14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 9.80 a.m., and read prayers.
– Idesire to state that, in compliance with the request of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), a copy of the report of an inspection of the machinery and plant at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, made between the 3rd July and the 17th August, 1934, by an engineer of the Department of the Interior, has been placed on the table of the Library.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of. the Government to appoint Mr. A. W. Hutchin, ex-member for Denison to a position on the Commonwealth Public Service Board.
– At the moment there is no intention to appoint any person to the Commonwealth Public Service Board. The gentleman referred to by the honorable member has never been considered in connexion with the matter.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects:-
Dredging and Excavating Machinery.
Dry Batteries and Dry Cells. “ Lightning “ Fasteners.
Men’s Braces and Garters.
Meters, Gauges, Regulating and Controlling Devices for rate of flow, pressure, temperature, &c, of fluids, gases, &c.
Platedware, n.e.i.: Spoons, Forks, Butter, Fish and Fruit Knives, Plated or of Mixed Metal; Cutlery, Spoons and Forks partly or wholly of gold or silver, except when gold ferruled or silver ferruled only.
Waterproofed Cloth, n.e.i., prepared with rubber, oil, celluloid or nitro-cellulose; Waterproofed Tape or Textile Strip prepared with rubber, oil, celluloid or nitrocellulose: Leather Cloth and Leather Cloth Binding prepared with rubber, oil, celluloid ornitro-cellulose; Insulating Tape proofed with pitch or bitumen.
Ordered to be printed.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Australian Broadcasting Commission Act - Second Annual Report and Balance-sheet of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for year 1933-34.
Customs Act -Regulations - StatutoryRules 1934, No. 152.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1934 -
No.33- Supply (No.2) 1934-35.
No. 34 - Superannuation (No. 2).
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance of1934 - No. 10 - Customs (No. 2).
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 36 of 1934 -Federated Public Service Assistants’
Association of Australia ; and Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
– A report has not yet been presented by the Petrol Coramission. I ask the Prime Minister whether it is not competent for him or some other authority to draw attention publicly to the attitude adopted by this body in view of the fact that the community is beginning to feel that it is being fleeced by either the chairman or members of it, by reason of the long delay in furnishing a report to Parliament.
– I am sorry that the honorable member has referred to the chairman in such terms, because the conditions under which he was appointed emphasize the fact that he is not attempting to fleece the community, but rather is rendering a service for a very small return. In view of the repeated requests made by honorable members, I got into touch with the commission, and pointed out that there was an anxiety, first, for an early report, and, secondly, to learn when it would be available. The only information I have received is that it is not likely that the report will be available before Christmas.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state whether the amount of £15,000 allocated for trade publicity purposes, has been expended only in Great Britain, and whether the results have been as satisfactory as it was indicated they would be? If they have been, will the Government consider the advisableness of developing a similar policy in the remaining parts of the British Empire and in other countries?
– Despite certain criticism in regard to the expenditure of publicity money, there arc indications that Canada and New Zealand are envious of the amount allotted by the Commonwealth for the purpose.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet given consideration to or reached finality upon the representations made to him recently by a deputation of tobacco-growers? In view of the parlous state of that industry, will he take early action on behalf of those who are engaged in it ?
– The representations made by the tobaccc-growers disclosed no new reasons for the granting of higher duties. I undertook to place before Cabinet the request for consideration under the rural rehabilitation scheme.I assure the honorable member that the difficulties and requirements of the industry are constantly before the Government.
– Is notthe Minister aware that the principal proposal made by the deputation of tobaccogrowers that I introduced to him was, not for consideration in connexion with the rural rehabilitation scheme, but for differential rate of excise in favour of Australian-grown tobacco? Are we to take it that he has decided not to give any consideration to that proposal?
– The matter of rural rehabilitation did come forward in the discussion, and I undertook to bring it before Cabinet. The matter of a differential rate of exciseon tobacco is an old one which has been brought forward repeatedly by different members and deputations. It concerns the revenue and, as I indicated to the deputation, it is unlikely that the Government would be prepared to sacrifice a considerable amount of revenue to institute something of that nature. I nevertheless undertook to place the representations of the deputation before the Government, ‘ to see if something could be done in that direction. So far the pressure of more important business has prevented consideration being given by the Government to this matter.
– The recent tobacco deputation suggested that the Minister for Trade and Customs should communicate with the Papuan administration with a view to securing preferential duties on Australian tobacco and providing a market forAustralian dark loaf tobacco.Has the Minister yet been intouch with Papua?
-I undertook tocom- municate with the Papuan administration tosee . if it were possible to dispose of our surplus stocks of dark leaf tobaccoin that country. This matter will bedealt with together with rubber and other commodities at an early date.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to make a statement with respect to the appointment of the Interstate Commission, or as to whether, when it is setup, it will become the body responsible for the making of recommendations Upon applications by States for grants from the Commonwealth?
– The intentionof the Government is to consider the matter in theforthcoming recess. It is hoped that some proposition will be placed before Parliament when it reassembles. As to whether thecommission will make recommendations on the lines indicated, I point out that ‘the Commonwealth ‘Grants Commission has laid upon it that duty, andf or the time being will continue to exercise that function. The Government will consider whether itshould be transferred to the Interstate Commission at a later date.
– Has the attentionof the Minister for Health been directed to a report in the press which states that a Victorian firm that flooded the market in Sydneywith adulterated raspberry jam, to which apple juice bad been added, was the other day fined £3 with £8 l6s. costs? On account of the precariousposition of raspberry-growers, will the right honorable gentleman take steps to , have that adulterated food destroyed, so that the public may not be cheated by having an inferiorarticlefoisted on them?
– If the honorable member will supply me with particulars Ishall have inquiriesmade into the matter with a view to protecting the health of the public.
– Has the.atten- tion of the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties -been drawn toadvertise- ments that appeared recently in. the press containing what purported to be an. offer by German importers to purchase Australian goods if fair arrangements could be made for payment in the form of German goods? If so, has the Government considered whether anything may be done to facilitate themaking of such arrangements?Further, isthe honorable gentleman treating as urgent the matter of a possible trade treaty with Germany, so thatGermancompetitionfor Australian Wool maybe fully restored?
-I have read the advertisements referred to by the honorablemember, but have nothingto add to what I havealready said intheHouse upon the subject. I give him theassurance that the matter is being treatedas one of great urgency.
– Has a reply been received. to the cabled request for information as to the reason for the large disparity between the priceof wool in Argentina and SouthAfrica,and the price of Australian wool? Ifso, what is the reply?
– a. reply has been received from the Prime Minister of South Africa saying that no trade treaty has yet beencompleted with Germany. As to the Sharpdifference in price, I have no exact information except that it is confined to crossbred wool. Honorable members will appreciate, I am sure, that so long as the difference is narrowed down to crossbredwoolsand not merino, its significance is of relatively minor importance.
– Does not the Minister consider that the disparity between the price of crossbred wool in Australia and another country is really more serious than he apparently believes inasmuch as it probably indicates a change-over from the useofmerino tocrossbred counts, whereas, if it were in merino counts, in a ‘comparatively short time some other competition wouldcome into the Aus- tralian market because of the higher price obtainable for wool in countries with which trade treaties ‘had ‘beenarranged ? A risingout of that aspect of the matter, and the difficulty of ‘obtaining -credits in Australia, has the Minister noticed a press report that Burns, Philp and Company havebought two German motor ships from the Nord-Deutscher-Lloyd,and will he arrange with the Commerce Department to see if credit of that type can be made available to facilitate trade transactions between Australia and Germany?
– With much respect for the honorable member’s great knowledge of all that has to do with the wool industry, I would suggest that it is possible to exaggerate the significance of privately-received advice on wool prices in Argentina compared with similar prices in Australia. In no country is the exchange problem so involved as it is in Argentina, and it is impossible to make an exact comparison. Before mentioning a disparity honorable members should be in possession of more definite information with respect to it. Otherwise, they should take little notice of it. In reply to the second part of the honorable member’s question, I have road the report of the purchase of these vessels, but 1 doubt very much the practicability of taking each sale effected by German interests in this country and, as it were, having it paid into a trust fund for the purpose of devoting it specifically to the purchase of any particular commodity. I take it that the credit established by such a sale would be partly applied to the purchase of Australian commodities, probably wool.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether the first table attached to the census returns in regard to unemployment is intended to convey the idea that the figures shown in relation to item 5 represent persons who are in employment. If not, what is the object of the question, and who was responsible for its having been framed in that form ?
– In the absence of the Minister for the Interior, for important reasons, I am unable to supply off-hand any information on this matter. If the honorable member will place a question on the notice-paper in the form in which he desires particulars to be furnished, the information will be obtained and forwarded to him.
– Has the Department of Defence any stocks of surplus military clothing; if so, can they be made available to the unemployed as a Christmas gift?
– As military clothing becomes unserviceable, it is banded to the State governments for distribution. The Defence Department has found that the most practical method is to hand it over to the State governments for distribution through charitable organizations. As it is impossible to make special distributions in any particular district, that practice will be continued.
– In view of the fact that the members of Light Horse regiments are not issued with a change of uniform so necessary in camps of military training. will the Minister carry out his promise to issue slacks to these members of the Forces?
– If the facts are as indicated by the honorable member and a promise has been made, I shall certainly expedite its fulfilment.
– Will the Government consider the advisability of introducing legislation to ensure that when oil is commercially produced in Australia, half of it shall belong to the State and be controlled by the Government?
– I suggest that the honorable member should place his question on the notice-paper.
– But the House is to go into recess, and the question will not be answered.
– I shall publish for the information of honorable members answers to questions which are placed on the notice-paper.
– Can the Minister state the amount of duty collected on bananas entering Western Australia last year, and the figures for the rest of the Commonwealth ?
– The value of bananas imported into Western Australia last year from Java was £1,200. I shall ascertain the amount of duty collected and inform the honorable member.
– Earlier this week I asked a question relating to the position of the trade agreement between Canada and Australia. As this agreement is of great value to the canned fruits industry, I should be glad of information as to the present position?
– Honorable members will appreciate that, in the great survey we arc making designed to bring about a number of trade treaties, it is impossible to expect them to be finalized within the short time that has elapsed since this Government came into office. The work involved requires, not only investigation in Australia, but also a great deal of contact with countries overseas. Attention is being given to the Canadian position.
– Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to a press report of a statement made by Mr. Irvine Geddes, of the Orient Shipping Line, at the launching of the liner Orion that “ an artificial limit is now placed on the size of ships for the Australian run. If the Orion’s beam had been increased no dry dock in Australia could take her.” In view of the serious nature of the statement, will the Minister say if it is correct?
– The honorable member was good enough to inform me yesterday that he proposed to raise this matter. The Cockatoo Island Dockyard is able to dock the Orion, and even vessels of greater length, beam and draft. Mr. Geddes must have been misinformed on the subject. The fact that it is at least ten years since the Orient Company docked any vessel at Cockatoo Island probably accounts for the mistake.
– I have received from the South Australian biscuit manufacturers a letter which reads as follows: -
The biscuit industry appears to be receiving all the “ knocks “ of recent legislation. Already subject to 5 per cent.sales tax (whilst their competitive lines such as cakes, buns. &c., are exempt), they are in January next to be burdened with a flour tax, creating double taxation, the sales tax being collected on the flour tax.
Now, in addition to these taxes, the Federal Government has seen fit to give the industry a further “knock” by considerably reducing the tariff on imported biscuits. The members of this association earnestly solicit your assistance in lodging a. very strong protest on their behalf, and request that the former tariff rates be reinstated.
They would appreciate your taking this matter up with other South Australian representatives at Canberra, and hope that your combined efforts will result in the lessening of the burdens inflicted on the biscuit manufacturing industry.
Will the Minister give an undertaking that honorable members will be given an opportunity to debate this important question before the duty becomes operative?
– The tariff schedule is on the notice-paper for discussion, and the item “ biscuits “ will be discussed with others in the schedule. I shall, however, clear up one misunderstanding of the honorable member. Sales tax on flour will apply to all imported biscuits. If the honorable member will refer to the Tariff Board’s report he will find that very few of the biscuit manufacturers were sufficiently interested to come forward and give evidence.
– Would I be in order in directing a question to the leader of the New South Wales State Labour party in this House?
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).What is the nature of the question?
– It concerns a matter of politics.
– Then it would not be in order.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) has asked questions relating to the gratuitous circulation of the debates of this Parliament, and to the cost involved, and the Treasurer has invited the attention of the President of the Senate and myself to the honorable member’s questions, particularly to the following:
Is the Minister prepared to give reasons to justify this expenditure?
Would a decrease in the distribution of Hansard lead to the curtailment of speeches in this House, and will the Minister consult his colleagues and Mr. Speaker as to the question of bringing about a desirable economy in this regard?
I do not propose to venture any opinion as to thepossibility of a decrease of the circulation leading to a curtailment of speeches in this House. That is for honorable members themselves to determine, although it occurs to me that it is a matter to be governed by the Standing Orders rather than by any move in the direction suggested in the honorable member’s question. Members of both Houses were originally allowed twelve copies for distribution to those whom they nominated. This number was some years later increased to 35. Lists are furnished by members to the Government Printer.
In the first Parliament a general instruction was given to the Principal Parliamentary Reporter by President Baker and Mr. Speaker Holder to grant any application from newspapers registered by the Postmaster-General’s Department, schools of art and kindred organizations, debating societies and associations having a membership of 50 or over. This has been acted upon, and taken to include organizations of employers and employees. No other presiding officer in this Parliament has felt justified in altering that direction.
I may add that the National Library is the richer by the overseas publications it receives in exchange for copies of the Commonwealth parliamentary debates, and that there is an ever-increasing demand for these debates from the leading libraries of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. I do not propose to take any action on the lines suggested, nor do I think that honorable members would wish me to.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 3 - “ Public charitable institution “ means a public hospital, a public benevolent institution orareligious organization) and includes any public organization which the Commissioner is satisfied is established for the relief of unemployed persons.
Senate’s amendment -
After “ established “, insert “ and maintained “.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
When this bill was previously before the House, I accepted an amendment which extended the definition of “public charitable institution “ by adding the words, “ and includes any public organization which the Commissioner is satisfied is established for the relief of unemployed persons “. The Senate has thought fit to amend the amendment by making itapply to institutions “ established and maintained “ for the relief of unemployed persons. This is a precautionary amendment to ensure that relief from taxation shall be granted to such institutions only so long as they continue to function for the benefit of the unemployed.
