14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon.G.J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House that the Bight Honorable J. 6. Coates, M.P., Minister of Finance and Customs, New Zealand, the Honorable)R. Masters, M.L.C., Minister of Industries and Commerce, New Zealand, and Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, M.P., Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Dominions, United Kingdom, are within the precincts of the House. With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall provide them with distinguished strangers’ seats on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Messrs. Coates, Masters and MacDonald thereupon entered thechamber, and were stated accordingly.
Mr.ARCHIE CAMERON. - I give notice that to-morrow I shall move the following motion of privilege: -
That -the blasphemous and treasonable statements of policy and intention, calculated to destroy the peace, order,and good government of the Commonwealth of Australia, published by John Smith Garden in variouspapers from time to timebetween 1920 and1930, render
John Smith Garden unfit to occupy any office under the Commonwealth, andthe seat for the division of Cookis declaredvacant accordingly.
– Order! The honorable member may not debate the question.
Mr.Beasley. - I am giving reasons for seeking your ruling. Is it competent for an honorable member to raise a question relating to a period-
– Order ! The honorable member may raise a point of order as to whether it is within the competency of an honorablemember to give notice of a motion of privilege, but he may not debate the question.
– It is equally obligatory upon me to give reasons for the point of order I have raised.
– The honorable member must realize that were I to allow him to give reasons why the motion of privilege should not be discussed, he would be debating the question. That is not permissible at this stage.
– I am endeavouring to bring you, sir, to the point of determining whether itis competent for the honorable member for Barker to use the parliamentary institution for the purpose declared in his notice of motion. I should like to be informed as to whether honorable members may refer to happenings, whether proved or otherwise, at a period antecedent to an honorable gentleman’s membership of this Parliament?
– Order !
– May I then put my point in another way? Honorable members have been elected to this Parliament from the period-
– Order ! I remind the honorable member that he is now debating the motion of privilege, of which notice has been given. I am prepared to give a ruling on the matter.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has given notice of a motion in which he refers to certain utterances as “ blasphemous “.
– I am referring to the notice of motion which is to be placarded on the business paper, accusing an honorable member of this House of having made blasphemous utterances. If that is in order, there is nothing to prevent any honorable member from singling out others, and by notice of motion accusing them of having made blasphemous utterances, whether the charge be true or false. Thus this Parliament could be used as a vehicle for making charges without giving reasons or debating the question. If the honorable member for Barker may do that, so also may we, and the parliamentary papers may be placarded with unfounded charges of blasphemy against honorable members.
– The honorable member for Barker is strictly conforming to the Standing Orders in giving notice that he intends to move a motion of privilege. In having named the subject that he intends to discuss on that motion of privilege, his object apparently is to intimate its nature to honorable members, so that they may prepare themselves for the debate that is to take place. I rule that the honorable member is in order in giving notice of his motion.
Presentation to the GovernorGeneral.
– I have to inform the House that the Address-in-Reply will be presented to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, at Government House, at 11 a.m. to-morrow.
– I shall be glad if the mover and seconder of the AddressinReply, together with other honorable members who so desire, will accompany me upon the occasion of the Presentation of the Address to His Excellency tomorrow, at the hour named by the Prime Minister.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, the Chairman of Committees, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Beasley, Sir Littleton Groom and Mr. Makin he members of the Standing Orders Committee; three to form a quorum.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker, Mr. Abbott, Mr. Brennan, Sir Donald Cameron, Mr. Francis, Dr. Maloney and Mr. Rosevear be members of the Library Committee; three to form a quorum.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker, Mr. Drakeford, Mr. Gardiner, Mr. R. Green, Mr. James, Mr. Martens and Mr. Price be members of the House Committee; three to form a quorum.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Frost, Mr. Gander, Mr. A. Green, Mr. Hutchinson, Mr. Jennings, Mr. McBride and Mr. McEwen be members of the Printing Committee; three to form a quorum, with power to confer with a similar committee of the Senate.
– Statements have appeared in the press that it is the intention of the Government to proceed immediately with the construction of the Red Hill to Port Augusta railway. “Will the Prime Minister inform the House if it is intended to proceed immediately with that work?
– No decision has yet been reached in regard to this matter; but it is receiving the close attention of the Government at the present time, and it is hoped that it will be possible to discuss it further with the Premier of South Australia when he is in Canberra on Monday or Tuesday next.
– On 22nd November the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked the following question, without notice -
In view of the report in the Canberra Times this morning that further wreckage has been washed up at Waratah Bay, will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence make the cable ship available for a search of this area with the object of locating, if possible, the lost air liner Miss Hobart, and the passengers which it was carrying when it disappeared?
Iam now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
The cable ship Recorder was engaged in the searches when Miss Hobart was first posted as missing. The Postmaster-General’s Department advises that since that time the ship has completed its work on this cable, and has returned to its home waters in New Zealand. As the chair which has been found on the beach gives some evidence that the wreckage may be in comparatively shallow waters, arrangements have been made for the Royal Australian Air Force Southhampton flying boats, which are now in Sydney, to make a search for wreckage of the Miss Hobart when returning to Melbourne during this week, if weather conditions are favorable.
– Has the Government yet come to a decision in regard to the demands made by the Fijian Government, to the detriment of Australian banana-growers, and, if so, what is the nature of the decision?
– Negotiations with the Fijian Government are still proceeding.
– I lay on the table-
Copies of the second, third, and fourth (final) reports of the Royal Commission on Taxation, and move -
That the papers be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I desire to address a question to the Assistant Treasurer arising out of a letter addressed to me by the honorable gentleman on the 26th November, regarding sales tax on hospital ambulance equipment. Ambulance equipment was included in the list of exemptions brought down after the sales tax had been in operation for some period, and it was thought that this exemption would cover hospital ambulance equipment, as well; but, according to the Assistant Treasurer’s letter, it does not. I ask the Minister to tell me now if it is exempted.
– I have addressed a further letter to the honorable member, which I think he has not yet received, to the effect that the exemption as existing now applies only to ambulance organizations, and not to hospitals. I am not aware if it was the original intention of the Government to limit the exemption in that way, but the matter is being considered with a view to ascertaining if it is possible to accept the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Has the Minister for Commerce seen a report in the Canberra Times to the effect that the International Wheat Conference proposes to ask Australia to agree to a further limitation of exports, and to consent to the world wheat agreement operating for a further two years? If that report is correct, can the Minister give the House any additional information?
– I have seen the comments in the press regarding the point raised by the honorable member, but I have no official confirmation of them. After the wheat conference meets in Canberra next Monday, I shall be able to make a full statement.
– Has the Prime Minister any comment to make in regard to the statements appearing in the press in connexion with the Lancashire cotton industry?
– At present I have no statement to make on the question of cotton duties. The matter will be discussed before the House adjourns for the Christmas recess.
– In connexion with the establishment of a federal war service homes department in Adelaide, has the Minister been able to overcome the position regarding the payment of municipal and district council rates and taxes on war service homes? Can the Minister explain to the House the advantage of transferring the administration of the war service homes to the Commonwealth?
– Satisfactory arrangements have been entered into with the Government of South Australia, and the South Australian Parliament has now passed the necessary legislation to transfer the war service homes to the War Service Homes Commission. Steps are being taken to establish a War Service Homes Commission (South Australian) Department, in Adelaide.From figures supplied by the Commission, a saving of approximately £4,000 per annum will be made as a result of the change.
– Where the payments of invalid, old-age, and war pensions fall due within the last few days of December, will arrangements be made for payments to be effected prior to the Christmas holidays?
– I am not sure of the practice which has applied in the past, but I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs give favorable consideration to the suggestion emanating from the Australian Window Glass Proprietary Limited that, in the distribution of glass permitted to be imported from Belgium under the quota system, Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania will receive the major part of the imported glass, in order that the users in those States may be saved the freight they would have to pay for glass from Sydney or on the re-shipment of Belgian glass from Melbourne or Sydney?
– As South Australia and Western Australia are the principal beneficiaries under the trade agreement, the Government will give sympathetic consideration to the suggestion that imports may be diverted to those States.
– At present there is an embargo, imposed by proclamation, on the importation of glass. Under the amended Customs Act, I understand that such a proclamation can remain effective for only six months after the date on which it comes into operation. This proclamation will expire in December. I wish to know whether the Government proposes to continue the embargo, and whether the regulation as now provided will be tabled prior to the Christmas adjournment of Parliament, in order that honorable members may be given an opportunity to determine whether it shall be voided or not?
– Obviously, the embargo will have to be continued, because that is the only way in which the agreement with Belgium can be implemented. Actually, it is a rationing of glass imports. Therefore, the proclamation will be renewed, so that it will not expire during any parliamentary recess.
– Will the Minister for the Interior lend his sympathy and support to the provision of a main road between Canberra and Yass to connect with the Hume Highway at the nearest possible point, for the benefit of tourists and also of the large number of men that would be engaged on such a constructional work?
– The honorable member has made previous personal representations to me on this subject, and I am now able to inform him that it has been decided by the Government, acting in co-operation with the Main Roads Board of New South Wales, to provide an improved road between Canberra and Yass of a character that will be in keeping with the importance of the road leading into the Federal Capital.
– Is the Prima Minister in a position to confirm reports that have appeared recently in the press to the effect that the Government is likely to establish a standing committee on agriculture for the purpose of forming an all-Australian agricultural policy ?
– I presume that the honorable member refers to a proposal that has been made that this subject should be discussed with representatives of the State governments. It is proposed to set up not a parliamentary committee, but a standing committee on agriculture of the Ministers of Agriculture in the various States. The matter will be brought under the notice of the representatives of the State governments at an early date.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform me whether he has received any complaints that wireless broadcast reception in the Canberra and Goulburn districts, from both A and B class stations, is unsatisfactory. If so, will the Government, in view of the large population of this area, give consideration to the erection of an A class or relay station within the area?
– I do not know whether complaints of the nature referred to by the honorable member have been made; but the department has well under way the second stage of the programme for the installation of seven regional stations. If the honorable member will make further representations to the PostmasterGeneral on this subject, I am sure that when the third stage of the programme, which is to commence after next June, is being considered, his desire will be taken into account.
On the 14th November the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) made certain inquiries with regard to the new wireless broadcasting station being established at Kelso, Tasmania. I am now in a position to inform him that the contract for the erection of the station has been let, and that the building is well on its way to completion. It is expected that the station will be cut into service about March or April of next year.
On the 14th November the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) made certain inquiries with regard to the regional wireless broadcasting station which is being established at Grafton, New South Wales. I am now in a position to inform him that the building contract has been let and the work commenced. It is anticipated that the station will be cut into service about the end of the present financial year.
– On the 22nd November the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked a question, without notice, concerning the staffing of mail branches to cope with the extra work at Christmas time. I have since ascertained that in order to enable the postal traffic to be effectively handled, arrangements are being made for the temporary transfer to that branch of officers of other branches of the department whose services can be made available without detriment to their normal duties. It is anticipated, however, that employment will be found for all applicants for temporary employment whose previous experience in the mail branch would make their services of value to the branch.
– In view of the fact that a considerable number of Imperial exservice men, who took part in the last war. have become incapacitated in Australia, and also the facts that the Imperial Government does not recognize claims for pensions unless they have been submitted within seven years of the cessation of the war, and that in some cases these Imperial ex-service men were paid a lump sum in lieu of pension, I wish to know whether the Government considers that it is fair that such men should be faced with the necessity of having to make application for invalid pensions in this country when the responsibility of their maintenance should be that of the Imperial Government? Will the right honorable gentleman, during his visit to Great Britain next year, bring this subject under the notice of the Imperial authorities with the object of ensuring that pensions are provided by the government of the United Kingdom for these incapacitated men ?
– I do not think that there is need to bring this matter under the notice of the Imperial authorities. If these men, who rendered service during the war, have decided to settle in Australia and work here, and if Australia has accepted them as citizens, no great harm will be done if, in the event of them becoming physically incapacitated, they are granted an invalid pension.
– I ask the Assistant Treasurer whether the Christmas unemployed relief work to be provided by this Government will be made available through the Commonwealth Works branches or the labour exchanges in the various States? I also wish to know whether preference will be given to returned soldiers?
– This subject was fully debated last week. If the honorable member desires further information on it and will advise me of the exact points in respect of which he has any doubt, I shall furnish him with definite information.
– We were informed by Ministers that the previous practice would be followed in connection with the registration of men for work under the Christmas relief unemployment proposal. Now, however, the Works Department is refusing to register men, and honorable members have been besieged with inquiries as to what the policy of the Government really is. Will the Minister make a statement in order to clear up the matter ?
– I ask the honorable member to give notice of his question so as to enable me to give him a much more complete reply than would be possible at the present stage.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that the Government of New Zealand has recently passed a bill which provides for an increase of the time limit for the maturation of spirit introduced into New Zealand from the present maximum period of three years to five years, and that the new law is to take effect from the 1st May next? In view of the controversy that has occurred in Australia on this subject in regard to locally manufactured spirit, will the Minister ascertain from the New Zealand Government its reason for increasing the time limit for the maturation of spirit in that country?
