13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon,G. H.Mackay) took the chair at 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for
Commerce if the Government proposes to make provision before the Christmas adjournment for the assistance of the poultry and allied industries?
– Certain sectionsof the poultry industry have requested an export bounty on eggs, but there are circumstances connected with the industry, as well as with the request, which require elucidation. The Government of New South Wales is at present conducting an inquiry into every aspect of the matter.
– Has the Prime Minister any information that may be conveyed to the House in regard to the conversion of Australian loans in the United States of America?
– I have no information that I can give to the House at the moment.
– Has the Assistant Treasurer read an article that appeared in this morning’s newspapers in advocacy of the flotation of a sterling loan in London for the redemption of Australian bonds held in the United States of America, thus effecting a saving of approximately £600,000 per annum? Is anything being done to achieve that happy result?
– I have stated in replyto several previous questions that this matter is being watched by the Government. The present is not considered an opportune time to take any action.
Commuting of Death Sentence
– In view of the growing feeling in the Northern Territory that clemency should be extended to the young man, Moray Baker, who was recently sentenced to death for the shooting of another man named Bruche, will consideration be given by the Executive Council to the desirability of commuting this sentence to one of imprisonment?
– The necessary particulars are being obtained, and the matter will receive the consideration of the Executive Council as early as possible.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs noticed in to-day’s press the announcement that the Australia and New Zealand trade agreement has now been ratified in New Zealand, and canhe inform the House when it will become operative?
Mr.WHITE. - New Zealand has been notified by cable that the agreement has been passed by this Parliament. It is expected that an early date will be fixed for the issue of an Order-in-Council in New Zealand, and a proclamation in Australia.
– Will the Assistant Treasurer state whether the usual commission of 10s. per cent, was paid to private banking institutions which received applications in connexion with the recent loan of £10,000,000 ? If it was, can the honorable gentleman state the approximate amount thus paid?
– The answer tothe first part of the question is in the affirmative. As to the second part of the question, the information is not available.
– Has the Government received a report, interim or otherwise, from the Royal Commission on Taxation? If so, when will it be tabled?
– The first report, covering a portion of the taxation field, has been received, and will be tabled before the Christmas adjournment of Parliament.
– Is the Minister for the Interior yet in a position to announce the personnel of the commission that is to be appointed to effect a redistribution of electoral boundaries?
– Cabinet is ready to announce the names of the commissioners, but the consent of some State Governments has first to be obtained to the appointment of their officers.
– The poundage charged on the transmission of such small sums as 5s. to England is as high as 2s. As those are mostly sent by persons of limited means to relatives in the Home Land during the Christmas season, will the Postmaster-General ask Cabinet to consent to a considerable reduction of the charge on amounts up to £1, for the benefit of poor people?
– As the payment of exchange is involved, I do not think it likely that the Government can agree to the proposal of the honorable member; but I shall place it before Cabinet.
Tariff Board’s Report
– I understand that the Government has received the report of the Tariff Board on Oregon. Has the Minister for Trade and Customs considered it? If he has, when will it be tabled? Will the matter be dealt with before the Christmas adjournment?
– The Government has not yet had time to consider this report.
– Has the report of the Tariff Board on Oregon been considered by the Government, and will honorable members have an opportunity of dealing with it before the House adjourns for the Christmas vacation?
– It is quite impossible to say at the present moment when the report will be dealt with.
Common wealth Housing Loan - Cemetery.
– With reference to the recently announced reduction of the interest rate charged by the Commonwealth Bank to governmental and semigovernmental bodies, is the Minister for the Interior yet in a position to say whether, after consultation with the Treasury officials, it is the intention of the Government to reduce the interest rate on housing loans in the Federal Capital Territory ?
– The consultation that I promised on this matter has not yet taken place.
-What is preventing the opening for general use of the cemetery in the Federal Capital Territory, and when will it be made available?
– I am not in a position to make a statement on that matter.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral been able to arrange at the post office at North Melbourne accommodation for the old-age pensioners who are paid there, and if the North Melbourne Town Hall cannot be used for seating and lavatory accommodation, will arrangements be made for the Mechanics’ Institute to be used as formerly?
– Some little time ago, the honorable member asked a similar question. At that time, inquiries were made, and an officer was sent to inspect the accommodation on the day of payment, but as it was a comparatively slack day it was felt that the examination was not adequate. A further investigation and examination of the position is being made this week.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs indicate when the report of the Tariff Board on the cotton industry will be available, and whether honorable members will have an opportunity to see it before the session closes?
– It is expected that the report will be received within the next few days. What action will be taken when it is received, I cannot say.
– In view of the fact that five months have elapsed since the close of the financial year, is the PostmasterGeneral yet in a position to indicate when the annual report of his department will be made available to honorable members?
– The delay in regard to the report of the Postmaster-General’s Department on this occasion is no greaterthan it has been on any previous occasion.
– That is no reason why the report should not be expedited.
– Returns have to be received from all the outlying post offices before the annual report, can be completed. The preparation of the report is being expedited, and it will be made available at the earliest possible moment.
Dismissal of Employee
– The recent dismissal of Mr. Northwood, an employee of the Parliamentary Department, was referred to in the Senate yesterday, and in view of the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act I wish to know why you, Mr. Speaker, and the President of the Senate decided to dismiss this employee. According to the act, a dismissal has to be made by the head of the department, and if the employee concerned appeals, the appeal has to be made to a board, whose decision is binding. I should like to know why you, sir, and the President of the Senate decided to dismiss this employee before any decision was come to by an appeal board?
– The facts are not exactly as the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) has related them. Some months ago, three officers were seconded from the Parliamentary Refreshment Room for employment in the Department of the Interior. The officer referred to was accused of using obscene language, and other charges were laid against him. An inquiry was held by the department, and the officer was returned to the Parliamentary Department. The Secretary of the Joint House Department then gave the employee notice of suspension, and informed him that he had the right of appeal to a board. Due notice was served, and an appeal board met and decided that the punishment was excessive. The officer has now been restored to his position.
– The reply given elsewhere, so I have been informed, was that complaints had been received about this officer, and that the Speaker and the President of the Senate had therefore decided to dismiss him. As I understand the act, the procedure is for the chief officer of the department to come to a decision, and, if he thinks fit, suspend the officer concerned, who may at once appeal to a board? I wish to know how you, sir, and the President of the Senate were able to sit in summary jurisdiction upon an employee of the parliamentary service instead of giving effect to the decision of the Appeal Board?
– My reply to the honorable member is that the requirements of the Public Service Act have, in this case, been complied with.
Formal Motion for Adjournment
– I have received from the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the necessity for an alteration of the present electoral system to secure more equitable federal representation.”
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The mo3t important subject that could occupy the attention of honorable members is the equitable representation in this Parliament of the people of the Commonwealth. This is always a matter of special difficulty under a federal system, because so many different and conflicting interests need to be considered ; but every honorable member will admit that every section of the people, and every State of the Commonwealth, is entitled to full representation. In fact, the Constitution expressly provides- that representation in this House must be proportionate to the number of people in the various States. That the present elec- tor al system and the existing electoral law do not provide for equitable representation is shown clearly by the redistribution of seats that is contemplated as the result of the recent census. An urgent need exists for an amendment of the Electoral Act before the redistribution occurs. During the 30 years that have passed since the consummation of federation, there has been no increase in the number of members of the ‘Senate, so that the average number of people in the electorates of the House of Representatives has gradually grown from 53,000 in 1901 to 92,000 under, the recent census returns. The average in 1911 was 61,000, and in 1921, 75,000. Not merely has the average number of electors in each electoral division increased greatly in consequence of the growth of population, but a marked and consistent tendency has developed towards an increase of the area and size of the country electorates, owing to the fact that the people are concentrating more and more in the capital cities. The electorate of Kalgoorlie, for instance, has grown to an area of more than 900,000 square miles, and the electorate of Maranoa to an area three times that of Victoria. It is probable that, if the redistribution at present contemplated is carried out under existing conditions, an additional area equal to about half the size of Victoria will be added to the Maranoa electorate. It is bad enough that country electorates should have increased so greatly in size, owing to our faulty and inequitable system, but it is worse that inequality as between the States should have become accentuated. South Australia in 1901 had a population of 359,000, and at that time was entitled to seven representatives in this House. To-day its population is 580,000, but its representation in this House is to be reduced to six members. On the present electoral enrolment, there are. in South Australia 341,305 voters, who are to- be represented by six members in this House, while Western Australia and Tasmania, with 353,000 voters, are entitled to ten representatives. Although the voting strength of the two last-mentioned States is only about equal to that of South Australia, this State is to lose one member. That South Australia i3 being treated inequitably is shown by the fact that the average number of electors in its divisions is 56,884, or 4.000 more than in New South Wales or Victoria, 5,000 more than in Queensland, 11,000 more than in Western Australia, and 32,000 more than, in Tasmania. In fact, the average for South Australian, electorates will be twice that for Tasmanian electorates. It is obvious that a system which produces such results is inequitable, and should be altered. I have, on two previous occasions, submitted to this House a definite scheme for the alteration of our electoral law with the object, pf removing inequalities and anomalies from it. On one occasion, I received the unanimoussupport of the members of the Labour party, and ou the other ‘the unanimous support of the Nationalist party, which has since become the United Australia Party. I therefore hope that the proposals which I have to make this afternoon will receive the unanimous support of honorable members of all parties. I desire to remove also other existing inequalities by an amendment of the electoral law, and I am sure that if my proposals be agreed to a good deal of the disparity at present evident will be eliminated, and approximate equality in the numbers in each electorate be attained. The proposals that I shall make would enable South Australia to retain seven members, and would increase the number of members in New South Wales by one. It would maintain at least the present number of members in this House, and certainly not allow for any increase beyond one.
-Does the Constitution permit of effect being given to the right honorable member’s proposal?
– Yes. On a previous occasion, when I dealt with this subject, I quoted extensively from an opinion given by Sir Harrison Moore, one of our greatest authorities on the Constitution. Sir Harrison Moore said that my proposal was perfectly within the ambit of the Constitution.
I direct the attention of honorable members to the constitutional provision on which the present electoral law is based. It is set out in section 24 of the Constitution which reads -
The House of Representatives shall he composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators. The number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people, and shall, until the Parliament otherwise provides, be determined, whenever necessary, in the following manner: -
A quota shall bc ascertained by dividing the number of the people of the Commonwealth, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by twice the number of the senators ;
The number of members to be chosen in each State shall bc determined by dividing the number of the people of the State, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by the quota; and if on such division there is a remainder greater than one-half of the quota, one more member shall bc chosen in the State.
But notwithstanding anything in this section, five members at least shall be chosen in each original State.
I shall deal with each of those paragraphs separately, but I emphasize the provision that the scheme of representation therein provided for shall continue in force “ until the Parliament otherwise provides “.
It is set out that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be as nearly as practicable twice the number of members of the Senate, and that a quota shall be ascertained by dividing the population of the Commonwealth by twice the number of senators. As a result of using this divisor, if there were no provision for a minimum number of members for Western Australia and Tasmania, there would be at different times in this House anything from 70 to 74 members. Sometimes it might be 72, and at other times 71, 73, or 74. On this occasion, the number will fall below 72. I have always maintained that, having regard to the sparseness of the population and the extensive area of Australia, it would be more equitable, and would ensure better representation of the people, if a quota were obtained by the method adopted in the various States that use the proportional system of voting, namely, dividing the population by the number of seats to be filled plus one. That would give a smaller quota, and would result in the remaining fraction being sufficiently high to return an additional member. It may be said that if that course were adopted, Western Australia and Tasmania, each of which is assured by the Constitution of a minimum of five members, had advanced so far as to be entitled to that representation by right of population, the number of members vary between 71 and 75. Seventy-two, the minimum number of members required by the Constitution would be obtained more frequently under my proposal than under the present system. There is no doubt as to the constitutionality of the method I suggest, because it has been fully discussed and approved by one of the greatest constitutional lawyers in the
Commonwealth. Let us consider what the position would be if “Western Australia and Tasmania each had five members by virtue of their population, and not by grace of the Constitution; Western Australia has actually risen to that position at the present time: on this occasion the Parliament would consist of only 71 members. Honorable members will realize the necessity for an alteration of the present system to enable a more lenient view to be taken of the representation of the States, particularly those States which have small populations, but three, of which are unfortunately very large in area. For that reason, I have continually advocated that the quota should be ascertained by dividing the population of the Commonwealth by 73 instead of 72. If this practice had been followed in the past, Victoria would have been able to retain for a longer period a greater number of members. At the outset of federation, Victoria had 23 members, and by 1921 it lost three, although its population had increased. I have dealt with this matter fully on previous occasions, and the arguments formerly advanced still hold good.
I now direct attention to the second provision in the Constitution prescribing the method for determining the number of members in each State. This provision reads -
The number of members to be chosen in «ach State shall be determined by dividing the number of the people of the State, us shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by the quota.; and if on such division there is a. remainder greater than one-half of the quota., one more member shall be chosen in. the State.
This paragraph, which provides for rough-and-ready justice, was placed in the Constitution because it was realized that by dividing by 72 or even 73 the full number of members allotted to each State in accordance with the quota -would not be returned ; there would always be a shortage due to the quota not dividing equally into the population of a State. But by using the fractional residue it would be possible to make up another three members. Unfortunately, a mathematical calculation shows that instead of three members being always returned under this system, a position might arise in which only one would be returned, or five might be returned instead of three or five instead of one. Obviously, there is some measure of elasticity in this formula; but the system operates harshly at present, particularly in regard to the less populous States, because the number of electors in. each electorate would be very much greater for six members than for seven. If South Australia, for instance, has seven members, the quota will be 48,000, but if six members, the quota will be 56,000, showing a difference of 8,000 in each electorate. But if the representation of New South Wales were reduced from 2S members to 27, the average number of electors in each division would be increased by only 1,S00. Therefore, it seems to me that steps should- be taken to prevent the harsh operation of this provision as in the case of South Australia, which will return one member for 57,000 electors, whereas Western Australia will return one member for 45,000 electors.
– No injustice is done to South Australia in comparison with New South Wales and Victoria.
– Yes, because the average number of voters in New South Wales divisions is 53,000. The official figures given to me by the Minister bear out my statement. Such a discrepancy is grossly unfair. The difficulty only arises when, after dividing the quota into the population of a State, *the remainder is greater than one-half the quota. That injustice could be less if the remainder required to give a State an additional member were more than one-fourth, or even one-third, of the quota instead of more than one-half, as under the present law. The only objection that could be raised is that in some instances a State might have one member more than under the present system. ‘
I also urge an amendment of the Electoral Act to prevent the further enlargement, by redistribution, of country electorates which have .already grown enormously in size. Owing to the absence of communications in the outlying districts, it is difficult to give some of the electors proper representation; it is much easier for a city elector to keep in touch with the member for his district than it is for an elector who resides hundreds or thousands of miles from the Seat of Government. We should incorporate in the electoral law a practice which is already observed, and is provided for in the laws of Victoria and New South Wales. There should be a definite quota for each electorate, and it should be lower for rural electorates than for metropolitan electorates. In New South Wales it is 12,000 in the country and 18,000 in the metropolitan areas, and in Victoria, 11,000 in the country, 16,500 in the larger provincial towns, and 22,000 in the cities.
– How does it work out in regard to the number of mein hers?
– In the proportion of about six country members to four city members.
– In Victoria the numbers are 39 and 26. * Leave to continue given.’]*
– A combination of the throe methods I have suggested, namely, an increase in the divisor which determines the quota, an alteration of the fractional margin which decides whether or not a member shall be lost to a State, and an amendment of the law to give a definite direction to -the Commissioners when they are redistributing the divisional electoral boundaries in the States to apply a smaller quota to country electorates than to city electorates would make the representation of Australia very much more equitable than it is at present.
– Do the people of the States take any interest in this question?
– They take a great deal of interest in it because it applies with most force to States such as South Australia, which have a huge area and are entitled to relatively a meagre representation.
– But we do not give votes to space.
