14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. j. Bell) took the chair at 2.80 p.m., and read prayers.
Bill brought up by Sir Henry Gullett, and read a first time.
Commonwealth Statistician’s Figures
-In view of the disclosure made by the figures compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician, that over 400,000 persons are unemployed in four States of the Commonwealth, will the Prime Minister give to the House the assurance that, before the House rises for the Christmas recess, he will make a complete statement of the Government’s relief proposals ?
– From time to time during this session, the Government has made its position clear.
– Nothing has yet been done.
– The honorable member is well aware that the Government is definitely doing something; that it has already submitted to this House a programme of urgent works that may be undertaken before Christmas. In consultation with the States, it is examining the possibility of providing for the carrying out of other works of a more lasting character. During the ensuing week-end, representatives of the Commonwealth will confer with representatives of the States upon this matter. Before the Parliament actually met, I asked the States to furnish lists of works which they consideredcould be carried out jointly by the States and the Commonwealth. So far, a complete list has been received from only one State. We are urgingthat the matter be hastened, and propose to discuss it -with the representatives of the States when they visit Canberra in the beginning of next week.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether the Government will give an opportunity for the opinion, of the House to be learned in the matter of granting to women equality of status with men in relation to nationality ?
– The bill to amend the Nationality Act that I have been given leave to introduce, is designed to bring the Australian law into line with that of Great Britain and Canada, and to make it conform to the Hague Convention of 1930. It is true that that will not give to married women exactly the same status with respect to nationality as is held by men. The Government is in favour of doing that, but realizes that to put Australia somewhat ahead of other parts of the British Empire would involve us in a number of difficult complications. For that reason the Prime Minister proposes to raise the matter at the Imperial
Conference which he is to attend in the early part of next year. The right honorable gentleman will endeavour to obtain uniformity of agreement within the British Empire. If he is successful in that object, I have no doubt that the Government will bring down another measure to give to married women the full equality of status which the honorable gentleman desires that they should have.
Evasion byvictorian Butter Manufacturing Company.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce been drawn to a circular letter which states that a Victorian butter manufacturing company is evading the provisions of the legislation dealing with’ Commonwealth dairy produce equalization? Is the right honorable gentleman having investigations made to ascertain the facts!
– Investigations are being made in connexion with the matter.
– Will the Minister for
Repatriation state when the House may expect the introduction of legislation designed to give effect to the right honorable gentleman’s professed belief that steps should be taken to expedite the hearing of appeals by returned soldiers in connexion with war pensions, which, by reason of their number, cannot be dealt with by the existing tribunals as expeditiously as is desired.
– Insofar as the honorable member’s question is directed to matters of policy, he knows very well that it is not customary to answer such questions. Insofar as it has relation to matters of fact, I should say that the honorable gentleman might expect such legislation when he can persuade his colleagues to allow the business of the country to be carried on.
– I rise to a point of order. The statement that has just been made by the Minister for Repatriation contains the imputation that honorable members of the Opposition have deliberately attempted to obstruct the business of the country. I point out that this House has sat on only eleven days in a period of ten weeks. I ask that the imputation be withdrawn.
– If the right honorable gentleman objects to my statement, I withdraw it. I was merely endeavouring to give a reason that would justify me in the eyes of his colleague, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin).
– Will the Minister for the Interior obtain from the Commonwealth Railways Department an undertaking that it will endeavour to ascertain from the Railways Departments of Victoria and South Australia the reason for the numerous recent instances of unpunctuality in connexion with the Melbourne to Adelaide train which connects with the East- West service, and make representations that will ensure the punctual running of the latter?
– I shall have the suggested inquiries made to see what cun be done to improve the service.
– Can the Minister controlling Trade Treaties say if any decision has yet been reached with the New Zealand Government with respect to the embargo imposed on the export of Australian potatoes and apples to that Dominion ?
– The answer is in the negative.
Proposed Redistribution in Victoria.
– Can the Minister for the Interior say whether further consideration has yet been given to the proposed electoral redistribution of seats in Victoria?
– I have not yet received any further report from the Chief Electoral Officer with respect to a proposed redistribution in Victoria.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs indicate what action his department is likely to take to restrict or debar the importation of fats and oils used in Australia for the manufacture of margarine as a substitute for butter?
– As the honorable member is aware it is not customary to disclose matters of policy in answer to questions. I remind the honorable member, who considers that margarine is used as a substitute for butter, that coco-nut oil and cotton-seed oil are imported for other purposes than the production of butter substitutes.
– In view of the disastrous effects of the sale of margarine upon the butter industry and the health of the community, will the Minister for Commerce, as a matter of urgency, see what can be done to meet the position ?
– Inquiries are at present being made to see what action, if any, can be taken.
– During the last election campaign statements- were made that it was proposed to place restrictions on the production of margarine. Seeing that this is essentially the poor people’s food, will the Minister for Customs state whether the Government proposes to alter its policy in this regard?
– Requests have been made by interested companies that the Government should impose an excise duty on margarine, but the Government has not considered making any change in its present policy in this regard.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in a. position to say whether tenders have yet been called for the construction of a wireless station at Cleveland, and if so, when is it expected that the work will be completed?
– Tenders have been called and the work is expected to be completed about September next.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs considered the banning of a novel by a well-known novelist - Michael Arlen? Can the Minister, who is himself an author of no mean repute, give the House the title of the book, and does he not consider his position a trifle invidious in passing judgment upon less distinguished contemporaries?
– I saw a paragraph headed “Canberra” in an evening paper published in Melbourne, to the effect that the Collector of Customs had made reference to a book written by the author mentioned by the honorable member, which had been in circulation for some weeks and which the Customs Department intended to ban. That information did not emanate from Canberra, as the book in question has not been in the hands of the customs officers here. The censorship of imported books is undertaken by the Customs Department under section 52 of the Customs Act, and has been in operation since the inception of federation, but this Government has also set up an independent voluntary board which peruses certain books, and if they are considered indecent or blasphemous, as are most of those which are banned, their circulation is prohibited. The book in question has not reached Canberra and has not been considered by the Censorship Board.
– Will the Minister for the Interior supply me with a statement showing separately the number of persons on sustenance and relief work, also those working part time in each State during the period when the census was being taken? If the information is not available for all the States, will the Minister supply it for New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia?
– I shall have inquiries made to ascertain whether such figures are available. I presume that the honorable member refers to the whole of Australia.
– Is the Minister for the Interior in a position to outline briefly the instructions issued to the Works Directors in the different States with respect to the relief of unemployment by Christmas?
– During the debate on the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill it was stated by the Assistant Treasurer and myself that full advantage would be taken of the existing facilities of the State labour bureaux, but that the Commonwealth Works Directors would not be confined to obtaining labour through those channels if they deemed them in any way inadequate or unsatisfactory. Considerable discretion has been given to the Works Directors, but as in New South Wales, the State in which the honorable member is particularly interested, there are nearly 400 branches of State labour exchanges throughout the country, the organization appears to be complete.
– Is the Government prepared to state when the Christmas relief work, for which money has been provided, will” actually be commenced?
– In order ‘ that there might be no delay, the Government anticipated the approval of the Senate, and instructions have been issued to begin work immediately.
– No details are given of any undertaking estimated to cost less than £600. I should like the Minister to give particulars of some of the smaller works to be undertaken in Tasmania.
– Not being an en.cyclopaedia I am unable to answer the honorable member’s question off-hand; but if he will place his question on the notice-paper I shall endeavour to give him the particulars he desires.
Replies to Questions - Uniform Railway Gauge - East- West Railway Ballasting
– In view of the definite statement made at the opening of Parliament that the Government had appointed a member of the Ministry to deal with unemployment, will the right honorable the Prime Minister indicate who that Minister is?
– As the honorable member is aware, the Government has appointed the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart) as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment. The Government has also appointed a sub-committee of the Cabinet to deal with the matter. Therefore, it is receiving the attention., not of one man, but of a subcommittee of the Government as well.
– I ask the Prime Minister, as representing the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart), what progress has been made with the scheme for the unification of railway gauges? Have overtures yet been made to the State governments, has any agreement been discussed, and, if so, what stage have the negotiations reached? Is it yet possible to state when the work will he commenced, and how it is to be financed ?
– The honorable member for Parramatta has already investigated existing reports on the subject of the unification of railway gauges with the object of having them brought up to date. He has asked for a report from the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways, and he will be in a position to discuss the matter with the representatives of State governments, including the Premier of South Australia, when they come to Canberra. He will also discuss a related subject, namely, the advisableness or otherwise of constructing the Port Augusta to Red Hill railway.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is permissible for honorable members to address to the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart) questions relating to employment, and, if not, to what Minister should they be addressed ?
– Honorable members may address such questions to me.
– Without intending discourtesy to the Prime Minister, I ask the Under-Secretary for Employment (Mr. Stewart) to state what is being clone in regard to the re-ballasting of the Eastwest railway line, and whether additional employment will be found for citizens of South Australia ?
– The question raised by the honorable member deals with the actions of the Government, and, consequently, a member of the Government - in this case the Minister controlling the Commonwealth railways - can reply to it.
– I rise to a point oforder. Am I not entitled to receive a reply to my question directly from the UnderSecretary for Employment? When I rose, I indicated that, although I addressed my question to him, no discourtesy to the Prime Minister was intended.
– The matter referred to by, the honorable member concerns a department administered by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson).
– This matter is dealt with in Standing Order 92, whichreads -
After notices have been given questions may be put to Ministers of the Crown relating to public affairs ; and to other members relating to any bill, notice, or other public matter connected with the business on the notice-paper, of which such members may have charge.
I am not clear regarding the official position held by the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart), but it is the right of the Prime Minister to authorize the Minister in control of the department concerned to answer the question.
– I desire an answer from the Under-Secretary for Employment.
– The Government is prepared to allow ample opportunity for the asking of questions without notice; but if honorable members intend, in future, to adopt the course which has been followed to-day, its policy in that connexion may have to be considered. Work in connexion with the Commonwealth railways comes under the control of the Minister for the Interior, who will be prepared to deal with any relevant question put to him.
– I accept the Prime Minister’s advice, and now ask the Minister for the Interior what stage has been reached in the re-ballasting of the EastWest railway, and whether the unemployed of South Australia can expect additional employment on that work ?
– The last information supplied to me on the subject was that, of the 1,050 miles of the East- West railway, re-ballasting had been carried out along 700 miles, leaving about 350 miles still to be done. I have no information as to where the labour is recruited.
– In view of the great importance of employment, will the Prime Minister reconsider the status of the Under-Secretary for Employment, so that this important subject will be placed under the control of a full Minister who will be able to answer questions ?
– The status of any honorable member associated with the Government is one for the Government to decide, and is no concern whatever of the Opposition. The Government will decide for itself in such matters. The honorable member for Parramatta has voluntarily undertaken the responsibility of dealing with the important subject of unemployment. He preferred to act in that capacity rather than as a member of the Government.
– Why was he deprived of cabinet rank?
– Had the honorable member for Parramatta so desired, he could still have been a member of the Government. For the splendid work which he is doing in a voluntary capacity he is entitled, not to condemnation, but to the thanks of all Australians.
– No one is attacking the honorable member for Parramatta.
Mr. J. S. GARDEN, M.P.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether I am to infer from an intimation conveyed to me to-day concerning the Government’s attitude towards a motion which I am not able now to debate that the Government has ceased to regard treason as a crime against the State, or am I to infer-
– The honorable member’s question is out of order.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that a number of artisans are being brought from Czechoslovakia under contract to an Australian manufacturer to do work that can be done by Australian artisans? If he is, will he take action to prevent this form of competition with Australian workmen?
– I am not aware of the specific instance mentioned by the honorable member, but I can assure him that, before any alien workmen are permitted to come into this country, every inquiry is made to ascertain whether that work can be done equally well by Australians, and whether there is good reason for the admission of aliens even for a brief time.
Notice of motion in the name of Dr. Maloney, relating to the position of Attorneys-General of the Commonwealth or a State - by leave - withdrawn.
– Reports have been published in the press recently in which the Government’s attitude towards subsidized shipping lines, and particularly the Matson line so frequently mentioned byme in this chamber, has been discussed. Will the Prime Minister state whether there is any prospect of definite action being taken to meet this form of competition, especially as I believe that a German subsidized line is shortly to begin trading to the Islands?
– This subject is being discussed by the conference of representatives of the Dominion of New Zealand and the Commonwealth. No decision has yet been reached, and there is no justification for the guesses that have been indulged in outside. We are in close touch with the Government of Great Britain, which is being advised of the progress of our deliberations, and at the present time we are awaiting a reply from the British Government. We are hopeful that we shall be able to devise some method of dealing effectively with this form of competition.
Presentation to the GovernorGeneral.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon.G. J. Bell).Accompanied by honorable members. I waited this day upon His Excellency the Governor-General at Government House, and presented to him the AddressinReply to His Excellency’s Speech on the opening of Parliament, which was agreed to by the House on the 2nd November. His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply: -
I receivewith much pleasure the Address which has been adopted by the House of Representatives in reply to the Speech which I delivered on the occasion of the opening of the First Session of the Fourteenth Parliament of the Commonwealth, and I thank you for your expression of loyalty to His Majesty the King.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 32 of 1934-
Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia.
Quarantine Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 145.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend section 9 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1933.
Bill brought up and read afirst time.
WAYS AND MEANS (“ Grievance Day”).
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means - proposed.
.- I take this opportunity to place before honorable members the grievance of a large number of aged and infirm people regarding the payment of pensions in the North Adelaide district. I offer no apologies to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) for bringing before the House a matter which perhaps should more properly have emanated from him. I understand, however, that the honorable member has already made certain representations in this connexion in order to improve the lot of these old folk; but up to the present time nothing has been done to assist them, and they are still required either to walk long distances or to be put to the expense of obtaining transport from their homes to the North Adelaide Post Office, at which their pensions are paid. The post office at North Adelaide really covers two separate and distinct residential areas, lower North Adelaide and North Adelaide proper. People living in the lower North Adelaide district, however, suffer unfairly by reason of the unsatisfactory arrangements now existing. I understand that the Pensions Department recognizes the serious handicap which these people suffer, but difficulty presents itself in arriving at a satisfactory agreement with the Postal Department. In bad weather considerable hardship is inflicted on the invalid and old-age pensioners living in the lower North Adelaide district, who have to travel by tram to North Adelaide. If they desire to conserve their resources and walk they are placed at a further disadvantage. At lower North Adelaide, I understand, there is established a postal agency, but the Postal Department is not prepared to make arrangements with the officer in charge to pay pensions of invalid and old-age people living in that district on the ground that the inclusion of this work in his duties would increase his status, and might involve the department in additional expenditure. This officer has indicated his willingness to undertake the additional work, but the department has refused his offer, and the old and the infirm people continue to suffer as the result. If the accommodation that could be provided at the agency be insufficient to cope with the increased business, arrangements could be made to hire a hall or other suitable accommodation to overcome the difficulty. The officers of the Pensions Department in South Australia have stated that it is not the practice to pay invalid and old-age pensions at places other than post offices, but that practice is not uniform throughout Australia. In Victoria, where post office premises are inadequate, halls are hired for the purpose of providing accommodation for these pensioners. I ask that the same facilities be provided for the aged people in the lower North Adelaide district. It. is surprising that although one Commonwealth department is prepared to consider the matter sympathetically, another department is unwilling to make the necessary arrangements. I hope the honorable member for Adelaide will supplement my remarks. I voice this protest on behalf of the Invalid and Old-age Pensioners Association of Adelaide against the harsh treatment meted out to a section of its members.
I desire to refer now to the curtailment of certain postal facilities in my own electorate, which seems to have been brought about as a result of a false sense of economy. For the last two and a half years practically nothing has been done to meet the growing requirements of outlying districts) I do not know whether the retiring Deputy Director of Post and Telegraphs was inclined to take too conservative a view of the services required of his department, but the fact remains that, although he invariably received me most courteously, I rarely obtained a satisfactory result from my requests. “With the advent of a new deputy, we are hoping for substantial improvements that have been too long deferred, and we look also to the Assistant Minister (Mr. Hunter) to justify his appointment as the representative of the PostmasterGeneral in this House by giving close personal attention to the needs of scattered communities. Residents of Wingfield, in my electorate, are approximately 2½ miles from the nearest post office, which is situated at Rosewater, and they have to walk that distance to post a letter, to send a telegram, or to secure mail matter. There are a score or more of them in this settlement, and they are certainly entitled to a better service. I have repeatedly asked that an allowance office should be established there. Suitable business premises are available, but so far no action has been taken to supply this much-needed convenience. I ask the Assistant Minister to take up the case of these people and to see that they are provided at once with a local allowance office, where they may not only obtain their mails, but also lodge telegrams and have the use of a public telephone.
– Rosewater Gardens would also be served by an allowance office at Wingfield.
– The honorable member realizes- that something should be done for these people. Another complaint is that there is no postal delivery in this district. Residents have been refused this much-needed convenience on the ground that it cannot be supplied until pathways are laid down by the local governing authorities. That, after all, is a poor excuse, and I expect that immediate attention will be given to this demand. It is high time also that some of the postal buildings in my electorate were renovated. Many of them, are rapidly deteriorating for want of a coat of paint.
– The honorable member should have a chat with the Assistant Minister.