– I object to this attempt to limit the scope of the amendment. Every fresh condition imposed increases the likelihood that those administering the act will find means to deny these institutions the relief which we propose to give them.
– So long as the institutions continue to operate for the benefit of the unemployed they will not be taxed; but it is not desired that an organization, called into being ostensibly for the relief of the unemployed, should continue to be exempt from taxation after its original purpose has been abandoned, and it has become an ordinary trading concer n.
Motion agreed to.
Amendment No. 2 (verbal) agreed to.
Clause . 14 -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Part, the flour tax . . . shall not be payable by any person in respect of-
flour held bya public charitable institution for its own use.
Senate’s amendment -
After paragraph (j) insert the following paragraph: - “; or
held for sale, for use as or in the manufacture of, any food for infants or invalids (being a food specified in the Third Schedule of the Sales Tax Regulations as in force from time to time) and in respect of which the Commissioner is satisfied that the flour will be so. used.”.
. -I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Its purpose is to remove invalid foods from the schedule of the third rates bill, and it is in accordance with an amendment proposed by an honorable member opposite.
Motion agreed to.
Amendment No. 4 (verbal) agreed to. Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate with a request
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s request) :
Senate’s request -
Leave out the following items: - “ Allenbury’a food;” “ Benger’s food : “ “Bowen’s food;” “Diabetic bread and flour;” “Gluten biscuits, bread, flour and meal;” “Mellin’s food;” “ Mellin’s food biscuits ; “ “Neave’s food;”
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
The items covered by this request are invalid and children’s foods, which it is thought should be omitted from the list of goods subject to flour tax.
– I congratulate the Minister (Mr.
Casey) on the decision of the Government to eliminate these invalid andchildren’s foods from the schedule to this bill, and am glad that the protest I made against the inclusion of some of them has borne fruit. I should be pleased if the Government would remove some of the customs duties on such articles.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests : -
Flour Tax Bill (No. 1) 1934;
Flour Tax Bill (No. 2) 1934;
Northern Australia Survey Bill 1934;
Wheat Bounty Bill 1934;
Wheat Growers Belief Bill (No. 2) 1934;
Sales Tax Assessment (Fiji Imports) Bill 1934;
Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1934.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 7th December (vide page 933).
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
– (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in any Sales Tax Assessment Act, any person who is registered . . . shall, within twenty-one days after the close of that month, furnish to the Commissioner of Taxation, … a return of those goods. (2.) Every return furnished under the last preceding sub-section shall be in the prescribed form and shall set forth such information as is prescribed or is required for the due completion of that form. (3.) Without restricting the generality of the foregoing provisions of this section, forms of returns may, for the purposes of those provisions, be prescribed . . .
– Three amendments which the Government desires to make to this clause have been circulated. The department is unable to get new forms printed in time for the December return and it therefore proposed to make it possible for the Commissioner to call for a return under the old form. These amendments will make it possible for him to call for a return under the old form for this month until the new forms can he got ready. I move -
That after the word “or”, sub-clause (2), the following words bo inserted : - “ where no such form is prescribed, shall be in such form as is authorized by the Commissioner, and, in either case, shallset forth such information as”.
That after the word “ prescribed “, subclause (3), the words “or authorized” be inserted.
That after sub-clause (3) the followingnew sub-clause be inserted: - “ (3a.) Any return furnished before the date upon which this act receives the Royal Assent, by any person specified in sub-section (1.) of this section of any goods so specified, and made or purporting to be made under any one or more of the Sales Tax Assessment Acts, shall be deemed to be a return furnished under this section.”.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Offences in relation to returns).
– I move -
That the following sub-clause be added: - “ (3.) In any prosecution for : an offence against paragraph (c) of sub-section (1) -
of this section, or
of section forty-five of the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 1) 1930-1934, it shall be a defence if the defendant proves -
that he has not been convicted previously of any offence against this act or against any Sales Tax Assessment Act; and
that, as to so much of any return or answer as has been prepared by him personally, the false particulars were given or (as the case may be) the false statement was made through ignorance or inadvertence; and
that, as to so much of any return or answer as has not been prepared by him personally, the false particulars were given or (as the case may be) the false statement was made through -
i ) ignorance or inadvertence on his own part; or
reasonable reliance upon the accuracy and competence of the person preparing the return or answer; or
both (i) and (ii).”
The object of this amendment is to give effect to a suggestion I made during the second-reading debate with due regard to the criticism of that suggestion made by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey). The evil of the clause as it stands is that it creates an offence of making a false return or furnishing false particulars, and does not enable the offender to plead that he made the false return or furnished the false particulars innocently. Under t he original act, if the defendant could satisfy the court that he had furnished a false return or supplied false particulars through ignorance or inadvertence, that was a complete defence. That provision in July last was cut out of the act, I think, through ignorance or inadvertence, because the attention of the House at the time was not drawn to it. I suggested that it should be restored. The Minister made certain criticisms of that suggestion which carried a good deal of weight, and I have given consideration to them in framing this amendment. It is a serious thing for a man to be convicted of having made a false statement or furnished a false return. It stigmatizes him for life as a liar, or, possibly, a perjurer. It could be brought up against him in cross-examination in any court proceeding, and he might have great difficulty in exculpating himself by trying to show that the court did not think he had wilfully committed this offence. What I propose, and the Minister is meeting me to a certain extent, is that in a prosecution for an offence under paragraph c of sub-clause 1 of this clause, or section 45 of the Sales Tax Assessment Act 1930- 1934, it shall be a defence if the defendant proves that he has not previously been convicted of any offence against the act and that, so far as he knew, the statement, if prepared by him personally, was perfectly accurate and, if prepared by any one else on his behalf, was, if false, made through ignorance or inadvertence. Of the weight that should be attached to the allegations of the defendant the court would be the judge. I think the committee should agree to my proposal, or alter the act. A man should not be charged and convicted of having made a false return, without being given an opportunity to urge in his own defence that it was not incorrect to his knowledge.
– A limited number of typewritten copies of an amendment which I propose to submit have been circulated among honorable members. It is on the lines generally indicated by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) ; but the Government is unable to accept his amendment in its full form. One reason is that it seeks to amend section 45 of the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 1) 1930-1934. Throughout this bill the Government has endeavoured not to touch the existing structure of the law. All prosecutions in future will be under this measure when it becomes law, and not under the individual sales tax assessment acts, except in an emergency. If and when we have cause during the course of the next calendar year to amend the sales tax assessment acts individually, I give an assurance that the Government will sympathetically consider an amendment of section 45 on the lines suggested by the honorable member for Bourke. In the meantime, all prosecutions will normally be under this legislation, and, in effect, section 45 will be defunct.
– Under this measure, would a defendant be able to plead inadvertence?
– Yes, so far as his own actions are concerned; but we have had bitter experience in cases where leniency has been shown by the department. It is now held that a taxpayer must be responsible for the acts of his accountant or other agent who makes up his returns. The revenue has definitely suffered on account of fraud.
– The proposal of the Minister goes twothirds of the way towards meeting my amendment; but I should have thought it desirable to cover possible typing errors. It is important that section 45 of the Sales Tap- Assessment Act (No. 1) should be amended at the earliest possible moment. As I pointed out when speaking on the second reading, this bill does not supersede that act; it merely provides an alternative procedure. T understand that the Minister assures us that, except in extreme cases, the Commissioner will not take any proceedings under the No. 1 act - they will be taken under this bill - and that early next year the Government will consider the advisability of bringing the act into line with this measure. Therefore, I accept the Government’s proposal, and ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment - by have - withdrawn.
– I am glad that the Minister has taken this course. Some time ago I came across a business man who could neither read nor write, and he had to depend entirely on outside assistance for the preparation of his returns. This legislation penalizes the small business man beyond all reason. I know one who was sent bankrupt last week because of the penalties imposed by the department. He admitted his guilt. The amount of sales tax due from 1930 to 1932 was set down as £58 3s. 8d. For late payments he was charged £8 14s. Id., and for late lodgment of returns £20 19s. 7d. He was presented with an account for over £87, which is out of all proportion to the debt of £58. Since 1932 he has mot his liabilities to the department. Everybody knows that whilst the small man cannot gather the sales tax from his clients, the big man can do so because of mass production. Officers of the department should not have the right to penalize . small men without taking them to court and obtaining a verdict. I do not know any firm in Sydney that can inflict penalties comparable with those imposed by the Taxation Department. The man to whom I have just referred had given a bill of sale over his property. He had been in business for twenty years, and owed practically nothing, except the debt to the department; but the department sent him bankrupt. If at any time he desires to revive his business, he must pay penalties amounting to at least £29, in addition to court costs. The charges inflicted by the department amount to usury, because the small man is unable to compete with the big man. The department is “cleaning up” the small men all over Sydney. It says that those who do not pay their sales tax are competing unfairly against those who do.
– Is that not reasonable? What about the honest man who pays the tax ?
– I consider it very unreasonable to impose such penalties on men in a small way of business.
– Does the honorable member desire the tax to apply only to the big men ?
– I would not mind that, within certain limits; but I point out that leniency is not shown to the small men.
– Nor is it shown to the big men.
– The big men can afford to employ expert- accountants, and in nine cases out of ten canbeatthe department. The revenue has been robbed, not by the small, but by the large business men. When taxation officers retire, theywalk out into private practice, because they can tell the big menabout all the loopholes in thelaw. I submit that this tax is a penaltyupon poor people andsmall enterprises. The big cashandcarry man can purchase £200 worth of one article and sellit at a price lower than that charged by thewholesalersto the little man. I do not believe that the Government should impose a tax that can be made to weigh heavily on the small man and belargely escaped by the wealthy and t he big man. The penalties inflicted by the department are in contradistinction to those which a private individual can obtain. No private individualcan make a man bankrupt notonly on the original debtbut alsoon the penalties that he chooses to inflict. Although a man may have practically a clean sheet with outside creditors, if he is forced into bankruptcy by the department he will be faced in the, years to come, should he wishto redeem himself, with penalties and costs thatare unreasonable and unfair.We were givento understand a little while ago, when taxation remissions were made, that the result would beto increase employment in the commercial and business world. The aim of the Government should be to reduce the sales tax to a figure which,while enabling a certain amount ofrevenue to be obtained, would ensurethatthe small man is given a fair chance. It could be reduced by at least 2½ per cent.
Amendment (by Mr.Casey) proposed
That the following sub-clause be added: - “(3.) In any prosecution,for anoffence against paragraph(c) ofsub-section (I.) of thissection, of any perron who has not pre- viously been convicted of an offence against this act or againstany Sales Tax Assessment Act, it shall boa defence if thedefendant proves -
Mr.LAZZARINI (Werriwa) [10.48].- I have a good deal of sympathy with some of the remarks of the honorable members for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and Barton (Mr. Lane) in connexion with excessively -high penalties. Many small -businessmen whocannot employ expert accountants may -makegenuine mistakes. There is no intentionto defraud. When . proof is furnished that a mistake has been made inadvertently and that deliberate fraud does . not exist, the department should not come down with heavy penalties. The verdict in such prosecutions is more or Jess one of roguery having been practised, and reflects on the character of -the taxpayer. The Assistant Treasurer . (Mr. Casey) has said that the wealthy cannot, evade this tax. In other avenues of taxation, it would seem that, distinct discrimination is exercised. At times the department -goes out in the manner of a young and enthusiastic policeman who is ambitious to obtain a stride, ‘to harass and -make trouble for the little fellow, while it lets the big fellow go. Throughout a ‘business career of from twelve to fifteen years, and a parliamentary career oftwelve years, I had no trouble with ‘the Taxation Department, and my returns were never questioned ; but immediately 1 was defeated at anelection my returns wereexamined as though with ‘amicroscope,andabout eighteen months laterI “receivedfour reassessmentswhich went back usfaras seven years, onefor1s.6d., asecondforabout 5s.,and another for -about 7s. One fell due ‘in ‘September, and the balance in October. I threw them on “my desk thinking that I would pay the lot in October ; but when the amount of 1s. 6d.fell due in September I was. notified that if I did not pay.it, within a day or two a summons would be issued against me, and I would have to meet costs of court. “Cases of the same kind are occurring under the sales tax. The whole -matter should be placed on a ‘better basis. If I couldcast a vote forthe wiping ‘out of this class of taxation I would -do so . to-mowow. The principle -is -entirely -wrong. It is a cowardly . ‘system of taxation which -hits the poorest people. Cases,such as the case of Abrahams, havebeen made public of persons who owe tens of thousands of pounds in income tax to thedepartment, I hope that the Minister will instruct thedepartment at least to do the fair thing, and see that it is not used merely to cause irritation.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended,agreed to.
Clause 8 (Penalty in certain cases).
.- There is a good deal in the complaint which has been made as to the oppressive methods adopted by the department in the administration of the act. The bankruptcy of one man whose case has come under my notice was, I believe, largely due to the imposition of excessive penalties. The danger with this class of legislation lies in placing too much power in the hands of theCommissioner. Powers are conferred upon him which are not given to the police, or to any other official or Minister. This clause contains the power to impose an additional penalty.
Mr.Blackburn.- No, an alternative penalty.
– Subclause 2 makes that perfectly clear.
– The clause provides that any person who -
– The department cannot both exact a penalty under clause 8 and proceed against the taxpayer Under clause 7 or clause 11.
– The department does not seek to have it both ways. If action is taken under clause 7 or clause 11, clause 8 does not apply.
– I wish to make sure that there is not a double-barrelled right to impose penalties.
.- This clause provides for the imposition of a penalty in certain cases. The penalty should hot, always be on the one side. Powers are given which seem to me to be undue. This Parliament has undoubtedly been drifting into the practice of giving extraordinarily wide powers to Ministers and departmental heads. Reference is made in the ‘clause to regulations made by the Commissioner. Surely when power exists to make regulationsunder the act, additional power shouldnot be given to the Commissioner to enable his staff either to request or to demand information other than that required by the act. I haveseen many instances of that in connexion with both theCustoms Department and the Taxation Department. The heads of departmentscannot be blamed. It seems to me that entirely too much power is given.