– No, but the interests represented are very great and vital, although they are not concentrated in a small space. In a federation such as ours, in order to ensure a true reflex of the will of the people, some scheme along the lines I have suggested should be adopted. I urge the Government to amend the law before another redistribution of seats takes pi sice.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) discussed in 1922 some of the matters that he has brought forward to-day. At that time the situation was slightly different, Victoria being the State which was to lose one of its representatives. A big discussion ensued and the proposal then put forward by the right, honorable member met with a good deal of favour, but. because the divisional electoral boundaries in the States had already been redistributed, the time for making the change which he advocated was not deemed opportune. Should any such change be regarded by the House as necessary, the present is an opportune time for effecting it, because we are on the eve of appointing electoral commissioners again to undertake a redistribution of the State divisional electoral boundaries. I may mention, however, that the Chief Electoral Officer reported rather adversely on the scheme put forward by the right honorable member for Cowper in 1922. The right honorable member previously advocated that, in. determining the quota, instead of dividing the number of electors in a State by twice the number of members of the Senate, the number of electors should be divided by twice the number of the members of the Senate, plus one. That is where his scheme did not commend itself to the view of the Chief Electoral Officer, who held that it - would be wrong to divide the number of ple.ct.orB by twice the number of members of the Senate, plus one, because that would be a departure from the present system, and only an initial step of proportional representation. There was a difference, therefore, between the system which the right honorable member then advocated and the system of proportional representation. I’ have had some figures worked out by the Electoral Department, and these disclose that if the system he then sponsored were adopted, South Australia would not be entitled to an additional representative.
An Honorable Member. - But under his second suggestion it would.
– Yes. But, if his original suggestion had been adopted at the time it was put forward, South Aus- tralia’s representation in this chamber would have been reduced to six,- whilst New South Wales would have gained a member. It might be wise, perhaps, to have smaller country electorates, notwithstanding that the tendency to-day is to increase their voting strength. Although the quota for New South W ales, with its present population, is fixed at 53,386, the electoral commissioners have always exhibited a sympathetic consideration for country constituencies, and the act permits a margin of 20 per cent, above or below the quota. Where country electorates are concerned, the commissioners make the quota smaller. The Government does not desire to oppose the scheme outlined by the right honorable member, to which obviously it has not yet devoted sufficient consideration. Personally, I have not had more than half an hour to look into it.
Section. 24 of our Constitution provides the method of determining the number of members in this House to which the several States are entitled, and this method continued to operate until Parliament saw fit to alter it. Other provision, was made by the Representation Act 1905, which did not, however, materially alter the original method. Subject to the limitation that the number of members of the House of Representatives must be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of senators, and that each original State shall have at least Eve members, there is no constitutional objection to any alteration of the method of determining the number of members to which any State may be entitled.
The second proposal put. forward by the right honorable member might possibly meet the position as it exists to-day; but we do not know whether it would meet the changed conditions which are inevitable in the future. I recently asked the Chief Electoral Officer what was likely to be the result of the latest census in regard to State representation in - this House. At first it looked as if the total representation of the States would be reduced to ‘72 members, in which case New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia would each have lost a representative. But, when the actual figures were available, and those persons who were not entitled to vote were considered, it was found that, whilst South Australia will lose a member, the other States will not be affected. Personally, I cannot see that we should benefit by the change which has been suggested by the righthonorable . member for Cowper. The method of determining the quota which he put forward in 1922 did, at first sight, make it appear that its adoption would, have avoided the loss of a member by Victoria, and that, as the opportunity presented itself, it would possibly have prevented a loss in their representation -befalling other States. According to the right honorable member for Cowper it would appear that we have been working on a wrong basis and have departed from what was intended by the framers of the Constitution, which provides that the number of members of this House shall be as nearly as practicable twice the number of the senators.
– They deliberately provided for additional representation over and above the 72 members.
– That was duc to the provision of a minimum number to the small States.
– The Constitution provides that the number of members of this chamber shall be as nearly as practicable twice the number of senators, but that was departed from by increasing the membership to 75 to meet the circumstances of Tasmania. It is to be regretted that, under the present redistribu tion, South Australia, which already has a number of large electorates, is about to lose a member. When subsequent redistributions are made, it may be the turn of setae other State, in which the population has not proportionately increased, to lose a representative. Whatever alterations may be rna.de will remove the hardship only for the time being. Every populous State, with the exception of New South Wales, has at some time lost a member. Some States have had their representation decreased on several occasions. Under the system advocated by the right honorable member for Cowper, New South Wales would gain a seat. The points brought forward this afternoon will be carefully considered by the electoral officers, whose report will receive the careful consideration of the Government.
.- I regret that a subject of such importance should have been brought before the House without notice, and without affording honorable members an opportunity carefully to -study it in relation to the figures disclosed by the last census. The whole matter should, I submit, be referred to a small committee of representatives of all parties in the House for investigation and report. Such a committee would, of course, need to keep in mind the preservation of certain principles, including that of one vote one value subject to the margin of “ one-fifth more or one-fifth less “ provided for in the Electoral Act. I repeat what I said on a previous occasion, that those responsible for the redistribution should, if they lean at all, lean towards country electorates because of their extent. But whatever is done, we should not violate any fundamental principle, and particularly that of one vote one value,, subject to the 20 per cent, variation. When this subject was before the Hoise in 1922 I supported the proposal of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). By the redistribution then proposed Victoria was affected. The system that now obtains resulted in practically disfranchising 60,000 electors in that State. There is not the slightest doubt that the formula then suggested by the right honorable gentleman would have been equitable, and would not have violated the principle of one vote one value. The Minister has rightly said that whilst the proposed alteration might operate equitably in the impending redistribution, it would have to be reviewed from time to time. We should adopt a system which operates equitably as between States and as between electorates. If we can devise a formula that would do more justice than the present one, we should adopt it. At this stage I cannot accept the responsibility of saying that I shall support the proposal of the right honorable member for Cowper; I have not had sufficient time to study it. But, as the Minister has said, this is an opportune time to make a change if a change is to be made, and, therefore, the matter should be referred at once to a representative com mittee of members of this House. I do not think that the House would depart from the principles already laid down, but the committee could work out their application on a fair basis. The report of the committee would be a guide to the electoral officers, and if its recommendations were approved by the House, they could be embodied in legislation.
.- We are indebted to the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) for having brought this important subject under the notice of the House, and I am sure that his action will be appreciated, especially by the people of South Australia. I also appreciate the spirit in which the Minister (Mr. Perkins) has discussed it, and I am glad to know that the suggestions made will receive consideration. I also welcome the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition for the appointment of a committee to examine this very technical matter. I am supporting the proposals of the right honorable member for Cowper, and the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition, not simply because their adoption would benefit South Australia. I hope that neither the House nor a committee, if one is appointed, will consider the subject on other than the general principles which should be applied to all States. One objection to the present system could be removed by the adoption of the second proposal of the right honorable member for Cowper, which I understand will be more fully explained by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). It is most unfortunate that at this juncture when there is talk of secession in at least one State, because of the unfair manner in which the less populous States are being treated, there should be a prospect of one of these States losing a representative in this Parliament. It is occasioning a great deal of what is possibly unjustifiable indignation. That indignation will be greater when the people realize that the average electorate in South Australia will not only be larger in area than those in any other State, except Western Australia, but will also be larger in population than the electorates in any other State. The quota for an electorate in South
Australia will be -from 4,000 to 5,000 electors more than in New South Wales or Victoria. In those circumstances, the people of South Australia will, I think, have an additional sense of grievance. > There appear to be sound reasons for investigating the principle submitted by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), which, I understand, will be further expounded by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Pater- - son). The fact of the quota working in this way will mean that when in a State with a small population the remainder is less than .5 of the quota, the number of electors will be divided among fewer electorates - six in South Australia - and this will increase the average number of electors in each division out of all proportion to the increase which would take place in New South Wales with its 2S electorates. In South Australia, .5 of a quota is a little under a population of 50,000. If that population is spread over six electorates, as would be the case in South Australia - I speak of population, not of electors - it affects their numerical strength more than if spread over 28 electorates, as in New South Wales. I, therefore, hope that the Government will agree to appoint a committee to examine the proposal, not as a compassionate measure in favour of South Australia, but in order to arrive at an equitable basis and to make a recommendation which will be in conformity with the Constitution and which Parliament may accept for the amendment of the Electoral Act.
The drift to the cities is making it more difficult for country residents to obtain the same representation as is given to the dwellers in the cities. When I visit the federal members’ rooms,. Sydney, I noticethat a number of New South Wales representatives’ are interviewed by constituents who have to take only a short tram ride for the purpose; whereas if an elector in some parts of my electorate wished to have a personal interview with me, he would probably have to drive up to 200 miles, o.r, if he wished to speak to me on the telephone, the conversation would cost him 2s. 6d., or even more, for three minutes. In order to give even representation, and not merely to ensure greater balance, the fullest advantage should be taken of the latitude allowed by the Constitution to vary the quotas.’ It appears probable that one of the States which has a comparatively small population. but is large in area, will have its electorates so redistributed under the existing act that the chances of country electors keeping in touch with their representatives will be greatly reduced. For the two reasons that I have mentioned, I support the request of the right honorable member for Cowper, and also the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), which I regard as fair.
– The Government is of the opinion that this important question is worthy of fuller consideration than can be given to it today, and, therefore, it is prepared to accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin).
– Does that mean the appointment of a committee of members of this House?
– The committee should not be composed of politicians.
– The Government is prepared to confer with all parties with a view to setting up a small committee which would meet immediately, in consultation with the officers of the Electoral Department, and report to the House later. Even if we discuss this subject for an hour or more, we shall not find a solution of the difficulties which have been mentioned.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that a matter of such importance ought not to have been sprung on the House, but that notice of it should have been given to honorable members.
– The honorable member’s leader was told about it last night, and was supplied with figures.
– The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) complains that the present method of determining quotas both for States and for electorates in States, does not give equitable representation. He claims that the existing method could be improved by altering the number by which the population would be divided in order to determine the representation of the States; but even if we agree to the first two points, I do not think that that equity which the right honorable gentleman thinks would result from his experiment would last long. With a shifting population, and an unequal growth of population in the various States, and in the electorates themselves, a permanently equitable distribution is almost impossible, even if the right honorable gentleman’s method of calculating the sizes of electorates is adopted. Equality of distribution would last only until one State lost,- and other States gained population, or the growth of population in one State outstripped that of another. The nigger in the woodpile is revealed by the right honorable gentleman’s complaint of the size of country electorates and his suggestion that their size should be fixed.
– The Leader of the Country party did not say that; he said that there should be a given margin.
– Which amounts to the same thing.
– No electorate should be three times the size of Victoria.
– Apparently, the right honorable gentleman desires that electorates shall be gerrymandered, as was done in New South Wales, when 12,000 country electors were given the same representation as 1S.000 electors in the metropolitan districts. The Labour parry in New South Wales will not stand for that.
– The Lang Government was proficient at that kind of thing.
– It was the Bavin Government which brought that scheme into operation in New South Wales, and it was the first government to suffer because of it. The Bavin Government was responsible for giving to- 12,000 country electors a voting strength equal to that of 18.000 electors in the city. The existing method gives sufficient latitude to the electoral commissioners to deal with’ points such as those referred to by the leader of the Country party. There is a certain amount of elasticity in the system which enables them to go 20 per cent, under or over the quota to obviate the undue distortion of electoral boundaries. My party stands for the principle of one person one vote, and one vote one value, irrespective of whether the electorate is in the country or city, for that is the only way to obtain a true indication of the desires of electors. I do not think that the first and second sections .of the proposal submitted by the leader of the Country party would alter the size of country electorates, because under any system of calculating the quota of the Stages there would be difficulties similar to those which now exist. It is unfortunate for representatives of country constituencies that, their electorates comprise such large areas, but that cannot be overcome by any system unless there were a deliberate attempt at gerrymandering, which this House should not countenance. While the present system might operate to the disadvantage of one State any alteration might operate just as much to the disadvantage of another.
Members of the party to which I belong support the proposal to appoint a committee representative of all parties to investigate and report upon this matter, so that honorable members may be enabled to form a considered opinion on it. I take it that the Minister spoke with authority when he said that the Government is sympathetic towards the idea of appointing a committee to explore the whole subject. I can safely say, on behalf of the Labour movement in New South Wales, that it will have nothing to do with any proposals to gerrymander electorates in the manner that would occur if the proposal of the leader of the Country party were adopted, for it would destroy the principle of one adult, one vote - one vote, one value.
Sir LITTLETON GROOM (Darling Downs) [6.13 J . - I quite agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that the method of submitting important problems for discussion on a motion for the adjournment of the House does not permit honorable members to give them that deliberation which is necessary if a studied opinion is to be arrived at. We should consider an amendment of the Standing Orders to provide that notice shall be given of the intention of an honorable member to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a specific subject that could be dealt with better by. an ordinary motion. I had no idea that this matter was to be discussed until I heard you, sir, read the letter of the leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page). I know from my experience as a Minister that, some years ago all parties gave this subject the most anxious thought and consideration, and debated it at length. In the ten minutes at my disposal this evening I do not propose to attempt to recapitulate the arguments advanced by me on previous occasions.
This problem involves two important issues which ought to be considered ; first, how should representation in this House be apportioned among the States; and, secondly, upon what quota should electoral divisions within a State be fixed? The first is governed by the constitutional provision and the other by the provisions of the Electoral Act, which are two distinct matters. The problem cannot be solved so easily as the Leader of the Opposition suggested on a previous occasion, viz., by adding to the number fixed in section 24 of the Constitution another number, and then using the sum as a divisor.
– I agree that a committee should be appointed to go into these matters because questions affecting the provisions of the Constitution, and which affect the rights of the States, should not be considered from a party point ofview. Section 24 of the Constitution states -
The House of Representatives shall he composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators.
We cannot escape from that. Any scheme designed to give extra representation to the States, or to a State, must conform to that requirement. Quick and Garran, discussing this section state -
These words are not intended to allow the Parliament a discretionary latitude in fixing tha number of the members of the House of Representatives, but to provide for the slight variation that may be caused by the provision for the minimum representation of a State, and also by the provision for representing fractions of a quota. According to the mode provided in this section for determining the number of members, the “quota” or representation is to be ascertained by pure arithmetic.
A little further on the following passage occurs : -
These words empower the Parliament to alter the provisions of sub-sections (1) and (ii) which deal with the manner of determining the number of members chosen in the several States. This power of alteration is, however, confined within very narrow limits by the permanent and absolute provisions of the section’. The rules which are determined absolutely by the section, and which Parliament has no power to alter, are -
That the whole number of members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators.
That the number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people:
That five members at least shall be chosen in each original State.
The provisions for ascertaining the quota, and for dealing with questions of fractions, may only be altered subject to those absolute rules; so that the power of the Parliament to alter the basis of apportionment is very small.
The honorable member who put forward a previous proposal simply made an arbitrary addition of one to the prescribed divisor, 72, and used the new divisor to get the result he wished. It is necessary for him to prove that he will thus more nearly arrive at the correct quota than by means of the original formula. He said that his suggestion was in accordance with the principles of proportional representation, but proportional representation goes very much further than that. The committee will have to examine the problem very carefully in order to see that the intention of the framers of’ the Constitution is carried out. The last time this issue was raised was when Victoria was in danger of losing a member. This time it is the misfortune of South Australia to be in that position. Under the impartial working of the constitutional rule any one of the States may, at some time or other, be in a similar position, but that does not justify us in doing something which will not give effect to a fundamental principle of the Constitution, and give greater representation to a particular State than the Constitution contemplated. I am not condemning the honorable member’s present proposals; at this stage, I do not say whether it is right or wrong, but I am endeavouring to explain the provisions of the Constitution. When this issue was raised in 1922, a proposal to vary the law was defeated by 25 votes to 24, and we have heard nothing more of the matter until now. The only legislation under the electoral provisions of the Constitution was made in 1905, when it became necessary, because of the rivalry between Victoria and New South Wales, to deter- mine a fair basis of representation. To settle the dispute, the Representation Act was passed, and the system there laid down has operated with complete fairness up to the present time. The Chief Commonwealth . Electoral Officer investigated the matter very thoroughly, and his report is still available. He was a completely independent investigator, and a thoroughly competent man who was trusted by all parties in Parliament.