– I do not know whether the Government of New Zealand has taken such action as that indicated by the honorable member. The maturation of whisky in Australia is now receiving attention from the Tariff Board. The period of maturation in Australia is two years. I will undertake, however, to dis- cuss this subject with the delegation fromNew Zealand while it is here.
– Pursuant to Standing Order No. 25 I hereby nominate Mr. J. S. Rosevear to act as a Temporary Chairman of Committees, when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
The following papers were presented : -
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Tenth Annual Report of the Dried Fruits Control Board, year1933-34, together with a Statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Landa Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Tamworth, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the Federal Capital Territory for year 1933-34.
Return of Writ.
The Clerk announced that he had received from the Military and Official Secretary to His Excellency the Governor-General, a copy of the original writ for the Northern Territory in connexion with the general election of the House of Representatives, held on the 22nd September, 1934, and, by the certificate of endorsement notifying the telegraphed result of the election on such copy writ, it appears that Adair Macalister Blain has been elected in pursuance of the original writ, issued on the 16th August, 1934.
In Committee of Supply:
Consideration resumed from the 23rd November (vide page 541), 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 by 10s.
.- When the debate was adjourned on Friday, I was discussing the extraction of oil from coal by the method practised by the Lyon brothers. It has been admitted by the advisers of this Government, and of the Government of New South Wales, that these men are capable of producing suitable fuel in commercial quantities, and that they do not make exaggerated or extravagant claims. Recently, the Government of New South Wales sent a sample of coal to the Fuel Research Station at Greenwich, and the report received supports in every particular the claims of the Lyon brothers. It has been proved that this coal has a higher oil content than any other kind of coal in the world. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in answer to a question asked by the Mayor of Wallsend, stated to a deputation which waited upon him at Cessnock on 23rd March last, that if it could be shown that the Lyon brothers could obtain better results than were being obtained overseas in extracting oil from coal, the Commonwealth Government would assist in the introduction of the process in Australia. The results obtained by these local men, under strict governmental supervision, are infinitely better than those obtained by the British Fuel Research Station, both as regards the yield of oil and by-products from Maitland coal. Their claim to have introduced superior methods of treatment is confirmed by the opinion of the director of the Fuel Research Station at Greenwich, who stated that the coal obtained from the Greta seam was the best and most uniform that had ever been handled by his department, and went on to say that the best English plants operating would not be able to treat the coal to the greatest advantage.
The Commonwealth Government and its advisers would not lose any dignity by reversing the present policy of indifferent and masterly inactivity. There is not a person on the northern coal-fields who does not now believe that the Lyon brothers can do what they claim. A conference was called in Newcastle to consider this matter some time ago, and it was attended by eminent scientists, by the Minister for Mines in the New South Wales Government, and by others interested in the industry. I was also present, and at that conference the following letter from the Lyon brothers was read : -
During the past fifteen years we have spent £20,000 in investigating local coal and conditions, and having had previous experience in shale have definitely come to the conclusion that the production of oil from coal provides definitely better possibilities than the production of oil from kerosene shale.
Local coal and conditions are different to other parts of the world and I think we can safely claim that we have spent more time and money on local research than has been spent by any other firm or by any Australian Government.
At the request of the New South Wales Government in June last we were invited, in view of the report of the committee which investigated our work, to submit our proposals for proceeding commercially with our coal processing operations.
We submitted these proposals early in July and briefly they consisted of the immediate expenditure of £150,000 for the erection of a coal processing plant in connection with the Zara Street power house.
Such a plant to be the first unit of an industry capable of producing 1,000 tons of motor spirit per day, and using 2,000,000 (two million) tons of extra coal per annum.
The production of this quantity of coal and its subsequent processing would absorb the whole of the unemployed on the Maitland coal-fields, and due to the stabilizing effect on the industry would considerably reduce intermittency of employment.
Our estimate of the cost of motor spirit produced in such a plant is ninepence (9d. ) per gallon and not only would three hundred thousand (300,000) gallons of motor spirit per day bc manufactured at this figure but, by coupling the industry with that of electricity and gas would gave to the public cheaper electricity and gas.
It is for the Government to say whether the establishment of such an industry is desirable and, if so, to what extent they are prepared to assist.
That statement bears out the opinion I have expressed on previous occasions that, if the treatment of coal for the production of oil were carried out in conjunction with the supply of gas and electricity, Australia would be independent of oversea oil supplies, and the people would be able to obtain gas and electricity at lower rates than now prevail.
All countries recognize that the success of the coal trade is dependent upon the progress made in the conversion of coal to oil. The procrastination of successive governments and their advisers is breaking the hearts of the miners, not only in the northern coal-mining districts of New South Wales, but also throughout Australia. Various Ministries have made a number of promises to rehabilitate the industry. As I remarked on Friday last, although the present depression in the coal trade may lift temporarily, the industry cannot permanently progress under the present methods, owing to the fact that fuels other than coal are now being largely used in the production of power. The replies that I have recently received from various members of the Government, particularly the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), to the effect that it would be rather foolish to expend money for the purpose of experimentation at the present time until the results of inquiries now being conducted in Great Britain are known, show that Ministers are afraid to adopt a bold policy. Even if a few mistakes were made at the outset, a great deal of employment would be provided for our own people, and we should be encouraging Australian technicians, who, I claim, are second to none. Have we no confidence in them because they are Australians? It is claimed that £20,000 has been expended on experimental work by these people, but the policy of the Commonwealth Ministry is, “ wait and see what happens in England”.
That is not the spirit which inspired the hardy pioneers, whose enterprise led to the development of this country. There is no doubt that a great deal of employment would be provided if the low temperature carbonization process recommended by Lyon brothers were put into operation on a large scale.
In addition to the high cost of importing oil supplies, the Government is now faced with the cost of the dole, which is given to the miners who are idle. Last week I indicated the number of miners who were out of work in the northern mining districts of New South Wales. A similar proportion of the miners in the southern and western districts are unemployed. Dr. Rivett has admitted that Lyon brothers can extract oil from coal ; his only criticism is that their plant is an experimental one, and not large enough to produce oil on a commercial basis. Since this firm can produce good oil from coal, why not give it the necessary financial encouragement to enable it to erect a large plant, by which it could help to supply the oil requirements of Australia?
– Will not private enterprise take up the proposition ?
– It is stated that £150,000 is required to launch the scheme on a commercial basis, and I claim that in view of the large number who could be employed in this - work the matter should be sympathetically considered by the Government and some indication given as to the extent to which the industry would be protected against imported oil fuel. It does not hesitate to assist other industries. Many rural industries have had more nursing than any others; but what help has been given to the coal-mining industry, in which, in New South Wales alone, prior to the depression, 24,800 men were engaged ? In the other States, of course, there are smaller coal-producing centres. This was formerly one of the largest industries in Australia, and we should do all we can to rehabilitate it. The international situation is tense, and war clouds are darkening. This great world storm may break in the Pacific, and, in such an event, Australia might be unable to obtain oil for motor transport purposes. We should not be so ostrich-like as to refuse to face the facts of the situation. If, at some future time, our oil supplies are cut off, the blame will not lie with those connected with the coal-mining industry. Every deputation that has approached different governments has shown that, apart from the rehabilitation of the coal industry and the provision of employment for our people, we have to guard . against the danger of war. In such an event we would not be in a position to defend ourselves, because we should not be able to obtain supplies of oil. My electors do not advocate, nor do I, the restriction of attention to the one process. I am not so biased as to say that the low-temperature carbonization process is the best. Not a great deal is known by us about the hydrogenation process, which is claimed to be the most economic. But I do say, without fear of contradiction, that there is room in this country for both processes. Seeing that the low temperature carbonization process is already established in Germany and in other parts of the world, and has been proved to be an economic and a commercial proposition, why should not the Lyon brothers be given encouragement to develop it here? Different persons who have approached me have alleged that the major oil companies bring too much influence to bear upon governments and the servants of governments, with the result that a favorable report cannot b’e obtained for the production of oil from minerals.
– They do not stop at that.
– That is perfectly true. We do not know what graft is practised. The major oil companies obtain such good pickings from the Australian market that they would not stop at graft to safeguard their interests. We have to take our courage in both hands. Thousands of good citizens who are anxious to obtain a livelihood are debarred from doing so. At one time the coal industry was one of the best industries in Australia. It employed a large number of people directly, and indirectly many others were dependent upon it for transport purposes. To-day it is stagnating. For 30 odd years Kurri Kurri held the Melbourne gas works contract; but that is now lost to it because of the cutthroat competition among the coal-mining companies for the little trade that is offering, and the town is in the throes of a greater depression than it has ever previously experienced. Those to whom I speak when I visit my electorate at the week-end ask me to give them some idea of how things are going. The Govern ment wishes me to take to them the message that prosperity will shortly appear. How can a man in my position hold out any promise to these people? There is no hope for them unless the Government is courageous enough to tackle the problem. I do not wish to be accused, as I have been by the Prime Minister, of never having placed before this Parliament a concrete suggestion. I have probably wearied the House by my reiteration of the request that something be done in this matter. While not desiring to do that, I recognize that I owe a duty to those who have sent me to this Parliament, and that I must fight in their interests. In doing so, I am advancing the interests of this country; because, in the event of war in the Pacific - which has been forecast - what possibility would there be of our defending ourselves if our oil supplies were cut off? I urge that serious consideration be given to this matter.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member’s time has expired. [Quorum formed.]
.- The transcendent problem in Australia to-day is that of unemployment, and it is fitting that the debate on the budget should largely revolve around it. Many and varied speeches have been made, but one of the most remarkable to which I have listened is the speech that was delivered last week by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker). After a recital of the names of certain men who are prominent in our national life, the honorable gentleman suggested that there is something sinister in their activities, and purported to make an accusation against success. Such an accusation would seem to denote the possession by that honorable gentleman of the form of psychology which would suppress and destroy rather than emulate.
Reference has frequently been made to the number of bank notes which the late Sir Robert. Gibson would have been forced to print had the Labour party during its term of office from 1929 to 1931 been not only in office, but also in power. I seem to remember that it was the then Prime Minister and a section of his Cabinet who re-appointed Sir
Robert Gibson to the position of Chairman of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank. It also occurs to me that that appointment was made more or less behind the backs of members of the party, the paramount idea probably being that, sooner or later, the more irresponsible members would seize control and that in such an event Sir Robert Gibson would act as a bulwark against their designs. I recollect also - I hope that I shall not offend against either dignity or propriety, nor hurt the sensitive feelings of the Chair in what I am about to say - that there was rather a hell of a row when the party was informed of the decision. I know that it was considered an awful thing by those irresponsible members who were anxious to indulge in the wild and mad printing of notes.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) particularly, and other honorable members, have suggested that the Government has been guilty of procrastination in its handling of the problem of unemployment.
– It has been suggested by Government members also.
– I intend to reply briefly, not only to the accusation, but also to the contentions put forward by honorable members who sit on this side of the chamber. It has been said that, although the Lyons Governmenthas been in office for over three years, not a great deal has been done to relieve unemployment. I suggest that that is not a fact, and previous speeches from this side of the House substantiate that statement. The tenure of office of theLyons Administration may be divided into two parts, the first of which involved the rehabilitation of the finances of Australia, the restoration of confidence, and the re-establishment of credit. Those three important undertakings were necessary as a prelude to the economic reconstruction of Australia in this, the second term. Honorable members will remember that during its first six months of office, the Lyons Government had time for practically nothing but the preparation of legislation designed to bring about the downfall of the menace of Langism in New South Wales.
– I draw attention to the state of the committee.
– A quorum has been formed within the last few minutes It is the usual practice to allow at least a quarter of an hour to elapse before again drawing attention to the state of the House or the committee.
– On one occasion in the last Parliament, I drew attention to the state of the House and a quorum was formed. A number of honorable members immediately left the chamber, which was again left without a quorum. I thereupon again drew attention to the state of the House, and Mr. Speaker Mackay instructed the Clerk to ring the bells for a quorum. I regard that as a precedent.
– That is so. I am prepared to follow that precedent. There is, however, a quorum present.
– The aim of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) is to shorten the time at my disposal, because I am directing attention to the deplorable government which functioned in New South Wales until just on three years ago. When I was interrupted, I was pointing out that the Lyons Government, in its first six months of office, was fully occupied in devising means to overcome the greatest menace to recovery in Australia and to the reemployment of the Australian people, that we have had for a number of years. At the end of the first period, honorable members who sit on this side of the chamber were able to claim that the fullest measure of success had been obtained in everything that the Government had set out to achieve. Confidence was re-established, investment showed an improvement, our finances were completely restored, and our credit was again sound. We are now embarking on the second period, that of what I may term economic reconstruction. That is my reply to the accusation of procrastination.
In regard to the assertion by honorable members on this side that the Government has not a comprehensive policy, I would point out that practically every item of policy which it presented to the people at the last elections, involves an attack on the unemployment problem. If
I were asked to name the prelude to a world-wide attack on the problem, I should point to what has been achieved in Australia. First, there are stability and sound government; - government that begets confidence, stimulates investment, and sets the wheels of private enterprise in motion. I believe that a great number of the problems facing the world -would be much more speedily settled if every country could achieve the same stability of government that we have in Australia. Stability of government is what I might term the prelude to any attack on this problem, and it is for that reason that I take this first opportunity afforded to me to welcome the fusion of the two parties forming the composite Government. It should guarantee to Australia at least six years of stable government.