As Isaid at the beginning, penalties should ‘operate in both ways. If the department collectsmoney, and subsequently finds that it has been improperly paid-, a refund should be made. I have had placed before me the Case of a man who lives in a country district far distant from the city. He rarely sees a city newspaper. He paid £39 in sale’s tax when there was no need to do so. An application by him for a refund was refused by the department, which advised him that the amount would be deducted from any future payments he might have to make. When I rang up the department I was informed that its policy was not to make any refunds-. It ought to bo made clear that in cases in which the department receives moneys that are not legally collectible a refund should fee made immediately.
– If land tax is owing by a taxpayer and a refund is due to him on account of income tax, the department offsets one against the other.
– That wouldbe quite correct. In this case there was nothing of the sort. I hope that the Assistant Treasurer will assure the. committee that the department will be instructed to make refunds in such cases.
– I shall look into the matter.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 - (1.) Notwithstanding anything containedin any Sales Tax Assessment Act, where, in any proceedings for the recovery of sales , tax, the defendant denies liability, it shall not be necessary for the plaintiff to allege or prove under which of the Sales Tax Assessment Acts the sales tax became payable, and, upon the production of a certificate purporting to be signed by the Commissioner, the Second Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner ofTaxation and stating that an amount of sales tax, not exceeding the amount claimed, is due by the defendant in respect of goods and that those goods have been cither -
.- I object to the principle embodied in this clause, that when the Commissioner attempts to enforce the tax he simply has to produce an assessment. I offer no objection to the first portion, which removes the necessity for proving under which of the Sales Tax Assessment Acts proceedings are being taken. The Commissioner is able to meet the wishes of the taxpayer by not requiring him to make that stipulation ; therefore, it is right that he should be similarly obliged. What I protest against is the portion which reads -
Upon the production of acertificate purporting to be signed by the Commissioner . . and stating that an amount of sales tax, not exceeding the amount claimed, is due by the defendant . . . the plaintiff shall be entitled to judgment for the amount of sales tax stated in the certificate except insofar as the defendant proves that the sales tax so stated or any portion thereof is not payable.
The meaning of that is, that the Commissioner has simply to produce his certificate stating that a certain amount is due and he is entitled to judgment, unless the taxpayer is able to prove that it is not due. One of the complaints universally voiced against the department by business people is that they are given very little information as to how assessments are made up. The department has the information on its files. Those who are not keen business men, or who have had very little business training, are unable to understand the position. To say that the onus should he placedon these men of disproving the cases made against them is totally inconsistent with the principle of law that the complainant who makes a complaint before a court, whether for a penalty or a money claim, must prove his case. The defendant is not called upon to disprove the complaint which hasbeen made against him. This clause, however, asserts the right of the Commissioner to produce a statement signed by the Commissioner, the second Commissioner, or a Deputy Commissioner, and expect judgment in his favour unless the defendant can prove that the tax or any portion of it is not payable. Too much power is given to the Commissioner. Amendments of this kind are brought down session after session, almost all of them conferring upon the Commissioner additional facilities for the enforcement of penalties imposed upon taxpayers. The department is not so ready to make amendments in the interests of taxpayers where anomalies have been discovered. Owing to a flaw in the act people manufacturing furniture, and also dealing in second-hand furniture have been charged sales tax, but no attempt has been made to rectify the anomaly. Many of the amendments suggested by the Commissioner are too drastic. When a case is brought before a court the Commissioner has all the material at his disposal to prove his claim, and there is no reason why the onus of disproof should be placed upon the defendant. I move -
That all words after the word “ payable “, sub-clause (1), be omitted.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 11 and 12 agreed to. [Quorum formed.]
Clauses 13 and 14 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed to amend sections 18 and 21 of the principal act. Briefly, the effect of these amendments will be to enable the War Service Homes Commissioner to make further advances to war service homes purchasers who are in a position to carry a further liability to enable them to connect their homes with existing sewerage systems, or contract with municipal councils for the construction of roadways and footpaths. These additional advances will be dealt with by the commission in conjunction with the present indebtedness of the purchasers. At present it is competent for the War Service Homes Commissioner to increase the statutory advance to purchasers from £800 to £950 for the purpose of providing additional accommodation, renovations, construction of verandahs, or anything in the nature of additions to the home; but sewerage connection has been ruled as not being an addition to the home. Therefore, it is essential that the act should be amended to enable the Commissioner to make further advances to the purchasers to connect their homes with sewerage systems. To a deputation of purchasers which waited upon me in Sydney last month, I said that every effort woud be made to meet their requests in this direction. This bill which empowers the Commissioner to make advances aggregating £45,000 must result in the creation of a considerable amount of employment as the money will be spent in wages, and in the purchase of Australian material. The material to be used will be manufactured almost exclusively in Australia, so that practically all the money will be spent in the payment of wages.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of an annuity to the widow of the late David Charles McGrath, Esquire.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Thorby and Mr. Casey do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Thorby, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The late David Charles McGrath was a member of the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth for twenty years, during which period he was . a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Works, from January, 1926, to September, 1929, and was Chairman of Committees of the House of Representatives from November, 1929, until November, 1931, With the exception of a short period, he was continuously a member of the House of Representatives from 1913 until his death on 31st July, 1934.
Prior to his entry into the Parliament of the Commonwealth he was for nine years continuously a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Parliament of the State ofVictoria, so that, for a total period of 29 years, he was a representative of the people in the legislatures of his country.
He served in the Australian Imperial Force during the Great War, from March, 1916, to31st July, 1918, when he was discharged as medically unfit for further military service.
– I support the bill. All honorable members of this House are aware of the great service which Mr. McGrath rendered to the people of Victoria, and of Australia generally. Not only did he serve the people in a public capacity, but in his private life he was extraordinarily generous. It is probably as the result of that trait that his widow now finds herself in circumstances which we all deplore.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to appropriate a sum of five thousand pounds for the purpose of a grant to Mrs. Mary Josephine Ulm.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Thorby do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and road a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for an appropriation of the sum of £5,000 as a grant to Mrs. Mary Josephine Ulm, the wife of Flight Lieutenant C. T. P. Ulm, who, it is feared, has lost his life in connexion with hia attempted flight from Canada to Australia. This sum represents the equivalent value of a life insurance policy in the name of Flight Lieutenant Ulm which waa handed over by him as part security for an overdraft of £8,000 granted by the Commonwealth Bank to meet the expenses in connexion with his Sight, including the purchase of an aeroplane. When this flight was in contemplation, representations were made to the Government that the Commonwealth should guarantee a bank overdraft to meet the expenses in connexion with the purchase of an aeroplane in which to carry out the flight, and to meet other incidental expenses. The matter was given very careful consideration by the Government, which was informed by its technical advisers that the flight had a reasonable chance of success. This assurance, together with the fact that a British aircraft was being used, and that the flight, if successful, would be a demonstration of the value of long-range flights between Australia and other continents, induced the Government to give the guarantee. The Government agreed that, in the unfortunate event of its having to stand up to its guarantee, it would approach Parliament for authority to appropriate the necessary moneys. The arrangement was that if Mr. Ulm did not repay the overdraft to the Commonwealth Bank by the 30th June, 1935, the Commonwealth Government would liquidate the debt to the Commonwealth Bank over and above the proceeds from the securities held by the bank. The securities were a life policy for £10,000 taken out by Mr. Ulm, which had a proviso that if he met his death outside Australia while on a flying enterprise, not more than £5,000 should bo claimable under it. The remaining security was the aeroplane, Faith in Australia, which had an assumed value of between £3,000 and £4,000. These negotiations took place at the end of the last parliamentary session. It is now my unfortunate lot to introduce this hill, which has been made necessary by the tragedy which, it is assumed, has taken place. It was open to the Government to do one of two things. To let the Commonwealth Bank realize on the securities it holds would mean that Mr. Ulm’s widow would be left without any assistance at all, because I understand his assets of every description were pledged in various ways to enable him to get the necessary finance to make this flight, lt was an all-in enterprise for Mr. Ulm, and it has, unfortunately, failed.
The Government had either to let things take their own course, in which case Mrs. Ulm would be left without any means whatever, or allow Mrs. Ulm to have at least the proceeds of her husband’s life insurance policy, and that is what it is proposed to do. We were faced with two possibilities: The first was to let the bank realize in due course on the life insurance policy and on the aeroplane and, if there were any deficiency, to make it up in cash to the Commonwealth Bank. The death of Mr. Ulm, of course, is not yet assumed by the insurance company. In the ordinary course of events, the company would allow some considerable time to elapse before it paid the money due under the policy. The other course open to us - and it seems to me, as I hope it will seem to the House, the more generous and reasonable thing to do - is to make a grant to Mr3. Ulm to the amount of the claim under the insurance policy, £5,000, and then let the Commonwealth Bank, in due course, when the insurance company is prepared to meet the liability, collect the amount due under the policy. The proposal as put to the House - and it is hoped that the House will accept it - is that the Government should make a direct grant of £5,000 to Mrs. Ulm and let the Commonwealth Bank realize on the securities which it holds. This will enable Mrs. Ulm to have the benefit of this money at an early date instead of having to wait for it for six or twelve months. In the unfortunate circumstances that obtain, I submit the bill to the House.
Mr. HAWKER (Wakefield) [11.34J. - I am sure that every honorable member feels the deepest sorrow and regret at what is deemed to have been the tragic end of a very gallant enterprise and of three very distinguished and gallant Austral ian aviators. In making this grant to the widow of Mr. Ulm, I feel certain that Parliament will be carrying out the wishes of the people of Australia. I support the bill in its aspect as a grant to the widow. At the same time, I must draw attention to the danger which attaches to a government - no matter to what party it may belong - guaranteeing accounts for enterprises without first obtaining the approval of Parliament or by making provision for it on the Estimates. Such a practice might place a government in an extraordinarily embarrassing position. A new government might be faced with all sorts of liabilities of which it was totally unaware, and of which the public also was unaware. In this case I think the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) would greatly ease the anxiety of honorable members and the public generally if he could give us an assurance that there is no other guarantee, not necessarily to aviators, but to any enterprise that might have made a sentimental special appeal to members of the present or any preceding government. We are the custodians of the taxpayers’ money, and should scrutinize and view with the greatest possible sense of justice the proposal now before us. I am not in any way casting a reflection upon the action of the Government in giving assistance to this particular flight. The guarantee, no doubt, was granted after proper inquiries had been made and recommendations received from expert advisers. But, assuming all this, it still leaves open the possibility of establishing a very dangerous precedent. I hope that the Assistant Treasurer will be able to give the assurance for which I have asked, and be able also to inform us that the arrangement made was not published at the time either owing to business exigencies, or because Parliament was not actually in session. 1 whole-heartedly support this grant to the lady whose husband did so much for Australian aviation and who in the end hai given his life in the cause of aviation.
– So far as my memory goes I believe the situation is unique. I cannot recall any commitment or potential commitment by the Government in this or any other related connexion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.-! offer no objection to the bill, but 1 seek information on one point. Is it advisable that any government should guarantee expenses incurred in connexion with an aeroplane flight across a large stretch of ocean? I understand that a very definite risk is undertaken by those who fly over large areas of water in an aeroplane as opposed to a seaplane. A seaplane offers a fighting chance, so far as I am able to gather from experts; but when an aeroplane is used in such circumstances the element of risk is very greatly increased. The late Mr. Bert Hinkler was a personal friend of mine. In the course of conversation I asked him whether he did not think an aviator was undertaking an unnecessary risk in proposing to fly across a vast extent of ocean in an aeroplane, with no knowledge of what the weather conditions might be at the other end. He said that a seaplane was safer than an aeroplane, but that an aeroplane was preferred because it was faster. It is rather remarkable that two aviators who recently made a successful flight from Australia to New Zealand in an aeroplane should have been prosecuted by the Governmentfor having flown a plane forwhich a certificate of airworthiness had not been issued, while in this case the Government guaranteed against loss a much more dangerous enterprise.
– This, I understand, was a two-engine machine. It had a retractable undercarriage and the underside of the fuselage was such that it had at least some of the qualities of a flying boat. Unfortunately the precautions taken in this regard were ineffectual, and the machine has been lost.
-Is an aeroplane as safe as a seaplane for such a flight?
– Not exactly; but a land machine, particularly one with a retractable undercarriage, is considerably faster. An aviator sacrifices a certain amount of speed by using a seaplane, but I have no doubt that the comparative values of a seaplane and a land machine were taken into account by Mr. Ulm. It is a fact that owing to the greater weight you do not get the same performance out of a flying boat that you get from an aeroplane. That too, no doubt, was taken into account. As to the possible commercial value of the flight, may I say that it was meant to have been the forerunner of a service from Australia at least as far as Honolulu. It was understood that Mr. Ulm’s scheme would not necessitate longer hops than 1,100 miles, landings being made at intermediate islands. The flight, to every one’s dismay, has apparently failed, and we are engaged in this small way in trying to make some compensation to the widow of that very gallant man.
Bill agreed to and reportedwithout amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 13th December (vide page 1276), on motion by Mr.
That the bill be now read a second time. [Quorum formed.]
Mr.BRENNAN (Batman) [11.47].- From my point of view this is a measure of the greatest importance, and the mat ters with which it deals are of the gravest urgency. It is a bill for an act “ to authorize the issue and application of a certain sum of money for the purposes of works and services and for the grant of financial assistance to the States, and for other purposes. “ As to the major amounts to be granted to the States, particulars of which are set out in the bill, clause 4 provides -
Any amount granted to a State under this section shall be paid upon condition that it is expended by the State in the carrying out of such works as are, from time to time, specified by the Treasurer by notice published in the Gazette.
The other portion of the bill relates to specific grants in aid of the mining industry. The nation owes a great deal to the workers who have fallen by the way in that industry, and it is a pathetic fact that at this stage of our history, in all the big mining centres, the health of the workers is undermined. They are suffering from incurable diseases, and they and their dependants have not the advantage of any substantial provision for their maintenance, in many cases, by way of invalid or other pensions. These conditions should not prevail in any civilized country.
I urge that the present bill suggests two important lines of thought. One is that these works should be put into operation with the utmost possible expedition, for they have been too long delayed. The other point is that they should be put into operation at standard living wages. I mention this matter in connexion with proposed relief arising out of the devastation due to floods in Victoria. I dread the use of these moneys for extending the policy of breaking down wage standards in Australia. I know the familiar argument that employment should be spread over as wide an area as possible, and that it is better that men should be employed at sustenance rates rather than not employed at all. I am aware of what is happening in all the municipalities throughout the Commonwealth. The fight over wages took place 50 years ago, and it was won by the representatives of labour. If this depression is to be used as an excuse for breaking down principles that have been established by the blood and sweat of the labour pioneers in the past, a new evil greater than any other will arise out of this deplorable depression. A search is being made, so we are told, for the root causes of unemployment. The causes may he summarized in this phrase: Unemployment arises out of the essentially and fundamentally wrong and unjust distribution of the wealth created by the working classes, and out of sweating. The root cure for unemployment is to reestablish the purchasing power of the consuming public, which is, in a very large majority, the working classes in Australia.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. I do not look to this Government to break down the system of capitalism, and, further, it has not received a mandate to do that.