– The Assistant Minister will have few quiet moments, so far as I am concerned, until he redresses these grievances. He might very well visit my electorate and see for himself the postal buildings there. At Semaphore we have a post office which I believe was originally occupied as a dwellinghouse. It has been re-modelled from time to time to meet the growing needs of that important seaside resort, but architecturally, as well as in every other respect, it is unworthy of that fine resort. I have made representations, supported by the local Progress Association, to the incoming Deputy Director that a new building should be erected, and if my request comes before the Minister I hope that he will see that it is complied with. There are other matters that I should like to discuss, but I shall refrain from doing so, since I know that our time is limited and that other honorable members have grievances which they desire to put before the House. I hope the Government will recognize the justice of the claim I have made on behalf of the invalid and old-age pensioners of lower North Adelaide, and that attention will also be given at once to my request for postal improvements in my electorate.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the House will at a later hour this day again resolve itself into the said committee.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumedfrom the 28th November (vide page 610), 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 progress was reported yesterday evening I was asking the Postmaster-General to endeavour to have free wireless installed in schools. One can imagine the great benefits which would accrue from an educational point of view to the children of Australia, particularly those in the back-blocks, if such a step were taken. The isolation of some of these children is emphasized when we consider that the electorate of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) alone covers an area of nearly 300,000 square miles. The Commonwealth. Government should make a service ofthis nature available to the schools.
I appeal to the Government to do something for the relief of the unemployed. Many young men who have been out of work for the last three or four years are to-day feeling very despondent; they are losing all hope of ever getting work again. The Government should give particular attention to the plight ofthis section of the unemployed. This afternoon the Prime Minister said that the Government had appointed an under-secretary to deal with this problem, but if rumours are correct, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart) who has been appointed to that position, has been practically ignored by ‘the Government. I understand that in the last three weeks he has not even been able to secure an office in which to work. I am not personally acquainted with the honorable gentleman, but I am informed that among honorable members on the opposite side of the House he is one of those most sympathetic towards the unemployed. Apparently he was induced to relinquish his position in the Cabinet, but now that he is out of the Ministry no facility is placed at his disposal to help him carry on his work.
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) when asking a question this afternoon stated that margarine was the food of the poor people. Why he should hold that view I do not know. Personally I think the poorer classes should have the best of food.
– They work the hardest.
– Yes ; they are the real producers, and to my mind it would be more just if we regarded margarine as the food, for . those who do not work at all, although they live in comfort.
Through the Minister in charge of war service homes, I appeal to the Government to give greater consideration to returned soldiers so far as occupancy of war service homes is concerned. The numerous memorials we have erected throughout the country stand as silent witnesses to the fruitlessness of war. Reading a newspaper the other day I noticed a verse which sums up that thought. It reads -
What tricks Fate plays with us when we forget
That reason should be master of the will ;
They died to make the old earth better yet
And made it poorer still.
When our soldiers went to the war they were told that by helpingto win the war they would be making the world a much better place to live in; but their efforts were all in vain. I ask the Government to do something in a special way for these unfortunate men. I have brought the question of war service homes before the Minister on more than one occasion, and no doubt he is well acquainted with the conditions existing in this respect. I have received a communication from a returned soldier, the father of four children, in which he informs me that he took over a home which had been abandoned by a fellow “ digger “. This home had been constructed under contract for the War Service Homes Commission. Thinking that the building would provide him and his family with a nice little home in which they could live in comfort, he took over the building but had only occupied it a few weeks when, following a storm, he found that his furniture had been practically destroyed owing to roof-leakage. He then discovered that the building had been very badly constructed as many more of those homes which were carried out under the contract system have been found to be. The health of the family was impaired as a result of living in this particular house. Eventually he went into the Prince of Wales Hospital as a digger patient. Later he abandoned his home; but I understand that he is still required to pay 2s. a week out of his meagre pension to meet the arrears of rates and other charges on the property, although he is not now living in the house.
– Shame !
– It is a shame. Not a single person in Australia would offer a word of criticism of the Government if it honoured every promise made to the diggers during the war. We ask that the War Service Homes Act be so amended as to ensure that proper consideration is given to distressed occupiers of war service homes. These people are suffering a good deal of worry because they feel that they are daily liable to eviction from their homes, Fully 60 per cent. of the people occupying war service homes today feel that they may be evicted at any time.
– That statement is not in accordance with facts.
– In my electorate more than 60 per cent. of the occupiers of war service homes are either out of employment or engaged on relief work, and if they are maintaining their payments to the War Service Homes Commission, they must be doing so by keeping their children on the verge of starvation.
The amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney has been moved because the Government has failed to honour the promise made by its leader and his supporters that £10,000,000 would be provided immediately for the relief of unemployment. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) was among those who deluded the workers during the recent election campaign into thinking that this particular promise would be honoured without delay if the Government were returned to power.
– I rise to a point of order. The statement that I deluded the workers is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the statement, and say that the honorable member influenced many people to vote for him by declaring that .the Government would give effect to this promise and others if it were returned to power. The promise of the Government that £12,000,000 would be made available for rural rehabilitation at once with the object of restoring some measure of prosperity to the men on the .land has also been dishonoured up to date. Now that the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) is Deputy Leader of the Government, he should make it his special object to fulfil that particular promise.
– Hear, hoar!
– I am glad that the honorable member for Barton agrees with me in this instance, and though he was very annoyed by the formation of the present coalition Government, he should use his influence to ensure that that promise is honoured. The failure of the Government to restore salaries and social service payments to the standard that existed before the financial emergency cuts is also a subject for adverse criticism. Parliament was definitely promised when these reductions were made that they would be restored immediately the financial situation made restoration possible. I ask particularly that invalid and oldage pension payments be immediately restored to the former rates. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) said a few days ago that we should all be astonished when the Government produced its policy for the solution of the unemployment problem. We are waiting to be astonished. The policy is of no use in the pocket of the Prime Minister. It should be expounded in this House. In all the circumstances, I sincerely hope the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney will be carried.
.- This debate has hinged on the important problem of unemployment, but although many honorable members have said that something should be done immediately, few of them have offered any suggestions as to what should be done. It is not easy, so early in the life of a new parliament, to produce a comprehensive policy to deal with such a serious problem. Certain honorable members on the Government side of the committee have suggested the adoption of unorthodox methods without clearly indicating what they have in mind. I fail tq see that any unorthodox methods could be applied with advantage at this juncture. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has asked that the Government shall immediately provide £10,000,000 for the relief of unemployment, and £12,000,000 for rural rehabilitation; but he has not suggested how the money should be spent. * Quorum formed.’]* No constructive suggestion is to be found in the speeches of honorable members opposite relating to this problem of unemployment. Even the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) only went so far as to advocate the release of credit which, in reality, means inflation, the dire results of which are surely well known to all honorable members. The present depression is an exceedingly severe one - probably the most widespread and distressing that the world has ever known; but the signs are not wanting that the dark clouds are lifting. One of the most disastrous depressions experienced in Great Britain was that immediately following the Napoleonic wars and lasting from 1815 until practically 1850, when relief came through the discovery of gold in California and Australia. There is every reason to hope that the present world depression will not be so protracted, because governments in all countries are giving their attention to remedial measures and are displaying a desire to co-operate in the application of orthodox methods which experience has shown to be successful.
Unemployment and banking reform were the principal issues discussed during the last election campaign. It is not wide of the truth to say that the views of Labour candidates were not accepted by the majority of the people. The electors did not agree that the Government, which had been in office for three years, had failed to give relief. Certainly they did not endorse the policy enunciated by candidates representing the two sections of the Labour party in this House. Some honorable members have argued that the people were deceived as to the probable effect of Labour’s banking policy; that they did not understand the position. That excuse, I suggest, is not a very flattering commentary on the intelligence of the electors. By their votes the people showed clearly that they thoroughly understood the position, and that they were not prepared, at that stage, to make a change of government. It is unnecessary for me to quote figures relating to unemployment because they do not carry a great deal of weight. It is sufficient to say that the official figures show a marked improvement in the position, particularly in the country districts of New South Wales, where unemployment is now practically unknown. The same may, I think, also be said of country districts in other States. Much of the distress associated with unemployment appears now to be concentrated in the capital cities where there is undoubtedly a great deal of suffering among the working classes.
It can also be said that the people decisively rejected the Labour party’s policy with regard to banking. Members of my party did not say, and I did not say, during the last election, that our present banking system is perfect. I agree that some measure of reform may be desirable, but I am convinced that the proposals made by Labour candidates would not be for the benefit of the people.
I regret that the notice of motion for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the operation of the Australian banking and monetary systems, standing in the name of the honorable member for Maranoa, now the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hunter), is to be withdrawn, because I believe that a discussion on that all-important subject would be informative and would lead to. good results. I am not one of those who consider that nothing good can come out of a parliamentary committee. This country has not benefited materially from the appointment of royal commissions composed of persons outside this Parliament. In the majority of cases, such commissions have proved very expensive, and while, no doubt, in many cases their findings have been the result of careful investigation, in not a few instances they have been entirely forgotten. Parliamentary committees have, on the contrary, proved of immense value to this Parliament and the Commonwealth. Members appointed to such bodies, from time to time, have given careful study to the subject-matter of inquiry and have presented reports well worthy of the earnest consideration of this Parliament. I feel sure that if a parliamentary committee were appointed to inquire into our present banking and monetary system it would be able to present recommendations that would lead to desirable reforms. It would almost appear from the attitude of some honorable members that we are troubled with an inferiority complex, but my parliamentary experience has confirmed me in the belief that members of thi3 House are quite capable of inquiring into and offering valuable suggestions with regard to even such an important subject as our present banking system. In this way they could do very good work for the people of Australia. I submit this suggestion for the consideration of honorable members.
The problem of unemployment in’ Australia should be discussed from two angles, one, the general world position, and the other the domestic position. One does not wish to be considered a pessimist, but when one looks at the world position the outlook is not very heartening. The most encouraging feature is the exceedingly fine recovery which Great Britain has made during the last two or three years, following the application of orthodox methods, which have done so much for Australia.
– Does the honorable member think that the remarks made by Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, at the parliamentary luncheon yesterday, bear out what he is saying?
– I do not imply that the problem of unemployment is not still engaging the attention of the British Government, but I put it to honorable members that the position of the Mother Country to-day as regards unemployment is immeasurably better than it was, say, two years ago. The honorable member for Dalley (M.r. Rosevear) a day or two ago gave us the figures, which showed that out of a population of 46,000,000 in Great Britain there were 2,156,000 people without employment. That is indeed a serious position, but I repeat that it is very much better than it was two or three years ago. The position in Great Britain is the one bright spot in the world unemployment situation. The position of the rest of the world is not hopeful. France is convulsed by domestic troubles, Germany is steadily growing into an armed camp, and there is unrest in the Balkans - a state of affairs that nearly always presages a European war. The Government has acted wisely in having made provision for the defence of Australia. I cannot help feeling that it will not be very long - perhaps only a couple of years - before the world will be faced with the imminence of another very serious war in Europe. A year or so ago there was a distinct possibility of war in the Pacific, and had it occurred Australia would have been directly affected. The events of the last few months, however, have undoubtedly indicated that the theatre of a possible outbreak has shifted from the East to Europe, and that at present the danger spot is unquestionably Germany; because the fire of youth cannot be kindled, as it has been in Germany, without spreading and causing a serious conflagration. As one who took part in the last great war, I would say that the best course is, while not attempting to provoke hostilities, to be prepared for them. The participants in the last upheaval know what terrible things happened to nations that were unpre pared for it. I therefore commend the Government for having taken adequate steps in relation to defence.
The speeches of some honorable members would seem to indicate their desire for an experiment to be made to deal with the position in Australia. In the United States of America President Roosevelt has exhibited considerable courage in the institution of an experiment designed to withstand the economic pressure of the law of supply and demand and to bring that nation out of an appalling state of misery and unemployment to a measure of prosperity. That experiment has involved tremendous expenditure, and the issue of it is still doubtful. The New Deal in the United States of America has cost the present administration no less than £2,703 a minute. That has involved the incurring of an annual deficit of £800,000,000 and the increase of the national debt to £5,300,000,000. Yet despite that stupendous expenditure we have it on the authority of Mr. William Green, Prest dent of the American Federation of Labor, whose statement was published in the Canberra ‘Times of the 30th October last, that the number of men who are jobless in the United States of America to-day is greater than it was a year ago. Mr. Green went on to say that although the government’s monthly payments with respect to 2,229,000 persons were $95,000,000, that expenditure was not creating income. He appealed to Mr. Roosevelt to invite all industries to cooperate in a general programme to inccrease production. Australia has tha advantage of being able to watch the progress of this vast and courageous experiment - the greatest national experiment the world has known. Undoubtedly the spending of these vast sums by the United States of America has affected! the prices of world commodities. It seems to me that the higher price which Australia enjoyed for its wool clip last year was due in no small measure to that expenditure. This year there has been a recedence to the lower prices that formerly prevailed.
I was interested in the figures which the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Fisken), speaking on the AddressinReply, gave in relation to the balance of trade between Australia and certain other countries. While I agree with the point that the honorable member was , attempting to make, I also feel that there is less purchasing power on both sides. Belgium certainly has been buying less from Australia, but Australia on its part has been restricting its purchases from Belgium. That matter has been referred to in the present debate by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin). To me the indication is that the purchasing power of the world is diminishing, and that we must consider whether the figure will remain at a lower level than has previously prevailed, and regulate our expenditure accordingly. I further feel that we must not depend upon trade treaties alone to get us out of our troubles, because a fairly lengthy period must necessarily elapse before the full effect of their operation is felt. [Quorum formed.] While doubting whether trade treaties will have any material effect on the world position, I do not, on that account, decry the making of as many of them as possible.
That brings me to the domestic aspect of the problem of unemployment. After all, we cannot foretell world happenings. But we can exercise a certain amount of control internally. The domestic position is divisible into two sections: One, the immediate relief that can be given; and the other, the steady and continuous policy that must be adopted to bring us back to what may be described as normality. I therefore welcome the cooperation which, within the last month, has been arrived at between the two parties that sit on this side of the House. I frankly believe that it would be far better if the brains of this Parliament could be pooled. Very big problems have to be tackled, and no one can say that the experience, knowledge, and sincerity of men like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) would not prove of material benefit. I have been a member of this Parliament for a number of years, and I believe that there is now a greater disposition than has previously existed among honorable members holding different political views to work together. I have heard helpful advice” given by members of the Opposition. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies), in the first speech that he made in this Parliament, referred to that circumstance, and also spoke of the pooling of brains.
Immediate action can afford only temporary relief to the unemployed, and give only temporary assistance to producers. To a great extent, it must also be dependent upon the raising of money by. way of loans. But we cannot borrow ourselves back into prosperity. The recently subscribed £15,000,000 loan did not fill ae readily as previous loans have filled. Possibly that avenue is becoming a little less favorable than it was formerly.
I welcome the delegation of certain functions to the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart). I know thb worry and anxiety that the problem has caused and will cause him, but I am quit? sure that we can shortly expect from him something material and tangible.
While a certain amount may be allocated for the relief of unemployment, such expenditure is only temporarily beneficial, its object being to keep men afloat while more lasting provision is made. We have to consider whether the problem should be tackled from its apex, which is represented by secondary industries, or from its base, which is represented by primary industries. Surely it may reasonably be argued that the first step should be taken from the base rather than the apex of the pyramid. I do not think that the two can be approached simultaneously. I would again refer to the point that I made earlier, that the problem of unemployment is less acute in rural areas than in the industrial portions of the capital cities. The reason for that must be that the secondary industries of Australia are dependent on the local market to a far greater extent than are the primary industries. If they are to become prosperous, the purchasing power of the local market must be increased. In my opinion this domestic prosperity can be achieved only by settling and stabilizing the position of the primary industries.
Many persons, both inside and outside this Parliament, are inclined to the belief that all graziers are now prosperous because of the rise that occurred last year in the price of wool. That is not so. At least 95 per cent, of the -flock-owners are men who have only 5,000 sheep or less. I venture to assert also that 90 per cent, of them are working on overdrafts, and are heavily involved financially. There must he an easing of the position of the men on the land. We have to get down to basic factors, one of which is dual industrial control. I was pleased to hear the Attorney-General, in his first speech in this chamber, get right down to that subject, which undoubtedly is one of the greatest problems with which we have to deal. I was a member of a government which tackled the problem, which, unfortunately, still remains unsolved. The tangled skein of industrial arbitration should be unravelled, and this Parliament should treat the subject as urgent. It has always appeared to rae that our arbitration system should be under the sole control of either the Commonwealth or the States, and that certain aspects should not be under the control of the States while others are under the control of the Commonwealth, industrial arbitration should be handled by the Commonwealth and not by the States, but owing to the sovereign powers possessed by the States, the Commonwealth has not the constitutional right to intervene. Although I may be accused of advocating unification, it seems that dual control in industrial matters is the most important problem with which we are confronted, and one which should be tackled immediately.
I do not think that the Commonwealth Parliament has the constitutional power to deal effectively with rural rehabilitation, and whatever the Commonwealth may do in that regard must be in agreement with the States, otherwise its efforts will be ineffective. The old objection of one authority borrowing money for another authority to spend still obtains, and will obtain with respect to rural rehabilitation. I should like to see the rehabilitation of rural industries made a Commonwealth responsibility, but that can be done only by extending the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth.