The question of employment is also involved in any consideration of rural rehabilitation. If something can be done to set our rural industries on a firm and sound footing, to give them confidence, and to restore the purchasing power lacking in the secondary industries, something real will he achieved towards a solution of the unemployment problem.
I come now to the question of trade treaties. If we can extend production, or if, by finding additional markets for our primary products, we can raise the level of commodity prices, again a real attack will have been made on the problem of unemployment.
The Government has brought forward a policy of public works. It may be termed its short-range policy of tackling the unemployment problem. That the Government is in a position to embark on a real and comprehensive policy of public works clearly shows that the confidence of the investor is high. Honorable members complain that full details have not yet been given to the House. I understand that the matter is still under the consideration of the Government, hut I am in. a position to assure honorable members opposite that a real and comprehensive programme is being evolved.
I would like now to refer to a statement made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) about the employment position in different countries. The World Economic Survey, issued by the League of Nations, bears out the contention of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) last week, that, within the last few years, the im- provement in the employment position as been greater in Australia than in any other country in the world. A return compiled by the International Labour Office also gives very comprehensive figures in relation to employment in the different countries of the world. Both publications are the latest available, that issued by the International Labour Office being dated September of this year. The figures given in these publications show that in regard to employment Australia is leading the world.
I now desire to speak on another matter which has scarcely been touched upon during this debate, and one to which I have given a great deal of thought. World conditions in all countries have altered very completely during the last 25 years. We have seen the abandonment of the old method of government, which operated in the 18th and 19th centuries, frequently referred to as the system of laissez-faire. To-day we have many forms of State control. We live in a world in which we see many new phases of State control. We have control of wages, control of output in many secondary industries, control of currency, and so on. I have often wondered whether or not in this evolutionary process this country has not lagged behind in not applying modern systems to modern conditions. No one nation to-day in the world can legislate as if it were a selfcontained entity. Every nation is definitely a part of the economic world as a whole. In any plans we devise we must therefore take that important factor into consideration. In consideration of these changes can one ask: Is not some part of our Australian system obsolete, or, at least, behind the times? If so, is there any way by which we may correct it? For example, is there any root cause of unemployment inherent to the system under which we live in Australia to-day? I refer particularly to our industrial system. This matter was briefly touched upon by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) in his fine maiden speech in this House a week or so ago; but a good deal of elaboration could be made upon it. I ask that an inquiry be made into certain aspects of our industrial system in the hope that some root cause of the problem of unemployment may be found. Take the questions of the machine, hours, and costs. Instances of the effect on employment of the machine have been mentioned freely in this House, but no person in Australia can say authoritatively what effect the machine has had in relation to unemployment. The question is often asked: Is there any return to employment through the machine? I would answer “ that question definitely in the affirmative. We know that as a result of massproduction methods commodity prices have in many cases been cheapened to such an extent that there has been made possible a wider dissemination of commodities to the masses. Perhaps the most notable exponent of the machine and its use as a factor in creating employment is Mr. Henry Ford. However, it is definite that there has been some return to employment by the machine. But is the employment which is due to the machine overbalanced by the unemployment created by the machine? My answer is that the loss of employment due to the machine is not outweighed by employment created through its agency. Does that mean that we must reduce working hours in order to lessen unemployment? We have to realize to-day that we are only in the stages of the transition from manual labour to the machine, and that unemployment will continue to increase due to the more extended use of machinery. To-day we hear of a machine capable of taking the raw wool at one end, scouring it, combing it, weaving it, and parcelling it, without it being touched by a single human hand. If such a machine is universally employed, we can visualize the thousands of textile workers who will be deprived of employment. We must realize, too, that as man progresses and devises new machines he also creates the data for some other person to improve them. Unemployment has been created by the machine and as time goes on and the genius of man still further mechanizes production, unemployment must continue to increase. Does this mean that the hours of labour must be shortened?
It may do so; but can any person in Australia state authoritatively to what extent hours should be lessened? This opens up further consideration of the. costs that would be involved if such a system were adopted. No country can take action without considering the effect on every other nation as part of an economic whole. If, therefore, we decided upon a reduction of hours of labour, which inevitably would throw additional cost burdens upon the export industries in particular, it might react to the detriment of Australia. The question to be solved by us is whether we cannot arrive at some process of reducing costs or of sharing costs in such a way as to make possible the further re-employment of our people.
The next point is the problem of the unemployed youth and the excess of unskilled labourers. In Victoria the boy problem is diminishing. It is possible to get boys of from fourteen to fifteen years of age placed in employment, but once a youth attains the age of eighteen to 23 years a difficult problem arises. Many parents are ambitious to educate their children to fit them better for the journey through life. If a boy is given a higher education he finds that when he leaves college at the age of eighteen or nineteen years there is no job for him. This is a very real problem which faces the country to-day. Then there is the problem of the excess of unskilled labourers in Australia. The Attorney-General mentioned that in some trades at least skilled labourers were at a premium. He mentioned the building industry. Here we have another phase of our national life that must become more apparent as time goes on. We meet here the effect of changes in the desires and activities of man. It may be said, perhaps, that the age of wood in the building industry has to a certain extent passed, and that the age of steel and concrete is with us. It may be that there are men willing and able to undertake the construction of wooden buildings, but not sufficient men able to undertake steel and concrete work. Undoubtedly, as time goes on, these changes, and other changes which the mind of man will devise, will affect us. Again the increased use of the machine will tend to reduce physical effort, and this will undoubtedly show its effect in the ranks of unskilled labourers. I ask whether this problem, together with that of unemployed youth, is not in some way related to our apprenticeship system? I should like a thorough inquiry to be made into it. I am asking this and other questions, but not answering them, for I have not the data on which to base an answer. I want to know the facts. I believe that in our present apprenticeship system there is to be found a root cause of unemployment.
I come now to the subject of women in industry, which was also mentioned by the Attorney-General. This is a phase of national life which has come into prominence in recent years. The employment of women in industry received a great impetus during the war. Our men were called away to fight and women stepped into their positions. When the war was over and the men returned, the women did not vacate their posts. They still hold them. I do not suggest that women should be debarred from competing with men - far from it. I rejoice at the degree of emancipation which women have achieved for themselves. The attainment of their independence, their desire to accept responsibility, and their proved capacity successfully to discharge responsibility, are worthy of high praise. I have no desire whatever to drive women back to the conditions of the Victorian era, when their lives were circumscribed and narrow in every respect. Rather do I desire that they shall be afforded every opportunity to make perhaps a greater contribution to our national life than they have made in the past. But while I acknowledge the right of women to compete with men, I also realise ‘that in many instances the women have competed with men for similar work at lower rates of wages. This is probably the reason why they have come into industry in such great numbers. Here is another subject for inquiry, and the subject of costs again obtrudes itself. If wages are made equal for men and women in industry, or in certain forms of industry, then additional costs must be imposed. I realize, of course, that every large industry is seriously affected by its wages sheets, and the question of costs must lie looked into in a survey of this branch of the problem. I am enumerating these questions with the object of indicating the abundant scope for thorough inquiry into this vexed problem of unemployment.
The fourth point that I shall mention has relation to the conditions that apply in industry. In this connexion I ask whether our industrial system can be simplified, whether it is too wasteful, whether its overhead costs are a substantial cause* of friction between employers and employees. Is there not some way, or are there not some principles, that could be adopted to make it run more , smoothly and more perfectly for all concerned? I consider that our whole industrial system should be more elastic than it is at present. We are a primaryproducing nation dependent for our national income to a very great extent upon the sale of our commodities overseas. If the prices of these commodities fall, depression occurs in Australia; if they increase, we enter a boom period, with prosperity everywhere. When such a boom occurs employment is plentiful; but unfortunately employment on such a basis is not stable. We know from recent reports that a partial breakdown has occurred in. our industrial arbitration system owing to the failure of our numerous arbitration courts and wage-fixing tribunals of one kind and another to re-arrange our rates of wages so that they will be in keeping with our national income. I think every honorable member will admit that we should aim at a system of industry which will be stable and give continuous employment to the greatest possible number of people. Such a system would be far preferable to one that provides an abundance of employment in periods of prosperity and boom, but renders inevitable serious unemployment in periods of depression. If our industrial system and wage-fixing machinery were sufficiently elastic to adapt themselves to the variations of our national income, it would be advantageous to all concerned, for we should then achieve a degree of stability which is most desirable. I have heard the previous AttorneyGeneral, Mr. Latham, express the opinion, perhaps not in these identical words, but in words that are equivalent to them, that any stranger who inquired into our industrial system and used his powers of observation, would say that the whole thing had been designed by a lunatic. It must be conceded that Mr. Latham had wide knowledge of the subject. He was Minister for Industry for many years and possessed a mind capable of formulating a sound judgment on the subject. My experience has not been sufficiently wide to enable me to pass judgment. But if it is a fact that our industrial system could be described as the work of a lunatic, it surely is right and proper that this Parliament, and other parliaments affected by the problem, should take steps to rectify the position. If there is here a root cause of unemployment, we should be up and doing to meet it. The trouble is surely capable of correct diagnosis, and, given a correct diagnosis, there is more prospect of applying a permanent cure.
The present Attorney-General mentioned some of these points in his speech, and stressed the need for inquiry into the whole subject. He went on to say that unfortunately Ministers of the Crown were so busy with routine work that they had no opportunity to make a close study of the subject. Are we therefore to leave the problem without thorough investigation because Ministers have not the time to devote to it? I do not think that that is the inference which the AttorneyGeneral desired us to draw from his speech. I quite agree that under existing conditions Ministers have not the time to devote to this problem that should be spent upon it. Therefore, I suggest that an exhaustive inquiry should be made into it by a committee of persons not connected with Parliament. If a report were made on it by the right men it would be accepted as authoritative. A report made by members of the Government, or even by a committee of members of any one particular party in this Parliament would, upon its presentation to the Parliament, become the centre of a first-class party political fight, and its value would be seriously impaired in the minds of the people. The discussion of the report in Parliament and elsewhere would tend to give a false impression as to its worth. For that reason, I suggest that a committee of men of proved standing in the community should be appointed to make the inquiry and present the report. If that course were adopted, the report would be regarded as of great value by the community in general. I suggest that a committee of three be appointed. I shall not suggest more than one name for membership of that committee; but there is one gentleman who, in my opinion, would make the ideal chairman of it. He is one who holds the respect’ and admiration of every honorable member of this House, and who, by his wonderful devotion to public life, and his proved record of valuable work for the welfare of the community, is peculiarly fitted for such a duty. He is a man with a particularly keen analytical brain, which, of course, would be necessary in considering these problems. I refer to the former Attorney-General, Mr. Latham. I believe that if he and two others were appointed to make this inquiry they could render an invaluable practical service to the Commonwealth. The other members of the committee could be, perhaps, a representative of Labour, and a representative of business and commercial interests in Australia who would be able from their experience to give valuable advice. I suggest, in all sincerity, that this committee should be set up at once, and that it should make a complete investigation into every phase of our industrial system, with particular reference to the points I have specified. The whole problem should be faced at the earliest possible moment. Though it may be vain repetition, I wish to say that I believe in the basic principles that underlie our form of government in Australia. I believe that the initiative and ambition of men will always be the driving force of progress. I would not suppress these qualities, as some honorable members wish to do, nor condemn success, as the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) did. These driving forces, properly regulated and controlled,- are capable of doing a great deal for the benefit of mankind. If there is anything wrong in our industrial system or in the application of the fundamental principles which underlie it, honorable members on this side of the chamber are challenged to apply the remedy, and so do something which will be for the true benefit and welfare of the Australian people. This matter is urgent. Immediate action is essential. It is definitely necessary to the welfare of Australia that any mistakes in our form of government should be rectified; otherwise anarchy and choas may overtake us and retard the genius and the progress of man.
.- The remarkable construction that has been placed upon the speech of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson), together with some of the desires attributed to members of the Labour party by candidates of the United Australia party and Country party during the last election, cause me to address the committee. During the election campaign, we were charged with desiring to rob the people of their savings. The honorable member for Griffith has been accused of suggesting that persons who have been appointed to positions of influence in this country are dishonest. What the honorable gentleman said was that these gentlemen, through long occupation of their various positions, and the influence of their environment, have had their better judgment clouded by their own financial interests. We all remember that years ago we were told that when the present High Commissioner for Australia in London (Mr. Bruce) became Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, lie immediately surrendered all his commercial and business interests. It has since been proved positively that this was not so. Immediately that gentleman was defeated for the Flinders division by the present honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) he resumed the controlling interest that he had retained in the firm of Paterson, Laing and Bruce.
