13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - Honorable members, I am sure, will have learned with deep regret of the death of Mr. John Thomson, which occurred at his home, Mount George, New SouthWales, on the 15th instant.
The late Mr. Thomson was a member of the Legislative Assembly of New SouthWales from July, 1901, to July, 1904. He entered the House of Representatives as the representative of the division of Cowper, New SouthWales, in 1906, and remained a member of this House until 1919. He was one of the members of tho Commonwealth parliamentary party which visited England in 1911, at the invitation of the Imperial Government, on the occasion of the coronation of His Majesty the present King. From 1913 to 1917 he occupied the posi- tion of Temporary Chairman of Committees. Ho was a member of the Royal Commission on the Fruit Industry from 1912 to 1914, a member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Public Accounts from 1914 to 1919, and Ministerial “Whip from 1917 to 1919. He was both able and conscientious in the discharge of his parliamentary duties, and his genial disposition and estimable qualities earned forhim the deep friendship of all with whom he was associated. I desire to pay a tribute to the service that he rendered for many years in the Parliament of the Commonwealth. I move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of Mr. John Thomson, a former member of the House of Representatives, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and extends its sympathy to his relatives in their bereavement.
– I second the motion that has been moved by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and join with him in expressing regret at the passing of the late Mr. Thomson, and in extending sympathy to his relatives. I had the privilege of knowing the deceased gentleman for a period of three years, when I first entered the Commonwealth Parliament. The Prime Minister has truly described him as a man who possessed a genial and kindly disposition, and one who was most conscientious in the discharge of his public duties.
.- On behalf of the Country party I desire to be associated with the motion that has been moved by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and seconded by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), expressing regret at the death of the late Mr. Thomson and extending sympathy to hie relatives. The deceased gentleman represented the division of Cowper foT a period of thirteen years, and was greatly loved in tho whole of the district on account of the indefatigable way in which he advanced the interests of its people. His extensive knowledge of rural affairs was well recognized. He was a genial companion and a keen worker throughout a long and an honorable association with the public life of Australia in the legislatures of both New South Wales and the Commonwealth.
– Although neither my colleagues nor I had the privilege of being acquainted with the late honorable gentleman, having heard from the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) of the valuable service that he rendered to Australia, we wish to associate ourselves with the motion expressing regret at his passing and extending deepest sympathy to his relatives and friends.
– I was intimately associated with the late honorable gentleman during the whole of his political career in the Commonwealth Parliament, having been a member of the same party, and can say that he won the affection and the regard of all by his upright and honorable conduct in public life. As the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has remarked, he was deeply interested in rural matters. His heart was wrapped up in the welfare of the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales. He was most conscientious and faithful in the discharge of his duties. Those who were associated with him will learn of his death with extreme regret, and will mourn the loss of a true and loyal friend who served the people with honour and distinction.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– by leave - Primage duty was imposed solely for revenue purposes, and it has been the endeavour of this Government to reduce the incidence of it at the earliest moment consistent with the financial position of the country. In its ‘budget for last year, the Government was able to make primage concessions amounting in all to £585,000, and again this year it is in the happy position of being able to grant further concessions approximating £400,000. As the revenue derived from primage duties for the year 1933-34 amounted to £4,080,000, the reductions made in the present budget approximate 10 per cent, of the total primage revenue collected last year.
Action has been taken by proclamations to give legal effect to the Government’s proposals in relation to primage, and the various concessions of which honorable members were notified in the statement distributed yesterday, operate from today. The concessions granted have been distributed as follows : -
In apportioning the relief which the Government felt was justified by the financial position, primary consideration was given- to the undertaking entered into at Ottawa to reduce or remove primage in respect of United Kingdom goods as soon as the state of Australia’3 finances permitted, and further preferential treatment by way of primage relief has been given to the United Kingdom under 79 items of the tariff.
A reduction from 10 per cent, to 5 per cent, has been made on various goods, including cotton and linen piece goods, admissible at the British preferential rate under 70 items of the customs tariff, the value .of the United Kingdom trade under these items for the year 1932-33 being approximately £5,740,000. The value of this primage concession to Britain approximates £287,000, of which roughly £250,000 is in respect of cotton and linen piece goods. Other goods of United Kingdom origin, mainly, medicines and medicinal preparations, surgical and dental apparatus have been exempted from primage duty which action relieves British goods of a further £12,000 in primage charges, the value of British trade under these items being approximately £120,000. It may be mentioned also that in respect of the reductions covering raw materials, British goods approximating in value £250,000 will be subject to a primage reduction of 5 per cent.
From the time this Government took office it regarded with disfavour the imposition of primage duty on goods peculiar to the primary producing industries of Australia, and in the budget for the year 1932-33 provision was made for the exemption from primage duty of practically all the important lines of imported goods used essentially by primary producers. In the present budget the principal items affecting primary producers which have been exempted from this duty are vegetable parchment paper for butter wrapping, rabbit nets and netting, miners’ safety lamps, licks for’ live stock and materials for use in the manufacture thereof, hop cloth and filter cloth for mines. In addition, all mining explosives have been added to the list of goods paying only 4 per cent, primage duty, while materials for use in the manufacture of such explosives in .Australia have also been granted a reduction of 6 per cent. In addition to the benefits conferred directly upon the primary producer by the exemption of goods peculiar to his industries from primage duty, it must bo remembered also that benefit is conferred upon him indirectly by the reductions made on raw materials and capital goods required by manufacturers.
Another feature of the Government’s primage policy for the present year is the exemption from primage duty of medicines and other medicinal preparations of a class or kind not manufactured in Australia which are entitled to admission under the British preferential tariff. A similar concession has also been extended to various surgical and dental appliances and accessories. The Government hopes that this action will help to alleviate the burden which falls on those who are unfortunate enough to suffer ill-health.
It will be remembered that a 5 per cent, reduction was made last year in the primage duty on goods admissible under the British preferential tariff under tariff items deemed to be protective in their incidence, but a compensating benefit was not granted in all cases in respect of important classes of raw materials used by Australian manufacturers’ in the manufacture of protected goods. Action has now been taken to add various specified classes of raw materials to the list of goods paying primage duty at the rate of 5 per cent. This will remove to a large degree the anomaly created by the admission, of completely manufactured goods at a lower rate of primage duty than the Australian manufacturer was compelled to pay on his raw materials. Should any cases arise in which the imposition of 10 per cent, primage duty on raw materials used by an Australian manufacturer is hampering that manufacturer in his endeavour to compete with imported products of the type which he manufactures, the Government will give consideration to a reduction of the primage chargeable on such raw materials. Since this Government took office reductions of primage duty have been made, the cumulative effect of which, based on the imports for the financial year just ended, has eased the burden of primage taxation by approximately £1,050,000.
Sixth report brought up by Mr. E. P. Harrison, read by the Clerk, and - by leave - agreed to.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the fact that an address was delivered on Sunday evening last in Sydney by a man called Lang, the subject of the address being “Why banks smash, and who smashes them”.
– I rise to a point of order. In view of the ‘fact that Mr. Lang has been Premier of the State of New South Wales, and is now Leader of the Opposition in that State, I object to the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) referring to him as “ a man called Lang.”
– There is no point of order.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that, in the course of that address, serious allegations were made against an important section of the business community, and does he propose to “ take any action in regard to the matter?
– My attention has been drawn to the address, and there is no doubt that certain charges were made against sections of the business community of Australia, but the public understands Mr. Lang so thoroughly that it will not be influenced by his statements.
– Has the Prime Minister received any official confirmation of the report i a to-day’s newspapers regarding a statement by the chairman of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Australia that Italy intends to limit the imports of wool from Australia to onehalf of the quantity imported last year? If so, is he in a position to state whether this action is in any way related to the action of the last Government in limiting the importation of fancy goods and certain other articles the produce of Italy?
– As stated by the Minister for Trade and Customs recently, negotiations are at present, and for some time have been, taking place between the Commonwealth and the Italian Government regarding matters of trade. A representative, of the Commonwealth Government has been in communication with the Italian Consul-General, and it is hoped that a satisfactory arrangement will be come to. In regard to the second part of the honorable member’s question, whatever action the Italian Government takes will be based on a decision made earlier in the year to limit purchases from those countries with which Italy has an adverse trade balance. That decision was to be applied generally, and had no particular reference to Australia.
Report by Sir Hamilton Harty.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral yet in a position to make available to honorable members the report recently submitted to the Australian Broadcasting Commission by Sir Hamilton Harty, in which important conclusions and recommendations were made relative to the broadcasting of music and the employment of musicians in Australia?
– Since the honorable member asked me a similar question some days ago I have ascertained from the commission that Sir Hamilton Harty made a report to it. That report is, however, the property of the commission. I suggest that persons interested in its contents should communicate directly with the commission on the subject The commission, has full control of the wholo of its activities, under legislation passed by this Parliament.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the Pensions Department is still levying toll upon the estates of pensioners who died prior to December last? In view of the amending legislation that was then passed, will the honorable gentleman issue instructions to the department that this practice must be discontinued and give such instruction retrospective effect to the date provided in the amending act?
– I shall look into the matter.
– Is the Assistant Treasurer able to inform me whether the annual report of the Income Tax Commissioner for 1931-32 will be made available to honorable members before Parliament prorogues?
– The report will he tabled to-day.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation inform me whether the Government is prepared to grant additional educational facilities to the children of blinded returned soldiers?
– The Government has decided to allow children of totally blinded returned soldiers to be included in the children’s education scheme.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the provisions of the budget for the partial restoration of salaries to officers of the Public Service will also apply to officers of the Joint House Department of Parliament?
– It is intended that tho restoration shall apply to all the officers of Parliament and all sections of the Public Service.
– I have received from the honorable member for Richmond an intimation that he desires to move tho adjournment of the House this afternoon for the purposo of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The deportation of a natural-born Australian citizen from Australian territory because of failure to pass a dictation test in a foreign language “.
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
I move -
Th at the House do now adjourn.
The subject which I wish to discuss, namely, tho deportation from Norfolk Island of Mr. Macarthur Onslow, was brought under the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) by me yesterday, when I asked him -
Is it a fact that Mr. Macarthur Onslow was deported from Norfolk Island on the sole charge that he did not understand the German language? Does the Government acquiesce in the deportation of an Australianhorn citizen from Australian territory because he has not learned a foreign language? Does tho Government propose to hold an inquiry into the matter?
The right honorable gentleman, in reply to my question, said that he would make a statement to the House on the subject at the earliest opportunity; but he added this rather sinister remark -
In the meant i me, let me say that the friends of the person concerned would have acted more wisely had they refrained from having the matter raised in the House.
Since then I have had an opportunity of discussing the subject with Mr. James Macarthur Onslow, and we have agreed that, in view of the concluding observation of tho Prime Minister, which I have just quoted, it is advisable that some of the history of the case should be brought under the notice of the House. It is obvious, of course, that the ex parte statement by the Prime Minister was based only on the opinions expressed by the Administrator of Norfolk Island.
Norfolk Island is a portion of the territory of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The ordinances under which it is governed are printed in the Commonwealth Gazette. The introductory paragraph to these ordinances, and, incidentally also, the ordinance under which the Administrator acted in this deportation case, reads as follows: -
Be it ordained by the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, with the advice of the Federal Executive Council, in pursuance of the powers conferred by tho Norfolk Island Act 1913, as follows:-
That means that the government of the island is definitely vested in the Executive of Australia. It is prescribed that certain reports shall be presented to Parliament from time to time by the Administrator. I notice that the report of the Printing Committee presented to-day recommended that the report of the Administrator of Norfolk- Island should be printed. This Parliament is, therefore, naturally concerned with happenings on the island, for definitely and distinctly the island is part of the territory for which it is responsible. This fact is further borne out by the provision made in the budget presented by the Prime Minister yesterday for the usual voto towards the cost of administering the affairs of the island. The man who was deported is Australian born and comes of a very old Australian family, distinguished both in peace and war. He served at the front in the 1914-18 war, and on his return to Australia joined the Commonwealth Military Forces, in which he still holds a commission as a captain. He proceeded to Norfolk Island as a tourist, and liked the island so much that he decided to make a prolonged visit. He had his wife and child with him, and took a lease of a house there for two years, but he had no intention to settle there permanently. Although he lived quietly, he naturally took part in the activities of the island. He played golf, and also associated himself with the local branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League. On Anzac Day he became rather prominent because of certain remarks made by him concerning the action of the Administrator, Captain Pinney, in refusing to attend the Anzae Day celebrations, which were under the control of Mr.C. C. R. Nobbs, the president of the Executive Council. A difference of opinion had arisen between the council and the Administrator, and that was the reason given by the Administrator for not attending the celebrations, but he sent an invitation to the returned soldiers to visit Government House after the ceremony. The absence of the Administrator from the celebrations was criticized by the local branch of the returned soldiers’ organization, and this apparently aroused the resentment df the Administrator. Although I have not seen Captain Pinney for many years, I know him, having served in the same unit with him. Prom my recollection of him I regard him as a sound man, so I have no personal resentment towards him in this matter. I am dealing with the case having regard merely to the powers of the Administrator and what actually occurred.
Mr. Macarthur Onslow had found it necessary to criticise adversely the Administrator’s action, and, as a result, friction arose between them. Mr. Macarthur Onslow’s house was broken into, and when he reported the matter to the Administrator, he was informed that this had been done by the only policeman on the island. That was a most unwarranted occurrence. Nothing was found in the house to justify the steps that had been taken. Mr. Macarthur Onslow reported the incident to the Administrator as a definite case of breaking and entering a dwelling. The authorities on the island, in search of “ moonshine “ liquor, or whatever it happened to be, searched the house with Mr. ‘Macarthur Onslow’s consent; but, as I have said, nothing was found to justify the bringing of any charge against him. I have heard rumours in regard to this matter, but the search of the premises failed to substantiate them. Although no definite charge was made against Mr. Macarthur Onslow, he could have been accused of manufacturing illicit liquor. Action could have been taken against him in the criminal court, and, if convicted, he could have been fined or imprisoned, or both; but no action whatever was taken because no charge could be substantiated. Later, Mr. Macarthur Onslow was sent for by the Administrator, and informed that he must leave the island. He was told that if he was prepared to go quietly no notice would be taken of anything that had occurred, but if he did not, the Administrator would act under certain powers vested in him. Mr. Macarthur Onslow, having nothing whatever to hide, and no charge having been made against him, saw no reason why he should leave the island. He was refused time to enable him to secure advice from the mainland. He Avas merely given 24 hours in which to think the matter over. Finally, he declared that he had no intention to leave, because that would amount to a tacit admission of improper conduct on his part. The Administrator then took the action which he had previously threatened to take. Mr. Macarthur Onslow was called before the Collector of Customs and subjected to a dictation test. An Australian citizen in an Australian territory was given a dictation test as provided for under Ordinance No. 4 of 1922 of the Territory of Norfolk Island ! This ordinance provides that the immigration into Norfolk Island of certain persons “ hereinafter called prohibited immigrants “ is prohibited. I do not consider that by any stretch of the imagination Mr. Macarthur Onslow could be called an immigrant, and it is farcical in the extreme to suggest that he could be regarded as a prohibited immigrant in the country in which he was born. Honorable .members must realize the absurdity of this situation. Sub-section 2 of section 6 of the ordinance provides -
Any immigrant may at any time within three years after he has entered Norfolk Island be required to pass the dictation test, and shall if he fails to do so be deemed tn be a prohibited immigrant offending against this ordinance.
So Mr. Macarthur Onslow was called upon to undergo a test in German, the language of a country against which he was recently fighting. He failed to pass the test, because he had no knowledge of German. He stated that tha only word he knew in that language was “ kamerad.” No charge was laid against him except that he had failed to pass a dictation test in a foreign language. In Australia we are all considered to be innocent of any charge until we are proved guilty. What offence justified the action taken against Mr. Macarthur Onslow? If a charge of any description had been made lie should have been prosecuted in the ordinary way, and, if found guilty, punished. Under the ordinance as it stands to-day, enormous powers are vested in the Administrator. If he dislikes the way you wear your hat or the cut of your clothes, he may decide to apply the dictation test to you, and have you deported if you fail to pass it. In fact, the Administrator may apply the dictation test to any reputable citizen, and have the stigma of deportation placed upon him. I do not think the House will stand for that. Mr. Macarthur Onslow should have been specifically charged with an offence, so that, if it were subsequently proved against him, he would know exactly where he stood. But that was not done. No opportunity was given to him to refute whatever allegation was made against him. Yesterday the Prime Minister said [hat the friends of Mr. Macarthur Onslow would be ill advised to have this matter brought before the House; hut I think it is of sufficient importance to warrant ventilation in this Parliament. The dictation test may be applied by the Administrator to any person on any ground, political or personal, or even on no ground at all. I think that this matter should be inquired into, and, if a definite charge can be laid against Mr. Macarthur Onslow, he is quite prepared to answer it. As far as he is aware, the only charge that can be laid against him is that he has not seen eye to eye with the Administrator, and has not been afraid to voice his criticism of administrative actions. For the information of those honorable members who do not know the conditions which exist at Norfolk Island, I would remind them that it is entirely different from Papua or the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, where the population is mostly blacks. It may be necessary, in a country where the whites are few in number, to deport a man who, while possibly an estimable citizen in a community of whites, might with advantage to himself and to the blacks be denied the right to continue living in that country. Norfolk Island, however, has a population which is mostly white. I sincerely hope that the Prime Minister will institute a full inquiry into this matter, and that, if any charge lies against Mr. Macarthur
Onslow, instead of making it in this House, he will afford this gentleman an opportunity to answer it. I know that if he is found guilty, he is prepared to accept the consequences.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
[3. 15 J. - I approach this matter with reluctance; but, in justice to the Administrator of Norfolk Island, and in repiy to much of the propaganda which has been indulged in recently, it is essential that the facts should be made available to honorable members. I regret very much being obliged to place certain aspects of the case before honorable members. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), in putting forward his case, has indicated that the Government, of necessity, must get its information as to what has taken place from the Administrator of Norfolk Island. From what other source could we get it than from the Administrator? He is a man in whom the Government has the utmost confidence. The information which he has supplied to the Government is that Mr. Macarthur Onslow arrived at the island, a recognized dipsomaniac, and he was allowed to land only on condition that his subsequent conduct was satisfactory - that he should conduct himself in a proper manner. Before he was allowed to land on the island his case was discussed with the captain of the vessel which conveyed him, with the manager “of Burns Philp and Company Proprietary Limited, and with the Government Medical Officer of Norfolk Island. He was permitted to land on the 24th April, 1933, on sufferance. As a known dipsomaniac, his return ticket was held by the shipping company, and during the time of his stay on the island he was under the constant supervision of the medical officer and surveillance by the police. Thus, upon his arrival, his .difficulties were recognized.