The wool industry, which has saved this country in the past, is still the greatest industry in Australia. Last year it was that industry which gave an impetus to employment, and it is upon it that the future stability of the Commonwealth will rest for a long time. Wo 1/”. M.-lt> often hear honorable members opposite, and, indeed, some on this side of the chamber, speak of the value of the home market. I do not wish to decry that market ; but although the spending power of a country with a population of 6,500,000 persons is an important factor, it is not so important in respect of wool, or wheat, or to a certain degree meat, or butter, of which only 50 per cent, of the quantity produced in Australia is consumed locally. Australia uses only 10 per cent, of the wool produced in this country, leaving 90 per cent, to be sold in the markets of the world. In these circumstances, the talk of restricting the output of wool to meet our trading associations with other countries in the hope of establishing a’ better home market is a foolish and dangerous proposition, and to endeavour to make Australia self-contained in that respect would lead us into extreme difficulties. We could not carry on, because our great export industries which have kept Australia stable make their living, as it were, in the overseas markets. I do not wish to be regarded as pessimistic, but I feel that we must regard the price of wool as being almost back to pre-war prices, and whatever we do we shall have to accommodate ourselves to production costs on pre-war prices. I believe that wool will continue to be sold at from lOd. to ls. per lb., and that we shall be exceedingly fortunate in the next few years if the wool-growers obtain a higher price. We need not be alarmed if such rates should prevail, because, with a sympathetic Parliament and a Government giving attention to the problem, the danger of facing what may be regarded as low prices is not so intense. It will, however, be impossible for Australia and for those engaged in primary industries to maintain their present debt structure on permanently low prices. Their burden of debt is too heavy. I have never spoken lightly of writing-off the debts of primary producers, but if overseas purchasers of our commodities cannot give a price sufficient to cover present interest charges and overhead costs, the position will have to be faced in some way. I was interested to hear the honorable member for Darling (“Mr. Clark) mention the wool position. and I am sure that the representatives of the wool-growers in this chamber will welcome his assistance. But I was surprised to hear the honorable member advocate the re-establishment of B.A.W.R.A., which undoubtedly rendered good service to the Australian woolgrowers when it was in operation. The circumstances which brought that organization into existence do not obtain to-day, as at that time all the wool produced in the Commonwealth was bought and paid for by the British Government, and then re-sold at a profit. To provide an organization such as B.A.W.R.A. would necessitate finding a purchaser for the entire Australian wool clip, which at present does not seem likely. Undoubtedly the high price of wool last year assisted our primary producers, and particularly the wool-growers, but in many instances they meant only a reduction of bank overdrafts. The exchange rate is therefore an important factor to be considered in connexion with our present problems, and I trust that the rate will not be altered. The present exchange rate will always present difficulties, and tend to raise internal costs, but’ it has this peculiar aspect, which I, as a country representative, have noticed. Large English companies, which are unable to transfer their money because of the high adverse exchange rate, seek some other avenue of investment ; and I have noticed, with a certain amount of perturbation, that some of them are taking up large properties in well-established woolgrowing areas. I do not regard large companies in a hostile spirit, but I believe that their objective should be to undertake pioneering work in undeveloped country instead of purchasing large areas of freehold country in settled parts of New South Wales, and of the other States, as is being done at present. Probate duties, which are not paid by these companies, would be a bigger factor in breaking up large estates than the land tax will ever be. I hope that this Parliament will give every assistance to the important primary industries upon which the prosperity of this country largely depends. The members of the Country party are at times accused of being tariff mad, but I do not think that any one of them deprecates adequate protection being afforded to competent
Australian industries. The everwidening margin between the price obtained for the primary product, and that realized by the manufacturer, occasions a good deal of thought. To illustrate the point I produce a 1-oz. skein of knitting wool manufactured by Paton and Baldwin in Tasmania. I am submitting this illustration, not in a spirit of unfair criticism, but merely to show the margin between the two prices. The raw wool in this skein, which is sold at ls. an oz., is bought at between 9d. and lOd. per lb., and the only process employed is scouring, carbonizing, and spinning, which work is done in the Commonwealth. The wool-grower receives £93 a ton for the raw article, but in this case Paton and Baldwin receive £1,792 a ton. Such a margin is far too great for this country to stand; but how to bridge the gap is a difficult problem. I have no doubt that the firm mentioned will have an adequate reason for the disparity between the two prices. In the process of scouring there would be a loss in weight of perhaps 25 per cent.
– What is the quality of the wool?
– It is described as “ Beehive Lady Betty, two, three and four-ply”, and the price is ls. Id. per oz. I quote this as a concrete case to show honorable members one of the difficulties with which the primary producers are confronted. The Government must give its attention to the problems which; confront Australia. Above all things, we must rally to the support of the primary industries, which are the real basis of our prosperity. This applies particularly to the wool industry, which has served Australia so well in the past.
.- The discussions which have taken place on unemployment have, I am pleased to see, borne fruit. I read in the newspapers yesterday that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) has been converted to the doctrine of a shorter working week. He stated that it was a recognized fact that the number of working hours would have to be reduced, but I remind him that that has been the policy of the Labour party for a long time. Honorable members opposite put forward various theories regarding unemployment, but most of them overlook the essential factor of the increasing mechanization of industry. Tho robot, which works continuously producing commodities which it cannot itself consume, is the greatest menace to employment. The robot does not eat, neither does it wear clothes, and if the tendency towards the mechanization of industry is continued, there will soon be very little demand for the . commodities which the machines produce. It is impossible at this stage to determine the exact number of hour3 which men should work each week. That can be fixed only by experiment. But the working week should be shortened until all those now unemployed are absorbed. Unemployment is the greatest curse of civilization. Governments have given the dole to those thrown out of work, and this has just served to keep them alive, but it is no solution of the problem. The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) referred to the employment of women and girls in industry, and suggested that it might be necessary for them to make way for unemployed youths and men. That suggestion was made only a few months ago by Herr Hitler, and I do not think that we should be so ready to copy methods originated in Germany. [Quorum formed.] We ourselves are responsible for the employment of women in industry, the practice having been encouraged during the war. It would be an inhuman thing now to turn them out of their jobs so that they would have to walk the streets, weary and footsore, as so many men are doing, or else be compelled to get married. The remedy which the Labour party proposes for this difficulty is the granting of equal pay for equal work, irrespective of sex. I know it is the intention of some of the State governments to discharge all women and girls in the Public Service, but I hope that this lead will not be followed by the Commonwealth Government. If the Government is genuine in its desire to relieve unemployment, it, should inaugurate a comprehensive’ works policy. I doubt, however, whether the Government has any real works policy at all. What does it propose to do in Tasmania in this regard, apart from the spending of £6,000 on immediate relief?’ Tasmania is part of the Commonwealth, and has certain rights.
Surely the Government does not propose to allow the weaker States to go to the wall.
Financial assistance should be provided for the shale industry in Tasmania. Last year Australia imported £157,000 worth of bitumen, although the best bitumen in the world can be produced from Tasmanian shale. The present Government claims to have a monopoly of the brains of Parliament, but I do not expect any constructive proposals to emanate from a Cabinet of which the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), is a member. I think that the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) will remember how the Bruce-Page Government played ducks and drakes with the surplus of £5,000,000, which be left when he went out of office. I wonder how he feels to-day lying in the same political bed with the right honorable member for Cowper.
Honorable members opposite have paid too little regard to the tremendous margin between the price of primary products as paid to the farmer, and the price at which they are sold to the consumer. Wo know, for instance, that in the meat industry, both producers and consumers are being shamelessly exploited by the middle men, who are making enormous profits. Surely the time has arrived for the establishment of co-operative societies for getting primary produce directly to the consumer. The Government might well do something to bring this about unless it is to admit that it is completely dominated by the middlemen.
I come now to the subject of war service homes. Soldiers who have paid off as much as £600 in respect of houses costing £800 have been turned out into the street because of their inability to meet further instalments, thereby losing all their savings. Men sufficiently courageous to fight their country’s enemies would not be wrong in resisting eviction, or in other ways fighting for their homes and their families. At one time the treatment of the occupants of war service homes in Tasmania was so callous that the then Premier, Sir Walter Lee, refused to carry out further evictions demanded by the Nationalist party. I desire to s©6 distress disappear and prosperity return, and therefore I hope that the Government will put into opera- tion, the policy of the Labour party, which alone can remedy the existing unsatisfactory state of affairs. [Quorum formed.]
.- All honorable members, irrespective of party, will agree that any scheme of rural rehabilitation must necessarily provide for cheap money for the man on the land. At present money is not readily available at low rates of interest to assist primary producers. There are many factors operating to bring about such a condition of affairs, one of which may well be that there is a larger net return to the investor from capital invested in taxfree government loans, than from a land mortgage, notwithstanding the fact that the land mortgage may carry an appreciably higher rate of interest. On that score investment in land cannot be considered attractive. A far more cogent; reason was advanced by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), when he referred to the restrictive effect, of moratorium legislation on. the availability of money for investment on mortgage. However excellent in its conception, or desirable in its objective, that legislation may have been, its application has operated harshly against the very individuals in whose interests it was designed. I trust that, when the Commonwealth Government meets representatives of the State governments to discuss matters relating to rural rehabilitation, it will bring this subject forward. I realize that the Commonwealth is powerless to interfere in the matter, and that any adjustment of present conditions, or alteration of existing laws, is a responsibility of the States; but the Commonwealth Government may be able to persuade the States to remedy the existing unsatisfactory position. I agree with the honorable member for Flinders that a creditor is not necessarily a Shylock, and that the rights of creditors should be preserved. I am inclined to agree with a member of another parliament, who said that it would appear that before long the only rights left to creditors will be last rites. I disagree with the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that £12,000,000 should be made available immediately for rural rehabilitation, as the problem is far too great to be solved merely by voting a sum of money for the relief of distress among primary producers. To be successful, any plan for rural rehabilitation must be wisely conceived in the light of its ultimate economic effect on the nation. I agree that a satisfactory scheme of rural rehabilitation would go a long way towards solving our unemployment problem, because the key to the position is the ability of this country to produce at a profit. At present Australia is not producing at a profit.
The Government has been roundly condemned because of its failure to provide £10,000,000 immediately for the relief of unemployment. Rather is it to be commended for having refused to be stampeded into hasty action, involving heavy expenditure, without having first given serious thought to the problem and the best way to attack it. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) said that the Labour party believed in a policy of “wait and see”; but in regard to unemployment it has not shown any great adherence to that policy. I remind the honorable member for Batman that tolerance never had a present tense. [Quorum formed.] I assure honorable members opposite that any delay in dealing with unemployment is just as galling to us on this side of the chamber as it is to them; the only difference being that we on this side are prepared to give the Government a chance to translate its proposals into achievements. We, like them, are anxiously awaiting the introduction of the Appropriation Bill foreshadowed recentlyby the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) when he introduced a bill seeking authority to borrow £5,000,000. I trust that the Minister will soon be in a position to bring that measure before Parliament. The problems confronting the Government, particularly that relating to unemployment, cannot be solved overnight. Nevertheless, I agree with the Opposition that the sooner the Government submits definite proposals the better. I ask the Government to expedite matters as far as possible so that, before Parliament rises for the Christmas vacation, something definite may be done to relieve unemployment.
.- The debate clearly indicates that, in the opinion of honorable members who have spoken, the most important problem awaiting solution is that of unemployment. This is a subject which has been discussed ‘frequently during the last four or five years. Every parliament in every country is exploring the same avenues and discussing the same views that we are debating here to-:day, and it is not surprising that we in Australia have, as yet, failed to find a complete solution. It may be that, judged by world standards. Australia has made greater progress towards economic recovery than have most other nations; but the fact remains that we are not yet “ out of the wood,” and have not yet seen the light. For that reason, I range myself with those who believe that we must get away from some of the old ideas which we have held for so long. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) alluded to the position being reviewed from the dress circle of life. No doubt he had in mind the acute unemployment conditions existing in industrial electorates such as his own and those of many other honorable members. Like the honorable member, I represent an electorate which includes an industrial zone, and am perhaps better able to appreciate the plight of the unemployed than are those honorable members representing more favoured districts. Any who are prone to .look at the unemployment problem from afar, should visit the industrial zones of our metropolitan districts and obtain a closer view of those who are struggling to obtain employment in order that they may maintain their families in health and decency, and of those thousands of young men who are floundering because they have never had a job, for they would then realize that some departure from the methods of the past is necessary. Because I believe that unemployment is the most vital problem confronting Australia, I regret that the Government’s policy is being directed, not from inside the Cabinet, but from outsite it. I believe that the honorable gentleman who is directing his energies to the solution of this difficulty should be a Cabinet Minister, with full rank, and having the full knowledge of the support of his colleagues in the Cabinet. I do not wish my remarks to be construed as in any way detracting from the magnanimous action of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart) in practically effacing himself and stepping aside in order that others might have preference. The honorable gentleman has set a new role in the public life of this country by offering his services without reward, fully realizing that whatever ho attempts or achieves he will be subject to the full blast of public criticism. I with other honorable members offer every assistance to the honorable member - the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment, I think, is his title - in the work he has undertaken.
Among the many phases of the unemployment problem that call for our consideration are those of female employment in industry, finance, the continued introduction of machinery in industry, the youth problem, and the very important question of arbitration. I know that the Parliamentary UnderSecretary for Employment has before him a scheme in regard to female employment, and I sincerely hope that when he brings it before the House, he will see to it that any employment of cheap female labour in industry is reviewed. The Leader of the Opposition has said that the financial phase of the unemployment problem is one of the most important that we have to face. I agree with him that it is, but I hold that in this respect the Government has already done its part in restoring financial stability. Financial stability is the prelude to industrial stability.
The Leader of the Opposition moved an amendment to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply some two or three weeks ago, and, I ‘think, the thanks of the country are due to him because of the happy and beneficial results that flowed from his action, not the least of “which was this important result : that the credit of the country, satisfactory though it was before, has been considerably enhanced by reason of the fact that the motion brought together the two great parties on this side of the House, and led to the formation of a coalition government with a financial policy diametrically opposed to that of the Opposition. [Quorum formed.] In considering the question of finance as it affects the industrial position, I think it well to recall the situation in 1930 when the Scullin Government was in power. The country was then faced with serious financial difficulties, and the Government of the. day was forced to cut services to meet the situation. That situation was due to the fact that the Scullin Government did not realize that government is finance and finance is government. Confidence was restored only when a change of government in both the Federal and State spheres took place. Now that financial stability has been restored, and the ship of state is in smoother waters, the Government can proceed with its industrial and rural rehabilitation schemes.
One of the greatest and most vital problems that confront us is that of finding employment for our youths. According to the Government Statistician, we have in Australia something like 250,000 young men between the ages pf 18 and 21. Of that number, it is estimated that about 50,000 are hopelessly floundering about looking for employment, and unable to obtain it because they have had neither training nor experience in industry. In New South Wales, we have what is known as the Young Citizens’ Movement with committees established in many centres, and the evidence forthcoming from those centres is that whilst employment can be found in many districts for some youths, it is impossible to find work for those between the ages of 18 and 21 owing to their lack of experience and training in in-* dustry. Honorable members almost daily are approached by parents asking what can be done to obtain employment for these young men. Being idle, they are discontented, and are leaning on the Government for assistance. Henry Ford has said, “ Once you give a man something for nothing, you will set him trying to got some one else to give him something for nothing.” There is a great deal of truth in that statement. It is just here that communism has an ideal breeding ground. The seeds of communism and revolutionary doctrines can be freely sown and will continue to be sown unless some remedy is provided to meet the situation. I have had an opportunity to collaborate on the question with a member of the New South ,Wales Parliament, Mr. Moverley, a master builder whose association with a key industry gives him an excellent opportunity to go into the whole matter. He submitted in the State Parliament this month a suggestion that might well be considered by the Federal Government. After the war a position similar to that which exists to-day, in connexion with the youth of Australia, had to be faced by the Federal Government. Some 20.000 young men who had enlisted when mere boys returned to Australia utterly lacking training and experience in industry. To meet their case, the Repatriation Department set up what was known as Australian Imperial Force vocational schools. Those schools did remarkably good work. Many of these young returned soldiers took advantage of the opportunity thus offered them to secure vocational training, and so to fit themselves for the industrial life of this country. I suggest that something similar be undertaken by the Government of the clay. The proposal is that we should have throughout Australia a series of national training schools in order that youths who have had no opportunity to secure employment may thus gain some experience in industry, and so be able to take their place in industry when normal times return. It may be objected that the establishment of these schools would involve heavy expense, but the position is so serious that it must be taken in hand in order that this vital problem may be solved.
Reference has been made during the debate to the apprenticeship question. I heard it said last night that great difficulty had arisen owing to the lack of apprentices in Australia. Many employers to-day say that they will not engage apprentices because of the rigidity of the apprenticeship law. I have discussed this matter with many employers in Sydney, but have not had an opportunity to ascertain the union view. Doubtless honorable members opposite will enlighten us on that phase of the subject. I know of a factory in Sydney with 200 employees, which refuses to tak« on even one apprentice because of the rigidity of the law. On the 14th of this month the Master Builders Federation held a convention in Melbourne, which was attended by leading master builders throughout Australia, and at which the following resolution was carried: -
That owing to thu- shortage of apprentices throughout Australia in the building industry this convention views with alarm the possible shortage of skilled labour in the event of a continued revival in the building trade, and urges the importance of immediate action by State governments to amend existing legislation, where necessary, to make possible and to encourage the employment of apprentices, by protecting the employer from obligations he cannot fulfil through lack of continuity of work, at the same time safeguarding the interest of apprentices, and consider such suitable legislation to meet existing conditions would considerably relieve the problem of youth unemployment.