– Nor is it likely to receive one.
– That is a matter of opinion. That is a counsel of despair with which I do not agree. I believe that sane and just principles of social government will eventually be applied to this and every other country; but I do not believe, unhappily, that they will be applied in the time of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), or in mine.
– I am sure they will not.
– I have no doubt as to what my own position is now, or was during the last election. I said to the people that if I were returned, and were a member of a government, I should ask, “ Is there work that requires to be done? Are there idle hands ready to be applied to work, and has the nation the resources available for supplying the fundamental needs of the people of this country?” It would not take a very elaborate investigation to prove that there are idle hands, and expert hands, ready to be applied to useful work which is waiting to be done, and that the resources of the nation are more than ample for the purpose. There is no doubt as to the wealth production of Australia. All the problems we have been discussing in this chamber for weeks past arise from a glut of production. We do not know what to do with our surplus wheat. We do not appear to be able to market our superfluous wool and fruit. Thousands of people in this country could consume more fruit and more butter. Is there any doubt as to the fact that hundreds of thousands of children, women and men are insufficiently supplied with fruit? Is there any question at all but that the home market, in Australia for these commodities is under-supplied? The two problems are that the people are in want, and that we have a glut of the goods and materials necessary to supply those wants. Yet it is suggested that it would be unjust and impolite to attempt to put into operation any policy whichwould remove that absurd anomaly.
As far back as the election of 1931, the working classes of Australia, embittered and disappointed as they were, accepted the assurances of the former Nationalist but then United Australia party that its return to power would mean employment for them. Those working men went to the poll with heads bowed and eyes averted in despair. They voted for the United Australia party in the belief, which was well founded, that it controlled the money-bags, and that through it alone employment could be obtained. That is nearly four years ago, and ever since some of them have been harbouring that “ hope deferred “ that “ maketh the heart sick”. What was the change at the last election? Large bodies of workers in electorates like my own, disgusted and disappointed, voted for the return of Labour men.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! I always regret to have to interrupt a debate; but honorable members generally must realize that the discussion is becoming very wide of the bill, the purpose of which is “to authorize the issue and application of a certain sum of money for the purposes of works and services and for the grant of financial assistance to the States and for other purposes.” The allocation of the money is set out in the clauses of the bill. The root causes of unemployment, and the results of an election four years ago, can hardly be considered as being within the scope of the measure.
– I was endeavouring to lead my argument in an orderly way to the statement that, after all these years, we might reasonably have expected that, before Parliament adjourned- for Christmas, definite proposals applicable to definite public works extending over a wide area would have been submitted to us, so that we could return to our electorates with a message of hope that a considerable amount of employment would be made available at once. The Government, however, is proposing to make money available to the States without furnishing a list of the works upon which it will be spent. It is true that the Treasurer is’ tinder obligation to certify that certain works are to be undertaken from time to time; but I have a vivid recollection of the neglect and delay of certain State governments in the past in submitting plans for employment. The Commonwealth Government controls the purse, and supplies the money, and so it is not unreasonable to ask that the State governments should submit schedules of public workswithout delay. Further procrastination would be inexcusable. I have not sufficient confidence in many of the governments of the States to believe that they are seriously and intelli gently grappling with this tremendous problem, and I am afraid that the curse of the Commonwealth, which is duality of control, will adversely affect the prospects of the unemployed people obtaining work. The tremendous respect which this Government has to show to the sovereignty of the States is a serious hindrance to the speedy implementation of a satisfactory works programme.
– Does the honorable member think that the Commonwealth Government should have sole control of the various works?
– I think it would be quite proper for local governing bodies to be asked to submit schemes of work; but the responsibility for seeing that the works are put in hand expeditiously should he exercised by the authority which controls the purse, and which has, or pretends to have, a tremendous consciousness of the urgency of the matter.
– Would not that also lead to duality of control?
– The curse of the duality of control is in the fact that the States have sovereign powers. I shall not be permitted, I am sure, to embark upon a discussion of our constitutional limitations ; but these have undoubtedly delayed the implementation of a satisfactory works programme.
– Are not the State governments just as- representative of public opinion as the Commonwealth Government ?
– That is part of the difficulty.
– How would the honorable member avoid it?
– By effecting sweeping and fundamental constitutional changes which would enable this Government to exercise its power through local governing bodies.
– Did the Government of which the honorable member was connected propose to make these comprehensive constitutional changes ?
– The Labour Government did propose radical changes.
– I must ask the honorable member not to pursue that subject.
– It is sad that the Government should be allowing Parliament to go into recess on the eve of Christmas without having done anything effective to help the unemployed.
– The Government risked the condemnation of honorable members by bringing down an appropriation bill without a schedule of works so that the money would be available when the States submitted their proposals.
– I suppose the honorable gentleman is conscious of the serious limitation to his power and authority; but I had hoped that before we left Canberra a schedule of public works would be submitted to us and an assurance given that a large army of men would be in employment at least at the beginning of the new year. It is all very well to talk about the hardships of the f armers and other people on the land ; but no hardship is comparable with that ofthe working classes who are out of work or receiving insufficient wages to enable them to provide the necessaries of life for their families.
– Every one will agree with that statement.
Mr.BRENNAN. - The peopleon the’ land may’ have their liabilities and em- barrassments, but’ at least they’ are not short of the necessaries of life. A fanner may’ not be’ able’ to’ sell eggs’ or butter Or wheat atprofitable price, but at least he’ has these commodities for his own use. Manyworking men, however, live’ under a’ constant threat of eviction fromtheir homes, and are often actually evicted because they Cannotmeet their commitments. Their resources are so’ slender that inthousands ofcases they areunable to pay their Bills. The consequence is that they are embittered and their home life is destroyed;and we see a’ rising tide ofdiscontent before’our very eyes. We waste our time in condemning peoplefor this discontent when we are doing nothing to remove the fundamental causes of it. In a few hour’s we shall leave this Parliament to go home, and probably we shall talk about the spirit of Christmas; but do we realize that there can be no Christmas spirit for tens of thousands of our fellow citizens? Santa Claus will come down the chimneys of some homes and be welcomed, but we have to recognize that in a multitude of other cases Santa Claus himself is on the dole, I quite realize that talking about this subject cannot advance matters at the moment. I realize also that the people generally are not educated sufficiently to demand radical changes, which could be effected, not by violence, but by mass action at the ballot box. I would that it were so! We were entitled to expect that the Government would exercise its mandate to provide employment for the people. It is idle to say that private enterprise should give the lead. The National Parliament, which controls the finance and taxation resources of the country, could set the pace, and it should not be subordinate to other governmental institutions. It could do much by precept and example to remove, in part, the horrid anomaly referred to over and over again recently in this Parliament that want, penury and misery abound in a land of plenty.
.- I wish to refer briefly to the methods adopted by at least one State authority making relief work available to the unemployed. I have received a letter from Western Australia in which the serious allegation is madethat the Government of that
Stateis denyingwork to person’s who will riot join a particular union..
-Ihave beeninformed thatthe Government of Western Australia has prepared a small programme of works under which each unemployed man in the country will receive £4 10s. before Christmas, and the right to a railway faro to Perth; Shortly after that’announcement was made, the ganger told his men that behad received specific instructions from the Minister of Employment,. Mr. Kenneally,that men were not to be employed on the job unless they joined the Australian Workers Union. Some of these men have never been unionists. They accepted this casual work simply because- they were out of employment. They refused to join the Australian Workers Union, and were promptly dismissed. The fee payable upon joining that Union is 25s., of which, I am informed, 5s. is an affiliation fee in connexion with the political activities of the union. I have no wish to embark upon- a discussion of the principles” of compulsory unionism. It isone of those matters upon which we’ have differed and will always differ. The point is, that the Government represents the whole community; it is providing public funds for purposes of employment, and it is not its function to deprive any section of the community of the right to participate in this expenditure. It would be very wrong if the Commonwealth Government, not being in favour of compulsory unionism, laid it down that unionists should not be employed. It is equally wrong for a Government that believes in compulsory unionism to deny a man the fight to work merely because he will not join a union. I would protest against the adoption of coercive methods in any walk of life. This attempt to obtain from a man who is given casual employment, so that he may earn £4 10s. before Christmas, a fee of 25s., portion of which is to be devoted to political purposes, is a cruel form of extortion to which this Government should not be a party. These are public funds, and every unemployed man, whether he be a unionist or not, is equally entitled to the opportunity to share in their distribution. I call upon the Commonwealth not to give way on the principle of freedom to all. The State Government is acting purely as the agent for the Commonwealth, which is entitled to dictate the manner in which Commonwealth funds shall be distributed. I notice that the Minister must approve of all proposed works, and that it is not compulsory on him to provide money for any works. The Commonwealth is merely handing the money over to the States and local governing bodies, retaining the right of general supervision of the expenditure. It is a principle of the party that sits on this side of the House, and should be of everyone, that public funds should be equally available to every member of the community, irrespective of political, religious or any other beliefs. I trust that the Commonwealth will not permit any government to enforce its own political ideas in the distribution of these Commonwealth funds.
– I am disappointed with this measure, particularly in view of the fact that the schedule of works that we were given to understand would bc submitted by the Government has not been brought down. When approval was given recently to the raising of a loan of £5,000,000, the impression conveyed was that the money would bo allocated to purposes of employment. We now find that provision is made for the expenditure of only £1,533,750. New South Wales is to have the distribution of £350,000. Sub-clause 2 of clause 4 of the bill definitely states that any amount granted to any State shall be paid on the condition that it is expended in the carrying out of such works as are from lime to time specified by the Treasurer by notice published in the Gazette. We have never had any intimation of the nature of the proposed works. Clause 5 provides that certain grants will be made for assistance to metalliferous mining. That will have a harsh effect upon men in other branches of the mining industry who desire to participate in this relief. They will be compelled to leave their homes, which represent their life’s savings, and their families, to go to the wilds of Australia for prospecting purposes. That is not what the unemployed expected. Men who are engaged in other industries, and are in comparatively comfortable circumstances have been assisted on their holdings by means of a bounty that is partly to be made up by a tax upon these very people. No one can deny that that is due to the political pressure which one section can bring to bear upon the Government. We should have definite information as to the schedule of works to be carried out by the States. Further, the Commonwealth should direct the States as to the manner in which the works should be proceeded with, and should instruct them that award rates of wages and conditions must be observed. On the hustings the Government exhorted the unemployed to vote for the United Australia party, and thus secure for themselves a good job at steady wages. I take it that “steady wages” means award rates. We know that these conditions have not been observed in some of the States. I have received from the Premier’s Department of New South Wales a letter dated the 12th December, in reply to representations that I made at the suggestion of the Minister for Defence and other members of the Cabinet, regarding the clearing of the aerodrome at Cessnock. Portion of the letter reads -
I may say that this matter was before the unemployed relief committee some time ago, and it was provided that such provision could not be made for this work. It was pointed out, further, that the Cessnock Municipal Council could carry out any improvement at the aerodrome under the emergency relief scheme, if adopted.
The emergency relief scheme provides work for one day a week, or for a specified number of hours a day in the case of single men, while others participate according to the food requirements of their families. In my opinion, a scheme along those lines is to be adopted for the works that are carried out in New South W ales with the money made available by the Commonwealth. Seeing that the Government believes, or claims to believe, iu union rates of wages and conditions, it should see that they are observed.
Certain statements have been published in the press in regard to the schedule of works to be carried out. One work, in which I have been interested for the last two years, and upon which I have made representations to the Government at the request of the municipal council of West Maitland, is a sewerage scheme for that area. Three weeks ago, and oven as late as yesterday, I approached the Parliamentary UnderSecretary for Employment (Mr. Stewart) and was given to understand that this work would be undertaken. Last night, however, I was amazed by the statement of the Assistant Treasurer that it is not included in the list of works proposed to be carried out, and that he knows nothing about it. I was under the impression that the cost of that work would be approximately £150,000. If it is not to be carried out it will be a disappointment, not only to me, but also to the people concerned.
– One of the honorable member’s colleagues said that if the job were carried out it would be undertaken for party political reasons.
– Much of that work is long overdue and should be carried out under award rates and conditions. I have made representations in respect of other parts of my electorate represented in the State parliament by Labour members, but our representations have been ignored. I do not know if they were ignored for party political reasons.
– The honorablemember can be very hopeful about that particular job.
– I am pleased to have the assurance ofthe Under-Secretary for Employment, and I am sure that he is sincere in what he says; but at the same time, as he does not hold a position in the Cabinet, and is necessarily subject to Cabinet decisions, he may not be able to carry out his intention. It is a pity the honorable gentleman has not been elevated to full Cabinet rank, in accordance with the promise given to the people during the election campaign that a Cabinet Minister would be appointed to this task. That the honorable gentleman who is carying out a most important job should be relegated to the dungeons of this House, where it is almost impossible to find him, is a state of affairs which should not be tolerated. In an attempt to solve one of the most difficult problems confronting this country, the honorable member is facing a gigantic task and has my fullest sympathy.
The people of the Maitland district have, in common with other people of the Commonwealth, suffered from the effects of the general depression, but in addition abnormal floods have increased their difficulties. The Government should finance the construction of a canal which would mitigate to some extent the effect of the disastrous floods that occur so frequently in that locality. Engineers say that a canal to take the tidal waters from Hexham or Morpeth through Maitland to Singleton would greatly relieve congestion among shipping in the port of Newcastle. This work would be revenue producing, because the canal would save a considerable amount of freight on primary products to the port of Newcastle, and in addition would give employment to a number of people in that locality who have been hard hit by the effects of two floods within the last eighteen months. During those floods large numbers of live stock were drowned, and damage was caused to the extent of many thousands of pounds. At any time another flood may take place, and it is of no use for us to be wise after the event and say “ Had we known of this trouble we would have endeavoured to rectify it”. I hope that we will not have a recurrence of the floods in the Hunter Valley, but each successive flood seems to become more serious The river banks have now to be built up with sandbags.