A problem similar to this arose at one time in the United States of America, and Mr. Webster, in his report to Congress, stressed the absolute justice of the fractional basis, and said that, by using the fractional basis, and giving an extra member, they were getting as near as practicable to the fixed number.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) stressed the words “ as near as practicable,” which appear in section 24 of the Constitution. It is stipulated that the number of members shall be as nearly as practicable twice the number of Senators, and this is subject to the provision that none of the original States shall return less than five members. According to the formula proposed by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), we arrive at the required number with absolute exactitude. If we use the divisor 73, we get just 72 members, whereas, by employing the divisor 72, we get in this case only 71 members. I admit that such a result would not always obtain, and that, in most eases, dividing by 72 would provide 72 electorates, although the number of members might vary from 70 to 74 according to whether the residue in each State lay mainly above or below .5
But I particularly wish to address myself to the points raised by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) with respect to smaller States, such as South Australia, which is threatened with a loss of a seat, and Western Australia, which may, before long, find itself in a similar position in that it may have exceptionally large electoral quotas. At the present time we have in this
House 75 members representing six States. There are, however, only 72 electoral quotas, and there would he only 72 members were it not for a special provision in the Constitution granting to Tasmania three extra seats.
It is interesting to note, in passing, that if Tasmania suddenly doubled its population the membership of this House would immediately drop from 75 to 72. Tasmania would retain its existing representation of five members, but the mainland States, instead of having 70 members, would have only 67. It has been mentioned that the quota is found by dividing the population of the Commonwealth by 72, and then dividing the States’ populations with the result. But the States’ populations do not always divide exactly ; that is to say, they do not divide into exact quotas. Certain fractions are left over. If in any State the fraction happens to be more than onehalf, an additional member is given to that State; but if the fraction is less than one-half, it is disregarded. The law of averages ensures that, in most cases, the six fractions of the six States will be so distributed that no loss of membership occurs. But that law does not always apply. In the present case, following the publication of the census figures, there will be a loss of one member, and there will be 71 members instead of 72. If all the fractions could be added together, they would make up three quotas, but the law does not provide for that, and as four of the fractions are under .5, and only two over .5, one quota fails to materialize. This arrangement is particularly hard on South Australia, because in a State which has only six members, the distribution of surplus voters over so few seats raises the average electoral quota to a very much greater extent than in New South Wales, with 28 members, or Victoria, with 20 members. Under the special provision in the Constitution to which I have referred, Tasmania’s quota is less than 25,000. Western Australia has now reached a stage when it is entitled to five members by virtue of its population alone, but that State has an average quota of only 45,000. In New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, the quotas are 53,000, 53,000 and 51,000 respectively, whereas the quota for South Australia is nearly 57,000. Thus, while the Constitution deals kindly with the smaller States, by providing that in no case shall they have fewer than five members, immediately one of those States emerges from the kindergarten stage, so to speak, and, on its population figures, is entitled to six members, its quota will, iu a majority of cases, be larger’ than that for any other State. A surplus of electors amounting to nearly half a quota would not matter so much in the case of New South “Wales, because, divided into 28 seats, it would alter to only a slight extent the number of voters for each electoral division; but in South Australia, it matters a great deal, because when a residue of almost one-half a quota is spread over six divisions, it increases very greatly the number of voters in each.
I do not think that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) thoroughly understood the intention of the proposal that was put forward on behalf of the Country party. The right honorable member for Cowper did not suggest, as I think the Minister thought he suggested, that in future all States should be given an additional member when their populations exceeded the quota by more than .25. The proposal is that States with less than ten members in the House of Representatives should have an additional member as soon as they obtain over one-quarter of an additional quota. There is, I contend, justice in the proposal. While in ordinary circumstances I would agree with the contention of the Minister that .5 is the natural point at which the addition should be made to the representation of a State, there are special reasons why a departure from the usual practice might be made. I remind the House of the words of the last speaker, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) that in any alteration of the electoral quotas, we should aim at what is just and fair. Is it just and fair that States with only six members must almost invariably have a larger average quota than States represented by 20 and 28 members respectively? This anomaly would be rectified by the proposed amendment, which it is well within the constitutional power of this Parliament to make, because it would permit States having less than ten members to have an extra member for a fractional increase of population over one-quarter of the quota.
In the case of South Australia, the quota would then be 48,000 instead of 57,000 as at present. It would smooth out a great deal of the increase which appeal’s as between the quotas for those States which are constitutionally entitled to five members, and States which have become entitled to six. The proposal is well worth the consideration of this House as a permanent improvement of our Electoral Act, and one which, would prevent Western Australia later on from having with, say, 5.4 quotas, the largestaverage electoral quota in the Commonwealth.
I also suggest that the commission, in fixing the boundaries of divisions, should make as generous use as possible of the existing provisions in the Electoral Act to permit variations being made within a limit of 20 per cent, above or below the quota. No more than justice would be done to rural districts if, in the new distribution of electorates, allowance were made for a difference of 15 per cent, up and down in order to give smaller electoral quota3 to country districts. If the only effect of proportionately greater representation were to arrest the tremendous drift of population to the cities, it would be well worth while. With our swollen capital cities, our States seem to be afflicted with fatty degeneration of the heart. I welcome the Government’s proposal to appoint the committee. I am grateful to the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) for having made the suggestion, and to the Government for having accepted it-
– The outstanding fact in this matter is that the figures compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician show that, while South Australia is to lose a member, the population of no other State has increased sufficiently to entitle it to an extra member. As has been already stated, on no previous occasion has such a position existed. Therefore, I can see no reason why the Electoral Act should not be so amended as to permit of South Australia’s representation remaining as at present. With an average divisional quota of 57,000 electors, the percentage ill South Australia would be the highest in the Commonwealth.
By interjection, I protested against the proposal to appoint a committee of members of this House. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) suggested that each party should be represented on the committee. The less members of Parliament have to do with the fixing of a quota, or the system of election, the bettor. I know that honorable members will say that the committee would merely present a report, which it would be in the discretion of this House to either acceptor reject; but even so, I consider that the work should be entrusted to properly qualified men outside of this Parliament.
– The honorable member is under a misapprehension. It is proposed that the committee shall suggest amendments of the act.
– ff the Government considers that the representations which have been made in this debate justify an amendment of the act for the alteration of the quota, that should be sufficient. Under section 24 of the Constitution, it is competent for this House to alter the quota, and if that were done in the present circumstances no State would suffer an injustice. In the life of the federation, every redistribution has been carried out by an independent committee, and that practice should be continued. In Victoria, eleven members are allotted to what may be termed’ city areas, and nine to country areas. If the scheme suggested were adopted, the eleven city members would, represent 584,695 electors, an average of 52,000 to each electorate, while the nine country members would represent 442,792 electors, an average of 48,000 each, a difference in the aggregate representation of 141,908 electors. That would not be too great a disparity. Although I am prepared to give the country electorates a concession that would be just and equitable, I am not willing to agree to anything so drastic as that suggested by the right honorable member for Cowper. I deplore the setting of country against city. A study of the history of Australia will show that country areas have received greater advantages and facilities from metropolitan than from rural representatives.
.- The question raised by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) is of transcendent importance to South Australia. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) inquired as to what interest is taken in it by the people of the States. I assure him that the South Australian people are gravely concerned at the prospect of their representation in this House being reduced, and feel that their prestige is likely to suffer seriously. 1 agree with honorable members who ha.ve contended that we must seek a truly equitable basis, that will provide that the value of the vote shall be as nearly as possible equal in all the States. I doubt if the method . suggested by the right honorable member for Cowper would have that eminently desirable effect. I have been authoritatively informed that his formula not only would not correct the unfortunate position which has arisen in South Australia, but might intensify the trouble by adding to the representation of New South Wales.
– The further amendment suggested would enable South Australia to retain its present representation.
– If action along those lines is possible under the Constitution, I should welcome it.
– Does the honorable member think that such action would he within the Constitution ?
– 1 understand that, according to Quick and Garran, there is serious doubt as to whether it would be. But if it is possible, it would be welcomed by South Australia, and would overcome a serious anomaly in the representation of the various States. As the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has pointed out, if the present quotas are followed and South Australia has six instead of seven members, the average will be 56,800 electors, compared with 53,000 in Victoria and New South Wales, and 51,000 in Queensland. Thus, compared with Victoria and New South Wales, 24,000 of South Australia’s electors would not have full representation, while, compared with Queensland, over 30,000 would be partially disfranchised. This lowering of the value of the vote would cut right across the principle of equity.
– With seven seats the position would be worse.
– The average number of electors in each division would then more nearly approximate in the’ different States, because in South Australia it would be between 48,000 and 49,000, compared with 53,000 in Victoria and New South Wales, and 51,000 in Queensland. In such matters, it is desirable to aim at equality in the value of the vote. Surely the anomalous position that would be created, by the impairment of a State’s real representation, deserves some consideration from this House, and should be avoided by an amendment of the law. I suggest we should adopt the proposal put forward by the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon for the appointment of a committee of this House to report on the matter. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) misunderstood that proposal; the function of the committee will be, not to fix the quota or to alter the boundaries, but to suggest means of rectifying anomalies by an amendment of the electoral law. This Parliament must give serious consideration to this matter, because the people of South Australia rightly fear that under the proposed redistribution of seats they may not retain the representation that they at. present enjoy in this House, and as a result will suffer a further disability under federation.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As a representative of South Australia, I feel that I should be lacking in my duty to that State if .1 did not contribute to this debate. The census has revealed the fact that the population, of South Australia is at present 580,987, and that under the existing electoral system that State may lose one’ representative in this House. When the census was taken in 1921, South Australia had a population of 495,160, which entitled it to seven representatives in this chamber. It seems extraordinary that despite a considerable increase of population, that State is likely to lose a Federal seat. In the State of New South Wales
the quota is 45,000, and in some of the other States a smaller number. The fixation of the quota of representation in South Australia at 57,000 would be totally unfair to the citizens of that State and would violate the principle of one vote one value. The feeling is growing among the smaller States, particularly South Australia, that the larger States are obtaining the greater benefit from federation. This Parliament should do everything within its power to enable South Australia to retain its existing representation in this House. I support the suggestion that a committee should be appointed to investigate this matter.
– There are two questions under consideration.
– There are many questions involved in the proposed redistribution of seats. In the event of a committee being appointed the whole question must be fully considered in conjunction with the Constitution. The census of 1933 reveals that, under the existing legislation, the representation of South Australia in this Parliament is affected. I want the proposed committee to conduct the fullest inquiry, and, if necessary, the existing legislation should be amended. South Australia alone is affected on this occasion; in the future some other State may be in the same danger.
. - I had always thought that this was a national Parliament, and that men elected to it were supposed to be representatives of the Commonwealth, and not of the individual States. Tonight we have heard strong partisan statements in favour of one State, and honorable members who represent that State have said that unless a more equitable distribution is made certain electors will he disfranchised. There is sitting in this House a representative of the people of the Northern Territory. Although he has the right to express the views of his electors he has no vote in this chamber. Therefore, to all intents and purposes, the residents of the Northern Territory are disfranchised. If a committee of inquiry is appointed to make recommendations into certain aspects of federal representation, it should give consideration to the representation of the people of the Northern Territory.
– The people of the Northern Territory could, under the Constitution as. it now stands, he given effective representation in this House.
– In addition, the residents of the Federal Capital Territory have no representation. When the antiLabour parties in this House suggest that the Constitution might be stretched in certain directions so as to meet their desires, I am naturally suspicious of their action. If the proposal were designed to give the anti-Labour parties an opportunity to retain a seat in this House, I should certainly oppose it. I have not examined the position closely, but if I were sure that theadditional seat would be won by Labour, I should support the proposal.
– Is that a national outlook?
– I remind the members of the Country party who have proposed this scheme, and are talking about a national outlook, of the action of the members of their party in the State Parliament of New South Wales. They made the country quota so low as to make two votes in the country equivalent to three votes in the city areas.
– The same position exists in Victoria.
– In Victoria, the electorates have been so gerrymandered that it is’ almost impossible for a Labour Government to gain office in that State. I am, therefore, naturally suspicious of any scheme proposed by the Country party. In New South Wales the quota in the country areas is 12,000, and in the city areas 18,000, yet the representatives of the Country party in that State have made no attempt to rectify that anomaly. Under the present proposal, South Australia is likely to lose a seat, and it is doubtful as to who will be. affected.
– There is little doubt about that.
– I understand that the issue lies between the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price), and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker). The Country party has put forward this proposal to protect the interests, not of the citizens of South
Australia, but of their own political party.
– The Country party has no representative from South Australia.
– There are in this chamber representatives of that State who on many occasions have supported the Country party, and, naturally, the members of that party are endeavouring to convert those representatives to their own political faith. I daresay that the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) would not be much concerned if the honorable member for Angas lost his seat, but he would be very much concerned if some other anti-Labour representative of that State were deprived of his seat. I shall be quite honest with honorable members.
– Order !
– I shall be as honest as the Standing Orders permit. If I were to express my true opinion of honorable members, I should be called to order and asked to withdraw. I shall, therefore, keep as closely to the truth as I am permitted to do. If the Labour party were in power, it would do as the Country party is doing to-day, but we would frankly admit that we wanted a redistribution favouring our own party. If a committee of inquiry is appointed, the party to which I belong will claim the right to be represented upon it, but we shall not be bound by any of its decisions until we have had an opportunity to discuss them. If the proposed scheme offers any political advantage to the enemies of the Labour party, we shall oppose it, but if it aims at an equitable representation throughout Australia, we shall give it our wholehearted support.
Question resolved in the negative.
The following papers were presented : -
Electoral Redistribution of Seats for the House of Representatives - Memorandum by the Acting Chief Electoral Officer, dated 25th July, 1922, in connexion with proposals by the Right Honorable Earle Page.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration. (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 23 of 1933 - Arms, Explosives and Munitions Workers’ Federation of Australia.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 22nd November (vide page 4944).
Proposed vote, £1,177,970.
Upon which Mr. Nelson had moved by way of an amendment -
That the vote for divisions 100-101, under control of Prime Minister’s Department, £135,411, be reduced by£1.
. - I support the amendment of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) for the reduction of the proposed vote by £1. This, if carried, will be an instruction to theGovernment to provide more work for the unemployed of the Northern Territory, and to remove the residential qualification which debars persons with less than three years’ residence in the territory from participating in any relief work provided in that area. Every honorable member must have been impressed by the speech of the mover of this amendment, for he advocated the cause of the unemployed in the vast area he represents with sincerity, vigour and reasonableness. Unfortunately, unemployed are to be found in every electorate, but the unemployed in the Northern Territory and the Federal Capital Territory are directly the responsibility of theCommonwealth Government. It may be said that responsibility for the unemployed in the various States is the domestic concern of the State Governments, and the Commonwealth Government frequently uses this as an excuse for its failure to put into operation a satisfactory public works policy for the relief of the unemployed in the States. The honorable member for the Northern Territory has been most persistent in his representations on behalf of the unemployed in his electorate. He strongly advocated their cause when the Seullin Government was in office and pointed out. with justice, that the mere fact that they were far removed from the Seat of Government was no reason why they should be overlooked. The Government cannot shirk its responsibility in this connexion, but I was amazed to hear the honorable member say that the Government intended to do so. This was indicated in the following reply given by the Minister to a request by the honorable member that something should be done for these people : -
In view of the large influx into the Northern Territory of unemployed men from the States, the Government decided in 1932 to limit the granting of unemployed relief to men who had been in the territory for a period of twelve months prior to the 31st December, 1931.