The honorable member for Indi then went on to show how the unemployment problem was being dealt with successfully by this Government. The whole secret, according to him, was that the present Government had re-established the confidence of overseas investors in Australia. I have here a typescript copy of an article which appeared in the London Chamber of Commerce Journal of January, 1933, in which there is quoted a speech made by Mr. Bruce who, after his political defeat in Australia, went to London to look after the interests of his company. He spoke on the 2nd of December, 1932, and this is “what he said -
For the year ended 30th June, 1930, there was an adverse trade balance of £34,000,000, but as a result of the steps taken, by the end of June, 1932, this had been completely wiped out and Australia had a favorable trade balance of over £30,000,000. These figures showed what a tremendous task had been accomplished . . . Faced with the heavy fall in the value of its export trade and the necessity of providing some £30,000,000 for interest overseas, Australia had ruthlessly to cut down imports and the curtailment effected was from £131,000,000 in 1929-30 to £44,000,000 in 1931-32. This curtailment was elected by prohibitions or embargoes, surcharges, and very heavy increases in all customs duties. No other course was open to the Commonwealth.
What Mr. Bruce did not say was that every member of the then Opposition - who were members of the party to which he had belonged - opposed the Labour Government’s policy for the correction of Australia’s adverse trade balance. It was a Labour government that re-established confidence in this country, but it received very little credit at the time from anyone in Australia. Indeed, the policy adopted by the Scullin Government at that time, would, I have no doubt, have been opposed by Mr. Bruce himself, had he been sitting in Opposition, just as it was actually opposed by his friends who remained here.
The honorable member for Indi referred to the effect of machinery on unemployment, and admitted that it might, to some extent, be a factor to be considered. It does not need much imagination to realize that it is a most important factor. The area which I represent in this Parliament produces three-fifths of the sugar grown in Australia, yet there are fewer men employed there in the industry than ten years ago, when the quantity of sugar produced waa not nearly so great. There is more sugar being produced per acre than was the case ten years ago, though it takes less cane to produce it and fewer men to do the work. Owing to improved agricultural methods, the use of fertilizers and the introduction of improved varieties of cane, the sugar content has been steadily increased; while the introduction of improved machinery, both on the farms air! in the mills, has resulted in the displacement of labour. The same tendency is noticeable in the dairying industry. At one time any kind of old scrub cow was considered good enough, but to-day dairymen arestriving to improve the quality of their herds. The introduction and improvement of machinery has displaced millions of workers throughout the world. I am not one of those who believe that we should destroy machinery because it is hurting us, or that we can put back the hands of the clock. Like the honorable member for Indi, I believe that the use of machinery will be extended, but, unlike him, I have very definite ideas on the subject of working hours. I do not say that a curtailment of working hours “ may be “ necessary; I say that it is absolutely necessary. To begin with, we should shorten the working week to 40 hours. “We should not worry about what is happening in other countries. It may be that if we shorten the working week, costs will be increased, but that is not in itself necessarily an evil. In other countries of the world costs are low, yet they cannot find a market for their produce. We read of enormous quantities of coffee and other foodstuffs being deliberately destroyed in order to keep up prices. It is not because the people have all they want of those commodities that there is no market for them ; it is because they lack purchasing power. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) said that the amount of money available was limited. That theory has been worn out long ago. If a war were to break out to-morrow there would be plenty of money with which to finance it.
The honorable member for Indi unintentionally, no doubt, misconstrued a statement of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), who did not say or suggest that the honorable member for Martin was trying to mislead the House when he quoted certain figures. The fact is that the honorable member for Martin quoted from an official publication issued in September, while the honorable member for Melbourne Ports quoted from the same journal, but from the issue of a month later. That accounts for the discrepancy in the figures.
The honorable member for Indi asked that a committee be set up to investigate the problem of unemployment, and report back to this House. Ever since the inception of federation similar inquiries on other matters have been made, and especially since 1915. The reports have been produced at great cost, but no good has ever come of them because no attempt has been made to carry them out. A few years ago a royal commission issued a report upon a proposal to establish a system of national insurance, and, according to what we read, the report was a good one. As usual we were informed that no money was available with which to put the scheme into operation. It is always the same whenever a proposal is made to do anything which would be of real use to the people. For instance, in Northern Queensland, at the present time, a dangerous disease, known as Weil’s disease has become prevalent. It has been proved that it is carried by rats, and already it has been responsible for the deaths of several sugar-workers. When it was suggested that active steps should be taken by the Commonwealth to combat the disease we were told that there was no money available, and that, in any case, it was a matter for the State Government. I maintain that it is the concern of the national government, because at any time it might spread to other parts of Australia. The disease is in no way peculiar to Northern Queensland, and might easily spread wherever there are rats to carry it. However, the cry always is, “ If only we had the money “. I say that money is the only thing that is madeout of nothing. During the last election campaign honorable members opposite accused us of trying to rob the poor people of their savings. They know very well that in any scheme of credit expansion, the savings of the people would never be touched. More than 90 per cent. of transactions of the present time are settled in cheque currency.
Mr.McCall. - There is nothing wrong with that.
– The creation of credit in that sense amounts only to an entry in the books of the bank, and the Labour party merely intended to extend the system. The honorable member for Indi said that inure was a “hell of a row “ in the Labour party room over the re-appointment of Sir Robert Gibson as chairman of the board of directors ‘of the Commonwealth Bank. I believe that a much better appointment could have been made, and that, I am convinced; was the opinion of the majority of the members of the party. However, he was reappointed, and he made some remarkable statements about what could be done in the way of finance. When a question was asked of the then Treasurer, M.r. Theodore, regarding the attitude of Sir Robert Gibson to the proposal for the export of gold, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) ran out of the caucus room with his hands in the air so that the Melbourne Herald representative could see him; and cried that he would never - “ so help me God,” he said - be a party to the export of our gold. “ Because,” he said, “ if that happens Australia’s credit will go by the board.” Yet within three months of his becoming Prime Minister his Assistant Treasurer, the then member for Flinders, Mr. Bruce, introduced a* bill - and he supported it - with the object of allowing the gold backing to our notes to be exported, and he had the temerity to claim that because he had re-established the credit of Australia the export of our gold was permissible. What is behind the currency of any country except the wealthproducing capacity of its people? The statutory authority given by this Parliament merely makes the note issue legal tender in Australia. Sir Robert Gibson declared that there was no danger to Australia in the export of the gold backing of the note issue, and that all that was required to enable it to be done was an amendment of the Commonwealth Bank Act. It would have been just as easy for a Labour government as for this Government to print notes as they now stand ; there is no. gold behind them. The promise to redeem in gold has gone. The bank merely gives another note in exchange. There is certainly a greater touch of loyalty about the present Australian note in that a water-mark picture of the head of the Prince of Wales is included, but debts outside Australia could not be paid with these notes. To do that it is necessary to export produce.
I listened with interest to certain remarks made in another part of this building to-day to the effect that restrictions should be placed on our exports because of the position of Great Britain. One might agree with that, but for the fact that the figures indicate an increase of imports into Great Britain from foreign countries, while our exports to Great Britain have been curtailed. I have suggested in this chamber, and in many other places that the only way in which we can meet our internal obligations is by the export of our primary products, and that if other countries would not accept those products they would have no chance of being paid in any other way. In its issue of the 3rd October, the Queensland Producer, which is not a Labour journal, but represents the primary producers of that State, published the following extracts from a book written by Lord Beaverbrook: - lt would be a lie to say that: New Zealand is damaging the British dairy farmer. Last year New Zealand sent us only 2i million cwts of butter, while foreign countries sent 3$ million cwts There is room in the market for both the British farmer and the New Zealand producer, if we shut out the foreigner. New Zealand offers us Empire free trade. The British Government has rejected it.
It would bc a lie to say that: The British dairy farmer is threatened with ruin because of butter imports from Australia. Last year, Australia sent us 100,000 cwts. of butter less than the year before. But Russia sent 240,000 cwts. more. Holland sent 100,000 cwts more.
It would be a lie to say that: The British dairy farmer is menaced by imports from the dominions. In the first three months of 1034 our import of condensed milk from British countries fell by £37,000 when compared with the same period of 1033. But our imports from foreign countries increased by £38,000. We took that sum of money from the British producers overseas and gave it to the foreigners.
It would be a lie to say that: The British dominions are the enemies of the British dairy farmer. It is the foreign producers who are the enemies of the dairy farmer. In the six months September, 1933, to February, 1934, our imports of butter from British countries increased by (i9,000 cwts. over the same period in the previous year. But bur imports from foreign countries rose by 169,000 Cwts. The British Government has in effect been offered Empire free trade by New Zealand, and could avail itself of that offer by diverting orders for butter from foreign countries to producers in Britain and the dominions.
It would be a lie to say that: The British dominions damage our pig producers. It would be true to Bay that we are buying more chilled and frozen pork - but we are buying a bigger proportion of it from foreign landa. In the first three months of 1934 we took 70,000 cwts. more of this pork from British countries than in the same months of 1933. But we bought 103,000 Cwts. more of it from foreigners. . . “ If you spend a shilling on Australian butter, every penny of that shilling comes back to this country in the form of purchases by the Australians of British goods or interest-payments on British money invested in Australia. If you spend a shilling on Danish butter, only 3 id. out of your shilling will be spent by the Danes in this country. If you spend a shilling on Russian butter, only 2d. of the shilling comes back to Britain to give work to our people. Buy your butter from the Empire countries which buy from us. Shun the butter from foreigners, who do not spend their money in Britain.”
Effect could be given to that policy to a much greater degree than at the present time. A visitor from Great Britain stated this morning that the present position was due to Britain’s financial obligations and its interests in other countries. As to that, there is not the slightest doubt. I have stated in this chamber on a number of occasions that the producers of Argentina receive trade preferences from Great Britain, so that Argentina’s overseas indebtedness may be discharged. On one occasion the Consul-General for Great Britain in Argentina advised the British Government that, unless an army contract for beef supplies were given to Argentina, that country could not be expected to repay Britain the money lent to it. If foreign countries threaten that they will not meet their debts to Britain, it is only to be expected that in order to protect its own interests Britain will recognize that the only channel through which it can be paid is that which I have indicated. At the annual dinner of the Eastern Regional Conference of the National Savings Movement at Cambridge on the 21st September, Sir Basil Blackett, a member of the Directorate of the Bank of England, stated -
I have not disguised my opinion that in the present circumstances the Treasury have been unduly influenced by old-fashioned orthodox views regarding the wickedness of budgeting for a deficit.
Sir Basil went on to say that in normal times a balanced budget is a strong buttress for stability, but “ when it is unstable, as it has been of late years, rigid adherence to the doctrine of an annually balanced budget may have the effect, not of maintaining stability, but of maintaining instability. “
Instead of tightening up of the pockets of the governments, of a policy of cheese-paring and parsimony, Sir Basil advocated the opposite.
What is wanted under present circumstances, he said, is “a considerable government expenditure financed in a form which would not diminish the volume of individual spending.”
Such a policy, he declares, “ offers the best means of constructive effort to escape from existing difficulties.”
We were told by the honorable member for Indi that a committee of inquiry should be established to investigate these problems ; but I contend that such a body would waste’ a year or eighteen months in an effort to tell the Parliament what it should already know. Individual members have access in the Parliamentary Library to the definite opinions of the greatest world authorities on industrial and commercial matters as to the best means of solving our economic ills. Therefore it is unnecessary for a parliamentary or other committee to make peregrinations through Australia or any other country for the purpose of seeking advice. I should strongly object to such a procedure. It is patent to everybody that if it is now possible, in a certain number of hours, to produce twenty times more goods than it was ten years ago, something is radically wrong. Of course, this is due to the mechanization of industry; the machine has been put into use to do the work previously done by human hands.
– Can the honorable member mention one country which has solved the problem of unemployment?
– No, but the ideas on the subject held by the world’s foremost authorities are, as I have said, to be read in our library. Our primary producers complain of a loss of markets. On the Atherton Tableland machinery made in the United States of America is largely used by the farmers. They motor to the towns in American cars and most of their work is performed by the machinery, chiefly American, driven by American oil. A few years ago, 300 horse teams were employed on the tableland ; to-day we see a few bullock teams, but practically no horses. Tractors are used for hauling logs to the railways. The market for the maize produced by the farmers has disappeared, largely because the horse has gone out of use. I am pleased to notice, however, that, in some instances, the horse iB being reverted to in place of powerdriven machinery. The mechanization of industry has been adopted to such an extent that in some cases on the sugar and cotton fields ploughing is continued throughout the 24 hours by using the shift sys’tem. In the sugar and cotton districts, as well as in other localities, labour is thus being displaced. This process will continue, and the evil will become more pronounced. L read some time ago a book in which it was suggested that the only logical way to deal with the problem of unemployment was to exterminate those now unemployed. That statement, was positively made, and that was the only inference to be drawn from the arguments advanced. When machinery becomes more efficient and more widely used, the extermination of more men will presumably be required, and only one or two machines will be needed to do all the work necessary. That may seem a stupid statement, but it is based on sound premises. We must either provide the unemployed with means of access to the things that they require in the shape of credit, or reduce the hours of labour in order to enable them to obtain their share of the necessaries of life. To continue to distribute the dole is to demoralize the unemployed, particularly young people who are forced to live on charity, instead of cultivating their physical and brain power. They are fast becoming human derelicts, and it is essential to put them back into industry. This cannot be done unless the present hours of work are reduced. For many years before I entered this chamber I was associated with the Australian Workers Union along the Queensland coast, and did a good deal of fighting in connexion with cases in the Arbitration Court. In that capacity the displacement of labour by machinery in the sugar industry was brought closely under my notice. To-day fewer men are employed in that industry than a few years ago, and not many years hence even a smaller number will be engaged in it, but no doubt as much sugar as at present, and possibly more, will be produced. If that policy is to be pursued it will bs impossible to employ the same number of persons as at present for the hours now worked. I refuse to believe that over-production has occurred until every unit in the community receives all that it requires to live in comfort, and since there are 300,000 unemployed in Australia we have not yet reached that desirable state of affairs. Australia and Britain are the two greatest stickinthemuds in the world in opposition to the reduction of hours of labour. Support of that statement is found by reference to the Geneva publications. When other countries have urged a reduction of hours at the International Labour Conference*, the Governments of Great Britain and of Australia, when representing the party now in power in either country, have invariably opposed such a proposal. Yet the party opposite professes to he anxious to find a solution of the problem of unemployment.
