14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the indefinite result of the debate that took place yesterday in connexion with the ease of Herr Egon Kisch, will the Minister for the Interior review the matter in the light of the new circumstances that have been disclosed, or be good enough to receive at an hour convenient to himself to-day a deputation of honorable members from this side of the House who would like to place before him further facts before he comes to an impossible definite decision?
– I am not aware of any circumstances that would warrant a review of the decision that has already been made by the Government.
-Will the honorable gentleman be good enough to receive a deputation later to-day, so that we may have an opportunity to place new facts before him?
– I shall accede to the wish of the honorable member.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been directed to the publication in this morning’s press of sensational statements which were made in the Senate yesterday by a certain Senator Collings, who declared that stores of arms, including rifles and machine guns, are held by unauthorized organizations in the Commonwealth? Is the intelligence section of the Defence Department in a position to give the Minister warning if arms are -so held? Can the honorable gentleman indicate whether there are grounds for the statements which have been made, other than the desire of those who make them to provoke sensation?
– The honorable member has accurately described the nature of the statements. I have had the opportunity to read the Hansard proof of them, as well as of the contents of the document from which quotations were made. It would appear that the statements were based on hearsay and not on fact. The document is not official, it is unsigned, and the origin of it is not disclosed. The Investigation Branch in Queensland is inquiring into the matter, and I shall later inform the House of the result.
– by leave - It is with great regret that I have to announce the occurrence of another fatal air accident. Qantas-Empire Airways air liner VH-USG, which arrived at Darwin from England recently, crashed near Longreach this morning. The occupants of the aircraft were : Captain A. R. Prendergast, commander and pilot; W. V. Creastes, co-pilot and wireless officer; S. R. Charlton, engineer, all of Imperial Airways ; and E. H. Broadfoot, of the Shell Company, who was returning from Darwin. Three of the occupants were killed instantly, and the fourth succumbed to his injuries shortly afterwards. Little information is as yet available as to the circumstances surrounding the accident, but it is understood that an eye witness saw the machine flying normally and suddenly fall, apparently out of control.
Immediate action is being taken to investigate the accident. Mr. A. G. Berg, Superintendent of Aircraft, Civil Aviation Branch, left Brisbane by air for Longreach at 10.45 this morning, and should arrive there this afternoon. Wing Commander E. Harrison, member of the Air Accidents Investigation Committee, left Sydney by air this morning for Longreach. Flight Lieutenant Ross, Superintendent of Flying Operations of the Civil Aviation Branch, accompanied by Mr. A. E. Shorland, Senior Inspector of Aircraft, Civil Aviation Branch, left Melbourne at 12.40 p.m. to-day by air for Longreach, via Sydney, where they will pick up Mr. A. R. McComb, a second member of the Air Accidents Investigation Committee.
Until further information is received, it is not possible to say what further action may lie with the department, but honorable members may rest assured that every step is being taken to determine the cause of the accident with the least possible delay, and every precaution is being observed to avoid the possibility of further accidents pending completion of these investigations.
– In view of the fact that the Prime Minister stated recently that he was prepared to represent to the British Government that the Commonwealth Government regarded the subject of the nationality of women as urgent, and would welcome a movement to obtain uniformity in this regard throughout the Empire, will the Minister for the Interior inform me whether any such representations have been made to the British Government, and, if so, with what effect?
– I have given notice of my intention to move for leave to introduce a bill dealing with this subject. When it is introduced, I shall deal fully with the matter.
– Will the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) inform me whether it is his intention to proceed with the motion for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into banking practice and monetary matters, of which he gave notice before bis elevation to ministerial rank?
– I shall later take certain action^ in connexion with that motion.
– Can the Minister for the Interior inform me which department of the Public Service will next be transferred from Melbourne to Canberra?
– Consideration is being given to the whole subject of the transfer to Canberra of departments of the Public Service which still remain in Melbourne but which are ultimately to be located in the Federal Capital; but a decision has not yet been reached. The Government is of the opinion that, from the point of view of Canberra as the Federal Capital and as a city, it will be of advantage to have the maximum number of departments functioning here at the earliest possible date.
– Can the Minister for Commerce inform me whether finality has yet been reached regarding the appointment of trade commissioners for the East, and, if so, will he furnish me with the names of the persons who will fill the positions?
– The Eastern Trade Committee was requested to submit a report to the Government on the applications received for these positions. That report is in the hands of the Government, and is still under consideration.
– I direct the attention of the Acting Leader of the House to a vote that was taken early this morning on the motion for the adjournment of the House, at a time when honorable members on this side of the chamber were discussing some urgent public matters, including the proposed eviction of certain occupiers of war service homes. The motion was carried against the Government, only three Government supporters being in their places. In view of that defeat, does the Government propose to pursue the usual course in such cases ?
– The Govern ment will pursue the course that was taken on a previous similar occasion.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) asked me certain questions regarding the administration of the War Service Homes Department, and I promised to obtain the information that he .desired. May I say, however, that, in nearly all these cases, circumstances of a highly confidential and personal nature are involved. If honorable members, in asking their questions or making their representations in the House, would refrain from mentioning the names of the individuals concerned, it would be possible for me to supply them with much more detailed information than I could otherwise do. I ask them to adopt this course in any submissions that they may wish to make. I am now able to give the honorable member the following information in regard to the cases he brought under my notice. In the first case the matter was listed for hearing before the court at 10 o’clock this morning, but the commission has taken the necessary action to obtain an adjournment for fourteen days to enable rae to have further investigations made. No action is being taken in regard to the second case. Regarding ike third case, I point out that the man left the Prince of Wales Hospital on the 25th October. He had one interview” with the Deputy Commissioner for War Service Homes on the 26th October and another on the 2nd November. He is unemployed, and his income, consisting of a war pension and child endowment, has been £3 8s. 6d. a week since the 1st November. Prior to that date he was in receipt of £3 18s. a week, and on that income he was required to pay 13s. 8d. a week rent. That case was also listed for hearing in the court at 10 o’clock this morning, but steps have been taken to obtain an adjournment for fourteen days to enable further investigations to be made.
– Will the Minister issue instructions to bis officers that in future, when determining the income coming into a home for the purpose of fixing tha amount of rent to be paid, they shall disregard payments made under State legislation for the maintenance of children?
– It is impossible to ignore any income from whatever source when determining what rent shall be paid.
– That’s right; take it off the kids !
– The Government is doing nothing of the kind. The total family income is the fund from which ordinary household payments are made, including rent, and the revenue collected by the War Service Homes Department is largely in the form of rent. Every consideration will be given to deserving cases, particularly those of widows with families, but it is impossible to overlook any form of income when determining the amount of rent payable.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet received the annual report of the Tariff Board, which was due about two months ago? If so, when will it be circulated to honorable members?
– The report has been received and is now being considered by the Government. It will be tabled as soon as possible - I hope before the House rises for the Christmas vacation.
– In view of the deplorable condition of the finances of those hospitals which rely upon what are known as industrial contributions, and having regard to the widespread unemployment in the areas in which these hospitals are situated, will the Assistant Treasurer give consideration to a proposal for waiving the sales tax on necessary hospital equipment, particularly ambulance and refrigerating equipment?
– The subject raised by the honorable member, as well as several others of a like kind, is already receiving the consideration of the Government.
– As the question of the restriction of meat exports is of more importance to Queensland than to the other States, will the Minister for Commerce state whether it is proposed to invite representatives of the Queensland Government to attend the conference which is being convened to discuss the matter?
– The Minister for Agriculture is, ex officio, a member of the Meat Advisory Committee, and he has been invited by the Government to attend the conference.
– In view of the statement of the Minister for Commerce that he favours regulation of exports, rather than restriction, will he inform honorable members whether he believes that the proposed prohibition of beef exports from Australia over a period of two months amounts to a restriction of exports, or a regulation thereof?
– When the export of mutton and lamb from Australia was regulated on a previous occasion, it was found to be of decided advantage to the Australian producers. At the present time, there is no request that the total quantity of beef exported from Australia during the year should be reduced; the request is merely that during a period of two months no beef is to be shipped. I should describe such an arrangement as the regulation of exports, and not a restriction.
– In view of the concern felt by potato-growers in Tasmania at the possibility of the embargo on New Zealand potatoes being lifted, will the Minister for Commerce state what is the Government’s intention in regard to this matter?
– The question of the lifting of the embargo on New Zealand potatoes has not yet arisen. When it does, it will receive full consideration.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral familiarized himself with the terms of the judgment of the High Court sitting as a court of appeal in connexion with the trial of an aboriginal named Tukiar in the Northern Territory ? If he has perused that judgment, and the file is in his own department, will he take whatever steps seem to him to be necessary to obviate the public danger of any other criminal trials at the hands of the judge concerned ?
-I have not yet perused the papers in connexion with this case, but I shall do so, and such action will be taken as seems desirable. At the same time, I am sure the honorable member will agree that if every judge whose judgments are criticized on appeal were dealt with in the manner suggested, the country would be denuded of its judiciary within a fortnight.
-Is the Government aware that the association known as the Australian Aerial Medical Service is so hard up for funds that it is now circularizing municipal councils asking for donations,so that it may continue its good work in the backblocks of A us- tralia? If so, will it consider the advisableness of granting further assistance to the association?
– The Australian Aerial Medical Service receives a subsidy from the Government annually, because the Government realizes that the work it does helps the Department of the Interior, the Postal Department, and, by keeping a pilot in training, the Defence Department. The association is now extending its activities from the one State in which it formerly operated to other States, and many bodies throughout the Commonwealth have joined up with it, and are assisting by contributions. Whether the Government makes any further contribution to the funds of the association depends to some extent upon whether a request for such assistance is made by the association itself.
The following papers were presented : -
Sugar Agreement - Third Annual Report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, for year ended 31st August, 1934.
Ordered to be printed.
Financial Relief Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 138.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) for Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That, unless otherwise ordered, this House shall meet for the dispatch of business on each Wednesday at three o’clock p.m.; on each Thursday at half-past two o’clock p.m.; and on each Friday at half-past ten o’clock a.m.
.- Will the Acting Leader of the House (Dr. Earle Page) inform honorable members if it is the intention of the Government to ask the House to meet on three days a week until it completes the business before Christmas? Some indication should be given to honorable members if the Government proposes to ask the House to meet on Tuesday of next week or the week after. Honorable members have important matters to attend to in their own electorates, and this information should be given in order that they may be able to plan their engagements ahead and know exactly where they stand.
.- I desire to submit to the Government the wisdom of sitting on more days during the week than the three days specified in the motion. This is merely a business arrangement. I know that many honorable members desire to undertake certain work in their constituencies during the week-end, but primarily the work of this Parliament is the consideration of matters dealing with legislation and the administration of the Commonwealth, and the efforts of honorable members should be concentrated upon that work for definite periods throughout the year. I make no plea on my own behalf on the ground that it is impossible to visit Western Australia during the week-ends or even when the House adjourns for a week or a fortnight; but at the same time, I submit that the business arrangements of the House might be improved to the greater satisfaction of honorable members generally.
I recognize the difficulties which confront Ministers in having to undertake departmental work in addition to attendance in this House ; but I believe that if, prior to the re-assembling of Parliament, time were spent in the formulation of a legislative programme and bills were drafted inadvance, honorable members would have no cause for complaint. Only the Minister responsible for a particular bill would need actually to be in attendance in the chamber, other Ministers being free to attend to the administration of their departments. This Parliament would then be a real Australian Parliament instead of a legislative chamber for the great cities of Melbourne and Sydney. I urge that, whatever may be done between now and Christmas, the whole practice of this Parliament in dealing with legislation and in fixing sessions might be re-considered by the Government before the House re-assembles next year. Honorable members who come from Western Australia and Queensland, where transport facilities are not of the best, and, who are not able to maintain contact with their constituents as are the more fortunate members from New South Wales and Victoria, would not then have cause for complaint. Speaking with due appreciation of the things that are happening in Australia, I urge this Parliament to realize that Australia is indeed a Commonwealth, and that if it is desired to preserve this Commonwealth unimpaired and in every respect a nation we must regard the difficulties of its extremities.
– I assure the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that, though this motion is now being placed before the House, I shall endeavour to give timely notice of any contemplated change so that honorable members may make their arrangements at leasta week before the change takes place.
I assure the. honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Cur tin) that the Government desires to meet the wishes and conveniences of honorable members from every part of Australia, and especially from the distant States. All honorable members will appreciate that it is necessary to meet on only three days a week at present because of the presence in Australia of His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester. A further reason is that as the Government has just been reconstructed it is necessary to prepare the business which the House will be asked to consider. The representations made by the honorable member for Fremantle will be fully considered by the Government when it is arranging the dates of future sittings of this Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Notice of motion (No. 2), by Mr. Casey, relating to this bill withdrawn.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend section 7 of the Navigation Act 1912-1926.
– For reasons I shall state later we object to leave being given to introduce a measure for the purpose of amending the Navigation Act, and it is our intention to go to the greatest lengths to prevent its passage through this chamber.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Service and Execution of Process Act 1901-1931, as amended by the Statute Law Revision Act 1934, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Nationality Act 1920-1930.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed) -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division I. - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances, £7,182,” be agreed to.
.- I move -
That the item be reduced by £1.
I submit t?his amendment as an instruction to the Government (1) to restore invalid and old-age pensions to £1 a week, and to remove the objectionable amendments relating to pensioners’ property; (2) to take early action to provide assistance to wheat-growers; (3) to take immediate steps to prevent the proposed policy of restricting the export of Australian meat from being put into operation ; and (4) to restore adequate protection for the Australian tobacco industry by applying a differential margin of ls. 6d. per lb. in the excise duty between tobacco made from Australian leaf and tobacco made from imported leaf.
We have before us the budget speech which was delivered by the Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) on the 24th July last. At that time the Government was doing everything within it* power to go to the country at the earliest possible date, so as to avoid decisions on very contentious matters such as the restriction of exports, rural rehabilitation schemes promised to the primary producers, and the consideration of Tariff Board reports, for which the Country party was actively pressing. Looking through the budget speech and the Estimates, we find that it was purely an election budget, and for that reason was full of inaccuracies and extravagant claims. The elections followed, and the Government came back with reduced numbers. There has since been an unholy alliance between two conflicting elements in the conservative parties. Two months have elapsed since the elections, and the Government has done nothing of a practical nature to find a solution of the great problems that confront the people of this country. There has been a continuous haggling and bargaining for portfolios. There are many disappointed ambitions. Some members of the Ministry consider that they should be higher up than they are in the seniority list. The Cabinet has been truly styled a hotch-potch one. We find such gentlemen as the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), erstwhile political foes, sitting side by side in the Cabinet, prepared to work amicably together in future because they have been found lucrative posts. Since the leader of the Country party worked the scheme in 1923, when this Parliament was sitting in Melbourne, that resulted in sending the right honorable member for North Sydney to political obscurity, these two gentlemen have not been on speaking terms; but to-day they are prepared to throw overboard all those contentious aspects of policy that separated them in the past-
– They are true socialists now.
– Yes, when their own interests are at stake. The leader of the Country party will also sit side by side with the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), who gained notoriety by describing the right honorable member for Cowper as the most tragic Treasurer Australia had ever had.
Taking into consideration the interests of the whole of the country, the allocation of portfolios in this Ministry has been very badly done. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), who did very well as Minister for Markets in a previous administration, has been appointed Minister for the Interior, whereas his outstanding knowledge of rural problems and of matters affecting the marketing of primary products would have made him the mos’t suitable choice for the portfolio he formerly held. He is now to look after the administration of the Federal Capital Territory, a most unsuitable task for a farmer. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), whose knowledge of medicine and health matters generally is very slight, has been placed in charge of the Department of Health ; while the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), who possesses a profound knowledge of medicine and health and a very meagre knowledge of commercial subjects, is to administer the Department of Commerce. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill), who has just completed a world tour at a cost of ?2,500-
– It was less than half of that.
– I stand corrected on that point, but I read somewhere that it cost ?2,500. 1 merely wish to mention that the honorable gentleman made a world tour to learn all about the running of the post office ; yet he has been placed in charge of the Department of Defence, while the gallant lieutenant-colonel from Balaclava (Mr. White) and the professional soldier (Colonel E. F. Harrison), who are well fitted to occupy that high and responsible position, have had their claims tq it ignored. Is it to be wondered at that this Ministry has been styled a hotch-potch Ministry? Political expediency has overshadowed every other consideration. All of us remember that famous speech which was made in Sydney by the present Minister for Defence, in the course of which he said “ The
United Australia party is now merely a party of spare parts “. That was two and a half years ago. If the honorable gentleman spoke the truth on that occasion, in what way may the United Australia party be described to-day? The Minister for Defence has now taken to his bosom honorable gentlemen from the corner benches, in criticism of whom he made himself famous during the last two and a half years.
I believe that this composite Ministry is doomed to failure. It is composed of men who, on the hustings, advocated widely different policies on the great fiscal question that confronts Australia. Sitting on the front Treasury Bench to-day are men who politically would have annihilated the Leader of the United Australia party. The keen disappointment that is felt in the breasts of certain honorable members opposite who have been thrown into the discard for gentlemen who, politically, tried to kill the Government in the last Parliament, and were prepared to do so in this Parliament, is not to bc wondered at. One of the Assistant Ministers (Mr. Hunter) made to the Melbourne Argus on the 22nd January, 1932, a statement in regard to his present leader, the Prime Minister, in the following terms -
Drunk with success, Mr. Lyons can see no further than place, power and pay for his own supporters.
Senator Hardy, another stalwart of the Country party, who will be brought to heel as a result of the latest arrangement, made the following statement, which was published in the Advertiser in March last -
The Lyons’ Government was blinded by the dazzle of vested interests. It was a monument of the people’s bad judgment.
Senator Hardy is one of the able young men of the Country party; he has been styled “ The Cromwell of the Riverina “. It must be borne in mind that the United Australia party three years ago arranged for his name to be bracketed with the names of two of its own candidates on the Senate ticket for New South Wales, to do which it threw overboard Senator Duncan, one of its tried and trusted Nationalist members. With his knowledge of the Nationalist political machine Senator Hardy spoke authoritatively when he said as late as the 11th July of this year - according to the Sydney Morning Herald. -
I have never believed that the Lyons’ Government has had any sympathy with the poor people of this country. It is not a friend of the man on the land.
Sir Stanley Argyle, the Premier of Victoria, gave his true opinion of composite Ministries and of what may be expected’ from them when, on the 28th May, 1924, he spoke in condemnation of them in the following terms -
Do not give us a mongrel government, incapable of doing useful work.
Despite these statements by leaders of the United Australia party, we have here honorable members who resent criticism of this political marriage which, a- few months ago, was so offensive to the United Country party. The right honorable member for Cowper, speaking on the 15th August, 1932, said -
I would be ashamed to belong to this Government that is not helping Australia at all, and especially because of its scurvy treatment of primary producers.
