14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– The announcement has been noted with pleasure that the Commonwealth Government proposes to provide £10,000 for the relief of sufferers from the disastrous floods that occurred lastweek, particularly in Victoria. That sum was fixed in the light of information then in possession of the Government. The extent of the disaster is now known to be much greater than could then have been realized. I ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the Government will therefore consider the advisability of amplifying its promise of assistance to those who are in distress and have suffered severe loss as the result of the floods?
– So soon as the effects of this disastrous innundation became known, the Commonwealth Government offered to theGovernment of Victoria the sum of £10,000 for the relief of personal distress. The Premier of Victoria has since been in consultation with the Prime Minister in Melbourne, and the Honorable J. P. Jones, Minister of PublicWorks and Acting Treasurer in Victoria, has been in touch with representatives of the Commonwealth in Canberra as well as with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment (Mr. Stewart) . It is understood that a schedule of works designed for the restoration of the damage caused in the southern part of Victoria, is to be submitted. The Commonwealth will give it the fullest consideration.
– Will the Assistant Treasurer give the assurance that in the event of the imposition of a flour or wheat tax, either flour or wheat used for the manufacture of cornflour will be exempt, as was the case last year?
– I assure the honorable member that, should the Government propose to bring such a tax into operation, his proposal will be given sympathetic consideration.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether the difficulty recently experienced in regard to the export of Australian meat to Great Britain was somewhat intensified by the export by certain firms in Sydney of meat of a class that is usually sold on the Australian market, such meat being replaced by meat obtained by them from New Zealand ? If the. right honorable gentleman is not in a position to either affirm or deny it, will he have the matter investigated, and should the statement prove to be correct, have steps taken to prevent future embarrassment of the Australian trade by the efforts of individuals to enlarge their profits by such means ?
– The Government is unaware of the existence of such circumstances as the honorable member has related. It would be glad to be furnished with particulars, and will make the fullest investigation of the matter.
– Is the Minister for Commerce able to confirm or deny certain press reports to the effect that the representatives of the Commonwealth and State governments have arrived at an agreement for the regulation of exports of Australian frozen meat for a period of six weeks commencing on the 15th instant, and will he provide the House with a precise definition of the word “ regulation “ used in this connexion ?
– The question of our meat exports is at present a subject of discussion at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. I trust I shall be able during the present week to make a full statement on the subject.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Repatriation Commission - Report for year 1933-34.
Orderedto be printed.
Audit Act - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial year 1933-34 - Dated 28th November, 1934.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 96.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 149.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 142.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinances of 1934 - No. 14 - Licensing of Boats.
No. 15 - Crown Lands (No. 2).
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and
Northern Territory (Administration) Act-
Health Ordinance - Nuisance Prevention Regulations amended.
Public Service Ordinance - Regulations amended.
– by leave - I regret to announce that the conference between Ministers representing the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, which was held with a view to the expansion and improvement of the existing trade treaty between the two Dominions, failed to reach a satisfactory conclusion upon the major matters discussed. The conference, which met almost continuously during last week and terminated on Friday evening, was conducted in a very friendly atmosphere, and every possible effort was made to achieve success. The members of the New Zealand delegation are still in Australia, and may return to Canberra during this week. Should they do so, it is not at all unlikely that agreement may be reached upon some minor matters. The two delegations decided - and their view is endorsed by the Commonwealth Government - that . it would not be wise at the present stage to disclose to the House the causes of the failure of the negotiations. In taking this view and asking the House to subscribe to it, I would suggest that discussion at this stage might lead to controversy that might not be helpful to the very cordial trading and general relationship that for so long has prevailed between New Zealand and Australia.
– Are the press reports correct of the honorable gentleman’s utterances at the conclusion of the conference last week? If so, how does he reconcile his startling and dramatic statements with his present desire that nothing be done to disturb the existing harmony between New Zealand and Australia?
– I am not aware of any statement that I made at the conclusion of the conference, either to the press or to the public, which would or could disturb the existing harmony between Australia and New Zealand.
– Must we now abandon all hope of arrangements being made with the New Zealand Government whereby Australian citrus fruit may enter the New Zealand market without restriction? Does the failure of the negotiations mean the exclusion from the New Zealand market of South Australian citrus fruit, or may we assume that, in the event of negotiations being resumed during this week, the matter will be further discussed?
– I regret that I am not in a position at the present time to give a definite answer to the honorable member’s question, nor do I think if would be in the interests of our trade relations with New Zealand to do so.
– Is the Minister for Commerce in a position to make a statement to the House regarding a report in this morning’s newspapers that there is to be a further restriction on the export of Australian wheat? There are two suggestions. The first is that our exports should be reduced to 100,000,000 bushels, and the second or amended suggestion is that the quantity exported should be restricted to 120,000,000 bushels. Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House what the exact position is ; whether the Government approves of the negotiations at Budapest, and whether there is any intention on its part to adopt such a scheme ?
– The Government at the present time is in consultation with the Wheat Advisory Committee with regard to the proceedings at Budapest, and I hope that before the House rises, I shall be able to make a complete statement on the subject.
– I desire to address to the Minister for Commerce a question based on a report in the daily press this morning, in which the following paragraph appears: -
Dr. Page made it clear that the restriction of production and acreage was inevitable to meet impending restrictions on exports of Australian primary products, and that the Agricultural Council was requested to ensure united action.
Will the Minister state whether or not that report is correct, and, if it is correct, how he reconciles the statement to which it refers with his pre-election utterances?
– The report is not correct. It is pure surmise.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state whether any instructions have been sent to Australia’s representative at the meeting of the World Advisory Committee on the wheat situation; and, if so, what is the nature of those instructions?
– The Australian Advisory Wheat Committee has been called together simultaneously with a meeting of the Ministers for Agriculture of the various States to consider what instructions should be sent.
– Has the report of the Air Accidents Investigation Committee on the Longreach aviation tragedy been received by the Minister for Defence? If so, will the Minister lay it on the table of the House, or give honorable members a summary of the contents ?
– The report of the investigation into the aviation disaster at Longreach and the loss of the Miss Hobart, which are being more or less taken together, is not yet to hand so that I cannot give the honorable member any information at this stage.
– Is the Minister for Defence in a position to confirm a press statement that the Government intends to make money available to extend the munition works at Lithgow and Maribyrnong? If so, will he state what is to be the nature of the work?
– The press paragraph on which the honorable member’s question is, apparently, based, is merely an extract from a speech delivered by my predecessor in office, Senator Sir George Pearce, with regard to the intentions of the Government, which are as stated in the paragraph itself.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House give honorable members an assurance that when the Government is determining the status of the UnderSecretary for Employment, it will give consideration to the fact that a former under-secretary of a Commonwealth department, the then member for Wentworth, Mr. Marks, replied to questions in this House, and that Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, as Under-Secretary for the Dominions, also replies to questions in the House of Commons?
– Both those facts will be taken, into consideration.
– Has the Minister for Defence seen a press report to the effect that a new seaplane carrier to replace H.M.A.S. Albatross has been decided upon, following the recent conference in New Zealand between Sir Maurice Hankey and the representatives of the Commonwealth and the Defence Department of New Zealand? Is the report correct ; if S0 is it intended by the Government to construct the new carrier in Australia?
– So far as I know, the report is entirely without authority or foundation.
– When will the Assistant Treasurer be in a position to table the Fourth Report of the Royal Commission on Taxation, extracts from which have recently been published in the daily press?
– The report has already been tabled.
– I have received from the Marrickville Citizens Association a letter in which they complain that recently the Telephone Department revised the telephone rents, with the result that schools are now placed on the same basis as ordinary business houses and their rents have been increased from £2 5s. to £2 15s. a half-year. Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral have the rent tariff of telephones used in schools reduced to its former level?
– I shall have the honorable member’s question brought to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral, and I am sure that he will give consideration to the request.
– Will the Minister for Commerce be able, within a few days, to make a statement in the House showing what degree of success or failure has attended the operation of the agreement in regard to restriction on the production of tin, silver, and sugar? “ Dr. EARLE PAGE.- I shall endeavour to obtain the information sought- by the honorable member and give it to the House.
– Will the Minister for the Interior consider the advisability of at once constructing 100 miles of railway from Birdum towards Alice Springs, with a view to giving employment to a number of men in Australia who are now out of work? I understand that the material is already on the route, so that the whole of the money made available would be spent on labour.
– I will take into consideration the honorable member’s suggestion.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 30th November (vide page 737).
Department op DEFENCE
Proposed vote, £4,187,040.
– During the discussion on the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill a number of honorable members complained that Hansard contained no statement of the Government’s policy in defence matters, inasmuch as its policy had been set out in a speech, delivered, not in Parliament, but in Sydney. While I am reluctant to occupy the limited time allotted for the consideration of the Estimates for my department, I feel that defence is so important that a statement of the Government’s policy in regard thereto should be placed before honorable members. If I restate that policy now, time may be saved later.
A statement of the Government’s policy was made by my predecessor (Senator Pearce) in his speech of the 25th September, 1933, at Sydney. The objectives for the navy, army, air force, and munitions supply branch were outlined therein, and the means of attaining them was stated to be the continual development of an effective policy designed to rehabilitate the national defences from the considerably weakened condition into which they had fallen during the years of economic depression.
– Where was that speech delivered ?
– At the Millions Club, Sydney. As the first step, provision was made for an additional expenditure of £1,537,819 in 1933-34, mainly for exceptional and nonrecurring items, and it was financed by an increase of the annual vote from revenue, a supplementary vote from revenue, an appropriation from the loan fund, and the utilization of a trust fund credit. In order to provide for the subsequent steps in the development of that policy within a reasonable period of planning, the departmental boards were requested to submit proposals extending over a period of three years. From these proposals the Government has formulated a programme to conform to certain principles that have been laid down. Firstly, the objectives of the programme, which may be considered intermediate to the ultimate aims outlined in the policy speech, comprise the most pressing needs on which emphasis was laid in that speech. Secondly, the proposals of the services and the munitions supply branch have been dovetailed into each other to ensure that the fulfilment of the programme will represent a uniform advance from the joint aspects of defence, and the maximum degree of security obtainable from the expenditure involved. Finally, the total amount of the programme has been correlated with the prospective financial capacity of the Commonwealth.
Accepting the normal defence vote from revenue in 1933-34- £3,816,016- as a basis, the Government is providing in 1934-35 for a gross increase of £1,959,281. From that amount savings of £122,557 deducted on the Estimates, and £52,740 to offset the amount provided for restorations of salaries under the Financial Relief Act 1934, have to be made during the year. Of the gross increase of £661,029 is to be applied to the restoration of the existing organization to a satisfactory maintenance basis. This will establish a firm foundation on which to build the expansion envisaged in the development programme, towards which the balance of the increased funds, namely £1,298,252, is allotted. The total amount of £5,600,000 provided for in 1934-35 is made up as follows: -
The following are the main details of the amount of £1,298,252 provided in 1934-35 for the first year of the programme : -
The main naval items of the first year of the programme are -
The programme also provides for amounts towards anti-aircraft defence, mechanization, gun ammunition, and technical stores. The importance of these needs of the army was specially emphasized in the policy speech.
The following is a list of the main army items in the first year of the programme : -
The Minister stated in his policy speech that the Salmond report was the basis of the Government’s air force policy, and the objective in the programme is the completion of Part I. of the Salmond scheme, which aims at defence against raids. This would entail the formation of the following new units : -
Two general purpose squadrons, one wing head-quarters, stores depot, aircraft repair suction and engine repair section, at Richmond, New South Wales.
One general purpose squadron, Laverton, Victoria.
Coastal reconnaissance flight, Point Cook, Victoria.
Citizen air force squadron, Perth, Western Australia.
The initial steps towards this expansion involve the following expenditure in the first year of the programme : -
1 come now to the munitions supply branch, and my observations in this connexion may answer some of the questions of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). The policy speech announced that it was the intention of the Government to proceed with a programme to provide resources for the manufacture of some recently developed types of munitions, and. to modernize the older factories. The first instalment to this end was voted in 1933-34, and the following further amounts are now being provided in connexion with the first year of the programme : -
As was stated in the budget speech, an alarmist attitude towards increased defence measures is to be deprecated. In view of the present international situation and the tendency of other powers to increase their armaments, it is the Government’s responsibility to put our existing defence organization on a satisfactory and effective basis for normal needs. The present defence strength is below the minimum objectives of strength necessary for security under article 8 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and the defence programme which has been formulated provides for a substantial advance towards those standards. The amount, being provided in this financial year is to meet the first stage of the three years’ programme.
In accordance with the Government’s programme for the re-organization and extension of the Commonwealth subsidized civil aviation transport system, tenders were invited in 1933-34 for certain services, and five-year contracts, have now been made for services between Singapore and Darwin, with internal trunk services therefrom to Perth and Brisbane - linking with Charleville and Cootamundra, Cloncurry and Normanton - and Melbourne, Launceston and Hobart. All of these services will be in operation before the end of 1934. The establishment of the overseas service will make mail communication between the United Kingdom and Australian centres possible in twelve to thirteen days.
Tenders are also being invited for a service between Wyndham and Ord River, to connect at Ord River with the PerthKatherine service, and also for a service between Adelaide and Bourke, New South Wales, via Renmark, Broken Hill and Wilcannia, connecting at Bourke with the service to Darwin and Singapore.
Notwithstanding that the new system will entail an increase of approximately 130 per cent, in the mileage flown annually by regular air services under the old system, and will confer added benefits to the Australian business and general community by virtue of the overseas mail communication and speedier internal services, the net annual cost to the Government will be considerably below that of the purely internal services hitherto maintained, owing to the lower subsidy rates payable under the new contracts and the greatly increased air mail revenue anticipated from the provision of a fourteen days’ air mail schedule between London and Australian cities.
This outline of the Government’8 defence policy will probably obviate the necessity for further explanations at a later stage of the debate.
– The details of the defence programme have just been made available to us, and it is difficult to debate them without having hod an adequate opportunity to consider them carefully. The best that we can hope to do in the circumstances is to ask questions of the Minister on points that arc of particular interest to us. The building of the sloop at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and the proposal to build another sloop, for which purpose £50,000 is to be set aside, are of interest to me and the people in my electorate. We wish to know the price that is being paid to the dockyard company for the vessel it has in hand, the conditions that were laid down for the performance of the work, and the reason why operations have no* been conducted at such a rate as to give the maximum amount of work that the job is capable of providing within a short period so as appreciably to reduce the unemployment in the industry. Unfortunately the work is being done under conditions which cause it to be of little value to workers in the ship-building industry. A great deal of unemployment exists in the iron and steel trades in general, arid in the ship-building industry in particular. It is a sorry sight to see on any morning of the week a long line of men waiting outside the premises of the ship-building and engineering firms in the hope of obtaining some employment. When the Cockatoo Island Dockyard was established a number of men experienced in the class of work it waa designed to perform came to Australia from Great Britain, and, together with our own tradesmen, formed a very efficient staff for the ship-building industry. Many of these men, together with a large number of the apprentices subsequently engaged, have had practically no .employment during the last few years, and they naturally looked to the building of this sloop as a means to provide them with something like constant work; but their representatives have informed me that regular employment is being given to very few mcn. hi fact, the job seems to be regarded by the dockyard company as a kind of stopgap to fill in slack periods when private orders are not forthcoming. Surely it was intended when the contract was given, that the company should employ its plant on the undertaking at its maximum capacity. The’ fact that the date for completing the construction of the sloop is the 31st December, 1935 - eighteen mouths after the contract was given, as the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), has reminded me by interjection - makes things worse still. 1 had reason to complain recently of tho attitude of the company in regard to ohe provision of employment generally. I was informed that when any private work came its way, it took its employees off the work on the sloop and put them on the private work, when the reasonable course would be to employ additional casual labour to cope with the extra work. Simultaneously with the complaint I made in this House, a conference was held between the interested parties and the Minister was good enough to inform me in detail of what occurred. I cannot deny that in regard to the particular instances then under discussion a satisfactory agreement was arrived at, but I am informed by those associated with the work that there were numerous previous instances to which the arrangement did not apply. However, if the conference achieved the objective of its conveners, what happened beforehand is now a matter of the past. I take it that what I requested has been done by the Minister, and the parties are satislied. It will be generally accepted that where a contract has been let primarily to assist people in need of employment, it should be proceeded with, not in a piecemeal fashion, but vigorously. It is difficult to understand why work undertaken by a company . operating a huge plant valued at over £1,000,000 should be allowed to proceed at such a snail-like pace. It seems likely that the sloop will be obsolete before it is launched. In dealing with this subject I must exercise caution because it might be said that when I am protesting against preparations for war, I should not, at the same time, be seeking to speed up the construction of an instrument of human destruction. In this matter I have to steer a straight course between my pacific convictions and the necessity for providing work for men who are probably just as keen about the prevention of wars as I am. At any rate, I am endeavouring to help those engaged in the shipbuilding industry, and am expressing particularly the views of the men who stand in line outside the gate of the dockyard every morning awaiting a call for employment.