Apart from the construction of the canal and the undertaking of sewerage works, why should not some roadwork be undertaken in the mining centres? Maitland cannot be called a mining centre; it is the centre of an agricultural district. I have constantly asked that something should be done for the coal-fields districts, but with no success. If the road which has been partly made from West Wallsend to Kurri Kurri were completed, people in the Maitland district could not be isolated by floods. They would still have access to Sydney, Newcastle and other places. In addition to this the distance between the coal-fields and Newcastle would be shortenend considerably. A road from Cessnock to Lake Macquarie, giving the coal-fields’ people access to Newcastle and all parts of the Lake Macquarie district, was surveyed and partly formed prior to the depression, but workupon it has since been abandoned.
Clauses 5 and 6 of the bill make provision for metalliferous mining. Many representations have been made in this House that something should be done to rehabilitate the coal industry, and I have often submitted proposals for the setting up of a plant for the extraction of oil from coal under the low temperature carbonization process. Sufficient data has been placed before the House to show that it is an economic commercial proposition. According to a book written by Ivor Thomas, plants in Germany for the treatment of coal by this process are extracting 12 per cent, of the fuel oil requirements of the nation, or more than the .total Australian requirements of fuel for motor transport purposes. In Great Britain the Admiralty purchases all its oil fuel requirements from Low Temperature Carbonization Limited. According to Mr. Thomas, there is room for the exploitation of the hydrogenation process in addition to the process already mentioned. If something were done in that direction it would go a long way to relieving the tragic position which exists amongst those employed in the coal industry to-day. I ask the UnderSecretary for Employment to give serious consideration to this matter. A deputation is anxious to wait upon him in Sydney, and I ask him if he will receive it at a time convenient to himself.
Representatives of municipalities on the coal-fields are anxious to interview him to see what works can be carried out in their -districts, and I am sure that they could put a case before him just as capably as can the representatives of the State Government. These works -could be approved, and a request made to the State authorities to include them in their programme. That would remove a suspicion that the money is to be spent in certain districts in order to further ihe prospect of United Australia party candidates at the forthcoming State elections.
.- It has been said during the debate that “ time is the essence of the contract “. lt is clearly Indicated here that the Under-Secretary for Employment (Mr. Stewart) has lost no time in getting down to practical work. However, I would be pleased if we could be furnished with further particulars concerning the works upon which this money is to be spent. I notice that a sum of £200,000 has been allocated for Commonwealth works, and in regard to these, at any rate, the nature of the works, and the areas in which they are to be. carried out, could be divulged. In view of comments made during the debate, I think it would be of assistance to the Government and the Under-Secretary for Employment if the Public Works Committee were re-appointed to inquire into proposed works, and submit recommendations thereon.
Much has been said regarding the delay experienced in obtaining schedules of proposed works from the State authorities, but those of us who have had experience in the smaller sphere of civic government know how difficult it is to reach finality in preparing schedules, estimates of costs and arranging the organization necessary. Therefore, in the larger national areas with city and country interests to be considered these difficulties would he enhanced.
I observe that a sum of approximately £90,000 has been set aside for expenditure on the Yass-Canberra road. This is a work of first-class importance, and the decision of the Government in regard to it is interesting as indicating its preference for road transport over rail communication between these two -centres. It wi21 bo interesting to see in such areas as these how the policy will work out in the final analysis. I urge the Government to make it a condition that all materials used in the work must be of Australian manufacture, so as to encourage further employment. There are a great many public works in New South Wales which might be undertaken, and, in fact, as much a3 £10,000,000 could easily be 3pent upon public works. For instance, in Sydney, concerning which, of course, I have greater knowledge, there are many reproductive water and sewerage schemes which in those congested areas are necessary for the health of the people. The great mass of unemployed persons reside in the cities, and while it is desirable that certain works should be carried out in country districts, it would be economical to provide the city unemployed with work in areas nearer to their homes. The housing schemes of New South Wales could be extended which, besides being reproductive, would promote the comfort . of the people. Undertakings such as the construction of marine drives on the north and south sides of Sydney Harbour recommend themselves, because, with the co-operation of the municipal authorities, such undertakings might, be m ade reproductive. Might I suggest that consideration be given to provision ofa venues of employment for those who for various reasons cannot be included in this works programme? During the last election campaign, the Government announced that it would work in full co-operation with the States to relieve unemployment, and I congratulate it upon having taken such early steps to honour its promise.
– The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) scouted the suggestion that this money might be used to employ men at less than award rates of wages. In Victoria, many municipal workers have been dismissed, and other men working for sustenance have been taken on in their place, with the result that there has been a considerable shrinkage in the membership of the municipal workers’ union.
– That was not permitted to happen in New South Wales.
Mr.DRAKEFORD. - I do not know whether it was or not, but I know what has happened in Victoria. I should like to receive an assurance from the UnderSecretary for Employment (Mr. Stewart) that all works will be carried out at award wages, and under award conditions. If municipalities are permitted to depart from that principle, the object of this grant will not be achieved.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) said that in Western Australia men were compelled to become members of the Australian Workers Union before they could receive government employment, and he seemed to think that there was something wrong with that. To me, the practice seems to be eminently sound. Those who do not belong to a registered organization do not have to be paid award rates of wages, so that the condition is really made for their own protection.
I am glad a considerable part of this money is to be devoted to assisting the mining industry. I agree with the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr.Fisken) that the gold-mining industry should be encouraged. Many men who were assisted to engage in prospecting operations have now made good, and are off the dole. I cannot understand why the Government has not been able to furnish us with fuller particulars as to how this money is to be expended. When I was in Melbourne recently I tried to obtain particulars regarding the expenditure of the grant of £176,000, but was unsuccessful, and in the end found that the desired details were published in the newspapers before being made available to honorable members.
We have been given to understand that the Go vernment is contemplating a much larger undertaking than any provided for here, namely, the standardization of the railway gauge, and I am sure that the proposal will be supported by honorable members of all parties. This is a work of truly national importance, which will be of benefit, not only to those who receive employment, but also to every other section of the community. 1 should like to know what method has been followed in the allocation of this money to the various States. The greater part of it has been allocated to New South Wales and Victoria, while the three other mainland States are to receive equal sums, and Tasmania is to receive £50,000. I wish that the total amount available were larger, and, in view of the promises made by the Government during the election campaign, we had reason to expectthat it would be. I cannot join with some other honorable members in congratulating the Government upon the speed with which it has honoured its promises. Indeed, itseems to me that it has proceeded at a snail’s pace, but it is gratifying to learn that something is at last being done.
Silting suspended from1 to1.30 p.m.
– I desire to put two or three questions which I hope the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will answer when replying to the general debate. The bill before us makes provision not only for grants to certain States, but also for the expenditure of £200,000 on Commonwealth works and for assistance to the gold-mining industry. It gives no indication, nor do I understand has any indication been forthcoming, as to the principle which is to be adopted in making grants in aid of State schemes. Take, for instance, the position where, with the object of relieving unemployment, assistance is to be granted to two municipalities in the same State in carrying out sewerage schemes. The sum necessary for the work might be the same in each case; but, unless there is some underlying principle governing these grants, one municipality might receive £10,000 or £15,000, while the other receives only £5.000 or £6,000. In that event, a great deal of discontent will arise. I therefore ask whether the grants in such cases will be made on the basis of ability or inability to pay. One municipality might be in such a healthy financial position as to be able to proceed with the scheme with very little assistance; the other might be in such poor circumstances as to need a large measure of help. Are the grants to be made on the basis of ability or inability to pay, or on the basis of what proportion of the grant will give direct, as opposed to indirect, employment? To illustrate what I have in mind, let us assume that a scheme involving a cost of £30,000 would permit of £20,000 being spent on direct employment. In such a case, would the Commonwealth find a percentage of that £20,000 ? Municipalities in my electorate are submitting to the State Government schemes which, no doubt, will come before the Commonwealth Government. They will be asking for assistance, and I therefore want to know on what basis that assistance will be forthcoming. I hope that a just and equitable system will be adopted.
I come now to the proposed vote in respect of mining. I understand that sums are to be granted to the States to promote mining sustenance schemes, and to provide for loans for batteries and machinery to mining companies. If that is so, a great deal of this money will be more or less wasted. Much of it will go to men with very little knowledge of mining. We have not in Australia to-day any great body of unemployed miners. There is, I understand, a scarcity of expert miners, so that a great deal of this money may be mis-spent unless proper precautions are observed. I doubt whether the Government is entitled to enter upon a money-lending business so far as mining companies are concerned. There may be some advantage to be derived from such a policy, but it seems to me that the granting of money for miners’ sustenance, or by way of loans to mining companies, is more of a State than a Commonwealth concern.
– We are supplementing State activities in that direction. This will place an extra 5,500 men in work.
– What is the basis of that estimate?
– It was arrived at after consultation with every Minister for Mines in Australia.
– What information was supplied to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment to lead him to believe that that measure of employment will be provided? In regard to prospecting for gold, I think the Government should continue the course it has already entered upon in the making of geological surveys in Central Australia. We should send out men to survey different localities. If as a result of their work it be possible to inform the State authorities of the existence of auriferous areas of which they were unaware, and, if in addition we can supply information as to the prospects, I think private enterprise will step in and develop such areas. I wish further to know whether there is to be an investigation by experts before advances are made to small bodies of men for the erection of mining batteries. It would be most unwise not to discriminate.
– That has always been done and the general practice is to make advances on a £1 for £1 basis.
-! am glad to Iia ve that assurance. Tlie UnderSecretary for Employment lias replied by way of interjection to some of the points I have raised, but I hope that he will supply, later, the further information for which I have asked. I desire in conclusion to congratulate the Government on having brought down this bill. Complaint has been made of delay on the part of the Government in providing for relief work. That complaint cannot be substantiated. The Government has been in office for only a very short period.
– The general election took place exactly three months ago today.
– In the meantime the States have had to be consulted to provide schemes, the money has had to be found and various other matters have required attention, so that I think the Government is to be complimented on having made so early an attack on the problem of unemployment relief.
– I desire to put to the Minister in charge of this bill a question relating to the wages and labour conditions to be observed in connexion with works carried out by means of these grants. Does the Government propose to follow the system that has been in force in some of the States - the system of giving a man one day’s work a week? If so, these grants will not be of much service to the unemployed. In New South Wales men are given relief work on from one to four days a week, according to the size of their families. I believe that the Under Secretary for Employment (Mr. Stewart) recently had a conference with the Trades and Labour Council in New South Wales. Officials of the council were very well satisfied with that conference, but they have asked me to ascertain what decision has been arrived at in relation to wages. I am speaking on behalf of that council when I say that we do not care in what part of the State any of these works are carried out; our chief concern is that as much work as possible shall be provided and that proper wages and labour conditions shall be observed. I congratulate the Government on having introduced this bill and am hopeful that it will speedily take still further steps to relieve the unemployed. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) said yesterday that no trouble had arisen in connexion with relief work in New South Wales. As a matter of fact there has been a good deal of trouble. Some municipalities have dismissed men who had been employed for fifteen or sixteen years, and have replaced them by nien who are given one or two days’ work a week at low rates of wages. That is not a fair thing. The New South Wales government charges the Water and Sewerage Board 3 per cent, interest on moneys advanced for unemployment relief. The grants to be made by the Commonwealth will be free of interest so that the Commonwealth is entitled to demand that proper wages and working conditions shall be observed on all works carried out under this scheme. My long experience as a member of the Government Unemployed Committee of New South Wales convinces me that road-making gives the largest proportion of direct employment. The percentage cost of material used in road-making is less than that in connexion with any other work. I congratulate the Government also on its proposal to make advances to prospectors. In New South Wales, a prospector receives £1 a week, and is entitled to any return that he gets from his labours. I am satisfied that, as the Under Secretary for Employment has said, this prospecting grant will provide employment for 5,000 men. Hundreds of men apply to be placed on the list of prospectors for gold in New South Wales, and I am sure that this vote will be much appreciated. I repeat that my sole concern, and that of our party, is not as to where any of these works is to be carried out, but that the unemployed shall be given something to do at fair rates of wages.
.- A proposal is afoot to supply the town of Albany, in Western Australia, with a sewerage system, and I have passed on to the Minister a communication which
I have received in connexion with the proposal. This work would provide a considerable amount of labour,” and I trust that it will be possible for assistance in regard to it to be given to the State under the provisions of this bill.
Mr. HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) 1 1.46 J . - I emphasize the importance of carrying out the proposed works on the basis of regular weekly employment at award rates of pay, and not on the old sustenance or relief basis. We should take a lesson from the experience of unemployment relief work that we have had in the last three or four years. Probably £30,000,000 has been expended in sustenance payments and relief work of various descriptions, and no permanent good has come out of it. Certainly those men who have been given intermittent employment for a few days have been able to keep their families and themselves from starvation, but, from an economic point of view, the plan has proved a complete failure. I am glad that action is being taken to put work in operation before Christmas, and no doubt early in the new year a start could be made on the scheme for the standardization of the railway gauge. There is room for a considerable amount of employment in that regard in South Australia. It is strange that some of the States are standing back, and sabotaging the efforts which the Commonwealth Government is willing to make in the direction of finding much useful employment. In New South Wales, the amount of unemployment is stated to be 26 per cent., and, although the position is not quite so serious in Victoria, it is bacl enough. I urge the Minister not to be guided by those who still imagine that the best way to spend the money to be provided for employment is to continue the sustenance and dole system. Like the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden), I do not mind in what localities work is provided, so long us all are employed. Men need regular wages at the rates fixed by law for their particular class of work. The amount set aside for the encouragement of the mining industry is a wise provision. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) need not be afraid of unskilled labour being applied to mining operations. So long as one expert miner is placed in charge of a party of five or six men they can be safely sent out to do prospecting work, and, as a rule, men of a good type volunteer for it.
I hope that the Minister will stand to his own statement, and to that of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that the wages to be paid under this scheme will be the award rates which apply to the particular classes of work undertaken.
– Who said that?
– In reply to a question which 1. submitted to him, the Prime Minister informed me that the ordinary rates provided under the law would be observed, and that the men would be given regular employment as far as possible. He added that there need be no fear on that score, because Commonwealth officials would have some supervision in the matter.