During his stay his conduct was such as, in the opinion of the Administrator, did not justify his remaining there. He joined with many of the disaffected citizens, and, according to the Administrator, encouraged them. The honorable member for Richmond has spoken of a soldiers’ league. There is no branch of the Returned Soldiers League on the island; but some ex-soldiers, in association with Mr. Macarthur Onslow and others, held a meeting, at which they voiced their dissatisfaction in respect ito tho actions of the Administrator, Mr. Macarthur Onslow encouraging them. At the same meeting officials of the then defunct soldiers’ organization, most of whom had held executive positions, did their very best to dissuade the others, but failed to do so.
The honorable member for Richmond also referred to illicit liquor brewing. He said that the police had visited the premises of Mr. Macarthur Onslow, and had found nothing. That is so. Rut on that visit Mr. Macarthur Onslow admitted that ho had been brewing, and said that the liquor had been stolen. I have no wish to go into further details. I invite honorable members to ask themselves whether it is necessary, in these circumstances, to hold an investigation into the conduct of the Administrator, who has the confidence of not only tho Government, but also all of those who have been associated with him, as against the conduct of a man who suffers from a human weakness that might afflict any of us, but which disqualifies him from being regarded as an ordinary, calm, cool, citizen, especially in a community, the component parts of which might easily be led into disaffection. “We must have 40me concern for the difficulties of the Administrator. The honorable member knows a great deal about Norfolk Island. I do not claim to do so. There are other honorable members, however, whose knowledge of it must convince them that the difficulties of the Administrator are greater than would be those of a man who had to deal with an ordinary Australian community. In these circumstances the sympathy of the Parliament and the people of Australia should be with the Administrator. I could, if it were necessary, cite instances of conduct which led to the decision of the Administrator to order deportation. It was considered that it was in the interests of the community that deportation should take place.
– It was a public meeting that objected to it.
– No action was taken upon the resolution of that meeting. It looked at the time as though a section ot the community would prevent the deportation from taking place, but eventually not a hand was raised in that direction. The language test was employed only for the purpose of ensuring deportation. None of us would, I think, use tho German language in testing a fellow citizen; but after all this was a question not of the language but of the deportation. The honorable member is well aware that the exercise of the power of deportation is not confined to the administration of Norfolk Island, but is necessary in ail the territories of the Commonwealth, in which a guarantee has to be deposited in order that the expenses of removal may he available if deportation is considered advisable. Are we as a Parliament to make it impossible for the Administrator of Norfolk Island to discharge his functions adequately ? Are we to encourage those who are raising disaffection in the island? With all due respect to the gentleman in whose interests this matter has been brought forward, I suggest that if we have to make a decision between the two men it must be in favour of the Administrator, against whom there has never been a charge of maladministration or of inefficiency.
– Was the only charge against Mr. Macarthur Onslow that he had called a public meeting!
– No; his conduct generally on the island led to his being deported.
– What is the nature of the disaffection to which the right honorable gentleman has referred?
– I do not want to go into further details. As I have already said, the overriding disqualification from which Mr. Macarthur Onslow suffered is one in regard to which none may throw stones at him. I suggest, however, that one who, suffering from this weakness, goes into a community such as that of Norfolk Island, may easily create very great difficulties for the Administration. If there is anything wrong with the administration of Norfolk Island, let its nature be made known.
– I have known of trouble in. regard to the administration of Nauru.
– That is a different proposition. If any complaint can be made concerning the general administration of Norfolk Island, I shall have no hesitation on behalf of the Government in guaranteeing an inquiry into it; but in the circumstances that I have outlined - with, I suggest, restraint - the Government should not be asked to hold an investigation into the actions of an Administrator in whom it has the utmost confidence.
Mr. KELSON (Northern Territory)
– -.The Administrator of the Northern Territory was deported.
– Similar action should be taken against the Administrator of Norfolk Island. A Supreme Court judge who presided over a royal commission which investigated the affairs of the Northern Territory made the following statement in his report:- -
The result of my investigations, of my own personal observations, and of due consideration of the evidence-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must speak to the question before the Chair.
– I contend that I am speaking very much to the question. We are dealing with the methods that are adopted by the Administrator of Norfolk Island.
-Order! The purpose of the motion before the Chair, moved by the honorable member for Richmond, is to call attention to -
The deportation of a natural-born Australian citizen from Australian territory because of failure to pass a dictation test in a foreign language.
The honorable gentleman must keep strictly to that subject.
– I am doing so; but at the same time I am endeavouring to prove that an alteration is desirable in the system of administration. It is not, perhaps, the individual, so much as the system, that is at fault. That system gives the individual the power to do thing’s which he ought not to do. The judge from whose report I was quoting said -
Even if it be allowed that government by ordinance was a wise and proper method of dealing with the affairs of Hie territory, the question of administration thereunder becomes an all important one. 1 fmd that the territory had been governed in a manner which no other portion of the Commonwealth would tolerate for one moment. Whilst I consider that the State of Tasmania is the sanest and most peaceful of all the States, 1 am confident that if the condition of affairs I found existing politically and otherwise in tha territory were to prevail for any length of time in that State, it would quickly bring about a state of open revolution.
It was proved that those who had the handling of money which had been voted by this Parliament were in a position to give, and did give, to their particular friends, while at the same time they maliciously put others in gaol. I know what can be done under these administrations. If the Government wants sound administration in the territories of the Commonwealth, it should place it in the hands of the people themselves. They are willing and anxious to assume control, and while they possess a shred oZ the inherent spirit of independence, will not tolerate the system which this Parliament has forced upon them, because it is utterly opposed to the standards of life of white Australians. I do not know the first thing about this case, because I have never discussed it with any person. It has been said, however, that there was some talk of force being used to prevent this man from being deported from Norfolk Island. I am sorry that the people of the island did not have a decent leader, who would have inspired them to make the deportation impossible.
Some day a leader will arise. When he does, it will be “Good-bye” to the authority of this Government.
.- I was present in this House when provision was first made for this absurd language test. I then said that the government of the day bad exhibited cowardice. Because of the fear that Japan and other eastern nations might be offended, it was decided that provision should be made for tests in a European language. I strongly resent the insult that lias been offered to an Australianborn citizen by a dictator such as tho Administrator of Norfolk Island is proving himself to be, by requiring Mr. Macarthur Onslow to pass a test in the German language. I could not do it. 1 ought to be able to speak that language fluently, but a busy life has prevented me from a continuous study of it. There is a good deal of trouble in Norfolk Island, which is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. I have visited it on three occasions, and deeply regret its having been taken over by Australia. The people were governed more capably and with greater kindness, and were much happier under their own rule, than they have been since Australia assumed responsibility for the administration of the island., I have probably had more experience with dipsomaniacs than has any other honorable member : I have given a certificate in the case of over 200 men. They should not be treated in the manner which has been disclosed in this case. I am not blaming the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) ; I believe he has made out a very good case from the departmental point of view. I point out, however, that Norfolk Island is so strictly controlled that all alcohol is rationed, and is allowed to be distributed only on a certain day. If Mr. Macarthur Onslow were a real dipsomaniac, the Administrator, if he were honest, could have prevented him from obtaining any alcohol.
– A medical man said that he needed it.
– The medical man superintends the rationing. The one who was there during my visit was a humane man in every sense of the word. In no State in Australia is there power to control the drunkard. If deportation were the penalty for being a drunkard, would either this or any other government dare to deport every drunkard from Australia ? There is no doubt that the Commonwealth possesses power to control or even to prevent the sale of alcohol on the island. If we study the records of prisons we shall find that a drunkard, when confined to prison for some offence, benefits in health by his enforced abstention from alcohol. The Administrator should have carried out the law in the ordinary way, and if this person committed an offence he should have ‘been punished. So far as I know, Japan is the only country in which drunkenness is not a crime. It is not right that the Administrator, who seems to have become a little Hitler, should have the right to do what he likes. We know that the language test as applied to immigrants is a mere farce. If the undesirable immigrant passes the test in one language, he is immediately confronted with a test in another in order to prevent him from gaining admittance to the country. The provision was inserted in the law by a previous Government which had not sufficient courage to say straight oat that it would not permit Asiatics to come into Australia. Of course, it does not deceive the Japanese who are as acute as any people in the world. If the act of the Administrator of Norfolk Island is to be condoned in this case, where are we to stop? If it is just to deport a man from Norfolk Island in such circumstances, it would be equally right to deport persons from any part of the continent of Australia. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) is deserving of thanks for bringing the matter forward. Let this man be punished if he committed a crime, but do not hold up Australia to ridicule by supporting the principle that, a person should bo deported simply because he gets drunk.
.- During the last parliamentary recess, I had an opportunity to visit Norfolk Island, and there were present also two members of this Parliament who support the Government. Though we were there only for a few days we learned a good deal about the difficulty with which the Administration is confronted. I realize, as was pointed out by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), that the’ inhabitants of Norfolk Island are, for certain reasons, differently situated from those in Australia, and are, perhaps, more likely to be influenced by bad example. I think that the practice which has grown up in this Parliament and in other Parliaments of launching attacks on public servants when information is available from one side only is most unfair. I was for a considerable time vice-president of a public servants’ organization, and am an ex-public servant. It was the experience of our organization that irresponsible and unsupported statements were frequently made in the Queensland Parliament regarding public servants who were not in a position to defend themselves. I am convinced that this matter of the deportation from Norfolk Island would not have been raised were it not for the fact that the man concerned is a scion of a wealthy squatting family. If he had been a supporter of the party on this side of the House nothing would have been said at all.
– That fact did not influence me in any way.
– Probably it did not, but it was certainly the reason that the matter was taken up by the press. The population of Norfolk Island is about 1,000, and the Administration consists of the Administrator, his private secretary, and one police constable. We can readily understand, therefore, how difficult would bo the position if persons were allowed to arouse the populace. As for the language test to which honorable members have referred, -I cannot see that that is the fault of the Administrator. If the principle is wrong, the fault rests with this Parliament which should repeal the law. While we have legislation on the statute-book we should not blame our public servants for enforcing it.
.- I listened carefully to the case presented by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), and it seemed to me at the time that he made out a very effective prima facie case. Then I heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in reply, and my belief in the case as presented by the honorable member for Richmond was considerably shaken. I think that we ought to look at this matter a little differently from the way in which it has been regarded by some persons up to the present. If there had been an attempt to deport a man from this country to a foreign country on the evidence which is available I should use every form of the House to protest against it. The fact is, however, that the subject of these proceedings was removed from a territory of the Commonwealth back to his own native place, and that, in my opinion, is not a very grave punishment. We frequently read that a magistrate lets a man off for some offence on the condition that he will leave the district. It is a humane method of dealing with a dipsomaniac. This man was admitted to the island under surveillance, and in a community in which there is only one police constable, a very serious situation would be created if a man were allowed to do just as he liked. Of course, it may be only one man’s word against that of another, but I do not think that the man #who was deported has denied having brewed liquor oh the island, and that it was stolen from him. He has not denied that he was under the influence of alcohol, and was in an uncontrollable condition. He has not denied that he created a disturbance in the Church of England, or that he was involved in an assault, convicted, and fined. Everywhere he went he was a nuisance, because of his unfortunate weakness. In - the circumstances, the kindest thing that could have been done to him was to send him back to his home. I am not going to join in a tirade against a public servant for carrying out his duty. If the present complaint against the Administrator were supported by other complaints from residents of the island, I should be among the first to press for the holding of an inquiry; but there is no justification at present for placing this official under suspicion of maladministration by instigating an investigation. The very fact that the captain of the vessel which brought the man to the island held the return half of his ticket is evidence that he could not be relied upon even to do that much for himself. In my opinion, his friends have been badly advised to work up this agitation, and I do not think that those most closely connected with him will be grateful that the matter has been raised in this Parliament. I sympathize with the man in his misfortune, but one cannot on that account allow him to disturb the peace and upset a small community. The honorable member for Richmond said that the man had been deported from his native country. He was not. He was removed from one of the territories of the Commonwealth, and brought back to his native country. If a man went to Brisbane and made a nuisance of himself there, the authorities would be justified in sending him back to New South “Wales, if that were his native State, or to Victoria or to whatever State he might have come from.
.- The power to deport residents is a very dangerous one to place in the hands of any public official. I do not know Mr. Macarthur Onslow, nor do I know the Administrator, but I should like to know something regarding the ordinary methods of dealing with residents of Norfolk Island who commit such offences as creating a disturbance in the Church of. England. If one of the natives of the island had committed such an offence, or had been found guilty of brewing beer, would he have been deported, or would he have been gaoled ? Has Mr. Macarthur Onslow, because of his connexions, been treated differently from other persons who are resident on the island? Is there on Norfolk Island one law for one class of person, and another law for another class? Is there a lockup of any kind on the island, and is there any method of trying those who commit breaches of the law? This man was not entitled to any moro consideration from the authorities than would have been given to any other person on the island who might have been suffering from the same complaint or had committed the same offences. The power to deport citizens is. so great that it should not be placed in the hands of any individual officer. I realize that the Government must stand behind its ‘officers when they give effect to ordinances applicable to the territories of which they are in charge; but I contend that in this case the person deported should have been dealt with strictly according to the law and not according to the dictates of sympathy. I ask whether this individual has been accorded different treatment from that which would have “been accorded another individual in the same circumstances. That is a point that must be clarified. The
Administrator may have acted as he did for the reasons suggested by the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker), but that is not a justification for departing from the provisions of the law. I shall never be a party to giving to any officers power to deport people, for I think that that is a dangerous practice.
Question resolved in the negative.
The following papers were presented : -
Taxation - Sixteenth Report of the Commissioner of Taxation, years 1929-30, 1030-31, 1931-32, 1932-33, and part 1933-34.
Ordered to be printed.
Landa Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Warrawagine, Western Australia - For postal purposes.
Motion (by Mr. Perkins) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to ratify and approve an agreement for the further variation of the agreement entered into between the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and the Premiers of the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, respecting the River Murray, and Lake Victoria and other waters, and for other purposes.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
– by leave -
I move -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to ratify and approve an agreement for the further variation of the agreement entered into between the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Premiers of tho States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, respecting the River Murray and Lake Victoria, and other waters, and for other purposes.
Tho principal agreement, made On ‘the 9th September, 1=914, came into operation on the 31st January, 1917, and provided, amongst other things, for the construction of the upper Murray storage, now known as the Hume reservoir, , the Lake Victoria storage, twenty-six weirs and locks on the River Murray, from Blanchetown to Echuca, and nine weirs and locks <oh the River Murrumbidgee. The estimated cost of these works was set -out in the agreement as £4,663,000, towards “which the Commonwealth was to contribute the sum of £1,000,000. It was also provided that any receipts -in respect of tolls prescribed by the River Murray Commission should be credited to the contracting governments in the proportion in which they shared the cost of construction of tho works provided for in the agreement.
An amended agreement, made on the 10th August, 1923, came into force on tho 16th November, 1923, and increased the Commonwealth contribution to onefourth of the cost of tho works, which was then estimated to be in the vicinity of £30,000,000. It had become apparent by then? that, amongst other things, the original estimates had been based on insufficient data. This agreement was ratified, but the provision of the principal act, No. 46 of 1915, which limited the Commonwealth liability to £1,000,000 was not then amended. Action is now being taken to put the matter in order. Similarly, advantage is being taken by the introduction of this bill to correct a typographical error in section twenty of the principal act, where tho words “ contracting authority “ appear instead of the words “constructing authority”. The amended agreement of 1923 also provided that the works to serve the needs of irrigation should have precedence over those intended primarily to serve the needs of navigation ; and that tolls collected should be divided equally between the three Stale contracting governments, instead of between the four contracting gover.ments
At a conference of Ministers representing the four parties to the agreement, held on the 9th August, 1924, it was decided to construct the Hume dam of sufficient dimensions to provide a reservoir with a capacity of 2,000,000 acre feet of water, and in 1926 the four contracting governments decided that the reservoir be constructed to that capacity forthwith.
That decision has since been modified in (hat. it is not at present intended to install the 29 steel vertical lift gates, each 20 feet long by 15 feet high, in the spillway section. So the storage will not exceed 1,250,000 acre feet of water. It has been considered desirable that this limitation should be stated in the bill but provision has been made to enable the storage to be increased to 2,000,000 acre feet at a later date, if so desired, by agreement between the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, the Commonwealth not being a contributor towards the cost of such extension.
A present-day estimate of the cost of the scheme as covered by the principal agreement is, approximately, £15,000,000. Some of the reasons for the increased cost are : -
Up to date the following works have been constructed : - Twelve weirs and locks in the Murray River. viz., Nos. 1, Blanchetown, to 31, Mildura, and No. 26, Torrumbarry, together with the Lake Victoria storage and the Hume reservoir, to the 1,250,000 acre feet capacity, with the exception of the completion of road deviations, land acquisitions and the necessary clearing up. Work upon the weir and lock No. 15 at Euston is in progress. The expenditure to the 30th June, 1934, has been £9,600,000, of which the Hume reservoir accounts for £5,250,000.
The agreement set out in the schedule to this bill clearly defines the limits of the Hume reservoir, and provides that the cost of any extension beyond the 1,250,000 acre feet capacity is to be borne by the three contracting States in proportions agreed to amongst themselves It also authorizes the construction of a roadway over .the Hume dam, five barrages in the channels at the mouth of the
River Murray, a diversion weir at Yarrawonga, and two weirs in the River Murrumbidgee. The effect of the proposed amendment of paragraph 20 of the principal agreement will be that the works mentioned in the principal agreement which have not yet been commenced will not be proceeded with. The amendments of the agreement to be made by this bill will also release tha Commonwealth from its obligation to contribute towards the cost of maintenance, operation and control of completed works and gauging stations.
The roadway over the Hume dam was provided for in the original design of the dam and specific mention of it has been made in this agreement for the purpose of removing any doubt as to legal authority for its construction.
It has been demonstrated that the provision of the principal agreement for maintaining the lower reaches of the river fresh, viz., the allocation of a certain quantity of water, is not fully, effective, and that damage to tho irrigation settlements in that area is being caused by an influx of salt water. The River Murray Commission recommended that, to remedy the position, five barrages be constructed across the channels in the vicinity of the Murray mouth. This recommendation was subsequently supported by the South Australian Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Work3. The location of the barrages will not interfere with the wharfage at Goolwa, nor with any proposals for the development of a port at or near the Murray mouth.
The State of New South Wales has only been waiting for water to be impounded in the Hume reservoir to enable it to develop schemes to utilize its share of the water. From the Yarrawonga weir an area of approximately 5,000,000 acres in New South Wales can be commanded by gravitation; but tho water available will be sufficient to supply only a portion of that area. The district for which water from this weir is required, as soon as it can be made available, is that at Berriquin and consists of 605.000 acres between Berrigan and Deniliquin. The objective of this development, is the growth of fodder3 under irrigation for the feeding of stock, and not for any extension of fruit-growing until the marketing position is more assured.
