14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr.GeorgeWilliamMartens made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the electoral division of Herbert, Queensland.
– Can the Minister for Commerce inform the House whether the cabled report is correct that a new Manchukuo tariff will impose a levy on all imports of Australian wheat and flour? Docs the Government propose to take any action in the matter, or to make any statement upon it?
– The Department of Commerce has noted the report, and has sent to His Majesty’s Consul at Mukden a cable asking for full information, especially on the question of alleged discrimination.
– I have received a letter whichwas forwarded to a Mr. Bott by the right honorable member for North Sydneybefore his elevation to Cabinet rank. It reads -
I have your circular letter of the 14th November regarding the question of your war pension. If there is any way in which you think I can help you, I shall be very pleased to do so.
Now that the right honorable gentleman is in a position to assist this returned soldier to obtain the restoration of a war pension of which he was deprived, will he take the necessary action?
– If the statutory power of the Repatriation Commission permits of relief being; given, I shall certainly see that it is given without delay. I suggest’ that the honorable gentleman see me later in the day and furnish me with full particulars.
-Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General confirm the announcement made by the Postmaster-General of Great Britain that the postage upon letters sent by air mail from that country is to be reduced? Will that reduction apply also to letters posted in Australia? If not, will the Government take action to bring the inward charge into conformity with the outward?
– The matter, although noted, has not yet been considered.
– In Victoria there are no telegraph messengers under 21 years of age. Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General state when examinations for appointments as telegraph messengers for cities and towns in Victoria are likely to be held?
– I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member know.
– Some misunderstanding having arisen concerning the treatment of ex-Imperial soldiers now resident in the Commonwealth, will the Minister for Repatriation inform the House what action the Government has taken to help these men to make representations to the Ministry for Pensions in Great Britain, and in other ways?
– My attention has been drawn to this matter by a report of the conference of the British Empire Service League, which met recently in Melbourne. The honorable gentleman was good enough to intimate to me that he intended to ask this question, and I am in a position to give him the information that he seeks. The Repatriation Commission acts as the agent of the Ministry of Pensions. It arranges for the payment of pensions, medical treatment of accepted war disabilities, and funeral expenses in approved cases. It also assists in the collection and presentation of evidence, and obtains urgent cable advice in appropriate circumstances.
Any representations arising out of the Melbourne conference will receive the earnest and sympathetic consideration of the Government.
– I have received from the Mascot Municipal Council a communication concerning the low flying of aeroplanes over that municipality, which is considered dangerous not only to the pilots, but also to civilians. Will the Minister for Defence make inquiries into the matter, and enforce the regulations governing civil flying?
– I understand that there are regulations governing this matter. I shall have them enforced.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister-in-Charge of Development been drawn to the statements published in the Adelaide press intimating that arrangements have been made between the Governments of the Commonwealth and South Australia for the expenditure of considerable sums of money in the south-eastern portion of that State and on the Torrens River? May South Australian members be supplied with particulars of the arrangements, so that they may study them?
– I shall go into the matter with the Minister-in-Charge of Developmentand reply to the honorable member later.
– Has Cabinet yet had an opportunity to consider the circumstances surrounding the air tragedy that occurred near Longreach yesterday? Has any further information been received concerning this unfortunate happening ?
– Before coming to the House thismorning, I inquired of the department as to whether any further information was available, and was informed that none had been received beyond that announced yesterday by the Acting Leader of the
House. Additional particulars are expected, however, and when they come to hand I shall place them before the House.
– The Melbourne Herald of the 9 th instant published the statement that when the sittings of Parliament were resumed many Tariff Board reports would be laid on the table. Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say when we may hope to receive them?
– -As the House has already been informed, a tariff schedule is. likely to be brought down before Christmas.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state whether the appointment of a whip to the Country party, which was made yesterday, signifies that that party is to continue to be a separate party in this House? Does he consider that the appointment was necessary?
– The custom has been to have two whips on the Government side, of which the Country party whip is one.
– The Minister for Commerce informed me a couple of days ago that the final report of the Wheat Commission would be available almost immediately. Can he now say definitely when we may expect to receive that document?
– An official of the Department of Commerce is to see Sir Herbert Gepp, the chairman of the Wheat Commission, to-morrow. I hope to have definite information to convey to the House next week.
– I have received a letter from a young man in my electorate who is anxious to join the Royal Australian Artillery, but has been informed that enrolment takes place only in Melbourne and Sydney. Will the Minister for Defence go into this matter with a view to seeing that residents of South Australia and other States, besides Victoria and New South Wales, are given an opportunity to join this branch of the service ?
– I shall be very glad to go into the matter.
Mr.BLACKBURN. - With the object of securing the better observance of awards relating to clerical and administrative workers, will the Minister for Industry consider the appointment of inspectors under section 50a of the Commonwealth Arbitration Act?
– I have not yet considered the matter, but it will have my attention.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I have to inform the House that I have received from Lady David a letter thanking the House for its resolution of sympathy in her bereavement.
Mr. SPEAKER laid on the table his warrant nominating Mr. Collins, Mr. E. F. Harrison, Mr. John Lawson, Mr. Martens, Mr. Nairn, Mr. Nock, and Mr. Riordan to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1923-1930.
Consideration resumed from the 15th November (vide page 376), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1. - The Senate - namely, “Salaries and allowances, £7,182,” be agreed to.
Upon which Mr. Beasley had moved by way of amendment -
That the item be reduced by10s.
.- In view of the heat imported into the discussion, and the manner in which the intentions of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) have been misinterpreted on the Government side, it would, perhaps, be well to re-state his reasons for submitting his amendment. His object was to enable the committee to give an instruction to the Government immediately to provide £10,000,000 as a first contribution to the relief of unemployment and £12,000,000 for rural rehabilitation. The amendment was also to be an instruction to repeal the provisions of the financial emergency legislation in relation to wage and social service cuts, and to reduce the interest on war service homes, and reappraise their capital values.
The amount of misrepresentation that has been indulged in has been remarkable. After all, the Opposition is merely endeavouring tosecure from the Government support of this amendment to show whether during the election campaign there was an atom of sincerity in the promises made to the people. In his policy speech in the Sydney Town Hall, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said at first that he did not intend to make any promises; but, as the campaign progressed, he found it expedient to do so. Evidently he thought that a few promises would not do any harm. By the time he had reached Gosford, he had promised to set aside £10,000,000 for the relief of unemployment, and, as the date of the elections drew nearer, the higherbecame the amount promised. The sum of £12,000,000 for rural rehabilitation was definitely promised by the leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) in his policy speech, and he now has every opportunity to give effect to it. As to the financial emergency legislation, the definite undertaking was given at the time it was passed that the object was merely to balance budgets by June, 1934, and those responsible for making the cuts in wages and social services promised that immediately budgets were balanced, the payments would be restored. It is not the fault of those who have been the victims of the cuts that budgets have not been balanced, for we know that it is not the intention of the Governments of Australia to balance them; in fact, no government has yet brought about balanced budgets, except, perhaps, the Commonwealth Government, which has not paid the war debt interest and redemption instalments amounting to £5,000,000 a year, for some years past. Even the Commonwealth Government would not have been able to balance its budget had these payments .been made. I claim that the victims of the cuts cannot bo held responsible for the inability of governments to carry out their portion of the contract.
The argument has been advanced from the Government side that no scheme is yet ready for the purpose of achieving rural rehabilitation, or getting the unemployed back to wort, yet for the last two and a half years the expenditure on public works has been rigorously reduced, and there must now be an enormous accumulation of work left undone for financial reasons. The members of my party contend that those arrears of work would be sufficient for a start to be made on the schemes spoken of to provide employment for the workless. The Government stands condemned if, after two and a half years of preaching about sympathy with the unemployed, it has not yet evolved a scheme to provide them with work, and if, despite all the inquiries made into various aspects of rural industries, all the debates in this chamber, and all the reports by experts on rural problems in the last three years, it has not yet evolved a scheme of rural rehabilitation. It is futile for Ministers to offer excuses. During the election campaign, one wing of the Government supporters promised £10,000,000 for the relief of unemployment and the other wing £12,000,000 for rural rehabilitation. If the sole reason of the Government for resisting the amendment is that it is not ready to go on with its schemes, we have clear proof that the promises made at the election were intended merely for vote-catching.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), being a sound, hardheaded tory, thought he had a mission to interpret the platform of the Labour party. This is his usual way of addressing honorable members. I do not know what his brand of politics is. It is difficult to say whether tory representatives from South Australia belong to the United Australia party or to the Country party; I presume he belongs to the former, and has leanings towards the latter. His strong suit seems to be to talk of a scheme for rural rehabilitation. The -tory party has ceased its prattle about prosperity being around the corner, and now it speaks vaguely of a scheme for rural rehabilitation. One is reminded of that “ blessed “ word “ Mesopotamia,” around which all sorts of stories are spun. The honorable member referred to some mysterious “lord and master “ of the party to which I belong, who does not happen to be in this Parliament. Some time ago the honorable member held the portfolio of Minister for Commerce, and either the job was too big for him or the company of the Government did not suit him. Yet while he occupied that position we heard nothing from him about schemes for rural rehabilitation. The parliamentary records will show that he made no contribution to the debates along those lines. He left the Government, possibly for the Government’s good, and now he lectures us on Labour policy; but he knows less about that than about schemes for rural rehabilitation. When he was a member of the Government he had an opportunity to implement such a scheme, but failed to do so. To-day he admits that, while he criticizes the policy of other parties, like Middleton’8 roustabout, he has no ideas or opinions of his own regarding a policy about which he spins so many phrases. He remarked that “rotten public credit” was the cause of the collapse of employment. He then proceeded to show that the failure of private enterprise was responsible for the loss of employment in the General Post Office, because private enterprise had failed to such an extent that thousands of telephones had been cut off.
The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) gave his usual lecture on the policy and intentions of the Labour party. He referred to the “ snide “ policy of the Opposition, and, because of his misrepresentation of our policy, he received the best -lacing I have ever witnessed. Although he began in a facetious mood and in a patronizing manner, be finished up like a raving Bengal tiger. After the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) had finished with him, it was evident that the Minister himself had employed “ snide “ arguments to bolster up opposition to the amendment. He claimed that the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney was a flattering tribute to the Government. If that be so, I suggest that the Assistant Treasurer should cross the floor when the vote is taken. The amendment is, however, not a flattering tribute to the Government, but a test of its sincerity in regard to its election promises. The carrying of the amendment would be a direction to both wings of the Government to keep the promises made to the electors.