– They could always be employed shifting sand. After all such work would be just as useful.
– That is so. The Government having announced a defence policy and decided that a certain amount shall be expended on a sloop, I am entitled to represent, in the interest of those who would benefit from the undertaking of such work, that the money should be expended with reasonable despatch. I ask the Minister to state first, whether a definite fixed sum is to be paid for the sloop now under construction at Cockatoo Island Dockyard and the second one proposed to be constructed? Secondly, why cannot the work be carried out more speedily? What is the Government’s attitude towards this firm? Is the firm to have a free hand as to the rate at which the work is to be done or has the Government a right to . impose conditions in this respect?-
– I should like the Minister to illuminate my darkness in regard to the manner in which exchange costs are set out in the Estimates. Apparently £420,000 is to be paid this year as a one-fifth instalment, of the cost of the new cruiser. The exchange on this amount would account for the whole of the £147,500 provided in the Estimates for the purpose. That sum (represents, incidentally, an increase of more than £100,000 on the exchange cost to the Defence Department last year. What mystifies me is that in this detailed summary - and I merely raise this matter at this stage because I often have considerable doubts regarding the correctness of the dissection of the Estimates - I find that the sum of £147,000 this year is divided into amounts of £52,500 under the heading of naval expenditure. £50,000 in the military section, and £45,000 for the Royal Australian Air Force. What payments are to be made outside Australia for the Royal Australian Air Force and for the military section during the current year? Apparently the whole of this amount could be accounted for by the exchange on the amount to be provided out of revenue this year towards the cost of the new cruiser. It appears to me to be ridiculous to inform Parliament in these summaries of Estimates that the whole cost of exchange for the Defence Department can be distributed over the various sub-departments of the department. That appears to be wrong. I ask the question in order that the Minister may inform me why it is that the amount of exchange set down for the naval section is actually less than the amount required, while at the same time it would appear that the amounts provided for the military section and the Air Force are considerably in excess of what will be actually expended. It seems ridiculous to submit Estimates in which, apparently, some one has broadly divided the total exchange cost among the different sub-departments.
.- It is satisfactory to know that ammunition and other requisites for defence are being manufactured in Australia. I approve the action of the Government in increasing the vote to the rifle clubs. The enrolment under the voluntary training system is reported to be not so satisfactory as might be desired, and I suggest that, in order to make the service more attractive, uniforms of a more distinctive and ornamental character be supplied to the various regiments. This might involve some extra cost at the outset, but the ultimate result would justify it. Uniforms such as those worn by the Scots, Grenadiers and Welsh Guards and the old New .South Wales Lancers would provide an incentive to military service.
– The honorable member would camouflage the hideous thing.
– I would merely make the uniforms of the troops more attractive than they are to-day.
The announcement has not been made that Mascot has been selected as the terminal port for the air mail service from Great Britain to Australia, and I should like to hear a ministerial statement upon the matter.
I am glad to know that, as a result of government policy, a large increase will take place in the number of men employed at Garden Island and Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
.- When a weary world is waiting for a policy that will end the hellish thing called war, this Government asks the National Parliament to vote over £4,100,000 for warlike preparations, and does not consider the expenditure of even one-penny for the propagation of peace. The Government goes out of its way, in fact, to defeat the objects of those organizations and individuals who attempt to spread the doctrine of the Prince of Peace! - “ On earth peace ; goodwill toward men. “ While the leaders of nations glibly talk of peace, millions are voted for warlike measures which must increase the danger of international conflict. The diplomatic representatives of various governments throughout the world attend international conferences, professedly for the purpose of bringing about a reduction of armaments and preventing war; but, like the player Queen in Hamlet, they protest too much. Although they assert that they favour a reduction of armaments, the process of piling up warlike equipment continues. What greater hypocrisy could there be? If the nations are honest in their protestations that they wish to avoid a clash of arms, why do they continue to expend huge sums in preparing for war?
Do honorable members ever pause to realize that, in the event of another major international conflict, unmentionable horrors would be let loose upon civilian populations. Twelve years ago it was claimed by an American scientist that he had invented a gas that would destroy human, animal and vegetable life.
– Probably that was merely a typical American claim.
– Yet we know that the scientists throughout the world are working overtime in their laboratories, not merely in devising ways of checking the ravages of disease hut also in inventing hellish means of destroying human life. It was recently claimed that a “ dew of death “ has been discovered. It was reported to be heavier- than air, and when released from an aeroplane it would sink to the earth and kill all forms of life with which it came in contact, even biting through steel armour, and causing such flesh wounds as would bring about a soldier’s death amid great torment within a week. It was stated that this material would sterilize soils and penetrate even to the bottom of the sea, killing every fish in its track. The inventor of such a life destroyer should be treated as a mad dog. His throat should be cut.
– He may be on our side when the next war is waged.
– I care not on whose side he may be ; he is . a menace to the world.
– Does the honorable, member believe in a police force?
– The honorable member is indulging in one of the sophistries always employed in this chamber against those who protest against war. Of course I believe in a police force. But there is no world police force. Individuals do well to observe laws that are enacted for their protection by a legislature of their own creation ; but the honorable member knows that, when nations are at war, there is no means of enforcing international law. When Germany allegedly plunged Europe into turmoil in 1914, no international police force would have availed. The law of brute force then operated.
– Is not a defence force required for our protection?
– That argument is advanced in every country. The armies of nations are not used as police, but as marauding forces. In Great Britain after the first disarmament conference, Mr. Churchill declared that the only way to be safe was to be so strong that others would be afraid to attack us. The nations seem to have adopted that attitude. They have thenalliances and understandings, but they are prepared to betray one another at any time.. There is no honour among them. When a war breaks out, each nation exclaims : “ My country, right or wrong “, and it is prepared to adopt any means at its disposal in order to be on the winning side. I support only such measures of defence as are essential to the protection of a country from invasion. We should take no part whatever in a war overseas. If every nation would refuse to be associated with any fighting beyond its own boundaries, the danger of war would immediately disappear. The voice of peace is stifled in every possible way. Any man who dares to go on the platform and preach the doctrine enunciated by the Prince of Peace, or to point out that he who takes the sword shall perish by it, is branded as a pariah, and pointed to as one who would leave his country at the mercy of its enemies. Every force the Government can call to its aid is used to prevent the propagation of the doctrines of peace among the people. I shall protest against every proposed defence vote unless an equal sum of money is earmarked to further the purposes of peace. If we were to spend in that way even one-quarter of what is spent on armaments, we should be able to look confidently forward to the time when war, with all its hellish consequences, could be abolished altogether. The trouble is that nobody seems to be actively concerned in preserving peace. I do not go so far as to say . that any one actively engineers wars - the day of the conqueror is past - but the trouble is that wars are rendered inevitable as a result of the atmosphere created by the propaganda of the harlot press, which is controlled in many instances by those who draw large dividends from armament firms, while in other instances the original capital with which the newspapers were founded was provided by the armament firm’s. A good example of this was furnished by events following immediately upon the Agadir incident in Africa. There had been a rapprochement betweenFrance and Germany after thefirst misunderstanding, and a treaty cementing that good feeling had been actually prepared, and was awaiting signature, when the armament interests of Europe got to know of it. Immediately Krupps sent £2,000,000 to work up an agitation in Paris against the signing of the treaty, and to inspire the newspapers there to oppose it. The newspaper press of Paris, Berlin, and London all denounced the treaty, and an understanding, which might have made the last war impossible, was destroyed.
– Does the honorable member believe all that?
– It is true, as the honorable member would know if he took the trouble to study current history for himself. If he informed his mind on these things, I have no doubt that he would be as earnest a champion of peace as I am. This war atmosphere is carefully fostered and preserved so that the demand for armaments shall never slacken. When the inevitable war breaks out, the armament firms reap their harvest, and if their own country happens to be involved, they are not above supplying defective arms to their own countrymen, as happened during the South African war. In the same way, during the Spanish-American war, more American soldiers died of ptomaine poisoning through eating rotten tinned meat supplied by American packing-houses than were killed by Spanish bullets. No doubt in the next war Australian soldiers will be shot down with arms which British firms have made and sold to foreign countries. The men who batten on this armament trade remind one of those of whom Dr. Johnson spoke when hesaid that patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel. Whenever a government asks, as in this instance, for £4,100,000 in order to prepare for war, it should vote £8,200,000 to further the cause of peace.
– By what amount would the honorable member reduce this defence vote!
– It is evident that the honorable member does not understand what I have been talking about. That is not my fault. I can only give him the information; Almighty God must give him the understanding. I may inform him, however, that I should be prepared to reduce the vote until it is only just sufficient to provide for the essential defence of our country.
– If a man were to strike the honorable member on onecheek, would he turn the other?
– The honorable member is treating us to the same old sophistry that has been spoken and written for the last 2,000 years.
– Will the honorable member answer my question?
– If the nations were to live up to their protestations, there would be no hitting by anybody. Evidently the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) wants us to take up the attitude of the fellow who goes about trailing his coat and asking people to smack him on the cheek. He does not seem to he able to understand the difference between parading armaments and looking for trouble, and merely taking necessary measures for defence. For the peaceful citizen who goes about minding his own business, there is not one chance in ten million that any one -will ever smack him on the jaw, and it is much the same in regard to international affairs. The trouble is that whenever there is . any definite move for the limitation or abolition of armaments the controlled press of the world always contrives to work up another war scare. Can any one say that the last war was started through British cheeks being struck? As a matter of fact, one man, an Austrian archduke, was shot. I do not want to see any archdukes, kings, or other rulers shot, but I cannot see why, because one does happen to be shot by a half-crazy criminal, 50,000,000 innocent people should be slaughtered. I protest against this vote. This Government professes to be opposed to war, yet it is taking no practical steps to make it impossible. On the contrary, it is asking this Parliament to approve a vote of £4,187,000 for the purpose of preparing for war.
Mr.E. F. HARRISON (Bendigo) [4.11]. - I congratulate the Government on the steps which it is taking to put the defence of this country on a proper basis. Unlike the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) I doubt that anything which the Commonwealth may do in this direction will have any influence whatever on world opinion. The view, expressed by the honorable gentleman, was, I believe, put forward at Geneva by one of our representatives a few years ago, with the result that his statement there lod to a considerable dismantling of the defence forces of the Commonwealth, leaving us unable to defend Australia if the need arose. I respect and approve the ideal enunciated by the honorable member. . It is, I believe, held universally throughout the Commonwealth, and especially by those who have had experience of war. Those of us who know what war is do not wish our country to be the scene of hostilities, in any future outbreak. We must not, however, lose sight of the fact, that all nations are arming feverishly, and we should be failing in our obligations to the people whom we represent if we did not take the steps necessary to put the defence of this country on a sounder basis. There is prospect of trouble from many quarters. Two or three of the smaller nations represent the sore spots in Europe, and a further aggravation of their disputes may be responsible for the outbreak of another world war. [Quorum formed.] This hostile atmosphere among nations has, I believe, been engendered by high tariffs, and the development of a spirit of economic nationalism, which brings abou international trade jealousies. Being entirely dependent upon the sale overseas of our surplus primary products, we should feel the effects of another war, perhaps more severely than the people of many other countries, and if we did not provide adequate defence for our commercial communications, we should be in a hopeless position. Throughout our national life, we have lived in an atmosphere developed by laws which have not their counterpart in other countries, but fortunately we have had the backing of an efficient police form - a condition of affairs that is abhorrent to certain sections in this country, but which the majority of right-thinking people believe is for the benefit of the Commonwealth. Our defence forces stand in the same relation to the Commonwealth as the various State police forces stand to individual citizens. Some of those who preach against war, and I am one of them, forget very often that for the protection of their individual property, they keep a watchdog in their own back yard, thus enjoying a sense of security which we all should desire for the nation itself.
It is remarkable that those countries which press most for peace are, in the main, those which have the largest armed forces. Especially is this noticeable in the case of Russia, which has a standing army of 800,000 men and a reserve of 4,500,000. Those who object to the proposals which this Government is placing before Parliament for the adequate defence of Australia should compare our army of less than 28,000 with no reserve of rank and file, with the armed forces of other nations. If they do this, I am sure they will acknowledge that the charge of aggressiveness- cannot lie against the Commonwealth. In these proposals, the Government is simply taking a step towards the adequate defence of this country. I believe that we have not done enough in this direction to protect our heritage. At the present time we have merely a skeleton force for purely local defence. Under the Defence Act, no Australian citizen can be ordered overseas to take part in any war. Every man who left this country to take part in the last war went as a volunteer, because he realized the definite need for his services overseas to protect Australia from aggression. Therefore the argument of the honorable member for Werriwa that, in approving these Estimates, we are preparing for war falls to the ground.
The Government is to -be commended for its action in ordering from Great Britain a cruiser to be delivered at the earliest possible moment, because we have not now the means to protect adequately our overseas trade. It would be impossible to build in Australia a cruiser of the type and tonnage required within three and a half to four years. Apart from that fact, even if the vessel were constructed in Australia, most of its machinery would have to be imported, and we should have a repetition of our experience in the building of the cruiser Adelaide - the vessel would be well on in years by the time it was launched. Although the workmanship of Australian artisans employed on the Adelaide was of the highest order, the propelling machinery and scores of smaller engines required for the equipment of the warship had to be imported from Great Britain. For that reason the Government has bought from the British Government a cruiser of the latest type, which, when it becomes part of the Australian squadron, within the next eight months, will be a credit to our navy.
I ask the Government to go very seriously into the matter of providing some form of reserve for our local military forces. We have placed our military defence on a voluntary basis ; this system is providing us with a number of short service men, but it is not providing us with one man for our reserves, and in the event of hostilities we would require to increase our present skeleton force by at least 300 per cent. Our present army iSi only a fourth of what would be required in the event of war; we have no reserves of men at all. Practically all of the men who fought overseas with the Australian Imperial Force are nonexistent as a reserve; age and war disabilities have so reduced the numbers of these men that it would be necessary for us to start with an entirely new lot of men to form our defence forces in the event of the outbreak of hostilities. If honorable gentlemen pondered on this matter for a minute they would see how unfair it would be to let men join up with our fighting forces before they had been adequately trained. If it allowed inexperienced and untrained men to be put in the field, the Government would incur a very grave responsibility. For that reason the Government should take this matter of reserves into consideration at the earliest possible moment. The additions being made to the Air Force are timely. Although air forces cannot do everything that the newspapers claim for them, they are very valuable adjuncts to the other fighting services. In the course of years it is qui A possible that the Air Force will gradually replace a portion of the other fighting services. But that time is not yet. However, the Air Force would be invaluable in the defence of our 12,000 miles of coastline, much of which is not served with roads or railways, but could easily harbour an enemy unknown to us if we did not have an air force at our command. The Air Force can do valuable reconnaissance work and be of great assistance in preventing any concentration of enemy forces. No doubt, if given adequate numbers of machines and personnel, our Air Force would form a valuable adjunct to the other defence forces. For these reasons the Government should proceed with its present defence programme ; and, in addition, recognize the need for establishing an army reserve. The Navy and Air Force have reserves, although that of the latter may be small, but the Army hasno reserve of the rank and file. Until such a reserve is provided we cannot put an effective fighting force in the field.
– How does the honorable member propose to get the men?