Similarly, water from the Yarrawonga weir is urgently required to serve an area of approximately 400,000 acres in Victoria, of which about 90,000 acres i» ill be actually irrigated to grow lucerne and sown for pastures to- permit an extension of lamb raising and dairying.
The two proposed weirs in the River Mumimbidgee are to be constructed at sites selected for two of the weirs and locks contemplated under the original scheme, and they will be built in such a manner as to allow locks to be added at at a future date, if so desired. There is a considerable area of country on the lower Mumimbidgee, the carrying capacity of which is much enhanced by the growth of herbage, &c, resulting from flooding. The landholders in the district have for several years been urging that fixed weirs be constructed to enable the land to be flooded at least once a year when the river is not sufficiently high to break out under natural conditions. The two weirs proposed will effect this object and benefit an area comprising upwards of 200,000 acres.
Owing to the decline in navigation the four contracting governments arc of the opinion that the construction of the remaining thirteen weirs and locks in the River Murray and the nine weirs and locks in the River Mumimbidgee provided for in the principal agreement should not be proceeded with at present, and the amendments made in the agreement by this bill give effect to this decision. Should it be desired to construct any’ of these weirs and locks in the future the making of a new agreement to cover their construction, and the necessary financial arrangements, will be considered by the interested parties.
The estimated cost of the additional works covered by the amendments of the agreement now to be made is £1,200,000 and the estimated total cost of the scheme as now proposed is £12,000,000, representing a saving of £3,000,000 on the original scheme. These amendments to the agreement definitely limit expenditure to £12,000,000.
As the result of an opinion given by the Crown Law authorities it was ascertained that although, by the amended agreement of 3923, tolls received were to be credited equally between the three State contracting governments, instead of between the four contracting governments as previously provided, the Commonwealth was still liable to contribute onefourth of the cost of maintenance operation and control of completed works and gauging stations. The three State governments have therefore decided to release the Commonwealth from this liability and provision to this effect has been made in the agreement covered by this bill.
Great benefits have been derived from those works which have already been constructed. The water stored in the Hume reservoir and Lake Victoria, together with that retained by the various weirs and locks, has been the salvation of the irrigation settlements along the Murray River, both by providing water at a convenient level at the time required by the settlers, and by preventing salt seeping out from the soil. The additional works proposed will consolidate and extend these benefits.
The amended agreement set out in the schedule to this bill must be ratified by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and of the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia before it can come into effect, and as it is desired that the additional works referred to shall bo put in hand at the earliest possible moment, it is asked that the Commonwealth Parliament will do its part by passing the ratifying bill.
.- The Opposition welcomes this bill and will place no obstacle in the way of its early passage through the House, for the reason that it provides for additional work to be done on the River Murray. In times like these additional work of this character is very welcome to the people generally. It is expected that the work now proposed will provide employment for probably a thousand men for periods up to two years. Five barrages are to be constructed at the mouth of the River Murray in South Australia, the constructing authority for which will be the Government of that State. This work is being done in an endeavour to prevent seepage and the encroachment of salt water upon valuable agricultural lands. The Yarrawonga weir will provide for the distribution of water over an area of about 100,000 acres which is suitable for the raising of fat stock and lambs and for general pastoral purposes. It will enable considerable areas on both sides of the river to be irrigated for crops for stock. The settlers in occupation of those areas suffer great losses owing to dry periods. Men living in the district have said that the stock losses in two dry seasons in and about the area to be served from the weir would moro than pay for the cost of the proposed work. I personally have witnessed the effects of lack of rain in those areas. The soil is of excellent character, and no engineering difficulties will be experienced in providing for the gravitation of the water. The scheme will bring into active production 100,000 acres or more of land which in dry seasons produces little or nothing. The great tract of country which has been called “ Berriquin “, after Berrigan and Deniliquin, will be a veritable pastoral garden when the scheme is in operation. Some years ago, the New South Wales Government cut up a large area, and made it available in 500-acre blocks, and under the new conditions to be provided the occupants will be able to make a comfortable living on those blocks, although many have been compelled to leave their land under the present conditions. Similar results may be expected from the two weirs to be constructed on the lower Murrumbidgee in lieu of tho two locks provided for in the original Murray waters agreement. The construction of these weirs will mean that at more or less frequent intervals, dependent on tho rainfall in the higher reaches of the Murrumbidgee and locally, up to 200,000 acres will bc flooded, and will produce a luxuriant growth of fodder grasses and herbage. The last of the works provided for is a road over the Hume Dam, which is regarded as necessary for the settlers living along the river. I hope that honorable members will give the bill a speedy passage, because the work will provide a considerable amount of employment. The scheme has been agreed to by the three Governments concerned, and its commencement will mark a distinct step in the successful settlement of very large areas of land in Victoria and New South Wales.
– I naturally feel interested in this matter, having been one of the first federal Ministers to be associated with, the scheme for the proper utilization of the waters of the Murray. When the first agreement between New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia was made, and it was decided to proceed with the construction of the earlier works, it was realized that experience alone would enable the best method by which the scheme could be ultimately developed to be terminated. We were dealing with an enormous area, and it was expected that a necessity for a revision of the methods adopted would from time to time become apparent. I endorse in its entirety the proposals now submitted by the Government. In the light of experience we must endeavour to obtain the fullest possible utilization of the waters of tho Murray. It is one of the largest rivers in the world, and its waters have been running to waste for years. Fortunately, disagreement amongst the States concerned disappeared with this agreement, and a happy period of co-operation between those States and the Commonwealth began. Under the directing hand of the commission, a satisfactory scheme is being carried out providing for constant development. I shall not nt this stage discuss the details of the proposed works, because it is obvious that the right course is being followed. Although only three States directly participate in the benefits of the agreement, Australia as a whole will profit from it, and I have no doubt that the people generally will approve of it. The conservation of water throughout Australia will continue to be a pressing problem. In the last few years we have been, favoured by nature, but as soon as we experience a return of dry seasons the subject of conservation of the waters of our rivers along the coast, as well as inland, is bound to demand public attention. We are particularly fortunate in the fact that the Murray Waters Commission, since its inception, ha3 been a non-political body. It is composed of engineers representing the several States concerned, with an assisting engineer appointed by the Commonwealth and is presided over by a Commonwealth Minis ter. The scheme generally has worked well, and I wish the three States directly concerned all possible benefit from it. ‘Die agreement has the necessary elements to add to the general prosperity of Australia, and, as I have said, its value will be more fully realized later when the areas to be served by it experience dry seasons.
– I am sure that every honorable member will approve of national works of this character. We are all interested in the development of the agricultural areas, and I believe that water conservation schemes meet with the approval of the members of all parties. Other speakers have referred to the beneficial results of the Murray waters scheme in the past, and no doubt they have spoken from personal knowledge of the localities concerned, but I am considering the matter from another angle. About 1,000 men will be engaged on this work. The time necessary for its completion has not been mentioned, but I imagine that the job will prove a fairly lengthy one, and
I desire to know at this stage under what conditions of employment the work will be carried out. A number of members on this side of the House desire at all times to maintain proper standards of wages and conditions for those engaged on national undertakings. A tendency has arisen in recent years to regard enterprises of this nature as relief works. I have glanced hurriedly at the terms of the agreement, and I notice that the various contracting governments will bear a share of the financial responsibility. If the Commonwealth Government is to provide a share of tho money to be expended, I submit that it is competent for it to declare that award rates and conditions shall be observed in their entirety. Many men are now eraployed by the Government on works in New South Wales, such as main road jobs and other work under the direction of municipal councils- and water boards, but the labour conditions are unsatisfactory. These jobs have been classed as relief works, with the result that the living standards of both the general labouring section and also a large number of tradesmen have been lowered. We would strongly abject to the undertakings now proposed being classed as relief works, because Labour organizations have spent much time and money in obtaining industrial awards and seeing that they arc observed. Of course wo do not approve of the methods bv which works of this character are bt.:- g financed by the present Government. We think that time will force changes in this respect; but, realizing for the present that the orthodox methods of financing public works will be continued, we are prepared to do tho best we can in the circumstances. I hope that the Minister will assure the House, before the bill is finally disposed of, that this Government will see (hat award rates and conditions are faithfully observed.
.- I am glad that the agreement which this bill seeks to ratify has been finally brought about and that the works along the ]liver Murray will now be proceeded with to completion. My actual knowledge of them is confined to a very small portion of them, the work on the Hume dam itself, a large proportion of the men employed upon it being residents in my electorate. My attention was first directed to this work when some months ago it was reported that activities on the dam would cease and that a great number of men would be thrown out of employment. L approached the Minister at the time and placed the matter before him and am therefore glad to know that a decision has been reached to proceed with the construction and also a road over the dam. At first I was inclined to be dubious about spending more money on water conservation, but after visiting the Hume dam I came to the conclusion that it would be wise to complete the River Murray waters scheme. In justice to the people of Bethunga a satisfactory road over the dam should bc completed. Owing to the inundation of their natural outlet to the town and railway as a result of the construction of the weir they are now subjected to great inconvenience. The early plans for the construction of the Hume dam made provision for a road to run right across the top of the dam; but I was informed that there was no statutory authority for it. It was merely an engineer’s conception. I am now glad to see that statutory provision is being made for its construction. The decision of the Government in this respect will be greatly appreciated by tho people of Bethunga.
I was informed some time ago that the South Australian Government had requested the governments of New South Wales and Victoria to complete the building of this roadway, which under the new scheme will be a bridge across the gap in the dam, but I learn now that all the contracting parties will contribute towards its cost. I should like to know approximately when the work will be completed. I join with other honorable members in expressing my appreciation of the action of the Government in bringing down this bill before the elections. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) has always been favorable to the completion of the scheme. I have interviewed him on several occasions and I know that his views on this matter have always coincided with mine. I hope that the expenditure involved in the completion of this work will repay itself many times over in the future. [Quorum formed.’]
– I wish to join with other honorable members in expressing my pleasure that this scheme is finally to be completed. I hope that in the transition period, which must elapse before the agreement is signed by the contracting parties, tho Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) will not permit any curtailment of the number of mon engaged on the work. One outstanding fact of which we might well be proud in this country is that we have proceeded with immense water conservation schemes. I have seen water conservation schemes in other countries and I have consulted with many engineers who have express:]d amazement at the extent of the work that has been done in this direction in Australia. Some small-minded politicians say that we have gone ahead too quickly in this direction, but these schemes have been a godsend to Australia. I hope, therefore, that the River Murray waters scheme will be pushed on with until it is completed. The people who loan money to Australia judge our financial soundness largely upon our engineering achievements. They measure up not only our miles of roads and railways, but also the value of our reservoirs. livery time we complete work3 of this nature we add to the assets upon which the Commonwealth Bank may in future release credits. The completion of this work will, therefore, be of great benefit to future generations. It will also remain a monument to the skill of our engineers. I again urge the Minister to endeavour to see that nobody is dismissed from his employment while the signatures of the contracting parties are awaited. I would remind him that in Melbourne alone the unemployment register shows that there are at present 23,000 unemployed persons, not including the number of persons who are working one or two days a week. The advantage of work of the nature provided by a scheme such as this is that the men will be employed on regular work and will be drawing full pay.
Mr. MCCLELLAND (Wimmera) [4.30 j. - I congratulate the Government upon introducing this measure at this particular time. It is designed to attain the objectives originally sought by this Parliament in the construction of tho Hume dam, inasmuch as it provides for the carrying out of additional works which will make the already completed larger works reproductive. I suggest to the Minister that, concurrently with the construction of the Yarrawonga dam, provision should be made for the construction of channels which will permit of tho use of the water stored. In many times during the past we have had reservoirs constructed and years have passed before channels were provided which alone would enable the works to earn some revenue. In these different times it is not an easy matter to find works of a kind that offer a fair chance of the payment of interest and repayment of capital in a reasonable time and consequently justify borrowing for the purpose, but I can say of this that it is one of the few that have a reproductive value. Furthermore, much of the money involved in ite completion will be spent in a district where there is an exceedingly low rainfall of from nine to ten inches. This country has recently had three or four of the wettest seasons in history, but from experience we know that a succession of wet seasons is usually followed by a dry period. History very likely will repeat itself, and most of the money to be spent in this work could be covered even in one season by preventing losses arising out of a dry season.
.- I support the bill. During the last few months, particularly in Tasmania and South Australia, it has been demonstrated how essential it is to have sufficient water storage. At the moment South Australia is suffering from a very severe water shortage. In Victoria, especially in the metropolitan area, we are well supplied with water for domestic purposes, but judging by the dry autumn we have just experienced it seems likely that we may have to face the prospect of a dry period to follow. We may not be in such a fortunate position in a year or two. I remember the time when water was not available in the Mallee. The conservation of water and the construction of channels have made it possible to bring large areas in the Mallee under cultivation, otherwise thousands of men would have had to leave their blocks in dry seasons. This scheme will result in the employment of a number of men. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that if men are to be employed on these works they should be given permanent employment. I commend the Government for having introduced this bill as I consider that water conservation is one of the most important developmental works that could be undertaken by any Government.
.- I offer no objection to what must undoubtedly be recognized as a national work by the people of States other than those particularly concerned. I rejoice to see proposals that will increase production of which we may dispose when the markets of the world are again favorable.
I have had brought to my notice the case of a widow named Mrs. B. Carlile, who is the owner of a property at Wymah, on the hanks of the Murray, in New South Wales, comprising 260 acres, 72 acre3 of which are to be resumed for the purposes of this scheme. She and her late husband, when he was alive, lived at
Comet Vale, in Western Australia. They sunk the whole of their savings in this property, with the idea of settling on it in their declining years. The land to he resumed consists of the fattening flats, and is the most valuable portion of the property. I know that the matter does not concern the Commonwealth Government as such; but that Government comes into it indirectly. At present, no difficulty is experienced in leasing the land. I have been in touch with the man who is leasing it, and have learned that he does not propose to keep the lease going when the flats are covered with water. The New South Wales authority proposes to compensate Mrs. Carlile to the extent of only £1,000, and in addition to grant what are known as easement rights - that is to say, the right to pasture on the land which will be flooded. The indefiniteness of the position lies in the fact that it is not known whether the flooding will be permanent or occasional. The payment of only £1,000 for the best portion of the land, leaving 1S8 acres of country that cannot be devoted to dairying pursuits, causes a grave injustice. This lady has from time to time come across from Western Australia in an endeavour to obtain justice from the New South Wales authorities, so that she may not have to take the matter to court. I understand that the Valuation Court is to sit before the end of the year; but, meanwhile, she will have to employ counsel to work up her case, and it is well known that, in actions against the Government, private persons are never able to reimburse themselves the whole of their outlay from the costs allowed, even though they succeed. There is a hotel on the block, which is practically valueless because of the removal of the crossing from the Victorian side of Wymah to a point some miles further down the river. It was the rendezvous for picnickers and sportsmen; but, by the new roundabout route, the distance between it and Albury has been lengthened from 12 to 30 miles. As a result the Wymah area has been excluded from the Albury district cricket league. There is a flat on the Victorian side, upon which drovers have been in the habit of depasturing travelling stock. They can no longer cross the river to partake of the conviviality usually associated with a country caravanserai. Thus, a business which was worth a few thousand pounds has been ruined. I urge that some arrangement be made under which these people will receive justice, if they are not treated with liberality. Mrs. Carlile has received legal advice to tho effect that this aspect of the case lies, not solely against the State of New South Wales, but against the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia combined. Any woman faced with such a difficulty would long hesitate before going to court to assert her rights. The property should be resumed by the State of New South Wales as it will be impossible to trade it now the rich area has been resumed. Will the Minister get in touch with the commission to see if they can assist this lady ?
Mr. PERKINS (Eden-Monaro- Minister for the Interior) [4.44J. - I appreciate very highly the congratulatory expressions of honorable members, and the assistance which they are giving in the passage of this measure. The honor able member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and other honorable members have asked what length of time these works are likely to take. It is estimated that they will be completed in from three to five years. The number of men employed will vary at different times, but should reach a maximum of 1,000. It must bc recognized that a fair number are employed to-day, principally at the Yarrawonga weir and on the Hume dam. The Yarrawonga weir, was to have been proceeded with whether the agreement was ratified or not, the States of New South Wales and Victoria considering that it is an essential work. Consequently, a start has been made upon it.
The constructing authorities have merely been awaiting the ratification of the agreement by this and the other three Parliaments concerned before proceeding with the construction of channels, a work which the governments of New South Wales and Victoria believe is necessary and will prove beneficial from the outset.
The conditions under which the men are to be employed is not a matter for this House to decide. I assure honorable members, however, that award conditions have been observed in connexion with the works already carried out, and I see no likelihood of that practice being departed from. The constructing authorities - the Minister for Public Works in New South Wales, the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission in Victoria, and the Commissioner for Public Works in South Australia - have always paid award rates and the Commonwealth will express the wish that that practice shall continue.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) referred to the bridge at the Hume dam. That work also has been proceeded with in anticipation of an agreement being arrived at with respect to it. Had it not been, many of the . men who were employed there would have been paid off a few months ago and would now be dispersed in the various States. Doubtless the work will be speeded up from now on. lt is anticipated that it will be completed early in 1935.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has requested that there shall be no dismissals. I do not anticipate that there will be any. There should be an immediate augmentation of the number of men employed, but the maximum will not bo engaged until the big work - the construction of the barrages at the mouth of the Murray in South Australia - is undertaken. Probably that will be the last work tobe commenced and the last to be finished, and in all likelihood from 500 to 600 men will be engaged upon it.
The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Dennis) has raised the question of permanent employment. A . large number of those who are now engaged have been employed for many years and have gained a good deal of experience in connexion with the work. On visits that I have paid to the locks along the river I have found that some of the men have been there since the commencement of operations and in consequence have become experts, thus making them of great assistance to the constructing authorities. The New South Wales authorities will carry out the works on the Murrumbidgee, the Victorian Government is carrying out the construction work at Yarrawonga, and the South Australian Government will be responsible for the barrages at the mouth of the Murray.
On a recent visit to the Hume dam I could find no evidence of dissatisfaction in connexion with the resumptions of land. If any error has been made, it is on the side of liberality.
– The whole of the property to which I referred ought to bo resumed if any portion of it is required.
– I can quite understand that the resumption of 72 acres may make the balance of the land valueless. I have no personal knowledge of the case that the honorable member has brought forward, but I assure him that I shall place before the constructing authorities the facts that he has already mentioned as well as any further particulars he may be able to submit, and shall see that the matter is fully inquired into.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
(Nos. 1 and 2) 1934.
Motions (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 1) 1930-1934.
Thathe have leave to bring in a . bill for an act to amend the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 2) 1830-1934.
Bills brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a firsttime.
Debate resumed from the 24th July (vide page 614), on motion -by Mr. Casey -
That the billbe now read a second time.