A wrong impression may have been created by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), who read a message from his electorate to the effect that one of his constituents had been refused a share of relief work, the wages for which would have been £4, unless he first joined the Australian Workers Union, and paid 25s. for a membership ticket. Such a condition would not be imposed, even in good times, much less in >a time of depression. As I understand the position, Western Australia has a Labour Government, which believes in trade unionism, and the employment of men. at the wages fixed by the State Arbitration. Court. It considers that the workmen who get the benefit of the efforts of the union to obtain reasonable conditions of employment should contribute to the funds of the union. It must see that the men whom it employs receive the wages fixed in accordance with the law. If it paid nonunionists less than award rates, it would violate the law, and, therefore, all men employed by the State government receive the award rates. The price of a membership ticket for a full year is 25s., but that money may be paid in instalments spread over twelve months. A workman might be required to pay only 2s. 6d. clown, and he would then be allowed to enjoy the privileges of union membership for four or five months without paying another penny. It would be a bad business proposition for him to lose those advantages for the sake of a deposit of 2s. 6d.
I am glad that an effort is being made to provide additional work before Christmas, and early in the new year. We shall, of course, support it. But I hope that the Commonwealth Government will seek to influence the Government of Victoria to agree to participate in a general effort to have a uniform railway gauge. I am sorry that the Premier of Victoria seems to be opposed to this work at the moment. For many years the people of Australia have been expecting this huge work to be put in hand. Students of political economy and defence measures are almost unanimous in the view that our railway gauges should be standardized. I always speak and vote against militarism, but I can appreciate that for defence purposes we must have a uniform railway gauge. If Australia were ever invaded- a very unlikely happening - and we had necessity to concentrate our forces, we should find it almost impossible to do so under existing conditions. The breaks of gauge at numerous points in our railway systems, and our obsolete rollingstock, would make the rapid transportation of troops impossible. Our gauges must be made uniform some day, and as labour and material are both available at lower prices to-day than for very many years, this seems to he the opportune time to do the work.
I hope the Government will resist the temptation to spread this money over the largest possible number of people by paying it out practically as a dole. We want something better than that. A continuous policy is necessary. Some municipal councils appear to think that they can get work done more cheaply under what amount to practically dole conditions; but they forget that by adopting these methods they seriously undermine the capacity of citizens to pay rates and taxes. I have sufficient faith in the Under-Secretary for Employment (Mr. Stewart) to believe that at the various conferences he will doubtless attend before it is finally determined how
L5l] this money shall be spent, he will, with his modern outlook, resist the attempts of those who wish to follow the old-fashioned and futile methods that have been pursued for the last four or five years.
– I wish briefly to support the views of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden), and other honorable members who have requested that award rates and conditions shall apply to the expenditure of this money. The National Government, and the various State governments, should not even think of following the example of certain bad employers of labour, who seem to take pleasure in doing their utmost to break down the living standards of the people. I do not say that all employers of labour fall into this objectionable category, hut some do. I should be sorry to think that any Minister of this Government would lend himself to the furtherance of that policy. Wages paid from money made available by this Parliament for public works should he in accordance with the legal determinations that govern the employment of our people. The Government would not be justified in perpetuating either directly or indirectly, the conditions that prevail in connexion with certain relief works in New South Wales which, in my opinion, are little short of scandalous. We have been told that some of this money may be expended in water conservation work. The Woronora dam, which is being constructed by the Water and Sewerage Board as a subsidiary to the Sydney water supply is a great undertaking to which reasonable conditions of work should apply, for every resident of Sydney who uses more than a certain quantity of water annually will be required to pay a water rate towards the cost and maintenance of it; and, of course, every citizen, irrespective of the quantity of water he may use, will contribute through the general rates, towards its cost and maintenance. I hope an assurance will be given to us that not one penny of this money will be spent on works performed under the relief conditions that at present operate in New South Wales. The National Parliament should not lend itself to the tearing down of the living standards of the nation. It cannot be said that award rates and conditions are being observed when men are being given only one or two days’ work a week at award rates and left unemployed for the remainder of the week. It would be humbug to call those award conditions, for such people must maintain themselves and their families for a week on the proceeds of a couple of days’ work. I ask the Prime Minister, who is at present in the chamber, to do his utmost to resist the continuance of sweating conditions in these relief works, which may not unfairly be compared with the worst sweating conditions of the past. I am not very greatly concerned about the particular works upon which this money is to be spent, though I feel that members of this Parliament are entitled to such information, seeing that they are providing the money that is to be expended. Of course we should all like to think that substantial undertakings would be put in hand in our own electorates ; but the principal requirement is that extensive works shall be started under conditions of labour which the wage tribunals of this country have declared to he the lowest possible for the maintenance of the people under reasonable living conditions. If proper conditions are observed in connexion with future works I shall be quite prepared to forget what has happened during the last year or so. If the National Parliament lends itself to the adoption of lower standards than .those stipulated by the various wage-framing tribunal of the country, its prestige will be diminished, and the reputation of any member of the Ministry associated with such undermining of wages and conditions will be totally lost. Anything which tends to perpetuate the conditions which have caused so much human misery and woe, and so many tears, in the last few years, is to be condemned in the most unmeasured terms. This Parliament cannot be surprised if, in the event of anything like that happening, the people lose all their respect for our great national institutions. I hope that the all-too-poor wages and conditions which our industrial arbitration authorities have prescribed for various callings will be observed so that married men will be able to maintain their wives and families in reasonably decent circumstances.
– I was sorry to hear the statement of the UnderSecretary for Employment (Mr. Stewart) that no really definite programme of works had been submitted to the Government by the Tasmanian Ministry. Last week a member of the Tasmanian Cabinet who visited Canberra told me that he had presented for the consideration of the Commonwealth authorities a rather formidable list of public works which would absorb large numbers of unemployed people.
– I did not make my statement critically, for I appreciate the difficulties that confront the State governments.
– The position of Tasmania is serious, because it is an exporting State and the markets for its products, both on the mainland and overseas, have shrunk to a very marked extent. People who were in fairly comfortable circumstances a few years ago are now seeking relief from the Government. I understood that a water scheme for southern Tasmania had been submitted for the consideration of the Government.
– The proposal has been withdrawn temporarily.
– Another proposal that I understood to be under consideration is the construction of a bridge over the Derwent River at Risdon. The Commonwealth Government has let a contract for the construction of an aerodrome on the eastern side of the Derwent. People who travel by aeroplane to that ‘drome Wil be under a disability, for they will land ten miles from the city. The trip from Melbourne to the Cambridge aerodrome occupies two and a half hours as a rule; but if passengers land at that point early in the morning or late at night, they may miss the ferry which runs infrequently and it may take them another two and a half hours to traverse the ten miles to the city. Plans have been prepared for a bridge over the river and the approaches to it. That is a reproduc- tive work, upon which the Commonwealth could well spend portion of this money. I believe that plans are also ready for works to be undertaken in Launceston for the prevention of floods. The unemployed position is worse in Tasmania at present than it has been for many years. The Melbourne Age of the 12th December published the following message from Hobart: -
Tlie Commonwealth Grants Commission, which is taking evidence on Tasmania’s claim for financial assistance from the Federal Government, received a statement this morning from the Chief Secretary (Mr. T. Dalton), who outlined the State’s efforts to provide unemployment relief . . . Despite the fact that the Government had placed some 2,000 men at work since July, on 10th November there were more persons in receipt of sustenance than at any other period, and the numbers would undoubtedly increase. Some concern was being felt because large numbers of applications for sustenance were being received from small farmers and orchardists.
If the Commonwealth Government would undertake reproductive works immediately the situation would be considerably relieved.
There is a fairly large unexplored area which has considerable mineral possibilities in the south-western portion of Tasmania. In it have been located practically all the minerals that have been discovered in Australia. A few years ago one man went there at his own expense, and, having put up a sluice box right on the water’s edge, was able to recover about £1,400 worth of osmiridium. Gold has also been discovered and at the present time a number of fossickers are mining for tin. Assistance for prospecting purposes is needed. I say, with other honorable members, that the need is to place our people in occupations that will provide them with employment for more than a few months. Sir Herbert Gepp, in, I think, 1930, reported on the manufacture of paper from hardwood forests. In his report he said that if the requirements of Australia were supplied, between 5,000 and 6,000 persons would he absorbed. The small experimental plant which was shown at the Wembley Exhibition was subsequently procured by a company and brought to Tasmania, where it was proved that paper can he commercially manufactured. The existing forests are sufficiently extensive to last for all time. In Tasmania the timber grows a great deal faster than in any other part of the world. I am well acquainted with the difficulties of the people of Tasmania, and am prepared to give every assistance to the Government with the object of relieving the prevailing distress. I agree with other honorable members, however, that relief works do not meet the requirements. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) adopts a hypocritical attitude when he says that men employed on those works are paid the basic wage.
– Of what value is that when they are given only one or two days’ work a week? Employment should be provided for them on every day of the week. I am a primary producer, and speak with authority when I say that last year the bulk of the produce grown in Tasmania went to waste, not because the people did not want it, but because they could not afford to purchase it. Had Tasmanian potatoes been marketed in Sydney last year at as low as ls. a cwt. that would not have benefited thousands of people in that State, because they had no purchasing power. I offered to people in my district at a ridiculously low price a quantity of potatoes that I had in a shed, but they could not find even the small amount asked; consequently I made no charge sooner than allow the potatoes to rot. So long as such conditions exist, a young country like Australia will get nowhere. I heard a Minister say last night that New South Wales had applied for £10,000,000. If that State can bring forward a programme of reproductive works to cost £10,000,000, the money should be found. Such an expenditure would bring prosperity not only to men on the basic wage, but also to primary producers in the different States. I am sure flat the States will furnish complete lists of works, and that they will he dealt with sympathetically by the Minister. I am opposed to the stipulation of the Commonwealth that the States must find £1 for £1. Tasmania has been doing everything possible to relieve unemployment, and is now asking the Commonwealth for further financial assistance. How, then, could it find £1 for £1? Under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, the Commonwealth advanced £1 to the States’ 15s. On one occasion the Tasmanian Government advised the municipalities that a certain sum was available if they would find 15s. for every 25s. advanced by the Commonwealth; but although the roads in the Franklin division needed repair, the municipalities could not avail themselves of the opportunity, because they could not find their portion of the expenditure. Such restrictions should not be imposed on Commonwealth assistance. The States are already burdened and unable to meet their liabilities. The Commonwealth Government should provide a considerable sum to improve the conditions of not only the workers, but also the primary producers throughout Australia. I trust that the small amount to he allocated to Tasmania will be expended within the next three months.
– I wish to contribute to what has been so well said by several honorable members, but particularly by the honorable members for Cook (Mr. Garden) and Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), as to the necessity for maintaining wage standards in Australia in any scheme which the Commonwealth undertakes on behalf of the unemployed. At the elections that have just been fought, all parties went before the country with proposals for a large-scale provision of work that would employ people and thus give them the means to purchase commodities. It was admitted by all, that, good as protective tariffs and other things were, they could not, in a crisis like the present, provide the people with the necessary employment; all that they could do was increase the volume of commodities for which already the demand was insufficient. It was agreed that Australia should embark upon a scheme for the employment of its people at work which, though socially valuable, would not produce further commodities. Employment upon such a scheme would be at the basic wage, and instead of being non-consumers, the persons concerned would become consumers, and their effective consumption would create a demand for goods that were not at the moment saleable. A further result expected was that persons at present unemployed or not fully employed, would probably become either partially or fully employed in making goods for which a demand would be created. It is quite obvious that what the Commonwealth is doing is in the nature of a breather. This is certainly nothing like the scheme upon which the United Australia party went to the country. I have a vivid remembrance of the attempt made by that party in my constituency to put forward a general scheme of wide employment. It rejected the proposal of the Labour party that the necessary funds should be provided by an expansion of credit or the issue of new money. It is universally admitted that the present crisis might be relieved to some extent if Australia attempted on a large scale to provide work for its unemployed at ordinary wages. It has been said in this House by honorable members on this side that the States do not pay award wages, and it has been said by honorable members opposite that they do. There is, of course, a scintilla of accuracy in the statements of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) and other honorable members - the States do make a pretence of paying award rates, at any rate the States of New South Wales and Victoria do. But they pay on an hourly basis, and refuse to employ people for sufficient periods to enable them to earn award rates of wages. Before the advent of the Argyle Government in Victoria we did, for several years, attempt, more or less unsuccessfully, to uphold award conditions, and provide that men engaged on relief works should be employed on conditions and wages set forth in the appropriate award. After the change of governments in Victoria and in New South Wales also in 1932, applications were made to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for a variation of relevant awards, because it was conceived that the State legislation did not enable employers and government departments to escape liability under arbitration awards. The court suspended the relevant awards which would prevent employers avoiding the obligation to give daily or weekly employment. They were thus permited to employ men for as many hours a week as they liked, and for each hour pay l/44th or l/48th of the weekly wage. That is absolutely useless. It is destroying the working classes of Victoria and New South Wales. When work is carried out on that basis, nobody gets a decent wage, everybody gets a pittance, and the whole working class is gradually accustomed to working for that pittance. If people demonstrate, over several years, their capacity to keep alive on a few shillings a week, a few shillings will become their .permanent wage. I do not believe that the Under-Secretary for Employment or this Government stands for that. I think that this Parliament, having power to grant to the States financial assistance on whatever terms it likes to prescribe, should insist, either by the provision of legislation or by executive act, that work which is to he done under this scheme shall be paid for at award rates and under award conditions. Instead of men being employed for six, twelve, or thirteen hours a week, they should be employed for a full week at full wages. Then, and only then, is it possible to make them decent, selfrespecting men and effective consumers of our goods. There is something in the words of John Stuart Mill, “When you have desperate diseases, small cures, ineffective cures, are worse than no cures at all “. The conditions of the working classes in Victoria and Australia generally are much worse now than at any time during this crisis. Instead of getting better, they are getting worse. Australia is facing years ahead which will be worse than any it has experienced in the past. Australia must approach the position at which it must declare that no person must go without a decent living and that in order to ensure this the country’s resources will have to be pooled, even if it means that a superfluity must be denied to some. I believe that that is the attitude of the people generally, apart from any consideration of party. I believe we realize that our standard is dropping to that of older countries. An eminent physician has written that, if the people of any city of Europe were to be given decent meals for a week, the conditions prevailing in those cities would not be endured. And the conditions of Australia to-day are allowed to continue only because, morally and physically, the working classes are being broken down. I hope the Under-Secretary for Employment (Mr. Stewart) will consider these things, and do his best to pioneer for the Commonwealth a scheme that will, as far as possible, give employment to the people at the old decent rates.
