable members have been refused permission to see?
– Honorable members opposite expressed a desire to know the facts of the case, yet now, when I quote the facts to prove that their contention cannot be sustained, they do not desire to hear.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the Minister in order in quoting certain passages from a document to which honorable members have been trying for weeks to obtain access, and which has been refused to us? The Minister is quoting from that document passages which support the Government in its hostile attitude to the industry. Standing Order 317 reads-
A document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister of the Crown, unless stated to be of a confidential nature or such as should more properly be obtained by Address, may be called for and made a public document.
I ask that the report be declared a public document, and be made available to honorable members. Probably it contains much that would suit our argument. Perhaps the report as a whole is favorable to the industry.
– The request is in accordance with the Standing Orders.
– The document is confidential.
– If it is confidential, why does the Minister quote portions of it? How do Ave know that he is even quoting from the document he professes to be quoting from? Honorable members have been trying for four or five weeks to obtain access to this document, but without success, and- we believe that, in the interests of the growers, it should be made public.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Minister has stated that the document is confidential, and, until the contrary “is made to appear, I must accept his statement.
– How can a document bo confidential if the Minister quotes from it? Docs not that act alone make it public ?
– That portion of the document which I have been communicating to the committee is not confidential, though the document itself is. until it has been fully considered by the Government. There is a special section of the report headed, “Alleged unfairness of rejections,” which is a clear statement of fact; this portion cannot be considered as confidential. That is the phase of the subject with which we are now dealing, and, therefore, the quotations which I have made are relevant, and are made available to help the committee.
– I submit that a document cannot be confidential once the Minister has quoted from it. Therefore, I move -
That the document from which the Minister quoted be laid on the table.
A document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister of the Crown, unless stated to be of a confidential nature or such as should more properly be obtained by Address, may be called for and made a public document.
I must accept the assurance of the Minister that the document is confidential. It is not competent for an honorable member to move in committee a motion for the purpose of obtaining a document by Address. I rule that the document is confidential, and I cannot accept the honorable member’s motion.
– The report continues -
Firstly, there is the fact that most of this season’s leaf is so far below average good quality, that nearly 40 per cent, of that portion of the 1932-33 crop that had been offered for sale up to the time of the committee’s investigations had been rejected by the buyers. Most of this 40 per cent, was exceptionally bad leaf, and it is understandable that a buyer operating on such a large quantity of poor samples of a product, the value and usability of which depend on so many different factors, should make some mistakes.
Consequently there is much significance in the fact that other buying mistakes have been made this year - but mistakes that have benefited the growers. The committee inspected several hundred bales of this season’s leaf at the British-Australasian Tobacco Com,pany’s factory in Sydney, and saw at least twenty bales which were of such very inferior quality that they might very properly have been rejected, and, in any case, will be practically unusable. These twenty bales more than off-set the six bales unfairly rejected. Nevertheless, such mistakes in buying give cause for criticism.
An important aspect, however, is the percentage of the unfairly rejected bales to the total number of rejected bales inspected by the committee, and also the total number of bales offered to tho buyers. The committee saw slightly over 1,000 rejected bales in all - at farms, grading sheds, and the Brisbane auction store. Only six of over 1,000 bales, or about one-half of 1 per cent., were considered to have been unfairly rejected. The North Queensland crop offered for sale up to tho date of the committee’s departure for the south, comprised about 4,000 bales, the unfairly rejected quantity being equivalent to only .15 per cent, of all these transactions.
That’ is a complete reply to the suggestion of tho honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) that bright mahogany tobacco is not being purchased by the manufacturers.
– It is not my suggestion ; it is the statement’ of the growers.
– That statement was also given in evidence before the committee. After hearing all the available evidence, the committee came to tho conclusion that only .15 per cent, of the tobacco offered for sale, and examined by the committee, had been unfairly rejected. The Customs Department has advised me that there is at present in North Queensland a representative of the British-Australasian Tobacco Company engaged in buying tobacco throughout the whole area. The company has given its’ buyer a free hand to examine and purchase tobacco. Only half the season has gone by, and the company’s representative is still buying. I hope that the committee will reject the motion.