– It would be easy to provide such a reserve if we made the army conditions attractive, and allowed the military authorities to do what they now want to do, viz., to link up a certain number of sporting and social activities with the military units. The existing organizations are asking that the drill halls be made more comfortable in order that these might be converted into social and athletic, as well as military, centres for the units. If that were done, we would find that young men would readily join up with the defence forces to the numbers permitted by the Government, and after their period of service, pass into the reserve, being graded, according to age and physical fitness, as is done in the British Army. My proposal is not an impossible one; in fact,, it could be carried into effect in connexion with the proposed re-employment scheme. The Defence Department should improve accommodation in the drill halls, and also ensure better treatment of those at present in our citizen forces,, who, through patriotism, are voluntarily giving their time and service to the country. At present, however, our drill halls cannot be considered as anything more than mere shelters against inclement weather. So long as the conditions remain as at present, the establishment of an effective reserve will be difficult. My proposal is worthy of consideration. Undoubtedly, the possibilities are there, and if the Government gave the necessary impetus the military authorities would have no difficulty in providing their own reserves.
.- I listened very carefully to hear whether the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) would suggest that compulsory military training should be restored. He did not do so; on the contrary, he stated emphatically that men for the reserve force could be attracted to the army under the voluntary system if better conditions were provided for military trainees. . Yet, when the last Labour Government abolished compulsory military training, honorable members opposite, who were then in opposition, cried to high heaven that by such an action the Government was destroying Australia’s military forces. I agree with the honorable gentleman that all the men necessary for the formation of an effective fighting force can be obtained by the voluntary system.
– Does the honorable member approve of the methods proposed by the h’onorable member for Bendigo ?
– Yes ; the Labour party stands for an effective home defence force for Australia, established under a voluntary enlistment system. This raises the question of whether Australia is to be involved in war whenever Britain is at war. I submit that the Statute of Westminster puts beyond doubt that the dominions have complete freedom to decide for themselves whether or not they will become embroiled in a war in which Great Britain is engaged. That is . an important point. It will be recalled that after the last European war, there was some talk of Britain going to war with Turkey. At that time the Prime Minister suggested that Australia should send a force to Turkey. Had that proposal been approved, such proposal would have been tantamount to saying that, Australia would be involved in every conflict- in which Great Britain might be engaged. The members of the Labour party are anxious that no one should be sent from Australia to fight overseas against his will, and they know that the Australian people are sufficiently patriotic to defend these shores should the occasion arise. Instead of concentrating our attention on the international situation, which seems to be the concern of honorable members opposite, we should endeavour to conserve our own interests. I remind honorable members that for some time the Australian pearlshell industry has been in a serious condition due largely to the attitude of the present Government. Some time ago, representatives of the pearl-shell industry from Darwin, Broome and Thursday
Island suggested that, as the demand for pearl-shell had decreased, the output should be rationed and with the assistance of a Labour government that was done. A trader named Gerdeau, of the United States of America, agreed to take the whole output at £180 per ton. The arrangement was accepted by the then Minister for the Interior, and for a time worked smoothly. But this Government has failed to keep Asiatics out of our northern waters and is responsible for the distress which now prevails at Broome and Thursday Island. When a pearl-shell bank was discovered about 50 miles north-west of Darwin the Government was asked to provide flying boats to patrol our northern coastline, but nothing was done. Frequent reports are received that Japanese sampans are operating in Queensland waters and that they have appeared off Broome and 50 miles north-west of Darwin. It may be said that these vessels are operating outside Australian territorial waters, but owing to the abnormally high tides in that locality pearl-fishing can be engaged in for only nine days in each month and for the remainder of the time Japanese craft undoubtedly shelter on the Australian coa3t where the crews become a menace to the native population. Interference with native women was largely responsible for the attacks made by the aborigines of Arnheim Land on the Japanese some time ago. The ex- Assistant Minister for Defence assured me that steps were being taken to police the coast so as to prevent foreign vessels from lurking in the creeks of the Northern Territory or of NorthWest Australia. If that were done it would he impossible for them to fish in our waters, Instead of being restricted to ‘a certain size, as the Australian boats are, these are big steam launches, which have a capacity seven or eight times as great as that of the Australian boats. They are flooding the markets in the United States and Europe with pearlshell at a price of about £115 a ton, with the result that Gerdeau has failed to renew his contract with Australian master pearlers.
– The Department of the Interior is taking steps in regard to the matter.
– That statement was made twelve months ago. Had appropriate action been taken, Japanese boats would not now have an open go, as they undoubtedly have. They are appearing off the coast at Broome, where they did not operate previously. From newspaper reports, we know that they have appeared frequently off the Queensland coast. While not standing for aggression I consider that it ought to be made impossible for Japanese boats to lie in our creeks for 21 days, and then take pearlshell from beds discovered by Australians in what to all intents and purposes are Australian waters. For months I have been appealing for action to be taken in the matter. I trust that the Minister will now give his attention to it-
.- I compliment the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) upon the very able speech that be delivered this afternoon. I am amazed at the audacity of honorable members who support this additional defence vote, in the light of the disclosures made by the recent census in regard to the extent to which misery and degradation have increased in Australia within the last few years. Whenever honorable members on this side propose expenditure upon the requirements of the people they are informed that money for that purpose is not available. Yet, despite the protestations of the Government that it supports a policy of peace, and the provision in these Estimates of £52,000 towards the maintenance of the League of Nations as an instrument for the preservation of world peace, the document presented by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) referred to the vote of £3,816,000 for the year 1933-34 as a normal one. If that be so, and there is no possibility of a reduction of expenditure upon Defence being effected, we are _ not warranted in continuing our contribution towards the upkeep of that farce which is termed the League of Nations. Instead of reducing the expenditure, the Government proposes to increase it. Provision is made this year for a first instalment of £1,959,000 towards the cost of a certain plan, which is to extend over a period of three years. It would seem that this Parliament is to be asked year after year to sanction additional votes to provide means for the destruction of human life, notwithstanding the disclosure by the census figure3 that the people need, not new warships and more guns, but access to the wealth produced in this country. Those figures show that two-thirds of the 912,000 male bread-winners in New South Wales earned less than an average of £3 a week for the year ended the 30th June last. If honorable members were to analyse those figures, they might be impelled to ask themselves whether a large number of people have a great deal to defend, and really desire to be provided with guns for that purpose. If our citizens were given what they are entitled to receive, there would be no need to offer inducements to recruits for the armed forces of Australia. Many unfortunate workers are forced to join up in order to provide themselves with food, clothing, and shelter. A similar position existed during the years of the Great War, when the operation of a form of economic conscription swelled the ranks of those who submitted themselves for enlistment. I remember that during the currency of a general strike in New South Wales in 1917 the Defence authorities redoubled their efforts to secure recruits, and many of the strikers preferred to don khaki and risk their lives overseas rather than sacrifice the principle for which they were fighting by “scabbing” on their mates in the workshops. I recall - and other honorable members must do so - the suggestion by a late member of this Parliament, who at the time was Premier of New South Wales, that all places of amusement should be closed and that the whole attention of the nation should be concentrated on the winning of the war.
– He would not enlist.
– That is true. The infamous document that he published advocated the dismissal of single mon and their compulsory enlistment. His government believed that those men should not have the right to decide the question for themselves. If honorable members are sufficiently interested to peruse the census figures they will find that in New South Wales alone 12,000 boys and girls who have reached the age of 21 years have never yet been in employment. Yet members of the Government try to make as and the general public believe that this country is so prosperous as to be the envy of every other nation, and that there is a desire in some quarters to obtain possession of it and take from us the conditions that we enjoy. If I am any judge of the great mass of the Australian people, a large percentage would seriously doubt whether they would serve their own interests by taking up arms and engaging in a war overseas. 1 would not advocate that any person should take up arms and engage in a trade war, an imperialist war, a war of aggression. Honorable members opposite do lip service to the policy of peace among the nations of the world. Every trade treaty means the beginning of a trade war. When the nations find in their struggle for markets and spheres of influence that differences cannot be settled by means of arbitration, they resort to arms. Honorable members opposite know that the purpose of all their protestations is to delude the public into the belief that this Government desires peace and is not anxious for war. Those who have studied the position are well aware that war in the future is inevitable, but instructions have been received from overseas that the Australian nation is to use its revenues in providing instruments for the destruction of human life. The additional provision in the vote for the Department of Defence may be actuated by other motives than those I have suggested. Members of Parliament and other interested persons in the community profit considerably by expenditure upon defence requirements. No inquiry that has yet been held into these matters has been to the credit of the controllers of the big industries of a nation, or those members of Parliament who are intimately connected with such activities. It has always been shown that some personal advantage has been derived by them either directly or indirectly. Consequently, the matter must not be viewed in the light suggested by the Government. It merely stresses the desirability of defending Australia and of preserving the rights and privileges of the British Commonwealth of Nations. We should not be stampeded by that highsounding talk, but should deal with hard facts. We should ask ourselves whether it is right that any body of workers should take up arms to attack others who happen to have been born in a different land, are of a different colour, or live under a different flag. Why should we set ourselves on a pedestal and presume to be judges as to the forms of government that should prevail in other parts of the world? Those people have as much right to work out their own destiny as we demand for ourselves. I have hoard honorable members opposite speak of compulsory military training and of the necessity to build up our reserves. As a matter of fact, I do not believe that the Government would support a policy of compulsory military training. There is so much unrest and dissatisfaction with existing conditions that it would not be able to discriminate between those who are satisfied and those who are dissatisfied. If a considerable number of discontented persons became members of the armed forces they might use the arms in their own interests and refuse to recognize stupid laws which cause unnecessary starvation. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) argued that this country depends entirely upon its exports, and asked what would happen if, in the event of war, we were unable to protect our lines of communication with the outside work so that we might dispose of our surplus production. I have read of many campaigns during which the inhabitants of besieged cities and towns ^ suffered owing to shortage of foodstuffs ; but the position of the average Australian citizen would be no worse in circumstances such as the honorable member has described, than it is at the moment. Although our lines of communication are open and we are able to send our . surplus production overseas, many thousands of unfortunate people are suffering untold and unnecessary misery.
– They are starving.
– That is true. The first requirement of any defence policy should be to make the conditions of the people worth defending. I have often asked in this chamber: What would the unemployed have to lose if Australia were involved in a war, and there was danger of an aggressive force invading this country? It is said that life is sweet. To many of . the unemployed it is not. The columns of the press daily recount instances of the self-destruction of human life. Why? Simply because the future looks hopeless to those who have had their homes destroyed and their families scattered from one end of the country to the other by the failure of the Government to provide them with what they require. The present anti-Labour Government in New South Wales was obliged to adopt the precaution of using wire netting on the Sydney harbour bridge to prevent the unemployed from throwing themselves into the harbour. If an attempt is made to involve the people of this country in an imperialistic war, to defend what is termed the rights of the nation but which, boiled down, are the rights of a few individuals to exploit the people of other lands, the best thing the workers can do is to declare a general strike from one end of the country to the other. They should refuse to take up arms or to manufacture equipment for the destruction of human life. They should not be a party to the dastardly proposals of the Government. The strike weapon has been used very successfully in the past. When the stimulation of activities in relation to intervention against the Soviet Republic was proposed in Great Britain, the British workers threatened to strike from end to end of the land unless the Government ceased harassing the unfortunate people of Russia, who were working out their own destiny. That warning was heeded, and the policy of the Government was altered. In order to show that these are not merely my own views, but are shared by other honorable members, I propose to quote from a speech made by the honorable member forFawkner (Mr. Maxwell) in this House and reported in Hansard of the 31st July, 1.934. The honorable member said -
I shall say one sentence in conclusion. The workmen of the world have it in their power to stop war to-morrow if they have the will to do so. Let them go out on a universal and general strike, and absolutely refuse to put their hand to any piece of work, the object of which is make the implements of war.
I suggest that, having regard to the seriousness of the subject with which we are dealing this afternoon, honorable members should be prepared to speak their minds fully on it. I ask the honorable member forFawkner to be true to his word. If he is, then he cannot support a vote providing for the construction of cruisers, the manufacture of munitions of war, and the making of rifles, to be placed in the hands of our workers for use against the workers of other lands. Ho cannot support such a policy if he still holds the opinion expressed by him so recently as the 31st July last.
In conclusion, I have only to say that I am entirely in agreement with the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). I would welcome an opportunity to vote against the expenditure of even a penny upon the Defence Department as it exists at the moment. If the Government wishes the people to believe that they have something to fight for, it has an opportunity to use these millions, not on arms and munitions, but in meeting the requirements of the people. Let the Government show that the people’s welfare is its first consideration. In discussing this question, we have to get down to the causes of war itself. As a matter of fact, in year.? gone by, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), when he was a member of the Labour party, expressed views similar to those which I have propounded, to-day. While we have trade competition between the nations there must be disagreements, and, unless a disagreement can be settled by arbitration, then the nations concerned will be ready! as individuals are to resort to force to settle their differences. While the competitive system exists - while we have competition ‘ between nations anxious to acquire new spheres of influence, we shall have war. When wheat-producing countries like Australia, the Argentine, and North America are unable to find markets for their surplus production, they first of all try to make agreements that will satisfy their several governments. One such agreement, within a few months of its making, was broken by the Argentine. To-day there is a proposal for a further wheat agreement, to which the Argentine is to be a signatory power. But if one of these nations is not prepared to stand by the agreement - if it breaks it by seeking trade in other markets than those allotted to it, then other nations will also break away from it. Trade agreements are honoured only while the contracting nations find it in their interests to abide by them. If £hey are likely to secure an advantage by departing from them, they are prepared to treat them as scraps of paper just as other agreements have been treated. And when that day arrives the nations will begin to resort to the force of war. Having regard to the intense trade war that is going on, we shall have armed conflict between the nations before long, unless a determined effort is made to prevent it, and the only people who have the power to prevent war are the workers themselves. I hope on this occasion every member of the Labour party will be true to the interests of his party, and that when the next emergency arises a section of them will not, as in the early days of the last war, go over to the other side and advance various specious pleas for having departed from their principles. They should not be prepared to support the Government in attacking other nations. The workers, I repeat, have the power to stop war ; and are looking to the Labour party to give them a lead. I hope that the members of the party will be true to themselves, the party and its principles, by giving that lead to the workers. If they do, there will be no further wars of aggression in which this country will participate.
.- The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has completely misunderstood the remarks which he quoted as having been made by me in this House on the 31st July last. He sought to make it appear that I advised the workers of the world not to put their hands to the construction of any implement of warfare. T did nothing of the kind.
– The usual legal quibble.
– What I said was this - and I challenge the honorable member to say it is not so - that if the workers of the world desired to bring war to an end, they had it in their own power to do so by refusing to put their bands to the construction of implements of war. That is very different from the interpretation which the honorable member sought to place upon my statement. It is because the workers of the world do not desire to bring war to an end that they are not prepared to take up that position.
I understood, Mr. Chairman, that we were discussing the Defence Estimates. I thought it was the policy of the Commonwealth - a policy accepted by all parties - that we should have an effective defence of Australia. If that is so, a certain amount of money must be spent on defence. It is estimated by the Government that a certain expenditure for the current year will be necessary in order to achieve the. effective defence of Australia, and that, as I understand it, is the one question before the committee. If we all believe in effective defence, then the only question to which we should direct our attention is. “Is there anything in these Defence Estimates to which we object or to which we can offer serious criticism V There has been no attempt on the part of any honorable member to-day to do any such thing; the debate has resolved itself into a discussion of peace and war. A certain bishop, whose diocese is not very far from Canberra, has been frequently quoted of late by honorable members of the Opposition in defence of the position that some of them take up on the subject of defence. I went to hear him in Melbourne a few evenings ago when he spoke on the subject of peace and war. The . bishop drew a more appalling picture of the horrors of war than even the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) did. He laid it down that war, in any circumstances, was wrong. But before bo had concluded his address he had admitted, in the course of his argument, that to preserve order in the community a police force was necessary. And not only that, but that it was quite probable that a police constable, in the execution of his duty, might have to go to the length of taking human life in order to preserve the community against its enemies. He also said that before we could hope to abolish war from the world, the whole human race would require to be converted to the principle of unselfishness.
– He is a pessimist.
– Does the honorable member think that we are within measureable distance of that achievement?-
– No. And does the honorable member think it is possible to exaggerate the horrors of war ?
– I do not. It is horrible to take a human life, but are there no circumstances in which the taking of human life is justifiable ?