That statement means that even men who have been- in the territory nearly three years, are being refused unemployment relief. If those men remained in the territory for thirty years they would still be ineligible for relief if the Government’s decision were adhered to. The retrospective regulation made by the Government is most objectionable. Such callous treatment is unprecedented and cannot be too strongly condemned. A miner who had carried his swag for hundreds of miles and was compelled to seek medical treatment in a centre where a doctor was available would not be eligible for work there unless he had been in the district prior to December, 1930. Is that humane treatment? It is true that the Minister has promised to provide a certain number of men with second-class fares to the southern States, but that is merely shifting the responsibility for the men on to the already overburdened shoulders of the State Governments which have difficulties enough of their own to face, including, in most cases, an acute unemployment problem. The men who have gone to the Northern Territory have displayed a spirit of adventure and an initiative and enterprise worthy of great consideration. It is well known that prospectors who have gone out into the unsettled parts of the different States have done magnificent work for the Commonwealth. In some cases their activities have resulted in the development of big scale mineral production such as is now being carried on at Mount Isa in Queensland, and Wiluna in Western Australia. One result of the work of such men is that areas formerly uninhabited are how p’opulated by thriving communities. The Government is not handling the unemployment problem of the Northern Territory in the right way. The Queensland Government has set. an example in this respect, for men who go to that State looking for work at once become eligible for sustenance, and insix mouths ‘they become eligible for relief work. The Queensland Government has also set an example in assisting prospectors. Men in that State can be assured of 30s. a week, while they are prospecting for minerals. As the Northern, Territory contains a great deal of metaliferous country, prospecting should be encouraged by the Government. A competent geogolgist should be sent there to help those who are seeking to develop mineral areas. It that were done, I believe that many of the unemployed in Darwin would go out prospecting. The honorable member for the Northern Territory directed attention to the action of the Scullin Government in making £5,000 available for Christmas cheer work for the unemployed of the Northern Territory, and asked that this Government should follow that example. I support his request. The unemployed of the Northern Territory are just as entitled to consideration from this Government as are the unemployed of the Federal Capital Territory. I understand that about a month’s work is to be provided before Christmas for the unemployed in this Territory. Similarly work should be provided for the unemployed of the Northern Territory. The men and women who go out into the remote parts of this great Continent in the hope of making their homes there . frequently sacrifice their health, and what little capital they have, and they are. therefore, entitled to the sympathetic consideration of the Government; yet the Minister has said that if these people remain there they will do so at their own risk. Is that the way to populate the great empty spaces of the Northern Territory? A definite policy should be evolved to provide continuous employment for these people, but the Government’s inaction is having the effect of causing them to return to the crowded centres of population in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane where there are already large numbers out of work.
I support the suggestion of the honorable member for the Northern Territory that some of the unemployed should be sot to work cutting iron-wood timber into railway sleepers. It has been demonstrated that only 5 per cent, of the sleepers made of this timber that have been in use for 50 years have had to be replaced. The
Government would be well advised, therefore, to have more of these sleepers cut for use in railway construction. It has been rightly pointed out, also, that for four months of the year, transport is practically impossible in parts of the Northern Territory because of the heavy rainfall. The unemployed could, therefore, be engaged in the useful occupation of making wet-weather roads so that traffic would be possible all the year round, even when torrential rains fall. Such work would, undoubtedly, tend to the development of this vulnerable part of the Commonwealth. The populating of the Northern Territory is highly desirable from a defence point of view; but the Government, apparently because of the lack of constructive ability appears to overlook this fact. It is also imperative that provision should be made for the cattle-raisers of the Northern Territory to get their stock to Alice Springs or the .rail head of the line from Darwin. Every mile of road constructed in the Northern Territory is an asset to the Commonwealth, not only for development purposes, but also for defence purposes. The Government’s policy will reduce rather than increase the population in that part of Australia. The private meat works at Darwin are not operating, and provision should be made for State works there similar to those at Wyndham in the north-west of Western Australia.
I desire to associate the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party with the reasonable representations made hy the honorable member for the Northern Territory. His requests should not be lightly brushed aside merely because he has no vote in this chamber. I have shown that the establishment of meat works at Darwin, the adoption of the latest methods of refrigeration for the marketing of beef and pork, the carrying out of road construction and geological surveys, and the granting of prospecting allowances to miners, would give substantial relief to the unemployed in the Territory. The honorable member has presented an unanswerable case, which should receive the favorable consideration of the Government.
– I support the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), and com- mend the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) for the able, earnest and persistent way in which he has placed before us the claims of bis electorate. Although he has no vote in this chamber his lucid and forceful speeches have enabled the claims of the territory to be brought prominently under the notice of the Parliament. It is impossible to justify the regulation which provides that those who arrived in the territory since 1930 may not share in relief work. The object of the Government, of course, is to prevent an influx of unemployed from the States, but it was fundamentally unjust to make the regulation retrospective for a year. If the Government intended to make the territory a close preserve for those who had been living there for some years, and to deny newcomers the rights enjoyed by the other residents, notice of this treatment, at least, should have been given to the people of Australia. The Government should reconsider its decision in this matter, because numbers of nien who have gone to the territory in good faith for the purpose of prospecting for precious metals find themselves out. of employment and unable to obtain relief work. If these men remain in the territory for another 50 years and the regulation is not withdrawn, they will still be unable to qualify for this employment. “When I visited Queensland a couple of months ago, I found that a number of unemployed from New South Wales and parts of Victoria hud gone to that State because they thought that opportunities for employment would be greater there. The Queensland authorities stipulate that no person may obtain relief work in that State until he has been a resident for six mouths.
– But sustenance can be obtained immediately.
– Yos. The regulation which operates in the Northern Territory was introduced in 1931, and made applicable to all persons who had entered the territory since 1930. Surely we have not made the boundaries between States and territories so rigid as to prevent our people from moving freely from one part of Australia to another! This antiAustralian regulation amazes me. The Government must not turn a deaf ear to the reasonable request of the honorable member for the Northern Territory.
.- The sum of £20,000 has been allocated for the improvement of the Australian tobacco industry; but. the money might just as well be thrown into the Molonglo river, for it will be of little use to this industry. The Government, apparently, is prepared to do everything possible to assist it except the one thing that is likely to be of practical service. I suppose that I ought not to discuss a previous decision of the committee on the tariff, but with your permission, Mr. Chairman, I propose to do so. Of course, I can refer to the general policy of the Government towards a particular industry. I impress upon honorable members - it seems useless to attempt to influence the Government - that nothing which is likely to save the tobacco industry i3 being done for it at the present time. Merely handing out £20,000 for expert instruction to growers, whose chief need is a market for their product, is quite inadequate. The Government has taken to itself considerable kudos over the allocation of this paltry £20,000, and is endeavouring to convince the public that it is being generous to the industry. Last year, however, the Commonwealth Treasury collected £7,281,000 from the tobacco smokers of Australia, and it is unreasonable to suggest that the Government is acting generously in returning £20,000 to the industry to assist in the production of tobacco.
The position of the growers is such that they require, not more consideration from alleged tobacco experts, of whom there are too many, but proof of the Government’s desire to establish the industry on a sound basis. The only practical way to do that is to guarantee the growers at least a home market. If the market is to be flooded with tobacco leaf grown in foreign countries, the economic position of the industry will not be improved merely by giving the growers instruction as to how to improve the quality of their product. If the Government increased the proposed grant to £120,000, the position of the growers would not be improved, because the 6,000 men now engaged in the industry will- not remain in it unless the present policy is radically changed. Unless the importation of tobacco leaf from the United States of America is virtually prohibited, disaster will overtake the growers. The only alternative remedy is to adopt the method by which the South African tobacco industry was established on a firm footing. The Government should remove portion of the enormous load of excise duty on Australian leaf, and increase the duty on imported leaf for at least a period; in order to force the local manufacturers to market the Australian leaf at a price which will be acceptable to the users of tobacco.
The committee which recently investigated the tobacco industry at Mareeba, sympathized, in its report, with the local manufacturers to the extent that it considered that they had a genuine desire to encourage the use of Australian tobacco. It stated that until the quality of the local leaf improved, the manufacturers could not be expected to do more than they were doing at present to assist the industry. I dispute that statement. All the evidence from the real supporters of the industry goes to show that, when the price of Australian tobacco was considerably below that of the imported article, the demand for the former could not be met. I challenge the statement that smokers in this country refuse- to Use tobacco made from locally-grown leaf. I contend that they will purchase it readily if a considerable margin is maintained ‘between the prices of the imported and the local articles. The sale of tobacco made from Australian leaf has been prejudiced by hostile propaganda, while tobacco manufactured from imported leaf has been extensively advertised.
– Should the smokers be forced to use Australian tobacco, whether they like it or not?
– No. My argument is that if a sufficient margin is maintained between the prices of the local and imported articles, the law of supply and demand will operate, and the use of Australian tobacco will increase. When tobacco made from local leaf could be purchased at about half the price of imported lines, the demand rose to such an extent that it could not be met. I can produce ample evidence that all over Australia the manufacturers were deluged with orders for cheap brands of Australian tobacco and that retailers could not get sufficient supplies.
– The honorable member forced the smokers into that position.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mi-. Maxwell) might just as logically argue that because we make boots cheap we force people to buy them. I am surprised that he should make such a foolish interjection. By cheapening an article we increase the demand for it. That has been convincingly proved by our own experience in respect of Australian-grown tobacco. When the tariff position altered, and the manufacturers were obliged to place the price of Australian tobacco on a level with that of the imported article, naturally the public, having a free choice, and being prejudiced against locallygrown leaf by adverse propaganda, preferred to purchase what they believed to be the better article.
-. Bell).Order ! I must ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the item in the Estimates before the Chair.
– I have no desire to transgress your ruling. I am quite content for you, sir, to decide whether my remarks are in order.
– The honorable member has made several references to the tariff and to the question of marketing. Obviously his statements are’ not relevant to the particular item to which he has called attention.
– Very well. It is quite useless for the Government to attempt to camouflage its policy by making a gift which will be of no benefit to the tobacco-growers of Australia, seeing that it refuses to grant them the greatest gift within its power, namely, the command of the local market. These growers ask only for fair play, which they have not received during the past two years. Last year, 12,000,000 lb. of Australian tobacco were produced and this year the production was 8,000,000 lb. a total of 20,000,000 lb. As the average annual consumption is about 18,000,000 lb., Australia to-day is producing just about onehalf of the quantity required for home consumption. But, during the last two years, only one-half of that production has been purchased. Consequently, half the Australian tobacco output of 5,000 or 6,000 growers is rotting in their barns. There is no demand for it. The people’ who would smoke it if they could get it at a reasonable price are not given the privilege of smoking it, merely because the Australian tobacco combine has no use for it.
– This £20,000 upon the Estimates will benefit the growers.
– If the honorable member had been engaged in the industry for twenty years or more, he would realize that the only thing the Australian tobacco-grower wants is a market for his output.
– Does the honorable member smoke Australian tobacco ?
– Yes, when I can get it. The honorable member for Fawkner puts childish questions to me every time this tobacco question is raised here. I have a good supply of Australian tobacco and, if he chooses to try it, I will gladly let him have some of it. Australian brands of tobacco of good quality are not being manufactured to-day, and, if they are asked for, they cannot be obtained. The position which has arisen during the last two years is the result of the policy of the present Government. Clearly, our Australian growers have not a market for their product. Is a similar remark applicable to the wool or the wheat industry, or to our pampered manufacturing industries ? Why, if half of their output were left upon their hands each year, there would be a revolution in this country.
Seeing that half the tobacco produced in Australia during the past two years is to-day upon the growers’ hands, is the position in which these men have been placed a fair one’; The great tobacco combine, which controls 90 per cent, of our home market, is in a position to ruin the 6,000 men who embarked upon this industry in all good faith, and who, if given a chance, will produce a tobacco which is acceptable to Australians. They do not ask for top prices for inferior tobacco. They will be quite satisfied if they receive a fair price for a good tobacco. But they do not get. a fair price either for good or for poor tobacco. The combine to which I have referred is the result of the tariff policy of the present Government, which has given it a monopoly in Australia.
– Order ! The honorable member must realize that he is discussing the tariff policy of .the Government which cannot be allowed on the consideration of the Estimates.
– I recognize that, and will not pursue the matter further. It is idle for the Government to attempt to camouflage the real position by making this gift of £20,000, which will be quite worthless to growers, and which will merely increase the expenditure upon scientific instruction which they do not need. The one thing which our tobacco-growers require is a market for their product, and I hope that the Government, will speedily devise some means by which Australian people will be able to purchase Australian tobacco at a reasonable price.
– They can do that now. Surely to teach them the proper methods of cultivation is the best way to benefit them.
– Of what use is u to teach them to cultivate a commodity if they cannot sell it? Within the past two years they have produced tobacco sufficient for half our own requirements, but only half of that production has been purchased.
– Surely’ the honorable member does not claim that that tobacco is of high quality?
– Last year its average price was 2s. 3d. per lb., whereas this year the price for the best quality of Australian tobacco ranges from ls. 3d. to ls. 6d. per lb. It will be seen, therefore, that the time has arrived when the Government should cease playing with the industry. The public recognize that our tobacco-growers have not received a fair deal at the hands of the Government.
– By his vote the honorable member supported the Government’s tobacco policy.
– The honorable member talks so much that he does not know what he is talking about. The majority of our people arp thoroughly satisfied that our Australian tobaccogrowers have not received a fair deal. Smokers know perfectly well that when Australian tobacco was sold at a reasonable price, the demand for it was so great that it could not be met. But to-day, when one cannot purchase Australian tobacco, except at a price which is nearly equal to that of the imported article, naturally there is no demand for it. The conclusion therefore, is irresistible that the Government may spend £20,000 or even £120,000 upon the further education of our tobaccogrowers - and only the newest of the growers require that education - without doing anything ultimately to benefit the industry. [Quorum form-ed.~
In conclusion I appeal to the Government not to take to itself kudos for this paltry gift of £20,000, which means nothing to the industry, and which will not be of any benefit to our tobacco-growers. “What is needed is a policy which will ensure to those growers a share of the Australian market.
– What sort of policy?
– I have discussed half a dozen schemes, bur, the Minister has failed to see any good in them. I am convinced that if the angel Gabriel was on our side it would make no difference to the Minister, because he is a friend of the tobacco combine. T suggest that the Government should seriously consider the imposition of a differential excise duty on Australian tobacco. In that lies the solution of this great problem. Such a differentiation would enable Australian ‘growers to ‘sell their product at a price considerably less than the imported article, and would revolutionize the industry within twelve months. During the last season, 1,180 growers went out of the industry. I know that others have come in, and that growers are continually coming into and going out of the industry; but, obviously, that is an unhealthy position. If the Government does not alter its policy, within a year it will have a corpse upon its hands - an Australian primary industry which has been murdered - a crime which it is not necessary to commit. If Ministers will not be so friendly to the great tobacco combine there is still time to avert the impending tragedy, to rehabilitate this industry, and to make it what it must eventually be, despite the policy of the Government - a sound Australian industry.
– I shall deal with various questions raised in the order which they appear in the Estimates. The vote “ Contribution to cost of the secretariat - League of Nations £54,000 “ is higher this year than i.u previous years because our’ contributions have been in arrears, and this year £54,000 is provided in English currency to cover our contributions of 1933 and six months of 1934, thus covering the calendar year which is recognized by the league. Negotiations have been proceeding with other members of the league with respect to contributions; and it. is hoped that from the 1st January, 1934, these will be lower. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who denounced those who favour increased expenditure on defence, went to the other extreme by objecting to the contribution which the Government is making to the League of Nations, the chief function of which is to assist in ensuring international peace. The honorable member further said that only those nations which were victorious in the Great War are members of the league, but I remind the honorable member that when I attended an assembly of the league 54 nations were represented. Because it has not achieved all that we had hoped, we should not deprecate its efforts to bring about world peace. If other nations were as anxious to disarm as is Great Britain, there would be no need for armaments. No one believes in expenditure on defence unless it is absolutely essential, and I think we all agree that peaceful methods should be adopted in an endeavour to bring about a proper understanding between nations. The honorable member also said that the meetings of the League of Nations provided an opportunity for Ministers and their friends to go overseas on pleasure jaunts. The honorable member should recall that in 1926 the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) who is the leader of the party to which he belongs, represented Australia at the Internationa] Labour Office.
If the honorable member contends that the honorable member for West Sydney went on a pleasure jaunt why do the employees in Australia request the Government to send a delegate to represent them at each of such gatherings? Employees have as much right to be represented at such conferences as have the employers. The honorable member for West Sydney knows that I asked the Government then in power to pay him while ho was away the salary he was receiving.
Mr.Rosevear. - That is only right.
– It had never been done before. On that occasion the honorable member for West Sydney said that it was impossible for him to go as during his absence he would loose his salary of £7 a week as secretary of his union and the Government made up his salary.
Mr.Rosevear. - He was not secretary of the union.
– I mean the president.