The opening of avenues for the employment of apprentices would have an important bearing on the employment of the youth of Australia and provide against a shortage of artisans when normal conditions prevail. Another phase of this subject is the continual introduction of machinery in industry. [Quorum formed.] In the last Parliament, when I referred to this matter, I spoke of the acceleration of production by the use of machinery, and showed how important is its bearing on the unemployed problem. We have in Australia to-day factories which, if worked at full pressure for six months, could, in that time, produce sufficient to meet all demands for the rest of the year. However divergent may be the views of honorable members on this subject, it seems to me that, if we are to overcome this very serious problem, the question of the shortening of hours of labour must be faced, so that work in- industry shall be distributed among the largest number of people. Mr. Malcolm MacDonald dealt very ably with the subject of a shorter working week in a speech that he delivered in Melbourne a few weeks ago. The tremendous acceleration of production due to the continued introduction of modern machinery into industry has created a problem which calls for a full inquiry into the regulation of employment and the many interests involved. Another important problem will have to be considered before we can make any alteration in connexion with our industrial system or bring in the reforms I have mentioned. It would be of no use to attempt an alteration of our industrial system until the Constitution has been so amended that the State arbitration laws can be scrapped, and one arbitration court established for the whole of Australia. Once this Parliament has complete control of arbitration, the gateway will be opened for the introduction of these reforms. Under the present system, conflict occurs between the Federal and State courts and hangs like an old man of the sea on industry. It causes irritation, distrust, and unemployment, with consequent loss of capital. I urge the Government to give this matter its earnest consideration. I believe that the majority of the people would welcome an opportunity to express their opinion upon it, and would vote emphatically for complete federal control of industrial arbitration. They would have the opportunity to end strife and turmoil and to inaugurate a smoother, simpler system making for the easier solution of the unemployment problem in the Commonwealth.
I have already brought under the notice of the Government the need for a housing scheme in the interests of that unfortunate section of the people who are now compelled to live on park lands. I have also made suggestions regarding a road construction scheme for New South Wales. Both schemes would prove reproductive and I am pleased to know they are receiving consideration. Finally, I again urge the Government to expedite its. proposals for the relief of unemployment. Any vigorous policy in . that regard will have my hearty support, for the sooner the evils associated with unemployment are mitigated the easier will be the solution of other problems which must be faced in order to bring peace, contentment, and progress to the people of Australia. [Quorum formed.]
.- It is refreshing to observe that certain honorable members on the ministerial side of the chamber recognize that old methods are inadequate in dealing with the extraordinary conditions that obtain in Australia to-day, particularly in regard to unemployment. This change of view leads one to hope that ultimately the thoughts of the Government will be directed definitely to the all-important problem of providing employment for the workless. In the short space of four or five weeks the Ministry has certainly receded from its recent announcement in the Governor-General’s Speech that it regarded this subject as of paramount importance because, widespread unemployment threatened Australia with dire consequences. A publication issued from the International Labour Office contains a record of a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), which was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 13th August last, immediately prior to the elections. From this announcement it is easily seen that the Government has departed from its promise to the people. The remarks to which I refer are as follow : -
EMPLOYMENT AND UNEMPLOYMENT.
Policy of the Australian Government.
In a speech delivered prior to the elections on. the15th September, 1934, at which his Government was returned, Mr. J. A. Lyons, Prime Minister of Australia, stated that it would be the policy of the Government to give the campaign against unemployment, with particular reference to the needs of youth, precedence over other Commonwealth activities.
A conference with the State governments,he announced, is to be summoned. Hitherto the responsibility forthe relief of unemployment has rested with the States. The Commonwealth Government now intends to assume a larger share of this responsibility. To this end, the Government intends to assign to a Commonwealth Minister definite responsibility for Commonwealth action in relation to employment. The Minister is to be assisted by advisory committees in the several States.Among the proposals to bo considered is a comprehensive scheme for national forestry. Special attention is to bo given, in conjunction with the State governments, to proposals for the training and preparation of youths for work. The Government has also in mind a series of large public works which, though possibly not reproductive from the outset, are regarded as likely to conduce to national development.
That statement contains a definite promise. In the Speech with which the Governor-General opened this session, it was intimated that a Minister would be set aside for the particular purpose of dealing with the important problem of unemployment, and that the major portion of his time would bo spent in its investigation and solution. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart) was named as the Minister chosen for this work, and the view was put forward that the House would doubtless feel satisfied with the appointment. Less than three weeks after his selection we noticed that the honorable member had been left out of the reconstructed Cabinet. I recognize that the honorable member, having been a captain of industry, possesses outstanding qualifications for the task, yet the Government has made an early departure from its promise that a Minister would deal with this major problem. Unfortunately, this honorable member has been relegated to a position on a back bench. [Quorum formed.] His qualifications have not been fully recognized by the Government, and he is now required to devote his attention, in a minor capacity, to this all-important subject. Despite all the conscientiousness and ability which I am sure he will bring to bear upon his work, he has been relieved of ministerial authority, and deprived of the status which he should enjoy. The Government has undoubtedly receded from its former declaration that a Minister with full Cabinet rank would be chosen. Although the honorable member is styled Parliamentary UnderSecretary for Employment, actually no Minister is dealing with the problem. This definite and deliberate departure from the Prime Minister’s promise at the commencement of this session is deplorable. No honorable member who now holds ministerial office has qualifications approaching those of the honorable member for Parramatta for this all-important work. There is every indication that Ministers are reluctant to apply themselves to the solution of the problem. The remarks of the honorable members for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), Adelaide (Mr. Stacey), andWatson (Mr. Jennings) are justified. With honorable members on this side I hope they will continue to urge the Government to apply a policy that will give immediate and substantial relief to the unemployed. The amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is very timely. Although it is similar to many which have been moved on previous occasions in this chamber, I welcome it because we must persist in our demand that the Government should fulfil its obligations and the promises it made to the people of Australia, and particularly the workless of this country. If the Government does not act promptly in dealing effectively with this problem it will have to make way for another that will be prepared to do its duty in this respect.
I feel confident that before the .present financial year concludes there will ‘be another ministerial reconstruction. The chaos that exists in the minds of Ministers at the moment in dealing with this problem has already been demonstrated; y their attitude they have proved that they have no definite scheme of a constructive character to deal with unemployment. Although the Prime Minister claimed that he had a well devised plan to meet the situation, that plan has not materialized. “ Anaemic “ is an appropriate adjective to apply to the Government’s policy. It is a weak and colourless one. It offers no encouragement. No confidence’ can be felt by those who might be depending upon the Government to take effective action. Our present economic difficulties challenge our resourcefulness. Our markets are vanishing. We find ourselves with products to sell, but unable to secure adequate markets for them. Poverty exists amidst plenty. All these things make us realize that this problem is one to be dealt with along lines different from those employed to meet the circumstances of the past. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) acknowledged that point when he suggested that we may have to proceed along lines which may not be strictly orthodox; that is, along lines different from those formerly followed by Australian governments. The conditions of world society to-day demonstrate that old methods are hopeless to deal effectively with an. economic crisis such as that which confronts us at the moment. We shall have to evolve new plans to deal with these problems which are associated with restricted and depressed markets and unprecedented poverty among the people. Economic conditions throughout the world to-day are gradually making it clear to a great number of people that they are in error in imagining that depression prices merely reflect a world condition which recurs in cycles. Whilst it might have horn feasible in the past to have taken such a view of economic depression, we are to-day slowly but surely realizing that a depression of the present magnitude is not a mere circumstance that recurs in cycles, but is born of new problems with which the world previously has not been faced. In dealing with thiB problem some countries have had recourse to what is known as “economicnationalism,” which is a theory designed to make countries as self-contained as possible. The result of this tendency has been a restriction of international trade. Surely these facts should make it clear to us that, if there is any urgent obligation devolving upon the nation at all, it is that we must develop our home markets. Our present economic problem, then, is not just a question of providing immediate relief works, or even a substantial public works programme as the only medium that will help us out of our difficulties. Our problem is deep-rooted. Two factors which have tended to dislocate economic conditions are, first, the monetary system, and, secondly, the everincreasing application of science and modern mechanical methods to aid production.
To-day the questions of currency and wealth are usually misunderstood. Our failure to realize the real meaning and object of currency is probably the greatest factor which has contributed towards the present economic dislocation. The monetary system to which we have become so long accustomed has not proved sufficiently elastic.” We have great stocks of products held in store, whilst thousands of people desirous of purchasing these goods for their well-being are denied the opportunity to do so because of conditions beyond their control. They are denied material benefits which, by reason of their citizenship in this country, they are entitled to enjoy. Currency is supposed to be an instrument of exchange; but, instead of being utilized for this purpose, it is treated to-day as a commodity in itself. Thus we find considerable difficulty in dealing with the monetary aspects of our present economic problems. The supply of money should be regulated in proportion to the needs of the people to buy the good’s produced; but, because currency has been treated, not as a monetary medium, but an a commodity in itself, the desire of our people to enjoy the. advantages of the real wealth of this country, to which they are entitled, has been frustrated. Our real wealth is represented by our natural resources and our capacity to use our own labour to convert our raw materials into manufactured goods.
– That is Douglas credit theory.
– If my statements are confirmed in the principles laid down by any particular school of thought - by the supporters of the Douglas credit system or any other school of economic thought - I welcome that as evidence of the fact that there exists an intelligent body of people in the community who are prepared to recognize fundamental phases of the difficulties which confront the world to-day.. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) gave us a learned dissertation on the chaotic financial conditions that prevail to-day, but he was quite unable to convince honorable members that he fully appreciated all the factors that had contributed to this state of affairs. Our wealth is the abundance of goods that we produce. It is on the proper distribution of this production that our happiness and prosperity must depend.
I was sorry that the honorable member for Gwydir did not carry his review of our financial situation a little further than he did. His admission that the present monetary and banking system was not perfect was, in itself, an acknowledgment that there was room for improvement, but, unfortunately, the honorable member did not indicate how improvements could be effected. He expressed fear that if anything were done to rectify the situation it might result in the inflation of our currency. But here again he did not say in what way such inflation might be caused. My view is that until our credit and currency resources approximate more nearly to the value of production in this country so that the people may receive a fairer share of the wealth that they produce, we shall continue to struggle in a financial morass. Our currency and credit mediums could be increased without causing inflation of the kind SuKgested bv the honorable member. Whether honorable members opposite like it or not, they will be driven ultimately by economic determinism to adopt a measure of monetary reform that will be an aid to financial equilibrium and prosperity. Honorable gentlemen who talk about inflation should recollect that very little fluctuation occurs in the total amount of what might be called the till money that is available in this country. A general idea seems to be abroad that a revision of our currency conditions must inevitably involve the provision of an unlimited amount of paper money with consequent confusion and chaos in our whole monetary arrangements. Unfortunately, our national Our.rency does not fluctuate in a way commensurate with the volume of our production, and does not relate itself adequately to the problem of distribution. We must remember that credit is provided to-day largely by the passing of cheques and credit notes through various private financial institutions. Cheques and credit notes are really the basis of the existing monetary system. In our opinion, the financial power that these institutions hold, in relation to both our primary and secondary production, is far too great to be allowed to rest in the hands of private institutions or individuals. It should be solely possessed by the Government, for upon the manner in which it is exercised depends, to a very large extent, the capacity of the people to provide themselves with the necessaries of life. The control of credit-making mediums and currency by which the people are enabled to obtain their proper share of the wealth produced and of the benefits of life, should be exercised exclusively by the Government. But, of course, that would not suit those who to-day are able to manipulate both markets and credit to suit their own speculative inclinations. Consequently, whenever a proposal is made to place this power in the hands of the Government, private institutions and individuals who now control credit frighten the people into believing that their very livelihood is in danger, and, thus, a state of hysteria is set up. The people fear that some tragic result may follow any departure from the existing monetary and banking system. I trust, however, that early steps will be taken by the Government to cause a thorough investigation to be made into our monetary and banking system with the objects, first, of relieving our present difficulties, and, secondly, of placing the financial affairs of the country on a sound footing. I hope that the honorable member for Gwydir and certain other honorable gentlemen opposite who have admitted that our existing financial and banking system is inadequate to om’ needs will do their best to influence the Government to cause such an investigation to be made. Unfortunately, the Government is following the old policy of borrowing which has led to the present chaotic condition. No country can borrow itself out of financial difficulty.
– That sentiment is Douglas credit, pure and simple.
– It is a fundamental truth that cannot be gainsaid. I challenge the honorable member for Martin to prove that we can keep ourselves out of financial chaos and difficulty by borrowing more money from the sources that have already been tapped. (Quorum formed.’] The honorable member will require to display much more enterprise in the consideration of issues of public importance if he desires, as no doubt he does, to strengthen his position in the public eye. I commend to him the views of some of his colleagues among Government supporters, who, in their discussion of Commonwealth financial and economic problems, have shown some appreciation of the root causes of them. Many have indicated that the Government’s policy of borrowing to get out of debt does not meet with their approval; the eventual result of that course, in their view, will be to add to the difficulties of the present complex situation. Support of this opinion is given by the writer of a leading article in the London Times. In a review of Australian economic and financial conditions, he predicts -that further reductions of wages and social services will probably be the price which the people of this country will have to pay for future economic stability. It would be truly lamentable if, in order to ensure recovery from the present depression, our people were required to make further sacrifices.
Our policy now is to reform the existing? monetary and financial system, which* dominates the Government of this* country, with a view to preventing further inroads being made upon the social and industrial conditions of our people.. Honorable members on this side haverepeatedly urged the introduction of a shorter working week as one means to> overcome existing unemployment difficulties due to the mechanization of industry.. It is reassuring to know that at least somesupporters of the Government also believethat reform along these lines is essentia? to ensure industrial rehabilitation of theCommonwealth. It is an anomaly that with a vastly increased production, due to* the scientific application of massproduction methods, men willing to work aredenied the opportunity to earn a’ livelihood.
– The honorable member has exhausted his* time.
Sitting suspended from 6.12 to 8 p.m..
.- I was-, under the impression that the Australian’ Labour party had condemned the Douglass credit proposals; but, having listened to the speech of the honorable member for; Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), I am inclined? to believe that those proposals havegained at least one convert from that party. I do not know whether the. honorable member has read the condemnation of them published by the British Labourparty; but he certainly must be awarethat the Australian Labour party has condemned them, and realizes that it isabsolutely impossible to get something; for nothing.
The thanks of the people of Australiashould be tendered to the Governments of Victoria and the Commonwealth forhaving obtained the consent of Hiss Majesty the King to the visit to Australia of His Royal Highness the Dukeof Gloucester. Every section of thepeople has given unbounded and en- thusiastic manifestations of loyalty to theThrone. One result of the visit of His; Royal Highness should be to bind still closer the ties of kinship and of Empire, and to improve relations in all matters affecting the trade, commerce, and?! defence of Australia.
Honorable members of all parties have deplored the burdens which during the last four years have rested upon a very large section of the people of Australia, due to the immense volume of unemployment and the tragic condition of a large majority of those who are engaged in primary production. Those who endeavour to make it appear that there has been little or no improvement of the -.conditions of the wage-earners are merely indulging in political propaganda. It must be obvious to all that during the last few years there has been a most decided change in labour -conditions in Australia. Apart altogether from statistical evidence, which in itself is absolutely convincing, there is not the slightest doubt that ,a marvellous improvement has been effected. Few persons could be so gullible a3 not to believe that, it has taken place. I give credit to the Lyons Government for the financial improvement that has been witnessed -since the defeat of the Scullin Admininstration. While bitterly opposed to its economic policy, I claim that it has completely stopped the severe financial drift which was taking place, and has once more made it possible to restore regular employment and some degree of prosperity to our people. The ruin and -collapse which seemed inevitable three years ago were averted, and the feeling of despair which has agitated the minds of the people is rapidly disappearing. Confidence - which should be spelt with a capital C - is being fully restored. Many persons fail to realize what confidence implies. It is the basic rock upon which community life rests. Without confidence, the smallest business transaction is risky. A fracture in the great fabric of community confidence affects every individual. The history of “banking in the United States of America ^proves that when confidence is destroyed rain descends upon the people. Although America is one of the richest countries in the world, so soon as confidence in its stability was lost, the banks closed their doors and hundreds of thousands of people became unemployed. The value of confidence is demonstrated in our recent loan conversions, the big reduction of our interest bill, and the fact that to-day Australia can borrow money at approximately 3 per cent.
To my mind it is absolutely necessary to make adequate provision for the relief of unemployment and the rehabilitation of industry. Ordinarily, I would oppose a policy of borrowing. For too long have we had an orgy of loan raising. But in circumstances such as have arisen, we are more than justified in making use of our credit to provide means whereby our people may be employed, and our industries be placed on a proper basis. I contend, however, that the recovery of prosperity is not possible without a vital change in our economic policy. Bich, powerful cities have been built up, of which the whole community is very proud. Large industrial concerns have been established and employ thousands of workmen, whose expenditure leads to the employment of thousands of others. If we were content to confine the progress and development of Australia within existing limits, it might justifiably be contended that tho present economic policy is satisfactory. But Australia is equal in area to the United States of America, and, according to economists, could quite easily carry from 25,000,000 to 40,000,000 people. ‘ We are’ adjacent to foreign countries, whose people have hardly standing room. Surely, then, we should realize how. necessary it is to do all that we can to people our empty spaces! I consider that if we continue along the lines that we are now following those who come after us will curse our stupidity in having neglected opportunities to develop to the fullest extent the resources of this country. There are few people, -I think, who will not admit the absolute need of an export trade, which provides, not only overseas credits for the Government, but also credits in Australia which enable manufacturers to purchase raw materials. The credits established by means of exports represent the chief purchasing power of the people of this country. I say, without fear of contradiction, that it was the sudden and intense fall in export values in 1929 which brought to a large section of our people unemployment and destitution. In 1928, our exports were valued at £143,000,000, and in 1929 at £144,000,000. In other words, credits were established in Australia to those amounts. In 1930, there was a drop in value to £125,000,000, and in 1931 a further drop to £104,000,000. There was a slight rise in 1932 to £107,000,000. Compared with 1929, the reduction was £19,000,000 in 1930, £20,000,000 in 1931, and £17,000,000 in 1932, a total loss of purchasing power in those three years of no less than £56,000,000. But there are other figures which show a greatly increased loss of purchasing power. Included in the exports for those three years was gold to the value of £53,000,000.” The production of gold during that period was valued at only £10,750,000. Therefore, the difference between the exports and the production of gold amounted to £4.1,250,000. That consisted of gold which had been accumulated in the banks over many years as well as gold which was exported by the Commonwealth Bank and ‘invested in government securities. Consequently, the real loss of purchasing power during the years 1930, 1931 and 1932, compared with 1928-29, totalled £97,000,000, or an average of over £32,000,000 a year. That loss of purchasing power was the real cause of the depression in Australia.