.- This bill is designed to give a measure of relief to those who pay sales tax, to public servants, and to some other sections of the community. It is called a relief bill ; but, when we study it in conjunction with the budgetwhich has just been delivered, we find that no substantial relief has been provided for the most deserving section of the community, and that which suffers most, namely, tho unemployed.
– I know that we are not permitted to discuss unemployment at any length on this bill; but one cannot be but disappointed upon learning that no provision is made either in the budget or in this bill for any progressive relief of those out of work. All ‘the self-congratulation indulged in by the Government fails to move us when we realize that there are still in Australia 300,000 unemployed, and that no plan has ‘been attempted to deal with them. The budget provides for the continuance of the remission of taxation a/mounting to £9,000,000 a year; but there is no plan for the relief of unemployment, and nothing has been done to restore to invalid and old-age pensioners what they lost under the emergency cuts. By the legislation passed in 1931, when the governments of Australia were facing a financial crisis, an attempt was made to spread the necessary sacrifices evenly over all sections of the community. I do not say that absolute justice was done, because the poorer sections must always suffer most when economies are being made; but at least we did our best to put into operation a balanced plan. Since then, however, everything that has been done by this Government has been in the direction of unbalancing that plan. Practically all sections of the community have had their ‘burdens lightened, or entirely removed, except one, and it is most significant that that section should comprise the poorest members of the community - those in receipt of old-age and invalid pensions. I have mentioned this before; but I feel justified in repeating it, because the action of the Government is so unjust. Not only arc the old-age and invalid pensioners no better off than when the first cut was made; their position has been actually worsened, because of recent amendments to the act. The Government has remitted taxation to wealthy land-owners and others, including those 7,000 people in the Commonwealth whose incomes average £5,000 a year, and to whom the taxation remissions are worth £500,000 a year. It is of no use suggesting that there has been a gradual restoration of benefits to all sections of the community because 2s. 6d. a week was restored to pensioners last year. That 2s. 6d. was taken from them after the first reduction was made, and even after it was restored the pensioners were still in a worse position than after the first cut. This criticism cannot be met by throwing gibes across the chamber, or by honor.able members opposite asking who it was who made the first cut. I am not opposed to the measure of relief which it is proposed to give in this bill. My objection is that it does not go far enough, and include those who are most deserving. We agree with the bill, but say that it is inadequate.
I have said on previous occasions that the first taxes to be remitted should be the emergency taxes, among which is the sales tax. I believe that the sales tax should be reduced until eventually we may be able to get rid of it altogether. In the meantime, the best that can be done is to reduce the rate, and to increase the number of exemptions. This bill includes a further list of exemptions, and, in my opinion, some of the items on that list are not as deserving as others not included,. For example, sales tax has still to be paid on a long list of hospital requisites which, in view of our improved financial position, should have been exempt. On other items primage duties have been remitted, though they are less deserving of such treatment than are some of the items upon which sales tax has still to be paid. I am aware that under the original act sales tax was payable on a great many hospital requisites, but the position is not so acute now as it was when the tax was at first imposed. The other day I introduced a deputation to the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey), asking for the remission of taxation on certain hospital requisites, and he very properly emphasised the fact that the request was somewhat belated, seeing that it was made on the eve of the delivery of the budget. I regret that the request was made so late, but I think that the matter should be reconsidered even if it means reimposing some of the taxation on the wealthy.
I do not suggest that any of the items - mentioned in this bill should be removed from it; but if justice is to be done to the people of Australia, the list of exempt goods should be enlarged by withdrawing some of the remissions of taxation on large incomes and landed properties.
– - Impending events hang like a pall over this chamber, and I find myself unable to exhibit the degree of warmth in my utterances which I shall probably be able to generate later on the platforms of this country. I take no exception to the tone of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), though I differ materially with him in some of the deductions that he has made in his criticism of the bill. Regarding unemployment, the question has arisen whether the Government would be justified in superimposing an additional scheme for unemployment relief on those already in operation, or about to be implemented in the various States. An amount of £25,000,000 is to be provided for loan expenditure by the States during the current financial year. Personally I do not think that the unemployed would be materially benefited if the Commonwealth Government complicated the situation by setting out on another scheme of relief which would overlap those provided by the State governments. The members of the Government believe that the best policy to follow in the interests of all sections of the community is to supplement the endeavours of the State governments to provide employment for workless citizens. Every available avenue of employment is being explored, and I have no hesitation in saying that the Government is utilizing all the means at its disposal and exercising its best judgment to achieve the best possible results for all concerned. In spite of all the criticism that has been voiced of the methods that we have adopted to this end, the fact stands out like the peak of a mountain that unemployment figures in Australia have been gradually but continuously reduced as prosperity has returned. When this Government came into office, 30 per cent, of the trade unionists of Australia were unemployed ; at the end of June the figure was only 20.9 per cent.
The major portion of the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition of this bill, centred round the treatment by the Government of invalid and old-age pensioners. I do not desire to be misunderstood in this connexion, for I hold strong views about it. The pensioners of Australia are entitled to receive fair and generous consideration commensurate with that given to other sections of the community, having due regard to the financial position of the country. The Government is giving them such treatment. In my opinion, the invalid and old-age pensioners of Australia are being fairly, if not generously treated. I have the deepest sympathy with this class of the community; but I believe that if the pensioners were left alone, and were not subjected to political interference, they would be satisfied with the treatment that they are getting and would be happier and more content than they are to-day.
– Order! I have allowed the Postmaster-General a certain amount of latitude to reply to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition in this connexion ; but it will be remembered that I called the Leader of the Opposition to order at a certain stage of his speech. I direct the attention of honorable members generally to Standing Order 117 which reads as follows: -
No motion or amendment shall anticipate an order of the day or another motion of which notice has been given.
Reference to the business-paper will show that Order of the Day No. 9 is “ Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill “, upon the motion for the second reading of which the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has moved an amendment, I therefore trust that honorable gentlemen will, for the remainder of this debate, leave the subject of invalid and old-age pensions religiously alone.
– All I wish to say on the subject, Mr. Speaker, is that if political considerations were not present while honorable members were making contact with invalid and oldage pensions, the situation would be much happier for everybody. The expenditure on invalid and old-age tensions during the current financial year is estimated to be £12,000,000, and that figure is greater than in any previous year in the history of the Commonwealth. That surely indicates that the Government is treating the pensioners generously.
I wish now to make some comment on the observations of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) as to the effect of the Government policy in relation to the Premiers plan and the financial emergency legislation generally. I agree with the right honorable gentleman that when the original legislation of this nature was introduced an endeavour was made to ensure that the necessary sacrifices would fall as evenly as possible on all sections of the community. In granting relief from the burdens that were then placed upon the people the Government has also sought to act equitably to all sections. Many of the relief measures have followed directly in the path of the original impositions. As a matter of fact, there have only been one or iwo departures from that course. One of these was the relief given in land taxation. That relief was necessary and warranted in view of the great importance of the sheep-breeding and wool-growing industry to Australia and its effect upon the national revenue and prosperity generally. The Government’s actions in that regard have been amply justified.
Respecting the reductions of taxation generally, I point out that the consequence of the Government’s policy is that to-day millions of pounds remain in the pockets of the people which, but for the taxation remissions and reductions that have been made, would have como into the coffers of the Government. An amount of at least £12,000,000 has been left in the hands of the people which, under other conditions, would have been wrung from them to meet the expenses of government. This money is to-day being utilized as additional purchasing power, as capital for the expansion of industries and commercial enterprises generally, and as a wage fund for the re-employment of the people. That is the general result of the wellconsidered, well-balanced and well-judged remissions of taxation that have been made by this Government. We have been able to remit taxation to a phenomenal degree the like of which has never been paralleled in Australian history.
The Leader of the Opposition has criticized sales taxation as a means of obtaining revenue. I agree with his criticism to a large extent. His remarks were quite fair. But no responsible member of a government delights in either imposing or continuing taxation, and particularly such an odious kind as sales taxation. When the first sales tax measures were introduced into this House
I said that this was an objectionable method of obtaining revenue. I have not changed my opinion and I am to-day as anxious as any honorable member to abandon it. My views on this subject are, I think, shared by other members of the Government. The general incidence of sales taxation is its only recommendation as a means of obtaining revenue. At its peak period, the sales tax yielded a revenue of about £9,000,000 a year. It would be quite impracticable to cut off that amount of revenue in one fell swoop. But the Government has taken the next best course, for it has, by a gradual process, remitted about one-third of the taxation that was imposed by this means when it was at its fullest volume. The reductions so far made bring the ultimate evacuation of this field of taxation into the realm of practicability. The reduction of the rates of sales tax by 1 per cent, involved a loss of revenue of about £1,600,000 ; and the additions made to the long list of exempt goods have brought the total remissions of sales tax to about £3,500,000. This is a very welcome instalment of reform, and an encouraging sign for the future. The decision as to which goods shall be subject to sales tax and which shall be exempt from it must necessarily rest with the Government. If the reductions are carefully considered, and a scrutiny is made of the articles from which the tax is to be removed, it must ‘be admitted that a wall-judged discrimination has been exercised. As to hospital requisites, I remind the right honorable member for Yarra that, when he was Prime Minister and Treasurer, he admitted the difficulty that would be experienced in doing what he now suggests should be done.
– The Government is now proposing to remove the tax from certain articles which are less worthy than those referred to by me.
– When speaking from this side of the chamber the right honorable gentleman said that he had a great deal of sympathy with those honorable members who were critisizing the imposition of sales tax on medicines, (but he remarked that the administrative difficulties rendered such exemptions impracticable. He added that the cost would be prohibitive, and that “ hospitals “ would have to be defined. Nevertheless, efforts have been made by the department to meet the situation, and, in support of my statement, I draw attention to the fact that the tax is to be removed from the following articles: -
All drugs and medicines except certain specific items.
Rectified spirits for use in making medicines.
Foods for infants and invalids. Surgical instruments, appliances and materials.
If the Government is permit-ted to remain in office after the next election, I venture to say that there will be an even more rapid removal of these imposts than would otherwise be the case. I welcome all the remissions of taxation for which the budget provides. The measure under consideration will give a substantial amount of relief to the most deserving sections of the community. Apart from the partisanship which must be expected in a house of parliament, I am satisfied that the general public realizes that this Government is endeavouring to do a fair thing to all sections, and I believe that that fact will be shown in no uncertain manner as soon as the people have an opportunity to express their opinion at the ballot-box.
– Why rush to the people six months before the proper time?
– Ordinarily Parliament would have been dissolved by next December, or, at the most, it might have lasted to the end of March; but what a howl of criticism would have come from the Opposition if the Government had arranged to hold the election in March ! From one end of the country to tho other it would have been said that the Ministry was hanging on to office by the skin of its teeth to the last moment. We cannot satisfy everybody, and the course taken will probably prove the best in the ^circumstances, certainly for members on this side of the House.
– Every honorable member will be in accord with the provisions of bills that reduce taxes. Of course, there is always a wish for a greater remission than is to bo made, and that is the only ground on which one can take exception to this hill.
Insofar as relief is given, I am most thankful, and I am particularly glad to notice the relief given in various directions from the sales tax. A certain number of anomalies are to be removed which should not have been permitted to exist, and to which attention was drawn at the outset. For instance, butter boxes have been exempt from sales tax for two or two and a half years, whereas the tax has been imposed on the paper in which the butter is wrapped, although the paper is as indispensable as the box itself. That anomaly is now to be removed. I am also pleased to see that the implements of primary producers generally, particularly orchardists and men working in tho bush, have been exempted from the sales tax fairly generally. This action is absolutely necessary owing to the low prices obtained at the present time for primary products. Relief from this charge will result in a substantial measure of new employment. I notice that other anomalies are to be corrected. For instance, the sales tax on pipes and other articles necessary in the provision of private and public irrigation plants is to be removed. It is extraordinary to find that if a grazier or farmer attempts to irrigate his land, certain parts of the necessary equipment are free from sales tax, while other equally essential parts have to bear the impost. To some degree this anomaly is to be rectified under exemptions provided for in the bill. I trust that those in charge of sales tax administration will proceed as quickly as possible to ensure that this equipment will be completely exempt from the tax, as was clearly the intention of the Parliament. I also note with pleasure that some improvement is to be made in connexion with building material generally. Some time ago a remission of sales tax on timber occurred, but the relief was provided through an amendment of such a complicated nature that it could not be granted in regard to timber cut to size, even if rough timber. Fortunately, through representations made to the department, the position has been cleared up in some degree, and rough timber cut to size is now to be exempt. This concession is to apply even to timber cut with mortises and tenons. The building trades have probably suffered more than any others in the last four or five years, although they normally provide employment, both directly and indirectly, for large numbers of persons. This alteration, therefore, should tend to increase employment throughout Australia. There are still many other anomalies which I hope will soon be remedied.
I am glad to know that the state of the Commonwealth finances is such as to enable a full restoration to be made of war pensions. Everybody in the community agrees that those who suffered injury during the war should be the first to have complete restoration of their pensions. Invalid and old-age pensioners, fortunately, are to receive consideration, and I hope that when another measure is brought down, an alteration will be made in respect of the property sections of the act which deals with that section of the community. It is pleasing, also, to learn that a further salary restoration is to be made to members of the Public Service. The figures submitted yesterday in the budget speech indicate that the hardship due to reductions consequent upon the fall in the cost of living has . to a great extent been ameliorated. I am glad that the Government intends again to provide a bounty on superphosphates. Provision for it was made a couple of years ago, but last year the payment was not authorized. There is no better way in which to assist certain sections of the primary producers than by lowering the prices of the fertilizers which they need to increase the carrying capacity of their land. I particularly congratulate the Government upon the reduction of primage duties. I have long urged that that measure of relief should be granted.
It is imperative that, before the Parliament is dissolved, action be taken to assist the wheat industry. Part VI. of the bill provides for assistance to primary producers, and under that part it should be possible for the Government to bring down some measure to give effect to the promise made last year by the Government, (that the whole question of a subsidy to the wheat industry would be honored during the life of this Parliament. The Prime Minister said yesterday that an opportunity would ,be given to the House to discuss this matter. In view of the fact that it is unlikely that the House will sit for more than a couple of weeks, every effort should be made to bring down the interim report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry, so that honorable members will be able to ascertain the policy of the Government, and, if possible, put it into effect before the House rises. The information gathered by the commission, even if it is not yet in its final form, should be made available to this House before it adjourns.
– The title of the bill now being discussed describes it as a bill to provide relief to taxpayers affected by financial emergency legislation, and to provide financial relief for primary producers. I wish to bring before the Government a few points which have not yet been touched upon, and to view the matter from an angle of great importance to a large number of people. This measure has its origin in the Financial Emergency Act, which was introduced into this Parliament pursuant to the Premiers plan to meet what was alleged to be a crisis in our financial affairs, and to impose certain taxation in order that budgets might be balanced. It was then stressed that the act would operate only until budgets were balanced. It wai stated .that the inroads made or any call for equality of sacrifice would continue only until the Government had accomplished its purpose, which, it was declared, would be within three years, and that the Government would not continue to make demands on the people at the expiration of that period. We have now reached that stage; but we have not yet realized the hopes and definite undertakings expressed in 1931, and, because of that the budget and this bill have been received in such a gloomy manner by a large number of people, and even by the press, which has supported the Government through thick and thin. If the opinion expressed by those who supported the Fnancial Emergency Act in 1931 can be accepted - that the desire was that budgets should be balanced; and in the presentation of the facts to-day the Government claims that it has balanced its budget - why have we not been restored to the level of 1930-31, not only in connexion with taxation and financial relief, but also in connexion with the general conditions of the people as a whole? An examination of the facts to-day discloses that circumstances are nothing like those which existed previously when people were called upon to make these sacrifices.
It is well worth while remarking at this stage that relief should be given to a class of people not covered by the bill, but who, nevertheless, were seriously affected by the putting into operation of the Premiers plan. 1 refer particularly at this stage to the people on the basic wage level engaged in industry. I know that discussion will not be allowed on this subject to proceed too wide under the heading of this bill itself ; but the effect of the financial emergency legislation has brought about the undesirable result of a permanent reduction of the standards of living of those engaged in industry, although the legislation itself contained no reference to them. For instance, the Federal Arbitration Court was influenced by the sponsors of this legislation, and by its 10 per cent, reduction in real wages in 1931 was induced to order a reduction of the basic wage by 8s. a week for the unskilled labourer. In the case of skilled workers the reduction amounted to as much as lis. 6d. a week. The justification for this decision was the claim that the national income had been reduced by a certain amount. It is now claimed that the 10 per cent, cut has been restored, and the effect has been to increase the basic wage to the extent of Id. a week in the metropolitan area of Sydney. It is no wonder, therefore, that there is to-day among those people who, in 1931, accepted the utterances of those responsible for the introduction of the emergency legislation, a feeling of disgust at the way in which they were absolutely misled. They were called upon to make sacrifices, and in many cases they accepted the advice tendered. They were told that their sacrifice was to be only temporary, until budgets were balanced. They were led to believe that the impositions of the emergency legislation would shortly disappear, and that the country would be restored once more to a prosperous condition.
On the 9th of July, 1931, when the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) was Leader of the Opposition, he declared that the financial emergency legislation was merely a temporary expedient to meet the situation at that time. He said -
This is merely an emergency measure . . not one member on this side of the chamber supports with pleasure the reduction of wages and pensions, and so far as we are concerned, the reduction will not operate longer than is necessary for the restoration of financial stability.
This reference to financial stability was regarded then as balanced budgets. The great cry throughout the land at that time was “ balanced budgets “. Those who were actively associated with public affairs well remember the laughter that greeted that cry so often repeated on every platform. The Prime Minister went on to say -
At the earliest possible moment members on this side will stand behind any proposal for the restoration of the wages and conditions that have been enjoyed by the public servants up to the present time. Possibly, in three years, the circumstances of the Commonwealth will have so improved that the old conditions can bc restored.
He held a responsible position then as Leader of the Opposition ; he holds a more responsible position to-day, a position in which he is called upon to honour the general promise he. made to the public in 1931. He then led the people to expect that certain things would be accomplished, but they have not been accomplished, and it is useless .for Government supporters to deny the effect of a lower standard of living that has been caused by the putting into operation of the policy which they declared would meet all requirements so- far as the general welfare of the community was concerned. It is now three years since that declaration was made, whether for political expediency or for any other purpose and the groat number who have been affected will soon be in a position to pass judgment on those responsible. Time has run its course and it is now necessary for the right honorable gentleman and those associated with him to honour the promise they made. I can assure honorable members that in thousands of homes to-day -there is a feeling of general dissatisfaction, disapproval, and condemnation of the policy put into operation during for the last three years. It has not accomplished that which it was intended to accomplish; and those who stood out at that time, maintaining that the Premiers plan was wrong - those who were denounced in the early stages of the operation of that plan and were ridiculed for their general opposition to a policy which they described as starving the country back to prosperity - are now in the happy position of being able to claim that they were sound in .the attitude they took up. Our attitude is now vindicated even in the eyes of those who, after a bitter experience of the operation of that poli:;y are now roundly condemning it in every direction.