– If the honorable member saw a ruffian seeking to outrage his wife ordaughter, would he stop short, if necessary, of cutting the ruffian’s throat?
– We have heard all that humbug before.
– I suppose the honorable member would be content with endeavouring to persuade the ruffian that the course which he was pursuing was very wrong.
– The time allotted for the consideration of the Estimates for the Department of Defence has expired.
Question - That the proposed vote be agreed to - put. The Committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Health
Proposed vote, £106,670:
– The Estimates of the Department of Health have always been immune from that searching criticism to which those of other departments are subjected, the obvious reason being that, by common consent, public health is regarded as a matter of national importance, and outside the sphere of party politics. An examination of the summary on page 63 will show that an expenditure of £5,870 above that of last year is contemplated. Onehalf of that amount is made up by increases of the staffs, of the various laboratories, and the remainder consists of small amounts, includiing increases of salaries under the financial relief legislation, and increased working expenses due to the relaxation of the economy measures of 1933. Greater activity in the shipping industry, as a result of improved conditions, has involved additional expenses in connexion with quarantine administration.
In order to set out the position clearly, I may be permitted to review the work of the Health Department. I point out, in the first place, that the Health Department acts as a defence force against the introduction of disease from overseas, for by examining all persons who enter the Commonwealth by sea or air, and, where necessary, segregating those affected, it protects the community against infectious diseases. It also protects the community by excluding persons suffering from transmissible diseases or infirmities which may render them liable to become a burden on. the community. In addition to preventing disease, the department carries out research into the causes of disease and makes sera, vaccines, and glandular and organic extracts with a view to curing or alleviating diseaseBy propaganda and the issue of regulations designed to improve sanitary and hygienic conditions, it does much to promote the health of the community. The activities of the department are directly concerned with industrial conditions, for it conducts inquiries into the effect of certain occupations on the health of those engaged therein. In that way it renders invaluable service, particularly in combating miners’ phthisis and other occupational diseases.
An important activity of the department is in connexion with the ravages of cancer, a disease which, unhappily, is on the increase. In 1924, deaths from cancer in Australia numbered 93 for every 100,000 of the population. By 1933 th<$ rate had increased by 12 per cent, to 105.3 persons to every 100,000. Between 1881 and 1885 only one person in 43 died of cancer, compared with one out of every 8.4 persons last year. Those figures are not without significance, particularly as the increased death rate from cancer is not confined to Australia, but is world-wide. Fortunately, there has been a gratifying decrease of the number of deaths from tuberculosis, viz., from 53 to 40 for every 100,000 of the population.
In addition to currying on research work in relation to cancer, tuberculosis and other diseases, the Health Department has established a School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. This school, which was originally located at Townsville, but later was transferred to Sydney, grants diplomas in tropical health and tropical medicine and trains men for work in the tropical parts of Australia and in New Guinea. A number of the natives of Papua are being trained in hygiene and tropical medicine in order that by direct contact the health of the natives may be safeguarded. The School of Tropical Medicine is now engaged in research into poliomyelitis, or infantile paralysis, malaria, filaria, hookworm, dysentery, tropical ulcers, dental hygiene, and native diet in relation to general health. The problem of Weil’s disease, or infectious jaundice, which has made its appearance among the canecutters of North Queensland has been investigated and successfully solved by the staffs of the school and of the Townsville and Cairns laboratories. Success has also attended the efforts of the department in ite investigation into malaria-carrying mosquitoes in New Guinea, the mosquitoes responsible for conveying this disease having been definitely identifie’d.
The Commonwealth serum laboratories, conducted by the Health Department - which are self-supporting - are rendering invaluable service to the community in undertaking research into the method” of preparing insulin, the making of vaccines, and the production of gland products. Improvements in every department are constantly being introduced. The department has initiated research into Weil’s disease, and psittacosis, or parrots’ disease, at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Melbourne. At the Kalgoorlie laboratory in Western Australia, the department, in association with the State Government, maintains an annual survey of all working miners; each year between 4,000 and 5,000 miners are examined. [Quorum formed.’] It is also co-operating with the health departments of New South Wales and Queensland in connexion with the control and eradication of cattle tick; the expenditure by the Commonwealth in that direction this year is estimated at £50,000. Radium i3 used by the department in its research into both superficial and deep-seated cancer.
I turn now to some figures relating to our birth-rate, death-rate, and rate of increase of population which are calculated to give the people of the Commonwealth much food for anxious thought. The Health Department is concerned with the well-being of the community generally. It seeks to improve the public health by research work into the causation and alleviation of disease, to reduce infantile mortality, and to promote, as far as possible, the birth-rate. The progress, and, indeed, the very existence of Australia as a free and self-governing community is dependent upon a steady increase of its population. In the 25 years prior to 1929, the rate of increase of population from natural causes and immigration was approximately 2 per cent., which was equalled only by Canada. Since 1929, however, a different story has to be told. Migration has practically ceased, and the rate of natural increase has fallen steeply. In 1914, the birth-rate was 27.90 per cent.; in 1929, 20.31 per cent.; and in 1933, 16.78 per cent. After making allowance for the fall in the death-rate, we are confronted with a state of affairs which must surely give us food for grave thought. The death-rate fell from 10.51 per cent, in 1914 to 9.55 per cent, in 1929. The infantile mortality rate fell from 111.36 in 1903 to 39.52 in 1933.
The implications of the figures I have mentioned are startling. At the rate of increase for a quarter of a century preceding 1929, the population of Australia would be 17,000,000 in 1984, but, at the present rate of increase, it would be only 9,500,000. I have had prepared a graph, which -honorable members may examine, which indicates that if the decrease of the birth-rate continues at the same rate as from 1929, the population of Australia will be stagnant in 1968, for the birth-rate and death-rate will by then balance each other. When we consider that the continued occupation of Australia by the white race depends upon the increase of its population, the situation disclosed by these figures is alarming. It is of course true that this is not the only country in the world with a decreasing birth-rate. The Sydney Morning Herald, of the 22nd November, quoting from the Lancet, stated that the population of England and Wales would be 40,213,500 in 1936, but in 1976, 40 years later, it would, with the continuation of existing conditions, fall to 2S, 656,600. But the circumstances in Australia lend a special significance to the decrease here. That the steep fall in the birth-rate during the last few years is due to the depression is obvious, but the point is made very succinctly in the annual report of the Chief Medical Officer for the United Kingdom for 1933. That document makes it clear that the fall in the birth-rate has been specially marked since the coming of the depression. The direct results of unemployment upon the birth-rate, infantile mortality, the death-rate, and the general health of the community, have been the subjects of systematic inquiry both here and in England. In this connexion, the Chief Medical Officer of the United Kingdom states -
Though the medical reports recently received contain no signs of widespread physical degeneration, there is an undercurrent of forewarning as to the possibility of risk of mental instability in the adult nian and prolonged under-nourishment of women and children. The psycho-neuroses arc not fanciful maladies conjured or imagined by doctors. The overstrained mind is quite as susceptible to diseases as the over-strained or underfed body.
Put into other words, that means that the relation between the depression and the health of the people is clear, direct and intimate. One may say that Australia’s very existence depends upon the maintenance of economic conditions which will permit of regular employment and the observance of a standard of living which will ensure a steady increase of population. The Health Department is, therefore, directly concerned with the general conditions of the people of this country, and particularly with their economic and political conditions. The fact that we have elected to set up the standard of a White Australia makes it imperative that we shall, by every means at our disposal, endeavour to establish conditions which will ensure the maintenance of a satisfactory birth rate.
Having made these general observations, I shall be glad to furnish honorable members with any information they desire about the Estimates for this department.
.- The figures which the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) has given us regarding the birth,rate and rate of increase of population are alarming; but it must be remembered that this Government, although responsible for conditions which, admittedly, have caused a decline in the birth rate, is doing nothing to rectify the position. Let us consider for a moment such an important factor as the maternity allowance. In consequence of the legislation introduced by this Government the payment of the maternity allowance is now restricted to those who enjoy an income of not more than £208. irrespective of whether they live within half a mile of the General Post Office in any State capital or in such a remote place as Camooweal or Burketown. It matters not that the cost of living may be 33^ per cent, higher in remote areas than in metropolitan districts. The Government recognizes that living costs are higher in distant places by making additional salary payments to its officers. A public servant at Georgetown, for instance, receives a district allowance of £72 per annum. Looking at the subject from the stand-point of others than public servants, I remind honorable members that a shearer may have to spend £100 to £150 a year on fares, cutters and other requirements in order to earn £208 a year, but does not receive any consideration for suck out of pocket expenses. I am glad that this vital subject has been mentioned.
May I say in passing, that I congratulate the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) upon his elevation once mOTe to Cabinet rank.
A new position has arisen in connexion with air transport from overseas countries to Australia. Only recently airmen have reached Australia from England in a little over 70 hours. These planes traverse countries which suffer from diseases unknown to Australia. Yet, they are permitted to land at Darwin, Cloncurry and Longreach, where no quarantine stations are in existence, and it is possible that through their agency diseases may be brought to this country. One of the obligations of the Federal Government is to afford proper protection against the importation of diseases from other countries by overseas transport planes. In isolated parts of the north-west, where these planes may land, there are no quarantine stations to combat a possible outbreak of a contagious disease. The Estimates contain an item of £80 for doctors’ fees in connexion with investigations carried out in quarantine stations on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, and for the current year the very small amount of £39.9S6 has been provided for health services in Queensland and the Northern Territory. That is quite inadequate for a State like Queensland, in which numerous tropical diseases still present problems to scientists. Only this year, there was an outbreak of Weils disease amongst employees in the sugar industry.
– The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed vote for the Department of Health has expired.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Commerce.
Proposed vote, £349,490.
f 5.431. - The Estimates for the Department of Commerce contain certain increases, the principal of which, and one which probably is of most interest to honorable members, is that in connexion with the appointment of trade commissioners. One commissioner has already been appointed in New Zealand, and it is proposed to appoint two commissioners in the East. It is unnecessary for me to emphasize the importance of making provision of this sort in view of the fact that it is essential for Australia to do everything possible to secure markets for its exportable surplus, particularly the products of its great primary industries. There are many other items in connexion with the Department of Commerce which I might mention, but I have no desire to take up any of the limited time allotted for the discussion of these Estimates. If the opportunity presents itself at the conclusion > of the discussion, I shall endeavour to deal briefly with any points raised by honorable members.
.- I take this opportunity to bring under the notice of the Minister, the opinions of the maritime group of trade unions of Sydney, regarding subsidized overseas shipping, lines and the suspension of the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act in relation to trade between Australia and the mandated territory. This matter has been before Parliament, and has engaged the attention of the various departments for a considerable time. So far back as the 11th July, 1931, correspondence passed between the Department of Commerce and the maritime organizations. In a letter, signed by all the unions interested - seamen, stewards, the Merchant Service Guild, the shipwrights .and ship constructors, marine engineers, ship painters and dockers, and marine cooks, bakers and butchers - the attention of the Government was drawn to the evil effects of the suspension of the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act in relation to trade with the mandated territory. It was represented that the Minister for Transport was no doubt aware that the coasting provision’s were suspended by the Bruce-Page Government in 1925 and that, since that time, the intrusion of foreign shipping had been steadily increasing until it was looked upon by unions whose members were employed on vessels under Australian articles, as a distinct menace. The unions said that they felt that sooner or later this outside competition would bring about a re-organization of the service provided by Burns Philp and Company Limited which would result in many more Australian workers being thrown out of employment. They said further that in operating in this trade, foreign vessels made a practice of calling at the more important ports in the territory, leaving the unimportant and less convenient ports for the Australian ships. They contended that this created a most embarrassing position for all those interested in Australian vessels, which, in their opinion, were justly entitled to the whole of the trade. They pointed out that their principal concern in this matter was the position of their own members and the maintenance of the standard wages and working conditions then operating on the Australian steamers. In order to preserve existing conditions and obviate the necessity for a re-organization of the service provided by Burns, Philp and Company, immediate steps should, in their opinion, be taken to stop the very serious intrusion of foreign competition into the Australian trade by reimposing the coasting provisions of the Navigation Act, affecting trade between Australia and the Mandated Territory. A good deal of correspondence of a similar nature has passed between interested parties and the Government since then. During the term of the Scullin Government, the then Assistant Minister for Transport (Mr. Cunningham) advised the maritime unions that the matter was receiving attention, and that the Government hoped to arrive at a satisfactory settlement of the trouble. The matter was raised again by the unions on the 28th June, 1933, in a letter addressed to the then Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart), and an endeavour was made to impress upon the Minister the necessity for doing something to relieve the situation. But the position has become so serious that, not only the unions, but also the ship-owners, are giving urgent consideration to the matter.
– This combination of the owners and employees is taking place everywhere, and the public pays.
– These interests are being forced to combine to protect themselves against the foreigners. The competition by the subsidized Matson line has become so pronounced as to become a menace, not only to those engaged in the industry itself, but also to the country as a whole. In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 1st November last, appeared a joint letter by the various shipping companies concerned, and in it they stated -
It has been announced that the Nord Deutscher Lloyd in the new future will place two 8,000-ton motor vessels in the trade between Hong Kong and Australia via Manilla, Sandakan, Salamaua, and Rabaul, and will also maintain two smaller vessels in the interisland services of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea to act as feeders for the larger vessels. This trade at the present time is efficiently catered for by steamers running regularly under the British flag belonging to the following companies: - Eastern and Australian Steamship Company Limited; AustralianOriental Line Limited; Burns, Philp and Company Limited; and W. R. Carpenter and Company Limited. . .
It will be specially observed that the Nord Deutscher Lloyd vessels propose to compete, not only in the through trade between Australia and Hong Kong, but also in the interisland traffic of the Mandated Territory. The trade of the territory is growing rapidly. The value of imports last year totalled £912,000 and exports £1,58.1,000, of which approximately £1,000,000 was represented by gold. Germany is definitely setting out to secure a larger share of this British Pacific trade, not only by’ competing with British shipping, but also with British and Australian merchandise. . . .
From 1920 to 1925, the Commonwealth Navigation Act restrained foreign shipping from competing in the domestic trade between Australia and the territory and the islands of the group, but in the latter year the protection afforded by that act was removed. Under present conditions, foreign shipping is free to compete unrestrictedly with the British lines in this trade, whereas every other nation in the Pacific protects its domestic trade.
I think this problem is far more serious than one would infer from the observations made by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn). The honorable members’ suspicion of an alleged combination - which I deny - of shipowners and employees to wring, concessions from the public should not blind’ him to the danger to the nation as a whole. If competition of this sort is permitted to develop without restriction, it will quickly get out of control. This German move is not concerned with trade alone; the design extends much further than may appear on its surface, and probably the Germans hope, at a suitable moment, to accomplish some of the things about which Herr Hitler has so freely expressed himself during the last twelve months. It is obvious that they are not satisfied with the existing arrangement for the control of New Guinea, and that they have not entirely dismissed thoughts of again securing territories which were formerly in their possession. Australian shipping companies are afraid that if the Germans are allowed unrestrictedly to engage in this trade, the result must be the tying up of our ships in the harbours of the Commonwealth, while our own workmen join the long queues awaiting food relief. Such a possibility no Australian Government can afford to ignore.
I was hopeful that, as a result of the recent negotiations in Canberra, between New Zealand and Commonwealth Ministers, definite action would be taken to restrict the operations of the heavilysubsidized Matson line, but, if the reports to hand are correct, no progress has been made in this direction. If highly subsidized foreign companies . are permitted to encroach upon the British and Australian shipping trade, without interference, it will be practically impossible to prevent them from capturing the whole field. Prompt action is necessary. The United States of America has passed laws which detrimentally affect British and Australian shipping interests, and we should show that what is enforceable against us is equally enforceable against them. When we point out the necessity to check the unfair competition of foreign shipping companies, we are often reminded of the danger of international complications ; but I remind the Government, in all earnestness, that the members of the maritime trade unions have had a particularly lean time of late years, to put it mildly. Parliament should not placidly fold its arms, and allow foreign countries to continue their unfair attack upon our shipping. As I have already indicated, the interests of the community at large are at stake. I am surprised that Britain has not taken drastic measures to protect its wide interests in a trade in which for many years it was supreme. Are we to remove all obstacles in the way of foreign companies, particularly the provisions of the Navigation Act, and allow these people to take control of the whole trade ? I urge the Government to take practical steps immediately to protect Australia’s interests.