.- If it were not for the desire of the Government in this hill to provide money for employment, I should use every effort to prevent it from becoming law. I give the Government credit for bringing it forward, however, because relief is urgently needed. But Parliament is losing its grasp of the public finances when it allows a bill of this kind to be introduced. I urge the Government to endeavour to see that this money is distributed among as many people as possible. I am prepared as a rule to trust the State governments to see that justice is done in the expenditure of money granted by the Commonwealth, but in Western Australia a little time ago, sustenance workers were refused employment unless they joined a union. They formed a union among themselves only to find that it was not one of the organizations the Government would recognize. I differ from the honorable gentleman who has just spoken. I trust that as many people as possible will share in the money to be provided, and hold the view that if it is not possible to employ the whole of the people on full time, it is far better to employ a greater number of them on part time. Men in employment indirectly create employment for others. I hope that this is the beginning of a new era, and that it will not he necessary for us to have another hill of this sort introduced into the House. Money is being provided more for the sake of providing employment than to undertake works of a reproductive character. No hig schemes, such as the uniform railway gauge project, have been put forward.
– A conference in regard to that matter was arranged to take place in Canberra this week, but the representatives of the States could not attend.
– A lot of reproductive work will have to he undertaken in the future. We, in this Parliament, need to exercise greater control over money expended, and to see that the Parliament is kept fully in touch with proposals for the expenditure of relief moneys. Only on account of the extreme conditions which prevail at the present moment do I agree to vote for this measure.
– The amount of thought and consideration that has to be given before £1,000,000 can be expended, if the money is not to be wasted, and the maximum number of men are to be employed at reasonably short notice, is very great. I remind honorable members that the election took place only .three months ago, and that only a month has elapsed since the Government obtained the authority of Parliament to borrow £5,000,000. The whole of the intervening time has been devoted to very anxious thought, toothcomb investigation and effort to discover works which are worth while, and should, in a general sense, he reproductive. This task has been rendered more difficult by reason of the fact that a very large programme of public works is already being prosecuted in Australia. This year the States are spending £22,000,000 on these works, and the Commonwealth has already appropriated over £4,500,000 for definite work in progress, making a total of nearly £27,000,000 apart from this appropriation of £1,500,000. As work goes on, and more money is spent, difficulty is experienced in finding other worth-while projects which can be undertaken in conjunction with State governments and local authorities. That has been the guiding feature of the Government’s policy. For every £1 the Commonwealth puts up the State governments or the local governing bodies will find from £1 to £4 to supplement it. All honorable members will agree that it is a principle well worth pursuing if every pound contributed by the Commonwealth can be expanded to between £2 and £5. We thus achieve something very much better than the mere spending of the Commonwealth’s contribution. As I have said, that is one of the guiding principles under which the Commonwealth is working, and it appears from the work of the Under-Secretary for Employment (Mr. Stewart) that it promises very well indeed. I anticipate that the expenditure of the amount raised by this bill will be more productive of employment than the expenditure of any similar amount by the Commonwealth in past years. That very consideration brings with it a limitation. Since every £1 put up by the Commonwealth is only a moiety of the ‘amount of money that that £1 will generate, it is almost impossible for the Commonwealth to dictate to the State governments and local governing bodies, conditions under which the money should be spent.
– The local governing bodies are not putting up any money. They are all “broke”.
– They have credit and are using it through the State governments to add to the total. That is one reason why there are limitations of our powers in this matter. In works of a purely Commonwealth character, and in other works to be undertaken in the future in which we must have a predominant share, the Commonwealth will lay down the conditions of work; and, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) have said, on those works award rates and conditions will be observed. In other instances, however, we are supplying only a relatively small proportion of the total sum to be expended, and we do not feel that we can dictate to the State authorities the conditions under which the work is to De done.
I remind honorable members that it is only a week since the conference was held in Melbourne for the purpose of discussing proposals for the development of the mining industry. In the intervening period the Government has been able to examine the proposals in some detail, and approval has been given for the expenditure of over £350,000. That is an example of the rapidity with which the Government is pushing forward. Next week, a similar conference will be held in Melbourne to discuss forestry, and other spheres of activity will be considered in due order.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson), asked upon what basis the money was being allocated, and what principle was being followed in selecting works to be undertaken. That ground has already been largely covered, and it is only necessary for me to add that we propose to give preference to those schemes in regard to which authorities other than the Commonwealth are in a position to make contributions. We are also taking into consideration the geographical location of unemployment. One honorable member raised some doubt regarding the security for the advances to be made for the assistance of the mining industry. Such advances are to be made on a £1 for £1 basis with the State Governments, when the money is intended to be lent to individuals. The State authorities, which are much closer to the details of these ventures than we are, will be careful to protect their own interests, and ours will be protected at the same time.
Honorable members must feel indebted to the Under Secretary for Employment for the unremitting work and intense concentration which he has devoted to these matters for several months past, and we cannot be other than grateful for the ability with which he has performed this gratuitous service.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– We should like to receive a definite assurance from the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey), or from the Under Secretary for Employment (Mr. Stewart), that this money will not be used to employ men at other than award rates of wages.
.- I am not clear regarding the principle which it is proposed to follow in allocating money to municipalities. If two municipalities apply for the same amount of money, and one is granted £10,000, while the other receives only £5,000, it will lead to much heart burning. Does the Government propose to give preference to applications from financially embarrassed municipalities, or will consideration be given to the relation the proposed grant bears to the total sum tobe spent on a particular work? Perhaps the Government could make a ruling that it will advance one-fifth of the money which is to be spent for the purpose of providing direct employment. I think it is necessary that some principle should be laid down, so that the position may be understood by those authorities which are likely to become applicants for grants.
– When selecting schemes out of the large number submitted by the State authorities, consideration is given to the extent to which local or State authorities are prepared to contribute to an undertaking. I do not think that we should be asked to discriminate between wealthy local authorities and those which are not so favorably placed. We must pay some attention to the geographical location of unemployment, and if applications for grants were received from two municipalities, preference would be given to the application of the council in whose area there was the greatest amount of unemployment.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked for an assurance that all men employed under this scheme should he paid award rates of wages. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has confirmed previous statements by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), to the effect that it is the desire of the Government to observe award rates and conditions in every instance, and that they will be so observed on all works that come under the control of the Commonwealth. It has been pointed out, however, that, in regard to many of the works that may he selected, the Commonwealth’s contribution will be comparatively small. As a matter of fact, I am trying to arrange for the carrying out of works in regard to which our contribution will be almost negligible. For my part, I refuse to believe that the recovery or non-recovery of Australia depends ‘upon the withholding of a few shillings a week from the workers, and no consideration of political or personal expediency will prevent me from professing that belief, and applying it whenever possible. If it should be that the sum represented by those few shillings a week is really an important element in our national recovery, then there are others occupying higher positions in the social scale who should be called upon to contribute it. However, we must be practical, and recognize that we cannot dictate terms in regard to undertakings for which we are contributing only a small share of the money.
I recognize that honorable members are entitled to more information regarding our proposals to assist the mining industry. I was pleased to note the very general acceptance of those proposals. Many persons believe that, in the revival of mining, lies the greatest hope of Australia’s economic recovery, and because we were impressed by that conviction we convened a conference of mining authorities in Melbourne last week. That conference made certain recommendations involving the expenditure of over £350,000, and we have accepted those recommendations in toto. The State authorities intimated that, if the Commonwealth would contribute on the basis asked for, they would be able to provide continuous employment for 5,550 men for twelve months, which would mean that it would be possible to put one man back to work for the expenditure of every £51 of Commonwealth money.
– Can the UnderSecretary state how the money is to be allocated ?
– Yes. Queensland has asked for, and has been allotted, £70,000, of which £3,000 will be for the purpose of strengthening the technical and geological administration. A sum of £10,000 will be devoted to the assistance of individual prospectors, and to making sustenance payments to men while prospecting. Subject to the State Government making available a similar amount, £20,000 will be used for making temporary advances to struggling enterprises, while £4,000 will be devoted to providing small tools and other equipment for mining organizations, where those facilities are not now available.
Some doubts have been raised as to the desirability of rendering financial assistance in this way to the mining industry. Let me remind honorable members of one or two classic examples of the beneficial effects arising from the granting of assistance of this kind on previous occasions. Wiluna, one of the gold-fields which now looms largest on the mining horizon, was rendered possible because the Commonwealth Government, and the Government of Western Australia, guaranteed an advance of £300,000 to the corporation which proposed to work the proposition. The whole of that money was repaid before the due date, and we now have in production a field which would not otherwise have been established. To come to smaller things, I would point out that Mount Morgan a little while ago was a deserted township, but as the result of an advance of £15,000 it has been converted once more to prosperity; 480 men have been found employment there and are sustaining a community of about 2,000. I could give many more illustrations of what has been done in this way if we were not so anxious to get this measure to another place. I am sure that the States will be able to stand up to their undertaking and to employ these additional men. If that is done we may yet see Australia restored to the place that it formerly occupied in the world of mining. In the middle of last century we were producing 40 per cent, of the total gold production of the world, whereas to-day our gold production has dwindled to 2 per cent.
.- The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has told us that the Commonwealth is in reality subsidizing both the States and the municipalities. I wish to know whether these grants will be made only to those municipalities that are in a position to find funds for relief works. If so, the municipalities in which the greatest degree of distress exists will not be able to share in these grants. Some of them are practically bankrupt.
– These details have come to us through the State governments; we cannot go over the heads of the States and deal directly with the municipalities.
– Then the Commonwealth is merely subsidizing the States.
– We are dealing only with State governments.
– Then the State governments, if they so desire, may discriminate between municipalities. The Commonwealth has no control over them?
– That is so.
– If we are not to deal directly with the municipalities it is impossible for us to know what they will do. I am not satisfied with the position in regard to the wages and labour conditions to be observed on works carried out by means of these grants. I give the Under-Secretary for Employment (Mr. Stewart) credit for absosolute sincerity of purpose, but I point out that it will be possible for national works to be declared relief works and to be carried out by men receiving low rates of wages. Award rates will be scrapped. Consciously or unconsciously the national Parliament will be subsidizing a means by which unscrupulous employers will be able to take advantage of the depression and depress the economic standard of the workers for years to come. Unless we stipulate the precise working conditions to he observed, we shall not be able to escape a charge of having subsidized conditions of employment that involve the sweat, the tears, and the misery of the community. That is a central fact which cannot be ignored. It should be an absolute condition that every penny granted by this Parliament for the relief of unemployment shall be spent under proper conditions, and that reasonable rates and conditions of labour shall apply in every case. I am apprehensive of what may happen to the workers as a result of the nation undertaking work of this character. Conditions of employment are becoming worse and worse. If the Com monwealth Government subsidizes industries carried on under sweating conditions all over the country it will not he long before private employers will rush into court declaring that conditions that are good enough for governments to observe are good enough for them to follow, and that the standards fixed by governments should apply to them. In this way the Government will become associated with the degradation of our workers. We should insist upon the maintenance of a proper economic standard.
.- I thought that the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) would have given the committee an undertaking that award rates of wages and working conditions would be observed in connexion with this scheme of unemployment relief. That, so far as many honorable members are concerned, seems to be merely a secondary consideration. I am as anxious about the conditions of employment to he observed as I am in regard to the amount of money to be made available. Men work to provide the requirements of their families, and if they are not to be paid reasonable rates of wages under the unemployment relief schemes of the government they will he no better off than they are to-day. Governments are compelled to feed the unemployed to some extent at least. They do so, not because of any desire to relieve their sufferings and misery, but because they fear them. The unemployed are so numerous that members of both the Federal and State parliaments are fearful that, driven to desperation, they may take the law into their own hands. I have heard the honorable, member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and other honorable members speak of the days when unemployment was, to use their own words, normal, and when only 5 per cent, or 6 per cent, of the adult population were out of work. There were no schemes then to provide for their relief, although they suffered just as much as any of the unemployed are suffering to-day. Members of Parliament did not fear them because their numbers were insignificant. It is because our unemployed are 30 numerous that governments to-day are giving them some attention. There are municipal councils in the suburbs of Sydney where Labour is in the majority and they will not accept grants from the Commonwealth or the State Government if, in the expenditure^ those grants, they are expected to employ men under slave conditions. The unemployed in those districts, therefore, will not get any employment from this scheme, unless it is laid down that proper labour conditions shall be observed. This Government has the power to attach whatever conditions it pleases to the making of these grants to municipalities, as well as to the State governments. If it says that this money will be available subject to the observance of award rates and conditions of labour on all works upon which it is expended, the municipalities will be ready enough to avail themselves of it and so provide work for the unemployed. I have heard several honorable members compliment the Government on what it has done. But what has it actually done? So far it has provided about one-tenth of the sum which it declared, during the election campaign, it would make available for the relief of unemployment. During the last general election we were told that it would provide £20,000,000 for the relief of unemployment. So far it has provided less than £2,000,000.
– The whole amount cannot be provided at once.
– The unemployed have been waiting for years for assistance. They want that to which they are entitled. They are becoming impatient and are not prepared to wait while Parliament makes mere pretence of dealing with the .position. Members of Parliament pretend that they are dealing with the problem of unemployment as rapidly as possible, yet they are ready to adjourn to attend a Melbourne Cup meeting or to take part in some festivity in Melbourne or Sydney. We hear some honorable members declaring that they are working at top pressure, when, as a matter of fact, they are not doing anything of the sort. This Parliament should not rise until it has dealt with the problems confronting the people of this country. I am prepared, if necessary, to sit here for 365 days of the year. I and my colleagues want from the Minister some sort of undertaking that award rates of wages will be paid. If the Government is not prepared to give such an undertaking, then it does not merit any praise.
I shall judge the Government as every citizen will judge it, not upon its words but upon its works. If slavery conditions are attached to the making of these grants, the unemployed in my electorate will not accept them. I will advise them not to do so. Rather than that they should accept the disgraceful conditions that have been imposed upon the unemployed and their families by different authorities, I would advise them to take other measures to meet their needsMany men are employed under what are called award conditions; yet according to the last census, two-thirds of the 900,000 adult workers in New South Wales receive less than £3 a week. Some honorable members opposite would like to see them forced to accept even less. In defence of that attitude they say that it would thus be possible to find work for more men. The low standards prevailing in connexion with relief works mean the deprivation of little children -the withholding from them of necessary food and clothing. Honorable members did not hesitate to vote for the restoration of the cut in what they speak of as their parliamentary allowance.