Dealing with the raising of loans, the Assistant Treasurer said that plenty of money is available. I admit that that is so, but does not that very fact indicate clearly that there are no profitable avenues for investment other - than the gilt-edged securities offered by government bonds ? The honorable gentleman claims that the reduction of the interest rate on loans is an indication of confidence in the Federal Government. It is nothing of the kind. About two years ago, when the present High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce, was sent to London to arrange for the conversion of certain loans overseas, I said that he would be successful in arranging for their conversion at lower rates of interest. The reduction of the rates was due not to his efforts, nor to greater confidence in the Commonwealth Government, but to Australia’s capacity to pay. Billy the blackfellow could have secured as low rates of interest as were obtained by Mr. Bruce. Had not the interest rates been reduced, the Government would have been forced to repudiate its interest obligations. The position would be entirely different if wool and wheat prices doubled, and there was a clear indication that the higher prices would remain. In that event, a loan could not be floated at reduced rates of interest. A fear of repudiation was the first cause of the reduction of the interest rate on the conversion loan, while a further cause was the absence of other profitable avenues for investment because of the low prices then being realized for our products. It is true, as the Assistant Treasurer claims, that the price of bonds fell and rose again, but he did not tell us that the bonds which flooded tho market were those of workers to whom all sorts of attractive inducements were held out during the war to invest in war bonds, many employers buying bonds for their employees and being repaid on the time-payment system. Those bonds were sold not because of any lack of confidence in the Scullin Government, but because the bondholders were destitute and could secure neither work nor food while they held those assets. Economic necessity forced thousands of workers to sacrifice £100 bonds for £6S. Immediately the glut ended, the market price of bonds became normal. I have no hesitation in saying that there are fewer bondholders to-day than in 1931, and that most of the bonds are held by persons who bought them when they were a glut on the market.
The Assistant Treasurer is not in favour of a policy of inflation, but what has he to say of the policy of deflation which has caused so much destitution ? Even if the policy of the Labour party meant inflation, it would be preferable to the policy which has been followed by the Lyons Government. The honorable gentleman may think that, because the Government is able to carry on with the support of the Country party, the fight for credit control in this country is over, and that because the Labour party was defeated in the last appeal to the people the fight between the people and the banks will not be renewed. If that is his opinion, I can only describe it as optimism on the jazz, for when the next appeal is made to the people they will understand better the manner in which they were hoodwinked by the Government parties in regard to the policy of the Labour party for the control of credit.
Any suggestion that money should be provided for the relief of the unemployed seems to raise ‘the ire of honorable members opposite. A few weeks ago the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) said that the Labour party believed that the problem of unemployment would be solved by the Government undertaking a number of public “works. The Labour party does not believe any such thing, but it realizes that action by governments is necessary because investors are not prepared to invest their money in private industries. People with money do not invest it in order to provide jobs for the workless, as some would have us believe, but foi the purpose of making profits. If there appears to them to be no reasonable prospect of profits, they do not venture their money. One of the principal reasons for the collapse of the employment market was the cessation of expenditure on governmental undertakings, and, consequently, it is the duty of governments, particularly the Commonwealth Government, to utilize the credit resources of the nation in such a way that the workless shall again find employment. Private enterprise is either unable or unwilling to absorb the unemployed, and it is the duty of the Government to start the wheels of industry going by putting in hand some of the works which were postponed because of lack of funds.
As the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) mentioned the Statistician’s figures in relation to unemployment, it ii well that I should place on record the fact that those figures are not a reliable guide to the amount of unemployment in this country. The Statistician himself admits that only 53 per cent, of the unions submit reports to his department, and, that there ave no authentic figures for 47 per cent, of the unions, to say nothing of the great mass of unorganized workers. Moreover the Statistician informs us that any person who works two days a week is considered to be fully employed. His unemployment figures, therefore, exclude the 90,000 workers in New South “Wales who are on the dole. I suppose that they are included in the number for whom the Commonwealth Government claims that it provided work at the rate of one job in every seven minutes. Those workers in New South Wales who, under the policy of the Stevens Government, have to work before receiving a food allowance - an allowance which the Lang Government gave them for nothing - are considered to be fully employed and are excluded from the Statistician’s figures showing the number out of work. The average income of the 90,000 families in receipt of the dole is £1 0s. lOd. a week. The Government must admit either that the Statistician’s figures are not reliable, or that it endorses the view that men working two days a week are fully employed. If it accepts the latter proposition, it agrees that £1 0s. lOd. a week is a decent basic wage. The Government cannot have it both ways.
In his policy speech the Leader of the Country party, advocated the expenditure of £12,000,000 on a rural rehabilitation scheme. When he delivered that speech he had only the faintest idea of how the money was to be raised and used, and today the right honorable gentleman’s supporters admit that they had no plan at all I should like to know how the money was to be raised, and, if it was raised, how it was to be expended. Did the Country party propose to grant loans to the farmers, and if so, wa3 it sure that the farmers wanted them? The problem of the farmer is not how to borrow money but how to get out of debt.
To-day the farmer, whether he be farming in a small or a large way, is fleeced by middlemen. He is forced to sell hia wheat through commission agents or other commercial vultures. Similarly the woolgrower receives’ inadequate prices for his wool, because of the way in. which the market is rigged by buyers who get together and decide what lots they will buy, and what price they will pay. The Labour party believes that only by the farmers themselves controlling the sale of their products with the assistance of the Government, can they hope to receive the full benefit of their labour. In no other way can there be rural rehabilitation. Honorable members of the Country party attribute the troubles of the farmers to their heavy costs. Obviously, any person’s financial troubles are due to his costs. What costs are in the minds of honorable members opposite when they talk of a reduction? Unfortunately, those who talk of reducing costs have always as their objective the reduction of the wages bill; they are not game to attack the interest bill. They conveniently overlook the fact that the greatest burden on the farming community, and, indeed on the community generally, is the burden of interest. I remind honorable members opposite that when they advocate the reduction of the wages of the workers in industry and ignore the burden of interest they are attacking their own position because they reduce their own purchasing power. Costs can be reduced by sacking a few men, but the interest bill continues. The greater the depression in workers’ wages the greater depression in the price of primary products, which intensifies the difficulty of primary producers” in meeting interest charges. If the members of the Country party are really anxious to support a rural rehabilitation scheme they should first attack the methods in which the farmers’ products are handled from the time they leave his property until they reach the consumer. Instead of attacking wages, and incidentally the purchasing power of the whole community, they should attack the interest rates which are the biggest burden which the primary producers have to carry. The wheat-grower, like every other primary producer, buys in the terms of the price which he can obtain for his produce,, so that when price levels fall he is in difficulty. The only way in which to raise the living standard of these people in this country is by providing a proper scheme of marketing, and by tackling the subject of reappraisement of capital values and the prevailing interest rates. That is the Labour party’s policy, and if it were adopted beneficial results would immediately accrue.
The attack made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) upon the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), with respect to invalid and old-age pensions, was one of the meanest that I nave ever heard. It savoured of a man who committed a breach of confidence. After all, had the Scullin Government not been in power at the time “when pensions were reduced, an anti-Labour government, of which conceivably the Minister for Defence would have been a member, would have been in office, and would have done precisely the same as the Scullin Government did. Furthermore, it would have been impossible for the Scullin Government to reduce pensions, had it not received the wholehearted support of the United Australia party and the Country party. It therefore ill becomes the Minister for Defence to condemn -a government for doing something in which he gave bis assistance.
The honorable gentleman who speaks of* what he has done for the pensioners said that every time a pensioner waggles his beard at an honorable member of the Labour party, that honorable member becomes agitated. We are not particularly concerned about pensioners or anybody else waggling their facial fungus at us, but we are concerned about the treatment of invalid and old-age pensioners, and are prepared to resist every attack upon invalid and old-age pensions.
When criticising the Labour party’s financial policy during the election campaign, the Minister for Defence said that if that party’s policy were brought into operation the banks in Australia would close within six weeks. Later, the honorable gentleman, realizing the obvious stupidity of such a pronouncement, and the fact that there are many thousands of people in Australia who do not possess a banking account, introduced the new idea that the Labour party’s banking policy would also interfere with the insurance policies of the people. The connexion between Labour’s banking policy and the insurance policies of the people, must be left to the Minister’s fertile imagination. But by some strange process of reasoning he was able to connect the two subjects. The only attack ever made in this Parliament or in any other part of the Commonwealth on the insurance policies of the people was that made by the Government of which the Minister for Defence was a prominent member. That occurred when an amending Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act gave the Commissioner for Pensions the right, after a pensioner’s funeral expenses had been met, to seize the balance of his insurance money. We, therefore, see in his true light the Minister who supported legislation which gives the. Commissioner power to pursue this ghoulish operation and follow a pensioner to his grave. Here is a typical illustration of how far this Government is prepared to go in the matter of seizing the insurance money of deceased pensioners. I cite a typical case of a pensioner who, for about fifteen years, struggled to pay out of a miserable pittance of a pension an insurance premium on a policy valued at £40. On the death of the pensioner, £23 was expended to meet the cost of the funeral, and with the balance of £17 the members of the family, who did not wish to enrich themselves, said they were anxious to provide a little work for others, and in order to perpetuate the memory of the deceased pensioner, to erect a headstone over the grave. The matter was brought under the notice of the Acting Deputy Commissioner, who replied in the following terms: -
With reference to your personal representations on behalf of- , oi (Leichhardt, regarding the estate of her late mother . . . wilh a view to exempting the balance of the estate (approximately £17), in order to erect a headstone, I have to advise that in a previous case decided by the Commissioner, the estimated cost of the erection of a headstone was disallowed.
That is typical of the action taken under legislation passed by a government which talks about Labour’s policy endangering the insurance policies of the people. Let the Minister for Defence “ waggle his beard “, if he can, at that. The Minister prides himself on the fact that a few pensioners have sent appreciative letters to him, a sure sign of advanced senility. 1 suggest that he retain those letters, because they will probably be the last communications he will receive before the writers become completely unbalanced.