In the course of his remarks the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) said that if all that it was intended to accomplish had not been accomplished, at least the nation was heading towards that result. It might be all right for those seated in this chamber - those who are fortunately situated in life, and they are a very small percentage of the community - to say that at least we are heading towards that result. But it is little consolation to those who are suffering the economic disabilities of the situation to learn that the so-called prosperity is still remote and may be reached in another three years.
Referring to the remissions of taxation, the Postmaster-General said that even though those who had benefited from them had not actually been affected by the financial emergency measures, the Government believed that its action was justified because the result would be the provision of a greater amount of employment. In considering this claim, it is interesting to refer to the evidence which the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) submitted to the Wheat Commission three or four months ago. The honorable member devoted a good deal of his evidence to this point, and expressed the opinion that the big institutions which had benefited from the remissions of taxation had not passed on the benefit to the extent claimed by the Government. He said that the wheatgrowers, in particular, had received very little relief. That is a complete answer to the case which the Postmaster-General attempted to make, and it receives added strength from the fact that it is given by an honorable member who sits on his side of the chamber.
– A deputation of postal workers placed before me an entirely different case.
– Although I am opposed politically to the honorable member for Wakefield, and differ from him on many questions, I cannot deny that he presents very capably any case that he bring3 forward. I cannot conceive of his tendering evidence to a body such as the Wheat Commission without having given the matter very careful consideration, and after considerable research. It must not be forgotten, too, that he was discussing a matter in which the majority of his constituents are intensely interested.
A consideration of the figures relating to the national debt raises in my mind further doubts as to whether any relief has actually been afforded as the result of the course which the Government has pursued. Prom the time when the crisis had any real force in Australia, in 1929, until the end of June, 1934, the national debt increased by £118,000,000,’ the rise per head of the population amounting to £10 8s., from £172 13s. to £183 ls. This must necessarily impose further burdens on the general public. While lopping off in one direction, the Government has been piling on the burden with a vengeance in another direction. Carried to its logical conclusion, there has been no such thing as financial relief. I believe that from March to June of this year the national debt increased by no less than £10,453,314. It would appear that in certain influential quarters this is regarded as sound finance, and as the right and proper course to pursue. That state of mind is easily understood when it is realized that these gilt-edged securities are regarded as a much safer investment than industrial enterprises, in which real employment can be given. In many cases, this money raised by way of loan is expended on relief works that are largely unproductive. Proof of the fact that such is the case is furnished by a deputation which a couple of weeks ago waited on the Minister for Labour and Industry in New South Wales, seeking an easement of the unemployment position, as well as the betterment of the conditions of those who are employed on the many relief works in that State. The deputation asked the Minister to state the purpose to which the money collected by means of the wage tax was being applied, and pointed out that, if rightly used, much of what they desired could be accomplished. The reply was that the wage tax was paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and that relief works were being financed by loan moneys. Doubtless the wage tax is being used for a purpose altogether different from what was originally intended. The financing of relief works with loan money must add to the burden of interest and all other costs in raising these amounts. In suggesting that relief, as this bill proposes, is being given in many directions the Government is, in effect, misleading the general public, because of the added burdens in the rise of the national debt. Those who invest in private industry, in which employment may be provided, deserve commendation, and are worthy of consideration at the hands of governments. They take all the risks, whereas those who invest in government securities under the heading of the national debt take none, and must be regarded in this crisis as the most unpatriotic people in the country.
I consider that this House is entitled to a definite statement regarding the question of war debts. Is- the £18,000,000 which represents suspended interest and principal payments again to take an important place in the financial affairs of Australia ?
– Parkhill. - It fis referred to in the budget speech.
– It has been lightly passed over. The general public are entitled to know what negotiations the Commonwealth has had with Great Britain in connexion with this matter. In the budget speech, the Government says, in effect, that by its opposition to repudiation and confiscation, it has been able to accomplish certain results, which are to be implemented by this bill. “While making a good deal of political capital in this way, it is sheltering under a moratorium with respect to a debt of £18,000,000 that is owing to a country that has been forced to repudiate its indebtedness to the United States of America. That is an unworthy attitude to adopt. It voices the cry, “ Away with all those who say that this country is not able to meet its obligations; we will have none of them.” Yet it takes advantage of a moratorium and leaves Great Britain to bear the whole of the odium consequent upon its inability to meet its commitments. Some indication should be given of the stage that has been reached in the negotiations. Are these payments to be made in the future? If they are not to be paid they should be cancelled, but the Government is not prepared to do that in a direct way, because it would be tantamount to admitting the truth of what we said three or four years ago.
– The whole matter is explained on page 6 of the budget speech.
– Is the Government going to meet the payments?
– It is agreed that they are to be suspended.
– The Government is taking credit to itself for granting concessions of various kinds, but it is able to do so only by sheltering under a moratorium in regard to a part of our national debt.
This bill proposes to make remissions in regard to the sales tax, which has always been unpopular. When it was first introduced the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) castigated the then Treasurer for bringing in what he described as a foreign system of taxation. Nevertheless, the tax is still in force, and last year yielded £8,000,000 in revenue, while the income tax produced only £8,500,000. All parties believe in lightening the load of taxation, but there is generally a difference of opinion as to who should be given the relief. Wc believe that taxes should be collected only from those best able to pay them”.
– Was that why Mr. Lang imposed a wages tax of ls. in tho £1?
– The basic wage was maintained at £4 6s. a week in New South Wales while Mr. Lang was in office. Today, when a government supported by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) is in power, the basic wage is down to £3 7s. 6d. a week. That is the answer to the honorable member’s question. Moreover, the money collected from the wages tax by the present Government is not now devoted to the purposes for which it was originally intended.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) said that he was pleased that the budget provided for granting some further concessions to the dependants of deceased soldiers. So are we all pleased, but one would have thought that this measure of relief would have been given before the Government granted relief to the wealthy taxpayers. We find, however, that action has been taken only at the end of the Government’s term, just before the election, and this is another matter which the Government may find hard to justify before the people.
The Government pretends that it has made valuable concessions in regard to maternity allowances, but, as a matter of fact, it is merely undoing some of the mischief for which it was itself responsible. In regard to this also we can only conclude that the Government has an eye on the approaching elections. I believe that the department, in arriving at the income of recipients of the allowance, should take into consideration wages tax, if any. that is paid. The workers have never objected to this impost, realizing that they were fortunate to be in a job, and that it was right that they should help those less fortunate than themselves. We should, however, give them credit for what they have done, and make allowance for the tax they have to pay.
The bill provides certain relief for the primary producers, and wo agree that, they are deserving of assistance. The honorable member for Henty laughs, but I remind him that, although I represent an industrial constituency, I probably know more about the conditions under which the primary producers work than he does, because I spent my early life among them. Moreover, it is to our interest that the primary producers should receive the cost of production plus a full return for their labour, because they will then be able to dispose of their products and thus provide employment for the workers in the constituency I represent.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8.10 p.m.
– The Government has made no provision whatever for the relief of the wheat-growers. A royal commission, upon which £15,000 has already been spent, is inquiring into the wheat industry, but so far it has produced no tangible results. The wheat-growers are naturally very perturbed at the failure of the Government to grant them relief from their serious position. When the Government became a party to the International Wheat Agreement, it promised that consideration would be given to the position of the fanners, and its neglect to carry out that undertaking has left the industry in an embarrassing financial position.
There are in the Postal Department 900 adult workers who, so far, have been denied the adult basic wage. I have searched through this bill diligently, but have found no provision in it to pay these unfortunate workers the wage to which they are justly entitled. Yesterday I listened to the budget speech carefully, but heard no reference in it to them. Ever since the members of another place disallowed the Public Service Arbitrator’s award, which granted to these men an adequate wage - and that is just two years ago - the deplorable plight of these men has remained unremedied. These workers being over the age of 21 years, have to bear the responsibilities of adults, und the Government should have made some provision to ensure that they would be paid the wages to which the nature of their work and their age alike entitle them.
Time will not permit me to discuss at any further length, the manifold deficiencies of this measure, but for the reasons that I have given I am more than disappointed with it. However, the Government will shortly be facing its masters at the polls,’ and I am sure that they, the electors, will decisively register their disapproval by removing it from office. The Government’s policy has not succeeded in lifting the country from the slough of depression, and has not awakened the slightest enthusiasm even among its own supporters.
.- Like the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), I am disappointed with the provisions of this bill. The financial emergency legislation that was passed by this Parliament in 1931 brought great suffering on a large section of the people, and, unhappily, the lower paid workers, pensioners, and the workless, suffered more than others. At the time promises were made by the Government of the day, and also by the Opposition, that immediately prosperity returned and the budget was balanced the cuts in salaries and social services would lbc restored. Those promises have not been fulfilled. Yet the Government has found means of benefiting a considerable body of wealthy taxpayers who were not subjected to special financial hardship by the emergency legislation,by relieving them of a good deal of taxation which they had been paying for years. The value of those concessions has exceeded £9,500,000. But while it has been able to do so much for those people, it has left resting upon the poorer people a large part of the burden that was upon them three years ago. The members of the group to which I belong, and a few other members of the present Opposition said, when the financial emergency legislation was introduced, that the reduction of the purchasing power of the people would not solve the unemployment problem nor restore prosperity to the country, and our contentions have been amply justified. We were told some time ago that the policy of the Government would result in the re-employment of 10,000 additional persons in our factories; but we find that it has lamentably failedto solve the problem of unemployment. This Government, as a matter of fact, has done nothing of a permanent character to relieve the situation. It is true that it has made certain grants to the States and that the States, by the provision of doles, have given the unemployed some temporary unproductive work of the most disagreeable kind in gutters and drains, and muck and slush; but nothing of a lasting character has been done to solve the unemployment problem.
– Unemployment has been reduced by 10 per cent, since this ‘Government has been in office.
– If the honorable member regards the provision of work of the kind I have mentioned under the deplorable wage conditions that have accompanied it, as a solution of the unemployment problem, then the Government has certainly solved it. But no one can deny that the chief concern of the present administration has been to relieve wealthy taxpayers of the responsibility of making a reasonable contribution to the cost of government. Those people made fortunes, in many cases, in more prosperous times in this country, and they should not have been relieved, at this specially difficult period, of the responsibility of making a reasonable contribution to the revenue. The result of the policy of the Government has been that very many people have become disgusted with the. present system of government. Members of all political parties make promises to the people at election time, but all too frequently the promises remain unredeemed.
– Order ! I have already ruled that honorable members may not discuss that subject in dealing with this bill.
– I expected to be called to order, Mr. Speaker, but I wish to ask a question. Would I bo in order in referring to a section of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act?
– No. This bill is divided into eight parts, none of which refers to invalid and old-age pensions.
– Under the Financial Emergency Act 1931, the maternity allowance was reduced from £5 to £4, and if the combined income of the parents amounted to £5 a week, not even £4 was paid. In 1932, at the instance of the present Government, provision was made that if the gross income of the claimant and her husband amounted to over £208 a year, no allowance should be paid. When the Maternity Allowance -Act was passed in 1912, the cost of living was about 50 per cent, lower than it is to-day, but the Fisher Government considered that £5 was little enough to pay. as a maternity allowance. The object of the payment was to ensure for a mother proper medical attention at the most critical period of her life. In those days mothers were frequently attended by inexperienced persons, and the death-rate was high. The allowance was not paid as a charitable gift, but was given irrespective of the parents’ income. Both the last Government and the present Ministry placed the allowance on a charitable basis. An additional allowance of 5s. is now to be made in respect of each child under fourteen years of agc, but this allowance must not make the total income of the parents exceed £299 a year. Thousands of children leave school at the age of fourteen years, and the cost of their maintenance then increases rapidly, so the Government’s claim that relief is being given through the maternity allowance cannot be substantiated. A mother with seven children over the age of fourteen years would receive no allowance whatever if her husband’s earnings exceeded £208 per annum. I consider that the mothers of the rising generation should be given fair consideration, but under this bill those with large families will suffer financial hardship, Remissions of taxation have been made to sections of the community which do not suffer at all, and there is every justification for more favorable treatment of mothers than is provided for under this bill. If we returned to the practice adopted in 1931, wc should show a genuine desire to do something to assist mothers and to ensure that children ushered into the world are given a fair chance. If the husband is in employment and the earnings of the home exceed £20S, the mother is not entitled to draw the maternity allowance for the first child. As a result of this she is frequently insufficiently nourished to undergo the strenuous trial of child-bearing, and her children come into the world poorly framed and with constitutions undermined. I appeal to the Government to give further consideration to the aspects which I have outlined and to restore the maternity ‘allowance to what it was in 1931.
Part IV. of the bill deals with war pensions. A great many ex-soldiers or dependants of dead or incapacitated soldiers are suffering considerable hardship to-day. Having in mind the penalties that were inflicted upon the mothers and the dependants of soldiers under this part of the original act, those who supported the passing of the original Financial Emergency Act can never condemn those who supported the retention in this country of money with which to feed the people. We were told that because we advocated that policy we were preudiationists, and that we would bring discredit on the country. Yet the Mother Country, which has always been held up as an honorable nation, as one which stands up to its word and bond, has actually done the very thing that we were condemned for suggesting - it has repudiated in cold terms its debt to the United States of America. It is time honorable members opposite, to he consistent, sent a protest to Great Britain alleging that its act of repudiation has brought discredit upon Australia. In any case there is no worse type of repudiation than that contained in this bill, for instance, the repudiation of the honorable promise given to men who enlisted for service during the war, that if they came back crippled or lost their lives on service they or their dependants would be adequately catered for. We find that 22* per cent, was taken from the pensions of the dependants of soldiers, 62,000 of whom paid the supreme sacrifice, and 72,000 of whom returned as cripples.
– Who was responsible for reducing the pension?
– The previous Government, but I” remind the honorable member that eighteen supporters of that Government revolted and the reduction was passed only with the support, of the party to which the honorable member belongs. Not only was there repudiation in connexion with war pensions; there was also repudiation in respect of interest, payable to our own bondholders, which by act of Parliament was reduced from 6 to 4 per cent. If it is good enough to repudiate a contract made with our own people, it is quite good enough to repudiate to the bondholders overseas. It is proposed to make a restoration of only 5 per cent, of the cut in respect of war pensions. I say that this restoration is insufficient. They should be paid back in full before any concessions are granted to any other section of the community. Not only was the percentage cut applied to war pensions, but an iniquitous clause was also inserted in the Financial Emergency Act which provided that where adequate income was being received by the pensioner, the pension would be cancelled altogether, adequate income in the opinion of the Government being 30s. a week. That is to say if a mother or a dependant of a dead soldier had an income into the home of 25s., the pension would be reduced to 5s. a week. I have here a case in point. It is one of the most tragic cases that has yet come before m*. Mrs. Scott, who lived in Deakin-street Kurri Kurri, had three sons who went to the war, two of them paying the supreme penalty. Before the Financial Emergency Act of 1931 was passed the mother received £2 2s. a week pension for the loss of her two sons. When that act came into operation she lost 22£ per cent, of her pension. Within a month ot that reduction ‘being made her husband was killed in the Pelaw Main colliery, and because she was drawing 30s. a week as compensation for the death of h:;r husband, her war pension was stopped. The department, not satisfied with the reduction of her pension by 22-J per cent., took it away altogether.
Why talk of financial relief while this sort of thing goes on ? This bill is not worth the paper it is written on, and yet we hear the cry that prosperity is still around the corner. It is a long time getting into the broad thoroughfare. It was said that if we were prepared to suffer these reductions prosperity would follow. It appears to me that there is no prosperity for the poorer sections of the community. Instead, we have a system of taxation levied on the poor and handed over to the rich. The poorer people now do not know what it is to pay taxation. If they had to pay taxation they would be in a position to buy bread and butter, but to-day many of them are fortunate even to be able to buy bread and treacle. Those honorable members who sit here in this chamber and talk glibly about prosperity should go among the poorer classes of the community and see the plight in which they exist. Let them come into my electorate. It is of no use for honorable members to close their eyes to the fact that poverty is common amongst the poorer classes. They have not the courage to go about to see it because they are aware of their gu’ilt in giving to their wealthy friends money which has been taken from the pockets of the poorer people. When a measure is brought down designed to afford relief, the poorer classes of the community should receive the first consideration, and the practice of robbing the poor to give to the rich should be abandoned. Some honorable members talk about their Christianity and boast that they are followers of the lowly Nazarene, but I ask them, are they truly following in the footsteps of the carpenter of Nazareth when they permit such legislation as this to be passed 1
Part V. of the bill deals with the salaries and wages of government employees. When we analyse the restoration proposed under this part of the bill we find that no benefit is given at all to the lower paid public servants. It is only to the higher salaried officers that any benefit accrues. No provision is made in the bill for the payment of the adult wage to adults engaged on junior work. Many men of 23 years of age are still receiving a junior’s wage. A large number of them are employed in the Postmaster-General’s department. Why should not provision be made under this bill to remedy this position? I claim thai, this bill is a great disappointment !o many people. It is simply electioneering propaganda, and when analysed thoroughly we find nothing in it for the most deserving sections of the’ community. The restoration proposed in connexion with the maternity allowance and soldiers’ pensions is not nearly adequate. If the Government desired to confer a real benefit it would restore the conditions that existed prior to the introduction of the iniquitous Premiers plan, under which all wages and pensions were reduced.
– Did not Lang sign the Premiers plan ?
– It was signed by Mr. Lang, but on the condition that each Premier would effect whatever economies he thought fit. It stands to his everlasting credit that he did not reduce social services or those who were on or below the basic wage in New South Wales. It ill becomes the honorable member who has interjected to make a slighting reference to Mr. Lang, when the leader of his party brought sufferings upon those whom Mr. Lang left untouched. It was the tall poppies, who could afford to lose some of what they were getting, on whom the pruning knife was used in New South Wales.
There are many directions in which relief could he given. From time to time I have advocated the reduction of the cost of explosives. When it is a case of reducing the cost of commodities that men must use as tools of trade in order to earn an income, no attempt is made to afford relief. Miners have had forced upon them by the coal-owners, reductions of wages totalling from 12£ to 20 per cent, and have also had withdrawn from them many concessions which they previously enjoyed; yet the cost of their tools of trade to-day is no lower than it was in more prosperous times. The Government should appoint a committee to inquire into the landed cost of explosives and to ascertain why an abnormal price is charged for them. This matter affects not only coal-mining, but also metalliferous mining. When I was mining, nearly six years ago, the average cost of explosives in the colliery in which I worked was about 4d. a ton, which represents a big reduction of wages.
– How much a ton were the miners getting for the coal that they hewed - 4s. 8-Jd. ?