That was subsequent to the right honorable gentleman’s unsuccessful attempt to press upon the Leader of the United Australia party his demand for whatever portfolios he cared to take in the new government that was to be formed following upon the defeat of the Labour administration. The Prime Minister himself, speaking on the 17th March, 1934, said-
The Country party made a change of policy behind the backs of the people, a condition of its co-operation with the Ministry.
In effect, he accused the Country party of dishonest political tactics. Out of their own mouths these gentlemen have condemned one another. I merely ask that they be judged on their own statements. Can we wonder that a very big section of the people of Australia, outside members or supporters of the Labour party, do not believe in composite ministries, and consider that a satisfactory policy cannot emanate from an administration which is composed of forces holding entirely different views on such a great vital issue as that of protection?
The Treasurer, in his budget speech, sought to claim credit for the slight improvement of world conditions which has been reflected in Australia. The improvement of wool prices, which in one year increased the wool cheque by £38,000,000, and was not attributable to anything that had been done by the Lyons Government, helped the people of Australia generally, and was one of the factors which tended to improve the employment position in this country. Again, the price of gold is to-day about £8 15s. per ounce in Australian currency, whereas in 1931 it waa £4 5s. per ounce. The employment in the gold-mining industry has increased from 5,686 in 1928 to 27,676 in 1933. No member of this Government can claim to have done anything to bring about that tremendous increase. If any party deserves credit for having stimulated investment in the mining industry, and its development, it is the Federal Labour party. I ask thoughtful members of the United Australia party; what is going to become of the protectionist policy to which an overwhelming majority of the people of Australia are pledged ? Election promises to protect vigilantly Australia’s great industries are still echoing in the people’s ears. Is this policy to be bartered away for the political security of Ministers who belong to the United Australia party, who feared that the right honorable member for Cowper would carry out his threat to prevent the Government from adjourning for a fortnight, and who readily clasped him to their political bosoms fearing that he might send them to the country ? Is there any wonder that some honorable members opposite who stand for high moral political principles strongly opposed the projected coalition ? Before the elections the Prime Minister definitely enunciated his policy on the important question of protection, in the following terms-: -
Continued protection of sound industries, following Tariff Board recommendations.
Just after the elections had been held, when it was rumoured that there would be a coalition government, the right honorable gentleman said -
There would be no deviation from the tariff policy outlined at the elections.
– That is still the policy of the Government.
– I am glad to have that assurance from the honorable member. But I shall show that I have grounds for suspecting that the tariff policy will be considerably watered down. During and, indeed, since the election, the Country party did. not speak with two voices when dealing with our great secondary industries. I give the right honorable member for Cowper credit for having straightforwardly announced,, during the election campaign, that “ The downward revision of duties to the 1921-28 level is the policy of my party. “ Labour’s policy was clearly put by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who said, “ We stand for adequate and effective protection for Australia’s primary and secondary industries. “ The Inverell Times of the 24th August, 1934, reported the right honorable member for Cowper as having made the following statement : -
What better way is there to reduce costs than to get cheap things from Japan and other places?
In other words the right honorable gentleman would throw down our tariff wall and admit into this country goods manufactured by Japanese who work 54 hours a week and receive 13. a day. In such circumstances, what would become of our great secondary industries? How should we be able to absorb the 50,000 boys who look for work every year in Australia? Even under existing conditions the boys are, to a large extent, looking in vain. If the policy outlined by the right honorable member were pursued we should be providing work for the boys of J apan to the detriment of the boys of Australia. A more recent statement by the right honorable gentleman at a Country party conference at Wagga appeared in the Melbourne Argus on the 3rd November last under the heading “Dr. Page can supervise tariff from a box seat “. There is no doubt that the right honorable gentleman is not only occupying the box seat, but also is holding the reins. To put k in another way, he is second in command of the ship and at its helm. He and his party were not treated kindly at the last election. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), for instance, was returned to this Parliament as a Liberal Union member; but he has since been claimed as a member of the Country party. Two other Country party members of the last Parliament lost their seats, with the result that the party led by the right honorable gentleman is now weaker numerically than it was before the election. Yet it is in a position to “ supervise “ the tariff from what its leader calls a box seat. This comment of the Melbourne Argus, the chief organ of the United Australia party in Victoria, reads as follows: -
A statement that, when it was occupying a “ box seat “, the Country party would be better able to see that the tariff was handled properly . . . was made by the Leader of the Country party to-day. Addressing the annual conference of the Riverina division of the party, he said that, from the view-point of the safety of the Country party, it had been necessary to insist that the leader of the party was Deputy Leader of the Government. Continuing, Dr. Page said the Prime Minister, Mr. Lyons, had given the assurance that the tariff would be dealt with in a way acceptable to the Country party. Dr. Page said that he believed Mr. Lyons was sincere, and he believed that the composite Ministry would be for the good of Australia and the British Empire. Continuing, Dr. Page said that he did not think that there was another political leader in Australia who had received so many offers to go into a composite ministry, and who had refused them because he did not think that they were for the good of the country.
Is this the same Mr. Lyons, now leader of the composite Ministry, who made offers to the right honorable member for Cowper which were not “ for the good of the country”?
It was, however, not a happy family at the Country party conference at Wagga because the chief president of the Victorian Country party attacked composite ministries. He said that the Country party could do its best as an outside entity.
– The Prime Minister said that the tariff would be dealt with in a way that “ should be acceptable “ to the Country party.
– That is not what the newspaper report says. The chief president of the Victorian Country party said, at the Wagga conference, that he was strongly opposed to composite ministries, but evidently the right honorable member for Cowper won the day. Probably, in his own interests, it is a good thing that he did so*, but unfortunately it will not be a good thing for the people of Australia. I do not believe that the great body of United Australia party supporters outside of this Parliament believes in composite ministries.
– It would be interest’ ing to hear what was said in the United Australia party room.
– I believe that the discussion was “willing” while it lasted. A constructive policy cannot be expected to emanate from a government of this character. It has been shown already that the Government will do very little for the thousands of unemployed people of this country who have been promised again and again by representatives of the Lyons Government that a bold, aggressive and long-range plan to dea permanently with the unemployed problem would be put in hand. As a matter of fact, the only thing that the Lyons Government has done has been to attack tho tariff. But in the light of what the right honorable member for Cowper has had to say, much more drastic action is to be taken in that regard than anything attempted by the Lyons Government during the last Parliament. The result must be increased unemployment.
The Treasurer, in his budget speech, claimed credit for this Government for an increase of factory employment in Australia, but that increase was due to the policy of the Scullin Government in pegging the tariff at a sufficiently high level to allow of some reductions in a number of lines without bringing about stagnation generally in the secondary industries. It was no* due to any policy implemented by the Lyons Government. It was also stated in the budget speech that the number of factory employees in Australia had increased by 68,000 from 336,000 to 405,000. That also was due to the protective policy of the Scullin Administration, and in spite of the Lyons Government’s policy. Reference was made to the great expansion of our woollen textile industry. It waa said that this industry had increased twofold. I well remember the representations made to the Scullin Administration by 8 large number of persons interested in the woollen textile industry to the- effect that their plants and staffs were working at only half time, that a substantial increase of duty on woollens and worsteds was necessary and that adequate protection was also imperative in respect of light-weight ladies dress materials if the industry were to become prosperous. Action in the desired direction wa» taken with the result that the whole of the 11,500 people employed in the woollen textile industry were working at full time within a few months, and their number was very soon increased by 4,800 employees. Any developments that may have occurred in the last few years in the woollen textile industry of Australia can be attributed to the protection afforded to the industry by the Scullin Government.
Although reference was made in the budget speech to the improvement that had been effected in our trade balance, the Treasurer was not fair enough to admit that this was due principally to the restrictive tariff measures adopted by the Scullin Government. Our trade balance Was adverse to the extent of £78,000,000 during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government, in which the present Acting Leader of the House was Deputy Prime Minister. The drastic steps taken by the Scullin Government to stem the tide of imports into Australia converted an adverse trade balance of £30,000,000, which existed at the end of its first year of office, into a favorable trade balance of £35,000,000.
The Lyons Government also sought to take” credit for the beneficial effect of the London loan conversions, whereas the slow rate at which the conversions were made reflected discredit and not credit upon it. The first of these conversions was brought about, as the result of definite maturities, and the remainder were effected in stocks with optional dates of maturity, ai an average interest rate of £3 l7s.8d. per cent.
– Much too much !
-I agree with the honorable member. The Government of Great Britain handled conversion operations involving £175,000,000 at a rate of 2 per cent., or an effective interest rate of £3 8s.1d. per cent. for eleven years, and £2 19s.7d. per cent. for sixteen years. The average rate of our overseas conversions works out at 3¾ per cent., or an effective interest rate of £3 19s.1d. per cent. In these circumstances, there is little room for boasting on the part of the Government. It is true that £109,000,000 of our overseas indebtedness has been converted. But the Commonwealth Government’s funded securities on issue in London on the 30th June, 1934, amounted to £545,000,000, including a floating debt of £33,000,000. The interest rates that we are still under obligation to pay in respect of these debts range from 3 per cent. to 5¼ per cent. It is high time that definite steps were taken by the Government to convert these loans at a substantial reduction of interest. The people of Australia, as a whole, have made great sacrifices in order to enable the Government to meet its interest commitments abroad; and the Government should, therefore, lose no more time in making representations to the British Government and other interested financial institutions overseas to the effect that current loans which have not been converted should be converted without delay at substantially reduced rates of interest.
– I desire to inform honorable members that a distinguished member of the Canadian Parliament, the Right Honorable Senator Arthur Meighen, K.C., is within the precincts of the House. With the concurrence of honorable members I shall provide him with a distinguished stranger’s seat beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members.- Hear, hear!
Senator Meighen thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
Mr.FORDE (Capricornia) [3.50].- I am pleased that we have the honour of having present in the chamber this afternoon such a distinguished gentleman as Senator Meighen from the great dominion of Canada. We in Australia, being citizens of one of the great British dominions, feel that we have much in common with the people of Canada, and are always pleased to extend the hand of friendship to a distinguished statesman of that country who visits Australia.
The conversion of Australia’s total internal indebtedness, while the Scullin Government was in office, was responsible for saving the Governments of this country annual interest payments amounting to about £6,000,000 a year. Our financial position would have been very much worse to-day had it not been for that conversion. It would also have been much worse if the interest and sinking fund payments on £80,000,000 of war debt had been continued. They were suspended under the moratorium granted by the Government of the United States of America to Great Britain which, in turn, granted a similar concession to Australia. The relief afforded in regard to the war debt has been approximately £6,000,000 a year during the last three years, or £18,000,000 in all. What concerns me is: How long will that relief last? Can something be done to make it permanent? I hope this matter will not be overlooked by the Government.
The Treasurer, in his budget speech, had quite a lot to say about the public debt and about loan conversions, but he did not explain that, although sinking fund payments provide about £8,000,000 a year for the liquidation of the national debt, we are borrowing £22,000,000 a year for the States, and £6,000,000 a year for the Commonwealth, making £28,000,000 in all Thus, allowing for the sinking fund payments of £8,000,000 a year, we are increasing our public debt by approximately £20,000,000 a year. The public debt of Australia has increased by £122,000,000 since 1930, or from £170 a head of population in 1930, to £183 a head in 1934. This cannot go on indefinitely. Instead of borrowing money from private institutions in order to carry out reproductive works such as water conservation, irrigation schemes, feeder roads to railways, hydro-electric schemes, &c., we could with safety use the Commonwealth Bank to finance them, the bank to provide the accommodation at a charge just sufficient to meet book-keeping costs and administrative expenses. According to the Commonwealth Statistician, the combined revenue of the Commonwealth and State governments amounts to £166,000,000 a year, of which £60,500,000 is devoted to debt charges, interest and sinking fund payments. Interest payments alone amount to £48,500,000, while sinking fund payments amount to £6,000,000. In addition, £1,250,000 is provided each year by the Commonwealth under the financial agreement, and there is an annual payment of £6,000,000 for exchange.
This has a most important bearing on the problem of unemployment. Yesterday, the Government brought down a proposal for unemployment relief, and gave honorable members very scant information regarding it. We learned, however, that it was intended to borrow a sum of money for the purpose, so that the debt will constitute an additional burden on posterity, which will have to meet interest charges and redemption payments Evidently we are to continue the same borrowing policy that has been in force for many years. By following this policy we have increased the national debt of Australia by £122,000,000 since 1930, and there are still 350,000 unemployed in the country. The only party which is prepared to break new ground is the Australian Labour party. I believe that there is sufficient credit in the country to enable the Commonwealth Bank to provide the money necessary for the relief of unemployment for the present financial year without any injury to the community. I do not think that any honorable member opposite would seriously contend that harm would befall Australia if we were to obtain an advance of credit from the Commonwealth Bank of £15,000,000 to carry out necessary works. The operation and the effect on price levels could be watched by a board of advisory experts, acting in collaboration with the Commonwealth Bank.
Trade figures disclose that the Government’s interference with the protection policy has had a very bad effect, and has caused a serious drift towards an unfavorable trade balance. For the first three calender months of the present financial year there was an unfavorable trade balance of £4,771,000, compared with a favorable balance of £3,499,000 for the corresponding three months of the last year. For the first four months of the current financial year, revenue from customs and excise ha3 increased by £1,612,000, due mainly to heavier importations which have been facilitated by the thinning down of the tariff policy. Judging by the statements made recently by the Leader of the Country party, there is reason to fear that this thinning down process will be continued in the future.
Importations of merchandise, valued in British currency, were £6,275,000 in September, 1934, and £6,948,000 in August, 1934, as compared with £4,800,000 in September, 1933. Imports for the first quarter of 1934 were £18,000,000, as against £14,000,000 for the first quarter of 1933, an increase of £4,000,000. The classes of goods which showed marked increases were tobacco and preparations £130,000, apparel £440,000, textiles £880,000, and yarns £200,000. The total exports for the first quarter of 1934 amounted to £17,400,000, as compared with £22,000,000 for the same period of 1933, a reduction of £4,600,000, notwithstanding that an additional £200,000 worth of frozen beef and £180,000 worth of frozen mutton were exported during the first quarter of 1934-35, as compared with the first quarter of 1933-34.
It was reported in the newspapers yesterday that the Japanese Government had decided to send representatives to Australia to negotiate trade treaties with the Commonwealth. I have no doubt that those representatives will be treated with the courtesy and cordiality to which they are justly entitled, and I appreciate the fact that we have in Japan a foreign power with which we enjoy such friendly relations. I trust that they may continue. However, just as the Japanese have insisted upon the development of their great secondary industries, and have declined to take into consideration the welfare of the secondary industries of other .countries, so we in Australia cannot be expected to jeopardise the existence of our secondary industries! which employ nearly 500,000 people, in order to give more sympathetic treatment to the products of Eastern factories. I do not think that we should be expected to do so. Some of our Australian secondary industries are at present threatened with extinction as the result of Japanese competition, and any further concessions will seriously endanger employment in Australian factories. This would have a damaging effect on the home market for Australian primary products, and that, after all, is our best market. The free trade influence in this government is very strong. It is more pronounced than in the last administration, although the people of Australia certainly did not, by their vote at the last election, indicate that they wished to throw overboard the protection policy which has been the accepted fiscal policy of this country for over half a century. Fewer Country party representatives were returned than at the previous election, so that they can claim no mandate for freetrade. As a matter of fact, the United Australia party also came back with reduced numbers, which indicates that in the great industrial centres the people turned against the Government party because they feared that it might not stand four-square behind the policy of protection. At that time the people saw the leaders of the United Australia party and of the Country party fighting each other bitterly. They were espousing widely differing fiscal policies, and those who did not vote for Labour voted for the United Australia party, believing that, by so doing, they were casting a vote for the protection of Australian secondary industries. I believe that Australian manufacturers, and workers in Australian factories, will be severely hit by the new trade policy of the Coalition Government, and before many months are past the majority of honorable members will agree with me.
The amendment I have moved embodies an instruction to the Government to increase invalid and old-age pensions to £1 a week, and to remove the objectionable property clauses. The present Prime Minister, when Leader of the Opposition in 1931, pledged himself that he would support a proposal for the restoration of all pension and salary cuts as soon an the financial position of the country would permit it. The right honorable gentleman said that he would look upon that reduction as something of a temporary nature, and that the whole of the cuts would be restored as soon as the finances permitted. We have seen a change in the position pf the finances; we have witnessed the conversion of Australia’s internal indebtedness, but these promises have not been honoured. The budget position has greatly improved; the Government has been able to give remissions of taxation to its wealthy friends amounting to £9,500,000 during the 2-year period ; but the invalid and old-age pensioners did not have their pensions restored to 20s. a week, and the iniquitous property provisions of the act still remain.
I now wish to deal with an industry of very great importance to Australia, the wheat industry, and here I can claim the support of members of the Country party. In his budget speech, the Treasurer said -
I regret I am not in a position to announce the Government’s policy in regard to wheat. An announcement, however, will be made before this Parliament comes to an end.
We have seen that Parliament come to an end, but there has been no definite announcement as to wheat policy. The royal commission appointed by the Lyons Government to inquire into the industry, was a convenient method of shelving the problem. That commission travelled all over Australia, perambulating up and down the countryside, and all that we have received from it is an interim report, and an intimation that a fuller report is expected. The wheat industry, which comprises 65,000 growers and employs 220,000 persons, is in dire straits. The Opposition appeals to the Government to take immediate steps to do something of a practical nature to assist it. The Labour party asks for the necessary facilities to enable the wheat-growers to control their own business, and I strongly urge the Government to grant to them the same facilities as have been extended to those engaged in the dried fruits and dairying industries. The members of the Country party, when occupying the comer benches, were loud in their advocacy that something tangible should be done for this great industry, and I now urge the Government with which they are associated to introduce legislation providing for a compulsory wheat pool on lines similar to those contained in the legislation introduced by the Federal Labour Government in 1930. It has a majority in both Houses of the Parliament, and we appeal to it to put this policy into operation. Can we sit idly by and listen to the despairing cry of a dying industry, in which 65,000 persons are, metaphorically, slowly bleeding to death? An obligation rests upon the Federal Government to tide the producers over their period of stress. During the fifteen years preceding 1930, wheat-farmers received for their wheat an average price of approximately 5s. a bushel at railway sidings. The cost of production was found to be on the average 3s. 9d, a bushel. The present price is 2s. 2d. a bushel at country railway sidings, or from 2s. 8d. to 2s. 9d. a bushel f.o.b. I desire to set out the Labour party’s policy in regard to this industry as enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) in his policy speech. It may be summarized thus -
A national wheat pool on lines similar to those proposed in the bill introduced by the Labour Government in 1030;
A guaranteed price of 3s. 9d. a bushel, f.o.b., for all wheat sold off the farm;
Wheat for home consumption lo be sold from the pool at 4s. a bushel;
The pool to be financed through the Commonwealth Bank;
Fifty per cent, of any increase in price over 4s. a bushel f.o.b., to be paid to the bank until the money advanced has been liquidated:
The home consumption price to remain at 4s. a bushel during the three-year period;
The price of flour to be fixed on a fair basis in relation to the price of wheat.