I should like to be informed of what action the Scullin Government took to assist the export trade of Australia, and to remedy the prevailing conditions. We well remember the appeal of the Prime Minister of the day to the farmers to grow more wheat, and the remarkable response which was made to that appeal. In that year, the total area sown was 18,100,000 acres, an increase over the’ previous year of 3,200,000 acres; and there was a record production of 213,000,000 bushels of wheat, the average price received for which was 2s. 6d. a bushel, compared with 5s. a bushel in the preceding year. The Government did not use its influence to have the exchange rate raised, thus assisting exports and tending to reduce imports, until financial necessity forced it to do so. It not only failed to relieve the difficulties of the primary producers, but also concentrated on the raising of costs by imposing the most restrictive customs duties and, where those failed, embargoes on the requirements of the producers. The effect upon employment was clearly seen. The number of employees in factories in 1932 was 114,000 less than in 1928-29. If selfcontainment and restriction of imports is a sound policy, hew is it that these workers were forced to join the ranks of the unemployed? During that period the ratio of unemployment increased from 13 per cent, to 30 per cent. That surely should have shown the futility and the absurdity of the policy which was adopted. The average duty on dutiable goods was 39 per cent, in 1929-30, 52 per cent, in 1930-31, and no less than 70 per cent, in 1931-32. To these we must add 25 per cent, on account of exchange, 15 per cent, representing natural protection, and 20 per cent, for sales tax on the profit derived on the goods imported. Primage and other duties, which some have the impertinence to call protection, result in the most incredible charges being imposed upon the requirements of our primary producers. If this form of protection fails, other methods, such as anti-dumping provisions, are applied, which further embarrass the purchasers. I wish to deal more particularly with the position in Western Australia which relies almost entirely upon its export trade, the purchasing power of which cannot be over-estimated. The following table shows the average exports over a period of five years for the whole of Australia and those for Western Australia: -
The exports for the whole of Australia exclude those from Western Australia. Over that period Western Australia exported per head of population £2 worth of products for every £1 exported by the remainder of Australia. Our markets’ are becoming more and more restricted, the cost of marketing is increasing, and our cost of production is being made excessive by the insane policy of this Parliament. Although our exports provide credits to enable the manufacturers to purchase their raw material, this Parliament enables them to form combinations, impose trading conditions, and fix their own prices, regardless of outside competition. For the last twenty years this Parliament has given encouragement to secondary industries to the detriment of primary producers. Such a policy is wrong as our national safety depends upon peopling our country and developing its natural resources. This Parliament has imposed burden after burden upon the producers until, crushed and broken, they are beseeching us to save them from bankruptcy and ruin. Honorable members are continually receiving applications from those needing assistance, but the Government continues to pursue a foolish policy under which it disregards the importance of our export trade. But for the rapid increase in the value of gold, and the incentive that gold production has given to Western Australia, that State would be bankrupt. The wonderful development that has taken place in that industry shows clearly that if production is profitable, capita! will be found, employment will be made available, and prosperity will be assured. The Commissioner of Taxation, in his annual report, shows that, of a total assessable income of £104,000,000 in 1932, the total profit or income from those ens-aged in our three great basic industries - agriculture, pastoral, and mining - was £6,000,000, while that of the cities was £98,000,000. This return very clearly shows that the equilibrium which, according to the boast of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), exists between primary and secondary industries, has, in. fact, no existence. A wellknown Victorian farmer, in giving sworn evidence before the Tariff Board this year, stated that the prices of imported and Australian agricultural machinery in 1911 and 1930 respectively were -
I wrote tq the South African Government for the price of various articles in that country. ‘ The quotation for 12- gauge barbed wire c.i.f . Capetown on the 4th August was £11 15s. 5d. a long ton* as against £23 15s. in Australia. The price of wire netting in the same country, after payment of a duty of 15 per cent., is £22 os. a mile as against the price quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day of £34 3s. As we have rich deposits of iron ore in Australia, there “s ho reason why Australian manufac- turers should not be able to produce iron a,id steel goods at reasonable rates. The price of 80-lb. rails in Australia is £10 17s. 6d., whereas Nova Scotia supplies them to the South African Government at £7 ls. &d. f.o.b. It is only fair, however, to state that the price of the Australian commodity is for delivering at any port in Australia. The price of fencing wire in South Africa is £12 16s. a ton, and in Australia £15 9s. 2d. I have other figures which I could quote, but I think I have given sufficient to show that Australian manufacturers should be able to compete with the iron and steel manufacturers of other countries without the high protection they now receive. The report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry having shown the deplorable state into which agriculture has drifted, it is time we determined whether we are to continue to provide doles ,and bounties, or go straight to the basic cause of our troubles. If we permit agriculture to be destroyed, we destroy our prospects as a nation. The only remedy is to reduce the cost of living, production, and marketing; otherwise we shall fail entirely to free ourselves from -continued depression, unemployment and the bankruptcy of our producers. At a convention held in Rome some time ago, it was stated that in nearly every country the prosperity of the farmer was regarded as essential to national welfare, and that there were only seven countries in which more men were engaged in secondary production than in agriculture. These countries are the United States’ of America, Great Britain, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, and, strange to say, Australia. I have vivid recollections of a speech delivered in this Parliament in 1929 by the present High Commissioner for Australia in London, Mr. Bruce, in which he pointed out that, unless we reduced the cost of living and the cost of production, we would have to abandon our present standard of living, and reorientate the whole of our ideas in the interests of national and economic safety. During the election campaign I gave the Government credit for its financial policy and the advantages which had accrued from the confidence established; but we have to go further. It is useless to provide assistance to one section of the community and then to tax other sections to meet the cost. If present conditions continue, neither our primary nor secondary industries can prosper, and profitable employment cannot be made available to those who need it. The figures I have quoted showing Western Australia’s dependence on export values, and the exceptionally high costs in Australia in comparison with other countries and also the figures from the annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation, with respect to assessable income, show that there is something viciously wrong with our economic policy, and I trust that at the earliest possible date the Government will see that justice is done, particularly to those engaged in our export trade, upon which the future stability of Australia depends.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative..
Question - That the amount proposed to be reduced be so reduced (Mr. Beasley’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (Thech airman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Item agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) put -
That progress be reported and leave asked to sit again.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the House will at a later hour this day again resolve itself into the said committee.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I declare (a) that the Estimates of expenditure are of an urgent nature; (b) that the resolutions preliminary to the introduction of the Appropriation Bill are urgent resolutions; and (c) that the Appropriation Bill is an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the Estimates are urgent Estimates, that the resolutions are urgent resolutions, and that the Appropriation Bill is an urgent bill.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.)
Mr.LYONS (Wilmot- Prime Minister and Treasurer) [9.7]. - I move -
That the time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of the Estimates, the resolutions, and the stages of the Appropriation Bill, be as follows: -
Mr.SCULLIN (Yarra) [9.10].- We experience many extraordinary things in public life, but I think the most extraordinary thing we have had to face is this declaration by the Government that public business is urgent. Having regard to the way in which the Government has dawdled since it first met the House, we are astounded that at last it declares itself anxious to do some public work. So far it has been industrious only in finding reasons for adjourning Parliament. Week after week every excuse Has been seized upon to secure the adjournment of the House. The greatest ingenuity has been displayed by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) in securing the adjournment in order that he might don his “glad rags.” I have never known a government that so loafed on the job, and now, when we come to the real business of the country - the Estimates, and the discussion of the financial position and administration - we are given a paltry half-hour or three-quarters of an hour for important departments. Yet the Government has gone along in a “ weary Willie “ style for three weeks. The attitude of the Government reminds me of the old days of “Waltzing Matilda,” when the swagman travelling from one homestead to another, always arrived at sundown in time to get a meal and accommodation for the night. This is a government of sundowners ! The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) proposes to allot one hour for the consideration of the Estimates of the important Department of Commerce. Are we to take it that that is an estimate of the capacity of the new Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) to answer questions in relation to his department? Honorable members can quite understand the desire of honorable members opposite to get away from Parliament quickly, when they have to listen to the nugacity of the Minister for Defence; that is one of the penalties of our job; but we are here to do the country’s work. What the Government has proposed is not reasonable. In days gone by the AddressinReply has occupied fully three weeks, and the general debate on the budget a similar period. I have known those two debates to extend over 30 to 35 days; yet we are accused of having wasted time. The Government was elected ten weeks ago; five weeks elapsed before it met the House, and since then the House has sat for twelve days, including to-day. One may well call it a “ weary Willie “ government. And now the members of the Government are anxious to get away again, and in order to do so adopt these rush methods. The members of my party will not support the Government’s method of legislation. We think it is a disgrace to the Parliament.
– There does not seem to be a proper approach to the business which is placed before this chamber. It is true that since the general election a number of changes have taken place in the Ministry; but these changes should not adversely affect the Opposition’s right to discuss fully the business of the House. If the Government required a little time in order to prepare its legislative programme, honorable members on this side should not on that account suffer a limitation of the time that ordinarily is allowed for tho discussion of the Estimates. The debates which preceded the discussion of the Estimates dragged noticeably, and honorable members on this side formed the opinion that the Government was not anxious to press on with its programme. When an amendment was moved on the first item of the Estimates by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), there did not seem to be any desire on the part of Government supporters to speak, and the amendment was quickly disposed of. When a further amendment was moved, however. there seemed to be a desire on the part of honorable members supporting the Government to protract the discussion, and honorable members on this side gathered that the Government had no other business ready for submission to the House. Now the Government considers it necessary to resort to the “guillotine” in order to expedite the despatch of business. Many honorable members desire to speak on the provision for various departments; but they will be unable to do so. I have not a copy of the motion which the Prime Minister has submitted, but I certainly think that the time to be allotted for the consideration of the Estimates of several of the departments is altogether too short. Particularly is this so in regard to the Estimates of the Postmaster-General. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department is one of our most important undertakings, and mo3t honorable members are keenly interested in it. In addition to the postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities for which it provides, it also covers broadcasting. Many honorable members would like an opportunity to discuss regional stations and their development, the policy of the Broadcasting Commission itself, its programmes and other matters relating to it. This may seem to Government supporters to be of little moment, hut honorable members on this side who are interested in various phases of the Commonwealth’s activities, feel that a reasonable time should be given them to obtain information which can be gained only while the Estimates are before us. The Estimates of the War Service Homes Department are also of much importance and the time allotted for their consideration should be much longer than that proposed. However, the Government apparently has determined to take this course and we can do no more than lodge our protest and vote against the motion.
– It is to be regretted that the clemency which has been displayed by the Government, in permitting a latitude of which honorable members now complain, has been taken up in the wrong way. May 7 point out an inconsistency in the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) ? He first of all charged the Government with having dawdled with business, and then pointed out that the consideration of some of the items which we are entitled to hurry through has taken as long as 35 days.
– In the past.
– We are not asking that anything like 35 days should be devoted to the consideration of the Estimates, but we are proposing to allow a reasonable time for their discussion. Two motions of censure in connexion with the Budget debate have been moved within the last few weeks, and during their discussion ample opportunity was afforded honorable members to debate any matter in which they were interested. Another point to be remembered is that the Government only has Supply to the end of December, so that it is essential that further Supply should be obtained before the end of the year. We have also to afford another place an opportunity to discuss these Estimates.
Having regard to these facts and the whole of the circumstances, the Government is adopting a perfectly reasonable course - a course, indeed, far more reasonable than has been pursued in other Parliaments. Finally, I would point out that these are the Estimates of a previous Government, and that those relating to works have already been discussed at considerable length. All these facts are well known to every honorable member. It is natural, however, that our honorable friends opposite should simulate some sort of indignation, and that is all that they have been doing on this occasion.
.- I am astounded at the attitude of the Government. To ask the House to agree to the limitation of the debate on the Estimates as proposed by the Prime Minister is to reduce to an absurdity the principle of responsible government. These Estimates cover every item of th* Government’s administration. The people expect us to review them and yet a time limit has been fixed that will not enable us to give them anything like reasonable consideration. Those who are prepared to subscribe to this policy have no sense of their responsibility to their constituents. Honorable members should assert their rights. They should resent the growing tendency to depend more and more upon executive control and to allow the Government to dictate to the responsible representatives of the people. The Government undoubtedly has been dawdling. Practically no substantial legislation has been introduced by it, and the fact that it has allowed another place to adjourn until the 11th December shows that it has no business to put before the Parliament. I am satisfied that in taking, this course it is merely trying to deprive this House of an opportunity to review its administrative acts. Is it not absurd that we should have only an hour to discuss the Estimates of the Parliament and those of the’ Prime Minister’s Department? The Prime Minister’s Department deals with unemployment, which is one of the most important subjects that could engage our attention. Surely while the Estimates of that department are before us, full opportunity should be afforded to question the Government as to its bona fides in that regard. Then again, we are to have only half an hour in which .to deal with the Estimates of the Department of Health. It is a downright disgrace. For months, Parliament is kept in recess so that members may not have an opportunity to publicly scrutinize the administration of the Government and when at last we do meet only a few hours are allowed us to discuss the Estimates, covering an expenditure of many millions of pounds. Such action as this calls for the loudest and strongest condemnation. The people now should realize how far removed we are from responsible government. The protest lodged, by the Leader of the Opposition is well justified, and I heartily support it. I appeal to the House to jealously guard its rights and to conserve the privileges that have come down to it from the ages. If honorable members have any regard for their rights, they will not allow the Government to deprive them of this, the only opportunity we have to review the expenditure of public moneys, and to satisfy ourselves that that expenditure is to follow wise and judicious lines.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I enter my protest against the miserable treatment to which the House is being subjected by a Prime Minister from Tasmania. In the last Parliament of which I was a member, he sold his party.
– Order ! That remark is offensive, and I ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it. When I rose to speak of the desperate position of the fruit-growers of Tasmania, the “gag” was applied, and I naturally resent this further attempt to prevent legitimate discussion. The Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) is a member of the Country party, but what does he propose to do for the primary producers? Many crocodile tears have been shed by honorable members opposite over the plight of the men on the land; not one of them has any real sympathy for them in their unfortunate plight. The proposal to “ guillotine “ the Estimates is a disgrace to the Government. During the election campaign, we were led to believe that there had been a drop in the figures relating to unemployment. But what do the latest statistics show? The exPremier of Tasmania would not allow the figures to go on the file-
Motion (by Mr. Lane) proposed -
That the honorable member for Franklin be no further heard.
– I submit that it is not in order to move that an honorable member be not further heard while a debate on a motion for the application of the “ guillotine “ is proceeding.
– My interpretation of the Standing Orders is that a motion that an honorable member be not further heard is in order. A closure motion “ That the question be now put “ could not be moved during a debate on a motion for time limitation under Standing Order 262a.
– I beg to withdraw my motion.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
– I have not had an opportunity to put before the House the unfortunate situation of many of the people by whom I was elected. Their position is desperate. Many thousands of fruit-growers, through no fault of their own, are on the verge of bankruptcy. The Government should afford them prompt assistance. ‘ We do not desire to see any increase in the ranks of the unemployed, but undoubtedly .their numbers will be swollen unless something is done for the fruit-growers in my State. I want an opportunity to point out their disabilities and urge a remedy. I am prepared to support any motion introduced by the Government to assist these people. During the election campaign, many promises were made by honorable members opposite as to what they would do to assist the primary producers and the unemployed. But the only honorable member on the other side who has referred to the unemployed has said that there are thousands who will never again be in work. I hope that even now the Government will see fit to give us a reasonable opportunity to discuss these Estimates. It seems to me that it is afraid of the criticism of its own party, and that its one object is to get into recess as soon as possible.
– I entirely agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), that the Government has been rather dawdling during the last week or so. Had it forced the pace, the motion now submitted! by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) would have been introduced about yesterday week. I understand that only a short period remains at our disposal for the discussion of the Estimates. Although I have no special wish to return to South Australia for the Christmas vacation, I am afraid that, if the Government decided to keep Parliament sitting during the Christmas and New Year holidays, it would need to supply a bathtub for the tears of honorable members of the Opposition. Seeing that the Estimates involve an expenditure of over £70,000,000, every honorable member should display moderation in the time occupied in debating them. We have now reached a stage at which there must be a limitation of this discussion, because a number of important problems must shortly be dealt with. I trust that a decision will soon be reached regarding the form of assistance to be given to the wheat industry, and our time would bebetter spent during the next fortnight in discussing a definite proposal in that direction than items of expenditure to which most honorable members are aware the Government is already committed. I suggest that no .honorable member should take part in the discussion of the Estimates unless he is able to make a new contribution to the debate.
.- There is no justification for the Government’s decision to curtail the time to be allowed for the consideration of the Estimates. Private members’ day was cut out yesterday, and therefore our opportunities for bringing to the attention of the House matters of importance to our electors have been greatly limited.