The next point stressed by the honorable member for West Sydney in bis amendment is the reduction of interest on war “service homes, and a re-appraisement of their capital values. It must be evident to every one that, owing to changed conditions, the occupants of war service homes are faced with a difficult problem. They contracted to purchase these dwellings when wages were high, and when building was costly; but since that time many thousands of them have lost their employment, or are engaged on relief work. In nearly every case their wages have been materially reduced, or they are not earning anything, and they now find that the obligations into which they entered earlier in life cannot be met. Although many of them are in an impossible position, it is within the power of the Government to assist them by reducing their capital indebtedness, and also the rate of interest which they are compelled to pay. A committee which inquired into the subject of war service homes drew up a so-called beneficent scheme; but, notwithstanding the assistance said to be afforded, thousands of occupants are still compelled to leave their homes. When these men went to fight for their country, and for a democracy which has since been attacked by armed force throughout the world, they were told that their interests would be fully safeguarded. Regardless of war services, occupants are compelled week after week to vacate their homes, because they cannot comply with the conditions laid down by a so-called committee of inquiry. Here is a typical case of a man, with a wife and four children, who is attending the Randwick Hospital, and whose combined income from a military pension and child endowment is £3 8s. 6d. a week. Because he is in receipt of that amount he is forced to pay 133. 6d. a week for rent, which is approximately the normal amount paid by a person who actually receives the full basic wage. If he were earning the basic wage he would be receiving as much as he now receives, and an additional 15s. a week as child endowment. Under normal conditions the basic wage and child endowment would amount to over £4 a week. But this unfortunate man, who is in receipt of an income considered to be less than a living wage in New South Wales, is compelled to keep up a payment of 13s. 6d. a week. In consequence of his physical disability and the expenses incurred in purchasing medical requirements, he is financially unable to do so, and is to be forced out of his home. He has been summoned to appear before the court to show cause why the Commissioner should not repossess his home.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The nature of the amendment that has been moved, and the character of the debate upon it, both last night and this morning, together with the fact that the discussion has hinged so definitely on the subject of unemployment, are significant. The amendment is a challenge to the Government on its unemployment policy - not the one which it has pursued in past years, and which those who desire to be reasonably fair will admit has been attended with a real measure of success, but another which the Government has recently launched to cope with this tremendous problem. The question, therefore, does not touch upon the efficacy of the Government’s past policy, but upon the adequacy of its future policy and the likelihood of it meeting the demands of the times and making a really substantial contribution towards the solution of the unemployment problem of the Commonwealth. I have listened very attentively to the debate and have observed the ebb and flow of discussion. As I have noted the. impetuous urgings of honorable members of the Opposition to members of the Government to make more haste, and the fervent deprecation by certain members and supporters of the Government of undue haste, as if it had in it a suggestion of criminal radicalism, I have been reminded of the words of Maeaulay in “ Lays of Ancient Rome “ in which he vividly describes the behaviour of a certain army facing a crisis -
And those behind cried, “ Forward “,
And those before cried , “ Back “.
At any rate that is practically the position in this Parliament at the moment. To me, the most disquieting feature of the debate is that it has tended to confirm a growing anxiety that I have felt during recent weeks about the policy of the Government on this important subject. We had, first of all, the forcible rebuke administered by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) hecause he had urged greater haste in the consideration of this subject and the taking of action by the Government. The honorable member for Wakefield said that it would be altogether wrong for this Government to hasten action in this regard. But I think that every honorable gentleman with a sense of his responsibility would say that the Government should be urged to take effective and prompt action. It is now eight or nine weeks since the election took place, and within four weeks Parliament will go into recess for the Christmas vacation. Early in the New Year several members of the. new Ministry will leave Australia for visits overseas. I understand that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) will both be absent for several months next year, and so also will the honorable gentleman who has been placed in charge of this important problem of unemployment (Mr. Stewart). The strength of the Cabinet will therefore be seriously depleted during the early part of the New Year. In these circumstances, honorable members are entitled to call upon the Government to bring down a fairly complete and comprehensive policy to deal, not only with one phase of unemployment, but also with the whole problem. The attitude and demeanour of the Assistant Treasurer (Mv. Casey) in discussing this subject have disappointed me. If they mean anything, they mean that he is satisfied that the Government’s responsibility in this matter has been discharged because if has made possible a fairly liberal loan programme for public works to provide employment in the near future. If that is a correct interpretation of the Assistant Treasurer’s attitude-
– It is not.
– If it is not, then the Government should cause an authoritative statement to be made of the steps it proposes to take before the Christmas recess of Parliament to deal with this subject. Judging by tha speeches delivered from this side of the chamber during this debate, one would assume that there is a general amount of satisfaction with what the Government has done; but I say in all seriousness that there could be no greater danger to the well-being of this Government than the adoption and support of such an attitude as that. What is the position to-day ? We find that between 250,000 and 300,000 of our people, both men and women, are out of employment. During the life of the last Parliament action taken by the Government to cope with unemployment was attended with a fair measure of success, for a good many of our people were provided with work; but there seems to be a tendency now for the speed with which re-employment was taking, place, to be retarded, and a combination of forces facing us compels the belief that a very large proportion of our people who are still out of work will never again be re-employed in the Commonwealth. If the policy of orthodoxy advocated by the Assistant Treasurer last night in almost passionate language is strictly followed, then I say most emphatically that many people now out of work in Australia will never be reemployed. The combination of forces to which I have referred has been brought about by the mechanization of industry, mass production, the invasion by women of fields of employment previously wholly occupied by men, the enormous increase in production per unit in our agricultural industries, and the tendency that is developing for overseas nations with which we previously enjoyed a prosperous and lucrative trade to apply restrictions and quotas to our exports to their countries. This combination of forces makes the outlook very black indeed for those who are unemployed. I direct attention to ‘a statement made in the press on the 27th October by Mr. W. T. Towler, chairman of the “West Ham, London, Unemployment, Dole, Workers’ Health and War Pensions Committee, who is now on a visit to Australia. Mr. Towler has been associated with unemployment committees for seventeen years, and he may therefore be regarded as a fairly good authority on the subject. I was not altogether surprised to read his statement that of the 2,196,000 people now unem-ployed in England, possibly 2,000,000 would never be reemployed. The people of Australia should take that statement to heart. If there is any accuracy whatever in it- and Mr. Towler is a gentle^ man to whose word we must give a fair amount of credence for he holds high credentials- we may assume, after allows ing for the different conditions that exist in Australia, that if we continue to follow strictly orthodox methods of dealing with unemployment here, probably 100,000 of 150,000 of the people who are to-day out of work in this country will never again bc re-employed.
– That is a moderate estimate.
– There are less than that’ number of people unemployed in Great’ Britain to-day.
– I have taken the figures quoted by Mr. Towler; but for the purposes of my argument the exact number is immaterial. The honorable member for Wakefield is one of those fortunate people who have always been able to sit in the dress circle of life. I hope he does not think that the function of others is merely to provide him with amusement. However, I would ask honorable members to mark well that the honorable member for Wakefield does not dispute my chief contention.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the honorable member for Wakefield has always sat in the dress circle?
– I do not, but he has always been able to do so, and I suggest that before he and other honorable members similarly situated express very strong opinions on the subject of unemployment, they should visit some of the electorates where its incidence is most severe, and make a first-hand study of the problems confronting people with* 6ut work. The honorable member could, for instance, visit some of the electorates on the coal-fields of New South Wales, and he could then ask himself what hope there is for those people if orthodox methods are to be followed in meeting the situation that confronts us.
– Then why continue to follow orthodox methods?
– Exactly so. Any honorable member who applies himself to these problems and makes a careful and thorough survey of the whole position must admit that my estimate of the number of people who will never again obtain employment if we follow orthodox method’s is not at ail exaggerated. I assert with all the emphasis of which I am capable that those honorable’ members who preach and believe that we can successfully ride this economic storm on the pinions of orthodoxy, will, if they hold ‘to that policy, either wittingly or’ unwittingly, condemn some 100;000 citizens of the Commonwealth, together’ with their wives and a considerable’ percentage of their families, to live for’ the remainder” of their lives under conditions which are inevitably attendant upon unemployment, or in receipt of the dole as relief workers. I do not suppose that there is any member of this House who would be prepared to advocate that brutal policy; but it is something which must be faced, and those who are honest with themselves must admit that it is a real probability. Honorable members who are honest with their electors and desirous of meeting their obligations must come to grips with the problem. One feature of the Government’s showing in this debate which disappoints me more than any other, is that it has given no indication whatever of departing from the original methods of raising loan money to meet the unemployment problem. I do not think it is necessary for me to remind honorable members that the mere raising of loan moneys, liberal though the proposed programme may be, does not constitute a solution of this problem. It has alsobeen a disappointment to me that the only Cabinet Minister who showed any tendency towards a departure from strict orthodoxy, and suggested an inquiry into the possibility of a shorter working week, is not n. member of the Government to-day. While, technically,he may now be in control of employment, actually he has no voice in formulating the policy of the Government to meet this vital problem. I challenge the Government to formulate immediately some adequate policy which will bring about more than mere temporary relief for the unemployed to-day, and to evolve and enunciate some more complete plan that will enable us to deal with this matter in a very much more comprehensive way than has so far been put forward, one, at any rate, that will demonstrate that the Government desires to do something more than provide a dole for the unemployed. Of course, if means cannot be devised whereby people can be provided with work, then the Government is under an obligation at least to provide them with food, clothing and shelter. I do not think any man would suggest that people willing and able to work should be excluded for the remainder of their lives from earning a reasonable share of the decencies of life. I regret the Government’s failure to bring down a more complete plan to meet this problem. Those honorable members who fought the election under the banner of the United Australia party did so in the belief that that party had a definite policy to put forward in this regard, and its failure to fulfil its election promises has been a great disappointment, not only to myself, but to other honorable members as well. I earnestly appeal to the Government to give more tangible evidence of its desire to improve the lot of the unemployed.