– The highest price received in the colliery in which I worked was 2s. 5$d. for machine coal. Having at one time been a member of a . mining commission, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) should be better informed. The figure that he has mentioned might have been paid in some mines. The group to which I belong have consistently agitated for such relief to be given to the coalmining industry as would place it on a now basis. There is no doubt that it is in a declining state and needs to be rehabilitated, and that result can be achieved only by means of a government grant or by developing a method for the extraction of oil from coal. Representatives of the Government have visited the coal-mining districts, where they have witnessed the sufferings of the people. The erection of a hydrogenation plant has been promised, but the matter has been temporarily shelved by the appointment of a committee of inquiry to ascertain the most economic district in which the plant could be erected. Some “wag” has expressed the opinion that the brown coal deposits of Victoria could be more economically used for this purpose than the fields in the Newcastle district or the northern districts of New South Wales. Not even a schoolboy would be so foolish as to assert that the oil content of brown coal is anything like as great as that of black coal. This apparent activity is designed to induce the people to believe that the Government intends to take action in the matter. The Prime Minister was in my electorate in the early part of this year-
– Order ! Is the honorable gentleman referring to the coalmining industry as it is affected by the sales tax provisions of the bill ?
– I am.
– The honorable gentleman has had considerable latitude, and I am sure would not willingly transgress my ruling. But he must see that if every honorable member is allowed to be discursive, tho debate will be indefinitely prolonged. I hope that he will adhere strictly to the provisions of the bill.
– I had in mind the sales tax when I referred to tools of trade, and 1 considered that the time was opportune to advocate relief in connexion with the other matter that I raised. The erection of a hydrogenation plant should not be deferred until after the elections. The present Government will not have another opportunity to fulfil its promise in this direction, but the work will be proceeded with by the next government, in which my colleagues and I will be represented.
The question of unemployment is one> in relation to which all sections of the community expected that something definite would be done by this Government, yet budget after budget has been brought down without any proposal of a substantial or permanent character. At the last elections the Government promised that it would solve this problem and others. The hoardings throughout Australia were placarded with the advice “Vote for the United Australia party and secure a good job at steady wages. “ The rosy picture thus painted has failed to materialize, and an intensely disappointed electorate is now awaiting the opportunity to give emphatic evidence of its resentment. In the near future this Government will he replaced by an administration that will legislate in the interests not of one section, but of tho whole of the people. It will find a permanent .solution of the unemployment problem, and bring prosperity to Australia.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I congratulate the Government upon the proposed further reduction of taxation. It must be pleasing to honorable members who sit on tho Government benches to feel that there is so much largess which may be handed back to the people, but it also proves that the people have been overtaxed. When the exchequer is so replete the only conceivable course is to return the surplus to tho taxpayers. The Government has, by its administration, doubtlessly created that confidence which has resulted in a reduction of unemployment.
It is gratifying that the Government has been able to make a further contribution this year towards assisting agriculturists to fertilize their land. It is better for a man to bc able to improve the productive quality of a given quantity of land, than to have the area at his disposal increased, because fertilizing increases not only the quantity of fodder produced, but also its value. Thus the Government has helped to increase the volume aud value of our primary products.
– And then we are told that crops must be restricted.
– There is that about it, but nevertheless fertilizing more than pays. It is the most economical form of improvement which a farmer can affect.
– Especially when somebody else pays for it.
– That reminds me that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), when delivering his excellent budget, was careful to point out that £7,000,000 was being devoted to the assistance of primary producers, but he was equally careful not. to mention that the secondary indus tries were being assisted to the extent of nearly £100,000,000 a year. I am pleased that thu Government, as a result of its experience last year, is making an unconditional grant to assist the apple and pear growers of the Commonwealth. When the measure was introduced last year providing for the payment of this grant, it was pointed out to the Governnent that practically all other assisted industries were helped unconditionally, and that the conditions imposed in respect of the fruit-growing industry tended to promote inefficiency. Last year £125,000 was set, aside for the assistance of apple and pear growers, and the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) has supplied me with particulars regarding its allocation. New South Wales was awarded £8,225, but so far not a penny of that has been paid to the State by the Commonwealth, nor has anything been paid by the State to the growers.
– The claims have not. yet been finally dc-alt with.
– Victoria, on the other hand, was granted £36,321, and the whole of that amount has been paid to the State, and has been distributed by the State among the growers. To Queensland £478 was allocated, and although the amount has been paid to the State Government, it has not yet been distributed to the growers. The allocation for South Australia was £5,258, but none of it has yet been handed over to the State, and nothing has been received by the growers. To Western Australia the sum of £10,918 was allocated, but nothing has been yet paid to the State, and nothing has been received by the growers. Tasmania was granted £63,800, of which £50,000 has already been paid to the State, which, in turn, has distributed, to the growers £40,918. It seems to me that the legislation respecting the payments must have been interpreted differently in the various States. I appeal to the Government to do what it can to hasten the distribution, though I feel sure that the Minister for Commerce is doing his best. Some of the States mustbe acting in a pernickity manner. I am pleased that this year’s grant will not be governed by the same conditions as were associated with the previous one, and I should be pleased if the Government would make arrangements to have the unexpended portion of last year’s grant dealt with under the conditions which govern the new grant. 1 am sorry that no provision is being made in this bill to assist the wheat industry. I am aware that a commission has been appointed to inquire into the industry, and that its report has not yet been received. The Prime Minister, in his budget speech, briefly referred to i he intentions of the Government in this regard, but as the time is very short in which these matters may be discussed, while our political opponents are in the field. 1 hope the Government will not delay in bringing in a measure to stabilize this all-important industry.
– I. congratulate tho Government on bringing in a bill to give relief to a large section of taxpayers, and also to give assistance to important primary industries. The Government is in the happy position of being able to do this because Australian Governments have made a determined effort to balance their budgets, and because we have faithfully met our interest obligations, thus being able to go on the loan market and borrow huge sums of money.
– Anc! so increase the national debt.
– That may be, but, because we have been able successfully to convert some of our indebtedness, we are now paying in interest on a national debt which has been increased by £100,000,000, no more than we formerly “ paid on the smaller total.
X know tho difficulties which have been encountered in the administration of the Sales Tax Act, and I realize that the Government has been anxious to give what relief is possible, particularly to hospitals and mental institutions. Unfortunately, many of the chemicals and drugs used in hospitals are also used extensively in manufacturing processes, so that if they are exempt from sales tax a large amount of revenue will be lost. However, I believe that the situation could be met by making a rebate to hospitals of the amount of sales tax paid, as is now done in connexion with the excise duty on alcohol used in hospitals. It was brought to my notice recently that one country hospital, which is spending approximately £16,000 on hospital equipment, is being heavily hit by having to pay sales tax. Exemptions have been granted in respect of surgical dressings and instruments, but the tax must still be paid on beds and bedding. Surely arrangements could be made to refund the tax on those goods when the invoices are produced.
Sales tax has been lifted from carbide used in certain specified industries, but, as 1 pointed out when the matter was under discussion last year, carbide is nscc! as a lighting agent in competition with electric light and gas, on which no sales tax is paid. 1 am sorry that the Government has not seen its way clear to give complete exemption to carbide.
Wisdom has been -shown in providing assistance to the primary producers for the purchase of superphosphates and fertilizers generally. In making this assistance available, the Government isbenefiting primary production generally. The use of fertilizers undoubtedly restores (he fertility of the soil, and if fertility is restored, production can be continued on a sound basis, and so the financial position of the producers should be improved.
The provision of £125,000 for the assistance of fruit-growers was obviously necessary, for the fruit-growing industry has suffered severely in the last two or three years. Prices on the London market have been absolutely unprofitable. The fruit-growers of Australia have had to face most difficult conditions for several consecutive years, and many of them would have been entirely ruined had they not been able to draw from reserves accumulated in more prosperous years. Although the provision of this sum of money will not be sufficient to resuscitate this industry, it will be helpful, and for that help the growers will be grateful ; but , not even double that sum would restore the industry to a permanently profitable basis. Statistics provide us with definite information regarding the consumption capacity of the fruit market in Great Britain. I suggest that steps should be taken to market our. fruit in an orderly manner, so that we shall be able to supply the market according to its consumptive capacity. Last year it was found necessary to allot export quotas to various
States, but if anything of that nature is done this year, the co-operation of the New Zealand Government should be sought. It would be useless for us to fix quotas for the different States if no such quotas are fixed for Nev/ Zealand. Steps were also taken last year to prohibit the export of certain varieties of apples; but we later faced the extraordinary position that the fruit-growers of New Zealand were able to find a ready sale on the London market for varieties of apples which were prohibited from being ex- ported from Australia. Very wellmown varieties of apples were denied export. If orchardists are prevented from exporting apples of varieties which they have profitably exported for many years, they should be compensated either by the imposition of a levy upon the returns from the fruit that is exported, or by a direct grant from the Government. Such compensation should be continued over the period necessary to rework the adversely-affected orchardists trees into varieties that may be exported.
– How could the matter be financed?
– If certain orchardists are denied access to the export market because of the particular varieties of apples that they produce, it seems to me that the orchardists who have access to the market should be required to contribute to a compensation fund - that is, if the Government is not prepared to make *a straight-out grant for the purpose.
It is, gratifying to me that the “ necessitous “ conditions which applied to the granting of relief to fruit-growers last year will not be enforced this year. Unfortunately, the administration of that provision of the act caused great confusion in the industry, although I understand that a similar provision governing the granting of relief to wheatgrowers occasioned no such difficulties.
– Many difficulties had to be faced in the wheat industry, in consequence of the enforcement of that provision.
– It was decided in connexion with the wheat industry that no grant should be made to farmers who had a taxable income in the preceding year. If that practice had been adopted in the provision of relief for the fruit-growers, the confusion that occurred would have been avoided. If the present conditions continue for any length of time, the Government will be faced with the necessity of either subsidizing the fruit-growing industry, as is done in the United States of America, or providing a guaranteed price for export fruit, as is done in New Zealand. Our fruitgrowers are placed in a very difficult position through having to compete in the European markets with fruit-growers in the United States of America and New Zealand who are assisted in the way I have indicated. In these circumstances we should adopt some definite method of controlling the production and marketing of our fruit. Otherwise we shall have the fruit-growers requesting assistance from the Government year after year.
Mr. RIORDAN (Kennedy) [9.25’J. - Both the budget, which was introduced yesterday by the Prime Minister, and this bill, which provides certain financial relief forecasted in the budget, have been received with little enthusiasm by Government supporters. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) said “ It is not a bad budget “ ; and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Blacklow) was very little more enthusiastic. The latter gave the Government a measure of praise because he said that confidence had returned, and he claimed that the Government and the party supporting it had the confidence of the electors generally. Surely the honorable member has not studied the history of elections in Australia since the present Government assumed office less than three years ago. Had he done so he would have known that within that period the people of Wester i> Australia, Queensland and Tasmania have all returned Labour governments m> office in those States, and that the people of Brisbane have returned a Labour ma10rity to the Greater Brisbane Council. How can it be claimed, in these circumstances, that the United Australia party holds the confidence of the people? Although the Government has a huge majority in the Senate, and a substantial majority in this House, it is rushing to the country six months before it need do so, and incurring an expenditure of £.120,000 that could be deferred until next March. If it has such great confidence in the efficacy of the measures proposed in the budget it should put thom into operation and give them the six mouths’ trial that would be possible before an election need be held; but it is not doing so.
– It is running away from its job.
– It is giving the country a sort of promissory note. This is not a government of actions ; it is a government of words. It has not even dealt reasonably with the people directly under its own control. Some provision is made in the budget for partial restoration of Public Service salaries and wages, and credit is claimed by the Government for what it is doing in this way. But the plain fact of the matter is that public servants in the Federal Capital have lost £09 a year since this Government has been in office - £30 through the direct reduction of wages and £30 through the withdrawal of the Canberra cost of living allowance. The Government is making a restoration of only £30. If it would make no so-called restoration at all, but revive the payment of the cost of living allowance, the people concerned would show a clear profit of £9 a year. A complete restoration would amount to £69 a year.
What is the motive actuating the Government in making such an early appeal to the electors? Is it fear that it will be forced into accepting the policy of restricted exports proposed by the High Commissioner in London?
-Order! The honorable member must deal with the business before the chair.
– I submit, Mr. Speaker, that as this bill touches vitally upon primary production, I should be allowed to discuss the subject of the restriction of exports.
-The honorable member is distinctly out of order in proceeding along the lines that he is following.
– When I was referring to the visit to Australia of the High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce, I intended to suggest a reason for the presentation of this bill before the budget had been passed. Why is an appeal to be made to the electors six months before the usual time? Is it feared that as a result of the
Government’s policy of restriction of production it will not be possible to give effect to the budget proposals? We know that there has been a reduction of 20 per cent, in the price of wool.
– The honorable member will realize that thu budget is not now before the House. It is proposed under this bill to give financial relief in certain directions, and the honorable member has sufficient knowledge of parliamentary procedure to be aware that he must not continually make irrelevant remarks.
– Then I shall deal with the question of unemployment. It is claimed by the . Government that the unemployment figures have been reduced by 10 per cent., but it will be found that 10 per cent, of the people will be thrown out of work as the result of the fall in the prices of exportable commodities.
– I rise to a point of order. Are we to have a general budget debate at thi3 stage?
– If the honorable member had been in his place a few minutes ago, he would have known that I have made repeated attempts to confine the debate to the matters dealt with in the bill. The honorable member for Kennedy knows that the subject of unemployment cannot now be discussed, and I hope that he will not again transgress the rules of the House.
– May I not refer to unemployment in discussing a bill to provide for financial relief?
– For the last time I ask the honorable member to obey the ruling of the Chair.
– The Government speaks of restoring the maternity allowance, but who will accept the promises of a Ministry that has a majority in both Houses and after two and a half years in office, has failed to put its policy into operation? What further mandate does it require from the people? We are told that relief is to be given to fruit-growers, yet no benefit is to be received by the banana and tobacco growers of Queensland.
– What about the sugar industry ?
– That industry provides work for a large number, but the policy of the United Australia party is to throw them out of employment. It is said that a full restoration of wages is to be made to the lower-paid members of the Public Service. Despite the fact that, when the Financial Emergency legislation was passed, it was said that as soon as the finances permitted a full restoration would be made of the payments for war pensions, invalid and old-age pensioners, and the maternity allowance, this bill offers no relief to the poorer sections of the community. The only pleasing feature is that the Government, proposes shortly to appeal to the people.
.- This comprehensive measure has my entire support. The Government is to be commended for its action in submitting proposals from time to time for the relief of the taxpayers. One of the most objectionable imposts to-day is the sales tax, and it involves a great deal of clerical work. I am glad to know that further exemptions from this tax are being provided. It falk with special harshness upon the building trade, which provides a great deal of employment. Lime and all crushed stone materials used for concrete are to be exempted. Although crushed metal, and screenings used by municipalities escape the tax, the commissioner has ruled that once these materials are manufactured into concrete they become taxable. It was never intended by Parliament that municipalities should bc required to pay this tax on their road-making material, and it is gratifying to know that the Government now proposes to rectify the anomaly. I have no doubt that the proposed further exemptions, particularly those affecting the building trade, will result in the provision of an increased amount of employment. Some time ago I was informed by manufacturers and proprietors of quarries that in the event of the Government agreeing to exempt their materials from the sales tax, they would give an undertaking that they would immediately reduce the cost of those materials to the extent to which they benefited by exemption from the tax. T asked them to put that undertaking into writing, and I have a record of it in my possession. The result is that the public will receive the benefit, of reduced prices for metal screenings, fibrous plaster and other building requisites. There is a shortage of houses at the present time, and occasionally three families are found in occupation of one residence. As soon as a workman is in regular employment, he tries to obtain a home of his own. The men engaged in the building trade represent a largo proportion of the workers in the city. I hope I may rely on the help of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) to find occupation for them.
The next item is that of maternity allowance, but as this matter has been fully dealt with by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) I shall content myself with congratulating the Government upon the fact that it has to some extent been able to improve the position by increasing slightly the amount to be paid.
On the question of salaries and wages which is dealt with in Part V. of the bill, I believe that the higher the wages paid lo the workers of this country the better it will be for every section of the community. If employees, whether of the State, or of private employers, are receiving good wages they are in turn spending that money, and the business people and the community generally reap the benefit as a result. After having investigated the matter I am satisfied that the public servants of this country were not overpaid prior to the reductions which were forced upon them by the Scullin Government.
I approve of the proposal of tho Government to give relief to the primary producers, who can do most in this community to help to bring about that prosperity which is so desirable at the present time. It is necessary that they should receive something in return for the labour and enterprise they put into their work, and during the life of this Parliament the present government has demonstrated its willingness to co-operate in assisting the man on the land.
I commend the Government also for the reductions which it proposes to effect in sales tax and primage and the encouragement ir, is giving in other ways to the men on the land who have been experiencing such a. bad lime. Regarding the question of assistance to fruit-growers the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Blacklow), who may be said to be the apple expert in this House, has put a very good case for the growers. I am sure that at the election the people generally will express their appreciation of this bill and that their verdict will be very different from the anticipations of honorable members opposite.
.- Although this measure is termed a relief measure, I believe that every honorable member who carefully peruses it will agree with me that it should be regarded as a bill for the purpose of trying to mislead the people into the belief that this Government intends to do something to give financial relief to certain sections of the community. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) rightly says that the Government is asking the electors to give their endorsement on a promissory note in the hope that if it is returned they may get this measure of relief. The bill is purely political propaganda, but it will not be successful in achieving the purpose desired. I have carefully gone through it and have come to the conclusion that additional sections of the community might have been included in the relief proposed to be given. If the Government has money to spend on relief it should redraft the measure and provide some relief for a very deserving section of the community - the unemployed. But, when ministers are dealing with the distribution of money taken from the pockets of the community, they merely give lip service in their sympathy towards the unemployed. For instance, they suggest that the unemployed are to benefit in some way by relieving other sections of the community of the liability to pay taxes. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) has made some references to the unemployment figures. His remarks might lead the unemployed to believe that there were improved prospects of securing employment. Any honorable member who is in touch with the industrial sections of the community knows that the unemployment position has not improved.
– The honorable member will realize that he cannot be permitted to continue along those lines. The bill contains certain provisions, and that is the only business to be discussed by the House.
– The bill provides for relief to be extended in certain directions, but we are dealing with the distribution of last year’s surplus, and I submit that I should be in order in suggesting ways of spending that surplus. The Government, by attempting to dress the political window for the elections, is endeavouring to indicate to certain sections of the community that it proposes to give them relief, and honorable members should be given an opportunity to criticize such action.
– Do I take it that the honorable member desires to be deliberately discourteous to the Chair when he makes that remark?
– Certainly not.
– Then I ask him to continue to discuss the bill before the House.
– Whatever your decision may be at the moment, Mr. Speaker, it does seem out of keeping with the latitude given to the Minister.