.- The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has spoken of action that should be taken in the interests of the people generally; but, if he represented an electorate in Western Australia, he would desire the removal of the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act. The people of my State are compelled to buy large quantities of goods manufactured in the eastern States, and they have to pay excessive freights on those commodities. While I agree that action may be necessary against foreign countries which subsidize shipping lines trading to Australia, we must also consider the claims of the residents of States, such as Western Australia. I notice that a Trade Commissioner to New Zealand is to be appointed at a cost of £2,500 a year. In 1920, and for some years afterwards, Australia enjoyed a valuable trade with that dominion. In 1919-20 we exported to it goods to the value of £7,743,000, while New Zealand sent to Australia £1,930,000 worth of commodities. We have practically destroyed that trade. Last year, New Zealand took from us goods to the value of £2,600,000, and sent us goods to the value of only £702,000. We have had a similar experience with Fiji, which, in 1920, took goods from us to the value of £664,000, and exported to this country £285,000 worth, whereas our present trade with that country is valued at only £268,000. The value of the goods which we receive from Fiji is so small that it is not recorded in the Year-Boole.
For some time the people of Australia have anticipated favorable trading arrangements with other countries. India, for instance, imposes a duty of 30 per cent, on foreign fruits and vegetables, but offers a special concession to any British dominion which enters into a reciprocal trade treaty. A large and profitable trade between Western Australia and India might have been developed had mutual concessions been made, but the business Has gone to the United States of America and Japan. A futile arrangement bas been entered into with Belgium, by which, for a time at least, that country will purchase a certain quantity of Australian meat and barley. There is scarcely a country in the world that we have not antagonized during the past eight or ten years. It was stated in the London Times, prior to the departure of Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Chamberlain for Canada to attend the Ottawa conference, that the objective was to bring about freer trade relations between the various portions of the Empire. But for the attitude .adopted by the Canadian and Commonwealth Governments at Ottawa, Great Britain would not have been compelled, as it is to-day, to attempt to build up its agricultural industries, and to a considerable extent injure our export trade. I hope that the Government will lay all its cards on the table in regard to its efforts to bring about trade agreements with other countries, and that something more tangible will be done than the mere appointment of trade commissioners. It is of little avail to send trade emissaries to other countries when by our fiscal policy we exclude their goods from Australia. We are not likely to build up our trade by excluding from the New Guinea shipping service all vessels except those belonging to Australian lines.
.- I desire to refer to the activities of the Marine Department regarding the lighting of the north-west coast of Australia. T observe that there has been a reduction of personnel which will reduce expenditure. The number of head lightkeepers has been reduced by one, while the number of lightkeepers has been reduced by two.
– That is because of the installation of automatic lights.
– I find, however, that expenditure on the upkeep of lighthouses, buoys and beacons for the present year is the same as that voted for last year, but slightly more than’ the amount actually expended last year. The sum voted last year was £13,500, whereas the amount expended was £10,320. The importance of lighting the north-west coast of Australia is well known to navigators. Those engaged in trading on that coast, particularly those employed in the State shipping service, have frequently complained of the inadequacy of the present lighting arrangements. When I was in Parliament some years ago, I referred to the matter, and expressed the hope that there would be an improvement. I regret to say, however, that no improvement has been made, and the present reduction in personnel, while perhaps desirable for financial reasons, is not a move in the direction of extending lighting services. The north-west coast is a dangerous one, and, because of the scarcity of population, survivors from wrecks have less chance of being succoured than would be the case on the eastern coast.
– The increase in the vote, while the personnel has been reduced, is largely due to the alteration of the Financial Emergency Act by which salaries were increased.
– That means, in effect, that the position will be much the same as before, and that no new lights are to be installed.
– No new lights are provided for.
– That is the gravamen of my complaint.
The appointment of trade commissioners raises the whole subject of Australia’s trade with other countries. Last week, the Government made an effort to improve trade relations with New Zealand, but the effort, as the report made to the House to-day indicates, was not a success. I urge the Government to avoid any endeavour to make specific agreements with individual countries until first of all it has examined the general structure of Australian trade. I hazard the observation that last week’s stalemate was attributable largely to the fact that Australia was opposed to the removal of an embargo which it had imposed on the admission of a certain commodity which New Zealand desired to market here. Only a week previously Parliament had discussed the fact that an embargo which Australia had imposed upon another commodity, had been removed, thus leaving the way open for the making of a trade agreement with a foreign country. The Government made -a cardinal mistake in attempting to come to an agreement with
Now Zealand on matters of trade until it had first defined its own policy on the subject. The holding of a conference which fails is infinitely worse from the point of maintaining friendly relations than not to hold a conference at all. The Government, by approaching these matters piecemeal, and endeavouring to treat first with one country and then with another, will land itself in a position of embarrassment and endless difficulty. We may be tempted to make an early agreement with a particular country which would be far less advantageous to us than a general agreement with a group of countries. We should remember that the Ottawa agreements rendered the success of the World Economic Conference practically impossible. It is entirely wrong to think that Australian trade is divisible into a number of watertight compartments. It must be considered as a whole, and dealt with as a whole.
– I support the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) in regard to the need for the better lighting of the north-west coast of Australia.
I also wish to refer to a matter which affects the residents of the Geraldton and Murchison districts in the north-west, particularly those engaged in goldmining. Under the Navigation Act permits are granted to enable steamers to trade on the north-west coast of the State, but those permits do not operate in regard to the carriage of goods between Fremantle and Geraldton. At the present time, large quantities of mining machinery are being imported from the eastern States, and though permits are granted to the State Shipping Service to carry this machinery, the State steamer makes the trip only once a month. Consignments of machinery are arriving every week, and if the owners of it wish to obtain delivery without delay, they must have it brought by rail, which makes the cost excessive. There is no reason why the State Shipping Service should be granted a special privilege in this regard. Our first concern should be the interests of the people residing in the districts concerned.
I join with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) in his criticism of the proposal that the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act should apply to trade between Australia and New Guinea. Our experience in Western Australia has made us, naturally, suspicious of any further combination between ship-owners and trade unionists. We have suffered, and are still suffering, from the evil effects of such combinations in the past, which, though beneficial to both ship-owners and trade unionists, who run the ships, have been most injurious to the people of our State. I hope, therefore, that before any attempt is made to extend the operations of the act to the Mandated Territory a very close investigation will be made, and that Parliament will be given an opportunity to discuss the matter.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The report of the commission, which some years ago inquired into the effect of the Navigation Act on our trade with the Mandated Territories stated that it was quite impracticable to attempt to impose white-labour conditions in black-labour countries, and pointed out that the act limited our trade with the Mandated Territories by increasing freights, thus diminishing the capacity ot the people in the territories to buy Australian goods.
I am in complete accord with the remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) concerning the competition of the Matson Line of steamers with Australian and New Zealand shipping. [Quorum formed.’] Although the seaborne trade between Australia and New Zealand belongs properly to the Commonwealth and the dominion, successive Commonwealth governments have done nothing to check this unfair competition by the Matson Line which is ousting Australian, New Zealand and British shipping. I regret to learn from announcements in the newspapers - which, by the way, are our only source of information on this subject up to the present time - that the representatives of the Commonwealth and the dominion who met in conference in Canberra last week, wore unable to offer any useful suggestions to overcome this competition. The position is so serious that the respective governments should reconsider the matter.
They should realize that their duty to the people of Australia and New Zealand, as well as of the British Empire, is to protect, by every means in their power, trade within the Empire.
In our trade relations with the United States of America, the balance has always been heavily against us. Over a period of ten years the adverse balance has amounted to £200,000,000. During the prosperous post-war years we borrowed from Great Britain many millions of pounds, much of which was expended on the purchase of motor cars and other luxury goods from the United States of America. A return furnished to the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) to-day showed that during the last year for which we’ have a record, the trade between the United States of America and Australia was against us to the amount of £5,829,000. Lately there has been much talk about trade agreements with foreign countries in order to ensure a profitable market for our surplus primary products. One of the first countries with which we should seek to make an agreement is the United States of America. I am convinced that until the Commonwealth takes definite action in this direction there will be no improvement in our trade balance with that country. Recently a gentleman who made an extensive tour of America, and had many opportunities to gauge American opinion on this subject, told me that until the Commonwealth was prepared to “ put the acid “ on America we would continue to receive the treatment that had been meted out to us for so many years. Some Americans, he added, laughed at us, describing us as “ suckers,” and took the view that if we were foolish enough to allow the present trade conditions to continue, it was our own fault. Australia is in a position to bargain with the United States of America, and to insist upon the quota system in its trade negotiations with that country.We expend a great deal of money on American motor cars and petrol, and a few years ago, when the tariff was increased against foreign cars, our American friends cleverly shifted their capital to Canada, manufactured cars there, and secured their admission to Australia under the preferential tariff. But the
United States of America is not the only country which manufactures good motor cars. Besides Great Britain, Italy, Germany, France and Belgium are also in the business, and, as is well known, we have a very favorable trade balance with those countries. We could procure our petrol supplies from Sumatra or Russia. I should be pleased to see our trade with Russia develop under fair conditions. I am not suggesting, of course, that we should refuse to do business with the United States of America, but I believe that we should make it plain to the Government of that country that if Americans will not buy our wool, wine, fruit and other products, we shall divert our custom to some of those countries mentioned, which are willing to trade with us. During the election campaign I, in common with many other honorable members on this side, emphasized that the party with which I was associated would, if returned, do much for Australian primary producers by negotiating trade treaties with foreign countries. I am afraid that, unconsciously, I had rather roseate expectations of the future which events so far have not justified. I am very disappointed with the results achieved to date. I believe that much more could be done, especially with the United States of America, which, I repeat, is the first country with which wo should have sought to make a trade agreement. As far as I am aware negotiations to that end have not yet been commenced ; indeed, I have not heard it even suggested that the Government has a proposal to make, although we are in a strong position to make a good bargain. We have the weapon to our hand. The trade balance with the United States of America is heavily against us. Therefore, if the government of that country is not willing to open its doors to our goods, we should withdraw our custom from American manufacturers. I strongly urge the Government to give early consideration to this subject, and to lose no time in commencing negotiations for a trade agreement with the United States of A merica.
.- I direct attention to the very serious plight of the fruit-growers in Tasmania largely owing to excessive ocean freights and low prices realized for fruit in London. In 1930, the Conference Line of steamers representing vessels of a number of companies engaged in the Australian-London trade secured a monopoly of refrigerated space for the carriage of fruit, with the result that freights were fixed and have been kept at a high level. The total export of apples from Australia last year was in the vicinity of 5,000,000 bushels, and under the quota system the shipments from Tasmania amounted to about 3,000,000 bushels. Prices in the English market were so unsatisfactory that gross receipts were not sufficient to meet freight charges. As a result very many growers suffered heavy losses. Strong complaints are made about the treatment meted out to growers by companies of the Conference Line which, at the pistol point, as it were, declared that fruit would not be accepted for shipment except under an arrangement under which the companies would bear 18 per cent, of the cost of exchange, and the exporters 7 per cent. This represents about 7-d. a case, meaning an added cost to exporters of between £70,000 and £80,000 a year. When the shipping companies were given the monopoly of this class of freight steps should have been taken by the Government to protect the interests of the growers.
During the recent election candidates representing the Government promised definitely that if returned they would insist upon the repeal of the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act so as to put the people of Tasmania in a better position in relation to citizens of mainland Stales. For many years Tasmania has been severely handicapped. Forty years ago there was a weekly shipping service between The Bluff, New Zealand, Hobart and Melbourne and Sydney. That service, which was helpful to our fruit and timber industries, was discontinued many years ago. Even now, apparently, this Government has little regard for the interests of Tasmania; because. only about a week ago the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) was discussing with representatives of the New Zealand Government, a trade treaty which, if made, would have affected adversely the interests of the apple and potato-growers of Tasmania. Some honorable members have complained of the position of the citrusgrowers in New South Wales. As a member representing a primary producing constituency, I am willing at all times to assist primary producers in other States; but I will not sacrifice the interests of the apple and potato-growers of Tasmania. There are other means whereby citrus fruits grown in mainland States may be marketed. The New Zealand representatives asked for certain concessions for New Zealand produce in return for which they were prepared to make the New Zealand market available for citrus fruits from New South Wales. I do not know the source of New Zealand supplies of citrus fruits - whether it is the United States of America or some other foreign country - but I strongly object to any arrangement which is likely to imperil the interests of Tasmanian fruit and potato-growers. Every additional ton of New Zealand potatoes imported into Australia means that a ton of Australian potatoes will be without a market. It is estimated that at least 1,500,000 bushels of apples rotted in Tasmanian orchards last season because there was no market for the produce. All the evidence points to the need for protecting the Australian market in the interests of our own growers, tn my electorate there are about 20,000 acres devoted to the growing of apples and pears. In recent years the growers have suffered heavily through the loss of markets on the mainland, which has been due largely to decreased purchasing power in Australia. So long as these growers cannot market their fruit at a profit there can be no justification for allowing fruit to be imported into Australia from other countries. In Tasmania the fruit-growers can produce between 8.000,000 and 9,000,000 bushels of fruit. Their difficulty is to find markets, and their experience to date has shown that the Australian interstate market is the best, because it is available to them all the year round. They have built cool stores in order that they may be able to take advantage of this market right throughout the year. In Victoria and South Australia, which States 1 recently visited, I was informed that the fruit-growing industry is in as serious a condition as it is in Tasmania, and I believe that a similar position exists in Western Australia. The Government should do everything in its power to . assist these people.
– Does the honorable member suggest that a price should be guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government?
– Yes; for the coming export season, at least, the Commonwealth Government should guarantee the fruit-growers a price of 4s. 6d. a case f.o.b. I feel quite sure that it would not be called upon to pay anything under that guarantee. These growers are experiencing unusual difficulty at the present time, mainly because they have just experienced three or four bad years. The result is that to-day f.o.b. buyers are canvassing them for their fruit, trying to induce them to sell at the price they are offering by using the argument that the growers should make certain at least of the price offered, because, in the clrcumstances, it might be better than no price at all. Some of the growers, faced with the payment of heavy interest bills and accounts, and fearful concerning future market prospects, accept the price offered by these buyers, and an improved market does not benefit them very much. In any event 4s. 6d. a bushel f.o.b. does not represent the cost of production, but a guarantee of that amount would afford the growers much-needed protection. I repeat that it is most unlikely the Comm on wealth would be called upon to pay anything under its guarantee. Last year, with a depressed market, and abnormal crops, the price obtained was somewhere in the vicinity of that figure for many varieties. To-day, the growers are limiting their crops to about 40 varieties for export, whereas, previously, their shipments consisted of over 100 varieties. They have done everything possible to advance their trade; a better class of fruit is being grown and it is being graded more scientifically, whilst the latest machines have been introduced into the industry to reduce as low as possible the cost of production. But they must have assistance, and if the Government would only realize its responsibility towards these people, as I feel sure many Minister* do, especially the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), who took an active interest in this industry when he was Minister for Markets, it would come to the aid of these growers. The farmer who anticipates that the wheat market is likely to fail him next season, may reduce the area of his crop, hut the fruitgrower, irrespective of the trend of the market, has to maintain his annual expenditure on spraying, pruning and cultivating. He cannot afford to allow his orchards to depreciate. One year’s neglect would entail increased expenditure in subsequent years. Fruit-growing is an industry which gives more employment to the acre than any other industry in Australia. I urge the Government to give assistance to the fruit-growers for at least this year, after which, it is confidently expected that the industry will be able to carry on without government assistance, because of the brighter prospects ahead for marketing all primary products.
– I am sorry to learn that the negotiations recently conducted between the representatives of Australia and those of New Zealand have broken down. I regard it as a calamity, and am inclined to think that Australia has not acted rightly in merely letting this opportunity go by the board. Inasmuch as South Australia is also a fruit-growing State, I sympathise with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) ; but when he ti eel ares that there are other markets besides New Zealand for citrus fruits, I am impelled to ask him where they are to be found. It is true that South Australian growers have sent a number of experimental shipments of oranges to the United Kingdom, but that outlet has still to be developed. I am hopeful that, in the course of time, Australia will be able to improve its citrus trade with other countries.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) spoke about our trade with various countries, and particularly with the United States of America. I believe that in that country a profitable market is available to Australia, and I hope the Government will exploit it.