Some time ago the Government relinquished responsibility for the control of tropical diseases in .North Queensland, where trouble has been experienced through a complaint known as Weil’s disease. Since the removal of the Tropical Institute, North Queensland has been left to the mercy of the limited medical staff there. This treatment is consistent with the general attitude of the present Government to Queensland and its industries. The Department of Commerce has been placed under the control of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), and one might discuss at considerable length the Government’s attitude to the tobacco industry, in which some thousands of growers have been ruined. One might also comment on the Government’s’ treatment of the banana industry. The curtailment of the debate on the Estimates will probably result in members availing themselves fully at each sitting of the fifteen minutes allowed to each speaker for the discussion on the motion for the adjournment of the House. When this motion is submitted we frequently have to depend on members of the Opposition to maintain a quorum. One night recently only three members of the Government remained in their places in this chamber during the discussion of the adjournment motion. A suggestion has been made that it is necessary to reduce the hours of work in order to provide employment, and honorable members opposite contend that that would increase the cost of production. I should like to know to what extent the cost of production has been increased by the policy of this Government, which has caused the Parliament to sit on only twelve days in the ten weeks that have elapsed since the elections. I am not surprised at the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) wishing to remain away from Adelaide over the Christmas vacation.
– The time allowed under the Standing Orders for this debate has elapsed.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided. (Ma. SPEAKER - How. Q. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee (Consideration resumed) :
Remainder of proposed vote, £105,460.
Proposed vote, £350,110. (Ordered to be considered together.)
Mr.SCULLIN (Yarra) [9.45].- One cannot help being struck by the anomalous position occupied by one officer of this Parliament; his position is so nebulous that it is impossible to find a title for him. I. refer to the honorable gentleman who has been designated the Under-Secretary for Employment. We are unable to locate him, we do not know even whether he has an office in this building or what his duties are. All we know is that he has to carry out his work under the Prime Minister’s Department. We were told to-day by the Prime Minister that any question we wished to direct to this Under-Secretary, who is handling the most important job to be handled by any officer of this Parliament, must be asked through the Prime Minister.
– Yes; he has to deal with the real issue upon which the Government fought the elections. I take it then that this Under-Secretary’s office is under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department. Unemployment is the outstanding problem with which we have to deal. At the election the Government made a great noise about what it proposed to do in this matter; and when the election was over it handed to the GovernorGeneral a speech, to be read to this House, which contained this paragraph -
My advisers regard with sympathy and concern the heavy unemployment which still persists and propose to give to this grave and pressing problem priority over other matters. With this object in view employment and its associated questions have been allotted as a special ministerial task to the Minister of State for Commerce . . .
That document, which is only about one month old, was put in the hands of the Governor-General to be read to this House; in view of the Government’s action subsequently, I submit that the Governor-General was asked to make a false statement to this Parliament. That was a wrong thing to do. The Government has not handed this work to the Minister for Commerce. The gentleman who was then Minister for Commerce, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart), was given charge of this work, but because he was generous enough to tender his resignation, in order to ease the Prime Minister’s embarrassment, his resignation was accepted, and he, although continuing in charge of the most important matter to be considered by this Parliament, was relegated to a back seat, and is now in a position where he cannot answer questions asked by honorable members regarding the subject of his administration. It is a remarkable coincidence that to-day this House presented to the Governor-General the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency. Had it not been presented, we might have had an opportunity to ask that it be amended so that His Excellency would not be placed in the false position of having made a definite statement to this Parliament which was immediately afterwards falsified by the actions of the Government. I submit that the Prime Minister cannot satisfactorily answer to honorable members for the work which the Government has undertaken for the relief of unemployment or for its failure to undertake that work. When the honorable member for Parramatta occupied his ministerial position, we were struck with his industry, his application to his work, and his grasp of the details of his duties. I believe the Government made an excellent choice when it appointed him to this responsible post; but he has responsibility without status, and without an office in this building, whilst no provision is made in these Estimates for his staff. Yet these Estimates are now placed before us without even a suggestion from the Government that they should be amended to make provision for this new office. Such a position is ridiculous. It is making a farce of the employment relief; it. is relegating the problem to an unimportant position. The Government, once again, is doing to the electors, and those who are suffer-, ing most from cruel unemployment, what was done three years ago by almost the same Government, under the same Prime Minister. Having won a previous election on wide-spread promises to provide employment, the Government did practically nothing. Having repeated those promises at the last elections in more detail and with greater emphasis, the Government now comes to this Parliament and through the Governor-General’s Speech makes the typical statement that so urgent and important is this question that a special Minister will be appointed to take charge of it. The Government named that Minister, and then replaced him with another Minister, with the result that the honorable gentleman who is now given charge of this work has no status in keeping with the responsibility of his position and has not even the right to answer questions dealing directly with his administration. The position is anomalous and does not indicate that the Government is in earnest in dealing with this problem.
– Whilst I have been informed indirectly that steps are being taken to afford more convenient office accommodation in this building to my party, I would like the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) now to give a definite undertaking that when the sittings qf the House are resumed in the new year, the members of the New South Wales Labour party will have accommodation on the same floor as this chamber, instead of on the ground floor.
Honorable members this morning read in the Sydney newspapers a report of the work which the Under-Secretary for Employment is about to undertake. It seems strange that important information of this character should be made public in this way. If the report is correct, the House should have been informed ere now of the Government’s proposals, or, at least, honorable members should have been given an opportunity to discuss the matter with the honorable gentleman to whom this important and difficult task has been allotted. A complaint was made in this chamber this morning that honorable members have not the opportunity to direct questions on the subject of unemployment to the honorable gentleman. The report in this morning’s newspapers states -
Mr. F. H. Stewart, as Director of Re-employ - ment, has completed a comprehensive report which Cabinet discussed for the first time to-day.
Honorable members would like to be informed as to what took place at this meeting of the Cabinet, and the nature of the discussion. The report continues -
Broadly the report is in three sections - one covering the Public Works policy designed to meet the immediate situation, another setting out the plans for stimulating mining, and a third suggesting machinery for surveying and attacking what are described as root causes.
Honorable members will notice the familiar phrase “ root causes “.
– Why be frivolous about the matter?
– -Is it hot ridiculous to talk about discovering the root causes of unemployment when for the past five years thousands of our people have been suffering pain and anguish arising from this evil? If Ministers had any knowledge of the economic problems now confronting the world they would realize that it is ridiculous to talk in that fashion while thousands of men are clamouring for work. Numerous conferences, inquiries and investigations have been held into this matter, and if this problem could be solved simply by talks and making reports on it, then we would have achieved the millenium three years ago. Apparently, however, we have yet to commence to deal with the root causes ! The Minister should inform the House exactly what this newspaper report means. If the House is to adjourn about the 14th December, and in the interim many important matters affecting the primary producers and other sections of the community are to be dealt with, we may not have any opportunity other than this to ascertain what the Government really intends to do at this stage to revive the long discussion on the inadequacy of the amount of £176,000 provided for Christmas relief works. But as it is now fairly obvious that the unemployed cannot expect any worthwhile relief under that particular grant, these unfortunate people will now be expectantly waiting to see if anything substantial lies behind the reports to which I have referred, and which have yet to be submitted to this House. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) suggested that we would hear some astounding proposals when these reports are divulged. I hope that that prediction will be verified. There should now be no delay by the Government in carrying out its intentions. These Estimates involve the allocation and expenditure of £22,500,000 to consider which we are to be allowed only eleven hours; that is, we shall be allowed on an average one hour for the discussion of each £1,500,000 of expenditure. Of course, it will be impossible for us to obtain much information under those circumstances.
.- Will the -Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) supply the committee with more detailed information concerning the proposed expenditure on the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research? I do not object to the Commonwealth Government undertaking work of the nature which this council carries on, but I find that it is proposed to increase the appropriation for this branch by £30,000 as compared with the total expenditure incurred on the council in the previous year. Certain details are set out in the budget papers, but there is no clear indication as to how the necessity for the increased expenditure arises. The work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is in some respects allied to work carried out by some of the State Governments. Can the Minister inform us whether it is proposed that this increased expenditure by the Commonwealth shonld be offset by a contraction of similar services at present carried out by the State Governments?
Further information also should be supplied to us concerning the proposal to increase the vote for the maintenance of our commercial representation in the United States of America. We appreciate the work that is at present being done by that office on behalf of Australia. However, the Minister might inform us as to whether the duties of officers attached to our commercial office in the United States are purely routine in nature, or whether it is now proposed that special services shall be rendered through this office, which will necessitate increased expenditure.
I notice it is proposed to increase the vote for the Parliament by £1,220; an additional £4,000 is to be allocated to the Public Service Board, and an increase of £5,000 is to be allocated to the Auditor-General’s Department. The Prime Minister’s Department - which should not be an expanding department, but rather a clearing house for other departments - is to absorb an additional £38,983, as compared with its expenditure last year. I cannot see any justification for such an extraordinary increase, which represents approximately 10 per cent, of the total expenditure incurred by this department last year. We in this Parliament should be SUP: plied with adequate information and precise details of all proposed Commonwealth expenditure, for such expenditure has been, and still is, a cause of sharp contention in the various States. The expenditure of the Commonwealth Parliament has far exceeded the expectations of many of those who were associated with the movement for federation more than 30 years ago. The ease with which the Commonwealth Government is able to provide for its financial requirements makes it doubly necessary that Commonwealth expenditure shall be scrutinized most carefully. Proposed increases of expenditure should most certainly be accompanied by full explanations. Why is the proposed expenditure of the Prime Minister’s Department for the current financial year nearly £40,000 more than the actual expenditure of last year - that is, not a great deal less than £1,000 a week more than was spent last year? I realize that £28,000 is apparently to be expended in connexion with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but the proposed increase of expenditure by that body from £76,000 to £104,000 should be fully explained.
– I desire some information regarding the expenditure on the High Commissioner for Australia in London. When Mr. S. M. Bruce accepted office as Resident Minister without Portfolio in London he was authorized, by legislation, to exorcise all the powers and functions formerly discharged by the High Commissioner, but provision was made for him to retain his interests in certain private business undertakings. Previously Australian High Commissioners in London were required to surrender all such interests. Apparently the Government has decided to revert to the old conditions regarding Australian representation in London, but it does not intend to call upon Mr. Bruce to sever his associations with private business activities. I am not, at the moment, quibbling about the amount of money being provided, but I am merely asking the Assistant Treasurer to explain why the old order is being reverted to with tho remarkable exception that the present High Commissioner is being permitted to retain his private business interests.
– I wish the Assistant Treasurer to give me some information regarding the amount of money being provided in these Estimates for research in connexion with gold mining: In the ‘fifties, when a depression hit Australia much as the recent depression has doney important discoveries of gold were made here which did a great deal to restore prosperity to the people. I believe that if action is now taken in the right direction, the, gold-mining industry will be encouraged with similarly beneficial results. Although gold is at a high price at present, people will not spend money in searching for it unless they can see a reasonable prospect of success. Surveys have been made in different parts of Australia in the past with the object of delimiting the artesian areas in order that people might be encouraged to settle in country that offers them a reasonable prospect of success. We know also that as the result of representations steps have been taken recently to delimit the auriferous areas of Australia, but I cannot find any proposed vote for that purpose on these Estimates. At present the Government, acting in conjunction with the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia, is having geophysical and aerial surveys made of ‘areas that are thought to be mineral bearing, but it must be remembered that geophysical surveys, while indicating the presence of ore bodies, do not indicate the nature of those ore bodies. That work must be done by geological surveys. Even when the geologists have indicated the class- of ore likely to be found in certain areas, it is necessary for trial shafts to be sunk and the areas properly opened up. The Commonwealth Government has, we understand, set aside £150,000 for expenditure on geophysical surveys. Where is that amount provided on these Estimates? A good deal of experimentation has been done in the treatment of refractory ores some of which hitherto have not been capable of profitable working. Is any money being made available to stimulate investigations of this kind? If it can be definitely determined that certain areas are goldbearing and that the ores are of ‘a kind likely to yield to treatment it is highly probable that experienced men could be encouraged to go out and work them. I hope that the Government, when discussing this subject with representatives of the State governments, will pay some attention to one factor which hitherto has been a serious deterrent to the opening up of gold-bearing country. In probably every State of Australia the practice, differently described in different States, of “ shepherding “ or “ dummying “ is pursued. That is to say, large areas are leased by people who have no intention whatever of working them. Such areas are held solely for the purpose of speculation. Those who hold them hope sooner or later to sell their rights to other people. En my own electorate I know that two months ago one man held 34 leases comprising over 3,900 acres, and was working only one small area of 33 acres. I consider that the Government should request the State authorities to insist that individuals who lease auriferous country shall either work it or surrender their leases. “ Shepherding” or “dummying” should not be permitted. I am unable to say whether or not the 3,900 acres to which I have referred is gold-bearing country, but I know it is in an area which a number of prospectors would like to test. They are not big men, but men who could do something for themselves and their families if they were given the opportunity to work that class of country. I hope that when the Government is formulating its proposals to assist the goldmining industry it will- require State governments to tighten up their respective acts, so that speculators will be prevented from holding large areas of country under mining leases unless they employ labour to work them. I should like the Assistant Treasurer to give mc some details of the Government’s proposals in connexion with the geophysical surveys in the north of Australia, and tell us what provision is to be made for geological surveys subsequently. He might also inform the committee of the proposal to appoint eminent mining men to investigate any area in Australia that shows a reasonable chance of profit, and how it is proposed- to finance the experiments that ‘have been going on quietly, but none the less satisfactorily, in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Kalgoorlie in connexion with the treatment of refractory ores with a view to bringing into profitable production large areas of auriferous country, which only await the development of a reasonably cheap method of treatment to give employment to a large number of men.
– I agree with much of what the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F.
Harrison) has said with reference to the advisability of government assistance being given to the gold-mining industry, but I hope that, in any proposals which it brings forward, the Ministry will insist that speculators and stock-jobbing thieves, who have done so much in the past to depress the gold-mining industry, will not be allowed to destroy the faith of the genuine investor. The Government should insist on the State mining laws being tightened up to prevent these vagabonds from filching further large sums of money from the investing public under false pretences. As to the general subject of gold-winning, it seems to me futile that we should spend money on digging holes in the ground for the purpose of getting gold and then, under our stupid banking system, digging other holes to bury it in the form of gold hoards. I am prepared to support any proposal, even the shifting of sea sand and exporting it overseas if people want it, if it will provide employment, but I think we can employ our energies much more usefully in other directions.
My main purpose in rising is to support what the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has said with regard to the accommodation provided in this building for the party of which I am a member. I know that Mr. Speaker has done all that he can, and that the matter now rests with the Government. We feel that we are entitled to the same accommodation and the same privileges as are extended to members of other parties. Because of the smallness of the room allotted to us, three members of our party are in temporary occupation, of a committee room on the Senate side of the building, and were obliged this week to retire from it in order that a meeting of a Senate committee could be held there. That is not a satisfactory arrangement. I hope, therefore, that the Assistant Treasurer will to-night give us an assurance that after the Christmas vacation improved accommodation will be- available to the members of our party. I should also like him to tell the committee that the Parliament Will re-assemble early in January and sit continuously until the job ahead is- finished. We are told that the Government has under consideration a comprehensive rural rehabilitation scheme, and that the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart), who has had wide business experience, has been entrusted with the responsibility of attending to the details of the proposal. That being so, I hope that suitable accommodation will be provided for the honorable gentleman so that members may have ready access to him and be able to place before him proposals which, in their view, should receive the earnest consideration of this Government. Ministers have told us that they intend to get on with this business of rural rehabilitation and re-employment, as well as other problems of transcendent importance, which, they say, must be dealt with. To-night the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) had the audacity to allege that honorable members on this side desired to obstruct the passage of this legislation. We deny that. We shall give all the assistance that lies in our power, provided the Government is in earnest about the matter. I believe that it intends merely to tinker with this great problem and that the one desire of Ministers is to get into recess; but if they prove their sincerity, I shall be one of the first to commend them.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) mentioned to-night the position occupied by the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart) in relation to the Government’s employment scheme. This is a subject which I think it would be wise to discuss because I am afraid that the arrangement will ultimately prove to be unsatisfactory to both the Government and the honorable member himself. But the matter goes further- than that; it touches the basis of Cabinet working in Australia to-day. I consider that the honorable member for Parramatta occupies an unsatisfactory position. He should be in close touch with the Cabinet at all times for consultative purposes, and should be able to place directly before it proposals concerning the all-important subject with which he is dealing. The work of a Cabinet Minister to-day involves undue mental and physical strain. In Britain the evolution of the Cabinet system has led to the appointment of parliamentary under-secretaries. Something of the sort is necessary in Australia. The other night a Minister informed me that about one-half of his time is occupied in signing documents, and that he has very little opportunity to give due consideration to the big problems with which he has to deal. In private life a man who finds that his work imposes too great a strain upon him employs assistance. In big business the principle adopted is, first to organize, secondly to deputize, and thirdly to supervise. The administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth is the biggest business in Australia. If Ministers find that they have not sufficient time to devote to matters of policy, they should delegate to a responsible departmental official or, better, a parliamentary under-secretary, the bulk of the routine and detail work. I trust that Cabinet will consider this suggestion very seriously.