We have been told on many occasions that the present Government is anxious to find a way out. All I have to say on that point is that it works very slowly. As soon as the subject of the reduction of hours is mentioned, the member for Indi, who no doubt voices the views of honorable members opposite generally, says that that would increase the cost of production, a matter which had to be carefully considered, as Australia had to compete against other countries. I point out that we have not the least chance of being able to compete with other countries in the matter of costs. We remember that thousands of tons of coffee have been thrown into the ocean. Extremely low wages are paid to the sugar-workers of Cuba, Hawaii, and Fiji. In eastern countries the remuneration of workers is often not more than ls. a day, and in many instances it is as low as 6s., 5s., and even 4s. 9d. a week. Where do we hope to get under such conditions? How can we expect to compete with other countries? To do so, we should have to submit to much greater hardships than those from which we now suffer. Is it that there is a scarcity of those things which man needs? The conditions are so much better in Queensland, due to the administration of a Labour government, that many people are making their way to that State. In my electorate more than 1,000 men who are engaged on government works of different kinds do not belong to that particular part -of Australia. I do not blame people for going where they think that the conditions are most attractive. My only regret is that the provision made in other States is not sufficient to take off the unemployed market as many men as are being given work by the Queensland Government. If the provision in proportion to population were as great in New South Wales and Victoria, there would be a very considerable reduction of the number of unemployed, and the primary products which cannot now be sold would be consumed instead of being dumped. Every day one reads in responsible publications of the deliberate destruction of food that is needed by mankind. The continuance of that state of affairs will not help to solve the problem. The cost of production does not enter into the question. The goods have been produced and are available. The satisfaction to be derived from feeding the people is surely preferable to the clumping of goods into the sea. Last Sunday morning I was privileged to listen to a lecture delivered by the Bishop of Goulburn to the Church of England Men’s Society. The statements of this responsible reverend gentleman were a revelation to me. Were he to make them in this chamber, the advocates of the continuance of the present system would squirm in their seats. His address is reported in last Monday’s Canberra Times, and may be read by honorable members, lt deals poignantly with the effect of the machine on the human family. A definite easing of our difficulty would be obtained by the reduction of the hours of labour by at least four hours a week. That would enable many of our people to obtain employment.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), in hia amendment, has practically charged the Government with undue delay in dealing with the two subjects of rural rehabilitation and unemployment.
The Government made rural rehabilitation a specific issue at the last elections, and sought a definite mandate to deal with it. The problem really arises out of the condition of the farmers throughout Australia, and involves the question: What proposals should be instituted in order to give relief? There are two aspects of the matter: First, the position of the individual farmer; and secondly, the position of the farming community as a whole,- particularly in relation to the commodities produced.
With respect to the individual farmer the attitude of the Government was made very definite in the Governor-General’s Speech, which on this matter reads -
In accordance with this policy, my advisers are entering into immediate discussions with the Governments of the various States in relation to the question of financial rural relief. It will be understood that, as the Constitution now stands, the Commonwealth has not the power to deal directly with such domestic -matters as the tenure and financial security of the primary producer; it must accordingly act through the medium of financing existing or future State schemes. Consultation with the State authorities in order to determine the precise nature of proposals and the amount of financial assistance necessary, together with the terms upon which it should be provided, will at once be put in hand.
Last year a committee of members of this House was appointed by the then AttorneyGeneral, Mr. Latham, to consider incidentally the position of the farmers of Australia so far as the States’ schemes were affected by the Bankruptcy Act. The position presented itself in this form : It is highly desirable that farmers who are in reasonably good producing areas should continue the useful work upon which they are engaged. Owing to the depression and, in some cases, to governmental urging to increase production, many primary producers throughout Australia’ are carrying on under most difficult conditions. Is it possible to devise some scheme whereby relief may be given and production may be continued? The real problem is to enable these men to adjust their position under their existing liabilities. The Commonwealth promised to consider that matter and, if possible, to render assistance to achieve the end desired. The committee had to consider the position of the farmers in relation to State schemes. It found that, under the existing Commonwealth bankruptcy law, a petition presented against a farmer in certain circumstances might override the provisions of the State law relating to rural relief. Accordingly, an amendment of the Bankruptcy Act was made, under which the judge in bankruptcy could order a stay of proceedings on a petition so that the farmer might not be placed in the position of a bankrupt and the State machinery could continue to operate. That is the law at present. The duty of dealing with this problem devolves primarily upon “the States, and not upon the Commonwealth. They are concerned with the settling of people upon the land, and have enacted appropriate machinery to deal with the matter. They have established banks for the assistance of rural industries, and have developed the whole of the administrative arrangements in such a way as to help the farmer to the fullest possible extent. The problem which had to be faced was the position of the farmer who, while practically insolvent, had yet some hope of success if his affairs could be adjusted in such a way that he could continue production until normal times arrived. Four of the States took steps to deal with the matter. The first was South Australia, which in 1929 passed the Debt Adjustment Act and later the Farmers Relief Acts. The object of that legislation was to enable meetings of creditors to he called, voluntary arrangements to be made, and financial assistance to be given, so that the farmers might continue production. The Farmers Debt Adjustment Act was passed in Western Australia, the Farmers Relief Act in New South Wales, and the Unemployed Occupier and Farmers Relief Act in Victoria. In all these cases, the States were really experimenting. They were opening up new avenues for the giving of assistance to farmers who were in distressed circumstances, instead of resort being had to the extreme measure of bankruptcy, which in many cases, unfortunately, means the winding up of a man’s affairs and the distribution of his assets. The object of bankruptcy ought to be the relief of insolvent debtors, with due regard to the rights of creditors. The purpose of this legislation was not so much to satisfy the demands of creditors as to enable the producing debtor to reestablish himself financially.
– How could he reestablish himself with wheat at such a low price?
– Those who are’ administering these acts have pointed to the success that has been achieved. The report of the AuditorGeneral of South Australia reads -
The scheme of the net is sound. It operates to assist the farmer to again become independent, to reduce his financial burdens, and to help him in preparing a good plan of operations which some farmers arc unable to do for themselves. The director has also been able to prevent harsh actions by the creditors, and to make them realize that “ Mercy seasons justice,” and most creditors have co-operated with their debtors to their mutual advantage.
The object is to take some control of a man’s affairs, thoroughly . examine his financial position, consult with his creditors, and evolve a scheme that will assist him. The Government has found, it necessary to provide financial relief. A report that has been presented by the New South Wales Board reads -
From evidence at present before us we are confidently of the opinion that the objects of the act will be fully achieved resulting in the amelioration of the financial difficulties of those primary producers who seek the assistance provided under the act, thus creating a stabilizing influence in the affairs of the farmers and an easier attitude on the part of the creditors until such time as the circumstances which gave rise to the act - which ia essentially of an emergency nature - have ceased to exist.
That is the problem which has existed in all the States. The condition of the farmers is still serious. If honorable members desire further particulars, I refer them to the report of a South Australian parliamentary committee which carefully investigated the whole question of debt adjustment, and made a close analysis of the position of the farmers of that State. The report of the wheat commission, recently presented, says that it is estimated that the liabilities of the wheatfarmers alone amount to £140,000,000. That is the enormous debt which about 60,000 or 70,000 farmers engaged in the. wheat industry in Australia have to carry. But I am at the moment dealing only with cases of individual farmers.
– But they have some assets to set against those debts.
– Yes. As was pointed out by the Parliamentary committee in South Australia - “ the present condition of the wheat industry, though serious, is not such as to afford any occasion for panic.” It is necessary that legislation should be enacted to give those nien who, under normal conditions, would have a reasonable chance of success, such assistance as will enable them to remain on the land. That is the problem, and it is a pressing one. So long as economic nationalism continues, that problem will exist and must be dealt with; but the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney, which is simply an instruction to the Government to place on the Statute Book a measure designed to provide £12,000,000 for rural rehabilitation, does not provide the machinery to give the assistance which he is so anxious to provide. It is necessary to consider what methods it would be adequate and wise for the Government to employ. It was aware that its power was limited. It knew what the powers of the States were. But it had first of all to consider to what extent the States were adequately dealing with this problem, and if they were dealing with it’ inadequately, to ascertain the cause for that inadequacy, and to what extent the Commonwealth could render assistance. It is therefore reasonable for the Commonwealth Government to say that it will confer with the States to ascertain in what way it can help them, seeing that the Commonwealth’s powers under the Constitution are, so limited. As a matter of fact, immediately this Government took office, the States were asked to submit schemes, and I understand that a scheme has already been submitted by New South Wales, and that other proposals are expected. From the Commonwealth point of view a federal scheme, involving the appropriation of moneys, should be uniform for the whole of Australia. The Government could not bring down to this House a request for a specific appropriation of moneys until a scheme submitted by the States had been considered at a conference with the States. That is only a reasonable way of dealing with the matter,
– Representatives of the States will be conferring in Canberra next month.
– I wa>leading up to that. They have been asked to meet, but whether their schemes will be completed by that time is difficult to say.
– Are the State scheme.* likely to be more successful than the/ have been in the last three years?
– I am dealing at the moment with the subject of individual farmers’ debts, and in this connexion the schemes which have bee* in operation in New South Wales ana in some of the other States have been able to afford considerable relief, though it has been found necessary by some of the States to revise or modify them. The Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Stevens, is reported by the Sydney Morning Herald to have made the following statement at Holbrook in regard to compositions with creditors: -
I am satisfied that, with the provision of the requisite funds by the Government, an appreciable portion of the creditors of the heavily-pressed farmers would be willing to sell their claims upon the farmers at substantial discounts. Our first approach to the problem will be from this angle - that the Governments will provide the cash for voluntary debt adjustment in return for a cash settlement, the farmer becoming liable for the amount paid in settlement, or partsettlement of his debts, and that on this liability he shall be charged only the low rate of interest at which the Government will be able to raise the money, plus perhaps a small amount of administrative charges. Legislation to this end has already been introduced by the State Government. We are forwarding this week to the Federal Government our detailed proposals to give effect to the plans, and I have every ground for assuring you that before long a definite start will be made with this scheme.
It is evident then that existing legislation will have to be widened in order to make it more inclusive and to provide a sum of money from the Commonwealth and States to permit of these adjustments. A voluntary arrangement between creditors and debtors will be facilitated by the granting of Government advances.
– But the States have been doing that through the rural banks for some considerable time.
– In individual cases, they have been providing financial assistance, but we are now dealing with farmers whose whole position must be considered, and who are in a difficult situation because of continued low prices for their products. This necessitates complete schemes which will be of considerable help to the fanners. The New South Wales State Government feels that the undertaking will be of such a character that it will be necessary to have the assistance of the Commonwealth Government. Mr. Stevens has suggested that the Commonwealth will have to assume some responsibility. In these circumstances, the Commonwealth Government is not to be blamed for any delay in looking into the position which exists in the States, and for endeavouring to get the States into harmony before bringing any proposal before the House. In this respect, it is deserving of commendation rather than condemnation.
The report of the Parliamentary committee in South Australia deals with a most important subject. It had been suggested that compulsory adjustments should be effected, but the committee drew attention to the danger of any suggestion of that kind, and considered that adjustments ‘should be effected on a voluntary basis. The danger in any compulsory system is that unless great care is exercised the sources of credit through which the farmers derive relief may be destroyed. The committee was emphatic that the ordinary position between debtor and creditor should continue. That is the first aspect of the problem the Commonwealth Government has to face.
The report of the wheat commission deals only with the position of wheatgrowers, but the Commonwealth scheme should be as comprehensive as possible as regards rural industries. Dealing with New South Wales, the report of the board in New South Wales states in reference to the operations under the Farmers Relief Act -
Although the bulk of the applications were received from wheat-growers, stay orders were actually issued to persons engaged in every sphere of primary production. It is notable in this connexion that as the benefits of the Act became known applications in increasing numbers were received from other districts irrespective of the type of farming carried on in those districts. The fact that the act is equally beneficial to graziers, dairyfarmers, and other primary producers is being recognized, and the number of applications received from persons engaged in these other rural industries immediately prior to the expiration of the period under review indicates that the benefits o< the Act will be widely embraced by these classes of primary producers prior to February 17th, 1934, the date of expiry of the period for the presentation of the stay orders.