– What will America buy from us?
– For one thing, the United States of America could buy considerably more of our wine. In view of the extent of the wine industry in this country this would be important. Statistics covering our trade with America reveal a very sorry state of affairs from our point of view. For the last four years,” our trade with America was adverse to Australia by the following amounts : 1930-31, £8,884,267; 1931-32, £3,812,644; 1932-33, £5,255,448 ; 1933-34, £5,829,305. Our adverse trade balance with America is still £5,000,000 too much, and I think it is high time that the Government went into this matter very fully. On the 3rd August, 1931, we entered into a special agreement with Canada. Recently, I asked a question as to how Australia had fared under that agreement. I was informed that in 1931-32, our exports to Canada were valued at £1,028,620 and our imports from that country at £1,392,271. Canada had much the better of the position in that year, as it did also in the two following years for which the figures were respectively: 1932-33 - exports £1,205,472, imports £2,315,462, and 1933-34 - exports £1,322,167, and imports £2,918,095. With Canada as with the United States of America, there is much scope for the Government to improve our trade position. When this agreement wa9 made with Canada, I anticipated an improvement in our trade balance with America, but that did not come about. Our adverse trade balance with both of these countries is increasing. For last year it was £5,829,305 with the United States of America, and £1,595,928 with Canada. The Minister for Commerce should go fully into these matters and see what can be done to improve Australia’s position with respect to these two countries. Of course, our balance with many other countries is favorable and with these countries, I suggest, we have to be reasonable in making trade agreements.
I should like the Minister to give fuller information concerning the item of £2,000, under General Expenses, devoted to our representation in Canada. I notice against that item there is debited an amount of £2,500 as a contribution by the Dried Fruits Board.
Much has been said about Australia’s trade representation in New Zealand and the East, but so far as the latter is concerned, nothing has yet been done. It is time that an announcement was made by the Government as to its intentions in this respect. I appeal to the Government to give us more information concerning these matters, and also to pay particular attention to rectifying our adverse trade balances with Canada and the United States of America.
.- Since my return to this Parliament I am pleased to see–
– The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed vote for the Department of Commerce has expired.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £1,151,040.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost), who delivered an excellent speech on behalf of those engaged in the apple-growing industry, and I trust that the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce will consider the suggestions he has made. A few months ago I was privileged to visit the Huon and Channel valleys in company with the honorable member for Franklin, where we inspected a number of orchards and packing sheds. As a representative of a constituency in the northern part of Australia, I was interested to find closely settled areas, providing, as the honorable member said, more employment to the square mile than is provided by any other primary industry in Australia. I find that there are 3,232 growers and 4,671 employees, making a total of 7,903 who are directly ongaged and approximately 30,000 persons directly and indirectly employed in the industry. We have been told by the honorable member that approximately 1,500,000 bushels of fruit rotted in the Tasmanian orchards last year because a profitable market could not be found, lt is deplorable that there are hundreds of thousands of Australians who cannot afford to buy applies. From the fact3 placed before me by the honorable member for Franklin and the representatives of the various applegrowers’ associations in his electorate, it is evident that that section of primary producers is bleeding to. death financially, and that it is the duty of this
Parliament to come to their, aid. I know that it is very difficult for any government to give assistance to so many primary industries; hut in comparison with other important branches of primary production, the amount necessary to give stability to the apple-growing industry would be comparatively small. In 1932-33 the production of apples in Tasmania totalled 4,410,000 bushels, which were valued at £615,000, and which included bounties amounting to £63,800. In 1933-34, the Tasmanian growers exported overseas 3,067,000 bushels, and sold in interstate markets, 1,394,000 bushels. I was glad to hear the honorable member for Franklin speak so highly of the home market for the disposal of the Australian apple crop, and if a greater number of primary producers’ representatives formed a true appreciation of the value of that market,we would not hear the wild talk that we sometimes ‘ hear qf the necessity to tear down tariff harriers and admit imports from cheap labour countries. The estimated cost of producing a case of Tasmanian applies is 3s. 2%d., exclusive of the cost of packing and cartage, which amounts to ls. 8Jd., making a total cost of production of 4s. 10£d. The honorable member for Franklin has asked for a guaranteed price of 4s. 6d. a case f.o.b. for all apples exported overseas, which’ is actually below the cost of production. The New Zealand Government, which takes a serious view of the plight of the applegrowers in that dominion, has given a guaranteed price, I understand, of as high as 8s. 6d. a case, greatly in excess of the modest request of the honorable member for Franklin. To show honorable members the serious financial position into which the applegrowers of Tasmania are drifting, I may mention that in 1932-33 the average price obtained for their exports was 2s. 6d. a case. During the 1934 season, the exports from all States totalled 5,012,000 bushels. As the loss on the export was about 2s. a case, the assistance given in the past to the apple-growing industry has been quite inadequate. A few months before the last general election, this Parliament voted the modest sum of £125,000 to assist the growers of apples and pears, and of that amount £75,000 went to Tasmania.
– In the previous year also £125,000 was appropriated for that purpose.
– I admit that £125,000 teas made available last year, and that the year before a comparatively small amount was paid.
– It was £125,000 more than was given by the Government with which the honorable member was associated.
– If the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment (Mr. Stewart) were occupying a seat on the front bench we might be able to ask him a few questions. If honorable members visited the great apple-growing district in the Franklin electorate, and made some inquiries concerning the economics of the industry, they would be convinced that the grants given by the Commonwealth Parliament have been altogether inadequate. The conditions associated with the granting of relief to the fruit-growers in 1933 were vexatious, and made the grants extremely unpopular. I trust that the Minister will pay particular attention to the remarks of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost), who is a practical apple-grower, and has taken an active part in connexion with growers associations which are working in the interests of the Tasmanian apple-growers. High freights are one of the disabilities with which the growers have to contend. When in Tasmania, I enjoyed the scenic beauty of the country and the orchards, but. the orchardists who told us of the bad seasons they had experienced said that unless something were done to assist them they would be forced out of the industry. They stressed the necessity for reduced freights to the mainland, and deplored the fact that because, in providing a subsidy for shipping companies operating between Tasmania and the mainland, the Government had not stipulated the freights to be charged, high freights were still in force. They insisted that if a subsidy were given freights should be reduced, because, under present conditions, it is extremely difficult for the Tasmanian pri-mary producers to sell at a profit on the mainland. As the population on the mainland increases, a better home market will be provided, and if the agrarian section of the Cabinet does not exert too great an influence on the fiscal policy the great secondary industries will be so developed that a greatly increased number of artisans will be engaged in remunerative employment, and will provide the best market for the growers of apples and other primary products.
I now wish to refer to the Australian banana industry for which an amount is to be paid to the credit of a trust fund for research purposes. Vessels which leave Queensland ports laden with bananas and sugar for Tasmania should return to Queensland with apples, as there is every opportunity for exchange of trade between those two distant States. I take this opportunity to sound a note of warning on behalf of the Australian banana-growers who are somewhat apprehensive as to what is likely to happen to the industry. The growers in Queens land and in northern New South Wales can more than supply the Australian market, and, indeed, this year will have a substantial surplus. They have listened to the broadcast speeches of the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) as to the necessity to develop trade with Fiji and other countries; and they have reason to remember the Ottawa agreement under which a .concession was given to Fiji to send into Australia annually 4,000,000 lb. of Fiji bananas at a duty of 2s. 6d. a cental, instead of 8s. 4d. a cental which was the duty formerly imposed, is the thin end of the wedge to a substantial increase of imports of bananas from black Fiji. This great white industry is worth £1,000,000 a year to Queensland. It is a valuable labour-employing agency, because it is a small man’s industry, and a large amount of work is involved in cultivation and in the harvesting of the crop. The unfortunate banana-growers in the tropical parts of Queensland and on the coastal belt of New South Wales are obtaining less than the cost of production. When Sir Walter Massy-Greene, as Minister for Trade and Customs in 1921, increased the protection to 8s. 4d. a cental, additional land was brought under cultivation, and many growers placed their sons on new plantations in the belief that in future the whole of the Australian market would be reserved for the local growers. Under the guise of the requirements of the
Ottawa agreement, however, a portion of that market waa given to the Fijian banana-growers, who can obtain labour for ls. a day, and may work their employees for 54 hours a week. It is now stated by a section of the press that the Ministry is on the point of giving further concessions. I urge the Minister to give the assurance that these concessions are not contemplated, and to state definitely where the Government stands in the matter. Can the Queensland, New South Wales, and Western Australian bananagrowers assume that the whole of the local market, with the exception of what has already been conceded to Fiji, will be preserved to them?
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), who to-night is acting as the deputy of the Minister for Commerce, had years of experience in the administration of the Commerce Department, and probably knows more about it than the admirable Minister now controlling that department, who would have made a better Minister for Health. I hope that the honorable gentleman will explain the policy of the Government in regard to commercial intelligence services and the development of trade representation in the East, in New Zealand, and in other countries.
– The appointment has been made of a trade representative in New Zealand.
– Are additional appointments contemplated? If so, will they be made before Parliament adjourns for the Christmas recess?
The present is an appropriate occasion for a pronouncement concerning the rehabilitation of primary industries. The agrarian section entered the Ministry to effect that object, and I should like to be in a position to explain to the primary producers of my electorate the policy that has been devised.
There is quite a number of items upon which I should like to touch, but the dreadful guillotine is about to fall, and I wish to hear what the Minister has to say in reply.
– The Government has every sympathy with the applegrowers, and realizes that there is probably no export industry in which the exporting expenses represent a greater proportion of the total realization. In fact, in some cases the exporting expenses exceed the amount realized from the sale of the fruit overseas. It is a matter for regret that some years ago the applegrowers did not embrace the opportunity to have an export control board established. Some honorable members who were in this Parliament in 1927 will recollect that it passed legislation for the purpose of setting up an export control board for the benefit of those engaged in the apple and pear industry. Unfortunately, that proposal was turned down by the growers, principally by the very growers whom the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) represents, when a poll was taken towards the end of that year. I believe that if a further opportunity were given to them, their vote would be cast differently.
It is, indeed, interesting to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) stress the necessity for a lowering of freight rates between Tasmania and the mainland.
– I would make the lowering of freights a condition of the granting of the subsidy to the steamship service.
– The honorable gentleman’s advocacy of lower freight rates made me wonder if he is now in favour of the repeal of the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act, as is his colleague, the honorable member for Franklin. I think he will agree that whatever may be said for the benefits which the Navigation Act confers upon those it seeks to protect, it nevertheless is a most important factor in raising freight rates between Tasmania and the mainland.
The honorable gentleman also referred to the provision for commercial representatives. Surely that provision is an indication of the intention of the Government to increase during this year the commercial representation which is looking after Australia’s interests in different parts of the world.
I remind the honorable gentleman that, while he may consider inadequate the assistance given to apple-growers by way of a grant of £125,000 in each of the last two years, it nevertheless is exactly £250,000 more than was given during the two years’ administration of the Scullin Government, of which he was a prominent member. I am confident that my colleague, the Minister for Commerce, will do everything possible to assist those who are engaged in this industry.
Mr. BRENNAN (Batman) [8.53J.-I should like to make a long speech, if time permitted, upon an item in this miscellaneous collection, entitled, “ World Conference on Reduction and Limitation of Armaments “. The amount set apart in respect of this very important matter, at the moment, is not large. I suggest that this Government, which is lacking in many things, lacks also a sense of humour, in that it asks us to approve of expenditure on conferences for the purpose of limiting and reducing armaments, while, at the same time, it is as busy as it can be in increasing armaments and fomenting and promoting the spirit of war.
– We dealt with one phase of this matter under another item; but this item also provokes comment. I should not have the slightest objection to the expenditure of money on a conference that was designed in good faith to bring about the reduction of armaments. We know that the Government has given quite a deal of lip service to the idea of reducing armaments, and the promotion of disarmament; but when it has come to the point it has never given any practical support to the reduction of armaments or the policy of disarmament. This Parliament i3 empowered under the Constitution to legislate for the peace, order and good government of Australia. It has legislated to some extent for the order and good government of Australia, but never for its peace. A considerable amount was expended on a goodwill mission to Japan. I do not question the good faith of the gentlemen who went to Japan in the name of goodwill. But I point out that, while spending money on a goodwill mission, the Government is increasing the defence vote by millions of pounds.
There are other items in respect of which money is being voted freely. The expenditure of £25,000 which the Royal visit has involved seems to me a fairly liberal allowance. It is not my intention to question that particularly. But I do say that the time has arrived - indeed, it has long since passed - when the Government might give some evidence of sincerity and good faith in regard to the reduction of armaments and the promotion of world peace. Let it spend money upon those objects, andshow its earnestness in regard to them, instead of making propagandist speeches and suggesting that we are in danger of attack by a friendly neighbour, in that way promoting ill-will between ourselves and friendly neighbours.
– The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed vote for Miscellaneous Services has expired.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Refunds of Revenue, £1,150,000; Advance to the Treasurer, £2,000,000; and War Services Payable out of Revenue, £1,077,190. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I move -
That the amount of the vote, “ War Services Payable out of Revenue, £1,077,190”, be reduced by £1.
I do so in order to call attention to the treatment of returned soldiers who have endeavoured to obtain homes under the provisions of the War Service Homes Act. I want the committee to express its opinion concerning the conditions imposed on these men, who have suffered very keenly from the economic depression.
A meeting of between 700 and 800 returned soldiers, representative of practically every district in the metropolitan area of Sydney in which there are war service homes, held at Canterbury, in my electorate, last Sunday, carried the following resolutions : -
I personally am in favour of free loans to purchasers of war service homes. War bonds, which were an excellent investment were tax free, and there is no reason why diggers should not be granted loans free of interest to enable them to acquire homes for themselves and their dependants.
– They were promised such things.
– Yes ; they were promised the earth, but practically all they can get from the Government is a six by three block. The third paragraph of the resolution reads -
Evictions. - That the power to evict war service homes purchasers be taken out of the hands of the War Service Homes Commissioner, and the onus of evictions be by resolution of Parliament, and that all evictions shall cease immediately, until the resolutions passed ‘ at this meeting have been dealt with by Parliament.
We know that Ministers are prone to shelter behind the Public Service. “ Here,” they say, “ is an act of Parliament, and it is for the officers of the Service to administer it.” But justice should be done to the returned soldiers who are purchasing war service homes, and no further evictions should be allowed. I know that the Minister at present controlling the War Service Homes Department has quite a lot of sympathy for these men, but sympathy without relief is of no avail.
– “ Faith, without works, is dead.”
– Quite so. These people deserve consideration, and I believe that the Minister is prepared to extend some consideration to them. Quite a large number of them are out of employment, and the threat of eviction or of losing the equity in their homes is a cause of much worry to them. We should have from the Minister an authoritative statement that will rid them of the fear of eviction. The fourth paragraph of the resolution reads as follows: -
Amendment of existing War Service Homes Act. - To assure that on the death of a purchaser the contract be transferred to his widow or next of kin and that all payments made by the purchaser bo credited to his widow or next of kin and that no widow be evicted hut shall remain in possession of home if in receipt of State aid. When in receipt of other income she should be asked to pay no more than 10 per cent, of such income.
An amendment of the War Service Homes Act in that direction is necessary. In reply to representations that I recently made to the Minister I was told that the widow of the soldier in question had no legal interest in the home that he was purchasing at the time of his death. Surely the widow of . a deceased soldier should have an equity in a home in such circumstances. Those who went to the war were told that their dependants would be cared for while they were away, and that they and their dependants would be looked after when the war was over. This reply from the Minister does not suggest that Australia is carrying out its promise in that regard.
– But that widow has not been evicted.
– That is so.
– And she has never been threatened
– The threat hangs over her head to-day.
– Not to-day.
– I am pleased that the widow’s mind has been relieved iu that respect. Thousands of returned men in my electorate have felt very keenly the threat to evict the widow and children of a former comrade. I am glad to have the Minister’s assurance that this widow will not he evicted.