– It is not for the honorable member to discuss the Chair.
– lt would be much easier if honorable members had been told what they were allowed to discuss.
– I hope the honorable member will accept my warning and not cause the Chair to take action which may be distinctly unpleasant. Every honorable member know? that, when a bill is introduced, the provisions of the bill only may be discussed. If honorable members desire to widen the scope of a bill, there is a method that may be employed to secure that end.
– The Postmaster-General said that this Government had been responsible for-
-The honorable member will not be allowed to persist in answering the remarks of other honorable members on those lines.
– Seeing that you hold the king position, Mr. Speaker-
– If the honorable member is again offensive, I shall order him to resume his seat.
– My offence was not intentional. The point which I am trying to make is that it is only late in the discussion that some honorable members have been given an, opportunity to reply to some of the statements which have been made by other honorable members. I am sure the Postmaster-General will be distributing copies of his speech throughout his electorate.
– It may have been a perfectly good speech, but I do not intend to do so.
– The title of the bill itself is the Financial Relief Bill, and honorable members should be permitted to suggest ways in which the money should be spent. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) was allowed a little latitude in regard to matters which he raised.
– The honorable member for Forrest was quite in order in discussing fertilizers, for the exemption of which provision is made in the part of the bill dealing with the sales tax.
– I do not desire to infringe on your ruling, sir. I know that unemployment-
– Unless the honorable member is prepared to abide by the ruling of the Chair, I shall have to ask him to resume his seat without further warning.
– Part V. of this bill claims to provide certain relief in regard to Public Service salaries. Public servants have suffered very severely at the hands of this Government and its predecessors. I do not excuse anybody; I place the responsibility where it should be placed. Public servants, it is claimed, are to get a restoration of 5 per cent, of the cut; but actually the lower-paid servants will get nothing at all. The restoration applies merely to the higher-salaried officials. I have a very clear recollection of the members of this chamber restoring their own salaries by £75 a year, and yet we find that the lower-paid public servants are to receive no benefits at all under this measure. People may be led to believe that the 5 per cent, restoration means a restoration to every public servant, but, as the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and other honorable members have pointed out, not only does the cut not apply to the lowerpaid public servants, but there are still adults in the Service who are not even receiving the very low Commonwealth basic wage which prevails. The Post master-General may be able to explain why that position has not been rectified in respect of his own department.
In regard to maternity allowances, there was formerly no restriction placed on the payment of the allowance in respect of the income coming into the home. That restriction was imposed by a previous Government, and later reduced by this Government. Now, in an effort to capture votes, the Government is attempting to make it appear that it is liberalizing the provisions of the act. At the committee stage we shall give the Government an opportunity to liberalize them still further.
I cannot understand why honorable members who continually advocate th: giving of assistance to primary producers object to honorable members of this group describing such assistance as a dole. The £7,000,000 that has been paid to primary producers is as much a dole as is the assistance which has been given to other sections of the community. As the Government did not take exception to a statement made by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr, Blacklow), I can only assume that, if given the opportunity, it intends to adopt a policy aimed at the restriction of exports. I can see no necessity for stimulating primary production if there is no market for what is already produced in abundance. I clearly recollect that on a previous occasion certain primary producers were to be assisted in proportion to the quantity of fertilizer they used. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) said that assistance to the purchasers of fertilizers was an economical way in which to stimulate primary production. I suggest that, so long as what is given is paid for by others, the process may be described as economic to the person concerned if it relates to the production of any commodity.
Rome honorable members have made a great deal of the proposal to restore 10 per cent, to certain relatives of deceased soldiers. It is easy for them to fr, r lip service to this section whenever the occasion presents itself. I point out, hovever that there are many thousands o’ disabled returned soldiers and their d”T>» ‘!- who to-day are not receiving r. . V . I do not place the whole of ‘ “**on the department, because
I have no doubt that it is working under instructions from tho Government; but in the endeavour to keep the expenditure as low as possible it has taken an unfair advantage of many of these unfortunate mcn by claiming that they cannot connect their present disabilities with their war service. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Marr) will probably say that returned soldiers may appeal to different tribunals. Any one who has examined the cases sent to those tribunals knows that a pension has been denied to a large number of deserving claimants. If those, who support, the Government sincerely desired to assist this section of the community it could have done so long ere now, when we are on the eve of an election. I have heard the charge levelled against certain honorable members that they use certain sections for political purposes. This Government is using the returned soldiers and their relatives as a political football, in an attempt to capture a few votes. It may care for the “brass hats”, but it has very little consideration for the mon in tho lower ranks. No longer need the returned soldiers look to it for relief, because after the loth September next the affairs of Australia will be managed by a different administration. I regret that Ministers in particular have used their positions in this chamber to make what I believe are electioneering speeches, using what in my opinion are inaccurate statistics in order to mislead the people and to buoy up the hopes of those who are looking for relief.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in imputing improper motives to Ministers? The honorable member has used language which would tend to make this House believe that Ministers have used inaccurate statistics in an effort to misload the people.
– I understood the honorable member to say that he believed that the statistics were inaccurate. That is quite different from making a charge of inaccuracy.
– I said I believed that Ministers were using their positions for that particular purpose. Unfortunately, because the debate is restricted by the forms of the bill, honorable members have not the opportunity to correct many of the mis-statements that have been made.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member has now definitely made the charge that mis-statements have been made by Ministers in this chamber.
– Ministers ought not to be over-sensitive. In using the word “ mis-statement “, the honorable member for East Sydney does not insinuate anything that is unworthy ; but if the Assistant, Treasurer takes exception to it, I shall ask that it be withdrawn.
– I do take exception to it.
– Then I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the word. This measure also proposes to give relief to fruit-growers. The honorable member for Forrest has pointed out that although certain relief is specified, in the past the money has not actually been received by the growers. That is a very serious allegation. One would think that any assistan.ee of this sort would be received by those who are responsible for production. It is known, however, that in New South Wales at all events, a considerable portion of the money raised by means of the flour tax went, not to the wheat-growers of that State, but to those from whom they had borrowed money. I suggest that under this measure only a few crumbs will be distributed, in the hope that they will be the means of securing a few votes for a Government which, in my opinion, is absolutely discredited in the eyes of ‘.he public. Nothing that it may do at this eleventh hour can save it from the defeat which is staring it in the face. I am confident that the Labour Government which will be returned at the next elections will be able to bring down a measure that will give immediate relief to many daserving people in Australia, and will not have the characteristics of measures brought down by this Government from time to time, which have afforded real relief only to its own wealthy supporters. [Quorum formed.]
– Honorable members will not feel astonishment when I ask why in the welter of vote-capturing propaganda that is now before the House the Northern Territory, which I represent, has again been overlooked.
– That is easily explained - the honorable member has no vote in this chamber.
– That is so. I have long held the belief, and the people of Australia are beginning to realize, that the wants of the Northern Territory are deliberately ignored because it has no party political significance. If the Government were sincere, it could give effect to any policy it favours, because it has the necessary numbers in this chamber and a sympathetic Senate. Yet it prefers to go out of office barren of achievement, and to make a lot of promises. If it can “ get away “ with such “ guff “, it will be a reflection on the mentality of the people. I should like, to know why it persists in starving hundreds of unemployed.
– Order !
– This bill, as I read it, is a general relief measure.
– Order !
– Perhaps I may overcome the objection of the Chair if I move to have inserted at the end of Part VI., the following: -
That a portion of the said sum shall be earmarked for the purpose of assisting primary producers in the Northern Territory, and unemployment.
– Order ! The honorable member may have an opportunity to move that amendment when the bill is in committee.
– Then I move-
That all words after the word “that” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for the unemployed and primary producers of the Northern Territory “.
I take this step because of the repeated ignoring of facts by the Government. It proposes to tell the people what wonderful things it has done for the unemployed.
-Order! The honorable member must supply the Chair with his proposed amendment, so that it may determine whether it is in order. I cannot allow him to fill in the remainder of his time in the discussion of a matter that is foreign to the bill, on an amendment that it may not be competent for him to move.
– The bill says-
Subject to this Part, there shall be payable out of Consolidated Revenue Fund, which” is hereby appropriated accordingly, the sum of £200,000 for the purposes of financial assistance to tho States in the provision of relief to primary producers in respect of the production of primary produce other than wheat,
The word “ and “ joins this with a further provision, which reads - for the purposes of providing relief to primary producers in any territory in respect of that production.
Of course, it may be argued that the words refer to territory within the States, but I contend that the wording. of the bill is such that we are entitled to discuss the rendering of assistance to primary producers in the Northern Territory as well. If that be so, then I am justified in trying to show .that assistance rendered to the primary producers in the Northern Territory would also be of benefit to tho unemployed in that area. I need not remind honorable members of the glowing reports which have reached the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) from the Government Geologist regarding gold discoveries in tho north, particularly at Tennant’s Creek. It is known that several areas are producing stone of high value, and that some miners have as much as 50 to 1 00 tons of stone at grass. Never,theless the Government refuses to provide them with even as much as a bag of flour. Surely tho public will realize the hypocrisy of the Government when it professes to be concerned with the welfare of the unemployed. In 1850 Victoria had a population of 30,000. Gold was discovered in 1851, and nine years later the population of the colony had increased to 538,000, compared with a population of 349,8S0 in New South Wales after 72 years of occupation along pastoral lines. It was the discovery of gold that populated Australia, and history can be made to repeat itself if only the Government will rise to the occasion. Now that Ministers are promising to hand over millions of pounds of the taxpayers’ money to favoured sections of the community, we are entitled to ask that some- ‘ thing be done for the unemployed in the
Northern Territory, even though there are not a great many votes to be won there. During the time this Government has been in office, huge sums of money have been wrung from the public, and now, at the end of its term, the Government is simply juggling with that money in an effort to buy political favour.
– Order! The honorable member is out of order in making that statement.
– In the southern part of the Northern Territory, there has been an unprecedented drought, and settlers are without water or means to sink wells. They see that money is beingpoured out lavishly in other parts of the Commonwealth, while their needs go unheeded. Yet it is of vital significance to Australia that the far north be developed. If this Government had the courage of John Forrest, the problem of unemployment could be settled without delay. Instead of doing that, however, the Government prefers to pander to the people in the pities.
By ignoring the claims of the unemployed in the territory directly under its control, and failing to take adequate measures to deal permanently with unemployment in other parts of Australia, it is rendering a great disservice to this country. We must recognize that many of the industries in the cities are incapable of further expansion, and, if the people are to be employed in reproductive work, they must be moved into the interior. Dr. Woolnough has stated that there is room in the north for many permanent settlers. The Government is spending money in an effort to appease those with whom it hopes to form a coalition after the elections, and has already promised certain concessions to the Country party in the form of reduced duties. When that promise is redeemed, secondary industries will languish and unemployment will be increased. So long as we have politicians in power who place more value on votes than on the welfare of their country, so long will the development of the nation be retarded. In the north there is an area of 500,000 square miles, which could absorb all the unemployed in Australia, and which can produce the one commodity of which we can never have too much, namely, gold. It is costing the miners, in the north £1 a week at the present time for water alone; yet the Government will do nothing to help them. The expenditure of a few hundred thousand pounds in the territory would do more good than the spending of millions elsewhere in order to secure votes at election time. I have no doubt that, during the coming election campaign, the public will be informed of the facts, and will learn of the treatment which this Government is meting out to the unemployed in the north. [Quorum formed.]
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Nelson’s amendment) stand part of the question - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Part I. - Preliminary.
Clause 1 (Short title and citation).
– The most disappointing feature of Part I. of this bill is that it omits all reference to certain essential subjects that should have been dealt with in the bill. For two and a half years the people of Australia have been hoping that this Government would restore the reductions in salaries, wages and services made under the financial ‘emergency plan, and putinto operation a comprehensive works policy to relievo unemployment. I greatly regret that not one of the eight parts of this bill touches upon unemployment, which is the most urgent problem facing the nation. The only thing that the Government has done to cope in any way with unemployment has been to make some meagre grants-in-aid to the State Governments.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bell).Order ! The honorable member may not discuss that subject under this clause.
– I regret that I arn not able to do so. The very least that the people were entitled to expect from this bill was the complete restoration of the services and conditions that applied before the introduction of the financial emergency legislation of 1931. Provision is made in the bill for certain relief from taxation. Everybody is, of course, glad to be relieved of taxation, but, again, I regret that relief is being given principally to people who are most able to pay taxation.
– Order ! The honorable member may not embark upon a. general discussion of this nature under this clause.
– I shall content myself, Mr. Chairman, with expressing my bitter disappointment that the Government has not seen fit to do anythiug to cope with the fundamental problem of unemployment.
Clause agreed to.
Part II.- Sales Tax.
Clause2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Citation of Sales Tax Assessment Acts’).
– The Government is circulating a sheet of amendments. They are mainly drafting amendments ‘which have become necessary since the bill was prepared, their object being more correctly to express the Government’s intentions in regard to the various groups of proposed exemptions from the sales tax.
– Will these amendments result, in any addition to the list of exemptions ?
– No additions of any consequence. The first amendment, for instance, seeks to limit the exemption of books so that it shall not apply to any stationery in book form. One of the motives that actuated the Government in framing these amendments was its desire to avoid anomalies by lifting the sales tax from all articles that, are similar and competitive with one another. Since the bill was drafted the need for a number of these amendments has become apparent by reason of the experience of the sales tax staff in the several States.
For the convenience of the committee, and with the consent of the Chairman, I propose to explain now the purpose of the amendments contained in Part II. Honorable members will observe that clause 4 is apparently very complex. It is a retrospective provision, and the intention is to remove an anomaly concerning tax payable in respect of sales of goods prior to the 11th July, 1 931, to government departments or authorities which are corporate bodies. Prior to that date, there was no specific exemption from sales tax in respect of goods sold to government departments and authorities for their official use. It was not possible, however, to require payment of tax in respect of sales to all such departments and authorities, for those which were not corporate bodies could not be regarded as “ persons “ to whom goods were sold. Under the existing law, tax is recoverable only in respect of such sales, prior to the 11th July, . 1931, to departments and authorities which are corporate bodies, for example, the Railway Commissioners in the various States. The object of this amendment is to place such bodies in the same position aa departments and authorities which are not corporate bodies, so that both classes may enjoy immunity from tax in respect of goods purchased by them prior to the 11th July, 1931. The position is still unsettled at this date by reason of the refusal of certain departments and authorities affected to bear the tax.
The purpose of clause 5 is to cause the exemption of peanut butter, which commenced on the 26th October, 1933, to operate as from the 11th November, 1932. As from the latter date the law provided for exemption from tax in respect of “ canned or bottled fruits and vegetables.” Some confusion and misunderstanding prevailed as to whether peanut butter came within the scope of this provision, with the result that most merchants dealing in this product did not pay tax in respect of their sales of it after the 11th November, 1932. It is now desired to rectify the position.
The amendments contained in clauses 6, 7 and 8 are necessary in order to give effect to the proposed further exemptions from sales tax announced in connexion with the budget speech. Clause 6 deals with goods of Australian production which came within the scope of the Sales Tax Assessment Acts, Nos. 1 to 4 inclusive. Clause 7 refers only to imported goods which are taxable, upon importation, under the Sales Tax Assessment Act No. 5. Clause 8 specifies the exemptions proposed in respect of imported goods which are taxable, after importation, under Sales Tax Assessment Acts Nos. 6 to 8 Inclusive.
Paragraph 1 of clause 9 provides for the exemption of cane chippers and cane planters to operate as from . the 2nd September, 1932, which is the date of commencement of the exemption of other agricultural implements used ‘for similar purposes. It is considered anomalous to require payments of tax in respect of sales of cano chippers and cane planters since that date. The purpose of paragraph 2 is to cause the specific exemption from tax in respect of cooked fish and fried chip potatoes to be operative as from the commencement of the sales tax. This matter was the subject of recent litigation, following upon which it is deemed desirable to place the position beyond doubt by granting a specific retrospective exemption. Paragraph 3 is designed to give retrospective effect, as from the 26th October, 1933, to the exemption of “ Greftex “, a substitute for grafting wax used by fruit-growers, and to the exemption of materials and equipment for use in the dairying industry in the testing, pasteurization and cooling of cream. As from the 26th October, 1933, the law allows exemption in respect of - (1) “grafting wax for Use in the fruitgrowing industry”; (2) “materials and equipment for use in the dairying industry in the testing, pasteurization and cooling of milk.” It is considered that the proposed extensions of these exemptions should operate from the same date, and undertakings to that effect have already been given to persons affected.
– When exemptions have previously been discussed, I have placed before the committee the request ofpersons with small confectionery businesses who have asked for relief from the incidence of the tax.
– On small packeted lines?
– Yes. I believe that their retail prices are fixed, and their trade is mostly done with school children. I have ‘been particularly requested on a number of occasions by their organization in Sydney to endeavour to obtain relief for them from this tax.
.- The Minister will remember that a certain municipality in Western Australia asked for an exemption from sales tax in respect of 6-inch concrete pipes for reticulating its water supply. At the time, the Minister said that he regretted that such pipes were not exempted from the tax. In the list of exemptions Are galvanized iron pipes of over 3-inch diameter for irrigation purposes in farming or pastoral pursuits. I think that concrete pipes for the same purpose could well be added, as well as concrete pipes for reticulation purposes such as I have mentioned.
– It would be preferable if honorable members were to choose the appropriate place to make their suggestions. The committee is now dealing with clause 3.
– There is a big list of exemptions.
– The honorable member has already suggested a place in which the item might be inserted. I suggest that he wait until then.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Good3 sold to government departments) .
.-! should like to know whether this clause deals with quasi-government departments.
– It is meant to cover government departments such as railways, but not such bodies as water boards.
– Can the Minister say whether refunds will be made in cases in which taxes have been wrongly collected, and whether the department will refund the money so paid without the persons concerned having to make special application for it?
– In my haste to explain the purpose of Part II., I probably did not make myself clear. The honorable member’ for Perth (Mr. Nairn) referred to semi-governmental institutions, some of which are exempt from sales tax, and some of which are not exempt. I was speaking of government departments which are either corporate bodies or noncorporate bodies. There are a number of small government departments in New South Wales but, generally, the clause applies to government railways in the various States. It does not include organizations such as water supply boards or sewerage boards.
.- On previous occasions I have asked for the exemption from sales tax of mining machinery. Hand boring machines ure used largely in rnining, but they are not exempt generally. The exemptions which have been granted” apply to machinery purchased by the mine-owners, whereas hand boring machines are usually purchased by the miners. They also should he exempt from tho tax.
Safety lamps are included in the list of exemptions, but not carbide lamps. In this case also, the articles exempted are supplied by the mine-owners, as required by the act, whereas carbide lamps, which arc not exempted, are used in nongaseous mines by miners who purchase them for themselves. Both kinds of lamp should be treated alike.
I should also like to know whether the clause applies to timber used in mining. Not all such timber is dressed. I should like to be clear about the item.