State and Commonwealth legislation may be necessary to enable the wheat-growers and government representatives to control the pool and protect the farmers from foreclosures during the period of stabilization. The Government, with its majority in both Houses, has the necessary power to achieve this. Any reluctance it may have had in the past should surely be overcome by the inclusion in the Government of four members of the Country party which only quite recently it so loudly condemned. I remind honorable members that during the years 1916, 1917, and 1918, when a national wheat pool wa3 in existence, the price of wheat was fixed at 4s. 9d. a bushel, and the price of bread was 4d. a 2-lb. loaf. There is no reason whatever why bread should not be sold at its present price with wheat at 4s. a bushel. The Opposition strongly urges the Government to take immediate steps to introduce the legislation necessary for the setting up of a compulsory wheat pool, and to guarantee a price to the grower of at least 4s. a bushel, f.o.b., on all wheat used for home consumption.
– That is ridiculous.
– It would be ls. a bushel more than they are getting to-day, and they are entitled to it. It is in accordance with the policy speech of the Leader of the Opposition.
I desire now to deal with the proposed restriction of Australia’s exports of meat. I consider that restriction is a foolish and suicidal policy; a policy of hopelessness, despair, and stagnation, one that will seriously affect the State of Queensland, where 83 per cent, of the cattle exported is raised. Mr. Elliott, Minister of Agriculture in the British Government, is reported in the Sun of November 13th, 1934, as having said -
The proposal for two months5 suspension of beef and pork shipments emanated from the Australian Government. Our proposals for regulation, only, were submitted much earlier. “We know that when the High Commissioner in London came to Australia some time ago he was at first in favour of a policy of restriction of exports, ann he indicated that to a number of honorable members in Brisbane; but sensing the opposition of the people of Australia to such a proposal, he changed his views, and watered down his speeches in regard to restriction. Subsequently the Prime Minister, making an explanation in regard to restriction, said that out of a desire to help the British Government, ho had asked whether a two months’ suspension of export of frozen beef and veal would meet the situation. This did not include, he said, chilled beef, the export of which there was no intention of suspending. According to the Courier-Mail of the 20th of August, 1934, the Prime Minister said -
His Government had stood four-square against any proposal for restriction. In regard to meat, action had been taken by the Government, and representatives of the industry had met in conference at Canberra, when the steps approved by the Government had been placed before them. Conference thanked him for what -had been done.
Mr. Sunners, chairman of the Queensland Meat Industry Board, said in a statement in Brisbane on the 8th instant, that the proposed restriction would almost necessarily involve dispensing with the services of a considerable number of men. Mr. R. C. Philp, president of the Queensland* Cattle Growers Association, in an interview in Brisbane on the 8th November, said -
This is a pretty rotten blow. I have not yet received any official advice; but we were never shown any consideration. There is bound to be a big fall in prices, and this probably will be shown next week. The prohibition, while it lasts, will mean the killing of at least 3,000 to 4,000 fewer cattle every week in this State, and breeders will be at the mercy of local butchers and meatworks for that period … An unfortunate feature of this development is that it came at a time when prices have been showing some improvement.
I hope that the Government will do everything in its power to prevent any policy of restriction being put into operation. On the eve of the Ottawa conference Lord Vestey is reported to have said - £500,000,000 of British capital invested in the Argentina should not be sacrificed for a bit of British sentiment.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Lord Rosebery said “ Memory is a feeling that steals over you when you hear your friends telling original stories “. Memory steals over me that I have heard all the things which the honorable gentleman (Mr, Forde) who has just resumed his seat has said many times from every platform in New South Wales. Nothing has been introduced into this debate this afternoon that was not discussed during the election campaign, and all the pro- fposals that the honorable member has put forward this afternoon have been incontinently rejected by the electors. That should have been sufficient for anybody, but apparently all that the honorable member and his party propose is a reiteration of old stories turned round to appear as though they were something n«w. They do not appeal to anyone; they will not deceive anybody; they are the same old stories wo have listened to for the past three years. Two elections have taken place since honorable members opposite adumbrated this policy, and at each of the elections their policy has been rejected. In spite of this they come, forward again with their old-time, wornout theories and with the same suggestions that they introduced two or three years ago.
The honorable member endeavoured to make some capital over the ‘ formation of the Government which is at present occupying the Treasury bench. I ask him to believe that none of the things which he has suggested took place in connexion with the formation of the Government actually occurred. The suggestion that it could be described as a hotch-potch government is not appropriate ; it is merely one of those pleasantries which we have learned to expect from the honorable member. The policies the two parties now comprising the Government put before the people were in all essentials, and in principle, the same. There may have been some divergence of opinion in respect to the tariff duties which should be applied to certain industries, but I venture to say that there are hardly two members of this House, irrespective of party delineations, of the same opinion on this important matter. So far as important principles and essentials are concerned, the policies of the two great parties represented in the Ministry are practically the same.
The honorable member referred to the gold-mining industry, and told the story of the great success that has attended that industry in the last two years. He added that the present Government could not claim that it was in any way responsible for that success; but I deny that statement absolutely, because the most important factor in the success of an enterprise requiring the investment of capital is confidence on the part of the investors and the public generally. They must be assured that their money _will be invested in a country which can be relied upon for sound and sane government. Confidence is the important thing upon which the prosperity of a country must be based. Without it, hundreds of the things that have been suggested as having been done for the benefit of Australia could not possibly have been accomplished. I have spoken on this matter on various occasions, and whenever it is suggested in this House that confidence is an important factor we hear guffaws from the Opposition. I say with the utmost vehemence that in the rehabilitation of a country the restoration of confidence is a sine qua non, because on that alone depends the higher and more substantial superstructure of prosperity which everybody hopes for and is striving to obtain. The present Government has given Australia the confidence that has permitted the investor to put his money into undertakings that would never have been dreamt of under the policies advocated by other leaders at the last elections. That is the basic advantage of having the present Government in office. Mr. Pierpont Morgan, who has lent money in larger and in a greater number of amounts, I suppose, than any other person in the world, states that he has frequently advanced it to institutions to a far greater sum than their assets and prospects warranted, because he had confidence in. the men controlling those concerns. He also says that he has lent money to individuals because he knew their character, and trusted them, whereas he has turned down applications from other sources where the prospects were more alluring, and the security better, because he could not trust the people who asked for the advances. He considered that their character was not such as to justify him in lending his money to them. Just as character in the individual is one of the great factors of life, so, if a Ministry has a good character, and the people have confidence in it, all the benefits of good government will follow.
The honorable member expressed great concern regarding the protection policy of Australia. Apart from the fact that views on fiscal issues vary, we have to recognize that the secondary industries of this country, many of which are quite efficient, have been built up by the tariff assistance accorded hy the present Government, the past Government and the. other governments of which the present Ministry is a lineal descendant. The policy of protection was formulated by men like Deakin, Pratten, and MassyGreene. They laid the foundations of our secondary industries, and the govern- ments of which they were members were responsible for the progress of those industries so far as they have been successful. Therefore, it is unreasonable for the honorable member, who was in office for only a brief period, or for his Government to claim credit for that success. The Government in which the honorable member was Minister for Trade and Customs was in office for but two years out of the long period for which tariff assistance has been given to industries. I am sure the honorable member will agree that he has made an extravagant claim, which cannot be substantiated by anybody on his own side, or by the facts as I have stated them. Our secondary industries are now in the soundest position they have ever experienced. During the regime of the present Government, far more men have been employed than when the Scullin Government was in office. Those who were members of this House when the honorable member was a Minister are familiar with this oft-repeated statement that 50,000 or 100,000 men- I think the number even rose to 500,000 - were being put into employment by the duties imposed by his Government. Yet the fact stands out as clearly as a mountain peak that for every seven minutes of the time when the honorable member and his Government were in office a man lost his job, while every five minutes the Lyons Government has been in power an additional man has been put to work.
Closely allied to the subject of tariff assistance is that of employment, which everybody admits is the greatest problem that can confront any government to-day. Every country in the world is facing the task of providing employment for its workless citizens.
– None has such great resources to develop as has Australia.
– That is so, and that is why the amount of unemployment in this country, widespread as it is, is a mere bagatelle compared with the pitiable conditions experienced in a large number of other countries. The favorable position of Australia is due largely to the utilization of its vast resources, and we should use them to a greater extent in order to achieve a larger measure of success in the reemployment of the workless. I assure the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) that every member of the Government is just as anxious and just as conscientious as he is in his desire to find employment for those who need it. As a member of the Ministry, I have the same sense of responsibility towards the unemployed as he would have in a similar position, for the feeling of anxiety because of the trials and tribulations of the workless is always with me. It is the earnest desire of the Government to do its best to tackle this most difficult problem, and I ask members of the Opposition to accept my assurance that we are just as anxious as they are to help the unemployed, and would welcome their assistance in the efforts we are making
– While we appreciate that statement, we should prefer a policy.
– That interjection is reasonable up to a point, but the Government has been in office only three weeks or a month.
– Two and a half years.
-. But the reconstructed Government has been in office for only a short period, and it is reasonable to give it at least a little time to develop well-considered proposals rather than half-baked schemes.
– You have had three years.
– In reply to the honorable member for Dalley I would say that during the last three years the Government, of which I have been a member, has done a very great deal in the direction of the restoration of employment in this country. The figures compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician give the only guide that is available in regard to re-employment. I know it is contended that those figures are not so complete as they should be. Up to a point I am prepared to admit that that is bo. But for what they are worth they demonstrate that since the Lyons Administration assumed control there has been a constant and progressive decrease of the number of unemployed in Australia. As a member of that Administration I am entitled to point to those figures as evidence of what it has done, just as honorable members opposite would point te them as evidence of its inability if they were in the opposite direction.
– Any man who does two days’ work is considered to be employed.
– I shall not go into that aspect of the matter at the moment. I have already said that there is considerable argument as to whether the figures are as complete as they might be, and have admitted that there are discrepancies in their compilation. The fact that they show that there has been a reduction of unemployment, however, proves that the Government has taken steps towards that end. Comparing the position in 1931 with what has since been done, my only comment is that the Government in which the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) was a distinguished ornament, went out of office as the result pf an ignoble quarrel in the ranks of its members, the then Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) being suspected by some of expending relief money in his own electorate, Dalley, and thus enhancing his chances of re-election, while neglecting the electorate of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and other adjoining electorates. That was the magnificent contribution which , the Scullin Government made to the solution of this very difficult problem.
I do not propose to deal at length with the question of conversions, because that can be completely dealt with by my colleague the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey). It is quite true that, through tho agency of the different States, this Government is spending what are regarded as large sums of public money. I point out, however, that what is being spent in Australia is a mere bagatelle, a drop in the ocean, compared with the fabulous sums that are being devoted to a similar purpose in the United States of America. So far as I can see, two objects should be observed in the expenditure of public money: First, to relieve the immediate necessities of the unemployed; and, secondly, to induce private enterprise to embark upon a greater expenditure. I do not believe that any country can overcome its difficulties merely by the continuance of a borrowing policy. All governmental expenditure should be directed towards the stimulation of expenditure by private individuals. The confidence that has been aroused in this Government is inducing secondary industries to extend their activities and to add to the number of men employed. Building construction would not be undertaken if those responsible for it were not satisfied that they bad a stable government in which they could place their confidence. The records show that an ever-increasing amount has been placed at fixed deposit and in the savings banks of this country. It is the object of this Government to induce the withdrawal of a large portion of that money, and its utilization in providing employment for the workless. That is now being done, and it will continue to be done in increasing ratio so long as this Government remains in office.
What is the alternative of the borrowing policy which so far has been adopted ? The honorable member for Capricornia suggests that there should merely be a process of inflation.
– Oh, no !
– In what way does the suggestion of the honorable member differ from a policy of inflation? Discussion upon this matter took place on practically every platform throughout Australia during the last election campaign. I was astonished to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) advance such a proposal. He described it as “ a real constructive idea; something new; something that had never been thought of before.” He gave us those perorations to which we are so accustomed, and which are the same for petty larceny as for murder. In the last State elections in New South Wales, Mr. J. T. Lang said that no Loan Council would prevent him from getting money; he could get £14,000,000 irrespective of it. He convinced a large number of people that he possessed some inherent power that would enable him to raise that vast sum. That was his trump card. The Labour party did not then think of obtaining the funds it needed without borrowing them and paying interest upon them. The new idea has since made itself apparent to the leaders of that party, and upon that policy both sections of it went to the country last September. Apparently the right honorable gentleman who leads the Opposition in this Parliament was so satisfied with his prospects in the important State of New South Wales, whichcontains a greater number of electorates than all the other States combined with the exception of Victoria, that he devoted only two days or two and a half days to campaigning in it.
– That is riot true. I spent more time in New South Wales than in any other State.
– I could name the places where the right honorable gentleman spoke. He did not visit the electorate of the then honorable member for Cook, Mr. Riley. His peregrinations embraced only Katoomba, the City Hall in Sydney, Bathurst, and Broken Hill. He left to Mr. Lang the conduct of the campaign in New South Wales.
– That gentleman . had a good policy to place before the people.
– The implications of that policy, and the history behind it, were largely responsible for the vote which was given to the United Australia party in New South Wales. Very few governments which have faced such critical and difficult times as those encountered by the Lyons Government have returned from an election with the loss of so few seats in the House of Representatives, and a complete victory in regard to the Senate throughout the whole of Australia. That is a record of which the Lyons Government has every reason to be proud. Had the party opposite had their Senate candidates returned in every State of the Commonwealth, the welkin would have rung ; the news of the victory would have been loudly noised abroad. If there is any spirit of fairness in party warfare to-day, even honorable members opposite must admit that the result of the Senate election constitutes the most magnificent endorsement tb,mt any government has received in modern times.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that he would break some new ground, and I therefore listened to him with a certain amount of apprehension, but I did not hear him say a single new thing in his speech. Before I entered politics, and before I knew as much as I think I know now, I used to listen with a degree of awe to the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy on the subject of trade balances; but since becoming a member of this Parliament I have come to realize more clearly what trade balances really mean. I have noticed that when the figures are against us the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy are most eloquent in their statements on the subject; but when the figures are in our favour these honorable gentlemen remain silent. It is well known that the figures are always against us at this period of the year, but when our exports of wheat and wool are being made the figures will improve, and become favorable to us, as, in fact, they did last year and the year before that.
Unfortunately, we can never engage in a debate in this chamber without having the pensioners brought forward as a kind of perennial stock in trade.
– We shall continue to bring them forward until their complaints have been remedied.
– I suppose that honorable gentlemen opposite who were responsible for the reduction of the rate of the pension spend sleepless nights in consequence of their actions in that regard. If not, they should do so, if there is still such a thing as a political conscience in this country. Let me say definitely that the United Australia party did not reduce pensions. The only party to do so in this country, in modern times, has been the Labour party.
Other honorable members interjecting,
– I shall name the next honorable member who interjects.
– I rise to a point of order. I take exception to the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) that the Labour party was responsible for the reduction of the rate of old-age and invalid pensions. This section of the Labour party has never supported such a proposal.
– That is no point of order.
– The Minister for Defence should qualify his statement.
– I have no wish to be unfair. The last thing that an honorable member should do when making a speech here is to utter an unfair statement, for it is so easy for otherhonorable members to draw attention to it. I am prepared to qualify my statement to this extent: the section of the Labour party led by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) did not support the proposal to reduce the rate of pension.
– They were not alone in that attitude. Furthermore the Minister for Defence himself voted in favour of the reduction of the rate of pension.
-I remind honorable members that interjections are disorderly. I shall not allow frequent interjections to be made.
– I do not deny that I voted for the reduction of the rate of pension. I told my electors that I did so, and stated the facts in that connexion from every platform from which I addressed the electors. ButI am not here as anapologist for the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin). He may make his own apologies. Notwithstanding the qualification I have just made to my previous statement, it is a fact that the only political party in modern history in this country to reduce pensions was a Labour party.
– The United Australia party reduced pensions to the extent of £1,000,000.
– My replyto that interjection is that the United Australia party has provided more money for invalid and old-age pensions during one year than was ever provided before in a single year. An amount of £12,000,000 was provided for pensions last year. The old-age and invalid pensioners of this country realize that they have been treated generously by this Government. For the last two years, honorable members opposite have declared that when the electors “ got at “ this Government they would deal with it in a proper way for having reduced pensions. Honorable gentlemen opposite organized the old-age pensioners into groups, and traded upon their afflictions and difficulties in every possible way. It seemed that every time an old-age pensioner waggled his beard they trembled at the knees. The fact is that old age and invalid pensioners who are left alone are perfectly satisfied with the treatment that they are receiving. We were assured that the pensioners and their friends would take absolute control of the last two elections and incontinently throw out every candidate who was not prepared to support a pension of £1 a week ; yet the Government has been returned on the last two occasions in a stronger position.
– What about the S.O.S. to the Country party?
– I shall qualify the statement I have just made by saying that the Government is stronger than it ever was because of its strength in the Senate. This, therefore, is the effect of the agitation respecting invalid and old-age pensions. I have said frequently that this spurious agitation is totally unjustifiable, and that it is a mean and petty business to try to make political capital out of the miseries and disabilities of the pioneers of this country. For myself, I would rather go out of political life than make the pensioners the price of my remaining in Parliament. I have told the invalid and old-age pensioners in my constituency what I honestly think, and I am glad to acknowledge that some of the best letters I have received since my entry into public life have come from pensioners who have thanked me for what I have done for them. Some of my best supporters at the last election were pensioners who tramped from house to house rounding up their friends to support me. They did this because of the simple and straightforward attitude that I had adopted towards them. They knew that they would get a fair deal from both the Government and myself, and they were prepared to make their share of sacrifice in order to ensure the rehabilitation of the country. Many of the old-age and invalid pensioners are better citizens than people who are in a much more favorable position in life. The pensioners are quite prepared to wait for the return of that larger and more substantial pros perity that I am confident is coming to this country before asking for the restoration of the pension rate to the former figure. The action of the Opposition in attaching some statement relative to pensioners to every amendment it introduces into this chamber does it no good; nor does its continued mouthing of the pensioners’ disabilities. Such tactics are so transparent that everybody sees through them. They deceive nobody.
– The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- While listening to the address of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) I almost deluded myself into thinking that I had not been absent from this chamber for so long a period. The honorable gentleman complained that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) had failed to impart any originality into his speech. With great respect, may I say that I detected a remarkable similarity in the speech delivered by the Minister himself with others that I had heard him deliver here long before he became a Minister of the Crown. I noticed also that the honorable gentleman has not altogether abandoned his former somewhat airy treatment of facts despite the added responsibility which the years have brought to him. He said, for instance, towards the end of his speech, that the amount of money paid to invalid and oldage pensioners last year was the highest in the history of the Commonwealth. It seems, therefore, that the honorable gentleman has not read either the budget speech or the financial statements associated with it.