.-I listened with attention to the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) when he replied to the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). He said that he could congratulate the honorable member for West Sydney for saying he was convinced that the Government was able to do something. The amendment, however, is only a test of the sincerity of the Government and its supporters. It was a pleasure to listen to the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) pointing out clearly and definitely some of the features of the problem facing the people of this country. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in his policy speech promised that he would immediately set aside £10,000,000 in order to assist the unemployed, and honorable members on this side of the chamber are pressing the Government to fulfil that promise so airily made during the election campaign. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) says that, apparently, there is no solution of the unemployment problem. Let me say, with emphasis, that there is no solution of that problem under the present system of society. So long as we produce for profit unemployment must always face society, and until that system is replaced by some other system unemployment will stay with us. When we urged on the Government the necessity for immediately providing the sum of £10,000,000 there were jeers from the other side of the House, and the question was asked, “Where are we to get it? Is it to fall like manna from Heaven?” But during the war period, when money was urgently needed for defence purposes, no jeers such as that were heard. The Prime Minister of the day was not orthodox then. When he said that he wanted money to provide our soldiers with food, equipment and munitions, he asked the people to give it. During the war over £700,000,000 was raised both internally and externally, hut during’ this period, when there is more degradation, more misery and suffering than ever before in the history of the country we- find the Government jeering at honorable members on this side because they ask it to fulfil its promise to the people to provide £10,000,000 immediately for the relief of unemployment.
Honorable members opposite also jeered at this section- of the House because of its association with our leader in New South Wales, Mr. Lang, who since he has been in the political arena has shown himself to be the greatest statesman this country has ever produced. Some may be amused at this declaration, but, in the words of Bobby Burns, “ Facts are chiels that winna ding “. In 1930, when Mr. Lang enunciated what is known as the Lang plan, it had three main features. The first was the abandonment of the gold standard. Every newspaper in the Commonwealth and every political opponent at the time said that he was mad; they called him a “ Mad Mullah “. They said, “ The sooner this man is put away the better it will be for thi3 country “. Shortly after that the Labour Government in England was defeated, and Mr. Ramsay Macdonald went over to the Nationalist party. Four days before the election, the exChancellor of the Exchequer said, “If you return a Labour Government under its new leadership, Great Britain will go off the gold standard and must inevitably go down into the abyss. This Government stands four-square on the gold standard, and this nation shall never abandon it “. Seventeen days after the return of Mr. Macdonald, what did we find? We found the statement made, not by the Government but by the financial institutions of England controlling it, that it was the intention of Great Britain to abandon the gold standard. But is there any country in the world on the gold standard? The whole thing is iv joke. Every country has abandoned the gold standard; it is obsolete.
– No; there are at least five countries that are not off the gold standard.
– The honorable member is a new member, and will learn. The honorable member for Macquarie has had the courage to put forward his convictions in this House, and I hope the honorable member for Martin (Mr. , McCall) will have the courage to enunciate in this chamber the policy which I have heard him enunciate outside so often. However, I repeat that the gold standard is a joke. o
The next feature of Mr. Lang’s proposals was the creation of a goods standard. That policy is, perhaps, of greater interest to the farmers of this country than to any other section, because in any policy of rehabilitation the goods standard as a means of currency and trade must be greater than ever before. Professor Shann, economist to the Bank of New South Wales, who, in association with Professor Copland, was the author of the Premiers plan, and said that the only way this country could get out of its present position was by implementing that plan, paid a visit to England, and on his return outlined a scheme of managed currency. Previous to his visit to England, he had described Mr. Lang when he enunciated his policy of monetary reform as a “ Mad Mullah “, and said that the adoption of a goods standard would mean a reversion to the old days of barter. Upon his return from England, he is reported by the Melbourne Herald to have said -
It challenges our courage and our intelligence in their fullest measure. It may sound to some party men uncommonly like Mr. Lang’s goods standard. What of that. Mr. Lang is a representative Australian, fond of ideals, but impatient of technique.
I am pleased that he is “ impatient of technique “ ; I am also glad that our exwartime Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was “ impatient of technique “, particularly when he went to the Old Country and found himself in association with Mr. Lloyd George. They were both impatient of technique. As a matter of fact if they had not been, the history of the war would probably have been different from what it is. The man who pins his faith to orthodoxy while the world is in its present miserable condition is not worthy of citizenship, let alone of being made a representative of the people. The quotation continues -
Sir Basil Blackett, Sir Josiah Stamp and Mr. R. G. Hawtrey, on the contrary are men inside the charmed circle, familiar with every point in its technique. If a goods standard as they fully understand it is monetary orthodoxy in 1033, it may prove the road along which Britain can lead a distracted world back to sanity.
Evidently, therefore, Mr. Lang was right in 1930. At that time he was the only far-seeing man prominent in the political life of the country. There may have been others who believed as he did, but they had not the courage to profess their opinions openly. Mr. Lang said that a goods standard was necessary and that it would be achieved. Now it has come. Nevertheless, we have in public life men like the Assistant Treasurer unacquainted with the ramifications of modern finance and commerce, saying that we must raise what money we need by way of loan. “We in this party are opposed tlo loans. We will do everything we can to awaken the people to the fact that the loan system has placed a financial stranglehold on the citizens of to-day, and on their children who will be the” citizens of tomorrow. We want to break down the system of borrowing, and it will be broken down whether honorable members opposite like it or not. Honorable members may laugh at us to-day, but our day is coming.
I remember when, years ago, I sat beside the ex-Prime Minister, the Bight Honorable W. M. Hughes, on the executive of the Labour party. As a young man I was inspired by him, and accepted the message which he had to give. I remember that he came to our executive meeting on one occasion when he was writing those wonderful articles on “ The Case for Labour “, which were published in The Telegraph. Every newspaper in the Commonwealth was criticizing him, and he said to us, “ Boys, when the capitalist press criticizes me, you may rest assured that -I am doing the work I have set out to do for the working classes of Australia. When they praise “me you may begin to distrust me “. To-day, I am glad to be associated with a man who has the the same courage as Mr. Hughes had in those days, and who has the same determination to break down orthodoxy in the interests of the people.
The next point in Mr. t Lang’s programme was the suspension of interest payments for a period. He asked that Australia should be given favorable consideration by Great Britain in respect of the debts we owe to that country. Italy’s war debt to Great Britain was practically wiped out, while on the little that waa allowed to remain, it was asked to pay only i per cent. France received treatment almost as favorable, and is the country which has for years been hoarding the world’s gold. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) claimed credit for the Government because the price of gold had increased, and production had been stimulated. He said that this was due to the increasing confidence of the people in the Government. I objected at the time; saying that the increased price of gold was due to its being hoarded by France in preparation for war. Everybody knows that in war time a country’s factories are devoted largely to the manufacture of war material, while anything that has to be bought from abroad must be paid for in gold. At the present time the clouds of war are visible above the horizon. Senator Sir George Pearce, iii company with Sir Maurice Hankey, is visiting New Zealand to attend a conference to discuss war and defence, and this, despite the fact that we were informed at first that Sir Maurice Hankey had come to Australia in the capacity merely of a centenary visitor. Evidently there was not time for Senator Sir George Pearce to shake hands with him in Australia, So they are going off to New Zealand together to exchange greetings at their leisure.
The wheat-farmers Of Australia must be guaranteed ah adequate return for their product, and we agree that the price should be not less than 3s. 4d. a bushel for all the wheat produced. The control and marketing of their wheat should be placed iri the hands of the farmers themselves through their own organization. It is reported in to-day’s newspapers that Manchukuo has imposed a duty of 37-i cents, per picul, and other countries are also closing their doors against us.
The position of the citrus fruitgrowers is also grave as the following article reveals: -
Federalgrant Imperative if Industry is to be Saved.
Citrus-growers in this district are in the grip of acute crisis, the gravest ever experienced. Unless Federal and State aid is quickly forthcoming a large percentage of orchards will go out of cultivation and their owners will be forced to register Hilder the unemployment relief scheme.
Hereis the clear cut analysis of the position by a district expert in close touch with practically every grower - his summing up has been confirmed by prominent men in this district as reasonably accurate. If nothing is done to improve the economic position, then - 30 per cent. of citrus-growers in this district will be on the dole within six months and their orchards neglected or abandoned.50 per cent. of growers are at the end of their resources, have mortgaged their properties to the limit, and will be forced to give up the fight within twelve to eighteen months. 20 per cent. favoured by financial resources or in cases by exceptionally good properties, are barely holding their own. If adequate assistance is given promptly, the situation may bc saved for all but a comparatively small percentage…… In the first instance the season hae been abnormally wet, which has affected the keeping qualities of the fruit.
Secondly, the destruction of the Gosford packing house meant that a proportion of the fruit was hastily sent out unprocessed.
Thirdly, the expenses guarantee and the private guarantee, with the hope of good prices on the London market, brought a rush to export. Space was booked in a succession of steamers, and fruit had to be obtained to fill it, rain or no rain. Consequently some of the oranges exported were unsuitable.
Fourthly, trucks containing carefully prepared fruit were taken out of cold storage and allowed to stay out in heavy rain in Sydney for up to three and a half days. The worst instance of this was the Bendigo portion of one grower’s fruit went by the Albion Star, the remainder went by the Bendigo after days of exposure. The fruit by the Albion Star opened up finely, while exactly the same fruit, picked and sent at the same time, was deplorable when it reached London by the Bendigo.
The Leader of the Country party stated that at least £12,000,000 would be necessary for the rehabilitation of the rural industries. The price of wheat is falling rather than rising, and this year Belgium will probably import what wheat she needs from France which has a surplus. Moreover, the gluten content of French wheat is higher than that of the wheat grown in Australia. Soon every door will be closed against us, so that it is necessary to stabilize our own home price, which should not be less than 5s. 6d. a bushel. Honorable members will admit that the workers’ organizations have never protested against the payment of a proper borne consumption price for wheat.
– They objected to the price of bread being increased because of the flour tax, remembering as they did that when the price of wheat was 7s. 6d. a bushel in Sydney, bread was the same price as it is now when the price of wheat is 2s. 2d. a bushel. Even our own council, which is called the most radical in Australia, favours a policy of paying a standard price for wheat. Unless we can save the rural industries the workers themselves must suffer, and they are aware of the fact. Honorable members opposite claim that the reduction of interest rates on loans is due to the return of prosperity to this country. I find that the interest rate in India is2½ per cent.
– What does the honorable member mean by the interest rate? Is he referring to the yield to the investor?
– No; to the rate at which the last Indian conversion loan was floated in London. It was floated at2½ per cent., while Nigeria floated a loan there at 3 per cent. - the rate paid by Australia. Obviously, therefore, India must be very prosperous, and prosperity too must prevail in Nigeria! The Government party takes to itself credit for our improved position in London. The credit is really due to oneman-
– Yes, Mr. Lang.
– Very funny.
-Everything appears to be amusing to honorable members opposite; but let me give my reasons for the opinion I have just expressed.
– “ Langism “ is dying hard.