.- The gold-mining industry presents to the Government an excellent opportunity to absorb a large number of the unemployed. The Commonwealth is asking the States to submit relief schemes, and it would be well worth the Prime Minister’s while to investigate the possibilities of this industry. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) has stated that men in his electorate are holding up to 3,000 acres for speculative purposes. That is the fault of the Government of Victoria. It is a condition of affairs that should not be tolerated by any Government. In times like the present, when thousands of men are looking for employment, it is not right that land should be tied up in that way. The practice is followed, not only in Victoria, but also, and to a more pronounced extent, in Queensland. In 1930 the Moore Government in Queensland gave to companies concessions over 10,000 acres of gold-mining areas on the old Percy and Palmer gold-fields. Strong exception could not be offered to such a policy if the Government insisted that those who obtained the concession manned the land to the fullest extent provided by the act. But immediately the concessions are granted, sufficient money is obtained to take the principals overseas, where they damage the industry by inducing investment on the strength of reports made at an earlier period when the fields were worked by companies. On the old Palmer gold-field, companies which have been granted concessions are working small areas with the hydraulic system. I notice on the Estimates an amount of £5,000 for the re-discovery of old fields. Recently an aerial survey was made over Charters Towers, Croydon, and Etheridge in an effort to re-discover those fields. I do not believe that in the past research has been responsible for the finding of one field. Those who have rendered the greatest service are the prospectors; yet, when they apply for assistance, they are allowed by the Government only £1 a week to search for gold. Onehalf of the money collected by State Governments from the mining industry is expended in . the capital cities in the upkeep of mining offices. It should be utilized in placing geologists on mining fields, to direct operations of prospecting parties. Prospecting demands the possession of skilled knowledge. So soon as a prospector locates anything which he considers is worth investigating, the Government should assist him by making available four or five men to try out the lead or discovery while he continues prospecting. If a prospector happens upon signs of gold in any area he asks that a geologist be deputed to inspect and report upon the discovery. Should a request arrive from a tropical area during the summer months, the geologist wait3 for winter. He will go to such places as Mount Morgan, because he can complete the journey by train, but will avoid the Palmer field, because a portion of the journey has to be covered on horseback, with a packhorse to carry his goods and chattels. I trust that the Government will revert to the old system of making grants available to the State Mines Departments as it did in 1929, to assist those engaged in prospecting for gold. Many prospectors have their own kits, but the high cost of explosives and sometimes of transport debars them from undertaking work which might eventually prove not only remunerative to them but also of great advantage to the Commonwealth. A prospector desiring to go on to the Palmer fields has to pro ceed from Port Douglas to Cooktown, which costs him at least £3 10s. for his fare. He then has to hire horses to take him from Cooktown to the fields or in the direction of the peninsula. If a prospector wishes to proceed to Mungana from the end of the Chillago railway, he is immediately faced with the difficulties of transport as there are no roads to the field. The Government should make money available to the States which have not sufficient funds to render effective assistance to those who wish to engage in gold-mining.
.- It is disgraceful that honorable members should ‘be expected to authorize the ex:penditure of £416,000 in one hour and thus be prevented from submitting valuable suggestions to the Government. In the electorate which I have the honour to represent, probably more gold is mined than in any other electorate with the exception of Kalgoorlie. The amount of £5,000 to be appropriated to assist the gold-mining industry is altogether inadequate to finance the necessary research work. It is to be regretted that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Unemployment is not present to hear the suggestions made by honorable members.
– Every suggestion is being noted.
– Those made by honorable members on this side of the chamber may be the means of providing employment for a large number of persons. As the activities of State governments are curtailed owing to the lack of funds, the Commonwealth Government should make a substantial amount available to the State authorities for prospecting and geological purposes and thus enable them to make grants to prospectors, many of whom are at present unemployed. According to the Commonwealth Statistician, the increase in the number of men employed in tile gold-mining industry has been most pronounced. The figures are - 1928, 5,000; 1929, 6,000; 1930, 10,000; 193.1, 23,700; 1932, 26,000; and 1933, 27,676. The price at present being paid for gold and the marked increase of the number employed in gold-mining is sufficient to show that this is an industry in which a large number of the workless could be absorbed. If sufficient funds were made available valuable gold shows might be discovered by practical men.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has interested himself in the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research with respect to the extraction of oil from coal, and I wish to speak briefly concerning the coal-fields in Queensland. According to a statement in the Sydney Morning Herald the Oil from Coal Committee has been sitting in Victoria to consider the position with respect to the black coal deposits in New South Wales, and the brown coal deposits in Victoria, with a view to determining whether a recommendation shall be made for the establishment with the aid of the Commonwealth Government of a hydrogenation plant under the control of Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, or some similar concern. I should like to know whether the claims of Queensland are to be considered in this respect, particularly as in Central Queensland there are large deposits of brown coal at Port Clinton near fresh and salt water, bituminous coal at Styx, black lignite on the Blair Athol field, anthracite coal, similar to Welsh coal, in the McKenzie Valley, and semi-anthracite coal in the Dawson Valley. A government geologist once described the coal-fields of Central Queensland as immeasurable. Mr. Ivor Thomas, in his epoch-making work, states that low ash, absence of moisture, and high calorific value are favorable factors in the hydrogenation of coal. It will, therefore, be seen that there is nothing better offering than the coal available in Central Queensland. With such a wealth of coal, the central district should at least have the opportunity of being brought within the scope of the federal committee’s investigation. If the Government sent its experts to Queensland to inquire into the whole subject, they would find that there were important avenues in which a large number of men could find remunerative employment.
In common with the other honorable members, I protest strongly against the subordination of the position of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment. The gentleman who occupies that position has the confidence of all honorable members, but because he was so magnanimous as to offer to resign from the Cabinet in order to make room for another Minister, he has been compelled to occupy a back bench, and is not allowed to answer questions, while a Minister on the front bench, who is not in possession of details, gives unsatisfactory replies to the inquiries of honorable members. I want to know what lists of proposed works have been supplied by the various State governments, including the Government of Queensland. Time is running on and, according to the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician, over 400,000 men are out of employment in four States of the Commonwealth alone. I should also like to know why an increased allowance of £1,338 is being made to the High Commissioner in London for the upkeep of his residence. What salary does he receive, and why is it necessary that this allowance should be made to him at a time when the Government states there are no funds available to increase pensions to £1 a week.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked what was being done to provide the members of the New South Wales Labour party with suitable accommodation in Parliament House. I can assure him that the matter is receiving the active consideration of the authorities, and there is every hope that a suitable arrangement will be come to in the near future.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) asked why an additional amount of approximately £28,000 had been placed on ‘ the Estimates for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The necessity for this extra provision arises from the fact that the grants formerly received from the Empire Marketing Board and other, overseas sources have been withdrawn, and have had to be made good from federal revenue in order that the activities of the council may be continued unrestricted.
Regarding the Commonwealth Office in New York, honorable members must know that there is no commissioner there at the present time, and the work is being carried on by a secretary with the assistance of the normal staff. The small increase in the Estimates is due to the change over of accountants which recently took place, and the consequent overlapping. It was also necessary to provide travelling expenses for the accountants travelling both ways.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) asked whether the High Commissioner in London was entitled to hold outside directorates. The present High Commissioner is holding office on the same conditions as applied to previous occupants of the office, and I understand that when he was appointed he voluntarily resigned what directorates he held.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) asked what was being done by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in the way of gold research. This matter is receiving the consideration of the Government, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has co-opted the services of Messrs. Klug, Wainwright and Somerset, who will advise as to the conduct of investigations - geological, mineralogical, and metallurgical. The standing of these gentlemen is such as to inspire confidence in all those associated with the mining and metallurgical industries. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is carrying out research work on the Bendigo field, particularly as regards the mode of occurrence of gold. It is hoped that new light will be thrown in this regard on the rather novel gold-field of Bendigo.
– Will the council extend its researches to Tasmania?
– I understand that it will, though its attention is being directed more particularly at the moment to the Bendigo field.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The time allotted for the consideration” of the Estimates for the Parliament and the Department of the Prime Minister has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £723,480.
I move -
That the amount be reduced by £1.
My reason for this motion is to bring directly under the notice of the Government and of Parliament, the immediate necessity for increasing the old-age and invalid pensions to at least £1 a week. If possible, this should be done before Christmas. No section of the community has made greater sacrifices to help the country during the period of financial depression than have the old-age and invalid pensioners. Not only have their pensions been reduced, but arduous conditions have been imposed upon them, and those conditions have become so irritating that many of them have surrendered their pensions altogether. The Government has not done a fair thing by the pensioners. When the Premiers plan was introduced, a definite promise was made that, so soon as the finances of the country permitted, pensions would be restored to their former level. If we may believe what members of the Government have said, prosperity has now been restored, and there is no excuse for any longer delaying the honouring of the promise made to the pensioners. The restoration of pensions would be merely an act of simple justice on the part of the Government. A study of the actions of the Government during the last Parliament shows that, whereas it found means to relieve the wealthier sections of the community, it was not willing to extend similar benefits to more deserving sections, especially those who are forced by economic circumstancesto accept the benefits of the social legislation enacted by this Parliament. We would be doing only simple justice by restoring invalid and old-age pensions to £1 a week. The merits of the claim of these deserving people should be sufficient to secure the support of all honorable members for the amendment, since the action of the Government has deprived the pensioners of about £650,000. I look to honorable members of all parties to support the amendment, and thereby show their willingness to act justly by the aged and infirm.
– I wish to refer to the item of £6,400 for the medical examination of applicants for invalid pensions. I have in mind particularly those men who have been engaged in prospecting for gold and other metals, and while creating wealth for the community, have contracted miners’ phthisis in either an acute or a modified form. Medical science now makes it possible to decide the particular form of the complaint from which individuals are suffering. There are three forms of miners’ phthisis, and I understand that the commissioners have decided - I assume on instructions from headquarters - that sufferers from two of them are not eligible for invalid pensions. I ask the Government to consider the wisdom of appointing additional qualified medical practitioners to investigate such cases, with a view to alleviating the troubles of some of those whose applications for invalid pensions have been refused. There are two centres at which most of the medical examinations of these sufferers take place, but even they are not manned all the year round. I ask the Government to appoint full-time officers to those centres, and to provide proper equipment, so that applications for pensions may be dealt with more expeditiously. The men I have in mind are not endeavouring to get something for nothing, but deserve well of this country. A proper diagnosis should be made by competent men to decide their eligibility for a pension. [Quorum formed.]
.-I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) because I favour the restoration of invalid and old-age pensions to £1 a week, and the elimination from the act of its property provisions. The Government professes to administer the act sympathetically, and claims that the amendments made in December last gave the pensioners full control over their property. It is true that pensioners are now allowed to sell their property, but they are required to advise the Commissioner of Pensions within 30 days of such sale, and either the amount received by them, or the value of the property so transferred, is taken into account, and their pension re-assessed accordingly. In some cases re-assessment has resulted in the withdrawal of the pension altogether. Further, we were informed that sympathetic consideration would be given in connection with deceased pensioners’ property, but this has not been done. I have here a letter from the department claiming £52 14s. 8d. from Mrs. A. Jenkins, of Edward-street, Kurri Kurri, whose husband, an invalid pensioner, died leaving an estate valued at £100 and land worth £10. The letter, under date of the 9th November, 1934, is as follows: -
I have to notify you that the sum of £52 14s. 8d. is a debt due to the Commonwealth since 31st December, 1932.
making a total deduction of £54 out of a total estate of £110.
The amount available to meet the claim is £56. After making allowance for all liabilities of the pensioner and exemptions provided by the law, the amount of estate available for payment of the debt exceeds the amount of the debt, and I have to request therefore that you will kindly remit the amount of debt £52 14s.8d. to this office as early as possible.
This lady has five children. Despite the facts of this case, the Government claims that it is administering the pensions legislation sympathetically. It can scarcely claim that sympathetic consideration has been extended to this case when the Pensions Department is prepared to endeavour to force a claim against a widow who has no other estate. The departmental officials go as far as the act permits in an endeavour to extract from this woman a sum which is claimed to be due to it. They play on her fear of losing her home. It is time that the Government took into consideration the effect which the pensions legislation is having upon these unfortunate people.
– Yes. I actually lodged the necessary return for the pensioner.
– Claiming hardship ?
– If the honorable member will give me details of the case I shall have it inquired into.
– I have approached the Minister unsuccessfully in connexion with similar cases. I desire to bring under the notice of the committee another case which I last brought before the Minister only a fortnight ago. The details of this case are already published in Hansard. The claim has not yetbeen met, but the Government is still endeavouring to force payment. This case is that of a man named Jobling, of 24 Robert-street, Wallsend, who is a grandson of a deceased pensioner named Ann Marchaut. Under the will of the deceased, he was left a house valued at £150. For eight or ten years prior to her death, this man and his wife looked after their aged grandmother; for the last two years of her life she was bedridden. In reply to representations made in regard to this case, I have received the following letter from the Acting Deputy Commissioner of Pensions : -
With reference to your further personal representations on behalf of Mr. J. R. Jobling, of 24 Robert-street, Wallsend, I have to advise you that full consideration has been given to Mr. Jobling’s application for exemption under the hardship provisions of the act, by the Commissioner, but in view of all the circumstances, exemption could not be approved.
Honorable members can see that exemption had been applied for under the hardship provisions of the act. The letter continues -
As pointed out in a letter forwarded to you on the 17th September, 1934, by the Honorable R. G. Casey, Assistant Treasurer, Mr. Jobling is employed in the Railway Department at a wage of £4 13s. 8d. per week, and earned £234 during the past twelve months. He is a married man, but has no children, and in view of these facts it was not considered that Mr. Jobling was in necessitous circumstances.
Whilst the debt to the Commonwealth could not be exempted, a concession was made to Mr. Jobling by agreeing to accept payment of the debt by reasonable instalments, and there does not appear to be any reason why Mr. Jobling should not comply with this arrangement, which will not inflict any hardship and will not compel him to sell the property.
Jobling disputes that his earnings are as represented ; his gross salary is less the unemployment relief tax of1s. in the £1. This the department will not permit to be deducted. In other cases, no deduction is allowed in respect of tools of trade, and great hardship is inflicted upon miners by reason of the decision not to allow as a deduction the amount spent on the purchase of explosives which are necessary in the pursuit of their calling, and which may be likened to tools of trade. Furthermore, the deduction of doctor’s fees and ambulance expenses is not allowed. It has been admitted that the gross income of this man was only £234.
– The case of Jobling is being looked into at the present time.
– Having received that assurance, I shall not pursue the matter further. I hope that more sympathetic consideration will be given to it.
A considerable amount has been remitted to wealthy taxpayers who have never contributed under the Premiers plan, and it is natural for honorable members to expect that those who bore the brunt of the exactions made under that plan should be the first to have restored to them that which was taken away. The only other matter to which I desire to refer relates to the maternity allowance, which also comes within the control of the Treasury. My complaint is that many claims for the allowance are held up for unnecessary long periods while inquiries are being made into the earnings of the husbands of the claimants. In estimating the amount to be paid, the gross earnings of the husband of a claimant are taken into account, and no allowance whatever is made for the unemployment tax that he pays or for rentals and other expenses that ought to be deducted. I ask the Minister to give consideration to the points I have raised. They affect the poorer sections of the community, who are entitled to sympathetic consideration, particularly having regard to the boast of the Government that it has remitted £9,000,000 by way of taxation to the wealthier sections of the community.
– I desire to make a few remarks on the subject of land taxation, the Government policy in regard to .which has my commendation. I congratulate the Government on the reduction it has already effected, but feel that its job will not be done until the tax is entirely removed. There are several very grave objections to this form of taxation. Firstly, it is a capital tax - a tax that has to be paid by an industry regardless of whether or not it is making a profit. I am not unmindful of the provisions of the act relating to the “ Hardship Clause “, but, generally, speaking, even if an industry is losing money it has to pay the tax. For that reason, during these years of depression land taxation has been one of the greatest causes of unemployment in the pastoral industry. It is superfluous to point out that ali taxation causes unemployment, because naturally money used in the payment of taxation cannot be paid out in wages ; but the land tax acts most directly of all. During the years of the depression, station property after station property has had to pay off men that it badly needed to employ, so that it could pay the land tax. Station-owners, in order to pay this taxation, have had to dispense with improvements they wished to make; to dispense with proper maintenance and to run their properties less efficiently than they wished to do. Land taxation has not only been a great blow to the efficiency of the industry, but has also caused a very great additional measure of unemployment in country areas. Another very great objection to the tax, as it is and has been imposed in the past, is its adverse effect on our wool-growing industry - that industry which the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) so very aptly described as one that gives employment right from the back-blocks to the waterfront. I do not pretend for a moment that the land tax affects only the pastoralist. It affects both primary and secondary industries, but it has the most adverse effect of all on the wool-growing industry, in that it leads to the breaking up of big studs. It is, in my opinion, possible to grow good wool on reasonably small blocks, but in order that those small blocks shall be carried on efficiently, ample supplies of stud sheep are necessary. It is very difficult to maintain sufficiently big lines of stud rams unless we have big studs, and for a big stud one must have a big estate. It is possible with a small stud to breed as good sheep as with a big stud, but it is not possible to get the straight line that wool-growers require. Let me quote an instance that I cited in the Victorian Parliament when a similar subject was under discussion. Wishing to get a line of twenty rams, I went to one of the biggest and best studs in New South Wales. There I had first choice from 300 first grade 10 guinea rams, which are the highest grade flock rams. I spent a great deal of time going through them, but it was not possible out of the 300 to get an absolutely straight line of twenty. I had to take one or two that were good rams, but not entirely in the type I wanted. That was a big stud. If these big studs are to be broken up, it will be impossible for wool-growers to obtain adequate lines of rams. That is a very great danger. Good wool can be grown in some districts on small properties, but if the smaller owners are to grow good wool, they must have good studs from which to obtain the rams they require. By none has the depression been suffered more acutely than by the big stud masters. Men, who, not many years ago, were reputedly wealthy, have had the greatest difficulty during the last few years in carrying on their holdings. Last year they had a slight measure of relief owing to the fact that, encouraged by the temporary, fortuitous rise in wool prices, growers bought stud sheep again; but’ they are still experiencing the greatest difficulties. It is not possible for the Government to assist the wool-growing industry by raising the price of wool, and therefore it must assist it in every other way. One method- would be the complete removal of the land tax.
This tax is one of the most expensive to collect. I have heard it claimed that the collection costs amount to from 25 to 50 per cent, of the tax actually collected, but that is an exaggeration. However, the cost of collection in the last couple of years has amounted to nearly 10 per cent, of the tax. This impost is definitely harmful to our greatest industry, upon which the prosperity of Australia as a whole depends, and for the future of which there is more hope than for that of any other industry. To jeopardize it by imposing a tax, which is both unsound and unjust, and to spend so much money in collecting it, is absolute madness.