– I was speaking of this year.
– The amount of invalid and old-age pension liability in 1931 was £12,067,000; and the amount last year was £11,477,000.
– What about the current year?
– The honorable gentleman must know that he can only give an estimate of the expenditure for the present year. The standards that we must use in dealing with the financial position of this country are those of recorded years. When the honorable gentleman finds himself entirely astray m his facts, he ventures upon the more uncertain sea of prophecy; but even there he may not be any more reliable than when dealing with the facts. The honorable gentleman said that this Go- vernment, speaking by and large, had restored confidence and made it possible for investors to assist in the development of3 private enterprise. Condensing his speech into a single sentence, it may be said that he claimed substantial justification for everything that the Government had done because it had given encouragement to capital and that capital had taken advantage of that encouragement with the result that the industrial life of Australia had been stimulated and expanded. The answer to that statement is that the bank deposits of Australia are enormously greater now than in 1931, and that the advances made by banks to private industry are substantially less now than in 1931. The facts are that in June, 1931, the total of bank deposits in Australia was £301,600,000, and now they are £344,000,000, an increase of £42,400,000. That total is made up of £19,200,000 of interest-bearing deposits, and £23,200,000 of non-interest-bearing deposits. Thus it will be seen that there is in the hanks of Australia £42,400,000 of capital in excess of the amount so held in 1931. There is another side to it. If there were any truth in the general conclusions of the honorable gentleman we should find, a demand by private enterprise for bank accommodation in order to expand industry, and I know that it is the general assumption that that is what has taken place during the last three years. But the facts are far to the contrary. The figures show that bank overdrafts, &c, as in June, 1931, totalled £276,500,000, whereas in June, 1934, they were only £262,700,000, a reduction of £13,800,000 during the three years. This is attributable, of course, to the fact that there is no solvent demand for goods that are the output of secondary industries, nor any requirement of additional plant and equipment in order to increase that output. It is also attributable to the reduced capacity of rural industry to employ capital for development. Were it not for the extraordinary governmental borrowing during the last three years, which has added £120,000,000 to the public debt, there would have been a greater disparity between the total advances of the banks and the increase of deposits; for there has been a great utilization of hank resources in the taking up of government and municipal securities which has had the effect of leaving less money actually frozen- than would otherwise have been the case. In June, 1931, the holdings of Australian hanks in government and municipal securities were £62,600,000. By June, 1934, they increased to £98,600,000, representing an additional £36,000,000.
I have made no attempt whatever to measure the general character of the debt structure of Australia as a whole, but T have felt that if I were to make such an analysis for the State of Western Australia, it might be helpful to honorable members, and indicate approximately the trend of financial events throughout the Commonwealth. Having perused bank statistics, and studied government transactions and other relevant data for Western Australia, I find that in 1928 the deposits in Western Australian banks were £14,600,000, while the advances were £15,700,000. In that year the budget was safe, and the previous year had disclosed a surplus of £28,245. The gap between the advances and deposits was approximately £1,100,000. By 1933 this gap had widened to nearly £4,400,000, although it was reduced to £2,000,000 by June last. Some of the deposits, however, can be regarded as arising out of the increased indebtedness of the State, as the provision for deficits would become available as deposits. In 1930 the deposits in Western Australian banks were £12,200,000, whereas on the 30th June last they exceeded £17,500,000, an increase of £5,300,000. In 1929 government, municipal and public securities held as assets by banks amounted to £815,045, but on the 30th June last they amounted to £3,259,493. We see here the effect on ordinary deposits which the banking accommodation for State deficits has had. In the last four years deficits in Western Australia have aggregated £4,600,000. Thus, the increasing deficits of the State practically correspond with the increased amount of money lying at deposit in the Western Australian banks.
These banking statistics disclose an arithmetical debt against the community of £2,000,000, plus, let us say, £4,600’,000, disguised by inflation due to deficits, or a total of £6,600,000. To this must be added £11,400,000, subject to certain adjustments, to cover net loan expenditure since 1928-29. That gives a gross total of £18,000,000 which has been added to the debt of Western Australia since 1928. I do not say that the whole of that has been lost, but I suggest that of £11,400,000 of loan expenditure, twothirds can be regarded as having been absorbed in sustenance payments, relief works, &c, and cannot be considered as normally productive of assets.
– Is the honorable member making an attack on the Government of Western Australia?
– No ; I am . merely drawing a picture of conditions in Western Australia, which, I suggest, is a miniature of the general industrial and banking position of the Commonwealth as a whole.
– But it is not.
– It is. What I have said constitutes no attack on the Government of Western Australia.
– I was merely asking.
– To point out that Western Australia’s deficit last year was £788,000 and that its borrowing has not been excessive, regarded from the viewpoint of the borrowing of the States generally, and bearing in mind that the total increase in the debt of Western Australia per capita is only proportionate to the increased debt of Australia as a whole of over £120,000,000; to say that the increased bank deposits in Western Australia are on the same scale as those for the whole Commonwealth, is not to make an implied’ attack on the Government of Western Australia, and I resent any suggestion to that effect. I am merely drawing conclusions from conditions as they exist in Western Australia and applying them to the rest of Australia, in reply to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) who said that confidence had been restored in Australia, thereby implying that everything was healthy in the economic life of the country. My retort is that the restoration of confidence is not reflected in any increased demand for capital for development in Australian industry, and further, that there would be an enormous increase in the amount of capital lying idle but for the actual and prospective borrowings of the Loan Council. It must be clear that the fall in the internal rate of interest for Government securities since the conversion of our public debt in 1931 is attributable not so much to tlie confidence which investors have in this Government, as to the absence of alternative and more attractive spheres of investment. It is reasonable to say, I think, that, despite their acknowledged patriotism, if Australian investors could get a safe investment at a higher rate of interest than that stated in the loan prospectus which the Assistant Treasurer hopes to announce to-morrow, he would find it difficult to get subscriptions for the loan. If I make a statement of that kind it is no more correct to construe it as a reflection upon Australian financiers, than it is to claim that, when I deal with the debt structure of Australia as a whole, I am making an implied attack on the governments of the various States.
My answer to any such suggestion is that I am defending the activities of the States, and I wish to pay a tribute to them for having undertaken responsibilities that, under the Constitution, should really devolve upon the Commonwealth. All the stimulants to industry by way of grants and bounties were intended, so far as we can interpret the minds of the members of the Convention, to be voted by this Parliament. First of all, it was the logical thing that this Parliament should do so. Trade was to be free, and there were to be no barriers between State and State. But what has happened? Assistance to the gold-mining industry has for many years devolved upon the States, and, in the same way, assistance to rural development has exclusively centred in the States, while the burdens which were levied on the rural industries were, for the most part, burdens arising from Commonwealth policy. Thus the States had to borrow money with which to assist rural development, while, at the same time, the Parliament of the Commonwealth was pursuing a policy prejudicial to that development. I say to tho
Assistant Treasurer and to the Minister for Defence that they can take little comfort from what has happened during the last three or four years in this connexion.
I have here a return showing how indirect taxation has been increased during the last four years by the Commonwealth Government - and I am not quite certain which government shoulders the blame. When a demand is made by honorable members on this side of the House that something should be done for rural rehabilitation, or for the welfare of the unemployed, we are told that the present Government has been in existence for only three weeks, but when a claim is made that confidence has been restored in Australia we are told that the Government has been in existence for three years. All the credit claims, it would appear, are due to a government that has been continuously in office, while the unsolved problems should not be debited against it because it came into office only the day before yesterday. That argument is preposterous.
It will be acknowledged that every form of indirect taxation constitutes an element in the cost structure of industry. [ have obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician figures showing the amounts raised per head of population from customs and excise taxation, sales tax and flour tax, during the last four years. In 1930-31, the amount raised by these three forms of indirect taxation was £4 17s. 9d. per head. In 1931-32, which was the year in which honorable members came into power, the per capita burden of this class of indirect taxation rose to £5 12s. 5d. Although the Government professed to be a tariff-reducing government, because it. felt that costs should be reduced in order to assist the exporting industries, in 1932-33 the per capita burden of indirect taxation rose to £6 8s. 4d., and last year, 1933-34, although the difficulties of world trade were actually increasing, and although the Government should have benefited from the experience of its delegates at Ottawa and the World Economic Conference in London, the per capita burden of indirect taxation rose to £6 12s. lOd. In 1930-31 indirect taxation yielded £31,767,000 and last year it produced £44,200,000. This Government, therefore, has added £12,500,000 since 1930-31 to the burden of indirect taxation imposed on Australian industry.
It is extraordinary that the Government should say that the important thing is the development of Australia’s export trade, while at the same time it increases every year the burden on the export industries. It is one thing to win an election on a philosophy of that kind, but it is wholly contradictory to apply policies which, year by year, increase the per capita burden on the Australian people in the form of indirect taxation. Every increase of indirect taxation by this Parliament lessens the taxable resources of the States, and drives them increasingly to the necessity of having to find accommodation for deficits. Taxation collected by the States must have some relation to the net earnings of those who pay it, whereas indirect taxation, as levied by the Commonwealth, is essentially a tax on turnover, and has no relation whatever to the income of those who pay. While there has been an increase of indirect taxation, there has been practically no increase whatever in the volume of goods coming into Australia which have been subject to taxation of this classHonorable members opposite say that they reduced the burden of the tariff. In 1930-31 the value of imports into Australia in British currency amounted to £60,900,000, and customs and excise revenue amounted to £4 7s. per head of population. In 1933-34, the value of imports was also £60,900,000 in British currency, yet the revenue from customs and excise jumped to £5 2s. lid. per head. Taking the estimate as set out in the budget papers, the Treasurer, apparently not satisfied with the yield of the last financial year, proposes to collect £5 3s. 2d. in the current fiscal year. That figure appears to be quite irrespective of any estimate of the value of imports into Australia during the present financial year.
By and large, I regard the budget as entirely disappointing; No provision is made in it for rural rehabilitation, a guaranteed price to the wheat-growers, or relief of unemployment. Not even the office of Director of Employment is provided for in the departmental estimates. No office has apparently been constituted, and it would appear to be quite fair to say that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons),, when delivering what he considered to be an excellent electioneering speech, had no conception of the difficulties that would be encountered in implementing his intention in this regard. Even when the election was over, the right honorable gentleman discovered that he would have to reconstruct his Ministry because of resignations, and for other reasons, as a result of which a stop-gap Ministry was formed, in which the present Acting Leader of the House was not included. These happenings made it difficult for the budget to be recast or for the Government to form any conception whatever of the policy to be formulated in order to carry out the statements expressed in the Prime Minister’s policy speech. It is true that there has been a second reconstruction, and Cabinet now consists of elements entirely different from those which comprised the original Government responsible for the Prime Minister’s policy speech. I can well appreciate, therefore, that there must inevitably be some delay in putting into effect the intentions of the Government, if it has any. in respect of rural rehabilitation and unemployment.
The rural industries of Australia can be regarded as its spinal column. The vast amount of government revenue, both Commonwealth and State, involved in the maintenance of rural industries, is such a tremendously significant feature in the economy of the Australian nation that this Parliament must not be too finicky in devising measures to come totheir immediate relief. I say this for more than one reason. One is that I am almost appalled at the consequences to the finances of the States if there should be any drastic contraction in the agricultural community in Australia. Another reason is that the question of employment, considered by and large, is definitely related to the health and welfare of the primary industries, and that a. mere computation of the number of persons engaged in secondary industries gives no reliable criterion of the capacity of the country to employ its citizens. The great bulk of the transport trades are not only involved in connexion with secondary industries, but also importantly related to the carrying of our primary products for shipment overseas and to the cities. The centres of production in Australia are far removed from our ports, and there is a tremendous amount of internal haulage, which ministers to employment in a large degree. “We cai 1Ot, as a Parliament, ignore the tremendous importance of the agricultural industry in its employment aspect. But in its financial aspect it becomes increasingly important. Not only are our State governments in debt because of the financing of settlement schemes, but the agricultural community is also a debtor class to the financial institutions, and the debts which this class has contracted apparently figure in the assets statements of the financial institutions of Australia. There is great truth in the assertion that debts can only be counted as wealth so long as the debtors are prosperous; once the debtor cannot pay, the creditor’s own prosperity is endangered as a result.
I do not know what the Wheat Commission intends to recommend for the solution of the problem confronting the wheat industry, but I submit that, if the Government does not intend to meet the requirements of the industry out of revenue, it is going to indulge in the same policy of borrowing which, in the last three or four years, has exposed this Parliament to criticism which might, to some extent, be levied against the States at “the present time. The States have borrowed for the purpose of settling the land: but it is an unwise financial policy for Australia to borrow money in order to maintain men on the land. That should be part and parcel of the annual
C03t of carrying on the Australian nation. I can understand a man borrowing in order to purchase a motor ear, but it would be a wrong course for him to borrow in order to purchase petrol with which to operate it. Similarly, we, as a nation, can borrow in order to settle our lands, but when we borrow to increase the price which the producers will get for wheat it will be readily seen that the position becomes impossible. It would be unwise for either party in this
House to Attempt to unload the responsibility for a grievous mortgage on the future entirely unsecured by any possible assets we can conjure up.
The stupendous expenditure on unemployment relief averaging £11,000,000 for two years, and £9,000,000 for the last two years, or an average over the fouryear period of £10,000,000, and a total of £40,000,000, is, to some extent, the counterpart of similar scales of expenditure in most countries in the world. I have taken out some figures in connexion with unemployment relief in different countries. In 1932, Belgium spent 1,000,000,000 francs, the rate of exchange then being 21.5 francs to the British £1 ; Germany spent 3,000,000,000 reichmarks the exchange rate being 13.23 to the £1; Great Britain spent £120,000,000 in 1932, and in 1933 £111,000,000 ; Switzerland in 1932 spent 65,000,000 francs, the exchange rate being 15.51 .to She £1. The figures that have been supplied in connexion with the expenditure on the relief of unemployment in the United States of America are far too complicated, and I therefore disregard them. It is quite clear that this ‘burden of insurance against unemployment constitutes one of the new liabilities which the capitalistic system has to shoulder. If the people are deprived of the opportunity to earn a living the stability of the State becomes threatened. “We have to pay a price for law and order in these circumstances which is quite as valid and legitimate as would be provision for defence against a national enemy. “We cannot unload this tremendous responsibility for the maintenance of the lives of our people. “Without endeavouring to treat this subject academically, I suggest that there are only two ways in which work can be organized, first, through the instrumentality and stimulation of private enterprise, and then through what might be termed public enterprise, which comprises Federal and State Governments, municipal corporations, harbour ‘boards, and the like. I see nothing wrong whatever in this Parliament looking at the problem by and large, and saying that it will accept a large measure of the financial responsibilities for this policy. I said yesterday, and I repeat again to-day, that, having regard to the division of functions as between the Commonwealth and the States, except for a limited number of national works, which may be regarded as essentially Commonwealth in character, I see no justification for this Parliament drawing up a works schedule and directly becoming responsible for the employment of workmen. I believe it would be far the best course for the Director of Employment and for the Government to ascertain to what extent the State governments, municipal authorities, harbour boards, &c, have works in hand of a useful character, and for this Parliament to make available to those bodies money to provide for a continuance of those works. The technical side of the matter could be left to the States to administer.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the contribution should be out of loan funds or from revenue ?
– That depends entirely upon the nature of the services. If the money to be provided is for work that could be regarded as essentially of a capital character, such as water storage, sewerage of country towns, or increasing the accommodation of ports and harbours, or work which, using the term properly, could be regarded as of a reproductive nature, the money could be advanced out of loan funds provided that the rate of interest did not become an excessive charge. But there will be a large measure of activity during the next few years, which can be regarded as salvage work, and upon that point I disagree with the policy of the Government. I do not believe that reductions of taxation have contributed anything towards solving the problem of unemployment. Reductions of direct taxation have been of no service, and the increases of indirect taxation have but produced industrial burdens and a frustration of economic improvement. We have to tax the people fairly and properly in order to meet our obligations in this connexion. It is dishonest to avoid direct taxation this year, and to borrow for the purpose for which tax should have been levied, when it is known that this must inevitably mean that in ten years the Government will have no alternative but to tax the people to pay interest on the money which by then will have been spent and wasted. That is merely piling up the difficulties inherent in this problem. To meet, so far as we can from our present resources, such obligations as we feel we ought to undertake is not only a requirement of statesmanship, but an act of justice to successive generations.
Question - That the item be reduced by £1 (Mr. Forde’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The committee having disposed of the amendment submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), my party will propose to submit an amendment based on slightly different lines. I propose to move -
That the item be reduced by10s.
The complaint made by the Minister (Mr. Parkhill) in reply to the last amendment was that the proposals advanced by the Opposition were similar in character to those already voted upon at the elections, and he advanced the view on behalf of the Government that it was not competent to press them now. He claimed that the Government had a mandateto carry on, and that, therefore, the amendment did not warrant serious consideration. Members of the Opposition must naturally accept the verdict given at the polls, but, on close scrutiny of the results, particularly in New South Wales, it is obvious that the Government can find little cause to congratulate itself. It is easy to recall the wide difference in the election policies put forward by the parties now in coalition. Take the electorate of Robertson, where the Country party put forward a candidate against the endorsed candidate of the United Australia party. I was informed by my own supporters that never was a more bitter political war waged in any part of Australia than by those two gentlemen on that occasion.
– Probably the honorable member for Robertson would have a good deal to say on that subject.
– Yes; and from what we can gather, he had good warrant for the criticism which he levelled against the Country party. In Calare, even some time prior to the elections, the circumstances of the campaign were such that great enmity was shown between the Country and Nationalist parties. It is strange how the conditions have changed in a few weeks. The Minister now in charge of War Service Homes made most scathing remarks against the Prime Minister and those associated with the Government. If I had before me the figures showing the number who voted for the respective parties in New South Wales, it would be seen that the Government has nothing to crow about, for those electors who supported the Country party candidates certainly did not vote for the policy of the Government, and those who voted for the United Australia party candidates undoubtedly did not favour the proposals of the Country party. No doubt the electors in New South Wales did not expect within a few weeks to witness the present coalition. Between them, the parties that sit opposite have the numbers to impose their will. They may argue that certain aspects of what I propose have already been discussed in the electorates. I contend, however, that a verdict upon my proposals was not recorded, and that it is fitting that we should consider what actually happened at the polls in connexion with the policies upon which the people were asked to pass judgement.
Our motive is to issue to the Government an instruction immediately to provide £10,000,000 as a first contribution’ to the relief of unemployment and £12,000,000 for rural rehabilitation.