– Not at all. I say that the reduction of the interest rate on conversion loans in London is due to the action taken by Mr. Lang. The money lenders feared that if one British dominion defaulted in the payment of interest the whole financial structure, as we know it to-day, would go overboard.
– The honorable member and hia friends did their best to throw it overboard.
– I am prepared to do all that is in my power to bring the financial oligarchy to the dust. Hundreds of thousands of able-bodied men, willing and able to work, are unable to find employment owing to that oligarchy, and I am prepared gladly and joyfully to do everything I can to bring it to the dust in order that our people may be freed from their bonds. I well remember the outcry that took place when it was suggested that the payment of interest on loans should be suspended for two years. But what happened elsewhere? Great Britain - that country which would never default - suspended the payment of interest on its debt to the United States of America to the extent of £30,000,000 in one year. It did so on the ground that it was unable to meet that payment. Senator Robinson, speaking in the Senate of the United States of America, said -
Britain has defaulted to the amount of £30,000,000. I have perused the British budget and I find salary cuts restoration, unemployed assistance, and income tax reduction amounting to £30,000,000. She has stolen our interest to give to her own people.
When we asked that interest payments should be suspended in order that our unemployed might be fed and clothed and housed, there was a tremendous outcry on behalf of the monied interests - the usurers - represented by honorable members opposite. Honorable members opposite said, in effect, “We must befaithful to our obligations to the money lenders; we must fulfil them even if the people have to starve. The Shylocks in London must have their money even if the people of this country who produce the means to live are allowed to starve “. The party to which I belong is to-day in a minority. To-morrow we shall be in a majority.
– “ To-morrow never comes.”
– So far as we are concerned that day is not far distant. Before long what honorable members opposite know as orthodox banking will be thrown overboard. We make no secret of our intentions, nor do we apologize for them. The present system will be thrown over, and a new mechanism of finance - a new monetarystructure - in harmony with modern scientific development in manufacture and production will take its place. The banking system alone is out of harmony with the development in production. We produce a superabundance of food. Our stores are full to overflowing with food and clothing. But the instrument that controls their distribution Ls in the hands of a few, and that few, because they want to make profits, because they want to suck the very life-blood out of this and every other nation, demand that we shall bow the knee to them. We on this side refuse to bow the knee to Baal. We are prepared to fight it in the interests of the people, and we shall see to it that the people in the near future are awakened to the danger threatening them from this oligarchy which dominates their very lives.
There is another point which I wish to emphasize before I conclude. The leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) promised the primary producers that a sum of £12,000,000would be provided for their rehabilitation. The primary producers expect that promise to be kept. They are looking for the money, and we call upon the Government to see that they get it. Members of the Country party and the United Australia party, alike, recognized the danger facing them, and jumped into the one political camp. That, however, will not save them from the farmers if the promise is not fulfilled. This help must be forthcoming.
– And help for the tobacco industry.
– While in Melbourne recently I followed the speech made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) at the conference of tobacco-growers. I hope that he will have the courage to express in the House the views to which he gave utterance on that occasion. We shall test the sincerity of honorable members opposite in regard to this promise of rural rehabilitation.
Then again, members of the Government, and of the party which supported it at the recent general election, pledged themselves, if returned, to restore oldage pensions to £1 a week. Members of the party said at the last election that, if returned, they would restore the 2s. 6d. a week taken from the aged and invalid poor. Some of those members are here to-day, and I call upon them to see to it that the pledge they gave the people is fulfilled. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has said that this restoration is not to be made. I hope, therefore, that those honorable members will have the courage to say to the Government that the pioneers who bore the heat and burden of the day must at once have fully restored to them the 2s. 6d. by which their pension was reduced some time ago. I hope, too, that they will insist upon the property provisions being removed from the old-age pensions act. Two or three instances of the harshness of those provisions have come under my notice. A pensioner died, and the only asset in his estate consisted of a sum of £47 due under an insurance policy. The executor received this money, and distributed it among the four daughters of the deceased, who used portion of it to pay for the burial expenses of their father. Three of .these girls were unemployed. Later the Government demanded from the executor the return of this £47. His reply waa that the money had been distributed among the members of the family, only one of whom, as I have said, was in employment, but the department demands that the money shall be paid to it. That is an example of the policy of this Government. The amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney demands that this harsh provision in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act shall be repealed. We pledged our word to the old-age pensioners that wo would do our utmost to secure the restoration of the pension to £1 a week, and we shall avail ourselves of every opportunity to bring before the House, not only the urgent need for this restoration, but also to amend the act in the direction I have mentioned. I urge the committee to stand by the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney, and to see that something practical is done.
.- It is not my intention to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), nor do I desire to criticize the Government severely, but I must give expression to the disappointment I feel in regard to the small volume of work that has so far been transacted in this Parliament. A composite Government has just been formed. We on this side anticipated that it would be brought about immediately after the general election, and the delay in making the change has been responsible for the holding up of business. Had this action been taken at the outset, as most of us expected, more work would have been accomplished. As the result of the reshuffling of portfolios several Ministers, who were conversant with the work of their departments, have been put aside, and their places filled by others who must take some little time to make themselves familiar with their new administrative duties. The most important consideration before Parliament to-day is that of unemployment. The Government has placed the problem in the hands of an honorable gentleman who will devote the whole of his time to it, but who will no longer be a member of the Cabinet. I understand that he will attend meetings of the Cabinet when invited to do so in order to discuss with Ministers the work with which he has been entrusted ; but that he has no right of entrance to Cabinet, and that he is not even entitled to sit on the ministerial bench. Such an arrangement is entirely wrong. Unemployment and rural rehabilitation were the two main features of the budget statement and the Prime Minister’s policy speech. I agree entirely with thom. The time has come when we must act quickly in dealing with the problem of unemployment and the difficulties confronting our rural industries. The two are interlocked. I can forgive the Government for delaying the inauguration of its rural rehabilitation scheme, because I realize that it is awaiting a report from the royal commission which is investigating the conditions in the wheat-growing industry; but I hold the view, and I think that practically every honorable gentleman will agree with me, that we should have dealt with the unemployment problem early in the session. Not only the Prime Minister, when hs made his policy speech, but also every candidate at the recent election, promised the people that this problem would be handled at as early a date as possible. Personally I shall do all in my power to see that that promise is carried out. I recognize that the Government is faced with difficulties, so far as our primary industries are concerned, and I am at a loss to know how it will surmount them. For instance, in South Australia there are many wheatfarmers who are finding it impossible to get out of debt, and I am of opinion that if this phase of the matter is investigated throughout Australia, it would be found that over £100,000,000 would be required to liquidate these farmers’ debts, while the prospect is that many of them would again be in debt within twelve months of the liquidation of their existing liabilities. Mainly because of lack of experience many farmers find it impossible to make a living. I think il would pay the Government, in many instances, to relieve these people of their farms, and, as an alternative, pay them go much a week for their livelihood, and to provide them with shelter.
Reverting to the question of unemployment we find that some men have been out of work for as long as four or five years. If, now and again, we were to picture ourselves in the position of those men I think we should feel more disposed to deal with this problem expeditiously. Had the matter been considered early in the session we should, most probably, be well on our way by now with a scheme to help these people. As things stand at present I fail to see how we are going to give them any worth-while relief prior to Christmas. During this debate I have not heard any honorable gentleman make a definite proposal as to what the detailed nature of such works should be. In the past we have allocated certain amounts of borrowed money to the States for the relief of unemployment, whilst the Commonwealth Government itself has spent substantial amounts for the same purpose. Although, generally speaking, I am against the policy of borrowing, I am anxious that this money should be raised for the reason that the Government has pledged itself to make available substantial amounts to carry out its promise to the unemployed. In the GovernorGeneral’s Speech various ways in which this money might be spent are mentioned1, one suggestion being the unification of our railway gauges. I am not opposed to such a suggestion entirely, but it is as well to realize that this would be a very expensive job, involving an expenditure of possibly £28,000,000 or . £30,000,000. I hold the opinion that such a large sum of money could be more wisely spent in other directions. I commend to the serious consideration of the Government, if it proposes to go ahead with railway works, the fulfilment of the agreement the Commonwealth entered into with South Australia in 1913 when it took over the Northern Territory, to complete the line from Adelaide to Darwin. There still remains a stretch of 575 miles to be completed. The southern section of the line now runs from Adelaide to Alice Springs, the section from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, a distance of 300 miles, having been completed comparatively recently. In my opinion this is money thrown away unless the remainder of the line is completed. The northern section of the existing line extends from Port Darwin to within 25 miles of Daly Waters. I understand that for a considerable time construction material has been lying on 100 miles of the uncompleted stretch. Much of this material, such as sleepers, if not used within a reasonable time, will greatly depreciate, with the result that if the work is not undertaken very shortly new material will have to be bought for use on the section. I suggest that the present is an opportune time to complete this work, particularly as the bulk of the money would be spent on labour. I think it is the desire of every honorable gentleman that some such work as this should be done in the interests of the Northern Territory. At Alice Springs, where the southern section of the line now ends, the rainfall is about nine or ten inches per annum, whilst at. that point where it would be linked up with the northern section, it is about 30 inches per annum. Thus the new section would serve more productive country than much of the existing line serves to-day. Although the railway would not go through the Barkly Tableland, this area could, when the line is completed, be served by motor feeders’.
At the present- time in the Northern Territory we have- in operation a 15- ton transport: unit, and this is the only means available to settlers in the Northern Territory to convey their produce to the nearest market, which is 1,500 miles distant. The unit makes on an average one trip a fortnight, which means that it handles only 7-J tons a week: To me such a service seems stupidly inefficient. I have not seen the Northern Territory, apart from a visit to Port Darwin, but I understand that on the Barkly Tableland there are thousands of square miles which could be developed if better transport service were made available, and if the railway line, as I have suggested, were completed. In carrying out such a work the Government would also be taking a step to safeguard our White Australia policy. If we do not develop the Northern Territory some other people, who now seem to have their eyes on it, will do so. I think my suggestion is an excellent one, particularly at this time when we are endeavouring to find work for the unemployed, and I hope that all honorable gentlemen will support it. I shall always be prepared to support any proposal to deal effectively with the unemployed problem, whether it emanates from honorable gentlemen on this or the other side of the House. This is not a party political matter and when we consider such a problem we should sink party political differences and do all in our power to fulfil the promises which all of us made to the people at the recent election. It is useless to consider schemes for raising money when we have not decided how that money can best be spent. The work I have suggested would bo reproductive, and in carrying it out, the Government would be honouring the agreement entered into with South Australia. The completion of this railway would induce people to settle on the area it traverses and engage in mining, grazing and other pursuits. Should the Government go ahead with this work it should, subsequently, see that excessive freights are not charged. In order to open up new country it is essential that only reasonable transport charges should prevail. At the present time I understand the freight charges from Alice Springs to the nearest seaport in many cases, exceed the value of the goods, car ried. Reasonable transport charges are essential for the development of this country. While on this subject I would also stress the necessity for providing reasonable freight on primary produce, not only to those who are opening up new country, but also to those wheat, wool and fruit-growers who aro operating in country which is already developed. It is better for the railway department to lose a certain amount of revenue through low freights than for the Government to have to give assistance to primary producers in other directions. I suggest that freight rates, even as low as half the present charges, should operate for the transport of primary produce to-day. The Government has made several other suggestions for assistance to the unemployed, but I think my proposal for the completion of the north-south railway from Adelaide to Darwin is preferable to any of them.