Hessian is included in the exemptions if for use in the dried fruit or farming industries. What is the position in regard lo brattice?
– Honorable members will appreciate the difficulty of the Chair in confining speeches strictly to the clause. I have no desire to limit the discussion, but the ruling I gave previously was that honorable members must deal only with the clause under consideration. I realize that no clause is more relevant than another to meet the case of further exemptions which honorable members may wish to suggest. I have no wish to restrict honorable members, but the honorable member will see that we will have to deal with the bill clause by clause because of the amendments which have been circulated.
– The Government has given t great deal of thought to the proposed sales tax exemptions and has decided to make them in the direction in which they will do most good. Confectionery, referred to by the honorable member for ‘West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has presented a recurring problem ever since the tax was first imposed. The Government has received many representations by interested parties and has given the matter a great deal of thought. To accept the suggestions made in regard to packeted lines would bc very costly. The packeted lines are mainly sold at a minimum price of 3d. or 6d. If the tax were removed from this class of confectionery further, anomalies would be caused by their competition with other lines.
The lamps and timber of the class mentioned by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) are already exempt. The Government has not been able to include concrete pipes in the list of exemptions. It has, however, been decided to include in the list of exemptions galvanized pipes of over three inches in diameter for irrigation purposes in farming or pastoral pursuits. The. Government is unable to accept’ any further extensions of the list, although I am sure that any representations which may be made will be fully considered should any further exemptions be made in the future.
.- The Assistant Treasurer has attempted to reply to some remarks which I made, but was not allowed to amplify. Strong representations were made last year to the ‘ Minister to include concrete pipes in the list, of exemptions, and he said that he would make a note of the matter. The reticulation of country towns is an exceedingly important question and it is most desirable where large numbers of people are gathered together. I am, therefore, unable to understand why theGovernment did not give more serious consideration to the representations that were made. The Minister has evidently acted without a full knowledge of the facts. It is unfair that, after having decided to install a reticulation system, tho ratepayers of country towns should bo compelled to pay such large sums of money in sales tax.
– In connexion with the item, “ books and pamphlets of a literary or educational character “ a proposition has been submitted with regard to the literature distributed by various tourist bureaux. These are voluntary organizations formed for the purpose of interesting people in different parts of tho Commonwealth, and their publications arc subject to sales tax. I have been asked specifically by the Toowoomba Tourist Bureau to see if it is possible to have that class of literature exempted from the payment of sales tax. [Quorum formed.] Another, question raised by the Toowoomba Fire Brigade, which recently purchased a new engine, is that of the exemption from sales tax of fire brigades’ engines. Such an exemption should apply to engines and equipment generally. A reduction from 10 per cent, to 5 per cent, has been made in the primage duties on fire-brigade and life-saving appliances, so that the principle has already been recognized by the Government. It is, I think, desirable to reduce the taxation on all these services, which are rendered to the public generally, and not run for profit. I should like the Minister to consider both suggestions.
– Are fire engines taxed now?
– I understand they are still under the sales tax, and so is fire brigade material. All equipment of that kind should be exempt. If the Minister finds it impossible to make the concessions I ask for at this stage, I trust he will make a note of them for early consideration.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister the anomalous position created by the exemption from sales tax of photographs for use in the. production of newspapers, whilst ordinary photographs produced by photographers for the general public are still taxed. If it is right to exempt big newspapers, it is also fair to give a similar concession to the general community and to professional photographers. This appears to be a case of granting special patronage to newspapers, whilst leaving photographers and the general public under the burden of an unfair and inequitable impost. I have received a strongly-worded telegram of protest from the photographers, expressing their indignation and serious concern at the omission of the Government in relation to their business, and the granting of special consideration to newspapers only.
– On what grounds does the Government arrive at this decision?
– It, is for tho Minister to offer some explanation. I hope it is only an oversight bn the part of the Government, and that the Minister will be prepared to rectify what is a distinct anomaly. The Government may seek to give the impression that photograph blocks for newspapers are not so strictly commercial in their nature as are photographs purchased by the general community, but I submit that there is no difference in the commercial value of the two articles. It is not fair to discriminate in favour of big concerns, which can well afford to pay any tax imposed on them. Far too many concessions have been given to institutions of that class, whilst withholding the same consideration from the community generally. Those in the business of photography have every justification for complaining, and I urge the Government to rectify the anomaly and mete out equal justice to every section of the community in all exemptions of this oharacter.
.- Provision is made for the exemption from sales tax of galvanized iron water pipes over 3 inches in diameter for irrigation purposes and farming or pastoral pursuits. Is it the intention of the Minister to comply with the requests made hy certain companies in Queensland, which are undertaking irrigation on a large scale for the purpose of increasing their output of sugar-cane, that concrete or castiron pipes should also be exempted ? That request was made to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) when he was at Bundaberg within the last two years, by Gibsons, of Bingera, who spent between £30,000 and £40,000 on irrigation and created a great deal of employment in the district. They used concrete pipes made by the Hume Pipe Company Limited. A number of other companies doing irrigation work are using cast-iron pipes. If galvanized-iron water pipes over 3 inches in diameter are exempted, I can see no reason why concrete or castiron pipes should not be treated in the same way. In many parts of Australia irrigation will be practised in the future to a much greater extent than in the past. Large quantities of water go to waste in wet seasons in States like Queensland, and every encouragement should be given to enterprising people to conserve it to irrigate the land. As Australia’s population grows and the demands upon primary production become greater, water conservation and irrigation will have to be undertaken on a much larger scale than a present; and whilst this small concession which the Government gives will be appreciated by those who are affected, quite a number of other people using concrete and cast-iron pipes will feel that they have been overlooked. I ask the Minister to consider the representations I have made on behalf of interests in my electorate. The same thing applies to qnite a number of other honorable members. I hope the Minister will give an assurance that he will extend this exemption to concrete and cast-iron pipes used for irrigation purposes.
that the representations that he and others made with regard to concrete pipes have not been overlooked, but it would take a 3-ton lorry to bring to this building all the representations that have been made for the exemption of specific items. Ever since the last list of exemptions was tabled, there has been a constant stream of applications.
– How did you discriminate? What process did you use? Did you follow any principle?
– Certainly, and I shall attempt to describe the principles by which we were guided. The representations of the honorable member for Forrest were not overlooked, but the Government weighed them as against hundreds of other representations made, and had to pick out from the items advocated by honorable members and others, and from other items which the department put forward, the ones which appeared to be most worthy of consideration. The pipes item is enormous; pipes of almost every conceivable variety are made and used in Australia. There are pipes made of earthenware, concrete, compressed stone, galvanized iron, wood, and wrought iron, and they are put to a tremendous number of uses. The Government could not give any widespread exemption to the item of pipes, on account of the amount of revenue involved. It has picked out those items which are most worthy of immediate consideration, and which it is within the means of the Government at the moment to exempt.
The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) has repeated, ‘on behalf of the Toowoomba Tourist Bureau, representations that he had already made in writing. I assure him that the booklets and pamphlets to which he referred will be exempt from tax. The honorable gentleman also sought to have exempted a fairly wide range of other goods used by that bureau. Unfortunately, the Government is unable to accede to that request.
For some time the blocks used in the production of newspapers have been free from tax. In exempting the photographs from which the blocks are made, the Government is merely correcting an anomaly.
– If any person desired to buy the original photograph, would he have to pay sales tax?
– But sales tax is charged on photographs taken by an ordinary photographer.
– An ordinary photographer is charged sales tax on only about 40 per cent, of his turnover. The Government has looked into this matter, because it has received representations in writing upon it;, hut it has not been able to reduce tho percentage.
– Will it give further consideration to the matter?
– If a person purchased a photograph for the purpose of making a block, would it be taxable?
– Sales tax would be payable on such a photograph.
– The Assistant Treasurer oan see that there is an anomalous position iu that no tax is payable on a picture taken by a newspaper photographer, whereas it is levied on the product of an ordinary photographer.
– I quite see the honorable member’s point.
. -It is anomalous that the purchase of a picture taken at a football match, a cricket match, or a race meeting, by a private photographer, should involve the payment of sales tax, in view of the fact that no tax would be payable on an identical picture taken by a newspaper photographer.
– The completed newspaper is exempt from sales tax. Some newspaper proprietaries make their own blocks, and do everything else associated with the undertaking. Is there not overlapping in the provision that blocks, stereotypes, electrotypes, matrices and photographs used in the production of a newspaper shall separately be free from sales tax?
.- I should like the Minister to explain whether, in the case of a taxpayer who is entitled to refund of tax that has been wrongly paid, the department will make the refund voluntarily, or only to those who make application for it?
– Where it is legal for the department to make refunds, it makes them only in cases where the claimants can prove that, either the tax has not been passed on to the public, or, if passed on, the purchaser is capable of being discovered.
The Government, unfortunately, is not able to agree to the exemption of concrete pipes for irrigation purposes, because of the amount of revenue involved. The representations of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), on behalf of Messrs. Gibson, of Bingera, have been noted against the time when the Government can afford to give this relief.
In reply to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), I need only say that, in some cases, blocks used in the production of a newspaper are made in the office of the paper, and that up till recently they have been liable to sales tax even though not sold. Specific exemption is necessary to free the proprietors from the obligation to pay tax on matrices and blocks made by themselves for their own purposes. The exemption is extended merely to include the photographs.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Exemption Sales Tax Assessment Acts Nos. 1 - 4).
.- I regret that the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has stated definitely that the Government is not prepared to include concrete pipes for reticulation purposes. I move -
That the following item he inserted: - ‘ “‘Concrete pines for reticulation purposes”.
Later I propose to move that after the word “farming”, on line 8, page 8, the word “ reticulation “ be inserted. As » we do not wish to tempt people to evade the law the amendment I have moved should be made. How are the representatives of the department to pursue those who purchase galvanized iron pipes of over 3-in. diameter to determine whether they are being used solely for irrigation purposes. It -is most essential, particularly in the interests of the health of the people, that concrete pipes used for reticulation purposes should be exempt from sales tax.
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) is to be congratulated upon tho persistence with which ho is making representations on behalf of his constituents, but I ask the honorable member not to press this amendment. I have explained the difficulties confronting the Government in selecting the most worthy items for exemption, and having done so it has submitted a list which is fairly comprehensive, and which provides for tho benefits being evenly distributed. Although the Government is unable to include concrete pipes for reticulation purposes, I can assure him that his representations will be further considered when the next list of exemptions is compiled. Owing to the huge amount involved the Government cannot accept the amendment.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). Some of the municipal councils in the Reid electorate which are extending their activities in order to provide reasonable facilities for those settling in new areas are faced with substantial deficits. A municipality included in the electorate represented by tlie Minister for Health (Mr. Marr) ‘has £250,000 of rates outstanding, the Municipality of Granville about £125,000, and that of Bankstown about £150,000. Owing to the high cost of concrete water pipes caused by imposition of a sales tax, the work of these councils is retarded and we should assist them by placing such pipes on the exemption list. If assistance were given in that direction additional employment would result.
.- If the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) is referring to pipes used for irrigation purposes an exemption would not benefit the municipal councils mentioned by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander). The removal of the tax from concrete pipes used for reticulation purposes would mean a considerable loss of revenue, but if the Government can afford to lose the substantial amount that would be involved I shall offer no opposition. If the amendment were adopted all pipes used for water supply purposes generally would be exempt.
.- I have asked the Government to exempt concrete water pipes used for reticulation purposes because of the long list of building materials that has been included. The Assistant Treasurer has responded to the representations made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Dennis) with respect to building materials, and he should, I submit, include in the exemptions concrete water pipes used for reticulation purposes.
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) appears to be determined to occupy the time of the committee in moving amendments, but I can assure him that full consideration has already been given to the representations he has made. If the Government removed the tax from concrete pipes used for reticulation purposes it would also have to remove it from all pipes used for the carriage of water and possibly sewer pipes. If we exempt concrete pipes for reticulation purposes, there is no reason why wo should not ako exempt wooden, galvanized and other pipes. The gas companies would then ask for a remission of the sales tax on the pipe which they use. The honorable member has put this case very emphatically, and I appeal to him now not to press his amendment to a division.
Ifr. E. F. HARRISON (Bendigo) [11.42]. - I have had several discussions with the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) during the past months in regard to the remission of taxation on pipes used in mining, and I have learnt something of the difficulties with which the Government is confronted in acceding to such requests. It is evident that if concrets pipes are exempt, the exemption will extend to every kind of concrete pipe used in .the Commonwealth. I have been unable to secure agreement to my request, and have been compelled to bow to the inevitable. Perhaps, at a later date, the Government. may be able to grant what 1 ask, and also meet the wishes of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) .
– I can bear out what the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) has said in regard to the representations made to me on the subject of pipes used for mining. Unfortunately, the Government has not been able to extend the exemption to include that commodity. Since the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) gave notice of his amendment I have been advised that to accept it would cost the Government many tens of thousands of pounds in revenue.
.- Will the Government agree to a compromise? I ask leave to amend my amendment.
Amendment - by leave - altered to read -
That . the following item be inserted: - “ Concrete water pipes for water supply purposes “.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Prowse’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman- Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . .10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendments (by Mr. Casey) agreed to-
That after the word “ sympathy”, proposed new sub-item “ other books “, the words “ other stationery in book form” be inserted.
That after the word “ cinder-cement “. proposed new item !” Bricks “, the words “asbestos cement or fibro cement” be inserted.
That the words “ blast furnace slag, gravel, sand and other materials,” proposed new item “Metal for use in road making”, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “and all other materials (including blast furnace slag, gravel, sand, bitumen and tar) and mixtures of materials “.
That after the words’’ crushed metals “ proposed new item “ Stone “, the words “ crushed blast furnace slag “ be inserted.
– I move -
That the proposed amendment of the item Water Pipes “ be further amended by inserting after the word “ farming “ the word “ reticulation “.
This amendment will not involve the Government in such a loss of revenue as would the amendment which has just been rejected. These pipes are distributed throughout the country, but they are not used so much in the larger cities. They would be more essentially and more generally used in ‘ country towns for reticulation purposes, and I appeal to the Government to consent, to the amendment.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the amendment now proposed by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) is identical with the amendment which has already been rejected by the committee.
– The amendment now being dealt with does not appear to me to be precisely the same because it relates to pipes of certain sizes and for special purposes.
Question - That the word proposed to be inserted (Mr. Prowse’s amendment) be inserted - put. The committee divided. ( Ch airman - Mr .Bell )
Majority . . . .9
Question resolved in the negative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 (Exemptions - Sales Tax
Assessment Act (No. 5) ).
– This clause refers to substantially the same items, although fewer of them, as clause 6; but concerns imported goods, subject to sales taxation under Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 5).
– Carbide of calcium for raining purposes” is being placed on the list of exempt goods by this amendment, but [ think that an anomaly is likely to be created unless a general exemption is granted. The situation will arise that although carbide of calcium for mining will be exempt, carbide of calcium used in the lamp of a bicycle that a miner rides to work will be taxable. I ask the Assistant Minister to agree to a general exemption of this item.
– The honorable member has already made representations on this subject to the Government, and they have been considered. I regret that I cannot agree to a broadening of the exemption. Carbide of calcium is used chiefly for mining purposes; but it is also used for home lighting in the country, and for other purposes. If it were exempt from sales tax when used for those subsidiary purposes, another competitive anomaly would be created, for carbide of calcium lighting plants would then come into competition under inequitable conditions with other home lighting plants. I assure the honorable member that when the next list of exemptions is being considered particular attention will be paid to his representations.
Clause consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 8 consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Archdale Parkhill for Mr. Latham) read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
House adjourned at 12.11 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Wages of Compositors.
s. - The information is not available, but inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible to questions asked by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) relating to wages ofcom posit ors at the New South Wales Government Printing Office.
Mr.Rosevear asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
How many persons of the 140 who have been deported during the period of office of the present Government for criminal offences or criminal records were so deported because of their connexion with Communist or other political activities?
s. - The information desired by the honorable member will necessitate the examination of 140 files. This examination will be undertaken, and the honorable member will be advised as soon as it has been completed.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What action docs the Government propose with a view to complying with the request to enact legislation to provide for equal nationality for married women T
– A bill dealing with the question of the nationality of married women will be introduced in another place almost immediately.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
n asked the Prima Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Government give consideration to the matter of refunding to relatives of oldage and invalid pensioners the contributions paid by them under the provisions of the act during the past two years, in view of the factthat such provisions are to be withdrawn orabolished, and also in view of the small amount of money so far obtained from such relatives ?
– The Government has already given consideration to this question. In view of the liberal exemptions and deductions made from the income before determining whether a relative is able to make a contribution towards the cost of pension, it is considered that no hardship has been inflicted on any person who has so contributed. It was therefore decided that contributions already received would not he refunded.
en asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
What are the names, dates of appointments, salaries, terms of appointment, and dates nf retirement of the various members of the Repatriation Commission, and the members of the War Pensions Entitlement Tribunal and the War Pensions Assessment Tribunals?
– The information is supplied hereunder: -
e.- On the 29th June, 1934, the honorable member . for West Sydney asked the following question, upon notice : -
In view of the fact that the Imperial Tobacco Company which controls the Australian tobacco combine, last year showed a clear profit of £7,593,561,and paid a dividend for the year of 20 per cent, free of all income tax, willhe secure a report upon the recent increase in the priceof tobacco’ throughout Australia to prevent any exploitationof Australian smokers?
Iam now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Reports have been obtained on the matter of tobaccoprices and the information therein supplied indicates that Australian smokers are not being exploited.
The question of prices has two phases:
The manufacturers’ prices to the retailer.
The retailers’ prices to the consumer.
As regards manufacturers’ prices, in November, 1933, the duty on imported tobacco leaf for use in the production of manufactured tobacco was increased by6d. per lb. In January, 1934, the prices were increased by 4d. per lb. forbrands of tobacco composed wholly or almost wholly of imported leaf. Smaller increases were madeon tobaccoes composed partlyof imported leaf. No increase was made on tobaccoes composed wholly of Australian leaf and no increase was made on cigars or cigarettes.
As regards retail prices, owing to pricecutting competition among retailers, particularly in Sydney, tobacco and cigarettes were being sold to consumers at prices very little above the cost price to the retailer. In June, 1934, the retail prices of tobacco and cigarettes were stabilized in New South Wales and brought into line with retail prices ruling in Victoria. This involved increased prices to the consumer, but the increases resulting from the elimination of price-cutting among retailers had no direct connexion with the increase of price by the manufacturers.
Retail Price Cutting in United States of America.
– On 24th July I supplied certain information relating to retail stores in the United States of America in reply to a question by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney).
I have since ascertained that there are approximately 1,500,000 retail stores in the United States, in which some 3,800,000. persons are fully employed, and that all retail stores in the United States are forbidden to sell articles at below cost price.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 July 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1934/19340725_reps_13_144/>.