Under item No. 5 £250 is to be appropriated for a “Grant to the Australian Commonwealth Branch of Empire Party Association.” The amount proposed to be appropriated covers Australia’s contribution to the Journals of the Parliaments of the Empire which is a publication of great value.
The next item mentioned is “ Relief and repatriation of distressed Australians abroad “ for which £200 is provided. This vote was provided many years ago to assist destitute Australians abroad. The conditions governing the matter may be epitomized as follows: -
I do not know of any instance in which assistance has been refused to a bona fide resident of Australia.
Item No. . 12 coversthe Commonwealth representation at the Imperial Economic Committee for which £4,363 is appropriated. This amount covers the following : -
From this amount £250 is deducted as a portion of Mr. McDougall’s salary which is charged to the vote of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Apart from being a member of the Imperial Economic Committee, Mr. McDougall assists the High Commissioner as an economic officer and carries out certain duties in London on behalf of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. [Quorum formed.] In addition to the expenses I have mentioned, provision of £3,360 has been necessary to provide means which would operate to some extent in substitution of the Empire Marketing Board, which ceased to function on the 30th September, 1933. The policy of reciprocal preference on an Empire basis, which was accepted by the British Commonwealth of Nations at the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa during 1932, had as one of its immediate results the abolition of the Empire Marketing Board. The board ceased to. function on the 30th September, 1933. That board has been looked upon by the British Government, India, the dominions and colonies as something in the nature of the quid pro quo for preference accorded Great Britain by other parts of the Empire. In the view of the British Government the Ottawa agreement and the resultant direct preference acceded by Great Britain will effectively supplant the board. The board was maintained by, and derived the whole of its finances, from the British Government. Its functions included publicity, markets and scientific research. Direct money grants by the board to Australia for research had, up to date, totalled £105,000, and further subsidies totalling approximately £25,000 have been promised but have not yet become due. The United Kingdom has undertaken to meet the obligations of the board in this respect. In view of the abolition of the Empire Marketing Board it became necessary to devise other means which would operate in substitution to some extent for the board. With this object in view, the Imperial Committee on Economic Consultation and Cooperation was set up. The recommendations of the committee in the main, involved -
The Commonwealth Government accepted the recommendation of the committee and agreed to contribute on the basis proposed by it. The additional cost of the services mentioned is set down at £24,000 per annum, and Australia’s contribution, calculated on the basis of trade exports, &c., is £3,360, divisible as follows : - Imperial Economic Committee, £2,828; Imperial Shipping Committee, £280; and Imperial Agricultural Bureaux, £252.
Information has also been sought regarding the proposed expenditure of £250 under the heading, “ World Conference on Reduction and Limitation of Armaments.” This conference first sat in London early in 1932, and has continued intermittently ever since. Unfortunately, it has not been a great success, but that is not the fault of this Parliament. I hope that it will function again, and with more success.
– If the conference sits again this year, will not more than £250 be required ?
– In that event, the Government will, no doubt, approach Parliament for more money.
The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) dealt last night with the item, “Broadcasting Companies - ex gratia payment in respect of loss of licences, £9,000,” so that I need not say any more in relation to it.
An explanation has been sought of the proposed expenditure of £1,000 for “ Commonwealth representation at Fourteenth Assembly, League of Nations, 1933.”
The following persons were selected to represent the Commonwealth at the Fourteenth Assembly of the League: - The Right Honorable S. M. Bruce, Sir Talbot Hobbs, and Mr, H. J. Sheehan, while Professor Copland, Rabbi Freedmah and Mrs. Jamieson Williams were substitute representatives. Approval was given for the payment of the expenses. of the representatives on the following scale: - Mr. Bruce, £3 3s. per day allowance and hotel accommodation; Sir Talbot Hobbs and the other representatives, £111s. 6d. per day. As the representatives and substitute representatives were all in Europe, no fares to and from Australia were involved.
Honorable members who have attended assemblies of the League of Nations at Geneva know how heavy are the expenses which have to be met.
– How long were they at Geneva?
– From the 1st . September until the last Friday of that month. From the moment that the delegates arrive at Geneva for the conference, the price of everything there rises, so that the expenses of delegates are particularly heavy.
– Did Mr.. Bruce receive £3 3s. a day in addition to having his hotel expenses met ?
– The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), who attended an International Labour Conference at, Geneva, knows that the amount allowed for expenses does not cover all the expenses incurred.
– Many public servants receive less for a week’s work than Mr. Bruce received for one day’s expenses.
– Honorable members have asked for an explanation of the item, “ Royal Commission on taxation, laws of the Commonwealth and the States - ?4,000.”
On the 6th October, 1932, this royal commission was appointed “ to inquire into and report upon the simplification :md standardization of the taxation laws of the Commonwealth and of the States insofar as they relate to substantially the same subject-matters of taxation, as for instance, income tax, land tax and death duties; and in particular, to make recommendations for the purpose of obtaining uniformity in legislative provisions, including provisions relating to procedure and forms of returns.” The Royal Commissioners are Mr. Justice Ferguson of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, and Mr. E. B. Nixon. Mr. J. A. Neale of the Taxation Department is secretary to the commission, and Mr. E. D. Roper has been briefed as counsel to assist the commission at the inquiry. Mr. Justice Ferguson will receive no fees for his services, but will be allowed ?3 3s. per day travelling expenses when away from Sydney.
Mr. Rimer. When does the Government expect to receive the report?
– The Government expects to receive it in the near future.
In regard to the provision of ?4,154 as subsidy towards the provision of a continuous steamer passenger service between Hobart and Sydney during winter months, arrangements made with Huddart Parker and Company Limited involve an expenditure of ?6,000, of which ?4,154 will be due in receipt of the operations after the end of June.
– Have overseas ships still the right to trade with Tasmania?
– Special arrangements were made for the summer season when the Australian vessels could not cope with the traffic.
Inquiry has also been made in relation to the item, “ Commonwealth Grants Commission, ?4,000 “. This commission has been set up to inquire into and report to the Governor-General upon a number of matters affecting the States. The commission comprises Mr. F. W. Eggleston, Professor Giblin, and Mr. Wallace Sandford. Mr. M. Richardson is it? secretary. The amount set down in these Estimates is to cover the expenses of the inquiry.
The position in relation to the item “ Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Unemployment, ?150 “, is that a com- mittee was set up as a result of a discussion at the Premiers Conference. The committee consists of - Mr. J. H. Star- . ling, secretary of -the Prime Minister’s Department, Professor Giblin, Mr. H. C. Brown, secretary to the Department of the Interior, and Mr. A. C. Joyce, assistant secretary finance, Commonwealth Treasury. Mr. G. Whiteford is secretary to the committee, which was set up to co-operate with the States in coordinating ideas and disseminating information regarding the methods of dealing with unemployment, and to advise the Premiers Conference thereon.
I have also been asked to explain the item “ Subsidy towards provision of improved passenger service between Melbourne and Launceston, ?10,000 “. Consideration is being given to a proposal made by one of the shipping companies to improve the service between Melbourne, Launceston, Burnie and Devonport. The proposal covers a number of years, and includes the provision of a new steamer by the shipping companies co replace the older vessels now in use. A decision has not been reached in this matter, but pending finality, ?10,000 has been provided to meet any commitments which may be entered into before the end of next June.
Earlier this session, a full explanation was given of the proposed expenditure on the development of the fisheries industry. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley), who has interested himself in this matter, will remember that the Works Estimates provide for an expenditure of ?15,000 on the purchase of a suitable vessel. This vote of ?5,000 is in addition to that provision, making a total estimated expenditure of ?20,000. At the Australian Fisheries Conference held in 1929, at which the Commonwealth and State Governments were represented, it was recommended that work in regard to thefisheries industry should be undertaken by the Commonwealth Government. Steps are now being taken to give effect to that recommendation. The £5,000 included in these Estimates is for the following objects: -
A number of honorable members have asked for information regarding the proposed expenditure of £20,000 on “Tobacco investigation and instruction”. Provision has been made under this item to meet the cost of investigation, and for instruction purposes, in regard to tobacco-growing. It is anticipated that this provision will place the industry on a more satisfactory footing. The expenditure will be under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department, and the Government will ensure that the money will be expended without overlapping any State activity, and indeed, in complete co-operation with the States. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) has criticized the Government for what he described as its lack of sympathy with, and opposition to, the expansion of the tobacco-growing industry, but no one knows better than does the honorable gentleman how wrong that statement is. He has been a member of this Parliament for ten years, for six and three-quarter years of which he supported the Bruce-Page Government. He complained that the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company was a combine which had the industry by the throat, but he knows well that that company found £20,000 out of the £30,000 expended on investigations to improve the tobacco-growing industry in Australia. Instead of endeavouring to crush tobacco-growers this great organization has come to their assistance. To me it is a great pity that an endeavour has been made to make the tobacco industry the shuttlecock of politics. It may be quite true that there are a number of growers who have not made any profit from the industry, but that is because they do not conduct their operations on scientific lines. Unfortunately, many who were ill equipped for the task of growing tobacco were encouraged to take up land, even in the Mareeba district, and the result was inevitable. Actually, it is possible to count, on one’s fingers the number of tobacco experts in Australia, though I admit there are many alleged experts, some of them being in this chamber.
I come now to matters relating to the Northern Territory, in connexion with which the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has moved an amendment. It would appear that he and others have not sufficiently studied the Estimates, otherwise they would not have declared that the Government has demonstrated its sympathy with the Northern Territory by allocating an amount, of £5,000 for the development of its industries. A more careful perusal of the Estimates would have revealed that £23,425 is to be provided for public works, £37,290 is to be expended on the construction of oil storage tanks for naval purposes, £3,728 is to be taken from trust funds to assist unemployment relief, and £10,000 is to be expended on unemployment relief and the alleviation of distress, making a total of £74,460, as compared with the £26,986 that was expended in the Northern Territory last year. While I do not deny the right of the honorable member to move an amendment to this vote, I think that he could more appropriately have done so in connexion with the vote for the Department of the Interior, which administers the Northern Territory.
– What has the Minister to say with regard to the restriction that has been placed on the qualifications of unemployed who seek relief work?
Mr.MARR. - I should have to obtain particulars regarding that matter from the Department of the Interior, under whose control it comes. If the statement that has been made by the honorable member is correct, the matter should be investigated. However, I have been informed that in recent years men who set out for the Northern Territory have been advised that no work is available, and that they would go there at their own risk.
– That applies to the States as well as to the Northern Territory.
– The honorable member will admit that the remoteness of the Northern Territory and. the limited extent of its industrial activities make the provision of employment for any appreciable number of persons a difficult matter.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), the. honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), and others have referred to the production of oil from “coal. There is no doubt that the Australian coal industry is in a deplorable state.
– What is the Government doing about it?
– It is doing much more than was done by the Scullin Government, and at least did: not promise, as did that government, to place all employees in the coal-mining industry back at work within fourteen days after it assumed office. As this is a matter of more than ordinary importance I have had a statement prepared on the subject embracing the latest information available.
The points raised refer chiefly to -
Believing that the experiments of Messrs. Lyons Brothers might be likely to lead to something useful, the Scullin Government arranged for Dr. A. C. D. Rivett, Chief Executive Officer, Council for Scien tific and Industrial Research, who is an authority on fuel problems, to inspect the plant. Dr. Rivett reported on the experiments on 11th December, 1931, and in doing so stated : - “There are too many unknown and undetermined factors about the Lyons Brothers low temperature distillation work on Mai tl and coal to permit the drawing of any definite conclusion in favour of the economic feasibility of theestablishment of their process on a large scale. “
The report was submitted to Mr. L. J. Rogers, on his appointment as Commonwealth Fuel Adviser, who stated that in his view the proposition was not an economical one. The process which is being worked by Messrs. Lyons Brothers, is known as the low-temperature carbonization process, with which coke is the primary, and oil a by-product. With Australian coal the process would probably yield 30 to 35 gallons of tar to a ton of coal, which would include from 4 to 4½ gallons of motor spirit. In the words of a leading authority, who spoke at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, in 1931, “ as a self-contained commercial enterprise on a large scale, low temperature carbonization must be regarded as dead. “ The position has not changed since that utterance was made. The most successful firm in Britain in this regard is known as Low Temperature Carbonization Limited, and in an address which he made on the 14th December, . 1932, the chairman of the organization stated that the outstanding success of “ coalite “, a coke smokeless fuel, was the keystone to the company’s success, from which all other of its activities depended-. Petrol and oil were by-products. Some reference was made to the British Navy obtaining the whole of its tar oil fuel needs from Low Temperature Carbonization Limited. That this reference is not accurate is indicated in a statement made in the House of Commons by Sir BoltonEyers Monsell, First Lord of the Admiralty, to the effect that the contract is “ for a small monthly quantity . . . during the present year “. The announcement which preceded the First Lord’s statement was sufficient, however, to create a substantial upward movement in share values of Low Temperature Carbonization Limited. It is understood that the’ Government of
New South “Wales has subsidized Messrs. Lyons’ Brothers to the extent of £2,000. In the face of the evidence available, the justification for such a subsidy is hard to discern. The position in regard to the production of oil by what is known as, the hydrogen a tion process is somewhat different. In this process petrol is the primary product. Newcastle-Mai itland coal will yield from 80 to 90 gallons of petrol per ton of coal.
Prominence was given recently to an agreement entered into between tha United Kingdom Government and Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, under which the company agreed to install a hydrogenation plant at BillinghamonTees, England, with a capacity of 1,000 tons of coal a day, capable of producing about 40,000,000 gallons of petrol per annum. The agreement provided for a guaranteed preference of 4d. ti gallon. The present import duty in Britain is Sd. a gallon, but the agreement provides a margin against the reduction of import duty or the imposition of excise duty. It has been stated that this undertaking will provide employment for upwards of 7,000 people, and that about 5,000 people will be employed in the erection of the plant.
Being anxious to enlist the cooperation of Imperial Chemical Industries in the development of the process in Australia, Mr. Bruce has, at the request of the Government, entered into negotiations with that company. Senator McLachlan, the Minister in control of development, has had every assistance from the management of Imperial Chemical Industries in Australia, and has been furnished with the views of various representatives of that body who have visited Australia. Further experts are now on their way to Australia, and will confer with Senator McLachlan on their arrival. The position is that Imperial Chemical Industries Limited has stated that the company is willing and anxious to give the fullest co-operation and assistance in establishing a large scale hydrogenation unit in Australia, and, with that object in view, engineers in the service of the company have already fully surveyed the possibilities in Australia. The company desires, however, to have six months’ experience of running of the plant, which is in the course of erection at Billingham- on-Tecs, England, before entering into any negotiations for the erection, of a similar plant in Australia. In the opinion of the company, this period of trial is essential, because of the experimental nature of the work, and the probability that modifications in design and construction will be found necessary. A similar plant would cost about £10,000,000 in Australia.
Requests have been made from time to time that the Commonwealth Government should establish -a fuel research station in Australia. The capital cost of establishing an efficient and effective station would be about £250,000, and maintenance expenses would be at least £50,000 per annum. The initial capital cost of the British Fuel Research Station at Greenwich was £188,000, and the annual cost since its establishment has ranged between £50,000 and £S0,000. The Commonwealth, through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and its Fuel Adviser, Mr. L. J. Rogers, obtains regularly full information concerning the work carried out at the British Fuel Research Station, and from other sources in Britain, on the Continent, and in America. The establishment of a station in- Australia would, therefore, involve overlapping and wasteful expenditure. The present Commonwealth Government recognized the need for the services of a fuel adviser, and was fortunate in being able to secure the services of Mr. L. J. Rogers, M.Sc, B.E. Mr. Rogers is an Australian who has spent upwards of five years at the British Fuel Research Station at Greenwich, and has a wide knowledge of fuel investigation work.
The Government is also, investigating the possibilities of the shale oil industry. When it assumed office in 1932, it found that more than £30,000 had been spent by the previous Administration on the Newnes shale oil field, but such vital questions as : (1) quantities of shale available; (2) whether a marketable motor fuel could be produced from the shale oil by a cracking process; and (3) methods of access to deposits, had never been determined. A technical committee, known as the Newnes Investigation Committee, was established by the Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales to investigate these matters.
It is expected that the report of the committee will be available during December.