It has been suggested that further afforestation schemes should be undertaken. If anything is done in that direction I hope the Government will not decide to carry out any additional work of that nature within the Federal Capital Territory, as I am convinced that no real benefit would accrue to the country generally as a result of such schemes undertaken in this Territory.
Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m.
– I congratulate the Government upon its afforestation proposals as one means for relieving the unemployment situation, but I warn the Ministry against the further extension of its activities in the Federal Capital Territory. As honorable members are, no doubt, aware some time ago I inspected the whole of the forests in the vicinity of Canberra, and came to the conclusion that, for the most part, the land and climate were- not suitable for that purpose. Some of the areas were planted seventeen or eighteen years ago with pinus- insignis. Areas planted later are more distant from the city, and the land is of bettor quality, so perhaps better results can be expected from them. When I visited the forest areas in company with Mr. Lane-Poole, the Inspector-General of Forests, I discovered that trees had been planted in deep gullies from which, without special equipment, it will be impossible to remove timber when cut. When I pointed to this difficulty, Mr. Lane-Poole reminded me that in Canadian forests timber in such locations was removed by overhead gear. This practice may be quite feasible in dense Canadian forests, but at the present rate of growth in the Federal Capital area, trees which are now from 6 inches to 8 inches in diameter after eighteen years growth, will not be marketed for perhaps 30 or 40 years, and apart from the difficulty and additional expenditure required for the installation of the gear, it is bad forestry practice to plant trees in areas from which the timber cannot be removed at a minimum cost. I am convinced that afforestation in Australia will create a valuable asset because of the increasing demand for timber and the known world shortage for essential requirements; but I say definitely - and I am sure that honorable members will give me credit for knowing what I am talking about - the Government should restrict its activities in the Federal Capital area. There are hundreds of thousands of acres available in localities more suitable for this purpose. I should be sorry to see the Government waste public money over any afforestation scheme. It is important to plant where the climatic conditions ar° favorable for tree growth and from which the marketable timber may be removed at a low cost.
When Canberra became the Seat of Government, it was generally understood that all the departments would be functioning here at the earliest possible date. Unfortunately, there has been delay in giving full effect to these proposals. It is now seven years since the first assembly of the Federal Parliament in Canberra, and there are still many departments in Melbourne, the former seat of government. This is not fair either to the business people of Canberra or to the officials of those departments that have been transferred. The time has arrived when the whole of the departments should be functioning at the Seat of Government. The Government should, without further delay, put in hand all necessary buildings to house the departments, thus relieving the local unemployment situation and giving effect to a definite Commonwealth undertaking.
The budget proposals include a proposal by the Government to enter into trade agreements with other countries. 1 am in complete accord with that policy. The state of world trade’ makes this course imperative. If we are to find markets for our surplus primary products, we should be prepared to buy from countries which provide markets for our goods. From time .to time we hear complaints about increasing competition from Japan. We should, however, bear in mind that Japan is a very good customer, and for . that reason, if for no other, we should be prepared to make some trade concessions to that country. For the nine months of this year Japan purchased approximately £9,000,000 worth of Australian products, and we bought approximately £2,000,000 worth of Japanese goods, so the trade balance is very much in our favour. Our experience with Belgium should be a warning. Because of our treatment of Belgian secondary products, we now find the Belgian market practically closed to Australian primary producers. We have had similar trouble in our .trade relations even with the sister dominion of New Zealand ; but I am glad to be able to say that the situation has very greatly improved lately, and I hope that, in the near future, a more comprehensive trade agreement entirely satisfactory to both countries will be announced. I congratulate the Government on its policy in this respect, and I hope that, as a result of trade agreements, which, we are informed, will be entered into as soon as possible, our commercial relations with other countries will be greatly improved.
I am not in favour of protecting industries that are not worth while. I do, however, believe that industries which are capable of meeting the demands of the Australian market with products at a reasonable price should be amply safeguarded through the tariff. I have in mind .one of the most important secondary activities in my own State, namely, the motor body industry, which gives employment to about 5,000 persons. Holden’s alone employ about 3,500, and there are two other firms which between them employ the balance. The Tariff Board is making an inquiry into this industry, and I understand that its report will shortly he presented to the Government. This being so, I wish to make quite clear my attitude. This important South Australian industry needs protection, and even if the Tariff Board recommends the removal of the existing duties, I shall be compelled to vote against the Government if it brings in a measure to give effect to a recommendation along those lines.
The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) spoke thi3 morning about the export of oranges from New South Wales. That is a- subject in which, as a representative of a State which produces excellent oranges, I am deeply interested. About a fortnight ago the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) asked a question of the Minister for Commerce with regard to a shipment of New South Wales oranges sent overseas by the Cathay, and mentioned that it had realized about 6d. a case in London. More recently I was advised that another shipment had arrived at the Outer Harbour, Adelaide, in a bad condition, although it had been only four or five days in transit from Sydney. I had the shipment inspected and found that, due to the presence of blue mould, the oranges in some of tb, cases had shrunk to about one-half their original bulk. They were also badly infected with scale. It is impossible fo, Australian exporters to expect to maintain business overseas if trade is carried on in this way. The Minister for Commerce has stated that the wet season is accountable for the unsatisfactory state of some of the shipments, but surely there must be some other cause of th, rapid deterioration of oranges after a journey of approximately 1,000 miles occupying only four or five days. As the Commonwealth Government is responsible for a’ guarantee of 13s. a case for all oranges exported, shipments should be subject to rigid inspection, in the interests of other producers, and the taxpayers generally. This is a serious matter, and I hope that the Minister for Commerce will take steps immediately to safeguard the industry.
– Does the honorable member suggest that those oranges were not inspected ?
– No doubt they were, but the inspector was either incompetent or careless. Fruit in that condition should not be allowed to leave Australian shores. There is a considerable export trade in oranges from. South Australia. 1 am glad to be able to say that our growers have a good name and as a rule net satisfactory prices for their products. Careless inspection in other States may do harm to fruit-growers generally.
We all deplore the present unsatisfactory position of our wheat-farmers. The state of the industry is such that many farmers cannot hope to get out of their present difficulties. It is also true in respect of some growers, that’ even if the Government succeeded in putting them on their feet, they would fail again, because some are farming on areas where the rainfall is inadequate and the soil unsuitable; others do not understand their business, and some are careless. It would pay to take such people off the land and maintain them for life rather than expend public money in an endeavour to keep them in -an industry for which they are not suited. They could be greatly assisted by a lowering of the very high freight which at present is charged for the carriage of their wheat. If that were done, second class land which at present cannot be profitably worked because of high costs could be put under cultivation. I hope that the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States will seriously consider that suggestion. I have previously referred in this chamber to tue trucking of a consignment of cattle from Alice Springs to Adelaide at a cost of £4 a head. Cattle cannot be profitably raised when such high freights have to be paid. Eather than use the railways, some owners travel their stock hundreds of miles to markets. I am definitely of the opinion that full trains run at low rates of freight are a better proposition for the railways departments than trains that are half or three-quarters filled with consignments upon which higher rates are charged.
I trust that there will be no further delay in dealing with the problem of unemployment. We were given to understand that a fairly large amount of money would be made available to provide work for those who need it. Action along those lines should be taken quickly. I am astonished that the matter of employment should have been placed in the hands of a gentleman who is outside the Cabinet, and has not access to it. I believe that the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart) will do all that lies in his power to relieve the position; but having made his recommendations, action upon them will rest with the Government, and unless expedition is shown nothing will be done before Christmas. Although loath to do so, I shall relate a personal experience. The Government approached me eighteen months or two years ago to lay down a scheme of vocational training whereby the unemployed youth of Canberra might be assisted. The then honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) and I went to a considerable amount of trouble in the formulation of a scheme, which we placed before the Government. We were assisted in out task by the Department of Education in New South Wales. The scheme was commended and accepted, and I feel certain that money was allocated for the work, but so far the matter has been overlooked, and I presume that the money was returned to the Treasury. I hope that the honorable member for Parramatta will meet with more success than wo did.
I am sorry that I have had to be such a strong critic of the Government. I felt, however, that I must say what I had in mind.
.- I have very much pleasure in supporting the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). If there were any idea of its being a purely sectional move, it must have been dispelled by the general endorsement by a large number of Government supporters of the necessity for the Government to act quickly in these matters.