– Why not give her the home?
– No doubt the lii e of her husband was shortened as a result of what he endured during the war and the home should be given to her.
– Would the honorable member deny the right of a man to will, his property as he chooses?
– No; but every mau does not make a will. Many who went to the war had not the business acumen of the honorable member to guide them in making a disposition of their property. I come now to the fifth paragraph of the resolution -
That purchasers in arrears resulting from sickness, unemployment, rationing, reduced income or distressed circumstances be offered a cancellation of contract, and purchasers be offered a tenancy in perpetuity of the homes they now occupy, based on their reduced income.
Quite a number of these men in my electorate in the years of prosperity contracted to buy comfortable homes from the War Service Homes Commission. In some cases, they paid a deposit of from £200 to £400, and borrowed the balance from the commission.
– Many of them have improved these homes.
– Many of them improved their homes, and so increased their capital value. When the depression came along, quite a number of them fell out of work, and others who had returned from the war suffering some slight disability found that their war disabilities increased as time went on with the result that they were unable to carry on their former occupations. All these men, who, through not fault of their own, have fallen into arrears, deserve consideration. In Sydney, many private landlords have been most sympathetic in their treatment of their tenants who are out of employment. I know many private owners of property who, in such cases, have not collected a penny by way of rent for a couple of years because they know that it is through no fault of their own that their tenants have made default. But what is the attitude of the War Service Homes Commission? I wish to bring before the Minister the case of a man who is very anxious to liquidate his liability in respect of a war service home, and who, although’ he is now on the dole and receives on an average only £1 0s. 6d. a week, is continuing to pay the department £2 a month. With the balance of his meagre earnings, plus any charitable aid he might receive, he contrives to support his five children. Yet on the 2nd November last, the War Service Homes Commission wrote to him asking whether he could not pay more than £2 a month ! As I have said before, those who went to the war had promise after promise made to them by government after government, yet to-day many of them are being pressed severely by the War Service Homes Commission.
– We have to remember that the commission is merely acting as a trustee of the people’s money.
– The honorable member is as large-hearted as any one else in the House, yet he puts forward that plea. It is time that the Government gave some consideration to these men who to-day are suffering through no fault of their own. Most of the requests embodied in this resolution are reasonable. Paragraph 6 of the resolution reads -
That the whole of the administrative costs of the War Service Homes Commission shall be borne by the Commonwealth Government.
I do not care who bears the cost of the commission so long as the digger gets some consideration from the Government. Immediate attention should be given to the claims of purchasers of war service homes. In a brief survey of the position the commission, in its report for 1934, states that 2,234 homes reverted to it during the preceding year. That is evidence that unfortunate diggers who, because of unemployment, are without means, are being forced out of, or reluctantly compelled to abandon, the homes which for years they have been trying to make their own. And this notwithstanding -what they did for their country. The war is not co far distant that we should have forgotten the debt of gratitude we owe those who were induced to go overseas to fight for us. The promises then made to them should not be tossed aside as so many scraps of paper. I am satisfied that the people themselves are prepared to honour those promises; all that is necessary is that the Government of the day should act. If the Government fulfils the promises made, the people, I am sure, will not grumble. Compare the position of the purchaser of a war service home with that of the holder of a pastoral lease. The rents of pastoral leaseholds have been reduced.
– Did not the Government remit taxation payable by a number of wealthy landowners?
– Yes. Men with enormous incomes were let off payment, while others were prosecuted and fined if they did not pay promptly. One large landowner named Kidman was treated most generously.
– He was granted a title.
– There should not be one law for the rich and another for the poor. I hope that the Committee will vote for justice to all sections of the community by accepting the amendment.
.- Under the heading “Advance to the Treasurer “ I desire to refer to the relationship of the mining industry to the problem of unemployment. I agree entirely with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) that any Commonwealth money made available for the relief of unemployment should be paid to the States and expended by them. In my opinion, it would be a waste of energy for the Commonwealth to create new channels through which this money might flow, because that would probably not ensure greater efficiency than now exists. Most of the States already have means of assisting the gold-mining industry. In the Ballarat electorate alone at least. 300 men are now working on what is known as mining sustenance, and if the conditions were made more attractive not only in the Ballarat electorate, but also throughout Australia generally, large numbers of men now unemployed would be absorbed in a useful occupation. I can speak with knowledge only of the Victorian system of mining sustenance, which provides that men searching for gold on sustenance shall be paid a maximum of 15s. a week, out of which they have to provide themselves with food and clothing, as well as the tools and explosives necessary for their work. Compared with the 12s. a week paid in the ordinary way of sustenance the payment of 15s. a week to men who have to provide their own equipment is not particularly attractive, and in my opinion, the amount should be materially increased. The small payment made to these prospectors does not enable them to equip themselves adequately to sink shafts to any great depth, even if the show promises well. The result is a series of shallow shafts which give small returns, if any. I suggest a sliding scale of sustenance payment according to the depth sunk, as, for instance, £1 a week for shafts up to 50 feet in depth, 30s. a week for those between 50 and 100 feet deep, and £2 a week for those of a depth greater than 100 feet. Moreover, the Commonwealth would do well to provide these sustenance workers with technical advice. In the Ballarat district I have been amazed to find men searching for gold in places where experienced miners know that there is no gold, whereas perhaps 100 yards away gold is known to exist. If trained men were appointed to advise prospectors where to search for gold, how to go about their work, such as timbering the shafts, when to put in drives, and in other ways, much good would be done.
The expenditure of money to provide prospecting parties with adequate equipment would be justified. I know of several shows in my district which promised well, but had to be abandoned because water flooded the shafts and the prospectors had not sufficient capital to provide pumping plants to keep it out. In such cases money advanced for the purpose of pumping equipment would be well spent.
Money might also be expended with advantage in the erection of batteries by the Government. ‘ Victoria has a number’ of batteries which crush ore for prospectors on sustenance and for small parties of prospectors generally, but there are not enough of such plants. Men with small capital cannot afford to wait any considerable length of time for crushings, but must get their stone crushed at fairly frequent intervals in order to carry on. Under present conditions they sometimes have to wait six or eight weeks for a crushing. In the Ballarat district one party of sustenance men won gold valued at £6,000 during the last twelve months. I admit that that was an isolated case, but there is always the chance of something rich being discovered. It must be remembered that assistance given to the gold-mining industry is justified on the ground that every ounce of gold won adds to the wealth of the community. Moreover, by assisting these men we are helping them to maintain their self-respect and uprightness of character. I do not know how any man can maintain a cheerful outlook on life if set to do useless work, such as pulling bracken from the side of the road, or shifting sand from one heap to another ; but a man employed in the way that I have suggested would feel that he was of some use to his country and had a chance of bettering his position. I commend these suggestions to the committee.
.- I have been approached by millet-growers at Raymond Terrace in my electorate asking that something should be done to assist the broom millet industry. Provision is made for the remission of duty on tobacco and cigarettes for soldiers in hospitals, and while they do not begrudge those unfortunate men these little comforts, they claim that something should be done to a8191 the growers of broom millet who receive for their product only- about £15 a ton compared with £30 a ton in 1924, when, notwithstanding that higher price, the then- Government came to their assistance. The very highest grade of broom millet brings only £23 a ton in the Sussexstreet market, and out of the price received the growers have to pay about £1 10s. a ton freight, 4s. wharfage, la. weighing charges, and 5s. commission, a total deduction of about £2 a ton. I have here a letter urging that something be done to assist this industry, as otherwise a number of growers of millet will be forced out of business. It is claimed that millet is costing £38 10s. a ton to produce, and that at present prices the growers cannot possibly operate at a profit. The majority of the milletgrowers are, of course, outside of my own electorate; but I try to avoid a parochial outlook in dealing with the industries of this country. To-day, for instance, I attended a deputation of tobacco-growers to the Minister for Trade and Customs, although I have no tobaccogrowers in my electorate. I consider that the Government should do its best to help every Australian industry. At different times we have had to fight to prevent the importation of Italian millet into Australia, and because of the danger of the introduction of borers with the. millet, we have been successful . in the struggle. I am concerned about the welfare of these people and trust that the Government will do something to help them.
.- I support the amendment. While I admit that the Minister in charge of War Service Homes (Mr. Thorby) is showing sympathy with the unfortunate occupiers of these properties, the fact remains that a good deal of injustice is still being done. Last winter, a returned soldier, who had been evicted, begged me to obtain a few sheets of galvanized iron for him so that he could make a shack to shelter his wife. He was quite prepared to sleep in the bush. Many things unworthy of the Government have been done in connexion with war service homes. It is unjust that the men evicted from these homes are not recompensed for the amount of principal that they have paid off, and that the new tenants are expected to pay rents based on the original cost of the homes. House property has been reduced in value throughout the Commonwealth with the single exception of war service homes. Men who are not ex-soldiers are able to obtain war service homes to-day under better conditions than those offered to exsoldiers. In many cases homes are renovated and let to other than ex-soldiers for lower rents than those charged to the previous occupiers. It is high time that the whole administration of these homes was reviewed.
– I wish to offer a few observations on the amendment. It’ should be recognized that the present administration, which is less than a month old, has not had time to solve this problem, which is several years old. It is unreasonable to expect the Government, so early in its career, to provide a remedy for all the war service homes problems that have been accumulating during the last few years. I direct attention, however, to certain amendments of the Advances for Homes Act of South Australia, recently passed by the South Australian Parliament. These provide for reductions of the interest rate on advances for homes, the writing-off of arrears of interest in certain cases, and the determining of contracts and releasing of persons from the personal covenant; and also the writingoff of arrears of interest and insurance when the board administering the act considers such action desirable. Every honorable member must be aware that interest and compound interest charges appear in the books of banks, business institutions and private individuals, which will never be paid. Dead men do not earn wages, and dead capital cannot be expected to earn interest. Every attempt by the Crown or private individuals to obtain something for nothing is bound to fail. I know that considerable dissatisfaction exists among occupiers of war service homes, but I cannot agree with some of the statements made in the circular of the “War Service Homes Purchasers’ Association of Sydney, which honorable members have received during the la3t two or three days. That organization submits that since certain private persons who were paying interest ranging up to 8 per cent, on overdrafts have obtained a reduction of 3 per cent, in the interest rate, which amounts to a reduction of 37^ per cent., war service homes purchasers should be given similar consideration. The association entirely overlooks the fact that purchasers of war service homes have never at any time been asked to pay 8 per cent., or anythink like it. Consequently, the application of the suggested ratio in their case would be quite unreasonable. To arrive at a fair rate of interest, we must take into account the rate originally payable on the mortgage. In all the circumstances, I feel that this whole subject may safely be left in the hands of the Government. If satisfactory readjustments have not been made before the Estimates are under consideration next year, I shall probably be found voting with honorable gentlemen opposite if an amendment of this kind be moved.
– In the interests of a colony of war service homes purchasers in my electorate, I shall support the amendment. I make no complaint against the officers of the department. They have always treated me courteously; but they arc bound by the provisions of the act. It seems to me that many occupiers of war service homes have very little prospect of ever owning their homes. A number of locomotive enginedrivers with whom I am acquainted, entered into contracts to purchase war service homes, and in ignorance of the fact that a serious depression was approaching, accepted the shortest of the suggested terms for the completion of the purchase. Since the depression, however, many of them have had their wages reduced to half of the former rate, and are now quite unable to meet their obligations. Others are suffering from the effects of gas and other war disabilities, to a greater extent than formerly, and are to-day living solely on their military pensions. Quite a number of these people, in the early days of the occupancy of their homes, spent more than £100 in effecting improvements of one kind and another. In these circumstances, the Government should do its utmost to give these people every opportunity to make their homes their own. It is regrettable that homes vacated by returned soldiers have been let to other people at a lower rental than that charged to the previous occupier, notwithstanding that a good deal of money has been spent in renovations and improvements. I shall be told in reply to that statement that the people who occupy the homes at the lower rentals are tenants who are not on a purchase basis; but if improved conditions could be made available to these people, they should have been made available to tho returned soldiers. Every effort should bf made to help the original occupiers to retain possession of- these homes. The officers of the “War Service Homes Commission have acted as fairly as they could within the provisions of the act, but the Government should review the act and make it more liberal. I ask the Minister to extend to war service homes purchasers, who, through force of circumstances, are unable to pay off their homes, the same consideration as has been given by this Government to fruit-growers, wheatfarmers, mixed farmers and other sections of the community. The schedule of expenditure in this direction would astonish us. I make no complaint in that respect. I think that every time the Government has given assistance it has acted wisely; but I do not think we have done enough for the war service homes purchasers. It is true that I have submitted cases which upon investigation I would not take up again; but there are cases deserving of assistance and the commissioner cannot give it unless the Minister makes the conditions more flexible. In such circumstances, it is therefore not fair to blame the commissioner. I ask the Minister to see if this deserving section of the community cannot be afforded the same help as has been given to other sections, even if it involves the Government in a loss of revenue, so that these men may eventually become the owners of their own homes. When many of these men first entered into contracts for the purchase of homes, they consulted me asking my advice as to how much they could afford to put down as deposit. Naturally, the wife and the husband would suggest an amount as high as possible in order that they might the sooner become the owners of $e home. They probably started on that basis, knowing that their weekly income was £5 or £6, not dreaming that subsequently the husband’s wages would be cut down to *3 a week, and that they would be placed in the difficult position in which they find themselves to-day. Although the Government has reduced the overhead expenses in order to meet the changed circumstances of the country, it has not effected a sufficient reduction to meet the changed circumstances of the men who, in many cases, have either had their incomes cut in half or else are out of work altogether. I trust that the Minister will do all that is possible to enable the soldiers to remain in their homes until they become their own.
– I take this opportunity to explain to honorable members as clearly and as briefly as possible - because I do not wish to restrict the opportunity of honorable members to bring cases under the notice of the committee - the Government’s proposals in regard to war service homes. I ask every honorable member who has a specific case to bring forward, to bring it under my notice so as to get first-hand information. I undertake to endeavour to extend to the persons concerned the greatest amount of consideration possible, even if in doing so I have to go beyond the rigid provisions of the act. The laws and regulations governing this matter have been made by Parliament, and can be altered by Parliament. All honorable members will admit that every case must be considered on its merits. Unfortunately, we find isolated cases which are not deserving of assistance, but, in any case where a doubt exists, I am prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to the unfortunate soldier or his widow. Every honorable member knows that there are a few cases in which the applicant endeavours to impose upon the commissioner, but I would not allow these cases to be used as a criterion to inflict hardship on other and deserving cases.
The present policy of the War Service Homes Commission is the outcome of a scheme suggested by a soldiers’ committee as a temporary measure to carry on until the 30th June, 1935. This will give me, as a new Minister of under three weeks’ standing, roughly six months in which to prepare a new scheme and. acquaint myself with all the details of the administration of war service homes throughout Australia, also to eliminate all the anomalies that have come to light during the depression. In this task, I hope to have the assistance of all honorable members, so that the policy formulated will be satisfactory, not only to the purchasers who are in difficulties, but also to the whole of the war service homes purchasers. The legislation covering those proposals will have to be introduced into this Parliament early in the new year, in order that it may operate from the 1st July, 1935.
In that scheme I hope to embody a further definite and substantial reduction of interest. Originally, loans on war service homes, were carrying a rate of interest at 5 per cent. Later, the rate was reduced to 4^ per cent., and then to 4 per cent. It is my ambition to secure a further reduction from the 1st July next. I am prepared to consider every phase of the difficulties which are facing these men, and I invite all honorable members to cooperate with me in order to ensure that the amendment of the War Service Homes Act will result in lifting the purchasers out of the difficult position in which they find themselves, and assisting them to make their homes their own.
– Will the Assistant Minister meet a deputation of purchasers in Sydney ?
– I have already agreed to meet a deputation of war service homes purchasers who have wired me to-day asking me to attend. I have replied that I will meet them at the Commonwealth Bank at 10 o’clock on Monday morning next. I extend to all honorable members a cordial invitation to be present at the deputation and hear what is said on both sides. I understand this deputation is the outcome of a meeting held last Sunday in Sydney which I regret I was unable to attend.
– Will the Minister extend the same opportunity to the purchasers in Melbourne?