If the report of the Newnes Investigation Committee is favorable, the Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales have undertaken to encourage the formation of a public company to carry out large-scale operation.? at Newnes. The two Governments have also undertaken jointly to make available to such company a sum of £80,000 by way of loan, on certain conditions, one of which is that the company will, without charge to the Commonwealth or to the State, report upon the possibilities of establishing the shale oil industry at Baerami, in New South Wales, at Latrobe in Tasmania, and at other places to be defined. It is expected that a largescale plant will be capable of producing Anything from 5,000,000 to 10,000,000 gallons of petrol per annum at Newnes.
Work in connexion with the shale oil industry is being financed from a fund of £100,000 for the repatriation of- excesscoalminers. Of this sum £93,000 was allocated to New South Wales, and £7.000 to Queensland. Queensland’s quota has been spent in placing ‘ about 70 miners on poultry farms, and in small businesses, &c.
While we all recognize that the present unsatisfactory position of the coal-mining industry of Australia isa in the main, due to the change-over from coal to oil as a means of propulsion, we cannot wholly ignore the fact that that change-over has been accelerated to some extent by the industry itself. Stoppages, industrial disturbances, irregular supplies, and high prices have been factors in the decay of the industry. [Quorum formed.]
– During my temporary absence from the chamber as a member of a deputation concerning workers’ compensation, which included also the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), the Minister for Health and Repatriation (Mr. Marr) made some reckless, extravagant and irresponsible statements of a personal nature about me, and my attendance at a conference of the International Labour Office in Geneva. The remarks were made when the Minister was discussing the expenditure of the Commonwealth, on the League of Nations, and, although I had not spoken on the item, the Minister dragged my name into the discussion. He said that, in 1926, when I was appointed official Labour delegate to the International Labour Conference, I approached him with a request that the Government should, while I was away, pay me my wages as secretary of a Labour union, because that organization refused to do so. While the Minister was speaking, some of my colleagues in the chamber informed him that I had never been secretary of a Labour union.
– I corrected tha>t statement.
– I have never been the paid secretary of an organization in my life. When the Minister was corrected, he said that I had been presidentof a Labour union, and in that capacity received a salary of £7 a week. I repeat that I have never held a paid position in any trade union, although I have held many honorary positions. When I received the commission as delegate to the conference at Geneva, I was employed by the Sydney City Council as an installation inspector in the Electricity Department. I cannot remember exactly what I was paid, but it was probably somewhere about £7 a week, or perhaps a little more. Naturally enough, the council refused to pay me while I was away, though it was prepared to grant me leave of absence. I applied to the Commonwealth Government to make up to me the salary I would forgo by attending the conference, and to this the Government agreed. The Minister said this evening that, up to then, I was the only person representing Australia at Geneva who had had his salary paid in that way. That statement is absolutely untrue. I do not wish to mention the names of the others, but the Minister’s own officers will be able to inform him that similar treatment had been accorded to more than one delegate to the conference before I was appointed, and to others since that time.
– It had already become the established practice when tho honorable member was appointed.
– That is so. It is unfortunate that I was not in the chamber when the Minister was speaking. If he intended to make remarks of that kind about me, he should have waited until I was present to reply to them. Those who read the reports of Parliament would naturally infer from the Minister’s statement thatIhad done something improper.
– That was never said.
– I am extremely jealous of my reputation as a Labour representative, and I am not disposed to allow statements to go unchallenged which impute improper conduct to me. The fullest investigation of this matter can be made if any one cares to do so. I assume that the department would not approve the payment unless it was satisfied that the application was justified. 1. hope that the Minister will have this matter cleared up before we pass these Estimates. Probably he did not mean to dome any harm, but it is due to me that the position should be fully explained. He knows the whole of the circumstances. It is true that my nomination,as the representative of the employees was held up, and that there was a long dispute about it. ; but it is untrue to say that the Bruce-Page Government appointed me as the workers’ delegate to the Geneva Labour Conference in 3926. All that it did was to endorse the recommendation of the Labour organizations which I represented. If it could be said that I was appointed by the BrucePage Government, it might, with equal force, be asserted that the Scullin Government appointed the employers’ delegates to the conference held during its term of office. Actually all that any government does is to endorse the nominations of the respective organizations of employers and employees. To suggest that I was selected and sent to the Geneva Labour Conference by the Bruce-Page Government would imply that. I was in the good graces of that administration, when, as a matter of fact, as is well known, I was not. I was nominated by the Labour organizations and attended as their delegate. All that the Bruce-Page Government did was to make the necessary arrangements to send me to that conference.As the workers’ delegates to such gatherings have no source of income other than their salary or wages, which they are obliged to forgo during their absence, it is only right that the Government should reimburse them. I ask the Minister to be good enough now to clear up the matter, and make it plain that there was nothing improper in connexion with my appointment as the representative of the workers to the Geneva Labour Conference of 1926.
.- I regret that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) was not in the chamber when I referred to his appointment as the representative of Labour organizations to the International Labour Conference in 1926, but I assure him that I merely mentioned his appointment to combat arguments used by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) who said that these trips to League of Nations conferences at Geneva were nothing but pleasure jaunts for Ministers and their friends.In my reply I asked him if he thought that the honorable member for West Sydney went on a pleasure jaunt in 1926, and I added that he was sent by the Bruce-Page Government as the workers’ representative. All honorable members know that every government, Labour or Nationalist, sends the delegates that have been nominated by the respective organizations of employers and employees. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) was, one one occasion, sent as a representative of the workers. It will be recalled that, during the discussion last night, the honorable member for East Sydney mentioned certain specific items of expenditure in connexion with delegations to the League of Nations, and asked for information concerning them. In reply I pointed out that the delegates could not live at Geneva for nothing. I also said that the honorable member for West Sydney, upon his return from Geneva in 1926, asked me to support his request to the Government, of which I was a member, for payment of salary during his absence. There was nothing wrong about that.
– Tell the committee what you said about his salary.
– To-night, I inadvertently mentioned that he was at the time the paid secretary of his organization. I immediately corrected myself and said that he was its president. At any rate, he informedme that, when he received the appointment to Geneva, he was in receipt of a salary of £7 a week, and he knows what I did with regard to his request for payment. I am not saving this with the idea of doing the honorable member for “West Sydney any injury, because I have too good an opinion of his ability to attempt to do him an injustice. Therefore, if he thinks that anything which I have said has injured him in any way, I shall be glad to withdraw it. I again assure him that I had no intention to reflect upon his personal character.
.- I direct, attention to the item, “Tobacco investigation and instruction, £20,000.” Experiments carried out for a number of years by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the protective duties imposed by the Scullin Government, induced a large number of people to engage in tobacco-growing in the various States, and particularly in the northern areas of Queensland. There are now about 800 growers in the Mareeba district, which has been described by Dr. Dickson, of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, as the Virginia of Australia. Hitherto buyers representing the British-Australasian Tobacco Company have always been willing to purchase Mareeba leaf, which is excellent in quality. Many honorable members regularly smoke cigarettes manufactured from North Queensland tobacco. Although the experimentswhich have been carried out by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Reseach for a number of years have demonstrated the suitability of the Mareeba district for tobacco-growing, the report of the Tobacco Inquiry Committee, which was laid on the table of the House a few days ago, states that certain portions of that district are not suitable. Mr. Howell, who has been conducting investigations at Mareeba for some years, dissents from the majority opinion of the committee on this point. As might have been expected, since the publication of the committee’s report, there has been a certain amount of propaganda in newspapers against the local industry. One news paper published the following report a few days ago: -
One of the most important conclusions to be drawn from the Mareeba Tobacco Inquiry Committee, it is understood, is tobaccogrowing in that area is virtually doomed. The report does not say so in so many words, but the inference is said to be inescapable when reading the committee’s outline of the climatic conditions faced by the growers.
A booklet issued by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, giving details of its investigations in the various States, states that the climatic conditions at Mareeba from the time for planting until the time for picking the leaf are similar in every respect to those in Virginia, in the United States of America. Yet this committee, after a hurried investigation, casts doubt on expert opinion. The terms of reference show that the duty of the committee was to ascertain the amount of good, usable leaf that was left on the growers’ hands. It was not invited to express an opinion about the suitability or otherwise of any area for the growing of tobacco leaf. I am in constant touch with the tobaccogrowers in the Dimbulah and Mareeba districts, and was also in North Queensland when the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) paid a visit to Mareeba. The buyers state that the leaf produced below the range at Mareeba has failed this year, but that they will buy all the leaf produced on the tablelands on the Chillagoe railway line. I have in my hand an excellent sample of leaf produced at Dimbulah. Last year, for leaf of similar quality, the growers received 4s. 6d. per lb. I challenge the British-Australasian Tobacco Company to say that that leaf would not have brought 4s. Od. per lb. during the period when imports were restricted and over 12,000,000 lb. of local leaf were sold at an average price of 2s.1¼d. per lb. Yet it was rejected, after inspection, when offered for 3s. per lb.
– Whenever the trust has an open market, and can import tobacco, it gives no reasons for what it does. A better quality mahogony leaf, which is suitable for manufacture into fine cut tobacco for the making of cigarettes, and similar to leaf that was bought last year for 5s. 6d. per lb., was offered at 3s. 6d. per lb. and rejected. The growers say that they are prepared to send the Minister for Trade and Customs either 1 ton or 30 tons of leaf to enable him to gauge its quality.
– There are 50 samples of leaf from Mareeba in the department here.
– I could produce 100 samples, if necessary, including leaf rejected by the grader’s, for which the trust paid over 2s. 3d. per lb. in Mareeba last season. Leaf rejected by buyers at Mareeba would he sent to Morgan bury, where it would be bought two or three days later at a higher price than was obtained in Mareeba for leaf of similar quality. Similarly, leaf rejected at Morganbury would be sent to the sales at Dimbulah, 14 or 15 miles away, and disposed of. This has aroused suspicion in the minds of the growers. The secretary of the Tobacco Growers Association at Mareeba, writes -
T know of a case where a grower offered 45 hales of leaf, and sold only 8 bales.
The whole of the leaf in those 45 bales would be produced on and selected from the one plot. The grower would not submit unsaleable leaf, because he would know that it was of no use to do so. I have visited the Mareeba district every year since the cultivation of tobacco was begun there. I have attended all lectures on tobacco cultivation delivered by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and read every publication on the subject issued by that body. It is my opinion that the tobaccogrowers in Mareeba have been “ sold “ to the tobacco trust this year. Last year, they were advised by the buyers not to join the Tobacco Growers Association, but to form an organization of their own. Had they supported the agreement arranged by Sir Henry Gullett, when Minister for Trade and Customs, for the payment of an average price of 2s. 3d. per lb. for fair average quality leaf over the whole of the Australian crop, and the restriction of imports, they would have sold every ounce of tobacco produced up to date, instead of which they have sold very little. They have appealed to the State Government, and some of them while waiting to sell their crop are on a dole of £1 a week. Planting out will have to be done either this month or next, if the industry is to continue in this area. The growers are not in a position to purchase the fertilizers that they need, and will not be until they dispose of their crop. It is strange that, after questions had been asked in this chamber in regard to purchases of tobacco, the buyers returned to Mareeba, raced round the district, and bought up a few bales here and there. When asked by the growers if they intended to make further purchases, they said that they were fairly well stocked up.
– Order ! I should like the honorable member to show how the marketing of tobacco is affected by this item.
– I wish to discover if it is worth while to spend £20,000 to encourage the continuance of ‘this industry when, according to a report that has been furnished to this Parliament, it is doomed. The Minister for Trade and Customs says that no person in Australia has any knowledge of tobacco cultivation. I say that 800 men in Mareeba know too much about it to allow the trust to “ PU it over them.” They have gained their experience iu the hard school of adversity. I look forward to the day when the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will conduct its investigations, not under glass in Canberra, but in the “very centre of the areas in which tobacco is grown. Had the Government, the council, and the Tobacco Investigation, which is subsidized by the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company, been serious, experimental plots would have been established in the centre of every tobacco-growing area, in charge of instructors from whom the growers could obtain scientific advice with respect to cultivation. Tuition in the cultivation of tobacco could have been given on experimental plots to 400 or 500 boys. The Mareeba growers, who have gained their experience in a hard school, are to-day very efficient. Some of those who have been operating in and around Dimbulah have even gone to the trouble of obtain- ing the assistance of experts from the United States of America. Another group availed themselves of the services of a youth who had had five years’ experience with the Tobacco Investigation. After inspection by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research a ton of the leaf grown at Dimbulah was sold during the recent visit of the Prime Minister at 3s. 5d. or 3s. 6d. per lb. That was a good price, hut, unfortunately, since then, the growers have been unable to make any further sales. The expenditure of £20,000 on research work will not make a grower produce a good tobacco leaf. The grower knows that if he produces an inferior article, he must expect to receive a low return; but he expects a good price for a good article. There are good Australians in the industry, men above the average intelligence, and they know- whether the leaf is good or bad. The report which was furnished, by the select committee on the tobacco industry discloses the manner in which the growers were exploited prior to being protected by the Government. It would have been of far more benefit to the industry had the Government postponed this expenditure of £20,000 until it had taken steps to compel the manufacturers, starting immediately, to use 50 per cent, of Australian leaf in their tobacco manufactures until such time as the industry became selfsupporting. As the quality of the Australian leaf improves so will imports diminish, and the growers who are cultivating tobacco on unsuitable land will be forced out of industry. Mention is made of a grower who, when walking between plough furrows, sank to his waist in boggy country. I know of plenty of sandy, clayey country, especially ti-tree country, which, unless well drained, will, after a few heavy showers, become boggy, and any one attempting to walk over it will sink to his knees. After three or four days’ rain, swampy ti-tree and sandy country becomes practically impassable for even an equestrian. I admit that research work is necessary, but the success of a crop depends upon the grower. Take for instance two farmers operating on adjacent blocks. One drains his farm and the other does not. The former produces a beautiful crop of tobacco, and sells it at 3s. 6d. a lb. The latter loses his crop altogether through water lying on the ground for weeks and rotting the leaf. I hope that the Government will take steps to dispose of the tobacco produced in the North before spending any money on research work. Recently, the president of the Tobacco Growers’ Association, Mareeba, waited upon the representatives’ of the Government in Canberra, and I understand from a letter received by me from the secretary of the association at Mareeba, that he made representations for a grant for fertilizer this year to assist the growers until such time as they had sold their crop. Up to the present, nothing has been done in that direction. If the growers were assured of a market, they would not ask the Government for assistance. Prices as low as 9d. per lb. have been offered for some of the tobacco, and I am willing to supply the Minister for Trade and Customs with as many samples of rejected tobacco as he requires. At Dimbulah alone, 45 tons of tobacco were rejected at the last sale.
.- The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) is naturally interested in the tobacco leaf grown in his district, and I can quite understand his concern for the growers, many of whom are in distress. The Government shares the concern of the honorable member in respect of the position of the growers generally, but it cannot be denied that many of them have insufficient knowledge of the proper method,? of cultivation, and that others have endeavoured to grow tobacco in unsuitable districts. In addition, some of the crops have been afflicted with disease, and naturally, the growers are unable to sell a considerable portion of their leaf. It is ridiculous for the honorable member or the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) to allege that the Government is not sympathetic, and to blame it for the condition of the growers. This expenditure of £20,000 is definitely allocated to assist the tobacco-growers by instructing them in proper methods of cultivation.
– They do not want instruction.
– If the honorable member will read the report on the industry, he will find that ‘the growers do need instruction. Had honorable members studied that report, they would not have encouraged the cultivation of tobacco in unsuitable areas.
– On what ground does the Minister state that we have encouraged the growers to produce tobacco on unsuitable areas?
– The honorable member for New England, by his statement in this House, has encouraged the growing of tobacco in his district, and according to the report, many growers have endeavoured to produce tobacco on unsuitable soil. Generally speaking, the richer the soil, the more coarse and unsuitable the tobacco. I rose, principally, to draw the attention of honorable members to the report of the committee because the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has promised to provide an opportunity for a full discussion on this subject before the House rises. We are now discussing the expenditure of £20,000 on research work, but, naturally, the honorable member for Kennedy, and other honorable members who are interested in tobacco culture, have seized the opportunity to deal with the tobacco industry generally. It is not the business of the Government to find a market for the tobacco crop, but we are prepared to assist the industry as far as possible. There are several tobacco manufacturers, but, as I have stated previously, the principal company undertook to buy all the bright mahogany and better grades of leaf grown in Australia, and, for this season, to buy the usual quantity of darker grades. I understand that the company has kept to its undertaking.