I propose to deal first with the subject of assistance io the primary producer, not because that is of more importance than the solving of the unemployment problem, but on account of my belief that, if primary industries’ - and more particularly the ‘wheat industry - were placed on a payable basis overseas, unemployment would largely disappear. The wheat-farmer has to be saved from bankruptcy and kept on the land. There are 60,000 wheatgrowers in Australia, and I do not think that I exaggerate when I say that they are responsible directly for the livelihood of at least 300,000 persons, and, indirectly, an additional 700,000. For a number of years, the wheat production of Australia has averaged approximately 170,000,000 bushels, of which 120,000,000 bushels represents exports. The price of wheat to-day is 2s. a bushel f.o.b., which is at least ls. 6d. a bushel below the cost of production. We have been told that the wheat-growers are to be given assistance by the Government, and I have not the slightest doubt that eventually they will receive it. But the real consideration is speed. Were the wheat-growers not assisted, they would show a loss this year of £12,750,000. They have been losing for a number of years, but tlie burden has been borne by overdrafts on the banks, who have found it a more payable proposition to keep the farmers on their holdings than to put others in their place. Every rise of l-£d. a bushel in the price of wheat means the addition of £1,000,000 to the national wealth of Australia, and every rise of Id. per lb. in the price of wool, £4,000,000. For SO years, the price of wheat has averaged 4s. 9d. a bushel; consequently, at 2s. a bushel, when compared with the average price, the farmer is losing £22,000,000 annually, of which £16,500,000 represents his Joss overseas. It will thus be seen that he i3 suffering in order that Australia might as nearly as possible maintain its balance of trade abroad. The rural rehabilitation plan of the Labour party, which was supported almost to the last detail by the representatives of the wheat-growers of Australia, who recently formed a deputation to the Government, provides ‘for a price of 3s. 9d. a bushel f.o.b. - about 3s. 4 1/2 d. a bushel on the farm, or 10s. a bag - and 4s. for wheat consumed in Australia. The latter is the amount which would have to be paid for wheat if we had to import it. The wheat-farmer is entitled to equal assistance to that given to secondary industries through the tariff. I remember reading an article in the Sydney Bulletin. declaring that it would be unjust to ask the farmer to work for a lower remuneration than is received by the average artisan. Wheat is purchased in Australia for home consumption at ls. 3d. a bushel below London parity.
For the first time since 1914, some districts in Western Australia have experienced an almost total loss of wheat through drought, while crops in other localities are suffering from rust, which is usually due to too much rain. In other States, farmers have to contend with a grasshopper plague. A bounty on production means that the man who has an average crop receives considerable benefit, while those who meet with failure receive no assistance. I trust that this aspect of the problem will be considered by the royal commission whose report is now awaited. Owing to the prevalence of drought and rust, the expected yield in Western Australia in the last six weeks has fallen from 33,000,000 to 27,000,000 bushels; those figures indicate how precarious is the position. The price is 2s. a bushel, or less, at railway sidings, ls. 6d. below the production cost. Apart from the low price received for the wheat there is great uncertainty as to whether markets will be available for it. One member of the deputation that waited on the Minister for Commerce a few days ago said that the policy of high protection had resulted in many European markets being closed to Australia. Beef from the Kimberley meat works has been refused admission to a European market on the ground that Australia had imposed an embargo on Belgian glass, and messages published in the press indicated that this action must be regarded as retaliatory. We thought that we had been left the Chinese and Japanese markets for our wheat; but one honorable member told us this morning that Manchukuo has put a heavy duty on Australian wheat.
Apart altogether from the fiscal policy of Australia, our primary producers are suffering because of the rapid spread throughout Europe of economic nationalism. It is said that war is possible, and that all European countries, even Great Britain, are determined to make themselves able to feed their own people in the event of war. They desire to be self-contained; yet, if Australia became freetrade to-morrow, I do not believe that a single country in Europe, apart from Great Britain, would take an extra bushel of our wheat. Great Britain offers its farmers 5s. 7 id. a bushel up to 43,000,000 bushels, Australian wheat is now fetching 2s. 6d. a bushel in London, bo the British farmers have an advantage over the Australians to the amount of 3s. 1/d. a bushel. In- France the grower receives a bounty of 7s. Id. a bushel. The price of wheat there is 12s. a bushel, Australian currency, and a 200 per cent, surcharge is imposed against Australian wheat. It is pointed out that Australia has excited the anger of France by its fiscal policy, because it has not purchased enough goods from that country, and that the surcharge of 200 per cent, against Australian wheat is equivalent to 34s. a bushel sterling, but that heavy duty is more spectacular than real. Not one bushel of wheat from any other country, irrespective of its fiscal policy, enters France to-day. The price of wheat in Germany is 9s. 3d. a bushel in Australian currency. Germany, like France, is more an exporting than an importing country. There are certain restrictions on the admission of wheat into Germany, but as they are probably well known to honorable members, I shall not repeat them now. The duty on wheat entering Germany is 13s. 1-Jd. a bushel in Australian currency. In Italy the duty is 7s. 2id. a bushel, and the price is lis. fid. a bushel, in Australian currency. Outside Britain and Japan there is no sure market for our wheat. Japan is a big buyer of Australian wheat as it is of Australian wool. In that country there are numbers of big flour mills which obtain their raw materials from Australia. If these markets are closed to us, then God help Australia ! Until the position becomes clearer, something must be done to keep our farmers on the land. That, I know, sounds like a note of despair; but we cannot allow the farms, which at present carry a population of 60,000, to revert to wilderness.
I come now to the problem of unemployment. I do not pretend that it can be solved by a wave of the hand, but it is one with which we must grapple. Unfortunately, the efforts which have been made throughout the world to grapple with this difficulty have not been highly . successful, for in almost every country there is still a large army of unemployed. It is therefore not surprising that the world is being flooded with literature of a somewhat radical nature. University professors and leading thinkers, many of whom hold conservative views, have advocated unorthodox methods to deal with the unemployment problem, as did a Government supporter, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), this morning. The Prime Minister claims that his Government has done much to relieve the unemployment situation in Australia. “Were I to say of the Government what the right honorable gentleman says of it, I would bo accused of indulging in fulsome flattery; but apparently selfcommendation or boasting is more readily excused. Of what value is such eulogy when 200,000 men in this country are out of work? I am not misrepresenting the right honorable gentleman, for I read in the Governor-General’s Speech that -
My advisers take pride in the fact that during the past two years Australia has, together with the United Kingdom, taken a leading place among the nations of the world in financial and industrial recovery. They also observe with satisfaction the consistent and substantial improvement in employment over that period.
It would be wrong not to admit that there has been some progress towards recovery, because the erection of new buildings in Melbourne and elsewhere is evidence of a better tone in the community, but I submit that the improved position is not due to anything that the Government has done. Last year’s wool clip brought to this country £22,000,000 more than was realized for the clip of the previous year. In addition, Australia has enjoyed good harvests. The circulation of an additional £22,000,000 from wool, together with the return from the wheat harvest, notwithstanding that that return was less than the cost of producion, did much to help things. Nevertheless, business men in Melbourne whom I have consulted say that, apart from the temporary boom due to the visit of the Duke of Gloucester and the centenary celebrations, business to-day is less satisfactory than it was six months ago. Statistics quoted in this chamber from time to time are challenged on the ground that they have been compiled by interested parties, but that cannot be said of statistics which emanate from the International Labour Office at Geneva. Employment statistics from that source show that the improvement which has taken place in Australia is no greater than it is in Europe. No one desires to take from the Lyons Government credit for anything that it has done; but even it will not claim to have improved conditions in, say, Switzerland or Germany. In the twelve months from September, 1933, to September, 1934, unemployment in Great Britain and Northern Ireland dropped from 19.1 per cent, of the population to 16.6 per cent. In Germany during’ the same period, the decrease of unemployment was considerable, the respective figures being 22.3 per cent, and 13.6 per cent. Twelve months ago, 21.4 per cent, of the people of Denmark were out of work; to-day the rate has fallen to 16.1 per cent. In September, 1933, 15.9 per cent, of the population of Switzerland was unemployed; that number was reduced to 11.9 per cent, by July of this year. Since September, 1933, the unemployment figures for Australia have dropped from 25.1 per cent, to 20.4. per cent, of the population, a figure which is higher than that of any of the European countries I have quoted. The Prime Minister claims that his Government has done much to relieve the unemployment situation, but he has not explained why six months after obtaining office the figures relating to unemployment reached their peak, representing in the middle of 1932 30 per cent. of the population. The lowest unemployment figures in Australia are those of Queensland .and Western Australia where Labour governments are in power. In August last the percentage of unemployment in Queensland was 11.4 or 9 per cent, below the Australian average, and in Western Australia it was 17.2, or 3 per cent, below the average. Even on the Commonwealth Government’s own figures the number of unemployed in Australia at present is 173,000, but those figures are based on the returns supplied by trade union organizations. It has been stated frequently that returns are not submitted by all organizations, and that there are also large numbers of unemployed men who are not members of a trade union. In these circumstances it is safe to assume that in Australia there are at least 200,000 persons out of work. While I do not blame the Government solely for the present position I submit those figures to show that industrial conditions are not as satisfactory as some suggest. If, as we were advised in the Governor-General’s Speech, the subject of unemployment is to receive priority over all others, the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney is opportune, and it is incumbent upon us to examine carefully every proposal submitted which may be a means of improving the deplorable conditions which now exist. The unification of our railways which has been advocated by honorable members on this side of the chamber for some time has been suggested as a means of relieving the situation. In a publication issued by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in August of this year, there is an informative article entitled “Debts, Unemployment, Gold and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, “ written by Dr. A. C. D. Rivett, the chief executive officer of the council. One of the responsibilities of the council is to suggest mean? of increasing production and providing employment. Dr. Rivett, who is spoken of in the Sydney Bulletin as one of the most able men in Australia, suggests that money should be expended in searching for gold, parti”cularly as that commodity is now £6 sterling an ounce or 50 per cent, above its normal price, and that it is the only commodity of primary production that has advanced in price. During the prevailing financial blizzard all our other ex”port commodities, such as wool, wheat and meat are being sold in the world’s markets at about one-half of the cost of production. Moreover, he states that the freight is negli gible, and that there are no marketing troubles, and that the demand cannot at present be met. In comparison with Australia South Africa is a poor country, but in consequence of its tremendous output of gold has not experienced serious economic troubles. During the last two or three years the output of gold from South Africa has been increased to such an extent that South Africa is now producing more than one-half of the world’s yield. Senator Meighan, an ex-Prime Minister of Canada who visited Canberra yesterday said that the increased production of gold in that dominion is doing more than anything else to assist it in its present position. Canada, which is regarded as the granary of the world, has also enormous timber resources, and produces fish products of great value; but during recent years the return from these commodities has not equalled that from gold. Large gold mines have been opened up and Canada is now the second largest gold-producing country in the world. The figures supplied by the Bureau of Census and Statistics and quoted yesterday by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) were so amazing that I asked the department to check them. They show that the number of persons in Australia engaged in gold-mining in 1928 -was 5,686. while in 1933 it was approximately 27,676. That increase seems to me to be out of proportion to the increase in the output of gold. I suppose the yield of gold has doubled in the last four or five years; but I doubt whether it would be valued- at more than £8,000,000, Australian currency, this year. In Western Australia, which produces about 75 per cent, of the gold produced in Australia the output of gold has increased twofold since 1928, and the number of men engaged in the industry has increased from 3,863 to 9,900 or about two and a quarter times the figures of six years ago.