– To-night the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) spoke of a visit he had made to the tobacco-growing areas of Queensland. He said that the visit occupied about three weeks, but it takes from eight to nine days travelling night and day to reach the northern tobaccogrowing area, so he could not have been there very long. Tho honorable member challenged us to mention the name of any grower or manufacturer of Queensland tobacco who smoked it. The honorable member, like myself, is a non-smoker, but there are members of this Parliament, and pressmen at present in the gallery, who have smoked Mareeba tobacco, and have expressed their appreciation of it. At Home Hill, there is a man named Bay Iiss who manufactures the tobacco entirely from Queensland leaf, and he finds a ready sale for it.
The general decline in the price of tobacco is not peculiar to Queensland. In answer to a questionnaire sent out by the Queensland Tobacco Growers Association, the following information regarding tobacco prices in Victoria was obtained : -
The Tariff Board, in its 1932 report on tobacco, states -
Assuming the total requirements of leaf in Australia to be 20,000,000 lb, annually, and that there would still be approximately 4,000,000 lb. imported for blending purposes, particularly for cigarettes, this would leave u demand for 10,000,000 lb. of Australian leaf annually. Based on a yield of 800 lb. per awe, it would require 20,000 acres of land to produce the 16,000,000 lb. annually. It will thus bo seen that the demand is not very extensive.
As one of the select committee which inquired into the tobacco industry, I know that no district in Australia produces 800 lb. of light tobacco leaf to the acre. I know that Pomonal averages between 600 and 700 lb. an acre, and it produces as heavy a crop as any other district, while the Mareeba and Dimbulah- districts average between 500 and 600 lb. Again, the quantity of tobacco consumed in Australia yearly is 17,500,000 lb., and . not 20,000,000 lb., approximately 15,000,000 lb. being imported.
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) asked what was the price of land at Mareeba. With the exception of that which is sold by his political friends, it is 2s. 6d. an acre, with a perpetual lease, the only qualification being that the lessee shall reside on it for five years to prove that he is a bona fide grower and to prevent speculation. The report of the Tariff Board continues -
The loss of revenue previously collected on 10,000,000 lb. of leaf imported under the duty of 3s. per lb. would be approximately £2,000,000. Unless this loss of revenue from imports were made up by additional excise duty, the cost to the revenue of each acre, with an average yield of 800 lb. would be £85 annually. The revenue aspect is more fully dealt with in a later section of this report.
There again is the erroneous assumption that the 16,000,000 lb. of tobacco which is imported could be grown in Australia, when the import duty would be lost. At present that quantity is imported and the revenue goes into the Treasury. The report of the Tariff Board also states -
The board has already pointed out that the quantity of Australian-grown leaf will continue to increase, unless the industry is exposed to crushing competition by the removal of the duty, or its reduction to a figure that will not constitute adequate protection. Although it is certain that importations would be considerably less under a duty of 5s. 2d. per lb., it is still plain that there will be a material reduction of importations, even under a duty of 3s. per lb., particularly in view of the economic conditions in the primary industries generally, which have already been referred to in another section of this report.
I come now to the quasi-confidential document which the Minister told me this morning had not yet been considered by the Government, and which, therefore, could not be made available. The committee of inquiry was appointed to make investigations for the information of honorable members, and the industry generally, yet we are denied access to it. I want to know the reason. I have in my hand a copy of the Kalgoorlie Miner of the 4th November, 1933, on page 6 of which there appears the following : -
A situation which is causing much embarrassment to tlie Federal Ministry has been created by the presentation to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) of a report which implies clearly that the task of developing the Australian tobacco industry is one for the
States rather than the Commonwealth, and that the work conducted by the Commonwealth organization, known as the Australian Tobacco Investigation, duplicates the Australian State functions, and is not of great value. The report has been presented by a special committee appointed by Mr. Lyons after a visit to Mareeba, Queensland, five months ago, for the purpose of investigating the economics of the industry in the Mareeba district. The inference that the federal committee might be abolished is embarrassing to the Ministry, because of the fact that it has been decided that of the sum of £20,000, provided by the Commonwealth for the development of the industry this year, half should be spent by the Australian Tobacco Investigation, the remaining half having been allotted to State agricultural departments.