– The honorable member voted for its restoration.
– Of course I did. I consistently voted for the restoration of all cuts that had been made under the Premiers plan. But, when the honorable member and others helped themselves out of the public Treasury-
– I object to that statement and ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it in order that the honorable member’s feelings may not be wounded. We know that a majority of honorable members in this chamber voted for the restoration of the allowance, And that every one of them accepted the additional £75. Honorable members dipped their hands into the Treasury and helped themselves, while the old-age and invalid pensioners had their pensions cut down from £1 to 17s. 6d. a week. These are the men who deny to the workers, who are performing useful services, reasonable rates of wages. Honorable members who voted for an increase of their own allowance, and denied the pensioners similar consideration are political hypocrites. I hope that any municipality which accepts money to be provided under this bill will observe such conditions of employment as will enable the workmen to make adequate provision for their wives and families.
Bill agreed to, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Appropriation Bill 1934-35.
Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1934.
National Debt Sinking Fund Bill 1934.
Bill returned from the Senate as amended by the House of Representatives at the request of the Senate.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
War Service Homes Bill 1934.
Special Annuity Bill 1934.
Trans-Pacific Flight Appropriation Bill 1934.
– On behalf of the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) I lay on the table the following paper : -
Commonwealth and State Ministers - Agricultural and marketing matters - Conference held at Canberra, 3rd and 4th December, 1934 - Summary of proceedings.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from the 7th December (vide page 937), on motion by Mr. Paterson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr.BRENNAN (Batman) [3.21].- I understand that this bill is designed to correct something in the nature of an inadvertence, inasmuch as certain lands which the Commonwealth possesses contiguous to the Federal Capital Territory may not be sold or leased as the law stands at the present time. The Federal Capital Territory embraces 900 square miles. The contiguous lands comprise 2,386 acres, and additional land aggregating 1,712 acres has been acquired for the purpose of securing metals from it. I see no objection to the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to.
That the number of members appointed to serve on the Standing Orders Committee be increased to nine, and that the right honorable Earle Page. Minister for Commerce, and Mr. Blackburn, be additional members of such committee.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
The present intention is to call the Parliament together on Wednesday, 20th February next. It is inadvisable to fix. the exact date at this juncture, because, if it were found desirable at a later stage to meet earlier than the date fixed, that could not be done.
– Members who represent farming areas feel strongly that the Parliament should be summoned very early in the new year, in order to deal with legislation that is necessary for the rehabilitation of the wheat industry. We also consider that this legislation should he passed before the farmers are committed to put in their next crop. I hope that the Government will take this fact into consideration in fixing the date on which Parliament shall reassemble.
– I think the honorable member knows that the Cabinet is giving close consideration to this matter, and is hopeful that immediately Parliament meets again a definite proposal will be submitted to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to.
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
Sitting suspended from 3.29 to J/..45 p.m.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment : -
Sales Tax Procedure Bill 1934. Loan Appropriation (Unemployment Relief) Bill 1934.
Seat of Government (Administration) Bill 1934.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
In doing so, I take the opportunity to wish honorable members the compliments of the Christmas season, and to express the hope that the new year will he full of good things, not only for honorable members, but also for the people of Australia generally. I congratulate Mr. Speaker, and the Chairman of Committees, upon the efficient manner in which each has performed his duties in this chamber, and thank both for the help and consideration that they have given to honorable members. I wish also once again to thank the Clerk, the Clerk Assistant, and other officers of the House for their unfailing courtesy and help to honorable members without which our tasks would be very much more difficult. To the members of the Hansard staff likewise, I offer the thanks of honorable members on this side of the chamber. The members of the staff will probably congratulate themselves on the fact that this time, at any rate, Parliament has completed its year’s work without entirely wearing them out as it has done on some other occasions. We have endeavoured to avoid doing that. To the members of the press also we offer our thanks, perhaps not for their criticism-
– But for what they might have said.
– To some extent, at any rate, but we thank them for the way in which they have reported the proceedings of Parliament, and for the assistance that they have given Parliament, and through Parliament, the country. I trust that everybody will enjoy a pleasant Christmas season, and repeat the hope that the people of Australia, as a whole, will enjoy a happier new year than the year which is just closing.
.- I support the remarks of the Prime Minister in regard to yourself, Mr. Speaker, and also in regard to the Chairman of Committees. I congratulate you, sir, upon the way in which you have presided over the House since your election, and upon the efficient and impartial way in which you have administered your high office. The Chairman of Committees has also done his work well. He had not had such a lengthy previous experience as yourself, having acted in the previous Parliament only in the office of a temporary chairman. I express appreciation also of the many courtesies extended to honorable members by the Clerk and the Clerk Assistant, who are at all times ready to help us with good advice, and God knows we, and particularly Ministers, frequently need it. Hansard is perhaps the best friend of honorable members, and we are always indebted to the staff for its work. I also wish to express our thanks to the messengers who so promptly answer the call bell and thus make the work of honorable members lighter. The Librarian and the various members of the Library staff have been wonderfully helpful to honorable members. I wish to assure them, if they are listening, that any feeling tha’ may have been expressed in a debate a’, an early hour this morning in regard to the Library was directed to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and his associates on the Library committee.
– Why drop on me?
– Because the honorable member is the only member of the committee whom I can see. The members of the Library staff are unfailing in their courtesy and assistance to us. I have seen many adjournments of Parliament at the Christmas season and many reassemblings in the new year. Unfortunately, it is true that many faces that we see when we are dispersing we do not see when we reassemble. Some honorable members, on occasions when an election intervenes, fall victims to the just wrath of the democracy or to its unjust judgment - that is a matter for them to decide - and others pass to another world. In examining old photographs one notices the names of former honorable members who have disappeared, and the gaps become greater and greater as the years go by. This makes one feel that whatever opinions we may hold, and however strongly we may express them from time to time, it is a good thing when Christmas comes to absorb the Christmas feeling and determine to wipe the slate clean, forgetting the rancour and disputes of the past. In that spirit I wish all honorable members a very happy ‘Christmas.
.- Being neither the leader nor the deputy leader of a party, I feel that a few words should he said on this occasion on behalf of the rank and file. Unhappily for all concerned - although I was the one most concerned - I was not a member of the last Parliament, but I have been a much longer time a member of this Parliament than not a member of it, not counting the years of my minority. I have taken part in many valedictory gatherings of this kind, and they have all been characterized by an intense thankfulness that we were able to go home at Christmas time with a sense of duty well done. When an honorable gentleman has been out of Parliament for some time he naturally returns with a chastened spirit, but I should like you to understand, Mr. Speaker, that the docile and obedient attitude which I have adopted towards you and towards the House generally since this Parliament assembled is not entirely characteristic of me, but arises out of the fact that I have been absent from these surroundings for a time. The preliminaries of this Parliament are now over, and I hope when we meet again to be able to offer some more worthy tests of your skill as a Speaker than I have felt justified in submitting so far. All of us are very sensitive in regard to our own rights. For a time I thought that you had adopted the policy of promptly calling me to order for any interjections that were made in the course of my speeches. I found, however, that in that quite unjust view - as it seems to have been - I was not supported by any other honorable member on either my own side or the other side of the House. All would seem to have taken sides with you. So that, if we are to judge by the balance of opinion, it is probable that you were right in every case. At all events, there is no doubt in anybody’s mind except my own, and I certainly give you the benefit of it.
As to the Chairman of Committees, I think we have all been struck with the absolute impartiality with which he has given the call to honorable members on both sides of the House; that is, when all the Western Australians have spoken. After all, the far-flung claims of farflung parts of the Empire have to be considered.
I do not want to usurp the functions of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander), who dealt adequately with the personal side of the matter at the beginning of this Parliament, but I have noticed in this Parliament a number of new Ministers. Looking at the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill), one would never realize how fierce he can appear on occasions, and one would certainly hope that he could never be so fierce as he sometimes looks. I notice that the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) is absent from his place. He is a successor of mine and, on that account, in my view, occupies, next to the Prime Minister, the highest position in the Ministry. He is what might be called a new man among us. I notice that he has now entered the chamber. I am pleased that a messenger was despatched to intimate to him that his presence was desired here. He should not be absent while matters that concern his department are being discussed. He has been urbanity itself, and a very worthy successor of his not immediate predecessor. When he approaches the table, especially when wearing a red tie, and begins to speak in that purring voice of his, with eyes half closed, I say to myself “ This is the polite approach of a Bengal tiger “. But the honorable gentleman has developed the qualities not so much of the Bengal tiger as of the urbane AttorneyGeneral.
On behalf of myself and the rank and file I express pleasure at the fact that, so far, none of us has been named. I am sure that I have deserved it, even in this first session. I thank you, sir, for your magnanimity, and congratulate myself and others upon the good fortune which has thus been enjoyed without having been entirely deserved.
I thank all for their courtesy to me. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) saw fit to single me out as one who had adopted an unreasonable and tyrannical role in regard to the Parliamentary library. I am happy to think that you, sir, have not only endorsed my attitude, but also encouraged it; that, indeed, you have given a lead in regard to it, thus exonerating me entirely.
I hope that we shall all enjoy a happy Christmas. I should like to make a longer speech, but perhaps the members of the Ilansard staff are tired, and honor- able members want to get away. I am very grateful to the Hansard staff. They have always made good speeches even out of my worst ones, and out of others worse than mine. I must thank them and the officers of the House and everybody who takes part in running this august assembly. At any rate, in all sincerity - because a little flippancy is usually allowed on occasions like this - I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and the officers of the Library, and everybody associated with the House for their courtesy. I hope that we shall come back refreshed, full of knowledge, and ready to impart to the press and to the people the learning we have imbibed from the large number of books we have taken from the Library.
– I cannot allow an occasion like this to pass without calling attention to the peace and decorum that mark the “ evacuation of the Balkans “ by our friends the leader of the State Labour party of New South Wales and his colleagues. But as Christmas is approaching, and the spirit of goodwill is abroad, perhaps it is well that I, as one of the bitterest opponents of that party, should extend to yourself, Mr. Speaker, and the officers and staff the Christmas felicitations, which, owing to his unavoidable absence, the honorable gentleman who leads the Lang party has not been able to utter.
I wish to express my very deep appreciation of the very kind references that have been made to myself and my work by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), I appreciate very deeply also the co-operation which honorable members generally have extended to me during my occupancy of the chair, and I should say that if, at the end of my term as Speaker, I shall again receive the congratulations which have been extended to me by the leaders of parties, and particularly by the honorable member for Batman, I shall retire from the chair very happy indeed. On behalf of the Chairman of Committees, I also thank the leaders of parties and honorable members generally. The complimentary references to the officers and staff of the House, and especially the Hansard staff, are very fully deserved. I personally am very much indebted to the officers of the House for the assistance they have given to me since I was called upon to undertake the very important duties of Speaker. Without their assistance, I am afraid that I should not have earned the complimentary remarks of honorable members. On behalf of the staff and myself I extend to the Prime Minister, the leaders of all parties, and honorable members generally, our best wishes during the coming recess, a happy Christmas, and a prosperous New Year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5.5 p.m. until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to consider assistance to the gold-mining industry in New Guinea and the Mandated Territory; if not, will he give consideration to action on the same lines as that taken in Northern Australia?
– It is not proposed at present to grant to Papua and New Guinea assistance of the nature which the Government has decided to afford the mining industry in the Commonwealth.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
When will he be able to announce the policy of the Government in the Northern Territory with regard to -
renewals or resumptions of pastoral leases ; and
revision of rents in cases where lessees are unable to meet expenses owing to the low prices obtainable for their livestock ?
– It is anticipated that the Government’s policy in regard to these matters will be announced at an early date.
Northern Territory: Commonwealth Railways Employees.
n. - The information will be obtained and will be communicated as soon as possible in answer to questions asked by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) regarding disabilities of employees of the Commonwealth Railways in the Northern Territory.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions: Northern Territory.
– Information is being obtained and will be furnished as soon as possible in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) regarding invalid and old-age pensions.
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
If it can be satisfactorily demonstrated that 2,000 white men could take the place of Japanese as divers and pearlers in the
Northern Australian waters in safety and comfort, will the Minister be prepared to take steps to make this possible T
– If it could be satisfactorily demonstrated that white men could efficiently take the place of Japanese divers and pearlers in safety and comfort, serious consideration would have to be given to the employment of white men in the capacity mentioned.
Tennant’s Creek Gold-field.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon, notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Oil Refineries at Newcastle.
e. - On the 12th December, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked a question, without notice, in regard to a matter raised by him in the House on the 14th November concerning the location of certain oil tanks at Newcastle. I would refer the honorable member to the reply furnished to him on the 22nd November (Hansard, No. 5, page 524).
Telegraph and Telephone Services: Ballarat.
r. - On the 22nd November, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Fisken) asked, without notice, certain questions pertaining to the arrangements for the reception of telegraphic and trunk telephone traffic at Ballarat during the evenings. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that, prior to a few months ago, the Ballarat Telegraph Office remained open until 11.15 p.m., chiefly for press telegraph traffic. Owing to the decline in the telegraph load consequent upon the Ballarat Courier definitely adopting the use of the dictaphone for the reception over the trunk line of press matter, there was no justification for the telegraph office remaining open after 8 p.m. An 8 o’clock closing hour was, therefore, introduced on the 1st May, 1934, enabling staffing economies to be effected. The average number of telephone trunk line calls completed nightly from the post office after the closing of the telegraph office is seven. Four public telephones are available for these calls; a special attachment i3 provided in one of the cabinets for the collection of fees for calls completed from that cabinet, whilst the fees for calls from the other three public telephones are collected by the telephone exchange staff by means qf a small cash lift. Observations made indicate that the present arrangements are adequate, and that callers are not being subjected to inconvenience.
Telephone Rentals: Schools.
r. - On the 12th December, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) asked a question, without notice, on the subject of the rentals charged for telephones in schools. I have ascertained since that it is the normal practice of the department to charge for telephone services installed in schools at business rates. The representations already made by the honorable member are being investigated, and he will he advised as early as possible of the result of the inquiries.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 December 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1934/19341214_reps_14_145/>.