– Dr. Dickson, at a lecture which he delivered at Canberra, distributed tobacco and cigarettes of a quality which he said was equal to that of the best Virginian brands.
– I share with the honorable member his anxiety for the welfare of the growers, but it should not be imagined that all the tobacco grown in Queensland is of good quality. It is true that last year the Mareeba leaf was of particularly high quality ; perhaps it was too good, in that it led many new growers to take up the industry in that district. The price at which tobacco was bought throughout the Commonwealth last year was 2s. 3d. a lb., yet, in the district* which the honorable member for Kennedy represents, prices as high as 5s. 6d. a lb. were realized; but subsequently one of the companies that undertook to pay those exceptional prices could not meet its liabilities. In my office I have scores of samples of diseased unsaleable leaf from Queensland, each labelled with the name of the grower, but they are quite unlike the samples which the honorable member has produced to-night. The committee appointed’ by the Government to investigate certain aspects of the tobacco industry in North Queensland conducted an impartial inquiry. Paragraph 17 S of the report states -
Reverting to the question of refusals to huy good usable leaf the committee is of opinion that six of the rejected bales it inspected should have been purchased. The fact that these bales were reasonably good tobacco was admitted by the company’s buyer, who subsequently purchased them.
The committee further stated, in paragraph 183 of its report -
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 the 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 one per cent., were considered to have been unfairly rejected.
Afterwards, the company purchased a number of bales that should not have been rejected. .
– It rejected them first and bought them afterwards.
– I am not familiar with the methods of the company, but I believe that a farmer who is in straitened financial circumstances is given preference over growers who are in a more favorable financial position.
– I am afraid that the Minister is too ready to accept the statements of the combine.
– The honorable member will not listen to reason. If he will turn to the conclusions and recommendations of the committee he will find these paragraphs -
Good, grading will unquestionably result in better prices for leaf, mid the present eton- dard of the work could be greatly improved. The allegation that manufacturers had paid unfair prices for this season’s leaf has not been proven.
The honorable member for New England asked me to-day if, on Thursday next, I would receive a deputation representing the growers of Australia. I shalldo so gladly, and I hope that the Government will be able to cooperate with them ; but I consider that the grant of £20,000 for investigation and instruction is the best way in which to assist the industry. If men are growing tobacco in unsuitable districts the sooner they know it the better it will be forthem. The report of the committee States definitely that excess rainfall was largely responsible for the trouble experienced this year in the Mareeba district.
Mr.ROSEVEAR (Dalley) [11.15].-
The explanation of the Minister for Health and Repatriation (Mr. Marr) was very vague and unconvincing regarding the proposed vote of £54,000 as Australia’s contribution to the cost of the Secretariat of the League of Nations, and the proposed vote of £.1,000 for Commonwealth representation at the Fourteenth Assembly of the League The method adopted by the Minister in explaining those votes is regrettable. He admitted that he used- the case of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in order to refute the criticism by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). In my opinion, that action was unworthy of a responsible Minister. In the first place, he made a definite misstatement with regard to the honorable member for West Sydney-
– The honorable member for West Sydney took exception to remarks which he was told had been made, and the Minister explained that he had not reflected in any way upon that honorable member, but added that if the honorable member thought that he had done so he withdrew the imputation. The matter should be allowedto rest there
– The Minister did not explain the reason for the vote of £54,000, because he probably had other things in his mind, and desired to make political capital at the expense of the party to which I belong. The sum of £20,000 was voted last year for this laudable object, but £50,000 was spent. Not content with the spending of £30,000 more than was provided on last year’s Estimates, the Government now proposes to increase the vote to £54,000. The committee is at a loss to know whether the explanation given by the Minister tonight purports to be the reason for the difference between the amount spent last year and the sum proposed to be expended this year, or between the money voted last year and the amount proposed to be voted this year. In one case the difference is £4,000 and in the other £24,000. According to the Minister, the proposed vote of £54,000 as Australia’s contribution to the cost of the Secretariat of the League of Nations cover arrears and an advance payment for this year, and the £1,000 provided for Commonwealth representation at Geneva constitutes an advance in respect of payments of expenses of the Australian delegation to a conferenceat Geneva. The report of the Thirteenth Assembly of the League mentions the nations ‘which have been in arrears with their payments since the establishment of the League. I have closely scanned that report for every annual financial period. Amongst other things it shows the amounts that each country owes, whether those amounts represent the balance unpaid, or whether the entire contributions are in arrears. In not a single instance is it disclosed that Australia is, or has been in arrears since the inception of the League. Although the report covers the financial operations of the League up to 1931 it does not reveal that Australia is in arrears in respect of any portion of its contributions. Consequently, the Minister should have explained whether it is in respect of 1932 that we owe these arrears. From a perusal of the vote for 1932-33, I learn that, though the estimated contribution of Australia for that year was £20,000, we actually paid £50,000. It is apparent, therefore, that it cannotbe for that particular period that we are in arrears. The report shows that during the financial year 1931, fourteen of the contributing countries were unfinancial to the extent of 3,287,387 gold francs for that year, and that the number of defaulters had progressively increased from 1923, when only four nations were unfinancial. Consequently, the question arises whether Australia should continue to pay her full quota to the League notwithstanding that other nations are defaulting. Many of these nations appear to be in a much better position to meet their commitments than does Australia. Whilst Australia has regularly met all her obligations up to date, half of the fourteen nations which are in default have repudiated practically all their financial commitments. Incidentally, I should like to know why our contribution has increased by £34,000 during the past twelve months.
The next item the Minister sought to explain had reference to the expenditure of £1,000 upon the representation of the Commonwealth at the Assembly of the League of Nations in 1933. The Minister read a list of the delegates who attended that conference. One of them was the High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce, who was accompanied by three or four others. The Minister told us that this £1,000 represented the cost of transport and the expenses of these delegates. He further said that the delegates were in Geneva for a month, and that as” they were all in Europe about the time that this Assembly was held, it was not necessary to pay for their transport from Australia. The farthest distance they had to be transported was from London to Geneva. If there were five delegates to the conference, obviously, the expenses of each amounted to £200 a month, or £50 a week. These figures disclose that the statements made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) were absolutely justified. Apart from their travelling expenses, the delegates were allowed £3 3s. a day. In these circumstances I should like to know what became of the £50 a week expended by each of them. Was thi3 money spent upon exorbitant hotel expenses, or in junketings and feasting? Seeing that the Government is using the’ pruning knife in all directions in an effort to cut down expenditure, we are justified in inquiring how each of these delegates with no travelling expenses to meet beyond those involved in the journey from London, could possibly expend £200 a month or £50 a week. These considerations raise the question of whether it is not desirable that in the future all. such delegations should be eliminated, or the expenses to cover them be considerably restricted. The Minister attempted to convey the impression that our attitude was illogical, because we had opposed an increased expenditure upon armaments of £1,500,000, and were now opposing Australia’s contribution to the League of Nations. If we desire to take part in the race for increased armaments, we should drop the pretence that we are in favour of peace, and cease making big contributions to the League. On the other hand, if we seriously believe that that body is capable of straightening out international difficulties and preventing a recurrence of the calamity that afflicted Europe between 1914 and 1918, our most logical course is to spend the £1,500,000 to which I have directed attention upon the League for the preservation of peace. I submit that there is nothing inconsistent or illogical in that attitude. Up to date, the League has not been the success it was expected to be. The economies it has practised have done the greatest possible damage to the most effective sections associated with its activities. For example, it has endeavoured to decrease considerably the expenditure upon its health section, by eliminating a very important international conference; it has also cut down the expenditure upon its labour section by 150,000 gold francs. While pruning in that direction, the League could not, even after lengthy discussion, reduce the payments to high officials pf the League appointed by it and who are under its control.
The Minister said that the expenditure on public works in the Northern Territory this year is double that of last year, but he did not say that on some of the works mentioned the artisans employed have been obtained from Sydney and other capital cities.
– The unemployed in the Northern Territory will not benefit at all.
– Unfortunately, they will not; that is what I object to. The major portion of the skilled labour was sent from Sydney and other capital cities, and most of the material, particularly that, used in the construction of oil . tanks at Darwin, was produced in different parts of the Commonwealth. In effect, the £30,000 spent on the erection of oil tanks did not materially benefit the unemployed in the Northern Territory more than by providing a little work for unskilled labour on excavations preparatory to the erection of the tanks. For years we have been concerned with the sparseness of the population in, and the development of, the Northern Territory. It was governed in the early clays from Sydney, and later by the South Australian Government. .For some years now it has been under the control of the Commonwealth Government. Each authority has been faced with the problem of populating the Northern Territory.
– That subject could be discussed more appropriately on the vote for the Territories of the Commonwealth.
– I am merely leading up to the point that the Government, while finding it difficult to get people to go to the Northern Territory, will not assist those who are already there. If they cannot get employment or relief in some form, mostly because they have not lived there long enough, the Government will either starve them out or have to provide ways and- means for them to get away. If they are starved out or provided with transport, their position will be the same wherever they go. No government can allow its citizens to starve. Wherever they drift, or wherever they are sent, the responsibility will rest upon some government, Federal or State, to provide them with sustenance. They will continue to be a burden upon the taxpayers until they are provided with work. The Government does not solve the problem by refusing to provide them with sustenance. Whatever their residential qualification may be, the Administration should give them work at wages which will enable them to maintain themselves, lt is a standing disgrace that the government of any civilized country should quibble over the matter and say that it does not propose to provide them with sufficient to keep body and soul together. It is not the fault of the men that they are unemployed and in need of sustenance. The Government has contributed towards their unfortunate state and should make some decent provision for them. This social problem must be faced sooner or later. The expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds may be necessary to encourage people to settle in the North, but that expenditure might be avoided by encouraging the present population to remain. The Government should not permit the name of the Commonwealth to be besmirched by its inhuman, mean, miserable and antiAustralian action.
– I wish to refer more particularly to the proposed votes to cover Australia’s contribution to the cost of the Secretariat of the League of Nations and to the cost of our representation at the International Labour Conference at Geneva. A more detailed explanation should be given of the expenses of the League of Nations. I am not opposed to this expenditure; indeed, I would not mind if it were doubled. Like other honorable members, I am disappointed with the failure of the League in recent years, hut I am opposed to dismantling its machinery. I hope that a future government will show a more earnest desire for disarmament than the present Government has exhibited. Australia should continue its association with the League, and should send its representatives to every conference held to discuss peace overtures generally. Particularly should Australia’s delegates be instructed to vote for the prohibition of the manufacture of armaments by private manufacturers. I am glad to see a growing public opinion against private firms making and selling armaments, and I believe that if future conferences would concentrate on that subject, the League would eventually take action to prevent private firms from engaging in this business. If that were done, the world would have gone a long way towards preventing war, I voted against increased expenditure on naval and military operations, because I am opposed to the nations engaging in a race for armaments. In that way wars are caused. I shall not vote agains.t any expenditure on the League of Nations for. although I am “disappointed with the League, I regard it as the only means whereby world peace may ultimately be attained. It would be a retrograde step to destroy the League now.
Only to-day I discovered that one of the Australian delegates to a former International Labour Conference has not been paid the full amount owing to him for expenses while away. When I went to Geneva in 1923 to attend the International Labour Conference I did not claim expenses, because I did not lose my salary while I was away; but, in 1924, the Commonwealth Government decided to pay each delegate to the International Labour Conference £8 a week while absent from Australia. I negotiated that arrangement with the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce). Mr. Curtin who formerly represented Fremantle in this House, was in receipt of £12 a week as editor of a newspaper in Western Australia when he went to Geneva, and would have lost his salary while absent from Australia. Consequently, the arrangement to which I have referred was made. In 1925, the present member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) went to Geneva as a delegate to the International Labour Conference, and was paid certain expenses. Later, he was asked to submit his final claim. He did so; but to this day he has not received payment. If the Government thought that a.ny Australian delegate was absent from Australia for an unreasonable period, it would be justified in taking a stand in the matter; but for the time agreed upon his expenses should be paid. A sum of money is still owing to the delegate mentioned, and I ask the Minister to see that it is paid.
For the eighteenth International Labour Conference the sum of £500 is provided in these Estimates. That is not sufficient to meet the expenses of a full delegation from Australia, namely, a representative each of the Government, the employers and the employees. I am not assuming that the Government will not find sufficient money if a full delegation is sent from Australia; I refer to this matter in order to urge that a full delegation be sent.
.- I am dissatisfied with the reply of the Minister for Health and Repatriation (Mr. Marr) to the representations made to him in connexion with the coal industry. It is true that he gave a lengthy reply, but, unfortunately, it did not contain anything different from what has been said from time to time by the Government’s advisers, Dr. Rivett and Mr. Rogers. The Minister said that Mr. S. M. Bruce had made representations to certain interests in Britain with a view to setting up in Australia a hydrogenation plant for the extraction of oil from coal. The Minister said that the Government could not do anything until the plant established in England had had a six months’ trial. While - that test is being carried out, mine after mine is being closed down in Australia.
The Government has squandered a great deal of money sending its representatives to conferences in different parts of the world. It. has spent £4,363 on sending Commonwealth representatives to the Imperial Economic Conference, £300 on minor conferences and £1,000 on the Fourteenth Assembly of the League of Nations. The Minister stated that this £1,000 was to cover the expenses of four representatives for a period of four weeks. That is at the rate of £250 a month, or £62 10s. a week ! In addition, 011 C of the representatives, Mr. Bruce, drew also his allowance and salary as Resident Minister in London at the rate of £5,000 per annum. As a comparison, I point out that” only £3 a day, or £21 a week, was paid to each of the delegates of the workers who attended the International Labour Conference, out of which allowance the representative had to pay all expenses. It. is only reasonable to ask that the Government should curtail the payment of such munificent allowances to those who are already drawing largo salaries.
I notice that £4,154 is to be paid as a subsidy to a shipping company in connexion with a service between Hobart and Sydney, while £10,000 is allocated as a subsidy for a service running between Launceston and Melbourne. Tasmania appears to he most bountifully treated by this Government, and if similar treatment were extended towards other States, there would be no complaint. But the Government practically refuses to aid the coal-mining industry, which has almost ceased to function, thereby throwing thousands of employees on to the dole.
It is unnecessary for the Government to wait six months for the results of experiments that are being made in Great Britain in connexion with the hydrogenation process; it should he courageous enough to act on its own initiative, for it has been definitely proved that this is an economic and commercial proposition. If the Government would only take action in this regard, it could assist the coal-mining industry and place many thousands of miners in employment. The Government has proved itself to he very weak, indeed. Its treatment of the wheat-growers, whose position is no worse than that of the coalminers, is an interesting contrast. Because of the existence of a strong party in this House -
– Order !
– The Government allows itself to be coerced into assisting the wheat industry.
– Order !
– You call me to order more than you do any other honorable member.
– If that is so. ‘it is because the honorable member is more frequently out of order. The question before the Chair does not refer to the granting of assistance to wheat-growers or to the attitude of one party to another.
– I am comparing the treatment that is given to one industry with that given to another, and I am complaining that the mining industry has been neglected while the wheat industry has been generously helped. The coal-mining industry in Aus tralia is in a tragic position, and has appealed to the Government for assistance. Has it not as much right as any other industry to receive assistance? Why, then, does not the Government help it? You, sir, say that because I attribute the assistance given to the wheat industry to weight of numbers in this chamber, I am out of order. I must bow to that ruling, but at the same time I believe-
– I do not wish to curtail the speech of the honorable member, who is naturally concerned about the state of the industry which is in his electorate, but he must obey the ruling of the Chair or resume his seat.
– The Government is allocating £5,000 for the development, of the fishing industry. Here is an opportunity for it to do a great national work. I have been approached by business men in my electorate who have money to invest in the fishing industry, but who are not prepared to do so because the Government refuses to assist by reducing primage and sales tax on machinery needed, to establish the industry. This machinery is needed to equip trawlers j,ro operate on. the northern coasts of New South Wales. I ask the Government to make a bigger grant, if possible, for the assistance of the industry, and also to remit primage duty and sales tax on marine machinery of the kind I have mentioned.