The report shows that this act is being taken advantage of by primary producers other than wheat-growers, and even by graziers. There is no reason why it should be confined to growers of a particular commodity. If it is found useful in dealing with one particular rural industry, there is no reason why it should not have a general application as far as practicable.
– That is State legislation.
– Yes. The Commonwealth scheme, I take it, Ls to assist in financing the State schemes, and give them a general application.
– Then the £12,000,000 asked for is not too much.
– That was the amount stated to have been mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in his speech, and I do not suggest that it is a penny too much. The condemnation which has been levelled against the Government is rather premature when the nature of the problem is considered, and when it is so essential to formulate a policy designed to confer the greatest benefit.
– After three years of inactivity, is not condemnation of the Government justified?
– Legislation was passed in South Australia as late as 1929, and only more recently in New South Wales and other States. No similar legislation has yet been passed in Queensland or Tasmania. Naturally, the Commonwealth Government could not enact legislation until the States had had some experience of legislation along the lines I have indicated.
The other point is the wider aspect of rural industries generally. This is a matter to which the Government has promised to give consideration, but which will also have to be considered by the States. It is necessary that the homegrown products of Australia should be disposed of under such conditions that producers will receive a fair price. The Government has called the State premiers together, and this problem will have to be considered in the light of the report of the wheat commission, and of the further information which will be contained in reports yet to he presented to the Government. The Commonwealth has already departed from strict orthodoxy in this regard. First of all, it made an entirely new experiment in connexion with the dried fruits industry and followed this later by legislation in connexion with dairy products, thus rendering considerable assistance to both industries. In both cases those engaged in the industries are able to get a more reasonable price for their products. To any one interested in studying the methods of other countries, I would recommend a study of the methods employed by the United States of America under the operation of the Farm Recovery Act and other legislation of a similar character, although it is very difficult to get any decisive evidence of the result of those measures. Professor Edmund des Brunner, of Columbia University, in his book “ The Farm Act of 1933 - Its place in the Recovery Programme “ , says -
It is clear therefore, that the administrators of this law have turned their backs on the old philosophy of unconscious progress, of laissez-faire. They frankly declare that the law is a bold experiment in voluntary social control applied to what from the dawn of history has been one of the most individualistic of industries.
The primary producers of Australia have been feeling their way to a more complete organization of their industry. In Queensland, for instance, the dairying industry has been completely organized in respect of both production and distribution. At first co-operative control was exercised throughout the industry by a voluntary organization, but the Commonwealth Parliament, by passing the Dairy Produce Act, put the coping stone on the structure. The whole industry is now working under the authority and in accordance with the legislative provisions.
The tendency is undoubtedly for a more complete organization of production and distribution. We have seen the plight of the isolated farmers in Australia. I was born among farmers and have followed their experiences throughout my life. As Professor Brunner said, farming in the past was of necessity one of the most individualistic operations that one could imagine. Rut even the farmers have been forced to organize their industry. The dairy farmers, as I have said, have done remarkable things in this regard. By the application of science to their industry, they are now able to manufacture butter here which wins prizes in the great agricultural shows in other parts of the world, and which is appreciated highly wherever it is properly marketed. The whole world, as we are well aware, is in a state of flux, and it seems to me that ‘the co-operative principle will have to be applied to a greater extent if true progress is to be made. The Commonwealth Government is working along sound lines in seeking the co-operation of State governments, and in trying to evolve a plan of action, based on practical experience, which will beneficially affect all concerned.
I come now to the grave problem of unemployment. The Government has been accused of laxity in facing this tremendous issue; but we have to remember that the many ramifications of the problem make it extremely difficult to deal with. There is, of course, the necessity to make immediate provision to relieve the existing distress, that should not, and cannot, be overlooked. I feel that the Government should put in hand suitable public works to meet this need. But there is also the need to consider the putting in hand of larger public works which will provide more continuous employment and enable our people who are to-day out of work, to live on a standard more in accord with the general standard of the Australian people. Immediate relief works should be financed out of revenue, while schemes for reproductive works are a fair charge on loan expenditure. A careful reading of both the policy speech of the Prime Minister and the Governor-General’s Speech will show that the Government desires to give a lead in the putting in hand of large public works which will provide employment not only for people of mature years .who are to-day without work, but also for the youth of the nation. Some of the public works which the Government appears to have in mind are afforestation, water conservation schemes, sewerage works for large country towns, more complete housing plans, and also the provision of electric light and power supplies in certain areas that are to-day without these facilities. An endeavour should be made to undertake enterprises which, upon completion, -will be permanent assets to the Commonwealth and also sufficiently reproductive to meet interest and sinking fund charges. If the works are not in this category they will simply add to the public debt and so be an incubus on the people. Some honorable gentlemen have jibed at the Government because -the suggestion was made in the Governor-General’s Speech that additional research was necessary into the root causes of unemployment. My view is that there is room for a good deal of additional investigation. The AttorneyGeneral properly referred in his speech to the constitutional limitations to the power of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– But surely the Commonwealth Government has power to provide employment for the people in its own territories!
– That is so ; but the honorable gentleman knows sufficient about Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria to realize that it would be impossible for -the Commonwealth Government to provide sufficient work in the Northern Territory and the Federal Capital Territory for the unem-‘ ployed people of any one of those States.
– Does the honorable member think that those people should be left unemployed?
– Certainly not. I have said that works should be put in hand immediately to provide for them. I am now elaborating the point that there is room for additional research into the root causes of unemployment. I am aware that many books have been written on the subject. Of writing there seems to be no end. But the investigation is still far from complete. The Development and Migration Commission presented a report to Parliament in September, 1928, on “ Unemployment and Business Stability in Australia.” I do not desire to quote from it, but I advise honorable members to read’ it. They will then realize how intricate and complicated the whole problem is. The report deals, in particular, with business: cycles and the periodic length of deepdepression and high, prosperity. Thereis not a complete statement of the situation in Australia; but the statisticsindicate the cycles in other countries^ What we need is undoubtedly more? stability and regularity in our industrial enterprises, and I feel that useful scientific and economic investigations could, be made into this whole subject. Othervaluable reports were presented by the Development and Migration Commission.. If they were reviewed they would probably reveal various avenues of some activities that could be opened up with* advantage.
– Reports do not feed the unemployed.
– When a, patient is sick the doctor makes a thorough investigation into his case, and. diagnoses the disease before attempting; to supply a remedy. That must be donein regard to this serious ill from which, the body politic is suffering. It will beadmitted, I think, that scientific investigation has enabled man to make rapid progress in various directions. Production has been increased; transportsystems have been improved, and manynew pleasures and delights have been* invented for human enjoyment; But,, perhaps, the social sciences have not been investigated as thoroughly as someother branches of knowledge. Somehonorable gentlemen appear to think: that all that is necessary is that a> reference shall be made to, say, page- 468 of this, that, or the other, book, in order to find a complete remedy for a particular phase of unemployment. Undoubtedly, there is ample room for further investigation into some branches of this problem. Any person who believes in the divine spark in man will agree, I think, that we are gradually moving: from lower to higher levels. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. JohnLawson) said, a few days ago, that certain orthodox methods that have proved’ effective in the past may have to be diecarded in favour of unorthodox methods. It may be that, as the Government proceeds with its investigations, it may find that it will have to adopt other methods than those which have been relied upon an the past. Every honorable member -will admit that a serious problem is facing us. We will all agree, too, that some phases of this problem are not altogether suitable for party political consideration. We shall have to regard them in a less partisan spirit. I believe that if honorable members opposite submit any really sound constructive proposals for dealing with the problem of unemployment in Australia, the Government will gladly consider them fairly. Any government which has regard for its reputation will desire to do the best that it can for the people; and I am sure that this Government will gladly adopt any proposals that
Offer distinct prospects of a solution of our difficulties. Experience has shown that unjust legislation is never effective. Sooner or later it is removed from the statute-book. Ultimately righteousness must rule; and I am confident that the Government desires to deal in the right way with this problem. I therefore confidently assert that constructive legislative proposals made by any honorable member of the House with the object of ameliorating the ills from which our fellow citizens are suffering will receive the most careful attention -from this Parliament.
.- A groat deal of attention has been paid recently in this Parliament to the problem of unemployment, for it is realized that every citizen has the right to happiness, and that under our present -social system millions of our people are being denied that right. Apparently, however, honorable members opposite do not realize the appalling circumstances of many of the unemployed .people of this country.
– Do not be unkind.
– The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) has done nothing to relieve the sufferings of 70 per cent, of the people in his electorate, and he is not likely to do so. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), who won his seat by the skin of his teeth, has urged the Government to do something to cope with this problem, and asserted that the policy at present being pursued is most dangerous.
Other honorable members who also were returned to this House by narrow majorities, have adopted a like attitude. They have the power in their own hands to force the Government to do as they desire. Their votes are the weapons they must use. Personally, I do not think those honorable members will do very much in that respect. They had an opportunity the other day to give the unemployed people of this country a little relief for Christmas, but had to be content to let a proposal go through which amounts .to no more than a paltry dole.. I know that there are many unemployed persons in Adelaide, and -the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) also advocated that some relief should be provided for them, but he also missed his opportunity to compel the Government to do something practical. Instead, he further advocated an extension of trade with foreign countries - *Japan for instance. At the present time the shop windows of our cities are filled with goods made in Japan, and those goods are sold here in competition with the products of our own secondary industries.
– Many of those goods are not even marked “ Made in Japan “.
– That is so, and I think the law requires that they should be. This afternoon the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) referred to the problem of finding employment for our youths, and said that in Melbourne it was quite easy to place boys of from fourteen to sixteen years of age, but that it was almost impossible to get anything for them to do when they passed their seventeenth year. They are too old at eighteen. Child labour is the order of the day, yet this Government makes no effort to improve those conditions. I myself have had some experience in trying to find employment for youths and young men. So bad are conditions at present that many young men leaving the universities with high qualifications are at a dead end. Recently one man whom I know left the engineering school of the Sydney University fully qualified, and all he was able to get in the way of employment was an offer of £2 a week. I asked him how many of those who graduated along with him had been placed in employment, and he told me that out of 240 only three had found work in six months. Four or five others had gone to America because their parents were able to afford to send them there, but the rest were walking the streets without anything to do.
There is much room for improvement in the administration of war pensions. Among my constituents are some men who served for years at the war. When they returned, though they were undoubtedly suffering some ill-effects from their experience, they did not feel justified in applying for pensions. They returned to their former employment, but now, after the lapse of some years, the effects of their war service are becoming evident. In some cases their health has broken down, but they are finding it extremely difficult to nave their claims recognized. I know of one man who was discharged from the forces suffering from partial loss of sight in one eye. For twelve years the department paid him a pension, but two years ago he was called before a medical board, and the medical officer stated that, whatever was the matter with his sight, it could not be attributed to war service. The department is dealing harshly with many returned soldiers, who are entitled to more consideration than they are getting. Many men were induced to go to the war by promises made to them by patriotic citizens, some of whom, though eligible themselves for war service, preferred to stay at home and make fortunes out of the conditions arising out of the war. The promises made at that time should be honoured. In some instances the promises were made by the leaders of the governments of the day, and it is repudiation on the part of Australia when those promises are not carried out. The present Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes), when Prime Minister of this country, after the war, stated that he would make Australia a land fit for heroes to live in. He is not doing very much in that direction now.
The position in regard to war service homes also calls for comment. There are many such homes in my district, and the position of some of the occupants is deplorable. I believe that the Australian people would be prepared to honour to the full every promise made by past governments to returned soldiers. Not one citizen would quibble. Recently, a returned soldier, an occupant of a war service home, applied to the Repatriation Department for a pension, but he died before he could be medically examined. His widow was left with only her pension from the State Government, and on this she had to support herself and her two children. For several weeks after the death of her husband she continued to pay 10s. a week rent for the house out of 35s. she was receiving. In due course, however, she was notified by the War Service Homes Commission that it would no longer receive her money, and an ejectment order was issued against her. The case was heard in the Campsie court. I brought the matter under the notice of the Minister, and the case was adjourned for a month; but when it comes before the court again Parliament will be in recess, and the magistrate will have no course open to him but to order this woman and her children out into the street. I say that Australia has a duty, not only to the diggers, but to their dependants as well. Last Sunday afternoon a meeting of the occupiers of war service homes in that district was held, and a resolution was passed condemning the action of the War Service Homes Commission in trying to evict this woman. If a bailiff is sent to turn this woman and her children out I am afraid he will accomplish it only over the dead bodies of the men who were the comrades of this woman’s husband. If there is any of the spirit of Anzac left in them they will not see this injustice perpetrated, and no one could blame them for defending the children of their mate. A meeting is to be held in the Canterbury Town Hall of all the occupiers of war service homes in the Lang, Barton, Dalley and Reid electorates. I know that the Minister for Repatriation will be invited to attend, and I hope that some good will come of it. This morning I received a letter setting forth the terms of the resolution carried by the meeting held last Sunday. The first request is for a re- appraisement of the capital value of war service homes, and a writing-down of those values by 50 per cent. Another request is that the rate of interest should be reduced to 2 per cent. That, I think, is a fairly modest request. Those who took up war loans were given tax free bonds, and, in my opinion, those who fought in the war should at least have the benefit of interest-free money for the building of their homes. A further request was that the power to evict persons from war service homes should be taken out of the hands of the War Service Homes Commissioner, and given to the Federal Government. I do not believe that any government would dare to evict the widow and children of a digger, but the present Government is quite content to paisa on the responsibility to officers of the Public Service. Occupants of these homes desire that their dependants shall have some equity in them.. I have a letter from the Minister in Charge of War Service Homes (Mr. Thorby) who states, with regard to a lady against whom an eviction order was issued, “ It should be mentioned that
Mrs.– has no legal interest in the home.” Do honorable members know that if a “digger” in occupation of a war service home dies, and has paid about £700 off a house valued at £900, his widow has no legal interest in the equity in that home I
– The widow would get her equity in such circumstances.