– Is the honorable member in order in reading his speech?
– The honorable member is merely reading a quotation.
– This story continues
Last week the Minister in charge of developwent (Senator McLachlan) received the experts conference recommendation that £100,000 should be spent on research and development work for the next five years. The plan adopted by the conference provided for the Australian Tobacco Investigation generally to supervise this expenditure, and to be directly responsible for one-half of it. The committee’s recommendation, that the organization is unnecessary, conflicts directly with this plan, and it is likely to delay the Ministry in determining its policy.
Both reports were before the Federal Cabinet to-day. They were discussed at some length, but no conclusions were reached. It is not expected in Canberra that the Federal Ministry will be influenced by the report of the Mareeba committee, to withdraw from a direct part in developing the industry, nor is it likely to- agree to the disbanding of Australian Tobacco Investigation. The report dealing with Mareeba says that, little practical value has been obtained from the work of the Australian Tobacco Investigation. It recommends that all activities, such as- that conducted by the organization, should be transferred to the States. An intensive survey, which is likely to be of considerable value, has been made of the economies of the industry in North Queensland. This shows that the cost of producing tobacco is considerably higher than the amount of ls. a lb. estimated by the Tariff Board. It is suggested the cost may exceed 2s. a lb. It is understood that the suitability of the Mareeba area for tobacco production is questioned on the ground that the climatic conditions favorable for the production of a good leaf cannot be depended on.
Apparently somebody has had access to this “confidential” document, or has made a shrewd guess as to a good portion of its contents. The Minister read from a document which might or might not have be.en the report of that special committee. I am entitled to adopt that attitude, because I am not privileged to see this “ confidential “ report. The honorable member for Kennedy has been rebuked for making a certain statement, which was in accordance with advice given to him by the Dimbulah Tobacco Growers Association, and which I am prepared to accept despite the protests of the tobacco combine. I know Mr. Gilmour, the North Queensland representative of the British-Australasian Tobacco Company, and Mr. Lough, the head buyer for the company, who told me that Dimbulah produces an admirable quality of tobacco leaf. I believe that the growers have had a raw deal from the tobacco combine, and, with the reduced duty and the accumulated stocks of 20,000,000 lb. of leaf which are held in bond by the manufacturers, they are in for a bad time. We have heard a good deal of what might be, what ought to be, and what is. We have been told that the Government is not in a position to do this or to do that, and that it’ is impossible to make a complete restoration of pensions. We have been informed that in the course of a few days, legislation will be introduced to provide assistance for the unfortunate wheatgrowers ; also that, as a result of extensive remissions of taxation, additional employment will be provided. The wealthy sections of the community have benefited to tho extent of some £7,000,000 in taxation remissions, but the average wheatgrower has received no assistance, and the astoralists who have been po well treated ave approached the Queensland Board of Trade and Arbitration to have the basic wage in their industry reduced from £3 14s. to £3 4s., claiming that they are unable to pay the higher rate. Incidentally, the majority of those pastoralists are wealthy retired men who pay managers to look after their properties. With all respect I suggest that the Government could have made a full restoration of pensions, which would have been more beneficial to the community than a remission of taxation to selected wealthy interests.