We may be asked why those specific amounts are mentioned. The reason is that they were stated by both political parties that now form the Government. From hundreds of platforms throughout New South Wales it was stated that unemployment was one of the main features to be considered in the framing of the economic policy of this country. I have before me a copy of the Prime Minister’s speech, one or two extracts from which will indicate the opinions held by, not only the right honorable gentleman himself, but also his supporters and campaigners. Referring to unemployment, he said -
I refer to the greatest tragedy in the world to-day and the greatest tragedy of our position in Australia - unemployment.
He went on to point out that this had largely been a question for the decision of the States. On many occasions in the life of the last Parliament, attempts were made by the Opposition to induce the Government to do something real and practical for the unemployed. Even at the elections that were held in 1931, the United Australia party made employment the principal feature of its campaign. Its canvassers went from door to door collecting the names of those who were out of work, and arguing that a change of government would lead to employment being provided for them.
– The position was greatly improved for them.
– I shall deal fully with that at the proper time. At the moment, all that I need say is that the conditions under which relief work is being carried on in New South Wales to-day are on a par with those of the most backward countries of the world. No one will deny the importance of this question. As a matter of fact, I think we all agree that the solution of every other problem hinges upon the successful handling of it. We can, therefore, understand some persons being led away from their life-long political principles if they thought that real and practical steps would be taken to improve their position. During the last Parliament, whenever the question was raised, the reply of the Government was that the matter was one for the States, and that the Commonwealth had not the means adequately to deal with it. When the elections approached, however, it realised the necessity for retreating from that position. The Prime Minister, in his policy speech, said -
Hitherto -the responsibility for the relief of unemployment has been allowed to rest with the States. That has been the policy of all Federal Governments irrespective of party, although all Commonwealth governments have, from time to time, strained their resources to assist the States in this task.
It is not only those who are looking for work who are interested in what is being done to relieve the situation. Business people, persons who own property, and those who are engaged in primary production, realize the necessity for practical action. Therefore, in order to establish the bona fides of the Government, the Prime Minister went on to say -
Our idea is, first to assign to a Common- wealth Minister definite responsibility for Commonwealth action in relation to employment. It is proposed that the Minister shall be assisted by an advisory committee of the several States. We are prepared to submit definite suggestions.
He mentioned as definite suggestions national forestry, and the old time-worn unification of railway gauges. Let us see to what extent the Government is honouring its undertaking. It can hardly be conceived that in the short space of time which has elapsed since the general elections it would be possible for the Government to break faith on such an important question. Yet it has already broken faith in regard to the appointment of a Minister to take charge of employment. The routine methods of administration are not known to many of the people outside. Probably many persons believed that the Government seriously contemplated assigning to a special Minister the responsibility of dealing adequately with this matter, and that that gentleman, while having no other duties to discharge, would have an equal say with other Ministers in the deliberations of the administration. What has happened? Has a full-time Minister been assigned to this task ? He has not. Apparently what was regarded as a major question is now considered as of such little importance that the handling of it can be undertaken by a gentleman who is not even in the Ministry, and who will receive no additional remuneration for his services. On this account, we intend to test the bona fides of the Government, and, at every stage, to do what we can to compel its observance of the pledges and undertakings that it gave at the polls. The Prime Minister and his supporters said that £10,000,000 would be provided. There is no doubt that the impression was left in the minds of the people that this provision would be made without delay. Yesterday, when a loan bill was under consideration, it was not until the last clause was before the committee that we were informed that the £200,000 allocated for postal works would not be made available prior to Christmas. Although we could not obtain information as to the manner in which the £5,000,000, which the bill proposed should be raised, would be distributed, honorable members had formed the definite impression that at least £200,000 of it would be allocated for special relief work to be undertaken prior to Christmas in the interests of those who are unemployed. Yet, when I asked the Minister whether that was the case, he stated that it was not to be regarded as special relief. The outlook is black indeed for those who hoped to obtain something real from this Government. The excuse made to-day by the Minister for Defence is that the present Government ha been in office for only a few weeks, and, consequently, has not had an opportunity to deal with the matter. That contention is countered by the statement of the Prime Minister in his policy speech, “We are prepared to submit definite suggestions “. The right honorable gentleman then led the country to believe that immediately the election position was cleared, and the Government was formed, schemes would be put in hand for the relief of unemployment. It has ‘been pointed out by way of interjection that this is not a new Government in the real sense of -the term, but is one that has really been in office for three years. In - any event, those who determine the policy of the Government are not necessarily the occupants of the Treasury bench. The party that now controls the destinies of Australia has held office for many years, and boasts that it. is due to -its efforts in the direction of tariff reform that secondary industries have been developed in this country. Surely in these circumstances the Government must have in its possession almost unlimited knowledge of work that could at once be put in hand to absorb the unemployed. Apart from one short term, it may be said that governments supported by honorable members opposite have been in office for many years, and Ministers must know that many reports are available in the public offices of essential public works that are needed in all the States of the Commonwealth. The Government therefore is not entitled to excuse its inaction on the plea that it has not had time to prepare a works programme. We therefore request in our amendment that the £10,000,000 referred to in the Prime Minister’s policy speech shall be provided immediately as a first contribution towards the needs of the situation. For our own part it is not our suggestion that the expenditure of this money will solve the problem. We submitted to the electors other proposals for that purpose, but, as the Minister for Defence has said, the people do not approve of them, and for the moment we must put them on one side, bending all our energies to the task of compelling the Government to carry out the policy which the people have approved. We do not deny that the Government has received a mandate to give effect to its policy, and we are obliged to admit that our policy has, for the time being, been rejected. But we can ensure that the Government implements the policy which it submitted to the electors. It has at its disposal all the machinery of government and all the advice of experts, and it should take advantage of these favorable conditions. There is no need whatever for further inquiries, nor is there any need for further delay. Not long ago, in the time of alleged financial crisis, when we were told that the solvency of the country was threatened, the Government called into consultation men who were alleged to be leading economists in the various universities and financial institutions and, on their advice, quickly took drastic steps in certain directions. The living standards of the people were undermined and their whole welfare seriously impaired. At that time, there was no thought of need for inquiry or delay. We therefore suggest that what could be done then without delay regarding unemployment can also be done’ to-day. The people throughout the country are sick and tired of commissions, inquiries, and reports. They are looking for men who will make definite decisions and undertake definite work. It may be that such men might make mistakes; but if they are men with any “ go “ in them, who adopt a determined course, they will find that the people will appreciate it; and we, on our part, will be glad to know that something is being done in a really, practical way to meet this paramount problem of unemployment. Thousands of men in the community are ready and willing to work; there is work available for them to do; and we urge the Government to make provision for them to go to work. Not only should the unemployed people be considered. We must have regard to the people only partly employed and to others, who, though permanently employed, are receiving a miserably inadequate wage. I venture to assert that the Government could appoint a committee of half a dozen members of this House - one from each State - who in in 24 hours could place before Parliament particulars of important public works that could be immediately put in hand. In these circumstances there need be no delay in providing employment for the tens of thousands of people who are crying out for it. Our party put forward a policy which members and supporters of this Government declared to be radically wrong. They argued that we were seeking to take the people’s savings from them. We disputed the accuracy of that statement ; but, unhappily our policy was not approved. We believe that sooner or later the existing system will break down. In the meantime, we intend to do our utmost to force the Government to do at least some of the things that it promised to do. The people were not prepared for certain radical changes that we proposed and were unwilling to accept the policy we submitted; consequently, we must, for the time being, hold our hand. But we shall bear in mind that every citizen of this country is entitled to decent living conditions and adequate employment, and we shall insist as strongly as possible that the Government shall do the things that it undertook to do when it faced the people at the recent election. The Government should not need to be driven to honour its pledges, and carry out its mandate; but whether it needs driving or not, we shall do our utmost to enforce prompt action. We are concerned at the moment not about the fulfilment of our policy, because we have not the numbers to give effect to it, but about the fulfilment of that of the Government. Possibly the things that were said about the Labour policy at the last election by Government supporters influenced the people to a considerable extent, but no objection can be taken by any honorable member to our doing our level best to ensure that the “policy which the people approved shall be implemented without delay. The Government chose the course which it outlined to the electors, and should now be made to follow it.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Following upon the subject of unemployment I feel that we can safety say that in all country districts that of rural rehabilitation figured very prominently during the election campaign. Prior to the decision of the Government to go to the country we can recall that a number of conferences between the United Australia party and the Country party were held, and, according to press reports, a common policy was to be adopted in connexion with this important subject. We were led to believe that the Government had in mind - as a matter of fact, I think that the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) was the gentleman to whom the task was to be entrusted - the adoption of a scheme similar to that at present in operation in Canada, and that prominence was to be given to it by the two parties during the election campaign. Such a scheme appears to have been decided upon although no details were made available to the public, but an extraordinary development occurred in connexion with the speech broadcast by the Leader of the Country party. The right honorable gentleman had prepared his policy speech, copies of which were distributed to the press, as is customary, but on the night on which the speech was to be broadcast we were astounded to learn that the reference to the subject of rural rehabilitation as contained in his distributed speech, had been altered. Apparently something had happened in the meantime, as the scheme which he had proposed, and which I have heard had been decided upon in consultation with the United Australia party, had been dropped. The facts have not been made known, but it is obvious that after the Leader of the Country party had distributed a pamphlet setting out what he, in conjunction with the United Australia party, had decided upon on the subject of rural rehabilitation, at the last moment all reference to it was eliminated from his speech, showing that there must have been some marked difference of opinion on this subject between the two parties. All that we can say authoritatively, is that the Leader of the Country party suggested in his policy speech that £12,000,000 was necessary to provide some practical help in the matter of rural rehabilitation. Accordingly we seek by our amendment to have that particular sum applied to this particular purpose. It is true that we argued strenuously against the inadequacy of the amount, and in order to establish our point we were able to quote the report of the royal commission on .the wheat industry which stated that the wheat-farmers’ debts were not less than £140,000,000. It therefore appeared that if these men were to be brought back to the point of producing profitably, that amount would have to be made available, or some drastic alterations in our present economic policy would have to be made. We submitted our proposals to meet the situation in respect of debt adjustments; but as the Minister for Defence pointed out, in dealing with the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, it is not within our province to submit them now, the electors having turned them down. I am therefore putting forward now not what we propose, but what the members of the ‘Country party proposed, and as some members of the Country party are now members of the Cabinet, it is reasonable to suggest that if they admit that they received a mandate for the expenditure of £12,000,000 to assist rural rehabilitation, they should now endeavour to assist in making that amount available. Our amendment suggests tha,t amount, not that it is adequate, but because it is in conformity with the mandate which the Country party received from the electors. There is no doubt as to the urgency of this matter. Only “within the last fortnight strong deputations of wheatgrowers from various parts of Australia visited Canberra and discussed this subject with various parties in an endeavour to secure their immediate support in order to tide them over their difficulties. Our proposals at the polls were not limited to wheat-farmers, because practically all primary producers are in a similar position. I repeat what I have said on previous occasions that what applies to the wheat-growers applies also to the citrus fruit-growers who also have organized deputations to the Federal Government and to certain State Governments urging that immediate assistance be made available to help them out of their difficulties. In appealing on their behalf I do ‘so not only with a knowledge of the request made by these deputations, consisting of men connected with the industry, but also because I can speak with first-hand knowledge gained from some of my own people associated with it in Victoria. I can appreciate their troubles and problems and the pressing need for something to be done far them. We suggest in our amendment that the Government should immediately proceed to do that for which it has received a mandate.
The subject of pensions has already been disposed of by action taken a few days ago, but we’ feel that the time has arrived for the repeal of the financial emergency legislation in relation to wages and social services generally. If remissions of taxation can be made in so many directions, and with which I do not propose to deal to-night, we claim that the repeal of the financial emergency legislation should be general and that such repeal should apply not only in respect of pensions, but also to wages and social services generally.
I again direct attention to the large number of adult employees in the Postal Department, and in some other departments, who are not yet receiving the basic wage. The application of the financial emergency legislation is so general that we claim that the requests made from this corner of the chamber should be complied with. We have consistently taken this course because we have always been opposed to the inroads which have been made into our social services, and the sacrifices imposed upon those who have suffered so long. These disabilities should be removed. The object of the amendment is to direct attention to that fact, and to urge the Government to take immediate action.
The subject of war service homes has received considerable attention during the last few days, and I believe I am correct in saying that the present Minister intends to control the department instead of allowing it to be controlled by the Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioners. I am sure that that will be satisfactory to those interested in this particular activity. I admit that in my electorate the activities of this department are not nearly so extensive as in electorates represented by my colleagues and others whose interest in this regard has been manifested in this chamber. The position of some occupants of some war service homes is such that it is impossible for them to meet their payments on unnecessarily high capital values. Many occupants of war service homes are unemployed, or only partially employed, and many in the Public Service, railway men, tramway employees and others, have had their wages so reduced that, although they are in continuous employment, they are not now in a position to meet the conditions imposed when the contracts were entered into. The time has arrived for a re-appraisement of the capital values of war service homes, thus giving the occupants better opportunities to remain in possession. After all, these homes are more than mere bricks and mortar. There is a good deal of sentiment attached to them. Honorable members who have handled these cases have received first-hand information of the actual position. In many instances the properties were taken over in the belief that some day they would be owned by the purchasers, and they have been improved considerably by gardens and the provision of concrete footpaths, &c. All this has added to the value of them, and we can appreciate what it means to the occupiers to be compelled to give up their dwellings at a time when it is almost impossible to make a fresh start in life. I do not think it is too much to ask that generous consideration be extended to them, particularly when the circumstances have altered and fate generally has been against them. The time has arrived for a re-appraisement. If something is not done, eventually there will be a wholesale re-possession, and then I feel sure the general public will force the Government to take the steps I have suggested.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).If the honorable member proposes to move an amendment he should do so now, as his time has almost expired.
– I move-
That the item be reduced by 10a.
The carrying of that amendment would be regarded as an instruction to the Government to provide £10,000,000 immediately as a first contribution to the relief of the unemployed,, and £12,000,000 for rural rehabilitation. It would also be an instruction to repeal the provisions of the financial emergency legislation in relation to wages and social service cuts, and to arrange for a reduction of interest on war service homes, and a re-appraisement of their capital value. I commend these proposals to the favorable consideration of the Government, because I consider they cover the most pressing problems of the moment.
Mr.CASEY(Corio- Assistant Treasurer) [8.14]. - From time to time honorable members on this side of the chamber get a hint that honorable members associated with the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) are opposed to the policy and practice of this Government; but to-night we have noticed a softening attitude on their part. I for one take the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney as most flattering to the Government. In the main the amendment directs the Government to provide, presumably at an early date, £10,000,000 for the relief of unemployment, and £12,000,000 to assist rural rehabilitation. That, if it means anything at all, is the most flattering tribute to its credit that has ever been paid to a government by one normally in opposition to its policy. The State governments are this year borrowing about £21,000,000 for works, and the honorable member suggests that the Commonwealth ‘ should now immediately borrow an additional £22,000,000 for certain specified purposes. He must rank the credit of this Government very high when he believes that it would be possible to do that. That is why I say that I have noted a lessening of the acerbity that is usually displayed by the honorable member for West Sydney, a tendency which might become even more pronounced if the honorable member and his colleagues would compare the present credit of the Commonwealth Government with that of the Commonwealth Government in 1930, and of the Government of New South Wales at the same date under the leadership of the honorable member’s lord and master. At that time, although there was plenty of money available, as was demonstrated this afternoon by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), not one penny-piece could be borrowed either by the Commonwealth or the State Government from those who had savings deposited in the banks. That tells its own tale. To-day, the same people who have savings are prepared to lend millions of pounds to the Government for the prosecution of public works. They did not consider the governments which were in power in 1930 sufficiently trustworthy to have the handling of their money. Of course, there is a slight difference between the methods advocated by the honorable member for West Sydney and those employed by this Government, and from that we might obtain a hint as to why the people regard the present Government differently from that previously in office. The present Government relies upon borrowing from the public at the market rate, trusting to its own credit to raise the money at progressively declining rates of interest. When the lord and master of the group which has sponsored this amendment was in power in New South Wales, he produced what has become famous as the Lang plan. That plan had its principal point in what is known as the Lang rate of interest, namely, 3 per cent. Mr. Lang proposed to achieve that rate of interest by what I think it would not be an injustice to call strong-arm methods. We disagree with that method, and propose to adopt moreprosaic, and more honest ways of getting the interest rate down to 3 per cent.; and we have almost achieved it. The effective rate of interest on the present loan will be £3 0s. 5d. per cent. Moreover, I think it is well to remind honorable members that, at this moment, we are, through the Loan Council and with the assistance of Mr. Bruce, in the course of converting £14,500,000 worth of securities in England to a rate of interest amounting to £3 6s. per cent. Let me remind honorable members of the degree to which Australian credit, both in Australia and London, has improved in recent times. Since the last election - and I do not necessarily put this forward with the idea of gaining a political point - Australian credit in London has undergone a most radical change for the better. During a period of five weeks our securities have appreciated to an extent never before paralleled in the history of this country or of the London money market.
Our key loan, that is, the 3$ per cent, loan maturing in 1954-59, has shown an improvement since the 3rd September of nearly £7 per cent. Since the 15th October these securities have increased in value by more than £4. Twelve months ago the rate of interest at which we were able to borrow in Australia was £3 12s. 5d. ; six months ago it was £3 7s. 8d. ; while to-day we are able to obtain money at an effective rate of interest of £3 Os. 5d. per, cent., an improvement of 12s.. per cent, during twelve months.
Honorable members opposite suggest that we should not raise the money we need in the ordinary way, but that we should do something which they describe as “ exploiting our national credit “. I have given some thought to this matter, but do not know exactly what is meant by that phrase. I should like to be given some information as to the precise way in which we are to set about exploiting the national credit so that we may get money without paying interest. I do not want to accuse honorable members opposite of advocating anything so crude as mere inflation of the note issue. I do not think that they propose that the Government should- print an extra £22,000.000 of bank notes. Their methods are more subtle than that. Presumably, they advocate an issue of treasury-bills at a nominal rate of interest. They may have other methods in mind “of which I know nothing,’ but it seems to me that they propose to raise the money, not on the open market in the orthodox, normal and usual way, but by exploiting this so-called national credit to get the money out of the Commonwealth Bank for nothing. I do not believe for a moment that the people of Australia favour that policy. That method of “ snide “ finance was once and for all tinned down by the people at the last election, at which the issue was, to an extent never previously witnessed, one of finance and credit. No candidate who supported these methods of “snide” finance received the endorsement of the electorate. The present Government, by pursuing a policy of honest finance, has so improved the credit of the country that, whereas it was impossible to raise money at all in 1930, it can now be borrowed in large sums at a rate of interest as low as 3 per cent. The credit of Australia under the present Government is at a very high level; its credit under the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments of 1930 was nil. The present Government has its plans and proposals, and as soon as they are formulated they will be brought before the House. In the meantime, we do not propose to be diverted from our purpose by an amendment which has been introduced purely for party political reasons.