– I shall extend the same opportunity in every capital city of the Commonwealth, long before the next Parliamentary session commences. During last week the War Service Homes Commission has taken over the whole of the war service homes in South Australia in order that they may be brought under the direct control of the commission instead of being indirectly under its control through the-administration of the State Savings Bank of South Australia. While I occupy the position which I now hold no purchaser, or widow of a purchaser, will be harshly treated. Generous treatment should be accorded to an unfortunate woman who, possibly after being burdened with the necessity for providing for a sick soldier husband, is now left destitute through his death, and in many cases is deprived of a pension. It is necessary for us to see that such a woman is not with her family thrown out on to the street. While I occupy my present position every widow of a war service homes purchaser will receive the most generous treatment even if, in extending that treatment, it is necessary to stretch the provisions of the act.
– What about the prosecution mentioned at the meeting at Earlwood ?
– There is no prosecution. I secured the adjournment of one case, although an honorable member brought it to my notice only the night before it was to be .heard by the court. The other specific case referred to by the honorable member is now under consideration and every effort is being made to come to an agreement which will enable the woman to purchase a cheaper and more satisfactory home, one that will permit her to meet the instalments to the commission and at the same time provide her family with reasonable comforts.
.- There must be something wrong with the administration of the war service homes when so much of the time of the committee is given to the discussion of the homes. There are a lot more home purchasers who are not acquiring their homes from the Government, and there are people other than war service homes purchasers who are purchasing homes from governments. Evidently the war service homes have been over capitalized, if those in employment are not in a position to meet their repayments. In Queensland, under the Workers’ Homes Act, when a purchaser is killed after having made a deposit on his home, the home becomes the property of the widow without any further payment. Under that act, the repayments are not heavy and the rate of interest is fixed at 5 per cent. There is a big section in this community without homes at all, and these people are deserving of assistance. If there is money to be made available for the relief of those who already have homes over their heads, I say that that money would be better spent in providing relief for those who, having lost their purchasing power, have no homes at all. There is a tendency for all honorable members to play up to organized bodies, but the man who has humped his swag from town to town is not in a position to become a member of an organized body. There is a tendency to overlook him. The latest census shows that 420,000 people are out of employment, and only last week this Government voted a miserable £176,000 for their relief. It would not even provide the unemployed with 10s. a head. We talk of reducing interest rates to those who are in employment but we do nothing for those- who are unemployed. If an exsoldier cannot meet his commitments with regard to a war service home, the period allowed for hi3 repayments should be extended. As his circumstances improved, he could be relied on to make up the arrears. When the occupant of one of these homes is thrown out of work, he has no option at . present but to obtain a cheaper house. Eventually he may be forced to live in a lean-to structure consisting of a few sheets of galvanized iron propped against a fence, or a collection of kerosene tins nailed to saplings. Although the commission is unable to obtain a weekly rental of about £1 a week for vacated war service homes, it accepts a smaller payment and the difference between the charges accumulates against the ex-soldier. If the Government has any money to distribute, it should be given first to those who have entirely lost their income. It is a standing disgrace that over 400,000 persons should be left in a half-starved condition. Men anxious to reach the mining fields to prospect for gold, or in search of work “ jump the rattler in States like Queensland and Western Australia, because the distances they have to travel are great ; but it would not be asking too much of the Government to suggest that these men be supplied with free railway passes.
– Why not speak to Mr. Forgan Smith about that?
– Unemployment has been reduced since Mr. Forgan Smith has been in office in Queensland. Miners in my State are assisted to go in search of gold, whereas, under a Nationalist Government, they would probably be employed chipping grass along city roads, or on similarly non-productive work. The Scullin Govemment’3 action in providing a gold bounty of £1 an ounce was ridiculed by the party opposite, yet that bounty marked the beginning of increased gold production in Queensland. The Scullin Government was also criticized for removing certain duties upon machinery required by the Wiluna Gold-mining Company, but this action resulted in a large number of men being kept in employment in the industry. In the past ten months, gold production has increased to a greater extent in Queensland than in any other State. In October, over 9,750 ounces were won, under a scheme introduced by the State Government, by which men were given employment in reproductive work instead of maintaining them on relief rations. On the Clermont gold-field, at least a couple of dozen parties are engaged, and at Blair Athol other prospectors are profitably employed. These men have produced over £6,000 worth of gold in the last ten months. They work one day a week on the Blair Athol mine, and the balance of their time they spend prospecting. One small company has already produced gold to the value of £20,988 18s., while the bigger mines, such as, for instance, the Mount Morgan mine, have produced millions of pounds worth of gold, and they will continue to do so in the future. The Government, which has made concessions to those in receipt of incomes, should devote some money to developing the gold-mining industry, thus providing employment.
– I wish to reply to the very pungent references to the goldmining industry made by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), and also to the suggestion of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Fisken). The Government has made arrangements whereby the Council for Scientific and
Industrial Research, in co-operation with representatives of the mining industry, will undertake work on mineragraphic problems, and for the initiation or extension in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Kalgoorlie of certain work on ore-dressing problems. These localities have been selected as the centres of activities because of the equipment which is available there, but it is the intention that the work conducted at these centres will cover any areas which are likely to benefit from the results obtained. In other words, the investigators will be free to lend their aid to assist the development of likely projects anywhere in Australia. It is the aim of the Council to ascertain the form of occurrences of gold deposits ; to advise on methods of extraction of the ore; and to devise improved methods whereby recoveries . may be increased. The Council will be in a position to proffer advice on new discoveries from the points of view of quantities and methods of treatment. It will also investigate methods of treating slimes, which have been practically ignored in Australia. The work will be directed by Dr. F. L. Stillwell, mineragraphist attached to the Council.
– The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for Refunds of Revenue, Advance to the Treasurer and War Services payable out of Revenue has expired.
Question- That the vote, “War Services payable out of Revenue £1,077,190,” be reduced by £1 (Mr. Mulcahy’s amendment) - put.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) agreed to -
That the consideration of the following, in connexion with the Estimates 1934-35, viz.: -
Supply Resolution, and adoption of Resolution;
Ways and Means Resolution, and adoption of Resolution;
Appropriation Bill - all stages; be postponed until to-morrow.
Floods in Victoria: Government
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– All honorable members are aware of the terrible disaster that has overtaken the State of Victoria following unprecedented floods and extraordinary gales during the last three, or four days. It is one of the most terrible in the history of the State. The newspapers have endeavoured to convey someidea of its magnitude, but from my personal knowledge of what has happened, I feel sure that they have not been able to tell more than one-half of the story. Practically all means of communication, bridges, roads, railways, and telephones, have been swept away in many districts affected. So ‘ desperate is the plight of people in those areas that the Premier of Victoria told me yesterday that the Government was supplying food relief to 1,000 people by means of boats, and in addition was providing sustenance to 2,000 destitute persons in one district alone. The damage caused in the city of Melbourne can, no doubt, be met by its citizens, but not that caused in country districts, where thousands of primary producers have lost their entire means of livelihood. The toll of human lives is now 35, and a considerable number of people are still missing. I mention this disaster now in order to impress upon the Government the need for taking early steps, possibly by extending its unemployment relief scheme, to give further aid to these stricken people. The situation is so grave that it cannot be handled by the State Government alone. A rough estimate places the material damage in the vicinity of £1,000,000, but I am convinced that the actual cost of this terrible visitation will far exceed that sum. The electric supply system of Victoria - a government activity, which caters for the needs of two-thirds of the State, has one part of its principal activities out of commission, there being 250 feet of water in the open cut at Yallourn. Honorable members know that the Government has given £10,000 to the relief fund. I urge Ministers to take further steps to succor those who are now homeless and in urgent need of assistance, and also to aid in re-establishing communications throughout the stricken areas in Victoria. One serious result of this interruption of communications is the rationing by 50 per cent, of the milk supply for the citizens of Melbourne, and the possibility, in two days’ time, of further rationing being necessary. I hope . that the Government will act speedily to give additional assistance in the way that I have suggested.
– I heartily support the appeal made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) to the Government to give further assistance to the State of Victoria, which has been visited by such a terrible disaster. Every one appreciates the action- of the Government in granting £10,000 for the relief of the sufferers from floods and gales, but those of us who have some knowledge of the extent of the disaster - consider that it should do even more. As the honorable member for Bendigo has pointed out, the present situation is beyond the capacity of the State Government to handle alone. As the result of the unprecedented floods, thousands of women and children are now being huddled together in town halls, mechanics institutes, and other public buildings throughout Victoria, and there they will have to remain until they are able to return to their homes. Relief measures, to be effective, must be taken without delay. It will be necessary to assist many people to rebuild or refurnish their homes. Whatever the Government can do should be done quickly. During the week-end, I had an opportunity to form an estimate of the extent of the disaster, and I earnestly hope that the Government will give heed -to the appeal. I have every confidence that the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and his colleagues in the Ministry will do what they can to alleviate the sufferings of the unfortunate people in the districts affected.
.- Three weeks ago I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) when the Tariff Board’s report on the minimum time for the maturation of Australian spirit would be available for consideration .by this chamber. In a very courteous reply, the Minister said he had ascertained from the Comptroller-General of Customs that that report was in the hands of the Government. Last week, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) addressed a similar question to the Minister, but from a different angle, and the reply given him was that the report was still in the hands of the Tariff Board. The information I received I forwarded to South Australia, and no doubt the people concerned in that State* have since had the later reply brought under their notice. This question of the minimum time for the maturation of spirit is an important one which has been before the Government for quite a long time now. I hope it will soon be settled. The minimum time provided for maturation of spirit in Edinburgh is three years. The period is actually determined by evaporation, and it has been proved that what would take three years in Edinburgh would be completed in two years in South Australia. When the Scullin Government came into office the minimum time allowed for maturation of spirit in Australia was three years. The succeeding Government reduced that period to two years, and I understand that the new period will expire not later than October, 1935. In South Australia anxiety is felt as to whether that period is to be observed permanently. The minimum maturation period is two years for brandy and three years for whisky. I ask the Government to consider this matter at the earliest possible moment, because the people concerned operate on limited stocks and are anxious to know whether they should retain those stocks or dispose of them. Last week, I had brought under my notice a report by Dr. W. A. Graves, an analyst, who states definitely that the minimum maturation period of two years is ample under Australian conditions. I ask the Government to furnish as soon as possible the information I have requested.
.- I do not want to be misunderstood in the remarks I am about to make. I sympathize with the victims of the disastrous flood which has just occurred in Victoria, and I appreciate the fact that the Government has already granted £10,000 to relieve the distress prevailing in Victoria, but my experience compels me to say that the Commonwealth Government does not always show such consideration when dealing with these matters. When disasters similar to that which has just visited Victoria occurred in other parts of Australia, and it was proposed that the Commonwealth Government of the day should assist to relieve the distress occasioned, that Government turned a deaf ear to such requests. For instance, in my electorate two floods took place within eighteen months. I put the position before this House and appealed for aid for the victims of that flood, but no assistance was given. On another occasion, 21 miners were killed in a mine explosion in my electorate, ‘ and what assistance was given in that case? In these matters, it seems to me, the success or otherwise of appeals for aid to the Commonwealth Government depend upon the publicity that has been given to a disaster. I find it hard to voice this criticism, but it was equally hard for me to have my pleas for assistance in the cases I have mentioned ignored by the Government of the day.
– They have always had a good advocate.
– They may have had a good advocate, but his listeners have been hard-hearted. When the question of providing relief such as this is raised, the Government should render assistance in. all cases. When making my pleas for aid for the victims in the disasters I have mentioned, I referred to the assistance given by the Commonwealth Government in the Tasmanian flood as a precedent for granting ray request, and I also pointed out that the Commonwealth Government had gone so far as to grant money for the relief of victims in a Japanese earthquake disaster. Those precedents, however, did not move the Government to grant my requests. Many miners get killed in mines. When disaster happens to an individual little notice is taken by the Government of the plight of ‘the deceased’* survivors, although they have to face the same struggle as the survivors of miners and others who may be killed collectively in a major disaster. The treatment meted out to survivors of men killed in mine disasters has led many miners to state that if they are to pass to the Great Beyond through a mining accident, they hope it will be in a group, because when a number are killed, governments are inclined to take notice of the plight of their survivors. Let us hope that genuine sympathy will be shown by this Government to victims or their survivors in all future disasters. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to the sorrowing survivors of the victims of the flood in Victoria. At the same time, I deplore the failure of the Government to grant relief in all cases of this kind which come before its notice.
– I listened attentively to the appeals made by the honorable members for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) and Melbourne Ports (Mr.
Hollo way) on behalf of victims, or their survivors, in the Victorian flood disaster. At the moment, I can only repeat what was said when the House met this afternoon - that the Commonwealth Government is in communication with the Victorian Government to decide what is the best form of assistance this Government can extend in this matter. We have ascertained that the damage caused by the floods to roads, bridges, jetties and railways and other means of communication, is estimated to be at least £1,000,000. In such circumstances, it is imperative that the Commonwealth Government should render whatever assistance it can.
In reply to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) I think that in every case in which there has been a big mine disaster, the sympathy of the whole of the people of Australia and of every government of Australia has been extended generously towards the survivors of the victims. The reason why relief has been provided by this Government in the case of big disasters, and not in the case of fatal accidents to individuals is that in the latter case, the State Government is the proper authority to deal with the position, whereas in the former case, the duty of succouring the victims calls for the combined efforts of the Commonwealth and the State Government concerned. I feel sure that that will be the principle by which all future governments are guided.
I shall bring the remarks of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey), with respect to the maturation of spirit, under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), and I have no doubt that he will be able to furnish a satisfactory reply.
Question resolved in the affirmative-
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the balance of trade for the financial years ended 30th June, 1931, 1932, 1933, and 1934, between Australia and the following countries: - (a) United Kingdom; (b) Other British countries; (c) United States of America; (d) Germany; (e) Italy; (f) Japan; and (g) Belgium?
– During the financial years ended the 30th June, 1931, 1932,. 1933, 1934, the balance of trade (expressed in terms of British currencyvalues) between the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Belgium wasfavorable to Australia as follows : -
During each of those years the balance of- trade with the United States of America was adverse to Australia by thefollowing amounts : -
In 1930-31 the balance of trade withBritish countries other than the United’ Kingdom was favorable to Australia by £8,456,035; but adverse to Australia by £5,136,563 in 1931-32; £S2,274,172in 1932-33, and £S3,540,638 in 1933-34.
son asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
On account of the disappointment growing’ in the Army through slow promotion, will he make early appointments to the positions of Chief of the General Staff, and District Base Commandant, Second District Base?
– Theappointment of Chief of the General Staff’ is not vacant. Consideration will be given to appointment of District Base Commandant, 2nd District Base, at an’ early date.
i asked the Treasurer,. upon notice -
Will he supply the following information to the House: -
The total amount expended during theyears 1932-33 and 1933-34 for the free conveyance of Ministers’ and members’ wives and’ families?
What was the individual amount expended’ on account of each Minister and member during those years?
– The information is not readily available. To obtain it would necessitate a dissection of the records of the branch offices in the various States. This would take considerable time and money, the expenditure of which, it is considered, is not justified.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honor- able member’s questions are as follows : -
4 and 5. As the distribution of Hansard is under the control of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, I will invite their attention to the hon- orable member’s questions.
n asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l. - On the 30th November, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) asked the following question, upon notice: -
To what extent does the Government subsidize, directly and indirectly, the Australian Aero Club and its various branches?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
The Commonwealth Government subsidizes each of the six associated aero clubs as follows : -
a grant of £300 per annum for an agreed number of aircraft which a club agrees to maintain in serviceable condition provided that at least 600 hours flying per annum is carried out by such club;
a bonus of £20 for each member, being a British subject, who qualifies for his “ A “ pilot’s licence ;
iii ) a bonus of £1 0 once annually for each member who qualifies on club aircraft for the renewal of his pilot’s licence.
The number of bonuses payable under (ii) and (iii) above are limited according to the number of aircraft which a club elects to maintain. Indirect assistance is also given in the free use of certain hangar accommodation at departmental aerodromes.
l. - On the 30th November, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
y. - On the 30th November, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The following information has been furnished by the Commonwealth Statistician : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 December 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1934/19341204_reps_14_145/>.