In regard to the production of oil from coal, I appeal to the Government to announce immediately what assistance, by way of bounty or otherwise, it proposes to give those who embark on this industry. I have been informed that others besides the English firm to whom reference has been made are prepared to begin operations if only they, could obtain an assurance from the Government that a bounty* would be paid upon each gallon produced.
– I moved that the item 29 be reduced by £1. as an. instruction to the Government to provide more work for the unemployed, and to remove the residential qualifications debarring those with less than three years residence in the territory from participating in relief work. That item appears under Miscellaneous Services, on page 179 of the Estimates, and relates to the expenses of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on unemployment. It was, I think, an appropriate item on which to move the amendment, but the Minister, in his reply, dealt with an assortment of items appearing on page 239, most of them having to do with the maintenance of various services. I remind him that the unemployed will not benefit by one penny of the money so spent. The Minister made no reply whatever to my remarks regarding residential qualifications. If ever I am successful in having an inquiry made into the administration of the Northern Territory, there will be some startling revelations. The Government has issued a regulation that only those persons who were residing in the Northern Territory prior to 1930 may be given relief work. This excludes large numbers of prospectors, who, though most desirable citizens, will not be able to remain in the territory unless they have means of their own. The Government is shirking its obligations to the unemployed in the territory, and is trying to dump them on to neighbouring States. I am amazed at the apathy of most honorable members on the subject of unemployment in the Northern Territory. Perhaps it is because, for all practical purposes, those men in the north are disfranchised, their representative in this Parliament having no vote. Yet those honorable members who remain silent now when I ask that something be done for the unemployed, would be loud in their demand that the law should deal severely with them if, driven by hunger and misery, they committed excesses. “We may force the unemployed to obey the law, but we cannot make them respect it when they are treated unjustly. The Government is vindictive in its treatment of many of the unemployed in the Northern Territory. Because some men, who were held to be Communists, entered the territory a little while ago, all the other unemployed there are made to suffer, and, unless they happened to be resident there before 1930, they have no hope of ever obtaining any relief, even if they stay another 50 years. History teems with reactions from such acts of Government policy. These men are only demanding the right to live. Surely that is not too muck to ask of any democratic government. Who is so inhumane as to deny them the right to work and also the right to live? Is this Government so destitute of constructive ideas that it is unable to formulate any scheme for the employment of the few hundreds of men who are seeking employment in the Northern Territory? There is a huge work to be done in the opening up of pastoral and mineral areas, and in assisting settlers. Has this Government no regard for the pioneering spirit of the people in that part of the continent? Are Ministers merely armchair politicians? The need to-day is for men with vision, such as the late Lord Forrest and the late Sir Thomas Mcllwraith, who were not afraid to face the expenditure involved in pioneering projects for the development of the country. This Government is shirking its responsibilities in the Northern Territory. Consequently we need not be surprised if these people who are looking for work there are eventually driven to excesses. Of my own personal knowledge [ know that their one hope is to get work so that they may earn a few pounds and get off the dole. If Ministers were themselves in the unenviable position of these men, they might become a little more humane in their outlook. Their indifference to the needs of the unemployed iu the Northern Territory is dehumanizing some of the finest men in Australia; it is forcing them to ask if it is worth while to obey the laws of a country that denies them the right to live. I am not uttering a threat, but I know the men of whom I speak, and I warn the Government that if, through inability to obtain work, these men are driven to extremes, they are capable of doing anything. If I were in their position I should he the first to join in a demonstration to establish their claims. The Government is easing the ban on migration, but it is doing nothing to provide for the unemployed in federal territories, which are its direct responsibility. The Melbourne Star of the 17th inst., published the following statement from its Canberra correspondent : -
Modification of existing migration restrictions is the aim of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins), and suggestions for easing the ban will be placed before Cabinet at an early date.
Apparently the Government is concerned for the welfare of people overseas, but is quite callous about the condition of people in this country, particularly the unemployed in territories for which it is solely responsible. I intend to broadcast this Government’s callousness throughout the length and breadth of Australia. It might be argued that, because the number of unemployed in the Northern Territory is comparatively few, we should- not concern ourselves too much about the matter; but I remind the committee that little issues become great issues, and that small communities have equal rights with large communities. I warn the Government that the treatment which it is meting out to these people in the Northern Territory will be resented by the people generally. I marvel at the tolerance of these men. Their deplorable condition demand’s the support of every honorable member with any pretension to regard for the welfare of his fellow men. Shortly, Parliament will adjourn -for the festive season. Doubtless honorable members and their friends will take their places around festive boards and enjoy all the luxuries of life that come their way. But have honorable members opposite one thought for the miseries and suffering of their fellow countrymen? I again urge this Government and its supporters not to withhold from the unemployed in the Northern Territory the right to work and live. I feel sure that, if supporters of the Government had complete freedom to vote in accordance with their views on this subject,- they would quickly put an end to the persecution of the unemployed in the Northern Territory. I hope that the Minister, when again he replies to my charges, will tell the House why thisinhumane regulation was framed, and explain why it was put into operation. The only justification which he can offer is that the Government wishes to depopulate the Northern Territory, instead of encouraging settlement for the purpose of its development. For years, successive Nationalist governments have, by their policy, been discouraging settlement in the territory of any people who have not wealth at their disposal. Workers without capital are just as essential in any scheme of development as are men of wealth. Without them, all projects are doomed to failure. Yet this Government now unblushingly declares that it will prevent unemployed people from going to the Northern. Territory, and starve them if they succeed in getting there.
It is an indictment of the intelligence and mentality of those who control the destinies of this territory. So long as I am able I shall endeavour” to see that those whom I represent receive a fair measure of justice. If they do not, I shall not be responsible for what happens. Honorable members may think that that is an idle threat ; but from my knowledge I assure them that the men of the great outback will not submit indefinitely to the present intolerable conditions. Many of those who go into the Northern Territory follow the occupation of mining, on fields that are hundreds of miles from settled areas. If they induce mother earth to disgorge her wealth, the Minister will be one of the first to claim the credit ; but he has made it plain that if they fail they can starve so far as he is concerned. Why does not the Commonwealth follow the example of Western Australia, Queensland, and other progressive States? In Western Australia to-day, 23 batteries are operating. The State batteries have treated ore yielding . gold valued at over £6,000,000. There is gold to be won in the Northern Territory. As I informed the Minister yesterday, one parcel of ore from Tennant’s Creek averaged 9 oz. to the ton. The Commonwealth Director of Mines has given the assurance that these fields are permanent propositions. Hundreds of men, if provided with crushing facilities, would produce sufficient wealth to relieve the Government of all its anxieties in regard to unemployment. The development of the mining industry would solve the problem of unemployment not only in the Northern Territory but also in a large measure in the States. Any personwith an ounce of common sense will substantiate my statements. The provision of £150 for the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on unemployment is ridiculous. The committee was set up to advise the Government as to what should be done in regard to the unemployed. I have persistently advanced logical schemes to overcome the unemployment position, but the Government has ignored them. This committee has not made one suggestion and it is not likely that it will, because it was never intended that it should do so. We should see that our citizens are imbued with the desire to do big things, andare not driven to adopt subterfuges by being denied food. Until this question is tackled along logical lines, neither the Northern Territory nor Australia as a whole will prosper.
Sales Tax on Cement and Roadmaking Plant.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– The Katanning Road Board wishes to lay 212 chains of 6-in. concrete pipes, from a dam that has been constructed at considerable expense, for reticulation and sewerage purposes. There is no natura] water supply. Because of the protectionist policy of Australia, concrete pipes cost, in this country, three or four times as much as in any other country. The price of cementis 22s. 6d. a ton from the Far East, compared with £5 to £6 a ton in Australia, and sales tax has to be paid on it. In arid districts, towns are built up on the wheat, wool, fruit, and dairying industries, which for some years have been in a bad way. This municipality has asked me to urge the Government to remit the sales tax, amounting to over £100, on this municipal necessity, which should be placed on the exempt list. The putting in hand of this work would provide a good deal of employment; but because of the heavy cost, which the municipality cannot afford, it is bung up. I trust that the Government will give the request its earnest consideration.
.I have been approached by municipal and shire councils to request the Government to remove the sales tax from road-making machinery. I have made representations to the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) on this matter, but with no success. One council has again communicated with me asking why its request has not been acceded to in view of the fact that sales tax remissions have been made in respect of agricultural and mining machinery. I agree with the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) that local governing bodies have great difficulty in financing their works. I urge the Minister to recommend to the Cabinet the removal of the sales tax from road-making machinery.
– I am afraid that it would be possible for every honorable member to ask for a remission of sales tax upon some article upon the ground of increased cost, which undoubtedly is the direct effect of this form of taxation. Honorable members know that it is impossible to attack this subject piece-meal in accordance with representations made by them. Large exemptions have been madefrom sales tax, all upon calculated principles.
– Principles ?
– Yes, principles. It is a matter for doubt as to whether the principle of assisting country districts has not been followed rather far as compared with the assistance given to the city areas, and whether there should not have been greater exemption in relation to some of the materials generally used in the cities.
– For instance, screenings for buildings.
– That is an example. The Government takes the view that it is proper to distribute the exemptions fairly throughout the community, at the same time taking into ‘consideration employment, the development of the country and the position of the industry affected. Large exemptions have been made, much more extensive than any one would have thought conceivable twelve months ago, and it is quite impossible for the Government to do any more in that direction. I assure the honorable members who have spoken that the Government recognizes the obvious importance of waver supply and road-making. These matters, with others, will be taken into consideration when it is again possible to reduce taxation. I repeat that requests cannot be dealt with one by one as they are made on the floor of the House, and that this matter must be dealt with upon a broad basis of principle.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.34 a.m. (Friday).
The following answersto questions were circulated: -
Common wealth Oil Refineries Limited.
Mr.Nairn asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount of the paid-up capital of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has been provided by the Commonwealth Government?
What is the total amount of dividends paid by the company since its inception?
What is the average annual percentage of dividends to paid-up capital?
r asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it the custom of the Defence Department to refuse publicity concerning the successful tender for hosiery, &c. : if not, will the Minister name the successful tenderer for schedule No. T. 11 , 477, and state what was the lowest tender ?
– It. is not the custom of the Defence Department to refuse publicity regarding successful tenderers. The information requested is as follows : -
Item ]. - 2.050 pairs socks, black cashmere - Bonds Industries Limited, at ls. 5.5d. per pair. Lowest tender - G. F. Folwell, at ls. Id. per pair.
Item 2. - 1,0S0 pairs stockings, thin - A. Taffler, nt 2s. 7.7d. per pair. Lowest tender - Astor Hosiery, at ls. 4.1d. per pair.
Item 3. - 300 pairs socks, worsted heather - Foy and Gibson Proprietary Limited, at ls. 7d. per pair. Lowest tender - Centenary Woollen Mills, nt ls. 5d. per pair.
Item 4. - 300 pairs socks, black cashmere - Bonds Industries Limited, at ls. 5.5d. per pair Lowest tender - Astor Hosiery Mills, nt ls. 0.!)d. per pair.
Item 5. - 300 pairs socks, black worsted - Foy and Gibson Proprietary Limited, at ls. 7d. per pair. Lowest tender - Mellor and Company, at ls. per pair.
Item 0. - 250 pairs stockings, blue, has not yet been finally dealt with.
The lowest tenders from price point of view only are as indicated above, but in regard to tenders of this nature tenderers are required to submit samples, and the successful tenders represent the best value from the department’s point of view, taking into consideration departmental standard, and price and quality of the samples submitted by tenderers generally.
y asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s. - The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has asked a series of questions, upon notice, in regard to the price of phosphate rock. Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
Defence Policy : Article in Melbourne “ Argus.”
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Has he seen the leading article of the Argus of Saturday last; if so, will he take it into consideration in connexion with defence policy, and Have copies circulated amongst members of the Commonwealth Parliament?
s. - I have seen the article, but I understand that it has already been circulated amongst members of Parliament, apparently by the proprietors of the Argus newspaper.
e asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What ie the total amount of accumulated leave due to officers of the Commonwealth Public Service as “time off” in lieu of award (a) for the whole of Australia, and (b) for each of the States.
– The information desired is being obtained from Commonwealth departments and branches, and will be made available as soon as possible.
Basic Industries: Assessable Income.
s. - Yesterday the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked to be furnished with information in regard to the relative assessable incomes of the three great basic industries - farming, pastoral, and mining - and the rest of the community for the year 1932.
The information desired by the honorable member is compiled for financial years, and is not yet available. It has to be extracted from particulars of assessments which were issued only this year, and the compilation is not yet complete. The information for the year ended the 30th June, 1932, will be published in the next annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation, which will be available next year.
s. - On the18th October, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked me the following question, without notice: -
Some time ago the Minister for Health stated that pensioners who had had their pen sions reduced because they were in receipt of war pensions would have the amount made up by the department. There are in Australia many persons in receipt of imperial war pensions, but up to the present, the concession referred to by the Minister has not beenextended to them. Will the Government consider placing both classes of pensioners on the same footing?
I desire to inform the honorable member that consideration has been given to the matter. The statement made by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Marr) had reference only to the pensions of widowed mothers of deceased soldiers. (See Barnard, No. 29 of 1932, page 3274.)
Imperial war pensions are entirely outside the province of the Commonwealth Government, with the exception that the Repatriation Commission acts as paying agent for the British Ministry of Pensions in respect of imperial war pensioners resident in Australia. The rate of pension is determined by the British Ministry of Pensions, and the commission is then advised as to what rate is to be paid and for what period.
Death of Mr. E. L. Kelly.
s. - On the 3rd November, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) asked that consideration be given to the making of a grant to the widow of the late Edward Lang Kelly, who was recently killed in a motor car accident in Canberra, to enable her to meet funeral expenses and other outgoings occasioned by her husband’s death.
I have had this matter very carefully investigated, and I find that Mr. Kelly was employed as a temporary clerk in the Census Department.
The accident from which he met his death occurred whilst he was off duty, and therefore, no payment, is due under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. As regards the funeral expenses, I am informed that these were met by the Canberra branch of the Returned Soldiers League, but, as Kelly was a returned soldier, these expenses, up to a maximum of £15, will be reimbursed by the Repatriation Department under the regulations administered by that department.
The circumstances of this case are such as to call for sympathy, but the Government regrets that it is not practicable to make a compassionate grant to the widow as such a grant would establish a very serious precedent, and make it difficult to withhold similar consideration in any other case of an employee, either permanent or temporary, who dies leaving his widow in necessitous circumstances.
Income Tax Collections.
s. - On the 15th November, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions, upon, notice : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows : -
BY-ELECTION: Unsigned Newspaper Comments.
– On the 27th October, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) asked the following question, without notice: -
Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to the fact that a number of newspapers are publishing comments on federal politics and federal members during the progress of a federal by-election without complying with the provisions of the electoral law, which provides that such articles must be signed with the names and addresses of the writers?
The matter was brought to the notice of the Commonwealth electoral authorities who have advised that no unsigned article which might -be deemed a contravention of section 164 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act had been observed, but that, if further particulars relating to the newspapers and comments referred to were supplied, any necessary action in the matter would be taken.
TRANSPORT of Stock.
s. - On the 31st October, the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) asked me the following question, without notice: -
In view of the restrictions which have been imposed on the transport of stock by thu Federal Tick Commision, on which the Commonwealth has a representative, practically preventing young stock from being taken to the Sydney market, will the Federal Government take steps to unsure that this stock may be killed in the country as in the past, instead of being destroyed practically for nothing, as would be the result of the increased inspection charges levied by the New South Wales authorities?
I am now in a position to inform the right honorable member that the* restriction imposed by the Cattle Tick Commission on stock leaving the tick area has been in operation since the appointment of the commission. It is the same as was required by the New South Wales Stock Department for many years prior to that, and does not prevent stock being sent to the Sydney market. The restriction is that stock must be dipped twice at an interval of five to ten days before leaving the area, to ensure that they do not carry ticks to areas outside. The Cattle Tick Commission is not concerned with the slaughter of cattle, or with fees for inspection levied at abattoirs. It is understood that higher inspection fees have been imposed at Homebush abattoirs, but they apply to all cattle whether from tick areas or not.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 November 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19331123_reps_13_142/>.