.- Before dealing directly with the amendment I should like to congratulate the Opposition on the accession of debating strength that it has received by the return of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin). I think we were all charmed this afternoon when listening to the attractive way in which he wove his insidious camouflage of figures. When one contrasts that ability to put forward calculations attractively with the bullatagate financial methods suggested by the amendment of the Leader of the New South Wales contingent of the Labour party, one realizes how much the Opposition has gained by the return of the honorable member for Fremantle. At present the committee is considering and discussing the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) who is the deputy in this Parliament for the gentleman whom the Assistant Treasurer has described as the lord and master of the Lang group. The honorable member for West Sydney has moved that the proposed vote should be reduced by 10s. as an intimation to the Government that it should immediately double its provision for rural rehabilitation and unemployment relief. The Assistant Treasurer very clearly and effectively pointed out what a great compliment that proposal was to the financial record of the present. Government, and of the one which immediately preceded it. The sheer idiocy of some honorable members who would rush at this business in a haphazard manner, supplies the principal reason for the few observations which I propose to make to the Committee. The Government is pledged to a scheme of rural rehabilitation, and as an earnest of its sincerity, the House was last night asked to vote the first instalment of funds for the initiation of proposals which the Government has in mind.
Some, honorable members are complaining that the Ministry has not submitted a cut-and-dried scheme for the approval of Parliament. I, however, suggest that. a considerable amount of preliminary research and preparation are necessary to ensure the soundness of the schemes submitted. The Government’s method of approach to this intricate problem is in marked contrast with the “bullatagate “ proposals put forward by the honorable member for West Sydney in imitation of his leader outside, who has done so much to increase the difficulties of those governments which now are considering measures to give effective relief alike to the rural and industrial sections of our people.
Let us consider first this Government’s rural rehabilitation proposals. The Ministry has made it quite clear that the schemes must have some flexibility; that they must be varied to suit the different conditions in the various States. A proposal which may be effective in a State like Western Australia, which has practically no protected primary products, such as the sugar industry in Queensland, must necessarily be on a different basis from one likely to give the best results in the northern State. It is also vitally important to primary producers that all the money allocated for their relief shall be expended in such a way as to give 20s. worth of value for every fi that is laid out.
Listening to the speeches of some honorable members one would imagine that the expenditure of a few additional millions is neither here nor there; that the right thing to do is to pour out money quickly without regard to the manner in which it is disbursed. We must, however, realize that there is only a limited amount available, so that if it is to afford permanent relief to the greatest possible number of primary producers the schemes upon which it is expended must stand the closest scrutiny. I have only to remind the Committee of one matter upon which there is some uncertainty in the public mind - it was mentioned by the honorable member for West Sydney - the burden of debt which the wheat commission estimated is weighing so heavily upon the wheat-farmers of Australia. Different proposals emanating from different quarters have been made for the permanent relief of this industry, but until the wheat commission places all the facts before Parliament and makes its recommendations, this House will not be able to form an opinion as to how the money shall be allocated. In the meantime a number of proposals have been brought forward, including the amazingly stingy “scheme submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition this afternoon, namely a home” price of 4s. a bushel f.o.b. for that proportion of the wheat consumed in Australia. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was asked twice if he really meant 4s. f.o.b., and he replied in the affirmative. Do honorable members realize that 4s. f.o.b. is not more than 3s. 4d. a bushel at railway sidings? If that is the best maximum home price which can be suggested for that proportion of the wheat consumed in Australia, the average increase of price to wheat-growers will not be much more than 2d. a bushel for the whole of this season’s marketable crop.
I do not wish to belittle the importance of the proposal made by the official Opposition, but I invite honorable members to compare it with those suggested by members of the Country party, by myself, and by members of the Government. I remind the committee, however, that until the wheat commission has considered all the facts, and has submitted its report to Parliament, it is impossible for us to decide what shall be the contribution from the public funds towards either a lowering of wheat-growers’ costs, or a reduction of the heavy debt burden upon the industry, in order to put the majority of wheatfarmers upon their feet again. As several honorable members have said, the wheat industry is not the only section of primary production that requires assistance, but it has been the subject of a more searching investigation than has been made in respect of fruit-growing or any other branch of rural industry.
Several of the States are already providing various forms of farm relief, but it is in the interests of the farmers generally and also of the taxpayers that the pouring out of public money should be delayed until there has been presented to this Parliament a well-considered and effective proposal which will be really helpful to all sections of rural industry.
The same may be said of proposals for the relief of the unemployed. Many schemes for the construction of public works have been brought forward. State governments, public corporations and municipal bodies provide a large number of essential services, all of which in normal times give employment to a considerable number of wage-earners. In a country like Australia it is highly desirable that there should be continuous capital expenditure upon the extension of essential services to meet the expanding needs of a growing population. This is particularly true as regards water supply and sewerage schemes for our larger country towns and great cities. Therefore, it is most important that the national credit should be ‘maintained at a high level so that, in times of stress, when private enterprise is unable to maintain its usual volume of employment, the problem will not be intensified by a slackening off of public expenditure on capital works. On the contrary, at such times governments should be able to continue their share of the capital expenditure and thus ease the situation. We have only to recall the events of the last few years to realize the truth of this axiom. The Assistant Treasurer has just reminded the committee of the difficulties encountered in 1930 and 1931 owing to the inability of the Federal Government to raise money. What happened then forcefully demonstrated the paramount necessity for the maintenance of credit in order to provide continuous employment on extensions of essential services. I well remember, when the honorable member for West Sydney was a member of the Scullin Government, the dismissal of thousands of temporary employees in the Postal Department. At that time the Government was unable to obtain money, and the general position was accentuated because private business firms were curtailing expenditure on telephone or similar services. At the same time other people were anxious to obtain telephone services, but because of the lack of finance were compelled to go without them. I brought before the Ministry a number of requests from my constituency, but as the Government was unable to finance them, they were refused. Government credit at that time was so bad that the Postal Department was not able even to erect a single telephone pole for new telephone services.
Although the Government to-day may not be able to provide the necessary funds for all telephone services required, it is able to set aside a certain portion of capital expenditure for these services and make provision for new connexions. This is what good credit means. It means that when private business is languishing, a government having the confidence of the people can, at any rate, keep up its end of capital expenditure on essential services. For example, in South Australia the State Government is now engaged on the construction of a new reservoir for the City of Adelaide. Similar expenditures on essential services are being undertaken in New South Wales, in Victoria, and I assume, in other States also. If the credit of a government is good, it can obtain the money at a reasonable rate of interest for the extension of services in normal times, and when depression strikes a country it can maintain a fair volume of expenditure and relieve the pressure on private enterprise. It is re-assuring to know that th« Government is now in this satisfactory position that it is able to raise the necessary money for the rehabilitation of our rural industry.
In regard to the amendment I know that the committee will not be led astray by the bluff of the honorable member for West Sydney. I also feel confident that neither- the farmers nor the public generally will misunderstand the action of the Government in making sure that the money, which it proposes to raise, will be wisely expended. The essence of sound government is to see that all public expenditure incurred will confer the greatest benefit on the people generally.
.- I had not intended to take part in this debate, and I should not have done so if the
Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) had been fair enough to listen to a correction which I was prepared to make by way of interjection while he was addressing the committee. It is, however, necessary that I should have something to say, because the honorable gentleman misquoted figures dealing with public accounts of this country. It was a most reprehensible attitude for an Assistant Treasurer to adopt. When the honorable gentleman made the statement -that the Commonwealth in 1930 was not able to raise one shilling, I interjected and said that we raised scores of millions in conversion loans and many millions of new money for works. He now explains, by interjection, that he meant to refer to the year 1931. His criticism of that year can be answered too, but I take his definite statement that he would not even pause to enable a correction to be made. I have examined the figures set out in the budget for 1934-35, and I invite honorable members to turn to pages 111 and 112, where they will see how much reliance can be placed upon this expert Assistant Treasurer, who claims all the credit for the restoration of confidence since this Government came into office. My Government took office at the end of 1929, after the Bruce-Page Government had lost its credit in London; in fact, it had not been able to raise a penny in London since January, 1929, and even prior to that large previous loans for months had been left in the hands of the underwriters. Its credit had been stopped months before my Government took office. What about their confidence then ? My Government faced the avalanche of the first blow of this depression, and was loaded down like Atlas carrying the world upon his shoulders with the burden of debt accumulated by i lie Bruce-Page Government over seven years. In 1930, we had to face a conversion of £7S,000,000. It had been the biggest loan floated in the history of the Commonwealth, raised under the pall of the war period, and requiring’ conversion in the midst of the blizzard of depression which was blowing over this country. But we raised that money. On the 3rd February, 1930, taking time by the forelock, we floated a loan. The amount subscribed was £48,221,000. True, as the
Assistant Treasurer may say, that money was for conversion; but if there was no credit or confidence in the Government of the day there would have been no conversion. The sum of £7,000,000 was raised in cash, and the balance by conversion into the new loan. What is the use of trying to bluff this Parliament as the Government bluffed the electors that confidence was restored by a change of government ? We faced the responsibilities of government in the darkest hours of Australia’s crisis, and at least I expect a little decency and fair play from those who have reaped the benefits of what was done. In June, 1930, my Government again went on the market for a loan of £10,000,000 for “works,” but in the prospectus we added the words “ and conversion,” with the idea of getting whatever extra money we could to provide for the remainder of the loan falling due in December, 1930. In the budget there is no dissection of the figures, but, speaking from memory, I think the whole of the £10,000,000 was for works. What was the result? An amount of £12,441,000 was subscribed, and that in a year when we were supposed to have lost the confidence of the people, and had no credit. The statement of the Assistant Treasurer that there was then in power a government which had not the confidence of the people is not the way to maintain the confidence of the people, although it might be a way to secure votes. I have lost whatever ambitions I ever had to reach the highest position in Australia, but I love my country, and I believe in maintaining its credit. Nothing can endanger the credit of this country more than a statement that a change of government would bring a loss of confidence. At the last election the aggregate figures of votes polled against the present Government disclose that but for the second preferences of Communist and independent candidates this Government would not have a majority of electors behind it. The people know that there is always an alternative government to this, a government formed from this side of the House. Whatever may be the views of the electors, I suggest that it strikes a deadly blow at the credit of this country to tell them that if that alternative comes about credit will be destroyed. Towards the end of 1930 I was abroad. Mr. Fenton and Mr. Lyons were acting in my place and they went to the country for the balance of the conversion loan and it was subscribed. All credit has been given to the present Prime Minister for having done that, but I remind honorable members that I was then Prime Minister of Australia, my Government was in office, and the principal appeal to the people went out in my name cabled from abroad. I take not one ounce of credit from the present Prime Minister for the part he played in that conversion. He did his work as Acting Treasurer of Australia; he did it well and the people of Australia generously responded to it. But it was an appeal made in the name of the Labour Government and I was its leader. We cleaned up the conversion which was like a mountain over our heads. We secured £78,000,000 plus £12,000,000, or in all £90,000,000 in the year 1930, the year during which, according to the Assistant Treasurer, we could not raise a shilling in Australia. I submit that the record of the Labour Government in that year is a certificate of confidence in the credit of the nation and of the Government which was then in office.
On the question of works the Assistant Treasurer will find that the Commonwealth and the States expended on public works during the year ended June, 1930, the sum of £30,000,000. Since then the highest amount spent on works has been £25,000,000 in the year ended June, 1934.During the last five years the amount raised by my Government represented the largest expenditure of money on public works by Commonwealth and States.
The price of stocks is referred to as proof of the restoration of confidence. There are two aspects of that which arc well worth noticing, and this House should not be deceived by any juggling with figures, or “camouflaging” of figures, to use the word employed by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker). There has been no “camouflaging” of the figures by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), who is as straight as a die and neither misunderstands nor misquotes figures. He has never been guilty in this House of that of which the Assistant Treasurer has been guilty to-night. There was a period in the history of the world when people generally -lost faith in the ability of governments to meet their obligations. In Germany, in France, in England, and in other parts of the world, this lack of faith manifested itself, but Australia was the country to experience the first blast of the depression. Before J left for London a few people in Australia had met and advocated the repudiation of Australian debts. When I arrived in London I found the newspapers bearing great streamer headlines “ Australia will repudiate. “ I addressed a meeting of 2,000 people representative of commercial, banking and financial institutions gathered in London, and I made protests in the name of Australia against the slandering of my country. I pointed out that Australia had paid every penny of its debt, but that right at their door were English people who had loaned money to France and were repaid at one-fifth of the value of the loan because they had invested in a franc loan and not in a sterling loan. The newspapers made reference to this in a twoinch paragraph-, but used streamer headlines to refer to the fact that Australia would repudiate.
– Was that the Lang repudiation?
– These statements were published in the Tory press of Great Britain and were emphasized by utterances of Tory politicians here. But what happened? When one State did not pay its oversea debt, my Government paid it, though it had to raise the money in all the difficult circumstances I have mentioned to finance it. It is true that in that period, when nobody knew the future of this country, people Jost faith and the value of our stocks in Australia went down to less than £80. Overseas, our stocks went to a lower figure and in the United States of America still lower, because those countries knew not the spirit of the Australian people. The price of these stocks was quoted in a public speech in Sydney by the present Prime Minister, who said that within a few days after the elections in 1931 stocks which stood at £70 rose to over £90. What the right honorable gentleman did not mention was that during the four months prior to my Government vacating office the value of our stocks had risen from about £70 to £90, and that a restoration of confidence had already taken place in Australia in the ability of the Government to meet its obligations. That revival of confidence arose from the wonderfully successful conversion loan of £550,000,000 floated on the Australian market by my Government in 1931. Confidence in this country was restored before the change of Government was effected. It is true that the price of our stocks has kept on rising; but as the honorable member for Fremantle has pointed out, this has taken place because of the lack of other avenues for solvent investment. The Assistant Treasurer put up a very paltry and petty case when he said just now that even within the last six weeks the credit of Australia had improved. If that statement is correct, I ask him what was wrong with the Government which was in office for the previous two and a half years?
– It must be because the “ Tragic Treasurer “ is back.
– It may be contended that because he was looming into sight the prospect before Australia was brighter, and that a composite government would restore confidence to a greater extent than was possible when the Lyons Government, consisting entirely of United Australia party members, was in office Personally, -I do not believe that that is the reason, for I do not think that the change of government has had anything to do with it at all. The restoration of confidence began with the magnificent response to the conversion loan to which I have just referred. Australia then showed a capacity to pay, and a willingness to make adjustments in its finances in order to meet its obligations. The making of those adjustments seared my very soul, and I shall carry the mark to my grave. Yet not one word of credit comes from the lips of the honorable member who has reaped the benefits of my Government’s sowing. Verily the sower went forth weeping. One would expect at least a generous gesture from the Minister, but none is forthcoming.
The price of our stocks is nothing to boast about; it is due to a lack of enterprise, and the absence of any other outlet because of the continuation of the depression. The Assistant Treasurer is young in office. I have complimented him, not to his face, but to others, on the strides that he has made in grasping the intricacies of the office that he holds; but I advise him not to be so quick to destroy the credit of another government which faced the darkest hours of. Australian history.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. No doubt the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) is technically within his rights in taking advantage of a slip of the tongue, by which the year 1930 was inadvertently used instead of 1931. The mistake should have been clear to every member of the House, because, in addition to mentioning the year, I referred to the fact that it was the year in which the Lang Government in New South Wales was coincident with the Scullin Government in the Commonwealth.
– The honorable gentleman said that later, but not at the time.
– I admit that I was in error in mentioning the year 1930, but I submit that no reasonable person was left in doubt as to the year to which I referred, because of my mentioning the coincidence of the Lang and the Scullin governments.
With regard to the right honorable gentleman’s plea that I was wrong in having represented his Government as being a credit destroyer, and that it was doing a disservice to this country to make it known to the world that there was a possibility that, at some future time - happily I believe, some distant time - a Labour government might again be in power in the Commonwealth, I suggest that he should not have gone to the country with schemes for credit spinning, because it is in that way that the people outside Parliament gain the impression
Further remarks inaudible owing to disorder.
– Tie problems confronting us may be divided into two parts. First, we have to recognize that Australia has certain external obligations which, if I read the world situation correctly, may increase during the next few years. I shall not deal with that aspect to-night, but shall confine myself to problems of an internal nature. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has dealt with the wheat industry, and I shall not repeat what he said except to say that, in my opinion, one of the greatest problems of reconstruction confronting the Government is that affecting the primary industries of Australia. With all respect to the various groups which are commonly denominated “ Labour “, I point out that there will be no rehabilitation of industry, and no re-employment of men who are to-day out of work, until the primary producers of this country are again in a position to produce at a profit.
– Will the honorable member tell us how that can be done?
– I am in the habit of making my speeches in my own way. In my short experience in this Parliament I have not heard a constructive proposal from the honorable member for East Sydney. The Commonwealth is in the happy position of having a surplus year after year, whereas most, if not all, the States are forced to budget; for deficits. In order to understand the position we must examine the various fields of taxation and the responsibilities of Federal and State Governments. The Commonwealth has access to great sources of revenue; It alone of the governments of Australia has the right to impose customs and excise duties, sales tax, primage and other charges; yet it has not hesitated to trespass upon the preserves allowed to the States under the Federal Constitution. The result is that taxpayers throughout Australia have to pay two income taxes, two land taxes, and, until recently, two entertainment taxes. The State Governments are heavily handicapped because of the disabilities with which they are faced as a result of what many in the smaller States believe to be a wrong application of the principles under which the six States originally federated.
Another thing which severely affects the finances of the smaller States is the administration of the tariff. Every State is committed to expenditure in connexion with public works and is responsible for the development of the land within its own borders ; yet the Commonwealth Government collects customs revenue on the materials which are used in connexion with State instrumentalities. The result is that money borrowed for State purposes appears in the finances of the States as loans, but in the statements of the Commonwealth Government as revenue. The States are at the further disadvantage of having to find interest and sinking fund on money which, in the accounts of the Commonwealth, is regarded as revenue. These payments constitute one of the chief disabilities of the States to-day. The time is fast approaching when the Commonwealth will be forced into a new financial relationship with the States.
I approach -the subject of banking and credit with some diffidence because I am a farmer, not a banker. Nevertheless, I have been engaged in a number of financial transactions, and when I hear statements such as I have heard in this chamber from some members of the Opposition, I am led to ask myself whether they ever think about these things at all, and, if so, whether they think along right lines. Listening to some honorable members of the Opposition, one would imagine that there was an inexhaustible reservoir of credit, upon which governments could draw at will without diminishing the supply; or, that credit was a kind of patent medicine, done up in bottles and supplied in doses to suit tastes.
– And labelled “ CP. Dope “.