– But I have a statement by the Minister that when a digger dies, after having put £500 or £600 worth of improvements into his home, the department can re-value the property, and charge the widow an increased rental in accordance with the higher valuation.
– That has never been done.
– Why should provision not be made to prevent it from being done? The Parliament passed an act to ensure that returned soldiers and their dependants would have comf ortable homes, yet, upon the death of an ex soldier, his widow has no equity in the estate.
– If the ex-soldier has made a will, the property goes automatically to the widow.
– If he does not make a will the equity reverts to the department. In the case to which I have specially referred, the department informed the widow, not only that she had no legal interest in the home, ‘but that, in the “Minister’s opinion, she should take a house in keeping with her present position. In my opinion, and in that of many others, if it were not for the New South Wales Labour Government, many of these unfortunate persons would be housed in dog boxes. Any Australian Government should be ashamed to leave such an act as this on the statute-book, if returned soldiers and their dependants are to be treated in this way. It is time the Government honoured every promise made to the men who, in most cases, were induced to go into the firing line overseas by the assurance that their dependants would be shown every consideration. Owing to unemployment, many of the occupants of these homes are unable to meet their obligations to the department, and I hope that supporters of the Government will endeavour to see that justice is done to them.
During the regime of the Bruce-Page Government, a great number of royal commissions and committees were appointed, and, for the last seven or eight months, another commission has been inquiring into the price of petrol. I have taken an interest in politics for about 30 years, and I think that the chairman of this commission, Mr. Lamb, has succeeded in obtaining so many appointments of this kind that he has lived practically on fees received from commissions, and for prosecutions conducted by antiLabour governments, both in the New South Wales and in the Commonwealth arenas. It is high time an end was put to the farce of appointing commissions. What do we wish to know about the petrol industry that cannot be obtained without such a costly investigation? Can a royal commission tell us anything of which we are not already aware about the root causes of unemployment? Honorable members opposite know the reason for the high price of petrol, but they do not wish to make use of their knowledge. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Minister for Bepatriation (Mr. Hughes), for many years, supported the view that I have expressed regarding the futility of appointing commissions. Even if they have lost the genius that made the cause which they advocated triumphant in the past, what men Labour has exalted to power ! The people of Australia would prefer politicians less ambitious, even if obscure, who, as Lord Bryce said, would at least give their own age no reason to fear them or cause posterity to curse them. Commissions are merely a means adopted by governments to defer decisions on important subjects.
I have previously asked the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) to make wireless licences free to schools of all denominations. Education is an important factor, and the request that I have made would not involve expense.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).At an earlier hour the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) gave notice that to-morrow he would raise a question of privilege, and move a motion the terms of which he read and subsequently handed to the Chair. A point of order was raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), and I ruled that the notice of motion could be given. I have since had time to examine the motion, and now announce thatI do not propose to allow it to appear on the notice-paper in its present form as a question of privilege, which would take precedence over other business to-morrow. That, however, will not preclude the honorable member for Barker from raising to-morrow a question of privilege, without notice, and moving a motion upon it. There is a standing order which guides me in this matter, but I do not think it is necessary to quote it.
– I lay on the table-
Copy of Supplement to the FirstReport of the Royal Commission on the Wheat, Flour and Bread Industries. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - I move -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
There are a number of important matters of which the Government hopes to dispose before the Christmas adjournment. To enable that to be done, I suggest that the House agree to the motion.
.- I have on the notice-paper a very important motion, which I think the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) and the PrimeMinister (Mr. Lyons) will agree raises a very serious question. A motion in similar terms was passed some years agoby the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, and led to the immediate resignation of Mr. R. E. O’Connor and MrEdmund Barton, both of whom afterwards became justices of the High Court of Australia. I have no wish to bringabout the resignation of any honorable member; but, as the motion was placed on the notice-paper towards the endof the last Parliament, and deals with such an important matter, the opportunityshould be afforded to have it considered.. I maintain that no Attorney-General” should be permitted to take a brief fromany oil company or combine.
– Ord er ! The honorable member may not debate the motionof which he has given notice.
– I should like to be given the assurance that an opportunitywill be afforded to have a debate on the motion before Christmas. The PrimeMinister is, of course, aware that if anhonorable member is unable to proceed on the due date with a motion of whichhe has given notice, three weeks elapsebefore it again comes forward, and it then appears below other motions. I merely wish to have the opportunity before theAttorneyGeneral leaves Australia to obtain the opinion of the House upon a. principle which I believe every honorable member will endorse when I place the facts before them.
.- When I intimated to my leader (Mr.. Scullin) that I would agree to whatI understood was a transfer of the date for the consideration of a motion standing in my name on the noticepaper, I did not assume that an agreement to give Government business precedence to-morrow would involve the placing of my motion below others on the subsequent date. If that can be avoided, I shall be much happier.
.- I have no motion on the notice-paper, and as the result of very long experience in this Parliament never place one there. Such motions appear on the notice-paper from month to month ; they are discussed for a few moments, and when Parliament is prorogued are wiped off. No attention is paid to them. I regard the practice as farcical. We should so amend the Standing Orders as tomake it plain that private members have no rights in this chamber in regard to obtaining an expression of opinion on particular questions. These motions are in the nature of advertisements. They have never been treated seriously, and never will be.
.- I do not agree with the view put by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). I think that the opportunities enjoyed by private members are few and far between, and that they should be jealously guarded. M!y experience, which extends over many years, has taught mo that, as the session proceeds, the rights of private members are habitually clipped and shorn to the disappearing point. Without presuming to violate the Standing Orders by discussing the motion standing in the name of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), I would venture to say in general terms that the character of that motion is such that I should have supposed that the head of the Government (Mr. Lyons) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) would be most eager that the matter should be dealt with at the earliest possible moment, because it involves questions affecting the rights of members and in a certain sense privilege. That being so, I consider that the practice followed in the past should be adopted in this case. If I may do so as a matter of propriety - it is not for me to dictate terms - I suggest that the motion should be regarded as urgent and be dealt with at the earliest possible moment. I join with those who would ask the Prime Minister to see that an opportunity is given to discuss it before the House rises for the Christmas recess.
– I am prepared to examine the position, to see whether that opportunity may be given. I point out, however, that had I not taken the course I have adopted, the motion of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) would have been the first to be considered to-morrow, and would probably have occupied the whole of the time allowed for private members’ business. I shall do my best to restore to honorable members before the Christmas adjournment the aggregate of the time of which they will be deprived if the motion is carried.
– The right honorable gentleman will not be able to do that.
– The honorable gentleman is greatly concerned about the rights of private members; consequently, I expect his assistance in my endeavour to replace the time taken from them tomorrow. I shall certainly do all that I can to make it possible for the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. *Maloney) to move his motion. In any event, the point raised by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) will be taken into consideration apart altogether from other aspects of the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Trade Treaty with Belgium.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
I understand that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has moved the adjournment of the House thus early so as to give honorable members an opportunity to discuss the notes exchanged between the Minister of State for Trade and Customs for the Commonwealth (Mr. White) and the Consul-General for Belgium in Australia, which have resulted in what is virtually a trade treaty with the Government of Belgium.
I very greatly regret that the importance of this matter did not impress upon the Government the advisability of submitting the treaty to Parliament for ratification before it was entered into.
At the outset I wish tosay that I appreciate the difficulties which confront a Minister in an endeavour to negotiate a trade treaty with any country, particularly if it be a foreign nation. The Minister for Trade and Customs has the distinction that he is the first Australian Minister to negotiate a trade treaty with a foreign country. This treaty marks the initial instalment of the quota system on the part of Australia. The quota system is the commencement of a new movement for the regulation of trade and industry, and I submit that it is more provocative to other countries than the tariff protectionist policy formerly pursued. In a perusal of this memorandum honorable members will find that Japan, which buys more wool from us than any other country and which has a glass factory turning out glass equal to that produced in any other country in the world, is to be shut out altogether, while Belgium is to be given the substantial quota of 2,000,000 square feet on the basis of requirements of 7,500,000 square feet. Other countries have to share a quota of 900,000 square feet. J apan to-day is sending window glass to New Zealand, and to other countries. I submit that the Government has blundered badly in not submitting the treaty to Parliament for ratification before it was entered into. I believe that all prospective trade treaties should be subject to parliamentary discussion and sanction before they are concluded. The Canadian-Australian trade agreement, entered into by the Scullin Government with the Government of the Dominion of Canada, was preceded by a lengthy discussion in this chamber, and finally the proposed treaty was ratified. There was a special clause inserted in that agreement - clause 9 - which reads as follows : - (1.) If at any time -
That was fully explained by the Minister for Markets and Transport who was in charge of the House at the time. A similar proviso has not been inserted in the agreement which has been entered into between this Government and the Government of Belgium. In this respect the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has departed from his policy speech in which he said -
The Government proposed to ask the new Parliament to give the Minister power to negotiate trade treaties with foreign countries, and to put them into force immediately by proclamation, subject to the proviso that they must be ratified within a fixed period by Parliament.
Parliament has not been asked to ratify this far-reaching treaty. It has been entered into by the Government, and the only opportunity afforded honorable members to discuss it is the limited one of debating it on a motion for the adjournment of the House; with no opportunity to cast a vote upon the merits or demerits of the treaty. It is a distinct breach of the definite election pledge made by the Prime Minister.
It is of paramount importance that the secondary and primary industries of this country should not be imperilled as a result of a trade treaty entered into behind the back of Parliament. In October of last year the Tariff Board made a searching investigation into the glass industry. I ask the Minister now if hehas a copy of that report, and why he has not made it available to honorable members ? As a matter of fact it was the fourth investigation into glass since that made by Mr. Pratten as Minister for Trade and Customs in 1925, when the deferred duty was recommended. That duty was further deferred from time to time, and it was that duty which the Scullin Government put into operation. It remained for the present Government to offend Belgium by bringing about total prohibition. First it wiped out the deferred duty made operative by the Scullin Government, and then when importers had 3,000,000 square feet of glass on the water, it came down with a total prohibition. That was in September, 1932. This prohibition now stands, but under it imports are to be rationed.
– That was a friendly gesture to the nation.
Mr.FORDE. - Yes. The Government bungled in first taking the duty off, and then allowing the importers to order 3,000,000 square feet, only to find the Government putting a prohibition on and declaring that the 3,000,000 square feet should be rationed. Prior to the Scullin Government imposing the deferred duty in June, 1930, eighteen months’ supplies were imported by importing agents, so as to make the starting of the Australian factory impossible. When it was known that the industry was to be started in Australia, 19,200,000 square feet was imported in 1929-30 as against 10,200,000 square feet in 1928-29. These large importations were brought in so that they would be in hand in Australian warehouses and there would be no demand for the’ product of the Australian factory. The duty was taken off by the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Henry Gullett) on the 1st September, 1932, and replaced by a revenue duty of 2s. and 4s. It was, however, readily seen that the Australian industry would be imperilled. The case put up by the managing director of the Australian company was irresistible, and a total prohibition was subsequently imposed and has remained in force for two years. I want to know what is the nature of the last Tariff Board report, and if that report is available. When the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr.
White) was in opposition he was always very loud in his clamour for the latest Tariff Board report. He always asked why was not the last Tariff Board report made available to honorable members. He said “Has the Minister something to hide, or has he got the report in his bag?” I ask him now to be good enough to make available to honorable members the last report of the Tariff Board on glass. The Tariff Board held its inquiry in October and November of last year and after over twelve months has elapsed surely honorable members have a right to know the board’s recommendations. The reports that we have been able to obtain are dated 1925, 1932, and the 26th January, 1933, and in each case they were based on inquiries made six months previously. Surely the Minister will be good enough to distribute copies of this report before the Houseis asked to vote on this motion for the adjournment. If he does so, it willenable honorable members to study the report. I submit it is quite a reasonable request. The Tariff Board must have come to the conclusion that the Australian industry is an efficient one and that the price and quality of its product are quite satisfactory. Can there be something in the recommendations that the Minister does not wish us to see? I submit that this departure in tariffmaking is fraught with grave danger to the great industries of Australia. In this instance it happens to be a secondary industry; to-morrow it may be a great primary industry whose fate is at stake. Honorable members on both sides of the
House are vitally concerned in this matter. If the Minister pursues this policy the protection policy of Australia may be bartered away overnight, without giving honorable members or the people generally an opportunity to prevent it.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Minister actually has the report?