The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has called this a “gambler’s” budget, and he should know, as he is an authority on the subject. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has termed it a “ restoration “ budget. It will do nothing to restore employment, nor will it create greater confidence, as has been claimed. Unemployment has decreased slightly because many men have been absorbed in seasonal industries, such as wool and sugar; but as soon as the season is over the position will be worse than ever. Some honorable members, including the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey), stated that we must depend on private enterprise to relieve unemployment. I appreciate what is being done by private enterprise; but I contend that the Government must co-operate by providing money for public works, otherwise there can be no hope of improvement. It i& so much “bosh” to say that the Government has restored confidence. When addressing the London Chamber of Commerce in January of thi3 year, the present High Commissioner -in London, Mr. Bruce, admitted that the improvement in Australia’s position was due to the prohibitions and high tariff which were imposed by the Scullin Government. This ‘Government has done nothing to succour Australian industries. The tobacco industry gave promise of providing ‘a great deal of employment in suitable areas, but because of the action of this Government in withdrawing the protection given to it by the Scullin Administration, it’ is now in a very serious position. Local storekeepers have extended credit to the growers to the limit of their financial resources, so if relief is not given in some way, growers will have to abandon their properties, and seek other employment. Due to the rapid extension of the industry at Mareeba, the position there is probably more serious than in some other tobaccogrowing areas. It has been suggested by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) who, to-night, quoted the alleged confidential report which, as I have stated, has been published in certain newspapers, but is not available to honorable members, that the tobacco leaf remaining unsold is of poor quality. It should, however, be noted that’ the terms of reference limited the inquiry of the special committee to the quantity of good saleable tobacco, not the useable tobacco, unsold. Who is to say that useable tobacco is not good saleable tobacco? Apparently, the committee was guided entirely by the opinion of the buyer for the British-Australasian Tobacco Company who accompanied it on its visit to Mareeba and the other tobaccogrowing districts. It accepted his opinion even against’ that of Mr. Gilmore. One grower at Dimbulah has declared that although he had sold between 5 tons and 6 tons of his crop at a high price, the balance of his crop which, we may assume, was of the same quality, was not taken by the British-Australasian Tobacco Company. It is remarkable that on the eve of the visit of the special committee to the various centres, buyers for the manufacturers made purchases at satisfactory prices; but, as soon ‘as the committee left, purchasing ceased. The Assistant Minister declared to-night that only a small portion of reasonably good saleable tobacco remains in the growers’ hands. That is not correct. There is still available a large quantity of useable tobacco, quite a3 good as that purchased by the British-Australasian Tobacco Company last year at higher prices than it is now offering for the leaf this year. It is regrettable that the so-called confidential document referred to by the Assistant Minister is not available to honorable members because, so we are informed, it has not yet been considered by the Government. Evidently, those portions of it quoted by the Minister are not confidential. Earlier in the year, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) gave figures showing that good useable tobacco was being sold in large quantities in all the capital cities and even in Canberra. If the manufacturers had not been permitted to import so heavily from tho United States of America, where the leaf is produced under cheap black-labour conditions, there is reason to believe that they would have purchased the whole of the Australian crop. Despite statements to the contrary, I believe that the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company is largely interested in the American tobacco industry. Were it not, it would not now be re- jecting Australian leaf, quite equal in quality to that which it purchased last year. In evidence given before the select committee which inquired into the industry a year or two ago, Mr. Muller, a prominent grower at Wangaratta, stated that, although for four or five years he had been able to sell his crop to the Australian combine at high prices, it refused to buy any more from him simply because he had expressed- the view that he was not getting a fair deal from it.
What the Government has done in connexion with the tobacco industry, it will do in respect of other industries. Within the last few days there have been reports to the effect that certain action may be taken in connexion with the duty on glass, a subject that was discussed at length in this chamber a month or two ago. At one stage it was stated that, owing to foreign competition, the Australian Window Glass Company would be forced to close its works in Sydney. In consequence of that report, It in common with other honorable members, received the following copy of a letter sent to the Australian Window Glass Company by the manager of the Johnstone River Saw Mills, Innisfail: -
I notice in the press that you are closing your works, occasioned by tlie Federal Government’s new tariff schedule. I am much troubled to notice this as your company have given me every satisfaction in the past, and I have so planned things” as to rely on your company for my glass stocks.
Your glass has been exceptionally well packed, the quality far excels Belgian or French make, the cutting quality is first rate and your price lower than I previously landed European stocks. Knowing that your company must secure all orders of glass for Australian supply, I cannot understand the action of the Federal Government in interfering with the present protection.