– If this debate were a matter of bandying wit across the chamber, I would probably prove not an unworthy antagonist of the honorable member; but we have more serious matters before us to-night. If the honorable member desires it, I may visit bis electorate. The last election was largely fought on the subject of credit.
– Now we shall hear the last word.
– So long as the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is alive, we shall never hear the last word. And probably after he has departed this life, his ghost will return to haunt this chamber and remind us of what we have heard from the honorable member during the last week or two. The subject of credit is an important one ; but unfortunately, many of those who discuss it, either wittingly or unwittingly, destroy the real credit of the community. So long as there is a large body of public opinion organized into a political party which preaches the doctrine that inexhaustible supplies of credit and cash can be obtained from nowhere, and for nothing, the foundations of a stable credit cannot be laid. I wonder sometimes why honorable members opposite who apparently have such faith in the doctrines they preach, do not put their faith into practice. I remind them that an ounce of experience is worth a ton of theory. “We are told that the Commonwealth Bank can provide funds, almost without limit, for the construction of public works If funds to the amount of many millions can be found for that . purpose, why cannot the Commonwealth Bank buy up the public debt? If the theories of my friends opposite are sound, there is no reason why the Commonwealth and State debts should not be . wiped out by the utilization of credit over a short period of years. Then we should find the taxpayers the possessors of their own liabilities, from which they would be drawing interest, on the average, at the rate of 33/4 per cent. ; they would be in the fortunate position of having £550,000,000 or £600,000,000 at present owed to the holders of Australian bonds, and would be able to let that money out at interest rates of from 11/2 per cent. to 2 per cent. If the Commonwealth Bank could do things of that kind, we should soon be receiving enough interest on the public debt to do away with the necessity for taxation, and, as a Highland Scotsman, I can assure honorable members that I would gladly live in a country in which there was no taxation, and where the government paid a dividend. But I am sure that that happy state of affairs will not arise during the reign of any government which comes from the parties at present constituting the Opposition. I have too lively a recollection of the financial follies of certain gentlemen who distinguished themselves during the regimes of the Scullin and Lang administrations. I need not refer to any individuals other than a gentleman now absent from this chamber, who could . be designated Baron Mungana, and another who controls a few things somewhere in Sydney.
This subject of public credit has another interesting aspect. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) was righteously angry a few moments ago in regard to the record and honour of” the Government which he led, or which, perhaps., drove him for about two years. It stands to reason that, as the debt of a community or an individual increases, the capacity to borrow more money must decrease, and the people who lend it will demand a higher rate of interest. I contend that the Bruce-Page Government was not guilty of the financial misdeeds usually charged against it by the Opposition; but it did all in its power to put the brake on the wild and foolish expenditure of the parliaments of the six States of Australia. It was only natural that the rate of interest would rise as the public debt was increased. We experienced that state of affairs long before the Bruce-Page Government went out of office, when there could have been no reasonable imputation of overborrowing on the part of that Government. I recall that the Queensland Government was no longer able to borrow in London or Australia, but inaugurated the system of borrowing in New York in dollars, because it could not obtain money in sterling either in Australia or London. I believe that the rate of interest paid by that Government for the first of these loans was about 7 per cent. It was not floated at par, but at a fairly considerable discount to people, usually known as Shylocks, who reside in Wall-street.
Whenwe talk of the credit of the community, let us recognize another fact. Honorable members speak of our inexhaustible credit; yet do they ever realize that we have already pledged the credit of the governments of Australia to the amount of something like £1,200,000,000, and that there is hardly a local governing body, a city council, ahospital. a racing or golf club, or any other public or semi-public institution that has not its load of debt?
– Is that not a great tribute to the capitalistic system?
– I do not know that there is very muchwrongwith that system, although there is a good deal wrong with some of its very voluble critics. The Old Book contains the injunction “ Physician, heal thyself “, and on this occasion one might advise the honorable member to commence his conversion endeavours nearer home. In addition to our public commitments, it must be recognized that practically every individual or firm engaged in primary or secondary production has a load of financial responsibilities. All these things, taken cumulatively, show that the credit of the Commonwealth, public and private, collective and individual, has already fallen to a considerable extent. Instead of trying to increase the public debt to the highest possible level, every care should be exercised by the custodians of the public purse to keep public commitments down to a minimum. I was a member of a State Parliament when the Premiers plan was implemented. I was a critic of that famous instrument, not because I did not believe that credit should be restored, but because I thought that the problem had been tackled in thewrong way.However, it is of no use to cry over spilt milk. But if theworld prices of wool, wheat, meat, wine, fruit, and minerals are not soon restored to higher levels, we shall have other financial difficulties to face in regard to the payment of interest in our own country.
When I look at the Opposition benches I see several rather decentlooking faces, and I believe thatwhen the times comes the Labour party will not fail us. I have a fair amount of faith in the Federal Labour party. I recognize that in that party Ave have the human raw material out ofwhich this side of the House fashions its most able and distinguished Prime Ministers. If a crisis arises in this country again, I feel certain that Ave shall only have to offer the opportunities, or - to make it quite brutal - the price, and the Labour partywill respond.
– I rise to a point of order. The observation of the honorable gentleman is a gross reflection upon the honesty of the Prime Minister and other ex-members of the Labour party. The honorable gentleman deliberately stated that the governmental side had been tremendously strengthened by exmembers of the Labour party.
– What is the point of order? Is the statement of the honorable member for Barker offensive to the honorable member for Batman?
– Yes. It is a reflection on a right honorable member, and especially on a group of honorable members. The imputation that honorable members have been bought to occupy distinguished positions in the ranks of the United Australia party, and that prices may be offered sufficient to buy other honorable members on this side, is a gross reflection on the House as awhole, and I ask that the honorable member be called upon to withdraw the remark.
– If the statement is true, let it stand.
– If the Prime Minister sold out, let it go at that.
– There is no point of order.
– Satan reproving sin is a mere circumstance comparedwith the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) accusing honorable members on this side ofwild assertions. The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) effectively dealtwith his misstatements in regard to other matters, but said that the Minister required education, and I now propose to give it to him. He said there were tons of money in this country, and the bankswere bursting with it. I desire to know approximately the amount of moneywhich the banks are willing to lend to any government whose credit is sound. According to their deposits on current account, the banks, by the laws of this country, should owe their depositors £100,000,000; but they would not have £15,000,000 if they were called upon tomorrow morning to repay the deposits. The honorable gentleman says that the banks are bursting with money which they are ready to lend to anybody who can offer sufficient security, but if he studies the relevant statistics in the Commonwealth Tear-Booh, he will find that under the law of this country, the banks owe their depositors a debt of £100,000,000, whereas they have not got £15,000,000 in their coffers to pay that debt. Where is the vast amount of money of which the Assistant Treasurer spoke so loosely? What does he mean exactly, when he talks about money in that fashion ? There is not £52,000,000 of real money in all Australia. Ordinarily, when a man speaks of “ tons of money,” the impression conveyed to the public mind is that he is referring to quantities of silver and copper coins, and bank-notes. He claims that we on this side of the House talk wildly of the expansion of credit. We contend that money means practically nothing else but credit, and if he refers to the Commonwealth YearBooh, as I have suggested, he will find that contention borne out. To-day in this country that credit is controlled by the bankers. The bulk of our currency is represented by bank cheques. Every country in the world depends on that form of currency; yet the honorable gentleman talks about the banks bursting with money! The banks, I state emphatically, are defaulters. Every bank in any country in the world would close its doors, as they are bound to do at some time in the future, if their depositors in a body tried to withdraw the whole of their deposits. I object to the honorable gentleman coming here as a special pleader for these institutions which have played ducks and drakes with the financial system of every country in the world. Bankers are modern buccaneers and pirates operating in the financial sphere. Their operations are such that if Mrs. Kelly were alive to-day she would not* allow Ned to play with them. When the honorable gentleman attacked the policy of the Labour party, he cited figures in support of his case. Why does he not fortify statistically his support of the banks? Possibly, he could make another personal explanation to reveal more convincingly the mighty strength of these institutions whose vaults, he says, are bursting with money. They have no money; their money is a phantom. The official figures supplied by these institutions themselves reveal that fact. The honorable gentleman claims that we on this side advocate further borrowing on the credit of the Government. We do not. Members of this party, at least, have enunciated a policy for this country, and have explained to the Australian people from the public platforms that unless they are prepared to demand a reconstruction of the financial system, and a managed economy nationally .controlled, this country will go bankrupt, and our civilization will disappear. Unless the people in this and every other country are prepared to bend their intelligence to this problem, and properly manage production and consumption, on the basis of a reformed monetary system, they are only burying their heads, ostrich-like, in the sand, and saying like the Bourbons, “ after us the deluge.” The deluge may engulf them before they have time to bury their heads. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) attempted to read into this amendment something which is not in it. Half of his speech was devoted to showing us the hopelessness and impossibility of capitalistic society. He quoted figures which I have often quoted myself in another way. His address will certainly suit me as an excellent exposition of the hopelessness of the present social and economic system. Yet he said there must be no change in that system. We find an astonishing paradox when we study the economic conditions of the world at the present time. In every country we see wonderful monuments standing to man’s intelligence and genius applied in every activity of life, except in the financial sphere. Man has achieved magnificent engineering feats, and has applied his constructive genius to combat the dangers of natural forces. He has made .himself as secure as is humanly possible against flood and fire, and other ravages., hut when he is faced with what the Leader of the Opposition described as the blizzard of depression, he refuses to face realities. Instead, he chooses to adopt measures which must surely make that blizzard more destructive. The party of which I am a member proposes to meet the blizzard by instituting a managed economy for mankind, so that it may no longer be said that man has used his intelligence to meet his difficulties in all spheres of life, except in finance. Man solved the production problem long ago; distribution constitutes his great economic problem to-day. We must exploit our national credit which the honorable member for Barker has described as something nebulous. How did we raise our war loans? How did this country raise over £450,000,000 by loan and spend another £350,000,000 out of revenue for war purposes at a time when the total money in the country did not exceed £60,000,000? Where did that vast sum of money come from? How could we have raised it ‘if it came only from something nebulous although it be termed “ national credit. “ As a matter of fact the country operates on national credit when it uses cheques as a medium of currency. Yet the honorable gentleman says that we must not follow a similar course in national finance, because it will result in increasing the national debt. But what is the national debt? It is nothing but pieces of paper called bonds, mere credit instruments which to-day are currency operating through the channels of our economic system. They are controlled by the bankers and on them the people pay interest. Out of the £82,000,000 raised by taxation from the people of Australia, £63,000,000 is used in paying interest on the national debt. The bits of paper called bonds are written commitments which the Government undertakes to meet. But behind them is nothing but the national credit and the national income of this country, and, my party says, this national credit is equally sound when used to guarantee figures written in a Commonwealth Bank book. We contend that we can create credit and that therefore we can wipe out £35,000,000 of the interest bill of £63,000,000 which we owe to-day under our obligations to redeem various bonds, and employ that amount of credit to a better purpose in the development of industry and in the interests of the community generally.
– I will give you figures if you will undertake to pay interest on them.
– We are paying interest on them. The wealth was destroyed on the battlefields of Europe.
– That represented only a fraction of the debt.
– The total national debt of Australia is about £1,200,000,000. We spent for war purposes £450,000,000, which we raised by loan, and an additional £350,000,000 which was derived from revenue. These figures represent £800,000,000 of our total national debt. We were borrowing to carry on national services and public works which could have been financed from revenue, but for the war.
Under the procedure obtaining in this House, honorable gentlemen find it easy to have recorded in Mansard gibes directed against men who have given much time and thought to the solution of this problem. I remind honorable gentlemen who take advantage of this procedure that there are the public platforms in their own electorates and in mine, on which they can debate this question, and where they can face the bar of public opinion. Let them go on those platforms and try to prove to the people that we are cranks and humbugs. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) gave very cogent reasons why the amendment specified sums of money. Those sums were not conceived by us; they are hopelessly inadequate for the purposes for which it is proposed to allocate them, but we adopted them because they are the Government’s figures and because we are not satisfied that the Government really intends to spend even that amount of money. Instead, it seems anxious to leave these matters in the air and secure an adjournment, hoping to rush away after having given nothing more tangible than its promises. The Government intends apparently to secure an early adjournment so that the Prime Minister may go to England and the House he shut up, sitting only for a couple of months each year, as it has been doing during the last two and a half years. In this amendment we are trying to tie the Government down to a definite undertaking to spend this money not next month, or in the middle of the next financial year, but immediately, in order to ensure that these national works will definitely be proceeded with.
I intend to recall events of the last few years in order to explain the origin of the present economic blizzard which struck Australia with such force. Why was this blizzard, through the action of big financial interests in London, concentrated on Australia whilst other dominions, comparatively speaking, escaped it? These big capitalists in Britain do not represent the British people, but consist of a hybrid breed of internationals of all classes, colours and creeds, whose one aim is that Australia shall remain nothing more than a wheat field or a sheep walk, for the production of raw materials to be manufactured by black labour in overseas factories, into articles which will be sent back to us to buy. This onslaught against Australia by London financial interests started in 1927 with a visit to this country by Sir Ernest Harvey as a representative of the Bank of England. He was followed a few months later by the Big Four, led by Sir Arthur Duckett. These gentlemen enunciated a policy, not for Great Britain or any other country, but for -us. We are in the economic position in which Ave find ourselves to-day mainly because we were too cowardly to enunciate land operate a policy on our own behalf and allowed any globetrotter or mountebank to force one on us. The policy which the visitors cnunciated involved a lowering of tariffs, a lessening of the cost of production, and the sacrifice of some of our living conditions. I, in my humble way, together with other members of the Labour party, tried to awaken public conscience to the danger of this policy of reduced wages and of greater production at lower costs. Just after it was enunciated, the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Bruce, believing that the public mind was prepared for it, attempted to abolish Commonwealth arbitration, so that the employer could be free to depress the economic standards of the worker to whatever depths suited him. The right honorable gentleman wa3 defeated, and for a little while the onslaught on the workers was suspended. Then, in 1931, Australia was visited by Sir Otto Niemeyer and Herr Guttenheimer who afterwards changed his name to “ Gregory “. Unlike some honorable members, who yesterday seemed to derive pleasure from parading the name of a certain gentleman, a foreign name does not “worry me a scrap. We then had forced on us a policy that was forced on Austria by means of the sword. In the role of conquerors, the financial interests of the allied countries sent to Austria - a defeated and disorganized nation - Sir Otto Niemeyer, who propounded in relation to that country an economic policy which in essence was the same as the Premiers plan that was forced on Australia, the only difference being that it was accepted by Australia, in which the minds of the people had been chloroformed by the public press and the stupid propaganda of honorable members opposite. Early in his visit, Sir Otto Niemeyer said that Australia could stew in its own juice if it did not care to do what he told it to do. A great deal has been said about default and repudiation. In 1920, the British Government told us that if we did not fund within a few months a floating debt of £80,000,000 we should be branded as a defaulter. That action was dictated by the financiers of England, by whom the people of that country as well as of Australia are kept in subjection. They demanded and obtained an interest rate of 5^ per cent, while they were accommodated in the United States of America at 3£ per cent. This threat of a financial squeeze, and of being posted as a defaulter, forced us to implement the Premiers plan, which has now been in operation for four years. The savage in the islands bows his head to the witch doctor. We bow our heads to the financiers, who are the “ medicine men “ of our civilization. I regret that this Parliament no longer has the benefit of the counsel of the ex-member for Bourke, Mr. Anstey, who has accurately described the position in which we find ourselves to-day. Men and women are starving in a, world of plenty. The great Bishop of Goulburn (Dr. Burgmann) has drawn a pen picture of a man hungry and cold, with a ragged blanket for covering, throwing himself down to sleep in the shade of a silo bursting with the staple food of life. That is the final achievement, the greatest manifestation, of our boasted system of capitalism. ‘To those who jeer at us but have never yet been game to stand before the bar of public opinion or meet us in the political bull ring, we say that all the misery, want and desolation, all the horrors of the years 1914 to 1913, are the result of a system to which they cling with the tenacity of fanatics, and not of any policy that we have brought into operation. It is for them to explain how we are to escape from our predicament, under a system which has been responsible for all the distress.
Every economist who supported the Premiers plan ha3 since recanted. All have admitted that they were false prophets. The “ more production “ maniac who was once the Prime Minister of this country, upon his return to Australia after a visit to Great Britain, yelled from the housetops and screeched through the microphone, “ For God’s sake stop production!” What is advocated to-day is rejected to-morrow. I am reminded of a dog chasing its tail, running round in circles. I have always represented in this Parliament what can be described as a rural constituency, although it contains a number of industrial centres from which I obtain a good deal of support. The day is fast approaching when the primary producers of this country will realise who are their true friends. If honorable members opposite remain on the treasury bench much longer, the primary producers will arm themselves with guns and threaten revolution, as was done in the United States of America. We have been talking for days about finding markets for our primary products. We want to send more of our meat to Great Britain, and a bigger proportion of our surplus wheat into Japan or somewhere else in the East. Wo want markets everywhere. Yet we are following a policy which is depriving us of the best market the primary producers could have. We are whittling down the pur chasing power of our people. If they were given a proper wage, all our butter, eggs, meat, and milk would bo disposed of. We should hardly need to worry even about the wheat problem. There must be an ascertainment of the cost of production of our primary products. We can ascertain the cost of producing a bushel of wheat, a pound of wool, a pound of butter, and a gallon of milk. Having done that, we must fix the price at which they may be sold, allowing for proper control under scientific methods that will best promote progressive development. The price fixed must be such as will allow the farmer to obtain an adequate return, and secure him against the possibility of ‘being at the mercy of some Shylock money-lender. There should be representatives of the Government in every country in which Australian primary products may be sold, whose sole duty should be to keep us in touch with market conditions, so that our wool-growers, for example, would not be at the mercy of international rings, which fix the price of their wool and will not allow them to obtain world parity.
An Honorable MEMBER - The brokers fix the price.
– Not at all. It is fixed by international buyers. The price is that which they determine to give for it. A wool auction is to them a mere game. They indulge in the game of makebelieve just as we did as boys. They bid against one another, but only after having fixed the price and broken up the lots of wool according to the individual requirements of each international buyer. If honorable members opposite are not aware of that then I am surprised at their ignorance. Almost every child knows of the joke of splitting wool lots, and the so-called sales of wool by auction. We are told that rayon and manufactures of wood pulp, as well as other synthetic preparations, will take the place of wool, but it is beyond doubt that the world wants Australian wool, and that there will always be a market for it. What is more we shall always be able to obtain for it a proper price if we fix a rate and refuse to sell for less. I have dealt with the primary products of wool, wheat, fruit andbutter. Having given a proper purchasing power to our people, having secured the home market to its fullest capacity, having rehabilitated our economic position so that every family will have full and plenty, then any surplus that we may have to dispose of will be practically negligible. If we do lose a few million pounds in the marketing of our surplus products under such conditions our population, on the other hand, will be increasing and the country generally improving, so that the loss will be of no concern. Inherent in the motion submitted by the honorable member for West Sydney are’ these proposals, which briefly set out what the Labour party in New South Wales stands for in the way of economic reconstruction. We submit them with absolute confidence in the justice of our cause, and with the desire that the people of this country shall no longer experience woe and desolation. If our proposals be adopted Australia will flourish and become a great nation, but if the policy of honorable members opposite be followed, then desolation and destruction will be the inevitable result.