– Would the honorable gentleman’s figures include the prospectors ?
– I think they would not include the large number of men sent out by the Department of Minos of Western Australia, who would be regarded, I suppose, as being on the dole.
Those men are paid a living allowance and provided with a kit suitable for prospecting for gold. They are in a particularly happy position because usually prospectors are provided only with what they call in America the “ grub stake that is, food. These men have a keen incentive to work, for they know that with any swing of the pick they may possibly strike a fortune. A number of men have done so in Western Australia. Only a few days ago I read that two men, who were “ dead broke “, struck a “ find “ worth £5,000. They sold out their claim for another £5,000. I should like, by the way, to pay a tribute to Mr. Munsie, the Minister for Mines in Western Australia, once himself a working miner, who is undoubtedly the finest Minister for Mines that Western Australia or perhaps any other State, has ever had. The men who go out prospecting live, in some respects, the happiest life that men could live, and they always have the hope that they will make a rich strike. Dr. Rivett has drawn specific attention to the possibility of developing our gold-mining industry to an extent that would be wonderfully beneficial to Australia. He says that the Government could send thoroughly qualified men out into our highly mineralized country - the most highly mineralized country in the world - to prospect. No doubt he means that the Commonwealth Government should do this, for that is the government that is usually meant when grants are required; but in any case the Commonwealth Government alone has the money available for the purpose. What South Africa has done the Commonwealth can do. Dr. Rivett also points out that, whereas years ago the mines on the Golden Mile could not treat profitably 10 dwt. oTe, the greatest mine in Western Australia to-day is making a profit of more than £600,000 . a year from 5 dwt. ore, He says that if we could find a pile of 7 dwt. ore a mile each way and 132 feet high, we should obtain enough from it to pay our national debt. I do not suggest that the paymentofthenational debt is the only purpose that could be served by this means. The money might be used for the payment of interest, or for otherpurposes that would be even more beneficial to the whole community. But in any case, if our interest bill were met by this means, an abundance of work would be provided for everybody. In these days qualified mining engineers and trained geophysical experts are able to do a great deal to detect the existence of ore bodies by geophysical prospecting. Something is being done in this direction by the Western Mining Corporation, which is also using aeroplanes and employing trained observers with the object of locating gold-bearing country in Western Australia. Dr. Rivett says that the ideas that he has outlined are no idle dream. We have hundreds of qualified men trained in the finest mining schools in the Commonwealth who are to-day out of work and could be put to this employment. We also have a greater proportion of men conversant with gold-mining in our population than any other country in the world. We should, therefore, be able to do a great deal to stimulate the goldmining industry. Instead of sending overseas the gold that was won we might devise some method of using it to liquidate our debt in Australia by issuing Australian bonds, which could be exchanged in some way for our overseas debt. That, however, is an aspect of the subject which Dr. Rivett has not developed to any great extent. He realizes that that is a matter for economists. But he makes it quite clear that an effective plan could be devised. A layman must always find difficulty in putting a case of this description logically and attractively, but there is no doubt that Dr. Rivett himself has made an arresting suggestion which has fired the enthusiasm of the Sydney Bulletin. I commend the proposal to the careful attention of honorable members generally and of the Assistant Treasurer in particular. He, being an engineer with considerable knowledge of mining, must realize that our scientists and business men could do a great deal in this direction to assist to provide work for the unemployed.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1934 -
No. 29- Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 30 - Federated Public Service
Assistants Association of Australia.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act
Ordinances of 1934 -
No. 15- Crimes (No. 2).
No. 16 - Printers and Newspapers.
No. 17 - Licensing (No. 2).
No. 18 - Matrimonial Causes.
No. 19 - Coroners.
No. 20 - Dangerous Drugs.
No. 21 - Board of Inquiry.
Gaming Ordinance - Racing Club Regulations.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1934, Nos. 130, 135, 137.
Post and Telegraph Act and Wireless Telegraphy Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 136.
Railway Transport for Members: Retiring Age of Judiciary : Western Australian Petition for Secession : Defence Reserve at Keswick.
– I move. -
That the House do now adjourn.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) has made arrangements whereby those honorable members who come from the south by the Melbourne train will be able to arrive here on Wednesday next at 9.30 a.m.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) the following statement which appeared in the Melbourne Age of the 14th November: -
JUDGES RETIRING AGE.
Constitutional amendments designed to provide for the retirement of High Court judges at the age of 72 will be submitted to Parliament by the Government early in the New Year. At present judges may hold office as long as they desire.
Section 72 of the Commonwealth Constitution provides that the justices of the High Court and of the other courts created by the Parliament, shall not be removed, except by the Governor-General in Council, on an address from both Houses of the Parliament in the same session, praying for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity. Is the statement which appeared in the Melbourne Age correct, and is it proposed to submit this matter to a referendum of the people of Australia; if so, when?
.- The week before last I addressed a question to the Attorney-General (Mr.. Menzies) in regard to a delegation which has arrived in the United Kingdom to present a petition to His Majesty the King praying for the separation of Western Australia from the Commonwealth. I now ask him if the procedure adopted in the presentation of this petition is not distinctly irregular, and whether the Imperial authorities have any right to accept from the people of an Australian State a petition presented in this way? Did not the granting of autonomous powers to each of the dominions place Australia, in respect of domestic affairs, on an equality with Great Britain itself? Should not this petition have been presented through the Australian Government instead of through the Secretary of State for the Dominions? If the Commonwealth is anxious to preserve its rights as a sovereign entity, it should deprecate anything that would tend to diminish its right to control fully its own affairs. The Commonwealth Government should indicate its strong disapproval of any interference in vital matters with which Australians are exclusively concerned. Can the AttorneyGeneral give an assurance that the Government is taking suitable action?
.- Some time ago the Commonwealth authorities constructed a drain through the defence reserve at Keswick. Recently a flood occurred in that area, and the drain was unable to cope with the volume of water, with the result that the occupants of houses in the vicinity were put to great trouble and expense due to the flooding of their homes. I previously brought this matter under the notice of the Minister for Defence on the 26th March, 1930. Serious floods occurred in this locality in October, 1924, February, 1925, May, 1925, and December, 1930. The drain is, obviously, incapable of carrying off heavy raina. When it was being constructed, I, although a layman, advised the engineers that the drain would be incapable of meeting the demand which would be made upon it. The engineers had their way, the job was completed, and in the first flood that occurred, seven State houses and one. war service home were invaded by the water and considerable damage was done to their furniture. I feel that an obligation devolves upon the Federal Government at least to pay compensation to these people. Mr. Rogers, engineer for the Unley City Corporation, only a month prior to the flood, gave evidence before the South Australian Public Works Committee stating that the drain was inadequate and that the question of pipes required investigating. He thought that the drain provided by the Defence Department could neither cope with storm waters nor afford protection to those living in the vicinity. It has been said that it is essentially a matter for the State authorities, but I do not agree with that, though they must, of course, accept their share of responsibility. I have already brought the subject under the notice of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) and have received from him the following reply:
I desire to inform you that I have had inquiries made into the subject-matter of your telegram and regret that the Defence Department is unable to accept any responsibility for the flooding of the houses in Maple-avenue, Keswick, and would suggest that the appropriate State authorities be consulted in the matter.
I cannot agree with the Minister in this regard, and I trust that he will see his way to go into the matter again, and afford some redress to the people concerned.
.- Will the Government make a statement of its intention to provide for the representation of Australia at the next assembly of the International Labour Conference? I have read a statement to the effect that the Government proposes to invite the employers’ organizations, and those of the employees, to submit names of suitable candidates, from which a representative of each organization will be chosen. Nothing has been said, however, regarding the intention of the Government to be directly represented, and I submit that, in view of the immense importance of the League of Nations to the peace of the world, and the cultural importance of the work performed by the International Labour Office, the Commonwealth Government should take steps to be represented at the next conference. I understand that at previous conferences the Government has been represented, sometimes by the High Commissioner, and sometimes by an officer attached to Australia House. In my opinion, the Government should send a full delegation and, despite the expense that may be involved, the delegation should be accompanied by competent advisers. It is the practice of most European governments, and also of the Government of Japan, to attach to their delegations quite a numerous body of advisers and secretaries, who, in the course of the conference, gain an excellent training for the work which they have subsequently to perform in their own countries.
– I have listened to the remarks of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) in regard to the drainage of the Keswick Barracks ground, and I can understand that the Defence Department should decline to accept responsibility for expenditure that does not properly belong to it. The honorable member has been very pressing in regard to this matter in behalf of his constituents, and I shall look into the matter to see what can be done.
– I can assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that the newspaper report to which he referred is without foundation. The matter of the retiring age of judges has not yet engaged the attention of the Government, but it would seem probable that the imposition of a retiring age in the case of judges of the High Court could be achieved only by an amendment of the Constitution. That, like most other legal matters, is not free from doubt.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked a question regarding the procedure of making representations to the Crown. This involves some important and difficult considerations. The Government is conscious of this,and is also alive to the necessity for preserving all the sovereign rights which the Commonwealth enjoys. Steps have been taken for the effective representation of its views on this matter in London.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) urged the Government to take steps to ensure proper government representation at the forthcoming International Labour Conference. This matter has already received some consideration from the Government, but no decision has yet been reached as to what direct representation shall be sent. The honorable member may rest assured that the Government realizes the importance of the conference, anddesires to have Australia effectively represented. I am obliged to him for reminding me of the importance of arming whatever delegation may be sent with expert advice, and that suggestion will be taken into consideration very shortly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.38 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Will he favorably consider the introduction of legislation making domicile in any part of the Common wealth a sufficient foundation of jurisdiction in divorce proceedings taken in any State court?
– It is not the practice to announce the Government’s intentions as to proposed legislation in reply to questions.
CockatooDockyard:Constructionof Sloop - Lessees.
r asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr.ArchdaleParkhill. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1.Yes. The vessel is to be delivered on or before the 31st December, 1935.
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible, in answer to a question by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) regarding the lessees of the Cockatoo Dockyard.
Prices of Primary Products.
e. - The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible, in answer to questions by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), regarding the prices and export of butter and the prices of wheat and wool.
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister-in-Charge of Development and of Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice -
r. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions areas follows : -
Issues of Credit by Australian Banks.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 November 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1934/19341116_reps_14_145/>.