That is an indication of what the Government is doing in respect of nearly all the protective duties imposed by the Scullin Administration.
Question - That the item be reduced by 10s. (Mr. Riordan’ s first amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
First item agreed to.
General debate concluded.
Tobacco Inquiry Committee’s report.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr.RIORD AN (Kennedy) [1.46 a.m.]. - During the debate just concluded, the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) made a quotation from the report of a committee that has recently inquired into the tobacco industry. I now ask that it be placed on the table of the House, because, as the Minister has used it as a public document, it should be made available to honorable members. Moreover, the tobacco-growers throughout Australia are anxious to know the contents of this report, and to be informed as to the policy of the Government regarding the industry. When the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) was asked when he intended to table the report, he said that the Cabinet had not had time to consider it. He also said that when the Government had dealt with the matter, it was questionable whether the report would be made available to the House. The Assistant Minister for Defence quoted a portion of the report that suited his argument, but in fairness to honorable members, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) should make the whole of the report available.
Mr.SCULLIN (Yarra)[1.48 a.m.].- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). The action of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) in quoting from a document, declaring it to be confidential, and refusing other honorable members an opportunity to see it is unprecedented.I desire the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to say whether he regards this reportas confidential, because. such a report should not be made public at any time. The report which has been declared by the Assistant Minister to be confidential has been made by a committee that has been taking evidence, at public expense, regarding the important industry of tobaccogrowing. If such an inquiry is to be regarded as confidential, this Parliament should havesmoothing to say before expense is incurred on a similar inquiry in the future. If, on the other hand, the inquiry is not of a confidential nature, the report should be made available to honorable members immediately, and the Minister should not have’ declared it to be confidential.Under the Standing Orders, a Minister who quotes from a document must make it available at once, unless he states that it is confidential. In this instance,the Minister, after quoting from the report, mentioned that it was confidential’, and withheld it; but honorable members do not know to what extent the quotation represented the full report of the committee. The only way in which to make amends for’ this unprecedented action is for the Prime Minister to make the report available to honorable members immediately.
– Honorable members generally are placed in a most unfair position in regard to this matter. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) endeavoured to obtain information as to the nature of the report before he prepared his case which had as its object the assistance of the tobacco-growers. The Minister for
Trade and Customs (Mr. White)declined to throw any light upon the matter, and stated that it was unlikely that the report would bo made available to the House. We are not in a position to know to what extent the portion of the report read by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) represented the findings of the committee, and I expect the Government to make the report available without further delay, so that honorable members may deal with the Assistant Minister’s statement, and, possibly, focus further public attention on this important matter.
– I regret that I cannot accede to the request that the document be made available immediately. For the time being, the report is confidential, and, if the Government so desires, it may continue to regard the document as such. It is under no obligation to give the report to the House.
– Why did the Assistant Minister quote certain passages and not others ?
-I do not intend to discuss that aspect of the matter, except, to say that statements were made which called for authoritative refutation.
– How do we know that the refutation is authoritative?
– Honorable members will know eventually, when the report, is tabled, that its contents have not been misquoted. I should prefer to be able to accede to the wishes of honorable members; but, until Cabinet has had an opportunity fully to consider all the contents of the report, it does not intend to make it available to the House. However, I give the assurance that Cabinet will release the report as soon as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bouse adjourned at 1.53 a.m. (Friday).
The following answer to a question was circulated:-
Commonwealth Offices in Brisbane.
With reference to the question asked by the honorable member for Brisbane regarding the erection of Commonwealth offices in Brisbane, to which the Minister replied that a letter has been received from Brisbane offering the Government acertain building at a price considerably lower than the estimated cost of the new building, and that consideration was being given to the question whether it would be advisable to purchase this building or proceed with the erection of a new one -
Is he in a position to give the House full particulars in regard to the building- offered to the Government?
In order to put an end to the doubts in the minds of the people of Brisbane, willhe state definitely whether the Government intends to proceed with the erection of the new building on the land adjoining Anzac-square, Adelaidestreet, Brisbane?
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 November 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19331109_reps_13_142/>.