– I wish to make a brief personal explanation.
– The man who never withdraws anything!
– Following on the statement made by. the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), may I say that I would be extremely reluctant to deprive that honorable member of the right to wear a cap which might become him very well?
– Shame on you !
– That is not a personal explanation.
– If the honorable member considers that he has been misrepresented or misquoted, he may make a personal explanation, but he is not entitled to do more than that.
– On a point of order, I demand that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) he called upon to withdraw his insulting reference to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) who is temporarily absent from the chamber. I wish only to say that if this is to be the attitude of the honorable member in this chamber, then the sooner the House gets rid of him the better..
– He would not take an oath on God’s own Bible.
– Order! The honorable member for Barker will proceed.
– I have raised a point of order, Mr. Chairman, and I ask for your ruling.
– The honorable member for Batman misunderstood the honorable member for Barker.
– The electors misunderstood him. Hansard will show what he said.
– Order! No point of order is involved.
– On a further point of order I desire to know whether the honorable member for Barker is entitled to open up a new speech and to insult another honorable member under cover of making a personal explanation.
– If the honorable member for Barter had done that, then the point of order raised would he sustained.
– He did.
– If honorable members will remain silent, the Chair will be able to hear what the honorable member for Barker has to say, and so determine whether or not he is in order.
– Did you not hear the remark that he made, Mr. Chairman, concerning the honorable member for Batman ?
– Ask Hansard.
– He inferred that honorable members on this side of the House had their price.
– I have already ruled that no point of order is involved. The honorable member for Barker is not entitled to do more than make a personal explanation.
– I was about to observe, when interrupted, that the honorable member for Batman said something about “money.” I made no statement in regard to money.
– The honorable member spoke of a “ price “.
– There are things in this world that are not to be measured in terms of money. There are other things which money will not buy. In the one case, thethings are too precious to be acquired by money; in the other they are not worth it.
.- As a new member I have been impressed by the time that has been devoted to the problem of unemployment, not only during this debate, but in every one to which I have listened. That is as it should be. But I have been impressed also by the fact that most of the suggestions have been only towards the temporary relief ofunemployment and not towards a solution of this our most serious trouble. It has been said by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), that the Commonwealth Government in the past has not properly taken up its duty in connexion with this humanitarian problem, but has left it almost entirely to the States to deal with. The honorable member suggested that the Commonwealth Parliament should make available to the States money to enable them to continue the work they have already undertaken. A good deal may be said in support of that view. After all, the State governments are continually dealing with the domestic affairs ofthe people which most closely touch employment. But we must recollect that the establishment of the Commonwealth resulted in the States losing their principal source of income, the customs revenue. Later, the Commonwealth Government invaded almost every field of taxation that the States had occupied, and still later, consequent upon the adoption of the Financial Agreement and the establishment of the Loan Council, the States were even deprived of the right to borrow money. In these circumstances it is only right that the Commonwealth Government should concern itself with the grave problem of unemployment. But it would be proper for this Parliament to leave the implementation of unemployment relief works to the State parliaments. It should, of course, make money available to the State governments for this purpose. I do not say that there are no avenues open to the Common wealth Government for providing employment. Some works of an urgent developmental nature could, and should be undertaken by this Government to alleviate unemployment. I refer to projects of a national character. A report was tabled in this House yesterday on the hydrogenation process of obtaining oil from coal. It would be appropriate for the Commonwealth Government to sponsor a project of thatkind, with the threefold object of relieving unemployment, correcting an adverse trade balance, and strengthening the capacity of the country to defend itself. Our adverse trade balance with the United States of America is largely in consequence of our importation of oil from that country. If we could discover flow oil, or produce oil from coal or shale, it would be of tremendous advantage to us. Unfortunately the report to which I have referred does not give much encouragement to those who have advocated that the Government should immediately make money available for the exploitation in Australia of this newly discovered system of producing oil from coal; but I do not believe that we should accept the report as the final word.We should continue to make further investigations, utilizing for that purpose the services . of various scientific bodies that are competent tohelp. Further inquiries should be made, also, into the possibility of obtaining oil from our extensive deposits of oil-bearing shale. I have said sufficient to indicate that certain avenues are open to the Commonwealth Government to exploit with the object, among other things, of assisting in the relief of unemployment. The point I make is that even in the view of those who consider that it is the proper function of the Government toorder our means of livelihood and not to provide them, and of those who believe that we should look to private enterprise to provide a permanent and satisfactory solution of the unemployment problem, there is a field of action open to the Commonwealth Government. We should try to discover the basic facts upon which our national economy is founded, and search there for the root causes of this very serious problem of unemployment. Those who examine the economic structure of our nation discover the basic economic fact that we are a debtor nation. I refer in this connexion, not to our internal debts, but to our heavy overseas commitments. Not only have >we to face the heavy obligations overseas consequent upon our past borrowings, but we have also to bear in mind that as a community desirous of living under modern conditions, we must continue to import large quantities of such commodities as rubber, oil and cotton, which we cannot produce in sufficient quantities in Australia to supply all our needs. We must have these goods if we are to live under reasonable conditions, and so we must import them; but such importations bring their own problems, and we must devise means of establishing credit overseas so that we may meet our commitments as they become due. Whatever may bc said in support of the view that we could expand our national credit through the Commonwealth Bank, we must realize that we cannot meet our overseas obligations with Australian paper currency. The only way to meet these commitments is to export goods which we can sell in the markets of the world. We certainly can never expect to export large quantities of manufactured goods from Australia, because our costs of production, are too high to allow us to enter into competition with overseas manufacturers. We must, therefore? rely upon our primary producing industries. A few years ago, when the ‘credit of this country was drifting to a serious extent, it was generally recognized by all classes of the community that .something would have to be done to improve our overseas credit, and we turned for help to one of our great primary producing industries. An appeal was made, primarily by the Prime Minister of the day (Mr. Scullin), but with the endorsement of the State Premiers, for the production of more wheat. In our extremity resort was had to this great industry.
– The cry now might well be “Eat more bread”.
– I shall come to that subject a little later. The point I make at the moment is that in order to establish credits overseas we must continue to produce and export goods that we can sell in face of world competition. It is general knowledge to-day that those engaged in our great exporting industries are operating at a loss. It may be possible to carry on any business for some time at a loss, but that cannot be done indefinitely. It is, therefore, essential that something shall be done at once to enable those engaged in our great exporting industries to continue their operations. In other words these people -must be afforded security of tenure. Steps must also be taken to ensure that, these industries may be continued on a profitable basis. If Parliament is to provide a permanent and satisfactory solution, not only of unemployment, but also of all other major problems, it must tackle immediately that of rural rehabilitation. That must be done first by giving immediate security of tenure to those engaged in our export industries, and secondly by placing them in a position to show a reasonable return on the capital invested. In other words, they have to regain the overseas markets which they have lost largely as a result of the national policy of protection which has been adopted by this country. The costs of production must be reduced. I admit that the people of Australia have always supported a protective policy, and that, while wc are entitled to disagree with that policy to a certain extent, we must submit to a decision reached by an overwhelming majority of the people. It is quite logical for persons engaged in our export industries to say that, if they cannot have their costs reduced by means of lower customs duties, the same measure of protection as is enjoyed by other industries should also be enjoyed by them. Honorable members in opposition have said over and over again that the home market is the best market for our primary producers, and it seems generally accepted that that is so. But there is no justification for that statement, because the local consumers do not pay to the producers of wheat any more than is paid by a man in China. What do local sellers receive for wheat? How is the price assessed? The price of wheat in London is ascertained, the freight is deducted, and the producer receives the difference. Local consumers pay no more than the price paid by purchasers in lowwage countries, less the freight. The policy of protection has been applied to the butter industry, by means of a stabilization, scheme, and while high protection is the national policy of this country, it should be applied to every other primary industry. In pursuance of a policy of securing better conditions for the workers, wages are raised ; -in the case of railway workers, this moans an increase of railway freights, and under such a system an increase in freights means a lower price for wheat. In the light of these facts how can honorable members opposite justify the statement that the local market is the best market?
– That is a new theory.
– If it is new to the honorable member he has been a long time in realizing the facts. He should know that the price of wheat in Australia is world’s parity.
– What would be the result if the railway men worked for nothing?
– I do not mind replying to a reasonable question; but I regard that interjection as frivolous.
– It is logical.
– The honorable member should know that the price of wheat in Australia is that ruling in Liverpool or Chicago, less the cost of transport. A portion of the cost of transport includes railway freight to the seaboard, and increased freights mean a lower price to the wheat producer. We have a properly constituted tribunal which wage-earners can approach in order that they may receive reasonable wages for their labour. The arbitration system is one of which I approve. The manufacturers engaged in. secondary production can also approach the Tariff Board for higher protective duties, bit unfortunately those engaged in essential primary industries have no tribunal to which they can appeal in order to secure a reasonable return for their labour. Protection to the wheat-growers in this respect is long overdue. I trust that the Government’s proposals for the relief of those engaged in the wheat-growing industry will be in the nature of permanent assistance and not a mere palliative. The policy of protection should be applied to those engaged in wheat-growing, particularly as appeals have been made to them from time to time to produce to the utmost of their ability in order to improve our national credit overseas. I presume that any rural rehabilitation proposals submitted to this Parliament will be based upon the continuance of present price-levels, or price-levels that may reasonably be expected to obtain, otherwise we cannot expect permanently satisfactory results. However, as the price of our export commodities is inextricably involved in the exchange rate in relation to sterling, any rehabilitation proposals should not be finalized until there is some definite understanding as to the rate at which exchange is likely to remain for some time to come. We have the spectacle of this Parliament proposing to deal with the problem of rural rehabilitation, while power to manipulate the exchange rate remains with - an institution over which Parliament has no control. While I am not one of those who believe that the Commonwealth Bank should be brought under political control, I do believe that there should be some liaison between Parliament and the bank. We have here an instance in which any step taken by this Parliament to bring about rural rehabilitation maybe nullified by the action of the Commonwealth Bank in reducing the exchange rate to bring Australian currency to a parity with sterling. Fortunately, we have passed the stage when it is possible for the private banks to fix the rate of exchange, and keep it at an artificially low level. The Commonwealth Bank has taken upon itself the obligation of fixing the exchange rate, but does Parliament know the factors which influence the bank in determining the relation which Australian currency shall bear to sterling? E doubt whether the Government itself is aware of these factors. I hope that, before any finality is reached by the Government in its rural rehabilitation proposal, it will confer with the Commonwealth. Bank Board regarding the future level of the exchange rate. We must not overlook the basic fact that, while we can provide by grants of money for the relief of unemployment, there can be no permanent solution of this problem until the essential exporting industries have been established once more on a satisfactory footing.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Accommodation fob New SouthWales Labour Pasty - Furneaux Islands : Improved Communications.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
. . - It is no doubt known to honorable members that in the last Parliament my colleagues and I occupied quarters in the basement of this building. At that time it was sufficient for our numbers, though we believed that we were entitled to have it on the same floor as that provided for the other parties. Since the election, however, our numbers have increased until, counting the two senators who will be with us until June next, and the official staff which has been provided, we now number twelve, for which the accommodation is insufficient. Immediately after the elections I took the matter up with the Clerk of the House, but he was unable to do anything. The Speaker, immediately after his appointment, did everything in his power to ensure that adequate accommodation would be provided - and for what he has done I express my thanks, and those of my party - but he likewise found it impossible to provide the space required, and the time has now arrived when some action should be taken by the Government. This building is so constructed that one-half of it is occupied by the 36 members of the Senate, while the other half is occupied by the 74 members of this House - a very ill-balanced arrangement. One would have expected that the gentlemen who occupy the Senate side of the building might have displayed greater readiness to meet the wishes of those who sit in this chamber. Unfortunately, that readiness to please has not been evinced. Where the blame lies it is not for me to say, but it has become apparent that unless some action is taken immediately, we shall be left in our present unsuitable quarters for an indefinite period. Those who have examined our present accommodation have agreed- that our claim for more spacious quarters is not unreasonable. Having explained the position, I express the hope that the Government will exercise its authority and do what is possible to give us better accommodation. I have no desire to encroach upon thi accommodation set apart for officials of the House, nor do I suggest that they are not entitled to what has been provided for them; but, as we constitute the Parliament, I submit that our claims should receive first consideration. I feel sure that the Government will acknowledge the justice of our request for additional accommodation, and I hope that there will be no further delay in making whatever alterations or changes that may be necessary to give effect to our wishes.
It is desirable that I should add something to what the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has said concerning the additional accommodation which he is seeking for himself and members of his party. The honorable gentleman has stated his case very fairly and accurately, but I may explain, for the information of Ministers and honorable members, who, no doubt, are interested, what stage has been reached in the negotiations. As honorable members are aware, the President has jurisdiction over the accommodation on the Senate side of the King’s Hall, and the Speaker controls the accommodation on this side of the hall. The honorable member for West Sydney and members of his party, because of their increased numbers, are entitled to better accommodation than is at present provided for them. The room which they occupy is downstairs, and is not convenient to the chamber. The Government has recognized the party by making financial provision for the services of a secretary for its leader, and the honorable gentleman himself is entitled to a room for himself. I suggested to the President that the Senate committee room should be utilized, and the President agreed that it might be made available conditionally - the conditions are not, I think, unreasonable - for the use of the Library. To make the necessary adjustments, the Parliamentary Librarian would have to arrange some change in the accommodation provided for him. I understand that he is willing to do this. It so happens that there is no room large enough for the honorable member’s party. I suggested to the President that some structural alterations might be made on I he Senate side of the King’s Hall similar to those carried out on this side of the building, but Mr. President has not so far agreed to my proposal, the adoption of which would make available one room large enough to give the accommodation required by the party led by the honorable member for West Sydney. I also approached the Prime Minister, and asked the Government to make the necessary money available. The right honorable gentleman asked me to submit plans, which I put before him, hut, unfortunately, the President and I are unable to agree upon the scheme. That is the chief difficulty at the moment. The accommodation on this side of the House is insufficient, in more than one respect, for either Ministers or members. I assure the House that I have done my best to meet the wishes of the honorable member for West Sydney, but I cannot give the accommodation unless the President agrees to the plan which I have put before him. I am, however, hopeful that some agreement will be reached soon, and that we shall be able to provide improved accommodation for the honorable member for West Sydney and the members of his party.
.- I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to the need for improved communication between Cape Barren Island, Flinders Island and Tasmania. For a. number of years, the position has been most unsatisfactory. The lack of proper communication was rather tragically made manifest recently, owing to a number of deaths on Cape Barren Island due to the fact that it was impossible to obtain medical assistance from the mainland. I suggest that the Government give early consideration to the erection of an aerodrome on Cape Barren Island, and the installation of wireless communication between that island and Tasmania. There is a fair population on the island, and the people there feel that they are entitled to some better means of communication than exist to-day. During an influenza epidemic, as no medical attention was available on the island, the schoolmaster acted as doctor and policeman, and did his best night and day to assist the suffering people. Finally, a doctor was brought by aeroplane from Hobart, but with the passing of the influenza epidemic the position of the residents reverted to what it was before. The Government should undertake the construction of an aerodrome on the island. The residents have spent quite a lot of time in making a landing ground reasonably safe for aeroplanes. I understand that the site has quite a lot of natural advantages, and, that, although fogs are prevalent in surrounding localities, low fogs are rarely seen in its vicinity. Such an aerodrome would provide an additional safeguard for aeroplanes flying either to or from the island, and from Tasmania to the mainland. In view of the recent air tragedy involved in the loss of the Miss Hobart, such ari additional safeguard is urgently needed. I ask the Minister to bring this matter under the notice of the ‘Government in order that the residents of the island may have reasonable connexion with Tasmania instead of having to depend as at present upon motor boat transport, which can be utilized only in reasonably calm weather.
– The representations of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) will receive the consideration of the Postmaster-General and of the Government.
In regard to the sta tements made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) the Government considers that it is the privilege of honorable members to be as well provided for in this chamber and in the precincts of this building as possible, to enable them to perform their duties -efficiently. Any steps that can be taken to help in solving the difficulty in this connexion will be taken. It may not be possible to deal with this matter until the return of the Prime Minister, which I hope will take place next week; but I can assure the honorable member that the fullest consideration will be given to it and that the Government will consult the President and Speaker to ascertain what can be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.55 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Postal Messengers : Dismissals : Number Employed.
en asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Issues of Credit by Australian Banks.
y. - The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible, in answer to a question by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) regarding issues of credit made by Australian banks.
y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that contracts for purely naval and military clothing have been let to manufacturers other than the Commonwealth Government Clothing Factory?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Waterproof gabardine overcoats for Naval Forces - 1,000, Freedman & Company, Brisbane; 1,000, Morrissey and Company, Sydney.
Cotton clothing for Naval Forces. - The National Clothing Company, Perth, a total of 0,750 garments comprising jackets, trousers, blue overall suits and white drill jumpers.
In addition to the foregoing, contracts allotted as a result of Commonwealth tenders, tenders were invited in Sydney at which delivery was to be made for the supply of gowns, coats, linen drill trousers, &c, for the Naval Forces. The quantities required in this instance were not sufficient to justify tendersbeing invited throughout the Commonwealth. As a result of those tenders an order was allotted to David Jones and Company, Sydney.
For the reasons shown in (1) tenders will shortly be invited throughout the Commonwealth for the supply of 3,720 military greatcoats.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he inform the House whether the organization known as the Seventh Day Adventists pays land tax upon land on which commodities are manufactured for public sale ?
– The Seventh Day Adventists, being a religious society, is exempt from land tax in respect of all land owned by it the proceeds of which are devoted to religious, charitable or educational purposes, irrespective of the use to which the land is put. It has already been promised that the question of the taxation generally of religious bodies will be discussed at the conference of State and Federal Ministers which is to be held with a view to achieving uniformity in Commonwealth and State taxation legislation. (Hansard, 27th July, 1934, pp. 862-863.)
W ireless Broadcasting : Regional Station at Katanning, Western Australia.
en asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows. -
s asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Appointment or Trade Representatives in the East.
n asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Whether the Government intends to appoint further trade representatives to the East; if so, when are these appointments likely to be made ?
– The appointment of Australian trade representatives in the East is under consideration. The Government’s policy will be announced at an early date.
e asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 November 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1934/19341115_reps_14_145/>.