– The Tariff Board must have submitted the report because investigations were carried out twelve months ago. I know it is easy for the Government to say that until the Government has taken some action upon an industry pursuant to a Tariff Board report, it is unusual to make the recommendations of the Board available. But the Minister has taken very definite action upon this report, for he proposes to submit this industry to the imposition of a quota, and he is to restrict Australian production. He is to say to the Belgians: “You may exploit this market to the extent of 2,000,000 square feet,” and to the other countries: “You may have 900,000 square feet.” But to the Australian manufacturers a market for only 60 per cent, or 4,500,000 square feet is to be available. We must admit that the action taken by the Government must lead the overseas countries one by one to threaten to prohibit the importation of goods from Australia. When the Government gives way to one country what logical argument can it put forward to refuse to give way to another? At the present time, Italy, Japan, Prance, Germany, China, and other countries are making representations to the Government and the outcome will be that, if it gives way, a substantial increase of unemployment in Australia must inevitably result. The protection policy of Australia is interwoven with its future prosperity. This is even admitted by men like Professor Copland, who cannot be looked upon as a high protectionist. In his work Is our Tariff a Handicap, he says -
In face of the growth of economic nationalism throughout the world, and of the industrial and agricultural developments in Australia, I am unable to resist the view that our tariff policy has, on the whole, made a substantial contribution to our economic welfare. [Leave to continue given.”]
If treaties with foreign countries are to be entered into in this way, there will be increased pressure from certain agrarian gentlemen who belong to the Country party to force the Government to pursue the policy to such an extent that other great Australian secondary industries will be placed in jeopardy. The Minister, in a statement which he made on this subject on the 19 th November, said -
I announce the successful conclusion of a provisional agreement with the Belgian Government, whereunder that Government, in return for permission to import into Australia a limited quantity of Belgian window glass annually, has agreed first to remove all restrictions on the importation into Belgium of Australian frozen meat, and, secondly, to withdraw the threatened embargo against the importation of Australian cereals.
I must congratulate the Belgian Government on the success which has attended its efforts to obtain a substantial percentage of the Australian market for its window glass manufacturers, but the Minister is deserving of censure for jeopardizing the future of a great secondary industry. The Australian window glass manufacturing industry has been made vulnerable to the attacks of window glass manufacturers in countries where wages and labour conditions are much inferior to those of Australia. It must be noted that the Belgian Government has given no guarantee whatever that it will purchase any Australian meat. All that it has said is that no restriction will be placed upon Australian meat entering Belgium, and that the duty on Australian meat will not be higher than that applicable to the meat imported from any other country.
The Minister informed .us that on an Australian annual consumption of 7,500,000 square feet of window glass, which was the consumption when the negotiations with Belgium began, the Australian manufacturers will hereafter have 60 per cent., those of the United Kingdom 10 per cent., those of Belgium 28.7 per cent., and those of other countries 1.3 per cent. On any Australian annual consumption in excess of 7,500,000 square feet, the Australian manufacturers will have 50 per cent., those of the United Kingdom 12.5 per cent., those of Belgium 35.8725 per cent., and those of other countries 1.6275 per cent. Is it fair play to this great Australian industry that it should be denied the advantage of an increased Australian market to this extent? It is entirely unjust! This policy must inevitably retard the development of this industry and militate against increased employment in it. The Australian window glass manufacturers have spent £300,000 in installing a plant to operate the Forcault system of manufacture, which they consider to be the best in the world for making window glass; their factory has a capacity of 12,000,000 square feet per annum, and for the last eighteen months they have supplied the whole of Australia’s requirements, giving employment to 406 persons. That number is, of course, in addition to more than 3,000 persons employed by the glass manufacturing industry throughout Australia. The window glass manufacturing company has lately been producing at the rate of 9,000,000 square feet per annum. This has supplied all our requirements and made possible the building up of reserve stocks. The restriction of the sales of the company to about 5,000,000 square feet per annum must inevitably have the effect of adding to its overhead1 costs. If the volume of production is reduced in this way, the price of window glass must inevitably be increased. If this happens, there will be an outcry from the public. The importing interests are hoping that they have the thin edge of the wedge and that they can capture the whole Australian market.
I cannot agree with the statement of the Minister that the existing and proposed prohibitions of Australian imports by Belgium were brought about by the force of public opinion in that country. There was no outcry from the Belgian Government when the Scullin Government imposed the deferred duties, nor was there a protest in 1925-26 when the deferred duties were first provided for by Mr. Pratten. The only outcry has come from the importing agents in Australia who have been’ very active. The effect of the policy that has hitherto been pursued has been that the price of window glass has fallen, as the following table will show: -
From 1st April, 1920. Before .imposition of duty-
23rd July, 1930. Upon imposition of the protective duty but before ‘ Australian manufacture -
31st January, 1933. Under control of price fixing organizations. Both imported and Australian made glass -
March, 1934. After price fixing control was broken through the activities of the Australian Glass Company -
It will be seen that the price of glass has fallen from a maximum of 8$d. per square foot for 0/70 united inches, 16 oz., to 5$d. and from lid. for 0/70 united inches, 21 oz., to 7d. The increases shown on the 23rd July, 1930, and the 31st January, 1933, were caused by the glass distributors and not the Australian glass manufacturers. As soon as the local glass manufacturers succeeded in effectively organizing their industry the price fell.
I wish now to deal briefly with the great importance of large secondary industries to Australia. Most honorable gentlemen realize that the home market is the best that our primary producers can have. The following figures, made available by the Commonwealth Statistician, show the percentages of certain important Australian primary products exported and consumed locally: -
Those figures indicate the great importance of the local market to the Australian primary producers. If the local market is fostered and developed by the establishment of great secondary industries, those engaged in primary production must reap real advantages; but, if the policy that has resulted in the giving away of a large percentage of our window glass market to manufacturers in foreign countries is applied to other secondary industries, how can the primary producers expect to build up a larger market locally for their products? The granting of this concession by the Government to manufacturers in a foreign country strikes a blow at employment in a great secondary industry of this country.
I suppose that the Government is not likely to revoke its decision in this connexion. The agreement will doubtless continue in force for twelve months. But in order that the severity of the blow may be lessened I hope that favorable consideration will be given by the Government to the suggestion made this afternoon by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) that the glass imported from Belgium shall be distributed in Western Australia and South Australia chiefly. Probably some of it could be sent to ports in Northern Queensland. The freights on glass from Belgium to Australia are the same, irrespective of the port of landing in this country, whereas the freight charges on glass delivered by the Australian manufacturers is much greater for some ports than for others. The freight from Sydney to Western Australia is practically the same as that from Belgium to Australia.
– These are factors which the Government could well take into consideration.
Something has been said about the shrinkage of our trade with Belgium; but those who have carefully examined the available statistical information realize that there has been a shrinkage of world trade generally. The following table shows the exact position in regard to our trade with Belgium: -
I submit that Parliament has not been treated with the courtesy to which it was entitled. The Government should have given honorable members an opportunity to discuss this subject before the treaty was actually completed. No previous administration has treated honorable members so discourteously.
– Was Belgium treated discourteously by the Scullin Administration ?
– Belgium was treated with the same courtesy as every other country. It was not subjected to any differentiation whatever. After all, the Scullin Government merely imposed the deferred duties provided for in the Pratten tariff. It actually remained for the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) to impose the prohibition while he was Minister for Trade and Customs.
– I was absent from Australia at the time that was done.
– I have no desire to do the honorable member an injustice; but he was then Minister for Trade and Customs. At any rate the prohibition was imposed by the Lyons Administration. I submit that the manner in which this agreement has been made is fraught with great danger. It is the thin end of a’1’ wedge that may be used to destroy our protective tariff. What answer will the Government give to the glass manufacturers of Japan, Germany, France and Italy when they ask for consideration? One weak decision encourages other countries to make threats. I shall not comment on the insult that has been offered to the /tass manufacturers of Great Britain by allowing them only 12 per cent, of any increased trade that Australia may have in glass as against 50 per cent, to Belgium.
– Has any guarantee been given by the Belgian Government that it will receive goods from -us.
– None whatever. All that it has said is that it will remove any existing restrictions that apply to the admission of Australian meat. There was no prohibition against Australian barley though there was a threatened prohibition. It was as though the Belgians were pointing a pistol at us.
– Hear hear !
– I believe that speeches delivered by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) to the effect that foreign countries were entitled to refuse to take goods from us if we imposed high duties on imports from overseas actually suggested to them that they should point the pistol at us. If the Government had not made one blunder after another in dealing with this subject, Belgium would never have prohibited the importation of Australian meat. I believe that a fatal error was made when the Government interfered with the Pratten duties that were made operative by the Scullin Administration.
– Those duties are now being removed.
– Yes, but the total prohibition still applies to J apan and certain other countries. Japan is selling glass to New Zealand .and I have no doubt that it will desire to sell glass to Australia. The Government should not have weakened.
– Is the honorable member pleading for Japan?
– I am not pleading for Japan or any other country; I am pleading for Australia. I am pleading for the good cause of the development of the Australian manufacturing industries. An honorable gentleman opposite has, by interjection, said something about monopolies. This seems to he the day of monopolies; but if we must have monopolies I prefer monopolies giving employment in Australia which we can control to monopolies in other countries, such as Belgium and certain eastern countries, which we cannot control. -
– The honorable member’s extended time has expired.
.- Those who have listened to previous speeches on this subject by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) and have heard his speech this evening must have found it humorous indeed. I marvel at the easy manner in which the honorable member is able to change his opinions. He said something about the failure of the Government to table the latest report of the Tariff Board on this subject. How many reports of the Tariff Board were suppressed while the Scullin Government was in office ?
My earnest desire is that the Customs Act should be amended so as to make the tabling of reports compulsory. In the old days the Tariff Board was a sort of star chamber, which sat in private, but we got that altered, and now evidence must be taken in public. The reports of the Tariff Board do not belong to the government of the day. They belong to Parliament, and the act should provide that, within a reasonable time after their being presented to the Government, they should be tabled. As regards the importation of glass, it would seem that some one must have had inside information, because one firm was able to buy up practically all the available supplies of sheet glass prior to the imposition of the embargo. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) said that the demand for glass was improving, and would increase still more because of the boom in the building trade consequent upon the return of prosperity. The other day, however, he was telling us that there was no return to prosperity, and that the country was still in the depths of the depression. The Labour party now objects to government control, but when that party was in office it, was the greatest offender in this regard.
This agreement is based on an embargo on the importation of glass. I should like to draw the attention of the Minister to the following amendment of the Customs A.ct which was made last year : -
Where, prior to the commencement of this section, the importation or exportation of any goode has been prohibited by proclamation, and the proclamation is in force immediately prior to such commencement, any such proclamation may be re-enacted, cancelled or varied by regulation, and until cancellation shall remain in force according to the terms in which it was issued, and, if varied, shall have effect according to its terms as so varied. Any such proclamation not re-enacted by regulation within six months after the commencement of this section shall cease to have effect.
If the embargo on glass is to continue, it will have to be renewed in the near future by regulation, and the regulation can be declared void by Parliament. We are very glad that we were able to have that amendment inserted. In. the past the government of the day was able to prohibit the importation of goods by proclamation, and Parliament had no redress. It is doubtful whether, if the law had ever been tested, the Government really did have this power, because I believe it was meant to apply only to the prohibition of goods which might be deleterious to the health and morals of the people. It was never intended that the Government should be able to impose a general prohibition. We intend to use all the influence we possess, both inside and outside Parliament, to make it impossible for governments to continue to exercise this arbitrary power.
I am afraid that this agreement will create a harmful precedent, particularly in regard to our trade with other countries. I should strongly oppose it altogether were it not for the fact that we are to get some little benefit for the time being. I do not agree with the principle, however, of permitting the Government to enter into trade agreements with other countries without first securing the approval of Parliament. I have no doubt that, in this instance, a majority of honorable members would have approved of the agreement; but it would have been better if they had been given the opportunity to do so. I strongly urge that the Government should by motion obtain the approval of Parliament to the agreement. The practice we are now following is too dangerous. The effect of the agreement will be to create a demand from other countries for favorable treatment, also. It seems to me that the Government’s policy in this regard is dictated by opportunism, and that it has evinced reluctance to grapple with the problem effectively.
.- This agreement will have a far-reaching and harmful effect on our international relations. Owing to the development of economic nationalism most countries are now giving marked attention to trade treaties and quotas. In the past, governments generally relied on tariffs to regulate international trade; but it seems that in the future tariffs will play a minor part compared with treaties and quotas. The new method will create difficulties, and will lead to retaliation, misunderstanding and loss. I agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that the pursuit of this new policy will seriously affect the economic life of the community. A protective tariff imposed by any country is apt to be criticized by those overseas manufacturers who desire a free market for their produce, but if a tariff does not discriminate between countries there is little danger of retaliation. An agreement of this kind, however, by its very nature invites retaliation. When he laid the treaty on the table, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) said -
International obligations prevent the Commonwealth from granting an import quota exclusively to Belgium, and in order to meet this situation the Government has followed its policy of allotting import quotas among the different overseas supplying countries in proportion to the imports from those countries in previous years.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 November 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1934/19341128_reps_14_145/>.