The reports submitted by the Wheat Commission and other bodies concerning various industries show that the statistical position of those industries is most unfavorable. One ray of hope which I see for the wheat-growing industry is that in due course the price of wool will again rise to a figure which will enable much of the marginal wheat-growing land to be put back into wool production ; but nobody can truthfully say that the statistical position of wool is not excellent. At the present time the outlook is most unpromising, because countries which urgently require our wool are unable to buy it owing to the way in which international trade has been checked by tariff barriers. Yet the real need for wool is as great to-day as it ever was, and it is becoming greater as the people of Eastern countries take to using it. The curtailment of the demand is due entirely to lack of ability to purchase it.
Wool is one of those commodities for which there is a cumulative demand. This industry suffers first in a depression, but it is the first to recover. When a man’s income is reduced he is inclined to economize in his purchases of wool. Even if he could buy a new suit he will try to do without it when times are hard. When a man is out of employment he avoids the purchase of new woollen garments for the time being, and his wife makes the blankets last a while longer; but shiny trousers and thin blankets have to be replaced eventually. From my experience I know that, if one suffers from hunger for some months, a considerable time elapses before one is able again to eat, even a normal quantity of food. Therefore, we cannot look for any cumulative demand for commodities such as wheat, meat and butter, when the world regains its purchasing power. But we can expect a very great cumulative demand for woollen, goods. For that reason we should do everything in our power to preserve this most stable and important of all our industries. Merely because it has not been a mendicant industry its claims should not be overlooked. We should do all in our power to uphold it, for it gives the greatest hope for Australia’s future, just as it has been our greatest strength in the past. Consequently, I strongly urge the Government to abolish the land tax at the first opportunity. This is one of the few ways in which it is possible for the Government to give great assistance to the wool industry at the present time. When the world recovers its purchasing power, and, as the result of trade treaties, countries such as Italy, Germany and Japan are enabled to buy our wool freely,the wool industry will once again help the people of Australia back to employment and prosperity. Again I appeal to the Government to abolish this unfair, unsound and iniquitous tax.
.- I have listened with interest to the remarks made in support of the more wealthy sections of the community by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn). While I agree that taxation generally should be kept down to the lowest level possible, I hold that more equitable treatment should be meted out as between those who pay taxation and those who have a right to receive benefits from some of the taxation collected by the Government. The present Government has remitted to the wealthier sections of the community about £10,000,000 of taxes, and that has been done at the expense of the poorer sections. Since I have been a member of this chamber, I have ascertained, through questions, the amounts of various taxes which are still outstanding. The information supplied to me showed that, at the 31st October, 1934, outstanding income tax amounted to £3,456,000, and outstanding land tax to £858,000. Thus, notwithstanding the claims which the honorable gentleman might make on behalf of his wealthy friends, there can be no doubt that the Government has treated them very leniently.
– They simply have not got the money to pay the tax.
– We have heard that excuse repeated over and over again. Even in more prosperous times large amounts of land tax were outstanding, and the same old cry was repeated that these wealthy people did not have the money to pay the tax. So far as I can see, they never have the money and never will have it, so long as the Government is prepared to accept that excuse. When one does not want to pay, it is easy to say that one has not got the money.
– But would that excuse satisfy the Taxation Commissioner?
– Apparently it does at present, judging by the large amounts of taxes which are now outstanding. The Government should make a more determined effort to collect this money. Compare the Government’s treatment of the wealthier sections in this respect with its treatment of those people who are unfortunate enough to have to accept the old-age pension - a social service that has been supported by successive governments and approved by Australian citizens as a whole. Some months ago the case came under my notice of an old-age pensioner who had practically no money but was expected, out of a few shillings of insurance money which came into her possession on the death of her husband, to contribute a considerable proportion of the amount to the Commonwealth Treasury. That money was really intended to pay funeral expenses. In that case the pensioner did not find it an acceptable excuse to say to the Government that she did not have the money. The amount involved was a paltry £26. The poorer sections of the community, to use the words of the honorable gentleman who has just interjected, have not got the money to pay claims of this nature. If the wealthier sections have not got the money to pay the tax they owe, at least they have got assets, but because they are friends of supporters of the Government, the excuse that they have not got the money to pay appears to be sufficient. This contrast reveals the policy of the Government towards its friends and supporters so far as the payment of taxation is concerned.
I have a document which was circulated throughout the country during the last election campaign by the United Australia party. It declared that the Scullin Government was the only Government that had reduced . old-age pensions, and, it added, “ the United Australia party Government, under Mr. Lyons, has liberalized the provisions of- the Pensions Act and is providing £12,000,000 to pay pensions, which is £1,000,000 more than any Labour government has provided for this purpose.” Using this pamphlet in support of his candidature at the last election, a gentleman, who was then a member of the Commonwealth Government, claimed to be a friend of the pensioners and said that he had done more for them than any one else, as, he added, hundreds of pensioners would testify. I hope the present Government will substantiate this claim that it has liberalized the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Further, I hope that the Government will not continue to harass the pensioners with claims involving a few pounds. It i3 a recognized fact that to people advanced in years, the mere receipt of a letter bearing the inscription “ On His Majesty’s Service “ is frightening. The Government should treat them more humanely and should not harass them with questionnaires regarding their possession of a few pounds.
– Many of the questions put to the pensioners are ridiculous.
– That is so. In addition to the taxes outstanding which I have already mentioned, there is an amount of £142,000 overdue in respect of estate duties. Surely, honorable gentlemen opposite would not make the excuse for the people owing this money that they have not got it, or that it is impossible for them to obtain it. Sales tax amounting to £208,000 is outstanding, but I recognize that this tax is in a different category. [ hope that the treatment of our invalid pensioners will be more humane than that which they have experienced in the last’ two or three years. The Government should certainly make every effort to collect the unpaid taxes to which I have referred.
– I direct attention to the proposed vote of £6,400 to meet the cost of medical examination of applicants for invalid pensions. Many applicants are treated unfairly by the departmental medical officers. I have known persons who have produced as many as twelve certificates of medical unfitness being refused a pension because of one adverse report by a departmental medical officer. That is harsh and unworthy treatment of deserving people. I direct attention to the case of a man, 28 years of age, who has suffered from infantile paralysis since he was eighteen months old. He has to be wheeled about in a chair. It may be said that his body is dead from the waist downwards. Above the waist the man appears to be normal. This applicant was refused a pension on the ground that, although he is permanently incapacitated, he is not totally and permanently incapacitated. Our legislation provides that permanently incapacitated persons may %e granted an invalid pension ; but because the department has interpreted this provision to mean totally and permanently incapacitated, thousands of persons have been unfairly treated. If necessary the act should be amended to indicate the intention of Parliament more clearly.
I also complain of the treatment of an invalid pensioner, who, on receiving a legacy of £650 from his deceased wife’s estate, surrendered his pension; but. on the loss of his money through unsuccessful investments, has been denied the restoration of it. This man received his money in 1932, and invested £300 of it in a hotel at Ferntree Gully, Victoria. His business was not successful, and ho lost all the money that he had put into it. He subsequently went to Queensland and invested the balance of his money in a hotel at Harrisville, but this venture was also unsuccessful. Having lost all his money through no fault of his own, the man, in 1933, unsuccessfully applied for the restoration of his pension. I made personal representations on his behalf to the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in Brisbane, and later to the authorities in Canberra, with the result that an invalid pension of 12s. 6d. a fortnight is now being paid to the man. For two years the man has been engaged intermittently on light relief work, but since the partial restoration of a pension he has been debarred from such employment, with the result that he is now worse off than before. This is a genuine case. The man is honest, trustworthy and sober. I shall furnish his name to . the Minister in the hope that all the circumstances will be reviewed, and his pension fully restored. I urge the Government to give instructions to the medical advisers of the department to deal more sympathetically with applicants for invalid pensions.
– There is substantial ground for complaints about the treatment of applicants for invalid pensions by the medical advisers of the department. This subject has been frequently discussed in this chamber. It seems to me that the only satisfactory remedy will be the setting up of an appeal board of some description to consider dispassionately the opinions of both the outside specialists and the departmental advisers. The Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in Sydney - I speak of him because I know of his work - does his best to adminster the act sympathetically, but he is forced to accept the advice of the medical officers of the department. I have no hesitation whatever in mentioning Dr. Ludowici as one departmental medical officer who has an unenviable record for the severe treatment of applicants for invalid pensions, and particularly those persons who have ‘ been in receipt of an invalid pension for many years. If my memory serves me aright, the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), when sitting in the Country party corner, supported a proposal that further recourse in the nature of an appeal to a board should be available in cases where there was a conflict of medical opinion. I agree with the honorable member for Brisbane that in, some cases the opinion of even specialists is discounted by the departmental medical officers. The words “ totally and permanently incapacitated “ are capable of very wide interpretation. They might be taken to mean that a claimant would have to be practically on the broad of his back before he would be entitled to receive a pension. That was not the intention of Parliament. This difficulty will not be overcome until the Government agrees to the appointment of a board of referees, apart from those who usually make an examination on behalf of the department, to determine claims concerning which there is a conflict of medical opinion. It might be argued that an arrangement of this nature would lead to additional expenditure and difficulties in administration. I admit that there might be something in that objection, but it should not stand in the way when injustice is being done. I believe that an arrangement could be made with the hospital boards, and thus overcome the difficulty. The members of the medical fraternity have played a very noble part in attending to the needs of our people during the last three or four years, and I am not anxious to impose further on their wonderful generosity. However, I believe that they would be prepared to adjudicate upon specific cases in public hospitals or other institutions. I hope also that when the Minister is replying he will indicate the Government’s intention with regard to the proposed repeal of the provisions in the act relating to claims on the property of relatives and pensioners. A bill was introduced last session, but time did not permit of its passage prior to the general election. The position was met by an undertaking from the Government that those sections of the act would not be applied. It is hoped that the amending legislation will be introduced shortly so that this contentious matter may be finally disposed of. I conclude by supporting the amendment which, if carried, will be regarded as an instruction to the Government to increase pensions to £1 per week. This subject was discussed on an ‘ amendment moved in the earlier stages of the budget debate, and in supporting the proposal we can claim consistency in opposing reductions of pensions. We believe that our pensioners should be treated more generously. With the approach of the Christmas season more particularly, they, like other sections of the community, would like to purchase a few extra comforts. It is with this object in view and the desire to see these pensions restored that I support the amendment.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) that the amount be reduced by £1 as an instruction to the Government to increase the invalid and old-age pensions to 20s. a week.
– Such an amendment would not be in order. When the honorable member for Hindmarsh submitted it, he did not intimate that it was to be regarded as an instruction to the Government. Had he done so, I would not have accepted it.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh left no doubt in the minds of honorable members that his amendment would, if carried, be regarded as an instruction to the Government to increase pensions to the amount named. This is the only course available to honorable members on this side who believe that pensions should be increased, and it will give to other honorable members an opportunity to show where they stand. We submit that the payment of the higher amount will not impose any undue strain upon the Commonwealth finances, which are in a buoyant condition. The fact that the Government has remitted £9,500,000 in taxes to the wealthy section of the community within the last two years is sufficient evidence that Commonwealth revenue will permit of pensions being increased to 20s. a week. I wish to stress the claims of a large number of claimants who may be classified as borderline cases - persons who, because of certain physical disabilities, are unable to earn a livelihood, and may be fairly regarded as incapacitated for work, but because they are not permanently and totally incapacitated, their claims for the invalid pension are rejected by the medical ‘ referees. In. many instances the referees are, I think, too conservative. They lean towards the departmental view, probably not intentionally, but because they conceive it their duty to curtail as much as possible governmental expenditure upon invalid and old-age pensions. Many persons living in mining districts such as Mount Morgan, in Queensland, and at Bendigo and other mining centres in the other States, are suffering from miners’ phthisis, which prevents them from following their usual vocation, although some of them are not permanently and totally incapacitated. They . optimistically believe that some day they will recover. That is characteristic of such patients. In Queensland, such sufferers receive an allowance of £1 a week, but if they apply for an invalid pension, they get only 10s. a week. Incapacitated miners suffering from this disease require something more than the bare necessaries of life. In some cases their doctors advise them to buy certain medicines, as well as brandy or little luxuries which might help them. The deduction of 7s. 6d. a week is, therefore, a definite hardship. I hope that they will receive more sympathetic consideration in future. Mention has been made of the expense to which the department is put in its endeavour to collect contributions from the relatives of pensioners. I hope that the Assistant Treasurer will state the amount that has been thus expended, and the total of the contributions collected.
Friday30, November 1934.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) has pleaded for the wiping out of the federal land tax. I urge that justice be first done to invalid and old-age pensioners. I remind the honorable member that the Land Tax act provides for an exemption of £5,000 of the unimproved value, and that, consequently, the tax does not fall on the majority of land-holders in Australia. The struggling farmer cannot be said to come within the category of those who own land of an unimproved value of more than £5,000. Furthermore, this tax was not introduced as an emergencymeasure under the financial emergency legislation, but was first imposed so far back as 1912. This Government has already reduced it by one-half. Two-thirds of the tax is paid, not by people in country districts, but by wealthy city landholders, such as banking institutions, newspaper proprietaries, and insurance companies, which own valuable blocks of land in the capital cities. Relief to the extent of £9,500,000, chiefly to the wealthy sections of the community during the last two and a half years, and refusal to restore pensioncuts to their former level, are evidence of the lack of sympathy with those who are dependent on invalid and oldage pensions. They were promised by the Prime Minister, when the right honorable gentleman sat in Opposition, that a full restoration would be made so soon as the revenues of the Commonwealth permitted that to be done. Although that stage has been reached, the Govern merit is repudiating that definite promise. Under the proposal of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), honorable members will be able to show by their votes that they consider that the pension should be restored to 20s. a week. I have much pleasure in supporting that proposal.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). It will serve as a direction to the Government, and make it clear to pensioners that honorable members desire the restoration of the pension to £1 a week. Those who are not of that opinion will, of course, vote against the proposal. I agree with the statement of the honor able member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) concerning the difficulties encountered by invalid pensioners when they submit themselves for a medical examination. I know of numerous persons whose applications have been turned down by the Government referee although they have been under medical treatment for years, on the ground that they are not totally and permanently incapacitated. There is no mention in the act of total incapacitation. Dr. Brown, of Parramatta, interviews applicants for only three, four, orfive minutes. I shall give a typical example of the form that the interview takes. The doctor says that the applicant looks all right to him, and then asks whether he could do light work. Upon receiving a negative reply, he says, “But supposing you were to get the job of collecting tickets in a picture show, could you do that?” If the applicant replies, “ I might be able to do that for a few hours,” the doctor immediately reports that he is capable of doing light work. Applicants who have been examined by him have protested to me against his conduct. I have advised them to obtain a certificate from their own medical practitioner; and, in the case of those who have been in hospitals,a certificate from the doctor who looked after them in the institutions. When these certificates have been placed before the officials in Sydney, the applicants have not been sent back to Dr. Brown, but have been examined by another medical referee, and in many cases a pension has immediately been granted. Why was it not granted in the first place?
Another point that I desire to stress is that the pension should begin from the date of the application. I blame, not the department, but the Assistant Treasurer, for the continuance of the existing practice. It is within his province to instruct the department to begin the payment of the pension from the date of the application. The allowance of members of Parliament begins at 8 p.m. on the day of election; they do not have to wait for it until they attend the sittings of Parliament in Canberra. The same principle should apply to the granting of pensions. A man living apart from his wife or a woman living apar t from her husband can not be granted a pension until a judicial separation is obtained, but there are instances in which, owing to religious beliefs or even spite, one of the parties will refuse to sign the separation order required by the department. That is a difficulty which the Government should remove. Moreover, the pension of the inmate of a hospital is reduced by 5s. per week, and he has to remain in the institution some time before he receives anything. It is also some time after he leaves a hospital before the full pension is paid. If the cost of living has been reduced, the amount of 12s. 6d. now paid by the Commonwealth to the State governments should also be reduced, and the difference paid to the pensioner. When the Lang Government was in power, the wages were £4 2s. 6d. a week.
– That was a long time ago.
– It was eighteen months ago. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) is walking about the chamber jeering when I am trying to get pensioners 20s. a week.
– I rise to a point of order. The statement of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) that I am walking about the chamber jeering when he is trying to get the pensioners 20s. a week is offensive and untrue, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– If the remark of the honorable member for Reid is offensive to the honorable member, I ask that it be withdrawn.
– With due respect to you, sir, I submit that while I was speaking on behalf of the pensioners the honorable member for Barton was walking about the chamber-
– Order. The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed vote for the Department of the Treasury has expired.
Question - That the amount proposed to be reduced be so reduced. (Mr. Makin’s amendment.)
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
House adjourned at 12.25 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
en asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
en asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government have a thorough investigation made into the computation of the cost of living figures, and take steps to review the method of determining the basic wage, having in mind the importance of raising living standards commensurate with improved means of production?
– It is assumed the expression “ cost of living figures “ is used to indicate the “ retail price index numbers” prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician. The method of preparation of the retail price index numbers was very fully reviewed by Professor L. E. Giblin, when Acting Commonwealth Statistician, in a pamphlet published under the title of Wages and Prices. It has also been closely investigated by the present Commonwealth Statistician, who does not consider any useful purpose would be served by a further investigation. The use of these index numbers in connexion with wages is the responsibility of the wagefixing tribunals.
r. - On the 23rd November, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following replies : -
s. - On the 16th November, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) asked me the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now in aposition to furnish the following reply: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 November 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1934/19341129_reps_14_145/>.